Category Archives: television

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES PASSES ON SALE FOR THE 19TH ANNUAL AFI DOCS FILM FESTIVAL TO BE HELD JUNE 22-27, 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES PASSES ON SALE 

FOR THE 19TH ANNUAL AFI DOCS FILM FESTIVAL 

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 DOCS.AFI.com. Early Bird pricing will be available until June 1. Tickets for individual and in-person screenings will be available June 8.

About AFI DOCS 

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 DOCS.AFI.com and connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCSFacebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFI and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

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 AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstituteYouTube.com/AFITwitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

CONTACT: 

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, SAdamski@AFI.com

ABOUT ENDLESSNESS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

ABOUT ENDLESSNESS

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.

Roy Andersson on ABOUT ENDLESSNESS

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DELROY LINDO ACCEPTS AMERICAN RIVIERA AWARD AT THE 36TH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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 SBIFF.org.

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 www.sbiff.org.

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

PRESS RELEASE

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.”

 

 

THE ENDLESS SUMMER

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 https://slofilmfest.org.

ABOUT SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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.

PRESS CONTACT

John Wildman

Wildworks PR,  (323) 600-3165

FilmsGoneWild.com

jswildman@hotmail.com,

 

The 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Announces A Program of Diverse Voices

Posted by Larry Gleeson

PRESS RELEASE

Film festival teams with City of San Luis Obispo to
amplify discussions of inclusion and racial equity

San Luis Obispo, CA (March 8, 2021) – On the eve of the 27th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 9-14), SLO Film Fest teams with the City of San Luis Obispo to highlight the brand new free-to-the-public Short Films, Big Stories: A Program of Diverse Voices, designed to amplify discussions of inclusion and racial equity in the arts and elsewhere.

As the film festival begins the transition process to bringing back beloved events like Wednesday night’s Surf Nite celebration, which will be held at the Sunset Drive-in (255 Elks Lane), Festival Director Skye McLennan and Artistic Director Wendy Eidson have also worked to take more of a leadership approach regarding engaging the community and connecting them with filmmakers and notable speakers in the interest of furthering discussion and inspiring change in terms of illuminating the issues, concerns, and hopes among an array of under-represented groups.

 

San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan

San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Skye McLennan said, “The intent of this program is to continue to be a platform for diverse voices in our community of San Luis Obispo. The murder of George Floyd last year and the increase in the Black Lives Matter protests that followed only amplified the need for more diversity within the arts and how crucially important representation can be. We designed this program to be free and accessible to all and an opportunity for all audiences to fall in love with film festivals and the power of the cinema. This collection of films and panels aims to inspire, stimulate and engage our community and others to participate in creating change. Through the grant received by the City of SLO we are able to pay the filmmakers, programmers, and panelists and this is something we hope to continue to expand and grow and be able to offer more opportunities in the future.”

 

Programmed by Courtney Haile, the Co-Founder of R.A.C.E Matters, Short Films, Big Stories: A Program of Diverse Voices, the short film program features both narrative and documentary films from BIPOC filmmakers, whose visions amplify unique stories and experiences. The accompanying panel discussions promise lively conversations from both grassroots and studio motion picture creative change-makers.

The films include; Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot’s A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION, about a virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer who tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall; Orion Rose Kelly and Pedro Cota’s IN THEIR FIGHT, which follows a group of women bravely fighting back as they track the growing violence, learn self-defense, and challenge the systems failing to keep them safe; Keith Powell’s IN WHITE PLACES, about a young black man receiving a mysterious package upon moving into a new community; Jess de la Merced’s PHONY, which focuses on a young Asian American woman with anger issues trying to keep in together during a shopping trip with her mom; and Ciara Lacy’s THIS IS THE WAY WE RISE, which follows a Native Hawaiian slam poet who utilizes her art to protect sacred mountaintop sites atop Maunakea, Hawaii.

Virtual free-to-the-public panels include From the Bottom Up: Building Representation in Film on Thursday, March 11 at 6:00PM PST, with film experts discussing ways to build racial equity and diversity from production to distribution, and Power of Media to Promote Social Justice on Saturday, March 13 at 4:00PM PST, which will bring together local organizations to talk about the power and pros and cons of media for activism.

 

SLO Film Fest also announced an impressive lineup of jury members, including journalists  Richard Propes (The Independent Critic), Rebecca Pahle (Boxoffice Pro), Tim Molloy (MovieMaker Magazine), Jack Moulton (Letterboxd), Glen Starkey (New Times), and Kirk Honeycutt (Former Film Critic, Hollywood Reporter), filmmakers Beth & George Gage (A HOME CALLED NEBRASKA, BIDDER 70), Sky Bergman (LIVES WELL LIVED), and Patrick Lawler (BLEEDING AUDIO) and industry veterans Erica Thompson (Executive Director, Ashland Film Festival), Logan Taylor (Acquisitions, Screen Media Ventures), Robin Robinson (Programmer, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival & Mountainfilm), and Ryan Suffern (Head of Documentaries, Lucasfilm).

