SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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19 JULY 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS.
When Claude Got Shot (Brad Lichtenstein, 2022) was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Exceptional Merit In Documentary. The doc, which appeared on PBS’s Independent Lens in May, is one of three nominees in the category. Changing The Game (Alex Schmider, Hulu) and Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches (Julia Marchesi/HBO)`were also nominated. The award will be given out during the Emmy’s broadcast in September. When Claude Got Shot 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. The film, which showed at SDFF 2022, is available to stream through PBS Passport. PBS interviews with Motley and Lichtenstein are available to read or stream. Lichtenstein’s new project with Yoruba Richen, American Reckoning, is also with PBS. American Reckoning is the latest component of Frontline’s multiplatform initiative Un(re)solved, of more than 150 victims of civil rights era killings for whom there has been no justice. Lichtenstein and Richen’s contribution is investigates the 1967 murder of Wharlest Jackson Sr., a local NAACP leader.
Blurring The Color Line (Crystal Lee Kwok, 2022) and Fanny: The Right To Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021) both showed at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival last weekend. Fanny, which recounts the story of two sisters who move from the Philippines to the U.S. and start the first all-female band in the country to be signed to a major record label, has already garnered a great deal of attention for the queer, intersectional feminist history it restores to public memory. Blurring The Color Line is another doc that tells a history of the present by looking backwards. In it, director Kwok reflects on her Grandmother’s past growing up Chinese in Augusta, Georgia’s Black neighborhood during Jim Crow. The film complicates a black and white historical narrative while exposing uncomfortable truths behind today’s Afro-Asian tensions. Both films showed at SDFF 2022.
Cirque Du Cambodia (Joel Gershon, 2020) won the audience award at this year’s Berkshire International Film Festival in Western Massachusetts. The film also recently premiered in Cambodia at the Cambodia International Film Festival, which screened it three times. Sopha Nem, one of the two main characters the film follows was there to see it and gave a special performance before the screening. Cirque du Cambodia is an SDFF 2022 selection that follows the real-life journey of two teenagers with the classic dream of running away to join the circus, but with a twist. The doc showed at SDFF 2022 and will be shown as part of the Sonoma International Film Festival in August.
No Straight Lines (Vivian Kleinman, 2021) was an official selection at the 18th annual Bendingo Queer Film Festival last weekend. Bendingo is the premier rural queer film and art festival in Australia, and remains one of the only queer film festivals held in an Australian regional center. 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.
One All The Way, director David Baram’s short that tracks a trio of men, including his father, as they search for New Jersey’s best Hot Texas Weiner is an official selection of the 2022 Montauk Film Festival, which runs July 22-30. In searching for the best Hot Texas Weiner, the popular SDFF 2021 doc ends up telling the story of the diverse town of Paterson, the U.S.’s first manufacturing center that became a hub for immigrant laborers for nearly two centuries.
Plant Heist (Chelsi and Gabriel de Cuba, SDFF 2021) is among the documentary shorts that will show as part of People and the Planet: The Healing Power of Native Plants, a program organized by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden that will bring together native plant advocates, indigenous peoples, film producers, and the community. Plant Heist follows northern Californian volunteers, native plant biologists, and local government, as they fight to stop the ecological destruction caused by a vast network of illegal plant poachers. The Chumash People: A Living History (Paul Lynch, 2021) and Saging The World (Rose Ramirez and Deborah Small, 2022) will also be screened, followed a discussion about historic stewardship and current issues facing native plants. The program is set for this Thursday, and tickets are still available. Plant Heist is also available to stream on Vimeo.
NEW FILMS + PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Donna, a documentary love letter from filmmaker Jay Bedwani (Stretch, 2018) to/about trans activist and artist Donna Personna was released on July 15. Donna is Bedwani’s first feature documentary, which tells the story of the well-known SF transgender elder, who bears witness to the history of trans activism while nurturing the future of the movement, mentoring the next generation. A review in the Guardian is overwhelmingly positive, in particular praising Donna’s on-screen charisma and her rich recollections of her own history. The film isn’t Donna’s first foray into the representation of trans history, having co-written a play about the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, an oft-overlooked moment of queer resistance and police brutality. Bedwani’s short Stretch was an SDFF 2019 selection and is about an aging acrobat deciding whether or not his final performances of the season will close out his career as a performer. Donna will have limited theatrical release, and is also available to stream on Bohemia Euphoria.
