Lost in Paris, co-directors Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel

 

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Filmed in Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s signature whimsical style, LOST IN PARIS stars the filmmakers as a small-town Canadian librarian and a strangely seductive, oddly egotistical vagabond. When Fiona’s (Gordon) orderly life is disrupted by a letter of distress from her 88-year-old Aunt Martha (delightfully portrayed by Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva) who is living in Paris, Fiona hops on the first plane she can and arrives only to discover that Martha has disappeared. In an avalanche of spectacular disasters, she encounters Dom (Abel), the affable, but annoying tramp who just won’t leave her alone. Replete with the amazing antics and intricately choreographed slapstick that has come to define Abel and Gordon’s work, LOST IN PARIS is a wondrously fun and hectic tale of peculiar people finding love while lost in the City of Lights. Co-directors Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon join us to talk about their warmhearted, funny and embracing ode to love.

For news and updates go to: lostinparis.oscilloscope.net

“Gordon and Abel incorporate elements of lighthearted musicals and silent-film comedy (a scene atop the Eiffel Tower evokes the derring-do of Harold Lloyd) and provide themselves plenty of opportunities to stretch their pliant, wiry physicality.” – Serena Donadoni, Village Voice

“An exquisite miniature puzzle-box pop-up-book of a movie. All is color and light and exhilaration here, a fantastical lark that is sheer mischievous joy.” – MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Philospher

“Cruel comic mishaps may be this movie’s raison d’être, but they are softened at every turn by the gentle humanity of the city’s inhabitants, and by the unspoken sense that everything will turn out fine in the end.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“Rather than reinventing the wheel, Abel and Gordon keep turning it with their own intimate touch.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Always inventive and occasionally hilarious.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

The Last Men in Aleppo, Director Feras Fayyad

 

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After five years of war in Syria, the remaining citizens of Aleppo are getting ready for a siege. We follow the volunteers from The White Helmets as they experience the daily life of death and struggle in the streets of the city. They fight for sanity in a place where war has become the norm. Khaled, Subhi and Mahmoud are among the first to enter the destroyed buildings, scouring through the rubble in search of bodies and signs of life. They now live more or less under siege and constant bombings, together with the remaining 350.000 civilians in Aleppo. They all struggle with the same dilemma: Should they flee and bring their families to safety, or should they stay and fight for their city? Director Feras Fayyad talks about the fearless actions of the The White Helmets and his gripping, harrowing and sobering documentary.

For news and updates go to: Last Men in Aleppo

“‘Last Men in Aleppo’ is likely to make you almost ashamed of your comforts and leave you with a feeling of impotence.” Glenn Kenny, The NYTimes

You should — you must — see Last Men in Aleppo to witness an ongoing tragedy. But you should also see it to learn humility.” – David Edelstein, Vulture

Feras Fayyad’s viscerally immediate, exquisitely realized portrait of the Syrian Civil Defense’s “White Helmet” volunteers.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“Last Men In Aleppo has the upsetting urgency of breaking news: There are moments that could have come straight from a live stream, given the violence that’s still rocking Syria, months after Fayyad’s cameras stopped rolling.” – A.A. Down, AV Club

Nowhere to Hide, Director Zaradasht Ahmed

 

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

For news and updates go to Nowhere to Hide

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

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

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

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

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

The Skyjacker’s Tale, Director Jamie Kastner

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

For news and updates go to: Skyjacker’s Tale

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

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

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

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

Sami Blood, Director Amanda Kernell

 

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SAMI BLOOD is the electrifying debut feature of writer/director Amanda Kernell. Based on her own grandmother’s life and set in 1930s Sweden during the pre-Nazi eugenics movement, SAMI BLOOD follows Elle, a young indigenous Lapland girl made to feel like an inferior species when she’s subjected to indoctrination and race biology in a Swedish boarding school. Elle escapes, and in doing so is estranged from her sister, her family and her culture. SAMI BLOOD is a unique and intimate perspective on the history of the Sami people, and tells a story of oppression that resonates across borders and generations. The film features a breakthrough performance from its young lead actress Lene Cecilia Sparrok, who has never acted before and is Sami herself.  She stars in the film alongside her sister Mia Sparrok. Director and writer Amanda Kernell joins us to talk about her heart wrenching story of a young woman struggling to find a place in an increasingly hostile world.

