Inspired by Lewis Hyde’s beloved classic The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, GIFTis a richly cinematic film, interweaving character‐driven stories. On North America’s Pacific Northwest Coast, a young Indigenous artist and carver undertakes the elaborate preparations for a potlatch – to make a name for himself by giving everything away. In Rome, Italy, a factory occupied by migrant families is transformed into a living museum, protected by a barricade of art : a model of resistance, and an invaluable gift. In the pirate utopia of Burning Man, a mutant bumblebee art car distributes honey in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape. Meanwhile, in Auckland, New Zealand, artist Lee Mingwei prepares to launch Sonic Blossom – a “transformative gift” of song.GIFT is a tribute to something that can’t be measured or counted, bought or sold. Exploring the parallels between artists’ work and a gift economy, it’s a reflection on the creative process, the reasons we “labour in service of our gifts”, and a celebration of the imagination. Director Robin McKenna joins us to talk about her beautifully meditative film about paying forward human connection and how communities can re-imagine the meaning of wealth and prosperity.
About the filmmaker:Robin McKenna is director, producer and writer of GIFT, a feature-length documentary and crossmedia project inspired by Lewis Hyde’s classic bestseller The Gift. She is currently making Thanadoula, a short animated documentary fairytale about a real-life “death doula”, in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada – and Medicine, a feature-length documentary over a decade in the making, about ayahuasca, medicine and healing, with Dr. Gabor Maté. She directed Genevieve Bujold: ArtVie, a short film tribute to Bujold on 16mm, for the Governor General’s Awards for the Performing Arts in 2018. Robin grew up in Montréal, and began making films with La course destination monde. Her cinematography credits include City of Borders (Berlinale, Hot Docs 2009) and The Take with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis (AFI Best Documentary 2004).
A stunning sensory experience and cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a years-in-the-making feature documentary from the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013) and narrated by Alicia Vikander. The film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth. From concrete seawalls in China that now cover 60% of the mainland coast, to the biggest terrestrial machines ever built in Germany, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to metal festivals in the closed city of Norilsk, to the devastated Great Barrier Reef in Australia and massive marble quarries in Carrara, the filmmakers have traversed the globe using state of the art camera techniques to document the evidence and experience of human planetary domination. At the intersection of art and science, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH witnesses a critical moment in our geological history. Co-directorsJennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky bring a provocative and unforgettable experience of our species’s ever-expanding breadth and devastating impact.
“Astonishment. Pure, lurid, ravishing, genuine astonishment. That is Anthropocene: The Human Epoch.” – Luke Hicks, Nonfics
“The [team’s] latest film is the culmination of a major body of work and it’s as visually stunning and intellectually invigorating as the previous two films are.” – Pat Mullen, POV Magazine
“To say that there are no easy answers to planetary woes is to state the obvious. But the film seeks to reveal rather than lecture, in the hope that our eyes will convince our brains to act before it’s too late.” – Peter Howell, the Toronto Star
“Its cinematography and passion for our planet make a strong case for your attention.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
“The luminous, terrifying and beautiful documentary “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch” feels like the culmination of the life’s work of its three directors… because it chronicles what could be the end of human life on Earth.” – Sean P. Means, The Movie Cricket
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
MONOS, Alejandro Landes’ awe-inspiring third feature, is a breathtaking survivalist saga set on a remote mountain in Latin America. The film tracks a young group of soldiers and rebels — bearing names like Rambo, Smurf, Bigfoot, Wolf and Boom-Boom — who keep watch over an American hostage, Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). The teenage commandos perform military training exercises by day and indulge in youthful hedonism by night, an unconventional family bound together under a shadowy force known only as The Organization. After an ambush drives the squadron into the jungle, both the mission and the intricate bonds between the group begin to disintegrate. Order descends into chaos and within MONOS the strong begin to prey on the weak in this vivid, cautionary fever- dream. With a rapturous score by Mica Levi (only her third, after UNDER THE SKIN and JACKIE), director Alejandro Landes examines the chaos and absurdity of war from the unique perspective of adolescence, recalling LORD OF THE FLIES and BEAU TRAVAIL in a way that feels wholly original. Landes brings together a diverse young cast of both seasoned professionals (including Hannah Montana’s Moisés Arias) and untrained neophytes and thrusts them into an unforgiving, irrational and often surreal environment where anything can happen — even peace. Director Alejandro Landes talks about the grueling production challenges of shooting in a jungle, working with a young cast and how his collaboration with screenwriter Alexis Dos Santos and composer Mica Levi helped to create an intense, high-wire cinematic journey.
