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Embracing the Sublime and the Idiotic: 5 Questions with the Filmmakers of “Friends with Benefits”

Fort Buchanan Fort Buchanan

When it comes to both geography and genre, the loose collective of American filmmakers made up of Gabriel Abrantes, Alexander Carver, Benjamin Crotty, and Daniel Schmidt favor radical destabilization. Their films are hard to categorize. They’re set in an array of countries, including France, Djibouti, Iraq, Puerto Rico, and underneath the US-Mexico border, and they’re not quite family drama, not quite political farce, and not quite science-fiction, though they borrow elements from each. The scenarios in their films often interrogate post-9/11 geopolitics and the legacy of colonization, but at the same time, the filmmakers approach these subjects with an absurd sense of humor that undercuts any self-seriousness. Anchoring their early career retrospective at the Lincoln Center Film Society, which kicks…  Read more

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“Flop”: The Conclusion of Short Film Winner Jim Cummings’ Sundance Video Diary

Cummings

“You won a trophy in a bowling alley — get it together!” Thunder Road short film award-winning director Jim Cummings deals with sudden success in this final installment of his video diary series from the Sundance Film Festival. There are parties and drugs, bad behavior in the snow, nods to Kanye and Birdman, and much more. Check it out above.

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Watch: What Does Oscar Nominated Cinematography Look Like in 2016?

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Kevin B. Lee has been considering the candidates in the major Oscar categories. In this video essay, he  breaks down the styles of the five candidates (The Hateful Eight, Sicario, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol). The sound’s off as Lee narrates, but he also recommends watching the video silently to focus more on the cinematography. Pressed for time? You can read his essay here.

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Watch: The Revenant by Tarkovsky

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Is Andrei Tarkovsky a dominant influence for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant? Misha Petrick makes the case in this split-screen video, with The Revenant on the left and a broad swath of Tarkovsky’s films for comparison on the right.

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A Showcase for Pacific Islands Filmmakers: The Hawaii International Film Festival at 35

Pali Road Pali Road

How does one measure a film festival’s success? Through the number of world premieres, red-carpet events, and sold-out screenings? Or possibly it’s something that occurs beyond the screen, in terms of how a festival supports its community and helps nurture its local film culture. Turning a respectable 35 this past November, the Hawaii International Film Festival attempted to do both. It kept its usual youthful swagger with a strong lineup of world and international premieres and some glamorous events featuring the likes of Japanese star Tadanobu Asano and Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung, yet made sure to spotlight key new works from across Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. More importantly, in its creation of a new Pan-Pacific co-production summit and…  Read more

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SXSW Film Festival 2016 Unveils Feature Film Slate

Pee-wee's Big Holiday Pee-wee's Big Holiday

There will be late additions, but the bulk of this year’s SXSW feature film slate has been unveiled. From the festival, here’s the rundown section by section. Obvious highlights: world premieres of Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, Joel Potrykus’ follow-up to Buzzard, and a documentary about the making of Smokey and the Bandit from Jesse Moss (The Overnighters). NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION Ten world premieres; ten unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling. Selected from 1,443 narrative feature submissions in 2016. The Arbalest Director/Screenwriter: Adam Pinney The inventor of the world’s greatest toy reflects on his decade-long obsession with a woman who hates him. Cast: Mike Brune, Tallie Medel (World Premiere) Before The Sun Explodes Director: Debra Eisenstadt, Screenwriters: Debra Eisenstadt, Zeke Farrow…  Read more

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Five Questions for Newtown Director Kim A. Snyder

Newtown Newtown

Kim A. Snyder’s Newtown examines the current spate of gun violence by presenting the families who have been most affected by it. Three years removed from the horrific school shooting at Newtown Elementary School that took twenty-six casualties in Connecticut, Snyder’s film gives a much-needed face to the community. As discussions revolving around the accessibility of firearms seem to get obscured and buried by politicians with a not-so-secret agenda, Newtown seeks to make the political personal. Filmmaker: Your previous film, Welcome to Shelbyville, was also about the residents of a small town reacting to a major event in their community. What brings you to a location? Are you first interested in a major event that takes place there or is it the residents who determine whether or not you have…  Read more

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Five Questions for How to Tell You’re a Douchebag Writer/Director Tahir Jetter

How to Tell You're a Douchebag How to Tell You're a Douchebag

Having made his Sundance debut with the short film Close. in 2011, filmmaker Tahir Jetter returned with his debut feature, How To Tell You’re A Douchebag — a film that, as he discusses below, he wasn’t sure would bring him back to Park City. After his web series Hard Times was picked up for distribution by Issa Rae Productions in 2014, Jetter set his sights on a feature film about dating in the modern world. To raise awareness of the project, Jetter published a blog, Occasionally Dating Black Women, written in a voice that would turn out to be his fictional main character. Inspired by films that handle romantic relationships in a clever way (Woody Allen and Spike Lee are cited as influences), Jetter’s How To Tell You’re A…  Read more

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Filmmaking

Dope Dope

Hits & Misses: How Seven Films from Sundance 2015 Performed

The health and identity of American independent cinema has always been difficult to gauge and define, but Sundance is our default arbiter and explainer. Of course, indie film exists far beyond the limits of Park City in January, but the festival gives the nebulous American…  Read more

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Jan 20, 2016

Columns

Anomalisa Anomalisa

Puppets and Pantyhose: DP Joe Passarelli on Anomalisa

Watching Anomalisa – the painfully human stop-motion animation film from co-directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman – the same thought flitted through my head as when I viewed The Revenant: “This is incredible, but it was probably a nightmare to work on.” Though free from…  Read more

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on Jan 28, 2016

Festivals & Events

Pali Road Pali Road

A Showcase for Pacific Islands Filmmakers: The Hawaii International Film Festival at 35

How does one measure a film festival’s success? Through the number of world premieres, red-carpet events, and sold-out screenings? Or possibly it’s something that occurs beyond the screen, in terms of how a festival supports its community and helps nurture its local film culture. Turning…  Read more

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on Feb 3, 2016

VOD Picks

Interviews

The Birth of a Nation The Birth of a Nation

Five Questions with The Birth of a Nation Director Nate Parker

For his debut as a feature film writer and director, Nate Parker has told the story of a personal hero: Nat Turner. The Birth of a Nation is also the first major fiction film about Turner, the leader of an infamous 1831 slave rebellion. Parker himself stars as Turner,…  Read more

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on Jan 25, 2016

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