Category Archives: AFIDocs

The AFI DOCS Interview: ALONE IN THE GAME Creator/Executive Producer David McFarland

Posted by Larry Gleeson

ALONE IN THE GAME exposes the outdated ideas and outright prejudices that make competitive sports one of the gay rights movement’s final frontiers, and shows how a new generation of queer and transgender athletes are scoring victories on and off the field by standing up for their rights and demanding a chance to compete.

Athletes featured include NBA center Jason Collins; soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers; Vanderbilt football player Riley Tindol; high-school athlete Trevor Betts; and Layana White and Haley Videckis, who found love on the Pepperdine Christian University women’s basketball team and lost their scholarships.

AFI spoke with creator/executive producer David McFarland about the film, which plays AFI DOCS Friday, June 15. Get tickets here.

AFI: What led you to pursue documentary filmmaking?

DM: The advocate in me was called to action, and the creative in me couldn’t be left behind. For me, documentary storytelling is about bringing a hidden world to audiences to help create change and make a real difference in the lives of others.

AFI: What inspired you to tell this story?

DM: I have the privilege to examine these issues at the highest levels of sport — live these issues, really — up close and in person, and these experiences have given me a true and factual understanding of just how serious these problems are for LGBT athletes and how great an impact the world of sport can make when the right decisions are made by those in positions of power. When there is no current out gay male professional athlete actively playing in the Big 5 major leagues, you know we have a serious problem that affects the future of sport and the well-being of our LGBT athletes.

AFI: How did you find the subjects in your film?

DM: Being immersed in the world of sport and the LGBT community for the past three decades, combined with my professional experience, I have developed a trusted and confidential network that often leads me to closeted athletes, athletes in crisis and/or athletes who have faced head-on a culture of exclusion from sport.

AFI: What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film? 

DM: One of the biggest obstacles in making the film was getting certain key power parties in sport to show up and participate. This begs a very serious question for our leaders in sport: are we living in a time when equality and inclusion truly exists for LGBT athletes?

What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?

DM: I really want the audience to understand that even though America’s cultural, social and political climate is becoming increasingly accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens, competing and participating in sport is still considered to be an unsettling and unsafe environment for many LGBT athletes, coaches and sport administrators on and off the field. I hope that communities all across this country will see this important film and take action to ensure that the opportunities and dreams are the same for all athletes, coaches and those who participate in sport regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The obligation is on us all, regardless where in the sports power matrix you reside, or even in society as a whole.

AFI: Why are documentary films important today?

DM: They allow us to walk in the shoes of others, building a sense of shared humanity through real-life experiences, that give voice to the truth and strives to hold those in power accountable. In a time of uncertainty and “alternative facts,” telling stories in the documentary form matters more now than ever. Documentary films can and do inspire change, and while that change may be incremental, it is nonetheless real. They engage the heart and the mind with evocative, inspiring and emotional storytelling that can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

AFI DOCS

(Source: AFI DOCS Press Release)
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Six Documentary Projects to Receive AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants

Six documentary projects that screened at AFI DOCS 2016 in Washington, DC, have been selected to receive funding from the AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants.Now in their second year, the grants will support the outreach and social action campaigns for these six documentary projects that participated in the AFI DOCS 2016 Impact Lab, a two-day filmmaker workshop sponsored by NBCUniversal and presented in partnership with Picture Motion.

The 2016 Impact Lab took place in Washington, DC, from June 21–22, 2016, during AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s international documentary film festival held annually in the nation’s capital — with the goal to inspire change by bringing together the nation’s leaders and leading artists. Led by Heidi Nel (formerly with Picture Motion in Washington, DC), the Lab introduced participants to policymakers addressing a range of issues from the moral injury of American military veterans to caregivers, LGBT youth, gun violence, education and juvenile incarceration, and imparted filmmakers with the skills to engage with those policymakers at a grassroots level to catalyze lasting social change.

Spanning some of the most critical and urgent problems facing the world today, the projects supported by these grants demonstrated their ability to leverage distribution in 2016. The documentary projects receiving a total of $75,000 in support from the 2016 AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants are:

ALMOST SUNRISE
ALMOST SUNRISE

ALMOST SUNRISE
Michael Collins, Director

Two young Iraq War veterans hike a 2,700-mile course from the Midwest to the California Coast to raise awareness for those like themselves who struggle with memories of combat. Along the way, they meet other vets and supporters and talk through their traumas in this inspiring journey toward healing.

