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.
ASHLEY CONNOR is a New York based director of photography. Her work on Josephine Decker’s BUTTER ON THE LATCH and THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY prompted New Yorker critic Richard Brody to name her, alongside Darius Khonji and Fabrice Aragno, as one of the year’s best cinematographers. Her breadth of style can be seen in work as diverse as Dustin Guy Defa’s PERSON TO PERSON (Sundance ’17) and Adam Leon’s TRAMPS (TIFF ’16), as well as in popular music videos for artists including Jenny Lewis, Angel Olsen and Maggie Rogers. She had two films premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Josephine Decker’s MADELINE’S MADELINE and Desiree Akhavan’s Grand Jury Prize winning THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST starring Chloe Moretz and Sasha Lane. Most recently she shot two pilots for A24/Hulu and has three more films coming out in 2018: Olivia Newman’s FIRST MATCH (SXSW 2018 Audience Award Winner, Netflix produced), Alex O Eaton’s MOUNTAIN REST and an Untitled Daniel Scheinert film. Ashley Connor stops by for a conversation on her work on Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline’s Madeline and her Spirit Award nomination for her cinematography.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’sCAPERNAUM (“Chaos”) tells the story of Zain (Zain al Rafeea), a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life.CAPERNAUM follows Zain, a gutsy streetwise child as he flees his negligent parents, survives through his wits on the streets, takes care of Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her baby son, Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole), being jailed for a crime, and finally, seeks justice in a courtroom. CAPERNAUMwas made with a cast of non-professionals playing characters whose lives closely parallel their own. Following her script, Labaki placed her performers in scenes and asked them to react spontaneously with their own words and gestures.When the non-actors’s instincts diverged from the written script, Labaki adapted the screenplay to follow them. While steeped in the quiet routines of ordinary people, CAPERNAUM is a film with an expansive palette: without warning it can ignite with emotional intensity, surprise with unexpected tenderness, and inspire with flashes of poetic imagery. Although it is set in the depths of a society’s systematic inhumanity, CAPERNAUM is ultimately a hopeful film that stirs the heart as deeply as it cries out for action. Director and writer Nadine Labaki joins us for a conversation on her impassioned new film and how CAPERNAUM changed her and many of the cast and crew from this multi-award winning film.
“It’s a scathing commentary on the effects of poverty, the failure to properly respond to refugee crises, and simple human decency populated by those struggling just as much as the next yet have also crossed a line they cannot return from.” – Jared Mobarak, Film Stage
“It’s a deeply assured piece of direction, and though it only plays a few emotional notes, they are ones that won’t soon leave your memory. Prepare to be blown-away.” – Emily Yoshida, New York Magazine / Vulture
“A social-realist blockbuster – fired by furious compassion and teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope.” – Robbie Collins, Daily Telegraph
“Can favorably be compared to everyone from De Sica to Truffaut to ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ A stunning piece of cinema.” – Pete Hammond, Deadline
Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) tells the provocative story of legendary director Orson Welles during the final 15 years of his life. No longer the “wonder boy” of Citizen Kane, Welles in 1970 was an artist in exile looking for his Hollywood comeback with a project called The Other Side of the Wind. For years, Welles worked on his project about an aging film director trying to finish his last great movie. Welles shot the picture guerrilla-style in chaotic circumstances with a devoted crew of young dreamers, all the while struggling with financiers and fate. In 1985, Welles died, leaving as his final testament the most famous unfinished film in movie history. The negative stayed in a vault for decades until now. With revelatory new insights from Welles collaborators including Peter Bogdanovich, Frank Marshall, Oja Kodar and daughter Beatrice Welles, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is the untold final chapter of one of the greatest careers in film history: brilliant, innovative, defiant and unbowed. Director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Me My Neighbor, Cool School) joins us for a conversation about his hurly-burly look at the making of a ragged masterpiece by cinema’s greatest auteur.
