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Power and Perspective in Storytelling: How To Support Each Other, Authentically Represent Characters, and Dismantle The White Power Structure


Armed with Faith (Photo: Asad Faruqi)

Discussing the Other, race, and privilege in documentaries is no straightforward task. Who can tell whose story to whom using whose story-telling techniques have been questions since before 1922’s Nanook of the North, and when we toss in why, and whose paying for it, it doesn’t get simpler. At a panel on perspective and point of view in storytelling at DOC NYC PRO, filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña deftly moderated as five award-winning filmmakers who present as non-white grappled with some of the issues around representation, the white gaze, and what we as individuals can do to support each other, act authentically towards those we represent, and begin to dismantle the white power structure we often make films within. Who Can Tell…  Read more

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A Spoiler-Free Review of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Last Jedi

When The Force Awakens came out, I was totally fine with it; judging by IRL/online post-screening reactions, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi is going to be broadly received as definitely better, possibly great. (That’s the “objective” opinion fanboy types say they’re looking for when angrily commenting on reviews disparaging their favorite properties.) Meanwhile, I had a strange experience, asking myself throughout why I wasn’t having a better time. Making a new Star Wars film is both hard (big production, managing continuity within the greater franchise universe, executing coherent and hopefully exciting action sequences) and not: almost everyone showing up will have some kind of serious pre-existing goodwill for the film, even if primarily due to (guilty?) nostalgia. The Abrams installment probably leaned…  Read more

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“My Approach is More Novelistic than Journalistic”: Director Frederick Wiseman on His Oscar-Shortlisted Doc, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Ex Libris: New York Public Library

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 like Patti Smith, Elvis Costello and Richard Dawkins. Ex Libris steers clear of underlying politics, such as the controversy surrounding the…  Read more

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Watch: “American Carnage: The Films of Steve Bannon”

From 2004 to 2016, Steve Bannon directed nine feature-length documentaries. Bannon, who professes open admiration for the aesthetics of Leni Riefenstahl, believed for a time that his films, which bear dire titles like Battle for America, Fire From the Heartland and District of Corruption, would catapult him to prominence as the right-wing’s cinematic answer to Michael Moore. Diving into his oeuvre is not unlike experiencing the last decade’s-worth of popular political documentaries but through a conservative looking-glass. Bannon’s films illustrate both his dangerously apocalyptic worldview, and provide an object lesson for probing the thin line between documentary and propaganda. They’re also near-unwatchable. But, they are texts worth encountering in order to get a fuller picture of the man who has so thoroughly upended our politics. American Carnage began its life as an article, published in the…  Read more

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Watch: Christopher Arcella’s Bitcoin-Inspired Short, The Satoshi Sculpture Garden

With bitcoin values soaring and “blockchain” the soon-to-be-new film industry buzzword, Christopher Arcella is out with a well-timed short, The Satoshi Sculpture Garden. With a cool, meditative calm, he follows a young woman as she surveys an outdoor sculpture garden consisting of pieces that play upon ideas tied to the cryptocurrency. Data visualization indeed! From Arcella’s director’s statement: In order to fully appreciate Bitcoin one needs to have a basic understanding of Bitcoin’s technology and the systems that the technology is disrupting. Otherwise, trying to understand Bitcoin is a bit like trying to derive meaning from abstract sculpture. The Satoshi Sculpture Garden is a short film that places audiences into such a situation. Each sculpture in the film represents a…  Read more

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Slamdance Announces 2018 Beyond Films and Narrative + Doc Shorts Competitions

Slamdance’s Beyond category — for emerging filmmakers working beyond their first features — was announced yesterday along with its two shorts competitions, with five world premieres gracing the first category. The 2018 Slamdance Film Festival runs January 19-25 in Park City, Utah. Check out the announcement below. BEYOND PROGRAM Back at the Staircase (USA) World Premiere Director: Drew Britton Distant siblings are unexpectedly tasked with planning for the future after their elderly mother suffers a life-threatening accident on the eve of her milestone birthday party. Cast: Jennifer Lafleur, Stephen Plunkett, Leonora Pitts, Mickey O’Hagan, Logan Lark, Heather LaVine Funny Story (USA) World Premiere Director: Michael Gallagher After years of being a neglectful father, a womanizing TV star decides to crash…  Read more

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Tall Trees and Inner Lives: Kate and Laura Mulleavy on their Debut Film, Woodshock

A24 is having a good year. Again. After last year ushering Moonlight to Oscar gold, they are now poised to do the same with Lady Bird, Good Time, The Disaster Artist and The Florida Project. If they were distributing Call Me By Your Name, they’d have a monopoly on hip films of the season. Indeed, the distributor has a knack for creating pop-culture phenomenon out of independent films that might have been buried by other distributors. I’ve really been enjoying the “Lady Bird for President” posters and seeing pink hair trending. But what happens to the films in their packed slate that aren’t Oscar bait, or are slightly more experimental? Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s Woodshock is a prime example of…  Read more

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VOD Picks

  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer Black Comedy
    A24
    Official site
    12/26/17 MOD VOD
  • Good Time Drama Thriller
    A24
    Official site
    11/21/17 MOD VOD

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