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'The Rescue List': Film Review | San Francisco 2018

'The Rescue List': Film Review | San Francisco 2018
Documentaries exposing social injustice around the world are nothing new, but The Rescue List, which had its world premiere at the San Francisco Film Festival, takes us to a part of the world we rarely see. Set in Ghana, it centers on the battle to rescue children who have been sold into slavery by their parents. Award-winning filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) served as executive producer, and the co-directors, Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink, also have impressive credits in the field. Their background enabled them to deliver a film of compassion and insight. 

It is estimated that some...
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

Netflix’s ‘Amateur’ and 5 Other Sports Movies Reveal the Dark Side of Pursuing Your Dreams

In a bit of pointed counterprogramming, Netflix released its latest original film “Amateur” — about a 14-year old basketball prodigy who gets recruited by a shady prep-school athletics program — in the middle of March Madness. The Ncaa has taken a lot of heat for its systemic exploitation of young college players, offering them academic scholarships but then forcing them to sideline their education in order to play ball full time, making the school millions in the process.

Based on his short film of the same name, Ryan Koo’s “Amateur” explores not only the corrupt business of athletic recruitment, but how those recruiters are targeting younger and younger players, forcing them to make difficult life-defining decisions before they’re even in high school — decisions that are often offered in bad faith. Given that the film is executive produced by current NBA superstar Tony Parker and former NBA All Star Michael Finley,
See full article at Indiewire »

Film News: Midwest Independent Film Festival Celebrates Kartemquin Films on April 3, 2018

Chicago – It was an amazing Oscar season in 2018 for Chicago-based Kartemquin Films. Two of the their documentary film productions, “Edith + Eddie” by director Laura Checkoway and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) were nominated at the 90th Academy Awards. Both films will be showcased at the Midwest Independent Film Festival on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018, at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema in Chicago For more information, ticket purchasing, click here.

‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,’ Directed by Steve James

Photo credit: PBS Distribution

“Edith + Eddie” was nominated in the Documentary Short category at the 2018 Oscars, and involves an interracial couple who are age 96 and 95, threatened by a family feud that might tear them apart. “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” is about a small bank in New York City’s Chinatown, who became a scapegoat during the 2008 financial and banking crisis, and was Oscar nominated for Documentary Feature.
See full article at HollywoodChicago.com »

‘Chi-Town’ Review: An Intimate and Involving Portrait of a Kid Growing Up in the Shadow of ‘Hoop Dreams’ — SXSW 2018

‘Chi-Town’ Review: An Intimate and Involving Portrait of a Kid Growing Up in the Shadow of ‘Hoop Dreams’ — SXSW 2018
Growing up in the long shadow of “Hoop Dreams” on Chicago’s West Side, Keifer Sykes refuses to take his eye off the ball. Despite the fact that he’s less than six feet tall, the young phenom is probably more of a natural talent than either of the kids from Steve James’ landmark documentary, and he’s learned a lot from the people who came before him and fell short. Or got shot.

There are 625 different gangs in the city, and you don’t have to belong to any one of them to get caught in the crossfire. A basketball coach at Sykes’ high school made the mistake of driving a white rental car that made him look like somebody else, and he was just gunned down one morning while taking his daughter to school. That’s how it goes in a part of town where gun violence has
See full article at Indiewire »

Best Documentary front-runner ‘Faces Places’ would give Agnes Varda competitive & honorary Oscars in the same year

  • Gold Derby
Best Documentary front-runner ‘Faces Places’ would give Agnes Varda competitive & honorary Oscars in the same year
For most of the awards season “Jane,” which profiles primatologist Jane Goodall, was the Oscar front-runner for Best Documentary Feature — until of course the Oscar nominations were announced. “Jane” didn’t even end up with a bid, so now the race is wide open. But based on our latest predictions leading up to Oscar weekend the race will have an unusual outcome: “Faces Places” gets leading odds of 8/15 to win, which would give director Agnes Varda a competitive Oscar the same year she won an honorary Oscar.

It’s not uncommon for an artist to win both competitive and honorary Oscars in their career, and it’s not unprecedented to win a competitive Oscar after you’ve won your honorary award: for instance, actor Paul Newman and composer Ennio Morricone have pulled off that feat. But it’s unusual to receive both awards in the same Oscar season. The 89-year-old
See full article at Gold Derby »

Oscar Week: Steve James on ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’

Chicago – Oscar Week is upon us, and Chicago is represented with a nomination in the Best Documentary (Feature) category at the 90th Academy Awards on March 4th, 2018. “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” is directed by Steve James of Chicago’s Kartemquin Films, and is one of five nominees for the prestigious award.