90% on RottenTomatoes

For news and updates go to: sami-blood.synergetic.tv

facebook.com/sameblod

Los Angeles Screening: Beginning June 30, 2017 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center

WINNER – Best Director of a Debut Film – 2016 Venice Film Festival

WINNER – Best Director – 2016 Toyko International Film Festival

WINNER – Best Actress – 2016 Toyko International Film Festival

WINNER – Valhalla Award – Santa Barbara Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2017 Sundance Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2017 Berlin Film Festival

“Fierce, expertly crafted” – Laura Kern, Film Comment

“A stirring debut… introduces a poised, intelligent young talent in star Lene Cecilia Sparrok.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“An attractively assembled coming-of-age story.” – Boyd Van Hoji, The Hollywood Reporter

“Sámi Blood features a winning combination of strong central performances… and an intimate, empathetic approach to a period of history which is not widely known” – Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

Dalya’s Other Country – Director Julia Meltzer

 

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

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

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

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

Also go to: dalyasothercountry.com

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

 

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

For news and updates: harekrishnathefilm.com

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

World Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival

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

 Press and Industry screening

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

Catching Feelings, Director / Writer Kagiso Lediga

Max  Matshane  (Kagiso  Lediga),  is  a  34-year  old  author  who  wrote  a  South African bestseller  in  his  20’s,  but  whose  star has  waned  and  now  finds  himself  as  a disgruntled  professor,  teaching  creative writing  at  the  local  university. Max  lives in  a  leafy  Johannesburg  suburb  with  his exceptionally  beautiful  wife,  Samkelo (Pearl  Thusi),  whose  career  is  on  the  rise as a reputable  journalist. Despite  their love  for  each  other,  their  relationship has  hit  a  rut.  Max  now  spends  his  time at  dinners  and  events,  musing  over  his frustrations  with  his  key  conspirator  and sounding  board,  Joel  (Akin  Omotoso), who  himself  has  his  hands  full  with  an illicit affair. A  wintery  Johannesburg  sets  the  scene, as  it  brings  with  it  a  very  successful  and flamboyant  author,  Heiner  Miller  (Andrew Buckland),  who  abandoned  South  Africa for greener pastures and now returns to  do  a  residency  in  Max’s  department.  But  after  Heiner  suffers  a mild  heart  attack, Max is  forced  to  bring him into his own home to recuperate. Instantly,  tensions  rise  as  the  infectious joie  de  vivre  of  Heiner  is  set  on  a  collision course  with  the  mundane  life  that  Max and  Sam  have  cultivated.  With  new questions  about  love  and  truth  thrust upon  them,  Max  and  Sam  are  faced  with an  unexpected  crossroad,  as  they  search for reason and purpose to life. Director and writer Kagiso Lediga joins usto talk about his edgy, sophisticated and funny feature and its debut at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Los Angeles Film Festival Screening Time:

Sunday, June 18th at 6:10pm (ArcLight Culver City)

For news and updates go to: bigdog.digitalworkshop.tv/CatchingFeelings or go to: diprente.co.za/portfolio/catching-feelings

facebook.com/FeelingsMovie

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Director Steve James

 

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

For news and updates go to:abacusmovie.com

facebook.com/abacusmovie

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

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

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

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

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

BEST OF FEST – 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival

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

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

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

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

Radio Dreams, Director Babak Jalali

 

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

For news and updates go to: radiodreamsthemovie.com

facebook.com/radiodreamsmovie

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

Screenings in Southern California:

Opens in the Los Angeles area on Friday, June 9 

at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts (Beverly Hills)

at Laemmle’s Town Center (Encino)

and at Edwards Westpark 8 (Irvine)

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

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

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

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

One Less God, Director Lliam Worthington

 

