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"If that prosecution goes through, that bank is going to go out of business." PBS has released another new official trailer for the latest documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, titled Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. This doc premiered at film festivals last fall and has been playing around the world at festivals ever since. Abacus tells the story of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. They had to spend five years defending themselves and their bank's legacy when they became the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. We've been following this doc since last year, and it will open in NYC starting this May, with a nationwide roll-out over the summer. This does look like an "exemplary piece of filmmaking", as is expected from Steve James. Here's the official trailer for »
- Alex Billington
The summer movie season is upon us, which means a seemingly endless pile-up of superheroes, reboots, and sequels will crowd the multiplexes. While a select few show some promise, we’ve set out to highlight a vast range of titles — 40 in total — that will arrive over the next four months, many of which we’ve already given our stamp of approval.
There’s bound to be more late-summer announcements in the coming months, and a number of titles will arrive on VOD day-and-date, so follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. In the meantime, see our top 40 picks for what to watch this summer below, in chronological order, and let us know what you’re looking forward to most in the comments.
While the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane and Room told stories of captivity with various hooks — science-fiction and the process of healing, respectively — Cate Shortland »
- The Film Stage
Keep up with the wild and wooly world of indie film acquisitions with our weekly Rundown of everything that’s been picked up around the globe. Check out last week’s Rundown here.
– Kino Lorber has acquired the North American rights to Bill Morrison’s “Dawson City: Frozen Time,” about the true history of a collection of 533 reels of film (representing 372 titles) dating from the 1910s to 1920s, which were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory. The film tells the unique history of a Canadian gold rush town and how cinema, capitalism and history intersect.
“Dawson City” had its world premiere at the 73rd Venice Film Festival and North American premiere at 2016 New York Film Festival. The film also played at the BFI/London Film Festival and the 2017 Rotterdam International Film Festival, and screened Thursday at the TCM »
- Graham Winfrey
Teenagers make for natural, even ideal documentary subjects. For one, there’s inherent drama in adolescence, with its natural forward progression and built-in obstacles (big games, big tests, first kisses). Beyond that, young adults can be extremely forthright, their narcissism—healthy if hopefully temporary—fueling the kind of nonstop confessional conversation a filmmaker would be lucky to coax out of older interviewees. The subjects of All This Panic treat the camera not just like a trusted confidant, but also a co-mythologizer. Everyone is the star of their own life story, but for these kids, easing out of childhood and into an uncertain future, that story seems grandly significant, like a soap opera with homework and curfews. Their constant running commentary helps us to see it that way, too.
As in Hoop Dreams or the Up series or Boyhood, there’s a special fascination in seeing people literally grow up on »
- A.A. Dowd
Credit: Firelight Media’s Twitter account
Firelight Media has introduced the Impact Producer Fellowship and announced the initiative’s inaugural participants, Shadow and Act reports. “The first-ever training program dedicated to mentoring and training impact producers of color,” the yearlong fellowship will see eight Impact Producers developing campaigns with filmmakers.
The Impact Producer Fellowship “is rooted in a core belief that by providing social change activists with training on media strategy and impact, and connecting them with diverse storytellers, we can fuel change efforts and catalyze new narratives about vulnerable populations,” writes the Firelight blog. Retreats and monthly online roundtables with filmmakers and other industry execs are among the Impact Producers’ training activities.
“The inaugural cohort of Impact Producer Fellows bring with them trusted relationships in diverse communities and social justice movements, cultural competency, and a proven commitment to social change,” explained fellowship director Sonya Childress.
“We aim to build on those assets and provide them with the skills and networking that will position them as narrative strategists who can strengthen both the nonfiction film community and the movements they serve,” she continued.
Programs like the Impact Producer Fellowship are sorely needed in the entertainment industry. According to the 2017 Diversity Report from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, “initiatives focused on developing diverse creative executives” are few and far between — and are usually designed for writers of film and TV.
So, obviously, we’re thrilled that Firelight is doing its part and contributing to “an area in dire need of improvement” by training and mentoring an inclusive group of up and coming producers.
The inaugural Impact Producers’ bios are below, courtesy of Shadow and Act.
Jin Yoo-kim — Los Angeles, CA
Jin Yoo-Kim is currently co-producing filmmaker Yu Gu’s feature documentary, A Woman’s Work, following the NFL cheerleaders’ fight for wage equality. Some of her past directorial film projects range in subject matter from an underground student movement fighting racism in the administration, the prophetic dreams pregnant Korean women have, the raw vegan subculture, Korean immigrants navigating the Us healthcare system, Asian American women attempting to define their sexuality, and a bio-pic of a struggling Korean American indie musician. She worked for documentary filmmakers like Bill Guttentag and Rory Kennedy, and is most excited about working with Yu Gu and Elizabeth Ai on A Woman’s Work. Jin was born in Bolivia (the poorest country in South America) but is of Korean descent and as a result, her passion for immigrant stories and global social inequality was sparked. Through film, she hopes to bridge the difference gap between people, cultures, socioeconomic status, races, and nations.
