SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FEST + DOC INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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OCTOBER 13, 2021
ALUMNI MAKING NEWS
As of Wednesday afternoon, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) had set a strike date of Monday, Oct. 18, unless the union can reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Union members voted in a landslide last week in favor of the strike (full story here), which would halt production across the U.S. and Canada. The union’s core issues are a 10-hour turnaround between shifts for all workers (54-hour turnaround on weekends), increased meal penalties (to force stops for lunch breaks), and an end to discounted compensation for streaming productions. IATSE president Matthew Loeb has voiced frustration at the lackadaisical pace of negotiations, while a studio spokesperson spoke to the need to keep negotiating in order to avoid a strike, according to Variety. If IATSE strikes, it will be the first time production crews have walked out on productions since WWII.
Filmmaker Ben Masters, of The River and The Wall (Masters, Hillary Pierce, 2019) notoriety was among the partners quoted in a recent Earth Justice release announcing the cancellation of all federal contracts for a border wall in Laredo, Texas. The cancellation followed activism and a lawsuit organized by Earth Justice (see full story here). The River and The Wall captures the journey of 5 friends who set out to document the borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a wall on the natural environment. It was an SDFF 2020 Official Selection.
Gilda Shepperd’s Since I Been Down, is being screened by UC Santa Cruz’s Visualizing Abolition project, along with an interview between Sheppard and author adrienne maree brown on 11/26. The film approaches a bevy of criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980s drug war, many of whom continue to languish behind bars. Visualizing Abolition is a group of graduate students and faculty aiming to expand discourse on mass incarceration and policing through art, and just received an almost $2 million grant. The film, an SDFF 2021 official selection, will stream from 11/21-11/28, registration is required.
AWARDS, FESTIVAL SCREENINGS, APPEARANCES
SDFF 2021 selection Fish & Men (Darby Duffin and Adam Jones, 2019) recently won the Global Audience Choice Award at the 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival in San Francisco, as well as an award at the Berkshire International Film Festival. The film explores the high cost of cheap fish in the modern seafood economy, and the forces threatening local fishing communities as well as the public health. The film was just released on DVD, VOD and digital sale through Virgil films in September.
The Australian Academy of Cinema Television Arts (AACTA) has nominated When The Cameras Stopped Rolling (Pat Fiske, Jane Castle, 2020) for Best Documentary and is one of 12 local docs up for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award. In the film, which showed at SDFF 2021, a cinematographer tells the story of her filmmaker mother, their legacy, and their challenging relationship, using their deep archive.
Hunger Ward (Skye Fitzgerald, 2021) won an Honorable Mention at the Woodstock Film Festival last week. Filmed inside one of the most active therapeutic feeding centers in conflict-ridden Yemen, Hunger Ward is part of Fitzgerald’s Humanitarian Trilogy, all of which have been screened at SDFF.
Susan Strickler won the award for Best Doc from a Female Filmmaker for The Vow From Hiroshima at the 7thAnnual Reading FilmFEST. The doc, an SDFF 2020 film, is an intimate portrait of 85 year-old Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor and activist whose life has been animated by her passion to rid the world of nuclear weapons, which culminates in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Nobel Peace Awards.
Filmmaker Stéphane Goël’s new doc, Citizen Noble, will stream as part of the 12th Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA), beginning Oct. 14. Goël’s film follows 78 year-old Jacques Dubochet, one of the recipients of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, who uses his newfound notoriety and escalated public profile to support the climate movement and raise awareness. Like many of festival’s films, Citizen Nobleaddresses climate change, but its not necessarily the central point of the movie, which is focused on Dubochet’s decision to be a force for good in the world. EFFA will be streaming films 14 feature-length films (nine documentaries and five narrative films) and 39 shorts. People can buy tickets to individual films or selections of films, but the shorts are being sold in two packages so viewers can watch one or both sets of films.Stéphane Goël was the filmmaker behind SDFF 2020’s Islander (2019), a documentary about present day life on the Chilean-Swiss island where Robinson Crusoe once lived and wrote.
Alexander Liu’s A A Sexplanation, showed as part of Atlanta’s LGBTQ Film Festival Out On Film early this month, and is also a part of the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. A Sexplanation is a light-hearted, but deadly serious doc about the impact of U.S. sex ed on Liu, a filmmaker and seasoned TV writer. It showed as part of SDFF 2021/OUTwatch.
Snowy (Alex Wolf Lewis, Justin Levy, Kaitlyn Schwalje, 2020), a documentary short that explores the happiness of a family’s pet turtle, who has been mostly left in solitude, is one of 41 docs selected for the 30thPhiladelphia Film Festival. The festival will be live/in-person, and begins on Oct. 29. Snowy showed as part of SDFF 2021.
