Advocate

Posted by Larry Gleeson

In the blistering new documentary premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Advocate, Israeli attorney, Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed militants. Politically and socially engaged filmmakers Rachel Lea Jones and Philippe Bellaïche assemble a comprehensive look into Tsemel’s life work beginning with Tsemel as a firebrand law student who, after the 1967 war, fearlessly distributes flyers on campus warning her fellow Israelis to end the occupation or risk a vicious cycle of violence. In Advocate, Tsemel speaks truth to power before the term became popular and for all intents and purposes will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. She’s spent a lifetime going against the grain of Israeli society, and is as much a product of it as she is an exception to it.

Utilizing archival footage, newsreels, still photographs and primary interviews panning twenty-five years, Jones and Bellaïche bring us into the present as they follows Tsemel’s caseload in real time, including the high-profile trial of a 13-year-old boy — her youngest client to date — while also revisiting her landmark cases and reflecting on the political significance of her work and the personal price one pays for taking on the role of “devil’s advocate.” One thing is still eminently clear – interrogators still infuriate her, prosecutors still madden her, judges still frustrate her, verdicts still disappoint her — and clients still break her heart.

Directing duo Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche have assumed the privileged position of a fly on the wall of Tsemel’s practice, where a year of documenting is like gathering a lifetime of evidence as the two push to bring to light and preserve a mush-needed model of advocacy that balances justice and the system responsible for its administration. This evidentiary mission is a powerful testament to not only the wrongs of occupation but also to the faults of those who try to resist it, the failings of those who try to defend them, and the fundamental flaws of a legal system that purports to serve justice but in fact serves the powers that be.

As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for five decades, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. As far as most Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she’s more than an attorney, she’s an ally. to put it another way, she’s the little boy calling the Emperor naked, i.e. naming the system’s most fundamental fault – the occupier is judging the occupied – while at the same time she’s the boy with his finger in the dam, doing her utmost to uphold the rule-of-law before the flood of injustice drowns us all. Her rebellious spirit and radical zeal prompted one military court judge to say: “If Lea Tsemel didn’t exist, we’d have to invent her.”

Advocate is an extraordinary film, highly engaging and deeply moving. With a fast runtime of 110 minutes it is highly recommended and required viewing for any cinephile engaged in social justice. 

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Marianne, Marianne, Marianne!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love, the latest work from Brit documentary filmmaker, Nick Broomfield, is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. Broomfield delivers a well-organized and polished film with traditional documentary filmmaking techniques of utilizing voice-over-narration, still photographs with effects, archival footage and present day interviews. Furthermore, Broomfield manages to interview very interesting characters to say the least, all of whom sing the praises of Marianne and share some insightful observations on the semi-reclusive Cohen, most often associated with his best-selling work, Hallelujah that contains most of Cohen’s common themes of religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and romantic relationships. What emerges from Broomfield’s efforts is a well-researched and documented look into the deeply persoanal and spiritual relationship of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen.

Interestingly, Broomfield’s work Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014), introduced film goers to the Black Lives Matter Movement before it became a national movement. Broomfield was also the last person to speak to Ailenne Wuornos as he was making his Ailenne: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), the central character in Monster. Charlize Theron portrayed Wuornos and received an Oscar for her performance. Other prominent and well-known works from Broomfield include Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011), Battle for Haditha (2007), Kurt and Courtney (1998) Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) and Soldier Girls (1981).

Broomfield begins Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love to when and where the love of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Islen began – on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in 1960 as part of a bohemian community of foreign artists, writers and musicians. The film follows their relationship from the early days on Hydra, a humble time of ‘free love’ and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard became a successful musician. It was on Hydra in 1968 that director Nick Broomfield, then aged 20, first met Marianne Ihlen. Marianne introduced him to Leonard Cohen’s music and also encouraged Nick to make his first film and was an enormous influence on him.

Marianne and Leonard’s was a love story that would continue for the rest of their lives. Along the way, Broomfield brings to light the tragedy that befell those that could not survive the beauty of Hydra, the highs and lows of Cohen’s career, and the inspirational power that Marianne possessed. Marianne and Leonard died three months apart.

With Marianne & Leonard, Broomfield continues his already strong body of work with a more personal touch.

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Documentary Filmmaker, Nick Broomfield addresses the audience during a Q & A following the screening of his latest work, Leonard and Marianne: Words of Love at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 inside the MARC Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

In the Q & A following the film’s screening, Broomfield credits Marianne’s nurturing soul and gentle encouragement as the catalyst behind his advent into documentary filmmaking. Seemingly, Leonard and Marianne touched something deeply personal inside Broomfield. Following the Q & A I personally thanked Mr. Broomfield for his work and quickly inquired what his next project would be. Broomfield cooly replied he was doing something even more personal – a project about his father. Stay tuned as Broomfield is at the top of his game and I personally look forward to seeing more from this highly original and very authentic filmmaker. Warmly recommended.

 

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Posted by Larry Gleeson

David Crosby: Remember My Name, a revealing and deeply personal documentary produced by Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers Beach Party)
and from first-time documentarian A.J. Eaton, explores the life and creative renaissance of music icon David Crosby while giving Crosby a platform to make amends to all his legendary band mates from Roger McGuinn of the Byrds to Graham Nash of Crosby, Still and Nash. Both bands are in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Crosby claims he is entitled to a third induction with the Supergroup of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and who knows he may be right. He might even gain a forth induction for just the David Crosby Band.

Either way,  A.J. Eaton had his work cut out for him. Crosby is a highly intelligent, enigmatic character and has been a cultural force for over fifty years. Crosby faced uncertain future after the 2015 dissolution of Crosby, Stills and Nash following their uninspired and disastrous performance at the White House Christmas Tree lighting.

Racked with health issues and personal obstacles, Crosby has managed to forge a new path at the age of 76. Seeking out younger musicians and recording a pair of critically-praised new albums, Crosby has now set out to make a mark in a world now so different from the generation he came to define in the 60’s. With unflinching honesty, self-examination, regret, fear, exuberance and an unshakable belief in family and the transformative nature of music, Crosby shares his remarkable journey with humor and bite.

While known for his musical contributions, Crosby was also a leading humanist in the early days of the Los Angeles music scene even though Eaton mostly skips over this particular aspect of Crosby during this time. To his credit, Eaton reveals Crosby’s humanism with the incriminating photograph of National Guard weapons being fired at Kent State. Eaton does include some iconic footage from the Byrds and CSN. Notably, Crosby’s outspoken commentary at the Monterey Pop Festival. That’s what makes Crosby, well, Crosby. Interspersed with the archival footage from concerts and television shows are still photographs from Crosby’s early home life with some voice-over narration that captures endearing love for his mother and enduring love of women, especially his wife, Jan. And. there’s the music. Artfully selected compositions underscore the magic of David Crosby’s musicianship.

Interestingly, Eaton uses a non-linear approach with startling effect that provides a powerful clarity to Crosby’s psyche. The film starts with an extreme close-up of Crosby talking, the opening credit roll and the film takes off with David’s imitation of his first encounter with legendary jazz-man John Coltrane. From here, the film became an exciting roller coaster ride, as I didn’t know what was around the next corner. Utilizing band interviews from 2000, 2012, 2015 and a recent excursion through the Hollywood Hills and down the infamous Sunset Boulevard, I sat mesmerized when the ride came back into the station. This iconic figure had just, not only bared his ass, but had bared his soul – and what a sight it was to behold. Highly recommended!

 

 

Who is Roy Cohn?

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor, Studio 54, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City) opened his latest work, Where’s my Roy Cohn? at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Friday, January 25th, 2019. Where’s my Roy Cohn? is a documentary and premiered in the Sundance U.S. Documentary Competition. Utilizing traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration, direct interviews, archival footage and photographic stills, Trynauer exposes Cohn’s malign influence and contextualizes him as a modern Machiavelli who influences our country today at the highest level.

Cohn first came into the public eye as an assistant to J. Edgar Hoover and handled the prosecution of Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg, a Jewish couple arrested, tried, convicted and executed for spying for Russia and securing Manhattan Project documents for the Russian government. Cohn, a twenty-three-year-old fast-rising attorney, claimed to have not only persuaded the presiding judge, Irving Kaufman, to impose the death penalty but also to have had Judge Irving assigned the case. Cohn’s reward for the Rosenberg execution was an appointment as special counsel to the 1950’s, US Senatorial demagogue, Joseph McCarthy.

Tyrnauer provides compelling evidence Cohn was responsible for much of McCarthy’s demagoguery and rise to power. Soon, however, Cohn would cause his own and McCarthy’s fall from grace. During the Army-McCarthy hearings, direct questioning revealed Cohn had a “special relationship” with G. David Schine and pressured the U.S. Army to give Schine preferential treatment. Cohn would resign after he was humiliated and pummeled with homophobic comments during the televised hearings. Cohn claimed everybody wanted him to stay on. According to those who worked with Cohn, this was not the case.

From here, Cohn would go onto be the personification of the dark arts of 20th-century American politics. Cohn became a mover and shaker of dubious means. He fluffed his persona despite inflicting financial losses on his clients and family. Trynauer shockingly unearths the origins of the seditious right wing’s ascent, revealing how Cohn, a deeply troubled master manipulator, has shaped our current political world. Cohn persistently defended himself by attacking his adversaries. Moreover, Cohn utilized the press to generate sensational public sympathy for his plight.

Cohn had refined his strategy well over the years as the primary press leaker during his McCarthy days gaining the friendship of the formidable press magnate, Walter Winchell, and a cadre of ambitious reporters. How Cohn had been able to pressure the judiciary was less clear. To me, his political clout emanated from his wide social circle of wealthy, influential friends. Cohn was known for throwing lavish parties and hobnobbed with almost every imaginable socialite of the day including then artist, Andy Warhol, and re-emerged as a New York power broker, mafia consigliere, white-collar criminal, and, eventually, the mentor of Donald J. Trump.

