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
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
THE LONELIEST WHALE: THE SEARCH FOR 52 is a cinematic quest to find the “52 Hertz Whale,” which scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale. As the film embarks on this engrossing journey, audiences will explore what this whale’s lonely plight can teach us — not just about our changing relationship to the oceans, but to each other. This is the only film that set out in search of 52. The 52 Hertz Whale was originally discovered in 1989. Over the last 3 decades 52 has become a global sensation capturing the hearts of fans around the world. This whale’s story has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider and more. Most recently the British Indie Rock band Amber Run and the K-pop band BTS have written songs about the whale. Award winning filmmaker Joshua Zeman has been at the forefront of investigative documentaries for the past decade. His most recent work was the hit Netflix documentary series, THE SONS OF SAM: DESCENT INTO DARKNESS. His critically-acclaimed film CROPSEY, a look into the disappearance of five children, is considered to be one of most terrifying horror documentaries of all time. Director Joshua Zeman joins us for a conversation on the primordial fascination that whales exert over humans, the impact his first encounter with Blue Whale had on him, how “singing Humpbacks saved whales for being hunted into extinction and why 52’s story has captured a world-wide audience.
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
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.
Meg McCarthy returns as the host and producer of CherryPop with new episodes dropping every Tuesday. The CherryPop, podcast explores how the representation and misrepresentations of sexuality, intimacy, beauty, and more have culturally impacted women of all ages and gender expressions. The second season includes a stellar line up of Hollywood stars, cultural tastemakers and social media influencers talking about SEX and the difficult discussions surrounding sexuality on screen. The second season premiere episode of CherryPop features award winning actress, Amandla Stenberg from (The Hate U Give). Together Meg and Amandla discuss sexuality, the importance of detaching from the current cultural toxic language about women and LBGTQ+ characters and ending the censorship of female identifying, and queer pleasure in media. Additional episodes feature an incredible line up of talent, with provocativeinterviews including musician Herizen Guardiola (“American Gods”), Tess Holliday, a model and tastemaker known for her work as a fashion industry disrupter, Shan Boodram (Sex Educator), Nadya Okamoto (Author and Co-Founder of August), Lolo Spencer (“Sex Life of College Girls”), Cam (Country Music star), Sherry Cola (“Good Trouble”), Richa Moorjani (“Never Have I Ever”), Tala Ashe (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”), writer/ director and lead actress of Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience” Season 3 and the cast & creators of Starz’s “Run The World.” Host / producer Meg McCarthy joins us to talk about the goal of Cherry Picks and CherryPop to broaden the cultural and social lens to include the voices of the previously unheard in mainstream media and culture as well as her own curiosity about the world in which we all live.
About our guest – Meg McCarthy is the Content and Programming Executive at CherryPicks, where she hosts the hit IG live series, CherryChat, a platform to share opinions, advice, personal experiences. Meg has worn many hats in her professional career: host, writer, director, producer, and social media strategist, and was the writer/producer/host of weekly web shows for some of the largest YouTube movie content networks (e.g. Movieclips Trailers and Fandango). She is the Director of Production at CherryPicks & the host of our hit IG LIVE series CherryChat.
About CherryPicks – CherryPicks, the female-focused entertainment site, the place to find what women think about movies and television. CherryPicks was founded by Miranda Bailey and co-founded by Rebecca Odes in 2018 when they realized that aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes heavily favored the voices of straight, white male critics. The co-founders also created a unique score called the CherryScore, which is an average of reviews from female and non binary critics that allows their audience to quickly decide on what to watch and what to skip. The rating system also allows films and television series to receive grades on a scale, rather than being labeled a success or failure. Keeping in mind that women consume more than half of the world’s media, the site was created to champion reviews and original stories exclusively from female-identifying and non-binary writers. CherryPicks, the entertainment and media website founded by Miranda Bailey and Rebecca Odes in 2018, premieres the second season of their original podcast, Cherry Picks on May 4, 2021.
It’s been 75 years since the start of the Atomic Age, with the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, but its trail of destruction has never ended. The newly re-mastered Dark Circle, being re-released through First Run Features, covers both the period’s beginnings and its aftermath, providing a scientific primer on the catastrophic power of nuclear energy while also relating tragic human stories detailing the devastating toll radioactive toxicity has taken on people and livestock—focusing in large part on Rocky Flats, Colorado, whose plutonium processing facility infamously contaminated the surrounding area. Documentary Grand Prize winner at Sundance, Academy shortlisted for Best Documentary, and Emmy winner, Dark Circle is no less potent today than it was 40 years ago. Co-director Judy Irving (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Pelican Dreams) joins us for an informative and provocative conversation on the history and development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power facilities, as well as the clear and present danger this unimaginably destructive weaponry andtroubled technology continue to pose to the planet and the survival of humanity.
