Filmmaker Q&A with Laurence Topham of FAST ICE
In a matter of only a few hours last Christmas Eve, 52 passengers on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped in a vast sea of “summertime” Antarctic ice. As approaching icebergs threatened, first one and then a second rescue ship failed to reach the stricken vessel, leaving one option — evacuation by helicopter.
1. Introduce yourself.
My name is Laurence Topham and I make documentaries and interactives for the Guardian. My work has taken me all over the world, from Africa and the Middle East to Australia and Antarctica. I’ve filmed and produced documentaries about the death penalty, the Syrian refugee crisis, Australian bushfires, endangered polar bears, Martin Luther King and the US presidential elections. In 2013 a video interactive feature I co­directed called FIRESTORM won a prestigious Walkley Award in Australia, and my work has also been nominated for awards at the Webbys, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Online Media Awards in London.
 
2. What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
FAST ICE: RESCUE FROM ANTARCTICA came about when the Guardian’s science correspondent, Alok Jha, and I were invited to join the Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) on board the MV Akademik Shokalskiy in December 2013. We sailed from New Zealand, across the Southern Ocean, to Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica. During our voyage we sent back daily reports, videos, pictures and tweets to the Guardian about climate change, wildlife and the history of Antarctic exploration. Our contributors in FAST ICE were members of the AAE expedition who were on board the ship ­ a mixture of scientists, crew and passengers.
 
3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
While shooting FAST ICEwe faced many environmental challenges, such as shooting video and stills in blizzards and gale-force winds. Fully charged batteries would die within a few minutes, camera lenses would ice­up, and your fingers would go completely numb. We were at sea for two months and this produced a unique set of problems. We had to grapple with acute seasickness as well as constant daylight, which was great for photography, but it meant your sleeping pattern was heavily disrupted. We also had very limited communications with the outside world, and would often spend 4­6 hours in sub­zero temperatures on the top deck of the ship trying to align our portable satellite unit (which transferred data at an incredibly slow rate).
 
4. What is your proudest professional moment?
My proudest professional moment was during the 2008 presidential elections. I had been sent to the U.S. to cover the campaign and on Election Day I flew to Chicago with my colleague Gary Younge. Sensing that a historic moment for the African American community was only a few hours away, we decided to avoid the mass hysteria of Grant Park and went to a local bar on the South Side ­ the black heartland of Chicago. The demands of working for a newspaper website meant that we had to deliver a coherent short documentary that captured the mood of election night in record time – at most only 2­3 hours after the election had been called. When CNN projected a win for Obama, the bar erupted. People were screaming, dancing, singing, and crying. Outside a police patrol car hailed ‘Obama, Obama, Obama!’ from it’s bullhorn. We frantically checked in to a nearby hotel for Internet access and around 3 am we sent back our finished video. Within a few moments it appeared at the very top of the Guardian website for everyone to watch. I felt immensely privileged and proud to have witnessed first­hand this defining moment in America’s political history. In that moment it felt as though everyone was united by a faith in their country and what they could all achieve together.
 
5. Why did you become a filmmaker?
I became a filmmaker because when I was 11 years old my dad bought a video camera. After a bit of time my dad began to lose interest, but I became more and more excited about the possibilities it offered. I began building miniature sets in my bedroom, and I quickly roped in my two younger brothers as would-be actors and stunt men. We made everything from spoof science fiction comedies, to B­movie­style monster mash­ups. The passion never faded and by the time I went to university there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to make films professionally.
 
After I graduated a friend of mine invited me to make a documentary with him in Sierra Leone for the BBC. It was baptism by fire. I learnt how to produce, how to shoot, how to record sound and, crucially, how to edit. I was completely out of my depth, having never visited Africa before, but I loved every minute of the trip. And that’s when I began my career as a documentary maker.
 
6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
I think the first film I ever saw at the cinema was Disney’s BAMBI. I was about 4 or 5 years old and I remember being very upset when his mother was shot by a hunter in the forest. But I also remember the extraordinary texture of the animation and how beautifully made it was.
 
7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?
I think my most memorable documentary character would have to be either Timothy Treadwell in Werner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, or high­wire artist Philippe Petit in James Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE. Both characters fizz with restless energy, consumed by their dreams and obsessions, often at the expense of those who love them and with deadly consequences.
 
8. What documentary do you consider most cinematic?
Despite being made three decades ago, I still consider KOYAANISQATSI (1982) and THIN BLUE LINE (1988) to be two of the most influential examples of ‘cinematic’ storytelling.
 
9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
One of the most original documentaries I’ve seen is WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008), with its daring and imaginative use of animation to bring to life interviews that explore the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war.
10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?
It is difficult to quantify the impact a documentary has on society, but Ken Loach’s television play CATHY COME HOME (1966) brought homelessness to the forefront of public awareness in the UK. It was not strictly a documentary, but it was filmed using a gritty realist style (often blurring the lines between reality and traditional scripted drama) and became highly influential. The charities Crisis and Shelter were formed shortly after it was first broadcast on the BBC.
11. IF there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?
If there were one documentary moment in history that I could experience as a filmmaker, it would be when Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles filmed JFK during the Wisconsin Primary election in 1960. They used groundbreaking camera technology to shoot everything hand­held, a feat that had never been done before, capturing candid and intimate moments of a U.S. political icon in the making.
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
The most unexpected thing to happen since I took FAST ICE on the festival circuit is being invited to have a tour of the White House with AFI DOCS.
13. What song do you love this summer?

I’m terrible at keeping up with new music, but one band I’m very fond of is a small UK duo called Winter, and their single “The Sea Bites Back.”

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE to buy tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.Goethe-Institut
(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Laurence Topham of FAST ICE

In a matter of only a few hours last Christmas Eve, 52 passengers on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped in a vast sea of “summertime” Antarctic ice. As approaching icebergs threatened, first one and then a second rescue ship failed to reach the stricken vessel, leaving one option — evacuation by helicopter.

1. Introduce yourself.

My name is Laurence Topham and I make documentaries and interactives for the Guardian. My work has taken me all over the world, from Africa and the Middle East to Australia and Antarctica. I’ve filmed and produced documentaries about the death penalty, the Syrian refugee crisis, Australian bushfires, endangered polar bears, Martin Luther King and the US presidential elections. In 2013 a video interactive feature I co­directed called FIRESTORM won a prestigious Walkley Award in Australia, and my work has also been nominated for awards at the Webbys, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Online Media Awards in London.

 

2. What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?

FAST ICE: RESCUE FROM ANTARCTICA came about when the Guardian’s science correspondent, Alok Jha, and I were invited to join the Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) on board the MV Akademik Shokalskiy in December 2013. We sailed from New Zealand, across the Southern Ocean, to Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica. During our voyage we sent back daily reports, videos, pictures and tweets to the Guardian about climate change, wildlife and the history of Antarctic exploration. Our contributors in FAST ICE were members of the AAE expedition who were on board the ship ­ a mixture of scientists, crew and passengers.

 

3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

While shooting FAST ICEwe faced many environmental challenges, such as shooting video and stills in blizzards and gale-force winds. Fully charged batteries would die within a few minutes, camera lenses would ice­up, and your fingers would go completely numb. We were at sea for two months and this produced a unique set of problems. We had to grapple with acute seasickness as well as constant daylight, which was great for photography, but it meant your sleeping pattern was heavily disrupted. We also had very limited communications with the outside world, and would often spend 4­6 hours in sub­zero temperatures on the top deck of the ship trying to align our portable satellite unit (which transferred data at an incredibly slow rate).

 

4. What is your proudest professional moment?

My proudest professional moment was during the 2008 presidential elections. I had been sent to the U.S. to cover the campaign and on Election Day I flew to Chicago with my colleague Gary Younge. Sensing that a historic moment for the African American community was only a few hours away, we decided to avoid the mass hysteria of Grant Park and went to a local bar on the South Side ­ the black heartland of Chicago. The demands of working for a newspaper website meant that we had to deliver a coherent short documentary that captured the mood of election night in record time – at most only 2­3 hours after the election had been called. When CNN projected a win for Obama, the bar erupted. People were screaming, dancing, singing, and crying. Outside a police patrol car hailed ‘Obama, Obama, Obama!’ from it’s bullhorn. We frantically checked in to a nearby hotel for Internet access and around 3 am we sent back our finished video. Within a few moments it appeared at the very top of the Guardian website for everyone to watch. I felt immensely privileged and proud to have witnessed first­hand this defining moment in America’s political history. In that moment it felt as though everyone was united by a faith in their country and what they could all achieve together.

 

5. Why did you become a filmmaker?

I became a filmmaker because when I was 11 years old my dad bought a video camera. After a bit of time my dad began to lose interest, but I became more and more excited about the possibilities it offered. I began building miniature sets in my bedroom, and I quickly roped in my two younger brothers as would-be actors and stunt men. We made everything from spoof science fiction comedies, to B­movie­style monster mash­ups. The passion never faded and by the time I went to university there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to make films professionally.

 

After I graduated a friend of mine invited me to make a documentary with him in Sierra Leone for the BBC. It was baptism by fire. I learnt how to produce, how to shoot, how to record sound and, crucially, how to edit. I was completely out of my depth, having never visited Africa before, but I loved every minute of the trip. And that’s when I began my career as a documentary maker.

 

6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

I think the first film I ever saw at the cinema was Disney’s BAMBI. I was about 4 or 5 years old and I remember being very upset when his mother was shot by a hunter in the forest. But I also remember the extraordinary texture of the animation and how beautifully made it was.

 

7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?

I think my most memorable documentary character would have to be either Timothy Treadwell in Werner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, or high­wire artist Philippe Petit in James Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE. Both characters fizz with restless energy, consumed by their dreams and obsessions, often at the expense of those who love them and with deadly consequences.

 

8. What documentary do you consider most cinematic?

Despite being made three decades ago, I still consider KOYAANISQATSI (1982) and THIN BLUE LINE (1988) to be two of the most influential examples of ‘cinematic’ storytelling.

