Twenty-five years after the 1995 Chicago heat wave, COOKED: Survival by Zip Code examines the events that led to the deaths of 739 people, mostly Black and in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The film arrives at a time of growing calls across the country to declare racism a public health crisis and to reinvest in communities ravaged by the long-term impact of structural racism. A recent NYU study found life expectancy differentials as wide as 20-30 years linked to racial and ethnic segregation between neighborhoods in American cities. Adapted from Eric Klinenberg’s ground-breaking book ‘HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago,’ the film is directed and produced by Peabody Award-winning director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl, A Healthy Baby Girl, Everything’s Cool), produced by Fenell Doremus (co-producer of Academy Award-nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), and Kartemquin Films, the award-winning Chicago documentary production house behind Minding the Gap and Hoop Dreams. In COOKED, Helfand challenges herself, and ultimately all of us, to respond to the man-made disasters taking place in towns and cities across the country before the next unprecedented “natural” disaster hits. Director Judith Helfand joins us to talk about the systemic racism that makes the neighborhoods of the poorest the most likely location for
Independent Lens:COOKED: Survival by Zip Code will have its national television debut on the PBS television series Independent Lens on Monday, February 3 at 10:00 pm (check local listings), preceding coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. The film will also be available to stream at PBS.org and on the free PBS Video App throughout Black History Month.
Each week this award-winning series bring you an original documentary film made by one of the best independent filmmakers working today. Independent Lens films have won 19 Emmy Awards, 16 Peabody Awards, five duPont-Columbia University Awards, and have received 10 Academy Award nominations. Independent Lens won the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 International Documentary Association (IDA) Award for Best Continuing Series.
ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS takes place off the coast of Indonesia, in the Australian territory of Christmas Island, inhabited by migratory crabs traveling in their millions from the jungle towards the ocean, in a movement that has been provoked by the full moon for hundreds of thousands of years. Poh Lin Lee is a “trauma therapist” who lives with her family in this seemingly idyllic paradise. Every day, she talks with the asylum seekers held indefinitely in a high-security detention centre hidden in the island’s core, attempting to support them in a situation that is as unbearable as its outcome is uncertain. As Poh Lin and her family explore the island’s beautiful yet threatening landscape, the local islanders carry out their “hungry ghost” rituals for the spirits of those who died on the island without a burial. They make offerings to appease the lost souls who are said to be wandering the jungles at night looking for home. ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS is a hybrid documentary that moves between the natural migration and the chaotic and tragic migration of the humans, which is in constant metamorphoses by the unseen decision-making structures. Director Gabrielle Brady joins us to talk about her beautiful and quietly powerful tale of desperate people trapped in a place of pervasive uncertainty and a woman trying to help them cope.
“ Island of the Hungry Ghosts is one of the year’s most impressively made documentaries, a film that’s as occasionally surreal as it is persistently moving. Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a true discovery.” – JOSHUA BRUNSTING, CRITERION CAST
“A documentary overflowing with empathy, poetry, and elemental power.” – HUBERT VIGILLA, FLIXIST
“Hauntingly beautiful Island of the Hungry Ghosts combines multiple narratives…into one glorious whole… A mesmerizing work of visual wonder, the breathtaking images forming an evocative setting for a vital discussion of human rights… A stunning, visceral first feature, announcing the director as a major talent to watch” – CHRISTOPHER LLEWELLYN REED, FILM FESTIVAL TODAY
“The best documentary award goes to a film that demonstrates extraordinary mastery of the full symphonic range of cinematic tools: cinematography, editing, score, sound design and, perhaps greatest of all, an exquisite use of metaphor. To a film that moved us deeply, impressed us immensely and made us feel we were witnessing nothing less than the emergence, fully formed, of a major new cinematic talent” – TRIBECA JURY
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.
Fifteen years in the making, The Animal People, Co-directed by Casey Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly – Executive Produced by Joaquin Phoenix – follows the journey of six young Americans who find themselves targeted as terrorists by the US government for their involvement in a controversial protest campaign. Seeing the future of social movement organizing, the activists used the then fledgling internet to dramatically magnify their impact as they systematically knocked out the pillars of financial support that kept the company in business. But when letter writing and protests began to mushroom into dead-of-night vandalism and worse by unknown activists, this corporation and the government formed an alliance to destroy the group. The FBI began an unprecedented campaign of surveillance in preparation for prosecution, creating a model that would later be used against Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Congress, under corporate influence, rewrote laws and bent the definition of incitement in order to accomplish the prosecution of these six, potentially weakening free speech rights for all Americans. Featuring expansive interviews with the activists spanning over a decade, rare archival footage – including never-before-seen FBI undercover surveillance tapes, wiretaps and government documents, The Animal People is a chilling portrait of what happens when activism rattles the institutions of power. Co-director Casey Suchan (Denis Henry Hennelly) joins us to talk about their bellwether film that puts the anti-accountability campaign engineered by large corporate interests and the supine partnership with complicit government agencies on full display.
