In the riveting new short format documentary film, BLOOD RIDERS, from director Jon Kasbe (When Lambs Become Lions, Nascent, Mipso in Japan), focuses on the crippling blood shortage crisis and standstill traffic that plagues most hours of the day in Nigeria. On far too many days it can take over 24 hours to transport blood to patients in critical need. Joseph, one of the city’s motorcycle “blood riders,” can deliver blood to hospitals in under an hour. For mothers in labor, particularly in the case of Deborah dealing with a difficult delivery, this is often the difference between life and death.Director Kasbe gives us an incredible sense of intimacy with his characters. BLOOD RIDERS puts usthere on the motorcycle and in the delivery room with Deborah and her husband. It boggles the mind. Director Jon Kasbe joins us for a conversation about the dire situation facing the people of Nigeria, a country of inadequate infrastructure, substandard health care capacity and systemic corruption, where a few dedicated people are determined to come to the aid of the most vulnerable among them.
About the filmmaker: Jon Kasbe is an Emmy Award-winning Australian-Indian director and cinematographer. His debut feature, “When Lambs Become Lions,” was a 2017 Sundance Documentary Fund recipient, won Best Editing at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, and was nominated for two 2019 IDA Awards in Best Cinematography and Best Editing. The film was released theatrically across the United States by Oscilloscope Laboratories and is now available on Apple TV and Amazon. His short films have screened at festivals worldwide and been recognized by SXSW, Hot Docs, Webbys, Vimeo Staff Picks, Camerimage Film Festival, Sheffield Film Festival, and National Geographic. In 2018 he was selected for DOC NYC’s inaugural 40 Under 40 list. He is currently developing a new film in Concordia Studios Artist-in-Residence. For more about his filmology go to: jonkasbe.com
In a rapidly changing America where mass inequality and dwindling opportunity have devastated the black working class, three Detroit men must fight to build something lasting for themselves and future generations. STREET FIGHTING MEN takes a deep, observational dive into the lives of retired cop Jack Rabbit, who continues to patrol his own neighborhood as a citizen; Deris, who wants to further his education and serve as a role model for his baby daughter; and Luke, who labors mightily to rehab a dilapidated house while pulling together a meager living. Shot over three years in the neighborhoods of Detroit, STREET FIGHTING MEN is a story of hard work, faith and manhood in a community that never settles for defeat. STREET FIGHTING MEN takes place in the neighborhoods, where the real fight over Detroit’s future is being waged every day. For the people who live here, Detroit is not a blank slate, it is their home — where they have invested their lives, families, and memories. Director Andrew James joins us to talk about the grinding reality for people determined to do the right thing, get an education, provide for their families, promote a safe neighborhood, buy a home, but are faced with a crippling lack of resources or the opportunities to accomplish anything of last value.
Director’s Statement – I became interested in making a film in Detroit after reading a Metro Times article about James “Jack Rabbit” Jackson. The article featured a picture of Jack Rabbit standing on a street corner at night with his partner, Keith, close behind him. The two men, Jack Rabbit in particular, had taken it upon themselves to be the neighborhood watch after the local police station shut down, and their story of resistance resonated with me. Jack Rabbit’s story and the struggle of his largely black working-class neighborhood is the story of our times. It has become increasingly hard to ignore how the US system is leaving behind poor, working-class and even middle-class people, many of whom are people of color, in favor of global economic interests. I wanted to create something personal and experiential, with an emphasis on the day-to-day, that could speak to this systemic decay of opportunity. I contacted Jack Rabbit and asked if we could meet. He was enthusiastic about the idea and excited to tell his story, and eager to help me understand the ups and downs of his neighborhood. After spending some time in Detroit and getting to know Jack Rabbit, we began shooting with Deris and Luke as well. It was then that I decided to move to Detroit – to capture their stories in real time. I felt that a longitudinal, fly on the wall style would allow me time to get to know the community better and find the story in collaboration with the subjects. This extended time allowed me to form close bonds with the three men, as well as others in the community, and it gave me a unique opportunity to tell their story in a very personal way. – Andrew James, Director/Editor/Cinematographer
