So many movies out and so much to see! Docuweeks is now showing such illuminating docs as Marc Smolowitz’s The Power of Two and Directors/Producers: Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer, Amy Sultan, Exec Producers Jill and Jim Angelo and Sally Jo Fifer’s To Be Heard. So many really good docs and all will be eligible for the Academy Award Oscar for Best Doc and Best Doc Short. A Marine Corps cover-up of one of the worst water contamination incidents in US history, the glaring reality of the media’s objectification of women, as well as portraits of assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the man behind Elmo are all part of the lineup of outstanding films that will be presented in the International Documentary Association’s 15th Annual DocuWeeks™ Theatrical Documentary Showcase. Playing in N.Y. and L.A. as starters. See the details here.
But that’s not all that’s showing in N.Y and in L.A. at the famous Laemmle Theater Sunset 5! Go see The Family Tree next weekend in New York (Village East) and Los Angeles (Sunset 5). If you aren’t in either city, it would still be great if you could LIKE it on Facebook, and with some success the filmmakers will have a shot at expanding the release to other cities. Writer and producing partners Mark Lisson and J. Todd Harris will be at the Friday and Saturday shows in New York and director Vivi Friedman and producing partners Allan Jones and Kathy Weiss will be at the Los Angeles shows. They have a very funny and provocative story starring an amazing cast. See the trailer.
TO BE HEARD
Directors/Producers: Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer, Amy Sultan
Three Bronx teens search for their voices and an answer to the question, Can language change lives? Karina, Pearl and Anthony are precariously balanced on the edge. Inspired by three teachers in a radical poetry workshop, they set out to write their own life stories, imagining a future where fathers aren’t in jail, mothers aren’t abusive and college is the place where you wake up every morning instead of just dreaming about it each night. A dedicated filmmaking team follows their lives, celebrating the value of poetry, compassionate teachers, and the power that comes from mastering language and learning to write your own life story.
Executive Producers: Jill and Jim Angelo/Dialogue Pictures, Sally Jo Fifer/ITVS
THE POWER OF TWO
Director/Producer: Marc Smolowitz
The Power of Two offers an intimate portrayal of the bond between half-Japanese twin sisters Anabel Stenzel and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, their lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, their survival through miraculous double lung transplants and their improbable emergence as authors, athletes and global advocates for organ donation. Featuring expert interviews, archival footage and deeply personal testimony from the twins and others whose lives have been impacted by organ transplantation from the US and Japan, the film provides unprecedented insight into the personal and societal aspects of this modern medical miracle affecting millions worldwide.
Producer: Andrew Byrnes
Executive Producer: Chris Kelly
Twin Triumph Productions
94 min. USA/Japan
To Be Heard, LLC
87 min. USA
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Director/ Producer: Constance Marks
Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.
Producers: James Miller, Corinne LaPook
Writers: Philip Shane, Justin Weinstein
Constance Marks Productions, Inc.
76 min. USA
Better This World
Directors/Producers/Writers: Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega
Two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas–David McKay and Bradley Crowder–fall under the sway of a charismatic revolutionary ten years their senior. At the volatile 2008 Republican National Convention, the “Texas Two” cross a line that radically changes their lives. The result: eight homemade bombs, multiple domestic terrorism charges and a high stakes entrapment defense hinging on the actions of a controversial FBI informant. A dramatic story of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal, Better This World goes to the heart of the War on Terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.
Producer: Mike Nicholson
Executive Producers: Julie Goldman, John Battsek, Nicole Stott, Sally Jo Fifer/ITVS, Simon Kilmurry/American Documentary/POV
89 min. USA
A Bitter Taste of Freedom
Director/Writer: Marina Goldovskaya
In her fearless quest to uncover the wrongdoings of Russian authorities, Anna Politkovskaya inspired awe in some and fear in others. An investigative journalist for Moscow’s liberal Novaya Gazeta, she was often the only spokesperson for innocent victims. At age 48 she was assassinated for simply doing her job. Shot within a period of 20 years this film creates an incredible story of a woman who consciously gave her life for her convictions.
