Symphony of the Soil, director Deborah Koons Garcia


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Drawing from ancient knowledge and cutting edge science, Symphony of the Soil is an artistic exploration of the miraculous substance soil. By understanding the elaborate relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals, we come to appreciate the complex and dynamic nature of this precious resource. The film also examines our human relationship with soil, the use and misuse of soil in agriculture, deforestation and development, and the latest scientific research on soil’s key role in ameliorating the most challenging environmental issues of our time. Filmed on four continents, featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers, Symphony of the Soil is an intriguing presentation that highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet. Deborah Koons Garcia joins us for a down and dirty conversation on the amazing complexity and vital importance this overlooked substance has in our collective existence.

“Re-envisioning soil as an essential yet underappreciated resource that sustains many forms of life, including the crops that feed us.” San Francisco Chronicle

“It’s not just about farming and soil stewardship. It’s about producing healthy foods by sustainable methods – for a future they believe will be far different from today’s farming practices. At the very least, the film and the concepts it champions are food for thought.” Inforum

“Unfolding with gentle joy and an unexpected beauty, this ode to the miracle of the Earth’s topmost layer gives us a newfound respect for the ground beneath our feet.”– Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

Mumia, Long Distance Revolutionary, director Stephen Vittoria

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Before he was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 and sentenced to die, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a gifted journalist and brilliant writer. Now after more than 30 years in prison and despite attempts to silence him, Mumia is not only still alive but continuing to report, educate, provoke and inspire. Stephen Vittoria’s new feature documentary is an inspiring portrait of a man whom many consider America’s most famous political prisoner – a man whose existence tests our beliefs about freedom of expression. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a potent chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman and others, this riveting film explores Mumia’s life before, during and after Death Row – revealing, in the words of Angela Davis, “the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world…the 21st Century Frederick Douglass.” Director Vittoria stops by for a conversation on this polarizing American radical.

“Tracing the path of a brilliant journalist whose message cannot be silenced…Vittoria triumphantly heralds Abu-Jamal’s return to the political scene as a rallying cry for an alternate political discourse.” – Variety

“MUMIA: Long Distance Revolutionary” is a powerful indictment of the hypocrisy inherent in the American dream and is a must-see for any and all who are concerned with upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans.” – Alex Simon, The Hollywood Interview / Huffington Post

“Puts a human face on its subject, for so long now just an anti-capital-punishment icon… also makes the case, COINTELPRO and beyond, that power is hardly to be trusted in America.” – Michael Atkinson, Time Out NY

“I’ve sat through many documentaries in my life and this is one of the finest. I was riveted by the film. Long Distance Revolutionary is a gripping film,” – Albert Maysles

Dirty Wars, director Richard Rowley

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Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the heart of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond. With a strong cinematic style, the film unfolds through Scahill’s investigation and personal journey as he chases down the most important human rights story of our time. Tracing the rise of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most secret and elite fighting force in U.S. history, Dirty Wars reveals covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets: anyone, without due process. No target is off limits for the “kill list,” including U.S. citizens. Director Richard Rowley joins us for a conversation on the wars being fought in our name, without our knowledge.

Now available on iTunes and Amazon. On the Web at:

“Filed from the frontlines of the war on terror, documentarian Richard Rowley’s astonishingly hard-hitting Dirty Wars renders the investigative work of journalist Jeremy Scahill in the form of a ’70s-style conspiracy thriller. This jaw-dropping, persuasively researched pic has the power to pry open government lockboxes.” – Rob Nelson, Variety

“Dirty Wars is a focused, fascinating and frightening look at war in the 21st century, and a film you’re sure not to forget.” – Germaine Lussier, Slash Film

“Dirty Wars is a game-changing, mind-blowing film…. Dirty Wars assumes the tantalizing shape of a mystery thriller as compelling as any feature film.” – Erica Abeel, The Huffington Post

GMO OMG, director Jeremy Seifert

GMO OMG film posterWho controls the future of your food? GMO OMG explores the systematic corporate takeover and potential loss of humanity’s most precious and ancient inheritance: seeds. Director Jeremy Seifert investigates how loss of seed diversity and corresponding laboratory assisted genetic alteration of food affects his young children, the health of our planet, and freedom of choice everywhere. GMO OMG follows one family’s struggle to live and eat without participating in an unhealthy, unjust, and destructive food system. In GMO OMG, the encroaching darkness of unknown health and environmental risks, chemical toxins, and food monopoly meets with the light of a growing global movement to take back what we have lost. Director Jeremy Seifert joins us for a conversation on the future of our planets food supply.