“Stories of the death and rebirth of [Detroit] are familiar, but Andrew James’s documentary conveys the experience of living there. From the beginning there’s an undercurrent of weariness, of the wear and tear of living in a place to which the rest of the world — or rather, the movie strongly implies, the white world, the money world — has grown indifferent.” – Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
“A painful but honest depiction of black life in urban Detroit, featuring multifaceted men striving against the odds. A portrait of black resilience and perseverance — without sentimentality — that stands in stark contrast to the one-dimensional stories of transformation, but still offers a way out of the dark.” – April Wolfe, Film Critic & Writer
“An incisive, intimate and enlightening cinematic gaze on Detroit, Street Fighting Men triumphs as an authentic story of resilience in a neighborhood that will never settle for defeat.” – Les Roka, The Utah Review
“For those curious about Detroit, this is one of the essential docs.” – Inney Prakash, Cinema Programmer, Maysles Documentary Center
Award-winning Director Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film) embarks on a journey to explore what the future could look like by the year 2040 if we simply embraced the best solutions already available to us to improve our planet and shifted them rapidly into the mainstream. Structured as a visual letter to his 4-year-old daughter, Damon blends traditional documentary with dramatized sequences and high-end visual effects to create a vision board of how these solutions could regenerate the world for future generations. Director Damon Gameau joins us to talk about the how current, scalable technologies are available that can mitigate the damage being done by the scourge of climate damage and move us toward a cleaner, sustainable life for the planet and humanity.
“We have partnered with the curriculum experts at Cool Australia to build a comprehensive package of units of work for upper primary and secondary. These free lesson plans are learning recipes for teachers that utilise short clips from the film to support classroom learning, providing step-by-step instructions, student workshops and engaging content. We interviewed over 100 children from around the world for 2040 and asked them what their hopes and dreams were for the future. It is a world they will be inheriting from us so we have to show them that solutions exist, that there are people who care deeply about their future, and that wonderful careers await with genuine purpose and meaning.” – Damon Gameau
Visit the “Resources for Teachers” page and sign-up to our Schools Mailing list to learn more about opportunities for schools and to receive updates on when localized curriculum resources will be available in your country.
“Gameau pulls away from the apocalyptic doomsaying hard-wired into so much of the enviro-debate…Wisely, his speculations are restricted by the self-imposed discipline that they all need to be rooted in practices that already exist. A very smart move.” – Jim Schembri, 3AW
“None of the ideas explored here are purely theoretical or pie in the sky. Whether technological or systems-based solutions, they all exist now and could be massively expanded to huge global benefit.” –Lynden Barber, Limelight
“Gameau defaults to the position of inspiring people rather than alarming or overwhelming them. You leave the film wanting more, not less, of these sorts of productions.” – Luke Buckmaster, Guardian
“You can’t please everyone. Gameau is at least doing what he can to talk about some big problems, in an entertaining and accessible way.” – Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald
D.W. Young’s elegant and absorbing documentary, THE BOOKSELLERS, is a lively tour of New York’s book world, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers, past and present: from the Park Avenue Armory’s annual Antiquarian Book Fair, where original editions can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars; to the Strand and Argosy bookstores, still standing against all odds; to the beautifully crammed apartments of collectors and buyers. The film, executive produced by Parker Posey, features a range of commentators, including Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a community of dedicated book dealers and collectors who strongly believe in the wonder of the object and what it holds within. Director D.W. David Young joins us to talk about his endearing look into a vanishing institution, local bookstores, and the people who love them and the treasures they hold.
About the filmmaker – D.W. Young / Director and Editor – D.W. Young’s films have screened at festivals around the world including SXSW, Vancouver International Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, Provincetown Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival and many more. His features A HOLE IN A FENCE and THE HAPPY HOUSE were released by First Run Features. Most recently his short A FAVOR FOR JERRY, filmed on election night 2016, premiered at IFF Boston.