Producer: Malcolm Dixelius
GoldFilms, Dixit Int.
90 min. Sweden/ USA/Russia
The Boy Mir—Ten Years in Afghanistan
Director/Executive Producer/Writer: Phil Grabsky
Following the international hit The Boy who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, The Boy Mir tracks cheeky, enthusiastic Mir from a childish 8 to a fully grown 18-year-old over ten years in Afghanistan. This is a journey into early adulthood in one of the toughest places on earth, and a journey that mirrors the vitally important story of Afghanistan.
Seventh Art Productions
90 min. UK/Afghanistan
Director/Producer: Maggie Betts
Told through the eyes of an increasingly empowered heroine, THE CARRIER is a powerful and moving portrait of an unconventional family, set against the backdrop of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zambia. This lyrical film follows Mutinta Mweemba, a 28-year-old subsistence farmer living in a polygamous marriage. After learning she is HIV positive and pregnant, Mutinta sets out to keep her unborn child virus-free and break the cycle of transmission.
Producers: Ben Selkow, Joedan Okun, Benjamin Prager
Executive Producer: Roland Betts
Tent Full of Birds Production, LLC
88 min. USA/Zambia
Director/Producer: Nick Brandestini
Darwin is a documentary film about an isolated community at the end of a weathered road in Death Valley, California. Propelled from society by tragic turns, the people of Darwin (population 35) must now find ways to coexist in a place without a government, a church, jobs, or children. The near-ghost town’s survival depends on a fragile, gravity-fed waterline that descends from the mountains where top secret weapons are being tested. The film tells the story of a uniquely American place and yet a place that is unique even within America.
Executive Producer: Vesna Brandestini
Producers: Sandra Ruch, Taylor Segrest
Writer: Taylor Segrest
88 min. Switzerland/USA
Dying to do Letterman
Directors/Producers/Executive Producers: Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina
This award-winning documentary follows funny man Steve Mazan as he chases a larger-than-life dream: performing stand-up comedy on David Letterman’s show. However, his quest becomes far more urgent when he learns he may only have five years to live. With long odds stacked against him, and time ticking away, Steve faces a universal question: Should one persevere in the face of every obstacle? Or is there finally a time to give up? A funny, inspiring, emotional film that proves it’s never too late to chase your dream.
Executive Producers: Steve Mazan, Denise Mazan
Joke Productions, Inc.
80 min. USA
Hell and Back Again
Director: Danfung Dennis
From his embed with US Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis reveals the devastating impact a Taliban machine-gun bullet has on the life of 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris. The film seamlessly transitions from stunning war reportage to an intimate, visceral portrait of one man’s personal struggle at home in North Carolina, where Harris confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian life with the love and support of his wife, Ashley. Masterfully contrasting the intensity of the frontline with the unsettling normalcy of home, Hell and Back Again lays bare the true cost of war.
Producers: Martin Herring, Mike Lerner
Executive Producers: Executive Producers: Dan Cogan, Karol Martesko-Fenster, Gernot Schaffler, Thomas Brunner, Maxyne Franklin
Roast Beef Productions
88 min. UK/USA
The Mexican Suitcase
Director/Producer/Writer: Trisha Ziff
The Mexican Suitcase tells the story of the recovery of 4,500 negatives taken by photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David Seymour during the Spanish Civil War. The film follows the journey of these negatives to Mexico – images as exiles, recovered seventy years later. The Mexican Suitcase brings together three narratives: the suitcase, the exile story, and looks at how people in Spain today address their own past, 30 years after transition. The Mexican Suitcase addresses the power of memory and asks who owns our histories?
