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'Quest' Review: Moving Doc on Philly Family Makes the Personal Political

'Quest' Review: Moving Doc on Philly Family Makes the Personal Political
His name is Christopher Rainey, but you can call him "Quest" – that's the nickname this North Philly resident is known by. Christine'a Rainey, his wife and a women's shelter employee, is sometimes called "Ma Quest," usually by the folks who drop by her spouse's recording studio for his "Freestyle Friday" open-houses. ("I always feel like someone's mother," she says, with both pride and weariness.) They each have kids from previous marriages – her son William has just become a father and discovered he had a cancerous brain tumor in quick succession – and one child together: P.
See full article at Rolling Stone »

Sundance 2018 Ushers In the Age of Independent TV With Indie Episodics Line-Up

  • Indiewire
Sundance 2018 Ushers In the Age of Independent TV With Indie Episodics Line-Up
At the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, TV is invading the schedule in a whole new way. The Park City film fest has previously dabbled in what’s possible on the small screen, but this year marks the launch of the Indie Episodics section — which will spotlight TV pilots that mostly lack mainstream distribution.

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
See full article at Indiewire »

IFP’s Gotham Awards Give Indie Films a Boost

IFP’s Gotham Awards Give Indie Films a Boost
On Sept. 30, 1991, John Turturro and the late Jonathan Demme were the first of seven New Yorkers to garner a Gotham Award. Trophies were handed out at the Roseland Ballroom without much fanfare. The celebratory dinner, a fundraiser for the Independent Filmmaker Project, was a small, low-key, quirky event that didn’t draw mainstream media.

“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
See full article at Variety - Film News »

In Oscar Documentary Race, First Time Can Be the Charm

In Oscar Documentary Race, First Time Can Be the Charm
It’s never easy being green, but if you’re a documentary filmmaker it can have its advantages. Especially come Oscar season.

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,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Sliff 2017 Interview: Donald Rosenfeld – Producer of Cradle Of Champions

Cradle Of Champions screens Sunday, November 5th at 4:00pm at The .Zack (3224 Locust St.) as part of this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival. Producer Donald Rosenfeld will be in attendance. Ticket information can be found Here

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,
See full article at WeAreMovieGeeks.com »

First Person: Sexual Harassers Are Poisonous, and So Are the Companies That Protect Them

First Person: Sexual Harassers Are Poisonous, and So Are the Companies That Protect Them
The day The New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story, I found myself choking back bile all day.

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
See full article at Indiewire »

Can We Stop with the Damn ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ Outrage?!

Oh, for the love of God, why am I still reading about this? Seems like every godd**n week, I see a new article from somebody trying to figure out the ‘Rotten Tomatoes‘ phenomenon or whatever new phenomenon or faux-outrage or whatever bullsh*t about it there is… Here’s one from Vox.com a few days ago. Here’s one from Wired.com a couple months ago. Here’s one from TVOvermind.com. Here’s one from TheRinger.com. Here’s one from the god**nn New York F**king Times! Here’s an episode of “What the Flick” doing a whole Youtube segment on the New York Times article! And here’s another one from Variety, yes that Variety, about how Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t influence box office. (Sigh) Some of those are from last week; here’s an infamous one that I wrote last year!!!!!!!

Which amazes
See full article at Age of the Nerd »

New to Streaming: ‘Baby Driver,’ ‘Nocturama,’ ‘The Lost City of Z,’ and More

With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit platforms. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

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.
See full article at The Film Stage »

Venice: David Linde on How ‘Human Flow’ Encapsulates Participant Media’s New Course (Exclusive)

Venice: David Linde on How ‘Human Flow’ Encapsulates Participant Media’s New Course (Exclusive)
Venice, Italy — Participant Media’s David Linde and Diane Weyermann made the trek to Venice for the world premiere Friday of Ai Weiwei’s migrant crisis doc “Human Flow,” which they say encapsulates exactly what the Hollywood mini-major is hoping to achieve with entertainment that aims to drive social change.

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,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Quest review – black lives in the age of Obama

The power of a documentary tracing the fortunes of an African American family over eight years is all in the tender details

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
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Italian Movies Are Struggling in U.S. Theaters, But This Distribution Experiment Could Change That

Italian Movies Are Struggling in U.S. Theaters, But This Distribution Experiment Could Change That
When “Indivisible” screened for a crowd at Lincoln Center as the opening night selection of its annual “Open Roads: New Italian Cinema” series, it had no U.S. distribution plan. In late 2016, it had screened in higher-profile slots in Venice and Toronto, where buyers paid no heed. But at Lincoln Center, the movie — a seriocomic story about 18-year-old conjoined twins pursuing a music career (real-life twins Angela and Marianna Fontana) — played through the roof.