“The impeccably assembled production employs Neville’s virtuoso touch to provocative effect.” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
“For cinephiles, it’s a high-calorie, clip-and-interview-laden feast of biography, insight, and gossip.” – Robert Abele, The Wrap
“Neville’s film may reveal little that hardcore Wellesians don’t already know. But it offers a lively evocation of the great man’s brilliance, waywardness and pained relationship to Hollywood history.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International
“A fascinating account of an agonizing creative process.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
“A cinephiles’ delight.” – Kimberly Myers, The Playlist
Forty years ago, Dorothea (Tyne Daly) and Greta (Elisabeth Henry) moved to the town of Checkford and bought an abandoned bread factory that they transformed into an arts space. Here they host movies, plays, dance, exhibits and artists. It’s where civic groups and immigrant communities can meet, where there are after school programs for children. Now a celebrity couple—performance artists from China—have come to Checkford. They’ve constructed a huge building, the FEEL Institute, down the street. It is a strange sight for a small town. Dorothea and Greta learn about a new proposal to give all the funding from the school system for their children’s arts programs to the FEEL Institute. Without this funding, the Bread Factory would not survive. They quickly rally the community to save their space. The commercial forces behind the FEEL Institute fight also, bringing a young movie star to town to help make their case. The school board meeting turns into a circus where the fate of the Bread Factory hangs in the balance.
Bread Factory, Part Two: Walk with Me a While
Checkford hasn’t been the same since the school board meeting. Mysteriously, the reporter who runs the local newspaper disappears. Bizarre tourists start to show up, then come mysterious tech start-up workers. With all the new people, real estate is booming. Amidst all these distractions, Dorothea and Greta try to continue their work. They are rehearsing a production of HECUBA by Euripides. On the day they open the play, Dorothea gets the news that the Bread Factory will lose an essential piece of their funding. The beautiful opening night performance of HECUBA plays to a tiny audience. Brokenhearted, Dorothea and Greta must decide whether to give up their work at the Bread Factory because their community and support has disappeared, or to continue in their struggle to build community through art.
Patrick Wang was born in Texas, the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He is author of the books THE MONOLOGUE PLAYS and POST SCRIPT, an interactive book about the making of THE GRIEF OF OTHERS.His first film IN THE FAMILY was released to critical acclaim in the US and France and hailed “an indie masterpiece” by Roger Ebert. He was named one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine, and the New York Times remarked, “This is a career to keep an eye on.” Director and writer Patrick Wang joins us for a conversation on his brilliant, funny, touching, humanist rumination on art, relationships and MAY RAY.
After marrying a successful Parisian writer known commonly as “Willy” (Dominic West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) is transplanted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendor of Paris. Soon after, Willy convinces Colette to ghostwrite for him. She pens a semi-autobiographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a bestseller and a cultural sensation. After its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris and their adventures inspire additional Claudine novels. Colette’s fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionizing literature, fashion and sexual expression. Director and screenwriter Wash Westmoreland stops by to talk about the story behind a remarkable trailblazing feminist, writer, performer and cultural icon whose influence has inspired artists for the last 100 years.
“Knightley is exceedingly well-equipped to carry this magnificent film on her own — an Oscar-nominated performance for sure.” – Jeanne Kaplan, Kaplan vs. Kaplan
“A witty, spirited portrait of the great French writer and libertine during the early Belle Époque years of her career.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
“This timely and gorgeously shot account of a beloved French writer foregrounds Colette’s remarkable freedom from conventional norms as she finds her artistic voice.” – Erica Abeel, Film Journal International
“At first presenting itself as a tightly corseted Big Eyes set during the Belle Époque, Colette erupts into a fun, frothy, and unmistakably feminist biopic.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“The film has a towering performance from Keira Knightley, who plays Colette with such warmth and fiery feminism, that it would be hard not to make woman’s past run parallel with today’s world.” – Jordan Ruimy, The Playlist
The International Documentary Association (IDA) is dedicated to building and serving the needs of a thriving documentary culture. Through its programs, the IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists. IDA is the only group advocating specifically for the documentary filmmaking community. In many ways, this makes IDA’s advocacy work the most important and relevant work we do. Documentary storytelling expands our understanding of shared human experience, fostering an informed, compassionate, and connected world. The Enterprise Documentary Fund is one of the many logistical and financial programs offered by IDA.
