SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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10 MAY 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS.
The Queen of Basketball (Ben Proudfoot, 2021) won this year’s Webby for Best Documentary – Shortform. This is director Ben Proudfoot’s second award in this category, having won previously for That’s My Jazz. The Queen of Basketball, which also won this year’s Oscar® for Best Short Documentary, is about Lusia Harris, who became the first woman ever drafted by an NBA team when she was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz (now Utah Jazz) in the late 70s. Though she didn’t ultimately make the team, she left the sport with having won three national championships and an Olympic silver medal. The short was an SDFF 2022 official selection. While the Webby’s won’t be handed out until May 16, all of the winners are listed on their website.
Not Just a Name (De’Onna “Tree” Young-Stephens, SDFF 2022) was selected for Make Your Move, a five-film program presented by the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) and R.A.C.E. Matters SLO. The program featured short films that tell “stories about movement and movements” and also included Camp Yoshi, Egúngún, The Fourth, and Moving Meditation. Not Just A Name explores and highlights the trials and tribulations of African Americans with cultural and unique sounding names. It follows the stories of Shiquita Williams, Fulani Bahati, Naauh’Mocquaii Robinson-Jones and writer/director De’Onna Young-Stephens as they deal with microaggressions and the painful and triumphant origin of their identity as conveyed through their names.
Filmmaker Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath’s collaborative effort Young Plato received the Documentary Honorable Mention at the Greenwich International Film Festival. The international festival’s top prize – Best Social Impact Film Award – went to another documentary, The First Wave (Matthew Heineman 2021), about COVID-19’s brutal impact on New York City’s hospitals in 2020. Young Plato treads very similar territory to Ní Chianáin’s 2017 doc with David Rane, School Life (SDFF 2018), which focuses on teachers at Headfort, the only primary boarding school in Ireland. Set at a boy’s school in a marginalized Belfast community, Young Plato tells a story about applied philosophy as a mode of conflict resolution by focusing on the teaching practices of the school’s headmaster Kevin McArevey, who aims to empower and encourage kids to see beyond the limits posed by their circumstances through critical thinking.
The Art Of Making It (Kelcey Edwards, 2022) recently showed at Detroit Free Press’s FREEP Film Festival and the Maryland Film Festival. The SDFF 2022 alumni film follows a diverse cast of young artists at defining moments in their careers to explore whether the art world ecosystem meant to nurture them is actually failing them. Embracing the conundrum of how artists must be in the market, but not of it, The Art Of Making It a cautionary tale about what America stands to lose if we don’t rethink how we value artists, and a love letter to those who persevere in their artistic practice in spite of the extraordinary odds against ever achieving a sustainable career.
No Straight Lines was an official selection at the 15th annual Ampersand International Arts Festival, with director Vivian Kleinman in toe to field questions at a Q&A session. No Straight Lines is an SDFF 2022 Jury Nominee that chronicles the journeys of five scrappy LGBTQ artists—Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Mary Wings, Rupert Kinnard, and Jennifer Camper—from their early DIY work to the international stage, delving into everything from the AIDS crisis to the search for love and a good haircut. AIAF features both live performances and film, and seeks to better understand film and art’s place in the world. The festival screenings of international, student, and alumni-produced films, live performances, presentations, guest filmmakers, and receptions.
Three Meters and a few Centimeters (Mostafa Salehi Nezhad, 2020) is one of six Iranian films selected for the 14th Grand River Film Festival in Canada. Made in the early days of the pandemic, the short doc grapples with the quandary that arose when the outbreak made it difficult to meet Islamic religious requirements for burying the bodies of those who had died of Coronavirus.
Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Susan Sandler, 2020) will be screened as part of the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival’s Third Annual Pride Mini-Film-A-Thon, June 3-5. Julia Scotti, comedian and subject/collaborator of the doc, will also be performing her stand-up act at the event, which includes 4 features and a short. The pride event is a prelude to aGLIFF, the city’s oldest film festival, now in its 35th year. Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is a portrait of the transgender comedian, which explores the courage and humor it takes to be Julia. The film showed as part of SDFF 2021.
On May 24, the Liberty Aviation Museum will host a public screening of the documentary film, Red Horizon (Thomas Johnstone, SDFF 2021). Red Horizon is a documentary short about a group of pilots dedicated to keeping the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of black U.S. military pilots, alive while pursuing their dreams of becoming professional aviators and inspiring the Black community to take to the skies and change racial imbalance that persists in the world of aviation. The museum is showing the film to help call attention to the persist imbalance in the racial makeup of professional pilots. To this day, only 3 percent of commercial pilots are people of color or minorities. Tuskegee Airman Dr. Harold Brown of Port Clinton will share his experiences during the event, and Red Horizon cast member Emilia Tolbert will speak and answer questions online via Zoom.
