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Sundance Institute Names 20 Fellows

Posted by Larry Gleeson

20 Fellows Named Across Feature Film Directors and Screenwriters Labs, Native Lab

Customized Support for Emerging Creators, in Collaborative Digital Environment

PARK CITY, UTAH — The Sundance Institute today named the artists and projects selected for the first group of the upcoming signature summer Labs including 12 fellows for the Directors and Screenwriters Labs and 9 fellows participating in the Native Lab (one fellow will participate in both Labs). The Labs provide a space for writers and directors to spend time developing their craft and selected projects. Elements of this year’s Labs will take place digitally via Sundance Collab. At the heart of the Institute’s commitment to supporting and cultivating artists, these Labs connect a curated selection of independent storytellers with the larger creative and artistic community, enabling field-wide benefits as Creative Advisors and Industry Mentors generously give back, inspire, and learn from rising artists.


During the Directors Lab (June 1 – July 2, 2021), filmmakers will participate in a robust schedule of learning opportunities focusing on key areas of craft including directing actors, exploring the visual storytelling language of their films, and building a creatively rigorous pre-production process. They will engage with advisors through roundtable discussions, presentations, and one-on-one meetings and have the opportunity to rehearse, shoot, and edit a scene from their work-in-progress screenplays as an exercise in their home location. The Screenwriters Lab (July 6 – 9, 2021) will include one-on-one story sessions and customized support for the continued development of their original and timely screenplays.

The Native Lab (May 10 – 21, 2021) focuses on the specific development of storytellers from Native and Indigenous backgrounds, encompassing feature film, episodic work, and general cultivation of Artists-in-Residence. Participating are Native Lab Fellows, 2 Artists-in-Residence, and 3 Indigenous Program Full Circle Fellows, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (U.S.-based Native artists, aged 18-24). During the Lab, Fellows will hone their storytelling and technical skills in a hands-on and supportive environment, including one-on-one feedback sessions with advisors and roundtable discussions. With Fellows working across both feature and episodic formats, they will also explore and discuss indigenizing their creative practices in regard to writing their scripts.

These Labs are organized under the aegis of Feature Film Program Founding Director Michelle Satter, FFP Deputy Director Ilyse McKimmie, and Indigenous Program Director N. Bird Runningwater, and are a key part of the Institute’s year-round continuum of customized artist support, including creative mentorship, direct granting, and tactical advice from Institute staff and industry professionals.


Michelle Satter

“We’re thrilled to be launching such a visionary group of filmmakers who have met this year’s challenges with an unstoppable resilience and spirit of collaboration and creativity,” said Satter. “Their stories bear witness to the world we’re living in, and give voice to characters and worlds that are both deeply personal and universal. We’re excited to provide meaningful and holistic mentorship and connections to these artists, and be part of their burgeoning creative and career development as writers and directors.”


“Support for Indigenous storytellers has been part of the Institute’s mission since its founding,” said Runningwater. “We’re excited to nurture this cohort of filmmakers and their stories, strengthening the Indigenous lens through which their stories are being told and supporting them along their creative journey to the screen and audiences.”


Creative Advisors for the Native Lab include: James Ashcroft, Kat Candler, Aurora Guerrero, and Jennifer Reeder.

Creative Advisors for the Directors Lab include: Directors Miguel Arteta, Joan Darling, Rick Famuyiwa, Gyula Gazdag (Artistic Director, Directors Lab), Lesli Linka Glatter, Keith Gordon, Randa Haines, Kasi Lemmons, Ira Sachs, Walter Salles, Joan Tewkesbury; DP’s Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Robert Elswit, Stephen Goldblatt, Bradford Young; Editors Joi McMillon, Michelle Tesoro and Dylan Tichenor, and Casting Directors Jodi Angstreich, Eyde Belasco, Maribeth Fox, Richard Hicks. Creative Advisors for the Screenwriters Lab include: Naomi Foner, John Gatins, Gyula Gazdag, Felicia Henderson, Amanda Idoko, Bráulio Mantovani, Malia Scotch Marmo, Tracy Oliver, Howard Rodman (Artistic Director, Screenwriters Lab), Tyger Williams, and Doug Wright.

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program is supported by, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation; Maja Kristin; NBCUniversal; Hollywood Foreign Press Association; Karen Lauder; Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund; Sandra and Malcolm Berman Charitable Foundation; Comedy Central; National Endowment for the Arts; NHK/NHK Enterprises, Inc.; Amazon Studios; Kimberly Steward—K Period Media; SAGindie; Philip Fung—A3 Foundation; Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort; Directors Guild of America; Deborah Reinisch and Michael Theodore Fund; and Writers Guild of America West.

The Sundance Institute Indigenous Program is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, WarnerMedia, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Nia Tero Foundation, Indigenous Screen Office, SAGindie, New Zealand Film Commission, Jenifer and Jeffrey Westphal, Indigenous Media Initiatives, Felix Culpa, Sarah Luther, and Susan Shilliday.


Fellows and projects selected for the 2021 Native Lab:

Miciana Alise (Tlingit)
Mia, Too         
In this life, a woman’s biggest challenges are the love she chooses to accept, the tough love of a well-meaning mother, and the absence of love that heartbreak leaves behind. Mia will have to face them all in order to find a way to finally love herself.

Miciana Alise interned with Jesse Collins Entertainment during the 2013 Black Entertainment Television Awards and served as First Assistant Director under Director Randy Reinholz during Perseverance Theatre’s production of an original Alaska Native play. She penned her first feature length script in 2018, leading to her selection as a 2019 Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Fellow. She hosts a YouTube channel focused on educating Native youth regarding current events and Indigenous history. Fancy Dance, a feature she co-wrote with Erica Tremblay, was included on the inaugural Indigenous List hosted by The Black List. She is a current Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellow.

Doane Tulugaq Avery (Iñupiaq)
Mama Dragon
As a 40-year-old queer ex-Mormon begins to navigate the world as a recent divorcee, she is surprised to find support in raising her nonbinary child from an advocacy group called Mama Dragons, a Mormon led organization that breathes fire for their LGBTQ family members.

Doane Tulugaq Avery is a filmmaker whose stories focus on feminine, queer, and Indigenous character-driven narratives. She was the recipient of the LA Skins Fest Emerging Filmmaker Award and the imagineNATIVE Jane Glassco Award for Emerging Talent. Her short films have screened at Outfest, Oaxaca Film Fest, Seattle Queer Film Festival, and Māoriland. She was selected as a fellow for the Sundance Institute + IAIA Native Writers Workshop, the Barcid Foundation’s Native American TV Writers Lab, and the 2nd Annual Native American Writers Room sponsored by the Pop Culture Collaborative. She recently worked with Topple Productions as a co-writer on the forthcoming film Mothertrucker. She received an MFA in Film Directing from the California Institute of the Arts. Doane is from the Pacific Northwest and lives in Los Angeles.

