Life Itself, Director Steve James

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Acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) and Executive Producers Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Raging Bull) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Moneyball) present LIFE ITSELF, a documentary film that recounts the inspiring and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert – a story that is by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent.Based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, LIFE ITSELF explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert’s life, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times to becoming one of the most influential cultural voices in America. Roger Ebert is a man who most film lovers may think they already know, but Director James joins us to talk about the tenacity and courage of loving husband, dad and intellectual.

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“Profoundly moving. James tells this unapologetic story with little sympathy, as per Ebert’s wishes, and a lot of passion—he wants the audience to really know who Roger Ebert was, and understand the importance of his work. Roger Ebert was a movie lover, and this is the kind of movie he would have loved.” – Chase Whale, Playlist

“DEEPLY ENTRALLING. Documentary master Steve James has put the pieces of Ebert’s life together with extraordinary fascination and vision.” – Owen Gleiberman, EW

“4 STARS. Unusually moving. It gains its universal impact in smaller, earthier revelations.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out NY

“Steve James’ documentary recognizes that Roger Ebert’s genius was that he was not a genius.” – James Roochi,

The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, Director David L. Lewis

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Pleasures profiles legendary jazz writer and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, whose career tracks the greatest cultural and political movements of the last 65 years. The film is about an idea as well as a man – the idea of free expression as the defining characteristic of the individual. Hentoff is a pioneer who raised jazz as an art form and was present at the creation of ‘alternative’ journalism in this country. Pleasures wraps the themes of liberty and identity around a historical narrative that stretches from the Great Depression to the Patriot Act. With a potent mix of interviews, archival footage, photographs and music, the film employs a complex non-linear structure to engage the audience in a life of independent ideas and the creation of an enduring voice. At the core of the film are three extraordinarily intimate interviews with Hentoff, shot by award-winning cinematographer Tom Hurwitz. The film also includes interviews with Floyd Abrams, Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Dan Morgenstern, Aryeh Neier, Karen Durbin, Margot Hentoff and John Gennari, among others. It features music by Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and Charles Mingus, and never-before-seen photographs of these artists and other cultural figures at the height of their powers. Pleasures is designed to engage the audience in a life of independent ideas and the creation of an enduring voice. That is a legacy we cannot ignore. Director David L. Lewis drops by to talk about a fierce defender of the most basic and important American contribution to civil society, free speech.

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“Brisk and engaging… an amused, amusing, endlessly fascinating man.” – Village Voice

“Terrific” – Toronto Star

“Brilliant, thoroughly engaging” – Cinesource Magazine

“This mellow chronicle of Nat Hentoff is like a tour through New York’s past.” – Joe Nuemaier, New York Daily News

Siddharth, Director Richie Mehta

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After sending away his 12 year-old son Siddharth for work, Mahendra (a chain-wallah who fixes broken zippers on the streets) is relieved – his financial burdens will be alleviated. But when Siddharth fails to return home, Mahendra learns he may have been taken by child-traffickers. With little resources and no connections, he travels across India in pursuit, with the hope that whatever force arbitrarily took his child away will return him unharmed. Director Richie Mehta joins us for a conversation on his chance meeting with a man on the streets of Delhi looking for help finding his son and a place called Dongri.

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“Its portrayal of impoverished, careworn people barking at one another and protecting their territory in a daily struggle is bracingly hardheaded.” – Stephen Holden, New York Times

“A disturbing and devastating descent into Third world poverty, exploitation and desperation, more often than not mere backdrop to the social insularity of most other movies. Yet weighing in provocative ways, struggle and exploitation as inevitably bound.” Prairie Miller, WBAI Radio

“For all its scenes of orphans and hardscrabble street life, and its spirit of shrugging helplessness, Siddharth always feels ferociously personal.” Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

“An achingly personal tale of grief and despair amidst the ironies of the modern world, where almost medieval levels of misery live alongside 21st-century horrors.” Flick Filosopher

