Check out the conversation I had last week with filmmakers Laura Poitras, Ross Kauffman, Andrew Berends and Eric Daniel Metzgar at the Royal Flush Fest. The sound might be kind of low, so use headphones and turn it up!
Tune in tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 27, to the broadcast premiere of a new film by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan on ESPN as part of the network's 30 for 30 series. Muhammad and Larry combines never before seen footage from 1980 with newly-produced conversations with those who were at the famous fight between Ali and Holmes, including experts, luminaries, cornermen and trainers.
The documentary captures both champions at sparring matches and intimate moments at home in the days leading up to their match in October of 1980. Check local listings for times on ESPN and ESPNHD.
This Tuesday, October 27, from 6:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m., I'll be moderating a panel at DCTV called Low Cost / No Cost and The City: an evening of films, discussion and ideas, sponsored by the New York Film / Video Council, one of the monthly programs organized by their volunteer board of directors. These events are staged specifically for professionals in the New York media community to share information and support one another's work. Anyone can join the NYFVC for $40 per year, as an individual, and $85 per year for an organization. A student membership costs $20. If you're not yet a member, and Tuesday will be the first time you're attending a program, admission is free.
With a diverse and interesting panel of media makers, we'll be talking about how filmmakers can approach a new world of low cost and no cost film production and still churn out strong and challenging work. WNET Thirteen and Public Broadcasting representatives will speak to the possibility of how the public channel can offer new opportunities to independent narrative and documentary film and video makers. Samples of work will be shown.
Participants include Christopher Allen, founder and director of UnionDocs, independent producer and new head of programming at UnionDocs, Steve Holmgren, Rich Siegmeister and Bob Morris of WNET Channel 13, and Keith Boynton and Mike Lavoie of 12films12weeks. DCTV is at 87 Lafayette Street, two blocks below Canal in Tribeca. Reception will follow. You can RSVP at 212-330-0450. Hope you'll join us.
New Yorkers will have two opportunities to see Eric Daniel Metzgar's latest nonfiction film before it has its national broadcast on HBO in early 2010. (The Paley screening is, in fact, in association with HBO Documentary Films.) This Friday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. Metzgar will be appearing in person with producer Mikaela Beardsley, and author and film subject, New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Nicholas Kristof, at the Paley Center in midtown as part of its annual DocFest.
Director Metzgar profiles Kristof as he travels to Congo to turn a spotlight on one of the longest and most brutal of civil wars the continent has ever seen, a conflict that has claimed over 5.4 million lives over the last decade. In attempting to profile the story in a human-scale way, Metzgar explores how news is disseminated these days and how our consciences can be mobilized (or not) by one person's story. You can read what I wrote about the film here after seeing it at this year's True / False Fest, and you can read some of Metzgar's thoughts on the Paley website by clicking here.
Then on Saturday, the 24th, up in Harlem, the film will screen at the Cinema at the Maysles Institute at 7:30 p.m. preceded by WITNESS'A Duty to Protect as the cinema continues their "Congo in Harlem" series. Metzgar will be joined by Mohamed Keita of the Committee to Protect Journalists, journalist, Makeda Crane, Sasha Lezhnev of the ENOUGH Project (they are co-presenting the screening), and Bukeni Waruzi of WITNESS (the other co-presenter). There will be a series' closing night reception featuring music by Deja Bella.
I hosted a panel yesterday at the Royal Flush Festival ("Skullie" Awards tonight!) in the East Village with Metzgar, Laura Poitras, Ross Kauffman and Andrew Berends. It was a really fabulous talk and because my fellow juror, Ingrid Kopp of Shooting People, is such a mega-rock star, she recorded it in its entirety, so we'll be able to share the audio file with you soon, both here on SIM and on her own splendid blog, From the Hip. Don't miss this chance to see Reporter on the big screen and hear the eloquent Metzgar speak of his experiences making it.
This weekend, UnionDocs in W'burg, Brooklyn, will present two great programs. On Saturday the 17th, guest curator, Rachael Rakes of Doctruck, will bring three wonderful pieces on contemporary China: the marginalized Turkic-Muslim community of Ughyurs in Deborah Stratman's Kings of the Sky from 2004, Sam Green's haunting short film, Utopia: Part 3, The World's Largest Shopping Mall (2009), and Yin-Ju Chen and James T. Hong's 11-minute, Dogs of Straw (still from film, pictured), a profile of the streets of Taiwan right before the 2008 elections. Great filmmakers, great films! Special guests will be on hand; the screening will begin at 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday the 18th also at 7:30, UnionDocs is partnering with the African Film Festival New York to bring in documentary filmmaker, Mamadou Niang to present a short work-in-progress cut of his new piece on Ousmane Sembene, the father of African cinema. Following this, the multiple award-winning Pray the Devil Back to Hell will play. Devil presents the story of the powerful struggle of a group of Liberian women who band together to end a violent and long-standing civil war in their country. Their methods of peacemaking are a sight to behold. After the screening, I will moderate a conversation with the film's producer, Johanna Hamilton, and its cinematographer, Kirsten Johnson.
