2019 New York Film Festival: Spotlight on Documentary lineup announced

August 21, 2019

“Cunningham 3D” (Photo courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center)

The following is a press release from Film at Lincoln Center:

Film at Lincoln Center announces the complete lineup for the Spotlight on Documentary section of the 57th New York Film Festival (September 27–October 13). This year’s series of dispatches from the front lines of nonfiction cinema features incisive portraits of iconic figures, intimate reports from inside the American prison system, New York stories both personal and political, and much more.

Selections include three documentaries spotlighting larger-than-life subjects, including legendary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham in Alla Kovgan’s visceral and immersive documentary Cunningham 3DBully. Coward. Victim, in which director Ivy Meeropol unflinchingly examines the life and death of conservative power broker Roy Cohn, who began his career prosecuting her own grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg; and Ric Burns’s Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, which offers a glimpse into the private life of Sacks in a moving tribute to the endlessly curious writer and neurologist. The lineup also features family stories from returning filmmaker Nick Broomfield, crafting his most personal film to date with My Father and Me, a portrait of his relationship with his factory worker-turned-photographer father Maurice Broomfield; Nicholas Ma, whose short documentary Suite No. 1, Prelude captures the perfectionist tendencies of his father, the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and Michael Apted, showcasing a different kind of family in 63 Up, the ninth entry in the long-running film series that returns to the lives of its thirteen subjects as they come to terms with illness, death, Brexit, and more.

Two films in Spotlight on Documentary go inside the American prison system, depicting human stories with intimacy, candor, and humor. In College Behind Bars, veteran documentarian Lynn Novick has crafted a four-part chronicle of several ambitious incarcerated students in New York state correctional facilities, witnessing their debates and discussions of philosophy, science, and Shakespeare as they navigate  the daily cruelties of prison life. On the opposite coast, director Tim Robbins captures an extraordinary acting workshop for inmates inside the Calipatria State maximum-security facility in 45 Seconds of Laughter, culminating in a performance inspired by the Commedia dell’arte tradition.

Additional highlights of the lineup include the New York stories of Free Time, which features meticulously restored 16mm black-and-white footage of city life shot by Walter Hess and director Manfred Kirchheimer between 1958 and 1960, and D.W. Young’s The Booksellers, a lively tour of New York’s book world past and present with insights from Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a community of dedicated book dealers. Other standout titles are Tania Cypriano’s Born to Be, a film of astonishing access that goes behind the scenes at Mount Sinai Hospital to capture the emotional and physical processes of transgender patients in the midst of surgical transition; Abbas Fahdel’s Bitter Bread, which finds the director also acting as producer, cinematographer, and editor in his portrait of a community of Syrian refugees living in a Lebanese tent camp; and two films that offer new insights into historic political events: Nanni Moretti’s Santiago, Italia, which tells the little known story of the Italian Embassy’s efforts to save and relocate citizens targeted by the fascist regime of Augusto Pinochet after a U.S.-backed military coup, and Sergei Loznitsa’s found-footage documentary State Funeral, which features previously unseen archival images from the days following the death of Joseph Stalin.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FLC Director of Programming, and Florence Almozini, FLC Associate Director of Programming.

HBO® is the presenting sponsor of Spotlight on Documentary.

As previously announced, the NYFF57 Opening Selection is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is Centerpiece Selection, and Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn is the Closing Selection. The complete lineup for the Main Slate, Projections, and Convergence can be found here.

NYFF Retrospectives, Revivals, Special Events, Talks, and Shorts sections, as well as filmmaker conversations and panels, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Spotlight on Documentary tickets are $30 for General Public and $25 for Members & Students. Some exceptions may apply.

Tickets for the 57th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 8. Festival and VIP passes are on sale through Friday, August 23rd and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Opening and Closing Night.


45 Seconds of Laughter
Dir. Tim Robbins, USA, 95m
U.S. Premiere

A selected group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility have convened for a highly unlikely workshop. In prison they normally segregate themselves by gang or by race, but here they are all mixed together, sitting in a circle. Over the course of several recurring meetings, the men, many of whom have been incarcerated for serious crimes, will take part in a series of acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection, each session closing with the participants bursting into 45 seconds of unbridled, cleansing laughter. The entire endeavor—part of The Prison Project, a remarkable program conducted by the L.A. theater troupe The Actors’ Gang that has proven to cut down recidivism rates—will climax in a final performance inspired by the Commedia dell’arte tradition. In his contemplative, pared down, and wildly engaging documentary, Dead Man Walking director Tim Robbins—who also appears in the film­­, taking part in the workshop—captures these extraordinary sessions, and introduces us to the individuals fearlessly investigating their own performative natures and the masculine social roles they play.

63 Up
Dir. Michael Apted, UK, 138m
U.S. Premiere

Those of us who have devotedly followed Michael Apted’s one-of-a-kind British film series for the past several decades anticipate with great warmth—and more than a little poignant anxiety—returning every seven years to the lives of Tony; Nicholas; Suzy; Symon and Paul; Jackie, Sue, and Lynn; Andrew and John; Neil and Peter; and Bruce. Charting their growth has constituted one of the most rewarding documentary projects of all time, an ongoing inquiry into economic determination and the elusive search for happiness. In the rich, searching, and entertaining latest installment, they are more introspective than ever at age 63, coming to terms with death and illness, the disappointments of a fractured England, and uneasy prospects for their children and grandchildren’s futures. But they also remain, to a person, witty, optimistic, and delightful company.

Bitter Bread
Dir. Abbas Fahdel, Lebanon/Iraq/France, 87m
World Premiere

Among the countless Syrian citizens who have fled their country, about one-and-a-half-million have relocated to neighboring Lebanon. In this patient, heart-rending portrait, Iraqi-born filmmaker Abbas Fahdel, director of the epic Homeland (Iraq Year Zero), settles in with a community of refugees living in a tent camp in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, most of them children. Hopeful to earn a meager wage as they work under the supervision of a Lebanese shawish, who owns the plot of land they’re essentially renting, the adults try to keep their families together amidst flooding and destructive seasonal weather, all the while listening to the radio for news from back home. Fahdel burrows in with his subjects in close quarters, alighting on the various human dramas that occur throughout the camp, including the frustrations of a young man waiting to bring in his fiancée from back home. Most importantly, Fahdel, working as director, producer, cinematographer, and editor, simply lets these desperate yet resilient people—so often treated as statistics—speak for themselves.

The Booksellers
Dir. D.W. Young, USA, 99m
World Premiere

What once seemed like an esoteric world now seems essential to our culture: the community of rare book dealers and collectors who, in their love of the delicacy and tactility of books, are helping to keep the printed word alive. D.W. Young’s elegant and entertaining documentary, executive produced by Parker Posey, is a lively tour of New York’s book world, past and present, from the Park Avenue Armory’s annual Antiquarian Book Fair, where original editions can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars; to the Strand and Argosy book stores, still standing against all odds; to the beautifully crammed apartments of collectors and buyers. The film features a litany of special guests, including Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a community of dedicated book dealers who strongly believe in the wonder of the object and the everlasting importance of what’s inside.

Born to Be
Dir. Tania Cypriano, USA, 92m
World Premiere

Soon after New York state passed a 2015 law that health insurance should cover transgender-related care and services, director Tania Cypriano and producer Michelle Hayashi began bringing their cameras behind the scenes at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where this remarkable documentary captures the emotional and physical journey of surgical transitioning. Lending equal narrative weight to the experiences of the center’s groundbreaking surgeon Dr. Jess Ting and those of his diverse group of patients, Born to Be perfectly balances compassionate personal storytelling and fly-on-the-wall vérité. It’s a film of astonishing access—most importantly into the lives, joys, and fears of the people at its center.

Bully. Coward. Victim. 
The Story of Roy Cohn  
Dir. Ivy Meeropol, USA, 94m
World Premiere

This thorough and mesmerizing documentary takes an appropriately unflinching look at the life and death of Roy Cohn, the closeted, conservative American lawyer whose first job out of law school was prosecuting filmmaker Ivy Meeropol’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Moving from the fifties—when he was also chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy—to the crooked deals and shady power brokering of the eighties that led Cohn to becoming the right-hand man and mentor of Donald J. Trump, this film is not merely a depiction of a brutal, ideologically diseased man—it’s an interrogatory work in search of the true character behind an icon of the political right in a deeply troubled America. Featuring interviews with such figures as Cindy Adams, Alan Dershowitz, Tony Kushner, Nathan Lane, John Waters, and a trove of fascinating, recently unearthed archive video and audio material. An HBO Documentary Films release.

College Behind Bars
Dir. Lynn Novick, USA, 222m
World Premiere

Out of the more than 50,000 men and 2500 women incarcerated in New York State, only a tiny fraction have access to higher education. The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) enrolls incarcerated men and women earning Associate and Bachelor’s degrees; it’s a program with wide-ranging benefits, including lower rates of recidivism, and it challenges our prioritization of punishment over education. Veteran filmmaker Lynn Novick, whose producing and directing credits include epochal miniseries Baseball, Jazz, Prohibition, and The Vietnam War, in collaboration with longtime producer Sarah Botstein, have created an intimate documentary event: a four-part chronicle filmed in correctional facilities in Napanoch and Bedford Hills. The film follows a handful of ambitious and inspiring incarcerated students—most of them serving time for serious crimes—as they debate and discuss American history and mathematics, philosophy and science, Moby Dick and King Lear, DuBois and Arendt, and simultaneously navigate the difficulties and cruelties of prison life and attempt to come to terms with their pasts. A PBS release.

Cunningham 3D
Dir. Alla Kovgan, Germany/France/USA, 93m
U.S. Premiere

One of the most visionary choreographers of the 20th century, Merce Cunningham could also be counted among its great modern artists, part of a coterie of important experimenters across media that included Robert Rauschenberg, Brian Eno, Jasper Johns, and his long-term romantic partner John Cage. This painstakingly constructed new documentary both charts his artistic evolution over the course of three decades and immerses the viewer in the precise rhythms and dynamic movements of his choreography through a 3D process that allows us to step inside the dance. Director Alla Kovgan has created a visceral experience that both reimagines and pays tribute to Cunningham’s groundbreaking technique. A Magnolia Pictures release.

Free Time
Dir. Manfred Kirchheimer, USA, 61m
World Premiere
Manny Kirchheimer is one of the great masters of the American city symphony, as is clear from films like Stations of the Elevated (1981) and Dream of a City, which showed at last year’s NYFF. In his latest work, the 88-year-old Kirchheimer has meticulously restored and constructed 16mm black-and-white footage that he and Walter Hess shot in New York between 1958 and 1960. This lustrous evocation of a different rhythm of life captures the in-between moments—kids playing stickball, window washers, folks reading newspapers on their stoops—and the architectural beauty of urban spaces, set to the stirring sounds of Ravel, Bach, Eisler, and Count Basie. The breathtaking footage was shot in several distinct New York neighborhoods, including Washington Heights, the Upper West Side, and Hell’s Kitchen, and features impressionistic stops throughout the city, making time for an auto junkyard in Inwood, a cemetery in Queens, and the elegant buildings of the financial district.

Preceded by
Suite No. 1, Prelude
Dir. Nicholas Ma, USA, 15m
Nicholas Ma—producer of the winning Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—has made a short, loving portrait of his legendary father, Yo-Yo Ma. Avoiding idolatry, the film uses its casual intimacy to focus on the nuances of craft and the drive for perfection, detailing the world-renowned cellist’s endeavor, at age 61, to record Bach’s Cello Suites for the third and, he says, last time. Filmed in the splendid Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.

My Father and Me
Dir. Nick Broomfield, UK, 97m
North American Premiere

For decades among the foremost names in documentary, Nick Broomfield (Tales of the Grim Sleeper, NYFF52) has often implicated himself in the filmmaking process, with honesty and candor. Yet never has he made a movie more distinctly personal than this complex and moving film about his relationship with his humanist-pacifist father, Maurice Broomfield, a factory worker turned photographer of vivid, often lustrous images of industrial post-WWII England. These images inspired Nick’s own filmmaking career, but also spoke to a difference in outlook between Maurice and Nick, whose less romantic, more left-wing political identity stemmed from his Jewish mother’s side. My Father and Me is both memoir and tribute, and in its intimate story of one family takes an expansive, philosophical look at the twentieth century itself.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Dir. Ric Burns, USA, 110m
U.S. Premiere

In the early seventies, the world was watching as Chile democratically elected Socialist leader Salvador Allende. His political ideals and aspirations—among them providing education for all children and distributing land to the nation’s workers—terrified the country’s right-wing, as well as the U.S., who helped orchestrate a military coup that replaced him with dictator Augusto Pinochet. This tragic history has been well documented, but Italian director Nanni Moretti (Caro Diario, Ecce Bombo) adds an angle many viewers may not know about: the efforts of the Italian Embassy to save and relocate citizens targeted by the fascist regime. Told through the testimonies of those who were there, Santiago, Italia is a chilling depiction of living under junta rule and an ultimately inspiring expression of hope amidst dire circumstances.

