The Vigil – Director Keith Thomas

THE VIGIL, the debut feature film debut of writer and director Keith Thomas is the  accomplished and chilling tale steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology. THE VIGIL is supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov (Dave Davis) reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante (Menashe Lustig) to take on the responsibility of an overnight “shomer,” fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed’s dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong. Director Keith Thomas joins us for a conversation on informing his horror film in the iconography and literature of ancient Jewish traditions, finding a perfect location and the importance of finding a lead actor who could embody Yakov’s vulnerabilities and strengths.

 

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For news, updates and screenings go to: ifcfilms.com/films/the-vigil

Director’s Statement – “When I sat down to write the very first draft of THE VIGIL, I knew I wanted to tell a personal story that felt universal. The movie would be very contained and the stakes would, at first glance, seem small – one man, one ritual, and one struggle with a threatening force. But the stories I gravitate towards, the stories I like to tell, are rooted in tangible human experience. One person’s struggle can take on a mythic quality that resonates far more than stories about countries or even worlds at war. All of us have suffered “dark nights of the soul” (likely several times over during the upheaval of the past year) and most of us emerge from those lean and often frightening hours changed – generally for the better but sometimes for the worse. If you’ve come to the movie for a thrill, I hope you enjoy it and it troubles your sleep. If you’ve come to it for a glimpse into a cloistered world few secular people know, I’ll assure you that it is authentic. Regardless of the reason you’re watching THE VIGIL, I hope you find something in our little story that haunts you, that burrows like a splinter in your consciousness and leaves you thinking. Even if it’s just for a few heartbeats.” – Keith Thomas

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“The Vigil is proof that bible-thumping priests and haunted converts can’t have all the spooky fun. The filmmaking maintains its gripping spell all the way through; A remarkable showcase for Dave Davis, who commands every scene.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Get out your tallit, your tefillin and your terrifying visions of a diabolical entity because The Exorcist is coming to Borough Park. A devilish, and very Yiddish, bone-crunching chiller.” – Jordan Mintzner, The Hollywood Reporter

“Cultural context adds to an effectively creepy chiller. Anything might be (and usually is) hiding in the shadows. Davis is excellent.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

“view[ing] Jewish history and identity through the prism of genre, The Vigil dramatizes the processes by which myth and memory sustain trauma down the generations” – Anton Bitel, Sight and Sound

“Featuring strong performances and excellent effects work, The Vigil is a genuinely creepy debut which explores the ways in which our psychological demons can get their claws into our entire lives.” – Nikki Baughan, Empire Magazine

Little Fish – Director Chad Hartigan

LITTLE FISH, the fourth feature film from director Chad Hartigan, is a romance set in a near-future Seattle teetering on the brink of calamity. The film imagines a world where a pandemic has broken out, that strikes with no rhyme or reason, and causes its victims to lose their memories. This is the world that newlyweds Emma and Jude find themselves in, not long after meeting and falling in love. When Jude contracts the disease, the young couple will do anything to hold onto the memory of their love.  Starring Olivia Cooke (Sound of Metal, Thoroughbreds) as Emma, Jack O’Connell (’71, Starred Up) as Jude, Soko and Raul Castillo, LITTLE FISH, opens in the midst of a global epidemic: Neuroinflammatory Affliction, a severe and rapid Alzheimer’s-like condition in which people’s memories disappear. Couple Jude Williams and Emma Ryerson are grappling with the realities of NIA, interspersed with glimpses from the past as the two meet and their relationship blooms. But as NIA’s grip on society tightens, blurring the lines between the past and the present, it becomes more and more difficult to know what’s true and what’s false. Director Chad Hartigan (Morris From America, This is Martin Bonner) joins us for a conversation on the making of his  subversively sly sci-fi / love story and how the on-screen artistry of the two lead actors helped shape this prescient tale of love in an age of isolation and mistrust.

 

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For news and updates go to: littlefish.movie

About the filmmaker – Writer/director Chad Hartigan is best known for his award-winning feature films THIS IS MARTIN BONNER and MORRIS FROM AMERICA. Hartigan won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards, as well as the “Best of NEXT” Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, for THIS IS MARTIN BONNER. Hartigan won the Waldo Scott Screenwriter Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival for his film MORRIS FROM AMERICA. LITTLE FISH marks the third collaboration between childhood friends Hartigan, composer Keegan Dewitt (HEARTS BEAT LOUD) and cinematographer Sean McElwee (THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES). Based on Aja Gabel’s short story, the film is written by up and coming screenwriter Mattson Tomlin who co-wrote the latest Batman film, THE BATMAN, and wrote the Netflix hit PROJECT POWER.

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“In the midst of a flurry of pandemic-themed media coming out which tries to reflect the [present] situation, LITTLE FISH manages to distinguish itself from the crowd with its brilliant leads and emotional resonance.” – Oluwatayo Adewole, The Spool

“The result is better than smart, it’s stirring. With the NIA pandemic as a pretext, the essential subject becomes memory — its fragility, its wondrousness, its centrality to our existence as sentient beings.” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“Hartigan’s moody evocation of Emma and Jack’s love – and the way in which it, like so much else, is predicated on knowledge of the past – casts a moving spell.” – Nick Schager, Variety

“Chad Hartigan’s Little Fish drips with equal doses of beauty and poignancy – an affecting dive into love and memory, and how it defines who we are.” – Natasha Alvar, Cultured Vultures

Night of the Kings – Director Philippe Lacôte

In the 2021 OSCAR® Shortlisted for Best International Feature Film, NIGHT OF THE KINGS a young man is sent to LA MACA, a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named Zama King and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn. Director Philippe Lacôte (Chronicles of War in the Ivory Coast, Run) joins us to talk about his searingly dramatic film that feels like part documentary, part narrative as it tracks a story of survival, deception, mythology and the power of storytelling.

For news and updates go to: neonrated.com/films/night-of-the-kings

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About the filmmaker – Writer and Director Philippe Lacote grew up in Abidjan near a movie theater – the “Magic”. His work as a director has taken on several forms, before focusing in 2002 on the recent history of his country with CHRONICLES OF WAR IN THE IVORY COAST, a film on the edge between a documentary and a diary. It is followed by the feature film RUN, the story of a wandering madman, selected in Cannes Un Certain Regard 2014. This selection confirmed his talent as a filmmaker and revealed a new voice from the African continent. NIGHT OF THE KINGS (original title “La Nuit Des Rois”), his second feature, is a dive into the largest prison in West Africa, during a night of red moon.

Nominee – Best International Feature Films – Film Independent Spirit Awards 2021
Nominee – Outstanding International Motion Picture – NAACP Image Awards 2021
One of the Top Five Best International Feature Films – NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW
Winner – Amplify Voices Award – Toronto International Film Festival 2020

96% on Rotten Tomatoes

“A power struggle and a ritual practiced by the collective within a microcosm of society housed under the oppression of the state, and a powerful demonstration of the transporting, and liberating, power of narrative.” – Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

“An assured, energetic piece of epic filmmaking, one that celebrates how storytelling, oration, and folklore teach us about our past so we might change our present.” – Robert Daniels RogerEbert.com

“Philippe Lacôte’s restless film – a rare United States release from Ivory Coast – braids together its struggles for survival to suggest an entire country fighting to emerge.” – Nicolas Rapold, New York Times

“This captivating hybrid of a movie mixes fairy-tale and storytelling elements with a vividly drawn backdrop of heightened realism… and relies on images and sounds as much as the human voice to tell its multiple stories.” – Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter

The People vs. Agent Orange – Co-directors Alan Adelson & Kate Taverna

As the latest film from filmmakers Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna lays bares the dioxin-based defoliant, insecticide, Agent Orange catastrophe did not end with the Vietnam War. Today, the world over, a primary chemical of the toxic defoliant controls weeds in farming, forestry, parks, even on children’s playgrounds. Agent Orange wreaks havoc on the human genome, causing deformed births and deadly cancers. After decades of struggle and tragic personal losses, two heroic women are leading a worldwide movement to end the plague and hold the manufacturers accountable. In France, Tran To Nga is suing the American chemical industry for poisoning her in Vietnam. In America, Carol Van Strum exposes the continuing use of toxic herbicides in the Pacific Northwest. Incriminating documents disappear. Activists are threatened. A helicopter technician secretly films the contamination of reservoirs, while a massive industrial cover-up goes on. The People vs. Agent Orange co-directors Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna join us for a conversation on the journey of two women, joned together in their mutual pain, resist intimidation and threats, bringing to light the ongoing, intergenerational catastrophe of chemical warfare and toxic herbicides in the hope of bringing the manufacturers and business related perpetrators to justice.

