Category Archives: In the Works

In the Works: SKY LINE

Can scientists make a celebrated sci-fi author’s vision of a functional space elevator a reality?

sky lineIn his 22nd century-set award-winning 1979 novel, THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE, noted science-fiction author Arthur C Clarke imagined an orbital tower connecting Earth with an orbiting satellite, eliminating the need for costly and environmentally destructive rockets. While he did not originate the concept, which was first theorized by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895, drawing inspiration from the Eiffel Tower, Clarke’s novel popularized the idea of the space elevator. While various scientists have considered the possibility of actually realizing such a project, they have been hampered by the lack of strong enough materials or sufficiently advanced technology to make it feasible. Directors Miguel Drake-McLaughlin and Jonny Leahan follow a group of scientists exploring the possibilities enabled by new technological developments to make this seemingly unattainable goal a reality, and to allow them to reach for the stars. Continue reading

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In the Works: ALMOST THERE

The story of the unexpected consequences of newfound attention on an undiscovered outsider artist.

almost_there-01After filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden meet Peter Anton drawing portraits at Chicago’s Pierogifest, they start to befriend the octogenarian artist, and learn that he has created a series of elaborate autobiographical collage diaries in which he has documented every year of his life. Fascinated by his work, they become wrapped up in his life, especially when they discover that his lifelong home has fallen into squalor. When the filmmakers help him mount a gallery exhibition of his outsider art for the first time, this leads to unanticipated revelations about his past, a radical change in his living situation, and questions about the limits of altruism. Continue reading

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In the Works: WELCOME TO LEITH

A nearly deserted North Dakotan town becomes the unlikely battleground for white supremacy.

craig-cobb-welcome-to-leithWith no more than two dozen inhabitants, rural Leith ND drew the attention of Craig Cobb, a notorious white supremacist who had relocated to the state due to the recent oil boom, because of the availability of land. Purchasing several plots, he later expressed his intent: to draw other white supremacists to the town and take over its governance, a goal met with resistance by the long-time residents. Filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher Walker chronicle the standoff, as the two opposed small communities try to lay claim to their self-determination with the help of their supporters. Continue reading

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In the Works: ELSTREE 1976

A look at STAR WARS from the perspectives of extras and bit players who appeared in the first film.

elstree 1976George Lucas’ seminal sci-fi blockbuster has worked its magic over viewers since its debut in 1977, with sequels, prequels, and subsequent re-releases, not to mention comic book, novel, toy, and cartoon tie-ins, fueling new generations of fandom. Several documentary projects have been produced, from behind-the-scenes “making-of” or appreciations that have appeared as bonus content on official releases, or independent productions often exploring the fanbase itself. Director Jon Spira’s new project takes a more microscopic approach, focusing on the original film through the experiences of several individuals who appeared in it – but not its stars, but instead bit players or extras who may have only been on-screen for seconds. Far from being what they expected to be a forgettable job they had in suburban North London in the Summer of 1976, Spira’s subjects reflect on their unanticipated, continued connection to the film. Continue reading

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In the Works: HAVANA MOTOR CLUB

Cuban auto enthusiasts find their hopes for a legal car race dashed by the Pope’s visit – among other roadblocks.

havana motorOne of the most visible indicators of the US sanctions against Cuba since the Revolution is the anachronistic presence of vintage 1950s cars that dot its streets. For the most part, only those with political connections and money have been able to afford newer imported cars from Europe or Asia. For most, refitted classic cars have been the only option, and, for some, a source of pride, such as the men of Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s film. With car racing long outlawed by Castro, they’ve held underground drag races. With recent reforms, the men grow excited about participating in the first legal race since 1959, painstakingly working on finding the right parts to give them the edge. But when a Papal visit cancels their plans, organizers find themselves caught in limbo. Continue reading

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In the Works: BEING GEORGE CLOONEY

The filmmakers behind THESE AMAZING SHADOWS explore the voice actors who dub the Hollywood superstar internationally.

being georgeIn the global business of Hollywood moviemaking, a film’s international box office is key to its overall success. In most markets, audiences disdain subtitles, preferring to instead watch films dubbed into their own language. The result is the creation of a curious kind of invisible, yet audible, local star – the regular dubbing actor who serves as the comforting, native voice of famed celebrities in different countries around the world. Director Paul Mariano and producers Christine O’Malley and Kurt Norton – the filmmakers behind THESE AMAZING SHADOWS – another inside look at and celebration of filmmaking – and the rest of their team go behind the scenes and into the dubbing studios of the international film marketplace to explore the work and lives of several local actors familiar to their fellow countrymen as the voices of George Clooney.
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In the Works: ART AND CRAFT

The story of a notorious art forger who feels compelled to donate his work to museums across the country.

art and craftOver thirty years, Mark Landis has honed his painting skills to enable him to make remarkable copies of a wide range of artwork. Unusually, rather than profit financially from his forgeries, Landis instead began contacting small museums and other institutions under assumed identities to donate his work, passing them off as rare originals. When Matthew Leininger, a museum registrar, grew suspicious of one instance of Landis’ “philanthropy,” his investigation uncovered Landis’ deception, involving more than 45 museums in nearly twenty cities, and ultimately resulted in a museum exhibition of the forgeries. Filmmakers Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker began telling Landis’ tale when he was exposed, and have followed him for the past several years, learning of the mental illness that drives his unorthodox behavior. Continue reading

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