January, 2007 Archives

30
Jan

I AM READY

by Pj in Random

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parkCityMain.jpgBY PAMELA JO BOWMAN MESA AZ – Well, that was fun. My first Sundance film festival. Who’d have thought!?! I was surprised by so many things, but mostly I surprised myself. I was so disheartened the first few days. I was watching movies and very few were movies that left me feeling empowered on any level. Finally after attending some panel discussions and interviewing a few producers and directors I began to catch a vision, MY vision.

I can see how movies are shifting. It is like so many other fields of work. Technology is forcing specialization. Even in film, I sense it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to be a jack of all trades. I also feel that filmmakers can sense the power and necessity behind networking and combining efforts. One filmmaker, who in the past has always been a solo act, collaborated on her last project with an AD (art director). She feels her film is richer and more compelling because of the combined gifts and talents. I have experienced that as well this year. I have learned from the FilmZambia.com crew the power of inter-dependence. pamDerOstwind.jpgEveryone from the crew, cast and creators depended on one another. How crucial it was to establish that trust that others would do their job while others counted on me to do mine.

So we are back and more excited then ever about all of our projects. I hate for the night to come that steals away the time to create and discover and learn. So I continue working into the night! It is so liberating to finally be able to define how I want to spend “my” time and energy. It is equally rewarding to develop ideas into thought and possibilities. Mid life really is a wonderful place to be. So bring it on 2007. I am determined. I am empowered. I am ready.

24
Jan

$$$$$ for Your Film

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY, USA — We spent over three hours in two different sessions listening to film funding entities reveal how to get money for your film. In two sentences, I can tell you everything you need to know.

1. Start your movie, make a reel and/or trailer, send it to the funder/funding agency.

2. If they think your film is worth making, you will hear from them. If you don’t hear from them, well … learn from the silence.

24
Jan

MOVIES THAT MATTER Panel Matters at Sundance 2007

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY, USA — On Monday, we attended the HOW “MOVIES THAT MATTER” CAN MATTER Panel Discussion at the Prospector Lodge. It was worth attending the festival for this panel alone! The panel consisted of men and women who were involved in this year’s festival social change films. As is typical at Sundance, the event began late and a lot of time was spent reviewing each panelist and his or her contributions to filmmaking.


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Members of the panel included filmmakers Judith Helfand (EVERYTHING’S COOL and previously, BLUE VINYL), Sean Fine (WAR/DANCE), Rory Kennedy (GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB), Eric Schlosser (author of FAST FOOD NATION), Gayle Smith (Center for American Progress), Brian Steidle (Marine Captain and subject of THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK), and Diane Weyermann (Participant Productions). They presented clips of their films and discussed their motivations for doing good in the world with cinema as their tool.

Each panelist expressed their passion and belief in their individual films. Evidence exists that their films have been a catalyst for change. Each panelist was able to provide examples of how their films had created change in the world. Very powerful. The panelists shared how they unite with grass roots and activist groups that can use films as part of their efforts. Gayle Smith (the Center for American Progress) talked about giving political power to one’s filmmaking. Like the HISTORY IS MADE Panel Discussion, this panel deepened my commitment to filmmaking. It restored my faith that film can be powerful and can create meaningful dialogue and concrete change globally. When there is conversation there is communication. When there is communication there is understanding. When there is understanding, there is a change of heart and a change in behavior.

23
Jan

HISTORY IS MADE Panel at Sundance 2007

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY, USA — On Sunday, we planned our schedule around two important panel discussions. HISTORY IS MADE was a panel about how films that deal with historical periods become the current generation’s reality for that history. Producers, directors and/or writers of films that addressed issues based on historical events were on the panel. Three documentaries were represented and one feature film. Bill Guttentag (NANKING), Julie Gavras (BLAME IT ON FIDEL), Steven Okazaki (WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN) and Marco Williams (BANISHED) brought films that dealt with the rape of Nanking (1937), the Vietnam War (1970’s), the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945) and the forced migration of black citizens from southern states following the civil war (1965 – 1930’s).

   

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Ian Buruma was the moderator for the panel discussion. There were about 50 filmmakers attending the discussion. The intimate setting of the Filmmaker Lodge created a comfortable atmosphere for discussion. Buruma introduced the panel and small clips of most of the films. This gave us a sense of the story the filmmakers were trying to convey. Each spoke about their movie and its history. They shared why they chose their specific project. They revealed who they worked with and what message they were trying to convey.

The discussion included the importance of documentation. They discussed how it is easier for countries to research, remember and document the history of OTHER countries while forgetting or burying the history of their own. It was suggested that one of the purposes of documentaries was to influence our lives today with the wisdom of the past. The panelists suggested that we view historical stories with a contemporary resonance. The question of “collective victimhood” and reparations was broached but, of course, no resolution would be forthcoming since we do not yet as a society have answers for these sorts of tragedies. Regardless, I appreciated the conversation.