State Funeral
Dir. Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands/Lithuania, 132m
U.S. Premiere

As proven in his recent documentaries Maidan, The Event, and The Trial, versatile Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa has become one of the contemporary masters of the found-footage documentary, using the form to study the nature of the Soviet regime and uncover its darkest legacies for contemporary and future generations. In State Funeral, he has uncovered a wealth of astonishing, mostly unseen archival footage of the “Great Farewell” in the days following the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953: the teeming mass of mourners clogging Moscow’s Red Square, the speech announcing the hasty appointment of Malenkov, and finally Stalin’s burial in Lenin’s Tomb. While speeches about the Soviet Union’s unyielding fortitude and unity in the face of tragedy blare endlessly on speakers, and the pomp and ostentation grows increasingly surreal, the brilliantly edited and sound-designed State Funeral becomes an ever-relevant meditation on not just the horrors but also the absurdity of totalitarianism and the cult of personality.

2019 Toronto International Film Festival: Masters, Contemporary World Cinema, Discovery, TIFF Docs programming lineups announced

August 13, 2019

TIFF logo

The following is a combination of press releases from the Toronto International Film Festival:

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5–15, 2019.

TIFF Co-Heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente today announced the second set of selections  in the Gala and Special Presentations programmes screening this September at the 44th edition of the Toronto  International Film Festival.

“We’re thrilled to announce this second wave of Galas and Special Presentations, which I believe are some of  the most compelling in the lineup,” said Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head of TIFF. “Audiences will be  delighted by the artistry present in this year’s splashiest sections.”

“Our TIFF programmers have given us a lot to look forward to this year,” said Vicente, Executive Director and  Co-Head of TIFF. “These final films add even more emotional resonance and gravitas to this year’s already  stellar lineup.”

These films round out the Gala and Special Presentations programmes for a total of 20 and 55 films,  respectively.


The Aeronauts
​Directed by Tom Harper | United Kingdom
Canadian Premiere

The Burnt Orange Heresy
​​Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi | USA/United Kingdom
North American Premiere


American Son ​
​Directed by Kenny Leon | USA
World Premiere

Deerskin​ ​(​Le Daim​)​
​​Directed by Quentin Dupieux | France
International Premiere

Dirt Music ​
​Directed by Gregor Jordan | United Kingdom/Australia
World Premiere

The Elder One ​(​Moothon​)​ ​
​Directed by Geetu Mohandas | India
World Premiere

Guns Akimbo
​​Directed by Jason Lei Howden | Germany/New Zealand
World Premiere

Human Capital​
​Directed by ​Marc Meyers | USA
World Premiere

​Directed by ​Max Winkler | USA
World Premiere

Lucy in the Sky ​
​Directed by Noah Hawley | USA
World Premiere

​​Directed by Dan Friedkin | USA
International Premiere

​Directed by Matthew Michael Carnahan | USA
North American Premiere

Seberg ​
​Directed by Benedict Andrews | USA/United Kingdom
North American Premiere

​Directed by ​Justine Triet | France/Belgium
North American Premiere

​Directed by Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson | USA
World Premiere

The Truth ​(​La vérité​)​
​​Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda | France/Japan
North American Premiere

Wasp Network ​
​Directed by Olivier Assayas | France, Brazil, Spain, Belgium
North American Premiere

Waves ​
​Directed by Trey Edward Shults | USA
International Premiere

Albert Shin’s ​Clifton Hill ​was previously announced as part of the Special Presentations programme.

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/galas and  tiff.net/specialpresentations​.


The Toronto International Film Festival​®​ has revealed the 11 films that will comprise the 2019  Masters programme, with Brad Deane assuming the role of Lead Programmer. Deane continues in his role as  Director of TIFF Cinematheque and as a member of the Festival’s Platform Selection Committee.

Featuring films set in Asia, Europe, North America, and Central America, the Masters lineup has titles that run  the gamut, from dramatic true stories to dark comedies, from a black-and-white narrative to a documentary  film, with a healthy dose of introspection and socio-political commentary throughout. The slate will bring two  World Premieres to Toronto.

“One of the most exciting things about leading the vision for this programme so far has been the opportunity  to explore what defines a Master and the role that these directors play in pushing the future of cinema  forward,” said Deane. “I made it a priority to bring filmmakers into the fold that haven’t previously screened in  this programme so their films can play alongside some of the more established names. By looking at the  films in the programme, it’s apparent that mastering the form is only the jumping-off point for unique and  powerful storytelling, and I am looking forward to the discussions that will emerge among Toronto audiences  about what makes a master.”

In ​Devil Between the Legs​, Arturo Ripstein directs a script written by his wife, Paz Alicia Garciadiego, about a  warring old couple and their maid, who eventually takes matters into her own hands. Swedish filmmaker Roy  Andersson will come back to the Festival with ​About Endlessness​, a series of vignettes documenting our lack  of awareness.

American-Canadian Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin will premiere her latest documentary, ​Jordan River  Anderson, The Messenger​, about ​the long struggle of Indigenous activists to ensure equitable access to  government-funded services for First Nations children​. British legend Ken Loach’s ​Sorry We Missed You  presents a bittersweet tale of the gig economy in modern-day England.

Marco Bellocchio’s ​The Traitor​ is a biographical drama about Tommaso Buscetta, a mafia informant whose  testimony led to the largest prosecution of the Sicilian Mafia in Italian history. ​To the Ends of the Earth​, the  latest from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, tells the story of an introverted travel-show host on  assignment in Uzbekistan.

There are five first-timers in Masters this year. ​A Hidden Life​, a portrait of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious  Austrian who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II, will mark American director Terrence Malick’s first  time attending the Festival in this category. Angela Schanelec’s ​I Was at Home, But… ​chronicles the aftermath  of a 13-year-old student’s disappearance and his mysterious reappearance. ​Zombi Child​, from France’s  Bertrand Bonello,​ ​spans 55 years, jumping between 1962 Haiti and present-day Paris and dealing with the  repercussions of colonialism. In ​The Whistlers​, from Romanian New Wave director Corneliu Porumboiu, a  corrupt cop travels to the Spanish island of La Gomera, home to a secret whistling language. And Elia  Suleiman stars in his latest film,​ ​It Must Be Heaven​, a dark comedy centred on a man who leaves Palestine  only to find that his problems follow him everywhere he goes.

Films screening as part of the Masters programme include:

A Hidden Life​
​Directed by Terrence Malick​ | USA/Germany
Canadian Premiere

About Endlessness​
​Directed by Roy Andersson​ | Sweden/Germany/Norway
North American Premiere

Devil Between the Legs​ ​(​El Diablo entre las Piernas​)
​Directed by Arturo Ripstein​ | Mexico/Spain
World Premiere

I Was at Home, But…​ ​(​Ich war zuhause, aber…​)
​Directed by Angela Schanelec ​| ​Germany/Serbia
North American Premiere

It Must Be Heaven​
​Directed by Elia Suleiman​ | France/Qatar/Germany/Canada/Palestine/Turkey
North American Premiere

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger​
​Directed by Alanis Obomsawin ​| ​Canada
World Premiere

Sorry We Missed You​
​Directed by Ken Loach ​| ​United Kingdom/France/Belgium
North American Premiere

To the Ends of the Earth​ ​(​Tabi no Owari Sekai no Hajimari​)
​Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa ​| Japan/Uzbekistan/Qatar
North American Premiere

The Traitor
​Directed by ​Marco Bellocchio ​| Italy
North American Premiere

The Whistlers​
​Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu ​| Romania/France/Germany
North American Premiere

Zombi Child​
​Directed by Bertrand Bonello ​| ​France
North American Premiere

Alanis Obomsawin’s​ Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger​ was previously announced.

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/masters


The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival​®​ unveiled today the lineup for its 2019  Contemporary World Cinema (CWC) programme. The rich slate of titles from 48 countries features a wide  range of thought-provoking stories that delve into cultural issues and social struggles in poetic and captivating  ways. Introducing 21 works directed and co-directed by women, this year’s edition of CWC focuses on  fractured families, self-exploration, female-driven narratives, and the consequences of social and political  crises.

“​Contemporary World Cinema is a place where different cultures meet,” said Kiva Reardon, International  Programmer and new Lead Programmer for the section. “Th​e vision for the programme is to help expand the  cinematic canon and push the definition of what has previously been deemed as ​fundamental​. This is a  selection of essential, urgent cinema. It has been a pleasure to work with my fellow programmers in this new  role to offer bold stories and invigorating films that ask our audiences to reflect on their position in the world.”

“Contemporary World Cinema is the heartbeat of the Festival,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF Artistic Director and  Co-Head. “This is where audiences feel the pulse of what’s happening now all around the world in screen  storytelling. It takes a strong curatorial vision to shape that vast variety of films. I’m glad we have Kiva Reardon  on the job as CWC Lead Programmer.”

With contributions from Cameron Bailey, Brad Deane, Giovanna Fulvi, Steve Gravestock, Dorota Lech, Michael  Lerman, Michèle Maheux, Diana Sanchez, and Ravi Srinivasan, Reardon has decided to emphasize the  importance of showing the current state of the world through the lens of international, deeply talented  filmmakers who help guide us through the reality of our social and political environments.

The African continent is represented in the lineup by eight films beaming with creativity. Opening the  programme is Atiq Rahimi’s third feature, ​Our Lady of the Nile​, which follows a group of Rwandan girls in a  Catholic boarding school. The bewitching work, which boasts hypnotic cinematography, foreshadows the  country’s 1994 genocide. The programme also serves as a platform for acclaimed regional projects such as  Jenna Bass’ South African road movie​ ​Flatland​, Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s​ ​Knuckle City​, Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche’s  Terminal Sud​, and Amjad Abu Alala’s mystical​ ​You Will Die at Twenty​.

Winner of the Grand Prix in Cannes, Mati Diop’s exploration of migration, ​Atlantics​, leads a bold wave of films  exploring pressing global issues: Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante presents an examination of his  country’s political wounds with ​La Llorona​, in which civil war victims haunt their torturer’s life; Laos’ first and  only female director to ever present a film at TIFF, Mattie Do, couples family loss and time-travelling in ​The  Long Walk​; and Lijo Jose Pellissery’s​ ​Jallikattu ​offers a daring allegory on toxic masculinity in a remote Indian  village.​ ​Other award-winning films included in the slate are ​Synonyms​, the Golden Bear–winning film from  Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, and the recipients of the 2019 Cannes Jury Prize: French director Ladj Ly’s ​Les  Misérables​ and the Brazilan film ​Bacurau​, co-directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

This year’s CWC slate is also rich in contributions from internationally renowned actors — both in front of and  behind the camera — with Mexican actor Gael García Bernal’s second film as director, ​Chicuarotes​;​ ​Austrian  performer Karl Markovics’s third feature, ​Nobadi​; Dutch actor-turned-director Halina Reijn’s ​Instinct​; and an  extraordinary performance from Iranian icon Golshifteh Farahani in Manele Labidi’s ​Arab Blues​. Produced by  US powerhouse Jada Pinkett Smith, Minhal Baig’s ​Hala ​is a coming-of-age story about an American Muslim  teenager trying to balance her relationship with her strict parents and her own desires. The film is inspired by  Baig’s own life and brings to the screen a fresh look at the teen experience.

Other highlights in the programme study the complexity of family dynamics, such as Taiwanese Chung  Mong-Hong’s lyrical ​A Sun​,​ ​which focuses on a fractured father–son relationship. ​Balloon​, directed by Tibetan  filmmaker Pema Tseden, tells the conflicting struggles of a family dealing with China’s one-child policy. And  Yaron Zilberman returns to TIFF with the World Premiere of ​Incitement​, the first-ever fiction film to depict the  cataclysmic assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Spotlighting the struggles and triumphs of women in societies around the world are: Maryam Touzani’s  domestic epic ​Adam​; Hikari’s ​37 Seconds​, which follows a young manga artist who uses her craft as a tool of  self-discovery; and Sharipa Urazbayeva’s​ ​Mariam​,​ the story of a strong Kazakhstani mother and her drive to  help her family survive. Films centring on working-class women include internationally acclaimed Bengali  director Rubaiyat Hossain’s ​Made in Bangladesh​, which follows a​ ​factory worker fighting for dignity in the world  of fast fashion; ​The County​, from Cannes prize–winning Icelandic director Grímur Hákonarson; and Edward  Burns’ intriguing family portrait ​Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies​.