Theater Locations:
*Arena Cinema*
1625 N. Las Palmas Ave. Hollywood, CA 90028

Laemmle Playhouse
673 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101

“Combines the folksy charm of Taggart Siegel’s The Real Dirt on Farmer John and the frightening facts of Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc.” –  Andrew Schenker Time Out New York

“A documentary that is by turns exasperating, illuminating, and intentionally infuriating.” – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

“[Provides] a gentle, flyover alert to obliviously chowing-down citizens … without hectoring and with no small amount of charm.” Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

The Act of Killing – director, Joshua Oppenheimer

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Anwar Congo and his friends have been dancing their way through musical numbers, twisting arms in film noir gangster scenes, and galloping across prairies as yodelling cowboys. Their foray into filmmaking is being celebrated in the media and debated on television, even though Anwar Congo and his friends are mass murderers. The Act of Killing is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. And The Act of Killing is a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on television chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number. Director Joshua Oppenheimer joins us to talk about how the making of this remarkable documentary changed his life.

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade… unprecedented in the history of cinema.” – Werner Herzog

 “Like all great documentaries, The Act of Killing demands another way of looking at reality. It starts as a dreamscape, an attempt to allow the perpetrators to reenact what they did, and then something truly amazing happens. The dream dissolves into nightmare and then into bitter reality. An amazing and impressive film.” – Errol Morris

 “If we are to transform Indonesia into the democracy it claims to be, citizens must recognize the terror and repression on which our contemporary history has been built. No film, or any other work of art for that matter, has done this more effectively than The Act of Killing. [It] is essential viewing for us all.” – National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia

Blackfish, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite

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Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus—beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who—unlike any orca in the wild—has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong? Director Cowperthwaite stops by to talk about her powerful documentary that challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

Blackfish, a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, puts the “killer” back into killer whales by indicting those sea parks that, in her well-chronicled estimation, place profit above safety.  Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

 Its] argument never fails to be gripping, its structure perfectly executed to maximize its persuasiveness. Tomas Hachard, NPR

Meet a theme-park phenom in the form of the killer whales (orcas in the trade) on view in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s gripping mindbender of a documentary. Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Unmade in China, directors Gil Kofman and Tanner Barklow

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Unmade in China follows American director Gil Kofman as he travels to Xiamen, China to direct the Republic’s first ever thriller, Case Sensitive. Once there he discovers that the old adage of making a film three times, once in the writing, once in the shooting and once in the editing, is in fact just the opposite in his host country, where his film is unmade three times. Undaunted by his inability to speak or understand the Mandarin language, Kofman directs his frequently recast actors through a translator as government censorship and constant cultural mishaps hijack his script and derail production. Like Man of la Mancha set in Communist China, there has never been a film quite like this. Director Gil Kofman (Case Sensitive) and director Tanner Barklow (Unmade in China) joins us for a conversation about the travails and triumphs of filmmaking in the People’s Republic.

“Gutsy, hilarious 
filmmaking with global
 balance-of-power resonance.”
- Ross McElwee 

“A brilliant documentary…
Gil Kofman is some 
sort of genius.”
- Gig City

“This documentary
 is superb. I loved 
every little bit of it…
Top 10 film of 2012″
- Film Bizarro

My Brother The Devil, director Sally El Hosaini

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Mo is a young boy growing up in a traditional Egyptian household, but beyond the front door of the family’s modest London flat is a completely different world – the streets of Hackney. The impressionable Mo idolizes his handsome older brother Rashid and wants to follow is his footsteps. However, Rashid, a charismatic and shrewd member of a local gang, wants a different life for his little brother and deals drugs hoping to put Mo through college. One eventful summer, Rashid’s sexual awakening forces Mo to confront his own fears and phobias and threatens to tear the brothers apart. Director Sally El Hosaini stops by to talk about her beautifully rendered feature film debut.

