SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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3 MAY 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS.
For Love and Legacy (AK Sandhu, 2021) was an official selection of the Pan African Film Festival in L.A. late last month, and has been seeing some increased press in the wake of those screenings, including a recent Moveable Feast interview with director AK Sandhu. Director AK Sandhu and collaborator/subject Fredrika Newton attended festival screenings of the film. In the SDFF 2022 film, sculptor Dana King’s hands and activist Fredrika Newton’s memories come together to build a new monument that honors the Black Panther Party’s vital place in American history. The film has also been selected for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival (Lagan Sebert and Ted Roach, 2021) is an official selection of both the Richmond International Film Festival and the River Run International Film Festival. In the SDFF 2022 film, Nashville music legends, John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas, team up during the pandemic to record their Grammy-nominated album “Leftover Feelings” in Elvis’s favorite studio, RCA’s fabled Studio B. Walking in the footsteps of Elvis, Dolly, and Waylon, John & Jerry attempt to revive and capture the magical sounds of this historic room where so many early hit songs were made. Featuring commentary from Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and others, this film spotlights the legacy of Music City’s most significant studio through the lens of two godfathers of Americana music.
Two SDFF 2022 selections, Listen To The Beat Of Our Images (Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste, 2020) and Fanny: The Right To Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021) will appear at Melbourne’s Human Rights Arts and Film Festival this week. The 10-day festival seeks to explore human rights issues through film, art, music and conversation. Interconnection is the theme of this year’s festival, and of the shorts program featuring Listen To The Beat Of Our Images, a film that explores the construction of the Kourou Space Centre in French Guyana as seen through the eyes of the local population.The festival is the latest in an impressive festival run for Fanny: The Right To Rock, which is about the first all-female band to be signed to a major record label in the U.S., but were written out of music history until fairly recently. The film’s director Bobbi Jo Hart also directed the SDFF 2018 selection Rebels On Pointe, which celebrated Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; the all-male, drag ballet company founded on the heels of New York’s Stonewall riots.
Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2020), will appear at the Milwaukee Film Festival on May 4. The festival runs from April 21-May 5 and includes almost 300 films this year. Its documentary selections address serious topics like Russian politics, education and civil rights, as well as significantly less serious topics like the invention of the automat, competitive table-setting contests and a Pez smuggler. 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.
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Meet Me Where I Am, a new film co-directed by Ross Kaufman (Still Plays With Trains, 2018) about health care and addiction debuted at Sundance earlier this year. The film follows Salt Lake City resident Adolphus Nickleberry who became a symbol of rehabilitation in SLC after seeking assistance from the University of Utah Health’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Produced by the IOP, the film enters the fray of an ongoing argument about health care, drug decriminalization, rehabilitation and criminal justice, providing evidence of the possibilities of investing in rehabilitation and health care over incarceration. The doc is a fairly significant departure from Kaufman’s SDFF 2020 film Still Plays With Trains about a man’s passion for model trains that led him to recreate his 10th birthday with a 3,000 square-foot replica of the old Lackawanna Railroad in his basement. Meet Me Where I Am is co-directed by André Robert Lee and Robin Honan.
Chilean cult/compound Colonia Dignidad has been the subject of a handful of cinematic representations over the past few years, including the popular 2021 Netflix docuseries Colonia Dignidad: A German sect in Chile (Annette Baumeister and Wilfried Huismann, 2021) and the earlier documentary film Songs Of Repression (Marianne Hougen-Moraga and Estephan Wagner, 2020). Colonia Dignidad was an isolated colony founded by Nazi Germans in post-World War II Chile, which became notorious for the internment, torture, and murder of children and dissidents during Pinochet’s regime. The colony was under the leadership of fugitive Paul Shäfer. Co-directed by SDFF alumni filmmaker Estephan Wagner, Songs Of Repression predates the Netflix series, took several years to make, shares many of the same interviewees, and won awards at both Valdivia Film Festival and the Santiago Documentary Festival. In addition to these documentary treatments, Colonia Dignidad is also the subject of the Hollywood action thriller Colonia (Florian Gallenberger, 2015) and the more recent A Place Called Dignity (Matías Rojas Valencia, 2021). Songs Of Repression co-director Wagner directed the 2008 doc Waiting For Women, which showed at SDFF 2018,about a town of men whose plan to import a bus of bachelorettes from Madrid goes awry.
Ten years after creating Story of Film: An Odyssey, filmmaker Mark Cousins examines the most impactful works of recent cinema, from 2010 to 2021 in the doc The Story Of Film: A New Generation. 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.