For news and updates go to: javafilms.film/the-people-vs-agent-orange

Jury Award at Eugene Environmental Film Festival 2020

About the filmmakers: Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson produced and co-­directed In Bed with Ulysses as well as Lodz Ghetto, both of these widely acclaimed films had nationwide theatrical releases. Lodz Ghetto was short-listed for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar. Adelson and Taverna also collaborated on Two Villages in Kosovo, In Bed with Ulysses and Agent Orange: La derniere bataille, an adaptation of The People vs. Agent Orange made for Arte in French and German. Alan Adelson works in both film and print: as a page-one investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and national magazines he made worldwide headlines exposing the disappearance of enough enriched plutonium to make two Hiroshima-sized bombs. Early in his journalistic career he published investigative articles on the chemical industry. Kate Taverna has edited more than 50 films over her career: Asylum and Killing in the Name were the Academy Award nominees in the Best Short documentary category in 2004 and 2011 respectively. The feature length Pray the Devil Back to Hell won the Best Documentary award at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry won the Audience award at the 2014 Boston Independent Film Festival, released theatrically nationwide and was translated into 22 languages andshown globally on Netflix.Her broadcast editing work has been seen on CBS, IFC, A&E, BBC and PBS, among others. 

Films for Humanity is proud to present the US virtual theatrical release of THE PEOPLE vs AGENT ORANGE, a documentary film by Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson. Winner of the Jury Award at the 2020 Eugene Environmental Film Festival, the film will have a virtual release at the New Plaza Cinema in New York, at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles and in other cities on March 5, 2021

’Til Kingdom Come, Director Maya Zinshtein & Producer Abraham (Abie) Troen

Director Maya Zinshtein and Producer Abraham (Abie) Troen’s well-balanced, insightful documentary ’TIL KINGDOM COME focuses on the millions of American Evangelicals who are praying for the State of Israel. Among them are the Binghams, a dynasty of Kentucky pastors, and their Evangelical congregants in an impoverished coal mining town. They donate sacrificially to Israel’s foremost philanthropic organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, because they fervently believe the Jews are crucial to Jesus’s return. ’TIL KINGDOM COME traces this unusual relationship, from rural Kentucky to the halls of government in Washington, through the moving of the American Embassy in Jerusalem and to the annexation plan of the West-Bank. With unparalleled access, the film exposes a stunning backstory of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, where financial, political and messianic motivations intersect with the apocalyptic worldview that is insistently reshaping American foreign policy toward Israel and the Middle-East. Director Maya Zinshtein and Producer Abie Troen join us for a lively conversation on how their clear-eyed film takes us right into the heart of some of the world’s most powerful political forces and how this confluence of interests are apparently hellbent to realize a worldview where the world ends in fiery judgement for non-believers and true believers.

For news, updates and screenings go to: tilkingdomcomefilm.com

About the filmmaker – Maya Zinshtein – Director, producer Maya Zinshtein is an Emmy award-winning Israeli documentary filmmaker and journalist with a BA in Cinema and French studies and an MA in Security and Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University. Her last documentary “Forever Pure” won an Emmy award for Outstanding Politics and Government documentary in 2018 (Independent Lens/PBS). An alumna of Sundance Institute, for the last ten years she has directed and produced documentaries broadcast on Israeli TV and abroad including by Netflix, BBC, ARTE/ZDF, and PBS, and screened at over 100 festivals around the world.

About the filmmaker – Abraham (Abie) Troen – Producer, Cinematography Abraham “Abie” Troen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker & D.O.P. He has led doc projects in Israel, Kenya, India, Mexico and the US, his work screened at TIFF, SXSW, Doc NYC, IDFA and online for National Geographic, Vanity Fair, CNE and Out Magazine. Abie studied at the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem and Brandeis University before receiving an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. There he was awarded the Annenberg Fellowship for specializing in documentary filmmaking. He currently resides in LA and films on both sides of the Atlantic.

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100% on Rotten Tomatoes

“A toxic mix of fundamentalist religion and real world politics is examined soberly but startlingly by Israeli documentarist Maya Zinstein in ‘Til Kingdom Come.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“Evangelicals and right-wing Jews make for strange bedfellows and ‘Til Kingdom Come shows why people should be uncomfortable.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Hones in on one of the three legs of the stool that Trump sat on. (The other two are white supremacy and nativism.)” – Louis Proyect, Counterpunch.org

“Awaiting the Messiah – second coming or first?” – Harvey S. Karten, Shockya.com

Hunger Ward – Director Skye Fitzgerald

Filmed from inside two of the most active therapeutic feeding centers in Yemen, HUNGER WARD documents two female health care workers fighting to thwart the spread of starvation against the backdrop of a forgotten war. HUNGER WARD provides an unflinching portrait of Dr. Aida Al Sadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they try to save the lives of hunger-stricken children within a population on the brink of famine. HUNGER WARD is the third installment of Director Skye Fitzgerald’s Humanitarian Trilogy, focused on the global refugee crisis. The first film, 50 FEET FROM SYRIA focused on doctors working on the Syrian border and was Oscar® shortlisted. The second, LIFEBOAT documents search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya and was nominated for an Academy Award® and national Emmy®. Director Skye Fitzgerald (Lifeboat, 50 Feet from Syria, Finding Face) joins us for a conversation on the making of his 2021 Oscar® Shortlisted Hunger Ward documentary, how little American mass media has talked about the ongoing genocidal war against a defenseless civilian population – done with diplomatic,  political backing by the Trump Administration, as well as, intelligence and logistical support from the US military – and what we can do to stop it.

For news and updates go to: hungerward.org

2021 Oscar® shortlist – Best Documentary (Short form)

About the filmmaker – Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Documentary Branch). Oscar/Emmy/IDA-Nominated Director Skye Fitzgerald is directing The Humanitarian Trilogy: HUNGER WARD (2020) documents the impact of the war and famine in Yemen on children, families, and health care workers. LIFEBOAT (2018) highlights search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya and was nominated for an Academy Award® and national Emmy® award. 50 FEET FROM SYRIA (2015) focuses on doctors working on the Syrian border and was voted onto the Oscar® shortlist. Fitzgerald was also inducted as an honorary member into SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society) for his work with Syrian refugees and named a Distinguished Alumnus at his alma mater EOU for documentary work. As a Fulbright Research Scholar Fitzgerald directed the film Bombhunters and has since worked with the Sundance Institute, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the State Department, the Paul Robeson Fund and Mountainfilm. As a Director of Photography, Fitzgerald lenses work for major clients including Dateline, VICE, Mercy Corps, CNN, the Discovery, Travel, History and Animal Planet Channels. For more on Skye Fitzgerald go to: spinfilm.org

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Critical reactions to Skye Fitzgerald’s work:

“…a rare look inside the human impact of the war in Yemen” – Jane Ferguson – PBS NewsHour

“Once you see it, you won’t forget it.” – Sarah Larson – THE NEW YORKER 

“Fitzgerald has sought to harness this art-form to draw attention those who are struggling to obtain their most basic, fundamental human freedoms. LIFEBOAT…is vitally important.” – US HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION 

“…deftly addresses the most critical humanitarian issue of our time and those who are doing something about it.” – Michael Brody – Programmer Crested Butte FF  

“…visually brutal…a harrowing package.”  – VARIETY  

Do Not Split – Director Anders Hammer

Filmed across an entire year, DO NOT SPLIT takes us within the heart of the 2019 Hong Kong protests, capturing the determination and sacrifices of the city’s youth as their movement becomes symbolic for a generation’s rebellion against the political systems of two governments. Armed with umbrellas, gas masks, social media, and sheer determination, the protestors risk their lives, safety, and futures against the police’s tear gas, armed vehicles, and violence. Anders Hammer’s powerful film paints a nuanced and sobering picture of the challenges faced by the protestors,  joining student leaders and protestors on the ground to give an expansive and first-hand portrait of the unrest that prompted a government’s backlash, the passage of the new Beijing-backed national security law, and captured the attention of the world. Director Anders Hammer joins us to talk about the history of Hong Kong’s relationship to the British empire and the handover to the People’s Republic of China, the 20-year deterioration of civil and political rights as well as the determined bravery of the student led protestors determined to resist the tightening grip of an increasingly oppressive regime.

