Movies at the 2004 High Falls Film Festival
ABADAN – Feature, Iran, 2003
Aman is rudely surprised when his ex-wife, Marjan, unexpectedly shows up at his house. She is looking for her elderly father who seems to have run away from home. Begging for help, Marjan offers to stay behind in Aman’s house and look after the workers who are renovating it while he sets off to look for the old man. As she waits, Marjan is in turn shocked to meet Aman’s considerably younger girlfriend, who has arrived at his house, determined to break up with him before leaving the country. As the two women get to know each other, Aman teams up with his best friend who has his own ideas about where the old man might be. Meanwhile, the old man, quite lost in the polluted arteries of Tehran, is trying to convince an alcoholic ex-corporal to join him on his dream journey to the southern city of Abadan, oblivious to the fact that the city has been totally demolished during the Iran-Iraq war.
Director: Mani Haghighi
Producers: Mehdi Safavi, Ahmad Ali Moussavi, Jacques Tizabi
Editor: Mastaneh Mohajer
Mastaneh Mohajer edited the 2004 Iranian films PICCOLI LADRI and JOY OF MADNESS, and served as sound mixer and assistant editor on the award-winning Afghani film OSAMA (High Falls Film Festival 2003).
ANOTHER ROAD HOME – Documentary
Documentary filmmaker Danae Elon was raised in Jerusalem by her American mother; her father, Amos Elon, a renowned Israeli writer; and a Palestinian caretaker to whom she was closer than to her real parents, a man with eleven children of his own, whom she called Musa. With the money he earned working for the Elon family, Mahmoud Musa Abeidallah was able to send his sons to school in the U.S., where they now live. The Elon family left Israel in the late 60s. They had not been in contact with the Abeidallah family for many years, when Danae, concerned about what had happened to Musa in the recent Intifada and determined to figure out why she had bonded so closely with him in her childhood, goes on a quest to find him. Musa, who is one of the most quietly remarkable men you are likely to see on film, makes the difficult and dangerous trip from Palestine to the U.S. “to break the ice.” Then Danae accompanies him on his journey back to his home. Elon has made a film that shows how the bonds of love, though entwined with politics, can survive and be a source of hope. (Amy Taubin)
Director: Danae Elon
Executive Producers: David Drexler, Stanley K. Sheinbaum, Liselle Mei
Born in Jerusalem, Danae Elon directed NEVER, AGAIN, FOREVER about the Jewish Defense League, WILD MINT, and CUT, about the lives of a community from Kurdistan settled in Israel. Elon has been a cinematographer for the Discovery Channel. ANOTHER ROAD HOME is her first feature-length doc.
ARANA’S CHILDREN – Documentary
Arna’s Children: The tragic Israeli/Palestinian conflict has generated at least a dozen unforgettable documentaries, but perhaps none as emotionally devastating and thought provoking as this one. In 1987, Arna Mer Khamis, a former Israeli freedom fighter who married a Palestinian, started a theater group in Jenin for Palestinian children traumatized by the loss of relatives, friends and their homes in the Israeli occupation. Her son, Juliano Mer Khamis, a stage director and the maker of this film, worked with her. Some of the most moving scenes in ARNA’S CHILDREN are of this extraordinarily empathetic and courageous woman demonstrating at Israeli roadblocks just weeks before she died of cancer in 1995. After her death, the theater closed. In 2002, her son returned to Jenin to find out what had happened to the children. Many died fighting the Israelis during the Intifada. One of the most gifted was killed during a suicide mission in Israel. Mer Khamis finds himself filming on the front lines of the armed Palestinian resistance. Using his videotapes to weave past and present, he shows the effects that the continuing cycles of oppression and violence have had on young lives. The conclusion is anything but hopeful. (Amy Taubin)
Best Documentary Film Feature – Tribeca Film Festival, NYC; First Prize – One World Human Rights Film Festival, Prague; FIPRESCI Prize – Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
Director: Juliano Mer Khamis and Danniel Danniel
Producer: Osnat Trabelsi & Pieter van Huystee
Executive Producer: Osnat Trabelsi
Osnat Trabelsi has produced four feature-length documentaries: BEHIND THE FENCE, SMOKED SCREEN—THREE DAYS WITH ARIEL ZILBER, WAITING FOR SALAH EL DIN, and now ARNA’S CHILDREN. She was the initiator and director of The International Human Rights Film Festival “Basic Trust” in Ramallah and Tel Aviv in 2000.
THE BEAUTY ACADEMY OF KABUL – Documentary, US, 2004
Featuring female empowerment through hair styling and ditzy do-gooders who actually do good, The Beauty Academy of Kabul is refreshingly full of surprises. It’s also a textbook illustration of that old feminist slogan: The personal is political.
In July 2003, a group of American and British women went to Kabul to open the city’s first beauty school since the fall of the Taliban. One of the few ways women could earn money under the Taliban was by operating clandestine beauty salons out of their homes, so the school was flooded with applicants even before it opened. At first, teachers like the earth mother who starts each class by meditating don’t seem to connect with the perplexed-looking class, but intense relationships soon develop. The small, all-female film crew spent long enough in Kabul to become part of the scene, and their digital camera snakes through the class, capturing the students’ hard work and easy laughter and showing what it means to them to learn marketable skills. It also records moving personal stories and glimpses of life outside the school – including the men with guns who are constantly in the background, guarding the students from the danger that is never far away.
Director/Editor: Liz Mermin
Producer: Nigel Noble & Liz Mermin
Liz Mermin DIRECTOR
THE BEAUTY ACADEMY OF KABUL is Liz Mermin’s second documentary feature. For television, she produced and edited REPORT FROM GROUND ZERO, ABC’s special about the World Trade Center attacks. She has made documentaries for Discovery, Court TV, and Oxygen, and studied film as a Fulbright scholar in Dakar, Senegal.