“Though it opens with a quote from Susan Sontag invoking Jorge Luis Borges’s belief… the film is not about the content, but the container – the tactile, redolent artifact essential to book lovers and sought by collectors.” – Peter Keough, Boston Globe
“[A] charming documentary about the book world – or more specifically the book-as-object world, with antiquarian booksellers trying to reinvent themselves and their industry in a digital era.” – Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
“The Booksellers is a documentary for people who treasure the sheer look and feel of books… As a proud member of this diminishing tribe of obsessives, I am grateful there exists a film featuring my spiritual kinfolk.” – Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
“Pays warm-hearted tribute to the reading, but also the shopping, the rifling, the obsessing, the complaining, the dreaming, the list-making, the shelf-organizing, and everything else book-lovers love to do.” – Elizabeth Weitzman, TheWrap
THE RESCUE LIST focuses on a hidden safe-house in the Ghanaian forest, where social workers help two children recover from a childhood enslaved to fishermen on Lake Volta – the largest man-made lake on Earth. But their story takes an unexpected turn when their rescuer embarks on another rescue mission and asks the children for help. THE RESCUE LIST charts the unfolding drama of these rescue operations alongside a stirring portrait of the boys’ recoveries as they prepare to return to their families. The film depicts a moving story of friendship and courage that transcends the trope of victimhood, exploring what it means to love and to survive. Co-directors Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink join us for an in-depth conversation on the ground truth about human trafficking in sub-Sahara Africa, gaining the access and the trust of all the people in the film and their own reflections on how witnessing these people’s stories has impacted them.
ALYSSA FEDELE – PRODUCER // DIRECTOR // EDITOR – Alyssa Fedele is a documentary filmmaker and anthropologist based in San Francisco.In 2016, She produced and edited The Ride of Their Lives, directed by Steve James, about youth rodeo bull riding. It premiered at Sundance and is distributed by Amazon Studios in the series The New Yorker Presents. Her work has appeared on National Geographic Channel, Amazon Studios, and PBS, and screened at IDFA, SFFILM, and Big Sky Film Festival. Alyssa directed, produced, and edited The Rescue List, which screened at Full Frame and DOC NYC and won awards at BendFilm and Heartland International Film Festival.Alyssa is a former resident at SFFILM’s FilmHouse and she is a recipient of the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund. She has a master’s degree in visual anthropology from the University of Manchester.
ZACHARY FINK – PRODUCER // DIRECTOR // CINEMATOGRAPHER – Zachary Fink is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer. His immersive observational approach to storytelling is deeply influenced by his academic roots in cultural anthropology and visual ethnography. He recently lensed Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s SXSW opening night premiere, State Of Pride, which takes an unflinching look at the diverse expression of Pride 50 years after Stonewall. Last year he spent a month at McMurdo Station in Antarctica where he field directed and shot a forthcoming PBS NOVA series about how science is conducted on the harshest continent. In 2016, Zachary produced and filmed TheRide Of Their Lives, a short directed by Steve James about youth rodeo bull riding. It premiered at Sundance as part of the Amazon Studios series, The New Yorker Presents. His work has appeared on PBS, HBO, National Geographic Channel, and Discovery Channel, and he has produced and directed projects for Facebook, Apple, Google, and for the Harvard Film Study Center. Zachary has a master’s degree in cultural anthropology and an MFA in film production from California Institute of the Arts. Together with Alyssa Fedele, he runs the production company Collective Hunch.
