SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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22 NOVEMBER 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS
Congrats to Gabriela Oslo Vanden, Jack Weisman and the crew behind Nuisance Bear (The New Yorker, 2021), which won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best Short, and the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival award for best environmental film. The beloved SDFF 2022 film was also nominated for Critics Choice honors in cinematography (w/ Sam Holling) and Science/Nature subjects. Nuisance Bear is an unconventional and visually arresting study of polar bears who draw tourists to Churchill, Manitoba for the specific purpose of taking wildlife photos. The doc shifts perspective as it follows a polar bear on its chaotic migration, revealing an obstacle course of tourist paparazzi and wildlife officers the bears must navigate during their annual migration. The film is available to stream through The New Yorker and on Youtube.
Nuisance Bear was also among the recently announced nominees for Best Documentary Short at the 38th IDA Awards, as was another SDFF 2022 film, Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani’s The Silent Shore. Filmmakers from two other SDFF films also have new docs in the running for IDA honors. School Life (SDFF 2018) co-directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane, co-directed and produced (respectively), Best Documentary Feature nominee Young Plato (co-dir. Declan McGrath). While Dawnland co-director (w/ Adam Mazo) produced Best Documentary short nominee ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught), an LA Times short, directed by Brit Hensel. The International Documentary Awards (IDA) is the most prestigious worldwide event dedicated to documentary. IDA 2022 winners will be announced at a Dec. 10 awards ceremony. For a fuller elaboration of the nominees, see the full story, here.
The European Film Academy announced nominees for the 35th European Film Awards in a video released last week, and Mark Cousins’s newest doc March on Rome (2022) was among the films in the running for Best European Documentary. March On Rome explores historic, Italian fascist propaganda tied to the original “March On Rome,” which swept Mussolini into power in Italy a 100 years ago. Taking its cue from A Noi (1923), Umberto Paradisi’s official Fascist party documentary celebrating Mussolini’s March on Rome, the doc explores the roots of fascism by analyzing film, photographs and other material from historic archives. The recent election of a neo-fascist Brothers Of Italy candidate for Prime Minister, and the rising tide of far right and fascist groups worldwide has only increased the film’s relevance since it was released this Fall The winners of the European Film Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Dec. 10 in Reykjavík.
Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Susan Sandler, SDFF 2021) was shown at the 2022 Teaneck International Film Festival in New Jersey last weekend, with director Sandler and Scotti both in tow for a post-screening discussion. The feature-length doc is a portrait of Scotti, a transgender comedian, and examines how her decision to transition at 47 years old impacted her career and family life. The doc revisits Scotti’s former professional life as Rick Scotti, and her comeback as a trans comedian that escalated into a finalist spot on the TV show America’s Got Talent. Shot over a period of five years, the film tracks Scotti’s life, and the complex process of reuniting with her children, and the ways in which comedy becomes the shared language of identity, healing and joy. The doc is available to stream VOD on iTunes, Prime, Vimeo, GooglePlay, etc. SDFF’s exclusive interview with Scotti and Sandler from SDFF 2021 is available here.
NEW FILMS + PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
New documentary projects from two SDFF alumni filmmakers Luke Lorentzen (Midnight Family, 2020) and Oren Rudavsky (Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People, 2019) are among the 20 recipients of $550,000 in grants and advisory support from the relatively new organization, Jewish Story Partners this year. Launched in April 2021, JSP was founded in response to the rising tide of antisemitism in the U.S., supported by Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation. To date, the organization has distributed $1.5 million to fund diverse Jewish-themed documentaries that capture a wide range of Jewish experience and cultures. Rudavsky’s upcoming doc Elie Wiesel: Soul on Fire is one of two docs about the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor. The film uses unique access to Wiesel’s family and personal archives to explore the author’s work and life in private and public. Lorentzen’s Spiritual Care Documentary (untitled) accompanies an aspiring chaplain as she completes a year-long residency at a major New York hospital, exploring her past, her Jewish faith and her boundaries so she can provide spiritual and emotional care to others. For more on the films and selection process, see RealScreen’s coverage here.
A Concerto Is A Conversation co-director and star, Kris Bowers (Dear White People, Bridgerton, King Richard) composed the score for a new period piece with distinctly modern themes: Chevalier (Stephen Williams, 2022), which is inspired by the true story of mixed race 18th century violinist and composer Joseph Bologne, aka Chevalier de Saint Georges. The composer was the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, who rose to great heights in French society as a composer before an ill-fated love affair. The film is the first feature written by Stefani Robinson, who has won awards for his writing on Atlanta and What We Do In The Shadows, both indie comedies. In addition to an impressive career as a musician and composer, Bowers co-directed A Concerto Is A Conversation with Ben Proudfoot. The documentary short is a visually-stunning autobiographical short, in which the virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91 year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The film, which was SDFF 2022’s Best Short Doc, is available to stream for free through New York Times Op-Docs.
When We Were Bullies filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt’s recently released short How Do You Measure a Year? received a lovely review in SF Gate in advance of a screening tonight at the Roxie in San Francisco, along with three of his previous father-daughter shorts: I Used to Be a Filmmaker, I Like It a Lot and I’m Charlie Chaplin. Rosenblatt will be on-hand for a post-screening discussion of all four films, moderated by documentarian Jon Shenk (Athlete A, Audrie & Daisy). How Do You Measure A Year? is a 29-minute short, comprised of footage Rosenblatt has taken of his daughter every year on her birthday, as she responds to the same set of questions. Over the course of the short, the girl rapidly grows from a toddler to a young woman with all the beautiful and awkward stages in between, while the father/daughter relationship evolves in all its complexities. Rosenblatt’s other film from 2021, When We Were Bullies (Jay Rosenblatt, SDFF2021) is an autobiographical doc about a filmmaker who is spurred to investigate a 50 year-old bullying event in which he was complicit after a chance encounter with an old classmate. The short was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2022 Academy Awards®, and is now ow streaming on HBO/HBO MAX.
IN THE NEWS
Esteemed filmmaker and SDFF 2018 alumni Alex Lora (The Fourth Kingdom, The Kingdom of Plastics, 2017), was the subject of a profile “Spain Stars of Tomorrow 2022: Alex Lora” in Screen last week. SDFF audiences will know Lora from his doc The Fourth Kingdom, The Kingdom of Plastics, which juxtaposes a series of vignettes from the lives of immigrants in a marginal community in New York, but the young director released his first feature-length fiction film Unicornios at Cannes earlier this year. In contrast to his documentary focus on outsiders and outcasts, like those at the Brooklyn recycling center whose conversations make up The Fourth Kingdom, Unicornios focuses on a young, female protagonist with everything going for her. Co-written by Lora and three female writers, Marta Vivet (The Hockey Girls), Pilar Palomero (Schoolgirls) and Greta Fernández (A Thief’s Daughter), Unicornios explores the ways in which millennial women are seeking increased individual agency and changing women’s roles in society. The topics discussed in the profile include Lora’s mentor, iconoclastic feminist filmmaker Chantal Akerman, his documentary work, and his residency at the Catalan Film Academy.
A selection of Australian filmmaker and film theorist Karen Pearlman’s work, the Soviet Women Filmmakers Trilogy, was recently screened in Australia, and is the subject of a new Film Ink piece about Pearlman’s experimental method of rendering obscured and excised perspectives and histories visible on film. The trio of films includes, SDFF 2021 fave, I Want To Make A Film About Women (co-dir., Richard James Allen, 2020), a queer, speculative, documentary love letter to Russian constructivist women; Woman with an Editing Bench? (2016) about Elizaveta Svilova the groundbreaking editor of montage masterpiece Man With A Movie Camera, who was a longtime collaborator of the film’s director Dziga Vertov, to whom she was also married; and, lastly, After The Facts (2018), a documentary that uses the techniques of Esfir Shub, credited with inventing the remix film, to revise the historiography of editing. The article’s author Mark Seton argues that the trio of films not only gives voice to silenced perspectives, it also constitutes an alternative to the antagonistic, conflict-based Marxist dialectic, which informed Soviet constructivist filmmaking, suffusing the work of both Vertov and Eisenstein. By contrast, Seton writes, Pearlman’s films, when taken together, model a generative flow of dialectic based on dialogue and collaboration among various ideological starting points. Her films don’t simply fill in historical elisions, they also restore a methodology and theory of film obscured by the focus on the male directors of this period, whose written work remains a standard, constituent element of film and intellectual history.
Flamenco dancer Siudy Garrido, whose tour of the U.S. was the subject of the SDFF 2020 doc Siudy Entre Mundos: 50 performances of the American Dream (Pablo Croce, 2019) broke a record this year when she became the first Latin American Flamenco artist to receive two Latin Grammy nominations. One of the noms came thanks to Siudy Garrido: Bailaora, Mis Pies Son Mi Voz, Garrido’s second documentary collaboration with her husband, filmmaker Pablo Croce, who also directed Siudy Entre Mundos. The new doc focuses on Garrido’s creative process as she creates her latest show, Bailaora, and examines her outsider status and struggles to become successful in a male-dominated field. The newer doc shares themes with the 2019 film, which documented Garrido’s show, Between Worlds, which sold out regularly and delighted audiences, but received a harrowing review from the New York Times, which undermined Garrido and her company’s self-esteem, who ultimately persevere. Siudy Entre Mundo is available VOD via Apple and YouTube. The trailer for Siudy Garrido: Bailaora, Mis Pies Son Mi Voz is up on YouTube.
In advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of Haaland v. Brackeen, a case that could overturn or diminish the Indian Child Welfare Act, Peninsula College held a screening of Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip’s Dawnland (SDFF 2019), followed by a discussion of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the possible impacts of its diminution on Native American children. Dawnland, a documentary feature that gives behind-the-scenes coverage of the U.S.’s first truth and reconciliation commission, which investigated the U.S.’s removal of Native American children from their homes, discussion was used to ground the discussion and clarify the harm to children that results from their removal from their family and tribal community and their acculturating “rehoming” with white families. The Haaland v. Brackeen decision threatens to weaken the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, which halted an array of harmful practices aimed at acculturating Native American children, and provided conditions for a range of other types of abuse. Haaland v. Brackeen was argued on Nov. 9, but is the court’s decision is still pending.
Dr. Anne Innis Dagg, the zoologist subject of The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid, 2018) recently visited East Asia for screenings of the film, doing an interview with The Korea Times, which ran a feature on Dagg, her story and experience touring with the film in Korea. In the SDFF 2019 selection, Dr. Dagg re-traces the steps of her ground-breaking 1956 journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Now, at 85 years old, Anne sees a startling contrast between the world of giraffes she once knew and the one it has become. Weaving through the past and present, her harrowing journey gives us an intimate look into the factors that destroyed her career and the forces that brought her back. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is available to stream in the U.S. through Kino Now and VOD on iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENT
The Petaluma Film Alliance Fall cinema series closes next Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. with 80s children’s classic, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982), which celebrated its 40th Anniversary earlier this year. This family film is a cinematic fairy tale about a young boy who befriends a stranded alien and attempts to help it find its way home. Filled with laughter, heart, thrills, and wonder, E.T. remains one of the most beloved films of the modern era. Nominated for nine Oscars®, the film picked up four wins, including one for John Williams’ iconic score. The film stars Henry Thomas as Elliott, local film luminary Peter Coyote as the government agent Keys, and 6-year-old Drew Barrymore as Elliott’s younger sister. The screening will be held at the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium at the SRJC Petaluma Campus. See details on parking, tickets and COVID protocols here.
Academy Award©- and BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s (Call Me By Your Name, Suspiria) 2020 doc about Italian fashion icon Salvatore Ferragamo, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams will begin showing at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol on Dec. 2. The film tracks Ferragamo’s life from humble beginnings in Bonito, Italy, where he began making shoes as a young teenager, to his time in California helping to invent the glamor of Hollywood’s silent and Classical eras, to his storied studio in Florence, Italy, where he would help found an iconic fashion house. The film includes Emmy©-nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg’s (Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water) narration of Ferragamo’s 1955 memoir; a trove of 100-year-old archival footage; a “shoe ballet” created by stop-motion artist Pes; and commentary from filmmaker Martin Scorsese, shoe icons of the present day Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, members of the fashion and film industry presses, and member of Ferragamo’s family.
Sebastopol’s Fall Doc Nite series will continue on Dec. 2 with a screening of Dear Santa (2020)at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol, followed by a discussion with director Dana Nachman and cinematographer Mike Abela, followed by a casual gathering at Fern Bar. Dear Santa shines a light on the 100 year-old program Operation Santa. Operation Santa is a program operated by the United States Postal Service each year, that collects hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa, which can then be selected and fulfilled safely by member of the public. The film tracks one cycle of this enormous undertaking. Mirroring Santa’s fabled Christmas Eve fight, the film travels across the country, focusing on select Operation Santa centers: some in metropolitan areas, like the massive operation in New York City, and others in small towns where the post office is the heart of the community. Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF and Rialto Cinemas®. See Dear Santa Doc Night details and buy tickets here. Submit or adopt Operation Santa letters here.
Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol has two special screenings of film history doc Exposing Muybridge scheduled for Dec. 15 at 1 and 7 p.m. with director Mark Shaffer on hand for a Q&A. The film tells the story of Eadweard Muybridge, whose photographic motion studies and experiments in motion picture projection were pivotal to the development of film. Shaffner’s doc examines Muybridge’s adventurous life and his lesser known work. Before his motion photography breakthrough, Muybridge produced one of the most celebrated early landscape catalogues of the American West. He made the first photographs of winemaking in Northern California, produced the first photographs of native Tlingit people and of Southeast Alaska, was the fourth to photograph Yosemite, the first to be hired by the U.S. government to photograph an Indian War and his photographs of Central America are widely considered the most important early images of the region. Exposing Muybridge won the 2022 Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. Get more information on this screening here.
The Sonoma County Library Documentary Film Discussion Group will meet, Dec. 21 to discuss environmental doc The Story Of Plastic (Deia Schlosberg, 2019), with special guest Marie Kneemeyer, Education Manager from Recology, on-hand to discuss the local waste stream. The Story of Plastic is an exposé, uncovering the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling. From the extraction of fossil fuels and plastic disposal to the global resistance fighting back, the film stands out for its cohesive timeline of the current global plastic pollution crisis, including the oil and gas industry’s successful circulation of an industry-friendly narrative around pollution and climate change. THE STORY OF PLASTIC is a life changing film depicting one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.The discussion group will be held on Zoom, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m., attendance requires registration by 5 p.m., see details and availability on the Sonoma County Library Events Calendar. The film is available to screen through Kanopy with a library card. All participants must view the film on their own before the meeting.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS AIRING ON TV + STREAMING ONLINE
The Silent Shore (Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani, 36 mins) is now streaming on The New Yorker Documentary, accompanied by a short written piece about the film and its making, which includes some reflections by Giraud and Corteggiani. The short is a lush, moving documentary in which fantasy author Pierre Dubois and his wife, Aline, discuss the power of writing, imagination, and the deep connection with life that has brought them through the suicide of their teenaged daughter Melanie, who took her life following a heartbreak. The Silent Shore was an SDFF 2022 Jury Nominee.
Anita Gou’s (prod. The Last Animals) newest film The Silent Twins (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2022) began streaming on Peacock last week. The film isan adaptation of Marjorie Wallace’s non-fiction bestseller. Set in 1970s Wales, it tells the story of two Black women, June (Letitia Wright) and Jennifer Gibbons (Tamara Lawrence), who communicated only with eachother, created their own world, wrote fiction and committed crimes in their teens. The duo was eventually confined to a mental health facility. According to Variety, the film’s debut at Cannes received a standing ovation that lasted 4 minutes. Gou produced the SDFF 2018 selection The Last Animals (Kate Brooks, 2017), about conservationists, scientists and activists working to save elephants and rhinos from extinction.
Rahul Jain’s participant doc on climate change, Invisible Demons (Tuhon merkit), began streaming on MUBI this week, and has continued to draw new reviews from large market publications and smaller culture mags, including The Guardian, Paste, Scroll.in, and The Film Stage. The film, which was nominated for the Golden Eye when it premiered at Cannes in 2021, has also continued to make the rounds on the festival circuit, opening Spain’s Another Way Film Festival last week. The film captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s rapidly-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection with the natural world. This is Jain’s second doc. His first, Machines, a masterful meditation on work, was an SDFF 2018 selection.
Wolf, the second narrative feature from SDFF alumni filmmaker Nathalie Biancheri (Xavier Corbero: Portrait of an Artist in Winter, 2017) is now streaming on HBO. Wolf is about a young man suffering from “species dysphoria” who believes himself to be a wolf, and stars noted method actor George MacKay. When the boundary-pushing, high-concept film was released in the U.S. late last year and polarized reviewers. Biancheri’s doc Xavier Corbero: Portrait of an Artist in Winter was an SDFF 2018 selection, which gave a charming and fascinating glimpse into the home and universe of iconic Spanish sculptor Xavier Corbero, whose career traversed a turbulent moment of Spanish history.
SDFF alumni filmmaker Ben Proudfoot’s new short, which was just announced as part of the DOC NYC 2022 line-up, The Best Chef In The World, about The French Laundry found Sally Schmitt, is part of Proudfoot’s ongoing partnership with New York Times Op Docs. The new film joins his recent project with tennis star Naomi Osaka, MINK! about Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and many of his other documentary shorts, including The Queen Of Basketball, A Concerto Is A Conversation, The Unchosen One, and The Lost Astronaut.
Drew Leung’s animated film The Chemical Factory (2021) was recently added to the Los Angeles Times series of documentary shorts, which are meant to represent “a West Coast perspective and a global view” showcasing underrepresented voices and fostering diversity in the film community. The Chemical Factory is an animated piece in which an immigrant mother retraces her early years during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to her son, the filmmaker. The series also includes several other films that were either shown at SDFF, such as The Beauty President (Whitney Skauge, 2022) about queer, black presidential candidate Terence Alan Smith, who ran for office during the ravages of the AIDS crisis in 1992; or are the work of SDFF alumni filmmakers, such as Sentinels, a new documentary short co-directed by Derek Knowles (After The Fire, SDFF 2020) and Lawrence Lerew, which takes an immersive, observational tack in its presentation of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit, or the Adam Mazo-produced (Dawnland, SDFF 2019) short ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) (Brit Hensel, 2022), which explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world through a story told by an elder and first language speaker.
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