Tribeca Film Festival Review: Flower

FLOWER“Flower”’s credits boast an executive producer credit for Danny McBride. Erica Vandross —the film’s 17 year-old protagonist played by Zooey Deutch— has a bit in common with McBride’s signature character, Kenny Powers. Both are hyperactive, hypersexual iconoclasts with a talent for instigating conflict. Despite this outward abrasiveness, Erica and Kenny often prove to be sensitive at heart. On the surface, McBride’s involvement with the latest from director Max Winkler (“The King of Central Park”, “Clark and Michael”, “Ceremony”) seems apparent. Read more

Filmwax Radio Live with D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus

May 20th • Doors at 6:30, event begins at 7:00, no entry after 7:30

DCTV, 87 Lafayette, NYC

DCTV and Filmwax Radio cordially invite you to a special live podcast event, a conversation with filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, one of the most respected teams of documentary filmmakers working today, about their longstanding careers and new documentary feature, Unlocking the Cage.

Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans, by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform a chimpanzee from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with legal protections.

Unlocking the Cage opens May 25th at New York’s Film Forum, and nationally in June.

This event is a part of DCTV Presents, DCTV’s signature screening and event series that highlights innovative and provocative work from the independent filmmaking community.

The Filmwax Favorites of 2013

This is largely an arbitrary list that is no particular order.  I am not ranking them because, well,  I’m just lazy like that. I just walked out of all of the below very impressed or engaged or moved in some way. Among some of the most cited films of the year I still have not seen The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Dallas Buyers Club or Captain Philips. Here we go:

  • All is Lost (JC Chandor)

    let the fire burn

    A photo from Jason Osder’s LET THE FIRE BURN

  • The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  • Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling)
  • Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
  • Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg)
  • Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
  • Mother of George (Andrew Dosumnu)
  • Blackfish (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
  • Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  • All The Light in the Sky (Joe Swanberg)
  • Let the Fire Burn (Jason Osder)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers)
  • 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville)
  • Our Nixon (Penny Lane)
  • Springbreakers (Harmony Korine)
  • The Dirties (Matt Johnson)
  • This is Martin Bonner (Chad Hartigan)
  • Gravity

Filmwax screening Zachary Levy’s STRONGMAN


I don’t often champion a film with such vigor but I love me some STRONGMAN! A couple of years ago when I was screening films under the auspices of The Filmwax Film Series, I opened my second season with Zachary Levy’s documentary. Zachary was also the very first guest I ever had on Filmwax Radio! It’s been a couple of years since the film came out and finally the film is receiving a much deserved broad digital distribution on such platforms as iTunes, Amazon, as well as becoming available on DVD.

This Wednesday, October 23rd at 7PM, you’re invited to join in celebrating this great development with friends of STRONGMAN and Filmwax. We’ll start with a screening of the lauded film at Theater 80 on St. Marks Place. The Strongman himself, Stan “Stanless Steel” will be present, as will girlfriend Barbara. Stan’s band, Ajammination will make their world debut playing a live set after the screening. That will be followed by a cocktail hour in theater’s bar where Stan will be signing DVDs (and other Stan-aphenalia) and hanging out. We ask that you either purchase tickets ahead of time or to make a donation at the door (suggested $10). That admission gets you to a nice break if you purchase a DVD.

So, don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet Stan & Barbara, meet the filmmaker, and most of all: to see STRONGMAN on the big screen! Jeanette Catsoulis of the NY Times said, “Zachary Levy’s lump-in-the-throat portrait of an aging muscleman, is an outsider tale of unforced rawness and lilting poignancy.” I think I referred to Stan and his story as “near Shakespearean”. As lofty as that might sound, you have an opportunity to judge for your self. (MORE PRESS)


Filmwax Radio_iTunesFilmwax Radio is a New York-based weekly podcast focusing on independent film.  Guests include filmmakers, actors, journalists, programmers and others in the community. Its two flagship sponsors are Rooftop Films and AT&T.

