Friday, December 2, 2016

“There is a Certain Freedom to Being an Outsider”: Garrett Zevgetis on Best and Most Beautiful Things

Boston-based filmmaker Garrett Zevgetis’s SXSW-premiering Best and Most Beautiful Things (its title a nod to Helen Keller’s words) is a cinematic portrait of a young woman in Bangor, Maine, a recent high school graduate who is searching for a job to suit her skills. An anime devotee whose rebel fashion sense seems to be influenced by her vast Werecat Sisters doll collection, Michelle Smith also happens to be legally blind and has Asperger’s syndrome. As the doc progresses, though, disabilities fade into the background, upstaged by Michelle’s determination to assert her individuality (including exploring BDSM) and live her life on her own terms. In other words, just like every other 20-year-old emerging into autonomous adulthood.

Indeed, the small moments in Michelle’s coming-of-age-journey that Zevgetis captures are every bit as inspiring as the grand natural beauty of Maine. Patiently letting the story unfold, Zevgetis gives us a glimpse into the battles Michelle’s disabilities have forced her to wage — namely against condescension, preconceived notions, and other people’s ignorance (which, as Michelle puts it, should not be her burden to bear). Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with the Boston-based director about all this and more prior to the film’s December 2nd, NYC premiere at Cinema Village. The film rolls out to other markets in the days ahead.


To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Finding Some Post-Election Perspective at the 59th DOK Leipzig


Following the election returns via airplane TV (and hitting turbulence over the battleground states, no joke) on the second leg of my journey back from DOK Leipzig was surreal, to say the least. I’d just wrapped five whirlwind days at the oldest documentary film festival in the world (founded in 1955, also making DOK Leipzig the first independent film festival in East Germany) in a country heavy with a historical weight few Americans raised in the US could ever comprehend. Traveling outside my birth country – including through the terrific array of international films DOK Leipzig has a reputation for showing – truly put some perspective on the political tragedy unfolding stateside. As unimaginably horrific as the reality of a Trump presidency is, we should never forget that Trump is still very much a First World, democratic problem.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hello, Oscar!: The Savannah Film Festival’s Docs to Watch Roundtable

Though the 19th edition of the Savannah Film Festival took place just a couple weeks after Hurricane Matthew forced festival staff to evacuate their offices, this year’s event ended up running every bit as smoothly as the effortlessly gracious, charming city itself. Hosted (and founded) by the Savannah College of Art and Design – SCAD seems to be the South’s answer to Parson’s or RISD – the festival is jam-packed with A-list flicks screened at gorgeous venues, attended by an eclectic mix of topnotch guests. For example, I caught sight of the adorably grateful Molly Shannon at the daily breakfast buffet (“Oh, this is so nice!” she was gushing to a young volunteer), then again later on at the (70-year-old, 1100-seat, completely restored) Trustees Theatre showing of Other People – which lived up to its Sundance raves and then some.

But for a nonfiction geek like myself, the most impressive star-studded event occurred at the equally grand (90-year-old, nearly 1200-seat, also completely restored) Lucas Theatre for the Arts right around the corner. Now in its third year, the Docs to Watch Roundtable, moderated by Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter (the event’s presenter), featured a panel that was almost too much of a good thing.


To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Spotlight on VR at the 19th Savannah Film Festival

One of the highlights of this year’s Savannah Film Festival – an event founded and hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), that takes place in one of the most historic and charming parts of the Deep South – was also the most unexpected. The eclectically curated VR Showcase (SCAD has a relationship with Oculus Rift) featured six projects – including Ollie Chen and Lubo Kocka’s Say It With Music, a VR musical developed by SCAD students and alumni from 14 departments – that had overflow crowds eagerly signed up for the waiting list every day. (Which made me think that something like an eight-hour, open door, daily “arcade” staffed with volunteers might have worked a bit better than the time-slot setup.)


To read the rest visit Hammer to Nail.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Director Eve Marson Discusses Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer?

Premiering at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival – and screening the upcoming Austin Film Festival on October 15th and 19th – Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer? couldn’t be making the festival rounds at a more appropriate time. Directed and produced by Eve Marson (Fed Up), the doc follows Dr. William Hurwitz, a Columbia College/Harvard/Stanford alum specializing in pain management, who in 2004 was convicted of over 50 counts of narcotics distribution – resulting in a 25-year prison sentence for drug trafficking.

As the film’s title suggests, though, the ethics inherent in prescribing opioids in the midst of a nation-wide epidemic can be complicated, to say the least. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Marson about Hurwitz, Big Pharma, moral dilemmas, and more prior to the film’s Texas premiere.


To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

WHEN MARKETING TRUMPS TRUTH

Not too long ago I read Suki Kim‘s article “The Reluctant Memoirist” in The New Republic. In the article, Kim, an investigative journalist who spent six months posing as a teacher at an evangelical university in North Korea — culminating in her 2014 book Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite — voiced her frustration at having to promote her nonfiction work as memoir. Her essay struck a chord.


To find out why visit The Rumpus.