AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: Whirlybird (Matt Yoka, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

Filmmaker Matt Yoka, who I had the distinct pleasure of connecting with at the AFI FEST Industry and Filmmaker mixer, brings home Whirlybird, a fascinating, real-world tale of Los Angeles-based reporters, Bob Tur and Marika Gerrard, who revolutionized real-time news reporting from the air. Yoka crafts his work from 2,000 hours of recorded flight tape, direct interviews, news archives, still photos, and more.

The result is a dynamic visual history of the biggest Los Angeles news events in the last 30 years including the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the pursuant, criminal assault of truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandy after the Rodney King beating verdict and subsequent acquittal of the four white police officers charged. And, if that wasn’t enough the duo broke and captured the infamous O.J. Simpson ‘White bronco’ car chase which became “the apex of live news coverage” with approximately 80 million viewers tuning in.

Prior to these two major national news events, Bob had also previously rescued 54 people from a crumbling rooftop at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, Calif. during a winter storm with winds up to 50 miles per hour. The hotel was surrounded by water and was being pummeled by massive, crashing waves.  As what can only be described as a herculean effort, Tur managed to whisk away the stranded guests to higher ground in fourteen separate takeoffs and landings. The rescue made news headlines and jumpstarted his and Marika’s network career with KCOP.

By itself, any one of these events would make for a great story. And they are. Interestingly, Yoka goes on to explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics between Bob and Marika primarily with footage from their aerial reporting. What emerges is a strong working relationship with Bob’s perfectionism and Marika’s “go along to get along attitude.” The pair produced footage unmatched with Bob’s aggressive piloting and Marika’s willingness to hang outside and keep a steady camera rolling under less than optimal conditions including live rounds being fired at them during their three-day virtually non-stop coverage of the 1992 rioting.

Unexpectedly included in present-day time is MSNBC journalist, and Bob and Marika’s daughter, Katy Tur, an MSNBC journalist and author of the 2017 “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” as she reflects on the rise and fall of her parent’s helicopter reporting empire, the current state of, and decline of, major network broadcast news reporting, and her parent’s marital relationship. Yoka includes this section as Katy and Marika are seen in casual conversation.

With Whirlybird Yoka manages to distill a 15 plus year time span into a 1:43 film run time. With a focus on the newsgathering, Yoka delivers a very informative segment before introducing and exploring a surprising and deeply personal human-interest twist reminiscent of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner as Zoey Tur comes to terms with who she is as a person and explains why she performed so aggressively and behaved so inappropriately as Bob.

A seminal piece on the newsgathering industry in Los Angeles coupled with a timely human-interest story involving transgenderism and news reporting at the highest national level, Whirlybird is highly recommended viewing.


AFI FEST FILM REVIEW: Wander Darkly (Tara Miele, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

Thriller/Drama Wander Darkly, a Lionsgate production, written and directed by Tara Miele, and starring Sienna Miller as Adrienne and Diego Luna as Matteo, is a surreal journey into conflict resolution between a young couple following a traumatic car accident. In a very non-linear approach, the couple relives the past through the duality of their shared moments including fond memories from the initial courtship through the truths of the present as they attempt to rediscover the love that binds them together as they face an uncertain future.

The film opens with solemn non-diegetic music as introductory titles roll. An aerial tracking “god shot”  follows a car traveling down a nightscape city street that could pass for West Los Angeles. An interior shot of the moving vehicle reveals a young couple with a newborn in a heated exchange. Tension is in the air. Dominance and control. Neon lights flash giving an illusion of a video game. Mention of splitting up. Then a massive collision.

From here mise-en-scene and cinematography get very interesting as time becomes fluid with death and out-of-body astral planing. Carolina Costas creates this fluid time continuum effect through various camera angles, movements, and lens choices. Imagine Christopher Nolan’s Inception cinematography and mise-en-scene where up is down and down is up as our lead characters are passing in and out of linear time going forward and back revisiting critical moments in their relationship trying to explain to one another what each was experiencing in those moments. I’m thinking Ghost (1990) meets Before Sunrise.

In the Q & A following the film led by AFI Programmer Claudia Puig,  Miele revealed the impetus for the film came from her life experience of being in a traumatic car accident with her husband. The experience changed her perspective on mortality and the adrenaline-fueled lifestyle she led. Sienna Miller also participated and shared Adrienne was one of her most challenging roles as an actor due to numerous emotional arcs, beats, and emotional u-turns. Miller and Miele seemed to both agree on the success of the film hinged on how surreal her character could be. In addition, Wander Darkly was shot in Los Angeles and Miele really wanted the story to be an LA story about an interracial couple. Producer Monica Levinson brought some of her surreal magic to the production set with the inclusion of dolphins!

On its most basic level, Wander Darkly is a relationship film challenging boundaries while seeking the answer for continuity. Miller in a tour de force performance crushes it as Adrienne pulling out all the emotional stops exploring grief, joy, and love. Luna is no slouch as Matteo either. Steadfast and earnest as he explains his flighty behavior with axioms of “for better or worse,” and “you have to take the good with the bad.” As contentious as the relationship is/was, watching the two come to a resolution was emotionally moving and deeply satisfying to watch. The sound design by Frank Gates and the music by Alex Weston was more than complementary. They were an integral part of the film’s narrative as were the dolphins.