In this extraordinary documentary, WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS we are immersed in the Kenyan bush, as a small-time ivory dealer fights to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade. When he propositions his younger cousin, a conflicted wildlife ranger who hasn’t been paid in months, they both see a possible lifeline. The plummeting elephant population in Africa has captured the attention of the world, and as the government cracks down, both poachers and rangers face their own existential crises— what is the value of elephant life relative to human life? And can we understand these hunters who will risk death, arrest, and the moral outrage of the world to provide for their families? The photography in this film is so stunning that many people forget they’re watching a documentary, and it’s probably why WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONSwas justnominated for two 2019 IDA Documentary Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Editing). WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS is told in the style of “embedded” filmmaking with an intimate and strikingly honest look at elephant poaching in Kenya, told from both perspectives — the poachers and the rangers who pursue them. At its core, WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS is the human side of why people do what they do given their circumstances. An angle not many people think about when they hear “elephant poaching”. WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS is executive produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) and directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and Doc NYC 40 Under 40 honoree, Jon Kasbe. Kasbe followed his subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust on both sides of the ideological and ethical spectrum. The result is a rare and visually arresting look at the perspectives and motives of the people at the epicenter of this conservation crisis. Director Jon Kasbe joins us to talk about the making of his riveting film, gaining the confidence of the film’s subjects and navigating the many ethical questions he confronted during the making of When Lambs Become Lions.
“A probing view of how a failed African state allows poaching to continue, no matter the lofty speeches of its new president. When people are desperate, they turn to crime–including poaching.” – Louis Proyect, Counterpunch.org
“Documents how this daily struggle binds together the inhabitants of Northern Kenya, both man and beast, and explores how questions of morality and mortality become increasingly complicated in such a savage landscape.” – Nikki Baughan, Screen International
“Kasbe nudges us to remember the importance of food on the table – for all Kenyatta’s show of might, wouldn’t a better situation be kindled by simply paying people what they’re owed?” – Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
In her latest documentary, TO KID OR NOT TO KID,filmmaker Maxine Trump turns the camera on herself and her close circle of family and friends as she confronts the idea of not having kids. While exploring the cultural pressures and harsh criticism childfree women regularly experience, as well as the personal impact this decision may have on her own relationship, Maxine meets other women reckoning with their choice: Megan, who struggles to get medical permission to undergo elective sterilization, and Victoria, who lives with the backlash of publicly acknowledging that she made a mistake when she had a child. TO KID OR NOT TO KIDbravely plunges into an aspect of reproductive choice often misunderstood, mischaracterized, or considered too taboo to discuss. With rising public awareness about climate change, resource scarcity and global population, this timely film asks the question “Why can’t we talk about not having children?” Director Maxine Trump joins us for a lively conversation on pros and cons of parenthood, how that decision has played itself out in her life and the lives of those around her.
About the filmmaker:Maxine Trump worked for the BBC in London for seven years as a development executive for scripted comedy before emigrating to the USA, working as a TV commercial director and producer for eight years. She won BDA awards for her work on numerous commercial projects for Network TV and agency clients. Shewent on to direct documentaries for Sundance, TNT, BBC, TLC, Discovery etc. Her previous feature film Musicwood was a New York Times Critics pick, festival award winner and played on TV and in theaters around the world. Maxine is the author of the book “The Documentary Filmmakers Roadmap” published by Routledge, she is a Sundance advisor and teaches documentary filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and inquisitive cat and is always seeking new stories to tell.