IN THE NEWS
Documentary short and SDFF 2022 Best Mini-Doc Jury Award winner Prosopagnosia (Steven Fraser, 2021) is now a New York Times Op-Doc. The doc is streaming on the site, accompanied by a short essay by Fraser explaining the film and Prosopagnosia. The short is a story of identity that uses expressive animation to investigate intimacy, communication and memory. In it, Fraser uses the contents of a memory box he made for himself of self-portraits, sketches and other personal items to help depict the neurodiverse experience of face blindness.
A Sexplanation (Alexander Liu, 2020) will be released across major streaming and cable platforms in the U.S. and Canada on June 7, following the film’s acquisition by Passion River. The film will also air on Fuse TV, as part of its Fuse Docs series, beginning on May 3. In the SDFF 2021 film directed by and starring Liu, the 36-year-old health reporter looks to right the wrongs of his all-American sex education—going on a quest to uncover naked truths and hard facts, no matter how awkward it gets. From neuroscience labs to church pews, A Sexplanation features provocative conversations with psychologists, sex researchers, a Jesuit priest, and several generations of Alex’s own family.
Filmmaker Jerry Rothwell and his recent film The Reason I Jump (2020) were heavily featured in a recent article Through a Unique Lens: Lifting Up Artists on The Spectrum, available via the Sundance Institute. The Sundance Award-winning film is based on poet Naoki Higashida’s memoir and looks at the diverse experiences and emotions of five young people with autism. It is currently streaming on Netflix. Rothwell’s film Sour Grapes (Rothwell and Reuben Atlas, 2016) documented the rise and fall of wine charlatan Rudy Kuriawan, who pulled one over on connoisseurs, experts and industry folk before his downfall, and showed at SDFF 2017.
Three SDFF alumni films made a recent list of animated docs to watch in the wake of Flee’s Oscar win. Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016), Nuts! (Penny Lane, 2017) and My Favorite War (Ilze Burkovska-Jacobsen, 2020) all made the list of what has become an increasingly popular sub-genre. The directors of this trio of films have also all been in the news recently. Nuts! director Penny Lane has received ongoing praise for her 2021 HBO doc Listening To Kenny G, and Tower director Keith Maitland has released the doc, Dear Mr. Brody, about margarine heir Michael Brody Jr’s effort to give away his $25 million inheritance and usher in a new era of world peace in 1970. He gave a recent interview about the film to Below The Line. My Favorite War (Ilze Burkovska-Jacobsen, 2020) has also been getting some extra shine in the media following its release in over 40 French cinemas starting April 20. The French release had been postponed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions. My Favorite War tells the story of the director’s childhood during the 1970s and the Soviet Occupation of Latvia. The film was an SDFF 2021 selection.
SDFF 2018 alumni filmmaker, Pedro Kos (Bending The Arc) has signed with mega-giant talent agency CAA. While Kos’s 2017 film with Kief Davidson Bending The Arc remains both acclaimed and relatively popular, Kos’s most recent doc, which he made for Netflix, Lead Me Home, (co-dir. Jon Shenk), was nominated for the 2022 Oscar for Documentary Short Subject. Lead Me Home is an immersive film about homelessness shot in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. Like Lead Me Home, Bending The Arc is concerned with social justice and available to stream via Netflix.
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig recently received a lifetime achievement award at the 16th annual Crescendo, which raises funds for the choir. Seelig, who has led the choir for 30 years, is featured in the SDFF 2020 doc Gay Chorus, Deep South (David Charles Rodrigues, 2019), which he listed among his achievements with the choir in his acceptance speech, which not only gives an overview of his career but of the choir’s development over the course of the past 30 years. The speech was reproduced by LGBTQIA newspaper San Francisco Bay Times.
When Claude Got Shotdirector Brad Lichtenstein and collaborator/titular character Claude Motley gave an interview with PBS Wisconsin in anticipation of the film’s May 9 national premiere on Independent Lens, which recently revealed its Spring schedule. The film follows five years in the life of Claude Motley 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, will be available to stream online after it airs. The Spring season of Independent Lens airs from April 25-May 16.
The Berkeley FILM Foundation is offering a new round of film grants for its 2022 cycle, which began on April 4. The foundation supports narrative and documentary works in production, post-production and distribution stages. Grants between $5,000-$25,000 are awarded to professional and student filmmakers who live or work in the East Bay for films with a strong focus on social or environmental justice. The deadline to apply is May 9. To review guidelines and learn more about eligibility, click here.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
The Sebastopol Doc Night series continues on May 9 at 7 p.m., with a screening of Symphony of the Soil, followed by a discussion with producer Deborah Koons Garcia & editor Vivien Hillgrove. Filmed on four continents, Symphony of the Soil highlights the elaborate relationships between soil and all other elements of the environment and life on earth, and examines human’s relationship to soil and its key role in ameliorating the climate crisis. The screening and discussion will be screened at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® and will be followed by a casual gathering at Fern Bar. Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF, and the Rialto®. Buy tickets here, or check out our Doc Night page for more details.
