Thursday, September 20, 2018

Flight of a Bullet: A nailbiting 80 minute single take of a documentary

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year’s Open City Documentary Festival – a five-day, under-the-radar gem situated in the heart of London, and dedicated to championing nonfiction work as an art – was that my favorite film of the fest actually ended up taking top prize. Beata Bubenec’s Flight of a Bullet never garnered the sort of buzz during its premiere at True/False that it did over in Europe. (Thankfully, perhaps, as the Russian director faced not only death threats, but also protests and a gas attack by ultra-nationalists when it showed at Moscow’s Artdocfest).

To read my review visit Global Comment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Keep Calm and Doc On: The 8th Open City Documentary Festival

As a longtime docuphile who prides myself on keeping up with the latest developments in cinematic nonfiction both at home and abroad, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of the Open City Documentary Festival before an invite to the eight-year-old London fest landed in my inbox. But between OCDF’s touted focus on documentary first and foremost as an art form, and my morbid curiosity about/solidarity with any film festival functioning amidst the chaos of Brexit, I was immediately sold.

To read all about it visit Filmmaker magazine.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Doc Star of the Month: Judge Ruchie Freier, Paula Eiselt's '93Queen'

As a secular Jew who resided for over a decade in pre-Girls Brooklyn, I'm not sure which Williamsburg community proved more inscrutable to my eyes — hipster or Hasidic. Both appeared isolated in secret echo-chambered societies, living blocks away — and worlds apart — from one another. And the notion of a feminist Hasid would strike me as outlandish as a hipster sporting payot.

Enter Rachel "Ruchie" Freier to upend my preconceived notions. Freier is the pigeonhole-avoiding star of filmmaker Paula Eiselt's 93Queen, a fascinating look at America’s very first all-female EMT corps—started in the heart of Borough Park, Brooklyn, home to one of the world's largest communities of Hasidic Jews. Freier, one of the founders of this untraditional mobile medical service (dubbed "Ezras Nashim," or "women who help"), is simultaneously a deeply religious family woman wedded to a strict faith, and a practicing lawyer unafraid to stand up for a Hasidic woman's right not to, as one of her EMT colleagues puts it, "ever be too embarrassed to call for help."

Needless to say, Documentary is thrilled that the incredibly busy Freier — whose bio now includes the distinction of being "the first Hasidic Jewish woman to be elected as a civil court judge in New York State, and the first Hasidic woman to hold public office in United States history" — found time during Rosh Hashanah preparations to answer a few wide-ranging questions via email.

93Queen, an IDA Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund grantee, airs September 17 on PBS' POV.

To read my interview visit Documentary magazine.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

“Silent Solidarity” and Portraying Sexual Violence on Screen: Jayisha Patel on Her TIFF Short Circle

London-based director Jayisha Patel has amassed an impressive resume in a remarkably short period of time. Since 2014 Patel’s documentary shorts have screened LAFF, SXSW, NYFF, the Berlin International Film Festival and beyond, racking up numerous awards along the way. Her latest VR project — Notes to My Father, the world’s first live-action 360-degree documentary on sex trafficking, commissioned by Oculus — premiered at Sundance. Her most recent short, the Berlinale-premiering Circle, a sensitive portrait of an adolescent rape survivor caught in the endless loop of India’s gender-based violence, made its Toronto debut this week. Currently an artist in residence at the UK’s Somerset House (where she’s at work on her latest immersive experience, After The Fire, a collaboration with DFI’s Anidox:lab), the international media-maker found time to chat with Filmmaker about a wide variety of topics, including working in the short format and addressing empathy in VR. And how Brexit and Trump changed her thoughts about her own TIFF-selected doc.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, September 7, 2018

“We Need to Strive for a Better, More Inclusive, Emerging Tech Landscape”: Paisley Smith on her VR Project Homestay and Advocating for Women in VR/AR

For the past eight years London’s Open City Documentary Festival has been dedicated to “celebrating the art of non-fiction,” and the upcoming 2018 edition (September 4-9) looks to be doing so in a creatively cutting edge way when it comes to immersive media. In addition to a wide-ranging Expanded Realities exhibition (divided into three themed sections, A New Lens, Motion and Sonic), OCDF will present a full day (September 7) Expanded Realities symposium featuring deep-thinking speakers tackling some of the most pressing issues affecting new media-makers today. One discussion I’m especially looking forward to is the “Barrier to Entry: Accessibility in XR” talk, which will focus on the “big questions of who gets to tell the stories, who gets to experience them and what the industry can do to break down barriers and allow more diverse voices to inform the future of digital storytelling.”

And one of the artists I’m most looking forward to hearing from on that panel is Paisley Smith, a Fulbright scholar who nabbed the Sundance Institute and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fellowship just this year. Filmmaker caught up with the Canadian filmmaker for a sneak peek of her talk and to discuss her latest VR project Homestay, her life as a binational media-maker and her work advocating for women in the emerging tech world.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Doc Star of the Month: Sergeant Edwin Raymond, Stephen Maing's Crime + Punishment

Though heroic activists have been pushing for change in policing across the country in recent years, they've mostly sprung from those communities suffering disproportionately under unjust law enforcement policies—not from the institution tasked with enforcing those policies. Which is what makes the NYPD 12, a dozen of NYC's finest who are truly living up to the moniker, so unique. Comprised of minority officers fed up with carrying out racially discriminatory practices and meeting quotas (outlawed, but nevertheless expected), these whistleblowers spent years putting both career and life on the line covertly gathering evidence to bring their unbendingly bureaucratic employer to court. And for most of that time, intrepid director Stephen Maing (High Tech, Low Life) followed along with them—gaining unprecedented access to the secret recordings and blue wall of silence's piercing accounts that make up his latest tour de force (no pun intended), Crime + Punishment.

Needless to say, it was a privilege to speak with Sergeant Edwin Raymond via email about his life as both a prominent civil rights activist and a proud cop. Crime + Punishment premieres in theaters and online August 24, through Hulu.

To read my interview visit Documentary magazine.