The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) announced plans for an elaborate build-out of two beachside drive-in theatres for the 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG®, occurring March 31 – April 10, 2021. The drive-in theatres will be presented by Toyota Mirai and be hosted at Santa Barbara City College. They will include 80+ film screenings, all offered for FREE. RSVPing prior to arriving will be required. KEYT broke the story yesterday.
In addition to the drive-ins, SBIFF will offer a full-scale, ticketed virtual component, which will include online film screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels and celebrity tributes. To date, announced tribute honorees include Bill Murray, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amanda Seyfried, Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Andra Day, Sidney Flanigan, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Zendaya, and Delroy Lindo. The tributes and industry panels will be aired live, over the festival’s virtual platform.
SBIFF programming received a record number of film submissions this year and has assembled a line-up that includes over 100 films, many of them World and US premieres. The film lineup and schedule will be announced in early March.
When I viewed One For the Road, recipient of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision, and directed by Baz Poonpiriya (the first Thai director to feature in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition), my mind wandered as I became aware of a thought, “This film reminds me of Wong Kar Wai’s work, In the Mood for Love.” The film had a wonderful soundtrack with some Cat Stevens music along with several mainstream hits, a strong production design, and a lovely mise-en-scene with exquisite cinematography and a touch of colorization. One For the Road follows a young Thai man, who is dying from cancer and has decided to make his final amends by delivering a parting gift to those closest to him on the earthly plane. The narrative structure is non-linear as the director uses flashbacks to inform the viewer and add depth of meaning to the present.
Unfortunately for the film’s lead character, Aood, portrayed by Ice Natara, the only Thai runway model in South Korea, he doesn’t drive and doesn’t own a car. So, he calls on his best friend, Boss, portrayed by actor/singer/model Tor Thanapob, to drive him across Thailand beginning in the north and traversing the length of the country down to the south in order to bring closure with the people from Aood’s past. Only, Boss owns a bar in New York where he seems to be living the dream with an endless lineup of beautiful women that he entertains after hours.
Boss and his family had supported Aood over the years and the two were as close as two blood brothers until a falling out left them estranged. But when Aood tells Boss he is sick and needs Boss’s help to complete a final “to do” list, Boss comes to help. As the two rekindle their friendship, Boss puts up with Aood’s idiosyncrasies and his overt intrusions into people’s lives with his parting gifts. Yet, when Aood tries to give Boss a gift, truths are revealed threatening their friendship while simultaneously offering an opportune moment for redemption.
One for the Road is full of nostalgia as multiple genres come together including romance, buddy film, as well as sex-positive melodrama. It’s very visual, very visceral, and one I was sad to see it end after 136 minutes. But end it did and as the credits began to roll, there it was – a title revealing “Produced by Wong Kar Wai” – “… a filmmaker who specializes in making the evanescent tangible, in capturing fleeting emotions in a style that is always poetic, often ravishing and, despite his films’ surface-level dreaminess, unerringly precise.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/movies/Wong-Kar-wai-romance-films.html) I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wong’s work so all I could do in that moment was sit and smile. What a wonderful gift. (Wong and Baz worked together on One For The Road for three years.)
Director Baz Poonpiriya, a strong storyteller who has come into his own, had previously helmed Bad Genius the 2017 Thai box-office smashing and the record-breaking winner of twelve categories at the 27th Suphannahong National Film Awards (the Thai Oscars), before embarking on One For The Road with Wong. If you’re a fan of Wong, this is a film you don’t want to miss. And, if you’re a fan of Thai film (Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives turned me on to Thai film), it’s a must-see! Lastly, if you simply enjoy exquisitely told films, I highly recommend you see Baz Poonpiriya’s One For The Road!
The most pleasant surprise of my 2021 Sundance Film Festival screenings goes to Jamie Redford’s Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. I was deeply saddened upon hearing Redford passed away before the film’s screening. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir was produced by Karen Pritzker and is a PBS American Masters Picture Production. Tan is most recognized for her Joy Luck Club work. The 1993 film, directed by Wayne Wang, spoke volumes to what was lost between generations illuminated through the onscreen conflict between Chinese-American daughters and their immigrant mothers. The film was based on Tan’s 1989 novel, The Joy Luck Club. To date, Tan has written two widely acclaimed novels, the aforementioned Joy Luck Club and the 1991 The Bonesetter’s Daughter, based on Tan’s own relationship with her mother and the stories of her grandmother. In addition, Tan has written and published two children’s books, six fiction novels, a few short stories, and several non-fiction books including The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings (2003) and the 2017 Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.
