Pianoforte – Director Jakub Piątek

In the feature documentary, PIANOFORTE director Jakub Piątek takes a deep dive into what is considered to be one of the most prestigious competitions in classical music, the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Held every five years since 1927, the event has been a career launchpad for such piano virtuosos as Krystian Zimerman, Mitsuko Uchida, Kevin Kenner, and Vladimir Ashkenazy. The competition itself is a real roller coaster of a classical ride, with extremely tough qualifying rules, multiple stages, legendary jurors (Arthur Rubinstein), and a whole lot of pressure. Jakub Piątek’s fly-on-the-philharmonic-wall documentary takes us behind the scenes of this fascinating contest. We meet some of the most talented young professional piano players from all over the world and watch them navigate this fever dream of a competition, along with its intense practices, new friendships, lots of drama, and even more nerves. “Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano!” said Chopin. Pianoforte is a testament to the power of remarkable music. Nearly two centuries later, it still inspires, excites, and, yes, causes some despair and suffering, too. Director Jakub Piątek (Prime Time, 2021) stops by to talk about the intensity and commitment each of the pianist brings to their craft, how he landed on following the wide variety musicians in the film and capturing the euphoria of an artist and music transcending the notes on a page.


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For more go to: sundance.org/program/Pianoforte

Nominated, Grand Jury Prize / World Cinema – 2023 Sundance Film Festival

About the filmmaker – Born in 1985, Jakub Piątek graduated from the Polish National Film School in Łódź. Before studying directing, he worked as a journalist and culture manager.  In 2021, his feature fiction debut, Prime Time, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and it is available on Netflix in all regions. In 2021, he started teaching fiction directing at the Polish National Film School.


Life Upside Down – Director Cecilia Miniucchi

In her latest film, Director  Cecilia Miniucchi takes a sharp-eyed look at foibles and follies of people in flux. LIFE UPSIDE DOWN is a romantic comedy about time, distance, and the human condition. Three couples, connected by friendship, love and work, are each stuck in their respective homes in Los Angeles during the beginning of lockdown. Finally forced to face their spouses, friends, lovers, and eventually themselves head on, their lives turn slowly but surely upside-down. LIFE UPSIDE DOWN” was created and filmed at the very beginning of the Los Angeles lockdown. Written and directed entirely remotely, except for the opening and closing scenes, by Cecilia Miniucchi, shot entirely on iPads and iPhones, communicating through a computer or dual computers, and often shooting on multiple locations simultaneously. The focus is not on the pandemic, but rather the story is about human relationships. Writer / director Cecilia Miniucchi joins us to talk about her love for the characters showcased in the film, her outstanding cast, directing a superb cast of Bob Odenkirk, Radha Mitchell and Danny Huston, the precarious nature of making the film and how her work with film icons; Lina Wertmuller (her mentor), Federico Fellini, the Taviani Brothers, and Francis Ford Coppola has informed her own filmmaking.


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For more go to: ifcfilms.com/life-upside-down

About the filmmaker – Born in Italy and educated in the United States, Cannes Camera d’Or nominated writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi has apprenticed in both the Italian and the American film industry, working with directors Lina Wertmuller (her mentor), Federico Fellini, the Taviani Brothers, and at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios. Previous work include “Expired,” an official selection at Sundance and Cannes, “Normality,” recipient of several awards, “Selena Remembered,” “Nitsch 98”. She has also directed MTV-winning videos and several documentaries. She is currently developing several feature films and has started her TV experience with a new series starring John Lithgow and Jack Black. Cecilia Miniucchi has published short stories and poetry, as well as her translations of Samuel Beckett, Native American Poetry, Irish and American contemporary poets. As an artist, she has had several photography and art video exhibitions in Los Angeles, Holland, Italy, San Francisco, New York, and Berlin. Her published photography books include THE EMPERORS’ NEW HATS; AND THE CASTLES MADE OF SAND; WE’VE COME A LONG WAY; A-HEAD; PLACES FOR YOUR H-ART. Cecilia Miniucchi studied at Harvard, Oxford, and The American Film Institute.


Is There Anybody Out There – Director Ella Glendining

Born with a disability so rare that no reliable statistics for it existence, filmmaker Ella Glendining wonders if there is anyone who can share the experience of living in a body like hers. In her documentary feature debut, Ella poses this simple question, IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE. It’s a question which non-disabled people often take for granted. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE leads to a journey to not only others who live like her, but to the realization that meeting them changes how she sees herself in the world. With intimate personal diaries, conversations with similarly bodied people and doctors treating her condition, and a searching and unique perspective, IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE invites the viewer to consider questions and assumptions they may have never encountered before. Are people born this way to be “fixed” by medicine? Is it ableist to see disabled people as living an undesired existence? With warmth and an infectious joy for her body and life as it is, Glendining takes you on an unforgettable experience that will change how you see others, like and unlike you. Director and writer Ella Glendining joins us to talk about her search for a similarly bodied person, traveling to America, meeting a well-known surgeon specializing in corrective surgery, her life affirming takeaway from the quest and the pride that comes with being an accomplished filmmaker.


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For news and updates go to: hotpropertyfilms.com

About the filmmaker – Ella Glendining is a writer-director dedicated to telling authentic disabled stories. She has written and directed short films (Octopus, Born, Like Sunday) with backing from Film4, the BFI, Arts Council England, Screen South, and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust. Glendining was named one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow 2020. She is currently writing a feature fiction film called Curiosities of Fools for the BFI.


Bad Press – Co-directors Rebecca Landsberry-Baker & Joe Peeler

Angel Ellis is just trying to do her job. She’s a reporter for Mvskoke Media in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and she wants to give her readers access to all the information relevant to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. But that’s not an easy task, given that Angel and her colleagues believe in truth and transparency and aren’t afraid to challenge the integrity of some questionable tribal officials. Fast-forward to a confusing whirlwind of an emergency session at the National Council, where the 2015 Free Press Act is repealed, Mvskoke  Media’s independent editorial board is dissolved, and the newspaper is placed under the direction of the Secretary of the Nation and Commerce. Now the real fight begins. Co-directors Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler tell a nuanced, empowering tale of a modern Native community fighting for transparency and access to information in order to hold their government accountable. Bad Press is an energizing watch — full of humor, humanity, and numerous twists and turns.


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Watch Bad Press at: festival.sundance.org/program/Bad Press

About the filmmaker – Rebecca Landsberry-Baker is a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program grantee, Ford Foundation JustFilms grantee, and 2022 NBC Original Voices fellow. She is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee Nation and the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association.  Landsberry-Baker was a recipient of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Native American 40 Under 40 award in 2018.

About the filmmaker – Joe Peeler is a documentary editor and director whose work has appeared on Netflix, HBO, and FX. Peeler edited Lucy Walker’s Sundance Film Festival premiere and Academy Awards–shortlisted documentary short, The Lion’s Mouth Opens; episodes of Netflix’s original series Flint Town; Peter Berg’s NFL docu-series The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here; and Margaret Brown’s documentary short, The Black Belt.

Beautiful Beings – Director Guðmundur Arnar Gudmundsson

Guðmundur Arnar Gudmundsson searing drama, BEAUTIFUL BEINGS drops us into the tumultuous life of Addi, a boy raised by a clairvoyant mother, decides to adopt a bullied misfit into his gang of outsiders. Left to their own devices, the boys explore aggression and violence but also learn about loyalty and love. As their behavior escalates towards life–threatening situations, Addi begins to experience a series of dreamlike visions. Can his newfound intuition guide him and his friends back to a safer path, or will they dive irrevocably into further violence? The latest feature from Icelandic writer/director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson following his 2016 feature debut Heartstone, which premiered at the Venice Days Competition and went on to receive over 50 international awards. Director and writer Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson joins us for a conversation on his creative inspirations and personal recollections that brought him to tell a story about friendship, the importance of role models, self-acceptance and intuition.


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For more go to: alteredinnocence.net/beautifulbeings

Beautiful Beings is Iceland’s submission for Best International Feature for the 2023 Academy Awards®

Opens 1/13 at Quad Cinema in NYC & 1/20 at Laemmle Glendale in L.A.

About the filmmaker – Guðmundur Arnar Gudmundsson graduated in Fine Art and studied screenwriting. His short films and feature debut have been showcased and awarded in numerous festivals. Among these accolades are Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and a nomination for the European Film Awards. His debut feature Heartstone premiered in the Venice Days Competition in 2016 and ended up collecting over 50 awards worldwide. 


100% on RottenTomatoes

“Beautiful Beings goes to very dark places, including depicting sexual abuse. But it leaves us with a glimmer of hope for these kids who may not have much going for them, but do have each other.” – Anna Smith, Deadline Hollywood Daily

“Beautiful Beings boasts a cast of electrifyingly good teen actors led by the handsome and charismatic Birgir Dagur Bjarkason.” – Frank J. Avella, Awards Daily

“Confronts the feral cruelty and violence of children on the cusp of adulthood, but finds also a tenderness amid the sharp edges and posturing.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“If in terms of narrative there’s not much new here, there is a freshness and an inhabited vibrancy that makes this painful coming of age story feel exactly its own.” – Jessica Kiang, Variety

“Fantastical & dreamlike… sharp & sensitive” Cineuropa

Chess Story – Director Philipp Stölzl

Vienna, 1938: Austria is occupied by the Nazis. Dr. Josef Bartok (Oliver Masucci) is preparing to flee to America with his wife Anna when he is arrested by the Gestapo. As a former notary to the deposed Austrian aristocracy, he is told to help the local Gestapo leader gain access to their private bank accounts in order to fund the Nazi regime. Refusing to cooperate, Bartok is locked in solitary confinement. Just as his mind is beginning to crack, Bartok happens upon a book of famous chess games. To withstand the torture of isolation, Bartok disappears into the world of chess, maintaining his sanity only by memorizing every move. As the action flashes forward to a transatlantic crossing on which he is a passenger, it seems as though Bartok has finally found freedom. But recounting his story to his fellow travelers, it’s clear that his encounters with both the Gestapo and with the royal game itself have not stopped haunting him. Adapted with opulent attention to period detail by filmmaker and opera director Philipp Stölzl, CHESS STORY brings Stefan Zweig’s stirring final novella to life featuring an impressive ensemble cast featuring Oliver Masucci (When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Never Look Away), Albrecht Schuch (Berlin Alexanderplatz, System Crasher), Birgit Minichmayr (3 Days in Quiberon, The Goldfish) and Rolf Lassgård (A Man Called Ove).


