Monday, December 29, 2014

On Loving and Leaving New York

One of the books on my New Year reading list is Sari Botton’s award-winning anthology “Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York,” whose contributors include everyone from spoken word legend Maggie Estep, who died this past February, to “Wild” scribe Cheryl Strayed (not to mention my fellow film critic and author friend Marcy Dermansky). Botton’s more recent follow-up “Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York” boasts essays from even flashier names, including Whoopi Goldberg and Rosanne Cash. But it’s those who’ve had the guts to give the finger to the Big Apple, the journeywomen writers without the Hollywood bank accounts, who interest me more.

To find out why visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ten Oscar-Worthy 2014 Documentary Favorites

Serving as the director of programming for this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival meant I watched way too many nonfiction films in 2014, some filled with stunning artistry, others with cringe-worthy talking heads. And since the Academy doc committee’s shortlist had me both cheering (Last Days in Vietnam! Tales of the Grim Sleeper!) and scratching my head (Citizen Koch? Really?) I thought I’d compile my own wish-it-were-this list for Oscar 2015. So here, in alphabetical order, are my 10 Doc Picks — only two of which overlap with the Oscar documentary shortlist — from the 134 submitted for Oscar consideration.

To see my picks visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hollywood Doth Protest Too Much: On the Sony Hacking Scandal

“This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before. Legally or illegally all will see it,” tweeted Tinseltown’s box office sweetheart Judd Apatow in response to Sony’s recent decision to cancel the Christmas Day theatrical release of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s North Korea-offending flick “The Interview.” Finally, some much needed wisdom (from, of all people, the dude who brought us “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”) amidst the cacophonous cries bemoaning the death of freedom of expression, and handwringing over the future of our American theatergoing way of life.

To read the rest of my anti-Hollywood rant visit Global Comment.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Golden Frog: The 22nd Camerimage International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography

Located in the nearly unpronounceable Polish town of Bydgoszcz, Camerimage – the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography – is the must-attend event of the year for DPs, aspiring DPs, or any cinephile prizing visual craft over auteur theory. At this 22-year-old fest, folks like Caleb Deschanel (who received a Lifetime Achievement Award, a retrospective, and a massive hardcover book highlighting his career) and Vilmos Zsigmond are the stars, complete with their names in lights on the marquee of the massive Opera Nova, the festival’s headquarters and main venue on the scenic Brda River.

To read the rest of my coverage visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Brandon Harris goes "On the Southern Circuit During the Season of Republican Resurgence"

Dynamite southern circuit coverage from my friend and fellow Filmmaker contributor – and Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival juror – Brandon Harris!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”: An Interview with Director Mary Dore

If your idea of the early days of the women’s movement is limited to NOW and the ERA then Mary Dore’s eye-opening “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” has got another acronym or two for you. (Ever heard of WITCH – the Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!? Didn’t think so.) An exhaustively researched portrait of feminism circa ’66-’71, Dore’s doc will both enlighten (delving deeply into the movement’s internal rifts related to race and sexual identity) and surprise (Hollaback!-style tactics ain’t nothing new).

I spoke with award-winning producer/director Dore prior to the film’s NYC opening on December 5th and its LA debut on December 12th. To read my interview visit Global Comment.

The U.K. Crackdown on Porn – And Why It Hurts Independent Producers

If Britain’s recently enacted legislation – specifically, the Brazil-sounding Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 – wasn’t on your radar, you can be forgiven. As an American it wasn’t on mine either. Basically, this is an amendment to the U.K.’s 2003 Communications Act, which now requires that those producing online porn in the U.K. must come under the same BBFC (British Board of Film Censors) scrutiny as those producing DVDs for the sex shop market. Innocuous enough, right?

