UPDATE: Bangladeshi adventurer/ activist #Wasfia Nazreen Shares Her Spiritual Journey

See the video here


(Excerpt from post by Mary Anne Potts of National Geographic Adventure on May 27, 2016)

Bangladeshi Climber Shares Her Spiritual Journey For The Women Of Her Country

Wasfia Nazreen‘s story will captivate you. We first came to know the Bangladeshi climber and activist when she was honored as one of our Nat Geo Adventurers of the Year for her quest to become the first person from her country to ascent the Seven Summits—and inspire the women and girls of her country to follow their own paths in life. Since climbing Carstenz Pyramid in 2015, her final of the seven summits, the newly named 2016 National Geographic Emerging Explorer has been hard at work on her forthcoming Ösel Foundation, which she describes as an “educational institute set in the outdoors, which integrates the latest scientific findings about development of the mind and combines it with mindfulness techniques and training in nature to empower adolescent girls.” A new film entitled Wasfia, which takes us along to see what motivates her to use mountains to strive for cultural change, will premiere this weekend at Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado. (See times and locations.)

(Photo by Pat Morrow)

We spoke to Nazreen about her life and the new film. Come back on Monday, May 30, when we will post the film exclusively on NationalGeographic.com.

I love when you say, “if anything natures conquers you,” in the new film about your life, Wasfia. When did you come to understand this?

I have been extremely blessed this lifetime to be introduced to nature and wildlife from very early on in my life–whether that was through upbringing near the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world or living in Chittagong in close proximity with the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Growing up in Bangladesh, I witnessed natural disasters as long as I can remember–hurricanes, floods, typhoons, cyclones–you name it. As a child, one of my earliest memories is, having to wade out of our living room in boats when the floods came every year. All the pets and animals that lived on our land, would be struggling to swim across with us–the dogs would eventually be rescued out of water, and so on. Abbu, my father was in shipping so we also got to witness the wrath of raging Bay of Bengal a lot as kids.

Even though all these experiences combined instilled the exposures required to realize firsthand who was the real boss–I think people in general in my region and culture, from time immemorial treated nature differently. For example the mountains are referred as gods and goddesses. So I always found it strange, when people so gallantly proclaim to have “conquered” an entire mountain, which is also a very patriarchal perspective if you think about it. Before summit bids on big mountains, the usual scene is that everyone’s praying and promising of things they’d do only if allowed for that one short window to open up just so we can stand on top in all her glory for a brief moment. Therefore, it’s really a process of surrendering to nature and then if it’s your time, she will most likely bless you.

To see this article in its entirety visit: http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/27/bangadeshi-climber-wasfia-nazreen-shares-her-spiritual-journey-for-the-women-of-her-country/

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Banned “Mor Thengari” Invited To Screen at Zanzibar #ZIFF

“Mor Thengari” translation “My Bicycle”, the first feature film entirely made in Chakma language has been invited to participate in this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival to be held from July 9th through 17th in Zanzibar, Tanzania! Centered around the life of the indigenous people, the 63-minute-long independent film depicts exquisite beauty of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of southern Bangladesh. Ironically the film never got released in it’s native country due to censorship issues….. (Simee Adhikari)


Birth of a Blaxploitation


The birth of Blaxploitation began with Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, with initiating a new black identity and reached its zenith with Gordon Parks, Jr’s. Superfly.  In its purest form, blaxploitation gave these filmmakers voices to explore the prominent social and cultural issues and characteristics, including police brutality, prostitution, illegal drug distribution conspiracies and attempts by law enforcement officials to establish control and maintain order in large, inner-city, urban environments in their respective films, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, and Superfly, while using creative license in themes, costumes, props and soundtracks to shape characters.

At their peak, exploitation films were dominated by American International Films and by hungry directors eager to exploit popular cultural and social trends often resulting from sensational news stories. Most scholars consider Roger Corman to be the father of the exploitation film. Corman came to light in particular with his early 1960 adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe tales. Audiences were hungry for these classic stories and Cormon capitalized with three successive films. Other examples of early exploitation films were Child Bride (1938), depicting older men marrying much younger women in the American Ozark Mountains and the classic Reefer Madness (1936) depicting the foibles of drug use, and Sex Madness (1938). Audiences ate these films up and box office revenues swelled. Shortly, thereafter, Orson Welles shocked the world with his radio show spoof, “War of the Worlds.” Soon, the advent and fascination with Space spawned a new style of the science fiction genre with the  “Flash Gordon” films and “Invaders from Mars.”