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For more go to: filmmovement.com/chess-story

About the filmmaker – Philipp Stölzl was born in Munich in 1967 and began his career as a stage designer. His work as a director began in 1997 with advertising films and music videos for significant international artists including Rammstein, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Pavarotti, Madonna and Mick Jagger. His passion for the theatre remained; which is why the versatile director works for the cinema and the stage in equal measure. Stölzl made his cinema debut in 2005 with Baby. His second film as a director, North Face (2008), was a big box-office hit and in addition to several national and international nominations won the German Film Award for Best Cinematography and the German Critics’ Award for Best Screenplay. Further popular and award-winning films ensued, including Goethe! (2010) and the international bestseller adaptation The Physician (2013), which attracted several million German cinemagoers. Stölzl’s latest hit movie was the star-studded musical adaptation I’ve Never Been to New York in 2019, for which he won the Special Award at the Bavarian Film Awards.


“Mournful and just cryptic enough to leave you guessing what you just saw, but touched, engaged and intrigued by it’ – Roger Moore, Movie Nation

“Philipp Stölzl craftily melds the genres of period drama and psychological thriller, not for the purposes of reheated nostalgia, but to shed a cold light on the recursions of historical trauma.” – William Repass, Slant Magazine

“draws the viewer deep into the experience of the protagonist, with Oliver Masucci delivering a strong performance as Dr. Josef Bartok. It is a very distressing film and difficult to view, in its depiction of emotional and psychological suffering.” – Ayelet Dekel, Midnight East

“Spellbinding! A gripping, provocative and genuinely poignant journey.” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru

Fantastic Machine – Co-director Maximilien Van Aertryck (Axel Danielson)


And the king said, “what a FANTASTIC MACHINE” is a thought-provoking examination of humanity’s infatuation with itself and the endless ways of framing the world through the camera’s lens. In the process, the filmmakers also raise the question of societal consequences stemming from the image output of 45 billion* cameras on the planet (*total expected in 2022). Utilizing the best element of the archival genre, this often-comical documentary, FANTASTIC MACHINE, take us from the Camera Obscura to the early days of photography and the moving image, when the monetization and exploitation of image was first embraced. Moving past historical landmarks in image-creation, the Filmmakers land squarely on our modern times, when our 45 billion cameras worldwide will contribute to 500 hours of images uploaded onto the internet every minute. Award-winning Co-directors Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck bring their trademark humor, keen socio-anthropological eye, and penetrating point of view to our screens, allowing for a great deal of laughter amidst the thought provoking self-reflection and sometimes shocking self-assessment.


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For more go to: plattformproduktion.se

2023 Sundance screenings: online & in-person go to: Fantastic Machine

About the filmmaker – Director-producer-cinematographer Maximilien Van Aertryck met Axel Danielson while at film school in Gothenburg, Sweden. The two started making films together at Plattform Produktion in 2013. Van Aertryck and Danielson produced-directed the award-winning short documentary Ten Meter Tower, shortlisted for an Academy Award (2017) and nominated for an Emmy Award. Fantastic Machine is their debut feature.

About the filmmaker – Swedish director-producer Axel Danielson joined fellow alumni, producer Erik Hemmendorf and director Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness), at Plattform Produktion in 2005, becoming a co-owner in 2012. In 2017, Maximilien Van Aertryck and Danielson produced-directed the award-winning short documentary Ten Meter Tower, shortlisted for a 2017 Academy Award and nominated for an Emmy Award. Fantastic Machine is their debut feature together.


SEARCHING: Our Quest For Meaning In The Age Of Science – Alan Lightman

In “SEARCHING: Our Quest For Meaning In The Age Of Science,” physicist and best-selling author Alan Lightman investigates how key findings of modern science help us find our bearings in the cosmos. What do these new discoveries tell us about ourselves, and how do we find meaning in them? Throughout the highly cinematic three-part series, Alan takes viewers along on his journey of exploration – from prehistoric paintings in a French cave to a giant subatomic particle accelerator in Switzerland; from a Harvard laboratory where biologists are attempting to create living cells from scratch to the laboratories that detected the first gravitational waves; and to the quiet of a Buddhist temple. We travel from the infinity of the small to the infinity of the large, meeting with the co-discoverer of one of the most distant galaxies yet known. Across the series, Alan also interviews brain scientists, physicists, astronomers, philosophers, ethicists and faith leaders who offer contrasting perspectives on the interplay between contemporary scientific research and the humanities. Adding to the diversity of perspectives is a dynamic conversation  with Bina48, the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. Series producer and host Alan Lightman (Einstein’s Dream) joins us to talk about his journey to explore many of the vexing and eternal questions with a broad swath of the world’s leading thinkers, visionaries and doers. As well as working with award winning director Geoff Haines-Stiles (Carl Sagan’s triple Emmy and Peabody award-winning COSMOS, NOVA’s “Is Anybody Out There”.


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To watch: pbs.org/searching-our-quest-meaning-age-science

For more go to: searchingformeaning.org

Part 1, “The Stars & The Osprey,” begins with Lightman’s late-night experience alone on the ocean when he felt connected to the stars, and ends with a memorable eye-to-eye encounter with a wild creature. Lightman attempts to reconcile these transcendent experiences with the material world of atoms and molecules. 

Part 2, “The Big & The Small,” dramatizes the fact that humans are almost exactly the same distance – in terms of powers of ten – between an atom and a star. (If a human is 102 cm in size, an atom is 10-8 and the Sun is 1011.) But where do we fit in the moral universe? Alan speaks with the Dalai Lama, a rabbi and a bio-ethicist about the nature of consciousness, and the status of future Artificial Intelligences.

Part 3, “Homo Techno,” features stories – including that of a paralyzed former gang member who risked his brain to advance medical science – that prompt Lightman to think deeply about how advances in science and technology will impact our future evolution into what will perhaps be a new species: “Homo Techno” – part human and part machine. What essential human qualities will we want to preserve? 

About the filmmaker – As both a physicist and a writer, Lightman is a rare talent. After years on the faculties of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Lightman’s first novel, Einstein’s Dreams, became an international best-seller. Co-written and directed by award-winning public television science producer Geoff Haines-Stiles (Carl Sagan’s triple Emmy and Peabody award-winning COSMOS, NOVA’s “Is Anybody Out There” with Lily Tomlin, and Childhood), SEARCHING is filmed in Ultra HD format worldwide, and features state-of-the-art astronomical computer graphics along with a wide range of innovative story-telling techniques. 



January 6th – Co-directors Jules Naudet & Gedeon Naudet

From Emmy and Peabody winning directors Gédéon and Jules Naudet comes an in-depth examination of JANUARY 6TH from the unique perspective of the heroes, first responders, and survivors of the attack. JANUARY 6TH is the complete story of the attack on the Capitol told by those who witnessed the chaos first-hand. The film succeeds in telling the story of this unprecedented moment in history as a human event and without political bias.  In the moments where the worst of humanity is on display, there will always be heroes who step up as shining examples of courage and selflessness in the face of tragedy. Through JANUARY 6TH Naudet brothers reveal countless acts of bravery on display that day, both big and small. It’s an apolitical story of resilience and bravery that features Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the DC Police Chief, Chief Robert J. Contee III, Congresswoman Liz Cheney,  and over 50 Senators, Representatives, staffers from both sides of the aisle, and police officers as they reveal their first-hand experience of the attack. It is the only documentary for which the Capitol and Metropolitan Police Departments granted full access to their officers. Co-directors Gédéon and Jules Naudet (9/11, November 13: Attack on Paris, The Presidents Gatekeepers) join us for a conversation on their painstaking efforts to get the story of January 6th told from as many perspectives as possible and to take the viewer from the steps of the Capital to the House and Senate and ending with the men and women who fought to save the citadel of democracy from the seditious mob bent on unraveling our democracy.


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JANUARY 6th premieres Thursday, January 5, 2023 on Discovery+

For more on JANUARY 6th go to: discovery+

About the filmmakers – Gedeon and Jules Naudet, brothers and filmmakers, shot, produced and directed the iconic documentary 9/11, which has been compared, for its historical significance, to the Zapruder film of the JFK’s assassination. Airing on CBS and in 137 countries, 9/11 won every honor in television, including Emmy, Peabody and DuPont awards. Jules and Gedeon produced and directed for CBS In God’s Name: a revealing and intimate look at the world’s great religious leaders’ doubts, beliefs and hopes for human kind. In 2013, the Naudets produced and directed The Presidents’ Gatekeepers for Discovery Channel, a riveting account of five decades of presidential history seen through the eyes of all twenty living White House chiefs of staff. Most recently, the Naudets produced and directed the critically acclaimed Showtime film The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs, which tells the story of the CIA during one of the most controversial periods in its history. All twelve living CIA directors along with their top operatives were interviewed. 



“This documentary is insightful and educational, adding important commentary to an edited chain of video that really should but somehow doesn’t speak for itself.” – Abe Friedtanzer, AwardsWatch

” … an unparalleled level of access gives audiences a view that’s as up-close and personal as they can get.” – Larry Fried, That Shelf

AZOR – Director Andreas Fontana

Filmmaker Spotlight

Andreas Fontana’s AZOR takes us to Argentina, the late 1970s as a private banker Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) arrives from Geneva with his wife Ines (Stéphanie Cléau) to replace a colleague who has mysteriously disappeared in military-ruled Buenos Aires. Moving through the smoke-filled lounges and lush gardens of a society under intense surveillance, he finds himself untangling a sinister web of colonialism, high finance, and a nation’s “Dirty War”. In his remarkably assured debut, Swiss director Andreas Fontana invites us into this seductive, moneyed world where political violence simmers just under the surface. Co-written by Argentinian filmmaker Mariano Llinás (La Flor), Azor is a riveting look at international intrigue worthy of John le Carré or Graham Greene. Yvan De Wiel, a private banker from Geneva, is going to Argentina in the midst of a  dictatorship to replace his partner, the object of the most worrying rumours, who disappeared overnight. Between hushed lounges, swimming pools and gardens under surveillance, a remote duel between two bankers who, despite different methods, are the accomplices of a discreet and merciless form of colonization. AZOR’s director Andreas Fontana joins us for a conversation on the ways in which he dissects this haunting, opaque, seductive world where are little about it is as it seems and where a misstep can cost those who choose to live in it their life. 


