A British DJ and radio show creator joins with the producers of THE KING’S SPEECH to reveal the stories behind the forgotten record albums of the American South.
Motivated by a broken heart to leave the UK for the US, DJ/writer/artist Joseph Fletcher began a roadtrip through the deep South over a decade ago, stopping along the way at thriftstores to pick up the odd record albums that caught his eye. The closest to fame most of these records’ featured musicians, evangelists, and ventriloquists likely reached is through emailed-around “World’s Worst Album Covers” links, but Fletcher saw something more – an opportunity to explore what motivated these individuals and to expose their stories and their forgotten music, to larger audiences. Having already crated a BBC radio show about some of his rediscoveries, Fletcher now turns to the visual medium of documentary, partnered with British production company Bedlam Productions. Continue reading
The director of INFORMANT profiles the efforts of once wrongly imprisoned men to exonerate other innocent men.
Having themselves experienced the nightmare of incarceration for crimes they didn’t commit, and the joy of finally being vindicated, the subjects of Jamie Meltzer’s film have banded together to help others in similar straits. Going by the film’s titular name, a group of exonerated African-American men form a detective agency, funneling their hard-fought experiences in the criminal justice system to investigate, and hopefully solve, other cases of wrongful conviction. Beyond the challenge of their first case – overturning a 75-year sentence for a $618 theft – the men have to learn how to do their new jobs and to adjust to life on the outside. Continue reading
Race, gender, sexuality, and class are implicated when African American lesbians are charged as a gang after they attempt to defend themselves from a stranger’s aggressive advances.
In NYC’s West Village on a hot summer night, a man first attempted to flirt with, then homophobically accosted, a group of young women from Newark NJ. Although the women tried to walk away, he egged them on, and the situation turned violent – by the end of the altercation, the man suffered stab wounds, and some of the women bore bruises and other injuries. Only the women were arrested, with media labeling them as a “gang” and a “wolf pack,” the man was deemed their victim, and “The New Jersey 4″ went on to be sentenced harshly, despite their claims of self-defense. Director blair doroshwalther attempts to make sense of the incident, and, more importantly, its aftermath, revealing how a matrix of factors contributed to the way the story was reported, and to the (in)justice that was meted out. Continue reading
With the transformative threat of industry and climate change on their horizon, an Arctic island people try to maintain their traditional way of life.
Situated more than a hundred miles above the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s Kivalina is home to 386 people, Inupiat natives who have lived on the barrier island for generations. Bearing the brunt of climate change, the island is vanishing, losing ground to sea wave erosion, and forcing its people to plan a costly relocation. Simultaneously, and contributory to these radical changes, as claimed in the island’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil and other industrial interests, is the exploitation of their surrounding natural resources and the pollution that has resulted. Against this backdrop, and over the course of five years, director Gina Abatemarco has documented the people caught in the middle. Taking an intimate, observational approach, the film seeks to reveal the everyday lives of the Kivalina people as they contend with these extraordinary developments that threaten their very future – a harbinger of a similar fate facing other populations around the world. Continue reading
An exploration of the need for human connection through the anonymity of telephone hotlines.
Once ubiquitous in the pre-Internet era, hotlines served to connect strangers for a multiplicity of purposes – some for profit, others for the public good – from the titillation of phone sex to the potential lifesaving of a suicide prevention line. While they may not be quite as common today, when people are more apt to Google their way to porn or online forums for their needs, there are still hundreds of hotlines still in operation, serving many of those same roles. Director Tony Shaff explores what motivates individuals to reveal personal details about their lives in conversations with faceless strangers, and how it affects those hotline operators. Continue reading
For the past few years, the undergraduate course I teach at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute culminates in the Wallabout Film Festival, a one-day event that is completely organized by my students – from programming to party planning and everything in between. This year’s Wallabout, the 5th anniversary edition, will take place at indieScreen on Thursday, April 18, showcasing student short films from Pratt and around the world.
Earlier this week, my students launched a crowdfunding campaign on a new platform, Crowdtilt, to raise much-needed funds for Wallabout. With less than a month to go, they (and I) would welcome any contributions, and would appreciate it if w(n)td readers spread the word about the campaign via social media or email to anyone who might be interested in supporting student filmmakers and film festivals. And, of course, if readers are in Brooklyn on April 18, consider coming to Wallabout!
In the aftermath of the devastating 2011 Japanese earthquake and resultant tsunami, strangers attempt to build a bridge of memory by locating the owners of the debris that washes ashore across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
The footage of the March 11, 2011 catastrophe became immediately well-known, with 20,000 casualties and whole villages claimed by the sea. Over the past two years, 25 million tons of debris has slowly been floating across the ocean toward North America. Among this flotsam are people’s memories. Directors Nicolina Lanni and John Choi’s film aims to follow the various individuals locating these lost objects – beachcombers, water sports aficionados, scientists – as they identify their finds and attempt to reunite them with their owners. In so doing, they hope to provide a sense of hope and a connection with a past completely uprooted by natural disaster. Continue reading
The Oscar-nominated director of INCIDENT IN NEW BAGHDAD exposes the federal war on whistleblowers.
Increasingly, government whistleblowers – those courageous individuals who are driven by their conscience to reveal sensitive, classified, and potentially incriminating information to the public – are themselves being prosecuted as criminals. In an age of instantaneous communication, heightened paranoia, and divisive politics, the impulse to punish those who would unearth embarrassing or illegal activities threatens to erode the very foundations of freedom upon which the country is built. Director James Spione, whose INCIDENT explored visual evidence of such wrongdoing allegedly disseminated by Bradley Manning, profiles four whistleblowers and reveals the personal costs speaking the truth has had on their lives. Continue reading
The maker of THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS and LA SOURCE investigates quiet in a world of noise.
Taking a fittingly meditative approach, director Patrick Shen examines the nature of sound and the necessity of silence to human existence and wellbeing. Noting the increasing cacophony of modern life, and its corresponding hectic pace, not to mention physical damage to our hearing, Shen attempts to lead viewers in a rediscovery of the value of quiet, long privileged in spiritual practice and in memorial traditions. Continue reading
The harrowing experiences faced by a lesbian and a gay man reveal a culture of intolerance in Jamaica.
Referred to by human rights groups as the most homophobic place on earth, Jamaica maintains draconian sodomy laws and has been notable for its high incidence of anti-LGBT violence and rhetoric, especially in its popular music. In a culture where the denial of dignity and rights to LGBT people is a given, director Micah Fink profiles two individuals who have faced persecution and near-death because of their sexuality: Human rights activist and lawyer Maurice, forced to flee the country fearing death threats after the media reported on his marriage to a man, and young mother Simone, gunned down just outside her own home. Their stories reveal the faces of the victims of homophobia and the consequences of a country seemingly unwilling to deal with such human rights abuses. Continue reading