RONNIE’S is a love letter to saxophonist Ronnie Scott and the indispensable night clubhe and partner Peter King established in 1959. For more than 60 years music giants have walked through the door of a small basement club in London’s Soho. From the beginning of the burgeoning British modern jazz movement, he and King dreamt of opening a club modeled after the swinging jazz scene of New York’s 52nd Street. From its humble beginnings sixty years ago, Ronnie Scott’s would become the cornerstone of the UK jazz scene and one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world. Ronnie Scott was beloved by many, from the great and famous who frequented his club, to the many hard up musicians who were often helped by his warmth and generous spirit. However, Ronnie was as complex and colourful as the music played on his stage. In private Ronnie battled with depression and when his untimely death occurred in 1996 it left the jazz community bereft of a respected and favorite leader. Funny and moving, Ronnie’s features performances by some of greatest musicians of the 20th Century including…Oscar Peterson, Dizzie Gillespie, Roland Kirk, Cleo Lane and John Danforth, Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughn, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Mary Lou Williams, Van Morrison and Chet Baker, Nina Simone and Ben Webster.
About the filmmaker – Oliver Murray was born in Oxford, United Kingdom in 1985. He is a writer and director. He studied Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art and Film & Animation at The Pratt Institute in New York City. His feature film debut ‘The Quiet One’ was released in 2019. His second feature film ‘Ronnie’s’ is scheduled for release in 2020.
IN MY OWN TIME: A PORTRAIT OF KAREN DALTON explores Karen’s early days in Oklahoma where she experienced the harsh realities of growing up during the Great Depression and follows her through more than two decades at the margins of popular music. With two ex-husbands and two children by the time she was eighteen, she rejected the life of a housewife and set off for New York City. Constantly struggling to find her audience yet too close to her own music to compromise, Karen’s negotiations with fortune and fame were complex, but one thing is clear, she lived the music. While Karen projected a tough exterior, as a musician she was fragile and rife with insecurity. IN MY OWN TIME: A PORTRAIT OF KAREN DALTON focuses on Karen’s difficulties in pursuing success while trying to maintain a pure relationship with the creative process. Through stories from her closest friends, family and collaborators, combined with Karen’s rarely seen personal journals and poetry. We dive deep into the existential struggles she faced, and that ultimately led to her drug use and an untimely death due to AIDs related illness. Co-directors Ricahrd Peete and Robert Yapkowitz join us to talk about an artist who eschewed the spotlight, admired by her peers, difficult to know and the creator of a body of work that will inspire others for as long as music is made.
The directorial debut of Sam Soko, SOFTIE is an intimate look at the life of Boniface Mwangi, a daring and audacious Kenyan photojournalist and activist who fights for Kenyan citizens to change a corrupt political system; his supportive wife Njeri stands by him and was often protesting alongside him. Now that they three small children, her priorities have shifted. Boniface on the other hand, decided to take his ideas further and run for political office. He claims he is fighting for his children and their future, but after receiving serious threats of violence, Njeri worries he is risking the safety of their entire family. Boniface is forced to face a difficult choice – which should come first, family or country? SOFTIE, the winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing at the Sundance Film Festival, is now streaming as part of Hot Docs Film Festival Online. SOFTIE will have its North American broadcast premiere on October 12 as a part of the award-winning PBS documentary series POV. Director Sam Solo joins us for a conversation on his intimate, moving portrait of Boniface “Softie” Mwangi, a man willing to sacrifice everything for his country, his wife, Njeri and his family.
WINNER – Special Jury Award for Editing – 2020 Sundance Film Festival
About the filmmaker – Sam Soko is a director and producer based in Nairobi. His work on sociopolitical projects in music and film has allowed him to connect and work with artists around the world. He is co-founder of LBx Africa, a Kenyan production company that produced the 2018 Academy Award–nominated short fiction film Watu Wote. The film Softie is his first feature documentary project.
About the subject – Boniface “Softie” Mwangi has long fought injustices in his country as a political activist. Now he’s taking the next step by running for office in a regional Kenyan election. From the moment Boniface decides to run, telling his wife, Njeri, in passing with a hesitant laugh, he responds to each challenge with optimism. But running a clean campaign against corrupt opponents becomes increasingly harder to combat with idealism alone. And Boniface soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk. Should country really come before family, as he’s always believed?
“Eye-opening as “Softie” is as an immediate account of toxic Kenyan politics, it’s an equally moving marriage story, unsentimental but generously sympathetic in its study of a family brought to the brink of collapse for a greater good cause.” – Guy Lodge, Variety
“A marvel of narrative storytelling…” – Filmmaker Magazine
“Softie is a compelling act of defiance, made more alarming by the violent events documented throughout the film, including the torture and murder of an official charged with keeping the elections fair and safe.” – John Fink, The Film Stage
The emotionally gripping documentary, OUR TIME MACHINE, focuses on 43-year-old Maleonn, one of China’s most influential conceptual artists, and his father, Ma Ke, former artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater. After being humiliated and forbidden from working for a decade during the Cultural Revolution, Ma Ke immersed himself in theater. The mysterious excitement of Ma Ke’s creative world inspired the young Maleonn, but his father’s absences stoked early feelings of resentment. When Ma Ke is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Maleonn pours everything into an ambitious new theater project: “Papa’s Time Machine,” a visually stunning time-travel adventure told with human-sized puppets. At the play’s heart are autobiographical scenes inspired by Maleonn’s memories with his father. He hopes this will bring them together artistically and personally. Facing his father’s painful decline, Maleonn becomes more aware of life’s complexities. There are no effortless masterpieces or simple solutions. And there’s no traveling back in time to retrieve what has been lost. OUR TIME MACHINE probes the complex relationships of a family in transition, generation to generation, filtered through the lens through art, theatre and puppeteering. Co-director S. Leo Chiang joins us to talk about his collaboration with co-director Yang Sun and subject Maleonn as well as unpack the multi-layered questions concerning memory, dreams, love, and family.