About the Enterprise Documentary Fund:
“In the face of an all-out assault on the press, IDA is committed to standing behind the independent storytellers and watchdogs that make up our community—in large part, through the newly created Enterprise Documentary Fund. Made possible by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the fund will disburse $1 million per year for the next four years, in the form of production grants up to $100,000 and development grants up to $15,000. The fund is intended to support primarily mid-career filmmakers producing feature-length, in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories with a journalistic foundation or that incorporate journalistic practice into the filmmaking process. The mission of the Enterprise Documentary Fund is admittedly ambitious: It seeks to provide valuable resources and support systems (not unlike those in newsrooms) for filmmakers taking on the critical stories of our time. Originally sparked by the findings in “Dangerous Documentaries,” the fund is a response to pleas from filmmakers themselves. In interviews recently conducted by Toni Bell, IDA’s Filmmaker Services Manager, filmmakers reiterated the major findings in “Dangerous Docs”: They want access to information about digital and physical security, research databases, legal and other experts, public relations strategists and mentors. Exercising our rights to free speech and freedom of the press are critical for a healthy democracy. As I write this, these rights are clearly under assault, and we owe it to ourselves and to the public to staunchly call ourselves journalists and artists—they are not mutually exclusive.” – Carrie Lozano, Director of the Enterprise Documentary Fund
Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School’s (OPRF) student population encompasses a racial, economic and cultural mix that reflects the nation as a whole. Located in a mostly affluent, progressive suburb, the school attracts families of all races and means, many of whom make great sacrifices to secure their children a place there. But even in this diverse and liberal community, ensuring an educational experience that equally benefits all students poses challenges for the school’s dedicated and well-meaning teachers, administrators and parents. In the multipart unscripted documentary series AMERICA TO ME, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interupters, Life Itself, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail) and his team follow a diverse selection of the school’s 3,400 students, including artists, athletes, scholars, underachievers and iconoclasts, to present an indelible account of their dreams, fears, triumphs and aspirations. Posing complex and controversial questions, the film wrestles with crucial issues, including the effects of race and privilege on education as seen through the eyes of young Americans on the precipice of adulthood. Candid and relatable portraits of 12 students who are just beginning to come into their own provide moving insights into the teenage search for personal identity in today’s world. Director Steve James joins us with his impressions on the state of secondary education, how best to facilitate better outcomes for students and the role racial stereotyping plays in achieving success.
“The 10-part documentary series from Steve James (Hoop Dreams) is profound and thoughtful, taking a detailed look at inequality in America through the lens of a storied high school in Chicago.” – Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic
“[America to Me] is an invaluable look at where inequity begins, as well as the difficulty of getting to the place where it ends.” – James Poniewozik
“Even in a series this expansive, you keep wishing you could spend more time with more people, but its scope allows James and his team to show both victories and defeats fade into the past, how fragile and yet how resilient its protagonists can be.” – Sam Adams, Slate
“[James] captures the specific moments that are hard to explain without being there – like a young black girl who feels uncomfortable with a white teacher’s constant attempts to relate to her – and the larger systemic issues that are harder to upend.” – Ben Travers, IndieWire
America has the most technologically advanced health care system in the world, yet preventable medical harm has become one of the leading causes of death, and the overwhelming majority of high-risk implanted devices never require a single clinical trial. In THE BLEEDING EDGE, Academy Award nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (THE INVISIBLE WAR, THE HUNTING GROUND) turn their sights on the $400 billion medical device industry, examining lax regulations, corporate cover-ups, and profit driven incentives that put patients at risk daily.Weaving emotionally powerful stories of people whose lives have been irrevocably harmed, the film asks: what life-saving technologies may actually be killing us? Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Ziering join us for a conversation on the lack of integrity in the medical device industry, lax regulatory oversight by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the potentially deadly combination that it can become.
In the beautifully realized story of struggle and determination, young cowboy Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau), once a rising star of the rodeo circuit and an uniquely gifted horse trainer, is warned that his riding days are over after a horse badly crushed his skull at a rodeo and put him in a three-day coma. Back home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, Brady struggles with the physical and emotional complications of the accident. He is comforted by his inimitable little sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau), who has Asperger’s Syndrome, while tensions between him and his gambling father, Wayne (Tim Jandreau), approach a breaking point when Wayne resorts to selling Brady’s favorite horse to keep their trailer home. Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. Lead actor Brady Jandreau talks about his journey from the rodeo to his portrayal of a fictionalized version of his own brush with death, depression, and recovery, and the thrill of working with family and friends in this celebrated film debut by award-winning (Cannes Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight, Best Picture) director/writer /producer Chloe Zhao (Songs My Brother Taught Me).