Think again. To read my take on the anti-fetish, misogynistic, anti-indie production ruling visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Yes Men, Con Men and a Trans Man: What to See at DOC NYC

DOC NYC, “America’s largest documentary festival,” certainly lives up to its billing. With a whopping 153 films and events, there’s quite a bit to navigate, from critically acclaimed historic revivals to Toronto darlings to fresh premieres. For this fifth edition several sections have been broadened, and a few themes even added. There’s now “Centerstage” (performance focused films), “Jock Docs” (sports-centric flicks), “Fight the Power” (activist docs) and, perhaps most stimulating for nonfiction geeks, “Docs Redux.” That would be a sidebar of seven oldies but goodies, most with their legendary directors – Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles, all three receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards – in attendance. Though you can’t go wrong catching any of this section’s foolproof films, this might be an especially apropos time to revisit the Oscar-snubbed Hoop Dreams. Director Steve James will be presenting his unlikely cult hit, which marks its 20th anniversary this year and has been making celebratory doc fest rounds.

To read the rest of my coverage visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

“Homme Less” in DOC NYC: An Interview with Director Thomas Wirthensohn and Subject Mark Reay

Making its North American debut in the Metropolis section at DOC NYC, Thomas Wirthensohn’s beautifully crafted “Homme Less” follows the quintessentially eccentric New Yorker Mark Reay. At 52, the still dashing and debonair, former international model now strives to make a living as a fashion photographer and bit actor (the “Men in Black” franchise is just one of his gigs). When not working out at the gym or editing photos at Starbucks, Reay attends Fashion Week and all the right downtown parties. Then he goes home. Not to the Chelsea loft he maintained for years, but to his friend’s rooftop (unbeknownst to the friend), where he sleeps under a tarp.

I spoke with Austrian director Wirthensohn and “homme less” subject Reay prior to the film’s DOC NYC premiere at the IFC Center on November 15th. To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Amazing Randi & Me!

And James Randi’s husband Deyvi Peña. And An Honest Liar co-director Tyler Measom. And a packed house at this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. What a trip!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking

At this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Indiewire’s Casey Cipriani spoke with some of our guests – including legendary Kartemquin Films co-founder Gordon Quinn – about where to draw the line (or not!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What It's Like to Be the Subject of a Documentary Film

Indiewire's Casey Cipriani sat down with some of our guests at this year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Being Barack: An Interview with “Bronx Obama” Director Ryan Murdock

Originally titled “The Audacity of Louis Ortiz,” Ryan Murdock’s “Bronx Obama” is a study of the American Dream gone wacky. In 2008 a former Verizon worker of Puerto Rican descent shaved off his goatee – unmasking a dead ringer for the 44th president of the United States. Filmmaker Murdock doggedly followed the humble Ortiz over the course of three years, documenting the Bronx resident’s physical and spiritual transformation from unemployed single dad to highly sought after impersonator.

And now the film Stephen Colbert considers “So good it almost made me like Chicago Obama,” releases just in time for the midterm elections (digitally on October 7th and through Showtime on October 28th). For more information visit

To read my interview visit: Global Comment.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

13 Reasons the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is Not To Be Missed

The oldest nonfiction fest in the U.S. – and an Academy Award qualifying festival for Short Documentary Subject – presents...


Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

(Grand Jury Prize Nashville Film Festival, Official selection AFI Docs)

The Campbell family will be playing a post-screening concert!



(Official selection Hot Docs)

To be accompanied by an exhibition of the film’s mug shots at the Gangster Museum!

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere
(Official selection Hot Docs, Traverse City Film Festival)

Subject Poe Ballantine – famous author and former Arlington Hotel cook – will be reading his story about the Arlington (followed by a book signing)!

Stray Dog
(Best Documentary Feature Los Angeles Film Festival, Official selection New York Film Festival)

Director Debra Granik is bringing along subject Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall and his outlaw biker clan!

An Honest Liar
(Audience Award for Best Feature AFI Docs, Best Feature Documentary Newport Beach Film Festival, Official selection Tribeca Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest)

Subject Amazing Randi in attendance!

Meet the Patels
(Audience Award Best Documentary Feature Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Documentary Film, Audience Award Traverse City Film Festival, Official selection Hot Docs)

Subjects Mama and Papa Patel in attendance!