BORN INTO BROTHELS – Documentary, US, 2003
Born into Brothels: London-born, New York-based photographer Zana Briski went to Calcutta to do a photojournalism piece on the prostitutes of the notorious Sonaguchi district, but she found herself getting involved with their children, most of them with no prospects other than to become prostitutes or pimps themselves. Briski was determined to make an intervention in their lives by teaching them what she knew best – photography – and she enlisted documentary editor Ross Kauffman to co-direct a film about the process. Working with cheap, automatic cameras, the children look both at their own immediate circumstances and also at the world outside Sonaguchi, which they are seeing for the first time. Some of the children have real talent; their photographs have an intensity and lyricism that reflects their own experience. (The photographs have been shown in galleries worldwide in conjunction with the film.) Looking through the lens and recording what they see with their own eyes empowers even the most shy among them. When Briski tries to effect a permanent change in the children’s lives by getting them into private schools far away from Sonaguchi, we get a glimpse of a clumsy, entrenched bureaucracy that frustrates her effects at almost every turn. But nothing proves as difficult to overcome as the resistance of the mothers themselves and some of the children’s own fears about leaving the only world they know. Born into Brothels is an intimate, sometimes painful, sometime exhilarating depiction of fragile young lives. (Amy Taubin)
Audience Award – Sundance Film Festival 2004; Grand Jury Prize Nominee (Documentary) – Sundance Film Festival 2004; Best Film – Cleveland International Film Festival 2004
Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Ross Kauffman, Zana Briski
Zana Briski DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, CINEMATOGRAPHER
The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Zana Briski has conducted a series of photographic workshops with children of prostitutes in Calcutta since 2000. In 2002, Briski formed Kids With Cameras, a non-profit organization to help empower the children of Calcutta’s prostitutes through learning the art of photography.
BROTHERHOOD - Documentary, US, 2003
There’s not a person in the United States who doesn’t feel a stirring of pride when they see New York’s Bravest, the firefighters of the five boroughs. Director Lilibet Foster takes us beyond the sound bites and into the hearts of the men who picked up the pieces after the September 11, 2001 attack, giving us an up close and personal look into their daily activities, their approach to their profession, and the deep bonds they forge with one another. Shot over the course of a year, this valentine to the men who put themselves in harm’s way and survived is short on sentiment and long on substance, especially when the terror alert in New York City moves to Condition Orange nearly two years after 9/11, and the firefighters realize that once again, they will be the first responders when terrorism returns. Local filmmaker Amy Goodman co-produced this affecting film. (Randi Minetor)
Director/Producer: Lilibet Foster
Producer/Executive Producer: Jon Kamen, Frank Scherma
Lilibet Foster DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
BROTHERHOOD is Lilibet Foster’s feature documentary directorial debut. She produced the feature documentary SOUL IN THE HOLE, which won the Independent Spirit Award and was named one of the Tope Ten Films of the Year by the Village Voice. Her work includes the video installation and two-part DVD, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AFRICA, among many others.
DAVID HOCKNEY: THE COLORS OF MUSIC - Documentary, US, 2003
David Hockney: The Colors of Music: The 67-year-old British painter David Hockney had a second career as a production designer for opera. Hockney designed scenery, costumes, and lighting for eleven productions, the last being the celebrated 1992 version of Richard Strauss’ “Die Frau ohne Schatten“ at Glynbourne. Maryte Kavaliauskas and Seth Schneiderman’s documentary shows Hockney at work in his studio and on the stages of some of the world’s great opera houses. Hockney is a genial, generous and articulate interview subject. “I wanted to design operas, he says “because I love music and when I go to the opera, I want to have something to look at.” Hockney’s methods are anything but orthodox. He makes the lighting an integral element of the design, using a lighting board in his studio to work visual changes on three-dimensional miniature sets. The filmmakers combine audio recordings of the operas Hockney designed with these work sessions so that the film is a feast for both eyes and ears. But perhaps the most amazing moments is the artist’s demonstration of how he “choreographs” a car ride through the Santa Monica mountains behind his studio to excepts from Wagner’s “Parsifal.” (Amy Taubin)
First Prize Audience Award for Best American Feature – Avignon 2004 New York Film Festival
Director: Martye Kavaliauskas
Producer: Chantal Bernheim
Martye Kavaliauskas DIRECTOR
Originally from Kaunas, Lithuania, Martye Kavaliauskas attended college in the US and began her career as a sound recordist. IN 1989, she began directing and producing films on art and artists. Her films include HERBIE HANCOCK: LISTEN TO THE MUSIC, ROY LICHTENSTEIN REFLECTIONS and WELCOME TO THE WATER PLANET.
DEAR FRANKIE – Feature, UK, 2004
Nine-year-old Frankie and his single mum Lizzie have been on the move ever since Frankie can remember, most recently arriving in a seaside Scottish town. Wanting to protect her deaf son from the truth that they’ve run away from his father, Lizzie has invented a story that he is away at sea on a ship she named at random. As Frankie tracks the ship’s progress around the globe, he discovers that it is due to dock in his hometown. Lizzie must choose between telling Frankie the truth or finding the perfect stranger to play Frankie’s father for just one day. Don’t miss Gerard Butler’s riveting performance — he’s soon to be a star.
Director/Cinematographer: Shona Auerbach
Producer: Caroline Wood
Auerbach started her career as a photographer before studying film in the UK and at the Polish National Film School in Lodz. In addition to her work as a cinematographer, she has directed several commercials and the short film SEVEN. DEAR FRANKIE is her first feature.