“The Rider marries the majestic vistas of the greatest American westerns with a deeply interior story of a cowboy having to renegotiate his identity.” – Ben Croll, The Wrap
“It’s just plain excellent.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“A remarkable, deeply moving melding of fact and fiction.” – Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
“Filmmaker Chloé Zhao turns the story of real-life bronc rider Brady Jandreau into a gritty, graceful character study. Once The Rider hooks you – and believe me, it will – there’s no way you will ever forget it.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“One of the year’s most arresting and unforgettable films.” – Nick Schager, The Daily Beast
For the past 25 years acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has travelled the world, documenting with ethnographic precision and an artist’s sensitivity a vast range of cultural movements and moments. Yet, after so much seeking and searching, she realized that much of her work pointed at one uniting phenomenon: wealth culture. With her new film, Generation Wealth, she puts the pieces of her life’s work together for in an incendiary investigation into the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen. Spanning consumerism, beauty, gender, body commodification, aging and more, Greenfield has created a comprehensive cautionary tale about a culture heading straight for the cliff’s edge. Generation Wealth, simultaneously a deeply personal journey, rigorous historical essay, and raucously entertaining expose, bears witness to the global boom-bust economy, the corrupted American Dream and the human costs of capitalism, narcissism and greed. Emmy-award-winning photographer / filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield’s expansive artistry includes her monographs (Girl Culture, Fast Forward, THIN, Generation Wealth), and documentaries (THIN, kids+money, The Queen of Versailles). The Queen of Versailleswon her the 2012 Best Documentary Director Award at Sundance Film Festival. Director Lauren Greenfield joins us to talk about her sweeping film and the damning indictment of a profligate world of depraved indifference, hell-bent on stockpiling pointless possessions.
“Through her dedication to other people’s lives, and with such open-book storytelling of her own, Greenfield is able to make a stunningly deeply resonant documentary about notions as seemingly obvious as the value of love over wealth itself.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
“Greenfield makes a compelling argument for a society on the brink of precipitous decline, choosing to interpret the runaway vanity and rampant materialism observed in her own work as harbingers of our imminent destruction.” – Peter DeBruge, Variety
“This personal approach gives the film a sharp intimacy, and from here Greenfield pulls out to reveal how similar patterns are reshaping lives and families the world over.” – Nikki Baughan, Screen International
HALF THE PICTURE celebrates the groundbreaking work of female film directors and investigates the systemic discrimination that has, for decades, denied opportunities to far too many talented women in Hollywood. The film consists of interviews with high profile women directors including Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway, Lena Dunham, Catherine Hardwicke and Miranda July, among many others, who discuss their early careers, how they transitioned to studio films or television, how they balance having a demanding directing career with family, as well as challenges and joys along the way. HALF THE PICTURE also includes interviews with experts about gender inequality in Hollywood including the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman, Sundance Institute’s Caroline Libresco, Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Keegan, USC’s Dr. Stacy Smith and San Diego State University’s Dr. Martha Lauzen, who establish the magnitude of this employment discrimination issue as women are shut out, across the board, of an industry that systemically denies their expression and point of view. HALF THE PICTUREDirector / Producer Amy Adrion joins us to talk about a unique time in the film industry where systemic change seems possible and whether, unlike previous efforts to address gender inequality in Hollywood, will this time be different?
“Half the Picture is a vital, comprehensive documentary on a subject that’s so fundamental to the industry it’s about, you have to wonder why dozens of movies on this scale or bigger haven’t already been made.” – Leslie Felperin
“Half The Picture is an inspiring, important documentary that should be seen by as many people as possible, particularly those who aren’t aware of the problems women face in Hollywood.” – Manon de Reeper, Film Inquiry
“Half the Picture, Amy Adrion’s no-frills documentary, offers a diligent, straightforward overview of the innumerable obstacles facing today’s female directors, both aspiring and accomplished.” – Natalia Winkelman, Film Threat
“A platform for those who want to hear about the reality of being a woman in Hollywood from dozens of women who have lived it, it’s an invaluable resource.” – Rebecca Pahle, Film Journal International
“It’s experiential revelation as advocacy filmmaking, an incisive and inviting example of the personal as political.” – Serena Donadoni, Village Voice
Oh Lucy!follows Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima in an Independent Spirit Award-nominated performance), a single, emotionally unfulfilled woman, seemingly stuck with a drab, meaningless life in Tokyo. At least until she’s convinced by her niece, Mika to enroll in an unorthodox English class that requires her to wear a blonde wig and take on an American alter ego named “Lucy.” This new identity awakens something dormant in Setsuko, and she quickly develops romantic feelings for her American instructor, John (Josh Hartnett). When John suddenly disappears from class and Setsuko learns that he and her niece were secretly dating, Setsuko enlists the help of her sister, Ayako and the pair fly halfway across the world to the outskirts of Southern California in search of the runaway couple. In a brave new world of tattoo parlors and seedy motels, family ties and past lives are tested as Setsuko struggles to preserve the dream and promise of “Lucy.” Director Atsuko Hirayanagi (Spirit Award nominee for Best First Feature) joins us for a conversation on the challenges of making hermulti-cultural comedy / drama and working with the film’s Executive Producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
