filmschool, Nathan Callahan, Mike Kaspar, independent film news and interviews, KUCI, film school
filmschool, Nathan Callahan, Mike Kaspar, independent film news and interviews, KUCI, film school

September 23, 2008
An interview with CHRIS SMITH the director of 2007 Sundance Special Jury Prize THE POOL — the story of Venkatesh, a "room boy" working at a hotel in Panjim, Goa, who sees from his perch in a mango tree a luxuriant garden and shimmering pool hidden behind a wall. In making whatever efforts he can to better himself, Venkatesh offers his services to the wealthy owner of the home. Not content to simply dream about a different life, Venkatesh is inquisitive about the home's inhabitants-indeed about the world around him-and his curiosity changes the shape of his future. Working in Hindi with young actors and in a country obviously not his own, Smith has created an incisive portrait that will take a place on a global stage. Smith is an accomplished filmmaker whose previous films include American Job (1996, Sundance Film Festival), American Movie (1999, Grand Jury Prize-Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics), Home Movie (2001, Sundance Film Festival) and The Yes Men (2004, United Artists).


September 16, 2008
An interview with SEAN BAKER and SHIH-CHING TSOU co-directors of TAKE OUT — a day-in-the-life of an illegal Chinese immigrant working as a deliveryman for a Chinese take-out shop in New York City. Ming is behind with payments on his huge debt to the smugglers who brought him to the United States. The collectors have given him until the end of the day to deliver the money that is due. In a social-realist style, the camera follows Ming on his deliveries throughout the upper Manhattan neighborhood where social and economic extremes exist side by side. Baker is best known for co-creating the cult television show "Greg the Bunny." He co-wrote and co-directed for the IFC series. His first feature, "Four Letter Words," a study of adolescent males in Suburbia USA, premiered at South by Southwest 2001. It is currently being released on DVD by Vanguard Cinema. "Take Out," Sean completed his third feature film, "The Prince of Broadway" in May 2008. "Prince of Broadway" premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film is about a West African immigrant that sells counterfeit goods in NYC's wholesale district. It won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative. Shih-Ching’s credits include production design on three nationally aired commercials and post-production work on three short films.


September 9, 2008
An interview with IRENA SALINA the director of FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER – an award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century - The World Water Crisis. Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question "CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?" Beyond identifying the problem, FLOW also gives viewers a look at the people and institutions providing practical solutions to the water crisis and those developing new technologies, which are fast becoming blueprints for a successful global and economic turnaround. Salina’s first film, Ghost Bird: The Life and Art of Judith Deim (2000) delves into the remarkable life of St. Louis-born artist Judith Deim. Ghost Bird won Best Documentary at the 15th Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, the Presidents' Award at Mexico's prestigious Ajijic Film Festival, and is an evergreen audience favorite on the Sundance Channel.


September 2, 2008
An interview with RANDALL MILLER the director of BOTTLE SHOCK - the story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris". Shot on location in the Northern California wine country, Bottle Shock focuses on the contentious relationship between headstrong perfectionist Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), a former attorney, and his free-spirited son Bo (Chris Pine). For all their differences, the two share a dream of producing a great Chardonnay at the Chateau Montelena vineyard Jim founded in Calistoga in the early 1970s. Miller began his career at the American Film Institute with the short film Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. The film won numerous awards and began Miller's professional career as a director. Off the heat of the short, Randall directed numerous episodic series such as "thirtysomething," "Northern Exposure," "Popular" and "Jack & Jill." His feature career took off with the films Houseguest and The Sixth Man. Looking to get back to his roots in independent filmmaking, Miller and his wife, Jody Savin, set out to start anew. Ironically, their new start took them back to the short with which it all began. Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School is now realized as a full-length feature. The team subsequently completed another labor


August 26, 2008
An interview with MAKOTO SASA, the producer and director of FIRE UNDER THE SNOW - a look at the life of Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso, who spent 33 years in prison as his nation was seized by China. Palden Gyatso, a Buddhist monk since childhood, was arrested by the Chinese Communist Army in 1959. He was tortured, starved and sentenced to hard labor. He watched his nation and culture destroyed, his teachers, friends and family displaced, jailed or killed under Chinese occupation. Fire Under the Snow reaches back to Palden's birth in 1933 and follows him through the Orwellian nightmare that began with the Chinese invasion. The film investigates the basis of Palden's resilience. He claims that faith in Buddhism helped him survive the 33 years of his imprisonment. While imprisoned, the mere existence of the Dalai Lama was a beacon of hope to Palden and fellow prisoners-of-conscience. They dreamed of being released from their torment and delivered into his open arms. Today, the Dalai Lama and his supporters advance the idea of a "mutually beneficial" autonomy within China, an idea generated from Buddhist philosophy. Makoto Sasa has made several short documentaries, worked as assistant editor for the 35mm features Going Under (2004) starring Roger Rees, and LOVE (2005). Recently, she has been directing and editing several documentaries for SONY Japan's broadband streaming video website World Event Village.