“The Rescue List isn’t an exposé on the subject in the strictest terms, but by sticking close to those who’ve lived through such nightmares, Fedele and Fink tell the viewer all they need to know about the dangers involved.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate
“Saving defenseless kids from the cruelty of Lake Volta must be some of the most challenging work imaginable, but The Rescue List ultimately resonates because of how little it can take to show them their own strength.” – David Ehrlich, indieWire
“Focusing on a rescue-and-rehabilitation organization and several youths it plucks from servitude, this is an involving indictment with enough individual human-interest elements to avoid being too much of a grim screed.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety
Twenty-five years after the 1995 Chicago heat wave, COOKED: Survival by Zip Code examines the events that led to the deaths of 739 people, mostly Black and in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The film arrives at a time of growing calls across the country to declare racism a public health crisis and to reinvest in communities ravaged by the long-term impact of structural racism. A recent NYU study found life expectancy differentials as wide as 20-30 years linked to racial and ethnic segregation between neighborhoods in American cities. Adapted from Eric Klinenberg’s ground-breaking book ‘HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago,’ the film is directed and produced by Peabody Award-winning director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl, A Healthy Baby Girl, Everything’s Cool), produced by Fenell Doremus (co-producer of Academy Award-nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), and Kartemquin Films, the award-winning Chicago documentary production house behind Minding the Gap and Hoop Dreams. In COOKED, Helfand challenges herself, and ultimately all of us, to respond to the man-made disasters taking place in towns and cities across the country before the next unprecedented “natural” disaster hits. Director Judith Helfand joins us to talk about the systemic racism that makes the neighborhoods of the poorest the most likely location for
Independent Lens:COOKED: Survival by Zip Code will have its national television debut on the PBS television series Independent Lens on Monday, February 3 at 10:00 pm (check local listings), preceding coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. The film will also be available to stream at PBS.org and on the free PBS Video App throughout Black History Month.
Each week this award-winning series bring you an original documentary film made by one of the best independent filmmakers working today. Independent Lens films have won 19 Emmy Awards, 16 Peabody Awards, five duPont-Columbia University Awards, and have received 10 Academy Award nominations. Independent Lens won the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 International Documentary Association (IDA) Award for Best Continuing Series.
Bruce Franks Jr. is a 34-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis, Missouri. Known as Superman to his constituents, he is a political figure the likes of which you’ve never seen – full of contradictions and deep insights, who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country. This short verité documentary follows Bruce at a critical juncture in his life, when he is forced to deal with the mental trauma he’s been carrying for the nearly 30 years since his 9-year-old brother was shot and killed in front of him, in order to find peace and truly fulfill his destiny as a leader for his community. Co- director Smriti Mundhra (Sami Khan) join us to talk about how a dynamic and charismatic man from a traumatized community took tragedy and turned into action.
About the filmmakers:Smriti Mundhra’s A SUITABLE GIRL premiered at Tribeca in 2017 and won the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. KHOYA, Sami Khan’s feature debut, was selected for the Tribeca Film Institute’s Tribeca All Access® fellowship.
ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS takes place off the coast of Indonesia, in the Australian territory of Christmas Island, inhabited by migratory crabs traveling in their millions from the jungle towards the ocean, in a movement that has been provoked by the full moon for hundreds of thousands of years. Poh Lin Lee is a “trauma therapist” who lives with her family in this seemingly idyllic paradise. Every day, she talks with the asylum seekers held indefinitely in a high-security detention centre hidden in the island’s core, attempting to support them in a situation that is as unbearable as its outcome is uncertain. As Poh Lin and her family explore the island’s beautiful yet threatening landscape, the local islanders carry out their “hungry ghost” rituals for the spirits of those who died on the island without a burial. They make offerings to appease the lost souls who are said to be wandering the jungles at night looking for home. ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS is a hybrid documentary that moves between the natural migration and the chaotic and tragic migration of the humans, which is in constant metamorphoses by the unseen decision-making structures. Director Gabrielle Brady joins us to talk about her beautiful and quietly powerful tale of desperate people trapped in a place of pervasive uncertainty and a woman trying to help them cope.