Filmmaker’s Statement – When I set out to make a personal film about the impact of nuclear weapons and power on ordinary people, I had no idea that the movie would create such a ruckus, or that it would still be so relevant 39 years after its release. My aim was to point the camera away from experts and politicians, and find stories about how plutonium is affecting us, even in the absence of a nuclear war. Those effects are not only physical, but psychological and spiritual as well. Having grown up under this nuclear cloud, I wanted to show how nuclear power and weapons are in fact the same industry, despite government propaganda that urges us to see them as separate. Part of understanding this industry required that we travel to Japan to film interviews with survivors of the atomic bombings. We were astonished to discover that we were the first American film crew to do so. American writers and still photographers had been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki before us, but no documentary film crew until we arrived in 1979. To me, this spoke volumes about how much guilt and denial we bring to the issue. After its theatrical release, Dark Circle was accepted for a national broadcast on public television, but then PBS gatekeepers broke the contract. Claiming we were not objective, they insisted that we cut a sequence in which we name the corporations that build the hydrogen bomb, such as General Electric, whose slogan is, ironically, “We bring good things to life.” Many of these corporations are PBS underwriters. We refused to cut the Arms Convention sequence and fought the obvious censorship. It took seven years before PBS finally created a new series, “POV,” to showcase films with a strong point of view, and when Dark Circle was broadcast it won a National News & Documentary Emmy – for PBS! Flash forward three decades: with nuclear stockpiles growing, missile accidents in the news, and nine nuclear states including China flexing their powers with threats, Dark Circle is suddenly relevant again.
About the filmmaker – Pelican Media Executive Director Judy Irving is a Sundance-and-Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker whose theatrical credits include The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a feature documentary about the relationship between a homeless street musician and a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco, Pelican Dreams, about California brown pelicans and the people who know them best, and Dark Circle, a personal film about the links between nuclear power and weapons. In 2015 Judy was invited to become a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Wild Parrotswas a “Top Ten Film of the Year” (National Film Critics’ Poll), was the highest-rated program on the 2007 national PBS series “Independent Lens,” and is now in international distribution. Pelican Dreams (completed in late 2014), features a young brown pelican who mistakenly landed — tired, hungry, and confused — on the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge, creating a spectacular traffic jam and re-igniting Judy’s years’-long fascination with these ancient, charismatic birds. Judy spent childhood summers on the North Fork of Long Island, and came to love birds thanks to her grandfather. She graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in Psychology and worked as a freelance journalist in Montreal before hitchhiking across the continent and living on a handmade raft-house in British Columbia. Later, she received her Masters in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Film. Her documentary film career has taken her to Alaska, Japan, Russia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, with peace and the environment as her main areas of interest. For more about Judy Irving go to: pelicanmedia.org
“Dark Circle is one of the most horrifying films I’ve seen, and also sometimes one of the funniest (if you can laugh at the same things in real life that you found amusing in Dr. Strangelove). Using powers granted by the Freedom of Information Act, and sleuthing that turned up government film the government didn’t even know it had, the producers of this film have created a mosaic of the Atomic Age. It is a tribute to the power of the material, and to the relentless digging of the filmmakers, that the movie is completely riveting. Four Stars!”– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (1982)
“You owe it to yourself to see this chilling documentary. A much needed warning sign on a very dangerous road. Rated: A.”– People Magazine
“The best of the recent films about the atomic age” – Valerie Ellis, In These Times
“Uncompromising power” – Denver Post
:The most eloquent, far ranging, and convincing film on the subject to date.” John Hartl, Seattle Times
“An urgent horror story, Vincent Canaby, New York Times
1998’s Academy Award Best Feature Documentary, THE LAST DAYS, filmed in five countries, traces the compelling experiences of five Hungarian Holocaust survivors who fell victim to Hitler’s brutal war against the Jews during the final days of WWII. Including newly discovered historical footage and a rare interview with a former Nazi doctor at Auschwitz, the film tells the remarkable story of five people – now a grandmother, a teacher, a businessman, an artist, and a United States Congressman – as they return from the United States to their hometowns and to the ghettos and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. Through the eyes of the survivors and other witnesses, THE LAST DAYS recounts one of the most brutal chapters of this dark period in human history, when families were taken from their homes, stripped of their dignity, deported to concentration camps and ultimately murdered. Above all, THE LAST DAYS, is a potent depiction of personal strength and courage. Director James Moll joins us to talk about the film’s recent remastering and upcoming re-release, the enduring power of the five survivor’s stories and why the THE LAST DAYS continues to cast a very long and cautionary shadow over contemporary history.
