Category Archives: Sundance Film Festival

Update: Day 5 Highlights from the Santa Barbara Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Glenn Close receives Modern Maltin Masters Award, Melissa McCarthy receives Montecito Award, and the women of Hollywood speak out

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (February 4, 2019) – The 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) kicked off the fifth day of the festival with the Womens’ Panel moderated by Madelyn Hammond, followed by honoring Oscar Nominee Glenn Close for The Wife with the Maltin Modern Master Award and Melissa McCarthy with the Montecito Award for Can You Ever Forgive Me? The women came out in full force on Sunday.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close
Glenn Close speaks onstage at the Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Hammond, producer of Deadline’s Contenders events, moderated the phenomenal Women’s Panel which consisted of nine Oscar nominated females including Louise Bagnall, writer-director of the animated short Late Afternoon; Hannah Beachler, production designer for Black Panther; Nina Hartstone, sound editor on Bohemian Rhapsody; Ai-Ling Lee, a double nominee for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing on First Man; Domee Shi, director of Pixar’s animated short Bao; Marina de Tavira, Best Supporting Actress for Roma; Lynette Howell Taylor, Producer of Best Picture nominee A Star Is Born; Betsy West, director of the Feature Documentary RBG; and Rayka Zehtabchi, recent USC graduate and among Oscar’s youngest nominees as Director for the documentary short Period. End of Sentence.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Women's Panel
Pictured left to right; Madelyn Hammond, Louise Bagnall, Hannah Beachler, Nina Hartstone, Lynette Howell, Ai-Ling Lee, Domee Shi, Marina de Tavira, Betsy West amd Rayka Zehtabchi speak onstage at the Women’s Panel during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Lobero Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

 

From a 500 page bible Hannah Beachler built to create the Wakanda civilization, a high school project turned short documentary by Rayka Zehtabchi and resounding applause for Betsy West when discussing RBG, the women of hollywood brought laughs and serious insight to an awestruck crowd.  Gender disparity and female discrimination was a hot topic in which all the women noted the need for expanding the landscape of females in the industry and Lynette Howell-Taylor and West continuing to discuss the importance of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

 

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close
Leonard Maltin, left, and Glenn Close speak onstage at the Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

After yesterday’s postponement due to weather conditions, SBIFF was finally able to welcome The Wife actress Glenn Close for a special tribute and award presentation. Film critic Leonard Maltin led a career retrospective discussion with Close and at its conclusion she was presented with the Maltin Modern Master Award.

Highlights from the conversation with Close include:

