The Spring 2010 issue of Documentary magazine, the publication of the International Documentary Association, focuses on festivals and film distribution--two things of which I know a thing or two.
But only a thing or two. Now on newsstands, the issue also features articles by associate editor, Tamara Krinsky, producer, David Becker, filmmaker, Adrian Belic, and curator, Kathy Brew. Documentary.org has kindly reprinted my article that leads the section called "Rethinking the Film Festival" where I talk to many of the top programmers about the current fest landscape.
So having just returned from True/False (coverage on Hammer to Nail in a bit, as soon as my jet lag abates--from Europe still, I think!) and heading to SXSW next week, and also working on distribution strategies and theatrical runs for a few more films this season, it's something with which I occupy a great deal of my time. Why we don't know; but I like it. So enjoy--here's the link. Unfortunately, the web version doesn't include all the pretty pictures, but happy reading, anyway.
I offer a post of interesting (at least to me) miscellany before holiday party madness starts in earnest. I hope you all have a bright, shiny season ahead of you filled with laughter, love and good cheer. And latkes.
First off, if you'd like to watch the New York Film / Video Council presentation and panel discussion I moderated at DCTV last month with PBS' Channel 13, UnionDocs and 12films12weeks, you can view it on the Thirteen Forum here. The actual panel discussion that follows the different participant presentations starts about 45 minutes in.
In Los Angeles on Monday the 14th, the International Documentary Association hosts an evening with Sundance Institute's Cara Mertes at its last Doc U session of 2009 at the Kodak Screening Room in Hollywood. Don't miss this opportunity to engage with one of the most knowledgeable, charismatic and eloquent speakers about international independent documentary. Mertes has a truly global perspective and is incredibly passionate about nonfiction storytelling. I always am so inspired after listening to her. She also plans on bringing a sneak peek of an upcoming Documentary Film Program project scheduled to screen at the Sundance fest next month. Click here for event details and to reserve yourself a spot.
Monday night here in New York brings a very special program courtesy of the Flaherty Film Seminar. Join them as they present films produced by WITNESS and discuss the impact of some recent advocacy videos produced by grassroots international human rights defenders. Founded in 1992, WITNESS has empowered many ordinary citizens to use a video camera to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, transforming personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for change. Join several filmmakers and representatives from WITNESS at 7:30 at Anthology Film Archives.
Never let it be said that we have lack of choice in our fair city because also on Monday evening, Shooting People will host a screening at DCTV of HomeGrown by Robert McFalls. Annie Kovak (voted cutest farmer on Huffington Post!) will host a Skype Q&A with the founder of the homegrown revolution project on which the film focuses. Click here for more info.
And speaking of organic-osity, at Anthology on Tuesday night the 15th at 7:30 p.m., is a really yummy event. The Hungry Filmmakers collective will host an evening featuring excerpts from six upcoming food-oriented films followed by a Q&A and panel discussion moderated by food activist and author, Anna Lappé. Then join in an after-party with hors d'oeuvres served from local and sustainably-minded food and beverage purveyors at the Good Beer Seat bar, Jimmy's No. 43. The films featured will be What's Organic About Organic? by Shelley Rogers, Big River and Truck Farm by Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney (the hottest thing on a dance floor since John Travolta), The Greenhorns by Severine von Tscarner Fleming, Grown in Detroit by Manfred and Mascha Poppenk, Faces from the New Farm by Liz Thylander, Kat Shiffler and Lara Sheets, and an untitled film on climate change and food systems by Sara Grady. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to nonprofit, Just Food, which works to promote access of fresh, seasonal, sustainably-grown food for all NYC residents. How lovely of them.
That same evening on the west side at the IFC Center, Thom Powers screens the documentary of the astounding story of Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis created by Michel Negroponte called I'm Dangerous With Love. Both director and subject will be there for a post-screening Q&A with Powers followed by the regular post-STF schmooze at 99 Below on MacDougall Street.
Lastly, I'd like to give a mention to The Hunger Season screening on Thursday, December 17 at 7:30 p.m., hosted by Working Films and Chicken & Egg. They invite people to come join them at Story Leads to Action--a monthly series at the 92YTribeca Screening Room. The Hunger Season is a feature documentary directed by Beadie Finzi (Only When I Dance) which asks why, despite the massive UN food aid program, we still haven't figured out how to solve the hunger problem in this world. The film, shot over the course of a year in Swaziland, the US and Europe, follows young teacher, Justice, and the children in his care in southern Africa, while also investigating the system of international humanitarian food aid, charting the chain of decision-making involved in how food aid is distributed, and to whom. You can purchase tickets by clicking on the first link in this paragraph.