For news, screenings and updates go to andershammer.com

2021 Oscar® shortlist – Best Documentary (Short form)

DO NOT SPLIT premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; screened at CPH:DOX, Guanajuato International Film Festival, Denver Film Festival, SFFILM’s Doc Stories, Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI, and Indy Shorts International Film Festival; and received the AFI DOCS Short Film Special Jury Prize and Special Jury Recognition for Courage Under Fire at DOC NYC.

About the filmmaker – Anders Hammer has filmed and directed the documentary Do Not Split which takes us within the heart of the Hong Kong protests that started in the summer of 2019. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received the Special Jury Prize at AFI DOCS and Special Jury Recognition for Courage under Fire at DOC NYC. Hammer directed the documentary series Our Allies for Field of Vision. He also directed and produced Escape from Syria: Rania’s Odyssey, which was published by The Guardian and won a Webby Award and a One World Media Award for Best Refugee Reporting in 2018. The documentary went viral and gained more than 10 million views and 100,000 shares in social media. Hammer is one of the directors of the documentary  Exit Afghanistan published by Netflix. He has directed seven documentaries for the Norwegian investigative journalism program NRK Brennpunkt and many short documentaries. Hammer lived and worked in Afghanistan for six years and has written four documentary books about the country, one of them together with the Danish author Carsten Jensen. In Norway, where Hammer was born in 1977, he has received the Fritt Ord Award (which is given in support of freedom of expression), the International Reporter’s Journalism Award and the Big Journalist Award.

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“A visually stunning piece of reportage” – Nick Cunningham, BusinessDoc Europe

“A frenetic, urgent look at the protests that have rocked the city since June 2019” – Susannah Gruder, Hyperallergic

Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa – Co-directors Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Mike Attie

At the Philadelphia abortion helpline, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who are seeking to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to. In this short documentary we learn how economic stigma and cruel legislation determines who in America has access to abortion. Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa gives voice to women and teens affected by discriminatory policies like the Hyde Amendment. At the abortion helpline in Philadelphia, phone counselors—all called Lisa—arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from people who are seeking to end a pregnancy . . . and can’t afford to. Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa shares the stories of the callers for whom getting through to the helpline in time can literally be life-changing—for them and their families. Co-directors Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Mike Attie join us for a conversation on the continuing assault on the Constitutionally guaranteed right of women to seek and receive access to safe and legally appropriate health services and how important these privately funded community helplines are to women and their families.

For news and updates go to: abortionhelplinedoc.com

To watch the film go to: vimeo.com/staffpicks

Oscar Shortlisted 2021 Best Documentary (Short Program)

WINNER – Grand Jury Prize, Shorts – AFI DOCS 2020
NOMINEE – Best Short – IDA Awards 2020
SHORTLIST – Shorts – Cinema Eye Honors 2020
FINALIST – ShortList Film Festival 2020

 

The Hyde Amendment – What is the Hyde Amendment and why has its repeal become a litmus test for progressive politicians? In 1976, only three years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, the Hyde Amendment was enacted with the explicit intention of denying poor individuals—those receiving Medicaid—access to abortion. To learn more about the Hyde Amendment read this or watch this short video.

Call Center Blues – Director Geeta Gandbhir

A character-driven, cinematic tale of deportation, migration, displacement and opportunistic capitalism, CALL CENTER BLUES follows four characters as they struggle to make sense of their lives in Tijuana. Each with a vastly different story, they are all linked by their displacement and the sole choice of call center work they have in a country that is so unfamiliar and oftentimes frightening, yet other times a ray of hope. Tijuana becomes their home, a place defined by the border but yet defiant towards it, a no man’s land where everything and everyone feels transient. These characters paint a picture of love, loss and longing – for home, for an American Dream deferred, and for justice. Director Geeta Gandbhir joins us conversation on an aspect of immigration and deportation that is as relevant and heartbreaking as any immigration issue and the importance that an Oscar nomination brings to the issue and the film.

For news annd updates go to: multitudefilms.com/call-center-blues

Shortlisted for 2021 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary (Short Form)

SHORTS SHORTLIST – IDA Documentary Awards 2020
OFFICIAL SELECTION – DOC NYC Short List: Shorts 2020
OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2020
WINNER – Best Documentary Short – Virginia Film Festival 2020
WINNER – Best Documentary Short – Fayetteville Film Festival 2020

About the filmmaker – Geeta Gandbhir is an award-winning director, producer and editor. As director, she won Best Documentary at the News and Doc Emmys for I AM EVIDENCE, an HBO Documentary Film, and Best Government and Politics Documentary for ARMED WITH FAITH, a PBS Documentary film. As editor, she won a Primetime Emmy for Best Editing for Spike Lee’s HBO documentary series WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE and also for the HBO film BY THE PEOPLE, THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA. A documentary film she co-produced, THE SENTENCE, for HBO, also won a Special Jury Primetime Emmy.Other feature docs she co-directed include PRISON DOGS, A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: PEACEKEEPERS, and REMEMBERING THE ARTIST: ROBERT DENIRO SR.She created and is co-directing and co-producing a series on race with The New York Times Op-Docs titled “The Conversation” which won the AFI Documentary Film Festival and a MacArthur Grant. She has been the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant, a MacArthur Grant, among others, and in 2017, she was the recipient of Chicken and Eggs prestigious Breakthrough Filmmaker Award.

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17 Blocks – Director Davy Rothbart

In 1999, filmmaker Davy Rothbart met Emmanuel Sanford-Durant and his older brother, Smurf, during a pickup basketball game in Southeast Washington, D.C. Davy began filming their lives, and soon the two brothers and other family members began to use the camera themselves. The result is 17 BLOCKS. Made in a unique collaboration with filmmaker and journalist Davy Rothbart, the film focuses on four generations of the Sanford Family, including Emmanuel, a promising student, his brother Smurf, his sister Denice, an aspiring cop, and his mother Cheryl, who must conquer her own demons for her family to prosper. Spanning two decades, 17 BLOCKS illuminates a nation’s ongoing crisis through one family’s raw, stirring, and deeply personal saga. Made from more than 1,000 hours of footage, it all starts on the street where they lived in 1999, 17 blocks behind the U.S. Capitol. Director Davy Rothbart joins us to talk about his profoundly moving gut punch of a film about the lives of a family fighting against the chaos and cruelty of embedded racism, broken social institutions and pervasive violence, all of it happening a little more than a stones throw from the lawmakers who step over their dead bodies on their way to “work”. God help us if you are not moved by this film.

 

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For news, screenings and updates go to: 17blocksfilm.com

In Virtual Cinemas Starting February 19th, 2021 

Director Davy Rothbart’s team has partnered with organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and Black Lives Matter D.C. on screenings, and for the film’s national release, presented by MTV Documentary Films. Its national virtual release is set for February 19, 2021, streaming from nearly 100 theaters across the U.S., and viewable on computers, tablets, mobile devices, AppleTV, and Roku.

About the filmmaker – Davy Rothbart is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, bestselling author and journalist, frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life , and the creator of Found Magazine. Rothbart’s film MEDORA, about a resilient high-school basketball team in a dwindling Indiana town, based on the NewYork Times story by Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch, was Executive Produced by Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci, and premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. MEDORA later aired on the acclaimed PBS series Independent Lens and won an Emmy Award.  Rothbart previously directed two documentaries about the activist band Rise Against, which became best-selling DVDs in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Sweden. A separate short film featuring Rise Against’s song “Make It Stop” was created for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project and later won an MTV Music Video Award.  Rothbart’s radio stories featured on This American Life have reached more than 20 million listeners, and his books FOUND and My Heart Is An Idiot have debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List. He has made multiple appearances on The Late Show With David Letterman , been featured on ABC’s 20/20, Last Call with Carson Daly, MSNBC, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and been profiled in The New Yorker and The New York Times. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Rothbart now lives in Los Angeles, California. 