“ Island of the Hungry Ghosts is one of the year’s most impressively made documentaries, a film that’s as occasionally surreal as it is persistently moving. Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a true discovery.” – JOSHUA BRUNSTING, CRITERION CAST
“A documentary overflowing with empathy, poetry, and elemental power.” – HUBERT VIGILLA, FLIXIST
“Hauntingly beautiful Island of the Hungry Ghosts combines multiple narratives…into one glorious whole… A mesmerizing work of visual wonder, the breathtaking images forming an evocative setting for a vital discussion of human rights… A stunning, visceral first feature, announcing the director as a major talent to watch” – CHRISTOPHER LLEWELLYN REED, FILM FESTIVAL TODAY
“The best documentary award goes to a film that demonstrates extraordinary mastery of the full symphonic range of cinematic tools: cinematography, editing, score, sound design and, perhaps greatest of all, an exquisite use of metaphor. To a film that moved us deeply, impressed us immensely and made us feel we were witnessing nothing less than the emergence, fully formed, of a major new cinematic talent” – TRIBECA JURY
** Update – MIDNIGHT FAMILY is a shortlisted nominee for the 2020 ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
MIDNIGHT FAMILY has won more than 25 national and international awards, played in 135 film festivals around the world. MIDNIGHT FAMILY is set in Mexico City, where the government operates fewer than 45 emergency ambulances for a population of 9 million. This has spawned an underground industry of for-profit ambulances often run by people with little or no training or certification. An exception in this ethically fraught, cutthroat industry, the Ochoa family struggles to keep their financial needs from jeopardizing the people in their care. When a crackdown by corrupt police pushes the family into greater hardship, they face increasing moral dilemmas even as they continue providing essential emergency medical services. MIDNIGHT FAMILY is an enthralling. harrowing, and intimate look at a family business of dedicated professionals who often fo more than simple transport the helping the people who end up in their ambulance. Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor Luke Lorentzen joins us to talk about his mesmerizing film and the challenges of capturing all the different facets of the Ochoa family.
About the filmmaker:Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor Luke Lorentzen is a graduate of Stanford University’s department of Art and Art History. His first film, Santa Cruz del Islote (2014) – a short documentary about a small and densely populated fishing community in Colombia – won awards at over ten international film festivals including the San Francisco International, Full Frame Documentary, Camden International, and Chicago International. Midnight Family (2019) – Luke’s first feature documentary out of school – tells the story of a family-run ambulance business in Mexico City. Midnight Family has played at over 130 film festivals around the world and has won over 25 awards including a Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest. Midnight Family will be released theatrically around the world in December of 2019. Luke is also a director and producer on the Netflix documentary series, Last Chance U. His work explores elements of everyday life, often through rigorous formal means, questioning and experimenting with the ways in which non-fiction stories are told. Originally from Connecticut, Luke currently lives in San Francisco.
Special Jury Award for Cinematography, U.S. Documentary, Sundance Film Festival
IDA Documentary Awards, Winner, Best Editing
IDA Documentary Awards, Nominee, Best Feature
IDA Documentary Awards, Nominee, Best Cinematography
Cinema Eye Honors, Best Film Nominee
Cinema Eye Honors, Best Cinematography Nominee
Cinema Eye Honors, Best Production Nominee
Cinema Eye Honors, Unforgettables Award, Juan Ochoa, Nominee
Golden Frog for Best Documentary, EnergaCAMERIMAGE
Best Documentary, Films from the South, Oslo
Maysles Brothers Award, Special Jury Mention, Denver Film Festival
Best Film, WatchDocs IFF, Warsaw
FIPRESCI Rellumes Award for Best Director, Gijón Film Festival
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“10 Best Movies of Sundance 2019″
“Fantastically shot by the director Luke Lorentzen, the documentary develops an urgency that suits the life-or-death stakes onscreen. By turns terrifying and exhilarating, “Midnight Family” unfolds with such velocity that it may take a while for your ethical doubts to catch up to what’s happening. When they do, they leave you gasping.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“Arguably the most exhilarating documentary to come out of Sundance this year, Midnight Family follows the Ochoa family—the gruff but compassionate Fer and his two underage sons, Juan and Josué—at intensely close range on these Sisyphean missions of mercy.” – Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center
“A deft mix of big-picture doc-making and intimate moments… not to mention a wild — and remarkably eye-opening — ride.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone
“An intimate verite documentary… the Ochoas emerge as fascinating embodiments of a country working overtime to correct its shortcomings and keep the lights on. This bracing U.S. competition documentary is poised to provide a personal window into the fast-paced mayhem of Mexico after dark.” – Eric Kohn, Indiewire
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.
