Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best VR of 2016: Arnaud Colinart and Amaury La Burthe on Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness

This year’s DOK Neuland, DOK Leipzig’s interactive component (housed in what resembled an intergalactic pop-up tent in the beautiful, wide open Markt) allowed me a second chance to experience what will surely go down as the best work of virtual reality seen widely in 2016. Fortuitously, I’d been able to catch Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness — the accolade garnering (Storyscapes Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Alternate Realities VR Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest) VR companion piece to Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s much heralded documentary — at the charming Savannah Film Festival’s VR Showcase just the week before. (The doc itself opened at Film Forum in November.) Though it’s now available for free on various platforms, the experience of putting on a headset and virtually falling once again into a “world beyond sight” nearly brought me to tears. And how often does that kind of emotional connection happen with virtual reality? Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness is an astounding work of immersive cinema. Arthouse VR.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holland’s Own Trumpland: From Zwarte Piet to Geert Wilders

To say that the Donald Trump’s (electoral college) victory has galvanized the far right globally is an understatement. Though France’s Marine Le Pen tends to grab most of the headlines here in the States, she may soon be upstaged by the Netherlands’s Geert Wilders, who just delivered his closing statement in a hate-speech trial he deemed unworthy of his presence for most of its proceedings. (The trial stemmed from a 2014 rally at The Hague in which Wilders told supporters who’d voiced their desire for fewer Moroccans in Holland that “we will arrange that.”)

This isn’t the first time Wilders has run afoul of Dutch law. In 2011 he faced similar charges for comparing the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, along with issuing other anti-Islamic denunciations. He’s also a serious contender for Prime Minister. Sound familiar? Wilders, like Trump, is no anomaly. He’s simply the loudest voice in a seedy underbelly of intolerance that’s been running through all Western “free nations” since their founding. Indeed, Wilders and the Holland template can provide much needed insight into our own troubled, white nationalist terrain.

To read the rest of my essay visit Global Comment.

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, 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


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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Careers Outside Major Media Centers: Surviving--and Thriving--in Flyover Country

After over two decades of living in New York City (half in the Village, when "no-man's land" began east of Avenue B; half in Greenpoint, when it was still a Polish majority), this film writer/maker/programmer had had enough. The combination of rising cost of living in the midst of disintegrating infrastructure—and, not incidentally, my inability to bear another Northeast winter without wanting to slit my wrists—proved crucial in my decision to leave the Big Apple behind. Yet, strangely, due to the fact that we're now firmly in the online age, I never truly did. I simply packed up all my East Coast connections along with my possessions and moved them with me out West.

So I was indeed curious to learn how fellow film folks survive, both creatively and financially, outside the usual NYC/LA bubbles. Speaking with a handful of documentary filmmakers, I found answers as far-reaching as their regions.

To read my article visit the fall issue of Documentary Magazine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser on Command and Control

Based on Eric Schlosser’s book of the same name, Command and Control marks the second time Peabody and Emmy-winning director Robert Kenner has worked with the NY Times bestselling author – the first being on Food, Inc., Kenner’s Academy Award-nominated documentary inspired by Schlosser’s seminal Fast Food Nation. In their latest collaboration, though, the perils of agribusiness have been replaced by the too true tale of a near miss nuclear accident.

Weaving together archival news footage with present-day, first-hand-account interviews, the doc details the nail-biting events that occurred one September eve in 1980 at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas after a maintenance worker innocently dropped a socket – which subsequently punched a hole in the fuel tank of an intercontinental ballistic missile. I spoke with Kenner and Schlosser just prior to the film’s September 14th premiere at NYC’s Film Forum.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Friday, September 9, 2016


As a first-time author back in 2007, I was fascinated by the court case of Laura Albert, a San Francisco musician and phone sex operator who dreamed up a genderqueer alter ego by the name of JT LeRoy. LeRoy — who was thought to be a real person, not anyone’s persona — went on to woo everyone from Dennis Cooper and Mary Gaitskill to Asia Argento and Gus Van Sant with his harrowing writing. After LeRoy received much fame and acclaim, Albert was not only outed as the creator of LeRoy, but ultimately she was sued for fraud by Antidote Films, the production company that had optioned the rights to LeRoy’s Sarah.