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Director Brian Knappenberger

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The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz tells the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. The last few years have brought an unprecedented legal crackdown on whistleblowers, activists, leakers and journalists. This film is a personal story of the consequences of that crackdown. It is the story of a tech millionaire forgoing traditional startup culture and putting his programming skills in the service of social justice. Director / Writer and Producer Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists) joins us for a conversation on what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

For news and updates on The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz go to:

“A spellbinding portrait of the Internet whiz kid’s life and political convictions, which were cut short by his suicide in early 2013.” – Geoff Berkshire, Variety

“…gripping advocacy filmmaking that took less than a year, start to finish, and will introduce a much wider audience to the issues behind the life and death of Aaron Swartz.” – Andrew O’Hehir,

“The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz connects the dots of Swartz’s past, assembling a vivid portrait of a sensitive genius with a strong moral sense.” – Chris Packham, Village Voice

“The film is far from a technical matter, fiercely promoting Swartz’s legacy and challenging us with the same questions its central subject was compelled to ask.” – Nick Prigge, Slant Magazine

Manakamana, Co-Directors Stephenie Spray and Pacho Velez

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From the producers of Leviathan, comes a stunning new journey, an exhilarating documentary that takes place entirely in the sky. High above Nepal’s lush, mountainous landscape, a cable car carries pilgrims, villagers and the occasional American tourist to an ancient Hindu temple. For centuries, devoted followers had to undertake an arduous multi-day trek to reach the shrine of the wish-fulfilling goddess Manakamana. Today, the trip takes just under 10 minutes. Filmed entirely inside these cable cars as they glide over fog-enshrouded peaks and remote villages, Manakamana captures the conversations of its passengers – personal exchanges, anecdotes, shared observations on the landscape below – and emerges with a rich, vibrant view of Nepal, a land of ancient traditions and rituals on the brink of a technologically-powered future. Co-Directors Stephenie Spray and Pacho Velez join us to talk about how this gorgeous film veers between profane and sacred, absurd and solemn, intimated and removed.

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“’Manakamana’ is a haunting experience, one that requires patience (and then some) but that offers spiritual, philosophical, and aesthetic rewards beyond the immediate power of words to describe.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe

“By focusing on such a narrow slice of Nepali life, Ms. Spray and Mr. Velez have ceded any totalizing claim on the truth and instead settled for a perfect incompleteness.” – Manohlo Dargis, New York Times

“The directors, Pacho Velez (who did the camera work) and Stephanie Spray (who recorded the sound), condense world history into the confined space of a glassed-in bubble.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice

June 27, 2014 – Bound by Flesh, Director Leslie Zemeckis

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American sideshows were in fairs, circuses and carnivals. There were acts such as glass blowers, musicians, and also the freaks. Most freaks just stood there while the audience wondered past. The Hilton Sisters however were trained to put on an engaging act. They sang, they danced and played a variety of musical instruments. They were “hugely popular.” “Bound By Flesh” explores the American sideshow, its origins and its heyday when the Hilton Sisters were on display for huge “streams” of crowds pouring into the tent to get a glimpse of these “fetching” sisters. The film includes interviews with Ward Hall, known as the “King of the Sideshow.” He is the last of the sideshow promoters in the style of a P.T. Barnum. Director Leslie Zemeckis drops by to talk about the lives of the two women who were subjected to abuse by their handlers and kept out of public view in fear of losing their monetary value and how her film Bound by Flesh begins to restore their rightful legacy.

