Vegas Baby, Director Amanda Micheli

 

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Executive Producer Morgan Spurlock presents director Amanda Micheli’s provocative documentary follows several aspiring parents who desperately want to have a baby but are struggling with infertility and the high cost of treatments. They place themselves in the hands of a Las Vegas doctor and his annual contest, which offers a prize of a free round of in-vitro fertilization—with no guarantee of success. Contestants post their video entries on YouTube, counting on the votes of strangers to make their dreams of parenthood come true. Despite the fact that 1 in 6 couples worldwide are unable to naturally conceive and carry a baby to term, for fear of judgment or heartache or both, infertility stories are largely kept secret. While exposing private pain online to win a contest is a brutal proposition, IVF is rarely covered by insurance in the U.S., so many infertile couples consider this a gamble worth taking. Through this controversial contest, VEGAS BABY navigates the complexities of America’s burgeoning fertility industry and unveils the class disparity within a topic that is often clouded by judgment and stereotypes.Oscar-nominated Director Amanda Micheli joins us to talk about the universal themes of desire and loss through her intimate portrait of the diverse individuals – from a devoutly Catholic Latino couple in Texas to a lesbian Lady Gaga Impersonator in New York – determined to have a baby against all odds.

For news and updates go to: Vegas Baby

“Through a humane, emotional examination of the contest… director Amanda Micheli’s documentary highlights the complexities and despair of America’s fertility industry.” – Joe McGovern / Entertainment Weekly

“The economic and emotional costs of in vitro fertilization are powerfully evident from the first moments of VEGAS BABY… having gained remarkable access to fertility patients over a two-year period, Micheli follows them through roller-coaster waves of despair and hope.” – Sheri Linden / Hollywood Reporter

“VEGAS BABY offers a look inside an otherwise intensely private sphere, marked by economic difficulties, raw emotions, and—with luck—confetti-strewn celebrations.” – Laura Regensdorf / Vogue

“New IVF Doc Exposes Underground World of Hunger Games-Esque Baby Raffles; Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY explores a digital-age concept for women failing to conceive.” – Elissa Strauss / Elle

“Micheli turns an unrelenting eye on tough stories that transcend sex and gender.” – Kate Erbland / Indiewire

Food Evolution, Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy

 

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Amidst a brutally polarized debate marked by passion, suspicion and confusion, FOOD EVOLUTION, by Academy Award®-nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy (The Garden, Fame High, OT: Our Town), explores the controversy surrounding GMOs and food. Traveling from Hawaiian papaya groves, to banana farms in Uganda to the cornfields of Iowa, the film, narrated by esteemed science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, wrestles with the emotions and the science driving one of the most heated arguments of our time. In the GMO debate, both pro and anti camps claim science is on their side. Who’s right? FOOD EVOLUTION shows how easily misinformation, confusion and fear can overwhelm objective analysis. How do we ensure that our food supply is safe, and that everyone has enough to eat? How do we feed the world while also protecting the planet? Has genetic engineering increased or decreased pesticide use? Are GMO foods bad for your health? And, most importantly, what data, evidence and sources are we using to approach these important questions? Enlisting experts such as Mark Lynas, Michael Pollan, Alison Van Eenennaam, Jeffrey Smith, Andrew Kimbrell, Vandana Shiva, Robert Fraley, Marion Nestle and Bill Nye, as well as farmers and scientists from around the world, this bold and necessary documentary separates the hype and emotion from the science and data to unravel the debate around food, and help audiences reach their own conclusions. In a debate in which all sides claim to be on the side of science, FOOD EVOLUTION brings a fresh perspective to one of the most critical issues facing global society today. Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy joins us for a conversation on the science of genetically modified organism and the impassioned arguments surrounding them.

For news and updates go to: Food Evolution

“Persuasive rather than polemical, it’s the unusual issue film that deals in counterintuitive reason rather than barely controlled hysteria.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“With a soft tone, respectful to opponents but insistent on the data, “Food Evolution” posits an inconvenient truth for organic boosters to swallow: In a world desperate for safe, sustainable food, G.M.O.s may well be a force for good.” – Daniel Gold, New York Times

“A polished and provocative call for activists to be as scientifically minded as they believe they are.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

Nowhere to Hide, Director Zaradasht Ahmed

 

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Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world’s most dangerous and inaccessible areas – the “triangle of death” in central Iraq. Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff. Nori is one of the few who remain. When ISIS advances on Jalawla in 2014 and takes over the city, he too must flee with his family at a moment’s notice, and turns the camera on himself. The film stretches over a period of five years, beginning with the hope of a better future, to witnessing the growth of ISIS (the Islamic State), and eventually the fall of Nori’s home town. As Nori keeps filming throughout this period of time, he begins to turn the camera on himself. Nori’s narrative represents persistence, hope and faith. But, in this new reality of being squeezed between two giant forces – ISIS on one side and the Iraqi militias on the other, is it possible to remain impartial and keep his family intact? Will he and his family survive, and be able to rebuild the country and the oasis that lies hidden behind the smoke and rubble? Director Zaradasht Ahmed talks with us about the utter devastation and fading hope of normality that now pervades his beloved country.

For news and updates go to Nowhere to Hide

NOWHERE TO HIDE at the Laemmle Music Hall (9036 Wilshire Blvd.) – Q&A schedule: Friday, June 30th – 7:30 p.m. : Director Zaradasht Ahmed in conversation with Documentary Editor/Filmmaker Doug Blush; Saturday July 1st – 7:30 p.m. : Q and A with Director Zaradasht Ahmed; Sunday, July 2nd – 7:30 p.m. : Director Zaradasht Ahmed in conversation with Film Critic Dan Schindel (Film School Rejects, Paste Magazine).