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In 2008, a band of young Islamic militants from Pakistan lands in Mumbai, their primary target, the iconic Taj Mahal hotel. With Indian forces unable to regain control, for 4 days the guests must battle to survive as the terrorists seek to drive them from hiding. The harrowing events that follow will come to be known as India’s 9/11 and one of the most audacious terrorist attacks in history is captured in a horrifying and enlightening story of cruelty and sustaining humanity. One Less God Director Lliam Worthington joins us to talk about why it was important for him to shine a light on a tale of monsters and men. Director Lliam Worthington Statement: “I wanted to craft a story that walked the line between demonization and apologetics, and that would be a genuine movement towards greater humanism and compassion. One that might aspire to promote healthy discussion afterwards, as opposed to heighten fear and increase the polarization. I also wanted to capture the emotional authenticity of those who suffered in the attacks but counter that with a genuine exploration into the psyches of the terrorists. Then use those two conflicting yet parallel journeys as a means to evoke broader questions around man’s inhumanity to man and the nature of belief.”

For news and updates go to: newrealmsfilms.com.au

For details on the screening of One Less God go to: danceswithfilms.com/one-less-god

Dances with Film screening Thursday, June 8 @ 9:30PM

facebook.com/OneLessGodMovie

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Shira Dubrovner, longtime resident of Mammoth Lakes, is a community organizer and leader, arts advocate, and film lover who followed her lifelong passion for cinema to become the founder of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival. Shira is also the Artistic Director of this well regarded theatre company. After her experience creating a successful theatre in Mammoth (established at the Edison Theatre, which will serve as one of the key screening venues during this year’s film festival), she decided to introduce the community to her other passion – independent film – by creating the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.  This year’s Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is a five-day festival that screens independent features and shorts in the spectacular setting of Mammoth Lakes—California’s premier mountain resort, high in the Eastern Sierras from May 24 – 28, 2017, Memorial Day weekend. The 3rd Annual Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, taking place  in the magnificent mountain setting of Mammoth Lakes, California, has announced its line-up of screenings, which will include premieres, festival favorites and classic films. The five-day festival will take place May 24-28, 2017, beginning on Wednesday with the Opening Night Screening of Cheech and Chong’s much-loved first feature UP IN SMOKETommy Chong, one of its stars as well as its uncredited co-director, will be  present for a Q&A after the screening, which is followed by the Gala Opening Night Party at the Sierra Events Center. Saturday evening will feature the SIERRA SPIRIT AWARD CENTERPIECE GALA & SCREENING: A Night with John Sayles. The evening will begin with a screening of his 1983 film BABY IT’S YOU starring Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano, followed by a conversation with Sayles and a presentation of the Sierra Spirit Award. Sayles’s credits include THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, MATEWAN, EIGHT MEN OUTLONE STAR, and THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH, amongst others. In addition to the two classic films representing the work of Chong and Sayles, an additional 18 features will be screened over the five days of the festival. Feature documentary films in competition will include EIGHT (US Premiere), FOREVER B, (World Premiere), THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES, OLANCHO, RAT FILM, STRAD STYLE and WHAT LIES UPSTREAM. Spotlight Screening Documentaries not in competition will include THE CHALLENGEDINA, and MACHINES. Feature narrative films in competition will include NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE, WITHDRAWN, SPACE DETECTIVE. Foreign films in competition will include COLD BREATH, THE ERLPRINCE, THE FIXER and THE GREAT UNWASHED (U.S. Premiere). The final Narrative Feature, not in competition, will be the rave-reviewed Sundance hit MENASHE, which has been picked up by A24 for distribution. In addition to the Opening Night Gala and the Sierra Spirit Award Event, there is a Filmmakers Bash on Saturday evening at Rafters featuring the band Jelly Bread and the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, May 27 at the Sierra Events Center. Founder and Director Shira Dubrovner joins us to talk about this year’s festival highlights.