"Care" Documentary
CARE

CARE
Deirdre Fishel, Director

Millions of elderly Americans depend on compassionate caregivers to provide the support they need to age in place. These health care workers offer love and kindness to the elderly, but often don’t earn enough to keep a roof over their heads. With compelling stories of caregivers and those in need, CARE opens our eyes to the fragile human infrastructure that supports an aging America.

CHECK-IT
CHECK-IT

CHECK IT
Toby Oppenheimer, Director
Dana Flor, Director

In the heart of the nation’s capital, the Check It is a street gang comprised of gay and transgender teens who support each other in the face of outside bullying, attacks and discrimination. The group struggles with an existence underscored by violence, poverty and prostitution, but when a young mentor comes into their lives, he endeavors to help them find a more productive outlet: through the creative world of fashion. Finally faced with a better option, the Check It members must now attempt to beat the odds by getting off the street and working toward lives of purpose and accomplishment.

NEWTOWN
NEWTOWN

NEWTOWN
Kim A. Snyder, Director

On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and murdered 20 schoolchildren and six educators. In the aftermath of the killings, filmmaker Kim Snyder traveled to Newtown and trained her lens on a grieving community, following several families who came face to face with tragedy. NEWTOWN reveals both the indelible scars gun violence leaves behind and the resilience of people who come together to heal.

RAISING BERTIE
RAISING BERTIE

RAISING BERTIE
Margaret Byrne, Director

Filmed over the course of seven years, RAISING BERTIE is a sensitively made portrait of three African American teen boys living in the rural community of Bertie County, North Carolina. When the supportive community school they attend is forced to close, the boys must navigate a path of their own, which they hope will lead them away from the cycles of racism and poverty that threaten to engulf their lives.

THEY CALL US MONSTERS
THEY CALL US MONSTERS

THEY CALL US MONSTERS
Ben Lear, Director

This fresh look at juvenile justice follows three Latino teens awaiting sentencing for violent crimes as a legal debate rages on imposing life sentences for minors. The young men find their voice thanks to a teacher who helps them write, cast and produce a film based on their life experiences. The boys are complex, surprisingly lovable characters whose paths diverge as they enter a capricious court system, making a strong case for juvenile justice reform.

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(Source:blog.afi.com)

Five Ways to Build a Powerful Financing and Distribution Network for Your Film

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Written by Christopher Rufo and Keith Ochwat

You’ve heard it said before: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

As an independent filmmaker, your network — the relationships you forge with individuals, institutions and media in your niche — is what will drive every step of your film’s distribution. After all the hard work of getting your film made, you’ll need a tight-knit group of supporters and evangelists who believe in your work and will help you build an audience.

For our documentary Age of Champions, which tells the story of five competitors up to 100 years old who compete in the Senior Olympics, our network was the engine that powered our success. It allowed us to spend more than two years distributing our film and helped us generate more than $1.5 million in revenues.

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Networking involves much more than attending cocktail receptions or shaking hands at festivals. It’s about actively connecting with the people and organizations who share a passion for your work. It’s about creating partnerships throughout the entire process of funding, marketing, and distribution. In short, your network is the catalyst that will make things happen for your film.

As we cover in our Filmmaker.MBA online course, here’s our five-step guide to building your network of partners to help you maximize your film’s exposure and impact:

1. Focus on Your Niche

Your niche is the smallest, most passionate, and highest impact core of people who would love your film. These are the people who will watch your film for free on Netflix, then buy a DVD, host a screening in their community, and spread the word to their friends.

You’ll want to pinpoint the smallest niche audience you can find based on the subject matter of your film. For example, with our Senior Olympics documentary, Age of Champions, we discovered our audience by reaching out to nonprofits and businesses in the senior health community. We made phone calls to organizations, attended conferences, and started selling DVDs and community screening kits to senior centers, retirement homes and hospitals. They loved the film and wanted to share it with their local communities. Eventually, we discovered that our core audience was “female professionals ages 40 to 65 who worked in the senior health.” You should be as specific as possible — and it’s important to keep in mind that your core audience might not be what you thought when you started your project.