Producers: Eamon O’Farrill, Paco Poch
212 Berlin/Mallerrich Films Paco Poch
86 min. Mexico/Spain
Director/Producer/Writer: Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day, but fail to see. It’s clear the mainstream media objectifies women, but what most people don’t realize is the magnitude of that phenomenon and the way objectification gets internalized—a symbolic annihilation of self-worth—and impedes girls and women from realizing their full potential. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that a woman’s value and power lie only in her youth, beauty and sexuality is pervasive. – Caroline Libresco/Sundance Film Festival
Writer: Jessica Congdon
Executive Producers: Geralyn Dreyfous, Sarah Johnson Redlich, Regina Kulik Scully
Girls Club Entertainment, LLC
89 min. USA
Phnom Penh Lullaby
Director/Producer/Writer: Pawel Kloc
Ilan Shickman left Israel dreaming of a new life. He now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with his Khmer girlfriend, Saran, and their two young daughters, as he tries to make ends meet as a street fortune-teller. Ilan works at night, near bars frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. He decides to place the older, 2-year-old daughter with Saran’s family in the countryside, but the family doesn’t want to care for Marie for free. Ilan and his family have to return to Phnom Penh, and he still must decide about Marie’s future. Phnom Penh Lullaby is about people entrapped in their lives as they struggle to realize the dream of a happy, loving family.
Writer: Przemysław Niczyporuk
98 min. Poland/Cambodia
Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Directors/Producers: Rachel Libert, Tony Hardmon
As a devoted Marine for nearly 25 years, Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger lived and breathed the “Corps.” When his 9-year-old daughter dies from a rare type of leukemia, Jerry wants to know why. His search for answers leads him to a shocking discovery: a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the worst water contamination incidents in US history. With relentless determination, he spearheads a decades-long battle to make this information public and hold the Marine Corps accountable. Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a searing look at the military’s betrayal of its soldiers and an emotional story of one man’s transformation into the activist he never imagined he’d become.
Producers: Jedd Wider, Todd Wider
Executive Producers: Wendy Ettinger, Judith Helfand, Julia Parker Benello
Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc
76 min. USA
S.O.S. / State of Security
Director/Producer/Writer: Michèle Ohayon
January 2001. Nine months before 9/11, Richard Clarke briefs Condoleezza Rice on a strategy to “deter, defeat, and respond vigorously to” al-Qaeda. Clarke’s proposal is dismissed. In March 2004, Clarke memorably declares before the 9/11 Commission, “I failed you, your government failed you.” He resigns before the Iraq War. The film exposes Clarke’s dramatic 30-year experience in the White House as counter-terrorism czar and head of cyber security. Ohayon (Oscar® nominee,) gives a rare look at the people behind National Security, military generals, CIA, hackers, vets, ambassadors who are speaking out.
Producers: Gary Prebula, Len Sherman
Executive Producer: Gary Ungar
Diamond Lane Films & Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
87 min. USA
The Tiniest Place (El Lugar Más Pequeño)
Director/Writer: Tatiana Huezo
This is a story about mankind’s ability to arise, to rebuild and reinvent itself after surviving a tragedy. It is also a story about a people that have learned to live with their sorrow; of an annihilated town that re-emerges through the strength and deep love of its inhabitants for the land and the people. A tiny place nestled in the mountains amidst the humid Salvadorian jungle.
Producer: Nicolás Celis
Executive Producers: Liliana Pardo, Henner Hofmann
Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica/Foprocine
104 min. Mexico/El Salvador
Directors/Producers: Alysa Nahmias, Benjamin Murray
In 1961, three young, visionary architects were commissioned by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to create Cuba’s National Art Schools on the grounds of a former Havana golf course. Construction of their radical designs began immediately, and artists from all over the country reveled in the beauty of the schools. But as the dream of the Revolution quickly became a reality, construction was halted and the architects and their designs were deemed irrelevant in the prevailing political climate. Forty years later, the schools are in use, but decaying. Castro has invited the exiled architects back to finish their unrealized dream.