 

9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

One of the most original documentaries I’ve seen is WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008), with its daring and imaginative use of animation to bring to life interviews that explore the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war.

10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?

It is difficult to quantify the impact a documentary has on society, but Ken Loach’s television play CATHY COME HOME (1966) brought homelessness to the forefront of public awareness in the UK. It was not strictly a documentary, but it was filmed using a gritty realist style (often blurring the lines between reality and traditional scripted drama) and became highly influential. The charities Crisis and Shelter were formed shortly after it was first broadcast on the BBC.

11. IF there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?

If there were one documentary moment in history that I could experience as a filmmaker, it would be when Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles filmed JFK during the Wisconsin Primary election in 1960. They used groundbreaking camera technology to shoot everything hand­held, a feat that had never been done before, capturing candid and intimate moments of a U.S. political icon in the making.

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

The most unexpected thing to happen since I took FAST ICE on the festival circuit is being invited to have a tour of the White House with AFI DOCS.

13. What song do you love this summer?

I’m terrible at keeping up with new music, but one band I’m very fond of is a small UK duo called Winter, and their single “The Sea Bites Back.”

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.
Goethe-Institut

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman of E-TEAM
With international conflicts raging, Human Rights Watch sends its specially trained Emergencies Team to the frontlines of Syria and Libya to document human rights abuses and capture the world’s attention. The members of this courageous and dedicated unit regularly risk their lives to report atrocities that would otherwise go undocumented. Filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny follow these extraordinary individuals who must balance working in extreme danger with the demands of ordinary life and family.
1. Introduce yourself. 
Katy Chevigny is an award-winning filmmaker and a partner at Big Mouth Productions. She directed the film ELECTION DAY (2007), which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2007 and was broadcast on POV in 2008. She co-directed the Emmy-nominated DEADLINE, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on NBC to an audience of over six million. She has also produced several other award-winning feature documentaries.
 
Ross Kauffman is the director/ producer/ cinematographer and co-editor of BORN INTO BROTHELS, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary and more than 40 other awards, including one for Best Documentary from the National Board of Review and Sundance Film Festival 2004 documentary Audience Award. He also executive-produced IN A DREAM, shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary feature. 
 
2. What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?
We knew a little bit about the work of Human Rights Watch before we started making the film, but not a lot. And we weren’t interested in making a film about human rights just because it’s a worthy issue. Worthy issues in and of themselves don’t necessarily make for good films. What really drew us to this film were the characters. Several years ago, we had dinner with the members of the E-Team, (the nickname for HRW’s Emergencies Team,) and we immediately thought: These guys are great. They’d be great in a movie. So that was what motivated us: we, as filmmakers, wanted to know more about what made Anya, Fred, Ole and Peter do this work and we thought viewers would find them compelling as well. 
 
3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
Since the definition of their work is “emergencies”, it made it very hard to plan the shoots. We basically had to be ready to leave on a shoot with 24 hours notice if we got word that our characters were traveling on a mission that we wanted to film. Editing the film was also a big challenge, because we had over 350 hours of footage that took place in half a dozen countries with multiple languages, and our Editor David Teague and Associate Editor Jamie Boyle had to plow through and organize this material, as well as working to build a strong story out of this mass of material. Lastly, and perhaps most critically, almost everyone working on this film had a baby during the making of the film! Ross, Katy, Anya, Ole, Fred and Peter all had children in the last 3 years. 
 
4. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
Ross: MARY POPPINS at a drive-in when I was 5. Katy: NATIONAL VELVET in New York City when I was 6.
5. Who is the most memorable documentary character you’ve ever seen?
Ross: MARK BORCHARDT, AMERICAN MOVIE 
 
6. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic? 
Katy: HOOP DREAMS
 

SCREENINGS:
Thu, June 19, 7:00 p.m. Portrait Gallery (click HERE for tickets)
Sat, June 21, 1:15 p.m. AFI Silver (click HERE for tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman of E-TEAM

With international conflicts raging, Human Rights Watch sends its specially trained Emergencies Team to the frontlines of Syria and Libya to document human rights abuses and capture the world’s attention. The members of this courageous and dedicated unit regularly risk their lives to report atrocities that would otherwise go undocumented. Filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny follow these extraordinary individuals who must balance working in extreme danger with the demands of ordinary life and family.

1. Introduce yourself.

Katy Chevigny is an award-winning filmmaker and a partner at Big Mouth Productions. She directed the film ELECTION DAY (2007), which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2007 and was broadcast on POV in 2008. She co-directed the Emmy-nominated DEADLINE, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on NBC to an audience of over six million. She has also produced several other award-winning feature documentaries.

 

Ross Kauffman is the director/ producer/ cinematographer and co-editor of BORN INTO BROTHELS, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary and more than 40 other awards, including one for Best Documentary from the National Board of Review and Sundance Film Festival 2004 documentary Audience Award. He also executive-produced IN A DREAM, shortlisted for the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary feature. 

 

2. What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

We knew a little bit about the work of Human Rights Watch before we started making the film, but not a lot. And we weren’t interested in making a film about human rights just because it’s a worthy issue. Worthy issues in and of themselves don’t necessarily make for good films. What really drew us to this film were the characters. Several years ago, we had dinner with the members of the E-Team, (the nickname for HRW’s Emergencies Team,) and we immediately thought: These guys are great. They’d be great in a movie. So that was what motivated us: we, as filmmakers, wanted to know more about what made Anya, Fred, Ole and Peter do this work and we thought viewers would find them compelling as well. 

 

3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

Since the definition of their work is “emergencies”, it made it very hard to plan the shoots. We basically had to be ready to leave on a shoot with 24 hours notice if we got word that our characters were traveling on a mission that we wanted to film. Editing the film was also a big challenge, because we had over 350 hours of footage that took place in half a dozen countries with multiple languages, and our Editor David Teague and Associate Editor Jamie Boyle had to plow through and organize this material, as well as working to build a strong story out of this mass of material. Lastly, and perhaps most critically, almost everyone working on this film had a baby during the making of the film! Ross, Katy, Anya, Ole, Fred and Peter all had children in the last 3 years. 

 

4. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

Ross: MARY POPPINS at a drive-in when I was 5. Katy: NATIONAL VELVET in New York City when I was 6.

5. Who is the most memorable documentary character you’ve ever seen?

Ross: MARK BORCHARDT, AMERICAN MOVIE

 

6. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

Katy: HOOP DREAMS

 

SCREENINGS:

Thu, June 19, 7:00 p.m. Portrait Gallery (click HERE for tickets)
Sat, June 21, 1:15 p.m. AFI Silver (click HERE for tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Kareem Tabsch of CHERRY POP
Cherry Pop was no ordinary cat. Beloved by her wealthy socialite owners, she lived life in the lap of luxury. Her taste for filet mignon and the comfort of Rolls- Royces made Cherry Pop a celebrity before her death in 1995. This delightful story will tickle your funny bone and touch your heart.

1. Introduce yourself. 
Kareem Tabsch (Director & Producer) is the co-founder and co-director of O Cinema, Miami HQ for indie, foreign, and art films. Located in the Wynwood arts district, O Cinema was established with a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Previously, Tabsch spent nine years on staff at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, where he served as Program Director for two years and brought icons like Bea Arthur and John Waters to Miami audiences. He has written about arts and entertainment for various local and national publications including Luxury Lifestyles, BeachedMiami, Miami Living, Miami New Times and various others. He has served on the First Feature Jury for Frameline, San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival, lectured about the history of queer cinema at Florida International University, and moderated a conversation around themes inCyrano de Bergerac for the Florida Grand Opera. In 2013 he was featured in the Miami New Times ‘People Issue’ for his contribution to the cities film culture. He currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Miami Foundation’s Our Miami initiative. CHERRY POP: THE STORE OF THE WORLD’S FANCIEST CAT is his directorial debut.
 
2. What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?
My mom bred purebred Persian and Himalayan show cats for over 20 years and ran a successful pet magazine, so I grew up in this whacky world of competitive cat show and cat show people!  Because of this I had the opportunity to meet Huey and Vi Vanek and their pampered cat Cherry Pop. Even as a kid I was cognizant of how odd this cat’s life was and the virality of her popularity (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Sally, National Enquirer, etc) was not lost on me.  We kept in touch with the Vaneks over the year and Huey Vanek was eager to tell Cherry Pop’s story while he was still alive.
 
3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
There was so much material to work with but so much of it was in analog formats that a big challenge was getting the best versions of those and making them work. The surprise was how well our ‘cat lady living room’ aided in bringing it all together.
 
4.  What is your proudest professional moment?
Over three years ago I co-founded O Cinema, Miami’s HQ for independent films with a focus on documentary. We’ve grown exponentially and showing docs has been a big part of our growth, so the ability to go from curating and showcasing documentary films to making a short doc that’s gaining some national attention- its terribly exciting and I’m very proud of it.
 
5. Why did you become a filmmaker?
I live in Florida- too many quirky stories that would go unknown if I didn’t make it my mission to tell them.
 
6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
My first recollection of a film is seeing the animated film AN AMERICAN TAIL.
 
7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?
There are so many, though Tammy Faye Baker in Barbatao/Bailey’s THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE stands as out as does Joyce Mckinney in Errol Morris TABLOID and everyone in THE ACT OF KILLING. 
 
8. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
THE IMPOSTER and AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY.
 
9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
THE ACT OF KILLING is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s original, imaginative, awe-inspiring and horrendous all at once.
 
10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH isn’t the best of films but its impact can’t be argued. While I’m not a big fan of Michael Moore’s, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE’s influence was tremendous.
 
11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?
I’d like to be in the room as Errol Morris interviewed Donald Rumsfeld.
 
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
I’ve only been at a few of the screenings but the laughs are almost always unexpected and totally fulfilling.  
13. What song do you love this summer? 
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

 SCREENINGS:
Thursday, June 19, 1:30 p.m.Goethe-Institut
(click HERE to buy tickets)
Friday, June 20, 11:15 a.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Kareem Tabsch of CHERRY POP

Cherry Pop was no ordinary cat. Beloved by her wealthy socialite owners, she lived life in the lap of luxury. Her taste for filet mignon and the comfort of Rolls- Royces made Cherry Pop a celebrity before her death in 1995. This delightful story will tickle your funny bone and touch your heart.