CARTAGENA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – Audience Award BUENOS AIRES FILM FESTIVAL – Best Original Score SLOVAKIA ART FILM FEST – Blue Angel – Best Film NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL– Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actress
MONTCLAIR FILM FESTIVAL – Best Fiction Feature
TRANSILVANIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – Transilvania Trophy Best Film ODESA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – Best Director
“There’s a bicep-flexing quality to Landes’s direction, with its bursts of colour and chaos, its conjuration of a surreal experience out of tactile reality. You tumble out of it bruised, bewildered, mesmerised.” – Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph (UK)
Adapted from the acclaimed novel NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG by Kent Nerburn the story follows a white author who gets sucked into the heart of contemporary Native American life in the sparse lands of the Dakota’s by a 95-year old Lakota elder and his side-kick.NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG takes audiences on a deeply moving road trip through contemporary Lakota life. Its humor is wry and pulls no punches, introducing deep characters and poignant vignettes that challenge the viewer to see the world differently.Neither Wolf Nor Dog was audience-financed, shot in 18-days in one of the US’s poorest region with an average crew of 2 and a 95-year-old Lakota Elder, David Bald Eagle, as the star. The Lakota actor, soldier, stuntman and musician, David Bald Eagle was left for dead during D-Day and Christopher Sweeney was awarded the Silver Star from the Gulf War. Yet it was the film’s other star, Yuchi-Muscogee Creek multi-disciplinary visual artist, poet, and actor, Richard Ray Whitman, who was never in the service, who spent the most days under fire during the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Neither Wolf Nor Dog has become one of the widest released, truly self-distributed movies in years. Simpson flipped the Hollywood model upside-down by launching in small towns and it has the longest theatrical first-run of any movie in at least a decade: 131 weeks so far. Director / Producer / Writer / Editor / Cinematographer Steven Lewis Simpson joins us for a conversation on his determination to pursue own path of independent filmmaking, distribution, marketing and bringing seldom heard stories to a broader audience.
About the filmmaker: At 18 Steven Lewis Simpson was Britain’s youngest fully qualified stockbroker and trader. At 22 he moved to Los Angeles to work for the legendary Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures. It was there Simpson shot his first feature TIES. He shot his first documentary TIMOR TIMOR in West Timor, Indonesia, produced and co-edited the award-winning surreal fairy tale, FROG which was broadcast on Canal Plus and associate produced the comedy feature, RESURRECTING BILL. His epic feature documentary A THUNDER-BEING NATION about the Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge Reservation was released in 2016. Made over 13 years it’s the most comprehensive documentary looking at the history and contemporary life of an Indian Reservation. He capped off the trio of Native American projects with a 13 episode US TV show THE HUB about arts, culture and entertainment within Indian Country. Through this work Steven has become a well-known advocate for Native American rights and a respected figure in Indian Country. Simpson’s latest featureis an adaptation of the acclaimed Lakota Country novel NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG is being released in 2019. He is currently in post-production on the feature documentary RETURN TO TIMOR, shot in West Timor, Indonesia. For more about the filmmaker go to: stevenlewissimpson.com
“Drifting tantalisingly like a Native American variation on David Lynch’s The Straight Story, this poignant insight into the legacy of centuries of racist brutality reaches a shattering climax at the site of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee…” – David Parkinson, Radio Times
“While this effort from filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson is somewhat lacking in technical polish, it boasts an undeniable emotional power and authenticity.” – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