Wander Darkly is as good a film as I’ve seen this year and is scheduled to be in select theaters, on digital, and on-demand on December 11th. Check it out! You’ll be glad you did!

AFI FEST FILM REVIEW: Belushi (R.J. Cutler, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

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

Never one to take a back seat, Belushi found himself behind the fame and popularity of Chevy Chase and SNL’s Weekend Update. Belushi pushed boundaries and raised the ire of SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels in advocating for his performance routines. At SNL Belushi created some of the most-talked-about and memorable characters of all time. His Olympic gold-medal-winning breakfast of champions – coffee, cigarettes, and mini chocolate donuts – and his spot-on imitation of Hall of Fame Rock and Roll icon, Joe Cocker.  Seemingly, everyone was caught by surprise when Cocker was the musical guest on SNL and Belushi came on stage and the two performed a stunning rendition of “Feelin’ alright.”


While remaining a cast member of SNL, Belushi participated in the filming of Animal House as the lovable, disrupter “Bluto,” and managed to form a stellar band, The Blues Brothers.  To say John Belushi had arrived would be an understatement as was on the #1 television show (SNL), had the #1 comedy in movie history (Animal House), and the #1 record album (Blues Brothers Soundtrack) in the world. In addition, Belushi seemed to demand respect for his work and he also seemed to covet respect as a person. He and fellow SNL cast member, Dan Ackroyd, would eventually leave SNL and create two Blues Brothers films together. The Blues Brothers (1980) has become a cult classic.

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

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

Sundance Institute Announces Seven New Members of Board of Trustees

Posted by Larry Gleeson

For Immediate Release

The Institute Continues to Shape Board Leadership for Future

Los Angeles — The nonprofit Sundance Institute today announced the newly appointed and recent additions to the Institute’s Board of Trustees. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ann Lewnes, Wonya Lucas join the board alongside Uzodinma Iweala, Amanda Kelso, William Plapinger, and Junaid Sarieddeen who joined over the last year. Together they add to the business, cultural, and philanthropic leaders who guide and steer the entire organization and also act in an advisory capacity. The distinguished new Trustees bring invaluable experience and will work closely with Board Chair Pat Mitchell and Executive Director Keri Putnam.

“We are so grateful to welcome the expertise and unique perspectives of Kimberlé, Uzodinma, Amanda, Ann, Bill, and Junaid to Sundance as we move forward in this challenging time,” said Pat Mitchell. “Our board possesses the right skills, a broad range of talents and a high level of commitment to our founding values and ethics to guide the organization’s mission-oriented work in supporting emerging artists around the world and connecting audiences to their stories.”

They join current members on the Institute’s Board: Robert Redford, President & Founder; Pat Mitchell, Chair; Jeanne Donovan Fisher, Vice Chair; Ebs Burnough, Vice Chair; Sean Bailey, Ritesh Batra, Jason Blum,  Lisa-Michele Church, Kenneth Cole, Pascal Desroches, Fred Dust, Philipp Engelhorn, Caterina Fake, Robert J. Frankenberg, Donna Gruneich, Cindy Harrell Horn, Charles D. King, Lisa Kron, Lyn Davis Lear, Gigi Pritzker, Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, Amy Redford, Geoffrey K. Sands, Nadine Schiff-Rosen, and Lynette Wallworth.

Sundance Institute regularly evolves its Board, evaluating its composition to ensure it includes the skills and perspective necessary to help guide the organization as individual board member terms expire. The Institute’s Board has typically included between 24-28 members, these latest additions represent a slight growth for the Board. With three board members terms concluding, and additions over the last year, the Institute is now composed of a 32-person Board, 10 of whose members self-identify as BIPOC and six of whom self-identify as Black. The Board is 50% men and 50% women.

The new members of Sundance Institute’s Board of Trustees are:

Kimberlé Crenshaw is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum, and the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School. She is the Promise Institute Professor at UCLA Law School and the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor at Columbia Law School. She is popularly known for her development of “intersectionality,” “Critical Race Theory,” and the #SayHerName Campaign, and is the host of the podcast Intersectionality Matters!, a columnist for The New Republic, and the moderator of the widely impactful webinar series Under The Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities that the Twin Pandemics Lay Bare. She is one of the most cited scholars in the history of the law, and was named Ms. magazine’s “No. 1 Most Inspiring Feminist,” honored as one of the ten most important thinkers in the world by Prospect Magazine, and included in Ebony’s “Power 100” issue.

Her groundbreaking work on “intersectionality” has traveled globally and was influential in shaping the South African Equality Clause. She has been a Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne and University of Paris; Centennial Professor at The London School of Economics; Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; and taught at universities in South Africa, Brazil, and Italy. She received her J.D. from Harvard, L.L.M. from University of Wisconsin, and B.A. from Cornell University, and sits on the boards of Sundance, VDay, and the Algorithmic Justice League.