DIG! Documentary, US, 2004
DIG!: The documentary grand prize winner at the Sundance film Festival, “Dig” follows two 1990s post-punk bands, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jones Massacre, for seven years. With her inconspicuous DV camera, filmmaker Ondi Timoner was a persistent fly on the wall. From 1500 hours of footage, she whittled the story of two opposite personalities and aspiring rock stars – the Warhol’s Courtney Taylor and the BJM’s Anton Newcombe. Both friends and jealous rivals, Taylor and Newcombe constantly measure themselves each others eyes. Taylor has, in addition to his talent as a musician and performer, an excellent business sense that allows him to accommodate the interests of his record label. He follows the Mick Jagger model for rock and roll success. Newcombe’s hatred of authority causes him to undermine every commercial opportunity. He’s never more self-destructive than when he has a recording contract, and Timoner’s camera follows him into the blackest of his drug-addled despair. But Newcombe also has a strong survival instinct – how else could the BJM have independently released eleven records within a decade. “DIG!” is an intimate, very smart portrait of the rock world from its middling level to its lower depths. (Amy Taubin)
Grand Jury Prize (Documentary) – Sundance Film Festival
Director/Screenwriter/DP: Ondi Timoner
Producer: Ondi Timoner, Vasco Lucas Nunes, David Timoner
Grammy-nominated director/producer Ondi Timoner’s films include Voices From Inside Time, the award-winning The Nature of the Beast, and Dam Nation. She created and directed the series “Sound Affects” for VH1, and ABC’s “Switched.” She completed DIG! the week she gave birth to her son, Joaquim.
DORIAN BLUES – Feature, US, 2004
A wryly-funny crowd pleaser, Tennyson Bardwell’s debut feature has been racking up audience awards at festivals east and west, gay and straight. Suburban high school senior Dorian Lagato (Michael McMillian), having admitted to himself that he is gay, tries to get up the courage to come-out to his closet-alcoholic father (Steven C. Fletcher) whose clench-jawed demeanor suggests he’s been watching too many Charlton Heston movies. Not waiting for Dad to throw him out bodily, Dorian leaves for NYU where he finds sympathetic friends and, although romance is a rocky, does a lot of growing up. The story is familiar, but Bardwell’s writing and direction – a combination of sly stylishness and emotional punch – makes it something quite special. The relationship between and Dorian and his brother ( Lea Coco) takes unexpected turns and is very moving. There are memorable scenes that mix hilarity with agony such as the one in which the boyfriend who jilted Dorian and left him heartbroken shows up at a bar with his new lover, corners Dorian and lectures about his social inadequacies. When Dorian furiously hurls a drink in the cad’s face, we know he’s on the road to self-determination at last. (Amy Taubin)
HBO Outstanding First Narrative Feature 2004; Audience Award (Narrative) – Lake Placid Film Festival 2004; Best Feature Film – Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2004
Director: Tennyson Bardwell
Producers: Portia Kamons, Frank D’Andrea, Mary-Beth Taylor Bardwell, Ann Marie Tennyson Bardwell
Mary-Beth Taylor Bardwell
Mary-Beth Taylor Bardwell is current producing and directing a feature documentary, DARE I DREAM, about the effort of bigotry on young children. An award-winning painter and sculptor, her work is featured in DORIAN BLUES and is regularly seen at Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton, NY.
DOWN TO THE BONE – Feature
A woman stuck in a stale marriage struggles to raise her children and manage her secret drug habit. But when winter comes to her small town, her balancing act begins to come crashing down. Vera Farmiga gives a powerful and evocative performance, which ranks among the best of her career.
Director: Debra Granik
Producers: Susan Leber, Anne Rossellini
Screenwriters: Debra Granik, Richard Lieske
Debra Granik attended NYU’s Graduate Film Program; her first short film, SNAKE FEED premiered at New Directors/New Films and won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at Sundance. She went on to develop the script for DOWN TO THE BONE while completing her thesis film, SIDE BY SIDE. DOWN TO THE BONE is Granik’s first feature film
Easy - Feature, US, 2003
Jane Weinstock’s sun-dappled debut feature is a comedy of manners about a pretty, personable, slightly quirky, Southern California twenty-five year old looking for a lasting relationship and suddenly finding herself with two prospects. Jamie (Marguerite Moreau) has a freelance advertising job that makes good use of her quick wit – she thinks up names for new products. She also has a devoted acupuncturist, who’s trying to help her get-over two bad habits: smoking and jumping into bed with guys who are never going to appreciate her. And then, almost overnight, Jamie finds herself having to choose between two men, both of whom give every sign of being crazy about her. John (Naveen Andrews) is a romantic Anglo-Indian poet who was her teacher in college; Mick (Brian F. O’Byrne), hosts a cable talk show and shares her irreverent sense of humor. Especially notable are the subtleties in Weinstock’s script and the understated performances of a sterling ensemble cast which includes Emily Deschanel as Jamie’s seemingly sensible sister and John Rothman as their pleasant but emotionally distant Dad. An extra-plus is the complicated, competitive relationship between and Jamie and her sister. The film also boasts one or two bedroom scenes in which sex seems utterly familiar – and what a rare thing that is in movies. (Amy Taubin)
Grand Jury Prize Nominee (Dramatic) – Sundance Film Festival 2004
Director/Screenwriter: Jane Weinstock
Producer: Gloria Norris
Jane Weinstock has written and directed several highly acclaimed short films that have screened at Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Venice and others. She has written many articles on film and art for Art in America and other publications. EASY is her first feature.
Feature, Austria, 2003
In German with English subtitles
After surviving a plane crash, the blandly contented suburbanite Manu is killed in a head-on collision that is as tragically banal as her earlier accident was miraculous. Ricocheting between these two poles of the mundane and the fantastic, the forces of fate that stem from Manu’s death begin to knit a rich tapestry of chance, choice, and emotion among the disparate array of people connected to her in life. Like P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, Austrian director Barbara Albert’s FREE RADICALS is a character mosaic that is both a trenchant critique of an anemic, modern world as well as a reminder of the irrational threads that hold it together. Critical Acclaim dense with detail and brimming with emotion…grounded in the gorgeous strangeness of real life. (Film Comment)
Director/Writer: Barbara Albert
Producers: Antonin Svobdoa, Martin Gschlacht
Barbara Albert’s first feature film, NORTHERN SKIRTS, was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Vienna Film Festival in 1999, the same year in which Barbara was nominated for the European Discovery of the Year Award by the European Film Commission. FREE RADICALS is her second feature.