1. Introduce yourself.

Kareem Tabsch (Director & Producer) is the co-founder and co-director of O Cinema, Miami HQ for indie, foreign, and art films. Located in the Wynwood arts district, O Cinema was established with a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Previously, Tabsch spent nine years on staff at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, where he served as Program Director for two years and brought icons like Bea Arthur and John Waters to Miami audiences. He has written about arts and entertainment for various local and national publications including Luxury Lifestyles, BeachedMiami, Miami Living, Miami New Times and various others. He has served on the First Feature Jury for Frameline, San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival, lectured about the history of queer cinema at Florida International University, and moderated a conversation around themes inCyrano de Bergerac for the Florida Grand Opera. In 2013 he was featured in the Miami New Times ‘People Issue’ for his contribution to the cities film culture. He currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Miami Foundation’s Our Miami initiative. CHERRY POP: THE STORE OF THE WORLD’S FANCIEST CAT is his directorial debut.

 

2. What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

My mom bred purebred Persian and Himalayan show cats for over 20 years and ran a successful pet magazine, so I grew up in this whacky world of competitive cat show and cat show people!  Because of this I had the opportunity to meet Huey and Vi Vanek and their pampered cat Cherry Pop. Even as a kid I was cognizant of how odd this cat’s life was and the virality of her popularity (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Sally, National Enquirer, etc) was not lost on me.  We kept in touch with the Vaneks over the year and Huey Vanek was eager to tell Cherry Pop’s story while he was still alive.

 

3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

There was so much material to work with but so much of it was in analog formats that a big challenge was getting the best versions of those and making them work. The surprise was how well our ‘cat lady living room’ aided in bringing it all together.

 

4.  What is your proudest professional moment?

Over three years ago I co-founded O Cinema, Miami’s HQ for independent films with a focus on documentary. We’ve grown exponentially and showing docs has been a big part of our growth, so the ability to go from curating and showcasing documentary films to making a short doc that’s gaining some national attention- its terribly exciting and I’m very proud of it.

 

5. Why did you become a filmmaker?

I live in Florida- too many quirky stories that would go unknown if I didn’t make it my mission to tell them.

 

6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

My first recollection of a film is seeing the animated film AN AMERICAN TAIL.

 

7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?

There are so many, though Tammy Faye Baker in Barbatao/Bailey’s THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE stands as out as does Joyce Mckinney in Errol Morris TABLOID and everyone in THE ACT OF KILLING.

 

8. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

THE IMPOSTER and AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY.

 

9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

THE ACT OF KILLING is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s original, imaginative, awe-inspiring and horrendous all at once.

 

10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH isn’t the best of films but its impact can’t be argued. While I’m not a big fan of Michael Moore’s, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE’s influence was tremendous.

 

11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?

I’d like to be in the room as Errol Morris interviewed Donald Rumsfeld.

 

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

I’ve only been at a few of the screenings but the laughs are almost always unexpected and totally fulfilling.  

13. What song do you love this summer? 

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

 SCREENINGS:

Thursday, June 19, 1:30 p.m.
Goethe-Institut

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Friday, June 20, 11:15 a.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Sam Thonis of BEYOND RECOGNITION
After a brutal attack left her with devastating chemical burns all over her body, a woman undergoes a highly experimental face transplant. Receiving the visage of an anonymous donor whose life was cut short, she has a profound experience when she meets the daughter of the woman who gave her a second chance at life.
1. Introduce yourself. 
Sam Thonis is the Lead Features Director at The Verge, an online news magazine covering the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture.
 
Since joining the company in 2012, Sam has directed videos about people trying to become cyborgs, the world’s best Donkey Kong players, Vietnam vets taking ecstasy, and the first detonation of an atomic bomb. In addition to his directing credits, Sam has worked as a shooter and editor with the phenomenally talented Verge video team on countless product reviews, tech and science reports, news shows and podcasts
 
Prior to joining The Verge, Sam worked as a freelancer on a wide range of content, including comedy shorts for College Humor, music videos, and web advertisements. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently lives in Brooklyn.
 
2. What inspired the film? How did you find your subjects?
Years after a horrific, disfiguring attack, Carmen Tarleton received a full-face transplant. Hearing her moving story for the first time, I worried a video couldn’t possible do it justice.
Carmen’s story is deeply personal and I questioned our right to insert more media in her life, asking her questions, prying into her experiences. Meeting her, all of the fears and concerns I had disappeared in an instant. Carmen Tarleton exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit.Her courage and optimism are inspiring. Beyond that, she is warm and inviting. She is a fighter, and as long as she is willing to share her story, she will be winning the fight. It is an honor to help tell her story.

SCREENINGS:
Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE to buy tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.Goethe-Institut
(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Sam Thonis of BEYOND RECOGNITION

After a brutal attack left her with devastating chemical burns all over her body, a woman undergoes a highly experimental face transplant. Receiving the visage of an anonymous donor whose life was cut short, she has a profound experience when she meets the daughter of the woman who gave her a second chance at life.

1. Introduce yourself.

Sam Thonis is the Lead Features Director at The Verge, an online news magazine covering the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture.

 

Since joining the company in 2012, Sam has directed videos about people trying to become cyborgs, the world’s best Donkey Kong players, Vietnam vets taking ecstasy, and the first detonation of an atomic bomb. In addition to his directing credits, Sam has worked as a shooter and editor with the phenomenally talented Verge video team on countless product reviews, tech and science reports, news shows and podcasts

 

Prior to joining The Verge, Sam worked as a freelancer on a wide range of content, including comedy shorts for College Humor, music videos, and web advertisements. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently lives in Brooklyn.

 

2. What inspired the film? How did you find your subjects?

Years after a horrific, disfiguring attack, Carmen Tarleton received a full-face transplant. Hearing her moving story for the first time, I worried a video couldn’t possible do it justice.

Carmen’s story is deeply personal and I questioned our right to insert more media in her life, asking her questions, prying into her experiences. Meeting her, all of the fears and concerns I had disappeared in an instant. Carmen Tarleton exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit.Her courage and optimism are inspiring. Beyond that, she is warm and inviting. She is a fighter, and as long as she is willing to share her story, she will be winning the fight. It is an honor to help tell her story.

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.
Goethe-Institut

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman of ART AND CRAFT
Mark Landis is one of the most skilled art forgers in United States history. Using his astonishing talent to duplicate the work of famous artists, Landis has spent the last 30 years duping museum curators all over the country. Landis, however, is not in it for the money. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, this eccentric forger gets a thrill from donating his work. But after hoodwinking one person too many, Landis finds himself in hot water.

1.    Introduce yourself. 
Sam Cullman is a cinematographer, producer and director of documentaries with over a decade of experience. He partnered with director Marshall Curry to co-direct, shoot and produce IF A TREE FALLS (2011) which won the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and later received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Documentary Feature. More recently, Cullman produced and shot THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (2012), directed by Eugene Jarecki. The film won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and later, a Peabody. Cullman’s cinematography has appeared in dozens of documentaries including WATCHERS OF THE SKY (2014), REAGAN (2011), KING CORN (2006), and WHY WE FIGHT (2005). A graduate of Brown University (1999) with Honors in Visual Art and a second major in Urban Studies, Sam currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Jennifer Grausman directed and produced the Emmy-nominated feature documentary, PRESSURE COOKER(2008), which garnered awards from festivals around the country. Grausman also co-produced Eric Mendelsohn’s feature, 3 BACKYARDS(2009), which won Best Director at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and produced six short films. In addition to making films, Grausman was Co-Director of The Screenwriters Colony in Nantucket, MA from 2010 to 2012. A graduate of the MFA film program at Columbia University, Grausman was honored with the 2005 Best Producer Award.  Prior to graduate school, she was the Manager of Exhibition and Film Funding at The Museum of Modern Art.  
2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?
When The New York Times published an article about Mark Landis a few years ago, we were hooked from the start. The piece described a talented art forger who wasn’t motivated by money but instead donated his work to institutions across the United States for nearly three decades. But at the time, Landis had avoided full-scale detection and so the story explored his elaborate con through the experiences of the museum directors, curators and registrars who had received his countless forgeries. The man at the center of the storm remained a mystery and we were dying to know more. Who was Mark Landis? What were his motivations? We had to meet him. What we discovered was a man and a story that was far more compelling and complex than we could have ever imagined.
 
3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
There were many challenges in completing this project from a both producing and directing standpoint. But perhaps our greatest was having a main character who spent most of his time at home alone. Eventually the film did take us (and our audience too) far from Mark Landis’ domestic routine in rural Mississippi, but in the early days of production, Landis rarely went out into the world unless he was on a so-called “philanthropic binge.” So we really had to think creatively about how to open up the story in production and then later in post with editor and co-director Mark Becker. We found one key solution in Landis’ obsession with Turner Classic Movies and we were able to develop a fluid language in our own film with the movies and television that Landis religiously watches and references. In this way, we could travel visually and narratively, even if Landis himself wasn’t leaving his cluttered apartment. This device allowed for a deeper understanding of Landis’ points of reference and motivations — but it also had a metaphorical resonance since Landis would occasionally see himself as “an actor playing a part” when he’d venture out to donate his forgeries to museums.
 
4.    What is your proudest professional moment?
Sam: Walking the red carpet with my wife and parents when IF A TREE FALLS was nominated for an Oscar.
 
Jennifer: Watching Wilma Stephenson and the high school students featured in PRESSURE COOKER receive a standing ovation at the LA Film Festival when the film premiered in front of 1200 people.
 
