Hoop Dreams (1994)
The selections include “America to Me,” a new docu-series by “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James; as well as “The Mortified Guide,” a screen adaptation of the popular stage show “Mortified,” spotlighting the most embarrassing true stories of adolescence. There’s also “This Close,” showcasing star/creators Josh Feldman and Shoshannah Stern (both of whom are deaf), and “Franchesca,” featuring digital star and “The Nightly Show” writer/contributor Franchesca Ramsey.
This marks a major change for Sundance, and a renewed commitment to independent television. While Sundance has featured TV programming since the premiere of “Top of the Lake” in
“It didn’t have that big huge red carpet thing that happens nowadays,” says former Ifp exec director Catherine Tait, who oversaw the creation of the Gotham Awards. “It was really intimate because the interest in indie filmmaking was not very heightened at the time.”
Cut to the same awards show at the same venue four years later. “Reservoir Dogs,” “Kids” and “Hoop Dreams” were officially part of the zeitgeist and Madonna was posing for photographers along with fellow Gotham Award guests Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. The Gotham Awards were officially a hot ticket.
“We were riding a wave of sudden consumer
In the past two decades, 12 directors have taken home the Academy Award for their very first documentary theatrical feature. They include Ezra Edelman (“O.J.: Made in America”), Louie Psihoyos (“The Cove”) and Malik Bendjelloul (“Searching for Sugarman”). Those films beat out docus made by veteran nonfiction helmers like Kirby Dick (“The Invisible War”), Wim Wenders (“Pina”) and Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (“Life Animated”).
When it comes to receiving a nomination in the documentary feature category, the odds are even better. In the last decade more than 20 first time feature docu helmers have nabbed an Oscar nod. They include Ellen Kuras (“The Betrayal — Nerakhoon”), Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington (“Restrepo”), Charles Ferguson (“No End in Sight”) and John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (“Finding Vivian Maier”).
Comparatively, in the last 10 years,
Made with a dream team of documentary talent — the crew’s past films include “Citizenfour,” “Cameraperson,” “Queen of Versailles,” “Racing Dreams,” and “Cartel Land” — “Cradle of Champions” captures the epic story of three young people fighting for their lives in the oldest, biggest, and most important amateur boxing tournament in the world: the New York’s Daily News Golden Gloves. “Cradle of Champions” follows three inspiring individuals on an urban odyssey through the 10-week Golden Gloves. Though boxing has come under increasing criticism in the past few decades, the tournament — which has produced more professional world champions than the Olympic Games — has taken legions of at-risk kids off the streets and given them discipline,
In the weeks since, it has become resoundingly clear that Weinstein is a virulent serial predator, and has earned whatever hell rains down on him. But Harvey Weinstein isn’t the problem, and bringing him down — while satisfying, necessary, and just — will be far from sufficient if we don’t simultaneously tear down our rotten corporate culture and reckon with our own complicity in propping it up.
As democracy derives its consent from the governed, tyranny derives its consent from the tyrannized. And while it’s long overdue, I no longer consent to being tyrannized.
I wasn’t sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein. I worked with him briefly, consulting on “sex, lies, and videotape,” the film that changed the independent film business, Sundance, and Harvey forever; the film whose prescient title
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)
Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day efforts like 2014’s monument to critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself, don’t have much in common on the surface, but they both use their central characters to tell larger stories about big picture topics like structural dysfunction and the purpose of film criticism.
“Ai Weiwei wasn’t trying to make an art movie,” Weyermann said about the ambitious piece shot over more than a year in 23 countries by the Chinese artist.
“He was very clear about that. It’s about reaching people. He really truly believes that this is a major crisis, and there are many people out there who don’t know about it,” said Weyermann, Participant’s executive vice president of documentary films. “He wanted to reach a wide audience, to the extent that a filmmaker can.”
“Human Flow,” which Amazon Studios will release theatrically in the U.S. on Oct. 13 in partnership with Magnolia Pictures,
A window into the life of an African American family in north Philadelphia, Jonathan Olshefski’s debut feature reminded me of another observational documentary about the black American Dream. I’m surely not the first person to draw a line between Quest and Hoop Dreams, Steve James’s 1994 documentary epic about two aspiring African American basketball players from Chicago, though the scope here is significantly smaller.
While that film spanned five years and clocked in at almost three hours, Quest is compiled from 300 hours of footage, with Olshefski compressing eight years of family life into an hour and 45 minutes. Olshefski is a visual artist as well as a film-maker, and his relationship with the Rainey family began when he was teaching photography to adults in Philadelphia in 2006. A
That was when Ira Deutchman saw its potential.
“I just fell in love with it,” the veteran distribution executive said. “It’s got everything in it. The movie is not a depressing, severe art film that requires people to look at it like work. Maybe distributors didn’t see the commerciality in a story about conjoined twins, but the women are beautiful and the movie is surprisingly entertaining.”
Read More:Ira Deutchman Receives First Annual Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award
On the international scene, the Iranian New Wave unloaded a treasure trove of new films, the great run of Hong Kong cinema was peaking and maturing, three great autuers completely upended how films in Taiwan were made, and a pair of Danish directors with a dogma wanted to change how every film was made.
More than anything,
Oscar-nominated documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) turns his attention to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Of all the banks implicated in the toxic loans scandal, the only one prosecuted was a small family-owned institution that serviced the Chinese community. This film follows the struggle of the Sung family to clear their names and that of the Abacus Federal Savings Bank. And it raises the spectre of, if not racially motivated persecution, then at least a certain degree of cultural insensitivity on the part of the district attorney’s office. Disarmingly human moments – the Sung daughters, all high-powered lawyers, fret over their 80-year-old father’s disappointing sandwich – pepper this compelling courtroom drama.
Veteran documentary-maker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) is back with an engrossing story: the extraordinary fiasco of the Abacus bank prosecution. It is a tale of hypocrisy, judicial bullying and racism. Abacus was a small neighbourhood bank serving New York’s Chinese community, which discovered a crooked employee falsifying mortgage documents, duly reported the matter to the authorities, but then found itself prosecuted by a district attorney who had sniffed a post-2008 PR opportunity to collar some real live bankers.
Do note that this feature is based solely on U.S. theatrical releases from 2017, with many currently widely available on streaming platforms or theatrically. Check them out below, as organized alphabetically, followed by honorable mentions and films to keep on your radar for the remaining summer months. One can also see the list on Letterboxd.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)
Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day
The film is about the Abacus Federal Savings Bank of Chinatown New York City, a financial house built through the sweat and toil of Thomas Sung, who opened the institution because he wanted to help his community… he was inspired to do that from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the George Bailey character. His successful enterprise had one bad apple in it, which resulted in fraudulent mortgage applications, much like the “too big to fail” banks that did the same thing.
Despite having a rather on the nose title, Abacus: Small Enough To Jail is yet another superb documentary from James, this time shining a light on the economic crisis of nearly one decade ago. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, where various major banks (the same banks that played a major role in causing that collapse) were deemed “too big to fail,” there was one bank that saw legal action taken against them. Morgan Stanley? No. Lehman Brothers? Lol. The sole bank to see legal action taken against them was not one of the major players,
His latest film, Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, is a formal and tonal departure, but also a reiteration of some of James’ most prevailing thematic interests – namely underexposed communities and their mistreatment. A procedural probing into the stranger than fiction court saga of Abacus, a Chinatown bank plagued with wide-scale fraud, it’s anything but a pedestrian court film.
Embracing the disadvantages of recounting an ongoing court case — James and his crew were barred from filming the trial, and were
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