Friday, January 19, 2018

“Modern-Day Slavery is Happening in our Neighborhood….”: Bernadett Tuza-Ritter on her Sundance Debut Feature, A Woman Captured

Making its U.S. premiere at Sundance in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, A Woman Captured is the remarkable debut feature doc from Hungarian filmmaker Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, who stumbled upon a horrifying story in her native country hidden in plain sight. Marish is a housekeeper in her early 50s, though her hard-knock life has aged her considerably. She has spent over a decade cooking, cleaning and serving, mostly as a human punching bag, both verbally and physically, to a mystery woman of indeterminate wealth who remains off-screen.

That woman, Eta, who we hear but never see, has allowed Tuza-Ritter access to her “servant” for a monthly fee. Marish, we come to learn, is a modern-day slave, toiling long hours without pay — including a factory job on top of housekeeping duties, the salary of which she turns over to Eta as well. As Tuza-Ritter slowly gains Marish’s trust, the line between filmmaker and subject dissolves — and what began as an investigation into a deeply troubling circumstance becomes nothing less than a nonfiction escape thriller.

Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with Tuza-Ritter about blurring that line, influencing onscreen events, and how those decisions have affected her protagonist’s fate.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


What should have been a no-brainer for Oscar contention, John Ridley’s Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 is a mesmerizing documentary investigation into the dysfunctional history of the City of Angels in the decade before, during, and immediately after the LA riots, which were infamously sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers, caught on camera beating a man named Rodney King.

Unsurprisingly, given that Ridley won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, it’s also the most thrillingly literary approach to the documentary form I’ve seen all year.

In early November, I was fortunate enough to chat with Ridley as Let It Fall was still making its post-theatrical festival rounds.

To read my interview visit The Rumpus.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sex Crimes and Virtual Reality: Best VR Storytelling of 2017, Gina Kim’s Bloodless

Nabbing Best VR Story at Venice, Bloodless is veteran filmmaker Gina Kim’s (perhaps best known for 2007’s Vera Farmiga-starring Never Forever) 12-minute immersive stunner. The US-South Korea coproduction was also selected as part of this year’s IDFA DocLab Digital Storytelling program, which is where I experienced it, having gone into the VR Cinema without even bothering to read the synopsis. And because of my cluelessness, the story’s climax packed a punch I never saw coming — one that shook me to the core. This is another way of saying that if you plan on experiencing the project on a future headset near you, consider bookmarking this interview for later.

For those who can’t wait to hear more, read on at Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Doc Stars of the Month: Christopher 'Quest' and Christine'a 'Ma Quest' Rainey, Jonathan Olshefski's 'Quest'

Premiering at Sundance — and subsequently going on to win top honors at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, among other high-caliber fests, and an IDA Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund grant — is Jonathan Olshefski's Quest, a gorgeous portrait of a loving American family and their close-knit community. Filmed over an astonishing ten years, the doc follows Christopher "Quest" Rainey and his longtime wife, Christine'a, aka "Ma Quest," as they work hard, raise their kids right — and also find time to run a home music studio that simultaneously serves as a sanctuary in their hardscrabble North Philadelphia neighborhood.

I reached out to the Raineys the week before the film's Los Angeles premiere. Fortunately, they were able to break from their hectic press schedules to speak with Documentary about living their lives on camera for ten years; coping with racist, inner-city stereotypes; and enduring the grim reality of the current US president.

To read the interview visit Documentary magazine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Outsiders In: Four Veteran Documentarians on Covering Communities Not of One’s Own

When it comes to social issues filmmaking, are there any advantages to being an “outsider” to the community one is documenting? I recently put that question to a diverse group of award-winning filmmakers – Pamela Yates (The Resistance Saga Trilogy), Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), S. Leo Chiang (Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, Out Run) and AndrĂ©s Cediel (longtime producer for PBS’s Frontline) – and got a wide range of thought-provoking responses.

To read the rest (of my conversation that started at Documentary magazine) visit Global Comment.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Viewer Beware: Doubting the Documentary “Truth” Onscreen

“Fake news” think pieces have been all the rage since Donald Trump took hold of the media spotlight (and never let go), yet far less has been written about questioning the documentary “truths” we see onscreen. While it doesn’t take a genius to spot the alt-right bias in Steve Bannon’s oeuvre, too often subtler – nonpartisan and nonpolitical – filmmaking is simply given an inexplicable pass. So with this in mind I thought I’d offer a few handy tips over at Hammer to Nail for increasing viewer vigilance.