“Within the confines of this cross-cultural shaggy-dog tale, Hirayanagi locates both a sharp vein of absurdist comedy and a bitter, melancholy undertow.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
“Hirayanagi isn’t selling a packaged idea about what it means to be human; she does something trickier and more honest here, merely by tracing the ordinary absurdities and agonies of one woman’s life.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“Japanese filmmaker Atsuko Hirayanagi explores the transformative power of human connection in Oh Lucy!, a film which seems to play like a standard culture clash comedy but reveals itself to run significantly deeper.” – Nikki Baughan, Screen International
“Expanded from her award-winning short of the same title, Oh Lucy! betrays some rough edges in the transition, but Hirayanagi’s idiosyncratic touch marks her as a talent worth tracking.” – Andrew Barker, Variety
Set in the legendary Sea Islands off the South Carolina/Georgia coast in 1902, Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991) follows a Gullah family (descendants of West African slaves) on the eve of its migration to the North. Led by a group of women who carry with them ancient African traditions, the extended family readies itself to leave behind friends, loved ones and their insulated way of life. Can these women hold fast to their sacred religious beliefs and customs, or will their world be swept away in the course of a new century? This richly costumed drama, structured in tableaux to reflect the art and icons of African tradition, testifies movingly to the secret celebrations and packed-away sorrows of African-American women. These vital images were introduced to a new generation on a massive scale earlier this year, when the film was heavily referenced in Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST became the first film by an African-American woman ever to receive widespread theatrical release. Enriched by John Barnes’s eclectic score and Arthur Jafa’s Sundance Film Festival-prize-winning cinematography, listed in the National Film Registry DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was hailed as one of the most visually and sonically ravishing in American independent cinema. Director Julie Dash joins us for a conversation on her sweeping, absorbing and poetic homage to African culture.
“Every image, every moment is a full creation. Dash is one of the heroines of the modern cinema.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“A film of spellbinding visual beauty. Julie Dash emerges as a strikingly original filmmaker.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“Daughters of the Dust abounds with stunning motifs and tableaux, the iconography seemingly sourced from dreams as much as from history and folklore.” – Melissa Anderson, Village Voice
“Its examination of a bygone way of life is so patient and evocative, so beholden to its own storytelling conventions and rhythms, that watching it is a bit like submitting to a form of time travel” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
In the riveting story THE EYES OF MY MOTHER Francisca has been unfazed by death from an early age—her mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, imbued her with a thorough understanding of the human anatomy. When tragedy shatters her family’s idyllic life in the countryside, her deep trauma gradually awakens some unique curiosities. Driven by a mesmerizing performance by Kika Magalhaes Francisca’s desire to connect with the world around her takes a distinctly dark form. Shot in crisp black and white, the haunting visual compositions of THE EYES OF MY MOTHER evoke its protagonist’s isolation and illuminate her deeply unbalanced worldview. Genre-inflected but so strikingly unique as to defy categorization, writer/director Nicolas Pesce’sstunning feature debut allows us only an elliptical presence in Francisca’s world, guiding our imaginations to follow her into peculiar, secret places. Lead actress Kika Magalhaes joins us to talk about the challenges presented by this deeply troubled character and her eerily compelling performance.
Inventive and wildly fun, NUTS! recounts the unbelievable true story of John Romulus Brinkley, a Kansas doctor who in 1917 discovered that he could cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. From there, the story only gets more bizarre. Mixing hand-drawn animated reenactments, interviews, archival footage, and a very unreliable narrator, NUTS! traces Brinkley’s rise from poverty and obscurity to the heights of celebrity, wealth, and influence. Along the way, he transplants thousands of goat testicles, amasses an enormous fortune, is (sort of) elected Governor of Kansas, invents junk mail and the infomercial, builds the world’s most powerful radio station, and generally annoys the heck out of the establishment. Filmmaker Penny Lane has skillfully borrowed a page from her subject – charming viewers into believing the unbelievable, building their trust and excitement, until the final chapter bares the painful truth and reveals the doctor for what he truly was. NUTS! reminds us that our love of (and need for) compelling narratives is exactly what makes us so endlessly susceptible to being conned. Director Penny Lane stops by for a conversation on Brinkley, our collective need to believe in something and any contemporary parallels to be drawn from this bizarre story.
NUTS! had it’s World Premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing.