The new climate change doc co-directed by Niobe Thompson (Boy Nomad, 2018) and Daniella Ortega, Carbon—The Unauthorised Biography, was praised in a piece by The Australian imprint, The Oz, for making climate change interesting by anthropomorphizing one of its core elements. The piece is particularly complimentary to the film’s Aussie narrator Succession actor Sarah Snook for sexing the topic up. The cheeky piece captures precisely the attitude the film’s approach seems meant to address, as it crafts the long life of carbon into a narrative, telling the story of the element from its birth in the violent core of an exploding star to its place in the saga of planet earth, central to all life and to its possible ruin. The film is animated by artist Bruce Alcock (Global Mechanic) and includes interviews with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Suzanne Simard and Katharine Hayhoe. Thompson’s Boy Nomad, an SDFF 2019 selection, follows a year in the life of 9 year-old, horse-loving Janibek and his family in the Mongolian Altai Mountains, culminating in winter migration.
Ferne Pearlstein (The Last Laugh, 2016) is on the board of the recently announced non-profit, Subject Matter, which will support social issue docs and connect filmmakers to non-profits working on the topics they feature. The non-profit is the brainchild of Tribeca Film Institute leaders Amy Hobby, David Earls and Colleen Hammond. Entrepreneur and award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright will co-chair the organization, which will also have film executive Loren Hammonds, Picture Motion and Kinema founder Christie Marchese, and social justice and public health grant maker Julia Greenberg on its board. Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh showed at SDFF 2017. The doc reflects on 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. It is currently available to stream on Kanopy, which is available for free to anyone with a library card.
Simian, a script from emerging filmmaker Avery Looser, who worked as an impact producer on Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Susan Sandler, 2020), is a semi-finalist for the Humanitas 2022 Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Award, which recognizes writers whose work explores the human condition in a nuanced, meaningful way. Simian is about an orphaned business executive with a visit to his childhood home during their honeymoon but ends up confronting the insidious culture of the place, which dictates the lives of its female residents. Looser credited Scotti director Sandler for fostering the community of young writers with whom she developed the script. Finalists for the Humanitas award will be announced on August 1, its winner will be selected on August 15. Looser worked with Sandler on the SDFF 2021 film Julia Scotti: Funny That Way, a portrait of the transgender comedian, examining how her decision to transition at 47 years old impacted her career and family life. The profile is available to stream VOD on iTunes, Prime, Vimeo, GooglePlay, etc.
Sydney Bowie Linden’s documentary short Black Gold (SDFF 2022), about a California oil town bracing for change, is being featured in The New Yorker. The vaunted publication is streaming the film, accompanied by a short, interview-based article in which Linden talks about her intentions and experiences making the film. Linden filmed in the small town of Taft, near Bakersville, over 6 months in 2020, during the presidential campaign and election. Like most of the state’s inland areas, Taft is deep red, but Linden tells The New Yorker that the film’s point isn’t political. She was hoping to capture how citizens of the small town grappled with the change to their way of life they saw on the horizon with the incoming Biden administration. They imagined the new president would signal the end of the oil industry that keeps the town employed. While that hasn’t happened, the film is a compelling artifact of an historic moment and one that challenges national views of California as uniformly progressive.
Art industry doc The Art Of Making It (Kelcey Edwards, 2022) has continued to get coverage from publications, which both cover and help constitute the art world and market, appearing in The Art Newspaper as a critical primer on the contemporary art world as it is experienced by working artists. The review joins similar sentiments by The New York Times and Cultured, which have sprung up since the film started showing at the IFC Center in New York in June. The doc, an SDFF 2022 selection, follows a diverse cast of young artists at defining moments in their careers, exploring whether the art world ecosystem meant to nurture them is actually failing them. The Art Of Making It is 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.
The Documentary Development Initiative is taking applications for 2022 Fellowship Grants of $50,000 until July 26. The initiative is a partnership between The Gotham, HBO Documentary Films, created for non-fiction storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and/or storytellers with disabilities. The program is meant to provide resources and support to 10 thought-provoking, character-driven contemporary projects. Get more information about the initiative and how to apply here.