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For more go to: mubi.com/films/azor

To watch go to: alinafilm.com/azor

For more on the streaming service MUBI or mubi.com/youtube

About the filmmaker – Andreas Fontana was born in Geneva in 1982. After completing his MA in Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva, he moved to Buenos Aires where he trained as production assistant. In 2010 he graduated with a MA in film production from the ECAL in Lausanne and the HEAD in Geneva. His first short film COTONOV VANISHED (2009) won the First Steps prize at Vision du Réel in Nyon in 2010. It also won the the prize of the best short film at the Festival dei Popoli in Florence in 2010. His last movie, PEDRO M, 1981, has been nominated for the Swiss Film Award 2016 in the short films cathegory. On January 2016, Andreas Fontana and Zahra Vargas have been received the Upcoming Lab Prize (Soleure) with a new documentary project, NOTHINGWOOD. He has worked as a production assistant for Jean-Stéphane Bron, Ingrid Wildi, David Maye and Mathias Staub. He also worked as a script writer for Zahra Vargas (La Fin d’Homère, selected in Berlin and Clermont Ferrand 2016) and Maryam Goormaghtigh(Vol au Panthéon, 2011). He is living and working in Geneva.


98% on RottenTomatoes

“Delectably lavish… think John le Carré and Francis Ford Coppola, but set in the world of Swiss banking elites.” – The New York Times

“A nerve-wracking political thriller… I can’t wait to see AZOR again.” – Artforum

“This superb debut feature from Andreas Fontana puts an ingenious spin on the paranoid thriller: its main character is determined to behave as if he isn’t in one.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph (UK)

“The striking feature film debut from Andreas Fontana brings a prickly thriller sensibility to the closed world of high finance and a piquancy to the phrase ‘dirty money’.” – Wendy Ide, Screen International

“It is a film that continues to echo mysteriously inside my head.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“Written and directed by Andreas Fontana, making a formally precise, tonally perfect feature debut, “Azor” is a low-key shocker. It has you in its cool grip from the opening shot…” – Manohla Dargis New York Times

How to Save a Dead Friend – Director Marusya Syroechkovskaya

This intimate documentary HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND explores the turbulent story of Marusya Syroechkovskaya, a suicidal 16-year-old as she falls in love with a humorous grunge kid named Kimi Morev. Fueled by drugs and music, the inseparable couple films the euphoria, anxiety and misery of their precarious existence under the shadow of their oppressive government. In the “depression Federation” (Russia), governed by leaders keen to bring forth an authoritarian dream, millennial suicides have become omnipresent – a last act of self-will among a generation denied the chance to envision a better future. Their  unbreakable love story takes hold in this destructive world, and Marusya uses her camera to chronicle it all – from the rise of hope as she and Kimi get married and begin their lives together, to the ever-increasing threat from their country’s internal weapons of isolation and division. Captured over 12 years, this raw, exuberant, and moving love story, provides insight into a silenced generation of rebellious youths struggling to survive in Putin’s Russia. Marusya’s camera now becomes her last chance to save something of the fragile Kimi. Director Marusya Syroechkovaya HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND speaks the language of a disenfranchised, silenced generation fluently, as it “saves” one voice from being lost forever.


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For more go to: howtosaveadeadfriend.com

About the filmmaker – Director / Producer  Marusya Syroechkovskaya  is a Moscow-born award-winning filmmaker and visual artist, who had to flee Russia as the March 2022 crackdown on opposition voices increased. Marusya studied filmmaking at the School for Documentary Film in Moscow under professor Marina Razbezhkina and received her MA in Film Directing at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow (graduated with honors). Her student short, Exploration of Confinement received a Jury Award at the New Orleans Film Festival 2013 and qualified for the 2013 Academy Awards. It was also selected for the 35th Moscow International Film Festival, the Message to Man International Film Festival 2013, Tenerife Shorts Film Festival 2014, and a number of other international film festivals. Her training includes workshops such as Ex Oriente Film, Flahertiana, and IDFAcademy. Marusya is a 2015 Nipkow Program Fellow (Berlin, Germany). 


“For anyone currently wondering about the condition of nonconformist youth in Russia, Marusya Syroechkovskaya’s How To Save A Dead Friend makes a fascinating watch – although the picture it presents is more than a little desolate.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“How to Save a Dead Friend is a feat of a film that contains so much personal truth in the quotidian images of an intimate video journal, that it hits the bull’s eye in capturing the most startling understanding of a generation…” – Luis Vélez, Cinencuentro

“At once deeply personal and socially relevant, How to Save a Dead Friend is a powerful statement.” – Shane Slater, Awards Radar

EO – Director Jerzy Skolimowski and Writer Ewa Piaskowska

In his first film in seven years, legendary director Jerzy Skolimowski (Deep End, Moonlighting) directs one of his most free and visually inventive films yet, following the travels of a nomadic gray donkey named EO. After being removed from the traveling circus, which is the only life he’s ever known, EO begins a trek across the Polish and Italian countryside, experiencing cruelty and kindness in equal measure, all the while observing the follies and triumphs of humankind. During his travels, EO is both helped and hindered by a cast of characters including a young Italian priest (Lorenzo Zurzolo),  a Countess (Isabelle Huppert), and a rowdy Polish soccer team. Loosely inspired by Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar, and featuring immersive, stunning cinematography by Michal Dymek coupled with Pawel Mykietyn’s resonant score, Skolimowski’s film puts the viewer in the perspective of its four-legged protagonist. EO’s journey speaks to the world around us, an equine hero boldly pointing out societal ills, and serving as warning to the dangers of neglect and inaction, all while on a quest for freedom. Director Jerzy Skolimowski and Writer Ewa Piaskowska join us for a conversation on EO’s jolting and sublime trek across the Polish and Italian countryside, as well as his collaboration with his filmmaking team, including cinematographer Michal Dymek, composer Pawel Mykietyn and writer / partner Ewa Piaskowska to burnish this heartfelt cinematic masterpiece.


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For more go to: eo.official.film

To watch in a theatre go to: eo.official.film/buy-tickets

Winner – Jury Prize – 2022 Cannes Film Festival

Poland’s official entry – Best International Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards®

About the filmmaker – Jerzy Skolimowski is a Polish film director, screenwriter, dramatist and actor. A graduate of the prestigious National Film School in Łódź, Skolimowski has directed more than twenty films since his 1960 début, THE MENACING EYE. In 1967 he was awarded the Golden Bear prize for his film THE DEPARTURE. Among his other notable films is DEEP END (1970), starring Jane Asher and John Moulder Brown. He lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years where he painted in a figurative, expressionist mode and occasionally acted in films. He returned to Poland, and to film making as a writer and director, after a 17-year hiatus with FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA in 2008. He received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2016 Venice Film Festival.

About the filmmaker – Screenwriter / Producer Ewa Piaskowska has produced the last four Jerzy Skolimowski’s films, and co-wrote three of them. She is the co-owner of Skopia Film. She is a graduate in Art History from the University of Warsaw and the Film, Television, Video and New Media program at UCLA.


97% on RottenTomatoes

“EO is a thrillingly imaginative piece of filmmaking: a strange, haunting epic about a donkey that couldn’t feel more of our moment.” – John Powers, NPR

“EO may be one of the greatest movies ever made about the spirit of animals, as much as we can know it.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

“In its relentless pursuit of disorienting audiences and unmooring them from narrative conventions, EO compels us to see the world differently, and therefore helps us see it from a perspective outside our own.” – C.J. Prince, Globe and Mail

“It left me shattered… just being there, quietly weeping, with others gave me a sense of communion… the kind that I always feel when I got to the movies, sit in the dark and have my world and mind blown.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

‘“EO” is a damning polemic on our relationship to other intelligent species — as free labor, food and companions — as seen through the dewy, wide eyes of a donkey whom we come to adore.’ – Peter Debruge, Variety

Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power – Co-directors Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard

While the march from Selma to Montgomery lives in the collective memory as a high point of the Civil Rights Movement, there was something else blooming in  Alabama beyond the terminus of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, just beyond the camera’s eye. Stokely Carmichael—a dynamic, young organizer also from SNCC—used this moment on the sidelines to make connections in the crowd, gathering names and information. For Carmichael and the community whose stories he absorbed, this pivotal moment wasn’t a culmination, but a beginning. Nowhere was this next battle better epitomized than in Lowndes County, Alabama, a rural, impoverished county with a vicious history of racist terrorism. In a county that was 80 percent Black but had zero Black voters, laws were just paper without power. This isn’t a story of hope but of action. Through first person accounts and searing archival footage, LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER tells the story of the local movement and young Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers who fought not just for voting rights, but for Black Power in Lowndes County. Co-directors Geeta Gandbhir (Black and Missing, I Am Evidence) and Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, Four Little Girls) join us for a conversation on bringing to life the activism and courage of people like Ella Baker, John Hulett, Courtland Cox, Ruby Sales, Reverend Wendell Paris and one of the most consequential Civil Rights leaders Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael).


