Tag Archives: Documentary

AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: My Psychedelic Love Story (Errol Morris, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson as the Closing Night Presentation at the 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

The latest documentary and world premiere of My Psychedelic Love Story from the renowned documentary filmmaker of the Thin Blue Line and Fog of War (Academy Award winner), Errol Morris, comes a tell-all story of Johanna Harcourt-Smith, a once young, Swiss-born, Paris-raised, jet-setting, aristocratic, Jewish woman who cavorted with the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary. My Psychedelic Love Story is the story of Harcourt-Smith and O’Leary as they circumvent extradition and indulge themselves in daily acid trips for a two-month period before Leary is extradited back to the US, incarcerated, and eventually released. At the time there was much speculation Harcourt-Smith was a CIA plant – a Mata Hari of sorts.

Having recently watched The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix, as My Psychedelic Love Story unfolded I cannot say I was surprised to see Timothy Leary jailed for such a long period of time over possession of a small amount of marijuana. The underlying story at play was the Nixon Administration making an example of another high-profile individual who encouraged others to think and act “outside the box.” All in the name of law and order – before Watergate became public and while the Vietnam War and student protests raged in the background.

Morris bases his work in My Psychedelic Love Story on a four-tape interview Leary gave with a prison psychologist. In agreeing to be interviewed,  Leary makes clear in the tapes he wanted the love of his life, Ms. Johanna Harcourt-Smith, to have final custody of the tapes. But, according to Harcourt-Smith, her life centered on Leary and getting him his release from prison. Leary was undergoing hallucinogenic treatment while incarcerated. First from Harcourt smuggling in acid tabs in her belly button and through postage stamps on her letters sent through the US Postal Office and, subsequently, through prison therapy sessions.

Eventually, the government (the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency) threatened Leary with an ultimatum – publicly announce his cooperation to halt the LSD crisis or spend the remainder of his life in a psychiatric ward with a fried brain. His incarceration would soon include his ingestion of stronger and stronger doses of hallucinogens until he lost his mind. Leary agreed to cooperate, was released from prison into the Witness Protection Program, and was living in a small cabin in Idaho with no electricity. One night he and Harcourt-Smith had an argument. Leary left in the middle of the night and Harcourt-Smith never saw Leary again.

Only within the last few years when some of her belongings were sent to her did Harcourt listen to the interview tapes from 1974. Morris has his Interrotron that allows for a powerful sense of intimacy as well as several other cameras placed at various angles and vantage points capturing Harcourt-Smith as she delivers a monologue of epic proportions. As Harcourt-Smith drifts from topic to topic Morris introduces still photographs, psychedelic art, archival footage, and even a clip from Alice in Wonderland.

Harcourt-Smith is a compelling storyteller. During her two-month jet setting romance with Leary, she recalls her conversations with Keith Richards and how she encouraged him to go to America and make albums with the Rolling Stones. And, the spur-of-the-moment trips to Switzerland, Afghanistan, France, and back again. Listening to her tell her tale coupled with Morris’ use of image inserts of colorful Tarot cards and hypnotic music, I felt captivated and often wondered how could Harcourt have such a vivid recollection of her and Leary’s travels on the run from the law. Nevertheless, My Psychedelic Love Story is quite a tale of what seems to have become a largely forgotten part of the turbulent 1970s. Don’t fret, however, as Showtime will be airing it soon. Highly recommended!

DGA Announces Nominees for Achievement in Television, Commercials and Documentary for 2016

By Larry Gleeson


Los Angeles – Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay announced the DGA’s nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, Commercials and Documentary for 2016.

Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay (Photo via MadameNoir)

“There’s so much to celebrate in such an incredible year for television, commercials and documentaries as we announce the DGA nominees for directorial achievement,” said Barclay. “As content across these categories reaches record levels, the bar is set higher than ever for directors – with each genre requiring unique skillsets and talents. And our nominees this year have far surpassed the challenge with such creative and captivating projects. I congratulate all of them on their exceptional work.”


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”


The Duffer Brothers’ Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Timothy Lonsdale
  • First Assistant Director: Richard Denault
  • Second Assistant Directors: Maria Battle Campbell, Kristina M. Peterson
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Simeon Jones
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Franchesca Winters

This is Mr. Matt Duffer’s first DGA Award nomination.

This is Mr. Ross Duffer’s first DGA Award nomination.



The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, “From the Ashes of Tragedy”


Mr. Murphy’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Chip Vucelich
  • First Assistant Director: Leo Bauer
  • Second Assistant Director: Janell Sammelman
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Matt Pexa
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Alicia Lewis

This is Mr. Murphy’s fourth DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series in 2014 for The Normal Heart; for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series in 2009 for the Glee pilot; and in 2010 for the Glee episode “The Power of Madonna.”



Westworld, “The Original”


Mr. Nolan’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Robert Del Valle
  • First Assistant Director: Kim H. Winther
  • Second Assistant Director: Jeff Okabayashi
  • Second Second Assistant Directors: Michelene Mundo, Katie Pruitt

This is Mr. Nolan’s first DGA Award nomination



Game of Thrones, “The Battle of the Bastards”


This is Mr. Sapochnik’s first DGA Award nomination



The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, “The Race Card”


Mr. Singleton’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Chip Vucelich
  • First Assistant Director: Dan Shaw
  • Second Assistant Director: Matt Pexa
  • Second Second Assistant Directors: Kim Richards, Kyle Hollingsworth

This is Mr. Singleton’s first DGA Award nomination


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



Silicon Valley, “Daily Active Users”


Mr. Berg’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Tyler Romary
  • First Assistant Director: Nick Mastandrea
  • Second Assistant Director: Sally Brunski
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Kim Richards
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Kathleen D. Brennan

This is Mr. Berg’s first DGA Award nomination.



Atlanta, “B.A.N.”


Mr. Glover’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Alex Orr
  • First Assistant Director: Veronica A. Hodge‑Hampton
  • Second Assistant Director: Jason Graham
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Danielle King
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Mike Brune

This is Mr. Glover’s first DGA Award nomination.



Silicon Valley, “Founder Friendly”


Mr. Judge’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Tyler Romary
  • First Assistant Director: James “Billy” Burton
  • Second Assistant Director: Thomas Boucher
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Kim Richards

This is Mr. Judge’s third DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this same category in 2014 for the Silicon Valley episode “Minimum Viable Product” and in 2015 for the Silicon Valley episode “Binding Arbitration.”



Veep, “Inauguration”


Ms. Martin’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: David Hyman
  • First Assistant Director: Dale Stern
  • Second Assistant Director: Michelle Gritzer
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Chris Riddle
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Gary Cotti

This is Ms. Martin’s first DGA Award nomination.



Veep, “Mother”


Mr. Stern’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: David Hyman
  • First Assistant Director: Michelle Gritzer
  • Second Assistant Director: Jeff Rosenberg
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Chris Riddle
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Cecilia Sweatman

This is Mr. Stern’s first DGA Award nomination.

The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):





Mr. De Felitta’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Moshe Bardach
  • First Assistant Director: Scott Lazar
  • Second Assistant Director: David Fischer
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Ramona Murphy-Adair
  • Location Manager: Eddy Collyns

This is Mr. De Felitta’s first DGA Award nomination


THOMAS KAIL (Directed By)
ALEX RUDZINSKI (Live Television Direction By)

Grease Live!


Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Carrie Havel, Adam Mishler, Brad Duns
  • Head Stage Manager: Garry Hood
  • Stage Managers: Jennifer Marquet, John Esposito, Jonathan Marks, Rob Sellers Jr., Dani Farrelly, Paul Forrest, Roy Friedland, Chris Hines, Roxanne Lozano, Drina Mohacsi, Tshaka Stewart, Mike Strauss, Cheryl Teetzel-Moore, Ari Woog, Katie Perkins

This is Mr. Kail’s first DGA Award nomination.