Bryson Chun (Kanaka Maoli)
Poi Dogs
When a small-town, high-end Hawai’i dog groomer learns that a hit was put on her on the Dark Web, she has to race to find the culprit among her friends and family before it’s too late.

Bryson Chun is a Native Hawaiian filmmaker who has produced award-winning short and feature films in Hawai’i that have gone on to screen for PBS, The Smithsonian Institution, The Criterion Collection, and at festivals all over the world. He was a writing fellow for Sundance, imagineNATIVE, LA Skins, and ‘Ohina Labs where he developed his Greenlight award-winning short Other People under the mentorship of Thor Ragnarok writer Eric Pearson. His television pilot Poi Dogs was recently selected to be part of The Blacklist’s Inaugural Indigenous List. He was part of the 2021 CAPE New Writers Fellowship and is currently pursuing his MFA in Screenwriting from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree)
Sweet Home Reservation
After the death of her aunt, a successful fashion business woman returns to her childhood home on the Cree reservation in Northern Alberta, Canada for the funeral. However unbeknownst to her large, loud Native family, she brings home her new fiancé — a musician from Malibu.​

Alexandra Lazarowich is an award-winning Cree filmmaker from northern Alberta. Her short film Fast Horse was honored with The Special Jury Prize for Directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Her body of work as director and producer include LakeIndian Rights for Indian WomenCree Code TalkerEmpty Metal and INAATE/SE/. She is the series producer for the CBC’s multi-award-winning comedy documentary series Still Standing. Her fellowship is made possible with support from the Indigenous Screen Office.

2021 Native Lab – Artist In Residence:

Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo)
Rosa (at booth #515)
An aspiring Pueblo photographer drops out of college and decides to sell her photos at Native art shows full-time to support her family. She struggles with self-doubt, competitive attitudes and understanding the market – in order to establish herself as an artist.

Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo) is a Tewa filmmaker whose work focuses on empowering women, celebrating resilience and laughing in-between. Gonzales is Lead Editor for Native Lens, a crowdsourced series by RMPBS and KSUT Tribal Radio. She’s a 2021 graduate from IAIA where she studied Cinematic Arts and Technology. She’s a current Artist in Business Leadership Fellow through First Peoples Fund. She’s an alumna of the Indigenous Film Opportunity Fellowship and Full Circle Fellowship, both through the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program. Gonzales earned an English-Communication BA from Fort Lewis College in 2017. Her favorite foods are red chile and oven bread.

Tommy Pico (Kumeyaay) – writer
Tommy is a “sometimes” person: sometimes Brooklyn, sometimes rez, but never both. When his best friend becomes a punk singer, a dream Tommy wanted for himself, his identities begin to blur against a backdrop of punk music, ceremony, and the ghost of an ex he killed on the rez.

Tommy “Teebs” Pico is a poet, podcaster, and TV writer. He authored the books IRL, Nature Poem, Junk, and Feed. He hosts the podcasts Food 4 Thot and Scream, Queen! and writes on the TV shows Reservation Dogs and Resident Alien.

The 2021 Native Lab Fellows will be joined at Lab by the 2021 Full Circle Fellows:

Jamie John (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)
Jamie John is a two-spirit Anishinaabe and Korean multidisciplinary artist living in their historic homeland of so-called Michigan. They’re an enrolled tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, a graduate in interdisciplinary arts at Interlochen Arts Academy, and currently reconnecting to their Anishinaabe ceremonial way of life. Art has been used as a tool to carve out a space for Jamie despite the impact of colonialism, intergenerational suffering, and gender violence. With works tackling topics of colonialism and historical loss, Jamie attempts to pull the thread of resistance to these atrocities through cultural connection and emphasizing collective survival.

Sarah Liese (Diné and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)
Sarah Liese is a master’s student at Ohio University, where she studies journalism and photography. She is a research assistant to Dr. Victoria LaPoe, which has allowed her to learn more about Indigenous reporting – a topic Liese is passionate about, as she is Diné and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. In her free time, Sarah works as a poetry reader for the New Ohio Review. She plans to earn her master’s degree from Ohio University in April 2022 and begin her career as a documentary filmmaker, highlighting Indigenous stories. She is a graduate of Mississippi University in the state where she grew up and maintains strong family connections.

Christina Zuni (Isleta Pueblo)
Christina Zuni is a Native filmmaker and cinematographer from Isleta Pueblo, N.M. She is a soon-to-be graduate at New Mexico State University in the Digital Filmmaking program. Growing up in a culture-driven community, she developed an interest in pueblo art at a young age. The combination of Native art and visual media heavily influences the themes present in her work. By giving a voice to the unheard and unspoken, she advocates and empowers communities in ways that uplift them. Her goal in filmmaking is to enrich humanity’s interest in Native American traditions and encourage pueblo youth to find their creativity.

Fellows and projects selected for the 2021 Directors Lab are:

Fancy Dance (U.S.A.)
Erica Tremblay, co-writer/director
Miciana Alise, co-writer
Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of their family intact.

Erica Tremblay is an award-winning writer and director from the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. Her short film Little Chief premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was included on IndieWire’s top 10 must-see short films at the fest. Tremblay was a 2018 Sundance Native Film Lab Fellow and she is a current Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellow. She was recently honored as a 40 Under 40 Native American. Tremblay lives on Cayuga Lake in upstate New York where she is studying her Indigenous language.

Miciana Alise interned with the Native American Journalists Association in 2011 and 2012.
She served as first assistant director under the guidance of director Randy Reinholz during
his production of the original Alaska Native play, William Inc., for Perseverance Theater in
Juneau, Alaska. Alise self-published her first book, Heavens & Heathens, a young adult
fantasy fiction novel in 2016, and was selected as a Sundance Institute Indigenous Film
Fellow in 2018. Alise is a 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow and she is currently a student in the Film and Media Studies Program at Arizona State University.

forward (U.S.A.)
Cris Gris, director
Mary Ann Anane, writer
After moving to a working-class part of the Hamptons, a Latinx teen employed as a housecleaner for the elite explores identity and love in the shadow of gentrification and inevitable loss.

Cris Gris is a Mexican filmmaker whose films have screened internationally in prestigious festivals, including La Semaine de la Critique, Festival de Cannes. She’s known for moving between acting, writing, and directing, and landed her first leading role in the feature independent drama Fish Bones (2018). Her short San Miguel (2018) received the Spike Lee Film Production Fund, the HFPA Fellows Fund, and was named a 2019 NBR student grant winner. Her short Pia & Mike (2019) premiered at FICM. Gris is a Film Independent Project Involve 2020 fellow and a 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow. forward will be her feature directorial debut.

