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

MARCH 24, 2009
An interview with RYAN FLECK the writer / director of SUGAR — the story of Miguel Santos, a.k.a. Sugar, a Dominican pitcher from San Pedro De Macorís, struggling to make it to the big leagues and pull himself and his family out of poverty. Playing professionally at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, Miguel finally gets his break at age 19 when he advances to the United States’ minor league system; but when his play on the mound falters, he begins to question the single-mindedness of his life’s ambition. Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden burst onto the independent film scene in 2006 with their feature debut Half Nelson, a sensitively wrought drama that earned five Spirit Award nominations and brought its star, Ryan Gosling, an Academy Award ® nomination for best actor. A lifelong baseball fan, Fleck thought he knew everything there was to know about the game. He knew that for decades the small island nation of the Dominican Republic has been supplying American teams with some of their most talented players: home run hero Sammy Sosa, the Alou brothers, pitching greats Juan Marichal and Pedro Martínez, and many more. But until a couple of years ago, he had no idea why. When Fleck and his partner Anna Boden learned that the Dominican Republic is home to training academies for every major league team in America, they were immediately drawn to the human side of the phenomenon.


MARCH 17, 2009
An interview with DANIEL JUNGE the Director of THEY KILLED SISTER DOROTHY — a documentary on the killing of 73-year-old Catholic nun and activist Sister Dorothy Stang in February 2005, in the state of Pará (Brazilian rain forest), where she, for 30 years, fought along with environmentalists and the underprivileged local communities against the exploitation of powerful loggers and landowners. Junge’s first documentary CHIEFS, in the Wynoning Indian basketball team, won the best documentary at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival and broadcast nationally on PBS. His feature documentary IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA, on Africa’s first elected female resident, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival won two wards at the Banff Television Festival, THEY KILLED SISTER DOROTHY premieres on HBO Wednesday March 25th at 8 pm ET and PT.


FEBRUARY 24, 2009
An interview with MORGAN DEWS the director of MUST READ AFTER MY DEATH. Dews was very close to his grandmother Allis, but it wasnit until after her death in 2001 that he became aware of an astounding archive shed amassed throughout the 1960s. Filled with startlingly intimate and candid audio recordings detailing her family's increasingly turbulent lives, the collection also contained hundreds of silent home movies, photographs and written journals. Using only these found materials, Dews has fashioned a searing family portrait documentary that affords fly-on-the-wall access to one family's struggles amid an America on the verge of dramatic transformation. An accomplished writer, Dews has published numerous articles, stories and poetry. Dews' short film, Elke's Visit, was an official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. MUST READ AFTER MY DEATH is his first feature.


FEBRUARY 17, 2009
An interview with BARRY JENKINS the director of MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY — a love story about a one-night stand told through two African-American twenty-something's dealing with issues of class, identity, and the evolving conundrum of being a minority in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco — a city with the smallest black population of any other major American City. When Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) stumble into the brightness of a sunny San Francisco day after a hook-up, Jo' can't wait to escape the uncomfortable silence, but a shared cab ride and a lost wallet soon bring a well intentioned Micah to her front door. As caution turns to curiosity, the young couple sets off on a romantic ramble through eclectic neighborhoods and their own lives as they swap views on everything from the meaning of blackness to the letting go of heartbreak. Jenkins is the writer-director of the short films MY JOSEPHINE and LITTLE BROWN BOY. MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY is his first feature film.


FEBRUARY 10, 2009
An interview with RAHDI TAYLOR Associate Director of the SUNDANCE DOCUMENTARY FILM PROGRAM. Taylor administers the Sundance Documentary Fund which nurtures courageous, independent artists worldwide who surface true stories of human rights, social justice, freedom of expression, civil liberties, and other pressing issues for global audiences. At the core of the Sundance Documentary Program is the Sundance Documentary Fund, which offers a continuum of support through the life of a project, from research to production and post-production, through to distribution and audience engagement. By supporting innovative nonfiction storytelling by both emerging and established documentary filmmakers, the fund promotes the diverse exchange of ideas by artists and audiences, and reflect Sundance Institute’s celebration of documentary as an increasingly important global art form and a critical cultural practice in the 21st century. At right is a video of the trailor to Ondi Timoner's "Be Like Others," a Sundance Documentary Film Program project. An award-winning filmmaker herself, Taylor's works as a writer and director have screened nationally and internationally and garnered her a nomination for the Rockefeller Fellowship for Media Arts. On Tuesday February 10, Taylor will present the film makers at a screening of WOMEN IN SHROUD at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.