Now, nearly a decade on, Albert finds herself in a much more positive spotlight as the subject of Jeff Feuerzeig’s Sundance-premiering documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story. Though I’ve corresponded with the often-polarizing writer over the years, we never actually sat down to do a formal interview. With the documentary hitting select theaters today, September 9, I figured it was due time to catch up, reflect, and reconsider the saga of JT LeRoy.

To read my interview visit Bitch Media.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Binding Truth: Revisiting Antidote Films vs. Laura Albert (aka JT LeRoy)

Jeff Feuerzeig’s Sundance-premiering documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story delves into the strange and winding tale of how a San Francisco musician and phone sex operator by the name of Laura Albert created a genderqueer avatar who went on to become a literary sensation and celebrity magnet before Albert was revealed to be her it boy JT LeRoy. The film opens in theaters September 9th.

What the doc doesn’t much explore is the oft-forgotten fact that back in 2007, indie production outfit Antidote Films actually sued Ms. Albert for fraud. The company had optioned the rights to LeRoy’s Sarah four years earlier, but then decided the deal should be rendered null and void because JT LeRoy didn’t actually exist. Never mind that Sarah was never published as memoir or autobiography – and that Antidote never explicitly bought the rights to JT LeRoy’s life.

And to read the rest of my courtroom recollections visit Global Comment.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Act Naturally: The Real and Unreal of Kate Plays Christine

Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine, which nabbed this year’s Sundance Film Festival US Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing, continues the Actress (2014) director’s exploration of female thespians and their process. Taking the 1974 on-air suicide of TV host Christine Chubbuck - itself the inspiration for Sidney Lumet’s Network - as a jumping-off point, Greene casts Kate Lyn Sheil (who’s made waves outside her indie film world in Netflix’s House of Cards) as Christine in his own version of this infamous, yet little known, story.

And then the director deftly tosses aside all our expectations, ingeniously using fiction as a mere pretext not only to investigate how actors do their job, but also to gather real clues. Like an empathic detective, Greene attempts to piece together evidence of the very existence of this Sarasota, Florida television personality who’s been practically erased from history. (As a friend and co-worker of the real-life Christine notes in the film, the only reason we’re interested in her is because of how she died.) Greene makes the case that all of us - including the filmmaker himself - are complicit, are actors shaping the media narrative.

I caught up with the filmmaker/editor/writer prior to the doc’s August 24th theatrical release through Grasshopper Film.

To read the rest visit Documentary Magazine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The rise of female-driven porn: Pioneer Angie Rowntree on

Though Susan Sarandon likely has never heard of Angie Rowntree, for fans of female-focused porn she’s a household name. A longtime adult filmmaker (as is her husband Colin), Rowntree is the mind behind, the very first porn site for women and by women, launched all the way back in 1999. The XBIZ Award-winning website is a one-stop shop of female pleasure, featuring everything from original movies, to books, to a radio station, to virtual reality experiences and even live events. In addition, the Internet porn pioneer is continuously busy building bridges to the mainstream, having been profiled in most major news outlets (from CNBC to the BBC), and even becoming the first adult industry power player to speak at a Sundance Institute event (a “Creative Tensions: Sex” panel in Brooklyn) last year.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lost in the Funhouse at Filmmaker magazine

The Summer 2016 issue of Filmmaker magazine just hit a newsstand near you! Check out my article about Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, an (George R.R. Martin funded) immersive experience – dubbed “Pee-wee’s Playhouse on steroids” by NPR.

Monday, July 25, 2016

25 New Faces of Independent Film: Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang

Romania in the 1980s was a time defined by communism, austerity and the authoritarian rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu — and also capitalism, Texas excess and the fictional oil tycoon J.R. Ewing. Artistic and life partners Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang explore this dichotomy in their unbelievable (in all senses of the word) feature debut Hotel Dallas, a hybrid doc that’s been blowing minds on the festival circuit ever since its Berlinale 2016 premiere.