It’s one thing for me to simply reflect and write about Tan’s body of work. It’s entirely another issue for me to delve into Redford’s approach. Utilizing traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration (in this case Tan’s), archival footage and photos, film clips, direct interviews, personal testimony, and the more recent animation technique, Redford reveals a writer’s life in all its fullness and in all its complexities. As consumers, we all often believe writers simply write and occasionally have to deal with the infamous and godforsaken “writer’s block.”
Furthermore, Tan’s openness in sharing her family’s history, especially the women’s side of it, her own personal process, and professional writing history, allowed Redford to provide a very intimate look into Tan’s impressive body of work and into her psyche. For example, Amy Tan began her career as a technical writer and she found it paid well yet unfulfilling from a humanistic viewpoint. So, in her pursuit of some sort of self-actualization, she became a fiction writer as she felt fiction would actually allow for a more expansive expression of the truth. I suspect, other than her mother, that anyone would have guessed the impact her writing The Joy Luck Club would have on her life, and on audiences here in America and around the world. It was a bonafide game-changer.
I found Redford’s work, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, inspiring and heartwarming. On a deeper personal level, I felt I understood how Tan had become one of our most beloved contemporary authors – she learned to listen! Simultaneously, I identified with Tan’s immense intellectual curiosity and her overwhelming desire to express her world experience. Facing racism, misogyny, and intergenerational conflict of growing up in a new world separate and distinct from her mother’s she managed to also write for truth. I was so enthralled after watching Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, I ordered and purchased two of her books. Currently, Tan has embarked on painting artistry from her home base in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, a fascinating portrait of a deeply beloved and deeply poetic American author. Highly recommended!
Until next time. I look forward to seeing you at the movies…
Actress Amanda Seyfried will receive the Montecito Award at the 36th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). Seyfried will be honored on Friday, April 9th, 2021, and will be recognized for her impressive career and performance in David Fincher’s MANK from Netflix, for which she recently received Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice nominations.
“Amanda gives one of the best performances of 2020 in “Mank,” and makes us do a double-take about her whole career. This is a defining moment for her, and a rediscovery for us,” comments SBIFF’s Executive Director Roger Durling.
The Montecito Award is named after one of the most beautiful and stylish areas in Santa Barbara. Past recipients include Lupita Nyong’o, Melissa McCarthy, Saoirse Ronan, Isabelle Huppert, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Bill Condon, and Naomi Watts.
The 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from March 31st through April 10th, 2021. More information, as well as Festival passes and tickets, will be available in the coming weeks at www.sbiff.org.
Spike Lee, Aaron Sorkin, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, Phoebe Dynevor And More To Be Featured In Upcoming Exclusive AFIAWARDS Videos
AFI’s global Movie Club program is showcasing the AFIAWARDS official selections, starting with the launch of the traditional “March of Time” video celebrating the 2020 honorees.
New and exclusive content featuring special guests from the honored works, including Spike Lee, Aaron Sorkin, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, Phoebe Dynevor, among others, will be part of the daily celebration of the honorees beginning tomorrow, February 5, through the virtual benediction on February 26. Exclusive programming released daily will include special introductions and brand new AFI “Behind the Scene” conversation with filmmakers and actors.
AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR
DA 5 BLOODS
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…
SOUND OF METAL
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
AFI TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
BETTER CALL SAUL
THE GOOD LORD BIRD
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
AFI SPECIAL AWARD
All of the honored works advance the art of the moving image, inspire audiences and artists alike, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form and make a mark on American society. When placed in an historical context, these stories provide a complex and rich visual record of our modern world.
The AFIAWARDS celebration will be sponsored by Audi, a supporter of AFI programs for the past 17 years. To commemorate each of the AFIAWARDS recipients, Audi has created the AFIAWARDS Audi Scholarships initiative providing scholarships in the name of the honorees to women and BIPOC Fellows at the AFI Conservatory – for a total contribution of $250,000.
About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit 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 AFIAWARDS; 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 AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/American Film and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.