2. Reach Out to Institutions

Getting an institution to partner with you and promote your film can be one of the most powerful ways for getting your film out into the world. As soon as possible, you should make a list of all the important nonprofits, educational institutions, companies, and foundations in your niche.

Pay particular attention to mission-driven institutions that have connections to a potential audience with an interest in the same topic as your film. For example, if your film is about endangered whales, you’ll want to target organizations that are involved in marine conservation, animal rights, and environmental issues, and marine biology. The simplest way is to gauge their interest is to call and ask if they’d be interested in sharing your film with their members.

Age of Champions

3. Attend a Conference

Conferences are the secret shortcut to building your network quickly and efficiently. Although they can be a little awkward, you’ll be able to network face-to-face with the most influential people in your niche. The process is simple: do some research and find the biggest annual gatherings of people in your niche, book your ticket, and set up as many meetings as possible in advance.

For our upcoming documentary about three failing American cities, America Lost, we attended three public policy conferences and made connections with potential funders who eventually donated more than $500,000 towards production of the film. Our process was simple: we contacted the conference organizers six months in advance and pitched them on participating on a panel and sharing the trailer for our work-in-progress film. Six weeks before the conference, we asked the organizers for a complete attendee list and reached out to potential funders to set up coffee meetings during the event. We met one funder at Dunkin’ Donuts across from the Convention Center in Denver, and he committed to writing a $100,000 check on the spot.

By participating as a speaker, the conference organizers usually waived the attendance fee, so we just had to book our own transportation and accommodations. Despite the time and expense of attending these conferences, they paid out one-hundredfold. Making connections in person was extremely important in solidifying relationships and opening doors. We could have never raised our full production budget without participating at conferences.

4. Reach Out to Influencers

You can partner with an influential person in your niche who’s passionate about your film’s message. This could be a thought-leader, author, speaker, or celebrity. The goal is to tap into their devoted network of fans and start a discussion of your film online. You can ask your celebrity to host an online screening of your film, appear in bonus content, or promote your film on social media—whatever’s the best way to engage their fanbase.

Stacy Peralta, the filmmaker behind the skateboarding documentary Bones Brigade, rallied the pro skateboarders in his film (including Tony Hawk) to promote Bones Brigade to their millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook. After two months of a sustained social media campaign, Stacy added 46,000 fans to his mailing list and made nearly four times as much money as he was offered for a conventional distribution deal at Sundance.

Don’t worry if you aren’t already as connected as Stacy Peralta — with a little sleuthing and hard work, you can track down almost anyone. For Age of Champions, we connected with “stars” like author Dan Buettner (Blue Zones) and tennis great Andre Agassi by cold-calling their organizations and finding advocates within them who wanted to help promote our film. These advocates talked with their bosses and helped us secure social media posts on their behalf that drove awareness and traffic to our website.

5. Reach out to media

You can create buzz around your film by pitching your story to media in your niche. This could mean blogs, websites, podcasts, or video sites. Approach it like a typical PR campaign — reach out to the publications, provide them with a good story, and give them relevant content from your film. You’ll find that niche media are always looking for stories and can connect you with their readers.

The filmmakers behind Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary about the making of video games, launched a niche media campaign well before they even finished their film. They created more than 150 blog posts over the course of two years and shared content with video game websites and fan pages. By the time they were ready to release the film, they had built an email list of more than 30,000 people and sold $150,000 in DVD pre-orders.

In our experience with Age of Champions, niche media delivered a much bigger audience than mainstream media. For example, we appeared on NPR’s Tell Me More and in the Alzheimer’s Association newsletter — to our great surprise, we received only a few hundred website visitors after our national NPR segment broadcast, compared to more than 10,000 visitors after the Alzheimer’s Association newsletter went out to their list. Remember: you don’t have to be in the New York Times to have a successful PR campaign, just “the New York Times of your niche.”

(Source: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com)

Four Documentary Projects Receive First-Ever AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants

AFI announced the four documentary projects that will receive funding from the first-ever AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants. The grants will support the outreach and social action campaigns for the projects, which screened at AFI DOCS 2015 and participated in the inaugural AFI DOCS Impact Lab, a two-day filmmaker workshop that engaged participants with policymakers pursuing social change across a range of issues.