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“An essential viewing doc about race & class in America… A documentary with Cinema Verite sensibilities and no qualms whatsoever about the honest presentation of its subjects, 17 BLOCKS is both heartbreaking and inspiring.” – Warren Cantrell, The Playlist 

“RAW AND IMMEDIATE… packs a potent emotional punch.” – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter 

“A remarkably raw and heartfelt piece of filmmaking… At its best, 17 BLOCKS  reminded me of the deep humanism of Steve James’ work.” – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

“More than just a singular achievement in documentary filmmaking, “17 Blocks” is the result of the Sanford family’s profound act of bravery. – Mark Keizer, Variety

“An absolutely devastating, powerful, and deeply moving film.“ – Tim Cogshell, FilmWeek (KPCC – NPR Los Angeles)

“There’s a searing honesty and immediacy about the footage.” – Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film

Test Pattern – Director Shatara Michelle

TEST PATTERN follows an interracial couple whose rock-solid relationship is put to the test when Renesha, a Black woman played by Brittany S. Hall, is sexually assaulted. Her white boyfriend Evan (Will Brill) insistently pursues a rape kit and is met with medical and administrative incompetence at every turn. Part psychological horror, part realist drama, TEST PATTERN unfolds against the backdrop of national discussions around inequitable health care and policing, the #MeToo movement, and race in America. The dives into the effects of the systemic factors and social conditioning women face when navigating sex and consent within the American patriarchy, along with exploring institutional racism from a Black female point of view. Director / Producer / Writer Shatara Michelle Ford joins us for a conversation on how this deeply moving personal story came to life through a collaboration with an exceptionally creative and supportive cast and crew and why TEST PATTERN is particularly relevant at a time when many of us are proclaiming Black Lives Matter.

 

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For news and updates go to: kinomarquee.com/Test Pattern

To watch virtually go to: laemmle.com/videos/testpattern

BlackStar Film Festival 2019 – Lionsgate/STARZ Producer Award
New Orleans Film Festival 2019 – Narrative Features Jury Award

 

About the filmmaker – Shatara Michelle Ford is a black American filmmaker born in rural Arkansas and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2010, she received an MFA in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University of London. Shatara’s work explores class, power, womanhood, identity, perception and race. Intellectually propelled by the LA Rebellion film movement and stylistically influenced by Neoclassical directors; Shatara’s films feature marginalized characters with rich internal lives that defy dominant stereotypes. Her script, QUEEN ELIZABETH was featured on the 2017 Black List. TEST PATTERN is Shatara’s debut feature film. TEST PATTERN was the 2019 Grand Jury Prize winner at New Orleans Film Festival, and won the Special Jury Prize for Best Feature at Deadcenter Film Festival.

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“A must-see gem… a serious discovery, and the kind of project that should rocket [Ford] (and her stars) to a new level of Hollywood hype.” – KateErbland, Indiewire

“Offers a fresh way of examining sexual assault and its aftermath on screen, one that feels just as emblematic of its moment as Thelma & Louise.” – Soraya Nadia McDonald, Film Comment

“A searing, yet nuanced, interrogation of the racism and sexism baked into our society at every level… Strikingly punctuates the detachment of realist drama with the expressionism of psychological horror.” – William Repass, Slant Magazine

“A slow burn movie done right… with brilliant performances by Hall and Brill.” – Cal Gesner, Film Snob Reviews

I Blame Society – Director / Lead Actor Gillian Wallace Horvat

In I BLAME SOCIETY Gillian (Gillian Wallace Horvat) is one of those many struggling filmmakers in L.A. who just can’t seem to get the money for their first feature. Feeling like her friends and her partner (Keith Poulson) are losing faith in her abilities, she decides to resurrect her abandoned documentary based on a pseudo-compliment she once received that she would make a good murderer. But while she documents what makes “the perfect murder” a hitherto unseen dark side of Gillian emerges and grows. Furthermore the problem with being a successful serial killer, she discovers, is keeping the whole thing stealth, denying her the recognition that she craves… and that unhinges her even more. After accidentally-ish killing her best friend (Chase Williamson), Gillian goes on a killing spree culminating with a final bloody act that nobody would dare deny her credit for. I BLAME SOCIETY is razor-sharp satire of the pitfalls of post-#MeToo culture in Los Angeles. Director, writer and lead actor Gillian Wallace Horvat (Kiss Kiss Fingerbang) joins us to talk about her gleefully disturbing feature film debut that delves into the psyche of a young woman trying to believe in her dreams and herself… and facing the darkness that lurks inside in this macabre Cinderella story.

For news and updates go to: crankedupfilms.com/IBlameSociety

About the filmmaker – Gillian Wallace Horvat is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, writer, and film programmer. Her first short film, GUNPLAY, was a 2007 Wasserman Semi-Finalist and the only film to ever receive a disclaimer for graphic content at NYU Tisch’s First Run Film Festival. KISS KISS FINGERBANG, starring Anton Yelchin, Kate Lyn Sheil, and Buck Henry was awarded the Jury Prize in the Midnight Shorts category at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival; it later premiered online as a Vimeo Staff Pick. Miriam Bale wrote in Indiewire that. Gillian is one of “the most exciting American indie filmmakers I can think of.” Her films have screened in festivals around the world including SXSW, Fantasia, Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, Yale University, and many others. Gillian also produced A FULLER LIFE, a documentary on the life and films of director Samuel Fuller that premiered at the 2013 Venice Film Festival. Recently she has produced documentary shorts for Arrow Films, Kino Lorber, and Olive Films, working on projects ranging from an AMERICAN NINJA box set to Orson Welles’ MACBETH. She is also a guest columnist for Filmmaker Magazine and her writing has appeared in Sight & Sound.

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“I Blame Society is a pretty startling and original film. Writer-director-star Horvat explores the dark comedy genre on her own terms, and has the courage to keep upping the ante – right until the very end.” – Frank J. Avella, Edge Media Network

“In some ways, I totally believe that you have to be at least a little bit insane to want to follow an artistic career path. I Blame Society takes that ball and runs with it to a successfully awesome finish line.” – Lorry Kikta, Film Threat

“Writer/director/actress/mischievous malcontent Gillian Wallace Horvat’s I Blame Society is a wry, anarchic mockumentary that will almost immediately turn some people all the way the hell off. Pity those poor, incorrect fools.” – Ryan Syrek, The Reader (Omaha, NE)

“The originality of story and filmmaking is a sight to see, and its narrative is an exquisite example of how quickly the thin line between reality and art can blur.” – Stephanie Archer, Film Inquiry

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – Director Jane Schoenbrun and Actor Anna Cobb

How to take the World’s Fair Challenge: Say the words “I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair.” into your computer camera. Prick your finger, draw some blood and smear it on the screen. Now press play on the video. They say that once you’ve seen it, the changes begin…  In a small town, a shy and isolated teenage girl (Anna Cobb in a stunning feature debut) becomes immersed in an online role-playing game. Late on a cold night somewhere in America, teenage Casey sits alone in her attic bedroom, scrolling the internet under the glow-in-the-dark stars and black-light posters that blanket the ceiling. She has finally decided to take the World’s Fair Challenge, an online role-playing horror game, and embrace the uncertainty it promises. After the initiation, she documents the changes that may or may not be happening to her, adding her experiences to the shuffle of online clips available for the world to see. As she begins to lose herself between dream and reality, a mysterious figure reaches out, claiming to see something special in her uploads. Director Jane Schoenbrun and lead actor Anna Cobb join us for a conversation on the making of this jarring, mind bending and strangely empowering tale of a young woman determined to challenge boundaries.

