I Am Not Your Negro (obviously)

James Baldwin, The Last Interview.jpgUnsparing as history and enthralling as biography. It’s an evocation of a passionate soul in a tumultuous era. —Joel Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

There was something so odd, yet so fitting in watching the Oscar-nominated documentary,  I Am Not Your Negro, on a rainy weekend at the Masonic Temple. Sitting in a meeting hall on mismatched padded chairs with Masonic tapestries and a domed ceiling around us, the crowd included mostly couples, (many over 50) and one family with pre-teen boys. All of us white. Many of us, likely unfamiliar with any of James Baldwin’s writings. The screening had the feel of a town hall meeting where we’d all come together to get political.

Sadly, the sound was rather muffled in this temporary screening hall. It was hard to distinguish between James Baldwin’s voice and the narration by Samuel L Jackson. It’s a powerful film, in part because his words are still so relevant today. Sadly. Pairing his narrative about the lives and deaths of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr with contemporary video of the sad state of affairs in race relations in America today creates such a resonance that I heard members of the audience actually gasp out loud.

As the crowd quietly filed out of the hall and down the stairs, there was a shared silence and many people were glancing at strangers to see their reactions. It was a thoughtful silence and I didn’t see the usual rush to turn on cellphones. The idea of crowds of mainly white folks gathering to hear a lecture on why we need to stop thinking Black Lives Matter and start thinking how to heal our country as preached by a gay black activist that died in 1987…what a remarkable achievement.

If you’re like me, and you’ve only read James Baldwin’s poems and a few essays, you may be inspired to go pick up a few of his books. Here’s a few suggestions: Four books by James Baldwin. I’ll be headed to the library to find The Last Interview.

Rating: PG-13 for violence and a few swear words

Drinks With Films: 5 glasses of French wine out of 5 — a toast to Baldwin’s time in Paris

Release date: February 3, 2017 (USA)

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Harry Belafonte.jpg

1st African American man to win an Emmy, 6 Gold Records including, “Calypso”

I’ve always looked at the world and thought what can I do next? Where do we go from here? How can we fix it? And that’s still how I look at the world, because there is so much to be done. The whole world is caught in human suffering. And those who professed about making change have not come up with answers. We have failed in terms of the moral side. We have to do more. —Harry Belafonte

What if you could choose to see a film at a local movie theater OR go see the same film at a Film Festival?  Hmmm…you don’t need to purchase advance tickets for a film at the multiplex…unless, of course, it’s Opening Weekend. Festival screenings are a different matter altogether. First, you need to know about the festival. Then, generally you need to purchase tickets in advance. Finally, you must arrive early and perhaps venture to a venue you’ve never been to…and if you don’t show-up 15 minutes before screen time, guess what? They can give your seat to someone standing in line. So, why bother?

What makes a film festival such a unique experience is the chance to hear from filmmakers and actors who travel to the festival representing the film. This week, you could go see the remarkable, Oscar-nominated documentary about writer James Baldwin,  I Am Not Your Negro at the temporary home of the Lyric Cinema Cafe (The Masonic Temple) in Fort Collins, and other art house cinemas in the area. OR you could purchase a ticket for the Closing Night of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival.  So, why wait till April 21st???

Why bother? Why wait? Because if you don’t, you’ll miss a great opportunity!  Your festival ticket for I Am Not Your Negro is your chance to see and hear from someone who knew James Baldwin personally, a remarkable humanitarian who also happens to be a famous movie star…someone you may never get the chance to see again…Harry Belafonte!

At the Second Annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival April 21st, there’s a screening of a biopic about this singer, actor and activist. Sing Your Song uses archival footage to celebrate the man who worked with Martin Luther King Jr, led civil rights marches, and fought against apartheid in South Africa. Harry Belafonte was an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and he continues to champion social justice. Colorado State University students can see Susan Rostock’s 2011 documentary for free at 4:30pm at the Lory Student Center Theater.

After the screening of Sing Your Song, the final film of the festival, I Am Not Your Negro will be presented in the same theater. The Sing Your Song star, Mr. Belafonte, will be there for the Question and Answer session post-screening. There will also be a Closing Night party in the Lory Student Center Ballroom.

Put this film festival on your calendar: April 14-21, 2017.  Purchase your tickets now!

