Under the guidance of acclaimed South African storyteller, Gcina Mhlophe, five orphaned children from Swaziland collaborate to craft a collective fairytale drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams. Their fictional character, LIYANA is brought to life in innovative animated artwork as she embarks on a perilous quest to rescue her young twin brothers. The children’s real and imagined worlds begin to converge, and they must choose what kind of story they will tell – in fiction and in their own lives. This genre-defying film weaves an original animated hero’s journey with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance. LIYANA is a tribute to creativity, the strength of the human spirit, and the healing power storytelling.Critically acclaimed, and executive produced by award-winning actress, Thandie Newton, LIYANA has won more than 25 jury and audience awards and screened at more than 80 film festivals around the world including the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival and MoMA’s Doc Fortnight. Co-directors Amanda and Aaron Kopp join us for a conversation on their enchanting, inspiring and wildly creative film.
Hard headed Louisiana fisherman Thomas Gonzales doesn’t know what will hit him next. After decades of hurricanes and oil spills he faces a new threat – hordes of monstrous 20 pound swamp rats. Known as “nutria”, these invasive South American rodents breed faster than the roving squads of hunters can control them. And with their orange teeth and voracious appetite they are eating up the coastal wetlands that protects Thomas and his town of Delacroix Island from hurricanes. But the people who have lived here for generations are not the type of folks who will give up without a fight. Thomas and a pack of lively bounty hunters are hellbent on saving Louisiana before it dissolves beneath their feet. It is man vs. rodent. May the best mammal win. Rodents of Unusual Size is a documentary by Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer (Everyday Sunshine,The Story of Fishbone). Co-director Jeff Springer join us to talk about the other ‘beast of the Southern wild.”
Rodents is opening in Los Angeles on September 14th through September 19th @ 1:10pm, 3:20pm, 5:30pm, 8:00pm, & 10:10pm at the Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica
Opening night Q&A with filmmakers Chris Metzler, Quinn Costello, and animation director Mike Blum
BEST OF FESTIVAL AWARD – Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival
BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD – UNA George Lindsey Film Festival
BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD – Tupelo Film Festival
SPECIAL JURY AWARD FOR FILMS FOR OUR FUTURE – Mendocino Film Festival
EXCELLENCE IN AMERICAN PROFILES AWARD – SF Docfest
JURY AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY – Oceanside International Film Festival
92% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Rodents of Unusual Size is also a look at how human folly can contribute to environmental disaster, but awareness and ingenuity can help bail us out.” – Peter Keough, Boston Globe
“Depicting the resilience of both the nutria and the Louisianans who’ve endured their presence for many years, Rodents of Unusual Size proves enjoyably quirky and informative.” – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
“… a squirmy, funny, fascinating documentary that mixes history, zoology and social and cultural anthropology to examine the relationship of the giant rat to the bayou Louisianans who hunt, skin and sometimes even eat the dagger-incisored critters.” – John Beifuss, Commercial Appeal
“A bizarre and fascinating documentary that’ll make your jaw drop.” Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News
Directed by Chris Paine and executive produced by Paine and Tiffany Asakawa, Do You Trust This Computer? examines the promises and perils of this developing era. Science fiction has long anticipated the rise of machine intelligence. Today, a new generation of self-learning computers has begun to reshape every aspect of our lives. Incomprehensible amounts of data are being created, interpreted, and fed back to us in a tsunami of apps, personal assistants, smart devices, and targeted advertisements. Virtually every industry on earth is experiencing this transformation, from job automation, to medical diagnostics, even military operations. Do You Trust This Computer? explores the promises and perils of our new era. Will A.I. usher in an age of unprecedented potential, or prove to be our final invention? Featuring influential minds, including but not limited to: former Google Brain co-founder & director Andrew Ng, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva Rana el Kaliouby, Osaka University robotic engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro, engineer & entrepreneur Elon Musk, OpenAI director Shivon Zilis, and co- showrunner of HBO’s Westworld, Jonathan Nolan. Director Chris Paine ((Who Killed The Electric Car?, Revenge of the Electric Car) joins us for a lively conversation on where we are and where we are heading with Artificial Intelligence.