Films screening as part of the Contemporary World Cinema programme include:

37 Seconds​ ​
​Directed by Hikari | Japan/USA
Canadian Premiere

Adam ​
​Directed by Maryam Touzani | Morocco/France/Belgium
North American Premiere

Arab Blues ​(​Un Divan à Tunis​)​
​​Directed by Manele Labidi | France
North American Premiere

​​Directed by Mati Diop | France/Senegal/Belgium
North American Premiere

Atlantis ​
​Directed by Valentyn Vasyanovych | Ukraine
North American Premiere

Bacurau ​Kleber
​Directed by Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles | Brazil
North American Premiere

Balloon ​(​Qi Qiu​)​
​​Directed by Pema Tseden | China
North American Premiere

The Barefoot Emperor​
​Directed by Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens | Belgium/Netherlands/Croatia/Bulgaria
World Premiere

Beanpole ​(​Dylda​)​ ​
​Directed by Kantemir Balagov | Russia
North American Premiere

Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies ​
​Directed by Edward Burns | USA
World Premiere

Blow the Man Down
​​Directed by Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole | USA
International Premiere

Bombay Rose
​​Directed by Gitanjali Rao | India/United Kingdom/Qatar
North American Premiere

​Directed by Gael García Bernal | Mexico
North American Premiere

The Climb​
​Directed by Michael Angelo Covino | USA
Canadian Premiere

Corpus Christi​ (​Boze Cialo​)
​Directed by Jan Komasa | Poland/France
North American Premiere

The County​ (​Héraðið​)
​Directed by Grímur Hákonarson | Iceland/Denmark/Germany/France
International Premiere

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants​ ​(​Koirat eivät käytä housuja​)
​Directed by J-P Valkeapää | Finland/Latvia
North American Premiere

The Father​ (​Bashtata​)
​Directed by Petar Valchanov, Kristina Grozeva | Bulgaria/Greece/Italy
North American Premiere

​Directed by Jenna Bass | South Africa/Luxembourg/Germany
North American Premiere

A Girl Missing​ (​Yokogao​)
​Directed by Koji Fukada | Japan/France
North American Premiere

​Directed by Minhal Baig | USA
Canadian Premiere

Henry Glassie: Field Work​
​Directed by Pat Collins | Ireland
World Premiere

​Directed by Yaron Zilberman | Israel
World Premiere

​Directed by Halina Reijn | Netherlands
North American Premiere

The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão​ (​A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmão​)
​Directed by Karim Aïnouz | Brazil/Germany
North American Premiere

Jallikattu​ Lijo
​Directed by Jose Pellissery | India
World Premiere

Knuckle City​
​Directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka | South Africa
International Premiere

La Llorona​
​Directed by Jayro Bustamante | Guatemala/France
North American Premiere

Les Misérables​
​Directed by Ladj Ly | France
North American Premiere

The Long Walk​ (​Bor Mi Vanh Chark​)
​Directed by Mattie Do | Laos/Spain/Singapore
North American Premiere

Made in Bangladesh​
​Directed by Rubaiyat Hossain | France/Bangladesh/Denmark/Portugal
World Premiere

​Directed by Sharipa Urazbayeva | Kazakhstan
North American Premiere

Maria’s Paradise​ (​Marian paratiisi​)
​Directed by Zaida Bergroth | Finland/Estonia
World Premiere

​​Directed by Karl Markovics | Austria
World Premiere

*​Contemporary World Cinema Opening Film​*
Our Lady of the Nile​ (​Notre-Dame du Nil​)
​Directed by Atiq Rahimi | France/Belgium/Rwanda
World Premiere

The Perfect Candidate​
​Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour | Saudi Arabia/Germany
North American Premiere

Red Fields​ (​Mami​)​
​​Directed by Keren Yedaya | Israel/Luxembourg/Germany
International Premiere

Resin​ (​Harpiks​)
​Directed by Daniel Joseph Borgman | Denmark
World Premiere

So Long, My Son​ (​Di Jiu Tian Chang​)
​Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai | China
North American Premiere

Spider​ (​Araña​)​
​Directed by ​Andrés Wood | Chile
International Premiere

A Sun ​(​Yang Guang Pu Zhao​)​
​Directed by ​Chung Mong-Hong | Taiwan
World Premiere

Synonyms​ (​Synonymes​)
​Directed by Nadav Lapid | France/Israel/Germany
North American Premiere

Terminal Sud​ (​South Terminal​)
​Directed by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche | France
North American Premiere

Three Summers​ (​Três Verões​)
​Directed by Sandra Kogut | Brazil/France
World Premiere

Verdict ​Raymund
​Directed by Ribay Gutierrez | Philippines/France
Canadian Premiere

A White, White Day ​(​Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur​)
​Directed by Hlynur Pálmason | Iceland/Denmark/Sweden
North American Premiere

The Wild Goose Lake​ (​Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui​)
​Directed by Diao Yinan | China/France
North American Premiere

You Will Die at Twenty
​Directed by ​Amjad Abu Alala | Sudan/France/Egypt/Germany/Norway/Qatar
North American Premiere

Previously announced Canadian features screening at the Festival as part of the Contemporary World Cinema  programme include: ​And the Birds Rained Down​, ​Antigone​, ​The Body​ ​Remembers When the World Broke Open​,  Castle in the Ground​, ​The Last Porno Show​, ​Tammy’s Always Dying​, and ​White Lie​.

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/cwc


The Toronto International Film Festival​​’s Wavelengths programme revealed today the lineup for its 19th edition, consisting of international shorts and features by established and emerging talents. With a total of 37 titles, this year’s selection is a testament to political fortitude and artistic experimentation, seen across a captivating mix of genres and perspectives.

The selection comprises four programmes of experimental short films, two curated pairings, and 10 features, each contributing to a dynamic survey of some of today’s most exciting moving-image work. Wavelengths is curated and overseen by Andréa Picard, with contributions from members of TIFF’s international programming team — namely Brad Deane, Giovanna Fulvi, Dorota Lech, and Kiva Reardon — and programming associate Jesse Cumming.

“As we approach the 20th anniversary of Wavelengths, one can discern an important shift in formal language and experimentation, and an even wider range of artistic expression, which reflects — in some cases seriously, and others surprisingly playfully — a refusal to be contained, confined, or even labelled,” said Picard. “As the world runs further amok, it is comforting and inspiring to see filmmakers and artists continue to make work that is personal, committed, generous, aesthetically alert, and rigorous. The films in this year’s programme perfectly exemplify the essential role art plays in resistance and resilience, but also in our capacity for imagination.”

Wavelengths is pleased to host a number of alumni to present some of their most provocative and  accomplished work to date, including Catalan artist-filmmaker Albert Serra with ​Liberté​, his award-winning  tale of 18th-century decadence and desire; Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa with ​Vitalina Varela​, a continuation  of his pathos-laden tales of life in Lisbon’s margins; Sergei Loznitsa with​ State Funeral​, in which he  repurposes footage shot in 1953, in the days following the death of Joseph Stalin, into a trenchant reflection  on cults of personality; and Anocha Suwichakornpong and Ben Rivers, who return to TIFF with ​Krabi, 2562​, a  collaborative work on memory, landscape, and social awareness.

Resistance and tenacity — both political and personal — are the theme of several Wavelengths selections,  including two highlights from the burgeoning “Galician New Wave”: Oliver Laxe’s quietly monumental ​Fire Will Come​, the follow-up to his Festival selection ​Mimosas​ (TIFF 2016), and Eloy Enciso’s ​Endless Night​, set in the  aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, with its script drawn from letters and other texts of the era. A different  strength is exhibited in Hassen Ferhani’s understated documentary ​143 Sahara Street​, which presents the  world in a microcosm as seen through a portrait of octogenarian Malika, who lives and works alone in her  roadside diner in the Sahara Desert.

Wavelengths 2019 also welcomes many newcomers to the programme, with a number of works that reflect  on the state of contemporary geopolitics through a mix of styles that range from non-fiction to the  speculative. Highlights from contemporary Brazil include ​The Fever​ by director Maya Da-Rin, an  Indigenous-led tale of a father who must navigate his daughter’s imminent departure for medical school;  Affonso Uchôa’s forceful yet elegant documentary experiment ​Seven Years in May ​(which screens with  Gabino Rodríguez and Nicolás Pereda’s previously announced ​My Skin, Luminous​); and the short film ​The Bite  by artist Pedro Neves Marques, a science fiction–tinged story about a​ ​queer love triangle struggling to survive  an encroaching mosquito epidemic in the rainforest.

This year’s shorts programmes feature formally impressive and surprising work by a number of leading  international talents, including World Premieres by Zachary Epcar, Luke Fowler, Gastón Solnicki, Mike Gibisser,  and Tomonari Nishikawa, as well as the North American Premieres of Turner Prize–winning artist Charlotte  Prodger’s entry in this year’s Venice Biennale, ​SaF05​, and Marwa Arsanios’s ​Who’s Afraid of Ideology? Part 2,  which premiered at the Sharjah Biennial. ​As ever, the programme is rounded out by a number of restorations  and rediscoveries, including​ ​E​dward Owens’s ​R​emembrance: A Portrait Study​ (1967), a touching and playful  tribute to the artist’s mother, and ​2minutes40seconds​ (1975), an experimental documentary by Korean  filmmaker Han Ok-hee, founding member of the feminist film collective Kaidu Club.

Wavelengths’ complete 2019 lineup is as follows:

Wavelengths’ complete 2019 lineup is as follows:

Wavelengths 1: WLS19
Austrian Pavilion​
​Directed by Philipp Fleischmann | Austria
World Premiere

​Directed by Charlotte Prodger | United Kingdom
North American Premiere

Slow Volumes​
​Directed by Mike Gibisser | USA
World Premiere

The Bite​ (​A Mordida​)
​Directed by Pedro Neves Marques | Portugal/Brazil
World Premiere

Wavelengths 2: Sun Rave
​​Directed by Blake Williams | Canada
World Premiere

Amusement Ride​
​Directed by ​Tomonari Nishikawa | Japan
World Premiere

Black Sun​ (​Sol Negro​)
​Directed by Maureen Fazendeiro | Portugal/France
International Premiere

A Topography of Memory ​
​Directed by Burak Çevik | Turkey/Canada
North American Premiere

Sun Rave​ (​Lafhat Shams​)
​Directed by Roy Samaha | Lebanon
North American Premiere

(tourism studies) ​
​Directed by Joshua Gen Solondz
USA | Canadian Premiere

Wavelengths 3: Look Around
​Directed by ​Han Ok-hee | South Korea
International Premiere

Hrvoji, Look at You From the Tower
​​Directed by Ryan Ferko | Canada/Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia
World Premiere

Circumplector ​
​Directed by Gastón Solnicki | Argentina
World Premiere

​Directed by Luke Fowler | United Kingdom/France
World Premiere

Second Generation
​​Directed by Miryam Charles | Canada
North American Premiere

Transcript ​(​Lín Mó​)
​Directed by Erica Sheu | USA/Taiwan
Canadian Premiere

Who’s Afraid of Ideology? Part 2​
​Directed by Marwa Arsanios | Lebanon/Kurdistan/Syria
North American Premiere

Wavelengths 4: Lives of Performers
​Directed by Zachary Epcar | USA
World Premiere

Remembrance: A Portrait Study ​
​Directed by Edward Owens | USA
Festival Premiere

Vever (for Barbara)​
​Directed by Deborah Stratman | Guatemala/USA
Canadian Premiere

Book of Hours ​
​Directed by Annie MacDonell | Canada
World Premiere

We Still Have to Close Our Eyes​
​Directed by John Torres | Philippines
North American Premiere

This Action Lies​ (​Cest Action Gist​)
​Directed by James N. Kienitz Wilkins | USA/Switzerland
North American Premiere

Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another ​
​Directed by Jessica Sarah Rinland | United Kingdom/Argentina/Spain
North American Premiere
preceded by

Heavy Metal Detox​ ​
​Directed by Josef Dabernig | Austria
World Premiere

Seven Years in May ​(​Sete Anos em Maio​) ​
​Directed by Affonso Uchôa | Brazil/Argentina
North American Premiere


My Skin, Luminous​ (​Mi Piel, Luminosa)​
​Directed by ​Gabino Rodríguez, Nicolás Pereda | Mexico/Canada
North American Premiere


143 Sahara Street​ (​143 rue du désert​)
​​Directed by Hassen Ferhani | Algeria
North American Premiere

Endless Night ​(​Longa noite​)
​Directed by ​Eloy Enciso | Spain
North American Premiere

The Fever ​(​A Febre​) ​
​Directed by Maya Da-Rin | Brazil/France/Germany
North American Premiere

Fire Will Come ​(​O que arde​)
​​Directed by Oliver Laxe | Spain/France/Luxembourg
North American Premiere

Heimat is a Space in Time​ (​Heimat ist ein Raum aus Zeit​) ​
​Directed by Thomas Heise | Germany/Austria
North American Premiere

Krabi, 2562 ​
​Directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong, Ben Rivers | Thailand/United Kingdom
North American Premiere

​Directed by ​Albert Serra | France/Spain/Portugal/Germany
North American Premiere

State Funeral ​
​Directed by Sergei Loznitsa | Netherlands/Lithuania
North American Premiere

Un Film Dramatique​
​Directed by ​Éric Baudelaire | France
North American Premiere

Vitalina Varela​ ​
​Directed by Pedro Costa | Portugal
North American Premiere

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/​wavelengths


At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival​®​, the revamped Discovery programme features  a robust lineup of 37 films from emerging filmmakers representing 35 countries, including 33 World  Premieres and four films making international debuts.

