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January 30, 2007

I AM READY

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.

January 29, 2007

Going once...going twice...sold!

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, ARIZONA - Well it's been about two days since we have been back from Sundance. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to stay for the closing award show. During our stay at the Marriott Hotel, I became friends with a few of the employees there. They are so nice and fun to talk to. Of course, they were guys because mostly guys tend to work the lobby area. Let's see, there was Eric "behind-the-counter-boy", Mark "popcorn-boy" and his sidekick, Dan "hot-chocolate-boy". And then there was "pool-boy" who Pam and I met late at night but I forget his real name. Sorry "pool-boy" if you happen to be reading this. And why shouldn't he .... cause it's the most awesome site there is! Why you ask? Cause we're on it! But of course! Wink wink. Ha ha. Just kidding y'all. No, but seriously, we are cool. So read up, k? There's going to be a pop quiz....to be continued....

Anyways.....back to the story. The last few days, we ended up giving some of our tickets away to "hot-chocolate-boy". He was stoked about that! Especially when two of the tickets were for the Saturday Night Closing Party! Too bad we had to miss that. Hope he had a blast though! It was nice because most of employees didn't get the opportunity to watch many movies because of all the tourists in town. Like us!

There were a few times we sold our tickets to the wait listers. One time, Nick and I had two extra tickets to GRACE IS GONE for the 8:30 a.m. showing. As soon as we got off the bus, there was a lady waiting to ask people if they had an extra ticket to sell. GraceIsGoneTicket.gifSo we sold her one. Well that was easy. Now we just had one left. We walked up to the wait list line and people heard that we had one ticket left. There were three people wanting that one ticket. How do you decide? I felt bad. Two of them decided to compete for it. "Paper...Rock....Scissors." Best out of three was the rule. Well, the lady won ..... until the gentlemen in the beginning of the line decided that he also wanted it. So there was another game between them. Only this was the game of "Who is willing to spend the most." So in other words, how much are you willing to spend on this ticket? Yet again, the lady won. Spending $25.00 for the ticket! Wow! The man was only willing to pay $20.00. Bummer for you dude. The wait list tickets go for $10.00. Must have been her lucky day or she must have manifested it. What a steal huh? Got money in the bank.... well for Cyndi that is since, after all, it was her ticket to begin with. Not too bad huh? She was pretty thrilled I must say.

In GRACE IS GONE, John Cusack played an excellent role as a father of two whose wife in killed in Iraq. I can see why people wanted to see the movie so badly. It was a very touching and heart-warming movie. Definitely made me cry. So make sure you bring lots of tissues and wear waterproof makeup or none at all, to make it easier.

January 25, 2007

HOUNDDOG Leads Pack at Sundance 2007

BY CYNDI GREENING, PARK CITY, USA — We saw the dramatic competition film, HOUNDDOG, this afternoon and I really loved it. It was a tough film. The heart of the film is Dakota Fanning. She plays Lewellen, a poor southern girl, growing up in a swamp. She has an abusive father, a deceased mother, a bible-thumping, whiskey drinking grandmother and several bad pals. From the title, you can probably guess that she loves music and, in particular, the music of Elvis Presley.

   


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Writer/Director Deborah Kempmeier was on hand to introduce her film and some of her crew. The film was beautifully shot by Ed Lachman (although there were times when I wanted the colors to be darker, moodier, less lush). Kempmeier thanked the audience for coming to see the film and make their own assessment of the content. (Earlier this morning, I read in my complimentary copy of USA TODAY the rather uncomplimentary controversy arising around Fanning's sexual assault in this film.) Having seen the film, I am disappointed with the grief they're getting. It was really done well AND the point of the film is clearly disgust, disdain and despair for the burden carried by women of poverty. The film shows the many ways that dreams can be destroyed and how one must reclaim that which is special about oneself in order live a fulfilled, joyful life. In addition to Dakota Fanning, the film features the absolutely amazing Robin Wright Penn as a woman whose life is far more intertwined in Lewellen's than initially assumed.
   