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For more go to: greenwichentertainment.com/lowndes county documentary

About the filmmaker – Director / Producer / Editor Geeta Gandbhir started her career in narrative film under Spike Lee and Sam Pollard. After working for 11 years in the edit room in scripted film, with filmmakers including Merchant Ivory, the Coen Brothers, Robert Altman, she branched into documentary film. She recently directed and show-ran a four-part series for HBO titled Black and Missing, which is currently airing on HBO and won a 2022 NAACP Award for Best Directing, a 2022 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Series and a 2022 ATAS Honors Award. She also recently directed Apart, with Rudy Valdez for HBOMax which was nominated for an NAACP Award. Her 2020 short film with Topic Studios, Call Center Blues, was shortlisted for a 2021 Academy Award®, and she directed an episode of the five-part series of the Asian Americans for PBS, which won the 2021 Peabody Award. Other projects include directing the six-part series Why We Hate for Jigsaw Productions and Amblin Entertainment for Discovery, the feature documentary I Am Evidence for HBO which won a 2019 Emmy, DuPont and ATAS Award, and the film Armed with Faith for PBS which won a 2019 News and Documentary Emmy. In 2017 she directed an episode of the Netflix series The Rapture featuring rap artist Rapsody. In 2016 her feature documentary, Prison Dogs, which she co-directed with Perri Peltz, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and her film A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers premiered at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival and later aired on PBS as part of the series Women, War and Peace. She also co-directed and co-produced the series A Conversation on Race series with The New York Times Op-Docs, which won an Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary, an AFI Documentary Film Festival Audience Award for Best Short and garnered a MacArthur Grant. She was also a co-producer on the HBO film The Sentence, directed by Rudy Valdez which won a 2019 Emmy. As an editor, her films have won one Academy Award®, two Emmy Awards and five Peabody awards. 

About the filmmaker – Sam Pollard is a veteran feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director. Between 1990 and 2010, he edited a number of Spike Lee films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, and Bamboozled. Pollard and Lee co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen, including Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings which was nominated for an Academy Award® in 1998 and When The Levees Broke, a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. Five years later 2010 he co-produced and supervised the edit on the follow up, If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise. As a producer / director, since 2015, his credits include: Slavery By Another Name, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for PBS that was in competition at the Sundance Festival; August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for American Masters; Two Trains Runnin, a feature length documentary, which premiered at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2016; and Sammy Davis Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me for American Masters premièred at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2019, he co-directed the six-part series, Why We Hate, which premiered on The Discovery Channel. In 2020 he was one of the directors on the 2020 HBO Series Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. also that year, he completed MLK/FBI,  which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was also featured at the New York Film Festival. 


100% on RottenTomatoes

“It is, quite simply, one of the best documentaries of the year.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“Very powerful film.” – Tim Cogshell, FilmWeek (KPCC – NPR Los Angeles)

“Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power is accessible, passionate, and motivated by the principle of community that led to the Black Power movement.” – Peyton Robinson, RogerEbert.com

“Gandbhir and Pollard are able to lay their hands on some startling footage, but paint an equally vivid picture around it as they interview those that are still standing today in Lowndes, no doubt because they stood up for themselves.” – Stephen Saito, Moveable Fest

Nelly & Nadine – Director Magnus Gertten

Magnus Gertten’s powerful new documentary NELLY & NADINE is the unlikely love story between two women falling in love on Christmas Eve 1944, in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. A Belgian prisoner and opera singer Nelly Mousset-Vos had been asked to sing Christmas carols in one of the French populated Ravensbrück barracks. After a couple of songs, a Chinese born woman and fellow prisoner, Nadine Hwang, calls out from the dark: ”Sing something from Madame Butterfly!”. Despite the two being separated in the last months of the war, Nelly and Nadine manage to later reunite and spend the rest of their lives together. For many years their love story was kept a secret, even to some of their closest family. Now Nelly’s granddaughter, Sylvie, has decided to open Nelly and Nadine’s unseen personal archives and uncover their remarkable story. Director Magnus Gertten (Every Face Has a Name, Harbour of Hope) stops by to talk about his enthralling exploration of Nelly & Nadine and their remarkable stories, their wartime suffering, the shared mysteries, love against all odds, the healing power of music, well kept secrets, and the complicated family stories of concentration camp survivors, and dealing with the ghosts of the past.


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For more go to: autoimages.se/nelly_nadine

Available at: wolfereleasing.com/Nelly & Nadine

About the filmmaker – Magnus Gertten is an award-winning director and producer from Malmö, Sweden. Since 1998, he has directed more than 15 documentaries for SVT and international TV channels. His films have been screened by broadcasters and at film festivals in more than 60 countries. Magnus Gertten’s latest works includes Nelly & Nadine, and Only the Devil Lives without Hope which premiered at cph:dox, HotDocs and EIDF Korea and travelled world-wide to festivals and on television. Becoming Zlatan, co-directed with his younger brother Fredrik Gertten premiered at the 2015 IDFA festival and has travelled international festivals and was sold for distribution worldwide including a global deal with Netflix. Every Face Has a Name has received several international awards, including a FIPRESCI Award. The film was screened at The European Parliament. His film Tusen Bitar / A Thousand Pieces, co-directed with Stefan Berg, has sold over 160.000 tickets in Nordic cinemas. His documentary Harbour of Hope had Swedish cinema release and its international festival premiere at Thessaloniki Documentary Film festival in March 2012. Rolling Like a Stone (2005) won the Best Music Documentary Award at the Silverdocs/AFI Festival in 2006. Long Distance Love (2008) won Best Documentary at Hamptons International Film Festival in 2009. Magnus Gertten has a background as TV and radio journalist, including several years as a music journalist. Since 2017 he’s an honorary Doctor at the Malmö university. Magnus Gertten is co-owner of Auto Images and the creative center of the company.


100% on RottenTomatores

“The film is moving for the intimacy it depicts, an archive as unlikely as the love story itself.” – Teo Bugbee, New York Times

“A simple story told in a simple style and, quite simply, one of the best movies of the year. Carve out some more space in your chest – this is seriously heart-swelling stuff.” – Paddy Mulholland, Spectrum Culture

“The love story is remarkable in its own right but the film also shows the way these sorts of histories could be hidden in plain sight.” – Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film

“… a powerful story of forbidden love and family memories.” – Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue

“Nelly & Nadine” isn’t just a war movie but also a touching family history, an unforgettable romance and, above all, a magnificent tribute to the power of persistence in art, life and love.” – Elizabeth Weitzman, TheWrap

Art & Krimes by Krimes – Director Alysa Nahmias

ART & KRIMES BY KRIMES explores the world of art and confinement and how imprisonment often work against the greater social good. The engaging documentary on an artist, Jesse Krimes, locked up for six years in federal prison. He spends a good deal of his time secretly creating a monumental works of art—including an astonishing 30-foot mural made with prison bed sheets, hair gel, and newspaper. Krimes smuggles out each panel piece-by-piece with the help of fellow artists, only seeing the mural in totality upon coming home. As Jesse’s work captures the art world’s attention, he struggles to adjust to life outside, living with the threat that any misstep will trigger a life sentence. In addition to a focus on the stunning work of Jesse Krimes, ART & KRIMES BY KRIMES also features the work of formerly incarcerated artists Russell Craig, Jared Owens and Gilberto Rivera. Director, Writer, Producer and award-winning filmmaker Alysa Nahmias joins us for a conversation on confinement, loss, creativity and how her vérité filmmaking captured the jagged life of Jesse Krimes, from broken childhood through to his triumphant gallery show.


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For updates and screenings go to: krimesfilm.com

About the filmmaker – Director, Writer, Producer Alysa Nahmias is an award-winning filmmaker and founder of AJNA. She directed and produced the feature documentaries Art & Krimes by Krimes (2021) featuring artist Jesse Krimes and distributed by MTV Documentary Films, The New Bauhaus (2019) about visionary artist László Moholy-Nagy, and Unfinished Spaces (2011, co-directed with Benjamin Murray) about the Cuban National Art Schools, which won a 2012 Independent Spirit Award, was distributed by PBS and Netflix, and is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.  As a producer, her work includes the forthcoming Untitled Wildcat Documentary directed by Melissa Lesh and Trevor Frost for Amazon Studios and the Emmy-nominated and Oscar-shortlisted Unrest directed by Jennifer Brea, which won an a Special Jury Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was distributed by Netflix and PBS Independent Lens. Her producing credits also include the scripted feature No Light and No Land Anywhere, directed by Amber Sealey with executive producer Miranda July (Jury Award winner, LA Film Festival 2016), and the documentaries A Decent Home, directed by Sara Terry (DOC NYC, Denver 2021); What We Left Unfinished, directed by Mariam Ghani (Berlinale, SFFILM 2019) distributed by Dekanalog and Criterion; I Didn’t See You There, directed by Reid Davenport (Sundance 2022); Weed and Wine (Hot Docs 2020), directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen; and American Masters’ Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq directed by Nancy Buirski with creative advisor Martin Scorsese (NY Film Festival, Berlinale 2013).  Alysa has been featured in Filmmaker Magazine as an independent film innovator. She is a 2020 Film Independent Fellow and a 2019 Sundance Institute Momentum Fellow. She was the co-author of a Sundance Creative Distribution Case Study on Unrest. She holds degrees from New York University and Princeton University. Alysa is a founding member of FWD-Doc as an ally who is committed to advocating for disability rights and inclusion, and she is a member of the Documentary Producers Alliance (DPA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 



100% 0n RottenTomatoes

“Offers an eye-opening look at how one artist is seeking to lift the veil on a part of American society that has been made largely invisible to the public.” – Artnews
“A journey of redemption and artistic self-discovery” – Hammer to Nail
“A carceral magnum opus.” – The New York Times
“The Sistine Chapel of prison art.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Jesse Krimes’s stunning panorama—a Pop-Boschian depiction of Earth, Heaven, and Hell—is a monumental collage.” – The New Yorker

Hidden Letters – Co-director Violet DuFeng (Zhao Qing)

HIDDEN LETTERS explores the saga of women in China as it pertains to their history of being forced into oppressive marriages as well as forbidden to read or  write by their households for thousands of years. To cope, they developed and shared a secret language among themselves called Nushu. Written in poems or songs with bamboo pens on paper-folded fans and handkerchiefs, these hidden letters bonded generations of Chinese women in a clandestine support system of sisterhood, hope and survival. Spanning between past and present, from sunken rice fields and rural villages to bustling metropolitan cities, HIDDEN LETTERS follows two millennial Chinese women who are connected by their fascination with Nushu and their desire to protect its legacy. In Jiangyong, Hu Xin works as a Nushu museum guide and aspires to master the ancient script following the breakup of her marriage. In Shanghai, Simu is passionate about music and Nushu, but marital expectations threaten to end her pursuit of both. Influenced by Nushu’s legacy of female solidarity, the two women struggle to find balance as they forge their own paths in a patriarchal culture steeped in female subservience to men. Director Violet DuFeng (Please Remember Me, Dear Mother) joins us for an enlightening conversation on the history of Nushu, the pressure that was and continues to be brought down on the women who have carried the torch of this specialized language and the unbreakable bonds its usage has forged, generation upon generation.