(Official selection Hot Docs, SXSW, Film Society of Lincoln Center Sound + Vision, NYC)

Gringo mariachi subject Matthew Stoneman will be performing both post-screening and at the filmmakers party!

Songs for Alexis
(Official selection Hot Docs, Frameline, Raindance, London)

Transgender rocker subject Ryan Cassata will be playing a concert!


Back on Board

(Official selection AFI Docs, Frameline)

Subject Greg Louganis in attendance!

When We Were Kings

A special retro with director Leon Gast, Rasheda Ali and Muhammad Ali’s grandson Nico in attendance!

Hoop Dreams

20th anniversary screening! Subject Arthur Agee to present Kartemquin Films artistic director and co-founder Gordon Quinn with a lifetime achievement award!


Midnight Archive

Program to be accompanied by curator Ronni ("Walter Potter: The Man Who Married Kittens") Thomas’s “cabinet of curiosities.”


To Be Takei

(Official selection Sundance Film Festival, Hot Docs, AFI Docs)

Subject George Takei (who spent his formative years in a Japanese-American internment camp in Arkansas) attending!

For more info on all this and more visit Hope to see you in Hot Springs – home to both Bill Clinton’s high school and Al Capone’s vacation home!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Quickie with Michael Lucas: The Gay Porn Mogul Discusses Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda

“Michael Lucas is the most mainstreamed, provocative, and controversial figure in gay adult entertainment” according to his website, and it’s hard not to believe the hype. A sort of David O. Selznick of gay porn – if Selznick had also directed and starred in his lavish talkies – the Russian émigré lawyer turned porn emperor is the founder of Lucas Entertainment, one of the biggest studios in the blue movie game. Back in 2006 that NYC-based company produced Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita, a record-setting adult remake of the Fellini masterpiece that took home all 14 of its AVN nominations. (In comparison, Gone with the Wind only nabbed 10 of 13 nominations at the vanilla Oscars in 1940. Take that, Selznick International Pictures!)

But recently the GayVN Hall of Famer returned to the motherland to set his sights on a less sexy subject. Co-directed with longtime TV news producer Scott Stern, Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda is Lucas’s latest film, a thoughtful examination of Russia’s heinous, anti-LGBT propaganda laws via one-on-one interviews with those most affected by them (including the noted activist and anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen).

Lucas took time out of his notoriously busy schedule to speak with Global Comment shortly after the doc’s release on iTunes and DVD.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Czech Dream: The 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Though the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival bills itself as “the most important film event in Central and Eastern Europe,” such a bold declaration belies the fact that KVIFF is anything but snobby and self-serious. Back in 2011 I covered the prestigious fest, located in a fairytale scenic, spa city – once frequented by Beethoven and Goethe – about an hour-and-a-half from Prague by car. (That would be a BMW, the “official car” of KVIFF, the company having its own “BMW Zone” where you can check out the latest models nearby the ultra-chic Grandhotel Pupp.) Returning three years later I still find myself surprised by how young this nearly 50-year-old festival feels.

To read the rest of my coverage visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Adam Rifkin on Giuseppe Makes A Movie

With the maniacal film geek erudition of Quentin Tarantino and the madcap family values sensibility of John Waters, Giuseppe Andrews has made 30 independent features that you’ve most likely never heard of. And he probably couldn’t care less about that.

A veteran of both Hollywood and indie film, Adam Rifkin, on the other hand, is a name familiar to any fan of the 1999 cult comedy Detroit Rock City, which Rifkin directed, and which starred Andrews alongside Edward Furlong. Now Rifkin and Andrews have teamed up again as Rifkin follows the director in his quest to shoot in two days his latest flick, Garbanzo Gas, about a cow that gets an all-expense-paid trip to a motel (courtesy of the slaughterhouse).

