Festivals & Events

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Unpredictable Tides: Distributors Talk Streamers, Foreign-Language Films in the U.S., and the Changing Festival Acquisitions Environment

With Toronto wrapped, New York upcoming and Sundance on the horizon, the film festival season is here, and distributors — particularly the traditional arthouse distributors — are facing tougher competition than ever. While critics and audiences struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of buzz-worthy films, industry executives must contend with tectonic shifts in the marketplace, ensuring in the process that their release slates are kept full of strong pictures.  In this new environment, when a pay TV outlet likes HBO scoops the competition by paying near $20 million for Toronto’s hot title, Bad Education, traditional distributors are often […]

“My Advice Is To Basically Get Help”: Industry Experts Explain The Quirks And Nuances Of Tax Incentives

If there’s one basic, all-encompassing piece of advice to take away from the IFP Week 2019 panel “Where Do We Go From Here?” concerning those crippling migraines known as tax incentives it’s this: Talk to someone. Even if you’re that rare filmmaker with a head for business, tax incentives (and grants, and rebates) can be mind-foggingly complicated. “Talk to someone” and variations on it are uttered again and again by the three panelists and their moderator, John Hadity, an industry veteran who knows as much about the subject as they do. “All the programs, they sound familiar,” Hadity said. “But […]

“You Give The Other Artist You Work With Individual Space To Be Free”: Ira Sachs On Writing Frankie With Mauricio Zacharias

Ira Sachs will get a lot of the credit for his latest film, Frankie, an ensemble drama with an all-star cast anchored by top-billed Isabelle Huppert, playing an international movie star whos been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Many will call it “Ira Sach’s Frankie” and single him out as its main creator. But just as the film isn’t only about Huppert’s character (Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear play her blended family), Frankie is not just about Sachs. Only one of his features, his 1996 debut The Delta, has been written solo. And four of the rest, Frankie included, have […]

“If You Really Want To Make Something You Get Creative”: Experimental Documentarians Talk About Thinking Outside The Box At IFP Week 2019

Documentaries don’t have to play by the rules of fiction films. Take a non-fiction hit like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: It doesn’t merely tell a linear story so much as jump around subjects, with Fred Rogers’ life as a basic foundation. (Compare/contrast with the forthcoming Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which zeroes in on one slice of his career.) But some documentaries go way out there. The IFP 2019 panel “Out of Bounds” rounded up four creatives — two filmmakers, one editor, and a producer tasked with helping people like them find funding and distribution — […]

“Certainly Show Business Has Made Me Very Angry At Times”: Kasi Lemmons Talks Directing Harriet At IFP Week 2019

When Kasi Lemmons got the job of directing Harriet, a biopic about the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, she didn’t get to choose her star: That was already done for her. Cynthia Erivo, the Tony- and Grammy-winning performer and scene-stealer of Steve McQueen’s Widows, had been cast a year before the acclaimed director and actress had come on. But it didn’t take long for her to agree with the casting. “As I was doing my research, I got this picture of his woman, who is tiny, and strong, and fast, and who uses her voice to communicate, and who is a formidable […]

“I Think Everything is the Director’s Fault”: Steven Soderbergh on The Laundromat, LLCs and Systemic Corruption

Ever the productive workhorse, Steven Soderbergh has released two movies on Netflix this year. The first: High Flying Bird, a sharply scripted drama set behind the scenes at the NBA that follows a canny sport agent whose end game is to shift the financial power from white owners to black players, i.e. to seize the means (or balls) of production. The second: The Laundromat, a Big Short-style anthology film about the Panama Papers leak that explains the proliferation of offshore bank accounts and tax havens, specifically those provided by the firm Mossack Fonseca, and follows the victims of these global […]

“It’s Not That Strange, and It’s Not That Weird!” Pablo Larraín and Mariana Di Girolamo on Ema

With Ema, Chilean director Pablo Larraín moves away from the biopic (Jackie, Neruda) and the past history of his country (Tony Manero, Post Mortem, No) to turn towards its future. The film centers on Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo), a young reggaeton dancer who sees her marriage with celebrated choreographer Gastón (Gael García Bernal) crumble after their “failed” adoption. A simple enough story, but already in the film’s earliest scene, the surprising behaviors and reactions of the characters hint at their extremely modern identities. Ema and Gaston are unspeakably cruel to each other, but in their own way, they are incredibly […]

Wavelengths 2019, Program Three: Memory Traces

It is a lamentable fact that the historical avant-garde in North America was, against all odds, even more chauvinist and provincial than its counterparts across the commercial narrative cinema, whether in Hollywood or the arthouse. And while the situation for new work is undoubtedly improving, much remains to be done to recover the often buried histories of film beyond the accepted routes of circulation, to ensure that our institutional memories are not allowed to remain so riddled with gaps. Sunday evening’s screening began with one such intervention: the first presentation outside of South Korea of 2minutes40seconds, coming more than four […]

“Just Keep Asking”: True Crime Filmmakers Talk About Pushing A Classic Genre In New And More Ethical Directions At IFP Week 2019

True crime has been having a moment, as they say, for a while now. In a way it’s never not been having a moment, but the genre has rapidly evolved in the digital age, when more information is available to more people, when conspiracy theorists run wild on Reddit and 4chan, and when there’s simply more content being produced. All this means not only more crime content, but also shows and movies that are more thoughtful, more creative, and even more conscious of ethical or moral quandaries that may crop up in the process of covering true crimes. The panel […]