Uzodinma Iweala is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor. As the CEO of The Africa Center, he is dedicated to promoting a new narrative about Africa and is Diaspora. Uzodinma was the CEO, Editor-In-Chief, and co-Founder of Ventures Africa magazine, a publication that covers the evolving business, policy, culture, and innovation spaces in Africa. His books include Beasts of No Nation, a novel released in 2005 to critical acclaim and adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria released in 2012; and Speak No Evil (2018), a novel about a queer first-generation Nigerian-American teen living in Washington, D.C. His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and  The Paris Review among others. Uzodinma was also the founding CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, an organization that promotes private sector investment in health services and health innovation in Nigeria. He sits on the boards of the Sundance Institute, The International Rescue Committee and the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Fellow of The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Amanda Kelso is passionate about technology and storytelling, and how together they can shape communities. She has spent the last 25 years serving as a creative communications and brand leader for global tech companies as well as lending her skills to non-profit organizations and startups. Amanda’s tenure includes helping to foster and oversee the stewardship of Instagram’s community of more than one billion people, serving as the Managing Director of Google Creative Lab, and providing creative digital leadership at Goodby Silverstein & Partners and West Ventures. While the majority of her career has been working in a creative capacity in the technology sector, early in her career she worked on television productions including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Amanda holds a BA in Film from Columbia College at Columbia University and is an incoming DCI Fellow at Stanford University.

As an advocate for independent storytellers, in addition to being a trustee of the Sundance Institute, Amanda is also a member of the Producers Guild of America’s New Media Council, and a judge for the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Work she has produced has been recognized by Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, SXSW, D&AD, Clios, One Show, The Jim Henson Technology Honor, and Communication Arts. Amanda recently co-published a public meditations project encouraging people to take time out of their busy days to meditate.

Ann Lewnes is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Adobe, a position she has held for over a decade. Under her leadership, the Adobe brand has become synonymous with creativity, digital marketing and the design and development of transformative digital experiences. In addition to its consistent focus on creativity, Adobe’s marketing organization pioneered the shift to digital – deploying advanced digital marketing technology, establishing an insight-driven culture, and setting a template for marketing’s impact on business. Prior to Adobe, Ann spent 20 years building the iconic Intel Inside brand as VP of Marketing. Forbes has recognized her as one of the top CMOs in the world, Ad Age has named her one of The Creativity 50 and she was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2019. Ann received her B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Lehigh University. She currently serves on the board of Mattel and is an active participant in the Sundance Catalyst program. Believing everyone has a story to tell, Ann is a strong advocate for empowering diverse creators, including women, youth and other under-represented groups.

Wonya Lucas is president and chief executive officer of Crown Media Family Networks. Lucas oversees the company’s portfolio of entertainment brands, including linear networks Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama; and subscription video on demand service Hallmark Movies Now. Lucas is based in the company’s Studio City office and reports to Mike Perry, president and chief executive officer of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Formerly, Lucas was president and chief executive officer of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, where she oversaw Atlanta’s NPR (WABE) and PBS (ATL PBA) stations. Previously, she was president and chief executive officer of TV One. Prior to joining TV One, Lucas held several positions at Discovery Communications, including executive vice president and chief operating officer for Discovery Channel and Science Channel, and global chief marketing officer, which entailed oversight of marketing in 210 countries.

Before joining Discovery Communications, Lucas served as general manager and executive vice president of The Weather Channel Networks with responsibility for corporate strategy and development and strategic marketing for The Weather Channel and . Previously, she spent eight years at Turner with roles including senior vice president of strategic marketing for CNN Worldwide; vice president of business operations and network development for Turner Entertainment; and vice president of entertainment marketing for TNT. Lucas also spent several years in brand management for The Coca-Cola Company and Clorox.

Lucas received an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Wharton and BS Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech.

William Plapinger was a partner for almost three decades (and is now Senior Counsel) at the global law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and has dedicated most of his time since 2012 to the not-for-profit sector, primarily education, as well as conservation and the arts.

Plapinger’s legal practice focused on corporate finance and M&A in more than 30 countries, with particular emphasis on large, complex, financial transactions, many of which were the first, largest or most significant of their kind. He was resident in the firm’s London office for 25 years, and had both firm-wide and regional management responsibilities, including as managing partner of that office, coordinator of the firm’s European offices, and a member of the firm’s Managing Partners Committee.

In the education sector, he is a member of the boards of directors of The Posse Foundation and Global Citizen Year, and formerly was the chair of the board of trustees of Vassar College for 12 years, a Commissioner on the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission, a trustee of the American School in London, and a director of the Conference of Board Chairs of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges. Over the last several years, he has worked with partners on an innovative venture to provide affordable financing to African students at the world’s leading universities.

In the conservation sector, he is a member of the board of directors of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, the largest private land trust on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, and in the arts sector, in addition to being a member of the board of trustees of the Sundance Institute, he was a co-founder and member of the board of directors of the American Friends of the British Museum.