THE GRAFFITI ARTIST – Feature, US, 2004
Adrift in a lush, nocturnal urban landscape, Nick is a post-modern urban hero asserting his anarchistic agenda on the endless maze of virgin exterior walls that comprise downtown Seattle and Portland. For writer/director James Bolton’s lonely “tagger,” the vast wall surfaces of deserted alleys and trainyards are at once a daunting symbol of capitalist oppression and a texturally rich, seamless tableau ripe for exploitation. For a film ostensibly focusing on manipulated surfaces, Bolton’s cinematic artistry probes deep into the consciousness of the graffiti artist subculture.
Director/Producer: James Bolton
Director of Photography: Sarah Levy
Editor: Elizabeth Edwards
Elizabeth Edwards edited James Bolton’s first feature film, EBAN AND CHARLEY. Her short film MRS. WILLIAM DIXON has played in numerous festivals around the world, and won the Platinum Award at the Houston Film Festival.
THE GREEN HAT – Feature, China, 2003
The brilliant directing debut of Beijing-born Liu Fen Dou took two major prizes at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. Liu’s subject is masculine confusion about sex and what happens to seemingly macho guys when they’re rejected by women they think they love. Bracingly direct, Liu confronts this taboo territory in ways unprecedented in mainland Chinese film. Not only are his characters obsessed in conversation with their own virility and size of their “packages,” there are even shots of full frontal male nudity. The film’s abrupt changes of mood and pace mirror the inchoate feelings of its two protagonists. One is a young thug who has been jilted by his girlfriend, the other a middle-aged cop whose wife is having an affair. “The Green Hat” was produced by Peggy Chiao, who for 25 years has been a tireless force in the promotion of Taiwanese film. She helped to bring master directors Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang to the attention of an international audience when they were at the beginning of their careers. In the 1990s, she became a producer, working with young directors from all three China’s.” Liu Fen Dou is one of her most promising discoveries. (Amy Taubin)
Best Narrative Feature – Tribeca Film Festival 2004; Best New Filmmaker – Tribeca Film Festival 2004
Director: Liu Fen Dou
Producers: Liu Fen Dou, Lu Yan, Peggy Chiao
Peggy Chiao is one of the major figures shaping New Taiwan Cinema. She is working on TALES OF THREE CITIES, a package of six films that provide a look at the changing China in different political regimes. Completed films include BEIJING BICYCLE, BETELNUT BEAUTY, BLUE GATE CROSSING and DRIFTERS.
HEIR TO AN EXECUTION – Documentary, US, 2003
Filmmaker Ivy Meeropol is the granddaughter of Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and electrocuted at the height of McCarthy’s Red Scare. Meeropol bypasses the obvious issue of her grandparents’ guilt or innocence. Instead, her film takes as its starting point the question: “What was worth standing up for so much that they were willing to leave my father and my uncle?” The Rosenberg’s sons, Michael and Robbie Meeropol, who were children when their parents died in the electric chair, are central figures in the film. Just as articulate are several of the Rosenberg’s peers including Morty Sobol, who was a co-defendent in the case and spent 19 years in prison rather than testify against them. The filmmaker’s position gives her unique access but she never falls into the trap of making her feelings the crux of the story. Rather she explores the Rosenberg’s as both iconic figures – martyrs to some, demons to others – and as complicated human beings. But perhaps most importantly, “Heir to an Execution” paints a picture of cold war hysteria that’s particularly disturbing for its parallels to post-9/11 America in the era of the Patriot Act. (Amy Taubin)
Grand Jury Prize Nominee (Documentary) – Sundance Film Festival
Director: Ivy Meeropol
Producers: Ivy Meeropol, Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson
Ivy Meeropol spent five years working as a speechwriter and legislative aide for a U.S. Congressman. She is a freelance writer for The New York Times and O Magazine and was a contributor and fiction editor of Provincetown Arts Magazine. HEIR TO AN EXECUTION is Meeropol’s directorial debut.
IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN – Documentary, US, 2004
Lesli Klainberg decided to make In the Company of Women after attending a screening of A Decade Under the Influence, a documentary about the movies of the 1970s that didn’t include a single female director. Enlisting the help of Virginia Reticker, one of the producers of Decade, she set out to trace the recent history of American women in independent cinema. Susan Seidelman, Allison Anders, Lisa Cholodenko and other seminal directors talk about their own and each other’s work, joined by commentators like Amy Taubin and B. Ruby Rich, actresses like Parker Posey and Patricia Clarkson, and actress/director Jodie Foster, who talks about her “typically female” liking for stories that explore a character’s psyche or the minutiae of everyday life. Their observations and anecdotes are woven into a chronological account that starts with the ’70s but quickly moves on since, as Lili Taylor observes, “it wasn’t a great decade for women, actually.” Part historical appreciation for film buffs and part inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, In the Company of Women salts in choice scenes from movies like She’s So Lovely, I Shot Andy Warhol, and Boys Don’t Cry to illustrate the richness and diversity its talking heads are talking about. Those films grew out of a rich mulch that mixed together the feminism of the 70s, the downtown New York art scene of the early ’80s, and the queer liberation movement of the early ’90s, and some are quite wonderful. But, this documentary seems to promise, they’re just the beginning of a fertile new age of filmmaking by and about women.
