I love the Palm Springs International Film Festival. With 40 of 63 international films submitted for Academy Award Best Foreign Language Fiilm Nominations and with such easy access to the directors and producers of these and other films, such as The Loving Story which is a shortlisted doc submission for the Oscar for Best Documentary, or Dolphin Boy, the Israeli-Arab doc about the love of a father and of the dolphin community in Eilat brings a traumatized young man back to life…what’s not to love? Great brunch given by Variety and its annual 10 Directors to Watch honoring Charlize Theron? Great receptions by The Film Collaborative, great hotels…OK not so great restaurants. The audience is as good as it gets, on a par with TIFF and Telluride.
One theme running through the selection is Love.
Starting with four stories documenting Love, I could continue by including Le Havre (Finland, ISA: The Match Factory, see my past blog), Pina (Germany, ISA: Hanway, what was to be a doc about Pina’s dance troupe ended as an ode to her), Volcano (ISA: Trust Nordisk, love between an older married couple thrives in the worst of circumstances), Sonny Boy (Netherlands, ISA: Delphis, forbidden love between an Surinamese black man and a Dutch woman from 1921 through World War II), Declaration of War (France, ISA: Wild Bunch, a married couple’s love for their child who has cancer), Jose and Pilar (Portugal, ISA: 6 Sales, two soulmates with an incredible life ), and A Simple Life (Hong Kong, ISA: Distribution Workshop, the recuperation of a maid in a care facility where love flourishes). As most have been written up as their countries’ submission for Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, I will not write about them here.
The Loving Story is about the love of a man and woman, Richard and Mildred Loving, a married couple whom, in 1958 the state of Virginia banished from the state and their home because they did not share the same skin color. This law against miscegenation was in effect in 16 states of the U.S. until their case, Loving vs. Virginia was decided in their favor by the Supreme Court in 1967.
The Lovings (he was white, she was part black and part Cherokee) were found guilty of violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage and forced to leave the state. But Mildred Loving chose to fight and wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. He referred her to the ACLU and two young attorneys took the case. This film is shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature, Academy Awards and just received photographic coverage in the N.Y. Times.
Director Nancy Buirski, prior to founding Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, was an international correspondent for the N.Y. Times. Her debut film lifts the veil on an overlooked but crucial story of the Civil Rights movement.
This is the tale of the healing powers of nature, a parent’s patient and tender love, and the friendship between a teenager and the group of dolphins who helped him.
After being brutally beaten by a group of teens, a teenage boy (Morad) from an Arab village in the North of Israel suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, so much so that he has completely disconnected himself from the world and people around him. When told by top Israeli doctors that dolphin-assisted therapy is the last treatment option before the catatonic boy is institutionalized, his father leaves his job and family to move to Dolphin Reef on the Red Sea, vowing not to return unless the boy achieves full recovery. Supported by a dedicated doctor, new friends, and an Israeli Jewish girlfriend, Morad and his father embark on a remarkable four-year journey of recovery. One of the director, Dani Menkin made 39 Pounds of Love, another loving story. The co-director of Dolphin Boy is Yonatan Nir.
Debuting at Hot Docs in Canada, Dolphin Boy was called “one of the MUST SEE documentaries” at the festival, and sold to Channel 4 for the U.K. and to ARTE for both Germany and France. Dolphin Boy also was the 3rd most watched doc at the recent MIPDoc film market in Cannes.
The Girls in the Band epitomizes love for music.
The Girls in the Band and Wish Me Away Tied for Audience Award Best Doc Feature at Palm Springs FF. The most famous photograph in jazz lore—Art Kane’s A Great Day in Harlem from 1958—features a “who’s who” of many of the greatest jazz musicians.But who are the two women standing next to Thelonious Monk in the photograph? This revelatory documentary seeks to answer that question by uncovering the hidden history of women jazz musicians, from pre-WWII to the present day. These talented and determined performers and composers faced—and overcame—blatant sex discrimination and racial barriers. But this is no dusty historical monograph:The Girls in the Band swings. Chock full of great music, dancing, and performance clips, the film celebrates such bands as The Ada Leonard Orchestra, Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears, The Diva Jazz Orchestra, and The International Sweethearts of Rhythm in a visual and aural feast for the senses. Judy Chaikin’s masterful direction and Edward Osei-Gyimah’s brilliant editing seamlessly blend multiple stories and characters, a treasure trove of archival material, and insightful, witty contemporary interviews to give the film a musicality its subjects would be proud of. Direced by Judy Chaikin and produced by Judy Chaikin, Nancy Kissock, and Michael Greene, this film should hit big!
The British Guide to Showing Off by Jes Benstock. Andrew Logan is the subject along with his Alternative Miss World creation. Andrew Logan, who won his first costume prize on coronation day in 1953 and founded the “Alternative Miss World” contest in 1972, has reigned over this unique and fabulous event ever since. Each contest is both an art piece in its own right and a celebration of the alternative spirit of the times–a showcase of the extravagant, the groundbreaking, and the eccentric. Stupendously attired contestants such as “Miss Tuna Turner” and “Miss Placed Enthusiasm”, parade alongside hosts and judges including outsider icons such as Divine and Derek Jarman. The footage of past shows alone is enough to captivate and charm, and Benstock’s playful mixed-media collage and animation, perfectly in tune with the spirit of its subject, adds another level to this joyful celebration of creativity and difference. At the center of it all is Andrew Logan, surprisingly prim and proper given his flamboyant brainchild, but–as artist Grayson Perry playfully comments like a naughty auntie who’ll tip gin in your tea. This is a film filled with love for “Fabulocity”.