Following Cohn’s lead, Trump began his flamboyant rise first on Cohn’s shoulders and then his back. Eventually, Trump became the master of personal attacks, hyperbole, sensationalism, and utilizing the press to get out in front of the story. The similarities are uncanny and for me to say the likeness of these character trajectories are disturbing would be an understatement. One of the most powerful and politically revealing films of the festival.

Highly recommended and coming to a screen near you as Director/Writer Matt Trynauer announced during the Q & A that he received a text message informing him, Where’s My Roy Cohn? had been bought by Sony Classic Pictures.

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Director Matt Trynauer answers questions during a Q & A after screening his Where’s My Roy Cohn?  at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival following his announcement that Sony Classic Pictures purchased the rights to his film, January 27th, 2019, at the Rose Wagner Center, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

 

 

The Infiltrators take on Broward Transitional Center!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Infiltrators, screening in the Next category of films presented by Adobe at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, based on true events inside an Obama-era immigration detention system is a flaccid hybrid of scripted narrative and documentary form directed by Alex Rivera and Christina Ibarra. Rivera and Ibarra follow the plight of Claudio Rojas, a detainee arrested by ICE officials outside his Florida home. Next films are defined as “Pure bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling….Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises…a greater next wave in American cinema.

The film opens with some negative CGI imagery setting the tone of for what I anticipated would be an expose’. After the introduction, The Infiltrators goes into unchartered territory with an overwhelming amount of re-enactments utilizing sparse amounts of traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration, archival news footage and direct interviews.

After Rojas, played convincingly by Manuel Uriza, is transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility used as a holding space for imminent deportations, his family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations. Believing that no one is free as long as one is in detention, NIYA enlists Marco Saavedra, portrayed by Maynor Alvarado, to self-deport with the hopes of gaining access to the detention center and impeding Rojas’s deportation. Once inside, the character of Marco begins subverting the deportation process with one impeded deportation of Ismael, represented by actor Oscar Perez, and comes to realize this complex, for-profit institution housing hundreds of multinational immigrants, is in essence, a minimum security prison.

In what starts out as a believable situation, the film diverts into moments of questionable authenticity. A few minuscule interviews with the real characters help a little, but to put unspeaking, laughing, real-life character, Samuel Soto, in front of the camera as he is about to be deported mocks a judicial systems based in lawful codes and brings to mind colorful comedy of Hispanics taken by ICE officials from their homes while eating dinner calling back over their shoulder, “Keep my plate warm, I’ll be right back.” In addition, the real subjects have such a small amount of screen time, I was left with a feeling that something was amiss. And it was never more evident than when Rojas arrived at an ICE office for his annual review after “a year of close observation.”

Ibarra (in her Sundance debut) and Rivera (SLEEP DEALER, 2008 Sundance Film Festival) are husband and wife and it’s pretty obvious their work is a passionate affair. The Infiltrators has it’s moments with stunning drone shots of the Broward Transitional Center, in elevating the status of their Dreamer activists, and paying homage to The Last Castle, starring Sundance Institute Founder, Robert Redford. Yet, in the end, the plight of the undocumented goes on unfinished and The Infiltrators doesn’t delve into the millions of dollars detention facilities generate with any substance or depth. It does show power when an inspired group of like-minded individuals  come together with a plan – not withstanding a dubious amount of “creative non-fiction” reenactment (scripted narrative). Warmly recommended.

TIME and Felix & Paul Studios to Produce Historic VR Series on the International Space Station

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Multiplatform Project Will Culminate in the First-ever Capture of a Spacewalk in 3-D, 360° Cinematic VR

(PARK CITY, UT — January 26, 2019) —  TIME, the Emmy Award–winning creator of A Year in Space, and Felix & Paul Studios, the Emmy Award–winning creator of Space Explorers, are combining their storytelling expertise and technological innovation for the ISS Experience, an immersive documentary series filmed on and around the International Space Station. The project, announced today during a panel at the Sundance Film Festival, will be filmed over a yearlong period using specially engineered technical solutions and will culminate in the first-ever capture of a spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality.

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Mia Tramz (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

“We are excited to be working with Felix & Paul Studios to bring this project to many different audiences, across many different platforms,” said Mia Tramz, Emmy-winning VR producer and editorial director of Enterprise and Immersive Experiences at TIME. “This project will have a life on digital, immersive and physical platforms, and will ultimately serve as an educational experience to inspire generations to come.”

With the support of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, NanoRacks and the unparalleled access provided by NASA, the ISS Experience will provide viewers with a first-person experience of life on board the International Space Station, highlighting the learnings of astronauts who have lived and worked on the ISS over the past 20 years and providing insights into the future of space exploration.

“Everything we have done to date as a studio has led up to this moment. We’ve immersed audiences around the world in extraordinary settings—from the White House to Eminem’s Detroit to the plains of the Serengeti—but space is the ultimate destination,” said Félix Lajeunesse, Emmy-winning creative director at Felix & Paul Studios. “We’re proud to be on this ambitious journey with our partners at TIME, producing the single most immersive experience ever made of life in space on the International Space Station.”

After intensive technological development, testing and flight certification, TIME and Felix & Paul Studios launched two cinematic virtual-reality camera systems via NanoRacks to the International Space Station on December 5, 2018.  The ISS Experience series will be captured with a Z CAM V1 Pro camera, manufactured and provided by Z CAM (Shenzhen ImagineVision Technology ltd), that were adapted by Felix & Paul Studios into a custom setup that incorporates purpose-built hardware and software that allows for shooting in space by the crew of astronauts on board the International Space Station.

In early 2019, two additional VR cameras are slated to launch to the International Space Station, built to film outside of the ISS and to capture the first-ever spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality.

The ISS Experience is the latest example of both TIME’s and Felix & Paul Studios’ commitment to implementing groundbreaking technology to pursue exciting new forms of storytelling. Slated to be presented in augmented reality, virtual reality and other immersive platforms, the ISS Experience builds on the success of the TIME’s Emmy-winning documentary A Year in Space and its award-winning video and immersive projects teams, as well as Felix & Paul Studios’ critically acclaimed Space Explorers series and award-winning technology platform.

The series will be distributed as both a digital XR experience and physical ticketed experiential exhibition at select museums and public locations. To view the trailer, receive project updates and learn more about the ISS Experience, visit time.com/issexperience.

About TIME:

TIME is a global multimedia brand that reaches a combined audience of more than 100 million around the world. A trusted destination for reporting and insight on the people, places and issues that matter, TIME captures the events that shape our lives. TIME’s major franchises include the TIME 100 Most Influential People, Person of the Year, Firsts, Best Inventions, Genius Companies, World’s Greatest Places and more. With 45 million digital visitors each month and 40 million social followers, TIME is one of the most trusted and recognized sources of news and information in the world.

About Felix & Paul Studios:

Felix & Paul Studios is an EMMY® Award–winning immersive entertainment studio, creating unparalleled virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality experiences for audiences worldwide. The studio combines technological innovation with a unique, pioneering and in-depth approach to the new art of XR storytelling—creating groundbreaking original immersive experiences (MIYUBI, Nomads series, Strangers, The Confessional, Space Explorers series); awe-inspiring productions with existing franchises (Jurassic World, Cirque du Soleil, Fox Searchlight’s Wild and Isle of Dogs); and collaborations with world-renowned organizations, leaders and performers (NASA, SpaceX, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, LeBron James, President Bill Clinton, Eminem, Wes Anderson, Brie Larson, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and many others).

(Source: Press release provided by TIME, Felix & Paul Studios)

Apollo 11: Todd Miller’s ‘Dunkirk in Space’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Off to an early start with an 8:30 A.M. screening of Todd Douglas Miller’s (Dinosaur 13) Apollo 11, a Neon Production and CNN Film, this morning at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s MARC Theatre. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Miller and his team gained access to the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the NASA archives for their project and I was happy to see another space film after covering Rory Kennedy’s Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow this past summer at AFI DOCS in Washington D.C.

Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Miller takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission with masterful editing and grand storytelling – the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names.

apollo 11 buzz aldrin 1969 courtesy of neon cnn films
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin shortly before going into orbit on the Apollo 11 Space Mission. (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, Apollo 11 provided the audience with a look from inside the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the jocular banter of the astronauts as well as the adoring crowds and the tense atmospherics inside Mission Control. Miller delivers a vivid experience of those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future fulfilling President Kennedy’s May, 1961 mission of sending a man to the moon utilizing still black and white, and color photographs, newsreel voice-overs and the stunning cinematography treasures captured during the 1969 mission.

With never seen-before footage and a run time of ninety minutes, the film covers nine days in an efficient manner. Miller, a self-described space geek, weaves a warm, emotionally fulfilling narrative with a strong sound design from Eric Milano and riveting music from Matt Morton highlighted with moments from the preparation, liftoff, landing, return and recovery of the famed mission.

But, he could not have managed it without the expert skills of Stephen Slater, a specialist in the NASA film archive, and nominee for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Achievement in Space Media,  who had the dubious distinction of syncing the audio for all the soundless archival footage (as none of the footage had any sound!), and Ben Feist, a software engineer at NASA, and the Apollo program historian behind the interactive website Apollo17.org, a web experience that recreates the last mission to the Moon in real time, who created algorithms to streamline the massive audio files. Lastly, all the 16mm and 35mm archival footage was scanned and converted into a large screen format, 4K, utilizing a one-of-a-kind, prototype scanner.

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Director Todd Douglas Miller addresses the audience following his 2019 Sundance Film Festival Apollo 11 screening at the MARC Theatre in Park City, Utah, on January 25th. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

In the Q & A following the screening, Miller  playfully referred to Apollo 11 as the ‘Dunkirk in space’ and provided insightful background on how these stored film reels came into being as the failed attempt of MGM and NASA to produce a film together. Miller confessed to always wanting to make a big screen film. Apollo 11 is in the U.S. Documentary Competition and seems to be one of the crowd favorites so far.

This is a must-see film. Hopefully, it’s sooner than later as rumors of a highly anticipated announcement of its distribution in IMAX format is imminent here at Sundance.

