MEET THE PRESS FILM FESTIVAL WITH AFI REVEALS 2018 FILM SLATE

Posted by Larry Gleeson

PRESSING ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED AHEAD OF MIDTERMS

23 Short Films Spotlight Eight Issues Affecting Voters

Second-Annual Festival Will Be Held October 7-8 in Washington, D.C.

NBC News Anchors and Correspondents to Introduce Films and Moderate Discussions

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 – The Meet the Press Film Festival in Collaboration with the American Film Institute (AFI) hits the big screen this fall for the second year, featuring nearly two dozen films spotlighting critical issues ahead of the midterm elections. This year’s festival will be held in Washington, D.C., October 7-8, headquartered at the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, and will feature 23 short-length documentaries from HBO, Netflix, The New York Times and filmmakers from across the country.

The selected 2018 films, three of which are making their world premieres, will focus on issues affecting millions of Americans as they prepare to cast their ballots in November, such as immigration, voting rights and gun control. Each screening will include a Q&A with the filmmaker, moderated by NBC News correspondents and anchors, including Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Craig Melvin, Jacob Soboroff, Hallie Jackson, Kasie Hunt, Kristen Welker and Harry Smith.

Meet the Press, the number-one most-watched Sunday show and the longest-running program in television history, announced its collaboration with AFI in August 2017, marking a dramatic brand expansion extending beyond the news-making television platform. During its inaugural year, the festival showcased 16 short documentaries exploring wide-ranging issues. Three of the films were nominated for Academy Awards.

See below for descriptions of the 2018 films. Tickets to the festival are on sale now and available here. Select films will be available, beginning October 8, for a month-long showcase on NBC News Digital platforms and apps, including AppleTV, Roku and Amazon Fire, as well as other on-demand services such as Hulu, AOL and Comcast X1.

Surviving After Service
Veterans and Service, moderated by Chuck Todd

  • “We Are Not Done Yet”: The creative journey of ten U.S. veterans of varied backgrounds that come together in hopes of battling their traumatic military histories through the art of the written word. Grappling with PTSD, the “warrior poets” share fears, vulnerabilities and victories that eventually culminate into a live performance of a collaborative poem under the direction of actor Jeffrey Wright. Directed by: Sareen Hairabedian.

On the Ballot
2018 Midterm Issues, moderated by Andrea Mitchell

  • “Camperforce”: For the past ten years, Amazon has recruited workers for Camperforce, a labor unit made up of RVers who serve as seasonal warehouse employees. Directed by Brett Story.
  • “The Blue Line”: When is a line of paint on the street worth screaming at your neighbor about? Filmmaker Samantha Knowles focuses on a small town that erupts into controversy when a blue line is painted in support of police on a street in the town center. The film is a parable of political division in contemporary America and all the dismay that comes with it — but also an example of how communities can find common ground. Directed by: Samantha Knowles.
  • “The Girl Who Cannot Speak”: Edited by Emmy Award winner Krysia Carter-Giez, the documentary explores five women’s true stories of sexual abuse. It tells the story of women from different countries, ages and walks of life. One victim, Charlotte, a 15-year old girl, embodies a thread to each woman’s story. Directed by: Stefano Da Fre, Laura Pellegrini.

The Land I Love
Climate, Home and Tradition, moderated by Hallie Jackson

  • “Alaska DGAF”: On July 4, 2017, North Korea tested a long-range missile that, for the first time, would be powerful enough to reach the United States — specifically, the great state of Alaska. And instead of the doomsday preparations you might expect from a place threatened by nuclear annihilation, Alaskans collectively…shrugged. Directed by: David Freid.
  • “Home Beyond the Water”: The community of Isles de Jean Charles, Louisiana, is fighting to survive as its land sinks into the encroaching waters. Now, winning the first-of-its-kind, multi-million-dollar grant for a climate resilience project may help it survive, and its community relocation may provide a template for the future. Directed by: Nicky Milne.
  • “Climate and the Cross”: America’s evangelicals have traditionally been the bedrock of conservative politics, including on climate change. But a loud debate is happening across the country, with some evangelical Christians protesting in the name of protecting the Earth, seeing it as a duty to be done in God’s name. With stories from across the country showing the conflict between generations, races and classes, could it be a surprising section of Christian America that might show hope for the country’s attitude to climate change? Directed by: Chloe White.

