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.”
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.
“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
Shira Dubrovner, longtime resident of Mammoth Lakes, is a community organizer and leader, arts advocate, and film lover who followed her lifelong passion for cinema to become the founder of the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival. Shira is also the Artistic Director of this well regarded theatre company. After her experience creating a successful theatre in Mammoth (established at the Edison Theatre, which will serve as one of the key screening venues during this year’s film festival), she decided to introduce the community to her other passion – independent film – by creating the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.This year’s Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is a five-day festival that screens independent features and shorts in the spectacular setting of Mammoth Lakes—California’s premier mountain resort, high in the Eastern Sierras from May 24 – 28, 2017, Memorial Day weekend. The 3rd Annual Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, taking place in the magnificent mountain setting of Mammoth Lakes, California, has announced its line-up of screenings, which will include premieres, festival favorites and classic films. The five-day festival will take place May 24-28, 2017, beginning on Wednesday with the Opening Night Screening of Cheech and Chong’s much-loved first feature UP IN SMOKE. Tommy Chong, one of its stars as well as its uncredited co-director, will be present for a Q&A after the screening, which is followed by the Gala Opening Night Party at the Sierra Events Center. Saturday evening will feature the SIERRA SPIRIT AWARD CENTERPIECE GALA & SCREENING: A Night with John Sayles.The evening will begin with a screening of his 1983 film BABY IT’S YOU starring Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano, followed by a conversation with Sayles and a presentation of the Sierra Spirit Award. Sayles’s credits include THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, MATEWAN, EIGHT MEN OUT, LONE STAR, and THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH, amongst others. In addition to the two classic films representing the work of Chong and Sayles, an additional 18 features will be screened over the five days of the festival. Feature documentary films in competition will include EIGHT (US Premiere), FOREVER B, (World Premiere), THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES, OLANCHO, RAT FILM, STRAD STYLE and WHAT LIES UPSTREAM. Spotlight Screening Documentaries not in competition will include THE CHALLENGE, DINA, and MACHINES. Feature narrative films in competition will include NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE, WITHDRAWN, SPACE DETECTIVE. Foreign films in competition will include COLD BREATH, THE ERLPRINCE, THE FIXER and THE GREAT UNWASHED (U.S. Premiere). The final Narrative Feature, not in competition, will be the rave-reviewed Sundance hit MENASHE, which has been picked up by A24 for distribution. In addition to the Opening Night Gala and the Sierra Spirit Award Event, there is a Filmmakers Bash on Saturday evening at Rafters featuring the band Jelly Bread and the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, May 27 at the Sierra Events Center. Founder and Director Shira Dubrovner joins us to talk about this year’s festival highlights.
Directed by Raz Degan, The Last Shamanis 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.
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.
“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
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.
In this chilling, intimate and evocative documentary, KARL MARX CITYfilmmaker 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 CITYReconstructs 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.
“… 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 is a great story about the power of political satire in the face of oppression. In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian. Dubbed, “The Egyptian Jon Stewart,” Bassem creates the satirical show, Al Bernameg. The weekly program quickly becomes the most viewed television program in the Middle East, with 30 million viewers per episode. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart averaged two million viewers. In a country where free speech is not settled law, Bassem’s show becomes as controversial as it popular. He and his staff must endure physical threats, protests, and legal action, all because of jokes. As Bassem attempts to remain on the air, keep his staff safe, and not get arrested, he continues to let those in power know they’re being held accountable. Despite increasing danger, the team at Al Bernameg employ comedy, not violence, to comment on hypocrisy in media, politics, and religion. Directed by Sara Taksler TICKLING GIANTS follows the team of Al Bernameg as they discover democracy is not easily won. The young women and men working on Bassem’s show are fearless revolutionaries, who just happen to be really, really funny. The subject of Tickling Giants, Bassem Youssef joins us for a conversation on the cost and consequences of speaking out.
