SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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7 JUNE 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS.
The Pratt In The Hat (SDFF2022) was featured as part of a recent program from the New Filmmakers Los Angeles, InFocus: Counter-Ageism Shorts. Filmmaker Susan Hillary was profiled in an accompanying NMFLA Stage 5 Interview. The program celebrated counter-ageism cinema with stories of time lost and found, including films about a lonely grocery clerk who befriends an aging former actress, a newly divorced woman in Los Angeles, and, of course, civil rights leader Frances Pratt, a fighter for racial equality, voting rights and education. NFMLA’s special InFocus programming celebrates diversity, inclusion, and region, it also showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year. For more on the counter-ageism shorts, including filmmaker interviews, check out this in MovieMaker Magazine.
Filmmaker Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath’s collaborative effort Young Plato was honored with an Award for Best Film on Psychology at Poland’s 19th annual Millennium Docs Against Gravity 2022. The film’s examination of a teacher’s praxis, which involves teaching at-risk youth philosophical praxis fits with the festival’s 2022 motto, “Rethink Everything.” 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.
Madame (Stéphane Riethauser, 2019) will be screened for a special Pride Month celebration hosted by Out on Film and the Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta on June 14. Madame is a double self-portrait in which a 90 year-old grandmother and her grandson confide in each other. With sincerity and humor, the film deconstructs gender stereotypes in depth and with subversive power, examines the ways in which identity is formed and transmitted, and traces a family saga with enchanting archive footage. The documentary feature was an SDFF 2020 official selection.
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Filmmakers Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and illustrator Daniel Sousa have collaborated on the children’s book Kapaemahu, which was released today, June 7. The book is an adaptation of the directorial team’s animated documentary short Kapaemahu (SDFF 2021 Best Short), and is the first picture book published in both English and Olelo Niihau, the only form of Hawaiian that has been continuously spoken since before Europeans arrived. The illustrated tome tells the Indigenous Hawaiian legend of four Tahitians, who are also mahu—a third gender that is neither male nor female but a mixture of both—traveling to Hawaii, each with a healing gift from the gods, which they transferred to stones before leaving the island. The stones, considered sacred before colonization, were built over and only recently uncovered and moved to Waikiki Beach.
A new feature-length doc from Libby Spears (Little Gandhis and Living Music, 2018), The Art Of Rebellion is showing at New Zealand’s DocEdge. The new film about LA political street artist Lydia Emily, whose struggle to finish her last mural in the face of an MS diagnosis was also the subject of the SDFF2022 short Lydia Emily’s Last Mural (Christoph Johannes). The Art of Rebellion expands on the subject of the short, tracking Lydia Emily, a mother of two, now in her 40s, as she fights against an unforgiving healthcare system, as well as her illness, while attempting to complete large-scale works of creative resistance for her show. Spears has made two very different shorts, Little Gandhis and Living Music, both of which showed at SDFF 2019, and will also be on hand for a Q&A at DocEdge.
Known for his concert films and biographical docs on 60s musicians, Jim Brown (Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives), has released a new film Don McLean: American Troubador, which made a Memorial Day appearance on RFDTV. McLean granted unprecedented access and interviews for the film, giving a personal account of his 5-decade career. The film will feature live performances of his hit – American Pie, Vincent, Crying and And I Love You So. Brown’s 2018 film Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives was an SDFF 2019 documenting the life and 50-year career of singer, songwriter, social activist and Sebastopol native Holly Near, who created what Gloria Steinem called, “the first soundtrack of the women’s movement.” That film, which is a record of a time of protest and coalition building is available to stream through Peacock and as part of PBS’s American Masters series.
The Story Of Film: A New Generation, filmmaker Mark Cousins’ follow-up to The Story of Film: An Odysseyis now streaming via Netflix UK. W Examining the most impactful works of recent cinema (2010-21), the new doc is an optimistic exploration of how technology is changing the course of cinema in the 21st Century and the ways in which COVID is impacting the process. The film is a worthwhile companion piece to Cousins’s SDFF 2022 film The Story Of Looking, an exploration of the role visual experience plays in our lives and culture made by a filmmaker on the cusp of losing his sight. With any luck it’ll be picked up by US Netflix soon!