“Candid and empathetic, the movie’s segments can feel rushed and unfocused; yet they have a ragged intimacy that argues implicitly for an individual’s right to choose, without interference or condemnation.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
“An engaging personal essay documentary about not having children, complete with interviews, arguments, hard data and sound reasoning coming from both sides of the debate” – Roger Moore, Movie Nation
“Strong arguments hold that having children is in some cases a selfish choice. Not having children, by contrast, is not selfish.” – Harvey S. Karten, Big Apple Reviews
In the entertaining and informative documentary we meet Jack Sim,MR. TOILET: The World’s #2 Man.To strangers, Jack Sim might come across as an eccentric entrepreneur who is obsessed with toilets, but to those who know him he’s “Mr. Toilet,” a crusader for global sanitation. Born in the Singapore slums, Sim knows first-hand the agonies of not having a proper loo. Sim’s is dedicating his life to a crisis no one dares talk about. Not having a place “to go” isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a problem that impacts 2.4 billion people worldwide. In India alone, 200,000 children die each year from lack of safe sanitation, while women are regularly raped because they have to defecate in public spaces. He founded the World Toilet Organization and spent the last 13 years lobbying 193 countries to raise awareness for proper sanitation. He even successfully lobbied the United Nations to create World Toilet Day (November 19) – the first International day of celebration for the toilet.Now he is plunged into his biggest challenge yet when asked to secure 6 million toilets for the “Clean India” initiative. But with few resources and no help from the government, his epic project and reputation are in jeopardy. Jack’s once supportive staff begins to doubt him; and when his family bonds start to fray over his obsessive dedication, Mr. Toilet realizes there is a price to pay for being the world’s #2 man. But as a “su-poo-hero”, he can’t quit. Director, producer and writer Lily Zepeda joins us to talk about a man possessed with bringing sanitation to a world that may not be ready to embrace it and how his mission has impacted the people closest to him.
“For me, the issue of clean sanitation and access to it is absolutely something I took for granted. Mr. Toilet showed me how foolish that idea was.” – Bobby LePire, Film Threat
“Enhanced by playful animations, this nicely composed documentary serves as an engagingly honest profile of a driven man and his prodigious movement.” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
“An intelligently crafted and balanced documentary that effectively captures her subject’s rambunctious personality, the sanitary issues he wants to bring to a wider audience, and even some light criticism.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate
The problem: The decline of the world’s coral reefs
Coral reefs cover only 0.1 percent of the Earth’s surface, but they’re home to 25 percent of all marine species, and they’re being lost at an alarming rate. Pollution, overfishing and climate change are some of the human-influenced culprits in the dramatic decline of these magnificent natural structures. Coral reefs serve as a linchpin in the global food web. Their decline leads our entire planet in a perilous direction. But research from scientists around the world hints at bright spots where real strides can be made in preservation and protection of these habitats.
The film: SAVING ATLANTIS
Narrated by actor and activist Peter Coyote, SAVING ATLANTIS is a feature-length documentary film by Oregon State University that covers the dramatic decline of the world’s coral reefs and those who are fighting to save them. Following the Global Coral Microbiome Project, a National Science Foundation-funded effort to understand the underlying causes of coral disease, as well as other coral conservation efforts, SAVING ATLANTIS focuses on the plight of an endangered habitat and the people most dramatically impacted by its disappearance.It is an emotional exploration of some of our planet’s greatest natural wonders at a tipping point in their ecological history. Co-directors Justin Smith and David Baker join us to talk about the intense research being done to save this invaluable planetary resource.
The inspiration for Parker Phillips and Graham Phillips debut feature film THE BYGONE was born from the grim effects of the recent oil boom in North Dakota. Beyond the environmental impact of the fracking itself, the boom brought a wave of lawlessness to a region not suited to respond to the flood of tens of thousands of predominantly male workers. Along with the drugs, violence and crime, this wave brought a heightened market for the sex trade, which disproportionately targeted and exploited young Native American women – our country’s most marginalized demographic, made vulnerable by centuries of disenfranchisement, discrimination and sexual victimization. It is compelling that natural resource extraction has once again led explicitly to the disruption of indigenous peoples and their culture, a narrative that echoes the gold rush and is as old as the foundations of America itself. The film explores the tension in this relationship within the modern western landscape, following a North Dakota cowboy and a Lakota girl as they attempt to survive in a land increasingly hostile to the Old West. In shedding light on the lawless shadows of our country, we learn how we have progressed as a Nation and what has remained unchanged, exploring the contemporary status of age-old relationships: East vs. West, Land vs. Industry, Cowboy vs. Indian, and ultimately the Future vs. the Bygone. The co-directors and screenwriters Parker Phillips and Graham Phillips stop by to talk about how their compelling feature film debut weaves together stories of sexual violence, human trafficking, fracking’s impact on America’s declining middle class and the historic abuse of Native Americans.