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Looking at the publicity stills for the film, it appears that the film was well funded. The film had a budget of $3.5 million and it shows on the screen. The film had a relatively small cast. The narrative thread meandered a bit, sort of like the snakes that populated the film. It coiled around itself at times and thrust itself aggressively forward at other times. In the end, the film (like the character) was able to take all of the poison and transform it into something personal and powerful. HOUNDDOG is one of my favorite films of Sundance 2007!

January 24, 2007

$$$$$ for Your Film

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.

MOVIES THAT MATTER Panel Matters at Sundance 2007

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.

January 23, 2007

HISTORY IS MADE Panel at Sundance 2007

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.

January 22, 2007

For Sundance Tells Me So

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!

Lost in Park City

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.

January 21, 2007

Sundance Virgin

BY JENIECE TORANZO PARK CITY, USA — SUNDANCE 2007 — I have never been to Sundance before. Yep. I’m a Sundance virgin. This year I got the opportunity to go. Yesterday was our first day in Park City. The place is amazingly beautiful! The weather is very nice. Surprisingly, it’s not as cold as I thought. Knock on wood- real wood that is. There is a lot of lumber here. And, a little snow but, at least so far, not too much cold. This is nothing compared to New York! Now that’s some cold weather. The streets aren’t as crowded as I thought they would be either. Especially since it’s Sundance! Hellllooo….where is everybody? I mean come on, I always thought Sundance as like the NBA or the NFL for filmmakers.

jenieceNick.jpgSo far, I’m not gonna lie, it’s not exactly what I had expected Sundance to be like. I guess I thought it was going to be a bigger deal than it is. I kind of thought it was going to be more Hollywood-ish with all the glitz and glamour. Although, it’s not exactly what I had pictured, I am still having a great time. I am learning by watching films. And as a filmmaker that is what it is all about. After we saw some short films, I have more confidence in our films and our skills. I was not real impressed with the 10 short films that we have seen so far. The ones that stand out in my mind are Kohl Glass' DER OSTWIND, a powerful short entitled ZARIN, and MAGNETIC POLES. I loved the animation in DER OSTWIND, the cinematography and color in ZARIN and the storyline in MAGNETIC POLES. The others were rather disappointing to me.

Today, we had the opportunity to go to the AOL party for the pre-launch of NANKING. The event was filled with industry people mingling with cast and crew. It was interesting to watch everyone trying to build interest in the film they finished quite some time ago. We are in the same place now with BAD TIMING an our documentary VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. We finished principal photography in September, we're in post-production now ... and THEN we have the real work of selling our films. We watched it happening last night. While we there, Nick and I were the camera crew, Mike did unit photography, while Pam and Cyndi did the interviewing. The whole experience was amazing and worth it. Okay, so let’s do it again. Ready…. Aim…. and Shoot!

January 17, 2007

We'll Be There

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!

Sundance 2007: Let The Buying Begin

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA (CINEMA MINIMA) — The festival doesn't begin for a couple more days but that isn't stopping the acquisitions folks from picking up Sundance films. Amir Bar-Lev's MY KID COULD PAINT THAT has exchanged North American TV rights in and equity investment deal with A&E. With A&E on board as a partner, the filmmakers and AE will go to Sundance seeking a theatrical distribution deal. CAA and Submarine brokered the deal.

THINKfilm has already acquired two Sundance documentary films. Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's WAR / DANCE follows three Ugandan youth from their displacement camp in Northern Uganda to the National Dance Competition. The students share the stories of their abductions and the loss of their families as they train for the dance. An uplifting tale in the tradition of BORN INTO BROTHELS, the Fines' film is beautiful to watch. The other film acquired by THINKfilm is a bit more challenging to distribute. Robinson Devor's ZOO is described as a thoughtful and tasteful tale about one's man's zoophiliac love of Arabian horses. One of the best things about THINKfilm, I think, is their willingness to take on challenging films.

While they're great at taking on difficult films, Mark Urman and the folks at THINKfilm also have to have some significant distribution successes if they are to remain in business. A glance at IMDB reveals that they are particularly adept at choosing very popular and highly distributable documentaries. Among their previous acquisitions:
• MURDERBALL
• THE ARISTOCRATS
• SPELLBOUND
• THE TALE OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
• BORN INTO BROTHELS (Academy Award winner)

One more important note! You should be sure to check out the IndieWIRE Sundance Interviews. They blogging at least two interviews per day featuring Sundance filmmakers! They sent email questionnaires to all the participants two weeks prior to the festival to give them a chance to capture thoughts about their films before the festival madness consumed their lives.

