FILM REVIEW: Joseph Puleo’s “America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill”

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson.

“America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill” (Courtesy of St. Louis International Film Festival)

America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill, directed by Joseph Puleo and based on Rio Vitale’s book, St. Louis’s The Hill, was a walk down memory lane for me as a history buff with family ties to the area around The Hill, an Italian enclave and the last remaining Litlle Italy in the United States. America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill explores the deep historic roots of the iconic St. Louis neighborhood and the Italians who immigrated to The Hill in pursuit of the American Dream of owning a home and starting a family.  This is a project I imagine the likes of Martin Scorcese making – only Marty tends to stick to his own neighborhood in New York City (Mean Streets, and The Oratorio). Nevertheless, when he sees this film, I hallucinate he’ll be beaming with Italian Pride.  America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill which screened at the recent St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) is Joseph Puleo’s first feature and was the recipient of the Audience Choice Award at this year’s Cinema St. Louis Showcase. Rio Vitale is credited as the film’s Executive Producer.

With a smooth opening black screen coupled with non-diegetic chimes, the film meanders in the darkness before it reveals an interview with Msgr. Salvatore Polizzi. Msgr. Polizzi, a Roman Catholic priest and former associate pastor of The Hill neighborhood’s St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the late 1960s and early 1970s, begins speaking about the general fear many Americans experienced going into an Italian community, “And we were kind of happy there was a fear also.” The film transitioned as introduction titles rolled and the historical documentary was off and running informing the viewer of the setting with home videos and a still photograph of the most recognizable landmark in St. Louis, Missouri, The Gateway Arch. The editing and soundtrack are seamless and spot-on as both aspects enhanced the film’s narrative.

With America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill Puleo provides an eloquent treatment of the Italian immigrant coming to America and settling into the area and becoming a part of the social fabric. Puleo utilized a plethora of black and white photographs, newspaper articles as well as a multitude of interviews with a wide-ranging assortment of Hill residents and extended family members sharing their experiences, strength, and hope. Fr. Polizzi arrived at St. Ambrose Parish in the late 1960s immediately immersing himself in the community. The early 1970s was a time of great social and cultural upheaval and brought changes to the area – think of Travis Bickle’s opening voice-over monologue in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Fr. Polizzi and the men of The Hill neighborhood took matters into their own hands to ensure the neighborhood was kept intact and the darker elements were kept out. The women did the same (and more), to keep their Italian heritage alive and thriving. The nearby Shaw neighborhood by comparison (a war zone) didn’t fare so well.

For me, growing up in the Metro-East area of St. Louis and being a long-time St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan,  my mother had friends on The Hill, notably Eleanor Berra Marfisi, a Berra family member, and author of The Hill: Its History – Its Recipes. Naturally, Mother informed me Lawrence “Yogi” Berra, a brilliant baseball player and manager, was from The Hill. Most baseball fans have heard of Yogi Berra and his Yogiisms as had I (“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”). However, I wasn’t aware of his 10 World Series Championships and the three Most Valuable Player Awards he earned while playing baseball for the New York Yankees. I was probably more familiar with The Hill’s Peabody Award-winning, and recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting achievement, Joe Garagiola. Garagiola broke into the MLB with the 1946 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Team. Within a runtime of seventy minutes, Puleo covers all this and much more including how and why The Hill, named for its proximity to the highest point in St. Louis, is America’s last Little Italy today.

Viewing America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill brought back a lot of memories including the above mentioned. Others included learning about St. Ambrose from my dear friend Mike Cucchi (pronounced ˈko͝okē), a standout soccer player and local college soccer coach who made gossip fodder when he “finally moved off The Hill.” Niki Cusamano and  Alisa Santangelo remain and are a part of the new generation of Italian-Americans who want to be a part of The Hill’s St. Louis Italian traditions. I can tell you whenever I visit family in St. Louis, I visit The Hill and Cunetto’s House of Pasta. Last visit my oldest brother Jim introduced me to Frank Cunetto, who is featured in the film as one of The Hill’s restaurateurs, and to our server at Cunetto’s, Vicki, a Hill resident of Sicilian heritage.

America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill TV premiere is scheduled for Monday, November 30th, 7 PM, with a second showing on December 6th, 4 PM on Nine Network PBS. DVD’s are also available in limited quantities on the film’s Facebook page. I’ve seen a lot of films this year and America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill sits at the top!

Highly recommended!

Hollywood Foreign Press Interview: Amanda Seyfried

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Anticipation is making me wait! For the last several weeks’ Oscar buzz has been swarming all over Mank, the David Fincher biographical drama revolving around the witty and often acerbic, Herman Mankiewicz, the screenwriter for one of the greatest films ever made, Citizen Kane. The film stars Oscar-winning (Darkest Hour), Gary Oldman, as Mankiewicz, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst. Mank is coming on December 4th, 2020, to Netflix.  Getting hot and bothered due to my above-average risk of COVID-19, and not being able to attend a theatrical screening, I share this awesome, albeit all-too-brief, interview as it appeared on GoldenGlobes.com. with the always delightful, Amanda Seyfried. Enjoy! And, until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies. 

Larry Gleeson, left, with Hollywood starlet, Angie Dickinson. (Photo credit: HollywoodGlee)

Interview by Scott Orlin

November 23, 2020

Amanda Seyfried on “Mank”: “I have never seen myself dressed up that way.”

Amanda Seyfried was all set to start classes at Fordham University when she got the call. The then 18-year-old had been cast in an upcoming feature, Mean Girls, which required her to postpone her college career to co-star in the Tina Fey penned comedy. Needless to say, the decision proved inspired as the Allentown, Pennsylvania native has never looked back.

Pivotal roles in such TV series as Veronica Mars and Big Love led her to her first lead role in the 1999 musical Momma Mia! co-starring Meryl Streep. The movie, which used Abba songs to convey the character’s emotions, was a worldwide smash and would eventually produce a sequel 10 years later. In between her portrayals of Sophie, Seyfried secured parts in Jennifer’s Body, Sucker Punch, Ted, Letters to Juliet, and most recently, the psychological horror film You Should Have Left. Now the mother of two steps before the camera under the tutelage of acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher in the period drama Mank, that details the creation of the classic film Citizen Kane.

You are stepping into the shoes of actress Marion Davies, though popular in her time many people today don’t really know her. What insights did you gain about her in your research?

Marion Davies, while being a movie star and having some people know who she was, is such a mystery. There actually wasn’t a lot of research. I found one book that was an autobiography published posthumously of interviews she had done about ten years before her death. The way she remembers things, we are not really sure how clear they are. She had done a lot of movies but not many knew her back story. If you happened to have seen Citizen Kane, you could see that Susan Alexander was inspired by Marion. It is tough to figure out who she is. I do feel the screenwriter, Jack Fincher really captured who she really was more accurately. We get to see how she communicated with other people, especially by the letters she had written, and so we were able to capture the best of her.

She was quite confident. She knew who she was and operated through life that way.

She wasn’t a worrier. She was an extrovert and loved to have fun. That is absolutely the opposite of me. I like to have fun (laugh). I live like an introvert. I can socialize well but I would rather hole up on my farm. That is great but we share an essence in that she was very kind and just wanted to make the most of it. She liked to celebrate all the time and entertain people. She was cool and knew who she was. I think that is why she was so confident.

The look of the film was quite cool. These women from the 1940s style films were dressed regally and not a flaw on their face. How did you like capturing that visual?

I have never seen myself dressed up that way. Even looking in the mirror on set, it was awe-inspiring. It was kind of surreal. I do watch my movies but I am able to take myself out of it to a point. This viewing experience really struck me by the fact that it made me look like I was really living in that era. It felt like it at times. Not a lot of actors get that opportunity. It was very special. I don’t think I will ever get over it. I wasn’t CGI’d into something. I was there. It is not a trick. It is all so specific to technical details. It is only something Fincher can do.

Speaking of Fincher, how did he work with you? He is notorious for doing many takes.

He knew my character in and out; through his bones. The way he approached me was with the most amount of knowledge about where she was coming from for a specific scene or what she was thinking. It really helped shape my performance. He gave me such details about one little breath that helped me change the reaction to something. He wasn’t that specific but we were on the same ride. He was really connected to Marion in a way that I needed because there were so many things happening. He set these parameters and just led me down the path. He was extraordinary.

Speaking of extraordinary. Congratulations on your new baby.

Thank you. My last baby (laugh).

You never know.

I know (laugh).

 

Sundance Institute Names 2021 Momentum Fellows

Posted by Larry Gleeson

New Collaboration with NBCUniversal to Support Underrepresented Filmmakers in Building Sustainable Careers

 

Los Angeles – Sundance Institute announced today the third class of the Momentum Fellowship, a full-year program of deep, customized creative and professional support for mid-career writers and directors from underrepresented communities who are poised to take the next step in their careers in fiction and documentary filmmaking.

The fellowship includes unrestricted grant funding, industry mentorship, professional coaching offered by Renee Freedman & Company supported by The Harnisch Foundation, writing workshops and industry meetings in Spring 2021, and bespoke year-round support from Sundance Institute staff. Additionally, the FilmTwo Fellowship has merged into the Momentum Fellowship, and NBCUniversal will provide an opportunity to select Momentum fellows working on fiction projects to participate in the Universal Directors Initiative. The two-year at-will initiative provides select participants access to NBCUniversal’s creative executives and producers to build career momentum and exposure to potential directing opportunities across Film, TV, and Streaming.

“We are thrilled to bring back the Momentum Fellowship for a third year, to support these visionary artists at such a critical moment both in their careers and in our culture at large,” said Karim Ahmad , Director, Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance Institute.

Karim Ahmad, Director, Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance Institute.

The Momentum Fellowship, which launched in 2018, evolved from the Women at Sundance Fellowship, a highly successful model that merited expansion for impact across a broader cohort of underrepresented communities.

Those eligible for this intersectional program include artists identifying as women, non-binary and/or transgender, Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, and artists with disabilities. Past recipients include Andrew Ahn, Linda Yvette Chávez, Christina Choe, Deborah Esquenazi, Rodney Evans, Penny Lane, Avril Z. Speaks, and Malika Zouhali-Worrall.

The Sundance Institute Outreach and Inclusion program is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Emerson Collective, Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, NBCUniversal, Ruderman Family Foundation, Critical Minded, Jason Delane Lee and Yvonne Huff Lee, Netflix, SAGindie, Asante Family Philanthropic Fund, Easterseals Disability Services, Rene Cruz—Esperanza Arts Foundation, Philip Fung—A3 Foundation, and Open Society Foundations.

Women at Sundance is made possible by leadership support from The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, and Adobe. Additional support is provided by Kimberly Steward, Paul, and Katy Drake Bettner, Barbara Bridges, Abigail Disney, and Pierre Hauser—Like a River Fund, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Rhianon Jones, Suzanne Lerner, Cristina Ljungberg, Susan Bay Nimoy, Ann Lovell, Zions Bank, Visionary Women, Gruber Family Foundation, Pat Mitchell and Scott Seydel, Brenda Robinson, and an anonymous donor.

Also announced today: NBCUniversal is partnering with the Institute on the final FilmTwo Fellowship. The recipients of the Sundance Institute | Universal FilmTwo Fellowship are: Ash Mayfair, Marcel Rasquin, and filmmaking team Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann.

The 2021 Momentum Fellows are:

Cristina Costantini

Cristina Costantini is an Emmy award-winning director.  Her latest documentary Mucho Mucho Amor, about famed Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix in 2020. The film was nominated for a Critics Choice Award and won the Best Latinx Film award from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP). Her first feature film, Science Fair, told the story of nine high schoolers from around the world who set out to win the International Science and Engineering Fair. The film won the Sundance Festival Favorite Award in 2018 as well as the SXSW Audience Award, a Critics Choice Award for Best First Time Director, and an Emmy award. Before becoming a documentary filmmaker, Cristina worked as an investigative journalist, covering immigration, detention centers, sex trafficking, and the opiate epidemic for ABC News, Univision, The Huffington Post, and Fusion. Her investigative work has been recognized with a GLAAD Media Award, National Association of Hispanic Journalists Awards, and an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award. The Wisconsin native is a Yale grad who now lives in California with her husband, Alfie, and their pug dog Harriet. She is a partner at Muck Media, a Los Angeles-based production company.

Natalie Erika James

 

Natalie Erika James is a Japanese-Australian writer/director based in Melbourne, Australia. Her debut feature, Relic, is a psychological horror starring Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin, produced by Carver Films, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nine Stories and executive produced by the Russo Brothers’ Agbo Films. Relic premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was programmed in SXSW, BFI London Film Festival and Sitges Film Festival, where it was awarded a Special Mention for Direction. The film was nominated for Best Original Feature Film at the 2019 Australian Writer’s Guild Awards and nominated for Best Direction in a Feature Film at the 2020 Australian Director’s Guild Awards. Natalie is currently developing Drum Wave, a Japanese folk horror with development support from Screen Australia and Film Victoria. Drum Wave was one of 14 projects selected for the project market at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao, taking home the Best Co-Production prize. Her 2018 proof-of-concept short for Drum Wave was nominated for Best Australian Short Film at the Sydney Film Festival and premiered internationally at Fantastic Fest. Natalie is signed to WME and directs commercials and music videos through Australian production company, Fiction.

Shalini Kantayya

 

Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s feature documentary, Coded Bias, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for best science documentary. She directed the season finale episode for the National Geographic television series Breakthrough, a series profiling trailblazing scientists transforming the future, Executive Produced by Ron Howard, broadcast globally in June 2017. Her debut feature film Catching the Sun, about the race for a clean energy future, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was named a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Catching the Sun released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio, and was nominated for the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary. Kantayya is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and a finalist for the ABC Disney DGA Directing Program. She is an Associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Kantayya finished in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers on Fox’s On the Lot, a show by Steven Spielberg in search of Hollywood’s next great director.

Loira Limbal

 

Loira Limbal is an Afro-Dominican filmmaker and DJ interested in the creation of art that is nuanced and revelatory for communities of color. She is the Senior Vice President of Programs at Firelight Media. Firelight is committed to making films about pivotal movements and moments in the U.S. Firelight’s flagship program – the Documentary Lab – is a fellowship that provides mentorship, funding, and industry access to emerging filmmakers of color. Limbal’s current film, Through the Night is a feature documentary about a 24 hour daycare center. Through the Night was part of the 2019 Sundance Edit & Story Lab and was selected for world premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. Her first film, Estilo Hip Hop, was a co-production of ITVS and aired on PBS in 2009. Additionally, she co-produces and helms the popular Brooklyn monthly #APartyCalledRosiePerez. Limbal received a B.A. in History from Brown University and is a graduate of the Third World Newsreel’s Film and Video Production Training Program. She is a Sundance Institute Fellow and a former Ford Foundation JustFilms/Rockwood Fellow. She lives in the Bronx with her two children.

Ekwa Msangi

 

Ekwa’s award-winning and critically acclaimed feature film Farewell Amor premiered in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, garnering 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film won the Sundance Amazon Producer’s Award, and NYWIFT Directing Award amongst other distinctions, and was bought for distribution by IFC Films for North America, MUBI and Netflix for Worldwide. Previous to that, Ekwa has written & directed several shorts, most recently award-winning comedy Soko Sonko (The Market King), and Farewell Meu Amor starring Tony Award nominee Sahr Ngauja, and Nana Mensah. For Farewell Amor Ekwa was awarded the Jerome Foundation Grant, Tribeca All Access Fellowship, Cine Qua Non Lab Fellowship, IFP/No Borders, and Sundance Feature Film Development Fellowship, and is a 2020 BAFTA Breakthrough honoree. Ekwa has also written & directed several drama series for mainstream broadcasters in Kenya and MNET South Africa, including The Agency, MNET’s first-ever original hour-long Kenyan drama series. Ekwa has taught Screenwriting at The New School and Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, and is faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. One of Ekwa’s key goals as an artist is to transform our society’s images and relationships with African cultures, and to empower African filmmakers in telling their stories.

Edson Oda

Edson Oda is a Japanese-Brazilian writer/director based in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of São Paulo with a Bachelor’s in Advertising and completed his Master of Fine Arts in Film and Production at the University of Southern California. His first feature film Nine Days starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgard and Tony Hale premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2020 (U.S. Dramatic Competition), winning the Walt Salt Screenwriting Award. Oda also wrote, directed and supervised projects for Philips, Telefonica, Movistar, InBev, Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, Honda, Nokia. He’s a Sundance Screenwriters Lab alumni and Latin Grammy-nominated director for best music video.

Jacqueline Olive

 

Jacqueline Olive is an independent filmmaker and immersive media producer with more than fifteen years of experience in journalism and film. Her debut feature documentary, Always in Season, examines the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans. Always in Season premiered in competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Moral Urgency. It has received numerous festival jury awards and other honors that include winner of the 2020 SIMA Documentary Jury Prize For Ethos and nominations for Best Writing from IDA Documentary Awards 2019 and the Spotlight Award from Cinema Eye Honors 2019. Always in Season broadcast on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, Independent Lens, on February 24, 2020, and was the most viewed film of the season. Jackie also co-directed and co-produced the award-winning hour-long thesis film, Black to Our Roots, which broadcast on PBS WORLD in 2009. Jackie has received artist grants and industry funding from Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation, Firelight Media, Tribeca Film Institute, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Chicken & Egg Pictures, International Documentary Association, Kendeda Fund, Catapult Film Fund, Southern Documentary Fund, Alternate ROOTS, and more. She was recently awarded the Emerging Filmmakers of Color Award from International Documentary Association (IDA) and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and profiled one of Variety’s “10 Filmmakers To Watch.” A Southerner and Mississippi native, Jackie currently teaches film as Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Social Documentation MFA Program and happily makes films full-time.

Angel Kristi Williams

 

Angel Kristi Williams is a filmmaker born and raised in West Baltimore, Maryland. She was 8 years old when her late father gave her a VHS camcorder which sparked her love for the medium. After studying visual art, photography and experimental film, Angel developed a voice that embraces silence and the power of the image to tell a story. Her feature directorial debut Really Love, produced by MACRO, was selected to play in narrative competition at SXSW and won the Special Jury Recognition for Acting for co-stars Kofi Siriboe and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing. The film recently World Premiered as part of AFI Fest’s Special Presentations to much acclaim. Her previous film Charlotte won the short film jury awards at Atlanta and Sarasota Film Festivals. Angel is a 2014 Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellow, where she was the recipient of the Sony Pictures Diversity Fellowship. She splits her time between Baltimore and Los Angeles and teaches in the MFA film program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). She holds an MFA in Cinema Directing from Columbia College Chicago.

Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories for the stage and screen, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs which are dedicated to developing new work and take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally, are supported largely through contributed revenue. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, City So Real, Top of the Lake, Between the World & Me, Wild Goose Dreams and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Teaser Trailer for 2021 Sundance Film Festival Released

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Sundance Institute yesterday debuted the 2021 teaser trailer – with a look back at some iconic discoveries from decades of the Festival, including snippets from films that Sundance has premiered over the years and testimony from the likes of Ava DuVernay, Aubrey Plaza, and Eva Longoria about how every year, we come together as a community to explore the boldest new independent work.

While you’re here check out the brand-new, dedicated online home, festival.sundance.org, alongside a countdown clock, a brief note from new Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, and a link to the all-new 2021 Festival Merch Store, we hope that the trailer will lead you — and all lovers of film, creativity, and storytelling —  to get excited for the Festival!

HollywoodGlee inside the Sundance Film Festival Headquarters at the Park City Marriott on January 23, 2019, in Park City, Utah, the day before the opening of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Stay tuned for more on the upcoming 2021 Sundance Film Festival!

(Sourced from Sundance News)

Final Thoughts on ‘The Mostly Virtual’ AFI FEST 2020

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI FEST 2020 presented by Audi attracted the largest national audience in its 34-year history.

Michael Lumpkin, Director AFI Festivals

“With an audience of more than double from last year, we welcomed over 200 filmmakers and guests from around the world for Q&As and panels,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director AFI Festivals. “This year’s festival was truly a celebration of film across the country with festival-goers joining us online from all 50 states.”

I concur. Thank you to Michael and the entire AFI FEST team for making this year’s ‘mostly virtual’ festival top-notch!