In 2015, after Hassan Fazili’s documentary Peace in Afghanistan aired on Afghan national television, the Taliban assassinated the film’s main subject and put a price on Fazili’s head.Fearing for their survival, the Fazili family, Nargis, Zahra, and Fatima fled Kabul for Tajikistan. Yet after 14 months spent submitting asylum applications that were rejected again and again, they were deported back to Afghanistan. It was at this juncture that Fazili picked up his cell phone and hit the record button and with that Midnight Traveler began to take shape. Chronicling every step from inside the action, Fazili, his filmmaker wife, and their young daughters trek across Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Serbia—scurrying through perilous landscapes, huddling in freezing forests, cramming into rattling vehicles. As they endure smugglers, gangs, and refugee camps, the camera witnesses not only the danger and desperation but also the exuberance and tenderness of this irresistible, loving family. For Fazili, framing their story becomes an assertion of control, humanity, and self-expression in a situation where none exists. With its radical subjectivity, visceral footage, and poetic form, Midnight Traveler is a migration story like no other. Producer Su Kim and Producer / writer / editor Emilie Mahdavian join us for a look at at Hassan and his remarkably resilient family as they attempt to overcome institutional and deadly political obstacles in their fight for freedom as seen through the eyes of his children, Zahra and Nargis and wife, Fatima. A fight for freedom that they have to win.
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for No Borders
BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Modest but full of urgency, MIDNIGHT TRAVELER uses the power of smart phones to reveal a migrant family’s search for a safe haven. Gretchen Jude’s percussive, electronic score helps hold it all together. [The film] stands as a family’s joint testimony, heartfelt and heartbreaking, particular yet hauntingly representative.” – Caryn James, The Hollywood Reporter
“Has a home-movie quality that’s enormously effective in putting a human face on a global crisis.” – Scott Tobias, Variety
“What makes [the film] so moving, though, is the portrait that Fazili and Hussaini paint of both themselves as full, ungainly people, with flaws and hopes and perfections and their daughters who, in a way, are the stars [of the movie]. A languid, poetic film. [The parents] meditate on family, fear, equality, Islam, and the banality of everyday life. Throughout, though, it is hard not to forget that MIDNIGHT TRAVELER is a film of life or death which the score constantly reminds, and which infuses tensions into the narrative’s nooks and crannies.” – Gary Garrison, The Playlist
“A remarkable achievement…an affecting, essential documentary. The suffering, fear and humiliation that they experience is balanced by moments of warmth and an artist’s magpie eye for unexpected glimpses of beauty…While there have been numerous documentaries which deal with the plight of asylum seekers, there have been few which have shown, with this level of intimacy, the journey of a family from certain danger to an uncertain fate. It’s a film which deserves to be as widely seen as possible.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International
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.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is a love song to one of the most memorably stunning voices that has ever hit the airwaves, Linda Ronstadt. She burst onto the 1960s folk rock music scene in her early twenties as the lead singer of the Stone Poneys, Ronstadt eventually branched out to begin her decades long career as a solo artist, touring the world selling out stadiums and, at one point, setting the record as the highest paid female artist in rock. Most remarkable to this day is her interest in and willingness to jump into new and challenging styles of music, including opera, jazz, and Mexican folk, excelling fantastically with each. Ronstadt has also been an outspoken political advocate for causes such as same-sex marriage and the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants, never shying away from fighting for what she believes both on and off the stage. Oscar-winning directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, Howl, Lovelace and End Game) use deep-cut archival footage, and Ronstadt’s own astute recollections, to celebrate an artist whose desire to do justice to the songs that touched her soul made generations of fans fall in love with her – and with the sound of her voice. Co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman join us to talk about a remarkable singer /artist and an even better person.