“A tender, bracing fraternal drama of London’s gang life, the immigrant experience, and questions no smaller than what “manhood” might mean to young men whose traditional cultures are colliding with the worst-and the best-of the secular west.” – Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

Nuances of faith, politics and sexual identity enrich what initially presents as a classic good son-bad son tale, and although the film’s melting-pot patois is occasionally too dense to decipher, we get the gist.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

Andrew Bird: Fever Year – director Xan Aranda

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Filmed during culminating months of the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s most rigorous year of touring, Andrew Bird crosses the December finish line in his hometown of Chicago – feverish and on crutches from an onstage injury. Is he suffering hazards of chasing the ghost of inspiration? Or merely transforming into a different kind of animal “perfectly adapted to the music hall?” FEVER YEAR is the first to capture Bird’s precarious multi-instrumental looping technique and features live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater with collaborators Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis and Annie Clark of St. Vincent. Director Xan Aranda will join us to talk about her beautiful film and the joys of collaborating with a gifted artist.

 “Aranda’s visual prose is what’s commanding here. Fever Year is a thoughtfully delivered lyric to an artist’s verse and his still growing song.”
- CineFile / Nelson Carvajal

 “It’s a truly amazing feat to… capture the process of a year-long music tour as well as the personal life of a musician while simultaneously preserving his privacy and leaving the viewer satisfied.” The Indie-Verse / Nico Martini

 “A gently illuminating look at a brilliant maverick musician… captured with grace and delicacy.” – The Hollywood Reporter / David Rooney

Fourplay – director Kyle Henry

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FOURPLAY is four tales of sexual triumph and travail set in four American cities. In Skokie, a closeted lesbian woman’s infatuation with her minister’s wife is sublimated during a weekend of dog sitting; in Austin, a young couple struggle with opposing desires about conception and arrive at a startling compromise; in Tampa, a young gay Latino man plagued with self-doubt finds a surreal nirvana in a public mall restroom; and in San Francisco, a cross-dressing sex-worker faces a challenging assignment with a quadriplegic man, arranged by the man’s wife. Director Kyle Henry stops by Film School to talk about the challenges of making four films in three years and the joy of sex. Director Henry will be in-person at the Egyptian Theatre this Friday night, March 29th for a Q & A session following the 7:30 screening of Fourplay.

“…offers a unique and bold look at the complications of desire, the need for connection and the joys and perils of sexual intimacy…” – Austin American Statesman

“Funny…poignant…unconventional…” – Austin Chronicle

The Happy Poet – Paul Gordon, director and David Hartstein, producer

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THE HAPPY POET is an all-organic, mostly vegetarian comedy about Bill, a struggling poet who pours his heart, soul, and last few dollars into starting a healthy food stand, surprising friends and customers with his dry wit and offbeat passion. Motivated by help from a rag-tag group of supporters and a budding romance with a poetry-loving customer, Bill strives to make a difference in the world, until surprising complications jeopardize his new friendships and threaten Bill’s dreams for a hot dog-free future. THE HAPPY POET cleverly re-works the classic American film story of the underdog struggling against the system, adding a dose of deadpan humor and a fresh take on a young generation’s interest in the intersection of a social conscience and the food we eat. Director/ Writer/editor and lead actor Paul Gordon and Producer David Hartstein stop by to talk about their collaborative efforts on this entertaining film.

 “A genuine under-the-radar gem—the kind of quietly charming, profound film that creeps up on you. It’s also, as luck would have it, perfectly acted.” -New York Magazine

 “A deadpan charmer.” -indieWIRE  

 “A sweet, stealthy film about creating meaning in your life (and your work) in a relentlessly mercenary world. Off-handed and yet quite artfully observed.” -The Village Voice

“The poet wants to be happy but doesn’t really know how to go about it. It’s a pretty good joke, and Mr. Gordon tells it with enough discipline and invention to make a significant portion of the film funny in interesting, subversive ways. A promising debut.” -Mike Hale, The New York Times

If I Were You – director Joan Carr-Wiggin


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Two women who meet by chance make a pact to fix their unhappy lives: they will each do what the other one says. But one of them has a secret. She knows her husband is sleeping with the younger woman. Madelyn’s plan backfires when Lucy, an aspiring actress, orders her to play King Lear in a very amateur production, with Lucy playing the Fool. Madelyn’s life is transformed in unexpected ways as, like Lear, she struggles with matters of mortality and betrayal, loyalty and love. Writer – Director Joan Carr-Wiggan joins us for a conversation on the complex twists and turns love and relationships take in her beguiling film.