Mary Ann Anane is a Ghanaian-born, New-Jersey raised screenwriter and novelist. She is a graduate of Northwestern University with a concentration in playwriting. Anane is a 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellow, 2020 Athena Feature Lab fellow, 2020 Film Independent’s Project Involve fellow, and a finalist for MACRO’s inaugural Episodic Lab. Outside of writing, Anane was a development assistant at Endeavor Content, a producer’s assistant on The Farewell and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and has worked on off-Broadway productions at New York Theatre Workshop. All her titles are lowercased.

The Macrobiotic Toker (U.S.A.)
Tracy Droz Tragos, writer/director
Living in a mommune, balancing her alternative lifestyle and a bitter separation, Sula’s life is plunged into potential chaos by an unplanned pregnancy. After discovering how to procure abortion pills online, she travels an unexpected path to become an underground supplier, an accidental pro-choice activist, and ultimately, a convicted felon. Inspired by true events.

Tracy Droz Tragos is a writer, filmmaker, and mother of two kids. Her documentary work includes Abortion: Stories Women Tell, the HBO film about unplanned pregnancies and resilience; Be Good, Smile Pretty, an Emmy Award-winning documentary about the grief and healing of survivors of the Vietnam War; and Rich Hill (Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Documentary, 2014 Sundance Film Festival) for which she embedded in the homes of low-income families in rural Missouri. In 2020, Tragos won a Guggenheim Fellowship for her long-form work on the documentary Sarah. She received her MFA in screenwriting from USC.

The Mysterious Gaze of the Flamingo (Chile)
Diego Céspedes, writer/director
Chile, 1984. A remote mining town is stricken with a mysterious disease, said to be transmitted between men through eye contact. Twelve-year-old Lidia must protect her older brother Alexo, who raised her, when he comes under threat from the fearful townspeople.

Diego Céspedes is a Chilean filmmaker. In 2018, he wrote and directed his first short, The Summer of the Electric Lion, which won the Cinéfondation First Prize at Cannes Film Festival and the Nest First Prize at San Sebastian Film Festival, and also screened at Sundance, Palm Springs, and AFI Fest, among others. The Mysterious Gaze of the Flamingo will mark his feature directorial debut. The project has been supported by the Cinéfondation Residence (Cannes), the Ikusmira Berriak Residence (San Sebastian) and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. It also won the TorinoFilmLab and the Ibermedia production fund.

Neon Tilapia (Kenya, U.S.A.)
Tony Koros, writer/director
When a dangerous water-weed threatens to take over his lake and livelihood, a fisherman in rural Kenya forms an unexpected alliance with his estranged granddaughter to fight back using glowing, genetically modified fish. As strange lights appear in the lake, chaos erupts in the village, and the two are challenged to reach a new understanding of each other.

Tony Koros is a New York-based Kenyan screenwriter, director and producer. He is a 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellow, a recipient of the 2020 Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Grant, a 2020 Cine Qua Non Lab Script Revision Lab fellowship, the Martin E. Segal Production Grant and the 2019 Hollywood Foreign Press Association grant. His latest short film, Tithes & Offerings, premiered in competition at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2019 and has since been acquired for distribution by CANAL+. His previous short films have screened at over 70 international film festivals including Palm Springs International Shortfest where he won the Alexis Prize in 2017, Clermont-Ferrand 2018, FESPACO 2017, and won the Sembene prize at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. He holds an MFA in Filmmaking from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2018).

Parts & Labor (U.S.A.)
Cristina Costantini, co-writer/director
Jacob Albert, co-writer
Working single mom Maria Burgos signs on as a gestational surrogate for a wealthy, controlling New York couple to pay for her son’s college tuition. She tolerates their degrading demands until the relationship explodes, and Maria seizes the moment to blackmail her way to the American Dream.

Cristina Costantini is an Emmy Award-winning director. Her latest documentary Mucho Mucho Amor premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and on Netflix in 2020. The film was nominated for a Critics Choice Award and won the Best Latinx Film award from NALIP. Her first feature documentary, Science Fair, won the Sundance Festival Favorite Award as well as the SXSW Audience Award, a Critics Choice Award for Best First Time Director, and an Emmy award. The Milwaukee native is a Yale grad who now lives in California with her husband and their pug dog Harriet.

Jacob Albert lives in Oakland. He ghostwrites popular science books for research scientists and is at work on a novel. Formerly a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he has received fellowships from the Blue Mountain Center, the Michener Center, and the Elizabeth George Foundation.

A Real One (U.S.A.)
McKenzie Chinn, writer/director
A bright teenager in a working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side discovers the power and beauty of true friendship when her illicit relationship with a teacher is discovered amid the final weeks of her senior year in high school.

McKenzie Chinn is a filmmaker, actor, and poet based in Chicago. She is the writer and lead actor of Olympia, which premiered at the 2018 LA Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the 2019 Bentonville Film Festival. Her poetry has been nominated for multiple awards including a Pushcart Prize. She is part of Growing Concerns Poetry Collective whose releases include the album BIG DARK BRIGHT FUTURES (2020) and the poetry collection Five Fifths (Candor Arts 2018). She is a 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellow and the recipient of the inaugural NBCUniversal Grant through the Bentonville Film Foundation.

Stampede (U.S.A.)
Sontenish Myers, writer/director
On a southern plantation in the 1800s, Lena is an 11-year-old slave with telekinetic abilities she cannot yet control. When she is separated from her mother and moved into close quarters with the volatile Master’s wife, Lena must grapple with the danger of her gift as well as its potential power.

Sontenish Myers is a Jamaican American writer-director based in Harlem, New York. She is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Film program where she’s now an adjunct professor. Her short film, Cross My Heart, won the Alexis Award for Best Emerging Student Filmmaker at the Palm Springs International Shortfest and the Vimeo Staff Pick Award at Hamptons International Film Festival. Stampede, her debut feature, was accepted into the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, HIFF Screenwriting Lab, Film Independent Screenwriting Lab and IFP Week. It is also a selected script on the Black List 2019, and a recipient of SFFILM’s Rainin Grant and Tribeca All Access Grant.

The 2021 Directors Lab Fellows will be joined at the Screenwriters Lab by:

White Knuckle (U.S.A.)
Xavier Coleman, writer/director
When a serial killer begins targeting the gentrifiers of a dwindling, historically Black neighborhood, a young newcomer must determine the murderer’s identity—before she’s next.

