Category Archives: Documentary

OVERLAND and the Art of Falconry

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting film director, Elisabeth Haviland James on the red carpet last night at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Check out the short conversation. It’s intense and informative. Don’t be afraid!

 

 

(FROM SBIFF) How can we connect to our natural, primal spirit when modern society threatens to erase it?

OVERLAND is a stunning cinematic journey across four continents that twists and turns like nature itself – bridging ancient to modern, east to west, and earth to sky. Lauren, a daredevil anthropologist, trains injured eagles to fly and hunt while scouring the world for falconry secrets. A confused eagle whose tragic past seems beyond repair pushes her to the brink. Giovanni left Rome for a solitary life in the countryside with his wolves, horse, and hawks. After a transcendent experience with an 800-year-old falconry book, he begins to question his life’s purpose. In Dubai, Khalifa is training to be the world’s best falcon racer. For millennia, his nomadic ancestors hunted with falcons in the harsh Arabian desert. Now, with city life encroaching, he must find a way to keep his fragile Bedouin culture from vanishing forever.

For more screening information check out sbiff.org

Directed by Revere La Noue, Elisabeth Haviland James
Produced by Elisabeth Haviland James, Revere La Noue, Amy Tiemann, Michael Tiemann, Marilyn Jacobs Preyer, Christopher Behlau
Written by Elisabeth Haviland James, Revere La Noue
Starring Lauren McGough, Khalifa Bin Mujren, Giovanni Granati
Documentary Competition / Reel Nature Sidebar
Country: USA
105 minutes
World Premiere
Subtitled

Free public screening today, 2PM, at the Lobero!

Tomorrow, January 18th, 4PM, at the Fiesta Theatre, Auditorium #3, and

Sunday, January 19th, 8:30AM, at the Metro Theatre, Auditorium #4.

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

 

SBIFF 35

Advertisements

Latest Additions to 2020 Sundance Film Festival Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Brothels
Born into Brothels

The Social Dilemma Joins Documentary Premieres; Born into Brothels and High Art Are From The Collection Films

Special Event Love Fraud Confirmed as Day One Screening

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) Park City, UT — Sundance Institute adds three feature films to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s robust slate of independent work today, alongside previously announced work. The Institute also confirmed that previously-announced Special Event, Love Fraud, will screen on Day One of the Festival. The Festival will take place in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort on January 23–February 2, 2020.

Pulling from the vault of festivals past, archival selection High Art will be presented thanks to a newly created DCP provided by Focus Features/Universal Pictures. Lisa Cholodenko’s feature debut, featuring a breakthrough performance from Patricia Clarkson and Radha Mitchell, and an award-winning turn from Ally Sheedy, High Art premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. High Art follows an ambitious female magazine editor who has a chance encounter with her neighbor, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues and a story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves unfolds.

Born into Brothels, the second archival screening, won the Documentary Audience Award when it premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes. The film, which highlights the immensely restorative, empowering, and liberating nature of art, went on to win an Academy Award® for Documentary Feature in 2005. Nearly lost in a fire, Born into Brothels has been digitally restored, and a DCP was created through a collaboration between Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Academy Film Archive branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Archival screenings are made possible by the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA and give audiences the opportunity to discover and rediscover the films that have shaped the heritage of both Sundance Institute and independent storytelling. To address the specific preservation risks posed to independent film, including high costs of storage, lab closures, issues around intellectual property rights, and damage from neglect, Sundance Institute partnered with UCLA Film & Television Archive in 1997 to form the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA.

The Collection has grown to over 4,000 holdings representing nearly 2,300 titles, and is dedicated to preserving independent feature-length and short films supported by Sundance Institute. Celebrating the history of independent film, past From the Collection screenings have included The Blair Witch Project, Hours and Times, River of Grass, Paris is Burning, Desert Hearts, Daughters of the Dust, El Mariachi, sex, lies, and videotape, Hoop Dreams, and Paris, Texas.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The Social Dilemma / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski, Screenwriters: Vickie Curtis, Davis Coombe, Jeff Orlowski, Producer: Larissa Rhodes) — Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives. Insiders from Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube reveal how these platforms are reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen. Cast: Vincent Kartheiser, Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward. World Premiere

FROM THE COLLECTION 

Born into Brothels / U.S.A. (Directors: Zana Briski, Ross Kaufman) – A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes.