About the filmmaker – James Moll’s work as a documentary filmmaker has earned him an Oscar, two Emmys and a Grammy, among many other awards. A protege of Steven Spielberg, Moll’s career has focused mostly on non-fiction story telling. Moll recently directed and produced of Foo Fighters Back and Forth, a feature documentary about the sixteen year career of the rock band Foo Fighters, and most recently produced Always Faithful, a feature-length documentary about American military war dogs and their handlers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together with Matt Damon serving as executive producer, Moll directed and produced the sports adventure documentary Running the Sahara. Filmed in eight countries, the film follows three elite athletes as they attempt be the first to run across the entire Sahara Desert. Moll was the director/editor and producer of Inheritance, for which he received an Emmy Award and was nominated for a second. The film is about the psychological legacy that a prominent Nazi commander (Amon Goethe) left upon his daughter. The NBC feature documentary Price for Peace was directed and produced by Moll, executive produced by Stephen Ambrose and Steven Spielberg. The film focused on WWII in the Pacific, and was hosted by Tom Brokaw. Moll received an Academy Award in 1999 for directing and editing the feature documentary The Last Days, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, chronicling the lives of five Hungarian Holocaust survivors. Moll produced Broken Silence, a collection of five foreign-language documentaries that premiered on primetime television in Russia, Poland, Argentina, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Moll has produced many programs for television, including programming for A&E, Hallmark, Vh1, TBS and History. Survivors of the Holocaust, a documentary produced for TBS earned Moll a Peabody Award and his first Emmy Award (the film was nominated for three). In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Moll established and operated The Shoah Foundation (currently the USC Shoah Foundation Institute) with Steven Spielberg for the purpose of videotaping Holocaust survivor testimonies around the world. The Foundation videotaped over 50,000 testimonies, in 57 countries. Born in Allentown, PA and raised in Los Angeles, Moll earned a degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Before graduation, he worked in feature film development for film producer Lauren Shuler Donner (Mr. Mom and the X-Men films). Moll is a member of the DGA, the Motion Picture Academy, and the Television Academy. Moll serves on the Executive Committee of the Documentary Branch of the Motion Picture Academy, and as co-chair for the DGA Documentary Award.For more: allentownproductions.com
Magnificent! Breathtaking!” – Joe Morgenstern, WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Unforgettable!” – Kevin Thomas, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Produced and directed by filmmaker Bill Morrison, “let me come in” features a new song by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang performed by soprano Angel Blue, one of opera’s brightest stars. The short film incorporates rediscovered (and heavily damaged) footage from the lost 1928 silent film Pawns of Passion to astonishing effect. Filmmaker Bill Morrison, director of the highly acclaimed films Decasia and Dawson City: Frozen Time, has long been fascinated with ancient, decayed nitrate film stock from long-forgotten films—what he describes as “goopy, sticky films deemed not worth saving.” For “let me come in,” he has resurrected footage from what may be the last surviving reels of the 1928 German silent romance Pawns of Passion, discovered in a Pennsylvania barn in 2012. After decades of expanding in hot summers and contracting in freezing winters, the deteriorated nitrate film stock now reveals, in Morrison’s words, “imagery that seems to be pulled from a state of semi-consciousness, asleep but dreaming.” Morrison describes Lang’s song as “a rumination on love and the borderline separating two souls, seemingly from the precipice of consciousness. When I heard Angel Blue’s incredible interpretation, my mind immediately recalled the ambiguous tension in this scene from Pawns of Passion.Left to rot in a barn, and then scanned and archived again for another eight years on my own personal hard drive, it has found a new life through David’s words and music, and Angel Blue’s voice. It was very exciting to see how quickly it came together and how perfectly the image, words and sound meshed.” Director Bill Morrison joins us for conversation on his inspired interpretation of hauntingly beautiful film fragments.
About the filmmaker – Bill Morrison makes films that reframe long-forgotten moving images. His films have premiered at the New York, Rotterdam, Sundance, and Venice film festivals. In 2014 Morrison had a mid-career retrospective at MoMA. His found footage opus Decasia (2002) was the first film of the 21st century to be selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. The Great Flood (2013),was recognized with the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award of 2014 for historical scholarship. Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016) was included on over 100 critics’ lists of the best films of the year, and on numerous lists ranking the best films of the decade, including those of the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Vanity Fair. His work has previously been seen at LA Opera in productions of David Lang’s “anatomy theater” (2016) and David T. Little’s Soldier Songs (2019). Co-presented by Los Angeles Opera with composer David Lang and soprano Angel Blue. Special thanks to the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. For more go to: billmorrisonfilm.com/bio-filmography
STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET takes audiences inside the minds and hearts of the “Sesame Street” creators, artists, writers, and educators who together established one of the most influential and enduring children’s programs in television history. Inspired by the activism of the late 1960s, socially conscious television executive Joan Ganz Cooney and Sesame Workshop co-founder Lloyd Morrisett conducted a revolutionary experiment: to harness the burgeoning power of television and create an educational, impactful, uplifting and entertaining show that could reach children nationwide, especially those living in urban areas. Cooney recruited trailblazing Muppets creator Jim Henson and acclaimed children’s television writer and director Jon Stone to craft the iconic and beloved world of “Sesame Street.”STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET reintroduces this visionary “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers, and educators that audaciously interpreted radical changes in society and created one of most impactful television programs in history. With more than 20 interviews with original writers, cast, and crew, and never-before-seen behind the scenes footage, STREET GANG is told from the inside with humor and emotion, weaving together personal narratives and eyewitness accounts. The film explores the original mission of the “gang” that created this cultural phenomenon, now spanning 50-plus years and reaching more than 150 countries. Director Marilyn Agrelo joins us to talk about the enduring legacy of SESAME STREET as well as the beautifully disruptive and groundbreaking approach to connecting with children and in doing so made them into collaborators and the beneficiaries of this illuminating enterprise.
