Upcoming Screenings

Pariah
February 8th, 2018

Pariah
Thursday, February 8th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


2011 / 86 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Dee Rees
Print supplied by: Swank

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our second selection is Dee Rees’ Pariah [2011] with an introduction by Beyond Boundaries Film & Discussion Series curator Ruth Goldman.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Synopsis

courtesy of film’s website:

A world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the contemporary drama Pariah is the feature-length expansion of writer/director Dee Rees’ award-winning 2007 short film Pariah. Spike Lee is among the feature’s executive producers. At Sundance, cinematographer Bradford Young was honored with the [U.S. Dramatic Competition] Excellence in Cinematography Award.

Adepero Oduye, who had earlier starred in the short film, portrays Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents Audrey and Arthur (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. She has a flair for poetry, and is a good student at her local high school.

Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the sometimes boisterous support of her best friend, out lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike is especially eager to find a girlfriend. At home, her parents’ marriage is strained and there is further tension in the household whenever Alike’s development becomes a topic of discussion. Pressed by her mother into making the acquaintance of a colleague’s daughter, Bina (Aasha Davis), Alike finds Bina to be unexpectedly refreshing to socialize with.

Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity – sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward.

Interview

courtesy of Focus Features:

Q: There was originally your short film entitled Pariah. How did you conceive of the idea, and how did you decide to expand it into the feature Pariah?

Dee Rees: Actually, it all started out as a feature. I wrote the first draft of the feature script in the summer of 2005, as I was going through my own coming-out process. I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee. Being in New York, I was kind of amazed to see these young women who were teenagers and totally out and proud. Even if I had figured out my sexuality at that age, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to be that person, and that’s how the idea for the film came.

I was interning on Spike Lee’s Inside Man, and on lunch breaks and during some of the downtime, I would write the feature script in longhand in notebooks. At the time, I was also finishing NYU’s Graduate Film program and I needed a thesis. So I took the first act from the feature script, and shot it as a short. But the feature has always been the original vision.

Q: Can you elaborate on the title a little, since it has never varied?

DR: Well, each of the main characters is a “pariah.” They all have their fears, desires, strengths and weaknesses, and isolations. One thing I definitely worked on in the writing was showing the characters’ struggles to connect, and their worlds away from their families – where there are attitudes and expectations that they might not know how to handle.

Q: Is Alike’s story at all in line with your own coming-out story?

DR: It’s semi-autobiographical. As I was coming into my sexuality, I started to become comfortable with who I was. But I didn’t know how to express that. Alike struggles in the same way. In going out to clubs – and by the way, I’m totally not a club person – it felt very binary; it seemed like you had to check a box, butch or femme. And I’m neither one of those things. I struggled with myself; how should I be in this world? Should I wear baggy jeans and baseball caps? Or should I wear a skirt? None of those identities is really me, and I finally came to the conclusion that I can just be myself and don’t have to fit into any category. I don’t have to put on any personae; I can just continue to be who I am. And that’s what Alike comes to realize in her journey.

Q: So Pariah does encapsulate your personal story.

DR: Yes, it’s all mixed in there although a lot of specific things are fictional. The characters are fictional, but some of the experiences and feelings that Alike is going through are the same. Much was coming from my own experience of this new world opening up to me. Nekisa, in fact, took me to my first gay club and this explicit song was playing. I walked in and went, “Oh my God, I’m going to hell. This is it, my mom’s right.” I was in awe of that type of space. I’d never been in a place like that before. So some of the awe and some of the anxiety the lead character feels were things I experienced when I was coming out, coming into this world.

The principal conflicts are also similar; parental conflict is something that I really went through, although it is dramatized differently for Alike. When I came out, my parents weren’t very accepting. At first my mom said, “Oh, you’re in film school, this artsy thing, whatever, it’s a phase.” When they realized I was serious and that it wasn’t a phase, both my parents came in and staged an intervention. For a few months, they sent e-mails and cards and letters and Bible verses to make me think and change. It got to the point where I told them, “Don’t communicate with me if that’s what it’s going to be about, because my sexuality is not an option and it’s not a choice.” We eventually started talking again, and things are better.

Q: You mentioned Bible verses. What was your spiritual upbringing like?

DR: I’m Christian. I was raised in a Methodist church, and I still believe in God. My spirituality was another thing that I struggled with early on. Because I initially wondered, “Is this going to be okay? Does God still love me?” On a real basic level, I struggled with that and it was painful. But later as I grew, I came to the acceptance and peace of mind that God does love me and I’m okay as I am. So that’s one element, a layer, of this film in addition to the love story and the search for identity. If anything, it’s my spirituality that got me through the past six years. My spirituality and spiritual practice have actually gotten stronger than they were before going through this.

Q: Did you draw inspiration from other artists?

DR: Yes, Alice Walker has been my biggest influence as an artist, and I’m also inspired by writers from the Harlem Renaissance; and especially the writings of Audre Lorde – her work Zami, in particular. When I read her story, I felt that I wasn’t alone and it gave me hope for my own journey. I always loved to write, and in learning about screenwriting and film, I knew I wanted to bring characters to life in that medium.