“She shows herself to be one of its indispensable interpreters, as a vocalist and also as a thinker – covering a sprawling landscape with elegance, passion and insight.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
“It captures the life and career of a rock ‘n’ roll star who never looked back, never apologized, never compromised.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Astutely chronicling an amazing musical career that ended prematurely due to Parkinson’s disease, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice will delight the singer’s old fans and likely make her many new ones as well.” – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
“An excellent retrospective and celebration of Ronstadt’s trailblazing career.” – Sophia Stewart, Nonfics
BECOMING NOBODY represents the core arc of Ram Dass’ teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom. Through his turns as scion of an eminent Jewish family from Boston, rock-star Harvard psychologist, counter-culture rascally adventurer, Eastern holy man, stroke survivor and compassionate caregiver, Ram Dass has worn many hats on his journey, the narrative of which is revealed in this film. His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom. In BECOMING NOBODY, historic clips balance an engaging conversation with director Jamie Catto. We come to understand how our old roles and disguises become increasingly burdensome. The film captures a loving man full of joy, wit, honesty and wisdom, at ease in conversation while sharing his considerable pains and pleasures. The life experiences that have freed him from the attachments of his ‘somebody-ness’ have transformed him into the radiant soul who now inspires a new generation. Producer Raghu Markus joins us to talk about the life and times of Ram Dass, his transformation from Richard Alpert and what it means to love, serve, remember.
About the Producer – Raghu Markus: Raghu Markus spent two years in India with Maharaj-ji and Ram Dass. He has been involved in music and transformational media since the early 1970s when he was program director of CKGM-FM in Montreal. In 1974 he collaborated with Ram Dass on the box set Love Serve Remember. In 1990, he launched Triloka Records and Karuna Music in Los Angeles, California. Triloka established itself as a critical leader in the development of world music and for 17 years was home to such artists as Krishna Das, Hugh Masekela, Walela, and Jai Uttal. He produced transformational media projects that featured Ram Dass, Deepak Chopra and Les Nubians. He is the executive Director of the Love Serve Remember Foundation. In 2016, he co-founded the Be Here Now Podcast Network and hosts Here & Now with Ram Dass as well as his own Mindrolling podcast.
A looming disaster in one of the most spectacular environments on Earth sparks a rescue mission unlike any other in SEA OF SHADOWS, a riveting new documentary with the intensity of a Hollywood thriller from National Geographic Documentary Films and winner of the Sundance audience award. When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region, including the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth, the vaquita porpoise.SEA OF SHADOWS follows a team of dedicated scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists and courageous undercover agents as well as the Mexican Navy as they put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquitas and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice. Director Richard Ladkani (The Ivory Game, The Devil’s Miner) talks about the monumental challenge of saving a highly intelligent mammal from a desperately poor community who see the black market totoaba and the vaquita as a way to spare their family from a life of poverty and degradation.
“Sea of Shadows may still raise awareness about the plight of other sea creatures still under threat from illegal nets sweeping the bottom of the ocean, killing everything unfortunate enough to swim in its wake.” – Monica Castillo, Remezcla
Lois Vossen is the Executive Producer of Independent Lens and has been with the show since its inception as a primetime series on PBS. Lois is responsible for commissioning new films, programming the series and working with filmmakers on editorial and broadcast issues. Independent Lens films have received 17 Emmy Awards, 16 George Foster Peabody Awards, five Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Journalism Awards and eight Academy Award nominations. The series was honored in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 with the International Documentary Association (IDA) Award for Best Series. Before joining ITVS, Lois was the Associate Managing Director of Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Labs. Lois is a member of the Television Academy Board of Governors, representing the documentary branch. She has served on the jury at Shanghai Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, SXSW, DOC New Zealand and Palm Springs International Film Festival, among others. Under her leadership, films funded or co-produced by Independent Lens include I Am Not Your Negro, Always in Season, Bedlam, One Child Nation, Black Memorabilia, The King, People’s Republic of Desire, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, TOWER, Newtown, Best of Enemies, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, (T)ERROR, The House I Live In, The Invisible War, and The Trials of Muhammad Ali, among many others. Widely regarded as one of the most influential supporters of independent and documentary filmmaking, Lois Vossen joins us for a conversation on the role that Independent Lens /POV and Public Broadcasting has had in maintaining the highest standards for innovative storytelling in non-fiction cinema.
