CRUTCHtakes the audience on a journey that literally spans the entire globe. The documentary features the abandoned Pittsburgh steel mills of Bill’s childhood; his diagnosis with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, a rare, degenerative condition of the hip; the underground NYC break dance battles of his twenties; his groundbreaking performances in Sydney, Quebec, Madrid, Helsinki, Moscow, London, Paris, Tokyo, and more. CRUTCH is a global story, a powerful story, a transformational story, and one which will have you re-evaluating your own perspectives. From childhood “cripple” to international provocateur, CRUTCH is an engrossing, emotional story of an artist’s struggle to be understood and an auspicious DOC NYC debut. Two decades in the making and employing a kinetic tapestry of 8mm film from the 70’s, Hi-8 and VHS tapes from the 80’s, mini-DV tapes from the 90’s, and stunning HD footage from the 2000’s, CRUTCH documents Bill’s extraordinary life’s story: the history of Bill’s medical odyssey, his struggles with chronic pain, the evolution of his crutch dancing and skating, his rise to become a world-renowned performance artist, and his transformation from an angry skate punk to an international hero. Co-directors Sachi Cunningham and Vayabobo (Chandler Evans) join us to talk about Bill Shannon’s fierce determination to breakthrough cultural perceptions of what it is to be a dancer, skateboarder and performance artist.
About the filmmaker – Director /Producer Sachi Cunningham is an award winning documentary filmmaker and Associate Professor of Journalism at San Francisco State University. A graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham has worked on the staffs of PBS FRONTLINE/World, where she covered stories from the first Presidential election in Afghanistan to sex trafficking in Dubai, and the Los Angeles Times, where she was recruited to start their first video team. When not making documentaries, Cunningham can be found swimming somewhere in the Pacific, where she is known for her pioneering big wave water surf photography
About the filmmaker – Director / Producer / Writer Vayabobo (Chandler Evans) is a writer/director, whose award winning videos have garnered over 150 million views online. Vayabobo wrote and directed for Disney Interactive and subsequently helped to launch Buzzfeed Video. He wrote Visions of Everest, a feature length documentary about the only blind man to summit Mount Everest and has written for TV shows on CBS, Syfy and CW. His work in advertising includes directing commercial spots for companies such as Disney, Singapore Airlines, Hamilton Beach and KB Homes. When not working, you can catch Vayabobo playing and documenting Capoeira around the world.
From 1968 to 1973, the public television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home.The WNET-based series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants’ recollections and illuminating archival clips, Mr. SOUL! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate, and an unsung hero whose voice we need now more than ever to restore the SOUL of a nation. Director / Producer / Writer and the niece of Ellis Haizlip, Melissa Haizlip joins us for a lively conversation on the joy and passion that her uncle brought to all of his artistic projects but none more than this resounding response to a constipated white culture that marginalized outside voices with a joyous ode to the astounding depth and breath of Black Culture.
** Mr. Soul!’s Show Me Your Soul – 2021 Oscar® Shortlisted for the Best Song
About the filmmaker – Melissa Haizlip, Producer, Director, Writer is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Her work responds to pressing social issues at the intersection of racial justice, social justice, activism, and representation. Female transformation and empowerment are at the core of all of her ideas, with the goal being to advocate and amplify the voices of women and people of color. Melissa’s feature documentary, Mr. SOUL!, has been shortlisted for the Oscars, for Best Original Song. Mr. SOUL! has been nominated by the Guild of Music Supervisors for Best Music Supervision for a Documentary. Mr. SOUL! is also nominated for three NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Documentary (Film), Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture), and Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture). Mr. SOUL! won the 2020 Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best First Documentary Feature. Melissa’s two-channel art films have been exhibited by the Hammer Museum Los Angeles Biennial, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Melissa has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation JustFilms, National Endowment for the Humanities, International Documentary Association, National Endowment for the Arts, Black Public Media, Firelight Media, ITVS, Awesome Without Borders, and Puffin Foundation. Melissa went to Yale University. She’s currently co-executive producing a docu-series on women in hip-hop for Netflix.
“Mr. Soul! is an effulgent and joyous celebration of the life-changing public broadcasting program. … Imagine for a moment what pop culture might be like without Questlove and you may have a small sense of what things would be like without SOUL!.” – Douglas Davidson, CLTure
“There’s a sense of overpowering love and gratitude for Haizlip that’s beautiful and wholly felt throughout Mr. Soul!’s runtime, and it’s as warm and comforting as the hot milk cake that Haizlip’s mom used to make for him.” – Jenny Nulf, Austin Chronicle
“Broad in scope and rapidly paced, the film can feel as if it’s bursting at the seams. But it acutely conveys the radical joy that “Soul!” inspired, barely contained in the movie’s running time.” – Devika Girish, New York Times
“Mr. SOUL brings the amazing individual that was Ellis Haizlip back into the forefront of his and our cultural history.” – Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews
“[Mr. Soul!] highlights black excellence and champions equality, tolerance and inclusion … that it manages to b funny, charming, and uplifting is icing on the cake.” – Victor Stiff, Goomba Stomp
The Price of Freedom is an unflinching look at the gun violence epidemic in America and the role the National Rifle Association, with its outsized political and cultural influence, has played over time. The NRA believes the deaths of innocent Americans are a necessary price to pay for the freedom to own firearms without restrictions. By manipulating the narrative around guns and backing politicians who commit to upholding their agenda, the NRA has cost us far more than we realize. Featuring passionate pleas from President William J. Clinton, Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT); NRA Board Member and former NRA President David Keene, and activists on all sides of the issue, The Price of Freedom presents a compelling case for those brave enough to take a stand against the NRA in defense of our communities and collective future. Director Judd Ehrlich joins us for a conversation on how the NRA has abandoned its founding principles of promoting safe and responsible gun ownership through locally-based training programs into a shameless shill for gun manufacturers and more recently into a pernicious, corrosive and ruthlessly divisive political force in American culture and governance.
About the filmmaker – Judd Ehrlich – Grand Clio and Emmy Award-winning director and producer is the son of an architect and schoolteacher. He grew up in lower Manhattan and, at fourteen, was the youngest feature reporter at a New York newspaper. Ehrlich’s recent documentaries KEEPERS OF THE GAME and WE COULD BE KING, produced with Tribeca Studios and The Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, forged a new model for documentary production and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and on ABC television. KEEPERS was a New York Times Critics’ Pick and nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award and KING won an Emmy and Grand Clio Award. Both films are part of the US State Department’s American Film Showcase. Ehrlich was nominated for Emmy Awards for the Tribeca Premiere RUN FOR YOUR LIFE and the PBS broadcast MAYOR OF THE WEST SIDE. His award-winning MAGIC CAMP was optioned for narrative remake and NOTES FROM LIBERIA won several awards. Ehrlich directed two television series for ESPN and a series for The CW Network. He collaborated on the editing of Sundance-winner FAMILY NAME and Ric Burns’ Emmy-winning series, NEW YORK. Ehrlich was an editor and producer at CBS News and directed film programs at BAM, Brooklyn College, JCC Manhattan and the Brooklyn Museum, hosting notables like Darren Aronofsky, Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. Ehrlich is represented by Saville Productions, joining a roster that includes Wim Wenders, Barry Levinson, Oliver Stone and Werner Herzog, and directs content for Bose, Tough Mudder, MLS, Van Cleef & Arpels, Barilla, Atlantic Philanthropies, US Cellular, and the Serena Williams Fund, to name a handful. Before film, Ehrlich was a caseworker in NYC for Project Renewal, Homes for the Homeless and YAI. He lives with his wife and two children in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where his family lived for five generations. Ehrlich is a Vassar College graduate and teaches filmmaking. For more go to: flatbushpictures.com
“An absorbing, disturbing, and scrupulously well-researched documentary that lays out the nuts and bolts of the National Rifle Association’s history.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“What makes The Price of Freedom a film that should be on your must-see list is the way Ehrlich presents all of this.” – Sabina Dana Plasse, Film Threat
“An unflinching and powerful look at what the NRA means to American politics and how it has used manipulation and scare tactics.” – Nathaniel Muir, AIPT
“Clear-eyed, compassionate and compelling, the documentary “The Price of Freedom” efficiently unpacks and debunks the myths it posits the National Rifle Assn. of America has deployed to further its all-guns-all-the-time agenda and foster a culture war.” – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
Through shard-like glimpses of everyday life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, LANDFALLis a cautionary tale for our times. Set against the backdrop of protests that toppled the The United States colony’s governor in 2019, the film offers a prismatic portrait of collective trauma and resistance. While the devastation of María attracted a great deal of media coverage, the world has paid far less attention to the storm that preceded it: a 72-billion-dollar debt crisis crippling Puerto Rico well before the winds and waters hit. LANDFALL examines the kinship of these two storms-one environmental, the other economic-juxtaposing competing utopian visions of recovery. LANDFALL explores the intertwining legacies of colonialism, exploitative industries and disaster capitalism and the barriers to recovery they create. As opportunists looking to make a profit descend upon the island, the Puerto Rican diaspora comes together to create unprecedented forms of community-led mutual aid when assistance from the federal government and traditional NGOs fails to appear.LANDFALL features intimate encounters with Puerto Ricans as well as the newcomers flooding the island, LANDFALL reflects on a question of contemporary global relevance: when the world falls apart, who do we become? Director Cecilia Aldarondo joins us for frank conversation on US colonialism, Puerto Rico as a laboratory for social experimentation and the crypto-libertarian grifters peddling economic fairy-tales about freedom and financial independence.