FEBRUARY 3, 2009
An interview with SCOTT HAMILTON KENNEDY the producer / director of THE GARDEN, a documentary that focuses on the fourteen-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles — the largest of its kind in the United States. Started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992, the South Central Farmers have since created a miracle in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. Creating a community. But now, bulldozers are poised to level their 14-acre oasis. THE GARDEN follows the plight of the farmers, from the tilled soil of this urban farm to the polished marble of City Hall. Mostly immigrants from Latin America, from countries where they feared for their lives if they were to speak out, we watch them organize, fight back, and demand answers. Scott’s debut documentary, OT: our town, was an official selection and won awards at some of the top film festivals in the world. In it’s theatrical release, OT garnered rave reviews, was selected for several ‘best of’ lists (including Kenneth Turan of the LA Times), and was nominated for Best Documentary by the IFP Independent Spirit Awards. THE GARDEN is nominated for a 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary.


JANUARY 27, 2009
An interview with STEPHANE GAUGER the director of THE OWL AND THE SPARROW a film following the fictional story of three Vietnamese individuals over a period of five days as they meet in Vietnam. Owl and the Sparrow is a fairy tale about a little girl who searches for a family she can call her own. Pham Thi Han, who plays ten-year-old Thuy, describes her character as “down on her luck.” So she runs away from her uncle’s bamboo factory, where her work is never good enough. A flower girl on the streets of Saigon, she discovers two other castaway hearts, in a man who takes refuge as a zookeeper (Le The Lu) and a flight attendant (Cat Ly) who’s looking for love. Gauger's guerrilla-style camera and small-scale mode of production flows with the traffic of the city, but always in step with little Thuy and all that drives her dreams. Gauger was born in Saigon and raised in Orange County, California. The Owl and the Sparrow won Best Narrative Feature at the 2007 San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival.


JANUARY 20, 2009
An interview with AJ SCHNACK and THOM POWERS , co-chairs of CINEMA EYE HONORS — a new nonfiction filmmaking award, recognizing the wide breadth of documentary filmaking and also specific crafts such as cinematography and editing that are being created from within the documentary community. IndiePix, the internet based distributor of independent film is the presenting partner and sponsor for the awards. SHNACK is a filmmaker and writer (whose 2008 Sundance Video Blog is on the right) based in Los Angeles. He has directed two nonfiction feature films - Kurt Cobain About A Son(2007) which was nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award and Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) (2003) Since 2005, Schnack has written the highly-regarded film blog All These Wonderful Things, which focuses primarily on issues related to nonfiction filmmaking. POWERS is the documentary programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival where he has presented premieres by veteran directors such as Werner Herzog, Jonathan Demme, David Guggenheim and Kevin Rafferty; as well as the first feature length works of Adria Petty, Kristopher Belman and Jeffrey Levy-Hinte. His most recent documentaries are Loving & Cheating (Cinemax), about monogamy and infidelity; and Guns & Mothers (PBS), about women on both sides of the gun control debate.


JANUARY 13, 2009
An interview with MARGARET BROWN the writer and director of THE ORDER OF MYTHS a film that escorts us into the parallel hearts of Mobile, Alabama’s two racially segregated Mardi Gras carnivals. Brown traces the exotic world of secret mystic societies and centuries-old traditions and pageantry; diamond encrusted crowns; voluminous, hand sewn gowns, surreal masks and enormous paper mache floats. Against this backdrop, she uncovers a tangles web of historical violence and power dynamics, elusive forces that keep this hallowed tradition organized along enduring color lines. Brown is the producer and director of the acclaimed documentary Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt. Brown directed the music video “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” for Okkervil River.


JANUARY 6, 2009
An interview with THAVISOUK PHRASAVATH co-director of THE BETRAYAL — the epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. A Lao prophecy says, "A time will come when the universe will break, piece by piece, the world will change beyond what we know." That time came for the small country of Laos with the clandestine involvement of the United States during the Vietnam War. By 1973, three million tons of bombs had been dropped on Laos in the fight to overcome the North Vietnamese, more than the total used during both world wars. With the rise of a Communist government in Laos, killings and arrests became common among those affiliated with the former government and the Americans. Families were torn apart-some finally emigrating to the U.S. In a collaboration spanning more than 20 years, Phrasavath the main subject of the film worked with co-director Ellen Kuras. Phrasavath takes us through his youth, his escape from persecution and arrest in Laos, his family's reunion and their journey as immigrants to America, and the second war they had to fight on the streets of New York City. Drawing on the techniques of experimental film and the traditions of Laotian culture, The Betrayal is a tale about a country, a family, and a young man who discovers the power and resilience of the human spirit.







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