“‘Do You Trust This Computer?’ covers the major talking points about the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence, assembling them into something engaging and alarming – if not exactly in-depth.” – Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times
“A sleek and engaging watch.” – Ken Jaworowski, New York Times
“This documentary covers a wide array of examples of the potentially scary downside of artificial intelligence, none particularly in depth but with enough ingenuity to cause alarm.” – Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media
“here’s a lot to cram into 78 minutes. Director Chris Paine doesn’t waste any time, so you’ll need to pay attention.” – Jennie Kermode. Eye for Film
Us three. Us brothers. Us kings, inseparable. Three boys tear through their childhood, in the midst of their young parents’ volatile love that makes and unmakes the family many times over. While Manny and Joel grow into versions of their loving and unpredictable father, Ma seeks to shelter her youngest, Jonah, in the cocoon of home. More sensitive and conscious than his older siblings, Jonah increasingly embraces an imagined world all his own. With a screenplay by Dan Kitrosser and Jeremiah Zagar based on the celebrated Justin Torres novel, We the Animals is a visceral coming-of-age story propelled by layered performances from its astounding cast of Sheila Vand, Raul Castillo, and three talented, young first-time actors, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel as well as stunning animated sequences which bring Jonah’s torn inner world to life. Drawing from his documentary background, director Jeremiah Zagar creates an immersive portrait of working class family life and brotherhood. Director and screenwriter Jeremiah Zagar joins us to talk about his gorgeous and ethereal tale of young boys struggling to find their own way in a tattered landscape of family and identity.
“Every once in a while a movie grabs you, unsuspecting, and hustles its way into your heart. Jeremiah Zagar’s “We the Animals” does that.” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
“On one level… “We the Animals” is a classic coming-of age tale; on another, it’s a near perfect depiction of the emotional damage that can result from economic insecurity” – Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times
“An impressionistic swirl of a film about masculinity, about abuse, about growing up queer, about chaotic family life, about the jumble of incidents and stirrings through which a child discovers a self. – Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
“In every scene, We the Animals evokes not only the specificity of that world but the deep-seated challenges of escaping it.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Super close Mother Lyn and daughter Iona (Dafty One and Dafty Two) are excited for their new life in a new town. Determined to make a success of things after a tricky start, Iona becomes ‘best friends’ with Keely, Stacey and Chelsea. Used to being Iona’s bestie herself, Lyn feels left out. So Lyn also makes friends with Belinda, her neighbor. As much as Lyn and Iona pretend to each other that things are going great, things aren’t going great for either of them. Iona struggles with the girls, who act more like frenemies than friends, and Belinda won’t give Lyn her stepladders back. Both Mother andDaughter retreat into fantasy and lies. Anchored by two remarkable performances by the film’s leads, Joanna Scanlon (Lyn) and Lily Newmark (Iona) writer / director Deborah Haywood feature film debut confidently delivers a lacerating take on bullying, cruelty and mental illness.
“Pin Cushion is most emotionally piercing in depicting the daily ways in which the world still punishes this loving, mild-as-milk woman for her difference.” – Guy Lodge, Variety
“Writer-director Deborah Haywood makes her feature directorial debut with the surreal and whimsical mother-daughter nightmare Pin Cushion, driven by a singular vision and masterful control of a unique tone, which tiptoes the line of beauty and terror.” – Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times
“The film is like a cross between a crocheted bunny and a nail bomb.” – Wendy Ide, Observer
“Pin Cushion is a whimsical and achingly sad story.” – Emily Sears, Birth.Movies.Death
Street Food Cinema is the ultimate outdoor movie experience! Founded in 2012 by the dynamic husband and wife team of Steve Allison & Heather Hope-Allison, Street Food Cinema has developed a strong community of entertainment and food enthusiasts across Los Angeles. Every Saturday throughout the summer, Street Food Cinema features beloved cult classic movies on a huge 50 foot screen alongside LA’s favorite food trucks like Cousins Maine Lobster, Street Kitchen LA and Churro Stix as well as emerging music artists such as Alex G., Past Action Heroes and The Urban Renewal Project: punctuated with themed audience games hosted by professional comedians to complete the interactive experience. Their Season 6 opener in 2017 was the worlds biggest La La Land screening AND the biggest Street Food Cinema to date at over 5,000 attendees. With their visionary idea to take the outdoor movie experience to fully inclusive night out –they incorporated a variety of fascinating food trucks, pre-movie live entertainment and cool interactive experiences to massive audience appeal in three major markets: Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. Their 7th season offers so many exciting titles, beginning with the incredible 2018 Oscar nominees“Get Out” and “I, Tonya” on May 5th,“The Greatest Showman” on June 16th, “Lady Bird” on July 21st and “Coco” on October 27th. As well as anniversary screenings for beloved fan favorites “Dazed & Confused” starting our season on April 28th, “The Land Before Time” on May 19th, “The Big Lebowski” on June 9th, “Mrs. Doubtfire” on June 16th, “Stand and Deliver” on June 23rd, “The Sandlot” on June 30th, “Grease” on July 21st, “Mamma Mia!” on August 4th, “Casablanca” on August 25th, “The Wedding Singer” on September 1st, “Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist” on September 8th, “Practical Magic” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on September 29th and “Twilight” and the original cult classic “Halloween” on October 13th. We’ll also debut our first double-feature PJ party“The Craft” & “Teen Witch” on September 15th and many more great films. Co-founder of Street Food Cinema Heather Hope-Allison (Steven Allison) joins us to run down the upcoming films, where they will be screening and all of the family-friendly options available to film lovers in Southern California.