Director’s Statement – As a Puerto Rican from the diaspora, I watched Hurricane María unfold from afar while cut off from loved ones, including my grandmother who would die six months after the storm. Reeling from the debt crisis, which unleashed a wave of austerity, poverty and migration that María only intensified, the Puerto Rico depicted in Landfall is a laboratory for greed, privatization, gentrification, the dismantling of social services, and the devastating effects of climate change. We may have a new President and Puerto Rico a new governor, but little has changed since María hit, as evidenced by the recent privatization of Puerto Rico’s electric grid. The Puerto Rican people are still fighting to end the profit-driven policies that have proved disastrous ever since President Obama signed them into existence. In Landfall I wanted to balance a cautionary tale for our times, while also prioritizing a dignified image of Puerto Ricans who have banded together to fight for their sovereignty. – Cecilia Aldarondo
“An impressive, impressionistic and intimate overview of the unhappy “Island of Enchantment” as it stands today, years after Hurricane Maria hit.” – Roger Moore, Movie Nation
“Cecilia Aldarondo’s intelligent, insightful documentary captures how a natural disaster served to expose the man-made troubles that have blighted the island down the centuries.” – Allan Hunter, Screen International
“Impressionistic rather than explanatory, Landfall seldom spells out the complex set of issues still afflicting an island long beset by “the colonial disease.” But it still makes a powerful statement…” – Dennis Harvey, 48 Hills
How did a group of humble factory workers become a phenomenal sports success story and the pride of an entire nation? Julian Faraut’s (John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection) ferociously innovative and visually stunning The Witches of the Orient tells the tale of the Japanese women’s volleyball team’s thrilling rise, unbelievable 258 games winning streak, and eventual Olympic gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. United by their jobs in a textile factory, the Japanese women’s volleyball team chased absolute perfection under the guidance of their grueling coach Hirofumi Daimatsu. Known as “the Demon,” his intense, endless practice sessions, shaped the team into a powerful force striking fear in the hearts of their competitors and earning them the racist and dismissive moniker “oriental witches.” Faraut’s sparkling documentary uses fantastic manga and anime sequences, such as Attack no 1 (1968), with archival footage of blood-curdling matches, extreme training sessions (driven by rhythmic editing and great music from French musician K-Raw) with testimony from the now-octogenarian teammates. The result charts the Witches’ meteoric rise and overwhelmingly vital spirit. The ‘Witches’ success is infectious and offers a hopeful prelude to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Director Julien Faraut joins to talk about the players rigorous training regime, the complicated relationship they had with their coach, Hirofumi Daimatsu, and the enduring bond between the women / factory workers that has lasted for nearly 60 years.
About the director –Having worked with the French Sports Institute (INSEP) for 15 years, Julien has had access to a large and mostly unseen collection of 16mm archival footage, aiming to bridge the connections between sport, cinema and art. With a fascination for the incredible achievements of highly skilled athletes, Julien’s portfolio of work explores these unique and astonishing human beings through the medium of film.
“The world-beating Japanese women’s volleyball team of the 1960s roars colourfully back to life.”- Screen Daily
“If the team was derided by their prejudiced (and defeated) foes in the moment of their success, this documentary elegantly restores the glow of legend, saving the champions the trouble of having to explain their heroism in words.” – Teo Bugbee, New York Times
“One of the more engrossing sports documentaries in recent memory, and it is one that even those without much interest in athletics in general or volleyball in particular will find to be worth watching.” – Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com
“The film’s fanciful archival montages shrewdly demonstrate the ways in which memory and art seamlessly combine to document reality.” – Mark Hanson, Slant Magazine
PHILLY D.A.is a multi-part series that details the dramatic work inside the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as he and his team work to end mass incarceration and transform the criminal justice system from the inside. In 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had one of the highest incarceration rates of any major city in the United States. And it’s become the epicenter of a historic experiment that could shape the future of prosecution in America for decades to come. When civil rights attorney Larry Krasner mounted a long-shot campaign to become District Attorney, he ran on a bold pledge: to end mass incarceration by changing the culture of the criminal justice system from within. He shocked the establishment by winning in a landslide. Now, the bureaucrats he spent his campaign denigrating are his co-workers; the police he alienated are his rank-and-file law enforcers. Pressure comes from all sides of a system resistant to reform. Krasner’s unapologetic promise to use the power of the D.A.’s office for sweeping change is what got him elected; now that he’s in office, that same stubbornness threatens to alienate those he needs to work with the most. From the eye of this political storm, filmmakers Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, and Nicole Salazar gained unprecedented access into Krasner’s office and behind the scenes of the criminal justice system. Over the course of eight episodes, PHILLY D.A. explores the most pressing social issues of our time—police brutality, the opioid crisis, gun violence, and mass incarceration—through the lens of an idealistic team attempting fundamental overhaul from within the system.The series debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, with its broadcast premiere in April of 2021 on ITVS’s flagship, Emmy award-winning documentary anthology series Independent Lenson PBS, followed by First Look Media’s streaming service Topic.
PHILLY D.A. is now streaming on TOPIC Topic features North American premieres and programming from around the world, complemented by a diverse slate of Originals including documentaries, scripted comedies and dramas, discussion shows, and more. With exclusive TV series and films that take you to more than 40 countries, Topic showcases an unparalleled diversity of creators, perspectives, and experiences. Topic is available to US and Canadian audiences on topic.com, AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android & Android TV, and Apple TV Channels, Roku Premium Channels, Bell Fibe, and Amazon Prime Video Channels.
About the filmmaker – Yoni Brook is a twice Independent Spirit-nominated cinematographer and producer. As a director, his films have screened at the Berlinale, New York and Toronto Film Festivals, True/False, and IDFA. For PBS’s POV series, Brook co-directed Bronx Princess (with Musa Syeed). Brook co-directed The Calling, a four hour series about young religious leaders for Independent Lens. His directorial debut A Son’s Sacrifice for Independent Lens, won Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival.
About the filmmaker – Ted Passon is an award-winning director and video artist. He has directed episodic series for Netflix and Disney. He is a 2016 Sundance Lab Fellow, a recipient of the Pew Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship Grant, and a 2016 Headlands Artist in Residency. He has exhibited his award-winning short films in festivals and galleries around the US and abroad including exhibitions by the Whitney Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and 96 Gillespie in London.