Directed by Lesli Klainberg and Gini Reticker
Produced by Lisa Ades, Alison Palmer Bourke, Leslie Klainberg and Chandra Simon
INTIMATE STORIES – Feature, Argentina, 2002
In Spanish with English subtitles
On a single day, three people from a small Argentine village find it necessary to make separate pilgrimages to a larger town that’s 200 miles away. A very old man is in search of his dog who went missing three years before. A young woman has been invited to compete on a TV game show where the grand prize is a “multi-processor” that she will never be able to use since her house has no electricity. And a traveling salesman wants to make an impression on a single mother for whom he has tentative romantic feelings. Carlos Sorin’s wryly-humorous road movie makes expressive use of the vast Patagonian landscape with its long stretches of empty highway and its isolated houses, shops, gas stations, and factories. This is a film filled with unpredictable, often generous encounters between strangers. As seemingly unrelated incidents and anecdotes accumulate, we begin to have a sense of a rural culture and the fragile hopes and secret fears of people whose lives could not be further from the kind of drama we’re accustomed to seeing in Hollywood movies. (Amy Taubin)
Director: Carlos Sorin
Producers: Martin Bardi, Leticia Cristi
Art Director: Margarita Jusid
Margarita Jusid’s career as an art director spans nearly two decades, and includes the Spanish films CLEOPATRA, APASIONADOS, and art direction and costume design for this year’s 18-J. Her many credits include production and costume design as well as art direction.
JAILBAIT – Feature, US, 2004
The power dynamics and sexual hunger of men in prison was the primary subject of Jean Genet, the great French novelist and playwright. Genet wrote from his own experience; he was a thief and had done time in prison. One can give no greater compliment to writer/director Brett C. Leonard’s debut feature than to say that it bears comparison to Genet’s “Green Eyes” and “Our Lady of the Flowers.” Virtually a two-hander for the compelling actors Michael Pitt and Stephen Adly Guirgis, “Jailbait” is intensely claustrophobic experience. Pitt plays Randy, who’s barely more than a teenager when he finds that thanks to a three-strikes-and-you’re-out law, he’s behind bars for 25 years. Randy’s androgynous beauty makes him a target of jailhouse rapists. His cellmate, Jake (Guirgis), offers him protection. But Jake, who’s doing life for murdering his wife, has an agenda of his own. Soon, he and Randy are locked in a power struggle that takes several unexpected turns. Pitt, a gifted young actor who recently starred in Bertolucci’s THE DREAMERS is very moving, but the surprise is Guirgis, a playwright with the LAByrinth Theater, who gives a performance that’s subtle, creepy, and terrifying all at once. (Amy Taubin)
Grand Jury Prize – Lake Placid Film Festival
Director/Writer: Brett C. Leonard
Producers: Dan O’Meara, Brett C. Leonard, Rene Bastian, Linda Moran, Corbin Day
Linda Moran is the co-producer of Michael Cuesta’s award-winning L.I.E., which appeared at both the Sundance and High Falls Film Festival in 2001. She is a partner in Belladonna Productions, which produced JAILBAIT
JULY ’64 – Documentary, US, 2004
Carvin Eison and Chris Christopher took on one of the trickiest and most volatile subjects imaginable: a three-night riot that erupted when temperatures were hottest in downtown Rochester, leaving an otherwise peaceful neighborhood in shambles and changing lives, businesses and living conditions forever. Whether a policeman’s mistreatment of a black crime suspect kindled the anger of the watching crowd, or whether the combined effects of poverty, joblessness and miserable living conditions made the conflict inevitable, the riots left a forty-year scar that has never fully healed. Eison and Christopher tackled these and many more questions head-on, interviewing leaders on all sides of the issue and conducting meticulous research on the economic, social and political climate that led to those devastating nights. Not only is this a well crafted, masterfully balanced documentary, JULY ‘64 is a work of historical significance that is already sparking positive discussions about social change throughout the city of Rochester. (Randi Minetor)
Director: Carvin Eison
Producer: Chris Christopher
Rochester resident Chris Christopher is an award-winning producer whose work has taken honors at the Houston and Columbus International Film and Video Festivals. She produced two seasons of “Perfectly Clear,” a weekly news and current affairs program, and “The Home Show,” a 12-part television series on affordable home ownership, a pilot project of the FannieMae Foundation
JUVIES – Documentary, US, 2003
An up close and personal look at the juvenile justice system — featuring eye-opening and ultimately heartbreaking interviews with children who obviously would have thrived in today’s society given the right set of circumstances.
Feature Length Documentary – Urbanworld Film Festival 2004
Best Documentary – Beverly Hills Film Festival 2004
Director: Leslie Neale
Producer: Traci Odom
Executive Producer: Mark Wahlberg and John Densmore
A longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, Leslie Neale’s directing credits include ROAD TO RETURN, which prompted a US Senate bill to fund ex-convict aftercare programs in six states. She directed the television doc RHYTHM OF THE HEART, and A HEALING PRESENCE for the Medical Mission Sisters.
KING OF THE CORNER – Feature, US, 2004
A sly, deadpan social comedy about the dangers of navigating life without a compass, King of the Corner paints a portrait of Leo (Peter Riegert), his family and world. His father (Eli Wallach) is dying, his daughter is growing up, his protege is after his job, his wife (Isabella Rosselini) is running out of patience and his judgment is becoming blurred. Leo has met the enemy and it is himself, but through a twist of fate and the wisdom of his rabbi (Eric Bogosian), he achieves self-redemption and is allowed a second chance. But at what? Featuring music by Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Al Kooper, Peter Riegert’s directorial debut is a humorous, honest and multi-faceted look into how one man turns his midlife crisis into a midlife… “opportunity.” King of the Corner was co-written with Gerald Shapiro based on his collection of short stories, “Bad Jews and Other Stories.” (excerpted from the Lake Placid Film Festival program guide).
Director: Peter Riegert
Producer: Lemore Syvan
Cast: Peter Riegert, Eli Wallach, Isabella Rosselini, Rita Moreno, Beverly D’Angelo, Eric Bogosian, Dominic Chianese, Jake Hoffman
With nearly ten years of production experience to her credit, Lemore Syvan was the producer of CASA DE LOS BABYS and is currently in post-production for three films, DUANE HOPEWOOD, SHALL NOT WANT and THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE.