This is one of two DGA Award nominations this year for Mr. Rudzinski in this category. He is also nominated with Kenny Leon for Hairspray Live! He has not been previously nominated.



All the Way


Mr. Roach’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Scott Ferguson
  • First Assistant Director: Josh King
  • Second Assistant Director: Aaron Fitzgerald
  • Second Second Assistant Directors: Jason C. Brown, Matthew Milan

This is Mr. Roach’s third DGA Award nomination. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series in 2008 for Recount and in 2012 for Game Change.



The Night Of, “The Beach”


Mr. Zaillian’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Greer Yeaton
  • First Assistant Director: Michael Steele
  • Second Assistant Director: Ginger Gonzalez
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Rachel Iovine
  • Location Manager: Shane Haden

This is Mr. Zaillian’s first DGA Award nomination.


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



Real Time with Bill Maher, “Show #1437”


Mr. Casey’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: Stacy Talbot
  • Stage Managers: Patrick Whitney, Brian Anderson

This is Mr. Casey’s third DGA Award nomination. He previously was nominated in this category in 2015 and 2014 for Real Time with Bill Maher “Show #1334” and “Show #1226.”



CBS Sunday Morning, “Charles Osgood Farewell Broadcast”


Ms. Gerard’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Bernard Rozenberg, Jessica Frank, Kate D’Arcy Coleman,
    Patricia Finnegan, Jyll Phillips‑Friedman
  • Stage Managers: Mark Dicso, Lindsley Newbury

This is Ms. Gerard’s first DGA Award nomination.



The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “Episode #0179”


Mr. Hoskinson’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Yvonne De Mare, Karen Yaeger
  • Stage Manager: Mark McKenna

This is Mr. Hoskinson’s fourth DGA Award nomination. He previously was nominated in this category in 2015, 2013 and 2007 for The Colbert Report episodes “11040,” “10004” and “3052.”



Saturday Night Live, “Host: Dave Chappelle”


Mr. King’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Michael Mancini, Michael Poole, Bob Caminiti
  • Stage Managers: Gena Rositano, Chris Kelly

This is Mr. King’s eleventh DGA Award nomination. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials in 2015 for Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special and for Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming in 2013 for Saturday Night Live “Host: Justin Timberlake.” He was previously nominated for Saturday Night Live episodes in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, and in 2015 in the Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled Programming category for the Saturday Night Live episode, “Host: Tracy Morgan/Musical Guest: Demi Lovato.”



Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, “Episode #1030”


Mr. Pennolino’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: Jeremy Hardwick
  • Stage Manager: Laura Mack

This is Mr. Pennolino’s first DGA Award nomination.


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in
Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):


Tony Bennett Celebrates 90 – The Best is Yet to Come


Mr. Foley’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: Randi Grossack
  • Key Stage Manager: Jeffry Gitter
  • Stage Managers: Bennymar Almonte, Lauren Class Schneider, Joey Despenzero, Jeff Markowitz, Karen Tasch Weiss

This is Mr. Foley’s ninth DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in the Musical Variety category, all for the Late Show with David Letterman, in 2007, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999 and 1998 for episodes “#2773,” “#2452,” “#2187,” “#1876,” “#1634,” “#1527,” “#1294,” and “#958.”



The Late Late Show with James Corden, “The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special”


Mr. Mancinelli’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Matt Powers, Bac Delorme, Brian Sutherin
  • Stage Managers: Michael J. Schiff, Teri Pensky Hlubik

This is Mr. Mancinelli’s first DGA Award nomination.



Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House


Ms. Mendoza’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Dora Mendoza, Kelly Hernacki
  • Stage Managers: Lynn Finkel, Elise Reaves, Phyllis Digilio-Kent

This is Ms. Mendoza’s second DGA Award nomination. She was previously nominated in the Musical Variety category in 2010 for Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Performance at The White House.



Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, “A Very Special Full Frontal Special”


This is Mr. Myers’s first DGA Award nomination.



The 70th Annual Tony Awards


Mr. Weiss’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Ken Diego, Robin Abrams, Ricky Kirshner
  • Stage Managers: Garry Hood, Peter Epstein, Joey Despenzero, Phyllis Digilio-Kent, Andrew Feigin, Doug Fogel, Jeffry Gitter, Arthur Lewis, Jeffrey M. Markowitz, Cyndi Owgang, Jeff Pearl, Alfonso Pena, Annette Powlis, Elise Reaves, Lauren Class Schneider, Jim Semmelman

This is Mr. Weiss’s thirteenth DGA Award nomination. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 for the 61st, 64th, 65th, 66th, 67th and 68th Annual Tony Awards. He was also nominated in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008 for the 55th, 56th, 59th, 60th, and 62nd Annual Tony Awards. He was also nominated in 2015 for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series, together with Rob Ashford, for Peter Pan Live!


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



Shark Tank, “801”


Mr. Fuchs’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: Amy Wilcox‑Barker
  • Head Stage Manager: Eric Rhoden
  • Stage Managers: Doug Neal, Michael Strauss

This is Mr. Fuchs’s second DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this category in 2015 for Shark Tank, 702.



Live PD, “Episode 5”


Mr. Gonzalez’s Directorial Team:

  • Stage Manager: Jeff Buda

This is Mr. Gonzalez’s first DGA Award nomination.



STRONG, “Welcome to STRONG”


Mr. Smith’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Directors: Anna Moulaison‑Moore, David Charles
  • Stage Manager: Drew Lewandowski

This is Mr. Smith’s fourth DGA Award nomination. He previously won in this category in 2012 for Master Chef, “Episode #305.” He was also nominated in 2010 for Master Chef, “Episode #103,” and in 2011 for Master Chef, “Episode #201.”



American Grit, “The Finale ‑ Over the Falls”


Mr. Thompson’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: David Charles
  • Stage Managers: Daniel Curran, Kevin Fletcher

This is Mr. Thompson’s seventh DGA Award nomination. He previously won in this category in 2005 for Fear Factor, “Heist Fear Factor, Season 6 Premiere.” He was also nominated in 2006 for Fear Factor, “Military Fear Factor, Season Finale,” in 2008 for Estate of Panic, “102, That Sinking Feeling,” in 2011 for Fear Factor 2.0, “Scorpion Tales,” in 2012 for Stars Earn Stripes, “Amphibious Assault,” and in 2013 for The Hero, “Teamwork.”



The Amazing Race, “We’re Only Doing Freaky Stuff Today”


Mr. van Munster’s Directorial Team:

  • Associate Director: Dan Coffie

This is Mr. van Munster’s eleventh DGA Award nomination. He won in this category in 2007 for The Amazing Race, “Episode #1110” and was also nominated an additional eight times in this category for the The Amazing Race: in 2005 for “Episode #805,” in 2006 for “Episode #102,” in 2008 for “Episode #1303,” in 2009 for “Don’t Let A Cheese Hit Me,” in 2010 for “I Think We’re Fighting the Germans, Right?,” in 2011 for “You Don’t Get Paid Unless You Win?”, in 2013 for “Beards in the Wind,” and in 2015 for “Bring The Fun, Baby!” He was also nominated with Directors Jack Cannon and Elise Doganieri in 2014 for The Quest, “One True Hero.”


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



The Kicks, “Pilot”


Ms. Allen’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Maria Melograne
  • First Assistant Director: Michael Williams
  • Second Assistant Director: Walter Parry

This is Ms. Allen’s first DGA Award nomination.



Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, “Gortimer and the Jacks of All Trades”


Ms. Jones’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Richard G. King
  • First Assistant Director: Lance W. Lanfear
  • Second Assistant Director: David Berke
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Christopher H. Cook

This is Ms. Jones’s first DGA Award nomination.



A Nutcracker Christmas

(Hallmark Channel)

This is Mr. Lembeck’s second DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this category in 2011 for Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure.