The story behind RETURN TO MOUNT KENNEDY begins and ends with Bobby Kennedy becoming the first human to stand atop a lonely peak in the Canadian Yukon that had just been named to honor his assassinated brother, JFK. His climbing guide was Jim Whittaker, a mountain icon who at 28 had become the first American to summit Mt. Everest. From that solemn trek,Jim—the shy outdoorsman and eventual CEO of REI—and RFK ignited a friendship over their shared love of wilderness. In the following years their lives would intertwine, both men having a profound effect on the other. But their shared path would end with an assassin’s bullet. In June of 1968, Jim would look on as Bobby was taken off life support. 50 years later, Jim’s son Bobby Whittaker— a legend of the grunge scene— decides that he and his brother Leif must ascend the mountain. Leif, the experienced alpinist, will guide Bobby, as they test their relationship on dangerous ground. When they are joined by RFK’s son Christopher Kennedy their trio is complete. Mt. Kennedy’s long shadow has loomed in all of their lives for decades. Now, half a century after their fathers’ climb, three sons will forge their own paths and find a vantage point above the shadows. Like their fathers before them, the trio bring out the best in each other. Confronting deeply emotional memories from a tumultuous era of American history, Bobby, Chris, and Leif finally understand why they were so driven to go there and why they must continue to do good in the world. Director Eric Becker joins us to talk about the deeply personal story of a family and the unlikely bond between two men who lived lives of purpose and integrity.
The acclaimed PBS documentary series Independent Lens, recently honored with two Peabody Awards, a Primetime Emmy nomination and 12 News & Documentary Emmy nominations, returns for a new season on Monday, October 28.This year’s premiere is Made in Boise,an engrossing look at the complex and controversial world of gestational surrogacy told through the stories of four women carrying babies for gay men and infertile couples in the conservative heartland of Idaho — the unofficial “surrogacy capital” of the United States. Also on the fall schedule is Decade of Fire, which travels back to the 1970s when the South Bronx was burning, to showcase the dedicated citizens who outlasted the flames and saved their community; The Interpreters, a moving look at the Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who risked their lives aiding American troops and who now struggle to find safety and security for themselves and their families; Conscience Point, which unearths the deep clash of values between the Native American Shinnecock of Long Island and their affluent Hamptons neighbors; and Attla, the rousing story of Alaska Native George Attla, who with one good leg and a determined mindset went on to become a champion dogsled racer. Other highlights of the Winter/Spring 2020 slate include Always in Season, a harrowing look at the history of lynching and the 2014 case of Lennon Lacy, a North Carolina teen who died under unexplained circumstances; Bedlam, a psychiatrist’s chronicle of what mental illness means in the U.S. today, interwoven with the story of how the system tragically failed his own sister; and Rewind, a devastating, autobiographical documentary about the far-reaching consequences of multigenerational child sexual abuse. Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen joins us to talk about the fundamental principles to support filmmakers telling stories about their communities and commitment to showcase thought-provoking documentaries about the issues that divide us and the ideals and beliefs that bind us together.
Made in Boise by Beth Aala(Monday, October 28)Go inside the lives of four surrogates and the intended parents whose children they carry. As the number of surrogate births surge across the country, a surprising epicenter of the movement is Boise, Idaho, where hundreds of women are choosing to be surrogates. For gay couples, single men, and those who struggle with infertility, this booming industry is often the last resort to biological parenthood. The film follows the four women as they navigate the rigors of pregnancy and the mixed feelings of their own families, who struggle to understand their choice to risk the physical and emotional complications of carrying babies for someone else.
Decade of Fire by Vivian Vázquez Irizarry, Gretchen Hildebran and Julia Steele Allen(Monday, November 4)In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire and close to a quarter-million people were displaced when their close-knit, multiethnic neighborhood burned. While the abandonment of landlords and dwindling support from government officials led to the devastation, Black and Puerto Rican residents were blamed. Now, Bronx-born Vivian Vázquez Irizarry explores the truth about the borough’s untold history and reveals how her community chose to resist, remain and rebuild.
The Interpreters by Andrés Caballero and Sofian Khan(Monday, November 11)More than 50,000 local interpreters helped protect U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling soldiers to communicate with the local population. But those who took the job were often considered traitors. In the aftermath of war, some have been able to leave their home countries and reach safety, while others still languish in hiding and fear for their lives.