In specific preparation for shooting Pariah, I was inspired by the documentary Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston for the tone of the film, and I also used it as a reference to help educate the actors about this world of the characters they were entering.

Q: Nekisa, how did you get into producing?

Nekisa Cooper: I met Dee while she was working with me at Colgate-Palmolive – her former life. She left the company to go to NYU’s film school. When she came to me and a couple of friends and told us she was going to film school, we said, “What? You’re leaving the security of this space to become a starving artist?” I didn’t really get it but I remained friends with her, and wound up helping with her second-year film, Orange Bow. After that experience, I thought, “Wow, this is what I do for toothbrushes and toothpaste, but this ‘product’ is something I can be more passionate about.” So I told Dee, “I don’t really know what this producing thing is, but I enjoyed working with you and I would love to support you in whatever you’re doing next.” It turned out to be Pariah, and I had a very personal connection to the story. I remembered being like Alike before coming out – a chameleon – one way with my family, and other ways with other people in my life. So I quit my job, took three months off, and produced the short film – mostly to figure out whether producing was really something I wanted to do long-term. It was a huge learning curve, but pretty awesome. It was the perfect intersection of my strengths from previous work as a basketball coach and as a businesswoman.

Q: How did the feature finally come together?

DR: When the short started hitting the festival circuit in early 2007, we got a call from Rachel Chanoff at the Sundance Institute. She’d seen the short and asked if we had a feature that she should consider. I said, “Heck yeah,” ran back and polished up the feature script in two weeks, and got in. So we got to workshop it at the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab in 2007, and then came back again in 2008 for the Directors’ Lab.

The Directors’ Lab was great because we got to bring in Adepero Oduye, who’s always played Alike, and Aasha Davis, who plays her love interest. We were able to workshop that relationship, and some of the more difficult elements of the story, in a creative safe space. The whole Lab experience was a life-changing thing for me – as an artist and person. Nekisa then did the first Sundance Producers’ Lab in 2008, which was the icing on the cake – one which really had lots of time to bake, and is I think the better for that.

NC: It did take a long time for things to come together. Strategically, we thought that developing the film through the Sundance Institute gave the project a certain pedigree which would open doors to reach private equity investors. Based on the success of the short, we’d gotten a lot of interest from production companies wanting to know more about Dee and more about our thoughts for the feature. While on the festival circuit with the short film, we had the na”ive idea that someone would just hand us the money to make the feature. We put a lot of thought and planning into assembling a package that people would invest in, but fundraising was incredibly difficult. It became apparent that people thought the script was really good and edgy, but a bit “small” and “specific.” That’s what people would say in terms of funding the actual feature.

So there was a very quick awakening to reality; we had submitted to a ton of people, but now just about everybody had seen the script and turned the movie down. We knew right then that private equity would be the way to go. We were able to attach Spike Lee as our executive producer because he had been an advisor to Dee on her feature documentary Eventual Salvation – and had given feedback on the Pariah script over the years.

We built a list of people through our network, wrote a business plan, and went into battle. We really leveraged the independent film community to find advocates who believed in us, believed in the story – the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Institute, the Independent Feature Project, and Film Independent. Those advocates introduced us to other people who were either connected to money people or were money people themselves.

DR: Nekisa shook every financing tree she could think of. She is so resourceful, and it was a lonely business for her at times.

NC: But it was important to me to that I bear the burden without Dee or anybody else knowing about it. That made it stressful for me, but I felt that carrying the stress on my own was necessary so there could be an environment created where Dee and our crew could work and vibe.

Going into shooting, we still weren’t fully financed and the financing didn’t fall into place until 30 minutes before the shoot wrapped. It was literally a weekly, and sometimes daily, cash flow exercise. That made it stressful for me, but I felt that carrying the stress on my own was necessary so there could be an environment created where Dee and our crew could work and vibe. I was exhausted by the end, but so happy with the way it worked out.

Q: You filmed on location in Fort Greene, Brooklyn –

NC: It’s a neighborhood that we’re familiar with; we’d lived there for seven years, so we accessed our community connections. We were able to centralize and take advantage of being in Fort Greene. We worked with a local real estate agent, and she found us an amazing brownstone location where we filmed all of the homes’ interiors for Pariah. When you don’t have money, you need to spend a lot more time in pre-production, and we did. So the production ran efficiently.

Q: Dee, beyond making the most of the real-life locations, what was your approach to visualizing the story?

DR: [Cinematographer] Bradford Young had filmed Pariah and other works of mine; he will add meaning to every shot. He and I collaborate from the heart to tell the story better, while maintaining a constant creative flow.

For over three years, we discussed and developed the language we wanted to use on Pariah, and as with Pariah we were shooting on 35-millimeter film. In closer angles on the characters, the camera is handheld so it becomes more kinetic and personal and “breathes” with them. For wider angles, the camera is more omniscient and moves more subtly on dolly-mounted shots. Whether handheld or mounted, the camera is always moving with fluidity and motivated by the action that’s occurring in the scene. This is particularly true for the coverage on Alike, which consists of a lot of “peeking” or “eavesdropping” camera movements behind or between objects with long lenses that further enhance the sense of her being secretive and hiding.