 

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For more go to: fliescollective.com/were-all-going-to-the-worlds-fair

About the filmmaker – Jane Schoenbrun is a non-binary filmmaker who co-created ongoing touring variety series “The Eyeslicer,” which has screened in hundreds of venues across the world, including MoMA, the Tribeca Film Festival, and Kansas City’s oldest porn theater. In 2018, they created the Radical Film Fair, a film flea market and mentorship event that drew thousands of attendees. Schoenbrun is the director of feature documentary “A Self-Induced Hallucination,” producer on Aaron Schimberg’s “Chained for Life” an EP on season one of Terence Nance’s “Random Acts of Flyness,” and creator of the omnibus “dream film” “collective:unconscious. “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is premiering at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival

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88% on Rotten Tomatoes

“Schoenbrun’s debut is one of the only American films that really excited me, in both ideas and film form, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” – Orla Smith, Seventh Row

“None of the formal inventiveness would work if it wasn’t grounded by a real person at its center. This may be her first feature, but [Anna Cobb] brings an immense amount of nuance to each moment.” – Drew Gregory, Autostraddle

“It’s a strong debut for both Schoenbrun and Cobb, capturing a profound sense of contemporary adolescent loneliness that many artists have tried (and failed) to portray on screen.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“This is a film of great and grand expression, transforming and challenging our own ideas and beliefs of art, of ourselves, and of others.” – Bill Arceneaux, Of Those Who

“Cobb and Michael J. Rogers both deliver haunting performances here. Cobb introduces enough vulnerability in the beginning to make her slow transformation into someone almost unrecognizable all the more terrifying.” – Alysha Prasad, One Room With A View

Days of the Bagnold Summers – Director Simon Bird

Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel, DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER is a funny yet sweet coming-of-age story about single motherhood and Metallica. Daniel (Earl Cave) was supposed to spend the summer with his dad and his dad’s new wife in Florida, but when his dad cancels the trip Daniel and his mom, Sue, (Monica Dolan) suddenly face the prospect of six long weeks together. An epic war of wills ensues in their suburban home as Daniel just wants to listen to heavy metal and start a band while his mom hopes to rekindle the fun times they used to have together. Featuring original songs by Belle and Sebastian. Director Simon Bird joins us for a conversation on his beautifully rendered tale of a sullen, insecure teen and his effervescent single mom doing her best to keep moving forward in a world that is pelting her with cheap shots and exasperating insults. 

 

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For news and updates go to: days-of-the-bagnold-summer

About the filmmaker – Director Simon Bird’s first short film, Ernestine and Kit, premiered at South By Southwest, and was nominated for Best Short at the Irish Film and Television Awards. Previously, Simon has worked as a stand-up comedian, writer, producer, and actor. As a writer, he created The King Is Dead for the BBC and co-created Chickens for Sky, which was nominated for Best Sitcom at the Broadcast Awards. As a producer, he set up Guilty Party Pictures, a TV and film production company backed by RED and Studiocanal. Guilty Party has produced content for Channel 4, Sky and the BBC, and recently wrapped on How Europe Stole My Mum, an original TV show for Channel 4, to air later this year.  As an actor, Simon has starred in five series of Rose D’Or-winning sitcom Friday Night Dinner. The sixth series shoots later this year. He is perhaps best known as Will McKenzie from Channel 4’s BAFTA-winning sitcom THE INBETWEENERS, THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE, which is the highest-grossing comedy film ever in the UK, and THE INBETWEENERS 2, which had the highest-grossing opening weekend of any film in the UK in 2014. Simon has won multiple British Comedy Awards and been nominated for a BAFTA and Royal Television Society award for acting. 

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90% on Rotten Tomatoes

“[A] funny, acerbic, yet surprisingly tender film…” – Mark Kermode, Observer (UK)

“Bird and writer Lisa Owens manage not only to mine repeated laughs from their basic gag – metal mayhem in Hornchurch Drive – but to do so sweetly rather than tweely.” – Danny Leigh, Financial Times

“An unexpectedly gentle and pensive portrait of a strained relationship between a mother and a son.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“Far closer in spirit to the lighter works of Mike Leigh than the broader material that made him a well known figure in British comedy, Bird’s debut is innately humanistic, with cross-generational appeal.” – Alistair Ryder, Film Inquiry

A Glitch in the Matrix – Director Rodney Ascher

A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX ask the question, what if we are living in a simulation, and the world as we know it is not real? To tackle this mind-bending idea, acclaimed filmmaker Rodney Ascher (ROOM 237, THE NIGHTMARE) uses a noted speech from Philip K. Dick to dive down the rabbit hole of science, philosophy, and conspiracy theory. Leaving no stone unturned in exploring the unprovable, the film uses contemporary cultural touchstones like THE MATRIX, interviews with real people shrouded in digital avatars, and a wide array of voices, expert and amateur alike. If simulation theory is not science fiction but fact, and life is a video game being played by some unknowable entity, then who are we, really? A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX attempts to find out. The film introduces us to a handful of real-world testifiers who are certain that their bodies and minds are being operated by some external game-player. Ascher, as ever an inviting, curious questioner (never one who mocks), brings a wealth of cultural and intellectual context to his latest exploration, from the videotaped musings of paranoid sci-fi giant Philip K. Dick to clips of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix and a host of bespoke animated re-creations that give eerie credence to the most outré of notions. Director Rodney Ascher joins us to talk about his paranoia-inducing, exhilarating and definitive introduction to a subject that, subscribe to it or not, involves us all.

 

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For news and updates go to: aglitchinthematrixfilm.com

About the filmmaker – RODNEY ASCHER (Director, Editor, and Executive Producer) RODNEY ASCHER is a filmmaker known for creating documentaries that explore the subjective experience, freely appropriating the vocabularies of genre, experimental, and found-footage films along the way. His first feature, 2012’s ROOM 237 looked at The Shining through the eyes of five very different people. He visualized their wildly different interpretations of Kubrick’s classic by juxtaposing excerpts of the film with everything from Murnau’s Faust to the cover of the January 1978 issue of Playgirl magazine creating a trip down the rabbit hole. His follow up, THE NIGHTMARE was called “The Scariest Movie of the decade.” Creatively, the film completely changed tactics from Room 237’s archival-driven montage. To visualize real people’s seemingly supernatural experiences during bouts of ‘sleep paralysis’ his team filmed interviews at night in the subjects’ own bedrooms and created stylized re-enactments inspired by the interviewees’ drawings and his own personal memories of a visitation by a ‘shadowman.’ Like Room 237, it premiered at Sundance before traveling around the world including an Imax screening in Moscow. A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX is his most ambitious film yet, using multiple styles of 3D animation to illustrate the experiences and philosophies of people who suspect the world itself is not quite real.

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“A Glitch in the Matrix becomes not about whether we’re living in a simulation but about the many understandable reasons someone may think this. In effect, it winds up being about the mysteries of the human experience.” – Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine/Vulture

“’A Glitch in the Matrix’ goes for the head by way of the heart, or maybe vice versa. Superb and startling, breathtaking and compassionate.” – Bill Arceneaux, Of Those Who

“A compellingly out-there look at the possibility that we’re all avatars in a game we can’t comprehend.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“Ascher’s appropriately discombobulating stew of queasiness, comedy, and terror seems well-cued to the subject matter, even while missing a certain editorial sharpness that might have brought some of its notions into greater clarity.” – Chris Barsanti, The Playlist

“While Ascher casts a wide net, “A Glitch in the Matrix” works quite well as an overview of the various epistemological questions it raises.” – Eric Kohn, indieWire

The Friendliest Town – Director Stephen Janis and Subject Kelvin Sewell

THE FRIENDLIEST TOWN chronicles a startling tale of institutionalized racism working against the dedicated efforts of the first African American Police Chief, Kelvin Sewell in the small town of Pocomoke on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore. The national debate over policing generally misses a critical point: how embedded law enforcement is in the political power structure of this country. Historically this has situated law enforcement at a critical juncture in conflicts regarding race, equity, and politics. This complex story made national news and shines spotlight on the insidious racism often just under the surface. Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, calls for substantive reform of law enforcement have launched an intense national debate. But an effort by veteran African American officer, Kelvin Sewell to implement community policing in the small racially divided town of Pocomoke is a cautionary tale on limits both to reforms and how racism may be the biggest obstacle to change. THE FRIENDLIEST TOWN is the directorial debut from award winning journalist and author Stephen Janis. Produced by award winning journalists Taya Graham and Janis (hosts of TRNN’s Police Accountability Report, and producers and co-creators of the award-winning podcast Truth and Reconciliation on Baltimore’s NPR affiliate WYPR). Director Stephen Janis and Subject Kelvin Sewell join us to talk about the many twists and turns this saga has taken over the last 6 years and why Sewell’s particular story is a clarion call for reforming law enforcement and criminal justice at every level of government.