High Art / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lisa Cholodenko, Producers: Dolly Hall, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Susan A. Stover) – A story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves. Syd, an ambitious female magazine editor, has a chance encounter with her neighbor one night, the enigmatic Lucy, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues – will Lucy be saved or will Syd be destroyed? Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Grimes, Gabriel Mann, Radha Mitchell, Bill Sage, Ally Sheedy.
The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire; AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. 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, discovering original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Sundance Film Festival 2020

(Source: Sundance press release)

 

Film Fans Brave Box Office Disruption As NO SAFE SPACES Crosses Million-Dollar Mark To Become #1 Political Documentary Of 2019

Posted  by Larry Gleeson

Adam Carolla/Dennis Prager Docudrama Continues Solid Run At The Box Office; Police Called As Masked Men Disrupt CA Screening

DECEMBER 15, 2019 (Los Angeles, CA) – A week after expanding to just 200 screens in more than 30 markets, the free speech docudrama No Safe Spaces crossed the million-dollar mark at the box office this weekend, becoming the #1 grossing political doc and the #13 documentary overall in 2019 even as some fans faced a box office disruption that resulted in the police being called to a theater in California.

Screen Shot 2019-12-15 at 9.44.44 AM
Podcast king Adam Carolla, left, and radio talk show host Dennis Prager, right, discuss NO SAFE SPACES, a rising, political documentary on issues related to the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

The incident at the California theatre where moviegoers were subjected to two masked men who ran into a theater carrying duffel bags, prompted some fans to flee the theater. One fan, Vanessa Fields, contacted the filmmakers to let them know what had happened and was given four tickets for a subsequent screening which she attended with her family. She later shared her story on Prager’s radio program.

“We knew it would take courage to make the film, but I never imagined it would take courage to watch it,” noted Prager. “Vanessa didn’t know who or what she was facing that day in the theater, so she did what a Mom does: protect her family. But a few days later she went right back into the same theater and lived the message of the movie: Don’t let the bullies intimidate you. I was honored to meet her in person. I hope millions of Americans will follow her lead and go to a theater to watch our film.”

In NO SAFE SPACES, Carolla and Prager travel the country, talking to experts and advocates on the left and right, tour college campuses, and examine their own upbringings to try to understand what is happening in America today and what free speech in this country should look (and sound) like.

The film has earned high praise from various quarters with the Chicago Tribune describing it as “profoundly important,” while LA Weekly noted its “pressing social relevancy,” and Variety praised the film for its “engrossing multimedia verve.” It has also earned a fan score of 98% at Rotten Tomatoes.

 

GRAVITAS VENTURES ACQUIRES MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GRAVITAS VENTURES ACQUIRES MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM

Making Apes will be available on-demand Q1 2020.

CLEVELAND (November 19, 2019) — Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company, has acquired North American rights to the documentary feature MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM. The film, which premiered at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, will be available on-demand January 2020.

MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM is an epic 50-year story of the make-up artists who created the iconic simians featured in the original science fiction masterpiece Planet of the Apes (1968) and subsequently defined special effects for generations to come.

This fascinating, poignant, funny and heartfelt story is told through the eyes of make-up
legend Thomas R. Burman, who along with Academy Award-winning artist John Chambers helmed the creation of Planet of the Apes’ now-famous make-up design.
Interviews include Guillermo del Toro, Richard Donner, John Landis, Joe Dante, Rick Baker, VeNeill, Greg Nicotero, Leonard Maltin, Bobby Porter and numerous other award-winning filmmakers and make-up artists.

The film details the history of special make-up effects from the earliest days to modern
effects, framed by the creation of the Planet of the Apes simians. A highlight moment is
an original Planet of the Apes actor Lou Wagner being transformed back into his character 50 years later by Thomas R. Burman, Bari Dreiband-Burman and Vincent Van Dyke.

“I am honored to know that this incredible journey is finally being told. John Chambers,
myself and an incredible team of artists came together, many of us for the first time, and
broke ground in Hollywood.” Burman says. “We changed film forever, and it’s fantastic to know that audiences will finally experience our story.”

Brett Rogalsky, Acquisitions Coordinator for Gravitas Ventures is quoted as saying “Making Apes is an exceptional look at the groundbreaking work that went into one of the biggest movies of all time. If you’re a fan of the franchise, or of movies in general, this is a must-watch.”

MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM is Executive Produced by Thomas R. Burman & Bari Dreiband-Burman (Academy Award Nominees – Best Make-Up Effects), Directed by William Conlin, Produced by Harlene Conlin, features Cinematography by Gary L. Conlin, an original score by Shawn Patterson (Academy Award Nominee – Best Original Song), edited by Micah Stuart, Post Production Supervisor Maxx Burman and Sound Mixing/Editing by Ellis Burman III.