22
Jan

For Sundance Tells Me So

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY (USA) — There are things you should know BEFORE coming to Sundance. I heard about a family that decided at the last minute to come to Sundance from the upper midwest. They arrived thinking they could just find a hotel, a car, and a typical ticket booth to purchase tickets for any showing of their choice. WRONG! So, this being my first year I thought some of you would like to know how to do things with minimal ‘I wish we hads.” This list is not complete or even all that accurate, so take it or leave it without judgment.

There is a FILM GUIDE that should be read cover to cover. This will enable aspiring filmmakers to be aware of events like, oh, I don’t know, meeting commissioning editors. This is an event where anyone can sign up to meet with editors from PBS, HBO, Discovery, ITVS and even Sundance channel. You sit with eight other filmmakers and the editors . You pretend that the editors are really listening with interest to what you have dedicated your life to for the last several years. They tell you to call them and they give you their card and you walk out wondering if they had special cards printed out with fake numbers on them. (The film guide is available online for print out — free!)

gephardt.jpgThe film guide also lets you review all the films being screened, their times and locations. (Films like FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO (featuring Dick Gephardt’s daughter, Chris) and THE TEN (about the Ten Commandments … like these ten Sundance mandates). They try to put everything in a handy calendar so you can plan out your day as efficiently as possible. This efficiency is only affective if you get up early and stay out late and never eat. Pretty soon the movies all blend together except the ones you hate. Those you remember vividly!(Guide free. Films are not.)

The film guide also informs you of Panel Discussions like HISTORY IS MADE, WOMEN IN FILM, MAKING MOVIES THAT MATTER. These panels include current directors, producers, writers and casts of this year’s Sundance films sharing insights and challenges about getting their film to the festival. (Guide is still free and guess what, so are most of the panels!) Check out blog on these panels, or not.

warmClothes.jpgAttire around Park City. I am a skier. So warning to skiers, avoid looking at the mountain. Really. Stop looking. Ignore the ski boots on the bus. Keep your eyes closed. Pretend the night skiing is cold, and boring and oh forget it. Ski half a day. During the festival the slopes are pretty empty. Cool. Having never just sauntered around a ski town, I was unprepared for the cold. It just is not cool to wear ski-wear to keep warm at the events. What is up with that? I suggest a long coat that covers your legs and those warm fuzzy boots to match the coat. Don’t forget that fuzzy hat! Aren’t you all that! Of course, locals will know you are a festival goer, but who cares? (Oh yea, skiers!)

Traveling around Park City. This is kind of cool. They have a shuttle system that is FREE! You just have to find the convenient locations to hop on. They are not heated, but most of the people are. If you are desperate you can always catch a ‘taxi’. They charge about $3 to $5 per person. Kind of expensive for the ONE mile ride, but sometimes the five spot is worth finding out that thawing out can be painful in a pleasant and itchy kind of way.

Nourishment and sustenance It is a good thing that so many things are free because the food isn’t. I think that they have a special menu (with special prices)for the festival week, but I can’t prove that. I spent over $8.00 for two slices of French toast! ARGH!

Airline tickets. Do it in advance. Duh.

Hotel reservations — Do it in advance, like in October and then you will have money for food when you are here. Seriously, if you go with friends you can all camp out in a condo for a fair price per night. Divided up that is. Check it out. Best if you are near Main Street. Easy access. No parking problems. No driving issues either. And for the sneak in skier, there is a lift right down town. Really!

Film tickets. You can go through some weird ticket process and pay a fortune for this lovely opportunity or you can go to the movie an hour early, stand in the wait list line, paying $10.00 per ticket or $15.00 for Premieres (this year). Sometimes you can even find scalpers with tickets. The lines are inside a tent so you won’t freeze. No saving seats for friends in the wait list line! Yea right!

Parties. I’m too exhausted to go. I am here to learn as much as I can about filmmaking. I don’t care about partying. Guess my age is showing. I hear there is some action going on. So if you are into that sort of thing have fun. I come for the movies, to learn how to make better movies and to write about what I think. Scary I know. What is this world coming too?

Eleven? Kind of like a bakers dozen. This one is simple. Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t brag out loud about your film or who you met or speak too loudly on your cell phone! Tomorrow I won’t remember who you are and you won’t remember who I am. Although next year one of us could be on a panel! YIKES!

