Film by Hassan Fazili tells story of director and his family who fled Afghanistan under threat from Taliban
Sympathy for asylum-seekers is in short supply around much of the world of late. But a new documentary is helping people understand what it's like for a family driven from their home, harried by an uncertain fate.
Midnight Traveler, directed by Afghan filmmaker Hassan Fazili, won the McBaine Documentary Feature Award Sunday night at the San Francisco International Film Festival's Golden Gate Awards ceremony, a testament to the film's power to generate empathy among viewers.
Fazili faced death after the Taliban reacted with violent fury to his previous documentary, Peace, assassinating the subject of the film and putting a bounty on Fazili's head. He was forced to flee Afghanistan with his wife, also a filmmaker, and their two young daughters. The film documents their struggle to find refuge in Europe.
...Beautiful and compelling. A true achievement of filmmaking and parenting.
The jury called Midnight Traveler “an incredible document that is beautiful and compelling. A true achievement of filmmaking and parenting.” Jurors included Gina Duncan of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Violet Lucca of Harper's Magazine and film programmer Sudeep Sharma. The award comes with a $10,000 prize.
Oscilloscope Laboratories, which acquired North American rights to Midnight Traveler, plans a theatrical release later in the year.
The McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award went to The Seer and the Unseen, directed by Sara Dosa. SFFilm describes the film as a "magically real fable," adding, "The volcanic rock that covers most of Iceland is not just beautiful and protected in the Nature Conservation register, it is also purportedly the home to elves, trolls, and other hidden people. When a new road is set to be built through a lava field, environmentalists including Ragnhildur 'Ragga' Jónsdóttir—a 'seer' who can communicate with the elves—must fight to preserve the sacred rock while combating Iceland’s push to grow economically."
The Seer and the Unseen won a $5,000 prize. A $2,000 prize went to Where Chaos Reigns, winner of the Documentary Short award. Braulio Jatar and Anaïs Michel directed the film which jurors hailed “for its audacity, its haunting images and its ability to bring us closer to the crisis in Venezuela than anything we’ve seen thus far in America.”
A Special Jury Mention went to the short documentary Edgecombe, directed by Crystal Kayiza. Jurors in the shorts competition included film programmers Emily Doe and Jacqueline Lyanga and filmmaker Trevor Jimenez.
SFFilm, now in its 62nd year, opened April 10 and wraps on Tuesday, April 23.
Nonfictionfilm.com exclusive: Airbnb gets into doc game, producing Tribeca title 'Gay Chorus Deep South'
'We wanted to help amplify' message of David Charles Rodrigues film, accommodation-sharing company tells NFF
Airbnb, the accommodations-sharing giant that has put a roof over the head of millions of travelers worldwide, is entering the documentary field.
Nonfictionfilm.com can report Airbnb developed and produced Gay Chorus Deep South, a film about a groundbreaking tour of Southern states by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, which will hold its world premiere April 29 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"This is Airbnb’s first documentary feature film," the San Francisco-based company tells Nonfictionfilm.com exclusively.
We believe that every person - regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity - should not only be treated with dignity and respect, but should be celebrated.
David Charles Rodrigues directed the documentary that follows 300 members of the chorus, led by conductor Tim Seelig, on a 10-day tour of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
"The film depicts the challenges the Chorus faced as they took their music inside of people's homes, churches and concert halls to inspire conversation around inclusivity and use the power of song to unite local communities," according to a press release provided to NFF. "The journey also challenges Tim and other Chorus members who fled the South to confront their own fears, pain and prejudices on a journey towards reconciliation."
In a statement to Nonfictionfilm.com, Airbnb Head of Creative James Goode noted, “We believe that every person - regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity - should not only be treated with dignity and respect, but should be celebrated. When we heard the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was touring to sing about those values, we wanted to help amplify this shared mission.”
“Making this film with Airbnb and the Chorus has been an experience of a lifetime,” Rodrigues commented. “When we learned about the tour, I immediately saw a rare chance of telling an emotional story in divisive times. What we saw up close, was a positive movement of acceptance and belonging. It’s a humbling opportunity to premiere at Tribeca and most importantly to spread the Chorus’s message to the world.”
It's unclear what future plans Airbnb may have to fund and produce additional films -- either fiction or nonfiction. IMDBpro.com does not list any upcoming cinematic projects from the company.
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus will perform live after the world premiere of the documentary at the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Theater in Manhattan. Watch the film's exclusive trailer below.
Tribeca Film Festival: Eclectic group of doc jurors announced, including Orlando von Einsiedel, Julie Goldman and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
The 18th annual edition of the festival runs April 24-May 5
When it comes to awarding prizes at film festivals around the world, the unwritten rule states that doc people judge documentaries and narrative/fiction people judge narrative/fiction films. But Tribeca doesn't roll like that. They prefer to mix it up.