Alike is a chameleon, and all of the camera movement and production design around her serves to heighten that. We used lighting in such a way that Alike is “painted” with whatever colors are predominating at the moment in her environment. In the nightclub, she’s “purple;” on the bus, she’s “green;” in the bathroom, she’s “orange,” et cetera. She’s only “white” towards the end; she’s “sunlight” in the final scene of the film.

In contrast, Laura is a proud peacock and although her world is also a little subterranean, she is in natural light a lot and is far more colorful; purple, blue, and fuchsia in the nightclub environment and lighter, freer colors like periwinkle and lavender in the home environment that she has made for herself. Laura’s wardrobe has much brighter, flashier hues than Alike’s, including blues, greens, and pinks. That underlines her basic spiritual freedom and independence.

Q: In addition to these visuals, the music in Pariah is also varied and plays an integral role in the storytelling. Can you speak to how that worked?

DR: The music plays an important role in the film as it heightens the voice of each character. Alike is acoustic soul, Bina is punk, Laura is hip-hop. As Alike is coming into herself and struggling to find her own “voice,” we see and hear the different styles of music clash and intertwine. In the end, Alike’s voice becomes a singular and rich melding of all those different styles.

NC: We are so proud to feature a number of incredible independent music artists, from Sparlha Swa – whose music serves as the voice of Alike – and Tamar-kali to Honeychild Coleman – whose punk/rock music echoes Bina’s voice – to MBK Entertainment, who provided us with all of Laura’s hip-hop.

Q: What has always made Adepero ideal to play Alike?

DR: Back in 2006, she showed up on the very first day of auditions for the short film. She came in wearing her little brother’s clothes, and was completely focused. It was like she had walked out of my pages.

She is brave, and has these beautiful qualities of innocence and vulnerability. That’s all at Alike’s core. Also, as a first-generation Nigerian immigrant who has grown up in New York City, Adepero has experienced being an outsider and the struggle to try to define her identity. Adepero is very specific in her craft.

Q: Overall, what was the biggest challenge during the actual filming?

DR: It was an 18-day shoot with 1 pick-up day. Everybody, no matter what their crew title, went above and beyond to make it happen.

NC: For the biggest challenge, I’d like to add, “the money.”

Q: Did you personally invest in Pariah?

NC: Yes. We sold the apartment we owned in Fort Greene. We put everything that we are into making the film.

Q: And now audiences can see it in theaters –

DR: And now we can give back to everyone who sacrificed and believed in us, and believed in the story and its being beneficial to people.

Q: On that note, who do you hope to reach with Pariah?

DR: I think questioning and affirming your identity is a universal theme, and I definitely want gay teens to connect with the film and see that it’s OK to be them.

Q: What about those close to these teens?

DR: I want parents and people who may not be open to better understand that they should allow their children to be who they are. Just think about how important relationships are; once they’re fractured or damaged, it’s hard to get them back. Everyone has someone in their life that has gone through this; just be more accepting of them. Love them unconditionally.

NC: In terms of changing hearts and minds, we joke about how it’s possible one-popcorn-bucket-at-a-time. But we do want to open people’s minds and expose them to a world they haven’t seen before. Pariah might not change people’s minds, but it will at least get them talking.

I was raised Catholic. My parents don’t accept that I’m gay, but they love me. I guess that’s as good as it gets, because we never have arguments. But we also never talk about it. I’ve been out to them since 2002 and it’s still a really scary prospect to think about sitting down and watching Pariah with them. That’s the intersection, of fear and hope, where this movie sits. We want Pariah to give people the courage to discuss coming out.

Director Bio

courtesy of Mudbound‘s press notes:

Writer/Director Dee Rees is an alumna of New York University’s graduate film program and a Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow.

Dee’s Emmy-Award winning HBO film Bessie (2015) starred Queen Latifah as the legendary American Blues singer and was nominated for a total of twelve Emmy Awards, including Dee’s individual nominations for Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special. Bessie was also nominated for four Critics’ Choice Awards and Dee was the recipient of the 2016 Director’s Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Miniseries as well as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Television Movie.

Dee’s debut feature film Pariah starring Adepero Oduye and Kim Wayans premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival where it was honored with the festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition “Excellence in Cinematography” Award and was later released by Focus Features. Pariah went on to win numerous awards including the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards (2011), the Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Director (2011), Outstanding Film–Limited Release at the GLAAD Media Awards (2012) and it received seven NAACP Image Award nominations including Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing and won the award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture.” Pariah also earned Dee a spot on New York Times’ 10 Directors to Watch list in 2013.

Previously, Dee was selected as a 2008 Tribeca Institute/Renew Media Arts Fellow and appeared on Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film that same year. She is a 2011 United States Artists Fellow and her notable residencies include Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony.

Dee Rees was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in New York.

Links

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

1/14/18 – “While it shows heartbreak and emotional brutality, there’s much beauty and even joy too, Rees revealing a wide spectrum of queer black female experience with bracing honesty. To paraphrase one of Alike’s poems, Pariah is a film that the light shines out of. It’s one of a kind.” Grace Barber-Plentie, British Film Institute – link

The Passion of Joan of Arc
February 15th, 2018

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Thursday, February 15th, 2018 / 9:30pm
North Park Theatre


1928 / 82 minutes / Silent / B&W
Directed by: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Print supplied by: Janus Films

Please join us for a one-night event screening of the brand new 2K restoration of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s cinematic masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc) [1928] accompanied by Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed “Voices of Light” score.