My Democracy
Voting Rights and Civic Associations, moderated by Craig Melvin

  • “Let My People Vote”: Filmed in Tampa during the 2016 presidential election, this vérité short covers a day in the life of civil rights activist and former felon Desmond Meade. What begins as an upbeat day of faith in our democratic process ends in a heartbreaking realization for Desmond: Jim Crow is not dead. Directed by: Gilda Brasch.
  • “Public Money”: Since 2012, the New York City Council has steadily increased investment in a process called “Participatory Budgeting,” wherein community members gain a role in deciding how to spend part of a public budget. Through an eight-month process, neighbors come together and work with the government to propose, debate and ultimately vote on budget decisions that affect their lives. Directed by: Jay Arthur Sterrenberg.
  • “Voting Matters”: More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most extensive pieces of civil rights legislation, people of color across the United States are still engaged in a battle to protect their right to vote. “Voting Matters” follows one dynamic woman working tirelessly on the ground and in the courts to ensure that they are not denied this right. Directed by: Dawn Porter.

Active Shooters
Gun Debate Takes Its Next Step, moderated by Kasie Hunt

  • “G Is for Gun”: Since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, schools in at least 13 states have started arming teachers as a security measure. How did this happen, and what does it mean for American education? “G is for Gun” follows the story of teachers being trained to carry firearms, and a small city in western Ohio divided by bringing arms into its schools. Directed by: Kate Way, Julie Akeret.
  • “Guns Found Here”: When there’s a gun crime in America, there’s only one place to go to trace the gun back to its owner: Martinsburg, West Virginia. That’s where the ATF’s National Tracing Center handles roughly 8,000 active traces per day — all while inside a government-mandated technology time capsule that makes searching a database of gun owners impossible. With more gun stores in the U.S.A. than McDonald’s, Starbucks and supermarkets combined, there’s a lot of paperwork to manually sort through. It’s truly a sight to behold. Directed by: David Freid.
  • “No Sanctuary”: Explores human nature and behavior through the personal lens of those who have been affected by America’s indifference to gun violence. Directed by: Nathan Knox.

Do We Belong?
Religion and Xenophobia, moderated by Kristen Welker

  • “Do We Belong?”: An Indian immigrant in Kansas is shot and killed in a senseless hate crime, leaving his wife to grapple with the question of whether America is truly her home. Directed by: Sofian Khan.
  • “Graven Image”: Using archival footage, director Sierra Pettengill explores the history of Georgia’s Confederate Memorial Carving, the largest Confederate monument in the United States, and the memorial’s close ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Directed by: Sierra Pettengill.
  • “The Hidden Vote”: In America’s largest Arab-American population in Dearborn, Michigan, an unprecedented number of Arab-Americans are running for city council during Trump’s first year in office. Nada is a 26-year-old Palestinian-American liberal, and Mike is a 23-year-old Lebanese-American conservative and Trump supporter. Both are Muslim, and for very different reasons, both were inspired to enter into politics after Trump’s presidential win. We follow Mike and Nada’s campaigns as they work their way toward Election Day, and explore how their life experiences have shaped their political beliefs. Directed by: Adithya Sambamurthy, Ben Rekhi.
  • “Loyalty: Stories”: A national storytelling project about American Muslim veterans that explores themes of citizenship, identity and faith in the post-9/11 era. Through ten documentary-style short films, “Loyalty: Stories,” which is making its world premiere, profiles a diverse group of men and women — immigrants, converts and American-born Muslims who gave an oath to protect the United States and uphold the Constitution. Directed by: David Washburn.