 

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For more on the work of Stephen Janis and Taya Graham go to: therealnews.com/police-accountability-report

Gravitas Ventures has released The Friendliest Town across North America (the United States and Canada) on all VOD/Digital & Blu-Ray/DVD platforms. 

“This is a film steeped in social justice, empowerment and the promise of societal change.” – David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun

Anatomy of Wings – Co-directors Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander and Nikiea Redmond

ANATOMY OF WINGS is the direct result of an after-school film project, where ten Black middle school girls gathered each week to collaborate with their Black and white mentors on a feature-length documentary about their own coming-of-age in Baltimore City. Weeks turn into years. Then, shortly before the girls’ high school graduations, a sea of misunderstanding arises about what’s to come. This self-defined ‘second family’ is left to question if their solidarity will survive the realities of living in a world of racial inequity.WINGS mentors created a safe space for the girls to practice filmmaking and share life experiences, questions and  personal moments such as proms, first time gynecologist visits and accomplishments. Their lives in Baltimore reflected their corresponding community and, once in high school, the girls began inviting their best friends to join the program. The result: we became a group of 10. What began as a videography program evolved into a powerful space of sharing for ten years, where ten girls, mentors, professors and college students at MICA created a family. The co-directors Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander and Nikiea Redmond join us for a conversation on the power of storytelling, especially for young women of color, living in a community bereft of opportunity can be a powerful and unmistakable call to arms for real social change.

 

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For news and updates go to: anatomyofwings.com

Watch Anatomy of Wings, premiering at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival

About the filmmaker – Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander is a full-time professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she currently directs the MFA Filmmaking program. Equipped with an undergraduate degree in Painting from MICA in 1988, she turned to documentary filmmaking after receiving an MFA in Imaging and Digital Arts from UMBC in 1997. Having taught in higher education for 22 years, Hollander explored how the camcorder can be a collaborative tool to bear witness. In 2008 she launched the ‘Wings Video Skills After School Program for Girls’ and the recently completed ‘Anatomy of Wings’ feature length documentary. In 2011 Hollander was selected for an Independent Filmmaker Project Fellowship to launch her first feature length documentary, ‘Us, Naked: Trixie & Monkey’, which premiered with the DOC NYC film festival in 2014. In 2015, ‘Us, Naked: Trixie & Monkey’ received Best International Feature Length Documentary at the Netherland’s DOCfeed Film Festival and Best Feature Length Documentary at New York’s Coney Island Film Festival. The film went into international distribution with Random Media/The Orchard in 2017. Hollander lives in Baltimore City with her husband, son, and two silly dogs. 

About the filmmaker – Nikiea Redmond received her Bachelors in Corporate Communication from the University of Baltimore in 2011. Growing up in East Baltimore Redmond became a mentor to the youth coming-of-age around her. Being a child in Baltimore’s impoverished neighborhoods, researching the history of slavery in her family, traveling with Freedom Schools focused on teaching African history – and working professionally in the public-school system has provided Redmond with the experience to tell the ‘Anatomy of Wings’ story with a direct understanding of societal makeups and the human rights she wishes to see in the world. Additionally, Redmond serves as a liaison bringing together political organizations, community groups and stakeholders in East Baltimore. The Afro-American Newspaper presented Redmond with the ‘Sam Lacy Award for Youth Leadership’ in 2004. She is also a 2015 recipient of the ‘Black Wall Street Journal Award’ for her work in Baltimore City. 

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Riding the Rails, Co-director Michael Uys (Lexy Lovell)

RIDING THE RAILS recalls the poignant and little-known story of teen hobos during the 1930s, a time of desperation and bitter hardship. These young itinerant Americans were all searching for a better life; what they found was a mixture of freedom, camaraderie, misery, and loneliness. RIDING THE RAILS interweaves the evocative stories of ten men and women who left home in their youth. Producers Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell placed notices in national publications in search of individuals who rode the rails as teenagers. Three thousand people, now in their 70s and 80s, responded. Uys and Lovell selected a handful to tell their stories on camera. “Some hadn’t spoken of their experiences in sixty years. They poured their hearts out to us,” says Uys. “They were just kids then and when they look back, it’s with a blend of nostalgia and pain.” RIDING THE RAILS vividly combines the clear-eyed memories of witnesses with archival footage of teens riding atop speeding trains and newsreel interviews with lean-bodied kids full of bravado. RIDING THE RAILS features a rich soundtrack of American folk tunes of the time, including songs by Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotten, Doc Watson, and Jimmie Rodgers. RIDING THE RAILS co-director and co-producer Michael Uys joins us to talk about a misunderstood era in our nation’s history, and his recollection on the making of a still relevant documentary classic. 

 

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For more go to: pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/rails

For more about the film go to: ridingtherails-themovie.com

For more about Michael Uys go to: erroluys.com

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“I think it’s wonderful. I really think it’s very moving and beautiful, and I think it’s important. Riding the Rails is a natural. I’m astonished that it hasn’t been done through all these years. It’s one of the vital, terribly unreported sagas of the thirties. With today’s homeless kids, it’s a contemporary story of overwhelming importance. The analogy may awaken a public conscience that has been too long asleep. I thank you for making this movie. It’s terrific.” – Studs Terkel

“Excellent! Not only fascinating history, but it is poignant and evocative on an emotional level as well.” – Kenneth Turan,  Los Angeles Times

“Moving and informative, this is a winning documentary… From the sad and stirring folk songs on the sound track to the unforgettable faces and stories, Riding the Rails is a historical journey well worth taking.” – David Hunter,  The Hollywood Reporter

“As straightforward as a stretch of prairieland track, Riding the Rails succeeds on all counts. These stories — the sharecropper’s son who was a financial burden to his family, the French boy beaten by his parents, the kid who wanted to see America and play the guitar, the girl who stormed out of the house after a fight with her dad — are fascinating character studies. Taken as a whole, they depict a time when rampant poverty and desperation forced thousands of youths into the itinerant life, begging for change and food, sleeping in hobo encampments and hoping for a better tomorrow.” – Steven Rea,  The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima – Director Otto Bell

THE TOXIC PIGS OF FUKUSHIMA follows a lone hunter into an isolated and changed landscape. Along the way, other citizens who still live near the reactor share their perspectives on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 triggered a tsunami, nuclear meltdown and mass evacuations in Fukushima Prefecture. Today, as part of a Government push to encourage resettlement, local hunters have been enlisted to dispose of radiated Wild Boars that now roam the abandoned streets and buildings. THE TOXIC PIGS OF FUKUSHIMA focuses on the people who still live near the reactor share their perspectives on the aftermath. Along the way, other citizens who still live near the reactor share their perspectives on the aftermath. THE TOXIC PIGS OF FUKUSHIMA was inspired by the photographs of co-producers Toru Hanai and Yuki Iwanami. The original score was written and performed by renowned ambient artist Midori Takada. Directed by Otto Bell (The Eagle Huntress) THE TOXIC PIGS OF FUKUSHIMA has been acquired by VICE and will be featured in “The Short List with Suroosh Alvi,” an upcoming series from VICE World News. The Short List is a collection of the world’s best documentaries curated by VICE founder Suroosh Alvi.

 

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Watch The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima

**Top 10 short docs of the year from Cinema Eye**
**Official Selection – Telluride Film Festival 2020**
**WINNER – Rhode Island International Film Festival 2020 – Grand Prize, Green Planet Award
**Official Selection – Docs Without Borders Film Festival 2020
**Official Selection – Montclair Film Festival 2020
**Official Selection – St Louis Film Festival 2020
**WINNER – Thomas Edison – Black Maria Film Festival 2021
**Official Selection – Big Sky Film Festival 2021

 

About the filmmaker – Otto Bell runs Courageous, a commercial studio of filmmakers and designers based in New York. He has directed over fifteen documentary films as far afield as Uganda, Japan, Egypt and Vietnam for brands such as IBM and Philips. During a decade in the industry, he has also created and produced multi-award winning world affairs programming such as “Horizons” on BBC World News and “Shunya” on Times Now of India. Otto is a graduate of Oxford University and the prestigious WPP Fellowship Scheme. He lives in Manhattan, but originally hails from Northern England.

