Festivals & Events

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Five Narrative Feature Winners Announced for Fall 2019 SFFILM Westridge Grant

SFFILM, in partnership with the Westridge Foundation, announced today the five narrative feature film projects that will receive $100,000 in development funding from the organization. Awarded twice annually, the SFFILM Westridge Grants are one of the few U.S. sources of grant support for narrative features in the development phase. The grants target US-based filmmakers whose films take place primarily in the States and which focus on “social issues and questions of our time.” FALL 2019 SFFILM WESTRIDGE GRANT WINNERS 
all dirt roads taste of salt
. Raven Jackson, writer/director; Maria Altamirano, producer – development/packaging – $20,000 
Through lyrical portraits evoking the […]

Homecoming Attitude: Wrapping the 2019 Indie Memphis Film Festival

Last year, after my first Indie Memphis, I penned my love letter to the city and the film festival with a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s own Memphian billet-doux, 1989’s Mystery Train. This year, as if to one-up the experience, the film was programmed during its week-long run (Oct. 30–Nov. 4) with Jarmusch himself present for a Q&A afterwards, in celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary. I don’t have personal ties to Memphis, but neither did Jarmusch when he made Mystery Train, yet the city has a way of touching you deeply; after the screening, the director, now 66, beautifully articulated […]

Shatterbox Shorts-Makers Channing Godfrey Peoples, Veronica Rodriguez, and Tiffany Johnson Talk “Refinery29 + Level Forward Present Shatterbox” at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival

Moderated by Amy Emmerich, President & Chief Content Officer at Refinery29, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s “Refinery29 + Level Forward Present Shatterbox,” a program of seven quite diverse shorts followed by a post-screening discussion, was presented at the comfy SCAD Museum of Art theater on an industry-heavy Monday afternoon. The event featured Parisa Barani (Human Terrain), Tiffany J. Johnson and Adrienne Childress (Girl Callin), Kantú Lentz (Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die), Channing Godfrey Peoples (Doretha’s Blues), and Lizzie Nastro (the Chloë Sevigny-directed White Echo) onstage to discuss their work – as well as working with Refinery29 and Level Forward’s […]

“Redefining Identity, Imagination, and Storytelling Through the Female Lens”: Refinery29 + Level Forward Present Shatterbox at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival

“Come for the glitz. Stay for the substance,” really should be the tagline on my SCAD Savannah Film Festival T-shirt, I thought to myself during this year’s 22nd edition of the US’s largest university-run film festival. Along with the twice Oscar-nominated Alan Silvestri, attending to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for Composing, the fest invited a dozen high-profile and up-and-coming actors (Aldis Hodge, Daniel Kaluuya, Danielle Macdonald, Samantha Morton, Elisabeth Moss, Valerie Pachner, Olivia Wilde, Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jharrel Jerome, Mena Massoud, and Camila Morrone) to accept an array of accolades. (It also hosted decidedly not-famous journos like myself […]

“Amy Heckerling Should be Thought of as a John Hughes!”: Words of Wisdom from the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s Wonder Women Directors Panel

Once again, this year’s not-to-be-missed event at the 22nd edition of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival (October 26-November 2), the nation’s largest university-run film fest, was the Wonder Women Panel Series. Now in its third year, these always informative discussions highlight female power in the cinematic arts, from directing, to producing, to writing, to the below-the-line crafts. And for me one of the standouts was Wonder Women: Directors, featuring seven ladies behind the lens currently upending every preconceived notion about chick flicks in impressively eclectic ways. Taking place on a laidback, late Tuesday morning at a packed Gutstein Gallery, and […]

Dictators, Predators and Magical Thinkers (and Some Combination Thereof): Doubling Up at DOC NYC