“All these conflicts are messy, uncomfortable and human, and “Philly D.A.” gives voice to a range of Philadelphians, including hard-line police, left-wing activists and residents worried about crime and police abuses.” – James Poniewozik, New York Times
“Philly D.A.’s fast-moving, over-the-shoulder, fly on the wall pressure-cooker pace conveys perfectly the importance of what is at stake and the life-and-death issues on the table for Krasner as he attempts to attack the system by the jugular.” – Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International
“Philly D.A. is a beautiful, sprawling story that does justice to both the giant organizations and the many individuals caught inside them. It also reminds us that “doing justice” is so much harder than we may want to believe.” – Kathryn VanArendonk, New York Magazine/Vulture
“Philly D.A. is the kind of documentary series that makes me feel good about the future of documentaries and nonfiction storytelling.” – David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun
“The filmmakers spent three years following the longtime criminal defense lawyer Larry Krasner for this essential, remarkably balanced vérité-style account of his unlikely tenure as the city’s district attorney.” – Judy Berman, TIME Magazine
“The trio of film-makers marshal a lot of material consistently well. Each installment looks primarily at one subject, while continuing to tie it into the wider drive to change the policy of mass incarceration.” – Lucy Mangan, Guardian
“For anyone looking for a leader who is not interested in simply paying lip service to win an election or a second term, Philly D.A. will likely be their candidate of choice.” – Kiko Martinez, Variety
Director Pedro Kos’ beautifully rendered story, REBEL HEARTS, takes us back to the 1960s and a Los Angeles-based group of trailblazing nuns, The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Sisters bravely stood up to the patriarchy of the Catholic Church, fighting for equality, their livelihoods, and their own freedom against an all-powerful Cardinal who sought to keep them in their place. Their bold acts of faith, defiance and activism turned the Church upside down, helping to reshape our society in ways that continue to resonate today. From marching in Selma in 1965 to the Women’s March in 2018, they challenged the notion of what a nun and a woman were supposed to be. These unlikely resistance fighters, including Anita Caspary, Helen Kelley, Pat Reif and iconic pop artist Corita Kent, were devoted to a life of service, not only to others but to themselves – forming a community that empowered each sister to live up to their fullest potential. Their desire to bring the church into modern life was met with forceful opposition at every turn. As each of them discovered their own talents and voices, they fully stepped into their roles as leaders in a movement that is still making waves. In the feature documentary REBEL HEARTS, director Pedro Kos combines incredible archival footage, stunning animation and two decades of interviews conducted and filmed by the film’s producer Shawnee Isaac-Smith, to beautifully illuminate the story of these incredible women. Director Pedro Kos joins us for a conversation on the historic, political, cultural and spiritual significance these brave women had and continue to have on their own faith, but on the world beyond the walls of their community.
About the filmmaker – Director, writer and editor Pedro Kos most recently wrote and produced Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer’s Netflix Original Documentary THE GREAT HACK which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a BAFTA award and shortlisted for an Academy Award. His feature directorial debut BENDING THE ARC (co-directed with Kief Davidson) premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Previously, he edited Jehane Noujaim’s Academy Award nominee THE SQUARE which earned Pedro an Emmy Award for Best Editing for a Non-Fiction program, Lucy Walker’s Academy Award nominee WASTE LAND and THE CRASH REEL (2013 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award winner), Jon Shenk’s THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (2011 TIFF Documentary People’s Choice Award winner) among others. Pedro is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and received his B.A. in Theater Directing from Yale University.
“Rebel Hearts tells the group’s story, focusing on why the nuns changed and what they risked in refusing to bend to church leadership. It’s a fast-paced and fascinating story that has implications far beyond Catholicism.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
“The brilliant documentary is a colourful, contemplative and informative presentation of women whose dedicated faith led them to activism.” – Emily Maskell, Flip Screen
“”Rebel Hearts” is still determined to not only uplift, but do justice to the women it’s profiling and just what gave them a communal backbone of such stuff that they eventually chose to defy the Vatican itself.” – Andrea Thompson, A Reel of One’s Own
“Neatly threads a global feminist awakening through the very specific experience of a few defiant, no-longer-cloistered women.” – Guy Lodge, Variety
“One of the best of Sundance for this years. Highly recommended.” – Steven Kopian, Unseen Films
“Before this film, I had never heard of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and now I can’t stop thinking about them.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
When you look at Kenny Scharf’s surreal, colorful, pop-culture inspired art you can’t help but wonder where he gets his inspiration. This documentary about Scharf’s fascinating life—made over 11 years by the artist’s daughter, Malia Scharf, and Max Basch—answers that question. This fascinating documentary shows Scharf’s New York City arrival in the early 1980s where he quickly befriended Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.This trio, amongst the fervent creative bustle of a depressed downtown scene, would soon take the art world by storm.Featuring interviews and rare archival footage with the artist himself along with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Ed Ruscha, Dennis Hopper and Yoko Ono, the film shows Scharf’s arrival in New York City in the early 1980s, where he quickly befriended Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. There, amongst the fervent creative bustle of a depressed downtown scene, the trio would soon take the art world by storm. But unlike Haring and Basquiat, who both died tragically young, Scharf lived through cataclysmic shifts in the East Village as well as the ravages of AIDS and economic depression. Decades later, still obsessed with garbage, cartoons and plastic, and committed to the idea that art should be fun, Scharf’s whimsical mind continues to generate works rife with iconic images and bizarre forms. Co-directors Malia Scharf and Max Basch join us for a conversation on the New York City in the 1980s, why so many artists from multiple disciplines seized the opportunity to make art amidst the rumble of the Downtown, and the re-evaluation of Kenny Scharf’s prodigious technicolor artistic vision.
“A compelling and informative introduction to the life and work of Kenny Scharf. His perseverance, passion for art as well as for his inner child are very palpable.” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru
“I found it heart warming and endearing, especially because of his daughter’s direction of the film. If you are interested in the art of this period, I think you will love this documentary.” – Katrina Olson, katrinaolson.ca
:This is the harrowing, heartbreaking, ultimately affirming story of Kenny Scharf, and I urge you to see it.: – Norman Gidney, Film Threat
“Playfully deconstructs the life and times of a creator who tries to balance their childlike playfulness with the adult responsibilities of the real world.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate
THE LAST OUT tells the story of three talented Cuban athletes, Happy, Carlos, and Victor, leave their families and homes behind as they set off in pursuit of the ultimate dream: a contract with Major League Baseball. Cuban ballplayers are among baseball’s brightest stars but Cuban ball-players can’t just sign out of Cuba – the US Embargo is still in place and only being strengthened under the current administration – so Cubans have to leave their homeland, often under dangerous circumstances and establish residency in a third Country like The Dominican Republic, Haiti or Costa Rica. At the rundown Estadio Antonio Escarre, they have spent the past year training long and hard, thousands of miles away from their families in Cuba. They travel to Costa Rica and train under a seedy sports agent who dangles promises while exploiting their talents. As they navigate immigration and the ulterior motives of handlers, each man finds an unexpected path forward to a better life. Set against the backdrop of the dangerous Central American migrant trail, THE LAST OUT offers a rare window into the dark side of professional sports. THE LAST OUT co-directors Sami Khan and Michael Gassert stop by to talk about their process of following the many twists and turns these young men’s lives take them on and the personal risk they and their team took in chronicling it.
Sami Khan’s most recent film, the short documentary St. Louis Superman (with Smriti Mundhra), was nominated for an Academy Award® and won a Special Jury Prize at Tribeca in 2019. Michael Gassert’s documentary and archival work has been supported by IFP, the Sundance Institute, UNESCO, and the Kennedy Center.
In this revealing observational portrait of political courage, Brandon Kramer’s THE FIRST STEP, focuses his lens on Black progressive activist and political commentator Van Jones as he faces a polarized society head on in an effort to reform a broken criminal justice system. Jones, known for calling Donald Trump’s election “a whitelash” live on primetime TV, navigates increasingly tense and isolating political and racial divides in his attempt to become a “bridge builder” during the Trump administration. Condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs, and by the left for embracing conservatives, this fraught and cinematically captured personal journey questions his integrity from all sides, forcing him to consider not only his activism but his own identity. THE FIRST STEP takes us behind the scenes of these dramatic power struggles, from internal divisions within both parties, to the lives of activists fighting on the frontlines for their communities. The First Step features Louis L. Reed, Jessica Jackson, Virgie Walker, Pete White, Tylo James. Including Jared Kushner, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Shelly Capito, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mike Lee, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Patrisse Cullors, Charlemagne Tha God, Karen Hunter, and Kim Kardashian. Director Brandon Kramer joins us to talk about the daunting challenge faced by Van ones as he attempts to find the common ground of common interest and policy reforms that will benefit all Americans, while being vilified by many of the same people he is working with.
About the filmmaker – Brandon Kramer is a documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon directed CITY OF TREES (Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, national broadcast on PBS’ America Reframed, Netflix); and the Webby Award-winning documentary series THE MESSY TRUTH WITH VAN JONES. Brandon won Best Director at the 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival and Indie Capital Awards, received the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and was a 2015 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Individual Arts Fellow. Brandon has directed over 30 short documentaries commissioned by public agencies and nonprofits including AARP and US Institute of Peace. Before starting MHP, Brandon served as a teaching artist for the John F. Kennedy Center’s national media education program. Brandon holds a bachelor’s degree in film and cultural anthropology from Boston University.
