MADS BRUGGER, director of THE AMBASSADOR

 

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A strange, enigmatic and decadent white European, who looks like a mixture of Henry Stanley and Karl Lagerfeld, arrives in the former French colony the Central African Republic (CAR) with diplomatic credentials to spearhead a diplomatic mission representing Liberia. Working hand in hand with his charge d’affaires, a local man named Paul, our diplomat fights his way up the social ladder of this desperate and crumbling African country equipped only with a diplomatic passport and ‘envelopes of happiness’.

The Ambassador is a genre-breaking, tragic comedy about the bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin-tonics flow on a daily basis and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free. It conveys revealing insights into how the elite of an archetypical corrupt and devastated African country really works and functions. It deals with racial tensions in a refreshing new way and it will cause a shift in the vast reserve of diamonds.

Director Mads Brugger has been called the most dangerous filmmaker in the world. This Danish journalist, TV host, author and filmmaker will joins us to talk about his distinctive methods and this amazing undertaking on this Friday’s Film School.

RON FRICKE, director and Mark Magidson, producer of SAMSARA

 

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Expanding on the themes they developed in Baraka (1992) and Chronos (1985), Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Shot in spectacular 70 mm film, Samsara is neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, it takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation. Samsara was shot in about 100 locations in 25 countries, and took four years to make. Director Ron Fricke will be joining us to talk about the motivation and challenges that went into the making of this powerful film.

DONALD GOLDMACHER, director of HEIST

 

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Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? reveals how American corporations orchestrated the dismantling of middle-class prosperity through rampant deregulation, the outsourcing of jobs, and tax policies favoring businesses and the wealthy. The collapse of the U.S. economy is the result of conscious choices made over thirty five years by a small group: leaders of corporations and their elected allies, and the biggest lobbying interest in Washington, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. To these individuals, the collapse is not a catastrophe, but rather the planned outcome of their long, patient work. For the rest of the country, it is merely the biggest heist in American history. The co-directors, Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher will stop by to talk the hard truth contained in this wake up call to the American people.

CRAIG ZOBEL, director of COMPLIANCE

 

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When a police officer tells you to do something, you do it. Right?

Based on true events, COMPLIANCE tells the chilling story of just how far one might go to obey a figure of authority. On a particularly busy day at a suburban Ohio fast food joint, high-strung manager Sandra (Ann Dowd (Garden State) receives a phone call from a police officer saying that an employee, a pretty young blonde named Becky (newcomer Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a customer. Convinced she’s only doing what’s right, Sandra commences the investigation, following step-by-step instructions from the officer at the other end of the line, no matter how invasive they become. As we watch, we ask ourselves two questions: “Why don’t they just say no?” and the more troubling, “Am I certain I wouldn’t do the same?”

The second feature from director Craig Zobel (the man behind the 2007 Sundance hit Great World of Sound), COMPLIANCE recounts this riveting nightmare in which the line between legality and reason is hauntingly blurred. Craig will join us for a conversation on the uneasy issues posed by this harrowing tale.

MALIK BENDJELLOUL – director of SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

 

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Rodriguez was the greatest ’70s U.S. rock icon who never was. His albums were critically well-received, but sales bombed, and he faded away into obscurity among rumors of a gruesome death. However, as fate would have it, a bootleg copy of his record made its way to South Africa, where his music became a phenomenal success. In a country suppressed by apartheid, his antiestablishment message connected with the people.

When his second album finally gets released on CD in South Africa, two fans take it as a sign, deciding to look into the mystery of how Rodriguez died and what happened to all of the profits from his album sales. Since very little information about the singer exists, they meet many obstacles until they uncover a shocking revelation that sets off a wild chain of events that has to be seen to be believed. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Festival’s World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize and the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary, Searching for Sugar Man is a story of hope, inspiration, and the resonating power of music. Director Malik Bendjelloul talks about his own search that led to the re-discovery of a remarkable artist.

DANIELLE GARDNER, director of OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY

 

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Danielle Gardner’s 9/11 documentary “Out of the Clear Blue Sky,” a behind-the-scenes, intimate story of the devastation of 9/11, will screen at DocuWeeks 2012 (NewYork: August 10-16; Los Angeles: Aug 17–23).

The film delves into the untold story of Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm that occupied the top five floors of the World Trade Center and lost 658 of their employees (almost twice the casualties of the Fire Department of New York) in the 9/11 tragedy. Gardner’s brother Doug was one of those employees, giving the documentary both a personal touch and unmatched insight through interviews with family members as well as Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick. Danielle talks about how her riveting film and the ways a very public tragedy has become a very personal journey.

ALISON KLAYMAN, director of AI WEIWEI – NEVER SORRY

 

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Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention. AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY is the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Director Alison Klayman talk to us about her detailed portrait  of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.