And so we put goldfish in the pool.Wins Grand Jury Prize
Park City, Utah — Winners of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival jury prizes in short filmmaking were announced today by Sundance Institute at a ceremony in Park City, Utah. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize, awarded to one film in the program of 68 shorts selected from 8,985 submissions, went toAnd so we put goldfish in the pool., written and directed by Makoto Nagahisa. Full video of the ceremony is at youtube.com/sff. The Short Film program is presented by YouTube.
This year’s Short Film jurors are Shirley Kurata, David Lowery and Patton Oswalt.
Short Film awards winners in previous years include Thunder Road by Jim Cummings, World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt, SMILF by Frankie Shaw, Of God and Dogs by Abounaddara Collective, Gregory Go Boom by Janicza Bravo, The Whistle by Grzegorz Zariczny, Whiplash by Damien Chazelle, FISHING WITHOUT NETS by Cutter Hodierne, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker and The Arm by Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos and Jessie Ennis.
The short film program at the Festival is the centerpiece of Sundance Institute’s year-round efforts to support short filmmaking. Select Festival short films are presented as a traveling program at over 50 theaters in the U.S. and Canada each year, and short films and filmmakers take part in regional Master Classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in several cities. Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and in partnership with The Guardian and The New York Times’ Op-Docs, provides grants to makers of documentary shorts around the world, including new filmmakers in Cuba featured in a Special Event program at this year’s Festival.
2017 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Jury Awards:
The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to:And so we put goldfish in the pool. / Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa) — One summer day, 400 goldfish were found in the swimming pool of a secondary school. This is a story about the four 15-year-old girls who put them there.
The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Lucia, Before and After / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Anu Valia) — After traveling 200 miles, a young woman waits out Texas’s state-mandated 24-hour waiting period before her abortion can proceed.
The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: And The Whole Sky Fit In The Dead Cow’s Eye / Chile, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francisca Alegría) — Emeteria is visited by the ghost of her patrón, Teodoro. She believes he has come to take her to the afterlife—but he has more devastating news.
The Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction was presented to: Alone / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley) — This investigation into the layers of mass incarceration and its shaping of the modern black American family is seen through the eyes of a single mother in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Broken – The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck / Germany (Directors: Volker Schlecht, Alexander Lahl, Screenwriters: Alexander Lahl, Max Mönch) — This animated documentary about Hoheneck, the main women’s prison in former East Germany, is based on original interviews with former inmates. It’s a film about political imprisonment, forced labor and enormous profits on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
A Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Dadyaa — The Woodpeckers of Rotha / Nepal, France (Directors and screenwriters: Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet, Cinematographer: Chintan Rajbhandari)— Atimaley and Devi’s village is haunted by memories. When a dear friend leaves the village without saying goodbye, the old couple faces a dilemma: keep living with the memories or leave the village for good?
A Short Film Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Laps / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charlotte Wells, editor Blair McClendon) — On a routine morning, a woman on a crowded New York City subway is sexually assaulted in plain sight.
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 Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshine, sex, lies, and videotape, Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2017 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, AT&T, DIRECTV, Omnicom, Stella Artois® and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – American Airlines, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Creators League Studio, Daydream, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Jaunt, Kickstarter, Oculus and the University of Utah Health. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and 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 Sponsor seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new 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. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home.
AFI has announced the films that will be featured in the New Auteurs, Shorts, American Independents and Midnight sections at AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi. Films in the New Auteurs and Shorts sections are eligible for Grand Jury Awards. The full program information is below.
AFI FEST takes place November 10–17, 2016, in the heart of Hollywood. Screenings, Galas and other events will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt. The full festival lineup and schedule will be unveiled in October. Go to AFI.com now to purchase Patron Packages, which can include access to Galas and other high-demand films and events. Individual tickets will be available on AFI.com beginning November 1.
Highlighting first- and second-time feature film directors, New Auteurs is the festival’s platform for upcoming filmmakers from all over the world to showcase their new films. This year, the section is comprised of 10 films, seven of which come from female directors.