Don’t let this opportunity come and go…Day-o Day-ay-ay-o

 

If you’re going to see just 1 Oscar-nominated film…see 5!

So here we are, almost Academy Awards time…Have you seen all the films? Have you heard the scores? And what’s the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing anyway?

This is an unusual year for me as I haven’t seen all the films but if you asked me which one of the nominated films to see—what would I recommend? My answer may surprise you. I would tell you to go see the Oscar-nominated Live Action Shorts!

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Seeking out shorts!

This doesn’t mean that I think the Best Picture nominations aren’t deserving! I’ll give you a quick run-down of how I’d rate them another time, perhaps. What makes this collection of five films from five countries so remarkable? These gems of great storytelling will move you, inspire you, and make you cry or laugh. They represent a distillation of what makes movies amazing: the craft of storytelling at it’s most focused and assured!  So please, go seek out the Shorts Programs. Many big cities are screening the Oscar-nominated Live Action and Animated Shorts and the Documentary Shorts are also brilliant–though that is a 3-hour program.

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

  • Ennemis Intérieurs — my least favorite

    Sélim Azzazi

    La Femme et le TGV –what a brilliant poster!

    Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff

    Silent Nights — just brilliant and Kim Magnusson’s 6th nominated film!

    Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson

    Sing — great film for the whole family

    Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy

    Timecode — when you gotta dance!

    Juanjo Giménez

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Film Festivals: why they are more important than ever!

I’m obsessed. It’s true. There are very few people who dedicate this much time attending, working and curating film festivals; my life is is ALL about film and I love it. As I embark on the journey to help birth two new film festivals in the Front Range of Colorado, one might question why? Do we need another film festival? Aren’t Sundance, Cannes, TriBeca and SXSW covering all the bases? So few people attend local film festivals in the early years of a festival…why do I work so hard to get these events off the ground? Why bother?

Here’s the thing…Americans are insulated. We are living in a very divisive time and so many of us are surrounded by like-minded individuals. Our lives are lived in bubbles of work, family, church and community. There is little opportunity or dollars to travel if you’re working hard to stay employed.  And little time off to pursue the pleasures of the arts or hobbies or time to just BE. Politics have become an issue that raises blood pressure and angry words. There are alarming changes to government policies and threats to art, education and environment. What does this look like from the perspective of countries outside our own? Do you know? Do you care?

Rather than turn inward, or turn off—I find community in the shared experience of cinema. When there were threats to the EPA, I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and listened to the cheers of nature-lovers applauding the work of environmentalists. When the ACLU seemed overwhelmed by government actions, I went to the United Nations traveling film festival where civic-minded film lovers rallied friends to march, donate and celebrate successes here and worldwide.

Not everyone is fortunate to live in a town with an art house theater. Fort Collins, CO, has a gem of an art house theater. The Lyric Cinema Cafe will soon be moving but currently there are screenings of the Oscar-nominated Shorts and on Feb 28th, short films created by local filmmakers in 48 hours! Tonight, I’m going to a screening billing itself as a film festival. I love how Wandering Reel Film Festival describes it’s mission:

“Artists have long been at the forefront of social innovation. The Wandering Reel believes in the power of film art to effect positive change, to bring people together through shared cultural experiences and to promote peace and justice around the world by inspiring conversation between individuals and communities through the common experience of cinema. By exposing under-served communities with films that are artful in their meaning and compassionate and conscious in their approach, the boundaries that divide people can be slowly stripped away, cultures can be enriched and peace grown across the globe.”

Learning about other cultures and other worlds is so important. Documentaries are so crucial to spreading knowledge and helping us learn about our world. Yes, we need to decompress and laugh at Batman, The Lego Movie but the experience just doesn’t compare to the satisfaction of seeing Hidden Figures! This fictionalised account of a true story benefits from the amazing cast but it’s the STORY; the true story that draws you in. There’s a feeling of community when you hear the applause in a crowded theater; when you know that we’ve all shared an experience and learned something together. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race written by Margot Lee Shetterley.

We can all be transported and moved by a true story compellingly told.

hidden-figures

Yes, documentaries are more important than ever; I completely agree with Simon Kilmurry! I would argue that we also need places to see these compelling documentaries. That’s why we need film festivals. How many documentaries are screening at your local cineplex? You need to seek them out on the Nature Channel or PBS; you need to set your DVR. I’m on a mission to bring them to you, in your town, to help build community and showcase your local talented film community. I hope you’ll join me!