An American Girl Story ‑ Melody 1963: Love Has to Win


Ms. Mabry’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Manager: Richard G. King
  • First Assistant Director: Otto Penzato
  • Second Assistant Director: David Berke
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Christopher H. Cook
  • Additional Second Assistant Directors: Candice Lee, Matthew W. Ross

This is Ms. Mabry’s first DGA Award nomination.



Adventures in Babysitting

(Disney Channel)

This is Mr. Schultz’s first DGA Award nomination.


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):



(Park Pictures)

Frankie’s Holiday, Apple – MAL

  • First Assistant Director: Thomas Smith

Movie Night, Kohl’s – Anomaly

  • First Assistant Director: Thomas Smith
  • Second Assistant Director: Rob Kay


    Hold Your Breath, SunTrust – Strawberry Frog

    • Unit Production Manager: Natalie Hill
    • First Assistant Director: George Nessis
    • Second Assistant Director: Isaac Mejia

    Riding is the New Driving, Lyft – Made Movement

    • Unit Production Manager: Natalie Hill
    • First Assistant Director: John Lowe
    • Second Assistant Director: Julian Metter
    • Second Second Assistant Director: Dave Liehn

    Tell Me When To Go, Beats

    • Unit Production Managers: Natalie Hill, Susan Levin
    • First Assistant Director: Chris Medak
    • Second Assistant Director: Adam Stern
    • Second Second Assistant Director: Jani Vournas

    This is Mr. Ariola’s seventh DGA Award nomination in this category. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials for Snowball (Traveler’s Insurance), Human (Johnny Walker), and First Taste (Coca-Cola) in 2006. He was also nominated in this category in 2011, 2007, 2004, 2002 and 2000.




Dive, Apple

  • First Assistant Director: Howell Caldwell

Everyday Hero, Philips – Ogilvy & Mather

World of Play, LG – Energy BBDO

  • Unit Production Manager: Line Postmyr
  • First Assistant Director: Anthony Dimino
  • Second Assistant Director: Spencer Taylor
  • Second Second Assistant Director: R. Ben Parker
  • Additional First Assistant Director: Chris Blanch
  • Additional Second Assistant Director: Steve Bagnara

This is Mr. Bond’s seventh DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this category in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2007 and 2004.




Chase, Nike Golf – Wieden + Kennedy Portland

  • First Assistant Director: Rick Lange
  • Second Assistant Director: Ethan Ross

Doubts, Powerade – Wieden + Kennedy Portland

  • First Assistant Director: Mariela Comitini
  • Second Assistant Director: Brad Robinson

Expectations, Powerade – Wieden + Kennedy Portland

  • First Assistant Director: Mariela Comitini
  • Second Assistant Director: Brad Robinson

Manifesto, Squarespace – Anomaly

  • First Assistant Director: David Backus
  • Second Assistant Director: Josh Voegelin

This is Mr. Cianfrance’s first DGA Award nomination



(Park Pictures)

The Best Planet, S7 Airlines – Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam

The Snail, Samsung – Leo Burnett USA

  • First Assistant Director: Robert Dean Phillips

This is Mr. Rojas’s first DGA Award nomination.


The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for 2016 are (in alphabetical order):


The Eagle Huntress

Sony Pictures Classics

This is Mr. Bell’s first DGA Award nomination



O.J.: Made in America

ESPN Films

This is Mr. Edelman’s first DGA Award nomination




Sundance Selects/Showtime Documentary Films

This is Mr. Kriegman’s first DGA Award nomination.
This is Ms. Steinberg’s first DGA Award nomination



I Am Not Your Negro

Magnolia Pictures

This is Mr. Peck’s first DGA Award nomination.



Life, Animated

The Orchard

This is Mr. Williams’s first DGA Award nomination

*The winners will be announced at the 69th Annual DGA Awards on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

(Source: dga.org)

*Featured photo via variety.com


Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announces opening movie, retrospective directors

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has announced its opening night film and the filmmakers selected for its retrospectives.

The festival, set for Feb. 17-26, features 150 nonfiction films from across the world at venues in Missoula, the Wilma Theater, the Roxy Theater, the Silver Theatre and the Missoula Hellgate Elks Lodge.


The free Feb. 17 opener presented in partnership with HBO is Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

According to a press release, the film is “an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty, in all its eccentricity. At 83 years old, grand dame Reynolds (star of Singin’ in the Rain) still performs a Vegas act dressed in gold lamé at the risk of her health, and her daughter, Fisher (of Star Wars fame) is helpless to react in the face of her mother’s determination that ‘the show must go on.”

Bright Lights gives us a rare peek into the normal lives of two very different yet intertwined Hollywood starlets, a truly human story that will have you laughing in one moment and tug at your heartstrings in the next,” festival director Rachel Gregg said in a news release.

The Big Sky retrospectives, a regular festival feature, examine the careers of influential documentary filmmakers.

This year, they’ve picked Daniel Junge. He won an Academy Award for the 2012 short Saving Face. The film, co-directed with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, focuses on a plastic surgeon in Pakistan who helps women disfigured in acid attacks. He won the South by Southwest Grand Jury award in 2009 for They Killed Sister Dorothy, which examined the murder of an Ohio nun in the Amazon.

 Closer to Montana, Junge directed 2015’s Being Evel, about the Butte-born daredevil legend Evel Knievel.

The other retrospective package is billed as the most expansive ever done at Big Sky. It examines the work of EyeSteel Films, a Montreal collective that has covered topics around the world.

Last year’s festival-goers may have caught Chameleon, by collective member Ryan Mullins. The film took viewers inside the world of Anas, a Ghanaian investigative journalist whose deep-cover techniques merge spycraft and advocacy.

The 2017 festival the Big Sky DocShop, a film forum with panels, workshops and the Big Sky Pitch for works in progress.

The forum this year will highlight aspects in the rapidly growing medium of short film, such as conceiving, funding, producing and distributing.

DocShop will include panels and workshops with Vice, ITVS, The Atlantic, ESPN, Film Collaborative, and Tribeca Film Institute among other film industry experts, as well as master classes with the 2017 BSDFF retrospective artists.

The official selections and the schedule will be announced mid-January. Sales for tickets and passes as well as DocShop registration open in late January. For more information, go to bigskyfilmfest.org.




Park City, UT— The final pieces of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival feature film program fall into place today, as Sundance Institute announces the lineup for Premieres, Documentary Premieres, Midnight, Spotlight, Kids and Special Events. The Festival hosts screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort January 19-29.

Three projects announced today are part of The New Climate, the Festival’s new environmental program: Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman (Documentary Premieres), Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry (Spotlight) and RISE (Special Events).


John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “Some of the most pressing themes that we can trace through the Festival lineup — the environment, political upheaval, social change — are distilled to their very human essences in both comic and dramatic stories. These stories, and the conversations they spark, start here and will extend well beyond the mountain and the Festival in the months ahead.”

Trevor Groth, Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival, said, “Powerful visions of our times — past, present and future — resound throughout these sections. Inspired storytellers are shining a light on urgent issues or providing an exhilarating escape from them. From citizen journalists to robust and powerful roles for women — in front of and behind the camera — these projects are a testament to the force and value of the individual.”

Among the films that have premiered in these sections in recent years are Boyhood, Under The Shadow, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Captain Fantastic, The Lobster, Mistress America, Manchester By The Sea, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Shaun the Sheep, O.J.: Made in America and The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

For a full list of films announced to date, including selections for the U.S. and World Competitions, NEXT and New Frontier, visit sundance.org/festival. The Short Film program announcement will be forthcoming.

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.