  • Maltin described Close as “one of the greatest actresses on the planet” and also said “I don’t think there is any facet of show business that she hasn’t attempted and succeeded at.”
  • Close was greeted with an enthusiastic and lengthy standing ovation when she came onstage at the beginning of the program.
  • About 12-13 minutes into the interview, Close’s dog Pip ran on-stage to join her. When Pip showed up, Maltin remarked, “You’re about to be upstaged.” The audience was very amused and there were a lot of “ooohs,” “awws,” and applause. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE CLIP.
  • Close on The Wife:
    • The film almost didn’t get made – it took the producers 14 years to get the money together and Close was attached for 5 years.
    • Novel was written by Meg Wolitzer and Jane Anderson adapted it into a screenplay.
    • When she received the script she thought it was interesting and unlike other things that she’s done before so she said that they could put her name on the project and see how that could help.
    • She met with Bjorn Runge (accomplished Swedish director who had not yet made an English language film) and “there was something about him that I really really liked.”
    • They had to wait to wait another year because Bjorn got sick and they decided to wait for him rather than attach a new director.
    • “I think of him as a total collaborator in my performance because he trusted the close-up, he knew where to put the camera, and he knew how to light our faces. My performance ‘The Wife,’ a lot of it is just in close-up, and without his wonderful instinct about that I don’t think it would have had the impact that it has.”
    • She had never worked with Jonathan Pryce before this film.
    • The film was made in the late fall of 2016, before the #MetToo movement, premiered at TIFF, Sony bought it and then decided to hold a year before releasing it.
  • Close on “Fatal Attraction”:
    • She did more research for this role than any other character she has ever played.
    • She read the script in one sitting and she auditioned for the part.
    • When she got the part she took the script to two psychiatrists because she wanted to know if the behavior of the character was possible and what would cause it.
    • She has a foundation that combats the stigma around mental illness and when she mentioned it during the conversation, the audience responded with applause.
    • “I ended up with great compassion and empathy for that character.”
    • The background that was created for the character was that she was incested by her father over many years and Close studied what that meant in order to prepare for the role.
    • People were so upset by the original ending (where Close’s character kills herself and Michael Douglas’ character goes to jail because his fingerprints are on the knife) that the studio decided to re-shoot it, much to Close’s dismay.
    • She fought against the re-shoot for two weeks and recounted how she expressed her frustration to director Adrian Lyne, producer Stanley Jaffe, and co-star Douglas — “What if they did it to your character? What if they did it to you? What would you say? What would you say?” Douglas, she recalls, responded by saying “Babe, I’m a whore.” This anecdote garnered a hearty laugh.
    • She also called William Hurt for advice because she felt like she was betraying the character by making “her into somebody that would kill somebody.” He told her that she put up the fight but if the studio isn’t budging then “you owe it to the company and to the director and to your fellow actors to go ahead with it.”
    • Looking back Close said she realizes the studio was right because, “After such a disturbing film, the audience needed catharsis.”
    • “It’s a very American ending.”
  • Close on costumes:
    • “I consider the costume designer of anything I’m doing a full collaborator – as important as the director.”
    • “It really helps me to put together the character together in my mind.”
    • She has kept her costumes since “The World According to Garp,” and the living collection / archive is housed in a facility at Indiana University for students. The collection also includes some of her red carpet looks.
  • Close on “Reversal of Fortune”:
    • It was one of the best script she ever read.
    • “Everything for me begins with what I read on the page.”
    • “It was so clever and so original to have someone in a coma narrate a film.”
    • As she prepared for the part, Close was unable to speak with anyone who actually knew Sunny Von Bülow.
    • “I think the script, as brilliant as it is, was written very much from a man’s point-of-view and you don’t really get under the skin of Sunny. It’s more reacting to her behavior. I always wondered if I was able to talk to people that knew her, how that would change my performance.”
    • Close also recounted a hilarious anecdote about how after the film opened, she walked into the Ivory Restaurant in London one day and heard a voice say, “I was Jeremy Irons’ understudy.” And it turned out that the voice belonged to Klaus Von Bülow. Upon hearing this story, Maltin remarked, “That’s a tough one to top.”
  • Close on what she wants from a director:
    • She said she wants a director to provide her with “the assurance and atmosphere…to try things that might be different.”
    • “It’s kind of fascinating that a lot of directors don’t really get what actors do and feel that the only way to direct them is to manipulate them.” She doesn’t like directors like that and doesn’t think that great directors do that.
    • “Albert Nobbs” director Rodrigo Garcia admitted to Close that he was afraid of rehearsal because he had never had them before. “He said a lot of directors are afraid of rehearsal because they think they’ll see the actor do exactly what he wants and then they’ll never be able to do it again.”
  • Close on Cruella de Vil:
    • She loved fairy tales and the Disney witches.
    • She said that Cruella is a “classic witch.”
    • “I was thrilled because I thought, that puts me in a great tradition.”
    • “I worked very hard — it was a John Hughes script — and I felt very strongly that she wasn’t mean enough. That they were trying to water her down.”
    • In the original cartoon, Cruella was mean so Close got permission to pull lines from the cartoon when she constructed the character for the live action version.
  • Close on “Damages”:
    • In asking her about “Damages,” Maltin noted that the show came before A-list movie actors would do television as regularly as they do now.
    • Before “Damages” she had done a season on the FX show “The Shield” and it was great.
    • Close insisted that she has always believed in television because her second onscreen credit was a television movie called “Something About Amelia.” The film dealt with the issue of incest and she filmed it right after “The World According to Garp.” When her agent told her that the TV movie would ruin her film career, Close remarked, “Well the English do it, why can’t we?”
  • Close on “Albert Nobbs”:
    • She spent 20 years with the role – first performed it off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
    • She learned mime for the role.
    • “The character just stayed with me.”
    • It took 14 years to bring the film together.
    • Because so much time passed between originating the role on the stage and the start of production on the film, Close had to make sure that she was still right to take on the role because she said, “At this point I was afraid that my face would get in the way.” She thought to herself, “How can I play this character if all they can see is Glenn Close?”
    • She went to special effects makeup artist Matthew Mungle for a solution.
    • “The fact that so much time had gone, I think made the ultimate Albert so much deeper and richer and heartbreaking.”
    • Close thinks that not enough people saw the film because it was released at the wrong time of year.
  • Close on producing:
    • “Sarah, Plain and Tall” was the first thing that she produced.
    • “A lot of it is to create roles for myself. It sounds selfish, but if you’re not getting them then go and create them.”
    • “You should never sit around and wait for the phone to ring. You should be out there with your iPhone, with whatever it is, creating stuff that is your voice.