That was clear on Tuesday as Tribeca revealed an eclectic group to serve as jurors in the documentary categories for the 18th edition of the festival, including comedic actor David Cross and future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Cross, known for his work on the TV series Arrested Development, will join fellow comedic performer Tig Notaro on the panel judging the Best New Documentary Director Competition. Also serving on that jury are actress Kathrine Narducci (The Sopranos) and actor Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire). The only juror in that section with a more traditional nonfiction film resume is Orlando von Einsiedel, the Oscar-winning director of The White Helmets.
A handful of well-established doc figures, meanwhile, will serve on the jury for Documentary Feature Competition. They include Oscar-nominated producer Julie Goldman (Life, Animated), director Robert Greene (Bisbee '17) and filmmaker Cheryl McDonough (America Inside Out).
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is among those who will serve on the jury judging the Short Documentary and Student Visionary competitions. He will be joined by (among others) Buster Scher, founder of Hoops Nation, actress Kathy Najimy, actor David Krumholtz, and Sheila Nevins, the former longtime head of HBO Documentary Films.
Below is the full list of jurors across the Tribeca categories.
The jurors for the 2019 Documentary Feature Competition section are:
The jurors for the 2019 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions section are:
The jurors for the 2019 U.S. Narrative Feature Competition section are:
The jurors for the 2019 International Narrative Feature Competition section are:
The jurors for the 2019 Best New Narrative Director Competition section are:
The jurors for the 2019 Narrative Short Competition section are:
The jurors for the 2018 Storyscapes Competition are:
The jurors for the 2019 Nora Ephron Award are:
The jurors for the 2018 Tribeca X Award are:
On centenary of Merce Cunningham's birth, new clip released for Cunningham-themed documentary 'If The Dancer Dances'
Film directed by Maia Wechsler opens in New York April 26 and LA a week later, with national release to follow
On the 100th anniversary of dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham's birth, a clip has been released from a new documentary that celebrates his work.
If the Dancer Dances, directed by Maia Wechsler and produced by Wechsler and Lise Friedman, opens in New York on Friday, April 26 and the following Friday, May 3, in Los Angeles. A national release will follow (more information here).
"If the Dancer Dances invites viewers into the intimate world of the dance studio," according to a press release about the documentary. "Stephen Petronio, one of today’s leading dance-makers, is determined to help his dancers breathe new life into RainForest (1968), an iconic work by the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham. With help from three members of the former Cunningham company, the film tracks Petronio’s dancers as they strive to re-stage this great work, revealing what it takes to keep a dance – and a legacy – alive."
The dance studio is a private and mysterious place. If the Dancer Dances grants us rare access, bringing us into the studio to watch the staging of a Merce Cunningham masterwork on the Stephen Petronio Company.
The documentary has won praise from no less a figure than Mikhail Baryshnikov.
"The dance studio is a private and mysterious place. If the Dancer Dances grants us rare access, bringing us into the studio to watch the staging of a Merce Cunningham masterwork on the Stephen Petronio Company," Baryshnikov has said. "It's the tracking of this intimate process, a dance being passed one body to another, that makes this film a great gift."
Watch the new clip below. The trailer is posted beneath the clip.
Four-hour long film by Anand Patwardhan takes on 'casteism and Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism'
The Audience Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles has gone to Reason, a documentary by Anand Patwardhan that directly addresses the disturbing rise of Hindu nationalism in India.
The prize was announced as the 17th edition of the festival wrapped on Sunday at Regal L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Patwardhan was present to receive the honor, as was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize, which went to the narrative feature Widow of Silence.
"Divided into eight chapters and told over four hours, Patwardhan surveys the history of and contemporary struggle against casteism and Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism," the festival notes in its program.
Since 2014... Indian politicians have normalized hardline Hindu nationalism through draconian cow protection laws, the renaming of cities with Muslim names, and the appointment of extremist Hindu nationalists to powerful positions.
Populism and nativism have become an increasingly stark feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which came to power in 2014. As such, the movement presaged the nativist/populist message of Donald Trump, elected as U.S. president two years later. (The push to define India as a Hindu state, meanwhile, finds an echo in Israeli politics where the subject of how Israel defines itself -- as either a pluralistic democracy or a Jewish state -- is a critical issue).
"While many Hindu nationalists claim an ancient history of Hindu ascension and power, Patwardhan examines the political, colonialist roots of this belief and the equally profound history of liberation and commitment to the values of democracy and secularism championed by the leaders and current day activists for a free, non-religious India," the festival writes of Reason. "He shows this conflict as one of literal life and death, from political assassinations to lynchings, for the very soul of the nation, with tentacles that reach nearly every level of life and society."
Prize winners at the 17th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. L-R Praveen Morchhale, director of "Widow of Silence"; Shazia Iqbal, director of "Babeek (Dying Wind in Her Hair)", and Anand Patwardhan, director of "Reason." Los Angeles, Sunday, April 14, 2019. Photo by Javeed Shaik/courtesy Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Watch excerpts from Reason here:
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.