Ticket Information: $10.50 general admission at the door


Event Sponsors:


1428 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216


Synopsis

courtesy of Janus Films:

Spiritual rapture and institutional hypocrisy are brought to stark, vivid life in one of the most transcendent achievements of the silent era. Chronicling the trial of Joan of Arc in the final hours leading up to her execution, Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer depicts her torment with startling immediacy, employing an array of techniques—including expressionistic lighting, interconnected sets, and painfully intimate close-ups—to immerse viewers in her subjective experience. Anchoring Dreyer’s audacious formal experimentation is a legendary performance by Renée Falconetti, whose haunted face channels both the agony and the ecstasy of martyrdom. Thought to have been lost to fire, the film’s original version was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981 in a Norwegian mental institution, heightening the mythic status of this widely revered masterwork.

Long available only in rare prints that necessitated live accompaniment, The Passion of Joan of Arc returns to screens in a new restoration, partnered with Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed score “Voices of Light” for the first time theatrically.


About the Restoration:

The Passion of Joan of Arc was restored in 2015 by Gaumont, with funding from the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.

The restoration was created from a 2K scan of a duplicate negative made from the Danish Film Institute’s nitrate copy of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s original cut.


Notes on the score:

Unlike many other large-scale productions of the time, Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc was not released with a prewritten score for venues with live orchestras. Over the subsequent decades, many musicians and composers have filled that absence. For this release, Janus has offered two scores: Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed, Joan-inspired operetta Voices of Light, and, in its first recording, a new score by
Adrian Utley and Will Gregory.

Voices of Light is a work for voices and amplified instrumental ensemble, created in celebration of Joan of Arc. The libretto is a patchwork of visions, fantasies, and reflections assembled from various ancient sources, notably the writings of medieval female mystics. The texts may be thought of as representing the spiritual, political, and metaphorical womb in which Joan was conceived. The performance on this DCP dates from 1995 and features the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Steven Mercurio, with vocals by the Netherlands Radio Choir, Anonymous 4, Susan Narucki, Corrie Pronk, Frank Hameleers, and Henk van Heijnsbergen.

Born in 1952, Richard Einhorn graduated summa cum laude in music from Columbia University, and has written opera, orchestral and chamber music, song cycles, film music, and dance scores. Among many other projects, he composed the music for the Academy Award–winning documentary short Educating Peter (1992); the score for the New York City Ballet’s wildly popular Red Angels (which premiered in 1994); and an opera/oratorio based on the work and life of Charles Darwin, The Origin (which premiered in 2009).

Lost and Found

courtesy of press notes:

Despite only screening in butchered, incomplete versions, if at all, for much of the twentieth century, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) was considered one of cinema’s great masterpieces, regularly finding its way onto Sight & Sound’s renowned list of the best films of all time. When a print of the original version was finally discovered in 1981, the film world breathed a sigh of relief, and archivists began to untangle the story of a film that seemed almost as doomed as its subject.

The Passion of Joan of Arc premiered in Copenhagen on April 21, 1928. Its French premiere was delayed by a campaign against the film by many on the nationalist right, who did not believe that a foreign director should be entrusted with the myth of Joan of Arc. The archbishop of Paris demanded several excisions, and further changes were made by government censors, before the film was finally screened in the city in October 1928.

Six weeks later, on December 6, a fire consumed the labs of the famous Ufa studio in Berlin, where Passion’s cinematographer, Rudolph Maté, had developed the film stock. The original negative was destroyed, and Dreyer was devastated.

However, there was an available work-around. Famous for demanding repeated takes, Dreyer had enough outtakes to create a second version. Using one of the few remaining release prints for comparison, Dreyer and his editor, Marguerite Beaugé, created a new negative that matched the original almost shot for shot. Tragically, even this second negative was lost to fire, this time at the labs of G.M. de Boulogne-Billancourt in 1929.

In 1951, the French film historian Joseph-Marie Lo Duca discovered an intact copy of the negative of Dreyer’s second version that had escaped destruction. Unfortunately, Lo Duca made significant changes. Wherever possible, he replaced intertitles with subtitles, and when that proved to be impossible, he replaced the original intertitles with text on images of stained-glass windows and church pews. The negative of Lo Duca’s version was also lost, but prints of it endured for many years. This was the version of the film that most audiences saw over the next three decades, and the one that Anna Karina famously watches in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962).

Finally, in 1981, while cleaning out a closet in the Dikemark sykehus, a mental institution just outside Oslo, Norway, a worker found several film canisters, which were then sent to the Norwegian Film Institute. When they were opened, the canisters revealed not just a print of The Passion of Joan of Arc but wrapping paper bearing the Danish censor’s stamp of approval, dated 1928. Dreyer’s original version had finally been found.

How did the film end up in a closet? Harald Arnesen, the director of the institute at the time, may have wanted to screen it for staff and patients. (There are no records of it being screened in Oslo upon its release, but the print had been projected several times.) Regardless, the film was immediately preserved and new negatives created. Still, with very few 35 mm prints having been struck, the film remained difficult to see in a proper theatrical setting.