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling asked Close to accept the award in honor of his father, who was a huge fan and took Roger to see her performances on the stage in New York ever since the 1970s.

Close was very moved when she accepted the award. “I am very, very blessed to be able to do the thing that I love most in the world,” she told the audience afterwards. “I’m standing up here representing all the people that have been my collaborators all these years. I would not be here without them. I am deeply, deeply grateful to you, who have gone to see my work and are here today. It means a tremendous amount to me. And I am so touched to have this award with Leonard’s name on it — a man who has given so much to our industry, who is one of the greats.”

For a few brief moments during her speech, Pip once again managed to steal the spotlight when he decided to roll around on the ground in front of the podium (much to everyone’s amusement).

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy, left, and Anne Thompson speak onstage at the Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Later that evening, a sold out and lively crowd greeted Can You Ever Forgive Me?’s Melissa McCarthy as she entered the stage to receive the Montecito Award. McCarthy sat in conversation with IndieWire Editor at Large, Anne Thompson, to discuss her beginnings on stage, what she learned from her time at Groundlings, and her future behind the camera.

Some highlights from the evening included:

  • When discussing her early days on comedy stages McCarthy discussed how she “never walked into a room where a guy didn’t tell me, ‘Take your shirt off!’ and they are just yelling. They would keep yelling until you have to embarrass them but then you spend four of your five minutes eviscerating them.”
  • Before hitting it big, McCarthy recounts how she worked as a nanny and a waitress in both New York and Los Angeles.
  • On her early work:
    • “What happened to my voice” McCarthy exclaimed after a series of clips played on the screen from Go, Charlie’s Angels, and The Nines. “My voice was so high. It’s like I’ve been smokin Paul Malls all these years.”
    • McCarthy credited friend Jennifer Cooling for making a call to a casting agent to get her seen for her first gig for which she ended up getting the part, and an agent following.
  • On Gilmore Girls:
    • Reminiscing on how “Sookie” was originally to be played by Alex Borstein who was contractually obligated to MadTV at the time, McCarthy is still in awe that her first job lasted for seven years.
    • “I really loved doing that show. It was such a great group of people. I felt really lucky to be a part of something like that.”
  • On Bridesmaids and working with Kristen Wiig:
    • When reading for the part with Kristen for Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, “Kristen and I were improvising so much in the room and Paul and Judd were in awe. At some point I started talking about dolphin play.” The crowd erupted in laughter.
    • “Everyday of that movie was heaven.”
    • Thompson and McCarthy dove deep into one of the most memorable scenes from that film
      • I don’t think we knew what we were doing while it was happening. It was like oatmeal with like some ketchup in it and somebody was like, ‘does this vomit look ok?’ And I have this picture of Paul like pouring it on me and I was like ‘we are being professional.’”
      • “None of us wanted it to be the gross out scene but we all started talking about how embarrassing it would be while you are trying to maintain your dignity and everyone’s body is disintegrating in front of you. It became about us bonding in the weirdest possible way.”
  • On The Hangover:
    • When speaking on her scene in the pawn shop with Bradley Cooper, “I thought I wonder if anyone has ever just shunned him off like this. I thought, this is probably good for him.”
    • Working with Zack Galifianakis: “That’s kind of like Zack. It just kinda happened. It wasn’t written as being that cruel to the woman that was playing my mother. Once the gloves are off and everyone is ready to go for it, if you go too far your director will protect you and not use it but every now and then you go hard and it works.”
  • On producing and directing:
    • “I like the building of a project from the beginning up as much as I like being in front of the camera.”
    • “You have to really fight for good material. I kept saying why is every part such a bummer. Can I just have a point of view? Can I be more than bland? I don’t know how to play pleasant.”
    • “I like the person that you see walking through the grocery store and you’re like ‘well today is purple huh.’ You’re on your own beat. Those are the characters I fall in love with.”
    • “I am ready to direct. I did some Mike and Molly’s and I did a short for the Oscars and I loved it. I would like to not be in it. I just want to be there and concentrate on the people in it.”
34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy, left, and Richard E. Grant speak onstage at the Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