Passes are now on sale and information on the film festival can be found at https://slofilmfest.org.

 

SHORT FILMS, BIG STORIES: A PROGRAM OF DIVERSE VOICES

A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION

Directors: Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot

Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

 

IN THEIR FIGHT

Directors: Orion Rose Kelly, Pedro Cota

Country: USA/Brazil, Running Time: 23 min

 

IN WHITE PLACES

Director: Keith Powell

Countries: USA, Running Time: 10 min

 

PHONY

Director: Jess de la Merced

Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

 

THIS IS THE WAY WE RISE

Director: Ciara Lacy

Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

 

FREE PANELS

From the Bottom Up: Building Representation in Film

Thursday, March 11 at 6:00PM PST (virtual presentation)

Film experts discuss ways to to build racial equity and diversity from production to distribution.

Moderator: Brian Khan (Director of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement, Full Spectrum Features)

Panelists include:

Sohini Sengupta (Group Creative Director, Amazon Studios)

Ivette Rodriguez (Founder, American Entertainment Marketing)

Fanshen Cox (Actor, One Drop of Love & Producer and Development Executive, Pearl Street Films)

 

Power of Media to Promote Social Justice

Saturday, March 13 at 4:00PM (virtual presentation)

Discussions with local organizations on the power and pros and cons of media for activism.

Moderator: Fanshen Cox (Actor, One Drop of Love & Producer and Development Executive, Pearl Street Films)

Panelists include:

Harold Brown (Lorde Santcus) (Music Licensing, Connect the Coast)

Alisa Heraldo (Co-Founder, Community Roots Project)

Courtney Haile (Co-Founder, R.A.C.E Matters)

Karen Garcia (Editor, New Times)

 

2021 SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FF JURY

 Narrative Features

Richard Propes (Founder & Film Critic, The Independent Critic)

Erica Thompson (Executive Director, Ashland Film Festival)

Logan Taylor (Acquisitions, Screen Media Ventures & Professor, Austin Community College)

 

Documentary Features

Beth & George Gage (Directors, A HOME CALLED NEBRASKA, BIDDER 70)

Rebecca Pahle (Deputy Editor, Boxoffice Pro)

María Elena de las Carreras (Lecturer, Cal State Northridge, UCLA)

 

Narrative Shorts

Robin Robinson (Programmer, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival & Mountainfilm)

Kirk Honeycutt (Former Film Critic, Hollywood Reporter)

Jon Eidson (Writer/Actor, Extremely Decent)

 

Documentary Shorts

Tim Molloy (Editor-in-Chief, MovieMaker Magazine)

Jack Moulton (Contributing Writer, Letterboxd)

Ryan Suffern (Head of Documentaries, Lucasfilm)

Sky Bergman (Director, LIVES WELL LIVED & Professor, Cal Poly)

 

Music Videos
Suzanne Schonig (Program Director, American General Media)
Glen Starkey (Journalist, New Times)
David Hardberger (SLO Film Fest Board of Directors)
Patrick Lawler (Cinematographer/Visual Effects, BLEEDING AUDIO)

Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase:
Jody Nelson (Director, IRON BOY, HERO OF THE GAME)
Cindy Kitagawa (Writer, COAST & Festival Programmer)
Wendy Eidson (Artistic Director, SLO Film Fest)

Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase:
Grace Tucker (Industry Relations Coordinator, SLO Film Fest)
Nancy Ross-Joynt (Former Coordinator, SLO Film Fest)

 

ABOUT SAN LUIS OBISPO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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.

PRESS CONTACT

John Wildman, Wildworks PR,                                   jswildman@hotmail.com                                                                                           (323) 600-3165                                                                          FilmsGoneWild.com

 

 

THE SHOW MUST GO ON! SBIFF Spins With Imagination

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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. Stay tuned!

Passes for the 2021 Festival are now on sale, as are tickets for the celebrity tributes. CLICK HERE to get yours.

In addition, Barbara Boros has designed the SBIFF poster each year for 18 years, this year highlighting Santa Barbara’s Alice Keck Park.

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

 

(Sourced from SBIFF news release)

Baz Poonpiriya’s “One For the Road” Will Leave You Wanting More

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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!

 

“Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” Enthralls Pleasantly

HollywoodGlee inside the Sundance Film Festival Headquarters at the Park City Marriott on January 23, 2019, in Park City, Utah, the day before the opening of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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…

Rainbow Portal at Cabrillo Ballpark in Santa Barbara, Calif.