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Six Favorites from the Just Concluded 2021 New Directors/New Films Festival

Rock Bottom Riser

After moving its 2020 edition to December and shifting to online-only viewing, New Directors/New Films returned to its usual springtime slot for its 50th iteration in 2021, combining virtual screenings with in-person ones at the Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center. The fest celebrated its golden anniversary with a streamable selection of films that played at ND/NF in years past — early work by luminaries such as Chantal Akerman, Charles Burnett, Lee Chang-dong, Christopher Nolan, and Humberto Solás. However, this well-deserved victory lap was just a sidebar to the main program: 27 new feature films, along with two programs of shorts. I’ve chosen six favorites from this year’s slate to write about here. [caption id="attachment_111671" align="alignright" width="500"] We…  Read more

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“Every Visual Aspect of the Film Functions to Bring People Home”: Director Shantrelle P. Lewis on In Our Mothers’ Gardens

In Our Mothers' Gardens

Shantrelle P. Lewis’ feature documentary debut, In Our Mothers' Gardens, calls forth and preserves the family histories of several Black women from Lewis’ life, traces each of their past joys and traumas to the present and lets them out into the world to heal. She creates a welcome space for her interviewees to open up on camera, many of whom are dear old friends, and she listens intently and asks thoughtful questions like, “What does your grandmother’s love look like?”, which encourage equally thoughtful responses. All of the women she interviews can call the names and stories of their ancestors several generations back and have a firm grasp of how their lineage inspires and affects them today. These stories comprise…  Read more

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“We Only Had an Official Gaffer for Two Days”: Robert Machoian on The Killing of Two Lovers

Producer Oden Roberts and Clayne Crawford on the set of The Killing of Two Lovers

Despite the grim promise of its title, Robert Machoian’s The Killing of Two Lovers is more emotionally brutal than it is violent. Set in a Utah town so small that everyone knows everyone, the film follows David (Clayne Crawford), a depressed everyman who has recently separated from his wife and the mother of his children, Nikki (Sepideh Moafi). Well-intentioned though it may be, their agreement to spend time apart and potentially date other people sends David into a downward spiral, and once he’s made aware of his wife’s new male friend, Derek (Chris Coy), things grow more complicated and conclude with an unexpected act of aggression. Whether the two lovers of the film’s title are David and Nikki or Nikki…  Read more

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The Mothman Prophecies, Scarface, They Won’t Believe Me: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

One of the great American films of the early 2000s hits Blu-ray for the first time with Imprint’s exceptional special edition of Mark Pellington’s The Mothman Prophecies (2002), a truly unique thriller that has only improved with age. Loosely based on true events, The Mothman Prophecies follows a Washington Post reporter (Richard Gere) who finds himself at the center of a series of inexplicable supernatural events following his wife’s tragic death. Although Pellington explicitly set out to avoid making a conventional horror film – there are very few glimpses of the title creature and no gratuitous shocks – the movie generates a palpable sense of unease that’s far more disturbing and resonant than a more typically aggressive thriller. This is…  Read more

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“We Decided to Make a Film in Which We Would Overcome the Narrative of Our Own Preconceptions”: Renato Borrayo Serrano on His CPH:DOX/Hot Docs Co-Debut Life of Ivanna

Life of Ivanna

World-premiering at the hybrid CPH:DOX (April 21-May 12), and co-presented with the all-digital Hot Docs (April 29-May 9), Life of Ivanna is one preconceived-notion-upending film. The story of an Arctic woman struggling to raise five young children as her often abusive husband spends more time drinking than working is a situation sure to strike concern in the hearts of many -- alhough the chain-smoking, no-nonsense protagonist at the heart of this particular tale would likely scoff at anyone’s condescending sympathies. Indeed, with steely will the titular, tough-as-nails member of the Nenets of the tundra is able to stare down whiteouts and subzero temperatures inside a single-room, reindeer-drawn dwelling (as hubby attempts to make ends meet at a gas plant back…  Read more

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Technology Tailwinds — Where Are They Taking Us?

The SOLO Cinebot

The following article was originally published in Filmmaker's Winter, 2021 edition. Digital technologies, incessantly lurching forward, are the ground we filmmakers stand on. No wonder we’re often unsteady on our feet. The pandemic has only become an accelerant. Although FaceTime and Skype were around awhile before both became verbs, it took the exigencies of the pandemic to flood our lives with Zoom calling, a digital convenience that has reshaped our relationship to proximity, travel and geography. Just ask Joe Biden. Doesn’t every production meeting now take place on Zoom? Production practices with renewed COVID relevance include use of zooms instead of primes to cut down on lens changes, wireless focusing to maintain social distancing, wireless booming instead of touching the talent toW attach…  Read more

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“The Term ‘No-Budget Can Be Tricky… It’s More Important as an Attitude or Ethos…” Kentucker Audley on NoBudge’s New Streaming Platform

Staff Pick

NoBudge, the website devoted to ultra-low-budget and truly independent short films, recently launched a major new expansion of the organization's mission and business: a subscription-based streaming platform that combines films from its collection with new shorts, features and music videos uploaded daily, many of which are exclusive to NoBudge. With Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iOS and Android apps, NoBudge costs $5.99 a month, and 60% of revenues flow back to filmmakers. One of the most remarkable elements of the NoBudge story is that over its history founder Kentucker Audley -- selected for Filmmaker's 25 New Faces series in 2007 -- has run the site concurrent with an active filmmaking career. (His most recent feature, the imaginative lo-fi romance Strawberry…  Read more

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