The Earthquake And Tsunami – The magnitude-9.1 earthquake struck March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM. The epicentre was located some 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of SendaiMiyagi prefecture, and the focus occurred at a depth of 18.6 miles (about 30 km) below the floor of the western Pacific Ocean. The earthquake triggered a shut down of the three active reactors at the  Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (Fukushima Dai-Ichi). The ensuing tsunami crippled the site, stopped the Fukushima I backup diesel generators, and caused a station blackout. The subsequent lack of cooling led to explosions and meltdowns at the Fukushima I facility, with problems at three of the six reactors and in one of the six spent-fuel pools. The March 11, 2011, earthquake was the strongest to strike the region since the beginning of record keeping in the late 19th century, and it is considered one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. Hundreds of aftershocks, dozens of magnitude 6.0 or greater and two of magnitude 7.0 or greater, followed in the days and weeks after the main quake.

The Impact – Following the 2011 Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster, authorities shut down the nation’s 54 nuclear power plants. The Tokyo Electric Power CompanyFukushima Daiichi plant remains highly radioactive, with some 160,000 evacuees still living in temporary housing, and some land will be unfarmable for centuries. The  difficult cleanup job will take 40 or more years, and cost many tens of billions of dollars, with total economic costs estimated at $250–$500 billion

Heartworn Highways – Producer Graham Leader (Director James Szalapski

In the mid-‘70s, filmmaker James Szalapski traveled to Texas and Tennessee to capture the radical country artists reclaiming the genre through an appreciation for its heritage in folk and bluegrass and a rejection of the mainstream Nashville machine. The hard living – and hard partying – lifestyles of outlaw country’s figureheads are played out on screen in trailer homes, prisons and even a liquor-fueled Christmas gathering. It borrowed from rock, folk and bluegrass, with an edge that was missing from mainstream Nashville country. This newly-restored document, HEARTWORN HIGHWAY, includes rarely-captured performances of musicians as they perfected this then-new style and helped change the course of country music history by artists that include Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Young, David Allan Coe, and a 19-year-old Steve Earle and many others appear and perform. Musical highlights include Clark’s brilliant “Desperados Waiting For A Train”, Young’s stirring “Alabama Highways” and Van Zandt’s emotional “Waiting Around To Die.” The hard living – and hard partying – lifestyles of outlaw country’s figureheads are played out on screen as we visit Van Zandt’s Austin trailer, see Coe play in Tennessee State Prison, join the gang in Nashville’s notorious Wig Wam Tavern and witness a liquor-fueled Christmas at Clark’s house. No wonder the film’s original tagline read: “The best music and the best whiskey come from the same part of the country”. Outside of a couple festival screenings, the movie remained unreleased for five years after its completion, finally hitting screens in 1981 and finding a cult audience ever since.” Heartworn Highways Producer Graham Leader joins us to talk about the groundbreaking artists he and director / writer / cinematographer  James Szalapski were able to wrangle into participating as well as the long and winding road this fabled film has taken over the last 44 years.

 

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For news and updates go to: kinolorber.com/film/heartworn-highways

For more about the films of Graham Leader go to: sealionfilms.com

About the filmmaker – Graham Leader grew up in England, studied art history at the Victoria & Albert Museum and worked as a dealer in twentieth century art before becoming a producer. Founded by Leader in 2014, SEALIONFILMS is currently developing a broad slate of character-driven scripts and documentary projects aimed at the international market. His films include: HEARTWORN HIGHWAYS (1976), SHUTTLECOCK (1990), IN THE BEDROOM (1991), THE SAFFRON LIMITED (2005), CHILDLESS (2008), HEARTWORN HIGHWAYS REVISITED (2012 – 2014), and SINS OF A FATHER (2014).

About the music – “Musically, it’s almost impossible to pick highlights but Guy Clark’s “That Old Time Feeling” is a husky delight and when Seymour Washington, a friend of Van Zandt’s (born 1896!) hears him sing “Waitin’ ‘Round To Die” he can’t prevent teardrops from rolling down his cheeks; neither will you.” – Record Collector

“The only thing flawed about “Heartworn Highways” is the people, and they’re so likable you’ll quickly look past their less desirable qualities or notions.” – Michael J. Casey, Michael J. Cinema

“Heartworn Highways refuses that historicizing assessment, even resists it. The film would certainly not have become the canonical documentary it has without the subsequent success of its subjects, but their names are never the emphasis here.” – Doug Freeman, Austin Chronicle

“Shot in 1975 but not released until 1981, this documentary by James Szalapski captures the nascent stages of a poetic country music played by Texas outsiders like Guy Clark, Steve Young, Townes Van Zandt, and a young Steve Earle.” – Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader


A Tiny Ripple of Hope – Director Jason Polevoi

The inspiring, gritty documentary, A TINY RIPPLE OF HOPE, focuses on Jahmal Cole with his My Block, My Hood, My City: an organization bringing hope and opportunity to teenagers across Chicago’s segregated South and West Sides. Cole is charismatic and charming, and the beating heart of his community –because he does care so very much (his home mortgage is used to fund his organization!). This aspirational feature film documentary A TINY RIPPLE OF HOPE from award winning filmmaker Jason Polevoi will make its world premiere at this  year’s Slamdance Film Festival (February 12th – 25th, 2021) as a Competition Documentary and the film follows a formative year for Jahmal as he struggles with everything he must sacrifice so that the people and the city he loves can prosper. Director Jason Polevoi joins us to talk about the complex and occasionally chaotic life and work of Jahmal Cole as well as documenting the systemic barriers that far too many people living in Chicago’s poorest zip codes are forced to navigate and the joy of watching so many, including Jahmal, forge their way towards a better future.

 

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For news and updates go to: onecityfilms.com

To watch A Tiny Ripple of Hope go to: slamdance.com

About the filmmaker – Jason Polevoi is a founding partner of the Chicago-based production company One City Films and the first-time feature Director and Producer of the Slamdance Film Festival premiering documentary A Tiny Ripple of Hope. Jason’s previous credits include the Chicago/Midwest Emmy-winning documentary F*** Your Hair, the Independent Lens series The Calling, and A Regional Taste, a first-of-its-kind docuseries for the James Beard Foundation.

About the subject – Jahmal Cole – A champion of social justice, Jahmal Cole’s mission is to build a more interconnected Chicago on the pillars of service and education. As the founder and CEO of the city’s fastest-growing social impact organization, My Block • My Hood • My City, Jahmal is the creator of an exposure-based education program for teens and a network of volunteer initiatives that serve Chicago communities year-round. In 2018, Jahmal was named a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine, in 2019, he was named to Crain’s 40 under 40, and in 2020 he was awarded the American Red Cross Community Impact Hero Award.

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Reunited States – Director Ben Rekhi and Subject Susan Bro

At a time when America is ripping apart at the seams, The REUNITED STATES is a powerful and urgent documentary that follows the unsung heroes on the difficult journey of bridging our political and racial divides. Susan Bro, who lost her daughter when a car drove through a crowd in Charlottesville, and David and Erin Leaverton,  a Republican couple who travel to all fifty states in an RV to find out what divides us, are just a few of the characters profiled in the film.  Each of these bridge-builders have realized that while our divides run deeper than they ever could have imagined, so does the love and hope to bring our country back together. Based on the book of the same name, REUNITED STATES urges us to consider that everyone has a role to play in reuniting the country. Director Ben Rekhi and film subject Susan Bro join us for a conversation on why so many people are failing to see our shared humanity, how we all can begin to recognize each other as real people and why it is so important that we respect  each other, even if we do not always agree with each other.

 

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For news and updates go to: reunitedstates.tv

Take the pledge at: reunitedstates.tv/pledge

“As this election has shown, we’re still a nation deeply divided. What makes ‘The Reunited States’ so powerful is that it shows us what it means to ‘bridge the divide.’” – Van Jones

“When Van brought this film to me, I was so moved by it not just as someone deeply concerned about polarization, but as a mother pondering what kind of country my daughter would grow up in. What I love about this film is that it shows us that no matter where you are on the political spectrum – right, left or center – there is a path forward together.” – Meghan McCain

Susan Bro – Susan D. Bro honors the legacy of her daughter and civil rights activist Heather Heyer by empowering others to make a difference in the world by fighting for equal rights for all. Susan is the mother of Heather Heyer and the co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation (HHF). Susan launched the foundation to carry on the legacy of her daughter, Heather, a young a paralegal for the Miller Law Group who had a love for all individuals regardless of race, religion or creed. Heather was slain while standing up for social justice with her friends on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA. The Heather Heyer Foundation is a 501(c)3. Based on her daughter’s motto, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” Susan brings Heather’s legacy alive by sharing a positive, non-violent message and call-to-action that inspires others to fight for social justice and civil rights issues while encouraging dialogue and understanding in our communities. 