About Audi of America
Audi of America, Inc. and its U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury vehicles. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands, delivering about 1.845 million vehicles globally in 2019. In the U.S., Audi of America sold just over 224,000 vehicles in 2019 and launched the brand’s first fully electric vehicle, the Audi e-tron – one of four fully electric models coming to the U.S. market in the next two years. Globally, the brand aims to be CO2 neutral by 2050. Visit audiusa.com or media.audiusa.com for more information regarding Audi vehicles and business topics.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival has come and gone leaving a wake of thought-provoking art from filmmakers, writers, and artists dispersing towards larger audiences with seminal works of bold, intimate stories across various categories, with Grand Jury Prizes bestowed upon CODA (U.S. Dramatic), Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (U.S. Documentary), Flee (World Cinema Documentary) and Hive (World Cinema Dramatic). CODA, Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Hive, Writing With Fire, and Ma Belle, My Beauty won the Audience Awards presented by Acura.
The awards ceremony marked a key point of the 2021 Festival, where 73 feature-length and 50 short films — selected from more than 14,000 submissions — were showcased online via the Festival’s custom-built online platform, as well as in 28 Satellite Screen locations across the United States.
This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft, and visionary storytelling, carefully watched work and deliberated extensively before presenting awards; this year’s feature film jurors were Julie Dash, Cynthia Erivo, Hanya Yanagihara, Ashley Clark, Joshua Oppenheimer, Lana Wilson, Zeynep Atakan, Isaac Julien, Daniela Vega, Kim Longinotto, Mohamed Saïd Ouma, and Jean Tsien. Kate and Laura Mulleavy served as co-jurors for NEXT. Shorts jurors were Raúl Castillo, Tacita Dean, and Inge de Leeuw. A newly-created award, the Jonathan Oppenheim the Editing Award for U.S. Documentary, was created to memorialize the late editor and joins the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for U.S. Dramatic as a prize named for a member of the Sundance artistic community. This year’s Audience Awards were presented by Sundance alumni Alison Brie, Shira Haas, and Diego Luna.
The seven-day festival, which took place both online and in-person in 20 cities across the country from January 28 through February 3, reached a total audience 2.7 times larger than at the typical 11 day, Utah edition, despite the shorter duration and with fewer feature films (73) than the festival’s typical 120 features.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival delved deeply into the past with the transporting Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s militant-esque documentary Summer of Soul (Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), an exploration of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of summer concerts radiating a wholesale reevaluating Black History, culture, fashion, and music, taking place a mere 100 miles from the much more heralded Woodstock that was held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, Jamila Wignot’s Ailey, a moving and insightful, poetic ode to Alvin Ailey and his Alvin Ailey American Dance Company (AAADC) and school for nurturing black artists and expressing the universality of the African-American experience through dance that fused theatre, modern dance, ballet, and jazz with black vernacular, creating hope-fueled choreography that continues to spread global awareness of black life in America, and Judas and the Black Messiah, a late addition of a Warner Brothers production to the Premiere category. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah, was a richly told story of the leadership, revolutionary activism, and eventual assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton at the age of 21. A powerful addition to the social revolution films of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Providing a voice to those most often unheard from in major studio productions, a plethora of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color projects was screened including:
Wild Indian from Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr., (a member of the Northern Wisconsin Bad River Tribe), reveals that Makwa, a young Anishinaabe boy, has a rough life. He often appears at school with bruises he says he got falling down, but no one believes him. He and his only friend, Ted-O, like to escape by playing in the woods, until the day Makwa shockingly murders a schoolmate. After covering up the crime, the two boys go on to live very different lives. Now, as adult men, they must face the truth of what they have done and what they have become. An extraordinary effort in his feature debut from Indigenous writer/director Lyle Mitchell, Jr.
Faya Dayi from Mexican-Ethiopian Director, Jessica Beshir, creates a lyrical journey tying the psychologically stimulating euphoric plant, khat, analogous to the use of coca leaves in South America, to the indigenous land and to the Ethiopian people who have worked the khat fields for generations. Meanwhile, a new generation seeks a more fulfilling life in faraway locales despite the loneliness and isolation it brings. Elevated and euphoric storytelling by Beshir as she delves into Ethiopian culture. Exceptional work.