These films were cheaply made and had low production values. After the Paramount decision in 1948, the studios were looking for profits. As a result, the Grindhouse cinema emerged further exploiting audiences with biker films and beach films. Marlon Brando starred in the first widely released biker film, The Wild Ones (1953). A series of low budget motorcycle, hot rod and juvenile delinquent films followed in the remainder of the decade. Filmmakers engaging in making and producing exploitation films did so initially without the full support and  financial backing of the major film studios. However, if a director made a profit, the studio would support the next venture. (Hammond, 2006)


The 1960’s brought Corman and the production company American International into the mainstream exploitation film market. Most scholars consider Roger Corman to be the father of the exploitation film. Corman came to light in particular with his early 1960 adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe tales. Audiences were hungry for these classic stories and Cormon capitalized with three successive Poe adaptation films. American International profited on the conservative element of Hollywood with its beach party films showcasing the California Surf subculture with seven films between 1963 and 1966 despite the proliferating Civil Rights Movement.

As the political climate evolved and protests of the Vietnam War began so did the Black Power movement.  (Harpole, 2000) Black Power attempted to overcome the racial oppression experienced by African Americans and sought to nurture and establish an autonomous identity for African Americans. (Harris & Mushtaq, 2013) In 1971 Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed and produced a landmark film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, sparking a new genre of blaxploitation films. (Christian, 2014) Usually set in large, urban areas the films had anti-establishment heroes and contained graphic sex, gratuitous violence and open drug use, blaxploitation films were generally action films made for black audiences with black actors in leading roles and more often than not were written, directed, produced and crewed by blacks. (Hammond, 2006)


Van Peebles funded Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song himself under the guise of making a pornographic film performing his own stunt scenes including the graphic sex scenes himself. He enticed the popular rock n’ roll band Earth, Wind and Fire to score the title track and released the soundtrack before the film to promote audience interest. The film’s questionable subject matter led to a minute two theater release.  For example, the opening scene depicts a female prostitute taking the boy’s virginity and while doing so calls out “Sweet Sweetback,” due to the boy’s penis size and sexual prowess. (Wikipedia, n.d.)

Technically, Van Peebles utilizes the jump cut effectively in providing visuals to support the film’s narrative with Sweetback quickly becoming an adult starring in live adult sex shows with gender identity issues. Also, Van Peebles is providing a sense of social commentary consistent with the political environment in 1970-71. In the film the police have decided to politicize the arranged arrest of a black male to appease the police captain’s constituents with the intention of releasing him for lack of evidence after a short questioning and holding period. However, the plan goes off kilter when the police team spot an intoxicated young Black Panther, arrest him and decide to brutally assault him in front of Sweetback. In disgust, Sweetback retaliates and savagely beats the officers to a pulp primarily with the aid of his handcuffs.

The remainder of the film is a visual adventure as Sweetback escapes to Mexico. Van Peebles montages have a powerful grindhouse effect. With Sweetback  on the run he interacts with Hells Angels, hippies and heavy industrial sites. (Craddock, 2009) Van Peebles dramatizes Sweetback’s escapes to the Mexico border with bloodhounds in hot pursuit of Sweetback’s scent. The film ends with large white titles declaring “WATCH OUT” followed by “A BAADASSSS NIGGER IS COMING BACK TO COLLECT SOME DUES…

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song grossed an estimated $10 million dollars. $10 million was quite a sum for 1971 and as a result, the studio responsible for epic films like Gone With The Wind, MGM, hired Gordon Parks, Sr., to direct Shaft, a black inner-city type of James Bond that navigates the black ghettos and the whites’ world, in hopes of capitalizing on the sprouting black audience box-office. The film was a hit grossing a quick $12 million and establishing a blueprint framework for blaxploitation films. The success of these two films got studio executives attention and took ahold of Hollywood’s purse as it “realized the power of the black ticket-buying public, which accounted for more than thirty percent of the box office in major cities and quickly seized upon the potential profitability of the new formula.” (Seperate Cinema, n.d.) The making of blaxploitation films proliferated in 1972 and by 1976 approximately 200 blaxploitation action films were made rehashing almost every conceivable genre story line and plot with almost all using the black versus white power dichotomy. (Seperate Cinema, n.d.)

What Van Peebles started with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, and with the methodology Gordon Parks, Sr., perfected, Gordon Parks, Jr. in Superfly, brought to fruition a new black anti-hero that not only stood up to “The Man,” but came out victorious.  Superfly tells the story of a young African-American adult male, Youngblood Priest, who wants to get out of the underground cocaine drug business. The character Priest is portrayed by a well-grounded, Shakespearean actor, Ron O’Neal. Throughout the film, Priest drives a customized Cadillac Eldorado, dresses in high fashion, is trained in the martial arts and keeps a beautiful woman in his neighborhood and in Uptown Manhattan.


The film opens with Priest being mugged by two junkies. Priest immediately thrashes the first junkie and chases down the second after an extended foot chase.  Parks, Jr., takes advantage of the scene to provide a rundown urban setting full of decay and despair. Parks Jr. continues to provide social and cultural artifacts as the narrative arc progresses. As Priest and his partner Eddie wait for a drug supplier they are approached by three black activists demanding monies for their Black Power activities on behalf of the black brethren. Priest refuses and the drug deal is made.