Sofia Coppola shares a photo during her 2020 AFI FEST Tribute

Highlights of the 2020 festival included a Centerpiece Drive-in screening of ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… (DIR Regina King) at the Rose Bowl; the World Premieres of I’M YOUR WOMAN (DIR Julia Hart), PINK SKIES AHEAD (DIR Kelly Oxford) and REALLY LOVE (DIR Angel Kristi Williams); screenings of highly anticipated films including COLLECTIVE (COLLECTIV) (DIR Alexander Nanau), THE FATHER (DIR Florian Zeller), I CARRY YOU WITH ME (Heidi Ewing), MY LITTLE SISTER (DIR Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond), NEW ORDER (NUEVO ORDEN) (DIR Michel Franco), NINE DAYS (DIR Edson Oda) and WOLFWALKERS (DIR Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart); a conversation with Dr. Stacy Smith on the portrayal of characters with mental health conditions in film and television; a discussion with the director and cast of SOUND OF METAL with the Deaf community; a conversation with Academy Award® nominee, producer, director and writer Ava DuVernay about elevating and supporting BIPOC filmmakers; the Indie Contenders and Doc Roundtables; and Tributes to Sofia Coppola, Kirby Dirk, Mira Nair and Rita Moreno.

Additional Highlights

A few of my favorite additional highlights included Elle, an AFI Conservatory Showcase selection. Elle is a coming-of-age story and character-driven drama that explores themes such as self-discovery, unrequited love, and the ambivalence and intimacy that exists within female friendships. In the Director’s Statement, AFI Conservatory Alumna, Nicole Vanden Broeck writes,

Nicole Vanden Broeck

“I have always believed in the power of cinema to comfort us, to tell us that we are not alone, that others have felt what we’ve felt, that we share our struggles and our heartbreaks, that there is someone out there that understands.”

 

Elle

Technically and artistically, Elle hits all the marks. Strong cinematography by Guido Raimondo. Warm and intimate production design from Evan Welch. Seamless editing (Chris Tenzis, Editor). Believable and highly naturalistic acting with Sarah Sawyer as Elle and Ron Dadon as Sam. And, an emotionally rewarding narrative written by Vanden Broeck and Asher Jelinsky and a beautiful mise-en-scene to match. Gabrielle Cordero produced Elle. Highly recommended with a runtime of twenty-one minutes and a team to keep an eye on!

At the Virtual Industry and Filmmaker Mixer, I had the pleasure of connecting with Matt Yoka, director of Whirlybird, his feature documentary on the pioneering and groundbreaking TV aerial news reporting team of Bob Tur and Marika Gerard. Yoka crafts his work from 2,000 hours of recorded flight tape, direct interviews, news archives, still photos, and more. The result is a dynamic visual history of the biggest Los Angeles news events in the last 30 years including the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the pursuant, criminal assault of truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandy after the Rodney King beating verdict and subsequent acquittal of the four white police officers charged. And, if that wasn’t enough the duo broke and captured the infamous O.J. Simpson ‘White Bronco’ car chase which became “the apex of live news coverage” with approximately 80 million viewers tuning in. A must-see!

Whirlybird

While I didn’t get an opportunity to connect with Sean Penn during the mixer, I did view Citizen Penn. I’ve long been a fan of Sean Penn as an actor beginning with his Mick O’Brien role in the 1983 Bad Boys and I was semi-aware of his Haiti relief efforts in 2010. As an Army Reservist, my battalion was on alert for deployment. In the documentary, Director Don Hardy, sometimes eloquently and sometimes pragmatically, reveals Sean Penn has diligently changed his image through Penn’s extensive efforts to aid assistance to his fellow ‘man’ in war-torn, disaster-laden, disaffected countries beginning in 2002 with the war in Iraq right up to the current COVID-19-infected United States.

Citizen Penn

Utilizing a plethora of photographs, direct interviews, and archival news footage, documenting the devastation and suffering along with footage from one camera operated by a Haitian police officer who accompanied Penn at all times following the country’s 2010 earthquake. Penn was adamant about his efforts not being used for overt publicity but allowed the official to have and operate a camera at his own discretion. Penn stayed on the ground for several months returning often guiding not only relief efforts but also debris and gravel removal. More recently, Penn began hosting an annual gala raising several million dollars from a limited guest list as his efforts are taking root. Highly recommended and quite compelling. A must-see!

Left to right, Meet The Press’s Chuck Todd, and The Reagans Director, Matt Tyrnauer.

THE REAGANS (DIR Matt Tyrnauer), presented by Meet the Press and Chuck Todd,  screened Parts 1 and 2 of this compelling and extremely timely re-examination of President and Mrs. Reagan. Chock full of evocative archival footage and illuminating contemporary interviews, THE REAGANS asserts Nancy’s central role in her husband’s career, shines a light on the darker aspects of the Reagans’ climb to power, and provides a revelatory perspective on how the political tactics used in the ‘60s and ‘70s are a progenitor of our current national politics. The screening was followed by an in-depth conversation between Chuck Todd and Tyrnauer as they discuss the subjects, several of the Reagan biographies, and Tyrnauer’s previous documentary, Where’s My Roy Cohn.

Belushi

Belushi, from Showtime Documentary Films, directed by award-winning, filmmaker R.J. Cutler, reveals the complicated, singular, and too-short life of a beloved American icon who helped change American culture and comedy, John Belushi, a once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny-bones of audiences around the world. From his early years growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, Belushi showed an extraordinary talent for comedy and music. But, it was a visit to the Second City theater in Chicago where Belushi established himself and from that moment on he became an unstoppable and pioneering force in the comedy world. His audacious rendition of Joe Cocker singing the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends,” proved to be the star shot launching pad. Cutler utilizes still photos, archival footage, home videos, animation, and telling letters from John to his high school sweetheart girlfriend and later wife, Judy, that paint a picture of Belushi’s passion, love, and humanly struggles.

Belushi’s insatiable drive for success and fame kept the candle burning at both ends. When his acting attempts in 1941, Neighbors, and Continental Divide failed to provide him the accolades of The Blues Brothers and Animal House, Belushi sought consolation and creativity in dark habits as he continually pushed himself for greatness. As a performer, John Belushi grasped the importance of developing and recreating himself on stage and felt a high degree of compulsion to do this on the big screen. Belushi’s ambitious drive and need for approval reached its limits on March 5, 1982, at the hotel Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. Belushi was found alone, not breathing, and unresponsive. The coroner’s report stated the cause of death was “acute cocaine and heroin intoxication.”

Cutler captures what John Belushi was as a performer and scratches the surface of who Belushi was as a person. Told linearly using previously unheard audiotapes, the film also examines Belushi’s life in the words of his collaborators, friends, and family, including Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Penny Marshall, Lorne Michaels, Carrie Fisher, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Jane Curtin, Ivan Reitman and his wife, Judy Belushi. As much as I enjoyed experiencing his comedic genius again, there is more to John Belushi than what appears in this screening of Belushi.  Yet, Cutler does an excellent job of creating a framework of understanding some of the comedic legend’s motivation and unmet needs with a well-researched and documented biographical treatment. Belushi is scheduled to launch on November 22, 2020, on Showtime. Highly recommended.

Wander Darkly

Thriller/Drama Wander Darkly,  is as good a film as I’ve seen this year. Written and directed by Tara Miele, and starring Sienna Miller as Adrienne and Diego Luna as Matteo,  Wander Darkly is a surreal journey into conflict resolution between a young couple following a traumatic car accident. On its most basic level, Wander Darkly is a relationship film challenging boundaries while seeking the answer for continuity. In a very non-linear approach, the couple relives the past through the duality of their shared moments including fond memories from the initial courtship through the truths of the present as they attempt to rediscover the love that binds them together as they face an uncertain future. Miller in a tour de force performance crushes it as Adrienne pulling out all the emotional stops exploring grief, joy, and love. Wander Darkly is scheduled to be in select theaters, on digital, and on-demand on December 11th. Check it out! You’ll be glad you did!

Uncle Frank

Uncle Frank, an Amazon Original Film, starring Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, and Stephen Root (Office Space), and directed by Alan Ball, tells the story of a young, rural South Carolinian woman, Beth, (Sophia Lillis) a precocious spirit with a connection to her rarely seen Uncle Frank.

When a death in the family occurs, Beth and Uncle Frank embark on a road trip back to South Carolina delving into deep interpersonal dialogue on sexuality and death before being unexpectedly joined by Wally. Along the rest of the way, Beth is exposed to bigotry, homophobia, and a warm, loving relationship. Once she and Uncle Frank are back in small-town, rural Creekville, South Carolina, the past reveals itself, and moments for self-reflection and overcoming imposed beliefs come to pass.

Uncle Frank, a character-driven drama, is quite entertaining and could easily pass for a period piece, much like Green Book, with its costuming by Megan Stark Evans,  production design by Darcy C Scanlan, its superb cinematography by Khalid Mohtaseb, and with the layered narrative (screenwriting, Alan Ball) dealing with family, remorse, death, loss, same-sex relationships, religion, as well as social norms and beliefs in the Deep South.

Seeing Bettany cast had a lot to do with my viewing selection of Uncle Frank. And, he doesn’t disappoint as he carries the heaviness, the emotional weight, of Uncle Frank. My hat’s off to Casting Director, Avy Kaufman (Brokeback Mountain). Bravo! Uncle Frank is scheduled for a U.S. release (internet) on November 25th, 2020, and is a beautiful, entertaining film. Very warmly recommended viewing!

MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY

The Closing Night Presentation was the World Premiere of MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY (DIR Errol Morris), followed by an interesting conversation between Indiewire’s Ann Thompson and Morris (available along with 69 other conversations here.)  In MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY, Morris delivers a tell-all story of Johanna Harcourt-Smith, a once young, Swiis born, Paris-raised, jet-setting, an aristocratic, Jewish woman who cavorted with the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary. My Psychedelic Love Story is the story of Harcourt-Smith and O’Leary as they circumvent extradition and indulge themselves in daily acid trips for a two-month period before Leary is extradited back to the US, incarcerated, and eventually released. At the time there was much speculation Harcourt-Smith was a CIA plant – a Mata Hari of sorts. MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY will be airing on Showtime!

Wolfwalkers, an Apple Original Film from Cartoon Saloon, the Kilkenny, Ireland, the animation studio that previously produced The Secret of Kells (2009)  and Song of the Sea (2014) completes an Irish folklore animated trilogy spanning slightly more than ten years.

Wolfwalkers is set in 17th-century Ireland, a time of great change with successive transfers of land from catholic to protestant ownership and where administrative and political power passed into the hands of a new English minority (Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 15, No. 60, Sep 1967, pgs. 366-375).  Literary references to the Arthurian Camelot myth and to historical figure Oliver Cromwell are smoothly incorporated as well. Moore and Stewart encapsulate this situation in a magical friendship that develops between two young girls, Robyn and Mebh.

Wolfwalkers, steeped in historical significance, is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films I have had the pleasure of viewing and experiencing and it’s a film the whole family can watch! Wolfwalkers is set to be released theatrically on October 30, 2020, by WildCard in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on November 13, 2020, by GKIDS before debuting on Apple TV+ on December 11, 2020.

Stay tuned for the upcoming holiday film guide!

HollywoodGlee celebrating the start of the 2019 AFI FEST presented by Audi. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, 2020)

Posted  and reviewed by Larry Gleeson

Wolfwalkers, an Apple Original Film from Cartoon Saloon, the Kilkenny, Ireland, animation studio that previously produced The Secret of Kells (2009)  and Song of the Sea (2014) completes an Irish folklore animated trilogy spanning slightly more than ten years and is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films I have had the pleasure of viewing and experiencing. Utilizing two-dimensional hand-drawn techniques with a plethora of pastel colorations, eye-catching geometrical patterns combined with Celtic music featuring harps, violins and a sundry of woodwind instruments, artists Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart take their previous efforts to another level visually, and, in my opinion, produce their strongest work to date. Wolfwalkers made its US Premiere during this year’s American Film Institute’s AFI FEST presented by Audi and was the recipient of the festival’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.

Wolfwalkers is set in 17th-century Ireland, a time of great change with successive transfers of land from catholic to protestant ownership and where administrative and political power passed into the hands of a new English minority (Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 15, No. 60, Sep 1967, pgs. 366-375).  Literary references to the Arthurian Camelot myth and to historical figure Oliver Cromwell are smoothly incorporated as well. Moore and Stewart encapsulate this situation in a magical friendship that develops between two young girls, Robyn and Mebh. Robyn is a “townie” who along with her wolf-hunter father, Bill, is sent from England and tasked with ridding the woodland outside of the town of wolves.  Mebh, on the other hand, is a wild girl who is being raised by wolves. “After being told to stay within the city walls, Robyn sneaks out to explore the magical world of the forest where she meets Mebh, and undergoes a secret transformation, turning into the very thing her father is sent to destroy creating a final battle between the wolf pack and townsfolk.” – Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming,

Artistically, Moore and Stewart felt the use of hand-drawn frames is not limited by aspect ratios of a camera allowing for an expression beyond realism in constructing the worlds of Wolfwalkers. For example, the visual contrast between the town and forest is represented by the aggressive lines and darker colors of the town versus softer lines and earthier, impressionistic tones of the forest. In the Q & A conversation with AFI Festivals Director of Programming, Sarah Harris, Moore and Stewart explained their choice in representation as an attempt to portray Robyn’s life in town as controlled and Mebh’s life in the forest as free, energetic, and out of control. Both agreed the stylistic attempts in drawings and the incorporation of split screens and vertical panels were somewhat experimental and the inspiration came from the 2018 Best Animated Feature Film Oscar-winning work, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse , the 2005 Frank Miller and Quinten Tarantino Sin City, and from the early Expressionist films whereby frames were hand-painted to create coloration.

Wolfwalkers, steeped in historical significance, is a film the whole family can watch and is set to be released theatrically on October 30, 2020, by WildCard in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on November 13, 2020, by GKIDS before debuting on Apple TV+ on December 11, 2020. Highly recommended!

Nashville Film Festival 2020 FILM REVIEW The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Frank Marshall, USA)

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the Opening Night Presentation of the virtual 51st Nashville Film Festival “featuring the finest in films, music, and culture.”

During the Disco Era of the late 1970s, no one was bigger than the Bee Gees (the Brothers Gibb), a band composed of brothers Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb. They seemed to be everywhere – on the radio, in the theatre (with six of ten songs on the second-biggest selling soundtrack of all-time from the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta), guest appearances on television talk shows, and…..their music was danced to several times a night in disco clubs across the globe.

THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, directed/produced by acclaimed filmmaker Frank Marshall, producer or executive producer for six Best Picture Oscar nominees: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Color Purple (1985), The Sixth Sense (1999), Seabiscuit (2003), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and War Horse (2011) InThe Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Marshall spotlights the legendary band who wrote more than 1,000 songs, including twenty number one hits throughout their career.

The film opens with archival footage of the Bee Gees’ performance at the Oakland Coliseum in 1979 at arguably the pinnacle of their career success. From here Marshall explores who the Bee Gees are and what they embodied as performers. The film is very reflective in a non-linear manner. Drawing heavily from voice-over narration, archival footage, along with black and white stills, Marshall etches a portrait of the young Gibb brothers fascinated by the fame and popularity of the Beatles and captures the arrival of the Bee Gees’ first album, “Spicks and Specks,” recorded in Australia.

With a nice touch, Marshall adds Noel Gallagher, of the global supergroup, Oasis, and more recently, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, to provide some insightful commentary on early Bee Gee music as classical 60’s guitar pop sound and the remarkable resemblance to the Beatles. Yet, Gallagher adds a poetic comment citing the vocal gift of brothers singing in harmony – “an added instrumentation that no one else can buy” of the uniqueness of the brothers’ familial harmonized vocals. “You can’t buy it. It’s not like you can go down to the shop and buy it like a Stratocaster and run Buddy Holly through it.” In a direct testimonial, Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers also adds insight into performing and living with brothers and “the heightened emotionality that comes into play.”

In a series of interviews from 1999, the Brothers Gibb open up reflecting on their career as brotherly musicians that spanned four decades at the time of the interviews. Barry, the oldest brother, and fun-loving brother, Robin, had a very public sibling rivalry leading to Robin quitting the band on March 19th, 1969. Brother Maurice dubbed himself “the peacemaker, as he was often made into “the go-between.” Marshall utilizes a montage of newspaper headlines combined with voice-over narration from the brothers to help explain what was happening and how they were feeling about the situation.

Deftly, Marshall repeats an earlier technique in having Noel Gallagher comment on the fraternal dynamic as being a band’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The band suffered immensely during this time and seemed to be treading water until reinventing its sound in America with a 1975 album Main Course that topped the Canadian music charts and peaked in the US at number 14. The group’s popularity surged with its 1976, follow-up, Platinum-selling album, Children of the World, and with the 1977 Saturday Night Fever, the roof came off. The run culminated with the 1979 album Spirits Having Flown, a best-selling, chart-topper in the US, Canada, and the UK.

In addition to Gallagher and Jonas, other noteworthy performers interviewed on the music and band were musician/actor/producer Justin Timberlake, Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin, solo performer of Fleetwood Mac heydays, Lindsay Buckingham, Alice Cooper, and band manager Robert Stigwood.  Timberlake provided a commentary of the Bee Gee’s vocals as brass instrumentation. Martin spoke to the backlash that derailed the Bee Gee’s phenomenal global superstardom – the first band to achieve the status according to martin. Cooper and Buckingham delivered timely remarks on the music culture during the Bee Gee’s heyday as the “Kings of Disco.” Stigwood addressed the business side of managing the band and the small number of songs radio stations played in rotation – one of the vital components leading to the over-saturation and ultimate backlash of the Bee Gee’s culminating in Chicago disc jockey Chris Dahl blowing up disco tapes and records to a massive crowd at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

The backlash took a heavy toll on the band as they never regained their popularity. In a 2019 pensive and soul-searching clip of Barry Gibb walking a narrative, voice-over echoes the price of fame. Perception is reality as Barry often feels alone as his bandmates and brothers have all passed away including youngest brother, Andy Gibb. Andy idolized his brothers and Barry helped Andy get his solo career off the ground. Andy Gibb had an explosive solo career mimicking his brothers’ disco style and his number one Billboard hit, “Shadow Dancing,” could easily pass for a Bee Gees song. Andy Gibb died in 1988 at the age of 30.

The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend A Broken Heart is informative, entertaining, and heartwrenching. Frank Marshall reveals not only the heart and soul of the band and its music but also the power dynamic that shaped and molded the group’s enormous and impactful musical legacy. Highly recommended.

AFI Member Spotlight: Peyton Bradley, Philanthropist by Nature

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI Member Spotlight: Peyton Bradley Discussing AFI FEST and Championing Diversity in the Industry

I, for one, am very excited to be a part of this year’s virtual AFI FEST presented by Audi. Moreover, I am looking forward to hearing more from Peyton Bradley.

Peyton Bradley is a young philanthropist who generously provides major support for AFI. With a passion for the arts and helping underrepresented filmmakers gain greater opportunities within the film industry, Peyton also created the Peyton V. Bradley Scholarship at the AFI Conservatory.

This year, as we prepare for AFI FEST 2020, presented by Audi, we spoke with Peyton about her favorite moments at last year’s FEST, watching Patty Jenkins inspire Fellows on the Opening Day of the Conservatory and what motivated her to become a member of AFI.

AFI: What is an inspiring or defining film that you saw in your life that made you fall in love with the art form?

Peyton: That’s like choosing your favorite child – you do it, but you keep it a secret. Growing up, I didn’t own a TV in my household, which meant skimming the internet for free content on YouTube or other sites. I got my hands on several films at age 14 that shook my concept of reality. My favorite “children” were: TEETH, PULP FICTION, SEXY BEAST, DONNIE DARKO, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, FOXFIRE, LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL, HEATHERS and GIRL, INTERRUPTED – to name a few. In a world full of rules, these characters became their own heroes, despite the limitations society placed upon them.

AFI: What made you first excited to get involved with AFI and decide to become a member? What is it about AFI’s mission that resonates with you?

Peyton: I’m a philanthropist by nature – my momma always told me, “If I have to give the shirt on my back to someone else, I best be doing it.” I love being involved in communities that preach their goals and put them into action. I still support the theaters and state parks where stages and campfires are the original spaces for storytelling. Growing up in a technological age, the film was the spark you could immortalize. I chose AFI because of its promise to take a predominately white male, patriarchal structure historically found in the film industry and step aside to give space to new voices. That space allows for female and diverse talent to tell their stories, to showcase their work, and to bring their unique perspectives and talent to the forefront.

AFI: You recently joined the AFI Conservatory’s Opening Day online conversation with WONDER WOMAN director and AFI alum Patty Jenkins. What was that experience like for you? Did you have a favorite moment of the talk?