“Tickling Giants surprises us on several levels. It reveals Egypt’s familiar Arab Spring experience through a lens, that of satiric comedy, which is very different from the way we usually see it. And it has the personal element of Youssef’s involving story.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“Mostly, the movie makes you understand how every society – and ours more than ever – needs people like Bassem Youssef to demonstrate that laughter will always be one of the essential ways to keep power in check.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“There’s a lot to laugh at, and to learn from, in “Tickling Giants,” a documentary that starts off by telling the story of one man and ends up speaking volumes about satire, freedom of expression and political pressure.” – Ken Jaworoski, New York Times
“Media are their own giant, they shape beliefs and create community, instill hope and fear. Perhaps it’s a lesson that will be taken seriously by viewers in the US.” – Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters
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.
“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
In Adam Curtis’s acclaimed BBC documentary, HyperNormalisation, he employs masterfully edited found footage to investigate how, at a time of confusing and inexplicable world events, politicians and other power brokers construct new, slippery realities. Curtis tells a story that begins in 1975 in New York and Damascus, and ends with today’s world.
Adam Curtis on his work and HyperNormalisation: ”Those in power in society – the politicians, the journalists, the experts – maintain their power by telling us stories about the world. Those stories tell us what is true and what is false, what is right and wrong, and what is real – and what is illusion. But there come times when these stories begin to break down. And people start to distrust those in power – and their definition of what is real and what is fake. At that point you enter the Zone. The film Hypernormalisation tells the story of how we got to this place. It is also about the new systems of power that we cannot see – because we are trapped inside the Zone.”
Adam Curtis is an award-winning widely influential documentary filmmaker and journalist. He works for BBC television in London. His acclaimed films include The Century of the Self (2002), The Power of Nightmares (2004), All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011), Bitter Lake (2015) – and most recently HyperNormalisation..His films go back into the recent past to tell dramatic stories that lead the viewer to look again at the present day – and help them make sense of it. They try to show how power really flows in today’s complex society, not just through politics – but through science, public relations and advertising, psychology, computer networks and finance. Curtis has also done live shows with the immersive theatre group Punchdrunk and the band Massive Attack. His films have been shown at the Cannes film festival and have won awards – including 6 BAFTAs. Curtis joins us to talk about power, journalism, the world as is understood today and his work.
“I want to be Adam Curtis when I grow up.” – Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris
“Hypernormalisation” feels like a greatest hits compilation of familiar Curtis themes — the decline of political power in a corporate age, the rise of global terrorism, America’s tortuous secret history in the Middle East, the hollow narcissism of cyberspace. But this also is a dazzling and thought-provoking film that blurs the line between op-ed journalism and mesmerizing audio-visual art.” – Hollywood Reporter
“‘HyperNormalisation’ is a searching and essential document of our times, a movie that leaves us, as in its opening shot, groping through a pitch-black forest with only a flashlight, wondering what lies in all that terrifying darkness that no one has found a way through.” – The New Yorker
CRIES FROM SYRIA will take the audience on a unique, five-year journey, from Syria to Turkey, through Jordan, Lebanon and into Europe. They will see the situation from the inside out, through the eyes of those trapped in-between – many of them children – and experience their suffering, bravery, struggle, survival and hope. In March 2011, the Syrian people, inspired by events in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, rose up against the authoritarian rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Public protests sparked by the arrest and torture of children who had been detained after writing anti-regime graffiti led to violent crackdowns. As what would become a long civil war intensified, the Islamic State and other groups began seizing Syrian territory and imposing brutally oppressive conditions of their own. Stranded between the opposing forces in the conflict, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed, seven million have been internally displaced and more than five million have desperately tried to survive by fleeing the country. Two-thirds of those who have fled to date are women and children. CRIES FROM SYRIA is a searing, comprehensive account of the Syrian war from the inside out. The film draws on hundreds of hours of war footage from Syrian activists and citizen journalists, as well as testimony from child protestors, revolution leaders, human rights defenders, ordinary citizens and high-ranking army generals who have defected from the government. Their collective stories are a cry for attention and help from a world that little understands their reality or agrees on what to do about it. Oscar®-nominated Director Evgeny Afineevsky (Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom) joins us to talk about his unflinching look inside our own heart of darkness.