Filmwax Radio is looking for a social media intern on an ongoing basis. This position does not pay at the moment but there are perks. Eventually there will be a model for monetizing this role. The intern will have many networking opportunities in the New York film world and in the arts scene in general. Additionally, if the person in this role successfully facilitates a sponsorship, there will be renumeration (terms of which to be contractual between Filmwax Radio and the intern).

This role would begin immediately and is ongoing. A minimum of 5 hours a week is required though that number is flexible during certain periods of time. There would be very few instances where a physical presence would be required.  This position can be done almost entirely remotely.


Internship Candidate Requirements:

  • Highschool diploma
  • A passion for film, independent film in particular
  • A strong knowledge of current independent films, filmmakers, news and trends
  • A nuanced understanding of social media
  • Ability to write expressively
  • Detail oriented & great communication skills
  • Google Docs (preferred but not required)
  • Strong to expert understanding of basic social media tools including:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Hootsuite
    • Instagram
    • Flickr

9494247609_65caeeaa91_cInternship Tasks Include:

  • Daily social media updates on Facebook and Twitter
  • Sporadic updates on other social media platforms including Instagram
  • Blogging optional
  • Occasional newsletter blasts

Other Opportunities Available to Intern (though will absolutely not be required):

  • Audio producing the podcast
  • Audio editing
  • Coordinating guests

Potential candidate should send their resume to College students are welcome. References will be requested which may include professional relationships outside of work experience. We are hoping to provide professional experience to this intern. Candidates will also be expected to name their favorite film of all time, their current favorite, how they generally watch films, what are they looking forward to seeing, and what their career goals are. You will not be judged for your answers; it comes down to whether the fit is right or not.

Friendly, bright and engaged human beings need only apply.

INTERVIEW with Jessica Yu

Adam Schartoff: How making “Last Call at The Oasis” from an editing standpoint?  Not just cutting it, but as a filmmaker and storyteller?

Yu: With this film, I wanted the big picture. I really wanted to understand how interconnected water is with issues like quality vs. quantity, and what did climate change and regulation has done. I wanted all of that.  And knowing that was the scope of it I realized I needed to tell as much of that through stories, or else people would be overwhelmed with data. And so, that was the organizing principle in a lot of ways, the stories. It’s roughly divided into the issues of quantity, quality, and then there’s the last section:  I actually like to think of it as more the psychology behind our inertia. You know, what does it take to move forward to the next step. So that was roughly how it was laid out. But as we started, we see that in these things there is a lot of overlap, in these larger headings- like terms of quality: if you pollute your water past a certain point, you have taken that water out your supply.

Schartoff:  What I’ve taken from this is that there’s really only one body of water, in a sense.

Yu: Right, its one big lake.

Schartoff: And you know, you can pollute to an extent, but whatever pollutants you put in the water are going to find their way into your body.

Yu: The other thing that is shocking is how long those pollutants remain in the water.  Chromium can remain in the water for 400 years, which is essentially forever.

Schartoff:  It’s all very overwhelming.  An expert in your film says, “we’re screwed.”  How do we counter that mind frame?  Should people take away from the film that Is that a lot of small steps that everybody takes?  Or is it about the larger picture, like the legislative steps made by government?  Or is it a combination of the two?

Yu:  I think its all of the above. That’s a really good question, because I feel like either we tend to just completely deny or dismiss that there is a problem, right? So we don’t do anything. The other thing we do is that we get overwhelmed by how big it is- so we don’t do anything![laughs] So that’s what keeps the inertia where it is. So I think where we were getting at in the film is that everything helps, mainly because most of us aren’t doing anything. So the potential for progress is huge, but that progress could be on the personal level. I mean, it always sounds banal like: take shorter showers and something about your lawn, but you look at those efforts multiplied by many people over their lifetimes- that’s pretty huge. And of course, on the macro-level the idea that we should have better regulation. We should have water policies. We should have better technologies, we should price water appropriately- these are all things that can make a huge difference and that’s the idea. There is no silver bullet, there is silver buckshot. I like that idea, that there are many little things that add up to the impact. Read more

