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Pussy Riot: Celiné Sciamma’s Girlhood

Karidja Toure (facing camera) Karidja Toure (facing camera)

We’re beautiful/Like diamonds in the sky. Clad in ripped-off-the-rack evening dresses with anti-theft devices intact, four teens who form a tight clique — semi-tough, to borrow from the Michael Ritchie/Burt Reynolds satire — lip-synch and boogie down to the assertive voice of Rihanna. Celebrating their frequently downplayed femininity, they spiritedly defuse in a hotel room rented for one special night, recharging from the heavy-attitude posturing and word- and fist-fights with newly cast rivals that interrupt their day-to-day aimlessness. Their loyal, affectionate companionship counters the ennui and male dominance entrenched in the world of charmless concrete projects that is Le Clos-Francais, their turf in one of the numerous banlieues far outside Pais in every way. “Group of Girlfriends” is a fairly accurate translation…  Read more

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Sundance 2015: Results, Entertainment and The Witch

Results Results

He may not be your bag, but it’s tough to deny that Andrew Bujalski is one of the most distinctive American independent filmmakers working today. So distinctive that even when he sets his sights on the pseudo-pedestrian genre of the romantic comedy, he finds a way to completely reconfigure the shape of its central love triangle. In Results, Trevor (Guy Pearce) is an Australian in Austin who owns the Power 4 Life fitness studio, living and breathing his own advertising mantras about self-improvement. The recently divorced, suddenly rich Danny (Kevin Corrigan, brilliant) is new in town and eager to buy what Power 4 Life is selling – if not the physical Results, then the life-changing concept behind them. At their…  Read more

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2015 Sundance Short Film Award Winners

World of Tomorrow World of Tomorrow

Last evening at Jupiter Bowl in Kimball Junction, the 2015 Sundance Short Film Awards were doled out over a somewhat temperamental microphone. Stationed at the foot of a bowling alley, Director of Programming Trevor Groth said a few words before turning it over to Jared Hess, who is at the festival with his latest, Don Verdean. Hess told a nice anecdote about forcing his wife Jerusha Hess to invite Pauly Shore to a screening of their first Slamdance short decades back, before reminding the audience that any interest you court in a short film is reason to stay true to that unadulterated vision. The mic cut in and out over his punchlines, but eventually programmers Mike Plante and Kim Yutani introduced the jury members Autumn…  Read more

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Online Hoax: Director Sophie Deraspe Discusses Her Sundance Doc Premiere, The Amina Profile

The Amina Profile

Girl meets girl online. They fall in love from afar — Sandra in Montreal, Amina in Syria. The Arab uprising occurs and soon Amina, star blogger and creator of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” gets swept up in the chaos, then kidnapped, and then disappears. Her frantic paramour goes on a global quest to find her — only to discover that the game-changing World Wide Web is also a web of intrigue and deceit. Fortunately, Sophie Deraspe’s doc The Amina Profile is more than the sum of this now infamous hoax. By smartly training her lens on the unwitting victim and delving into the fallout, Deraspe deftly shifts the focus from (and thus avoids cheaply glorifying) the usual headline-grabbing suspect.…  Read more

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Sundance 2015, Dispatch 4: Experimenter, Station to Station and Listen to Me Marlon

Experimenter Experimenter

It’s been far too long since Michael Almereyda’s last feature, 2009’s dreamy diary film Paradise; his 2015 return with not one but two features (the Ethan Hawke-starring Cymbeline adaptation Anarchy is set for release later this year) is overdue and very welcome. Experimenter, a pared-down biopic of social psychologist Stanley Milgram, ostensibly exists to hit his career highlights, but it’s far from standard issue. As in his career (the writer said with all the authority conferred by a quickly read Wiki), the film begins with, and is dominated by, Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments. The “teacher” sits on one side of a partition, unable to see the “student” on the other side. Questions are asked, each wrong answer resulting in the…  Read more

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“I Believe the Most Important Changes Will Come from Women Lifting Up Other Women”: Sarah Hack on Business and Legal Affairs

Sarah Hack photo 3

I’m with a small group of friends for our inaugural weekly movie night. Thinking that a club name will beget commitment, we arbitrarily choose “Zeitgeist.” It’s the first word we see, frozen on the makeshift projector screen. Zeitgeist Films is the distribution company for our opening film, the first in Laura Poitras’ post-9/11 trilogy and a 2007 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary, My Country, My Country. For her film Citizenfour, Poitras is one of two female directors nominated for Best Documentary in the 2015 Oscar race. None have been nominated this year for Achievement in Directing. None have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. None have been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. No women have been nominated…  Read more

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Rotterdam at 44, Volume #2: Yanks in Holland, Suicidal Poets & the limits of J-Horror

Over My Dead Body Over My Dead Body

The program of American narratives assembled in Rotterdam by Ralph McKay and Inge De Leeuw includes a smattering of world premieres and, for the first time in a while, no films making their international debuts after bows at Sundance. (The latter likely due to the first-time collision of dates between the two festivals.) There is a consistency to the loose narratives in a lot of the work. We get by turns somber and cluttered ensemble pieces with light running times, generously adorned with micro-indie actors whose faces will be familiar to the ever-shrinking flotilla of scenesters who follow such films, ones that in this case prove but fragments of an experience that is clearly personal but not fully articulated by…  Read more

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Sundance Announces Groundbreaking Transparency Project at #ArtistServices Workshop

A detail from the Transparency Project analytics tool A detail from the Transparency Project analytics tool

Data — it’s the most coveted property in independent film. While studios base their greenlight decisions on finely-honed models derived from the financial performance of numerous other pictures, many independent filmmakers perilously based investor pitches and distribution decisions on anecdotes and hearsay. What used to be simple extrapolation (“If that film grossed X, it probably did Y on home video”) has become a near impossible exercise in the age of digital distribution, in which paltry box-office returns hide “the real numbers” — a dizzying matrix of VOD stats, download figures, Netflix license fees and more and more obscure sub-categories of revenue. For independent producers, this opacity is a growing problem, preventing them from securing the private investment needed to make…  Read more

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Filmmaking

A detail from the Transparency Project analytics tool A detail from the Transparency Project analytics tool

Sundance Announces Groundbreaking Transparency Project at #ArtistServices Workshop

Data — it’s the most coveted property in independent film. While studios base their greenlight decisions on finely-honed models derived from the financial performance of numerous other pictures, many independent filmmakers perilously based investor pitches and distribution decisions on anecdotes and hearsay. What used to…  Read more

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Jan 26, 2015

Festivals & Events

mainstreet

The Sundance Question: What Fear Did You Confront in the Making of Your Movie?

Each year Filmmaker asks all the incoming feature directors at Sundance one question. This year, our question revolves around fear. Specifically, what fear — whether it’s personal, or one related to the development, financing, production or distribution of your film — did you have to confront and conquer in the making…  Read more

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on Jan 21, 2015

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