“As captured through the ceaselessly unflinching lens of Sharif’s borrowed video camera, “Nowhere to Hide” offers an uneasy prognosis that is at once graphically gut-wrenching and doggedly life-affirming” – Michael Rechtshaffen, LA Times

“Zaradasht Ahmed’s documentary Nowhere to Hide is a you-are-there gut-punch about Iraq after the American military’s 2011 withdrawal.” – Sherilyn Connelly, SF Weekly

“Some great documentaries cut through the inessentials and help you make sense of an apparently senseless world. Others … shock you into an even greater confoundment, demonstrating, moment by moment, how irrational the world really is.” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine

“A profoundly brave film.” – Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

The Skyjacker’s Tale, Director Jamie Kastner

In the riveting new documentary THE SKYJACKER’S TALE, Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet) is the American convicted of murdering eight people on a Rockefeller-owned golf course in the US Virgin Islands. After years of trying to get his conviction overturned, he took matters into his own hands and hijacked an American Airlines plane full of passengers to Cuba on New Years Eve 1984, and got away with it. Until now. Thirty years on the FBI’s most wanted list and against the backdrop of his looming extradition to serve eight consecutive life sentences in the US, the film recounts the hijacking that got him here, re-examines his original trial and reveals a gross miscarriage of justice. In a story that is more relevant than ever with racially charged police brutality and injustice constantly in the headlines, THE SKYJACKER’S TALE captures LaBeet / Ali’s first interview since the hijacking and includes never before seen footage. Is he a heartless criminal or a victim? The audience must decide. But what emerges is a picture of American government and law enforcement attitudes and actions toward their own population that are shockingly similar to the headlines of today. Director Jamie Kastner talks about the shocking revelations surrounding the forced confessions and extraordinary legal proceedings that led to LaBeet’s desperate act.

For news and updates go to: Skyjacker’s Tale

THE SKYJACKERS TALE filmmaker Jamie Kastner will participate in Q&As following the 7:20 screenings on Friday and Saturday evening at the Monica Film Center, July 14 and 15.

“The Skyjacker’s Tale mixes archival footage with well-detailed re-creations and present-day interviews to explore a little-known chapter in U.S. colonial politics.” – Georgia Straight

“Kastner relies a little too heavily on dramatic re-enactments of Labeet’s flight to Cuba in the first section, but the film gets a lot more involving once he starts digging into the history that put Labeet on that plane in the first place.” – Peter Howell, Toronto Star

“Kastner has crafted an entertainingly kitschy version of an Errol Morris film …” – Village Voice

The Reagan Show, Co-Director Sierra Pettengill (Pacho Velez)

 

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Teasing apart the spectacle at the heart of finger-on-the-button global diplomacy, THE REAGAN SHOW follows Ronald Reagan’s rivalry with charismatic Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, tracing how the Communicator-in-Chief uses his public relations chops to overcome Soviet mistrust, the objections of a skeptical press corps and the looming threat of WW III. Chock full of wit and political irony, and told solely through 1980s network news and videotapes created by the Reagan administration itself, the film explores Reagan’s made-for-TV approach to politics as he faced down the United States’ greatest rival.  Pacho Velez’s & Sierra Pettengill’s timely film explores Ronald Reagan’s media savvy through the use of  previously unseen footage shot by White House staff. Co-director Sierra Pettengill (Pacho Velez) joins us for a conversation on this sweeping behind the scenes look at a pivotal moment in the history of US / Russian relations and the impact of an enveloping new media culture.

For news and updates go to: The Reagan Show

100% on RottenTomatoes

Laemmle – Playhouse 7  – Q&A with Writer Josh Alexander and moderated by: Akiva Gottlie (Int’l Documentary Association) – Saturday July 1st

“As clever and breathtaking a look at the performative aspects of our politics as any film made in recent memory, and perhaps ever.”– Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine.com

“[A] masterful documentary that is crucial and unique.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out NY

“This doc says volumes about then and now.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone.com

“…a jokey yet wonky trip through the alternate reality of the modern era’s first great political media machine.” – Chris Barsanti, The Playlist

Dalya’s Other Country – Director Julia Meltzer

 

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A smiling, effervescent teenager, Dalya is the focus of the new documentary Dalya’s Other Country, which tells the remarkable story of a family displaced by the Syrian conflict and explores a young life caught between highly politicized identities. Dalya comes across as an ordinary Southern California teenager. She takes selfies and goes to prom. She plays sports and hangs out at the mall. She is also the only student at her Catholic high school who wears a hijab. In 2012, Dalya moved to the United States from Aleppo, Syria, as her country disintegrated in the wake of a horrific civil war. Starting in 2013, the film follows Dalya and her mother through what seems at first a typical immigration experience. They adjust to unfamiliar American ways,  even as they maintain the cultural and religious traditions that sustain them. However, they grow tense and anxious as the 2016 presidential campaign unfolds and candidate Donald Trump calls for restrictions on Muslim immigrants. Director Julia Meltzer stops by to talk about Dalya’s uniqueness and the commonality of human beings seeking acceptance and a chance to be themselves.