First Date, the first feature from directing duo, Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, is a genre mishmash of a teenage crush manifesting itself in a date night of fantastical proportions led by a vengeful cat lady, exacerbated by a criminal gang, and culminating in two cops keeping an eye out for the teen couple out for an innocent date. A first date of epic proportions with more twists and turns than a hurricane-style rollercoaster. Virtuoso performances from Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos.
In the NEXT category and interracial, a polyamorous, relationship-driven dive into the complexities of sexual fluidity and triangulation from New Orleanian Marion Hill, Ma Belle Ma Beauty, promised to deliver a respite from the COVID blues complete with an acoustic guitar soundtrack. A triumphant success! Keep an eye on this one as it is sure to gather more heat and momentum as Hill delivers a resounding film.
The hopeful, My Name is Pauli Murray, a documentary about a pioneer of human rights, a civil rights activist attorney and Episcopalian Priest wrapped into a single woman and drawn from a massive personal archive of photos, interviews, and written documents, illuminates Pauli Murray and her trailblazing legal foresight that influenced landmark civil rights cases and gender equality legislation and transformed our world. Lots to see and learn here with significant historical importance. Told eloquently.
Phillippe Lacote’s second feature, Night of the Kings, set inside the Ivory Coast’s MACA prison illuminates the multi-layered complexity of being an anointed an inmate storyteller while the horde of inmate listeners serve as a chorus performing song and dance routines adding a cinematic spectacle to the storyteller’s imaginations. One of my favorite films of the festival incorporating classic themes with modern moves.
R#J, a modern-day retelling of the Shakespearan Romeo & Juliet the Houses of Capulet and Montague, utilizing black and brown bodies and told through text messages and smartphone screens in the social media language of GIF’s, the sharing of Spotify playlists sharing and Instagram accounts, the GenZers use their cell phones to document the eruptions of violence plaguing their respective communities as they plead for peace and a way to escape their star-crossed destiny. A brilliant approach capable of enticing young viewers to Shakespeare.
Passing, a psychological thriller and debut feature from Rebecca Hall, delves into repression, obsession, and the lies people tell to protect their carefully constructed realities through the lives of two African-American women, Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Claire (Ruth Negga) who can “pass” as white though they have chosen to live on opposites sides of the color line. Adapted from Nella Larsen’s acclaimed 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel, Hall provides experiential insight into the pursuit of happiness and authenticity by those navigating the grinding tensions of American racism. Another well-constructed character portrayal from Thompson grounded in truth while Negga slithers her character onto the pinnacle of the narrative arc almost undetected.
Philly D.A., a powerful look at a civil rights attorney, Larry Krasner, and his ascent to become the District Attorney in Philadelphia, while repeatedly calling out discrimination and corruption in America’s most incarcerating major city. In June 2018, Krasner made an unprecedented request for a comprehensive list of police officers who had lied while on duty, used excessive force, racially profiled, or violated civil rights, an unprecedented move in order to spotlight dishonest police officers and check their future courtroom testimony. Directors Ted Passon and Yoni Brook vigorously bring to life the people impacted and incensed by the failings of the system as well as those fighting to maintain the system’s status quo in the first two episodes of the forthcoming docuseries. Quite compelling.
Anthropologist Camilla Nielsson’s President digs into the heart of testing democracy and the seemingly never-ending battle to keep it alive in Zimbabwe through free and fair elections. Nielsson explores the present situation through controversial politician Nelson Chamisa, who once uttered, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” and his Movement for Democratic Change political party as they challenge the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, the ruling party since Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980. Seemingly the more things change in Zimbabwe, the more things stay the same.
Sundance Film Festival has a storied past. The genesis of the Sundance Film Festival grew from the 1978 efforts of Sterling Van Wagenen, head of Robert Redford’s Production Company, and John Earle of the Utah Film Commission. The goal was to attract more filmmakers to Utah, to showcase American-made films, expose the potential of independent film, give the indigenous filmmaker a voice, and highlight the work of regional filmmakers working outside the Hollywood system. Deliverance, Mean Streets, Streetcar Named Desire and Sweet Smell of Success were a few of the films featured in the inaugural festival.