Conscience Point by Treva Wurmfeld(Monday, November 18)In Long Island’s Hamptons, one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and an epicenter of the luxury property boom, a clash of values is taking place. The original inhabitants of the beautiful peninsula — the Shinnecock Indian Nation — find themselves squeezed onto a tiny, impoverished reservation. Over hundreds of years they have seen their ancient burial grounds plowed up for the widening of roads, mega-mansions, and ultra-exclusive golf courses like the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Now Shinnecock activists and long-standing residents, including farmers and fishing communities, are taking a stand against a never-ending tide of wealthy transplants, overdevelopment, pollution, congested highways and skyrocketing property taxes.
Attla by Catharine Axley (Monday, December 16)The inspiring but little-known story of legendary Alaska Native dogsled champion George Attla, who — with one good leg and fierce determination — rose to international fame. In the final chapter of his life, Attla emerges from retirement to mentor his 20-year-old grandnephew. With their sights set on reviving proud cultural traditions, the pair embark on a journey to compete in the world’s largest dogsled sprint race, one that has seen a steep decline in Native competitors.
Fantastic Fungi, the engaging and informative documentary directed by Louie Schwartzberg, is a consciousness-shifting film that takes us on an immersive journey through time and scale into the magical earth beneath our feet, an underground network that can heal and save our planet. Through the eyes of renowned scientists and mycologists like Paul Stamets, best-selling authors Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, Andrew Weil and others, we become aware of the beauty, intelligence and solutions the fungi kingdom offer us in response to some of our most pressing medical, therapeutic, and environmental challenges. When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration and hope, Fantastic Fungi brings us together as interconnected creators of our world. Directed by the pioneer of time-lapse photography, Louie Schwartzberg (Netflix’s “Moving Art”, Wings of Life for Disneynature, and Mysteries of the Unseen Worlds 3D Imax for Nat Geo still playing in theaters) Narrated by Academy Award-Winner Brie Larson.Director Louie Schwartzberg joins us to talk about the amazing world of fungus and the burgeoning field of scientific research into the thousands of positive, possibly planet saving benefits that can be realized from the magical spores.
“Fantastic Fungi makes the case that the answers to disease, anxiety, depression and global warming might be found underfoot. And they’re tasty to boot.” – Michael J. Casey, Boulder Weekly
“Louie and his team have accomplished an amazing task – with beautiful imagery, celebrating the quality of nature we have now. Fantastic Fungi is a film that serves to be a bridge of understanding to connect these ideas. By investing in these fungal networks we invest in the webs of life. Time is short. We need to bring this knowledge to the forefront of public consciousness.” – PAUL STAMETS
Inspired by Lewis Hyde’s beloved classic The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, GIFTis a richly cinematic film, interweaving character‐driven stories. On North America’s Pacific Northwest Coast, a young Indigenous artist and carver undertakes the elaborate preparations for a potlatch – to make a name for himself by giving everything away. In Rome, Italy, a factory occupied by migrant families is transformed into a living museum, protected by a barricade of art : a model of resistance, and an invaluable gift. In the pirate utopia of Burning Man, a mutant bumblebee art car distributes honey in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape. Meanwhile, in Auckland, New Zealand, artist Lee Mingwei prepares to launch Sonic Blossom – a “transformative gift” of song.GIFT is a tribute to something that can’t be measured or counted, bought or sold. Exploring the parallels between artists’ work and a gift economy, it’s a reflection on the creative process, the reasons we “labour in service of our gifts”, and a celebration of the imagination. Director Robin McKenna joins us to talk about her beautifully meditative film about paying forward human connection and how communities can re-imagine the meaning of wealth and prosperity.
About the filmmaker:Robin McKenna is director, producer and writer of GIFT, a feature-length documentary and crossmedia project inspired by Lewis Hyde’s classic bestseller The Gift. She is currently making Thanadoula, a short animated documentary fairytale about a real-life “death doula”, in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada – and Medicine, a feature-length documentary over a decade in the making, about ayahuasca, medicine and healing, with Dr. Gabor Maté. She directed Genevieve Bujold: ArtVie, a short film tribute to Bujold on 16mm, for the Governor General’s Awards for the Performing Arts in 2018. Robin grew up in Montréal, and began making films with La course destination monde. Her cinematography credits include City of Borders (Berlinale, Hot Docs 2009) and The Take with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis (AFI Best Documentary 2004).