Andrews may have been so enamored by the scene in Buñuel’s Viridiana, in which the beggars install themselves in the protagonist’s house that he wants to make an entire movie of “just that scene,” but Rifkin seems equally inspired by Andrews. The result is Giuseppe Makes A Movie, the Hollywood outsider/insider’s sweet tribute to his fellow filmmaker friend. And to the Dreamlander-type family of homeless men and trailer park neighbors that orbits Andrews’s mobile home/movie studio in Ventura, CA.

Filmmaker spoke with Rifkin prior to the doc’s New York premiere at Rooftop Films.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Combat Documentarian Rachel Beth Anderson on “First to Fall”

While there seems to be no shortage of cursory stories from the front lines of recent Middle Eastern conflicts, filmmakers Rachel Beth Anderson and Tim Grucza have decided to dig deeper. During the Libyan uprising the duo smartly embedded themselves not with emotionally inaccessible military units but with two Canadian students – friends who cast away their safe and secure western lives to take up arms in the fight to overthrow their homeland’s dictator. The resulting documentary “First to Fall” is an unflinching look not just into the struggle that would eventually oust Gaddafi, but a cinematic, exacting account of how war turns boys into men.

Global Comment spoke with the doc’s co-director (and Sundance award-winning cinematographer) Rachel Beth Anderson prior to the film’s premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in NYC.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Trans(media)ition: the Seattle Transmedia Independent Film Festival

After ten years of being the scrappy little guy to the Seattle International Film Festival’s big kahuna, the Seattle True Independent Film Festival has run its course — which is exactly why I decided to visit the tech-addicted city (as a guest of the fest) to check out the outgoing underdog. Rather than pluck along as second fiddle for another 10 years, STIFF has done what I wish more regional festivals would do: rebrand for the future. As of this year STIFF now stands for the Seattle Transmedia Independent Film Festival, putting the focus squarely on “web series, video game concepts, storytelling apps for mobile phone and tablet, and social media narratives.”

Filmmaker spoke with festival director Tim Vernor throughout the festival, then continued the conversation with the savvy Seattle native post-fest.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Don’t Mess with the Missionary Man: Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers

I recently attended the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida, where I served on the documentary grand jury as well as a panel discussion about filmmakers and the press. In the Filmmaker Lounge post-panel, I was surprised to meet the subject of one of the docs I’d watched. Kevin Evans’ Machine Gun Preacher tells the unbelievable tale of Sam Childers, outlaw biker turned rescuer of African children, fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army with a Bible in his hand. (If this stranger than fiction story sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw Gerard Butler play Childers in the 2011 Hollywood version of the same name.)

Even odder was Childers’ unabashed openness with a journalist he’d just met and his willingness to flit between diverse subjects: his steadfast belief in Obama’s ties to the loathsome leader of northern Sudan, whether Erik Prince of Blackwater was giving mercenaries a bad name, the reason he was at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in the first place. Because I found myself with more questions than time, I decided to follow up with Childers ASAP, before he was off on his next African mission and out of touch with the first world.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kentucker Audley, the Richmond International Film Festival and A Checklist for Avoiding Bad Publicity

I don’t know Kentucker Audley, but I can’t stop thinking about his tongue-in-cheek call for mediocre filmmakers to pledge to stop making films so that in a crowded environment the truly talented can shine. Recently I’ve been wondering if his petition should be expanded to film festivals as well, many of which are erstwhile enablers of said mediocrity. As a whip-smart producer friend of mine once told me, “The world needs another film festival like it needs another strip mall.”
Which brings me to the event that started this whole thought process.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stanley Kubrick’s Producer Jan Harlan on His Life in Film

If, like me, you’re a hardcore film geek who ranks Stanley Kubrick as your favorite director of all time, then Jan Harlan needs no introduction. At least that’s what I thought when I met Kubrick’s longtime producer (beginning with A Clockwork Orange — or rather the never-made Napoleon – right through to Eyes Wide Shut) this year at the Bermuda International Film Festival, where I’m on the international advisory board. Harlan was also Kubrick’s brother-in-law: his older sister Christiane was the director’s wife.