See you at the Boulder International Film Festival March 2-5 and at the Front Range Film Festival April 20-23! And stayed tuned for news about Lyons, Nederland and the newest film and craft festival: Boulder Beer and Film Festival in September!

Please put this important documentary on your must see list for tomorrow night! A perfect companion film to the brilliant documentary, I’m Not Your Negro about the life of James Baldwin. Because, Black Lives Matter!

 

Maya Angelou in 1974.
Maya Angelou in 1974. Wayne Miller/Magnum, via PBS
Tuesday
‘Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,’ 8 p.m., PBS (Check Local Listings)
This two-hour “American Masters” biography covers the astonishing breadth of Angelou’s work as a singer, performer, poet, author and activist, and includes footage from throughout her life as well as candid interviews.
KQED has a thorough companion archive to the documentary, which is particularly poignant because Angelou hosted a 10-part series on KQED in 1968 called “Blacks, Blues, Black!”

What a ride…Telluride!

There are as many ways to enjoy Telluride as there are reasons to go to this glorious mountain town: festivals, skiing, and nature!  For some visitors, it’s the stars…you feel so close to the star-filled sky in this village with it’s Dark Sky policy.  And then, there are the other Stars; the Film Stars that descend on this tiny town for the Telluride Film Festival every year.

Just like any other festival I’ve ever attended, film-goers flock to the screenings with the most glamorous guests.  Even in this rarified atmosphere of film as fine art and a welcome respite from the paparazzi, the screenings that fill up are the ones with the Big Names.  This makes seeing the really good films more difficult.  The bigger budget (and often, more mediocre) Hollywood films, screen multiple times and in all the big venues. When the true gems of the festival create a buzz, there’s little chance to see them in the remaining day or two, especially when those films are screening in the smaller houses!

Pablo Larrain, Joseph Cedar, Isabelle Huppert moderator: Annette Insdorf and Mia Hansen-Love

 

 

2016 was no different, but what a fabulous line-up of films!  The Arrival with Amy Adams was the one film that seemed to always have to turn away the crowds.  Three films that I really wanted to see, I didn’t make it to: Graduation, Toni Erdmann and Through The Wall.  I didn’t attempt to see some of the bigger films that will soon be released but I did enjoy the hot mess that is La La Land.   Amusing, romantic, and fanciful, it’s a fun Hollywood musical.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have great chemistry.   The score and choreography are wonderful. Sadly, it’s suffers from poor editing and the last third of the film is a muddled mess.  Still, it was a delight and I’d give it 4 coupe glasses of champagne (out of a possible 5).

My favorite film of the Fest: Inner Workings, the new short from Disney directed by Leo Matsuda!  Delightful, heartwarming and a complete story in it’s short running time. I’d rate it 5 margaritas (not during work) out of 5!

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In the features category, my heart belongs to Frantz! François Ozon has crafted an indelible film full of grief, loss and longing all set in a small German village shattered by the loss of life during WW2.  Using black and white cinematography to bring you into this period; the costumes, setting and acting seem so attuned to the time that it creates a documentary feel…and then when love and vitality touch the lives of the anguished young lovers (played with such sensitivity by Paula Beer and Pierre Niney), color brightens the screen and warms the mood.  I was swept away and found the story to be so rich that I wanted to see it again immediately.  5 German beers!

One film that I did end up seeing twice, and would rather have not seen at all…Bleed For This.  Aaron Eckhart gives a great supporting performance as the trainer to Miles Tiller’s underdog boxer in a soap opera of a tale that’s so loopy — it has to be true.  Ben Younger directs a cast of gum-snapping, beer-drinking stereotypes where alcoholism is cured with a short stay in the pokey.  Did we need another boxing movie?  Really?  1 can of Budweiser.

Una is an emotional roller coaster based on the play, Blackbird.  Almost a one-woman show, Rooney Mara is emotional-wrenching in her role as the young woman left frayed and broken by an encounter she still doesn’t fully comprehend.  As the small cast reveals the shocking details, the audience is along for the intimate, anguished reveal.  Master work by director Benedict Andrews.  5 shots of vodka…no chaser.  You’ll be shaken and stirred!