22
Jan

Lost in Park City

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY, USA — For those of you who visit this blog often or know me personally, you know my reputation with luggage. It’s not good. The airlines lost my luggage not once, but TWICE during our trip to Zambia. I am used to to traveling with minimal clothing and supplies. So used to not having what I need that I have subconsciously made it a way of life.

Examples?

CYN_PJ_sm.jpgWell, after being disappointed in some of the movies here at Sundance, we left the building early. On our way home, I remembered that I had worn gloves. Nice leather gloves. Gloves my mother gave me. Gloves that I needed! We returned to the theater. I slithered in, hoping no one would notice I was the one who had left early. The young man sitting next to me was walking out with them in his hand. Gloves found, anonymity lost. During our next outing at the Press Reception for NANKING, we left the building excited to have accomplished our goal of interviewing the directors and actors. It was a chilly night. Suddenly, I realized I was chilly because I left my neck scarf behind. My son’s neck scarf. Ooops. Cyndi returned for it and found it (literally) under the seat of some guests.

Now, whenever we leave the condo everyone asks, “Pam, are you feeling naked?” Huh? I have become so absent minded! It must be the high altitude. Yesterday, I forgot my camera! Today, when we went to pitch our films to HBO, I forgot the reel! Then later at a panel discussion I left Cyndi’s phone in the cafe! Funny thing is, is upon our return for said items good things have happened. I found them! We also gained unexpected meetings or access to more information. It all ends up good in the end. Luggage returned, items found, memories made. All is not lost.

17
Jan

We’ll Be There

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MESA ARIZONA – We are still editing. We are still excited about the potential of these two films. As we review the footage and discuss ways to make these films tell the story, we become stubbornly determined to finish this work of art. For us Africa was like a dream. Were we really there? These films are evidence to us that yes we were there and we did what we said we would do. In our dark editing room we have moments of wonder at the beauty of Africa. We see the aspirations of the Zambian people in their eyes, in their determined stance, in their graceful, but unwavering movements. Their lives are an inspiration to us to keep working, to keep trying, to keep editing.

Because of the films and the expense of editing the films, we didn’t ever seriously consider spending the time and money it would take to go to Sundance this year. Cyndi has sold her house to pay off these films. That is how dedicated she is to them. As the time for the festival approached we received the program guide. During lunch breaks we would review what films would be shown, what panel discussions would be offered. We saw the seminars being taught by filmmakers we respect. It was then that we realized going to Sundance would benefit not only our filmmaking, but also our current films, BAD TIMING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. We started toying with the idea. How could we do it? Could we take the time? How could we afford to go? Then one day we realized we could not afford NOT to go.

slcms_home_leftimage.jpgIt was amazing how things fell into place. A small condo was cancelled and offered at a discounted price. Air miles were made available. Cyndi cannot finance anyone’s experience but her own. Those of us going are taking care of our own arrangements. We are going. As we watch the films and attend the discussions and seminars I believe everything we learn will be applied to our current project for Zambia. We will return in 10 days with an experience that will help us finish these films.

So Friday morning we fly to Salt Lake City. Brrrrrr. We get to stay right there at the Marriott in Park City! We feel bad for whoever had to cancel their Condo reservations….sort of! Kind of like their loss is our HUGE gain. Life works like that sometimes. We like to think that it was meant to be. Serendipity. Regardless we are looking forward to every moment. You can even see us on our live web casts reporting on all the events. Check out cinemaminima.com. We’ll be there!

15
Jan

Sundance 2007 Goes To War

by Pj in Random

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bylinebowman155x96.jpgBY PAMELA BOWMAN, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA — Edwin Starr sang, “War, huh, yeah … What is it good for … Absolutely nothing …”     But, the topic of war seems to be good for something at Sundance 2007. Seven films found the topic of war — conflicts of the present and past — worth remembering, reliving and recreating to grant filmgoers access to this ancient and most inhumane activity.

ghostsabu.jpgGHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB, directed by Rory Kennedy, will screen in the Documentary Competition. Rory Kennedy ‘s documentary provides insight into what occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The film examines what and who was responsible for the abuses that occurred to the inmates. It also looks at how the United States, the world leader for human rights, excuses itself from obeying the very laws for which it has gone to war to protect. Americans will find this film revelatory, uncomfortable and disturbing. For those who have the valor to watch this film, Kennedy offers the opportunity to engage in the discussion of how to defend and protect the liberties the U.S. professes all people to have.

nankingWomen.jpgNANKING directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman will also screen in the Documentary Competition. In contrast to Abu Ghraib, NANKING depicts humankind at its most humane and also at its most inhumane. In 1937, the Japanese Army entered the Chinese city of Nanking. Hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens were killed. Among those were women who were first raped, tortured and barbarically murdered. A small group of Westerners in Nanking united to save, protect and shelter some of the citizens from their tormentors. By comparing the actions of these two groups, the film shows the spectrum of good and evil that exists in the human race. It forces an internal interrogation to decide what we might have done and what we should be willing to do today.