Now in its 10th year (though still in November, AKA doc-tsunami festival month) the upcoming DOC NYC is celebrating the anniversary with a wealth of nonfiction riches. Boasting a whopping 300-plus films and events — including 28 world premieres and 27 US premieres — this year’s edition will also be hosting an eclectic array of guests. On hand will be everyone from musician Robbie Robertson — star of Daniel Roher’s Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, which opens the fest — to fashion force-of-nature André Leon Talley (who starred in Kate Novack’s The Gospel According to André just […]

31st Annual NewFest to Feature 160+ LGBT Films, With an Emphasis on Marginalized Global Voices

Two teen girls lust for each other in post-Dust Bowl Oklahoma. A pregnant writer visits her parents in China and confronts her father’s closeted homosexuality. A Filipina punk-rocker is sent from Manila to the countryside and falls in love while attending an all-girls Catholic school. A meek farmhand and a police officer become lovers despite the oppressive anti-gay legislation in rural Siberia. A trans TSA agent grapples with the prospect of de-transitioning in the face of ostracization.  These varied narratives account for a mere fraction of the films that will screen at the 31st annual NewFest, also known as New […]

Shooting Shreveport at the Awards-Happy Prize Fest 2019

After Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into a wasteland, visiting film and television productions looked further north for their Louisiana gothic vibes. Over the years, the riverfront city of Shreveport, with a population of some 260,000 (including the adjacent Bossier City), has been a popular location, the backdrop for supernatural thrillers (The Mist, the series Salem), multiple actioners (Shark Night 3D, The Mechanic), comedies (Super, I Love You Phillip Morris) and everything Nic Cage (Drive Angry, Trespass, Season of the Witch). There’s been a lot less such activity in recent years, as the Crescent City got back on its feet […]

“Here I Am, a Stranger, Texting Children”: Michael Beach Nichols on Wrinkles the Clown

It’s tempting to sum up this weekend’s pop culture focus as rooted in chronic coulrophobia. As Todd Phillips’s Joker, the latest big screen incarnation of the DC Comics ubervillan, opens across 4,000 theaters, a fear of clowns (coupled with a pathetic lack of common sense gun laws) has collectively stricken the country. Temporary bans have been put in place that discourage moviegoers from adorning clown makeup, security amped up for extensive bag checks, and theater chains encouraged to emphasize Joker’s well-earned, hard R-rating. Has the mere thought of clowning (that is, the obscuring of identity under facepaint) brought about an […]

“We Didn’t Try to Colonize the Boy in Making the Film”: The Dardenne Brothers on Young Ahmed

For 20 years running, the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have confronted a single fundamental facet of modern life: class. From their breakout La Promesse (1996) to The Unknown Girl (2016), the messy tangle of money, employment, and morality has defined their work. The brothers take a hard turn, in subject if not style, with Young Ahmed. The film debuted at Cannes, like their previous seven features, where it won the Best Director prize earlier this year. Despite that honor–which they won over Almodóvar, Tarantino, and Malick among other heavyweights–the film has earned the harshest reviews of the Dardennes’ career. […]

Wavelengths 2019, Program 4: Full Circle

The fourth, and final, of this year’s Wavelengths shorts programs returned to the curatorial logic of the opening night, bringing together half a dozen disparate sensibilities based on formal, rather than thematic, common ground—in this case, their shared interest in performance. With one exception, the coherence here was more immediate than in the first slate’s buried interest in image production, though the styles of performance deployed across these works bear little resemblance to one another.  The program began with Zachary Epcar’s Billy, a quick, cool sip of Michael Robinson-aid recounting the domestic unease experienced by its eponymous male lead (Peter […]

NYFF 2019: Oh Mercy!, Synonyms

Arnaud Desplechin’s returned to his hometown onscreen many times: “I still have to go back in my tracks, as a malediction—not as a dream, but as a curse,” he’s said of Roubaix, where My Sex Life and My Golden Years‘ protagonist stand-in Paul Dédalus hails from and where A Christmas Tale unfolds. Desplechin’s also shot digitally before, but this is the first time he’s ever aggressively leaned into it: like Tale, Oh Mercy! also starts during the holiday season, but—opening strings of Christmas lights over city streets aside—the dominant colors aren’t red and green but the familiar digital color-correction staples of orange and blue. […]

