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TIFF 2019, Last Days: Uncut Gems, Atlantis, Jallikattu, This Action Lies

This Action Lies

At Marriage Story‘s TIFF premiere, the audience applauded the Netflix logo; a night later, the same happened for A24 at Uncut Gems. The latter makes slightly more sense—rightly or wrongly (no comment), A24 has coherent brand cachet in positioning itself as Art-Fixated rather than purely profit-motivated—but in both cases I felt like I was going mad, and even more so when I heard that the first question for The Lighthouse‘s cast and crew at their first screening was why is A24 is so very special (surely that’s not on Willem Dafoe to answer.) Admittedly, Adam Sandler shaking Kevin Garnett’s hand onstage after both were intro’d by Josh Safdie is peak 2019 the-algorithm’s-gone-wonky, but for sheer weirdness logo-mania that can’t be explained…  Read more

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“You Get To Be In Places You Have No Business Being”: Political Filmmakers Talk About Telling Big Stories With A Small Focus At IFP Week 2019

(l to r: Jehane Noujaim, Rachel Lears, Alison Clayman, Christopher Booker)

For documentarians, especially ones who focus on politics, it’s not enough to have a strong and vital subject. You need a way to get audiences engaged. The participants at the “Politically Engaged” panel at IFP Week 2019 know that all too well. Take Jehane Noujaim. Along with her creative partner Karim Amer, she makes docs about hot topics: the Egyptian Crisis in 2013’s The Square, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in this year’s The Great Hack. But they’re not expository info dumps. They’re verité, following people, not merely ideas. Noujaim realized that earlier on. She got her start working with the legendary non-fiction team of Chris Hegedus and the late D.A. Pennebaker. One of her first films with them was Startup.com,…  Read more

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‘100 Percent It’s Not A Fad’: Jon M. Chu And Other Asian-American Creatives On The Post-‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Bump

(l to r, Alice Wu, Teresa Hsiao, John M. Chu, Christina Chou, Andrew Chow)

The IFP Week 2019 panel “Staying in the Room,” which brought together four Asian-Americans involved in the entertainment industry, happened the weekend of two milestones. For one, Hustlers, co-starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu, overperformed, nabbing the top spot at the North American box office. The other was news that comedian Bowen Yang was named the first Asian-American to be cast on Saturday Night Live, ever. The latter was overshadowed by footage of another new SNL hire, Shane Gillis, saying racist stuff about Asians, including a slur that was presumed to have died out with the last generation or two. But apart from some obligatory venting — “Yeah, f— that guy,” quipped big time Hollywood director Jon M. Chu —…  Read more

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Diverse Creators, a Bridge to the Publishing Community, and First-Time Filmmakers in the Project Forum: IFP Talks the 2019 IFP Week

Kicking off today in and around DUMBO New York is IFP Week, the yearly annual conference and coproduction market produced by Independent Filmmaker Project. Today’s events include a day of panels and talks at BRIC, with the event then moving to IFP’s home, the Made in New York Media Center, as well as other nearby locations.  In recent years IFP Week has developed an identity far from its origins as a scrappy, sometimes over-the-top market for finished independent films unspooling at the Angelika’s basement theaters. The heart of the event is now the much more sober Project Forum, which connects independent makers of features, documentaries and independent episodic work to a wide spectrum of U.S. and international producers and buyers.…  Read more

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“It Was a Daily Process of Making Sure She was Comfortable with our Presence”: Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll on Their Doc about Family and Caregiving, América

América

It’s no secret that dedication and responsibility are both required when caring for the elderly. In Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside’s feature documentary América, those two traits are leaned upon heavily, as three adult grandchildren look after their 93-year-old grandmother, who gives the film its title. By resisting sentimentality, the film finds a new kind of emotional heft, burrowing into the daily grind of the specifics of looking after someone who’s always conscious but not always present. At times observational and at times detailed in its tracking of legal battles (the three men’s father is currently imprisoned for not looking after América adequately), América is a portrait of a family who would not quit on their aged matriarch. Recently annointed…  Read more

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TIFF 2019, Days 7-9: Collective, To the Ends of the Earth, Ema

Collective

One benefit of an extended stay at TIFF (if you can swing it) is is allowing time for friends with trustworthy taste and far more patience to slog through non-obvious titles, then adjusting my endgame schedule accordingly for what they recommend. Hence the unexpected highlight of 29 TIFF screenings (24 features, four Wavelengths shorts programs and one revival screening of Pickpocket), Alexander Nanau’s verite doc Collective, about a scandal that had entirely passed me by. Opening title cards establish the fundamentals: a pyrotechnics accident at a 2015 concert led to a fire killing 26 on site, the death toll swelling to 64 as many of the hospitalized were infected, with subsequent anti-corruption protests leading to the Romanian prime minister’s resignation. Collective presents two…  Read more

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