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Film Festivals

AFI Hollywood 50th anniversery: Failures

Location location location. That’s the only reason to stay at the Hollywood and Highland hostel. It’s right across the street from the iconic Chinese theater. It’s where I stayed during the AFI film festival, which was okay, I guess. There were lots of bad things that happened that didn’t have anything to do with them, which kind of ruined everything, but what I want to begin with is a few films that I didn’t see.

That’s right, didn’t. It wasn’t scheduling, although there were a number of those which were at the same time as things I wanted to see, no, there were a number of films that I wanted to see but were either cancelled or changed at the last minute to somewhere I couldn’t see them or worse.

It didn’t actually start with the Kevin Spacey thing. Kevin Spacey, as everyone at this point in time knows, was retroactively thrown out of his latest film for being gay at the wrong time and Ridley Scott pulled the film in order to digitally replace him with Christopher Plummer. So the thing was pulled. But that’s not the first thing that was pulled, noooooo. The first thing that was pulled was an animated film called “The Breadwinner.” Now the question as to WHY they decided to pull this G-rated film that has had nothing but good buzz about it is a bit of a mystery.

The person at the box office that that it had become a “private” screening after someone had bought a block of tickets for a school group, which would be fine had not they started giving out tickets for the thing well before which became invalid.

Here’s the official preview:

THE BREADWINNER – This timely, inspiring and beautifully animated tale follows an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan, who must disguise herself as a boy to support her family. DIR Nora Twomey. SCR Anita Doron. CAST Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, Kawa Ada, Noorin Gulamgaus. Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg

It was supposed to be really good and was publicized. So why did they pull it? It can’t be because they sold a bloc of tickets, an extra screening room wouldn’t be that hard to procure, especially in Hollywood, where there are screening rooms anywhere. Doing something like that just doesn’t look good for the people at AFI.

There has to be another reason….

The reason for not seeing this one is even less understandable:

MOLLY’S GAME – Oscar ® nominee Jessica Chastain stars in Oscar ® -winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, set in the glamorous world of high-stakes underground poker games. DIR Aaron Sorkin. SCR Aaron Sorkin. CAST Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp. USA

It was part of the special screenings section. It was on the schedule, and they had set up the place for the line to start and everything…and less than two hours before showtime….BANG! It was gone. No not gone, changed to the closing night Gala.

Now you remember that the original closing night Gala was Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World with Kevin Spacey, but that was pulled and there was going to be, or so they said, replaced by Dan Gilroy's Roman J. Israel, Esq., starring Denzel Washington. But that, which was another film I was unable to see because it would be pulled almost as soon as it was announced, was….you guessed it right! Then it got put back on the day before, but still…jeez!

This wasn’t all, not by a long shot. They had an unannounced ban on “electronics.” I.e, if you’re phone was so big that it looked like an i-pad, it was forbidden. Why? So people wouldn’t take pictures of the films or Q and As. But then again, everyone on line had their phones out and nobody was bothering them….so they were nice enough to let me go in. I did a better job of hiding mine and nobody was the wiser.

High Falls Film Festival Spotlights Rochester Talent


If films focused on women and their experiences are rare, women in roles behind the camera are rarer still. Shorter still is the list of film festivals with a mission to represent female perspectives. The 12th annual High Falls Film Festival — held in Rochester, New York, from October 23 - 26, 2014 — carries on its tradition of honoring independent films by female storytellers who work on both sides of the camera.

The opening film I Know a Woman Like That was produced by mother-daughter team Elaine and Virginia Madsen. Virginia, best known for Sideways (2004), produced the film that her mother — poet, producer and playwright Elaine — directed. The director will be on hand to discuss the movie. With Q&As following most films, festival goers get an ample opportunity to interact with filmmakers.