“This year’s Discovery builds on our track record of identifying major new filmmakers early,” said Cameron  Bailey, TIFF’s Co-Head and Artistic Director. “This is where you want to look for the next decades’ masters,  and it’s great to see longtime TIFF programming associate Dorota Lech shaping the section as Discovery’s  Lead Programmer.”

“I’m thrilled to be curating the Discovery programme, a showcase of films that — regardless of form — expand,  embolden, or even challenge notions of storytelling beyond what is established or expected,” said Lech. “TIFF  has long held a space for first- and second-time directors, acting as a springboard for launching the  international careers of cinematic giants such as Yorgos Lanthimos, Maren Ade, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso  Cuarón, Lav Diaz, Kim Seung-woo, Barry Jenkins, Jean-Marc Vallée, Dee Rees, and Jafar Panahi. Expect the  programme to push cinematic boundaries, pointing us in unexpected directions. As in previous years, it is a  place to find work that could be poetic, bold, or challenging, but that is always passionate.”

Discovery continues to celebrate and reflect TIFF’s unwavering commitment to championing women’s  directorial ​voices, with 54% of its selection directed by women. This year’s programme opens with Chiara  Malta’s​ Simple Women​, ​in which a director serendipitously meets Elina Löwensohn, an actor she idolized in  her youth, prompting her to question her filmmaking process. Malta was inspired by her own encounter with  Löwensohn in this tender, playful, and multi-layered fiction debut. Women’s journeys are also explored as  central themes in Antoneta Kastrati’s ​ZANA​, Filippo Meneghetti’s ​Two of Us​, ​Hinde Boujemaa’s ​Noura’s  Dream, ​Hisham Saqr’s ​Certified Mail​, Ina Weisse’s ​The Audition​, ​Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s​ Disco​, ​Kim  Seung-woo’s ​Bring Me Home​, ​Klaudia Reynicke’s​ Love Me Tender​, Mahnaz Mohammadi’s ​Son-Mother​, María  Paz González’s ​Lina from Lima​, ​Maria Sødahl’s ​Hope​, Neasa Hardiman’s ​Sea Fever​, ​and Tamar Shavgulidze’s  Comets​.

Discovery is curated and overseen by Lech, with contributions from members of TIFF’s international  programming team, namely Cameron Bailey, Giovanna Fulvi, Steve Gravestock, Michael Lerman, Michèle  Maheux, Kiva Reardon, Diana Sanchez, and Ravi Srinivasan.

Films screening as part of the Discovery programme include:

​Directed by Oualid Mouaness | United States/Lebanon/Norway/Qatar
World Premiere

​Directed by Oren Gerner | Israel
World Premiere

The Antenna​ (​Bina​)
​Directed by Orçun Behram | Turkey
World Premiere

The Audition​ ​(​Das Vorspiel​)
​Directed by Ina Weisse | Germany/France
World Premiere

August​ (​Agosto​)
​Directed by Armando Capó | Cuba/Costa Rica/France
World Premiere

Black Conflux​
​Directed by Nicole Dorsey | Canada
World Premiere

Bring Me Home​ (​Na-reul cha-ja-jwo​)
​Directed by Kim Seung-woo | South Korea
World Premiere

A Bump Along The Way​
​Directed by Shelly Love | United Kingdom
International Premiere

Calm With Horses​
​Directed by Nick Rowland | United Kingdom/Ireland
World Premiere

Certified Mail​ (​Bi Elm El Wossul​)
​Directed by Hisham Saqr | Egypt
World Premiere

​​Directed by Tamar Shavgulidze | Georgia
World Premiere

​Directed by Jorunn Myklebust Syversen | Norway
World Premiere

Easy Land​
​Directed by Sanja Zivkovic | Canada
World Premiere

​Directed by Minos Nikolakakis | Greece
World Premiere

The Giant​
​Directed by David Raboy | USA
World Premiere

The Good Intentions​ (​Las Buenas Intenciones​)
​Directed by Ana García Blaya | Argentina
World Premiere

Hearts and Bones​
​Directed by Ben Lawrence | Australia
International Premiere

Hope​ ​(​Håp​)
​Directed by Maria Sødahl | Norway/Sweden
World Premiere

​Directed by Myriam Verreault | Canada
World Premiere

Lina from Lima​
​​Directed by María Paz González​ | Chile/Argentina/Peru
World Premiere

The Lost Okoroshi​
​Directed by Abba Makama | Nigeria
World Premiere

Love Me Tender​
​Directed by Klaudia Reynicke | Switzerland
International Premiere

​Directed by ​Heather Young | Canada
World Premiere

My Life as a Comedian​ (​En komikers uppväxt​)
​Directed by ​Rojda Sekersöz | Sweden/Belgium
World Premiere

Noura’s Dream​
​Directed by Hinde Boujemaa | Tunisia/Belgium/France
World Premiere

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson​
​Directed by Ali LeRoi | USA
World Premiere

Pompei​ ​
​Directed by Anna Falguères, John Shank | ​Belgium/Canada/France
World Premiere

Raf​ ​
​Directed by Harry Cepka​ ​|​ ​Canada/USA
World Premiere

The Rest of Us​
​Directed by Aisling Chin-Yee | Canada
World Premiere

Sea Fever​
​Directed by Neasa Hardiman | Ireland/Sweden/Belgium/United Kingdom
World Premiere

*​Discovery Opening Film​*
​Directed by Simple Women​
​Chiara Malta | Italy/Romania
World Premiere

​Directed by Carlo Sironi | Italy/Poland
International Premiere

Son-Mother​ (​Pesar-Madar​)
​Directed by Mahnaz Mohammadi | Iran/Czech Republic
World Premiere

Stories From The Chestnut Woods​ ​(​Zgodbe iz kostanjevih gozdov​)
​​Directed by Gregor Božič ​| Slovenia/Italy
World Premiere

Sweetness in the Belly​
​Directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari | Ireland/Canada
World Premiere

Two of Us​ (​Deux​)
​Directed by Filippo Meneghetti | France/Luxembourg/Belgium
World Premiere

​Directed by Antoneta Kastrati | Albania/Kosovo
World Premiere

Previously announced Discovery films include Nicole Dorsey’s ​Black Conflux​, Sanja Zivkovic’s ​Easy Land​,  Myriam Verreault’s ​Kuessipan​, Heather Young’s ​Murmur​, Harry Cepka’s ​Raf​, and Aisling Chin-Yee’s ​The Rest of  Us​.

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/discovery


The Toronto International Film Festival​®​ documentary programme reveals its lineup of 25  non-fiction works, including 18 World Premieres with representation from 18 countries. The films cover many  high-profile figures, both famous and infamous — including Truman Capote, Merce Cunningham, Ron Howard,  Bikram Choudhury, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Imelda Marcos — and a broad range of themes, including  artistic achievement, the power of journalism, immigration, global politics, and resistance against corrupt  leaders. Three films use sports as a framework to look at environmentalism, capitalism, and racism.     “This year’s programme captures characters you’ll never forget: lovers, fighters, dancers, athletes, despots,  rebels, hustlers, and heroes,” said Thom Powers, serving his 14th year as TIFF Docs programmer this Festival.  “We’ll be talking about these films for a long time to come.”

The section will open with the World Premiere of ​The Cave​ from Oscar-nominated director Feras Fayyad, about  an underground hospital led by a female doctor in war-torn Syria. Other World Premieres from renowned  directors include Alan Berliner’s ​Letter to the Editor​, a personal reflection on photojournalism; Barbara Kopple’s  Desert One​, chronicling a perilous mission to rescue hostages in Iran; Thomas Balm​è​s’ ​Sing Me A Song,  following a young monk in Bhutan who forms a long-distance relationship via his smartphone; ​And We Go  Green​, about racers in the Formula E competition for electric cars, directed by Fisher Stevens and Malcolm  Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio; and Eva Orner’s ​Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator​, about the  controversial yoga teacher who had multiple lawsuits filed against him for sexual misconduct.

First-time documentarians present films on prominent figures: Bryce Dallas Howard’s ​Dads​ explores  fatherhood with leading comedians and her own father, Ron Howard; Alla Kovgan’s ​Cunningham​, shot in 3D,  captures the artistry of dancer Merce Cunningham; and Ebs Burnough, who previously served in the Obama  administration, makes his debut with ​The Capote Tapes​, a biography of American writer Truman Capote.

The everyday lives of refugees and migrants are brought to centre stage in Eva Mulvad’s ​Love Child​, following a  couple at risk of execution for their love affair; ​Ready for War, directed by Andrew Renzi and executive  produced by Drake, Future, and David Ayer, which tells the story of immigrants who served in the US military  only to be deported; Hind Meddeb’s ​Paris Stalingrad ​which follows migrants from Africa and Afghanistan living  on the streets in the city of lights; and ​My English Cousin​, Karim Sayad’s portrait of the director’s real-life  Algerian cousin who discovers the challenges of returning home.    Russian politics and the rise of capitalism are examined in Gabe Polsky’s ​Red Penguins​, recounting a comic  tale of American hustlers bringing NHL-style hockey to Moscow, and Alex Gibney’s ​Citizen K​, profiling the  oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who turned against Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Rounding out the section are stories from around the globe, including Garin Hovannisian’s ​I Am Not Alone​,  about a peaceful resistance movement in Armenia; and Mark Cousins’ ​Women Make Film: A New Road Movie  Through Cinema​, a recently completed 14-hour exploration of female directors around the world. The first four  hours of ​Women Make Film​, which was executive produced by Tilda Swinton, were previewed at last year’s  Festival. Alexander Nanau’s ​Collective​ follows crusading Romanian journalists who uncover a scandal; Daniel  Gordon’s ​The Australian Dream​,​ ​executive produced by Ben Simmons, tells the story of football legend Adam  Goodes, who battled racism in the AFL; and Lina Al Abed’s​ Ibrahim: A Fate to Define​ centres on the mysterious  disappearance of a Palestinian secret agent. Also featured are Patricio Guzmán’s ​The Cordillera of Dreams​,  completing the director’s trilogy about the Chilean landscape, and Lauren Greenfield’s ​The Kingmaker​, a profile  of Imelda Marcos.

Last year’s TIFF Docs lineup showcased ​Free Solo​, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best  Documentary Feature. The 2018 Festival also presented a strong market for distribution deals for titles such as  The Biggest Little Farm​, ​The Elephant Queen​, and​ Maiden​.