Xavier Coleman is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker with a focus on the intersection of genre and identity. His most recent directorial effort was the short film, White Knuckle. The film screened at the Movies Under the Stars series presented by the N.Y.C. Mayor’s Office, and was listed in AMC and Shudder’s Horror Noire syllabus of Black horror. The feature-length screenplay for White Knuckle was selected for the 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Intensive. As a nonfiction editor, Coleman has worked with writers and directors including Elliot Page, Ira Glass, and Joe Berlinger. His latest documentary feature film as an editor, There’s Something in the Water, premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

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



Berlinale Summer Special to Take Place as an Outdoor Event

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Good news from the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale)! The plan to hold the Berlinale Summer Special (June 9-20, 2021) as an outdoor event is now set. The Berlinale is pleased to be able to give audiences the enjoyment of an open-air cinema experience at 16 venues in total at the Summer Special. Both Berlin’s falling 7-day incidence for COVID-19, as well as positive signals by government offices to support the request for a pilot project with mandatory testing, have reinforced the festival directors’ planning of an all-outdoor event.


Carlo Chatrian, left, and Mariette Rissenbeek, Directors of the Berlinale.

“We’re extremely pleased about the new concept for the Berlinale Summer Special, despite having planned it differently at the outset. Audiences will be getting a very special, collective festival experience – something we’ve all been missing for such a long time. The Summer Special is geared towards re-igniting the desire to go to the cinema and to contribute to the revival of cultural activities with an audience. We’ll be able to present the festival program to Berlin audiences in almost every part of the city at a total of 16 venues, including a specially created outdoor cinema at the historic Museum Island Berlin as the main venue. The “Kiez-Kino” local cinema screenings will also take place as outdoor events, and be more strongly represented in different parts of the city. Thanks to the generous additional funding by the BKM, Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters, for the festival’s two-phase format in 2021, and the support of the Berlin Senate, we can now prepare the Summer Special and look forward to welcoming filmmakers and jury members who can make the journey to Berlin in June,” comment the directors of the Berlinale, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian, on their recent decision.


The Berlin International Film Festival is now working at full speed to implement the outdoor festival concept. Hygiene and security plans have been developed and will be coordinated in close dialogue with the venues. The Summer Special will celebrate its opening on June 9 at the main venue at Museum Island Berlin, and on June 13, the awards ceremony will take place following the decisions of the official juries already made in March. In addition, the Berlinale Documentary Award, sponsored by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and endowed with 40,000 euros, and the GWFF Best First Feature Award, sponsored by the Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten and endowed with 50,000 euros, will also be awarded at the main venue at Museum Island Berlin. Other special events at the Museum Island Berlin venue may be added to the schedule of award ceremonies and film premieres.

The Summer Special will also offer selected screenings for younger audiences. Furthermore, the Children’s and Youth Juries of the Generation section, inactive in March due to the pandemic, will watch the competition films of Kplus and 14plus for the Summer Special, and award the Crystal Bears to the winning films during the event.

The Summer Special program will be available at as of May 20. Ticket sales will start on May 27.

Flowers of the Berlinale (Photo by @Larry_Gleeson)

The films of the Berlinale Summer Special will be screened at these open-air cinema locations:


Freiluftkino Museumsinsel

Location: Bodestr. 1-3, 10178 Berlin


Freiluftkino Friedrichshain

Location: Volkspark Friedrichshain, 10249 Berlin


Freiluftkino Rehberge
Location: Volkspark Rehberge, 13351 Berlin


Freiluftkino Kreuzberg

Location: Hof des Kunstquartier Bethanien am Mariannenplatz, entrance via Adalbertstraße, 10997 Berlin


Freiluftkino Hasenheide

Location: Volkspark Hasenheide, 10967 Berlin


ARTE Sommerkino Kulturforum

Location: Matthäikirchplatz 4/6, 10785 Berlin


ARTE Sommerkino Schloss Charlottenburg

Location: Spandauer Damm 10-22, 14059 Berlin


Open Air Kino HKW 

Location: John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin


silent green 

Location: Gerichtstr. 35, 13347 Berlin


The open-air screenings will also take place in following “Kiez-Kino” cinemas:


Atelier Gardens Freiluftkino @ BUFA

Location: Oberlandstr. 26-35, 12099 Berlin


Freilichtbühne Weißensee

Location: Große Seestr.10, 13086 Berlin


Freiluftkino Biesdorfer Parkbühne

Location: Schlosspark Biesdorf, Nordpromenade 5, 12683 Berlin


Freiluftkino Friedrichshagen

Location: Hinter dem Kurpark 13, 12587 Berlin


Freiluftkino Pompeji

Location: Laskerstr. 5, 10245 Berlin


Freiluftkino of Filmrauschpalast

Location: Lehrterstr. 35, 10557, Berlin    



Location: Wasgenstraße 75, 14129 Berlin

Larry Gleeson stands underneath the Berlinale Bear near Potsdamer Plaza between screenings at the 67th Berlinale. (Photo courtesy of @HollywoodGlee)




Posted by Larry Gleeson

The legendary director and cinephile Martin Scorcese will join the TCM Classic Film Festival on TCM and HBO Max for two special introductions, with his Oscar-nominated gangster drama GOODFELLAS (1990) in the Classics Curated by TCM hub on HBO Max and MEAN STREETS (1973) on TCM airing tonight, May 6, at 11:15 PM ET.

Both TCM and HBO Max networks are screening tonight’s Opening Night film at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT — with the 60th-anniversary screening of “West Side Story” (1961) with new and exclusive interviews with the film’s stars Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn.

The 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival runs through Sunday, May 9, on two virtual venues: the TCM network and the Classics Curated by TCM Hub on HBO Max.

While the respective lineups are complementary, they are also different. Access to the TCM lineup can be found here. Access to the HBO Max lineup of movies can be found here.

Tune in to Ben Mankiewicz’s introductory video with tips and tricks on How To Fest! In addition, check out the TCM How To Guide!

TCM Classic Film Festival Starts Tomorrow

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival begins tomorrow – Thursday, May 6 – and runs through Sunday, May 9, at two virtual venues: the TCM network and the Classics Curated by TCM Hub on HBO Max.

While the respective lineups are complementary, they are also different. Access to the TCM lineup can be found here. Access to the HBO Max lineup of movies can be found here.

Both TCM and HBO Max networks are screening the festival’s Opening Night film on Thursday, May 6, at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT — with the 60th-anniversary screening of “West Side Story” (1961) with new and exclusive interviews with the film’s stars Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn.

“Curating the Classics” was held this afternoon and had the distinctive feel of the traditional TCM Classic Film Festival Press Conference. *(Pictured top to bottom are some of the curators, Ben Mankiewicz, Anne King, Genevieve Magillucuddy, Dextor Fedor, and Susane Fedor. Not pictured Charlie Tabesh and one other.)