Today, the Sundance Film Festival is being helmed by Tabitha Jackson, who previously served as the Director of the Documentary Film Program at the Sundance Institute. While Director of Documentary Film, Jackson launched and led a new pillar of work at the Sundance Institute – Impact, Engagement, and Advocacy – with the goal of reasserting the role of the independent artist as a dynamic progressive cultural revelatory force of the human condition. No longer desirous of having a separate American blackness or taking over the film industry with feelings of doubt in ever seeing art come to fruition on the silver screen. Jackson believes passionately in the arts as a public good and is taking Sundance into unchartered waters with her representation and support of African-American women filmmakers with stories featuring Africans and African-Americans. Jackson is also an award-winning commissioning editor, director, producer, writer, and morning show host (The Sundance Dailies) wielding a whip-like vocabulary, an on-camera presence a sharp sense of fashion.
Jackson’s vision was reflected and affirmed with The Power of Story, inspired by the work of the late historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States), bringing to life, through readings and songs, the voices of rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present; her own, Tabitha Jackson-led, Big Conversation, The Past In the Present: A Personal Journey through Race, History, and Filmmaking, a conversation about white supremacy, history, creative expression, and his personal journey from the Academy Award-nominated I Am Not Your Negro to his upcoming work Exterminate All the Brutes, which interrogates over 600 years of history, from the Native American genocide to the systemized enslavement of Africans, to Hitler’s extermination of the European Jews—a history to which our present is inextricably bound; and, legal scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé W. Crenshaw moderates The Story of Us, with Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Việt Thanh Nguyễn, about the construction, dissemination, and deployment of the grand narrative of the United States, and the critical role of independent media in its retelling.
Due to COVID-19, the Festival became a virtual format with the lineup for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, taking place on the Sundance-built and robust online platform, going well beyond features and short films, episodic work, and the VR/XR of New Frontier—it also encompassed a curated program of free special events, conversations, and activations available to the global public. In addition, twenty-eight satellite locations across the nation screened 51 films. Nevertheless, Namoo from BoaBab Studios captured my attention and imagination. Namoo, which means “tree” in Korean, collects meaningful memories in its branches—from pacifiers, stuffed animals, books, and favorite scarves, to broken glasses and objects from times the man would rather forget. A must-see – an unforgettable experience!
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will long be remembered not just for the outstanding work screened from artists across the globe, it will also be remembered as Tabitha Jackson’s first year as a festival director. for the re-imagined format and the massive and elaborate infrastructure created, assembled, and carried out in cyberspace to ensure the artists’ energetic work remained paramount and in the forefront.
Moreover, it will be remembered for the re-imagined format and the massive and elaborate infrastructure created, assembled, and carried out in cyberspace to ensure the artists’ energetic work remained paramount and in the forefront. for the auxiliary efforts with the impressive Zoom architecture, the filmmaker introductions, for the Sundance Dailies, for the New Frontier and its Chief Curator, Shari Frilot, and the Q & A’s, conversations, and activations.
This rich storytelling environment known as the 2021 Sundance Film Festival offered the festival-goer and the filmmaker the opportunity of a profound filmic experience. As we march boldly forward together, the illumination of our deeply entrenched socio-political issues can ease the unneeded and unnecessary ills of our current human condition shedding light on our shared humanity and providing solutions that work for us all, individually and collectively. Thank you and farewell ’til next year. Stay healthy. Stay happy. Stay free!
January 30, 2021 – It was announced today that Nicole Salazar is the recipient of the 2021 Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction Filmmaking.
As a recipient, Salazar will be awarded a $10,000 grant from the Sundance Institute and Amazon Studios. The award was announced in place of the Sundance Film Festival’s annual Producers Brunch. Speeches by Salazar and Fiction winner Natalie Qasabian can be read in full on Sundance‘s website HERE.
Salazar is co-creator and producer of Philly D.A., a groundbreaking docuseries inside the office of Philadelphia District Attorney and unapologetic reformer Larry Krasner, which will premiere its first two episodes at the Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres section on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 7:00 PM MT. The full eight-part series will premiere on PBS’s Emmy-Award winning documentary anthology series, Independent Lens, later this year.
Salazar said: “After working so hard to gain access to these rooms where decisions were being made that impacted the lives of so many people, we realized that we had the opportunity to bring the public into an institution they had never gotten to really see before. I am honored to be recognized with this award and would like to thank the Sundance Institute and Amazon Studios Producers, my fellow filmmakers Ted Passon and Yoni Brook, Lois Vossen, everyone who participated in this project and trusted us in telling their stories.