ALWAYS SHINE – When two actress friends get together for a weekend in Big Sur, their hopes for reconnection spiral into jealousy, tension and fragmented identities. DIR Sophia Takal. SCR Lawerence Michael Levine. CAST Mackenzie Davis, Caitlin FitzGerald, Lawrence Michael Levine, Alexander Koch, Jane Adams. USA
BUSTER’S MAL HEART – Rami Malek plays a man split in two by grief in AFI FEST alum Sarah Adina Smith’s visceral, mind-bending mystery. DIR Sarah Adina Smith. SCR Sarah Adina Smith. CAST Rami Malek, Kate Lyn Sheil, DJ Qualls, Mark Kelly, Sukha Belle Potter, Lin Shaye, Toby Huss. USA
DIVINES – A fearless and ferocious teenager and her charismatic best friend strive for money, power and respect by following in the footsteps of a ruthless female drug dealer. DIR Houda Benyamina. SCRS Romain Compingt, Houda Benyamina, Malik Rumeau. CAST Oulaya Amamra, Jisca Kalvanda, Kévin Mischel, Déborah Lukumuena, Yasin Houicha, Majdouline Idrissi. France | Qatar
THE FUTURE PERFECT (EL FUTURO PERFECTO) – In this whimsical debut, a young Chinese immigrant is determined to assimilate into her new home of Buenos Aires, but her traditional Chinese family and Indian beau complicate things. DIR Nele Wohlatz. SCR Nele Wohlatz. CAST Xiaobin Zhang, Saroj Kumar Malik, Mian Jiang, Dong Xi Wang, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. Argentina
GODLESS – A nurse running scams on her elderly patients calls her hardened life into question when she strikes up a friendship with a retired choirmaster. DIR Ralitza Petrova. SCR Ralitza Petrova. CAST Irena Ivanova, Ivan Nalbantov, Ventzislav Konstantinov, Alexandr Triffonov, Dimitar Petkov. Bulgaria
KATI KATI – In this beautiful, dreamlike depiction of the afterlife, an African woman finds herself in a resort where every soul has their wishes granted — except escape. DIR Mbithi Masya. SCRS Mbithi Masya, Mugambi Nthiga. CAST Nyokabi Gethaiga, Elsaphan Njora, Paul Ogola, Peter King Mwania. Kenya | Germany
KILL ME PLEASE – In this giallo-tinged meditation on puberty, a 15-year-old girl living in Rio de Janeiro must navigate a wave of murders in her neighborhood. DIR Anita Rocha da Silveira. SCR Anita Rocha da Silveira. CAST Valentina Herszage, Dora Freind, Julia Roliz, Mari Oliveira, Bernardo Marinho. Brazil
ONE WEEK AND A DAY (SHAVUA VE YOM) – A man, grieving the death of his son, befriends his stoner neighbor in this wry and moving dramedy. DIR Asaph Polonsky. SCR Asaph Polonsky. CAST Shai Avivi, Evgenia Dodina, Tomer Kapon, Sharon Alexander, Uri Gvariel, Carmit Mesilati-Kaplan, Alona Shauloff. Israel
OSCURO ANIMAL – This gorgeously shot debut follows three Colombian women who are all brutally affected by the country’s armed conflict. DIR Felipe Guerrero. SCR Felipe Guerrero. CAST Marleyda Soto, Jocelyn Meneses, Luisa Vides, Verónica Carvajal, Josué Quiñones, Pedro Suárez, Lorena Vides. Colombia
STILL LIFE – This simultaneously beautiful and disturbing portrait follows a young nameless worker earning a temporary living in a livestock slaughterhouse. DIR Maud Alpi. SCRS Maud Alpi, Baptiste Boulba. CAST Virgile Hanrot, Dimitri Buchenet, Boston. France
The Shorts selections represent distinct, often far-flung international viewpoints, with 39 films including nine animated films. Shorts filmmakers come from 17 countries, with 12 films from directors who are returning to AFI FEST this year.
