The 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival, June 13-23 at L.A. LIVE, will screen a diverse slate of nearly 200 feature films, shorts, music videos, and documentaries from around the world. Don’t miss 10 days and 11 nights of red carpet premieres, conversations, live music, free outdoor screenings, and films from around the world.
Some of the most energetic, riveting, and symphonic sounds in jazz today emanate from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The band, consisting of eight brothers–all sons of jazz legend Phil Cohran–who were raised on Chicago’s South Side and have been practicing as a family since they were kids.
Whether playing on the streets of New York City or performing alongside Prince, when the brothers raise their horns, they create a music that looms large in the imagination. As the brothers come of age on the world’s stage, brotherhood becomes more than just a biological fact. It becomes an ideal, even when it clashes with their future dreams. Continue reading →
We deeply regret to announce the death of Robert West, who passed away peacefully in his home Thursday morning.
Robert has been part of the ITVS family since the late 1990’s, when he worked as an Outreach Coordinator for the later-branded Community Cinema program. During the years that Robert was a part of the ITVS enterprise, he brought a level of commitment and sophistication to the art of community engagement – or as he later dubbed it “reel engagement.” Those of us who had the great pleasure of working with Robert during those years saw firsthand his deep commitment to supporting social issue documentaries and connecting people and organizations in a way that resulted in creating real change. Although he moved on to co-found his own organization, Working Films, Robert always remained involved in the ITVS mission, often assisting staff and filmmakers on various projects over the years.
Robert has been a visionary and a leader in the intersections of media and public engagement. Last fall, he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), an aggressive and terminal brain cancer. We at ITVS and Independent Lens, along with countless colleagues who have been beneficiaries of his work, were devastated by the news. Not surprisingly, in the months since then, Robert earned our even deeper admiration for the dignity, humor, and grit he has shown. Someone wise once wrote, “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a dream is drudgery. But dreams and tasks together are the hope of the world.” Robert epitomized “the hope of the world” through his courage, his actions, and his contributions – back in the day at ITVS, Working Films, and with all the films and filmmakers he has helped. Continue reading →
Women & Girls Lead announces the launch of Through Her Lens, an online series of dramatic shorts premiering on June 12, 2013.
Women are conspicuously absent from the top ranks of film. In 2012, women made up a measly 9 percent of directors working on the top 250 domestic-grossing films in the U.S.
But there are a few bright spots: Women were more likely to work for documentaries, dramas, and animated films than action, horror, and sci-fi in 2012. At high-profile film festivals, they more commonly were directors of documentaries than narrative features. They are also more likely to be top brass on feature-length films in top U.S. film festivals than the cash-raking, top 250 grossing films.
ITVS’s response to this gender gap? Women and Girls Lead’s series of dramatic shorts, Through Her Lens premiering exclusively online on June 12, 2013. Directed by women, featuring stories about women, the series travels from the streets of Spanish Town, Jamaica, to an apartment in Amman, Jordan, to a Chinese immigrant enclave in New York City. Continue reading →
Hollow came out of thoughts I had about my everyday internet experience, in which data seems to stream into my brain as if through an intravenous drip. I open my laptop and suddenly email, web searches, random advertising, and social networking all roar in, filling my mental space like a noisy highway and leaving less and less space for fragile developing thoughts and fleeting memories. It’s essentially reshaping my brain’s transactions and, one could argue, ultimately changing who I am.
I obsessed over this idea, this web brain experience, and it tumbled forward, shaping into a character named Iris, a young woman who is trying to survive in a future world where this kind of data exposure is peaking. I imagined the future web as more aggressive and personal, having lost most of its anonymity and privacy. This felt like a small stretch from today, as our growing dependence on the web will almost certainly be paired with challenges to its overall security. Corporate and government surveillance will expand, as well as tracking and profiling systems. As all prosthetic devices (computers, cell phones, etc.) become vulnerable to hacking, powerful interests will find other ways to secretly move information. I was irresistibly drawn to this imaginary future with new industries, new opportunities, and unlikely “heroes.” Continue reading →
Tributopia, the project inspired by the ITVS-funded documentary The Grove, is a free iPhone app for creating virtual memorials and remembering lost loved ones by posting tributes on an interactive map. Tributopia invites engagement by connecting memories to a specific place. With the augmented reality feature, users looks through the viewfinder and can find virtual tributes overlaying the real world around them. Tributopia launches in conjunction with Memorial Day, just before Gay Pride Month.
Filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson gives us this inside look at the inspiration behind the app and his take on the changing interactive media landscape:
How did making The Grove inspire your idea for Tributopia?
The AIDS Memorial Grove founders envisioned a nature-based memorial in which individuals could till their grief and find comfort in seeing their own human experience reflected in nature. While the stigma of AIDS created invisible victims and survivors often excluded from traditional rituals of burial and remembrance, having a special place to remember and share was especially important.
While I was in the midst of production on The Grove, I vacationed in Mexico and witnessed scores of roadside memorials adorned with flowers, pictures, and photos. I was mesmerized and wanted to know what happened and whom it happened to. It was as if those shrines wanted to speak to me, to tell me their story. I began to realize how vital the connection was between memory and place, and between community and communication. Hence, the idea for Tributopia was born: a way to use new media to tell stories of loss – to connect memories to place and join in a community of remembrance.
What was the experience like, going from being a “traditional” documentary filmmaker to working in the interactive media space? Was there a large learning curve?
There was an enormous learning curve. We tend to take for granted our mastery over our own craft. Suddenly I found myself facing a technology, terminology and business model that were alien to me. While we cling to the idea of “storytelling” as a unifying theme and comforting commonality, I really did feel like I was entering a brave new world! Continue reading →
Filmmaker María Agui Carter discusses the Women & Girls Lead film Rebel, race, and the exclusion of women in national history. Rebel is the story of Loreta Velazquez, a Confederate soldier turned Union spy. She was dismissed as a hoax for a hundred and fifty years, but new evidence shows Loreta, a Cuban immigrant from New Orleans, was one of an estimated 1000 secret women soldiers of the American Civil War. The documentary premieres on the PBS series Voces on May 24, 2013 (check local listings).
Loreta Velazquez, a Confederate Soldier turned Union spy, did not change the course of the American Civil War. Why would this one woman’s story, out of the three million Americans who fought in the Civil War, matter today? She was one of hundreds of women and thousands of Latino Civil War soldiers whose stories remain outside of the national narrative of history. While the US only recently lifted the ban on women in combat, she was fighting 150 years ago.
Latinos have emerged as the nation’s largest ethnic group, while, according to a Hill and Knowlton study, 1/3 of Americans believe Hispanics are recent immigrants who have come here illegally. Few know that over 10,000 Mexicans fought in the Civil War, entire regiments who spoke only Spanish joined in battle, and that Spanish surnamed soldiers, from South Carolina to New York, joined the ranks. Loreta’s rebellious and daring character, the tragedies of her life – and her refusal to be defeated by them – made her a riveting film subject, but it was the fact that she had been erased that propelled me to make Rebel.
As Walter Benjamin has said, history decays into images. But our society has not always deemed women and minority history worthy of documentation, I had only one, not even authenticated, photo of Loreta. But her memoir and a trove of recently discovered archival documentation about her allowed me to bring her to life, using voiceovers, recreations, animation, and contemporary storytellers.
I am interested in the tension between national narratives and community histories and in the politics of gender and race in the creation of stories about the American past. In Loreta’s lifetime, proponents of the Lost Cause rejected Velazquez for her frank criticisms of the South, and for the fact that, as a Hispanic and as a woman soldier, she disturbed their carefully crafted portrayal of the Southern soldier in the Confederacy. Continue reading →
The Living is a film about human isolation and, specifically, how shifts in the frequency and quality of human interaction might shape the American future. For many of my fellow Gen Y-ers, the notion that we’re traveling down a path of increased human isolation probably seems far-fetched and alarmist, or, at best, a non-issue. After all, we’re children of the Information Age, the first generation born into a world of mass media and wireless technology that allows us to stay in constant contact with both close friends and strangers who live thousands of miles away.
Although I recognize and enjoy the technological advances that continue to bring us closer in the virtual sense and satisfy an array of social longings, I’ve also wondered what culture shifts these innovations might encourage in the long run. As I developed the script for The Living, I pondered a host of moral quandaries that might arise in a society where human desire has been reduced at accelerated rates – where the population has normalized the practice of communicating with both strangers and loved ones at mainly a physical distance. Ultimately, I wanted to know how this continuing ethos might inform the way Americans value human life. Continue reading →
Summer Pastureand the Why Poverty?series were among the programs honored on Monday at theGeorge Foster Peabody Awards in New York City. Administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Peabody is one of the most prestigious honors in electronic media.