E Pluribus and Unum
Coming to America, moderated by Jacob Soboroff

  • “Out of Many, One”: A Netflix original documentary short, “Out of Many, One,” which is making its world premiere, is a film about how one museum is using art, artifacts and historical documents to help green-card holders prepare for the Naturalization Test and, in turn, become U.S. citizens. Directed by: Emmy Award winners John Hoffman and Nanfu Wang.
  • “Deporting Myself”: “Deporting Myself” is a documentary about Zsuzsanna, an undocumented New York housekeeper who has been living and working in the U.S illegally for almost 20 years. Ever since the election of President Trump, who’s made a promise to the American people to crack down and deport undocumented immigrants, Zsuzsanna has been living in fear. The constant worry of eventually being found out, captured and deported by ICE is one of the many reasons she decides to leave on her own terms. This film highlights Zsuzsanna’s final 72 hours in a place she once called home. Directed by: Julia Neumann.
  • “Libre”: A private company purports to help people held in immigration custody secure bail. In exchange for this service, its clients are forced to wear ankle monitors until their debts are paid. See how two New Yorkers’ daily lives are affected by this practice. Directed by: Anna Barsan.

Making it Work
Poverty and Rebuilding, moderated by Harry Smith

  • “Pa’Lante”: This film tells the brave personal stories of local Puerto Ricans five months after they were impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and showcases an Apprentice Program led by volunteers who teach carpentry to locals while rebuilding roofs on the island. Directed by: Ramón Rodríguez.
  • “Insecure”: An undocumented family struggling to make ends meet takes matters into their own hands in order to create their own American Dream. World premiere. Directed by: Cayman Grant.
  • “The Children of Central City”: “The Children of Central City” provides an in-depth look into the players, coaches and families surrounding the A.L. Davis Park Panthers youth football program in one of New Orleans’ most crime-riddled neighborhoods. The film showcases how attempts to treat the children’s post-traumatic stress are repeatedly thwarted by state budget cuts to mental healthcare. Directed by: Mark Lorando, Emma Scott.

More to follow!

NBC NEWS’ 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 across the board for the 2017-2018 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 5 p.m. ET and to the 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast. It’s the longest-running show in television history, expanding its brand to include a political 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.

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE

The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI’s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director. Visit AFI.com and connect with AFI on Twitter.com/AmericanFilm, Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

(Source: Press release provided by NBCUniversal)

Film Capsule: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 10.29.43 AMThe Spy Who Dumped Me from Director Susanna Fogel is a summer-time female action film, written by a female, directed by a female and stars females. Seemingly, Director Fogel tries a little too hard to show that women can make films like men with gratuitous violence, sexual innuendos within a buddy-buddy formula. The buddy-buddy is a fem-fem, won’t you be my bestie?  Spoiler alert: the answer is yes. Moving beyond the psycho-cerebral, analytical perspective, The Spy Who Dumped Me is a fun film, showcasing the acting chops of Hollywood A-lister, Mila Kunis and, to a lesser extent, Kate McKinnon from Saturday Night Live. The film has strong production values, some heady costuming and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to match the overabundance of gratuitous violence. I call this strategy the kitchen sink approach – throw as many gags and barbs as possible at the audience and some will resonate with a certain demographic and some will resonate with another audience subset. It worked for Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles and, truthfully, it works for Fogel in The Spy Who Dumped Me.

Fogel makes some interesting directorial choices as she is going head-to-head with a summer blockbuster in Mission Impossible: Fallout. And, she succeeds. Although, The Spy Who Dumped Me is not a great film, it is highly entertaining and a fairly, well-designed comedy. Fogel cashes in with some snappy dialogue and by utilizing some well-chosen film locations in Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam and Vienna, Austria along with some slick camera work from Tyler Allison and top-notch special effects from Tatjana Bozinovski. And, the chemistry between McKinnon’s character, Morgan, an out-of-work actress and Kunis’ Audrey, a cashier at a local grocery store, is believable and is the prime driver of the film. Justin Theroux provides solid acting support as Drew, the spy who dumps, Kunis’ character, Audrey. The second male supporting actor, Dustin Demry-Burns, delivers a very strong performance as Victor, another spy engaging in international espionage.

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What The Spy Who Dumped Me lacks in substance it makes it up with style as it ferociously sticks to its charming female version of the proven, summertime buddy-buddy, winning, box office formula. So, if you’re looking for some light-hearted fun, can stomach some heavy-duty gratuitous violence and some emotionally moving moments between two gal pals then The Spy Who Dumped Me is the film for you. Warmly recommended.