Emperor – director, Peter Webber


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A story of love and understanding set amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. On the staff of General Douglas MacArthur (Jones), the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces, a leading Japanese expert, General Bonner Fellers (Fox) is charged with reaching a decision of historical importance: should Emperor Hirohito be tried and hanged as a war criminal? Interwoven is the story of Fellers’ love affair with Aya, a Japanese exchange student he had met years previously in the U.S. Memories of Aya and his quest to find her in the ravaged post-war landscape help Fellers to discover both his wisdom and his humanity and enable him to come to the momentous decision that changed the course of history and the future of two nations. Director Peter Webber (Girl with the Pearl Earring) stops by to talk about his multi-layered film on this crucial chapter of World War II history.

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis – producer, Richard Kaplan


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King: A Filmed Record…from Montgomery to Memphis is the landmark documentary that chronicles the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama, and culminating with his assassination in Memphis in 1968. Originally screened in theaters for only a single night in 1970, King: A Filmed Record combines dramatic readings by Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones and Paul Newman, among others, with newsreel and archival footage to create a powerful and comprehensive record of Dr. King’s legacy and the American Civil Rights movement. The original Associate Producer Richard Kaplan stops by to talk about this pivotal chapter in the life of Dr. King and the story behind this remarkable documentary.

“King: A Filmed Record . . . Montgomery to Memphis. Why this Oscar-nominated documentary so seldom sees the light of day is baffling: forty-one years later, it still brings cheers and tears and shows what we might be.” – Donald Levit, ReelTalk

Bestiaire – producer, Sylvain Corbeil


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Fascinating and beguiling, Bestiaire is Denis Côté’s mesmerizing meditation on the relationship between man and beast. This strikingly beautiful film about looking —starts with a group of art students attempting to sketch an animal — that blurs the line between observer and observed. There may be no traditional narrative, yet there is breathtaking dramatic tension in every exquisitely framed shot: the sight of a lion attacking the doors of its cage or the scurrying striped legs of zebras in a holding pen. Contemplative and enthralling, Bestiaire is cinema at its purest. Bestiaire producer, Sylvain Corbeil joins us for a lively discussion on context and perception regarding animals, humans and otherwise.

“With wildlife documentaries expanding their bag of technological tricks and YouTube an ever-growing menagerie of pet videos, animal imagery has never been more prevalent. In some ways “Bestiaire,” nearly wordless but infinitely suggestive, is a comment on and a reaction to that saturation, a meditation on what we think we are looking at when we look at animals.” – Dennis Lim, New York Times

 “Animals…so like us? Canadian filmmaker Denis Côté begs to differ in this extraordinary experimental documentary, about an inherent human need to dominate other species.” – David Fears. Time Out New York

Composer Spotlight – Life of PI – Mychael Danna


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Mychael Danna recently landed his first two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, Pi’s Lullaby. Danna is considered to be a frontrunner for this year’s Oscar after winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Score.

Danna has been scoring films since his 1987 feature debut for Atom Egoyan’s Family Viewing, a score which earned Danna the first of his thirteen Genie Award nominations, an award he has won five times. Danna is recognized as one of the pioneers of combining non-Western sound sources with orchestral and electronic minimalism in the world of film music. This reputation has led him to work with such directors as Terry Gilliam. Scott Hicks, Ang Lee, Deepa Mehta, Gillies MacKinnon, James Mangold, Mira Nair, Billy Ray, Joel Schumacher, and Denzel Washington. Mychael joins us for a conversation on the rewards that come with working on a eleven time nominated film and his work with many of the world best filmmakers.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III, director Roman Coppola


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Set in a stylized Los Angeles, ‘A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III’ is a playful comedy of lost love, friendship, revenge fantasies, and Brandy Alexanders. Charles (Charlie Sheen) is a successful graphic designer whose fame, money and charm have provided him with a seemingly perfect life. When his true love, a perplexing beauty named Ivana, suddenly breaks off their relationship, Charles’ life falls apart and he swirls into a downward spiral of doubt, confusion and reflection. With the support of his loyal intimates— Kirby (Jason Schwartzman), Saul (Bill Murray), and his sister, Izzy (Patricia Arquette) — he begins the hard road of self-evaluation to come to terms with a life without Ivana. The film begs the question: Is it possible to love and hate someone at the same time? Writer / Director Roman Coppola, brother of Sophia and son of Francis, joins us for a conversation about his wild, cinematic ride through Hollywood.

ASAD, director Bryan Buckley

OSCAR WEEK on Film School!!