KINSEY - Feature, US, 2004
1n 1948, Alfred Kinsey irrevocably changed American culture with his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Interviewing thousands of people about the most intimate aspects of their lives, his work sparked intense debate, still raging today. KINSEY recounts the scientist’s journey from obscurity to global fame, from the rigid piety of his youth as a preacher’s son to his insight as a university professor that no one had done the clinical research necessary to answer his student’s most banal sexual concerns. What makes the film so potent is its use of Kinsey’s technique — exploring the emotionally charged subject of sex from a strictly scientific point of view — in those now-famous sex interviews to tell his story and to reveal the intimate connection between his personal life and his scientific project. Brilliantly, the film approaches this story with a Kinsey-like attitude: utterly frank, inquisitive and non-judgmental. This playfully romantic epic stars Liam Neeson who comfortably inhabits the dissident but delicate workaholic Kinsey while Laura Linney’s warmth and wit as his wife Clara are vibrant. KINSEY is both buoyant and a “triumph of the human spirit” story.
Director: Bill Condon
Producer: Gail Mutrux
Editor: Virginia Katz
Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker
LIPSTICK AND DYNAMITE, PISS AND VINEGAR:
THE FIRST LADIES OF WRESTLING
Documentary, US, 2004
Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling: Meet Crazy Killen Gillen, the Great Johnnie Mae Young, The Fabulous Moolah – women who have lived up to their defiant show-biz monikers. Ruth Leitman’s documentary focuses on half a dozen women wrestlers who pioneered the hybrid of sporting event and carnival act in the 1940s and 1950s. A counterpart to Rosie the Riveter, women wrestlers got their opportunity when the male ranks were thinned by World War II. Many of them grew-up in circumstances as punishing as those they encountered in the ring and at the hands of promoters who controlled their careers, took as much as 50% of their income, and often demanded sex in return for their attentions. Leitman weaves pungent archival footage and interviews with these former wrestling queens. Moolah, the one almost all of her peers love to hate, became a promoter and lives with Johnnie Mae (once known as the dirtiest woman in the ring) and midget wrestler Diamond Lil, their surrogate daughter. Gillen talks about her post-wrestling years as a lion tamer and alligator wrangler. Others like Ida Mae Martinez, who works as a prison nurse, have had less flamboyant second lives. A half-century later, however, they all remain as competitive and tough in spirit as they once also were in body. (Amy Taubin)
Director: Ruth Leitman
Producer: Debbie Nightingale
Ruth Leitman’s first documentary, WILDWOOD, NEW JERSEY, won the Audience Award at the Atlanta Film Festival. She then won a Rockefeller Fellowship to direct ALMA, and went on to direct WELCOME TO ANATEVKA in 2001. She teaches documentary filmmaking at the School of the Arts Institute in Chicago.
THE MASTER AND HIS PUPIL - Documentary, The Netherlands, 2004
In Dutch and English with English subtitles
“This very unusual master class,” says the celebrated Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, “is my very modest attempt to give you a little advice about how to treat people around you, not how to move your hands.” Gergiev is addressing the three fledgling conductors who are his students in a master class being held during the Rotterdam Gergiev Festival. The class takes the form of open rehearsals of a complicated orchestral work by Scriabin. Documentarian Sonia Herman Dolz employed three expert cameramen to film these rehearsals from the point of view of the orchestra. It’s a brilliant choice, since Gergiev’s primary focus is on helping his pupils communicate with the players who, as an ensemble, are the conductor’s musical instrument. Hovering over each pupil’s shoulder, the extraordinarily expressive and charismatic Gergiev coaxes, cajoles, and demonstrates, zeroing in on inhibitions, crutches, and bad habits. The chief conductor of St. Petersburg’s Kirov Opera and Marinsky Theater, Gergiev has a presence that is as amazing on the screen as on the podium. Impulsive, precise, generous, authoritative, not to mention passionately involved with the music, he is simply thrilling to watch. “If the orchestra sees that you are full of ideas, of fantasy, of artistic will, it will respond,” says Gergiev. He is, of course, describing himself and, even if we have no interest in classical music, respond to him we do indeed. (Amy Taubin)
Czech Crystal – Golden Prague Awards 2003
Director: Sonia Herman Dolz
Sonia Herman Dolz
Sonia Herman Dolz has directed VPRO-TV’s prestigious foreign affairs program Diogenes, and many film and TV productions in Holland and abroad. Her documentaries include ROMANCE DE VELENTIA, LAGRIMAS NEGRAS, and YO SAY ASI. Currently, she is developing her first fiction feature, based on the novel The Sword and the Doll by Laurens van der Post.
M.C. RICHARDS: THE FIRE WITHIN – Documentary, US, 2004
M.C. Richards: The Fire Within: Poet, potter, teacher, author of the enormously influential book on creativity, “Centering,” M.C. Richards (1916-1999) is often viewed as a forerunner of the New Age movement. Richards was on the faculty of Black Mountain College during the fertile period of the late 1940s and early 1950s when John Cage, David Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Elaine and Willem DeKooning, Arthur Penn, and Charles Olsen were among her colleagues and students. In Richard Kane and Melody Lewis-Kane’s documentary portrait, many of them testify to her remarkable qualities as an artist and creative thinker. The core of the film, however, is a series of videotapes made of Richards in 1993 when she was living in a Rudolph Steiner community where she taught children and adults with special needs. We see her working with students and also alone in her studio, where she paints and ruminates on the sources of creativity in art and life. Perhaps best of all, we hear her reading her poetry. This was a woman who inhabited language with rare passion and precision – a radiant being who described own approach as finding a way “to leave room for not knowing and trusting simultaneously.” (Amy Taubin)
Director: Richard Kane
Producers: Richard Kane, Melody Lewis-Kane
Melody Lewis-Kane is the owner of Clay Forms Pottery in Sedgwick, Maine, where her functional porcelain ware and limited edition feminine form vases are available at her studio. MC RICHARDS is her first film.