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“This brilliant, revelatory biography of the conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton is intelligent, mesmerizing and poignant. The Hilton Sisters launched out of darkness, reached astounding global stardom, and then plummeted through more darkness to a spare but luminous peace. “Bound By Flesh” is unforgettable.” – Katherine Dunn, author of “Geek Love”

“Leslie Zemeckis’ poignant and illuminating “Bound by Flesh” is much more that a triumph of astonishingly comprehensive research, but is above all an unforgettably compassionate account of the difficult lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton.” – Kevin Thomas, former Los Angles Times staff writer

“A gripping, roller-coaster tale of showbiz tragedy, Bound By Flesh puts a touchingly human face on two outsiders who went from the lowest rungs of society to the big time and back again.” – Indiewire

Hellion, Director Kat Candler

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Writer/director Kat Candler’s HELLION paints the powerful portrait of a family on the brink of dissolution set against the haunting backdrop of the refineries of Southeast Texas.

Obsessed with heavy metal, dirt bike racing and partaking in the occasional act of vandalism with his band of delinquents, the behavior of 13-year-old Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins in his feature film debut) has begun to raise concerns around town, especially when it starts to involve his younger brother Wes (newcomer Deke Garner). While the boys’ father Hollis (two-time Emmy Award-winner Aaron Paul) loves his sons, he is still reeling from the loss of their mother, spending more time drowning his sorrows at the local bar and working on his damaged beach house than being an active parent. 

When the local authorities catch wind of the increasingly volatile situation, Wes is taken into custody by his Aunt Pam (Academy Award nominee Juliette Lewis), leaving Jacob and Hollis to fend for themselves. In Wes’ absence, Jacob becomes increasingly obsessed with two things: winning a local motocross championship and getting his brother back. Writer / Director Candler drops by to talk about this gritty drama and the great ensemble acting of her cast.

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“Lyrical doesn’t have to be quiet and atonal. With Hellion, Kat Candler proves heavy metal works too… Hellion is beautiful and harrowing. [Wiggins] is a revelation, reminiscent of a teenage Leonardo DiCaprio in his breakout role in This Boy’s Life.”
– Lindsey Bahr, Entertainment Weekly

“An artful exploration of small-town America’s working poor that packs a real emotional punch.”
– Scott Foundas, Variety

“The ability to write and direct in this way is something I don’t see enough of in independent film, and it marks Candler as not just a filmmaker to watch, but one who’s landed, and is here to take us along for the ride with her.”
– Kim Voynar, Movie City News

“Boasts a stunning breakthrough performance from newcomer Josh Wiggins.”
– Peter Debruge, Variety

“This film, and breakout star Wiggins, will break your heart… Filled with insightful writing and directing by Kat Candler that really gets to the heart of father-son-relationships.”
– Erin La Rosa, Buzzfeed

Miss Lovely, Director Ashim Ahluwalia

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Delving deep into the underbelly of India’s film industry, where back-alley producers churn out everything from pulpy horror movies to soft-core porn, MISS LOVELY takes us back to the Mumbai of the 1980s with lurid detail and intoxicating style. Working out of sleazy hotels and abandoned warehouses, brothers Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Vicky (Anil George) are prolific producers of trashy, C-grade films for Mumbai’s booming and underground markets.  The ambitious, domineering Vicky is the unquestioned brains of the operation, leading the dim-witted Sonu deeper into a world of divas, money men and movie-loving gangsters. But this precarious partnership is put to the test when the brothers meet Pinky (Niharika Singh), an exquisite ingénue with a shady past.  Director Ashim Ahluwalia joins us to talk about the hyper-stylized, retro thriller that explores the awful truths of exploitation cinema as well as its strange pleasures.

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I hope we do hear more from Indian director Ashim Ahluwalia, whose lively, fast-and-loose Miss Lovely, about two brothers toiling in the world of Bollywood B-movie and softcore porn production in the Eighties, had an off-kilter, at times delirious first hour and then settled into a pungent story of jealousy, betrayal, and doomed love.” – Gavin Smith, Film Comment

A self-reflective piece of cinematic art that will leave you drained when you leave the cinema – J. Hurtado, Twitch

An Indian film like I’d never seen. Ahluwalia is a very impressive talent. – Jonathan Romney, Sight and Sound