For ticket sales and updates go to: mammothlakesfilmfestival.com

The Last Shaman, Director Raz Degan

 

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

For news and updates go to: thelastshaman.com

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

Violet, Director and Writer Bas Devos

 

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In his first feature film Belgium-based director Bas Devos (We Know, Taurus) 15-year-old Jesse’s best friend, Jonas, is violently attacked at random during a routine trip to the mall. The attackers do not confront or acknowledge Jesse, and Jesse does not engage or pursue the attackers… he simply backs away. Why did this happen? Could Jesse have done more? Did he have an obligation? These are the questions posed by VIOLET, a carefully calibrated character study of the process of coping in the midst of senseless trauma. In the aftermath of Jonas shocking death Jesse has to face his family and friends from the BMX riders crew and explain the unexplainable – how he feels about it. Jesse’s parents and friends all seem to have their own (often destructive) reactions to the incident, but it’s the parents of the victim with whom he develops a strange connection. Shot partially on 8-perf 65mm film by acclaimed cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead, The Drop), Director and writer Bas Devos’ meticulously calculated debut is constructed like a series of lush photographs. In each of the film’s compositions we see a sophisticated mosaic of loss, the permanence of trauma, and the tumult of youth. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Berlinale, VIOLET looks at Jesse’s inability to answer their questions gradually isolate Jesse and the growing grief prevents him from finding comfort. Director Bas Devos joins us for an thoughtful conversation on the power of cinema and the space in between exposition and observation.

For news and updates go to: neweuropefilms or alteredinnocence.net/violet

“It bores into the mourning process and its piquant combination of emotional numbness and sensory vulnerability, rigorously avoiding finding an easy way out of this quagmire.” – Christopher Gray, Slant Magazine

“Violet is deft and rigorous, oblique to the point of inscrutability.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice

“Intensely stylized, highly original and utterly mesmerizing.” – Ronnie Scheib, Variety

“Beautifully shot images speak way louder than words in this Belgian drama about a teenager’s mourning process. If Gus Van Sant had grown up in Flanders (…) he might have directed something like Violet. The final image, an 8-minute sequence shot, is a wonder to behold and ends the film on a perfect and perfectly poetic note.” – Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter

One Week and 1 Day, Director Asaph Polonsky

 

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In the Jewish religion, a week of sitting Shiva (or mourning the deceased) is called for after a funeral. However, for Eyal and Vicky, a week is hardly enough time to properly mourn the loss of their 25-year-old son Ronnie. A married couple edging into the back half of middle age, the two find themselves reacting to the end of Shiva in markedly different ways.  A return to routine seems to be in order for Vicky, a teacher, as she finds herself back at school trying to abruptly kick out the substitute assigned in her stead. Meanwhile, shopkeeper Eyal opts for a total abdication of routine, as he steals his dead son’s bag of medical marijuana, and proceeds to get high, play ping-pong and judge air guitar routines with his neighbor’s stoner son Zooler. As the world refuses to accommodate Vicky and Eyal’s sensitivities during their time of bereavement — taxi drivers are still difficult, neighbors are still obnoxious, and grave diggers are just as indifferent as anyone else in the service industry — the two grieving parents find themselves acting out in outlandish ways as they attempt to regain a sense of control over their lives. Asaph Polonsky’s debut feature ONE WEEK AND A DAY juxtaposes the grieving process against the immutable fact that, despite the most painful losses imaginable, the world stops for no one’s mourning. With endearing performances from Shai Avivi and Evgenia Dodina as Eyal and Vicky, and Tomer Kapon as Zooler, ONE WEEK AND A DAY provides a nuanced perspective on loss that’s as funny as it is insightful. Director Asaph Polonsky joins us to talk about his thoughtful and nuanced film of loss, grieve and resilience.

