Friday, July 13, 2018

"The Main Way to Force Strategic Failures and Fix Broken Elections is to Pay Attention”: Kimberly Reed on Dark Money

With the sudden renewed focus on the Supreme Court this summer the theatrical premiere (July 13th at NYC’s IFC Center, July 27th at the Landmark Nuart in LA) of Kimberly Reed’s Dark Money couldn’t have come at a more apropos time. The momentous Citizens United decision of 2010 had a political game-changing impact across the U.S., nowhere more so than in Reed’s home state of Montana, a land with a long and sordid history of outside money influence — most notably from the copper barons, who once swept in to essentially buy the city of Butte. As a result, however, perhaps no state in the country is also better prepared to smell a corporate rat during election season — and to know how to fight back against an invisible billionaire invasion that affects us all.

Filmmaker spoke with the deep-diving director — a “25 New Faces of Independent Film” alum — about her twisting, six-year trip following the Big Sky folks who follow the dark money.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Whose Pride?: Expanding Diversity in “Far From the Tree”

The premise behind Emmy Award-winning Rachel Dretzin’s Far From the Tree is both simple and profound. Based on the 2012 bestselling book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (who’s also a producer on the doc and one of the main characters), the film challenges its audience to reexamine some fundamental assumptions about human traits which society deems “defects.” Instead offering the radical notion of celebrating those “flaws” rather than attempting to “fix” them.

Case in point is Solomon’s own experience as that of a closeted gay man during a time when homosexuality was still classified as a psychological problem. He observed that which was once considered the “illness of homosexuality” slowly morph over the years into what we now recognize as the “identity of gayness.” As a now happily married man with a husband and several kids, he began to wonder what other types of folks out there didn’t need to be “cured”? Which in turn led him on a ten-year-long odyssey into the lives of families with challenging children, born “far from the tree” with autism, Down syndrome, dwarfism, and many more renegade identities.

To read my entire review visit Global Comment.

Monday, June 25, 2018

YouTube Body Horror: Penny Lane on Her Morgellons Disease Doc, The Pain of Others

In the era of fake news and alternative facts, and of people constructing their own custom-made versions of reality, Penny Lane’s The Pain of Others feels very timely, to say the least. Defying any expectations and preconceived notions, Lane’s perfectly titled “body-horror doc” acts as a challenging and thought-provoking sociological study of one unusual YouTube community (which, with Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President, also on the fest circuit this year, makes me think “YouTube behavioral psych” might soon become a thing).

The Pain of Others weaves together the video diaries of three women suffering from Morgellons disease, a term given to a scientifically unrecognized series of symptoms that seem straight out of a Cronenberg flick (crawling sensations and thread-like fibers emerging from the skin!), and it leaves the viewer with conflicting emotions and more questions than answers. Indeed, watching the film before its Rotterdam premiere I went from laughing and rolling my eyes to getting angry at these “con artists” to feeling ashamed that I was being dismissive of mental illness to wondering if one woman was a psychologically disturbed fraudster, another just lonely and mentally ill, and on and on. In other words, these psychically distressed ladies defy any easy categorization — much like Lane’s entire body of work.

Prior to the film’s June 28th NYC premiere at BAMcinemaFest, Filmmaker was fortunate enough to catch up with the very busy director who also has two shorts, Nellie Bly Makes the News and Normal Appearances (debuting in NYC as part of the Rooftop Films shorts program on July 14th), currently making the festival rounds. The Pain of Others will be released exclusively on Fandor July 1st.

To read my interview with the boundary-pushing documentarian visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Unresolved Pain and the Spanish “Pact of Forgetting”: Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar Discuss The Silence of Others

Executive produced by the Almodóvars, and nabbing the Panorama Audience Award for Best Documentary and Peace Film Prize at this year’s Berlinale (not to mention, most recently, the Grand Jury Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest), Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar’s The Silence of Others was one of the most compelling films I caught at Hot Docs back in April. It was also unnervingly revelatory, as the Spotlight on Documentaries at IFP Week project — which will be co-presented by IFP tonight at New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival — deals with a disturbing piece of buried history I knew nearly nothing about.

Indeed, I’d never even heard of the “Argentine Lawsuit,” an attempt by the victims of the Franco regime’s 40-year reign of torture and murder to gain redress in Buenos Aires because Spanish law prevents any dictatorship-related crimes from being prosecuted. (Though the fact that Spain’s shameful 1977 amnesty ruling was dubbed “the Pact of Forgetting” indicates that erasure was also likely by design.)

Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with the co-directors, who previously collaborated on 2008’s award-winning Made in L.A., prior to the doc’s NYC premiere at HRWFF (June 19th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, June 20th at the IFC Center).

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, June 18, 2018

“The Film Became About What Growing Up in the Midst of a War Does to a Child… ”: Simon Lereng Wilmont on The Distant Barking of Dogs

I discovered Simon Lereng Wilmont’s The Distant Barking of Dogs, a poetic look at everyday life on the frontline of the War in Donbass — as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old Ukrainian boy who lives with his grandmother in the warzone — at IDFA last November. After nabbing the First Appearance Award at that prestigious festival, it went on to win the Student Jury Award (from an all-kids jury) at the Docudays UA fest, where I watched as the Danish director appeared onstage only to quickly step aside so that the young protagonist and his entire family, having traveled all the way from Donetsk to Kiev, could accept the award instead.

Serendipitously, I ended up meeting and chatting with the humble inquisitive filmmaker between post-fest flights back to Schengen territory. And now thanks to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, where the doc will be having its NYC premiere today, I’ve found the perfect excuse to continue that intriguing conversation.

Filmmaker spoke with Lereng Wilmont prior to the June 18th (Film Society of Lincoln Center) and June 19th (IFC Center) screenings.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, June 15, 2018

“Making a Good Movie Has to Come from the Heart, Not from a Mental Understanding of an Issue”: Matthieu Rytz on Anote’s Ark

Premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Matthieu Rytz’s Anote’s Ark follows the international, one-man crusade of Anote Tong, president of Kiribati. That island republic is situated smack in the middle of the Pacific with an indigenous population — exemplified here by Sermary, a young mother of six forced to choose between family and a future in New Zealand — poised to lose their 4,000 year-old way of life as climate change will soon cause the entire country to disappear into the ocean. As the title implies, Tong is less concerned with saving Kiribati itself — he’s painfully aware it’s too late for such fanciful idealism — than in a mass relocation of its citizens to a new shared homeland. That, and in sounding the alarm that Kiribati is merely the canary in a global coalmine.

Filmmaker spoke with the Swiss director, who trained as a visual anthropologist before turning to photography and documentary work, prior to the doc’s NYC premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 15th at the IFC Center, June 18th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center).

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, June 14, 2018