The River and The Wall (Ben Masters, 2019) will be shown as part of the UrbanEye Film Festival, which runs May 11-15. Focused on themes related to architecture, the city and urban life, the festival has been held in Bucharest for eight years, but has moved to Cluj-Napoca, Romania for the first time this year. The includes screenings of Where to with History? (Hans Christian Post, 2020) an examination of how Dresden’s conservative architecture policy has paved the way for the reemergence of the right wing; The Destruction of Memory (Tim Slade, 2016) about the destruction of architecture as an intentional assault on cultural memory, focusing on recent wars in the Middle East; and Warsaw: A City Divided (Eric Bednarski, 2019), which tells the story of the Warsaw ghetto’s construction and legacy. An SDFF 2020 selection, The River and The Wall is also about the politics of space and architecture. In it, 5 friends set out to document the Mexico-U.S. borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a wall between the two countries on the natural environment. Masters also has a new film Deep In The Heart, which focuses on Texas unique eco-system and wildlife and will be shown at the upcoming EarthxFilm festival, along with with other SDFF alumni films (see entry below in Catch Them While You Can streaming section).
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu (Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, 2021), a feature-length documentary that expands on the directorial team’s animated documentary short Kapaemahu (SDFF 2021 Best Short) made its national premiere as part of the PBS World series Pacific Heartbeat on May 1 and is currently available to stream on the show’s website. and will have its world premiere at the opening of the Bishop Museum’s eponymous exhibition, which will run June 17-Oct. 15, 2022. While the animated doc focuses on the myth of the Kapaemahu healing stones, the new film documents the trail of post-colonial suppression through the eyes of a Native Hawaiian director Wong-Kalu, herself mahu, and uses rare archival materials, new historical findings, and vivid animation to bring the unexpurgated story back to life. Pacific Heartbeat is a national public television series of critically acclaimed documentaries that provides an authentic glimpse into the Pacific Islander experience.
A new project fromMark Cousins (The Story Of Looking, SDFF 2022) is among 35 documentary projects selected for Sheffield DocFest’s MeetMarket pitching forum, which returns as an in-person event for 2022 from June 27-28. It will be the first time the event has been run in-person since 2019. Cousins is presenting a UK title A Sudden Glimpse To Deeper Things, produced by Adam Dawtrey and Mary Bell. Other details remain at this stage.
IN THE NEWS
Last Meal (Marcus McKenzie and Daniel Principe, 2020) just became part of VICE’s The Short List with Suroosh Alvi. Narrated by Hugh Ross (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Last Meal presents a banquet of death row inmates’ final feasts and through them shines a light on our understanding of the individuals and the institutions meting out capital punishment. The short was an SDFF 2021 official selection. Check out VICE’s full video catalog.
In a recent Talkhouse column, “Continuum: Breakfast Paintings,” documentarian Keith Maitland (Tower, SDFF 2017) shares renderings of his favorite directors, each accompanied by a descriptive vignette. The filmmakers he sketches include Robert Altman, SDFF Patron Saint Agnes Varda, Francis For Coppola, Barbara Kopple, Hayao Miyazaki, and Spike Lee. The piece comes on the heels of Maitland’s recently released doc, Dear Mr. Brody, is now streaming on demand, and is about margarine heir Michael Brody Jr’s failed effort to give away his $25 million inheritance and usher in a new era of world peace in 1970. A recent article in Eater – Austin discusses the locations used to recreate the city’s dining scene in the early 1970s.
Composer and nascent filmmaker Kris Bowers who was both subject and co-director of the SDFF 2022 Best Short winner A Concerto Is A Conversation (co-dir. Ben Proudfoot) has been commissioned by the Monterey Jazz festival to write and present a piece commemorating the it’s 65th anniversary. Bowers’s piece highlights the role of ocean sanctuaries in a piece called “ASYLO” (“sanctuary” in Greek), timed to coincide with another anniversary—the 30th anniversary of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary—and drawing on the Greek myth of Persephone. The piece portrays the separation of a mother and daughter whale after leaving their sanctuary and their eventual reunion. The Monterey Jazz Festival will take place Sept. 23-25 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.
Australian Countertenor Max Riebl, featured in the soundtrack of the Australian doc Remembering the Man (Eleanor Sharpe, 2015) died late last month. An accomplished vocalist and musician, Riebl died of cancer at just 30 years old. You can read an overview of his life, work, last public statement, and reactions to his passing right here. Remembering the Man was an SDFF 2017 selection, about a schoolboy crush that became a life-long romance, a best-selling book and a seminal story of an entire generation lost to AIDS.