Beatriz at Dinner / U.S.A. (Director: Miguel Arteta, Screenwriter: Mike White) — Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same. Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow. World Premiere

Before I Fall / U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) — Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta. World Premiere

The Big Sick / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Showalter, Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani) — Based on the real-life courtship: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but they struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher. World Premiere

Call Me by Your Name / Italy, France (Director: Luca Guadagnino, Screenwriters: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino) — The sensitive and cultivated Elio, only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family, is facing another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful and languid Italian countryside when Oliver, an academic who has come to help with Elio’s father’s research, arrives. Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. World Premiere

The Discovery / U.S.A. (Director: Charlie McDowell, Screenwriters: Charlie McDowell, Justin Lader) — In a world where the afterlife has just been scientifically proven—resulting in millions of people taking their own lives to get there—comes this love story. Cast: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough, Ron Canada. World Premiere

Fun Mom Dinner / U.S.A. (Director: Alethea Jones, Screenwriter: Julie Rudd) — Four women, whose kids attend the same preschool class, get together for a “fun mom dinner.” When the night takes an unexpected turn, these unlikely new friends realize they have more in common than just marriage and motherhood. Together, they reclaim a piece of the women they used to be. Cast: Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett, Molly Shannon, Adam Scott, Adam Levine. World Premiere

The Incredible Jessica James / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jim Strouse) — Jessica James, an aspiring NYC playwright, is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she meets the recently divorced Boone. Together, they discover how to make it through the tough times while realizing they like each other—a lot. Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Keith Stanfield, Noël Wells. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT FILM

The Last Word / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Pellington, Screenwriter: Stuart Ross Fink) — Harriett is a retired businesswoman who tries to control everything around her. When she decides to write her own obituary, a young journalist takes up the task of finding out the truth, resulting in a life-altering friendship. Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall. World Premiere

Manifesto / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Julian Rosefeldt) — Can history’s art manifestos apply to contemporary society? An homage to the twentieth century’s most impassioned artistic statements and innovators, from Futurists and Dadaists to Pop Art, Fluxus, Lars von Trier and Jim Jarmusch, this series of reenactments performed by Cate Blanchett explores these declarations’ performative components and political significance. Cast: Cate Blanchett. World Premiere

Marjorie Prime / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda) — In the near future—a time of artificial intelligence—86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? Cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins. World Premiere

Mudbound / U.S.A. (Director: Dee Rees, Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees) — In the post–World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage and the unending struggle for and against the land. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks. World Premiere

The Polka King / U.S.A. (Director: Maya Forbes, Screenwriters: Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky) — Based on the remarkable true story of the world’s only known Polka Ponzi scheme, this mix of comedy and tragedy is about Jan Lewan, a polish immigrant who believed in the American Dream. But with big dreams came big mistakes for the man who became the “King of Pennsylvania Polka.” Cast: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, J.B. Smoove. World Premiere

Rebel in the Rye / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Strong) — This portrait of the life and mind of reclusive author J.D. Salinger goes from the bloody front lines of World War II to his early rejections and the PTSD-fueled writer’s block that led to his iconic novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Victor Garber. World Premiere

Rememory / U.S.A., Canada (Director: Mark Palansky, Screenwriters: Michael Vukadinovich, Mark Palansky) — A visionary inventor found dead. A machine that can record people’s memories. A man haunted by the past. This noir mystery explores the ways in which memory defines the present. Cast: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Anton Yelchin, Henry Ian Cusick, Evelyne Brochu. World Premiere

Sidney Hall / U.S.A. (Director: Shawn Christensen, Screenwriters: Shawn Christensen, Jason Dolan) — Over the course of 12 years, and three stages of life, Sidney Hall falls in love, writes the book of a generation and then disappears without a trace. Cast: Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane, Margaret Qualley. World Premiere

Where is Kyra? / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriters: Andrew Dosunmu, Darci Picoult) — Pushed to the brink after losing her job, a woman struggles to survive. As the months pass and her troubles deepen, she embarks on a perilous and mysterious journey that threatens to usurp her life. Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland. World Premiere

Wilson / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes) — Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope, reunites with his estranged wife and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her. Cast: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer. World Premiere

Wind River / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan) — An FBI agent teams with the town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that ocurred on a Native American reservation. Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal. World Premiere

Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.

500 YEARS / U.S.A. (Director: Pamela Yates) — From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, the sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history is told through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society. World Premiere

Cries from Syria / U.S.A., Syria, Czech Republic (Director: Evgeny Afineevsky) — This documentary attempts to recontextualize the European migrant crisis and ongoing hostilities in Syria, through eyewitness and participant testimony. Children and parents recount the revolution, civil war, air strikes, atrocities and ongoing humanitarian aid crises, in a portrait of recent history and the consequences of violence. World Premiere

Give Me Future: Major Lazer in Cuba / U.S.A., Cuba (Director: Austin Peters) — In the spring of 2016, global music sensation Major Lazer performed a free concert in Havana, Cuba—an unprecedented show that drew an audience of almost half a million. This concert documentary evolves into an exploration of youth culture in a country on the precipice of change. World Premiere

Legion of Brothers / U.S.A. (Director: Greg Barker) — Afghanistan, immediately post-9/11: Small teams of Green Berets arrive on a series of secret missions to overthrow the Taliban. What happens next is equal parts war origin story and cautionary tale, illuminating the nature and impact of 15 years of constant combat, with unprecedented access to U.S. Special Forces. World Premiere

Oklahoma City / U.S.A. (Director: Barak Goodman) — The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 is the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history; this documentary explores how a series of deadly encounters between American citizens and federal law enforcement—including the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco—led to it. World Premiere

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman / U.S.A. (Directors: Susan Froemke, John Hoffman, Beth Aala) — From the Montana Rockies to the wheat fields of Kansas and the Gulf of Mexico, families who work the land and sea are crossing political divides to find unexpected ways to protect the natural resources vital to their livelihoods. These are the new heroes of conservation, deep in America’s heartland. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE

TAKE EVERY WAVE: The Life of Laird Hamilton / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This is the remarkable story of an American icon who changed the sport of big wave surfing forever. Transcending the surf genre, this in-depth portrait of a hard-charging athlete explores the fear, courage and ambition that push a man to greatness—and the cost that comes with it. World Premiere

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities / U.S.A. (Director: Stanley Nelson) — A haven for Black intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries—and path of promise toward the American dream—Black colleges and universities have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field. They have been unapologetically Black for 150 years. For the first time ever, their story is told. World Premiere

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous / U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple) — Are there limits to your love for your family? One family’s acceptance is tested when a champion diver, destined for the Olympics, announces he’s transitioning into a woman—and invites his YouTube followers along for every moment. It’s a story about unconditional love and finding the courage to be yourself. World Premiere

Untitled Lucy Walker / Buena Vista Social Club Documentary / U.S.A., United Kingdom, Cuba (Director: Lucy Walker) — The musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club exposed the world to Cuba’s vibrant culture with their landmark 1997 album. Now, against the backdrop of Cuba’s captivating musical history, hear the band’s story as they reflect on their remarkable careers and the extraordinary circumstances that brought them together. World Premiere

From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour.

