Directors

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“Some Archival Footage Just Doesn’t Work in Vertical”: Michael Jacobs on Quibi’s Donald Sterling Documentary Blackballed

Long regarded as the worst-run franchise in the National Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Clippers have (after brief stints in Buffalo and San Diego) called the “City of Angels” their home since the summer of 1984. Purchased for a cool $12.5 million in 1981 by real estate tycoon Donald Sterling, the Clippers’ relocation to LA was seen as a move that would hopefully rival its “big brother” franchise led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers. That ultimately wasn’t meant to be: the Lakers, long a shining example of the league, continued its successful run atop the […]

The Audience as a Virtual Jury: Roee Messinger on Tonight’s Screening of American Trial: The Eric Garner Story

How does one relitigate a case that was never litigated (outside the media) in the first place? This is the challenge at the heart of Roee Messinger’s American Trial: The Eric Garner Story, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival and releases online todayreleases online today, May 21st, accompanied by a live stream Q&A and interactive audience component. The film is an unscripted courtroom drama that casts real-life prosecutors and defense attorneys (though none directly involved with the 2014 case of the NYPD officer videotaped choking Staten Islander Eric Garner to death), alongside real-life evidence, expert testimony, and […]

“We Read Adam’s Blog Every Day… So It Was Like a Daily Script”: Pia Hellenthal on Her Social Media-Themed Doc, Searching Eva

Having made my “Best Yet-to-be-Distributed Docs 2019” list, Pia Hellenthal’s Searching Eva, currently streaming on Mubi USA and with a virtual release upcoming on June 2nd through Syndicado, can now be shifted to the “best docs of 2020” category. My assessment of this “portrait of a restless, gender-ambiguous, philosophical millennial who documents her entire life — from fashion week to freelance sex work —  online” might not make the film seem like must-see viewing. But that’s precisely the point — and what makes Hellenthal’s talent all the more apparent. As an often cynical critic who couldn’t care less about a globetrotting […]

“While It’s Not About the Experience of Being Quarantined Per Se, It Taps into a Kind of Universal Experience”: Director Matt Wolf on His Moving Saga of Human Ambition, Spaceship Earth

“Theater engages the whole organism,” says Biosphere 2 Director of Systems Engineering William Dempster. “Movement, through emotion — [it] gives you insight into yourself. Building a foundation from which we could go on and do other projects.” Accompanying Dempster’s voiceover early in Matt Wolf’s engrossing and unexpectedly stirring documentary, Spaceship Earth, is black-and-white footage from the first public activity of John Allen’s band of “Synergists”: a traveling theater production called The Theater of All Possibilities. The artistic value of the production is indeterminate; seen in brief clips, it falls somewhere on the continuum between The Living Theater and an Allan […]

“Directing Other People’s Writing Makes You Become a Better Writer”: Andrew Ahn on Driveways

There are a number of films about an inquisitive child who discovers a solemn, older neighbor next door, but it’s rare for one to provide equal weight to both the child and adult characters. Driveways, a modest but heartfelt second feature from Spa Night’s Andrew Ahn, succeeds at striking the balance. Kathy (Hong Chau) and Cody (Lucas Jaye), a mother and son from Michigan, arrive in upstate New York to clear out the home of a deceased family member and prepare it for sale. Del (Brian Dennehy), a Korean War veteran and lonely widower, spends his days sitting on the porch next […]

“People are Actually Reading My Scripts When I Send Them!”: Brea Grant on Tribeca Premiere 12 Hour Shift

It was to be a triumphant springtime festival run for Brea Grant. The actor, writer and director (who first won notoriety a decade ago on the NBC series Heroes), had not one, but two, premieres on her calendar at the season’s biggest film festivals, South by Southwest and Tribeca. Grant wrote and has the lead role in Lucky, a thriller about a self-help author besieged by a stalker. The SXSW selection got sidelined as the festival became one of the first to cancel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, 12 Hour Shift, the pitch-black comedy Grant wrote and directed, likewise […]

“People’s Relationships to Their Moms is Always Deep”: Director Rachel Grady on the Comedy Central Doc Call Your Mother

The latest film from the Academy Award-nominated team of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Call Your Mother is a laugh-out-loud love letter to one of the most universally defining figures in all of our lives. (That would be our moms.) Executive produced by Caroline Hirsch, the force behind legendary comedy club Carolines on Broadway and the New York Comedy Festival, the doc airs on Comedy Central on May 10th (Mother’s Day, naturally). Featuring a vast and eclectic array of interviews with famous funny folks — everyone from Awkwafina, to Tig Notaro, to Jim Gaffigan and Jo Koy discuss their mother’s […]

“Rodeos are Incredibly Dangerous”: Annie Silverstein on Bull

In Annie Silverstein’s Bull, an at-risk teenage girl, Kris (by Amber Havard), is thrust into a relationship with neighbor Abe (Rob Morgan), a rodeo bullfighter nearing the end of his career. Silverstein’s feature debut builds out from her 2014 short Skunk, both set in a blue-collar part of Houston where rural and urban poverty collide. Most film productions drop in on locations, shoot what they need and depart. Silverstein and her husband and writing partner Johnny McAllister take a different approach, embedding themselves in communities for months and even years before filming. Bull has a documentary realism, but also a deep, […]

“The ’50s as Seen Through the Lens of the ’80s”: Martha Stephens on To the Stars

A small town in Oklahoma in the early 1960s: not much tends to happen here, and if it were up to its lifelong residents, things would stay that way. Maggie (Liana Liberato), an 18-year-old outsider, arrives from the big city, her parents and siblings in tow. Brash and outspoken, Maggie befriends Iris (Kara Hayward), a shy, bookish teen who’s harrassed by the local boys and mocked by the girls. The two bring out the best in each other, encouraging a period of growth and self-discovery. Both from various forms of a broken home, the two friends’ fluid meshing of personalities […]