Back at South By: Hunter Gatherer, The Arbalest, Tony Robbins, and the Death of the Theatrical

Hunter GathererSomething was in the air this year at South by Southwest. A number of people I hung out with complained that the films weren’t as good as last year. I didn’t have that experience. As many times as I promise myself I’ll leave time for wildcard screenings (spontaneous choices), I always end up going with my planned selections. This year I reached about half the movies I intended to. That’s not terribly surprising considering I also do a lot of podcasting at SxSW and this year I also attended a few panels and ran one myself. More on that in a bit; first the films. One of my favorite films which had its world premiere was “Hunter Gatherer”, directed by Josh Locy and which stars Andre Royo, Bubbles on the HBO series The Wire. Royo, who won the Special Jury Award for his performance, is unforgettable as Ashley, a recently released ex-con who is ceaselessly hustling in his own benign way to make a few bucks. The movie opens with Ashley’s elderly and cantankerous Mom  setting up a birthday party for him while he fruitlessly calls friends to invite them over. Even though he’s middle aged there’s something innocent, almost childish about him, despite his having served three years in the slammer (reasons which are never quite explained). What we do learn relatively quickly is that he harbors a deep love for the woman he was involved with before he went into prison and who has since moved on to another relationship. Ashley doesn’t stop hustling and when he meets Jeremy (George Sample III), another innocent, the two make unlikely friends. Read more

This Evening PINE HILL Comes to Fort Greene

Keith Miller is excited about his new indie feature, “Welcome to Pine Hill”  screening outdoors in Fort Greene Park this Thursday.  Just how will it play under the stars?  It’s not an action movie or a romantic comedy.  Well, maybe kind of a bromance.  “Welcome to Pine Hill”, which has been getting raves and awards ever since its debut at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, concerns a young man named Shannon Harper played by Brooklyn native, non-actor Shannon Harper.  [Editor’s note: I harbor no ill will because Shannon, who was supposed to be interviewed for this piece, was a no-show.]  I won’t give away too much of the plot, I can only say that the movie has a most memorable opening which just happens to be based on a real life incident that occurred just outside filmmaker Miller’s apartment building in South Slope.

Miller, an unassuming white guy, was walking his dog, William, when he was stopped by a large young black man.  The larger of the two turned out to be Shannon Harper who identified William as his own lost dog, Prince.  When Miller told Harper that he rescued the dog —then a four month pit bull pup— off the street and attempted to find its owner, the two men started the process of navigating the breaches that existed between them.   Read more

INTERVIEW: Lynn Shelton

I’ve often been told I have a face made for radio.  It’s an old joke but actually holds true in my case.  Lynn Shelton, on the other hand, probably belongs somewhere shy of an IMAX screen.  Warm, funny, easy on the eyes.  I had it all set that I was going to interview her on my radio show.  Frustratingly, that didn’t quite work out timing-wise (for the moment) but I couldn’t let the scheduled interview go to complete waste.

I was particularly interested in what life on a Lynn Shelton set was like.   Having seen all four of her feature films, and having long admired the humanity that comes off the screen, I was anxious to talk. Her characters are all written with warmth and wit; utterly believable.  There was estranged Eric (Basil Harris) & Dylan (Sean Nelson), trying to find common ground out in the woods in rural Washington in “My Effortless Brilliance”.  “Humpday” reunites old friends married Ben (Mark Duplass) & unanchored  Andrew (Joshua Leonard), who agree to make an amateur man-on-man porno even though neither man is homosexual.  In her latest comedy, “Your Sister’s Sister”,  Jack (Duplass), who recently lost his brother must grapple with his romantic feelings for his widowed sister-in-law, Iris (Emily Blunt), in spite of a one night fling he had with her lesbian sister, Hannah (Rosemary DeWitt).  If it sounds complicated —and it is— the whole thing is written and performed so smoothly that you won’t miss a step.

Filmwax: Congratulations on “Your Sister’s Sister”.  I saw it and really enjoyed it thoroughly.

Lynn Shelton: Oh great, thanks.

Filmwax:  What’s your secret in creating an environment on the set in order to get the kinds of performances you do with “Humpday” and “Your Sister’s Sister”?