78/52 / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Philippe) — This is an unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the “man behind the curtain,” and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. World Premiere

Bad Day for the Cut / Northern Ireland (Director: Chris Baugh, Screenwriters: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin) — A middle-aged Irish farmer, who still lives at home with his mother, sets off on a mission of revenge when the old lady is murdered. Cast: Nigel O’Neill, Susan Lynch, Józef Pawłowski, Stuart Graham, Anna Próchniak, Ian McElhinney. World Premiere

Bitch / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marianna Palka) — A woman snaps under crushing life pressures and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. Her philandering, absentee husband is forced to become reacquainted with his four children and sister-in-law as they attempt to keep the family together during this bizarre crisis. Cast: Jason Ritter, Jaime King, Marianna Palka, Brighton Sharbino, Rio Mangini, Kingston Foster. World Premiere

Bushwick / U.S.A. (Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott, Screenwriters: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick) — Lucy emerges from a Brooklyn subway to find that her neighborhood is under attack by black-clad military soldiers. An ex-Marine corpsman, Stupe, reluctantly helps her fight for survival through a civil war, as Texas attempts to secede from the United States of America. Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Arturo Castro. World Premiere

Killing Ground / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Damien Power) — Ian and Samantha arrive at an isolated campsite to find an SUV and a tent—with no sign of the occupants. The discovery of a distressed child wandering in the woods unleashes a terrifying chain of events that will test the young couple’s breaking point. Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Ian Meadows, Harriet Dyer, Aaron Glenane. International Premiere

Kuso / U.S.A. (Director: Steven Ellison, Screenwriters: Steven Ellison, David Firth, Zach Fox) — Broadcasting through a makeshift network of discarded televisions, this story is tangled up in the aftermath of Los Angeles’s worst earthquake nightmare. Travel between screens and aftershocks into the twisted lives of the survived. Cast: Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, Hannibal Buress, The Buttress, Tim Heidecker, Mali Matsuda. World Premiere

The Little Hours / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a dysfunctional convent in medieval Tuscany. Cast: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon. World Premiere. DAY ONE

XX / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic) — This all-female horror anthology features four dark tales from four fiercely talented women. Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk. World Premiere

The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year.

Colossal / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo) — An unapologetic party girl dreams of a fresh start only to discover a mysterious and fantastical connection between herself and a city-wrecking monster on the other side of the globe. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell.

Frantz / France, Germany (Director: François Ozon, Screenwriters: François Ozon, Philippe Piazzo) — In a small German town after World War I, Anna mourns daily at the grave of her fiancé, Frantz, killed in battle in France. One day a young Frenchman, Adrien, also lays flowers at the grave. His presence, so soon after the German defeat, ignites passions. Cast: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke.

Lady Macbeth / United Kingdom (Director: William Oldroyd, Screenwriter: Alice Birch) — Rural England, 1865: Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man and his unforgiving family. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a stableman from the estate, the force unleashed inside her is so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank. U.S. Premiere

Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry / U.S.A. (Directors: Laura Dunn, Jef Sewell) — This cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture is seen through the mind’s eye of farmer and writer Wendell Berry. THE NEW CLIMATE

Raw / France (Director and screenwriter: Julia Ducournau) — When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, she develops an unbidden taste for meat, with unexpected consequences. Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss.

Sami Blood / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Amanda Kernell) — Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-breeding Sámi girl. Exposed to race biology examinations at her boarding school and the racism of the 1930s, she starts dreaming of another life—one that demands she become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture. Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi, Olle Sarri, Hanna Alström, Malin Crépin. U.S. Premiere

Their Finest / United Kingdom (Director: Lone Scherfig, Screenwriter: Gaby Chiappe) — During the 1940 London Blitz, untried screenwriter Catrin struggles to find her voice amidst war, as she and a makeshift cast work under fire to create a film to lift the nation’s spirits—and inspire America to join the war. Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Jeremy Irons. U.S. Premiere

This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth.

The Mars Generation / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Barnett) — Aspiring teenage astronauts reveal that a journey to Mars is closer than you think. World Premiere. SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHT FILM

My Life as a Zucchini / Switzerland, France (Director: Claude Barras, Screenwriter: Céline Sciamma) — After his mother’s death, Zucchini is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own. World Premiere (English Version)

RED DOG: True Blue / Australia (Director: Kriv Stenders, Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz) — When 11-year-old Mick is shipped off to his grandfather’s cattle station in Australia’s remote Pilbara, he prepares himself for a life of dull hardship but instead finds myth, adventure and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind pup that will change his life forever. Cast: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Thomas Cocquerel, Jason Isaacs. North American Premiere

One-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works that add to the unique Festival experience. An evolving section, this year includes episodic work, short films and live post-screening discussions.

Downward Dog / U.S.A. (Showrunners: Kat Likkel, John Hoberg, Creators: Michael Killen, Samm Hodges) — The story of a struggling millennial, Nan, as observed from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin. The Festival will premiere the first four episodes of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with the cast, creators and showrunners. Cast: Allison Tolman, Samm Hodges, Lucas Neff, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Barry Rothbart. World Premiere

The History of Comedy / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Mark Herzog, Christopher G. Cowen, Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner) — Utilizing archival footage punctuated by contemporary interviews with comedy legends and scholars, this is the history of not only what makes us laugh, but how comedy has affected the social and political landscape throughout history. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this docuseries, Spark of Madness and Going Blue, followed by an extended Q&A. World Premiere

I Love Dick / U.S.A. (Directors: Jill Soloway, Andrea Arnold, Kimberly Peirce, Executive Producers: Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu) — Chris and Sylvere, a married couple in the intellectual community of Marfa, Texas, become obsessed with a charismatic artist named Dick. What follows is the unraveling of a marriage, the deification of a reluctant messiah and the awakening of the female gaze. The Festival will present the first three episodes of this Amazon original series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne, Roberta Colindrez, India Menuez, Phoebe Robinson. World Premiere

RISE / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Latimer) — This vibrant and immersive documentary series explores the front lines of indigenous resistance. Episodes Apache Stronghold, Sacred Water and Red Power examine factors that threaten indigenous liberation in the 21st century. A series of contrasts, this series is both a condemnation of colonialism and a celebration of indigenous peoples. Continuing Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to presenting bold stories from within the Native American and Indigenous communities, we are proud to debut three episodes: Apache Stronghold, Sacred Water and Red Power, followed by an extended Q&A. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE

Shots Fired / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo) — After racially-charged shootings in a North Carolina town, an investigator digs into the cases alongside a special prosecutor. Together they seek justice while navigating the ensuing media attention and public unrest threatening the divided town. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this 10-hour series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Moyer, Mack Wilds. World Premiere

TIME: The Kalief Browder Story / U.S.A. (Director: Jenner Furst, Executive Producers: Jenner Furst, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Harvey Weinstein, David C. Glasser, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason, Michael Gasparro) — After his arrest at age 16, Kalief Browder fought the system and prevailed, despite unthinkable circumstances. He became an American hero. The Festival will debut the first two episodes of this in-depth, humanizing look at a broken justice system, followed by an extended Q&A. World Premiere

Docuseries Showcase — The Festival is proud to debut individual episodes from two exciting new Netflix docuseries, featuring an extended Q&A with directors Morgan Neville and Rashida Jones.

  • Abstract: The Art of Design / U.S.A. (Director and executive producer: Morgan Neville) — A look beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers from every discipline whose work shapes our world. The Festival will debut one episode of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with Director and Executive Producer Morgan Neville. Cast: Christoph Niemann. World Premiere
  • Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On / U.S.A. (Director: Rashida Jones, “Women on Top,” Executive Producers: Rashida Jones, Ronna Gradus, Jill Bauer, Peter LoGreco) — Porn has gone mainstream; the question is, can we handle it? This exploration of the intersection of sex and technology is told through the stories of the people whose lives are defined by the current explosion of internet porn—whether they’re creating it, consuming it, or both. The Festival will debut one episode of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with Director and Executive Producer Rashida Jones. World Premiere

Independent Pilot Showcase — We are proud to present the world premieres of these outstanding pilot presentations, highlighting the best in episodic series work from the independent community.

  • Playdates / U.S.A. (Writers: Giles Andrew, Dan Marshall, Creators: Giles Andrew, Dan Marshall, Alex Bourne) — Uprooted from their Midwestern life, Bennett, a new stay-at-home dad, and Julie, a working mom, are forced to take their kids on playdates inside the elitist parenting culture of Silicon Beach. Cast: Paul Scheer, Carla Gallo, Miles Fisher, Craig Frank, Gemma Brooke Allen, Landon Gordon. World Premiere
  • Shit Kids / U.S.A. (Director and creator: Kyle Dunnigan) — The daughter of an earth-shatteringly boring couple, along with the son of an equally humdrum set of parents, have decided to plot their parents’ murders. Cast: Kyle Dunnigan, Kevin Berntson, Candace Brown, Margee Magee, Grace van Dien, Doug Noble. World Premiere
  • When The Street Lights Go On / U.S.A. (Director: Brett Morgen, Screenwriters: Eddie O’Keefe, Chris Hutton) — The residents of a small town grapple with the ruthless killing of a young girl and a teacher. Cast: Max Burkholder, Odessa Young, Adam Long, Ben Winchell, Kelli Mayo, Graham Beckel. World Premiere

Made in Cuba — We are proud to present these three cinematic and affecting Cuban short documentaries, reflecting Sundance Institute’s longstanding commitment to international artists. These films were guided by the Institute’s Documentary Film Program in collaboration with La Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV) and The Guardian Multimedia Program.

