FILM REVIEW: The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, 2021)

THE FRENCH DISPATCH. (Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Searchlight Pictures and Indian Paintbrush’s American Empirical Picture presents Wes Anderson’s, The French Dispatch, being hailed as Anderson’s love letter to a fading vocation and literary form – magazine journalism. The French Dispatch brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of a widely circulated American magazine, The French Dispatch (the film’s title) published in a fictional 20th-century French city, Ennui-sur-Blasé.

 

(From L-R): Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. (Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved)

 

On the occasion of the death of its beloved Kansas-born editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr., portrayed by Bill Murray, his hand-picked staff—including the Cartoonist (Jason Schwartzman), the Story Editor (Fisher Stevens), the Legal Advisor (Griffin Dunne), the Copy Editor (Elisabeth Moss), the Proofreader (Anjelica Bette Fellini) and a cheery Writer Wally Wolodarsky – who has haunted the French Dispatch offices for years but never written a single word – assembles over the body to collaborate on an obituary.

They are led by Howitzer’s beloved writers, who he coddled and encouraged, and dressed down and built up, earning him their devotion and their love: Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), the intrepid Cycling Reporter, drawn to the most unsettling and unsavory aspects of the far-flung cities he visits…J.K.L. Berendsen (Tilda Swinton), the critic and chronicler on intimate terms with every side of the modern art world…Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), the solitary essayist who guards her journalistic integrity as closely as her private passions…and Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), the lonely expatriate polymath with a typographic memory, discovered and rescued by Howitzer under humiliating circumstances.

Memories of Howitzer flow into the creation of four stories: a travelogue of the seediest sections of the city itself from The Cycling Reporter; “The Concrete Masterpiece,” about a criminally insane painter, his guard and muse, and his ravenous dealers; “Revisions to a Manifesto,” a chronicle of love and death on the barricades at the height of student revolt; and “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” a suspenseful tale of drugs, kidnapping and fine dining.

 

Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. (Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved)

 

The creative team behind The French Dispatch included Wes Anderson, executive producer Roman Coppola, director of photography Robert Yeoman A.S.C., production designer Adam Stockhausen, costume designer Milena Canonero, editor Andrew Weisblum, and composer Alexandre Desplat. The film also stars Liev Schreiber (Showtime’s Ray Donovan, SPOTLIGHT, ISLE OF DOGS), Edward Norton (BIRDMAN, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL), Willem Dafoe (THE LIGHTHOUSE, SPIDERMAN), Saoirse Ronan (LITTLE WOMEN, LADY BIRD), Christoph Waltz (DJANGO UNCHAINED), Henry Winkler (Arrested Development, Barry, Happy Days), and Anjelica Huston (ISLE OF DOGS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY) as the Narrator.

The French Dispatch is definitely Wes Anderson fare for his loyal followers. It’s strongly written with humor intricately woven into the artsy cinematography/production design. Anderson professed his love for the New Yorker Magazine and the influence shines brightly through in The French Dispatch’s witty dialogue. Anderson is credited with the screenplay as well as directing. And….oh, what a cast! The creme de la creme. It’s such a treat watching their characters interact delivering deadpan humor that’s sure to keep any literary mind off-balance. The French Dispatch is an avant-garde delicacy. Highly recommended!

 

FILM CAPSULE NEWS: Cyrano (Joe Wright, 2021)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

A Special Tribute at the 48th Telluride Film Festival to powerhouse actor, Peter Dinklage, generated massive buzz before the world premiere of the new film musical, Cyrano, directed by MGM’s Joe Wright and written by Erica Schmidt (based on her 2018 play of the same name). Both stage play and screenplay are based on Edmund Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, incidentally credited with introducing “panache” to the English language.

Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano and Bashir Salahuddin as Le Bret in Joe Wright’s CYRANO – A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Photo credit: Peter Mountain © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

The film is breathtakingly beautiful with lavish costuming, epic battles, and spirited musical numbers. The film garnered three nominations at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards (HMMA): Best Original Song – Feature Film for “Every Letter”; Best Song – Onscreen for “Whenever I Fall”; and, Best Music Themed Film, Biopic or Musical.

 

Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne in Joe Wright’s CYRANO –  A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Photo credit: Peter Mountain © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

 

Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne in Joe Wright’s CYRANO – A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Photo credit: Peter Mountain © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

In Cyrano Dinklage strongly carries the weight of the lead with a remarkable melancholic voice, enhanced and embossed by Haley Bennett’s equally impressive performance as Roxanne. Both Bennett and Dinklage are reprising their roles from the 2018 Connecticut-based Goodspeed Musicals production of Cyrano.

Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Peter Dinklage as Cyrano in Joe Wright’s CYRANO – A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Photo credit: Peter Mountain
© 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Dinklage is a four-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones and has turned in several strong performances on the big screen in Station Agent, Elf, and I Care A Lot, and was recently Dinklage was recently announced as a Gotham Award Performer Recipient. Numerous pundits are mouthing Dinklage’s performance as Oscar-caliber – the question being is it enough for this record-setting Emmy recipient to become an Oscar recipient?

Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Christian in Joe Wright’s CYRANO – A Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Photo credit: Peter Mountain
© 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Cyrano was coming out for the holidays…For most audiences, the date has been pushed back to January 21st, 2022, as the film recently positioned itself to take advantage of the upcoming Oscar nomination season by scheduling a one-week opening run in Los Angeles beginning December 17th, followed by a back-to-back platform release and national rollout in January. Oscar nomination voting begins January 27th and wraps up the first week of February.

House of Gucci Opening Next Week!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci has been making some noise! Premieres in London, November 9th,  Milan, November 13th,  New York, November 17th, 2021, and Los Angeles, November 19th, were held ahead of the nationwide theatrical release slated to begin November 24, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

House of Gucci, was fifteen years in the making and is based on the 2001 Sara Gay Forden novel,  The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed.

House of Gucci is a stylish dynastic saga exploring three decades in the tangled history of the multi-generational Gucci family, with a tale of ambition, greed, betrayal, and murder all set against the backdrop of high fashion and high finance.

Moreover, the film features a formidable ensemble cast headed by Oscar® nominees Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Oscar® winners Al Pacino (The Godfather, Scent of a Woman), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune). Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) and Jack Huston (American Hustle) round out the star-studded cast.

From royal families and political lineage to media scions, the scandals and tribulations of rich and powerful dynasties have always exerted a fascination – fashion families are no different. The story begins in the late 1970s, at a critical juncture in the famed Italian fashion empire’s history. As the Gucci family’s global reach has broadened so too have hints of financial improprieties, stifled innovation and a cheapening of the brand. The Gucci business is overseen by Guccio Gucci’s two sons, the colorful and wily Aldo (Oscar®-winner Al Pacino) and his more conservative and detached sibling Rodolfo (Oscar®-winner Jeremy Irons).

House of Gucci was shot over forty-three days and in sequence, mostly in Rome, with additional locations in northern Italy and unlike many contemporary or near contemporary films, the fashions in HOUSE OF GUCCI are integral to the film’s story and verisimilitude. In particular, Director Ridley Scott was interested in the look of the film’s central female character, portrayed by the multi-talented artist and actor, Lady Gaga, Patrizia Reggiani Gucci, who in real-life was a major fashionista.

In the end, House of Gucci not only depicts the demise of the Gucci family’s control over its vast fashion empire but the waning days of privately-owned fashion labels and the onset of conglomerate control of the industry. Big, brash, and oozing with talent, House of Gucci is coming to a theatre near you on November 24th, 2021.

Gucci is a recognized and admired brand around the globe and was created by the fashion label’s founder Guccio Gucci, who opened his first quality leather goods store in Florence, Italy exactly one hundred years ago.

 

FILM REVIEW: Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast from Focus Features tells a humorous, tender, and intensely personal story of one boy’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the city of Branagh’s birth. Belfast is an impeccable work based on Branagh’s own upbringing in Belfast in the late 1960’s.

The soundtrack features a plethora of Van Morrison’s greatest hits, including a newly written song for the film, adding joy and optimism to the challenging circumstances a young couple is facing with their young children. Their nine-year-old boy must chart a path towards adulthood through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. His stable and loving community and everything he thought he understood about life have changed forever but joy, laughter, music, and the formative magic of the movies remain.

(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as “Ma”, Jamie Dornan as “Pa”, Judi Dench as “Granny”, Jude Hill as “Buddy”, and Lewis McAskie as “Will” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. (PHOTO Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features)

The cast includes Golden Globe nominee Caitríona Balfe, Academy Award® winner Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, and introduces the ten-year-old Jude Hill. Dornan and Balfe play a passionate working-class couple caught up in the mayhem, with Dench and Hinds as the quick-witted grandparents. The film is produced by Branagh, Laura Berwick, Becca Kovacik, and Tamar Thomas.

Caitriona Balfe (left) stars as “Ma” and Jamie Dornan (right) stars as “Pa” in director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features

Exquisitely executed cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos, Director of Photography, utilizes various camera angles reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and is simply a visual delight. Befitting the 1960’s the production design from Jim Clay hit the mark with a splattering of classic 1960’s vehicles, urban sidewalks, and building facades to match. The hair, make-up, and costuming donned by the handsome and vivacious actors are a feast for the eyes. Wakana Yoshihara and Charlotte Walker handled the respective departments.

Actor Jude Hill (left) on the set of BELFAST, a Focus Features release. ( PHOTO Credit: Rob Youngson/Focus Features)

The beautiful and talented Belfast actors were cast by Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockman. Úna Ní Dhonghaíle (The Crown) nailed the editing as she managed to draw the viewer into the 1960’s world and keep them there with seamless continuity. And, as mentioned, the music is from the Belfast-born legend, Van Morrison.

Said Kenneth Branagh:

Kenneth Branagh introduced his latest film, Belfast, at the Werner Herzog Theatre as part of the 48th Telluride Film Festival, Thursday, September 2nd, 2021. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

“Belfast is a city of stories and in the late 1960s it went through an incredibly tumultuous period of its history, very dramatic, sometimes violent, that my family and I were caught up in. It’s taken me fifty years to find the right way to write about it, to find the tone I wanted. It can take a very long time to understand just how simple things can be and finding that perspective, years on, provides    a great focus. The story of my childhood, which inspired the film, has become a story of the point in everyone’s life when the child crosses over into adulthood, where innocence is lost…”

 

Belfast, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, has a perfectly directed runtime of 97 minutes,  a compelling storyline, and is so technically proficient that it appears to be an early favorite for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Awards for best film and best director. Highly recommended!

***Belfast began its theatrical release on November 12th, 2021, and recently screened November 5th, at Landmark’s Tivoli Theatre in University City, Missouri, as part of the 30th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, November 4 -21, 2021.

FILM REVIEW: Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog

Posted by Larry Gleeson

THE POWER OF THE DOG: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. (Photo credit: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021)

 

Jane Campion’s latest work, The Power of the Dog, screened as part of a Red Carpet Premiere at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood California, during the American Film Institute’s  AFI FEST 2021, on Thursday, November 11th. Campion is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director. She is the second of seven women ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and the first female filmmaker to receive the Palme d’Or; both of these achievements came for The Piano (1993).

 

The Power of the Dog,  written and directed by Campion, is set in 1925 Montana and circles around two well-off brothers who own an influential ranching operation. The Burbank brothers, played by Jesse Plemons and Benedict Cumberbatch, come across as polar opposites. Phil Burbank, played by Cumberbatch, is an infamous Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University who prefers the daily grind of working the ranch with the hired hands. Cumberbatch brings a deep dark presence to the character in what might be his best performance to date. Plemmons plays Gordon Burbank,  the slower, mild-mannered younger brother, embodying a ranch gentleman with grace and style. Kirsten Dunst portrays Rose Gordon, a compelling love interest as a saloon-style restaurant owner who serves dinners to the locals with her son, Peter, portrayed by Kodi Smith-McPhee in a breakout performance.

While The Power of the Dog is set in Montana, the actual film location is New Zealand – adding a surreal quality. And, Campion’s writing matches it full force. The twists and turns in the dramatic, psychological, roller-coaster ride narrative combined with Cumberbatch’s powerful, dark character portrayal set the audience on the edge of their seats and their eyes fixed on the big screen. Undoubtedly, Campion is in the mix for her second Oscar for screenwriting and appears to be in the mix for a directorial nod as well.

 

Q & A, on November 11th, 2021, following the screening of The Power of the Dog, inside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

Following the screening, a fun-filled Q & A unfolded as the film’s actors, editor, cinematographer, and director sparred, cajoled, and informed under the watchful eye of moderator Hahn as she effectively marshaled the energies of The Power of the Dog conversation. The Power of the Dog, set for a December 1st, 2021, release date,  is a magnificent and majestic work tantalizing and titillating – a bonafide Oscar contender for now – in multiple categories! Highly recommended. One of the year’s best films!

 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Gordon in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, set for a December 1st, 2021 release. (Photo Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021 Cross City Films Limited/Courtesy of Netflix)

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

FILM CAPSULE: Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Sean Baker ( Tangerine, The Florida Project, Starlet) and A24’s Red Rocket, a dramedy, featuring Simon Rex, a standout media personality, Suzanna Son, and Bree Elrod, tells the tale of Mikey Saber, a washed up, 20 year veteran performer in the adult film industry who returns home for more of the same, screened last night at the 2021 AFI FEST.

Simon Rex as Mikey Saber in Sean Baker’s Red Rocket (Photo from fest.afi.com)

Red Rocket, follows Mikey Saber (played by a compelling Simon Rex), as he futilely careens in and out of harrowing situations in dark places never fully grasping the ramifications of his actions and choices. Bree Elrod as Lexi, and Suzanna Son as Strawberry, deliver riveting performances with exquisite line execution. Rex turns in a tour de force performance as Mikey Saber.

Red Rocket is Sean Baker at his best in this low, low-budget filmmaking. Providing a snapshot of Mikey and the socially marginalized characters that are in his orbit, Baker elevates Red Rocket with snappy dialogue, carefully executed camera work, and the trust he places in the audience. Captivating work from start to finish.

Interestingly,  the Q & A immediately following the screening led by AFI Programming Director Sarah Harris got a little saucy. Baker and Rex took exception when an audience member, who coincidentally works in the adult film industry and performs in Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure, also screening at AFI FEST 2021, stated his displeasure hearing the audience guffawing loudly at a term thrown out by Lexi at Red Rocket’s end.

(Left to right) Sarah Harris, AFI Programming Director, Director Sean Baker, Actor Simon Rex, Actor Bree Elrod, and Actor Suzanna Son participate in a Q&A, on November 12, 2021, following the AFI FEST screening of RED ROCKET, at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGLee)

Baker shared the film had five consultants work over the script and scene work to make Red Rocket’s depiction of a former porn star as realistic as possible. Rex chimed in stating few people in the audience would recognize the industry term.

Red Rocket is Sean Baker’s strongest work to date. Not for the faint of heart. Earthy with frontal nudity. Coming to theatres December 10th. Very warmly recommended!

FILM REVIEW: KING RICHARD Serves Up An Ace @AFIFEST

Posted by Larry Gleeson

King Richard, the Will Smith-led, Warner Bros. biopic, served as the 2021 AFI FEST Closing Night Film at the historic Hollywood Chinese Theatre with a Red Carpet Premiere.

King Richard tells the story of Richard Williams, the father of women’s tennis superstar sisters, Venus and Serena Williams. With a run time of 144 minutes, King Richard seemed to reach its conclusion too quickly – a tribute to how mesmerizing the film is. Numerous times the audience erupted with applause and approval as the Williams family overcame obstacle after obstacle. Will Smith portrayed Richard Williams with fortitude and tenderness – qualities not always evident from Richard Williams’ public persona. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton portray Venus and Serena in very compelling performances. Aunjanue Ellis portrays Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams. Ellis and Smith play off each other remarkably well. The pair were recently announced as the recipients of the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) Outstanding Performers of the Year. Kudos to Casting Directors Rich Delia and Avy Kaufman!

In life, Richard Williams often came across in the media as brash, touting with a braggadociousness how his daughters were coming to dominate women’s tennis, the likes of which had never been seen before, would never be seen again, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. What he didn’t tell the public, and what King Richard tells so well, is he also wanted his daughters to have a real childhood, meaningful adolescence, and to be prepared to lead successful lives. Throughout King Richard, Richard Williams came across as a devoted husband, loving father, and dedicated coach delving into some of his formative life experiences growing up in a racist environment. Rearing his family in Compton, California, also had its challenges for Williams. But, Richard Williams had a plan – he wanted a better life for his family.

Technically speaking the film is very solid. The film’s cinematography is excellent. AFI Conservatory Alumnus, Robert Elswit utilizes some natural lighting with traditional lenses and frames for establishing shots juxtaposed with fast zoom lenses to capture the action with tight framing combined with extreme closeups of the Williams sisters, generating some major pace with their groundstrokes and capturing winning overhead smashes. Editor Pamela Martin made the shots and their complementary counterparts (returns) appear seamless with the continuity editing and helped create some riveting moments with the shots provided. In addition, non-diegetic sounds kept the film’s pace and helped match the film’s tone and the actors’ emotionality. Kris Bowers is credited with the music. Costuming, make-up, and production design are all complementary to the characters and the period covered in the film.

And, last but not least, Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, helming only his second feature film, steered King Richard to a beautiful conclusion culminating in Venus’s first professional matches and first tennis matches of any kind in three years. The excitement she (and Serena later) brought to the game of tennis encouraged an entire generation of young African-American girls that anything is possible if they are willing to put in the work. Credit to Zach Baylin for writing sharp dialogue and creating an engaging narrative.

King Richard is chock full of inspiration and hope. Ahhh…the power of film and the magic of AFI FEST – Hollywood. Talk about speaking truth to power in layers. Look for King Richard in theatres and on HBO Max Friday. Highly recommended!