Last Meal (Marcus McKenzie and Daniel Principe, 2020) was among the 75 shorts selected for the Oscar® qualifying BendFilm festival in Oregon. Last Meal examines the last meals of death-row inmates, from the opulent to the simple, and was also and SDFF 2021 official selection.
Gianni Berengo Gardin’s Tale of Two Cities (Donna Serbe-Davis, 2019), the dramatic story of a controversial photography exhibition and the escalating battle over cruise ships in Venice, was selected for the Vail film festival in September. The film was an SDFF 2021 official selection.
Unsilenced from writer/director Leon Lee (Letters From Masanjia, SDFF 2019) has been selected for the Austin Film Festival. The new film highlights the personal courage of his characters as they resist oppression in China during the 1990s. Letters From Masanjia which follows the story of a man working in a Chinese forced labor camp, who dropped notes in merchandise, which was found by an Oregon woman.
Enrico Parenti whose film with Stefano Liberti, Soyalism (2019, Italy), was an SDFF 2020 Official Selection, will be presenting Nascita di uno spettacolo at the upcoming Rome Film Festival. The new film was made in collaboration with the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and recounts the making of Rigoletto during the pandemic.
Almudena Carracedo was a featured speaker in the panel discussion “Women Make Documentaries” at the MEDIMED Euro-Mediterranean Documentary Market this year, which took place online. Carracedo was one of the filmmakers behind The Silence of Others (Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, 2018), an SDFF 2019 doc about the fight for 40-year fight for justice among survivors of political violence and torture carried out by the Franco regime in Spain. Carracedo and her interlocuter Susana Guardiola are both representatives of CIMA (Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media).
Comedian Julia Scotti and filmmaker Susan Sandler of Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (SDFF 2021) were featured in a recent article in Southern California LGBTQIA news source Blade Los Angeles, and a related podcast interview with Rated LGBT Radio. Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is a portrait of transgender comedian Julia Scotti, which explores the courage and humor it takes to be Julia.
NEW FILMS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Sally Rubin’s new short Mama Has A Mustache will soon be getting a festival release, but is also being circulated for educational purposes with a teaching toolkit and discussion guide. The film is a fully animated documentary short about gender and family seen through the eyes of a child. It’s driven by audio of interviews with kids (mostly from Rubin’s daughter’s own circle), combined with clip art and mixed media, which are used to explore how children are able to experience a world outside the traditional gender binary. The film has met with positive reviews, and was featured in The Nerd Daily, which also interviewed RubinIn the interview, Rubin talks about their history with documentary, their queerness and the combination of both in this new film.
IDA recently named its 2021 in-kind documentary film award grantees and a new project Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam by Nefise Özkal Lorentzen and Jørgen Lorentzen, whose A Gift From God won the SDFF 2021 Audience Award for Best Feature, made the list. IDA named 11 recipients for the grant that supports filmmakers from any historically excluded community with the intent of minimizing the financial burdens associated with pursuing a film awards campaign. The new doc is a profile of Seyran Ates, a Turkish-German lawyer, feminist, and one of Europe’s first female imams, who has garnered controversy for her stance on changing the patriarchy as it is expressed in Islam, a position that has received criticism from all sides and made Seyran the target of death threats. The new film is already showing in Los Angeles, is also part of the Baturu Cultural Festival and the Cervantes Institute Beijing’s offerings (Oct. 15-Nov. 15), and will soon be opening in San Francisco.
British filmmaker Alfred George Bailey has released a new film about infamous 60s culture and music photographer Jim Marshall, Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall. The film looks at Marshall’s life behind the camera. The film originally premiered at SXSW 2019, but has just released a new trailer on youtube to advertise the film’s upcoming release on Utopia Bailey was one of the filmmakers behind the SDFF 2021 racial justice/interpretive dance doc I Still Breathe.
Last Trip, a new film by Ziad Kalthoum who made the gorgeous experimental Taste of Cement featured in SDFF 2019, has been selected for the Red Sea Souk Project Market initiative. The initiative is meant to support Arab and African filmmakers and offer them a platform to develop and finance their projects, and connect with the industry. The initiative will take place Dec. 8-11, and an accompanying film festival will take place in Jeddah, Dec. 6-15. See more details here.
Pedro Kos has a new doc Rebel Hearts, which follows the story of a group of trailblazing nuns, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who fought for equality and freedom while standing up to church patriarchy during the 1960s. The film includes music from Rufus Wainwright, who had a personal connection to the nuns. The film is streaming now on Discovery+. Kos co-directed SDFF 2018 selection Bending The Arc with Kief Davidson, which told the story of an international health movement that helped teach communities at-risk for treatable illness how to care for members who have fallen ill.
Nathalie Biancheri’s, Wolf, which has met with quite a bit of buzz since premiering at TIFF, was acquired by Focus films, and will be released in the U.S. on Dec. 3. The film is about a young man with “species dysphoria” who believes himself to be a wolf, and stars method actor George MacKay and Lily-Rose Depp. Biancheri’s doc Xavier Corbero: Portrait of an Artist in Winter was an SDFF 2018 selection.