But no more. In 2015, Gaumont scanned a negative created from that fragile nitrate print discovered in Norway, creating a restored DCP for worldwide distribution and ensuring that Dreyer’s original vision not only exists but can be seen in theaters, in public, once again.

Directors' Bio

“Nothing in the world can be compared to the human face. There is no greater experience in a studio than to witness the expression of a sensitive face under the mysterious power of inspiration. To see it animated from inside, and turning into poetry.”

The creator of perhaps cinema’s most purely spiritual works, Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer is one of the most influential moving image makers of all time, his arrestingly spare and innovative approach echoed in the films of Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Lars von Trier, and countless others. After making his mark with such narrative silent films as the provocative Michael (1924) and Master of the House (1925), Dreyer created The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which, though deemed a failure on its release, is now considered, with its mix of stark realism and expressionism (and astonishing, iconic performance by Maria Falconetti), one of the great artistic works of the twentieth century. For the next four decades, Dreyer would continue to make films about people caught in battle between the spirit and the flesh and to experiment technically with the form. Vampyr (1932) is a mesmerizing horror fable full of camera and editing tricks; Day of Wrath (1943) is an intense tale of social repression, made during the Nazi occupation of Denmark; Ordet (1955) is a shattering look at a farming family’s inner religious world; and Gertrud (1964) is a portrait of a fiercely independent woman’s struggle for personal salvation.

Links

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

1/18/18 – “Dreyer’s most universally acclaimed masterpiece remains one of the most staggeringly intense films ever made.” Tony Rayns, Time Out New York

The Fits
April 12th, 2018

The Fits
Thursday, April 12th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


2016 / 72 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Anna Rose Holmer
Print supplied by: Oscilloscope

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our third selection is Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits [2016] with an introduction by Buffalo International Film Festival director Tilke Hill.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Trailer

Synopsis

courtesy of press notes:

Toni trains as a boxer with her brother at a community center in Cincinnati’s West End, but becomes fascinated by the dance team that also practices there. Enamored by their strength and confidence, Toni eventually joins the group, eagerly absorbing routines, mastering drills, and even piercing her own ears to fit in. As she discovers the joys of dance and of female camaraderie, she grapples with her individual identity amid her newly defined social sphere.

Shortly after Toni joins the team, the captain faints during practice. By the end of the week, most of the girls on the team suffer from episodes of fainting, swooning, moaning, and shaking in a seemingly uncontrollable catharsis. Soon, however, the girls on the team embrace these mysterious spasms, transforming them into a rite of passage. Toni fears “the fits” but is equally afraid of losing her place just as she’s found her footing. Caught between her need for control and her desire for acceptance, Toni must decide how far she will go to embody her new ideals.

Director Statement/Bio

courtesy of press notes:

Director Statement:

We collaborated with Queen City Boxing Club and the Q-Kidz Dance Team to cast real teenagers from the West End of Cincinnati. Working with young athletes allowed us to focus on the physicality and nuanced movements we needed to tell the story from beginning to end. Casting all of the girls from the same real-life dance team meant that we could emphasize the authentic sisterhood and collective memory-making that young women experience when they bond on a team. We filmed The Fits in an immersive environment, living on location and inviting the young cast to see themselves not just as performers, but as co-authors of the characters on screen.

At its heart, The Fits is a meditation on movement as seen from the perspective of adolescent girls. The film explores the particularly young female phenomenon of mass hysteria, also known as mass psychogenic illness. The rapid spread of symptoms affects members of a cohesive group whereby physical ills have no corresponding organic cause. The Fits juxtaposes the precise, powerful, and intentional movements of drill with subconscious, spontaneous, and uncontrolled movements of collective hysterics.

I directed The Fits as a dance film, considering the movements of the actors and camera to be choreography in each scene. From stand battles to obsessive workouts, from the way Toni carries her body down the hallway to the freedom in Beezy’s play, we approached storytelling from the physical performance first. Through these movements, we explored our thematic questions:

What are the indications of belonging to a group and how do those markers develop?
How do girls use their bodies as a mode of communication?
What is the self?
Is the body separate from the self?
Is identity a performance?
How does one differentiate between self and other?
Is it possible to truly betray one’s self?

Director Bio:

Anna Rose Holmer was listed as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2015.” Her narrative directorial debut, THE FITS (Venice International Film Festival 2015), is a selection of the Venice Biennale College 2014/2015 and the Sundance Institute Editing Intensive Fellowship. She recently produced Jody Lee Lipes’s BALLET 422 (Tribeca Film Festival 2014, Magnolia Pictures) and Mike Plunkett’s SALERO (IDFA 2015). With filmmaker Matt Wolf, Anna co-directed and produced A BALLET IN SNEAKERS: JEROME ROBBINS AND OPUS JAZZ, a companion documentary to NY Export: Opus Jazz, (SXSW 2010 Emerging Visions Audience Award) which aired on the PBS Great Performances/Dance in America Series. Anna’s first documentary feature, TWELVE WAYS TO SUNDAY, was one of ten films to participate in IFP’s 2009 Documentary Filmmaker Lab and premiered with Rooftop Films in 2010.