ALL THESE VOICES – A Nazi soldier in disguise encounters a survivors’ avant-garde theater troupe celebrating the end of the war. DIR David Henry Gerson. SCRS David Henry Gerson, Martin Horvat, Brennan Elizabeth Peters. CAST Harrison Thomas, Beata Poźniak, Kristof Konrad, Kinga Philipps, Kasia Kowalczyk, Anthony Nikolchev. USA
BLOODY BARBARA – Barbara roams the streets covered in blood, reenacting the scenes from some of her favorite films. DIR Shawn Bannon. SCR Shawn Bannon. CAST Atheena Frizzell. USA
THE BLOOP – In 1997 an unusual sound was recorded. It lasted one minute and was never heard again. DIR Cara Cusumano. USA
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRINCESS X – A supercharged history of sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s infamous “Princess X.” DIR Gabriel Abrantes. SCR Gabriel Abrantes. CAST Filipe Vargas, Francisco Cipriano, Joana Barrios. Portugal | France | UK
A COAT MADE DARK – Two burglars strike it rich after stealing a mysterious coat. DIR Jack O’Shea. SCR Jack O’Shea. CAST Hugh O’Conor, Declan Conlon, Antonia Campbell Hughes. Ireland
CRYSTAL LAKE – A group of girls takes over the half pipe. There on the ramp, with no boys around, they are thriving and visible. DIR Jennifer Reeder. SCR Jennifer Reeder. CAST Marcela Okeke, Shea Glover, Sebastian Summers, Kristyn Zoe Wilkerson, Ron Stevens. USA
DEER FLOWER – A family visit to a deer farm results in a peculiar experience. DIR Kangmin Kim. SCR Kangmin Kim. CAST Kangmin Kim. USA
DIRT – Some things must die to live. DIR Darius Clark Monroe. SCR Darius Clark Monroe. CAST Segun Akande. USA
THE DISAPPOINTMENT TOUR – Three generations of women, crammed into a car along with their emotional baggage, experience an unexpected moment of connection on the side of the road.. DIR Erica Liu. SCR Erica Liu. CAST Michelle Farrah Huang, Grace Shen, Cindera Che, Gaby Santinelli. USA
DRAMATIC RELATIONSHIPS – The male gaze inspected through the relationship between a director and his female actors. DIR Dustin Guy Defa. SCR Dustin Guy Defa. CAST Lindsay Burdge, Elisa Lasowski, Hannah Gross, Keith Poulson, Stephen Gurewitz, Agostina Galvez. USA
DREAMING OF BALTIMORE – Freedom means only one thing: riding your dirt bike in the street, front wheel aimed at the sky. DIR Lola Quivoron. SCRS Lola Quivoron, Pauline Rambeau de Baralon. CAST Clark Gernet, Owen Kanga, Jean-Marie Narainen, Sébastien Lecouvreur, Benjamin Fortin. France
E.W.A – Ewa can’t stop bleeding. DIR Gigi Ben Artzi. SCRS Gigi Ben Artzi, Roy Ben Artzi, Adam Horowitz. CAST Alihah Galyautdinova, Gil Abramov. Ukraine
EARS, NOSE AND THROAT – A woman’s testimonial faculties are confirmed through medical examinations before she recites a tragic story, whose horrors we don’t see, hear or smell, but can imagine far too easily. DIR Kevin Jerome Everson. CAST Shadeena Brooks, Dr. Eric Mansfield, Dr. Heather Honeycutt. USA
FATA MORGANA – A grieving couple is forced to examine their marriage when they journey from China to the United States for the funeral for their only child. DIR Amelie Wen. SCRS Amelie Wen, Jon Keng. CAST Mardy Ma, Liu Peiqi, Anita Liao, Anna Pan, Laurie Faso, Dave Bean, Briana McLean, April Moreau. USA
GLOVE – The true story of a glove that’s been floating in space forever since 1968. DIRS Alexa Lim Haas, Bernardo Britto. CAST Henry Parker. USA
HAM HEADS – Larry and Barry are the world’s oldest living conjoined twins. They live in their brother’s basement. DIR Efren Hernandez. SCR Efren Hernandez. CAST Olan Montgomery, Thomas Montgomery, Mike Montgomery, Madeleine Russell, Robert “Lil’ Bob” McCall, Todd Lewis, Corey Pelizzi. USA
HIDDEN – Possessed by sibling rivalry, Parham must face his role in a series of events that have incapacitated his half-brother. DIR Farzad Ostovarzadeh. SCR Farzad Ostovarzadeh. CAST Daniel Zolghadri, Shary Nassimi, Bardia Seiri, Niousha Jafarian. Iran | USA