In another scene, Priest and Eddie consult with members of their organization as soul musician Curtis Mayfield performs “Pusher Man.” Mayfield’s soundtrack would eventually out gross the film and is regarded by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 100 greatest albums of all-time. The music of Curtis Mayfield and the music of Isaac Hayes in Shaft added an element of sophistication and depth to both of these Blaxploitation films. (Seperate Cinema, n.d.)

In the final scene of Superfly, Priest has the embodiment of a sophisticated, street-wise character as he is confronted by the Police Commissioner. The commissioner has murdered Priest’s friend, mentor and primary connection ordering a lethal heroin overdose injection. The commissioner belittles Priest telling Priest that “you just want to be another black junkie….and you’re going to work for me until I tell you to quit,” as he pokes Priest in the chest. Priest has taken a bump of cocaine while the commissioner talked. Parks, Jr., utilizes an extreme close up as Priest responds vehemently with, “You don’t own me Pig and no motherfucker tells me when I can split.” The commissioner, in disbelief, counters with “who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” The camera stays focused in a dirty single extreme close up of Priest. Priest appears confident and defiant as he comes back at the commissioner with, “I’m talking to you you redneck faggot.” At this point one of the commissioner’s goons strikes Priest knocking Priest into a garbage pile.

Priest recovers, regains his footing as the shot goes to slow motion with a non-diagetic musical score coupled with diagetic grunts and sound effects. Priest grabs a trash can lid and decimates the goons in a urban martial art alley free-for-all complete with Priest launching one goon head first into a nearby rubberized trash can. The camera, still in slow motion cuts to the commissioner brandishing a pistol ordering Priest “to freeze.” The camera pulls focus on the pistol.

This is a pivotal moment. In a typical analysis, the man with the gun has the power and it holds true here as well. However, Priest has contracted a mafia hit in the event he comes to an unlikely death. Unaware, the commissioner lambasts Priest as naïve and without the financial means to carry out a “for hire” contract hit. Unknowingly, the commissioner took possession of an identical suitcase containing dirty clothes to the one filled with money. Priest only moments earlier had passed the money filled briefcase to his girlfriend posing as a bag lady. Priest informs the commissioner he’s his own man, gets in his customized El Dorado and drives off while the commissioner dumps the briefcase and sees the dirty clothes he is left with.

Youngblood Priest provided black audiences with someone that they could relate to. Having been on the opposite end of the law for so long, audiences reveled in one of their own winning out against the man. Not all blacks, however, felt this new black identity was good. Pressure groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) felt the stereotypes featured were decidedly negative and took away from the advances made in forming positive role models in the black community. The genre had been so thoroughly exploited audience grew weary of the cheap film making with many of the same or similar story lines and plot characteristics. Consequently, blaxploitation films came to an abrupt end.


The legacy of the African-American films, however, remains positive. The assimilation of black culture into Hollywood continued in the 1980’s with the emergence of actor Eddie Murphy followed by present-day A-listers Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee and Mario Van Peebles, the son of Sweet Sweetback’s, Melvin Van Peebles. In retrospect, one can see over and over in the history of film a reflection of the social and cultural mores occurring at any point in time and space. (Seperate Cinema, n.d.)

And, Blaxploitation films are no different. As blacks emerged from the Civil Rights era and took hold of their citizenship, filmmakers, musicians and artists forged a new identity that reflected not only who they were but also their experiences that helped to define their blackness. The groundbreaking work of Melvin Van Peebles’, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song initiated a new identity in the character Sweetback while the work of Gordon Parks Jr., Superfly, and the character Youngblood Priest dramatized it to “a larger than life” embodiment solidifying a new black identity into the history of Hollywood filmmaking.



Works Cited

Christian, M. (2014). Can You Dig It? Ebony, 116-134.

Craddock, J. ( 2009). Superfly Film Review . VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever , 967.

Hammond, M. a. (2006). Contemporary American Cinema . England: McGraw-Hill.

Harpole, C. (2000). Lost Illusions : American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-79 . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Harris, A., & Mushtaq, O. (2013). Creating Racial Identities Through Film: A Queer and Gendered Analysis of Blaxploitation Films. Western Journal of Black Studies, 28-38.

Seperate Cinema. (n.d.). Retrieved from Seperate Cinema: http://www.separatecinema.com/exhibits_blaxploitation.html

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Sweetback’s_Baadasssss_Song



Mark Wahlberg Bringing ‘Deepwater Horizon’ to Big Screen

From ABC News:

Mark Wahlberg is bringing the real-life disaster story of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion to life on the big screen.

Good Morning America” debuted the new trailer for the film, “Deepwater Horizon,” which features the stories of those who worked on the BP rig during its harrowing final hours. The April 2010 explosion killed 11 people and triggered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, an electrician who escaped from the burning rig. He’s joined by an impressive cast: Dylan O’Brien as floorhand Caleb Holloway; Gina Rodriguez as young crew member Andrea Fleytas; Kurt Russell as crew member Jimmy Harrell; and John Malkovich as BP representative Donald Vidrine.