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Santa Barbara Film Festival Offers 25% Early-Bird Pass Discount! Offer Expires August 31st

Posted by Larry Gleeson
The 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival has discounted passes and packages available for its 2019 festival slated to run January 30th, through February 9th, 2019. Now is the time to make plans and an excellent time to buy! There is something for every film goer. Last year all five Oscar-nominated directors were on stage at the historic  Arlington Theatre.
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All five 2018 Oscar nominated directors were honored, February 6th, 2018, during the 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Outstanding Director Tribute, at the historic Arlington Thetare. The evening was moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. Pictured left to right: Moderator, Scott Feinberg; Jordan Peele (GET OUT!), Greta Gerwig (LADYBIRD), Paul Thomas Anderson (PHANTOM THREAD), Christopher Nolan (DUNKIRK), and Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER). (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)
Undoubtedly, he best way to enjoy the SBIFF is with a Pass. so DO NOT miss your chance to get them 25% OFF! Pricing and benefits are listed below.

CONCIERGE PASS ~ $5,000 (no discount)

Admits one (1) Passholder with priority admission and RESERVED seating to:
• All Film Screenings
• Opening Night Film & Gala
• Closing Night Film & Party
• All Panel Discussions
• All Tribute Events
• Festival Pavilion (daily Happy Hours and Post-Tribute Parties)
• Club 85 (Pre-Tribute Receptions)
• All Private VIP after parties
• Personal concierge service
• Gifting from Festival sponsors
• Easy access parking
• Pass is NON-TRANSFERABLE
• A portion of this purchase may be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law

PURCHASE HERE


PLATINUM PASS ~ $1,700
DISCOUNTED TO $1,275Admits one (1) Passholder with priority admission to:
• All Film Screenings
• Opening Night Film & Gala
• Closing Night Film & Party
• All Panel Discussions
• All Tribute Events
• Platinum Passholder Bag (while supplies last)
• Festival Pavilion (daily Happy Hours and Post-Tribute Parties)


CINEMA PASS ~ $650
DISCOUNTED TO $488Admits one (1) Passholder with priority admission after Platinum Passes to:
• All Film Screenings
• Opening Night Film & Gala
• Closing Night Film
• Festival Pavilion up to 3:30pm
• NOT VALID for any Tributes, Panels, Closing Night Party, or Festival Pavilion after 3:30pm


STATE STREET PASS ~ $350 ***SOLD OUT!
DISCOUNTED TO $263Admits one (1) Passholder with priority admission after Cinema Passes to:
• All Film Screenings BEFORE 4:01pm and AFTER 7:59pm
• Opening Night Film
• Closing Night Film
• Festival Pavilion up to 3:30pm
• NOT VALID for any Tributes, Panels, Opening Night Gala, Closing Night Party, Festival Pavilion after 3:30pm, or any screening between 4:01pm and 7:59pm


TRIBUTE PACKAGE ~ $670
DISCOUNTED TO $503• 2 general admission tickets to each Celebrity Tribute Event
• 2 general admission tickets to Opening Night Film + Gala
• 2 general admission tickets to Closing Night Film
• 2 – 4 Film MiniPak (8 film admissions)


FILM GEEK PACKAGE ~ $560
DISCOUNTED TO $420• 2 general admission tickets to each Panel Event
• 2 general admission tickets to Opening Night Film + Gala
• 2 general admission tickets to Closing Night Film
• 2 – 4 Film MiniPak (8 film admissions)


INTRO PACKAGE ~ $325
DISCOUNTED TO $244• 2 general admission tickets to Opening Night Film + Gala
• 2 general admission tickets to Closing Night Film
• 2 – 4 Film MiniPak (8 film admissions)

PURCHASE HERE

See you at the movies!