January 16, 2007

The Evolution of DER OSTWIND

derostwindPostcard.jpgBY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, USA — Kohl Glass, is the director and creator of DER OSTWIND, a short film that will screen at this year's 2007 Sundance Festival. Kohl is a former student at Mesa Community College who then earned his film degree at Brigham Young University. Although, I never had a class with Kohl, we did have a teacher in common at MCC — Cyndi Greening. She often mentioned her former students especially those who went on to higher education or found successful jobs in the film and animation industries.

I do remember her mentioning Kohl's name and I saw him around campus a few times, but we were never properly introduced until a few weeks ago. Cyndi, Nick and I had dinner with Kohl and his wife, Chris, to discuss the selection of Kohl's film in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. We had a family-style Italian dinner. They are very nice people and they both love film! Kohl is a writer, director, editor. Chris has worked as an Assistant Director and Casting Director on a number of films. During the meal, Kohl mentioned that the project started at Mesa Community College in 2000. Later the animation students at BYU took the film on as a class project. If that's not dedication and patience then I don't know what is. After our experience in Zambia, I have come to see that hard work does pay off.

wilber.jpgAfter a discussion about how the first "person" in outer space was a monkey, Kohl had a silly thought, "What if the first fighter pilots had been monkeys, too?" So, DER OSTWIND started out as a humorous film about an ace German pilot who discovers he's been beaten by a monkey. When Kohl presented the idea, people were upset at the monkey subplot so he reworked the story and it became more serious. You can look at the early DER OSTWIND animatics and concept art to see how many of the elements remained even though "Wilber" disappeared.

We got to watch the film and I have to say that I loved his short film. There is some talk of expanding it into an animated feature. I think it has a lot of potential to be very successful. I love the crisp animation, creative shots and excellent compositing that was used in his final piece. I found out that Kohl also work on another short film, THE PROMETHEAN. We had watched that film in Cyndi's filmmaking class. I was impressed how well it was shot and liked the curiously circular story. People are always asking Kohl if he's going to expand THE PROMETHEAN into a feature as well. He says he just can't imagine it ... yet.

It's neat to see a person about the same age as me, who went to the same school, and was able to make it into the Sundance film festival. It motivates me to keep working on my craft and striving to tell interesting stories in visually creative ways.

January 15, 2007

Sundance 2007 Goes To War

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.

Films About Filmmaking at Sundance 2007

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, ARIZONA, USA -- At Sundance 2007, there are several films with filmmaking as the subject of story. Some are historical, some are contemporary, all promise to provide insight into the industry that the festival supports.

CrossingTheLine.jpgScreening in the World Documentary category, CROSSING THE LINE by Daniel Gordon draws a portrait of the last American defector still residing in North Korea after 40 years. Private James Dresnok, in 1962 (at the age of 19) deserted the US army by crossing over into Communist North Korea. In his native individualistic democracy he was lost in the crowd and only when he journeyed to an alien nation of communism did he become an individual; starring in many propaganda films always as an evil American. Gordon dissects a complex story of a man through archival footage of the People's Republic with Dresnok's own testimony, interviews of fellow soldiers and a childhood friend that still awaits his return.

Kahloucha.jpgIn his first feature-length documentary, VHS-KAHLOUCHA, Nejib Belkadhi follows a vivacious and highly energetic amateur Tunisian filmmaker named Mocef Kahloucha. Shooting his latest feature, Tarzan of the Arabs, on a VHS Panasonic 3500, Kahloucha dashes around sweatily in a poor district in Sousse, Tunisia, recruiting locals to star in his movie, where action scenes are staged using Kahloucha's real blood. Fueled by madness and an uncanny passion for filmmaking, Kaloucha livens up a community on the edge of despair and Belkadhi films in amazement, trying to capture all the magic.