“Deepwater Horizon,” hits theaters Sept. 30, 2016. Watch the trailer above and see the exclusive dramatic character posters below.

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Ken Loach wins Palme d’Or at Cannes for “I, Daniel Blake.”

May. 22, 2016

Veteran British director Ken Loach won his second Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday for I, Daniel Blake — a stark portrayal of a disabled man’s struggle with the crushing benefits system in northern England.

The 79-year-old was presented the festival’s top prize by actor Mel Gibson at a ceremony on the French Riviera. Accepting the award, the silver-haired Loach punched his fists in the air in victory and said that he hoped his gritty, social realist movie would hold a mirror up to the impact of Europe’s policies of austerity on the poorest in society.

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Director Ken Loach, centre, actor Mel Gibson, left and President of the Jury George Miller react after Roach is awarded the Palme d’or for the film I, Daniel Blake, during the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible,” he said.

I, Daniel Blake chronicles a middle-aged widower from Newcastle who, after a heart attack, can neither work nor get government aid. It follows the sometimes comic, frequently painful frustrations as he winds his way through an archaic system that seems designed to bring him down.

Like many of Loach’s films, social politics is at the heart of I, Daniel Blake — which many critics have predicted could be his last.

“There is a conscious cruelty in the way that we are organizing our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault,” Loach told reporters. “If you have no work it’s your fault you haven’t got a job. Never mind in Britain, there is mass unemployment throughout Europe.”

Loach has long brought his distinct portrayals of the British working class to Cannes — and is more a regular at Cannes than almost any filmmaker. He has had 12 films in competition at the festival over the years, including his Palme d’Or-winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Canadian director Xavier Dolan picked up the runner-up Grand Prize, which has been seen by some critics as a vindication for him personally after his film, It’s Only The End Of The World, garnered lukewarm reviews and triggered a spat between him and certain film critics. The 27-year-old won the jury prize in 2014 for Mommy.
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Director Xavier Dolan poses for photographers with his Grand Prix prize for the film, Juste La Fin du Monde (It’s Only The End OF the World), during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

The jury of the 69th Cannes Film Festival was headed by Australian director George Miller who described the jury’s selection as “two words: rigorous and happy.”

The Cannes jury’s decisions are famously unpredictable, and take place behind doors closed to the press for the duration of the May 11-22 festival.

Despite mixed reviews, director Asghar Farhadi’s film, The Salesman, picked up several awards including best screenplay and best actor for Shahab Hosseini.

Romanian director Cristian Mungui, who was a favorite to win the Palme d’Or for Graduation, won the best director award, which he shared with French director Olivier Assayas for his paranormal thriller, Personal Shopper, starring former Twilight star Kristen Stewart.

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Director Olivier Assayas poses for photographers after receiving the Best Director award for the film Personal Shopper, during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

(Source: AP mobile website – http://bigstory.ap.org/ed8b90b4f057494fb86b9f6a1d6b5405)

Audience Award Winner announced for SBIFF’s The Wave!


SBIFF’s “The Wave Film Festival” concluded this past weekend with Jin Moyoung’s MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER from South Korea winning the Audience Award sponsored by the Santa Barbara Independent. This Wave highlighted 11 brand new Asian films from South Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines and Taiwan.

MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER is a South Korean documentary by Jin Moyoung and stars Jung Jaeyoung, Kim Minhee. MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER out-grossed INTERSTELLAR in its opening weekend in South Korea and went on to become the highest grossing indie/doc in Korean history.

Mickey Duzdevich, The Wave Director, commented, “Jim Moyoung’s documentary is the type of quality foreign film that we strive to bring audiences through the Wave Film Festival. It is so well deserving of the audience award, and there is no question why it is one of the most successful South Korean docs to date.”

An intimate portrait of an elderly couple nearing the end of life, MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER is as delicate as it is raw. Observing this fragile couple in their South Korean home, director Jin Moyoung’s camera acts as a fly on the wall, capturing a deep love painted through simple acts of affection—from a good-natured leaf fight to a gentle caress of the cheek. No filmmaking tricks are necessary, as the honest and tender feelings expressed by this husband and wife are all that’s needed to tell this story of true love.

“The Wave Film Festival” will return this summer on July 13th through July 17th and will highlight eleven new French Films over its five day run at the Riviera Theatre. Passes go on sale next week at www.sbiff.org.




Star Trek Beyond

STAR TREK BEYOND is in theaters July 22, 2016

Star Trek Beyond, the highly anticipated next installment in the globally popular Star Trek franchise, created by Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew.

In Beyond, the Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.


