SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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10 JANUARY 2023
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS + EVENTS.
No Straight Lines (2021), Vivian Kleinman’s doc about queer comics, will make its national television debut on Jan. 23, when it airs as part of PBS’s prestigious Independent Lens. Independent Lens is a long-running PBS series dedicated to independent docs that are intensely personal, yet speak to universal challenges. The doc’s immanent appearance on the program also prompted an OutSmart interview with Kleinmanabout her relationship to queer comics and the making the film in general. The film chronicles the journeys of five LGBTQ artists—Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Mary Wings, Rupert Kinnard, and Jennifer Camper—from their early DIY work in the 1980s and 90s to the international stage, delving into everything from the AIDS crisis to the search for love and a good haircut. The doc was an SDFF 2022 Jury Nominee and is available through Docuseek and Good Docs. It will also be available to stream through Independent Lens online after it airs on Jan. 23.
Reflection: a walk with water (Emmet Brennan, 2021) is one of a small handful of films selected for Canada’s Halton Hills EcoFilm Fest, which will screen it on Mar. 22. Part personal meditation on water, part road map for positive change, Reflection: a walk with water confronts current, systemic environmental issues by examining bellwethers for the future. The doc is particularly pertinent to Los Angeles communities, as it follows Brennan as he sets out to walk 200 miles next to the iconic Los Angeles aqueduct, encountering cultural leaders, ecological iconoclasts, and indigenous wisdom keepers along the way, who are re-envisioning our relationship to water. The film was an SDFF 2022 selection, and its screening included an environmental stewardship panel, which you can watch right here! Reflection: a walk with water is available to rent or buy on Vimeo, and is also streaming on Gaia and Films for Action subscription services.
In anticipation of its appearance at the 41st New Jersey Film Festival later this month, Susan Hillary’s The Pratt In The Hat (2021) was featured in New Jersey Stage. , which gives an overview of the hybrid festival and some of the key films that will be screened. The Pratt In The Hat is a documentary short that showed at SDFF 2022 about Frances Pratt, who uses the film to share her wisdom, humor, and personal experiences of being black in America. Pratt’s hats make a bold statement, as do her southern charm and pithy expressions, garnered from a lifetime of service to her community, fighting for racial equality, voting rights and education. The New Jersey Film Festival is presented by the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center and the Rutgers University Program in Cinema Studies. The festival runs online and in theaters on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Jan. 27- Feb. 19, 2023. The Pratt In The Hat will be screened on Saturday, Jan. 28.
On the verge of making its New York Premiere, Maria Niro’s Krzysztof Woiczko: The Art Of Un-War (née The Art Of Un-War, SDFF 2022) was featured in a recent artnet piece, which describes the film and the artist’s work, and details engaging elements of the film. The doc explores war, trauma, displacement and xenophobia through the work of internationally renowned artist Krysztof Wodiczko, who invites military veterans, refugees, and the homeless to co-create projects so they can speak about their plights in public spaces. The doc was a recipient of an SDFF 2022 Jury Award honorable mention, and will make its New York premiere at the 34th New York Jewish Film Festival on Jan. 14. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Niro and the film’s subject, artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, moderated by The Jewish Museum’s Darsie Alexander.
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Steven Lawrence, who co-directed SDFF 2019 fave, The Cat Rescuers (with Rob Fuchtman), teamed up with Sarah Schneck for the new doc The Invisible Extinction, which opened this week at New York’s IFC Center and Santa Monica’s Laemmle Film Center. The new documentary examines the work of two microbiologists focused on biodiversity at the microbiological level, in particular within the human microbiome Marty Blaser, M.D., Ph.D., and Gloria Dominguez, M.D., Ph.D. Partners in the lab and in life, Domingue and Blaser are researching how the human microbiome has been impacted by the overuse of antibiotics. The research doesn’t challenge the use of antibiotics overall, but examines how their blanket and prophylactic use is generating an array of health problems, killing off both good and bad bacteria that typically populate the human body. The film showed at CPH:DOX, Pariscience, and the Prague Science FF. and On the cusp of wide release, the film has gotten substantial coverage in the film and media space, from Film Threatto Women & Hollywood to People. The Invisible Extinction is available to stream on Amazon, Apple TV, Vimeo, and Google Play. It also has two remaining showings at Santa Monica’s Laemmle Film Center on Jan. 11-12, with post-screening discussions from research physicians from the UCLA Microbiome Center who are experts in the field.
Inside These Walls’ John Christou executive produced on the new LGBTQIA+ feature You Can Live Forever (Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts, 2022), which debuted at Tribeca, and was just picked up in the U.S. by Good Deed Entertainment. The film is about a lesbian teenager who is sent to live in a Jehovah’s Witness community, where she falls in love and begins a relationship with another young woman. Christou produced the doc Inside These Walls (Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price, 2016), which showed at SDFF 2017, which tells the story of Wang Bingzhang, a political prisoner whose family has worked tirelessly for over a decade to have him released from prison, even though he left them to pursue the activism for which he has been incarcerated.