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To watch go to: hiddenlettersfilm.com

For more go to: cargofilm-releasing.com/hidden-letters

About the filmmaker – Director / Producer Violet Du Feng is a documentary filmmaker and a 2018 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow. She produced DEAR MOTHER, I MEANT TO WRITE ABOUT DEATH, SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS, CONFUCIAN DREAM, MAINELAND, and PLEASE REMEMBER ME, which have won many awards including Doc Impact Hi5, Special Jury Awards at SXSW and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Feng started her career as a co-producer on the 2007 award-winning NANKING. She is the consulting programmer of Shanghai International Film Festival. HIDDEN LETTERS is her second feature-length documentary as a director.

About the filmmaker – Zhao Qing is the director of the award-winning PLEASE REMEMBER ME, supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund, IDFA Bertha Fund and the Britdoc Connect Fund. She started her career at Shanghai Media Group in 1991, where she directed and produced many television documentaries affiliated to the Documentary Channel of SMG. She directed and hosted several popular TV documentary programs such as “The Bund” and “Documentary Editing Room.”


88% on RottenTomatoes

“Whatever you might be expecting from Hidden Letters, it is unquestionably so much more. It takes the concept of embracing culture and heritage then translates that into a compelling discussion of the patriarchy, gender inequality and the difficulty in preserving tradition in a commercial world.” – Film Savage

“Hidden Letters walks us through a sorrowful past, the clashes of the present, and contemplates widely on the possibilities that await us in the future.” – Matthew Roe, Film Threat

“It’s a riveting, moving film, assembled with a remarkable fluidity to make its important points almost subliminally. And the observations are unusually complex and nuanced.” – Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

“One of 2022’s most beautiful and transformative documentaries.” – Richard Propes, TheIndependentCritic.com

“In their very moving documentary, directors Violet Du Feng and Qing Zhao show how generations of Chinese women found cracks in their oppressive, patriarchal society and created a way to find a small ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak existence.” – Marilyn Ferdinand, AWFJ Women on Film

“a deep and powerful rebellion.” – Gloria Steinem

Unveiled: Surviving La Luz Del Mundo – Director Jennifer Tiexiera

UNVEILED: SURVIVING LA LUZ DEL MUNDO explores the horrifying, yet relatively unknown story of the Christian church La Luz del Mundo (LLDM) and the sexual abuse that scores of members, many of them minors, say they have suffered at the  hands of its successive leaders, known as the “Apostles.” Told from the point of view of the survivors who met on Reddit to share their stories of abuse, the series chronicles the history of one of the most powerful religious groups not only in Mexico where it was founded, but also in the United States, while giving voice to the men and women who were brave enough to stand up and call out the heinous crimes. Under the guise of the only true church offering eternal salvation, LLDM, which claims to have congregations in over 50 countries and over five million followers, was founded in 1926 by Aarón Joaquín Gonzalez. Joaquín Gonzalez was succeeded by his son and then grandson, all three Apostles said to be appointed by “divine revelation.” Now, scores of former members have come forward to describe how the Apostles built and maintained a system to procure and groom children for abuse. The series culminates in the events leading up to the 2019 arrest of the current Apostle, Naasón Joaquín García and his present-day trial, shedding light on a story that was all but ignored by mainstream media, and illustrating the positive power of social media to unite and provide agency to the survivors.  Award-winner filmmaker Jennifer Tiexiera joins us to talk about the power and reach of the “Apostles”, the church followers and their work to intimidate  and undermine the credibility of the abused, the kind of high powered legal protection  that money can buy and the courage of, not only the abused, but their loved ones to bring some measure of justice to the church.


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For more go to: hbo.com/unveiled-surviving-la-luz-del-mundo

About the filmmaker – Jennifer Tiexiera is an award winning documentary director, producer and editor and one of the co-founders of Lady & Bird, a female-run documentary production company focused on telling stories from underrepresented voices. Most recently, she directed Subject which made it’s debut at the 2022 TriBeCa Film Festival. In 2020, she completed P.S. Burn this Letter Please– a film that begins with the impossible discovery of a box of letters that date back to the early 1950’s and reveal an untold and secret history of New York’s LGBT community. P.S. Burn this Letter Please made it’s debut at the 2021 TriBeCa Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the 2020 OutFest Film Festival. She edited Mija which made it’s premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and was recently purchased by Disney Original Docs. In 2019, she completed 17 Blocks– a documentary directed by Davy Rothbart and spanning over 20 years as it intimately follows the lives of a Washington DC family deeply affected by gun violence. 17 Blocks premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival where Tiexiera was awarded Best Editing in a Documentary Feature Film. In 2017, she both produced and edited the documentaries, A Suitable Girl, winner of the Albert Maysles Award at the TriBeCa Film Festival and Waiting for Hassana, official selection of the Sundance, SXSW, and Toronto Film Festivals. Tiexiera has produced and edited numerous VR documentaries as well- ZIKR: A Sufi Revival and The Day the World Changed, official selections of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and 2018 TriBeCa Film Festival respectively. She conducted IDA Extended Reality (XR) Master Class and in 2017, she edited The Last Goodbye which made it’s debut at the 2017 TriBeCa Film Festival, internationally at the 2017 Venice International Film Festival, and won the 2018 Lumiere Award for Best VR Documentary. Her previous work also includes the documentary, Salam Neighbor, narrative film, Road to Paloma and the 2011 SXSW Documentary Grand Jury Winner, Dragonslayer. Some of her television credits include documentaries, Oprah Builds a Network and Biggie : The Notorious Life of B.I.G., the Emmy-nominated ESPN film, The Marinovich Project, and short film Woinshet, directed by Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone for PBS. Tiexiera is a proud member of the Brown Girl Doc Mafia, the Documentary Producers Alliance, the International Documentary Association, LatinX Directors, Women in Film and Film Fatales. She is currently in post-production directing her first series, Unveiled: Surviving La Luz Del Mundo, for Jigsaw/HBO.


The Almond and the Seahorse – Co-directors Celyn Jones (Tom Stern)

Based on the play by Kaite O’Reilly, THE ALMOND AND THE SEAHORSE is the directorial debut of both notable actor and BAFTA-nominated screenwriter Celyn Jones; and Academy Award and BAFTA-nominated cinematographer Tom Stern. Sarah (Rebel Wilson) is an archaeologist who loves her husband Joe (Celyn Jones) but after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) their love is trapped in the past. Toni (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is an architect and loves her partner Gwen (Trine Dyrholm) but after a TBI they have been imprisoned in a fifteen-year loop. Love is the only thing that keeps them all going but something has changed, and both Sarah and Toni are determined to not let it all unravel as they face their fears of being forgotten by the people they love most. Co-director, co-writer and co-star Celyn Jones (Six Minutes to Midnight, Born a King) joins us for a conversation working with his award winning, frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator, co-director and cinematographer Tom Stern, assembling a superb cast of actors and the challenge being in front of the camera and in the director’s chair for his debut feature film project.


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For more go to: ifcfilms.com/the-almond-and-the-seahorse

About the filmmaker – Co-Writer / Co-Director / Actor Celyn Jones is a critically acclaimed actor and BAFTA nominated screenwriter from Wales. The Times referred to him as ‘the powerhouse writer-performer behind the greatest Dylan Thomas biopic yet’. He started his producing career with a series of award-winning short films. Celyn is the Co-founder of Mad As Birds Films and has produced on every one of their feature films including the Diane Keaton comedy POMS which he developed from a one-line pitch. Celyn wrote Set Fire to the Stars, which he starred as Dylan Thomas opposite Elijah Wood. The film received nominations for the Michael Powell award for the Best British Film, EIFF & MIFF Audience awards and won three BAFTA Cymru awards. Since then he has written the critically acclaimed, BAFTA & BIFA nominated, noir-thriller, The Vanishing, starring Gerard Butler & Peter Mullan and has co-written Eddie Izzard’s first screenplay, Six Minutes to Midnight starring Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent which was released by Lionsgate. He co-wrote the screenplay for The Almond and the Seahorse after originating the role of Joe on stage. Celyn has now moved into Directing, with The Almond and the Seahorse being his directorial debut. Celyn has also adapted the tense, psychological thriller novel The Night Guest for a high-level American co-production, which he will Direct and has attached himself to direct Richard Lumsden’s adaption of his novel The Six Loves of Billy Binns, which will star Tom Courtenay. As a character actor Celyn continues to be in high demand, acting opposite the likes of Alicia Vikander in Wim Wenders’ Submergence and playing Winston Churchill in Agusti Villaronga’s Born A King. In 2019 he was awarded the prestigious BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Actor, after giving a sensational performance of a real-life serial killer in Manhunt for ITV. He is a proud Ambassador for the young people’s charity Into Film and a patron for the Theatre Colwyn cinema in North Wales.

About the filmmaker – Tom Stern is a world renowned cinematographer who started his career in 1977 as a gaffer in Scalpel before working as a chief lighting technician on films such as The Goonies, Spaceballs, American Beauty and a number of films directed by Clint Eastwood such as Sudden Impact, Pale Rider, Heartbreak Ridge, Bird or A Perfect World. In 2002, he started working as a cinematographer with Clint Eastwood on Blood Work, quickly followed by Mystic River in 2003. He became Eastwood’s primary cinematographer working with him on projects such as Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Invictus, American Sniper or Sully. Tom also worked with Clint Eastwood on Changeling for which he was nominated for Best Cinematography for an Academy Award and a BAFTA. Tom’s prestigious work also includes the first Hunger Games. The Almond and the Seahorse is Tom’s first time directing.