Directors’ Statement Those who grew up in post-Cultural Revolution China lived through a kind of socio-economic transformation that would have taken another country 100 years to bring about. In the span of 20 years, cities emerged from towns, the economy generated unprecedented wealth for some while leaving others behind, and new roads and digital networks connected China to the world. These migrations within our country and its rapid digitization have fundamentally changed the way people communicate and relate to one another. So, when we came across Maleonn and his ageing father, both artists, but who came of age on opposite sides of the Cultural Revolution in China, we made immediate personal connections. We see a story that could be our own in the not-so-distant future. For us and for Maleonn, the struggle to express affection towards one’s family goes hand in hand with defining and sharing the meaning behind devoting one’s life to art. Our intentions in crafting our film are to move others the way it has profoundly moved us. This is an evergreen story, relevant for past and future generations and across cultural divides, so long as there is love between children and their parents. Our story provides a needed addition to highlight the similarities between people in the West and in China during a time where the political language can be hostile and divisive.We hope this film celebrates the process in which two men reconcile their past feelings and create something together that repairs a distressed part of the fabric of Chinese society. – S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun
“The issues of aging and familial relationships and the appealing nature of this family would make “Our Time Machine” worthy of a look in any case, but what puts it over the top is Maleonn’s fascinating visual creations.” – G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
“S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun’s vibrant documentary about this labor of love proves to be a multi-layered metaphor of the interplay of art, memory, loss, and reconciliation, as well as a study of a touching and fraught father-son relationship.” – Peter Keough, Boston Globe
“Even though Our Time Machine is about a big, ambitious stage production with some visually stunning puppets, the documentary’s smaller, quieter moments with Maleonn and his family are where the movie is at its best.” – Carla Hay, Culture Mix
“Maleonn’s wondrous creations are enough of an attraction on their own, but the film… has many more layers to reveal about the legacy of Cultural Revolution, familial relationships, the agonies of love and loss and the circle of life.” – Scott Tobias, Variety
With his trumpet he turned the Tijuana Brass into gold, earning 15 gold and 14 platinum records; He has won nine Grammys Awards between 1966 and 2014, and received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2012. Herb co-founded the indie label, A & M Records with his business partner, Jerry Moss, which recorded artists as varied as Carole King, Cat Stevens, The Carpenters, Janet Jackson, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendes, and The Police. A&M would go on to become one of the most successful independent labels in history. He has shown his striking work as an abstract painter and sculptor, worldwide. And through the Herb Alpert Foundation, he has given significant philanthropic support of educational programs in the arts nationwide, from the Harlem School of the Arts and Los Angeles City College to CalArts and UCLA. John Scheinfeld’s documentary Herb Alpert is… profiles the artist, now 85, mostly from the perspective of colleagues like Questlove, Paul Williams, Sting, and Bill Moyers. In their words, the shy, unassuming trumpeter is a musical, artistic and philanthropic heavyweight. Director John Scheinfeld stops by to talk about many facets of Alpert’s personal and public life that make him the compelling and warm-hearted person he is.
About the filmmaker – John Scheinfeld – From pop culture to politics, sports to world religions, Venice and Toronto film festivals to PBS, Emmy®, Grammy® and Writers Guild Award nominee John Scheinfeld is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker with a broad range of subjects and productions to his credit. In addition to directing, writing and producing Herb Alpert Is…, Scheinfeld is in post-production on a primetime documentary special about comedy legend Garry Marshall that will air on ABC in the Spring of 2020. Another Scheinfeld feature documentary, Sergio Mendes: In The Key of Joy, had its World Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January 2020 and will be released worldwide on multiple media platforms later in the year. Previously, his feature documentary, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, was an official selection of the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival before playing on 175 theater screens worldwide during the spring of 2017. In November 2017 it was the season premiere of Independent Lens, the largest showcase for independent documentary film on television. Scheinfeld is best known for two widely acclaimed feature documentaries: The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which tells the true story of the US government’s attempt to silence the beloved musician and iconic advocate for peace and Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, a compelling yet wildly entertaining documentary about one of the most talented and uncompromising singer-songwriters in pop music history. For more on the work of John Scheinfeld go to: crewneckproductions.com
“The story of Herb Alpert is a lot more than a snappy greatest hits collection; it’s a deep dive into the agonies and ecstasies that drive profoundly creative people.” – Bill Newcott, The Saturday Evening Post
“This movie will likely go down as the definitive documentary about Alpert and, as such, it’s not a bad way to be remembered.” – James Berardinelli, ReelViews
“This documentary is a joyous celebration of Herb Alpert’s life and career as it examines his roots not only as a musician but as a painter, sculptor, businessman and philanthropist.” – Charles Koplinski, Reel Talk with Chuck and Pam
Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, ONCE UPON A RIVER is the story of Native American teenager Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) in 1970s rural Michigan who after enduring a series of traumas and tragedies, sets out on an odyssey on the Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the water, Margo encounters friends, foes, wonders, and dangers; navigating life on her own, she comes to understand her potential, all while healing the wounds of her past. ONCE UPON A RIVER features newcomer Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton (Midnight Run, Gone Baby Gone), Tatanka Means (The Son, Saints & Strangers, Tiger Eyes), Ajuawak Kapashesit (Caleb, Outlander), Sam Straley (Hala,.Chicago P.D.), Coburn Goss (Man of Steel, What Women Want), Lindsay Pulsipher (True Blood, Justified, Hatfields & McCoys), Kenn E. Head (ER, Chicago Fire). Director Haroula Rose joins us for a conversation on her collaboration with author Bonnie Jo Campbell, bringing her background in music into the filmmaking world and bringing the role of Margo to life through the stellar performance of newcomer Kenadi DelaCerna.
On December 11, 1965, The Velvet Underground played their first concert (and their first paid gig) at the most unlikeliest of places: a high school auditorium in Summit, New Jersey. They opened for a popular local band called The Myddle Class, who had a top 40 hit on the AM radio. The audience was packed with Myddle Class fans, who were mostly sheltered kids from this picture-perfect town some 25 miles west of New York City — kids who were just discovering the Beatles but who were still dancing the Lindy, the Waltz, and the Cha Cha at school dances. It was in this atmosphere that the black-leather-clad Velvets hit the stage blasting loud, droning, screeching music laced with drug-and sex-infused lyrics. On the stage for merely 20 minutes, they performed three songs, ending with “Heroin,” and the audience responded with, as one of the band recalled in 1983, a “murmur of surprise that greeted our appearance” that “increased to a roar of disbelief as we started to play” and “swelled to a mighty howl of outrage and bewilderment…” Half the audience walked out. Director Robert Pietri joins us for a lively conversation on this little known cultural event, his friendship with award-winning cinematographer, eye-witness and inspiration for the film Tony Jannelli and the creative process he used to tell this story.
About the filmmaker: Writer/Director Robert Pietri, winner of several award-winning shorts and a feature length film, has been working on commercial/media related projects since graduating from NYU Grad Film program. His commercial clients include Pure Digital, the City of New York, TORAY, NYU, and Amazon Studios. He has been the recipient of grants from Fox Searchlab and IFP. Before filmmaking, he worked for years as an art director at MetaDesign, Razorfish, and Imaginary Forces.
Best Documentary Short at the Seattle Wine & Film Festival
Winner – Music Award Short at Docutah
Best Documentary Short Film Winner at the Sydney World Film Festival
In November 2016, a nasty election cycle had exposed a seismic cultural rift, and the country suddenly felt like a much different place. For underground cartoonist Matt Furie, that sensation was even more surreal. Furie’s comic creation Pepe the Frog, conceived more than a decade earlier as a laid-back humanoid amphibian, had unwittingly become a grotesque political pawn.FEELS GOOD MAN is a Frankenstein-meets-Alice-in-Wonderland journey of an artist battling to regain control of his creation, while confronting a disturbing cast of characters who have their own peculiar attachments to Pepe. Now, as Pepe continues to morph around the world – FEELS GOOD MAN offers a vivid, moving portrait of one man, one frog, and the very strange reality we’ve all found ourselves living in. Director Arthur Jones and Producer Giorgio Angelini stop by to talk about their mind-blowing journey into an internet / social media / 4Chan rabbit hole where a hippy-dippy cartoon character becomes an avatar and unfathomable messenger of hatred and bigoted propaganda.
