January 2015 - Posts

The Winners of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival As They Come In

READ MORE: 2015 Sundance Film Festival Awards (Live-Blog and Live-Stream) Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic: World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary: Dramatic Audience Award: Documentary Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary Audience Award: The Best of NEXT Audience Award: Directing Award, Dramatic: Directing Award, Documentary: World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic: World Cinema Directing Award, Documentary: Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award: World Cinema Screenwriting Award: Documentary Editing Award: World Cinema Documentary Editing Award: Excellence in Cinematography Award, Dramatic: Excellence in Cinematography Award, Documentary: World Cinema Cinematography Award, Dramatic: World Cinema Cinematography Award, Documentary: US Dramatic Special Jury Prize...
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How Virtual Reality Technology is Changing Documentary Filmmaking

At this year's New Frontier exhibition at the Sundance Film Festival, doubts about the staying power of virtual reality are fading away. Visitors wait in long lines and the exhibition floors are fully packed for a technology that has been in the making for decades but hasn't yet been able to quite get off the ground. Of the 15 works presented, 11 incorporate a VR headset, either via 360 degree video or computer-generated 3D environments. Though it has long been the purview of gaming, the film world is now also paying close attention to VR. There is a palpable buzz about how this new medium will change the mediascape and revolutionize cinema. It is hard to ignore that this excitement is partially caused by the novelty of the technology. This makes the critical distance required for thoughtful criticism and reflection difficult to achieve; however, even if the VR does not live up to all expectations, it is here to stay as a new platform for storytelling that demands new ways of...
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Critic's Notebook: Why This Year's Sundance Revealed an Exciting Stage for American Movies

One of the more revealing moments at this year's Sundance Film Festival arrived not on the cusp of a major sale, or during an emotional standing ovation, but rather with a curious reminder of the past. On Saturday night, the festival's director of programming Trevor Groth took to the stage at the Egyptian Theater to introduce a very uncharacteristic Sundance selection: The Wachowskis' absurdly campy space opera "Jupiter Ascending," a Warner Bros. release snuck into the festival as a secret screening for the select few who managed to snag tickets and cared to show up. With its mega-million-dollar production values and a long-eared Channing Tatum as an alien bodyguard hurtling through the solar system, alongside a smitten Mila Kunis batting her eyelashes in search of a plot, "Jupiter Ascending" felt noticeably out of place at a festival allegedly designed to operate outside the constraints of Hollywood. By that same token, however, Sundance has long been seen as a...
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The 6 Best Things Harvey Weinstein Said at Sundance 2015

With over 100 producing credits and two of Hollywood's most important companies to his name, Harvey Weinstein is at the epicenter of the industry. At Sundance, he sat down with Indiewire's Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris at the Chase lounge to discuss the entertainment landscape from his unique vantage point.  1. "Nobody's done more for indie film than Bob Redford." Weinstein couldn't sing higher praises to Robert Redford, who co-founded Sundance in 1978 with proceeds from his successful acting career. "When I first came to Sundance, it was in a covered wagon," said Weinstein. "It was the wilderness. Nobody’s done more for independent film than Bob Redford. Building Sundance as a platform for so many of you to make films and be able to get good prices for them — to get them showcased and exhibited — is this one man’s dream, one man’s vision. Sundance has had a remarkable effect because it gives a platform to these movies that you can...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #84: Samba Gadjigo Takes on the Fascinating Life of African Filmmaker Ousmane Sembene

Bolstered by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that Sembene himself faced, Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman collaborated on a film created in his honor. Their documentary tells the story everything from Sembene's greatest triumphs to his biggest ethical deficits, through 17 years' worth of footage of the man himself, his films, his family members, his closest friends and collaborators. What's your film about, in 140 characters or less?The freedom fighter who used stories as his weapon: meet Ousmane Sembene, the father of African cinema. Now, what's it REALLY about?In 1952, Ousmane Sembene, a dockworker and fifth-grade dropout from Senegal, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. SEMBENE! tells the unbelievable true story of the “father of African cinema,” the self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought, against enormous odds, a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give African stories to Africans. SEMBENE! is told through the...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #83: Laura Gabbert Hopes 'City of Gold' Encourages Audience Members to Explore Their Cities with Curiosity and an Open Mind