To read the rest of my piece visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shakespeare in an Xbox?: A Chat with EK Theater’s Eddie Kim

I first encountered the work of Eddie Kim and his EK Theater — comprised of students from the Pierrepont School in Westport, CT — over half a decade ago at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Until then I’d never heard of, much less conceptualized, what Kim has christened Machinima Theater (or “video game puppetry,” as he now prefers to call it). The director-gamer’s innovative idea places classic texts within a live video game setting in an effort to actively engage with today’s audiences, both young and old. I recently spoke with Kim about the effect of gaming technology on traditional theater, his upcoming summer camp workshop “Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Retold in Video Games” at The Brick (open to middle school students possessing laptops and Minecraft accounts), and how he consistently mashes up the seemingly unmixable (yes, even “Grand Theft Ovid” was a critical hit).

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Jason Benjamin’s HBO documentary Suited, produced by HBO’s Girls co-creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, is an eye-opening journey into the niche subject of dressing for success when you’re a gender nonconforming individual. Brooklyn bespoke tailoring company Bindle & Keep is a no-frills, two-person operation consisting of straight, cisgender male founder Daniel who fell into his calling through his non-binary, apprentice-turned-colleague Rae (née Rachel). Mixing cinema vérité with interviews, Benjamin’s film is fairly standard in approach — alternating between surface-deep snapshots into the lives of Bindle & Keep customers and the actual fitting process. It’s the clients themselves that are the true revelation — at least to me.

To read the rest visit The Rumpus.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Feminist Filmmaking Shines at The Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Running June 10-19th at NYC’s Film Society of Lincoln Center and the IFC Center, this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival is spotlighting films both by female documentarians (over half the lineup is directed or co-directed by women) and focusing on women’s rights issues. The 27th edition will open with Nanfu Fang’s Hooligan Sparrow, which follows Chinese activist Ye Haiyan, nom de guerre “Hooligan Sparrow,” as the subject herself (along with filmmaker Fang, who rightly will receive the festival’s 2016 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking) is likewise trailed by the secret police. Speaking out against a corrupt government system – which has allowed a school headmaster to get away with pimping out several of his young students (to government officials, naturally) – Sparrow proves as fearless as her friend Ai Weiwei. Though lacking in the international art world stardom that can often serve as a protective shield.

To read the rest of my wrap-up visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Exploring gender identity at the Trans Theatre Festival

For nearly a decade and a half, The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has been a hub of cutting edgy innovation. (Just check out my interview with Mariah MacCarthy about last year’s inaugural F*ckfest.) And 2016 is no exception. For this summer’s Trans Theatre Festival, running June 7-26, co-curators Maybe Burke (a director/choreographer/writer/performer/trans advocate) and MJ Kaufman (a longtime playwright and recent Yale School of Drama MFA graduate) have put together an incredibly eclectic lineup, everything from plays to docs, to paintings to web series – all conceived by trans artists.

I spoke with the duo a few weeks before the festival’s (free) cabaret preview and opening party on June 7th.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kitty Genovese had a life, not just a death: “She wasn’t just this murder victim”

Salon talks to her brother Bill about "The Witness," that "Girls" episode & 50 years of questions about her murder

While the media these days counts bullets fired in unjustified shootings, the journalistic landscape was vastly different a little over half a century ago, when the New York Times reported that a Queens resident by the name of Kitty Genovese had been stalked and stabbed to death in full view of 38 neighbors who chose to look away rather than call the police. Suddenly, those 38 do-nothing eyewitnesses, like shots fired, morphed into legend, shorthand for urban apathy (even after the notorious number had been debunked years later) – and continuing down in time to that “Girls” episode in April, Kitty’s killer dying in prison mere days before the show aired.

But James Solomon’s “The Witness” is not about the myth of the 38. Instead, the doc focuses on Kitty’s life, and the dogged search for the hard facts surrounding her death by her brother Bill, who was only 16 at the time she was murdered. William Genovese was kind enough to chat with Salon shortly before the film opens at NYC’s IFC Center on June 3.

To read my interview visit Salon.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tony Robbins Is Definitely Not My Guru

Seeing Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April marked the first time I ever walked out of a Joe Berlinger film. I’ve been a fan of the Paradise Lost trilogy co-director (along with the late Bruce Sinofsky) since discovering the team’s 1992 doc Brother’s Keeper decades ago. And in fact, my fleeing from the theater 40 minutes into the sold-out screening of Berlinger’s behind-the-scenes look at the non-guru’s yearly “Date with Destiny” mega-seminar had nothing to do with the skilled documentarian’s filmmaking.

