AFI Movie Club Pick of the Day: 42

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

In 42, screen icon Chadwick Boseman steps into the shoes of Jackie Robinson in this incredible story of the baseball legend who became the first black player in the Major League. Chadwick Boseman was directing an off-Broadway play in New York City but happened to be visiting Los Angeles when auditions were held for 42. According to writer/director Brian Helgeland, Chadwick Boseman was only the second person to read for the part – and immediately set the bar. Helgeland has since said that no one could have played the part better than Boseman – and that no matter if the story is remade 100 times, no one ever will.

Filmmakers collaborated with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, on the making of 42. The production wanted to ensure the authenticity of her late husband’s story. According to Chadwick Boseman, Jackie Robinson’s widow challenged him to bring his best to the part and not take the role lightly. He said she told him that, “if we had made this movie when I wanted to make this movie, Sidney Poitier would have played your role. And then Denzel [Washington] was supposed to play it. And now we have you. Who are you?” Boseman responded that he would put his entire self into the role. Chadwick Boseman trained for 42 for almost five months – working with coaches from college and the Major Leagues. According to Boseman, practices would be taped every few weeks so that he could compare his own batting, fielding, and base running with Jackie Robinson’s, in order to perfect Robinson’s techniques. AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Harrison Ford co-stars as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey in this triumphant tour de force.

Most of the baseball action in 42 was filmed in Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN. Production designers added a 40-foot-high, 1,200-foot-long green screen around the field’s outfield and foul areas. The giant green screen allowed filmmakers to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ebbets field back to life. The production also filmed at Rickwood Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama – which was built in 1910 and is the oldest professional baseball park in the United States.

Jackie Robinson first became a Major League ballplayer on April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Most Valuable Player in 1949. He not only stole a home base in Game One of the 1955 World Series, which the Dodgers won but also was a six-time All-Star and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 2004 with the help of Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon and wife Rachel, Major League Baseball honored the date by naming it Jackie Robinson Day. On that day, there’s an annual celebration at every Major League ballpark and every player, coach, manager, and umpire wear Jackie’s #42 to honor the legend for his accomplishments on and off the field. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s jersey #42 from all teams. Those players that were wearing the number at the time were allowed to continue to wear it, but by 2014 the last player wearing the number – Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera – had retired.

Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson started The Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973, the year after her husband died. Originally operated out of her kitchen, it has since grown into a powerful arm of Jackie’s legacy, administering four-year college scholarships to disadvantaged students of color.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits:

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

-Why is Jackie Robinson’s legacy important not only to the history of baseball but also to today’s society?

-Why does Branch Rickey choose Jackie to break the color barrier in baseball?

-What characteristics of Jackie helped him get through the blatant racism that occurred on and off the field?

-Branch Rickey asked Jackie Robinson to have the guts not to fight. Why do you think Rickey would ask that of Jackie?

-The moment where teammate Pee Wee Reese ran over to Jackie Robinson and put his arm around him in front of the crowd was commemorated with a statue in Brooklyn, NY. Why was this moment so important?

-In memory of actor Chadwick Boseman, who the world lost way too early – what is a moment in his career that has inspired you, made you smile, or brought a moment of positivity into your life.

-How would you rate 42?

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.

(Source: AFI News Release)

AFIFEST 2020 Opening Film: I’m Your Woman

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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

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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

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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!

 

 

(Sourced from American Film Market and IMDb)

 

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

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

*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, 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.

(Source: Nashville Film Festival News Release)

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

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

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.

(Source: AFI News Release)

 

Sundance Institute Selects 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab Fellows

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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.

 

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

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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

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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

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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”

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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!

 

 

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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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 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, 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, 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, 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)

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

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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

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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 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

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

 

 

Scorched Earth Public Trust Illuminates Presidential Proclamations

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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

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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.

 

 

Mountainfilm Unveils 2020 Lineup of Films & Speakers

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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.

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.

(Source: Mountainfilm Festival press release)

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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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

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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.

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.

 

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 

 

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)

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!

 

(Sourced from TCM news announcements)

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

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

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!

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Don’t miss this! SHOOTING HEROIN Coming Today

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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.

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!

 

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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)
Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 263 089 213
Password: 143213
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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.

 

 

 

Wizard of Oz Kicks Off AFI Movie Club

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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.”

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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!

 

 

The American Film Institute Launches AFI MOVIE CLUB

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

 

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.”

 

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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.

(Source: AFI Press Release)

47th Telluride Film Festival 2020 Box Office Opens

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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)

 

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.

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!

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

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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.

The 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 features 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

(Source: Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival Press Office)

 

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

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

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)

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

“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’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).

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.

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.

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).

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!”

(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)

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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, 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.

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.

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

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

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Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                 February 10, 2020

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.

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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!

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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!

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

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.

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.

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

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

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!

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)

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!

Has Recent Industry Emphasis on Diversity & Inclusion Influenced the Way We Tell Stories?

 

In addition, Brand Storytelling at Sundance Film Festival wrapped it’s fifth annual “festival within a festival.” Over 250 attendees were present at the invite-only, sold-out event for keynote chats, panel presentations, film premiers, and screenings, live musical performances while bringing in major brands, media and production companies, talent, advertising, and PR agencies.

Ariel Tweto, star of Into America’s Wild, speaks at Brand Storytelling at Sundancer Film Festival (Photo courtesy of Prana PR)

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Presented Feature Film Prize to Tesla. Michael Almereyda’s Tesla was formally presented with a $20,000 check for winning the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize. The awards were presented at an afternoon cocktail reception at High West Distillery. These activities are part of the Sundance Institute Science-In-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Actor Ethan Hawke, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize Winner Michael Almereyda and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Vice President and Program Director Doron Weber attend the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize Reception at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Jovelle Tamayo.

The World Premiere of Horse Girl from writer/director Jeff Baena took audiences by surprise with a sizzling performance from Alison Brie. An official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Horse Girl was executively produced by the Duplass Brothers, Jay and Mark. Stay tuned for a full, unadulterated review

Actor Alison Brie attends the World Premiere of Horse Girl by Jeff Baena, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Lauren Wester.

Talent Forum convened for three days, January 28-30th during the festival bringing together a robust slate of artists with projects across all platforms and at varied and pivotal stages from development through completion.

Anne Lai

“We’re thrilled to [have} welcome(d) an extraordinary collection of artists from 22 countries who bring remarkable voices and work to connect with industry, advocates, and each other as they move their work and careers forward,” noted Anne Lai, Sundance Institute’s Director of Creative Producing & Artist Support.

SFF20 Talent Forum Projects & Fellows

The Movie That Blew My Mind kicked off the 2020 Talent Forum panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. An Offscreen event the panel featured hosts John Cooper (Director, Sundance Film Festival) and Tabitha Jackson (Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program) with Tessa Thompson, Tom McCarthy, and other special guests, each of whom selected a cinema moment that was inspiring or formative (in their life or in shaping their creative sensibility).

Actor Tessa Thompson at The Movie That Blew My Mind, a festival panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Maya Dehlin.

Tabitha Jackson (Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program) at The Movie That Blew My Mind, a festival panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Maya Dehlin.

An unexpected treat happened with the French episodic Laetitia. Acting on a suggestion from Antoine Maron, an Art Director in the French film industry, I squeezed into the Academy Award-winning Jean-Xavier de Lestrade screening and stayed for the Q & A with de Lestrade. His extraordinary attention to detail propels a powerful story based on an historically documented criminal case. This 2002 Academy-award winner for Best Documentary is worth listening to and has a captivating presence. Please see the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Meet the Artist video and stay tuned for a capsule review of the evening.

Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his Indie Episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Academy Award-winning French filmmaker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his Indie Episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Other favorites were Okavango: River of Dreams, Kajillionaire. Max Richter’s Sleep, Dissident, Softie, Glorias, Horse Girl, Be Water, Ironbark, On the Record, The Father, Sylvie’s Love, and Mucho, Mucho, Amor. Check back regularly as these films, all of which are worthy of review, will soon be making their way up the “films to be reviewed” list and hopefully be available for viewing.

Without further adieu, the Festival wrapped up with the Awards Night Ceremony & Party on February 1, 2020, and with previously announced jurors awarding prizes to films in the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, and NEXT categories. 2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS

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

*Featured photo: A still from Breathe by Diego Galafassi, an official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

2020 Sundance Spotlight Interview: Sam Doerge

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

First-year New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge, is making the most out of her 2020 Sundance Film Festival experience.

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

First-year New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge, is making the most out of her 2020 Sundance Film Festival experience. Doerge has a background in art having majored in Visual and Critical Research with a minor in Sculpture at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, Doerge is the Programming Coordinator for Denver Film and is the Art Director for the Telluride Film Festival.

While working as the Telluride Art Director, Doerge came in contact with Spheres, a three-part virtual reality series written and directed by Eliza McNitt, produced by Jess Engle, and executively produced by Darren Aronofsky. Spheres made a huge splash at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as it sold for a seven-figure sum. Producer Jess Engle is attending this year’s festival as a producer for the augmented reality installation, Breathe.

Having dreamt about Immersive Storytelling and voraciously reading about installation management, Doerge seemed to be in the right place at the right time to explore the exponentially growing field of virtual reality/augmented reality. Always an admirer of the New Frontier at Sundance from afar, Doerge seized the opportunity to apply for an opening this year as the Interim Manager of the New Frontiers Lab. Due to her Telluride Art Director commitment, however, Doerge could not accept the Interim Manager position and was consequently offered the New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator contract.