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

AFI FEST 2021 Announces Award Winners

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI Announces Audience And Jury Award Winners

Congratulations to the AFI FEST 2021 award winners! This year’s hybrid festival heralded a return to theaters – and it was electric.

 

Sarah Harris, AFI FEST Programming Director (Photo courtesy of AFI)

“Bringing filmmakers and movie fans together to celebrate the moving image is at the heart of AFI FEST. The excitement of all festivalgoers to be together in the theaters, once again, was electric,” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming, AFI Festivals. “This year’s festival has truly shown everyone the power of the art form to lift our spirits when it’s needed the most.” 

 Following are the Jury and Audience Award winners:

Audience Award – Narrative Feature

JOCKEY (DIR Clint Bentley)

An aging jockey hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse. But the years – and injuries – have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion.

Audience Award – Documentary Feature

JUICE WRLD (DIR Tommy Oliver)

This intimate documentary explores the life and death of the young hip hop star Juice WRLD.

Audience Award – Short Film

ONLY THE MOON STANDS STILL (明月依旧) (DIR Johnson Cheng)

Three generations of Chinese women say goodbye to their family ballroom dance studio.

JURY AWARDS

The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2021 Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards®. The Jury was comprised of film curator and writer Kiva Reardon; Amanda Salazar, head of programming and acquisitions at Argo; and writer/director Angel Kristi Williams.

Grand Jury Prize – Animation

LOVE, DAD (MILÝ TATI) (DIR Diana Cam Van Nguyen)

Jury Statement: “For its melding of form and content that makes for a deeply vulnerable and personal viewing experience, the Jury would like to award LOVE, DAD as Best Animated Short.”

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action

AL-SIT (DIR Suzannah Mirghani)

Jury Statement: “For going beyond its central story to make a densely layered and truly cinematic experience, the Jury would like to honor AL-SIT the Best Narrative Short.”

Special Mention

BABYBANGZ ( DIR Juliana Kasumi)

Jury Statement: “The Jury would like to award BABYBANGZ with an Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Storytelling for its combination of stunning imagery, important conversations and compelling subjects.”

Special Mention

PLAY IT SAFE (DIR Mitch Kalisa)

Jury Statement: “For the bold formal choices made throughout the film, specifically in the final scene, the Jury would like to give an Honorable Mention for Direction to Mitch Kalisa, the director of PLAY IT SAFE.”

Special Mention

HER DANCE (RIKUD HASSIDI) (DIR Bar Cohen)

Jury Statement: “For a commanding performance that anchors the film, the Jury would like to give an Honorable Mention for Acting to Leeoz Levy for HER DANCE.”

The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2021 Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards®. The Jury was comprised of film curator and writer Kiva Reardon; Amanda Salazar, head of programming and acquisitions at Argo; and writer/director Angel Kristi Williams.

The complete AFI FEST 2021 program included 118 titles (51 features, 1 episodic, 49 shorts, including 19 Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST shorts and 17 AFI Conservatory Showcase shorts) of which 51% were directed by women, 39% were directed by BIPOC and 13% were directed by LGBTQ+. This year’s program represented 53 countries and included 7 World Premieres.

This year’s Red Carpet Premieres included the World Premieres of BRUISED (DIR Halle Berry), SING 2 (DIR Garth Jennings), SWAN SONG (DIR Benjamin Cleary) and tick, tick…BOOM! (DIR Lin-Manuel Miranda), in addition to KING RICHARD (DIR Reinaldo Marcus Green), PARALLEL MOTHERS (Pedro Almodóvar) and THE POWER OF THE DOG (DIR Jane Campion).

(Source: AFI Press Release)

Game On! KING RICHARD Team @AFIFEST Red Carpet Premiere With Serena And Venus Williams

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Last night the Will Smith-led, Warner Bros. Pictures, King Richard, had a Red Carpet Premiere at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., for the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 –  elevating the best films in global cinema.

At 7:02 P.M. the house lights dimmed and an announcement for the audience to please take their seats came over the public address system. The anticipation was so thick, a butter knife was needed to slice through it. It wouldn’t be long now, I thought to myself as I took my seat up front and close.

King Richard had screened at the recent Telluride Film Festival and I had imagined it was a remake of a Shakespearean work. Now, I knew better. This was about Richard Williams, the unabashed father of the two greatest sisters and women tennis players to grace the game. Think Arthur Ashe with an uber-talented younger brother chomping at his heels.

American Film Institute President and CEO, Bob Gazzale was introduced. Gazzale spoke of the imperative of storytelling and the joy of witnessing it together then plugged the AFI Conservatory and the Cinematographer for King Richard, Robert Elswit, ASC, a graduate of the esteemed film school.

Without further adieu, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Director of King Richard, was introduced. Next came the cast led by Tony Goldwyn with the versatile Will Smith bringing up the rear. Smith is an entertainer through and through and never seems to be at a loss for words and this night was no exception.

The last two peeps to make their presence known, front and center, were the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. I felt the energy as the audience seemed to come out of their seats, not levitating, just giving a standing ovation. The tone was set. It was game on!

With a run time of 144 minutes, King Richard seemed to reached it’s conclusion too quickly. That’s a tribute to how mesmerizing King Richard is. Numerous times the audience erupted with applause and approval as the Williams family overcame obstacle after obstacle. Will Smith portrayed Richard Williams with fortitude and a tenderness – qualities not always evident from Richard Williams’ public persona.

Richard Williams was often seen as brash, touting with a braggadociousness how his daughters were coming to dominate women’s tennis, the likes of which had never been seen before, would never be seen again, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. What he didn’t tell the public is he also wanted his daughters to have a real childhood and a meaningful adolescence and to be prepared to lead successful lives. And, above all, to always have fun!

Throughout King Richard, Richard Williams came across as a devoted husband, father, and coach delving into some of his formative life experiences growing up in a racist environment. Rearing his family in Compton, California, also had its challenges for Williams. But, Richard Williams had a plan – he wanted a better life for his family.

And, AFI Conservatory Alumnus, Cinematographer Robert Elswit’s work didn’t disappoint either. Utilizing natural lighting with some traditional lenses and frames for establishing shots juxtaposed with fast zoom lenses to capture action with tight framing and some extreme closeups of the Williams sisters, played by Sanitaya Sidney and Demi Singleton, generating some major pace with their ground strokes and capturing winning overhead smashes, Elswit created some riveting moments.

Editor Pamela Martin, Ace, made the shots and their complementary counterparts (returns) appear seamless with the utmost continuity. Non-diegetic sounds kept the film’s pace and helped match the film’s tone and the actors emotionality. Kris Bowers is credited with the music.

And, last but not least, Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, helming only his second feature film, steered King Richard to a beautiful conclusion culminating in Venus’s first professional matches and first tennis matches of any kind in three years. The excitement she (and Serena later) brought to the game of tennis encouraged an entire generation of young African-American girls that anything is possible if they are willing to put in the work.

King Richard served as the 2021 AFI FEST Closing Night Film – chock full of inspiration and hope. Ahhh…the power of film and the magic of AFI FEST – Hollywood. Talk about speaking truth to power.

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

 

Will Smith, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Willow Smith and Jaden Smith, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Jada Pinkett Smith, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Daniele Lawson, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Mikayla Bartholomew, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Layla Crawford, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstoc
London Hughes, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Sarunas J. Jackson, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
LisaRaye McCoy, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Tony Goldwyn, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Serena Williams, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Demi Singleton, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith – AFI FEST 2021 Red Carpet Screening of KING RICHARD, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA – Nov. 14, 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
John Bernthal – AFI FEST 2021 Red Carpet Screening of KING RICHARD, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA – Nov. 14, 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Demi Singleton, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Saniyya Sidney, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Seniyya Sidney, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Serena Williams and Venus Williams, King Richard Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard, Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Venus Williams, King Richard, Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock
Serena Williams, King Richard, Red Carpet Premiere Screening, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 14 Nov 2021 – Photo Credit: John Salangsang/AFI/Shutterstock

 

Halle Berry BRUISED on the Red Carpet at #AFIFEST 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Academy Award winner Halle Berry made her directorial with BRUISED, a triumphant story of a fighter who reclaims her power, in and out of the ring, when everyone has counted her out.

Berry, cast, and team walked the Red Carpet at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California!

Put up your dukes! Congratulations Halle!!!

 

Valentina Shevchenko – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021.
Bob Gazzale, Halle Berry and Ted Sarandos – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Brad Feinstein – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Ambre – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Stephan James – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Halle Berry and Van Hunt – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Danny Boyd, Jr. – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Terri Seymour – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Erica Banks – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Halle Berry – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Shamier Anderson – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Halle Berry – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Halle Berry – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021
Michelle Rosenfarb – AFI FEST 2021 World Premiere of BRUISED – TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 13, 2021

UPDATE: Saturday Afternoon Premiere at AFI FEST 2021 – Almodovar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Today at 2:00 P.M, Pedro Almodavar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS, starring Penelope Cruz, is making an afternoon Red Carpet Premiere at the historic Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, Calif. Visit fest.afi.com for more information including ticketing.

Pedro Almodovar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS, starring Penelope Cruz, is slated for an AFI FEST Red Carpet Premiere, today, November 13th, 2021, 2:00 P.M., at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo from fest.afi.com)

UPDATE: There will be a post-screening conversation with Pedro Almodóvar(Director) moderated by film critic Alonso Duralde.

PARALLEL MOTHERS, follows two women Janis and Ana – both single mothers – from the moment they give birth to two daughters. Janis is thrilled by her accidental pregnancy, seeing it as perhaps her last chance at motherhood, while the adolescent Ana is scared and traumatized by the ordeal.

According to AFI Movie Club, Almodovar has been percolating the idea since 1999, when he first pitched it to Penelope Cruz while she was working on Almodvar’s ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. This is the eighth collaboration between the Spanish duo. In addition, PARALLEL MOTHERS marks the 13th collaboration between Sony Pictures Classics and the production company El Deseo, which Almodovar operates with his brother Augustin Almodovar.

The Power of a Dog Left Audience Members Howling for More @AFIFEST 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Jane Campion’s latest film, The Power of the Dog, with Campion, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee present, lit up the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard last night with an AFI FEST 2021 Red Carpet Premiere.

Once inside the hallowed Hollywood landmark, AFI President Bob Gazzale welcomed the audience before eloquently introducing the film and Director Jane Campion to loud cheers and hearty rounds of applause. Following the film’s screening a conversation moderated by Hollywood’s delightful Kathryn Hahn entertained the house.

The Power of the Dog, a semi-dark psychological drama, is a magnificent and majestic work tantalizing and titillating – a bonafied Oscar contender in multiple categories.

The evening embodied a new peak for film festival entertainment as post-screening actors, editor, cinematographer, and director sparred, cajoled and informed under the watchful eye of moderator Hahn as she effectively marshaled the energies of The Power of the Dog conversation.

Kirsten Dunst, Red Carpet Premiere Screening of ‘The Power of the Dog’, Intro and Q and A, AFI FEST, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA – 11 Nov 2021
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jane Campion, Kirsten Dunst and Benedict Cumberbatch – AFI FEST 2021 Red Carpet Premiere Screening of THE POWER OF THE DOG, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California, Nov. 11, 2021

The AFI FEST continues through November 14th, offering the best in global cinema.

Tickets Are Still Available for Select In-person Screenings Tomorrow! Check out these selections for your viewing.

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

Opening Night Red Carpet AFI FEST 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Last night, the AFI FEST audience at the TCL Chinese Theatre was treated to the World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM! Check out the exclusive photos from the red carpet, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Light, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, Alexandra Shipp and more.

Check out the red carpet video tick, tick…BOOM!

Judith Light – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield and Alexandra Shipp – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield and Lin-Manuel Miranda – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Director Lin-Manuel Miranda – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Robin de Jesus, Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Julie Oh – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Robin de Jesus – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Isabella Gomez – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM
Julie Larson – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Alice Brooks, Cinematographer – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!

Tickets Still Available for Select In-person Screenings Tomorrow!

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AFI FEST 2021 Starts Tonight!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Final preparations were taking place bright and early this morning at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., as the American Film Institute’s (AFI) 2021 AFI FEST, Nov.10-14th, is slated to open tonight with the World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! starring Andrew Garfield.

The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 Production Crew begin preparations at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10th, 2021, for tonight’s Opening Night World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 Production Crew begin preparations at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10th, 2021, for tonight’s Opening Night World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 Production Crew begin preparations at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10th, 2021, for tonight’s Opening Night World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 Production Crew begin preparations at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10th, 2021, for tonight’s Opening Night World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

On Thursday, the Red Carpet Premieres continue with a sizzling POWER OF THE DOG directed by Jane Campion and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst. The performances led by Cumberbatch and strongly supported by Plemons and Dunst make this a “don’t miss” film. Campion is a front runner for her second screenwriting Oscar and may well make it a twofer ala Chloe Zhao with Nomadland – Writing and Directing!

More to come as the best in global cinema is about to get underway! Stay tuned…

The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2021 Production Crew begin preparations at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10th, 2021, for tonight’s Opening Night World Premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM! (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Tickets to in-person and virtual screenings are available on FEST.AFI.com.

 

THE POWER OF THE DOG ADDED AS RED CARPET PREMIERE AT HOLLYWOOD AFI FEST 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Jane Campion’s Award-Winning Film

To Screen at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, October 19, 2021 — Today, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced that critically acclaimed THE POWER OF THE DOG, written and directed by Academy Award® winner Jane Campion, has been added to the AFI FEST 2021 lineup. Honors for the film include Campion receiving the Silver Lion Award at Venice Film Festival for directing. The film stars Academy Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristen Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, Thomasin McKenzie, Geneviève Lemon and Academy Award® winner Keith Carradine. A See-Saw Films, Bad Girl Creek and Max Films production in association with Brightstar, The New Zealand Film Commission, Cross City Films and BBC Film, THE POWER OF THE DOG is produced by Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier. The film will be released in theaters on November 17 and on Netflix December 3.

About THE POWER OF THE DOG

Severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank is brutally beguiling. All of Phil’s romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past and in the land: He can castrate a bull calf with two swift slashes of his knife; he swims naked in the river, smearing his body with mud. He is a cowboy as raw as his hides. The year is 1925. The Burbank brothers are wealthy ranchers in Montana. At the Red Mill restaurant on their way to market, the brothers meet Rose, the widowed proprietress, and her impressionable son Peter. Phil behaves so cruelly he drives them both to tears, reveling in their hurt and rousing his fellow cowhands to laughter – all except his brother George, who comforts Rose then returns to marry her. As Phil swings between fury and cunning, his taunting of Rose takes an eerie form – he hovers at the edges of her vision, whistling a tune she can no longer play. His mockery of her son is more overt, amplified by the cheering of Phil’s cowhand disciples. Then Phil appears to take the boy under his wing. Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or a plot twisting further into menace?

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a dark and deep presence as Phil Burbank in Jane Campion’s THE POWER OF THE DOG. (Photo credit: Kristy Griffin/Netflix 2021

AFI FEST 2021 takes place from November 10 – 14, 2021 in Los Angeles.  The World Premiere of  tick, tick…BOOM! directed by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda will open the festival and KING RICHARD directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green will close the festival.  Additional Red Carpet Premieres include the World Premieres of Academy Award® winner Halle Berry’s directorial debut BRUISED and Academy Award®  winner Benjamin Cleary’s feature directorial debut SWAN SONG, and PARALLEL MOTHERS, directed by Academy Award® winner Pedro Almodóvar.  The full program can be found here.

 

This year’s hybrid festival will feature both in-person screenings and events, as well as virtual screenings, showcasing transformative stories from groundbreaking artists.

 

With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated.

 

Top Sponsors for AFI FEST 2021 include AT&T, Apple Original Films, National Geographic Documentary Films and Dell.

 

Passes to AFI FEST 2021 are currently available on FEST.AFI.com and individual tickets will be available to members on October 19 and the general public on October 20.   AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.

 

About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FESTAFI DOCS and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. AFI’s newest program is AFI Movie Club, a daily global engagement for those who love the movies. 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.

 

About AFI FEST
Now in its 35th year, AFI FEST is a world-class event, showcasing the best films from across the globe. With an innovative slate of programming, the five-day festival historically presents screenings, panels and conversations, featuring both master filmmakers and new cinematic voices. This year’s edition takes place in-person and online November 10-14, 2021. The festival includes Special Presentations of high-profile films with 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.

***Featured photo: Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Credit Kristy Griffin/Netflix 2021.

AFI FEST 2021 Lineup Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Featuring 115 titles, the 2021 American Film Institute’s AFI Fest  will showcase internationally acclaimed and award-winning films, including Sony Pictures Classics’ PARALLEL MOTHERS, written and directed by Academy Award® winner Pedro Almodóvar, which will screen as a Red Carpet Premiere at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre on Saturday, November 13. The film joins the previously announced Red Carpet Premiere titles which include Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM!, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s KING RICHARD starring Will Smith, Academy Award® winner Halle Berry’s directorial debut BRUISED and Academy Award®  winner Benjamin Cleary’s feature directorial debut SWAN SONG.

The complete AFI FEST program represents 50 countries and includes six World Premieres, and of the 115 titles, 51% are directed by women, 40% directed by BIPOC filmmakers and 13% are directed by LGBTQIA+ filmmakers.

 

“We are excited to celebrate AFI FEST 2021 in person at the historic TCL Chinese theater and showcase both master filmmakers and emerging voices,” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming, AFI Festivals.  “In a time when we need movies more than ever, we look forward to audiences being inspired by the best films from around the world screening at this year’s AFI FEST.”

 

Early bird passes are now available at FEST.AFI.com, and individual tickets for in-person and virtual screenings and events will be available to AFI members on October 19 and the general public on October 20. With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated. AFI members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the film festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.