“It Doesn’t Make Sense to Explain Anything”: Angela Schanelec on I Was at Home, But… and Robert Bresson

The first time I saw Angela Schanelec speak, there was nothing for her to smile about: at a cartoonishly hostile Q&A for 2016’s The Dreamed Path, she fielded questions like “Was this supposed to take place in an alternate universe where emotions don’t exist?” and admirably didn’t yield an inch. Returning to TIFF, Schanelec was onhand not just for Q&As for her latest, I Was at Home, But… but to introduce a 35mm rep screening of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket—one of the foundational works from a director whose influence on, and importance for, Schanelec’s work is immediately apparent. Both when I interviewed her […]

Fantastic Fest 2019: Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen on their Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

Starring the “bastard son of a hundred maniacs” (the horrifically burned, blade-adorned fictional sweater-wearing slasher, Freddy Krueger), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was itself a kind of bastard son, birthed by good intentions but several less maniacs. Released on November 1st, 1985, the sequel was rushed into theaters on the goodwill and unexpected success of its Wes Craven-directed predecessor. Reviews were less than stellar, and it would take the return of Craven in a creative role to right the ship with the third entry in 1987. Nightmare 2 was forgotten and ignored, deemed an outlier in the franchise […]

NYFF 2019: Vitalina Varela, Fire Will Come

Vitalina Varela is a luxuriantly claustrophobic staging of a story Pedro Costa’s title subject, playing herself, first orally recounted in 2014’s Horse Money. The world Costa constructs around her is, initially, an endless night—daylight is, at best, the barest suggestive sliver peeking in from outside. As the narrative unfolds, more sunlight penetrates interiors, but a full radiant glare seems, at best, a hypothetical perk for people with more money, and in the very final-stretch shots in exterior day, colors have been graded down enough where the effect isn’t overwhelming but mutedly in keeping. There isn’t a pixel Costa hasn’t accounted for in his […]

NYFF 2019: The Irishman

The opening shot of The Irishman* is a signature Steadicam glide through a nursing home soundtracked by doo-wop (The Five Satins’ 1956 “In The Heat of the Night”), slowly making its reverential way to an close-up of Robert De Niro—a suitably majestic re-introduction of both the actor as persona and his character, hitman Frank Sheeran. Sheeran lived until 2003, and (minus one brief WWII combat service flashback) the film picks him up sometime in the early ’50s. If the opening shot is as close to the present day as possible (2003, I hate to remind you, was already 16 years […]

Paxton Winters’s Aronofsky-Produced Pacified Wins Top Prize at San Sebastian; Other Dramas Explore Franco’s Legacy and the Spanish Civil War

San Sebastian has always been a place where the past meets the present with some finesse, its Art Nouveau buildings nestling happily next to the angular lines of the film festival’s main Kursaal auditorium, opened in 1999 and intended to mimic “two beached rocks.” This mix of energy is reflected in the audiences who attend, often seen snacking on a glass of wine and one of the city’s traditional pintxo canapes as they patiently queue for the cinema, and who generally break out into a round of spontaneous hand-clapping as the festival’s jazzy introduction plays before each film. History seemed […]

Thirteen Don’t-Miss Films and Programs at the 2019 New York Film Festival

The 2019 New York Film Festival kicks off tonight with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman — and do you really need us to recommend it to you? With our editorial staff seeing the film tonight, we’ve been avoiding Film Twitter, where extremely positive reactions have been leaking out from this morning’s press screening. But Scorsese’s long-anticipated, epic, effects-driven film is just one of many highlights we’re certain of as New York brings together some of the best out of Cannes, Venice, Telluride and Toronto along with some fantastic short-film premieres, talks (Lynn Ramsay!, DP Denis Lenoir!, Olivier Assayas!), and new VR […]