Magnificent! One feels real affection for this sordid universe.” – Le Monde

Spotlight on the Los Angeles Film Fest June 11 – 19

LA Film Fest 2014 II posterNow in its 20th year, running from June 11-19, the Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by Film Independent, showcases diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision in new American and international cinema, and provides the movie loving public with one-of-a-kind events featuring critically acclaimed filmmakers, film industry professionals, and emerging talent from around the world. The Festival’s signature programs include the Filmmaker Retreat, Music in Film at The GRAMMY Museum®, Celebrating Women Filmmakers, Master Classes, Spirit of Independence Award, LA Muse and more. Over 200 features, shorts, and music videos, representing more than 40 countries, make up the main body of the Festival.

Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound – Director William (Joe) Saunders


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Billy Mize pioneered a musical revolution that became known as The Bakersfield Sound, which enjoyed enormous popularity in the sixties, producing such talented artists as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. During the height of Bakersfield’s popularity, Nashville snubbed Billy Mize Film Postertheir loud, electric twang in an attempted to distance itself from rock ‘n’ roll artists, like Elvis Presley, and move to a smoother, acoustic sound. While Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound follows Mize’s personal story, it also defines and explains the Bakersfield Sound. The film explores how Mize made it to the brink of super-stardom, turned it down to be a father, befell horrible tragedy, and climbed his way back into the spotlight. In the prime of his career, just after being nominated for Single Record of the Year (his competition included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Glen Campbell), Mize and his wife, Martha, are beset with horrific personal tragedy.  Director, producer, editor and Mize’s own grandson, William (Joe) Saunders talks about the professional and personal journey that making Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound has been for him and his family.

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Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story – Director NC Heiken


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 Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story tells the story of a prodigal alto sax player who, like so many of his fellow musicians of the era, saw his career plagued by drug Sound of Redemption film posteraddiction. What sets Frank apart is not just his exceptionally beautiful, classic alto playing, but also the amazing fact that he survived 30 years of revolving door incarceration and drug abuse and went on to a much heralded comeback career in the last 22 years of his life. His story is one of brilliant promise in his youth, a journey through the depths of hell, and redemption through his art. Sound of Redemption tells the story of his life and transformation through interviews with fellow musicians and people who were close to him, intercut with footage of Frank, and tracks of his very emotional music. Director NC Heikin joins us for a conversation on the tragedy and triumphs that is Frank Morgan’s story.

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Korengal – Director Sebastian Junger

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Korengal picks up where Restrepo left off; the same men, the same valley, the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war. Korengal explains how war works, what it feels like and what it does to the young men who fight it. As one soldier cheers when he kills an enemy fighter, another looks into the camera and asks if God will ever forgive him for all of the killing he has done. As one soldier grieves the loss of his friend in combat, another explains why he misses the war now that his deployment has ended, and admits he would go back to the front line in a heartbeat. Director Sebastian Junger joins us for a conversation on what went into the decision to revisit the men and the story that began during his year long collaboration with journalist and co-director of Restrepo, Tim Hetherington.

 For news and updates on Korengal go to:

“Korengal” is a collective meditation on military life by many of the same men, looking back on their time in Afghanistan.” – Stephen Holden, New York Times

“Sebastian Junger delivers a worthy companion piece to ‘Restrepo’ with this more reflective dispatch from the front lines of Afghanistan.” – Justin Chang, Variety

“[As] a sequel [to Restrepo], the film provides an illuminating counterpoint […] unpacking “survival” as a process, where it was previously just a noun.” – David Ehrlich, Dissolve

The New Black – Director Yoruba Richen

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The New Black is a documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar—the black church and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda. The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community. Director Yoruba Richen drops by to talk about his hope that after watching “The New Black” people will have a new understanding of the complexity and intersection of race and sexuality.