Returning filmmakers to FEST include Hany Abu-Assad (HUDA’S SALON), Andrea Arnold (COW), Jacques Audiard (PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT), Sean Baker (RED ROCKET), Michel Franco (SUNDOWN), Miguel Gomes (THE TSUGUA DIARIES), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS), Céline Sciamma (PETITE MAMAN), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (MEMORIA), and Zhang Yimou (ONE SECOND).

Internationally acclaimed and award-winning films include AHED’S KNEE (DIR Nadav Lapid), COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON (DIR Mounia Akl), DRIVE MY CAR  (DIR Ryusuke Hamaguchi), THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER (DIR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher), GOOD MADAM (DIR Jenna Bass), GREAT FREEDOM (DIR Sebastian Meise), HAPPENING (DIR Audrey Diwan), JOCKEY (DIR Clint Bentley), MEMORIA (DIR Apichatpong Weerakethakul), PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN (DIR Tatiana Huezo), UNCLENCHING THE FISTS (DIR Kira Kovalenko), WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? (DIR Aleksandre Koberidze) and THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (DIR Joachim Trier).

NBC News’ Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST, now in its fifth year, will spotlight 15 compelling short documentaries about pressing issues facing our society. Since its launch, the Meet the Press Film Festival has showcased nearly 100 issue-based short films from nine countries, including more than a dozen Oscar® and Emmy® nominees. This year’s festival will feature five program tracks spotlighting issues from racial and gender equality, immigration and democracy to identity, criminal justice and police reform among others. Films include BREE WAYY: PROMISE WITNESS REMEMBRANCE by 2021 AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree Dawn Porter about art as a means of protesting and healing; CODED: THE HIDDEN LOVE OF J.C. LEYENDECKER about legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker; and THE TRAIN STATION about the Lejac Indian Residential School by Lyana Patrick. The screenings of the films will be followed by conversations moderated by NBC News correspondents and anchors, including Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd.

 

AFI FEST 2021 Full Lineup

 

RED CARPET PREMIERES
A celebration of the most anticipated films of the year, showcasing excellence in the art form.

BRUISED
Marking the directorial debut of Academy Award® winner Halle Berry, BRUISED is a triumphant story of a fighter who reclaims her power, in and out of the ring, when everyone has counted her out. DIR Halle Berry. SCR Michelle Rosenfarb. CAST Halle Berry, Adan Canto, Adriane Lenox, Sheila Atim, Valentina Shevchenko, Lela Loren, Nikolai Nikolaef, Danny Boyd, Jr., Shamier Anderson, Stephen Henderson. USA. World Premiere.

KING RICHARD
Based on the inspiring true story, KING RICHARD follows the journey of a family whose unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately deliver two of the world’s greatest sports legends – Venus and Serena Williams. DIR Reinaldo Marcus Green. SCR Zach Baylin. CAST Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn. USA

PARALLEL MOTHERS
Two women, Janis and Ana, are both single mothers that meet in the hospital before giving birth to their daughters. Their bond quickly becomes complicated in the latest drama from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar. DIR Pedro Almodóvar. SCR Pedro Almodóvar. CAST Penélope Cruz, Melina Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Rossy de Palma, Julieta Serrano. Spain

SWAN SONG
Cameron (two-time Academy Award® winner Mahershala Ali), a loving husband and father diagnosed with a terminal illness, is presented with an alternative solution by his doctor to shield his family from grief. DIR Benjamin Cleary. SCR Benjamin Cleary. CAST Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, Awkwafina. USA. World Premiere.

TICK, TICK…BOOM!
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with tick, tick…BOOM!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by composer and playwright Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of “Rent.” DIR Lin-Manuel Miranda. SCR Steven Levenson. CAST Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter, Judith Light. USA. World Premiere.

WORLD CINEMA
The best in contemporary cinema from renowned storytellers and new voices from across the globe.

AHED’S KNEE
Filmmaker Y has just arrived in the remote Arava Valley to introduce a retrospective of his films at the local library when librarian Yahalom presents him with a waiver restricting certain topics. DIR Nadav Lapid. SCR Nadav Lapid. CAST Avshalom Pollak, Nur Fibak, Avshalom Pollak, Nur Fibak, Yoram Honig, Lidor Ederi, Yonathan Kugler, Yehonathan Vilozni, Naama Preis. Israel

ALI & AVA
In this working-class romance filled with rich performances, Ali and Ava must navigate the emotional turmoil of their pasts to keep their newfound passion alive. DIR Clio Barnard. SCR Clio Barnard. CAST Claire Rushbrooke, Adeel Akhtar. UK

CASABLANCA BEATS (HAUT ET FORT)
A group of young students in Morocco begin a passionate journey of self-discovery and artistic expression by practicing rap as they confront the social issues explored in their lyrics. DIR Nabil Ayouch. SCR Nabil Ayouch with Maryam Touzani. CAST Meryem Nekkach, Anas Basbousi, Nouhaila Arif, Ismail Adouab. Morocco, France

CINEMA SABAYA
Rona is an Israeli teaching a film class to a diverse group of eight women. The class becomes the catalyst for deeper discovery as these women bond over their shared experience. DIR Orit Fouks Rotem. SCR Orit Fouks Rotem. CAST Dana Ivgy, Joanna Said, Amal Murkus, Ruth Landau, Yulia Tagil, Marlene Bajali, Aseel Farhat, Orit Samuel, Liora Levi, Khawlah Hag Debsy. Israel

COSTA BRAVA, LEBANON
In this feature debut from Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl, a whimsical, close-knit family eludes the political and environmental crises of Beirut by isolating in the remote mountains – until their peaceful days are disrupted. DIR Mounia Akl. SCR Mounia Akl, Clara Roquet. CAST Nadine Labaki, Saleh Bakri, Nadia Charbel, Ceana and Geana Restom, Yumna Marwan, Liliane Chacar Khoury, François Nour. Lebanon, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Qatar

DRIVE MY CAR (DORAIBU MAI KÂ)
Based on a Haruki Murakami short story and awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s epic explores what is left behind when a love is lost and a city is decimated. DIR Ryusuke Hamaguchi. SCR Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe. CAST Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon. Japan

THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER
Lisa is moving out of the apartment she shares with Mara. Friends and neighbors arrive to assist and unspoken tensions simmer just beneath the surface. DIR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher. SCR Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher. CAST Henriette Confurius, Liliane Amuat, Ursina Lardi, Flurin Giger, André M. Hennicke, Ivan Georgiev, Dagna Litzenberger Vinet, Lea Draeger, Sabine Timoteo, Margherita Schoch, Seraphina Schweiger, Birte Schnöink. Switzerland

GOOD MADAM (MLUNGU WAM)
In Jenna Cato Bass’ psychological thriller steeped in remnants of postcolonialism and apartheid, Tsidi moves in with her estranged mother Mavis, a housekeeper under the spell of her mysterious and reclusive Madam. DIR Jenna Cato Bass. SCR Jenna Cato Bass, Babalwa Baartman, Chumisa Cosa, Nosipho Mtebe, Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya, Sanda Shandu, Khanyiso Kenqa, Chris Gxalaba, Peggy Tunyiswa, Sizwe Ginger Lubengu, Siya Sikawuti, Steve Larter. CAST Nosipho Mtebe, Chumisa Cosa, Kamvalethu Jonas Raziya, Khanyiso Kenqa, Sanda Shandu, Sizwe Ginger Lubengu, Siya Sikawuti, Peggy Tunyiswa, Chris Gxalaba. South Africa

GREAT FREEDOM (GROSSE FREIHEIT)
Winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, this unlikely love story by director Sebastian Meise depicts the engrossing life of Hans, a man in postwar Germany who is continuously imprisoned for being gay. DIR Sebastian Meise. SCR Thomas Reider, Sebastian Meise. CAST Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn. Austria, Germany

HAPPENING (L’ÉVÉNEMENT)
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Audrey Diwan’s timely adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel depicts a young woman caught between her ambitions and an unexpected pregnancy in 1960s France. DIR Audrey Diwan. SCR Audrey Diwan and Marcia Romano. CAST Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet-Klein, Luàna Bajrami, Louise Orry Diquiero, Louise Chevillotte, Pio Marmaï, Sandrine Bonnaire, Anna Mouglalis. France

HIT THE ROAD (JADDE KHAKI)
An endearing yet frenzied family of four embarks on a mysterious road trip to an unknown destination in this distinctive and surprising debut from Panah Panahi, the son of acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. DIR Panah Panahi. SCR Panah Panahi. CAST Hassan Madjooni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak, Amin Simiar. Iran

HOLY EMY (AGIA EMY)
Living in Athens and keeping to themselves, Emy and Teresa live a simple life centered around attending mass, working in a fish market and avoiding the locals, but the outside world soon encroaches. DIR Araceli Lemos. SCR Araceli Lemos, Giulia Caruso. CAST Abigael Loma, Hasmine Kilip, Angeli Bayani, Ku Aquino, Michalis Siriopoulos, Irene Inglesi. Greece, France, USA

HUDA’S SALON
Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker and AFI FEST alum Hany Abu-Assad (OMAR; PARADISE NOW) portrays the harrowing experience of a Palestinian mother who is blackmailed one fateful day at Huda’s Salon. DIR Hany Abu-Assad. SCR Hany Abu-Assad. CAST Ali Suliman, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad, Kamel El Basha, Samer Bisharat, Omar Abu Amer. Palestine, Egypt, Netherlands

ÎNTREGALDE
The mission of three humanitarian aid workers is diverted when they offer a ride to an elderly man along the side of the road and find themselves suddenly stranded. DIR Radu Muntean. SCR Radu Muntean, Răzvan Rădulescu, Alexandru Baciu. CAST Maria Popistașu, Alex Bogdan, Ilona Brezoianu, Luca Sabin. Romania

JOCKEY
An aging jockey hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse. But the years – and injuries – have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion. DIR Clint Bentley. SCR Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar. CAST Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias. USA

LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS (LINGUI)
Despite abortion being illegal in Chad and forbidden in Islam, Amina is determined to support her teenage daughter’s decision to end her pregnancy and must navigate the fragile fabric of female support within a patriarchal society. DIR Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. SCR Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. CAST Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane Khalil Alio, Youssouf Djaoro, Briya Gomdigue, Hadjé Fatimé Ngoua. Chad, France, Germany, Belgium

MEDUSA
Anita Rocha da Silveira (KILL ME PLEASE) returns to AFI FEST with a horror-satire that fiercely critiques evangelical fanaticism, focusing on a virtuous Christian girl gang that is hellbent on publicly shaming sinful women. DIR Anita Rocha da Silveira. SCR Anita Rocha da Silveira. CAST Mari Oliveira, Lara Tremouroux, Joana Medeiros, Felipe Frazão, Bruna G. Brazil

MEMORIA
While visiting Bogotá, Colombia, Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a Scottish orchid farmer grappling with deep existential unease, becomes tormented by a sound only she can hear. DIR Apichatpong Weerasethakul. SCR Apichatpong Weerasethakul. CAST Tilda Swinton. Colombia, Thailand, UK, Mexico, France

ONE SECOND
Master Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou crafts a charming celebration of cinema in this epic story of an escaped prisoner bonding with an orphan and a village projectionist. DIR Zhang Yimou. SCR Zhang Yimou, Zou Jingzhi. CAST Fan Wei, Liu Haocun, Zhang Yi. China

PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT (LES OLYMPIADES, PARIS 13E)
A response to a roommate ad and a case of mistaken identity blossoms into a complex web of love and friendship in this modern, panoramic tale by director Jacques Audiard. DIR Jacques Audiard. SCR Jacques Audiard, Lea Mysius, Céline Sciamma, Adrian Tomine. CAST Noémie Merlant, Geneviève Doang, Jehnny Beth, Line Phé, Stephen Manas. France

PETITE MAMAN
In Céline Sciamma’s (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) enchanting and poetic coming-of-age story, eight-year-old Nelly – mourning the recent death of her beloved grandmother – meets a girl building a tree fort, like her mother once did. DIR Céline Sciamma. SCR Céline Sciamma. France

PLEASURE
In this raw and powerful debut feature, Bella arrives in Los Angeles from Sweden to pursue her dreams of stardom – in the adult film industry.DIR Ninja Thyberg. SCR Ninja Thyberg, Peter Modestij. CAST Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire. Sweden, Netherlands, France

PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN (NOCHE DE FUEGO)
This devastating narrative debut from documentary filmmaker Tatiana Huezo set in the mountains of Mexico follows Ana and her two best friends who live under the constant threat of kidnappings and drug cartel violence. DIR Tatiana Huezo. SCR Tatiana Huezo. CAST Mayra Batalla, Marya Membreño, Ana Cristina Ordoñez Gonzalez. Mexico

RED ROCKET
In Sean Baker’s bold and provocative new film, Simon Rex gives a hypnotic performance as an adult film star and hustler returning to his hometown in search of a fresh start. DIR Sean Baker. SCR Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch. CAST Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod, Brenda Deiss, Ethan Darbone, Brittney Rodriguez, Judy Hill. USA

SUNDOWN
Opting to stay on permanent vacation instead of tending to family, wealthy heir Neil Bennett quietly fights to control his life in a world where violence and leisure are one and the same. DIR Michel Franco. SCR Michel Franco. CAST Tim Roth, Iazua Larios, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Mexico

THE TSUGUA DIARIES (DIÁRIOS DE OTSOGA)
Friends Crista, Carloto and João are building a greenhouse for butterflies, cleaning out an above-ground pool and participating in spontaneous dance parties when there is a sudden global virus outbreak. DIR Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes. SCR Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes, Mariana Ricardo. CAST Crista Alfaiate, Carloto Cotta, João Nunes Monteiro. Portugal, France

UNCLENCHING THE FISTS (RAZZHIMAYA KULAKI)
In a remote mining town, Ada is coming of age in a deeply dysfunctional family isolated by the men that surround her. The welcome attentions of a local boy present the possibility of new experiences, and a potential escape. DIR Kira Kovalenko. SCR Kira Kovalenko, Anton Yarush, Lyubov Mulmenko. CAST Milana Aguzarova, Alik Karaev, Soslan Khugaev, Khetag Bibilov, Arsen Khetagurov, Milana Pagieva. Russia

VERA DREAMS OF THE SEA (VERA ANDRRON DETIN)
Reeling from her husband’s suicide, sign language interpreter Vera (Teuta Ajdini) must summon untapped strength when her inheritance is violently challenged by a male in-law in deeply patriarchal Kosovo. DIR Kaltrina Krasniqi. SCR Doruntina Basha. CAST Teuta Ajdini, Alketa Sylaj, Astrit Kabashi, Refet Abazi. Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania

WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY?
Alexandre Koberidze’s Berlinale FIPRESCI Prize winner follows Lisa and Giorgi who fall in love at first sight, only for a curse to strike the pair, leaving them unrecognizable to one another. DIR Alexandre Koberidze. SCR Alexandre Koberidze. CAST Giorgi Bochorishvili, Ani Karseladze, Oliko Barbakadze, Giorgi Ambroladze, Vakhtang Fanchulidze. Georgia, Germany

WILDHOOD
Link, an indigenous Mi’kmaw teen, and his younger half-brother go on a journey to find Link’s long-lost mother. Joining their trek, Pasmay, a two-spirit teen, awakens something new inside of Link. DIR Bretten Hannam. SCR Bretten Hannam. CAST Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Avery Winters-Anthony, Michael Greyeyes. Canada

THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
This modern dramedy chronicles four years in the life of Julie, a young woman navigating love and life in Oslo. DIR Joachim Trier. SCR Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt. CAST Renate REINSVE, Herbert Nordrum, Anders Danielsen Lie. Norway, France, Sweden, Denmark

 

DOCUMENTARIES
The most engaging and powerful real-life stories depicted in global nonfiction cinema that enlighten, educate and entertain.

BERNSTEIN’S WALL
Director Douglas Tirola documents the life of composer Leonard Bernstein (WEST SIDE STORY) from his early life in New England, to his early orchestral career, his work on television and his constant advocacy of worthy causes. DIR Douglas Tirola. USA

CITIZEN ASHE
Filmmakers Rex Miller and Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI) honor the life and enduring impact of groundbreaking tennis champion, civil rights activist and humanitarian Arthur Ashe in this stirring documentary. DIR Rex Miller, Sam Pollard. USA, UK

COW
A mother. A provider. A cow. AFI Alumna Andrea Arnold’s first-ever documentary is a visceral, up-close portrait of Luma, a singular dairy cow who despite her tenacity is subject to the whim of others. DIR Andrea Arnold. UK

THE FIRST WAVE
In early 2020, New York City is the number one hotspot for COVID-19 in the United States. Academy Award®-nominated documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman takes a poignant look at the turmoil and resilience on the hospital frontlines. DIR Matthew Heineman. USA

JUICE WRLD
This intimate documentary explores the life and death of the young hip hop star Juice WRLD. DIR Tommy Oliver. FEATURING JuiceWRLD, The Kid Laroi, Lil Bibby, Polo G, G Herbo, Benny Blanco, Rex Kudo, Hit-Boy, Cole Bennett, Trippie Redd. USA. World Premiere.

