For small-town bar owner Hank (Jeremy Gardner), his 10-year relationship with Abby (Brea Grant) has been storybook-quality. Abby, however, wants more: marriage, to be exact, which Hank doesn’t seem ready to initiate anytime soon. As a result, she leaves him without so much as a note or any subsequent communication. Hank is crushed. Even worse, Abby’s departure seemingly triggers the arrival of an unseen monster that claws at Hank’s front door at night. As the nocturnal threat intensifies, Hank must figure out how to not only save his relationship, but also himself. Co-director Christian Stella (Jeremy Gardner) stops by to talk about the multi-layered film that is After Midnight (Something Else) and his creative cinematography that gives the film its lyrical power.
“Something Else promises monsters but delivers more demons of the human experience variety, as this sweet and sincere creature feature is far more romantically heartfelt than expected.” – Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
“Sublime and emotional, Something Else is one hell of a love story, a nightmarish monster movie, and an overall fantastical experience.” – Michelle Swope, Dread Central
“There’s an honesty in Something Else that makes this man against (his) monsters story one that’ll give you deep meaning, beautiful cinematography, and just the right amount of wtf.” – Kristy Strouse, Film Inquiry
“Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella’s winsome tale of thirtysomething angst, romance and existential terror, is beautifully written and played.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
WALK RUN CHA-CHAhas been nominated for Documentary Short Subject at the 92nd Academy Awards®. Directed by Laura Nix, the film follows Paul and Millie Cao, who lost their youth to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they have become successful professionals in Southern California-and are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor. WALK RUN CHA CHA is now streaming on New York Times Op-Docs.
About the Filmmaker: Director Laura Nix Laura Nix is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction filmmaker based in Los Angeles. WALK RUN CHA-CHA is adapted from a feature-length documentary in progress. It was produced by Concordia Studio for The New York Times Op-Docs and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Laura’s work also includesother work includes her feature documentary INVENTING TOMORROW, about teenagers from around the globe tackling environmental issues through science, THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING, a comedy about activism and climate change, the documentary THE LIGHT IN HER EYES, about a Syrian Qur’an school for women and she was a writer on the Emmy-nominated documentary CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND: THE LEGACY OF PAT BROWN. In 2001, Nix co-founded the production company Automat Pictures, where she produced and/or directed over 100 presentations, including the feature documentary WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT: THE STORY OF HEDWIG, which played in over a dozen film festivals in the U.S. and worldwide. Previously she was a member of Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s production company Telling Pictures, where she was Associate Producer on THE CELLULOID CLOSET.
“Laura Nix’s WALK RUN CHA-CHA is a moving, poignant portrait of two aging refugees who have endured a great deal, and who now face one of life’s biggest challenges: figuring out how to stay in love. Through them, Nix also evokes the textures, tastes, and sounds of Vietnamese refugee life, and mixes them in with everything that is good about the United States. Ultimately, WALK RUN CHA-CHA is an optimistic film about both love and hope—the hope that our country will continue to believe in welcoming strangers from other lands, who in the end are not that strange at all.”– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer
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. 26 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.
LIMERENCEcleverly tips the scales on Hollywood’s approach to a romantic comedy. Women get to see themselves in female lead Rosemary—as complex, independent and real, breaking the stereotypes society has fed us. Rosemary (Tammy Minoff),an aspiring painter and free spirit, moves to Venice where she hooks up with Tom (Matthew Del Negro), a local gallery director. Their intense chemistry quickly and unexpectedly evolves into a serious relationship. This passionate romance is juxtaposed with Tom’s best friends, May (Jennifer Lafleur)and Donald (Evan Arnold), dealing with the monotony of their long marriage and the possibility of starting a family. Complicating everything is Leo, Rosemary’s oft inappropriate yet earnest best friend from high school Leo (Billy Aaron Brown). All their feelings about the nature of love will put their relationship choices to the test and the answers aren’t always black and white. LIMERENCE world premiered at the Other Venice Film Festival, winning Best Audience Award, before going on to win Best Feature at the SOHO International Film Festival. LIMERENCE will make its global VOD/Digital & DVD release across platforms everywhere on January 7th, 2020 through Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company. Director, producer, writer and lead actor Tammy Minoff joins us for a conversation on her honest and engaging look into romance, love, expectations and walking your own path.