“Street Gang is a wonderful documentary that would play extraordinarily well whenever it was released, but in this present moment? It feels positively miraculous; a much-needed happy-sad warm blanket indeed.” – Shaun Munro, Flickering Myth
“It’s hard to ask for much more than a doc that captures creatives thoughtfully sneaking the civil revolution as well as basic education into children’s TV and includes a Muppets blooper reel.” – Chris Willman, Variety
“It’s genuinely, enormously inspirational to watch this ragtag band of beatniks and beardos turning sinister Madison Avenue techniques into instruments of learning.” – Sean Burns, Spliced Personality
“Carries tremendous power as an emotional reminder of such a triumphant run, also working beautifully as a reunion with old faces and as an introduction to key behind-the-scenes figures helping to bring inclusion to the masses.” – Brian Orndorf, BrianOrndorf.com
“Street Gang is a loving, emotional tribute to a global brand that tackled racism, education and more with puppets, music through a street that everyone wanted to live on – Sesame Street…” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
Yung Chang’s intimate and harrowing latest film, WUHAN WUHAN, is an observational documentary unfolding during February and March, 2020 at the height of the pandemic in Wuhan city, where the coronavirus began. With unprecedented access at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, WUHAN WUHAN goes beyond the statistics and salacious headlines and puts a human experience into the early days of the mysterious virus as Chinese citizens and frontline healthcare workers grappled with an invisible, deadly killer. WUHAN WUHAN focuses on five heart-wrenching and endearing stories: a soft-hearted ER doctor and an unflappable ICU nurse from the COVID-19 hospital; a compassionate volunteer psychologist at a temporary hospital; a tenacious mother and son who are COVID-19 patients navigating the byzantine PRC healthcare system; and a volunteer driver for medical workers and his 9 month pregnant wife whose heartfelt story forms the backbone of this film.In a time when the world needs greater cross-cultural understanding, WUHAN WUHAN is an invaluable depiction of a metropolis joining together to overcome a crisis. Award-winning filmmaker Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze, This is Not a Movie) joins us for a conversation on the daunting challenges associated with a sprawling story with no end in sight and an unknowable trajectory.
Director’s Statement – As a Chinese person who grew-up in North America, I feel strongly committed to telling a nuanced story that doesn’t generalize a population of people and reveals them to be individuals, not just a monolith. Nationalism builds walls and this is not the intention of this film. In WUHAN WUHAN, the lives of the people we follow are individually a document of perseverance, but collectively they represent the profound humanity we universally hope for in times of crisis. I’m driven to make this film because of anti-Asian racism quelled by double-speak and mis-truths from leaders around the world, who obfuscate the realities of this pandemic; that in the end it is the everyday person, the essential frontline workers, the volunteers, the intergenerational families, it is us, who must navigate the ups-and-downs of this unprecedented and historic event that will shape our lives forever. In a way, as systems and governments fail us, the people have come together. We will survive. – Yung Chang
About the filmmaker – Ying Chang is the director of Up the Yangtze (2007), China Heavyweight (2012), and The Fruit Hunters (2012). He is currently completing a screenplay for his first dramatic feature, Eggplant, which was selected in 2015 to participate in the prestigious Sundance Labs. Chang’s films have premiered at international film festivals including Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, and IDFA and have played theatrically in cinemas around the world. Up the Yangtze was one of the top-grossing documentary releases in 2008. In 2013, China Heavyweight became the most widely screened social-issue documentary in Chinese history with an official release in 200 Mainland Chinese cinemas. His films have been critically-acclaimed, receiving awards in Paris, Milan, Vancouver, San Francisco, the Canadian Genie, Taiwan Golden Horse, Cinema Eye Honors, among others and have been nominated at Sundance, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Emmys. Chang’s films have been shown on international broadcasters including PBS, National Geographic, ARTE, ZDF, Channel 4, HBO, TMN, NHK, CBC, TV2, SBS and EBS. Chang is the recipient of the Don Haig Award, the Yolande and Pierre Perrault Award, and the Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award. He is a member of the Directors Guild of Canada. In 2013, he was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Where his prior film, the acclaimed epic AQUARELA, was a reminder of the fragility of human tenure on earth, in GUNDA, master filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky reminds us that we share our planet with billions of other animals. Through encounters with a mother sow (the eponymous Gunda), two ingenious cows, and a scene-stealing, one-legged chicken, Kossakovsky movingly recalibrates our moral universe, reminding us of the inherent value of life and the mystery of all animal consciousness, including our own. Experiential cinema in its purest form, GUNDA chronicles the unfiltered lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens, and a herd of cows with masterful intimacy. Using stark, transcendent black and white cinematography and the farm’s ambient soundtrack, Master director Victor Kossakowsky invites the audience to slow down and experience life as his subjects do, taking in their world with a magical patience and an other worldly perspective. GUNDA asks us to meditate on the mystery of animal consciousness, and reckon with the role humanity plays in it.