The film is about the Abacus Federal Savings Bank of Chinatown New York City, a financial house built through the sweat and toil of Thomas Sung, who opened the institution because he wanted to help his community… he was inspired to do that from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the George Bailey character. His successful enterprise had one bad apple in it, which resulted in fraudulent mortgage applications, much like the “too big to fail” banks that did the same thing. The New York District Attorney, flanked by federal government officials, decided to make an example of this community bank.
See full article at HollywoodChicago.com »

Steve James Creates Incredible Character-Driven Documentaries by Building On-Camera Relationships – Toolkit Podcast

Steve James Creates Incredible Character-Driven Documentaries by Building On-Camera Relationships – Toolkit Podcast
Ever since changing the documentary landscape with “Hoop Dreams” in 1994, Steve James has introduced audiences to some of nonfiction film’s most memorable characters. On his latest film, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” – James’ first Oscar nomination – the filmmaker invites the viewer to experience the story of an ordinary family up against powerful institutions through his subjects’ eyes and emotions. According to James, the only way to create this type of intimate character-driven film is for non-professional performers to be themselves when the camera starts to roll.

“A big part of what most narrative directors are doing with actors – if they are doing a more realistic kind of film – is they are trying to help the actor find something authentic in that character to play,” said James, when he was a guest on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “In a documentary it’s not that different, but what you are
See full article at Indiewire »

'Abacus' Director Talks the Criminality of "Too Big to Fail"

'Abacus' Director Talks the Criminality of
An Oscar nominee for his editing on 1994’s Hoop Dreams, Steve James has been nominated again this year for his documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, about a family bank’s legal struggles.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis involving epic fraud and no indictments, Abacus was a fiscally responsible bank that had weathered the storm with a default rate one-twentieth the national average. In 2010, Thomas Sung, founder and chairman of Abacus, was alerted by daughters Jill (Abacus’ president and CEO) and Vera (the bank’s director) about irregularities in the loan division. They rooted out the cause and...
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

Oscar Documentary Race Pits Youth vs. Experience

Oscar Documentary Race Pits Youth vs. Experience
The Academy’s documentary branch has proven once again that it is made up of a consistently unpredictable bunch, particularly keen on spreading the love.

After narrowing down a record-breaking 170 eligible features to a remarkably strong shortlist of 15 docs, the nonfiction branch whittled down that batch to five nominees: “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “Faces Places,” “Icarus,” “Last Men in Aleppo” and “Strong Island.”

It’s a quintuple of powerful films from six formidable helmers. It’s also a list that is notably missing two high-profile, high-pedigree critical favorites: Brett Morgen’s “Jane” and Matthew Heineman’s “City of Ghosts.” Both docus were preferred by critics, industry groups and nonfiction orgs who were alike in singing their praises.

Morgen’s “Jane” made a splash when it premiered last September at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. Before the shortlist was announced, Morgen had already taken top honors at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards. The [link=nm
See full article at Variety - Film News »

DGA Awards 2018: Matthew Heineman (‘City of Ghosts’) will beat documentary legends Ken Burns & Errol Morris despite Oscars snub

  • Gold Derby
DGA Awards 2018: Matthew Heineman (‘City of Ghosts’) will beat documentary legends Ken Burns & Errol Morris despite Oscars snub
Documentarian Matthew Heineman is the front-runner to win his second Directors Guild Award in three years thanks to his tense film “City of Ghosts.” That’s according to the combined predictions of more than 1,200 users who have entered their picks at Gold Derby in advance of the DGA ceremony on Saturday night, February 3. But for Heineman to win again he’ll have to get past a few legendary filmmakers: Steve James (“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”), Errol Morris (“Wormwood”) and Ken Burns (“The Vietnam War”).

Heineman previously won Best Documentary Director for “Cartel Land” (2015), in which he explored the tension between drug cartels, Mexican groups fighting back against cartel violence and border patrol agents monitoring the crossing between Mexico and the United States. Heineman’s latest film is also about a group resisting violence in their homeland: “City of Ghosts” profiles the Syrian citizen journalists who make up the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.
See full article at Gold Derby »

‘Jane’: Why the Academy Dissed Brett Morgen’s Popular Goodall Documentary

‘Jane’: Why the Academy Dissed Brett Morgen’s Popular Goodall Documentary
“Jane,” Brett Morgen’s popular documentary about primatologist Jane Goodall, was so lauded and applauded that most Oscar experts predicted that it would land an Oscar nomination, if not win. Instead, it never made the cut.

