15 items from 2016
The Sundance Institute gave Nate Parker its Vanguard leadership award at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Thursday night, marking another milestone for Parker and his upcoming social justice-themed film, The Birth Of A Nation. In accepting the prize—which in prior years went to filmmakers Benh Zeitlin, Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle and Marielle Heller—Parker announced that he and the cast and producing team behind The Birth Of A Nation would fund a fellowship for… »
For the 18th consecutive year, Filmmaker Magazine has announced its 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Perhaps the indie-film stalwart’s signature feature, 25 New Faces has included the likes of Hilary Swank (1999), Ryan Gosling (2001), Andrew Bujalski (2003), So Yong Kim (2006), Benh Zeitlin (2008) and Ana Lily Amirpour (2014) in the past, among many others. Leading the class of 2016 are Sasha Lane of “American Honey” and Macon Blair of “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room,” who’s currently at work on his untitled directorial debut. Find the full list below.
Read More: Filmmaker Magazine Names 2015’s ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’
Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan
Nadia P. Manzoor and Radhika Vaz
John Wilson »
- Michael Nordine
Nate Parker, director of The Birth of a Nation, will get this year’s Sundance Institute award, which brings a cash prize and industry mentorship.
Sundance Institute is giving its Vanguard Award to filmmaker and actor Nate Parker (pictured), whose directorial debut The Birth of a Nation won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The award will be presented at Institute’s Night Before Next benefit in Los Angeles on August 11.
The Vanguard Award includes a cash grant and mentorship from industry professionals and Institute staff. Previous recipients include Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl).
The Birth of a Nation, which was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program from development to post-production, opens in Us cinemas on October 7.
Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam said: “Night Before Next will bring »
Sundance Institute announced that Nate Parker is this year’s Vanguard Award recipient. The award will be presented to the director and actor at the Night Before Next celebration on August 11 at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. The summer festivity will benefit the Institute and its artists on the eve of Sundance Next Fest.
“Night Before Next will bring our community together to celebrate and support independent artists who create bold, original work,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute. “In this spirit, we are excited to honor Nate Parker as he prepares to release the extraordinary film ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ which we supported during development and premiered at our Festival.”
Parker, who is making his directorial debut with “The Birth of a Nation, »
- Liz Calvario
Not a lot of books have trailers, but then again, not a lot of books are written by co-founders of independent film festivals. Dan Mirvish, one of Salmdance’s founding fathers, has penned “The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking” as a how-to for aspiring filmmakers. Check out the trailer below.
Read More: Here’s Why the Co-Founder of Slamdance Invented a New Lens System
In an email to Indiewire, Mirvish describes his tome as a “non-fiction, comprehensive guide to the craft and culture of making indie films” that “also serves as something of an oral history of the last 25 years of Slamdance and our alumni (everyone from Chris Nolan, the Russo Bros and Rian Johnson, to Lynn Shelton and Benh Zeitlin). The book covers everything from financing and casting, to directing and festivals, to distribution and piracy — all from my particularly skewed perspective.”
Read More: Here Are the »
- Michael Nordine
In honor of this Friday’s release of “Wiener-Dog,” Todd Solondz’s first directorial effort since 2011’s “Dark Horse,” Le Cinema Club is presenting the exclusive online premiere of Solondz’s 1984 Nyu short film, “Babysitter.”
The nine-minute short focuses on a boy’s recollection of the babysitter of his youth. Click here to watch the short film on Le Cinema Club’s website.
Solondz’s new film “Wiener-Dog,” follows a dachshund that goes from one strange owner to the next, serving as a central character in four stories that bring out the pointlessness of human existence. The offbeat comedy’s stellar cast includes Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy and “Girls’” Zosia Mamet. Amazon nabbed all domestic media rights to the film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, while IFC Films is handling the theatrical release. »
- Graham Winfrey
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a 25th anniversary screening of John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood” at the Sva Theatre in New York City last Sunday as part of their “Spotlight on Screenwriting” series. This followed an event in Los Angeles the Academy hosted for the film on Friday.