“Mixing droll animation, stock footage and a restrained number of talking head interviews, the director Penny Lane’s biography has all the whimsy of a tall tale, until a late change in tone surprises with genuine emotion.Nuts! is really a kick.” – The Guardian
“Don’t let the synopsis fool you, there’s much more here than a simple movie about a guy who likes to put goat balls in people…[Lane] explores the peculiar and undeniably fascinating story of Brinkley in what is easily an early contender doc of the year…Nuts! is a film you’ll definitely want to check out.” – Film Pulse
“Penny Lane is a documentarian who blends the archival with the personal in powerfully emotive ways… [she] is now firmly ensconced as a leading voice among her documentary filmmaking peers. “ – Vimeo
“What won’t spoil the film is my spewing praise for Lane’s craft… Lane is the answer to a question more people should be asking: who’s the great documentarian of this generation?” – The Verge
“In keeping with a recent trend in documentary filmmaking, nontraditional, sometimes controversial storytelling techniques will be on full display, Mr. Cooper said. The director Penny Lane, for instance, uses animated re-enactments and “one seriously unreliable narrator” to trace the “mostly true” story of a man who found success selling a goat-testicle impotence cure..” – New York Times
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is a zany tale of a defiant city kid, Ricky, raised on hip-hop and foster care, gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family. Equal parts road comedy and rousing adventure story, director Taika Waititi (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, upcoming THOR: RAGNORAK) masterfully weaves lively humor with emotionally honest performances by Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House and Julian Dennison. A hilarious, touching crowd-pleaser, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE reminds us about the journey that growing up is (at any age) and those who help us along the way. Producer Carthew Neal (Tickled, A Band Called Hook Ups) joins us to talk about how Barry Crump’s classic book, Wild Pork and Watercress found its way into the hands of the talented director and writer Taika Waititi and onto the screen.
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” takes a troika of familiar story types – the plucky kid, the crusty geezer, the nurturing bosom – and strips them of cliché.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“Every once in a while, a small, unheralded film comes along, so smart and funny, such a pleasure to experience, you can’t believe your luck. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is such a film.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times
“It’s off-beat in all the best ways, has fantastic actors all delivering fantastic performances, and is a uproarious adventure with endless heart.” – CinemaBlend.com
“An oddball and oddly affecting take on two misfits finding their metaphorical partner-in-crime match.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone
“I love dogs and would love one of my own, the only problem being that I don’t like walking them or feeding them or cleaning them or having to stay home because of them. When I was a child we (my family) went through a lot of them, and they never lasted very long.” – WIENER-DOGDirector Todd Solondz.
WIENER-DOG is a dark, starkly funny story of a single dog and the many different people she touches over her short lifetime. Man’s best friend starts out teaching a young boy some contorted life lessons before being taken in by a compassionate vet tech named Dawn Wiener. Dawn reunites with someone from her past and sets off on a road trip. After leaving Dawn, Wiener-Dog encounters a floundering film professor, as well as an embittered elderly woman and her needy granddaughter—all longing for something more. Solondz’s perversely dark comedy offers an appallingly honest look at the American experience, brought to life by its all-star cast. As to be expected, WIENER-DOG has all the characteristics of the Solondz oeuvre — quick wit, dark tragedy, familiar characters, and an incredible ensemble cast—but the film’s brainchild also found inspiration in classic films. As Solandz says, “The touchstones were movies like AU HASARD BALTHAZAR and BENJI. In between those two is where I think this film lies.” Solandz joins us to talk about the making of Wiener Dog and the state of independent filmmaking in 2016.
“En route to the harshest, most unremittingly bleak film of his career, Solondz unleashes some of his sharpest commentary on human mortality and regret” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out
“Solondz gives no quarter, nor does he mince words about where we’re all headed. His vision of our predicament is bleakly funny and weirdly heartfelt.” – Ella Taylor, NPR
“Writer/director Todd Solondz makes insightful movies about innocents suffering the worst human impulses from a viewpoint that suggests arrested adolescence mixed with intellectual black humor and a critical eye towards America.” – Laura Clifford, Reeling Reviews
The **2016 Academy Award nominated Best Foreign Language Film is at once blistering and poetic in its examination of the ravages of colonialism and the dark shadow it casts over the South American landscape in EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT. It is director Ciro Guerra third film and the first film shot in the Amazonian rainforest in over 30 years. Filmed in stunning black-and-white, the film centers on Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists (Evan and Theo, portrayed by Brionne Davis and Jan Bijvoet) who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him. The film was inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers (Theodor Kock-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant. EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the top prize, the CIACE Art Cinema Award, and is Colombia’s official Oscar® entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Ciro Guerra and Brionne Davis stop by Film School to talk about the many challenges of filming in the jungles of Brazil and the rewards of shining a spotlight on the brutality of European colonial dominance over indigenous people.