McCarthy’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? co-star Richard E. Grant presented the award and began his presentation with a google translation of the meaning of McCarthy, loving. “I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have loving words to say about her.” McCarthy accepted her award giving thanks to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for “shining a light on these types of movies.”

sbiff poster

(Source: Press release from sbiff.org)

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‘KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE’ WINS FESTIVAL FAVORITE AWARD AT 2019 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Los AngelesSundance Institute today announced Knock Down the House as the winner of the Festival Favorite Award, selected by audience votes from the 121 features screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, which took place in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah from January 24 through February 3. The Festival Favorite is the 29th and final recognition bestowed on this year’s Features, including juried prizes and category-specific Audience Awards; others were announced at a ceremony in Park City on February 2 and a full list is available here. Runners-up and other strong contenders for the Festival Favorite Award included Ask Dr. Ruth, The Biggest Little Farm, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Blinded by the Light.

Knock Down the House, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, follows four women political candidates from around the country – a young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada and a registered nurse in Missouri – during the 2018 mid-term elections as they took to the campaign trail, built and engaged their bases, and built a movement. The film was directed by Rachel Lears and produced by Lears, Sarah Olson and Robin Blotnick.

John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival, said, “This film is a timely and powerful portrait of bold, risk-taking women, all from very different backgrounds and communities, and we knew it would resonate with and inspire audiences.” Ballots distributed at each screening were counted as the Festival Favorite Award determination.

Runners-up for the Festival Favorite, as ballots were counted, included:

Ask Dr. Ruth / U.S.A. (Director: Ryan White, Producers: Rafael Marmor, Ryan White, Jessica Hargrave, Christopher Leggett) — A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

The Biggest Little Farm / U.S.A. (Director: John Chester, Screenwriters: Mark Monroe, John Chester, Producers: Sandra Keats, John Chester) — Two dreamers and a dog embark on an odyssey to bring harmony to their lives and the land. As their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and life itself.

Other strong-showing audience favorites included:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan) — Against all odds, a thirteen year old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aissa Maiga, Joseph Marcell.

Blinded by the Light / United Kingdom (Director: Gurinder Chadha, Screenwriters: Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Producers: Gurinder Chadha, Jane Barclay, Jamal Daniel) — In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Cast: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura.

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival will take place January 23 through February 2, 2020.

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®. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2019 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, YouTube; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, AT&T, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom, Stella Artois; Sustaining Sponsors – Ancestry, Canada Goose, Canon, Dell, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, High West Distillery, IMDbPro, Lyft, RIMOWA, 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 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 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. 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 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, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home.