Peyton: Patty Jenkins, oh, Patty Jenkins. What an incredible human! It was moving to watch how the Fellows identified with her humble beginnings and her drive to take on bold challenges. I appreciated that MONSTER was the primary topic in the Q&A and how she managed to find the humanity in a person’s story where other people wrote the narrative that best suited them. The AFI Fellows were inspired by Patty and that she, too, once was an emerging artist who had the curiosity to find the truth and intention within her characters, without judgment. They laughed, cried, and expressed their love for Patty, and she returned it all back and ignited hope during these hard times.

AFI: As you know, AFI FEST presented by Audi is coming up. Last year was the first AFI FEST you attended. Did any films or events make an impact on you?

Peyton: I would have to say the premiere of QUEEN & SLIM. It was mind-blowing, packed full of energy that rippled through the audience. Writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas tackled racial profiling and what self-defense means when the color of your skin can cost you your life. It offered the viewer a chance to see this love story unfolding, knowing that these two souls wouldn’t live long because of the deep-seated racism by those in power who promote hate crimes. How does one claim self-defense when the law is not on your side? It evoked compassion and the stark reality that life is fleeting. That beautiful masterpiece was felt by all.

AFI: For this year’s AFI FEST, which of the special presentations are you excited about?

Peyton: PINK SKIES AHEAD. It is very fitting with what’s happening today. Students are reconsidering college or leaving. Young adults who are forced to bury their anxiety or mental health challenges due to shame are now forming productive conversations. We have music artists like Billie Eilish, LDR, SZA, and Dizzy Fae boldly and openly talking about their own battles with anxiety and reforming their identities. We see in films as well, that gaslighting and societal expectations on what is “normal” further contributing to anxiety and mental health issues. New thinkers are reminding us that what you feel isn’t your fault, nor is it bad. It is okay to grow at your own pace.

Another one I’m excited for is THE REAGANS, especially after watching THE POLITICIAN – props to AFI alum Brad Falchuk who wrote it – in which the opening scene talks about how becoming president no longer requires an educational standard but a celebrity status, and how television and social media are shaping campaigns. It is too surreal, and we all have to come together and fight for our democracy. So please vote!

AFI: Why do you think film festivals are still important, even as we’ve shifted online this year to keep everyone safe and healthy with the pandemic? 

Peyton: We are social creatures. We want to share and connect around moments that impact us. AFI is making its virtual film festival an exciting party, and it feels unifying knowing that other individuals are watching the same content as you and being able to share the same experience.

Join Peyton and the AFI community at this year’s virtual AFI FEST. Passes are now on sale. Tickets available Oct. 7. The festival runs online Oct. 15-22. Become a member and receive discounts to FEST films, events and exclusive festival merchandise.

(Source: AFI New Release)

AFIFEST 2020 Opening Film: I’m Your Woman

WORLD PREMIERE OF THE AMAZON ORIGINAL

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES

I’M YOUR WOMAN

TO OPEN AFI FEST 2020 PRESENTED BY AUDI

The 34th Edition of Festival to Launch Online on Thursday, October 15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 14, 2020, Los Angeles, CA — Today, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced that the 34th edition of AFI FEST presented by Audi will open with the World Premiere of the Amazon Original film  I’M YOUR WOMAN.  Directed by Julia Hart and written by Hart and Academy Award® nominee Jordan Horowitz, the 1970s set crime drama follows a woman who is forced to go on the run after her husband betrays his partners, sending her and her baby on a dangerous journey. The film stars Golden Globe® and Emmy® winner Rachel Brosnahan, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arinzé Kene, James McMenamin, Marceline Hugot, Frankie Faison and Bill Heck. Horowitz and Brosnahan produced the film.

Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals

“Now more than ever it is important for film festivals to create a platform for audiences to discover great films,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals, “and I’M YOUR WOMAN is cinematic storytelling at its best. With a captivating and complex narrative of a woman on the run, director and writer Julia Hart takes us on unexpected journey that speaks directly to the current state of our world and the real meaning of friendship, love and family.”

About The Film

Suburban housewife Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) lives a seemingly easy life, supported by husband Eddie’s (Bill Heck) career as a thief. But when Eddie betrays his partners, Jean and her baby are forced to go on the run, and Eddie’s old friend Cal (Arinzé Kene) is tasked with the job of keeping them safe. After Cal mysteriously disappears, Jean befriends Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), and the two women set out on a perilous journey into the heart of Eddie’s criminal underworld. A decidedly female take on crime dramas of the 1970s, I’M YOUR WOMAN is a tale of love, betrayal, motherhood, family and what it takes to claim your life as your own.

Rachel Brosnahan plays a 1970’s suburban housewife dealing with love, betrayal, motherhood, and family in the 2020 AFIFEST Opening Night Film, I’M YOUR WOMAN. (Photo courtesy of AFI News/Shari Mesulam, the Mesulam Group)

 

AFI FEST 2020 will take place online October 15-22, 2020.  The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled in October.

Audi returns for the 17th year as the exclusive Presenting Sponsor of AFI FEST, enabling the festival to host the very best of world cinema. Audi and their visionary support reflect a continuing commitment to create opportunities for equality in film and television. Audi also supports AFI through the Audi Fellowship for Women, a full-tuition scholarship created in 2017 to support promising female directors entering the AFI Conservatory. This Fellowship is part of the Audi commitment to drive progress and a landmark investment in the future of the storytelling community.

Audi is the exclusive presenting sponsor of AFI FEST 2020.  Additional top sponsors include AT&T and APPLE. 

Passes will be available at FEST.AFI.com on September 28. Individual tickets will be available for purchase for AFI members and for the general public on October 7.

About the American Film Institute (AFI)

Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations.  Read about all of these programs and more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, youtube.com/AFI, twitter.com/American Film and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About AFI FEST presented by Audi 
Now in its 34th year, AFI FEST presented by Audi is a world-class event, showcasing the best films from across the globe. With an innovative slate of programming, the eight-day festival historically presents screenings, panels and conversations, featuring both master filmmakers and new voices to enthusiastic audiences in Los Angeles. This year’s edition takes place online October 15-22, 2020, and is a diverse program of cinematic excellence that drives progress in filmmaking and film viewing. The festival includes Special Presentations consisting of appointment viewings of high-profile films with live virtual Q&As featuring the films’ cast and crew and a robust lineup of fiction and nonfiction features and shorts presented in established AFI FEST sections. Additional information

about AFI FEST is available at FEST.AFI.com. Connect with AFI FEST at Facebook.com/AFIFESTTwitter.com/AFIFESTInstagram/AmericanFilmInstitute and YouTube.com/AFI.

About Audi of America
Audi of America, Inc. and its U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury vehicles. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands, delivering about 1.845 million vehicles globally in 2019. In the U.S., Audi of America sold just over 224,000 vehicles in 2019 and launched the brand’s first fully electric vehicle, the Audi e-tron – one of four fully electric models coming to the U.S. market in the next two years. Globally, the brand aims to be CO2 neutral by 2050. Visit audiusa.com or media.audiusa.com for more information regarding Audi vehicles and business topics.

Press release provided by AFI News/Shari Mesulam, the Mesulam Group

AFI Movie Club : ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE – a modern romantic comedy starring Ali Wong and Randall Park

This was such an unexpected treat. I was quite familiar with Randall Park’s work – Ali Wong’s not so much. After watching ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, a modern romantic comedy with an hysterical cameo by Keanu Reeves as his own alter ego, I became very familiar with Wong’s body of work – very sharp and poignant.

Here’s what American Film Institute has to say:

In addition to vast and varied roles on film and television – appearing in character and as herself – ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE co-writer, producer and star Ali Wong is also an acclaimed stand-up comedian, known for her two Netflix stand-up specials, BABY COBRA and HARD KNOCK WIFE.

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is currently streaming on Netflix and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Wong and Park play off each other so well…and then there’s Reeves’ performance to not miss.

But wait there’s more……

According to Ali Wong, the casting of Keanu Reeves was aspirational, though she didn’t think that the production would be able to secure a cameo by the A-list star. The production sent him the script – and were shocked when Reeves agreed to meet with Wong and director Nahnatchka Khan. At the meeting, he said that he was a fan of Wong’s stand-up special BABY COBRA.

DID YOU KNOW? Randall Park previously starred on FRESH OFF THE BOAT, a groundbreaking ABC sitcom developed from the autobiography of celebrity chef Eddie Huang. The series was created and developed for television by ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE director Nahnatchka Khan – and ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE co-writer, producer and star Ali Wong has served as a story editor and writer. 

DID YOU KNOW? ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE co-stars Ali Wong and Randall Park both provided voices for THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE in 2017. 

DID YOU KNOW? According to Ali Wong, the casting of Keanu Reeves was aspirational, though she didn’t think that the production would be able to secure a cameo by the A-list star. The production sent him the script – and were shocked when Reeves agreed to meet with Wong and director Nahnatchka Khan. At the meeting, he said that he was a fan of Wong’s stand-up special BABY COBRA. 

DID YOU KNOW? AFI Conservatory graduate and ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE cinematographer, Tim Suhrstedt, had previously worked with Keanu Reeves on the star’s 1989 breakout hit, BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, three decades prior to reuniting on ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE. 

DID YOU KNOW? In ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, Randall Park’s character performs in the hip-hop band, Hello Peril – which was inspired by Park’s own real-life musical experience rapping in a group called Ill Again.

Stay tuned for more!

COVID-19 Film Production Guidelines

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Official film production protocols and safety guidelines relating to COVID-19 are being released by countries, states, and organizations. Testing and access to testing remain an obstacle to productions globally. Currently, over two-hundred US productions remain mired in a postponed status.

I’m listing the United States COVID-19 Film Production Guidelines for the United States as well as information about financial assistance, unemployment options, guild and union resources.

I begin with Los Angeles County at the top because I live in close proximity and attend the American Film Market based in Santa Monica, Calif., regularly. We are in this together. Please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

 

 

Larry Gleeson

(Sourced from American Film Market and IMDb)

 

Nashville Film Festival Announces Move to Virtual Format and Plans to Produce Innovative, Original Content in 2020

Posted by Larry Gleeson

New Model Will Expand Audience Reach and Increase Accessibility While Delivering a Safe & Enjoyable Festival Experience

NashFilm 2020

*Featured photo: St Louis, Missouri, NashFilm fans, Kate and Jan Rogers pose for a photo at the 50th Nashville Film Festival, October 5th, 2019. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

The Nashville Film Festival today announced its plans to shift to a virtual model for this year’s event, which will take place from October 1-7, 2020. This year’s festival will be the most accessible version to audiences yet, and both filmmakers and film lovers will be given unique opportunities to connect and enjoy digital screenings, panels, filmmaker Q&As, musical performances, and other original content online.

The festival altered its format to ensure it could produce a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees in light of evolving health & safety protocols related to the coronavirus. The virtual festival will feature more than 200 films and include Creators Conference panels, Q&As and other exclusive content that will bring the magic of the Nashville Film Festival to attendees from the comfort and safety of their homes. As part of the new format, “virtual social” opportunities will connect audience members directly with filmmakers and other film fans to discuss their favorite movies.

 

Jason Padgitt
Jason Padgitt, NashFilm Executive Director

“Like many other live events around the world, we’ve had to adapt to prioritize the safety, comfort and well-being of our community,” said Jason Padgitt, Nashville Film Festival executive director. “This year has given us an opportunity to think creatively about how we can make the festival more accessible and innovative than ever before, and we are excited to deliver a memorable experience that honors all the reasons we’ve become known as a premier event for content creators and film enthusiasts.”

The festival, which is now in its 51st year, will continue to deliver the world’s best independent films and provide a showcase for Tennessee’s most talented filmmakers. The full program and film lineup will be announced in August 2020.

Updated Virtual VIP Badge options are now available at nashfilm.org.

NashFilm Virtual 2020

(Source: Nashville Film Festival News Release)

Today’s AFI Movie Club Film: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 10.36.19 AM

A League of Their Own comes to bat with an all-star lineup that includes Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and AFI Life Achievement Award Recipient Tom Hanks – who taught us all that “There’s no crying in baseball!” –one of AFI’s greatest movie quotes in cinematic history.

A beautiful film and heart-warming story about a difficult time in American history. Professional baseball has been canceled due to World War II. To help continue the traditions of America’s past time, a women’s professional league is formed to help fill the gaping hole by the overseas war effort. Highly entertaining! Check it out. But before you do listen to director Penny Marshall has to say about A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN in this exclusive AFI Archive video:

Interesting Facts

Discussion Questions

-Why do you think Dottie is reluctant to attend the opening of the Hall of Fame at the beginning of the film?

-What was the political climate like in the U.S. that led to the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? How did World War II influence the experience of American women?

-Why was it so difficult for society to accept women playing baseball?

-Describe the sisterly dynamic between Dottie and Kit. What were their major points of conflict?

-What makes A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN important in today’s society even after 25 years?

-Why was Doris willing to tear up the photo of her boyfriend and throw it out the bus window?

-Which player in the movie had your favorite nickname?

-What makes the line “There’s no crying in baseball!” so iconic that it is still quoted today?

– What did the league managers expect from their female players, in terms of traditional feminine qualities, appearance and behavior? Why was this expected of them as athletes?

-Why was it important for director Penny Marshall to include the scene of the African American woman throwing the baseball back to the players on the field?

-Did Dottie drop the ball on purpose at the end of the film? If she did, what would that signify about her relationship with her sister Kit?

-Why was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League short-lived? Why does a women’s baseball league not exist today?

-How would you rate A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN?

About AFI Movie Club

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time. AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI shines a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing the Movie of the Day. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience.

AFI MOVIE CLUB

(Source: AFI News Release)

 

Sundance Institute Selects 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab Fellows

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                  June 30,2020

Los Angeles, CA — Five Indigenous filmmakers have been chosen to participate in the 2020 Sundance Institute Native Filmmakers Lab, reimagined and expressed digitally this year on Sundance Co//ab. The Lab is at the core of the Institute’s commitment to supporting Indigenous storytellers since its founding.

At the Native Filmmakers Lab (June 29–July 10), Fellows will workshop scripts of their short films under the expert creative mentorship of Indigenous Program alumni and other established filmmaking professionals serving as Advisors along with the Sundance Indigenous Program staff, led by Indigenous Program Director N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache). The Lab encourages Fellows to hone their storytelling and craft skills in a hands-on and supportive environment. Following the Lab, Fellows will receive a year-long continuum of support.

 

Runningwater
N Bird Runningwater, Sundance Institute Indigenous Program Director

“We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting our annual Native Filmmakers Lab in an exciting digital format on our Co//ab platform that allows for virtual participation by our Lab Fellows from where they are socially distancing,” said Runningwater. “Given this extremely challenging time as we struggle with the impact of Covid-19 in our homelands, it is important to organize a safe space for Indigenous storytellers to come together to develop and share their work.”

“The Indigenous Program will continue the tradition of providing mentorship and support to our Native Lab Fellows as they carry on with their work,” said Runningwater. “As Indigenous peoples our connection to each other and our communities is strong. Drawing upon our ancestral strengths of adaptation and resilience we plan to make this year’s Lab a great success and provide the inspiration and support that our Lab Fellows need to bring their films to fruition and to audiences around the world.”

 

The filmmakers serving as Creative Advisors for this year’s Native Lab include: Kerry Warkia (Papua New Guinean) (Vai, Waru, The Legend of Baron To’a), Rashaad Ernesto Green (Gun Hill Road, Premature), Elegance Bratton (Walk for Me, Pier Kids), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, May in the Summer), Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Blackfoot/Sámi) (Bihttoš, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open) and Joan Tewkesbury (Thieves Like Us, Nashville). Peer Advisors for this year’s Native Lab include Razelle Benally (Oglala Lakota/Diné Nations) (I am Thy Weapon, Raven), and Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga/Wynadotte Nations) (Little Chief).

Artists and projects selected for the 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab:

Rob Fatal (Mestiza/o/x, Ute, Rarámuri, Pueblo) / Can Digital Genizaros Remember the Taste of Churros?: In near future Oakland, California a new invention allows people to upload their consciousness to the Internet as a way to achieve immortality and pay off debt. In the societal panic that follows, 2, Two Spirit best friends debate whether or not to follow thousands of people into the digital unknown in this philosophical, sci-fi dramedy.
Rob Fatal [they/them] is a Two Spirit Mestiza/o/x filmmaker, new media artist and storyteller exploring decolonial aesthetics. Working in multiple analog and digital mediums allows Fatal to reimagine their own multi-lineage indigenous storytelling tradition for our current time which Fatal refers to as the “indigenous post-apocalypse”. Fatal is often drawn to mediums like filmmaking and performance which bring together community and people to achieve a desired vision or work. Fatal finds community and culture to be their greatest artistic inspiration. To create with the collective minds of unique individuals is a practice that brings to them a great spiritual catharsis; a feeling of joy and power tied to the realization of what people working together can accomplish when in harmony: a home, a shared reality, justice, and healing. Fatal’s work has been screened internationally at the British Film Institute Flare Festival, Fringe! Queer Film & Art Festival in London, Vancouver Antimatter Media Arts Festival, Frameline SF LGBTQ Film Festival, Outsider Fest Austin, Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Broad Museum. Fatal’s films are distributed by Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center.

Keanu Jones (Navajo) / Ownership: An oppressed silversmith enters the ruthless business world to unveil the bitter reality of the Native American jewelry markets in the surrounding border-towns.

Keanu Jones is Mexican Clan born for Big Water Clan and is from Grand Falls, Arizona. He is a member of the Navajo Nation. Surrounded by family and the way of living on the Navajo Nation, his artistic identity has been greatly informed by his upbringing. This will continue to be reflected in the narratives he wants to explore.

In 2015, he was recognized with 15 other young filmmakers at the Student White House Film Festival. Then in 2018, he was recognized for his short film at the Navajo Film Festival. Keanu graduated from Navajo Technical University with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and New Media.

Amanda Strong (Métis/Michif) / Wheetago War: In a world turned to ice, the People have survived the Wheetago for two lifetimes. Wheetago War is the story of Dove, a young gender shifter, who regains medicinal knowledge to defeat the Wheetago.

Amanda Strong is a Michif (Métis, Cree, Chippewa, Assiniboine, European and Polish Ancestry) interdisciplinary artist with a focus on filmmaking, stop motion animations and media art. She is currently living and working on unceded Coast Salish territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Strong received a BAA in Interpretative Illustration and a Diploma in Applied Photography from the Sheridan Institute.  With a cross-discipline focus, common themes of her work are reclamation of Indigenous stories, lineage, language and culture.  Strong is the Owner/Director/Producer of Spotted Fawn Productions Inc. (SFP). Under her direction, SFP utilizes a multi-layered approach and unconventional methods that are centered in collaboration on all aspects of their work.

Strong’s work is fiercely process-driven and takes form in various mediums such as: stop-motion, 2D/3D animation, Virtual Reality, gallery/museum installations, published books and community-activated projects.

She was selected by renowned filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin to win the Clyde Gilmour Technicolour Award. In 2017 she won the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Mid Career Artists award, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Film and Media Artist in 2016 and, in 2013, Amanda was the recipient of K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Film and Video.  Her films have screened across the globe.

Fellowship for Indigenous Canadian film artist made possible with support from the Indigenous Screen Office.

Artists-in-Residence selected for the 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab:

Cole Forrest (Nipissing First Nation) is an Ojibwe artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Nipissing First Nation, he strives for compassion and acceptance within the arts. Cole trained and honed his craft at the “Big Medicine Studio” while working with the group Aanmitaagzi – and has written, directed, and acted in various student/independent short films, theatre pieces, and a musical. Cole’s films have been screened at various film festivals including ImagineNATIVE and Toronto Queer Film Festival, and he is a recipient of the Ken and Ann Watts Memorial Scholarship and of the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award. Cole is the 2019 recipient of the ImagineNATIVE + LIFT Film Mentorship, and a graduate of the Video Design and Production program at George Brown College – and is currently a Grants Assistant at the Toronto Arts Council. He is grateful to represent his community in all of his artistic pursuits.

Petyr Xyst (Laguna Pueblo) is an Emmy-nominated American human from Albuquerque, NM whose work focuses on themes of class, institutional failures and the people who cope with them, and the strangeness of coming of age in the 21st century. His work spans genres and formats, exploring comedy, drama, and experimental forms in short film, music video, and new media. He’s been featured at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, NATAS NW, AAHSFF, on PBS, and others. In his quarantine time, he likes to read non-fiction and stare at the wall for an indefinite period. He’s also a Sundance Institute Full Circle alum and a third-year student at the University of New Mexico.

Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program
The Indigenous Program champions Indigenous independent storytelling artists through residency Labs, Fellowships, public programming, and a year-round continuum of creative, financial, and tactical support. The Program conducts outreach and education to identify a new generation of Indigenous voices, connecting them with opportunities to develop their storytelling projects, and bringing them and their work back to Indigenous lands. At its core, the Program seeks to inspire self-determination among Indigenous filmmakers and communities by centering Indigenous people in telling their own stories.

The Sundance Institute Indigenous Program is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Oneida Indian Nation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Nia Tero Foundation, SAGindie, Indigenous Screen Office, New Zealand Film Commission, Jenifer and Jeffrey Westphal, Indigenous Media Initiatives, Felix Culpa, Sarah Luther, Susan Shilliday, and an anonymous donor.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

(Source: Sundance Press Release)

 

AFI DOCS Film Review: Maria Finitzo’s Cliteracy-exploring DILEMMA OF DESIRE Shouts For More

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                      June 29, 2020

Watching the opening scene of the cliteracy-exploring documentary, The  Dilemma of Desire, I was intrigued watching a woman, neuroscientist Stacey Dutton, Ph. D., in an office present-day, walking across the screen and opening a Gray’s Anatomy Textbook, while a voice-over narration informs the viewer. What happens next befuddled me. I could not believe my eyes. Here is a woman in 2020 with an anatomy book that has no picture or information on the female clitoris. Unbelievable right? Well, apparently, the edition being discussed was published in 1858. A sleight of hand so to say. The intent is crystal clear in today’s protest language, “Let’s get emotional people! This is pussy power were dealing with here!!!”

But, the best was yet to come as the film’s most intriguing characters were introduced. One, a Brooklyn-based artist, Sophia Wallace, has a routine of going to the gym listening to “work-out” music then taking lyrics and reframing them with the clitoris in mind. From there, prints are created celebrating the “clit,” and the hundred laws of cliteracy. To accentuate, a revealing text title poses the question with dramatic flair, “Can you draw a clit?” Pulsating music accompanies the next segment, Womanhood: The Clitoris Chapter, introducing “Critical Thinking – The Best Work of Sophia Wallace” – a very thought-provoking art exhibit celebrating the female “joy button.” More importantly, Wallace is a compelling force on the screen as she shares her experience, strength, and hope in navigating desire as she expresses her truth as Director Maria Finitzo captures mush of it in Verite’ style.

In today’s world, we often hear somewhat crude and vulgar terms such as “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” Wallace’s phrases, in juxtaposition, are framed in glitteringly gold letters – a beautiful and highly respectful manner and miles away from “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” After Wallace’s whirlwind world, Finitzo goes on to highlight Linda Diamond, PH. D., Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, a monthly newsletter for women interested in “pleasure in a practical everyday sense,” an industrial engineer manufacturing elegant female vibrators as well as a stunning Chicagoan woman, Coriama, who proudly postulates she has the will to negotiate for what she needs sexually.

Interestingly, Finitzo, a Peabody Award-winning director, spouts themes from Audrey Lourde’s feminist-leaning essay, Uses of the Erotic, that women have been suppressed from power and information by the male world. To prove her point, Finitzo adds a black and white still photograph of a woman suffering from what Dr. Sigmund Freud referred to as hysteria. Today, “hysterical” women in Decatur, Georgia, have formed a female support group. Here women create a sacred, safe space to explore the bounds of their sexuality. Adeptly, Finitzo managed to score footage from a meeting of the “mine’s.” as the women from Decatur openly share intimate feelings about their clitorises.

Nevertheless, “the little man in the boat” remains the misunderstood, “shuntive” part of the female anatomy, keeping women suppressed, as they are systematically warned against the dangers of eroticism and the resulting information. In one especially memorable scene, Finitzo mixes a driving, non-diegetic musical score culminating in a crescendo with a voice-over narration describing the clitoris as a powerful provocative force, a replenishing force. Some top-notch burlesque sequences, both archival performances as well as current-day performers, add an exquisite, erotic vibe.

The Dilemma of Desire, executively produced by Academy Award-winning Barbara Kopple, is an exceptionally well-executed film advocating that women are sexual beings with the right to live fully in the expression of their desires. The craftsmanship in gathering footage, in editing, informative narrative voice-overs, and musical score support and add timely emotionality in underscoring Finitzo’s sharply-pointed direction. My hat comes off to the cast and crew.

Probably most surprising was Finitzo’s ability to add tongue-in-cheek scenic elements underscoring the buffoonery surrounding the massive dismissal of the “devil’s doorbell” – in my opinion, a very serious oversight. But in the end, though the coverage seemed somewhat excessive, I found it wholly conceivable to view the clitoris as a replenishing, provocative force after viewing The Dilemma of Desire. A bit long, however, with a runtime of 109 minutes. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Ron Howard’s Gripping “Rebuilding Paradise” Uplifts and Inspires

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise, a blistering Verite-style, National Geographic documentary, captures the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire and the resiliency of Paradise, Calif., residents in the fire’s aftermath. Howard, one of Hollywood’s most popular directors, also directed the 1991 fire drama Backdraft. Other Howard films include the Oscar-winning dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13, the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, and the critically-acclaimed documentaries Pavarotti and The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. Following the Rebuilding Paradise screening, Howard and Paradise residents, Michelle John and Woody Culleton, participated in a Q & A moderated by broadcast journalist Katy Tur, an NBC correspondent and anchor for MSNBC Live. Howard confided Rebuilding Paradise was his first venture into Verite-style filmmaking while the residents echoed the unimaginable magnitude of the fire’s devastation and that the images don’t reflect the fire’s “uncomprehendable” nature.

Rebuilding Paradise opens in dramatic fashion with narrative voice-over providing a weather update informing the viewer of a windy day and PG&E contemplating a pre-emptive decision to shut down the area’s power grid. Large, fast-moving fire breaks out in the Feather River Canyon with four dozers, two water tenders, and four strike teams are deployed. Emergency calls are heard. School and hospital evacuations are taking place. Audible prayers are heard. And then, dashcam footage of a vehicle racing through the haze and fiery embers with diegetic radio communications juxtaposed against footage of a raging, massive wildfire (imagine Lord of the Rings Mountain of Fire) fueled by dry timber and blustering forty mile-per-hour winds reveal the genesis of a perfect firestorm. Non-diegetic music from the master composer, Hans Zimmer accompanies haunting, apocalyptic slow-motion frames of horses seeking freedom or at least a free-range amidst a claustrophobic smoke and death-seeking fire patches. The scene closes tinged in hope as a family escapes the area in their vehicle with exclamatory verbiage.

For me, this opening scene captured the essence of Rebuilding Paradise. As devastating as the fire and the footage were, the family breaks out and into blue skies with a redemptive foreshadowing. Howard latches on to a group of Paradise residents who have a deeply rooted sense of place and home as they take the journey to rebuild Paradise one day at a time. There were plenty of setbacks and details of electrical equipment dating to 1921 still in use were trying and quite frustrating as the lawyers for PG&E managed to beat down a wrongful death case to manslaughter with a 3.5 million dollar fine for the lives of 85 Paradise residents who perished in the massive fire. Adeptly, Howard captures the real Erin Brockovich speaking to a group of Paradise residents. Brockovich was the subject of a 2000 bio-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Julia Roberts that dramatized Brockovich’s relentless and successful pursuit of justice for families who were victims of PG&E polluting their water supply.

Interestingly, Howard chose to tell the story in linear segments beginning with one month, then to three months, six months, culminating with nine months. On top of the eighty-five deaths, fifty thousand lives were displaced. One of the film’s most compelling characters turned out to be the school psychologist, Carly Ingersoll, a young thirty-something, married woman who had decided to start a family with her husband. But due to contaminants being absorbed into the groundwater, she and her husband were advised by their physician not to have a baby. In her professional capacity, she was fully engaged in trauma counseling with students and despite having nearly perished in the fire herself managed to see beyond the devastation and find a sense of hope for the future.

Rebuilding Paradise is a gripping, well-executed film with top-notch photography, driving musical score and inspirational, narrative story-telling and it covers the trials and tribulations of a community facing an assured annihilation who turn their devastation into a mythic Phoenix as their town rises from its ashes in warm and hopeful tones. Very highly recommended.

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President Brings Down The Curtain for 2020 With Hope And Love

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Virtual World Premiere of the 2020 Virtual AFI DOCS Closing Night Film, Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President, directed by Mary Wharton, provided an artistic view into the influence of music on Jimmy Carter’s upbringing and its influence on the Carter Presidency. The work also provides an intimate look inside the former United States President who made peace, human rights, and healing the nation a priority after the Vietnam War and the Watergate debacle. Director Wharton also won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature Sam Cooke: Legend. Other feature film credits include Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound, the platinum-selling concert film Phish: It and Farrah Fawcett Forever.

Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President featured testimonial interviews, poetry readings, and archival performances from musical legends Bob Dylan, Nile Rodgers, Roseanne Cash, Chuck Leavell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Mihaela Jackson, Tom T. Hall, Jimmy Buffet, Bono, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels, and Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. Moreover, Ambassadors to the United Nations, Madeline Albright and Andrew Young, as well as Special Assistants to the President, Jim Free and Tom Beard, shared their respect and admiration for President Carter with direct interviews. Chip Carter, son and Presidential driver, added verisimilitude to the film’s revelatory narrative.

Following the screening, Wharton and Producer Chris Farrell participated in a Q & A moderated by Ken Jacobson and with President Carter calling in from his home in Plains, Georgia. Unfortunately, due to low bandwidth, the call was mostly inaudible. Nevertheless, the Q & A proved enlightening. While Farrell was researching and gathering artifacts for an Allman Brothers documentary, he was referred to a “bunch of guys” who began sharing stories of Gregg Allman and Jimmy Carter. Then Bob Dylan. Then Willie Nelson. And so it went. Ad Infinitum. Interestingly, Allman was the first guest of President Carter to dine in the White House. The two had become friends during Carter’s years as the Governor of the State of Georgia. In an archival interview, a clean and sober Allman tells the story of Jimmy coming out and claiming the Presidency was his for the winning. Mr. Allman claims the pronouncement came as the two heavyweights put a large dent in a bottle of J & B Scotch Whiskey. Carter contested Allman’s claim as Jimmy limits himself to one drink a day at most!

But, Jimmy Carter did become President. The road wasn’t easy. He struggled immensely until musicians like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffet put on concerts in Rhode Island and Oregon respectively, galvanizing the youth vote. Even gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was impressed with Jimmy Carter. Thompson was covering Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy’s national campaign for the Democratic Party nomination when he witnessed the verve of Carter. Carter would go on to win the nomination and the election. Kennedy would go on to have one of the longest and most influential careers in the history of the United States Senate championing a wide-range of legislative issues including the civil rights of the disabled, immigration, education, and health care reform and would bear the moniker, Lion of the Senate, for his Senatorial prowess,

Once Jimmy Carter became President, White House Lawn gatherings became regular events organized by the First Lady Rosalynn Carter. And Wharton provides spot-on footage, voice-overs, and montages of stills photographs to perfection. Yet, all was not perfect in the Camelot of the South. The longtime U.S. friend and ally, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had been facing opposition demonstrations and civil resistance when he fled the country leaving the opposition party’s Prime Minister in charge. The Shah had cancer and sought exile and treatment in the United States. This would become the defining moment of the Carter Administration. Carter, the humanitarian, allowed the Shah into the U.S. for treatment. The Iranian government fell and was taken over by the religious Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. The country quickly became an Islamic republic with a theocratic-republican constitution while student radicals took 52 American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. Former President Richard Nixon and Republican foreign policy hawks wanted swift military action against Iran. President Carter chose peace and dialogue in negotiating a release.

The U.S. economy had inflation, exorbitant interest rates, and gasoline shortages that resulted in huge lines at the pumps when gas was available. The country was in a spiritual malaise. Carter would lose his re-election bid in a landslide to Ronald Reagan, the movie actor, and Governor of California. Carter states on camera if he had it all to do over again, he’d do it the same way. The day Reagan was sworn in all the hostages were released after being held captive for 444 days. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter said their goodbyes, boarded Air Force One (where they received word of the hostages leaving Iranian airspace) and returned to small-town life in Plains, Georgia. The Carter Administration had significant foreign policy and domestic achievements with the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, humanitarian work around the world and new energy policies at home, environmental protection, and major educational programs under the new Department of Education.

Jimmy Carter, the Naval Officer, author, poet, a nuclear physicist, and a peanut farmer from small-town Plains, Georgia, would go on to lead a life of service negotiating peace deals (winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002), advocating for voter rights, and building homes for the less fortunate. He continues to this day with the love of his life, Rosalynn. Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President is one of the most fascinating biographical documentaries, I have ever seen. While many might feel compelled to say, “I like Jimmy Carter, the man, but not Jimmy Carter, the President.” I say, “Well…you need to watch Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President.” Highly recommended!

 

 

 

AFI DOCS 2020 FILM REVIEW: A THOUSAND CUTS A Prophetic Story of “The Last Days of Democracy”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The virtual 2020 AFI DOCS, supported by presenting sponsor, AT & T, started off with a technical difficulty, unrecoverable on my end, for the Opening Night Film, Boys State. As a result, my opening film became Ramona Diaz’s A Thousand Cuts, a well-orchestrated feature documentary on the suppression of free speech, corruption, human rights violations, the impunity of the Presidency, and the proliferation of disinformation spread through government propaganda and social media sites after the 2016 Philippine election of a populist candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. A Thousand Cuts is being presented at the 2020 AFI DOCS by The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

Diaz utilizes historical interview and news archives after the 2016 election of “strongman” Rodrigo Duterte and the culminating intersection of Maria Ressa’s Rappler, a news site run by Phillipino women speaking truth to power. Ressa, the Time Magazine 2018 Person of the Year, received a six-year sentence for cyber-libel four days ago for her stand on democracy and her vision for a Philippine society based in love and hope rather than in anger and fear. Amal Clooney, the wife of American Hollywood actor, George Clooney, both of whom appear in the film during some heady moments, provides representation to Ressa.

In addition, Diaz provides testimonials from a multitude of journalists and a celebrity political candidate, who becomes Duterte’s social media pawn, on the political situation in the streets and inside the Duterte government. Both direct cinema and cinema verite are woven into the film’s narrative adding substance and depth to the testimonials. In one capture, Ressa describes the global alternative news movement in the Philippines. Ressa uses graphs and a verbal explanation in revealing 25 bot-like sites, all following each other, to influence an immediate audience of three million while disseminating various untruths of misinformation. Ressa also explains to co-journalists how this messaging is then repeated millions of times with the end goal of creating doubt as to what facts are.

In archival footage following his election, Duterte begins calling traditional news outlets “fake news” and begins utilizing alt news sites to sow misinformation, creating a mob mentality as misogynistic comments to rape to death or to behead Ressa for her critical news reporting approach appear on social media. Vile and shocking screenshots of social media comments further substantiate Ressa’s journalistic claims and warrant further investigation. Martin Niemölle’s infamous “First they came:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

is reduced with dramatic and telling effect by another journalist with, “First they came for the journalist, then no one knows what happened next.”

Unmistakably, a correlation with the Trump government surfaces even though only one image of the President of the United States is shown. The typical sexist (misogynistic) “locker room” talk is shown at a rally where Duterte connects the smell of fish to the scent of a woman, manipulates a podium microphone to illustrate a weak phallus, and promulgates a war on drugs vocally saying he will kill drug dealers.

Unsurprisingly, three hours after Duterte’s election, the first dead body is found in the street. Pushing aside due process and the rule of law, the Duterte government has killed thousands upon thousands of individuals leaving the bodies in the streets devastating family members and disrupting the family dynamic, disrupted constitutional checks and balances with an unchecked abuse of executive authority, and suppressed freedom of the press with slut-shaming tactics such as labeling female journalists “presstitutes” – in my opinion, the least derogatory term Duterte uses throughout A Thousand Cuts to describe the media and the female journalists depicted.

The title of the film, A Thousand Cuts, refers to a small cut that doesn’t have much effect on the workings of democracy, yet when repeated over and over each small effect begins to damage the fabric of democracy until it becomes something else. An exceptionally well-made political documentary with a timely urgency and the soul democracy at its core. A “must-see” selection with a recorded Q & A following with Diaz and Ken Jacobson, an AFI Senior Documentary Film & Special Content Programmer.

PBS Distribution and Frontline will release A Thousand Cuts this August.

AFI DOCS continues through June 21st “exploring political and social issues in the US and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past.” For more information visit AFI DOCS.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

AFI DOCS 2020

 

 

Mountainfilm FILM REVIEW “Mossville: When Great Trees Fall” Listen to What They Say

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall, directed by Alexander Glustrom, follows a man living alone at 3009 5th Avenue in what once was a community initially founded by free slaves intent on living in peace and love along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico Coast. The last remaining resident of a once-proud African-American community, Stacey Ryan, has refused the state-run, South African global petrochemical conglomerate Sasol’s latest offer of $30,000 to vacate what is left of his pride and his family’s history.

The film opens with text titles from a Maya Angelou poem, “When Great Trees Fall,” transitioning to a narrative voice-over with footage of gravediggers digging a hole and fitting a coffin for an eternal resting place. The audience is informed of the seven initial families that started the historic Mossville community, at once a safe haven from the Civil War and a respite from the Jim Crow Laws of the Deep South.

Former Mossville resident, Erica Jackson Hartman is revealed holding a family photo telling of her family’s plight on Fisher Street, a once joyful and harmonious street in a neighborhood “where everyone knew everyone.” The community had been self-sustaining. Jackson-Hartman continued addressing the camera and reminisced of abundant fruit trees – until the chemical plants began coming in one after another peaking at an unfathomable fourteen facilities.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall also reveals that one of the largest U.S. spills of ethylene dichloride (EDC) ever occurred when a leaking transfer pipeline leaked EDC into a nearby estuary. Despite the corporate leadership assuring the residents there was nothing to fear, the residents began dying from various cancers. Twenty-eight independent tests revealed the area had high levels of dioxin, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds harmful to immune systems, hormones, reproduction, human development, leading to cancer. Eventually, a lawsuit was settled for forty-seven million dollars.

A 2012 archival news piece shows the then Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal beaming announced a massive $16-20 billion dollar project from Sasol, a global energy conglomerate based in South Africa. A brief capture of a snide Sasol executive discussing the Louisiana Westlake project, “a gas to liquids cracker complex,” reveals the corporate intent of developing the site as another South African Secunda. Secunda is the biggest emitter of greenhouse (carbon dioxide) gases in the world. The emissions from Secunda exceed the amounts from a hundred individual countries.

secunda
Sasol’s Secunda mega-plant (Photo by Alexander Glustrom)

The heart of Mossville: When Great Trees Fall captures Mr. Ryan’s bravery and indomitable spirit in direct cinema, with direct interviews and with brief footage of his hospitalizations due to health complications from the nearby plants. The city has shut off his power and sewer. A face mask-wearing Ryan is shown constructing a 6-8 foot straight- board fence as tandem and tri-axle dump trucks roll past kicking up contaminated dust in their wake.

In other footage, Ryan reveals inside his trailer that after EDC got into the drinking water, he lost both of his parents to cancer, as well as his forty-four-year-old aunt and a fifty-seven year-year-old uncle. Another uncle died young from liver failure. Sasol, one of the economic engines behind the racist, South African apartheid offered Ryan an initial voluntary buyout of $2000. Ryan is seeking enough money to raise his son in nearby Texas’s town of Helotes, known as the “best place to raise kids.”

As the film closes, Ryan is shown getting medical treatment. Text titles reveal the buyout monies Ryan eventually received has gone primarily to paying medical bills as he has been hospitalized a dozen times. And, he is still hoping to move to Helotes, Texas.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall resonates deeply with Maya Angelou’s poem as the viewer becomes the witness to an egregious wrong perpetrated visibly upon a human being, a Brother of mankind, and invisibly upon the environment, the Mother of us all. Highly recommended documentary.

 

 

Mountainfilm FILM REVIEW: “A Home Called Nebraska” Where Muslims and Refugees are Welcome

Posted by Larry Gleeson

A Home Called Nebraska, a Limited Screening selection at the 2020 Mountainfilm Film Festival, directed by Beth and Geroge Gage, delves into the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and its manifestation in the state of Nebraska. Nebraska, a conservative state, provided many new homes for innocent victims of terrorism, civil war, rape, attempted murder, and persecution through the Resettlement Program. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s policies have fueled a growing hatred of Muslims and refugees. 2019 saw the lowest number of refugees entering the US since the inception of the Resettlement Program in 1980.

