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Tribeca 2017: Erik Nelson on A Gray State

A Gray State

Originating as a concept trailer tapping into an increasingly burgeoning pocket of anti-police-state paranoia, David Crowley’s A Gray State was a film that warned of big government (FEMA = bad) taking over its innocent citizens to enslave and execute them. Like The Purge but with more guillotines and public massacres, Crowley’s footage depicted a low-budget world of state-led slaughter in the streets taking place to control those it sought to protect. A rebellion would be imminent, the story implies, and its tagline, “by consent or conquest,” sounds as much like generic action movie marketing as it does a patriotic call-to-arms. To doubters, the film would appear ridiculous. To those with a penchant for conspiracy theories, it was a sign of things to come. Before embarking…  Read more

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Tribeca 2017: Drew Xanthopoulos on The Sensitives

The Sensitives

There’s a certain feeling of disappointment when you knowingly choose to keep your cell phone, doubling as your alarm clock, near your face when settling in for an evening’s sleep. Having been warned of radiofrequency waves’ ability to cause cancer, keeping an electronic device that close to your brain for hours on end is not, we’re told, a wise decision to make. There are so many electric and synthetic materials in today’s everyday devices that to avoid them all would be to effectively remove yourself from modern society. You accept the potentially harmful results in order to live and work amongst your peers. Drew Xanthopoulos’ documentary The Sensitives follows three sets of people who deal with potentially life-threatening reactions to everyday elements — electrical, chemical, fragrant,…  Read more

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Behind The Graduate‘s “Leg Shot”: Daniel Raim on Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

Two unsung heroes of the American film industry get their due in Daniel Raim’s extraordinary documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. Most filmgoers – even the most informed ones – have probably never heard of Harold and Lillian Michelson, but the history of movies was forever changed by their contributions to classics like The Ten Commandments, The Graduate, The Apartment, West Side Story, and DePalma’s Scarface. Harold was a storyboard artist and Lillian ran a massive Hollywood research library; separately or together, they were essential resources for directors including Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Coppola, Danny DeVito, and Stanley Kubrick. They also, as Raim’s film shows, were deeply in love, and Raim expertly balances reportage of their artistic accomplishments with a…  Read more

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Tribeca 2017: Five Questions with The Last Animals Director Kate Brooks

The Tribeca Film Festival has a history of showing tremendous new environmental documentaries, and this year the stand-out film in this area is Kate Brooks’ The Last Animals, a gut-wrenching investigation into the illicit ivory and rhino horn trade around the globe. When seen in conjunction with the short virtual reality piece The Protectors, which also features the rangers at Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this feature-length doc shines a new light on an issue that is not as far from home as many North American viewers may suspect. At its world premiere screening last week the festival awarded both Brooks and the park rangers a Disruptive Innovation Award for their work in breaking up international wildlife…  Read more

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Tribeca 2017: Five Questions with Blame Director Quinn Shephard

Most of the conversation surrounding Blame, a new film by writer-director-producer-editor-star Quinn Shephard, focuses on her age. At 22, she seems exceptionally young to be undertaking so many roles on a debut feature, but the results attest to her talent and drive. It should be said upfront that Blame is a poignant and incisive examination of modern American adolescence, as filtered through the lens of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the Salem witch trials of 1692, which form the inspiration for this modern-day narrative. The film delves deepest into high school mean-girl culture — with excellent performances by Sarah Mezzanotte and Nadia Alexander, who actually has arguably the most complex and pivotal role (update: and who was awarded the festival’s Best Actress in a…  Read more

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How (and When) to Hire a Documentary Editor: What I Learned Making My First Short Doc

Sole Doctor

It’s six months after my first-ever film shoot on my first-ever film, the short documentary Sole Doctor. And yes, I’m still working on that documentary! After grappling with self-doubt and fretting about the narrative arc, I feel both confident in my vision and totally confused about how to shape the story. In other words, it’s time to find a good editor! But first, a little refresher about the project: Sole Doctor is a short observational-style documentary about George, a 78-year-old African-American shoe cobbler who has owned a business in Portland for over 50 years. Preparing to retire and pass the business on to his son, Joshua, a former modern dancer, George reflects on his career. Did I mention that this is my first-ever…  Read more

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Coffee, Sake and Ambien: Writer/Director Richard Shepard on His Tribeca ’17 Short Film, Tokyo Project

Tokyo Project

An unexpected pleasure at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Tokyo Project is a romantic drama with a psychological twist starring Elisabeth Moss and Ebon Moss-Bacharach and directed by Richard Shepard, whose career traverses dark comedies like The Matador and Dom Hemingway as well as some of the most memorable episodes of TV’s Girls. But what’s unexpected about this story of two American wanderers who hook up in Tokyo while both seemingly escaping their normal lives is, simply, its existence. The half-hour work is beautifully acted and shot (by Giles Nuttgens), coursing with a kind of romantic cinephilia, and, unlike other similarly polished short films today, it’s completely uninflected by logos, product placement or corporate tie-ins. In other words, as Shepard…  Read more

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“Can You Make All Your Money Back Just Showing on TV Every Mother’s Day?”: John Waters on Serial Mom

Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom

The last couple of months have been good ones for John Waters fans. Last month Criterion put out a gorgeous restoration of the director’s first truly great film, Multiple Maniacs, and on May 9 Shout Factory is set to release Serial Mom, a movie Waters made 24 years after Multiple Maniacs with the full resources of Hollywood at his disposal. A hilariously provocative riff on the true crime genre, Serial Mom follows suburban wife and mom Beverly (Kathleen Turner) as she’s driven insane by everything from loud gum chewing to women wearing white after Labor Day; a pristine overseer of a pristine household, Beverly’s obsession with moral and aesthetic perfection collides with her secret fascination with serial killers to turn…  Read more

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Filmmaking

An audience at the Ragtag Cinema (Photo by Billie Stock, courtesy of Ragtag Film Society)

Projecting Outside the Echo Chamber

In the past decade, I have screened thousands of documentary festival submissions. That amounts to countless hours of observing — or, more often than not, being told about — the horrifying effects of war, discrimination, depression, censorship, animal slaughter, plastic bottles, shoddy reporting, asbestos and…  Read more

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Apr 13, 2017

VOD Picks

  • La La Land Drama Musical Romance
    Lionsgate
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    20th Century Fox
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@FilmmakerMag

  • RT @cfccreates: A storyboard artist & a film researcher: On the making of a new doc about Harold & Lillian Michelson. https://t.co/KM7YbGQN…
  • RT @IndependentLens: Sonia Kennebeck (@skdocs), one of @FilmmakerMag's 25 Faces of Indie Film. Watch #NationalBirdPBS Mon, May 1 on @PBS ht…
  • RT @kalyncorrigan: IT COMES AT NIGHT is terrific. a somber portrayal of how sickness turns good people into monsters. trey edward shults is…
  • RT @joshrothkopf: Trey Edward Shults's IT COMES AT NIGHT confirms him as a major voice on the subject of families in extremis. Savage, raw.…
  • RT @robsaucedo2500: IT COMES AT NIGHT is not the film I was expecting. It's something wholly unsettling - spider's nest of unease, dread &…
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