Michael Masarof’s drama FIRST LOVE focuses on Rebecca (Annie Heise) is a notorious Hollywood actress, holed up in a seaside hotel, in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Her twin brother Matthew (Aaron Costa Ganis) is a lapsed lawyer and failed family man, whose new career as a writer is on the verge of a major breakthrough. They haven’t seen each other in fifteen years. Matthew travels to the City of Angels, with his tell-all memoir in hand, and a plan to make it big. All he needs is his reclusive twin’s blessing. He was the only one she ever trusted, but has their mysterious twin bond stood the test of time? As Rebecca slinks further into an abyss, and Matthew wanders the city looking for a connection, they both find distractions. A naïve Jordanian hotel worker (Amin El Gamal) and a young Swedish woman (Malin Barr) seem like the perfect fix, but these newfound romances only bring Matthew and Rebecca closer to one another. As the Pacific breaks in front of them and the California sun gets ever hazier, can Rebecca and Matthew grow a new bond if the old one is severed? Director and writer Michael Masarof joins us to talk about his intimate drama about identity, family and connection.
About the Filmmaker: Michael Masarof is a writer and director born in New York and residing in Los Angeles. Michael received his MFA in Film Directing from New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television’s Graduate film program at the Tisch School of The Arts, where he was the recipient of the Jane Rosenthal Scholarship and the Warner Bros. Production Grant. Michael’s short film You Should Have The Body won the first place prize at the International Munich Festival of Film Schools. It also screened as a special presentation at the Berlinale, as well as on Channel 3SAT in Germany. First Love is Michael’s debut feature.
What happened to Carolyn Harper? Part suburban nightmare, part neon-soaked teenage fever dream, this tantalizing mystery traces the wave of fear and distrust that spreads across a small Midwestern town in the wake of a high school girl’s mysterious disappearance. As the loneliness and darkness lurking beneath the veneer of everyday life gradually comes to light, a collective awakening seems to overcome the town’s teenage girls—gathering in force until it can no longer be contained. Unfolding in a hallucinatory haze of lushly surreal images, Knives and Skin is a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age noir that haunts like a half-remembered dream. Director / writer Jennifer Reeder joins us for a lively conversation on her heady melange of a film that bends multiple genres to its razor sharp will.
Director’s Statement:I tell stories about unruly women and the landscapes they transform. This is a story by a woman that proposes girlhood as a place of transcendence and transgression. I am committed to this voice and to producing unexpected narratives. I write scripts from actual experience and observation and my films are specific in mood and perspective. I am influenced by Ohio, where I grew up—all that sky and flatness. And even more so by the Midwestern people and their kind of everyday destructiveness and determination to cope. This awkward emotionality is evident in my films as scenes unfold like sticky flypaper and characters make one small mistake after another. –Jennifer Reeder
“An effervescent suburban noir rich with tragedy, rough around the edges, but sharp like the dagger when it counts.” – Matt Donato, Dread Central
“The film’s approach to narrative structure is both messy and strangely confident and alluring, poising Knives and Skin as a bold and complicated cross-genre anomaly, much like the women Reeder lovingly depicts.” – Chloe Leeson, Screen Queens
“At times fraught with anxiety, haunting in quiet horror, blackly comedic, and aching with with sorrow and love, Knives and Skin is many things and also defies easy categorization, as it puts forth a perspective that is multiple and complicated.” – Shelagh Rowan-Legg, ScreenAnarchy
The thought-provoking and intriguing new documentary IN BRIGHT AXIOM introduces us into the world of the House of Latitude. A place where absolute discretion is demanded in exchange for entry into a mysterious social experiment in the form of an elaborate immersive experience. Drawing a community of curiosity seekers, this secret society becomes a way of life for some, putting increasing pressure on the organizers to maintain this sophisticated and fantastical parallel world. From the minds who inspired AMC’s upcoming series Dispatches From Elsewhere,IN BRIGHT AXIOM weaves an intriguing cautionary tale about the unforeseen consequences of embracing the unknown. Followers of Meow Wolf, Sleep No More, Ingress and other immersive & augmented reality entertainment should take note. IN BRIGHT AXIOM also features never-before-seen discourse from the mesmerizing hip-hop polymath, RAMMELLZEE and original music by Justin Robbins, with additional songs from Isan, Tickles, and ü-Ziq. Director Spencer McCall has spent the last ten years orchestrating socio-reengineering and public hoax-prank performance art pieces. An avid fan of the Yes Men, McCall began by participating in Improv Everywhere inspired events, “plant” based roles in The Go Game, and location-based performances with Atmos-theater. In 2009, he became a co-creator of the Jejune Institute; a citywide alternate reality game in San Francisco that lasted three years and “inducted” over 10,000 unknowing participants. McCall took his experience working with Jejune and turned it into an award-winning documentary The Institute.The Institute is currently being remade into a series on a major television network. McCall also contributed to follow-up experience The Latitude Society; a faux secret society with an underground experiential labyrinth beneath San Francisco. Director Spencer McCall and House of Latitude founder and In Bright Axiom subject, Jeff Hull, join us for a fascinating conversation on the ebb and flow, as well as, the inherent contradiction that facilitated the unraveling of this remarkable enterprise.
Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, ATLANTICS marks the feature narrative debut of director Mati Diop. Along the Atlantic coast of Africa, a soon-to-be-inaugurated futuristic tower looms over a suburb of Dakar. Ada, 17, is in love with Souleimane, a young construction worker. But she has been promised to another man. One night, Souleimane and his co-workers disappear at sea. Soon after, they come back to haunt their old neighbourhood by taking possession of the girlfriends they left behind. Some of the workers have come claiming revenge and threaten to burn the tower down if the developer does not pay their wages. But Souleiman has come back for Ada, so they can be together one last time. Director and writer Mati Diop joins us for a conversation on her compelling new film, finding love, and the mythology of a ghost story.
About the filmmaker: Trained in Le Fresnoy (National Studio of Contemporary Arts – a leading and very selective French artistic institution), Mati Diop directed four shorts and a medium-length film which received the “Martin E. Segal – Emerging Artist Award” of the Lincoln Center (USA) in 2016. A THOUSAND SUNS (2013), BIG IN VIETNAM (2011), SNOW CANON (2010) and ATLANTIQUES (2009) were selected and awarded in a wide number of international festivals such as the Venice International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Viennale, The Indie Lisboa International Film Festival, and the FID Marseille. They were also programmed in the MoMA and in the Moving Image Museum (USA). As an actress, Mati Diop played in HERMIA Y HELENA by director Matias Piñeiro (2015), FORT BUCHANAN by Benjamin Crotty (2014), SIMON KILLER by Antonio Campos (2012) and 35 SHOTS OF RHUM by Claire Denis (2008).
Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2019
Official Selection, New York Film Festival 2019
Mati Diop, Mary Pickford Award Winner, Toronto InternationalFilm Festival 2019
“This shape-shifting Senegalese drama is pure cinematic poetry. Slipping in and out of modes with a magician’s confidence, Atlantics is mysterious and mythic, with a wizardly use of sound and some unforgettable images.” – ★★★★★ The Telegraph – Tim Robey
“A striking work, with a lyrical, richly evocative ghost story. Exquisitely shot by Claire Mathon and lushly scored by Fatima Al Qadiri, the film pulls together some exceedingly strong components.”– The Hollywood Reporter – Leslie Felperin
“Constantly intriguing, Atlantics is an intense romance notable for the craft of the filmmaking and Diop’s original approach to complex issues of love, loss and the forces for change that can rise from the ashes of tragedy.” – Screen International – Allan Hunter
“A gorgeous, mesmerizing feature directorial debut. Atlantics is an absorbing, otherworldly vision of an alienated seaside life in Dakar.” – IndieWire – Eric Kohn
“A romantic and melancholy film, part social commentary, part ghost tale, that works best in its evocation of loss and female solidarity.” – Variety – Jay Weissberg
COLD BROOK follows two men who live in a small college town in upstate New York. They are best friends who work the night shift as museum guards and handymen. Their lives are simple and mostly satisfying, until they are confronted with a supernatural situation. The men are then faced with a dilemma that puts their jobs, marriages, and their futures on the line.COLD BROOK is the directorial debut of William Fichtner (Armageddon, Black Hawk Down, Mom), who co-wrote the film alongside Cain DeVore. Fichtner also stars in Kim Coates (The Client, Black Hawk Down, Sons of Anarchy), Harold Perrineau(Romeo + Juliet, 28 Weeks Later, Sons of Anarchy) Robin Weigart (Concussion, Deadwood) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Safety Not Guaranteed, The Kings of Summer, Sunshine Cleaning). Director William Fichtner joins us to talk about making a heartwarming, genre bending film in his upstate New York hometown surrounded by many of his closest friends.
“Cold Brook is an adult fairy tale that embraces its broad interpretations to remind its leading men about what truly matters most.” – Jared Mobarak, The Film Stage
“… Cold Brook succeeds in part by its fantastic cast, but mostly by its focus on simplicity. There’re no grand fights or superfluous moments, just a tale of love that transcends time and mortal existence.” – Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness
“Are You Ready To Be Different: Part ghost tale, part Bartleby while at the same time a captivating slavery reparations fable, the film flirts with the supernatural even with its heart planted firmly in sobering class and race issues historically and now.” – Prairie Miller, WBAI Radio
At the turn of the 1900’s, two years after a quiet murder involving an out-of-town stage actor and a local doctor’s daughter, an esteemed Opera House welcomes a progressive Vaudevillian troupe from the East for its first performances since the tragedy; and along with it, a veiled actress with a curious intent. With tensions still thick surrounding past events, this mysterious performer discovers she isn’t the only one seeking revenge: someone or something has been “haunting” the assailant already. When the two conspirers uncover each other’s secrets, they decide their dual efforts will be more successful in subduing their enemy. THE RIOT ACT is a multi-award winning independent film that deftly immerses audiences in a layered tale of a caste system on the brink of violence where humanity and love are expendable in the eyes of society in the early 1900’s. Following a wildly successful festival and theatrical run, the film will be available to audiences everywhere on October 8th, 2019. The feature film directorial debut from auteur writer / director Devon Parks (Step Into: Miss Laura’s, The Help), THE RIOT ACT stars Lauren Sweetser (True Detective, Winter’s Bone), Brett Cullen (Joker, 42, Dark Knight Rises), Connor Price (Cinderella Man), Micah Hauptman (Homeland, Rust Creek), Brandon Keener (Traffic, The Purge: Anarchy) and Travis Joe Dixon (NCIS, Blackish). Director and writer Devon Parks joins us to talk about his intriguing mystery period piece, the he orchestrates from a very talented group of actors.