August 19, 2008
An interview with TIA LESSIN and CARL DEAL producers and directors of TROUBLE THE WATER. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Trouble the Water tells the story of an aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, who survive the storm and then seize a chance for a new beginning. It’s a redemptive tale of self-described street hustlers who become heroes that takes you inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never before seen on screen. Sessin was a producer of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, winner of the Palme d’Or, and Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine. Her other film credits include line producer on Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and coordinating producer on The Big One. Lessin’s work as producer of the series The Awful Truth, which the Los Angeles Times called “the smartest and funniest show on television,” earned her two Emmy nominations and one arrest. Deal was the Archival Producer for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, and has contributed to many other documentaries, including Sundance Festival favorites Murderball and God Grew Tired of Us, and John Pilger's recent The War on Democracy. He previously worked as an international news producer and has reported from natural disasters and conflict zones throughout the U.S., Latin America, and in Iraq.


August 12, 2008
An interview with DOROTHY FADIMAN Producer / Director of STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE. The last two presidential elections both came down to a relatively small number of votes, and in both elections the integrity of the voting process has been called into question. With the upcoming election looking to be similarly close, the time has come to ask the questions: what happened in 2000 and 2004; what has changed since; and what can be done to ensure a fair and honest tabulation of votes in 2008? STEALING AMERICA: Vote by Vote brings together behind-the-scenes perspectives from the U.S. presidential election of 2004 – plus startling stories from key races in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2006. Fadiman has been producing media with a focus on social justice and human rights since 1976. Her film subjects have ranged from progressive education in WHY DO THESE KIDS LOVE SCHOOL? (produced with KTEH-TV) and progressive change for women in some of the least developed villages of India in WOMAN by WOMAN: New Hope for the Villages of India (produced with KQED-TV); to a three-film series on reproductive issues and a five-film series on AIDS in Ethiopia including From RISK to ACTION: Women and HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. Fadiman has won more than 50 major awards, including an Emmy for her 1995 production FROM DANGER to DIGNITY: The Fight for Safe Abortion, and an Oscar nomination for Best Short Subject, as well as the Gold Medal from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for her 1992 production WHEN ABORTION WAS ILLEGAL: Untold Stories. Her films have been broadcast on PBS, and have been screened in many international venues.


August 5, 2008
An interview with EDDIE SCHMIDT Executive Director of the INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY ASSOCIATION about DocuWeek— a public theatrical exhibition of outstanding new documentary films at the Arclight Theatres in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, August 22nd thru August 28th. This years program includes the documentaries Glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts (trailer is on the right), Baghdad Twist, Kick Like A Girl, The Wrecking Crew, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story and Fire Under the Snow. Schmidt has worked as a producer, director, writer and cinematographer. His projects include This Film is Not Yet Rated and Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.

July 29, 2008
An interview with GUILLAUME CANET director of TELL NO ONE — a crime thriller and winner of the best director, best actor, best editing and best music at France's César Awards. France. The film focuses on Alexandre Beck a pediatrician who misses his beloved wife who was brutally murdered eight years ago when he was the prime suspect. When two bodies are found near where the corpse of Margot was dumped, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes suspect again. The mystery increases when Alex receives an e-mail showing Margot older and alive. After his critically-acclaimed directorial debut, Mon Idole (Whatever You Say), French actor Canet rounded up a stellar cast, which includes Marie-Josée Croze, Kristen Scott-Thomas, Nathalie Baye, André Dussollier, Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands and Canet himself in this film .based on American writer Harlan Coben’s bestselling novel.