In the just-for-the-joy-of-it category: Lost in Paris.  Two physical comedians, Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, writer/directors, play characters named Fiona and Dom that keep careening into one another in Paris.  The French actress, Emmanuelle Riva, adds grace and depth to a film of childlike wonder. 3 bottles of French bubbly washed ashore.

Not a fan of the film Wakefield, I felt the character was a caricature of a man losing his grip on reality and Bryan Cranston gave a one-note performance in this unlikeable portrait. For a much more in-depth and believable parent and human being, there’s the soulful Isabelle Hubbert, radiant in her role of a woman who’s life is unraveling in Things To Come, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve.  Her performance has so many layers that you believe that her journey out of chaos will yield only stronger bounds with her family and an affirmation that she deserves a good life. 4 glasses of a good Bourdeaux!

All in all, a stellar year for the Telluride Film Festival.  So many films I wish I could’ve seen that I left with a feeling of yearning.  I look forward to seeing Manchester by the Sea when It’s released as I hear Casey Affleck’s performance is a revelation.

See you at the movies!

 

What to do when your town has no movie theater…

No theater?  No problema.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of movies…oh wait, is film not as important as all that?!

Well, to some of us, movies are right up there – on par with a beer at a local watering hole or dinner out on the town.  But what do you do if your town has no movie theater?  Here in Boulder County, there are a few places with no Cineplex.  Longmont will have an upscale cinema in the new Twin Peaks Mall but until then, both Longmont and the village of Niwot are sans cinema.

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What might seem like an absence is an illusion.  With a little planning and bit of adventure, you’ll find there are plenty of chances to go to the movies.  Libraries, Universities, art galleries and even unexpected venues may have film nights you weren’t aware of—many with films that would never have a chance to screen at a local Cineplex.

Firehouse Art Center in Longmont has hosted Free Film Night on the 1st Friday of the month for the last few years.  I’ve had the pleasure of programming some of the most recent screenings with local documentary films and film festival favorites.  This Friday, November 6, features a filmed live performance of “Rocks Karma Arrows”.  This production by the Motus Theater group recalls the Sand Creek Massacre that happened 20 years ago and how it’s influenced the history of Boulder County.  The screening will be followed with a discussion with the director, Kristen Wilson.  And did I mention…it’s FREE. 7pm, Firehouse Art Center1172785_663452923679966_568692727_o

How about a cinematic vacation in Italy?  With a visit to the CU campus, you can travel with the International Film Series on a comedy road trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on “The Trip to Italy”.  The companion piece to the witty, and often silly, British restaurant tour, “The Trip” (2010), this film is screening Fri and Sat @ 7:30 in Muenzinger Auditorium.  There’s also a lovely German film, “The Strange Little Cat” for those interested in an artful look at chaotic family life by a talented first-time filmmaker—Sun, also 7:30 @ the Muenzinger Auditorium.  $8 general admission.

There are films screened at many public libraries and Longmont has a night for Teens and Tweens they call Longmont Library After Dark! Students in grades 6-12 enjoy pizza, gaming, movies, and an anime club! This is designed to be a drop-off program so please register by calling 303-651-8477.  Participants need to be signed up by noon, Nov 8 to ensure adequate staffing.  For an Oscar-winning documentary, come see “Man on Wire” (2008) Thu, Nov 13 as part of the “Great 21st-Century Documentaries” @ 7:30.  Free, Longmont Library.

We have a few film screens dedicated to art-house and independent film in Boulder County: the Boedecker Theater at the Diary Center for the Arts, Cinearts at the Century Theater in Boulder and there are short films screened before all films at the Cinebarre Theater in Louisville…but did you know that there are screenings at eTown Hall?  This coming week, there is the documentary “Arise” on Nov 11 presented by Global Greengrants Fund focusing on women and the environment and Nov 13 — Best of BIFF Shorts: some of the best short films from 10 year’s of the Boulder International Film Festival.  Both screenings at 7pm at eTown Hall. $10 plus ticket fees.

This is just a smattering of the film offerings in Boulder County.  There’s always something cinematic happening in your ‘hood.  You just need to know where to look!

Did I miss a film listing or a film event in Boulder County for this coming week?

Well, don’t let it happen again!  Email me at 2jillie@gmail.com or post a comment!