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

2019 Sundance Film Festival Day One Press Conference

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Ladies and gentlemen the show will begin momentarily…..

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Robert Redford, President and Founder of the Sundance Institute, announces he’s ready to move on and will be relinquishing his duties to spend his time with the films. Redford’s announcement came today at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, on January 24th, 2019, Day One of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival with its Risk & Independence theme is underway. With a full house for the Day One Press Conference at the Park City, Utah, Egyptian Theatre this afternoon the President and Founder of Sundance Institute, Robert Redford, strolled out onto the stage and announced he’s moving on. He wholeheartedly thanked the volunteers who stand out in the cold year after year welcoming festival goers.  Redford softened the blow of his departure by informing the attendees he feels the festival is in a good place and he intends on spending his time with the films from here on with full confidence in the leadership hierarchy in place. Redford exited the platform upstage giving way to the Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, Keri Putnam.

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Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, delivers a powerful message on the institute’s current state of affairs, on January 24, 2019, Day One of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Putnam assured the press Mr. Redford’s vision is thriving while gently reminding journalists the festival is a non-profit and a powerful supporter of artists amplifying their work and helping to launch their respective careers. Putnam compared the festival to a public square where artists can share a creatively connected community unencumbered from state messaging – something sorely missing in today’s surging nationalist movements. Without further adieu Putnam introduced the programming panel.

Each programmer shared their individual mission within the Sundance Institute of traveling around the world making connections while seeking diversity in the global community of artists and filmmakers. And, according to the panel, it’s not just about the art, it’s also about the deeper implications behind the underrepresented voices. It’s about the intersection of art, culture and community and the overt attempts to devalue media representations that are not aligned with mainstream, conglomerate-controlled (and state-controlled) media. The result is shallow and sensationalist pieces that debase human kind and its diversity. Intermittently, questions previously submitted by journalists were thoroughly discussed.

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival had a record number of submissions, 14,259 to be exact, and began tracking the demographic information of its filmmakers. Dr. Stacy Smith of the University of Southern California, Annenberg Media Center, will present the findings and their implications at the Filmmaker Lodge tomorrow, January 25, 2019. Stay tuned!

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

HollywoodGlee Inside Festival Headquarters
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)

*Featured photo from left to right: John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival; Kim Yutani, Director of Programming; John Nein, Senior Programmer; Shari Frilot, Chief Curator, New Frontier and Senior Programmer; David Courier, Senior Programmer; and, Caroline Libresco, Senior Programmer, and Director, Catalyst and Women at Sundance. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

 

 

AFI DOCS 2019 ANNOUNCES FULL SLATE OF FILMS AND CENTERPIECE SCREENING

Posted by Larry Gleeson

MAY 15, 2019, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS has revealed its full slate of films for the 2019 festival — with AT&T returning as Presenting Sponsor of the American Film Institute’s five-day documentary celebration in the nation’s capital.  Year after year, the festival provides a unique opportunity for audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders to engage and connect through the power of story.  The 17th edition will showcase 72 films representing 17 countries — including six world premieres, one North American premiere and two U.S. premieres.  AFI DOCS 2019 runs June 19–23 in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. The Washington Post and Meet the Press are the Primary Media Sponsors.

This year’s Centerpiece film will be AMERICAN FACTORY, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, which examines the culture clash resulting from the takeover of a Dayton, OH, factory by a Chinese company.  AMERICAN FACTORY will screen on Friday, June 21.

“Each year, the AFI DOCS slate includes a variety of films exploring topical issues, intriguing personalities and compelling voices,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director, AFI Festivals.  “This year’s festival offers audiences a chance to discover new perspectives on familiar topics and unique stories they may be hearing for the first time — demonstrating the power of documentary film to connect and inspire across a diverse range of subjects. We are happy to announce that 48% of this year’s slate is directed by women, with 68% produced by women.”

The AFI DOCS 2019 lineup will be presented in the following sections: Galas; Special Screenings; Portrait; Truth and Justice; Spectrum; Anthem; Cinema’s Legacy; and Short Films. A competitive section, Short Films are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize.

Audience Awards will be given to a feature and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival.  The winners of the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on Tuesday, June 25.

As previously announced, the festival will open with the world premiere of TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY and will close with RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS.  Special Screenings include the world premiere of CHASING THE MOON, RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS, SEA OF SHADOWS and TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM.

Tickets to AFI DOCS 2019 are now available to AFI members, and will be available to the public on May 15 starting at 1:00 p.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. PDTPasses are currently on sale to both members (at a discounted rate) and the public at AFI.com/AFIDOCS.  To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

AFI DOCS 2019 PROGRAM

GALAS

Opening Night, Closing Night and Centerpiece Gala, featuring high-profile guests and world premieres, these are the hottest tickets at the festival.

OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Wednesday, June 19

TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY:  DIRS & PRODS Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt, and Teddy Kunhardt.  USA.  Fighting for equal justice within a system that has allowed slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration has become lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s life work.  TRUE JUSTICE features the inspiring story of Stevenson who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama to provide legal services for the poor and is the driving force behind a new national lynching memorial.  World Premiere.

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 23

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS:  DIR Janice Engel.  PRODS James Egan, Janice Engel, and Carlisle Vandervoort.  USA.  RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS chronicles the life of political commentator and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Molly Ivins.  A maverick voice in journalism, Ivins used humor to speak truth about social inequalities, expose corrupt government and poke at the political elite.  Filmmaker Janice Engel crafts a witty and entertaining portrait of Ivins, who died of cancer in 2007, giving life to her words and reminding us to be bold in today’s political climate. Presented by The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 21

AMERICAN FACTORY:  DIRS Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.  PRODS Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello.  USA.  Seeking no easy answers, directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert craft a masterpiece of documentary storytelling by focusing on the fascinating culture clash that ensues when a shuttered GM plant in Dayton, OH, is taken over by a giant Chinese company.  Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Prize for Directing.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Unique screening events at special locations.

CHASING THE MOON:  DIR & PROD Robert Stone.  USA.  Fifty years after Neil Armstrong’s “one small step,” CHASING THE MOON chronicles America’s audacious and difficult race to the moon.  Using exclusively archival footage — with much never before seen in public — this exceptional series re-contextualizes the social and historical importance of the Space Age and the sheer wonder of the moon landing itself.  World Premiere.

RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS:  DIR Freida Lee Mock.  PRODS Freida Lee Mock and Meghan Hooper.  USA.  Relying on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words, as illuminated by carefully culled archival footage and interviews, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock crafts an intimate profile that covers the full breadth of Ginsburg’s life, views and career.  Furthermore, Mock succeeds in creating a compelling portrait as authentic, poignant and powerful as the Justice herself.  Sneak Preview.

SEA OF SHADOWS:  DIR Richard Ladkani.  PRODS Walter Köhler and Wolfgang Knöpfler.  Austria.  Featuring everything from Mexican drug cartels to the Chinese Mafia, this environmental thriller is every bit as gripping as any pulp novel but with real world consequences for the imperiled vaquita (the world’s smallest whale) and for local fisherman in the Sea of Cortez. With fewer than 10 vaquita left in the world, time is running out.

TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM:  DIR Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  PRODS Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Johanna Giebelhaus, Chad Thompson, and Tommy Walker.  USA.  Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ highly engaging portrait of the brilliant and beloved writer Toni Morrison features interviews with cultural icons and critics, including Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Walter Mosley, Fran Lebowitz, Russell Banks, Hilton Als — and, most important, with Morrison herself, sharing a lifetime’s worth of riveting stories and compelling insights.

FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS

PORTRAIT

Original profiles of famous and not-so-famous people doing extraordinary things in our society.

17 BLOCKS:  DIR Davy Rothbart.  PRODS Alex Turtletaub, Michael Clark, Marc Turtletaub and Rachel Dengiz.  USA.  In 1999, Emmanuel Durant and his family started filming their daily lives.  For two decades, the camera recorded ordinary moments, and a cycle of trauma all too familiar with neglected communities in America.  Davy Rothbart’s film deftly pieces together a loving and complex profile of the Sanford-Durants, who live just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY:  DIR Ben Berman.  PRODS Miranda Bailey, Ben Berman, Russell Groves, Amanda Marshall and Jacob Perlin.  USA.  An aging magician is dying.  A young filmmaker follows him around, intending to create his debut feature film.  A few weeks into filming, it’s revealed that there is another crew also filming this same magician, at the same time.  What results is a hilarious metatextual work of documentary unlike anything you have ever seen before.

CHEZ JOLIE COIFFURE:  DIR Rosine Mbakam.  PRODS Geoffroy Cernaix and Rosine Mbakam.  Belgium.  Inside a bustling Brussels hair salon, manager Sabine can be seen braiding hair and lending support to a vibrant group of African migrants.  In this lovely observational chamber piece, filmmaker Rosine Mbakam offers an affectionate tribute to Sabine and her community.  Despite the traumas of migration, their enduring charm and laughter are testament to human resilience.

FOR SAMA:  DIRS Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts.  PROD Waad al-Kateab.  Syrian Arab Republic.  With her home city of Aleppo under constant bombardment, filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, an active resistant against the Assad regime, does the nearly unthinkable: she marries the love of her life and has a baby.  This unique video diary documents five years of the Syrian War and tells an unforgettable personal story.

MAIDEN:  DIR Alex Holmes.  PRODS Victoria Gregory and Alex Holmes.  UK.  30 years ago, 24-year-old Tracy Edwards led the first all-female sailing crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race.  No one in the male-dominated sailing community gave them a prayer.  By race’s end, the Maiden’s epic journey would make history, and the sailing world would never be the same.

MIDNIGHT FAMILY:  DIR Luke Lorentzen.  PRODS Kellen Quin, Luke Lorentzen, Daniela Alatorre and Elena Fortes.  Mexico, USA.  In Mexico City, there are fewer than 45 public ambulances for nine million people.  In response, a dysfunctional system of privately-owned ambulances has taken over the city’s healthcare system.  MIDNIGHT FAMILY intimately follows the Ochoa family as they compete in transporting patients at night.  Each trip is a tricky balance of ethics and empathy: they must arrive first to give care for the injured, but also for their financial self-interest.