Jeffrey Wolf’s illuminating documentary BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS explores the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography. Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama. After the Civil War, Traylor continued to farm the land as a sharecropper until the late 1920s. Aging and alone, he moved to Montgomery and worked odd jobs in the thriving segregated black neighborhood. A decade later, in his late 80s, Traylor became homeless and started to draw and paint, both memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture. Having witnessed profound social and political change during a life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and the Great Migration, Traylor devised his own visual language to translate an oral culture into something original, powerful, and culturally rooted. He made well over a thousand drawings and paintings between 1939-1942. This colorful, strikingly modernist work eventually led him to be recognized as one of America’s greatest self-taught artists and the subject of a Smithsonian retrospective. Using historical and cultural context, BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s incomparable art to life. Making dramatic and surprising use of tap dance and evocative period music, the film balances archival photographs and footage, insightful perspectives from his descendents, and Traylor’s striking drawings and paintings to reveal one of America’s most prominent artists to a wide audience. Director Jeffrey Wolf (James Castle: Portrait of an Artist) and Producer Sam Pollard (Eyes on the Prize, MLK/FBI) join us for a conversation on the remarkable life and the unsettling times that infused the strikingly direct and unfettered work of a deeply intuitive artist.
Director’s Statement – My introduction to artist Bill Traylor came with the 1982 watershed exhibit “Black Folk Art in America” in DC. I had applied for a small grant to film the opening, and interview the featured living artists who attended. Traylor’s iconic art was used for the exhibit’s poster and still hangs in my office. Since encountering Bill Traylor’s art some 35 years ago, I have long contemplated his work, wanting to unravel and dig deeper into his world. Today, Bill Traylor is one of the most celebrated self-taught artists, with one of the most remarkable and unlikely biographies. Now, coming full circle, my documentary film Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts will premiere at the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, organized by Leslie Umberger, curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art. Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts strives to broaden our understanding of this period of transformation, a time when black people prospered as business professionals in Montgomery, in spite of living through the fear and volatility of Jim Crow South that impacted daily life. Traylor created his own visual language as a means to communicate and record the stories of his life. Traylor’s art is the sole body of work made by a black artist of his era to survive. He made well over a thousand drawings and paintings on discarded cardboard between 1939 and 1942. Bill Traylor did not begin to draw until he was an old man; and when he did, his burst of creativity demonstrated a unique mastery of artistic technique. Without setting out to do so, he became a chronicler of his times. – Jeffrey Wolf
“Critic’s Pick! A sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed Traylor’s vision.” – Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
“Brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s art to life and shines a spotlight on a creative gift that was long ignored and marginalized.” – Dave McNary, Variety
“Jeffrey Wolf’s exceptional documentary Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts seeks to tells its subject’s story in a deeply personal way, while also pulling back when needed to contextualize his work.” – G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
“Speaks volumes on the life and times of the artist. The pieces themselves… lend those ghosts of his past a persistent, ethereal relevance.” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
“A celebration of art and the best of humanity transcending poverty, racism and despair.”– Southern Poverty Law Center
“In Traylor, we can see the power of individual voice… the work is transcendent and essential.”– Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine
“An extraordinary artist… Traylor’s pictures stamp themselves on your eye and mind.”– Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker
TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY is a biographical documentary about a musician who is not only well known for hits such as TipToe Through The Tulips but for his trailblazing personae that paved the way for other rock stars such as David Bowie, Prince, Iggy Pop and Boy George. An outcast from a young age, Herbert Boudrous Khaury’s rise to stardom as Tiny Tim is the ultimate fairytale. Considered a freak by many of his peers, Tiny Tim left no one unaffected. His wedding to Miss Vicki on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was watched by over 45 million Americans, and his queer personality has been celebrated by the likes of Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga. There were plans and hopes that Tiny Tim would be a lasting star, not only a novelty act but one man ruined these plans: Tiny Tim. The memorable archival footage, exclusive access to Tiny Tim’s intense diaries, the playful and powerful animations and the interviews with his family and friends makes this film not only a captivating portrait, but also a psychological drama, examining the borderline between insanity and geniality. TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY is narrated by Weird Al Yankovic – reading from Tiny Tim revealing diary entries – and includes archival footage from D.A. Pennebaker, Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol and others. Director and Producer Johan von Sydow (Mare Kandre: I Am the Genius!, The Jussi Bjoerling Saga) joins us to talk about the rise and fall of an artist who was one of the most vulnerable, fearless and determined performers to ever stand in front of an audience. TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY is a unique portrait of one of the oddest stars the world has ever seen.
About the filmmaker – Johan von Sydow is a drector and staff producer at SVT:s well renowned arts and culture show Kobra. His first two documentaries (Mare Kandre and The Jussi Bjoerling Saga) were called “the two best Swedish cultural docs in the 2000s” by a leading tv-critic, and his latest (Ratata through the ´80s) was, according to another critic, “a benchmark for future Swedish popmusic documentaries”. The Jussi Bjoerling Saga was nominated as Best documentary in the Swedish TV-award Kristallen.
From Academy Award nominated filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan’s comes Our Towns. It is a moving and uplifting portrait of America and how the rise of civic and economic reinvention is transforming small cities and towns across the country. Based on the bestselling book “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America” by journalists James and Deborah Fallows, the visually stunning feature documentary spotlights ingenious local initiatives and explores how a sense of community and common language of change can help people and towns find a different path to the future. In 2011, the Fallows created a blogpost for TheAtlantic asking their readers to share compelling stories about their towns – from economic setbacks to local struggles or achievements – that have been overlooked by the national press. Within a week, they received over 1,000 responses. For the next five years, they traveled the United States exploring the changes taking place across small town America for what would become their bestselling book. In 2018, Ascher and Jordan joined them to revisit eight of those cities, including San Bernardino, CA; Sioux Falls, SD; Columbus, MS; Eastport, ME; Charleston, WV; and Bend, OR. Our Towns introduces us to a wide range of civic leaders, immigrants, educators, environmentalists, artists, students, and more, witnessing their love for their communities and the innovative ways they are improving them. OUR TOWNS provides an expansive perspective on America that finds unexpected connections between personal stories, community actions, and the arc of history. Although filmed before the pandemic, OUR TOWNS speaks to how the country, and by extension the world, can find a way forward.