The film opens in poetic fashion with concepts of love, peace, calm, and beauty juxtaposed with imagery of blood and sweat. A plethora of text titles and a myriad of testimonials and interviews inform and enlighten the audience throughout the film. Omaha’s Lutheran Family Services emerges front and center with its outgoing members explaining why it’s so important to be part of the Resettlement Program. In addition, archival interviews and current interviews document survivor stories from the Yezidis where thousands of men, women, and children were killed and raped by Isis rebels while the world watched.

Many translators and interpreters who served alongside US military men and women have been resettled into Nebraskan communities. Many others have been killed by their Iraqi and Afghan brothers for helping the United States. Other refugees from Somalia and South Sudan have escaped certain death as warring sects and civil war ravages the countrysides decimating anyone in their paths.  Surprisingly, Omaha, “in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of everywhere,” has been welcoming refugees for quite some time.

The refugees in Nebraska are vital components to the economy and socio-political apparatus. And. like any good Nebraskan, they love attending the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football games. They are business owners providing essential services. They came to the United States for safety and a chance for a new life. They came to the United States because it was said the United States was a free country. A recurring issue for refugees is the status of their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters.

On January 27, 2017, by an immigration executive order, the President of the United States signed “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” that suspended refugees admission to the United States and visas from seven named countries. In addition, the ceiling for refugees was lowered to 50,000 from 110,00 in the fiscal year 2017 (Obama).

According to the Gages and their subject matter expert, most resettlement refugees undergo a 3-5 year vetting process by the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Central Intelligence Agency before being granted asylum, usually after living in a refugee displacement camp for up to ten years or more. In addition, no refugee has been involved in a terrorist killing since the inception of the Refugee Act in 1980.

Notwithstanding, A Home Called Nebraska is very informative highlighting a community welcoming newcomers, building bridges, creating hopeful futures, and dispelling fear while combating the hatred of racist nationalism. The Gages capture some exquisite interior footage as a traditional Thanksgiving meal is shared in a vibrant community where human beings are treated as human beings regardless of their skin color and hair texture. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Kim A. Snyder’s US KIDS Moves Mountains at Mountainfilm 2020

Posted by Larry Gleeson

One of the most exceptional films I viewed during Mountainfilm was Us Kids, directed by Kim A Snyder, a filmmaker known for taking on emotionally-wrought films. Snyder also directed the Peabody award-winning, and most-watched documentary film of the last decade, Newtown, that provided a look into the lives of those most affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Us Kids documents some of the most prominent students, including Emma Gonzales, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky in the months following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Fla. In case anyone has forgotten, on February 14, 2018, a nineteen-year-old former MSD student opened fire inside the school with a semi-automatic rifle killing seventeen students and wounding seventeen others without any apparent motive.

In opening Us Kids, Snyder utilizes some pivotal archival news footage of classmates Emma Gonzales and David Hogg. Gonzales, a senior survivor of the Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting, stands on the footsteps of the Broward County Courthouse delivering her 11-minute “We Call B.S.” speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while Hogg responds to a backlash from the right wing-media and nationally syndicated, conservative television host, Laura Ingraham’s mocking tweets. His response precipitated 27 sponsors dropping their ads from Ingraham’s show. Snyder also records Marjory Stoneman Douglas schoolmate Sam Fuentes sharing her difficulties in trusting others “when a kid I barely knew tried to kill me.”

Us Kids is a direct cinema-style, full-length feature documentary film that followed the classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they launched a student-led political action committee, Never again MSD, advocating for tighter regulations to prevent gun violence and to not only help get out the vote in 2018 but to sway the vote in 2018.  The group embarks on a nation-wide, bus tour seeking support for safe learning environments and for politicians to stop taking National Rifle Association (NRA) monies. Stops in cities strife with extreme examples of gun violence and/or a powerful presence such as St. Louis, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Sioux City, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Orange County are made.

Snyder captures the toils and the rigors of campaigning for a just cause as Never Again MSD becomes fearful and afraid of being misunderstood. Attacks on social media became vicious. Furthermore, the students were antagonized and followed into their hotel by gun-toting members of the Utah Gun Exchange. In addition, the NRA counter protested sending nefarious characters in cowboy attire with red mirror-reflective sunglasses to agitate, barking at the young men and women of Never Again, MSD, telling them they are nothing more than pawns and questioning their purpose. The responses from the Stoneman-Douglas Never Again, MSD, survivors were deep, articulate, and heartfelt leaving the agitators dumbfounded and scratching their heads.

US Kids won the Jury Prize for Best Feature at the 2020 Mountainfilm Film Festival. In addition to being an award-winning documentary, US Kids is also a critical and seminal socio-political artifact on school shootings, political activism, and student-led PACs. Highly recommended.

Inspirational Ride: Mountainfilm 2020 Wrap-Up

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                          June 2, 2020

My first Mountainfilm Film Festival also was the first virtual Mountainfilm! Exceptional documentary filmmaking about issues that matter. I count my lucky stars in crossing paths with Nora Bernard.

Nora
Nora Bernard, the 46th Telluride Film Festival’s Production Office Manager, wrapping up a travel and expense report on August 12, 2019, in Telluride, Colo. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

I recall our first meeting at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival Production Office. We exchanged the usual introductory pleasantries and Nora asked if I’d been to Mountainfilm. I had not and asked her what it was. Anyone who knows Nora when she’s working, pleasantries are one thing – small talk is another. Time passed and we stayed friends on Facebook and I noticed her post in early May of this year regarding Monutainfilm and the new Bivvy Pass. Up to then, I was feeling blue as festival after festival was being canceled. A hundred-plus on-demand films with mesmerizing introductory clips, additional symposiums, events, and special presentations for $75 over a ten-day period sounded pretty awesome and my friend Nora was part of the Programming Team!

I bought it and spent the next ten days watching the best outdoor, political, social, cultural, and environmental films that matter including Watson, Current Sea, By Hand, Personhood, Apart, Big Fur, the Adrenaline Shorts Program w/ Fire On The Mountain and the award-winning short Origins, Mossville: When Great Trees Fall, Second Sight, Snow Wolf, Five Years North, and The Path of the Anaconda.

Baato
Baato, a sharply written, sharply executed documentary by Lucas Millard and Kate Stryker on life and modernization in the mountainous regions of Nepal. (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

My first selection fell under the Limited Screening category – truthfully, I monitored this section closely. Baato, a sharply written, sharply executed documentary by Lucas Millard and Kate Stryker, chronicles a family that collects medicinal herbs in the mountainous region of Nepal. Each year the family treks 300 km to a low-lying urban market to sell the herbs to keep the home afloat. Along the way, the family faces shakedowns, a new roadway being cut into the terrain, and a ramshackle bus ride. Baato proved to be a cultural feast with some enlightening perspectives. Highly recommended viewing.

Public Trust
Public Trust, executively produced by Robert Redford, exposes a movement within the Trump Administration that allows public lands to be stripped for their profits without remediation. (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

My next selection, Public Trust also a Limited Screening selection, was a Robert Redford executively produced exploration of the United States public lands, utilizing recent news footage, present-day interviews with tribal leaders, historians, government whistleblowers, journalists, of the United States public lands. The public land’s sacredness to indigenous tribes, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts is revealed as is the Trump Administration’s overt push to privatize the lands for their profits. Public Trust received the 2020 Audience Choice Award. A must-see!

Lost on Everest
Lost on Everest, a National Geographic film made its World Premiere at the 2020 Virtual Mountainfilm Film Festival (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

Lost On Everest, a National Geographic film about an expeditionary team tracking one of the early British attempts to stand on top of the world was making its World Premiere at the 2020 Virtual Mountainfilm Festival. I was ready for a mind-boggling extreme mountaineering experience. And, by golly, that’s exactly what I got. “Rising up to a peak of 29,035 vertical feet, Mount Everest has long captivated the imagination of climbers from all parts of the world.

Lost on Everest documents an elite group of research climbers who undertake a mission to locate and retrieve a camera from Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, a twenty-two-year-old climbing partner of the legendary British mountaineer, George Mallory. The two disappeared in 1924 just 800 vertical feet from the top of Mount Everest. Mallory’s body was found in 1999, approximately seventy-five feet from his last known location. Irvine’s body and the camera he was carrying have not been found to this day and have long been speculated about.” (excerpt from Lost On Everest)

Unsettled
Director Tom Shephard’s Unsettled follows asylum seekers transitioning into life in the United States of America. (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

 

Just as I began setting in, I selected (yes, another Limited Screening film) Unsettled from Director Tom Shephard. Unsettled was screened with Eva Rendle’s short film, All That Remains – a sobering look at the undocumented workers in the Santa Rosa, Calif. area following the massive 2017 wildfire that devastated one of the world’s foremost wine-producing regions. All That Remains set the tone for what came next – a case manager’s reality as Unsettled tracked the transition of asylum seekers, Junior, Subhi, Cheyenne and Mari as they navigate new freedom realizing the streets of America are not paved with gold and learning to deal with their lives on life’s terms.

A Home Called Nebraska
A Home Called Nebraska, from filmmakers Beth and George Gage, highlights an anomaly inside the state of Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

A Home Called Nebraska (Limited Screening) came next. Nebraska, a conservative state, provided many new homes for innocent victims of terrorism, civil war, rape, attempted murder, and persecution through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s policies have fueled a growing hatred of Muslims and refugees. 2019 saw the lowest number of refugees entering the US since the inception of the program in 1980. Notwithstanding, A Home Called Nebraska highlights a community welcoming newcomers, building bridges, and dispelling fear while combating the hatred of racist nationalism.

Charles Lindsay & Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz
Charles Lindsay, left, and Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz co-hosted the Magical Realism Meets Future Fiction Presentation at the 2020 Virtual Mountainfilm Film Fest.  (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

Presentation. Magical Realism Meets Future Fiction. This had me at hello. I was excited before the presentation even began. Charles Lindsay and Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz co-hosted this presentation. Charlie was zooming in from Kyoto, Japan, sharing his cultural perspectives on the intersection of consciousness and enlightenment. Brysiewicz shared his insights on decoupling time/person experience. Both seemed to agree on the premise of alternative time-spaces as sacred. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

US kids
US Kids, directed by Kim S Snyder, received the Best Documentary Feature Award at 2020 Mountainfilm, Mountainfilm uses the power of film, art, and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. (Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm)

One of the most exceptional films, US Kids, a direct cinema-style, full-length feature followed the classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla., as they launched a nation-wide, gun control crusade for a safe learning environment and to effect the 2018 elections. Stops in cities strife with gun violence and a National Rifle Association presence like St. Louis, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Sioux City, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Orange County are made. Along the way, a bond and mutual respect developed among the peers.

They also experienced the rigors of campaigning for a just cause as they questioned the National Rifle Association’s lobbying efforts and the politicians who fill their coffers with dubious contributions. The NRA fights back sending nefarious characters in cowboy attire with red mirror-reflective sunglasses to agitate barking at the young men and women telling them they are pawns. The responses from the Stoneman-Douglas survivors were deep and heartfelt leaving the agitators dumbfounded and scratching their heads.

US Kids won the Jury Prize for Best Feature at the 2020 Mountainfilm Film Festival. Let’s not forget! On February 14, 2018, a nineteen-year-old former student opened fire inside the school with a semi-automatic rifle killing seventeen students and wounding seventeen others without any apparent motive. US Kids is not only a highly recommended film, but it is also a critical and seminal socio-political artifact.

Stay tuned for more as Mountainfilm is scheduled to return next year in Telluride, Colo., with run dates of May 28th – May 31st. Hope to see you there!

Mountainfilm 2021

 

 

 

Mountainfilm FILM REVIEW: Fire On The Mountain (Chris Benchetler and Tyler J. Hamlet, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I remember the day I rode with my friends, Wally Weilmuenster and Dan Nester, to go swimming at Bone’s Lake jamming to the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain.” The world was ours in that moment and it seemed limitless. So naturally as I perused the Mountainfilm shorts programs, I made a mental note when I saw Fire On The Mountain, directed by Chris Benchetler and Tyler J. Hamlet, inside the Adrenaline shorts program. Being 11:30 PM, an adrenaline focused lineup with 12 offerings might not be an ideal choice for most of us. For me, however, it proved to be an optimal experience.

As I’m a meticulous note-taker, I was scribing when Fire On The Mountain hit my tv screen. I noted the coloration and then the unthinkable happened – a textual title revealed the film was set to the music of the Grateful Dead. I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the Dead perform live. I’ve been tuning into Dead and Company shows every Saturday on Facebook via nugs.tv for the last ten weeks. And, I did have the good fortune to see Further at the Santa Barbara Bowl several years ago. I remember that night vividly as I sat in my seat looking around as it was my first SB Bowl experience. As I looked around, I noticed a figure that I’d been watching since I began playing organized basketball in the St. Louis Metro-East way back in 1973. It was none other than Bill Walton – the same Bill Walton who connected on 21 out of 22 field-goal attempts as a UCLA Bruin at the old St. Louis Arena during the 1973 NCAA Championship Men’s basketball game.

I know you’re wondering, “What does Bill Walton have to do with Fire On The Mountain?” I can tell you one thing for certain Father Time is not playing any tricks. I was listening to the film’s poetically rhythmic voice-over-narration while thoroughly enmeshed in the film’s visuals when I became aware of thought – “that narrator sounds a lot like Bill Walton.” Then, I became aware of another thought – “it’s just somebody that sounds like Bill Walton – but who in the world sounds like Bill Walton?” Walton not only provided an enlightening narration for Fire On The Mountain, but he also is credited in the film’s collaborative writing.

Fire On The Mountain, inspired by the improvisational jam music of the Grateful Dead, features seven of their songs including “Brown Eyed Woman,” “The Other One,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Dark Star,” “Playing In The Band,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “Ripple.” From Teton Gravity Research, a Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based action sports media company “committed to fueling progression through its films and website,” Fire On The Mountain incorporates a psychedelic dynamic with trippy visuals, non-diegetic Grateful Dead music, and an in-progress, spot-on creation of a Dead-like mural all in juxtaposition to and simultaneously in ethereal harmony with bold, expressive and acrobatic action sequences in the water and on the mountain. Furthermore, the cinematography, costuming, and the tone was magically Dead inspired.

As the film closed, I sat uplifted and somewhat mesmerized, with the film’s group of talented actors around a bonfire appreciating their world and the freedom to live and experience their form of truth in unspoken ways. The performers executed the action sequences to a T opening up and expanding the conscious realm of human potentialities. Part dreamscape and part action film, Fire On The Mountain illuminates rad surfing and snowboarding talents and weaves the light of the Dead and “all the feels” into an inescapable whole.

Inspired and ready for bed, I started the last short of the program, Wingsuiter Flies Through Narrow Hole. I watched a flying man free fall through some sort of netting. It repeated itself then cut to black. A one-minute short of a man blasting through time and space and through a metaphorical representation of a Native American dream catcher. Only in America. Only at Mountainfilm. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountainfilm 2020 FEATURED PROFILE: Assistant Programmer Nora Bernard

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Having met my featured Mountainfest member, Nora Bernard, at the 46th Telluride Film Festival, my curiosity piqued upon reading her social media post on this year’s Mountainfilm, the Bivvy Pass, and her zeal in being part of this year’s Programming Team. Without missing a beat, I quickly visited Mountainfilm.org and counted my blessings. I viewed the Mountainfilm Intro by Stephen Burns. Stunning photography accented the clip leading me to check out this year’s Guest Director Louis Psihoyos sharing what makes Mountainfilm his “go-to” festival year after year.

My good fortune didn’t end there as Ms. Bernard accepted my proposal for a feature via a virtual Q & A. Please see below.

Nora
Nora Bernard, the 46th Telluride Film Festival’s Production Office Manager, wrapping up a travel and expense report on August 12, 2019, in Telluride, Colo. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

What do you do for the 2020 MountainFilm Festival?

I was an Associate Programmer for this year’s festival which consisted of reviewing film submissions and giving my recommendations to the Programming Team at Large.

Why did you choose to work for MountainFilm?

I have been working for the Telluride Film Festival for a number of years and quite a few of my colleagues have also worked for Mountainfilm. The Program Manager, Lucy Lerner, was a Senior Manager for TFF and I reached out to her with interest in being a screener for the 2019 festival.

How has your experience been?

It’s been such a thrill. I have to say, I’ve been impressed by a lot of the submissions I have watched. The documentaries screened at Mountainfilm run the gamut from outdoor adventure, climate change, anthropology, and social justice. 2019 was my first time attending and I got caught up in the overall commitment to the community. It’s been so motivating to watch the year-round staff translate that to an online platform in these current circumstances.

Why did you choose Programming?

Well with all the other festivals I’ve worked, I’ve always worked on the logistical side of things. Production, venue operations, ticketing, volunteers…you name it and I’ve probably done it. However, my eyes have been moving toward the creative side and I’m grateful to Mountainfilm for giving me the opportunity.

What other festivals/projects have you worked on?

I’ve also worked for the Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Telluride Film Festivals and am a part of the FantasticFest features submission team. Each job, I’ve worked has taught me so much and has rolled over into the next. There are so many talented people that put together these events. For now, I’m quarantining in New York City and hoping for the chance to help make that magic again soon.

Mountainfilm
Mountainfilm

About Mountainfilm

Mountainfilm, a documentary film festival in Telluride, Colo., showcases “nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues that matter.”  The 2020 edition has gone virtual in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountainfilm offering its 2020 festival lineup through a secure online platform from May 15–25. The new Bivvy pass provides full access to over 100 films, a symposium, and additional presentations for $75. An option to purchase individual films, shorts programs, or presentations for $10 each is also available. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did!

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies….

Public Trust
Public Trust

 

 

Scorched Earth Public Trust Illuminates Presidential Proclamations

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I imagined my second 2020 Mountainfilm Festival selection would be a Ken Burns-style documentary on our nation’s public lands. Director David Garrett Byars begins Public Trust, a Patagonia Films production, with a soft opening of luscious landscape photography accented by a voice-over narration of a man from Northern Alabama having relocated to a Western State pontificating on the joyous freedom of fishing and hunting in the vast open spaces in the West.

After the stunningly beautiful opening sequence, however, Public Trust, executively produced by Robert Redford, turned into a wild ride through the United States of America’s exploitation of pristine public lands with roguish, jackaloon demagogues sowing fear and distrust in any receptive audience at their disposal. Truth is damned as greed, hate-mongering, and sheer stupidity rear their disgusting, revolting, and reviling heads as the public is duped time and time again with misleading rhetoric from politicians and Trump Administration department heads. Alaskan public lands are salivatingly seen as gravy trains with stores of oil, gas, uranium, and copper as mining revenues traditionally have been dispersed to Alaskans with royalty checks. As one commentator noted, “it’s akin to a heroin addict getting a fix.”

Utilizing recent news footage, present-day interviews with tribal leaders, historians, government whistleblowers, journalists, added perspective and insight emanate into the bold and brazen Trump Administration political appointees to the United States Department of the Interior. The once protected public lands are being moved under individual states’ control to maintain – although the states cannot afford to protect and maintain the lands for public use. As a result, much of the land is being sold to the highest bidders, those with the deepest pockets. As one particularly ignorant pol snidely commented, “just let me know what my piece of the public lands is so I can sell it.”

The newest Secretary of the Interior, David Barnhart, has relocated his office into the same building with Exxon and numerous oil and gas mining corporations after Ryan Zinke, who now serves as “an advisor” to Turnberry Solutions, a lobbying firm stacked with former Trump administration advisers and campaign aides, resigned in 2019 among numerous ethics violations. The powerful extractive industries, backed by similar regulation-slashing state legislators and federal agencies, believe public lands across America should be unlocked for mining and exploration with little if any, regard for the environmental scarring and cultural diminishing effects. And, these entities say whatever it takes to get their way.

Interestingly, in closing Public Trust Byars leaves the viewer with pertinent questions about the future of America’s public lands. For instance, who will have unfettered access to these lands? Because as it stands right now it appears the oil and gas industries, in conjunction with mining operations, will solicit more revenue-generating activities from the American people. Imagine futuristic concessionaires charging fees to take you and your family to the mountaintop for sunset while the surrounding lands are stripped until all profit has been removed, and the lands permanently abandoned in an unrestored, highly toxic state. It’s the Trump Administration’s vision of the new American Way of Life.

Public Trust is a very-well researched and thought-provoking documentary. For me as a person who has enjoyed public lands immensely, the film is revealing not only from a cultural and environmental perspective but even more so from a political perspective. Highly recommended.

