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

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 Nostradamus? 28 Weeks Later? The Host? The South Korean apocalypse thriller The Flu? 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 of the Plague), which transposes Daniel Defoe’s A Journal…  Read more


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


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


“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


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


“The Strange Beauty of our World, the Strange Disaster of Our World”: Chris Peters on His Slamdance AI Short, 24,483 Dreams of Death

24,483 Dreams of Death

A spectral and hypnotic entry in this year's Slamdance Film Festival is Chris Peters's "film experiment," 24,483 Dreams of Death, which uses a Mario Bava film (Mask of the Demon) as the sole source material for an A.I.'s imagination of our visual world. Over six days, Peters — a filmmaker, painter as well as software engineer — fed the frames of the film into the computer, producing images that represent, he writes, "... the machine's neural network forming in real time, not footage in the traditional sense of photographed scenes, but footage of the internal experience of a new intelligence learning about our world for the first time." The flickering chiaroscuro images are soundtracked by spoken word poetry that is…  Read more


“… Once a Person’s Voice is Captured, They are Expendable”: Director George C. Wolfe on the Musical Histories of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Black music. White privilege. Chicago. 1927. What could possibly go wrong? Indeed, nearly everything, and it’s chronicled with artful intensity in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the second in a cycle of ten plays that compassionately detail the 20th-century experiences of African Americans. Ma Rainey’s was brought to the screen this season in a stellar production directed by George Wolfe that stars Viola Davis in the title role and, in his final role, Chadwick Boseman as the upstart young trumpeter and rake in her band. Wolfe, a Tony Award-winning theater director and writer, is gradually building a formidable resume in cinema. In the past six plus years, he’s helmed You’re Not You and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which…  Read more



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