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The Out of the Ashes Producing Team. Pictured from left to right; Habib Habibi, Rose Ettleson, Kevin Willefert, Hallie Brown and Zac Main on the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Closing Night Red Carpet, February 10th, 2018 at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

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AFI DOCS Film Review: Under the Wire (Martin, 2018): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 12.54.35 PMUnder The Wire tells the story of a daring entry on 13 February 2012, into war-ravaged Syria by two journalists. One of them was celebrated Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin. The other was photographer, Paul Conroy. Their aim was to cover the plight of Syrian civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army and report on the untold suffering of women and children who were the kept secret of Assad regime’s assault on dissenters. Under the cloak of combating terrorism, the regime was effectively silencing the call for democracy…

The film opens with footage Conroy at one of his darkest moments in Baba Amr, a city-district in southwest Homs, in central Syria. Much of the opening sequence gives a feel of an expose. However, that soon gives way to a non-linear narrative that juxtaposes, at first Conroy, and later fellow journalists, recollections of those two and a half weeks they spent together attempting to tell the world what was happening to the women and children in Baba Amr. At the center of the story is their martyr, Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent, regarded as one of, if not the finest, combat journalist of her generation. Colvin came to fame through her reporting in East Timor in 1999. Without Marie’s reporting the UN said the people of East Timor would have perished.

In 2012, despite the exodus of virtually every Western journalist, Colvin, felt compelled to tell the world what was really happening in Syrian towns, especially the 28,000 civilians who were in Baba Amr. So much so, Colvin risked her life until finally paying the ultimate price when a precision bombing attack successfully neutralized its target, what was known in Baba Amr as the media center which in reality was a concrete “shithole” room on the 6th floor of an evacuated building.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and the world looked on helplessly as the Assad regime continued its daily bombing assault beginning first at 7:00 A.M. and later moved up to 6:30 A.M. According to French journalist, Edith Bouvier, who suffered a serious and potentially life-threatening leg injury when the targeted bomb hit the “media center” – as many as fifteen shells would hit in the first thirty seconds of the precision bombing.

Eventually, the wounded, surviving journalists would make a last-minute escape. Having been told a Red Cross ambulance would be coming to take her and her co-journalists  to safety during the first-ever cease fire, the journalists were warned by a man from the Red Crescent not to get in the vans waiting outside. Following his heeding the group refused to leave. Soon after, a group of rebels shepherded the correspondents to safety only asking that the journalist tell the world what was really happening in Baba Amr.

Under the Wire is a story of international fear and apathetic response from the global community. Despite numerous videos surfacing from Colvin and what many describe as a miracle worker, Dr, Mohammad Mohammad, pleading for the international community to halt the slaughter of innocent civilians whose only crime was a want for a more democratic way of life, nothing happened. Conroy’s life was saved. His mission has been to tell the world what happened in Syria. Utilizing archival news reports from the BBC and CNN (with Anderson Cooper), personal footage and photos from his times with Colvin, Conroy has set out to tell the world what happened.

Under the Wire is the story of Marie Colvin’s passionate commitment to tell the world the story of the women and children in Baba Amr and their shared experience of the “widow’s basement,” an underground shelter for women and children crammed with thin mattresses, little food and without basic medical assistance. This is not an easy film to watch. Part expose’ part action/adventure while booming sound, partial profile shots, fuzzy footage, along with some shaky, point-of-view, hand-held shots create tension and unease. Nevertheless, this is a story that needed to be told and now it needs an audience. The world needs to know the truth of what really happened. Highly recommended.

 

 

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival Announces 2019 Dates

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) will return for the 34th edition January 30 – February 9, 2019. Official festival screenings and related events will be held throughout Santa Barbara, including the Arlington and Lobero Theatres.

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SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

“It’s extraordinary and a cause for celebration that SBIFF is heading into its 34th edition. We love that after this past difficult year, Santa Barbara is anxiously ready to welcome once again more world-class filmmakers – and putting together our popular and insightful panels and tributes. Join us.” – SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

Last year’s Tribute Honors were bestowed upon artists including Allison Janney, Margot Robbie, Jordan Peele, Guillermo Del Toro, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Rockwell, and Timothée Chalamet. The festival’s acclaimed Panel Series will return highlighting the year’s most accomplished producers, writers, and women in the entertainment industry.

SBIFF passes are offered at 25% off beginning August 1. For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org.

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 30 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community through free programs like its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, National Film Studies Program, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a $5 million dollar 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.