It was a simple twist of fate that I found myself filling in as a last-minute replacement on the Harlan-headed jury. (BIFF is Academy Award accredited for Live Action Short, with the winning short becoming eligible for Oscar consideration.) As I grew to adore Kubrick’s right-hand man over five days of film-going, partying (the quick-witted septuagenarian still has the energy and exuberance of a teenager) and exchanging ideas about moving pictures and more, I soon came to a startling conclusion: Stanley Kubrick is perhaps the least interesting thing about this classy and endearing gentleman of the cinema.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Wish Granter Tamika Lamison on the Make A Film Foundation

In late February I attended the Richmond International Film Festival, where I met Tamika Lamison, the extraordinary founder and executive director of the L.A.-based Make A Film Foundation, which lets children with serious or life-threatening medical conditions live out their filmmaking dreams. She was there with the MAFF film The Magic Bracelet, a Diablo Cody-adapted short originally penned by 15-year-old Rina Goldberg, who died of mitochondrial disease in 2010. I decided to find out more post-fest about the idea to pair veteran altruistic filmmakers with young aspiring filmmakers in need. I spoke with Lamison right before the short’s next stop at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, which was attended by both myself — doing doc grand jury duty — and Rina’s dedicated mom Stacy, who’s present at every screening of her daughter’s fest-trotting film.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Director Kitty Green on Ukraine is Not a Brothel

In (coastal) America the line between performance art and pornography has long been walked by a plethora of female provocateurs, from Annie Sprinkle right up to Sasha Grey. So in this sense Femen – a loose knit group of mostly model-figure feminists who stage topless, flash mob-style protests – aren’t doing anything that would create uproar in New York or San Francisco. But in their native Ukraine, a country with an especially misogynistic mentality that doesn’t take too kindly to any citizen intent on upending the system, they cause a stir and then some.

Luckily there’s Kitty Green’s Ukraine is Not a Brothel, a documentary that goes beyond both politics and T&A hype to bring us a complex portrait of a movement seemingly riddled with contradiction. From its anti-patriarchal male founder, who claims paradoxes are part of history (citing Marx and Lenin – anti-bourgeois figures who were both bourgeois themselves), and who acknowledges he may have started the whole thing in part to be around sexy chicks, to a member who views her decision to work as an exotic dancer as a means not to be dependent on a man, Green’s inquisitive intelligent filmmaking is far more subversive than any bare-breasted sloganeering could ever be.

Global Comment spoke with the Ukrainian-speaking Aussie director prior to the film’s Canadian premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs. To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine Discuss The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

I’ve seen Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden twice now, the first time at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and most recently at the Bermuda International Film Festival (where I’m on the international advisory board and served on this year’s jury). Set on the paradise island of Floreana in the Galapagos in the 1930s, it’s a tale of small town feuding and Tinseltown aspirations turned deadly. It features famous names like Cate Blanchett and Diane Kruger, and a colorful cast of characters, from a Nietzsche-reading hermit doctor to a limelight-loving, faux baroness. Most surprisingly, it’s not a Hollywood flick. On the contrary, it’s a documentary – proving once again that truth can be stranger than fiction. And that a nonfiction flick can be entertaining enough to sit through twice. I spoke with the talented co-directors prior to the film’s NYC theatrical premiere on April 4th.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Taste of Cannes in the Yucatán: The Riviera Maya Film Festival

For a beach bum cinephile it doesn’t get much better than the Riviera Maya Film Festival. Only in its third year, Riviera Maya mixes the accessibility of AFI Fest – surprisingly, it’s free and open to all – with a bit of the sensational cachet of Cannes. (Right down to a brazenly coordinated, multi-store jewelry heist in Cancun that resulted in the car carrying Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal getting stopped en route to the opening night screening of Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves. Now that’s entertainment!)