Plapinger is a graduate of Vassar College and New York University School of Law, attended Westfield College (University of London), and was a Fellow in 2013 and 2014 in the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. He and his wife of almost 40 years, Cassie Murray, split their time between Martha’s Vineyard and New York City, and have three grown children.

Junaid Sarieddeen is a theatre actor, director, dramaturge, and a founding member of Beirut-based Zoukak Theatre Company (2006). He has directed several theatre plays with Zoukak and other artists including, “Ish Ibka…” (2007), “Lucena / Obedience Training” (2013), “Heavens” (2014), “The Jokers” (2017), and “36 Abbas street, Haifa” (2017). As a dramaturge, Junaid worked on several theatre and dance performances, including “Mahalli” (2012), “Fatmeh” (2014), “Leila’s Death” (2015), “May he rise…” (2017) and “NIGHT” (2019), and performed in more than 20 productions in the past fourteen years, touring in multiple cities and festivals around the world. He is a trainer on the use of theatre in various educational, social, and psychosocial contexts, and since 2016, a fellow artist of the Sundance Theatre Program where he took part in various Theatre Labs, both as a director and dramaturge in the USA and the MENA region.

Establishing Zoukak has provided Junaid a broad experience in art direction, curating cultural events and festivals, in addition to the knowledge in the management of non-governmental and cultural associations. He was a member of several initiatives focusing on cultural policies and other social and cultural issues in Lebanon including, censorship, public space, cultural heritage, and history.

For its artistic and social engagement, Zoukak received the Ibsen Scholarship award (2012), the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Euro-med Dialogue Award for social resilience and creativity (2014), the Honorary Citizenship of the City of Palermo (2017), the Praemium Imperial Award for Young Artists from the Japan Arts Association (2017), the Chirac Foundation Award of Culture for Peace (2017) and the Ellen Stewart International Award (2018).

Junaid holds a BA in Theatre and a BA in Philosophy from the Lebanese University. At present, he is pursuing his Masters at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut.

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

(Press release provided by Sundance Media Relations Office)


AFI FEST 2020 CAPSULE REVIEW: Uncle Frank (Alan Ball, 2020)

Posted and viewed by Larry Gleeson during AFI FEST 2020 presented by AUDI.

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

Uncle Frank, Frank Bledsoe, portrayed by Paul Bettany, is a dashing figure seemingly dismissed at home and who lives and teaches Literature (18th Century Women Poets) at New York University (NYU). When it comes time for Beth to go to college, she receives a scholarship to attend NYU. While there she learns of her Uncle Frank’s worldly ways (he’s a sober pot smoker) including his relationship with a gay Saudi man, “Wally” Walid.

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

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

But it was the cast, in my opinion, that brought the film’s narrative and its characters to life allowing for the suspension of disbelief. Steve Zahn played Uncle Frank’s respectful and admiring younger brother convincingly. He accepts his older brother’s way of life. Stephen Root delivers a powerful, domineering performance as the family’s unequivocal patriarch with the staunchest of beliefs, Daddy Mac. Peter Macdissi delivers a warm, loving, and heartfelt performance as Uncle Frank’s partner, “Wally” Walid, a Saudi man risking everything to be in a relationship with Frank but not willing to give up everything when Frank drinks again. In addition, Macdissi provides excellent timing with comedic relief at several pivotal moments. Sophia Lillis shines as Beth in an understated performance ala in a Ryan Gosling way. Lillis delivers an emphatically as small-town, ridiculed, Beth who blossoms into a smart, intelligent, beautiful woman standing boldly in her truth. And, Paul Bettany brings a much-needed gravitas to the role of “Uncle Frank” Frank Bledsoe.

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



AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: Citizen Penn (Don Hardy, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

Citizen Penn, written and directed by Don Hardy, provides a glimpse into Actor/producer/writer/director/humanitarian Sean Penn. Often characterized and stereotyped by early-career exploits of consistently making news headlines for punching cameramen, his political viewpoints, and marrying the world’s most recognizable pop star of the time, Madonna, Penn has diligently changed his image through extensive efforts to aid assistance to his fellow ‘man’ in war-torn, disaster laden, disaffected countries beginning in 2002 with the war in Iraq right up to the current COVID-19-infected United States, Penn’s home country. Hardy has amassed numerous photographs, direct interviews, and archival news footage, documenting the devastation and suffering along with footage from one camera operated by a Haitian police officer who accompanied Penn at all times following the country’s 2010 earthquake. Penn was adamant about his efforts not being used for overt publicity but allowed the official to have and operate a camera at his own discretion.

In 2002, Penn’s efforts in Iraq were viewed disdainfully as just another celebrity seeking attention or the limelight to jumpstart a flailing career. As noted, Penn had some off-screen issues while married to Madonna. Yet, in 2001 he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Sam Dawson in I Am Sam and in 2003 Penn took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Jimmy Markum in Mystic River. Also, in 2009 Penn took home his second Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, a dramatic biographical portrayal of California gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay elected official. According to IMDb, Penn has received 117 award nominations along with 74 wins from a myriad of film groups and associations.

