SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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4 OCTOBER 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS
SDFF 2022 selections, Listen To The Beat Of Our Images (Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste, 2020), Blurring The Color Line (Crystal Lee Kwok, SDFF 2022), For Love and Legacy (AK Sandhu, 2021), and The Art Of Making It (Kelcey Edwards, 2022) are among the official selections of the 31st annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. SDFF alumni filmmaker Julia Bacha’s (Naila and the Uprising, SDFF 2019) new doc, Boycott, will also be appearing. The festival, held at Arkansas’s Hot Springs National Park, is the longest-running documentary film festival in North America, and is focused on supporting southern films and filmmakers, and on helping to create and support a regional film community that reflects the full breadth of experience and stories of those living in the American South. Blurring The Color Line is filmmaker Kwok’s reflection on her Grandmother’s past, growing up Chinese in one of Augusta’s predominantly Black neighborhoods during Jim Crow. The film complicates a black and white historical narrative of America’s racial history while exposing uncomfortable truths behind today’s Afro-Asian tensions. For Love And Legacy, which was also an official selection at the recent Montreal Black Film Festival, documents how sculptor Dana King’s hands and activist Fredrika Newton’s memories to build a new monument that honors the Black Panther Party’s vital place in American history. Listen To The Beat Of Our Images explores the construction of the Kourou Space Centre in French Guyana as seen through the eyes of the local population. And, last but not least, 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 Art Of Making It is available to stream VOD on Amazon, GooglePlay and YouTube.
Two other SDFF 2022 films, the feature Free Renty: Lanier v. Harvard (David Grubin, 2021) and the short Lydia Emily’s Last Mural (Christoph Johannes, 2021) were selections of the recent 23rd Woodstock Film Festival. ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) (Brit Hensel, 2022), a short co-produced by SDFF alumni Adam Mazo (Dawnland, SDFF 2019), was also among the festival selections. Lydia Emily’s Last Mural documents artist Lydia Emily, who will soon loser her vision and mobility to MS, as she comes together with a diverse community of artists in Los Angeles to create one last mural for the city, which advocates for people living with the disease. Free Renty is a feature-length doc that tells the story of Tamara Lanier, an African American woman determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved man named Renty. The images were commissioned in 1850 by a professor at the university as “proof” of white superiority for a racist science meant to undergird slavery and white supremacy. The film tracks Lanier’s lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and scholars Ariella Azoulay and Tina Campt. Free Renty will also be showing at the upcoming Buffalo International Film Festival (Oct. 7) and NHDOCS in New Haven (Oct. 21), and will be available to license for K-12 schools through Swank Motion Pictures starting Oct. 30.
Elliot Spencer’s visually stunning documentary short Sentience (2021) won a Special Mention in the short film category of the 9th Life After Oil International Film Festival, which was held in Sardinia in late September. As its name suggests, the festival features films about fossil fuels and possible alternatives, which allows it to show a variety of environmental and human rights films. Sentience, which also won a special mention in the juried mini-doc category at SDFF 2022, explores the contrasting environs and aesthetics present in two Chinese locales in a 24-hour period—the seemingly archaic and distant world of the Guanxi mountains and the frenetic pulse of Yangshou’s raucous, touristy West Street sector, teeming with modes of digital communication. The documentary short shows the limits and contradictions of both places and ways of being, while also depicting them as two sides of the same coin.
A Concerto Is A Conversation, co-director and vaunted movie composer Kris Bowers (Dear White People, Bridgerton, King Richard) will be among the luminaries giving Masterclass talks in October at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival, the longest-running film festival in North America. Director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan), writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), and composer Mychael Danna will also be giving Master classes at the festival. In addition to an impressive career as a virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer, Bowers co-directed A Concerto Is A Conversation with Ben Proudfoot. The film is a visually-stunning autobiographical short, in which Bowers tracks his family’s lineage through his 91 year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The film, which was SDFF 2022’s Best Short Doc, is available to stream for free through New York Times Op-Docs. The 58th Chicago International Film Festival runs Oct. 12-23, and includes both in-person and virtual screenings and events.
Bower’s co-director on A Concerto Is A Conversation, Ben Proudfoot’s (That’s My Jazz, Mink!) Oscar-winning short, The Queen Of Basketball was the opening film at the 12th annual Parrsboro Film Festival in Canada this weekend. It was the first time in its 12 year history that the festival screened a film from Proudfoot, the Nova-Scotia native. The Queen Of Basketball is a film about Lucy Harris, the first woman drafted to an NBA team. The film has continued to be in the news in part because Proudfoot used his Oscar speech to call attention to the plight of queer WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony on Cannabis charges. For more information on this case, see the WNBA petition for her swift and safe release at change.org. Proudfoot has also turned up in the news, following his recent release of The Best Chef In The World, about The French Laundry founder Sally Schmitt, which is available through New York Times Op Docs.