RID OF ME sneak preview

RID OF ME director James Westby & actress/producer Katie O'Grady; photo credit: Adam Schartoff (c) 2011

A couple of weeks ago when I moderated a Q&A for the indie film, “The Lie”, I noted my friend Kristin McCracken in the audience.  After the event, she introduced me to her attractive friend who accompanied her, Katie O’Grady.  Katie, it turns out, is the star of yet another indie film, “Rid of Me“, which opened this weekend here in NYC.  [Come to think of it, that makes “Rid of Me” competition for “The Lie”.  Anyway, if you’re reading this…and you are reading this… go see both.]  Between the two films, it led me to thinking: we’re entering into a great time for indie films.  Allow me to clarify, it’s a great time for indie film audiences.

While the playing field might have a ways to go before it’s truly even for all, many good-to-great indie films are being made and getting distribution.  Ideally that still means theatrical (for that beloved New York Times review) but even a film festival, VOD and DVD release stream can mean that a filmmaker can afford to make subsequent movies.  Not that they will have made that much money, that issue has to be resolved in other, more creative ways.  But if these films take advantage of more affordable technology (digital cameras) and assuming the filmmaker knows how to market and distribute in a more fiscally conservative way, the movies will get seen. Read more

Maysles & Me

Filmwax's Adam Schartoff with the great Al Maysles in the offices of Film Forum; photo credit: Bradley Kaplan (c) 2011

For even the most seasoned journalist, interviewing Albert Maysles is a pretty big deal.  I met Al a while back at a NYFVC event on documentary ethics in which he was a panelist.  I saw him sitting in the front of the auditorium before the event began and introduced myself.  He immediately began to ply me with anecdotes about “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter”.  As he was talking, I realized that I should probably be recording this for my own posterity.  So I quickly reached into my pocket and took out my iPhone and hit the voice memo app.  Here’s the link to that blog post.

More recently I was invited to a press screening of Al’s latest documentary, co-directed by his creative partner, Maysles Films President Bradley Kaplan.  The new documentary, “The Love We Make”, follows Paul McCartney around the streets of NYC a couple of weeks prior to the Concert for New York he organized after the wake of 9/11.  I immediately took advantage of the opportunity by pitching an interview with the granddaddy of docs to P.O.V., they happily accepted.  That interview appears on this blog and on POV’s.   What follows is a transcript of the entire interview.

Schartoff: Well, thanks for coming downtown for this.

Bradley Kaplan: It’s our pleasure to do something with P.O.V. We should do something with P.O.V., shouldn’t we, Al? Other than them airing Salesman a decade ago. Remember that, Al? You got a kick out of that.

Al Maysles: How recent was that? Read more

INTERVIEW: Albert Maysles & Bradley Kaplan (POV)

Al Maysles (left) with Bradley Kaplan; photo credit: Adam Schartoff (c) 2011

[Article first appeared:]

Recently I’ve been running into Albert Maysles all over New York City. There was the interview, which was the catalyst for this piece, of course. Then there was the chance encounter in the subway station where he stopped and chatted with anyone who wanted to interact with him. There was the special screening of “Salesman” (POV, 1990) up at the Maysles Cinema on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. At a DOC NYC screening of “Better Than Something: Jay Reatard“, a film co-directed his editor Ian Markiewicz, I passed Maysles on the subway steps at West 4th Street as he was making his way up to the IFC Center. If not for the fact that I had to get home, he was ready to bring me into the theater as his guest.

His latest film (with artistic partner Bradley Kaplan), which opened at Film Forum in New York, is “The Love We Make”.