Lois Vossen, the Executive Producer of Independent Lens, said: “Nicole is a singular talent with a strong vision and tenacity that she brings to every project she works on, and that shines through in her work on Philly D.A. We’re so proud of this docuseries — our most expansive yet — and the way it shines a light on an often overlooked but extremely important public office where consequential life decisions are made for millions of people in cities across America.”
ABOUT PHILLY D.A.:
In 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had one of the highest incarceration rates of any major city in the United States. And it’s become the epicenter of a historic experiment that could shape the future of prosecution in America for decades to come. When civil rights attorney Larry Krasner mounted a long-shot campaign to become District Attorney, he ran on a bold pledge: to end mass incarceration by changing the culture of the criminal justice system from within. He shocked the establishment by winning in a landslide.
Now, the bureaucrats he spent his campaign denigrating are his co-workers; the police he alienated are his rank-and-file law enforcers. Pressure comes from all sides of a system resistant to reform. Krasner’s unapologetic promise to use the power of the D.A.’s office for sweeping change is what got him elected; now that he’s in office, that same stubbornness threatens to alienate those he needs to work with the most.
From the eye of this political storm, filmmakers Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, and Nicole Salazar gained unprecedented access into Krasner’s office and behind the scenes of the criminal justice system. Over the course of eight episodes, Philly D.A. explores the most pressing social issues of our time—police brutality, the opioid crisis, gun violence, and mass incarceration—through the lens of an idealistic team attempting a fundamental overhaul from within the system.
About the Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards:
The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards are $10,000 grants awarded to producers with films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in both fiction and nonfiction categories. The awards are presented annually during the festival at the Producers Brunch. The 2020 Narrative Producers Award went to Huriyyah Muhammad (Farewell Amor), and the 2020 Documentary Producers Award went to Diane Becker and Melanie Miller (Whirlybird).
What a great way to start the day at Sundance with the Sundance Dailies, a guided tour through the festival’s myriad of happenings taking place live each morning with host Tabitha Jackson, special correspondent John Cooper, and a delicious assortment of special guests. Today’s guests included filmmakers Rebecca Hall (Passing), Eugenio Derbez (CODA), and Associate Programmer Stephanie Owens, as special guests for Breakfast with….. Festival Director Jackson. Derbez showcased his cooking skills as well.
Just when I thought It couldn’t get much better, Jessica Beshir’s meditative Faya Dayi mesmerized my sensibilities up into another realm. The cinematography, the sound design, and the narrative spellbind and transported time and space as Beshir visits her homeland of Ethiopia to reconnect. What emerges is a poetic dreamscape crossing boundaries between narrative and mythological.
Not to be outdone, Rebecca Hall presented her first feature-length directorial effort with Passing starring Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson, and Andre Holland. Based on a 1929 novel, Passing, by Nella Larsen, the film follows two Black childhood friends who haven’t crossed paths in twelve years and who live on opposite sides of the racial divide between black and white. Passing moves mountains.
Carey Williams R#J, featuring a Star-quality cast with Francesca Noel, Diego Tinoco, Camaron Engels, and Siddiq Saunderson, continues the social commentary thread with a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in the present time with a focus on social media and the ever-present “live” function. Williams delivers a powerful message with a twist at the end. This is Williams’ Sundance follow-up to his Special Jury Award for Emergency, his 2018 short film. Herculean effort. Definitely check it out!
Check back tomorrow (screening time after publishing) for Midnight Section selection – A Glitch in the Matrix – exploring the scientific possibility of simulation theory as a symptom of twenty-first-century existential crises.
*Featured photo: Carey Williams, Director, R#J
FREE EVENT SCHEDULE FOR SUNDAY, JANUARY 31
9:00 – 9:30 a.m.
Sundance Dailies special guests Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein (How It Ends). Presented by Acura
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Artist Meetup: Artistic Process as a Form of Catharsis. Featuring Ciara Lacey in conversation with Adam Piron. Join and engage in conversation around technical and philosophical topics affecting the storytelling field.
Filmmakers often need legal advice about intellectual property – particularly fair use of archival materials, and releases from subjects and locations – as they craft their films. These issues may become especially confounding as filmmakers prepare applications for insurance or begin to answer questions from potential distributors.