Free Puppies – Co-directors Samantha Wishman (Christina Thomas) – Subject Monda Wooten

When Hurricane Katrina left more than 250,000 pets stranded, the infrastructure of a nation-wide dog rescue effort was born. Since then, millions of Southern rescue dogs have been transported to new homes thanks to the tireless efforts of a grassroots network of dog rescuers. And while the media has popularized the image of dogs climbing out of transport trucks into the arms of eager adopters, little attention has been paid to the other side of the story. FREE PUPPIES! travels across the country’s political divide to explore one of the many areas where no public animal services exist, and volunteers — many of them women — step in. The story follows rescuers Monda Wooten, Ann Brown, and Ruth Smith, and the network of independent “rescue ladies” who patrol vast rural counties in the Tennessee Valley caring for stray and surrendered dogs. Their grassroots efforts to start up a spay-and-neuter program, rescue countless dogs from euthanasia and neglect, and place them in loving “forever homes” will pluck at the heartstrings of any dog person. Co-director Samantha Wishman (Christina Thomas) and film subject Monda Wooten joins us to talk about the national crisis of lost, abused and shelterless animals, the reasons why the South has an epidemic of unrescued dogs and the volunteers and organizations that are stepping forward so that you can have your own free puppy / kitten.


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For more go to: freepuppies.us

For more great films go to: firstrunfeatures.com/freepuppies

Support the organizations featured in Free Puppies and more!

Available on iTunes now!

About the filmmaker – Samantha Wishman is a filmmaker from New York City. After graduating from Columbia Law School, she moved to LA to make a short film about pitching a script for a feminist softball comedy in Hollywood, which went on to play at a number of festivals. She adopted a rescue dog named Billie Hollydale before returning home to make FREE PUPPIES!. 

About the filmmaker – Christina Thomas is a producer, director and editor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from The University of Pennsylvania she moved to Los Angeles where she has worked on several productions including commercials, shorts and features. FREE PUPPIES! is her documentary directorial debut. She enjoys giving equal attention to her dogs Harvey and Ruphus. 

About the subject – Rescuer Monda Wooten is a dog rescuer, business owner, and city commissioner in Trenton, Georgia. Monda works with Ann, Ruth and several other rescuers helping to facilitate low-cost spay/ neuter, transport, and adoptions. She has been fighting for over sixteen years to get public support and public funding for a local animal shelter. In the meantime, Monda and her friend Ann take matters into their own hands. 


100% on RottenTomatoes

“The film achieves its goal in raising awareness for these volunteer efforts, casting a spotlight on a chronically overlooked crisis.” – Claire Shaffer, New York Times

“If you love furry creatures great and small, you will revel in the heart-warming documentary Free Puppies!” – Susan Wloszczyna, AWFJ Women on Film

“A film for dog lovers, dog rescuers, and really anyone who can appreciate a simple, sentimental and inspirational documentary.” – Richard Propes, TheIndependentCritic.com

“Warm, empowering and inspirational. It will make you stand up and cheer!” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru

ONODA: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle – Director Arthur Harari

ONODA: 10,000 NIGHTS in the JUNGLE is based on the true story of Hiroo Onoda, the legendary Japanese soldier who spent 30 years in the Philippine jungle, refusing to surrender because he was convinced World War II had not ended. Camouflaged by leaves and bark, shooting water buffalo for sustenance, Onoda will not believe even the recordings of his brother’s voice, imploring him to give up, or the magazine articles left for  him in the jungle, meant to enlighten him about a world that had changed dramatically since 1944. (His response: paranoid conspiracy theories about the enemy concocting fake news.) Was Onoda a self-deluded fanatic or a paragon of patriotism? Harari’s poignant, epic drama reveals the complexities of the man who became a modern myth – and the inspiration for Werner Herzog’s recently published novel, The Twilight World. Director Arthur Harari (Dark Illusions) joins us to talk about the first time he heard this far-fetched tale, the importance of striking a balance heroic commitment and delusional denial, and the reaction to the film in Japan.


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For more go to: darkstarpics.com

About the filmmaker – Arthur Harari was born in Paris in 1981 and has directed several short and medium-length films that have been screened in a large number of festivals. In 2017, his first film Dark Inclusion, was nominated for two César awards and won Best Male Newcomer for Niels Schneider. In 2021, his new film Onoda – 10,000 nights in the Jungle opens the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Festival. 


96% on RottenTomatoes

“Harari never goes for easy pathos without counterbalancing it with the human cost of Onoda’s monomaniacal zeal, his semi-mystical devotion to a duty that died decades before.’ – Jessica Kiang, Variety

“Gaunt, wary and silent, Onoda looks like a ghost returning to the land of the living, a moment that eloquently sums up what he – and his country – lost in the collective madness of war.” – Mark Schilling, Japan Times

“This is essential viewing for anyone with a modicum of interest in WWII history. For the odd individuals that don’t have any interest, this is still well worth a watch because of the powerful character study at play.” – Sumner Forbes, Film Threat

“An intense character study of camaraderie and commitment emerges, one that also strikes a melancholy note about the power of propaganda and a life “lost” in service of a war that had long since ended.” – Amber Wilkinson, Radio Times

“Harari chooses to create a psychological portrait of his central character, using images rather than explanations of ideology to tap into Onoda’s mind-set.” – Teo Bugbee, New York Times

Leonor Will Never Die – Director Martika Ramirez Escobar

LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE drops us into the wildly imaginative internal life of Leonor (Sheila Francisco), a retired filmmaker who reads the obits and prefers to talk with her dead son Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon), rather than her living one, Rudie (Bong Cabrera), who is on her case for not paying the electric bill. One day, however, Leonor is hit on the head by a TV that was thrown out a window and ends up in with hypnagogia — a state between sleeping and waking. She soon enters a limbo that is her unfinished screenplay “Ang Pagbabalik Kwago” (“The Return of Kwango”), a film-within-the-film, in which Ronwaldo (Rocky Salumbides) romances Majestika (Rea Molina) while trying to fend off a series of bad guys. And it is all filmed like a Z-grade action film where the fight scenes are faker than wrestling. But it provides considerable fun as Leonor wanders through the film’s scenes like an absent-minded grandmother wielding a hammer in case of danger. LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE is an innovative blend of pulpy action homages, playful comedy, touching family drama, and a wonderfully imaginative tribute to the art of filmmaking. Director Martika Ramirez Escobar joins us for a conversation on the joyous and challenging eight year journey that LEONOR has taken her on, the DIY powered collaboration with her creative partners that sustained the film and the satisfaction of seeing the positive reaction to the film.


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For more go to: musicboxfilms.com/leonor-will-never-die

Amplify Voices Award – 2022 Toronto International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for Innovative Spirit – 2022 Sundance Film Festival
Special Jury Mention, Narrative Feature – 2022 LA Asian Pacific Film Festival
Best Narrative Award – 2022 CAAMFest 
Nominated – 2023 Film Independent Spirit Award – Best International Feature


About the filmmaker – Martika Ramirez Escobar was born in Manila in 1992. Her love for the bizarre is best reflected through her films and photography. After graduating with honors from the University of the Philippines, her thesis Stone Heart, competed at the 19th Busan International Film Festival and screened around the world. It also won Best Film at Cinemalaya. Her latest work, Quadrilaterals, premiered at the 9th DMZ Docs. She is an alumna of the Berlinale Talents Tokyo, Asian Film Academy, Southeast Asian Film Lab, Luang Prabang Talent Lab, Fantastic Film School, Mowelfund Film Institute and is a recipient of the Purin Film Fund. She is currently working as a freelance director-cinematographer for various production houses in Manila. More from Martika at: vimeo.com/martika


90% on RottenTomatoes

“Disarmingly tender portrait of an artist on the edge of the afterlife.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“A beautiful, life-affirming celebration of the power of film and art.” – Charles Barfield , The Playlist

“A delightful surprise; it’s inventive and original, with flourishes of magical realism.” – Shirley Li, The Atlantic

[An] endlessly imaginative delight. – Carlos Aguilar, RogerEbert.com

“An affectionate sendup of cornball heroics. The punches whiff, the sound effects are clumsy, and the score by Alyana Cabral and Pan De Coco is deadpan hysterical. But Escobar is after something deeper than parody.“ – Amy Nicholson, Variety

Deconstructing Karen – Director Patty Ivins Specht

In Patty Ivins  Specht’s latest documentary film, DECONSTRUCTING KAREN, follows the work of Regina Jackson and Saira Rao as they continue to challenge the pall of racism through their RACE2DINNER — a movement to inspire white women to confront themselves and to acknowledge their own racism and complicity in white supremacy. The dinners will remind you of your favorite childhood memory of playing the game Clue. The most dangerous person in the room is never the obvious suspect. What if the bible-thumping, conservative Trump voter isn’t any more racist than the liberal yoga teacher who screams “love is love” What if well-intentioned liberal white women actively play a role in upholding racism and white supremacy? In this provocative documentary, white women experience RADICAL HONESTY ABOUT RACISM…their daily role in upholding it, their conditioning to ignore it and the essential part they can play in tearing down the systems that are killing black and brown people every single day. Director, producer and writer Patty Ivins Specht joins us for a conversation on the why confronting white women is vital to breaking the stranglehold that latent and overt racism has on America, connecting with the organizers of RACE2DINNER, Regina Jackson and Saira Rao and her reaction to the spirited conversations showcased in her insightful new film, Deconstructing Karen.