Located in mid-America, MONROVIA, INDIANA, (population 1,063) founded in 1834, is primarily a farming community. MONROVIA, INDIANA is about the day-to-day experiences living and working in Monrovia, with emphasis on community organizations and institutions, religion and daily life in this farming community. These towns were once the backbone of American life. While their number and populations have shrunk, the importance of rural America as a formative center of American politics and values was demonstrated in the 2016 presidential election.The film explores the conflicting stereotypes and illustrates how values like community service, duty, spiritual life, generosity and authenticity are formed, experienced and lived. MONROVIA, INDIANA gives a complex and nuanced view of daily life in Monrovia and provides some understanding of a rural, mid-American way of life that has always been important in America but whose influence and force have not always been recognized or understood in the big cities on the east and west coasts of America and in other countries.Since1967,FrederickWisemanhasdirected42documentaries — dramatic, narrative films that seek to portray ordinary humanexperience in a widevarietyofcontemporary socialinstitutions. His films include TITICUT FOLLIES, HIGHSCHOOL, WELFARE, JUVENILE COURT, BOXING GYM, LADANSE,BALLET, CENTRAL PARK, BALLET, LA COMEDIE FRANCAISE, BELFAST, MAINE, and EX LIBRIS – The New York Public Library. At the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony Frederick Wiseman received an Honorary Award (Governors Awards) for a lifetime of brilliant filmmaking. He joins us to talk about his latest cinematic treasure, Monrovia Indiana.
“He’s arguably the most brilliant, brave and innovative person working in his field.” – Terry Atkinson, Los Angeles Times
“Rigorously shot, impeccably edited and at times startling in their beauty, these films usher us into often otherwise anonymous spaces and lives, and help make the invisible visible.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“The result is surprisingly companionable and enjoyable, an unhurried look at a location that is in no kind of rush, a place that is concerned most of all with preserving the way it’s always been.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman turns his camera on a pro-gun, pro-God Midwestern town and gives us a landmark view of what it looks like to live in Trump’s America.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“A calmly analytical film in which-as ever in Wiseman’s work-extended discussions and public debates are developed with an absorbing dramatic power.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker
“The unavoidable political implications of “Monrovia, Indiana” give its observations an undeniable urgency.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched its fourth annual film challenge on Monday, June 18. The challenge is a part of the AIA’s “Blueprint for Better” campaign, an initiative that highlights the collaborative work of architects and civic leaders to solve some of the biggest issues facing cities today. The film challenge started in 2015 and every year participants have shot and submitted three to five-minute documentaries that shed a light on how civic leaders are working with architects to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as infrastructure, urban issues, natural disasters and housing shortages. This year, the AIA will also be premiering its new short-documentary film alongside the film challenge titled “Caño Martin Peña: A Blueprint for Better”. The film depicts the rebuilding efforts of an architect and community leader in Puerto Rico following last year’s devastating Hurricane Maria that left more than three million people without power. Submissions for the film challenge—due by 8:59 p.m. EST on Monday, Aug. 27—will be subject to two rounds of judging. The first round of winners will be selected by a panel of jurors from the media, architecture and film industries. A second round will be open for public voting to choose the “People’s Choice Winner.” Last year’s competition garnered more than 268,000 votes.Participants will have the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize that includes distribution of the film through a multitude of channels, including screenings at the Architecture and Design Film Festival on Oct. 16 in New York in addition to travel and accommodations. The “People’s Choice Winner” will receive a screening at the Chicago Ideas Festival. Other finalists will be awarded a $500 prize. American Institute of Architects At-large Director Peter Exley stops by to talk about the great work being done around the country when there is collaboration between innovative government and a committed private sector.