“GUNDA is a mesmerizing perspective on sentience within animal species, normally – and perhaps purposely – hidden from our view. Displays of pride and reverence, amusement and bliss at a pig’s inquisitive young; her panic, despair and utter defeat in the face of cruel trickery, are validations of just how similarly all species react and cope with events in our respective lives. Victor Kossakovsky has crafted a visceral meditation on existence that transcends the normal barriers that separate species. It is a film of profound importance and artistry.” – Executive producer Joaquin Phoenix
Director’s Statement – Growing up I was very much a city kid, but at the age of four I spent a few months in a village in the countryside, where I met my best friend Vasya. He was much younger than me – just a few weeks old when we met – but over time he became my dearest friend and the times we spent together are some of the most cherished memories from my childhood. One day, when we were still young, Vasya was killed and served as pork cutlets for a New Year’s Eve dinner. I was devastated and immediately became (probably) the first vegetarian kid in the Soviet Union. As a consequence, since I became a filmmaker I have always wanted to make a film about the creatures with whom we share the earth, a film about animals as living, feeling beings in their own right. I wanted to make a film without patronizing or humanizing them, without any sentimentality, and without vegan propaganda. However, as the film I had in mind is not about dolphins, elephants, pandas or other cute animals we love to love, it was impossible to finance. I tried for almost three decades until I finally met Norwegian producer Anita Rehoff Larsen from Sant & Usant who took the risk on making it. We were unbelievably lucky to meet Gunda in the Norwegian countryside on the very first day of our research trip. Gunda is on the screen for over half of the runtime of the final film and is an extraordinarily powerful character – you do not need an interpreter to understand her emotions and experiences. As such I decided to make this film without any captions, voice-over, or music, you just need to watch it and allow yourself to feel. For me, the essence of cinema is showing, not telling. I do not make films if I want to tell an audience something I have no interest in prescribing an opinion. I make films if there is something I want people to see and to allow them to find their own conclusion. Documentary cinema is a great tool to show the realities of the world, to show things that we do not see by ourselves, that we do not want to see, or that we have collectively agreed that we do not see, and so we allow ourselves not to think about. With GUNDA I want people to see these animals as sentient beings and to encourage them to think about the possibility of their consciousness and selfhood. With that I feel that GUNDA is the most personal and important film I have made as a filmmaker and as a human being. – Victor Kossakovsky
NOMINEE – Best Feature – IDA Documentary Awards 2021
FEATURES SHORTLIST – DOC NYC 2020
TOP 10 FILM OF THE YEAR – The New York Times
“GUNDA is pure cinema. This is a film to take a bath in – it’s stripped to its essential elements, without any interference. It’s what we should all aspire to as filmmakers and audiences – pictures and sound put together to tell a powerful and profound story without rush. It’s jaw dropping images and sound put together with the best ensemble cast and you have something more like a potion than a movie.” – Paul Thomas Anderson
98% on Rotten Tomatoes
“Sublimely beautiful and profoundly moving, it offers you the opportunity to look – at animals, yes, but also at qualities that are often subordinated in narratively driven movies, at textures, shapes and light.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“”Gunda” may be a meditational slow-burn, but as it unfurls its immersive audiovisual tapestry it hovers between non-fiction observation and lyrical insight, and to that end feels like an advancement of the nature documentary form.” – Eric Kohn, indieWire
“It is hard to fully articulate how, but Gunda is as much a damning meditation on the human condition as it is a glowing, thought-provoking portrayal of a mother’s love for her children, a sow’s love for her piglets.” – Matthew Anderson, CineVue
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
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
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
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 be funny, charming, and uplifting is icing on the cake.” – Victor Stiff, Goomba Stomp
A character-driven, cinematic tale of deportation, migration, displacement and opportunistic capitalism, CALL CENTER BLUES follows four characters as they struggle to make sense of their lives in Tijuana. Each with a vastly different story, they are all linked by their displacement and the sole choice of call center work they have in a country that is so unfamiliar and oftentimes frightening, yet other times a ray of hope. Tijuana becomes their home, a place defined by the border but yet defiant towards it, a no man’s land where everything and everyone feels transient. These characters paint a picture of love, loss and longing – for home, for an American Dream deferred, and for justice. Director Geeta Gandbhir joins us conversation on an aspect of immigration and deportation that is as relevant and heartbreaking as any immigration issue and the importance that an Oscar nomination brings to the issue and the film.
Shortlisted for 2021 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary (Short Form)
SHORTS SHORTLIST – IDA Documentary Awards 2020
OFFICIAL SELECTION – DOC NYC Short List: Shorts 2020
OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2020
WINNER – Best Documentary Short – Virginia Film Festival 2020
WINNER – Best Documentary Short – Fayetteville Film Festival 2020
About the filmmaker – Geeta Gandbhir is an award-winning director, producer and editor. As director, she won Best Documentary at the News and Doc Emmys for I AM EVIDENCE, an HBO Documentary Film, and Best Government and Politics Documentary for ARMED WITH FAITH, a PBS Documentary film. As editor, she won a Primetime Emmy for Best Editing for Spike Lee’s HBO documentary series WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE and also for the HBO film BY THE PEOPLE, THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA. A documentary film she co-produced, THE SENTENCE, for HBO, also won a Special Jury Primetime Emmy.Other feature docs she co-directed include PRISON DOGS, A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: PEACEKEEPERS, and REMEMBERING THE ARTIST: ROBERT DENIRO SR.She created and is co-directing and co-producing a series on race with The New York Times Op-Docs titled “The Conversation” which won the AFI Documentary Film Festival and a MacArthur Grant. She has been the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant, a MacArthur Grant, among others, and in 2017, she was the recipient of Chicken and Eggs prestigious Breakthrough Filmmaker Award.
In 1999, filmmaker Davy Rothbart met Emmanuel Sanford-Durant and his older brother, Smurf, during a pickup basketball game in Southeast Washington, D.C. Davy began filming their lives, and soon the two brothers and other family members began to use the camera themselves. The result is 17 BLOCKS. Made in a unique collaboration with filmmaker and journalist Davy Rothbart, the film focuses on four generations of the Sanford Family, including Emmanuel, a promising student, his brother Smurf, his sister Denice, an aspiring cop, and his mother Cheryl, who must conquer her own demons for her family to prosper. Spanning two decades, 17 BLOCKSilluminates a nation’s ongoing crisis through one family’s raw, stirring, and deeply personal saga. Made from more than 1,000 hours of footage, it all starts on the street where they lived in 1999, 17 blocks behind the U.S. Capitol. Director Davy Rothbart joins us to talk about his profoundly moving gut punch of a film about the lives of a family fighting against the chaos and cruelty of embedded racism, broken social institutions and pervasive violence, all of it happening a little more than a stones throw from the lawmakers who step over their dead bodies on their way to “work”. God help us if you are not moved by this film.