HOUNDS – On the day of a would-be promotion, a museum worker must deal with an accident involving a prized sculpture. DIR Omer Tobi. SCR Omer Tobi. CAST Orna Banai, Ilanit Ben Yaacov, Eti Levi, Hila Shalev, Dalia Beger, Anat Vaksman. Israel
ICEBOX – A young boy from Honduras finds himself in a difficult situation when he is arrested at the U.S. border. DIR Daniel Sawka. SCR Daniel Sawka. CAST Anthony Gonzales, Lane Garrison, José Alvarez, Jonathan Castellanos, Jeff Houkal, Sisa Grey, Steven Stapenhorst, Tonja Kahlens. USA
THE ITCHING – In this parable, a shy wolf tries to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies, but finds her body is in revolt. DIR Dianne Bellino. SCR Dianne Bellino. USA
JÁAJI APPROX. – The distance between a father and son is narrowed when locations and language meet. DIR Sky Hopinka. SCR Sky Hopinka. CAST Sky Hopinka, Michael Hopinka. USA
KITTY – A young girl finds herself transformed. DIR Chloë Sevigny. SCR Chloë Sevigny. CAST Edie Yvonne, Ione Skye, Lee Meriwether, Jesse Pearson, Luke Adler, M Blash, Andrew Mixon. USA
LIMBO – The leopard shall lie down with the goat. The wolves shall live with the lambs. And the young boy will lead them. Thirteen kids and the carcass of a whale washed ashore. DIR Konstantina Kotzamani. SCR Konstantina Kotzamani. CAST Felix Margenfeld, Aggelos Ntanos, Lucjano Cani, Haris Fountas, Hristos Psihramis, David Szymczak. Greece
LOVE – Affection is described in three different chapters, through an impact on a distant solar system. DIR Réka Bucsi. SCR Réka Bucsi. France | Hungary
MADE. NOT BORN! – A home movie from 1981 turns out far more hypnotic than originally planned. DIR Mike Plante. USA
MOTHER (MADRE) – Sixteen-year-old Andrea travels downtown from her poor neighborhood to audition for a porno film. DIR Simón Mesa Soto. SCR Simón Mesa Soto. CAST Yurani Anduquia Cortés, María Camila Maldonado, Paulo de Jesús Barros Sousa. Sweden | Colombia
A NIGHT IN TOKORIKI (O NOAPTE ÎN TOKORIKI) – On Geanina’s 18th birthday, her boyfriend and Alin will give her a most surprising gift. DIR Roxana Stroe. SCRS Ana-Maria Gheorghe, Roxana Stroe. CAST Cristian Priboi, Cristian Bota, Iulia Ciochină, Sorin Cociş, Daniela Elena Preda, Cristian Toma, Costi Apostol, Andrei Ciopec, Tudor Morar, Adrian Loghin. Romania
PEDRO – Pedro gets home at dawn. Before he falls asleep, his lonely mother drags him to the beach. DIRS André Santos, Marco Leão. SCRS André Santos, Marco Leão. CAST Filipe Abreu, Rita Durão, João Villas-Boas, Marcello Urgeghe. Portugal
PUSSY (CIPKA) – A young girl decides to have a pleasurable evening at home, but not everything goes according to plan. DIR Renata Gasiorowska. SCR Renata Gasiorowska. Poland
SCENERY (DECORADO) – The world is a wonderful stage, but its characters are disgraceful. DIR Alberto Vázquez. SCR Alberto Vázquez. CAST Josep Ramos, Mireia Fuara, Angel Gómez, Kepa Cueto. France | Spain
THE SEND-OFF – Emboldened by a giant block party on the evening of their high school prom, a group of students enter the night with the hope of transcending their rural town and the industrial landscape that surround them. DIRS Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan. CAST Tiana Crawford, Chris Burgess, Jr., Jamila Smith-Boyce, Ta’Questa Browning. USA
SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT – Beginning in the present day, a scene of tragedy unfolds, telling a cumulative history that is both unbearable and inevitable. DIR AJ Schnack. USA
A STROLL DOWN SUNFLOWER LANE (ذاكرةعبّادالشمس) – An old grandfather, a little granddaughter, an old house and some glimpses of memory. She was growing up building hers. He was getting old losing his. DIR Mayye Zayed. SCR Mayye Zayed. CAST Ahmed Khalil, Jana Abdel Aziz. Egypt
SUMMER CAMP ISLAND – Oscar has to accept that his totally normal sleepover with Hedgehog isn’t going to be totally normal. DIR Julia Pott. SCR Julia Pott. CAST Ashley Boettcher, Thomas Vaethroeder, Anna Strupinsky, Kathleen Wilhoite, Judd Hirsch. USA