IN THE NEWS
Skye Fitzgerald’s Hunger Ward (2021) was at the center of a late holiday piece in the UK’s daily Morning Star, which calls attention to the ongoing plight of Yemen’s children, and Britain’s (and the U.S.’s) role in their suffering. Filmed inside two of the most active therapeutic feeding centers in conflict-ridden Yemen, Hunger Ward documents two women fighting to thwart the spread of starvation against the backdrop of a forgotten war. The film provides unflinching portraits of Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they work to save the lives of hunger-stricken children within a population on the brink of famine, in a sensitive conflict zone. In addition to raising awareness, the Morning Star piece includes updated info on the humanitarian crisis, which has only grown since Fitzgerald’s film was released, with the UN’s Humanitarian Affairs office identifying it as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in October 2022. The article also reiterates the pivotal roles played by Britain and the U.S. in enabling the ongoing military assault on Yemen by Saudi Arabia, which has received very little coverage in mainstream media accounts of the war in both countries. Hunger Ward was an SDFF 2021 Jury Winner, which is now available to stream for free on PlutoTV.
The Adam Mazo-produced short ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) (Brit Hensel, 2021) was featured in a recent episode of WNYC’s The Takeaway, “Why We Should Listen to Indigenous Voices About the Climate Crisis.” The episode includes a discussion with ᎤᏕᏲᏅ director Brit Hensel and Kavita Pillay, who produced The Reciprocity Project. The Reciprocity Project is a short film series and multimedia platform exploring the concept of reciprocity in Indigenous cultures, a theme it shares with ᎤᏕᏲᏅ, which explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world. The Takeaway episode takes as its starting point a recent UN report that argues areas managed by indigenous people are among the most biodiverse and well conserved on the planet. Filmed on the Qualla Boundary and Cherokee Nation, ᎤᏕᏲᏅ proceeds through a story told by an elder and first language speaker, which circles the intersection of tradition, language, land and a commitment to balance.ᎤᏕᏲᏅ producer Adam Mazo directed the SDFF 2019 film Dawnland (SDFF 2019), which gives behind-the-scenes coverage of the U.S.’s first truth and reconciliation commission, with Ben Pender-Cudlip. ᎤᏕᏲᏅ and the other L.A. Times Docs are available to stream here. Dawnland is available to rent here.
In honor of Science Fiction Day on Jan. 2 (Isaac Asimov’s birthday), PBS Learning/American Masters released a set of clips from The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (Arwen Curry, 2018), along with a related teaching curriculum for junior high and high school students. Titled “Pushing Boundaries Science Fiction and Feminism” the material explores how Le Guin and her contemporaries expanded what had been a male-dominated genre, and in doing so elevated speculative fiction as a serious, mainstream literary format and mode of social commentary. Produced over the course of a decade, the doc journeys through the LeGuin’s life and career by exploring the literary worlds she creates in her work. The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin was an official selection of SDFF 2019, which was aired as part of PBS’s American Masters, where it remains available for members to stream. PBS Learning’s Science Fiction celebration includes a number of other sections, including one on Afrofuturism, and another on SciFi pandemics.
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2018) director Alison Reid will discuss her film career as part of A Day in the Life, a series held by Canada’s Midland Cultural Center on Jan. 25. Reid’s talk will cover her time as a prolific stuntperson in Hollywood, her passion for adventure, as well as her more recent forays into directing, including The Woman Who Loves Giraffes and the LGBTQIA+ feature The Baby Formula. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes has also been in the news for an upcoming screening and Q&A with the film’s subject Dr. Anne Innis Dagg, presented by The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs on Jan. 11. The film is an SDFF 2019 selection, in which zoologist Dagg re-traces the steps of her ground-breaking 1956 journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Eighty-five years old at the time of her return, Dagg reflects on the startling contrast between the world of giraffes she once knew and the one it has become. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes recently became available to stream in the U.S. for free on the Kino Lorber youtube channel, and VOD on iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu. is one of 80 films recently made available on Kino Lorber’s playlist of free docs on youtube.