JULIA
Highlighting delightful, never-before-seen clips from Julia Child’s public television show, veteran filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West explore the trailblazing career of a culinary icon. DIR Julie Cohen, Betsy West. USA

A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING
In Payal Kapadia’s semi-fictionalized experimental documentary, the diary of a student to her absent lover recounts a period of political upheaval in India, her own heartbreak reflecting that of a generation of students. DIR Payal Kapadia. SCR Payal Kapadia, Himanshu Prajapati. France, India

PROCESSION
Robert Greene’s poignant documentary chronicles six men using drama therapy to process childhood sexual abuse and explores their journey to create something truly beautiful out of horrible trauma. DIR Robert Greene. USA

THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN
This uniquely crafted portrait of iconic silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin features rare insights and never-before-heard recordings by those closest to the mercurial film legend, introducing characters previously written out of the narrative.  DIR Peter Middleton, James Spinney. USA

SIMPLE AS WATER
Oscar-winning director Megan Mylan documents a handful of courageous refugee families affected by the Syrian civil war and the efforts to rebuild their lives in new surroundings around the world. DIR Megan Mylan. USA

TO WHAT REMAINS
This powerful documentary follows Project Recover, an organization with a mission to bring home missing-in-action World War II veterans from forgotten South Pacific battlefields. DIR Chris Woods. SCR Mark Monroe. USA. World Premiere.

WHO WE ARE: A CHRONICLE OF RACISM IN AMERICA
Filmmakers Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler chronicle ACLU lawyer Jeffrey Robinson’s essential deep dive into America’s 400-year history of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. DIR Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler. SCR Jeffery Robinson. USA

 

MEET THE PRESS FILM FESTIVAL AT AFI FEST
In partnership with NBC’s Meet the Press, these short documentaries spotlight compelling stories about pressing issues facing our society with conversations moderated by NBC News journalists.

BREE WAYY: PROMISE WITNESS REMEMBRANCE
A film by award-winning director and 2021 AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree Dawn Porter that looks at how the art world responded to the death of Breonna Taylor by using art not only as a form of protest but as a space to heal. DIR Dawn Porter. USA

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: AMERICA’S SECRET NAZIS
During WWII, a group of young Jewish refugees are sent to a secret POW camp near Washington, DC, and they soon discover that the prisoners are Hitler’s top scientists. DIR Daniel Sivan, Mor Loushy. USA

CODED: THE HIDDEN LOVE OF J.C. LEYENDECKER
The coded advertisements of legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker quietly, but directly, acknowledged a community that was forced to live in the closet. DIR Ryan White. USA

THE FACILITY
A group of immigrants, detained inside an infamous American detention center as the pandemic spreads, organize in protest to demand protections and their release. DIR Seth Freed Wessler. USA

GOLDEN AGE KARATE
Teen karate pro Jeff Wall teaches senior citizens self-defense at a local nursing home, giving them the tools to feel in control, connected and cared for. DIR Sindha Agha. USA

THE INTERVIEW
The film forces viewers to confront their own feelings about justice and mercy, while revealing the heavy toll our current system takes on incarcerated people and their families. DIR Jonathan Miller, Zachary Russo. USA

LEAD ME HOME
A short presenting the epidemic of homelessness in America with candid testimonials from the unhoused. A poetic portrait of our culture’s fraying edges and the people who inhabit them. DIR Pedro Kos, Jon Shenk. USA

LYNCHING POSTCARDS: ‘TOKEN OF A GREAT DAY’
From 1880–1968 over 4,000 African Americans were lynched at the hands of white mobs. These lynchings were commemorated through souvenir postcards that would ultimately be subverted by Black activists to expose racist violence in the U.S. DIR Christine Turner. USA

MELTDOWN IN DIXIE
A film exploring the broader role of Confederate symbolism in the 21st century and the lingering racial oppression which these symbols help maintain. DIR Emily Harrold. USA

MISSION: HEBRON
Israeli soldiers are recruited at age 18 and, only months later, are already overseeing Palestinian civil life. Former soldiers describe their time in Hebron, the most troubled city in the West Bank. DIR Rona Segal. Israel

PARTY LINE
At the early voting line in Ohio’s most populous county, civic duty is a public performance. DIR Lydia Cornett. USA

RED TAXI
As protests unfold in Hong Kong, RED TAXI shows a city in upheaval through the eyes of those who must traverse the streets day and night to make a living. DIR Anonymous. Hong Kong, USA

TAKEOVER
An exploration of July 14, 1970, when members of the Young Lords Party stormed the Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx, making their cries for decent healthcare heard by the world. DIR Emma Francis-Snyder. USA

THEY WON’T CALL IT MURDER
Mothers, sisters and grandmothers of those killed by Columbus police, seeking justice in a community bound together by grief and a system that refuses to call these killings murder. DIR Melissa Gira Grant, Ingrid Raphael. USA

THE TRAIN STATION
In this beautifully animated documentary short, filmmaker Lyana Patrick narrates her family’s powerful story of love and survival at Lejac Indian Residential School. DIR Lyana Patrick. Canada

 

SHORT FILM COMPETITION
Emerging and established filmmakers push the form of storytelling in inventive, challenging and sometimes hilarious ways – all in 40 minutes or less.

AL-SIT
In a cotton farming village in Sudan, Nafisa has a crush on Babiker, but her parents have arranged her marriage to Nadir, a young Sudanese businessman. Can Nafisa choose for herself? DIR Suzannah Mirghani. Sudan,Qatar

ANXIOUS BODY
Living things, artificial things, geometry shapes and lines. When these different things encounter, a new direction is born. DIR Yoriko Mizushiri. Japan, France

ARE YOU STILL THERE?
On a hot day, Safa’s car battery dies, leaving her stranded in a strip mall parking lot. When her mom arrives, the two struggle to jump-start a car. DIR Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis. USA

BABYBANGZ
BABYBANGZ visualizes the story of Anastasia Ebel, owner of a natural hair salon in Mid-city, and her mission to foster opportunities for intentional reflection, for herself and her community. DIR Juliana Kasumu. USA

THE DEATH CLEANER (EL LIMPIADOR)
For a forensic cleaner in Mexico City, healing is at the core of his service. DIR Louise Monlaü. Mexico, Spain, France

EL CARRITO
Nelly slogs through another unsuccessful day of street vending in Queens, New York. Determined to improve her circumstances, she makes a risky business decision that ends in misfortune. DIR Zahida Pirani. USA

ENVIAR Y RECIBIR
A warehouse worker at a fast fashion company forms an attachment to a piece of damaged inventory. DIR Cosmo Collins Salovaara. USA

GRANNY’S SEXUAL LIFE (BABIČINO SEKSUALNO ŽIVLJENJE)
A trip into grandmother’s youth and the memories of her intimate life illustrate the status of Slovenian women in the first half of the 20th century. DIR Urška Djukić, Émilie Pigeard. Slovenia, France

GREEN (ZIELEŃ)
Roadside greenery is created to be driven past, not to be in. Geometrical, artificial and overgrown by weeds. Your body is the same, dragged through life instead of living it. DIR Karolina Kajetanowicz. Poland

H.A.G.S.
Feeling anxious about adulthood, Sean Wang found comfort in the innocence of middle school through his old yearbooks. Curious about how his old friends were handling adulthood, he called them. DIR Sean Wang. USA

HER DANCE (RIKUD HASSIDI)
After not being invited to her sister’s wedding, Aya, a transwoman, shows up by surprise on a Shabbat night at the Orthodox Jewish community where her family lives. DIR Bar Cohen. Israel

IN FLOW OF WORDS
The narratives of three interpreters of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, who interpreted shocking testimonies without regard for their own feelings and personal histories. DIR Eliane Esther Bots. Netherlands

LOVE, DAD (MILÝ TATI)
She finds letters full of love her dad wrote her years ago. DIR Diana Cam Van Nguyen. Czech Republic, Slovakia

MANO SANTA
A grandfather harbors his runaway grandson after fleeing the constraints of home. DIR Stephanie Camacho Casillas. Puerto Rico

MISERY LOVES COMPANY
One night, Seolgi is lying on a grass field with friends. A shooting star falls, and dark and intrusive thoughts hits her and her melancholy blooms into “flower people.” DIR Sasha Lee. South Korea, USA

MISTRESS DISPELLER
A professional “mistress dispeller” works with a married couple struggling with infidelity in contemporary China. DIR Elizabeth Lo. USA,China

MON AMI QUI BRILLE DANS LA NUIT
A ghost loses their memory after being struck by lightning. They meet Arthur, who tries to help them. DIR Grégoire de Bernouis, Jawed Boudaoud, Simon Cadilhac, Hélène Ledevin. France

MOTORCYCLIST’S HAPPINESS WON’T FIT INTO HIS SUIT (AL MOTOCICLISTA NO LE CABE LA FELICIDAD EN EL TRAJE)
He sits proudly on his motorbike, encompassed in majestic red and the dazzling admiration of others. A playful re-enactment with reversed roles that targets the hubris of colonial conquerors. DIR Gabriel Herrera. Mexico

NALUJUK NIGHT
Every January 6th, families in the Inuit community of Nain, Canada, celebrate Nalujuk Night, when eerie figures in tattered fur clothing arrive to reward the good and punish the bad. DIR Jennie Williams. Canada

NEW ABNORMAL
Based on a true story, NEW ABNORMAL is a reflection on human life during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as under the Emergency decree. DIR Sorayos Prapapan. Thailand

ONLY THE MOON STANDS STILL (明月依旧)
Three generations of Chinese women say goodbye to their family ballroom dance studio. Executive produced by Lena Waithe, starring Shirley Chen and Mardy Ma. DIR Johnson Cheng. USA, China

PLAY IT SAFE
Jonathan is out of place in his drama school. Pigeonholed and typecast in parts, Jonathan decides to demonstrate to his peers their prejudices during a class role-play exercise. DIR Mitch Kalisa. UK

PLAYTIME (GIOCHI)
A mother wants to play with her son. A boy wants to find out what his friend is giving a girl. A cat has disappeared. But these are only games. DIR Simone Bozzelli. Italy

PRIDE
An aspiring writer finalizes stories for “Pride,” a student-run newspaper. Over a hectic two days in the early 1990s, she puts the finishing touches on the upcoming issue. DIR Kevin Jerome Everson, Claudrena N. Harold. USA

SALES PER HOUR
The film tells the story of a young woman who faces a moral dilemma when she witnesses a sexual encounter at the clothing store where she works. DIR Michelle Uranowitz, Daniel Jaffe. USA

SANDSTORM (MULAQAT)
Zara shares a sensual dance video with her virtual boyfriend, who blackmails her. She begins her search for the strength to reject the confines of a patriarchal society. DIR Seemab Gul. Pakistan

SHARK
SHARK follows the continuing adventures of Jack, who loves to prank. But in his latest relationship he may have finally met his match. DIR Nash Edgerton. Australia

SOFT ANIMALS
Two ex-lovers cross paths in a train station. DIR Renee Zhan. UK

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
In Singapore, where even vapes are illegal, three rebellious schoolgirls are caught smoking by the principal. Their revenge prank takes a sinister turn. DIR Siyou Tan. Singapore

A SUMMER PLACE
On the day of Tina’s birthday, she is ready to give up on everything until an extraordinary encounter changes her life. DIR Alexandra Matheou. Cyprus, France

VIDEO VISIT
Each week, people visit the Brooklyn Public Library to video call incarcerated loved ones. A story of two mothers and their sons, and the librarians who keep the families connected. DIR Malika Zouhali-Worrall. USA

YOUR STREET (DEINE STRASSE)
The grey present of an industrial area is being charged with its past, linked to a tragic episode in the history of Germany. Are public memorials collective remembrance or repression? DIR Güzin Kar. Switzerland

YORUGA
A lonely old man pays a visit to Yoruga, one of the last animals on Earth. DIR Federico Torrado Tobón. Colombia

ZONDER MEER
A boy has disappeared and may have drowned. Five-year-old Lucie is trying to understand what is going on around her. How long can you hold your breath? DIR Meltse Van Coillie. Belgium

 

AFI Conservatory Showcase
A collection of short fiction films from the most recent graduates of the AFI Conservatory.
The theatrical screenings will conclude with a special AFI Fellows-focused premiere of Executive Producer David Fincher’s latest Netflix series, VOIR.

VOIR
A special screening of Executive Producer David Fincher’s latest Netflix series: A collection of visual essays…for the love of cinema. DIR David Prior, Taylor Ramos, Tony Zhou. World Premiere.

APART, TOGETHER
Yiru is a Chinese teenager traveling to the U.S. as a translator for her mom, who is searching for her first daughter she gave up for adoption under the one-child policy. DIR Hang “Olivia” Zhou. USA

BOYS OF A CERTAIN AGE
Stalked by an ominous driver, a boy on the cusp of puberty faces danger and excitement during a weekend of self-discovery with his best friend. DIR Spencer Wardwell. USA

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THINGS
During the hottest heat wave in Southern California, Bobby wakes up to find his AC stolen from his window. Soon, a journey for revenge becomes one of self-discovery. DIR Andrew Pollack. USA

A BUTTERFLY VANISHES
The peace between Leo and his grieving father is disrupted when the young boy finds a butterfly that he believes to be his deceased mother. DIR Juan Pablo Arias Muñoz. USA

COLD WALL
After a video of a miscarriage suffered by a student goes viral, a shocked 16-year-old Chinese girl, Katie, attempts to solve a personal crisis in unfamiliar territory. DIR Jiaying “Lilly” Hu. USA

EUREKA
A young indentured Chinese prostitute must overcome her toxic dependency on the brothel madam on the eve of the 1885 anti-Chinese riot in Eureka, California. DIR Lixing “Mida” Chu. USA

GUIDE ON
On her first day of basic training, an army recruit stands out as she defiantly fights to be the first female guidon bearer. DIR Paige Compton. USA

THE HIDEAWAY
After hearing a rumor that her mother is a stripper, 14-year-old Nika becomes determined to discover the truth, unknowingly crossing the threshold into adulthood. DIR Jane Stephens Rosenthal. USA

KUSH: A BUBBLEGUM WESTERN
Brent and Perry, a broke and in-love couple, run into trouble when they decide to transport weed across the country. DIR Anthony Sneed. USA

LI
Li, a recent immigrant, hopes for a better education for her son while dealing with potentially losing her career, and learns how to do what’s best for her son. DIR Shengxi “Clement” Yang. USA

LIKE US
A lonely woman saves an alien who cannot experience emotions. As she tries to teach it what love is, she discovers that you can’t teach what you don’t know yourself. DIR Mikhail Saburov. USA

LUX NOCTIS
In a post-apocalyptical-matriarchal community, Lina faces her trial to bring light or perish to the darkness. Mara’s compassion pushes Lina to create an unprecedented light. DIR Damiana Acuña. USA

MASS AVE
Over a day of landscaping work, a first generation African American and his immigrant father have their relationship and outlooks on life transformed irreversibly when racially profiled by police. DIR Omar Kamara. USA

THE MONKEY KING
Bao, a small-time Chinese opera performer, finally gets a chance to perform for the city’s V.I.P.s. However, his son’s departure brings conflict between their relationship and a potential break. DIR Yingqi “Niko” Ren. USA

RIDING SCOOTERS
A socially awkward Chinese-American teenager spends an evening trying to impress his crush at a friend’s unusual party. DIR Terry Hou. USA

SPACESHIP
When a Latina transwoman in East LA is on the verge of losing her daughter to child services, she begins to unravel after confronting her buried traumas and fears. DIR Jorge Camarena. USA

YOURS TO BURY
When an innocent game puts two sisters face to face with death, one must choose whether or not to protect the other from the irreversible consequences of their play. DIR Sydney Ribot. USA

Dawn Hudson Announces This Term Will Be Her Last As Academy CEO

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACADEMY CEO DAWN HUDSON CHARTS NEXT STEPS 
FOLLOWING THE BUILDING OF AN INNOVATIVE ACADEMY 
AND THE SUCCESS OF MUSEUM OPENING

LOS ANGELES, CA – Dawn Hudson, chief executive officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced today that, after a successful and transformational tenure, this current term will be her last as Academy CEO.

“After more than ten years and the incredibly successful opening of our new museum, I’ve decided, when this term concludes, it will be time for me to explore other opportunities and adventures as this can hardly be topped,” said Hudson. “We’ve achieved so much together that’s been most important to me — our ongoing commitment to representation and inclusion; adapting the Academy into a digitally sophisticated global institution; and creating the world’s premier movie museum that will be the destination of film fans for decades. The Board of Governors and I are mutually committed to a seamless transition to new leadership. I’m excited for what the future holds, for both the Academy and for me.”

“Dawn has been, and continues to be, a groundbreaking leader for the Academy. Advancements in the diversity and gender parity of our membership, our increased international presence, and the successful opening of a world-class Academy Museum — a project she revived, guided and championed — are already part of her legacy. I know the Board of Governors joins me in looking forward to our collaboration with Dawn in the many months ahead, as we map out a plan for succession,” said Academy President David Rubin.

Hudson joined the Academy as CEO in 2011.  In her role, she oversees the Academy’s 450-person staff in Los Angeles, New York and London; operations and outreach, including awards, membership, marketing, communications, finance and technology; the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Academy Foundation. The Foundation includes educational initiatives, fellowships and grants, the Margaret Herrick Library and the Academy Film Archive.

With Hudson at the helm building and overseeing its financial assets, including the Oscars®, the Academy has become more accessible to its members and people around the world. The institution has achieved advances in technology and the modernization of its infrastructure, which have enabled greater global outreach, member communications and events, online voting and streaming on the Academy Screening Room, and a significantly expanded social media presence.

Under her leadership, Hudson has driven significant diversity, inclusion and representation initiatives across the Academy membership, governance and staff. As a result, the Academy more than doubled the number of women and underrepresented ethnic/racial communities within its membership through the A2020 initiative, bringing in the most diverse class in the organization’s history at that time. Hudson also oversaw the creation of Aperture 2025, establishing inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility, to further the Academy’s efforts to advance representation in the entertainment industry.

Hudson was integral to the development of the Academy Museum, which opened to the public in September and is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts and sciences of moviemaking.

A search for Hudson’s successor will soon be underway, and she will have a vital role in the transition.