A stunning sensory experience and cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a years-in-the-making feature documentary from the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013) and narrated by Alicia Vikander. The film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth. From concrete seawalls in China that now cover 60% of the mainland coast, to the biggest terrestrial machines ever built in Germany, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to metal festivals in the closed city of Norilsk, to the devastated Great Barrier Reef in Australia and massive marble quarries in Carrara, the filmmakers have traversed the globe using state of the art camera techniques to document the evidence and experience of human planetary domination. At the intersection of art and science, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH witnesses a critical moment in our geological history. Co-directorsJennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky bring a provocative and unforgettable experience of our species’s ever-expanding breadth and devastating impact.
“Astonishment. Pure, lurid, ravishing, genuine astonishment. That is Anthropocene: The Human Epoch.” – Luke Hicks, Nonfics
“The [team’s] latest film is the culmination of a major body of work and it’s as visually stunning and intellectually invigorating as the previous two films are.” – Pat Mullen, POV Magazine
“To say that there are no easy answers to planetary woes is to state the obvious. But the film seeks to reveal rather than lecture, in the hope that our eyes will convince our brains to act before it’s too late.” – Peter Howell, the Toronto Star
“Its cinematography and passion for our planet make a strong case for your attention.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
“The luminous, terrifying and beautiful documentary “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch” feels like the culmination of the life’s work of its three directors… because it chronicles what could be the end of human life on Earth.” – Sean P. Means, The Movie Cricket
When Dian was 6 years old, she heard a deep rumble and turned to see a tsunami of mud barreling towards her village. She remembers her mother scooping her up to save her from the boiling mud. Her neighbors ran for their lives. Sixteen villages, including Dian’s, were wiped away. A decade later, nearly 60,000 people have been displaced from what was once a thriving industrial and residential area in East Java, located just 20 kilometers from Indonesia’s second largest city. Dozens of factories, schools and mosques are submerged 60 feet under a moonscape of cracked mud. The majority of international scientists believe that Lapindo, a multinational company that was drilling for natural gas in 2006, accidentally struck an underground mud volcano and unleashed a violent flow of hot sludge from the earth’s depths. Ten years later, despite initial assurances to do so, Lapindo has not provided 80% of its promised reparations to the hundreds of victims of who lost everything in the mud explosion. While the survivors live in the shadow of the mudflow and wait for restitution, they live in makeshift rented homes next to levees that hold back the still flowing mud. Dian is determined to rise out of the muddy life. She and her mother, along with many neighbors, fight against the corporate powers accused of one of the largest environmental disasters in recent history. The gripping documentary film GRIT bears witness to Dian’s transformation into a politically active teenager as she questions the role of corporate power and money in the institution of democracy itself.
About the filmmaker(s): Cynthia Wade’s 2008 documentary Freeheld won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and 13 other awards. She was a lead producer on the 2015 fictionalized adaptation of Freeheld, starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell and Michael Shannon. Wade’s 2013 HBO documentary Mondays at Racine was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013. She is the director of the documentaries Grist for the Mill (1999, HBO), Shelter Dogs (2004, HBO), Born Sweet (2009), Living the Legacy (2009, Sundance Channel) and Generation Startup (2016, Netflix), and producer of The Gnomist (2015, CNN). She holds a BA from Smith College and an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University. Wade has won more than 45 film awards worldwide.
Co-director Sasha Friedlander directed, produced, shot and edited the feature-documentary Where Heaven Meets Hell. The film, set in East Java, Indonesia, won numerous prizes including Best Feature Documentary Film at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival and Special Mention for Outstanding Cinematography at the LAAPFF. At the One World International Human Rights Film Festival in Prague, the Václav Havel Jury gave a Special Mention Award to Where Heaven Meets Hell for its “exceptional contribution to the defense of human rights.” The Alliance of Women Film Journalists awarded Sasha an EDA Award for Documentary Artistry in March 2013. This ITVS-funded film aired on PBS in 2013. Sasha’s has lived and worked in Indonesia. She is fluent in Indonesian and worked there as a journalist for several years. Sasha holds a BA from UCLA and an MFA in Social Documentary Film from the School of Visual Arts.