Nevertheless, when the massive 7.0 earthquake hit the country of Haiti killing 250,000, injuring another 300,000, and displacing nearly 1,500,000 people, and Penn landed on the ground to render assistance, he was met with sideways glances and once again was looked upon as a celebrity seeking attention. And, according to Penn’s own words in Citizen Penn, he had initially landed to simply distribute 14,000 Chinese water filtration kits and 350,000 doses of ketamine and morphine pain medicines he had gotten from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez after seeing the suffering of the Haitian people on television news coverage. Penn had seen the poor suffering in Venezuela and supported Chavez’s revolutionary efforts to provide relief to the suffering and has been widely criticized by US government officials.  Still, when a celebrity lands a helicopter in a war zone or declared disaster area, news cameras seem to follow. Penn was on CNN being questioned what he was doing in Haiti and why he specifically felt he could help the Haitian people?

Penn’s medicinal relief needed refrigeration and only one location of Port au Prince could effectively store the needed stockpile. As his group, soon thereafter formally known as J/P HRO, settled into an abandoned, hidden location for the night, Penn was surprised the next morning to discover a tent city of tens of thousands (initially 30,000) of dislocated Haitians on what once was a golf course.  Unlike other celebrities who dipped in and out of Haiti, Penn stayed on the ground for several months returning often guiding not only relief efforts but also debris and gravel removal. As his organizational efforts expanded, Penn enticed international aid worker, Ann Lee, to become the group’s leader. A once markedly different characteristic of the Haitians, according to Penn, was their willingness and zeal in being a core component of the recovery process.

As Lee accepted the helm, she and Penn altered their mission and started CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) primarily from their outcomes and experience during the Haiti mission. The basic premise learned from the willingness of the younger Haitians, is to provide experiential training to younger individuals in areas affected and predisposed to being affected by disasters, so their communities are able to respond and recover quickly during states of emergency. Most recently, CORE has responded to COVID in providing 1.3 million tests to low-income communities in the Greater Los Angeles area. As wonderful a humanitarian as Penn and Lee are, the cost of undertaking relief efforts and providing community support is overwhelming. In order to get people in crisis what they need for basic survival, Penn began hosting an annual gala raising several million dollars from a limited guest list. Archival footage of Penn’s growing frustration over the years is on full display as archival from successive years is shown.

I’ve long been a fan of Sean Penn’s as an actor beginning with his Mick O’Brien role in the 1983 Bad Boys (post-Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and I was semi-aware of his Haiti relief efforts in 2010, just not to such an extent. Citizen Penn was a great way to catch up. Highly recommended.


AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: My Psychedelic Love Story (Errol Morris, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson as the Closing Night Presentation at the 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

The latest documentary and world premiere of My Psychedelic Love Story from the renowned documentary filmmaker of the Thin Blue Line and Fog of War (Academy Award winner), Errol Morris, comes a tell-all story of Johanna Harcourt-Smith, a once young, Swiss-born, Paris-raised, jet-setting, aristocratic, Jewish woman who cavorted with the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary. My Psychedelic Love Story is the story of Harcourt-Smith and O’Leary as they circumvent extradition and indulge themselves in daily acid trips for a two-month period before Leary is extradited back to the US, incarcerated, and eventually released. At the time there was much speculation Harcourt-Smith was a CIA plant – a Mata Hari of sorts.

Having recently watched The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix, as My Psychedelic Love Story unfolded I cannot say I was surprised to see Timothy Leary jailed for such a long period of time over possession of a small amount of marijuana. The underlying story at play was the Nixon Administration making an example of another high-profile individual who encouraged others to think and act “outside the box.” All in the name of law and order – before Watergate became public and while the Vietnam War and student protests raged in the background.

Morris bases his work in My Psychedelic Love Story on a four-tape interview Leary gave with a prison psychologist. In agreeing to be interviewed,  Leary makes clear in the tapes he wanted the love of his life, Ms. Johanna Harcourt-Smith, to have final custody of the tapes. But, according to Harcourt-Smith, her life centered on Leary and getting him his release from prison. Leary was undergoing hallucinogenic treatment while incarcerated. First from Harcourt smuggling in acid tabs in her belly button and through postage stamps on her letters sent through the US Postal Office and, subsequently, through prison therapy sessions.

Eventually, the government (the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency) threatened Leary with an ultimatum – publicly announce his cooperation to halt the LSD crisis or spend the remainder of his life in a psychiatric ward with a fried brain. His incarceration would soon include his ingestion of stronger and stronger doses of hallucinogens until he lost his mind. Leary agreed to cooperate, was released from prison into the Witness Protection Program, and was living in a small cabin in Idaho with no electricity. One night he and Harcourt-Smith had an argument. Leary left in the middle of the night and Harcourt-Smith never saw Leary again.

Only within the last few years when some of her belongings were sent to her did Harcourt listen to the interview tapes from 1974. Morris has his Interrotron that allows for a powerful sense of intimacy as well as several other cameras placed at various angles and vantage points capturing Harcourt-Smith as she delivers a monologue of epic proportions. As Harcourt-Smith drifts from topic to topic Morris introduces still photographs, psychedelic art, archival footage, and even a clip from Alice in Wonderland.