MONDAY, JUNE 26 at 9 PM PBS Television Series POV Kicks-Off 30th Season with Timely Focus on Syrian War and Global Refugee Crisis

Dalya’s Other Country is a co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

For news and updates go to: pbs.org/pov/dalyasothercountry

Also go to: dalyasothercountry.com

Hare Krishna! The Mantra, The Movement and the Swami Who Started It All – Co-Director Lauren Ross (John Griesser, Jean Griesser)

 

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1965: America is in turmoil. Unprecedented introspection and questioning of societal norms roil the country. Prabhupada, an unassuming 70-year-old Swami from India, arrives in New York City alone and without support or money. He carries only the ancient scriptures he has translated, and the firm faith in his teacher’s request: “offer spiritual wisdom to the people of the world!” Suddenly thrust into the raging counterculture movement, Prabhupada speaks of the world’s real need, which is not necessarily satisfied by political or social revolutions, but by a revolution of consciousness. This divergence from the status quo successfully captures the attention of a generation of youth seeking answers to life’s existential questions. From a tiny storefront on 26th 2nd Avenue, Prabhupada shares with them the idea that the way to find real happiness, love and freedom is to search within and connect to your true self. All this, the Swami says, begins by simply chanting a rhythmic, meditative 16-word mantra – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This universal message resonates with more and more people, including musician George Harrison whose hit song ‘My Sweet Lord’, features the Hare Krishna chant. From there, Prabhupada’s movement explodes, and his followers – now known as the Hare Krishnas – become infamous for chanting and dancing in the streets. Co-director Lauren Ross (John Griessen, Jean Griessen) joins us to talk about the remarkable life and time of Swami Prabhupada and his mission to teach happiness.

For news and updates: harekrishnathefilm.com

“A dynamic documentary about the visionary Vedic scholar who launched the Hare Krishna movement.” – Spirituality and Practice

HARE KRISHNA! director John Griesser and producer Lauren Ross will participate in Q&A’s at the Monica Film Center after the 7:30 PM screenings on Friday and Saturday, June 23 and 24. HARE KRISHNA! writer Jean Griesser will join them on Friday and HARE KRISHNA! composer Michael Mollura will join them on Saturday.

** LAFF – What We Started, Co-Directors Bert Marcus and Cyrus Saidi

 

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WHAT WE STARTED aims to establish itself as the defining film of the electronic music genre.  Through an artfully crafted narrative and stunning visual techniques, the film delves into the highly popular world of electronic dance music, providing backdoor access to a widely misunderstood, self-driven and well-insulated industry on its way to global domination.  Presently, the genre is booming at a pinnacle higher than ever before, however most do not realize that electronic dance music began as an underground movement that originated in America.  The film sets out to illuminate this rich history: from its underground inception in the late 1980s in America to the musicians and fans of this genre that relentlessly fought for their rights around the world, both in the dance club and on the streets, to find a safe space to express themselves, to the development of this modern, mainstream revolution that has taken the world by storm. Specifically, and with unprecedented access, WHAT WE STARTED follows industry pioneers, like Carl Cox, who are juxtaosed by the journey of a young, superstar of today, Martin Garrix.  These dichotomous journeys of past and present are carefully interwoven to illuminate all viewpoints and highlight the momentous and groundbreaking time that electronic dance music is experiencing presently, while also leaving open the question of what will happen next for this incredible genre of music. WHAT WE STARTED Co-directors Bert Marcus and Cyrus Saidi join us to talk about the history of today’s dynamic soundtrack and their film’s world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

For news and updates go to: bertmarcus.com/what-we-started/

** For news and updates go to: filmindependent.org/la-film-festival

World Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Thursday, June 15, 5:30 p.m. – Arclight Santa Monica

 Press and Industry screening

Monday, June 19, 1:30 p.m. – Arclight Culver City

** LAFF – Skid Row Marathon, Director Mark Hayes and Producer Gabrielle Hayes

 

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In this compelling and compassionate documentary SKID ROW MARATHON we watch as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Craig Mitchell hands down sentences to convicted criminals. But at the Midnight Mission on LA’s Skid Row, Judge Mitchell trades his robes for running shoes, leading a long-distance running club that gives its members a sense of purpose and pride. A budding artist, a single mom and a former rock musician are among the members, all of whom are fighting their way out of homelessness, addiction or the prison system. Through the streets of LA and around the world, Judge Mitchell and the Skid Row Running Club truly approach each race and  each day one step at a time, as they run their way toward a brighter future. With compassion and care, SKID ROW MARATHON from director Mark Hayes shares the inspiring story of people who bravely face not only the grueling physical demands of running marathons, but the relentless doubts that threaten one’s sense of self-worth, accomplishment and joy. Director Mark Hayes and Producer Gabrielle Hayes stop by to talk about finding humanity and hope among people who are often seen as having neither. For news and updates go to: skidrowmarathon.com

** For news and updates go to: filmindependent.org/la-film-festival

Real Boy, Director Shaleece Haas

 

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The documentary Real Boy follows the journey of trans teen Bennett as he navigates adolescence, sobriety, and the physical and emotional ramifications of his changing gender identity. Through the process, his mother Suzy makes her own transformation — traveling a difficult road toward accepting that the daughter she raised as Rachael is now her son Bennett. Filmed over the course of four years, Real Boy is a love story about a mother and son who rediscover connection with each other and find support from their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen. Produced and directed by Shaleece Haas (The Genius of Marian), Real Boy premieres on Independent Lens Monday, June 19, 2017, 10:00-11:00 PM ET on PBS. In addition to her work as a director/producer, Haas is an instructor of video storytelling at UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute. She is a 2015 Film Independent Documentary Lab Fellow, a 2012 Working Films (Reel Aging) fellow and a member of the Queer Producer’s Collective. Director Shaleece Haas drops by for a conversation on this moving and intimate story of a family in transition.

