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What If There’s No Back to School or Normal: Ai Weiwei’s HUMAN FLOW for UN’s WHD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Maybe you’ve never heard of Ai Weiwei, who turns 60 on Aug. 28. Once a pro blackjack player, Weiwei still takes huge gambles as China’s best-known living artist, conceptual artist, and filmmaker who is often jailed or at odds with his government. AIWEIwei17There’s a link to his timeline and bio below. But for tomorrow Aug. 19, which the United Nation declared “World Humanitarian Day” back in 2003, Weiwei’s new film HUMAN FLOW has heart-piercing images to share what it is to be a refugee, and why there’s not only no back to school or normal, but no back to safety.

First a Backgrounder on the UN’s World Humanitarian Day

On 19 August 2003, a terrorist attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people. Among those who lost their lives was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. Every year since then, the humanitarian community has organized global campaigns to commemorate WHD, advocating for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.

Now Step Into the HUMAN FLOW Directed by Ai Weiwei

“Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II.  Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

“Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.”

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“Human Flow is a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice: from teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders; from dislocation and disillusionment to courage, endurance and adaptation; from the haunting lure of lives left behind to the unknown potential of the future. Human Flow comes at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever.  This visceral work of cinema is a testament to the unassailable human spirit and poses one of the questions that will define this century: Will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity?”

Amazon Studios and Participant Media present, in association with AC Films, Human Flow, a film directed by Ai Weiwei.  Human Flow is produced by Ai Weiwei, Chin-Chin Yap and Heino Deckert and executive produced by Andrew Cohen of AC Films with Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann of Participant Media.AmazStud17PrtMd17

140 Minutes

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on August 19 to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. For additional information, please visit the UN.
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Ai Weiwei’s new film will be released in a limited roll-out on Oct. 13, see website for more details.

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Looks Like Ben Stiller Finds Himself Again With BRAD’S STATUS

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent Hey, so Ben Stiller is back. Ignore that casual pop opening. (Smiley face.) It’s just in keeping with Stiller’s upcoming starrer from Amazon Studios, BRAD’S STATUS. You can Google up what this remade actor has been up to personally, because it shows in his work. Those are real tears, and […]

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Charlie Hunnam Was Right To Nix 50 Shades, He Nabbed LOST CITY OF Z, First Look

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

No, you’ve probably never heard of explorer Percy Fawcett; he’s the main character of best-seller David Grann’s “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.” It’s a non-fiction rundown on an Amazonian adventurer who found and lost his soul in the jungle. Now, what if you heard Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam is going to come out in a movie as Percy Fawcett? What an exciting choice, especially since Hunnam famously turned down the lead in 50 Shades of Grey and looked like he might regret it later. HunnamC17This is one of those times when Hollywood pays back the great choice of an actor who sticks with material that’s closer to his heart. LOST CITY OF Z, the movie directed by James Gray (The Immigrant), also stars ex-Vampire Robert Pattinson, the often under-rated Sienna Miller, the very excellent Tom Holland, and Angus Macfadyen, a great Scot, who dates all the way back the Braveheart. It looks like quite the adventure, and it realigns Hunnam’s star on the map of Tinseltown.

LOST CITY OF Z bows in a limited release on April 17, then wider on April 21. It’s from Amazon Studios and Bleeker Street. Get a first look at this exciting new Hunnam movie here, and the official description follows…

The Lost City of Z
Release Date: Limited April 14, 2017
Nationwide April 21, 2017

Official Word on LOST CITY OF Z

Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, THE LOST CITY OF Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) – returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and obsession, told in James Gray’s classic filmmaking style, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and those individuals driven to achieve greatness at any cost.

Film Pedigree

Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street
Directed by: James Gray
Based on the Book: “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann
Featuring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus MacfadyenCharlieH17

Watch for this to come out on April 14, in selected cities, then wider release on April 21, and learn more here.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and dig adventure, travel, and Charlie Hunnam.

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Digerati Doing Cool Stuff in NYC, Or IFP Features Television, Web & Digital Content for Fall

SCREENMANCER NYC ALERT: July 21, 2016 (Manhattan, NY) – Digerati who dig film, this is a heads up for you about IFP in NYC. What is IFP? The Independent Filmmaker Project, breakfast of “champions of storytelling” also lunch and dinner out. Read on… ifpcrowd16

Today, IFP announced their expansion to support TV, Digital, Interwebs, VR and App-based Series at its upcoming IFP Film Week. Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market in the U.S. featuring stories for all platforms. As announced, after 37 years in Manhattan, IFP Film Week is moving across the river to Brooklyn.

The event will set up shop in DUMBO anchored around its headquarters, the Made in NY Media Center By IFP; Film Week will run from September 17th through September 22nd, 2016.

In recent years, IFP and Filmmaker Magazine have played a vital role in launching the careers of many of today’s rising stars active in the television, new media and web series space, prompting the decision to expand to platforms outside of film.QTFMIPF16
These rising stars include series creators Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair (High Maintenance), Deston Daniel Cretton (Upcoming Minors with Ryan Coogler), Lena Dunham (Girls), The Duplass Brothers (Togetherness) Moria Demos & Laura Riccardi (Making of a Murderer), Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar), Robert Eggers (Upcoming Rasputin), Ingrid Jungermann (F to the 7th) Todd Rohal (MOPZ), Amy Seimetz (The Girlfriend Experience), directors Nicole Kassell (The Americans), Seith Mann (The Breaks), Stacie Passon (Transparent) and Dee Rees (Bessie) as well as those forging their own storytelling paths such as Laura Poitras (The Intercept).

In addition to expanding across multiple platforms, IFP is proud that over 50% of the participating projects in this year’s Film Week are inclusive of range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions, fostering future projects that break out of the norm. These diverse projects span across all areas of film week.

“IFP Film Week is delving into such exciting new territories this year,” says IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente. “In this changing technological landscape, it’s imperative to give voices to those who think outside the box and look to not only film and television, but also web, digital, and VR platforms to get their stories out there.  We’re also thrilled that these voices will belong to more and more women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community.”

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Under the curatorial leadership of Deputy Director/Head of Programming Amy Dotson & Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot, forty-five projects have been selected. The slate includes narrative and non-fiction series (limited, mini and full-season series) in all formats, from VR and Snapchat-based series to comedy, drama and genre pilots. Over half of the selected projects have already shot their pilots independently; in addition, many feature veteran creatives from the film, television and web space presenting new series pitches.

Highlighted projects on deck… 

  • According To My Mother, a comedic series from actor Daniel K. Isaac (Billions)
  • Awkward Celebrity Encounters, an animated web-comedy from Caveh Zahedi (The Show About the Show)
  • Big Fun, a French/American thriller series from producer of France’s Hero Corp
  • House of Psychotic Women, from the producer of The Greasy Strangler
  • The Illegal, from the team behind award winning Canadian mini-series Book of Negros and the executive producer of OWN’s Greenleaf
  • Love & Stuff, a limited, non-fiction series from director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl)
  • The Order, a dramatic thriller from director Jim Mickle (Cold In July)
  • Sex Ed, a drama from producers of Teen Mom & Serial: Season 2
  • Untitled Flint Police Project, a non-fiction series from the team behind T-Rex.
  • Newcomers include Shugs & Fats (2015 Gotham Award Breakthrough Series), The Come Up (2016 Series Fest Winner), and Namaste, Bitches.

For the full series slate, please visit:

http://www.ifp.org/press/ifp-announces-series-slate-for-project-forum-at-ifp-film-week/#.V40exJMrLXQ

A number of activities will take place at IFP Film Week aimed at helping connect content creators with industry leaders in television, and new media that can help them complete their latest works and connect with audiences.

  • Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market featuring stories for all platforms. Specifically, over 3,500 meetings are set up to support the future of storytelling by connecting content creators with financiers, executives, influencers and decision-makers in film, television, and new media.
  • All projects will also participate in Screen Forward Pitches, an all-day, exclusive live pitching session with top television, new media and digital execs in hopes of moving their projects – and careers – forward.
  • 20 projects will also be showcased publicly at the outdoor Screen Forward Showcase, an open to the public project featuring highlights of the new program.

Reflecting this year’s inclusion of web and television projects, IFP Film Week is sponsored by HBO and Amazon Studios this year; HBO will support all documentary and non-fiction interests of the week, while Amazon Studios is committed to supporting our producers across all platforms and genres.

Who Pays For This?

The IFP and IFP Film Week are generously supported by a group of loyal corporate, foundation and government benefactors. The 2016 Sponsors are Premier Sponsors HBO and Amazon Studios; Gold Sponsors A&E Indie Films and SAGIndie; and Silver Sponsors National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa, Shutterstock, Sofia Independent Film Festival and Telefilm Canada. IFP Film Week is also supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Time Warner Foundation.

More About IFP

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. ifp16The organization fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, a new incubator space developed with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. IFP represents a growing network of 10,000 storytellers around the world, and plays a key role in developing 350 new feature and documentary works each year. During its 38-year history, IFP has supported over 12,000 projects and offered resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers. More info at www.ifp.org

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From The Last Tycoon to Woody Allen’s Café Society: Why We Love Stories About Hollywood

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Woody Allen’s newest film Café Society just opened July 15, and it fits into a cinematic history of stories about Hollywood that audiences love. But Woody Allen himself has been a lightning rod for so long, the electricity generated off the attendant controversies could power a small town. That said, we’re talking about a movie, folks, not the personal life of the director. CoreyBlakeWoody16With that caveat, Café Society will also be the movie that repositions Blake Lively as one of the most faceted young talents to come forward from the shadows of her contemporaries, including Kristen Stewart who, with romantic co-conspirator Jesse Eisenberg, stars in the film about “1930’s New York and Hollywood with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters that range from movie stars to millionaires, playboys to professors, and working girls and wise guys.” That’s a press kit quote, just to set up the anatomy of the picture.

This is the third pairing of Stewart and Eisenberg, from Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015). Eisenberg is Bobby Dorfman, whose screen mother is legendary comedian Elaine May’s real-life daughter Jeannie Berlin. He is surrounded by excellent performances by Corey Stoll (House of Cards) as his thug brother Ben and Steve Carell as Phil, the Hollywood honcho uncle who is the narrative pivot that brings him to Golden Era Hollywood and into the plot involving his nubile assistant Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart. Blake Lively is the proverbial “beautiful socialite” who charms Eisenberg’s Bobby into another plot twist, but ultimately redefines brand Blake Lively. CafeSocFR1sht16Three minutes of screen time and you wonder how Lively is the same floozy in Ben Affleck’s The Town made over into an ethereal layered gamine-like presence. Oh, that’s right, one of the greatest living directors in the world is the human puppet-master here. Parker Posey also becomes the scenes she inhabits as Rad, half of a sympathetic couple for Bobby Dorfman in this Jazz Age confection. But Kristen Stewart is playing closest to life-meets-art here, involved with a married older man (Steve Carell), in a doppleganger life that could have been hers off-screen if she’d married Rupert Sanders, the seducer/director of Snow White who almost ruined her career. Hey, he was the grown-up. If nothing else, Café Society should remind us to give Stewart a pass, give this very gifted performer a clean slate for not having taken the sell-out path her character Vonnie takes. KstewWoodyJesse
Allen’s only misstep here is casting his own voice as narrator, because unlike Michael Gambon who thrills as voiceover-of-God in the Coen Bros’ concurrent release Hail Caesar!, Woody has a noticeable waver that distracts from Café Society’s seamlessness. But let’s allow the director to defend his choice on this. “I put myself in because I knew exactly how I wanted the words to be inflected,” Woody Allen explains, “I figured that since I wrote the ‘book’, it would be like I was reading a novel.”

“When I wrote the script, I structured it like a novel. As in a book, you stop a little while in this movie and see a scene with the protagonist with his girlfriend, a scene with his parents, followed by a scene with his sister or gangster brother, a scene with Hollywood wheeler-dealers, and then the café society with politicians, debutantes, playboys, and the people cheating on their wives or shooting their husbands. To me it was always a story not of one person but of everybody.”

Which is the perfect description of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic 1984 film The Cotton Club, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere — but with much more music and impasto in the plot. The Cotton Club’s Gere then shows up, years later in Chicago, a musical homaging the period once again, but with velvet tasseled camp. These are favorite elements of the genre in other words. But this is not the Fred McMurray Café Society of 1939, either, about a spoiled socialite who runs off with a reporter and finds shipboard love. Caf19381sht16Even Sunset Boulevard captures the period in its periphery, because we love the stories that tell stories about Hollywood behind the scenes. Café Society is essentially entering the horse race classics of cinema history, in other words. Woody Allen is not alone, as mentioned, the Coen Bros are also in silks this year. Speaking of George Clooney-topper Hail Caesar!, far from Barton Fink, this latest saga includes capers, kidnapping, and a Communist plot — more Busby Berkeley gets high, than the non-ironic homage that Allen offers — also more fun. Yet 40 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Elia Kazan-Sam Spiegel film The Last Tycoon (1976), starring Robert De Niro and based on the unfinished novel, is more in the neighborhood of the kind of film Allen makes here, without the deep, rending sorrow of Tycoon.

So in a way, Woody Allen is harking back to a period he knows a great deal about, including being acutely aware of what has been produced in the past to reflect it. Referencing venue “The Cotton Club,” once located at 142nd St. in Harlem, Allen admits “that era has always fascinated me. It was one of the most exciting times in the history of the city, with tremendous theater life, café life, and restaurants. Up and down the line, wherever you were, the whole island was jumping with nighttime sophisticated activities.”

The word “tremendous” seems to be his go-to, and in the Woody Allen style of filmmaking, let’s insert a ‘knee play’ here, just to set up the backstory behind the press screening, because like a fascinating scene, it begs remembering.

On the night Café Society is screened in Santa Monica, the heavyweights, the veterans, take their scattered seats for the private showing. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times is doing his ritual pre-film separating of the pages in his archetypal Reporter’s Notebook, so the page turning won’t make noise during the show; Leonard Maltin strolls in to join his wife, who has been conducting some future business on one of his engagements on speaker-phone. The speaker-phone conversation is a mini-plot point in itself, which speaks directly to the intimacy of this gathering. There’s the venerable “sea of gray hair,” but also two younger reporters trading barbs to lessen the palpable tension. In a sense, this audience tells you everything you need to know about the difficulty in reviewing a film whose writer-director is still, shall we say, radio-active in the media.

You kind of live a story behind the story in your plush seat in a storied private Dick Clark Screening Room showing, just like the plot twists in Café Society. Woody Allen. Those two words have produced a lot of art and shaped a lot of lives, mine included, from seeing Annie Hall through Blue Jasmine to one of my favorites, Melinda and Melinda (Radha Mitchell, also with Steve Carrell).MelindaBridge16
In fact, there’s the same bridge scene locale used in Melinda in Café Society. CafeSocUS1sht16 The press kit includes every single title Allen has ever made, a gentle reminder of his gravitas. Then you make up your own mind about the whole panoply of issues, and watch for personal reasons… because you love the movies.

Café Society, written and directed by Woody Allen, is distributed by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, for showtimes in a limited roll-out visit http://www.cafesocietymovie.com.

Café Society is A Woody Allen film

Directed and Written by Woody Allen

Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson

Starring Jeannie Berlin, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, and Ken Stott

 

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