The festival will debut three world and two U.S. premieres among its 19 screenings of over 35 international and U.S. films, documentaries and shorts. Paula Hernandez's U.S. romantic drama Un Amor Argentina  about adolescent infatuation that unfolds over time into an enduring love triangle — premieres on October 23. Alexis Krasilovsky's U.S. documentary Let Them Eat Cake premieres October 24 and looks at pastries through a scope both sensual and socioeconomic.

Also debuting October 24 is Courtney Cobb's world-premiere documentary Crafting a Nation about the breweries behind the craft beer craze. A second world-premiere documentary is Caroline Krugmann's We Weren't Given Anything for Free, about 22-year-old Annita Malavasi becoming one of the Italian resistance's few female commanders in German-occupied Italy. Lastly, Ann LeSchander's romantic comedy The Park Bench uses both live action and animation to tell the story of a graduate student and her American Literature tutor falling in love over their park bench talks.

There will be three separate short programs: Short Cuts, the Women of SoFA Short Program put on by RIT's School of Film and Animation, and a free program of 14 Children's Shorts from five countries. One of these films has special Rochester interest, as it was made in the local Public School 8 after-school program.

Another feature of particular interest for Rochester-area film enthusiasts is the educational panel Lights, Camera Action: Tips for local Filmmakers. More than just adding local interest, these regional features foreground HFFF's affiliation with Rochester as the birthplace of motion picture film: George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company in 1888 and invented motion picture film there, according to the HFFF website.

To learn more, go to:

High Falls Film Festival
October 23 - 26, 2014

Dryden Theatre
900 East Ave
Rochester, NY 14604

Little 5
240 East Ave

Rochester, NY 14604

Getting Real With "Red Hollywood" At The Film Society

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening Noël Burch and Thom Andersen’s not uninteresting essay-film, Red Hollywood, which explores the contribution of screenwriters who were Communists or fellow travelers, in its documentary series, The Art of the Real, which runs from April 11th to April 26th, 2014.

With his work of the 1960s and ‘70s, Burch emerged as one of the most important critics in the history of cinema, an arch-modernist dialectical materialist — although, as I understand it, with a Stalinist background — and went on to direct avant-garde films. He later repudiated his rejection of Hollywood and adopted a more sociological, less ultra-formalist approach —as reflected in Red Hollywood — dovetailing here with the interests of Andersen, an intriguing figure in his own right.
rh2The outcome of this collaboration is a work devoid of any aesthetic dimension but not without some intellectual rewards. It is a remarkable fact that of the many clips of old films employed in Red Hollywood, so few invite an artistic appreciation of the contributions of these victims of the McCarthyite blacklist. (That so many of the clips are from poor copies only enhances this impression.) One interesting exception is an extraordinary scene between Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Genevieve Tobin from the 1934 Success at Any Price, scripted by John Howard Lawson. At least as a piece of writing — and superb acting by Fairbanks — this is exceedingly impressive. Interviews with blacklistees such as Paul Jarrico, Alfred Levitt and Ring Lardner Jr are illuminating, but the real highlight among these is the brilliant commentary by Abraham Polonsky, probably the greatest writer and director among those expelled from Hollywood in the wake of the “Red Scare”. 
Red Hollywood screens on Saturday, April 12th at 6:30 pm and on Sunday, April 13th at 2pm.
Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY  10023

212 875 5601212 875 5601

The Debut SR Socially Relevant Festival Offer Meaningful Fare This March

SRlogoThe Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York focuses on socially relevant human stories to raise awareness of social problems by offering positive solutions through the medium of cinema. 

A new non-profit film festival, it runs from March 14 to the 20th, 2014, at New York’s Quad Cinema; its main slate offers an international selection of narrative and documentary features representing a dozen nations.

Founded by award-winning actor, filmmaker and curator Nora Armani, the festival showcases films with human interest stories and socially impactful themes as a response to the proliferation of violent storytelling. 

The festival founders and supporters believe that by expanding knowledge about diverse cultures and the human condition as a whole, it’s possible to create a better world free of violence, hate and crime.

The festival shines the spotlight on filmmakers who tell compelling, socially relevant narratives across a broad range of social issues without resorting to gratuitous violence and violent forms of movie making.

