“Human History is Created by People with the Courage To Do the Right Thing”: Eunice Lau on Accept the Call

Accept the Call

Based in NYC but born in Singapore, filmmaker Eunice Lau is intimately familiar with the immigrant experience. And yet, her own history seems a far cry from that of the family portrayed in her most recent (IFP supported) doc Accept the Call. One of my top picks for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival last summer, the nuanced character study centers around Yusuf Abdurahman, a refugee from Somalia who fled that country’s civil war in the '90s. Abdurahman now lives in Minnesota, where he married (and subsequently divorced), had seven kids who he’s wholeheartedly devoted to, and currently serves as a translator and facilitator at a Head Start program. On the surface this refugee’s life would seem to resemble that…  Read more


SXSW Announces 102 Films and Episodic Shows from its 2020 Edition


SXSW announced today the 102 features and episodic shows that from the first wave of films comprising the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Judd Apatow's Pete Davidson-starring The King of Staten Island will be the Opening Night feature. Other highlights include Frank Oz's film based on magician and artist Derek DelGaudio's acclaimed theater work, In & Of Itself; actor and director Amy Seimetz's follow-up to Sun Don't Shine, She Dies Tomorrow; features from directors on this magazine's 25 New Faces list, including Nicole Riegel (Holler), Celine Held and Logan George (Topside), Tod Chandler (Bulletproof), Marnie Ellen Hertzler (Crestone), and Kitao Sakurai (Bad Trip); and doc premieres from veterans Alex Gibney (Crazy Not Insane), Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar (9to5, Story of a…  Read more


The 2019 Village Voice Film Poll, Reconstructed

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in The Irishman

When the Village Voice abruptly had its plug pulled by its final, Forbes-ranked owner two years ago, its annual film poll, which had been around since 1999, expired along with it. That needn't necessarily have been the case—somehow, we still got a Pazz & Jop music survey last February, published on the paper's semi-defunct website (which otherwise merely cycles through articles from the archives). The film poll was run by less obsessive and/or masochistically dedicated folks, apparently, which means that the task of insisting that it should continue, whether or not some tycoon chooses to bankroll it, has fallen to me.  Last year, I mostly just collected the published top ten lists of the previous year's roster, occasionally checking Letterboxd lists…  Read more


“The Act of Listening Requires a Sort Of Surrender to the Narrative of the Other”: Ofra Bloch on Afterward

Afterward (Photo: Jack Riccobono)

Born in Jerusalem but based in NYC, Ofra Bloch is a longtime psychoanalyst, an expert in trauma, who’s been making short documentaries for the past decade. Which makes her the perfect guide on the unconventional cinematic journey that is her feature-length debut Afterward. The film follows the director on her own healing excursion, from Germany to Israel and Palestine, in an effort to understand the mindset of those brought up with the tag of victim or victimizer -- or in her case both. In Germany Bloch, whose great uncle lost his wife and children in the Holocaust, meets directly, one on one, with the children of SS officers and even a former neo-Nazi. While in Israel and the Occupied territories…  Read more


Trading Blue Chips for Uncut Gems: The NBA Cinematic Universe

Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield and Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems could lazily be classified as a “basketball movie," which raises the stakes in the third act via a tense and deciding Game 7 in the NBA Playoffs—numerous critics cite the nail-biting play-by-play action as the film’s tensest sequence. Yet Uncut Gems isn’t just driven by the attributes afforded a fast-paced sport: the narrative’s “house of cards” doesn’t come down to a single three-pointer or clutch free-throw that rolls around the rim before dropping in as the game clock strikes zero, Teen Wolf be damned. The Safdies pull off something trickier, interlocking their film with both on-the-record, well-documented basketball history and previous cinematic works also featuring professional basketball players playing heightened versions of themselves. Uncut Gems is set…  Read more


Back to One #91, a Special Episode: Rehearsal

On this special episode, I spend a few days with the cast of A City Of Refuge as they rehearse this powerful new play by Evan Cuyler-Louison for Primitive Grace Theater Ensemble in New York City. Having had no experience with theatrical rehearsal, I pose lots of questions to Louison (who also directed the production) and his incredible actors, Ylfa Edelstein, Wilton Guzman, Miah Kane, Hailey Marmolejo, Gregg Prosser, and Luke Edward Smith. If, like me, your experience is limited to film production or you just have gaps in your knowledge regarding rehearsal in general, or you're just curious about specific approaches, I think you’ll get a lot out of this fly-on-the-wall-style episode. New York theater legends Paul Calderon and…  Read more


2010s: An Eventful Decade for American Independents


At the end of 2008, the Wall Street-generated economic collapse blew a deflating hole in the Film Indie cash cow. 2009 saw the consequent slashing of staff at the mini-majors, the closing of many companies and a pullback by the content-clueless hedge funders. The result was a low output of indies in 2009, although what films were made were made for the right reasons rather than simply a desire to make another faux-indie TV movie to satisfy desperate distributors.  So the decade started there, at a solemn  hushed, funeral-like Sundance 2010, one that was also a refreshing, offbeat event for the decade’s first few years. Take a look at some of the titles from 2011, ’12 and ’13 — those were…  Read more



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