Director Davy Rothbart’s team has partnered with organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and Black Lives Matter D.C. on screenings, and for the film’s national release, presented by MTV Documentary Films. Its national virtual release is set for February 19, 2021, streaming from nearly 100 theaters across the U.S., and viewable on computers, tablets, mobile devices, AppleTV, and Roku.
About the filmmaker – Davy Rothbart is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, bestselling author and journalist, frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life , and the creator of Found Magazine. Rothbart’s film MEDORA, about a resilient high-school basketball team in a dwindling Indiana town, based on the NewYork Times story by Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch, was Executive Produced by Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci, and premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. MEDORA later aired on the acclaimed PBS series Independent Lens and won an Emmy Award. Rothbart previously directed two documentaries about the activist band Rise Against, which became best-selling DVDs in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Sweden. A separate short film featuring Rise Against’s song “Make It Stop” was created for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project and later won an MTV Music Video Award. Rothbart’s radio stories featured on This American Life have reached more than 20 million listeners, and his books FOUND and My Heart Is An Idiot have debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List. He has made multiple appearances on The Late Show With David Letterman , been featured on ABC’s 20/20, Last Call with Carson Daly, MSNBC, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and been profiled in The New Yorker and The New York Times. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Rothbart now lives in Los Angeles, California.
“An essential viewing doc about race & class in America… A documentary with Cinema Verite sensibilities and no qualms whatsoever about the honest presentation of its subjects, 17 BLOCKS is both heartbreaking and inspiring.” – Warren Cantrell, The Playlist
“RAW AND IMMEDIATE… packs a potent emotional punch.” – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
“A remarkably raw and heartfelt piece of filmmaking… At its best, 17 BLOCKS reminded me of the deep humanism of Steve James’ work.” – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
“More than just a singular achievement in documentary filmmaking, “17 Blocks” is the result of the Sanford family’s profound act of bravery. – Mark Keizer, Variety
THE FRIENDLIEST TOWNchronicles a startling tale of institutionalized racism working against the dedicated efforts of the first African American Police Chief, Kelvin Sewell in the small town of Pocomoke on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore. The national debate over policing generally misses a critical point: how embedded law enforcement is in the political power structure of this country. Historically this has situated law enforcement at a critical juncture in conflicts regarding race, equity, and politics. This complex story made national news and shines spotlight on the insidious racism often just under the surface. Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, calls for substantive reform of law enforcement have launched an intense national debate. But an effort by veteran African American officer, Kelvin Sewell to implement community policing in the small racially divided town of Pocomoke is a cautionary tale on limits both to reforms and how racism may be the biggest obstacle to change. THE FRIENDLIEST TOWN is the directorial debut from award winning journalist and author Stephen Janis. Produced by award winning journalists Taya Graham and Janis (hosts of TRNN’s Police Accountability Report, and producers and co-creators of the award-winning podcast Truth and Reconciliation on Baltimore’s NPR affiliate WYPR). Director Stephen Janis and Subject Kelvin Sewell join us to talk about the many twists and turns this saga has taken over the last 6 years and why Sewell’s particular story is a clarion call for reforming law enforcement and criminal justice at every level of government.
ANATOMY OF WINGS is the direct result of an after-school film project, where ten Black middle school girls gathered each week to collaborate with their Black and white mentors on a feature-length documentary about their own coming-of-age in Baltimore City. Weeks turn into years. Then, shortly before the girls’ high school graduations, a sea of misunderstanding arises about what’s to come. This self-defined ‘second family’ is left to question if their solidarity will survive the realities of living in a world of racial inequity.WINGS mentors created a safe space for the girls to practice filmmaking and share life experiences, questions and personal moments such as proms, first time gynecologist visits and accomplishments. Their lives in Baltimore reflected their corresponding community and, once in high school, the girls began inviting their best friends to join the program. The result: we became a group of 10. What began as a videography program evolved into a powerful space of sharing for ten years, where ten girls, mentors, professors and college students at MICA created a family. The co-directors Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander and Nikiea Redmond join us for a conversation on the power of storytelling, especially for young women of color, living in a community bereft of opportunity can be a powerful and unmistakable call to arms for real social change.
About the filmmaker – Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander is a full-time professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she currently directs the MFA Filmmaking program. Equipped with an undergraduate degree in Painting from MICA in 1988, she turned to documentary filmmaking after receiving an MFA in Imaging and Digital Arts from UMBC in 1997. Having taught in higher education for 22 years, Hollander explored how the camcorder can be a collaborative tool to bear witness. In 2008 she launched the ‘Wings Video Skills After School Program for Girls’ and the recently completed ‘Anatomy of Wings’ feature length documentary. In 2011 Hollander was selected for an Independent Filmmaker Project Fellowship to launch her first feature length documentary, ‘Us, Naked: Trixie & Monkey’, which premiered with the DOC NYC film festival in 2014. In 2015, ‘Us, Naked: Trixie & Monkey’ received Best International Feature Length Documentary at the Netherland’s DOCfeed Film Festival and Best Feature Length Documentary at New York’s Coney Island Film Festival. The film went into international distribution with Random Media/The Orchard in 2017. Hollander lives in Baltimore City with her husband, son, and two silly dogs.