It had to do with his subject. Tony Robbins, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a superstar in the motivational speaking and self-help world. His Wiki page cites his naming to the Forbes “Celebrity 100” list back in 2007, the year he earned around $30 million. Though his subject did not attend the screening, Berlinger did, joking in his intro that this was not “another feel-bad Berlinger film,” and further urging us not to sit there “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Unfortunately, I found myself praying for the other shoe to drop.

To read the rest visit Hammer to Nail.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Five Questions with Adam Irving, Director/Producer/DP, Off the Rails

If you're a tabloid-reading New Yorker, you may already be familiar with the strange and sad tale of Darius McCollum, a guy from Queens whose transportation obsession has led to 32 convictions for impersonating MTA employees and taking over their bus and subway routes (and providing first-rate service, by all accounts). The transit fanatic also suffers from Asperger's syndrome and has spent over two decades in maximum security prisons as a result of his victimless — as he's never hurt anyone, nor so much as even damaged any equipment — crime sprees.

And now Darius is getting the big-screen treatment in Adam Irving's thoroughly artistic and absolutely infuriating documentary Off the Rails, which is having its international premiere at this year's Hot Docs. I was fortunate enough to speak with Irving right before his riveting film's world premiere at Full Frame.

To read my interview visit Documentary Magazine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Andreas Koefoed on At Home in the World

I first met Danish director Andreas Koefoed remotely when I programmed his nonfiction tale of international intrigue The Arms Drop at the 2015 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Later I had the good fortune to meet him in person at last November’s CPH:DOX, where his current film At Home in the World (which subsequently took the Mid-Length Competition Award at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) was having its home country premiere. And now that doc – a patient, fly-on-the-wall take on the current refugee crisis as seen through the lives of several asylum-seeking children at a Danish Red Cross School – has finally reached these shores.

I spoke with Koefoed prior to the film’s May 1st Canadian premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Conversation with Alden Peters (COMING OUT)

Coming Out, one of the most thought-provoking docs I caught at this year’s RiverRun International Film Festival (ironically in Winston-Salem, NC during the HB2 boycott) initially sounded like a navel-gazing gimmick. Filmmaker Alden Peters, a white guy from Seattle who passes as straight, documented his entire coming out process over several years – capturing the reactions of unsuspecting (and suspecting) loved ones on camera as he tells them that he’s gay.

Yet what starts out as personal exploration soon becomes fascinatingly universal as Peters sharply broadens his scope to show how queer millennials still internalize society’s historical oppression even in the age of same-sex marriage. Part 21st-century time capsule (the doc includes clips of young LGBTQs coming out online) and part anthropological study (talking heads like Janet Mock chime in), Coming Out reveals that cultural expectations exert more pressure than any friend or family member ever could.

HtN was fortunate enough to chat with the self-reflective director/subject post fest.

To read my interview visit Hammer to Nail.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sexploitation Star Kitten Natividad on Russ Meyer, Roger Ebert, Porn and the Hot Docs-premiering League of Exotique Dancers

Rama Rau’s League of Exotique Dancers is an absolutely delightful and lovingly crafted doc structured around a group of legendary striptease artists as they prepare to return to the stage for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas — a trip which becomes merely an excuse for the filmmaker to delve deeply into the extraordinary lives of some truly groundbreaking women. Among the timelessly sexy inductees is none other than Kitten Natividad, best known as cult director Russ Meyer’s buxom muse. Prior to the film’s Hot Docs premiere, Filmmaker was fortunate enough to catch up with the Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens star to discuss everything from drinking with Meyer and Roger Ebert, to surviving breast cancer and losing her Mexican accent.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My 2016 Florida Film Festival Wrap-Up

The Florida Film Festival (April 8-17), now a quarter-century old, technically takes place in Maitland, a mere 15-minute drive from Orlando, where attendees were housed at the DoubleTree overlooking the lovely Lake Ivanhoe downtown. Orlando itself is a city one might associate more with Mickey Mouse than with Terence Malick. However, one would be wrong. The town boasts an abundance of lakes (surrounded by rapidly gentrifying historic neighborhoods), not rides (it’s around a half-hour drive to those theme parks). And this year’s FFF hosted a Badlands retro screening with none other than Sissy Spacek in attendance to chat about both “Terry” and her astonishing career. (Who else worked with mavericks like Malick, De Palma, Andy Warhol, Robert Altman – all before turning 30 and winning an Oscar?) Cinephile culture, it seems, is alive and well in “The City Beautiful,” and its surrounding towns.