Girl27.jpgIn the U.S. Documentary Competition, Director David Stenn's GIRL 27 uncovers a scandal, erased from history, of a dancer raped at an MGM party during the studio's annual sales convention in 1937. Even after filing a federal lawsuit and having her photo plastered on the cover of newspapers, the incident and her name were forgotten and etched out of the books of Hollywood. Stenn finds the now nearly ninety-year-old Patricia Douglas, determined to uncover the mystery and truth behind the tragic events and to bring her out of seclusion. Impeccably researched and based off his original article in Vanity Fair, GIRL 27 illuminates and expands those original words and photos and gives a chance for Patricia Douglas to tell her story.

ComradesDreams.jpgAlso screening in the World Documentary Competition, COMRADES IN DREAMS, directed by Uli Gaulke, journey's to find "film clubs" around the world. People willing to show films in alternative ways, in alternative locations, determined to appreciate the pleasures of cinema in small and devoted film communities. Stories spread over four continents, from a traveling Indian tent cinema to a "film club" in North Korea, to an cinema outdoors in Burkina Faso, the world's poorest country. Through a strong narrative, Gaulke links these people's dreams in a common comradery, to relish in the sights and sounds of all "cinemas."

January 12, 2007

Builder "Bob-bie"

BuilderJeniece.jpgBY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, USA — I must say, yesterday was an interesting yet amusing night. After work I went and met up with Cyndi and Nick at Wildflower for dinner. YAY! They finally had the soup bowls! Every time that we went there or Paradise Bakery, they were all out of them. Bummer huh? During dinner we discussed Sundance, projects, and miscellaneous topics. "Tippy toe, tippy toe" After dinner, we decided to help Cyndi with her returns so we went to CompUSA first. We found the MAC aisle and were checking out all the goods. Cyndi ended up buying a sweet lookin' microphone! It definitely makes you sound more professional when you have to interview people at Sundance!

After that, we went to Target and did a return there. You'd think out of a pile of 500 receipts that we had, one of them would be a match for the drawer liners we were trying to return. But nope, we did not have the right receipt. Go figure huh? Since Cyndi couldn't get her money back, we had to do an exchange. So we had to go pick something else out. But get this. We could only get something from the "A" section. Not the "B" or even the "D" section, but the "A" section and only the "A" section at Target. None of us had ever heard anything like that. We had to spend the money in the same department. We wondered what would happen if something from the "B" section or some other section "accidently" got into the mix of our stuff. Hmmm. Makes you wonder huh? I sure do. Ha ha. It was tempting to try it out but we didn't. We were good and followed the "rules." At first we weren't sure if there was anything that we could exchange it for because all we found was the pet aisle. Soon we realized, after walking around some more, that the "A" section was a lot bigger than we thought and there were more items that we could choose from. It actually ended up being a lot of fun. We were all silly and goofy while quoting some lines from SEINFELD and just having fun. We went from aisle to aisle picking out the necessities that Cyndi needed. When we got to the soap aisle, Nick and I had fun sniffing the different Dial soaps. We were trying to pick a good smelling one for Cyndi. We ended up getting four different scents. We agreed that we didn't like the foaming ones because it feels like you are washing with air and not really killing all the germs and what not. At least that's our theory and we sticking with that. I must say, the whole experience reminded me of the show "The Price is Right." Trying to find enough stuff to just barely go over the limit without having to go back and get another thing.

Later, we alll went back to Cyndi's place and helped her put her cabinet drawers together to put her dvd's and tapes in. Nick and I are kind of opposites when it comes to hands-on projects. He mentioned that he didn't really care to build things and yet he was willing to come and join us and work as a team. It was awesome. I must confess, I love to build things and figure out how to put them together. When I watch my sister's kids, sometimes I take them to Home Depot to buy a supplies so we can build things together. It was funny cause Cyndi said that I looked like a girly girl and it didn't look like I would know what I was doing.

Maybe that's why I enjoyed Zambia so much. It was one giant puzzle that we had to figure out. I thought it was really neat when Alec and Jacob made a whole new light kit out of thin air. And then, when they built the budget dolly, that was cool. When we were working on the feature, we had to do the same sort of thing on set all of the time. We would need a jail cell or a court room or something else we didn't have and we'd have to build it out of nothing. Somehow we were able to do almost everything. The only thing we couldn't "build" immediately were bunches of children for the scenes in the schools.

