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“No Talking Heads on Camera”: Sam Pollard on MLK/FBI

MLK/FBI (image courtesy of NBC)

In 1963, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover began wiretapping Martin Luther King, Jr. with the goal of undermining his authority as a civil rights leader. Utilizing a wealth of newly discovered and declassified files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as newly restored footage from the period, MLK/FBI delves into the Bureau’s deeply questionable methods and motives for surveillance, while painting a portrait of King that does not shy away from uncomfortable truths.  Directed by Sam Pollard, best known as Spike Lee’s editor on films like Clockers and Bamboozled, MLK/FBI builds upon a lifetime of work committed to exploring the history of American race relations. Consider Pollard’s multiple writing, directing, and producing credits on the epic documentary…  Read more

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“I Have Not Seen My Film with Anyone Other than Two People”: Dea Kulumbegashvili on Beginning

Beginning

Dea Kulumbegashvili should have had the year of her life. At any other moment, the Tbilisi-based writer/director would have already travelled to Cannes, Toronto and San Sebastián to screen her new film for festival audiences. A remarkable accomplishment for anyone, let alone a young director with a first feature, the success of Beginning has instead been a strange, bittersweet ride. In the absence of sold-out screenings and sponsored afterparties, the festival experience in 2020 has given way to far less glamorous rituals: Zoom Q&As, geo-locked streaming links and the solitary act of viewing from home. For Kulumbegashvili, 34, the process has felt surreal: To date, she has yet to see her film with any audience, festival or otherwise. Beginning, alas, begs…  Read more

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Gina Duncan Announced as New Producing Director, Sundance Film Festival

Gina Duncan (Photo: Jesse Winter)

The Sundance Institute announced today that Gina Duncan, most recently Vice President of Film and Strategic Programming at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), will join the Sundance Film Festival in the newly-created role of Producing Director. Writes Sundance in a press release, "Duncan will integrate the artistic vision of the Festival with its practical, audience-facing elements. She’ll work with the programming team as they curate works for exhibition, and serve as a leader for creating strategic vision and decision-making on both the Sundance Film Festival and year-round public programs. Further key duties of the position: continuing to build policies and plans to develop and increase the inclusivity of the Festival more broadly, and managing year-round engagement among the industry…  Read more

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“The Interior Lives of People That Aren’t Typically Represented in Cinema”: Andrew Cohn on The Last Shift 

The Last Shift (Photo: Mott Hupfel)

Fascinated with the unseen men and women of forgotten America, Andrew Cohn, proud Midwestern and versatile filmmaker, has created a body of documentary work that witnesses modest, real lives without condescension or pity. Features like Medora or Night School engage with their subjects—a teenage basketball team in small-town Indiana or adult students juggling economic and personal struggles—in a compassionate and collaborative manner.  Translating that honesty to fiction now with The Last Shift, his first scripted film, Cohn continues to give voice to the working poor, in this case two fast food employees in Michigan, where he’s from, whose relationship exemplifies the divide, racial and ideological, that has polarized the country. Bleakness and wry humor intermingle as Stanley (Richard Jenkins), who’s spent…  Read more

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“An Outsider in that Testosterone-Driven Climate”: Laura Gabbert on Her Food Doc, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

Sundance vet Laura Gabbert (No Impact Man, Sunset Story) is no stranger to the foodie world, having directed 2015’s City of Gold, which follows the Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold on his culinary excursions throughout LA. Now, with Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Gabbert turns her lens to the other coast and across the pond, globetrotting through time and space with seven-time NY Times bestselling cookbook author and renowned restauranteur Yotam Ottolenghi. Though the Israeli Jew (whose business partner is a Jerusalem-born Muslim) is based in London, he’s invited by the Met to curate an edible, cake-centric exhibition inspired by the decadence of Versailles. So of course Ottolenghi does what any modern-day man of the world would do…  Read more

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Watch: Narrative and Documentary Shorts from the 2020 Filmfort Film Festival

Filmmaker is very happy to partner with the Filmfort Film Festival for its 2020 Filmfort Online Showcase. These films are available to watch here, free, on the site through Sunday, September 27. (Click here for the other two sections of films.) Check out the rest of the lineup at Filmfort and keep up via social @filmfortfest and #filmfort2020 #filmfortweekend. Enjoy! 32 Goldfish from Erik M.G. Fox on Vimeo. 32 Goldfish Erik M.G. Fox 2019, USA, 11:20 A hitman does one last job to afford his way back home before it's too late. www.erikmgfox.com/32goldfish Bennifer from Ryan McGlade on Vimeo. Bennifer Directed by Ryan McGlade 2019, United States, 13:02 Jed's family isn't how he remembered it. http://www.ryanmcglade.com/ Cosmic Spaghetti from Zim Teemo on Vimeo. Cosmic Spaghetti Directed by Gurleen Rai 2019, USA, 7:37 Cosmic Spaghetti is feminist…  Read more

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“We Think the Audience is Smarter Than Us”: Kirsten Johnson On Making Another Personal and Original Film With “Dick Johnson is Dead”

Dick Johnson appears in Dick Johnson is Dead by Kirsten Johnson (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

There are few directorial debuts as sui generis as Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson. A kind of experimental documentary, its premise was simple: it collected unused fragments from her long and storied career as a cinematographer, mostly for non-fiction works, among them Citizen Four, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Oath, and more. There was no story, there was no clear mission statement or theme, and the viewer was left to intuit meaning between the fragments arranged seemingly at random. And it was a success, quickly ushered into the Criterion Collection and taking her from a name among non-fiction auteurs to a name auteur herself. How do you follow that up? With Dick Johnson is Dead, which is as original as her first. It, too,…  Read more

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“An Opportunity to Look at How True-Crime Storytelling Can Affect Reality”: Marc Smerling on Reinvestigating Errol Morris’s Reinvestigation in A Wilderness of Error

A Wilderness of Errors

Marc Smerling’s true crime docuseries for FX, A Wilderness of Error, debuting September 25, is a deep-dive reinvestigation of the case of convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, who has spent the past nearly four decades serving time for the 1970 killing of his wife and two young daughters - a gruesome triple homicide that the onetime Army surgeon and Green Beret blamed (and still blames) on Manson Family copycats. The five-part series is based on Errol Morris's non-fiction book A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, a deep-dive reinvestigation of the case - specifically the case laid out by both prosecutors and the famed journo Joe McGinniss in his own 1983 book Fatal Vision. Which in turn was made…  Read more

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