“If the idea of cozying up to Russia strikes you as harmless, or all those Syrian refugees are too far away to seem real, the HBO documentary Cries From Syria is something you ought to watch.” – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times
“Documentarian Evgeny Afineevsky offers a comprehensive, immensely powerful look inside the Syrian civil war through this vital film that aims for the heart with urgency.”- Tomris Laffly, Film Journal International
“It’s understandable why many people struggle to process the tsunami of devastating news coming out of Syria, but Evgeny Afineevsky’s extraordinary film vigorously cuts through the noise, and dramatically shows us the human cost of the war through the eyes of children and the innocent.” -Jamie Carmichael, President-Film at Content
“Cries from Syria is one of the most heart-rending documentaries at Sundance, with disturbing images of the civil war including infants killed by sarin gas released by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and schoolchildren tortured by the regime for writing anti-government graffiti.” -The Wrap
Tomer Heymann’s MR. GAGA: A True Story of Love and Dance is a unique documentary experience that tells the story of the internationally acclaimed choreographer Ohad Naharin, who created the daring form of dance and “movement language” Gaga. When he was 22, he was invited to perform with the prestigious Martha Graham dance company, and attended Juilliard and the School of American Ballet simultaneously. But Ohad would not be happy until he could do exactly what he wanted. Moving back to Israel, Naharin became the Artistic Director of the Batsheva Dance Company,developing gaga within his own ensemble. Even after achieving worldwide acclaim, Naharin continues to fight every day, sometimes with his own dancers, once even with the president of Israel, to make his vision come to life.Mr. Gaga tells Naharin’s personal story of a controversial, political, and always entertaining figure, and his constant battle for artistic perfection. Eight years in the making, Mr. Gaga traces Ohad Naharin’s artistic roots using personal family footage, intimate rehearsal footage, extensive unseen archive material and stunning dance sequences. Heymann weaves a marvelous tale of what it takes to be a genius, the exhausting toll dance can take on its performers, and finally, the beauty that art can bring to this world. Director Tomer Heymann joins us for a conversation on the trials and triumphs of surpassing creativity and finding the sometimes difficult ways of expressing it.
In 1952, a then-unknown young Egyptian colonel led a coup that became a revolution. Over the next 18 years, Gamal Abdel Nasser challenged Western hegemony abroad and confronted Islamism at home, and faced deep divisions among the Arabs. He emerged as a titanic figure, a champion of Arab progress and African liberation, but he could not offer democracy. Instead, Nasser established the region’s first authoritarian military regime. A man of enormous charisma and ambition, Nasser became caught in the coils of his own power, dying at the age of 52 with dreams unrealized. The Arab Spring and its aftermath are his legacy: a period of turmoil when Egyptians argued passionately about their history as a way to see what course to follow in the future. It is their voices—peasants and professors, secularists and Islamists—that drive Goldman’s essential documentary. Nasser’s Republic, The Making of Modern Egypt Director Michal Goldman’s previous film, Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt (1996), a vibrant portrait of a superstar singer, was an official selection of the New York Film Festival, winner of the Golden Plaque for Documentary at the Chicago International Film Festival, and winner of the Promoting Tolerance Award from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Goldman joins us to talk about the historic significance of Nasser’s enormous influence on Egypt , the course of the Cold War and modern day Middle East.
