Free Angela Davis Director Shola Lynch: "Our history is being held hostage by corporations"

Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 10:51 am
Angela Davis.

Director Shola Lynch has been mining the rich terrain of black American history for a while now, notably in the award-winning 2004 documentary Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed, about the 1972 presidential campaign by the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American and the first woman to mount a serious, credible run for the office, and most recently with last year's Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners, her soulful, illuminating documentary about the activist icon's notorious 1971 trial on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder. (The DVD was released last week.)

Spike Lee on Critics of His New Kickstarter Project: "Fuck 'Em"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 10:45 am

The following is a re-print of a Village Voice interview that ran on July 25, 2013. Lee has since hit his goal.
On July 22, filmmaker Spike Lee joined the legions of artists on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, from Zach Braff funding a Garden State-like vehicle all the way to the writers printing poems with construction paper and glitter. The 3-minute long video is light on details about Lee's newest project, just that this latest addition to his "jointography" will be about the "addiction to blood." Just two days into the campaign Lee has managed to raise nearly $150,000 toward his $1.25 million goal. There's 27 days to go.

Runnin' Scared dropped by Lee's studio in Fort Greene to ask him about the project. We talked about the importance of crowd-funding to independent artists, his upcoming remake of the Korean blood ballet Oldboy, and his upcoming date with Steven Soderbergh at the Garden.

Maniac Director Franck Khalfoun on Updating the Slasher Classic for Modern Audiences

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 11:14 am

Elijah Wood is a Maniac.
The original Maniac hit theaters in 1980, and quickly became a slasher classic by heralding a new era in on-screen depravity. The grimy, gritty film about a serial killer who scalps women and collects mannequins famously depicted a close-up of a shotgun blast to the head, multiple scalpings and other radical -- for the time -- images of violence and gore. Although the movie still has a dedicated following, it's fallen into relative obscurity, with modern-day movies like Saw making its once-shocking kills look relatively tame. But that just makes it ripe for a remake, which is what producer Alexandre Aja and director Franck Khalfoun have done, updating the story to the present day and resurrecting the heart of Maniac with a new style and daring approach.

We caught up with Khalfoun to talk about why horror fans are the best film fans, how L.A. is the new New York and bringing something fresh to a classic horror film.

Pedro Almodovar: "The Whole World has Changed for the Worse"

Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm
© 2013 - Sony Pictures Classics
Pedro Almodóvar (center), Javier Cámara and Carlos Areces in I'm So Excited.

"The whole world has changed for the worse," Pedro Almodóvar says, a sentiment that's apparent in his latest comedy, I'm So Excited!. The film is reminiscent of another time, one the director admits he feels some yearning for: the 1980s, and, more specifically, Almodóvar's films from that era. "The thing I miss the most about the '80s is my own youth," he says, "but I also miss the feeling of freedom when Spain was coming out of the Franco dictatorship. There was an explosion of liberty. Right now, socially speaking, Spain is going through a regression. If people don't keep fighting for their rights, we're going to be in danger of losing some of them."

Why You Should See Craft Cocktail Documentary Hey Bartender, Now in Wide Release

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Douglas Tirola behind the bar at Employees Only.
By weaving together the stories behind New York City cocktail lair Employees Only and Westport, Connecticut corner bar Dunvilles, director Douglas Tirola takes on the changing world of bartending and the rise of craft mixology in his recently released documentary Hey Bartender. And while the film focuses on a pair of tenders with rich back stories, it also features insight from some of the most celebrated people in the industry, including Dale DeGroff, PDT's Jim Meehan, Milk & Honey's Sasha Petraske, and Clover Club's Julie Reiner, who give anecdotal detail on how bartending became a celebrated profession and not just a plan b pursuit.

As the movie heads into wide release, we chatted with Tirola about why he opted to tell the story of this community, what he was trying to capture, and how making a movie about bartending changed the way he drinks.

Shakespeare, Comic Books -- for Joss Whedon, It's All the Same Thing

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm

After completing five months of principal photography on The Avengers, Joss Whedon flew back to Los Angeles and threw himself a welcome-home party. As the guests circled his pool, he asked friends like Firefly's Nathan Fillion, Angel's Amy Acker, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Alexis Denisof if they were busy the following week. "I was stalking everybody," says Whedon. "Nobody knew why."

Director Rama Burshtein on Fill the Void: It's About the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community, But Isn't for Them

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

The Israeli arranged-marriage drama Fill the Void begins as a spy caper. Eighteen-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron) and her mother (Irit Sheleg) play P.I. at the supermarket, observing a handsome asthmatic with gold-rim glasses and a gawky frame to see if he's marriage material. Satisfied with the way he reads the ingredient label on a box, the two women agree: Shira will marry him.

My Perestroika, Her Perestroika

Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 9:49 am

In 1991, college freshman Robin Hessman traveled to what was then called Leningrad, to spend a semester abroad in a country that had fascinated her since childhood. She ended up living in Russia for the bulk of the 90s, eventually produced the country's version of Sesame Street. Her Sundance competition documentary My Perestroika chronicles not her own experience as an expat during the barely-post Cold War era, but the experience of five thirtysomething Russians who attended Soviet school together, and are now living very different lives in a post-Communist world for which they had no preparation.

The great hallmark of Hessman's film is its intimacy; her subjects, ranging from husband and wife school teachers to a punk-turned-subway busker to an international businessman, casually tell their own stories over vodka and home movies, with no top-down narration or intervention. I interviewed Hessman here at Sundance, and following the form of the film, below the jump she tells her own story of coming to make a film about the "Russian Pepsi generation."

Sonic Youth Spawn Kidnapped at Sundance

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 9:18 am

In today's print edition of the Village Voice (and tomorrow's edition of the LA Weekly), you'll find a story I wrote on Daddy Long Legs, the second feature by filmmaking brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, which premieres at Sundance this week and is now available for rental on cable VOD. The film, starring Ronald Bronstein (the director of Frownland) and Frey and Sage Ranaldo (sons of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee), is based on the Safdie brothers' own childhood memories of their father, who at one point kidnapped the boys and moved them from Manhattan to Queens. In a crazy alternative marketing move for the indie film, a Daddy producer landed the brothers a spot on CNN's Campbell Brown show talking about familial kidnapping. Watch that above, and find out how you can watch the film on your cable system here.

Joan Rivers: NBC Can Go Fuck Themselves

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg have made a name for themselves making documentaries (The Trials of Daryl Hunt, The Devil Came on Horseback, The End of America) that could be considered works of activism, in which charismatic victims of and witnesses to injustice offer evidence intended to raise not just the viewer's consciousness, but their ire. The pair thus did not seem like the obvious choice to tell the story of Joan Molinsky Rosenberg, the nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn better known as foul-mouthed comedienne/plastic surgery addict Joan Rivers.

Amazingly, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work might be best understood as one of a piece with Stern and Sundberg's activist work. If the entertainment industry ain't exactly Darfur, it still hasn't been an easy road for Rivers, whose boundary-breaking comic creativity will likely be listed low in her obituary, to make room for discussion of her obsession with reinvention. Stern and Sundberg sympathize with the star's plight, and provide an excellent platform for her gut-busting politically incorrect comedy to speak for itself.