Directors

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“Forgiveness is a Big Part of the Movie”: Director Lynne Sachs on her Slamdance-Premiering Doc, Film About a Father Who

Lynne Sachs has been making films since Drawn and Quartered in 1986. Her latest, the documentary Film About a Father Who, screens January 24, the opening night of Slamdance. Her father, Ira Sachs, Sr., helped turn Park City, Utah, into a destination resort. In documenting his life, Sachs uncovers a web of secrets. Film About a Father Who will also screen at Doc Fortnight 2020, MoMA’s Festival of International Nonfiction Film and Media on February 11 and 14. Sachs’ 2019 tribute A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) will screen in the series on February 8. Filmmaker spoke with […]

“Since My Background was from Journalism I Had to Learn Film Language, and Relearn What I Thought About Storytelling”: Benjamin Ree on His Sundance Doc The Painter and the Thief

Spectacularly cinematic and employing a risk-taking structure that keeps the viewer as off-balance as the film’s emotionally fragile protagonists, The Painter and the Thief is the second feature-length doc from Norwegian director Benjamin Ree. (Ree’s prior film Magnus, a coming-of-age tale about the chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016.) The film follows the stranger-tha- fiction story of Barbora Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland, the former a Czech naturalist painter living in Oslo, the latter a Norwegian ex-con struggling with drug addiction. Their worlds collide when Nordland and an accomplice steal two of Kysilkova’s artworks from a local gallery, […]

“You Might Think it’s a Fun Work About Pizza, But It’s Really a Meditation on Mortality and Gentrification”: Director David Shapiro on his Sundance Premiering Doc Series, Untitled Pizza Movie

Filmmaker: You and I spoke once about this project, and I remember you saying that it was crazy and weird and that you weren’t sure what it was going to turn out to be. But I don’t remember you intimating that it might not even be a film but would turn into a series. And now that’s what it is, with three episodes premiering in Sundance’s episodic section. Shapiro: Well, I originally conceived it as a film — that’s in my wheelhouse. I know how to make a feature-length documentary. But it’s an archive film, right? Most archive films take […]

“Human History is Created by People with the Courage To Do the Right Thing”: Eunice Lau on Accept the Call

Based in NYC but born in Singapore, filmmaker Eunice Lau is intimately familiar with the immigrant experience. And yet, her own history seems a far cry from that of the family portrayed in her most recent (IFP supported) doc Accept the Call. One of my top picks for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival last summer, the nuanced character study centers around Yusuf Abdurahman, a refugee from Somalia who fled that country’s civil war in the ’90s. Abdurahman now lives in Minnesota, where he married (and subsequently divorced), had seven kids who he’s wholeheartedly devoted to, and currently serves as […]

“The Act of Listening Requires a Sort Of Surrender to the Narrative of the Other”: Ofra Bloch on Afterward

Born in Jerusalem but based in NYC, Ofra Bloch is a longtime psychoanalyst, an expert in trauma, who’s been making short documentaries for the past decade. Which makes her the perfect guide on the unconventional cinematic journey that is her feature-length debut Afterward. The film follows the director on her own healing excursion, from Germany to Israel and Palestine, in an effort to understand the mindset of those brought up with the tag of victim or victimizer — or in her case both. In Germany Bloch, whose great uncle lost his wife and children in the Holocaust, meets directly, one […]

“There’s Political Relevance to Melodrama”: Karim Aïnouz on His Lush Tropical Tale of Sisterhood, Invisible Life

Greenery abounds in Brazilian auteur Karim Aïnouz’s affecting and bright-colored sisterhood saga Invisible Life. Based on Martha Batalha’s 2016 novel, it chronicles the forced disconnection between siblings Eurídice (Carol Duarte) and Guida (Julia Stockler), whose hearts break with each passing day apart in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. Victims of a male-dominated society that denies their dreams and ambitions, the sisters embody two sides of the same still resonant struggles women of the time endured. In addition to the striking work of French cinematographer Hélène Louvart, top talent was plentiful across the board. Illustrious producer Rodrigo Teixeira (Call Me By Your […]

“All These Other Misogynists Waiting to Pounce”: Sophia Takal on Black Christmas

Rotely obsessed with heroic Final Girls and the murderers brandishing phallic-shaped penetrative weapons who stalk them, slasher films have long been the subject of gender-study discourse and academia, each observation proving that a knife can be perceived as more than a knife, a stabbing more than a stabbing. What is it about the anonymous, shadowy male presence that feels so threatening? Sophia Takal’s Black Christmas seeks to investigate and literalize that question, presenting the modern male as someone who can be equally powerful and deceitful. What’s so scary about the fictional Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees when the world we […]

“Something with Your Therapist”: Noah Baumbach on Marriage Story

Marriage Story depicts the love two people can find in separation. It is not a rekindling, it is stepping back to respect the boundaries you crossed in your strangling embrace. The original love hardens. It dies and returns as something like an actual reverence. At this distance, you might actually be able to see each other again. If the separating lovers in question, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), can learn to walk away from each other with nothing more than that knowing glance—“I accept that we will not be together. It is sad, but you are great. I […]

“How Do You Know If the Festival is a Scam?” Martha Shane on Narrowsburg

A well-meaning regional film festival can be welcoming and tightly curated—a true community endeavor. A bad one can be a deceitful scam. Such was the case with the Narrowsburg International Independent Film Festival, founded in 2001 by a couple from nearby New York City.  Things didn’t start out so rocky. After a successful first year and an inaugural picture show in the books, the husband and wife wanted to expand upon the event (and the town’s exposure) by featuring its setting and community in a low-budget indie, Four Deadly Reasons, about the mafia invading the town. Its star? The festival’s […]