** 2016 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film
* 2016 Spirit Award nominee for Best International Film
“An intense journey and very rewarding visual feast.” Nathaniel Rogers, THE FILM EXPERIENCE
“Shot on sumptuous Super 35, the black and white photography lends itself to the film’s sorrowful ode to a world devastated, but it is the ceaseless teeming life of the soundtrack that transports the audience into the midst of the rainforest.” – Ben Nicholson, CINEVUE
“A visual astonishment… There’s no denying the film’s chastening moral conviction or the transfixing power of its black-and-white imagery.Not just an ethnographic study but also a striking act of cinematic witness.” – Justin Chang, Variety
“‘Embrace of the Serpent’ is simply a work of art, and one of the most singular cinematic experiences you could hope to have in Cannes, or anywhere really. It’s an absorbing, even thrilling head trip. It is a Heart-of-Darkness voyage of discovery. It is a lament for all the lost plants and peoples of the world.” – Jessica Kiang, Indiewire’s “The Playlist”
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s novel of the same name, hailed by Salon as “one of the most brutally honest, shocking, tender and beautiful portrayals of growing up female in America.” Writer/Director Marielle Heller unlocks this diary with a richly comedic and deeply personal vision. It is a coming of age story that is as poignant as it is unsettling. Set in 1976 San Francisco, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL begins at the crossroads of the fading hippie movement and the dawn of punk rock. Like most teenage girls, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment. Minnie emerges defiant— taking command of her sexuality and drawing on her newfound creative talents to reveal truths in the kind of intimate and vivid detail that can only be found in the pages of a teenage girl’s diary. In her feature film directorial debut, director / writer Heller brings Gloeckner’s book to life through fearless performances, inventive graphic novel-like animation sequences, imagination, humor and heart.
* Spirit Award nominations for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay and Best Female Lead (Bel Powley)
Sundance Film Festival 2015 and New Directors/New Films 2015
“What makes Minnie — on the page and now on the screen — greater than any one girl is how she tells her own story in her own soaringly alive voice”. – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“This adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckners heavily autobiographical novel is ideally cast and skillfully handled.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Powley, a British twentysomething whose big, curious eyes and quavering, thoughtful voice allow for a seamless transition back to her teenage years, gives a remarkable performance.” – Jesse Hassenger, A.V. Club
“It’s unlikely to make a box office splash, but it’s a startlingly tough, authentic depiction of budding womanhood.” Elaine Tang, New Republic
Based on the personal life of the film’s director Deniz Gamze Ergüven personal life Mustang tells the story of five free-spirited teenage sisters living in a village in Northern Turkey. As the sisters splash about on the beach with their male classmate their innocent fun a neighbor reports what she considers to be illicit behavior to the girls’ family. The family overreacts, removing all “instruments of corruption,” like cell phones and computers, and essentially imprisoning the girls, subjecting them to endless lessons in housework in preparation for them to become brides. As the eldest sisters are married off, the younger ones bond together to avoid the same fate. The fierce love between them empowers them to rebel and chase a future where they can determine their own lives in Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut, a powerful portrait of female empowerment. Mustang was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist of nine films. The film was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Ergüven’s joins us for a conversation on her beautifully rendered story of five young women who refuse to be shackled by a repressive social system.
** Spirit Award nomination for Best International Film
Official Selection – France – 2016 Academy Awards Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival 2015 Directors’ Fortnight Special Presentation – Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Winner – Heart of Sarajevo Award, Sarajevo Film Festival 2015 Winner – Europa Cinemas Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2015 Winner – Audience Award, Chicago International Film Festival 2015 Winner – Best First Film Award, Philadelphia Film Festival 2015
“Part of a welcome international wave of films made by women directors that focus on girls growing up in worlds of men – and on what they look like when no one’s looking.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“It’s a moving portrait of sisterhood, a celebration of a fierce femininity and a damning indictment of patriarchal systems that seek to destroy and control this spirit.” – Katie Walsh, LA Times
“’Mustang’ is the début feature of Deniz Gamze Ergüven, and it’s quite something: a coming-of-age fable mapped onto a prison break, at once dream-hazed and sharp-edged with suspense. – Anthony Lane, New Yorker
Winner of the Israeli Film Academy Ophir Award for Best Picture and propelled by the craft of Ronit Elkabetz (LATE MARRIAGE, THE BAND’S VISIT), one of Israeli cinema’s most acclaimed actresses, Gett: The Trial of VIvian Amsalem is an uncompromising, heart-rending portrait of a woman’s struggle to overcome an unmoving patriarchy and live a life of her own design. It’s the story of an Israeli woman (Ronit Elkabetz) seeking to finalize a divorce (gett) from her estranged husband finds herself effectively put on trial by her country’s religious marriage laws, in this powerhouse courtroom drama from sibling directors Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz. In Israel, there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce; only Orthodox rabbis can legalize a union or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s full consent. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Viviane Amsalem has been applying for a divorce for three years but her religiously devout husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian of CASINO ROYALE and PERSEPOLIS), continually refuses. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the rabbinical judges shape a procedure where tragedy vies with absurdity and everything is brought out into the open for judgment. Co-director Shlomi Elkabetz stops by to talk about this remarkable film and the impact it is having on Israeli society.
