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Publication with a focus on independent film, offering articles, links, and resources.
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    Virtual and augmented reality — a topic that is fast and feverishly taking over the zeitgeist of major film festivals — took center stage in last week’s 24th edition of the Sheffield Doc/Fest. “What exactly is a feature documentary now?” Paul Ashton of Creative England asked panelists from Sundance, VICE, the non-profit film foundation Cinereach and Germany’s broadcast outlet WDR/ARD. In part, he was referring to the festival’s endless range of strands that covered experimental film, live theater and an expanded VR and AR section — “Alternate Reality” — that included 25 works housed inside the stunning Millennium Gallery and […]

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    UK-based Clio Barnard has impressively transitioned from video artist to acclaimed feature filmmaker in the span of just seven years. After making several short films, her feature debut The Arbor, a hybrid documentary about the late playwright Andrea Dunbar, went on to win a bevy of awards, including London Film Festival’s Best British Newcomer award, Tribeca Film Festival’s Jury Award, British Independent Film Awards’ Douglas Hickox Award, and subsequently a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer. Her second feature The Selfish Giant, loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s children’s story of the same name, also […]

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    The Toronto Film Festival closed out its 42nd year with another impressive round of masterclasses and “TIFF talks.” On the industry side, while not as heavily programmed as other festivals, there was an engaging round of panels that tackled on-topic discussions such as diversity and alternative distribution. Typical to other years, a robust line-up of filmmakers and writers made up the festival’s one-to-one talks, their “In Conversation With…” series. Aaron Sorkin’s candid conversation was one of my highlights. He openly discussed his ten year-dependence on drugs, regarding which Carrie Fisher sent him a letter assuring him he could write even […]

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    Diversity was a hotly debated topic within the “Dialogues: At the Table” panel. Gil Robertson, CEO of the African American Critics Association, probed the panelists to explain why people of diverse backgrounds are still struggling to get their films made. The outspoken, decisive Franklin Leonard, who runs online network The Black List, which connects writers and their scripts with agents, producers and financiers, shrugged his shoulders: “The numbers don’t lie. Look at the success of films such as Titanic and Avatar. [They] made it clear many years ago that women could sell films. And this year we have the success […]

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    David Gordon Green finds it difficult to focus on one type of project at any given time, and as a result, frustrates his agents in working out how to market him. But the Arkansas-born, South Carolina-based writer/ director, whose diverse filmography includes early aughts independent standouts like All The Real Girls and George Washington as well as mainstream hits like Pineapple Express, is okay with that — so long as he is aggressively working on projects that he is both passionate about and that challenge him. Opening today in theaters is his modestly-budgeted drama Stronger, which depicts the true story […]

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    Brett Morgen prides himself on adventurously pushing artistic boundaries in documentaries such as The Kid Stays in The Picture, where he used photo animation to capture Paramount producer Robert Evans’ life; Cobain: Montage of Heck, where he integrated the singer’s music and sound collages with archive footage and stylised interviews; and June 17, 1994 an episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series that detailed the sporting events of that day — also the day of O.J. Simpson’s police chase — via a 60-minute montage that excluded narration and interviews. He has been Oscar-nominated for boxing doc On The Ropes (1999) (directed with […]

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    Now 87, Frederick Wiseman is showing no signs of slowing down. His most recent documentary Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, which gives an inside look at the esteemed institution, has been shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Staying true to the filmmaker’s distinctive style of organic, no-fuss lensing, with subtle opinions about his subject matter teased out through his editorial process, Wiseman assuredly conveys in this latest work, via 197 minutes of filmic snapshots, the rich intellectual life offered — and symbolized by — the Library and its offering of community events and talks with figures […]

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    Directing partners Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady — selected for Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces in 2005 — first came on to the filmmaking scene with heartfelt documentaries The Boys of Baraka and Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp. In their latest documentary One of Us, currently available on Netflix and just shortlisted for the Best Documentary Academy Award, their signature cinema verite style of filmmaking unveiled a level of suspense and drama they were not expecting. Centered around three people who are attempting to leave the tight reigns of their New York-based Hasidic Jewish communities, the film goes deep inside an overly controlling, […]