The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is a nonprofit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films, supporting emerging filmmakers, and promoting the diverse perspectives of the Indian diaspora. Each year the festival features a rich mix of film programs designed to build and support the growing interest in the Indian entertainment industry. This includes programming that cultivates an audience for Indian films while supporting filmmakers of Indian descent in career development as they navigate the larger studio system in Hollywood. The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, runs from Wednesday, April 11 – 15 at Regal Live in downtown Los Angeles, featuring programs that include One-on-One program where film industry professionals from major and independent production and distribution companies are invited to participate in meetings with the IFFLA filmmakers; and panel discussions with speakers from the film industry. We are joined by IFFLA’sDirector of Programming Mike Dougherty to talk about the past, present and future of Indian cinema and the increasing acceptance among mainstream American film lovers.
Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) is your new hero. A quick-witted, sharp- tongued middle-schooler who isn’t afraid of anything. As the only girl in school carrying an ancient Norse warhammer in her purse and killing giants for a living, why wouldn’t she be? I Kill Giants is the sweeping, bittersweet story of a young girl struggling to conquer monsters both real and imagined as her world crumbles at the feet of giants bigger than any one child can handle.Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Joe Kelly. I Kill Giants features terrific performances from Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots. Academy Award winning director Anders Walter joins us to talk about his clever, creative and emotionally resonant feature film debut.
“This intimate story about a troubled 12-year-old who’s on a mission to save her town is virtually tone perfect.” – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times
“A sweetly imaginative, tenderly played coming of age drama.” – Allan Hunter, Screen International
“The vivid cinematography, affecting performance by Wolfe, and lack of saccharine allow the film to resonate not only with the teen target demographic but older viewers as well.” – James Beradinelli, ReelReviews
“I Kill Giants is a dark piece of work for children, which is far from a bad thing.” – Ann Storm, Film Journal International
“Like its heroine, I Kill Giants isn’t afraid to tackle the darkness or rage of little girls, or their fear and pain.” – Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times
Cinequest has led the world in its showcase and implementation of the innovations that have revolutionized film making, exhibition and distribution. Over 100,000 attend CQFF, yet the three-block proximity of its state-of-the-art venues along with Cinequest’s renowned hospitality, makes the festival experience as warm and personal as it is electrifying. Cinequest presents over 90 World and U.S. premieres with groundbreaking innovations by 700+ participating filmmakers from over 50 countries each year. Set in the home of the world’s most influential media technology companies (Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, LinkedIn etc.) CQFF showcases premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—empowering global connectivity between creators, innovators and audiences. Michael Rabehl has been a member of the Cinequest team since 1994. As the Director of Programming he manages the film selection process for the festival and supervises the programming teams to create a world class line up of films and guests every year. In his role as the Associate Director he is directly involved with the strategic planning of the festival. Michael joins us to talk about the 2018 Conquest film and virtual reality line-up.
Cinequest Film and Virtual Reality Film Festival February 27 – March 11, 2018
“Move over Cannes! Of the more than 4,000 film festivals around the globe, more than half take place on U.S. soil, and many rank among the best of the best. Our panel of film experts, movie buffs and festival gurus were tasked with narrowing down the field to the best 20 film festivals in the nation before we turned it over to USA TODAY and 10Best readers to choose their favorites. After four weeks of voting, we have a winner. Cinequest Voted Best Film Festival!” — USA Today
“Technology always drives the film business. In Cinequest, we have a good window on the future. I think they’re leading the world in this regard.” — Peter Belsito, Executive Vice President, Film Finders
“This festival is one that sets the trends and is actually ahead of the trends. Other festivals are copying Cinequest; I see it all the time.” — Chris Gore, Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide and Film Threat
“At Cinequest you often haven’t heard of the film before you go see it, but the audiences come anyway. That’s a testament to the festival — that audiences are willing to take that leap of faith.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Carter Pilcher founded Shorts International in 2000. Coming from a background in both investment banking and law, Carter has made Shorts International the world’s leading short movie Entertainment Company, functioning as distributor, broadcaster and producer. Carter has extensive experience in short movie production and short movie entertainment. He is a voting member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and a member of the Short Film and Feature Animation Branch of The US Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – the guys who pick the Oscars. Carter, originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, received a B.S. from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a J.D. from Georgetown University, is a member of the New York Bar and attended the London Business School Corporate Finance Evening Program. Carter Pilcher has been and continues to be the highlight of Oscar season here on Film School. His insight, commitment and love of films and filmmaking always makes for a lively and informative conversation on some of the best films you will see all year.