With the enormously talented artists, including Diego Galafassi (Breathe), and their assistants, Doerge coordinated a process whereby the Sundance personnel could augment and amplify the immersive virtual/augmented reality experience. Working closely with her manager Boji Wong, a mother of three who singly managed the New Frontiers Center last year, the duo trained staff, volunteers, and docents to facilitate a smoothly operating, cutting-edge installation for the artists and patrons alike. Doerge believes the 12 hour working days (the new Frontiers Center’s first day wound up being longer, 7:30AM – 2:30AM, concluding at the end of the artists’ Opening Night party) have offered a wonderful opportunity to learn from highly professional and highly respective peers.

What also is working for Doerge as the New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator at Sundance is the overall working environment, the strong sense of community inside New Frontiers, and the opportunity to learn. And, as anyone who has ever been in the fray of a battle knows – planning helps! Nevertheless, “being in the moment making decisions that balance and manage expectations of all parties involved have been the keys to a smoothly operating New Frontiers Center,” according to Doerge. And, as the environment is in a constant state of change, each day and, in reality, each moment, has its unique characteristics requiring a moment-to-moment response.

With several fully-realized sculpture creations to her credit, Doerge understands how to bring a vision to fruition and had sincere appreciation watching the New Frontiers Center come to life. Moreover, Doerge’s New Frontier Center experience has brought her into contact with seasoned professionals possessing high skill sets such as Jamie McMurry, New Frontiers Production Designer, and Shari Frilot, Chief Curator. “Shari Frilot has impeccable taste. The best I’ve ever seen,” said Doerge.

The New Frontiers Center is in its second year of operation. Thus far this year, the women docents have provided unswerving support in ensuring the artist’s needs are being met with VIP’s, industry professionals, and festivalgoers all clamoring for a chance to experience the exhilarating displays. Furthermore, the installation seems to be operating smoothly as two previews on Saturday for the publicists and the press and industry professionals were conducted successfully.

With the three weeks of coordinating Immersive Experience under her belt, Doerge plans to return to her Denver Film post and Telluride Art Director position with a fresh perspective and looks forward to the challenges ahead – including the 2021 Sundance Film Festival with run dates from Thursday, January 21st, through Sunday, January 31st, 2021.

Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

*Featured photo: A still from Breathe by Diego Galafassi, an official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

 

Festival Favorite Award From 2020 Sundance Film Festival Announced

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Giving Voice Wins Audience Vote

A still from Giving Voice by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jonathon Narducci.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             February 4, 2020

Park City, UTSundance Institute announced Giving Voice as the winner of the Festival Favorite Award, selected by audience votes from the 128 features screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, which took place in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance, Utah, from January 23–February 2, 2020.

The Festival Favorite Award is the 29th and final recognition bestowed on this year’s features, including juried prizes and category-specific Audience Awards; others were announced at a ceremony in Park City on February 1, and a full list is available here. Runners-up and close contenders for the Festival Favorite Award – besides the Audience Awards per category given out on Saturday, titles that also ranked high with festivalgoers include Boys State, On The Record, Binti, Crip Camp, The Fight, The Reason I Jump, Softie, Uncle Frank, and Welcome to Chechnya.

Giving Voice, directed by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, follows the lives of six students as they compete against fellow high schoolers from around the country in the riveting, high-stakes August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City. As they hone their individual performances, Wilson’s singular talent and artistry empower them to find their own voice and persevere in an increasingly complicated world. The film was produced by James D. Stern, Karen Bove, Fernando Villena, Schoen Smith, and Craig Piligian.

 

John Cooper

“This film is a compelling and inspiring portrait of six remarkable young people as they discover their power,” said John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival. “We’re thrilled that it resonated with audiences at this particularly exciting moment in our culture, where we see the next generation of leaders, artists, and change-makers stepping out, speaking up, and finding their voice.”

Runners up for the Festival Favorite, as ballots were counted, include:

Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

On The Record / U.S.A. (Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Screenwriters: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Sara Newens, Producers: Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick, Amy Herdy, Jamie Rogers) — A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large.

Other close contenders for the Festival Favorite were:

Binti / Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Frederike Migom, Producer: Katleen Goossens) — Twelve-year-old Binti dreams of becoming a famous vlogger like her idol Tatyana. But when the police raid her home, and try to deport her and her dad, they are forced to flee. Together with her friend Elias she now plots the perfect plan to stay in the country. Cast: Bebel Tshiani Baloji, Mo Bakker, Joke Devynck, Baloji.

Crip Camp photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.

The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. As the president separates families, blocks abortion access, expels transgender soldiers, and rolls back voting rights, these gutsy attorneys struggle to stop an unpredictable adversary with unlimited resources.

The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow)  — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious, and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?

Uncle Frank / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alan Ball, Producers: Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Michael Costigan, Jay Van Hoy, Bill Block, Stephanie Meurer) — In 1973, when 18-year-old Beth and her uncle Frank take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina for the family patriarch’s funeral, they’re unexpectedly joined by Frank’s lover Walid. A story about family, forgiveness, and our inherent power to choose who we want to be. Cast: Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale.

Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity expose this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will run from Thursday, January 21–Sunday, January 31, 2021.

The Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

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, discovering 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 media press release)

 

 

Surf Nite in SLO to Feature the Biggest Year for Big Wave Surfing at the Historic Fremont Theatre

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

San Luis Obispo, CA (January 29, 2020) – The San Luis Obispo International Film
Festival (SLO Film Fest) presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo is delighted to announce its Surf Nite picks for 2020. Brent Storm’s award-winning WHITE RHINO will be the focus the festival’s most popular event, on Friday, March 20, with big wave surfer Dave Wassel traveling from Hawaii for the event. Surf photographer Brian Bielmann, director Brent Storm and producer Randy Olson will also be in attendance. Surf Nite will open with Santa Barbara filmmaker Heather Hudson’s new short documentary that about female surfing pioneer, Marge Calhoun. 93 – LETTERS TO MARGE will be introduced by her friend and surf legend, Linda Benson.

Surf Nite in SLO is presented by Surfing for Hope Foundation and the City of Pismo Beach. Surfing for Hope is a local non-profit organization created to help inspire people challenged by cancer through the positive energy of surfing. The event is also sponsored by Cliffs Hotel and Spa, Sea Venture, Sycamore Mineral Spring Resort, Coast 104.5, and Quality Suites San Luis Obispo.

Canadian Filmmaker Brent Storm’s latest release, WHITE RHINO, is a parallel story from the surfers and photographers who witnessed three historic swells that hit the shorelines of the South Pacific in 2011-2012. Photographer Brian Bielmann takes the audience on an edge of your seat adventure as we discover the stories behind some of his most iconic photos and what really transpired on those memorable days. WHITE RHINO features notable big wave riders Nathan Fletcher, Dave Wassel, Bruce Irons, Mark Healey, Kohl Christensen and Kalani Chapman. It also features cinematography from some of the best surf filmmakers, including SLO Film Fest Surf Nite alum, Tim Bonython (The Big Wave Project).

In 93: LETTERS TO MARGE, Heather Hudson pays tribute to surfing pioneer Marge Calhoun, sharing memories from handwritten letters to a friend before her death in 2017 at the age of 93 in Morro Bay, CA. Chronicling an independent life that most people know little about, Marge won contests, shared waves and held her own with many of the sport’s legends in the early days of surfing. She won the 1958 Makaha International Championships and continued to travel, surf and compete. She judged, organized competitors on the beach and worked closely with Hoppy Swartz and others to form the U.S. Surfing Association. Later, she moved to Morro Bay and loved watching the waves from her home in the hills above the ocean.

Surf Nite Special Guests:

Fearless, fit and funny are some of the adjectives that have been used to describe Dave Wassel, the Hawaiian-born North Shore lifeguard who is also featured in WHITE RHINO. He’s well known for braving huge surf as a surfer and lifeguard, going well beyond his duty to save lives in treacherous waters. He has a passion for the history andculture of Hawaii and is now the ambassador of Sustainable Surf, a California-based non-profit that protects and restores ocean health by shifting people to a highly desirable, low carbon, “Deep Blue” lifestyle.

As an internationally renowned photographer, Brian Bielmann has traveled extensively with many of the world’s best surfers. With his images gracing more than 150 magazine covers, the pages of 30 books and appearing in iconic magazines like Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated, he is recognized worldwide to be a photographer at the very top of his field. He captures the entire surf lifestyle and continues to push the boundaries of photography both above and below the water. Brian’s passion for surfing and his love of photography have kept him on the cutting edge for over 35 years. He has won numerous awards and his client list includes major corporations. He is also an captivating public speaker.

Dividing his life between Canada and the United States, Brent Storm has a passion for surfing that began in his mid-20’s in San Francisco after a snowboarding injury in Mammoth. He discovered a way to blend his new passion with an old one – filmmaking, and after finally giving up on making wedding videos in Toronto, he decided to move to the North Shore and focus on surfing. WHITE RHINO began to take shape after he met Brian Bielmann and Randy Olson in 2016, and he discovered an amazing story in the three major swells Bielmann had captured on film in just one surf season.

Randy Olson began a career as a professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, but during his first year as a professor he realized that he had grown more interested in telling stories about science and was drawn to the world of filmmaking. Despite his Harvard Ph.D., four years of post-doctoral research in Australia and Florida, and years of diving around the world from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica, he resigned from his tenured professorship and moved to Hollywood to explore film as a medium for communicating science. Now an independent filmmaker he is ‘fluent’ in the two languages of science and cinema. He has written and directed his own films about major issues in science, and has worked with clients to assist them with the use of visual media in communicating science to the general public.

Linda Benson started surfing at age eleven and at age fifteen was the first woman to surf the legendary big waves at Waimea Bay in Hawaii. Linda made her competitive debut in the 1959, winning the West Coast Surfing Championship and the Makaha International contest in Hawaii a few weeks later (a year after Marge Calhoun had won.) Linda’s other notable contest wins include the United States Invitational in 1964, the West Coast Championship in both 1960 and 1961, and the United States Championship in both 1964 and 1968. Moreover, Benson not only was a runner-up in the 1964 World Championship and was the top female vote-getter in a 1965 reader’s poll for Surfing Illustrated magazine, but also was the first female surfer to be featured on the cover of a 1963 issue of Surf Guide. She was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 1997. This will be her third visit to the SLO Film Fest’s Surf Nite.