“Technology Has Come A Long Way”: Todd Douglas Miller And E. Chai Vasarhelyi On Going Big With Apollo 11 And Free Solo At IFP Week 2019

Documentaries have been making bank at the box office the last couple years, which is heartening for anyone worried the blockbusters are the only game in town. Still, you don’t necessarily have to see small, intimate fare like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Three Identical Strangers on a giant screen. You can’t say the same about Free Solo and Apollo 11. One finds cutting-edge cameras hanging alongside mountain climber Alex Honnold; the other unearths 65mm footage of the eponymous spaceflight. Both played IMAX theaters, and they were an even better fit on the world’s biggest screens than the […]

TIFF 2019, Last Days: Uncut Gems, Atlantis, Jallikattu, This Action Lies

At Marriage Story‘s TIFF premiere, the audience applauded the Netflix logo; a night later, the same happened for A24 at Uncut Gems. The latter makes slightly more sense—rightly or wrongly (no comment), A24 has coherent brand cachet in positioning itself as Art-Fixated rather than purely profit-motivated—but in both cases I felt like I was going mad, and even more so when I heard that the first question for The Lighthouse‘s cast and crew at their first screening was why is A24 is so very special (surely that’s not on Willem Dafoe to answer.) Admittedly, Adam Sandler shaking Kevin Garnett’s hand onstage […]

“You Get To Be In Places You Have No Business Being”: Political Filmmakers Talk About Telling Big Stories With A Small Focus At IFP Week 2019

For documentarians, especially ones who focus on politics, it’s not enough to have a strong and vital subject. You need a way to get audiences engaged. The participants at the “Politically Engaged” panel at IFP Week 2019 know that all too well. Take Jehane Noujaim. Along with her creative partner Karim Amer, she makes docs about hot topics: the Egyptian Crisis in 2013’s The Square, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in this year’s The Great Hack. But they’re not expository info dumps. They’re verité, following people, not merely ideas. Noujaim realized that earlier on. She got her start working with the […]

‘100 Percent It’s Not A Fad’: Jon M. Chu And Other Asian-American Creatives On The Post-‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Bump

The IFP Week 2019 panel “Staying in the Room,” which brought together four Asian-Americans involved in the entertainment industry, happened the weekend of two milestones. For one, Hustlers, co-starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu, overperformed, nabbing the top spot at the North American box office. The other was news that comedian Bowen Yang was named the first Asian-American to be cast on Saturday Night Live, ever. The latter was overshadowed by footage of another new SNL hire, Shane Gillis, saying racist stuff about Asians, including a slur that was presumed to have died out with the last generation or two. […]

Diverse Creators, a Bridge to the Publishing Community, and First-Time Filmmakers in the Project Forum: IFP Talks the 2019 IFP Week

Kicking off today in and around DUMBO New York is IFP Week, the yearly annual conference and coproduction market produced by Independent Filmmaker Project. Today’s events include a day of panels and talks at BRIC, with the event then moving to IFP’s home, the Made in New York Media Center, as well as other nearby locations.  In recent years IFP Week has developed an identity far from its origins as a scrappy, sometimes over-the-top market for finished independent films unspooling at the Angelika’s basement theaters. The heart of the event is now the much more sober Project Forum, which connects […]

TIFF 2019, Days 7-9: Collective, To the Ends of the Earth, Ema

One benefit of an extended stay at TIFF (if you can swing it) is is allowing time for friends with trustworthy taste and far more patience to slog through non-obvious titles, then adjusting my endgame schedule accordingly for what they recommend. Hence the unexpected highlight of 29 TIFF screenings (24 features, four Wavelengths shorts programs and one revival screening of Pickpocket), Alexander Nanau’s verite doc Collective, about a scandal that had entirely passed me by. Opening title cards establish the fundamentals: a pyrotechnics accident at a 2015 concert led to a fire killing 26 on site, the death toll swelling to 64 […]

“Opening Up a Space Where the Questioning of Power is Normalized Instead of Invisibilized”: Discussing the 2019 Camden International Festival

“Who is this film made for, in what way is power present, how does the film understand its relationship to its subjects, and who benefits from the film being made?” That’s Samara Chadwick, Senior Programmer at the Camden International Film Festival, on this 2019 edition’s theme of “Story and Power.” But if you’re attending the festival, don’t look for this theme to be a didactic one, she says. “It’s less a series of affirmations and arrival points and more about the process of questioning — opening up a space where the questioning of power is normalized instead of invisibilized.” The […]

Ava DuVernay, Sam Rockwell to Receive IFP Gotham Tribute Awards

Ava DuVernay will receive the Director Tribute and Sam Rockwell the Actor Tribute at the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards, IFP (Filmmaker‘s publisher) announced today. DuVernay, whose feature credits include Selma (2014), The 13th (2016) and A Wrinkle in Time (2018), will receive the award following the acclaim given to this year’s When They See Us. A four-part series released by Netflix in May, When They See Us dramatized the injustice faced by the so-called Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted of the rape of a jogger in Central Park. DuVernay also created and executive produces the series Queen Sugar, […]

TIFF Wavelengths 2019, Program Two: Home Movies

Following on the eccentric construction of the first program, where the coherence of a quartet of formally disparate films was established by a shared interest in alternative means of image production (gender, as The Bite reminds us, being one of these as well), the second slate of Wavelengths shorts traced a much clearer arc, as all six works offered variations on the home movie. Though I found it lesser in quality than the night before, Picard’s curation here was brash and confrontational in a way it rarely is, a charmingly punk gesture to make in primetime on the festival’s first […]