To read my coverage visit Filmmaker magazine.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hot in the City: Previewing the 11th Annual CineKink NYC

This year’s edition of CineKink NYC, now in the final day of its Kickstarter fundraising drive, wastes no time heating up, opening on February 26 with a cinematic bang in the form of Wiktor Ericsson’s The Sarnos: A Life in Dirty Movies, a stellar pic about softcore pornographers with a love story at its heart. (The festival’s gala kickoff party is the day before, February 25.) The titular elderly couple at the center of this doc are the legendary porn director Joe — the “Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street” — and his longtime wife and support system (and sometime actress) Peggy. (No surprise the film had its U.S. premiere at DOC NYC in November and is being given a theatrical release by Film Movement in the spring.)

To read the rest of my sneak peek visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Disco and Atomic War: How Dallas and Knight Rider led to the fall of the Iron Curtain

In Disco and Atomic War Estonian filmmaker Jaak Kilmi approaches what is a pretty dry, well-tread political topic – the power of media to not only prop up totalitarian regimes but to take them down – with lighthearted whimsy. Through the use of archival footage, talking head interviews, staged reenactments – and most importantly, cheesy clips from Dallas and Knight Rider – Kilmi takes us on an offbeat historical and personal journey, back in time to 80s Tallinn. It was an era when, using makeshift antennas to hijack broadcasts from Finnish TV, intrepid Soviet citizens came under western influence, and began to unite to fight for more individual freedoms. (And for the right to do the hustle and find out who shot J.R.)

Global Comment spoke with the doc’s director prior to the film’s DVD and VOD release on February 25th.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sebastian Junger on Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues

Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues is surely one of the most fitting tributes to a fallen comrade ever dreamed up. Founded by Sebastian Junger in the wake of the combat zone death of his Restrepo co-director Tim Hetherington (I interviewed both back in 2010) RISC, based on a Wilderness Medical Associates course adapted for combat, aims to provide freelancers in all media with the kinds of lifesaving equipment and techniques that may have prevented Hetherington’s shrapnel wounds in Libya from killing him. Indeed, when I first heard about RISC its mission seemed so obviously crucial – to give combat journos medical training – I wondered why this practical sensible idea wasn’t the norm. But then Junger pointed out that combat journos themselves don’t think like the norm. “I had 20 years of combat journalism – and no medical experience,” he disclosed to my surprise when I recently followed up with him on the phone for the first time since Hetherington’s heartbreaking death.

To read the rest of my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What’s Gender Got to Do with It? Coming Out Genderqueer

I’ve always been a staunch defender of celebs like Anderson Cooper who for most of his career refused to confirm his homosexuality. To me, speculation as to whether Cooper was or wasn’t gay seemed ridiculously tabloid trite in light of the fact that throughout his career, and especially on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the journalist went to great lengths to ensure that LGBT issues and the non-hetero POV was presented in mainstream media. For me, it’s the POV that matters more than the individual broadcasting it.

So when Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts recently came out without coming out – sidestepping labels in a Facebook post by simply acknowledging her girlfriend as one of many people in her life she’s grateful for – it struck me as yet another giant step for the LGBT community. Indeed, that folks are even presumed to be straight until proven otherwise is such an antiquated notion. When a member of the LGBT community who doesn’t make a big fuss about their identity – “Look, Ma, I’m gay!” – is first assumed to not be part of that community (unless they shout otherwise) in this day and age, it seems, frankly, tiresome. Straight folks don’t have to come out to be included in the heterosexual population, and really, LGBT folks shouldn’t have to draw attention to their identity in order to be included in their respective community either.

To read the rest visit Global Comment.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Festival of (In)appropriation #6 at Los Angeles Filmforum

The Festival of (In)appropriation, a celebration of “contemporary short audiovisual works that appropriate film or video footage and repurpose it in “inappropriate and inventive ways” is the brainchild of co-founder and co-curator Jaimie Baron (who, not inappropriately, has a book on found-footage filmmaking coming out soon). Presented by Los Angeles Filmforum (no relation to NYC’s Film Forum – more like the West Coast’s answer to Anthology Film Archives, as for close to four decades it’s been L.A.’s longest-running organization dedicated to experimental film and animation, docs and video art) the annual event is now in its sixth year. For more information on the program – including my personal fave, Celeste Fichter’s Walking on Water, which, in 60 seconds, sets over 70 different depictions of Jesus’s walk across the Sea of Galilee to the Hawaii Five-O theme song – visit Los Angeles Filmforum.