Jumoke Balogun — Washington, D.C.
From a groundbreaking report focused on ending the criminalization of Lgbtq youth of color, to an award-winning public history exhibition that debunked accepted truths about World War I, to a website that challenged the official government narrative of Hurricane Katrina, Jumoke Balgun has spent the entirety of her career finding compelling ways to elevate the dignity of people of color. She does this by writing, creating media strategies, and designing digital content that highlight the genius of the most impacted. She has done this on Capitol Hill, in rural Mississippi, upstate New York, Little Haiti in Miami, Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, New Orleans and at the White House. Currently a writer living in Washington D.C., Balgun was most recently an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration and she is excited to gain new tools as a Firelight fellow.
Sam Tabet — Brooklyn, NY
Sam Tabet is a Brooklyn based creative producer and cinematographer. Sam produced Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Tribeca Film Festival, HotDocs, Idfa 2016) which had its television premiere on Investigation Discovery to one million viewers this fall. The critically acclaimed film helped exonerate the ‘San Antonio Four’. Sam was also the assistant producer for award-winning feature documentary Call Me Kuchu (Berlin Film Festival, HotDocs 2012) and produced Signified, a multi-media archive of Lgbtq testimony featuring the work of queer artists and activists. Sam previously worked at Chicken & Egg Pictures, NewFest and American Documentary, Pov, and hold a B.A. from Connecticut College in Film and Gender studies. Sam is a founder of the Queer Producers Collective.
Julien Terrell — Philadelphia, Pa
Julien A.Terrell was born and raised in Harlem where he first developed his passion for social justice. He began organizing on issues of gentrification and environmental justice in Buffalo and NYC connecting this work to the preservation of cultural and community spaces. From 2008–2016, he worked with young people at organizations such as Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice,The Brotherhood Sister Sol, and The School of Unity and Liberation (Soul), focusing on how organizing and art can be used to develop leadership and analysis. As a member of The Yuri and Malcolm Mural Project and The Argus Project, he develops community engagement programming with a focus on collective determination and liberation. Julien currently lives in Philadelphia with his partner and daughter and continues his social justice work through their cultural organizing collective called Village Funk.
Iliana Sosa — Austin, TX
Iliana is a filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas by Mexican immigrant parents. A former Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, she holds a Mfa in film production and directing from UCLA. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Steven Bochco Fellowship, the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Fellowship and the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts Scholarship, among others. Her Mfa thesis film, Child Of The Desert, won Best Short Film and the Texas Award at the 2012 USA Film Festival. She was a 2013 Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellow and was selected for the 2013 TransAtlantic Talent Lab in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 2014, she was selected for the Sundance sponsored Latino Screenwriting Project. She has worked as a story producer for Brave New Foundation on a documentary series that follows several families who are stuck in the crosshairs of the immigration epidemic and currently manages the artist services programs at the Austin Film Society.
Ani Mercedes — Miami, Fl
Ani Mercedes directed, produced, shot and edited her first short documentary (The Hall) in 2013, which aired on PBS. Her second short documentary (Hand Built Boat) was an official selection at the Miami International Film Festival and awarded an Awesome Foundation Grant. She coached the lead subject to use the film as a tool to raise funds to help sustain a boat building program for youth. Ani began her film career at the documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) as an intern, where she lead transcription on several projects by award-winning director Steve James. Prior to filmmaking, she was a Community Organizer on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, served as a White House intern, and organized over 1,000 rides to the polls in the 2012 campaign. She holds a B.A. from The University of Chicago and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in Education Policy.
Tracy Rector is a Choctaw/Seminole filmmaker and activist, as well as Co-founder of Longhouse Media. In addition to arts advocacy, Rector has made 400 short films in collaboration with Indigenous people and communities, and is currently in production of her fifth feature documentary. As co-producer of the award-winning film Teachings of the Tree People, producer of March Point, and co-director of Clearwater; Rector has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project, Toronto International Film Festival and in the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian. Rector has begun to transfer her method of storytelling to large gallery exhibitions and art movements. She most recently curated You Are On Indigenous Land, in·dig·e·nize, Women on the Brink, Bloodlines and Re:definition featuring contemporary works by Indigenous artists on the significance of place, truth, transformation and identity.
Carmen Dixon — New York, NY
Carmen Dixon is an organizer and educator with a social justice politic rooted in faith. Carmen’s organizing was activated during childhood as she witnessed her parents fighting for worker justice. She currently organizes at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (Ldf) to support families and communities that have been deeply impacted by police violence. Prior to joining Ldf, Carmen worked at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (Fpwa) organizing clergy to advocate for economic equity policies. There she launched Fpwa’s first faith based initiative designed exclusively for women. After journeying to Ferguson, Mo in the aftermath of the police murder of Michael Brown Jr., Carmen attended a screening of Freedom Riders that inspired her to get involved with the Black Lives Matter New York City Chapter. Carmen’s own organizing is inspired by storytelling and she is excited to use film as a visual/auditory tool to fight oppression.