 

ABOUT THE ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a global community of more than 10,000 of the most accomplished artists, filmmakers and executives working in film. In addition to celebrating and recognizing excellence in filmmaking through the Oscars, the Academy supports a wide range of initiatives to promote the art and science of the movies, including public programming, educational outreach and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

AFI Announces KING RICHARD as Closing Night Film for FEST 2021

KING RICHARD

Starring Will Smith to Close AFI FEST 2021

The Closing Night film for AFI FEST 2021 has been officially crowned! The 35th edition of AFI’s annual film festival celebrating the best in world cinema will close with Warner Bros. Pictures’ KING RICHARD, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green with cinematography by Robert Elswit (AFI Class of 1977), written by Zach Baylin and starring two-time Academy Award® nominee Will Smith. Based on a true story that will inspire the world, the film follows Richard Williams, an undeterred father who, with the support of his family, is instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, Venus and Serena Williams. The Closing Night screening will take place on Sunday, November 14 at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.

“AFI’s mission includes inspiring audiences, and KING RICHARD sets the bar for this year,” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming at AFI Festivals. “Movies often deliver when we need them most, and now is the perfect time for this film to remind young people that nothing is out of reach, and that with perseverance and determination they can influence future generations.”

This year’s hybrid festival will feature both in-person screenings and events, as well as virtual screenings, showcasing transformative stories from groundbreaking artists. As previously announced, the World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM! directed by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda will open the festival on Nov. 10.

With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 film festival will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated. Tickets and passes to AFI FEST 2021 will be available soon on FEST.AFI.com. AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.

FELIX & PAUL STUDIOS AND TIME STUDIOS FILM FIRST-EVER 3D, 360o SCENES OUTSIDE THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION FOR EMMY-NOMINATED SERIES, SPACE EXPLORERS: THE ISS EXPERIENCE

Millions of Viewers Will Soon Experience the Wonder of Floating in Space Outside the International Space Station

(NEW YORK, NY) August 27, 2021—Felix & Paul Studios, the EMMY-award winning creator of immersive entertainment experiences and the leading Space Media company, in partnership with NASA and TIME Studios, the EMMY-award winning television, film and immersive division of TIME, today announced the filming of the first-ever scenes in outer space captured in immersive 3D, 360°virtual reality format. Audiences will soon be able to experience what it is truly like to float in outer space by seeing everything completely around them, as if they were there in real life. The captured scenes have been made possible by Felix & Paul Studios’ customized virtual reality “Outer Space Camera”, attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm which functioned as a “Space Crane” on the world’s first zero-gravity movie set.


These incredible, highly-immersive scenes will be included in episodes three and four of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, an immersive series being produced by Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios. These forthcoming episodes will be available in 360° mobile format on 5G-enabled tablets and smartphones through leading telcos – including LGU+ (South Korea), KDDI (Japan), AIS (Taiwan), Orange (France) and Deutsche Telekom (Germany); at leading Big Screen venues, domes, planetariums, space visitor centers and science centers; in fully-immersive virtual reality on the Oculus Store for RIFT, Quest and Quest 2 devices; and as a main feature of the major, touring lifescale interactive exhibit, THE INFINITE, produced in partnership with PHI Studio.


“Today’s immersive cinematic capture of scenes in outer space is the culmination of close to three years of preparation. We are excited, honoured and truly humbled to have the opportunity to film in the most challenging environment known to humankind,” said Félix Lajeunesse, co-founder of Felix & Paul Studios and Director of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. “Our mission since day one was to enable billions of people to experience what it is like to float in space and witness Planet Earth from above and we are pleased that this one-time dream will soon become reality in the final two episodes of our ISS Experience series.”


Less than 250 astronauts have ever conducted an extravehicular activity (EVA) – known as a “spacewalk” – and never before have audiences been able to experience what it is like to float in space as if they were astronauts themselves. The outer space scenes being captured in 3D will bring viewers “into the action” like never before and are being directed remotely by veteran directors Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël in both the Felix & Paul Studios facilities in Montreal and in the Canadian Space Agency facilities.


“Capturing the Earth in stereoscopic 3D, 360-degree format from space, outside the space station, has never been attempted until now,” said Jonathan Woods, Executive Producer of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience at TIME Studios and Emmy-winning producer of A Year in Space. “It’s beyond exciting and surreal to see this happening, knowing that the dream for this ambitious project started over five years ago in 2015.”


Felix & Paul Studios’ state-of-the-art Outer Space Camera is a customized Z-Cam V1 Pro camera consisting of nine 4K sensors allowing for a 3D, a 360-degree image at 8K resolution, and has been specially hardened by Nanoracks to withstand the harsh conditions of low atmosphere orbit, including vacuum, solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation, charged particle (ionizing) radiation, plasma, surface charging and arcing, temperature extremes, thermal cycling, and impacts from micrometeoroids and orbital debris (MMOD), and environment‐induced contamination from micrometeoroids and orbital debris (MMOD), and environment‐induced contamination.

The Outer Space Camera can store approximately 15 hours of 3D, 360-degree footage with custom lenses made to withstand extreme light and heat to minimize flare when directly exposed to the Sun (external temperatures ranging from -250° F to +250° F). About Space Explorers: The ISS Experience Space Explorers.

The ISS Experience is a four-part immersive series created in collaboration with the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and other space agencies involved with the International Space Station and is filmed entirely on board and outside of the ISS using Felix & Paul Studios’ specialized 3D, 360-degree virtual reality ISS Camera and customized Outer Space Camera. Astronauts including Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques, Christina Koch, Nick Hague, Jessica Meir, Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano and Victor Glover star as cast, film crew and narrators in this four-part immersive series, the largest production ever filmed in space.

The trailer for The ISS Experience is available here and stills are available here. Stills of the scenes filmed outside the International Space Station are available here. Behind the scenes footage is available at Time.com/Space.

About Felix & Paul Studios

Felix & Paul Studios is an EMMY® Award-winning creator of immersive entertainment experiences, creating unparalleled, highly engaging, presence-based experiences for the next generation of technology-enabled devices and venues. The studio’s catalogue of over thirty 3D, 360-degree experiences exhibits the “industry’s best” in the new medium of immersive storytelling, including:

  • Originals: The Space Explorers series, Traveling While Black, MIYUBI, the Nomads series, Strangerswith Patrick Watson.
  • Productions with notable franchises: Jurassic World, Cirque du Soleil, Fox Searchlight’s Wild and Isle of Dogs, and The Confessionals series with Just for Laughs starring Howie Mandel, Lilly Singh, Jud Apatow and Trevor Noah.
  • Collaborations with world-renowned leaders and performers: President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, LeBron James, President Bill Clinton, Eminem, Wes Anderson, Brie Larson, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and many others.

The studio’s content is available for distribution in a range of immersive formats including 360-degree mobile on 5G-enabled smartphones, tablets and headsets; 360-degree fulldome projection in domes and planetariums; fully-immersive VR on Facebook’s Oculus and other high-end virtual reality platforms; Giant Screen projection for science centers, space welcome centers and large-format cinemas; and the touring life-scale interactive exhibit, THE INFINITE, produced in partnership with PHI Studio. Felix & Paul Studios is the leading Space Media Company and the only media company recognized as an “Official Implementation Partner” by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.


About TIME

StudiosFrom one of the most globally iconic brands, TIME Studios is an Emmy Award®-winning television, film and immersive studio focusing on the development, production and distribution of truth-based premium unscripted and scripted premium storytelling that moves the world. With technical innovation and a brand defining visual language that dates back 98 years, TIME Studios aims to impact communities and the world at large with ideas that forge true progress. Combining the industry’s leading creators with TIME, one of the most trusted brands that reaches an audience of over 100 million people globally, TIME Studios is uniquely positioned to bring massive audiences to the world’s most impactful stories. Recent projects include, Black Gold (Paramount+), Big Vape (Netflix), John Lewis: Good Trouble (CNN Films), Amazing Grace (Neon), Right to Offend (A&E), Ricky Powell: The Individualist (Showtime), Mass Effect: The Story of YouTube, Kid of the Year (Nickelodeon/CBS), TIME 100 (ABC) and the first scripted project for TIME Studios, Women of the Year (Amazon).

AMERICAN FILM MARKET® PIVOTS TO ONLINE EVENT FOR 2021

Los Angeles, CA – August 26, 2021 – The American Film Market® (AFM®) will move its 2021 edition entirely online, the Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®) announced today. AFM 2021 Online will be held Monday, November 1 to Friday, November 5 – shifting one day earlier than its original dates. Registration for the five-day online event is now open.

AFM 2021 Online will feature Industry Offices, Screenings, Conferences, Panels and Workshops, the Networking Pavilion, LocationEXPO, and more. Event updates will be announced regularly via email, social media, and the AFM Website.


“We wish we could welcome the global industry back to Santa Monica but travel regulations, increased concerns about coronavirus variants around the world, and government restrictions on the ground prevent us from moving forward,” said Michael Ryan, Chairperson, IFTA and Partner, GFM Films. “However, IFTA is thrilled to host the market the industry expects – where no one will be excluded and all of our stakeholders can immerse themselves for five days dedicated to deal making, discovery, education, and reconnecting.”

About the American Film Market®(AFM®)

The AFM is the most efficient film acquisition, development and networking event in the world. More than US$1 billion in production and distribution deals are closed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production. Over five days in November, 7,000+ professionals from 70+ countries access the entire global catalogue of available films and projects, attend world class conferences, and connect with decision makers. The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance®.

About the Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®)

IFTA is the global trade association for independent film and television production, finance, distribution, and sales companies. The organization represents the independent sector before governments and international bodies and provides significant entertainment industry services to independent companies from 22 countries.

*Sourced from AFM Press release

SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES CLAUDIA PUIG AS PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR

August 12, 2021 – Santa Barbara, CA.  The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today the appointment of Claudia Puig as Programming Director. In her role, Puig will lead the curation of the film slate for the 2022 edition of the Festival. The program will include a broad array of over 200 international and independent films with a commitment to diversity and inclusion, with most films being World or U.S. Premieres. Puig will lead insightful Q&As and seminar discussions with hundreds of attending filmmakers, and she will report to Roger Durling, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Puig is currently serving as president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and is a longtime critic on NPR’s Film Week. 

 

“Claudia has tremendous film festival programming expertise, and we are thrilled to welcome her to the team. We have the utmost faith in her ability to bring forward a program of unmatched quality to share with our community; and with both Claudia and I being Latino, this marks a first for any major Film Festival’s artistic leads,” said Roger Durling, SBIFF’s Executive Director.

Prior to joining SBIFF, she handled programming for AFI Fest, the Mendocino Film Festival, and the Napa Valley Film Festival. She has been a speechwriter for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition, Claudia has a film consulting business specializing in cultural consulting and teaches a college class on Diversity in the Media. Previously, she was USA Today’s film critic for 15 years. During that time, she also hosted The Screening Room video series and wrote film reviews and analytical articles about the film industry. Before that, she was a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times for 11 years covering city government, courts, and the entertainment industry.

 

The 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG®, will take place LIVE on March 2 through March 12, 2022. Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout the city, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. This year’s lineup will be announced February 2022. 

 

Over the past 36 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the world attracting 100,000+ attendees throughout the week. Funds raised through the festival directly support SBIFF’s year-round free programs that serve over 18,000 people. Passes for the 2022 Festival will be on sale for 25% off starting next Monday, August 16th. For additional information or to buy passes, visit 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 dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 35 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 100,000+ 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.

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.

AFI DOCS 2021 Award Winners

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Audience Award for Best Feature Goes to

STORM LAKE

Audience Award for Best Short Goes to SHELTER

Short Film Grand Jury Prize Goes to RED TAXI

Among the Participants in 19th Annual Festival of Documentary Film:

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Morgan Neville, Garrett Bradley, Dawn Porter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 28, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the AFI DOCS 2021 Award Winners, concluding the six-day festival, with screenings presented online and in-person at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. The festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to STORM LAKE, directed by Jerry Risius and Beth Levison. The Audience Award for Best Short went toSHELTER, directed by Smriti Mundhra.

This year’s voting jury for the competitive Short Films slate was comprised of Mike Attie, award-winning filmmaker and professor of film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; Greta Hagen-Richardson, Director of Programming at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and Lead Features Programmer at the New Orleans Film Festival; and Yvonne Ashley Kouadjo, Associate Producer for The New York Times’ award-winning short documentary series Op-Docs.

The Grand Jury Prize for Short Films went to RED TAXI, directed byAnonymous. The jury said of RED TAXI: “For its creative and accessible approach to telling a story from the perspective of those living and working in a moment of political upheaval, we award the Shorts Grand Jury Prize to RED TAXI. The courage of the anonymous filmmaker struck us for their commitment to depicting the nuances of reality on the ground.” The Shorts Grand Jury Prize at AFI DOCS is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

The jury also awarded the Special Jury Prize to two films: THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA, directed by BrandánCerviño Abeledo, saying,

“For its ability to tell a reflexive story with levity and tenderness, we award a Special Jury Prize to THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA”; and S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y), directed by Nora Štrbová, saying, “For its intelligent use of multi-dimensional media in telling a fraught, emotional story, we award a Special Jury Prize to S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y).”

The 19th edition of AFI DOCS presented a diverse slate of 78 films from 23 countries, shedding light on overlooked stories from the past, honoring champions of change and giving us glimpses into the everyday lives of subjects close to home and around the world. This year, 52% of AFI DOCS films were directed by women, 40% by BIPOC directors and 18% by LGBTQ directors.

Among the festival participants were filmmakers and notables including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; Academy Award®winners Morgan Neville, Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine and Mark Ronson; Academy Award®-nominated filmmakers Julie Cohen, Betsy West and Steve James; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen; award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter; Emmy® Award winner Chris Nee; CNN political contributor and host Van Jones; author and The New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb; filmmaker and actor Sonja Sohn; musician and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Curator Dwandalyn Reece; President of the African American Film Critics Association Gil Robertson; Georgetown University Professor Dr. Janet Mann; rapper KYLE; and son of late comedian and activist Dick Gregory Christian Gregory.

The festival’s panels and discussions provided filmmakers, film subjects and audiences the opportunity to delve deeper into the films with conversations led by some of the nation’s top journalists, including: NBC News Correspondent Morgan Radford; NBC News’ Meet the Press Moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; NBC News Correspondent Anne Thompson; MSNBC Correspondent Trymaine Lee; Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis; Axios Justice and Race Reporter Russell Contreras; Senior Segment Producer of WGN Morning News and WGN’s Entertainment Producer Tyra Martin; entertainment journalist & TV producer KJ Matthews; CQ Roll Call Deputy Editor Jason Dick andHealth Care Editor Rebecca Adams; and The Washington Post’s Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion Krissah Thompson, Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian, National Security Editor Peter Finn, Religion Reporter Michelle Boorstein, and Host and Editor of Food Video Mary Beth Albright.

This year’s inaugural DOCS Talks programming included the World Premiere of Netflix’s and Higher Ground’s WE THE PEOPLE, as well as “History Is Out of the Closet: Excavating Queer Stories for the Screen,” a live stream conversation celebrating LGBTQ+ pride. The AFI DOCS Industry Forum explored building accessibility practices into all steps of the production process, demystifying investigative documentaries, the making of the hit series PHILLY D.A., how documentaries shape conversations on racial violence, a behind-the-scenes look at the Hindsight Project films and new collaborations between public media and indie filmmakers. This year’s Industry Forum programming also included closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. The AFI DOCS Industry Forum is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.

RED TAXI

DIR: Anonymous. As protests in Hong Kong escalate, taxi drivers experience a city in upheaval driving the streets day and night. Anonymously filmed by locals.

SHORT FILM SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA

DIR: Brandán Cerviño Abeledo. Andrea’s First Communion ceremony lacks glamour. For Andrea, things without sparkles are meaningless.

SHORT FILM SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y)

DIR: Nora Štrbová. A multi-textured animated exploration of memory as a container of identity, based on the personal story of the filmmaker and her brother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

This year’s Premium Sponsor is Apple Original Films. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) returns as Official Sponsor of the festival. NBC News’ Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and The Washington Post return this year as Primary Media Partners. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are this year’s Official Media Partners. The Wrap is an Affiliate Media Partner.Screen Sponsors include SHOWTIME® Documentary Films, Netflix, WarnerMedia and HBO Documentary Films. Participant, National Geographic, and Eventive serve as Major Sponsors. This year’s Contributing Sponsors are ESPN, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME). Supporting Sponsors include the Maryland Film Office, Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Rev. The Embassy of Denmark in Washington, DC, and the Farhang Foundation are this year’s Cultural Sponsors. Generous individual support comes from Stephanie and Hunter Hunt.

 

About AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held in Washington, DC.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 19th year, the festival will be held June 22-27, 2021. Visit DOCS.AFI.com and connect onTwitter.com/AFIDOCSFacebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFIand Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s nonprofit 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/AmericanFilmInstituteYouTube.com/AFITwitter.com/AmericanFilmand Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribefor email updates.

About The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership

The Washington Post is an award-winning news leader whose mission is to connect, inform and enlighten local, national and global readers with trustworthy reporting, in-depth analysis and engaging opinions. It combines world-class journalism with the latest technology and tools so readers can interact with The Post anytime, anywhere.

 

The Press Freedom Partnership is a public service initiative from The Washington Post to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists who are in pursuit of the truth. Learn more at www.wapo.st/pressfreedom

About Meet the Press with Chuck Todd

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show for the 2019-2020 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 1 p.m. ET, to the ongoing weekly podcast, The Chuck ToddCast, and to Meet the Press Reports, a 30-minute program on NBC News NOW and Peacock, focusing on a single topic explored through the Meet the Press lens. It’s the longest-running show in television history, recently expanding its brand to also include a political short-documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer.