Ela Thier is a critically acclaimed writer, director and actor. She is known for creating dramedies that bring laughter and tears to diverse audiences across racial and socio-economic lines, and unifies audiences across political spectra. Thier’s critically acclaimed Tomorrow Ever After (2017) won numerous major festival awards. After a successful theatrical run Tomorrow Ever After is now available on numerous PPV and VOD platforms including iTunes and Amazon. Her award-winning feature, Foreign Letters, was distributed by Film Movement (2012) and shown at over 140 festivals world-wide. Thier directed over a dozen short films winning numerous Best Short awards. Her film, A Summer Rain, screened at hundreds of venues and became a YouTube sensation. Thier worked as a writer-for-hire on Puncture, starring Chris Evans. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and released by Millenium Films (2011). Thier is a recipient of the Jerome Foundation Film Production Grant (2015), was a nominee of the White House Project Emerging Artist Award (2010), and a recipient of the NYFA Fellowship Grant in Screenwriting (2008). Thier joins us to talk about the multi-platform release of Tomorrow Ever After, filmmaking and her own The Independent Film School workshops.
“My guiding principle has been to create the workshops that I would want to attend. I think back to my beginnings as a filmmaker and I design the workshops that I could have really used: ones that are packed with concrete information made easy to understand, and are super supportive and encouraging. My life would have been easier if I had gotten the encouragement that artists need.” – Ela Their on her Independent Film School workshops
Ela Thier brings a fresh perspective …Thier plays the kooky interloper with the same open and unguarded childlike naiveté as Robin Williams’ beloved alien Mork …Ultimately, “Tomorrow Ever After,” contains a hopeful message that somehow, the world just might end up a better place. – Kate Walsh, LA TIMES
Her writing and direction are resourceful and assured, and her performance is as delightful as it is imbued with political commentary …In its sweet but pointed way, saying a good deal with relatively little, and in unpredictable ways, the film is also a critique of art as corporate product, especially in the realm of sci-fi franchise extravaganzas. – Sheri Linden, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Played with touching insight and natural beauty …provided me with a newfound hopefulness and a new sense of wonder for my fellow humans. – E. Nina Rothe, THE HUFFINGTON POST
Thier’s sensibility offers such a welcome break… inviting audiences to see our modern-day world through fresh eyes. – Peter Debruge, VARIETY
Provocative, funny, intelligent and fiercely political, audiences had better be ready to dive in for the new documentary feature MR. FISH: CARTOONING FROM THE DEEP END. Directed by Pablo Bryant, will have its NYC Premiere at the DOC NYC 2017. In this documentary we discover the dangerously funny cartoonist Mr. Fish, struggling to make a living in an industry that is dying out. In a world where consumerism is king, and opportunities are few, will this uncensored artist find a way to sell his art, or be forced to sell himself out?After a rousing, standing ovation laden World premiere, comes word that director Pablo Bryant’s MR. FISH: CARTOONING FROM THE DEEP END has won the 2017 Hiscox Audience Award for Best documentary at at the Austin Film Festival. Director Pablo Bryant joins us for a lively conversation on free speech, our political culture, and the artistic sensibilities of today’s most scathing and insightful political satirist.
GKIDS, the acclaimed producer and distributor of animation for adult and family audiences, Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the world’s leading animation Festival and Market, and Variety magazine, have announced the launch of ANIMATON IS FILM, an annual animation film festival in Los Angeles. The first edition will run October 20-22 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theater in Hollywood (Mann’s Chinese Theater) with a showcase of 20 programs including feature films in competition, special presentations, retrospectives and short film programs. ANIMATION IS FILM aims to fill a gap in the US market by establishing a world class animation festival on par with the major events in Europe and Asia – and locating it in the world capital of animated filmmaking. The Festival will be a vocal advocatein the heart of Hollywood, for excellence in animation, and for filmmakers who push the boundaries of their art to the fullest range of expression that the medium is capable of. GKIDS and Animation is Film founder Eric Beckmanstops by to talk about his love of animation and the endless possibilities for enriching and entertaining filmmaking contained in it.