Director Michal Goldman organizes a vast amount of information to pose as many questions as answers in this immersive documentary. Narration by Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass rivets us to history and its contradictions, an ongoing story witnessed by millions.” —Judy Bloch, for the Washington, DC International Film Festival (aka FilmFest DC)
“Goldman’s [documentary] accomplishes something that most media covering events in the Middle East don’t even attempt: She provides an historical context.” —Peter Keough, The Boston Globe
“I thought we had buried him. It turns out he’s still alive.” —Khaled Fahmy, Egyptian historian, in NASSER’S REPUBLIC
“What’s impressive is how many of the necessary narrative angles are treated, raising compelling questions that resonate today. At the film’s center is an officer turned politician who is photogenic, charismatic, shrewd and sometimes reckless. The storyline is crisp, the archival footage is gripping, and the witnesses—whose passions drive the story—are compelling. From a teacher’s perspective, this film is a godsend.” —Joel Gordon, Professor of History & Director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, University of Arkansas
TRESPASS AGAINST US is set across three generations of the Cutler family who live as outlaws in their own anarchic corner of Britain’s richest countryside. Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) is heir apparent to his bruising criminal father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson) and has been groomed to spend his life hunting, thieving and tormenting the police. But with his own son, Tyson (Georgie Smith) coming of age, Chad soon finds himself locked in a battle with his father for the future of his young family. When Colby learns of Chad’s dreams for another life he sets out to tie his son and grandson into the archaic order that has bound the Cutler family for generations. He engineers a spectacular piece of criminal business involving a heist, a high-speed car chase and a manhunt, which leaves Chad bruised and bloodied and with his very freedom at stake. With the law cracking down and his father tightening his grip, Chad is forced into increasingly desperate measures. Featuring incredible performances – and an astonishing score by The Chemical Brothers – TRESPASS AGAINST US is at once an exhilarating crime thriller and a profoundly moving story about love and family. TRESPASS AGAINST US director ADAM SMITH (Director) is an award-winning film, television drama, documentary and music-video director. Smith is best known for his long-term collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, and the critically acclaimed concert film Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think he directed.Director Adam Smith joins us to talk about his feature film debut and the riveting performances turned in by his three lead performers.
“Even when Trespass Against Us slumps toward the same generational conflicts at the heart of so many recent indies, these actors refuse to reduce their characters into any recognizable archetypes.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“Dynamic storytelling and powerful performances bring out the pathos in an unusual tale of conflicting loyalties set on the criminal edges of a traveling community.” – Screen International
“At this point we should just accept that Michael Fassbender can play anything. In Trespass Against Us, he turns up his charisma and blunts his native intelligence, and the mixture works remarkably well.” – Norman Wilner, NOW Toronto
“It all boils down to the complicated relationships of fathers and sons, but with some riveting action and heart-tugging drama, Trespass Against Us ends up as thrilling must-see.” – Peter Turner, Starburst
Eight-year-old Yousef and his deaf mother Sahar are the last Palestinian residents of an otherwise deserted building in the Israeli part of the city of Hebron. Their island within the Jewish quarter is called “The Mute’s House” by Israeli soldiers, even though Sahar isn’t mute at all. Travel agencies have included the property in their tours. Yousef makes good use of his privilege to cross the border when he goes to school. Through the tour guides’ explanations, we learn the story of Yousef and Sahar, who bravely withstand all the threats and bullying. None of Yousef’s Palestinian classmates can come to his house, and filmmaker Tamar Kay isn’t allowed to cross the border to film the Palestinian quarter with Yousef. Despite his disability – Yousef was born with one arm – he amuses himself with the chickens, goats and rabbits that forage among the ruined neighboring houses, and he plays the guitar and video games. The Mute’s House is an intimate portrait that elegantly illustrates the absurdity of the endless conflict. Director Tamar Kay was born in Jerusalem and graduated The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in 2015, stops by to talk about her moving and heartbreaking portrait of life on the edge of chaos and isolation.
“If someone wrote a fictional script for a film about this story, no one would believe it.” – Alan Berliner, (dir. Nobody’s Business, Emmy Award Winner)
Neil (Michael Johnston) is an introverted, questioning high school freshman. Lacking any friends IRL, his main social outlet is the steamy fan fiction he writes about Vanguard, the brawny, galaxy-hopping hero of a popular sci-fi franchise. When his stories are exposed in class Neil is mortified, but the slightly older, effortlessly cool Julia (Hannah Marks) comes to his defense. An erotic fan fic writer herself, Julia pushes Neil to publish his stories to an online “adult” forum, where they quickly grab the attention of the site moderator, Denis (Michael Ian Black). When Neil is invited to present his work at a comic con live-read event, he has to face the fact that Denis’ interest in him may be more than simply professional… perhaps like his own feelings for Julia. Director Clay Liford stops by to talk about his endearing, beautifully rendered story of angst, creativity and self discovery.