 For news and updates on “The New Black” go to:

“The New Black is a pushback against the notion that black people are the reason the gay marriage movement was stymied … What emerges is an illuminating look at the ways race, specifically blackness, has been cynically portrayed by the mainstream media.” – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

“By it’s end, there’s a sense of hope, and also of satisfaction that a filmmaker has chosen balance and complexity over spectacle. I recommend you see it.” – Nijla Mumin, Shadow and Act

“As The New Black shows repeatedly and so compellingly, the intersections of faith and identity, community and individuality, are constantly changing, over time and across places.” – Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters

June 13, 2014 – Ivory Tower – Director Andrew Rossi

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As tuition rates spiral beyond reach and student loan debt passes $1 trillion (more than credit card debt), IVORY TOWER asks: Is college worth the cost? From the halls of Harvard, to public colleges in financial crisis, to Silicon Valley, filmmaker Andrew Rossi (PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES) assembles an urgent portrait of a great American institution at the breaking point. Through profiles at Arizona State, Cooper Union, and Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity—among several others—IVORY TOWER reveals how colleges in the United States, long regarded as leaders in higher education, came to embrace a business model that often promotes expansion over quality learning. But along the way we also find unique programs, from Stanford to the free desert school Deep Springs to the historically black all women’s college Spelman, where the potential for life-changing college experiences endure. Ultimately, IVORY TOWER asks, What price will society pay if higher education cannot revolutionize college as we know it and evolve a sustainable economic model? Director Andrew Rossi talks about how we got here and how we can rethink the social fabric that has made college as an important part of the American dream.

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Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case – Director Andreas Johnsen

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After 81 days of solitary detention world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is put under house arrest. He suffers from sleeping disorder and memory loss, 18 cameras are monitoring his studio and home, police agents follow his every move, and heavy restrictions from the Kafkaesque Chinese authorities weigh him down. Journalists, the art world and his family all want a piece of him and on top of that he is hit with a gigantic lawsuit from the Chinese government, which he soon names ‘The Fake Case’. Ai Weiwei is shaken, but during the year on probation he steadily finds new ways to provoke and challenge the mighty powers of the Chinese authorities in his fight for human rights. Ai Weiwei strongly believes that China is ready for change. And he will do everything to make it happen. Director Andreas Johnsen talks about his moving portrait of an artist struggling to express himself in a closed, opaque, mind-controlling society.

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“Remarkably intimate and astute.” – Sheri Linden, LA Times

“Mr. Johnsen offers viewers the challenge and pleasure of an important artist’s company, and a chance to appreciate anew his wisdom, his wit and his bravery.” – A. O. Scott, New York Times

“Johnsen intimately chronicles the fascinating push-pull of Ai’s daily existence: the man he truly is now contrasted with the man he hopes to become once again.” – Christy Lemire,

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia – Director Nicholas Wrathall

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No twentieth-century figure has had a more profound effect on the worlds of literature, film, politics, historical debate, and the culture wars than Gore Vidal. Anchored by intimate one-on-one interviews with the man himself, Nicholas Wrathall’s new documentary is a fascinating and wholly entertaining portrait of the last lion of the age of American liberalism. Gore Vidal’s professional life spans more than 50 years of American politics and letters. His return to America in 2005 marked the last great stage in his creative career and this film represents an extraordinary opportunity to share his view on America in the twenty-first century. Featuring candid vérité footage of Vidal in his final years, the film explores his enduring global impact on art, politics, and everything in between. His overview of the current state of the Republic and the health of US democracy is unique and incisive. This is Gore Vidal’s last word and testimony. Director Wrathall drops by for a conversation on his intimate documentary on one of America’s greatest citizens.

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CRITICS PICK: Immensely enjoyable…invigorating.
 – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

– Wilbert L. Cooper, Vice Magazine

A moving and lively look at one of the great intellectuals of his day.
 – Joshua Brunsting, Criterion Cast

Highly entertaining…a fine memorial to one of 20th-century America’s most brilliant, original — and cranky — thinkers’ – Variety