Maysles, who turns 85 on November 26, 2011, is still an incredibly vital filmmaker and shows few signs of slowing down. The lesson when meeting him is, don’t be fooled by his soft-spoken demeanor. He’s a prolific and generous individual who still finds great pleasure in the work he’s been doing for over 60 years. When asked during the post-screening Q&A of “Salesman” who are his current favorite documentary filmmakers are, he didn’t hesitate to answer: those students currently working at the Maysles Institute.

For many years Albert Maysles’ creative partner was his brother David. David died almost 25 years ago, and it should be noted the pair also maintained a significant collaboration with editor Charlotte Zwerin (“Gimme Shelter”, “Salesman”). About five years ago, a friend who worked for Maysles suggested a young documentary filmmaker named Bradley Kaplan come down and meet with him at their Harlem offices.

Read more

November at Flaherty NYC

The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar‘s program of innovative docs continues for three more Tuesdays in November at New York City’s 92YTribeca.

If you New York doc fans haven’t had a chance to swing by the 92YTribeca to sample of the tasty morsels at The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar since its start last month, there’s still time! 2011 marks the first year that The Flaherty Seminar and the 92nd Street Y’s downtown arts center have collaborated, and the results speak for themselves.

The theme of this season’s series, curated by programmer and writer Miriam Bale, is “Snapshots: Tourism in Cinema.” As the press release describes it, “the films in this program will be exploring documentary as a form of tourism, of the filmmaker as an outsider looking at a place through the gaze of the outsider.”

There are still three more opportunities in November to experience the series, which 92YTribeca will been screening on Wednesday evenings through November 16, 2011. Here is a brief rundown on the balance:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
“Mur Murs” (dir. Agnès Varda, 1981): A visitor (Juliet Berto) explores street life in early eighties Los Angeles, looking at music, subcultures and where murals interact with graffiti, in this little seen Varda documentary, one of several of her documents of California life. The screening will be followed by a party DJed by Dave Tompkins, author of the book How to Wreck a Nice Beach. Read more

A Case for Joe Swanberg

Filmmaker Joe Swanberg at reRun Gastropub at screening of SILVER BULLETS; photo credit: Adam Schartoff (c) 2011

Joe Swanberg has been the subject of debate pretty much since his first movie, “Kissing on the Mouth”, debuted in 2005.  His subsequent films, along with those of Andrew Bujalski and the Duplass Brothers became the movement known as mumblecore.  The term was a result of the relative lo-fi camera work and sound; and the films were, for a couple of seasons, a topic of much rancor among the indie film community.  Mumblecore, as a genre —or sub-genre— has already given way to the more accurately  monikered microbudget film.  The term mumblecore is not very relevant any more since most filmmakers, even those operating at a threadbare budget, know that to hire a sound guy is what could very well distinguish their film from looking amateur.  Crisp and clear dialogue puts the audience member in the center of the story and does not feel as though they are merely watching a cheap movie.  Cheap movies are fine, in other words, but you still need to get lost in them.

When “Hannah Takes The Stairs” debuted in 2007, it changed the game for Swanberg.  Up to that stage his films had been mostly ignored by anyone not subscribing to Sundance or SxSW.  “Hannah”, was a hit with audiences and, to some degree, critics.  As Matt Zoller Seitz said in his New York Times review, calling “Hannah” a evolutionary entry in the so-called Do It Yourself (D. I. Y.) independent film movement.”  So, producers and agents came calling but Swanberg rejected their offers.  As he explained to a spare audience at the reRun Gastropub in DUMBO last night, he soon with through a phase after that regretting his decision.  He saw his peers taking those steps towards commercial success (eg. “Greenberg”, “Cyrus”, etc.) and wondered if he hadn’t blundered.  After a less than wonderful experience collaborating with filmmaker/producer Noah Baumbach on “Alexander The Last”, Swanberg re-calibrated and realized that he was not a commercial filmmaker and D.I.Y. was, indeed, the right way. Read more

