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In the Works: New Doc from “Paris is Burning” Director, Sundance’s “Pariah,” Chicago Mob Boss & More

In the Works: New Doc from "Paris is Burning" Director, Sundance's "Pariah," Chicago Mob Boss & More

In this week’s In the Works column, indieWIRE profiles the new project from “Paris is Burning” filmmaker Jennie Livingston, an exploration of love, loss, and summer camp. Also up are several projects looking for crowdfunders on Kickstarter, including Dee Rees’s Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition film “Pariah.” There’s also a story about a Chicago mob boss that wants to make you rethink American history as you know it.

“Earth Camp One”

Jennie Livingston has been working on her film “Earth Camp One” since 2000, when she was spurred to make a film that explored her relationship with her family after four close family members died within five years. Between 1996 and 2000, Livingston lost her mother, grandmother, uncle (filmmaker Alan J. Pakula) and brother (who died under mysterious circumstances). “Earth Camp One” is her way of confronting death head on.

Livingston says she found herself “embarrassed” and “flummoxed” when faced with death. “Since we’re all going to die, and before we die, we’ll lose people we love, this isn’t a good way for us to be, as individuals, or as a society, viewing or approaching reality,” she says. “Denial about this basic fact of our existence, impermanence, can serve a purpose (like when the Bush government successfully censored images of returning caskets), but it’s not a purpose we ought to be serving. The microcosm of my experience, and my family’s experience, connects to a large set of social and spiritual concerns.”

The film’s title comes from the name of what Livingston says was a “hippie summer camp” in Northern California that she attended in the 70’s from the age of 12. Livingston saw herself as breaking away from her family to “be a quasi-hippie, although actually I was a middle-class kid being sent to summer camp by my parents! I thought I’d go bliss out with the hippies and organic gardens and geodesic domes, etc. But I was freaked out. Because my dad had almost died! And when we took what should have been a blissful backpacking trip in Lassen Volcanic Park I freaked out. Had panic attacks. Thought the volcanoes were going to erupt on us! Flash forward many years: they’re all dead! does that hippie stuff help me now? Can we ever really escape our parents or families of origin? Should we? Of course, yes, and no.”

The film will mix archival footage, including 16mm and 8mm film clips from her family’s archives; contemporary footage of Livingston moving around her New York apartments with a growing pile of “inherited stuff;” talking-head interviews with family members and “experts” on grieving and loss; and animated sequences depicting conceptions of afterlife.

“I think sometimes you can approach social issues better by not naming them directly (as I did with ‘Paris is Burning’) than by saying: ‘I have this issue, and I’m making this film about it,’” Livingston said. “It’s not the fashion now, but I see nonfiction filmmaking eventually becoming a bit more like creative nonfiction, in the literary sphere. Whether you’re right-wing Christian, or Jewish Buddhist hippie left wing faggy New Yorker, it seems to me that the facts of embracing what it is to be alive are very complicated and challenging!”

The film has progressed with funding from Netflix, the Guggenheim Foundation, the French American Charitable Trust, Chicken & Egg, and other grants and individuals, but Livingston is seeking additional funders to complete the edit and pay for the licensing. She will be at Sundance 2011 to meet with potential investors — 20 years after her debut, “Paris Is Burning,” won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize in 1991.

More Projects


An image from Dee Rees’s Sundance 2011 title “Pariah.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker.]

Logline: A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks heartbreak, friendship, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.

Production team: Writer/Director: Dee Rees; Producer: Nekisa Cooper; Cinematographer: Bradford Young
Editor: Mako Kamitsuna; Executive Producers: Spike Lee, Mary Jane Skalski, Sam Martin, Susan Lewis, Jeff Robinson, Sundial Pictures

About the film: “I was going through my own coming out process when I first wrote ‘Pariah’ and that was the biggest inspiration for the story. The film is semi-autobiographical, in that as I was coming into my sexuality I started to be okay with knowing who I was. But I didn’t know how to express that. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I can just be myself and don’t have to fit into any category. I don’t have to put on any persona; I can just continue to be who I am. And that’s what Alike, the main character, comes to in her journey.” — Dee Rees

Current status: The team is busy with the final touches of their post-production in NYC, finalizing the sound mix, music, and titling this week. They are currently looking for funding for their final post-production touches and their trip to Sundance to see “Pariah”‘s world premiere.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s official website and its Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign on January 19.