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE:  DIR Avi Belkin.  PRODS Rafael Marmor, John Battsek, Peggy Drexler, Christopher Leggett, Avi Belkin and Zoë Morrison.  USA.  Famed 60 MINUTES journalist Mike Wallace was best known for his confrontational interview style.  His work was a major force in pushing the form of journalism to the tipping point we know today.  Using exclusively archival footage, MIKE WALLACE IS HERE explores his life and multi-decade career in broadcast television, beginning in the 1950s. Presented by The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

 

RECORDER: THE MARION STOKES PROJECT:  DIR Matt Wolf.  PRODS Kyle Martin, Andrew Kortschak and Walter Kortschak.  USA.  Beginning with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979, Marion Stokes secretly recorded television 24 hours a day at a time when the networks did not systematically save the news.  A time capsule of America’s modern TV age, filmmaker Matt Wolf’s brilliantly stylized portrait depicts Stokes’ fascinating life as a media activist and her unusual and visionary project.

 

SEARCHING EVA:  DIR Jasmina Vignjevic.  PRODS Erik Winker and Martin Roelly.  Germany.  Meet Eva, a 25-year-old sex worker, drug user and Instagram model.  Living with her mom and working on the internet, Eva documents her life in a performative and personal way.  What is it like to be a woman in the 21st century?  This documentary presents this incredible young woman with heartbreaking honesty.  U.S. Premiere.

 

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

 

Focusing on the most pressing and fascinating issues of the day, these films seek to educate, enlighten and inspire.

 

AFTER PARKLAND:  DIRS Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi.  PRODS Jake Lefferman, Emily Taguchi, Jeanmarie Condon and Steven Baker.  USA.  AFTER PARKLAND is a heartfelt portrait of a community using grief and anger as fuel to move forward, heal, and, for some, fight to change the world.  The film shares an intimate view of survivors as they navigate their new realities in the blaring limelight and the soft light of home.

 

ALWAYS IN SEASON:  DIR Jacqueline Olive.  PRODS Jacqueline Olive and Jessica Devaney.  USA.  Jacqueline Olive’s stunning debut documentary depicts the haunting death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy in the rural community of Bladenboro, North Carolina in 2014.  With Lacy’s body found hanging from a swing set, his death is ruled a suicide, but his mother, convinced that he was lynched, remains undaunted in her pursuit of justice.

 

BORDER SOUTH (FRONTERA SUR):  DIR Raúl O. Paz Pastrana.  PRODS Jason De León, Cecilia Girón Pérez and Raúl O. Paz Pastrana.  Mexico, USA.  Filmmaker Raúl O. Paz Pastrana spent four years following the migrant routes from southern Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border.  The result is a close-up, nuanced, and highly original view of the migrant experience, one fraught with risk and danger but also comradery, ingenuity and humor.  North American Premiere.

 

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD:  DIR Mads Brügger.  PRODS Peter Engel, Andreas Rocksen and Bjarte M. Tveit.  Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium.  The brilliant and mischievous Danish documentary filmmaker Mads Brügger investigates the 1961 plane crash that killed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, uncovering a myriad of conspiracies from Belgian mercenaries to a secret South African militia.  Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Prize for Directing.

 

ERNIE & JOE:  DIR & PROD Jenifer McShane.  USA.  Ernie and Joe are two San Antonio Police Department officers whose comedic rapport seems straight out of a buddy movie.  But their innovative approach to policing is nothing short of transformative.  Guns tucked away, Ernie and Joe de-escalate confrontations, divert people to desperately needed mental health services, and save lives.

 

THE GREAT HACK:  DIRS Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim.  PRODS Karim Amer, Geralyn Dreyfous and Judy Korin.  USA.  An American professor discovers that his personal data has been hacked, mined to create a digital political profile, and then weaponized.  Rinse and repeat 240 million times.  Academy Award®-nominated filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim (THE SQUARE) masterfully unravel the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal that rocked the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

HUMAN NATURE:  DIR Adam Bolt.  PRODS Meredith DeSalazar and Sarah Goodwin.  Australia, Spain, Turkey, USA.  CRISPR is the biggest revolution of the century, a biological breakthrough that brings with it exciting and provocative implications for the future of science and humanity.  A vital and engaging documentary, HUMAN NATURE investigates the complexities of CRISPR and explores the existential questions it raises: how will it affect human evolution or change our relationship with nature?

 

IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS:  DIR Tamara Hardman.  PRODS Maya Newell, Sophie Hyde, Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson and Larissa Behrendt.  Australia.  In this beautifully crafted portrait set in the Northern Territory of Australia, 10-year-old Dujuan, a child healer, hunter and speaker of two Indigenous languages struggles mightily to navigate between two starkly different worlds — his Arrernte family and the white-dominated educational system that may ultimately determine his fate.  U.S. Premiere.

 

ONE CHILD NATION:  DIRS Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhanig.  PRODS Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Christoph Jörg, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn.  China, USA.  After becoming a first-time mother, filmmaker Nanfu Wang reflects on her childhood in China and investigates the country’s one child nation policy.  From 1979 to 2015, the government enforced one-child households, favoring male babies and waging a “population war.”  With co-director Jialing Zhang, Wang thoughtfully examines the multi-generational trauma caused by this tragic social experiment.

 

SLAY THE DRAGON:  DIRS & PRODS Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance.  USA.  In recent years, Democratic and Republican-controlled legislatures have been one-upping each other to see who can draw the crookedest district lines and, thereby, maximize their electoral majorities.  A thoroughly engrossing investigation of partisan gerrymandering, SLAY THE DRAGON dramatizes precisely what is making our political system sick and, possibly, how it can be healed.

 

WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS:  DIR Linda Goldstein Knowlton.  PRODS Katie Flint and Linda Goldstein Knowlton.  USA.  In Oakland, California, tween girls of color meet as a new alternative Scout group called the Radical Monarchs.  The Monarchs earn badges not for sewing or selling cookies, but for units on Black Lives Matter, disability justice and Radical Beauty.  Set around the 2016 election, the founders, two queer women of color, struggle to grow the organization while empowering the girls to be social justice leaders in their community.

 

WHO KILLED GARRETT PHILLIPS?:  DIR Liz Garbus.  PRODS Liz Garbus and Kimberly Launier.  USA.  On October 24, 2011, police officers found the lifeless body of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips alone in his apartment.  Featuring jailhouse interrogations, this gripping true crime two-part documentary from Academy Award®-nominated director Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?) seeks to get to the bottom of the murder.  World Premiere.

 

A WOMAN’S WORK: THE NFL’S CHEERLEADER PROBLEM:  DIR Yu Gu.  PRODS Yu Gu, Elizabeth Ai and Jin Yoo-Kim.  USA.  In 2017, the National Football League earned over $14 billion in revenue.  NFL cheerleaders, however, earn less than minimum wage – some paid as low as $1.50 an hour.  Three courageous cheerleaders risk their careers by leading a historic class-action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging gendered wage theft and egregious labor practices.

 

SPECTRUM

 

A wide selection of exciting nonfiction work, these filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of storytelling and exploring more unconventional subject matter.

 

AQUARELA:  DIR Victor Kossakovsky.  PRODS Aimara Reques, Heino Deckert and Sigrid Dyekjær.   Germany, UK.  From frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia to hurricane-ravaged Miami, Victor Kossakovsky’s visual and aural tour de force puts you face to face with the overwhelmingly raw power of water in all its forms.  Before experiencing AQUARELA’s eye-popping cinematography and thunderous soundtrack on the big screen, prepare your senses for nothing less than total surrender.

 

AUTONOMY:  DIR Alex Horwitz.  PRODS Christopher Boyd, Kevin Mann and Michael Mann.  USA.  Executive-produced by Malcolm Gladwell, AUTONOMY explores the impact self-driving technology will have on our society.  Futurist thinkers, engineers and researchers examine liability and safety concerns to who will benefit most from this technology.  By reflecting on the automotive industry’s past, AUTONOMY prompts an important discussion of how Silicon Valley approaches automation and the policies we should consider during this mobility revolution.

 

THE ELEPHANT QUEEN:  DIRS Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone.  PRODS Lucinda Englehart and Victoria Stone.  Kenya, UK.  Focusing on a single elephant family and its matriarch over the course of one harrowing season, this film gives us an intimate look at the lives of elephants.  Intense emotional twists and stunning photography make this incredible adventure one of the most highly acclaimed and beloved films of the year.

 

MADE IN BOISE:  DIR Beth Aala.  PRODS Beth Levison and Beth Aala.  USA.  In Boise, Idaho, a unique business trend is growing – literally.  The town has become the unofficial surrogacy capital of America.  Filmmaker Beth Aala delicately follows four surrogate mothers and the biological parents of the babies they carry.  Finding purpose and power in these pregnancies, the surrogate women create life-changing opportunities for those unable to conceive.  World Premiere.

 

PICTURE CHARACTER:  DIRS Martha Shane and Ian Cheney.  PRODS Jennifer 8. Lee, Ian Cheney, Martha Shane.  USA.  What started in 🇯🇵 in the late- ‘90s as a 📞 extra has become one of the most popular means of communication in the 🌎. PICTURE CHARACTER follows the proposals of 3️ groups who seek ✔ from Unicode Consortium for new emojis, and explores how even with emojis, representation matters.

 

WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS:  DIRS Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown.  PRODS Amy Ellison, Monica Long Ross, and Clayton Brown.  USA.  In the heart of Kentucky, a new theme park takes shape: the Ark Encounter, a life-size reproduction of Noah’s Ark filled with exhibits of the creatures on board, including dinosaurs.  Filmed over three years, the film follows the Ark project from conception to opening day and gives a fascinating range of perspectives on the creationist movement.

 

ANTHEM

 

A cinematic celebration of music in all its forms.