About the filmmaker – Ben Rekhi is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. He is known for Waterborne (2005), Fun Size Horror: Volume One (2015), and The Ashram (2018). Ben Rekhi graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he directed and produced a number of films, including The Waste Project, which won the Best Actor prize at the First Run Festival, and Dirty Laundry, recipient of Warner Bros. Pictures Postproduction grant. Rekhi graduated from University of Southern California  with a Masters from the Peter Stark Producing Program. Rekhi has worked on the set of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and shot the behind-the-scenes documentary for  Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He founded Drops Entertainment and produced his first feature film, Bomb the System, which was nominated for the 2004 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and distributed by Palm Pictures. His directorial debut,  Waterborne, was the runner-up for the narrative audience prize at the 2005 SXSW Film Festival, and Car Babes, which he produced, premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival. Rekhi also served as VP of Acquisitions at Apsara Distribution.  Apsara obtained exclusive Asia distribution rights to Harrison Ford’s  Paranoia. Rekhi directed The Ashram (2016) in India, featuring Sam KeeleyKal PennMelissa Leo, and Radhika Apte. In 2019, he directed Watch List (Maria) in Manila, a crime thriller set in the drug underworld during the time of Rodrigo Duterte‘s  extrajudicial killings. The film was nominated for a Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival.

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The Judge – Character. Cases. Courage. Director Robert Griffith and Executive Producer Al Calderaro

THE JUDGE – CHARACTER. CASES. COURAGE. is the story of Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr’s. heroic struggle to uphold the rule of law and the US Constitution. Honor, integrity and justice for all. In history’s hallowed halls of justice U.S. District Court Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr. stands alongside Supreme Court Justice’s Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Thurgood Marshall as a champion for equal rights under the law for all citizens. THE JUDGE – CHARACTER. CASES. COURAGE. follows a distinguished, momentous and tumultuous 31-year tenure OF Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr. on the Federal bench. He fought against the entrenched powers of the status quo to promote racial and gender equality, protect the environment, uphold the rule of law and the US Constitution. Most notable were the cases on mass school busing to bring about the desegregation of public schools in Richmond, VA, the former Confederate Capital. The public’s violent opposition to the Judge’s rulings mandating busing led to an incendiary backlash requiring 24/7 police protection for the Judge and his family. The Judge’s life was threatened, the lives of his family threatened, his home picketed, his guest house burned, his dog shot, he was hung in effigy, and spit on in public. Through it all the Judge persevered, did what he felt was right and fair, and worked to promote racial equality.  THE JUDGE – CHARACTER. CASES. COURAGE. is a production of The American Documentary Film Fund and directed by Robert Griffith (“Voices of Hope and Recovery,” “Lillian”), executive produced by Al Calderaro (“Major Payne”), Bill Royall, Pam Royall, produced by Al Calderaro and Robert Griffith, and co-produced by Kahil Dotay. Director Robert Griffith and Executive Producer Al Calderaro join us to talk about one of the great, unsung heroes of America’s judiciary.

For news and updates got to: tadff.org/current-project

M.C. Escher: Journey To Infinity – Director Robin Lutz & Producer Marijnke de Jong

M.C. Escher: Journey To Infinity is the story of world famous Dutch graphic artist M.C Escher (1898-1972). Equal parts history, psychology, and psychedelia, Robin Lutz’s entertaining, eye-opening portrait gives us the  man through his own words and images: diary musings, excerpts from lectures, correspondence and more are voiced by British actor Stephen Fry, while Escher’s woodcuts, lithographs, and other print works appear in both original and playfully altered form. Two of his sons, George (92) and Jan (80), reminisce about their parents while musician Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash) talks about Escher’s rediscovery in the 1970s. M.C. Escher: Journey To Infinity looks at Escher’s legacy: one can see tributes to his work in movies, in fiction, on posters, on tattoos, and elsewhere throughout our culture; indeed, few fine artists of the 20th century can lay claim to such popular appeal. Director Robin Lutz and Producer Marijnke de Jong stop by for a conversation on how far ahead of his contemporaries Escher was in capturing using abstract design elements to capture a provocative view of the natural world and how little he cared about being considered as an acceptable artist by the public or the art establishment.

For news and updates got to: zeitgeistfilms.com/film/mcescherjourneytoinfinity

 

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Director’s Statement: “I fear that there is only one person in the world who could make a really good movie about my prints: myself ‘. This line wrote Escher in 1969 to an American collector of his work. And that is exactly what Escher is doing in this movie: he is the director, not literally but symbolically. Besides a visionary graphic artist Maurits Escher was a sharp observer who described his observations in numerous diaries, letters, lectures and catalogues. Thus, an image will be created of his personal life described in his own words, with all his fears, doubts, euphoric moments, political considerations, his amazements, his artistic development and of course his own opinion on his work. The public sees the film through the eyes of Escher himself: the camera is Escher. M.C. Escher will tell in his own words what he saw, what he felt, what inspired him, what amazed him, what irritated him. We will get under his skin and come as close as possible to meet and understand this great graphic artist. The camera is Escher’s eye! How did he get his inspiration, how he lived, who was that genius graphic artist which worked fanatic and finally stunned the world. Escher was astonished by his huge success, especially among the youth. This documentary is the first complete film about Escher’s live and work told in his own words! 

About the filmmaker – Director Robin Lutz founded his own company in cultural audio-visual productions in 1988. He specialized in the production of cultural documentaries, in cooperation with or on behalf of broadcasters, funds, museums etc. Robin Lutz Audiovisual Productions has developed into a renowned production company and due to their great quality, a substantial amount of his films have been awarded, both nationally and internationally.

About the filmmaker – Co-Producer Marijnke de Jong  – After having finished her study in art history at Leiden University, Marijnke de Jong worked for 13 years as a curator in the print room of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Afterwards she worked for Europa Nostra, a heritage NGO, and was involved in the development and organization of the first two editions of a Heritage Film Festival, where she met Robin Lutz. From 2001-2014 she was director/curator of Panorama Mesdag in The Hague and specialized in art and illusion. Nowadays she is advising cultural organizations and since 2016 she also co-produces films with Lutz.

“Delightful…a playful but serious look at the life and work of a wildly popular woodcut printer, lithographer, painter and mezzotint print-maker Maurits Cornelius Escher.” – Roger Moore, Movie Nation

The Wanting Mare – Director Nicholas Ashe Bateman

In the world of Anmaere, north of the city of Whithren, wild horses run through the moorlands and up the coast. These horses are the city’s most valuable export and, as a result, are hunted, trapped, sold, and shipped across the sea once a year. For those in Whithren, this trade passage creates lucrative and exciting possibilities: the chance to escape their constantly sweltering city and escape to the Western continent of Levithen, or simply to begin again. Nothing can prepare audiences for the secrets, seduction, and sights of THE WANTING MARE, an intimate, dramatic fantasy epic written and directed by renowned digital artist Nicholas Ashe Bateman (visual effects supervisor of David Lowery’s upcoming The Green Knight). A technical marvel of digital world-building and independent ambition, the sprawling vistas, fantastical sights, and otherworldly tableaus of THE WANTING MARE were lensed almost entirely inside a warehouse in Paterson, New Jersey. Director, writer, and editor Nicholas Ashe Bateman joins us to talk about the five year journey of making THE WANTING MARE, the defining connection humans and horses share, the support he received from a dedicated group of friends and filmmakers, and the importance of Carl Jung.

 

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For news, updates and screenings go to: anmaerepictures.com/thewantingmare

THE WANTING MARE was written and directed by Nicholas Ashe Bateman, Executive Produced by Lawrence Inglee, and stars Jordan Monaghan, Yasmin Keshtkar, Edmond Cofie, Nicholas Ashe Bateman, Josh Clark, and Christine Kellogg-Darrin.

THE WANTING MARE opens nationwide on Friday, February 5th, 2021, and will be accompanied by a half-hour making-of documentary available online.

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