 

2019 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Top Prizes Go To Clemency, One Child Nation, The Souvenir and Honeyland

Brittany Runs a Marathon, Knock Down the House, Queen of Hearts and Sea of Shadows  Win Audience Awards

Sundance_Awards
(L-R) Honeyland, Credit: Samir Ljuma; Clemency, Credit: Eric Branco; The Souvenir, Credit: Agatha A. Nitecka.

Park City, Utah — After 10 days and 121 feature films, the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place tonight, with host Marianna Palka emceeing and jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Clemency (U.S. Dramatic), One Child Nation (U.S. Documentary), Honeyland (World Cinema Documentary) and The Souvenir (World Cinema Dramatic).

“Supporting artists and their stories has been at the core of Sundance Institute’s mission from the very beginning,” said Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford. “At this critical moment, it’s more necessary than ever to support independent voices, to watch and listen to the stories they tell.”

“This year’s expansive Festival celebrated and championed risk-taking artists,” said Keri Putnam, the Institute’s Executive Director. “As the Festival comes to a close, we look forward to watching the stories and conversations that started here as they shape and define our culture in the year to come.”

“These past ten days have been extraordinary,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival Director. “It’s been an honor to stand with these artists, and to see their work challenge, enlighten and charm its first audiences.”

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2019 Festival, where 121 feature-length and 73 short films — selected from 14,259 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside work in the new Indie Episodic category, panels, music and New Frontier. The ceremony was live-streamed; video is available at youtube.com/sff.

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s jurors were Desiree Akhavan, Damien Chazelle, Dennis Lim, Phyllis Nagy, Tessa Thompson, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Yance Ford, Rachel Grady, Jeff Orlowski, Alissa Wilkinson, Jane Campion, Charles Gillibert, Ciro Guerra, Maite Alberdi, Nico Marzano, Véréna Paravel, Young Jean Lee, Carter Smith, Sheila Vand, and Laurie Anderson. Festival Favorite, an award voted on by audiences, will be announced in the coming days.

Feature film award winners in previous years include: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., Weiner, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.

Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 23 films – comprising the work of 27 filmmakers – 13 (56.5%) were directed by one or more women; eight (34.8%) were directed by one or more people of color; and one (4.3%) was directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQI+.

2019 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Rachel Grady to: Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, for One Child Nation / China, U.S.A. (Directors: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christoph Jörg, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn) — After becoming a mother, a filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Damien Chazelle to: Chinonye Chukwu, for Clemency / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Chinonye Chukwu, Producers: Bronwyn Cornelius, Julian Cautherley, Peter Wong, Timur Bekbosunov) — Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce, Richard Gunn, Danielle Brooks. 

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Verena Paravel to: Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, for Honeyland / Macedonia (Directors: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, Producer: Atanas Georgiev) — When nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees), the last female beehunter in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Jane Campion to: Joanna Hogg, for The Souvenir / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Joanna Hogg, Producers: Luke Schiller, Joanna Hogg) — A shy film student begins finding her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man. She defies her protective mother and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship which comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams. Cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented by Mark Duplass to: Knock Down the House / U.S.A. (Director: Rachel Lears, Producers: Sarah Olson, Robin Blotnick, Rachel Lears) — A young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada and a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. One of their races will become the most shocking political upset in recent American history. Cast: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented by Paul Downs Colaizzo to: Brittany Runs A Marathon / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Paul Downs Colaizzo, Producers: Matthew Plouffe, Tobey Maguire, Margot Hand)A woman living in New York takes control of her life – one city block at a time. Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock, Alice Lee. 

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Ray Romano to: Sea of Shadows / Austria (Director: Richard Ladkani, Producers: Walter Koehler, Wolfgang Knoepfler) —The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican cartels and Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, Mexican navy and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Mark Duplass to: Queen of Hearts / Denmark (Director: May el-Toukhy, Screenwriters: Maren Louise Käehne, May el-Toukhy, Producers: Caroline Blanco, René Ezra) — A woman jeopardizes both her career and her family when she seduces her teenage stepson and is forced to make an irreversible decision with fatal consequences. Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Gustav Lindh, Magnus Krepper. 