For a limited engagement, this beautiful documentary will play at the IFC Center here in New York for one week only starting tonight and going through Tuesday the 17th. Visit the IFC's site for showtimes and ticket information. Read Ella Taylor's laudatory review published today in the New York Times. Also, read the great interview director, Andrew Jacobs, did for the Tribeca Film blog.
Because the 8:00 p.m. screening tonight is reserved for the Lodgers and their families and friends, it is sold out; however, there are many other screenings today and throughout the week and weekend. Director, Andrew Jacobs and other special guests will be on hand all week for post-screening Q&As and discussion. Throughout the week, we will have special co-hosts for the 8:00 p.m. screenings--Thursday, Reboot, Friday, Shooting People, Saturday afternoon at the 1:00 p.m. show will bring in the folks from UnionDocs and Saturday evening, composer Eric Lewis will be in the house, Sunday afternoon The Catskills Institute will host two screenings along with special panel discussions at a local eatery, and Sunday evening will be hosted by Felix Endara of DocuClub. On Tuesday night, from 5:30 to 8:30, there will be a party and fundraiser thrown by Jackie Leitzes, granddaughter of Lodger, Genya Boyman, at The Dove Parlor on Thompson Street.
For those in Los Angeles and Boston, FSL opens on the 11th of December at the Coolidge Corner Theatre (there is an advance members-only free screening, Sunday, December 6 at 11:00 a.m.), and at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino. More cities might be added soon. The film is being distributed by First Run Features; visit the FRF website for more information, to request a screening of Four Seasons Lodge in your town, and to order an advance copy of the DVD.
For the IDA's next session in their Doc U series at the Kodak Screening Room in Hollywood this Thursday the 23rd at 7:00 p.m., the topic will be music scoring for documentary film, a vital component for any production.
Composer Miriam Cutler and filmmaker Lisa Leeman will be on hand to discuss their most recent collaboration for the upcoming feature documentary, One Lucky Elephant, the epic story of one man's journey to find a permanent home for a 26-year-old elephant named Flora, a creature he adopted after she was orphaned when the herd to which she belonged was culled. To read more about the film, click here.
Attendees will get to observe the creative process and a professional collaboration in action as Cutler and Leeman share their expertise in how to create an effective dialogue between filmmaker and composer, the optimal time to bring in a composer on a project, and choosing the best music collaborator possible. Licensing issues will also be discussed, as well as budgeting for a score for a feature-length piece, making the most out of temp music, and the role of the composer during post-production--lots of great practical and useful info.
Cutler has scored prolifically for independent film and television projects--as well as for two circuses! She focuses almost exclusively on nonfiction and has scored films such as Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Thin, Chris and Don: A Love Story, China Blue, Lost in La Mancha, and many more. She also has served as an advisor for the Sundance Institute Documentary Composers Lab and sat on juries for the Sundance Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Awards and the AFI Film Festival.
Leeman (a personal mentor, and a hell of a teacher) writes, produces, directs and edits documentary films and has also served as a judge for Sundance, is a past president of the IDA, and sits on the board of the IDA and the National Coalition of Independent Public Broadcasting Producers. Her first documentary, Metamorphosis: Man Into Woman (released in 1990), won the Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance, among other prizes, and was broadcast on P.O.V. She has also co-directed alongside Haskell Wexler on the film Who Needs Sleep?, and most recently directed a feature doc called Out of Faith. She is on the faculty of USC's School of Cinematic Arts and has taught documentary filmmaking in China and Jordan.
Visit the IDA site to register now and purchase an advance ticket since this is sure to sell out fast.
This Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11, Rooftop Films will be showcasing two wonderful documentaries in Brooklyn as part of their '09 summer screening series.
First up, on Friday night, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly will present their inspiring and award-winning film, The Way We Get By. Through greeting troops at the Bangor International Airport in Maine, a major US military deployment hub, three senior citizens not only transform their own lives, but touch thousands of others' lives, as well. I've dropped into several Q&As for this at various festivals and audiences are always just completely over the moon--not a dry eye in the house. Gaudet's and Pullapilly's first feature project has had a bountiful festival run and this will be the second time it has exhibited in the Big Apple. (Thom Powers showed it as part of his Stranger Than Fiction series this past spring.) You can read my laudatory review on the film here. Festivities will be on the lawn of Automotive High School in Williamsburg. Doors open at 8 for the regular drill: fabulous crowd, great live music from a local band, great film, after party with free drinks at Matchless on Manhattan Ave. Click here to order tickets.