Filmmaker spoke with Baron and fellow curator Greg Cohen prior to the found-footage fête’s February 16th opening at the Egyptian’s Spielberg Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gyda Arber Explores Transmedia Post-Apocalyptic Dating in FutureMate

Online dating takes an offline twist in FutureMate, the latest transmedia extravaganza to premiere at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Created by Gyda Arber, Brian Fountain, David Gochfeld and Allen Hahn – all veteran artists whose work spans multiple platforms – FutureMate is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. where fertile mates are at a premium. Fortunately, hosts Matt and Pam are there to guide audience members through the new and improved, meet-your-match system, which consists of phone-based speed dating and a “series of ice breakers.” (And for those not in NYC for the extended three-week, February run – which includes two Valentine’s Day performances – there’s always the FutureMate virtual world, which encompasses “ (a government-run dating site), a two-minute commercial for the FutureMate system, (an anti-government manifesto), a guerilla-style anti-government print campaign” and, of course, “‘in-world’ twitter feeds”).

Filmmaker spoke with Arber prior to the show’s February 12th preview at 8PM at The Brick. To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shooting in Africa with A Most Wanted Man Producer Andrea Calderwood

I recently met Andrea Calderwood at the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival where she was in town to support Half of a Yellow Sun, helmed by Nigerian director Biyi Bandele. Originally from Scotland, the London-based Calderwood has long been a formidable presence in the U.K. film world, a BAFTA-award winner for Kevin MacDonald’s The Last King of Scotland, who even made Scottish news herself last year when The Herald named her to its list of the top 50 most influential women in the country. This year she’s busy as always. Our Kind of Traitor, an adaptation of the John le Carré novel starring Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen is in pre-pro, and Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet is in post. (Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man with Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe and Philip Seymour Hoffman just had its U.S. premiere at Sundance.) Yet Calderwood graciously found time in her hectic schedule to speak exclusively with Filmmaker about her most recent Africa-set projects, and to shed light on the specific subject of shooting on the continent, something she knows as well as any Anglo producer around.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Girls Interrupted: Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price on Last Woman Standing

When I met Canadian director Juliet Lammers during the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival – where we served together on a sprawling panel – her film Last Woman Standing, which made the Hot Docs 2013 Netflix Audience Award top five, wasn’t even on my radar. But it certainly should have been. Co-directed by Lammers and Lorraine Price, Last Woman Standing is more than a riveting sports flick (though it’s that as well). Unique in approach, the doc focuses just as much on the relationship rift between Ariane Fortin and Mary Spencer, two of the world’s best boxers, as it does on their unavoidable rivalry – when the longtime friends are forced to literally fight one another for a sole spot on Canada’s Olympic team. Filmmaker spoke with the Montreal duo prior to the doc’s January 28th VOD release.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jonathan Harris Peeks Inside the Lesbian Porn Industry in I Love Your Work

A three-time Webby Award winner and a 2009 World Economic Forum “Young Global Leader,” who has exhibited at MoMA and built the world’s largest time capsule with Yahoo!, Jonathan Harris can now add the firestarters IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling – for his latest interactive project I Love Your Work – to his esteemed CV. In it Harris invites us on an online journey not to the Arctic Ocean with Alaskan Eskimos – as he did in his previous piece, The Whale Hunt – but into the lives of nine women residing in a much hotter climate, that of the lesbian porn industry. Filmmaker spoke with Harris, whose guiding mission is to “make projects that reimagine how humans relate to technology and to each other,” right on the heels of his IDFA win. (Both I Love Your Work and I Want You To Want Me, in which Harris tackles online dating in similar form, screen in the New Frontier section at this year’s Sundance.)