“Drifting tantalisingly like a Native American variation on David Lynch’s The Straight Story, this poignant insight into the legacy of centuries of racist brutality reaches a shattering climax at the site of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee…” – David Parkinson, Radio Times
When Dian was 6 years old, she heard a deep rumble and turned to see a tsunami of mud barreling towards her village. She remembers her mother scooping her up to save her from the boiling mud. Her neighbors ran for their lives. Sixteen villages, including Dian’s, were wiped away. A decade later, nearly 60,000 people have been displaced from what was once a thriving industrial and residential area in East Java, located just 20 kilometers from Indonesia’s second largest city. Dozens of factories, schools and mosques are submerged 60 feet under a moonscape of cracked mud. The majority of international scientists believe that Lapindo, a multinational company that was drilling for natural gas in 2006, accidentally struck an underground mud volcano and unleashed a violent flow of hot sludge from the earth’s depths. Ten years later, despite initial assurances to do so, Lapindo has not provided 80% of its promised reparations to the hundreds of victims of who lost everything in the mud explosion. While the survivors live in the shadow of the mudflow and wait for restitution, they live in makeshift rented homes next to levees that hold back the still flowing mud. Dian is determined to rise out of the muddy life. She and her mother, along with many neighbors, fight against the corporate powers accused of one of the largest environmental disasters in recent history. The gripping documentary film GRIT bears witness to Dian’s transformation into a politically active teenager as she questions the role of corporate power and money in the institution of democracy itself.
About the filmmaker(s): Cynthia Wade’s 2008 documentary Freeheld won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and 13 other awards. She was a lead producer on the 2015 fictionalized adaptation of Freeheld, starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell and Michael Shannon. Wade’s 2013 HBO documentary Mondays at Racine was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013. She is the director of the documentaries Grist for the Mill (1999, HBO), Shelter Dogs (2004, HBO), Born Sweet (2009), Living the Legacy (2009, Sundance Channel) and Generation Startup (2016, Netflix), and producer of The Gnomist (2015, CNN). She holds a BA from Smith College and an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University. Wade has won more than 45 film awards worldwide.
Co-director Sasha Friedlander directed, produced, shot and edited the feature-documentary Where Heaven Meets Hell. The film, set in East Java, Indonesia, won numerous prizes including Best Feature Documentary Film at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival and Special Mention for Outstanding Cinematography at the LAAPFF. At the One World International Human Rights Film Festival in Prague, the Václav Havel Jury gave a Special Mention Award to Where Heaven Meets Hell for its “exceptional contribution to the defense of human rights.” The Alliance of Women Film Journalists awarded Sasha an EDA Award for Documentary Artistry in March 2013. This ITVS-funded film aired on PBS in 2013. Sasha’s has lived and worked in Indonesia. She is fluent in Indonesian and worked there as a journalist for several years. Sasha holds a BA from UCLA and an MFA in Social Documentary Film from the School of Visual Arts.
William Neal’s documentary LONG GONE WILD focuses on the plight of captive orcas, picking up where Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s acclaimed documentary BLACKFISH left off while telling a uniquely new and different story… LONG GONE WILD centers on five primary areas: (1) The Blackfish Effect (what it did and didn’t accomplish i.e., SeaWorld took a major hit to its bottom line, but the 20 orcas are still there); (2) The case against captivity (orcas are forced to live in barren concrete tanks); (3) Orcas as sentient animals (their great capacity to think, feel, communicate, and empathize); (4) The Whale Sanctuary Project and its model seaside sanctuary for retired orcas – providing a safe, permanent home in their natural habitat; and, (5) The ominous threat to orcas posed by Russia and China, triggered by the explosive growth of mega-aquariums in China. Director, producer and writer Bill Neal joins us for a conversation on the set-backs and steps being taken around the world to defend and enhance the lives of these magnificent mammals.