Shelton: Um, well I try to have as few bodies as possible, and really, the most important thing is the right bodies. The right people. So I’m really incredibly careful about who I bring into the crew family and just as careful as I am in casting the cast.

Filmwax: Do you mean literally who you allow to be on the set?

Shelton: Yeah, yeah. I’m talking about the d.p. (director of photography) and the sound guy.  Every single person.  I’ve been an artist all my life, and I didn’t come into my own as an artist until I discovered the collaboration of narrative filmmaking. And so, I’ve been using a lot of – I mean it was decades before I really figured out,  Like: “Oh, if you let go or let loose a little bit, open up your control freak nature and let other people into the process, like, wow! The things that can happen are pretty amazing.”

And I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is, and I think that, at its best, collaboration pushes. What’s great is when you have partners who are all pushing each other. They are all being the best that they can be. One of my collaborators recently told me that, he said: “You believed in me more than I believed in myself, and I’ve done better work because of it, and work I never would have done because of it.”  And that is it in a nutshell. I think that if everybody believes in each other, more than they even believe in themselves, then they end up sort of raising the bar.  Everybody just ends up, you know, getting the best out of each other. In order to do that, you have to have an incredibly emotionally safe environment.  Making art is a very risky venture – you’re putting a little piece of your soul out there for people to just like… you know, you’re laying yourself bare when you’re being creative. Read more

Brooklyn Film Festival Lives Up To Its Name

Characteristically, the Brooklyn Film Festival (formerly known as the Brooklyn International Film Festival) has made Brooklyn films and filmmakers a priority.  While other New York area festivals focus on national or international content —not to say that BFF ignores it; it’s an international competition festival— this Williamsburg-basd festival stays true blue.  Founded in 1998, the festival has been slowly growing in its stature.  In addition to a load of new indie films, the festival now boasts an industry panel day which they are calling the BFF Exchange and whose sessions run this Saturday.  But it’s bread and butter are the 104 features and shorts, including 28 world premieres and 28 U.S. premieres.  This past year there were some 2,000 submissions so the secret is definitely out. And this blogger should know; he was a screener for their documentaries.

A scene from Kelly Anderson's MY BROOKYLN which closes the Brooklyn Film Festival

A few standouts among those Brooklyn-centric films are Kelly Anderson’s “My Brooklyn“,  Su Friedrich’s “Gut Renovation” and Katie Dellamaggiore’s “Brooklyn Castle“.  All are worthy of your time & money and are having screenings over this coming weekend.  Anderson’s “My Brooklyn” will enjoy a Filmwax Film Series screening some time in the fall, date to be announced.

The Brooklyn Film Festival, Decoy Edition, which runs from June 1st through the 10th, screens at both indieScreen & The Brooklyn Heights Cinema.  The festival is owned and operated by Marco Ursino & Susan Mackell; Nathan Kensinger is the Director of Programming.

Buy These DVDs Now

Hello Lonesome” is Adam Reid’s charming triptych dramedy revolving around the theme of loneliness and human connection.  Plot #1 involves the voice over actor Harry Chase playing a voice over actor named Harry Chase, who works and lives alone in his comfortable rural Connecticut domicile. Coping poorly with an estrangement from his adult daughter (never seen), Harry passes the time in between his studio gigs playing with his big boy toys  which include a gun collection and a trampoline.  His only friend is the UPS guy (a terrific Kamel Boutros), who drops off supplies for Harry and humors him by hanging out longer than he should.  Plot #2 involves compulsive online gambler Gordon (Nate Smith) who falls in love with pretty Debby (Sabrina Lloyd).  Gordon ends up moving into Debby’s large but sparse Manhattan apartment which she shares with a pair of large dogs.  A bit of unexpected news ends up potentially undermining their future. Plot #3 plays up the age difference between widow, Eleonore (Lynn Cohen) and her much younger single neighbor (James Urbaniak) whom she reaches out to after her driver’s license is revoked.  What starts out as an occasional chauffeuring here and there, ends up going off into Harold & Maude territory.  Everyone in “Hello Lonesome” is terrific and pitch perfect.  The most fun is the audio commentary which stuffs too many of the cast members together with Reid’s wife feeding the cast throughout.  Nary a coherent thought is completed but you’ll still laugh and wish you had attended the recent DVD release party hosted by Filmwax.  Buy a copy now!