“An effortlessly engaging dramedy that somehow manages to sustain an air of buoyant sweetness even while repeatedly referencing erotic fantasies and sexual anxieties.” – Joe Leydon, Variety
“This sweet-natured coming-of-age movie, written and directed by Clay Liford, is perhaps more complicated than most by having characters whose sexual orientations aren’t settled.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
“Charming and slightly, beautifully dangerous” – BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH
“Effortlessly engaging” – VARIETY
“Grounded, funny, and relatable” – AIN’T IT COOL NEWS
is a 41-year old local captain of the Greek Coast Guard. He has two wonderful young daughters Vivi and Melissa, and before the refugee crisis exploded in 2014, he had a “normal” life. Lesbos was a small peaceful island and is job involved routine border patrols. Him, like the rest of the crew isn’t trained to do CPR. His boat is not equipped with thermal cameras or other instruments that would help deal with such an emergency. Often times, the captain had to disobey orders and despite rough weather he would continue to go out in the sea to save as many lives as possible. There have been plenty of times that he could turn his back. But he’s choosing to do the opposite: to respond. Director Daphne Matziaraki joins to talk about her work as a photojournalist and filmmaker in Europe, Africa and the US as well as her compelling, compassionate and humanizing film on the refugee crisis gripping Europe.
DISTURBING THE PEACE follows a group of former enemy combatants – Israeli soldiers from the most elite units, and Palestinian fighters, many of whom served years in prison – who have come together to challenge the status quo and say “enough.” The film traces their transformational journeys from soldiers committed to armed battle to non-violent peace activists and their founding of Combatants for Peace. The Combatants for Peace, a group of Palestinians and Israelis working together to promote human rights and peace for all, are the only bi-partisan, non-violent activist group of enemy combatants working together in an ongoing armed conflict in the world today. They are an inspiring modern day example of the importance of using nonviolent solutions to our conflicts. Their personal stories tell an inspiring story of the human potential that is unleashed when people have the courage to follow the power of their own consciences. Co-directors Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young joins us to talk about just how far cooperation and rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians has come and how much further it needs to go before there is justice in this troubled region.
“Their stories are compelling – and persuasive.” – Andy Webster, New York Times
“Well-chosen news and archival clips, footage from CFP’s provocative rallies, plus a series of skillful and useful reenactments help flesh out this inspiring portrait.” – Gary Goldstein, LA Times
“Effectively illustrates the universality of suffering by juxtaposing the stories of people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” – Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com
“By focusing on combatants from both sides who came together to bring about change, Disturbing the Peace is a rejoinder to pessimism, delivering a message of hope that lands with some success.” Stephen Mayne, Under the Radar
HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST charts the illustrious career of the renowned photographer who initially rose to fame alongside The Beatles, having been assigned to cover their inaugural trip to the United States in 1964. With unprecedented “behind the scenes” access, Benson captured some of the most vibrant and intimate portraits ever taken of the most popular band in history. His extensive portfolio includes iconic images of Winston Churchill, Bobby Fischer, Muhammad Ali, Greta Garbo, Michael Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, and his work has appeared in publications including Life, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Now 86, workaholic Benson has no intention of stopping. Co-director Justin Bare (SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDOF’s), joins us for a lively conversation on this charismatic and remarkable artist.
“The film captures not only Harry’s boldness and bravery in pursuing controversial subjects, but also his disarming personality and his ability to achieve intimacy with his subjects.” – Katie Walsh,
“Iconic shutterbug Benson is captured in all his funny, feisty, gritty and graceful complexity in this spellbinder of a doc from Justin Bare and Matthew Miele with images that take the breath away.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“He can shoot fast and make art,” a friend says, and “Harry Benson: Shoot First” makes that point again and again.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times
“Don’t blink — not even once. That’s the best advice for viewers of the dazzling new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First.” – Isaac Guzman, Time Magazine
In this new documentary from filmmakers Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky (Hiding and Seeking, A Life Apart), audiences will travel to Lifta—the only Palestinian villageabandoned during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that has not been destroyed or repopulated by Jews. Lifta, at the western entrance to Jerusalem, is rarely a destination on any tourist map despite its significant history. The village is now threatened by an Israeli development plan that would convert it into an upscale Jewish neighborhood and forever change its character. With the support of the Palestinian and Jewish Coalition to Save Lifta, Lifta has become a battleground between developers, the Israeli Land authority, and its defenders. Lifta’s unique history and architectural treasures have made it a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, pending far from certain Israeli government approval. Oren Rudavsky (director, co-producer and director of photography) was co-producer and co-director of HIDING AND SEEKING and A LIFE APART. Rudavsky is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and has received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Council for the Arts and more. His most recently completed film COLLIDING DREAMS is a feature length documentary that was supported by a media grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Director Oren Rudavsky stops by to talk about his remarkable film and the chance for some form of reconciliation in this troubled land.
