Author Archives: jodyarlington

2010 in review

Happy New Year from all of us at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival.  The 2011 Festival is only six months away, and we are already scouring the world for the best documentaries to showcase this year.  Many Silverdocs 2010 films have already begun to show up on Awards rosters, and we will be sure to tip our hats to them here in the coming weeks.  In the interim, while our blog is not as active as our e-blasts and other web updates, the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and provided this summary, with out top five entries:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2010. That’s about 19 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 55 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 76 posts. There were 59 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 17mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 27th with 276 views. The most popular post that day was Silverdocs Movie Review: La Isla.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were silverdocs.com, twitter.com, silverdocs.bside.com, facebook.com, and wgaeast.org.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for donal mosher, troll 2, silverdocs blog, microcosmos, and silverdocs.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Silverdocs Movie Review: La Isla June 2010

2

Best Worst Party Follows BEST WORST MOVIE June 2009
1 comment

3

About May 2009
2 comments

4

FCC Chairman Extols Internet’s Distribution Opportunities for Filmmakers June 2010
1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

Schröder’s Dr. Nakamats begs the question: Do Wes Anderson characters exist in real life?? June 2010

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The World’s Largest Human Migration

One film that is definitely on my radar to see this year at AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs is LAST TRAIN HOME, directed by Lixin Fan. Every spring, 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This is the largest human migration and it plunges China into chaos. The Zhang family is followed throughout this stunning beautiful documentary. The two parents, Changhua and Sugin, leave their two children behind their two infant children with their grandmother in order to work in factories. The director notes that “being away from one’s family was never encouraged, but a changing society shifted the value toward a pragmatic approach of bettering one’s material life.” Parents work away from home and send their earnings home to the grandparents and children, but this material comfort does not translate into “filial” affection.

Chen Suqin, who, during the documentary has not seen her children in 3 years, admits to the director, “I know I haven’t been a good mom, but I have to do what I have to do.” I think that this film will definitely show the heartbreaking family dynamics of numerous Chinese families  and how their relationships and values have been completely shattered. I think it will be very important for audiences to see this film-seeing this enormous exodus of Chinese men and women return to their families will definitely astound many and will make us think about how lucky Americans are to not have to experience anything at this level of extremity. The struggle for men and women to find a place on a train to their home amongst the great sea of humanity is definitely something that you must see to believe!

The following question has been taken from a Q&A with Lixin Fan:

Q: In making this film, what have you learned which is most precious?

A: One thing I have learned is that a candid relationship between the filmmaker and the subject is essential to making a strong and truthful representation of life. During the production, the crew and the subjects talked about everything together. I sensed as a filmmaker that you can’t only think of what you can get from your subject, you have to share your own ideas and emotions. Many times, I got great footage when I felt I was with my subjects in their emotional world. I live the moment with my subjects, my heart feels their pain, their love, their sorrow and courage. But at the same time, my mind keeps my rational thinking.

Don’t miss the screenings for LAST TRAIN HOME this year at Silverdocs!

–posted by Ann Trimble

From Sierra Leone–‘War Don Don’

Director/Producer Rebecca Richman Cohen brings to the screen an extraordinary documentary about the trial of Issa Sesay who is charged as a war criminal, guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone. This film has already won the Special Jury Award at SXSW Film Festival, the Karen Schmeer Award at IFFBoston, and the Cinereach Award at the Human Rights Watch: Film Festival New York all in 2010.

Cohen explains to audiences: “I hope WAR DON DON offers an insider’s view about the complex moral, political, and legal questions that issue from rebuilding lawless and war torn nations – and will inspire thoughtful debate about the future of international criminal justice.”

The subject of Sierra Leone has been in the news recently-here are two articles from the New York Times:

The Prosecution of Charles G. Taylor

Accused of War Crimes, and Living with Perks

Click HERE to visit the film’s official website which includes a trailer, information about the filmmakers, reviews about the film and lots more!

This film is sure to impress audiences at this year’s AFI -Discovery Channel Silverdocs film festival-find out when ‘War Don Don’ will screen at Silverdocs 2010 and buy your tickets HERE

***There will be a post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen, Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador for War Crimes Issues, former Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Alpha Sesay, Trial Monitor for Open Society Justice Initiative in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor; Moderated by Roy Gutman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Chairman of the War Crimes Project.***

–posted by Ann Trimble

Photography and Silverdocs

This year’s AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs slate includes numerous films that include photography such as C. Scott Willis’ THE WOODMANS, Malcolm Murray’s CAMERA, CAMERA, Lucy Walker’s WASTE LAND, Richard Press’ BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, and Miro Remo’s ARSY-VERSY and I am definitely excited to see as many of these films as possible.