  • Connection (Conectifai) / Cuba (Director: Horizoe Garcia Miranda) — ETECSA—Cuba’s only telephone company—installed Wi-Fi routers in 18 public parks in 2016. For many Cubans, this meant being able to go online for the first time. This film shows us how Cubans of all ages initially explore social media, online dating and more. U.S. Premiere
  • Great (Muy Bien) / Cuba (Director: Sheyla Pool Pástor) — The United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, making it no longer unrealistic for Cubans to dream of one day living and working abroad. Cubans of all ages and diverse aspirations enroll at the makeshift Big Ben English school in Havana. U.S. Premiere
  • House for Sale (Casa en Venta) / Cuba (Director: Emanuel Giraldo Betancur) — After more than 50 years, the ban on individuals in Cuba selling their houses was lifted in 2011. Three Cubans invite us into their homes—full of memories, souvenirs and family members—to hear their “sales pitch.” U.S. Premiere

Midnight Episodic Showcase — For the after-dark crowd, we present the world premieres of two thrilling new episodic additions to our Midnight lineup: Pineapple, from Adaptive Studios, and Snatchers, from Stage 13, followed by an extended Q&A with the creators of both series.

  • Pineapple / U.S.A. (Director and writer: Arkasha Stevenson) — When a miner’s daughter is assaulted in the local coal mine, she utters only one word, leaving the town’s sheriff baffled. The event quickly spirals out of control, impacting the entire town. The Festival will premiere three short-form episodes of this uniquely cinematic drama series. Cast: Tyler Vickers, Kel Owens, Ron Gilbert, Gloria Vonn, Lucille Sharp, Brooklyn Robinson. World Premiere
  • Snatchers / U.S.A. (Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, Screenwriters: Scott Yacyshyn, Benji Kleiman, Stephen Cedars) — After status-obsessed teen Sara has sex for the first time, she wakes up the next day nine months pregnant—with an alien. Turning to her nerdy ex-bestie, Hayley (the only person she can trust without ruining her reputation), they strive to put an end to all the carnage. The Festival will premiere eight short-form episodes of this otherworldly horror-comedy series. Cast: Mari Nepi, Gabrielle Elyse, Austin Fryberger, J.J. Nolan, Nick Gomez, Rich Fulcher. World Premiere

Short-Form Episodic Showcase — A celebration of the evolving landscape of content consumption, we present these short-form episodic series as new voices in the medium, defying broadcast boilerplates with a redefinition of traditional episodic conventions.

  • The Chances / U.S.A. (Director: Anna Kerrigan, Creators: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern) — Best friends Kate and Michael, who are deaf, try their best to see their friendship through new changes in their lives, as Kate adjusts to being newly married and Michael attempts to get over his ex-boyfriend. The Festival will debut five episodes of this short-form episodic series. Cast: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern, Aaron Costa Ganis, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Darryl Stephens, Wilson Cruz. World Premiere
  • Gente-fied / U.S.A. (Creator: Marvin Lemus, Executive Producers: Charles D. King, Aaliyah Williams, America Ferrera) — Seven characters deal with the effects of change in LA’s Boyle Heights. Bicultural millennials and old-school business owners hustle to create spaces that celebrate their Latino identities—even while faced with rent hikes, a housing crisis, and a steady stream of outsiders threatening to gentrify their barrio. The Festival will debut three episodes of this short- form episodic series. Cast: Edsson Morales, Alicia Sixtos, Victoria Ortiz, Yareli Arizmendi, Salvador Velez Jr, Rafael Sigler. World Premiere
  • Strangers / U.S.A. (Director: Mia Lidofsky, Executive Producers: Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub, Jesse Peretz, Mia Lidofsky) — Isobel decides to rent out her spare bedroom in order to generate much-needed extra income after a messy and painful breakup. With the help of her best friend, she navigates the most emotionally, sexually and professionally complicated time of her life, while hosting a constant stream of new guests. The Festival will debut the first three episodes of this short- form episodic series. Cast: Zoë Chao, Meredith Hagner, Jemaine Clement, Breeda Wool, Matthew Oberg, Shiri Appleby. World Premiere

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern WildFruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshinesex, lies, and videotapeReservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry InchAn Inconvenient TruthPrecious and Napoleon Dynamite. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2017 Festival sponsors to date include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, AT&T, DIRECTV, and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – American Airlines, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, Google VR, The Hollywood Reporter, IMDb, Jaunt, Kickstarter, Omnicom, Stella Artois® and the University of Utah Health. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Sponsor seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Nowhere to Hide wins IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary

Nowhere to Hide by Zaradasht Ahmed won the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary and Still Tomorrow by Jian Fan won the IDFA Special Jury Award for Feature-Length Documentary.

The award for best Dutch documentary went to Reber Dosky for Radio Kobanî. Guido Hendrikx’s Stranger in Paradise, which opened the festival, received the IDFA Special Jury Award for Dutch Documentary.

At the beginning of the evening, Heddy Honigmann presented the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Documentary Award (€ 50,000) to filmmaker Ester Gould.
A total of 16 awards were presented, following last night’s presentation of the IDFA Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary to Maite Alberdi for The Grown-Ups.
The festival continues through Sunday, when the winner of the VPRO IDFA Audience Award will be announced.

Zaradasht Ahmed won the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary (€ 12,500) for Nowhere to Hide (Norway/Sweden). The film is an eyewitness report by an Iraqi nurse forced to flee when his home falls into the hands of IS.
From the jury report: There are those films which are wonderful to see and there are films that the world needs to see. The film we choose is both of these things. The experience was immersive and left us deeply touched. The director respected the unique perspective that only the subject could have and in doing so he gave us an unprecedented window into the real life lasting consequences of war.


In addition, the jury presented the IDFA Special Jury Award for Feature-Length Documentary (€ 2,500) to Still Tomorrow (China) by Jian Fan. The documentary is a portrait of Chinese poet Xiuhua Yu, who blossoms from a disabled farmer caught in a loveless marriage into an internet sensation and Chinese media darling.

The jury of the IDFA Competition for Feature-Length Documentary consisted of chair Tom Paul (USA), Yuri Ancarini (Italy), Jordana Berg (Brazil), Ingrid van Tol (the Netherlands) and Debra Zimmerman (USA).
Jury report VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary

  • The IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling (€ 5,000) went to DeathTolls Experience (Iran) by Ali Eslami.
    Mia Donovan received the Scenic IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award (€ 2,500) for Deprogrammed (Canada).

    The jury of the IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling consisted of Brett Gaylor (Canada), Anna Higgs (UK) and Jan Rothuizen (the Netherlands).
    Jury report IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling

  • The IDFA Award for First Appearance (€ 7,500) was presented to Sine Skibsholt for Who We Were (Denmark).
    The Special Jury Award for First Appearance (€ 2,500), dedicated to the memory of Peter Wintonick, was presented to Plastic China (China) by Jiu-liang Wang. Plastic China was made with financial support from the IDFA Bertha Fund.

