Monday, January 27, 2014

Girls Interrupted: Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price on Last Woman Standing

When I met Canadian director Juliet Lammers during the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival – where we served together on a sprawling panel – her film Last Woman Standing, which made the Hot Docs 2013 Netflix Audience Award top five, wasn’t even on my radar. But it certainly should have been. Co-directed by Lammers and Lorraine Price, Last Woman Standing is more than a riveting sports flick (though it’s that as well). Unique in approach, the doc focuses just as much on the relationship rift between Ariane Fortin and Mary Spencer, two of the world’s best boxers, as it does on their unavoidable rivalry – when the longtime friends are forced to literally fight one another for a sole spot on Canada’s Olympic team. Filmmaker spoke with the Montreal duo prior to the doc’s January 28th VOD release.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jonathan Harris Peeks Inside the Lesbian Porn Industry in I Love Your Work

A three-time Webby Award winner and a 2009 World Economic Forum “Young Global Leader,” who has exhibited at MoMA and built the world’s largest time capsule with Yahoo!, Jonathan Harris can now add the firestarters IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling – for his latest interactive project I Love Your Work – to his esteemed CV. In it Harris invites us on an online journey not to the Arctic Ocean with Alaskan Eskimos – as he did in his previous piece, The Whale Hunt – but into the lives of nine women residing in a much hotter climate, that of the lesbian porn industry. Filmmaker spoke with Harris, whose guiding mission is to “make projects that reimagine how humans relate to technology and to each other,” right on the heels of his IDFA win. (Both I Love Your Work and I Want You To Want Me, in which Harris tackles online dating in similar form, screen in the New Frontier section at this year’s Sundance.)

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Director Sydney Freeland Discusses Drunktown’s Finest

I’ve been hearing the praises of Drunktown’s Finest director Sydney Freeland being sung for some time now. The 2004 Fulbright scholar and Sundance alum – whose long list of awards includes a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship and a Sundance Institute Directing Fellowship in 2010, and a 2009 Sundance Institute Native American Lab Fellowship – has also long been a fixture on the cozy New Mexico filmmaking scene. (Since I programmed the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2012 it’s not surprising the Gallup native and I even share mutual friends.) That said, as a jaded critic it’s second nature for me to simply roll my eyes at hype. Yet after watching Freeland’s debut feature, it’s safe to say I now understand exactly what the film’s executive producer Robert Redford sees in Freeland.

An authentic voice with a refreshingly nuanced vision, for one. Drunktown’s Finest follows the interweaving struggles of three young Indians – a soon-to-be father days away from the start of basic training, a college-bound adopted daughter of Christian missionaries, and a transsexual beauty pageant contestant in the running to become one of the “Women of the Navajo.” In other words, novel characters I actually haven’t seen on the big screen before. Even more remarkable, Freeland eschews easy villains in favor of creating believable people just doing what they can to get by. (And what they think is right, however misguided that may be.) And like with Patrick Wang’s similarly subtle In the Family, Freeland’s characters don’t dwell on their marginalization – be it Native American or trans or gay or any combination thereof – which is how real people, with much more weightier issues to tackle than simply defining themselves, behave. (Only in antiquated movies do LGBT folks’ lives revolve around identity 24/7.) And in addition, Freeland gives us a poignant bonus insight – that as bad as it can get on the rez, a spiritual sustenance is lost when leaving it.

Filmmaker spoke with Freeland prior to her Drunktown’s Finest debut in the NEXT section at Sundance.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.