After the screening, Oscar-nominated writer and director Singleton sat down with acclaimed author Walter Mosley to discuss what “Boyz” means 25 years later, including how it launched its career, how time has shifted its cultural weight and, for Singleton, how film increasingly struggles to mean anything culturally. Read five highlights from the talk below:
Read More: John Singleton Channels August Wilson – Pens Op-ed On White Directors Helming Black Films
Singleton uses two words to describe the current state of black cinema: “Dismal” and “abysmal.”
At the discussion, Singleton repeatedly discussed his interest in films specific to culture and afro-centric experiences. Yet he lamented that films like that are not being made by other minority directors, especially in the studio system.
“It doesn’t matter how many hits and how much money the movies are making,” said Singleton. “They don’t have any cultural consciousness to them now. They have smatterings and little bits here and there, but it’s abysmal. It’s not like every movie has to make a statement at all. Movies don’t have to preach, they’re entertainment first.”
“But in terms of cultural weight – if we have cultural weight, it will be entertaining. And that’s what I feel I try to go for. I just try to rep hard for Spike [Lee], when he was starting he was trying to get people to say ‘hey listen, we can have our own idiom in film. We can have a black film aesthetic. We can have a thing that’s unique.’ When I do whatever I’m trying to do, I’m still trying to rep that,” he said.
This lack of personal voices in film is a result of a studio culture that he doesn’t think would support “Boyz N the Hood” today.
Mosley and Singleton broke down how unlike government-sanctioned international cinema that “gives artists free reign to have dissenting views,” said Singleton, cultural specificity is lost in commerce-driven american cinema.
“There are so many stories that have yet to be chronicled about what really went on in Los Angeles in the early 80s,” said Singleton. “Yet our film culture is all based on commerce. You have a paucity of personal voices in film. Yes, you have a lot of independent films that are getting made, but even so they’re not what they were. You don’t have as many anachronistic true voices that are different from the norm. You have that at a lower level where people are making films on their iPhones now, doing new stuff.”
“There used to be a time where you had a support of these acrostic voices. These films that were really specific…you don’t have that with the studios right now,” Singleton added. “That’s why American cinema is really suffering right now. It’s sort of like the small movies are the farm stuff for the big films. If George Lucas didn’t make ‘American Graffiti,’ he wouldn’t have ‘Star Wars.’ And ‘American Graffiti’ is specific to a sort of time and place that was changing and evolving. You could never make those films now. You could never make ‘Boyz N the Hood’ now.”
Morris believed in spite of media attention from Black Lives Matter, the push for awareness of minority voices will not translate directly to more prominence for black artists.
“In truth, Black Lives Matter says we’re paying attention to everything because if our lives don’t matter then your lives don’t matter,” said Morris. “And they’ve done a lot of work and they are doing a lot of work. But I think it’s a long journey from that to those 25, 35, 135 million dollar movies.”
“Boyz N the Hood” came from a young USC grad making an identity as “a black filmmaker repping Los Angeles.”
Singleton describes his first feature as a bridge between what he saw and grew up with in Los Angeles and his study of Italian neorealism (films like “The Bicycle Thieves” and “Open City”). Yet there was one figure in Singleton’s life who started the whole quest.
“I look at it as a time capsule of what I was thinking and feeling at the time,” said Singleton. “I was 20 years old and I went and saw ‘Do the Right Thing,” which came out in the summer of 1989. Spike [Lee] has always been my cinematic big brother. Before I went to school and he visited La he pushed other people out of the way to shake my hand. I told him I was going to USC Film School and for him to watch out for me. So I went to school for four years rapping black cinema. I was one of the only black filmmakers and students in a predominantly white film culture. It was a continued marginalization – the attitude was there was only one Spike Lee. I was like, ‘I’m not the next Spike Lee, I’m the next John Singleton.’”
The need to create “Boyz” was driven by Singleton’s desire to write a film about what he knew: to go back to his family and figure out this story.
“I was at USC, which was still adjunct to the neighborhood I was growing up in,” said Singleton. “And I wouldn’t say I was having Ptsd because I was still in the environment, but I was having dreams like that. Having dreams about the stuff I’d seen in my childhood and teenage years. But I’m on an island – if you step off the campus, you’re in the mix. This is the 80s still. The script for ‘Boyz’ came out of that.”