Heather Hudson is also not a stranger to the SLO Film Fest. Her short films, THE WOMEN AND THE WAVES, and its sequel screened at the Festival in 2009 and 2016. An avid surfer, filmmaker and mother, Heather has been sharing her love for surfing on the big screen since 2007 when she started her production company Graciegirl LLC. For over 18 years, Heather has supported and volunteered for Heal the Ocean, a Santa-Barbara-based non-profit citizen’s action group committed to ending ocean pollution. She is currently on the board and coordinates fundraising.

EVENT DETAILS:
SURF NITE IN SLO – Presented by Surfing for Hope and City of Pismo Beach
Friday, March 20 – 7:00pm
Fremont Theatre, 1025 Monterey St. SLO

Tickets: $20 General / $15 Students & SLO Film Society (Mogul passes accepted)

Online: slofilmfest.org (limited tickets available pre-show)
In Person: Festival HQ (opens Feb. 15 – check website for hours)
South East corner of Hotel SLO, entrance on Morro St. (between Palm & Monterey)
Day of Show: Fremont Theatre Box Office – tickets will be sold first-come, first-served
beginning at 6:30pm
Phone: 805-546-3456

(Source: SLO Film Fest News Release)

Sundance Institute Announces Tabitha Jackson as Incoming Festival Director

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Concludes Global Search With First New Festival Director in 11 Years

Tabitha Jackson

For Immediate Release                                                                                     February 1, 2020

Park City, Utah – Today, Sundance Institute announced Tabitha Jackson as the new Director of the Sundance Film Festival. Jackson was chosen from a worldwide search and follows outgoing Director, John Cooper, who served in the role for 11 years and will assume a newly-created Emeritus Director role. An award-winning filmmaker, she has served as Director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Program for the last six years. Jackson will oversee the Festival’s overall vision and strategy, while leading a senior team in close collaboration with Director of Programming, Kim Yutani. In his new role, Cooper will oversee special projects including preparations for the Institute’s 40th anniversary in 2021.

Keri Putnam

“It gives me immense pleasure to announce, Tabitha Jackson, as the new Director of the Sundance Film Festival,” said Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, Keri Putnam. “Tabitha is fiercely devoted to independent artists, has been a visionary member of the Sundance Institute’s leadership team for the last 6 years. Her  authenticity, experience and perspective will serve her well in leading the Festival forward as a beacon for independent artists and audiences.”

Robert Redford

“I founded Sundance Institute with the clear mission of celebrating and supporting independent artists, said Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford, “and the Festival is the platform where we can showcase their stories. As we approach our fortieth anniversary, I’m pleased to have Tabitha lead us as we move into the future and meet the next generation of artists and their stories.”

Jackson has served as the Director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Program since 2013, and in that time has overseen the creation of innovative new programs and resources that support nonfiction filmmakers worldwide with a special passion for expanding the art of non-fiction storytelling. A focus of Jackson’s new role will be shaping the nonprofit Institute’s full slate of global public programming throughout the year – including Sundance Film Festivals in Hong Kong and London and a nationwide Short Film Tour – as well as leading the community of artists and audiences those programs serve.

Prior to joining the Institute, Jackson worked in arts and entertainment for more than 25 years as an award-winning filmmaker. Prior to joining the Institute in 2013, she served as Head of Arts and Performance at Channel 4 Television in London, where she supported the independent and alternative voice and sought to find fresh and innovative ways of storytelling. She executive produced a number of projects for the UK’s Film 4 including Mark Cousins’ cinematic odyssey The Story of Film, Clio Barnard’s formally experimental The Arbor, Sophie Fiennes’ essay The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Bart Layton’s thriller The Imposter, and Iain and Jane’s innovative Nick Cave biography 20,000 Days on Earth.

Tabitha Jackson

“It is exciting to be amplifying the voices and work of independent artists in these challenging and fast-changing times,’” said Jackson. “My role, working with a team at the top of their game, will be to ensure that the festival remains as effective, vital and transformational in the years going forward as it has been in the past — and to make sure that we have fun doing it. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Sundance Film Festival’s scope and ambition have evolved over John Cooper’s tenure, including programmatic innovation and thoughtful global expansion. The 2020 Festival received over 15,100 submissions from around the world, featured over 200 new works from a diverse array of voices, welcomed more than 125,000 guests to Utah, and reaches millions more who watch festival news and content online.

The Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire; AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

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)

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ANNOUNCED

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Top Prizes Go To Minari, Boys State, Epicentro, and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness 

Minari, Crip Camp, The Reason I Jump, and Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) Win Audience Awards

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) Park City, UT — After 10 days and 128 feature films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place tonight, with jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Minari (U.S. Dramatic), Boys State (U.S. Documentary), Epicentro (World Cinema Documentary) and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (World Cinema Dramatic)..

 

Kerry Putnam

“At Sundance, we believe art can break through noise and polarization. In volatile times like these, democracy and storytelling aren’t separate – they’re inextricably linked,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director. “Congratulations to each and every one of tonight’s winners, and to all the extraordinary artists who joined us at the Festival.

 

“As my final Festival as director comes to a close, it has been the honor of a lifetime to stand with these artists, and to see their work meet audiences for the first time,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival Director.

Putnam also announced Tabitha Jackson as the incoming Director during the ceremony; that news release is available here.

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2020 Festival, where 128 feature-length and 74 short films — selected from more than 15,100 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside work in the Indie Episodic category, panels, music, and New Frontier.

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s jurors were Rodrigo Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Dee Rees, Isabella Rossellini, Wash Westmoreland, Kimberly Reed, Rachel Rosen, Courtney Sexton, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Noland Walker, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wagner Moura, Alba Rohrwacher, Eric Hynes, Rima Mismar, and Nanfu Wang. Gregg Araki was the sole NEXT juror.

Feature film award winners in previous years include: Clemency, One Child Nation, Honeyland, The Souvenir, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., Weiner, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.

Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 25 films – comprising the work of 29 filmmakers – 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and 2 (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, for Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Hubert Sauper, for Epicentro / Austria, France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita) — Cuba is well known as a so-called time capsule. The place where the New World was discovered has become both a romantic vision and a warning. With ongoing global cultural and financial upheavals, large parts of the world could face a similar kind of existence.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Massoud Bakhshi, for Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness / Iran, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg (Director and screenwriter: Massoud Bakhshi, Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin) — Maryam accidentally killed her husband Nasser and is sentenced to death. The only person who can save her is Mona, Nasser’s daughter. All Mona has to do is appear on a TV show and forgive Maryam. But forgiveness proves difficult when they are forced to relive the past. Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Forough Ghajebeglou, Fereshteh Hosseini.

Crip Camp received the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony, February 1st, 2019. (photo courtesy of Sundance Press)

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, for Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Jerry Rothwell, for The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow)  — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Fernanda Valadez, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha)  ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Garrett Bradley, for Time / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley, Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley) Fox Rich, indomitable matriarch and modern-day abolitionist, strives to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. An intimate, epic, and unconventional love story, filmed over two decades.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Radha Blank, for The 40-Year-Old Version / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani) — A down-on-her-luck New York playwright decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how: by becoming a rapper at age 40. Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Iryna Tsilyk, for The Earth Is Blue as an Orange / Ukraine, Lithuania (Director: Iryna Tsilyk, Producers: Anna Kapustina, Giedrė Žickytė) — To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war zone, Anna and her children make a film together about their life among surreal surroundings.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Maïmouna Doucouré, for Cuties / France (Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro) — Amy, 11 years old, meets a group of dancers called “Cuties.” Fascinated, she initiates herself to a sensual dance, hoping to join their band and escape family dysfunction…Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Edson Oda, for Nine Days / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner) — In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates—personifications of human souls—for the privilege that he once had: to be born. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl. Dolby Institute Fellowship

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast was presented to: the cast of Charm City Kings, for Charm City Kings / U.S.A. (Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd & Kirk Sullivan, Barry Jenkins, Producers: Caleeb Pinkett, Clarence Hammond, Marc Bienstock) — Mouse desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, the infamous Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax, takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Auteur Filmmaking was presented to: Josephine Decker, for Shirley / U.S.A. (Director: Josephine Decker, Screenwriter: Sarah Gubbins, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — A young couple moves in with the famed author, Shirley Jackson, and her Bennington College professor husband, Stanley Hyman, in the hope of starting a new life but instead find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Shirley’s next novel. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism was presented to: Eliza Hittman, for Never Rarely Sometimes Always / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman, Producers: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy) — An intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark on a brave, fraught journey across state lines to New York City. Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Tyler H. Walk, for Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity expose this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling was presented to: Kirsten Johnson, for Dick Johnson Is Dead / U.S.A. (Director: Kirsten Johnson, Screenwriters: Nels Bangerter, Kirsten Johnson, Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness) — With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker was presented to: Arthur Jones, for Feels Good Man / U.S.A. (Director: Arthur Jones, Producers: Giorgio Angelini, Caryn Capotosto, Aaron Wickenden)  — When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator, artist Matt Furie, fights to bring Pepe back from the darkness and navigate America’s cultural divide.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was presented to: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, for The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battles Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. As the president separates families, blocks abortion access, expels transgender soldiers, and rolls back voting rights, these gutsy attorneys struggle to stop an unpredictable adversary with unlimited resources.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to: Ben Whishaw, for Surge / United Kingdom (Director: Aneil Karia, Screenwriters: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Producers: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers) ― A man goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation through London. After he robs a bank he releases a wilder version of himself, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking was presented to: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, for This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection / Lesotho, South Africa, Italy (Director and screenwriter: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Producers: Cait Pansegrouw, Elias Ribeiro) — When her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to reservoir construction, an 80-year-old widow finds a new will to live and ignites the spirit of resilience within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal. Cast: Mary Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makheta, Makhoala Ndebele, Tseko Monaheng, Siphiwe Nzima.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay was presented to: Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha)  ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was presented to: Benjamin Ree, for The Painter and the Thief / Norway (Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske) — An artist befriends the drug addict and thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full-time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc, for Acasa, My Home / Romania, Germany, Finland (Director: Radu Ciorniciuc, Screenwriters: Lina Vdovii, Radu Ciorniciuc, Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan) — In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years–until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins, for Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?