The documentary projects receiving a total of $75,000 in support from the 2015 AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants are:

THE CONVERSATION
Blair Foster (Director/Producer), Geeta Gandbhir (Director/Producer), Jessica Jones (Impact Producer)

THE CONVERSATION, a series of short films, uses powerful personal narratives to elevate shared experiences about race and equality that are often only discussed in the confines of like-minded communities. The series aims to foster a deep dialogue around racial tension and polarization in the United States as well as serve as an outlet for more personal and intimate discussions about race relations in America. Each film will be a conversation from a different personal perspective, experience and racial lens within our society.

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
Greg Whiteley (Director/Writer/Producer), Ted Dintersmith (Executive Producer), Daria Lombroso (Director of Campaign Strategy)

The American education system was developed during the Industrial Revolution to help prepare young people to take on standard jobs of the era, which no longer exist. So why has that system remained virtually unchanged for more than 100 years when our culture and economy have dramatically shifted to an age of information and technology? Filmmaker Greg Whiteley explores this paradox and examines the future of education through experimental schools such as San Diego’s High Tech High, where students, teachers and parents embark on a new path that aims to spark an education revolution.

PEACE OFFICER
Scott Christopherson (Director/Producer/Cinematographer), Brad Barber (Director/Producer/Cinematographer), Corinne Bourdeau (Engagement Campaign Strategist)

As a sheriff in the 1970s, William “Dub” Lawrence founded Utah’s SWAT team. Thirty years later, when a police standoff ends with that SWAT team killing his son-in-law, Dub launches a personal investigation into the case. As the scope of his investigation grows to include several chilling cases of excessive force and questionable techniques used by law enforcement, he finds himself confronting a startling nationwide trend of increasing militarization of police forces.

SALAM NEIGHBOR
Chris Temple (Director/Producer/Campaign Director), Zach Ingrasci (Director/Producer/Campaign Director), Salam Darwaza (Producer/Campaign Director)

Across the Jordanian border from Syria lies the world’s second largest refugee camp. In an effort to understand the growing crisis, a film team spends one month living in Za’tari. The Syrian families they meet aren’t just displaced, they have no promise of a future with sufficient food, security, education or peace. SALAM NEIGHBOR offers personal insights into the complexities of refugee life and challenges audiences to express neighborly love for people in crisis.

Pictured above: SALAM NEIGHBOR

 

(Source: http://www.blog.afi.com)

Zero Days

Zero Days, the latest film by acclaimed documentarian, Alex Gibney, details claims that the US and Israeli governments conducted covert cyber warfare operations against the Iranian government and the Iranians’ nuclear enrichment program.

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(From left to right) Alex Gibney, writer and director of Zero Days, alongside actors Eric Chien and Liam O’Murchu, on the red carpet at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., before the Opening Night Film screening of Zero Days at the 2016 AFI DOCS June 22, 2016. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

A former employee of the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency went on camera to say that he knew of one or two nation-states that were using cyber weapons for offensive purposes. However, when asked who the states were and were the states involved using Stuxnet, a dance of denial ensued with the former employee back peddling while reiterating he did not mention names of the existence of Stuxnet often uttering “I can’t comment on that” when pressed to name names or the existence of Stuxnet.

Gibney has done his homework with Zero Days as he provides a historical backdrop of the Iranian nuclear program disclosing the US gave Iran its first nuclear reactor under the Shah of Iran’s rule. In addition, he shows the pride the Iranian people have in their nuclear program demonstrated by their national celebrations for Nuclear Enrichment Day, a national nuclear day that has galvanized the republic of Iran. Furthermore, Gibney shows a clip of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comparing contemporary Iran to Germany during the time of Adolph Hitler. 


This is a must-see film. Zero Days is screening as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Showcase series tonight, Tuesday July 19 @ 5:00pm and tomorrow, Wednesday July 20 @ 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra in Santa Barbara, Calif.

See you at the movies!

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AFI DOCS 2016 Wrap Up

With ninety-four films from over 30 countries the 2016 AFI DOCS had something for just about every documentary film lover. The Opening Night film dazzled the at-capacity audience at the Newseum with Alex Gibney’s North American Premiere of Zero Days,a detailed account of claims the US and Israeli governments unleashed a sophisticated virus to thwart the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. The film also addressed the issue of retaliation and made for a lively conversation and Q & A following the screening. Highly recommended.