My Perestroika” was one of the big documentary surprises last year.  Along with a handful of other non-fiction features (including Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and “Buck”) that actually had impact at the box office as well as a hit on POV.  Following 5 adults who all experienced growing up in the Soviet Union and then the subsequent transition of Glasnost and Perestroika, the movie is both funny and sad but always fascinating.  The DVD is packed with an hour’s worth of deleted scenes.  Anyone who watches the movie will be grateful for the bonus time with the movie’s subjects whom will all grow on them like married couple Borya and Lyuba who are trying to raise their son, Mark, amidst the chaos of the Russian culture.  Successful entrepreneur, Andrei, has profited very well while Rusian, a local musician, struggles to make ends meet.  And single mother, Olga, a former high school beauty, now punches the clock at a pool table rental company.  Yet, a real spark emanates from all of filmmaker Robin Hessman’s subjects.   The DVD is available for purchase using this link.

RICHARD’S WEDDING premieres Friday, June 1

“Richard’s Wedding” will begin its NY theatrical engagement at the reRun Theater in DUMBO this Friday, June 1st.  Many cast and crew members will be present for Q&A’s after both screenings which will take place at 7:30 & 10:15.  The comedy, directed by Onur Tukel, is being distributed by Matt Grady’s Factory 25.  Several members from the cast, including Onur, Jennifer Prediger and Dustin Defas, will be guests on Filmwax Radio tomorrow evening for a special live broadcast.

show times
FRI 6/1 – 7:30pm, 10:15pm
SAT 6/2 – 3pm
MON 6/4 – 7:30pm, 10:15pm
TUE 6/5 – 10:15pm
WED 6/6 – 10:15pm
THU 6/7 – 7:30pm

RICHARD’S WEDDING NY Premiere at reRun Theater

Word just in that Onur Tukel’s comedy, “Richard’s Wedding”, which was picked up by Matt Grady’s Factory 25, will be premiering at reRun Gatropub Theater on Friday, June 1.  The comedy about a ragtag group of friends getting together for a wedding in Central Park, shot at the end of last summer and stars Lawrence Michael Levine (“Gaby on the Roof in july”, “Green”), Jennifer Prediger (“Uncle Kent & the upcoming “Red Flag”), Dustin Defas (“Bad Fever”), Josephine Decker (“Autoerotic”, “Uncle Kent”), Randy Gambill (“Eastbound and Down”), Oona Mekas (“The Future”), myself &, of course, Onur Tukel.  Many from the cast & crew are expected to appear on opening night.  I hope to have a special episode of Filmwax Radio airing just prior.   More on that to come.

Rooftop’s 16th Season

Last Friday, May 18th, Rooftop Films began its 16th season with it’s annual eclectic shorts slate, This Is What We Mean by Short Films.  Continuing all summer long they will screen a total of 23 feature films and 183 shorts.  Every evening begins with a musical performance; last Friday’s band was terrific, a band called Crinkles.  I’ve become a fan.  Among the highlights of the shorts were Henry Joost’s A Brief History of John Baldessari, Michael Galinsky, Joanna Arnow & Suki Hawley’s “First Month”, Grant Orchard’s “Morning Stroll” and Dana O’Keefe’s “Aaron Burr, Part 2”.

Along with their usual existing outstanding venues spanning the roofs, parks, and piers of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, Rooftop Films is introducing an additional two new venues this year: Metrotech & Dekalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn.

Here is the complete roster of films coming up this summer.

Friday, May 11
This Is What We Mean By Short Films Opening Night
At Rooftop, we have always envisioned our Opening Night show as a rebellion against stale cinematic forms and status quo stories. This year, revolution is in the air, and our programming crests the top of the upheaval.
Venue: Open Road Rooftop (Lower East Side), 350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

Saturday, May 12
Think of Me (Bryan Wizemann)
“Trembling with vulnerability, Lauren Ambrose is positively devastating” (The New York Observer) as a young single mother doing her best not to fall apart.
Venue: Open Road Rooftop (Lower East Side), 350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

Thursday, May 17
On Your Own (Short Films)
In this dynamic program of comedy, animation, drama and documentary, people on the mad margins of society express a creative vision of the world that is alluring and bizarre.
Venue: Dekalb Market (Downtown Brooklyn), 138 Willoughby St. at Flatbush Ave. Read more

BAMcinemaFest Announces 4th Season — Lots of Goodies!