 

THE APOLLO:  DIR Roger Ross Williams.  PRODS Lisa Cortes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann and Roger Ross Williams.  USA.  The historic Apollo Theater is cherished as the platform that launched the careers of countless African-American talents.  Its enduring influence on popular culture and commitment to both established and emerging artists in the community is lovingly chronicled in this captivating tribute from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.

 

DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME:  DIR A.J. Eaton.  PRODS Cameron Crowe, Michele Farinola and Greg Mariotti.  USA.  A remarkably candid music portrait documentary, DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME re-examines the life and music of the storied co-founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash through the eyes of the man himself.  Still making music and touring, Crosby looks back — and forward — with equal parts wit and wisdom.

 

GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH:  DIR David Charles.  PRODS Bud Johnston and Jesse Moss.  USA.  After the 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus toured the south to meet the faith-based communities against LGBTQ rights.  The liberal-city folks and the red-state locals speak, confront biases, dine and sing together.  GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH seeks to sing an elegy to the cultural divide and find some harmony along the journey.

 

LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE:  DIRS Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.  PRODS James Keach, Michele Farinola, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.  USA.  With her dynamic voice, Linda Ronstadt became a superstar pop artist during the male-dominated music industry of the 1970s.  Esteemed filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman chronicle Ronstadt’s trailblazing success in multiple music genres through rocking archival footage and affectionate interviews with Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.

 

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL:  DIR Stanley Nelson.  PRODS Stanley Nelson and Nicole London.  USA.  With his dark shades, stylish clothes and enigmatic personality, jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was the personification of cool.  But who was he really?  Drawing from a wide range of amazing source material, master filmmaker Stanley Nelson unpacks this complicated artistic genius and reveals the man behind the cool.

 

MOONLIGHT SONATA: DEAFNESS IN THREE MOVEMENTS:  DIR Irene Taylor Brodsky.  PRODS Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tahria Sheather.  USA.  MOONLIGHT SONATA tells an intimate and personal multigenerational story of loss and discovery through deafness.  Born deaf and receiving cochlear implants as a toddler, Jonas grows up in a world full of sound.  His grandparents on the other hand, also born deaf, experienced a childhood of silence.  As Jonas turns 11, he learns “Moonlight Sonata,” a piece Beethoven wrote while going deaf.  It is a beautiful film of love and sound, in all their messy forms.

 

SHANGRI-LA:  DIRS Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg.  USA.  From filmmaker Morgan Neville comes a docuseries following legendary music producer Rick Rubin and his minimalist iconic recording studio in Malibu, Shangri-La.  Rubin’s music career began as co-founder of Def Jam Records where he launched artists like Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys.  With appearances from Tyler the Creator, The Avett Brothers and David Lynch, these two episodes explore ideas on meditation, creativity and the pursuit of great artistry.

 

CINEMA’S LEGACY

 

A cinematic time machine that takes us back to those seminal moments when filmmakers produced works of such originality and brilliance that they redefined the documentary art form. The inaugural Cinema’s Legacy program at AFI DOCS celebrates the singular role played by public media in fostering and spotlighting innovation and creativity in nonfiction storytelling.

 

AN AMERICAN FAMILY: ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2011):  DIRS Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond.  PROD Craig Gilbert.  USA.  Before the Kardashians, Bachelors and Bachelorettes, Real Housewives and Survivors came The Louds — the first reality TV family. Debuting on January 11, 1973 on public television, this groundbreaking cinéma vérité documentary series drew a record 10 million viewers a week. AN AMERICAN FAMILY: ANNIVERSARY EDITION highlights many historic moments from the most controversial and talked-about television program of its era.

 

LAW AND ORDER – 50th Anniversary Screening (1969):  DIR & PROD Frederick Wiseman.  USA.

Throughout a remarkable career that spans more than 50 years, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has set a benchmark for innovative and distinctive storytelling that is without peer. Celebrating the 50th anniversary broadcast of Wiseman’s extremely timely and relevant LAW AND ORDER (1969), AFI DOCS’ Cinema Legacy program revisits this fascinating immersion into the day-to-day activities of the Kansas City Police Department.

 

TONGUES UNTIED – 30th Anniversary Screening (1989):  DIR Marlon Riggs.  PRODS Marlon Riggs and Brian Freeman.  USA.  Revolutionary in its artistic approach and deeply moving in the intimacy of its storytelling, Marlon Riggs’ TONGUES UNTIED is as dazzling and impactful today as it was 30 years ago when it premiered on public television. A prototypical personal documentary, years ahead of its time, TONGUES UNTIED, broke new ground by mixing poetry, music, performance and Riggs’ autobiographical revelations.

 

SHORT FILM SELECTIONS

 

The best nonfiction short filmmaking of the year.

ALL INCLUSIVE:  DIR Corina Schwingruber Ilić.  PROD Stella Händler.  Switzerland.  Those seeking fun and escape on the high seas fall under the spell of mass entertainment.

 

THE CLINIC:  DIR & PROD Elivia Shaw.  USA.  Amid a devastating opioid epidemic, a needle exchange program and free clinic operate in the shadows of Fresno, California.

 

CONCEPTION: MELISSA:  DIRS Margaret Cheatham Williams and Ella Dobson.  PROD Margaret Cheatham Williams.  USA.  How do you calm your child’s fears about the bogeyman, when the bogeyman is real?

 

CRANNOG:  DIR Isa Rao.  PROD Tom van den Hurk.  UK.  Nobody should have to die alone.  An intimate portrait of a Scottish woman who finds a unique and caring way to look after sick and dying animals.

 

DEPARTING GESTURE:  DIRS & PRODS Brian Bolster and Jonathan Napolitano.  USA.  In the American South, Trey Sebrell is one of only a few funeral directors providing full services to unclaimed persons abandoned by their families because of the shame, stigma and miseducation surrounding HIV-related conditions.

 

DULCE:  DIRS Guille Isa and Angello Faccini.  PRODS Darrell Hartman, Oliver Hartman, and Annie Bush.  Colombia, USA.  In coastal Colombia, a mother teaches her daughter how to swim, so that she may go to the mangroves and harvest piangua shellfish with other women in the village.

 

ENFORCEMENT HOURS:  DIR & PROD Paloma Martinez.  USA.  In a climate of xenophobia and confusion, a San Francisco hotline aims to provide limited assistance to a targeted population.

 

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SUDDEN BIRTH* (*BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK):  DIR & PROD Scott Calonico.  Germany.  The true story of how the Berkeley police department, the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, an Academy Award® winner and Mr. Spock of STAR TREK fame are all connected by 1966’s SUDDEN BIRTH, one of the most unintentionally hilarious and disturbing educational films ever created.

 

EXIT 12:  DIR Mohammad Gorjestani.  PRODS Taylor Feltner and Erick Kwiecien.  USA.  After two tours in the Iraq War, U.S. Marine Roman Baca came home a different person.  Now, as the founder and artistic director of the Exit12 Dance Company in New York City, Roman, with other veterans and military families, uses dance to tell stories about the effects of war.

 

GHOSTS OF SUGAR LAND:  DIR Bassam Tariq.  PRODS Farihah Zaman and Bassam Tariq.  USA.  In Sugar Land, Texas, a group of young, Muslim-American men ponder the disappearance of their friend “Mark,” who is suspected of joining ISIS.

 

IN THE ABSENCE:  DIR Yi Seung-Jun.  PROD Gary Byung-Seok Kam.  South Korea, USA.  When the passenger ferry MV Sewol sank off the coast of South Korea in 2014, more than 300 people lost their lives, most of them schoolchildren.  Years later, the victims’ families and survivors are still demanding justice from national authorities.

 

IT’S GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL:  DIRS & PRODS Luis Gutierrez Arias and John Henry Theisen.  Mexico, USA.  The U.S. Border Patrol has been given the task of choosing a winning design for building a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border.

 

LIFE IN MINIATURE:  DIR & PROD Ellen Evans.  UK.  A Yorkshire woman carves a place for herself in the precious world of miniatures by crafting unique and whimsical objects of the everyday world around her.

 

LIGHTNING VS THUNDER:  DIRS AJ Schnack and Nathan Truesdell.  PRODS Brian Dietzen, AJ Schnack and Nathan Truesdell.  USA.  An eight-year-old girl and an Afghanistan war veteran develop an unlikely friendship and find inspiration on the softball field.  World Premiere.

 

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA:  DIR Sophia Nahli Allison.  PRODS Janice Duncan, Fam Udeorji and Sophia Nahli Allison.  USA.  Latasha Harlins was 15-years-old when she was killed by Soon Ja Du at Empire Liquor in South Central Los Angeles on March 16, 1991.  This dreamlike, hybrid documentary reimagines a more nuanced narrative of Latasha’s life.

 

MACK WRESTLES:  DIRS Erin Sanger and Taylor Hess.  PRODS Erin Sanger, Taylor Hess and Gentry Kirby.  USA.  Transgender wrestler Mack Beggs broke records and changed history by winning the Texas high school state title two years in a row.  With college on the horizon, Beggs must grapple with what comes next.

 

QUILT FEVER:  DIR Olivia Loomis Merrion.  USA.  Quilt Week in Paducah, Kentucky is a major event.  QUILT FEVER is a charming portrait of the art and folks who love it.  World Premiere.

 

SCENES FROM A DRY CITY:  DIRS & PRODS Francois Verster and Simon Wood.  South Africa, USA.  In South Africa, an impending water crisis grips an entire nation.

 

THE SEPARATED:  DIR Jeremy Raff.  PROD Ashley Kenny.  USA.  On June 13, 2018, Honduran asylum-seeker Anita and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Thanks to a pro bono lawyer who aggressively advocates for their release Anita and Jenri are reunited.  But the damage has been done.

 

  1. LOUIS SUPERMAN: DIRS Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan. PRODS Smriti Mundhra, Sami Khan, Poh Si Teng and Cheyenne Tan.  USA.  Bruce Franks, Jr., is a 33-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country today.

 

STAY CLOSE:  DIRS Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan.  PRODS Ashley Brandon, Nevo Shinaar, Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan.  China, USA.  The underdog story of a fencer from Brooklyn who overcomes the longest of odds on the road to the Olympics.