“While there are a few narrative implausibilities, they never derail the story, and while the story takes on a bit more thematically then it can ultimately deliver, it is generally preferable that a film’s reach exceeds its grasp.” – Dan Jardine, Cinemania
“A troupe that claims to offer “high-end vaudeville” arrives, not only to seriously heat up plot possibilities, but prove that Parks might have a real future at the movies.” – John Urbancich, Your Movies (cleveland.com)
Black babies don’t come from white people. Except this one just did. That’s what Jen (Sarah Butler) tells her husband Tom (Will McFadden). He says he believes her. But soon, amidst a constant barrage of questions from everyone, Tom’s doubts and worst fears take hold. Both new parents are scared by the thoughts entering their minds, and scared to share them with each other. Baby Liam seems to love their dear friend Ron (Jamie Hector) – but why does that make it harder for Tom? And why do people keep confusing Ron for Liam’s father? Maybe because they’re both black. By the time a twist is revealed that could explain the baby’s appearance, it may be too late. Before Tom and Jen can accept their child, they’ll have to accept themselves… or face living their lives apart. Starring Will McFadden, Sarah Butler, Jamie Hector, Rob Belushi, Zach Cregger, James Morrison, and Melora Walters. Doubting Thomas, winner of Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Audience Award, Best First Feature, will begin its theatrical run in Los Angeles on Friday, October 11th, ahead of its North American VOD / Digital release on October 15th, 2019 through Gravitas Ventures. Will McFadden’s directorial debut, DOUBTING THOMASbrings unconscious racism home in the innocence of a baby. A complex tale that touches on institutionalracism and assumed privilege, the concept for the film was born from the true story of a black man killed in police custody in a racially charged incident. That man’s son, Joseph Campbell, shares story by credit with McFadden. Director / Co-writer / Producer and Lead Actor Will McFadden joins us to talk about his thought provoking drama that raises a multitude of questions about the relevance of family history, trust and race.
In AUGGIE, Felix Greystone (Richard Kind) is forced into early retirement and falls in love with an augmented reality companion, to the detriment of his relationship with his wife and daughter. At his “early retirement” party, Felix Greystone is given a pre-release version of an AUGGIE, a pair of augmented reality smart glasses that project a perfectly human companion onto his world. When Felix’s wife Anne gets a promotion and his daughter Grace gets serious with her boyfriend, Felix suddenly feels very alone. He opens up to his new companion, AUGGIE, and is recognized and appreciated by her. He feels the ache of loneliness dissipate. AUGGIE reawakens a passion in Felix, and to his own surprise, he begins to fall for her. In a world that feels too good to be true, it’s difficult for Felix to recognize his increasing addiction to the technology, losing sight of what truly matters. Director Matt Kane stops by to talk about his fascinating film about relationships, relevance in the lives of others, a near future “reality” and working with an excellent cast of actors.
When he was an infant, Donnie Corker suffered from the “Spider Mites of Jesus,” because his mother couldn’t pronounce spinal meningitis. This caused mental challenges that resulted in his lifelong illiteracy. At 13, he began selling his body on the streets as a drag prostitute. When he was arrested, he took a dump in the back of the police car, leading the cops to give him the moniker: Dirtwoman. Since then he’s run for mayor, gotten kicked out of the inauguration of America’s first black governor (Douglas Wilder), posed for his own pin-up calendar (weighing in at 350 pounds), offered crabs from his crotch for a GWAR video and hosted the annual Hamaganza fundraiser that provided “Hams for the Hamless.” When he died last year at 65, it was on the front page, top-of-the-fold of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and was featured nationally on NPR. Director Jerry Williams talks about living in the same town as Donnie Corker (Dirtwoman) and the lasting impact he had on so many people and different communities within the city of Richmond.