(Press materials courtesy of Paramount Studios)


ALMOST SUNRISE: Demonstrates the Power of Meditation & Nature in Healing “Moral Injury” of War


Inspiring New Documentary Almost Sunrise and Its Immersive Impact Campaign

Demonstrates the Power of Meditation & Nature in Healing “Moral Injury” from War

DC Premiere at AFI Docs:


Thursday, June 23 at 4:00 p.m. at Landmark E Street Cinema (Theatre 1)

Friday, June 24 at 6:45 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (Theatre 3)

From the Emmy-Nominated Filmmakers of Give Up Tomorrow

Once in a while, a film comes along that breaks from the genre. War documentaries are usually somber pieces that explore the darkness of battle but few, if any, venture past the shadows. But a unique new film takes a rare, uplifting look at the life of veterans beyond their demons.


It’s a staggering statistic: 22 U.S. veterans take their own lives every day, which means, we lose more soldiers to suicide than to combat. Despite millions of dollars spent on the mental health of veterans, the crisis rages unabated. Almost Sunrise, a new feature documentary by the award-winning filmmaking team behind Give Up Tomorrow (a 2013 News & Documentary Emmy nominee) Michael Collins (director) and Marty Syjuco (producer), is a timely and groundbreaking look at what could be a missing piece of the puzzle—the true nature of the psychological wounds of returning soldiers known as “moral injury” and the undeniable potential power of meditation and nature therapy in helping veterans to reclaim their lives.


Almost Sunrise will make its World Premiere on Memorial Day weekend at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival with one of the opening night slots on May 27 at the 650-seat Palm Theater, followed by screenings on May 29 and 30. The film will next make its East Coast Premiere at the prestigious Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York, June 11 and 13. It is also an official selection of the distinguished AFI Docs in Washington, DC, screening June 23 and 24. Along with its film festival premieres, Almost Sunrise launches an immersive two-year impact campaign.


“Our vision for the campaign is to walk with veterans on a path towards healing,” says Syjuco. “Our goals are three-fold: 1. Changing the Narrative; 2. Promoting Wellness; 3. Supporting Legislation (Veteran Wellness Act H.R. 2555).”


Almost Sunrise tells the inspiring story of two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, who, in an attempt to put their haunting combat experience behind, embark on an extraordinary 2,700 mile trek on foot across America. While the physical trek across snowy mountains and vast deserts is punishing, the inner journey proves to be, by far, the most dangerous mission they will ever undertake. Like many of their fellow returned servicemen and women, Tom and Anthony are tackling post traumatic stress, or PTS, but the pair are simultaneously dealing with an unseen battle scar called “moral injury”—often manifested as an extreme brand of guilt and shame that arises when one goes against one’s own moral code. While PTS, characterized by fear, can be treated with drugs, therapists are finding that no amount of medication can treat the pain that comes from carrying a moral burden. Almost Sunrise is the first feature documentary film to introduce the emerging term “moral injury,” what some experts believe may eventually be recognized as the signature war wound of our generation.


While the film exposes some of the brutality of war, it does not dwell there. “It’s ultimately a story of hope and potential solutions,” Collins says.  Most importantly, the film reveals the promise of holistic practices for healing. When Tom signs up for a special breathing workshop for veterans, he must confront his deepest spiritual identity. He encounters Father Thomas Keating, a renowned Trappist monk who has counseled veterans for decades, who gently illuminates the need to turn inward to achieve true peace, guidance that culminates in a remarkable transformation, rarely depicted on screen. Where the stereotypes of “the broken veteran” and “homecoming hero” leave off, Almost Sunrise continues onward, presenting audiences with an unprecedented portrait of those who return from war; richer, far more complex beings—driven by a universal human aspiration for happiness—who discover life’s soaring possibilities.



The Almost Sunrise Impact Campaign is a two-year initiative designed to educate and engage target audiences. The campaign will include the national broadcast premiere of Almost Sunrise in 2017 on the PBS documentary series POV (date and time to be announced), as well as an interactive multimedia exhibit including a photo essay, videos, audio, articles, educational curricula and more (dates and times to be determined.)


The campaign focuses on the following key goals:

Changing the Narrative

We are challenging stereotypes of veterans through public education, engaging communities through the use of screenings, panel discussions, visual and performance arts and partnering with targeted NGOs to use the film as a tool to support and promote their interrelated missions.

Promoting Wellness

We are challenging the dependence and possible overuse of medication to treat psychic wounds and promote the growing body of research and documented experience around the benefits of holistic practices and its as yet untapped potential to contribute to the healing of veterans.

Changing Legislation

We are working with Congressman Tim Ryan to support the Veterans Wellness Act (HR 2555) legislation that will improve the ability of Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) to promote good health among our nation’s veterans. These facilities are a place of comfort and familiarity for thousands of men and women and their families. The new legislation would expand upon the activities in which these organizations are currently engaged, and create greater opportunities for veterans to access wellness programs and therapies.


Director Michael Collins is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and the founder of Thoughtful Robot, a production company specializing in social issue documentary films. Producer Marty Syjuco is from the Philippines. Their film Give Up Tomorrow (POV 2012) won the Audience Award and a Special Jury Mention for Best New Director at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, a Media Award from Amnesty International, and was nominated for a 2013 News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.