 

Must-see “Limited Screening” Baato Begins the 2020 Mountainfilm Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Nothing quite like leaping into uncharted waters. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Mountainfilm Festival re-imagined this year’s edition into a virtual experience. And boy, am I glad they did. With over 100 on-demand films and presentations over that I can watch on my time and from the comforts of my home theatre, I sprang out of bed, logged into my newly created account to access my festival (thank you, Nora Bernard), I spied Baato, a limited screening feature.

Without further adieu, I settled myself into a magnificent journey to a mountain peak in Nepal. And, it wasn’t by helicopter. Filmmakers Lucas Millard and Kate Stryker managed to capture an intimate portrait of a family in remote eastern Nepal collecting medicinal herbs, before making an annual 300-kilometer trek, partly on foot and partly by ramshackle bus, to lowland, urban markets – the nearest economic marketplace for their harvested medicinal herbs.

And, like any major endeavor, this one begins with the first step of many as the group sets out by foot with the women carrying the traditional, cultural load while the men complain about how difficult this walking portion of the journey is as they down a simple, collegiate-style backpack. Along the way, however, a three-part narrative emerges as Nepal is undergoing national development and the filmmakers capture a major road project being undertaken to link this area of Nepal to the southern border of China promising less walking and perhaps a less arduous life in some distant future. The massive project has employed many manual laborers, allowed for heavy construction equipment imports, and has a detrimental effect on local farming patches.

Deftly, Baato illuminates developmental pratfalls as road engineers take bribes to avoid destroying homes. Meanwhile,  the herb collectors plot to avoid shakedowns by police and bus operators as they miraculously make their way to market. This is an observant film as the viewer witnesses a deep dive into a Himalayan culture engaged in a slow and chaotic, yet inexorable transition to modern life. Excellent cinematography, compelling narrative coupled with a mesmerizing soundtrack makes this documentary a “must-see!”

Stay tuned for more as 2020 Mountainfilm Festival is just beginning.

Baato limited Screening

 

 

Mountainfilm Unveils 2020 Lineup of Films & Speakers

Posted by Larry Gleeson

As for most organizations — and most people — the pandemic has put Mountainfilm, a documentary film festival that showcases nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political and social justice issues that matter, in uncharted waters. But as you’d expect from a film festival with a penchant to inspire audiences to create a better world, Mountainfilm rose to the challenge, pivoting to a virtual festival in a matter of weeks. The result is an extended, 10-day festival with over 100 on-demand films and presentations over that viewers can watch at their leisure from the comfort of home. To experience Mountainfilm at home, all you really need is a pass and an adventurous heart.

This year’s virtual format has allowed Mountainfilm to be more accessible than ever. People can tune in from all over the world, and most content can be watched anytime during the 10-day festival window. The 2020 lineup remains true to Mountainfilm’s high standards and propensity for mixing stoke-inducing adventure films with mind-blowing (and world-changing) documentaries.

Susan Beraza
Mountainfilm Festival Director Susan Beraza

“We’re psyched for the chance to bring great programming to people who’ve been curious about Mountainfilm for all these years, but have never been able to come,” said Mountainfilm Festival Director Suzan Beraza. “This year we’re proud to offer our usual wide variety of films — from Personhood, a film about fetal rights to Public Trust, a film by a former Telluride local that turns the lens on the loss of public lands.”

After many weeks at home, most people are in need of a little hope and inspiration. Beraza and her team made a point to give viewers as much content as possible — including a few additional lighthearted films.

The lineup of feature films includes more than 25 titles that range from By Hand, a documentary that follows the journey of two brothers paddling from Alaska to Mexico, to Big Fur, a film about a devotee of Bigfoot. Most features can be watched anytime during the 10-day festival, but a select few have limited runs — meaning they’ll only be available to watch at specific times. The festival has more short film programs than ever before with titles like Concepción, recounting climber Hazel Findlay’s attempt of a 70-meter splitter crack route outside Moab, and Huntsville Station, which depicts the realities of inmates just released from prison.

Complementing the roundup of films is a symposium and a handful of live and pre-recorded presentations featuring directors and thought visionaries. We’ll hear from Mountainfilm 2020 Guest Director Louie Psihoyos and Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson on the vulnerability of our oceans, while youth activists Jamie Margolin and Jonah Gottlieb will speak to the role of young people in climate activism. In light of the upcoming presidential election, former White House Chief of Staff Jack Watson analyzes the qualities that make a good president — particularly during a pandemic.

“We’re really excited about this year’s symposium and presentations, plus we’re going to have a series of meet the author events, Q&As and filmmaker workshops that will showcase what Mountainfilm does best — bringing connection and conversation to our greater community,” said Beraza.

The 2020 virtual festival dates are May 15–25 and passes are available here.

Mountain Film

(Source: Mountainfilm Festival press release)

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES DATES FOR 2020 AFI DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AWARD-WINNING APPLE AND A24 FILM BOYS STATE TO OPEN ONLINE FESTIVAL ON JUNE 17

AT&T RETURNS AS PRESENTING SPONSOR

 

ON EMBARGO UNTIL 9 a.m. ET / 6 a.m. PT, MAY 6, 2020, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s annual documentary celebration in the nation’s capital, has announced the festival’s 18th annual edition is going virtual. With audiences eager to experience the best in documentary film, AFI DOCS will showcase current non-fiction fare in a re-imagined online film festival. The festival is proud to also announce the return of AT&T as Presenting Sponsor for the seventh consecutive year. AFI DOCS 2020 will open with BOYS STATE, directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. The festival will run June 17–21 and films will be available to view on DOCS.AFI.com.

Marjan Safinia, Michael Lumpkin, Monica Lewinsky
Michael Lumpkin

“AFI is committed to the documentary art form in the best of times and in the most challenging of times,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “Now more than ever, we are dedicated to supporting extraordinary films because the world needs stories that educate, inspire hope and remind us of humanity’s strength. AFI DOCS is here to help.”

Continue reading THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES DATES FOR 2020 AFI DOCS FILM FESTIVAL

FILM REVIEW: Bryan Fogel’s The Dissident Speaks Volumes

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Bryan Fogel, the Academy Award-winning director of Icarus premiered The Dissident, a bone-chilling documentary film, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. In The Dissident Fogel explores the events leading up to the 2018 brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the events in the aftermath of the killing. Fogel follows Khashoggi’s friend and colleague, Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi exile in Canada risking his life for the freedom of speech and Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, arguing for justice in front of the United Nations. In addition, with 2018 footage of Khashoggi in and out of briefings, Fogel lays the impressive groundwork of a counter-revolutionary movement underway in Egypt and Jordan and provides critical insight into the progressive, reformist leaning Vision 2030, the Saudi Arabian King Salmond’s Crown Prince son, Mohammad Bin Salmond’s (MBS) blueprint for Saudi society.

Furthermore, Fogel discusses a top-level purchase of highly sophisticated cyber-espionage technology, known as Pegasus, enabling MBS to hack into dissident social media accounts across the country and beyond. MBS employed an army to control social media content by infecting untold accounts with Pegasus. Interesting to note, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ smartphone was hacked and downloaded for months by Pegasus after MBS sent Bezos a mysterious video attachment on WhatsApp. The social media space, manipulated so effectively by Russia in the US elections, had now become an international warzone not just in the US and Suadi Arabia but in many countries around the world. Not surprisingly, US President Donald Trump went to the country of Saudi Arabia on his first stop of his first official visit abroad, refused to acknowledge Khashoggi’s murder despite every intelligence agency concurring, and proceeded to announce to the American people a massive $500 billion dollar arms sale. “The Saudis buy a lot of weapons from us,” opined the President in defense of himself.

But, Jamaal Kashoggi was widely respected both in Saudi Arabia and globally as a very astute scholar well-versed in the ways of diplomacy. Seemingly, his outspoken journalism aginst the destabilizing “reforms” of MBS, published in the Washington Post, led to his murder in the Istanbul Saudi consulate on October 2, 2018. The Turkish government investigated Koshoggi’s murder compiling a formidable case. United Nations Special Reporter Agnes Callamard started her own investigation and concluded an international crime had been committed in Khashoggi’s death with no less than six violations of international law igniting protests and strengthening the country’s demand for freedom of speech under the banner – Justice for Jamal. His murder also undid MBS’s Vision 2030. In reality, Vision 2030 was an ambitious power grab under the guise of an anti-corruption probe where MBS rounded up and imprisoned the country’s most powerful people while seizing hundreds of billions of dollars.

With a covert expose’ touch, Fogel adeptly uncovers and reveals the truth in this highly controversial and well-researched, socio-political-economic arena unfolding in the global news cycle with an abundant supply of footage of all the key players and some very informative graphics. Make no mistake, The Dissident is a powerful and startling look at the cost of freedom of speech, the murder of a journalist for exercising his freedom of speech, and the ramifications of the interference of a government in social media. Don’t miss this one. Highly recommended.

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Max Richter’s Sleep connecting the world

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Max Richter’s Sleep, a documentary film from Award-winning filmmaker Natalie Johns screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as a Special Event. Sundance Special Events are one-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works that enhance the festival experience. Johns’s first global feature documentary, I Am Thalente, won an Audience Award at the LA Film Festival. Johns also received an Emmy nomination in 2015 for Outstanding Directing and has collaborated with some of the world’s leading musical talent, including John Legend Annie Lennox, Sam Smith, Childish Gambino, Solange, and Gil Scott Heron. In 2015, to critical acclaim, Richter released an eight-hour Sleep lullaby with a meditative quality combining piano and strings with subtle electronic touches and vocals to mimic brain waves in a state of sleep – an unimaginable effort connecting musical consciousness to the world.

Max Richter’s Sleep follows the process of mounting the most ambitious live performance of Sleep to date: an open-air concert in downtown Los Angeles’s Grand Park, across from the Los Angeles Music Center, where over 500 people experienced the composer’s work in unison. But, instead of chairs, the audience members were given beds to sleep in! Johns includes a myriad of aerial shots of the downtown Los Angeles area that are interwoven in the film while a narrative voice-over informs the audience of longing for human connection and the desire to create a space for community and connectivity. A montage of close-ups depicting musical instruments and mathematical equations delineating the intricate mathematical formulae Richter utilizes to create his dream state composition.

Intentionally designed to keep listeners in a state of sleep, Richter unlocks patterns and rhythmically represents brain waves with accompanying repetitious musical notes.  Performing Sleep required unprecedented endurance from its musicians. Once the concert is well underway, footage of Richter walking through the sleeping audience is captured and reveals the majestic undertaking coming to fruition – rejuvenation by reengaging the arts back into society. As morning breaks, an acoustic sunrise slowly brings an emotional, refreshed awakening with a feeling of hope and a new beginning.

Johns also includes a look into Richter’s home life as he and his wife balance creative pursuits and paying the bills. Richter confesses his creative pursuits are his passion but his film compositions allow him the freedom to balance his art and his household needs. The result was a striking visual portrait that immerses us within the life of Richter and his creative partner, Yulia Mahr. Interestingly, Richter has performed his Sleep in venues around the world including cathedrals and parks. The first performance from midnight to 8:00 AM, September 27th, 2015, in London, England, at the Wellcome Collection Reading Room as part of the BBC’s “Science and Music” set a Guinness Book of World Records for the longest live broadcast The composition was also performed at the Philharmonie de Paris from midnight to 8:00 AM on November 18th, 2017.

The Los Angeles concerts on July 27-28th and July 28-29th, 2018, from approximately 10:30 PM until dawn, were the first outdoor performances of Sleep. Richter played piano, keyboards, and electronics. The American Contemporary Music Ensemble accompanied Richter along with cellist Claire Jensen, soprano Grace Davidson, violinist Andrew Tholl, cellist Emily Brausa, Isabelle Hagen (viola), and Ben Russell.  I viewed the ninety-nine-minute film in the evening with a group of Sundance Film Festival volunteers and several members of the press. I left the theatre feeling very connected and very grounded and I imagine you will too. Highly recommended – an ultimate chill film!

 

 

Eva Longoria Announces GILDA #AFIMovieClub Pick of the Day

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Eva Longoria announces today’s AFI Movie Club selection: GILDA. The film stars Rita Hayworth and appears on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 SONGS list of the greatest American movie music of all time – and Hayworth appears as #19 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 STARS!

INTERESTING FACTS

GILDA was originally written as an American gangster film. The more salacious events in the story were threatened by censorship codes, so the location was changed to Buenos Aires.

GILDA was not the first time Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth were coupled onscreen, co-starring six years earlier in another Charles Vidor film, THE LADY IN QUESTION. After GILDA, the two stars maintained a secret love affair for nearly 40 years!

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was adapted from a Stephen King novella titled, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” and features a scene from GILDA. Hayworth’s role, including her iconic introduction in the film, remains one of the most widely referenced performances in cinema history!

Rita Hayworth’s singing voice was dubbed for most of her musical numbers in GILDA, but she performed the most iconic song of the film – “Put the Blame on Mame” – herself.

Producer Virginia Van Upp developed GILDA for Rita Hayworth. Van Upp was a prolific screenwriter and producer, although much of her work was not credited onscreen.

One of the first test atomic bombs was named “Gilda”? Rumor has it, the bomb was also decorated with Rita Hayworth’s likeness! Hayworth’s husband at the time, Orson Welles, later revealed that she was not pleased with this explosive attribution.

The film was Hayworth’s first major dramatic role for Columbia and catalyzed her ingenious genesis as a femme fatale.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits. Engage with your family, friends and others like you who love the movies. Check out the AFI Movie Club Discussion Questions for this movie and post your responses in the comment section!

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below. 

-GILDA is now known as a quintessential film noir – with Rita Hayworth’s character representing the prototypical femme fatale. What elements of the movie make it fit that genre?  

-Is Gilda all bad? Do you consider her a villain or an antihero? 

-GILDA was released just six months after WWII ended. How do you think audiences may have perceived the threat of escaped Nazi war criminals as it is shown in the movie? How does GILDA capture the postwar ethos? 

-What themes of the movie still resonate in today’s world? 

-Historians note that GILDA broke type with other film noir by having a happy ending. Would you describe the conclusion as “happy?” If you were telling this story, how would you end it? 

-GILDA’s filmmakers used visual devices to shift the audience’s loyalty toward characters throughout the film. Can you describe a scene in which you changed your mind about a character? 

-How would you rate GILDA?

Watch Edward James Olmos talk about Rita Hayworth and GILDA in this exclusive AFI Archive video.

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time when we are reminded “There’s no place like home.” AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

About AFI Movie Club

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI will shine a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing select AFI Movies of the Day in short videos posted on AFI.com and social media platforms. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience. Audiences can continue the conversation online using the hashtag #AFIMovieClub. Learn more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, youtube.com/AFI, twitter.com/AmericanFilm, and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

AFI MOVIE CLUB

 

TCM Classic Film Festival Special Home Edition – Celebrating the past decade of the TCM Classic Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Catching up after the sad news last month on the effect the current coronavirus (COVID-19) is inflicting on life as we know it and the TCM Classic Film Festival.

TCM Past
Larry Gleeson providing full coverage for the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 14th, 2014, at the Chinese Mann Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Genworth and TCM)

After much speculation, the decision was made by TCM to cancel this year’s festival in early March with a public announcement from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

Fortunately for TCM fans and classic film cinephiles around the world, this year’s festival was re-imagined into a weekend-long TCM Classic Film Festival Special Home Edition, April 16th-19th and announced to the public with another announcement from host Mankiewicz! After the video, check below for more intricate details on this year’s special edition and a spectacular moment from the 2016 Opening Night Mixer.

This special home edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival will feature favorite movies and festival moments, TCM hosts and special guests that can all be enjoyed from the comfort of home. As a part of the Special Home Edition, TCM is showcasing films that have been a part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, both from years past and slated for this year’s event.

 

TCM 2020 Home Edition

All times EST

Thursday, April 16

8:00 PM A Star is Born (1954)
Opening Night Film at the inaugural 2010 TCM Classic Film Festival, presented by Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin.
11:00 PM Metropolis (1927)
Closing Night Film at the 2010 TCM CFF, this was the North American premiere of a restored version of the film with footage found in 2008 in Argentina, with live score by the Alloy Orchestra.
1:45 AM Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011)
Recorded at the 1st TCM CFF in 2010 when Ms. Rainer, the first back-to-back Oscar winner for Best Actress, was 100 years old.
2:30 AM The Good Earth (1937)
Presented at the 2010 TCMCFF with Luise Rainer in attendance.
5:00 AM Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool on Opening Night, with Esther Williams and Betty Garrett in attendance and featuring a performance by the Aqualilies.

Friday, April 17

6:45 AM The Seventh Seal (1957)
Shown as part of a tribute to Max Von Sydow at the 2013 TCM CFF, with the actor in attendance.
8:30 AM She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Introduced by Keith Carradine, at the 2016 TCM CFF.
10:30 AM Sounder (1972)
Presented at the 2018 TCM CFF with Cicely Tyson in attendance, who was honored prior to the screening with a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX.
12:30 PM A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
This world premiere restoration was introduced by Alec Baldwin and Don Was at the 2014 TCM CFF.
2:00 PM Eva Marie Saint:  Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2014)
Recorded in front of a live audience at the 2013 TCM CFF as part of a tribute to Eva Marie Saint.
3:15 PM North by Northwest (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau in attendance.
5:45 PM Some Like It Hot (1959)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF with Tony Curtis in attendance.
8:00 PM Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)
West Coast premiere at the 2016 TCM CFF, with Lillian Michelson and director Daniel Raim in attendance.
10:00 PM Deliverance (1972)
A cast reunion was presented at the 2013 TCM CFF, with Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Jon Voight and director John Boorman in attendance.
12:00 AM The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Presented in 3D at the 2018 TCM CFF, this was introduced by Dennis Miller.
1:30 AM Grey Gardens (1975)
Presented at 2014 TCM CFF as part of a tribute to Albert Maysles, who was in attendance.
3:15 AM Night Flight (1933)
Out of circulation for over 50 years, this was introduced by Drew Barrymore, granddaughter of the film’s star John Barrymore at the 2011 TCM CFF.
5:00 AM Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2013)
Taped in front of a live audience at the 2012 TCM CFF, as part of a tribute to Kim Novak.

Saturday, April 18

6:00 AM The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Presented at the 2011 TCM CFF with Nancy and Tina Sinatra and Vicki Preminger in attendance.
8:00 AM Mad Love (1935)
Introduced at the 2019 TCM CFF by Bill Hader with actress Cora Sue Collins in attendance in the audience.
9:15 AM Double Harness (1933)
Introduced at the 2016 TCM CFF, by James Cromwell, the son of director John Cromwell.
10:30 AM Vitaphone Shorts:
Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder (1929)
Don’t Get Nervous (1929)
Lambchops (1929)
Presented at the 2016 TCM CFF, as part of a program celebrating “90th Anniversary of Vitaphone,” by the founder of the Vitaphone Project, Ron Hutchinson.
11:00 AM Sergeant York (1941)
The first Festival program to screen at the newest venue of the TCM CFF, the Legion Theater at Post 43, this was introduced in 2019 by Andrew Jackson York, the son of Sergeant Alvin C. York and grandson, Gerald York.
1:30 PM Safety Last! (1923)
The first of four Harold Lloyd films presented at the TCM CFF, this was accompanied by live orchestra and music composed and conducted by Robert Israel, in 2010, and introduced by Suzanne Lloyd.
3:00 PM They Live by Night (1949)
Presented at the 2013 TCM CFF and introduced by Susan Ray, widow of director Nicholas Ray.
4:45 PM Faye Dunaway: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2017)
Taped in front of a live audience at the 2016 TCM CFF, as part of a tribute to Faye Dunaway.
5:45 PM Network (1976)
Presented as part of a tribute to Faye Dunaway at the 2016 TCM CFF, with the actress in attendance.
8:00 PM Casablanca (1942)
A perennial favorite, this film has been presented three times at the TCM CFF, including a screening introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and Monika Henreid in 2010. Peter Bogdanovich will return to co-host this on-air screening.
10:00 PM The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Presented at the 2010 TCM CFF, it was introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and David Kamp. Peter Bogdanovich with co-host this on-air screening.
11:45 PM Night and the City (1950)
Presented at the 2012 TCM CFF by Eddie Muller.
1:30 AM Norman Lloyd: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2016)
Recorded in front of a live audience as part of a tribute to Norman Lloyd, at the 2015 TCM CFF; Mr. Lloyd was 100 at the time of the taping.
2:30 AM The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Presented at the TCM CFF in 2013 with Norman Lloyd in attendance to talk about his friend, Alfred Hitchcock.
4:15 AM The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The largest orchestral presentation to date at the TCM CFF was this 2016 screening, with live orchestra and the UC of Berkely Alumni Chorus (under the direction of Dr. Mark Sumner) performing an original score by Richard Einhorn.