About The Dirtwoman Documentary: While taking a lunch break on a shoot in 1999, Jerryand local videographer Dave Park started discussing Dirtwoman. They partnered with local producer Liz Throckmorton to create a documentary. It was launched with big birthday party for Dirtwoman. Then they got sidetracked for 17 years making a living. In February 2017, Jerry was contacted by Mark Holmberg, a long-time friend who chronicled the exploits of Dirtwoman (in print at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, then as reporter for CBS6). Donnie had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and Mark aired a story that included Jerry. That sparked his motivation to return to the project. Jerry’s produced hundreds of videos during his career, but never had a passion project. He enlisted colleagues from all aspects of the production biz to help him, most working for free…because they liked the idea. (See “Who Worked on It”) He produced the teaser in May 2017 to promote the project and recruit more interviews. When editing started in March 2018, 70 people had been interviewed (see “Who’s In It”). In addition to the video footage shot in 1999, the doc will feature never seen before video and photos.
RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on the Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Her razor sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing, and craving ink in her columns. She knew the Bill of Rights was in peril, and said “Polarizing people is a good way to win an election and a good way to wreck a country.” Molly’s words have proved prescient. Now it’s up to us to raise hell! Director Janice Engel (Ted Hawkins Amazing Grace, Jackson Browne: Going Home, Addicted and What We Carry) joins us for a lively conversation on a journalist who did not shy away from confronting and shaming the most powerful institutions, political interests and the people who protected them from her righteous anger and lacerating wit.
About Molly Ivins: Molly Ivins was a nationally-syndicated political columnist and author, who remained cheerful despite the state of politics in this country and her own physical trials. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. Ivins was from Houston, Texas, graduated from Smith College in 1966, then from Columbia University’s School of Journalism with a Masters in 1967. Ivins won many awards too numerous to list for her writing, courage, and truth telling. Her freelance work appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, Esquire, Harper’s, Atlantic, and Playboy. She was also known for her essays on National Public Radio as well as media appearances around the world. Ivins wrote seven books, several of which were best-sellers including; BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush’s America with Lou Dubose in 2003 and WHO LET THE DOGS IN? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known in 2004. Molly was President of the Board of the Texas Democracy Foundation publisher of the venerable Texas Observer, which was her spiritual home and love. She found her voice at the Observer and helped sustain them and lead countless other young writers in seeking out the “good” stories and bring them to the public.
“The best way to get the sons of bitches is to make people laugh at them.” – Molly Ivins
“It’s a rare documentary indeed that so expertly captures the singular essence of its subject, and [Molly] Ivins is restored to vivid and vital life, if not in the flesh than in the mind and spirit.” – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
Building on the promise of his hallucinogenic debut GO DOWN DEATH, filmmaker Aaron Schimberg delivers another brilliantly oddball, acerbically funny foray into gonzo surrealism. In a deft tragicomic performance, Jess Weixler (TEETH) plays Mabel, a movie star “slumming it” in an outré art-horror film being shot in a semi-abandoned hospital. Cast opposite her is Rosenthal (UNDER THE SKIN’ s Adam Pearson), a gentle-natured young man with a severe facial deformity. As their relationship evolves both on and offscreen, Schimberg raises provocative questions about cinematic notions of beauty, representation, and exploitation. Tod Browning crossed with Robert Altman crossed with David Lynch only begins to describe something this startlingly original and deeply felt. Director Aaron Schimberg joins us to talk about his hurly-burly, cosmically clever tale of misdirection, expectations and human connection.
Director’s Statement:As a filmmaker with a facial difference, I have never seen my experience accurately represented on screen. This film – the first, as far as I know, made by and starring disfigured people – is my humble attempt to remedy that. When disfigured characters are seen at all in films (usually played by handsome actors with disfiguring latex), they are trotted out to play monsters or objects of pity, made into vessels for the symbolic expression of cruelty, sin, villainy and other ills. “Bitter defectives,” as a character in my film says. Even when they’re portrayed sympathetically, they function only to impart inspirational lessons to the able-bodied people who encounter them. CHAINED FOR LIFE is my response to the way people with disfigurements have been portrayed in films (for instance, in FREAKS, THE ELEPHANT MAN, WONDER) throughout cinema’s history. It asks whether the sum of these portrayals has adversely affected the way we are regarded in real life. I consider it a comedy, but if you think it’s a tragedy, I wouldn’t argue with you. – Aaron Schimberg
“Critic’s Pick! An inventive hall of mirrors… that keeps finding ways to upend its characters’ — and viewers’ — perspectives. Odd, darkly funny and — when it means to be — a little frightening.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
“Extraordinary. A cinematic revolution.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Humane and transgressive, an American indie of unusually big ideas and aesthetic ambition.” – Nellie Killian, Film Comment
“Bizarre and beautiful. Leaves us on thrillingly shifty ground.” – Keith Uhlich, The Hollywood Reporter
“Mesmerizing. A remarkable mind trip of a movie sure to leave audiences reeling.” – Kate Erbland, Indiewire
“Razor-sharp. Mesmerizingly close to the sensation of a waking dream.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice
“An intoxicating whirlwind of ideas, spectacularly moving and entertaining. Chained for Life could be a defining film about representation for any group that Hollywood marginalizes.” – Andrew Todd, Birth.Movies.Death
BECOMING NOBODY represents the core arc of Ram Dass’ teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom. Through his turns as scion of an eminent Jewish family from Boston, rock-star Harvard psychologist, counter-culture rascally adventurer, Eastern holy man, stroke survivor and compassionate caregiver, Ram Dass has worn many hats on his journey, the narrative of which is revealed in this film. His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom. In BECOMING NOBODY, historic clips balance an engaging conversation with director Jamie Catto. We come to understand how our old roles and disguises become increasingly burdensome. The film captures a loving man full of joy, wit, honesty and wisdom, at ease in conversation while sharing his considerable pains and pleasures. The life experiences that have freed him from the attachments of his ‘somebody-ness’ have transformed him into the radiant soul who now inspires a new generation. Producer Raghu Markus joins us to talk about the life and times of Ram Dass, his transformation from Richard Alpert and what it means to love, serve, remember.