Almost Sunrise at Telluride Mountainfilm Festival (World Premiere)

(Q & A’s after screenings, with director Michael Collins, producer Marty Syjuco and film subject Tom Voss attending)

Friday, May 27 @ 6:30 p.m.

Palm Theater

Sunday, May 29 @ 9:15 a.m.

High Camp

Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day) @ 11:45 am

High Camp




Moral Injury
Saturday, May 28th, 8 a.m.
Christ Church Upstairs


Meditation and Healing

Sunday, May 29th, 8 a.m.

Ah Haa East


The Long Walk
Sunday, May 29th, 8 a.m.
Ah Haa West


Monday, May 30, 9:15 A.M.

Meet in front of Ghost Town 210 W. Colorado Ave.

Tracings: An Interactive Performance
Monday, May 30th, 9:30 a.m.
Wilkinson Public Library

Almost Sunrise at Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York (East Coast Premiere)

(Q & A’s after screenings, with director Michael Collins, producer Marty Syjuco and film subject Tom Voss attending)

Saturday, June 11 @ 9:15pm

IFC Center

Monday, June 13 @ 6:30pm

Lincoln Center



Almost Sunrise Urban Hike

Sunday, June 12 in New York City

3:00-5:00 p.m.

A contemplative walk into the woods of Central Park led by Tom Voss, an Iraq veteran and meditation teacher, featured in Almost Sunrise. Voss has experienced first-hand, the restorative, soul-nourishing benefits of spending time in nature—he recently completed an epic 2,700 mile walk from Wisconsin to California.  “Walking is being with yourself,” Voss says. As ancient spiritual traditions around the world demonstrate, the simple act of walking can elevate consciousness. Allow yourself a space for reflection and feel the aliveness of your environment and your own self with every step.

Almost Sunrise Breathing & Meditation Intro Session

Tuesday, June 14 in New York City

7:00-8:00 p.m.

An introduction to meditation and an ancient practice called “The Power Breath” designed to unlock a happier, more relaxed state of being with higher levels of awareness, focus and clarity. Led by Tom Voss, an Iraq veteran and holistic teacher, featured in Almost Sunrise, the workshop will explore the connection between breath, meditation and state of mind. Empower and refresh your spirit daily, by discovering these tools that can lead you to a calm, centered mind and access to an unlimited storehouse of energy.

Almost Sunrise at AFI Docs (Washington, DC, Premiere)

(Q & A’s after screenings, with director Michael Collins, producer Marty Syjuco and film subject Tom Voss attending)

Thursday, June 23 @ 4:00 p.m.

E Street Theater 1

Friday, June 24 @ 6:45 p.m.

AFI Silver Theater 3








(Press release provided by Brian Geldin)

Brian Geldin Public Relations

First South Bay Film and Music Festival opens in Hermosa Beach

Michael Hixon / The Beach Reporter

The first South Bay Film and Music Festival, which takes place from June 1 to 5, is billed as a celebration of the arts, jam-packed with an eclectic blend of cinema, music and art.

Highlighted by a 50th anniversary screening of the iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer,” SBFF showcases social impact, sport and music documentaries, features and short films. Question-and-answer sessions and panels with filmmakers take place throughout the event that has its headquarters in Hermosa Beach, with some events in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes.

Jon Fitzgerald, SBFF executive director, said there will be a “lot of discovery with filmmakers and musicians” at the festival.

“Beyond the quality of film and music, I believe we’re really going to create some unique experiences,” said Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay and is a film industry professional who has directed numerous film festivals.

Fitzgerald said the community has opened its arms to the festival and the city has given him “universal support.”

“It’s nice when you come into a town and the city and the local government and officials all want to roll up their sleeves and help,” Fitzgerald said. “It makes it more rewarding and less challenging frankly. Anybody can go into a city and rent a theater and print a poster and say, ‘I’m going to show movies.’ But if the city is not behind it, it’s really harder to gain traction.”

“The South Bay Film and Music Festival is bringing a variety of stellar evenings to our beach city,” said Hermosa Beach Mayor Carolyn Petty, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to support the festival for five days, and encourage our community members from the South Bay and beyond to come enjoy an evening—or five—in Hermosa Beach.”

Opening night

The opening night Gala for SBFF Wednesday, June 1, starts with Taste of the South Bay, from 5 to 7 p.m., which features culinary specialties from more than 20 local restaurants, at the Hermosa Community Center, at the corner of Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. The evening also includes an art exhibition featuring surf artists and photographers and a performance from a jazz band.


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Making its premiere at 7 p.m. is “Voyagers Without Trace,” a documentary about a French couple and their friend who took their cameras on a kayaking trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1938. Director Ian McCluskey will be in attendance for a question-and-answer session.

Thursday special presentations

Classics from the silent film era and a modern classic from a horror icon highlight the Thursday, June 2 festivities.