The Israeli Film Festival will be back for its 7th year, with a hybrid in-person and virtual fest screening seven films at the Rialto® and online April 26-May 17. The selections include 3 documentaries Black Flowers (Tammy Federmanm 2021), The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua (Yair Qeder, 2021), and That Orchestra with the Broken Instruments, 2021). The festival is presented by the Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County. Black Flowers is about Holocaust survivors who are working through traumatic memories with art, The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua is a portrait of the titular A.B. Yehosua, a beloved Israeli author, and That Orchestra with the Broken Instruments is about a peculiar collaborative effort to make harmony in the frequently discordant city of Jerusalem.
AVFest, formerly known as the Alexander Valley Film Festival, is returning for its 8th year, running screenings across Sonoma County from April 29-May 8. The festival will return to an entirely live/in-person festival this year, and includes a mix of fiction and documentary features and shorts from diverse perspectives. Check out their line-up here.
In addition to hosting film festivals and special series, Rialto Cinemas® will be screening This Much I Know To Be True (Andrew Dominik, 2022) on May 11 at 7:15 p.m. The music doc explores the creative relationship and songs from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ last two studio albums, Ghosteen and Carnage. The film captures the first performances of these two albums in advance of the duo’s 2021 tour. In addition to its emphasis on music, the doc reaches into the deep friendship and personal relationship between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, something glimpsed in the 2014 Cave pseudo-documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth.
OUTwatch continues its Spring/Summer film series on May 19 with Rebel Dykes (Siobhan Fahey, 2021), a heady, energized mash-up of animation, unseen archive footage and interviews, which provides intimate insight into a politically charged, artistically radical subculture in 1980s London. Bringing together BDSM nightclubs, inclusive, sex-positive feminism, DIY zine culture, post-punk musicians and artists, squatters, activists and sex workers, these rebel dykes went out onto the streets to make their voices heard. The film shows at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol. The series will continue with Daresha Kyi’s Mama Bears (June 16) and Chase Joynt’s Framing Agnes (July 21). Buy tickets here!
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
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 EarthxFilm festival will be screening SDFF 2022 films Nuisance Bear(Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden, 2021) about Manitoba polar bears, Breaking Trail (Jesse Roesler, 2021) about the first woman and person of color to thru-hike the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail, and Tigre Gente (Elizabeth Unger, 2021) about a Bolivian park ranger and a journalist working to curtail the South American jaguar trade. The festival will also be showing Deep In The Heart, a new film by SDFF 2020 filmmaker Ben Masters who made The River and The Wall. The festival runs online May 16-23.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean, 2017) will be shown on PBS’s American Masters on May 3 and May 6, and is also available for free through the American Masters website until May 18. The American Masters website for the film also includes a number of new interviews and archival information, including an interview with Mel Brooks and recently unearthed audio of interviews with the inventor/actor. Bombshell showed at SDFF 2018 and is about the famed actress’s inventions, which included a technology that would eventually become Bluetooth.
Bathtubs Over Broadway (Dava Whisenant, 2018) is available via Netflix. The doc was an official SDFF 2019 film that focused on the industrial musicals and the people who make them. The doc approaches these rare, historic oddities produced by the likes of McDonalds and GE, by following a late night comedy writer who stumbles into a hilarious, hidden world of entertainment where he finds unexpected human connections. This highly entertaining doc includes appearances by David Letterman, Martin Short, Chita Rivera and Jello Biafra.
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®.
Ferne Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh (Ferne Pearlstein, 2016) is currently available to stream on Kanopy, which is available for free to anyone with a library card. The documentary, which showed at SDFF 2017, considers 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, who died this week after battling a long illness.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Deborah S, Esquezani, 2016) recently became available through NBC’s streaming platform Peacock TV. This SDFF 2017/OUTwatch selection examines the criminal justice system through the arrest of four women in San Antonio at the tail end of the “Satanic ritual abuse panic” of the 1990s. The four women, all Latina, all lesbian, were wrongfully convicted of a heinous sexual assault. The film documents their treatment by the criminal justice system and their continued efforts to prove their innocence after serving several decades in prison. It also contextualizes the “Satanic Panic” – the social hysteria that was expressed by numerous false arrests and a general climate of fear in the 1980s-90s – as part of long-term, pervasive homophobia and misogyny in U.S. culture.
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