July 22, 2008
An interview with JAMES MARSH director of MAN ON WIRE — a look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century. Petit committed one of the most astonishing performance stunts of the late 20th century: he strung a thin cable in-between the two towers of the World Trade Center and not only walked across, from one building to another, but did a nerve-wracking series of knee-bends and acrobatic movements on the cable, some 1,350 feet above the ground, before turning himself in. This occurred to the consternation and chagrin of Port Authority policemen, who immediately arrested Petit for the act. When Marsh decided he wanted to become a filmmaker, he "took the path of least resistance" and landed a job at the BBC, making documentaries for Arena. Specialising in American pop culture, notable docs included Trouble Man: The Last Years Of Marvin Gaye (1994) and The Burger And The King (1996), examining the dietary quirks of Elvis Presley. It was Marsh's work on acclaimed 1999 documentary Wisconsin Death Trip that provided his big screen breakout. He followed that with his first feature, The King. Man on Wire won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


July 15, 2008
An interview with MARINA ZENOVICH director of ROMAN PULANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED — a documentary that examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski's sudden flight from the United States. On March 11, 1977, Roman Polanski was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with the following counts: furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion and sodomy. Less than a year later, on February 1, 1978, Polanski drove to LAX, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and never came back. Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired explores the implausible events that took place between these dates, along with details, before and after, that forever altered the life and career of Polanski, one of the world's most acclaimed directors. Polanski, whose life already read like the script of one of his most tragic, brutal films, lost both his Polish parents during WWII, but rose to become a star filmmaker in Poland, England and, later, the U.S. His storybook love affair with Sharon Tate ended with her 1969 murder at the hands of followers of Charles Manson; she was eight months pregnant. Surviving the tragedy and press firestorm accompanying it, Polanski rebuilt his career in the 1970s - until he made a fateful mistake during a 1977 photo shoot with a 13-year-old girl. Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.


July 8, 2008
An interview with JEFF STIMMEL director of THE ART OF FAILURE: CHUCK CONNELLY NOT FOR SALE — the unusual story of the rise and fall of a major talent, along with Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat, from the 1980s art world. Though he was extremely talented with a profitable collection of work, Connelly ended up alienating every collector and gallery owner he worked with. This documentary follows the life of this brilliant yet enigmatic painter, who had great success as a young artist but who now sees his career fading. Driven by desperation, and left by his wife during the course of this documentary, Connelly hires an actor to pose as a young, upcoming artist to sell Chuck's work to galleries and art dealers. The film provides an intimate and often troubling character study of Connelly, a working-class guy from Pittsburgh who holds "traditional" beliefs that art is, above all, about personal expression and craftsmanship. These notions have proven to be less-than-fashionable in today's elite art world, the inner workings of which are also glimpsed in the film. Shot over six years, this documentary explores a painter's passion for his work, despite being his own worst enemy. Stimmel is a Los Angeles based filmmaker who has directed several short films. In 2001, he received the PEER award for the production of Ed Sherman's The State of the Artist. The Art of Failure will screen on HBO beginning July 7 and will be available thereafter on HBO On Demand.


July 1, 2008
An interview with ALEX GIBNEY the director of GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON — the definitive film biography of a mythic American figure, a man that Tom Wolfe called our “greatest comic writer,” whose suicide, by gunshot, led Rolling Stone Magazine, where Thompson began his career, to devote an entire issue (its best-selling ever) to the man that launched a thousand sips of bourbon, endless snorts of cocaine and a brash, irreverent, fearless style of journalism - named “gonzo” after an anarchic blues riff by James Booker. Gibney is the Academy Award nominated director of Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room and the director of the Academy Award winning documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. While Gibney shaped the screen story, every narrated word in the film springs from the typewriters of Thompson himself. Those words are given life by Johnny Depp, the actor who once shadowed Thompson’s every move for the screen version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and who bankrolled Thompson’s spectacular funeral (photographed for this film) in which the good doctor’s ashes were fired from a rocket launcher mounted with a towering two-thumbed fist whose palm held a giant peyote button.


June 24, 2008
An interview with SEAN BAKER the director /writer of PRINCE OF BROADWAY — the story of Lucky and Levon, two men whose lives converge in the underbelly of New York's wholesale fashion district. Lucky, an illegal immigrant from Ghana, makes ends meet by soliciting shoppers on the street with knock-off brand merchandise. Levon, an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, operates an illegal storefront with a concealed back room where counterfeit goods are showcased to interested shoppers. Lucky's world is suddenly turned upside down when a child is thrust into his life by a woman who insists the toddler is his son. Shot in a fast-paced guerilla style that is akin to the hustler lifestyle, the film reveals the lives of immigrants in America seeking ideals of family and love, while creating their own knock-off of the American Dream. Baker is best known for co-creating the cult television show "Greg the Bunny." His first feature, "Four Letter Words," a study of adolescent males in Suburbia USA, premiered at South by Southwest 2001. It is currently being released on DVD by Vanguard Cinema. "Take Out," Sean's second feature is slated for release by Cavu Cinema. Having premiered at Slamdance 2004, it won Best Feature at the Nashville Film Festival. Prince of Broadway will begin screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival Sunday, June 22, 7:00pm at The Regent in Westwood.





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