For news and updates go to: realboymovie.com

Twitter: twitter.com/realboymovie

Facebook: facebook.com/RealBoyMovie

“Bennett finds his voice in more ways than one in this heartwarming tale of mentorship and chosen families.” – NBC News

“Bennett Wallace, a trans teenager facing heartaches and joys … is charming, funny and insightful throughout.” – Chicago Tribune

“A vibrant and joyful film, Real Boy will inspire viewers to listen to songs of their own inner voices.” – Showbiz Chicago

“Into this particular moment in history steps this remarkable new documentary film, Real Boy.”  – Below the Fold

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Director Steve James

 http://www.kuci.org/podcastfiles/683/FS-6-9-17%20James-Abacus.mp3

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From the celebrated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), comes his illuminating new film, ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. The film tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces Thomas Sung and his formidable daughters to defend themselves—and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community—over the course of a five-year legal battle. Tracking the many twists and turns of the case, Oscar-nominated James creates a moving portrait of a family, a community, and a way of life. Director Steve James joins us for a conversation on his illuminating and infuriating showcase of great documentary filmmaking.

For news and updates go to:abacusmovie.com

facebook.com/abacusmovie

Nuart – Los Angeles. Steve James and Mark Mitten in Q&A with Kirby Dick following 6/9, 7:30pm screening.

**WINNER** AUDIENCE AWARD – 2017 San Diego Asian Film Festival Showcase

**WINNER** AUDIENCE AWARD: BEST DOCUMENTARY – 2017 Sarasota Film Festival

**WINNER** BEST EDITING: FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY – 2017 Ashland Independent Film Festival

RUNNER UP – GROLSCH PEOPLE’S CHOICE DOCUMENTARY AWARD – 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

BEST OF FEST – 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival

“[Steve James] is one of our most humanist filmmakers… [He] has an amazing ability to capture entire communities by focusing on a few people within them… The big picture doesn’t matter if we can’t see how it’s impacting people on a day to day basis.” – Brian Tallerico, Roger Ebert.com

“It’s not every day that you end up rooting for a bank, but the story “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” tells is no ordinary tale.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“James spins a fascinating and complex web involving lies, fraud, a months-long trial with a hung jury, and cultural biases against Abacus and the immigrant Chinese community it serves.” – Kristen Yoonson Kim, Village Voice

“In its intimate, well-observed way, the film is deeply moving… a snapshot of a loving family coming together during a crisis.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Radio Dreams, Director Babak Jalali

 

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RADIO DREAMS, winner of the 45th Rotterdam International Film Festival’s Tiger Award, is the newest feature film from Iranian-British director Babak Jalali (FRONTIER BLUES). RADIO DREAMS creates the bizarre yet very real world of PARS-FM – a Farsi-language radio station broadcasting from the heart of San Francisco. The story unfolds over a single day as the station’s program manager, Hamid – a brilliant, misunderstood Iranian writer (played by the “Iranian Bob Dylan” Mohsen Namjoo) – prepares for a triumphant broadcast – a live performance pairing Metallica and Kabul Dreams, Afghanistan’s first rock band. Meanwhile, Hamid must juggle a dysfunctional mix of on-air talent, station managers, and performers while fending off the owner’s plans to wrest control of the station. RADIO DREAMS brings to life the sometimes bizarre experience of immigrants pursuing dreams in the U.S.A. with the perfect mixture of honesty, art, and socio-political topicality served up in an ingenious, offbeat transmission.

For news and updates go to: radiodreamsthemovie.com

facebook.com/radiodreamsmovie

WINNER – Tiger Award for Best Picture – 45th Rotterdam International Film Festival
WINNER – Best Director – Tarkovsky International Film Festival
WINNER – Best Actor – Durban International Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Viennale, Milano, Munich, San Francisco, and Seattle International Film Festivals

Screenings in Southern California:

Opens in the Los Angeles area on Friday, June 9 

at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts (Beverly Hills)

at Laemmle’s Town Center (Encino)

and at Edwards Westpark 8 (Irvine)

“The quirky setups, oddball interactions and erratic conflicts … provide ample doses of amusement and provocation to keep things afloat.” – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

“There are traces of early Wim Wenders in this story of immigrants adrift in a world not their own, trying to make the best of things.” – Glenn Kenny, New York Times

“Royami is the heart of the film: It is his sincere and artistically principled dream of a musical union between East and West, between Metallica and Kabul Dreams, that fuels the film’s engine.” – Catherine Bray, Variety

“The film examines, with wit and patience, the hard work of community-building – and the toll on someone far from home, doing work that’s not his calling.” – Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

Freedom to Marry, Director Eddie Rosenstein

 

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The epic, nail-biting story of the same-sex marriage movement from the war room of this historic civil rights campaign. THE FREEDOM TO MARRY follows Evan Wolfson, the architect of the movement, civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto, and their key colleagues as they wage their climactic battle before the United States Supreme Court. More than the untold story of one movement’s history – this is an inspirational primer on how to face America’s challenges ahead. Director Eddie Rosenstein talks about how he and his crew were able to capture the pivotal people and the moving real-time history of the preeminent civil rights movement of our time.