Read More: The 10 Best Oscar-Nominated Directors
There are promising movies to Singleton that are immersed in a time and place. A favorite of his? “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Singleton and Mosley lavished praise on Benh Zeitlin’s 2012 film, which Mosley helped foster when Zeitlin brought the script to Sundance Labs in 2008.
“Beautiful, beautiful film,” said Singleton. “Benh [Zeitlin] did a great job on that. There a scene where she goes over on that ferry and goes to that place, and it’s a questionable place…you don’t know if she’s seeing her mother or a vision of her mother, and the woman fries that alligator tail. And she’s telling this quasi-sexual story. But that never could’ve been done if the filmmakers didn’t live down there. And he’s not black, but he’s a brother, you know? If you see that movie, he takes you somewhere special and different, and he does it in an interesting, lyrical kind of way.”
The two took inspiration from how Zeitlin and his crew went spent several months in Louisiana taking in the culture of a world that would become The Bathtub. “They lived with the film,” said Mosley. Singleton thought other filmmakers should take note.
“I’m interested in doing a quasi-sort of thing with Chinese kids. I’m not Chinese. But I’m going to immerse myself in what these kids are going for,” said Singleton. “There’s not enough of that. And you can be from a certain culture and not know anything about where you’re from, too. That’s why a lot of black filmmakers are making marginal films right now. Because they’re not really astute at what the weight is that came before them. If you’re making gumbo, and the base is bad, it’s not going to taste good.”
Singleton wants his work to serve as a “conduit” for the voiceless.
Director of eight films and three TV shows since “Boyz,” Singleton has kept himself busy in the past 25 years. Yet the work that interests him to this date remains small, personal, ostracized stories.
“I always wanted to be the kind of storyteller that was still accessible to folks,” said Singleton. “I’m doing Snowfall [the upcoming series for FX], I have another show called Rebel which just got announced… I’m interested in continuing the foundation that was set with ‘Boyz.’ Near my office there’s a park I go to, and I see people who just got released, people who are schizophrenic, people who are living from halfway house to halfway house. When you’re in and around folks, you get stories.”
“Everyone has stories to tell, but not everyone has a way to tell it. Not everyone can sit down and write it, damn near make a movie about it. But what I feel is that I’m a conduit for those folks,” he said. “And I’m not so visible that I’m not accessible. I’m not on TV all the time, I’m not doing the celebrity thing. I’d like to think I work like Ernest Hemingway. He would travel to different places, and he would write about his experiences. I love listening and talking to folks, and that’s how I get the rhythm and cadence of language.”
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- Russell Goldman
The Sundance Institute has set its Sundance Next Fest for Aug. 12-14 at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
It’s the fourth year that the festival, launched with the idea of getting attention for independent films outside the confines of the Sundance Film Festival in January, has been held in Los Angeles. The events pair six new independent films with either a special music act that shares a complementary artistic sensibility, or conversations between the filmmakers and those who inspired them.
Last year’s events included showings of “Cop Car,” Noah Baumbach’s “Mistress America,” “Finders Keepers” and “Turbo Kid,” along with conversations with Aubrey Plaza and Thomas Middleditch, and performances by Sharon Van Etten and Sky Ferreira. In 2014, the Next Fest included the premiere of “Life After Beth,” screenings of “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,” as well as »
- Dave McNary
Gary McCurry on the Sundance movies that have enjoyed success at the Oscars…
Since 1984, the Sundance Film Festival as we know it today has been shining a light on independent movies. Held annually in Park City, Utah, Sundance has become the largest independent film festival in the United States. Many notable directors have came through the ranks, including Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Paul Thomas Anderson (Cigarettes & Coffee/Hard Eight), Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
With that history lesson over, I’m looking to recap upon the movies that have gone through Sundance on the road to the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Some housekeeping before we begin. This isn’t a complete list of every movie to have won the sword wielding knight, more a few notes on the film festivals success throughout the years. Talking of years, you’ll find them in order »
- Gary McCurry
Justin Chang: Guy, we started this deep-dive conversation about the best picture race less than an hour after Alejandro G. Inarritu clinched the Directors Guild of America’s top prize for “The Revenant,” which was pretty much the last confirmation we needed — after the Producers Guild picked “The Big Short” and the Screen Actors Guild opted for “Spotlight” — that this really is the wildest, craziest, most confoundingly unpredictable best-picture Oscar race in years. Exciting, isn’t it? I’d be more excited if this recent turn of events didn’t seem to favor “The Revenant,” which now has extraordinary momentum on its side. There we were, hoping the film’s Golden Globe triumphs would simply be an isolated HFPA fluke — but then it came roaring back with a vengeance, not unlike that easily distracted CGI bear at its center, ready to sink its teeth back into the race and not let go this time. »
- Justin Chang and Guy Lodge
Predicting the Oscar winners this year is a little like predicting the winners of the early presidential caucuses and primaries -- that's how wide open the field is in some categories, particularly Best Director.