Summer is on its way, and with it (apparently) comes a flurry of lists of media content to stream. A recent New York Times list “Stream These Three Great Documentaries” includes Penny Lane’s Listening To Kenny G (Penny Lane, 2021), an examination of taste that grabbed both critical and public attention when it was released late last year. The doc, which interrogates the concept of taste by examining the public sentiment around much-maligned sax player Kenny G, has been making waves since it showed at DOC NYC last fall and is showing on HBO as part of that network’s Music Box series that includes Alison Kayman’s Alanis Morisette doc Jagged and Christopher Frierson’s DMX: Don’t Try to Understand. Lane’s film Nuts! about radio “doctor” and public health hazard of days past, Dr. John Brinkley, was an SDFF 2018 official selection. The New York Times list also includes Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison, 2017), a film as haunting as it is thought-provoking that marries the history of cinema vis-a-vis a cache of silent films preserved by permafrost with the history of Dawson City, Canada, the Klondike Gold Rush frontier town where the films were found in 1978. The film is streaming on a number of platforms including Kanopy, which is free with public library membership. Last, but not least, the list includes Camilla Nielsson’s President (2021) about Zimbabwe’s 2018 national election, the first to be held since 1980 when dictator Robert Mugabe took power. Though Mugabe’s removal in 2017 seemed to set the stage for a newly democratic Zimbabwe, Nielsson’s film tells a different story, one that encompasses corruption, structural power imbalances and political upheaval on all sides.
Two docs from SDFF alumni filmmakers made a recent list of films with the highest ratings among Netflix viewers. Crip Camp (James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, 2020) about the summer camp that helped birth the disability rights movement and Dick Johnson Is Dead (Kirsten Johnson, 2020) in which a filmmaker helps her father prepare for the end of his life in a surprising way are both included. While the list includes a few unsurprising/well-known entries, such as indie coming-of-age delight Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)and animated children’s fave How To Train Your Dragon (Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, 2010), it is perhaps more noteworthy for the number of films it includes that have received relatively little attention in popular culture and media, docs in particular. In addition to Crip Camp and Dick Johnson Is Dead, which both received Oscar® noms, the list includes lesser known docs from around the world includingThe Square: Inside The Revolution (Jehane Noujaim, 2013) about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that began in Tahrir Square, Strong Island (Yance Ford, 2017) in which a filmmaker recounts the story of his 24 year-old brother’s murder and its impact on his family, and Knock Down The House (Rachel Lears, 2019) about four women who ran grassroots congressional campaigns in 2018. In addition to docs, the list includes two international features, one for the Persian-language thriller Under The Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016) and the other for His House (Remi Weekes, 2020) a horror film set in South Sudan.
Fanny: The Right To Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021) is set for release on May 27 at New York’s Quad Theater, has a new trailer out, and is also now streaming via Crave. Fanny: The Right To Rock is an SDFF 2022 film about the first all-female band to be signed to a major record label in the U.S., who were written out of music history until fairly recently. The film’s director Bobbi Jo Hart also directed the SDFF 2018 selection Rebels On Pointe, which celebrated Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; the all-male, drag ballet company founded on the heels of New York’s Stonewall riots.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
Sebastopol’s 7th Israeli Film Festival is in its final week of in-person and virtual fest screenings, and wraps on May 17. The selections include 3 documentaries Black Flowers (Tammy Federmanm 2021) about , The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua (Yair Qeder, 2021), and That Orchestra with the Broken Instruments (Yuval Hameiri, 2021). The festival is presented by the Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County. Black Flowers is about Holocaust survivors who are working through traumatic memories with art, The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua is a portrait of the titular A.B. Yehosua, a beloved Israeli author, and That Orchestra with the Broken Instruments is about a peculiar collaborative effort to make harmony in the frequently discordant city of Jerusalem.
In addition to hosting film festivals and special series, Rialto Cinemas® will be screening This Much I Know To Be True (Andrew Dominik, 2022) on May 11 at 7:15 p.m. The music doc explores the creative relationship and songs from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ last two studio albums, Ghosteen and Carnage. The film captures the first performances of these two albums in advance of the duo’s 2021 tour. In addition to its emphasis on music, the doc reaches into the deep friendship and personal relationship between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, something glimpsed in the 2014 Cave pseudo-documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth.
OUTwatch continues its Spring/Summer film series on May 19 with Rebel Dykes (Siobhan Fahey, 2021), a heady, energized mash-up of animation, unseen archive footage and interviews, which provides intimate insight into a politically charged, artistically radical subculture in 1980s London. Bringing together BDSM nightclubs, inclusive, sex-positive feminism, DIY zine culture, post-punk musicians and artists, squatters, activists and sex workers, these rebel dykes went out onto the streets to make their voices heard. The film shows at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol. The series will continue with Daresha Kyi’s Mama Bears (June 16) and Chase Joynt’s Framing Agnes (July 21). Buy tickets here!