About the filmmaker – STEVEN ASCHER is an Academy Award-nominated director and writer. He’s author of The Filmmaker’s Handbook, a bestselling text, and has taught filmmaking, most recently as a visiting professor at Harvard. The Boston Globe calls his work “filmmaking at its finest.” He wrote, directed and co-produced the short drama Seduction Theory which was selected for the Toronto International Shorts Festival , the Los Angeles International Shorts Festival, won a Platinum Remi for best dark comedy at Worldfest Houston and screened at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner. He is author of The Filmmaker’s Handbook: a Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age (with Ed Pincus) a bestselling text and a staple of universities and film schools internationally. Called “the bible” by The Independent, the “gold-standard technical reference” by The Boston Globe, and “seminal” by The New York Times. Ascher has written greatly expanded new editions; the fifth was released in 2019. Over 360,000 copies in print. He has served as a juror at the Sundance Film Festival, the Emmys, the Full Frame Film Festival, the Independent Film Festival Boston, the National Student Film Festival, Woods Hole Film Festival and the McKnight Fellowship. He has been a guest critic for several film programs including Yale University, Duke University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Writing on Ascher’s work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Variety, Ecran Total and books including Documentary Storytelling by Sheila Curren Bernard. For more go to: West City Films
About the filmmaker – JEANNE JORDAN is an Academy Award-nominated producer, director, and editor of documentaries and dramas. TheIndependent said of her resume, “it reads like PBS’s greatest hits.” Jordan was Series Producer of the PBS children’s series Postcards from Buster for two seasons, producing a new, international version of the show, nominated for the Outstanding Children’s Series Emmy both years. Jordan edited two films of the groundbreaking civil rights series Eyes on the Prize which was nominated for an Oscar and won the DuPont Columbia Award, and films for American Experience, including season opener, Amelia Earhart and The Wright Stuff. Other editing includes My Mother’s Murder for HBO and the Emmy-nominee, A Normal Face for NOVA. Her dramatic feature work includes several films for American Playhouse, including Noon Wine, Lemon Sky and the Emmy-winning series Concealed Enemies on the trials of Alger Hiss. She edited the bilingual feature, Blue Diner which won the prestigious ALMA award. In 1988, Jordan and Orlando Bagwell produced Running With Jesse, a chronicle of Jesse Jackson’s presidential run for FRONTLINE, which Jordan also edited. She has produced and edited several pieces for The PBS Newshour and films for the PBS series Art Close Up, which won and were nomintated for Emmys. Jordan graduated from the University of Iowa and began her career at Iowa Public Television. She has twice been honored with a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and she was a member of the Breadloaf writers conference. She has taught filmmaking at Harvard and the Art Institute of Boston. She has lectured and held master classes in several countries, including Tokyo University, the CPB/PBS Producers Academy, the Full Frame Fellows Program, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard Law School, and the Aristoteles Workshop in Romania sponsored by the European network Arte. She has been a guest critic at Yale University, Duke University and Rhode Island School of Design. Jordan has advised and contributed to numerous film productions. She and Ascher are Executive Producers of the ITVS-supported film, Deej, winner of the Peabody Award. She has received grants from the the LEF Foundation, the Artists Foundation, the Paul Robeson Fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Iowa Humanities and many other state humanities and arts councils. Her films have screened at major festivals internationally and are in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, Harvard Film Archive, UCLA and the Sundance Collection. Jordan’s writing on films has appeared in Documentary Magazine. Writing on Jordan’s work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Variety, Ecran Total and books including Documentary Storytelling by Sheila Curren Bernard. For more go to: West City Films
“Ascher and Jordan’s films are consistently thoughtful and moving, deeply committed, and resonant with craft: their considerable gifts as filmmakers include their ability to make what is complex and difficult to film and edit seem easy.”– Scott MacDonald, American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary
“Dedicated filmmakers with an uncanny eye for capturing drama in the most commonplace activities.” – John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival Festival
Director Benjamin Ree’s latest documentary, THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF,tracks the journey of young Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova after relocating from Berlin to Oslo to launch her career as a painter. In April of 2015, her two most valuable, large-format paintings are stolen – with care – in broad daylight from the window fronts of Galleri Nobel in Oslo’s city center. Desperate for answers about the theft of her paintings, Barbora is presented with an unusual opportunity to reach out to one of the men involved in the heist – Norwegian career criminal, Karl-‘Bertil’ Nordland. Ree begins to document the story after Barbora unbelievably invites her thief to sit for a portrait, capturing the unlikely relationship that ensues as the equally damaged duo find common ground and form an inseparable bond through their mutual affinity for art. Over three years, THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF follows the incredible story of the artist looking for her stolen paintings, while at the same time turning the thief into art. Director Benjamin Ree (Magnus) joins us for a lively conversation about gaining the confidence of these two very complex people and why it was important for him to craft a story where Barbara and Karl resilience and humanity shone through.
2020 Sundance Film Festival: Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling
Director’s statement – “From the moment I began filming I wanted to explore the complex friendship between the painter and the thief. Two questions were the driving motor: What do we humans do to be seen and appreciated, and why do we help others? For me, filmmaking is about asking intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging questions through observing human behavior. I hope I have managed to raise some intriguing questions with this film, questions you will think about long after the end credits. I have also tried to push the cinema verite form onto a new path, with several perspectives jumping back and forth in time, revealing new layers of the friendship throughout the whole film. I have worked hard to find a cinematic form to suit the content for each scene, that reflects the inner state of the characters.” – Benjamin Ree
About the filmmaker – Benjamin Ree is a Norwegian documentary filmmaker. In the beginning of his career he worked for BBC and Reuters. Today he makes award winning short and feature documentary films. Ree’s first feature documentary is Magnus, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and was sold to 64 countries. The film is a coming of age story of a modern genius, Magnus Carlsen, who is the world’s best chess player. The film won many awards at festivals around the world. Ree’s second feature is The Painter and the Thief, premiered at World Documentary Competition at Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and won a Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling. Benjamin Ree works for the production company and broadcaster VGTV, which co-produced Magnus and The Painter and the Thief. For more on the filmmaker go to benjaminree.com
“Benjamin Ree’s extraordinary documentary feels like a movie – there’s a heist, villains who are not what they seem, scenes of striking intimacy and some fabulous twists.” – Ed Potton, Observer (UK)
“It ends up being about friendship, addiction, and the power of art — but also the cost of art. Throughout it all, the spine of this movie is the rich, layered, and complicated friendship between these two people.” Angie Han, FilmWeek (KPCC – NPR Los Angeles)
“[T]here are moments so intimate and unguarded that you may briefly dissociate and question what you’re watching – a documentary, or its carefully scripted and acted narrative counterpart.” – Justin Chang,
“So compelling is “The Painter and the Thief” – and ultimately so powerfully moving in its faith in human resilience – that you may not notice the illuminating ways in which Ree plays with form and viewpoint.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“A story of deeply human connection between two souls that actually see each other, and the healing power wrapped up in that sense of visibility.” – Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
Sophia Nahli Allison’s A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA righteous rebuttal to the injustice surrounding the shooting death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins at a South Central Los Angeles store that became a flashpoint for the city’s 1992 civil uprising. As the Black community expressed its profound pain in the streets, Latasha’s friends and family privately mourned the loss of a vibrant child whose full story was never in the headlines. Three decades later, A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA removes Latasha from the context of her death and rebuilds an archive of a promising life lost. Oral history and memories from Latasha’s best friend and cousin converge in a dreamlike portrait that shows the impact one brief but brilliant life can have. Sophia Nahli Allison grew up in South Central Los Angeles and recalls experiencing the 1992 L.A. riots as a four year-old girl. Though Latasha’s death was a catalyst for the riots, Sophia wanted to make a film about Latasha’s life so she would be remembered beyond the trauma of a Black body, beyond a statistic, a newspaper headline, or an inaccurate Wikipedia page. Director, producer, cinematographer and editor Sophia Nahli Allison stops by to talk about how a Latasha’s legacy should not be judged in terms of longevity or her tragic end, but on the lasting impact that Latasha’s kindness, bravery and encouragement continues to have on people’s lives.
The Latasha Harlins story continues… Earlier this year, a mural created by artist Victoria Cassinova and dedicated to the life and legacy of Latasha Harlins debuted on what would have been her 45th birthday. Located at the Algin Sutton Recreation Center in South LA, the mural stands at the front of the building where Latasha and her friends spent time throughout their childhood and teenage years. The art is based on a portrait of Latasha meant to represent her innocence and youth. The words to the left of her face are a poem Latasha wrote, it is also spoken in the film. The phrase “We Queens” is something Latasha often said to her friends to remind them of their power and importance. Latasha’s full name is a focal point. Watch a video of the mural’s creation that can be downloaded here.
The Latasha Harlins story continues… Earlier this year, a mural created by artist Victoria Cassinova and dedicated to the life and legacy of Latasha Harlins debuted on what would have been her 45th birthday. Located at the Algin Sutton Recreation Center in South LA, the mural stands at the front of the building where Latasha and her friends spent time throughout their childhood and teenage years. The art is based on a portrait of Latasha meant to represent her innocence and youth. The words to the left of her face are a poem Latasha wrote, it is also spoken in the film. The phrase “We Queens” is something Latasha often said to her friends to remind them of their power and importance. Latasha’s full name is a focal point. Watch a video of the mural’s creation that can be downloaded here.