Links

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

La Ciénaga
May 10th, 2018

La Ciénaga
Thursday, May 10th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


2001 / 103 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Lucrecia Martel
Print supplied by: Janus Films

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our fourth selection is Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga [2001] with an introduction by Riverrun Global Film Series curator Tanya Shilina-Conte.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Trailer

Synopsis

courtesy of Criterion Collection:

The release of Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga heralded the arrival of an astonishingly vital and original voice in Argentine cinema. With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel. This visceral take on class, nature, sexuality, and the ways that political turmoil and social stagnation can manifest in human relationships is a drama of extraordinary tactility, and one of the great contemporary film debuts.

Director Bio

courtesy of Zama‘s press notes:

“From the very beginning, even when I’m writing, I think a lot about the sound. Many elements of my work in cinema come from oral storytelling and oral tradition. I think about sound and the rhythm of the sound.”

Born in Argentina, filmmaker Lucrecia Martel has positioned her work in the international film community. ZAMA (2017) is her fourth feature film after writing and directing LA MUJER SIN CABEZA (2008, The Headless Woman), LA NIÑA SANTA (2004, The Holy Girl) and LA CIÉNAGA (2001, The Swamp). Her films have been acclaimed at the most important film festivals: Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, New York, Sundance and Rotterdam, amongst others. Retrospectives of her work have been widely exhibited in film festivals and prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Berkeley or the London Tate Museum. She has taken part in the official juries of Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Sundance and Rotterdam, and has dictated masterclasses around the world.


FILMOGRAPHY

ZAMA (2017)
2017, Color, 115 min.
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Writer: Lucrecia Martel
Cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas,
Matheus Nachtergaele, Juan Minujín, Mariana
Nunes, Daniel Veronese, Carlos Defeo
World Premiere: Venice, Official Selection

LA MUJER SIN CABEZA (2008)
(The Headless Woman)
2008, Color, 87 min.
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Writer: Lucrecia Martel
Cast: María Onetto, Claudia Cantero, María
Vaner, Cesar Gordon, Inés Efron, D. Genoud
World Premiere: Cannes, Competition

LA NIÑA SANTA (2004)
(The Holy Girl)
2004, Color, 106 min.
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Writer: Lucrecia Martel
Cast: Mercedes Morán, Carlos Belloso,
Alejandro Urdapilleta, María Alché,Julieta
Zylberberg, Mía Maestro, Arturo Goetz
World Premiere: Cannes, Competition

LA CIÉNAGA (2001)
(The Swamp)
2001, Color, 103 min.
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Writer: Lucrecia Martel
Cast: Graciela Borges, Mercedes Morán, Martín
Adjeiman, Leonora Balcarce, Diego Baenas
World Premiere: Berlinale, Competition


Photo: LA NACION

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The Virgin Suicides
July 12th, 2018

The Virgin Suicides
Thursday, July 12th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


2000 / 97 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Print supplied by: Swank

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our fifth selection is Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides [2000] with an introduction by Nichols High School’s Classic Movie Night curator Andrea Mancuso.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Trailer

Synopsis

courtesy of Turner Classic Movies:

On the surface the Lisbons appear to be a normal 1970s family living in a middle-class Michigan suburb. Mr. Lisbon is a quirky math teacher, his wife is a strictly religious mother of five attractive teenage daughters who catch the eyes of the neighborhood boys. However, when 13-year-old Cecilia commits suicide, the family spirals downward into a creepy state of isolation and the remaining girls are quarantined from social interaction (particularly from the opposite sex) by their zealously protective mother. But the strategy backfires, their seclusion makes the girls even more intriguing to the obsessed boys who will go to absurd lengths for a taste of the forbidden fruit.

Director Bio

courtesy of The Beguiled‘s press notes:

“Perhaps it makes sense that a woman whose earliest memory was on the set of Apocalypse Now would grow up to direct a dark fable about five adolescent girls who unapologetically and unceremoniously kill themselves…”

Sofia Coppola grew up in Northern California. After doing costume design on two feature films, she studied Fine Art at California Institute of the Arts.

She then wrote and directed the short film Lick the Star (which world-premiered at the Venice International Film Festival), followed by the feature The Virgin Suicides. Ms. Coppola wrote the screenplay for the latter film, adapting it from Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel of the same name. The movie starred Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, James Woods, and Kathleen Turner. A world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival, The Virgin Suicides subsequently earned her the MTV Movie Award for Best New Filmmaker.

Ms. Coppola’s next film, Lost in Translation, was her first with Focus Features, and screened at the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride Film Festivals. The movie brought her the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay as well as Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Picture (in her capacity as producer). Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson won BAFTA Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, among many other honors that the cast and crew received worldwide.

Her third feature as writer/director, Marie Antoinette, was based in part on Antonia Fraser’s biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey, and world-premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival. The movie, which Ms. Coppola also produced, starred Kirsten Dunst in the title role. The film’s costume designer, Milena Canonero, won an Academy Award for her work on the picture.

She then wrote and directed and produced Somewhere, her second movie with Focus Features. The movie starred Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, who received a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for her performance. In its world premiere at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival, Somewhere won the Festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture. Ms. Coppola was honored with a Special Filmmaking Achievement Award from the National Board of Review.