Firelight Media Launches Impact Producer Fellowship & Names Inaugural Honorees was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Rachel Montpelier
Documentary is an infinite form, but — at the risk of being terribly reductive — most documentary subjects can be divided into one of two groups: People who are too exceptional to resist, and people who are too ordinary to ignore. The former hinges on interest, the latter on empathy. A black teenager in a run-down suburb of St. Louis, Daje Shelton not only falls into that second category, her story defines why we need it.
Seventeen years old and already convinced that she’s already doomed to a dead end, Daje is a student who’s teetering on the edge of becoming a statistic; she’s growing up in the state that kicks more black kids out of school than any other, and she can’t help but feel the inertia of that fact. “For Ahkeem” lucidly captures that feeling as well as any non-fiction film since “Hoop Dreams,” even if »
- David Ehrlich
The Oscar best documentary feature nominee “O.J.: Made in America” is a staggering achievement, a film magisterial in its scope, riveting in its detail. It lets you feel like you’ve finally taken the full haunting measure of the O.J. Simpson saga — cultural, biographical, sociological, legal, forensic. Yet it still seems fair to ask: Why has Ezra Edelman’s five-part epic swept the year-end film critics’ awards, and why is it now the frontrunner to win the Oscar for best documentary? The movie, which is seven hours and 47 minutes long, was first presented as part of Espn’s “30 for 30” series, (and it now has the distinction of being the longest film ever nominated for an Academy Award). It was conceived, and made, to be shown on television.
That may sound like a quibble. “O.J.: Made in America” has been racking up film honors, and is now in the thick of the Academy Awards race, »
- Owen Gleiberman
Documentaries aren’t often discussed in terms of their ability to entertain, but “Step” might be the most infectiously entertaining doc since Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.” This ebullient chronicle of a Baltimore girls step team’s senior year matches a fascinating, worthy subject with unabashedly joyful filmmaking. It’s a crowdpleasing winner from Broadway producer and first-time feature helmer Amanda Lipitz that has what it takes to appeal across generations and emerge as one of the year’s prime doc attractions.
Call it “Hoop Dreams” for the social media generation. At a breezy 83 minutes, “Step” isn’t going for a deep dive into every aspect of its subjects’ lives, but it weaves multiple narrative strands together in a flashy package that opens a very specific window into life in 2016 America. Given where we’re at, it’s not an overstatement to say what’s revealed is essential viewing.
- Geoff Berkshire
The Sundance Film Festival has been the launching pad for some of the greatest indie films ever made. The likes of “Reservoir Dogs,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and last year’s “Manchester by the Sea” all got their starts at the mountainside festival. That track record of finding new talent and fresh stories is what keeps studio executives and fan lovers flocking to Park City. So as Sundance gets ready to kick off on Thursday, hope springs anew.
There are a number of films that are already generating massive buzz, sight unseen. They range from Oscar contenders to crowd pleasing comedies to ripped-from-the-headlines documentaries. If they live up to the hype, all of them should score big paydays. Here’s a look at the films that are most likely to spark all-night bidding frenzies.
Director: Dee Rees
Sales agent: Wme »
- Brent Lang
Independent film veteran Ira Deutchman has received the first annual Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the distribution and exhibition of independent films. The award was created by advertising company Spotlight Cinema Networks in partnership with the Art House Convergence.
Read More: Why Indie Producing Veteran Ira Deutchman Is Moving From Films to Broadway
Deutchman has been distributing, marketing and making independent films for more than 40 years, working on some of the most successful and acclaimed indie titles of our time. He received the award Tuesday night at a dinner following Art House Convergence’s annual conference.
“Ira Deutchman is a legendary figure in the world of independent film distribution, marketing and production,” Spotlight Cinema Networks chief executive officer Jerry Rakfeldt said in a statement. “His creativity, passion and business acumen have helped shape, nurture and expand the independent film industry.”
Deutchman has worked on more than 150 films, »
- Graham Winfrey
Awards season keeps ticking right along, but tonight’s Cinema Eye Honors promised at least a tiny respite from narrative-based filmmaking, as the New York City-set ceremony is all about honoring the best in the year’s documentary filmmaking.
Big winners included Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson,” which picked up Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, along with editing and cinematography wins. Right behind it was Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America,” which earned Edelman a directing win, along with a production win for Edelman and Caroline Waterlow. Best TV offering went to “Making a Murderer.”
Nominations were lead by Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” and “O.J.: Made in America,” which each pulled in five nominations apiece, though Johnson’s “Cameraperson” and Gianfranco Rosi’s “Fire at Sea” aren’t far behind, with four nominations each. Both Peck and Rosi’s features ultimately walked away without an award. »
- Kate Erbland
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