This year’s festival seems to be hitting all the marks. Last year’s initial festival cancellation felt like the doomsday device had been activated only to be annihilated with a pivot that pushed the first major film festival into virtual space. Personally, last year’s edition was a thrill ride and from the architecture in place, this year’s festival appears headed to a place where we won’t need cars!

So, tune in to the TCM network and/or HBO Max for four fantastic days featuring a curated selection of films reflecting a broad spectrum of classic movies – each surrounded by new interviews, special presentations, archival content, and clips from past TCM Classic Film Festivals. The HBO Max films will remain available throughout the month of May.

Check out the How to Fest Guide for all the tips and tricks to navigating this year’s festival – found here: TCM-CFF_HowToGuide

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

Larry Gleeson, left, with 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival’s special guest, Angie Dickinson, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel during the pre-festival Meet and Greet. (HollywoodGlee photo)


Posted by Larry Gleeson



TO BE HELD JUNE 22-27, 2021 


The Hybrid Festival Will Feature Virtual Offerings 

As Well As Limited Capacity In-Person Screenings  

At The Storied AFI Silver Theatre And Cultural Center In Silver Spring, Maryland 

AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s annual documentary celebration will once again offer an opportunity for movie fans to view documentary films online and anticipate welcoming a limited number of festival-goers back to the storied AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD for in-person screenings. Passes go on sale today for the virtual experience. Individual tickets for in-person screenings and at-home opportunities go on sale June 8. AFI DOCS will be held June 22-27, 2021.

“AFI is committed to both the peerless magic of in-person screenings and the vast accessibility of virtual offerings, which last year allowed AFI DOCS to reach festival-goers in all 50 states,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “With both options now available to movie lovers across the nation, we look forward to celebrating the very best the documentary art form has to offer.”

Now in its 19th year, AFI DOCS will be held June 22-27. The festival program will include world premieres and works by master and emerging filmmakers alike. Last year, AFI DOCS presented a successful, fully-virtual festival with 59 films from 11 countries, opening with Apple and A24’s BOYS STATE and closing with the world premiere of JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT, which concluded with a surprise conversation with President Jimmy Carter.

Passes can be purchased now at Early Bird pricing will be available until June 1. Tickets for individual and in-person screenings will be available June 8.


AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held in Washington, DC.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 19th year, the festival will be held June 22-27, 2021. Visit and connect on and


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


Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR,

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski,


Posted by Larry Gleeson



Magnolia Pictures

Opening April 30th, 2021, in Theaters and on Demand

76 minutes

Swedish with English Subtitles

*2019 Venice International Film Festival –Winner: Silver Lion for Best Direction

A scene from ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

SYNOPSIS: A reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendor and banality.

A scene from ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

We wander, dreamlike, gently guided by our Scheherazade-esque narrator. Inconsequential moments take on the same significance as historical events: a couple floats over a war-torn Cologne; on the way to a birthday party, a father stops to tie his daughter’s shoelaces in the pouring rain; teenage girls dance outside a cafe; a defeated army marches to a prisoner-of-war camp.

A scene from ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Simultaneously an ode and a lament, ABOUT ENDLESSNESS presents a kaleidoscope of all that is eternally human, an infinite story of the vulnerability of existence.

A scene from ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.


An interview by Philippe Bober


Some of the themes in ABOUT ENDLESSNESS are present in your other films: optimism represented by youth, but also war and despair, and the absence of God. Here you show a priest who doesn’t believe in God. Would you say there is always a balance between hope and despair?

Roy Andersson: The main theme of my work is the vulnerability of human beings. And I think it is a hopeful act to create something showing vulnerability. Because if you are aware of the vulnerability of existence, you can become respectful and careful of what you have.

I wanted to emphasize the beauty of existence, of being alive. But of course, to get that, you need to have a contrast. You need to show the bad side, the cruel side of existence.

Looking at art history, for example, a lot of paintings are very tragic. But even if they depict cruel and sad scenes, by painting them the artists have in some way transferred the energy and created hope.

For each of your films, you have taken inspiration from paintings. What were your influences for ABOUT ENDLESSNESS?

I am interested in the Neue Sachlichkeit artists because of the strength of their paintings. In my opinion, they are extraordinarily sharp and detailed: everything is in focus, everything is very clear and distinct. You can’t find this sharpness in film history: the background has to be out of focus. That’s why I find these paintings very inspiring for my scenes: everything is in focus, even the grotesque moments in life.

I am often very jealous of painting because I feel that film history doesn’t have the same quality as painting history. I really want movies to be as rich as painting can be.

Is there one specific painting that inspired you for this film?

I like Otto Dix’s “Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden” very much.

The Neue Sachlichkeit movement took place in the 1920s just before the apocalypse. Would you say that ABOUT ENDLESSNESS is also taking place just before an apocalypse?

I hope not. It would be very pessimistic to think we are living in such a moment. I don’t think even Otto Dix believed an apocalypse was coming, but he warned us about the possibility. All of his paintings can be seen as warnings. That is also true for the Old Masters, they portray our existence but also warn us about its briefness: “Let us remember that life is not eternal. And you have to be thankful for the time you have left.”

You also mentioned architecture as an influence, that the Swedish Functionalism movement of the 50’s was an inspiring aesthetic element for your films. What is the connection between functionalism and ABOUT ENDLESSNESS?

I had the ambition to show the existence in all its aspects: that includes functionalism, modernism, Stalinism. It’s a mixture of multiple ambitions to create houses, to create societies. I didn’t have the ambition to create a pure style, I wanted to show our time, and in Sweden, functionalism was very popular and used abundantly.

You have said that the presence of a narrator in the film is inspired by the character of Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights. Is this also why you chose a woman to be the storyteller?

Yes, that was a choice. I was hesitant: I tried with a man, and even with my voice but finally found it more interesting to choose a woman. She’s like a fairy, very clever, maybe even eternal. It is the first time that I have used a voice-over, it is new to me. I was influenced by the voice in HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR. In certain scenes, the main character describes what the audience sees on-screen at the same time. And I really loved it.

Your films always include historical scenes, why is it so important for you?

I’ve always been very interested in history. It was my major at university: I studied the history of literature, history of philosophy, even Nordic languages. I was especially interested in the two World Wars. For instance, I was fascinated by the pictures of WWI that I saw as a teenager.

In the film, the war scenes depict the losers. Why?

Yes, winners are not interesting. Because we are all losers in some sense. It is important to acknowledge that in the end, no one is a winner. I am not a pessimistic person but the fact is: there is no hope. Life is a tragedy. I’m not the first person to say it.

I thought it was about hubris, represented by Charles XII, or Hitler in your films.