About the filmmakers: Arthur Jones – Director / Animator / Writer FEELS GOOD MAN is Jones’s directorial debut, but he’s uniquely suited to tell the story. He’s a cartoonist who came up in the same indie comics scene as the film’s subject, Matt Furie. Jones published a book of his illustrations in 2011: Post-it Note Diaries (Penguin/Plume Paperbacks). Over his career, he’s art directed animation and motion graphics for journalists and documentary filmmakers, working with companies including The New York Times, VICE, The Center for Investigative Reporting and The International Consortium of Journalists. Recently he’s been a part of several documentary features: Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story (2015), BUNKER 77 (Amazon Studios, 2017), Owned, A Tale of Two Americas (2018) and Hal (Oscilloscope Films, 2018). Jones is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. For more on the work of Arthur Jones go to: futuresmells.com
Giorgio Angelini: Producer / Writer / Cinematographer came into film from a longer, multi-faceted career in the creative arts. After touring in bands like The Rosebuds and Bishop Allen for much of his 20s, Giorgio enrolled in the Masters of Architecture program at Rice University during the depths of the 2008 real estate collapse. It was during this tumultuous time that the seeds for Giorgio’s directorial debut, OWNED: A Tale of Two Americas began to take shape. Following graduate school, Angelini began working with the boutique architecture firm, Schaum Shieh Architects, where he designed the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas, as well as the headquarters for The Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology, which won the Architect’s Newspaper’s “Design of the Year” award in 2018.
WINNER – U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker – 2020 Sundance Film Festival
WINNER – Best Feature Documentary – 2020 Lighthouse International Film Festival Official Selection – 2020 True/False Film Festival Official Selection – 2020 Big Sky Documentary Festival Official Selection – Festival Favorites – 2020 SXSW Film Festival
“You’ve just got to see it. It is chilling, hopeful, terrible, and wonderful—and made with care, gorgeous animation, and perfect pacing.” – Allen Salkin, Los Angeles Magazine
“An expansive forensic look at the life cycle of an idea, a warp-speed analysis of internet sociology, and a harrowingly modern fable about innocence lost.“– David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“It’s mesmerizing and kind of trippy, but also makes the film feel like a one-of-a-kind creation in the greater context of the Pepe the Frog legacy…an outstanding documentary.” 9/10– Alex Billington, FirstShowing
“The most urgent and poignant political documentary of the year.”– Matt Patches, Polygon
GET DUKED! follows teenage pals from Glasgow Dean, Duncan and DJ Beatroot as they embark on the character-building camping trip — based on a real-life program — known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, where foraging, teamwork and orienteering are the order of the day. Eager to cut loose and smoke weed in the Scottish Highlands, the trio find themselves paired with strait-laced Ian, a fellow camper determined to play by the rules. After veering off-path into remote farmland that’s worlds away from their urban comfort zone, the boys find themselves hunted down by a shadowy force hell-bent on extinguishing their futures. From writer-director Ninian Doff — making his feature debut after a slew of award-winning music videos and short films for artists including Run the Jewels, The Chemical Brothers, Miike Snow, Migos, and Mykki Blanco— comes an anarchic satire of generational politics, hip-hop-loving farmers and hallucinogenic rabbit droppings that pits the youth of tomorrow against the status quo of yesterday. GET DUKED! stars Eddie Izzard, Kate Dickie, Georgie Glen, James Cosmo and a breakout young cast featuring Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, and Lewis Gribben. Creator and director Ninian Doff joins us for a raucous conversation on the brilliance of Eddie Izzard, getting a chance to bring his music video chops to a feature film and why the Brits are so attuned to the power of satire.
About the filmmaker: Ninian Doff is a robot built by the military as an advanced ruthless killing machine. Unfortunately when they booted him up he showed no interest in murder and to their dismay started making films instead. He is considered the greatest military failure in history. Nominated for 9 British Arrows 2020 (Sainsburys and Veg Power), Grammy 2020 Best Music Video Nominated (Chem Brothers), Campaign’s Top 10 Directors 2019, Winner Shots Awards “Television Commercial of the Year – Up to and including 60 second” (Veg Power), BIFA Best Debut Director Nominated (Boyz In the Wood/ Get Duked!), Winner Just Film Grand Prix Talin Black Night Festival (Boyz In the Wood/ Get Duked!), Winner The Siren Award for Best Feature Film 2019 Lund Fantastik Film Festival (Boyz In the Wood/ Get Duked!), Winner Music video of the year Ars Independent Festival (Chemical Brothers), Nominated Best Dance Video UKMVA 2019 (Chemical Brothers), Winner SXSW Audience Award Midnighters (Boyz In The Wood), Winner of Best Director at UKMVA 2016. Winner Best Urban Video, Best Pop Video UKMVA 2016. D&AD Director Pencil 2016. Gold in FilmCraft at Europebest 2015. UKMVA 2015 Best Director Nominee. UKMVA 2104 “Best Director” Nominee. Winner UKMVA 2014 “Best Choreography”. Winner of UKMVA 2013 “Best Indie Video”. Jury and Audience award at ‘Depict13 at Brief Encounters Film Festival 2013. Nominee at UKMVA’s in last 3 years running including “Best New Director”. Selected for Saatchi and Saatchi’s New Director’s Showcase at Cannes 2012 and One Dot Zero’s “New British Talent 11”. Work has been screened at over A BILLION festivals around the world including SXSW, LA Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, Las Vegas Film Festival, Montreal Museum of Modern Art, The V&A London. For more on the filmmaker fo to: niniandoff.com
“Serves as a distinctive calling card for a gifted yet twisted comedian, one without the slightest qualms about turning a bucolic countryside jaunt into a bloody “The Hills Have Eyes”-style hunting party.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
“A rambunctious film shot through with daft humour and an endearing, toxic masculinity-smashing sweet streak.” – Jamie Dunn, The Skinny
“An anarchic, pitch black, generation gap horror comedy that’s also one of the funniest films in a year where we are desperately in need of a laugh.” – James Croot, Stuff.co.nz
Nena Erb, an ACE and Emmy®-winning editor, for her work can be seen on HBO’s Emmy® nominated and Peabody award-winning series INSECURE,episode Lowkey Trying directed by Kerry Washington. As both an Asian American and person of color, she is committed to advancing the stories of others. She is thrilled to be a continuing part of the team showing the reality of life for modern women of color in America. Her work can also be seen on Apple TV’s groundbreaking Little America series. As an immigrant herself, she’s excited to help shape standout episodes for this series this season including The Son, tackling a gay man’s struggle for safety and love as he attempts a harrowing immigration to the United States and The Silence, which charts love among immigrants in a situation where sound/speaking is forbidden. Emmy nominated editor Nena Erb joins us to talk about the career decision that brought her to the editing suite and why mentoring others is her way of helping others “get into the room” where they can have a positive impact on the stories being told.
