Indie filmmakers have a hard row to hoe these days. This is not a news flash. A lot of us bitch and gripe and moan about it, and then there are filmmakers like David Redmon and Ashley Sabin who just get on the horse and ride hard across the finish line--and beyond. Not with just one project or two, but several. And not just with their own fare. Starting in the fall, they will be distributing for other filmmakers, as well, who also are the current crop of DIYers to wade into the fray of self-distribution, theatrical releases and all.
I first met Redmon and Sabin (pictured) when they curated an evening at the Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series at Barbes in the Slope last year. They brought a stunning short called Deconfliction that haunts me still, and Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project, another nonfiction flick that left me gobsmacked. When I met them again at True/False in February, I mostly saw the back of David's head as he crouched over his computer screen editing his film, polite and friendly to all, but mainly oblivious to the chaos around him as he hunkered down and kept on working.
Redmon's latest film Mardi Gras: Made in China will distribute nationally on July 29 through Netflix, Blockbuster, Barnes & Noble, and other physical and virtual commercial outlets. But right now, you can order the film through their new production and distribution company, Carnivalesque Films. A nominee for the Grand Jury Award at Sundance, winner of some 20 national and international awards, theatrically released, curated by the Sundance Channel as a "Classical Festival Moment," and a Critic's Pick by Stephen Holden of the New York Times, this documentary is a personal essay writ large, as Redmon whipsaws us back and forth between the bacchanal of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a factory in China, where thousands upon thousands of young people, some as young as fourteen, work for 10 cents an hour for 14-16 hour days breathing in toxic fumes to make the beads that are exchanged by very drunk people on Fat Tuesday, who then proceed to flash one another their privates, throw up at the end of the evening, discard their necklaces with the rest of the party flotsam, and go home to their Wal-Mart lives, having no idea (and most of them not caring a whit, either) where those shiny, multi-colored beads come from. But hey! some of those jewels are also "recycled" and sent to soldiers in Iraq so they can celebrate Mardi Gras, too. Oy vey.
The film is edited beautifully by Redmon, illustrating, in the best direct cinema style, the cultural divide that touches off some huge global issues, such as international trade, worker exploitation, sexism, economic stratification, and lithely, but blisteringly, touches off the collective consciousness of some of the revelers in the Big Easy. The duo formed a company whose ethos and main goal is to "explore how personal stories relate to complex social issues." Redmon and Sabin co-directed two other films in that spirit, both award-winners, as well--Kamp Katrina (Ms. Pearl also stars in this film--and coming soon: Ms. Pearl the Musical!) and the lovely Intimidad: A True Mexican Love Story.
The DVD, through Carnivalesque, is really nicely packaged and showcases such bonus features like the PG version for schools and other educational markets (with a shorter running time and no boobies or erect men in nighties--blech), deleted scenes, clips from upcoming films, and a 16-year-old girl's diary, a new worker just arrived to the Tai Kuen Bead Factory in Fuzhou, China run by a bossman named Roger who wouldn't break a sweat in front of Mike Wallace, let alone the ever-respectful Redmon, as he lies through his teeth about his workers' happiness and satisfaction. He's got an American name (he's Chinese) to match his American-style corporate greed. "I feel so confident when I sit here!" he crows from his big leather office chair. He's a very wealthy man; of course, he feels confident. It's a wonderful film that elicits chuckles even as you're becoming increasingly depressed. Not an easy thing to pull off.
Carnivalesque will also be releasing Ry Russo-Young's Orphans, Paul Lovelace and Sam Douglas' The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to Lose, and an incredibly moving film out of post-Katrina New Orleans, Zach Godshall's Low and Behold, one of my favorite films from last year. Visit and support Carnivalesque, an indie production and distribution company that self-supports these indie filmmakers so that they can go on to make their next project, and their next one.
Hell, use it as a model, why don't you?