Director’s Statement: For decades, killer whales have been performing for sold-out audiences at aquatic theme parks like SeaWorld – and for nearly as long, there have been cries to “free the orcas.” To which park executives have answered with a simple question: Where will they go? A legitimate argument. Orcas held in captivity for much or all of their lives are simply not equipped to deal with life in the wild. But all that is about to change, thanks to the “dream team” of scientists/orca experts/engineers with The Whale Sanctuary Project. Their mission: to establish a model seaside sanctuary where whales and dolphins can be rehabilitated or can live permanently in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat. We will document this ground-breaking effort through interviews with the key players along with exclusive footage of the proposed cold-water site, the most crucial piece of a very complex puzzle. In the end, it is all about restoring something we humans have taken from these highly intelligent, socially complex animals by forcing them to live in captivity for our entertainment and amusement. And by retiring them to a seaside sanctuary, we dignify not only the orcas but ourselves. – William Neal
Winner of multiple awards at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, HONEYLAND tells the amazing tale of Hatidze, a woman living with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice.The most awarded film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, winning the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, a Special Jury Award for cinematography, and another Special Jury Award for Originality, HONEYLAND is an epic, visually stunning portrait of the delicate balance between nature and humanity that has something sweet for everyone. The three-time Sundance award-winning documentary film is a beautiful, heart-warming story about the last female beekeeper in Macedonia and her relationships with her beloved bees, her ailing mother, and her new neighbors. Co-directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov join us to talk about the remarkable and endlessly endearing Hatidze, her loving commitment to her mother, a sustainable future and her tireless bees.
WINNER: GRAND JURY PRIZE – WORLD CINEMA DOCS – SUNDANCE
WINNER: CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD – WORLD CINEMA DOCS – SUNDANCE
WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR IMPACT & CHANGE – SUNDANCE
WINNER: BEST DOCUMENTARY – MONTCLAIR FILM FESTIVAL
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Honeyland is a microcosmic tale of a woman whose entire way of life is threatened by leeching men and free-market capitalism. Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov bring us perhaps the documentary protagonist of the year.” – Arlin Golden, Film Inquiry
ENDZEIT – EVER AFTER, is apost-apocalyptic feminist gothic fairy tale that takes place two years after zombies have overrun Earth. Two young women, Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) and Eva (Maja Lehrer), develop an unlikely friendship in order to survive. They are stranded in the no-man’s land of the Black Forest where they have to rely on each other and on nature, while in search of a more humane world. But their survival has also unleashed demons from their past that they must confront. In the end, love arises not only for each other, but also for the fantastic natural world surrounding them. According to the director Carolina Hellsgård:“ENDZEIT – EVER AFTER reflects upon our future existence, how we choose to live, and what our options will be in a world where nature strikesback. The aesthetics are inspired by the quirky and refreshing style of Olivia Vieweg’s graphic novel, which the script is based on.”
About the filmmaker:Carolina Hellsgård is a writer-director, born in Sweden and based in Berlin. She studied experimental media design at the Berlin University of Arts and film directing and screenwriting at Cal Arts in Los Angeles. Her critically acclaimed debut feature film WANJA premiered at the Berlinale 2015 and was nominated for Berlinale Best First Feature Award. It won Best Screenplay (Valletta Film Festival) and Best Feature Film Debut at the Biberacher Filmfestspiele. She is currently in post-production for the feature film project SUNBURNED.