The final film in the Spring Doc Nights series, Reflection: a walk with water (Emmet Brennan, 2021) will be screened at Rialto Cinemas® on June 6 at 7 p.m. The screening and discussion will be screened at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® and will be followed by a casual gathering at Fern Bar. Part personal meditation on water, part road map for positive change, Reflection: a walk with water confronts current environmental and systematic troubles by examining bellwethers for the future, including Los Angeles and other parts of California. The film was an SDFF 2022 selection, and its screening included an environmental stewardship panel, which you can watch right here! Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF, and the Rialto®. Buy tickets here, or check out our Doc Night page for more details.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021) is available to stream on PBS’s POV series website. The film, an SDFF 2022 official selection, follows the story of three Latinx people living in McAllen, Texas who, despite their views, are connected by the most unexpected of places: the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border. As threats to the clinic and their personal safety mount, our three characters are forced to make decisions they never could have imagined.
The EarthxFilm festival will be screening SDFF 2022 films Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden, 2021) about Manitoba polar bears, Breaking Trail (Jesse Roesler, 2021) about the first woman and person of color to thru-hike the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail, and Tigre Gente (Elizabeth Unger, 2021) about a Bolivian park ranger and a journalist working to curtail the South American jaguar trade. The festival will also be showing Deep In The Heart, a new film by SDFF 2020 filmmaker Ben Masters who made The River and The Wall. The festival runs online May 16-23. In addition to being temporarily available via EarthxFilm, Breaking Trail is also streaming through Outside+.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean, 2017) will be available for free through PBS’s American Masters website through May 18. The American Masters website for the film also includes a number of new interviews and archival information, including an interview with Mel Brooks and recently unearthed audio of interviews with the inventor/actor. Bombshell showed at SDFF 2018 and is about the famed actress’s inventions, which included a technology that would eventually become Bluetooth.
Filmmaker Kief Davidson’s (Bending The Arc, SDFF 2018) new 4-part docuseries about the worst nuclear power incident in U.S. history, The Meltdown: Three Mile Island, began streaming on Netflix May 4 to much fanfare. The series tackles the near catastrophe at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant through the lens of chief engineer and whistleblower, Richard Parks, as well as the Pennsylvania community it impacted. The doc is comprised of dramatic reenactments, archival footage, never-before-seen home video, and in-depth interviews. The doc’s subject resonates with Davidson’s other films including Bending The Arc, which he co-directed with Pedro Kos. Kos has also made a recent documentary for Netflix, the critically acclaimed feature-length doc Lead Me Home, an immersive film about homelessness shot in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle made in collaboration with Jon Shenk. The SDFF2018 doc that they co-directed is also available to stream through Netflix. Bending The Arc documents the birth of Partners In Health, which began 30 years ago with the work of a group of extraordinary doctors and activists working to save lives in a Haitian village and became a battle in the halls of power for healthcare for all.
The SDFF 2021 film, When We Were Bullies (Jay Rosenblatt, 2021) is now streaming on HBO/HBO MAX. When We Were Bullies is an autobiographical doc about a filmmaker who is spurred to investigate a 50 year-old bullying event in which he was complicit after a chance encounter with an old classmate. The short was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2022 Academy Awards®.
Bathtubs Over Broadway (Dava Whisenant, 2018) is available via Netflix. The doc was an official SDFF 2019 film that focused on the industrial musicals and the people who make them. The doc approaches these rare, historic oddities produced by the likes of McDonalds and GE, by following a late night comedy writer who stumbles into a hilarious, hidden world of entertainment where he finds unexpected human connections. This highly entertaining doc includes appearances by David Letterman, Martin Short, Chita Rivera and Jello Biafra.
Ferne Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh (Ferne Pearlstein, 2016) is currently available to stream on Kanopy, which is available for free to anyone with a library card. The documentary, which showed at SDFF 2017, considers Holocaust comedy and satire, examining the history of the practice as well as the ethical issues it raises. The film includes appearances by Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and Gilbert Gottfried, who died this week after battling a long illness.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Deborah Esquezani, 2016) recently became available through NBC’s streaming platform Peacock TV. This SDFF 2017 selection examines the criminal justice system through the arrest of four women in San Antonio at the tail end of the “Satanic ritual abuse panic” of the 1990s. The four women, all Latina, all lesbian, were wrongfully convicted of a heinous sexual assault. The film documents their treatment by the criminal justice system and their continued efforts to prove their innocence after serving several decades in prison.
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