The creme of the crop, or so that’s the term one hears bandied about when referring to BAMcinemFest’s annual program.  Just announced, the 4th season, of what is quickly becoming a major NYC film event.  If you don’t get to festivals like SxSW, Sundance or Cannes, don’t worry,  BAM brings a selection right to your neighborhood (or a short subway ride away).  Among the highlights last year were Septien, Catechism Cataclysm, Terri, If A Tree Falls, Where Soldiers Come From, and many others.

This year’s  lineup looks hardly disappoints and  Filmwax Radio is proud to be inviting a number of this season’s filmmakers to the show.  Stay tuned for air dates.

OPENING NIGHT: “Sleepwalk With Me” (Mike Birbiglia) NY Premiere Narrative
Opening the festival on June 20 is the New York premiere of “Sleepwalk With Me”, Mike Birbiglia’s adaptation of his hit off-Broadway one-man show. Co-written and produced by Ira Glass, who has featured Birbiglia on This American Life, this hilarious and poignant autobiographical exploration stars Birbiglia as a bartender at a Park Slope comedy club who moves in with his long-term girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose). On top of his struggles with his relationship and his stand-up career, Birbiglia also battles an extreme form of sleepwalking where he acts out his dreams—even going so far as to throw himself out of a second story window in Walla Walla, Washington. This bittersweet ciné-memoir is both earnest and surreal. Winner of an audience award at Sundance and a selection at SXSW, “Sleepwalk With Me” also stars cult legend Carol Kane and character actor James Rebhorn (“Meet the Parents”, “Independence Day”) as Birbiglia‟s mother and father; a typically snarky Alex Karpovsky (“Tiny Furniture”); and comics Kristen Schaal (“Flight of the Conchords”), David Wain (“Wet Hot American Summer”), Marc Maron (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, “WTF with Marc Maron”), Wyatt Cenac (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”), and others. “Sleepwalk With Me” is an IFC Films release and opens August 24.  An IFC Films release.

CLOSING NIGHT: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen” (Don Letts) NY Premiere Documentary
The definitive portrait of a legendary photographer, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen”, directed by the equally legendary punk documentarian Don Letts (“The Punk Rock Movie”, “The Clash: Westway to the World”, “Strummerville”), is the festival’s closing night film presented in a free screening for its New York premiere on July 1. Most famous for the iconic black-and-white photo of a casual John Lennon in shades wearing a “New York City” t-shirt—Gruen was John and Yoko’s personal photo documentarian—the New York photographer redefined the still image in rock, with what Alice Cooper has described as “the ultimate backstage pass…This guy must have stories that nobody has!” Featuring hundreds of celebrated shots of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Iggy Pop, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, and more alongside dozens of interviews with Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Billy Joe Armstrong, punk historian Legs McNeil, and, of course, Gruen himself, Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed is the true history of rock ‘n’ roll from the 60s to the present. Read more

Buy These DVDs Now

In Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin“, Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a shell-shocked woman absent of the maternal gene.  For that deficiency she is punished —imprisoned really— in a relationship with her psychopathic son, Kevin.  The two end up in a bizarre symbiotic relationship which eludes her emotionally deficient husband Franklin (John C. Reilly).  Franklin lives in a state of denial, both Kevin’s loving son performance while also explaining away his antisocial behavior as childishness (toddler Kevin: Rock Duerr; pre-pubescent Kevin: Jesper Newell) or hormonal (teenage Kevin: Ezra Miller).  His warmth toward his Dad is part of a larger act all staged to torture his mother.

The film skips around in time from Eva’s single days as a journalist through the present day, the latter period which takes place following a tragedy which leaves her as the town pariah.  Tilda Swinton looks likes she is caught in the headlights when she isn’t looking hungry for her son’s approval.  Their relationship is that of nemeses and any connectivity they share is the within that context. Read more

RICHARD’S WEDDING premieres at Sarasota Film Festival


This weekend, “Richard’s Wedding” has its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival.  The Inside, the Festival’s website blog, posted this piece about our film:

INDEPENDENT VISIONS COMPETITION SPOTLIGHT: Exclusive interview with the Filmmakers and Cast of RICHARD’S WEDDING!

