Lynn Novick on HEMINGWAY, the Myth and Women – April Neale interviews

PBS brings Hemingway to the small screen beginning on April 5, told in three episode series. Award-winning filmmakers Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’ latest documentary series features one of America’s most famous authors, Ernest Hemingway. The film spans the author’s lifetime, from Hemingway’s early days as a boy discovering the natural world with his father, to his early journalism career before becoming America’s most famous, modern 20th century author.

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Emily Cohen Ibanez on FRUITS OF LABOR and Agricultural Child Labor (SXSW21) – Sarah Knight Adamson Interviews

The insightful film Fruits of Labor focuses on California Central Coast’s rich soil, the beautiful nature of the area, and the laborers who work the fields. Ashley, an energetic, vibrant teen, works in those fields to help provide for the family. Filmmaker Emily Cohen Ibanez met her when she was 15 years old—two years later, she filmed her senior year of High School, documenting her struggles of balancing school and her farm work.

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Wendy Morgan on SUGAR DADDY – Jennifer Merin interviews

Some films jump off the screen to announce the arrival of vital new talent. Such is the case with Canadian filmmaker Wendy Morgan’s Sugar Daddy, starring Kelly McCormack in a tour de force performance as Darren, a new age music composer and performer who is trying to break into the record industry. McCormack also wrote the script. Sugar Daddy received its premiere at the Whistler Film Festival 2020, where it was the opening night film, and it has now been selected as AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for April 2, 2021.

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Michelle J. Li on Costuming SHIVA BABY – Nell Minow interviews

Michelle J. Li designed the costumes for Shiva Baby, written and directed by Emma Seligman. It is set at a post-funeral gathering. The main character is Danielle, who arrives with her parents and runs into her ex-girlfriend and her “sugar daddy,” the man she has been sleeping with for gifts and money. He did not tell her he was married and the father of a baby. There are a lot of evasions, revelations, and confrontations, played more for farce than melodrama. In an interview, Li talked about the challenges of keeping distinctive looks for characters who are almost all wearing black and where she found the “expensive” bracelet that is the subject of much discussion in the film.

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Stacey Gregg and Andrea Riseborough on HERE BEFORE (SXSW 2021) – Leslie Combemale interviews

Stacey Gregg makes her narrative feature debut with Here Before, which takes place in a small town in Northern Ireland, and is about a grieving mother Laura (Andrea Riseborough) who finds in her neighbor’s daughter echoes of her own child Josie, who died in a car accident. Megan and Laura begin a complicated relationship filled with awkward, unsettling conversations and inappropriate attachments. All the characters in the film make questionable choices, for reasons that become clear as this slow burn story packs lots of surprises and keeps you in thrall to the last scene.

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The Assembled Ensemble on A WEEK AWAY – Nell Minow interviews

A Week Away is a sweet, unpretentious musical about a Christian summer camp for teens, told with heart and verve. Bailee Madison, who plays Avery, the daughter of the camp director, co-produced as well. Kevin Quinn plays Will, who is only at the camp because the alternative was going to juvie, Kat Conner plays the bookish Presley and Jahbril Cook plays George, the sweet, shy camper with a crush on her.

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Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina on I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) and Pandemic Production – Leslie Combemale interviews

At the height of the pandemic, and frustrated by inactivity, filmmaker Kelley Kali decided to make a film, and engaged USC film school buddies Angelique Molina, and Roma Kong to write and produce it, and Angelique to co-direct it. The dangers of Covid and a non-existent budget meant they also had to use crew members for the cast, and find locations that were free and worked for their plot. Of all the issues folks were and are facing, the threat of not being able to pay rent and become houseless hit home to the writing and production team, so I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) was born.

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Mary Wharton on TOM PETTY, SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE and her Sauce Boss (SXSW 21) – Leslie Combemale interviews

The film uses recently discovered archival footage of Tom Petty filmed between 1993 and 1995 during the making of his seminal album Wildflowers, which has since become a classic. Late last year, the other half of the songs recorded for what was originally intended to be a double album was released. In this movie, we witness recording sessions, Petty plays parts of many of those songs, discusses their inspiration, and indeed at various points is in the moment of creation. The film represents a point in Petty’s life where he is exploring new aspects of his musicianship and reinventing himself both personally and professionally.

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Jessica Bruder and Bob Wells on NOMADLAND – Sandie Angulo Chen interviews

Knowing the fascinating backstory of Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland gives audiences additional appreciation of this film’s unique style and universal appeal. Sandie Angulo Chen get the inside scoop from two of the film’s backstory principals, Jessica Bruder who wrote the book behind the adapted script and Bob Wells, a Nomad clan leader who added his own unique voice to the screenplay. Both were mentioned by Chloe Zhao in her Golden Globes acceptance speech. Sandie Angulo Chen chats with Bruder and Wells for their take on Nomadland.

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Rohena Gera on SIR – Mythily Ramachandran interviews (Guest Post)

Director Rohena Gera’s debut feature film, Sir broke all stereotypes of Indian cinema with a story that explored the changing dynamics of a relationship between Ashwin-a affluent young man and Ratna-his live-in domestic help. In India where caste and position in society determines relationships, Sir was much appreciated for its sincerity and honest narration. Sir premiered in the Critics Week at Cannes (2017) winning acclaim. Gera became the first woman filmmaker to receive the Gan Foundation award as well as a prize at the Cannes Critics Week.

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