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For more go to: deconstructingkaren.com

About the filmmaker – Director | Producer| Writer Patty Ivins Specht is an Emmy-award winning producer, director and writer.  Documentaries about womanhood (Logo’s HUNGRY, Discovery’s Mean Girls Mind Games, PBS’s Girls on the Wall), equality (Logo’s Light in the Water) plus documentaries like AMC’s Marilyn Monroe:  THE FINAL DAYS which also included an extensive re-mastering of director George Cukor’s Marilyn Monroe vehicle SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE and and Showtime’s Reversal of Fortune. Patty believes in anti-racism work and continues to deconstruct her own inner Karen and to walk in Regina Jackson’s wisdom to have the courage to “call a thing a thing.”  

About the subject – Saira (NOT Sara) Rao grew up in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Indian immigrants. After graduating from the University of Virginia and New York University School of Law, she served as a law clerk on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an associate at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Saira is a published author, a successful entrepreneur, and a former congressional candidate. 

About the subject – Born in Chicago in 1950, Regina Jackson remembers an America where everything was Black & white. Burned into her memory are the beatings & horrific treatment of civil rights workers, the Goodman, Chaney & Schwerner murders, the murder of Viola Liuzzo, the murder of MLK, JFK and his brother Robert. The violence perpetrated on innocent people going about their lives, by white people. It is these memories that drive Regina to push for real change in America. Which is why she co-founded Race 2 Dinner. Regina attended U of Colorado and the Executive MBA program at the University of Denver and, worked as a management consultant at Organizational Politics. Regina also spent 27 years in corporate America retiring in 1998 as a Sales Executive and has since started three successful businesses. 


“Deconstructing Karen is an essential resource regarding the deep-seated racial divide here in the United States.” – Alan Ng, Film Threat

Four Samosas – Director Ravi Kapoor

FOUR SAMOSAS drops us into the world of wannabe rapper VINNY (Venk Potula) as he discovers that his fatalistic ex-girlfriend RINA (Summer Bishil) is now engaged to a goat-shit recycler named SANJAY (Karan Soni), Vinny decides to disrupt her future wedding by stealing her dowry diamonds from her father’s grocery store. Crewing up with an actor who longs to go to Bollywood, a resourceful do-gooding newspaper editor and a malcontent immigrant engineer, Vinny and his gang somehow pull off the heist despite their obvious ineptitude. But will the theft get Vinny and Rina back together again or lead to more misery? And will Vinny ever finish a song? Set entirely in LA’s “Little India” in a world of sari places, curry restaurants, Indian amateur-dramatic groups and South-Asian revolutionaries, FOUR SAMOSAS is a love letter to all the “Little India’s” around the world, and a celebration of re-discovering your voice and finding your crew. Director / writer Ravi Kapoor (MISS INDIA AMERICA) joins us for a lively conversation on the inspiration for his scattershot comedy about acculturation, youthful exuberance, family, Artesia, love and assembling a fantastic cast of talented actors, led by a breakout performance from Venk Potula.

For screenings and updates go to: foursamosas.movie

For more go to: ifcfilms.com/films/four-samosas

About the filmmaker – Director/Writer Ravi Kapoor (Miss India America) is a writer, director and actor who was born and raised in Liverpool. He trained at the East 15 School of Acting in London and has worked extensively in both the UK and America. He directed and co-wrote the feature MISS INDIA AMERICA which played at many festivals and then sold to Netflix worldwide and is now available on most streaming channels. His second feature FOUR SAMOSAS, a quirky heist comedy set in LA’s “Little India” will be hitting the festival circuit in June. His short films played and won awards at various festivals in the US. He’s appeared in numerous TV shows and movies including FLIGHT, BOOKCLUB, THE STARLING, 24, SHARP OBJECTS, NCIS, ELEMENTARY, THE BRINK, and many more. He was also a series regular on the shows GIDEON’S CROSSING and CROSSING JORDAN for which he also directed.



“Writer-director Ravi Kapoor’s second feature is hysterical, heartfelt, and beautiful to look at. His script and direction are nearly flawless.” – Nadir Samara, Screen Rant

“Colorful and handsomely composed like a Wes Anderson movie, but far from that director’s world of gloomy, globe-trotting dandies, “Four Samosas” is a jovial romp through the Indian enclave of Artesia located outside of Los Angeles.” – Beatrice Loayza, New York Times

“Brimming with wide-eyed invention and featuring an ensemble cast on solid form, ‘Four Samosas’ is a concise piece of cultural comedy, with some B-movie heist elements thrown in for good measure.” – Martin Carr, We Got This Covered

“Its plot may run out of gas, but “Four Samosas” never stops being likable.” – Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

“Kapoor does a great job of giving audiences an authentic experience in an outrageous story. The fast paced storytelling is top notch and the characters are a fun group to watch.” – Nathaniel Muir, AIPT

Angola, Do You Hear Us – Director Cinque Northern

ANGOLA, DO YOU HEAR US chronicles the most important performance of acclaimed Playwright Liza Jessie Peterson life: a 2020 appearance on the chapel stage of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The prison, with its 6,000 incarcerated men and 18,000 acres of farmland, is better known as Angola, after the homeland of the enslaved people who once labored on the site of the former plantation. Peterson’s journey there, to deliver her one-woman production of “The Peculiar Patriot,” begins many years earlier when she takes a job teaching poetry to incarcerated teenagers at Rikers Island. What begins as a way to pay bills between auditions becomes inspiration, as Peterson strives to expose America’s modern-day plantation system, the prison-industrial complex that imprisons African-Americans for profit. The electrifying performance, speaking truth to power before a fired-up full house, is cut off prematurely when authorities at the prison have heard enough. But the day ends in triumph, as the audience, and an entire prison watching remotely, joins Peterson with defiantly raised fists. Cinque Northern’s film, which utilizes his own original footage and animation, captures the performance and the transformational wake of its shutdown, as told by Peterson and the incarcerated people themselves – all despite the prison’s efforts to pretend nothing ever happened.


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To find out more: cinquenorthern.com/apeculiarsilence

Watch at: paramountplus.com/movies/Angola: Do You Hear Us 

About the filmmaker – Director Cinque Northern is an Emmy nominated, Peabody award-winning filmmaker and editor who’s passionate about the intersection of creative cinema, social impact and the empowerment of artists. He spent eighteen years as a documentary editor for film and television and has earned international recognition directing both narrative and documentary work. Recent works include The One and Only Dick Gregory (Showtime) for which Cinque was field director, story producer and editor. He also co-wrote and edited My Name is Pauli Murray (Amazon Studios) and directed Angola Do You Hear Us? (MTV Documentary Films) airing on Paramount+ in the fall. Cinque has an MFA in filmmaking from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and lives in Santa Barbara, CA.  For more go to: cinquenorthern.com


Anastasia – Director Sarah McCarthy

The Documentary Short, ANASTASIA spotlights the life of Russian civil rights activist Anastasia Shevchenko as she faces the brutal repercussions of speaking out against her government. She endured house arrest for two years, and became the first person found guilty of “organizing activity of an undesirable organization” by a Russian court, for her work with the Open Russia movement. Amnesty International declared her a “prisoner of conscience.” While Anastasia was under arrest, her teenage daughter Alina was hospitalized and died alone, becoming an early example of the Russian regime’s willingness to use the separation of parents and children as a way to silence dissent. This intentional rupture of the parental bond is a denial of the elemental human right to care for our children. The spiritual and emotional burden that Anastasia carries makes her determination even more remarkable, as she continues to raise her two other children. One morning she gathers them, and her elderly mother, and takes a train across Russia to the Black Sea, a journey that this intimate story captures with poetic visual grace. Against the bright horizon, they come to terms with the family’s loss, and Anastasia realizes the only way she can continue to fight is to leave her homeland. Director Sarah McCarthy joins us for a conversation on a woman facing down an authoritarian regime, the loss of her daughter, the daunting challenge of pulling together her shattered family for a final tribute to her departed daughter.


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For more go to: anastasiafilm.com

Watch at: paramountplus.com/movies/Anatasia 

About the filmmaker – Sarah McCarthy has brought stories from Russia, the Philippines, India, Saudi Arabia, America and the United Kingdom to millions of people in over 35 countries. Sarah has premiered films at international film festivals all over the world, including Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival and DOC NYC. Sarah’s films have been broadcast on HBO, Netflix, Paramount, ESPN, Channel 4 and the BBC. Sarah’s work has received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Washington Post, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Screen International and she was recently named in the Radio Times list as one of the “30 Most Powerful Women in Film.” 


As Far As They Can Run – Director Tanaz Eshaghian

AS FAR AS THEY CAN RUN takes us to rural to Pakistan, where families with disabled children have few options. Some desperate parents keep their children locked up or even chained. When athletic coaches from Karachi persuade the parents of three teenagers — Ghulam, Sana, Sajawal – to allow the kids to participate in a sports training program as part of a Special Olympics initiative, the families glimpse the hope that living with disability doesn’t have to mean that their children are “useless.” But they and the coaches must confront the question of what sports can—and cannot—change. Over a one-year period, Iranian American filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian follows three disabled children and their families as they grapple with shame and prejudice in rural Pakistan to realize new talents and a sense of belonging through sports. Intimate and unflinching, hopeful and tragic, AS FAR AS THEY CAN RUN is a fascinating look at those who are struggling to find acceptance and worth in a society that had relegated them to the margins. Director Tanaz Eshaghian joins us for a conversation on all of the daunting challenges, physical, logistically and psychologically in shooting the children and their situation, as well as the joy of seeing the benefit the program has on their lives.


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To watch: paramountplus.com/movies/As Far As They Can Run

About the filmmaker – Director / Producer / Writer Tanaz Eshaghian left Iran with her mother at the age of six. She grew up in New York City, went to Trinity School and graduated from Brown University in 1996 with a BA in Semiotics. Her first film “I Call Myself Persian,” completed in 2002, told the story of how Iranians living in the U.S. were affected by prejudice and xenophobia after the September 11 attacks. In Love Iranian-American Style, completed in 2006, she filmed her traditional Iranian family, both in New York and Los Angeles, California documenting their obsession with marrying her off and her own cultural ambivalence. For her début feature-length film Be Like Others, a provocative look at men in Iran choosing to undergo sex change surgery, she returned to Iran for the first time in twenty-five years. Be Like Others, a BBC 2, France 5, ITVS production, premiered at the 2008 Sundance film festival and went on to win the Teddy special jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for and Emmy award. In 2011, she completed “Love Crimes of Kabul” a documentary film inside a women’s prison in Kabul Afghanistan focusing on “moral crimes” for HBO. She was the Executive Producer of the award winning documentary about the mystery surrounding the Salvator Mundi painting “The Lost Leonardo” in 2021. Her films have also screened at the Museum of Modern Art and in the Walter Reade cinema at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.