Watching “Richard’s Wedding” is like going to a party and meeting a tight group of friends who instantly welcome you into their fold and make you feel like you’ve known them all your life. It is a film that delivers its themes through sparkling conversation and terrific acting. What follows, much like the film, is a fun whirlwind roundtable discussion with actor/writer/director Onur Tukel and actors Jennifer Prediger, Lawrence Michael Levine, Heddy Lahmann, and Adam Schartoff. “Richard’s Wedding” plays Friday, April 20 @ 8:15 PM, Saturday, April 21 @ 5:00 PM, and Sunday, April 22 @ 5:45 PM. CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS NOW!

THE INSIDER: What inspired you to make this movie?

Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/”Tuna”): I love the dialogue-driven movies of Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman. I always wanted to make a New York ensemble movie. I moved to New York in October of 2010 to get inspired. I had been cast in a really great indie film called “Septien” by Michael Tully and was really inspired by Tully’s process. He made that movie without any real fear of how it would be received. I remember him saying specifically, “I don’t care if this movie gets distributed. I don’t care if it gets into film festivals.” And then he went and made a brilliant movie! It was incredibly inspiring. So Tully was hugely influential.

There are three specific movies that have inspired/informed “Richard’s Wedding”. One specific influence was the movie “Tape” by Richard Linklater which takes place in a hotel room in real time. The two male leads spend the first half of the movie talking about a character that doesn’t show up until the second act. more…

Buy These DVDs Now

I wanted to help support the works of two remarkable filmmakers whose films have debuted on DVD in the past week or two.  The first is Todd Rohal (“The Guatemalan Handshake”) who directed the side-splitting knee slapper, “Catechism Cataclysm” [MPI Home Video] starring Steve Little (East Bound and Down) and Robert Longstreet.  This movie is about a most unlikely priest (Little) who has been given a leave of absence by his seniors as a result of his unconventional sermons.  He takes the opportunity to get in touch with an old boyfriend of his sister’s with whom he’s had a life-long fascination.  The two end up in a canoe trip  from Hell (literally). “Cataclysm Catachsim”, aka “CatCat”, was edited by Alan Canant and shot by Ben Kasulke.  I saw “CatCat” last summer and was instantly smitten.

The other new DVD is “Glitch in the Grid” [Vanguard Cinema] directed by Filmwax alumni Eric Leiser.   About 4 or 5 months ago I was looking at random movie trailers on Apple’s website and came across the trailer for this film.  I watched it and made mental note.  The next day I was strolling down Sixth Avenue in The Village when a young man on a skateboard pulled up right next to me with a mounted poster for the film.  I turned to the young guy —whose name turned out to be Jeffrey Leiser— and said, “Well, that’s funny.  Yesterday I watched the trailer for that movie.”  He told me that his brother, Eric, directed the film and that he had edited it.  Within 48 hours I had booked a screening of Glitch for Filmwax.  We showed it about a month and a half ago to a packed room.  Now the movie is out on DVD and I highly recommend it.  It’s a lovely artful film about 2 brothers, loosely based on the Leiser brothers and acted by the Leiser brothers, who invite their depressed unemployed cousin (Jay Masonek) to move in with them in their Los Angeles pad.  Not a whole lot more to them but they are all feeling sort of leading lives that are off the grid.

I recommend either on mild hallucinogens or straight up.

Queens World Film Festival 2012: Back on Home Turf

It’s not that I was skeptical or anything.  But when I headed over to the opening night ceremonies for the Queens World Film Festival (formerly known as the Queen International Film Festival) at the Museum of the Moving Image, it was evident that organizers Don & Katha Cato were serious about putting their festival on the map.  When my date for the evening, colleague Athena Georgiadis, and I first arrived at the museum  I leaned in and said, “I won’t know anyone here tonight.” No sooner had those words left my mouth then I then I had to swallow them.

First off, my mate Jack Feldstein, was on hand.  Not only is the filmmaker/animator on the festival’s jury but he’s curated  The Subway Series as part of Sunday’s programming to take place at the Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81st Street in Jackson Heights.  Among those short films included in Jack’s series is Gabe Rodriguez’ “The Q to the 6”, a short I showed as part of the Filmwax Film Series last September.  Another event that I look back on with fond memories is Jack’s Evening of Neon Animation.