“I Chose to Yell, You Chose to Whisper:” Zhang Yimou and Jia Zhangke at Pingyao International Film Festival

I was loitering around the ticket office of the Pingyao International Film Festival, waiting for the day to begin. This was the second morning of the festival and, like all international delegates, I was still adjusting to being in China. That adjustment is at least threefold: to the time zone, to the food and to the place. Already I had seen Jia Zhangke, festival founder and one of the greatest of all directors, mobbed by legions of fans. I had seen Zhao Tao standing tall and beautiful in the queue for the opening film, apparently invisible to those around her. […]

Conflict Resolution: Jennifer McShane on Her HBO Doc about Policing and Mental Health, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year’s SXSW, Jennifer McShane’s Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops is an eye-opening look at the game-changing San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit through the daily activities of two of its humble leaders. It’s also a master class in policing done right. At first glance the partners-in-fighting-crime protagonists of the film’s title seem straight from Cops central casting — hetero white macho males, one a military vet. But McShane swiftly disabuses us of any preconceived notions we might have with her very first, quite shocking scene, one in which the unassuming heroes […]

Hannah Leder, Alexander Kotcheff, and Jacqueline Beiro on Their 127-Day Shoot and Doing it All on the Independent Comedy, The Planters

When the book of no-budget filmmaking war stories is written The Planters should get its own chapter. Not only were Hannah Leder and Alexandra Kotcheff the co-writers and co-directors of this truly independent comedy, they also served as its cinematographer and camera operator, gaffer, production designer, wardrobe designer, hair stylist, sound recordist, and — oh yes — its two lead actors. With only producer Jacqueline Beiro and a few supporting performers rounding out the production team, Leder and Kotcheff persisted through desert heat and nearly 130 days of filming to produce their feature debut. Of course, none of this would […]

“…The Story of a Girl Who Really Loves Her Father and Also Knows She Has to Leave this Complicated, Toxic Relationship”: Writer/director Annabelle Attanasio on Mickey and the Bear

A high-school student in a small Montana town faces tough choices about her life in Mickey and the Bear, the debut feature from writer and director Annabelle Attanasio.  Starring Camila Morrone as Mickey and James Badge Dale as her father Hank, a veteran with drug issues, the movie probes their troubled relationship with unusual insight and compassion. Attanasio trained as an actor and dancer and was cast in roles on The Knick (Cinemax) and the CBS series Bull, and also attended NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She has written and directed numerous shorts. Mickey and the Bear premiered at […]

“‘Follow the Money’ Became So Important to the Structure…”: Lauren Greenfield on Making her Doc about Imelda Marcos and Philippine Politics

In The Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth, writer and director Lauren Greenfield opened up an elitist world largely off-limits to the public. The Kingmaker, her latest documentary, looks into the life and complex legacy of Imelda Marcos, widow of the former leader of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos. It is currently in theaters prior to its exhibition on Showtime. Five years in the making, The Kingmaker evolved from what was originally a piece about exotic animals transported by the Marcoses to Calauit Island into a full-fledged investigation of Philippine politics. Greenfield and her team wound up covering the election of […]

“Cinema Perfects Life”: Pedro Almodóvar on Rewatching His Films, Using Latin American Music, and Fighting Against Penélope Cruz’s Tears 

Notwithstanding the many awards seasons and release campaigns he’s endured in the United States, the manufactured climate of hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles still makes Spanish cinema idol Pedro Almodóvar uncomfortable. “Everywhere we go here is freezing,” he says as he sits down to talk and scrambles to find something warm to cover himself with.  It’s as if the coldness of these spaces he’s walked repeatedly over the years brings a sensory memory, one that he should have anticipated but still surprises him. Like so, we’ve come to expect a colorful aesthetic brand and tonal irreverence from an Almodóvar […]

A Film on the Arrogance of Man: Josh Murphy on His Environmental Doc, Artifishal

“We are on a path to where eventually there will be no fish, and we will have spent billions of dollars to get to that point.” This dire warning is from one of the many experts in Artifishal: The Road to Extinction is Paved with Good Intentions, a new documentary from director Josh Murphy and Patagonia that opened on multiple platforms this past week. It premiered last spring at Tribeca, followed by screenings at Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride and the Seattle International Film Festival, near the heart of the film’s action. From there it’s moved into a series of 550 festival […]

“It’s Like the Secret Bar or Restaurant in NYC That You’re So Privileged to Discover First….”: Beth Aala on Made in Boise

When one thinks of Idaho, potatoes — not pregnancy — immediately comes to mind. Made in Boise, however, the latest from award-winning filmmaker Beth Aala, will forever change how one views this rugged northwestern locale. Following four gestational surrogates, all devoted mothers with children of their own, who carry babies for women and men (often gay singles and couples) both nationwide and around the world, the doc is an eye-opening look at how this red state-based “unofficial surrogacy capital” of the US is redefining family in surprisingly progressive ways. Filmmaker caught up with Aala (Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, Supermensch: The Legend […]

“We Have a Contract with our Audience that We Need to Look Behind the Doors”: Marcus Vetter on His Davos Doc The Forum

When one thinks of the World Economic Forum many words come to mind: Davos, global elite, Bono. One term that decidedly does not is transparency. Which is what makes Marcus Vetter’s The Forum all the more remarkable. With this fly-on-the-wall doc the German director (The Forecaster) becomes the first filmmaker ever to be granted behind-the-scenes access to the exclusive organization. Vetter follows the WEFs octogenarian founder Klaus Schwab from the run-up decision-making (Who to pair with Netanyahu? Who’s moderating the Bolsonaro? Who gets a souvenir cowbell?) all the way through the glitzy event itself (one attended by both the Amazon-pillaging […]