Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Online Hoax: Director Sophie Deraspe Discusses The Amina Profile

Girl meets girl online. They fall in love from afar — Sandra in Montreal, Amina in Syria. The Arab uprising occurs and soon Amina, star blogger and creator of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” gets swept up in the chaos, then kidnapped, and then disappears. Her frantic paramour goes on a global quest to find her — only to discover that the game-changing World Wide Web is also a web of intrigue and deceit.

Fortunately, Sophie Deraspe’s doc The Amina Profile is more than the sum of this now infamous hoax. By smartly training her lens on the unwitting victim and delving into the fallout, Deraspe deftly shifts the focus from (and thus avoids cheaply glorifying) the usual headline-grabbing suspect. Filmmaker spoke with this thoughtful Canadian director prior to the film’s Sundance premiere in the World Documentary Competition.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

“Reality is Not, I Believe, a Fixed Entity…”: Michael Madsen on Alien Encounter Doc, The Visit

As a conceptual artist Michael Madsen doesn’t so much create nonfiction films as craft mind-blowing experiences, introducing even the most jaded of us docu-philes to people and places we’d no idea even existed. (Prior to IDFA 2010 I, for one, never knew about Finland’s nuclear waste storage facility Onkalo, the subject of Madsen’s Into Eternity and an underground cavern the size of a large city set for completion in the 22nd century.) In his latest The Visit the Danish director turns his attention and limitless imagination towards mankind’s first encounter with alien intelligent life. With the help of expert guides — an international array that includes military men, theologians, government spokesmen, and even scientists from the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs (yup, who knew?) — he takes us step by step through a hypothetical scenario both exhilarating and deeply humbling. Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with the philosophical polymath prior to the film’s U.S. premiere in Park City on Sunday, January 25 at the Prospector Theater.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Crowdsourcing Erotica: Erika Lust’s XConfessions

A Swede living in Spain with a background in political science, Erika Lust is not your average feminist pornographer. The award-winning writer-director of over half a dozen erotic films, Lust is now embarking on what she considers her most important project yet. XConfessions is 100 percent crowdsourced, fan-generated erotica. Each month, Lust chooses two sex confessions from among the wide-ranging slew of fantasies posted to her site. (The submission process itself is free of charge. Just create an anonymous profile and you can read or write confessions as well as watch free videos.) Those favorites will then become short films — or, in some cases, sexy swag that the winning confessor receives gratis. (The Cava Ménage à Trois box set of wine from a family-owned Spanish vineyard seems inspired, though I’m partial to the “Queen of Fucking Everything” tote bag.)

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine (or better yet, buy the Winter 2015 print issue).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monday, December 29, 2014

On Loving and Leaving New York

One of the books on my New Year reading list is Sari Botton’s award-winning anthology “Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York,” whose contributors include everyone from spoken word legend Maggie Estep, who died this past February, to “Wild” scribe Cheryl Strayed (not to mention my fellow film critic and author friend Marcy Dermansky). Botton’s more recent follow-up “Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York” boasts essays from even flashier names, including Whoopi Goldberg and Rosanne Cash. But it’s those who’ve had the guts to give the finger to the Big Apple, the journeywomen writers without the Hollywood bank accounts, who interest me more.

To find out why visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ten Oscar-Worthy 2014 Documentary Favorites

Serving as the director of programming for this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival meant I watched way too many nonfiction films in 2014, some filled with stunning artistry, others with cringe-worthy talking heads. And since the Academy doc committee’s shortlist had me both cheering (Last Days in Vietnam! Tales of the Grim Sleeper!) and scratching my head (Citizen Koch? Really?) I thought I’d compile my own wish-it-were-this list for Oscar 2015. So here, in alphabetical order, are my 10 Doc Picks — only two of which overlap with the Oscar documentary shortlist — from the 134 submitted for Oscar consideration.

To see my picks visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hollywood Doth Protest Too Much: On the Sony Hacking Scandal

“This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before. Legally or illegally all will see it,” tweeted Tinseltown’s box office sweetheart Judd Apatow in response to Sony’s recent decision to cancel the Christmas Day theatrical release of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s North Korea-offending flick “The Interview.” Finally, some much needed wisdom (from, of all people, the dude who brought us “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”) amidst the cacophonous cries bemoaning the death of freedom of expression, and handwringing over the future of our American theatergoing way of life.

To read the rest of my anti-Hollywood rant visit Global Comment.