About the filmmaker: Nena Erb, a gifted ACE and Emmy®-winning editor born in Taipei, Taiwan and based in Los Angeles. Her family immigrated to the US in the late 70’s to live in a democracy and have the right to vote. Raised in an Asian American immigrant family, Nena’s father wanted her to be a doctor and her mother wanted her to be a pianist with the LA Philharmonic. Nena wanted to be Andy Warhol. After graduating with an art degree, a friend brought her into the entertainment industry and she started working in various capacities in production. It was her stint as an associate producer that gave her the opportunity to work closely with editors. This proved to be a defining moment for her interest in post-production. Since then, Nena has been the editor on productions for HBO, Universal, CBS, Apple, and others. She is experienced in multiple genres from drama series to feature films, documentaries and comedy. In 2016, she received an Emmy® award for her work on HBO’s documentary series Project Greenlight.In addition, she has received two ACE Eddie nominations for her work, one for HBO’s Peabody award-winning series INSECURE and the other for CW’s acclaimed seriesCrazy Ex-Girlfriend. Currently, she is editing Little America, an anthology series on America’s immigrants, produced by Kumail Najiani, Emily V. Gordon, Alan Yang, and Lee Eisenberg.
The rePRO Film Festival begins its inaugural run this August 12-16. The virtual film festival is dedicated to exploring women’s reproductive healthcare, awareness, advocacy and bodily integrity in America. The lineup of films includes documentaries and narratives dealing with women’s rights, endometriosis, illegal sterilization, access to abortion, and reproductive justice for women of color, among other topics. rePRO Film Festival, will host five days of features, short films and themed-conversations focused on a range of topics including healthcare access, fertility, pregnancy, sexual education, abortion, and issues related to the gender spectrum. In-festival moderated conversations will include call-to-action messaging on how people can get involved in a corresponding initiative or topic. The conversations, designed to spotlight the creators who dare to tell stories about women’s reproductive rights, and to showcase courageous advocators, will be available online for free globally. All feature films playing the rePRO Film Festival are directed by women, and all filmmakers, including shorts filmmakers, are being paid to screen their films. The pay-what-you-can film ticket proceeds for films at the festival will be converted to donations to be split evenly among five beneficiary non-profit organizations – SisterSong, Endometriosis Foundation of America, Center for Reproductive Rights, URGE and Trust Women.Tickets are on sale online at repromamafilm.org. Tickets are all pay-what-you-can ($5, $10 or $15) with a limited number of complimentary vouchers available upon request to ensure access for all. rePro Film Festival and festival sponsor mama.film founders Lela Meadow-Conner, Mallory Martin and Debby Samples join us to talk about the launch of their deep dive into the issues, challenges and stories that face 49% of the world’s population and the people who love them.
About MAMA.FILM – Through the power of cinema, mama.film (link), a 501c(3) non-profit organization, unites nurturers of all kinds to ignite conversation and to reflect upon our shared human experience. Founded in 2019, in a pop-up microcinema in a shipping container in Wichita, Kansas, mama.film has since been awarded expanded programming to Cleveland, and to a virtual platform. Film selections include stories and topics that amplify and explore the evolving realities of the human condition and that spark dialogue and reflection. mamafilm is committed to representing the realities and complexities of a diverse range of nurturers, across race, class, geography, sexual preference, ability and generation.An emphasis is placed on independent and foreign films that are grounded in authentic storytelling. mamafilm is committed to supporting the work of creators who are nurturers and caregivers. Initial support for rePRO by mama.film was generously provided by a grant from the George R. Tiller, M.D., Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Women’s Health at the Wichita Community Foundation. Follow @mamafilm1 on Instagram or Twitter for updates, or follow rePRO by mama.film on Facebook for more updates.
SPINSTER drops us into the life of Gaby (Chelsea Peretti). Gaby wants desperately to find real love. Recently dumped and on the brink of forty, she feels she doesn’t matter to anyone. Her best friend is pre-occupied with her kids, her family doesn’t get her, and running her own catering business, mostly weddings, serves as a constant reminder of the love that has eluded her. Gaby’s greatest fear, that she’ll end up a lonely and pathetic spinster, seems to be her destiny. After a frenzy of dating leaves her exhausted and demoralized, she admits she might never find love and must create a Plan B. Gaby begins to build a meaningful and connected life. But when a chance romantic encounter with Mr. Right threatens to uproot her, she realizes the value of her life, even if it doesn’t involve romance. Written by Jennifer Deyell and anchored by a beautifully nuanced performance from Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), SPINSTER Director Andrea Dorfman joins us to talk about her witty, beguiling comedy about being honest with oneself and embracing life.
SPINSTER will released August 7 through Vertical Entertainment on VOD and Digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms.
About the filmmaker: Andrea Dorfman is a filmmaker, animator and artist. She directed the feature films Parsley Days (2000), a TIFF top ten film, the critically acclaimed Love That Boy (2003) featuring a young Ellen Page, the musical drama, Heartbeat (2014), and the soon-to-be released comedy, Spinster, starring Chelsea Peretti. The short film, There’s A Flower in my Pedal (2005), was runner up to Best Short at TIFF and her documentary, Sluts (2006), won Best Documentary at the Atlantic Film Festival. Dorfman also made several animated films including two with the National Film Board of Canada – the Emmy nominated, Flawed (2010) and Big Mouth (2012). She recently shot and directed the feature doc, also produced by the NFB, The Girls of Meru (2018) and it’s currently screening at film festivals around the world. Her short live action-animation video collaboration with poet-musician, Tanya Davis, How to Be Alone (2010), has garnered over 8 million YouTube hits and was adapted to a book, illustrated by Dorfman and published by HarperCollins. She also adapted and illustrated Flawed, released as a YA graphic memoir by Firefly Canada in 2018. Dorfman occasionally teaches at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and was the co-creator of Blowhard, a thematic storytelling series that ran for 7 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Director Matias Mariani’s lyrical new film, SHINE YOUR EYES tells the story of Amadi (OC Ukeje), a musician from Lagos who travels to São Paulo to track down his missing older brother Ikenna (Chukwudi Iwuji) and bring him back home to Nigeria. Following the faint traces of Ikenna’s footsteps, he discovers that his brother was not the distinguished math professor he was supposed to be, but actually had contrived an intricate and nearly delusional series of schemes to accumulate wealth in Brazil. As the mysteries deepen, so too does Amadi’s attraction to this vibrant newfound culture—and to his brother’s Brazilian ex-lover, Emilia (Indira Nascimento). As he closes in on his sibling’s whereabouts, Amadi is faced with choosing between his faithfulness to his family and the possibility of a new life in São Paulo. Director, Producer and Co-screenwriter Matias Mariani joins us to talk about his brilliant, thoughtful mediation on family, culture, identity and self-discovery.