Films screening as part of the TIFF Docs programme include:

And We Go Green​
​Directed by Fisher Stevens, Malcolm Venville | USA
World Premiere

The Australian Dream​ ​
​Directed by Daniel Gordon | Australia/United Kingdom
International Premiere

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator​ ​
​Directed by Eva Orner | USA
World Premiere

The Capote Tapes​
​Directed by Ebs Burnough | United Kingdom
World Premiere

TIFF Docs Opening Film​*
The Cave​
​Directed by Feras Fayyad | Syria/Denmark/Germany/USA/Qatar
World Premiere

Citizen K​ ​
​Directed by Alex Gibney | USA/United Kingdom
North American Premiere

Collective ​(​Colectiv​)​
​​Directed by Alexander Nanau | Romania/Luxembourg
North American Premiere

​Directed by Alan Zweig | Canada
World Premiere

The Cordillera of Dreams​ (​La Cordillera de los Sueños​)​
​Directed by ​Patricio Guzmán | France/Chile
North American Premiere

​Directed by ​Alla Kovgan | Germany/France/USA
World Premiere

​​Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard | USA
World Premiere

Desert One​
​Directed by Barbara Kopple | USA
World Premiere

I Am Not Alone
​​Directed by Garin Hovannisian | Armenia/USA
World Premiere

Ibrahim: A Fate to Define​
​Directed by Lina Al Abed | Lebanon/Palestine/Denmark/Qatar/Slovenia
North American Premiere

The Kingmaker
​​Directed by Lauren Greenfield | USA/Denmark
Canadian Premiere

Letter to the Editor
​​Directed by Alan Berliner | USA
World Premiere

Love Child​
​Directed by Eva Mulvad | Denmark
World Premiere

My English Cousin​
​Directed by Karim Sayad | Switzerland/Qatar
World Premiere

Paris Stalingrad ​
​Directed by Hind Meddeb | France
International Premiere

Ready for War
​​Directed by Andrew Renzi | USA
World Premiere

Red Penguins
​Directed by ​Gabe Polsky | USA/Russia
World Premiere

Sing Me A Song ​
​Directed by Thomas Balmès | France/Germany/Switzerland
World Premiere

There’s Something in the Water​
​Directed by Ellen Page, Ian Daniel | Canada
World Premiere

This Is Not a Movie ​
​Directed by Yung Chang | Canada/Germany
World Premiere

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema ​
​Directed by Mark Cousins | United Kingdom
World Premiere

Previously announced TIFF Docs films include Alan Zweig’s ​Coppers​, Ellen Page and Ian Daniel’s ​There’s  Something in the Water​,​ ​and​ ​Yung Chang’s ​This Is Not a Movie​.

For film synopses, cast lists, images, and more information, see ​tiff.net/docs​.

Festival tickets go on sale September 2 at 10am (TIFF Member pre-sale August 31, 10am–4pm). Buy tickets online at​ ​tiff.net​, b​y phone at 416.599.2033 or 1.888.258.8433, or in person at a box office. See box office  locations and hours at​ ​tiff.net/tickets​.

TIFF prefers Visa.

Social Media:   @TIFF_NET   #TIFF19  Facebook.com/TIFF

About TIFF
TIFF is a not-for-profit cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film  Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and  entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates  an annual economic impact of $189 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors  including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the  Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more  information, visit tiff.net.

The Toronto International Film Festival is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Bell, Major Sponsors RBC,  L’Oréal Paris and Visa, and Major Supporters the Government of Ontario, Telefilm Canada, and the City of Toronto.

2019 51Fest: Women in the World teams up with IFC Center for inaugural female-focused film festival

July 17, 2019

by Carla Hay

Kathy Griffin in “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” (Photo by Tanne Willow)

In the United States, women make up 51 percent of the population and at least half of all moviegoers. With that in mind, the feminist organization Women in the World and the independent arthouse cineplex IFC Center in New York City have teamed up for the inaugural 51Fest, a film festival aimed at promoting movies about women. All of the selected projects have at least one female producer or a female director. The event takes place July 18 to July 21, 2019. All of the screenings will be held at IFC Center, except for “Kathy Griffin: Hell of a Story,” which will take place at the SVA Theatre. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director(s) and/or stars from the movie.

Most of the movies in the first 51Fest  lineup have already had their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival or South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, but there are a few offerings that will have their world premieres at 51Fest: The first episode of the Netflix limited series “Unbelieable,” a drama starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever, as well as the Netflix comedy film “Otherhood,” starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman.

Here is the lineup of programming for the inaugural 51Fest:

Opening Night

“Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story”

Thursday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. at SVA Theatre

Controversial comedian Kathy Griffin self-financed this documentary, which chronicles her comeback tour after being blackballed from most of the entertainment industry on the 2017 fallout from posing  for a photo holding a fake, bloody head of Donald Trump. “Kathy Griffin: A  Hell of a Story” got mostly positive reviews after its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. It’s scheduled to be released nationwide by Fathom Events for a one-night-only screening on July 31, 2019.

106 minutes. Directed by Troy Miller. A Brainstorm Media release in partnership with Fathom.

Post-screening conversation with Kathy Griffin and Tina Brown.


Special Event

Women in the World Spotlight: Supermajority

Friday, July 19, 7 p.m. at IFC Center

Women in the World co-founder Tina Brown (who also founded The Daily Beast) will have a  conversation with former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, the co-founders (along with Alicia Garza) of Supermajority, an activist organization aimed at empowering women. According to a description on the 51Fest website, “the conversation will be introduced by filmmaker Yoruba Richen with an exclusive clip of the forthcoming documentary ‘And She Could Be Next,’ about a movement of women of color claiming political power.”

Yoruba Richen


(In alphabetical order)

“After the Wedding”

Saturday, July 20, 8:30 p.m. at IFC Center

Isabel (played by Michelle Williams) has dedicated her life to working with the children in an orphanage in Calcutta. Theresa (played by Julianne Moore) is the multimillionaire head of a media company who lives with her artist husband (played by Billy Crudup) and their twin boys in New York. When word comes to Isabel of a mysterious and generous grant for the financially struggling orphanage, she must travel to New York to meet the benefactor—Theresa—in person. After premiering at Sundance, “After the Wedding” (a remake of the 2006 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier)  makes its New York premiere at 51Fest. The movie is set for release in select U.S. theaters on August 9, 2019.

110 minutes. Directed by Bart Freundlich. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Post-screening conversation with producer and star Julianne Moore and Tina Brown.


“Brittany Runs a Marathon”

Saturday, July 20, 2:45 p.m. at IFC Center

Winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, this  comedy was inspired by real events. The irresistible cast, led by Jillian Bell, lends heart and soul to this inspirational story of a party girl who finally finds real friends — and dignity — by taking control of her future, one city block at a time. At 27, her hard-partying ways, chronic underemployment and toxic relationships are catching up with her, but when she stops by a new doctor’s office to try to score some Adderall, she gets slapped with a prescription she never wanted: Get healthy. Too broke for a gym and too proud to ask for help, Brit is at a loss, until her seemingly together neighbor Catherine pushes her to lace up her Converse sneakers and run one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two. And soon, after finishing her first mile, she sets an almost unthinkable goal: running in the New York City Marathon. After its New York premiere at 51Fest, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be released in select U.S. theaters on August 23, 2019.

103 minutes. Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. An Amazon Studios release.

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Brittany O’Neill and Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s “Tell Me Another”


“For Sama”

Sunday, July 21, 12 p.m. at IFC Center

After winning awards at the SXSW Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, the documentary “For Sama” makes its New York debut at 51Fest. “For Sama” is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her. Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice–whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much. The film is the first feature documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. “For Sama” will be released in select U.S. theaters on July 26, 2019, before premiering on the PBS show “Frontline.”

95 minutes. Directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. A PBS Distribution/Frontline release.

After the screening, filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts and subject Dr. Hamza al-Kateab will be interviewed by Anne Barnard, who led coverage of the war in Syria for the New York Times from 2012 to 2018, as Beirut bureau chief.


“A Girl From Mogadishu”

Sunday, July 21, 5:15 p.m. at IFC Center

Aja Naomi King in “A Girl From Mogadishu”

“A Girl From Mogadishu” is a drama is real-life-inspired story about the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), based on the testimony of an Irish-Somali campaigner (played by Aja Naomi King).  The film opens with a harrowing escape, as 17-year-old Ifrah Ahmed flees war-torn Somalia, evading smugglers and traffickers to seek asylum in Ireland. When she returns to Somalia to confront her family about being an unwilling victim of FGM, she also is determined to save other young girls at risk of FGM. “A Girl From Mogadishu” has its North American premiere at 51Fest.

112 minutes. Directed by Mary McGuckian.

Post-screening discussion with writer-director Mary McGuckian, actor Barkhad Abdi, and real-life subject Ifrah Ahmed, moderated by journalist Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani of Verizon Media


“Official Secrets” 

Saturday, July 20, 5:30 p.m. at IFC Center

She risked everything to stop an unjust war. Her government called her a traitor. Based on world-shaking true events, “Official Secrets” tells the gripping story of Katharine Gun (played by Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist whose job involves routine handling of classified information. One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on United Nations Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into an illegal war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press. So begins an explosive chain of events that will ignite an international firestorm, expose a vast political conspiracy, and put Gun and her family directly in harm’s way. After its New York premiere at 51fest, “Official Secrets” will be released in select U.S. theaters on August 30, 2019.

112 minutes. Directed by Gavin Hood. An IFC Films release.

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Katharine Gun, moderated by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen.



Sunday, July 21, 2:30 p.m. at IFC Center

51Fest is having a sneak preview of the comedy film “Otherhood.” Feeling marginalized and forgotten, longtime friends Carol (played Angela Bassett), Gillian (played by Patricia Arquette) and Helen (played Felicity Huffman) decide to drive to New York to reconnect with their adult sons, and in the process they realize their sons are not the only ones whose lives need to change. A journey to relate becomes a journey of rediscovery that forces these women to redefine their relationships with their children, friends, spouses and most importantly, themselves. Netflix will premiere “Otherhood” on August 2, 2019.

Post-screening discussion with director Cindy Chupack and producers Cathy Schulman and Jason Michael Berman.

100 minutes. Directed by Cindy Chupack. A Netflix release.


“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins”

Saturday, July 20, 12 p.m. at IFC Center

This documentary about the late columnist/writer Molly Ivins got rave reviews after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and the movie has its New York premiere at 51Fest. At 6 feet tall, the politically outspoken Ivins was a force to be reckoned with in expressing her liberal viewpoints. The film also includes her battles with alcoholism and breast cancer, the latter of which took her life in 2007. Featuring interviews with Ivins’ friends and former colleagues, “Raise Hell” gives an in-depth look at her life and her lasting legacy. Magnolia Pictures will release “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” in Texas on August 30, 2019, and in New York City and Los Angeles on September 6, 2019.

93 minutes. Directed by Janice Engel. A Magnolia Pictures release.

Post-screening conversation with director Janice Engel along with friends and admirers of Molly Ivins.



Friday, July 19, 8:30 p.m. at IFC Center

When teenager Marie Adler (played Kaitlyn Dever) files a police report claiming an intruder sexually assaulted her in her home, several people begin to doubt her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (played Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) are investigating a case that is similar to what Marie has reported. The limited drama series “Unbelievable,” whose first episode will have its world premiere at 51Fest, is inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the “This American Life” radio episode “Anatomy of Doubt.” Netflix will premiere “Unbelievable” on September 13, 2019.

60 min. Episode directed by Lisa Cholodenko. A Netflix release.

Post-screening conversation with showrunner and executive producer Susannah Grant, executive producer Sarah Timberman, executive producer and episode director Lisa Cholodenko, and actors Kaitlyn Dever, Danielle Macdonald and Merritt Wever. 



Sunday, July 21st, 8:15 p.m. at IFC Center

This documentary chronicles the downfall of former entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein because of sexual abuse allegations. Although stories about Weinstein being a sexual predator had been circulating in the industry for decades, he wasn’t fully exposed until 2017, when the New York Times and the New Yorker published articles that had several famous women (including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino) telling their stories of being sexually harassed by Weinstein. The articles are considered the catalyst for the #MeToo movement. This documentary, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, includes interviews with Weinstein accusers Rosanna Arquette, Hope D’Amore, Paz de la Huerta, Erika Rosenbaum, and others. After its New York premiere at 51Fest, “Untouchable” will premiere on Hulu on September 2, 2019.

98 minutes. Directed by Ursula Macfarlane. A Hulu release.

Post-screening conversation with director Ursula Macfarlane and subjects Hope D’Amore and Erika Rosenbaum.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘I Am Human’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

Bryan Johnson in “I Am Human” (Photo by Joel Froome)

“I Am Human”

Directed by Taryn Southern and Elena Gaby

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on May 3, 2019.

Most of the recent movies about artificial intelligence (A.I.) play on fears that A.I. technology will replace jobs previously done by humans and/or will take over the world in sinister ways. The documentary “I Am Human” takes a more optimistic view by examining how the links between the human brain and A.I. technology can be used to improve health sciences by helping solve human medical problems. If you have absolutely no interest in science or A.I. technology, then you’ll probably find a great deal of this movie incredibly dull since it relies heavily on talking heads explaining complex issues and trying to make them more understandable in layman’s terms. However, the case studies presented in “I Am Human” make the documentary worth watching for anyone who’s curious about the future of medical science.