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented by Danielle Macdonald to: The Infiltrators / U.S.A. (Directors: Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra, Screenwriters: Alex Rivera, Aldo Velasco, Producers: Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera, Darren Dean) — A rag-tag group of undocumented youth – Dreamers – deliberately get detained by Border Patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center. Cast: Maynor Alvarado, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Vik Sahay. 

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Yance Ford to: Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, for American Factory / U.S.A. (Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Producers: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, Julie Parker Benello) — In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Desiree Akhavan to: Joe Talbot, for The Last Black Man in San Francisco / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Talbot, Screenwriters: Joe Talbot, Rob Richert, Producers: Khaliah Neal, Joe Talbot, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Maite Alberdi to: Mads Brügger, for Cold Case Hammarskjöld / Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium (Director: Mads Brügger, Producers: Peter Engel, Andreas Rocksén, Bjarte M. Tveit) — Danish director Mads Brügger and Swedish private investigator Göran Bjorkdahl are trying to solve the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjold. As their investigation closes in, they discover a crime far worse than killing the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Ciro Guerra to: Lucía Garibaldi, for The Sharks / Uruguay, Argentina, Spain (Director and screenwriter: Lucía Garibaldi, Producers: Pancho Magnou Arnábal, Isabel García) — While a rumor about the presence of sharks in a small beach town distracts residents, 15-year-old Rosina begins to feel an instinct to shorten the distance between her body and Joselo’s. Cast: Romina Bentancur, Federico Morosini, Fabián Arenillas, Valeria Lois, Antonella Aquistapache.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Phyllis Nagy to: Pippa Bianco, for Share / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Pippa Bianco, Producers: Carly Hugo, Tyler Byrne, Matt Parker) — After discovering a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, sixteen-year-old Mandy must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout. Cast: Rhianne Barreto, Charlie Plummer, Poorna Jagannathan, J.C. MacKenzie, Nick Galitzine, Lovie Simone.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency was presented by Alissa Wilkinson to: Jacqueline Olive, for Always in Season / U.S.A. (Director: Jacqueline Olive, Producers: Jacqueline Olive, Jessica Devaney) — When 17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina in 2014, his mother’s search for justice and reconciliation begins as the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker was presented by Jeff Orlowski to: Liza Mandelup, for Jawline / U.S.A. (Director: Liza Mandelup, Producers: Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Hannah Reyer) — The film follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester, a rising star in the live-broadcast ecosystem who built his following on wide-eyed optimism and teen girl lust, as he tries to escape a dead-end life in rural Tennessee.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented by Alissa Wilkinson to: Todd Douglas Miller, for APOLLO 11 / U.S.A. (Director: Todd Douglas Miller, Producers: Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Petersen, Evan Krauss) — A purely archival reconstruction of humanity’s first trip to another world, featuring never-before-seen 70mm footage and never-before-heard audio from the mission.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented by Jeff Orlowski to: Luke Lorentzen, Midnight Family / Mexico, U.S.A. (Director: Luke Lorentzen, Producers: Kellen Quinn, Daniela Alatorre, Elena Fortes, Luke Lorentzen) — In Mexico City’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the Ochoa family runs a private ambulance, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help. As they try to make a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from compromising the people in their care.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft was presented by Tessa Thompson to: Alma Har’el for her film Honey Boy / U.S.A. (Director: Alma Har’el, Screenwriter: Shia LaBeouf, Producers: Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Anita Gou, Christopher Leggett, Alma Har’el) — A child TV star and his ex-rodeo clown father face their stormy past through time and cinema. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe. 