IN THE NEWS
Producer Anita Gou (The Last Animals) discusses her new production The Silent Twins (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2022) and its Cannes Un Certain Regard debut in new pieces in both Variety and Deadline. An adaptation of Marjorie Wallace’s bestseller, set in 1970s Wales, The Silent Twins tells the story of two Black women, June and Jennifer Gibbons, who communicated only with eachother, created their own world, wrote fiction and committed crimes in their teens. The duo were eventually confined to a mental health facility. According to Variety, the film’s debut received a standing ovation that lasted 4 minutes. Gou produced the SDFF 2018 selection The Last Animals (Kate Brooks, 2017), about conservationists, scientists and activists working to save elephants and rhinos from extinction.
Claude Motley, whose story is focalized in the feature-length doc When Claude Got Shot (Brad Lichtenstein, 2020), appeared at the 10th Heal The Hood Milwaukee, an event that’s part block part, part resource fair. Motley, who was shot in a teen carjacking in Milwaukee in 2014, emphasized the need for empathy and love rather than anger and fear. Motley spoke to the need for healing which cannot happen in the cycle of victimization and imprisonment that has event has been prevalent and led to mass incarcerations. When Claude Got Shot follows five years in Claude’s life as he tries to recover mentally and physically from being shot in the face by 15 year old carjacker, Nathan King. Claude’s story is at the center of five stories of gun violence, justice and healing, and ultimately leads him back to the boy who shot him. The film, which showed at SDFF 2022, made its national premiere in May PBS’s Independent Lens and remains available to stream on the show’s site through June 8.
Recently made available on VOD, Since I Been Down (Gilda Shepperd, 2020) garnered a handful of positive coverage this week, from mini-reviews like the one posted by the LA Times to much more in-depth coverage of the film and the tangle of problems it addresses, like pieces in The Guardian and MovieMaker, which include interviews with Shepperd. The News Tribune, a paper from Tacoma, where the film is set, also published a lengthy piece on the film this week. The feature-length doc, which showed at SDFF 2021, addresses racism in the criminal justice system. 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.).
The Queen of Basketball (Ben Proudfoot, 2021) popped up a few places this week. An examination of the efficacy of the film’s storytelling was published in Harvard journalism’s Nieman Storyboard, which showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling. The piece is penned by Kristen Chin, who has been mentored by the film’ director Ben Proudfoot. The Queen of Basketball was also in the news to the north, where it will be screened as part of the show Game/Culture at The Reach gallery in British Columbia. The exhibition explores the ways that sports and games have fundamentally shaped societal expectations of gender, sexuality, race, and ability. The show is organized around artwork from four contemporary artists, displayed alongside photographs and objects from the museum’s historical collections, examining how sports and games sanction certain kinds of behaviors and bodies, and in doing so condition how people understand themselves and others. The Queen of Basketball, 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.
Director/Producers Jane Castle and Pat Fiske (When The Cameras Stopped Rolling, SDFF 2021) were among the vaunted Australian filmmakers who spoke on the recent panel Womenvision Revisited about women in the Australian film industry, which is covered in a new piece “Bra-burning to Hollywood—trailblazing women in film” by Prof. Lisa French in Broad Agenda. The article glosses the main areas addressed in the panel, which took as its topic a 1973 panel also called Womanvision, recognized as one of the first national enterprises of the women’s movement in Australia. The article gives an overview of the women’s comments on their time in the industry and the challenges they have faced in it. The event is presented by National Foundation for Australian Women and recorded by ABC Australia’s Big Ideas. To read more about how the film and Fiske’s career fit into Australia’s feminist history, see this recent article in Broad Agenda.
Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) was picked up by STARZ and will be airing as part of its film series “Juneteenth: Hope & Liberation” (June 14-20. 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.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
This Thursday, OUTwatch is hosting a Pride Month screening of Poppy Field (Eugen Jebeleanu, 2020) to benefit OUTright’s LGBTQI Ukraine Emergency Fund. In the film, a young, Romanian police officer, Cristi, tries to find the balance between two opposing parts of his identity: that of a man working in a macho hierarchical environment and that of a closeted gay person who tries to keep his personal life a secret. The film will have two screenings on June 9 at 1 and 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol.
OUTwatch will also be continuing its Spring/Summer film series on June 16 with Daresha Kyi’s doc Mama Bears, about conservative Christian families raising gay kids. Framing Agnes (July 21). The films show at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol. Buy tickets here!