“Watching these sturdy carriers of suffering inevitably argue, your spirits may sink. But you also can’t help but notice that the rocky terrain requires them at times to hold on to each other.” – Robert Abele, LA Times
“A vital study of loss and memory. Grounded in the art of listening, ‘The Ruins of Lifta’ builds a powerful, personal, political conversation between Palestinians and Israelis looking to live differently. The result is necessary viewing.” – Diana Clarke, Village Voice
“The Ruins of Lifta offers a muscular example of ability of documentaries to make the political intensely personal. More painfully, it’s also a case study in the limits of benign intention.” – Ella Taylor, NPR
“A thoughtful lesson in history – and listening.” – Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
Based on the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, Notes on Blindness is the debut feature from writer / directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney. In 1983, after decades of steady deterioration, writer and theologian John Hull became totally blind. To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began documenting his experiences on audio cassette. Drawing on John’s original audio recordings, Notes on Blindness is a poetic and intimate story of loss, rebirth and transformation, charting his extraordinary journey into ‘a world beyond sight’. To compliment this archive material, the filmmakers recorded over twenty hours of audio interviews with John and his wife Marilyn. These audio interviews are interwoven throughout the film’s soundtrack, forming a lyrical narration, with the couple reflecting on events from a distance of thirty years. This wealth of documentary audio material is embedded within cinematic interpretations, in which actors play John and his family, lip-synching to this documentary audio. This innovative creative approach liberates the scope of the film to explore the interior aspects of John’s journey into blindness – John’s dream life, his memories and flights of imagination. Writer / directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney join us for a conversation on the their innovative approach to conveying the experience of blindness and the challenges of telling this deeply personal story of love and triumph.
Story of film subject John Hull: John M. Hull taught for 30 years at the University of Birmingham until his retirement in 2002. He was the first professor of Religious Education in the UK and recipient of the prestigious William Rainey Harper award from the Religious Education Association of the US and Canada. This award is only held by 12 international scholars, and is presented to ‘outstanding leaders whose work in other fields has had a profound impact upon religious education’, including luminaries such as Marshall McLuhan, Margaret Mead and Paolo Freire.
In the late 1930s China is in dire straits. The country will collapse under Japan’s military juggernaut if it doesn’t get outside help. Chinese American firebrand Li Ling-Ai jolts Americans into action with a new medium — 16mm Kodachrome color film. She hires photo-journalist Rey Scott to travel to China and capture a citizen’s perspective of the war-torn country, including the massive bombing of the wartime capital Chungking (now Chongqing). Their landmark film KUKAN screens for President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House, is called “awesome” by the New York Times, and receives one of the first Academy Awards for a feature documentary in 1942. Why have we never heard of Li Ling-Ai? And why have all copies of KUKAN disappeared? FINDING KUKAN uses rare and unseen archival footage to create an unforgettable portrait of a female filmmaking pioneer, and sheds light on the long history of racial and gender discrimination behind the camera, which continues to reverberate in Hollywood today. Director / Producer Robin Lung stops by to talk about the 7-year quest to find the answers to a multitude of questions.
National Bird is an investigative political documentary that explores the complex issue of drone warfare from a human perspective. National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Like previous advancements in military technology, combat drones have transformed warfare, outpacing the ability of legal and moral frameworks to adapt and address these developments. Director / producer and journalist Sonia Kennebeck joins us for a conversation on the immediate consequences, long term ramifications and potential for abuse of a technology that has not received an appropriate level of public discourse.