A 30th anniversary screening of “Stand By Me,” Stephen King’s story of four friends who stumble upon a dead body, begins at 8:15 p.m., at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes. A reception takes place from 6 to 8 p.m., prior to the screening.

Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo hosts a 90th anniversary screening of “The General,” starring Buster Keaton, beginning at 7 p.m. Bill Field, who re-opened the theater in 1968 as a silent movie theater, 47 years after its original opening, will accompany the 1926 film with a Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that was built in 1925 and brought from Long Beach.

‘Endless Summer’

Iconic surf filmmaker Bruce Brown will he honored with the first “Action Sports Pioneer Award” before the screening of his classic documentary, “The Endless Summer,” about two surfers and their world travels, Saturday, June 4.

The day begins with a “Sea to See” reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m., which features more than 50 pieces of artwork from notable surf artists and photographers. The tribute to Brown takes place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by “The Endless Summer” screening.

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(Photo courtesy of SBFF)

Surf Film Showcase

Aside from “The Endless Summer,” nine other surf films, short and feature length will be screening at SBFF.

Subjects range from a 9-year-old Brazilian surfer who moved to California to pursue his dreams to a profile on India’s first female surfer.

Shorts Program

Three shorts programs takes place June 2, 3 and 4, at 9:30 p.m. The first program, on Thursday, June 2, features “Cause Cinema,” “where the movies engage and inspire,” according to Fitzgerald, who founded Cause Pictures and wrote his first book in 2012, “Film making for Change: Make Films That Transform the World.”


Thirteen films are competing in the documentary film competition. Subjects range from an Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion to the lives of three gay Palestinian friends. The films are screening throughout the festival.

Hazing to an 11-year-old boy competing at the World Paper Plane Championship are the subjects of two of the nine films up for Best Narrative Film.

Closing night

SBFF closes Sunday, June 5, with an awards ceremony and a screening of awards winning films.

The awards ceremony takes place from 7 to 7:30 p.m. and features awards for Jury Prize – Best Narrative Film,” “Jury Prize – Best Documentary Film,” and audience awards for narrative, documentary, Cause Cinema Spotlight and Surf Film Showcase.

A dessert reception takes place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by screenings of award winning films from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Music showcases

SBFF also features plenty for the music fan beginning Thursday, June 2, with singer/songwriters Isla June and Nick Shattuck performing at the South Coast Botanic Garden from 6 to 8 p.m. The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach hosts Salt Petal, Nick Valentini Collective, Dream Vacation and Niantic, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. the same evening.

Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach hosts a showcase, presented by World Arts, Friday, June 3, from 5 to 9 p.m., starring Gracie Gray, Marchan Noelle, Carlos Calvo and Frankie Bourne.

Hoist the Colors headlines the Standing Room Showcase in Hermosa Beach Saturday, June 4, from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with Braeves, Foxtrax and Short Stories also performing.

A Music Pass is available for $75 that allows access to all music related films (about six in total), music showcases, panels and music–related receptions. A pass holder also receives complimentary wine and beer from sponsors during the happy hours in the Hospitality Suite at the Hermosa Community Center.

A music and film panel will also be offered that details how to get a song into a film or on television.

“It’s not as easy as you think,” Fitzgerald said. “There are roughly 10,000 independent films made a year now, almost all of those movies have music … where do they get their music? They’re not going to call up Universal Music and get Imagine Dragons.”

There are also plenty of networking opportunities.

“I’m going to have each of the musicians contribute one of their tracks and do a compilation CD,” Fitzgerald said. “That CD will be given to all the filmmakers and industry professionals that come through so that they can potentially be licensing some music.”

South Bay Sessions

South Bay Sessions takes place June 4 and 5. Each session highlights a “technology driven idea, project or company, that promotes social consciousness.” Four sessions, which will include tech demonstrations, will focus on the four categories including food/nutrition; environment/water/community resources: artistic expression/media impact; education/literacy/digital citizenship.

Working with the city

The festival’s founding partners include the City of Hermosa Beach and the Hermosa Beach Arts Foundation, which both contributed $15,000 to the founding of SBFF, under the umbrella of the Hermosa Cinema Society. The festival has had an ongoing presence in the community since last year with monthly screenings at the Hermosa Community Center.

Hermosa is the heart of the festival as Fitzgerald sees its expansion over the first several years. Fitzgerald was brought in as the film festival’s executive director after more than 20 years of directing numerous film festivals, including American Film Institute Fest, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, as well as being a co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival.

Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay, said bringing the festival to his hometown makes it “more special” than other film festivities he’s worked for in the past, even with the long hours. And being a “start-up” there’s little budget.

“The fact that the community really wants this, makes it that much more rewarding for me because I know I’m bringing something to this community that they really embrace,” he said.

For more information, visit southbayfest.com or hermosacinema.com.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — MAY 18, 2016, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the AFI DOCS 2016 festival sponsors.  AT&T returns this year as Presenting Sponsor, which represents the top level of support.