 5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?
Sam: From an early age I was always involved with creative work. Painting, taking pictures, writing. But I came to filmmaking — perhaps naively (well, certainly it was idealistic) — because I saw film as the most effective medium to reach people and have an impact. And while I do still believe that art has a role in social change, the older I get, I understand how truly difficult that is. So I am becoming more comfortable with the realization that I make docs simply because I enjoy it. I feed off the immediacy of the process and am grateful for the range of experiences to which I am exposed. I get to learn on the job and be introduced to worlds I’d otherwise never be able to access. Of course, I also have to credit my mom here a little. She’s a huge film buff and fed us a steady diet of movies as kids.
 
Jennifer: A native New Yorker, I grew up aspiring to work in the art world. And after studying art history in undergrad, I worked in fundraising at my favorite museum – MoMA. While I was there though, I realized that what I really wanted to do was make movies and so I went to film school at Columbia, imagining I would work in the fiction feature world. After graduating, I began working in production, but soon thereafter I jumped into making a documentary, yet another new world to me. Three years later I completed directing PRESSURE COOKERwith Mark Becker. I decided to go back to writing and working in narrative film and I honestly didn’t know if I would make another documentary until I read the article about Mark Landis in the New York Times and couldn’t stop thinking about it.  
 
6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
Sam: CADDYSHACK was my first experience at the movies. I was just about four at the time (my parents didn’t believe in “age-appropriate”) — and it was the Baby Ruth scene that hooked me to the communal experience of cinema. I’ll never forget the collective anticipation (JAWS music!), the gasp (Hazmat suits!) and then the flat-out eruption of laughter when Bill Murray figures it all out…
 
Jennifer: My earliest film memories are of going to the Regency Theatre to see REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO with my Dad when I was six. A little early for Hitchcock, but my mother was busy with my new baby sister and I was happy for father-daughter movies followed by egg creams.
 
 7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character you’ve ever seen?
Sam: I have trouble with “the most ever” kinds of questions — I can never limit answers to any one single superlative thing. But thinking about films I’ve seen in the last few months, I was pretty blown away by Pastor Jay Reinke, the main character in THE OVERNIGHTERS.
 
8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
Sam: Again, gonna have to stick to just the last few months, but probably the most cinematic film I saw of late was NE ME QUITTE PAS. It’s not “traditionally” cinematic but the film just transports you — and that’s really what its all about, right?
 
Jennifer: Of the recent docs I’ve seen, NE ME QUITTE PAS definitely stands out as a cinematic work. And I always think of MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT as a particularly cinematic documentary.
 
 9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
Sam: Still, just thinking only within the last few months, I thought WATCHERS OF THE SKY was uniquely original and creative in its approach to a very complex history and set of ideas.
 
10. Which documentary would you say has had the most profound impact on society?
Sam: I caught 1971 this spring and can’t wait for its release. It’s a film that could really provoke a new way of thinking about current events and our own relationships with government and society. We need that.
 
11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could place yourself behind the camera, which one would it be?
Sam: Gosh, there’s so much going on right now that I’d love to be shooting….
 
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
Our main subjects were locked in a cat and mouse game throughout the filming of ART AND CRAFT. So when they came to NYC for the film’s world premiere this spring at Tribeca Film Festival, we sat them as far apart as we could — but then after an especially probing question during the Q&A afterwards, much to our surprise, they hugged on stage!
 
13. What song has you pumped this summer?  

“Saturday Night Blues” by Natural Child

SCREENINGS:
Friday, June 20, 9:00 p.m.Naval Heritage
(click HERE to buy tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 1:00 p.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman of ART AND CRAFT

Mark Landis is one of the most skilled art forgers in United States history. Using his astonishing talent to duplicate the work of famous artists, Landis has spent the last 30 years duping museum curators all over the country. Landis, however, is not in it for the money. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, this eccentric forger gets a thrill from donating his work. But after hoodwinking one person too many, Landis finds himself in hot water.

1.    Introduce yourself.

Sam Cullman is a cinematographer, producer and director of documentaries with over a decade of experience. He partnered with director Marshall Curry to co-direct, shoot and produce IF A TREE FALLS (2011) which won the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and later received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Documentary Feature. More recently, Cullman produced and shot THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (2012), directed by Eugene Jarecki. The film won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and later, a Peabody. Cullman’s cinematography has appeared in dozens of documentaries including WATCHERS OF THE SKY (2014), REAGAN (2011), KING CORN (2006), and WHY WE FIGHT (2005). A graduate of Brown University (1999) with Honors in Visual Art and a second major in Urban Studies, Sam currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

 

Jennifer Grausman directed and produced the Emmy-nominated feature documentary, PRESSURE COOKER(2008), which garnered awards from festivals around the country. Grausman also co-produced Eric Mendelsohn’s feature, 3 BACKYARDS(2009), which won Best Director at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and produced six short films. In addition to making films, Grausman was Co-Director of The Screenwriters Colony in Nantucket, MA from 2010 to 2012. A graduate of the MFA film program at Columbia University, Grausman was honored with the 2005 Best Producer Award.  Prior to graduate school, she was the Manager of Exhibition and Film Funding at The Museum of Modern Art. 

2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

When The New York Times published an article about Mark Landis a few years ago, we were hooked from the start. The piece described a talented art forger who wasn’t motivated by money but instead donated his work to institutions across the United States for nearly three decades. But at the time, Landis had avoided full-scale detection and so the story explored his elaborate con through the experiences of the museum directors, curators and registrars who had received his countless forgeries. The man at the center of the storm remained a mystery and we were dying to know more. Who was Mark Landis? What were his motivations? We had to meet him. What we discovered was a man and a story that was far more compelling and complex than we could have ever imagined.

 

3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

There were many challenges in completing this project from a both producing and directing standpoint. But perhaps our greatest was having a main character who spent most of his time at home alone. Eventually the film did take us (and our audience too) far from Mark Landis’ domestic routine in rural Mississippi, but in the early days of production, Landis rarely went out into the world unless he was on a so-called “philanthropic binge.” So we really had to think creatively about how to open up the story in production and then later in post with editor and co-director Mark Becker. We found one key solution in Landis’ obsession with Turner Classic Movies and we were able to develop a fluid language in our own film with the movies and television that Landis religiously watches and references. In this way, we could travel visually and narratively, even if Landis himself wasn’t leaving his cluttered apartment. This device allowed for a deeper understanding of Landis’ points of reference and motivations — but it also had a metaphorical resonance since Landis would occasionally see himself as “an actor playing a part” when he’d venture out to donate his forgeries to museums.

 

4.    What is your proudest professional moment?

Sam: Walking the red carpet with my wife and parents when IF A TREE FALLS was nominated for an Oscar.

 

Jennifer: Watching Wilma Stephenson and the high school students featured in PRESSURE COOKER receive a standing ovation at the LA Film Festival when the film premiered in front of 1200 people.

 

 5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?

Sam: From an early age I was always involved with creative work. Painting, taking pictures, writing. But I came to filmmaking — perhaps naively (well, certainly it was idealistic) — because I saw film as the most effective medium to reach people and have an impact. And while I do still believe that art has a role in social change, the older I get, I understand how truly difficult that is. So I am becoming more comfortable with the realization that I make docs simply because I enjoy it. I feed off the immediacy of the process and am grateful for the range of experiences to which I am exposed. I get to learn on the job and be introduced to worlds I’d otherwise never be able to access. Of course, I also have to credit my mom here a little. She’s a huge film buff and fed us a steady diet of movies as kids.

 

Jennifer: A native New Yorker, I grew up aspiring to work in the art world. And after studying art history in undergrad, I worked in fundraising at my favorite museum – MoMA. While I was there though, I realized that what I really wanted to do was make movies and so I went to film school at Columbia, imagining I would work in the fiction feature world. After graduating, I began working in production, but soon thereafter I jumped into making a documentary, yet another new world to me. Three years later I completed directing PRESSURE COOKERwith Mark Becker. I decided to go back to writing and working in narrative film and I honestly didn’t know if I would make another documentary until I read the article about Mark Landis in the New York Times and couldn’t stop thinking about it.  

 

6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

Sam: CADDYSHACK was my first experience at the movies. I was just about four at the time (my parents didn’t believe in “age-appropriate”) — and it was the Baby Ruth scene that hooked me to the communal experience of cinema. I’ll never forget the collective anticipation (JAWS music!), the gasp (Hazmat suits!) and then the flat-out eruption of laughter when Bill Murray figures it all out…

 

Jennifer: My earliest film memories are of going to the Regency Theatre to see REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO with my Dad when I was six. A little early for Hitchcock, but my mother was busy with my new baby sister and I was happy for father-daughter movies followed by egg creams.

 

 7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character you’ve ever seen?

Sam: I have trouble with “the most ever” kinds of questions — I can never limit answers to any one single superlative thing. But thinking about films I’ve seen in the last few months, I was pretty blown away by Pastor Jay Reinke, the main character in THE OVERNIGHTERS.

 

8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

Sam: Again, gonna have to stick to just the last few months, but probably the most cinematic film I saw of late was NE ME QUITTE PAS. It’s not “traditionally” cinematic but the film just transports you — and that’s really what its all about, right?

 

Jennifer: Of the recent docs I’ve seen, NE ME QUITTE PAS definitely stands out as a cinematic work. And I always think of MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT as a particularly cinematic documentary.

 

 9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

Sam: Still, just thinking only within the last few months, I thought WATCHERS OF THE SKY was uniquely original and creative in its approach to a very complex history and set of ideas.

 

10. Which documentary would you say has had the most profound impact on society?

Sam: I caught 1971 this spring and can’t wait for its release. It’s a film that could really provoke a new way of thinking about current events and our own relationships with government and society. We need that.

 

11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could place yourself behind the camera, which one would it be?

Sam: Gosh, there’s so much going on right now that I’d love to be shooting….

 

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

Our main subjects were locked in a cat and mouse game throughout the filming of ART AND CRAFT. So when they came to NYC for the film’s world premiere this spring at Tribeca Film Festival, we sat them as far apart as we could — but then after an especially probing question during the Q&A afterwards, much to our surprise, they hugged on stage!