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    Artificial intelligence (AI), the blockchain and mixed reality were at the center of the recently completed Berlin Film Festival’s newly expanded Horizons section. Taking place within the European Film Market (EFM), the 2018 program’s focus on buzzy technological innovations bucked the predictions of some skeptics by drawing sold-out crowds and with several tech companies choosing the festival to launch their platforms. The continued expansion of virtual reality (VR) was also in discussion, with a wide range of projects, including the virtual behind-the-scenes of Wes Anderson’s opener Isle of Dogs, available for viewing in the festival’s inaugural VR cinema. EFM Director […]

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    “Storytelling makes us human, it’s in our DNA,” said writer-director Darren Aronofsky in a keynote panel at SXSW. Giving Filmmaker a shout-out along the way, Aronofsky recalled his early days at Harvard and the American Film Institute and the hours spent watching the first works of Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater on VHS, wondering how he’d break into directing. His research led him to the making of his feature debut Pi, an experimental psychological thriller that was “weird,” was shot on high-contrast black-and-white reversal film, and opted for a non-linear form of storytelling. The film won […]

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    Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative released today a case study for one of its inaugural films that premiered at Sundance last year: Columbus, from :: kogonada, who appeared on Filmmaker’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film list. Opening to strong critical acclaim and grossing over $1 million at the U.S. box office, the film is centered around a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his father is in a coma. In two weeks, an additional case study for Jennifer Brea’s Oscar short-listed doc Unrest will be released. Established in May 2017, the initiative is aimed at […]

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    New Jersey-based filmmaker Tommy Avallone is gathering serious buzz at SXSW for his The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man, a doc charting Bill Murray’s impromptu drop-ins on “the regular folk” — encounters seem closer to urban legends than actual experiences. Even Bill Murray himself said at ComicCon in 2015 that the stories — such as his bartending at the Shangri-la bar in Austin during SXSW 2010 or his showing up at a birthday party in South Carolina after a basketball game or his washing dishes at someone’s house party in St Andrews, Scotland — weren’t […]

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    After several years working in television, veteran independent filmmaker Lynn Shelton (Laggies, Your Sister’s Sister, Humpday) returns to the big screen with Outside In, a tense relationship drama dealing with the complexities of romance. Co-written by Jay Duplass and produced Washington-based Mel Eslyn and Lacey Leavitt, with both Jay and Mark Duplass on board as executive producers, the film opens today in theaters followed by a Netlix release on June 1. Jay Duplass stars as 38-year-old Chris, who is granted early parole thanks to the advocacy of Carol (Edie Falco), his former high-school teacher. As he struggles with the challenges […]

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    Egyptian writer/director Abu Bakr (A.B.) Shawky and his filmmaking and real-life partner Egyptian producer Dina Emam made an impact weeks before their first feature, Yomeddine, even screened in Cannes. Theirs is the rare first-time feature to screen in what is most certainly the most prestigious launchpad for any movie: the festival’s Main Competition. Meaning “Day of Judgment” in Arabic, the film centers around a man with leprosy (Rady Gamal, “Beshay”) who goes in search of his family across Egypt with all of his possessions loaded on a donkey. Together with a young orphaned boy (Ahmed Abdelhafiz, “Obama”), the two fend […]

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    Los Angeles-based writer/director Joe Penna has made a name for himself in the YouTube world with his popular channel MysteryGuitarMan. Combining his passion for music and stop-motion animation, the channel, now over ten years old, boasts 2.8 million subscribers and over 400 million views. Videos such as “Guitar Impossible” have screened at the Guggenheim Museum. In addition to his many commercials for top brands, the native Brazilian gained further attention for his short films, including Instant Getaway, that was produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and Turning Point and was selected to play at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. […]

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    CANNES – Given the news events of the last year, it’s no surprise that the deficit of women and people from ethnic, disabled, and LGBT backgrounds working within the film industry has been a focus at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. On a positive note, practical action has been a key theme here, with many female industry figures expressing a sigh of relief that change is slowly happening across the various sectors of the film industry. Still, this is not without considerable effort. To start the festival, an anti-sexual harassment hotline was put in place in partnership with the French […]

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    As it does every year, the 25th edition of Sheffield Doc/Fest offered more than just a stand-out mix of documentaries. Yes, there were many feature highlights — among them opening night film A Northern Soul, about one man’s desire to create and tour a musical bus post-Brexit in the U.K. working-class town of Hull; part archive/part testimonial fashion doc McQueen; the Sundance and Full Frame-winning Of Fathers and Sons, which masterfully depicts a father who loves his sons yet is teaching them to be jihadi fighters; and Under The Wire, which uses interviews and re-enactments to tearfully tell the story […]