I am very interested in hearing the Q&A for the films CAMERA, CAMERA and WASTE LAND.

CAMERA, CAMERA delves into the subject of the tourist in Laos and how the digital camera is the universal sign of the tourist there. The film asks audiences if westerners are steadily removing themselves from reality by looking through the camera’s viewfinder. The film asks audiences to reconsider what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land.

I studied abroad in Italy last summer and my iPhoto currently holds hundreds and hundreds of pictures from my adventures overseas.  As I think about the film, CAMERA CAMERA, and compare it to my experience as a tourist I can definitely say that I may have blocked reality by hiding behind my viewfinder. Everything I had known about Italy before arriving in the country had been seen through beautiful pictures of the country and in other films that I had seen. I think after seeing these images, I tried to mimic the framing, shutter speed, lighting or whatever other camera technique that made these images appealing to me. What was I trying to capture? The rolling hills of Tuscany surrounding Orvieto? The perfect angle of the Colosseum in Rome? The colors of the fruit set up outside of stores along the cobblestone roads? The beauty of the Duomo in Florence? It turns out, I had seen all of these images before my trip and I basically wanted to mimic them for my own albums. I would jump on a plane right now and go back to Italy (don’t tell my boss!) but I would leave my camera behind. Wait, would I really leave my camera? This past semester I took my first actual photography class and learned so much about camera techniques and the innovative photographers who made their styles apparent. This class taught me to take my camera everywhere so. . .maybe I would regret not taking it. I think the conclusion is this: I think that CAMERA, CAMERA is trying to ask people to really take in their surroundings and culture and not think that they have to capture EVERY single image by way of a camera, and I am extremely interested to hear what the filmmaker has to say about his experience filming CAMERA, CAMERA. Find out when the Silverdocs 2010 screenings are of CAMERA, CAMERA HERE

At the opposite end of the photographic spectrum from pro-forma photography present in CAMERA, CAMERA, is the groundbreaking work of Francesca Woodman, whose compositions are known world over.

THE WOODMANS, directed by C. Willis Scott, focuses on an entire family of working artists. The Woodman household was one in which aesthetic priorities were foremost–for George, wife Betty, and their children Charlie and Francesca, art was not only a vocation but a way of being in the world. This carefully crafted film explores the continuing artistic endeavors of the family while recounting the troubled life of Francesca, whose innovative and prescient photographic work would achieve acclaim decades after its creation. To see when Silverdocs screenings are of THE WOODMANS find out HERE

Lucy Walker’s WASTE LAND is another film showing at Silverdocs this year that I am looking forward to seeing. The film begins as a physical journey from an art studio in Brooklyn all the way to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, and soon becomes a transformative power of art. Walker follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz who creates photographic images of people using found materials from the places where they live and work. “The beautiful thing about garbage is that it’s negative; it’s something that you don’t use anymore; it’s what you don’t want to see,” says Muniz. “So, if you are a visual artist, it becomes a very interesting material to work with because it’s the most nonvisual of materials. You are working with something that you usually try to hide.”

I guess the saying “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” can come into play here. Built on the edge of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay directly across form the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, whose back is turned to it, arms outstretched away towards the south, the metropolitan landfill of Jardim Gramacho receives more trash every day than any landfill in the world. 7,000 tonnes of garbage arriving daily make up 70% of the trash produced by Rio de Janeiro and surrounding areas. Vik Muniz “lives for the moment when all of our fixed preconceptions fail us and we are forced to enter a dialogue with the world we inhabit. In this moment we are confronted with the chaos that is otherwise hidden from view. It is precisely through his art work (both in product and process) that Muniz harnesses the generative possibility of chaos.” I am very interested to see his works of art when this film is screened at Silverdocs. See when the screenings will be for WASTE LAND at Silverdocs 2010 HERE

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, directed by Richard Press, deals with a mainstay of the “Sunday Styles” section of the New York Times, Bill Cunningham, who is always taking photographs for his two columns (“Evening Hours” and “On the Street”). These columns showcase the fashion trends of New York City. Studiously devoted to his work, Bill gets around on a beat-up bike and lives frugally in a studio above Carnegie Hall that is mostly storage space for his extensive archives, which are a time capsule of how we dressed week-by-week. What comes through the film are Bill’s exceptional generosity and good spirits, even as the 80-year-old must adapt to the changing modern world. Find out when BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK screenings are at Silverdocs 2010 HERE

ARSY-VERSY, directed by Miro Remo, focuses on Lubos, who is a happy-go-lucky 50-something who lives with his aging mother in what some would call a codependent relationship. Lubos is content to live in his own world, collecting butterflies, taking photographs and studying bats. However, his mother worries about him and what might become of him once she is gone. A quirky, unexpected treat, ARSY-VERSY takes a unique look at a mother-son relationship in which Lubos lives his free-spirited life, like the title says, upside down. To find out when ARSY-VERSY will be screened at Silverdocs 2010, click HERE

For all of you interested in photography I would definitely check out these films, and to see the entire slate of films for the festival this year go to silverdocs.com. The films will be sure to impress this year!