CONTACT:

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, 323.856.7759,SAdamski@AFI.com

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES SPONSORS FOR AFI DOCS 2021

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES
SPONSORS FOR AFI DOCS 2021

Support Comes From Wide Range of Art and Cultural Institutions, Media Partners and Corporations

Apple Original Films Joins AFI DOCS as a Premium Sponsor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 18, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the sponsors for AFI DOCS 2021. Support for the festival comes from both local organizations based in the DC-metro area and major corporations across the nation. The 19th edition of AFI DOCS will run June 22–27, with films available to view on DOCS.AFI.com as well as in-person screenings at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD.

“AFI DOCS reaches a nationwide audience with the support of our sponsors,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “It is their generosity that amplifies the voices of today’s most vital storytellers, and we thank them on behalf of all who find inspiration in the arts.” 

In addition to supporting AFI DOCS film programming and events, sponsors provide services and exclusive experiences to filmmakers and audiences throughout the festival. Sponsor participation includes sponsoring specific film screenings, panels and events as well as national and local promotion of the festival.  

This year, AFI is proud to have Apple Original Films support AFI DOCS for the first time as a Premium Sponsor. Top festival sponsors will give audiences sneak peeks at exclusive upcoming trailers and content on the festival’s streaming platform and in the AFI DOCS Festival Hub. Media partners will also provide DOCS audiences with access to their digital issues during the week of the festival via a virtual newsstand.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) returns as Official Sponsor of the festival. CPB is Official Sponsor of the AFI DOCS Industry Forum and the Spotlight on the Hindsight Project, a special selection of short filmsthat chronicle the experiences of BIPOC communities in the American South and U.S. Territories during the unprecedented events of 2020.  

NBC News’ Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and The Washington Post return this year as Primary Media Partners. Meet the Press and The Washington Post, in conjunction with the Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership, will provide moderators for a number of films in this year’s festival. Highlights include Meet the Press Moderator and NBC Political Director Chuck Todd moderating LFG and NBC News Correspondent Morgan Radford moderating the discussion following the Opening Night World Premiere of NAOMI OSAKA. In addition to supporting post-screening discussions, Washington Post Live, The Post’s live journalism platform, will host a conversation with ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN filmmaker Morgan Neville. Post Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion Krissah Thompson will also moderate the World Premiere of WE THE PEOPLE in the inaugural DOCS Talks program.

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are this year’s Official Media Partners. This year, Variety sponsors the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, which will feature a conversation between the 2021 Guggenheim honoree Dawn Porter and Variety’s Clayton Davis, and The Hollywood Reporter will be a media partner for the screening of SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED). 

The Wrap joins AFI DOCS as an Affiliate Media Partner this year and is a media partner for the screening of TOM PETTY: SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE.

Screen Sponsors are SHOWTIME® Documentary Films, Netflix, WarnerMedia and HBO Documentary Films. SHOWTIME® Documentary Films will once again host a networking event for filmmakers and industry, adjusted to be virtual instead of the in-person event they have hosted in the past. SHOWTIME® willalso send a special, customized gift to the festival filmmakers as they celebrate AFI DOCS from home.

Participant returns as a Major Sponsor, along with new sponsors National Geographic and Eventive. 

This year’s Contributing Sponsors are ESPN, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME). 

Supporting Sponsors include the Maryland Film Office, Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Rev. 

The Embassy of Denmark in Washington, DC, and the Farhang Foundation are this year’s Cultural Sponsors. 

Generous individual support comes from Stephanie and Hunter Hunt.

About AFI DOCS 

AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held in Washington, DC.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 19th year, the festival will be held June 22-27, 2021. Visit DOCS.AFI.comand connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCS,Facebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFI andInstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute

About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s nonprofit 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 atFacebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute,YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm andInstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting  

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia,Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe for email updates. 

About The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership  

The Washington Post is an award-winning news leader whose mission is to connect, inform and enlighten local, national and global readers with trustworthy reporting, in-depth analysis and engaging opinions. It combines world-class journalism with the latest technology and tools so readers can interact with The Post anytime, anywhere.  

The Press Freedom Partnership is a public service initiative from The Washington Post to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists who are in pursuit of the truth. Learn more at www.wapo.st/pressfreedom

About Meet the Press with Chuck Todd 

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show for the 2019-2020 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 1 p.m. ET, to the ongoing weekly podcast, The Chuck ToddCast, and to Meet the Press Reports, a 30-minute program on NBC News NOW and Peacock, focusing on a single topic explored through the Meet the Press lens. It’s the longest-running show in television history, recently expanding its brand to also include a political short-documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer. 

CONTACT: 

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR,elizabeth@prcollaborative.com 

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, 323.856.7759,SAdamski@AFI.com

Dawn Porter AFI DOCS 2021 Guggenheim Honoree

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI Tradition Includes Honorees Spike Lee, Barbara Kopple,
Martin Scorsese, Errol Morris, Lee Grant, Stanley Nelson

AFI DOCS Will Celebrate Award-Winning Filmmaker on June 23, 2021

AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s documentary film festival, has announced that it will honor Dawn Porter as the 2021 Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree.

Each year, the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors a master of the nonfiction art form. This year’s virtual Symposium will include a free screening of Dawn Porter’s new documentary with National Geographic Documentary Films RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER and an in-depth conversation with Porter, moderated by Variety’s Clayton Davis.

“Dawn Porter’s voice echoes with power by combining the political with the deeply personal,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “Her presence is imperative in today’s world, and we are honored to shine a light upon her life and her work at AFI DOCS.”

AFI President, Bob Gazzale (Photo byTom Kochel)

Porter’s new film RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER follows award-winning Washington Post journalist DeNeen Brown as her investigation into a mass grave in her home state of Oklahoma leads her to dig deeper into the racial violence of the early 20th century. The film comes one hundred years after the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, during which hundreds of Tulsa’s Black residents were murdered and thousands were displaced.

“With each of her projects, Dawn Porter turns our attention to a previously unexamined topic or invites us to take a fresh look at something we thought we already knew – and she does that again with RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “This is the kind of film that embodies the spirit of AFI DOCS, and we are honored to have it as part of our programming.”

A University of Georgetown Law School alumna, Dawn Porter turned her career from law to film in the late 2000s, executive-producing documentary, and narrative films. Porter made her directorial debut with GIDEON’S ARMY (2013), a documentary about three Black public defenders in the South, which won best editing at Sundance and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy®. GIDEON’S ARMY is now part of the US Department of State’s American Film Showcase, the State Department’s cultural diplomacy program, and film collection.

Porter’s documentaries SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI (2014), about a secret, state-funded anti-civil rights movement, and TRAPPED (2016), exploring TRAP Laws (“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers”) that regulate abortion clinics in the South, both aired as part of PBS’ Independent Lens series. Additionally, TRAPPED won the Special Jury Prize for Social Impact Filmmaking at Sundance and went on to win a Peabody Award.

Throughout her career, Porter has been commissioned by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Time and Essence Magazines, The New York Times Op Docs, and Amazon to create and direct films. Her most recent works, all released in 2020, examine the lives of three varied Americans who made an impact on the political and social climates, including Obama White House photographer Pete Souza (THE WAY I SEE IT), Clinton advisor and Civil Rights leader Vernon Jordan (VERNON JORDON: MAKE IT PLAIN), and Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis (JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE).

Porter’s next major project will be an AppleTV+ documentary series with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry about mental illness and mental well-being.

Porter joins a renowned list of Guggenheim Symposium honorees: Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012), Errol Morris (2013), Alex Gibney (2014), Stanley Nelson (2015), Werner Herzog (2016), Laura Poitras (2017), Steve James (2018), Freida Lee Mock (2019), and Lee Grant (2020).

Passes to AFI DOCS 2021 are now available at DOCS.AFI.com. Early Bird pricing will be available until June 1. Tickets for individual and in-person screenings will be available June 8. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

HollywoodGlee Speaks with INVISIBLE VALLEY filmmakers Aaron Maurer and Zachary McMillan

Posted by Larry Gleeson

This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG, will open on March 31, 2021, with Invisible Valley, showcasing the work of Director Aaron Maurer and Producer Zachary McMillan.

Invisible Valley is set in the Coachella Valley: world-renowned for its extravagant golf resorts, unmatched winter weather, and A-list celebrity music festivals, projecting an image of money, class, and fame. From its earliest days as a health resort and continuing through a century of rapid growth and expansion, the Valley has retained its richly earned status as one of the leading winter playgrounds in the U.S., and the most desirable golfing destinations in the world. A prime affluent-tourist magnet demands caviar standards of taste and excellence and the Coachella Valley delivers.

Yet this outward image of luxury and leisure masks another reality. Field workers – many of them undocumented – constitute a large part of the Valley’s population. Living outside the gates of success, these immigrants bear the burden of harvesting a large amount of our country’s food source. Second and third jobs are common, and when the vacationing season ends and the crops have been harvested, most families must uproot their children, and travel north for the next season’s harvest. Many workers sleep in their trucks or in the fields, while others struggle to ensure housing for their families. The disruption to the stability of these families has resulted in poverty and puts the children into a category of risk across the board.

Invisible Valley weaves together the disparate stories of undocumented farmworkers, wealthy snowbirds, and music festival-goers over the course of a year in California’s Coachella Valley.  In exploring the history as well its imperiled future, the film uncovers an imminent environmental and social crisis and the looming consequences for the people who call it home.

What follows is a question and answer (Q&A) session by film critic Larry Gleeson (“LG”) with Director Aaron Maurer (“AM”) and Producer Zachary McMillan (“ZM”) on the film, the actors, the filmmakers’ sensibilities on making the film, and the impactful discoveries they made extending across the State of California and into the County of Santa Barbara.

 

Q & A with Director Aaron Maurer and Producer Zachary McMillan

 

LG: What initially sparked the idea for this story?

AM: I first got involved when Zach approached me with an initial idea; let’s look at the residents of the Coachella Valley as ‘migrants’ traveling in and out through the seasons. The word ‘Migrant’ has taken on such a loaded meaning over the last few years especially, that simple reframing of the word was a really interesting place to start from and generated a lot of ideas and questions. I knew right away there was something worth digging deeper into. From that launching point, we were able to weave a lot of ideas together and find stories in the Valley that added a sense of humanity and emotion to the conceptual ideas.

LG: Why did you decide to focus the story around the Coachella Valley and the migrant underclass? 

 ZM: Aaron and I both grew up in the Midwest, in Minneapolis, which is known for its winters and is the habitat of quite a few Snowbirds – people who head to warmer climates during the coldest months. My mother-in-law, Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad, is one such Snowbird and has been going to the Palm Springs area for the greater part of her adult life. However, about a decade ago she read an advertisement on her church bulletin for a program called Read With Me in Palm Desert. She then volunteered in this literacy advocacy program and was amazed by how many students in the Valley came from migrant farm working families. Suddenly her eyes opened to a new world: one that had almost literally existed across the street from her own community. As she became more involved with the schools and became closer to the students and the teachers, she increasingly felt the desire to make a bigger impact, and eventually, this led her to think that a documentary could be the best medium to show the other side of a place that is world-renowned for its golf courses and music festivals. After she talked to me about this idea, I went exploring around the Valley, driving out to the unincorporated town of Mecca trying to meet people, talk to people and realized there was something fascinating, and fascinatingly complex, about the relationships that exist in that area… of course things change a bit when you bring cameras around. But we were lucky enough to meet incredible people who welcomed us into their lives, into their homes. It’s still almost staggering that they did this.

LG: How much research and preparation did you do before starting?

AM: This was our first documentary and it really was a trial by fire. We had no script, no outline even, it was just a matter of spending time in the communities of the Valley and getting as much footage as we could. There was little planning you could do in advance because you are working with migrant families who are living on the move and below the poverty line, they don’t always access to phone or internet. So, we needed to be there meeting people and making connections. Gradually ideas started to form around how this mosaic of people and themes could fit together.

LG: What most surprised you about the Coachella Valley and those featured in Invisible Valley?

 ZM: The Coachella Valley is an extreme place, and yet the most surprising thing for me was the day-to-day reality of those extremes. In the grocery store, when you think about how the food, how the produce and the vegetables actually arrived there in front of you, it is possible to imagine the fields, the labor, the picking, and the packaging that goes into it. It is possible but it is completely abstract. Spending time with families that actually do this work, waking up at four in the morning, getting to the bell pepper fields before sunrise, and working into the heat that gets up to 110, 120 degrees Fahrenheit, is surprising. It is surprising when, after that day of work, they would invite us home, make dinner, welcome us like family.

LG: What was a particular challenge you faced while making the film?

AM: The places where we received the most pushback were certainly from the farm owners. Some of the key imagery in the film is of the harvests and we didn’t get any footage of that until after a year of filming. There was a constant fear that we were coming to expose something, although that wasn’t our angle, there just wasn’t any trust there or interest in ‘helping’. Eventually, we made connections to some smaller farms that allowed us in and I’m so grateful we got to capture a bit of the reality of that work.

Why are documentary films so vitally important in today’s world?

ZM: Documentary as a genre is becoming more and more popular, and in turn more and more documentaries are going to be made. As a form, filmmakers will continue pushing what documentary “is” and what it can mean – pushing against what it means to be a nonfiction film – and this is an exciting time for any art form. I don’t know if documentary is specifically more important in today’s world than any other day’s world, but certainly with the heightened attention on it, substantive, thoughtful, challenging, expansive, or otherwise good documentaries are more important than ever

LG: How did you find and connect with the subjects you profiled in your film?

 ZM: It really took time and patience, and then more time. As complete outsiders to the East side of the Valley, we needed to just kind of hang around enough, for long enough, to alert people that we were more than tourists. We needed to meet people, engage with people, and earn people’s trust. One person might introduce us to another person, and then that would lead to another person, but almost all of this wouldn’t be filmed. Over time, we became friends, real friends, with people that lived and worked in the area, and that is when people began to open up a bit: by people vouching for us, lending us their credit. The school teachers Sky and Jose Gijon, Hernan Quintas, who became our field producer, were instrumental. And it wasn’t until we met Angelica Ortiz-Cichocki, our (brilliant and sensitive and nuanced) translator and language consultant, that the interviews really started to feel like a connection.

LG: What challenges did you experience filming in private community settings in an area that values privacy? 

AM: I’d say that most people were hesitant, at best, to be on camera. Between undocumented workers and extremely wealthy folks in the resorts, we had a lot of initial pushback. It took time to gain trust and it usually took a connection of some kind that we’d formed through meeting people along the way. The farmworkers and folks in the East valley, although hesitant at first, were very quick to warm up once they realized we were honestly interested in hearing their stories. By the end of the day, we’d be treated like an extended member of the family. That certainly wasn’t the case when filming at the resorts. There’s so many security, privacy issues, there’s a fear there that we were there to exploit something. And it was actually the opposite. One of our main goals was to not vilify anyone in the film, it’s easy to make rich people look bad if you’re contrasting them with poverty, but it’s a cheap shot. It’s not reflective of the real issues.

LG: Why are documentary films so vitally important in today’s world?

 ZM: Documentary as a genre is becoming more and more popular, and in turn, more and more documentaries are going to be made. As a form, filmmakers will continue pushing what documentary “is” and what it can mean – pushing against what it means to be a nonfiction film – and this is an exciting time for any art form. I don’t know if  documentary is specifically more important in today’s world than any other day’s world, but certainly, with the heightened attention on it, substantive, thoughtful, challenging, expansive, or otherwise good documentaries are more important than ever.

LG: What do you want viewers to learn from seeing your film?

AM: I hope people will be inspired to think differently about the communities around them they see as ”other”. It’s very easy for us to live in our own bubbles, social media and quarantine can amplify those echo chambers, but can also be tools for understanding our neighbors if used with the right intention. As human beings, we all have blinders on some of the time, how else could we get through the day? But it’s important to know they’re on and take them off every once in a while. Although sometimes it may not seem like it, we’re all on this journey together.

LG: What reaction to the film do you expect at SBIFF?

 ZM: There are so many parallels between the Coachella Valley and Santa Barbara and the neighboring areas. Almost all the people we spoke with moved up to more central or northern California as the seasons and the harvests changed. I expect people will see something very familiar in the film, but hopefully, it will spark conversations that come from seeing something from a different angle, in a different light, at a slant.

LG: What does it feel like to bring the film to SBIFF?

AM: It’s really exciting to open SBIFF, this project has been many years in the making so we’re thrilled to be able to start sharing it with audiences and believe Invisible Valley will really resonate with the community in Santa Barbara.

The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will take place March 31st through April 10th, 2021, online and at two free ocean-front drive-in theatres. More information, festival passes, and tickets are available at www.sbiff.org.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the drive-in!

Larry Gleeson at the Hollywood Drive-in Cinema in the heart of Hollywood, Calif., for the special screening of Philippe Lecote’s epic drama, Night of the Kings, Friday, January 8, 2021. (Photo by Valerie Rapalee)

(*Photos and intro material courtesy of Linda Brown, Indie-PR)

 

 

36TH SBIFF TO OPEN WITH THE WORLD PREMIERE OF “INVISIBLE VALLEY”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

36TH SBIFF TO OPEN WITH
THE WORLD PREMIERE OF “INVISIBLE VALLEY”
AND CLOSE WITH SANTA BARBARA
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS

FESTIVAL TO PRESENT 47 WORLD PREMIERES
AND 37 U.S. PREMIERES

SCREENING ONLINE AND AT TWO FREE
OCEAN-FRONT DRIVE-IN THEATRES

The 2021 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) will take on an entirely new look this year with the build-out of two state-of-the-art, beachside drive-in theaters sponsored by Toyota Mirai, where every film screening will be offered to the community for free, alongside a ticketed online component that will feature the entire film program in addition to SBIFF’s notable celebrity tributes, industry panels, and filmmaker Q&As.