Yes, in some periods in your life, especially when you’re young, you experience this hubris. You think you are invulnerable, that you will always win. That is very characteristic of young and strong people. I also experienced that feeling myself, especially when I was around 25 and had just made A SWEDISH LOVE STORY. That was my hubris period when I thought I would always be a winner, that I would never lose if I fought and worked hard enough.

I wanted to ask you about youth in your films: what does it represent for you?

It’s very beautiful, most of the time. I especially like to look at children because they are so full of ideas, hope, and vitality; it’s beautiful to look at. As long as you are young you keep this hope but then you lose it step by step, as you grow older.

For instance, I really like the scene showing the father and daughter in the rain, on their way to a birthday party. The father forfeits his umbrella to help her, an act of selflessness, whilst the daughter just wants to have her shoes tied, and that is so nice to see. Also, in the scene with the girls dancing, I think it’s very charming to see the vitality of these young people who are very happy to exist, they love to dance and so that is what they do. There is something contagious about their energy.

You have a very special sense of humor. What do you find funny?

I think truth is very often funny. When I started my career, I was inspired by Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel, and other Czech filmmakers. They showed us existence in a very humorous tone. Depicting people that are a little lost, so to say. Not losers, but a little lost. And I really like these films, showing us that kind of humor: small but very funny stories. A lot of filmmakers attempt to create this everyday humor, but it’s very easy to fail. I also fail many times, but I don’t give up.

Did you shoot everything in your studio?

Yes. Apart from one exterior, the scene with the German army marching, which was shot in Norway.

What were the most challenging scenes in the film, from a technical point of view?

It has to be the flying couple scene. Even setting aside the making of the model city of Cologne, it took us a very long time. The scale is maybe 1/200. For example, the Cathedral is half a meter high.

The whole city is an enormous set. It took a month to build.

What does this scene mean to you?

It is a terrible reminiscence from history: that a beautiful city was bombed and destroyed. But in spite of that, I wanted to show that life goes on. Love, tenderness, sensuality keep existing. It was important to show these sides of existence over a destroyed city.

Though you have these historical scenes, there is a sense of timelessness to your films and here it also ties into the title.

Yes, I wanted to have these scenes which are very close to being timeless though we see it is September or snowing or a historical scene there should be a feeling of timelessness. Again, I am inspired by paintings, and artwork that talks to us in our time talked to others two hundred years ago, or more. It suggests that we human beings are quite similar throughout the ages and time.

The “endlessness” of the title has nothing to do with the never-ending space. It is not in terms of science, endlessness in this film is about the endlessness of signs of existence, the signs of being human.

A scene from ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release.Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.











Posted by Larry Gleeson

Delroy Lindo received the illustrious American Riviera Award at the 36th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, April 8, 2021, and was recognized for his many attributes to the art of film over the years, most recently, for his work in Spike Lee’s DA 5 BLOODS from Netflix.

Lindo virtually sat down with Indiewire Editor-at-Large Anne Thompson for an in-depth discussion about his career in film, television, and in the theater.

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

  • On working with Chadwick Boseman without the knowledge of his illness & a special request for Denzel Washington: “We did not [know what he was going through]. In retrospect, it adds another layer of I don’t know what. To the extent that it was an extraordinary experience, it adds another component to the specialness of the experience of making this work…I thought it [his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom] was terrific. I remember seeing that play and I am all for having his [August Wilson] work committed to film. I thought they did a wonderful job…I will say to you Denzel, I want to play Bynum Walker in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. So, I have no clue if that will ever get to Denzel’s ear…But I’m putting it out there into the ether.”


  • On deciding what roles to take: “The question always is ‘who is this human being? Where is this person’s humanity? And can I inform humanity of who this person is? If the answer is yes, I feel I can contribute then I’m more apt to take the work on. If the answer is no and if for whatever reason the writing is stereotypical or cliche or I do not feel like I can contribute something then I’m apt to say no, to pass.”


  • On acting for television: “Television has been really important to me…The challenge of television for me is it is really fast so what I am challenged to do when working in television is prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare…because when one shows up on set, you have to pretty much be ready to work because the speed is, if you’re not ready, you’re going to have a problem.”


  • On why he hesitated to take the role in The Cider House Rules: “Mr. Rose impregnates his daughter…I was deeply uncomfortable with that whole narrative and what caused me to be able to do the work and play that part is because I found what I hoped would be the humanity in Mr. Rose…What I decided for myself was that I had a deep, deep, deep and genuine love for my daughter and that was real and that comes out in a scene between me and Tobey Maguire when I say to him, “I love her!”

During Lindo’s conversation with Thompson, numerous clips were shown from his acting career, including Malcom X, Crookland, Clockers, Get Shorty, Soul of the Game, Feeling Minnesota, Ransom, The Cider House Rules, Romeo Must Die and Da 5 Bloods.


Following the conversation, Oscar-nominated composer Terence Blanchard presented him with the American Rivera Award. Blanchard opened his remarks by saying: “The thing about Delroy is that he leaves an impression. The way he can effortlessly inhabit the characters, the authority in which he delivers his lines, the impact he leaves on a project, whether you remember the story or not, you definitely remember Delroy…He stands out in these vast ensembles…It is my great honor to present my brother, Delroy Lindo, with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s American Rivera Award to Delroy. Congratulations!”

Upon accepting his award, Lindo said: “Thank you so much Terence…To the extent that I inspire you, I’m saying right back at you bro, you inspire me…I can’t imagine being more honored to get the award from you…Thank you to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival…I appreciate the recognition. That recognition comes all down to Spike Lee and him bringing us all together to work on this particular film. On a lot of levels, my appreciation for Spike stems from that time [1992]…I have a deep, deep, deep appreciation for Spike specifically for this film but also for all of the work that we’ve done. Spike, if you’re watching I want to say that I have an enhanced appreciation for your particular genius…I want to say thank you to my brothers, the cast and crew of Da 5 Bloods in terms of the community they created and the safe space that we all created together to make this work possible…A particular thank you to my brothers in arms…My cousins Ronnie and Ted, they were Vietnam veterans…and to all the black and brown vets who’s stories never get told on film…Thank you to my son…my son inspires me in ways that you never know…Thank you to my wife, Neshormeh, I love you…Thank you all, god bless. I really really appreciate it.”

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Previous recipients include Renée Zellweger, Viggo Mortenson, Sam Rockwell, Jeff Bridges, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Annette Bening, Sandra Bullock, Mickey Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane.


The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will continue through April 10th, 2021, online and with the two ocean-front drive-ins sponsored by TOYOTA. Tickets and passes are available at

About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 35 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 100,000+ attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film. In 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

Made For Love

Posted by larry Gleeson

Based on the novel by Alissa Nutting, the MADE FOR LOVE comedy series is a darkly absurd, somewhat dystopian, and cynically poignant story of love and divorce following Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), a controlling, Orwellianesque tech billionaire.