 

13. What song has you pumped this summer?  

“Saturday Night Blues” by Natural Child

SCREENINGS:

Friday, June 20, 9:00 p.m.
Naval Heritage

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 1:00 p.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Ilan Moskovitch of APOLLONIAN STORY
For over 40 years, Nissim has been chipping away at a seaside limestone cliff just north of Tel Aviv. Though continually under construction, the intricate home he has built for himself is truly incredible. When his son comes to help for the summer, eccentricities arise that surely predate his work of passion. Nissim’s reclusive obsession is at once alarming and amusing. This beautiful, and often humorous film speaks volumes about investments in work, family and self.
1. Introduce yourself. 
My name is Ilan Moskovitch. I’m 47 years old. Born Israel in Acre, a city in the Northern part of Israel, 30 kilometers from Lebanon and one of the oldest cities in the world, with both Arabs and Jews living together side by side. My parents came to Israel in 1964. My father was in the Holocaust. I am a filmmaker – producer, casting director, artistic consultant, acting instructor and director. In the past 19 years I was involved in over 30 films, both feature films and documentaries, half of which, I produced. APOLLONIAN STORY is the first film that I’ve directed, because I had a phobia to direct films. I am certainly over that now.
 
2. What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
The place where I grew up had a great influence on me. It was a place with many new immigrants, mostly uneducated and not too well off. Marginal people and areas always attracted me and interested me. It’s a combination of curiosity and the desire to reveal, to display and I believe it comes from a part of me that has a lot of sadness and empathy to their situation. This is not the first film that I made that deals with marginality.
 
I like portraits. Since I was a boy, visiting my father’s kiosk in the Old City of Acre, I liked to observe people and ask myself “How did they look like when they were children?” “How did they develop to be who they are, having this personality and these qualities and these behaviors?”
My co-director, Dan Bronfeld, approached me one day and told me that he has some stills to show me about a man who lives in a cave. This was a good starting point. Marginal. When I saw the photos I felt something strong, since the photos were visually very powerful and intense. I told Dan that I would like to meet this guy and when I first saw him in his house, in the cave, I immediately felt that there was an untold story here, some sort of secret, with additional unseen layers. How does a man come and live in this place and creates this place…it’s very difficult! What was it that brought this man to this emotional and physical place? These interesting questions made it possible to start making a film.
 
3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
One of the greatest surprises to me was that I found out that this caveman has children – 3 of them. I thought in the beginning  that he was a loner and suddenly he revealed that he is building an “extra room” in the cave for his son to come live with him. The film took a turn because of this piece of insight.
 
4. What is your proudest professional moment?
In 2005 I was the casting director and artistic consultant for a feature film called FREE ZONE, directed by Amos Gitai and starring Natalie Portman and Hana Laszlo. This film participated at the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Hana got the prize for “Best Actress.” I was proud to have cast her for this film mainly because I did so against opinions of certain people who weren’t in favor of this casting!
 
5. Why did you become a filmmaker?
My father, who is a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1964. When he came to Israel, to Acre, he opened a kiosk in the Old City, which is an Arab town, just in front of the Arab Cinema. This location gave me the opportunity to watch plenty of films and this certainly had an effect on me. I didn’t know, when I was a boy, whether I would become a filmmaker, but I surely knew that I really love movies and also the part where the audience gets excited and enthusiastic when watching movies.
 
6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
I don’t quite remember the exact film I saw for the first time at the movie theatre, but I remember the genre. It was a Western for sure! Maybe it was THE SEARCHERS directed by John Ford starring John Wayne and Natalie Wood.
 
7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?
The film trilogy entitled WADI in 1981, WADI TEN YEARS AFTER in 1991 and WADI GRAND CANYON in 2001, directed by the Israeli director Amos Gitai. WADI portrays the life in Wadi Rushmiya (Rushmiya Valley) in Haifa, a city in the northern part of Israel, over the course of three visits and films spanning three decades. In the center of the trilogy there are touching characters, who were forgotten, abandoned and banished from the public discourse.
 
The film features three couples— an Arab couple, two Jewish brothers, Holocaust survivors from Romania, and a mixed couple. Through conversations with three of the couples, Gitai unfolds the unique existence of these poor people. And in all this existence they are very touching and increase our empathy towards them. With 1991’s WADI TEN YEARS AFTER, Gitai comes back to the Rushmiya Valley and its residents, whose number decreased and whose life conditions were worse than ever before. In 2001, he returns for a third time to the valley, this time with WADI GRAND CANYON.After the destruction of the Rushmiya Valley for the profit of a new neighbor, the largest commercial center in the Middle East, Gitai finds the handful of residents who remained there and others who had already left in their worn-out, aged condition, still preserving their simple and primitive way of life against the destructive and intrusive reality of life in general.
 
8. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
The WADI documentary trilogy. 
 
9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its
construction?
In general, I like films that have imperfect narratives. I think that cinema is made up of strong scenes. I like the fact that there are secrets, gaps between scenes, that not all is told, not all is revealed and that certain things are left to the audience to fly away with.
 
10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?
I think SHOAH directed by Claude Lanzmann. I think that this is the most important documentary that was created. But I am not objective because my parents underwent the sufferings of World War II. I would like to believe that even if people think that a film doesn’t really have influence, that this film is engraved in the memory of people and that horrible things like this will never happen again on the face of this earth…that killing of people by other people will cease. This is my wishful thinking.
 
11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?
The first man on Earth. I would like to be around him and accompany him. To see how he lives and what he does and how the space surrounding him looks like.
 
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
When Nissim (the main character of the film) agreed to come to the World Premiere of the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It was really a great surprise to have him leave his cave and come to a movie theatre and watch himself on the big screen and the standing ovation when he went up on the podium.
 
13. What song do you love this summer?

"Love in Vain,”  by The Rolling Stones. They’re performing for the first time ever in June in Tel-Aviv.

SCREENINGS:
Friday, June 20, 2:15 p.m.Goethe-Institut
(click HERE to buy tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 6:45 p.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Ilan Moskovitch of APOLLONIAN STORY

For over 40 years, Nissim has been chipping away at a seaside limestone cliff just north of Tel Aviv. Though continually under construction, the intricate home he has built for himself is truly incredible. When his son comes to help for the summer, eccentricities arise that surely predate his work of passion. Nissim’s reclusive obsession is at once alarming and amusing. This beautiful, and often humorous film speaks volumes about investments in work, family and self.

1. Introduce yourself.

My name is Ilan Moskovitch. I’m 47 years old. Born Israel in Acre, a city in the Northern part of Israel, 30 kilometers from Lebanon and one of the oldest cities in the world, with both Arabs and Jews living together side by side. My parents came to Israel in 1964. My father was in the Holocaust. I am a filmmaker – producer, casting director, artistic consultant, acting instructor and director. In the past 19 years I was involved in over 30 films, both feature films and documentaries, half of which, I produced. APOLLONIAN STORY is the first film that I’ve directed, because I had a phobia to direct films. I am certainly over that now.

 

2. What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?

The place where I grew up had a great influence on me. It was a place with many new immigrants, mostly uneducated and not too well off. Marginal people and areas always attracted me and interested me. It’s a combination of curiosity and the desire to reveal, to display and I believe it comes from a part of me that has a lot of sadness and empathy to their situation. This is not the first film that I made that deals with marginality.

 

I like portraits. Since I was a boy, visiting my father’s kiosk in the Old City of Acre, I liked to observe people and ask myself “How did they look like when they were children?” “How did they develop to be who they are, having this personality and these qualities and these behaviors?”

My co-director, Dan Bronfeld, approached me one day and told me that he has some stills to show me about a man who lives in a cave. This was a good starting point. Marginal. When I saw the photos I felt something strong, since the photos were visually very powerful and intense. I told Dan that I would like to meet this guy and when I first saw him in his house, in the cave, I immediately felt that there was an untold story here, some sort of secret, with additional unseen layers. How does a man come and live in this place and creates this place…it’s very difficult! What was it that brought this man to this emotional and physical place? These interesting questions made it possible to start making a film.

 

3. What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

One of the greatest surprises to me was that I found out that this caveman has children – 3 of them. I thought in the beginning  that he was a loner and suddenly he revealed that he is building an “extra room” in the cave for his son to come live with him. The film took a turn because of this piece of insight.

 

4. What is your proudest professional moment?

In 2005 I was the casting director and artistic consultant for a feature film called FREE ZONE, directed by Amos Gitai and starring Natalie Portman and Hana Laszlo. This film participated at the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Hana got the prize for “Best Actress.” I was proud to have cast her for this film mainly because I did so against opinions of certain people who weren’t in favor of this casting!

 

5. Why did you become a filmmaker?

My father, who is a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1964. When he came to Israel, to Acre, he opened a kiosk in the Old City, which is an Arab town, just in front of the Arab Cinema. This location gave me the opportunity to watch plenty of films and this certainly had an effect on me. I didn’t know, when I was a boy, whether I would become a filmmaker, but I surely knew that I really love movies and also the part where the audience gets excited and enthusiastic when watching movies.

 

6. What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

I don’t quite remember the exact film I saw for the first time at the movie theatre, but I remember the genre. It was a Western for sure! Maybe it was THE SEARCHERS directed by John Ford starring John Wayne and Natalie Wood.

 

7. Who is the most memorable documentary character?

The film trilogy entitled WADI in 1981, WADI TEN YEARS AFTER in 1991 and WADI GRAND CANYON in 2001, directed by the Israeli director Amos Gitai. WADI portrays the life in Wadi Rushmiya (Rushmiya Valley) in Haifa, a city in the northern part of Israel, over the course of three visits and films spanning three decades. In the center of the trilogy there are touching characters, who were forgotten, abandoned and banished from the public discourse.