OFF THE MAP – Feature, US, 2004
A most intriguing and unusual first feature from the dexterous hands of Campbell Scott, OFF THE MAP takes place somewhere in the high desert of New Mexico where an eccentric family threesome lives almost completely outside the bounds of 21st century “civilization”. The teenage daughter — sensitively played by Valentina de Angelis — who tells the story, is home-schooled, hyper-articulate and a crack shot. She keeps the family supplied with squirrels (protein) for supper. Her father, the wonderfully understated Sam Elliott, has been enveloped in an unfathomable depression for some months, and his illness is taking its toll on them all. Her mother (Joan Allen in yet another beautifully nuanced performance) will use all her considerable powers to keep his monsters at bay and her family intact. A hapless IRS agent stumbles into view, close to collapse after trekking through the desert when his car broke down, to find the family and extract their unpaid taxes. His presence alters the delicate chemistry and becomes the catalyst for life-changing surprises on all sides. Joan Ackerman’s screenplay presents a handful of fully human, quirky, multi-dimensional characters and entwines them in unexpected and meaningful ways. If you’ve ever felt close to the edge, this story will show you that there are many roads back. (Catherine Wyler)
Director: Campbell Scott
Producer: George Van Buskirk
Screenwriter: Joan Ackermann
Cast: Joan Allen, Valentina de Angelis, Sam Elliott, JK Simmons, Jim True-Frost, Amy Brennerman
BIO: Joan Ackermann
Joan Ackermann founded and serves as co-artistic director of Mixed Company, the Great Barrington, MA-based theater now it its 20th year. In addition to OFF THE MAP, Ackermann wrote the plays Zara Spook and Other Lures, Stanton’s Garage, The Battling Cage, Don’t Ride the Clutch, Bed and Breakfast, Rescuing Greenland, Isabella, A Knight at the Theatre and Back Story.
PERSONS OF INTEREST – Documentary, US, 2004
Renowned television director Alison Maclean (“Sex and the City,” “Homicide,” Carnivale”) directs this spare and startling documentary focusing on several disturbing personal stories of Muslim-Americans detained unjustly in the wake of 9/11.
Grand Jury Prize Nominee – Sundance Film Festival
Director: Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse
Producer: Lawrence Konner
Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, Alison Maclean’s first feature, CRUSH, was an official selection at Cannes. She has directed episodes of HBO’s “Subway Stories,” “Sex and the City” and “Carnivale,” as well as NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Streets.”
PETER GABRIEL – GROWING UP ON TOUR Documentary, UK
When rock legend Peter Gabriel embarked on his 2002-03 “Growing Up” tour with a mix of original and new band members, he invited his daughter Anna to accompany him—and she experienced much of the tour through her camera lens. What resulted is this insider’s view of the preparations, rehearsals, backstage musings and in-flight antics of the band, from sunny (and often rainy) Sardinia to the final drumbeat somewhere in the United States. Anna’s examination is deliberately styled not as a definitive concert film but as a home movie, creating a loving portrait of Gabriel as a team player, father, grandfather, and son/yoga partner to his elderly dad. Anna remains silent and remote throughout the movie, allowing us to draw our own conclusions about her father, whose calm, un-star-like professionalism throughout the tour renews our respect for this music icon. (Randi Minetor)
Director/Director of Photography: Anna Gabriel
DIRECTOR, DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
The daughter of Peter Gabriel, Anna moved to New York City from England to study at Sarah Lawrence in 1992. She has completed two short films: PASSAGE and LOW FLAME. For the last four years, she has directed several music videos, including GAINESVILLE ROCK CITY for Less Than Jake and TONITE for Goudie. This is her first documentary.
A Place of Our Own – Documentary
A bittersweet meditation on the passage of time, the corrosive effects of racism, and the universal human longing to belong.
PROUD – Feature, US, 2004
Based on her wonderfully researched book, “Proudly We Served” and her PBS documentary of the same name, Mary Pat Kelly’s “Proud” tells the story of the men of the World War II destroyer escort, the U.S.S. Mason. In what was then a segregated Navy, the Mason was the only ship manned by a black crew (albeit with white officers) to see combat. Decades later, President Clinton gave a presidential commission to the surviving crew members – long overdue compensation for the commendation they had been recommended for during the War, but were never awarded. Old-fashioned, as befits the period, in its storytelling methods, “Proud” is a memory piece, narrated by Lorenzo DuFau (Ozzie Davis), once a sailor on the Mason. DuFau tells the story of his and his shipmates’ wartime experience to his grandson and two of the young man’s college friends. As they listen to DuFau’s tale, they are carried back in time and transformed into sailors on the Mason. Thus the film has something of the magic of a fairy tale or legend, which doesn’t mean that Kelly pulls any punches when showing the racism that the Mason’s crew had to fight every day. (Amy Taubin)
Director: Mary Pat Kelly
ROLLING – Documentary, US, 2004
Galen Buckwalter, Vicki Elman and Ernie Wallengren see life from a different perspective than most of us. They have each got wheels – that is, wheelchairs, upon which they completely depend in order to maintain their independence. In an effort to chronicle what that dependency is like, directors Gretchen Berland and Mike Majoros asked them to record their daily movements with a video camera for over a year. The end result is an emotionally stirring documentary: Galen, a research scientist who leads a rock bank on weekends, Vicki, a staunch activist for the disabled, and Ernie, a successful screenwriter quickly endear themselves to us. Rolling celebrates human resilience and the strength and determination of three extraordinary people who just happen to need wheelchairs. (Kathleen Carroll)
Grand Jury Prize – Lake Placid Film Festival 2004
Documentary Completion Award – IFP 2003
Director: Gretchen Berland, Mike Majoros
Producer: Gretchen Berland
Gretchen Berland works as a physician/filmmaker at Yale University School of Medicine. Prior to starting medical school, she worked for WGBH-NOVA and the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, for which she received two Emmy Awards. Dr. Berland recently became the recipient of the coveted MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”
SIDEWAYS – Feature, US, 2004
The latest film by writer/director Alexander Payne (ABOUT SCHMIDT), this 21st century buddy film features two middle-aged pals (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) who drive into California’s wine country for a last fling before marriage. SIDEWAYS was the most talked-about film at the Toronto Film Festival this year for good reason: the characters are vivid and real, the writing is brilliant and the movie is very, very funny.