Shira Dubrovner, longtime resident of Mammoth Lakes, is a community organizer and leader, arts advocate, and film lover who followed her lifelong passion for cinema to become the founder of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival. Shira is also the Artistic Director of this well regarded theatre company. After her experience creating a successful theatre in Mammoth (established at the Edison Theatre, which will serve as one of the key screening venues during this year’s film festival), she decided to introduce the community to her other passion – independent film – by creating the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.This year’s Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is a five-day festival that screens independent features and shorts in the spectacular setting of Mammoth Lakes—California’s premier mountain resort, high in the Eastern Sierras from May 24 – 28, 2017, Memorial Day weekend. The 3rd Annual Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, taking place in the magnificent mountain setting of Mammoth Lakes, California, has announced its line-up of screenings, which will include premieres, festival favorites and classic films. The five-day festival will take place May 24-28, 2017, beginning on Wednesday with the Opening Night Screening of Cheech and Chong’s much-loved first feature UP IN SMOKE. Tommy Chong, one of its stars as well as its uncredited co-director, will be present for a Q&A after the screening, which is followed by the Gala Opening Night Party at the Sierra Events Center. Saturday evening will feature the SIERRA SPIRIT AWARD CENTERPIECE GALA & SCREENING: A Night with John Sayles.The evening will begin with a screening of his 1983 film BABY IT’S YOU starring Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano, followed by a conversation with Sayles and a presentation of the Sierra Spirit Award. Sayles’s credits include THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, MATEWAN, EIGHT MEN OUT, LONE STAR, and THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH, amongst others. In addition to the two classic films representing the work of Chong and Sayles, an additional 18 features will be screened over the five days of the festival. Feature documentary films in competition will include EIGHT (US Premiere), FOREVER B, (World Premiere), THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES, OLANCHO, RAT FILM, STRAD STYLE and WHAT LIES UPSTREAM. Spotlight Screening Documentaries not in competition will include THE CHALLENGE, DINA, and MACHINES. Feature narrative films in competition will include NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE, WITHDRAWN, SPACE DETECTIVE. Foreign films in competition will include COLD BREATH, THE ERLPRINCE, THE FIXER and THE GREAT UNWASHED (U.S. Premiere). The final Narrative Feature, not in competition, will be the rave-reviewed Sundance hit MENASHE, which has been picked up by A24 for distribution. In addition to the Opening Night Gala and the Sierra Spirit Award Event, there is a Filmmakers Bash on Saturday evening at Rafters featuring the band Jelly Bread and the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, May 27 at the Sierra Events Center. Founder and Director Shira Dubrovner joins us to talk about this year’s festival highlights.
TICKLING GIANTS is a great story about the power of political satire in the face of oppression. In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian. Dubbed, “The Egyptian Jon Stewart,” Bassem creates the satirical show, Al Bernameg. The weekly program quickly becomes the most viewed television program in the Middle East, with 30 million viewers per episode. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart averaged two million viewers. In a country where free speech is not settled law, Bassem’s show becomes as controversial as it popular. He and his staff must endure physical threats, protests, and legal action, all because of jokes. As Bassem attempts to remain on the air, keep his staff safe, and not get arrested, he continues to let those in power know they’re being held accountable. Despite increasing danger, the team at Al Bernameg employ comedy, not violence, to comment on hypocrisy in media, politics, and religion. Directed by Sara Taksler TICKLING GIANTS follows the team of Al Bernameg as they discover democracy is not easily won. The young women and men working on Bassem’s show are fearless revolutionaries, who just happen to be really, really funny. The subject of Tickling Giants, Bassem Youssef joins us for a conversation on the cost and consequences of speaking out.
“Tickling Giants surprises us on several levels. It reveals Egypt’s familiar Arab Spring experience through a lens, that of satiric comedy, which is very different from the way we usually see it. And it has the personal element of Youssef’s involving story.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“Mostly, the movie makes you understand how every society – and ours more than ever – needs people like Bassem Youssef to demonstrate that laughter will always be one of the essential ways to keep power in check.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“There’s a lot to laugh at, and to learn from, in “Tickling Giants,” a documentary that starts off by telling the story of one man and ends up speaking volumes about satire, freedom of expression and political pressure.” – Ken Jaworoski, New York Times
“Media are their own giant, they shape beliefs and create community, instill hope and fear. Perhaps it’s a lesson that will be taken seriously by viewers in the US.” – Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters
It all began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they instead started their own event – Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. 22 years later, Slamdance has become a year-round organization fostering the development of unique and innovative filmmakers. The organization now consists of the Film Festival, Screenplay Competition and Slamdance Studios. It has also created Slamdance On The Road, a traveling theatrical showcase that brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them. Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Peter Baxter are the founding forefathers who, along with co-conspirator Paul Rachman, fought for truly independent filmmakers by giving them a voice in 1995 at the very first Slamdance Film Festival. Since then, the festival takes place every January in the breathtakingly stunning, snow-capped mountains of Park City, Utah at the exact same time as the
Sundance Film Festival, to provide a more authentic representation of independent filmmaking. Up-and-coming writers, directors and producers, alongside seasoned veterans and film lovers, converge for the weeklong celebration of independent cinema, realizing that Slamdance is a great place to find those next, great, visionary films. Slamdance lives and bleeds by its mantra By Filmmakers For Filmmakers. No other film festival in the world is entirely run and organized by the creative force that can only be found in filmmakers. Slamdance adamantly supports self-governance amongst independents, and exists to deliver what filmmakers go to festivals for – a chance to show their work and a platform to launch their careers. The festival has earned a solid reputation for premiering films by first-time writers and directors working within the creative confines of limited budgets.Co-founder and President Peter Baxter joins us to talk about this year’s Slamdance, the groundbreaking films and the innovative new distribution and digital initiatives being launched by Slamdance.