SUPERBIA – In the land of Superbia, strict rules divide the societies of women and men. DIR Luca Tóth. SCR Luca Tóth. Hungary | Czech Republic | Slovakia
TARGETING THE WORLD – In Fayetteville, NC, surveillance technologies are tested. DIR Jesse Moss. USA
A THOUSAND MIDNIGHTS – A lyrical documentary following the social histories of black Americans. DIR Carlos Javier Ortiz. SCR Carlos Javier Ortiz. USA
THUNDER ROAD – Officer Arnaud loved his mom. DIR Jim Cummings. SCR Jim Cummings. CAST Jim Cummings, Melissa Papel, Kitty Barshay, Francesca Biasiolo. USA
UNIVITELLIN – A classic story in a far-from-classic reworking. DIR Terence Nance. SCR Terence Nance. CAST Aminata M’Bathie, Naky Sy Savané, Badara N’Gom, Maman Faso, Igor Tranchot, Raoul Tranchot, Tony Cortes, Florent Toudard, Jonathan Ynsa, Moustapha Sarr, Yanice Haboussa, Anderson Da Cruz Lima. USA
The American Independents section represents the best of independent filmmaking this year. Pushing boundaries of form and content across narrative and documentary cinema, this section includes eight films from both new voices and filmmakers coming back to AFI FEST.
ACTOR MARTINEZ – AFI FEST alums Mike Ott and Nathan Silver play themselves in this enjoyable experiment that blurs the lines between documentary and narrative. DIRS Nathan Silver, Mike Ott. SCRS Mike Ott, Nathan Silver. CAST Arthur Martinez, Lindsay Burdge, Mike Ott, Nathan Silver, Kenneth Berba, Rae Radke. USA
DARK NIGHT – A quiet meditation on the planning and impact of a Cineplex massacre in a suburban town, taking place over one day, from sunrise to midnight. DIR Tim Sutton. SCR Tim Sutton. CAST Robert Jumper, Anna Rose Hopkins, Rosie Rodriguez, Karina Macias, Aaron Purvis, Marilyn Purvis, Ciara Hampton, Andres Vega, Bryce Hampton, Eddie Cacciola. USA
DONALD CRIED – This darkly funny character study centers on former childhood best friends who reconnect decades later in their working-class Rhode Island neighborhood. DIR Kris Avedisian. SCR Kris Avedisian. CAST Kristopher Avedisian, Jesse Wakeman, Louisa Krause, Ted Arcidi, Robby Morse Levy, Kate Fitzgerald, William Billington, Sr. USA
THE EYES OF MY MOTHER – In this enthralling horror debut, a young woman perpetuates the chilling cycle of violence that began with a traumatic event in her childhood. DIR Nicolas Pesce. SCR Nicolas Pesce. CAST Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, Flora Diaz, Paul Nazak, Clara Wong, Diana Agostini, Olivia Bond. USA
FRAUD – One of the most fascinating debuts of the year focuses on one family — via home video footage on YouTube — who get swept up in American consumerism, recklessly spending money that may not be their own. DIR Dean Fleischer-Camp. SCR Dean Fleischer-Camp. USA
HUNTER GATHERER – Two men living in South L.A. – one recently out of prison and the other trying to save the life of his bedridden grandfather – form an unlikely friendship in this feature debut. DIR Josh Locy. SCR Josh Locy. CAST Andre Royo, George Sample III, Kellee Stewart, Ashley Wilkerson, Kevin Jackson, Antonio D. Charity, Celestial, Alexis DeLaRosa, Jeanetta Arnette. USA
LIVE CARGO – A young couple grieving after a terrible loss escape to the Bahamas, where they are confronted with simmering tensions and dark secrets. DIR Logan Sandler. SCRS Logan Sandler, Thymaya Payne. CAST Dree Hemingway, Keith Stanfield, Sam Dillon, Leonard Earl Howze, Robert Wisdom, Ayumi Iizuka, Frantz Lecoeur. USA
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA – This painterly mixed-media animated film is a surreal cross between teen comedies and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. DIR Dash Shaw. SCR Dash Shaw. CAST Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, John Cameron Mitchell, Alex Karpovsky, Thomas Jay Ryan, Louisa Krause. USA
The festival’s Midnight section will captivate and terrify audiences with three genre-bending films from around the globe.