For News and updates go to:freedomtomarrymovie.com

facebook.com/FreedomToMarryMovie

Available Digitally June 6th onVOD Platforms including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play

“Crisply and compassionately directed by Eddie Rosenstein, this film couldn’t come at a better time” – David Noh, Film Journal International

“Surprisingly suspenseful and thoroughly moving and inspiring.” – Peter Keough, The Boston Globe

“The film is a reminder of the long and difficult work that victory took as well as a notification that no triumph can be taken for granted” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“A suspenseful legal yarn and an essential history lesson. But it could also provide a blueprint for the continuing civil rights challenges of our time.” – Daphne Howland, The Village Voice

“A landmark documentary…this is a unique perspective not just on one movement’s history—but on how regular people can fight back, even against incredible odds” – Curve Magazine

Cruel and Unusual, Director Vadim Jean

 

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The story of three men who have spent longer in solitary confinement than any other prisoners in the US because of the murder of a prison guard in 1972 at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary. Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were convicted by bribed and blind eye witnesses and with no physical evidence. Targeted as members of the Black Panther party the film follows their struggle against the miscarriage of justice and their cruel and unusual treatment. Known as the ‘Angola 3’, their story culminated in 2016 with the release of Albert Woodfox after 43 years in solitary confinement. ‘Cruel and Unusual’ has been eight years in the making. But that pales into insignificance compared to the 43 years that Albert Woodfox spent in a 6 foot by 9 foot cell for a crime he did not commit. After years left forgotten in the depths of America’s bloodiest prison, their struggle against this injustice had become an international scandal; when on the 19th February last year, on his 69th birthday, Albert was finally released, it was headline news around the world. On any given day it is estimated that ten to fifteen thousand prisoners are kept in solitary in the US. Director Vadim Jean joins us in a conversation about the incredibly heartbreaking and infuriating saga of the three men subjected to unspeakable brutality.

For news and updates go to: Cruel and Unusual film

If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, Director Danny Gold

 

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If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast asks the question, “What’s the secret to living into your 90s – and loving every minute of it?” In this feature documentary, irrepressible writer-comedian Carl Reiner (who shows no signs of slowing down at 95) tracks down several celebrated nonagenarians, and a few others over 100, to show how the twilight years can truly be the happiest and most rewarding. Among those who share their insights into what it takes to be vital and productive in older age are Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Kirk Douglas, Norman Lear and Betty White. Adding spice to this inspiring documentary are admirers from the younger set, including comedian Jerry Seinfeld (who’s already reserved the stage at Caesar’s Palace for his 100th birthday show), longevity expert Dan Buettner, and Van Dyke’s much-younger wife Arlene, who’s got all she can handle keeping up with her exuberant husband on the dance floor. Directed by Danny Gold, If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast is an entertaining look at how we all can overcome our society’s fear of aging, and how anyone, with a good dose of humor, can live well into their 90s.

For news and updates go to: If You’re Not the Obit, Eat Breakfast

Premiere Airing on HBO – June 5th at 8 PM 

“If only every inspirational documentary could be as delightfully diverting as “If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast” …” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation, Co-directors Peter Spirer and Peter Baxter

 

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The origin of lacrosse belongs to the Native American Haudenosaunee (pronounced “ho DEE no Show nee”) who the French called Iroquois. To this nation of 125,000 people it is more than a game. It is a profound medicine, part of Iroquois cosmology and their lifeblood. Gifted players like the Thompson brothers and Brett Bucktooth Junior provide a spiritual sense of what it’s like playing Lacrosse with a “good mind”. They belong to a pool of only 400 Iroquois players, whereas team Canada and USA draw from over 600,000. In 2010 England hosted the World Lacrosse Field Championship and the United Kingdom refused to accept Haudenosaunee passports denying the Iroquois Nationals their chance to compete on the world stage. They have waited four years for the next championships in Denver. Out of the 83 nations taking part in the games, the Iroquois win the bronze medal for the first time. The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team is not only among the world’s best, but ambassadors for their Nation’s sovereignty and recognition. In 2015, the Iroquois hosted the World Championships on Native soil for the first time ever, in which history, politics and culture all collided on the playing field before the eyes of the world. Co-directors Peter Spirer and Peter Baxter stop by for a conversation on their nuanced documentary as well as the history, culture and spirit of the of the Haudenosaunee people. 

For news and updates go to: xlratormedia.com/film/spirit-game-pride-nation

“Spirit Game” covers a lot of territory, which gives it something of an all-over-the-map quality. But the subject matter is always enough to hold our attention.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation…delivers an invaluable history lesson on lacrosse and North American colonialism.” – Shane Slater, AwardsCircuit.com

“… concentrates too heavily on game footage at the expense of context, yet it conveys a positive message while allowing viewers to appreciate the sport and its unique history.” – Todd Jorgenson, cinemalogue.com

Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, Co-director Nick Quested (and Sebastian Junger)

 