Neil (Michael Johnston) is an introverted, questioning high school freshman. Lacking any friends IRL, his main social outlet is the steamy fan fiction he writes about Vanguard, the brawny, galaxy-hopping hero of a popular sci-fi franchise. When his stories are exposed in class Neil is mortified, but the slightly older, effortlessly cool Julia (Hannah Marks) comes to his defense. An erotic fan fic writer herself, Julia pushes Neil to publish his stories to an online “adult” forum, where they quickly grab the attention of the site moderator, Denis (Michael Ian Black). When Neil is invited to present his work at a comic con live-read event, he has to face the fact that Denis’ interest in him may be more than simply professional… perhaps like his own feelings for Julia. Director Clay Liford stops by to talk about his endearing, beautifully rendered story of angst, creativity and self discovery.
“An effortlessly engaging dramedy that somehow manages to sustain an air of buoyant sweetness even while repeatedly referencing erotic fantasies and sexual anxieties.” – Joe Leydon, Variety
“This sweet-natured coming-of-age movie, written and directed by Clay Liford, is perhaps more complicated than most by having characters whose sexual orientations aren’t settled.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
“Charming and slightly, beautifully dangerous” – BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH
“Effortlessly engaging” – VARIETY
“Grounded, funny, and relatable” – AIN’T IT COOL NEWS
50 years ago on August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas, Austin, Tower, and opened fire at 11:48am, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots finally ceased, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand. In Keith Maitland’s critically acclaimed documentary TOWER, the film’s subject, 18-year-old freshman, Claire Wilson was the first person shot from the Tower. Claire, who was eight months pregnant, was walking with her boyfriend Tom, who reached down to help her; he was struck down as well. For over an hour of the siege, Claire remained exposed to the shooter, conscious and steadily losing blood, while knowing that her boyfriend had been killed and that she lost her baby. TOWER combines archival footage with rotoscopic animation of the dramatic day, based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first documented mass school shooting, in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy. The film highlights the fear, confusion, and visceral realities that changed the lives of those present, and the rest of us, forever – a day when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others. Director Keith Maitland joins us to talk about the mayhem and the courage that marked a day of infamy and prescience that echoes today.
FOR CALL TO ACTION: Twitter Handle: @TOWERfilm – Hashtag: #TOWERtogether – Hashtag: #GetAnimated
“Tower’ isn’t looking back on the tragedy – it’s living in it, a tick-tock of an afternoon’s terror, as uncertain of its causes or its outcome as the people on the UT campus were that afternoon.” – Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
“I rarely, if ever, use the cliche “a must-see movie,” but in this case it’s entirely apropos.” – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
“A piece about adrenaline, bravery, grief and memory that stands as one of the year’s crowning achievements in emotional, illuminative storytelling.” – Robert Adele, The Wrap
“Maitland crafts an absorbing account of the circumstances surrounding the massacre, setting aside the analysis of Whitman’s motives (he also killed his wife and mother) for others to dissect.” – Eric Kohn, Indiewire
On January 9, 2006 the New York Times sent shockwaves through the literary world when it unmasked “it boy” wunderkind JT LeRoy, whose tough prose about his sordid childhood had captivated icons and luminaries internationally. It turned out LeRoy didn’t actually exist. He was dreamed up by 40-year-old San Francisco punk rocker and phone sex operator, Laura Albert. Director Jeff Feuerzeig’s AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY takes us down the infinitely fascinating rabbit hole of how Laura Albert – like a Cyrano de Bergerac on steroids – breathed not only words, but life, into her avatar for a decade. Albert’s epic and entertaining account plunges us into a glittery world of rock shows, fashion events, and the Cannes red carpet where LeRoy becomes a mysterious sensation. As she recounts this astonishing odyssey, Albert also reveals the intricate web spun by irrepressible creative forces within her. Her extended and layered JT LeRoy performance still infuriates many; but for Albert, channeling her brilliant fiction through another identity was the only possible path to self-expression. Director Jeff Feuerzeig join us for a lively conversation on how Laura’s life, her traumas and innate brilliance made JT Leroy such a hugely fascinating saga, on and off the screen.
Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny takes the viewer from the Academy Awards for the acclaimed, Boyhood, and an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Linklater’s latest film, Everybody Wants Some. Throughout the film, Richard Linklater himself addresses his own life at mid-career point, at times while embarrassed and shy. He tells of the influential array of filmmakers, playwrights and criminals that continue to form his own independent work, and the philosophical modalities which have guided the path; all in conversation with Louis Black, an Austin-based journalist who has known him since the 1980’s. Other interviews include Ethan Hawke, Jack Black, Jonathan Demme, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Adair and Julie Delpy, members of the Linklater family, Clark Walker and more. Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny was produced for PBS’ American Masters series is an unusual look at a fiercely independent style of filmmaking that arose from Austin, Texas in the 1980s/ early 90’s.It is an unconventional look at how Linklater’s films of that period, Slacker, Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise, sparked a low budget, in your own backyard movement in this country and around the world.Co-directors and co-producers Louis Black and Karen Bernstein joins us for a spirited conversation on what makes Richard run, the early days of the Austin film scene and how Linklater has influenced and mentored many of the independent film world’s brightest talents.
“It’s shamelessly partial but also warmly pleasurable, partly because Mr. Linklater is an engaging and humble conversationalist who moves easily to the beat of his own soundtrack.” – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times
“A documentary portrait of the director of ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’ is full of revealing offscreen footage as well as a pinpoint feeling for the filmmaker’s visionary humanism.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Warm, familial and unhurried portrait of the great Austin auteur provides a good overview of an underappreciated director’s work and unusual approach.” – Chris Barsanti, Film Journal International
“Black and Bernstein understand what it is that makes Linklater so curious, and in chronicling his career in such a clear and entertaining way, they’ve put together a worthwhile and winning portrait of a very special filmmaker.” – Adam Chitwood, Collider
Inventive and wildly fun, NUTS! recounts the unbelievable true story of John Romulus Brinkley, a Kansas doctor who in 1917 discovered that he could cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. From there, the story only gets more bizarre. Mixing hand-drawn animated reenactments, interviews, archival footage, and a very unreliable narrator, NUTS! traces Brinkley’s rise from poverty and obscurity to the heights of celebrity, wealth, and influence. Along the way, he transplants thousands of goat testicles, amasses an enormous fortune, is (sort of) elected Governor of Kansas, invents junk mail and the infomercial, builds the world’s most powerful radio station, and generally annoys the heck out of the establishment. Filmmaker Penny Lane has skillfully borrowed a page from her subject – charming viewers into believing the unbelievable, building their trust and excitement, until the final chapter bares the painful truth and reveals the doctor for what he truly was. NUTS! reminds us that our love of (and need for) compelling narratives is exactly what makes us so endlessly susceptible to being conned. Director Penny Lane stops by for a conversation on Brinkley, our collective need to believe in something and any contemporary parallels to be drawn from this bizarre story.
NUTS! had it’s World Premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing.
“Mixing droll animation, stock footage and a restrained number of talking head interviews, the director Penny Lane’s biography has all the whimsy of a tall tale, until a late change in tone surprises with genuine emotion.Nuts! is really a kick.” – The Guardian
“Don’t let the synopsis fool you, there’s much more here than a simple movie about a guy who likes to put goat balls in people…[Lane] explores the peculiar and undeniably fascinating story of Brinkley in what is easily an early contender doc of the year…Nuts! is a film you’ll definitely want to check out.” – Film Pulse
“Penny Lane is a documentarian who blends the archival with the personal in powerfully emotive ways… [she] is now firmly ensconced as a leading voice among her documentary filmmaking peers. “ – Vimeo
“What won’t spoil the film is my spewing praise for Lane’s craft… Lane is the answer to a question more people should be asking: who’s the great documentarian of this generation?” – The Verge
“In keeping with a recent trend in documentary filmmaking, nontraditional, sometimes controversial storytelling techniques will be on full display, Mr. Cooper said. The director Penny Lane, for instance, uses animated re-enactments and “one seriously unreliable narrator” to trace the “mostly true” story of a man who found success selling a goat-testicle impotence cure..” – New York Times
Riding at night through streets deemed dangerous in Eastside Los Angeles, the Ovarian Psycos use their bicycles to confront the violence in their lives. At the helm of the crew is founder Xela de la X, a single mother and poet M.C. dedicated to recruiting an unapologetic, misfit crew of women of color. The film intimately chronicles Xela as she struggles to strike a balance between her activism and nine year old daughter Yoli; street artist Andi who is estranged from her family and journeys to become a leader within the crew; and bright eyed recruit Evie, who despite poverty, and the concerns of her protective Salvadoran mother, discovers a newfound confidence. Co-directors Joanna Sokolowski & Kate Trumbull-LaValle stop by to talk about the boldness of Ovas’ politics, their brazen approach to feminism, and unapologetic aesthetic: a hybrid mix of Chicana, Riot Grrrl, Zapatista and militant-punk cultural markers and the individual personalities that make Ovarian Psycos such a compelling watch.