There are three people profiled in the documentary’s case studies. Bill Kochevar is a tetraplegic who receives treatment at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. Anne Shabason is a Parkinson’s disease patient in Bolton, Canada. Stephen Shrubnall is a blind man who’s hoping to have a limited fraction of his eyesight restored. All three patients undergo risky, experimental brain surgeries, which are chronicled in the film.

These case studies are part of the clinical trials known as BrainGate2 Neural Interface System, which began in 2009 and is owned by Braingate Co. BrainGate2 is the successor of BrainGate, a brain-implant system that was built and previously owned by Cyberkinetics.

Among the experts interviewed in “I Am Human” are Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University; sci-fi author Amez Naam; Dr. Andres Lozano, a neurosurgeon at the University of Toronto; Dr. Robert Deveny, an opthamologist a Toronto Western Hospital; Dr. Nita Faranhay, professor of law and philosophy at Duke University; and Bryan Johnson, a neurotech entrepreneur.

Kochevar’s, Shabason’s and Shrubnall’s respective surgeries involve getting sensors implanted in brains, with the sensors being able to affect an external objects. These surgeries are very expensive  and recommended only to people who have severe diseases. The goal is for technology to advance to the point where brain implants can be done without surgery. Another goal is to have brain interfacing by just putting on a headset, which could be possible in the future. It would vastly improve communications and decrease language barriers. Scientists and neurotech entrepreneurs are planning to introduce the first high-resolution, wearable brain interface by the year 2021.

Kochevar’s surgery was meant to have his brain control some of his machine-enabled movements through A.I. technology. As a result, his abilities to reach and grasp greatly improved. Shabon’s brain implant is connected to a pacemaker in her chest, and her anxiety greatly decreased after the surgery. Shrubnall’s surgery involved a band sown around his eye to stimulate the retina. He then had to wear special glasses, which submit electrodes to the brain, which resulted in his vision being partially restored, by him being able to see shadows. The best parts of the documentary are to see the elated reactions to the surgery results.

Of course, any new technology comes with concerns of it being used for unlawful purposes. One of the biggest issues, which is addressed in the documentary, is the idea that A.I. technology that involves brain implants will lead to “brain hacking.” But as neurotech entrepreneur Johnson says in the documentary, the rewards outweigh the risks: “Nothing is more important than addressing a broken brain.”

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Changing the Game’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

Changing the Game
Mack Beggs in “Changing the Game” (Photo by Turner Jumonville)

“Changing the Game”

Directed by Michael Barnett

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26, 2019.

There’s an ongoing debate on how transgender people should be treated in situations where people are segregated by gender. Sports will continue to be one of the hot-button areas where transgender people are fighting for their rights. Unlike using a public restroom, categorizing a person’s gender in sports can affect their future, especially when money is involved (and it usually is). “Changing the Game” is a documentary that explores these issues, as the movie follows three American teenage transgender athletes who are navigating their way through a system where they are often mistreated and misunderstood.

At the time this documentary was filmed, all three of the athletes were in high school. Mack Beggs, who gets the most screen time, is a transgender male wrestler in Texas who’s forced to compete against girls. Beggs, who has been a state champion, also stars in the short film “Mack Wrestles,” which is making the rounds at film festivals, including Tribeca. Sarah Huckman is a transgender female Nordic skier in New Hampshire. Sarah (who is Asian) is adopted, and her parents, Jen and Tom Huckman, are completely supportive of her. Andraya Yearwood is an African American transgender female track runner in Connecticut, one of the states that allows public schools to categorize students according to whatever gender the student identifies as. Laws vary from state to state in this issue.

Mack’s situation is complicated because he is taking male hormones yet competing against girls. The documentary includes commentary from parents who think Mack has an unfair advantage against the girls he competes against. Mack essentially agrees, because he wants to compete against other males. Meanwhile, Mack’s coach doesn’t seem to care about Mack’s gender, as long as he’s winning. The coach says, “I would never turn my back on an athlete,” but all the controversy over Mack makes you wonder if the coach would stand by Mack so strongly if Mack was losing most of his matches.

Mack is living with his grandparents Nancy and Roy, who have adopted him. His grandmother says, “I’m a hardcore Republican, but I don’t have a problem stepping on any toes for transgender kids.” Mack has a girlfriend who’s also very supportive of him, but he admits that he has bouts of depression and a past suicide attempt by taking sleeping pills. The documentary mentions that 40 percent of transgender athletes attempt suicide. Mack is also under a lot of pressure because he needs an athletic scholarship to get into the college of his choice, but he knows that the odds are stacked against him because he’s a transgender athlete.

Meanwhile, the documentary shows how Sarah has become a political activist for transgender athletes. Her advocacy had an effect on the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s policies for transgender students, according to Guy Donnelly, principal of Kingswood Regional High School, where Sarah was a student. Advocates for transgender athletes believe that transgender people should be accepted as transgender in all aspects of their lives—in other words, sports should not be an exception.

For track runner Andraya, the biggest supporter in her family is her single mother, Ngozi Nnaji, who says she’s so protective of her daughter that she almost feels like a bodyguard. Of all three trans athletes profiled in the movie, Andraya endures the most heckling from angry parents at the games. The documentary mentions a sobering statistic that African American transgender female students are five times more likely to be murdered than their peers.

Mack gets quite a bit of heckling too. He mentions that most of the verbal abuse and bullying he gets are from adults, not from other kids. It’s taken a toll on his mental health, and his girlfriend says that Mack has had a couple of emotional breakdowns, but he doesn’t like to talk about how much pressure he’s under. Mack says, “My relationship with testosterone is complicated. I wish I didn’t have to inject it.”

The most common argument that people have against trans athletes is that trans athletes have an “unfair advantage.” This argument seems to be used the most when parents think someone with a masculine physique is competing against females. When prize money and scholarships are at stake, it’s no wonder that the conflicts over this issue can get heated. Sarah admits that she often holds herself back in competitions and deliberately does not perform at her best because she doesn’t want to be a target for this type of “unfair advantage” accusation.

Andraya says she wouldn’t be on her track team if she didn’t have the support from the other people on the team. She gets some more encouragement when another African American transgender female named Terry Miller joins the team. In one of the movie’s most touching moments, Terry says that she was inspired to join the team because of Andraya. They naturally become very close friends.

Still, they have to endure angry outbursts from parents who don’t want them on the team, even if Andraya and Terry can help the team win in group competitions. During a track meet, a furious mother tells the camera that athletes like Andraya and Terry don’t have to deal with menstruation, so they have an unfair advantage. The menstruation argument is actually an insult to all females, because it wrongly assumes that females who are menstruating are physically less capable of winning an athletic competition against females who aren’t menstruating.

“Changing the Game” is a straightforward documentary that doesn’t use gimmicks or fancy camera techniques. The film is unapologetically rooting for these transgender athletes, but the filmmakers could have done a little bit more well-rounded reporting by interviewing more people involved in the schools’ athletic systems, such as more coaches, referees, recruiters and leaders of athletic departments.

Another area where the movie definitely need improving was in expanding its reporting on what is being done on both sides to address the legal issues in the key states where transgender laws are the most hotly debated. Showing Sarah Huckman’s activism in New Hampshire (a liberal state) doesn’t seem like enough to cover the lawmaking issues that should be addressed in this documentary. In addition, although high school athletes are the focus of this film, most of these athletes have plans to continue in the sport after high school, and they will probably be facing the same issues in college or wherever they plan to continue participating in the sport. Only Mack’s post-high-school plans were given enough screen time in this film.

Despite some of these flaws in the documentary, “Changing the Game” does a good job of humanizing an issue that many people want to dismiss as not relevant to their lives. The rights that transgender people are fighting for are civil rights that speak to us as human beings and how we treat each other. The rights aren’t asking for special treatment but to be treated with the same respect, dignity and legal access that cisgender people get for gender identity.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Wig’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

Nelson Sullivan in “Wig” (Photo courtesy of HBO)


Directed by Chris Moukarbel

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on May 4, 2019.

The documentary “Wig” is a joyous and sassy love letter to Wigstock (the annual drag festival in New York City) and New York City’s drag culture. The movie comes 24 years after the 1995 documentary “Wigstock: The Movie,” which chronicled the 1994 Wigstock event. Unlike “Wigstock: The Movie,” which was essentially a concert film, “Wig” takes a deeper dive into the history of Wigstock and its under-rated impact on pop culture.

Wigstock was launched in 1984 by Lady Bunny, and its first incarnation ran until 2001. The festival was revived in 2018 by Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris. (Harris and his husband, David Burtka, are two of the producers of “Wig,” which had its world premiere as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s inaugural Tribeca Celebrates Pride, an entire day of LGBTQ-themed programming. Lady Bunny performed after the film’s premiere.)

A lot has changed since Wigstock went on hiatus in 2001. RuPaul, who was one of Wigstock’s original stars, has become an entertainment mogul, as the host/showrunner of the Emmy-winning drag contest “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the founder of RuPaul’s DragCon event, which currently has annual editions in Los Angeles and New York City. The rise of RuPaul and drag culture is a direct result of LGBTQ culture overall becoming much more visible in the 21st century, with more LGBTQ characters and reality stars on screen; the launch of LGBTQ TV networks, such as Logo and Here; and more LGBTQ celebrities living their lives openly. That visibility and growing public support for LGBTQ rights also had an impact on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to make marriage equality legal for same-sex couples.

In its own unique way, Wigstock has been part of this movement. It’s important to bring up this historical context because “Wig” would have been a very different movie if it had been made in the 1990s. “Wig” director Chris Moukarbel (who directed Lady Gaga’s 2017 Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two”) skillfully rises to the challenge of presenting the history of Wigstock in a cohesive, entertaining style that a wide variety of people can relate to and enjoy.

“Wig” includes some prophetic archival footage from the early 1990s showing RuPaul having a bathroom conversation with British filmmaker Fenton Bailey, who asks RuPaul if drag queens will be popular in America. Fast forward decades later, and Bailey’s World of Wonder production company (which he co-founded in 1991 with fellow filmmaker Randy Barbato) is producing the “Drag Race” franchise, drag queen Big Freedia’s self-titled reality series and numerous other film, TV and digital projects. RuPaul is seen frequently throughout the “Wig” movie, including RuPaul’s early club days at New York City’s Pyramid Club (which was a vital part of the city’s drag scene that birthed Wigstock), to directing an impromptu home photo session with fellow drag queen Nelson Sullivan in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, to on-stage appearances at Wigstock throughout the years.

In “Wig,” many of the drag queens comment on the mainstreaming of drag culture, compared to the early years of Wigstock. Although many of the queens appreciate that drag culture has become more accepted and has become a more viable way to make a living, some of the queens express some wistful nostalgia for the days when the community was much smaller and more tight-knit.

Drag queen Linda Simpson says that “’Drag Race’ was groundbreaking,” but the flip side is that drag culture was “more fun” when it was less mainstream. Simpson adds, “Now, drag is all about de-mystifying drag. It takes away from the insider-y feel that we had before.”

Flotilla DeBarge comments, “There are too many people right now who want to be drag queens, but they don’t know what it’s about,” adding that doing drag should be about passion, not money. “Anybody can do drag, but what kind of drag queen do you want to be?” As drag queen Naomi Smalls puts it: “RuPaul paved the way for me, but who the fuck paved the way for Ru? I love that drag is being normalized.”

For many drag queens, validation outside the drag community is the ultimate sign of success. Willam Belli, also known as drag queen Willam (a former “Drag Race” contestant who landed a cameo in the 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born”), hilariously tells a story about surprising a male intruder who had broken into Willam’s home, and the intruder backed away and called her “ma’am.” Willam laughs when remembering how the intruder acknowledged her as a woman: “I passed!”

Some of the Wigstock devotees also talk about their early influences. Charlene Incarnate says that most of her gay role models were closeted dads in her church. Harris said that drag culture appeals to him as a magician. As drag queen Tabboo! says in the film, “Wigstock was revolutionary because it kickstarted the ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are.’”

Lady Bunny adds, “We were putting something special out there in New York because this was the time of AIDS.” The AIDS crisis and its impact on the LGBTQ community is given a respectful amount of acknowledgement in “Wig,” which includes some heartbreaking testimonials of people who have lost friends and loved ones to the deadly disease.