 

SWATTED:  DIR Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis.  PROD Luc-Jérôme Bailleul.  France.  When gamers come face-to-face with the cyber-harassment practice known as “swatting,” online gaming suddenly takes on real-life terror.

 

SWEETHEART DANCERS:  DIR Ben-Alex Dupris.  USA.  Sean and Adrian are a Two-Spirit couple determined to rewrite the rules of Native-American culture through their participation in the Sweetheart Dance.  This celebratory contest is held at powwows across the country, primarily for heterosexual couples, until now.

 

TAKE ME TO PROM:  DIR & PROD Andrew Moir.  Canada.  A colorful, celebratory intergenerational retelling of seven queer people’s prom experience.

 

A TALE OF TWO KITCHENS:  DIR Trisha Ziff.  PRODS Isabel del Rio and Marta Núñez Puerto.  USA, Mexico.  Two countries, two restaurants, one vision.  A TALE OF TWO KITCHENS explores how a restaurant is a place of dignity and community across Mexico City and San Francisco.

 

THE TRIAL:  DIR & PROD Johanna Hamilton.  USA.  Meet the lawyers tasked with defending 9/11 suspects against the U.S. government.

 

A VERY THIN LINE:  DIR Nathan Truesdell.  PRODS Nathan Truesdell and J. Gonçalves.  USA.  A humorous look at alternative currencies used in America, both legal and illicit.

 

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, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 17th year, the festival will be held June 19-23, 2019, in landmark Washington, DC, venues, Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema and at 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 Communications

AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2019 AFI DOCS.

We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we innovate to improve lives. We have the nation’s fastest wireless network.** And according to America’s biggest test, we have the nation’s best wireless network.*** We’re building FirstNet just for first responders and creating next-generation mobile 5G. With DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and WatchTV, we deliver entertainment people love to talk about. Our smart, highly secure solutions serve nearly 3 million global businesses – nearly all of the Fortune 1000. And worldwide, our spirit of service drives employees to give back to their communities. 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.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

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 Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership is an ongoing initiative that aims to highlight organizations working vigilantly to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists worldwide. 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 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, recently expanding its brand to 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, 202.339.9598, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

Ryan Lattanzio, American Film Institute, 323.856.7619, RLattanzio@AFI.com

 

 

AFI DOCS 2019 ANNOUNCES OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHT FILMS AND SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY

and

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS

to Bookend Five-Day Festival in Nation’s Capital

AT&T Returns as Presenting Sponsor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MAY 9, 2019, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s annual documentary celebration in the nation’s capital, has announced the Opening and Closing Night films as well as the Special Screenings for its 17th annual edition.  The festival is proud to also announce the return of AT&T as Presenting Sponsor for the sixth consecutive year.  AFI DOCS 2019 will open with the world premiere of HBO’s TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY, directed by Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, and will close with RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS, directed by Janice Engel.  AFI DOCS runs June 19–23, 2019, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.

This year’s program also includes five Special Screenings: SEA OF SHADOWS, CHASING THE MOON, AMERICAN FACTORY, TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM and RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS.

“We found ourselves this year with a wealth of powerful films focused on the most intriguing individuals, from a crusader for justice in Alabama to a brazen political commentator in Texas,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “We are thrilled to invite our audiences to share in the extraordinary journeys of Bryan Stevenson and Molly Ivins, two unique personal portraits that also explore the society in which we all live.”

AT&T’s continued support enables AFI DOCS to connect audiences, policymakers and storytellers in the heart of our national government.

The Opening Night screening of TRUE JUSTICE:  BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY will be held on June 19 at the National Archives’ McGowan Theater and will be followed by a Q&A with subject Bryan Stevenson.  The film is an intimate portrait of Mr. Stevenson — Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama — who has dedicated his life to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.

The Closing Night screening of RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS will be held on June 23 at the Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater and will feature a Q&A with director Janice Engel.  The film tells the story of Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on “good old boy” corruption wherever she found it.

OPENING NIGHT SCREENING

TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY:  DIRS & PRODS Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt.  USA.  Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, has dedicated his life to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.  He and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for more than 140 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.  World Premiere.

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS:  DIR Janice Engel.  PRODS James Egan, Janice Engel and Carlisle Vandervoort.  USA.  Molly Ivins was six feet of Texas trouble.  RAISE HELL illustrates how both sides of the political aisle were engaged and enraged by her sharp commentary and her understanding that “polarizing people is a good way to win an election and good way to wreck a country.”

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

SEA OF SHADOWS:  DIR Richard Ladkani.  PRODS Walter Köhler and Wolfgang Knöpfler.  Austria.  Featuring everything from Mexican drug cartels to the Chinese Mafia, this environmental thriller is every bit as gripping as any pulp novel but with real world consequences for the imperiled vaquita (the world’s smallest whale) and for local fisherman in the Sea of Cortez. With fewer than 10 vaquita left in the world, time is running out.

CHASING THE MOON:  DIR & PROD Robert Stone.  USA.  This World Premiere utilizes a visual feast of previously overlooked and “lost” archival material to reimagine the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the conventional mythology surrounding the effort.  World Premiere.

AMERICAN FACTORY:  DIRS Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.  PRODS Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello.  USA.  This riveting story highlights the clash of cultures at a shuttered GM plant in Dayton, Ohio, which has been reborn as an auto glass factory owned by a giant Chinese company.

TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM:  DIR Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  PRODS Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Johanna Giebelhaus, Chad Thompson and Tommy Walker.  USA.  The legendary writer reflects on her life and career through the themes of history, art, literature and race.

RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS:  DIR Freida Lee Mock.  PRODS Freida Lee Mock and Meghan Hooper.  USA.  Relying on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words, as illuminated by carefully culled archival footage and interviews, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock crafts an intimate profile that covers the full breadth of Ginsburg’s life, views and career.  Furthermore, Mock succeeds in creating a compelling portrait as authentic, poignant and powerful as the Justice herself.  World Premiere.

 

Tickets to AFI DOCS, including Opening Night and Closing Night screenings, will be available beginning May 15, 2019.  Passes for AFI DOCS 2019 are now on sale at AFI.com/afidocs.  More information about AFI DOCS screenings and other special events will be announced in the coming weeks.

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, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 17th year, the festival will be held June 19-23, 2019, in landmark Washington, DC, venues, Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema and at 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 Communications

AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2019 AFI DOCS. 

We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we innovate to improve lives. We have the nation’s fastest wireless network.** And according to America’s biggest test, we have the nation’s best wireless network.*** We’re building FirstNet just for first responders and creating next-generation mobile 5G. With DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and WatchTV, we deliver entertainment people love to talk about. Our smart, highly secure solutions serve nearly 3 million global businesses – nearly all of the Fortune 1000. And worldwide, our spirit of service drives employees to give back to their communities. 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.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

CONTACT:

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, 202.339.9598, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

Ryan Lattanzio, American Film Institute, 323.856.7619, RLattanzio@AFI.com

Mifune: The Last Samurai now out on DVD/Blu-Ray

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Mifune: The Last Samurai (2016) is a celebration of Toshiro Mifune’s legacy and life told by those closest to him, is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Mifune is a feature-length documentary about the life and films of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. Okazaki utilizes archival clips, photographic stills and interviews with those who worked with Mifune. The film is narrated by Keanu Reeves.

The 1950’s and 60’s were a Golden Age for Japanese Film. In 1951, iconic Japanese Director Akira Kurasawa won the Golden Lion at Venice with Rashomon and Mifune putting Japanese films on the world scene. Kurasawa and Mifune would go on to collaborate on 16 films over an eighteen year period including renowned, classic films such of Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961). 

Telling interviews from Kyoko Kagawa, Takeshi Kato, Haruo Nakajima, Yosuke Natsoki and Sadao Nakajima reveal Mifune’s ardent preparation for roles, painstakingly researching and laborious rehearsal processes. Kurasawa rarely, if ever, gave Mifune specific direction on creating characters. Other interviews came from American directors Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg revealing the admiration and respect Mifune garnered not only in Japan but in Hollywood as well.

Toshiro Mifune was an inspiration for young actors who found his minimalist approach accessible. Often referred to as the John Wayne of Japan, Toshiro Mifune is The Last Samurai. Highly recommended! A cinephile’s dream!

Surf Nite in SLO Puts South Africa in the 2019 Spotlight

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The SLO Film Fest is delighted to put South Africa in the spotlight this year for its 14th Annual Surf Nite in SLO!

Surfers Unite! The California premiere of SATORI by South African filmmaker Rick Wall  will be featured on the Big Screen at the historic Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo on Friday, March 15th at 7pm. Cape Town residents, filmmaker Rick Wall and SATORI surfer Rod Torr will attend.

Surf Nite in SLO is presented by Surfing for Hope, a non-profit organization in Pismo Beach created to help inspire people challenged by cancer through the positive energy of surfing.

Surf Nite is also presented by the City of Pismo Beach and sponsored by Cliffs Hotel and Spa, SeaVenture, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, Apple Farm Inn, Coast 104.5, Quality Suites San Luis Obispo, Anthony Peckham and Hilary Saner.

The beautifully cinematic SATORI, shot in dramatic black and white and color, documents a close-knit group of local big wave surfers who have dedicated their lives to the ocean and riding the huge waves off the shores of picturesque Cape Town, South Africa. “Satori” is a Japanese Buddhist word meaning a sudden moment of awakening or ‘glimpse of truth’ – the essence of surfing for many.

Featuring the awe-inspiring waves at two surf breaks on the South peninsula, the film focuses on the infamous “Dungeons” below the sentinel mountain in Hout Bay, and Sunset Reef, 1 km. out to sea off the small seaside village of Kommetjie. While each surfer is surfing these waves for different reasons, the film discovers that there is a connection that unites them – their love and respect for the raw beauty of the ocean.

Bertish_SLO2016 Surf Nite special guest Chris Bertish, pictured above, right, with HollywoodGlee, is featured in the film along with an interesting cast of characters from all walks of life.