Director: Alexander Payne
Producer: Michael London
Production Designer: Jane Ann Stewart
Jane Ann Stewart
Jane Ann Stewart’s many production design credits include ABOUT SCHMIDT, THE AMATI GIRLS, ELECTION, THE SOULER OPPOSITE, BREAST MEN, THE MAKER, INVASION OF PRIVACY and many more.
Set in rural Pakistan in 1979, when the new military government allowed the country to swing toward Islamic fundamentalism. When 18-year-old Saleem falls under the spell of Islamic extremists, he betrays the love of his mother and his girlfriend, and indeed, the lives of almost everyone in his village.
STILL DOING IT: THE INTIMATE LIVES OF WOMEN OVER 65
Documentary, US, 2004
Intimate lives of Women over 65: The heroines of Deidre Fichel’s documentary have broken a taboo almost as strong as the one that prohibits incest. They pursue a sexually active life when they are in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. One of them finds the great love of her life when she is in a nursing home. Another lives with a lover who is 40 years younger than she is. White women, women of color, heterosexuals and lesbians, they are pioneers in resisting the restrictions of an ageist culture and role models to women of the baby boom generation. In the U.S., where women over 65 is the fastest growing demographic, plastic surgery and youth enhancing beauty products are big business. But rather than trying to turn back the clock, these women insist on celebrating their age and experience. “The people who get up to give us their seat on the subway have no idea what hot numbers we are in bed,” one of them says, grinning at her lover of a decade. “Still Doing It” is a hoot, a blast of energy, and an irreverent challenge to the ageism harbored by just about everyone in our youth obsessed culture. (Amy Taubin)
Director: Deirdre Fishel
Producers: Deirdre Fishel and Diana Holtzberg
DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER
Deirdre Fishel has been working in film and making movies since 1984. Among her credits: Writer/director/editor of RISK and THE BEST OF BOTH. She currently writes and directs award-winning educational media on teen dating violence and diversity issues, and is on the faculty of the New School University.
STILL THE CHILDREN ARE HERE
Documentary, India/Italy/US, 2004
In Garo with English subtitles
Acclaimed director Mira Nair (VANITY FAIR, MISSISSIPPI MASALA, SAALAM BOMBAY) will join us a the festival as the producer of this exquisitely photographed portrait of a society that has maintained its isolation from urban, westernized India. The Garos of Meghalaya in northeast India are a remarkably beautiful people of Tibetan-Burmese origin. Their worries are both basic (having enough food to eat and a roof over their heads) and universal (the women worry about whether their men are faithful; a couple mourn the loss of their child). Director Dinaz Stafford‘s debut feature is an elegant meditation on a way of life that ostensibly offers simplicity and peace of mind, but apparently is fraught with the same existential questions that plague us all.
Director: Dinaz Stafford
Producer: Mira Nair
Mira Nair began her film career as an actor and then turned to directing award-winning documentaries. Her debut feature film, SALAAM BOMBAY! was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; it won 27 international awards. Her next film, MISSISSIPPI MASALA, starred Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury. Most recently, she directed the critically acclaimed period film VANITY FAIR.
TRAVELLERS AND MAGICIANS – Feature, Bhutan, 2004
In Dzongkha with English subtitles
This remarkable film is the first ever to be made in the pristine beauty of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Two men—one an educated university graduate, the other a restless farm youth studying magic–seek to escape their mundane existence. They embark on parallel journeys in a search for a better and different life; one is forced to hitchhike through the beautiful, wild countryside of Bhutan, while the other is delivered into a dream world of seduction and intrigue.
Director: Khyentse Norbu
Producer: Raymond Steiner and Mel Watson
Editor: Lisa-Anne Morris
Lisa-Anne Morris began her career as a photographer at Sotheby’s. Since then she has edited many films, notably VIDEO DANCE, NOT A BEDROOM WAR, THE CUP, RABBIT PROOF FENCE and THE QUIET AMERICAN (visual effects editor)
UNTOLD SCANDAL Feature, Korea, 2004
Based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, this sumptuous film is set in aristocratic18th century Korea at the end of the Chosun Dynasty. The irresistible temptress Lady Cho asks her cad of a younger cousin, Jo-won, to deflower the innocent young Soh-ok, who is to become her husband’s concubine. But his attentions soon shift elsewhere: to the graceful and aloof Lady Sook. who lives according to her convictions as a Catholic. Jo-won becomes obsessed with seducing this chaste woman who has remained celibate for nine years since her husband’s death. This proves to be more difficult than he expected when Chosun’s notorious playboy sets out to conquer the most virtuous woman in the land.
A graduate of the Korean Academy of Film Art, E J-yong’s first feature-length film was the documentary TALES OF A CITY in 1994. Her films include AN AFFAIR and ASAKO IN RUBY SHOES.
THE WOODSMAN – Feature, US, 2003
Hailed as one of the best films making the rounds of festival this year, Nicole Kassel’s award-winning script features a pedophile, brilliantly played by Kevin Bacon, who returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and attempts to start a new life. Kyra Sedgwick, Mos, Def, David Allen Grier and Benjamin Bratt co-star in this riveting story of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.
Grand Jury Prize Nominee – Sundance Film Festival
Grand Special Prize Nominee – Deauville Film Festival 2004
Director: Nicole Kassell
Screenwriters: Nicole Kassell, Steven Fechter
Producer: Lee Daniels
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def
Nicole Kassell makes her feature directing debut with THE WOODSMAN. She is a recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School’s graduate film program, where she made a short, THE GREEN HOUR, which won the Warner Brothers Picture Film Production award. THE WOODSMAN’s screenplay took first prize in the 2001 Slamdance screenplay competition.