Over 30 narrative and documentary films will screen including 12 features that compete for the Grand Prize — a week-long theatrical engagement at the Quad Cinema, courtesy of the QuadFlix Select Program. The 10 documentaries will compete for the documentary prize which offers the winner will a VOD DVD distribution deal courtesy of Cinema Libre Studio, a leader in the distribution of social issue documentaries and independent feature films.

The following lists the main slate of films in competition.  

Coney Island: Dreams for Sale
Alessandra Giordano
USA, 81min., 2013

Dovid Meyer
Paul Mones
USA/Israel, 101 min., 2013

Jean-Albert Lievre
France, 2014, 85min.

Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream
Patrick Lovell
USA, 120 min., 2013

Full Circle
Zhang Yang
China, 2012,104min.

If Only Everyone
Nataliya Belyauskene
Armenia, 2012, 94min.

Indian Summer
Simon Brook
France, 84 min., 2013

My Love Awaits Me by the Sea (Habibi Biyestannani and el Bahr)
Mais Darwazah
Palestine, Qatar, Germany, Jordan
80min., 2013

Offside Trap (Abseitsfalle)
Stefan Hering
Germany, 98min., 2012

Orphans of the Genocide
Bared Maronian
USA, 91min., 2013

Small Small Thing
Jessica Vale
USA, 85min., 2013

Feature Documentary:

Coal Rush
Lorena Luciano & Filipo Piscopo
USA, 85min., 2013

Chris Bravo, Lindsey Schneider
USA, 50min., 2013 (NYFA artist)

Destiny’s Bridge
Jack Ballo
USA, 80min., 2013 (NYFA artist)

Fred Ho's Last Year
Steven de Castro
USA, 58min., 2013

From the Black You Make Color
Richie Sherman and Judy Maltz
USA, Israel, 75min., 2012

Hamshen Community at the Crossroads of Past and Present
Lucine Sahakyan
Armenia, Turkey, 60min., 2012

Not Who We Are
Carol Mansour
Lebanon, 72min., 2013

Stable Life
Sara MacPherson
USA, 52min., 2013

The Throwaways
Bhawin Suchak
USA, 62min., 2013

Journalist/author/radio commentator Amy Goodman, host of  will deliver the keynote address on "The Impact of Socially Relevant Films" and will present an award for a film in the Rated SR Social Justice Category.  Democracy Now! currently aired by more than 1,000 radio, television, satellite and cable TV networks in North America, and watched in dozens of countries via the Internet.

Partner supporters include:

· Academic partner, the School of the Visual Arts Social Documentary department, home of the new MFA in Social Documentary filmmaking.

· Dailymotion (, the official video media partner. A selection of close to 100 film trailers from the festival submissions are viewable on an official festival page, garnering close to 100,000 visits to date.

· Village Voice (Media partner)

Other promotional partners of the festival include: 

NYFA, Indieflix, Unifrance Films International, Cineuropa, Alouette Communications, FIAF, Samuel Infirmier, Final Draft and Center for Remembering and Sharing.

New-York based metalsmith designer Michael Aram has donated a special trophy to be awarded to the recognized Rated SR honoree. 

The festival also presents the Vanya Exerjian award to a film that raises awareness to violence against women and girls, in commemoration of Armani’s late cousin and uncle, victims of a violent hate crime.

The closing night includes the Awards Ceremony reception which takes place at the Tenri Center (across from the Quad Cinema) where one can applaud the winners, see the filmmakers win their awards, and view the closing night films all on one night.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales each year of the festival will be donated to a charity selected from the fields of: poverty, homelessness, cancer and aging. Rated SR aims to promote positive social change through the powerful medium of cinema.   

For tickets there is a variety of packages and discounted ticket options are now on sale at:

Individual tickets are available at Quad Cinema:

Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York
March 14-20, 2014

The Quad Cinema
34 West 13th Street
New York, NY

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