Independent film veteran and Executive Director of the International Documentary Association (IDA) Michael Lumpkin joins us to talk about the IDA sponsored Getting Real Conference and the supportive role IDA plays in the work of documentary filmmakers.
Unlike any other event on the documentary calendar, GETTING REAL is a unique gathering of filmmakers and industry professionals that will ignite what is desperately needed in the documentary community: a frank public conversation about the state of our industry that will lead to action and change. Produced by the International Documentary Association and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, GETTING REAL is an unprecedented 3-day national conference for documentary filmmakers that will take place in Los Angeles from September 30 – October 2, 2014.
Founded in 1982, the International Documentary Association (IDA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that promotes nonfiction filmmakers, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness for the documentary genre. Our major program areas are: Advocacy, Filmmaker Services, Education, and Public Programs and Events. Through its programs, IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists. As an advocate for filmmakers, IDA has been in the forefront important issues confronting our industry: Net Neutrality, Fair Use, and Lobbying for the Arts
Lumpkin is an experienced executive leader with over 20 years at the helm of Frameline, an international media arts organization that presents the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, operates Frameline Distribution, and runs other important programs providing funding and training to filmmakers. Michael was also co-producer of the landmark documentary The Celluloid Closet.
Film Independent Spirit Award nominee and winner of a Sundance Film Festival award, GIDEON’S ARMY follows the personal stories of Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick, three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan “Rap” Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center (now known as Gideon’s Promise) they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year. Director Dawn Porter joins us to talk about her compelling film and a barely functional judicial system.
“The soldiers of ‘Gideon’s Army,’ Dawn Porter’s stirring debut docu, are public defenders — lawyers who dedicate themselves to representing the indigent, and regularly answering the question, ‘How can you defend those people?’ Like the film itself, Porter’s handful of devoted, charismatic attorneys do a righteous job of reminding people that the accused are innocent until proven guilty, and that the criminal justice system seems otherwise disposed.”– Variety
“In this comprehensive revelation of the craziness and dysfunction of the world of public defenders, filmmaker Porter sagely shows us the personal toll it takes on the lawyers. Overall, Gideon’s Army is an eye-opening insight into a judicial hellhole world that ordinary citizens can never imagine. Throughout the unsung heroism of these three warriors in the legal trenches is fittingly stirred.” – The Hollywood Reporter
“Do yourself a favor and watch this gripping and beautiful film. If the inequitable system to which they have dedicated themselves doesn’t make you proud to be an American, the dramatic stories of these young lawyers will.” – Esquire
A 20-something supervising staff member of a foster care facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. From writer / director Destin Daniel Cretton’s simple premise comes a complex and nuanced story where no good choice is often the only choice. Funny, moving, surprising and emotional, Short Term 12 director Cretton stops by to talk about the risks and the rewards that come with working on a film that defies easy answers. Nominated for three Film Independent Spirit awards, Short Term 12 continues to resonate with audiences and critics.
“Magical. A shining example of what cinema is all about” – Germain Lussier, Slash Film
Short Term 12” expresses its serious subject matter in a fresh and authentic manner, never relying on the content itself to keep the viewer’s interest but how it unfolds for the audience, anchored to these characters who we grow to deeply care about. In the end, “Short Term 12” is a roller coaster of every emotion, managing to be both heartwarming and heartrending at once. But what a great ride. – Katie Walsh, The Playlist
“Phenomenally moving” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine
“The performances are outstanding and should be remembered when the time comes to remember who did great things this year. Everyone filling in the tapestry of the film is memorable. This is a film I will remember for a long time.” Fred Topel, Crave Online