    The jury of the IDFA Competition for First Appearance was made up of Marjoleine Boonstra (the Netherlands), Uldis Cekulis (Latvia), Kahane Cooperman (USA), Samir Mehanovic (Scotland) and Bob Moore (Canada).
    Jury report IDFA Award for First Appearance

  • Tali Shemesh and Asaf Sudry won the IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary (€ 10,000) for Death in the Terminal (Israel).
    Ksenia Okhapkina won de IDFA Special Jury Award for Mid-Length Documentary (€ 2,500) for Come Back Free (Estonia).

    The jury of the IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Documentary consisted of Ryan Harrington (USA), Noe Mendelle (Scotland), Jake Perlin (USA), Andrea Prenghyová (Czech Republic) and Digna Sinke (the Netherlands).
    Jury report IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary

  • The Beeld en Geluid IDFA Award for Dutch Documentary (€ 7,500) went to Radio Kobanî by Reber Dosky.
    Guido Hendrikx received the IDFA Special Jury Award for Dutch Documentary (€ 2,500) for Stranger in Paradise.

    The jury of the IDFA Competition for Dutch Documentary was made up of Tine Fischer (Denmark), Maureen Gosling (USA), Ester Gould (the Netherlands), Nilotpal Majumdar (India) and Qi Zhao (China).
    Jury report Beeld en Geluid IDFA Award for Dutch Documentary

  • The ARRI IDFA Award for Best Student Documentary (€ 5,000) was awarded to When Will This Wind Stop (Poland) by Aniela Astrid Gabryel.
    Close Ties (Poland) by Zofia Kowalewska won the IDFA Special Jury Award for Student Documentary (€ 2,500). Alongside the cash prize, both winners were given an Amira camera, made available by ARRI for the makers’ next productions.

    The jury of the IDFA Competition for Student Documentary was made up of Judy Kibinge (Kenya), Salome Machaidze (Georgia) and Daan Veldhuizen (the Netherlands).
    Jury report IDFA Award for Student Competition

  • The IDFA Award for Best Children’s Documentary (€ 2,500) was awarded to Rocknrollers (the Netherlands) by Daan Bol.
    Saskia Gubbels won the IDFA Special Jury Award for Children’s Documentary (€ 1,000) for Naomi’s Secret (the Netherlands).

    The jury of the IDFA Kids & Docs Competition consisted of Monica Hellström (Denmark), Ollie Huddleston (UK) and Niki Padidar (Nederland).
    Jury report IDFA Award for Best Children’s Documentary

  • Other awards
    At the beginning of the evening, Heddy Honigmann presented the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Documentary Award to filmmaker Ester Gould (A Strange Love Affair with Ego, Strike a Pose). This bursary is made available by an anonymous donor and was set up by the Cultuurfonds. It consists of an amount of € 50,000 for the production of a new documentary.

    On Tuesday evening, the IDFA Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary(€ 2,500) was presented to The Grown-Ups (Chile/the Netherlands/France) by Maite Alberdi.
    The Grown-Ups was made with financial support from the IDFA Bertha Fund.

The festival runs until Sunday, 27 November, when the winner of the VPRO IDFA Audience Award (€ 5,000) will be announced.



(Source: http://www.idfa.nl)

FILM CAPSULE: Exit Through The Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010): USA, UK

Viewed by Larry Gleeson, during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

exit-through-the-gift-shopExit Through The Gift Shop, a documentary film about the underground street art world, formerly known as graffiti, tells the story of a French-American, second-hand clothier, Thierry Guetta, and his drive to explore the underground street art movement. Tabbed as the biggest counter-cultural movement since punk rock, the underground movement’s street artists were using stickers, stencil, markers, spray paints in creating their pieces.

The film opens to a catchy pop tune by Richard Hawley, “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” a tune reminiscent of a Frankie Valle number.


Guetta quickly begins telling his story. He buys lots of second hand and/or irregular clothing and resales them at upwards of 800% markups.Guetta’s

Thierry Guetta

appearance, mannerisms, and speech establish him, without a doubt, as a huckster. Soon, Guetta delves into his experiences with a video camera and the dawning of the underground street art movement.

Guetta’s cousin, known as “Space Invader,” for his tiles that resemble the character from the video game by the same name, allows Guettato record Space Invader’s work. Along the way Guetta is introduced to other street artists such as Neckface, Swoon, Cheez Coma  and Shephard Fairey, the world’s most prolific graffiti artist for his use of pro wrestling’s 7’4″, 450 pound Andre “the Giant’s” mug on a piece of work with OBEY plastered upon walls everywhere. Shephard Fairey also takes credit  for the iconic Obama image.


Fairey allows Guetta to accompany him around the world as they place art work in major metropolitan cities of New York and Paris and to document the art work that more often than not is gone the next morning. Guetta envisions making the definitive documentary of the street art movement and likes the element of danger that came with climbing illegally to tops of buildings and defacing the buildings’ walls.

Throughout Guetta and Shephard Fairey’s exploits one name kept surfacing – Banksy. In a ‘Who is John Galt’ manner, the world begin asking, “Who is Banksy?” According to Guetta, Shephard Fairey called one day out of the blue and informed Guettathat Banksy was “here”. Guetta abruptly dropped what he was doing and sped to meet the elusive Banksy.


Guetta immediately put himself at Banksy’s disposal escorting Banksy to all the Los Angeles hotspots. Impressed, Banksy invited Guetta to London, England, as Banksy wanted to begin “showing” his work. Guetta accepted and captured Banksy’s telephone booth “modification” and counterfeit Princess Diana currency during a three day art show on skid row featuring a painted elephant (which garnered media attention due to animal rights activists). Street art was now a hot commodity. And a Banksy piece was a welcomed piece in any modern art collection.

Meanwhile, Guetta was creating his own identifiable image titled Mr. Brainwash. Here the film shifts as Guetta is inept at filmmaking. Banksy talks Guetta into parting with the street art footage so a real documentary can be made. The remainder of the film deals with Guetta creating questionable works of art and his wheeler-dealer antics with his own Mr. Brainwash, “Life is Beautiful” art show, while Banksy provides insightful, and often comedic commentary.


In my opinion the film is a must see. Banksy appears hooded and speaks in a distorted voice in Exit Through the Gift Shop, a hood-wink name for this film. Recommended.


AFI FEST 2016 Presented By Audi Announces Conversation and Presentations Lineup

Institute (AFI) today announced the Conversations and Presentations lineup for AFI FEST
2016 presented by Audi.

Highlights include an AFI Master Class on CITIZEN KANE with Peter Bogdanovich following a 75th anniversary screening of the film; Academy Award® nominee David O. Russell discussing the 20th anniversary of his sophomore feature FLIRTING WITH DISASTER; a panel on THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE; director Barry Jenkins discussing his groundbreaking MOONLIGHT with cast members of the film; a roundtable of documentary filmmakers including Werner Herzog and Barbara Kopple, presented by the Los Angeles Times; The Hollywood Reporter Indie Contenders Roundtable with nine standout artists; and more. Click here to see the entire lineup release: afi-fest-2016-conversations-and-presentations-final

Free Tickets Available at AFI.com



Note from Roger – Tower

Dear Cinephiles,

TOWER is flat out brilliant.  One of the best documentaries of the year.    And it’s also the most visually immersive unique visual experience.

I cannot recommend this spellbinding film more.  I’m attaching the NY Times review below which was a Critic’s Pick.

It plays tonight at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets


‘Tower,’ About 1966, Before Mass Shootings Became Routine
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times

The haunting documentary Tower revisits a 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin that shocked the country. It may be difficult to comprehend the reaction to the horror of Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student who shot more than a dozen dead, wounding more than twice as many. A cover story in Life magazine suggested just how alien the carnage seemed at the time, noting that during the rampage Whitman’s actions were “so outrageous, so hard to grasp, that people could not believe it.” Many more mass shootings later, it’s now tragically easy to believe.