Harcourt-Smith is a compelling storyteller. During her two-month jet setting romance with Leary, she recalls her conversations with Keith Richards and how she encouraged him to go to America and make albums with the Rolling Stones. And, the spur-of-the-moment trips to Switzerland, Afghanistan, France, and back again. Listening to her tell her tale coupled with Morris’ use of image inserts of colorful Tarot cards and hypnotic music, I felt captivated and often wondered how could Harcourt have such a vivid recollection of her and Leary’s travels on the run from the law. Nevertheless, My Psychedelic Love Story is quite a tale of what seems to have become a largely forgotten part of the turbulent 1970s. Don’t fret, however, as Showtime will be airing it soon. Highly recommended!

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

Posted  and reviewed by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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


Posted by Larry Gleeson

Festival Attracts Largest National Audience In Its 34-Year History

With Attendees From All 50 States

Announces Audience And Jury Award Winners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, October 23, 2020 — AFI FEST 2020 presented by Audi announced today the films that received this year’s Jury and Audience awards. The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2021 Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards®. The Shorts jury was comprised of film critic Carlos Aguilar, filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison and Film Festival Alliance Executive Director Lela Meadow-Conner.

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

“With an audience of more than double from last year, we welcomed over 200 filmmakers and guests from around the world for Q&As and panels,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director AFI Festivals.

“This year’s festival was truly a celebration of film across the country with festival goers joining us online from all 50 states.”

Audience Award – Narrative Feature

WOLFWALKERS (DIR Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

Robyn befriends wild girl Mebh while exploring the magical forest outside an Irish town’s walls and undergoes a transformation in this adventurous animated film from THE SECRET OF KELLS creators, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart.

Audience Award – Documentary Feature

76 DAYS (DIR Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous)

January 23, 2020: Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million, goes on complete lockdown to combat COVID-19. Filming inside Wuhan’s hospitals, 76 DAYS provides an unforgettable look at a city’s fight for survival.

Audience Award – Short Film

The consequences of a mother’s decision to leave her daughter in the care of an American homestay family are unearthed when they reunite for a dinner on one lonely blue night.

 Grand Jury Prize – Animation

TIGER AND OX (호랑이와 소) (DIR Seunghee Kim)
Jury Statement:  “With its economical, yet powerful use of the animated medium, this film tells a tender intergenerational story of the layered relationship between a mother and a daughter and invites us to engage in necessary conversations around gender and trauma.”

What does divorce mean to women in Korean patriarchal society? Is a fatherless family a failure? In order to find the answer to these questions, a single mother and her daughter start a conversation.

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action

PILLARS (DIR Haley Elizabeth Anderson)
Jury Statement:  “The filmmaker navigates the coming-of-age terrain with a mesmerizing point of view anchored in stunning performances by its young cast. The nuanced showcased in explored Black girlhood in today’s America resonated strongly with us.”

One Sunday at church, 12-year-old Amber experiences her first kiss, a moment of innocence that triggers a series of awakenings: sexual, emotional, and religious. 

Special Mention


Jury Statement:  “Gifted with an original cinematic voice, the filmmaker reclaims the often-taboo transformation of a young girl’s body in a singular context. Harnessing magical realism to enhance this journey from shame to acceptance, this film both enchants and empowers.”

Pasang, a new girl at a nunnery, has her first period after hearing a late-night ghost story. She keeps it secret until she bleeds at a prayer session. She believes that she has been cursed and needs to sacrifice a black goat to avoid further misfortune.

Special Mention

MAALBEEK (DIR Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis)

Jury Statement:  “Departing from a tragic event, the director created a hybrid piece that is as immersive as it is moving and haunting. The reconstruction of a traumatic memory, both the personal and the collective, come to life in vibrant form.”

Sabine is looking for a missing image: a day that has left its mark forever and that everyone remembers but her. But maybe this absence is what allows her to move on with her life?
Special Mention


Jury Statement: “Poignant and eye-popping, this animated vision speaks to the importance of understanding one’s family history and the inextricable connection between a mother and a daughter. Through beautifully abstract animation, the filmmaker expresses these complex themes in an affecting manner.”

An animated documentary exploring how the filmmaker’s mother’s abusive relationship with her father shaped her own experiences in a boarding school in China.

This year’s festival showcased the best in global cinema due to the visionary support of Audi — now in its 17th consecutive year as Presenting Sponsor of the festival.

The complete AFI FEST program included 125 titles (55 features, 3 episodic, 33 shorts, 19 Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST shorts, and 15 AFI Conservatory Showcase shorts) of which 53% were directed by women, 39% were directed by BIPOC and 17% were directed by LGBTQ+. This year’s program represented 35 countries and included 7 World Premieres. The total film breakdown by section was: Special Presentations (8), Centerpiece Drive-in (1), Tributes (4), World Cinema (16) New Auteurs (14), Documentary (15), Cinema’s Legacy (4), Short Film Competition (33), Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST (19) and AFI Conservatory Showcase (15).

