There is little navel-gazing in writer/director/co-producer Maya Vitkova’s Viktoria, in spite of the film’s specific focus and autobiographical elements. In fact, there is no navel at all on its principal protagonist, the young Viktoria (Daria Vitkova as a small child, Kalina Vitkova as a preteen and teenager, both nieces of the filmmaker). She is born in Bulgaria in 1979 without bellybutton or umbilical cord. Her birth falls on the anniversary of the Socialist Revolution, a pretext for the politically motivated anointment of the “Baby of the Decade” and adulation by the general population, at least until their system buckles. “We no longer need umbilical cords!” pontificates the nation’s ebullient, proud-as-a-papa leader Todor Zhivkov (Georgi Spasov) following delivery at a (hilarious)… Read more
One of the most powerful pieces at Tribeca’s Storyscapes program this year was a nine-minute evocation of the experience of solitary confinement produced by The Guardian. Now available for Google Cardboard or simply viewed as a web video on The Guardian‘s site, 6×9, directed by Lindsay Poulton and Francesca Panetta, is both a masterful exploration of VR’s promise as well as a penetrating look at the corrosive psychological effects of solitary confinement. Overused in the American prison system — to say nothing of being simply inhumane — solitary confinement becomes, as 6×9 succinctly demonstrates, a form of torture. On an artistic level, the piece’s brevity is one of its greatest achievements. The directors, drawing on testimony and interviews with prisoners… Read more
After more than 30 years on screen — from his baby-faced days on Little House on the Prairie to his work on Arrested Development — Jason Bateman directed his first feature in 2013 with Bad Words. He now returns behind the camera with The Family Fang, an adaptation of the 2011 bestselling novel by Kevin Wilson. The Family Fang charts the 40-year saga of a family led by a pair of eccentric performance artists: Caleb (Christopher Walken) and Camille (Maryann Plunkett) Fang. In the ’70s, the Fang parents enlisted their children Baxter (Bateman) and Annie (Nicole Kidman) to act in their abrasive art projects. In the present day, the adult children have other ideas. I recently spoke with Bateman at a Soho hotel during… Read more
Over at Fandor Keyframe, Scout Tafoya muses about what makes a great cinematographer. “None of us seems to quite have the same definition of great photography,” he intones. “It seems that none of us agree what a cinematographer is supposed to do, what their relationship is with the image, the camera itself.” He asked dozens of critics to select ten films that feature their version of ideal photography in order to see if there was any common ground among them. He then created a video essay (above) analyzing the films that received the most votes, including The Tree of Life, The Conformist, Days of Heaven, The Magnificent Ambersons and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. You can read all of the critics’ responses… Read more
Rama Rau’s League of Exotique Dancers is an absolutely delightful and lovingly crafted doc structured around a group of legendary striptease artists as they prepare to return to the stage for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas — a trip which becomes merely an excuse for the filmmaker to delve deeply into the extraordinary lives of some truly groundbreaking women. Among the timelessly sexy inductees is none other than Kitten Natividad, best known as cult director Russ Meyer’s buxom muse. Prior to the film’s Hot Docs premiere, Filmmaker was fortunate enough to catch up with the Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens star to discuss everything from drinking with Meyer and Roger Ebert, to surviving breast cancer… Read more
One of the highlights of this year’s on-stage conversations at the Tribeca Film Festival was this sit-down between Francis Ford Coppola and his unlikely interrogator Jay McInerney. For years now, Coppola has been kicking around the concept of a “live cinema,” which is tricky to define, but he gets down to brass tacks in this conversation, which lasts just under an hour.
Zach Prewitt rounds up his 20 best sci-fi movies of the century so far in this video essay. For more context (or just to see the list), click here for his accompanying essay (which also includes an explanation of why seemingly obvious contenders Gravity and Interstellar were excluded). Needless to say, if you want to go into these films totally blind, perhaps this is one to avoid.
Raising over $1.1 million on Kickstarter, Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa (working title) recently shattered the crowdfunding record for a documentary project, previously held by the Bill Nye film. Directed by Alex Winter (Deep Web), the film is an authorized exploration of the iconic musician’s life and work. Of course, the project benefited from Zappa’s name recognition and hardcore fan base. But that alone isn’t enough to carry a crowdfunding campaign. In order to drive engagement, the filmmakers extended the campaign far beyond Kickstarter itself with coordinated benefit screening events of Zappa’s concert film Roxy: The Movie around the world, additional “Add On Rewards” including Zappa albums, songbooks, and gear, and a live 3-hour YouTube webcast highlighting new material from Zappa’s vault. Filmmaker recently reached out to Winter to… Read more
Hamsa, a short film on the Syrian refugee crisis by first-time documentary filmmakers Caroline Spearpoint and Miriam Thom, is the focus of an event next Monday, May 2 at the IFP’s Made in New York Media Center. Hamsa: A Documentary and Educational Platform features the… Read more
I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German. And that also gave me some pleasure. So, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler….How do I get out of this… Read more
The Tribeca Film Festival kicked off on April 14 with the opening night premiere of Justin Tipping’s Kicks, an ambitious coming-of-age film set in an inner city enclave in Northern California. Though it’s Tipping’s feature debut, he’s far from a novice filmmaker, having already won a… Read more
Watching Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s latest work Seances feels both familiar and utterly strange. Born from the knowledge that over 80% of silent movies have been lost, Maddin and his collaborators at the NFB wanted to resurrect as many titles — both real and… Read more