 

SBIFF Director Roger Durling on the red carpet at the Opening Night Film ‘Diving Deep:The Life And Times Of Mike deGruy’ during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre, January 31, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

SBIFF’s Executive Director Roger Durling stated, “This year’s Festival will look different on many fronts, but we are unchanged when it comes to what’s most important: our love of film, and our dedication to bringing forward a program of unmatched quality and sharing it with our community. We are so excited to have the opportunity to be a source of joy and optimism.”

OPENING NIGHT

SBIFF 2021 will start with the Opening Night Film, presented by UGG®, on Wednesday, March 31, online and at both Drive-in theatres with the WORLD Premiere of INVISIBLE VALLEY directed by Aaron Maurer.

INVISIBLE VALLEY skillfully weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of undocumented farmworkers, wealthy snowbirds, and music festival-goers over the course of a year in California’s Coachella Valley. The intimate, on-the-ground profiles drive home the incongruity of the lifestyles that coexist in an affluent community. In exploring the history of the region as well as its future, the film uncovers an undercurrent of a looming ecological crisis threatening it all.

CLOSING NIGHT

Closing Night Film on Saturday, April 10, the spotlight is on Santa Barbara to highlight a series of short documentaries by local filmmakers. This distinctive selection of films covers a range of iconic people and places in the Santa Barbara area including the Chumash people’s annual trip to their historical village site, one woman’s journey to restore ecosystems with her flock of sheep, a local musician who received care and support from Hospice of Santa Barbara, the story of a community surviving 2020 through outdoor dancing, an artist who specializes in miniature diorama art, and a celebrated local roller-skating icon who sparked a community group known as the SB Rollers.

FREE OCEAN-FRONT DRIVE-IN THEATRES

Check out the schedule for the drive-ins. RSVPs for each film will open 24 hours in advance of showtime. Stay tuned for more!

 

SBIFF 2021 Announces Outstanding Directors of the Year Honorees – Chloé Zhao, David Fincher, Lee Isaac Chung and Thomas Vinterberg

Posted by Larry Gleeson

CHLOÉ ZHAO, DAVID FINCHER, LEE ISAAC CHUNG, AND THOMAS VINTERBERG

TO BE HONORED WITH THE OUTSTANDING DIRECTORS OF THE YEAR AWARD

AT 2021 SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

SANTA BARBARA, CA (Tuesday, March 23, 2021) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is thrilled to announce this year’s recipients of the Outstanding Directors of the Year Award, sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter. This honor was created to recognize a select group of directors who have pushed the boundaries in their storytelling and created films that showcase the art of filmmaking at its best. Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), David Fincher (Mank), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) will receive their awards and discuss their work on Tuesday, April 6th at 6:00 pm PST in a live-streamed event. The tribute will be moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s longtime awards columnist and host of its popular Awards Chatter podcast, as well as a professor at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Scott Feinberg.

Get Tickets Here

SBIFF Director Roger Durling on the red carpet at the Opening Night Film ‘Diving Deep: The Life And Times Of Mike deGruy’ during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre, January 31, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

“In this past difficult year, these four exemplary storytellers showed us ways to dream and reevaluate our perception of the world at large. They’re all rewriting cinema history, and lucky for us to get to hear them converse with one another.” comments Roger Durling, SBIFF’s Executive Director.

 

Chloé Zhao is a Chinese writer, director, editor, and producer.  She was born in Beijing, raised there, and in Brighten, England.  After moving to the US, she studied Political Science at Mount Holyoke College and Film Production at NYU.  Her feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards.  Her second feature, The Rider, premiered at Directors Fortnight at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Art Cinema Award as well as Best Feature Film at the 2018 Gotham Awards. Her most recent film Nomadland premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival and was awarded the Golden Lion. Chloé went on to win the Golden Globe award for Best Director in addition to the film winning for Best Picture – Drama and recently received 4 Oscar nominations, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Picture. Chloé wrote and directed Marvel Studios’ Eternals, which is expected to release November 5, 2021.

 

David Fincher directs movies, commercials, and music videos. He hopes that people like them, but if they don’t, it is not for lack of effort.

 

Lee Isaac Chung grew up in Lincoln, Arkansas, on a small farm in the Ozark Mountains. He is an award-winning writer and director. His first feature film was the Rwandan family drama Munyurangabo, which premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim. His other feature films are Lucky Life and Abigail Harm. He received his BA in Biology at Yale University and his MFA in Film Studies at the University of Utah. He was awarded a USA Artist Ford Fellowship In 2012 for his work.

 

Thomas Vinterberg is one of Denmark’s most important, award-winning, and internationally celebrated directors. His latest effort was the large-scale, international drama Kursk (2019), about the Russian submarine tragedy in the year 2000. Another recent success of his, The Commune (2016), was selected for the main competition at the Berlin Film Festival and netted Trine Dyrholm, a Silver Bear for Best Actress. In 2012, Thomas Vinterberg won worldwide acclaim for this Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated drama The Hunt (2013), which also won Mads Mikkelsen the Award for Best Actor at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Other notable works include the adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), which Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey; Dear Wendy (2005); and It’s All About Love (2003). Vinterberg got his international breakthrough in 1998 with Festen – the world’s first Dogme 95-film, which received several international awards, including the Cannes Jury Prize. Thomas Vinterberg made his feature debut with The Biggest Heroes (1996), after graduating from the National Film School of Denmark in 1993.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 23: Scott Feinberg and Bong Joon-ho onstage at the Outstanding Directors of the Year during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on January 23, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will take place March 31st through April 10th, 2021 online and at two free ocean-front drive-in theatres. More information, festival passes, and tickets are available at 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 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 through 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.

(Press release provided by Sunshine Sachs)

The 27th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival announces this year’s film lineup

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

Announces Film Lineup

(March 9-14)

 

 

Philippe Falardeau’s MY SALINGER YEAR is the Opening Night

selection and Brittany App’s WHERE THERE ONCE WAS WATER

will make its US Premiere on Closing Night.

 

Surf Nite returns to SLO Film Fest at the Drive-in

 

San Luis Obispo, CA (February 10, 2021) – The 27th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 9-14) announced this year’s film lineup including the Opening Night selection of Philippe Falardeau’s drama MY SALINGER YEAR, starring Margaret Qualley and Sigourney Weaver, and the US premiere of local photographer Brittany App’s environmental documentary WHERE THERE ONCE WAS WATER on Closing Night. The festival will primarily be a virtual presentation, following the success of last year’s edition in the virtual space. However, SLO Film Fest’s signature Surf Nite event will be held at the Sunset Drive-in (255 Elks Lane), marking the first in-person event for the film festival since March 2019.

This year’s film lineup will feature 111 presentations, including 30 feature films (10 narrative, 20 documentary), 63 short films, and 18 music videos.

“Following last year’s whirlwind experience to shift our film festival to an online presentation seemingly overnight due to the onset of the pandemic, it’s a gift to know that the same dedication we put into selecting our films is matched by the SLO Film Fest audience’s anticipation to see them – virtually or in-person. But safety is still the priority, so while we will all go to the drive-in for Surf Nite, the rest of the time, we will once again be coming into our film faithful’s homes to deliver the best movies we could find,” said San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan.

San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan

 

Falardeau’s MY SALINGER YEAR is toplined by one of the hottest young actresses (Margaret Qualley, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD), and one of the most distinctively singular actresses, Sigourney Weaver in film today. It’s a tale of a young woman who takes a job working for an old-style literary agent whose chief client is J.D. Salinger. The struggling writer-to-be starts to discover her own voice as she begins personalizing the responses to his fan mail.

 

Brittany App’s WHERE THERE ONCE WAS WATER marks the photographer’s return to the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, where she could frequently be seen in years’ past catching the directors and stars on the red carpet. Now, she is the director making her feature film debut with a documentary about our personal relationship with water, an increasingly finite resource in need of fresh new approaches to conservation and perhaps even, appreciation for the role it plays in our lives.

 

THE ENDLESS SUMMER

SLO Film Fest’s one-of-a-kind surfing film event will be presented on Wednesday, March 10 at the Sunset Drive-In with a double feature of Brent Storm’s new WHITE RHINO and Bruce Brown’s all-time surfing classic THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1965). WHITE RHINO features the surfers and the photographers who followed them during three historic swells hitting the beaches of the South Pacific in 2011-12. Brown’s THE ENDLESS SUMMER, which follows two young surfers chasing the perfect wave, maybe the most iconic surfing documentary ever made. Surf Nite will also include the traditional appearance of some classic 60’s surfing autos to add to the atmosphere of what could be called the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the surfing film lover.

 

BLOOM, THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET, SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

Additional highlights among the narrative features include; Xuan Liu’s exquisite Chinese love story BLOOM told through a conversation a man has with his younger self; Ana Katz’s Argentinian drama THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET about a man dealing with life’s curve balls, makes its first post-Sundance stop at SLO Film Fest; frequent indie film presence Joshua Leonard steps behind the camera for the comedy FULLY REALIZED HUMANS which takes a look at a couple trying to exhaust their bucket list experiences before impending parenthood; Cassio Pereira dos Santos’ Brazilian drama VALENTINA follows a transgender teen trying to make a fresh start at a new school after having been bullied at the last one; and a Special Presentation of  Andy Goddard’s SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT. Starring Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench, the drama follows the conflict when a new teacher (Izzard) tries to raise the alarm after arriving at a posh finishing school that is training the daughters of Nazis to be ambassadors for the coming Third Reich.

 

AHEAD OF THE CURVE, BLEEDING AUDIO, MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY

Documentaries are featured in the special presentations of Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Meadow’s AHEAD OF THE CURVE about the history of Curve Magazine, which became a lesbian cultural institution, and Judith Ehrlich’s THE BOYS WHO SAID NO! which explores the Selective Service System, the federal justice system, and the prosecution and trials of war resisters. Other highlights in a typically strong SLO Film Fest documentary lineup include; Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley’s BANKSY: MOST WANTED which explores the elusive identity of the rogue street artist; Chelsea Christer’s award-winning BLEEDING AUDIO, which chronicles the rise and disbanding of 90s rock group The Matches; and Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss’ MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY, another award-winner, which looks at the tragic side of the immigration crisis, through the eyes of families of missing loved ones that have never been found.

 

The San Luis Obispo International Film festival will once again put local filmmakers on a pedestal via its always-popular Central Coast Showcase, encourage the filmmaking ambitions of elementary, middle school, and high school students with its Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase, and put an added emphasis of inclusion and diversity with the introduction of its Short Films, Big Stories: A Program of Diverse Voices section.

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

 

The 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival official selections:

Opening Night Selection

MY SALINGER YEAR

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Country: USA, Running Time: 101 min

In New York City’s late nineties, a young aspiring writer lands a day-job at J.D. Salinger’s literary agency. While her eccentric and old-fashioned boss tasks her to process Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, she struggles to find her own voice.

 

Closing Night Selection

WHERE THERE ONCE WAS WATER

Director: Brittany App

Country: USA, Running Time: 74 min

A story about water. A song for the sacred in all of us. A documentary centered on solutions. WHERE THERE ONCE WAS WATER takes a look at the driest of places – California and the Southwest USA – and the deepest of spaces – our inner worlds. It presents an invitation to change our perspective and heal our relationship with water … one watershed, one meal, one raindrop, at a time.

 

SURF NITE

WHITE RHINO

Director: Brent Storm

Country: USA, Running Time: 64 min

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.

THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1965)

Director: Bruce Brown

Country: USA, Running Time: 95 min

The crown jewel to ten years of Bruce Brown surfing documentaries. Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters.

 

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Directors: Jen Rainin, Rivkah Beth Meadow

Country: US, Running Time: 95 min

From its start in 1990, Curve magazine was a visionary and unapologetic celebration of lesbian life from cover to cover. Facing the magazine’s possible demise in 2019, director Jen Rainin and Curve founder Franco Stevens explore questions of lesbian visibility, legacy, and current day issues through interviews with contemporary LGBTQIA+ tastemakers, “celesbians” including Melissa Etheridge, Jewelle Gomez, Denise Frohman, Kate Kendell, and Lea DeLaria, along with rich archival footage recounting the formation of a lesbian cultural institution.

 

THE BOYS WHO SAID NO!

Director: Judith Ehrlich

Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min

THE BOYS WHO SAID NO! explores the Selective Service System, the federal justice system, and the prosecution and trials of war resisters, showing news footage of anti-war demonstrations and The Resistance’s rising visibility, anti-draft meetings, and smuggled film of resisters serving time in Federal prison as well as the influence of Ghandian nonviolence and the Civil Rights Movement.

 

SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

Director: Andy Goddard

Countries: Canada/Ireland, Running Time: 99 min.

Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench star in this brand new film directed by Andy Goddard (Downtown Abbey). In the summer of 1939, influential families in Nazi Germany sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town, run by a strict but humane head mistress (Dench), to learn the language and be ambassadors for the future Nazi state. Eddie Izzard who also co-wrote and produced, plays a new teacher who tries to raise the alarm. But the authorities believe he is the problem. Jim Broadbent plays a supporting character in this fascinating story based on historical facts.

 

 SNEAK PREVIEW SCREENING

ECHOES OF THE EMPIRE: BEYOND GENGHIS KHAN

Director: Robert H. Lieberman

Country: USA, Running Time: 73 min

Film director/novelist Robert H. Lieberman takes us into this vast country little known by many, creating a stunning cinematic view of Mongolia’s past and present. The film leads us through the remarkable evolution of Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire—a realm that once encompassed all of Asia, the Middle East and Europe leading up to the doorsteps of Vienna.

 

 NARRATIVE FEATURES

BLOOM

Director: Xuan Liu

Country: China, Running Time: 90 min

An amazing first film from Xuan Liu, BLOOM is a richly layered, poetic love story that takes place in late 1990s Beijing. Uniquely told through conversations between Mu Ke and his younger self, it weaves together memories, disillusions and hope. Gorgeous cinematography and superb acting help elevate this film into the realm of great art.

 

THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET

Director: Ana Katz

Country: Argentina, Running Time: 73 min

Straight from a World Premiere at Sundance, this charming film from Argentina follows Sebastian, a man in his thirties, who works a series of temporary jobs as he deals with life’s curve balls. He slowly transforms as he encounters love, loss and crisis.

 

FULLY REALIZED HUMANS

Director: Joshua Leonard

Country: USA, Running Time: 74 min

When parents-to-be Elliot and Jackie are confronted with the fear of pending parenthood, they decide to embark on a journey of self-discovery, crossing adventures off their bucket list while they still can. Dealing with the grandparents-to-be is all part of the fun in this hilarious portrait of parenthood in all its iterations.

 

MONKEY BEACH

Director: Loretta Todd

Country: Canada, Running Time: 104 min

Indigenous Canadian filmmaker Loretta Todd has done justice to Eden Robinson’s novel about a complex family story of love, loyalty and spiritual beliefs. Filmed on the coast of British Columbia in the Haisla Nation in Kitamaat, Lisa Hill returns from Vancouver to her family home after visions warn that her brother is in danger.

 

SISTERS: THE SUMMER WE FOUND OUR SUPERPOWERS

Directors: Silje Salomonsen, Arild Ostin Ommundsen

Country: Norway, Running Time: 78 min

Two sisters, ages 9 and 5, go on an exciting outdoor hike with their adventurous dad, but he suddenly has an accident and the girls are left to figure out what to do next. They take us on a childlike journey through the wilderness of Norway as they navigate their way to find help, discovering strength in sisterhood along the way.

 

SMALL TIME

Director: Niav Conty

Country: USA, Running Time: 104 min

SMALL TIME eloquently mixes the sweet innocence of young Emma growing up in rural Pennsylvania, with poverty, the opioid crisis and “the war on terror.” In a stand-out debut performance, Audrey Grace Marshal takes us on an empathetic and darkly humorous journey through family drama exasperated by addiction and trauma.

 

VALENTINA

Director: Cassio Pereira dos Santos

Country: Brazil, Running Time: 95 min

Valentina, 17, moves to rural Brazil with her mother to start fresh, after being bullied at her last high school. When enrolling with her new name, she faces an unexpected dilemma when the new school requires a second parental signature, exposing the real-life hardships that young trans people must endure as they embrace who they are.

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

ALICE STREET

Director: Spencer I. Wilkinson

Country: USA, Running Time: 96 min

A powerful, colorful display of community and culture is showcased in this battle to preserve Oakland’s downtown from the onslaught of gentrification. A mural comes alive, dedicated to the diverse artists that intersect Alice Street. The community rallies to fight a condo that will obstruct the mural and transform the cultural landscape.

 

 BANKSY: MOST WANTED

Directors: Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley

Country: France, Running Time: 90 min

With Banksy, the prevailing question is not about his art, but something more basic — who is he? How can someone so provocative, and who stirs up so much emotion, manage to stay so hidden? BANKSY: MOST WANTED combines a journalistic approach and love of art in a true modern day whodunnit.

 

BLEEDING AUDIO

Director: Chelsea Christer

Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min

Told through the eyes of quirky, charming and humble bandmates Shawn, Jon, Matt and Justin, Chelsea Christer’s BLEEDING AUDIO is an intimate portrait detailing The Matches’ promising career, defeating break up, and inspiring reunion, as they reflect on what success truly means for musicians in today’s digital industry. A recent Slamdance 2021 pick!

 

THE BOOK MAKERS

Director: James Kennard

Country: USA, Running Time: 58 min

What should books become in the digital age now that they’re freed from the burden of fulfilling tasks like encyclopedias and the Yellow Pages? An eclectic group of people are dedicating their lives to answering that question. This film spins a tale of the enduring vitality of the book in a world where physical pages are being creatively reinvented.