About the Producer – Raghu Markus: Raghu Markus spent two years in India with Maharaj-ji and Ram Dass. He has been involved in music and transformational media since the early 1970s when he was program director of CKGM-FM in Montreal. In 1974 he collaborated with Ram Dass on the box set Love Serve Remember. In 1990, he launched Triloka Records and Karuna Music in Los Angeles, California. Triloka established itself as a critical leader in the development of world music and for 17 years was home to such artists as Krishna Das, Hugh Masekela, Walela, and Jai Uttal. He produced transformational media projects that featured Ram Dass, Deepak Chopra and Les Nubians. He is the executive Director of the Love Serve Remember Foundation. In 2016, he co-founded the Be Here Now Podcast Network and hosts Here & Now with Ram Dass as well as his own Mindrolling podcast.
GIVE ME LIBERTY is based on his personal experience as a medical transport driver and an immigrant, director Kirill Mikhanovsky, with writer Alice Austen, create a raw feature film about the comedy andheartbreak of people in the underprivileged communities living in a struggling American city. Medical transport driver Vic (newcomer Chis Galust) is running late, but it’s not his fault. Roads are closed for a protest, and no one else can shuttle his Russian grandfather and his emigre friends to a funeral. The new route uproots his scheduled clients, particularly Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer in a breakout performance), a vibrant young woman with ALS. As the day goes from hectic to off-the-rails, their collective ride becomes a hilarious, compassionate and intersectional portrait of American dreams and disenchantment. The characters in GIVE ME LIBERTY are drawn from the people of Milwaukee – they’re magnificently diverse and their struggle to survive is desperate, contradictory, funny and moving. Director Kirill Mahanovsky joins us for a spirited conversation on working with a cast of mostly non-professional actors, drawing upon his own work history for the story behind the film and the importance of making Give Me Liberty in his adopted hometown of Milwaukee.
About the filmmaker:Russian-born Kirill Mikhanovsky grew up in Moscow where his early passion for cinema compelled him to skip school and go to the movie theatre across the street from his home where, often as the only person in the house, he watched countless films. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhanovsky immigrated to Milwaukee, where he had a series of odd jobs, including driving medical transport for people with disabilities, and began making films. After graduating from NYU Film School, Mikhanovsky went on to make films in the US, Brazil, Russia, and South America. A Sundance Alum, his first feature SONHOS DE PEIXEwon the Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Completely, delightfully unpredictable from scene to scene, ‘Give Me Liberty’ draws you in with its moving performances and blasts of broad comedy.” – Manohla Dargis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“A wonderfully anarchic dark comedy, which deftly welds its frenetically farcical structure to a humanistic portrait of marginalized communities thrown together.” – David Rooney, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“Lyrical and touching. It’s a journey worth taking.” – Tim Grierson, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
“Establishes writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky as a major talent.” – Eric Kohn, INDIEWIRE
DRIVEN is a fast-paced, comedic crime thriller of a bromance gone wrong between John DeLorean, played by Lee Pace (Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book of Henry), and Jim Hoffman, played by Jason Sudeikis (Colossal, Booksmart). Set in early 1980s California, the story follows the meteoric rise of the golden boy of the automotive industry, John DeLorean and his iconic DeLorean Motor Company, through the eyes of his friendship with charming, ex-con pilot turned FBI informant, Jim Hoffman. DeLorean turned to unsavory activities to save his financially troubled DeLorean Motor Company, and it was Hoffman who was all too willing to lure the car designer / engineer into a cocaine trafficking ring set up by the FBI. Isabel Arraiza is Cristina DeLorean, DeLorean’s fashion model wife, Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Jurassic World, War for the Planet of the Apes) is Ellen Hoffman, Hoffman’s direct, no nonsense wife and Corey Stoll (First Man, Ant-Man, Midnight in Paris) is ambitious FBI Special Agent Benedict Tisa. Director Nick Hamm joins us for a conversation on the challenges of re-creating the time and place where the DeLorean / Hoffman took place and establishing a comedic tone that propels this highly entertaining story.