 

The film features three couples— an Arab couple, two Jewish brothers, Holocaust survivors from Romania, and a mixed couple. Through conversations with three of the couples, Gitai unfolds the unique existence of these poor people. And in all this existence they are very touching and increase our empathy towards them. With 1991’s WADI TEN YEARS AFTER, Gitai comes back to the Rushmiya Valley and its residents, whose number decreased and whose life conditions were worse than ever before. In 2001, he returns for a third time to the valley, this time with WADI GRAND CANYON.After the destruction of the Rushmiya Valley for the profit of a new neighbor, the largest commercial center in the Middle East, Gitai finds the handful of residents who remained there and others who had already left in their worn-out, aged condition, still preserving their simple and primitive way of life against the destructive and intrusive reality of life in general.

 

8. Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

The WADI documentary trilogy.

 

9. What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its

construction?

In general, I like films that have imperfect narratives. I think that cinema is made up of strong scenes. I like the fact that there are secrets, gaps between scenes, that not all is told, not all is revealed and that certain things are left to the audience to fly away with.

 

10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?

I think SHOAH directed by Claude Lanzmann. I think that this is the most important documentary that was created. But I am not objective because my parents underwent the sufferings of World War II. I would like to believe that even if people think that a film doesn’t really have influence, that this film is engraved in the memory of people and that horrible things like this will never happen again on the face of this earth…that killing of people by other people will cease. This is my wishful thinking.

 

11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?

The first man on Earth. I would like to be around him and accompany him. To see how he lives and what he does and how the space surrounding him looks like.

 

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

When Nissim (the main character of the film) agreed to come to the World Premiere of the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It was really a great surprise to have him leave his cave and come to a movie theatre and watch himself on the big screen and the standing ovation when he went up on the podium.

 

13. What song do you love this summer?

"Love in Vain,”  by The Rolling Stones. They’re performing for the first time ever in June in Tel-Aviv.

SCREENINGS:

Friday, June 20, 2:15 p.m.
Goethe-Institut

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 6:45 p.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Tyler Measom of AN HONEST LIAR
James “The Amazing” Randi has been mastering the art of illusion and sleight of hand for over half a century. To him, the craft of professional deception is meant to entertain and thrill audiences who understand they are seeing sophisticated trickery. When he sees magicians’ tricks of the trade being used by con artists like faith healers and psychics to bilk the masses, however, Randi dedicates himself to exposing the frauds for what they are.
(Click HERE to view the trailer)
1.    Introduce yourself with a short bio.
Tyler Measom is the co-director/producer of the documentary SONS OF PERDITION, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by the Oprah Winfrey Network. Measom is also the producer of the feature film, TAKE, starring Minnie Driver and Jeremy Renner. He has written, produced and directed over one hundred commercials, short documentaries and industrials for a wide range of national and international clients. He won an Emmy for the PBS documentary BEEHIVE SPIRITS and he is the producer of the soon to be released documentary JESUS TOWN. Measom currently lives in Salt Lake City under the shade of giant oak tree.  And no, he’s not Mormon.
 
2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?
We are actually shocked that no one had yet make a film about James Randi, so we simply called him up and begged. He gave in.  
 
3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
The filmmaking profession is a constant state of challenges but the biggest surprise is that films get finished at all, ever. 
 
4.    What is your proudest professional moment?
I still remember getting my first film paycheck in the film industry when I was 17 years old. I haven’t received another one since…
 
5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?
To piss off my parents. 
 
6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
I don’t really remember, but I believe it was SIX PACK(1982)about a rag-a-muffin group of troubled yet lovable orphans who become the NASCAR pit crew for Kenny Rogers. 
 
7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character you’ve ever seen?
Mark Borchardt from AMERICAN MOVIE.  Hands down.
 
8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
MAN ON WIRE.
 
9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP.
                        
10. Which documentary would you say has had the most profound impact on society?
AN INCONVIENENT TRUTH.
                        
11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could place yourself behind the camera, which one would it be?
Mick Jagger sitting at the editing machine watching himself on stage in Gimme Shelter.  
                        
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
I actually went to sleep before midnight once.  
 
13. What song has you pumped this summer?  

No one wants to listen to my weak-ass-slow-moving-folksy-old man music. 
SCREENINGS:
Friday, June 20, 4:30 p.m.Goethe-Institut (click HERE to buy tickets)
Saturday, June 21, 9:30 p.m.AFI Silver (click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Tyler Measom of AN HONEST LIAR

James “The Amazing” Randi has been mastering the art of illusion and sleight of hand for over half a century. To him, the craft of professional deception is meant to entertain and thrill audiences who understand they are seeing sophisticated trickery. When he sees magicians’ tricks of the trade being used by con artists like faith healers and psychics to bilk the masses, however, Randi dedicates himself to exposing the frauds for what they are.

(Click HERE to view the trailer)

1.    Introduce yourself with a short bio.

Tyler Measom is the co-director/producer of the documentary SONS OF PERDITION, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by the Oprah Winfrey Network. Measom is also the producer of the feature film, TAKE, starring Minnie Driver and Jeremy Renner. He has written, produced and directed over one hundred commercials, short documentaries and industrials for a wide range of national and international clients. He won an Emmy for the PBS documentary BEEHIVE SPIRITS and he is the producer of the soon to be released documentary JESUS TOWN. Measom currently lives in Salt Lake City under the shade of giant oak tree.  And no, hes not Mormon.

 

2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

We are actually shocked that no one had yet make a film about James Randi, so we simply called him up and begged. He gave in. 

 

3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

The filmmaking profession is a constant state of challenges but the biggest surprise is that films get finished at all, ever.

 

4.    What is your proudest professional moment?

I still remember getting my first film paycheck in the film industry when I was 17 years old. I havent received another one since

 

5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?

To piss off my parents.

 

6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

I dont really remember, but I believe it was SIX PACK(1982)about a rag-a-muffin group of troubled yet lovable orphans who become the NASCAR pit crew for Kenny Rogers.

 

7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character youve ever seen?

Mark Borchardt from AMERICAN MOVIE.  Hands down.

 

8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

MAN ON WIRE.

 

9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP.

                       

10. Which documentary would you say has had the most profound impact on society?

AN INCONVIENENT TRUTH.

                       

11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could place yourself behind the camera, which one would it be?

Mick Jagger sitting at the editing machine watching himself on stage in Gimme Shelter. 

                       

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

I actually went to sleep before midnight once. 

 

13. What song has you pumped this summer?  

No one wants to listen to my weak-ass-slow-moving-folksy-old man music. 

SCREENINGS:

Friday, June 20, 4:30 p.m.
Goethe-Institut (click HERE to buy tickets)

Saturday, June 21, 9:30 p.m.
AFI Silver (click HERE to buy tickets)

Filmmakers Q&A with Robert Green of ACTRESS
After landing a choice part on the television series THE WIRE, actress Brandy Burre’s career was on the rise. On the cusp of success, however, Burre gave it all up for the real life role of wife and mother in upstate New York. Now, years later, she is eager to find her way back into the world of acting, but at what cost to the life she’s made for herself and her family?
(click HERE to watch the trailer) 
1.    Introduce yourself with a short bio. 
Robert Greene is a filmmaker and writer. He was named one of the 10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014 by The Independent. Robert’s most recent film is the critically-acclaimed ACTRESS. His last film, FAKE IT SO REAL, was named one of the 15 best films of 2012 by Richard Brody of The New Yorker and one of the best documentaries of the year by Roger Ebert. His previous documentary, KATI WITH AN I, was nominated for a Gotham Award for “Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You” in 2010 and was released in April 2011 to great reviews. Robert’s first feature OWNING THE WEATHER was released in 2009 after screening at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Robert has produced and edited over a dozen award-winning documentaries, including editing films as diverse as Alex Ross Perry’s Sundance-premiering LISTEN UP PHILIP and Douglas Tirola’s SXSW-premiering HEY BARTENDER, while contributing editing to many more films, including LENNY COOKE (Safdie bros.), HELLAWARE (Bilandic) and THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA (Oreck). He is also the producer and editor for Amanda Rose Wilder’s APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT. Robert has written movie reviews and essays on documentary film for outlets such as Sight & Sound, Filmmaker Magazine, Hammer to Nail, Nonfics and the Indiewire blog Press Play. His first book, PRESENT TENSE: AMERICAN NONFICTION CINEMA 1998-2013 will be coming in February, 2015. He programmed a special “cinematic nonfiction” competition at the 2014 Little Rock Film Festival and is programming a week-long seminar of films at Hampshire College in July 2014. Robert will receive the Vanguard Artist Award from the San Francisco DocFest in June 2014. He was Post-Production Supervisor from 2002 to 2012 for 4th Row Films. 
 
2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?
Brandy is my neighbor and when I realized that such a powerful, creative person was being bottled up by the roles of mother and wife, I was intrigued. Too few stories are told about women in their late 30’s. When she told me the story of being passed over for a role for a younger woman, I knew we had a potentially powerful narrative, although I could have never imagined what would actually happen onscreen. On a formal level, I was intrigued to find out what happens when you make an observational portrait of an actor - does it remain nonfiction or does it become something else?
 
3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
Dealing with the emotional turmoil of what was happening in front of my camera was exhausting and powerful.
 
4.    What is your proudest professional moment?
I’ve been lucky for a long time, with many people putting their trust in me (including Brandy, my previous subjects, my producers at 4th Row Films, my wife, etc.) so I’ve had many moments to be proud of, but I think this amazing illustration and piece in The New Yorker pretty much takes the cake: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/2014/04/14/140414goli_GOAT_movies_brody
 
5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?
First I wanted to act when I was a kid, but I realized that I hated acting. Then I wanted to write novels, write journalism, write screenplays but I realized I hated all that too. Being a nonfiction filmmaker allows me to follow that strange path in my head without having to write screenplays.
 
6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
My mom took me to see Star Wars on my first birthday in 1977. I assume that was it.
 
7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character?
Jonas Mekas in AS I WAS MOVING AHEAD OCCASIONALLY I SAW BRIEF GLIMPSES OF BEAUTY or Werner Herzog in BURDEN OF DREAMS.
 
 
8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
TOKYO OLYMPIAD, anything by Frederick Wiseman, and THE BELOVS.
 