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Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and best-selling author Sebastian Junger and his Emmy-winning producing partner, Nick Quested, chronicle Syria’s descent into the unbridled chaos that allowed the rise of the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, in Iraq and Syria. The film follows as the peaceful anti-government protests of the Arab Spring turn into an armed uprising against the despotic regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, opening a door to a dangerous new enemy that preys on the disenfranchisement felt by Sunni Muslims in the Middle East and around the world.  In 2011, the Syrian people’s hopeful demonstrations for democratic reform were met with brutal repression by the Assad government, plunging the country into unending violence and despair. The resulting civil war has taken the lives of an estimated 400,000 people and uprooted millions more, creating a global refugee crisis. Conflict between the government, moderate rebel groups and ISIS jihadis have all but destroyed ordinary daily life in much of the country, and left the  nation’s largest metropolis, the ancient city of Aleppo, in ruins. Pulling from nearly 1,000 hours of stunningly visceral footage, the filmmakers provide a comprehensive picture of the conflict. Junger and Quested, who previously collaborated on a trio of films about the war in Afghanistan (Restrepo, “The Last Patrol” and “Korengal”), capture the Syrian war’s harrowing carnage, political and social consequences, and, most important, its human toll, while painting an alarming picture of the west’s role in the creation of ISIS. Hell on Earth co-director / co-producer Nick Quested stops by to talk about a war that is destroying the social and political fabric of the entire Middle East as well as the unspeakable horror being visited upon millions of innocents.

For news and updates go to: nationalgeographic.com/hell-on-earth

“The 100-minute film does a phenomenal job detangling the numerous scenarios that led to Syria’s civil war and current bloodbath, dispelling the notion that this conflict is too complicated for those not versed on the Middle East to understand.” – Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

“”Hell on Earth” portrays the Syrian citizens, who live in a morass of civil war, with an emotional directness we can’t turn away from, to the point that it’s no longer possible to think of those citizens as “them.” They are us, or could be.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“A mostly impressive array of experts … adds to the merciless clarity of this tragic picture.” – Glenn Kenny, New York Times

Mammoth Lakes Film Festival – Shira Dubrovner, Founder and Festival Director

 

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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 SMOKETommy 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 OUTLONE 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 CHALLENGEDINA, 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.

For ticket sales and updates go to: mammothlakesfilmfestival.com

The Last Shaman, Director Raz Degan

 

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Directed by Raz Degan, The Last Shaman is the story of James Freeman, a young man who decides to take matters in his own hands when faced with incurable depression. He undergoes a life-changing journey in the Amazon jungle that brings him a deeper understanding and acceptance of self. Along the way, he experiences the healing properties of the tribal plant medicine Ayahuasca and the world around it. From the outside looking in, James is living the American dream. But behind closed doors, he has no desire to live and contemplates suicide. Desperate to find a way out of darkness, James travels to the Amazon rain forest with one mission: to save his own life. Without knowing any of the dangers that lie ahead, he starts searching for a Shaman who can help. James’ road to redemption isn’t easy — he faces many obstacles and even a few life-threatening experiences as he learns to acknowledge the space inside himself and understand a larger truth about how we’re all connected. After undergoing various forms of treatments from tribal plants and medicines, James is faced with the consequences of his own actions. He undergoes a life changing experience that brings him a deeper understanding and acceptance of himself, and a more profound understanding of the interconnectedness of us all. Director Raz Degan join us for a conversation on their journey into a world of spirituality, self awareness and an ancient culture.

For news and updates go to: thelastshaman.com

“It’s possible to have doubts about ayahuasca (which, we learn, has been increasingly commercialized) and still find Mr. Freeman’s resolve uplifting.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, Director Daniel Raim

 

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In the new documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, Award-winning director Daniel Raim (The Man on Lincoln’s Nose, Something’s Gonna Live) brings to life a fascinating and moving account of the romantic and creative partnership of storyboard artist Harold Michelson and film researcher Lillian Michelson: two unsung heroes of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story spans the Golden Age of Hollywood through New Hollywood and beyond. It’s a portrait of a time, and an intimate chronicle of their epic journey of life, love, family, and making great movies. Harold and Lillian worked on hundreds of renowned films including The Ten Commandments, The Apartment, The Birds, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Rosemary’s Baby, Fiddler On The Roof, Scarface, Full Metal Jacket and many more. Although the couple was responsible for some of Hollywood’s most iconic examples of visual storytelling, their contributions remain largely uncredited. Through an engaging mix of love letters, film clips and candid conversations with Harold and Lillian, Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola and others, this deeply engaging documentary from Academy Award®-nominated director Daniel Raim (who first encountered Harold Michelson as a student at the AFI Conservatory in 1997), chronicles their remarkable marriage and extraordinary careers through six decades of movie-making history.  Harold and Lillian’s story humanizes Hollywood—an industry sustained by numerous hard-working cinema artisans; master craftsmen and craftswomen who give their lives, their genius and their hearts to the movies. Beyond Harold and Lillian’s contribution to cinema, their story can’t be told without weaving in their 60-year marriage—a creative, challenging, and profoundly loving partnership. Director Daniel Raim stops by for a conversation on his loving tribute to a beguiling pair of artists, partners and lovers.