While researching their projects, filmmakers may find critical information, such as body camera footage, 911 tapes, and other government records, through public records requests. Successfully navigating public records laws can help filmmakers obtain the records they need
Black speculative fiction and historiography, Afrofuturism, and utopian/dystopian visions speak to an enduring, evolving, and vibrant storytelling sensibility. They also speak to the many generations of Black artists whose practice and work—across music, cinema, literature, design, fashion, and other arts—re-envision the future. A group of artists reflects on storytelling forms that reframe Black experiences through imagined or alternative narratives connecting the people, technology, culture, and collective memory of the African diaspora. Presented by Netflix
A very busy day at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Beginning with the first episode of the Sundance Dailies hosted by Festival Executive Director, Tabitha Jackson, in a morning show Entertainment Tonight televison format, with an appearance by Festival Programming Director, Kim Yutani, a brief rundown of some of the day’s events were highlighted. Yutani pointed out the diligence of the programming staff in seeking out hidden voices outside the United States and recommended the entire International Film offerings including documentaries, dramas, etc.
I caught Belgian Cinema offering Mother Schmuckers as part of the midnight section, One For the Road from Thailand, Luzzu, the first Malta film to screen at Sundance, Screen Australia’s Swimming with Sharks, and the riveting documentary, President, from Zimbabwe, and last but not least, the United States’ John and the Hole.
Other events highlighted during the Sundance Dailies included:
Cinema Café: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson & Shaka King | 10:30 a.m. MT Talent:Directors Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)) and Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), moderator Hannah Giorgis (Staff Writer, The Atlantic). A culture of conversation with featured guests and thought-provoking insights.
The Big Conversation: The Past Is Present: A Personal Journey Through Race, History and Filmmaking | 1:00p.m. MT Talent: Filmmaker Raoul Peck and Tabitha Jackson (Sundance Film Festival Director). “History is not the past, it’s the present.” James Baldwin’s words reverberate throughout Raoul Peck’s work, his activism, and his remarkable filmmaking career. Peck joins Festival director Tabitha Jackson in a conversation about white supremacy, history, creative expression, and his personal journey from the Academy Award-nominated I Am Not Your Negro to his upcoming work Exterminate All the Brutes, which interrogates over 600 years of history— from the Native American genocide to the systemized enslavement of Africans, to Hitler’s extermination of the European Jews—a history to which our present is inextricably bound. Don’t miss this one!
Tomorrow will be another full day with Faya Dayi, Passing, R#J, and A Glitch in the Matrix scheduled. Also, be sure to check out another round of free event offerings. You’ll be glad you did! They are as follows:
*FREE EVENT SCHEDULE FOR FRIDAY, JANUARY 30
* (All of these activities are free to view globally. Sign up for an account at Festival.Sundance.org to access. All times are U.S. Mountain time.)
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Sundance Dailies with Tabitha Jackson and Utah at-large correspondent, John Cooper. Tomorrow’s guests include Eugenio Derbez (CODA) and Rebecca Hall (Passing). Presented by Acura. Trust me, you’ll want to tune in.
10:30 – 11:15 a.m. Cinema Café with Rita Moreno & Sonia Manzano promises a culture of conversation and thought-provoking insights.
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Artist Meetup: Positionality in the Editing Room. Featuring Carla Gutierrez and Malika Zouhali-Worrall in conversation with Carrie Lozano. Join up and engage in conversation around technical and philosophical topics affecting the storytelling field.
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. The Big Conversation: Barbed Wire Kisses Redux. The year 1992 was a watershed one for LGBTQ+ film, giving birth to the term “New Queer Cinema” and introducing a revolutionary generation of films and filmmakers with energetic irreverence and disruptive aesthetics. At the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, B. Ruby Rich convened and moderated a panel of preeminent artists (including the late Derek Jarman) to discuss their work and the historic moment of its emergence. This year, Rich and other LGBTQ+ titans including Andrew Ahn, Greg Araki, Silas Howard, Isaac Julien, and Rose Troche, gather 30 years later to look back and imagine forward in this contemporary edition of Barbed Wire Kisses.
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Producers Celebration. A celebration of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival producers and the Sundance Institute Creative Producing fellows with the presentation of the Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards.
3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Beyond the Screen: Exploring Genre. Beyond the Screen will illuminate the creative process behind some of the most anticipated films in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival as their creators discuss the art and craft behind their projects.