William Neal’s documentary LONG GONE WILD focuses on the plight of captive orcas, picking up where Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s acclaimed documentary BLACKFISH left off while telling a uniquely new and different story… LONG GONE WILD centers on five primary areas: (1) The Blackfish Effect (what it did and didn’t accomplish i.e., SeaWorld took a major hit to its bottom line, but the 20 orcas are still there); (2) The case against captivity (orcas are forced to live in barren concrete tanks); (3) Orcas as sentient animals (their great capacity to think, feel, communicate, and empathize); (4) The Whale Sanctuary Project and its model seaside sanctuary for retired orcas – providing a safe, permanent home in their natural habitat; and, (5) The ominous threat to orcas posed by Russia and China, triggered by the explosive growth of mega-aquariums in China. Director, producer and writer Bill Neal joins us for a conversation on the set-backs and steps being taken around the world to defend and enhance the lives of these magnificent mammals.
Director’s Statement: For decades, killer whales have been performing for sold-out audiences at aquatic theme parks like SeaWorld – and for nearly as long, there have been cries to “free the orcas.” To which park executives have answered with a simple question: Where will they go? A legitimate argument. Orcas held in captivity for much or all of their lives are simply not equipped to deal with life in the wild. But all that is about to change, thanks to the “dream team” of scientists/orca experts/engineers with The Whale Sanctuary Project. Their mission: to establish a model seaside sanctuary where whales and dolphins can be rehabilitated or can live permanently in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat. We will document this ground-breaking effort through interviews with the key players along with exclusive footage of the proposed cold-water site, the most crucial piece of a very complex puzzle. In the end, it is all about restoring something we humans have taken from these highly intelligent, socially complex animals by forcing them to live in captivity for our entertainment and amusement. And by retiring them to a seaside sanctuary, we dignify not only the orcas but ourselves. – William Neal
Winner of multiple awards at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, HONEYLAND tells the amazing tale of Hatidze, a woman living with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice.The most awarded film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, winning the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, a Special Jury Award for cinematography, and another Special Jury Award for Originality, HONEYLAND is an epic, visually stunning portrait of the delicate balance between nature and humanity that has something sweet for everyone. The three-time Sundance award-winning documentary film is a beautiful, heart-warming story about the last female beekeeper in Macedonia and her relationships with her beloved bees, her ailing mother, and her new neighbors. Co-directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov join us to talk about the remarkable and endlessly endearing Hatidze, her loving commitment to her mother, a sustainable future and her tireless bees.
WINNER: GRAND JURY PRIZE – WORLD CINEMA DOCS – SUNDANCE
WINNER: CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD – WORLD CINEMA DOCS – SUNDANCE
WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR IMPACT & CHANGE – SUNDANCE
WINNER: BEST DOCUMENTARY – MONTCLAIR FILM FESTIVAL
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Honeyland is a microcosmic tale of a woman whose entire way of life is threatened by leeching men and free-market capitalism. Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov bring us perhaps the documentary protagonist of the year.” – Arlin Golden, Film Inquiry
A looming disaster in one of the most spectacular environments on Earth sparks a rescue mission unlike any other in SEA OF SHADOWS, a riveting new documentary with the intensity of a Hollywood thriller from National Geographic Documentary Films and winner of the Sundance audience award. When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region, including the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth, the vaquita porpoise.SEA OF SHADOWS follows a team of dedicated scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists and courageous undercover agents as well as the Mexican Navy as they put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquitas and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice. Director Richard Ladkani (The Ivory Game, The Devil’s Miner) talks about the monumental challenge of saving a highly intelligent mammal from a desperately poor community who see the black market totoaba and the vaquita as a way to spare their family from a life of poverty and degradation.
“Sea of Shadows may still raise awareness about the plight of other sea creatures still under threat from illegal nets sweeping the bottom of the ocean, killing everything unfortunate enough to swim in its wake.” – Monica Castillo, Remezcla
ICE ON FIRE, an eye-opening documentary that focuses on many never-before-seen solutions designed to slow down our escalating environmental crisis, goes beyond the current climate change narrative and offers hope that we can actually stave off the worst effects of global warming. Eleven years after Conners’ first collaboration with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio on “The 11th Hour,”which emphasized the problems of climate change, ICE ON FIRE instead focuses on the cutting-edge research behind today’s climate science – and the innovations aimed at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, which could pave the way for a reduction in the global temperature rise and a benefit to the planet’s life systems. ICE ON FIRE emphasizes the importance of an immediate, two-pronged approach to reversing the crisis: reducing carbon emissions through traditional renewable energy sources and new ones, like tidal energy, and implementing “drawdown” measures, focusing on methods for drawing down and sequestering carbon, including direct air capture, sea farms, urban farms, biochar, marine snow, bionic leaves and others. Director Leila Conners joins us to talk about the looming catastrophe and the emerging and encouraging techniques and technologies that can provide a sustainable path forward.