Sunday, April 19

6:00 AM Jezebel (1938)
Presented at the 2017 TCM CFF.
7:45 AM The Set-Up (1949) )
Introduced at the 2018 TCM CFF introduced by Noir Alley host Eddie Muller and actor/filmmaker Malcom Mays, who did a live reading of the poem the film is based on.
9:00 AM Peter O’Toole, Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2012)
Recorded in front of a live audience, and part of a tribute to Peter O’Toole at the 2011 TCM CFF.
10:00 AM Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Screened as part of a tribute to Anne V. Coates, ACE, at the 2015 TCM CFF, with the Oscar-winning editor in attendance.
2:00 PM Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Presented at the introduced by film historian and author Cari Beauchamp at the 2017 TCM CFF.
3:30 PM Auntie Mame (1958)
Presented at the 2012 TCM CFF, introduced by Todd Oldham.
6:00 PM Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Presented three times to date at the TCM CFF, in 2010, 2012 and 2017 editions, with guests over the years including: Debbie Reynolds, Stanley Donen, and Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee.
8:00 PM Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016)
Floyd Norman was slated to be honored with a tribute at the 2020 TCM CFF.
9:45 PM The Hustler (1961)
The 2020 TCM CFF included a tribute to the actress Piper Laurie.
12:15 AM Baby Face (1933)
Longtime festival guest Bruce Goldstein intended to present a special presentation at the 2020 TCM CFF, about the censorship of the film and footage added back in decades later, to this popular pre-Code film.
1:45 AM Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
Serge Bromberg was scheduled to present this recently restored silent with musical accompaniment at the 2020 TCM CFF.
3:30 AM Victor/Victoria (1982)
Julie Andrews was slated to attend the screening of this film, at the 2020 TCM CFF.

TCMFF-Home-Edition-Schedule 

 

TCM_0191
Larry Gleeson, left, taking direction at the 2016 Opening Night TCM Classic Film Festival, April 28, 2016, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo courtesy of TCM Backlot)

Malone_TCMFF
TCM Classic Movies host Alicia Malone provides a warm welcome, April 26th, 2018, to the TCM Classic Film Festival’s Delta Green Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

TCM 2020 Save the Date

 

(Sourced from TCM news announcements)

BRAD PITT ANNOUNCES BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID – AFI MOVIE CLUB

Posted by Larry Gleeson

BCATSK

AFI MOVIE CLUB

BRAD PITT ANNOUNCES BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID

April 6, 2020

Brad Pitt announces today’s AFI Movie Club selection: BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the infamous outlaws, the film appears on AFI’s original and 10th-anniversary lists of the greatest American films – and the dynamic duo of Butch and Sundance were co-ranked #20 among AFI’s greatest screen heroes!

DID YOU KNOW? The real Butch Cassidy never used violence or firearms until he moved to Bolivia in the last days of his life. William Goldman, who won an Oscar® for writing the film, said that this paradox in Cassidy’s character was his primary motivator in developing the story for the film. View this exclusive AFI Archive video of Goldman talking about writing the film.

Interesting Facts

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were real-life outlaws living at the turn of the 20th century.

The real Butch Cassidy never used violence or firearms until he moved to Bolivia in the last days of his life.

Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh – the real-life Butch and Sundance! – were members of a gang called The Wild Bunch. The gang’s name was never referred to in the movie to avoid confusion with another western in theaters that same year – Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH!

Stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford teamed up with director George Roy Hill for THE STING in 1973. That later film would win Best Picture at the Academy Awards®!

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID was the highest-grossing Western ever made. Adjusted for today’s numbers, the film would have earned over a half billion dollars!

Paul Newman, an early investor in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, initially planned to play Sundance with Steve McQueen as his co-star.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions 

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below

-Is this the first time you’ve seen BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID? 

-Does the Western theme remind you of other kinds of movies you’ve seen that are not typically considered to be Westerns, such as STAR WARS? 

-The dynamic duo Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were co-ranked #20 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 HEROES & VILLAINS list. Would you describe them as heroes? Why or why not? 

-BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID was released in September 1969. What else was going in our nation at that time – and why do you think this movie resonated so strongly with audiences? 

-Why do you think BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID is still so beloved after 51 years? 

-How would you rate BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID? 

EXTRA – Listen to what everyday funnyman Ben Stiller has to say about the film and about Woodcock, in aprticular, here:

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time when we are reminded “There’s no place like home.” AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

About AFI Movie Club

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI will shine a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing select AFI Movies of the Day in short videos posted on AFI.com and social media platforms. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience. Audiences can continue the conversation online using the hashtag #AFIMovieClub. Learn more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, youtube.com/AFI, twitter.com/AmericanFilm, and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

AFI MOVIE CLUB

Today’s AFI Movie Club film: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD starring Gregory Peck

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Small-town Alabama, 1932. Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) is a lawyer and a widower. He has two young children, Jem and Scout, portrayed by Phillip Alford and Mary Badham. Atticus Finch is currently defending Tom Robinson, a black man (played by Brock Peters) accused of raping a white woman and his children from prejudice.

Finch and Robinson

Meanwhile, Jem and Scout are intrigued by their neighbors, the Radleys, and the mysterious, seldom-seen Boo Radley (played by Robert Duvall) in particular. The messaging that unfolds is timeless.

Jem and Scout

Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winner of three. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is today’s AFI Movie Club selection.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a beloved film that appears on five of AFI’s lists of the greatest American films – and Gregory Peck’s iconic character, Atticus Finch, was named the greatest screen hero of all time by the American Film Institute.

The movie is based on a beloved book by Harper Lee, which appears regularly on lists of the greatest American novels.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits. Engage with your family, friends, and others like you who love movies. Check out the AFI Movie Club Discussion Questions for this movie and post your responses in the comment section!

-Atticus says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” From whose point of view is the story told – and how does that affect the story?

-How would the film be different if it were told from a different character’s perspective?

-TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a story of a different time in America – but which of its themes and messages are still relevant today?

-How would you rate TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?

INTERESTING FACTS

Gregory Peck won his first and only Oscar® for his performance as Atticus Finch.

Gregory Peck’s climactic speech – one of the most iconic in American film, running for six minutes and 30 seconds – was done in a single take.

To Kill A Mockingbird 2

The film’s Scout – Mary Badham – was chosen from hundreds of children in a talent search of the American South. Badham had no prior onscreen acting experience and was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance.

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time when we are reminded “There’s no place like home.” AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

About AFI Movie Club

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI will shine a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing select AFI Movies of the Day in short videos posted on AFI.com and social media platforms. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience. Audiences can continue the conversation online using the hashtag #AFIMovieClub. Learn more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, youtube.com/AFI, twitter.com/AmericanFilm, and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

AFI MOVIE CLUB

Don’t miss this! SHOOTING HEROIN Coming Today

Posted by Larry Geeson

 

Shooting Heroin, one of the first narrative feature films on the current opioid epidemic in North America, tells the story of a young man, portrayed by Alan Powell, returning home from three overseas tours while surviving two divorces. Meanwhile, the heroin epidemic has embedded itself inside his hometown, a typical rural community, Whispering Pines. Shooting Heroin weaves a faith-based narrative into a typical rural setting with grace and eloquence.

Heroin

Utilizing some excellent technical filmmaking techniques through the use of point-of-view shots coupled with longer takes and a nuanced editing pace, Director and Producer Spencer Folmar, himself a small theatre chain operator and distributor through his company Veritas Films, flashes his filmmaking chops. In addition, the cinematography is eye-pleasing with sweeping opening landscape shots along with adept use of lens selections. Furthermore, an attractive cast augments the aesthetics. Sound and music tracks complement rather than overwhelm. The strength of musical talent is formidable.

Moreover, I discovered varied and sundry cinematic influences ranging from the hot Netflix docuseries, The Pharmacist through the award-winning 2011 Winters Bone into Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven and as far back as the original 1934 Frankenstein. Suffice to say these filmmakers are no slouches.

Most interesting was the understated role of the “girl next door” character, portrayed by Rachel Hendrix. Grounded in the present and an unfaltering belief in the power of redemptive salvation, Hendrix’s character makes the narrative credible and ultimately believable. Her taped interview is a personal revelation unto itself. Tune in, turn on, and carry the torch to undo the scourge of heroin in your community. You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

Originally set for an initial limited theatrical release in cities across North America, Shooting Heroin, has repeatedly pivoted to reach its audience in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Following the cancellation of its Los Angeles premiere and party, the producers have organized a LIVE, digital red carpet premiere for opening day, taking place on Zoom from 2:30-3:30PM Friday, April 3 with numerous cast and crew in attendance online for media to meet and interact with. Further, they’ve made all the on-set interview footage and clips available to the media and the public to edit and broadcast to their taste. Those are available here:

EPK Video Clips: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kf8zvj2kwi93g0a/AAACcvyz45WShzLn-Zyrg2J3a?dl=0
ZOOM invite: Shooting Heroin Virtual Red Carpet
Time: Apr 3, 2020 02:30 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
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SHOOTING HEROIN moved to video-on-demand and pay-per-view platforms following the shutdown of almost all movie theatres nationally during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The film had also been set to premiere at three film festivals in Northern New Jersey, Dallas, and Los Angeles–two were canceled. The third, the Garden State Film Festival, went online, premiered the film Saturday, March 28 and hosted an online Q&A following the screening with dozens of guests; the film captured a Best Supporting Actor Award for Garry Pastore.

Heroin

 

 

 

Wizard of Oz Kicks Off AFI Movie Club

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The American Film Institute (AFI) announced on March 31st it’s launching of a daily virtual gathering of cinephiles and movie lovers from around the globe. AFI Trustee and legendary filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, kicked off the optimistic and forward-thinking event with an introduction to the AFI Movie Club’s first film, The Wizard of Oz, and one of the film’s most important messages, “there’s no place like home.”

 

And, if that’s not enough check out what Judy Garland’s daughters Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft thought about THE WIZARD OF OZ the first time they saw it.

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one terrified by flying monkeys!

Stay tuned for more on this daily excursion with the AFI Movie Club!

AFI MOVIE CLUB

 

 

The American Film Institute Launches AFI MOVIE CLUB

Posted by Larry Gleeson

afi2

AFI MOVIE CLUB

“Movies To Watch Together While We’re Apart”

Steven Spielberg Inaugurates New AFI Program

Supplemental Content Curated from AFI’s Archive to Enrich Viewing Experience

The American Film Institute (AFI) announced yesterday the launch of AFI Movie Club – a daily virtual gathering to leverage our collective love of film on behalf of optimism in this time of global uncertainty. AFI Trustee Steven Spielberg introduced the inaugural film, THE WIZARD OF OZ, in a video that reminds in a timely manner, “There’s no place like home.”

AFI – the authority on American film – will continue to select an iconic movie each day for the world to watch together, creating a communal viewing experience during these unprecedented times of social distancing. Other special guests will announce select AFI Movies of the Day in short videos posted on AFI.com and social media platforms. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to view the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming services. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience. Audiences can continue the conversation online using the hashtag #AFIMovieClub

 

AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale introduces World Premiere of PERSONAL STATEMENT at AFI DOCS Opening Night. Credit_ Tom Kochel
Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO

AFI’s goal is to live in a world of art above anxiety,” said Bob Gazzale, President and CEO. “We’re honored to have Steven Spielberg, the greatest storyteller of our day, lead the way.”

 

Seven of Spielberg’s films appear across AFI‘s 100 YEARS…100 MOVIES lists – SCHINDLER’S LIST, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE COLOR PURPLE and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. And in 1995, AFI awarded Spielberg with the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film.

About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present, and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations. Read about all of these programs and more at AFI.com and follow us on social media
at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, youtube.com/AFI, twitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

afi_logo_official

(Source: AFI Press Release)

47th Telluride Film Festival 2020 Box Office Opens

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Each Labor Day weekend, the tiny mountain village of Telluride, Colorado triples in size. Swells of passionate film enthusiasts flood the town for four days of total cinematic immersion, embarking on a viewing odyssey, blissfully spending entire days in flickering dark rooms. With only an appreciation of celluloid to guide them, these devotees flock to the show, year after year. Why? Blind faith. Telluride doesn’t reveal the program until everyone lands in town. Yet the Telluride family trusts that a unique experience will unfold. (Telluridefilmfestival.org)

Telluride Film Festival

 

The Telluride Box Office for Cinephile, Acme and Festival level passes is open NOW.  Please note that Patron Passes are sold out.

Please visit the Telluride Film Festival website to order your pass online.

Telluride Passes

If you have any questions on the best way to order your pass, or other general inquiries regarding the Festival, call 510.665.9494 or email at passes@telluridefilmfestival.org. You’ll be glad you did!

Telluride
Larry Gleeson dons a Telluride Film Festival Vespucci Dogs ’19 hat in the town of Telluride, Colo., for the 46th Telluride Film Festival, held August 3oth through September 2nd, 2019.

Until next time. I’ll see you at the movies!

 

*Featured photo courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

 

 

5th Annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival Returns to The New Vic Theatre with Oscar Nominees, Comedies, Dramas, and More

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 5th annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, will be held Wednesday, March 11 through Sunday, March 15 at The New Vic Theatre, 33 W. Victoria Street, Santa Barbara.

SBJFF co-chair Dr. Mashey Bernstein recently announced a wide selection of movies from Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Israel, and the United States, including world and West Coast premieres, three international Oscar submissions, and four films that feature women who reveal bravery and strength under dire circumstances. While most of the fare is uplifting and light, the festival does not avoid the controversial and thought-provoking. Special guests are also on the menu.

Hitler Pink RabbitThe festival opens on Wednesday, March 11 at 7:00 pm with the West Coast premiere of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Oscar winner Caroline Link’s adaption of Judith Kerr’s semi-autographical bestseller of the same title—a story about parting, family cohesion, and optimism. Other films that feature the indomitable power of women are An Irrepressible Woman (Friday 13, 12:45 pm) inspired by Janot Reichenbach (played by acclaimed French actress, Elsa Zylberstein), and her love for French socialist politician and three-time Prime Minister, Léon Blum (Hippolyte Girardot) who followed him, at great personal risk, to the Nazi prison where he was held. Those Who Remained, Hungary’s submission for the Oscars is a lyrical story of the healing power of love in the midst of national conflict, loss, and trauma, revealing the healing process of Holocaust survivors through the eyes of a young girl in post-World War II Hungary.

Not all is sad as several comedies fill out the festival. Saturday, March 14 at 8:00 pm Tel Aviv on Firefeatures Tel Aviv on Fire which finds comedy in dire situations. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict forces an unlikely union between an Israeli border guard with a yearn for Hummus and an inept Palestinian screenwriter. Two familiar faces will be the actors from the hit comedy Maktubb (SBJFF 2018) who are back this year with Forgiveness, Israel’s most popular movie in 2019. During the holy days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur two hapless criminals try to set their lives aright but keep stumbling into one crisis after another. In a slightly different vein is The Rabbi from Hezbolah (Friday, March 13, 10:00 am). A farmer from Lebanon ends up helping the Israeli army in a biography with more twists and turns than a Matthew Bourne mystery. Also inspiring is Aulcie, about the rise and fall and rise of one of Israel’s greatest athletes and basketball players (Thursday, March 12, 10:00 am.)

Two special movies are the documentary Carl Laemmle (Friday, March 13, 3:00 pm) and Golda’s Balcony, the Film, (Sunday 15 at 12:45). Carl Laemmle follows the life of the founder of Universal Studios, but more importantly, a man who rescued over 300 members of his family from Nazi Germany. Golda’s Balcony, the Film features Tovah Feldshuh’s stunning Broadway performance as Golda Meir—and nearly a hundred other characters from Henry Kissinger to Ben Gurion.

A featured shorts program will run 4:00 pm on Sunday, March 15, including shorts from the US, with a world premiere among the selections, and a profile of a young ultra-orthodox Jew with a real flair for comedy. Producers, directors and family members are invited guests.

The free community program will be on Sunday, March 15 at 10:00 am and features two very entertaining comics exploring the food delights of Montreal in Chewdaism. Guaranteed to have you craving a good corned beef on rye!

Other highlights of the Festival in a more serious vein are Incitement in which acclaimed writer-director Yaron Zilberman chronicles the disturbing descent of a promising law student Yigal Amir (award-winning actor Yehuda Nahari Halevi) who was influenced by a particular interpretation of Rabbinic teaching, political points of view and maternal love and transformed into an intransigent ultranationalist obsessed with murdering Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Incitement is a story told with heart-searching honesty and was as Israel’s 2020 Oscar submission and winner of 9 Ophir Awards including Best Picture.

The festival concludes on Sunday, March 15 at 6:30 pm with the Ha’Seret Ha’Mitztayen (Excellence in Film) Awards to best short, documentary, and feature film, followed by Crescendo, a fictional film loosely based on the real-life West-Eastern Divan Orchestra—which is scheduled to appear in Santa Barbara just before the Festival—started by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said. Crescendo’s story offers a tempered hope for the future.

For a full list of films go to www.sbjewishfilmfestival.org. All-Access Passes, which cover all thirteen programs plus opening night reception and early entrance to the films, is $118. Individual tickets ($12) will be available in advance beginning March 11 and at the door.

About the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival

The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara produces the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival specifically to celebrate the diversity of Jewish history, culture, and identity while hoping that the films and their stories will resonate beyond these settings and speak to universal experiences and issues that confront our common humanity. For more information, visit www.sbjewishfilmfestival.org

SB Jewish Federation

(Source: Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival Press Office)

 

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival 2020 Announces King Vidor Award Honoree!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

SLO Film Fest 2020

The 2020 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo

announces Lawrence Kasdan will be this year’s

King Vidor Award honoree

(March 17-22)

Kasdan

San Luis Obispo, CA (February 24, 2020) – The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 12-17) has announced that critically acclaimed director/writer/producer Lawrence Kasdan will be this year’s King Vidor Award honoree.

Kasdan will be attending the film festival with his wife, frequent collaborator Meg Kasdan, with their documentary short film, LAST WEEK AT ED’S, about the closing of the beloved Ed’s Coffee Shop in West Hollywood.

Wendy Eidson
Wendy Eidson

“The King Vidor Award offers us an opportunity each year to celebrate and honor someone that has impacted our love of cinema, and Lawrence Kasdan epitomizes that as much as anyone” said SLO Film Fest Director Wendy Eidson. “From RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, to THE BIG CHILL, to so much that we love about the STAR WARS films and more, he has either been one of the key people behind their creation or outright been responsible for some of our favorite movie moments.”

Presented by BHE Renewables and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery, the King Vidor Award presentation will take place immediately after the George Sidney Independent Film Awards ceremony on Saturday, March 21 at 7:00PM at the Fremont Theater (1025 Monterey Street). Following the presentation, Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz will host a discussion of Kasdan’s career including a number of his classic and beloved films.

Known for updating old Hollywood genres—film noir, science-fiction, westerns—in a classical dramatic style with quick-witted dialogue, but dealing with contemporary social themes, Kasdan has helped create some of the defining cinematic mythologies of the 20th century (with a hand in resurrecting the Star Wars franchise in the 21st), while as a director he has made personal, slightly quixotic movies that examine characters and generations.

Kasdan Vidor

Kasdan’s introduction to film fans as a screenwriter came via two of the all-time popular classics of the 80s and beyond: STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).

Kasdan Vidor 2

What would follow were a string of films that, while varied in setting and style, cemented Kasdan, the writer/director, as one of the top talents behind the camera helping set the tone for a decade onscreen: BODY HEAT (1983), THE BIG CHILL (1983) – for which he received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, SILVERADO (1985), and THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988), for which he received nominations for both Best Picture and Best Screenplay Adaptation. The latter two films, Kasdan also produced.

Kasdan Vidor 3

Prolific, Kasdan continued to both write and direct films throughout the next decade, with highlights including; the critically acclaimed GRAND CANYON (1991), which he co-wrote with his wife, Meg Kasdan (and received another Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay), as well as directed and produced; the box-office smash, Mick Jackson’s THE BODYGUARD (1992), which Kasdan wrote and produced; the epic western WYATT EARP (1994), which he co-wrote with Dan Gordon, directed, and produced; the Meg Ryan/Kevin Kline romantic comedy FRENCH KISS (1995), which he helmed; and the lightly comedic drama MUMFORD (1999), which he wrote, directed and produced.

Kasdan Vidor 4

2003’s DREAMCATCHER (co-written with William Goldman) and 2012’s DARLING COMPANION (co-written with Meg Kasdan), Kasdan’s other two outings as writer, director, and producer, could not have been more different from one another. The former being an adaptation of one of Steven King’s more gonzo horror works, and the latter being an introspective drama centered around the love for and loss of a dog.

Kasdan, the screenwriter, has recently been one of the architects of the growing Star Wars universe, having written STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015), and SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018).

Kasdan Vidor 5

Event tickets and Festival Passes are now on sale and the full film festival schedule and program can be found at https://slofilmfest.org.

 

ABOUT SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”

SLOFF_2020

(Source: Press release provided by Wildworks PR, John Wildman)

 

 

The 2020 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo announces galas & special event screenings (March 17-22)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 Chusy Jardine’s IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY
OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER is the Opening Night
selection and Benjamin Kasulke’s BANANA SPLIT
is the Closing Night choice

Special screening events include “Hollywood & Vines” presentations
and two top titles from Sundance:
Adam Carter Rehmeier’s DINNER IN AMERICA and
Sam Feder’s DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ONSCREEN

San Luis Obispo, CA (February 18, 2020) – The 26th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo (March 17-22) today announced this year’s gala selections and special event screenings. Chusy Jardine’s IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER is the Opening Night selection, and Benjamin Kasulke’s BANANA SPLIT is the Closing Night selection. Special events include the “Hollywood & Vines” screening events celebrating the intersection of food, wine, and film. The Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase titles were also announced.

Wendy Eidson
Wendy Eidson, San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director

“We have set ourselves up for a very musical start, which will lead into a number of special film events that set us apart from a lot of other film festivals: joining our love of food, wine and great cinema into one combined evening” said San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Wendy Eidson. “When you then add on two very popular films to come out of Sundance this year, 64 George Sidney Independent Film selections, and our growing Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase, we will be rolling out one our most impressive lineups of films and events yet.”

Jardine’s IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER will open the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on Tuesday, March 17 at the Fremont Theatre (1035 Monterey Street). The film documents songwriters’ struggles, from paying their dues to working through the creative process. Drawing from more than 100 hours of footage, the film includes more than 80 interviews with well-known and lesser-known music industry figures and songwriters, such as Garth Brooks, Ben Folds, John Hiatt, Brett James, Alison Mosshart, Kacey Musgraves, and Keb’ Mo.’ Attending are Jardine, Executive Producer Kathryn Montgomery, John Godsey, as well as singer-songwriter with local roots, Jude Johnstone and Jade Jackson, who will also perform following the screening. The Opening Night celebration will include an Opening Night Pre-Screening Party at Luna Red (1023 Chorro Street), featuring a performance by popular SLO County band Mother Corn Shuckers.

The Closing Night selection will be Kasulke’s teen comedy, BANANA SPLIT. Screening on Sunday, March 22 at the Fremont Theatre, the film marks the return of one of the SLO Film Fest’s favorite filmmakers, Hannah Marks, who stars alongside Dylan Sprouse, Liana Liberato and Luke Spencer Roberts in a film where two high school senior girls have to figure out how to maintain their friendship while one of the dates the other’s ex-boyfriend. Marks, who also wrote and produced the film returns after premiering her feature film directorial debut AFTER EVERYTHING at the film festival last year.

Two hot titles were picked up out of the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival for SLO Film Fest fans to catch: Adam Carter Rehmeier’s audacious crowd-pleasing comedy stars Kyle Gallner as an on-the-lam punk rocker who connects with a young woman (Emily Skeggs) obsessed with his band. They go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest. The film features a cast of favorites including Pat Healy, Hannah Marks, Jennifer Prediger, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Lea Thompson. Sam Feder’s documentary, DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ONSCREEN looks at how Hollywood has deeply influenced how Americans feel about transgender people, and how transgender people have been taught to feel about themselves. Both screenings are expected to have the filmmakers and special guests attending.

Special events this year are highlighted by something that the SLO Film fest is famous for (next to its previously announced Surf Nite): the intersection and celebration of Food, Wine, and Film on the Central Coast. Described as “Hollywood & Vines” events, the carefully curated and produced events include East Meets West, a double feature of Peter Schroeder III’s FULL BOAR, about Gary Eberle, the godfather of the Paso Robles wine industry, and Tim Clott and Libbie Agran’s 91 HARVESTS, which tells the story of the Dusi Vineyards and their wines. Naturally, wine and appetizers will be served in the lobby of the historic Fremont Theatre in between the screenings on Wednesday, March 18.

BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

The Octagon Barn Movie Night features John Chester’s hit documentary THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM about the filmmaker and his wife’s experience leaving the city for farm life, along with a special sneak preview of PBS’s WALKIN’ CALIFORNIA – PISMO PRESERVE, which takes us on a journey through the newly opened Pismo Preserve. The evening will include a delicious BBQ dinner with wine, to go along with the films in the historic and recently renovated barn in San Luis Obispo.

Other films in the “Hollywood & Vines” presentations include Beth Elise Hawk’s BREAKING BREAD, about the A-sham Arabic Food festival in Haifa, Israel; Abby Ainsworth’s STAGE: THE CULINARY INTERNSHIP about the apprenticeship experience at one of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world – Mugaritz; NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY, about Mexican cuisine cookbook author and environmental activist; and the Tastes and Flavors of Japan afternoon event featuring Hironori Sakurai’s THE STORY BEYOND A CUP OF SAKE and Sky Bergman’s MOCHITSUKI.

Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 7.55.21 PM

The Coastal Awakening this year will sponsor a special sidebar of films celebrating the life and art of renowned composer and pianist Philip Glass with presentations of Scott Hick’s documentary, GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS (2007), and two films that feature Academy Award-winning original scores by Glass: Godfrey Reggio’s KOYAANISQATSI (1982), and Martin Scorsese’s KUNDUN (1997).

Passes are now on sale and information on the film festival can be found at https://slofilmfest.org.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION FILMS

HOLLYWOOD AND VINES PRESENTATIONS

91 HARVESTS
Directors:  Tim Clott and Libbie Agran
Country: USA, Running Time: 45 min
The story of the Dusi Vineyard began in the early 1920s, when Sylvester and Caterina Dusi emigrated from Northern Italy and settled in Paso Robles. The Dusi Vineyard introduced some of the first Zinfandels to California’s Central Coast; vineyards were rare in Old California in the early 1900’s.  Sylvester and Caterina were highly enterprising, and working together with their three sons – Guido, Dante and Benito, eventually bought an additional property on the west side of Highway 101 in 1945 and planted Zinfandel. Three generations after Janell Dusi’s great-grandparents first planted the land to Zinfandel, she is continuing the legacy of one of the area’s most well-loved vineyards, and taking ten percent of the production off the Dante Dusi Vineyard to create J Dusi Wines.

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
Director: John Chester
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
This beautiful, multi-award winning documentary chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. By doggedly persevering and embracing the opportunity provided by nature’s conflicts, the couple unlocks a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons and our wildest imagination. Featuring breathtaking cinematography, captivating animals and an urgent message to heed Mother Nature’s call, this film provides us all a vital blueprint for better living and a healthier planet.

BREAKING BREAD
Director: Beth Elise Hawk
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
A visually beautiful film that offers a recipe for tolerance – and hope. Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef television competition, is on a quest to effect social change. So she starts the A-sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa, Israel, where pairs of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on mouthwatering local dishes – and become friends. Set in a region beset with conflict, Breaking Bread sends a clear message: Strip away politics and religion and you’ll find that people are people. And what better way to do that than over a great meal?

FULL BOAR
Director: Peter Schroeder III
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min
In this insightful documentary about Gary Eberle, you’ll get a sense of the man called the godfather of the Paso Robles wine industry – his astute winemaking skills, warmth, self-deprecating humor, genuine compassion and determination in overcoming a hostile corporate takeover. Now celebrating his namesake winery’s 40th year, the man once destined for medical research credits legendary football coach Joe Paterno and famed winemaker Robert Mondavi for teaching him key lessons along the way.

NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY
Director: Elizabeth Carroll
Countries: USA/Mexico, Running Time: 82 min
Cookbook author and environmental activist Diana Kennedy reflects on an unconventional life spent mastering Mexican cuisine. It’s a candid, comprehensive whirlwind tour through the life and work of this 96-year-old uncompromising chef who’s been called an “adorable narcissist.” “If her enthusiasm were not beautiful, it would border on mania,” says influential New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne in a quote that opens the film.

STAGE: THE CULINARY INTERNSHIP
Director: Abby Ainsworth
County: Spain, Running Time: 78 min
A group of interns work together during a nine-month apprenticeship at one of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Mugaritz. They’re unpaid, away from home, speaking a different language and working brutally long hours. While the restaurant’s notorious avant-garde cuisine and creative working environment elevate those young hopefuls to think outside the confines of a kitchen, the extremely high standards prove to be mentally and physically challenging.

THE STORY BEYOND A CUP OF SAKE
Director: Hironori Sakurai
Country: Japan, Running Time: 62 min
A wonderfully intimate and special look at the delicate care and production of a local sake brewery in Japan through the eyes of a married couple who create the sake and oversee the brewery. We also meet many individuals who work in and care for the gorgeous rice fields and distribute the finished sake, drawing interesting parallels to the wine industry in California.
Screening with

MOCHITSUKI
Director: Sky Bergman
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min
The ancient tradition of preparing Mochi to celebrate the Japanese New Year goes back centuries. Join one close-knit intergenerational community in San Luis Obispo County who revels in the ceremonial pounding of the cooked rice, the forming of the warm Mochi cakes, and of course eating the yummy results! Elders and kids alike reflect on what Mochi means to them, leaving not a cheek untouched by rice flour.

WALKIN’ CALIFORNIA – PISMO PRESERVE
Director: Cameron Mitchell
Country: USA, Running Time: 27 min
WALKIN’ CALIFORNIA – PISMO PRESERVE is about getting out of the office and off the couch and exploring all the diversity this incredible state has to offer. Join host Steve Weldon as he and Land Conservancy staff take a hike on the newly opened Pismo Preserve, located just north of Pismo Beach. As we meet a variety of Central Coast residents along the way, this episode highlights the natural beauty of the area and the important work the Land Conservancy is doing in our community.

ADDITIONAL SPECIAL PRESENTATION FILMS

ALMOST FAMOUS
Director: Ben Proudfoot
Country: USA, Running Time: 51 min
Pop stars who never were. Household names who remain unknown. Astronauts who never entered space. Rock stars whonever had their day. The lives of these fascinating and incredibly talented individuals are chronicled in this collection of four wonderful short films, produced by the New York Times Op-Docs series and directed by SLO Film Fest alum Ben Proudfoot (RWANDA AND JULIET, 2016), KIM I AM, THE LOST ASTRONAUT, THE OTHER FAB FOUR, and THE KING OF FISH & CHIPS are all memorable stories that will amaze, inspire, and most importantly, entertain.

THE BIG PARADE (1925)
Director: King Vidor
Country: USA, Running Time: 151 min
Wealthy young idler Jim Apperson (John Gilbert) enlists during the early days of World War I, to the worry of his mother (Claire McDowell) and the pride of his father (Hobart Bosworth). Sent to the front lines in the French countryside, Jim bonds with his working-class bunkmates and falls in love with young French farm girl Melisande despite having a girlfriend back home. But the romance of war is soon shattered for good. This 1925 silent film features a wonderful score by Carl Davis.

DINNER IN AMERICA
Director: Adam Carter Rehmeier
Country: USA, Running Time: 106 min
An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest.

DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ONSCREEN
Director: Sam Feder
Country: USA, Running Time: 100 min
An investigation of how Hollywood’s fabled stories have deeply influenced how Americans feel about transgender people, and how transgender people have been taught to feel about themselves.

ENAMORADA (1946)
Director: Emilio Fernández
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 96 min
This 1946 Mexican drama was shot on location in Puebla. The revolutionary José Juan Reyes (Pedro Armendáriz, a Cal Poly graduate!) takes the town of CholulaPuebla and demands contributions from its wealthiest citizens for the Mexican Revolution. However, his plans are disrupted when he falls in love with the Señorita Beatriz Peñafiel (María Félix), the tempestuous daughter of the town’s richest man. The film was fully restored by UCLA in 2018. Film will be introduced by Latino Film expert Maria Elena de las Carreras.

GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS (2007)
Director: Scott Hicks
Country: USA, Running Time: 119 min
An eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished Western classical composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, who include Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar, and Martin Scorsese.

HEARTS OF GLASS: A VERTICAL FARM TAKES ROOTS IN WYOMING
Director: Jennifer Tennican
Country: USA, Running Time: 68 min
Vertical Harvest (VH) is a highly innovative but risky experiment in growing crops and providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Built on 1/10 of an acre at an elevation of 6,237 feet, the high tech hydroponic greenhouse is located in Jackson, Wyoming, a mountain town with extreme seasonal fluctuations in weather, population and demand for goods and services. Business drama is interwoven with the personal journeys of individuals who are part of an underemployed and underestimated group, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of one community’s attempt to address timely and pressing issues around local food production, inclusion and opportunity.

KOYAANISQATSI (1982)
Director: Godfrey Reggio
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity, and the relationship between them.

KUNDUN (1997)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Country: USA, Running Time: 134 min
From childhood to adulthood, Tibet’s fourteenth Dalai Lama deals with Chinese oppression and other problems.

CENTRAL COAST FILMMAKER SHOWCASE

FEATURE DOCUMENTARY
91 HARVESTS
(see above)

BETTER TOGETHER
Director: Isaac Hernandez
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min
Community makes the difference. The response to a horrendous oil blowout fifty years ago in Santa Barbara sparked the modern environment, creating a culture that continues to inspire local solutions to global problems. The legacy of the oil spill continues to inform this community, which keeps coming together, providing local solutions to global environmental problems; such as when over 3,000 volunteers jointed the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade to dig the mud from homes after the deadly 2018 debris flow.

BY HAND
Director: Kellen Keene
Country: USA, Running Time: 67 min
In an attempt to escape comfort, reconnect to the natural world and set a new bar for ocean adventure, SLO County residents and twin brothers Casey and Ryan Higginbotham made a decision that would reshape their loives. On March 18, 2016, they embarked on a 2200-mile paddle from Alaska to Mexico with 18-foot paddle boards.

SPOONS: A SANTA BARBARA STORY

Director: Wyatt Daily

Country: USA, Running Time: 58 min

Dusty archives have been re-discovered remastered to bring a new perspective to one of the most crucial periods in surfing’s evolution. This is a film compiled of never-before-seen footage from surfing’s Golden Age, with outtakes and extras from some of surfing’s most well-known filmmakers to tell a history that has never been told before. A story of craftsmanship, work ethic, renegades and tradition; a film that goes beyond the time spent in the ocean to define how one spends a lifetime.

NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
THE ADVENTURES OF COWMAN AND LAMBOY
Director: Dominic Hure
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

BLUE NOISE
Director: Jonah Moshammer
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

CAL POLY SHORTS
Directors: Cal Poly Liberal Arts students
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min

CRIMSON CUFFS
Director: Madeline Vail
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS
Director: Dale Griffiths Stamos
Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

THE INCIDENT
Director: Johannes S. Beals
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

LOCKDOWN
Director: Jorrit Van Der Kooi
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

MOVING PAINS
Director: Michael Gould
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

NICKEL IN THE SAND
Director: Mike Winger
Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

ODD BIRD
Director: Katy Dore
Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min

ROSIE
Director: Shanti Herzog
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
93: LETTERS FROM MARGE
Director: Heather Hudson
Country: USA, Running Time: 30 min

BIRDS OF LOS BANOS
Director: Gail Osherenko
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

CARRIZO PLAIN: A SENSE OF PLACE
Director: Jeff McLoughlin
Country: USA, Running Time: 32 min

THE EDGE OF PURPOSE
Director: Winslow Perry
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

FARM TO FLOAT: THE MAKING OF THE CALIFORNIA GROWN ROSE PARADE ENTRIES
Director: Alex Raban
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min

FOREVER VOTERS
Director: Sky Bergman
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

KUT TO BE THE BEST: THE LAST BLACK BARBERSHOP IN SAN LUIS OBISPO
Director/Writer: Justice Whitaker
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

LIFESAVER: THE SLO NOOR FOUNDATION STORY
Director: Bob Williams
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

MARGARET SINGER: SEEKING LIGHT
Director: Louise Palanker
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min

MOCHITSUKI
(see above)

ORANGEBURG: A TOWN, A TEAM, AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY
Director: Jim Fabio
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min

PASO ROBLES: A GOODBYE STORY
Director: Brandt Goodman
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

REFORGING A LEGACY
Director: Bryan McLain
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

SLOFF_2020

ABOUT SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”

*Featured photo: HollywoodGlee at the SLO Film Fest Festival Tent (Photo by Kevin O’Connor, in memoriam)

(Source: Press release provided by John Wildman, Wildman PR)

Sundance 2020 Wrap-up: So Many Films, So Little Time

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                 February 10, 2020

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Robert Redford, Former President of the Sundance Institue, announced he was stepping down as the face of the festival in 2019 so he could spend more time with filmmakers and their films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Press Conference. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival started off most curiously….again. Last year in a highly dramatic moment, the face of the festival Robert Redford made an entrance with a deafening silence to announce, “I think it’s time for me to be going.” I sat in a semi-state of bodily paralysis as my mind searched for an answer to his opening words. Whew! Thank heavens I didn’t have to wait long for an answer as Redford continued speaking explaining he wanted to spend more time with the films and the filmmakers. This year, his letter (1_SFF 2020 Robert Redford Letter-1) says much of what he communicated intentionally last year on that fateful day.

This year I was ready for anything….except a virtual press conference with a content-rich digital Day One Press Kit, including video remarks from executive leadership as well as details about the Festival and the Institute’s global year-round work. Watch Keri Putnam, John Cooper, and Kim Yutani explain the importance of freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, the metaphysical principle of change, and the driving force behind programming and curating a film festival from more than 15,000 submissions. You’ll be glad you did!

That evening, Sundance Institute’s annual fundraising event An Artist at the Table Presented by IMDb Pro began with the premiere of Crip Camp, winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura and was followed by a celebratory dinner during which the Institute honored Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, with the Vanguard Award for Philanthropy. Proceeds from the evening went to advancing Sundance Institute’s mission and programs that discover, support and amplify risk-taking and exciting independent film, media and theatre artists. And, as luck would have it, I quickly ran into several of my cohorts from the Telluride Film Festival. One of which, I would have the distinct pleasure of conducting a sit-down interview. Sam Doerge, the Telluride Art Director, was handling duties at the New Frontiers Center Festival Installation Coordinator. More on that later!

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New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Taylor Swift

The film I was most excited to see – Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, a documentary directed by Lana Wilson was making its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the late slot. Admittedly, in tears after seeing Swift perform “Better Man,” in Brian Loschiavo’s extraordinary documentary, Bluebird, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, I was not disappointed! No tears. Just an overwhelming sense of awe-inspiring respect.

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The Climb

Friday morning brought a wonderful opportunity to catch The Climb, winner of the Coup de Coeur prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, at a Press & Industry screening at the Holiday Village Theatre. Traversing the ups and downs of life, the film “utilizes ingeniously self-aware dialogue” to capture the chaos of fractured friendships and its accompanying family life. Highly recommended!

Friday,  January 24th, ushered in the opening of numerous venues on Old Town Main Street. The 2020 Sundance ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers) Music Café launched with a special introduction by Peter Golub, Director of the Sundance Film Music Program. The Music Café was standing room only throughout the weekend.

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Matt Berninger and his band with a view of the room – Photo by Fred Hayes

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Ron Artis II and band on the Café stage – Photo by Fred Hayes

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The Easterseals Disability Services hosted a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

On Saturday, Easterseals Disability Services hosted a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood in increasing the visibility of/opportunities for talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry. An underreported phenomenon is seemingly occurring in the film and television industries. Included below is the taped panel in its entirety. It’s inspiring and insightful!

ESSC Diversity Panel - Sundance 2020 #2

Standing behind Nick Novicki (front), ESSC board member and founder of the Easterseals Film Challenge, are L-R: Angela Williams, CEO, National Easterseals; Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO, The Black List; Mark Whitley, CEO, ESSC; panel moderator Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop SugarShoshannah Stern, Creator, Executive Producer, Writer and Star of Sundance TV’s This Close; Shanique Bonelli-Moore, Executive Director of Inclusion, United Talent Agency; John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe; and Nancy Weintraub, Chief Development Officer, ESSC. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Greenleaf)

 

Panel moderator, Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop Sugar, participates in the Easterseals Disability Services panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe, participates in the Easterseals Disability Services panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)