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

Now,
See full article at Indiewire »

The 50 Best Films of the ’90s, From ‘Pulp Fiction’ to ‘Groundhog Day’

  • Indiewire
The 50 Best Films of the ’90s, From ‘Pulp Fiction’ to ‘Groundhog Day’
The ’90s were a moment of tremendous upheaval in international cinema. Here in America, the revolt against Hollywood’s bland output a decade earlier had resulted in a small window in which American independent cinema became commercially viable and started seeping into more mainstream fare. Young and exciting directors, most of whom are now A-listers, were given resources and able to make multiple films. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s big commercial films were in the hands of directors like Spielberg, Bigelow, Verhoeven, Woo and De Palma, as franchises continued to be invented rather than recycled.

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,
See full article at Indiewire »

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail review – compelling real-life legal drama

Steve James’s documentary about how one small family-owned bank fought to keep its reputation tells a very human story

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.

Continue reading...
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail review – engrossing tale of the bank that was bullied

A documentary about the prosecution of a bank serving Chinatown’s community exposes the racism of the Us judicial system

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.

Continue reading...
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

2017 has now crossed the halfway mark, so it’s time to take a look back at the first six months and round up our favorite titles thus far. While the end of this year will bring personal favorites from all of our writers, think of the below 28 entries as a comprehensive rundown of what should be seen before heading into a promising fall line-up.

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
See full article at The Film Stage »

Interview, Audio: Documentary Director Steve James on ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’

Chicago – The documentary maker Steve James, one of the best in the history of cinema, has a resume of quality reporting through feature film that is stunning in its context. The director of “Hoop Dreams,” “Stevie,” “The Interrupters,” “Head Games” and the Roger Ebert biography “Life Itself” has a new doc, focusing on one repercussion of the financial crisis of 2008, subtly entitled “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

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.
See full article at HollywoodChicago.com »

Joshua Reviews Steve James’ Abacus: Small Enough To Jail [Theatrical Review}

Few documentarians have made an impact quite like Steve James. Be it his masterpiece Hoop Dreams or the cavalcade of great documentaries he has made following that seminal 1994 picture (a film like The Interrupters only grows in one’s estimation with each passing year), James has become a titan of non-fiction cinema. And his latest is no different.

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,
See full article at CriterionCast »

Steve James on Documentary Ethics, ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,’ and Capturing Chinatown

Legendary documentary filmmaker Steve James has a gift for effortless empathy. His films have a pre-natural ease with their subjects, chronicling the ordinary and extraordinary with equal levels of awe, and regularly showcasing an ability to enter his subjects’ inner most sanctums without feeling intrusive. James’ films are primarily observational with a few exceptions, but there’s never a sense that James’ camera is anything less than an old friend.

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
See full article at The Film Stage »

Watch: Steve James on How and Why Nashville Influenced his Filmmaking

Here’s a great video from Criterion in which documentary filmmaker Steve James (The Keeper, Stevie, Hoop Dreams) discusses how he was influenced by Robert Altman’s Nashville. He begins by noting that your most influential films are the ones you see when you’re young and falling in love with cinema, and he then goes on to say that he wasn’t interested in documentary filmmaking when he encountered Altman’s work. But there were aspects of Nashville that impressed him — including, yes, the zooms! — as well as notions of structure that wound up rippling into films like The Interruptors.
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine »

Exclusive Interview: Steve James on Abacus: Small Enough To Jail

Steve James has been consistently crafting some of the smartest, most groundbreaking, most effective works of non-fiction for decades. Vaulted to the public eye with the majestic Hoop Dreams, his works have ranged from intimate portrayals of troubled men (Stevie), inner-city activists (The Interrupters) to giants in their field (the Roger Ebert doc Life Itself), often finding stories in and around his Chicago home. There’s no specific shtick to James’ films; it’s not like a few minutes in you immediately know they’re his (unless, of course, he shows up on camera). Yet viewed as a throughline, you find a filmmaker interested in justice and the complexity surrounding it, finding situations that easily could be documented on simplistic, black-and-white terms and instead using all his craft...

[Read the whole post on screenanarchy.com...]
See full article at Screen Anarchy »
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