About the filmmaker – Nikiea Redmond received her Bachelors in Corporate Communication from the University of Baltimore in 2011. Growing up in East Baltimore Redmond became a mentor to the youth coming-of-age around her. Being a child in Baltimore’s impoverished neighborhoods, researching the history of slavery in her family, traveling with Freedom Schools focused on teaching African history – and working professionally in the public-school system has provided Redmond with the experience to tell the ‘Anatomy of Wings’ story with a direct understanding of societal makeups and the human rights she wishes to see in the world. Additionally, Redmond serves as a liaison bringing together political organizations, community groups and stakeholders in East Baltimore. The Afro-American Newspaper presented Redmond with the ‘Sam Lacy Award for Youth Leadership’ in 2004. She is also a 2015 recipient of the ‘Black Wall Street Journal Award’ for her work in Baltimore City.
At a time when America is ripping apart at the seams, The REUNITED STATES is a powerful and urgent documentary that follows the unsung heroes on the difficult journey of bridging our political and racial divides. Susan Bro, who lost her daughter when a car drove through a crowd in Charlottesville, and David and Erin Leaverton, a Republican couple who travel to all fifty states in an RV to find out what divides us, are just a few of the characters profiled in the film.Each of these bridge-builders have realized that while our divides run deeper than they ever could have imagined, so does the love and hope to bring our country back together. Based on the book of the same name, REUNITED STATES urges us to consider that everyone has a role to play in reuniting the country. Director Ben Rekhi and film subject Susan Bro join us for a conversation on why so many people are failing to see our shared humanity, how we all can begin to recognize each other as real people and why it is so important that we respecteach other, even if we do not always agree with each other.
“As this election has shown, we’re still a nation deeply divided. What makes ‘The Reunited States’ so powerful is that it shows us what it means to ‘bridge the divide.’” – Van Jones
“When Van brought this film to me, I was so moved by it not just as someone deeply concerned about polarization, but as a mother pondering what kind of country my daughter would grow up in. What I love about this film is that it shows us that no matter where you are on the political spectrum – right, left or center – there is a path forward together.” – Meghan McCain
Susan Bro – Susan D. Bro honors the legacy of her daughter and civil rights activist Heather Heyer by empowering others to make a difference in the world by fighting for equal rights for all. Susan is the mother of Heather Heyer and the co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation (HHF). Susan launched the foundation to carry on the legacy of her daughter, Heather, a young a paralegal for the Miller Law Group who had a love for all individuals regardless of race, religion or creed. Heather was slain while standing up for social justice with her friends on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA. The Heather Heyer Foundation is a 501(c)3. Based on her daughter’s motto, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” Susan brings Heather’s legacy alive by sharing a positive, non-violent message and call-to-action that inspires others to fight for social justice and civil rights issues while encouraging dialogue and understanding in our communities.
Tribes on the Edgefollows filmmaker Céline Cousteau as she returns to the Brazilian Amazon after a fateful email from Beto of the Marúbo tribe who beckons her back to help tell his people’s story. Céline, who comes from a lineage of renowned explorers, ventures into the heart of the jungle to explore the health crises and the threats to land and human rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Vale do Javari. From a history of invaders bringing devastating diseases, to ongoing illegal activities, to the alarming dismantling of all protection of their land and human rights by the government – these indigenous communities are fighting to protect their home, critical to the ecological balance of our planet, and as a result…they protect us. TRIBES ON THE EDGEis Céline’s first full feature documentary. The film is co-written by Joseph Kwong and Executive Produced by Bill Miller, Mercedes Zobel, James Cox and Çapkin Van Alphen. Director Celine Cousteau joins us for a lively conversation on the slow-motion genocide of indigenous people who happen to live in and steward some of the most ecologically valuable and endangered eco-system on the planet and how we can do something to stop the Brazilian government crime against humanity.
TRIBES ON THE EDGE took home the Special Jury Award at the Brazil International Film Festival, and the Impact Award at the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival. Additional festivals include Black Hills International Film Festival (Global Reach Award), ART & TUR International Film Festival (Ethnography and Society Award), United Nations Association Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, Earth X Festival, Jackson Wild Media Summit, Vision Du Reel Film Festival, San Francisco Green Film Festival, National Geographic Exodus Aveiro Festival (Portugal) and One Earth Film Festival.
About the filmmaker – Céline Cousteau, Expedition Leader, Director and Producer – Céline Cousteau is a humanitarian and environmental activist working with a variety of mediums that range from documentaries to art, from consulting with corporations and foundations to public speaking. Each form shares the same message of interconnectivity between humans and the natural world. As a documentary film director, producer, and presenter, Céline is the founder and executive director of CauseCentric Productions, creating cause-focused content. Extending her family legacy and her expertise, Céline co-founded The Outdoor Film Fellowship, a nonprofit program whose mission is to empower young the next generation of filmmakers, creatives, and activists to inspire change through leadership, film, and the arts. Céline is ambassador for the TreadRight Foundation and on the board of directors of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Her previous work has included being Guest Designer for Swarovski and Member of the World Economic ForumCouncil on Oceans. With a degree in psychology and a masters in Intercultural Relations, Céline is fluent in three languages.