NEW FILMS + PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Eloïc Gimenez, director and artist behind the poetic, animated documentary short Haenyo, the women of the sea (2018) presented Anuki, a new project co-directed with Yulia Aronova, at the Cartoon Forum in Toulouse last week. The new TV project follows the adventures of a young, Native American protagonist named “Anuki,” who lives in pre-colonial America. The animated project will be based on a five-volume series of comics from Stéphane Senegas and Frédéric Maupomé, which are extremely popular in France. Aimed at children (ages 6-9), the show will be dialogue free, with the show’s creators likening it to Chuck Jones’ madcap Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, explaining that the project would swap spoken dialogue for propulsive action and comic gags. The animated show is being produced by Pierre Meloni and French animation house Folimage (A Cat In Paris, Vanille). Gimenez’s Haenyo, the women of the sea, which showed as part of SDFF 2019, focused on the life of the Haenyo, the diving women of Jeju, an island in South Korea. The film was organized around seven idiomatic expressions from the island. The animated sketches also highlighted the musicality of the island’s spoken language.
To The Future, With Love, a new animated documentary short directed by Shaleece Haas (Real Boy, SDFF 2017) and written by Hunter “Pixel” Jimenez is one of eight films selected for the 2022 Luna Fest, a traveling show of films by and about women. The film, which is also featured as a PBS POV resource, is an animated self-portrait of a nonbinary trans teen caught between the expectations of his Guatemalan immigrant family and his dreams of living happily ever after with his long-distance boyfriend. Haas’s 2016 film Real Boy is about a charismatic teenager navigating the ups and downs of gender transition who is taken under the wing of his idol Joe Stevens, a celebrated transgender musician fighting his own demons. You can find Luna Fest’s upcoming October and November dates here.
Glasgow’s The Sunday Post ran a feature on filmmaker Mark Cousins’s (The Story Of Looking, 2021) work on underappreciated abstract artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), a member of the famed St. Ives School. In the piece, Cousins discusses literally following in Barns-Graham’s footsteps, as he braved the ascent of the Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland, which inspired the artist’s work for decades. Cousins has created an immersive installation Like A Huge Scotland in tribute to Barns-Graham, which involves pictures from the artist’s glacier blown up to 10,000 times their original size, as well as footage the filmmaker took while on the glacier. The installation will open in November in Edinburgh, while Cousins continues to work on a doc about the artist, A Sudden Glimpse To Deeper Things, which he presented at the Sheffield DocFest’s MeetMarket pitching forum in late June. The title of the film comes from a line in her diary describing her experience on the Glacier, which was immense when she climbed it in the 1940s and has all but disappeared in the present.
Filmmaker Marianna Economou’s recent fashion doc The Green Bar Jacket will show as part of Australia’s Greek Film Festival this year. The film offers a glimpse into the making of luxury fashion house Christian Dior’s emblematic Cruise Show, designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri, at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens and captures how the worlds of haute couture and local folk art come together to produce a highly ambitious runway show, marked by a stunning display of local craftsmanship. The Green Bar Jacket is Economou’s follow-up to When Tomatoes Met Wagner (SDFF 2020) tells the uplifting story of two Greek cousins and five village women, who tackle the world market with their organic tomatoes. The film is available on demand through Vimeo.
IN THE NEWS
Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) is among the selections of this year’s Reel Women’s Film Festival in Palm Springs. The festival is a major fundraising event for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, which showcases issue-based films. This year marks a return to in-person events for the festival on Oct. 15, though its program is also available to stream from Oct. 1-15. Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power 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 doc showed as part of SDFF 2022. If you can’t catch Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) through the Reel Women’s Film Festival, it is also available on demand via Amazon and iTunes.
When Claude Got Shot (Brad Lichtenstein, 2022) has been acquired by Freestyle Digital Media (Sharkwater Extinction, SDFF 2020), the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group, according to a recent Deadline piece that includes comments from the film’s principle subject, Claude Motley, filmmaker Lichtenstein and Executive Producer Snoop Dogg. The doc, which has already aired nationally via PBS’s Independent Lens, 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.