About Gravitas Ventures
Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company, is a leading all rights distributor of
independent feature films and documentaries. Founded in 2006, Gravitas connects
independent filmmakers and producers with distribution opportunities across the
globe. Working with talented directors and producers, Gravitas Ventures has
distributed thousands of films into over a hundred million homes in North America –
over one billion homes worldwide. Recent releases include Armstrong, directed by
David Fairhead; Above the Shadows starring Olivia Thirlby, Megan Fox and Jim
Gaffigan; The River and the Wall, directed by Ben Masters; Score: A Film Music
Documentary; California Typewriter; Legion of Brothers; Katie Holmes’ feature
directorial debut; All We Had, Colin Hanks’ All Things Must Pass; and Being Evel from
Academy Award-winning director Daniel Junge and producer Johnny Knoxville.
For more information, please visit gravitasventures.com, and follow @GravitasVOD on
Twitter and @gravitasventures on Instagram.

About Red Arrow Studios
Red Arrow Studios is one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of
entertainment content. Red Arrow Studios is comprised of 20 production companies in
seven territories, including 10 companies based in the United States; world-leading
multi-platform digital network Studio71, based in six countries; and global film and TV
distributors Red Arrow Studios International and Gravitas Ventures.

The group’s significant output includes scripted, non-scripted and formatted content and IP, from TV and film to short-form and branded content, made for an array of global networks and platforms.

Red Arrow Studios is part of ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE, one of Europe’s leading media
groups. For more information, please visit: https://redarrowstudios.com/

Media Inquiries

MaryKate McHugh / (440) 781-4473 / MaryKate@GravitasVentures.com

 

BOX OFFICE SURPRISE: Record-breaking open for SAFE SPACES

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Free Speech Docudrama Notches Highest Per Screen Average in The Nation, 2nd Highest Box Office Gross For a Documentary On a Single Screen Ever

Comedy under fire in NO SAFE SPACES

October 26, 2019 (Los Angeles, CA) – ‘No Safe Spaces,’ the much-anticipated docudrama Safe Spaceson free speech starring podcast king Adam Carolla and radio talk show host Dennis Prager opened strong, raking in an estimated $45,000 on one screen in Phoenix, Arizona, making it the second-largest opening weekend box office on a single screen for a documentary, behind Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko.”

‘No Safe Spaces,’ which features an eclectic cast of cultural figures across the political spectrum like Van Jones, Tim Allen, Cornel West, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Alan Dershowitz, will expand this week in Phoenix as well as open exclusive engagements in San Diego and Denver. Limited engagements will follow on November 8th in Tampa, Greenville, and Spartanburg and lead to the wide distribution of the film on November 15th.“Thank you to our fans in Phoenix, your support of our work means everything to me,” noted Adam Carolla. “I’m really proud of this movie and hope the rest of the country will love it as much as we and our fans in Phoenix do.”

“We had a great partner in Phoenix with our friends at Harkins and we are thrilled with the numbers,” noted producer Mark Joseph.

Originally scheduled for a handful of showtimes, the theater was flooded with ticket sales requests and quickly expanded to accommodate demand throughout the week.

In NO SAFE SPACES, Carolla and Prager travel the country, talking to experts and advocates on the Left and Right, tour college campuses, and examine their own upbringings to try to understand the threats free speech faces as the First Amendment and the very idea of freedom of speech are under attack in America today.

“I have a different take on the old saying,” laughed Prager who grew up in Brooklyn. “If you can make it Phoenix, you can make it anywhere. We thank the people of Phoenix for giving us wind at our back as we present this movie to the rest of America.”

NO SAFE SPACES (Docudrama/Documentary)

Starring: Adam Carolla, Dennis Prager.
Also featuring: Tim Allen, Van Jones, Jordan Peterson, Alan Dershowitz, Ben Shapiro, Cornel West, Dave Rubin

Producer: Mark Joseph
Director: Justin Folk
Writer: John Sullivan

Running Time: 95 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Key Art title treatment

(Source: Press release from Henry Eshelman, Platform Media Group

*Featured photo: Adam Corolla (Photo courtesy of No Safe Spaces film)

Marianne, Marianne, Marianne!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES
AFI DOCS 2018 AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS

Best Feature Goes to MR. SOUL!
Best Short Goes to EARTHRISE

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

IMG_2541
Larry Gleeson, left, of HollywoodGlee, hams it up with Chaz Ebert after the screening of Mr. Soul! at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Oprah Winfrey Theatre during the 2018 American Film Institute’s 2018 AFI DOCS. Mr. Soul! received the Audience Award for Best Feature. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE ABOUT THE AUDIENCE AWARD-WINNING FILMS:

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

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

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

About AFI DOCS
AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in Washington, DC. Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 16th year, the festival took place June 13–17, 2018, at distinguished Washington, DC, venues, the Landmark E Street Cinema and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Visit AFI.com/AFIDOCS and connect on twitter.com/AFIDOCS, facebook.com/AFIDOCS, youtube.com/AFI and instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

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

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

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

AFI DOCS

(Source: AFI Press Release)

AFI DOCS 2018 Film Review: Dark Money

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

AFI DOCS Film Review: Hesburgh (Creadon, 2018): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

Hesburgh is a biographical account of Father Theodore Martin Hesburgh, an ordained priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Hesburgh is widely known for his tenure, from 1952-1987, as President of the University of Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Indiana. Others knew Fr. Hesburgh as a confidante and as an advisor to American Presidents including, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard “Dick” Nixon. But, Director Patrick Creadon and Producer Christine O’Malley get behind the public persona and weave a story of mythic proportions.

Beginning with his ambitious plan to transform Notre Dame from an average academic institution with a great football team into a leading university for personal examination, exploration and learning, Hesburgh began wooing captains of industry for financial support and invited Fr. John Courtney Murray to lecture on the highly controversial tome The Catholic Church in World Affairs, at the University of Notre Dame. The voice-over narration and black and white still photos add a sense of historical significance and deification of what Hesburgh was engaging in. The Roman Catholic Church responded with an order to cease and desist from teaching such books ending with a formal “Roma locuta; causa finita est” (Rome has spoken; the cause is finished). Hesburgh defied the order arguing that it was the institution saying no and not him personally (as he had taken a vow of obedience to the Pope). According to Creadon, this sets a precedent for how Hesburgh navigated the world of power politics including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the student protests of the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars as well as his graceful transition from the University of Notre Dame.

Beginning with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Father Hesburgh emerged in Vienna, Austria, as a free-thinking clergyman who was respected by both sides of the Cold War without stirring up controversy. Hesburgh had a penchant for schmoozing with bourbon and cigars resulting in a detante allowing both sides to sit in a room at the same table.

Afterwards, Hesburgh was named to President Eisenhower’s federal Commission on Civil Rights. As the University of Notre Dame was struggling to find a commencement speaker, Hesburgh called in a mark – President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the 1960 Commencement Address with Cardinal Giovanni Montini (later to be named Pope Paul VI and leader of Vatican II) in tow! Cardinal Batista and Hesburgh would become close friends in the ensuing years sharing a love for space travel during the Apollo era of the United States Government’s accelerated Space Program in the 1960’s.

Sensing formidable opposing positions on the Civil Rights Commission, consisting of three democrats, two republicans, and Hesburgh, an independent priest. Hesburgh utilized his human touch, and the resources of a well-heeled Notre Dame philanthropist, to smooth out differences and gain a consensus resulting in a twelve point report recommendation to Congress. Hesburgh continued to serve on the Civil Rights Commission and was appointed chairman by his old friend, Richard “Dick” Nixon.

Uncharacteristically, however, Hesburgh dealt a stunning blow to Notre Dame student body curtailing student protests during the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars as he felt the protesting interfered with student learning. Later, Hesburgh would lament his decision to limit protesting feeling he had made an unfortunate decision that actually inhibited a student’s experience but at the time felt it was necessary and proper to institute it in an effort to curtail violence and also to guarantee the rights of other students who wanted to partake in their own education. Meanwhile, Dick Nixon praised the move and used it as propaganda.

Nixon would later pressure Hesburgh to resign from the Civil Right Commission as part of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. So, Hesburgh turned his focus full force into the campus life of Notre Dame declaring it a co-educational institution in 1972 with overwhelming approval from the male students. On May 17th, 1987, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh received the University of Notre Dame’s highest honor, the Laetare Medal, an annual award given to honor and recognize an individual who has given outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society.

While I did find the historical moments of the film enlightening, what really caught me by surprise were the human elements; the relationships cultivated, the emotional warmth expressed, and the joy and love expressed by those who knew Hesburgh. What I was left with was a powerful human interest story that served as both a testimonial to a life well lived for the noble causes of justice and freedom and a welcome addition to the national historical archives.

Employing present-day narratives from family members, fellow clergy members and a highly effective first person voice-over narration, interspersed with an up-tempo musical score and flashing images, and coupled with historical black and white photos, archival film footage and newsreels, Creadon sets the tone, mood and pacing for nothing-short of a miraculous life with Hesburgh. Highly recommended.