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Set in a war-torn fishing village in Somalia, an all Somali, refugee cast brings to life this coming of age fable of a Somali boy who is faced with falling into the pirate life, or rising above to choose the path of an honest fishing man. Director Bryan Buckley, a veteran commercial director and co-owner of Hungry Man Productions, has been directing since the mid-90s. Over the last decade he has directed more than 40 commercials for the Super Bowl and was dubbed “King of the Super Bowl” by the New York Times. Many pieces of Buckley’s work have been inducted into the Museum Of Modern Art’s permanent collection and he is an esteemed recipient of the DGA award, Emmy’s and many Cannes Lions. Bryan talks about his Oscar nominated Live-Action Short film and his journey from commercials to narrative filmmaking.

Carter Pilcher – Chief Executive of Shorts International

It’s time to start talking Oscars.  This week on Film School we’ll be talking about the Academy Award nominated films in the short form categories, Live-Action, Animated and Documentaries.  Joining us will be Carter Pilcher. Carter founded Shorts International in 2000. Coming from a background in both investment banking and law, Carter has made Shorts International the world’s leading short movie Entertainment Company, functioning as distributor, broadcaster and producer. Carter has extensive experience in short movie production and short movie entertainment. He is a voting member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and a member of the Short Film and Feature Animation Branch of The US Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – the guys who pick the Oscars.

Oscar Nominated Short Doc – Open Heart, director Keif Davidson


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OSCAR WEEK on Film School!!

Their hearts ravaged by common strep throat turned deadly, eight Rwandan children leave their families behind to embark on a life-or-death journey to Sudan for high-risk surgery. Resilient cardiologist Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza fights to save their lives, alongside larger-than-life Dr. Gino Strada who also must fight to save his hospital. Director Kief Davidson has had international success from the award-winning feature-length documentaries, KASSIM THE DREAM and THE DEVIL’S MINER. KASSIM THE DREAM, about a former child soldier turned boxing champion of the World, premiered at the Tribeca film festival and won over 10 international film festivals, including AFI, IDFA and Silver Docs. Keif joins us to talk about his Academy Award nominated Short Documentary film.

2013 Sundance Film Festival Review with Filmmaker Magazine founder and editor, Scott Macaulay


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Filmmaker Magazine ( is a quarterly publication magazine covering issues relating to independent, documentary and foreign films. Founded in 1992 by Scott Macaulay, Karol Martesko-Fenster and Holly Willis, Filmmaker Magazine includes interviews, case studies, financing and distribution information, festival reports, technical and production updates, legal pointers, and filmmakers on filmmaking in their own words. Editor-in-Chief Scott Macaulay‘s experience as a working independent producer informs coverage of behind-the-scene aspects of the creative, technical and business realities facing today’s filmmakers. Scott Macaulay calls in to talk about the best and brightest films coming out of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

TCHOUPITOULAS, director Bill Ross


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“Tchoupitoulas” is a story of the New Orleans night. It is a visually exhilarating and aurally immersive record of one night in the many lives of a thriving nocturnal populace. Three young boys act as our wide-eyed conduits to a parade of entertainers and revelers as they dance through the lamp lit streets and doorways of the Crescent City. From dusk to dawn, from Rampart to the river, we explore the lives and locales of one of the world’s most unique cities. In moments, vignettes, performances, and exchanges, “Tchoupitoulas” is a kaleidoscopic odyssey into another side of New Orleans. Bill and Turner Ross (45365) join us for a conversation on the joys of childhood, filmmaking and New Orleans nightlife.

“It is alive with the risk and curiosity of youth, and unapologetic in insisting that the pursuit of fun can be a profound and transformative experience.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

 “Without offering much context or addressing obvious social issues, it’s an evocative tribute to its setting and to childhood innocence.” – Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue


An interview with DENNIS DOROS of MILESTONE FILMS and ROSS LIPMAN film preservationist at the UCLA FILM AND TELEVISION ARCHIVE. Milestone Films is an independent company, founded in 1990 in the United States by Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, dedicated to researching and distributing quality cinematographic material from around the world, including silent movies, films of the postwar foreign film renaissance, to contemporary American independent features, documentaries and foreign films. Some of the films that Milestone has distributed are by Alfred Hitchcock, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, F.W. Murnau, Orson Welles, Mikhail Kalatozov and Luis Bunuel. Among the modern day films are works by Takeshi Kitano, Jane Campion, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Alan Berliner and Philip Haas. Lipman has restored and preserved some landmark works of independent cinema including The Times of Harvey Milk, some of Kenneth Anger’s most prominent titles, and Milestone’s Killer of Sheep and The Exiles. He is the winner of the National Society of Film Critics Special Film Heritage Award.