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (“Music by Prudence”), is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. This emotional coming-of-age documentary follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three-year-old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent—and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires. Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him. Life, Animated evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with vérité scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality. Director and Producer Roger Ross Williams (God Love Uganda) joins us to talk about the challenge of presenting a balanced portrait of Owen Suskind and his family.
Winner of the Audience Award – San Francisco Film Festival
Winner of the Audience Award – Full Frame Film Festival
Winner of the Directing Award – Sundance Film Festival, Life, Animated
“A captivating portrait of a young man for whom Disney animated movies have provided a powerful lifeline to progress, language and understanding. – Justin Chang, Variety
“Williams smartly devotes large portions of the documentary to Owen on his own, letting him explain his fears himself rather than relying on the other Suskinds for clarification and translation. – Noel Murray, A.V. Club
“Incredibly moving documentary takes us into the interior life of an autistic person, and explores how films helped him communicate with the outside world.” – Lanre Bakare, The Guardian
“Instead of false hope, it offers up possibility, the chance of a stimulus that might get past the blocks of developmental disorder.”- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is a zany tale of a defiant city kid, Ricky, raised on hip-hop and foster care, gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family. Equal parts road comedy and rousing adventure story, director Taika Waititi (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, upcoming THOR: RAGNORAK) masterfully weaves lively humor with emotionally honest performances by Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House and Julian Dennison. A hilarious, touching crowd-pleaser, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE reminds us about the journey that growing up is (at any age) and those who help us along the way. Producer Carthew Neal (Tickled, A Band Called Hook Ups) joins us to talk about how Barry Crump’s classic book, Wild Pork and Watercress found its way into the hands of the talented director and writer Taika Waititi and onto the screen.
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” takes a troika of familiar story types – the plucky kid, the crusty geezer, the nurturing bosom – and strips them of cliché.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“Every once in a while, a small, unheralded film comes along, so smart and funny, such a pleasure to experience, you can’t believe your luck. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is such a film.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times
“It’s off-beat in all the best ways, has fantastic actors all delivering fantastic performances, and is a uproarious adventure with endless heart.” – CinemaBlend.com
“An oddball and oddly affecting take on two misfits finding their metaphorical partner-in-crime match.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone
In a madcap art world obsessed with money, fame and hype, how does an artist driven by justice, defiance and his own singular style thrive? ART BASTARD is the rousing tale of a rebel who never fit into today’s art world… yet has become one of its most provocative, rabble-rousing characters nevertheless. At once a portrait of the artist as a young troublemaker, an alternate history of modern art and a quintessential New York story, ART BASTARD is as energetic, humorous and unapologetically honest as the uncompromising man at its center: Robert Cenedella. Cenedella was a contemporary of Andy Warhol. But he has essentially served as the anti-Warhol. His noisy, raucous, color-splashed paintings of city scenes approach the world with a sincerity that defies the irony, frivolity and controversy-for-the-sake-of-controversy that have become the cultural currency since the 60s. In a fast-moving series of riveting interviews with family members, art critics, museum directors, New York power brokers, art students and Cenedella himself, director Victor Kanefsky candidly presents Cenedella’s personal journey – and reveals the creation of a modern art career that ignored all the modern art rules. What ART BASTARD shows, in stunning cinematic detail, are the living, breathing, storytelling canvases that Cenedella has created for six decades. The result is a visceral art documentary that also has the sweeping impact of a feature film – at once an investigation of a man’s identity, an inquiry into what art is and who it’s for and a feisty portrait of the ups and downs of a life lived on one’s own terms. The artist and subject of ART BASTARD, Robert Cenedella joins us for a spirit discussion of love, life and art.
Artist Robert Cenedella and ART BASTARD executive producer Chris Concannon will participate in Q&A’s at the Monica Film Center following the 7:30 PM screenings on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, as well as after the 2:30 and 5 o’clock screenings on Saturday the 18th.
“An intimate portrait of the iconoclastic artist Robert Cenedella… Socially conscious and often mordantly humorous, the paintings are wonderfully exhibited in this film which benefits from being seen on the big screen.” –Frank Scheck, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“THE BEST FILM ABOUT ART I HAVE SEEN… A scintillating, visually splendid look at the life and satirical work of socially conscious, talented and articulate art rebel Robert Cenedella. The art establishment should take a fresh look at Cenedella’s work, which certainly deserves a major, reflective New York exhibition at this point in time.” – William Wolf, wolfentertainmentguide.com
**Winner – Best Documentary – 2016 Manchester Film Festival**
**Winner- Best Documentary, Best Director – 2016 IDYLLWILD**
**Winner – Focus on Art Award – 2015 Orlando Film Festival**
**Winner – Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Creativity – 2015 Utopia Film Festival