Director’s Statement: Throughout my life the question of identity has always been very important to me. As a kid I moved around a lot within Brazil and abroad, and I always wondered what part of me was I able to bring to each new city and what part I left behind. The idea to reinvent oneself, to shed one’s skin and start anew, has always been a luring fantasy, which I carried with me and that heavily motivated me to write this film. When I was 18, shortly before I started university in New York, I went to West Africa for the first time with my aunt, who used to buy handcrafted wares and fabrics there to sell back in Brazil. We travelled throughout Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali, and since then I’ve come back every couple of years, travelling through most of the region. A few years after that, when I moved back to São Paulo I’ve noticed the growing influx of West Africans, particularly Nigerian Igbos, moving to the downtown area of the city, which has been in a state of decay for several decades at that point. Together with my partner Maíra Bühler, we started frequenting the informal HQ of the Igbos in São Paulo, the Galeria Presidente, first only for fun and then as pro-bono teachers of Portuguese for the recent arrivals. With the contacts we made there, we proceeded to travel to Nigeria (Lagos, Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri) to extend our research, and that’s how Shine Your Eyes was originally born. – Matias Mariani
“[A] heady, enveloping narrative debut from Brazilian docmaker Matias Mariani…” – Guy Lodge, Variety
In the latest collaboration between director Carl Hunter and writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER follows a stylish tailor and wayward father, Alan, (Bill Nighy) who is has spent a big chunk of his adult life playing the word game Scrabble. At the expense of his other relationships Alan has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son, Michael, who stormed out over a game of Scrabble. With a body to identify and his family torn apart, Alan must repair the relationship with his youngest son, Jack (Sam Riley) and identify an online player who he thinks could be Michael, so he can finally move on and reunite his family. A quirky mystery / comedy starring the BAFTA winner Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead), SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER is a story about redemption, family, and finding the right words. Director Carl Hunter joins us to talk about his on-going work with screenwriter working with Cottrell-Boyce, and the photo that convinced lead actor Bill Nighy to join the project and striking the right visual look for his thoughtful, wryly funny film.
About the filmmaker: Carl Hunter is a director, screenwriter and also the bass player for Liverpool band, The Farm, who had a number 1 LP, Spartacus in 1991, 3 top 10 singles and spent a total of 50 weeks in the official top 40s for both LPs and singles. He has been making films, producing and directing, since the late 1990s and in 2019 he directed his first feature film, Sometimes, Always, Never, starring Bill Nighy and produced by Hurricane Films. In 2007, Carl produced and co-wrote the feature film, ‘Grow Your Own.’ He’s currently developing his next ideas with writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
“It’s universally well acted and it’s directed with an inventive, original visual style that matches the audacity of basing a film on Scrabble, by TV director Carl Hunter. The end result is unusual, intriguing and endearing.” – Alexa Dalby, Dog and Wolf
“It’s Nighy who will have you enthralled. He delivers a subtle, nuanced performance that allows the actor to shine while in full support of his costars.” – Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times
“Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who adapted the film from his own short story, has crafted a joy of a script, which seeds its themes as elegantly as Nighy’s character, Alan, a Scrabble-obsessed tailor, wears his suits. – Wendy Ide, Observer (UK)
MY DARLING VIVIAN is the the story of Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters. In 1951, Catholic schoolgirl Vivian Liberto meets handsome Air Force cadet Johnny Cash at her local San Antonio, Texas skating rink. Their whirlwind summer romance lays the foundation for a feverish three-year-long correspondence while Johnny is stationed in Germany. Thousands of letters later, the two marry upon his return in 1954. Within a year, a career blossoms and a family is started. By 1961, Johnny Cash is a household name, number one on the music charts, and perpetually on tour. Meanwhile, only two weeks postpartum, Vivian settles into their custom-built home in Casitas Springs, California with their four young daughters. Plagued by bobcats, rattlesnakes, all-hours visits from fans, and a growing resentment toward her husband’s absence, Vivian is pushed to a near breaking point when she and her daughters are targeted by hate groups over her perceived race. In MY DARLING VIVIAN, we meet the first Mrs. Cash as her daughters, Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara, share with us first hand, for the first time, the entire story of love, isolation, fear, heartbreak, and survival. Director Matt Riddlehoover and Producer Dustin Tittle joins us to talk about an unacknowledged, but crucial part of the Cash legacy and the impact it has on the lives of those who loved him.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – Vivian Liberto’s story is one that has intrigued me for years. Dustin, my husband and producing partner, is the grandson of Vivian and Johnny Cash; I’d heard fragments of her experience from my mother-in-law, Kathy, and how grossly misrepresented she was in the 2005 film, Walk the Line. It wasn’t until a close friend suggested we make this film that I even considered it a possibility – it seemed too huge a responsibility. Now that Vivian’s truth is being told at a time when our society is beginning to listen to its aggrieved women, maybe her joy and pain and reality can be fully accepted. Her life was romantic and bewildering, difficult and significant, and wholly filmic – more than a mere footnote in the biography of Johnny Cash. The marks that were left on our four interviewees as children are undeniable, and also worth noting. These women have held an important piece of hidden history that seems more relevant today than ever before. It’s time we sat down and spent an hour or so in their, and their mother’s, shoes. Over these past two and a half years, I’ve fallen madly in love with Vivian, and my hope is that others do, too. – Matt Riddlehoover, Director
“This is a long-overdue must-see that sets the record straight for a woman whose whole life was glossed over in favor of a more camera-ready tabloid romance. There is great value to be found in My Darling Vivian if you’re up to walk this line.” – Bradley Gibson, Film Threat
“Enriched by a treasure trove of family photos, home movies, and previously unheard recordings, “My Darling Vivian” defiantly upends the accepted Nashville and Hollywood narrative…” – Andrew Osborne, culturevulture.net
“My Darling Vivian is an unmistakably loving and sensitive portrait, an imperfect but impassioned attempt to makes the case that the easy Johnny Cash narrative is missing an important figure.” – Steve Pond, TheWrap
CRYSTAL SWAN is set in Belarus a few years after gaining independence in 1990. This vibrant debut feature film by director Darya Zhuk follows the path of young Velya (Alina Nasibullina), who dreams of moving to Chicago where she hopes to pursue her passion for house music. However, obtaining a U.S. visa proves daunting. After purchasing blank letterhead and forging proof of employment, Velya realizes the American consulate plans to call the fake phone number on her application to confirm her employment. Velya’s only solution is to go to the small factory town and convince the family connected to the phone number to help her. She locates the cramped Soviet apartment on the other end of the line, overrun by a family preparing for the wedding of their son. But Velya’s presence soon upends both the family’s and the town’s order, with potentially disastrous consequences for all. Director Darya Zhuk joins us to talk about where the story behind Crystal Swan came from, casting Velya and how her debut feature film reflects a story about a woman and her country, where feelings of self and belonging are yet to be defined.