When Claude Got Shot (Brad Lichtenstein, 2022) made a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel list of 14 TV shows with Wisconsin ties. While not, strictly speaking, a TV show, the film aired nationally via PBS’s Independent Lens in 2022. The doc follows five years in Claude Motley’s life as he tries to recover mentally and physically from being shot in the face by 15 year-old Nathan King, who was attempting to steal his car. As he recovers, Claude grapples with, and reflects on, his ambivalence over King’s incarceration for the shooting him, given the deep racism that permeates the criminal justice system. When Claude Got Shot is available VOD on Apple TV and iTunes.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENT
For Love And Legacy (SDFF 2022), AK Sandhu’s doc about the creation of a memorial to Black Panther Huey Newton,will show as part of the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora’s (MoAD) celebration of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 16. This year’s MoAD celebration uses art, music, dance and conversations with special guests to reflect on the importance of protest, creativity and diverse communities. The celebration includes free admission to the museum, and its two current gallery shows The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, and Ashley Ross: 10/27/03, as well as a number events, including the For Love And Legacy screening, followed by a discussion with director AK Sandhu; Dimensions Dance Company’s youth performance of “The History of Dance From Africa To America”; and “Art As We See It – Civil Rights Through Art and Music,” a presentation of visual art and music of the American civil rights era with a special focus on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The presentation will also be available to live stream via Zoom. The celebration is bookended by creative events for children. For more information, see the MoAD event description.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, SDFF 2017) is among the films that will show at the Oakland Public Library’s Martin Luther King Film Festival on Monday, topping off a day of screenings that includes In Remembrance of Martin (Kell Kearns, 1986), the children’s film Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The March: The Story of the Greatest March in America (John Akomfrah, 2013), and Driving While Black: Race, Space, and Mobility (Ric Burns, Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, 2020). The festival screenings will be held at the African American Museum and Library (AAMLO), however, for those who can’t make it, the event announcement includes links to a history of Dr. King’s legacy in Oakland, a relatively short piece with a number of compelling archival images. The history ends with links to a number of film recommendations from the AAMLO. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise weaves together the story of the renowned author, poet, playwright and civil rights activist, using her own words, and archival photos and video. The film begins with Angelou’s childhood in the Depression-era South, and tracks her ascent from poverty, violence and racism to become one of the most renowned writers the U.S. has ever produced. The doc also covers her activisim, her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, and her work with Malcolm X in Ghana. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise will be screened from 4-5:15 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16 at the African American Museum and Library, and you can find the details here. The film is also available to rent through American Masters on YouTube.
The Sonoma County Library Documentary Film Discussion Group will meet, Jan. 18 via Zoom to discuss Do I Sound Gay? (David Thorpe, 2014), a doc about the stereotype of the gay voice. The film explores what it means to “sound gay,” the amalgamation of cultural anxieties expressed in the identification and ridicule of the “gay voice,” and the ways in which those anxieties continue to trigger bullying and violence against gay people. Do I Sound Gay? includes a number of interviews with famous gay folks, including Tim Gunn, Don Lemon, Dan Savage, David Sedaris, George Takei and Margaret Cho. The discussion group will be held on Zoom, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m., attendance requires registration by 5 p.m., see details and availability on the Sonoma County Library Events Calendar. The film is available to screen through Kanopy with a library card. All participants must view the film on their own before the meeting.
A special screening of the doc Precious Guru: Journey Into the Heart of the Second Buddha (2020), followed by a Q&A with director Marc Wennberg and musician Peter Rowan, will take place at the Rialto® Cinemas Sebastopol on Jan. 31at 7 p.m. The feature length doc examines the life, times and legacy of Padmasambhava–the 8th Century Indian yogi who carried Buddhism over the Himalayas into Tibet. Revered for centuries in the Himalayan regions as the second Buddha, Padmasambhava’s influence has become a global phenomenon, carried across the world by refugee lamas, following the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959. He is also known as Guru Rinpoche, which translates as Precious Guru. Precious Guru is told by people from three continents, including Tibetan monastics and lay people encountered by the production team on their Himalayan travels, as well as accomplished lamas like Mingyur Rinpoche, western Buddhist teachers like Lama Tsultrim Allione, Lama Glenn Mullin and Professor Robert Thurman. Get tickets here.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
The Silent Shore (Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani, 36 mins) is now streaming on The New Yorker Documentary, accompanied by a short written piece about the film and its making, which includes some reflections by Giraud and Corteggiani. The short is a lush, moving documentary in which fantasy author Pierre Dubois and his wife, Aline, discuss the power of writing, imagination, and the deep connection with life that has brought them through the suicide of their teenaged daughter Melanie, who took her life following a heartbreak. The Silent Shore was an SDFF 2022 Jury Nominee.
Rahul Jain’s participant doc on climate change, Invisible Demons (Tuhon merkit), began streaming on MUBI this week, and has continued to draw new reviews from large market publications and smaller culture mags, including The Guardian, Paste, Scroll.in, and The Film Stage. The film, which was nominated for the Golden Eye when it premiered at Cannes in 2021, has also continued to make the rounds on the festival circuit, opening Spain’s Another Way Film Festival last week. The film captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s rapidly-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection with the natural world. This is Jain’s second doc. His first, Machines, a masterful meditation on work, was an SDFF 2018 selection.
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