In addition, the film exemplifies the importance of documenting history. Guttentag and Sturman were able to recreate these events from journals, diaries, pictures and footage. Through interviews of survivors from both countries they were able to recreate an event that many would leave buried with the corpses of men, women and children of Nanking. They have been resurrected in this film to teach us all the power of the individual.

noEndSight.jpgDirector Charles Ferguson brings the Iraq documentary NO END IN SIGHT to Sundance 2007. The power of the individual is showcased in this film. Unfortunately, that individual is the President of the United States. Ferguson interviewed high-level government officials who were in Iraq prior to the war and others who were present during the military discussions on what should occur. NO END IN SIGHT exposes the incompetence of the American administration and the consequences of their choices. It also shows the results of those choices and the impact on Iraqis, Americans and the world. This film reveals the roots of this war for anyone willing to watch it. While it may be difficult for any nation to admit that their leaders failed them, future voters will benefit from the awareness that elected officials could better represent their values and expectations. Many Americans may have believed that they could trust their government to tell the truth. This film shows a betrayal of that trust in concrete terms. Viewers will be unable to say they don’t know the truth unless they continue to ignore it.

whitelightBlackrain.jpgWHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN by director Stephen Okazaki is haunting in its depiction of the events and the results of the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945. He visits with 14 people who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaskai on August 6 and 9th, respectively. Over 200,000 civilians died instantly. This is the story of those who survived. In some cases, the audience witnesses that there are some are things that may be worse then death. In addition to the survivors, those Americans who carried out the bombings are also interviewed. They talk about how they live with their obedient compliance to their orders. WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN reminds the world’s citizens to recall what happened 62 years ago. It reminds us to recognize how fragile the balance still is between countries with different cultures, beliefs and values. In one brief, blinding moment, the world was irrevocably changed. The escalating tensions in Iran and North Korea should cause us to recall that millions of lives can be destroyed. All hearts will be haunted by the stories of the survivors of the White Light / Black Rain.

graceIsGone.jpgDirector James C. Strouse explores the impact of war in dramatic narrative form. His film GRACE IS GONE will screen in the Dramatic Competition. Lead actor John Cusack said the following about his choice to do this film. “Art is political in the deepest sense when it gives people a sense of place within a political framework. The circumstances of this war in particular are buried in spin and hidden agendas, and I think it is an artist’s job to try to expose the truth, in this case an emotional truth. There are some moral questions that needed to be asked about this war that go beyond political discourse and polemics. In my view, not every discussion needs to be one of point — counterpoint. If we can’t acknowledge that pain and grief caused by war is real, then we’ve really gone mad. That’s why I thought GRACE IS GONE was a really important movie to do.”

GRACE IS GONE is a dramatic film that powerfully depicts the impact of the Iraqi war on the individual. As Americans, we are all affected by the war, but that impact is nothing compared to what a family experiences with the loss of a father, mother, daughter or son. GRACE IS GONE is Strouse’s debut as a director. He worked closely with Cusack who was also a producer of this film. Their commitment to the truth is evident in the characters and their relationship with each other. The true strength of this movie is the subtle way in which it brings a deep understanding to the viewers about that loss. It also gives the viewing audience a sense of place and allows the audience to explore their own political framework, Cusack and Strouse help us all to experience that war and art are political.

hotHousePrisoners.jpgHOT HOUSE by director Shimon Dotan appears in the World Documentary Competition. There is a saying in the U.S. that prisons teach inmates how to be criminals. In Israel, nearly 10,000 Palestinians have been sentenced to prison for acts of murder and other criminal behavior. Dotan interviews these prisoners and finds future terrorists are being created within these prisons and their plans are being formulated within the prison walls.

Dotan’s documentary emphasizes everyday prison life. It shows that prisoners have access to newspapers, television and, more importantly, each other. While there are inmates who express their commitment to the negotiation process, there are others who did not and do not regret their terrorist actions. In their culture, they are heroes and martyrs. They embrace this belief and continue to embrace it and encourage it with their children. The strength of their belief is deepened during their time in prison. They say there is strength in numbers. As the number of prisoners in Israeli prisons increase, Dotan shows that Palestinian nationalism and ideology strengthens as well.

3comradesWidow.jpgMasha Novikova’s THREE COMRADES show how the daily lives of citizens are fragmented by war. Chechnya fights for its independence from the Soviet Union as their citizens face terror and despair. They struggle with the fear of the unknown future while remembering the hard but predictable past. War kills more then lives. It kills childhood and memories and hope.

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