The Killing of a Journalist – Director Matt Sarnecki

On a cold night in February 2018, police enter a home in a Slovakian village and find a bloody crime scene. The body of Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old investigative journalist, lies face-down near the front door. He has been shot twice in the chest. In the kitchen is his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, shot once in the head. The killings of the young couple — who had planned to soon marry — inspire the biggest protests in Slovakia since the fall of communism, and spark the fall of the Slovakian government.  When a young police investigator pieces together the chain of events, he unearths a bizarre tale. The brutal murder ignited one of the biggest protests in Slovakia since the fall of communism. As colleagues and family search for answers, a source leaks a secret case file of the murder that reveals corruption at the highest level of government. Filmmaker Matt Sarnecki shapes a concise and thrilling reminder of the rising threat journalists around the world face to deliver the truth. Director Matt Sarnecki joins us for a conversation on the series of events that led him into documenting the unbelievable level of corruption in an Eastern European country, generally regarded as a major success,  as well as the very real threat journalist are facing, not just in Slovakia, but around the world and how that will impact the health of teetering democracies everywhere.


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For updates go to: finalcutforreal.dk/the-killing-of-a-journalist

About the filmmaker – Matt Sarnecki is a journalist, producer and film director at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. He has directed several documentaries broadcast throughout Europe and beyond. His documentary Killing Pavel, about the murder of investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet, won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal in 2017 and the DIG Award (Italy) in 2018. Previously, he produced and directed documentary series featured on VICE and powder.com. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Matt grew up in Los Angeles, California. At 17, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, earning a BA in political science and history. He spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania before moving to Prague, Czech Republic, where he held a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts. In 2007 he returned to New York and spent several years working in television and documentary. In 2011 he moved to San Francisco and earned a master’s degree in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.


Double Down South – Director Tom Schulman

DOUBLE DOWN SOUTH is a feminist fatale noir set in the dangerous world of illegal, high-stakes keno pool gambling at the turn of the 21st century. Nick (Kim Coates, “Bad Blood”) owns a run-down plantation house in the rural South and is charmed by a smart and tough Keno ace, Diana (Lili Simmons, “Power Book IV: Force”). Diana wants to win big and Nick is determined to stake her. Little Nick (Igby Rigney,“The Midnight Club”) strikes up a friendship with Diana and coaches her to win against the odds. Diana must prove herself in a man’s world to earn a match against Beaumont DuBinion (Justin McManus, “Power Book II: Ghosts”), the undisputed world’s greatest keno pool player, who, it turns out, has a contentious and violent history with Nick. Written and directed by Academy Award© winning writer Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society), the story is reflective of the misogyny and casual and blatant racism that still exists in our country. Schulman grew up in the South in the 50’s and 60’s and frequented pool halls where  high-stakes keno was the game of choice for the regulars, a game which is so insidious from a gambling perspective that it was banned in most states. Director Tom Schulman stops by to talk about his superb cast he has assembled, finding the perfect location for this project  and the joy of working in the realm of noir / Southern Gothic genre filmmaking.


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For more go to: doubledownsouthfilm.com

About the filmmaker – Tom Schulman won an Academy Award for his screenplay Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams, and the film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director (Peter Weir). His feature directorial debut was the dark comedy 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, starring Joe Pesci as a gangster attempting to transport a bag of severed heads across the United States.Schulman also wrote or co-wrote Honey, I Shrunk the KidsSecond SightWhat About Bob?, Welcome to Mooseport, Holy Man, which stars Eddie Murphy, and the Sean Connery drama Medicine Man. He was an executive producer on Indecent Proposal and Me, Myself & Irene.He co-wrote and co-produced the HBO pilot The Anatomy of Hope with Rafael Yglesias and J.J. Abrams, and recently collaborated with Callie Khouri, Trae Crowder, and T Bone Burnett on the writing of One Lane Road.Tom served on the board of directors and then as vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West. Tom was the president of the Writers Guild Foundation and serves on its board. He serves on the advisory board of the Science and  Entertainment Exchange.  Double Down South is Tom’s second feature film as director.



“Schulman knows enough to trust his excellent cast to suck the audience in.” – Sumner Forbes, Film Threat

“…a rough, tough confidence-thriller than delivers on tension, and tells an engrossing tale about a sport you probably didn’t know existed…” – Eddie Harrison film-authority.com

“Audiences will ultimately leave wanting to know more about keno billiards, want to scratch an itch of high stakes gambling, and want more drama just like Double Down South.” – Leo Brady, AMovieGuy.com

“You know there is something more than what you are being shown as every character seems to have secrets they are hiding. The intrigue grows as the film advances.” – Carey-Ann Pawsey, Orca Sound

I Am Vanessa Guillen – Director Christy Wegener

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN chronicles the life and death of a young Mexican-American soldier who vanishes from a U.S. Army base. Her family leads an international movement to find her and expose ongoing corruption within the military ranks. Vanessa Guillen always dreamed of joining the U.S. Army, but after reporting being sexually harassed at Fort Hood in Texas, she disappeared. After a two-month search, her remains were found in a nearby rural area, sparking rage at Army officials – and a fight for justice. I AM VANESSA GUILLEN follows Vanessa’s sisters Lupe and Mayra as they carry her name from protests in the streets to the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and offers a behind-the-scenes look at their tenacious pursuit to change a deeply rooted, controversial military justice system. Featuring interviews with family and friends as well as elected officials like Rep. Jackie Spears and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, I AM VANESSA GUILLEN is a bracing, candid testament to what a family’s love can do, even in the face of unimaginable grief. The film was executive produced by Story Syndicate’s Dan Cogan, Liz Garbus, Jon Bardin and Nell Constantinople. Director by Christy Wegener joins us for a conversation on the under-reported incidents of sexual assault that are rife in all branches of the United States military, the steely determination of Vanessa’s family to find her, bring justice to her murder and organize a sustained effort to bring accountability to the unaccountable military chain of command. 


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Watch at: netflix.com/IamVanessa Guillen


About the filmmaker – Christy Wegener is a director, writer and producer chiefly focused on stories that integrate both the tragedy and triumph of the human experience. In 2021, she founded Conduit Films, a production company devoted to character-driven stories with cultural resonance. Prior to founding Conduit Films, Wegener was a showrunner, writer and director, working in non-fiction and narrative.  She’s produced and written more than two-dozen films and TV series, including four seasons of Oprah’s NAACP and EMMY award-winning biography series, MASTERCLASS, crafting notable episodes about Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen Degeneres, JayZ, Susan Sarandon, Berry Gordy and Lenny Kravitz.  In 2022 she developed the hit PBS series, AMERICA OUTDOORS, which was a Jackson Wild Award finalist. She directed the notable short documentary, CLIMATE, that debuted on 80-foot screens in New York’s Times Square and a documentary exploring the benefits and dangers of Artificial Intelligence, A.I., commissioned for the World Science Festival. Her debut narrative short-film, LONG AGO, screened globally at more than 50 film festivals and won a screenwriting grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. It tells the story of overcoming heartbreak, gender discrimination and superficial judgement, with a comedic twist. She also produced the feature documentary, THE DARK SIDE OF THE SUN for Discovery, which was narrated by Grammy-winning artist Sting and directed by twice Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn. Wegener has a background in civil rights and journalism, working in the non-profit sector on issues such as gender and racial discrimination in police departments. She previously worked as a director/producer for the BBC and Monocle in London. She graduated from the University of Southern California, holding a Masters degree in Screenwriting and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Journalism. For more go to: conduit-films.com


“A must-see documentary.” – Wade Major, FilmWeek (KPCC – NPR Los Angeles)

“A lot of pain is shown in I Am Vanessa Guillen, but there is some encouraging progress shown by the end.” – John Sooja, Common Sense Media

“It’s not a perfectly made documentary, but it’s important… The content was great, and it’s very worth seeing for that.” – Claudia Puig, FilmWeek (KPCC – NPR Los Angeles)

Loan Wolves – Director Blake Zeff

LOAN WOLVES follows Blake Zeff, an investigative journalist and former politics editor for Salon, as he gets to the root of the student debt crisis, currently at $2,000,000,000,000 and counting. Following the stories of those most affected, Zeff ultimately zeroes in on the unexpected heart of the problem and exposes the rotten core of the country’s policy making. Confronting powerful enablers and challenging lies, LOAN WOLVES is a humorous and eye-opening documentary that demystifies this national debt crisis,  and the orgin story behind the obscure “carve out” in the 1998 education bill that now prevents countless Americans from reaching their full potential. LOAN WOLVES features high profile members of Congress, congressional staffers, respected economists and the people most directed impacted by this draconian law, the debtors. Director Blake Zeff joins us for a spirited conversation on the enormity of student debt, the pernicious legal entanglement that make the debt so onerous, and why allowing people to discharge the student debt or debt forgiveness is good for the people in debt, their families, and for a more prosperous economy for all. 


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“Loan Wolves” airs Sunday, December 11th at 10pm ET on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock.



“Confronting powerful enablers and challenging lies, Loan Wolves is a humorous and eye-opening documentary that demystifies this national crisis.” – Bedatri Choudhury, Philadelphia Inquirer

“An excellent new documentary… we should all treat this situation with great seriousness and urgency.” – Patrice Apodaca, Los Angeles Times

“Humorous…fast paced and never dull.  He’s pushy but a bit lovable. Extremely eye-opening and an interesting reflection on a pretty major crisis.” – Dan Pal, AMovieCritic.com

“Five stars!! Watch!!” – Josh Robin, Spectrum News