Hate crimes against drag queens and others in the LGBTQ community are also mentioned in “Wig.” Jeremy Extravagance talks about his longtime friendship with singer/drag queen Kevin Aviance, who was the survivor of a vicious beating in 2006, outside of a gay bar in Manhattan. Aviance, who is interviewed and has some of the movie’s best scenes, describes his attack as, “I never felt so much hate in my life from someone I never met.” He says of being a hate-crime survivor: “Drag is my silver lining.”

As one commentator puts it: “Drag is hyper-femininity in response to aggressive masculinity.” If that’s the case, then Wigstock is the ultimate on-stage clapback. The heart of the movie is still about the thrill and the spectacle of performing at Wigstock, with Lady Bunny as the event’s founding mother. Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, a previous Wigstock performer, says cheekily of Lady Bunny: “The thing that annoys me about Bunny is that she flirts like crazy…and nothing happened [between us].”

If there’s any one person who’s portrayed as a chief villain in “Wig,” it’s Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City from 1993 to 2001. (He is not interviewed in the movie.) Giuliani’s crackdown of the city’s nightclubs resulted in numerous closures that directly affected gay nightlife and drag culture. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Wigstock went out of business when Giuliani was in office.

The movie culminates with a dazzling array of footage from Wigstock’s spectacular comeback in 2018, including appearances from Lady Bunny, Bianca Del Rio, Aviance, Ladies of Lips, Amanda Lepore and Harris in full costume from his Tony-winning “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” drag role. If people still don’t understand what drag culture is about, one “Wig” commentator says it best in the movie: “Drag is about putting on the outside what you feel on the inside.”

HBO will premiere “Wig” on June 18, 2019.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Other Music’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

“Other Music” (Photo by Robert M. Nielsen)

“Other Music”

Directed by Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26, 2019.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores that sell music—just like video stores and places to develop film—are a dying breed that the Internet and other digital technology have been killing off since the mid-2000s. From 1995 to 2016, Other Music was an independent music store located in New York City’s East Village. The store had a reputation for being a place that championed obscure and non-mainstream music, but Other Music also carried releases from popular artists, with an emphasis on releases that might not be that easy to find. The documentary “Other Music” is a respectful, nostalgic history of the store, including a behind-the-scenes look at the final days before Other Music closed for good on June 25, 2016.

Other Music’s financial woes weren’t just caused by the Internet. Like many other independent retailers in high-priced urban cities, Other Music (which stayed in the same location throughout its 21-year run) couldn’t keep up with the rising rents in the area. But the store’s history is truly a reflection of what was going on in the music business at the time. Other Music was co-founded by Chris Vanderloo, Josh Madell and Jeff Gibson, at a time (the mid-‘90s) when alternative/indie rock was at the height of its commercial appeal. Vanderloo and Madell were former employees of Kim’s Underground Video, an independently run video store in New York City.

In the documentary, Vanderloo is described as the most customer-oriented; he was the Other Music owner who was most likely to be mingling with store customers. Madell was the managerial taskmaster, who was the most involved in employee hiring and training, as well as community outreach and setting up in-store performances. Gibson was the one who was the most enthusiastic about discovering new music—the more obscure, the better. In 2001, Gibson left Other Music and moved to Belgium, where his wife is from, and he declined to participate in the documentary.

The documentary mentions that, at first, many people thought it was crazy for Other Music to open directly across the street from the East Village location of Tower Records, the music-store behemoth that was considered one of the most powerful music retailers in the U.S. for decades. But it turns out that both stores had overlapping customers, and Tower Records’ foot traffic helped Other Music, which was a place to find releases that Tower Records might not have. Ironically, Other Music would outlast Tower Records (which closed all its U.S. operations in 2006), as well as other corporate music retailers that shut down in the U.S., such as Virgin Megastore and HMV. TransWorld-owned music retailers Musicland, Sam Goody, The Wherehouse and Camelot Music also went out of business years before Other Music did.

Other Music was the kind of store that strived to keep its anti-corporate image intact. The store’s labels and signs were hand-written. Most of the inventory was from independent record companies. The store prided itself on having employees who were extremely knowledgeable about non-mainstream music and weren’t shy about making recommendations to customers. But all of that led to Other Music having a “hipster snob” reputation that was a turnoff and intimidated some people, which the documentary rightfully acknowledges. A few of the employees interviewed also admit that they would be impatient and give attitude to customers if they thought the customers didn’t know much about music.

The film predictably includes a number of celebrities who mostly praise Other Music. Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore opens the movie with this glowing statement about Other Music: “Per square meter, it probably had more interest value than any other shop I’d ever been in, in the world.” Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro says that shopping at Other Music was “almost like a religious experience.” Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, former Le Tigre member JD Sampson, and Animal Collective singer Avey Tare are among the other artists who share fond memories of Other Music.

A few celebrities, such as Jason Schwartzman and Regina Spektor, admit that although they were fans of Other Music, they often felt like their musical tastes were being judged by the staff. Spektor explains that she always had a feeling of “first-day-of-school nervousness” when she shopped at Other Music, because she didn’t want to feel embarrassed. The National lead singer Matt Berninger said that if people felt uncomfortable shopping at Other Music because of the “snob” factor, it was because Other Music “set the bar high” when it came to musical taste. “They should celebrate stuff that’s better-than-average.”

One of the best things about the Other Music documentary is that is gives a spotlight to some of the store’s unsung heroes. Even though Other Music carried a wide variety of music, it still had an image of being dominated by indie rock. It might come as a surprise to many people who see this film that Other Music’s staff was a lot more diverse than the stereotypical white male music nerd, even though the store’s owners/bosses and many of the employees fit that stereotype. There were plenty of female staffers there too (although they don’t get as much screen time in the movie as the male staffers) and some people of color (usually male) who worked at Other Music. Most of the employees describe themselves as music fanatics and misfits who wouldn’t do well if they had to work at a regular 9-to-5 office job. It’s mentioned in the documentary that it was hard to get a job at Other Music because the standards for music knowledge were high and the employee turnover was relatively low. Co-owner Madell said that if employees got fired, it was often because of chronic tardiness.

Many people in the documentary mention Duane Harriott (a black man) as Other Music’s best employee. Harriott, who worked at Other Music from 1997 to 2008, is interviewed in the film, and he says of Other Music: “It wasn’t just a record store. It was a community center.” He also says he was largely responsible for building Other Music’s hip-hop inventory “from scratch.” Harriott is praised by many people in the documentary for his encyclopedic music knowledge and his sales skills—he had a gift of gab with customers, and he loved to tell trivia factoids and stories about artists, which often resulted in people buying music that they originally didn’t intend to buy.

Many of the employees of Other Music were also musicians, and they were encouraged to promote their own music in the store. One former employee, an African American identified in the movie only as Beans, was notorious for relentlessly suggesting that customers buy his music. Beans, who’s interviewed in the movie, freely admits that he was one of those Other Music employees who would get impatient and give attitude to customers if he thought they seemed clueless. Even though he admits this flaw, he’s also clearly one of Other Music’s most loyal employees: He’s seen in the documentary being one of the last employees to stay behind to help clear out the store after it permanently closed.

The documentary also interviews Vanderloo’s wife Lydia and Madell’s wife Dawn, who are perhaps the biggest unsung heroes of Other Music. The wives reveal that because they had more stable incomes than their husbands, the wives kept the business afloat for years when Other Music was losing money. In other words, if Vanderloo and Madell hadn’t been married to people who could give them money to keep the business going, the store would have closed years before 2016. The wives say that they and their husbands kept the business going because they felt obligated to Other Music’s customers and employees. But when they were losing so much money that the business no longer became sustainable, it was time to shut it down for good.

From the beginning, Other Music had issues with being cash-strapped. As Josh Madell says in documentary, the store didn’t pay most of its employees in its early years (the staff knowingly signed up as volunteers), and not even Lydia and Dawn were exempt from working for free. The wives talk about how their pre-marriage dates with their future husbands involved meeting at the store and being unpaid employees. A “dinner date” would be often be ordering pizza while they worked for free at the store.

The documentary also mentions how Other Music was affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which caused most businesses located in downtown Manhattan to be temporarily closed or severely limited in the weeks and sometimes months after the tragedy. William Basinski’s “DLP1.1” composition (one of his “disintegration loop” instrumental recordings) became Other Music’s unofficial anthem in dealing with aftermath of 9/11, according to the documentary. Other Music co-owner Madell says that the store had its biggest sales in the year 2000, and things never really recovered after 2001.

When Napster and other controversial file-sharing services began to eat away at the music industry’s profits, Other Music responded by launching its own digital music store without digital-rights management, but that wasn’t until 2007, when music retail was already in a major downward spiral, and iTunes was already dominating the online music market. Things also got worse for Other Music when corporate stores such as Best Buy had lower prices for CDs than what Other Music’s wholesalers/distributors would charge. Other Music had its own e-newsletter, and when that also shut down, the owners heard that Lou Reed was despondent over it. Other Music also launched its own record label in 2012.

Financial woes aside, Other Music’s biggest legacy is that it was a home for independent artists, many of whom weren’t mainstream enough for commercial radio or corporate chain stores. The documentary includes footage of in-store performances of artists such as Ghost, St. Vincent and Conor Oberst. Former employee Harriott says his most memorable Other Music performance was by the mysterious and elusive singer/songwriter Gary Wilson, who arrived at the store with a blanket over his face. Before his performance, Wilson poured talcum powder over himself and then performed wearing 3-D glasses.

The documentary also notes that in the aftermath of 9/11, the music community in New York City became more vibrant. It was during this period of time that the New York City music scene had LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Interpol, The National, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Other Music helped all of these acts before they broke through to larger audiences.

Although a few people (including Josh Madell) had tears in their eyes and understandably got emotional in the final days and hours before Other Music’s last day in business, the general feeling was one of positivity over all the great experiences they had because of Other Music. There’s plenty of nostalgia and wistfulness, because the closing of Other Music represents a bygone era when most people got their music by physically going to a store and combing through racks of vinyl records, cassettes or CDs. Many of the customers interviewed in the documentary talk about how they prefer the tangible feeling of holding albums in their hands, so that they can better appreciate the artwork or lyrics that came with the packaging.

People who’ve spent countless hours of their lives at a music store know that it’s become an increasingly rare experience to physically be at a store devoted to music where you can find those hidden gems or sought-out items to add to a collection. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for small, independent businesses such as Other Music to not be able to survive online competitors, technology’s effects or rising rent.

The documentary ends with the “Other Music Forever” farewell concert that took place at the Bowery Ballroom on June 28, 2016. The event, hosted by Janeane Garofalo, included performances by Yoko Ono, Sharon Van Etten, Bill Callahan, Yo La Tengo, OM, Julianna Barwick and Frankie Cosmos. People who didn’t attend the concert can see a few snippets in the movie, as well as how Other Music co-owner Madell had to practically beg a modest Vanderloo to come up on stage.

“Other Music” co-directors Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller do a fine job of telling Other Music’s story in a cohesive and entirely conventional manner. There’s some use of animation, which can be hit-or-miss in a documentary, but it works well-enough in this movie because the animation is used sparingly. And although there are some celebrities and other world travelers who no doubt got to experience Other Music firsthand, the movie might not be compelling enough to watch for the average person who’s never heard of Other Music or has never even been to New York City.

And here’s why the movie might have a challenge in finding an audience that’s larger than those who care about a music store in New York City: Unfortunately, there are any number of beloved, independently owned music stores around the world that have closed over the years. Each store had its own unique impact on its community. Other Music just happened to be in America’s largest-populated city, so it had a bigger profile than most indie record stores. The people who have the most emotional attachment to Other Music are those who had a great experience there and/or those whose careers were affected by Other Music—and that’s a very niche audience indeed.

That’s not to say that the “Other Music” documentary isn’t worth watching, and you don’t have to be a former customer or employee to enjoy the movie. But people who never went to Other Music might have a harder time relating to and engaging in the documentary’s sentimental nostalgia over the store. The “Other Music” documentary would make a great double feature with “All Things Must Pass,” director Colin Hanks’ excellent 2015 documentary about the rise and fall of Tower Records, because, at the very least, the “Other Music” documentary shows how a scrappy underdog outlasted a corporate giant.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

Werner Herzog in “Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin”

“Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin”

Directed by Werner Herzog

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

German filmmaker Werner Herzog has directed an eclectic array of documentaries, which feature his deliberate and thoughtful style of narration and on-camera interview techniques. “Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin” is probably one of Herzog’s most personal documentaries of his career because British writer/adventurer Bruce Chatwin, who died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 48, was one of Herzog’s good friends.

