SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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NOVEMBER 3, 2021
ALUMNI AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS.
From the Wild Sea (Robin Petré, 2021) is one of 10 features comprising the 2021 Europe! Voices Of Women In Film Strand at the Sydney Film Festival, which runs from Nov. 3-14. The joint initiative between SFF and European Film Promotion began in 2016 and is intended to generate international exposure for women filmmakers in countries with limited official support for cinema. A number of the 2021 filmmakers, most from Eastern European countries, discuss their experiences in a recent Screen Daily article. From The Wild Sea is filmmaker Robin Petré’s directorial debut and documents the experiences of marine animals forced into the human world by rising sea levels, told as a poetic dialogue between human- and animal-kind. It was an official selection at SDFF 2021.
Hunger Ward (Skye Fitzgerald, 2021) received an honorable mention in the Best Short Documentary category at this year’s Woodstock Film Festival. The SDFF 2021 selection provides unflinching portraits of Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they work to save the lives of hunger-stricken children Yemen, which is on the brink of famine after years of war.
A Sexplanation (Alexander Liu, 2020) was featured at this year’s Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita. The film was one of the few shown in person with the filmmaker in attendance for the 19th annual fest, with the bulk of films streamed in virtual screenings. In the SDFF 2021-featured film, director Alex Liu goes on a quest to uncover truths and hard facts about sex and sexuality, no matter how hard it gets.
My Favorite War (Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, 2020), an animated memoir of a Soviet childhood and an antiwar film that emphasizes the importance of an individual’s right to freedom in a democratic society, will be shown as part of the Dharamshala International Film Festival online, Nov. 4-10. The festival is in its 10thyear, and has temporarily gone virtual due to the pandemic. While virtual screenings are only available in India, the festival makes its discussions and Q&As available internationally on youtube. You can find an archive of them here.
NEW PROJECTS BY SDFF ALUMNI DIRECTORS
The trailer for Nathalie Biancheri second narrative film, Wolf, has dropped. The wild new film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and is about a young man with “species dysphoria” who believes himself to be a wolf, and stars method actor George MacKay. Biancheri’s doc Xavier Corbero: Portrait of an Artist in Winter was an SDFF 2018 selection.
Director Jake Dypka was brought aboard at production studio Florence, his first representation in the U.S. While Dypka is principally a commercial and music video director, he directed Pink or Blue (Jake Dypka, 2017), a collaborative project about gender, which was commissioned to open the Saatchi showcase in Cannes and used 3D technology to allow the viewer to switch between two different versions of the film depending which set of glasses they view it through. It was screened in 2D at SDFF 2018.
ALUMNI SPECIAL SCREENINGS
To celebrate World Food Day and spur discussion on the impact of organic farming on climate change and the role of women in agriculture, Ciné-ONU, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN Environmental Program held an online screening of When Tomatoes Met Wagner followed by a filmmaker Q&A with Marianna Economou. When Tomatoes Met Wagner is an SDFF alumni film, which tells the uplifting story of two Greek cousins and five village women, who tackle the world market with their organic tomatoes. An overview of the post-discussion screening is included in the UN’s coverage of the event, which you can find here.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean, 2017) is one of five films being shown at Barnard Media Center’s Women in STEM, a feminist film series and part of Barnard’s Year of Science. Other films in the series include Radium Girls, The House of Sand, and Hidden Figures. Bombshell was an SDFF 2018 selection about Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr, who fled an oppressive marriage and created a name for herself as one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, but was also a talented and inquisitive inventor who created a system that is now considered the basis of Bluetooth. Based on a trove of previously unknown interviews, Hedy Lamarr, the screen siren who was called “the most beautiful woman in the world” is reborn as an inventor who helped the war effort.
Rosemary’s Way (Ros Horin 2020) will be shown at a special fundraising event on Nov. 18 for the Victor Harbor Refugee Support Group, which supports refugees arriving in South Australia. The SDFF 2021 official selection is an inspirational film about the difference one determined person can make. In it, Ccharismatic changemaker, Rosemary Kariuki, is on a mission to empower immigrant women, exposing them to new ideas, experiences and wider Australian society – her means are anything but orthodox and laughter is her secret weapon.
Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol is screening two docs this week. A special one-time screening of The Doors: Live at the Bowl ’68 Special Edition on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. The concert film was directed by the band’s keyboardist Ray Mazarek and features enhanced sound and visual footage. It is being screened worldwide to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Doors final studio album L.A. Woman. A music doc, How They Got Over: Gospel Quartets and the Road to Rock & Roll (Robert Clem, 2021) is also showing at the theater through Thursday and tells the story of how Black gospel quartet music became the primary source of what would become Rock & Roll.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: STREAMING DOCS
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid, 2018) will become available through Sundance Now! streaming service on November 22. In the SDFF 2019 selection, Dr. Anne Innis Dagg re-traces the steps of her ground-breaking 1956 journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Now, at 85 years old, Anne sees a startling contrast between the world of giraffes she once knew and the one it has become. Weaving through the past and present, her harrowing journey gives us an intimate look into the factors that destroyed her career and the forces that brought her back.
The 46th Annual American Indian Film Festival will stream a virtually from Nov. 5-13. The San Francisco-based festival’s offerings will be available starting on November 5. Check out their catalog here. The festival includes fiction and documentary features and shorts. Its roster of feature-length docs this year includes Dancing Through (Dir. Anika Syskakis and Madelaine McCallum) about an indigenous woman’s utilization of dance to guide her as she grapples with a cancer diagnosis; Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy(Dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) a portrait of how substance abuse has changed a community; Savage Land (Dir. Campbell Dalglish and Dr. Henrietta Man) about historical trauma and their resonance in the present that examines the police killing of an 18 year-old child, a descendant of the Sand Creek and Washita Massacres; Spirit to Soar (Dir. Tanya Talaga and Michelle DeRosier) examines what happened in the wake of an inquest into the deaths and disappearances of seven First Nations high school students in Thunder Bay Canada from 2000-2011; and Warrior Spirit (Dir. Landon Dyksterhouse) about the first native American UFC champion Nicco Montano. The festival’s noms for short docs include: Dear Friend (Dir. Trevor Solway) about a group of women who plan rescue efforts when one of their own goes missing from their reservation; Guardians of the River (Dir. Shane Anderson & Swiftwater Films) about the Klamath River restoration and its importance; Indigenous Dads (Dir. Peter Brass) in which four indigenous dads candidly discuss raising their kids; Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again (Dir. Courtney Montour) about Canadian indigenous and women’s rights’ activist Mary Two-Axe Early; and Nalujuk Night (Dir. Jennie Williams) about the Nunatsiavut tradition Nalujuk Night.
The San Francisco Transgender Film Festival will take place online this year from Nov. 11-14. Their full roster is available now, and appears to be comprised of seven film programs featuring 32 shorts, many of which are either documentary, non-fiction or performance-oriented. All of the films become available on Nov. 11. The festival was founded in 1997 and screens films that promote the visibility of transgender and gender variant people, challenging negative stereotypes promoted by mainstream media representations.
The third annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival will be virtual this year and streams from Nov. 12-16. This year’s fest includes 10 films from South Asia and its diaspora, including work from India, Sri Lanka, France, the UK and U.S.’s Pakistani community. Two of the films In Process With Nishtha Jain (Nishtha Jain) and 7 Days (Roshan Sethi) will be live streamed and accompanied by filmmaker Q&As. The rest of the films will be available beginning on Nov. 12 and can be streamed any time during the fest.
SDFF ALUMNI STREAMERS, NOVEMBER END DATES
Filmmaker Adam Mazo’s new film Bounty will premiere via streaming through the Maine Historical Society and the Portland Press Herald on Nov. 11. The doc is follows citizens of the Penobscot Nation who bring their families to Boston to read their ancestors’ death warrants, which were part of a 1755 colonial government proclamation that paid settlers to murder the tribespeople. Mazo’s project with Ben Pender-Cudlip, Dawnland, was an Emmy® award winning film and SDFF 2019 official selection. Pre-registrationis required for this online screening. Dawnland has also been shown at a number of special screenings for Native American Heritage Month this October, including University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where Mazo did a post-screening Q&A.