I also ran into another friend, and Filmwax alumni, Trish Dalton, who will be screening the film she co-directed with Elisabeth Sperling, “One Night Stand”.  I first saw “One Night Stand” at DocuClub and then subsequently invited them to show their film in a later stage rough cut at the Filmwax Film Series.  The screening, my second ever, was helpful in providing them with some last minute feedback prior to their festival submissions.  The film went on to play a number of festivals including, more locally, last year’s Newfest Film Festival. Read more

MARGARET, A Beautiful Mess of a Movie

…and according to actor/cast member Josh Hamilton I hear that the DVD will have another half hour of footage.  Have you ever sat though a movie and you kept waiting for the ending to come… and it doesn’t?  And you start getting an anxiety attack?  We’re so conditioned watching the typical 75 to 110 minute movie with the arc and the resolution, and all the rest, that when something completely different and not concerned with those conventions come along we don’t know how to deal with it.  Kenneth Lonegran’s “Margaret” is a great example of this type of movie.  I knew going into the Walter Reade the other night that this was going to be a movie that was going to make me uncomfortable and I welcomed it.  It didn’t disappoint.  I don’t know how to explain it any other way than that it is a play write’s idea of cinema.

There are various subplots introduced that are never resolved.  At a certain point, if you give into the film, you will simply eat it up.  Every character is fully realized.  There are no weak performances.  The stand out is Jeannie Berlin.  Where the fuck has this actress been the past 25 years?  Hers is a true Oscar-worthy performance.  Her role in “Margaret” is every bit as good as any Meryl Streep performance in anything she’s done since “Sophie’s Choice”.  And she doesn’t  need an accent to pull it off either.  And, believe me, I love Meryl Streep.  But I think I love Jeannie Berline more now. Her performance was sublime.  If Jeannie Berlin isn’t in at least three films in 2012, I’ll be very surprised indeed.

So, if you happen to get an opportunity to see “Margaret”, please just open up your mind.  Forget the movies you are accustomed to see and which, in most cases, you forget about hours after seeing.  Buy the ticket. Take the risk.  Take the leap. Watch an artfully entertaining, completely unpredictable movie.

INTERVIEW with Melissa Nicolardi

Melissa Nicolardi

Filmwax is screening a terrific documentary on February 4th called “The Pass It On Project“.  The project is a road trip to the sites of the Civil Rights Movement for a group of Brooklyn middle schoolers and it becomes a path to re-imagining their future.  I interviewed the director of the film, Melissa Nicolardi.  It’s clear that this project was a life changer for the young filmmaker as well.

Adam Schartoff: How did you initially become involved with this school?

Melissa Nicolardi: Producer Kalim Armstrong had an interest in exploring education as a topic for a documentary film. He was introduced to the teachers through a mutual friend of theirs. We were in graduate school at Hunter College together.  He knew that I also had an interesting making a film about education and he approached me about collaborating on the project.

AS:  At what point did you decide that this project was worthy of a documentary?

MN: Kalim and I immediately agreed that the project was worthy of a documentary. I used to teach middle school, and that is such an interesting age. The kids are just starting to come into themselves and figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world around them.

The 2008 Election —the election of the first African-American president— was certainly a defining moment in US history, and probably one of the first of those moments for the students in the film. The idea of watching them process that moment by relating it back to the Civil Rights struggle was very intriguing. We had a feeling that it would be transformative for them. And it was.

We also felt that the mission of the Project —as stated by the teachers— to open up a dialogue about race and racism, history and social justice in their school- was important, and the time was ripe to put that story out into the world.

AS:  What did you learn during the course of the film that was most surprising?

MN:  The most surprising thing for me was the omnipresence, the sense of closeness to the history of the Civil Rights Movement that I felt once we got down south. I grew up in the northeast and it was my first time visiting any of the cities we went to. It’s a very different relationship to the history geographically, and it was really powerful to be there where these incredibly important, fairly recent, revolutionary events took place. That’s actually a lot of what that film is about, and it was really incredible to experience it with the kids. Read more