“Allison’s experimental style, lush palette, fast-paced editing and tender close-ups on Latasha’s cousins and friends, all now 40-something Black women like me, recreate the loss of Latasha’s innocence.” – The New York Times
“If you’ve seen anything of Latasha’s life, it’s likely the final seconds of her existence. Allison instead creates a brief, stirring portrait of the fifteen years that preceded them.” – Esquire
“The 15-minute film gives new meaning to the notion of “short and sweet” and in it, Allison manages to paint a picture of a life not lived. A Love Song for Latasha is a mesmerizing piece of work that takes an unconventional route to storytelling.” – The Grio
“This documentary is an invitation to rethink how Black life and death are documented in a society where the media glamorizes violence against Black bodies. This work is especially crucial during these a time when Black death is at the forefront of daily coverage, and it challenges us to remember the Black womxn, trans men, and non-binary folx we’ve lost and to reimagine the rich and nuanced lives they lived.” – Vice
In this Oscar® nominated Best Documentary (Short ) we follow one of the last surviving members of the French Resistance, ninety-year-old Colette Marin-Catherine. As a young girl, she belonged to a family of Resistance fighters that included her 17-year-old brother Jean-Pierre. The last time Colette saw Jean-Pierre was in 1943, when he was arrested by the Gestapo and “disappeared” into the Nazi concentration camp system, never to be seen by his family again. The family was inwardly shattered, but outwardly stoic. No tears. Never permitted. For the past 74-years, Colette has never allowed herself to put one foot in Germany. But that’s all about to change when a young history student named Lucie enters her life. Lucie is researching the camp in Germany where Jean-Pierre died. Tracing the story of Jean-Pierre is, in fact, her special assignment.The film follows Colette as she travels with Lucie to what remains of the forced labor camp near Nordhausen, Germany. It’s a journey of discovery on many levels, but the film’s greatest revelation is Colette herself, who at 90, is finally ready to let go of what she has, for over seven decades, held so tightly inside. Lucie’s youth and genuine concern has pierced the armor. The ultimate discovery of the film is Colette’s to make. That some wounds can only be healed if we allow them to be re-opened. Director Anthony Giacchino and Producer Alice Doyard join us to talk about the incredible strength of Colette Marin-Catherine and why her clear-eyed admonishment that we never forget the monstrous brutality of Nazi Germany as well as the importance of vigilance and resistance.
Director’s Statement – “When I first met Colette in the fall of 2019, one of the first things she told me was: ‘When it’s your turn to live through a war, you’ll see you don’t have time to feel anything.’ It was quite an introduction. While making the film, I learned that only one percent of the French population had actively resisted the Nazi occupation before the Normandy Invasion and Colette — as a young girl — was one of those resisters. She had so much to tell us about the war. I was particularly interested in her immediate family, as they all played their part in the Resistance. In fact, Colette’s 17-year-old brother, Jean-Pierre, was captured by the Gestapo and died a gruesome death in a German forced labor camp. Seven full decades beyond the events of Colette’s youth, the war’s aftermath remains as a dramatic, living thing to filmically explore. And the terrific reality is that war, at its core, is a universally human experience that stays inside all who go through it. And as Colette’s story demonstrates, healing is possible if we find the courage to face our darkest and most haunting memories.” – Anthony Giacchino
“The bond between these two different, very strong, intelligent women renders this film staggeringly powerful whilst remaining simplicity itself. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” – Emma Thompson
THE LOST SONS follows Paul Fronczak, a man who discovered headlines his parents made for grieving their kidnapped child, then celebrating two years later when he was found, he begins to investigate. Fronczak begins a decades long investigation to find out what happened. At the age of 10, while searching for Christmas presents, Paul Fronczak unearthed a hoard of newspaper clippings about his parents: images of them grieving for a kidnapped baby and then celebrating two years later over a toddler found abandoned and returned to them. Is Paul that kidnapped baby? If so, where was he for two years? The investigation launched a deeper look into a life shrouded in mystery. Decades later, as questions continue to mount, Paul embarks on a journey for answers, plunging him into the dark depths of the secrets that families keep. The story of THE LOST SONS is told through a blend of re-enactments, the testimony of close family and first-hand witnesses, news footage, and family archive. Director Ursula Macfarlane (Untouchable, One Deadly Weekend in America, Tsunami: Survivor Stories) ) joins us for a conversation on how she came to this astonishing story, getting to know Paul Fronczak, finding the right balance in telling a story with so many and complicated elements.
About the filmmaker – Ursula Macfarlane is an award-winning documentary and drama director and executive producer from London, with two sons and a dog; yogi. Her work is an eclectic body of films and often focusing on family stories, and so-called ordinary people experiencing extraordinary challenges. Macfarlane loves to combine the epic with the intimate. Her documentary, The Lost Sons, for CNN Films, is a stranger-than-fiction story about a stolen baby, a family secret, and two unravelling mysteries. Her documentary Untouchable, is about the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Macfarlane’s films include Breaking Up With The Joneses, a feature documentary about a couple going through a divorce, One Deadly Weekend In America, about young lives cut short through gun violence, The Life and Loss Of Karen Woo, a film about a young British doctor murdered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Charlie Hebdo: Three Days That Shook Paris, the story of the Paris terror attacks. To find out more go to: ursulamacfarlane.com
“Macfarlane … expertly combines copious archival footage … interviews, recreations and other narrative techniques to create a gripping thrill ride of investigative journalism.” – Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail
“Macfarlane tells the convoluted story in a clean and efficient manner and the result will have your mind reeling long after it has concluded.” – Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com
Aengus James’ Award-winning documentary AFTER THE MURDER OF ALBERT LIMA tells the story of a son obsessed with capturing his father’s killer. Paul Lima has spent over a decade seeking justice for his slain father, Albert. Though convicted, Albert’s murderer has remained free in Honduras. After years of the legal system failing him, Paul takes the unorthodox step of hiring two bounty hunters to travel with him to Honduras to track down and capture his father’s killer. This riveting, and, at times, darkly comedic documentary explores both the importance of family and the dangers of taking the law into your own hands. Director Aengus James (I Am Jazz, Scandalous) joins us to talk about the tragedy that has been visited upon the Lima family, the heart-stopping actions that Paul and James’ crew took in the bring this story to life and the collapse of any semblance of civil society in Honduras.
Director’s Statement – A man hires two bounty hunters to help him kidnap his father’s killer in Honduras… what could possibly go wrong? From the beginning, this was a bad idea. At the time we filmed this documentary, a report on NPR named Honduras the murder capital of the world; it had a case closure rate of just 2.5%. When I first met Paul (Lima), he was at a breaking point. The desperation he felt was echoed by victims’ families in Honduras we spoke to. What is justice in a broken and horribly corrupt system? Is vengeance just? Paul’s obsession for justice and his moral struggle with vengeance compelled me to follow him on this deeply flawed adventure. – Aengus James
About the filmmaker – Aengus James is an award-winning filmmaker and television producer. His recent works include SCANDALOUS (Magnolia, CNN, BBC), Undercover Billionaire (Discovery), and the GLAAD Media Award-winning I Am Jazz (TLC). Aengus began his career serving as Barry Levinson’s cinematographer in POLIWOOD. AFTER THE MURDER OF ALBERT LIMA follows Aengus’ directorial debut and IDA award nominated documentary comedy AMERICAN HARMONY. He has created and directed content for global brands and non-profits, and his work has received numerous honors including special recognition from the White House and the United Nations for raising awareness on issues including veterans’ mental health and women’s healthcare around the world. Aengus is the co-founder and head of This is Just a Test.
“More than once I had to hit pause to investigate if what I was seeing actually happened, but it ended up winning me over with its absurd and equally emotional and healing story.” – Jorge Rivera Rubio, QiiBO
“After the Murder of Albert Lima is a truly singular experience, stuck somewhere between laughter and tears.” – Rob Aldam, Backseat Mafia
Director Maya Zinshtein and Producer Abraham (Abie) Troen’s well-balanced, insightful documentary ’TIL KINGDOM COME focuses on the millions of American Evangelicals who are praying for the State of Israel. Among them are the Binghams, a dynasty of Kentucky pastors, and their Evangelical congregants in an impoverished coal mining town. They donate sacrificially to Israel’s foremost philanthropic organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, because they fervently believe the Jews are crucial to Jesus’s return. ’TIL KINGDOM COME traces this unusual relationship, from rural Kentucky to the halls of government in Washington, through the moving of the American Embassy in Jerusalem and to the annexation plan of the West-Bank.With unparalleled access, the film exposes a stunning backstory of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, where financial, political and messianic motivations intersect with the apocalyptic worldview that is insistently reshaping American foreign policy toward Israel and the Middle-East. Director Maya Zinshtein and Producer Abie Troen join us for a lively conversation on how their clear-eyed film takes us right into the heart of some of the world’s most powerful political forces and how this confluence of interests are apparently hellbent to realize a worldview where the world ends in fiery judgement for non-believers and true believers.
About the filmmaker – Maya Zinshtein – Director, producer Maya Zinshtein is an Emmy award-winning Israeli documentary filmmaker and journalist with a BA in Cinema and French studies and an MA in Security and Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University. Her last documentary “Forever Pure” won an Emmy award for Outstanding Politics and Government documentary in 2018 (Independent Lens/PBS). An alumna of Sundance Institute, for the last ten years she has directed and produced documentaries broadcast on Israeli TV and abroad including by Netflix, BBC, ARTE/ZDF, and PBS, and screened at over 100 festivals around the world.