 

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*Featured photo: Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) Executive Director, Roger Durling, right, and SBIFF Board President, Lynda Weinman, speaks to television field reporter, Alys Martinez, left, at the SBIFF Closing Night red carpet, as SBIFF Board President, Lynda Weinman, looks on, February 10th, 2018, at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

(Source: sbiff.org press release)

 

Mr. Soul! AFI DOCS 2018 Audience Award Winner for Best Feature, Earthrise wins Best Short

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES
AFI DOCS 2018 AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS
Best Feature Goes to MR. SOUL!
Best Short Goes to EARTHRISE

Chaz Ebert, Steve James, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple
and More Celebrate Documentary Film at the 16th Edition of AFI DOCS

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Larry Gleeson, left, of HollywoodGlee hams it up with Chaz Ebert after the screening of Mr. Soul! at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Oprah Winfrey Theatre during the 2018 American Film Institute’s 2018 AFI DOCS. Mr. Soul! received the Audience Award for Best Feature. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — JUNE 19, 2018, WASHINGTON, DCThe American Film Institute has announced the AFI DOCS 2018 Audience Award winners, concluding the five-day festival supported by Presenting Sponsor AT&T in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. This year’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to MR. SOUL!, directed by Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard. This year’s Audience Award for Best Short went to EARTHRISE, directed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.

With 92 films from 22 countries, this year’s AFI DOCS presented films and discussions on topics ranging from the environment and sports to politics and art, along with profiles of extraordinary individuals. Among the attendees were filmmakers and notables including House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Congressman Donald Beyer (VA), U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain Fr. Patrick J. Conroy S.J., Chaz Ebert, Steve James (AFI DOCS 2018 Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree), Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, photographer Joel-Peter Witkin and poet Nikki Giovanni.

This year’s festival included a number of panels featuring engaging discussions between filmmakers, film subjects and audience members — with conversation and examination of issues led by some of the nation’s top journalists: Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips; NBC News’ Tom Costello, Ken Dilanian and Anne Thompson, and “Meet the Press” moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; Variety’s Senior Editor Ted Johnson; and The Washington Post’s reporter Nicole Ellis, Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Foreign Affairs reporter Ishaan Tharoor and National reporter Vanessa Williams.

The AFI DOCS Forum and VR Showcase explored unique topics with keynote presentations, conversations, panel discussions, VR demonstrations and micro-meetings. Programming for the Forum and VR Showcase was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

The fourth edition of the AFI DOCS Impact Lab provided participating filmmakers with professional development in preparation for advancing their causes and meetings with policy leaders and advocates.

Ten films with AFI Conservatory alumni credits were included in this year’s festival: ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW; BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY; DARK MONEY; HAL; HESBURGH; INVENTING TOMORROW; LOVE, GILDA; MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A.; ON HER SHOULDERS; and PICK OF THE LITTER.

MORE ABOUT THE AUDIENCE AWARD-WINNING FILMS:

MR. SOUL!
An in-depth look at the late 1960s WNET public television series SOUL! and its producer Ellis Haizlip. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African-Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement.

EARTHRISE
In 1968, the first image of Earth was captured from space. The world would never be the same.

AT&T is the Presenting Sponsor of AFI DOCS 2018. Official Sponsors include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and VIZIO. Screen Sponsors are Audi, Discovery Communications, HBO, Netflix and Showtime Documentary Films. Official Media Sponsors include Deadline, Here TV, “Meet the Press,” Screen International, Variety, Washington City Paper and WHUT-TV. The DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; IMDbPro; and Maryland Film Office returned this year as Major Sponsors, joined by CuriosityStream and 202Creates. The Contributing Sponsor is International Documentary Association. This year’s Supporting Sponsors are Downtown Silver Spring and the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. Cultural and Community Sponsors are the Danish Film Institute, DC Filmmakers, Docs in Progress, Embassy of Australia, TIVA-DC, Producers Guild of America, The Video Consortium and Women in Film & Video.

About AFI DOCS
AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival 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, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 16th year, the festival took place June 13–17, 2018, at distinguished Washington, DC, venues, the Landmark E Street Cinema and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Visit AFI.com/AFIDOCS and connect on twitter.com/AFIDOCS, facebook.com/AFIDOCS, youtube.com/AFI and instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About the American Film Institute
The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI’s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director.