“Momo: The Sam Giancana Story”

A production still from Dimitri Logothetis’s “Momo.” [Image courtesy of the filmmaker.]

Logline: The true story about one of the country’s most notorious mob leaders as seen through the eyes of the Sam’s daughters. History changes when these women explore what made the man.

Production team: Director/Writer: Dimitri Logothetis; Producer/Writer: Nicholas Celozzi; Executive Producers: Bonnie Giancana, Francine Giancana, Marie Pizano; Associate Producer: Tim Barrett, Leonard Becker, Danielle Garnier, Michelle Michaels, Gage Stone; Co-Producer: Ray Nikolaison; Editor: Raymond Tijssen

About the film: “I like to say, if Tony Soprano was mayor of New Jersey, Sam Giancana was Vice President of the United States. Without him, I think history would have gone a different way. It’s a really interesting American tale.” — Dimitri Logothetis

“What was fascinating was more than the blueprints of how (organized crime) worked. It was how interesting the man was, how complex he was. We’re not trying to glorify or take away the obvious of what he [did]. We want to fill the back story of where he came from, his home life, his personality, what made him tick.” — Nicholas Celozzi

Current status: The team is in principle production, hoping to wrap by March.

“I Am I”

Logline: A woman meets her mentally ill father who abandoned her as a child. He is convinced that she is his wife and tries to win her back.

Production Team: Writer/Director: Jocelyn Towne; Producers: Cora Olson, Jen Dubin; Co-Producer: Simon Helberg; Cinematographer: Andre Lascaris; Cast: Jocelyn Towne, Simon Helberg, Jason Ritter

About the film: “I have always been drawn to unconventional love stories, like ‘Harold and Maude’ and ‘The Crying Game.’ When I was little my father used to play me the soundtrack from ‘The Man of La Mancha.’ I loved Don Quixote’s songs, his certainty of self. The title of the film came from—’I am I, Don Quixote, the lord of La Mancha…’ I re-envisioned his role as a Vietnam veteran and then thought, what if Dulcinea (Aldonza) was not a stranger to him, but in fact his daughter and he could not see her for who she truly was. I turned the Sancho Panza character into an employee at the assisted living home where the father lives. ‘I Am I’ is ultimately a story about love, love for one’s family, when it is put to the test of untold mysteries suddenly revealed. How the past can portray the present and the truth of who we really are when we see through the eyes of those we love and who love us – even when it is through the prism of delusions.” — Jocelyn Towne

Current Status: The team plans to begin production in late spring/early summer in Los Angeles once they reach their Kicstarter goal.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $100,000 by the end of the campaign on January 8.

“The Killing Seasons”

An image from John Antonelli’s “The Killing Seasons.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker.]

Logline: “The Killing Seasons” explores the disastrous results when wildlife takes priority over indigenous people’s land rights, human rights and their very survival. The film also shows the limitless positive repercussions when native people and animals are both valued and respected.

Production team: Producer/Director: John Antonelli (“Sam Cooke: Crossing Over’, “Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats”); Co-Producer: Will Parrinello; Director of Photography: Barry Schienberg; Editor: Eli Olson

About the film: “I discovered this story 3 years ago when I did a short profile of Hammer Simwinga, when he won the Goldman Environmental Prize for his grass roots projects that helped to convert poachers to sustainable farmers. While I was making a long form documentary about Hammer and his work, I met Thuli Makama in Swaziland, who was fighting to help save the Nguni people and their way of life. The two stories seemed to dovetail to help make each character’s accomplishments that much more profound.” — John Antonelli

Current status: The film is looking to complete production soon, with a Swaziland shoot scheduled for February.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $6,000 by the end of the campaign on January 23.

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