Long before COVID-19, another pandemic was raging across the American landscape, penetrating all age groups, races and socio-economic classes. The cause: opioids. The culprit: Purdue Pharmaceutical and the company’s deceitful approach to lure in and hook patients. COMING CLEAN, Ondi Timoner’s new documentary, examines opioid addiction through the eyes of those affected and political leaders, as they come together to bring the profiteers to justice. Timoner deeply engages us by weaving in personal stories of addicts and their families struggling to overcome this painful addiction, sometimes with success but often with devastating and heart-wrenching consequences. COMING CLEAN presents a clear case against the perpetrators, including how they incentivized physicians to overprescribe opioids. In a hopeful turn, we witness the alliances built between addicts in recovery and policymakers as they work to remove the stigmas surrounding this addiction and impact laws and industries to bring necessary change in communities. A thought-provoking film on the state of our country and the current political landscape. Director Ondi Timoner (DIG!, We Live in Public, JUNGLETOWN) joins us to talk about the corrosive impact of the opioid crisis, the devastating impact it has had on families, communities and our vital institutions and who has been most responsible for this scourge.
About the filmmaker- Ondi Timoner has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival twice, for DIG! (2004) and WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (2009). Other award-winning features include: THE NATURE OF THE BEAST (1994), JOIN US (2007), COOL IT (2010), BRAND: A SECOND COMING (2015), and MAPPLETHORPE (2018), a scripted film she wrote and directed, starring Matt Smith. She also created and produced the critically acclaimed 10-hour nonfiction series JUNGLETOWN (2017). Ondi Timoner is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the DGA, the PGA, the International Documentary Association, and Film Fatales. Timoner has produced & hosted BYOD (Bring Your Own Doc) for thelip.tv, creating 300 episodes with the top documentary filmmakers over five years. She is also the Founder & CEA of A TOTAL DISRUPTION, an online network dedicated to telling the stories of entrepreneurs & artists who use technology to innovate the way we live. For more on Ondi Timoner films: interloperfilms.com
“COMING CLEAN takes one of the most important issues of our time — declining life expectancy, largely due to the opioid crisis — and unpacks it through a humanistic lens, with emphasis on real people and leaders on the ground who are providing solutions and, most importantly, hope. As thought-provoking as it is moving — and you find yourself rooting for these heroes and thinking about what they’ve taught you long after the film credits roll. The stigma-shattering message of this film will make a difference.” – Beth Macy, bestselling author of Dopesick & writer/producer of coming Hulu series Dopesick
“Coming Clean is an indictment of capitalism run rampant and once again profit taking precedence over human life. Hats off to the frontline warriors taking on this cause.” – Bradley Gibson, Film Threat
Director Richard Lui’s SKY BLOSSOM is a raw, uplifting window into 24.5 million children and millennials stepping forward as frontline heroes. Caring for family with tough medical conditions, they stay at home doing things often seen only in hospitals. They are cheerleaders, work part time, and go to college – but also live double lives – quietly growing up as America’s next greatest generation. The filmmaker, veteran journalist and award-winning CNN/MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui says the interviews were so honest they genuinely surprised him, as they revealed insights into the lives of young people across America. Troops used to look up and say, “Here come the Sky Blossoms”-paratroopers rushing to their aid. Today, there is a new generation answering that call. These are their stories. First-time director and MSNBC news anchor Richard Liu joins us for a conversation on the reason he began the project, the exploration of these families courage and determination and the historic and spiritual meaning behind the film’s title.
Director’s statement – My life changed when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I stepped back from my work as a cable news anchor, changing to work part-time on weekends. I began a weekly commute from my work in New York and my family in San Francisco. My parents come from military families, and this experience has only brought us closer together. With Sky Blossom, I wanted to show the power of caring for others. To tell stories of positivity despite pain. – Richard Liu
About the Film – Sky Blossom is an Academy Award qualifying film salute to 2020. Filmed over three years, it is a raw, uplifting window into 24.5 million children and millennials stepping forward as frontline heroes. Caring for family with tough medical conditions, they stay at home doing things often seen only in hospitals. They are cheerleaders, work part time, and go to college – but also live double lives – quietly growing up as America’s next greatest generation.
What’s In a Name? – During the Second World War, troops used to look up and say, “Here come the Sky Blossoms” — paratroopers rushing to their aid. Today, there is a new generation answering that call. These are their stories.
THE WAY HOME is a short-form documentary series from KTF Films and Bread and Butter Films focusing on the current homelessness epidemic in California – the state with the largest population of homeless people in the USA. Through these compelling short films, you will be inspired by the solution creators and the game-changers who are making an impact in this ongoing situation. Joining us are co-directors and co-writters Camille Servan-Schreiber and Don Hardy and producer Shawn Dailey The Way Home offers is a nuanced and informative four-part series that focuses on the big picture issues that present structural impediments to people struggling to overcome poverty in Oakland, Los Angeles and Bakersfield as well as the personal stories that humanize the people who live in the shadows.
For a glimpse of our episodes, click the play buttons below. The full episodes will be available on Amazon, Apple, Google, and other streaming platforms on December 4th.
Ep. 1- How Did We Get Here? We examine the origins the homelessness crisis in the US and how has grown to an epidemic in California.
Ep. 2 – The Most Vulnerable More than half of homeless people in California are seniors. One pilot program in Northern California is focused on getting them off the street.
Ep. 3 – The Invisible In one California community volunteers, non-profit organizations, and the local government are working together to find creative ways to get people into sustainable housing … and it’s working.
Ep. – 4 – The California Dream California is in the midst of a housing crisis, and the lack of affordable housing is why so many become homeless.