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration was presented by Dennis Lim to: Director Joe Talbot for his film The Last Black Man in San Francisco / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Talbot, Screenwriters: Joe Talbot, Rob Richert, Producers: Khaliah Neal, Joe Talbot, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. Cast: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, Danny Glover.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting was presented by Tessa Thompson to: Rhianne Barreto, for Share / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Pippa Bianco, Producers: Carly Hugo, Tyler Byrne, Matt Parker) — After discovering a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, sixteen-year-old Mandy must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout. Cast: Rhianne Barreto, Charlie Plummer, Poorna Jagannathan, J.C. MacKenzie, Nick Galitzine, Lovie Simone.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for No Borders was presented by Maite Alberdi to: Hassan Fazzili, for Midnight Traveler / U.S.A., Qatar, United Kingdom, Canada (Director: Hassan Fazili, Screenwriter: Emelie Mahdavian, Producers: Emelie Mahdavian, Su Kim) — When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthand the dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared between a family on the run.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact for Change was presented by Nico Marzano to: Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, for Honeyland / Macedonia (Directors: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, Producer: Atanas Georgiev) — When nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees), the last female beehunter in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented by Nico Marzano to: Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, for Honeyland / Macedonia (Directors: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, Producer: Atanas Georgiev) — When nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees), the last female beehunter in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Originality was presented by Ciro Guerra to: Makoto Nagahisa, for WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES / Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa, Producers: Taihei Yamanishi, Shinichi Takahashi, Haruki Yokoyama, Haruhiko Hasegawa) — Their parents are dead. They should be sad, but they can’t cry. So they form a kick-ass band. This is the story of four 13-year-olds in search of their emotions. Cast: Keita Ninomiya, Satoshi Mizuno, Mondo Okumura, Sena Nakajima. 

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award was presented by Charles Gillbert to: Alejandro Landes, for Monos / Colombia, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Uruguay (Director: Alejandro Landes, Screenwriters: Alejandro Landes, Alexis Dos Santos, Producers: Alejandro Landes, Fernando Epstein, Santiago Zapata, Cristina Landes) — On a faraway mountaintop, eight kids with guns watch over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Moisés Arias, Sofia Buenaventura, Deiby Rueda, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented by Charles Gillbert to: Krystyna Janda, for Dolce Fine Giornata / Poland (Director: Jacek Borcuch, Screenwriters: Jacek Borcuch, Szczepan Twardoch, Producer: Marta Habior) — In Tuscany, Maria’s stable family life begins to erode as her relationship with a young immigrant develops against a backdrop of terrorism and eroding democracy.

The NEXT Innovator Prize was presented by juror Laurie Anderson to: Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, for The Infiltrators / U.S.A. (Directors: Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra, Screenwriters: Alex Rivera, Aldo Velasco, Producers: Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera, Darren Dean) — A rag-tag group of undocumented youth – Dreamers – deliberately get detained by Border Patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center. Cast: Maynor Alvarado, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Vik Sahay. 

he following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

SHORT FILM AWARDS:
Jury prizes and honorable mentions in short filmmaking were presented at a ceremony in Park City on January 29. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to: Aziza / Syria, Lebanon (Director: Soudade Kaadan, Screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan, May Hayek). The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Green / U.S.A. (Director: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Screenwriters: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Mustafa Kaymak). The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: Dunya’s Day / Saudi Arabia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Raed Alsemari). The Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction was presented to: Ghosts of Sugar Land / U.S.A. (Director: Bassam Tariq). The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Reneepoptosis / U.S.A., Japan (Director and screenwriter: Renee Zhan). Two Special Jury Awards for Directing werepresented to:  FAST HORSE / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Alexandra Lazarowich) and The MINORS / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Robert Machoian). The Short Film jurors were Young Jean Lee, Carter Smith and Sheila Vand. The Short Film program is presented by YouTube.