Support for the festival comes from a wide range of major companies, cultural institutions, foundations, philanthropists and government agencies.  The 14th edition of AFI DOCS will run June 22–26, 2016, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, Maryland.


“AT&T’s passion to mobilize the world allows AFI DOCS to bring together global audiences, impassioned storytellers and influential policy leaders in a manner worthy,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “We are grateful to all of our sponsors for their dedication to the festival and its vital location in the heart of the nation’s capital, where documentaries can truly effect change.”


AT&T will host the Opening Night Gala at the Newseum.  Also, an AT&T “It Can Wait” message warning against the dangers of distracted driving will play before each festival film.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NBCUniversal and VIZIO return as Official Sponsors of the festival.  American Airlines returns as the official airline of AFI.  VIZIO will also be the festival’s Closing Night Sponsor and will generously outfit the AFI DOCS Festival Hub with the company’s latest home theater equipment and technology.


Screen Sponsors are Discovery Communications, HBO and Netflix.


Major Sponsors include the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, returning this year; BRICKTOWN; Catapult Film Fund; CrossCurrents Foundation; CYM Media & Entertainment; DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; the Fledgling Fund; Google; and the Maryland Film Office.  Harbers Studios joins the festival this year as a Major Sponsor and will also sponsor the short film programs at AFI DOCS, including screenings and Filmmaker Forum sessions.


Contributing Sponsors are Amtrak, Downtown Silver Spring and the International Documentary Association.


Also joining as a Contributing Sponsor, IFC’s comedy series DOCUMENTARY NOW!, which pays loving homage to documentaries, will host a special event on June 23 at the Landmark Theatres Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, with a six-theater presentation of iconic episodes of the show.


Official Media Sponsors include Here TV, Screen International, Variety, The Wall Street Journal, WAMU 88.5 FM and WHUT-TV.  Affiliate Media Sponsors include Outfront Media and WTOP 103.5 FM.


The Newseum, AFI DOCS’ Official Gala Screening Sponsor located on historic Pennsylvania Avenue between the United States Capitol and the White House, will also host this year’s Closing Night Gala, Spotlight Screenings and the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium and Screening with Werner Herzog.


In addition to supporting AFI DOCS film programming and festival events, sponsors provide services to filmmakers and festival attendees throughout the week.  Participation ranges from sponsoring specific film screenings and receptions to outfitting venues with technology infrastructure and creating event spaces.  Sponsors also participate in national and local promotion of the festival.



Presenting Sponsor:  AT&T

Official Sponsors:  American Airlines (official airline of AFI), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NBCUniversal, VIZIO (official home theater sponsor of AFI)

Screen Sponsors:  Discovery Communications, HBO and Netflix

Major Sponsors:  The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands; BRICKTOWN; Catapult Film Fund; CrossCurrents Foundation; CYM Media & Entertainment; DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; the Fledgling Fund; Google; Harbers Studios; the Maryland Film Office

Contributing Sponsors:  Amtrak, Anonymous, DOCUMENTARY NOW!, Downtown Silver Spring, International Documentary Association

Supporting Sponsor:  Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce

Cultural Sponsors:  Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Danish Film Institute, Embassy of Israel, Embassy of the Republic of Poland, General Representative of the Government of Flanders to the USA

Official Media Sponsors:  Here TV, Screen International, Variety, The Wall Street Journal, WAMU 88.5 FM, WHUT-TV

Affiliate Media Sponsors:  Outfront Media, WTOP 103.5 FM

Official Gala Screening Sponsor:  The Newseum

Official Hotels:  Hotel George, Hotel Monaco

Generous Individual Support Provided By:

Major Festival Underwriter:  Mary Jo Greenberg

Official Festival Underwriters:  Michael C. Donaldson, Grace Guggenheim, John and Rachel King, Sally and Tod MacKenzie

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, mobile, high speed Internet and voice services.  We’re the world’s largest provider of pay TV.  We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. We offer the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider*.  And we help businesses worldwide serve their customers better with our mobility and highly secure cloud solutions.


Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at http://about.att.com.  Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/att and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/att.


© 2016 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.  AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.  All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.


*Global coverage claim based on offering discounted voice and data roaming; LTE roaming; voice roaming; and world-capable smartphone and tablets in more countries than any other U.S. based carrier. International service required.  Coverage not available in all areas.  Coverage may vary per country and be limited/restricted in some countries.



AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in the Washington, DC area.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the premier festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the seat 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, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 14th year, the festival will be held June 22­–26, 2016 in landmark Washington, DC venues and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.  Visit AFI.com/afidocs and connect on twitter.com/afidocs, facebook.com/afidocs and youtube.com/AFI.


About the American Film Institute

AFI is America’s promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory.  For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilm, facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.


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Gabrielle Flamand, AFI DOCS PR, 202.339.9598 or gabrielle@prcollaborative.com

Liza Ameen, American Film Institute, 323.856.7885 or LAmeen@AFI.com



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