About AT&T
AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 AFI DOCS. We help people connect in ways that improve lives – every day. Through DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and AT&T U-verse, we deliver the kind of entertainment people love to talk about. And you can watch almost anytime, anywhere. For 10 years, we’ve supported AFI’s commitment to honor the heritage of film and the artists who make them. And through a variety of programs, we’re focused on giving amateur and underrepresented filmmakers the support they need to succeed.

*Featured photo: Mr. Soul panel (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

AFI DOCS

(Source: AFI Press Release)

AFI DOCS 2018 Film Review: Dark Money

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS, Director Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons, Paul Goodman Changed My Life), weaves and bobs through a heavyweight political fight with Dark Money.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.41.15 PMDark Money opens with a gaggle of geese and a news report stating the number of dead geese is higher than thought followed by some interesting aerial shots of a large swath of strip-mined land. With some montage editing, the mise-en-scene changed to black and white with an assortment of old mining photos, including the Anaconda Copper Company operations what seems to be a familiar voice-over (I thought it was Jesse Ventura – I was wrong).

To me, the opening seemed a little choppy as the next sequence revealed a farmer lamenting some malfunctioning plow implement – only the farmer turned out to be a U.S. Senator, Jon Tester, from the state of Montana. Well, that got my attention. His description of the way he carries out his vocation sounded as though he were the legendary Roman statesman, Cincinnatus. This was not a very flattering portrait of Senator Tester. Fortunately, Senator Tester, like the film, looked and got better as the film progressed.

Reed lays down some nice background material with archival photos and overlays before getting into the essence of Dark Money. Several Montana state officeholders hold ordinary jobs and share their advocacy for political engagement. Another political candidate laments his inability to respond to a series of political ads that flooded mailboxes and media three days before the election linking the candidate to John Wayne Gacy, an American serial killer and rapist. The ads were run by Mothers Against Child Predators and ran in a predominantly Catholic area. Upon inquiry, no one could determine who Mothers Against Child Predators were. After extensive investigation, it was determined that two women sent out the ads as part of a political process to gain access to seats in state government offices and the state judiciary.

I noticed a nice non-diagetic score mimicking a racing heart as a narrative voice-over from Ann Ravel, a Federal Election Commissioner, who uncovered how groups like Mothers Against Predators operate while hiding where their money comes from. Reed moves the setting from rural Montana to the nation’s Capital. Seemingly, Reed is alluding to the real seat of power and then juxtaposes the Capital with a little house with a sign that reads “Commissioner of Political Practices.”

Interestingly, Montana presently has a Citizen Legislature after a corrupt political past primarily associated with the Anaconda Mine. The Anaconda Mine site is one of the largest Super Fund cleanup sites in the world. According to a diagetic docent the Anaconda financed the Industrial Revolution. Yet, the trade off is that it is home to the greatest potential disaster threatening the Northwest as the toxic waste water sitting at the head of the Columbia River is so acidic that a gaggle of geese who lost their way and settled onto the Anaconda pit perished.

In 1912, Montana passed Corrupt Practices Act. This law was held in place until the United Citizens decision by the United States Supreme Court allowed dark money into elections. Proponents celebrated the decision as a win for free speech.

Later, Reed supplies footage of a Russian-style town hall meeting called by American Tradition Partnership.The goal is to get rid of all disclosure, all regulation and all truth-in-advertising mandates so corporations can dictate policy and influence government by manipulating the voting populace just as the Anaconda Mining Company had done a century earlier.

Thanks to a laid off investigative reporter, John Adams, who lost his job when the state news bureau was disbanded, corruption is uncovered in a series of American Tradition Partnership emails with evidence of illegal direct mailings. A trial is held pinning a state legislature with violations of the Montana Disclose Act. He is fined. And, much like the Trump Administration Cabinet appointees, he claimed during the hearing he didn’t know anything about the  coordinated in-kind contributions he received from dark money groups.

Fortunately, Reed doesn’t stop here. A link is made between the inaction of the Federal Elections Commission and its failure to require foreign government political contributions to be reported. Also, Reed  slips in a call to action in the form of followthemoney.org.

Dark Money is an interesting film as it delves into what dark money is, how it can affect political campaigns and how foreign governments are using it to influence the outcome of electoral processes – until ultimately controlling the United States Supreme Court. Highly recommended.

 

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