86 min. USA/Cuba
The Barber of Birmingham
Directors/Producers: Gail Dolgin, Robin Fryday
Mr. James Armstrong is a rank-and-file “Foot Soldier” and proud proprietor of Armstrong’s Barbershop, a cultural and political hub in Birmingham, Alabama, since 1955. Eight-five years-young, he fought for the right to vote while carrying the American flag in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march from Selma to Montgomery. He was the first to integrate his children in the all-white Graymont Elementary School. On the eve of the election of the first African-American president, Mr. Armstrong, the barber of Birmingham, sees his unimaginable dream come true.
Producer: Judith Helfand
Executive Producer: Chicken & Egg Pictures
Purposeful Productions, Inc.
26 min. USA
The Home Front
Director: Phie Ambo
The Home Front is about conflicts in our private sphere: feuds between neighbors. The film follows a boundary inspector who mediates between disagreeing neighbors. We enter the homes of the feuding parties to learn about the conflicts from both sides. Why is it so difficult to solve a conflict so close at hand? And what do fences and hedges represent? Is this really what the conflicts are all about?
Producer: Sigrid Dyekjaer
40 min. Denmark
Library of Dust
Directors/Producers: Ondi Timoner, Robert James
Thousands of corroded copper urns containing the cremated remains of unclaimed psychiatric patients were discovered in 2004. A tour of the Oregon State Hospital involving the local press and a State Senator was conducted to uncover the deplorable conditions of the hospital. What they didn’t expect to find was a storeroom full of human ashes dating back to the late 1800s. Photos are taken of the mysterious corrosive effect on the canisters, and several histories of these forgotten souls are revealed in this unique tale.
Producer: Kyle Parker
Interloper Films/NuReality Productions
16 min. USA
Maya Deren’s Sink
Director/Producer/Writer: Barbara Hammer
Maya Deren’s Sink, a tribute to Maya Deren, the mother of avant-garde American film, evokes her creative spirit through a meditation on the architectural details of her homes. Fragments from Deren’s films are projected in the spaces where they were originally filmed while a ghosted actor performs a script crafted from her writing. Teiji Ito’s family, Carolee Schneemann, Judith Malvina and others tell stories of Deren’s fiery personality, driving ambition, and charm. As “the walls speak” Deren lives again in this evocative documentary film.
Barbara Hammer Productions
29 min. USA
Poetry of Resilience
Director/Producer/Writer: Katja Esson
Poetry of Resilience is a 40-minute documentary about six poets from around the world who survived some of the worst political atrocities of the 20th Century: Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, the Iranian Revolution. By summoning the creative voice of poetry to tell stories of survival and witness, each reclaims humanity and dignity in the wake of some of history’s most dehumanizing circumstances. With grace and humor, the film explores language as an internal means of survival—for the poet and the readers of poems.
Producers: Corinna Sager, Alison Granucci, Sabine Schenk
Executive Producer: Jan Warner
Penelope Pictures LLC
40 min. USA
Director/Executive Producer: Cari Ann Shim Sham
A rhythmic and visual collage, the film Sand takes a close look at sand dance as it is passed down from a father to his son. Sand dance is a quickly disappearing American dance form that stems from turn of the century vaudevillian and traveling shows. With only a handful of people left today still performing it, this film is a rare archive of the transference of sand dance or “passin’ the sand”, from one generation to the next. Featuring emerging tap dance artist Kenji Igus and his father Darrow. Shot on the Canon 5dMarkii.
Executive Producer: Kyle Ruddick
10 min. USA
Sun City Picture House
Director: David Darg
After watching the last of the old movie theaters get destroyed in the Haiti earthquake, a young Haitian man rallies an entire community to build a cinema and make his dream come alive on a hill above a tent city.
Producer: Bryn Mooser
Executive Producers: Olivia Wilde, Maria Bello
27 min. Haiti