FEAR ITSELF – Film essayist Charlie Lyne uses horror film footage to explore why the world’s most popular film genre burrows so deeply into our psyches. DIR Charlie Lyne. SCR Charlie Lyne. UK
THE LURE – Two man-eating mermaid sisters travel through 1980s Warsaw in human form. But time away from the water intensifies their craving for human flesh. DIR Agnieszka Smoczyńska. SCR Robert Bolesto. CAST Kinga Preis, Michalina Olszańska, Marta Mazurek, Jakub Gierszał, Andrzej Konopka, Zygmunt Malanowicz, Marcin Kowalczyk, Magdelena Cielecka, Katarzyna Herman. Poland
PREVENGE – In this pitch-black comedy, a pregnant woman receives murderous instructions from her misanthropic fetus to kill as many people as she can. DIR Alice Lowe. SCR Alice Lowe. CAST Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley, Dan Renton Skinner, Kayvan Novak, Mike Wozniak, Tom Davis, Tom Meeten. UK
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
In Adrien Cothier’s short film TRAIN SURFERS, thrill-seeking young men tempt fate doing stunts on Mumbai’s high-speed trains. AFI spoke to director Adrien Cothier ahead of the film’s AFI DOCS premiere. He is a New York-based filmmaker who cut his teeth working on the set of Wes Anderson’s FANTASTIC MR. FOX.
My background is in narrative filmmaking and advertising. In both, I always try to recreate a certain reality whereas in documentaries, you have to use reality in order to create a narrative. This organic creative process led me to docs. There is definitely something pure about a documentary. The goal with TRAIN SURFERS was not to make a commercial film, clearly, but rather, to expose a certain truth about the world we live in.
What inspired you to tell this story?
I was finishing my first semester of grad school and had decided that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and explore a part of the world I had never seen. India seemed like a perfect mix of spiritual and adventurous journey. While I was researching where to go, I ended up on a viral video of a “train surfer” in Mumbai. I had never seen anything like it. It was a strange mix of absolute beauty and danger. I instantly called my friend and producer. I told him that if there’s a chance we can meet somebody like this, we had to document it, no matter the cost. That’s how it all started.
How did you find your subjects?
It wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I started researching local news stories of teenagers getting arrested for train-surfing. The more I accumulated information, the closer I came to understanding that this phenomenon happened in a few specific areas of Mumbai. Then, I hired a local translator in order to get in touch with the surfers in case we encountered them. After two days of waiting in train stations, we saw a teenager on the roof of a speeding train. We chased him down and convinced him to let us meet him again with his friends. The next day we went to visit him in his home.
What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?
Filming on the trains or outside the tracks is completely forbidden in India. I think this phobia came from the terrorist attacks in south Mumbai in 2008. Since then the police have been extremely weary, especially with tourists like myself. We had to hide the camera as much as we could and shoot without any permits. At the end, I think that our gorilla approach gave us incredible footage in which the audience can really feel taken on a forbidden ride in the world of the kids.
What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?
I’d like them to realize that all around world, the exact same human dynamics are happening but under very different social circumstances. Whether in the rugged outskirts of Mumbai, these kids are in many ways behaving in the same way that New York kids would. In this way it’s a story about friendship and I’d like people to feel it. But I cannot deny that it’s also a story about how being trapped in a life of poverty with very few chances of changing your life and how this will impact the decisions you make as a young person.
Why do you think Washington, DC, is a valuable location to screen your film?
This doc is definitely not political but its intrinsic message deals with the notions of freedom, poverty and the pursuit of happiness, which to me are clear American values emanating from the declaration of independence displayed in DC.
TRAIN SURFERS plays before the feature film VISITOR’S DAY on Thursday, June 23 and Sunday, June 26. Buy tickets here.
(Source: American Film Institute Magazine/AFI Blog)