February 1, 2002

Short Takes, February 2002

NEWS BRIEFS

Discovery Announces Partnership with C&M Co., Ltd.

Discovery Networks, Asia, the Singapore-based division of Discovery Networks, International, has formed a distribution partnership with C&M Co., Ltd., resulting in the nationwide 24-hour distribution of the Discovery Channel throughout the Republic of Korea.

The Discovery Channel launches in Seoul on 10 cable systems with more than 450,000 households, representing 40% of the cable households in the Korean capital. The service will feature the full range of Discovery genres, including science and technology, the natural world, and people, places and culture.

Brown To Receive ASC Presidents Award

Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam and other innovative tools for filmmakers, will receive the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Presidents Award this month at the 16th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards ceremony.

Brown has previously earned two Academy Awards for Scientific and Technical Achievement. In a prepared statement, ASC President Victor J. Kemper said, “No one is more deserving of this recognition than Garrett Brown. His invention of the Steadicam added a new dimension to the art of filmmaking. He invented this tool and showed the industry how to use it. Garret Brown is a behind-the-scenes hero who has earned this moment in the limelight.”

A Steadicam operator on approximately 200 films, Brown has also trained over a thousand Steadicam operators at workshops throughout the world since 1980. Said Brown, “I really learned the skill of operating with a Steadicam during the year I spent working with (director) Stanley Kubrick on The Shining. John Alcott was the cinematographer. I learned how to do it and also how to teach it.” Brown remarked that while it was wonderful and gratifying to receive his Oscars, recognition from the ASC was special because it came from his colleagues.

ASC to Build Hollywood Campus

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) announced plans in October to build a museum and a campus at the site of the historic ASC clubhouse in Hollywood. The goal of the plan is to help preserve the history and define the future of the art of filmmaking. This also includes establishing an endowment fund as part of a program to nurture future filmmakers.

The project will cost approximately $8 million, including the endowment fund. Donors have already pledged more than $3.5 million, including “generous gifts” from the Eastman Kodak Company, Panavision, Technicolor and the ASC Board of Governors.

The ASC is one of the oldest existing organizations in the motion picture industry. “There were writers, directors, art directors, producers, set and costume designers before there were movies, but cinematography was a totally new endeavor” said ASC President Victor Kempner is a prepared statement. “Cinematographers were literally inventing a new language for telling stories with moving images. ASC provided an opportunity for them to meet and discuss ideas.”

Sundance Institute Celebrates 20 Years

The Sundance Institute launched its 20th anniversary celebration this past November with a month of films, interviews and special programming on the Sundance Channel highlighting the work of artists who have participated in institute programs.

Several special events throughout the year will highlight the achievements and work of the institute. The first was a conversation between Sundance Institute founder and president Robert Redford and Dr. Annette Insdorf, director of undergraduate film studies at Columbia University, at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. A documentary on the institute premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and a benefit celebration with Sundance leadership, alumni artists and supporters will take place in New York City in April.

DOCS WATCH

9-11 Responses

Since September 11, filmmakers and arts organizations have been grappling with how to deal with and document the horrors that took place. This past December, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) began presenting 9.11 Moments, 34 minute-long interstitial spots, on all PBS stations and on www.itvs.org/9.11. Asking the question, “How has your life changed since September 11, 2001?” ITVS invited nine independent producers from across the country to take their cameras and explore some of the answers. The resulting pieces are evidence of a re-definition of the way Americans look at themselves both globally and locally. The spots feature subjects ranging from an 11-year old Navajo girl in New Mexico to an Arab American scoutmaster and his scouts in Michigan to political columnist Molly Ivins in Texas. ITVS Director of Programming Claire Aguilar said that part of the impetus in creating the project was the recognition of the importance of public media’s role in society and the free flow of information and art during times of crisis.

The D-Word Community (www.d-word.com), a global online forum for documentarians, created War & Peace: A D-Word Collaborative Project, a collection of short documentary works that capture the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The piece launched this past November at the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) in Amsterdam in the Docs Online program. The project evolved out of a “War and Peace” discussion on the site, when filmmakers chose to move from discussion to production and create a collaborative project under that broad theme title. According to D-Word member Birgit Rathsmann, “…the virtual community itself helped all of us deal with the feeling of powerlessness and the desire to make the media landscape more pluralistic.” Initial highlights of War and Peace include graphic vérité coverage from the morning of September 11th, Tibetan Buddhists keeping vigil in New York’s Union Square, octogenarian activists demonstrating at a Los Angeles peace rally and perspectives on the war from the context of Munich’s Oktoberfest.

New Facets Releases

Facets Video released two new DVDs in January: Giacometti and Melies the Magician.

Giacometti features two films about the work of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. What is a Head?, a film by Michael Van Zele, features countless interviews with luminaries of the art world, and pays particular attention to Giacometti’s unique approach to the head, be it sculpted, drawn or painted. In A Man Among Men: Alberto Giacometti, by Jean-Marie Drot, Giacometti reveals himself before the camera, shedding light on more than 180 of his greatest works.

Melies the Magician, produced by the European television channel ARTE in collaboration with Melies’ granddaughter and the Cinematheque Melies, examines the works of filmmaker Georges Melies, arguably one of the major influences on the careers of Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The DVD includes The Magic of Melies, a film by Jacques Malthete, which explores Melies’ work through clips, reconstructions, interviews and original research.

Trembling Before G-d Opens in New York and Los Angeles

New Yorker Films opened Trembling Before G-d this month in Los Angeles, after initially opening the film in New York. Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s ground-breaking documentary is built around intimately told personal stories of gay Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who face the dilemma of how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism with the Biblical prohibitions that forbid homosexuality. The film was the recipient of the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival, and has been screened at the Sundance, Jerusalem, Karlovy Vary, Pusan, Sydney, Melbourne and Human Rights Watch film festivals.

AWARDS ROUND UP

The National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) gave Lillian Jiménez its first award for Outstanding Achievement at its annual conference in San Diego this past December. Jiménez, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, was presented with the award in recognition for nearly 30 years of service to independent media and the Latino community, including work with the Young Filmmakers Foundation, Third World Newsreel, AIVF and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media of The Funding Exchange. She currently serves on the board of directors of ITVS and was founding chair of NALIP.

Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I was awarded Best Documentary of 2001 by both the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Associations.

The National Board of Review presented their 2001 Best Documentary award to The Endurance: Shackelton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (George Butler, producer/director). The William K. Everson Award for Film History was presented to Martin Scorsese for his documentary My Voyage to Italy.

This past November, Josh Aronson’s Sound and Fury was awarded the Grand Prix in NHK’s 28th Japan Prize Contest, the world’s most prestigious international contest for educational TV programs. The film chronicles the stories of two couples with deaf children and their struggle to make the difficult decision of whether to give their children cochlear implants, which is said to restore hearing ability, or whether they should let them grow up as they are.

Documentaries produced in association with VisionTV earned some of the most prestigious honors at 16th Annual Gemini Awards in Canada. Breakaway - A Tale of Two Survivors, received the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program. The film chronicles the unusual relationship of two Nova Scotia men, both of them brain injury survivors. It was directed by Mathew Welsh, who co-produced with Johanna Eliot and Johanna Lunn Montgomery. Made In China received the Canada Award, which honors excellence in mainstream television programming that reflects this country's racial and cultural diversity. The film, which tells the story of abandoned Chinese children who have been adopted by Canadian parents, was written and directed by Karin L. Lee and produced by Shan Tam. In addition, the Gemini for Best Achievement in Make-Up went to Dorota Ergetowski, Joel Echallier and Celine Godeau for their work on the documentary Island of Shadows: D'Arcy Island Leper Colony, 1891-1924. The film reveals the little-known history of a Chinese leper colony off the coast of British Columbia.

FESTIVALS WATCH

The Fifth Annual Shorts International Film Festival awarded the Documentary Award to Remy Weber’s Why Pay Two Rents, a portrait of Stan Selub and Paul Miller, who have shared a monogamous relationship and an antique jewelry business over the past 40 years.

Producers/directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Tejada-Flores received the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Ojai Film Festival for their film about conscientious objectors in World War II, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It. A Documentary Feature Honorable Mention award went to Fight to the Max, produced by Jonathan Stack and directed by Simeon Soffer. Best of Festival and Best Documentary Short awards both went to Exodus, produced by Ruth Burnett and directed by Dollan Cannell. The Festival Theme Award, given to the film best exemplifying the Film Festival theme of "Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film," went to the documentary feature The Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne, produced and directed by Salome Ramras Arkatov.

TriBeCa Film Festival planned by De Niro and Rosenthal

In an attempt to bring both financial and emotional relief to their TriBeCa neighborhood, Robert De Niro and film producer Jane Rosenthal are starting the TriBeCa Film Festival, which will bow this May. The festival had been in the works for awhile, but events of September 11 accelerated the actualization of the event. The festival plans on screening 40 world premieres of independent and studio feature-length films, along with 20 short films, at various venues throughout the downtown neighborhood. There will also be a day of panel discussions and a free outdoor screening. Selections will be chosen by a jury of New York’s film professionals.

De Niro has long had ties with the TriBeCa neighborhood, both living and working there. In 1990, he opened the TriBeCa Film Center in an old coffee warehouse. The Center is home to more than a dozen film companies and the TriBeCa Grill restaurant.

CHANGES AT THE HELM

Hammond takes top NEA post

This past December, the Senate confirmed Michael Hammond, 69, as the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. A composer and dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Hammond was confirmed without a public hearing.

As reported in the New York Times, Hammond stated after his confirmation, “I will advocate especially for policies and practices that enhance the experiences of our young people, by giving them the insights and skills that lead to understanding and participation in the arts.”

Hammond takes over the Endowment at a time when its mission has undergone a shift from that of supporting art for art’s sake to supporting art that serves a larger communal purpose. This change is reflected in the changes in grant eligibility and programs, the increased distribution of grant monies to state and local governments, and the limit of grants awarded to an organization in a single year.

ITVS Elects New Board Members

At their November public board meeting in San Francisco, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) announced the addition of three media professionals to their board of directors. Additions are as follows: Larry Irving, president of Irving Information Group and former assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information at the US Department of Commerce; Chon Noriega, professor in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Film, Television and Digital Media and associate director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center; and Lee Ann Tallbear, planner, Pinoleville Indian Reservation and program development consultant to Eyapaha Institute, a film and video training program serving Native people based in Los Angeles.

Passings

Lance Loud, Featured in An American Family series in 1970s, Dies at 50

Lance Loud, the most outspoken member of a family profiled in the landmark 1973 PBS series An American Family, died in December at a hospice in Los Angeles of complications from hepatitis C. He was 50.

The 12-part series, produced by Craig Gilbert and directed by Alan and Susan Raymond, examined the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Loud family, capturing on camera the most intimate and painful moments of their lives, including the parents’ divorce and Lance’s coming out to his mother. The American public, inured to such sanitized families as the Nelsons, Cleavers and Bradys, was riveted; never before had Americans beheld themselves on television as they truly were—and they didn’t like what they saw.

The Louds didn’t expect the negative criticism from pundits and viewers, and they spent the next two years defending themselves on talk shows. Lance Loud later took up journalism, writing for such publications as the Advocate, Details and Interview.

In an interview in The Independent Film and Video Monthly in October 2000, Loud reflected on the experience: “Maybe it will be viewed—maybe long after reality programming as a concept has finally bitten the dust—that what we did was noble.”

He is survived by his siblings and parents.

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