Cristin Milioti, pictured above, stars as Hazel Green, a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to a controlling tech billionaire who has implanted a monitoring device – the Made for Love chip – in her brain, allowing him to track her, watch her, and know her “emotional data” as she tries to regain her independence. (Photo courtesy of Warner Media)

In a nutshell, Hazel discovers that her husband has implanted a monitoring device – the Made for Love chip – in her brain, allowing him to track her, watch her, and know her “emotional data” as she tries to regain her independence. Through the chip, Byron’s able to watch Hazel’s every move as she flees to her desert hometown to take refuge with her aging widower father Herbert (Ray Romano) and his synthetic partner, Diane.

Cristin Milioti, pictured above, stars as Hazel Green, a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to a controlling tech billionaire who has implanted a monitoring device – the Made for Love chip – in her brain, allowing him to track her, watch her, and know her “emotional data” as she tries to regain her independence. (Photo courtesy of Warner Media)

Milioti is a compelling screen presence force as Hazel and comes across as a female embodiment of a mega superstar Tom Cruise.

In addition to Cristin Milioti, Made for Love starts Billy Magnussen as Byron Gogol, the controlling tech billionaire. husband. Other actors include Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Augusto Aguilera, Caleb Foote, and Ray Romano.

The series is executive produced by Christina Lee, Alissa Nutting, Patrick Somerville, Dean Bakopoulos, Liza Chasin, and SJ Clarkson. Christina Lee is the showrunner and Paramount Television Studios is the studio. Stephanie Laing directed the pilot and is a Co-EP. The season was directed by Laing and Alethea Jones.

Made for Love premiered on HBOMax on April 1st, with episodes 1-3. Episodes 4-6 of the Max Original are set to debut on April 8th, and the season concludes with two episodes scheduled to drop on April 15th.

Excellent writing, strong narrative, well-executed comedic timing, the high-tech futuristic setting, and the highly compelling work of Milioti make Made for Love the HollywoodGlee Critics Choice for this week’s episodic viewing!

HollywoodGlee Speaks with INVISIBLE VALLEY filmmakers Aaron Maurer and Zachary McMillan

Posted by Larry Gleeson

This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG, will open on March 31, 2021, with Invisible Valley, showcasing the work of Director Aaron Maurer and Producer Zachary McMillan.

Invisible Valley is set in the Coachella Valley: world-renowned for its extravagant golf resorts, unmatched winter weather, and A-list celebrity music festivals, projecting an image of money, class, and fame. From its earliest days as a health resort and continuing through a century of rapid growth and expansion, the Valley has retained its richly earned status as one of the leading winter playgrounds in the U.S., and the most desirable golfing destinations in the world. A prime affluent-tourist magnet demands caviar standards of taste and excellence and the Coachella Valley delivers.

Yet this outward image of luxury and leisure masks another reality. Field workers – many of them undocumented – constitute a large part of the Valley’s population. Living outside the gates of success, these immigrants bear the burden of harvesting a large amount of our country’s food source. Second and third jobs are common, and when the vacationing season ends and the crops have been harvested, most families must uproot their children, and travel north for the next season’s harvest. Many workers sleep in their trucks or in the fields, while others struggle to ensure housing for their families. The disruption to the stability of these families has resulted in poverty and puts the children into a category of risk across the board.

Invisible Valley weaves together the disparate stories of undocumented farmworkers, wealthy snowbirds, and music festival-goers over the course of a year in California’s Coachella Valley.  In exploring the history as well its imperiled future, the film uncovers an imminent environmental and social crisis and the looming consequences for the people who call it home.

What follows is a question and answer (Q&A) session by film critic Larry Gleeson (“LG”) with Director Aaron Maurer (“AM”) and Producer Zachary McMillan (“ZM”) on the film, the actors, the filmmakers’ sensibilities on making the film, and the impactful discoveries they made extending across the State of California and into the County of Santa Barbara.


Q & A with Director Aaron Maurer and Producer Zachary McMillan


LG: What initially sparked the idea for this story?

AM: I first got involved when Zach approached me with an initial idea; let’s look at the residents of the Coachella Valley as ‘migrants’ traveling in and out through the seasons. The word ‘Migrant’ has taken on such a loaded meaning over the last few years especially, that simple reframing of the word was a really interesting place to start from and generated a lot of ideas and questions. I knew right away there was something worth digging deeper into. From that launching point, we were able to weave a lot of ideas together and find stories in the Valley that added a sense of humanity and emotion to the conceptual ideas.

LG: Why did you decide to focus the story around the Coachella Valley and the migrant underclass? 

 ZM: Aaron and I both grew up in the Midwest, in Minneapolis, which is known for its winters and is the habitat of quite a few Snowbirds – people who head to warmer climates during the coldest months. My mother-in-law, Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad, is one such Snowbird and has been going to the Palm Springs area for the greater part of her adult life. However, about a decade ago she read an advertisement on her church bulletin for a program called Read With Me in Palm Desert. She then volunteered in this literacy advocacy program and was amazed by how many students in the Valley came from migrant farm working families. Suddenly her eyes opened to a new world: one that had almost literally existed across the street from her own community. As she became more involved with the schools and became closer to the students and the teachers, she increasingly felt the desire to make a bigger impact, and eventually, this led her to think that a documentary could be the best medium to show the other side of a place that is world-renowned for its golf courses and music festivals. After she talked to me about this idea, I went exploring around the Valley, driving out to the unincorporated town of Mecca trying to meet people, talk to people and realized there was something fascinating, and fascinatingly complex, about the relationships that exist in that area… of course things change a bit when you bring cameras around. But we were lucky enough to meet incredible people who welcomed us into their lives, into their homes. It’s still almost staggering that they did this.

LG: How much research and preparation did you do before starting?

AM: This was our first documentary and it really was a trial by fire. We had no script, no outline even, it was just a matter of spending time in the communities of the Valley and getting as much footage as we could. There was little planning you could do in advance because you are working with migrant families who are living on the move and below the poverty line, they don’t always access to phone or internet. So, we needed to be there meeting people and making connections. Gradually ideas started to form around how this mosaic of people and themes could fit together.

LG: What most surprised you about the Coachella Valley and those featured in Invisible Valley?

 ZM: The Coachella Valley is an extreme place, and yet the most surprising thing for me was the day-to-day reality of those extremes. In the grocery store, when you think about how the food, how the produce and the vegetables actually arrived there in front of you, it is possible to imagine the fields, the labor, the picking, and the packaging that goes into it. It is possible but it is completely abstract. Spending time with families that actually do this work, waking up at four in the morning, getting to the bell pepper fields before sunrise, and working into the heat that gets up to 110, 120 degrees Fahrenheit, is surprising. It is surprising when, after that day of work, they would invite us home, make dinner, welcome us like family.