 

LIKE A WOMAN

Director: Gail Mooney

Country: USA, Running Time: 52 min

A helicopter pilot. A Goodyear blimp pilot. All are women with moxie who are succeeding in male-dominated fields in this inspiring film that includes current and former female deans at Cal Poly. “There’s no such thing as a boy thing or a girl thing,” one woman says. “There’s the thing that speaks to you, and if it speaks to you, go out and do it.”

 

MEDICINE MAN: THE STAN BROCK STORY

Director: Paul Michael Angell

Country: UK, Running Time: 96 min

This is the incredible life story of Amazonian cowboy turned U.S. TV star, Stan Brock, who sacrificed everything to bring free healthcare to millions of people in need. It is a heart-warming tribute to the unifying power of volunteerism, and an exploration of a perennial outsider’s search for meaning through selflessness and deep compassion.

 

MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY

Directors: Lisa Molomot, Jeff Bemiss

Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min

This exceptional documentary takes us boldly into an American border town that has been caught in the middle of the daily life and death situation created by our current immigration system. We meet vigilante ranchers, humanitarian activists, Border Patrol and others locked in an endless battle of human rights and politics.

 

THE RACE TO ALASKA

Director: Zach Carver

Country: USA, Running Time: 127 min

Be Safe. Be Bold. Get Over Yourself — is the theme of this 750-mile boat race of a lifetime from Washington to Alaska. Whirlpools, deadly currents, bears and much more test these intrepid mariners to their very limit. The only rule — no engines. The rest is up to the imagination, from state-of-the-art custom craft to a makeshift paddle board.

 

ROAD TO VRINDAVAN

Director: Ravinol Chambers

Country: UK, Running Time: 84 min

On a life-changing journey across India, culture and progress collide as a former Krishna monk re-examines traditional gender roles and the barriers girls face in escaping child marriage and rape. With the obvious need to educate girls, there is the cultural challenge: Will education bring them true equality or transform them into caged butterflies?

 

VAS-Y-COUPE! (WINE CRUSH)

Director: Laura Naylor

Country: USA/France, Running Time: 92 min

A loyal crew of laborers travels from northern France each year to harvest grapes at a small family-owned vineyard. We are privy to the gritty underbelly to the charmed romantic life of the Champagne region. Despite stunning scenery, endless champagne and great food, this is a story of relationships between owners, workers and family.

 

VINYL NATION

Directors: Christopher Boone, Kevin Smokler

Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min

“Everything old is new again!” perfectly sums up the fascinating history of the vinyl record that seemingly vanished into relative obscurity in the 1980s, but is now one of the hottest trends again worldwide. But there’s just something about spinning vinyl, and VINYL NATION does an entertaining deep dive into what that something might be.

 

MOVIES FOR THE HEART AND MIND

Sponsored by The Coastal Awakening / Shanbrom Family Foundation

 

THE FALCONER

Director: Annie Kaempfer

Country: USA, Running Time: 75 min

This is an intimate portrait of master falconer Rodney Stotts on his mission to build a bird sanctuary and provide access to nature for his stressed community. By weaving Rodney’s present-day mission with the story of his past, both deeply rooted in issues of social and environmental injustice, the film reminds us that nature heals.

 

INVITATION TO THE DANCE

Director: Sarah Shoemaker

Country: USA, Running Time: 38 min

Dance teacher Lena Forster introduces us to her adult special-needs ballet class in Greenville, SC where we follow five charming students through a year of dance and life. We get a sensitive and very touching glimpse of a community frequently overlooked, listen to voices frequently unheard and witness the joy of dancing and the arts as it impacts the dancers’ lives.

 

A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL

Director: Aimee Long

Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min

After accidentally killing an unarmed Black man when his gun fires off through an apartment wall, a young Chinese American cop deals with his guilt and begins to unravel as he navigates the charged and complicated worlds of media, justice and racial politics in modern-day New York. The film, drawn from an actual event in Brooklyn, explores systemic racism.

 

SHORT FILMS, BIG STORIES: A PROGRAM OF DIVERSE VOICES

A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION

Directors: Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot

Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

 

IN THEIR FLIGHT

Directors: Orion Rose Kelly, Pedro Cota

Country: USA/Brazil, Running Time: 23 min

 

IN WHITE PLACES.

Director: Keith Powell

Countries: USA, Running Time: 10 min

 

PHONY

Director: Jess de la Merced

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

THIS IS THE WAY WE RISE

Director: Ciara Lacy

Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

 

 NARRATIVE SHORTS

A PIECE OF CAKE

Director: The Bragg Brothers

Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

 

ALA KACHUU (TAKE AND RUN)

Director: Maria Brendle

Country: Switzerland, Running Time: 38 min

 

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF AWESOME

Director: Allison Brownmoore

Country: UK, Running Time: 6 min

 

COFFEE WITH EXES

Director: Brett A. Hart

Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min

 

THE DELIVERY

Director: Dogus Ozokutan

Country: Cyprus, Running Time: 12 min

 

DISTANCE

Director: Shin Sonoda

Country: Japan, Running Time: 22 min

 

EL REGALO (THE GIFT)

Directors: Sheila and Kenneth Vatan-Woodall

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

EXIT PACKAGE

Director: John Gray

Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

 

GUM

Director: Jacob Reed

Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min

 

 HANDSCAPE

Director: Yiru Chen

Country: China, Running Time: 19 min

 

HONOR

Director: Lauren Noll

Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min

 

HOT DOG

Directors: Flore Burban, Logan Cameron, Nicholas Diaz, Chloe Raimondo, Hugues Valin

Country: France, Running Time: 5 min

 

KAPAEMAHU

Directors: Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

MY HERO

Director: Logan Jackson

Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

 

THE OTHER MORGAN

Director: Alison Rich

Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

 

OVER MY DEAD BODY 

Director: Meital Cohen Navarro

Country: USA, Running Time: 25 min

 

REBEL

Director: Pier-Phillipe Chevigny

Country: Canada, Running Time: 15 min

 

RENAIDANCE

Directors: Zhike Yang, Wenjie Wu, Han Chen Chang

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

THE SCAR

Director: George Simon

Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min

 

SOUS LA GLACE

Directors: Luce Grosjean, Ismail Berrahma, Flore Dupont, Laurie Estampes, Quentin Nory, Hugo Potin

Country: France, Running Time: 7 min

 

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

Director: Lisa Gold

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

DOCUMENTARY SHORTS

FULL PICTURE

Director: Jacob Reed

Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

 

NOT JUST ANOTHER DAY

Director: Ricky Rhodes

Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

 

THE KHE SAHN PEACE GARDEN

Director: Tihn Mahoney

Country: Vietnam, Running Time: 28 min

 

PANT HOOT

Director: Richard Reens

Country: USA, Running Time: 21 min

 

SHEPHERD’S SONG

Director: Abigail Fuller

Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min

 

VOICE ABOVE WATER

Director: Dana Frankoff

Country: USA, Running Time: 11 min

 

 CENTRAL COAST FILMS

FIRESTORM ’77: THE TRUE STORY OF THE HONDA CANYON FIRE

Directors: Chris Hite, Dennis Ford

Country: USA, Running Time: 54 min

The true story of the terrible fire that occurred on Dec 20, 1977 at Vandenburg Air Force Base. Confused leadership led to a loss of four lives and many injuries.

 

38 MINUTES

Director: Paul Lacovara

Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min

 

BODEGA DE EDGAR

Director: Nick Cavalier

Country: USA, Running Time: 22 min

 

CALIFORNIA LANDSLIDE

Directors: Dana Richardson, Sarah Zentz

Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min

 

COLORS IN HARMONY

Director: Clemencia Macias

Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

 

ENTWINED

Director: Dale Griffith Stamos

Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

 

F*UCK YOU, SETH

Director: Barry Galperin

Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min

 

IRON MAN

Director: Curtis Francisco-Sarmiento Yap

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

ISOLATED DAYDREAMS

Director: Ryan Pavone

Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

 

LIFT OFF

Director: Alyssa Toledo

Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

 

THE PROMISE

Director: Carlos Plummer

Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

 

RESTRICTIONS APPLY

Director: Justice Whitaker

Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min

 

SEANCE-ING

Director: Alix Angelis

Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min

 

STOKE CHASERS

Director: Jo Anna Edmison

Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min

 

TAKE TWO

Director: Curtis Francisco-Sarmiento Yap

Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

 

MUSIC VIDEOS

CANES CREEK

Director: Michael Everett

Music: Mitchell Tenpenny

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

DAVID KORESH FAN CLUB

Director: Matthew Oates

Music: Nate Cole

Country: USA, Running Time: 2 min

 

 

FEEL YOUR LOVE

Director: Matt Jermstad

Music: True Zion

Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

 

FLESH & BONE

Director: Ashley Rodbro

Music: The Robot Song by Joe Iconis

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

THE GREAT DIVIDE

Director: Paul Trillo

Music: The Shins

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

GREYHOUND

Director: Aidan Cheeatow

Music: Greenhouse

Country: Canada, Running Time: 4 min

 

GUN

Director: Nave Pinhas

Music: Lyri

Country: Israel, Running Time: 5 min

 

INSUFFERABLE

Director: Casey Wieber

Music: Heart to Heart

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

I AM SAMANTHA

Director: T Cooper

Music: Benjamin Scheuer

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

I DON’T NEED ANOTHER

Directors: Justin Lacy, J. Noel Sullivan

Music: Justin Lacy

Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

 

THE LIGHT

Directors: Guillaume Heulard, Benoît Aubert

Music: L’An2000

Country: France, Running Time: 6 min

 

LOS BRAVOS

Director: Jonathan Shepard

Music: LPT

Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

 

 PARACHUTE

Director: Taisia Deeva

Music: Paul Kalkbrenner

Country: Germany, Running Time: 4 min

 

RED WATCH

Director: David Kennedy

Music/Spoken Word: Kyla Kennedy

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

TV

Director: rubberband.

Music: Lewis del Mar

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

WE CAN’T BREATHE

Directors: Miranda Winters, Rocky Romano

Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min

 

THE WRONG LOVE

Director: Francesco Faralli

Music: Giacomo Rossetti

Country: Italy, Running Time: 4 min

 

YOU BRING CHAOS

Director: Oliver Blair

Music: Lowrie

Country: UK, Running Time: 4 min

 

 FILMMAKERS OF TOMORROW SHOWCASE

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

MOBILE FOLKTALES

Directors: Beichen Elementary School Film and Animation Creation Club

Country: Taiwan, Running Time: 10 min

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL

SYSTEM ERROR – ANIMATED

Director: Piotr Kazmierczak

Country: Poland, Running Time: 4 min

 

HIGH SCHOOL

ASCETIC

Director: Gopal Bala

Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

 

AMPLITUDE OF THOUGHTS

Director: Phoebe Mitchem

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

BRAIN DEAD

Director: Ian Hammons

Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

 

DISMAL AND HIMSELF

Director: Zach Larche

Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

 

HOLOGRAPHIC DREAMS

Director: Satvik Shankar

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

I WISH MY EDUCATION TAUGHT ME

Directors: Bay Cat Academy

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

KALAOPSIA

Director: Sage Somma

Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

 

LA REVERIE

Director: Ian McKay

Country: USA, Running Time: 2 min

 

LAST STOP

Director: Jacob Pincus

Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min

 

MUSIC FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

Director: Emmanuel Li

Country: UK, Running Time: 6 min

 

OFFISH

Director: Emma Nebeker

Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

 

ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT

Director: James Brammer

Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

 

SMILE, YOU’RE ON CAMERA

Director: Nat DiCicco

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

STRONGER THAN STEEL

Director: Jacob Pincus

Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

 

WE ARE THE REVOLUTION

Director: Akash Dewan

Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

 

*Featured photo: Larry Gleeson by J. Kevin O’Connor

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.

Sundance 2021 Top 10 Picks (So Many Films, So Little Time…)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

With the shortened Sundance 2021 Sundance Film Festival just around the corner (January 28th – February 3rd), I became aware of a thought, “With all the spectacular screenings this year, I’m going to share some of my top picks for an excellent festival experience and  to help in discovering adventure.” Tickets on sale here.

 

Sundance Welcome

In my experience, the one event that really sets the tone for the festival is the Opening Night Welcome. On Thursday, January 28, 2021, at 4 P.M., audiences all over the world are invited to come together and kick off the reimagined 2021 Sundance Film Festival and to fête the extraordinary artists who make up this year’s festival. During the event, you can expect to hear from Sundance Festival director, Tabitha Jackson, and see many of the faces from the Sundance Festival family. Even though we cannot physically gather with one another, the opportunity to celebrate Utah—the Sundance spiritual home—and experience a unique Sundance Film Festival journey rooted in discovery and adventure remains. Let us begin.

 

Summer of Soul

In 2017, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Melissa Haizlip’s documentary feature, Mr. Soul!,  at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture as part of the American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS. Mr. Soul! showcased extraordinary performances of a plethora of African American artists. In a similar vein, the transporting Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s documentary Summer of Soul (Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), an exploration of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of summer concerts radiating a wholesale reevaluating Black History, culture, fashion and music, taking place a mere 100 miles from the much more heralded Woodstock that was held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, is premiering at 7 P.M. on January 28th.

 

Night of the Kings

Phillip Lecote’s Night of Kings weaves a tale of epic proportions around a young man who is sent to La Maca, a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named Zama King and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn. Well-choreographed, interpretive song and dance routines sets the viewing experience apart. Night of Kings is receiving high praise after its world premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

 

Wild Indian

In Wild Indian writer/director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Shinaab and Shinaab, Part II, 2017 and 2019 Sundance Film Festivals) tells a story that spans centuries and the continent in a film destined to be a touchstone in Indigenous cinema. Leading an impressive cast, Michael Greyeyes delivers a gripping, enigmatic performance as a modern Native American man who has done terrible, unforgivable things. Decades after covering up his classmate’s murder, Michael (Michael Greyeyes) has moved on from his reservation and fractured past. When a man who shares his violent secret seeks vengeance, Michael goes to great lengths to protect his new life. With a strong and compelling visual style that evokes both fascination and dread, Wild Indian considers the cost of survival in a world as cruel as our own.

 

Passing

Rebecca Hall’s Passing, adapted from Nella Larsen’s acclaimed 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel, Hall is sure to provide some much-needed experiential insight into the pursuit of happiness and authenticity by those navigating the grinding tensions of American racism. Starring Tessa Thompson (Sylvie’s Love) and Ruth Negga (Loving), Passing is sure to seep into the viewer’s psyche in questioning basic belief systems as these two women who can “pass” as white live their lives on opposites sides of the color line. Repression, obsession, and the lies people tell to protect their carefully constructed realities underscore Hall’s debut psychological thriller in this must-see feature attraction.

 

One For The Road

An unexpected delight from one of my earliest festival experiences was Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Thailand films are emerging with industry support from the Royal family and I anticipate Director Baz Poonpiriya’s One For the Road, produced by extemporaneous filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, will delight sensibilities in a similar fashion as Boss, a bar owner in New York City, receives a phone call from a sick friend, Aood. Boss returns to Thailand and takes on an amazing journey with Aood, driving from the north of Thailand to the south, looking to bring closure with people from his past. As the secrets from their past are revealed, they are ultimately offered an opportunity for redemption.

 

In the NEXT category, New Orleanian Marion Hill promises to deliver a respite from the COVID blues complete with an acoustic guitar soundtrack with Ma Belle Ma Beauty,  an interracial, polyamorous, relationship-driven dive into the complexities of sexual fluidity and triangulation. Newlywed musicians Bertie and Fred are adjusting to their new life in the beautiful countryside of France. It’s an easy transition for Fred, the son of French and Spanish parents, but New Orleans native Bertie grapples with a nagging depression that is affecting her singing. Lane—the quirky ex who disappeared from their three-way relationship years ago—suddenly shows up for a surprise visit, bringing new energy and baggage of her own. Ma Belle, My Beauty turns into a breezy and meaningful journey through wine-drenched candlelit dinners, firelit vineyard parties, farmers’ markets, and sunny hikes alongside the creek, as Fred, Bertie, and Lane grapple with how to get what they want inside the soup of their desires, passions, and life ambitions. Yum.

 

R#J

From Director Carey Williams, Hailed by Filmmaker Magazine as one of 2018’s New Faces of Independent Film, emanates R#J, a modern-day retelling of the Shakespearan Romeo & Juliet. In fair Verona, a war as old as time is brewing between the rival Houses of Capulet and Montague—but it’s being captured in a new way. Montague and Capulet Gen Zers are using their cell phones to document the eruptions of violence plaguing their communities. Utilizing black and brown bodies and told through text messages and smartphone screens in the social media language of GIF’s, the sharing of Spotify playlists, and Instagram accounts, a plea for peace and a way to escape their star-crossed destiny unfold.

 

Philly D.A.

The docuseries, Philly D.A., spotlights a civil rights attorney, Larry Krasner, and his ascent to become the District Attorney in Philadelphia, while repeatedly calling out discrimination and corruption in America’s most incarcerating major city. In June 2018, Krasner made an unprecedented request for a comprehensive list of police officers who had lied while on duty, used excessive force, racially profiled, or violated civil rights, an unprecedented move in order to spotlight dishonest police officers and check their future courtroom testimony. Directors Ted Passon and Yoni Brook vigorously bring to life the people impacted and incensed by the failings of the system as well as those fighting to maintain the system’s status quo in the first two episodes of this riveting “forthcoming” docuseries.

 

All Light, Everywhere

Using the rise of police body cameras as a point of departure, director Theo Anthony creates a kaleidoscopic portrait of our shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing, and justice in All Light, Everywhere as he explores the personal and philosophical relationships between cameras and weaponry. Moving from the 19th century, where the nascent art of photography went hand in hand with colonial projects and the development of automatic weapons, to the headquarters of Axon, a company with a near-monopoly on body cameras in the United States, Anthony charts a long view of the relationship between photography and violence. Anthony roots his inquiry in Baltimore, a city that has long been a testing ground for new policing technologies.