Additional highlights of the festival included the World Premieres of MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY (DIR Errol Morris), THE REAGANS (DIR Matt Tyrnauer), SHE PARADISE (DIR Maya Cozier), and SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS (DIR Lisa Rovner); an encore screening of I’M YOUR WOMAN (Julia Hart); the Indie Contenders Roundtable with Riz Ahmed (SOUND OF METAL), Rachel Brosnahan (I’M YOUR WOMAN), Winston Duke (NINE DAYS), Julia Garner (THE ASSISTANT), Vanessa Kirby (PIECES OF A WOMAN), Elisabeth Moss (THE INVISIBLE MAN and SHIRLEY), Carey Mulligan (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN) and Andy Samberg (PALM SPRINGS); the Doc Roundtable with Ramona S. Diaz (A THOUSAND CUTS), David France (WELCOME TO CHECHNYA), Liz Garbus (ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY), Ron Howard (REBUILDING PARADISE), Kirsten Johnson (DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD), Bao Nguyen (BE WATER), Dawn Porter (THE WAY I SEE IT) and Elyse Steinberg (THE FIGHT).

Additional guests included: Marisa Abela, Jennifer Abbott, Indira Andrewin, Joel Bakan, Alberto Balazs, Alan Ball, Jessica Barden, Angela Bassett, Zazie Beetz, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Paul Bettany,

Devon Bostick, Moran Cerf, Olivia Colman, Maya Cozier, R.J. Cutler, David P. Davis, Ezra Dewey, Mickey Down, Zeina Durra, Jessica Earnshaw, Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri, Armando Espitia, Heidi Ewing, Michel Franco, Dr. Racquel Gates, Marika Gerrard, Dieudo Hamadi, Myha’la Herrold, Werner Herzog, Aldis Hodge, Anthony Hopkins, Nina Hoss, Hallie Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Konrad Kay, Jo Ling Kent, Regina King, Tony Kushner, Jayme Lawson, Roseanne Liang, Sophia Lillis, Amos Mac, Peter Macdissi, Darius Marder, Nora Martirosyan, Cynthia McFadden, Noémie Merlant, Natalia Meta, Tara Miele, Sienna Miller, Andrea Mitchell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Tomm Moore, Errol Morris, Ekwa Msangi, Onessa Nestor, Christos Nikou, Miwa Nishikawa, Jeanette Nordahl, Edson Oda, Leslie Odom Jr., Yulene Olaizola, Tommy Oliver, Clive Oppenheimer, Kelly Oxford, Sean Penn, Judy Belushi Pisano, Justin Powell, Paul Raci, Morgan Radford, Mohammad Rasoulof, Andrea Risenborough, Érica Rivas, Gianfranco Rossi, Lisa Rovner, Odeya Rush, Kofi Siriboe, Morgan Spector, Ross Stewart, Chuck Todd, Katy Tur, Matt Tyrnauer, Blair Underwood, Pacho Velez, Caroline Vignal, Marquise Vilson, Angel Kristi Williams, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, Hao Wu, Matt Yoka and Florian Zeller.

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

Additional top sponsors included Apple and AT&T.

 View more than 70 AFI FEST Conversations here

 About the American Film Institute (AFI)

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

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

about AFI FEST is available at Connect with AFI FEST at and

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

Press contact:         Shari Mesulam    310.663-0056



Posted by Larry Gleeson

Conversations with Solstice Studios’ Mark Gill and NEON’s Elissa Federoff to Kick Off Market on November 9

80 Sessions to Feature Executives and Producers from BFI, Cinetic Media, Cornerstone Films, Facebook, Film4, Highland Film Group, IMAX, MadRiver International, Millennium Media, Symbolic Exchange, The Exchange, Troma Entertainment, XYZ Films, YouTube and More

Prominent Film Podcasts to Take the AFM Stage for the First Time



Los Angeles, CA – October 21, 2020 – The American Film Market (AFM®) today announced its initial speakers, topics, and programming calendar for AFM 2020 Online. Its 70+ sessions will take place over five days, November 9-13 alongside the AFM’s marketplace and screenings at


The AFM’s opening Conference – The Future of Filmwill launch with two marquee one-on-one conversations: Mark Gill, President and CEO of Solstice Studios, will take the online stage to discuss his views and predictions of how independent film, the marketplace, and audience consumption will change in the near future.  The morning will continue with a dialogue with Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution for NEON, who will share her insights on the future of feature film distribution and exhibition.


Gill just realized his goal of having the first new film in theatres since the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown with Unhinged, the first film his company also financed. Federoff recently made history for her company with four Academy Award® wins for Parasite, which became the third highest grossing foreign language film ever released in the US.


This year’s lineup will take place wholly online and will bring 200 speakers to two stages for conferences, panels, conversations, workshops, podcasts and presentations. Covering timely topics and issues most relevant to global filmmakers and the independent industry at large, several sessions will center on how to move production and the business forward in the wake of the pandemic.