About the filmmaker – Abraham (Abie) Troen – Producer, Cinematography Abraham “Abie” Troen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker & D.O.P. He has led doc projects in Israel, Kenya, India, Mexico and the US, his work screened at TIFF, SXSW, Doc NYC, IDFA and online for National Geographic, Vanity Fair, CNE and Out Magazine. Abie studied at the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem and Brandeis University before receiving an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. There he was awarded the Annenberg Fellowship for specializing in documentary filmmaking. He currently resides in LA and films on both sides of the Atlantic.
“A toxic mix of fundamentalist religion and real world politics is examined soberly but startlingly by Israeli documentarist Maya Zinstein in ‘Til Kingdom Come.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International
STRAY explores what it means to live as a being without status or security, following three strays as they embark on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society. Zeytin, fiercely independent, embarks on adventures through the city at night; Nazar, nurturing and protective, easily befriends the humans around her; while Kartal, a shy puppy living on the outskirts of a construction site, finds companions in the security guards who care for her. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians with whom they share the streets. Director Elizabeth Lo joins us to talk about her remarkable debut documentary film, meeting Zeytin and Nazar and how she navigated the streets and the people of Istanbul to present an illuminating observation of human civilization through the unfamiliar gaze of dogs and a sensory voyage into new ways of seeing.
Director’s Statement – The impetus for STRAY is personal. When my childhood dog died, I felt a quiet need to suppress my grief at his passing. I was shocked that something as personal as how my heart responds to the death of a loved one could be shaped by an external politics that defined him or “it” as “valueless.” As my grief evolved, I also saw how our moral conceptions of who or how much one matters can be in constant flux. This transformative moment is what propels STRAY’s exploration into value, hierarchy, and sentience. In 2017, I traveled to Turkey, a country whose history and relationship with strays is unique in the world. Turkish authorities have tried to annihilate stray dogs since 1909, leading to mass killings of Istanbul’s street dogs for the last century. But widespread protests against these killings transformed Turkey into one of the only countries where it is now illegal to euthanize or hold captive any stray dog. Every free-roaming dog today is an emblem of resistance — living manifestations of compassion in the face of intolerance. I first met Zeytin, our canine protagonist, as she hurried past me in a busy underground tunnel in Istanbul. Intrigued by her sense of purposefulness, I chased after her. She was joined by Nazar, another street dog. As it turned out, they were on the heels of a group of young men from Syria — Jamil, Halil and Ali — who were living on the streets as refugees in Turkey. Zeytin quickly emerged as the focus of our production because she was one of the rare dogs we followed who did not inadvertently end up following us back. To the very last day of shooting, she remained radically independent. In Zeytin I saw a character who could fully envelop us within her own non-human will — a quality that was vital to a story about dogs who, unlike pets, are not only defined by their relationship to humans. My journey through Turkey traversed a socio-cultural terrain in which for a moment, one nation became refuge for many others. When xenophobia, species destruction and nationalist sentiment are rising all around the world, STRAY springs from these cracks in our anthropocentric modernity. It asks us to re-evaluate what it means that our streets are continuously emptied of everyone except those whom we’ve deemed to be its legitimate citizens. Through STRAY, I hope to continually push the boundaries of the cinematic medium in order to explore and challenge unequal states of personhood — to expand viewers’ circles of moral and perceptual consideration beyond their own class, culture, and species. – Elizabeth Lo
About the filmmaker – Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor Elizabth Lois an award-winning filmmaker. Her work has been broadcast and showcased internationally, including at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Hot Docs, True/False, BAM Cinema fest, New York Times Op-Docs, and PBS POV. Elizabeth was named one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine in 2015 and was featured in the 2015 Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at Cannes Lion. She was selected for the New York Film Festival Artist Academy in 2018 and the Locarno Film Festival Filmmakers Academy in 2019. Elizabeth’s work has played at over 100 film festivals and has won numerous awards. Her short films include Hotel 22 (2015), Bisonhead (2016), Mother’s Day (2017), The Disclosure President (2016), Notes from Buena Vista (2016), Treasure Island (2014), and Last Stop in Santa Rosa (2013). In 2017, her collected shorts were released by Video Project as a DVD, The Short Films of Elizabeth Lo, for distribution to educational institutions and libraries around the world. Elizabeth was born and raised in Hong Kong and holds a B.F.A. from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. STRAY is her feature film debut.
“The ultimate love letter to dogs and a multifaceted moral inquiry into humanity… [A] virtuosic feature documentary debut.” – Tomris Laffly, Variety
“Dog lovers will drool over this profound canine love letter from Turkey. Gorgeous, absorbing…The dogs run most of the show, and they serve as remarkable centerpieces in a complex visual tapestry.”- Eric Kohn, IndieWire
“A howling success. Artful, intimate… ‘Stray’ shines a piercing light on what it means to be an outcast in a teeming metropolis.”- Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
Ripped from the pages of Guatemala’s recent wrenching history,LA LLORONA follows the story of a fictional and indignant retired general, Enrique, as he is being forced to face his murderous past at his own trial for the genocidal massacre of thousands of Mayans decades ago. As a horde of angry protestors threatens to invade their opulent home, the women of the house – his haute wife, conflicted daughter, and precocious granddaughter – weigh their responsibility to shield the erratic, senile Enrique against the devastating truths behind being publicly revealed and the increasing sense that a wrathful supernatural force is targeting them for his crimes. Meanwhile, much of the family’s domestic staff flees, leaving only loyal housekeeper Valeriana until a mysterious young indigenous maid arrives.A tale of horror and magical realism, the film reimagines the iconic Latin American fable as an urgent metaphor of Guatemala’s recent history and tears open the country’s unhealed political wounds to grieve a seldom discussed crime against humanity. LA LLORONA marks Jayro Bustamante’s third feature and demonstrates his continued efforts to highlight social inequality in his native Guatemala with deft sensitivity and visual richness. The Silver Bear-winning director, writer, producer and editor, Jayro Bustamante (Temblores, Ixcanul) joins us to talk about his tale of horror and fantasy, ripe with suspense, and an urgent metaphor of Guatemalan recent history and its unhealed political wounds,
2021 National Board of ReviewWINNER – Best Foreign Language Film
2021 Satellite AwardsWINNER – Best Film, International
2021 Critics Choice AwardsNominee – Best Foreign Language Film
97% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Bustamante’s La Llorona is a bold assertion of the embedded prejudice against indigenous populations in his home country of Guatemala while also asserting that women and children in particular bore the brunt of the violence.” – Natalia Keogan, Paste Magazine
“Smart and elegant. The real horror lies not in the supernatural but in the savage acts of men.” – Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times
“Bustamante’s reimagining of the famous folkloric figure is a reminder that in the right hands, horror can be turned into something with almost indescribably enormous ideological potency.” – Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, AWFJ Women on Film
“Bustamante’s latest travels into the dark recesses of the human condition to shine a brightly shimmering spotlight on vile evils that should never be locked away and forgotten.” Sara Michelle Fetters, MovieFreak.com
“La Llorona is a beautifully conceived and constructed piece which cleverly utilises ghost story tropes, imagery and sound effects to enhance the impact of its real-life inspired revelations.” – Emma Simmonds, The List
Filmed over the summer festival season, UNDERPLAYED presents a portrait of the current status of the gender, ethnic, and sexual equality issues through the lens of the female pioneers, next-generation artists, and industry leaders who are championing the change, and inspiring a more diverse pool of role models for future generations. The impetus for the UNDERPLAYED came to light during the 2018 Bud Light House Party Tour, when Bud Light Canada sat down with artists from diverse backgrounds and genres to learn about the evolution of their careers, and their unique experiences in recording, touring, and performing. Key conversations with female DJs exposed a striking gender inequality in the space, and further research substantiated their experiences. Electronic music was born from the ideals of diversity, community, and inclusivity; yet in 2019 only 7% of Billboard’s Top 100 DJs were women. They make up less than 3% of production and technical roles in the music industry. For women of color, it’s less than 0.3%.An official selection of both the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, UNDERPLAYED features NERVO, Rezz, TOKiMONSTA, Alison Wonderland, and Tygapaw.Director Stacey Lee stops by to talk about just how grotesquely under represented women are in a music genre that has made truckloads of music from a female fan base that is ready and willing to support a rise wave of women taking their place behind soundboards and laptops all around the world.