Gaudet and Pullapilly are also gearing up for the film's theatrical release débuting at the IFC Center here in New York on Friday, July 17, with the filmmakers in attendance at selected screenings throughout opening weekend. Visit their website for more information and to read about the other special events throughout the week-long run with one of their outreach partners, Operation Homefront. They currently have dates set for runs in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall (August 14) and in Boston at the Museum of Fine Art (August 27). Repeat after me: a successful New York opening weekend will enable the film to exhibit at more theaters across the nation!!
On Saturday night, Rooftop will present Bill Ross and Turner Ross' feature début, 45365, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year's SXSW festival in Austin (the film's premiere), recipient of an honorable mention nod for the HBO Emerging Filmmaker Award at Full Frame, and a special jury prize at the Newport International Film Festival. Many, many people think this is an exquisite movie-going experience. I would be one of them. A grandly cinematic piece, it's meant to be seen on a big screen. So here's your chance to go see it on one.
Over the course of nine months, the brothers Ross shot this graceful and colorful portrait of their hometown of Sidney, Ohio--the title is the town's postal code. We, as viewers, get to sit back and let imagery, from the sublime to the mundane, wash over us in a sensorial kaleidoscope of sound and vision. It's a strangely relaxing experience with small jolts of exhilaration and glee. There is no omniscient voice intoning inane (nor poetic) recitations about life in a small town on the soundtrack; there are no talking head interviews; there is really no discernible plot line. What the film does contain are snapshots crafted to make the most of the mood and timbre and rhythm of a place and its inhabitants.
Even if one was raised in the middle of a big, bustling city, there is some weird kind of universal nostalgia evoked through the lens of these native small-town sons. Like the place it photographs, the camera's gaze is wide-open and friendly, most times keeping a polite distance while picking up intimate details in an oblique way (except for scenes like the full-on smooch in a bar, which is unabashedly voyeuristic, and the pulse-pounding physicality of the running-with-the-bulls shots at the football game). The sound design is quite sophisticated, providing a contrapuntal element in both rhythm and harmony to the visual panorama, the passing snippets of vérité interwoven with transcendent sequences of flight and fancy. There is a whole sequence shot on an amusement park ride that is absolutely thrilling in its beauty, creating an integration between "real life" and "art" that is evocative of first crushes and first drunken kisses and first rollercoaster rides and all those other seminal and intense human experiences we all hope we can recall over and over again, even into our dotage. I can't think of a better summertime movie.
45365 will be distributed through 7th Arts Releasing. The film will also be exclusively screened for one week starting Friday, July 31st on the SnagFilms.com Distribution Network, the second film of its online summer fest.
Two, two, two mints in one: On the IDA site, a wonderful chat between SILVERDOCS' artistic head, Sky Sitney, and IDA's Tamara Krinsky. There's also a fresh post from moi on the FILMMAKER site about the upcoming fest (starts Monday, in fact, damn). More and more friends keep writing me that they'll be there and that makes me quite happy. And most of those friends are filmmakers with films in the fest so I'm keeping good company, apparently. Very brilliant work out there, boys and girls, thank you from the bottom of my black little heart.
If you really want to delve deep, you can also read my interview with Sky on this blog. I'm really looking forward to this. See you in Discovery Land. Lots of reasons for drinking there.
The International Documentary Association is presenting an evening with Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Ross Kauffman, as part of their '09 Doc U seminar series in Los Angeles, home of IDA's headquarters.
Marjan Safinia, member of the Board of Directors of the IDA and co-host of The D-Word Community (which you should join if you're at all involved in nonfiction cinema), will moderate a special evening with Kauffman as he talks about the journey making Born Into Brothels, his very first film, co-directed with Zana Briski, which went on to garner an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary in 2005. Kauffman's latest jewel, In a Dream, which he exec produced, was shortlisted for the '09 Oscars, and he is the cinematographer of Senain Kheshgi and Geeta V. Patel's Project Kashmir. No slouch, our Ross.
You can register by clicking here for the Thursday June 11 event at the Kodak Screening Room in Hollywood. Keep checking the IDA site and this blog for information on upcoming Doc U sessions: next one up will be Thursday, July 9.