You get a sense of just how brutal and absolutely foreign that violence must once have seemed in Tower. Directed by Keith Maitland, the movie is partly based on “96 Minutes,” an article by Pamela Colloff that ran in Texas Monthly in 2006, the 40th anniversary of the shooting. Most of the article was an oral history based on interviews that she skillfully pieced together for a mosaiclike remembrance. Mr. Maitland borrows this approach, drawing on first-person accounts, as well as archival and original sources. He’s also turned much of this material into walking, talking animations with the help of actors, an ingenious stroke that — at least at first — helps create some needed critical distance.

Whitman was one of the year’s big news stories alongside Vietnam. Time magazine put him on its cover, running a banner (“The Psychotic & Society”) across a photo of him — just another smiling guy in glasses — reading a newspaper, with a small dog at his side. In time, he was transformed into a popular culture touchstone in Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, a 1968 thriller that drew on the incident; “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” Kinky Friedman’s 1973 satirical song that frames the blood bath as an all-American story; and “The Deadly Tower,” a 1975 made-for-TV drama. By important contrast, Tower isn’t about Whitman; he isn’t its subject, star or selling point.

Tower also isn’t about why Whitman committed his atrocities or even how. There’s little information on him — his background, beliefs, history or health — in the documentary. His name is barely mentioned. He’s there throughout, though, represented as the unknown shooter in the frightened recordings of people phoning in reports; in police dispatch calls; in intermittent gunfire; and in the eerie puffs of gun smoke emanating from the university tower where he took position. He is a question mark, a lethal void whose immateriality makes an agonizing contrast to the men and women he shot, those who died as well as those who suffered and survived.

This shift in focus — from the perpetrator to the victims — doesn’t read as especially American or cinematic. (One of Hollywood’s most durable genres is the gangster movie, after all, not the victim picture.) And while there may be all sorts of sociopolitical and psychological explanations for why movies are so violent, it’s also just an easy way to keep people nervously waiting and watching. Mr. Maitland put in time as an assistant director on the TV series “Law & Order” and he understands how to narratively string out violence. The movie begins with Neal Spelce (Monty Muir), a journalist gutsily reporting from the scene while driving closer to it, an opener that creates instant tension.

The scene then shifts to Claire Wilson James (Violett Beane), a heavily pregnant freshman who is just finishing a coffee break with her boyfriend, Tom Eckman (Cole Bee Wilson). As they’re walking across campus, they are both hit. Claire goes down first, followed by Tom. They remain where they fall for an unbearably long time, creating a ghastly spectacle that becomes an emblematic tableau that Mr. Maitland returns to again and again, at times using news footage. He soon adds other victims and voices, including that of Aleck Hernandez Jr. (Aldo Ordoñez), a teenager on his paper route riding past the campus, his cousin perched on his bike.

The expressive animation was done via rotoscoping, a technique that involves tracing moving images by hand (as in Disney’s Snow White) or through software (as in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life). The results in Tower are extremely liquid, with each line incessantly ebbing and flowing, creating a vivid sense of life. The animation gives Mr. Maitland a lot of creative freedom, allowing him to take Expressionistic leaps. When Ms. James and Mr. Eckman are shot, their bodies briefly transform into wrenching, twisting white silhouettes while the backdrop becomes a blast of bright red. You are spared the blood, even as the horror creeps in and then floods you.

In her article, Ms. Colloff noted that, surprisingly, perhaps, outside of some bullet holes, there were no physical reminders of the shooting at the University of Texas until 1999, when the school created a memorial garden. “No plaques had ever been displayed, no list of names read, no memorial services held,” she wrote. In 2007, the school finally installed a plaque observing the shooting, and this Aug. 1, the 50th anniversary, it dedicated a new memorial. Using a limited frame, Mr. Maitland does his own commemorating, inherently raising questions about terror, the nature of heroism and what it means to really survive. He also does something even more necessary: He turns names on a plaque into people.

FILM CAPSULE: The Central Park Five (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, 2012): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson Viewed at the AFI Fest 2012 at Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem are arrested and  convicted of raping a white woman jogging in New York City’s Central Park. They are incarcerated in prison ranging between 6 and 13 years  before a serial rapist confesses to one of the erroneously convicted that he alone had committed the crime, leading to the  convictions of those erroneously imprisoned being overturned. Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension during the mid 80’s crack cocaine boom, The Central Park Five,  tells the story of crime, a miscarriage of justice, the push by the police for confessions, a sensationalized media frenzy clamoring for emotionally charged stories and a public pushed to the brink with the common place Central Park “wildings’ occurring each weekend , and the five lives upended by the police department, the prosecutor’s office and the New York City Mayor’s Office. The five youths admitted they were in the park that evening committing other crimes.

The film is directed by legendary documentarian Ken Burns and his newcomer daughter Sarah Burns, who is the driving force behind the making of the film as she wrote her college thesis on the five falsely accused teens. Extensive use of archival footage combined with photos and current seated interviews provide an authenticity to the storytelling. At times it’s difficult to fathom how these young men were coerced into confessing. Yet, the Burns’ take the viewer on an “inch by inch” journey culminating in the release of the Central Park Five from their respective incarcerations. The question propagated being: was justice carried out? The obvious answer is not for these five young men. Other questions come to mind when these men are shown present day as they are finding it challenging to live life on life’s terms.

In a Q & A following the film (three of the Central Park Five were present and participated in a panel along with Ken and Sarah Burns), a civil suit against the prosecutor’s office and the police department came to light. The lawsuit is now nine years old and depositions haven’t even begun. The general consensus being that two to three more years will pass before the depositions are completed. Then, and only then, will the case be heard.

Yesterday’s headline news again reported a female jogger being approached by another group of five  young, teen-age men around 8:30 P/M in the northern part of New York City’s Central Park seeking the woman to provide them with kisses. The woman rebuffed the advances and police officers claim one of the teens touched her genital/groin area and purportedly ran off. The Central Park Five, is a very provocative film revolving around the issue of what constitutes justice and what collateral damage occurs in carrying out a Machiavellian “the end justifies the means” brand of justice.


FILM CAPSULE: Circus Kids (Alexandra Lipsitz, 2010): Israel | USA

By Larry Gleeson

Viewed at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Calif., AFI film festival 2010.

bxry2prcA new documentary, Circus Kids, directed by Alexandra Lipsitz, made its second stop on the festival route in Los Angeles, CA during the AFIfest. Last month Lipsitz debuted Circus Kids at the Chicago International Film Festival. The film follows a group of young circus performers, known as the St. Louis Arches, aged 7-17 from St. Louis, Missouri as they are invited to travel to Israel and to perform with a Israeli/Palestinian kids circus troupe known as the Galilee Children’s Circus.

For most of the Arches, many of whom are from broken homes, it is the first time traveling abroad. Israel is at war. One of the Arches does not receive parental permission to make the trip. Jessica Hentoff, a lifelong circus performer, organized the trip and tells the camera she views the role of the Arches as “peace ambassadors.” Hentoff sees the circus arts as a vehicle to encourage social change here and abroad.

The Galilee Circus is comprised of both Israeli and Palestinian children. The mission of the Galilee Circus is to foster collaboration among the warring cultures and to focus on their cultural similarities and to work toward creating positive solutions.

Jose Guzman edits the film and uses graphic aids in telling this children’s story. His visuals include cartoonish animations depicting airplanes, similar to Man on Wire depictions, flying to and from Tel Aviv, and a bus as it traverses the Israeli countryside. The children exchange circus tricks and performances. The Arches are astounding acrobats but don’t have the baton twirling gifts of the Galileans.

Lipsitz captures her own footage with her own camera. The viewer is treated to a display of teen angst, including a retelling of a performers first kiss, while watching two circus groups separated by a language barrier come together as one strong performing unit.

At the  end of the tour a tearful goodbye is captured as the Arches must return to St. Louis. They are wished well with promises that the Galileans will come to St. Louis for another successful performance collaboration.