This happens with the Academy documentary branch. While its voter ranks have expanded by more than 50 percent in the last three years, from 204 to 320 members, it’s still a relatively insular group with strong ideas about what makes a great documentary. They tend to be slow to recognize innovation. They long frowned on dramatic re-enactments, strong personalities, and rousing scores, overlooking early Michael Moore entry “Roger and Me” and Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line,” finally rewarding them with Oscars for anti-gun screed “Bowling for Columbine” and the Robert McNamara profile “The Fog of War,” respectively.

Moore returned to the Oscar fray for “Sicko,” but Morris was never nominated again. The doc branch nominated
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

‘Jane’: Why the Academy Dissed Brett Morgen’s Popular Goodall Documentary

  • Indiewire
‘Jane’: Why the Academy Dissed Brett Morgen’s Popular Goodall Documentary
“Jane,” Brett Morgen’s popular documentary about primatologist Jane Goodall, was so lauded and applauded that most Oscar experts predicted that it would land an Oscar nomination, if not win. Instead, it never made the cut.

This happens with the Academy documentary branch. While its voter ranks have expanded by more than 50 percent in the last three years, from 204 to 320 members, it’s still a relatively insular group with strong ideas about what makes a great documentary. They tend to be slow to recognize innovation. They long frowned on dramatic re-enactments, strong personalities, and rousing scores, overlooking early Michael Moore entry “Roger and Me” and Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line,” finally rewarding them with Oscars for anti-gun screed “Bowling for Columbine” and the Robert McNamara profile “The Fog of War,” respectively.

Read More:Is Errol Morris’s ‘Wormwood’ a Documentary? Netflix Says Yes, Oscars Say No

Moore returned to the Oscar fray for “Sicko,
See full article at Indiewire »

Steve James (‘Abacus’): After notorious Oscar snubs for ‘Hoop Dreams’ & ‘Life Itself,’ he’s finally nominated for Best Documentary

Steve James (‘Abacus’): After notorious Oscar snubs for ‘Hoop Dreams’ & ‘Life Itself,’ he’s finally nominated for Best Documentary
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” earned a shocking Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature despite being ranked 12th in our predictions with 100/1 odds. But despite relatively little fanfare it rights a wrong at the Oscars going back 23 years: filmmaker Steve James, the man behind the landmark movie “Hoop Dreams” (1994), is finally up for Best Documentary for the first time in his career.

Hoop Dreams” spent years following a pair of black students from poor communities as they attempted to build their futures by playing high school basketball. Widely hailed as a classic — including by Roger Ebert, who was among the most vocal in championing the film — it won James a Directors Guild Award, an Ace Eddie Award, an Independent Spirit Award, an International Documentary Association Award and even an MTV Movie Award. But then it wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars, leading to such a protest
See full article at Gold Derby »

Doc Filmmaker Steve James on How Race, Privilege Affect Education

Steve James — the acclaimed documentary filmmaker behind Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters and current Oscar nominee Abacus: Small Enough to Jail — didn't need much of a travel budget for his latest project, America to Me.

James, who's lived in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park for over 30 years, usually requires $2.50 for the Cta Green Line into the city at least, but in 2015 he found a worthy subject within walking distance.

The director, along with three close collaborators dubbed "segment directors" in the credits — Bing Liu, Rebecca Parrish and Kevin Shaw — followed 12 diverse teenagers...
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - TV News »

Oscar Nominations 2018 Snubs and Surprises: ‘Phantom Thread’ Rises, James Franco Falls, and More

Oscar Nominations 2018 Snubs and Surprises: ‘Phantom Thread’ Rises, James Franco Falls, and More
We all expected Guillermo del Toro’s Producers Guild Awards and Critics Choice winner “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) to lead the field; with 13 nominations, it nabbed support across the Academy. However, this is an unpredictable year and Academy voters leaned into inclusion, turned away from James Franco, and delivered some surprise Oscar nominations.

The love for “The Shape of Water” included the dominant Actors branch, which nominated Sally Hawkins and Oscar perennial Octavia Spencer (her third nomination ties with Viola Davis for most for a black actress). Despite its lack of a SAG ensemble nod, this charming fairy-tale romance between an Amphibian Man and a mute cleaning woman should dominate the Oscars March 4 with a Best Picture win.

Searchlight had a good day with a total 20 nominations, as Film4’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” considered a Best Picture frontrunner after its SAG Ensemble win, scored seven nominations including Picture,
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

Oscar Nominations 2018 Snubs and Surprises: ‘Phantom Thread’ Rises, James Franco Falls, and More

Oscar Nominations 2018 Snubs and Surprises: ‘Phantom Thread’ Rises, James Franco Falls, and More
We all expected Guillermo del Toro’s Producers Guild Awards and Critics Choice winner “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) to lead the field; with 13 nominations, it nabbed support across the Academy. However, this is an unpredictable year and Academy voters leaned into inclusion, turned away from James Franco, and delivered some surprise Oscar nominations.