San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is poised to open Into View: Bernice Bing, a retrospective exhibit of the work of modern artist Bernice Bing, celebrated in the documentary The Worlds Of Bernice Bing (Madeleine Lim, 2013). Bing was an Abstract Expressionist painter, beat-era existentialist, Buddhist, feminist, activist, and Chinese American lesbian, whose work has been occluded from the mostly male, East Coast-dominated accounts of Abstract Expressionism. Into View will be up at the Asian Art Museum from Oct. 7-May 1, 2023. Details about the exhibit, Bing’s life, and her erasure from art history are all touched on in a recent Alta article announcing the show. The Worlds of Bernice Bing is a lush tribute to the little-known foremother of Asian American avant-garde art, which does justice to her legacy as a San Francisco icon. The film showed as part of SDFF 2020.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
The Petaluma Film Alliance Fall cinema series continues on Wednesday, Oct. 5 with Monos (Alejandro Landes, 1923), a Columbian feature about child soldiers that won the World Cinema Prize at Sundance in 2019. In the film, a group of young rebel soldiers is tasked with keeping watch over an American hostage, testing their commitment to the mission and each other in increasingly unexpected ways. Gorgeous and haunting, Monos is an allegoric exploration of Colombia’s war-plagued. The Fall Cinema Series will continue through Nov. 30, with the majority of screenings on Wednesdays in the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium at the SRJC Petaluma Campus. See details on parking, tickets and COVID protocols here. The series is being co-presented by SRJC’s Chair of Communications Studies, Mike Traina, and film production teacher Brian Antonson, who collaborated with Sara Alexander on the SDFF 2020 film A Pilgrimage about artist Genevieve Barnhart. For more on the Film Alliance’s fall movie series, see the Argus Courier’s recent article.
The 2022 Green and Environmental Film Festival of San Francisco will be screening a selection of 48 films, most will stream on demand October 6-16 with select films showing in-person at the Roxie Theater October 6–13. The Green Film Festival is interested in exploring all aspects of “environmental film” from compelling documentaries and adventure films to narrative fiction films and midnight movies with environmental themes. The festival includes special screenings and an impressive array of local offerings, like a late night showing of French eco sci-fi Vesper (Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper, 2020), Opening Night film Passing: In The Shadows of Everest from local filmmaker Nancy Svendsen, Centerpiece film Pleistocene Park from local filmmaker Luke Griswold-Tergis, Closing Night Film Into The Weeds: Dwayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company about a local, Vallejo man’s battle with the agribusiness giant, and a smattering of local shorts. See the festival’s official announcement for more details on special screenings. The Green and Environmental Film Festival is an SDFF partner and a presentation of SF IndieFest, and runs concurrently with the related IndieFest SF Indie Short Film Festival.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 2022), a unique music doc about the beloved singer-songwriter, will continue to run at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol, through Oct. 13. The doc explores Cohen’s work and life through the prism of his hymn Hallelujah, a touchstone for many other recording artists, and most of the rest of the population who has heard it played. The doc was approved by Cohen a couple of years before he passed away, and as a result includes never-before-seen materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews. Tickets are available here. You can also catch interviews with filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller at NorCal Public Media and KSRO.
Moonage Daydream, a new, genre defying immersion into the art and sounds of David Bowie from Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Jane) will begin showing at the Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol through Oct. 13. Told through sublime, kaleidoscopic imagery, personal archived footage, unseen performances, and anchored by David Bowie’s music and words, Moonage Daydream is the first film to be supported by the David Bowie Estate, which granted Morgen unprecedented access to their collection. See Rialto Cinemas® screening details and tickets.
As much about the present as the past, Riotsville, U.S.A., a new doc from Sierra Pettengill examining law enforcement brutality during the Civil Rights movement, opens Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol Oct. 13. Using training footage of Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder, in addition to nationally broadcast news media, Pettengill connects the stagecraft of “law and order” to the real violence of state practice. Recovering an obscured history whose effects have shaped the present in ways both insidious and explosive, Riotsville, U.S.A. is a poetic and furious reflection on the rebellions of the 1960s–and the machine that worked to destroy them.
Sebastopol’s Fall Doc Nite series will continue on October 10 with a screening of #Kids On Tech at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol, followed by a discussion with director with director Paul Zehr and editor Eric Ivey, and a casual gathering at Fern Bar. #Kids On Tech (2022) looks at the relationship between children and technology in the wake of the pandemic, examining the impact technology has had on children’s developing minds and bodies, and asking how best to move forward and prepare children for life in a digital world. The film includes intimate conversations with parents, teachers, neuroscientists, tech executives, child psychologists, and kids of every age from around the world. Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF and Rialto Cinemas®. See #Kids On Film Doc Night details and buy tickets here.