World Premiere – 2020 Toronto International Film Festival
Official Selection – 2020 Tribeca Film Festival
Director’s Statement – “When the pioneering godmothers of electronic music first began tinkering away in their scientific labs back in the 50s and 60s, they could never have imagined their little back room experiments would make way for a blossoming 8 billion dollar global industry today. Nor could they have foreseen how drastically its very creative, egalitarian roots would transmute from an open experimental playing field, to an industry dominated by a one-dimensional male point of view. This is a universal theme, and sadly one that I can personally relate to as a “female” filmmaker in a heavily male field. I empathize and understand the frustration of having to fight harder to be considered for jobs “because there aren’t as many good female directors,” to turn a deaf ear to the belief that women “can’t be technical”, that we don’t deserve equal pay, or in my instance, hiding my pregnancy beneath an oversized blazer so I wouldn’t jeopardize my chances of securing jobs. When I learned about the shared plight of the women in electronic music, I saw a necessity to tell a story that speaks to the deeply personal and very human impact of this global issue. That transcends the music space, and speaks to the collective experience of so many working women today from film to politics and beyond.” Ultimately Underplayed raises the question; do we want our ears to be controlled by logarithms, safe bets and preconceived formulas…or become a space that is radically free to sound as rich, diverse and ever- changing as the world around us? The hope is for Underplayed to stimulate the conversation needed to break down the systematic bias’ and bring electronic music back to its open, diverse and fiercely experimental roots. To remind us that equality isn’t about one side defeating the other, but by all sides coming together for the greater good. Because the more we can lift each other up, the more we all have to gain.” – Stacey Lee
About the filmmaker – Director Stacey Lee was born in New Zealand, Stacey Lee’s work focuses on humanity, music, and movement. Her documentary short Live Fast Draw Yung premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2015, winning awards in Atlanta and Tacoma. She was recently shortlisted for the Cannes Young Directors Award and selected as part of the DGA/AICP Diversity Showcase. Underplayed is her feature debut.
Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle—which to date has resisted all of modern science’s efforts at cultivation. They’re guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly-trained dogs. Co-directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (The Last Race) seamlessly navigates viewers through an enigmatic world where the denizens live a simpler, slower way of life, in harmony with their loyal animals and their picture-perfect land, seemingly straight out of a fairy tale. They’re untethered to cell phone screens or the Internet, opting instead to make their food and drink by hand and prioritizing in-person connections and community. The demand for white truffles increases year after year, even as the supply decreases. As a result of climate change, deforestation, and the lack of young people taking up the mantle, the truffle hunters’ secrets are more coveted than ever. However, as it soon becomes clear, these aging men may just hold something much more valuable than even this prized delicacy: the secret to a rich and meaningful life. Co-directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (The Last Race) join us to talk about their immersion into a very closed, arcane multi-tiered society that dates back hundreds of years and the impact that modernity and climate disruption is having on this enchanting corner of the world.
About the filmmakers – Michael Dweck is an award-winning American filmmaker and contemporary visual artist. Best recognized for his evocative narrative photography, Dweck artistically investigates the on-going struggles between identity and adaptation found within endangered societal enclaves. Dweck’s works have been featured in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide, and are part of prestigious international art collections, including the archive of the Department of Film at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, where two of his long-form television pieces reside.In his first feature-length film, “The Last Race” (Sundance US Documentary Competition 2018), Dweck extended his exploratory repertoire by combining observational documentary, stylized imagery, and a symphonic merging of motion and sound. Experimenting with both form and subject matter, Dweck highlights the mysterious beauty and exuberant passion shared by the last custodians of a disappearing tradition. Aside from creating an artistic appraisal of class and American identity, Dweck’s film allegorizes the broader, global epidemic wherein handmade objects and ritualistic traditions face extinction at the hands of mass conglomerate takeover. For more go to: michaeldweck.co
About the filmmaker – Gregory Kershaw has worked on narrative and documentary film productions as a producer, cinematographer, and director. Most recently, he was a senior producer at Fusion television where he made environmental documentaries. His work explored the impact of climate change on indigenous populations throughout Latin America in a series of United Nations Foundation funded videos, as well as long form documentaries on the global species extinction crisis featuring environmental luminaries such as Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle. Gregory is a graduate of Columbia University’s MFA film program.
100% on Rotten Tomatoes
“A scrumptious cinematic journey. Try not to fall hard for the joy it spreads.”– Tomris Laffly, VARIETY
“Gorgeous. Unique. Delightful. Visual Poetry. A fascinating glimpse inside a world of arcane knowledge and the luxury market that feeds off it. A constant feast for the eyes and a nourishment for the soul, giving the illusion of a journey back in time to a pre-technology age of simpler pleasures.”– David Rooney, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“An eccentric world that you have never heard of, never seen…”– Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES
“It’s a sweet and simple movie with a healthy dose of bittersweet wistfulness for a fading world, and it’s beautiful.” – Alissa Wilkinson,Vox
As the latest film from filmmakers Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna lays bares the dioxin-based defoliant, insecticide, Agent Orange catastrophe did not end with the Vietnam War. Today, the world over, a primary chemical of the toxic defoliant controls weeds in farming, forestry, parks, even on children’s playgrounds. Agent Orange wreaks havoc on the human genome, causing deformed births and deadly cancers. After decades of struggle and tragic personal losses, two heroic women are leading a worldwide movement to end the plague and hold the manufacturers accountable. In France, Tran To Nga is suing the American chemical industry for poisoning her in Vietnam. In America, Carol Van Strum exposes the continuing use of toxic herbicides in the Pacific Northwest. Incriminating documents disappear. Activists are threatened. A helicopter technician secretly films the contamination of reservoirs, while a massive industrial cover-up goes on. The People vs. Agent Orange co-directors Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna join us for a conversation on the journey of two women, joned together in their mutual pain, resist intimidation and threats, bringing to light the ongoing, intergenerational catastrophe of chemical warfare and toxic herbicides in the hope of bringing the manufacturers and business related perpetrators to justice.
Jury Award at Eugene Environmental Film Festival 2020
About the filmmakers: Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson produced and co-directed In Bed with Ulysses as well as Lodz Ghetto, both of these widely acclaimed films had nationwide theatrical releases. Lodz Ghetto was short-listed for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar. Adelson and Taverna also collaborated on Two Villages in Kosovo, In Bed with Ulysses and Agent Orange: La derniere bataille, an adaptation of The People vs. Agent Orange made for Arte in French and German. Alan Adelson works in both film and print: as a page-one investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and national magazines he made worldwide headlines exposing the disappearance of enough enriched plutonium to make two Hiroshima-sized bombs. Early in his journalistic career he published investigative articles on the chemical industry. Kate Taverna has edited more than 50 films over her career: Asylum and Killing in the Name were the Academy Award nominees in the Best Short documentary category in 2004 and 2011 respectively. The feature length Pray the Devil Back to Hell won the Best Documentary award at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry won the Audience award at the 2014 Boston Independent Film Festival, released theatrically nationwide and was translated into 22 languages andshown globally on Netflix.Her broadcast editing work has been seen on CBS, IFC, A&E, BBC and PBS, among others.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Oscar® in the Best Documentary Film – Short Form, THE SPEED CUBERS drops us into the frenetic world of Speed Cubing. Cubing is the competitive sport of solving a Rubik’s Cube in mere seconds that has grown into a worldwide phenomenon in recent years. For nearly a decade in the sport, Feliks Zemdegs from Australia, has reigned unchallenged as the king of cubers, the greatest of all time. That is, until now. The cubing world was stunned when an unknown challenger named Max Park from California took home the Gold medal in 2017 and emerged onto the global stage. Since then, Max’s rise to the top has been swift and steady, save for one obstacle in his way: Feliks. The two have been trading wins and world records steadily, neither one able to truly dominate while the other still competes. But rather than developing into a bitter rivalry, Feliks and Max have instead grown their competitive relationship into a tender yet complicated friendship.THE SPEED CUBERS finds Max and Feliks on the threshold of another World Championship, both driven to win but both rooting for each other’s success. Director Sue Kim stops by to talk about her high-energy, and warm-hearted look into the feverishly competitive but refreshingly idyllic world of Speed Cubers.