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The Great Escape, “Tell Me” on Criterion Channel, and More: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Growing Up Female

The Great Escape was a dream project for director John Sturges for years before the success of The Magnificent Seven finally enabled him to make it in 1962, and the countless hours he spent thinking about and planning the WWII epic are evident in every flawless shot. The true story of a group of Allied officers who plan and execute a daring escape from a Nazi POW camp, The Great Escape is an exhilarating celebration of ingenuity and skill by a director who honors his characters with some awfully impressive skill of his own. The movie is 172 minutes but never lags or feels ponderous or self-important; it’s long because Sturges needs that amount of time to properly define and…  Read more

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“Should You Give the Person a Hug, or Should You Continue Filming?”: Benjamin Ree on His Art World Crime Doc The Painter and the Thief

The Painter and the Thief

The following interview with director Benjamin Ree about his documentary The Painter and the Thief was published during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It's being rerun now to coincide with the virtual cinema and VOD release of the film from NEON. Spectacularly cinematic and employing a risk-taking structure that keeps the viewer as off-balance as the film’s emotionally fragile protagonists, The Painter and the Thief is the second feature-length doc from Norwegian director Benjamin Ree. (Ree’s prior film Magnus, a coming-of-age tale about the chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016.) The film follows the stranger-than-fiction story of Barbora Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland, the former a Czech naturalist painter living in Oslo, the latter a Norwegian ex-con struggling with drug…  Read more

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Director Michael Jacobs on Making the Basketball Doc Blackballed for Quibi’s Mobile, Dual Aspect-Ratio Platform

Doc Rivers in Blackballed

Long regarded as the worst-run franchise in the National Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Clippers have (after brief stints in Buffalo and San Diego) called the “City of Angels” their home since the summer of 1984. Purchased for a cool $12.5 million in 1981 by real estate tycoon Donald Sterling, the Clippers’ relocation to LA was seen as a move that would hopefully rival its “big brother” franchise led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers. That ultimately wasn’t meant to be: the Lakers, long a shining example of the league, continued its successful run atop the Western Conference while the Clippers carved out a spot at the bottom, where they would rest comfortably for several decades. Mismanaged…  Read more

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IFP Announces 26 Projects Selected for 2020 Documentary, Narrative and Episodic Labs

Silent Beauty

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today twenty-six feature projects and series selected to participate across three labs over the next month: The IFP Filmmaker Labs’ Documentary Lab (currently running through May 22) and Narrative Lab (running June 15 – 19) for feature films by directors currently in post-production on their debut features; and the IFP Episodic Lab (running June 1 – 5), for outstanding series projects in development for TV and digital platforms from breakthrough creators. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all labs will take place virtually. The IFP Filmmaker Labs support first-time feature filmmakers through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their debut features, providing support from IFP Staff and mentorship from leading industry members and filmmakers.…  Read more

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The Audience as a Virtual Jury: Roee Messinger on Tonight’s Screening of American Trial: The Eric Garner Story

American Trial: The Eric Garner Story

How does one relitigate a case that was never litigated (outside the media) in the first place? This is the challenge at the heart of Roee Messinger’s American Trial: The Eric Garner Story, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival and releases online today May 21st, accompanied by a live stream Q&A and interactive audience component. The film is an unscripted courtroom drama that casts real-life prosecutors and defense attorneys (though none directly involved with the 2014 case of the NYPD officer videotaped choking Staten Islander Eric Garner to death), alongside real-life evidence, expert testimony, and rules of criminal procedure. Add in the real-life witnesses, and even the victim’s widow Esaw Snipes Garner, and American Trial transforms a…  Read more

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Sundance Institute Announces 22 Documentary Fund Grantees

The Sundance Institute announced today the 22 projects from filmmakers all over the world that will receive funding from its Documentary Fund. Filmmakers from 19 countries with projects in all stages of production will receive unrestricted grant support totaling $525,000. “At Sundance Institute, we know that these unprecedented times demand creative and nimble support,” said Documentary Film Program interim Director, ​Kristin Feeley​, and Documentary Film Fund Director, Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs​ in a press release. “We’re fortunate to have a collaborative and strong network of partners that allow us to ensure material support for these filmmakers as they develop bold new work, we can ensure that the field of nonfiction storytelling continues to evolve even against larger headwinds.” The awarded projects are listed below. DEVELOPMENT Alis…  Read more

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“We Read Adam’s Blog Every Day… So It Was Like a Daily Script”: Pia Hellenthal on Her Social Media-Themed Doc, Searching Eva

Searching Eva

Having made my “Best Yet-to-be-Distributed Docs 2019” list, Pia Hellenthal’s Searching Eva, currently streaming on Mubi USA and with a virtual release upcoming on June 2nd through Syndicado, can now be shifted to the “best docs of 2020” category. My assessment of this “portrait of a restless, gender-ambiguous, philosophical millennial who documents her entire life — from fashion week to freelance sex work —  online” might not make the film seem like must-see viewing. But that’s precisely the point -- and what makes Hellenthal’s talent all the more apparent. As an often cynical critic who couldn’t care less about a globetrotting poet with an Instagram account, I found myself absolutely riveted when I accidentally discovered the film at last year’s CPH:DOX.…  Read more

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