10:00 – 11:30 p.m. Speakeasy: Conjuring the Collective – Womxn at Sundance promises an evening of dynamic performance and energizing conversation. Continuing the tradition of gathering and celebrating the womxn in the Festival community, this year’s event will reclaim the idea of a coven as a source of magic, healing, and power.
JEWISH FILM INSTITUTE PRESENTS THE CINEGOGUE – VIRTUAL VENUE FOR 3 EVENTS AT THE 2021 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – January 27, 2021 – The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) returns to the Sundance Film Festival for its third annual official partnership to expand its understanding of the Jewish experience through film, media, and dialogue. The three events, part of the reimagined Sundance Film Festival, will kick off a new year of hybrid programming for JFI and announce the call for entries for JFI Completion Grants Program.
Continuing a strategic partnership with the Sundance Institute that began in 2019, JFI will present a series of 3 events hosted through the virtual venue, THE CINEGOGUE
The first event of the Sundance 2021 partnership will be HOW TO COMPLETE A FILM DURING A PANDEMIC. This panel discussion will feature the inaugural JFI Completion Grant awardees, discussing trials and tribulations of finishing a film during a pandemic. The Completion Grantee panelists include A CRIME ON THE BAYOU director Nancy Buirski, IRMI directors Veronica Selver and Susan Fanshel, THE BINDING OF ITZIK director Anika Benkov, THE WILD ONE director Tessa Louise-Salomé, THOSE WHO HEARD AND THOSE WHO SAW director Nate Lavey, and ‘TIL KINGDOM COME directors Maya Zinshtein and Abie Troen. This discussion will take place 11 am PST on Friday, January 29th.
The second event ENGINES OF TRUTH features leading female Jewish non-fiction filmmakers discussing the role of Jewish values, identity, culture, and feminism, as drivers and subjects for their groundbreaking documentary films. The panel features Nancy Buirski, Judith Helfand, Roberta Grossman, Amy Ziering, Jennifer Fox, and moderator Caroline Libresco. This panel is scheduled for 4:30 pm PST on Friday, January 29th. The final signature event CINEGOGUE/DIALOGUE will feature an intimate conversation with filmmaker Sam Hobkinson of MISCHA AND THE WOLVES, hosted by Sundance Senior Programmer, Harry Vaughn. The discussion will be streamed to coincide with the films’ premiere on Sunday, January 31st at 2 pm PST.
About the Jewish Film Institute The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) is the premier curatorial voice for Jewish film and media and a leading arts and culture organization in the Bay Area. JFI inspires communities in San Francisco and around the world to expand their understanding of Jewish life and culture through film, media, and dialogue. JFI each year produces its signature summer Festival, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, in four Bay Area counties, the largest Jewish cultural event in Northern California, and the first and largest festival of its kind worldwide. The annual festival provides a suite of awards, some with cash prizes, including the Freedom of Expression Award (recent recipients include Norman Lear, Lee Grant, Kirk Douglas, and documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Liz Garbus); Audience Award for Best Narrative and Best Documentary; the Film Movement Award for Best Narrative Short; a juried award for Best Documentary Short (the winner is eligible for the Oscars); and the SF Film Critics Award for best international fiction feature.
Additionally, JFI provides a number of Filmmaker Services to help provide support for emerging and established filmmakers working with Jewish themes and create a continuum of support for filmmakers at various stages in their careers. The JFI Completion Grants program provides finishing funds to filmmakers working with Jewish themes. JFI’s Filmmaker Residency Program has provided office space and support for independent producers since 2012 (current filmmakers in residence include documentary filmmakers: Malena Barrios, Andrew Garbus, Lauren Greenhall, Holden Kepecs, Rebecca Pierce, Ken Paul Rosenthal, and Deborah Schaffner), and the Jerusalem Film Workshop a program in which JFI sends two emerging documentary student filmmakers to a 6-week documentary film workshop in Jerusalem to make films that screen at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.
Finally, JFI provides a number of online programs including the JFI Film Archive, the largest database of Jewish cinema online today, with over 40 years of curatorial history and more than 2000 films to investigate; JFI On Demand, more than 350 films of its greatest hits can be accessed anytime, anywhere; and the Monthly Online Shorts, in which every month JFI releases films for free to a global audience of 2.4 million since 2009.