 

 

Kicking off the first full day, I had the good fortune of seeing seven short documentaries under the guise of Shorts: Outside In; Tracks, The Great Theatre, Rotatio, Neige, Fundir and Chocolate Mountain Metal, Shorts: Outside In. Warmly recommended.

Winding up a busy Day 2 at the Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism in downtown Washington, DC, Newtown, an emotionally, powerful look at the local community two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre from acclaimed director Kim Snyder, and Audrie & Daisy, a story of two high school girls who were sexually assaulted in indefensible states and their vilification on social media with tragic consequences, were shown. Both are must-see films. Highly recommended.

 

Day 3 brought  After Spring, a telling tale of the relocation of Syrian refugees and the challenges they face at the Zaatari relocation camp inside the Jordanian border. Directors Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez attended the screening and made themselves available to discuss the making of the film. Recommended.


Almost Sunrise, explores an alternative approach to the traditional diagnosis and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Director Michael Collins chronicles the journey of two Iraq War veterans as they share a 2700 mile hike from the Midwest to the state of California to create an awareness of their trauma. Along the way, the two are warmly greeted and supported by fellow veterans and communities alike. Warmly recommended.

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Unfortunately, due to an overwhelming demand for seats at the Guggenheim Symposium and Screening, I was not granted a place for the evening’s conversation with Werner Herzog and Ramin Bahrani including clips from Herzog’s storied career and a screening of his latest work, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. Nevertheless, I made my way over to Silver Spring, MD, AFI Silver Theater for Cinema, Mon Amour, a wonderful story of a Romanian family and their ‘never say quit’ spirit as they work determinedly to keep open the last of Romania’s grand movie palaces.

Day Four began with a visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for the Filmmakers Forum and the making of short documentaries. Quick and to the point, storytellers and the movers and shakers of the industry engaged in an informative format as filmmakers and producers provided guidance and probed the issues in today’s filmmaking environment.

Full of vigor, the featured Command And Control,directed by Robert Kenner, recounted a 1980 nuclear accident with surreal details. Highly recommended.command-and-control-tribeca

Next, I dropped in on Vanessa Gould’s Obit, an insider’s guide to the world of who’s who in the annals of lives lived through the eyes of the legendary New York Times obituaries desk. Obit reveals a unique form of journalism and the idiosyncrasies of the writers and editors who create and compose these celebrations of extraordinary lives lived. Warmly recommended and my personal favorite!

Closing out the evening again at the Newseum with a Spotlight Screening of Check It.  Check It, a mesmerizing look at an inner city, Washington DC, gang composed of gay and transgendered teens who allied themselves together for protection and survival out on the streets of the nation’s capitol over a three year period, was directed by Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor. Over the course of the film, the Check It gang comes to the realization that while surviving is critical so is leading a productive and useful life. Warmly recommended.

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Day 5 kicked into gear with another visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for Part Four of the Filmmakers Forum. I arrived early and met Discovery’s Gina Scarpulla. Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Scarpulla and her team at Discovery are pioneering virtual reality in film. Virtual headsets, known as lunchboxes were made available before and after the forum. See my full write up here: AFI DOCS Filmmaking Forum on Virtual Reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came the Chicken People, directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes. Chicken People delves into the worlds of the contestants and their contenders, pure bred chickens,  as they vie for best fowl at the Ohio National Poultry Show and the title of Super Grand Champion. Warmly recommended and A Don’t Miss!

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Doc & Darryl, a soon-to-be-aired ESPN 30 for 30 film, depicts the trials and tribulations of the 1986 Major League Baseball World Champions New York Mets and the meteoric rise and setbacks of the team’s two most talented players, Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. The film was co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. See my write up: Doc & Darryl

Closing out the the 2016 AFI DOCS was Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. This is a masterpiece of television history. Breathtaking images of actors, writers and directors watching clips from  All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Good Times juxtaposed against their commentaries, highlight this cinematic gem. Another must see film! And I know Norman Lear wouldn’t have it any other way. Highly recommended.

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This was my first AFI DOCS. Set in our nation’s capitol, the festival ran smoothly. Two venues were in downtown Washington, DC, and were within walking distance of one another. Also, both venues were easily accessible by the Metro and had plenty of shops, coffee bars, sports bars and restaurants nearby. The third venue was in Silver Spring, Maryland, home of the AFI DOCS Silver Theater and Cultural Center. Again, plenty of shops and nearby eateries and fairly easy to get to by Metro. The Washington Post calls AFI DOCS “The nation’s leading documentary film festival.” I couldn’t agree more.