“Driven is a short and sweet supernatural romp that never gets boring and somehow manages to pack laughs into what could be a very intense storyline in another film.” – Lorry Kikta, Film Threat
“Once again, two fine central performances bring a clever Colin Bateman script alive, with Jason Sudeikis injecting a well of emotional depth to his portrayal of a scuzzy FBI informant with a small but troubling conscience.” – Lee Marshall, Screen International
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is an adventure story set in the world of a modern Mark Twain that begins when Zak (Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck. Through circumstances beyond their control Tyler (LaBeouf), a small time outlaw on the run, becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (Johnson), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, to join them on their journey. THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON stars Shia LaBeouf,Dakota Johnson, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern, John Hawkes and newcomer, Zack Gottsagen, premiered back in March at SXSW and was a huge critical success, with a current score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won over fans, taking home the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight. Co-directors and co-writers Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson stop by to talk about there experiences and the stacks of miracles that brought this heart-warming tale of friendship and reaching for your dreams.
“LaBeouf brings the soul to “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” while Gottsagen brings the spirit. He has an undeniably charming screen presence, and the actor takes to this starring role with gusto.” – Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times
“A heartwarming, tender and funny adventure grounded in humanism. Refreshingly witty and unconventional. It’s one of the summer’s best surprises.” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru
“What’s clear is that a lot of development time, movie resources, and A-List actors all came together to make a masterpiece of a film centering on one person…Zack Gottsagen.” – Alan Ng, Film Threat
“‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is a sweet, warm story about dreams and the family you choose. Zack Gottsagen is pure comedy. Shia LaBeof is giving me sexy, scruffy with substance and the pairing of these two on screen is perfection.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
THE MOUNTAIN is a dark, hypnotic and surreal satire about repression and conformity set against the 1950’s “golden age” of American male domination.(Tye Sheridan, READY PLAYER ONE, MUD), whose mother was sent to an asylum years ago, is an introverted young photographer at loose ends, ignored by his father (cult actor Udo Kier). After the death of his father, Andy is befriended by renowned lobotomist Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, JURASSIC PARK) and joins him on a tour to promote the doctor’s recently-debunked procedure. As Andy increasingly identifies with the asylum’s patients, he falls in love with a rebellious young woman, Susan (Hannah Gross), and encounters the burgeoning New Age movement of the West. Also starring Denis Lavant (HOLY MOTORS). Director and co-writer Rick Alverson (THE COMEDY, ENTERTAINMENT) joins us for a conversation on the subversive performances of Goldblum and Sheridan and the ways his harrowing, brilliant film cuts to the core of savage male brutality in the guise of “science.”
The BlackStar Film Festival (BlackStar) returns August 1-4, 2019 with a stellar slate of black, brown and indigenous films from around the globe. The BlackStar Film Festival is an annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and of global communities of color, showcasing films by black, brown and indigenous people from around the world. Continuing its legacy of discovery and excellence, audiences can expect must-see film premieres, poignant artist discussions, and discover new cinematic favorites from this year’s class of emerging filmmakers. Founded in 2012 by Maori Karmael Holmes, BlackStar has become the hottest event on the film festival calendar. With a program unlike any other, BlackStar is the destination to discover new artists voices from Black and global indigenous filmmakers. Artists including Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty; HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness), and Matthew A. Cherry (9 RIdes; ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier), and Nijla Baseema Mu’min (Jinn) have shared their work at the festival and from BlackStar cultivated a fanbase that has grown with their careers.
This year’s festival features sneak preview of Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America, a new documentary series directed by directed Erik Parker and One9.
From Executive Producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee, and Alex Gibney,Fear No Gumbo, a documentary feature directed by Kimberly Rivers Roberts, about the 13 years since the deadly Category 5 Hurricane Katrina that made landfall on Florida and Louisiana and the corruption and systemic racism that still victimizes the residents that returned after Katrina.
A new documentary from Emmy Award-winning director andMacarthur “genius” fellow Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution). Boss which explores over 150 years of African American entrepreneurship, from bondage to billion dollar moguls.
Academy Award-winningdirector, Roger Ross Williams (Music By Prudence, God Loves Uganda) will be on-hand for the debut of his latest documentary The Apollo chronicling the unique history and contemporary legacy of New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater.