Director’s statement – I’m a Belarus-born film director living in New York. I spent most of my young adult life straddling two worlds: the world of my freshly independent home-country, just starting to define its identity after the split from the Soviet Union, and my new home in America where I stayed after finishing an undergraduate degree at Harvard. Most of this straddling, I spent standing in long cues to the US Embassy in Minsk. I visited my parents a lot, and the visa requirements were quite brutal. It’s in this long line to the embassy that I first thought of Crystal Swan. People waiting on the permission to go to America were like prisoners waiting for the verdict, – they were so stressed out that they often shared their whole life stories with strangers next to them. I wanted to explore what this process of like. My protagonist Velya is a DJ dreaming to go to Chicago to visit the birthplace of house music. We meet her in one of these cues to the embassy. She is young and full of illusions, she still feels like she is the center of her world. She is an archetypal American character placed in the post-Soviet mess. Freedom she seeks is not available, and in the reality where she lives, the individualism doesn’t always win. Her beliefs and approach to life are constantly challenged with every step of her journey. Can she be a free agent in an unfree world? The unfreedom of people around is what stops my main character from reaching her goal. The history, the trauma of the previous history, catches up with her through the abusive actions of the people who surround her. – Darya Zhuk, Director, Co-screenwriter
Official Oscar Entry for Foreign Language Film – Belarus
Best Director – Bridge of Arts Film Festival
Best Actress – Bridge of Arts Film Festival
Best Actress – Cineuropa Film Festival
Best Film – Bratislava Film Festival (Fipresci Jury)
Best Debut of 2018 – Russian Critics Guild
Best Picture – Tbilisi Film Festival
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Crystal Swan feels like a poison-tipped letter from the filmmaker to her home country that is also an engrossing work of social criticism.” – Phil Guie, Film-Forward.com
“If something stands out above all it’s the excellent performance of Alina Nasibullina, an actress with a lot of presence that dominates the screen at all times.” – Jaime Fa de Lucas, Culturamas
“While some nuances may go over the heads of international audiences, its core social and economic frustrations are universal ones, driven by Velya’s fundamentally sympathetic wanderlust.” – Guy Lodge, Variety
“[Crystal Swan] is so effective at capturing the hopefulness of someone who’s seized by the promise of a better life, and the desperation she feels when that promise starts to slip through her fingers.” – David Ehrlich, indieWire
In YOU DON’T NOMI,a chorus of film critics and fervent devotees explore the complicated afterlife of 1995’s biggest film flop, Paul Verhoeven’s salacious SHOWGIRLS from disastrous release to cult adoration and extraordinary redemption 25 years later.Showgirlswas met by critics and audiences with near universal derision. YOU DON’T NOMI traces the film’s redemptive journey from notorious flop to cult classic, and maybe even masterpiece.The film features Adam Nayman (Vice Guide to Film), April Kidwell (I, Nomi) and Peaches Christ (Milk) as well as archive interview footage with the cast and crew of Showgirls. While SHOWGIRLSis the main subject of YOU DON’T NOMI, the documentary is also a retrospective of Verhoeven’s directing career from RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and Elle, among others. It explores the themes that unite his films, while showcasing Verhoeven as a genius and as a controversial figure all at the same time. Director Jeffrey McHale joins us to talk about his own Showgirls odyssey and how he came to document the subculture that celebrates a film that cinephiles often vilify and embrace at the same time.
About the filmmaker Jeffrey McHale, Director / Producer / Editor, is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. His feature film debut, YOU DON’T NOMI, is the zenith of what he calls his “Showgirls adventure.” While McHale’s inspiration for You Don’t Nomi originated with the unexpected viral success of his 2010 trailer mashup of Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Nomi also synthesizes recurring themes in McHale’s work, including the examination of queer subcultures and the exploration of how identities are articulated. As a television editor, McHale’s work includes acclaimed technology and science news series TechKnow for Al Jazeera English and most recently the groundbreaking World Cup docuseries Phenoms for Fox. Earlier projects, including documentary shorts and music videos, have screened at NewFest, Frameline, Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, and the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. A native of Michigan, McHale began his career at WGN America after studying film at Columbia College Chicago.
“You Don’t Nomi makes a compelling case that the much-maligned pop-culture landmark can be judged as either tawdry rubbish or subversive comic triumph.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“This is the most thoughtful deconstruction of a film imaginable, as well as an ideal festival choice for those who used to buy DVDs just for the commentaries.” – Kent Turner, Film-Forward.com
“While far from a straightforward documentary about a widely marginalized film, You Don’t Nomi reminds us that it’s okay to like things with rough edges, that streamlined perfection is overrated…” – Chuck Foster, Film Threat
“Nomi leaves it up to audiences to decide if Showgirls is trash, a masterpiece, or a “masterpiece of trash,” but one thing is certain: no matter how good or how bad one considers the film’s objective quality, one can enjoy Showgirls all the same.” – Pat Mullen, POV Magazine
Amy Goldstein’s wildly entertaining documentary, KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL, chroniclesthe meteoric rise and years-long struggle of musician / artist Kate Nash to re-establish a thriving career on her own terms. At 18, Nash reached the stratosphere of pop music, vaulting from a working-class family in North London into worldwide tours, a platinum record, and a season dominating the music charts. Fast forward to ten years later: Kate is breaking down, nearly homeless. Defrauded by her manager, she is forced to take odd jobs–like hosting a QVC show in a comic bookstore–and must sell off her clothes. After hitting bottom, she rises out of the darkness by crowd-funding her third album, using the uplifting power of online culture and her own authentic voice. From pop wonder, to riot grrrl, to TV wrestling queen, Kate’s journey is an inspiring call to the creative heart in all of us: be fearless. Blending performance footage with verité style sequences, KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRLis both a no-punches-pulled look at an artist in flux who manages to come out on top, and at an industry that proves its own gender bias at every opportunity. The film is structured around songs and lyrics, as they are written and performed by Kate Nash, to tell its unfolding story. Director Amy Goldstein joins us to talk about Kate Nash, her work ethic, determination, sense of humor and how that has served her over the many years of struggle.
KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL will be released nationally on Friday May 22 via the groundbreaking virtual cinema platform ALAMO ON DEMAND. Following the Saturday, May 23 6:00 PST / 9:00 EST there will be an interactive performance and Q&A with Kate Nash.The exclusive release will then hit a limited traditional theatrical rollout in August. Watch tonight: On Demand.drafthouse.com/film/kate-nash-underestimate-the-girl
About the filmmaker:Amy Goldstein, Director/Producer/Cinematographer Amy Goldstein graduated from Hampshire College with a BA in semiotics and from NYU Film School. She was a Louis B. Mayer fellow at NYU film school. Her short, “Commercial for Murder” (1990), screened at the Berlin Film Festival and was distributed theatrically in a collection of shorts. Her thesis film, Because the Dawn, was presented as the American Independents at the Toronto Film Festival with Todd Haynes‘ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. After school, Amy directed music videos for artists from around the world, including Rod Stewart‘s “Downtown Train”. She directed the feature film The Silencer, which she co-wrote with Scott Kraft, and they went on to develop pilots for HBO, CBS, Fox, Showtime, and MTV, and the hip-hop musical Check Under the Hood for Jersey Films/Polygram. She directed the award-winning feature film East of A, an edgy comedy about an alternative family facing the challenges of raising a child with HIV. Amy directed “The Hooping Life” (1999), a chronicle of a worldwide subculture of “hoopers” who transcend their personal toil and the world’s fears through hula-hooping. Her most recent project is the documentary about the career of pop star Kate Nash, Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl. Amy Goldstein and Anouchka van Riel, Producer head up Span Productions
“If you want a reminder that misogyny is alive and well, this is the documentary for you. It actually ends on a bright note, but the road there is brutal” – Lindsay Pugh, Woman in Revolt
“While not quite as saddening as the recent Avicii documentary, Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is another indictment of the music business and its tendency to chew up young talent.” – Suzi Feay, Financial Times
WALK RUN CHA-CHAhas been nominated for Documentary Short Subject at the 92nd Academy Awards®. Directed by Laura Nix, the film follows Paul and Millie Cao, who lost their youth to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they have become successful professionals in Southern California-and are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor. WALK RUN CHA CHA is now streaming on New York Times Op-Docs.