–posted by Ann Trimble

May the force be with you, Alexandre O. Philippe

T minus 18 days until the first screening at SilverDocs 2010! One film that I am most anxiously awaiting to see is Alexandre O. Philippe’s The People vs. George Lucas. This film delves into the complex relationship between the artist’s creation and the audience who claims it as their own. What this film will showcase is how George Lucas couldn’t have predicted how his world of Jedi knights and an evil Empire would impact millions of fans around the world. Nor could he conceive fans reaction to his alterations to the theatrical version of STAR WARS or much-derided prequel trilogy. No one would have ever guessed that Star Wars would become the multi-billion dollar franchise that George Lucas created—and owns every bit off—and I am definitely excited to see why and how many fans have ultimately turned against Lucas. Audiences will be able to answer the question: “Has he fulfilled his destiny or has he destroyed his legacy?” as the trailer below asks. –posted by Ann Trimble

To find out when the screenings at SilverDocs 2010 go HERE

***Dale Pollock (author of Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas) will have a moderated conversation with Alexandre Philippe at Silverdocs 2010!***

Here is the interview with the filmmaker:

Introduce yourself:

I’m a Swiss-French filmmaker, born in Lausanne and raised in Geneva. After spending a few years in England and Zimbabwe during my late teens, I moved to San Diego San Francisco, and eventually New York City, where I got my BFA and MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Shortly after graduating, I moved to Denver (where I currently reside), created my own production company (Cinema Vertige), and wrote/directed a number of short subject narrative and non-fiction films, as well as several feature-length documentaries. THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS is my third feature doc.

What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?

I’ve had the title in my head for approximately five years now. As a STAR WARS fan myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the profound love/hate that George Lucas manages to conjure in his fans. There’s truly nothing quite like it in popular culture, and in the history of cinema. It’s a unique pop culture phenomenon that needed to be explored in a feature-length film, and that’s what drove me during the past three years. We had to knock on a lot of doors to find our main subjects, but the film is also a participatory documentary, and thousands of fans submitted their footage, opinions and ideas. We ended up with 634 hours of footage as a result.

What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

Because of our title, our biggest challenge was convincing people that our intent was to make a balanced and objective film. It is, in fact, a loving tribute to a filmmaker I greatly admire. I think the biggest surprise was discovering George’s 1988 testimony before Congress. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s definitely one of the high points of the film.

Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?

David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcock, Tex Avery, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Nicolas Roeg, Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, Wes Anderson

What is your all time favorite documentary?

CRUMB (Terry Zwigoff)

What other projects are in the pipeline?

Many exciting projects are in the pipeline including another feature doc about a controversial celebrity (which will probably be my next film), a Western, an animated fairy tale, an animated historical epic, a psychological thriller, and a slew of other short and feature docs currently in various stages of development.

Why did you become a filmmaker?

I was originally a playwright and screenwriter. I had several close calls with Hollywood and eventually decided to make my own films, because I couldn’t stand the idea that complete strangers could decide if my voice was worthy of being heard. So I became a filmmaker out of necessity and stubbornness.

What are some of the creative influences?

In the broadest sense—and at the risk of sounding a little corny—life is my creative influence. Any topic, any story can be worthy of a documentary if one is willing to dig enough to discover what it fundamentally is about, and how its broader themes and ideas might resonate with audiences. More specifically, I think I’m heavily influenced by comic book and fanboy culture, Japanese art and cinema, and the vicious humor of Tex Avery cartoons (which I adored as a kid).

Did you go to film school?

Not exactly, but close: NYU Dramatic Writing. That’s probably why I always put the emphasis on storytelling.

What do you shoot on?

A variety of HD cameras—primarily the Song EX1 and Song Cinealta F900.

What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking on the film festival circuit?

The lines! We packed huge theaters in Austin and Toronto and had to add screenings due to popular demand. We knew that the STAR WARS fans would show up, but audiences turned out to be a lot more eclectic than we expected, so it’s clear that our film has wide appeal beyond its core fan base.

Why did you want to screen your film at SILVERDOCS?