Slow Food Russian River will be hosting a screening of doc Children of the Vine (2022) on Oct. 11 at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol, with director Brian Lilla in-toe for a post-screening discussion. Children of the Vine examines the controversy around Glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup), which is both carcinogenic and the most widely used herbicide in the world, now found in over 80% of food grown in the U.S. At the same time, this solution-focused doc highlights more sustainable large-scale farming practices, which remain capable of feeding the world. The film will show at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. with filmmaker Brian Lilla on-hand for post-screening discussions. Preserve Rural Sonoma County is a non-profit working to protect the character of Sonoma County from the urbanization and commercialization of rural lands. See screening details here. For an excellent interview with Lilla, a Sonoma County local, about the film and the dangers of Round-Up, see this piece in the Sonoma County Gazette.
The Sonoma County Library Documentary Film Discussion Group will meet, Oct. 19 to discuss Robin’s Wish (Tylor Norwood, 2020), an intimate portrait of actor/comedian Robin Williams and his invulnerable spirit.Robin’s Wish is the story of what really happened to Williams, who suffered from biopolar disorder, and what his mind was fighting. The discussion group will be held on Zoom, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m., attendance requires registration, see details and availability on the Sonoma County Library Events Calendar. The film is available to screen on Kanopy with a library card, and all participants must view it on their own before the meeting.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
Polish filmmaker Rafal Malecki’s documentary short Rust (SDFF 2022) about renowned artist-welder Mariola Wawrzusiak-Borcz will stream as part of the “Enviro Arts” shorts block of the 2022 Green and Environmental Film Festival of San Francisco, Oct. 6-16. Rust explores Borcz’s work, which critiques modern civilization, her creative practice, and her obsessive work ethic, capturing the artist as she roams post-industrial areas in search of scrap metal that she will transform into figures of endangered animals and children affected by war. The Green and Environmental Film Festival is an SDFF partner and a presentation of SF IndieFest, which includes films from all genres (docs, narrative, animation, etc.) unified by environmental themes and sustainable solutions. The fest will run from Oct. 6-16 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco and online.
SDFF alumni filmmaker Ben Proudfoot’s new short, The Best Chef In The World, about Sally Schmitt, the original founder of The French Laundry, is part of Proudfoot’s ongoing partnership withNew York Times Op Docs. The new film joins his recent project with tennis star Naomi Osaka, MINK!about Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and many of his other documentary shorts, including The Queen Of Basketball, A Concerto Is A Conversation, The Unchosen One, and The Lost Astronaut.
Drew Leung’s animated film The Chemical Factory (2021) was recently added to the Los Angeles Times series of documentary shorts, which are meant to represent “a West Coast perspective and a global view” showcasing underrepresented voices and fostering diversity in the film community. The Chemical Factory is an animated piece in which an immigrant mother retraces her early years during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to her son, the filmmaker. The series also includes several other films that were either shown at SDFF, such as The Beauty President(Whitney Skauge, 2022) about queer, black presidential candidate Terence Alan Smith, who ran for office during the ravages of the AIDS crisis in 1992; or are the work of SDFF alumni filmmakers, such as 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, or the Adam Mazo-produced (Dawnland, SDFF 2019) short ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) (Brit Hensel, 2022), which explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world through a story told by an elder and first language speaker
SDFF 2021 Jury Award winning short Unforgivable (Marlén Viñayo, 2020) recently aired on VICE’s The Short List with Suroosh Alvi, along with a Alvi’s interview with filmmaker Viñayo. Unforgivable tells the story of a hitman for the 18th Street gang who deals with his sexuality inside an evangelical Salvadoran prison, where he is not just guilty of crimes, but of an “unforgivable sin” under God and gang: being gay. Both film and interview are now available to stream on the series website. Check out VICE’s full video catalog, where you can also find an episode of The Short List from last season about SDFF 2021 short Last Meal, including an interview with filmmakers Marcus McKenzie and Daniel Principe.
Yung Chang’s doc about foreign correspondent and conflict journalist Robert Fisk, This Is Not A Movie (2019) will be available on the Criterion Collection’s streaming platform starting in September. In the film, Chang captures Fisk, whose career has spanned 40 years, in relentless action—feet on the ground, notebook in hand, as he travels into landscapes devastated by war, ferreting out the facts and firing reports back home to reach an audience of millions. The film is also available on kanopy (w/ public library card) or tubi (w/ ads), and VOD on Vudu, Amazon, Youtube, GooglePlay and Apple TV. An SDFF exclusive Q+A between director Yung Chang and SDFF co-director and lead programmer Jean McGlothlin from SDFF 2021 is available here.
Sydney Bowie Linden’s documentary short Black Gold (SDFF 2022), about a California oil town bracing for change, is now 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. The doc is a compelling artifact of an historic moment and one that challenges national views of California as uniformly progressive.
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