Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tone and Form: Elvira Lind on 'Bobbi Jene'

I first met the Danish director Elvira Lind at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (where I help program the features). This was back in 2014, the year before she won the CPH:DOX New Talent Award, before she launched her queer docuseries, Viceland's Twiz and Tuck. Lind was at the spa town to present Songs for Alexis, her extraordinarily nuanced portrait of Ryan Cassata, a teenage musician transitioning into adulthood (and into another gender. Ryan also happens to be trans—and in love with the titular Alexis, his cisgender girlfriend). When Ryan treated the audience to a post-screening concert, the cheers from his proud mom were rivaled only by those of the doc's director—who was simultaneously cheering and shooting, of course. In other words, Elvira Lind is a documentarian who invests as much in her flesh-and-blood subjects as in the films themselves—a trait that often separates the good storytellers from the great.

To read the rest visit Documentary magazine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“Women Are Often Seen as a Risk while Men are an Investment”: Ingrid Veninger on Porcupine Lake and her pUNK Films Femmes Labs

Porcupine Lake is the sixth feature from pUNK Films founder Ingrid Veninger. It’s also the first from the pUNK Films Femmes Labs, which started as a DIY idea of gathering six Canadian female filmmakers to work on their six screenplays for six months to reality — courtesy of Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, who happened to hear Veninger’s pitch for funding at the Whistler Film Festival and immediately sign on as sponsor.

The film itself feels like a throwback to the early heady (not to mention pre-tech, as there’s not a smartphone-glued character in sight!) days of low-key/low-budget independent film. It’s a cinematic coming-of-age tale that follows two preteens, Bea from Toronto and Kate from the summer cottage town in rural Ontario where the film is set, as they navigate everything from sex and sexuality and troubled parents who often act like children to older siblings with troubles of their own. In other words, it’s a small story that captures life’s momentous changes and adult consequences. Filmmaker was fortunate enough to catch up with the Slovakian-Canadian actor/producer/writer/director prior to the flick’s TIFF premiere.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Fighting MS and Big Pharma: Matt Embry on Living Proof

A journey both personal and political, Matt Embry’s Living Proof follows the Canadian filmmaker on his quixotic quest to get some answers to a medical mystery. If no one knows the causes or cures for multiple sclerosis, then why are so many MS charities touting drugs (with considerable side effects) that don’t work in the long term? And why does the FDA drag its feet on approving promising non-pharmaceutical cures? And why won’t the powers that be in the MS establishment listen to the director himself, diagnosed with the disease over two decades ago, and who through only strict diet and exercise (and Vitamin D and a drug-free procedure called CCSVI), remains healthy and surprisingly asymptomatic? For Embry, the obvious answers lie buried in the bottom line of Big Pharma — a risky diagnosis to make. Filmmaker caught up with the Calgary native shortly before the film’s TIFF premiere.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, September 11, 2017

“I’m Tired of this Appropriation of Stories by Filmmakers from the West:”: Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw on Cocaine Prison

Part of IFP’s 2013 Project Forum slate, Cocaine Prison is the latest completed work from indigenous Latina filmmaker Violeta Ayala, who’s long been an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs, which not only disproportionately affects low-income folks here in the States, but especially our impoverished neighbors south of the border, from Mexico on down. For this follow-up to 2015’s The Bolivian Case (another tale of South American coke smuggling and its consequences, but with a Norwegian teenagers twist), Ayala, along with filmmaker partner/husband Dan Fallshaw (a producer, cinematographer and editor on Cocaine Prison), have headed back to her birth country of Bolivia, and to the heart of the fallout: the dangerously overcrowded San Sebastian prison (where inmates who can’t afford to buy their own cells sleep outside).

The pair focus on a trio of “foot soldiers,” a teen drug mule named Hernan and his equally young sister Deisy fighting for his release, along with a low-level cocaine worker called Mario, incarcerated while the drug bosses above him remain untouchably free. Compellingly Kafkaesque, Cocaine Prison puts three remarkable faces on a too often abstract web of international injustice and systemic corruption. Filmmaker spoke with Ayala and Fallshaw prior to the film’s TIFF premiere.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, September 8, 2017

“The Industry of Big Game Hunting and Breeding is Such a Closed and Secretive World…”: Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau on Trophy

Trophy, directed by longtime photo-journos Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, has been garnering buzz and sparking debate ever since its Sundance premiere. The film is a meticulously researched look at every possible angle of the “wildlife industry versus conservation” showdown, taking place in some of the most majestic parts of our world. Undeniably riveting, it’s also the only film I’ve seen all year that made my blood boil to the point of tossing all critical objectivity aside.

I spoke with the duo, cofounders of Reel Peak Films, which aims to bring the cinematic nonfiction treatment to journalism, prior to the doc’s September 8th release (through The Orchard and CNN Films).

To read the interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Doc Star of the Month: Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, 'Tribal Justice'

An eye-opening documentary about restorative justice on the rez, Anne Makepeace's Tribal Justice should be required viewing for anyone involved in running the US court system, from local lawmakers to (especially) US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The film follows two remarkable ladies, Chief Judges for tribes on either end of California, who are implementing traditional solutions (i.e. tackling criminal behavior's causes and not just its symptoms) to keep their community members out of jails and state foster care, and on a healthy, law-abiding path.

So it's quite an honor that the Honorable Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe on the North Coast of California - and the first Native American woman to pass the California Bar Exam (whose long résumé also notes that she's the founder of the "first tribal-run clean-slate program in the country to help members expunge criminal records, and focuses on keeping young people out of jail, in school and with their people") - found time in between court sessions to speak with Documentary.

To read my interview visit Documentary magazine.