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE
The 2019 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | AMAZON STUDIOS PRODUCERS AWARDS
Carly Hugo
and Matt Parker received the 2019 Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards for Feature Film. Lori Cheatle received the 2019 Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Film. The award recognizes bold vision and a commitment to continuing work as a creative producer in the independent space, and grants money (via the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and Documentary Film Program) to emerging producers of films at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Institute / NHK Award was presented to Planet Korsakov (Japan) / Taro Aoshima.
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®. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2019 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, YouTube; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, AT&T, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom, Stella Artois; Sustaining Sponsors – Ancestry, Canada Goose, Canon, Dell, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, High West Distillery, IMDbPro, Lyft, RIMOWA, 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 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 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. 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 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, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 1.09.09 AM

(Source: Sundance Press Release

 

Advocate

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

Shorts Awards Announced at 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Aziza Wins Grand Jury Prize

            (L-R) Aziza, Credit: Elsy Hajjar; Green, Credit: Marina Piedade; Dunya’s Day, Credit: Olivier Theurillat.

Park City, Utah — Winners of the 2019 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 73 shorts selected from 9,443 submissions, went to Aziza, directed by Soudade Kaadan and co-written by Kaadan and May Hayek. Full video of the ceremony is at youtube.com/sff. The Short Film program is presented by YouTube, as part of their ongoing support for emerging storytellers, unique voices and independent artists. 2019 marks the seventh year YouTube has been the official sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival Shorts program.

This year’s Short Film jurors are Sheila Vand, Young Jean Lee and Carter Smith.

Short Film awards winners in previous years include Matria by Álvaro Gago, And so we put goldfish in the pool. by Makato Nagahisa, 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 in over 70 cities in the U.S. and Canada each year, one of the few theatrical releases of short films in North America. Short films and filmmakers also take part in regional Master Classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in cities around the country.

Of the seven short films selected for awards this year, four projects (57% percent) were directed by women, two were directed by people who identify as LGBTQ, and six (85.7%) were directed by people of color.

2019 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Jury Awards: 

The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to: Aziza / Syria, Lebanon (Director: Soudade Kaadan, Screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan, May Hayek) — A dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees, told through black comedy.

The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was presented to: Green / U.S.A. (Director: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Screenwriters: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Mustafa Kaymak) — Green, an undocumented Turkish pedicab driver, unwittingly draws police attention, endangering his brother, his community, and himself.

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was presented to: Dunya’s Day / Saudi Arabia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Raed Alsemari) — Abandoned by her domestic help, Dunya fights to throw the perfect graduation soirée.

The Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction was presented to: Ghosts of Sugar Land / U.S.A. (Director: Bassam Tariq) — In Sugar Land, Texas, a group of young Muslim-American men ponder the disappearance of their friend “Mark,” who is suspected of joining ISIS.

The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to: Reneepoptosis / U.S.A., Japan (Director and screenwriter: Renee Zhan) — Three Renees go on a quest to find God, who is also Renee. As they traverse the mountains and valleys of Renee, they discover all the great joys, sorrows, and mysteries of being Renee.

A Special Jury Award for Directing was presented to: FAST HORSE / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Alexandra Lazarowich) — The Blackfoot bareback horse-racing tradition returns in the astonishingly dangerous Indian Relay. Siksika horseman Allison Red Crow struggles with second-hand horses and a new jockey on his way to challenge the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy.

A Special Jury Award for Directing was presented to: The MINORS / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Robert Machoian) — A slice of life about a grandpa and his grandsons, the future and the past.
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®. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2019 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, YouTube; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, AT&T, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom, Stella Artois; Sustaining Sponsors – Ancestry, Canada Goose, Canon, Dell, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, High West Distillery, IMDbPro, Lyft, RIMOWA, 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 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 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. 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 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, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

(Source: Press release provided by Sundance Institute)

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.

 

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Who is Roy Cohn?

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Infiltrators take on Broward Transitional Center!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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

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

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

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

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

Writer/Director Bart Freundlich Talks His Vision and Casting For ‘After the Wedding’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I dropped in at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City, Friday night, January 25, 2019, for a Q & A with Writer/Director Bart Freundlich after a 9:15 P.M. screening of his latest work, After the Wedding, starring Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup and Michelle Williams.

Freundlich adapted Susanne Bier’s Academy Award-nominated Danish film of the same title by cleverly changing the characters’ genders to render an elevated melodrama about strong women, fate and motherhood. Stay tuned!

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