The 72nd Annual Peabody Award Luncheon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Courtesy of Lois Vossen.
Summer Pasture and two of the documentaries from the Why Poverty? series, ITVS-funded Park Avenue and Solar Mamas, aired on Independent Lens in 2012, representing the only PBS programming to be recognized at this year’s ceremony. Independent Lens Senior Series Producer Lois Vossen attended the luncheon and accepted the Summer Pasture award on behalf of the filmmakers, who were unable to attend:
“It was an honor to attend the Peabody Awards to accept a Peabody on behalf of Lynn True, Nelson Walker, and Tsering Perlo for their beautiful film Summer Pasture. Independent Lens was also awarded a Peabody for Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream and Solar Mamas, which broadcast as part of the Why Poverty? series. Winning PBS’s two Peabody Awards this year is further indication of the extraordinary and extraordinarily important work independent filmmakers do. Their unyielding passion and commitment to journalism makes them a vital part of public television. We need their voices now more than ever. It also didn’t hurt that Judd Apatow told me today how much he loves Independent Lens and that it is one of his favorite series!” Continue reading →
Military women have marched toward increased rights throughout United States history. From the American Revolution, when they operated primarily as nurses, to the Iraq War, when they served covertly on the frontlines in Team Lioness, women have finally been acknowledged for the service they provide to the United States. As of January 2013, they are legally recognized as ground combat fighters.
In honor of Memorial Day, watch Rebel (airing May 24 on PBS’s Voces) to learn more about one neglected female figure who shaped the United States military, Loreta Velazquez, Confederate soldier and Union spy. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of female soldiers’ long path to the present:
During the American Revolution, in 1775, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates told Gen. George Washington that, “the sick suffered much for want of good female Nurses.” Washington beseeched Congress, which approved one nurse for every ten patients. Women also served as water bearers, cooks, laundresses, and saboteurs.
During the Civil War, women soldiers on both sides disguised themselves as men in order to serve. In 1866, Dr. Mary Walker received the Medal of Honor. She is the only female to have been awarded this highest honor.
In World War I, 21,480 Army nurses serve in military hospitals in the United States and overseas. Eighteen African-American Army nurses serve stateside caring for German prisoners of war (POWs) and African-American soldiers. More than 400 military nurses die in the line of duty. The majority died from the “Spanish Flu.”
The Army establishes the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. They were the first women besides nurses to “serve within the ranks of the United States Army.” More than 150,000 women served as WACs during the war. In 1942, Nancy Harkness Love organized 25 women pilots into the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). The WAFS flew planes from the factory to military bases.
WACs in the Vietnam War supported the troops mainly in administrative military occupational specialties (MOSs). One WAC detachment was assigned to Headquarters, first at Ton Son Nhut Airbase, then at Long Binh. “While engineers readied new barracks at Long Binh, the women lived in a building typical of the tropics, with openings between outer wallboards and no windows,” according to Army.mil. “Red dust covered their rooms during the dry season, and rain soaked them during the wet season.”
By the end of 2004, 19 servicewomen were killed during the Iraq War. Team Lioness, featured in the documentary Lioness, was organized to search and soothe Muslim women in accordance with cultural customs. “These women in Ramadi would become the first to engage in offensive ground combat operations in this country’s history,” said Lory Manning, Director of Women in the Military Project, in an interview for Lioness. Continue reading →
My interest in the subject of new energy – advanced energy technologies that have historically had a hard time gaining traction because they run counter to scientific orthodoxy or have been suppressed by industrial or governmental elements – has grown over the past couple of years, even as the world has grown more in need of them. A century after Ida Tarbell published her landmark exposé of the Standard Oil Trust that led to its breakup, the list of inventors whose groundbreaking work had been ruthlessly kept from the public by way of intimidation, economic subversion, and even lethal force only continues to grow.
Recently, however, the progress made by such inventors as Andrea Rossi, whose LENR (cold fusion)-based “E-Cat” is beginning to be commercially marketed. There are a score of similar “over-unity” devices (devices generating more energy than is required to run them) in various stages of development, any of which, when allowed to come to fruition, could be nothing short of revolutionary in their ability to displace carbon-based fuels. Continue reading →