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“We Spent a Lot of Time Choosing Lenses”: Keith Thomas on The Vigil and His Forthcoming Firestarter Adaptation

Dave Davis in The Vigil

Unfolding over the course of one evening in the Hasidic community of Boro Park, Brooklyn, Keith Thomas’s debut feature, The Vigil, gets more unsettling the darker the night gets. Dave Davis plays Yakov, a young man experiencing difficulty living a newly secular life. As securing a job has proved difficult, he agrees to a friend’s impromptu request to serve as a shomer, watching over the cold body of a local man, Rubin Litvak, before the deceased is laid to rest. Anticipating an easy few hours of surfing the web on his smartphone, Yakov settles in for his watchman duties. Unfortunately for him, things are about to go bump in the night. A worthy addition to the “religious horror” subgenre, The Vigil…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 144: Chin Han

Since playing Lau in The Dark Knight, Chin Han has been on a Hollywood run, acting in blockbuster action movies like Ghost in a Shell, Skyscraper, and Captain American: Winter Soldier, as well as work on a less grand scale for Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, and the celebrated Netflix series Marco Polo. Now he stars in the eagerly anticipated new Mortal Kombat movie as the shape-shifting villain Shang Tsung. I asked him how he dealt with the history, fan passion and anticipation for the character in his preparation and how it affected him during production. He talks about his interesting process of de-linking the text and deconstructing himself as a way of building the performance. And we discuss iconic…  Read more

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Wuhan, Different Everyday: Shengze Zhu on Berlinale 2021 Premiere A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

Despite relocating to Chicago in 2015, Shengze Zhu has focused on her hometown of Wuhan throughout her career. Her first feature, Out of Focus (2014), is a creative portrait of the school-life of children from low-income families and the troubles they face. Her second, Another Year (2016), uses long takes to document the mealtimes of migrant worker families. Both are set in Wuhan but were made after she first left China in 2010 to study filmmaking in Colombia, Missouri. For Present.Perfect (2019), she widened her lens, creating a montage of live-streamers living across China entirely from desktop recordings of their broadcasts. Made in America, a sense of distance seems inherent to a project in which intimate connections with a cast of…  Read more

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Phase Zero: Felipe Cazals on His 1979 Gabriel García Márquez Collaboration, El año de la peste (Year of the Plague)

El año de la peste (Image courtesy of IMCINE)

It has been a good day for everyone, even for God. No sign of rain. No evidence of disease or blood. — Henry Miller, quoted at the beginning of El año de la peste Around this time a year ago, many of us were suddenly sent home and forced to become film programmers. I asked people: after Contagion or, from a far distance, Outbreak, what was the ultimate Coronavirus movie? The Last Days of Planet Earth? Prophecies of Nostradamus? 28 Weeks Later? The Host? Tsai Ming-Liang's The Hole? The South Korean apocalypse thriller The Flu? Logan's Run? The Seed of Man? Soylent Green? 12 Monkeys? Kinji Fukasaku’s Virus? Long after I had stopped following Cuomo’s daily press conferences, the answer was Felipe Cazals’s unforgettable El año de la peste (Year…  Read more

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Uprooted: Writer/Director Lee Isaac Chung on Minari

Alan S. Kim, Steven Yeun, Noel Cho and Yeri Han in Minari (Photo courtesy of David Bornfriend/A24)

The following interview appears in Filmmaker's current Winter '21 print edition and, a day after Minari won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, appears online for all readers for the first time. “There’s a difference between something having happened or something being true,” says writer/director Lee Isaac Chung about the interplay between memory and creation that graces his fourth dramatic feature, Minari.  Based on the filmmaker’s childhood—his family moved to the South, where his father hoped to develop a farm—Minari captures a time of familial change and uncertainty with seemingly effortless poetry and wonder. It’s the early 1980s when Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) drags his family from California to a mobile home and plot of distressed farmland in Arkansas, where…  Read more

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Watch: Sean Baker’s Short Film for Khaite’s Fall ’21 Collection

Inspired, he says, by Walter Hill and, as obvious from the title treatment, The Warriors title designer Dan Perri, Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine) has directed a blast of a fashion short for Khaite, a girl-gang fantasia evoking the cinema as well as streets of '70s and '80s New York. Shot by Sean Price Williams, the short compresses the attitude, abandon and confrontations of some imagined and long-lost work of downtown cinema (you'll pull your own set of references -- mine included Ms. 45, Liquid Sky, Paris is Burning and Wild Style) into a brisk four-minutes scored to Ace Frehley's New York Groove. Shot across the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Brooklyn, the short premiered last week in a New York…  Read more

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“The Flash Frames are Like Magic — You Can Almost Smell Them in the Film”: DP Andrew Dunn on Shooting Lee Daniels’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Musician Billie Holiday's troubled life has been the inspiration for many films, including the biopic Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross. In The United States vs. Billie Holiday, director Lee Daniels takes a different tact, tying the singer's troubles to a Federal vendetta against her song "Strange Fruit." Anchored by Andra Day's remarkable performance as Holiday, the movie offers a vivid account of Black culture from WWII to the singer's death in 1959. Holiday's brutal childhood, the pervasive discrimination she experienced, and a milieu that romanticized drugs all contributed to an addiction that landed her in prison. This is cinematographer Andrew Dunn's fourth collaboration with Daniels, after their work on Precious, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and episodes of the Empire series. …  Read more

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Rosebud, Buried Alive and the Women Filmmakers of New World Pictures: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Slumber Party Massacre

No director of the classical Hollywood studio era capitalized on hot-button social issues or pushed the boundaries of censorship as successfully as Otto Preminger, who scored artistic and commercial triumphs with a number of films (Anatomy of a Murder, The Moon is Blue, Advise and Consent, The Man with the Golden Arm) that addressed rape, homosexuality, drug addiction, and various political and religious controversies at a time when few other filmmakers would dare. By the 1970s, however, Preminger became a victim of his own reputation; when young auteurs of the New Hollywood like Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Bogdanovich came along and surpassed Preminger in their provocations, his late films were dismissed as the irrelevant work of an out…  Read more

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