The love for “The Shape of Water” included the dominant Actors branch, which nominated Sally Hawkins and Oscar perennial Octavia Spencer (her third nomination ties with Viola Davis for most for a black actress). Despite its lack of a SAG ensemble nod, this charming fairy-tale romance between an Amphibian Man and a mute cleaning woman should dominate the Oscars March 4 with a Best Picture win.

Searchlight had a good day with a total 20 nominations, as Film4’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” considered a Best Picture frontrunner after its SAG Ensemble win, scored seven nominations including Picture,
See full article at Indiewire »

Sundance 2018 Indie Episodic Preview: The Most Anticipated TV Pilots and Premieres at This Year’s Festival

Sundance 2018 Indie Episodic Preview: The Most Anticipated TV Pilots and Premieres at This Year’s Festival
Don’t let the title fool you: The Sundance Film Festival has been featuring television programs for years, be it the slew of documentaries that end up on HBO, Showtime, and Netflix or pilots that earn a special showcase like “Animals.” did in 2015.

But 2018 is special. This year, Sundance is dedicating an entire section to episodic programming, including short-form series, docu-series, traditional pilots, and more experimental premieres. It’s all coming together under the Indie Episodic banner, and it’s all designed with one clear mission:

“There is no clear path to series if you’re trying to do it independently — if you’re going to try and shoot your own pilot, and then try and get picked up,” Sundance programmer Charlie Sextro told IndieWire. “There’s a clear way [in] making an independent film: It gets picked up at Sundance, and then it gets out to the world. It’s
See full article at Indiewire »

DGA Documentary Awards Nominations Snubs and Surprises: Oscar Frontrunners ‘Jane’ and ‘Faces Places’ Don’t Make Cut

As usual the documentary awards race is all over the place. DGA nominations are either a sign of strength or a boost into a must-see before the Oscar balloting closes on Friday. The DGA combines hybrid long-form documentaries along with features, such as AFI special award-winner “The Vietnam War” from Ken Burns ands Lynn Novick, and Errol Morris’s groundbreaking Netflix series “Wormwood,” which was not deemed eligible for the documentary Oscar, to the filmmaker’s chagrin.

Given filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s role in unveiling the high-profile Russian Olympic doping scandal, Netflix’s Oscar short-listed “Icarus” continues to move forward, while Matt Heineman’s “City of Ghosts” pulls ahead of other Syria documentaries. Two significant omissions here are Brett Morgen for Jane Goodall profile “Jane” and Agnes Varda and J.R.’s whimsical visual tour-de-force “Faces Places,” which are considered Oscar frontrunners.

Netflix and PBS scored two DGA slots each,
See full article at Indiewire »

DGA Documentary Awards Nominations Snubs and Surprises: Oscar Frontrunners ‘Jane’ and ‘Faces Places’ Don’t Make Cut

As usual the documentary awards race is all over the place. DGA nominations are either a sign of strength or a boost into a must-see before the Oscar balloting closes on Friday. The DGA combines hybrid long-form documentaries along with features, such as AFI special award-winner “The Vietnam War” from Ken Burns ands Lynn Novick, and Errol Morris’s groundbreaking Netflix series “Wormwood,” which was not deemed eligible for the documentary Oscar, to the filmmaker’s chagrin.

Given filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s role in unveiling the high-profile Russian Olympic doping scandal, Netflix’s Oscar short-listed “Icarus” continues to move forward, while Matt Heineman’s “City of Ghosts” pulls ahead of other Syria documentaries. Two significant omissions here are Brett Morgen for Jane Goodall profile “Jane” and Agnes Varda and J.R.’s whimsical visual tour-de-force “Faces Places,” which are considered Oscar frontrunners.

Netflix and PBS scored two DGA slots each,
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

‘Abacus’ Director Weighs Impact Of Oscar Shortlisted Doc On Chinatown Bank Snared In Suspect Prosecution

‘Abacus’ Director Weighs Impact Of Oscar Shortlisted Doc On Chinatown Bank Snared In Suspect Prosecution
Acclaimed filmmaker Steve James has built his reputation primarily on the strength of Chicago-oriented documentaries, among them Hoop Dreams (1994), The Interrupters (2011) and Life Itself (2014). But he finds himself in the Oscar race this year with a story that took him from the Second City to the first. In Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, he explored the case of Abacus Federal Savings, a bank catering to New York's Chinese immigrant community that became the only U.S…
See full article at Deadline Movie News »
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