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 CarrĂ© 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.