It's supposed to rain for the next several days, so it's the perfect weekend to get your ass to a movie. Come join us!
Just a reminder that Royal Flush opens its festival this week in, and around, the East Village of our fair city. Great program, some really original stuff that you won't see at too many other fests. Celebrating the artist and the dreamer in all of us would be the main theme I would take away from the current program. And which one of us couldn't do with a good dose of that now and then? Here's the program of the films, art happenings and musical performances going on October 15 - 19.
Also want to plug the panel I'm hosting again since it's chock-full of some of the best filmmakers around these days. It helps if you're a doc fan, but anyone who loves great cinema will have a swell time participating in a conversation with Ross Kauffman, Laura Poitras, Ian Olds, Eric Daniel Metzgar and Andrew Berends. That's some heavy talent, so come out and chat with us on Sunday the 18th at 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on Suffolk Street. It's free with your festival pass or just 5 bucks if you don't have a pass. But you should get a pass. Hope to see you there.
You have until January 11, but since holiday season is fast upon us (yikes!), and the deadline is just after the new year, a reminder that the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund is seeking feature-length documentaries that are in production or post-production with the intention of a premiere exhibition in 2010.
Eligible films should concentrate on people and populations who are ignored, ostracized, or otherwise marginalized and people fighting for social or political change. They are looking for films that also highlight broad social movements. Film works should focus on stories that challenge the status quo while pushing the form of nonfiction storytelling--in other words, a theatrical-ready movie. Click here to take a look at the '08 and '09 list of films the GTDF has funded, more info on rules and regs and the application form. Submissions should be postmarked no later than 01/11/10.
A bit over one week away, the East Village of Manhattan will be overtaken by all sorts of artistic shenanigans, musical, cinematic, and otherwise. The Royal Flush Festival, formerly known as the Evil City Film Fest, has a really innovative lineup of independent films, music videos, live musical performances and underground art openings taking place October 15 - 19 at Anthology Film Archives and other venues throughout New York City. In autumn of '07, the year I moved back to New York, I participated in a panel at Evil City with Michael Tully, Stu VanAirsdale and Karina Longworth--with lots of cocktails on hand. It was such a blast that I didn't hesitate when they asked me to jury and lead a panel this year.
In its current incarnation, it is now named after, and partnered with, Royal Flush Magazine, a nationally-distributed "killer rag" that celebrates underground music, art, video games, pop culture and indie movies. During this year's fest, the magazine will showcase its 2009 issue featuring Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner, and rock goddess, Joan Jett, appearing on two separate covers.
To start things off in Royal Flush splendor, the festival kicks off with a free opening night bash on the 15th at the Hiro Ballroom in the Maritime Hotel. There will be live performances at the Knitting Factory throughout the fest from the likes of British psychedelic punks The Raincoats, and an appearance by Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins fame. The fest has a sneak peek of her self-produced new project called Out of Our Minds, a multimedia concept that includes a musical album, comic and film directed and edited by Tony Stone. It's breathtakingly beautiful with mesmerizing imagery, and of course, sonically stunning. Take a look and a listen here.
The film program will open with Merle Becker's ode to American rock poster art, American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art, one of several New York premieres. To take a gander at other filmic fare on offer, click here. Cool program, eh? Come join festival directors Jim Muscarella (film), James Galus (music), and Josh Bernstein (art) for a fun-filled four days featuring thirteen New York feature film premieres, six live rock, metal and hip-hop shows, three exclusive art events and a closing night burlesque bash.
I'm also very excited about the stellar filmmaker panel I'll be moderating on Sunday the 18th at 1:30 p.m. called Docs Under Duress at the Soto Clemente Vélez Cultural and Educational Center's Milagro Theater on Suffolk Street. I will be joined by Ross Kauffman (Born Into Brothels), Andrew Berends (Delta Boys), Eric Daniel Metzgar (Reporter), Ian Olds (Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi), and Laura Poitras (Flag Wars, My Country, My Country). We will talk about doc filmmakers who take great personal risks to tell important stories from war-torn or impoverished places around the world. These five artists will share their own personal experiences making their films and how these works impact domestic and international audiences.
