Monday, August 21, 2017

Doc Star of the Month: Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, 'Tribal Justice'

An eye-opening documentary about restorative justice on the rez, Anne Makepeace's Tribal Justice should be required viewing for anyone involved in running the US court system, from local lawmakers to (especially) US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The film follows two remarkable ladies, Chief Judges for tribes on either end of California, who are implementing traditional solutions (i.e. tackling criminal behavior's causes and not just its symptoms) to keep their community members out of jails and state foster care, and on a healthy, law-abiding path.

So it's quite an honor that the Honorable Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe on the North Coast of California - and the first Native American woman to pass the California Bar Exam (whose long résumé also notes that she's the founder of the "first tribal-run clean-slate program in the country to help members expunge criminal records, and focuses on keeping young people out of jail, in school and with their people") - found time in between court sessions to speak with Documentary.

To read my interview visit Documentary magazine.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Conversation with Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur (HOTEL DALLAS)

Named in 2016 to Filmmaker magazine’s annual “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” artistic and life partners Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur are at the forefront of the doc/fiction revolution. As I wrote last summer, their Berlinale-premiering, debut feature Hotel Dallas “tells the true story of how the soapy series Dallas — the only American program allowed to be aired in Romania because the authorities believed it a cautionary tale about the evil capitalist West — became must-watch TV that influenced an entire generation. It also tells the fuzzier tale of how Livia, who fell in love with Patrick “Bobby Ewing” Duffy as a youngster, and her father Ilie, who fancied himself a wheeler-dealer like J.R., pursued their Dallas dreams after the fall of the regime. While Ilie built Hotel Dallas (a Southfork replica and a means to embezzle millions in taxes), Livia left for America, only returning years later to revisit her adolescent obsession through the prism of the “new” — although ’80s-inspired — Romania. (And yes, Duffy actually agreed to be in the film, compensated with only a bottle of wine.)”

And after you wrap your head around that whopper of a synopsis, read on to learn more. I spoke with the counterintuitively down-to-earth couple before the film’s Vimeo/Amazon/Google/Fandor streaming debut.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


As a Jewish chick who identifies as genderqueer, has never lived in Bed-Stuy, and is a generation older than African-American millennial Brandon Harris, I am most certainly not the target audience for his remarkable debut Making Rent in Bed-Stuy: A Memoir of Trying to Make It in New York City. And yet I’ve long been in awe of Brandon’s writing. Back when we were colleagues at a now-defunct film site years ago, I considered him some sort of cinephile prodigy. (And now that we’re both contributing editors at Filmmaker magazine I remain steadfast in that belief.)

To read my interview with my Renaissance man friend visit The Rumpus.