Director/cinematographer Rick Wall and surfer Rod Torr who is also featured in the film, will be in attendance for a Q&A hosted by Coast 104.5’s Adam Montiel.

Rod Torr founded Kommetjie Surf in South Africa in 2007, and is passionate about the environment, the ocean and the pursuit of big waves. A lifetime surfer and long time friend of Rick Wall, he was an integral part in seeking funding and assisting with the production of the film.

Opening for SATORI will be a 30-minute documentary by filmmaker Graham Nash, and produced for Vans. In 2017, pro surfers Patrick, Dane and Tanner Gudauskas, and Michael February, hosted a surfboard drive to benefit the Waves for Change organization in Cape Town, South Africa. CAN’T STEAL OUR VIBE follows their journey to provide surfboards and a positive outlet to disadvantaged youngsters to help overcome the adversities of poverty, violence and abuse. Filmmaker Graham Nash will attend. Local surfers and businesses will have an opportunity to participate in a surf board drive with more details to come soon.

There will be a wine/beer bar in the lobby beginning at 6:00pm. A raffle of surf-themed items will be part of the excitement that evening, as well as an After Party at the Festival Lounge in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SURF NITE IN SLO – Presented by Surfing for Hope
Friday, March 15 – 7:00pm
Fremont Theatre, SLO

$20 General
$15 Students & SLO Film Society
Mogul passes & Red Carpet tickets can be used for this event and After Party

Tickets can be purchased by clicking on the Buy Now button
or at Festival HQ at 1040 Court St. SLO
(opens Feb. 15 – check website for hours)
or Day of Show at the Fremont Theatre Box Office. Tickets will be sold first-come, first-served beginning at 6:30pm

 

(Sourced from SloFilmFest.org)

2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival Coming Soon!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival
March 6-10, 2019
The New Vic Theatre
33 W. Victoria Street, Santa Barbara

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 9.18.15 AM


The Fourth Annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival has  announced the lineup for its 2019 Festival which will be held at the New Vic Theatre, in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif., from March 6th through March 10th.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 4.34.43 PMSBJFF co-chair Mashey Bernstein sees the key word for the festival as “community.” “Our films reach out not only to the Jewish community, but the Santa Barbara community as a whole. We want EVERYONE who attends to come away with a positive feeling; one that they can only get by sharing the warmth and joy of shared community in the darkness and warmth of a movie theater.”

This year’s lineup includes critically acclaimed feature films, documentaries, and shorts from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States, including World and American premiers. The films cover a range of topics from the life of a well-known author to the mysteries of the ritual bath, from the unexpected triumph of an Israeli baseball team to the darkest hours of our history. Numerous films and programs will also feature invited directors, actors and experts in the field to supply personal information and context.

Highlights for this year’s festival include the 1924 silent movie, City Without Jews, with an original music score and performance by San Francisco based Composer Sascha Jacobson and his string quintet (Saturday, March 9th at 7:15 pm).  Believed to have been lost until a copy was discovered in a Paris flea market in 2015, this silent gem was restored by the Austrian national film archive. The sometimes ironical and humorous tale foretells a future that became all too frighteningly real less than ten years later. Other highlights include the opening night film Promise at Dawn by renowned French director Eric Barbier, that tells the story of Jewish writer Romain Gary who twice won the Goncourt Prize for French literature. On Friday March 8th at 1:00 pm, the Festival will show Dear Fredy, a story of a proud and openly gay Jew in a time of great peril who finds love in the most unlikely of places before his mysterious death. Following Dear Fredy, the Festival will screen the American premier of the Australian movie, Outback Rabbis. Outback Rabbis follows two indefatigable Chassidic Rabbis who go to the hinterlands of Australia to find lost Jews.

On Sunday March 10th there will A FREE program Heading Home about the formation of the Israeli baseball team and its entry onto the world stage. (10:30 am), a shorts program with a wide variety of takes on the Jewish experience (1:00 pm), and the Festival conclusion, a delightful yet thought provoking movie from Mexico, Leona, that explores the issue of assimilation in its large Sephardi community.

Awards for best feature, documentary and short will be announced prior to Leona’s screening at 7:00 pm.

For a listing of films, sponsors, the Festival schedule, film trailers, and to purchase passes, please visit: www.sbjewishfilmfestival.org.

ABOUT SBJFF

Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, the 2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival includes five days of high quality, unique films that showcase a wide range of documentaries, dramas, comedies, and shorts by American, European, and Israeli filmmakers.

Mission Statement: The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara produces the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival specifically to celebrate the diversity of Jewish history, culture, and identity, while hoping that the films and their stories will resonate beyond these settings and speak to universal experiences and issues that confront our common humanity.The 2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival is chaired by Mashey Bernstein and Ron Zonen.

The 2019 SBJFF is a proud recipient of an Events and Festivals Grant from the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture.

So come on out, see some excellent films and help support these fine filmmakers. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

(Sourced from: SBJFF Press release)

 

TCM to Honor Actor & Comedian Billy Crystal with Hand and Footprint Ceremony

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.45.30 AM

Celebration to Take Place April 12th During The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.21.51 AMTurner Classic Movies (TCM) announced it will honor iconic comedian, actor and author Billy Crystal with a hand and footprint ceremony at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX®in Hollywood during the tenth annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Friday, April12.Crystal, a Tony Award® and six time Emmy® winner and Golden Globe® nominee, starring in cinematic classics such as The Princess Bride(1987), When Harry Met Sally…(1989), City Slickers(1991) in addition to hosting the Academy Awards nine times.

“Billy Crystal has long been among the most versatile talents working in Hollywood. And I say “talent” because Billy is so much more than an actor. Trying to define his careerScreen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.30.06 AM into a signature role or moment feels futile. Is it his lead performance in When Harry Met Sally, the ensemble he led in City Slickers, or his scene-stealing supporting part as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride? Then again, it might be his prodigious resume of voice acting work or his consistently impressive work hosting the Academy Awards, which he’s done nine times (only Bob Hope has done it more). From Soap to Monsters, Inc. Crystal has emerged as one of the great story tellers of his generation –on the big screen, the small screen, and in front of a live audience,” said Ben Mankiewicz, TCM prime time anchor and official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival. “For these and a fifty other reasons, we’re thrilled to be able to honor Billy for his contributions to this industry with a hand and footprint ceremony outside the TCL Chinese Theatre.”

This marks the ninth consecutive year TCM has featured a hand and foot print ceremony at the legendary TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX®. In 2011, Peter O’Toole was the honoree, followed by Kim Novak in 2012, Jane Fonda in 2013, Jerry Lewis in 2014, Christopher Plummer in 2015, Francis Ford Coppola in 2016,Carl and Rob Reiner in 2017 and Cicely Tyson in 2018.

2018 TCM Classic Film Festival - Hand and Footprint Ceremony: Cicely Tyson
Actor Cicely Tyson attends the Hand and Footprint Ceremony honoring Cicely Tyson during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 27, 2018, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)

About the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

For the tenth consecutive year, thousands of movie lovers from around the globe will descend upon Hollywood for the TCM Classic Film Festival. The 2019 festival is set to take place Thursday, April 11 –Sunday, April 14, 2019. Over four packed days and nights, attendees will be treated to an extensive lineup of great movies, appearances by legendary stars and filmmakers, fascinating presentations and panel discussions, special events and more.

TCM Prime time host Ben Mankiewicz will serve as official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival. The festival’s official hotel and central gathering point for the ninth consecutive year (was it not the first year?) will be The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will also offer special rates for festival attendees. Screenings and events during the festival will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre, as well as other Hollywood venues.

Whether it’s in the afternoon, at first sight, or in the air, the TCM Classic Film Festival will celebrate love in all of its forms. For the 10th annual Festival, and the 25th anniversary of TCM, there will be many-splendored moments to revel in romance and obsessions, delight in faithful friendships and surrender to the enduring allure of the silver screen with fellow classic movie lovers.

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.48.10 AM

 

REVIEW: IN LOVE AND WAR (Torsting, 2018): Denmark

Posted by Larry Gleeson

In Love and War Takes Audience Award and Captures Nordic Cinema Competition at Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 10.23.06 AMIn Love and War, from Director Kasper Torsting and Producer Ronnie Fridthjof, who co-wrote the screenplay together about a soldier in Denmark who returns home after three years of fighting on the front lines in WWI, harks back to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95, a film movement orchestrated to compete with Hollywood’s domination of the industry. Dogme 95 focused filmmakers on story, acting and theme and away from special effects and “MTV style editing.” Torsting and Fridthjof’s efforts seem to have brought von Trier and Vinterberg’s vision to fruition with In Love and War, winner of the coveted Audience Award for the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival as well as winner of the strong-fielded Nordic Cinema Competition.

The mise-en-scene and production design are at once gorgeous and stunning in this character-driven story that unfolds in dramatic fashion as lead character, Ebsen, portrayed by Sebastian Jessen, after already serving a three-year stint refuses to return to the front in order to renew and rebuild his family life. Consequently, Ebsen’s refusal forces him into hiding and to watch as a German Army officer, Gerhard, portrayed by Tom Wlaschiha, woos Ebsen’s wife, Kirstine, portrayed by Rosalinde Mynster, while winning the affection and admiration of Ebsen’s young son, Carl, portrayed by Axel Homann.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 9.34.49 AM

Interestingly enough, this is the first Danish film to address the German occupation of southern Denmark during WWI. Many of the Germans stayed in the area after the war and started families living side-by-side their Danish comrades. And, according to Director Torsting, it’s a part of Danish history that is washed over and hasn’t been addressed until now. Torsting made the film in an attempt to enlighten the present generation of a largely forgotten past.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 8.30.00 AM

With a painter’s touch, In Love and War’s cinematographer, Jesper Toffner, paints a remarkable canvas of landscape scenes coupled with period costuming that invites and encapsulates the viewer into the world of Ebsen and his quadrapalegic battle-buddy, Jes, portrayed by Morten Brovn, as both men try to not only survive but to hold on to their sense of self while everyone and everything around them is changing due to the formidable German influence.