The 21st San Francisco DocFest continues through this week with both in-person and virtual screenings. The 12-day festival includes a number of films with SDFF connections. Though all their in-person screenings have passed, they remain available to stream until the festival closes. 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 on the roster. The Mission (2022), a film co-produced by Still I Rise Films/Mimi Chakarova (The Mirror, SDFF 2022), is part of the Bay Area Resilience shorts block. The film focuses on longtime Mission activist Valerie Tulier-Laiwa who jumps into action to meet her neighborhood’s needs when COVID hits. And, last but not least, Sentinels, a new documentary short co-directed by Derek Knowles (After The Fire, SDFF 2020) and Lawrence Lerew, takes an immersive, observational tack in its presentation of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit. The film bears 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. Sentinels shows with Clarissa’s Battle (Tamara Perkins, 2021) about activist/organizer Clarissa Doutherd. All films will be available to stream online. for the duration of the festival, June 1-12.
Two New Orleans-based music docs Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story (Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern, 2022) and Take Me To The River: New Orleans (Martin Shore, 2022) are running at the Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol this week. Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story weaves together live performances and interviews from the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival, featuring some of the biggest names in the music industry and a wealth of archival documentary footage from the past half century. Jazz Festival captures the festival’s spirit, but also delves into NOLA’s storied history. The film will be showing at Rialto Cinemas® through Thursday (6/9). Take Me To The River: New Orleans, which will show on June 12 at 1:30 p.m., accompanied by a Q&A with director Martin Shore. This doc is the second in the Take Me to the River franchise, celebrating the rich musical history, heritage, legacy and influence of New Orleans and Louisiana. The film examines how the city and its music, both unique cultural jewels, are the result of collaboration between people with cultural influences from around the world. Filmmaker Martin Shore will be at the Sunday, June 12 screening for a Q&A.
Rialto Cinemas® will holding a special screening of the music doc George Michael Freedom Uncut (Lisa Johnson and David Austin, 2022), which focuses on the formative period in the late singer’s life and career. The film documents the making of best-selling album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, his subsequent battle with his record label, which reached the High Court, and the death of his first love, Anselmo Feleppa. Filmed before the musician’s untimely passing, the documentary features unseen archival footage and is narrated by the singer, who was heavily involved in the making of the film that serves as his final work. The film will show at Rialto Cinemas® on June 22 at 7 p.m.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
Hunger Ward (Skye Fitzgerald, 2021) will begin streaming today, June 7, on Paramount+, and is also available for free on Pluto TV. Filmed inside two of the most active therapeutic feeding centers in conflict-ridden Yemen, Hunger Warddocuments 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. With unprecedented access within a sensitive conflict-zone, Hunger Ward reveals the bravery of deeply committed doctors working in the middle of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Hunger Ward is the third in Fitzgerald’s Humanitarian Trio and showed as part of SDFF2021.
A Sexplanation (Alexander Liu, 2020), which will be released across major streaming and cable platforms in the U.S. and Canada today, June 7. In the doc, 36 year-old health reporter/filmmaker Liu investigates his own repression by looking for right the wrongs of his all-American sex education—going on a quest to uncover naked truths and hard facts. A Sexplanationfeatures provocative conversations with psychologists, sex researchers, a Jesuit priest, and several generations of his family.
The Booksellers (D.W. Young, 2019) producer Debra McClutchy has made her directorial debut with the 40-min doc The Martha Mitchell Effect (co-dir. Anne Alvergue, 2022), which will begin streaming on Netflix June 17. The film is about Martha Mitchell, wife of a Nixon Attorney General and campaign president John N. Mitchell. Martha spoke out during Watergate, and the Nixon administration’s campaign to gaslit her into silence. McClutchy was a producer on The Booksellers, a behind-the-scenes look at the New York world of rare books, which was shown as part of SDFF 2020. It is now available through Amazon Prime.
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 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®.
On July 11, Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) will lead the 35th season of PBS’s POV, the longest-running series for independent docs on TV, which recently released most of its upcoming schedule. Unlike the true crime and celebrity-driven docs that populate streaming platforms, POV has retained its emphasis on issue-driven films.Wuhan Wuhan is an observational documentary unfolding 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. Wuhan Wuhan will become available to stream via the series’ website when it airs. The film showed as part of SDFF 2021.
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