To read the rest of my coverage visit Hammer to Nail.

Monday, April 25, 2016

LGBTQ in NC: Covering the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the RiverRun International Film Festival During the HB2 Boycott

Before North Carolina passed its HB2 legislation, officially known as “An act to provide for single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities in schools and public agencies and to create statewide consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations” (or, for me, the simpler and more accurate “WTF?”), I’d been looking forward to covering two film festivals back-to-back on my very first visit to the southern state. Yet as the nationwide call for boycott gathered speed, and the opening night of Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival approached, I found myself in a queasy quandary. So I did what any moral film journalist would do. I began scanning both the Full Frame and Winston-Salem’s RiverRun International Film Festival programs for all the LGBTQ flicks I could find.

To read all about my queer-film film trip visit Filmmaker magazine.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Conversation With Hillevi Loven (DEEP RUN)

Deep Run is Hillevi Loven’s beautifully crafted and nuanced portrait of out-and-proud, teen trans-man Cole who searches for love while holding tight to his religious faith in his titular (evangelical, blue collar, rural North Carolina) hometown. Exec-produced by Susan Sarandon, the doc ironically made its North Carolina debut at this year’s excitingly eclectic RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem right as the rest of the nation – from governors to corporations to Bruce Springsteen – began boycotting the state in reaction to the anti-LGBTQ HB2.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with the thoughtful director post-fest to discuss everything from following evangelical millennials, to upending us urban Yankees’ preconceived notions about our gender-nonconforming neighbors down south.

To read my interview visit Hammer to Nail.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Asks, Why Are “#DocsSoWhite?”

Now nearly two decades old, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is perhaps the closest thing America has to a European doc fest in terms of engagement, both from its prestigious attending filmmakers and its rabid audiences. And for the past six years this finely tuned fest has been hosting its laidback A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy conversations. Free and open to the public, the most recent series of panels was held in the 21c Museum Hotel (which, intertwined with a contemporary art gallery, is definitely the most unique hotel this traveling journalist has ever stayed at), and boasted a wide-ranging lineup of both participants and topics.

Read the rest of my first article for Documentary Magazine here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Virtual Crime Scene in Filmmaker magazine

The Spring 2016 issue of Filmmaker magazine is out! And my chat with Nonny de la Peña about her Trayvon Martin VR project One Dark Night is in it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Directors Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons Talk Screening LGBT Doc Out Run in Boycott State North Carolina

Ironically launching at the stellar Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina right as the anti-LGBTQ HB2 legislation hit the fan, S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons’s Out Run follows the Ladlad Party in the Philippines — the only LGBT political party in the world — in the run-up to what could be a history-making election. An artistic political doc, Out Run is both riveting and familiar, as the leaders (including Bemz Benedito, a trans woman who serves as the face of the party) deftly employ campaign strategies that include everything from transforming beauty parlors into headquarters to forming alliances on the local level — even if it means supporting other candidates in quid pro quo moves. The story becomes even more surreal as the Ladlad party goes up against a rival gay organization put together by none other than anti-LGBT preacher and politician Benny Abante, who anointed his group of supporters with the acronym AIDS. In other words, politics as usual. And not.

Filmmaker spoke with the co-directors shortly after their Full Frame premiere.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Edited by queer porn performer and LGBTQ activist Jiz Lee, Coming Out Like a Porn Star is a wide-ranging compilation of answers to questions only sex industry pros seem to get. (And if you guessed, “Does your mother know?” to be at the top of the queries you are correct.)