9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
EDVARD MUNCH by Peter Watkins is an incredible fiction/nonfiction chimera, THE BATTLE OF CHILE is brilliantly put together and MANUFACTURING CONSENT does so much original stuff it’s amazing.
 
10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?
The Lumière’s EXITING THE FACTORY (1895)
 
11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?
When Flaherty convinced Nanook to use a spear.
 
12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
The positive reaction the film has received from older married men.
 
13. What song do you love this summer?

Still can’t stop listening to “Rocket” by Beyonce.


SCREENINGS
Friday, June 20, 9:15 p.m.AFI Silver
(click HERE for tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 6:15 p.m.Goethe-Institut
(click HERE for tickets)

Filmmakers Q&A with Robert Green of ACTRESS

After landing a choice part on the television series THE WIRE, actress Brandy Burre’s career was on the rise. On the cusp of success, however, Burre gave it all up for the real life role of wife and mother in upstate New York. Now, years later, she is eager to find her way back into the world of acting, but at what cost to the life she’s made for herself and her family?

(click HERE to watch the trailer) 

1.    Introduce yourself with a short bio.

Robert Greene is a filmmaker and writer. He was named one of the 10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014 by The Independent. Robert’s most recent film is the critically-acclaimed ACTRESS. His last film, FAKE IT SO REAL, was named one of the 15 best films of 2012 by Richard Brody of The New Yorker and one of the best documentaries of the year by Roger Ebert. His previous documentary, KATI WITH AN I, was nominated for a Gotham Award for “Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You” in 2010 and was released in April 2011 to great reviews. Robert’s first feature OWNING THE WEATHER was released in 2009 after screening at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Robert has produced and edited over a dozen award-winning documentaries, including editing films as diverse as Alex Ross Perry’s Sundance-premiering LISTEN UP PHILIP and Douglas Tirola’s SXSW-premiering HEY BARTENDER, while contributing editing to many more films, including LENNY COOKE (Safdie bros.), HELLAWARE (Bilandic) and THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA (Oreck). He is also the producer and editor for Amanda Rose Wilder’s APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT. Robert has written movie reviews and essays on documentary film for outlets such as Sight & Sound, Filmmaker Magazine, Hammer to Nail, Nonfics and the Indiewire blog Press Play. His first book, PRESENT TENSE: AMERICAN NONFICTION CINEMA 1998-2013 will be coming in February, 2015. He programmed a special “cinematic nonfiction” competition at the 2014 Little Rock Film Festival and is programming a week-long seminar of films at Hampshire College in July 2014. Robert will receive the Vanguard Artist Award from the San Francisco DocFest in June 2014. He was Post-Production Supervisor from 2002 to 2012 for 4th Row Films.

 

2.    What inspired this film?  How did you find your subjects?

Brandy is my neighbor and when I realized that such a powerful, creative person was being bottled up by the roles of mother and wife, I was intrigued. Too few stories are told about women in their late 30’s. When she told me the story of being passed over for a role for a younger woman, I knew we had a potentially powerful narrative, although I could have never imagined what would actually happen onscreen. On a formal level, I was intrigued to find out what happens when you make an observational portrait of an actor - does it remain nonfiction or does it become something else?

 

3.    What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

Dealing with the emotional turmoil of what was happening in front of my camera was exhausting and powerful.

 

4.    What is your proudest professional moment?

I’ve been lucky for a long time, with many people putting their trust in me (including Brandy, my previous subjects, my producers at 4th Row Films, my wife, etc.) so I’ve had many moments to be proud of, but I think this amazing illustration and piece in The New Yorker pretty much takes the cake: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/2014/04/14/140414goli_GOAT_movies_brody

 

5.    Why did you become a filmmaker?

First I wanted to act when I was a kid, but I realized that I hated acting. Then I wanted to write novels, write journalism, write screenplays but I realized I hated all that too. Being a nonfiction filmmaker allows me to follow that strange path in my head without having to write screenplays.

 

6.    What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

My mom took me to see Star Wars on my first birthday in 1977. I assume that was it.

 

7.    Who is the most memorable documentary character?

Jonas Mekas in AS I WAS MOVING AHEAD OCCASIONALLY I SAW BRIEF GLIMPSES OF BEAUTY or Werner Herzog in BURDEN OF DREAMS.

 

 

8.    Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

TOKYO OLYMPIAD, anything by Frederick Wiseman, and THE BELOVS.

 

9.    What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

EDVARD MUNCH by Peter Watkins is an incredible fiction/nonfiction chimera, THE BATTLE OF CHILE is brilliantly put together and MANUFACTURING CONSENT does so much original stuff it’s amazing.

 

10. Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?

The Lumière’s EXITING THE FACTORY (1895)

 

11. If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?

When Flaherty convinced Nanook to use a spear.

 

12. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

The positive reaction the film has received from older married men.

 

13. What song do you love this summer?

Still can’t stop listening to “Rocket” by Beyonce.

SCREENINGS

Friday, June 20, 9:15 p.m.
AFI Silver

(click HERE for tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 6:15 p.m.
Goethe-Institut

(click HERE for tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Jayisha Patel of A PARADISE
Director Jayisha Patel travels to Granma, Cuba, where she encounters a family mourning the loss of their 12-year-old son. This young boy, like many others in this small village, committed suicide. A PARADISE follows several families as they grieve for their loved ones and ponder who is at fault in these tragic deaths
Introduce yourself.
Jayisha Patel is an award winning British filmmaker. Born in London in 1987 she studied Economics at the University of Nottingham. Her first short film, GENTLE MEN went on to win numerous international awards. After working as an associate producer on documentaries productions in France, India and the UK, she moved to Cuba to study filmmaking at the International Film and Television school of San Antonio de los Baños, (EICTV). Her time there included living in the Sierra Maestra Mountains where she filmed  A PARADISE, nominated for the shorts Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
She is attracted to stories that explore uncomfortable human emotions and to the life of those who live on the fringes of society. She is currently developing her first feature documentary,GHOST OF BUEY ARRIBA, winner of the new Visions development lab at the Havana international Film Festival andselected as one of the 25 most financeable Iberoamerican projects at the 10th Ibero – American Co -Production Meeting in Guadalajara International Film Festival.  
 
What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
My inspiration largely came from wanting to explore a story that is very much hidden and a taboo in Cuba and in other parts of the world. I am drawn to such topics because I feel it is important that they are exposed and dealt with so as to challenge people’s perceptions of the world in which we live in. 
I feel there is often a very romanticized view of the country, especially in the media. Having lived there for three years, I wanted to explore some of its many contradictions. Granma, the place where A PARADISE was filmed, was the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution. Its Socialist foundations were based on free education and healthcare for all. Yet it is also the place that has the highest rate of child suicide in the country. It is something that is vehemently denied by the government and many Cubans themselves do not know that it is occurring. Whilst the impetus was political, I wanted to show a more human side to the story. Hence the film focuses on the human condition of suffering and a search for affirmation in life for those affected by this devastating phenomenon.
Given the delicate nature of the subject and the fact that it is something very difficult to investigate in a country government with a Regime, it was a long and slow process to find my subjects. However, once I began to gain the trust of adults within the community who had been affected by the issue of suicide, I then came to know of other families and by getting to know as many of these families as possible I came upon Damaris and Alberto, the protagonists of the film. 
 
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
The biggest challenge was exploring this story in Cuba. It was hard to find families who had been affected and hard to get permission from the authorities to film there. It was perhaps a miracle that we managed to get this film made. The community resides in a remote mountainous region and is generally very pro – Revolutionary. Understandably, they are very wary of outsiders. So, it took many months to gain their trust. It was also a challenge to gain distance emotionally from the subjects of the film given the delicate nature of the subject matter. I grew very close to them so it was always hard to have the distance necessary to be able to film with them.
The biggest surprise for me was that many of the victims are so young. Whilst filming, we found out that there was a girl as young as nine you had taken her life. It was hard to see that in a community we grew very close to, this was happening and that there were no real measures being taken to help such families grieve and come to terms with their traumas. Initially I wanted to explore the impact of adult suicide in the community, but as I got to know more families, I realized that more and more children were also taking their lives. That is why the film is structured the way it is. I wanted to lead the audience into one direction and then to deliberately change the course of that direction to reflect the constant surprises I had whilst filming.
I was also taken aback by the natural way in which children and adults alike talked about death in the community. On the streets outside, it was seen as a big taboo to mention the suicide phenomenon that was talking hold of the community, but once inside people’s homes, they would speak about it as if they were talking about the local baseball game. Perhaps part of it comes from the fact that it is a rural community, so there is often a lot of contact with animals and nature and hence they are aware of the natural life and death circle from a very young age. I think part of it also comes from the fact that there is negation from the Cuban government about what is occurring. Hence, the community accept what is happening as if it is normal because there aren’t the necessary preventative measures taking place at present.
With Damaris and Alberto, the protagonists of A PARADISE, I think the biggest surprise came with Alberto’s revelation that he too, had tried to commit suicide after the death of his son, but didn’t have the strength to do so, in the way his son had. I was taken aback not only by his confession but with the realization that he like many in his community saw suicide as almost a courageous thing to do. When I first met Alberto he was this silent man who channeled his pain into his work as a farmer. Hence, his revelation was such a shock to me. I would never have expected that. Another surprise came when it was revealed through filming that Ramon, their son, had confessed to his young cousin that he was going to take his life. Emotionally it was hard to hear such revelations and it was a constant challenge to separate myself emotionally from their lives whilst having the camera in my hand. 
 
What is your proudest professional moment?
Having the film nominated for best short film at the Berlinale.
 
Why did you become a filmmaker?
I think that making documentaries, on a very deep level, is something that goes well with my personality. I could not imagine doing anything else. When I was 18, I decided to travel alone and live with the Hoaorani community in the depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon for three months (mainly because they were known to be violent and I wanted to find out by myself if this was really true.) The people and stories I found there were something that I could never have imagined. This is how I have since travelled, off the beaten track and always trying to be as close to the communities in which I find myself as possible. What I was essentially doing in my travels was investigating for stories without realizing. A year after I returned, one of the communities I spent time in was on the BBC’s TRIBAL WIVES series. I felt that the show had somehow misinterpreted the community. That was the point when I realized that I too could tell stories but in a way that was sincere to me. 
 