Filmwax screening of LITTLE MOTH

This Sunday, October 30th, 6pm, The Filmwax Film Series will be screening the 2nd of 4 Chinese films in partnership with dGenerate Films.  dGenerate, run by producer Karin Chien, distributes non-government sanctioned films here in the U.S. and other points West.  Last Sunday, 10/23, we screened “Super, Girls!” directed by Jian Yi which was followed by an engaging Q&A with New York Asian Film Festival co-founder and programmer, Grady Hendrix.  This Sunday, the film is “Little Moth” directed by Peng Tao a lovely dramatic fiction film.  The guest speaker will be Chinese film scholar and dGenerate blogger, Maya Rudolph.  There is a suggested donation of $10.  Proceeds from ticket sales are being sent back to China to benefit the filmmakers, who are in need of… well, benefits.


DOC NYC Back for a Second Season

New York’s fall documentary festival is back for a second year, with galas “Into the Abyss”, “Lemon” and “The Island President” and a tribute to cinéma vérité pioneer Richard Leacock.

It’s great to catch a film festival at its beginning. It has a vitality similar to that of a young child. Along with that creative energy usually comes some growing pains, but those can be fun to witness as well.

DOC NYC, which starts its second year on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, and goes through November 10, enjoyed an exceptionally strong debut season last year, including a couple of titans of the documentary world. Werner Herzog offered an advance screening of his 3-D French movie, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, and another event of note was Errol Morris’ “Tabloid”, perhaps more memorable for the post-screening Q&A where an uninvited Joyce McKinney, Morris’ main subject, inserted herself most vocally into the proceedings.

A still from Werner Herzog's new film INTO THE ABYSS

The gala films at 2011 DOC NYC are “Into the Abyss”, “The Island President”, “Lemon”. Richard Leacock gets the retrospective treatment.

This year’s season is less star-studded but hardly less interesting. Herzog, in an exceptionally prolific mode these days, returns with his latest film called Into the Abyss. His film, a Sundance Selects title, once again opens the festival. The movie concerns Michael James Perry who, like a character out of In Cold Blood or Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line”, is on death row in Conroe, Texas (“The capital murder capital of the world”). Herzog, who always remains off-camera, interviews his subjects just once, including Mr. Perry, who is only eight days from being executed by lethal injection. Read more

INTERVIEW with Alma Har’el

Alma Har’el is a commercial and music video director whose first feature film, the documentary “Bombay Beach”, was named Best Documentary at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

The film focuses on the impoverished but cinematic Southern Californian outpost of the same name, with Har’el giving it some context by aiming her camera, vérité-style, at a few of its denizens, including a hyperactive 7-year-old child (Benny), his family, and CeeJay, an ambitious teenager who escaped the drugs and violence of his Los Angeles home to “make it” here. Har’el also collaborated with her subjects to incorporate dance sequences, giving the film an otherworldly dimension that inexplicably feels right.

Adam Schartoff: Bombay Beach presents a real relationship between people and place. Was that something you were conscious of creating from the start?

Alma Har’el, director of “Bombay Beach”: You know, I talk a lot but I’m really not that cerebral when it comes to making art. What you’re describing wasn’t something I thought about during the process of making the film, but with some distance, yes, it is like that

When I first visited Bombay Beach I was very much drawn to something that I know from being an Israeli, from my own past. I can relate to a place on the outskirts of society where there was once a promise and turned out very violent and disappointing to many people. But it’s a place that you live as a kid that has a history that you will never really comprehend. You might not care, though people will tell you what it used to be like. And then that mythology that sort of gets build up. Benny (one of the film’s primary subjects) touches on this when he talks about having been in jail for 100 years. He might not even know what jail is, perhaps. He’s only seven. He knows his parents were in jail but he says he was in jail. He even describes it, how it has scorpions and there’s nothing to do, no food, no television. That got to me. I was grappling with the same idea about creating a mythology that is, in fact, quite broken. The thing about Bombay Beach was that it was some place that really showed that, and I wouldn’t have to say anything or explain it. You don’t need a narrator to tell you. Every frame tells a story in that place. Read more