“National Bird” is powerful cinematic journalism.” – Kimber Myers, LA Times
“Chilling testimony from those three veterans, each of whom helped to wage war from behind consoles half a world away, serves as the backbone of a film that adds its voice to mounting criticism of the U.S. drone program.” – Peter DeBarge, Variety
“[An] elegantly unsettling documentary about the United States’ reliance on aerial combat drones.” – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times
“This is a truly amazing and eye-opening film about the drone program of the U.S. Air Force and some courageous people who realized what sort of threat these unmanned warplanes represent and who decided to speak out about their experiences.You will see and hear things you’ve never seen or heard, and you will leave the theater with insight, in the true sense of the word, you did not have before.” – Wim Wenders
“NATIONAL BIRD is a one-of-a-kind film. It’s nothing short of miraculous that Sonia Kennebeck was able to secure the cooperation of multiple analysts recently active in the U.S. drone program. The film offers an unparalleled glimpse into the surreal landscape of automated murder. – Errol Morris
“NATIONAL BIRD is an extraordinary first person perspective that is starkly riveting, deeply compelling, and a signature eyewitness portrayal of three drone whistleblowers confronted by the remote killing fields of American foreign policy as well as the tragedy experienced by the people of Afghanistan at the everyday level. – Thomas Drake, Whistleblower/ Former Senior Executive of the National Security Agency
How would you react if you discovered that your child – who is often lost in their own thoughts and disconnected from other children – is actually one of the greatest minds of their time? As a young boy, Magnus Carlsen was very different from his peers. Bullied by the other children, he usually sat by himself, lost in thought. But when a strong interest in numbers led him to the game of chess at the age of 5, he quickly started to climb the ranks of the chess world. At 13, he decided that he would become the World Chess Champion. Magnus is now known as the “Mozart of Chess” – combing the skill and intellect of chess with unrivaled originality and instinct. Through an extensive amount of archival footage and home movies, filmmaker Benjamin Ree follows Magnus’s meteoric rise to the top in this unique coming-of-age story. The film invites audiences to not only experience the fascinating world of competitive chess, but also peek into the mind of a modern genius. Director Benjamin Ree joins us to talk about the international culture of chess and the fascinating story of a prodigy with a talent for understanding numbers, patterns and following his remarkable instincts.
The Anthropologist tells the story of Katie Yegorov-Crate, a thirteen-year-old girl from Fairfax, Virginia. She is carted around the globe by her mother, noted environmental anthropologist Susie Crate. Susie studies the effects of climate change on centuries-old indigenous communities. Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead also analyzed how communities confront change, but that which results from war and modernity. Mead’s daughter Mary Catherine Bateson, now 76 and a cultural anthropologist in her own right, provides extraordinary insight into what Susie and Katie discover. Filmed over the course of five years, The Anthropologist is a meditation on change, both individual and societal. Susie and Katie work with people in Siberia, the South Pacific, the Andes, and the nearby Chesapeake Bay, who struggle to reconfigure how and where they live. In Siberia, where Susie met Katie’s father while doing research, Katie’s relatives can no longer farm on land they’ve occupied for generations. Katie’s roots are also threatened by the inhospitable soil. Uniquely revealed from their daughters’ perspectives, Mead and Crate demonstrate a fascination with how societies are forced to negotiate the disruption of their traditional ways of life, whether through encounters with the outside world or the unprecedented change wrought by melting permafrost, receding glaciers and rising tides. Co-director Jeremy Newberger stops by to talk about the rapid climate changes occurring around the world and the increasing human cost.
THE ANTHROPOLOGIST will have a one-week engagement beginning November 18 at Laemmle’s Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90021, 310-478-3836. Go to: laemmle.com/films/41178
“A highly human look at a single mother field scientist and her teenage daughter as they globetrot to study the effects of climate change.” – Film Journal International
“At this point no documentarian can possibly have a fresh take on climate change, right? Wrong.” – Neil Gezlinger, New York Times
“It may not be handled with the rigor that climate change activists would like to see, but it’s an entertaining way of putting a human face on a problem while still providing enough important facts to promote thought.” – Valeriy Kolyadych, PopMatters