We couldn't stop laughing as we tried to put the cabinet together because of some of the conversations we were having. There were a lot of priceless moments, if you asked me. We mentioned that we should have had the Doc cam there. There was the time where I had to get inside the "box" in order to put the screws in right. I felt like the little asian man on "Ocean's Eleven" when he came out of the box in the safe. I also felt like I was one of those clowns in the circus -- you know where a whole bunch of them come out of this itty bitty car and you're like "what the.....how'd they do that?" It was fun though, yet I'm sure it was goofy to look at. We had moments when we felt like we were in Zambia again. Good times, good times.

(By the way, my feet are NOT that big. The photo was taken with a forced perspective making me look like I could have been in LORD OF THE RINGS without the prosthetic feet.)

January 07, 2007

Better Off For It

HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, USA - I cannot help but think how much I have changed over that last few months. I wake up in the morning with more confidence. I know that I can do what I put my mind to. Whereas before I only thought I could try. Now I know that trying just would not be good enough. I have the confidence to put myself behind the wheel and drive. I have the confidence to go out on more dates. I have the confidence to go after my goals and not the goals that others have for me. I've made more time to go to school and work. I know where all this confidence came from as well. It came from Zambia. It came from the success of making a full-length feature movie. It came from seeing the faces of 16 people pushing every day to make a single goal come through. It came from the faces of thousands of smiling faces in the face of poverty and limited oppportunity. I may not have changed Zambia but I know that Zambia, as a nation, has changed me. And I am better off for it.

January 05, 2007

Pictures worth a thousand words

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, USA - Today, a few of the crew members had the chance to go to Phoenix College for the Annual Convocation of the Maricopa Community Colleges to present some of the Zambia footage and talk about the projects with interested Maricopa faculty and administrators. Everyone seemed impressed and interested on what we had to say and the experience we went through. There was a nice display of the clothing, jewlery, and other related objects from Zambia with footage from the documentary, feature film, Kabwata Cultural Village and storytellers playing on the projector. It was a nice warm feeling and joy to see the footage again. The night before, I was helping Cyndi put the presentation together and we watched the footage for the first time in several weeks. We both felt joy and started talking about wanting to go back again. It just brought back so many good memories. It was a good thing that she decided to put it together the night before because it wasn't as easy and quick, like we thought it would be, to put the projector together and and get it properly connected to the computer. We would've looked like idiots if we didn't. Good lookin' out huh? Oh yeah.

Here is something that is interesting to me for those who don't know. About once a week and at the end of the year, MSN likes to post "Week in Pictures" or "Year in Pictures." They have different styles of pictures and categories, but each one very unique and amazing in both color and composition. I love looking through the different pictures for inspiration or just to be educated on different events that have happened around the world that people may not know about. Wait. I take that back. I should, can and will only speak for myself...they are some things or current envents that I don't know about due to me being too busy or whatever. Next to each picture that is displayed, there is a brief description and explanation of what was captured. I think that Mike Montesa would be really good at doing this line of work since he loves photography. Overall, I think that each picture is captured beautifully. It's amaaaazing......for sure.

Here is the link. You can look at other past archives. Just click on the different links and go. MSNBC Photos. Enjoy!

P.S. Warning! Some of the images may be offensive or disturbing because after all.... it is real life events that were captured.

January 01, 2007

Day One, 2007...and Counting...

BY M.K. RACINE, CHANDLER, AZ, USA
267010121_c844164435_m.jpg
“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” –Richard Bach

I’ve done this a great deal in my life, at the very least created my own limitations. Whether creating them, arguing them, it’s the same thing, the same result – you’ve established your limitations in life, at least for that moment in your life.

Going to Zambia was one. A limitation I argued for unknowingly. Over and over I told myself I did not have the money to fund my own trip, and in speaking and thinking those words I limited my opportunity to go, and more than anything I limited my life.

To me, life encapsulates the experiences you choose for yourself and those that just jump on into your life without invitation or welcome, leaving either a good impression upon us, or a bad memory. Further, it’s up to us to take these experiences and reflect upon them: their influence, our actions, their impact, our reactions, how they molded us and how we chose to be molded. My thought has always been, Life’s biggest mistakes should become the most valuable lessons. A lot of good intentions, but do those intentions come to fruition?