Knocking Down The Fences (Meg Shutzer, 2019) will be streaming as part of Lunafest this year, alongside Maria Finitzo’s Until She Is Free, which imagines a culturally “cliterate” world. Knocking Down The Fences showed at SDFF 2020, and is about AJ Andrews, the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, and her struggle to make it as one of the best professional softball players in the world. Finitzo’s film The Dilemma of Desire was an SDFF 2021 selection, which was picked up internationally by Utopia and recently released a new official trailer. Lunafest is a traveling film festival by, for, and about women that began in 2001. This year it has been a hybrid fest with in-person and virtual events, which run until November 13. You can find streaming dates here.
Gilda Shepperd’s Since I Been Down, will stream from Nov. 21-28 by UC Santa Cruz’s Visualizing Abolitionproject, and will be accompanied by an interview between Sheppard and author adrienne maree brown on 11/26. Shepperd’s doc approaches intersecting criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980s drug war who continue to languish behind bars. Visualizing Abolition is a group of graduate students and faculty aiming to expand discourse on mass incarceration and policing through art, and just received an almost $2 million grant. Registration is required. Since I Been Down will also show at Nashville’s 12th Annual Black Film Festival, which was recently reschedule for Dec. 2-5 and will be a hybrid streaming and in-person fest.
GENERAL DOC NEWS
Gradually, Then Suddenly: The Bankruptcy Of Detroit, (Sam Katz and James McGovern) swept the 2021 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, a three-year-old documentary award that carries a finishing grant of $200,000. The film explores the decline of the American manufacturing city, which in 2013 triggered the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The runner-up prize went to Free Chol Soo Lee (Julie Ha and Eugene Yi), about a Korean immigrant wrongly convicted of a Chinatown gang murder in 1973 San Francisco. The two films were chosen from a pool of six films selected from a pool of hundreds of entries by filmmaker’s from Ken Burns’ production company Florentine Films and staff from the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (Library of Congress’s image and record preservation facility). Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, in consultation with Burns, selected the winner.
DOC NYC revealed its influential 15-film shortlist. DOC NYC is the U.S.’s largest documentary film festival, and will run a main lineup of 127 features and 125 shorts, which will be available in-person and online. The shortlist is curated by DOC NYC’s creative director Thom Powers, who is also the documentary programmer for TIFF. The shortlist includes films such as The Rescue, (Dir. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi), Becoming Cousteau (Liz Garbus), Ascension (Jessica Kingdon) and Summer of Soul (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) that were also on the IDA and Critics’ Choice shortlists. Read more about this year’s shortlist-o-rama at IndieWire, including their Best Documentary Feature Predictions for the 2022 Oscars, which is, itself, a kind of shortlist.
AMC Theaters have adopted a new on-screen caption policy, and are expanding on-screen captioning at 240 locations in the United States, out of a total of 978 total. On-screen captioning is presented within the film, not unlike turning the presentation into the sort you might find on a DVD or Blu-ray. This is different than closed captioning, which theater patrons see through the use of a special device. In the past, however, these devices have been criticized for malfunctioning or not being charged by theater staff before use. Most theaters tend to relegate on-screen captioning screenings to certain days of the week (my local theater tends to have just one or two screenings of this kind in a given week). For more on this story and a succinct history of captioning films for the deaf, see IndieWire’s story on it, here.
The British Independent Film Awards Documentary Longlist was unveiled last week. Ten of the fourteen films that made the list were directed by women or non-binary filmmakers. For a full list of the nominees, see coverage in The Hollywood Reporter.
ViacomCBS is expanding its Spanish-language media after striking a deal to acquire a majority stake in Fox TeleColombia and Estudios TeleMexico from its founding family and Disney. The acquisition will give VCNI rights to thousands of hours of Spanish-language programming including scripted series, telenovelas, films, documentaries, unscripted, kids and family, which will be used to fuel ViacomCBS’s global streaming platforms including Paramount+ and Pluto TV, as well as its broadcast networks.
Australian Parliament recently released a forward-looking report into the future of culture and creative industries, and recommended that video streamers should be legislated to spend at least 20 percent of their local revenue on new Australian content. If the recommendation becomes law, it will be among the first to makes such demands on streaming services, but follows a long history of similar regulations for film among a number of countries, internationally, which have been put into place to insure the survival of national cinemas.
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