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Director Sydney Freeland Discusses Drunktown’s Finest

I’ve been hearing the praises of Drunktown’s Finest director Sydney Freeland being sung for some time now. The 2004 Fulbright scholar and Sundance alum – whose long list of awards includes a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship and a Sundance Institute Directing Fellowship in 2010, and a 2009 Sundance Institute Native American Lab Fellowship – has also long been a fixture on the cozy New Mexico filmmaking scene. (Since I programmed the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2012 it’s not surprising the Gallup native and I even share mutual friends.) That said, as a jaded critic it’s second nature for me to simply roll my eyes at hype. Yet after watching Freeland’s debut feature, it’s safe to say I now understand exactly what the film’s executive producer Robert Redford sees in Freeland.

An authentic voice with a refreshingly nuanced vision, for one. Drunktown’s Finest follows the interweaving struggles of three young Indians – a soon-to-be father days away from the start of basic training, a college-bound adopted daughter of Christian missionaries, and a transsexual beauty pageant contestant in the running to become one of the “Women of the Navajo.” In other words, novel characters I actually haven’t seen on the big screen before. Even more remarkable, Freeland eschews easy villains in favor of creating believable people just doing what they can to get by. (And what they think is right, however misguided that may be.) And like with Patrick Wang’s similarly subtle In the Family, Freeland’s characters don’t dwell on their marginalization – be it Native American or trans or gay or any combination thereof – which is how real people, with much more weightier issues to tackle than simply defining themselves, behave. (Only in antiquated movies do LGBT folks’ lives revolve around identity 24/7.) And in addition, Freeland gives us a poignant bonus insight – that as bad as it can get on the rez, a spiritual sustenance is lost when leaving it.

Filmmaker spoke with Freeland prior to her Drunktown’s Finest debut in the NEXT section at Sundance.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sterlin Harjo on This May Be the Last Time

Though Sterlin Harjo is a familiar name in Park City – having premiered his narrative features Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water at Sundance in 2007 and 2008, and his short Goodnight, Irene in 2005 – this year’s visit marks the director’s documentary feature debut. This May Be the Last Time traces the events behind the never fully explained disappearance of the filmmaker’s grandfather in 1962, alongside the history of the Muscogee (Creek) hymns the Seminole community sang as it set out to find him. Filmmaker spoke with the Sundance vet about his very personal take on ethnomusicology prior to the film’s screening in the Documentary Premieres section.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bon Voyage: Director Jillian Schlesinger on her “Maidentrip”

While Robert Redford (star of J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost”) and Tom Hanks (playing the titular “Captain Phillips” in Paul Greengrass’s latest) are surely setting their compasses in the direction of Oscar right about now, American filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger has found a smaller fish – with an equally tailored-for-Hollywood tale – to fry. Schlesinger’s “Maidentrip,” made in collaboration with her photogenic and charismatic teenage subject, is the real-life story of the remarkable Dutch sailor Laura Dekker, who in January 2012 at age 16, fulfilled her dream to become “the youngest ever to sail around the world alone.” Combining footage shot at Dekker’s stops along the two-year journey with that of the solo sailor’s own video and voice recordings made on her good ketch Guppy, Schlesinger and her all-female team of filmmakers have given us what amounts to a refreshing nonfiction antidote to this season’s seasoned-men-at-sea flicks. Schlesinger spoke with Global Comment prior to the film’s January 17th opening at the IFC Center in NYC.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Director Tomas Leach on In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter

Tomas Leach’s In No Great Hurry – 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter was one of my few true discoveries of 2013. While covering the Thin Line Film Fest in Denton, Texas, I pretty much stumbled upon Leach’s poignant portrait of the legendary NYC photographer in his final years — Leiter died this past November — without knowing much about the man who ushered in the use of color photography. Since that February fest Leach’s film has gone on to screen DOC NYC and now premieres theatrically at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on January 3rd. Filmmaker spoke with the British director about the challenges and rewards of capturing a press-shy artist who, by his own admission, aspired “to be unimportant.”

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.