In the Oscar race, we had two important guild votes this week, from the actors and the editors, and the results made the Academy's contest a bit more clear. Will the DGA's vote this weekend help make sense of things? Maybe, depending on who wins.
The Screen Actors Guild awards last Saturday did help confirm some of the acting races. SAG winner Leonardo DiCaprio still has a lock on a Best Actor Oscar for "The Revenant," and Brie Larson is still far and away the Best Actress frontrunner for "Room." Alicia Vikander's SAG win for Supporting Actress for "The Danish Girl" puts her ahead of the pack; at this point, her only real competition is »
- Gary Susman
When it comes to this year’s Academy Awards, no word is more buzzworthy than “diversity”. For the second year in a row the Oscars have nominated only white actors in their four main acting categories, sparking backlash and, as a result, inciting the Academy to announce new changes to tackle its “diversity problem”.
Amidst another year of #OscarsSoWhite trending on Twitter, however, the fact that 2015 has been an exceptionally strong year for women has been largely overlooked. Three of this year’s best picture nominees (Brooklyn, Room, Mad Max: Fury Road) are female-centric and feature strong female protagonists in the center of the action. In fact, even outside of those films and their performances, a number of women are nominated for best picture as producers, as well. Kristie Macosko Krieger is nominated for Bridge of Spies, Blye Pagon Faust is nominated for Spotlight, Dede Gardner »
- Patrick Shanley
The Slamdance Film Festival has unveiled jury members for its feature film competition programs for its 22nd edition during Jan. 22-28, Variety has learned.
Along with Peli, the best-known Slamdance alumni include Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, Lena Dunham, Benh Zeitlin, Seth Gordon and Lynn Shelton. Significant titles that debuted at Slamdance include “Mad Hot Ballroom” and Gordon’s “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”
The Slamdance feature competition is limited to films made with budgets under $1 million and made by first-time directors. The awards will be presented Jan. 28 at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah.
Narrative features jury members include Russell, »
- Dave McNary
Jet-lagged and still on Los Angeles time in Dublin yesterday morning, “Room” director Lenny Abrahamson woke up in the afternoon, sauntered downstairs and figured he’d watch the nominations announcement and show some love for star Brie Larson, who was a favorite to be mentioned. He didn’t figure on too much support from the Academy besides, because, like any artist new to the awards circuit, he couldn’t help but pay attention to the punditry.
“It’s very hard not to look,” Abrahamson says. “The way I describe it is if you’re sitting at a restaurant and you realize the people in the next booth are talking about you and they don’t know you’re there, of course it’s almost impossible not to listen. I managed for quite a period of time not to look. And it became more pleasant, to do your thing and let it happen in the background. »
- Kristopher Tapley
“Do you think we ever really do see beyond those things … the surface of things?” The announcement of this morning’s Oscar nominations couldn’t help but remind me of the words of Raymond Deagan, the suburban gardener played by Dennis Haysbert in “Far From Heaven.” In his gorgeously crafted 2002 homage to the films of Douglas Sirk, Todd Haynes used the very language and iconography of 1950s Hollywood to expose the cracks in the veneer of our ostensibly more enlightened era — and to suggest that, in terms of confronting deep-rooted racism and homophobia, contemporary American society still had a long way to go.
Racism and homophobia are not the subjects of this piece, though not for lack of ammunition. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has already come under fire for not nominating any actors of color for the second year in a row, prompting a depressing reiteration of »
- Justin Chang
15 items from 2016
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