Panels and Awards:
BlackStar will present the Luminary Award to Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Do The Right Thing, filmmakerSpike Lee and activist Tarana Burke will discuss the possibilities of using radical storytelling to center social justice and foster narrative change.
On the outskirts of Birmingham and the margins of society the Billingham family perform extreme rituals and break social taboos as they muddle through a life decided by factors beyond their control. At times shocking and laced with an unsettling humour, three episodes unfold as a powerful evocation of the experience of growing up in a Black Country council flat. Director Richard Billingham joins us for a conversation on his raw, intimate, biographical tale of dysfunctional family and fractured memories.
About the filmmaker Richard Billingham:In 1997 he was the first recipient of the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize and the following year BBC2 broadcast his film Fishtank, (47mins) produced by Artangel and filmmaker Adam Curtis. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2001 and was nominated for the Turner Prize, also 2001. He has made work about his immediate family, about animals in zoos around the world and about the British landscape. Recently he has written and directed his first feature film for cinema called ‘Ray & Liz’, shot on location in the Midlands where he grew up. His work is held in many collections including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, V & A and Tate Galleries, London.
“Performed with absolute commitment by its cast (Justin Salinger and Ella Smith play the younger versions of the title characters), “Ray & Liz” is a quietly harrowing movie.” – Glenn Kenny, New York Times
“Reaching backwards to understand the hardship of his formative years, [Richard] Billingham finds clarity and cinematic grace by reconciling the deep, irreparable flaws of his mother and father.” – Rhys Handley, One Room With A View
“We often say art “cuts close to the bone,” but in its depiction of clinking liquor bottles and drawers of unopened rent notices soaked in dog urine, Ray & Liz slices clean through that bone.” – Andrew Lapin, NPR
A rainy night. A dazed and numb young cabdriver, Luz, drags herself into the brightly lit entrance of a rundown police station. Across town in a nightspot, Nora seductively engages police psychiatrist Dr. Rossini in a conversation. Nora is possessed by a demonic entity, longing for the woman it loves – Luz. She tells the Doctor about her old schoolmate Luz’s rebellious past at a Chilean school for girls. Increasingly drunk on her story, Rossini turns into an easy prey in Nora’s hands, but he’s soon called away to the police station to examine Luz. Supervised by his colleagues, the doctor puts Luz in a state of hypnosis that initiates a series of flashbacks, unfolding the events leading to her arrival. But the entity that has taken control of the doctor wants something more. Bit by bit it slips into Luz’ reenactment and makes old memories come to light. Shooting entirely on 16mm, first time feature film director Tilman Singer pays homage to horror masters David Cronenberg, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, while infusing the genre with a fresh take of his own.Director Tilman Singer stops by to talk about his mind-bending, trip through a fevered tale of “demonic” possession, ruptured identity and menacing dread.
”LUZ is a story about identity, a lack of one, or maybe even denying one’s own. For the most part this is told by forces (archetypal characters, institutions, or personifications of moral arguments) influencing and manipulating our titular character Luz. I structured the narrative as a panic attack, of repressed memories and confusion. It is purposely open to interpretation by the viewer.LUZ is a sensuous thriller that plays with the sensory perception of the audience. Initially, I wanted to write a simple story that could only be told audio-visually. How we ended up telling it cinematically, nested within diegetic flashbacks, got a little more complicated. For example, we use an additional layer of sound that adds a past reality to a present one. Given that we are observing a moment relived under hypnosis,the credibility of both realities is questioned at all times. The viewer who attempts to answer this question of credibility has to, with sharpened senses, fully engage in image and sound.”
“Working with very little resources, (writer/director) Singer creates a wholly unique story of possession, obsession, loneliness, manipulation, and ultimately self-destruction that is incredibly ambitious and impressively executed.” – Rob Dean, Daily Grindhouse
“Though there’s a split in audiences around what constitutes horror … the one thing that’s agreed upon is that the genre seeks to unsettle and provoke. In this regard, Singer’s Luz is an undeniable triumph.” – Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness
After he’s attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei’s mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Audacious and offbeat, The Art of Self-Defense is an original dark comedy that takes toxic masculinity to absurd extremes. Director Riley Stearns joins us for a lively conversation on this wildly inventive, surreal black comedy.
“The Art of Self-Defense manages to clarify the filmmaker’s intriguing vision by stuffing it into a remarkably unnerving character study.” – Eric Kohn, indieWire
“”The Art of Self-Defense” may be presented as an absurdist satire, but like the best American comedies… it doubles as a keen critique of our national character.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
“’Fight Club’ by way of Yorgos Lanthimos, Riley Stearns’ screed on “might is right” toxic masculinity is a giggly black comedy that cowers down a twisty-turny rabbit hole.” – Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot