Deej documentary to show on PBS from Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2019

SDFF 2019 Official Selection, America ReFramed: DEEJ, is streaming for free this month and will be rebroadcast on World TV (KQED) on July 14 at 8 p.m. as part of a month-long commemoration and celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the #MoveToInclude initiative. The film is an SDFF 2019 Official Selection, and its filmmaker Robert Rooy is a long-time SDFF alum. The film ended up winning a Peabody and an Emmy nomination.

DEEJ is the story of DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a gifted, young writer and advocate for nonspeaking autistics, whose work proves he’s far from silent. Though directed by Rooy, Savarese is both a commentator and co-producer of DEEJ, not merely its subject.

Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid who was perceived as already on a fast track to nowhere, the Deej of the film is a first-year college student who insists on standing up for his peers: people who are dismissed as incompetent because they are neurologically diverse. He argues forcefully they are too often “housed in classrooms of easy lessons.” DEEJ tells a coming-of-age story that showcases a young man’s resolve and creativity in forging strong bonds with his parents, his devoted extended family, and a community of close friends. Profound and unflinching, the film reveals what it takes to make the goals of “inclusion” and “disability rights” a reality. Will Deej be able to find freedom in his own life and for others like him?

To learn more about the World Channel’s Commemoration of the ADA’s 30th Anniversary and the #Move To Include, Click Here.

To learn more about the film Deej, Click Here.

Sebastopol film festival

We’d like to congratulate That’s My Jazz for their Webby win in editing! That’s My Jazz is an SDFF 2020 Official Selection and one of the more recent projects to come out of Breakwater Studios, which is also responsible for Life’s Work, honored by SDFF in 2017.

Breakwater’s oeuvre of documentary shorts is well worth seeking out, particularly given its background in creating branded content, which may be at first glance appears to be at odds with documentary filmmaking. While the proliferation of branded content has been a hallmark of the era of spreadable media, Breakwater’s shorts are visually striking and emotionally compelling in completely unexpected ways. That’s My Jazz is one of Breakwater’s newer offerings, and has appeared as part of the Tribeca Film Festival and hotdocs. The film is unexpectedly moving and beautifully shot (and edited!) and has been followed by a lauded collaboration between Ben Proudfoot/Breakwater and the New York Times, Almost Famous, which focuses on people who are just slightly adjacent to history.

Almost Famous is directed by Breakwater founder, Nova Scotian filmmaker Ben Proudfoot, who started the studio with an eye towards the “return of original and handmade filmmaking, to explore and evangelize the idiosyncratic power of the short.” The studio’s collection of documentary shorts tends to celebrate individuals or places in poetic fashion, and mix contemporary sensibility and subjects with the exploratory impulse and celebration of the film medium that defined early actualities. The studio also hearkens back to the studio era, working out of Disney’s original business offices while looking to update the creative studio campuses of the 1930s. This engagement with the past is part of what makes the studio’s thoroughly modern content stand out.

In addition to nods from traditional film festivals like Tribecca, hotdocs, or our own SDFF, Breakwater has also been in the running for newer honors like the Webbies. In 2018, they received a Webby nomination for their first original, Kunstglaser, and in 2019, they were honored in the Long Form category and the Youngest Captain winning the Best Branded Entertainment Documentary Webby. This year, Breakwater received three nods, two for That’s My Jazz, which won for Best Video Editing. Proudfoot and Breakwater have also been honored by SDFF on two occasions, most recently for That’s My Jazz, which was a 2020 Official Selection.

In That’s My Jazz Milt Abel II, a world renowned pastry chef, reflects on his relationship with his deceased father Milton Abel Sr., famed Kansas City Jazz musician. Milt longed to follow in the fortuitous footsteps of his father, but on a different stage. From a young age he found his passion in the culinary arts, working his way from being a dishwasher in diners to the head pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s prestigious restaurant, The French Laundry, and sous pastry chef at the two-Michelin-star Noma. But while Milt II was rising to the top in his career, his father’s was slowly coming to an end. That’s My Jazz follows Milt II at the peak of his career yet facing the realization of his own limitations. Finding himself at a critical crossroad of life, Milt II pushes the button to turn back time, reflecting on the rise of his star and its intersection with the sunset of his father’s.