The two other panels will take place on Saturday the 17th in the same location. The first, at 2:00 p.m., is called How Green Was My Production? with Tony Stone, director of Out of Our Minds, Jesse Ash of GreenerMedia.com, M.J. Magbanua of White Collar, Kerin Ferallo of FX's Damages and Rooftop Films' program director, Dan Nuxoll. At 4:00 p.m., John Holmstrom of PUNK Magazine will moderate Blog This Panel with Michael K of Dlisted.com, Brandon Harris (Hammer to Nail, FILMMAKER Magazine), Heidi McDonald of Publisher Weekly's The Beat, and Brandon Kim of IFC.com's Indie Ear. Definitely not the usual suspects at a film fest; praise be for a little originality.
Come out and join the fun and support a hometown fest. I'll have more updates as Royal Flush approaches and hopefully, if he has a bit of time, a chat with film festival director, Jim Muscarella.
Following hot on the heels of AJ Schnack's laudatory post about the Camden International Film Festival today, I'll weigh into the mix, too. Thom Powers introduced me to festival founder, Ben Fowlie, and festival producer, Leah Hurley, this past spring when they came to New York to co-host a screening of Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's crowd-pleasing and deeply moving documentary, The Way We Get By, with Stranger Than Fiction and P.O.V.
This film had been a work-in-progress screening at last year's CIFF. Realizing that they had the burgeoning programming chops and the potential to nurture important films such as this one, Fowlie and Hurley were intent on upping the ante a bit and really putting their small, regional nonfiction festival on the map as a circuit destination. I heard from many local supporters during the fest this year that, indeed, they were well on their way to doing just that; it was a thrilling event for the whole community to have access to a such a powerful slate of films. Man, the people are friendly there! (Pictured, still of downtown Camden from the film Peyton Place, shot on location there in 1957.)
For the first time this year, they had juried competitions with cash prizes, starting with a best feature category and an emerging vision category. Next year, they will also include an Audience Award, a truly meaningful prize to any filmmaker. Fowlie and Hurley also brought on producer, Dominic Musacchio, to help put on the inaugural Points North forum, bringing a few select industry guests and independent filmmakers together to talk about the current state of things. It was informal and it was real and it was pertinent. But more than that, it was fun. I'm one of those who think the panel presentation format should be put out to pasture. I have come to loathe the words "paradigm shift" and other phrases of that ilk that have nothing to do with a filmmaker's daily existence. There was an engaged, smart local audience and we let them into the conversation.
So this year CIFF caught fire and I'm so glad I got to be a part of that. It's exciting to have another domestic nonfiction fest in such a beautiful spot, run by such talented people. I call "the princess room" at The Inn at Camden Place. The ducks and swans are awaiting my return next year.
In major distribution news, Jonathan Miller sends word today that his company, Icarus Films, has acquired the 28-year-old educational distributor, Fanlight Productions, and its collection of 350 award-winning films and DVDs on health, mental health, aging and disability issues. Fanlight is one of the leading distributors of independent documentary films on these issues in North America.
Miller's plan is to maintain Fanlight as a free-standing label, but most of their titles will be integrated into the Icarus Films collection. You can visit the Icarus site to see the first fourteen titles, listed under New Releases, by clicking here.
At the '09 Camden International Film Festival award ceremonies this evening at the beautiful Camden Opera House (which preceded the closing night film, Robert Stone's Earth Days), the recipients of the Harrell Award for Best Documentary Feature and the CIFF Award for Emerging Cinematic Vision were announced, with prizes of $1,000 each. The CIFF Award winner also receives a free course at the Maine Media Workshops.
The Harrell Award went to Jean-Pierre Duret and Andrea Santana's Because We Were Born (Puisque Nous Sommes Nés). Camden was the French-Brazilian film's US premiere and it's about to launch its theatrical run in France in a few days. Here's what I and fellow jurors, Ryan Harrington and Dana Rae Warren, had to say about Duret and Santana's exquisite work: "The jury gives Jean-Pierre Duret and Andrea Santana's Because We Were Born the Harrell Award for Best Documentary Feature for its excellence in cinematic craft and for its rigorously pure vérité aesthetic. The filmmakers have created a work that challenges the viewer on many levels. Told with a quiet intensity and deep love and respect for their subjects, in our opinion, this piece represents the best of what nonfiction cinema has to offer."
The CIFF Award went to Patrick Shen's The Philosopher Kings, a journey through the corridors of the most prestigious colleges and universities in America to learn profound life lessons from the custodians that clean and maintain these hallowed halls of academe. You can watch the trailer here.
I will have much more from CIFF in the coming days, along with several film reviews from the outstanding program. Congratulations to Ben Fowlie, Leah Hurley, Dominic Musacchio and the entire festival team for putting on a really magical event. We were duly impressed and look forward to visiting again in the years to come.