Laura Gabbert's deep love for the City of Los Angeles is the inspiration for her newest documentary, "City of Gold." It chronicles the journey of food critic Jonathan Gold, and identifies how his experiences expose a booming cultural movement. In Gabbert's eyes, the food writing and city touring so intrinsic to the story evoke something much more universal: her film is an ode to exploration, and an impassioned call to curiosity and open-mindedness.  What's your film about in 140 characters or less? Pulitzer Prize­-winning critic Jonathan Gold casts his light upon a vibrant and growing cultural movement in which he plays the dual roles of high-low priest and culinary geographer of his beloved Los Angeles. Now what's it REALLY about? The film is a love letter to Los Angeles. Tell us briefly about yourself. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, but I've lived in Los Angeles since 1995 when I moved here to go to graduate school in film at UCLA. I've worked in...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #82: François Delisle Goes Black-and-White for Family Tragedy 'Chorus'

Representing French-Canadian screenwriter and filmmaker François Delisle's sixth feature film, "Chorus" is an emotional family drama about two separated parents who are forced to come together to identify the remains of their missing young son. Shot entirely in black-and-white, "Chorus" unravels as a story of both loss and recovery, often at the same time, and works in some mesmerizing visuals to make for a gorgeous and hopeful tragedy. Currently playing in the Sundance Film Festival's World Cinema Dramatic Competition section, Delisle's film is bound to be one of the more striking dramas screened in Park City. What's your film about, in 140 characters or less? A man, a woman, a missing child, death, mourning, reconciliation, love, music and life. Now, what's it REALLY about? A couple, separated for 10 years, are forced to come together to identify the remains of their young son declared missing. As they struggle to heal...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #81: Chloé Zhao Tackles Indian Reservation Relationships in 'Songs My Brothers Taught Me'

Marking her feature film debut, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" finds Chloé Zhao punctuating the American heartland to tell the story of modern-day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The drama stars non-professional actors and follows a high school senior who must reevaluate his future after the death of his father leaves him responsible for his 13-year-old sister. Given how Zhao's short films ("The Atlas Mountains," "Daughters") have also focused on characters contemplating their lives in specific rural settings, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" seems to be a feature length cinematic successor to the themes she loves exploring through film. The drama is competing at Sundance in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. What's your film about, in 140 characters or less? A complex portrait of modern-day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that explores the bond between a brother and his younger...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #80: Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York's 'Tig' Follows Comedian Tig Notaro's Journey After a Series of Catastrophic Personal Events

“Tig” follows comedian Tig Notaro, who famously announced in front of a stunned audience back in 2012, “Good evening, I have cancer. Everyone having a good time? I have cancer.” In just 30 minutes, Notaro not only revealed her grave prognosis, she delivered the news with a disarming mixture of humor and vulnerability. The set became a media sensation and critical smash overnight and, as Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York's new documentary reveals, helped push the beloved comedian past a series of devastating setbacks. Having just recovered from a life-threatening infection and still in mourning over her mother’s sudden passing, Notaro's subsequent discovery of bilateral *** cancer left her no choice but to turn profound pain into an ongoing punch line, both on and off the stage. The result is an alternately poignant and playful window into a comedian's process turning her worst fears and anxieties into pure comic gold. [Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Institute.] What's your film...
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #79: In 'The Mask You Live In,' Jennifer Siebel Newsom Confronts Our Narrow Definition of Masculinity