Perhaps choices are what balance the types of experiences we have in our lives, the number of good and not so good experiences and thus the quality or value of our lives. Experiences appear before we know it and, some, without our knowledge; there are those we force to make happen, those we struggle with, and others we hope to avoid. As a Libra, I seek balance. I appreciate the struggle, though at times, it zaps me of my energy and leaves me to wonder what’s next and am I prepared? I also appreciate the good, the loving and immeasurable experiences that keep me thankful for who I am.

My decision not to go to Zambia was a financial one, I did not want to create debt that I would be paying off for several months, for only a four week trip, believing I would have as similar experience in Phoenix as I would have in Zambia, or trying to convince myself of that.

The thing is, I already had some financial debt and would be in debt whether I went to Zambia or not, so what’s a little more debt, for an experience of a lifetime, for THE life changing experience of a lifetime. By no means is this blog a lesson in financial planning or personal financial management, but it is a valuable lesson of life and of opportunity. In the end, it was Stefan that took on the financial responsibility of my trip, and for his support I will be forever thankful. But that is the interesting part, had it not been for him, in the end, would I have made the decision to go to Zambia?

“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” –Richard Bach

We all have fears in our lives, some greater than others, some for more valid reasons than others. Jeniece and I are terrified of African spiders, the crew found that out on about day one of our trip! But whether great or small, our fears are real, though unlike spiders, many times what we fear very likely does not exist, our fears are of what could happen if we made a certain choice, or what may not happen as a result of our choices. So we argue for our limitations, the ability to not make a certain decision, to go through life thinking we avoided the need to make a choice. -A choice between two things equally good, or perhaps between something new/different with something comforting/familiar.

And, hence, we have limited ourselves and our lives, and even the life of another in some cases. We may feel we have avoided making a major decision, when in fact we have made a choice to not experience what could be the beauty and essence and purpose of our life. It’s quite a gamble, with extremely high stakes. Sometimes, we may never know what we missed out on, in forming our limitations. Other times, we say yes and move towards our lives, yet slowly build our argument, we don’t see that life experience through entirely, we cut it off wondering or even knowing what possibilities exist, yet allow the fear to creep through and argue the limitation for us. Keeping us safe from what we perceive as harmful, or preventing us from moving away from what we perceive as safe, though it may not the best life for us. And in the end, when all is said and done, we’ve just limited our life, our happiness, our growth and our potential. -All for something that does not exist.

Fight your fears; take them on. And as far as limitations, wouldn’t it be wiser to refrain from arguing for your limitations, than to build only to conquer?

I’m not sure what is more saddening, knowing what you’ve missed out on in your life, or having no idea what greatness has passed you by. Had I not gone to Zambia I would have missed out on a tremendous number of experiences, opportunities for growth, and an introduction to my future self, one with a broader perspective and foundation from which to build the remainder of my life. Had I stayed in Phoenix, would I be clueless to the existence that faces me in the mirror?

Ultimately the choice was mine to make, to go to Zambia. Cyndi provided the opportunity; Stefan provided the funding, yet it was up to me to say yes, to step on the plane and wave goodbye to an old self, not a bad self, but a confined one.

Own your life.
God gave it to you, to make choices, to create your own happiness, to conquer your own fears, not to argue for your limitations, but to argue for your place in this world, wherever you choose it to be.

2007 is the Year of the Boar in Chinese astrology. The Year of Abundance! The Boar happens to be my Chinese astrological sign. I won’t say my expectations of the cosmos are high for this coming year, but my hopes certainly are, not just for me, but for all those I love in my life.

The notion is that each New Year brings with it the hope of a better life. Whether it is financial prosperity, improved relationships, good health or increased self-knowledge, a new year is a new beginning. Yet, I also choose to acknowledge that each day brings with it the same opportunity; the potential for a similar hope. Today, in the new year, in the coming years I will not only take with me the words of Richard Bach, but the valuable words of an unknown author, that, “Each day is an opportunity to write your own happy ending.”

This year, I choose possibilities over limitations, opportunities over boundaries, and my life over my fears.

In 2007, I hope you…

Find balance, Argue against limitations, Avoid your fears of the non-existent, Own your life, and Write an abundance of happy endings

Happy New Year and God Bless!