DOCS MAKING THE NEWS
Kimonti Carter, one of the men featured Since I Been Down (Gilda Shepperd, SDFF 2021), a doc addressing racism in the criminal justice system, is up for release in a year following the passage of criminal justice reform in Washington that found sentences of life without parole were unconstitutional for defendants 18-20 years old. The Tacoma-area paper, The News Tribune ties Carter’s release in particular, and the reform in general, to the film, which shows Carter develop into a community-minded, thoughtful man, despite being behind bars and having no hope of parole. Just 18 at the time of the murder, Carter, now in his early 40s has become a teacher leading higher ed programs in prison, and working with the Black Prisoners Caucus and other advocacy groups. While the doc focuses on Carter and other people involved with, or impacted by, the original incident and its aftermath, Since I Been Down examines a morass of intersecting criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980-90s drug war who continue to their lives behind bars, in many cases contributing to the limited community they can make in prison. Since its release, the film has been shown as in various campaigns seeking to transform how justice and criminal law are envisioned. It is now available on demand through most major streaming platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, etc.).
At least three more Iranian filmmakers—Mohammad Rasoulof (Head Wind, 2008; There Is No Evil, 2020), Mostafa Al-Ahmad, and Jafar Panahi (Taxi, 2015)—have been arrested and detained after making public statements of political dissent, criticizing state-sanctioned violence against protestors in Abadan, following the deadly collapse of a building there in May that killed at least 43 people. The arrest of the three men has caused anxiety among the nation’s filmmakers, 70 of whom signed a public call for an end to police violence, including at least two of the arrested men prior to their arrests. This is the second time in two months that Iran has made international news by rounding up journalists. In May, four female documentarians and journalists —Mina Keshavarz (The Art Of Living In Danger,2020), Firouzeh Khosravani (Radiograph of a Family, 2020), Parisa Anvari, and Shilan Saadi (An Alley Behind Our House,2011)—were arrested and detained in an effort to quash coverage of protests breaking out over the skyrocketing price of consumer goods. In both cases, the arrests are attempts to directly silence coverage of unrest and state-sponsored violence. For more on the most recent arrests, check out IndieWire’s excellent coverage of it here.
Nefise Özkal Lorentzen’s Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam was in the news recently when the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque, founded by Ateş, flew the rainbow flag during Berlin’s Pride Month. According to coverage international LGBTQIA+ journal, Xtra*, although the mosque’s move to welcome queer folks may have caused controversy, it is part of a larger struggle and is in-line with work being done by groups like Muslims for Progressive Values. That same struggle is documented in the film Seyran Ateş, which profiles the Turkish-German lawyer and feminist, who became one of Europe’s first female imams. The film shows the controversy and violent threats that arose around Ateş for her stance on changing the patriarchy as it is expressed in Islam. Lorentzen made Seyran Ateş, an SDFF 2022 fave, with Jørgen Lorentzen, who also collaborated with her on A Gift From God, which won the SDFF 2021 Audience Award for Best Feature.
A story of transformation, inspired by environmental filmmaker Rob Stewart of Sharkwater Extinction (Rob Stewart, SDFF 2020) came in an unlikely place last week when Auto Evolution ran a piece about a luxury explorer yacht-turned research vessel. The piece tells the story of the Sharkwater née Senshu Maru, which was originally crafted in 1997 to be a giant pleasure craft but was reborn in 2017 when it was acquired by the Fins Attached non-profit and named after Stewart’s first shark doc. Stewart’s final shark doc, Sharkwater Extinction showed at SDFF 2020. Filmed in visually stunning, high definition video, the doc delves into the most shark rich waters of the world, exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the world’s shark populations in the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Sharkwater Extinction is available to stream on Amazon.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
OUTwatch continues its Spring/Summer film series on July 21 with a screening of experimental history Framing Agnes (Chase Joynt, 2022). The film tells the story of Agnes, the pioneering, pseudonymized, transgender woman who participated in Harold Garfinkel’s gender health research at UCLA in the 1960s, who has long stood as a figurehead of trans history. Using a blend of fiction and nonfiction, including meticulous vintage reenactments performed by a cast of trans actors, director Chase Joynt explores where and how Agnes’s platform has become a pigeonhole and attempts to widen the frame through which trans history is viewed—one that has remained too narrow to capture the multiplicity of experiences eclipsed by Agnes’s experience. Framing Agnes re-envisions the imposition of framing on the cultural memory of transness, and through its collaborative mode of production tears away the myth of isolation as a mode of existence for transgender history-makers. The films show at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol. Buy tickets here!