SILVERDOCS is known around the world as one of the most important documentary film festivals on the circuit, and I believe it will be an important stepping stone in the career of our film. Considering the central thematic role of the Library of Congress in our documentary, screenings at SILVERDOCS are also geographically significant for us.

Poster for 'The People vs. George Lucas'

Schröder’s Dr. Nakamats begs the question: Do Wes Anderson characters exist in real life??

Now that the  Silverdocs 2010 slate has officially been announced, I can start talking about the films I’m most excited to see. First up: The Invention of Dr. NakaMats. Dr. NakaMats is an inventor, famous in Japan, who has invented more patents than any other person in the world. But I can hardly believe this guy. He tests out cameras by smelling them! And sleeps “maximum” four hours per day! Judging from the trailer, filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder seems to allow NakaMats to craft his own image, which the inventor appears to relish like a child using his parent’s camcorder. I preemptively wonder if I’ll crave a more in-depth portrait of NakaMats, past the quirky genius that the inventor seems to self construct. However, what is sure to not disappoint: the beautiful, candy-colorful images of NakaMats and his Tokyo backdrop and the enchanting score by Wes Anderson’s favored composer Mark Mothersborgh.  –posted by Natalie Murchison

Check out trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_w9XMTJnpM

And interview with the filmmaker HERE:

Introduce yourself:

My name is Kaspar Astrup Schröder. I’m a film director from Denmark. I work in a variety of mediums and really enjoy the interplay between platforms.

What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

I’ve been travelling and working in Japan and came across a blog that headlined something like: “The world recorder of patents gets his ideas underwater.” That really intrigued me and I did some research, found some articles and interviews with Dr. NakaMats and contacted him. Then met him in Paris and we had a great connection. Before shooting my subjects, I need to see how our energy interacts. And it was good, so I went forth with applying for funding.

What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

I had a clear thought on how I wanted to make the film. I wanted to be a fly on the wall and observe the life of Dr. NakaMats without challenging him too much. I had prepared about three pages of scenes I wanted to shoot with him. But when I arrived, he gave me his 30-page line-up of scenes. Then he kept talking to the camera and couldn’t ignore my presence. So I had to drop my initial thoughts and go with his flow by letting my camera’s being be present in the film and adapt to the situation. That was a real fun challenge and also a gift for the film, I think.

Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?

I have a background in narrative films, so I’m very much inspired by fiction, even though documentaries sometimes surpass fiction. I enjoy the films by Wong Kar-Wai, Tran Anh Hung, Wes Anderson, and Hirokazu Kore-Eda

What is your all time favorite documentary?

There are so many good ones, but BILLY THE KID is one that comes to mind.

What other projects are in the pipeline?

I’m working on a few documentary features. I just finished a new film about Parkour and Architecture, called MY PLAYGROUND and that is starting distribution and the festival circuit. Check more on my website. Other than that soon I will shoot a new doc feature in Japan. It’s already got a title, which is also the name of the main company that will be featured in the film. It’s called “I WANT TO CHEER UP LTD.,” which is a company that rents out “fake” family members. That’s all I can tell about it at this point.

Why did you become a filmmaker?

I like to tell stories. Especially stories that are true. My memory is in images. I remember an image rather than a sound or text, so I’ve always been drawn to telling stories with images. It’s been a natural process for me to turn out to be a filmmaker. What are some of your creative influences? People that think “out of the box” and don’t follow trends or “the rules of society” inspire me. I’m also inspired by solitude and loneliness. Did you go to film school? No, but I attended a one-year film course at “The European Film College.” What do you shoot on? HD. Sony XDCAM EX-1 with a Letus adapter. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit? It’s really a privilege and honor to see how a film you’ve made can take on a life of it’s own. To send it out there and get the positive feedback that it has gotten is really what makes it all worthwhile. It’s the first time I get to travel with a film, so that’s been unexpected. Why did you want to screen your film at SILVERDOCS? It’s a great festival with a lot of diversity.

Silverdocs Slate Announcement Coming Soon…

Silverdocs is just a couple weeks away of from announcing our full slate of films, special programs and other key content.  Mark May 27th at 2pm to visit silverdocs.com and view the festival’s 2010 lineup.  The hardworking programming committee was sequestered in the conference room into the wee hours of 10:30 pm last night battling it out for favorite films.  Lines were drawn squarely between advocates for films on similar subjects for which…there can be only one.  While there is a small part of me that is always wondering if there might be some big drama–food fights, bruises, overturned tables and verbal smackdowns–our hardworking team remains smart, civilized and passionate, leaving the big drama to unspool on screen.  Here is a pre-slate release tip:  audiences will not be disappointed with this year’s pending line up.