Much more than an historical treatment, In Love and War digs into the human condition and what men and women do when faced with the difficult choices the cruelty of war posits onto the less fortunate. In addition, the film is in two languages, German and Danish, with English subtitles. Featuring stellar acting from the cast, including Ulrich Thomsen, Thurle Lindhardt, with Natalie Madueno and a driving musical score from Robin Hoffman that heightens the film’s suspense as Ebsen reaches the moment that will decide his fate and the fate of his family.

In Love and War is a highly compelling, emotionally moving film with a run time of 135 minutes and made its North American Premiere at the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG.

Highly recommended.

 

Santa Barbara Wraps 34th Edition of Its International Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) presented by UGG has come and gone. With its many tributes, panels, forums, educational and free community programs, and films, this year’s festival offered a little something for everyone.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Opening Night Film -
Lynda Weinman, left, and Mimi deGruy attend the Opening Night Gala during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Paseo Nuevo on January 31, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The festival opened with one of the most emotionally riveting first night films in recent memory as SBIFF Board member, Mimi deGruy, unveiled her film Deep Diving: The Life and Time s of Mike deGruy featuring her deceased husband’s treasure trove of underwater footage as well as delving into his passion and activism for the dark ocean water and its inhabitants.

Without missing a beat, the Breakfast Club (the nickname given by SBIFF Director Roger Durling for the first movies of the day starting at 8:00 AM) kicked off with The Biggest Little Farm, a beautifully constructed documentary that follows a young couple, John Chester, a writer and filmmaker, and his wife, Molly, a culinary writer, as they make the transition from urbanites to traditional farmers. The Biggest Little Farm was one of the festival darlings.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 8.15.23 AM
Birds of Passage

A personal favorite film of mine this year was the tragic, genre-bending Birds of Passage, a cartel film on the Northern Colombian Wayuu tribes in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra weave together a tapestry of cultural artifacts with a Shakespearean-style delivery that accentuates the early beginnings of cartel life.

Yet, one of the most mesmerizing aspects of the festival was contained in the Nordic Cinema Sidebar. Harking back to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95, a film movement orchestrated to compete with Hollywood’s domination of the industry, that focused filmmakers on story, acting and theme and away from special effects and “MTV style editing.” Their efforts seem to have come to fruition with In Love and War, winner of the coveted Audience Award for this year as well as winner of the formidable Nordic Cinema Competition.

First-time, feature-length,  movie-maker/director, Vanessa Filho traveled in from Paris, France, with her deep, introspective work, Angel Face, featuring Marion Cotillard. A delightful presence at this year’s festival, Filho also participated in the Women Directors Forum, in addition to walking the red carpet at the Outstanding Performer of the Year tribute. I had the good fortune to sit with Filho in the Hotel Santa Barbara’s Garden Room shortly after her arrival for a brief interview.

Unfortunately, the one that got away, A Seed for Change, from one-man production team, Alexandros Ikonomidis, was a film about his experience in dealing with the financial crisis of 2008 and its life-altering, economic fallout. Due to pressing circumstances I could not attend screenings for this selection. However, I did communicate with Ikonomidis, albeit too late to see his film and its overriding themes of self-sufficiency and survival.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Outstanding Performer Award Honoring Rami Malek
Rami Malek speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performer Award tribute during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 1, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

In addition to the traditional Opening Night and Closing Night Films, SBIFF has loaded several tributes into its Phase 2 Oscar cannon. This year had Rami Malek as its Outstanding Performer of the Year recognizing his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek is sweeping award ceremonies thus far and continues to be the front-runner for a Best Actor Oscar from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science later this month. We shall see!

Next year’s dates have been announced for January 15 -25, 2020, along with all festival award winners.

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

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Announces 2020 Dates + 2019 Awards

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), presented by UGG®, will return for the 35th edition January 15 – 25, 2020. 200+ Films featuring over 120 World and US premieres, Industry Panels, Celebrity Tributes, and Educational and Free Community Programs will be held throughout Santa Barbara, including the Arlington and Lobero Theatres.

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479“We’re so grateful to all of our honorees, filmmakers, attendees, sponsors, press and volunteers for making the 34th edition our best yet. We’re adjusting our dates and we’re already looking forward to celebrating our 35th anniversary! – SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

Also announced today were the award winning films for the 34th Festival at a breakfast held in their honor at Belmond El Encanto. All awards were announced, culminating in the coveted Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent, which went to Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). The films were chosen by jury members Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, David and Sandy Wasco, Joe Medjuck, Katharine O’Brien, Leslie Zemeckis, Margaret Lazarus, Olivia Hamilton, Paul Brickman, Roger Avary, and Tamara Asseyev.

Congratulations to ALL the Winners:

Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent: Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed)Best Documentary Short Film Award: Leslie Iwerks’s Selling Lies
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live Action Short Film: Christopher Wollebekk’s My Brother Amal (Min bror Amal)
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film: Rachel Johnson’s Henrietta Bulkowski
Best Documentary Award sponsored by SEE International: Johnny Sweet’s Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story
Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film: Bettina Oberli’s With the Wind (Le vent tourne)
Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: Sam Friedlander’s Babysplitters
Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema: Celia Rico Clavellino’s Journey to a Mother’s Room (Viaje al cuarto de una madre)
Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film: Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed)
ADL Stand Up Award: Javier Fesser’s Champions (Campeones)
Social Justice Award for Documentary Film: Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei’s Laila at the Bridge

Three awards were handed out for short films. The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film went to Christopher Wollebekk’s My Brother Amal (Min bror Amal). The Jury remarked “My Brother Amal displayed shining performances, brilliant directing and quite simply – it made us feel.“ The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film went to Rachel Johnson’s Henrietta Bulkowski. The Jury awarded the film “for it’s inventive story, craft and heart – it is a film that sticks in your mind long after you see it.“ Best Documentary Short Film was awarded to Leslie Iwerks’s Selling Lies. The Jury called the film “eye opening and chilling, Selling Lies clarified, disturbed and shifted our perspective.”

Sponsored by SEE International, the Best Documentary Film Award went to Johnny Sweet’s Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story. The jury remarked that “The power of this Doc cannot be denied, a testament to it’s subject and all involved. The gathering of top notch Interviewees and historical footage, the editing, camera, sound, all make for perfectly paced and gripping film.”Bettina Oberli’s With the Wind (Le vent tourne) is the recipient of the Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award for Best International Film. The Jury remarked that “With extraordinary moments of natural life beautifully captured, and equal portions dystopic nightmare, director Bettina Oberli’s eulogy for luddite optimism acknowledges that only part of us is sane and wanting for creation, while simultaneously exists an opposing primal need to burn one’s own house down until the foundations are blackened.”

Sam Friedlander’s Babysplitters took home the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema. The Jury remarked that “Babysplitters was presented to the festival as a work in progress. Even so, we appreciated the strong comic timing, the good heart, and a  slew of laugh-out-loud moments.  With some editorial discipline, this has the potential to become a true comic treat.”

The Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema went to Celia Rico Clavellino’s Journey to a Mother’s Room (Viaje al cuarto de una madre). The Jury remarked that the film “A very delicately composed film. Beguilingly simple in it’s reach yet totally engrossing. Beautiful to look at, beautifully acted.”

The Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film was awarded to Kasper Torsting ‘s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). The Jury remarked that the film “Intricate tale of the anguish of war. Totally unpredictable, highly original. Amazing Photography, editing and acting.”

Sponsored by Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties ADL, The ADL Stand Up Award went to Javier Fesser’s Champions (Campeones). “Campeones champions the value of inclusion, which is a touchstone of ADL’s worldwide effort to embrace diversity, to foster mutual respect, and to fight hate,” said Regional Director, Cyndi Silverman. “This is also a film about community,” she continued, “and we are thrilled for our community to see it.”

The Social Justice Award for Documentary Film went to Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei’s Laila at the Bridge. The jury remarked that “The filmmaker’s access to life and death events that unfolded right in front of our eyes, the personal force and dynamism of Laila fighting the powers that control money and drugs in Afghanistan on behalf of the addicts kept us riveted. Laila’s openness and deep understanding of addiction combined with the horror of the police keeping the addicts under a bridge and letting them die there was astounding.”

The Audience Choice Award sponsored by the Santa Barbara Independent went to Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). 1917: A Danish soldier fighting under the German regime fakes his own death to escape the horrors in the trenches and return to his wife and son—only to find that everything has changed.

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 33 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.

Sponsors of the 34th SBIFF include: UGG®, Toyota Mirai, Belvedere Vodka, City of Santa Barbara, Amazon Studios,  ADL, Montecito Bank & Trust, IMDbPro, Union Bank, Driscoll’s, Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Bentson Foundation, SEE International, Manitou Fund, Patagonia, Winchester Mystery House, Netflix, Mary Beth Riordan, Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin, Volentine Family Foundation, and many more supporting through trade.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day.

Guest Artist with Melissa Gilbert and Tim Busfield

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Industry veterans Melissa Gilbert and Tim Busfield premiered their first feature film, Guest Artist, starring Jeff Daniels, under the newly formed Grand River Production Company, this weekend at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG. Daniels also adapted Guest Artist from an acclaimed play he authored with the same title.

I had the privilege to sit down with Busfield and Gilbert in between screenings. Here is an excerpt from our talk.

 

Guest Artist is a drama about a a legendary but troubled playwright (Jeff Daniels) who has come to a small Michigan town to mount his latest play. While there he meets a precocious young man who idolizes Daniel’s character. What unfolds during their meeting is sheer brilliance. Guest Artist is entered into the Independent Competition sponsored by Panavision and is screening tonight at the Metro 2 at 8:20 PM and tomorrow at the Fiesta 4 at 5:40 PM. I got a peak at it and the writing is fantastic and I really liked the concept and theme. After our interview, I came up with a title for a forthcoming play: Patience of a Saint. And, stay tuned for forthcoming SBIFF film reviews.

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

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