Since the announcement of the book early last year, the sex worker-penned anthology has been named to Reason’s list of “Best Sex-Work Books of 2015,” and has even made it onto the syllabi at college campuses. And now contributor Stoya—a global porn star and prolific writer whose trademarked name probably signals that she needs no introduction—agreed to chat with me soon after COLaPS’s CineKink NYC launch.

To read my interview visit The Rumpus.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Finnish First: My interview with Transgender Wrestler Jessica Love

In January I had the pleasure of attending the truly unique DocPoint Helsinki as this year’s Critic’s Choice critic. (And I mean truly unique. How many documentary film festivals feature a sauna and ice swimming party on an island?) One of my top three Finnish picks was Oskari Pastila’s “Spandex Sapiens,” a wonderfully inventive portrait of Michael “Starbuck” Majalahti, an aging Canadian-Finnish wrestler (and preacher’s son) who runs Fight Club Finland, that nation’s answer to the WWE. Starbuck’s adversary in the ring is none other than the young and vibrant Jessica Love, the first transgender wrestler in the Nordic countries – and, just as exciting for me, the first pro wrestler I’ve ever had the opportunity to interview. I spoke with the very busy Love in between bouts.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Beautifying the Beast: A Conversation With Ido Mizrahy (GORED)

I first became aware of “Gored,” Ido Mizrahy’s complicated portrait of Antonio Barrera, a.k.a. “the most gored bullfighter in history,” at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Premiering in the ESPN Sports Film Festival section, the stunningly shot doc – complete with heart-pounding close-ups from inside the ring – follows Barrera as he prepares for his (conflicted) retirement. Which entails the passionate matador not only giving up a life devoted to facing death, but of also laying his dreams of greatness to final rest.

I was fortunate enough to speak with the philosophical Mizrahy a few days after “Gored” hit Netflix (and Amazon and iTunes).

To read my interview visit Hammer to Nail.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Director Van Neistat on "A Space Program" and Collaborating With Tom Sachs

“Filmmaking really messes with your space-time continuum”: Van Neistat on “A Space Program”

Matt Damon’s space-stranded botanist ain’t got nothing on world-renowned artist Tom Sachs. Back in the early summer of 2012 the self-proclaimed bricoleur (DIY projects are second nature to Neistat) took visitors to the Park Avenue Armory on a trip to Mars – or at least a handmade version via the artist’s immersive installation “Space Program 2.0: MARS.” And now, director Van Neistat, costar of HBO’s “The Neistat Brothers” and a frequent collaborator with Sachs, has created his own lovingly crafted documentation of that unique event. I spoke with the unconventional filmmaker prior to the March 18 Metrograph theater premiere of "A Space Program" (which will be followed by Sachs’ latest space-inspired project, “Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony” at The Noguchi Musuem in Long Island City March 23-July 24).

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Tech on The Beach: The FilmGate Interactive Creative Conference 2016

“Tech Up, Make Stories, Get a Tan” was the accurate tagline of this year’s cutting edge FilmGate Interactive Conference (which ironically took place at a ’50s-era throwback, the Deauville Beach Resort Miami this past February 20-28). Now in its third year, the event boasts of being “the first conference in the USA to focus solely on interactive and immersive content.” While this might conjure up images of gear heads discussing the latest drone technology – and there was indeed a Tech Playground for those so inclined – most events were not only free but, refreshingly, open and quite welcoming to the lay public.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

No Sex Please, We’re British: Pandora Blake Battles UK Censorship

Feminist porn producer/performer Pandora Blake is one of the more high profile victims of the Orwellian Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, an amendment to the UK’s 2003 Communications Act – which basically bans the country’s porn producers from showing a long and seemingly arbitrary list of run-of-the-mill BDSM practices. Though Blake’s award-winning website Dreams of Spanking was shut down last August – after she’d done a whirlwind of media interviews decrying the legislation and even organized a fundraiser for Backlash, the sexual freedom-defending nonprofit – she’s refused to take the attack on her livelihood lying down, so to speak. I was fortunate enough to catch up with the kink-positive activist, who’s currently appealing the Dreams of Spanking ruling, a few days before Valentine’s Day.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bringing People Together in VR: Sakchin Bessette on Moment Factory

For the past 14 years Montreal’s Moment Factory has been bucking the online trend to create larger-than-life, physical reality (PR?) experiences that force folks to come together in the flesh-and-blood world. With over 300 multimedia projects in wide-ranging locations under their belt — from the LAX international terminal, to the Atlantic City Boardwalk, to Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia cathedral — the studio is still perhaps best known to Americans for designing Madonna’s halftime spectacle at the 2012 Super Bowl. Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with co-founder and creative director Sakchin Bessette about the profession of experience designing, and whether the future of new media may be offline as well as on. (And yes, working with Madonna).