For news and updates go to: Harold and Lilian: A Hollywood Love Story

**100% on RottenTomatoes

Truly charming…A terrifically moving human story!” – Glenn Kenny, Vanity Fair

“CRITICS’ PICK! Charming… Like flipping through misplaced leaves in a photo book, the documentary maintains a free-flowing tone as it uncovers the work that went into creating some of the indelible scenes in Hollywood history.” – Monica Castillo, The New York Times

“For an hour and a half, this charming little movie, with its chatty talking heads and its sweet-natured subjects, offers a glimpse into the lives of two fascinating people whom I had never heard of, and who shared an unlikely life filled with achievements and setbacks, wonder and pain.” – Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

“One of the very best documentaries ever made about movies…I have rarely seen any movie, fact or fiction, that was quite so suffused with love—movie love and human love—as this one.” – David Noh, Film Journal

“An awesome film… funny, heartbreaking, and packed with delicious film lore.” – Ken Kwapis, Director of The Office

Bang!, The Bert Berns Story, Co-director Brett Berns

 

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You may have never heard of Bert Berns, but you know the enduring songs he’s written and produced: Twist & Shout, Cry to Me, Tell Him, Piece of My Heart, Cry Baby, Hang On Sloopy, I Want Candy, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love – Berns’ career IS Rock and Roll. Berns sessions made legends of Solomon Burke, The Isley Brothers, The Drifters, Ben E. King, and Wilson Pickett. He helped launch the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made. Filmmaker and son of Bert, Brett Berns, brings his late father’s story to the screen through interviews with those who knew him best and rare performance footage. Included in the film are interviews with Ronald Isley, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney. Narrated by E Street Band guitarist Stevie Van Zandt, about the life and career of Bert Berns, the most important songwriter and record producer from the sixties that you never heard of. His premature death at 38 cut short a seven-year streak of hits, rooted in his early Brill Building and 1650 Broadway days, through his tenure at Atlantic Records to the formation and success of his own labels Bang Records and Shout Records. First-time director Brett Berns joins us to talk about a father he never knew and his amazing musical legacy.

For news and updates go to: bangthebertbernsstory.com

facebook.com/bangthebertbernsstory

“[The] impressive lineup of interview subjects properly tells the story of a man whose contributions to popular music have been largely unheralded.” Noel Murray, LA Times

“It has a ton of heart and a bevy of interesting interviewees who paint a clear and coherent picture of who Bert Berns was inside and outside of the music biz… It’s a must see for any fan, new or old.” Anthony Ray Bench, Film Threat

“If you love the music Berns made, you’ll love this movie; if you don’t, I feel for you, but “Bang!” might nevertheless entertain with its dish.” – Glenn Kenny, New York Times

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, Director Matt Tyrnauer

 

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Citizen Jane: Battle for the City is a story about our global urban future, in which nearly three-fourths of the world’s population will live in cities by the end of this century. It’s also a story about America’s recent urban past, in which bureaucratic, “top down” approaches to building cities have dramatically clashed with grassroots, “bottom up” approaches. The film brings us back mid-century, on the eve of the battles for the heart and soul of American cities, about to be routed by cataclysmically destructive Urban Renewal and highway projects. The film details the revolutionary thinking of Jane Jacobs, and the origins of her magisterial 1961 treatise The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she singlehandedly undercuts her era’s orthodox model of city planning, exemplified by the massive Urban Renewal projects of New York’s “Master Builder,” Robert Moses. Jacobs and Moses figure centrally in our story as archetypes of the “bottom up” and the “top down” vision for cities. They also figure as two larger-than-life personalities: Jacobs—a journalist with provincial origins, no formal training in city planning, and scarce institutional authority—seems at first glance to share little in common with Robert Moses, the upper class, high prince of government and urban theory fully ensconced in New York’s halls of power and privilege. Citizen Jane: Battle for the City gives audiences a front row seat to this battle, and shows how two opposing visions of urban greatness continue to ripple across the world stage. In perilous times for the city and for civil rights, Citizen Jane offers a playbook, courtesy of Jane Jacobs, for organizing communities and speaking the truth to entrenched and seemingly insurmountable powers. Director Matt Tyrnauer joins us to talk about a citizen activist whose vision and principals resonate to this day.

For news and updates go to: Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

Citizen Jane at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles starting April 28th

“In a spritely edited feature, Tyrnauer pushes his audience to make the connection between the turbulent growth spurts of the 1950s and 1960s with today’s political aspirations.” – Flias Savada

“Jacobs argued that what looks to officialdom like disorder is actually what makes a crowded human landscape function – it’s just a more complex order. This compelling documentary lets you see the beauty she found in that complexity.” – Bob Mondello, NPR

“It’s a story that needs periodic retelling, and Mr. Tyrnauer has heightened the human drama by focusing on Jacobs, an improbable David to Moses’s Goliath.” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“A fascinating documentary captures the showdown, half a century ago, between the activist Jane Jacobs and the Trumpian urban planner Robert Moses: a fight for the future of New York.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Karl Marx City, Co-directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker

 

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In this chilling, intimate and evocative documentary, KARL MARX CITY filmmaker Petra Epperlein returns to the proletarian Oz of her childhood, twenty-five years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumored Stasi past. The Stasi, the GDR’s Ministry for State Security, was the “shield and sword” of a ruling party that was well aware of the illegitimate nature of its power. This was, after all, a country living on one side of a wall erected—officially—not to keep the people in, but to keep the fascists out. Under the guise of combating reactionary forces, the apparatus implemented a policy of total surveillance. Much like her GDR hometown, Karl Marx City, which was redacted from public memory after German reunification, Petra Epperlein’s father erased himself. Right after the new year in 1999, he cleaned his car, burned all of his photographs and letters, and then took his own life near the house where she was raised. Had he been an informant for the secret police? Was her childhood an elaborate fiction? As she looks for answers in the Stasi’s extensive archives, she pulls back the curtain of her own ostalgia and enters the parallel world of the security state, seeing her former life through the lens of the oppressor. KARL MARX CITY Reconstructs everyday GDR life through declassified Stasi surveillance footage, the past plays like dystopian science fiction, providing a chilling backdrop to interrogate the apparatus of control and the meaning of truth in a society where every action and thought was suspect. Co-directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace, The Prisoner Or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair) join us for a conversation on going home, what it means to live in a surveillance state and facing down a complex crosscurrent of family history. 