STREAMING– FESTIVALS, DIGITAL PICK-UPS, ARCHIVES
Ben Proudfoot has released In A Galaxy Far, Far Away, He Was Almost Anakin Skywalker, a new film in his ongoing Almost Famous collab with the New York Times Op-Docs, this one about 1990s child actor Devon Michael, whose career was on the rise until he auditioned for the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Proudfoot’s films have shown at SDFF numerous times, the last one 2019’s That’s My Jazz, which is showing as part of a program “Jazz as Muse: Improvisation,” which is one in a series celebrating the Carr Center’s 30th Anniversary. Proudfoot also has 2 shorts A Concerto Is A Conversation and The Ox at this year’s Parrsboro Film Festival, where he will also give a video address about his films and his experiences at the Academy Awards.
SDFF 2021 selection The Dilemma Of Desire, directed by Peabody Award winner Maria Finitzo has been picked up internationally by Utopia. The distributor has set an October release date for North America on streaming platform Altavod, which will be followed by a Nov. 9 release across VOD platforms. Dilemma of Desire is a doc that breaks down cultural myths about women’s desire, bodies and power by exploring the work of 4 women. The film showed as part of SDFF 2021 after premiering at SXSW, and subsequently showing at DocNYC, AFI and HotDocs.
The Worlds of Urusla K. Le Guin (Arwen Curry, 2018), will be streaming on PBS’s American Masters site through Oct. 31.The film has been made available through a partnership with All Arts’ Ballerina Book Club, which selected Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness as their October book of the month. The film was an SDFF 2019 selection that puts the author’s life and work into conversation with eachother. You can stream The Worlds of Usula K. Le Guin will free through Oct. 31 here.
Knocking Down The Fences (Meg Shutzer, 2019) will be streaming as part of Lunafest this year, alongside Maria Finitzo’s Until She Is Free, which imagines a culturally “cliterate” world. Knocking Down The Fences showed at SDFF 2020, and is about AJ Andrews, the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, and her struggle to make it as one of the best professional softball players in the world. Finitzo’s film The Dilemma of Desire was an SDFF 2021 selection. Lunafest is a traveling film festival by, for, and about women that began in 2001, and has been streaming for the past 2 years since COVID hit. You can find streaming dates on their website.
Lynne Sachs has directed a video for the Kristine Leschper track “Figure and I,” the ex-Mothers’ singer’s first single under her own name. The video is available here. Sachs film Maya at 24 has been selected to appear as part of the new Light Matter Festival, which is dedicated to experimental film and media projects. The New York-based festival was co-programmed by James Hansen and Eric Souther and also features films by Simon Liu and Mary Helena Clark. Sachs’ The Washing Society (2018 w/ Lizzie Oleskerd) appeared in SDFF 2018.
The Federation of Film Societies India (FFSI) Keralam has launched a streaming platform for shorts and documentaries, FFSI Online Short & Documentary Theatre, which is available in the U.S. and, at least for now, free. The repository has both contemporary and historic docs and shorts, all Indian productions. While the U.S./English translation of the site isn’t particularly easy to navigate or search in a methodical way, it’s nonetheless a wonderful place to browse.
Public radio and television station GBH has posted an archive of streaming content produced from 1960-2000, Open Vault. The archive includes open access to “unique and historically important” content including series, scholar exhibits and special collections.
UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has recently launched a free, e-course on incorporating documentaries from its Memory of the World register in teaching. The Memory of the World register is intended to preserve documentary heritage, and provide access to it in various parts of the world.
IN OTHER NEWS…
A.O. Scott’s column Is Moviegoing Undemocratic? from the New York Times’s Critic’s Notebook, uses arthouse film Memoria’s one-theater-at-a-time distribution gimmick as an opportunity to gloss the theater vs. streaming debate. While the piece doesn’t necessarily break new ground, it distills some of the core issues for films on giant streaming, and also points to some of the problems with perceptions of online content as inherently more democratic.
Streaming giant Netflix and retail behemoth Walmart have decided to expand their alliance, with Walmart being the outlet for products branded for/related to Netflix shows (Squid Game Stranger Things, Nailed It!), including children’s programming, as well as Netflix-branded merchandise. Netflix will also be adding kiosks to some Walmart stores. While this current partnership doesn’t feel qualitatively different from existing monetization structures for streaming content, it does feel like a potential step towards more integrated product placement/direct marketing in/through streaming content.
The International Space Station became a film set for the first feature film shot in space last week, when Russian actor Yulia Peresild, producer Klim Shipenko, and veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov came aboard to film scenes for an upcoming drama about a surgery done in space. The trio in the film unit were hosted by astronauts aboard the station from around the world and, according to NASA, signals the expansion of commercial space opportunities to include filmmaking.
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