“The alternating light and darkness here, and throughout “Ever After,” is a wonderful leitmotif for the women’s labyrinthian path, the journey of heroes.” – Maria GarciaLos Angeles Times
“A post-apocalyptic film, although fictional alludes to the reality we face today as nature begins to wreak its revenge on an out-of-control civilization.” – Louis ProyectCounterpunch.org
“Endzeit has definitely become one of my favorite films of the year, and one of my favorites of the genre. It is a refreshing take on not only these horrific creatures but also the meaning behind them and the apocalypse they bring.” – Stephanie ArcherFilm Inquiry
“It’s this ecological theme that leads to some truly inspired visuals which sustain the film until its unexpected, conciliatory conclusion. Endzeit is an unbalanced film, to be sure, but proof nonetheless of zombies’ enduring relevance in horror cinema.” – Christopher MachellCineVue
ICE ON FIRE, an eye-opening documentary that focuses on many never-before-seen solutions designed to slow down our escalating environmental crisis, goes beyond the current climate change narrative and offers hope that we can actually stave off the worst effects of global warming. Eleven years after Conners’ first collaboration with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio on “The 11th Hour,”which emphasized the problems of climate change, ICE ON FIRE instead focuses on the cutting-edge research behind today’s climate science – and the innovations aimed at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, which could pave the way for a reduction in the global temperature rise and a benefit to the planet’s life systems. ICE ON FIRE emphasizes the importance of an immediate, two-pronged approach to reversing the crisis: reducing carbon emissions through traditional renewable energy sources and new ones, like tidal energy, and implementing “drawdown” measures, focusing on methods for drawing down and sequestering carbon, including direct air capture, sea farms, urban farms, biochar, marine snow, bionic leaves and others. Director Leila Conners joins us to talk about the looming catastrophe and the emerging and encouraging techniques and technologies that can provide a sustainable path forward.
In Richard Miron’s surprising and empathetic FOR THE BIRDS, we follow an unusual woman named Kathy who lives with 200 pet chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. What starts as a story seemingly about Kathy’s battle with local animal advocacy groups slowly transforms into an intimate drama about her relationship with her husband Gary, and the toll the birds have taken on their marriage and her well-being. Filmed over the course of five years, this sensitive tale of one woman’s world breaking down—poignant and absorbing in equal measure—is ultimately one of hope about the possibility of regaining one’s life. Director Richard Miron stops by to talk about winning the Murphy’s confidence and trust, following his filmmaker’s instinct to stay with a story with more than its share of twists and turns and crafting a compassionate portrait of beautifully flawed people.
Academy Award-winning Passion Pictures and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios present one of the most important but untold science stories of our time, THE SERENGETI RULESis a tale with profound implications for the fate of life on our planet. Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists, Bob Paine, Tony Sinclair, Mary E. Power, John Terborgh, Jim Estes, and Sean B. Carroll headed out into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth—from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools—they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life. Now in the twilight of their eminent careers, these five unsung heroes of modern ecology share the stories of their adventures, reveal how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head, and give us a chance to reimagine the world as it could and should be. Director Nicolas Brown joins us to talk about the far-reaching implications of the groundbreaking work done by Bob Paine on the importance of “keystone” species and the tremendously important work done by his colleagues since then can lead to a restoration of the natural order and help humanity reverse an ecological catastrophe.
** THE SERENGETI RULES – Dr. Jim Estes, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC and subject of the film with Dr John Terborgh, Professor of Environmental Sciences, Duke University also subject of the film will participate in a Q&A moderated by David Guy Elisco, Executive Producer, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios following the 7:50 pm show on Friday, 5/17 at the Monica Film Center.
“‘The Serengeti Rules’ celebrates not only the diversity and beauty of the natural world but also recognizes the transformative power of curiosity and knowledge.” – Kimber Myers, Los Angeles Times
“An absolutely riveting documentary about biodiversity and the need for humanity–its gravest threat–to reverse its course and preserve it. Difficult under the likes of Trump and the Koch’s but necessary.” Louis Proyect, counterpunch.com
“The great accomplishment of “The Serengeti Rules” is that it directs the viewer to see beauty in the way an ecologist might.” – Two Bugbee, New York Times
“It’s a film which sounds an alarm, but, unlike most similarly-themed pictures, one which permits a chink of light into the traditionally bleak narrative of man’s impact on the land.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International