For news and updates go to: karlmarxcity.com

“… a shrewd personal inquiry into the mass psychology of fear and oppression … a film that ingeniously subverts the weaponry of Cold War-era surveillance, employing the tools of the Stasi’s intelligence-gathering operation toward a far more principled end. Whereas the secret police sought to root out and destroy even the slightest hint of subversive activity among a terrified populace, Epperlein and Tucker sift through these illicit materials — and forge their own fresh images and interviews — with an eye toward illuminating the truth and possibly even vindicating the innocent. … Shot in evocative black and white, Karl Marx City is a sleek, absorbing detective story, a fascinating primer on mass surveillance in the pre-Snowden era, and a roving memoir of East German life.” – Justin Chang, LA Times 

New York Times Critic’s Pick: “… a smart, highly personal addition to the growing syllabus of distressingly relevant cautionary political tales. … The mystery of her (Epperlein’s) father’s life and death provides Karl Marx City with suspense, and with a concrete sense of profound moral and emotional stakes. Repressive regimes excel at creating ambiguity, at making complicity easier than resistance and at blurring the lines between heroes and villains. Ms. Epperlein and Mr. Tucker, shooting in black and white and making judicious use of historical footage, brilliantly evoke a landscape of gray areas. They also uncover glimmers of decency, loyalty and solidarity — the tiny cracks in the totalitarian edifice that foretold its eventual and inevitable collapse.” – A.O.Scott, The New York Times

“[A] must-see… An essayistic, quietly moving look at another lost world… The movie draws you in quickly with its intelligence, its restrained emotions and its jaw-dropping period material, which includes some wildly creepy Stasi surveillance imagery.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Finding Oscar, Director Ryan Suffern

 

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FINDING OSCAR is the feature-length documentary about the search for justice in the case of the Dos Erres massacre in Guatemala in 1982. That search leads to the trail of two little boys, Oscar and Ramiro, who were abducted during the slaughter and raised by some of the very soldiers who had murdered their families. These boys offer the only living evidence that ties the Guatemalan government to the massacre. FINDING OSCAR follows the men and women who have spent nearly two decades looking for answers—from the human-rights worker who first heard the story to the forensic anthropologists trying to identify victims and contact families. The film profiles the young Guatemalan prosecutor who took on her own government, and the U.S. immigration agents who began rounding up war criminals found living in the States. In a country built on impunity, it will take this dedicated team to find justice more than thirty years later, and uncover a truth more significant than anyone could have imagined. Filmmaker Ryan Suffern is producer and director of FINDING OSCAR, with Frank Marshall as producer and Steven Spielberg as Executive Producer. Director Ryan Suffern joins us to talk about the victims, the families, the impact that these massacres continue to have on the people of Guatemala and the continuing search of justice.

For news and updates go to: filmrise.com/finding-oscar

“A twisty, protracted fight for justice is deftly traced in “Finding Oscar,” an absorbing, if grim, documentary …” – Gary Goldstein, LA Times

“The barbarity described in “Finding Oscar” is stomach-turning, but moments of courage still shine through in this unsettling yet vital documentary.” – Ken Jaworoski, New York Times

“Suffern strikes a respectful, not entirely hopeless tone throughout, allowing those affected by the civil war in general and the Dos Erres massacre in particular to speak at length about their experiences.” – Michael Nordine, Village Voice

“An absorbing documentary about an unlikely survival story.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Take My Nose Please…A Joan Kron Film, Director Joan Kron

 

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TAKE MY NOSE PLEASE is a seriously funny and wickedly subversive look at the role comedy has played in exposing the pressures on women to be attractive and society’s desire/shame relationship with plastic surgery. More than 15 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the US in 2014.  And 90% of them on were done on women. Yet, for those who elect to tinker with Mother Nature, especially for high-profile women, plastic surgery is still a very dark secret.  Funny women, though, are the exception.  From Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers to Roseanne Barr and Kathy Griffin, comedians have been unashamed to talk about their perceived flaws, and the steps taken to remedy them. TAKE MY NOSE PLEASE follows two comedians as they deliberate about going under the knife. Emily Askin, an up-and coming improv performer, has always wanted her nose refined. Jackie Hoffman, a seasoned headliner on Broadway and on TV, considers herself ugly and regrets not having the nose job offered in her teens. And maybe she’d like a face-lift, as well. As we follow their surprisingly emotional stories, we meet other who have taken the leap – or held out. Putting it all in perspective are psychologists, sociologists, the medical community and cultural critics. And for comic relief and the profundity only comedians can supply.  The film includes commentary from Roseanne Barr, Phyllis Diller, the late Joan Rivers,Judy Gold, Julie Halston, Lisa Lampanelli, Giulia Rozzi, Bill Scheft, and Adrianne Tolsch. Director Joan Kroc joins us to talk her engaging. lively, funny and enlightening debut film.

For news and updates go to: takemynoseplease.com

See “Take My Nose Please” next Thursday evening (5:15 PM) at Big Newport Theatre in Fashion Island for the Newport Beach Film Festival

Check out a recent article from the Wall Street Journal on Take My Nose Please