About the Filmmaker: Director Laura Nix Laura Nix is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction filmmaker based in Los Angeles. WALK RUN CHA-CHA is adapted from a feature-length documentary in progress. It was produced by Concordia Studio for The New York Times Op-Docs and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Laura’s work also includesother work includes her feature documentary INVENTING TOMORROW, about teenagers from around the globe tackling environmental issues through science, THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING, a comedy about activism and climate change, the documentary THE LIGHT IN HER EYES, about a Syrian Qur’an school for women and she was a writer on the Emmy-nominated documentary CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND: THE LEGACY OF PAT BROWN. In 2001, Nix co-founded the production company Automat Pictures, where she produced and/or directed over 100 presentations, including the feature documentary WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT: THE STORY OF HEDWIG, which played in over a dozen film festivals in the U.S. and worldwide. Previously she was a member of Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s production company Telling Pictures, where she was Associate Producer on THE CELLULOID CLOSET.
“Laura Nix’s WALK RUN CHA-CHA is a moving, poignant portrait of two aging refugees who have endured a great deal, and who now face one of life’s biggest challenges: figuring out how to stay in love. Through them, Nix also evokes the textures, tastes, and sounds of Vietnamese refugee life, and mixes them in with everything that is good about the United States. Ultimately, WALK RUN CHA-CHA is an optimistic film about both love and hope—the hope that our country will continue to believe in welcoming strangers from other lands, who in the end are not that strange at all.”– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer
It all began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they instead started their own event – Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. 26 years later, Slamdance has become a year-round organization fostering the development of unique and innovative filmmakers. The organization now consists of the Film Festival, Screenplay Competition and Slamdance Studios. It has also created Slamdance On The Road, a traveling theatrical showcase that brings popular Slamdance films to audiences that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them. Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Peter Baxter are the founding forefathers who, along with co-conspirator Paul Rachman, fought for truly independent filmmakers by giving them a voice in 1995 at the very first Slamdance Film Festival. Since then, the festival takes place every January in the breathtakingly stunning, snow-capped mountains of Park City, Utah at the exact same time as the Sundance Film Festival, to provide a more authentic representation of independent filmmaking. Up-and-coming writers, directors and producers, alongside seasoned veterans and film lovers, converge for the weeklong celebration of independent cinema, realizing that Slamdance is a great place to find those next, great, visionary films. Slamdance lives and bleeds by its mantra By Filmmakers For Filmmakers. No other film festival in the world is entirely run and organized by the creative force that can only be found in filmmakers. Slamdance adamantly supports self-governance amongst independents, and exists to deliver what filmmakers go to festivals for – a chance to show their work and a platform to launch their careers. The festival has earned a solid reputation for premiering films by first-time writers and directors working within the creative confines of limited budgets. Co-founder and President Peter Baxter joins us to talk about this year’s Slamdance, the groundbreaking films and the innovative new distribution and digital initiatives being launched by Slamdance.
The documentary Gay Chorus Deep South chronicles one community’s response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws in Southern states and the divisive 2016 election. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on a tour of the American Deep South. Led by Gay Chorus conductor Dr. Tim Seelig and joined by The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the tour brings a message of music, love, and acceptance to communities and individuals confronting intolerance. Over 300 singers travelled from Mississippi to Tennessee through the Carolinas and over the bridge in Selma. They performed in churches, community centers, and concert halls in hopes of uniting us in a time of difference. The journey also challenges Tim and other Chorus members who fled the South to confront their own fears, pain, and prejudices on a journey towards reconciliation. The conversations and connections that emerge offer a glimpse of a less divided America, where the things that divide us – faith, politics, sexual identity – are set aside by the soaring power of music and humanity. Director David Charles Rodrigues joins us to talk about the expectations and realities that comes with traveling to communities with the hope of changing hearts and minds.
WINNER AUDIENCE AWARD – BEST DOCUMENTARY – 2019 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
WINNER AUDIENCE AWARD – BERKSHIRE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
WINNER AUDIENCE AWARD – TOP 5 NONFICTION FAVORITES – 2019 TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
“Successfully harnessing the power of both music and message, documentary Gay Chorus Deep South draws its strength not only from its subject, but also the effective way in which it it presents its arguments.” – Nikki Baughan, Screen International
“What makes the film especially compelling, though, are the all-too-human narratives involving those who were at one time badly victimized because of their sexual orientation; they want to forgive, but may never be able to.” – Phil Guie, Film-Forward.com
“There’s a lesson here that applies to more than just LGBT political causes: To heal the country and move on, we must reach across the divide and listen to one another.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
The acclaimed PBS documentary series Independent Lens, recently honored with two Peabody Awards, a Primetime Emmy nomination and 12 News & Documentary Emmy nominations, returns for a new season on Monday, October 28.This year’s premiere is Made in Boise,an engrossing look at the complex and controversial world of gestational surrogacy told through the stories of four women carrying babies for gay men and infertile couples in the conservative heartland of Idaho — the unofficial “surrogacy capital” of the United States. Also on the fall schedule is Decade of Fire, which travels back to the 1970s when the South Bronx was burning, to showcase the dedicated citizens who outlasted the flames and saved their community; The Interpreters, a moving look at the Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who risked their lives aiding American troops and who now struggle to find safety and security for themselves and their families; Conscience Point, which unearths the deep clash of values between the Native American Shinnecock of Long Island and their affluent Hamptons neighbors; and Attla, the rousing story of Alaska Native George Attla, who with one good leg and a determined mindset went on to become a champion dogsled racer. Other highlights of the Winter/Spring 2020 slate include Always in Season, a harrowing look at the history of lynching and the 2014 case of Lennon Lacy, a North Carolina teen who died under unexplained circumstances; Bedlam, a psychiatrist’s chronicle of what mental illness means in the U.S. today, interwoven with the story of how the system tragically failed his own sister; and Rewind, a devastating, autobiographical documentary about the far-reaching consequences of multigenerational child sexual abuse. Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen joins us to talk about the fundamental principles to support filmmakers telling stories about their communities and commitment to showcase thought-provoking documentaries about the issues that divide us and the ideals and beliefs that bind us together.
Made in Boise by Beth Aala(Monday, October 28)Go inside the lives of four surrogates and the intended parents whose children they carry. As the number of surrogate births surge across the country, a surprising epicenter of the movement is Boise, Idaho, where hundreds of women are choosing to be surrogates. For gay couples, single men, and those who struggle with infertility, this booming industry is often the last resort to biological parenthood. The film follows the four women as they navigate the rigors of pregnancy and the mixed feelings of their own families, who struggle to understand their choice to risk the physical and emotional complications of carrying babies for someone else.
Decade of Fire by Vivian Vázquez Irizarry, Gretchen Hildebran and Julia Steele Allen(Monday, November 4)In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire and close to a quarter-million people were displaced when their close-knit, multiethnic neighborhood burned. While the abandonment of landlords and dwindling support from government officials led to the devastation, Black and Puerto Rican residents were blamed. Now, Bronx-born Vivian Vázquez Irizarry explores the truth about the borough’s untold history and reveals how her community chose to resist, remain and rebuild.
The Interpreters by Andrés Caballero and Sofian Khan(Monday, November 11)More than 50,000 local interpreters helped protect U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling soldiers to communicate with the local population. But those who took the job were often considered traitors. In the aftermath of war, some have been able to leave their home countries and reach safety, while others still languish in hiding and fear for their lives.