Highlights include:


  • Producing Without a Completion Bond featuring Jill Goldsmith, Co-Business Editor, Deadline, Brad Krevoy, CEO, Motion Picture Corporation of America, Brian O’Shea, CEO, The Exchange, and John Sloss, Founder, Cinetic Media.


  • Pandemic Production Challenges & Solutions featuring Richard Botto, Founder & CEO, Stage 32, Chris Moore, Producer, Manchester by the Sea and Promised Land, Celine Rattray, Partner & Producer, Maven Pictures, and Jennifer Westin, SVP, Production, MarVista Entertainment.


  • Keep Calm and Carry On Filming presented in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI) featuring Adrian Wootton, OBE, Chief Executive, Film London and the British Film Commission, Anna Mansi, Head of Certification, British Film Institute, Julia Oh, Senior Commissioning Executive, Film4, and Alison Thompson, Co-President, Cornerstone Films.


  • Navigating Hollywood During COVID-19 : How To Find Success For Your Project During A Global Pandemic in partnership with the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and featuring Jen Barrett, Head of Entertainment, Creative Shop Facebook, Megan Colligan, President, IMAX Entertainmentand EVP, IMAX Corp, Malik Ducard, VP of Content Partnerships, YouTube
    Mike Jackson, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Lifted Film Co., and Gil L. Robertson IV, Co-Founder, African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
  • What’s Working in the Pre-Sales Marketplace featuring Kimberly Fox, Partner & Head of International Sales, MadRiver International, Jeffrey Greenstein, President, Millennium Media, Inc., Jeremy Kay, Americas Editor, Screen International, and Nat McCormick, EVPWorldwide Distribution, The Exchange.


  • Low Budget Films with Huge Profit Potential featuring John Rhodes, Co-Founder, Screencraft, Nick Spicer, Partner, XYZ Films, and Zachary Tarica, CEO & Director, The Forest Road Co.


  • Working with Sales Agents featuring Tamara Birkemoe, President, Foresight Unlimited, Clay Epstein, President, Film Mode Entertainment, and Jordan Yale Levine, Producer, Yale Productions.


  • Global Sales and VOD presented in partnership with The Film Collaborative and featuring Wendy Bernfeld, Founder/CEO, Rights Stuff, Todd Olsson, President of International, Highland Film Group, Orly Ravid, Founder & Co-Executive Director, The Film Collaborative and Attorney,Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, and Gabrielle Rozing, General Manager, Fortissimo Films.


  • Deciphering Streaming Models & the Path to VOD Distribution featuring Audrey Delaney, SVP, Distribution & Worldwide Marketing, Blue Fox Entertainment, Bruce Eisen, President, Digital Advisors, Linda Nelson, CEO, Indie Rights, Lise Romanoff, CEO & Managing Director, Vision Films, and, James Schamus, CEO, Symbolic Exchange.


  • Navigating and Negotiating Intimacy on Set presented in partnership withSAG-AFTRA and featuring Amanda Blumenthal, Founder, Intimacy Professionals Association, Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA President, Jim Kleverweis, Executive Producer, Euphoria, Insecure and Silicon Valley, Alicia Rodis, Executive Team, Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, and David White, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director.


  • Casting Global Talent: Who do Latinx Audiences Want to See? presented in partnership with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and featuring Aaron Ashford, Director of Development and Production, Pantelion Films, Liliana Espinoza, Projects Director, NALIP, and Carla Hool, Casting Director.


  • A Conversation with Lloyd Kaufman: Make Your Own Damn Movie in 60 Minutes or Less!


  • Facts Matter: Health & Science Accuracy Onscreen presented in partnership with USC Annenberg Hollywood, Health & Society and featuring its Program Director Kate Langrall Folb.


  • The Black List Can Change Everything About How You Find Future Projects with The Black List’s Franklin Leonard, Founder & CEO and Terry Huang, Director of Product and Data.


  • The Director / Producer Relationship featuring Shaked Berenson, CEO, Entertainment Squad, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Director / Actor, Culture Shock, The Purge (TV Series), Travis Stevens, Founder & CEO, Snowfort Pictures, and Lisa Whalen, Producer, Mandy, Color Out of Space.


For the first time, AFM will also spotlight five leading film industry podcasts with special episodes to take place on the AFM stages:


  • The Producer’s Guide: Founder of Broken Road Productions, Producer and host Todd Garner and WWE wrestler turned actor John Cenawill discuss Producing Comedy in Today’s Hollywood, A Serious Business.
  • Show Don’t Tell: Director and host Noam Kroll and screenwriter Bryan Hill to talk Screenwriting on a Micro-Budget.
  • The Filmmakers Podcast: Host Giles Alderson and producer/financier Ian Sharp on Making the Leap from Indie Films to Studio Features.
  • Indie Film Hustle: Host Alex Ferrari and producer Franco Sama on Raising Money in a COVID World & The Future of Film Distribution.
  • Film Riot: Host Ryan Connolly and writer/director Colin Levy to talk Directing a Blockbuster Film on an Indie Budget.


View the schedule of sessions and speakers for AFM 2020 Online. For more information and registration, please visit

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

(Source: AFM Press Release)