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Slamdance Announces 132 Features, Shorts and Episodics; Fest Passes Free Until December 31

No Trace

The Slamdance Film Festival announced today the 132 features, shorts and episodic programs that will comprise its hybrid 2021 edition. Running February 12-25, the festival is billing the program "its most accessible festival ever," and with good reason. All films, Q&A’s and panels will be available on Slamdance.com, AppleTV, Roku, Firestick and YouTube; "early adopter" passes will be free until December 31; and regular passes are only $10. Additionally, there's a new section, Unstoppable, showcasing creators with disabilities. The festival's live component will consist of a two-night drive-in presentation in Joshua Tree open to the public on February 13th and 14th as well as the closing night screening at a Los Angeles drive-in on February 25. Significantly, the COVID-19 pandemic…  Read more

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“It is Being Told Now—Because It is Supposed to Be Told Now”: Christopher Kahunahana on Waikiki and Native Hawaiian Storytelling

Waikiki

A film with "a seventeen-day shoot and two+ years of post-production," Christopher Kahunahana's long-awaited feature debut Waikiki marks a coming of age for the emerging Hawaiian filmmaking scene. The first completed narrative feature film by a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) filmmaker, Waikiki follows a young indigenous woman, Kea (a mesmerizing Danielle Zalopany), working multiple jobs—hula dancer for tourists, karaoke hostess for drunks, Hawaiian-language schoolteacher for kids—just in order to hold on, but slowly starting to slip into darkness. Nightmares of an earlier childhood trauma merge with her journey through Honolulu's shadow realms, her only solace the memories of her kupuna (elders), and the visions of a natural world that is part of her and her heritage—so close, yet so far…  Read more

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Fall 2020 Winners Announced for the Final Edition of the SFFILM Westridge Grants

SFFILM, in partnership with the Westridge Foundation, announced today the six films that will receive a total of $100,000 in funding as part of the SFFILM Westridge granting program. One of the few grants available to narrative filmmakers in the development phase, a SFILM Westridge grant helps "protect filmmakers’ creative processes, and allows them the time and space to concentrate properly on crafting their story, structure, characters, and themes, and refining their projects before diving into financing, production, and beyond." SFFILM and the Westridge Foundation also announce that this sixth edition will the last for this grant, which was initiated in 2017. "We are deeply proud of this three-year partnership with the Westridge Foundation, and its innovative approach to direct support…  Read more

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“It Came Out of Feeling Like I Didn’t Actually See Myself in the Movies…”: Claudia Weill on Girlfriends

Melanie Mayron in Girlfriends

Claudia Weill is a director whose work meant so much to me at such a formative age that I was almost hesitant to interview her; the two features she directed, Girlfriends (1978) and It’s My Turn (1980) spoke to me on such a profoundly personal level that I feared speaking with her could only be a disappointing experience—either because she wouldn’t live up to my image of her or because I would be so intimidated that I’d turn into a blabbering idiot. One of Weill’s many talents is to create work so intimate and precise that it always feels like there’s a direct emotional link between the director and the individual viewer; a former documentarian, Weill has an astonishing ability…  Read more

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Watch: Alison Nguyen’s my favorite software is being here Online and In Person

my favorite software is being here, by Alison Ngyuen. (Installation photo: Dario Lasagni)

Artist and filmmaker Alison Nguyen -- selected for Filmmaker's 2018 25 New Faces and a contributor to this Summer's Pandemic Diaries -- is showing new work featuring her Andra8, "a computer-generated woman based on the artist's physicality." As part of her current virtual exhibition at the Hartnett Gallery, i broke my mind at the link in the bio (running through December 18), Nguyen will screen today, Monday, November 23, her new my favorite software is being here, which captures the data-driven emotional rhythms and perceptive swings of her virtual creation. The piece, which is highly recommended, screens free today 6:30 PM Eastern and will be followed by a Zoom artist talk by Nguyen and collaborators collaborators Jonathan Beilin, Scott Kiernan, Tim Bruniges, and Rachel…  Read more

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Ghost Dog, Moonstruck and Libeled Lady: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Moonstruck

Criterion adds another excellent title to its collection of Jim Jarmusch films this week with the Blu-ray and DVD releases of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, a 1999 feature that stands alongside Dead Man as one of Jarmusch’s richest and most fascinating movies. Like Dead Man, Ghost Dog follows a stripped-down narrative that’s made extraordinarily complex by the sophisticated network of cinematic, literary, and historical allusions Jarmusch weaves through it; in another director’s hands the same story could be a routine genre programmer, but the force and depth of Jarmusch’s philosophical vision elevates the film to a level of mythic grandeur while simultaneously packing the frame with realistic anthropological details. While Dead Man riffed on the American Western,…  Read more

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Trailer Watch: Lance Oppenheim’s Some Kind of Heaven

Some Kind of Heaven

Opening in theaters and on demand January 15, 2021 from Magnolia Pictures is the debut feature from documentary filmmaker Lance Oppenheim, Some Kind of Heaven. Featured in Filmmaker's 2019 25 New Faces, Oppenheim makes documentaries that are as attuned to their subjects' interior lives -- their fears, dreams, insecurities and aspirations -- as to their physical surroundings. "How fantasy informs the way people live their lives, the camera has to do the same," he told me when I interviewed him. "The only way to get into these people’s lives and their stories is to accurately depict the headspace they are living in.” About Oppenheim's dreamy and at times disquieting feature, which portrays a group of seniors at Florida's retirement community, The…  Read more

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How Virtual Sets are Replacing the Green Screen

In my 25 New Face profile of Victoria Rivera, I quoted the writer/director on how, for her upcoming ocean-set feature Malpelo, she and her producer are exploring using the virtual background technology recently employed by The Mandalorian. The benefits of this technique are explained nicely in this Vox video, in which Charmaine Chan, a compositor who has worked for ILM, shows how virtual backgrounds improve upon traditional green screens in various ways, including lighting and camera movement.

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