Her next feature as writer/director/producer was The Bling Ring, which she based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins.” The movie world-premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival, and Ms. Coppola was honored at Women In Film’s Lucy Awards with its Dorothy Arzner Award for Directing.

In 2015, she co-wrote, executive-produced, and directed the hourlong holiday special A Very Murray Christmas, which received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Music Direction. The show’s star, Bill Murray, was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award; and Ms. Coppola was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award for her work on the project.


Photo: WARNAND/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

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Appropriate Behavior
September 20th, 2018

Appropriate Behavior
Thursday, September 20th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


2015 / 86 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Desiree Akhavan
Print supplied by: Swank

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our sixth selection is Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior [2015] with an introduction by Peach Mag visual arts curator Caitlin Coder.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Trailer

Synopsis

courtesy of press notes:

For Shirin (Desiree Akhavan), being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.

Written and directed by Akhavan, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR introduces a gray area to the coming-out narrative; in an Iranian-American family, sharing information about one’s sexuality isn’t always the right approach to liberation. With her priceless deadpan delivery, Akhavan’s portrayal of Shirin is the film’s true revelation—a woman caught between self-doubt and self-possession, trapped in a web of family mores and societal expectations, with all their accompanying—and often hilarious—complexities.


Written by Kim Yutani

Director Statement/Bio

courtesy of press notes:

Statement:

I’ve been in development for APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR since I was 10. As a latch-key child of immigrants, it was around that age that I started realizing what a freak of nature I was. Even though I had the perspective, wit and desires of a normal person, these qualities were somehow mismatched to the circumstances I was born to (female/ Iranian-American/bisexual). I knew if I wanted to see reflections of myself in mainstream culture I’d have to do it myself.

The film is inspired by my experience facing life after my first serious relationship with a woman. Not only was I heartbroken, but also experiencing the most uncomfortable phase of the coming out process: the time that follows after you’ve made the big announcement. Your family has no idea of how to process the information and you can’t look them in the eye without wondering if they’re imagining you having gay sex now that they know that you’re capable of it. I decided I wanted to make a film that touched on the themes that were ruling my life, but without the classic film cliches: no huge break-through hugging-through-our-tears coming out scene, no clear cut definitions of good and bad, no taking itself too seriously and sex scenes that were honest and true to dating and fucking as I know it.

I chose to star in the film because it would have been disingenuous to have hired a better looking version of me. The film is so clearly a response to my life and my desires, I wanted to put it all on the line. Though it is not autobiographical and the exact events in the film have not taken place, the emotions are true to life, only I evoked them in scenarios that were convenient for the sake of a 90 minute comedy. I was very much influenced by ANNIE HALL and it was that film that inspired the film’s structure, which dances back and forth between past and the present.

I’m beginning to notice the terms “Women’s Film” and “Gay Film” are seen as dirty words. “Iranian film” is a bit better- more highbrow, but still a chore. The “Iranian Film” is the DVD that arrives and holds up the flow of your Netflix queue for about a month. The one you keep promising to watch on Sunday night, but instead find yourself glued to MISERY, which happens to be on TV that night. I wanted to make a film that didn’t feel like “taking your medicine.” It’s a comedy, but beneath the surface we’ve set out to communicate something very real about the complexity of being openly bisexual, the subtle rivalry and love between siblings and the crushing expectations that come along with being the child of immigrants.


Bio:

Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan is the co-creator and star of the critically acclaimed web series THE SLOPE, a comedy that follows a pair of superficial, homophobic lesbians in love. Her first feature, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Desiree was featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and will appear on the next season of GIRLS. She has a BA from Smith College and an MFA from NYU’s Grad Film Program.

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Daughters of the Dust
November 8th, 2018

Daughters of the Dust
Thursday, November 8th, 2018 / 7:00pm
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center


1991 / 112 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Julie Dash
Print supplied by: Cohen Film Collection

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our last selection is Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust [1991] with an introduction by artist / poet Annette Daniels Taylor.

Ticket Information: $8 general, $6 students & seniors, $5 members


Event Sponsors:


341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202


Trailer

Synopsis

courtesy of Cohen Media Group:

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

Cohen Media Group is proud to present the 25th anniversary restoration of director Julie Dash’s landmark film Daughters of the Dust. The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, Daughters of the Dust was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, Daughters of the Dust still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce’s video album Lemonade. Restored (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa, audiences will finally see the film exactly as Julie Dash intended.

Director Statement/Bio

courtesy of press kit:

Statement:

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is the cinema of images and ideas.

Images play a major role in the complex process that shapes our identity. When images of African-American women are depicted on the screen by someone outside of our culturem it is a projection of that filmmaker’s mind — not an expression of our reality. The films that I make are from a Black aesthetic and from an African-American woman’s reality. I make the kinds of films that I’ve always wanted to see.

My films are about women at pivotal moments in their lives; enigmatic women who are juggling complex psyches; who speak to one another in fractured sentences, yet communicate completely through familiar gestures and stances; women who remind me of my old neighborhood and the women who raised me.