Before Chatwin died, he gave Herzog a rucksack that Chatwin had carried in his travels around the world. In the documentary, Herzog brings the rucksack and retraces a lot of Chatwin’s journeys to pay tribute to and get a better understanding of his late friend. The documentary includes voiceovers from Herzog and old recordings of Chatwin. Unlike most movies, which are divided into three acts, “Nomad” has eight chapters, all of which are titled in the film.

“Chapter One: The Skin of the Brontosaurus” has Herzog going to Patagonia, Chile, which was the subject of Chatwin’s 1977 travel book “In Patagonia.” He interviews Karin Eberhard, the great-granddaughter of 19th-century explorer Hermann Eberhard, who is credited with discovering the remains of a giant sloth. In this chapter of the documentary, Herzog goes to the Patagonia city of Punta Arenas, where he visits the Lord Lonsdale Shipwreck, as well as the grave for Charles Milward, the British consul who was a cousin of Chatwin’s grandmother Isobel. Milward reportedly gave a piece of giant sloth fur (which was sometimes mistaken for brontosaurus hide) to Isobel as a wedding gift. It was Chatwin’s dream to get a piece of a brontosaurus. In this chapter, Herzog also interviews Chatwin biographer Nicholas Shakespeare.

“Chapter Two: Landscapes of the Soul” has Herzog traveling to Avebury, Wiltshire, in England, where there is a stone many people believe has mythical force and powers. Silbury Hill was Chatwin’s “pivot, his mythical place of origin,” according to Herzog, who includes footage of tourists wearing masks over their eyes for protection from these mysterious forces. There’s also footage of how the magnetic forces work with metal prongs. Herzog also travels to Llanthony Priory in Wales, the location of where Bruce courted his wife Elizabeth, who is interviewed in this chapter.

“Bruce Chatwin was searching for strangeness,” Herzog comments in the film. He also notes that Chatwin liked Herzog’s 1969 “Signs of Life” movie with the windmills scene that Chatwin called “dangerous landscape,” according to Herzog. The filmmaker also travels to Coober Pedy, Australia, where Chatwin and Herzog first met. “We were both fascinated by Aboriginal mythology,” Herzog remembers.

“Chapter Three: Songs and Songlines” explores indigenous sounds in Australia, particularly at the Strehlow Research Centre. People interviewed in this chapter include musician Glenn Morrison and Alyawerre experts Michael Liddle Pula, Marcus Wheeler and Shawn Angeles Penange. “Our songlines are our way of contributing to the health of this planet,” says one of the Alyawerre commentators.

“Chapter Four: The Nomadic Alternative” is named for an unpublished Chatwin manuscript. Herzog travels to Tierra del Feugo in Argentina, where photos of nomads fascinated Chatwin. There’s some great footage of hand imprints on overhanging rocks that were left more than 10,000 years ago, as well as some photos of nomads, such as those showing nomads with painted bodies and a naked man lying down.

“Chapter Five: Journey to the End of the World” finds Herzog in the remote La Isla Navariono in Chile.

“Chapter Six: Chatwin’s Rucksack” has Herzog back in Patagonia, where he carries the cherished rucksack and says that in his 1991 movie “Scream of Stone,” there’s a scene with someone with a rucksack, and that scene was a tribute to Chatwin.

“Chapter Seven: Cobra Verde” is a brief behind-the-scenes commentary on Herzog’s 1987 film “Cobra Verde,” which was based on “Bruce Chatwin’s 1980 novel “The Viceroy of Ouidah.”

“Chapter Eight: The Chapter Is Closed” circles back to Chatwin’s widow Elizabeth, who candidly talks about their open marriage. She says that she didn’t care that her husband Bruce was bisexual, and that he often invited his lovers into their home. Herzog also reads from the notebook containing the last line that Chatwin ever wrote.

“Nomad” is certainly going to appeal to fans of Herzog and Chatwin, as well as people who have a general interest in world travels. This is a quintessential arthouse film, so anyone who isn’t inclined to watch an artsy documentary will find a lot of this movie too slow-moving and dull for their tastes. The cinematography (by Louis Caulfield and Mike Paterson) has many stunning moments, which is to be expected in a Herzog film.

Herzog’s dry wit is present in the movie, but the wistfulness and sadness that he feels over his dear friend’s death can also be felt in the documentary. Above all, Herzog respectfully pays tribute to Chatwin in “Nomad,” and offers unique glimpses into Chatwin’s personality and intellectual curiosity in this celebration of Chatwin’s adventurous and full life.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘What Will Become of Us’

May 5, 2019

by Carla Hay

Frank Lowy in "What Will Become of Us"
Frank Lowy in “What Will Become of Us” (Photo by Leon Moralić)

“What Will Become of Us”

Directed by Steven Cantor

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on May 2, 2019.

In the documentary “What Will Become of Us,” Frank Lowy, the billionaire founder of the Westfield corporation of shopping malls, has a dilemma: Should he sell his beloved business and go into retirement, or should he keep his business, which he plans to leave to his three sons? At first glance, this might seem like a movie about “rich people’s problems.” However, Lowy (who was born in 1930) has a much more emotionally riveting and fascinating story to tell in this film, which clocks in at a brisk 75 minutes.

Lowy, who was born in the country then known as Czechoslovakia, is not a spoiled heir who was handed his wealth by a privileged parent. He literally has a “rags to riches” story as a Jewish refugee of Nazis who invaded his country and tore his family apart. In “What Will Become of Us,” Lowy, accompanied by his biographer David Kushner, goes back to many of the sites from his childhood that still haunt him.

Growing up, Lowy was bullied and beaten up for being Jewish. His childhood experiences are still painful for him to remember, because he calls the country of his birth “a horrible place” with “sad memories.” From 1943 to 1945, Lowy and his family (his parents, his sister and his brother) lived in Budapest, Hungary. Lowy had a very close relationship with his father, who disappeared when Lowy was 14, during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Lowy says he still grieves for his father, and he is at his most tearful in the documentary when he talks about his father. Later on in the movie, Lowy finds out what finally happened to his long-lost father.

After fleeing Nazi-occupied Hungary, Lowy and his family went their separate ways. He lived in Palestine and Israel from 1946 to 1952. His sister married a lawyer in Australia, where his mother and brother eventually moved. Lowy later joined them in Australia in 1952, when he began his life as a business mogul in Sydney.

Lowy had humble beginnings in Australia, where he started off as a delivery boy. He saved up enough money to eventually buy a deli and a coffee shop, which he sold and used the money to buy real estate. His real-estate dealings evolved into the shopping-mall business that he is known for today. (In 1960, Lowy co-founded Westfield with John Saunders, who sold his interest in the company to Lowy years later.)

“What Will Become of Us” also delves into Lowy’s personal life. Married to his wife Shirley since 1964, Lowy describes their relationship as “love at first sight” for him when he met her at a Hanukkah party. He was 31, and she was 19 when they met, and they married 18 months later. It sounds like an ideal love story, but Shirley now has Alzheimer’s disease. As Frank describes it, “Physically, she’s there, but mentally she’s not.” She is interviewed in the movie, which shows some instances of her memory loss.

Frank also says that he’s been a hardcore workaholic for decades, so that might be why the documentary doesn’t really give much information about the relationships that he’s had with his three sons: Peter and Steven (the co-CEOs of Westfield) and David, a principal of the Lowy Family Group. All three sons are interviewed in the movie, but they don’t reveal anything about the family dynamics in running the business or how they deal with each other on a personal level. Although Frank is shown being a devoted husband tending to Shirley, one has to wonder how small of a fraction of time that is for him, compared to all the time he admits to spending on his business.

At the beginning of the movie, Frank says it’s “painful” for him to open up negotiations to sell Westfield. If you follow corporate business news, then you know what his decision was on whether or not to sell the company. “What Will Become of Us” isn’t really a window into how Westfield is run, but it’s a fairly effective attempt to make billionaire Frank Lowy look more human and emotionally vulnerable than the ruthless image that corporate moguls like him tend to have.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘It Takes a Lunatic’

May 4, 2019

by Carla Hay

Wynn Handman (pictured at right) in "It Takes a Lunatic" (Photo by Cliff Lipson)
Wynn Handman (pictured at right) in “It Takes a Lunatic” (Photo by Cliff Lipson)

“It Takes a Lunatic”

Directed by Billy Lyons

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on May 3, 2019.

Wynn Handman might not be a household name, but as an acting teacher and as a co-founder/artistic director of the American Place Theatre in New York City, he’s had an enormous influence on numerous actors who are world-famous and/or highly respected. This talky documentary takes an in-depth, sometimes overly fawning look at Handman’s accomplishments. Even though there’s an impressive array of famous actors who share the experiences they’ve had with Handman, be prepared to sit through a documentary where there’s plenty of interviews and archival photos but unfortunately not enough archival film footage to make it a more vibrant movie.

Handman, who was born in 1922, is also interviewed in “It Takes a Lunatic.” He describes his childhood growing up in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood as happy. He wanted to be in the Navy, but enrolled in the Coast Guard instead. As a mentor/leader in the profession of acting, Handman is described as both “rough and tumble” and “intellectual” by past colleagues. The movie describes Handman has having two lives and two legacies: first as an acting teacher and later as artistic director of the off-Broadway American Place Theatre.

The celebrities who give testimonials about Handman as an acting coach or American Place Theatre artistic director include Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, Susan Lucci, Michael Douglas, James Caan, Chris Cooper, Marianne Leone Cooper, Andre Bishop, Connie Britton, Lauren Graham, John Leguizamo and Aasif Mandiv. Lucci says that as an acting coach, Handman was “so encouraging, never destructive.” Baldwin adds that Handman “never gave someone a critique they couldn’t handle.”

After years as a successful acting teacher, Handman took a big career risk by co-founding the American Place Theatre in 1963, with Sidney Lanier and Michael Tolan, at the location that formerly housed St. Clement’s Church in midtown Manhattan. Handman was told that “it would take a lunatic” to operate this unusual theater, because it was a non-profit company, and its business model was to make money from customer subscriptions, not from individual ticket sales. This uncommon approach to operating a theater allowed Handman and the other theater decision makers to take more artistic risks in the theater’s productions, since the sales were already pre-paid through subscriptions.

The American Place’s first full production in 1964 was “The Old Glory,” a trilogy of one-acts by poet Robert Lowell and starring Frank Langella. “The Old Glory” ended up winning five Obie Awards, including Best American Play and Best Actor for Langella. Another notable production in the American Place’s early years was 1967’s “La Turista,” a two-act play by Sam Shepard and starring Sam Waterston and Joyce Aaron. (The documentary includes an interview with Shepard, who died in 2017.)

But the American Place was also known for controversy. Ronald Ribman’s 1965 play “Harry, Noon and Night,” starring Dustin Hoffman as a transvestite Nazi, was controversial, mostly because the play had a live decapitation of a chicken. After those live beheadings sparked a lot of public outrage, the play switched to using fake chickens. “The Cannibals,” George Tabori’s 1974 play about the Holocaust, was one of the American Place’s most divisive productions. The documentary points out that the play was more controversial in the United States than it was in Germany. In the documentary, Handman remembers getting a lot of hate mail every time the American Place was embroiled in controversy.

The words “true,” “truth” and “truthful” are used a lot in the documentary to describe Handman and the people he inspired. Eric Bogosian, whose third one-man play “Drinking in America” was produced by the American Place, says of Handman: “He’s not a lunatic. He’s a true believer.”

Even with interviews and testimonials that talk about all the brilliant work that Handman can take a lot of credit for influencing, there simply isn’t enough filmed footage of a lot of these stage productions. Plays, rehearsals and acting classes in Handman’s heyday were usually not filmed for posterity, so it’s not director Billy Lyons’ fault that still photos are the main visuals he has to work with to show what people are discussing in the documentary. (And thankfully, Lyons chose not to film re-enactments for “It Takes a Lunatic,” which is his first feature film.) Perhaps “It Takes a Lunatic” would have been better-suited as a podcast instead of a movie.

The lack of archival film footage isn’t the documentary’s main shortcoming. By putting Handman on such a high pedestal, the documentary feels like it was made by a star-struck fan instead of a more objective filmmaker. For example, the controversy that Handman created with some of American Place’s productions is acknowledged in the film, but the movie doesn’t interview any of Handman’s critics, rivals or people he inevitably alienated in his career. The constant praise of Handman is repetitive and the movie’s slow pace makes the documentary duller than it needs to be. “It Takes a Lunatic” should be commended for gathering so many well-respected actors to share their admiration of Handman, but the documentary probably won’t be very appealling to people who have no interest in acting or theater productions.

Netflix will premiere “It Takes a Lunatic” on a date to be announced.