What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
BAMBI!
 
Who is the most memorable documentary character?
There are so many but I think the ones that still stick out are the Edith Beale’s from GREY GARDENS by the Maysle brothers.
 
Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?
THE ACT OF KILLING
 
What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
STORIES WE TELL 
 
Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?
THE DYING ROOMS
 
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit? 
A well-known psychologist in Cuba saw the film and was very moved by it. She had no idea that the suicide phenomenon was happening on such a large scale in the east of the island. This has inspired her to challenge the Cuban authorities and she has now been granted permission to give psychodrama therapy to those in the community affected by the problem. She then plans to train local psychologists to continue their treatment. It has been inspiring to see how such a small film is starting to make an impact on a local level, especially given that there really was no type of help readily offered to those affected within the community before.
 
SCREENINGS:
Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.
AFI Silver
(click HERE for tickets)

Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.  
Goethe-Institute
(click HERE for tickets)

 


Filmmaker Q&A with Jayisha Patel of A PARADISE

Director Jayisha Patel travels to Granma, Cuba, where she encounters a family mourning the loss of their 12-year-old son. This young boy, like many others in this small village, committed suicide. A PARADISE follows several families as they grieve for their loved ones and ponder who is at fault in these tragic deaths

Introduce yourself.

Jayisha Patel is an award winning British filmmaker. Born in London in 1987 she studied Economics at the University of Nottingham. Her first short film, GENTLE MEN went on to win numerous international awards. After working as an associate producer on documentaries productions in France, India and the UK, she moved to Cuba to study filmmaking at the International Film and Television school of San Antonio de los Baños, (EICTV). Her time there included living in the Sierra Maestra Mountains where she filmed  A PARADISE, nominated for the shorts Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

She is attracted to stories that explore uncomfortable human emotions and to the life of those who live on the fringes of society. She is currently developing her first feature documentary,GHOST OF BUEY ARRIBA, winner of the new Visions development lab at the Havana international Film Festival andselected as one of the 25 most financeable Iberoamerican projects at the 10th Ibero – American Co -Production Meeting in Guadalajara International Film Festival. 

 

What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?

My inspiration largely came from wanting to explore a story that is very much hidden and a taboo in Cuba and in other parts of the world. I am drawn to such topics because I feel it is important that they are exposed and dealt with so as to challenge people’s perceptions of the world in which we live in.

I feel there is often a very romanticized view of the country, especially in the media. Having lived there for three years, I wanted to explore some of its many contradictions. Granma, the place where A PARADISE was filmed, was the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution. Its Socialist foundations were based on free education and healthcare for all. Yet it is also the place that has the highest rate of child suicide in the country. It is something that is vehemently denied by the government and many Cubans themselves do not know that it is occurring. Whilst the impetus was political, I wanted to show a more human side to the story. Hence the film focuses on the human condition of suffering and a search for affirmation in life for those affected by this devastating phenomenon.

Given the delicate nature of the subject and the fact that it is something very difficult to investigate in a country government with a Regime, it was a long and slow process to find my subjects. However, once I began to gain the trust of adults within the community who had been affected by the issue of suicide, I then came to know of other families and by getting to know as many of these families as possible I came upon Damaris and Alberto, the protagonists of the film.

 

What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

The biggest challenge was exploring this story in Cuba. It was hard to find families who had been affected and hard to get permission from the authorities to film there. It was perhaps a miracle that we managed to get this film made. The community resides in a remote mountainous region and is generally very pro – Revolutionary. Understandably, they are very wary of outsiders. So, it took many months to gain their trust. It was also a challenge to gain distance emotionally from the subjects of the film given the delicate nature of the subject matter. I grew very close to them so it was always hard to have the distance necessary to be able to film with them.

The biggest surprise for me was that many of the victims are so young. Whilst filming, we found out that there was a girl as young as nine you had taken her life. It was hard to see that in a community we grew very close to, this was happening and that there were no real measures being taken to help such families grieve and come to terms with their traumas. Initially I wanted to explore the impact of adult suicide in the community, but as I got to know more families, I realized that more and more children were also taking their lives. That is why the film is structured the way it is. I wanted to lead the audience into one direction and then to deliberately change the course of that direction to reflect the constant surprises I had whilst filming.

I was also taken aback by the natural way in which children and adults alike talked about death in the community. On the streets outside, it was seen as a big taboo to mention the suicide phenomenon that was talking hold of the community, but once inside people’s homes, they would speak about it as if they were talking about the local baseball game. Perhaps part of it comes from the fact that it is a rural community, so there is often a lot of contact with animals and nature and hence they are aware of the natural life and death circle from a very young age. I think part of it also comes from the fact that there is negation from the Cuban government about what is occurring. Hence, the community accept what is happening as if it is normal because there aren’t the necessary preventative measures taking place at present.

With Damaris and Alberto, the protagonists of A PARADISE, I think the biggest surprise came with Alberto’s revelation that he too, had tried to commit suicide after the death of his son, but didn’t have the strength to do so, in the way his son had. I was taken aback not only by his confession but with the realization that he like many in his community saw suicide as almost a courageous thing to do. When I first met Alberto he was this silent man who channeled his pain into his work as a farmer. Hence, his revelation was such a shock to me. I would never have expected that. Another surprise came when it was revealed through filming that Ramon, their son, had confessed to his young cousin that he was going to take his life. Emotionally it was hard to hear such revelations and it was a constant challenge to separate myself emotionally from their lives whilst having the camera in my hand.

 

What is your proudest professional moment?

Having the film nominated for best short film at the Berlinale.

 

Why did you become a filmmaker?

I think that making documentaries, on a very deep level, is something that goes well with my personality. I could not imagine doing anything else. When I was 18, I decided to travel alone and live with the Hoaorani community in the depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon for three months (mainly because they were known to be violent and I wanted to find out by myself if this was really true.) The people and stories I found there were something that I could never have imagined. This is how I have since travelled, off the beaten track and always trying to be as close to the communities in which I find myself as possible. What I was essentially doing in my travels was investigating for stories without realizing. A year after I returned, one of the communities I spent time in was on the BBC’s TRIBAL WIVES series. I felt that the show had somehow misinterpreted the community. That was the point when I realized that I too could tell stories but in a way that was sincere to me.

 

What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

BAMBI!

 

Who is the most memorable documentary character?

There are so many but I think the ones that still stick out are the Edith Beale’s from GREY GARDENS by the Maysle brothers.

 

Which documentary do you consider the most cinematic?

THE ACT OF KILLING

 

What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

STORIES WE TELL

 

Which documentary has had the most profound impact on society?

THE DYING ROOMS

 

What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?

A well-known psychologist in Cuba saw the film and was very moved by it. She had no idea that the suicide phenomenon was happening on such a large scale in the east of the island. This has inspired her to challenge the Cuban authorities and she has now been granted permission to give psychodrama therapy to those in the community affected by the problem. She then plans to train local psychologists to continue their treatment. It has been inspiring to see how such a small film is starting to make an impact on a local level, especially given that there really was no type of help readily offered to those affected within the community before.

 

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, June 19, 1:15 p.m.
AFI Silver
(click HERE for tickets)
Sunday, June 22, 11:00 a.m.  
Goethe-Institute
(click HERE for tickets)

 

Filmmaker Q&A with Damian Kocur of 21 DAYS
When a shy, young bus driver becomes desperate to find his soul mate, he takes a 21-day seminar on how to successfully interact with women and applies himself with vigor to his training. But will he acquire the skills and confidence he needs to win the woman of his dreams?

 
Introduce yourself.
Damian Kocur is a student of cinematography. For the past couple of years I’ve been trying to direct my movies as well. 21 DAYS is my first documentary.
 
What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
I look for subjects in my own life, daily situations. I think our own experiences are the best inspirations for the movies.
 
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
The worst thing was the temperature. We shot mostly during winter, which was very bad  in Warsaw that year.
 
What is your proudest professional moment?
Until now my first documentary project. 
 
Why did you become a filmmaker?
Because I haven’t any other idea what to do, besides I enjoy telling stories.
 
What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?
KES by Ken Loach
 
Who is the most memorable documentary character?
Werner Herzog
 
What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?
CANE MONDO by Paolo Cavara
 
If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?
The impact of communism on eastern European countries.
 
What song do you love this summer? 
“Champagne Coast” –Blood Orange 
 
SCREENINGS
Thursday, June 19, 1:45 p.m.
(click HERE for tickets)

Friday, June 20, 12:00 p.m.
(click HERE for tickets)

Filmmaker Q&A with Damian Kocur of 21 DAYS

When a shy, young bus driver becomes desperate to find his soul mate, he takes a 21-day seminar on how to successfully interact with women and applies himself with vigor to his training. But will he acquire the skills and confidence he needs to win the woman of his dreams?

 

Introduce yourself.

Damian Kocur is a student of cinematography. For the past couple of years I’ve been trying to direct my movies as well. 21 DAYS is my first documentary.

 

What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?

I look for subjects in my own life, daily situations. I think our own experiences are the best inspirations for the movies.

 

What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?

The worst thing was the temperature. We shot mostly during winter, which was very bad  in Warsaw that year.

 

What is your proudest professional moment?

Until now my first documentary project.

 

Why did you become a filmmaker?

Because I haven’t any other idea what to do, besides I enjoy telling stories.

 

What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

KES by Ken Loach

 

Who is the most memorable documentary character?

Werner Herzog

 

What documentary do you find the most original and imaginative in its construction?

CANE MONDO by Paolo Cavara

 

If there were one documentary moment in history that you could experience as a filmmaker, what would it be?

The impact of communism on eastern European countries.

 

What song do you love this summer?

“Champagne Coast” –Blood Orange

 

SCREENINGS

Thursday, June 19, 1:45 p.m.
(click HERE for tickets)
Friday, June 20, 12:00 p.m.
(click HERE for tickets)

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