For news and updates go to: oneweekandaday.oscilloscope.net

“Tears of laughter and tears of grief are both in abundant supply in Asaph Polonsky’s uproariously funny and heart-wrenchingly moving ONE WEEK AND A DAY.” – Ben Croll, THE WRAP

“A sweet and subdued look at the absurdity of life after death.” – David Ehrlich, INDIEWIRE

“The strength of Asaph Polonskys debut feature is that it’s actually a bittersweet comedy-drama in which the pain is as real as the frequent chuckles.” – Boyd van Hoeij, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 

“Asaph Polonsky’s moving, deceptively simple film ONE WEEK AND A DAY looks at that supremely difficult day after the shiva ends.”Hannah Brown, – THE JERUSALEM POST

“Polonsky resists easy sentimentalisation…the moments of stillness have real potency.”Wendy Ide, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL

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

 

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

For news and updates go to: karlmarxcity.com

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

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

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

Tickling Giants, Subject Bassem Youssef

 

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TICKLING GIANTS is a great story about the power of political satire in the face of oppression. In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian. Dubbed, “The Egyptian Jon Stewart,” Bassem creates the satirical show, Al Bernameg. The weekly program quickly becomes the most viewed television program in the Middle East, with 30 million viewers per episode. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart averaged two million viewers. In a country where free speech is not settled law, Bassem’s show becomes as controversial as it popular. He and his staff must endure physical threats, protests, and legal action, all because of jokes. As Bassem attempts to remain on the air, keep his staff safe, and not get arrested, he continues to let those in power know they’re being held accountable. Despite increasing danger, the team at Al Bernameg employ comedy, not violence, to comment on hypocrisy in media, politics, and religion. Directed by Sara Taksler TICKLING GIANTS follows the team of Al Bernameg as they discover democracy is not easily won. The young women and men working on Bassem’s show are fearless revolutionaries, who just happen to be really, really funny. The subject of Tickling Giants, Bassem Youssef joins us for a conversation on the cost and consequences of speaking out.

For news and updates go to: ticklinggiants.com

“Tickling Giants surprises us on several levels. It reveals Egypt’s familiar Arab Spring experience through a lens, that of satiric comedy, which is very different from the way we usually see it. And it has the personal element of Youssef’s involving story.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Mostly, the movie makes you understand how every society – and ours more than ever – needs people like Bassem Youssef to demonstrate that laughter will always be one of the essential ways to keep power in check.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“There’s a lot to laugh at, and to learn from, in “Tickling Giants,” a documentary that starts off by telling the story of one man and ends up speaking volumes about satire, freedom of expression and political pressure.” – Ken Jaworoski, New York Times

“Media are their own giant, they shape beliefs and create community, instill hope and fear. Perhaps it’s a lesson that will be taken seriously by viewers in the US.” – Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

Zookeeper’s Wife, Director Nikki Caro

 

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The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina (two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh). Devoted to each other, the couple thrive as personal and professional partners; the Warsaw Zoo flourishes until the entrance is slammed shut and the zoo is crippled in an attack as the entire country is invaded by the Germans. The couple is forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl, Captain America: Civil War). Heck envisions a new, selective breeding program for the zoo. Antonina and Jan fight back on their own terms, and covertly begin working with the Resistance – realizing that their zoo’s abandoned animal cages and underground tunnels, originally designed to safeguard animal life, can now secretly safeguard human life. As the couple puts into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, Antonina places herself and even her children at great risk. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) directs the movie from a screenplay by Angela Workman, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name and based on Antonina’s diaries. Director Niki Caro joins us for a conversation on her beautiful and moving historic drama.

For news and updates go to: focusfeatures.com/thezookeeperswife

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“A fundamental sense of empathy may not be especially cinematic, but that’s no reason to ignore it (and Chastain, who strikes a wonderful balance with Heldenbergh, is masterful at expressing stoicism without ever tipping into sanctimony).” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“Subtle yet striking, this is a film that is filled with the power of exquisitely executed storytelling.” – Chelsey Grasso, The Film Stage

“”The Zookeeper’s Wife” may have appeal to history buffs of that turbulent time but the story has a more universal appeal about love and compassion for all animals, even us humans.” – Robin Clifford, Reeling Reviews

“It imbues a pessimistic view of the seemingly bottomless depths of human cruelty with sorrowful tragic force.” – Kenji Fujishima, Slant Magazine