My approach to the writing and directing of this film has been to evoke ancient sensibilities, to challenge the conventional formats of representing Black women in the genre of historical drama.


Bio:

Julie Dash was born and raised in New York City. She is an independent filmmaker who has received wide recognition for her work; Ms. Dash tours nationally and internationally with her films. Prints of her films, ILLUSIONS and FOUR WOMEN have been permanently archived at Indiana University and at Clark College in Atlanta. She is currently working on a series of films depicting Black women in the United States from the turn of the century to the year 2000 A.D.

Ms. Dash has a 1991/92 Fulbright Fellowship to London to collaborate on a screenplay with Maureen Blackwood of Sankofa. In 1989, she won a Rockefeller Intercultural Film Fellowship. In 1981, she was the recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for her work in film. She just completed fer first feature length film, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, for an American Playhouse theatrical release in 1992. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST won the first prize award in cinematography, for dramatic film, at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Her critically acclaimed short film, ILLUSIONS, has won the 1989 Jury Prize for the Best Film of The Decade, awarded by the Black Filmmaker Foundation. ILLUSIONS was nominated for a 1988 Cable ACE Award in Art Direction, and was the season opener of “Likely Stories,” The Learning Channel’s new series showcasing fictional works by independent filmmakers. In 1985, she was a recipient of the Black American Cinema Society award for ILLUSIONS.

In 1986, she relocated to Atlanta, Georgia from Los Angeles. Ms. Dash had been selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to work as a directing apprentice, in Atlanta, on “Leader Of The Band”. Later, she began working with the Atlanta-based National Black Women’s Health Project on a six-part media presentation on adolescent pregnancy.

In 1985, 1983, and 1981, she was the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1981, she was awarded an Independent Filmmaker’s Grant from the American Film Institute (AFI).

From 1978 to 1980, Ms. Dash worked for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), in Los Angeles, as a member of the Classifications and Rating Administration. One of six voting board members, she made daily decisions that vitally affected the fortunes of more than 350 movies made each of those years; she screened all film for distribution in the United States to apply a G, PG, R or X rating. On several occasions during her three-year tenure with the Ratings board, she travelled to Pinewood Studios in London on special assignment screenings.

On two of these MPAA European assignments, Ms. Dash was able to attend and participate in the Cannes International Film Festival in France. At the 1980 festival, she co-sponsored a screening of short films by Black Americans in the Marche du Cinema. This screening led directly to the historic retrospective of Afro-American cinema held in October 1980 at FNAC in Paris at the Forum Les Halles.

In February of 1982, she travelled with a delegation of Black American independent filmmakers to attend a film festival sponsored by the National Film Theater of London and the British Commonwealth Institute. This festival occasioned the historical meeting of Black American independent filmmakers with their British counterparts.

In March of 1982, Ms. Dash, along with two other participants from the British tour, was invited to attend the Festival Against Racism in Amiens, France.

During the summer of 1983, two of her films toured throughout forty African countries in the Black Filmmaker Foundation’s “American Films: A Touring Exhibition”. This tour marked the first time that an African audience was exposed to the works of Black American independent filmmakers.

Julie began studying film production in 1969, at the Studio Museum of Harlem, in New York. Later as an undergraduate at The City College of New York, she majored in psychology until she was accepted into the film studies program at The Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts, in the David Picker Film Institute. Before graduation, she wrote and produced a promotional documentary for the New York Urban Coalition, WORKING MODELS OF SUCCESS (1974).

With a B.A. in Film Production, Ms. Dash relocated to Los Angeles to attend the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute. At AFI, she studied under several distinguished filmmakers, including William Friedkin, Jan Kadar, and Slavko Vorkapich.

Influenced by Vorkapich’s lectures on Kinesthetic responses in cinema, she conceived and directed FOUR WOMEN (1978), an experimental dance film that received a Gold Medal for Women In Film at the 1978 Miami International Film Festival. During her two-year fellowship at AFI, she completed ENEMY OF THE SUN, a feature length screenplay.

Ms. Dash directed DIARY OF AN AFRICAN NUN (1977), as a graduate film student at the University of California, Los Angeles. DIARY OF AN AFRICAN NUN, an adpatation of a short story written by Alice Walker, was screened at the Los Angeles Film Exposition (FLIMEX) and gained her a Director’s Guild Award for a student film.

Her most publicized and critically examined work, ILLUSIONS (1983), a drama set in 1942, completes the first segment of her series about Black women in the United States. Clyde Taylor writes in Freedomways magazine, “Black independents (film) have passed through several conceptual periods in which one doctrine or style was dominant now they seem to be moving towards greater diversity. An important harbinger of this mellowing out is Julie Dash’s remarkable ILLUSIONS, which, like recent developments in architecture and jazz, is post-modernist in its historical eclecticism. Dash’s refreshing challenge is to assume that her audiences can think and bring to their viewing of her work some knowledge of cinema. Set in a Hollywood studio during World War II, when commercial film production was at its most propagandistic, ILLUSIONS plays inventively on themes of cultural, sexual, and racial domination. While its touch is light and entertaining, it offers the most searing revelation in any medium of the expropriation of Black popular culture by the U.S. mass culture industry …”.

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