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Back to One, Episode 98: Zora Howard

Zora Howard is a juggernaut. She stars in Premature and co-wrote the script with director Rashaad Ernesto Green. Her performance has an assured authenticity and a new brand of quiet desperation that is remarkable for a first feature. She’s been an award-winning creator for years though. Plays, poems, spoken word performances. Her play Stew just closed off-broadway to great acclaim. I gush about it and ask where her love of words began, and which of these various paths of creation she’s anxious to continue down. She talks about the necessary step of taking off the writer’s hat in order to perform in the present moment, and much more. Back To One can be found wherever you get your podcasts, including…  Read more

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“No One Was Willing to Sign the Check”: Rashaad Ernesto Green and Zora Howard on Premature, Shooting 16mm and Self-Financing

Zora Howard and Joshua Boone in Premature

Included in the 2010 edition of 25 New Faces of Independent Film, director Rashaad Ernesto Green has been sitting with his intricate story of love had and love lost, Premature, for quite a while now. The original short film, made while Green was a film student at NYU Tisch, was described in his 25 New Face profile as being “classically built,” telling the story of a “teenager who, having found no support for her pregnancy from either her disaffected family and brutal community, resorts to drastic, near-tragic measures to free herself of responsibility.” Green’s leading lady in the short, his Harlem neighbor Zora Howard, returns as said teenager for the expanded feature-length version, this time as both actress and co-screenwriter. Shot…  Read more

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Berlinale 2020 Dispatch 1: The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror, The Calming, Maggie’s Farm

Maggie's Farm

Two days into my first trip to Berlin, I haven’t quite got my bearings yet—for the physical landscape of the fest or for the sprawling program, which includes more than 340 films from 71 countries. Along with being a milestone year for the Berlinale (the 70th), this is also the 50th anniversary of Forum, the festival’s program of boundary-pushing work, and the first edition under the co-leadership of Executive Director Mariette Rissenbeek and Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian. Rissenbeek joined the fest after nearly four decades in the German film industry; Chatrian moved to Berlin from Locarno, where he’d served in a similar role since 2014. In a recent New York Times profile, both describe the increasingly popular dual-leadership model, or…  Read more

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Economy of the Arcane: Pedro Costa on Vitalina Varela

Ventura in Vitalina Varela (courtesy of Grasshopper Film)

Pedro Costa will not separate films from how they are made. We cannot escape that “how” from what we are seeing on screen, so we must make films the hard way. It is not enough for us to get them made: We must know our technicians closely, see that they are compensated fairly, ensure that our project is optimized for our tools and that those tools only operate at their zenith. Ease, Costa warns, is the sure sign of a “trap,” that, if succumbed to, will expose one’s work to “bullshit,” a word he does not use lightly. If we slack in our labor, that sloth contaminates the groundwater, and the film does not recover. So, we work harder.  But Costa’s…  Read more

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International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020: The Gaze of the Old Filmmaker

Corman’s Eyedrops Got Me Too Crazy

Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye,  Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? — William Blake As one of the centerpiece programs at the 49th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), "The Tyger Burns" was a canny display of un-hipness. What a joy it was to pay repeated witness to such a mammoth series of movies so gleefully, so wilfully out of touch. What better way to undercut the widespread love of emerging voices, new talents and young geniuses than to turn to aging, even senile artists who have either fallen out of fashion or lost the international spotlight. Celebrate boomer filmmakers in a festival environment obsessed with the vitality of youth? Isn’t the artistic realm…  Read more

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Sundance 2020 Final Dispatch: Softie, Farewell Amor, A Machine for Viewing, Infinitely Yours

Charlie Shackleton in A Machine for Viewing (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Previously, when attending a premiere heavy festival like Sundance, I was usually lucky enough to be present as part of a team of programmers. We divided the screenings between all of us to cover as many of the films as possible. (There are spreadsheets and rating systems involved.) Watching films as a freelancer, I realized over the first few days at Sundance that I was playing it safe by watching films by filmmakers I was already familiar with for the guarantee that at least the film would appear finished at the screening. For programmers working at festivals like Sundance, what they are watching through submissions are often rough, unfinished works with temp music, graphics, credits, sound and even voiceover. This…  Read more

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