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, February 1, 2016

DocPoint Helsinki Critic's Choice Picks

Read all about my top three Finnish picks from this year’s DocPoint Helsinki!

An Innocent Children’s Holiday? Roger Ross Williams on “Black Pete” and his Short Film, Blackface

Admittedly, it was with a feeling of vindication and satisfaction that I stumbled upon Roger Ross Williams’ most recent short Blackface, now streaming on CNN. The Academy Award-winning director — whose feature Life, Animated premiered this week in the US Documentary Competition at Sundance — is a recent transplant to the Netherlands, and his thoughts upon first encountering Zwarte Piet (“My heart sank and I felt a little nauseated”) were a bit different from my own. As a white American, my initial reaction years ago to seeing both kids and adults in blackface and Afro wigs celebrating in the streets was more a mix of incredulity and horror. Nevertheless, the scale of our shared disgust is matched only in incomprehension by so many Dutch citizens’ inability to understand why us “outsiders” can’t just accept this as their longstanding tradition and move on. Why do non-Dutch have to meddle in another country’s business?

To search for answers to this and more, I sat down with Williams to discuss, among other issues, modern-day racism, taking a stand against injustice wherever it may occur, and why history can never be viewed in black and white.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Experience Designing a Surrealist Museum: Loïc Suty on The Unknown Photographer

Receiving its U.S. premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier section is Loïc Suty’s The Unknown Photographer, the sole work that blew my mind just a couple of months earlier at Montreal’s RIDM. It’s an incredible, immersive Oculus Rift project inspired by the discovery of a photo album in the Laurentians north of Montreal. Suty’s piece takes us on a WWI photographer’s journey both familiar and foreign, equal parts timely and timeless.

Filmmaker spoke with the Montreal-based “experience designer” prior to the piece’s Park City premiere.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Festival Beat: DocLisboa and CPH:DOX

My CPH:DOX coverage is now available (to those of you with a digital or print subscription to Filmmaker magazine, that is!)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Director Sydney Freeland on Trans-centric Web Series “Her Story”

A web series about a couple of Los Angelenas discovering love when they least expect it sounds less “groundbreaking” than stereotypical indie pitch. Yet “Her Story,” which debuts its first six episodes on its website (for free!) on January 19th is anything but your average hipster cliché. The series, co-written by Jen (“I Am Cait”) Richards and directed by Sydney Freeland (whose rez-set feature film “Drunktown’s Finest” made a splash at Sundance a couple years back) also features trans women in the lead roles. Meaning the talented ladies both in front of and behind the lens are all part of the transgender community. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with series director Freeland – who I last interviewed prior to the “Drunktown’s Finest” 2014 premiere – to learn more about “Her Story,” and her own story about the process of portraying a once marginalized, increasingly visible population in a realistic light.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Chat With Vice Media Canada CEO Michael Kronish

While RIDM, Montreal’s contribution to the fall doc fest tsunami, might not be as big and well known as many of its November competitors, it does have one thing the others mostly lack: a homegrown tech talent pool to tap into. And tap into this pool RIDM did during its most recent edition. In addition to showcasing the numerous mind-blowing VR projects being shepherded by the risk-taking NFB, RIDM featured none other than homeboy Michael Kronish as the speaker at the festival’s Vice/Versa Opening Breakfast. Kronish may not be a household (or even film world) name, but the former executive producer at Montreal-based production-company Zone3 now heads up Vice Media Canada’s $100 million web and mobile content studio. In other words, he’s the guy to go to if one wants the scoop on what’s happening globally as well as up north, both online and off. I was fortunate enough to chat briefly with the busy CEO post-fest.

To read my interview visit Hammer to Nail.