After making a splash with "Miss Representation" in 2011, Jennifer Siebel Newsom is back with a new documentary at Sundance. Keeping in the spirit of delving into American notions of gender, Siebel Newsom's "The Mask You Live In" shifts the focus to men and masculinity. This probing and insightful accounting of the role of American social life, media and pop culture in gender formation exposes the damaging effects that come with limited interpretations of who and what a "man" can be. But Sundance is only a starting point: Siebel Newsom hopes to spread the word beyond Park City. What's your film about in 140 characters or less? "The Mask You Live In" explores how America's narrow definition of masculinity is harming our boys, men, and society. Now what's it REALLY about? "The Mask You Live In" follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity....
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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #78: 'How To Change The World' Explores the Early Days Of Greenpeace

When you hear the word "Greenpeace," you probably think of bright young post-grads in neon vests, standing outside your local Whole Foods, clipboard in hand, asking if you have a minute to talk about the environment. Or maybe you think of whaling ships in Japan being told to cease and desist by windbreaker'd men and women on a little boat, tossed around in the water. Greenpeace has become so synonymous with the pro-environment movement that we take it for granted; isn't it one of those organizations that's been around forever, like the Red Cross and Salvation Army? In "How To Change The World," audiences are given a look at the first days of Greenpeace in the early '70s. Much like the similarly titled AIDS crisis doc "How To Survive A Plague," Jerry Rothwell's Greenpeace documentary follows a group of passionate citizens responding to a crisis with little infrastructure or know-how...who end up changing the world. These are the people who had mroe than a...
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Watch: Chaos Interrupts Sake Time in Exclusive 'Why Don't You Play in Hell?' Clip

[Editor's Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today's pick, "Why Don't You Play in Hell?" is available now On Demand. Here is an exclusive clip.]Based on a screenplay he wrote nearly 15 years ago, "Why Don't You Play In Hell?" has Sono’s trademark excess and outrageousness infused with an affection for the previous century of Japanese cinema.  Here's the synopsis: "There's a war going on, but that won't stop the inexperienced but eager wannabe film crew The *** Bombers from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And The *** Bombers are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real,...
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Attention, Filmmakers: Here's the Best Career Advice from 2015 Sundance Cinematographers

As part of our "How I Shot That" series, we asked a select group of cinematographers with films at Sundance about the best career advice they've ever received. And now we're sharing it with you. "Surround yourself with good people. This isn’t easy as it sounds because it also means being truthful with yourself about what your own shortcomings are and what you need help with. The energy of the crew suffuses what happens in front of the camera and you want as little as possible to impede the flow of creativity on set. With the right crew, that creativity comes from all directions, the AC, the key grip, etc." - Eric Lin, "I Smile Back" "Be bold and take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail." - John Guleserian, "The Overnight" READ MORE: Sundance 2015 Cinematographers on How They Captured Their Most Difficult Shots "The best piece of advice I ever got was also the first. Right before I started film school, I reached out to a DP...
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Here are the Films That Inspired This Year's Sundance Filmmakers, from 'Amadeus' and 'Fargo' to 'Booty Call'

Prior to the Sundance Film Festival 2015, we sent out questionnaires to filmmakers with films in competition, asking them which films inspired them. The films they chose ranged from classics such as "The 400 Blows" and "A Clockwork Orange" to recent releases such as "Listen Up Phillip" and "Ida." Many also named dark comedies, including "Happiness" and "Inside Llewyn Davis." Some filmmakers listed television shows which inspire them including "Louie," "Transparent" and "The Wire." Here are the filmmaker's responses: James Ponsoldt ("The End of the Tour"):"California Split," "The American Friend," "Withnail & I," "Amadeus," "The Hours and Times," "Don't Look Back," "Fat City," "The Social Network," "Midnight Cowboy," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "Happy Together" and...
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Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig and More at the Indiewire Sundance Photo Studio

Consider this gallery a brief summary of some of the shenanigans that ensued. READ MORE: The 2015 Indiewire Sundance Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During Run of Festival
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