The Faithful: The Pope, The Princess, and The King, Annie Berman’s fan-focused exploration of the deep veneration and legacies of Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana, and Elvis, an SDFF 2022 selection, is an official selection of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which begins July 21 and runs through August 7. The film is one of 35 docs programmed for the festival, which will include both in-person screenings at the Castro Theater and some streaming content as well. Other docs selected for the festival include Centerpiece Doc Bernstein’s Wall (Douglas Tirola, 2021) about American music icon Leonard Bernstein, Take Action Spotlight film To The End (Rachel Lears, 2022) about four visionary young activists and women of color on the front lines of the fight for a Green New Deal, Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life (Patrice O’Neill, 2022) chronicling the three years that followed the hate-based mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and Shouting Down Midnight (Gretchen Stoeltje, 2022) about Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster against anti-abortion bill SB5 in 2013. Most of the screenings include post-film Q&As with the filmmakers. The Faithful will screen at 11:15 a.m. on Monday, July 25 at the Castro with Berman in attendance. Tickets are available here.
The Rialto® Sebastopol will be showing the new doc Fire Of Love (Sara Dosa, 2022) about daring, French volcanologist Katia and Maurice Krafft, who roamed the world chasing eruptions, documenting what they discovered until they lost their lives to their passion in 1991. Fire Of Love is a visually stunning, lyrical celebration of the couple’s spirit, lives and work. The film opens this Friday, July 22. Tickets are available here.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, suspending legal access to vital reproductive health care for woman across the United States and effectively curtailing women’s bodily autonomy, prompted us to look back at our recent selections for films that can give context and dimension to a life experience, which is frequently discussed in abstract terms. The films we selected for this list either showed at the festival or were the work of SDFF alumni and include: On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021), Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020), AKA Jane Roe(Nick Sweeney, ed. Mary Manhardt, 2020), Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa (Mike Attie, Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, 2020), and Vessel (Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014). The in-text links above will take you to a streaming version of each film. For a list with more detailed film descriptions and more places to watch, click here.
Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) led the 35th season of PBS’s POV, the longest-running showcase for independent docs on TV, and is now available to stream on the series’ website. Wuhan Wuhan is an observational documentary filmed during February and March of 2020, at the height of the pandemic in Wuhan city, where the coronavirus began. With unprecedented access at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, the film focuses on five stories that focus on the human experience of the earliest days of the pandemic, as a mysterious virus began to infect Chinese citizens, and frontline healthcare workers grappled with an invisible, deadly killer. The film showed as part of SDFF 2021.
Award-winning filmmaker Ben Proudfoot (A Concerto Is A Conversation, The Queen Of Basketball) teamed up with tennis star Naomi Osaka (Hana Kuma production company) for MINK!, which tells the story of Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Hawaiian Democrat who became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representative. The film was released in late June as a New York Times Op Doc to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Mink helped defend the federal statute from those in congress who sought to weaken it. The doc interweaves the origin stories of Title IX and Mink, tracking the congresswoman’s story through the words of her daughter Patsy, who recalls her mother’s path, from her girlhood on Maui, a third-generation descendant of Japanese immigrants, to her historic bid for congress. MINK! Remains available via the New York Times.
You can still catch Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) streaming on Starz , and VOD via Amazon and iTunes. The doc paints a vivid and timely portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (California-D), a steadfast voice for human rights, racial and economic justice, peace and diplomacy in the U.S. government. Lee began her tenure as an activist with the Black Panther Party and raised two sons as a single mom before becoming the highest ranking black woman in the U.S. Congress. The film showed as part of SDFF 2022.
Sentinels, a new documentary short co-directed by Derek Knowles (After The Fire, SDFF 2020) and Lawrence Lerew, which takes an immersive, observational tack in its presentation of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit, is streaming for free via the L.A. Times. The film is an immersive, observational document of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit, bearing witness to a “radical” form of protest that, unlike street protests, takes place largely outside of the public eye, and requires a great deal of both physical and mental strength.
If you have news about an SDFF alumni, please contact us at [email protected] so we can broadcast it!