LG: What was a particular challenge you faced while making the film?

AM: The places where we received the most pushback were certainly from the farm owners. Some of the key imagery in the film is of the harvests and we didn’t get any footage of that until after a year of filming. There was a constant fear that we were coming to expose something, although that wasn’t our angle, there just wasn’t any trust there or interest in ‘helping’. Eventually, we made connections to some smaller farms that allowed us in and I’m so grateful we got to capture a bit of the reality of that work.

Why are documentary films so vitally important in today’s world?

ZM: Documentary as a genre is becoming more and more popular, and in turn more and more documentaries are going to be made. As a form, filmmakers will continue pushing what documentary “is” and what it can mean – pushing against what it means to be a nonfiction film – and this is an exciting time for any art form. I don’t know if documentary is specifically more important in today’s world than any other day’s world, but certainly with the heightened attention on it, substantive, thoughtful, challenging, expansive, or otherwise good documentaries are more important than ever

LG: How did you find and connect with the subjects you profiled in your film?

 ZM: It really took time and patience, and then more time. As complete outsiders to the East side of the Valley, we needed to just kind of hang around enough, for long enough, to alert people that we were more than tourists. We needed to meet people, engage with people, and earn people’s trust. One person might introduce us to another person, and then that would lead to another person, but almost all of this wouldn’t be filmed. Over time, we became friends, real friends, with people that lived and worked in the area, and that is when people began to open up a bit: by people vouching for us, lending us their credit. The school teachers Sky and Jose Gijon, Hernan Quintas, who became our field producer, were instrumental. And it wasn’t until we met Angelica Ortiz-Cichocki, our (brilliant and sensitive and nuanced) translator and language consultant, that the interviews really started to feel like a connection.

LG: What challenges did you experience filming in private community settings in an area that values privacy? 

AM: I’d say that most people were hesitant, at best, to be on camera. Between undocumented workers and extremely wealthy folks in the resorts, we had a lot of initial pushback. It took time to gain trust and it usually took a connection of some kind that we’d formed through meeting people along the way. The farmworkers and folks in the East valley, although hesitant at first, were very quick to warm up once they realized we were honestly interested in hearing their stories. By the end of the day, we’d be treated like an extended member of the family. That certainly wasn’t the case when filming at the resorts. There’s so many security, privacy issues, there’s a fear there that we were there to exploit something. And it was actually the opposite. One of our main goals was to not vilify anyone in the film, it’s easy to make rich people look bad if you’re contrasting them with poverty, but it’s a cheap shot. It’s not reflective of the real issues.

LG: Why are documentary films so vitally important in today’s world?

 ZM: Documentary as a genre is becoming more and more popular, and in turn, more and more documentaries are going to be made. As a form, filmmakers will continue pushing what documentary “is” and what it can mean – pushing against what it means to be a nonfiction film – and this is an exciting time for any art form. I don’t know if  documentary is specifically more important in today’s world than any other day’s world, but certainly, with the heightened attention on it, substantive, thoughtful, challenging, expansive, or otherwise good documentaries are more important than ever.

LG: What do you want viewers to learn from seeing your film?

AM: I hope people will be inspired to think differently about the communities around them they see as ”other”. It’s very easy for us to live in our own bubbles, social media and quarantine can amplify those echo chambers, but can also be tools for understanding our neighbors if used with the right intention. As human beings, we all have blinders on some of the time, how else could we get through the day? But it’s important to know they’re on and take them off every once in a while. Although sometimes it may not seem like it, we’re all on this journey together.

LG: What reaction to the film do you expect at SBIFF?

 ZM: There are so many parallels between the Coachella Valley and Santa Barbara and the neighboring areas. Almost all the people we spoke with moved up to more central or northern California as the seasons and the harvests changed. I expect people will see something very familiar in the film, but hopefully, it will spark conversations that come from seeing something from a different angle, in a different light, at a slant.

LG: What does it feel like to bring the film to SBIFF?

AM: It’s really exciting to open SBIFF, this project has been many years in the making so we’re thrilled to be able to start sharing it with audiences and believe Invisible Valley will really resonate with the community in Santa Barbara.

The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG, will take place March 31st through April 10th, 2021, online and at two free ocean-front drive-in theatres. More information, festival passes, and tickets are available at

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the drive-in!

Larry Gleeson at the Hollywood Drive-in Cinema in the heart of Hollywood, Calif., for the special screening of Philippe Lecote’s epic drama, Night of the Kings, Friday, January 8, 2021. (Photo by Valerie Rapalee)

(*Photos and intro material courtesy of Linda Brown, Indie-PR)



The 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival moves Surf Nite Drive-in event

Posted by Larry Gleeson


The 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

moves Surf Nite Drive-in event

from tomorrow to Thursday due to rain


San Luis Obispo, CA (March 9, 2021) – The 27th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival has announced that their Surf Nite drive-in presentation has been moved to Thursday, March 11 due to expected rainfall tomorrow. Doors will open on Thursday at 6:30PM and the film presentation will begin at 7:30PM.


Perhaps the popular film festival’s most well-known and signature event, the Surf Nite celebration, which will be held at the Sunset Drive-in (255 Elks Lane) will be one of two in-person events -including a presentation of works by local and Cal Poly filmmakers at SLO Brew Rock (855 Aerovista Lane) taking place on Thursday for the film festival alongside its virtual online film screenings.

San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan

San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan said, “We have been monitoring the weather patterns for awhile now and knew there was the potential for rain tomorrow, so we were braced for the potential need to push it to Thursday. A large crowd, as always, is expected and the latest forecast has inspired us to make this move so as to not dampen everyone’s enthusiasm for enjoying the great surfing films and atmosphere with the classic cars and fun energy that Surf Nite is known for.”




SLO Film Fest’s one-of-a-kind surfing film event at the Sunset Drive-In will feature a double feature of Brent Storm’s new WHITE RHINO and Bruce Brown’s all-time surfing classic THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1965). WHITE RHINO features the surfers and the photographers who followed them during three historic swells hitting the beaches of the South Pacific in 2011-12. Brown’s THE ENDLESS SUMMER, which follows two young surfers chasing the perfect wave, may be the most iconic surfing documentary ever made. Surf Nite will also include the traditional appearance of some classic 60’s surfing autos to add to the atmosphere of what could be called the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the surfing film lover.


Passes are now on sale and information on the film festival can be found at


Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility.


John Wildman

Wildworks PR,  (323) 600-3165,