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

THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH

The AFI DOCS Interview: THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH Director Trisha Ziff

For more than five decades, photojournalist Enrique Metinides risked his life to photograph tragedy — and the human emotion that accompanies it — in Mexico City. From crime scenes shot in black and white to explosions captured in full color, Metinides’ hauntingly beautiful pictures reveal the drama of disaster in a single frame as captured in THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH.

AFI spoke to director Trisha Ziff ahead of the film’s AFI DOCS premiere. Also, check out the trailer below.

What led you to documentary filmmaking?

I come from a world of photography. My first film was based on an exhibition I curated about the famous photo of Che Guevara. It was a show about one single image and all its incarnations and hybrids. I saw the doc HELVETICA and I thought if you could make a film about a font, you could make a feature doc about a single image, a 60th of a second. I was fortunate enough to encounter amazing people to work with.

Coming from curation, I loved the world of documentary. It’s a different way of storytelling and the collectivity of filmmaking was a huge attraction. I grew up in England and spent my formative years watching Channel 4 docs and working with wonderful documentary filmmakers there. So to make my own film, with the support of Netflix, was a huge challenge and an amazing opportunity. I still curate and love the different ways of working with walls and with the moving image.

What inspired you to tell the story of Enrique Metinides?

I live in Mexico City and at every traffic light, we are confronted with tabloid images of the violence that took place the night before; we can never escape it. The frequency of the images assaulting us daily also makes them, ironically, feel mundane; they paralyze us. This is a film about a photographer who spent his life taking those images. I wanted to explore why we want to look at the image as much as he wants to take the photograph — the layers of looking, the voyeurism, the seduction. For me, it was about diving into a very dark world, understanding the sensationalism and meeting the photographers who do this work today. The film grew out of a seven-year relationship with my protagonist Enrique Metinides, three major exhibitions and a book.

How did you find your subject?

We had been working together for five years before we began to work on the film. I seem to have got into this pattern of a book, then an exhibition, followed by a film. It’s the third project with this model. I like it because each medium impacts and enriches the other . I was invited to curate a show of Enrique’s work at a big photo festival in Arles in the south of France; out of that grew our book, and later came the film. But my films grow from my curatorial work .

What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?

I think all of us might say funding! Despite the changes in how people see documentaries today and their popularity, it is still hard to make a film, and even harder to make a doc with a cultural theme. People tend to want Latin American films to address themes of victimhood and poverty, films that fit into a stereotype of sorts. So making a film about photography and a world of photography — which has the complexity of not being considered of cultural value — falls between two stools. The real challenge, however, was to find the contemporary photographers willing to work with me and to have us go out at night with them, documenting what they do. It took time to win their confidence but being at a crime scene with a cadaver is not something I will soon forget.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

My main concern in showing this film in the U.S. is: does this film, which addresses the depiction of violence in photography in Mexico, somehow contribute to a Trump-like stereotype of Mexico? Obviously that idea could not be further from my intention. But what I hope in the most modest of ways is that the audience leaves the cinema thinking about their own fragility — that they should check their seat belts are fastened! Understanding your own fragility is also about living each moment to the fullest. So I guess I want the audience to leave the theater recognizing how fragile it all is. It’s a theme that goes beyond the Mexican content; it applies to all of us.

Why is Washington, DC, a valuable location to screen your film?

DC has an extraordinary mix of people. It is a Mecca for people from all over the world. It also has a significant Mexican and Latin American population today. It’s a city with a strong photographic tradition thanks to the Corcoran and a museum dedicated to media, which is also a dominant theme in my film.

I think DC is an important Mecca for documentary; it is a city embroiled with sensationalism, with gossip, with drama about news. The news in my film may be different, but the culture of sensationalism is a different version of the same.

What documentary films or documentarians have been the most influential to you?

I have two favorite documentary filmmakers: Agnès Varda and Patricio Guzman. They both take documentary filmmaking to a lyrical place and yet through their storytelling, we confront important issues and narratives. They are so different but they both understand the media of cinema, which has always inspired me. I work and make films in Mexico and today the strength of young women documentary filmmakers is especially inspiring. Maya Goded, Viviana Garcia Besne, Maria José Cuevas and Tatiana Hueso all challenge the boundaries of documentary. They are an amazing energy in Mexican contemporary filmmaking.

THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH plays AFI DOCS on Thursday, June 23, at 9:00 p.m., and Friday, June 24, at 2:00 p.m. Buy tickets here.

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[Source: American Film Magazine (blog)]

AUDRIE & DAISY

Spotlight Screening
AUDRIE & DAISY tells the story of two teenage girls who went to parties, drank alcohol, passed out, and were sexually assaulted by guys they thought were their friends.  In the aftermath, both girls discovered that the crimes were documented on cell phones.  Video and pictures were passed around.  Their lives were changed forever.

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A riveting examination of the frightening consequences of social media gone out of control, AUDRIE & DAISY focuses on the traumatic aftermath for two teenage girls who were sexually assaulted in 2012. As evidence of the crimes went viral, the victims were scorned by their communities and cyber-bullied by their peers — to tragic ends. This heartbreaking film makes a powerful plea to end the cultures of shame and silence surrounding rape in the digital age. — Chuck Willett

 

Director’s Statement

As directors and parents of teenagers, we are struck by the frequency of sexual assaults in high schools across the country and have been even more shocked by the pictures and videos, posted online – almost as trophies – by teens that have committed these crimes.  This has become the new public square of shame for our adolescents.   Unfortunately, the story of drunken high school parties and sexual assault is not new.  But today, the events of the night are recorded on smartphones and disseminated to an entire community and, sometimes, the nation.  Such was the case for Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, two teenage girls, living thousands of miles apart but experiencing the same shame from their communities.  While the subject matter is dark, we are inspired by these stories to make a film that captures these truths but can also help audiences digest the complexities of the world teenagers live in today.

As we began our research, the Steubenville, Ohio High School rape case was underway.  At the time, there was wide criticism directed at national news outlets for their lack of focus on the victim and perceived sympathy for the perpetrators.  As more cases have come to light since then, this damaging attitude – stemming from what many refer to as pervasive “rape culture” in American society – has remained largely in tact.  However, journalists need stories and stories require characters.  As is the norm in underage rape cases, in Steubenville, the survivor chose (understandably) to maintain her anonymity as a “Jane Doe.” We decided then that a genuinely emotional, meaningful film about teenage sexual assault required the affirmative on- camera participation of the survivor.  Our main subjects, Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott, involuntarily lost their anonymity when rumors, insults and photos about their assaults circulated around school and on social media.  Identified by name and subjected to online character assassination, Daisy decided with great courage to speak out publicly.  Audrie’s parents chose to go public with their daughter’s story after the unspeakable tragedy of Audrie’s suicide, as well. Thus, using their deeply personal – and, now public – stories as a starting point, we launched into production of our film.

AUDRIE & DAISY, directed by Bonni Cohen and Joe Shenk is screening Thursday, June 23rd, 2016, at the Newseum at 8:15 P.M. Click here for tickets.

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ZERO DAYS: Opening Night Gala @AFIDOCS

North American Premiere

ZERO DAYS, directed by Alex Gibney is slated for Opening Night Film for the 2016 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS. The film will be making its North American Premiere on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 7:30 P.M., at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

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When independent Internet technicians discovered a chillingly powerful computer virus unlike anything they’d seen before, signs pointed not merely to recreational or criminal hackers, but to a high-stakes game of cyber warfare between nations. Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney returns to the festival with ZERO DAYS, a fascinating exposé of American and Israeli covert operations aimed at Iran’s nuclear program. Gibney (TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF) is a master of investigative documentary filmmaking, shining a light on institutions as diverse as WikiLeaks, the Church of Scientology, Apple Inc., Enron and the U.S. military. His latest work poses compelling and critically important questions about the role of technology in war and foreign policy, and its worldwide implications. — Mimi Brody

For more details click here.

OBIT: Celebrating Life @nytimes

How do you remember a life? OBIT takes us into the world of the legendary obituaries desk at The New York Times where the writers and editors ask themselves this question daily. The film eloquently reveals the art and craft of writing obituaries and shares the journeys of extraordinary individuals to show us why writing obits is not about death, but about celebrating lives. — Silvina Fernandez-Duque

 

Obit is screening on Saturday, June 25th, 2016 at 6:00 P.M. at the Landmark 6 in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2016 AFI DOCS. For more details visit Obit.

 

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