In Richard Miron’s surprising and empathetic FOR THE BIRDS, we follow an unusual woman named Kathy who lives with 200 pet chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. What starts as a story seemingly about Kathy’s battle with local animal advocacy groups slowly transforms into an intimate drama about her relationship with her husband Gary, and the toll the birds have taken on their marriage and her well-being. Filmed over the course of five years, this sensitive tale of one woman’s world breaking down—poignant and absorbing in equal measure—is ultimately one of hope about the possibility of regaining one’s life. Director Richard Miron stops by to talk about winning the Murphy’s confidence and trust, following his filmmaker’s instinct to stay with a story with more than its share of twists and turns and crafting a compassionate portrait of beautifully flawed people.
ARTIFISHAL is a film about wild rivers and wild fish. It explores the high cost – ecological, financial and cultural – of our mistaken belief that engineered solutions can make up for habitat destruction. The film traces the impact of fish hatcheries and farms, and the extraordinary amount of American taxpayer dollars wasted on an industry that hinders wild fish recovery, pollutes our rivers, and contributes to the problem it claims to solve. ARTIFISHAL also dives beneath the surface of the open-water fish farm controversy, as citizens work to stop the damage done to public waters and our remaining wild salmon. Director Josh Murphy joins us for a conversation on the devastating consequences that fish hatcheries are having on the salmon and other native species, the damage being done vital eco-systems and the enormous cost of a failed system.
Call to Action:
Wild salmon and southern resident killer whales are on the brink of extinction. Now a misguided plan to feed the starving whales with hatchery salmon will push both endangered species closer to the edge, while costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Hatcheries and over harvest, along with net-pen fish farms and dams, are key contributors to the catastrophic decline of wild Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest. Now, Washington state’s Orca Task Force recommendations include a plan to “feed the orcas” with 60 million more hatchery salmon per year. The proposed budget requests up to $87 million dollars to fund this plan for 10 years. Science tells us this won’t work: orcas need larger wild salmon, while adding more hatchery fish further weakens the wild-salmon gene pool. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have the power to make this change.Patagonia’s petition calls on NOAA Regional Administrator Barry Thom, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, and our elected decision makers to stop wasting money on failed plans and invest in science-based solutions: reduce hatchery production, remove dams and change how we harvest salmon.
Academy Award-winning Passion Pictures and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios present one of the most important but untold science stories of our time, THE SERENGETI RULESis a tale with profound implications for the fate of life on our planet. Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists, Bob Paine, Tony Sinclair, Mary E. Power, John Terborgh, Jim Estes, and Sean B. Carroll headed out into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth—from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools—they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life. Now in the twilight of their eminent careers, these five unsung heroes of modern ecology share the stories of their adventures, reveal how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head, and give us a chance to reimagine the world as it could and should be. Director Nicolas Brown joins us to talk about the far-reaching implications of the groundbreaking work done by Bob Paine on the importance of “keystone” species and the tremendously important work done by his colleagues since then can lead to a restoration of the natural order and help humanity reverse an ecological catastrophe.
** THE SERENGETI RULES – Dr. Jim Estes, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC and subject of the film with Dr John Terborgh, Professor of Environmental Sciences, Duke University also subject of the film will participate in a Q&A moderated by David Guy Elisco, Executive Producer, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios following the 7:50 pm show on Friday, 5/17 at the Monica Film Center.
“‘The Serengeti Rules’ celebrates not only the diversity and beauty of the natural world but also recognizes the transformative power of curiosity and knowledge.” – Kimber Myers, Los Angeles Times
“An absolutely riveting documentary about biodiversity and the need for humanity–its gravest threat–to reverse its course and preserve it. Difficult under the likes of Trump and the Koch’s but necessary.” Louis Proyect, counterpunch.com
“The great accomplishment of “The Serengeti Rules” is that it directs the viewer to see beauty in the way an ecologist might.” – Two Bugbee, New York Times
“It’s a film which sounds an alarm, but, unlike most similarly-themed pictures, one which permits a chink of light into the traditionally bleak narrative of man’s impact on the land.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International