The NEXT Innovator Prize was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

The following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

SHORT FILM AWARDS Presented by Southwest Airlines®
Jury prizes in short filmmaking were awarded at an earlier ceremony in Park City on January 28. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to So What If The Goats Die / France, Morocco (Director and screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui). The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was awarded to -Ship: A Visual Poem / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terrance Daye). The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was awarded to The Devil’s Harmony / United Kingdom (Director: Dylan Holmes Williams, Screenwriters: Dylan Holmes Williams, Jess O’Kane). The Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction was awarded to John Was Trying to Contact Aliens / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Killip). The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to Daughter / Czech Republic (Director and screenwriter: Daria Kashcheeva). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to Exam / Iran (Director: Sonia K. Hadad, Screenwriters: Sonia K. Hadad, Farnoosh Samadi). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing was presented to Valerio’s Day Out / Colombia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Arcos).

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE
The 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to Tesla. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features went to Diane Becker and Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films, for Whirlybird.

The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features went to Huriyyah Muhammad for Farewell Amor.

The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary went to Carla Gutierez and the Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative went to Affonso Gonçalves.

The Sundance Institute | NHK Award went to Kirsten Tan, from Singapore, for her film Higher.

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

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, discovering 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: Press release provided by Sundance Institute Media Relations)

 

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: Taylor Swift Miss Americana

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson, made its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on Opening Night. 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 intrigued. Utilizing present-day narrative voice-over from Swift, archival footage, still photos and current interviews from those closest to the megastar and cultural icon, a portrait of who Taylor Swift is, was, and will be is painted with both smooth and coarse strokes. Others appearing in Miss Americana are Swift’s mother, best friend, publicist, producer and a plethora of others inside the star’s orbit. Using at times both documentary recording techniques of direct cinema and cinema verite, Jenny Roh, reveals as much and probably more than the spoken words. Admittedly, after seeing Swift perform in Brian Loschiavo’s documentary, Bluebird, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, I was intrigued.

Wilson begins with Taylor’s first song-writing attempts captured on home videos providing a glimpse into the driving force behind Swift’s rapid ascent into stardom. At the age of 9, Taylor, seated on a performer’s chair looks directly into the camera and shares with her audience she’s going to sing a song she wrote yesterday. Without missing a beat a cut returns to Taylor, again in a chair looking into the camera sharing with the audience she about to sing a song she wrote five minutes ago. These moments set the tone for the journey Miss Americana takes the audience. At once serious. At other times playful and introspective.

A few pivotal moments occur when Ms. Swift wins album of the year at age 16 – an unheard-of achievement – the youngest person to ever write, record and perform a number one hit and her rise to stardom is just beginning. What could have been a massive train derailment occurred at the VMA Awards. Swift was honored with the Video of the Year award. Mid-way through her speech a fellow performer under the influence jaunted out on stage, droopy drawers and all, high-jacked a microphone and began belligerently crying foul. Later this artist dubbed “a jackass” by the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, would lay claim to Swift’s success by his sheer stupidity, ignorance, mean-spiritedness and jealous nature.

The young woman’s biggest career moment, normally a monumentally happy occasion, turned nightmarish as the young starlet appeared bewildered and somewhat dumbfounded by the chaotic moment. Loud boos and barbs were hurled from the audience as Swift left stage head-down, shoulder slumped. In present-day time Shift shares what was going through her mind. What transpired over the next few years is unparalleled in the history of the music industry. Swift pumped out four number one albums back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Each album remained at the number one slot on the charts for at least six weeks. No other group or performer, including the Fab Four (The Beatles) has accomplished such a feat.

Alone at the top without a life partner despite a close and loving mother-daughter relationship, Taylor realizes she wants an intimate partner to share the ups and downs of life. The only caveat is both parties decide it needs to be a private relationship. An exquisite camera shot of the couple walking focuses on the shadows cast on willowing grass. A maturing woman, Wilson reveals Swift’s understanding of life and actions to ensure she and other women have an equal opportunity to enjoy success and live their lives to the fullest without regrets and without needing approval from an audience.

All I can say is stay tuned for more on this iconic performer as Swift will continue to reveal (seemingly at times reinventing) who she is in what is truly an art form. Her recent performances and videos continue to receive critical acclaim and her stadium and arena concerts are the hottest tickets in town. And, if that’s not enough, Swift has entered the political ring with an endorsement for the 2018 U.S. Senatorial race in her home state of Tennessee.

If you don’t know who Taylor Swift is Miss Americana is the doc for you. And, if you think you know Taylor Swift, check out Miss Americana for a look into what makes Taylor tick. Highly recommended.

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: Crip Camp

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Seemingly, the documentary to see at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival is Crip Camp premiering in the U.S. Documentary Competition. I saw it and I wholeheartedly agree.

Crip Camp, executively produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer camp for disabled teens in upstate New York, close to Woodstock. What started out as a rather traditional camp in 1951, morphed into a social experiment as the times were a-changing. In 1967, a new methodology, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and engineered by hippies, was implemented. Allowing camp attendees full expression to share intimate thoughts and feelings, a shift in consciousness was implanted. Social interactions were encouraged and became normalized.

Filmmaker/Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (Camp Jened attendee) utilized archival footage captured by The People’s Video Theatre company from 1970-72 at Camp Jened as well as personal video footage from camp members provided an introduction to the future leaders and prime movers of the American Disabilities Act. Present-day interviews and voice-over narrations provided valuable context to these pivotal moments for the disabled community in the United States.

No longer allowing themselves to be institutionalized in horrific environments like the one portrayed in the film, Willowbrook State School, where one voice-over narrator commented she had never heard such an unnerving sound as the wailing howl emanating from the institutionalized at Willowbrook. Statistics revealed 50 Willowbrook disabled residents were cared for by one attendant. Malnutrition was rampant and the individuals residing within its dark walls only hope was death.

In juxtaposition, the members at Camp Jened held meetings to discuss what dinners, entertainment, exercise, and social events would be like. They co-created their environment. Those that needed attendants had them – often times their attendants were camp veterans.

The disabled were emerging from Camp Jened stays hungry to experience a full life and make valuable contributions to society. Unfortunately, the disabled were not allowed access to a normal life. Thus began, the movement. Headed by Camp Jened committee leader, Judy Heuman, the disabled organized themselves, to gain access to schools, universities, hospitals and federal buildings. Many would go on to achieve college educations, Master’s Degrees and make valuable contributions to society in the arts and sciences as well as in business.

Unbeknownst to many today, this small group also caused a major uproar. And Crip Camp lays it all out in the open. In 1973, the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act gave the disabled status as a minority. Demanding access to schools, hospitals, and federally funded buildings, the disabled were told no by President Richard “Dick” Nixon. An archival recording of Nixon’s voice saying “it would cost too much money to provide the (disabled) access. An ensuing lawsuit citing Brown v Board of Education and the shooting down of “separate but equal” beamed light into the lives of the disabled.

Yet, the provision included in Section Clause 504, stating any new federally funded buildings had to provide the disabled access was not being enforced and plans to forgo any re-authorization were undertaken by the Reagan Administration. Yet, the Disabled would not be denied and began a protest in San Francisco. Footage and archival photos were captured and voice-over narration explained the feelings and angst. Aided by various groups and business owners including Vietnam veterans, the Black Panthers and a lesbian bar owner the group found support and hope. Yet, nothing was coming out of Washington, D.C. and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano would not recognize the group publicly or privately, the group had to go to war with the nation’s capital to win.

With a stroke of luck, the networks were having technical issue and the American Broadcasting Company ran work gathered by an embedded reporter that reached a national audience. Finally, Secretary Califano provided the group with an audience. The archival news reports, Presidential tape recordings and footage captured by an embedded reporter verifies the struggle.

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy got behind the movement and the American Disabilities Act was finally introduced into the 101st Congress (1991). It passed and made discrimination against the disabled a civil rights violation. ADA and the disabled were given a long-awaited and much-needed access. They were finally given a voice and were allowed to be heard.

Nick Nickson, left, holds a microphone for Judy Heuman of Crip Camp, at the Easterseals Disability Services Panel ‘Has Recent Industry Emphasis on D&I Influenced Storytelling.’ (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

The fight continues today, as numerous statistical data finds disabled storytelling has a financially lucrative viewing audience. Several of the Camp Jenet attendees were in Sundance including the unofficial leader, Judy Heuman. The dream to be part of the American way of life burns brightly. And, ever so brightly in Crip Camp.

Crip Camp is a must-see film!

 

 

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: The Climb

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Climb, featured in the Spotlight section of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival is directed by New York actor and filmmaker, Michael Angelo Covino. Covino most recently received the Special Jury Prize at SXSW for Hunter Gatherer. In 2016, he was named to Moviemaker Magazine’s “25 screenwriters to watch” list. In The Climb, from Sony Pictures Classic, Covino tells the story of two best friends navigating adulthood and what it means to be a best friend. The film opens with the two main characters, Kyle, portrayed by Kyle Marvin, and Mike, portrayed by Covino himself, biking up a long incline in France.

Best friends, Kyle, left, portrayed by Kyle Marvin, and Mike, portrayed by Michael Angelo Covino, star in the Sony Pictures Classics, The Climb. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic)

 

Both riders are climbing vigorously when the fun begins. Kyle reveals to his best friend and soon-to-be best man at Kyle’s upcoming wedding his anxiety about the thoughts of married life. Without missing a beat Mike drops a silent but deadly bombshell – he slept with Kyle’s fiance’, Suzi, portrayed by Talia Balsam, multiple times. But before Kyle and Suzi began dating. Mike a standout high school football player swears it meant nothing and they broke it off long ago.

Adding to the raucous opening, a small Italian car arrives blaring its obnoxious horn. Mike comes undone swearing for the driver to go by and then he proceeds to chase the car profusely. When Kyle finally catches up, the driver is pummelling a prostrate Mike culminating in a few well-placed stomps that land Mike in the hospital. Suzi arrives to check on Kyle’s well-being and discovers Mike in an examining station. Both swear they have no feelings for each other before engaging in a no-holds-barred passionate kiss. Kyle walks in and the wedding is off while the story is just beginning.

Covino delivers brilliance with a sharply written script he and Morgan co-wrote. Adding into the mix some nicely placed diegetic musical performances and The Climb is quickly elevated into art cinema. A strong musical score from Jon Natchez and Martin Mabz heightens the film’s revealing truths. Cinematographer Zach Cupperstein executes several French New Wave shots that speak volumes in the film’s cinematic language. Sara Shaw provides seamless editing and complementary pacing consistent with the narrative. Callan Stokes handled costuming augmenting the setting while enhancing an eye-pleasing mise-en-scene. A strong supporting cast includes veteran actor, George Wendt, Judith Godreche, and Gayle Rankin in well-executed roles.

The Climb is a treasure-trove of filmmaking techniques with strong screenwriting, well-executed cinematography, and compelling performances. It’s is a fun ride and a highly recommended viewing.

Additional screenings at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival are Sunday, January 26th, 6:30 PM, at the Ray Theatre, and Saturday, February 1st, 6PM, at the Park City Library.

Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Gutterbee (Ulrich Thomsen, 2019), Denmark

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

First film I see for the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) sponsored by UGG, packs an unexpected, invisible wallop to the sensibilities. Making its US Premiere at SBIFF following its World Premiere at the São Paulo International Film Festival, Gutterbee, a character-driven, “social satire about the nexus of identity fear, where religion becomes an intellectual cul-de-sac, and racism, homophobia and intolerance reign supreme,”  provides, at a minimum, a snapshot of what life in small town, rural America looks like from an international perspective. It also reveals a solution on how to forge an elevated pathway into a better, more inclusive existence without forgetting who we are and where we came from.

Writer/director/producer Ulrich Thomsen encases his deeply felt messaging inside two dreamers who set out to open the “ultimate German Sausage restaurant: The Gourmet House of Refuge.” Anthony Starr (The Boys) portrays Mike Dankworth McCoid, a good-hearted bloke who has just been granted a prison release, while Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) portrays Edward Hofler, a German sausage zealot. The two complement and play off one another as well as American film comedy duo, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Gutterbee opens with a simple black and white title frame coupled with non-diegetic, Western music. With noir-style composition, Thomsen immediately begins exposing the dark aspects of rural life and culture spouting throughout the Americana landscape with a voice-over narrative of the town sheriff, played by Chance Kelly. Deftly, he reveals current topics of discussion including gender conversion therapy, greed disguised in the form of wealth gospel preachers, racism, xenophobia, bestiality, superstitions, and bullying, and how these behaviors continue to thrive.

Gutterbee is, by choice, not a major film studio production. It is a filmmaker’s truth. Thomsen derived the material and created his art from his experience including many years working in the United States, his monitoring of presidential tweets, and historical trivia on the art of sausage-making. Nevertheless, it is a professionally orchestrated production.

Oscar-winner Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography [Best Achievement in Cinematography Slumdog Millionaire (2008)] is stellar. The cast is strong with authentic performances from W. Earl Brown (Preacher, Deadwood: The Movie), Pia Mechler, Joshua Harto, Clark Middleton, and Gareth Williams. Scott Christopher Clark’s art direction, via the mise-en-scene, keeps the viewer wary and engaged. The costuming, designed by Suzanne Barnes, is spot on. And, the music from George Kallis, Breakthrough Composer of the Year 2018, International Film Music Critics Award, captivates.

In addition to the very noirish low key lighting and dramatic use of shadows, Gutterbee employs high key lighting, augmenting a plethora of comedic relief juxtaposed against the garishness of the depicted rural culture. Savvy writing allows for a natural and rhythmic flow adroitly addressing social concerns. The editing from Soren B Ebbe is expertly carried out and the use of jump cuts, a verified comedic device, is nicely woven into the film’s fabric.

Thomsen’s artistic snapshot of Americana in Gutterbee left me dumbfounded. In a brilliantly executed film, a message of hope is revealed amidst the human condition of rural Americans. Important to note, the majority of rural dwellers in the United States are of Germanic descent. Having grown up in a German-American community, I appreciated the inclusion of Germanic cultural artifacts including, but not limited to, lederhosen and the St. Pauli Girl-style costuming. Seemingly, the hope for the future of America lies within their rich, cultural hands. Ask, or in the case of Gutterbee, knock, and it shall be opened. Highly recommended film and wildly entertaining!

 

CYNTHIA ERIVO, TARON EGERTON, AND ALDIS HODGE SHOW OFF VOCALS SINGING FAVORITE KARAOKE SONGS AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

VIRTUOSOS AWARD PRESENTED TO ALDIS HODGE, AWKWAFINA, BEANIE FELDSTEIN, CYNTHIA ERIVO, TARON EGERTON, FLORENCE PUGH, AND TAYLOR RUSSELL AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (January 19, 2020) – Day 4 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG concluded with a star-studded evening with the presentation of the Virtuosos Award, which recognizes a select group of talent whose noteworthy performances in film have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue.

This year’s honorees included: Awkwafina (The Farewell), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Aldis Hodge (Clemency), George MacKay (1917), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Taylor Russell (Waves).

The tribute, held at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, was moderated for the tenth year by Turner Classic Movies host and IMDb special correspondent Dave Karger, who engaged in one-on-one discussions with each of the night’s honorees to take a look back at their flourishing career and recent noteworthy performances.

The one-on-one discussions were followed by a group panel discussion, also moderated by Karger. Following the conclusion of the panel discussion, Santa Barbara local and legendary actor Christopher Lloyd presented each honoree with their award.

Highlights from the evening include:

Aldis Hodge on working with Alfre Woodard in the film Clemency: “As an actor and an artist, I always seem to put myself around teachers. I love to get around education and an environment that’s going to help elevate and grow me. Being around someone as masterful as miss Woodard – that’s exactly what you’re going to get. She’s a fantastic actress, a fantastic scene partner, a fantastic leader. So for me, it really was a privileged education.

Awkwafina on using her real name, Nora Lum, for her on-screen credit in the future: “I think in the beginning, Awkwafina really was someone to kind of like take the stage fright and the nervousness and the neuroses and the overthinking. But I think more and more as I grew up, I realize they are the same person. And when I see the name Awkwafina on like a chair back or a call sheet, it’s the name I chose for myself. That means something to the 15-year-old girl that was like ‘it’s a great idea to name yourself Awkwafina. Which years later – regrettable – but it’s fine. It’s an homage to that, and I don’t think I’m ready to lose it yet.”

Beanie Feldstein on young girls admiring her for her role in Booksmart: “Sometimes I’ll just see two young girls come walk up to me and I just put my arms out, and it’s so fun and it’s so lovely. It’s just a joy. We made this movie for everyone, but it’s a testament and celebration of young women, and we just wanted to do this generation proud because they’re so engaged with the world in a way that even…I was at that age. But I feel like young people today are invested in their society at such a young age and it’s so inspiring and we really wanted to celebrate that in Booksmart.”

Cynthia Erivo on getting emotional during the Sesame Street tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors: “I think there’s something so endearing about the stories that Sesame Street would tell. It included everybody. No one was excluded from something like Sesame Street. So when I was watching the montage of the things that went by, it just made me feel like a kid again. I felt like these people really wanted to include all the children in the world. No one was different, no one was apart.”

Florence Pugh on her performance as Amy March in Little Women: “[Greta] wanted Amy to be more than just the girl that burned the book and ended up with the guy, and she was excited to maybe let people see themselves in Amy…When we made it, it felt great and lovely. Through Amy in this version, the audience finally gets to see how rough and how tough it was for women, and how clever she was for her to choose the life that she had.”

George MacKay on working on the film 1917: “It’s like a play and a film together, and that process of being involved right from the beginning…we had to choreograph the entire film. We had to suss out the emotional rhythm and the pace of the entire piece because it dictated the actual length of the set.”

Taron Egerton on winning a Golden Globe for Rocketman: “You know, I’m from a really rural part of the UK. I’m from the middle of Wales, and the Golden Globes feels like something that happens to other people. So to be there, to be nominated was incredible…to win was just really wonderful.”

Taylor Russell on how her personal experience translated to her role in Waves: “There’s a lot in my life that I think prepared me for this role. I have two brothers, and that connection is really important to me…I know what it feels like to love somebody and not like them. I knew what a relationship was like with a brother, so I had that and felt that with Kelvin right away.”

 

The final portion of the program was a true crowd-pleaser as Karger brought out all eight honorees for a panel discussion. The audience got a special treat when Karger asked what each person’s go-to karaoke song is, which then escalated to the honorees breaking out into song on stage.

Provoked by Erivo, Hodge sang a few lines of his favorite karaoke song, “Gold Digger” by Jamie Foxx ft. Kanye West. He then prompted Erivo to sing her song, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner. While Erivo was belting out a few bars from the song, Feldstein pretended to faint in her chair as the audience cheered for more. Egerton also volunteered to sing part of his favorite karaoke song, “Faith” by George Michael.

Other topics of discussion included favorite movies of all time, dream roles and the films that surprised them the most this year.

Following the panel discussion, actor Christopher Lloyd presented each honoree with their award. The evening concluded as the talented group of actors laughed and mingled in a VIP afterparty.

Last year’s recipients of the Virtuosos Award were Yalitza Aparicio, Sam Elliott, Elsie Fisher, Claire Foy, Richard E. Grant, Thomasin McKenzie, John David Washington, and Steven Yeun.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

(Source materials provided by sbiff.org)

ADAM DRIVER ACCEPTS OUTSTANDING PERFORMERS OF THE YEAR AWARD AT THE 35TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (January 18, 2020) – Day 3 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG featured a heartening tribute to 2020 Oscar nominated actor Adam Driver, who received the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award presented by Belvedere Vodka. Driver was recognized for his critically acclaimed work in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

As he arrived to the tribute, the actor was greeted by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, who later presented him with the award. After taking a few questions from young aspiring student journalists on the red carpet, Driver sat down with IndieWire’s Anne Thompson for an insightful conversation and look back at his varied career and beginnings as a U.S. Marine.

Some of the highlights from the conversation included:

Just before Driver’s conversation with Thompson, the audience was treated to a montage of Driver’s varied career, including clips from films like Inside Llewyn Davis, Francis Ha, BlacKkKlansman and Star Wars. 

Following Driver’s conversation with Thompson, Durling took the stage to present him with the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award, saying: Adam Driver, in my humble opinion, your acting as Charlie is the best performance by a male in 2019 by far. You bare your soul in this film. You do not rely on makeup. You don’t rely on wardrobe, nor dramatic weight changes. Instead, you wear your emotions on your skin and dig deep.”

Upon accepting his award with a standing ovation from the audience, Driver said: “Acting to me is many things. You know, it’s a craft. It’s a political act. Unfortunately, it’s a business, and it’s a service. I think that acting is a service industry. I’m there in service of the director, the actors and the crew, and the story overall, which is more important. I very much believe in that. I believe in the potential effect of great collaboration. I think movies and films and art can lead people out of the dark.”

Following the tribute, Driver and Thompson headed just outside the theatre for a VIP after party presented by Belvedere, where guests mingled over specialty cocktails, struck a pose in a gif-able photo booth and gathered around warm cozy lounge areas amid the chilly Santa Barbara weather.

The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year. Past recipients of the award include Rami Malek, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, James Franco, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

 

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

(Source: Press release courtesy of sbiff)

 

The Marijuana Conspiracy

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Never a dull moment during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) red carpet events. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson were slated to receive the Outstanding Performers of the Year which “recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year.” Yet, for the first time in the history of SBIFF, a no-show occurred. Late reports have Ms. Johansson under the weather.

Thank heavens for the talented and vivacious cast and the collaborative writer/director of The Marijuana Conspiracy, based on “Project Venus,” a government-funded research project to study the effects of marijuana on females.

The passion and zeal The Marijuana Conspiracy group emanated in our short conversation leads me to believe The Marijuana Conspiracy is a highly potent project. The story line about a group of women held in isolation for ninety-eight days during the winter of 1972 in Toronto, Canada, with a team of doctors noting the physical and social effects of marijuana on the females resonates.

So without further adieu, check out our talk, catch a screening, and experience the positivity of The Marijuana Conspiracy. You’ll be glad you did!

See below for more details on the film.

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(From SBIFF.org) In 1972, a group of young women took part in an outlandish scientific study to measure the effects of marijuana on women. It began as fun, like a hippie camp: get paid to smoke weed and make some easy cash. The young women thrived and excelled at their given tasks despite their “toke times,” so scientists gave the girls ever-increasing THC levels to smoke. The girls eventually become zombified and felt like lab rats under constant observation and prodding. Yet, they endured, with no one to care for them and no laws to protect them. The girls used their unique strengths, resilience, and friendship to overcome this extreme adversity. This film tells their story.

Directed by Craig Pryce
Produced by Colin Brunton, Jennifer Haufler, Katarzyna Kochany, Craig Pryce, Mark Pancer
Written by Craig Pryce
Starring Brittany Bristow, Morgan Kohan, Julia Sarah Stone, Tymika Tafari, Kyla Young
Independent Competition Sponsored by Panavision
Country: Canada
123 minutes
US Premiere

The Marijuana Conspiracy is screening tomorrow at 4:20PM, at the Fiesta Theatre, Auditorium #4, and,

January 19th, at 5:20PM, at the Metro Theatre, Auditorium #2

For more information on screenings visit SBIFF.org.

Lost Transmissions

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. More red carpet coverage from the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). Katharine O’Brien’s Lost Transmissions, a powerful human interest story starring Alexandra Daddario, is sure to pique the sensibilities. Check out the conversation and, more importantly, check out Lost Transmissions. See below for details.

 

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(FROM SBIFF.org) Hannah, a shy songwriter, discovers that her friend, respected record producer Theo Ross, has lapsed on his medication for schizophrenia. Hannah rallies a group of friends to help commit Theo to a psychiatric facility, chasing him as he outruns his colorful delusions through the glamour and grit of Los Angeles. From the highs of rock ‘n’ roll to rock bottom, it’s a story of the unsung heroes behind the hits.

Directed by Katharine O’Brien
Produced by Filip Jan Rymsza, Tory Lenosky
Written by Katharine O’Brien
Starring Simon Pegg, Juno Temple, Alexandra Daddario
Cinesonic Sidebar
Country: USA
105 minutes

Last Lost Transmissions screenings of the festival!

Tomorrow, 6PM, Metro Theatre, Auditorium 4

January 19th, 2:20PM, Metro Theatre, Auditorium 2

For more screening information visit: SBIFF.org

Gutterbee

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

While covering the red carpet last night for the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) American Riviera Award honoring Renee Zellwegger for her significant contributions to the art of motion pictures, I managed to catch a team of Danes in town with their satirical dramedy, Gutterbee. After witnessing last year’s SBIFF Audience Award winner and Nordic Cinema prize winner, another Danish offering, In Love and War, and after chatting up the Gutterbee team, I am quite optimistic, about this viewing. Make no mistake, the Danes are a force to be reckoned. Check out the conversation with Writer/Director Ulrich Thomsen and three of the film’s stars. And,  make sure to get to a screening of Gutterbee! See below for details.

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(From SBIFF.org) GUTTERBEE is a character-driven comedy about friendship and sausage–the German sausage, that is. Set in small-town America, it’s a story about two men who are hopeless dreamers and who join forces in a quest to erect the ultimate German sausage restaurant: the Gourmet House of Refuge. GUTTERBEE is also a social satire about the nexus of fear, where religion becomes an intellectual cul-de-sac, and racism, homophobia, and intolerance reign supreme.

Directed by Ulrich Thomsen
Produced by Ulrich Thomsen
Written by Ulrich Thomsen
Starring Antony Starr, Ewen Bremner, W. Earl Brown, Joshua Harto, Clark Middleton, Chance Kelly, Gareth Williams. Pia Mechler
Independent Competition / Screen Cuisine Sidebar
Country: Denmark
107 minutes
US Premiere

Screening tomorrow, January 18th, 12PM, Metro Theatre, Auditorium #4, and

January 20th, 8:20PM, Metro Theatre, Auditorium #2.

Visit SBIFF.org for more screening information

 

 

 

OVERLAND and the Art of Falconry

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting film director, Elisabeth Haviland James on the red carpet last night at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Check out the short conversation. It’s intense and informative. Don’t be afraid!

 

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(FROM SBIFF) How can we connect to our natural, primal spirit when modern society threatens to erase it?

OVERLAND is a stunning cinematic journey across four continents that twists and turns like nature itself – bridging ancient to modern, east to west, and earth to sky. Lauren, a daredevil anthropologist, trains injured eagles to fly and hunt while scouring the world for falconry secrets. A confused eagle whose tragic past seems beyond repair pushes her to the brink. Giovanni left Rome for a solitary life in the countryside with his wolves, horse, and hawks. After a transcendent experience with an 800-year-old falconry book, he begins to question his life’s purpose. In Dubai, Khalifa is training to be the world’s best falcon racer. For millennia, his nomadic ancestors hunted with falcons in the harsh Arabian desert. Now, with city life encroaching, he must find a way to keep his fragile Bedouin culture from vanishing forever.

For more screening information check out sbiff.org

Directed by Revere La Noue, Elisabeth Haviland James
Produced by Elisabeth Haviland James, Revere La Noue, Amy Tiemann, Michael Tiemann, Marilyn Jacobs Preyer, Christopher Behlau
Written by Elisabeth Haviland James, Revere La Noue
Starring Lauren McGough, Khalifa Bin Mujren, Giovanni Granati
Documentary Competition / Reel Nature Sidebar
Country: USA
105 minutes
World Premiere
Subtitled

Free public screening today, 2PM, at the Lobero!

Tomorrow, January 18th, 4PM, at the Fiesta Theatre, Auditorium #3, and

Sunday, January 19th, 8:30AM, at the Metro Theatre, Auditorium #4.

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

 

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Kicks Up Its Heels With A BUMP ALONG THE WAY

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is underway. An at-capacity Arlington Theatre audience ushered in the January 15-25 Phase Two Oscar Campaign film festival. In traditional fashion, The Mayor of Santa Barbara, Cathy Murillo (pictured above) made opening remarks and hinted of the magic about to unfold in the Opening Night film, A BUMP ALONG THE WAY, making its U.S. premiere at SBIFF. With her promise to sprinkle pixie dust into the air before introducing SBIFF Executive Director, Roger Durling.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director, Roger Durling, delivers Opening night remarks for the festival’s 35th edition on January 15th, 2020, at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

Without further adieu, Durling entering from stage left strutted to center stage and delivered eloquent remarks on his love of cinema, its unabashed inclusiveness, sense of community, and educational properties of the festival today. SBIFF began in 1986 as an economic venture. One of the community-building moments under Durling’s direction is pausing his remarks so audience members can spend a moment introducing and bonding with a before-unknown cinephile friend. In addition, a strong thank you to the festival volunteers, the backbone of the in-festival mode of operations, and to the Manitou Fund for its generous support in equipping several viewing screens with the  OTOjOY hearing loop technology.

Seemingly, with the pixie dust taking effect, Durling expounded on a 1986 cinema experience with his close friend, socially incapacitated with facial lesions. From this moment and similar experiences, a revelation of cinema as a great equalizer full of wonder, curiosity, hope, and positive expectation unfolded. With that, a vivacious Irish woman (a bonafide Derry girl), Bronagh Gallagher, took stage alongside Durling to introduce the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Opening night film, A BUMP ALONG THE WAY.

Bronagh Gallagher, right, lead actress, of the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Opening night film, A BUMP ALONG THE WAY, took stage alongside festival director, Roger Durling, on January 15th, 2020, at the historic Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Babara, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson).

 

 

Captivating the audience with her powerful presence and equally powerful Irish brogue voice, Gallagher informed the audience of the all-female film department heads involved in the film’s production. The audience responded with a resounding chorus of applause and rounds of laughter as the lead actress exuberantly expressed how proud she felt representing the women of Derry, Ireland, with the emotionally compelling film and that if she didn’t get a picture at of the full house she’d “never be allowed back into Derry.” With that, the lights went down and the 35th Santa Barbara Film Festival was underway.

A BUMP ALONG THE WAY, a female-led, feel-good, comedy-drama set in Derry, Northern Ireland, about a middle-aged woman whose unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand acts as the catalyst for her to finally take control of her life and become the role model her teenage daughter needs and craves, served as the Opening Night film for the 35th Santa barbara International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of SBIFF)

Following the film, the Opening Night Gala was held in the beautiful outdoor Paseo Nuevo Shops and Restaurants in downtown Santa Barbara featuring entertainment, food, libations, while celebrating the start of the 35th SBIFF.

Sat tuned for more as the festival runs through January 25th!

While quantities are running low, some tickets and passes are still available HERE. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

 

 

 

MANITOU FUND TO EQUIPT HEARING LOOP SYSTEMS IN VENUES FOR 35TH #SBIFF

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Santa Barbara, CA: The Santa Barbara International Film Festival with the generous support of the Manitou Fund announced today that it has permanently equipped all four Metro 4 Theatres and two screens at Fiesta 5 Theatres with state of the art OTOjOY hearing loop technology, just in time for the 35th annual Film Festival.

All SBIFF auditoriums including The Lobero, Arlington and Riviera Theatres now proudly provide the hearing loop system. SBIFF values diversity and inclusion, and this project enriches access for the community permanently, providing a quality theatre-going experience for all.

At the historic Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif., the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced, with the generous support of the Manitou Fund, it  permanently equipped The Metro 4 and two Fiesta 5 screens with state of the art OTOjOY hearing loop technology, for the 35th annual Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

A hearing loop system is an assistive listening technology that sends audio wirelessly to a patron’s hearing aids or cochlear implant/s. The loop provides clean sound, minimizes background noise, and eliminates the need for a separate receiver or headset. It can be accessed by any number of users and by anyone with a compatible, telecoil-enabled hearing device.  When combined with a loop receiver, this technology can also assist people who do not wear a hearing device to improve the clarity of speech and sound. With the direct wireless connection, individuals with hearing loss don’t need to borrow or return equipment from the venue. Loops provide discreet communication access for people with hearing loss and greater inclusion in public events.

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, approximately 23% of the U.S. population over the age of 12, more than 60 million people, have some degree of hearing loss.

“Part of our mission is to make the world of film and filmmaking accessible to everyone, so we are incredibly proud to partner with the Manitou Fund on this project,” says SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

“Creating more hearing-friendly venues allows people with hearing loss to participate fully in the community. Every new hearing loop increases access for people with hearing loss and enhances our nation’s accessibility infrastructure,” says Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of Hearing Loss Association of America. “HLAA applauds the work of the Manitou Fund and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to equip area theaters with looping systems.”

 “Accessing hearing assisting loop technology is a game-changer for not only the hard of hearing but for anyone who wishes to enjoy the best hearing experience possible in a looped venue,” shares Nora McNeely Hurley of the Manitou Fund. “Hearing loops have improved my quality of life profoundly and I hope that others will discover the exciting benefits of accessing Telecoil loop technology via personal hearing devices. Ask your audiologist and/or theater manager for ways by which you can get in the loop!”

Manitou Fund is dedicated to enriching the lives of people through financial support that enhances and sustains the beauty and importance of Nature, the Arts, Humanities, Health, and Education.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In 2016, SBIFF acquired the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s state-of-the-art, fully accessible, year-round home and Santa Barbara’s year-round arthouse theater. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs.

(Source: Press release from SBIFF’s Tyler Carr)

 

SBIFF OPENING NIGHT FILM Presented by UGG® US Premiere of “A Bump Along The Way”

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
8:00pm
Arlington Theatre
Santa Barbara, CA

AND
OPENING NIGHT GALA

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Following the Opening Night Film
10:00PM
Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara, CA

SBIFF 2020 will start with the Opening Night Film, presented by UGG​®​, tonight Wednesday, January 15, at the historic Arlington Theatre with the U.S. Premiere of ​A BUMP ALONG THE WAY​ directed by ShellyLove and starring Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds, Dan Gordon and Brendan Farrell.

A BUMP ALONG THE WAY​ is female-led, feel-good, comedy-drama set in Derry, Northern Ireland, about a middle-aged woman whose unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand acts as the catalyst for her to finally take control of her life and become the role model her teenage daughter needs and craves.

Following the film, the Opening Night Gala will take place in the beautiful outdoor Paseo Nuevo Shops and Restaurants in downtown Santa Barbara. It will feature entertainment, food, libations, and celebrate the start of SBIFF.

Get tickets and Passes Here

 

(Source: SBIFF News Release)

ADL Stand Up Award goes to the feature film Liberté: A Call to Spy at the 2020 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

DATE: January 8, 2020 … ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties announced today that it has awarded its ADL Stand Up Award at the 2020 Santa Barbara International Film Festival to the feature film Liberté: A Call to Spy.

Dan Meisel, ADL’s Regional Director issued the following statement:

The ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Region is pleased to present this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival ADL Stand Up Award to Liberté:  A Call to Spy, a dramatic portrayal of the true stories of the first women recruited and sent by the British military to occupied France with orders to disrupt the Nazi war machine.

The courageous heroism of soldiers risking their lives to counter the Nazis is not a new story.  It is new, at least for the big screen, that the heroes featured in Liberté are women, and it is certainly worth discussing why it has taken so long for their stories to be celebrated in this way.  What made these women truly remarkable, in addition to the challenges they had to overcome as “lady spies,” was the strength of their common conviction despite their varied identities and experiences.  The lead characters enter the frame in Liberté bound by how the world sees them — an American foreign servant with a disability, a Muslim pacifist of Indian heritage, and a Romanian Jew fearing deportation.  By the end of the story, their shared commitment to defend the human dignity of others supersedes any limiting labels, and their diversity proves critical to the success of their respective missions.

A jury of local ADL staff and supporters annually present the ADL Stand Up Award to a film in the festival that exemplifies the impact storytelling can have in fostering mutual understanding and respect, consistent with ADL’s mission “to secure justice and fair treatment for all.”  Given the recent and deeply troubling trend of rising hate and violence directed towards religious, racial, and ethnic minorities in the U.S. and around the world, ADL is proud to stand up with these filmmakers in highlighting the real-life heroism of standing up to fear-based aggression towards others solely on account of who they are.

Liberté: A Call to Spy is directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, and stars Sarah Megan Thomas (“Equity”), who also wrote the screenplay and produced, Stana Katic (“Castle”), and Radhika Apte (“Andhadhun”).  More info about the film can be found on twitter @libertethemovie.

The festival’s U.S. premiere of Liberté will occur on January 16.  ADL is hosting a cocktail Soireé in honor of the Stand Up Award at 6:15pm in the Lobero Theater Courtyard, to be followed by the film’s premiere at 7:40pm in the Fiesta 5 Theater with a Q&A thereafter with Lydia Dean Pilcher and Sarah Megan Thomas.  Tickets to ADL’s Soireé (which include a confirmed seat at the 7:40pm screening) can only be purchased at support.ADL.org/STANDUP2020 or by calling 805-564-6670.  Limited general admission to the 7:40pm showing will be available for the festival pass or ticket holders.

The film is also screening at the Metro 2 Theater on Friday, January 17 at 2:20pm and Saturday, January 18 at 5:20pm for the festival pass or ticket holders.

This is the fifth year ADL has sponsored its Stand Up Award.  Previous winners explored the lives of a drag performer in Cuba (Viva, 2016), Polish migrant workers in Sweden (Strawberry Days, 2017), Syrian refugees seeking passage to Berlin (Sky and Ground, 2018), and a team of basketball players with disabilities (Campeones, 2019).\

This year’s Soireé is being sponsored in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara.  For information about sponsorship opportunities, please contact ADL at 805-564-6670.

ADL, founded in 1913, is among the world’s leading organizations fighting bigotry, hatred, and discrimination.  Learn more at www.adl.org.  ADL’s Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Office was established in 2001.  Follow it on twitter @ADLSantaBarbara.

(Source: SBIFF press release)

Latest Additions to 2020 Sundance Film Festival Announced

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Born into Brothels

The Social Dilemma Joins Documentary Premieres; Born into Brothels and High Art Are From The Collection Films

Special Event Love Fraud Confirmed as Day One Screening

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) Park City, UT — Sundance Institute adds three feature films to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s robust slate of independent work today, alongside previously announced work. The Institute also confirmed that previously-announced Special Event, Love Fraud, will screen on Day One of the Festival. The Festival will take place in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort on January 23–February 2, 2020.

Pulling from the vault of festivals past, archival selection High Art will be presented thanks to a newly created DCP provided by Focus Features/Universal Pictures. Lisa Cholodenko’s feature debut, featuring a breakthrough performance from Patricia Clarkson and Radha Mitchell, and an award-winning turn from Ally Sheedy, High Art premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. High Art follows an ambitious female magazine editor who has a chance encounter with her neighbor, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues and a story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves unfolds.

Born into Brothels, the second archival screening, won the Documentary Audience Award when it premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes. The film, which highlights the immensely restorative, empowering, and liberating nature of art, went on to win an Academy Award® for Documentary Feature in 2005. Nearly lost in a fire, Born into Brothels has been digitally restored, and a DCP was created through a collaboration between Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Academy Film Archive branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Archival screenings are made possible by the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA and give audiences the opportunity to discover and rediscover the films that have shaped the heritage of both Sundance Institute and independent storytelling. To address the specific preservation risks posed to independent film, including high costs of storage, lab closures, issues around intellectual property rights, and damage from neglect, Sundance Institute partnered with UCLA Film & Television Archive in 1997 to form the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA.

The Collection has grown to over 4,000 holdings representing nearly 2,300 titles, and is dedicated to preserving independent feature-length and short films supported by Sundance Institute. Celebrating the history of independent film, past From the Collection screenings have included The Blair Witch Project, Hours and Times, River of Grass, Paris is Burning, Desert Hearts, Daughters of the Dust, El Mariachi, sex, lies, and videotape, Hoop Dreams, and Paris, Texas.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The Social Dilemma / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski, Screenwriters: Vickie Curtis, Davis Coombe, Jeff Orlowski, Producer: Larissa Rhodes) — Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives. Insiders from Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube reveal how these platforms are reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen. Cast: Vincent Kartheiser, Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward. World Premiere

FROM THE COLLECTION 

Born into Brothels / U.S.A. (Directors: Zana Briski, Ross Kaufman) – A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes.

High Art / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lisa Cholodenko, Producers: Dolly Hall, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Susan A. Stover) – A story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves. Syd, an ambitious female magazine editor, has a chance encounter with her neighbor one night, the enigmatic Lucy, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues – will Lucy be saved or will Syd be destroyed? Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Grimes, Gabriel Mann, Radha Mitchell, Bill Sage, Ally Sheedy.
The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire; AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

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, discovering 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)

 

SBIFF ANNOUNCES ALL 8 VIRTUOSOS AWARD HONOREES

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced the second wave of recipients to receive the Virtuosos Award presented by UGG®, an honor created to recognize a select group of talent whose noteworthy performances in film have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue. Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Aldis Hodge (Clemency), and George MacKay (1917) will be joining Awkwafina (The Farewell), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Florence Pugh (Midsommar), and Taylor Russell (Waves) in receiving the award on Saturday, January 18th during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The tribute will be moderated for the tenth year by Turner Classic Movies host and IMDb special correspondent host Dave Karger.

Dave Karger

“The final four Virtuosos range from comedies to dramas, from the US to the UK, and from lead to supporting roles. But what they all have in common is that they shined in their respective films this year. They’re perfect additions to this exciting evening in Santa Barbara.” says Dave Karger, Turner Classic Movies host and IMDb special correspondent.

Past recipients include Yalitza Aparicio, Sam Elliott, Elsie Fisher, Claire Foy, Richard E. Grant, Thomasin McKenzie, John David Washington, Steven Yeun, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Géza Röhrig, Jacob Tremblay, Chadwick Boseman, Ellar Coltrane, Logan Lerman, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Ann Dowd, Elle Fanning, Ezra Miller, Eddie Redmayne, Omar Sy, Quvenzhane Wallis, Demian Bichir, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Shailene Woodley, Andy Serkis, Patton Oswalt, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Lesley Manville, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Emily Blunt, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Stuhlbarg, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, James McAvoy, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, and June Squibb.

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place January 15th through 25th, 2020. Tickets are available here.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

(Source: SBIFF news announcement)

 

 

Maltin Modern Master Award honoring Brad Pitt at Santa Barbara #SBIFF

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), a Phase Two (the short span of days between Oscar nominations and the actual voting of the Academy members) campaign stop for talent to be seen and to be heard, announced that Brad Pitt is set to receive the prestigious Maltin Modern Master Award. This event will sell out. Tickets are still available here.

Pitt will be honored on Wednesday, January 22nd for his long-standing contributions to the film industry, most recently gracing the silver screen in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood from Columbia Pictures and Ad Astra for New Regency. Leonard Maltin will return for his 29th year to moderate the evening.

Leonard Maltin

“Brad Pitt wears the mantle of Movie Star with good grace. He’s been giving great performances for several decades, but he makes it look so easy that I fear he’s been taken for granted. After the one-two punch of Ad Astra and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, this year he’s an ideal choice to be presented the Maltin Modern Master Award,” states Leonard Maltin.

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

When a mysterious life-threatening event strikes Earth, astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) goes on a dangerous mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe, in James Gray’s Ad Astra.

The Modern Master Award was established in 1995 and is the highest accolade presented by SBIFF. Created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, it was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin. Past recipients include Glenn Close, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, George Clooney and Peter Jackson.

(Source:SBIFF News Announcement)

 

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Hosts The World Premiere Of Native Narrative Short Little Chief

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

(Park City, UT) – December 10, 2019. Little Chief, a narrative short film directed by Indigenous filmmaker Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga), will hold its world premiere as part of the Shorts Selection at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The story stars an Indigenous cast, including Lily Gladstone (Certain Women, Billions), and was produced through the Sundance Institute Native Filmmakers Lab last year.

SNEAK PREVIEW

Filmed with quiet resilience and against the bleak landscape of a rural reservation in Oklahoma, Little Chief tells the story of Sharon, an exhausted school teacher struggling to keep her head and her school above water. Her student, Bear, is having a particularly hard time enduring challenges both at home and in the classroom. As she watches Bear unravel, Sharon is ultimately forced to accept her role as an imperfect role model, the unlikely matriarch her community needs. Bear becomes desperate to escape it all, and Sharon is left chasing a little boy who is running to nowhere.

Erica Tremblay

“Building off of my experience growing up in Oklahoma and drawing from the true stories of my mother who is a Native school teacher, Little Chief tells a story of contemporary Native America,” says writer-director Erica Tremblay.  “Within the context of national conversations about race, poverty, and education, Little Chief offers a unique perspective. How do colonized cultures grapple with educating their youth in culturally-aware ways? What are the burdens on the next generation, and how are these children emotionally coping with a grim reality that they neither chose nor control? I hope to provide insight into these questions through this work.” 

Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga) is a filmmaker and activist currently studying her Indigenous language on the Six Nations reservation in Ontario, Canada. Her work has been featured on PBS, CNN, and IFC. Erica’s films explore topics including restorative justice and issues impacting the two-spirit community. She has worked with many grassroots organizations, including the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the Healing Native Hearts Coalition. Erica was recently honored as a 40 Under 40 Native American by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) and was a 2018 Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab Fellow.

Little Chief is screening several times during the festival before Patricia Vidal Delgado’s feature  film La Leyenda Negra. Director Erica Tremblay, producer Kasia Chmielinski, picture editor Robert Grigsby Wilson and production manager Dylan Brodie will be attending each presentation.

5 SCREENINGS:

Monday, January 27, 5:30 p.m.

Egyptian Theatre, Park City, UT

Wednesday, January 29, 8:30 a.m.

The MARC Theatre, Park City, UT

Thursday, January 30, 4:00 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema 4, Park City, UT

Friday, January 31, 9:00 p.m.

Temple Theatre, Park City, UT

Saturday, February 1, 3:00 p.m.

Broadway Centre Cinema 6, Salt Lake City, UT

 

Starring Lily Gladstone as Sharon, Julian Ballentyne as Bear; Writer, Director, Producer Erica Tremblay; Supervising Producer Sterlin Harjo; Producers Deidre Backs, Kasia Chmielinski; Cinematographer Marshall Stief; Editor Robert Grigsby Wilson.

(Source: Sundance press release)

 

 

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: 118 FEATURE FILMS ANNOUNCED

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

Drawn From a Record High of 15,100 Submissions Across The Program, Including 3,853 Features, Selected Films Represent 27 Countries

 

Once Upon A Time in Venezuela, photo by John Marquez; The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me, photo by Jake Magee; Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, courtesy of Sundance Institute; Beast Beast, photo by Kristian Zuniga; I Carry You With Me, photo by Alejandro López; Ema, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

(For Immediate Release) Park City, UT — The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today the showcase of new independent feature films selected across all categories for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The Festival hosts screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort, from January 23–February 2, 2020. The Sundance Film Festival is Sundance Institute’s flagship public program, widely regarded as the largest American independent film festival and attended by more than 120,000 people and 1,300 accredited press, and powered by more than 2,000 volunteers last year.

Sundance Institute also presents public programs throughout the year and around the world, including Festivals in Hong Kong and London, an international short film tour, an indigenous shorts program, a free summer screening series in Utah, and more. Alongside these public programs, the majority of the nonprofit Institute’s resources support independent artists around the world as they make and develop new work, via Labs, direct grants, fellowships, residencies and other strategic and tactical interventions.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, “Independent artists create and enrich global culture. Their art, which we’re proud to present, can entertain – and much more: it can, illuminate, agitate, and empower. This year’s Festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to driv