Conscience Point by Treva Wurmfeld(Monday, November 18)In Long Island’s Hamptons, one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and an epicenter of the luxury property boom, a clash of values is taking place. The original inhabitants of the beautiful peninsula — the Shinnecock Indian Nation — find themselves squeezed onto a tiny, impoverished reservation. Over hundreds of years they have seen their ancient burial grounds plowed up for the widening of roads, mega-mansions, and ultra-exclusive golf courses like the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Now Shinnecock activists and long-standing residents, including farmers and fishing communities, are taking a stand against a never-ending tide of wealthy transplants, overdevelopment, pollution, congested highways and skyrocketing property taxes.
Attla by Catharine Axley (Monday, December 16)The inspiring but little-known story of legendary Alaska Native dogsled champion George Attla, who — with one good leg and fierce determination — rose to international fame. In the final chapter of his life, Attla emerges from retirement to mentor his 20-year-old grandnephew. With their sights set on reviving proud cultural traditions, the pair embark on a journey to compete in the world’s largest dogsled sprint race, one that has seen a steep decline in Native competitors.
JIM ALLISON: BREAKTHROUGHis the astounding, true story of one warm- hearted, stubborn man’s visionary quest to find a cure for cancer. The film traces Allison’s remarkable life from his school-boy days in Friday Night Lights, Creationist Texas all the way to Stockholm where, in December of 2018, he accepted the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Director Bill Haney is an award-winning documentarian, serial inventor and entrepreneur, who has founded more than a dozen companies, two of which develop drugs to cure cancer and neurological diseases. Meeting Allison in the labs of MD Anderson, Haney was immediately captivated by Jim’s empathy and pathos as much by his scientific accomplishments. Today, Jim Allison is a name to be reckoned with throughout the scientific world — a 2018 Nobel Prize winner for discovering the immune system’s role in defeating cancer but for decades he waged a lonely struggle against the skepticism of the medical establishment and the resistance of Big Pharma. Using intimate interviews with Allison and a set of scientific leaders, paired with the use of graphics and archival material, JIM ALLISON: BREAKTHROUGHtakes us into the inspiring and dramatic world of cutting-edge medicine, and into the heart of a true American pioneer, in a film that is both emotionally compelling and deeply entertaining. Director Bill Haney (The Price of Sugar, The Last Mountain, A Life Among the Whales) stops by to talk about this highly entertaining, informative story about an innovator, free-thinker, honky-tonk musician and a true iconoclast.
“Breakthrough remains loyal to its academic source material in a way that’s clear enough for any viewer to follow… [and] Haney seems to have made all the right filmmaking choices, from balancing the science and sentimental to picking his subject at the perfect time…” ~ Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica
“In a time when cynicism and skeptics run rampant, Breakthrough looks to offer a moment of comfort and hope via the story of Jim Allison.” ~ Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline Hollywood
“In a field you’d never think of as having rock stars, Allison is a rock star of immunology. The filmmaker, Bill Haney, is a rock star among documentarians for bringing us this wonderful, hopeful film about a man and a Breakthrough achievement.” ~ Bradley Gibson, Film Threat
“Breakthrough demonstrates that the treatment is not a miracle, but the result of some wild but meticulous thinking by a true medical hero.” ~ Caryn James, The Hollywood Reporter
“Breakthrough is an engaging and entertaining film because Allison is a fascinating subject. He’s blunt and honest and colorful.” ~ Sophie Novack, Texas Observer
The high-energy documentary DON’T BE NICE, chronicles the upstart Bowery Slam Poetry Team, made up of five African-American, Afro-Hispanic and queer poets in their 20s, preparing for the national championships. Coach Lauren Whitehead pushes them past personal boundaries to write from a painfully honest place with the credo “Don’t Be Nice.” She explains that to “be nice” is to stay on the surface of things, is to perpetuate the status quo, and is, for black people, to be what White culture demands. Her team of poets breaks down, breaks through, and ultimately writes their masterpiece—a celebration of black joy. Timely and difficult, their spoken word slays—but will their soul-searching pieces about police violence and the whitewashing of Black culture be able to compete against choreographed crowd-pleasers for the national title? Will opting to make a statement instead of a show spell their defeat?An emotional and inspiring film that gives insightful commentary on race, gender, identity and sexual politics in America today, DON’T BE NICE is both an exciting competition film and a deep dive into the wildly-popular Slam Poetry subculture, that proves once and for all that winning hearts and minds is the ultimate prize. Producer Nikhil Melnechuk joins us to talk about the phenomenally talented group of poets / writers / advocates that make up the Bowery Team and these from the heart, high-wire performances chronicled in this emotionally charged documentary.
Director Irene Taylor Brodsky once again turns the camera on her deaf parents and, now, her 11-year-old deaf son Jonas, who has cochlear implants and is discovering a profound world of hearing—and music in this deeply personal story, Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements. As Jonas learns the first movement of Beethoven’s iconic sonata on the piano, his grandparents, deaf for nearly 80 years, watch with deepening awe what time and technology have bestowed their grandson. But when Jonas struggles with the sound of his mistakes, Beethoven’s own musical journey comes to life in an animated world of watercolor and haunting soundscapes. As the great composer loses the sense that brought him so much music and fame, Jonas’s grandfather Paul loses his grasp on his mind. Their lives weave a sonata over three centuries, about all we can discover once we push beyond what has been lost. Director Irene Taylor Brodsky joins us to talks about this very personal and deeply affecting tale of three threads that run through her family and the most celebrated deaf musician of all time, Ludwig von Beethoven. Director / Producer / Editor /Cinematographer talks about the personal and professional challenges of focusing on members of her family and how the power of music has resonated brought hope and healing.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:I can hear, but deafness consumes me. I am a daughter of deafness and, now, a mother too. After I discovered my son, Jonas, was going deaf as a toddler, my sound designer told me we could reproduce his gradual disconnect from hearing. As a filmmaker, that enthralled me. As a mother, it frightened me. I’ve been down this road before. My first feature documentary, Hear and Now, about my deaf parents’ problematic journey into the world of sound, showed me how much film can be a catalyst for empathy. So when my son told me he wanted to learn the Moonlight Sonata, composed by Beethoven as he went deaf, I was cautious but resolute, and began filming. Then, my father developed dementia, and soon their three storylines revealed an eerie parallel. Paul’s loss of mind was a clue to what Beethoven might have felt losing something so precious to him. As Jonas learned to play the sonata, I read Beethoven’s letters and listened to his canon over and over again. I felt assured that my son could find his own true expression, shaped by deafness, just like Beethoven did. In Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements we portray sound and memory through animation, and we use vast archives of home movies, vérité footage, immersive soundscape and original score to craft a rich mosaic of what it means to find vital expression in the midst of loss.—Director Irene Taylor Brodsky
“A powerful film about parents and children, though told with enough restraint that its more affecting moments might sneak up on you.” – Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
“It is a very moving film by veteran documentarian Irene Taylor Brodsky about deafness, music, raising children and your parents getting old.” – John Anderson, Wall Street Journal
“The film is refreshing in its willingness to countenance multiple viewpoints and look at what’s right for individuals rather than taking sides in one of the more heated debates within the Deaf community.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film