Category Archives: Film Festival Screenings

Tribeca Film Festival Documentary World Premiere: ‘Our Time Machine’

Our_Time_Machine_03_Ma Liang w bird.jpg
‘Our Time Machine,’Maleonn working on bird sculpture. Courtesy Maleonn Studio.


                   OUR TIME MACHINE

Directed by Yang Sun & S. Leo Chiang
Executive Produced by Jean Tsien, Sally Jo Fifer, & Nick Fraser

World Premiere – Documentary Competition – 2019 Tribeca Film Festival
Official Selection – 2019 Hot Docs Film Festival

Pre-Festival 2019 Tribeca Film Festival Screening:
Tuesday, April 16th at 6:00 PM at Tribeca Screening Room (375 Greenwich St.)
To RSVP – Email Vince Johnson at VJohnson@tcdm-associates.com

2019 Tribeca Film Festival Screenings:
Sunday, April 28th at 5:30 PM at Village East Cinema – World Premiere
Monday, April 29th at 4:00 PM at Village East Cinemas – Press/Industry Screening 1
Tuesday, April 30th at 7:00 PM at Regal Cinemas Battery Park
Wednesday, May 1st at 1:30 PM at Village East Cinemas – Press/Industry Screening 2
Friday, May 3rd at 7:00 PM at Regal Cinemas Battery Park

About the film OUR TIME MACHINE
43-year-old Maleonn is one of China’s most influential conceptual artists today. His father, Ma Ke, was the artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater. After being humiliated and forbidden from working for a decade during the Cultural Revolution, Ma Ke immersed himself in theater. The mysterious excitement of Ma Ke’s creative world inspired the young Maleonn, but his father’s absences stoked early feelings of resentment.

When Ma Ke is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Maleonn pours everything into an ambitious new theater project: “Papa’s Time Machine,” a visually stunning time-travel adventure told with human-sized puppets. At the play’s heart are autobiographical scenes inspired by Maleonn’s memories with his father. He hopes this will bring the them together artistically and personally.

With enthusiasm both domestically and from abroad, the play shows signs of a promising future. But Ma Ke’s condition deteriorates. Maleonn is torn between the original goal to honor his father and the pressure towards commercial success. Ma Ke struggles to contribute to the play, and barely recognizes the play when it is completed.

Facing his father’s painful decline, Maleonn becomes more aware of life’s complexities. There are no effortless masterpieces or simple solutions. And there’s no traveling back in time to retrieve what has been lost. There, is however, the relationship that has developed with co-director Tianyi. He proposes to her, ready to become a partner and a father, and to carry on forward with a new outlook on his art and life.

About Filmmakers Yang Sun & S. Leo Chiang
Yang Sun is a documentary director and cameraman based in Beijing. He was on staff at China’s Central Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio, making documentaries for broadcasters including CCTV, Youku and the Travel Channel. He has directed several short and mid-length documentaries, including THE SECOND ALBUM, AKEN, BACKPACKERS FOR 10 YEARS, AFTER HE ROSE TO FAME, as well as the ten-part series TAKE ME TO TRAVEL. He worked as a director of photography on A CENTURY WITH NANJING, CENTURY MASTER, and SOUTH OF THE OCEAN. Sun Yang holds a Master’s degree from the School of Television and Film Art at the Communication University of China. OUR TIME MACHINE will be his first feature-length documentary.

S. Leo Chiang is a Taiwanese-American filmmaker based in San Francisco and Taipei. His documentary, MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON, won the Inspiration Award at the 2012 Full Frame Documentary Festival. His previous film, Emmy® Award-nominated A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES, picked up eight awards and aired on the American PBS series, Independent Lens. Leo’s work has received funding support from the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Tribeca Film Institute, and ITVS. He also collaborates with other documentarians as editor and a cameraman. Leo received a MFA in film production from University of Southern California. He is the co-founder of A-Doc, the Asian American Documentary Network, and a documentary branch member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

IN ATTENDANCE AT TRIBECA 2019: S. Leo Chiang (Director), Sun Yang (Director), Jean Tsien (Executive Producer), Bob Lee (Editor), Ma Liang (Subject)

YEAR 2019 | COUNTRY U.S.A., CHINA | RUN TIME 80 mins

Our_Time_Machine_04_Puppets Group Photo.jpg
Group photo of puppets and puppeteers in a gallery. Courtesy Maleonn Studio.


Our_Time_Machine_01_ML Puppet Puppeteer.JPG
‘Our Time Machine,’ Close up of Son puppet. 
Courtesy Maleonn Studio.

www.timemachinefilm.com
www.facebook.com/timemachinefilm
Instagram @timemachinefilm
Twitter #timemachinefilm


 

Tribeca Film Festival Screening: ‘Meeting Gorbechev’

Presents
Directed by Werner Herzog & André Singer
 
“ONE OF HERZOG’S MOST PERTINENT AND FASCINATING DOCUMENTARIES”
– Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter
“HERZOG HAS FINALLY MET HIS MATCH. A nostalgic, grateful, and surprisingly tender lament for a breed of politician that wanted to bring people together. Gorbachev is a compelling documentary subject: candid and affable and burning with deep regrets.”
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST DOCS. Gorbachev turns out to be one of the most fascinating political figures of our time… it still feels fresh and relevant to our times.”  – Jordan Ruimy, The Playlist


OPENS MAY 3
**WORLD PREMIERE – TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL 2018**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018**
**MOVIES PLUS – TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2019**

Prolific director Werner Herzog’s candid conversations with the former Soviet head of state form the backbone of this illuminating documentary, co-directed by André Singer, on one of the 20th century’s most defining politicians.
Across a six-month period, Werner Herzog conducted three interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev that are the foundation for this riveting film, co-directed by André Singer. In over 50 years of filmmaking, Herzog has scarcely engaged with a politician so directly. He clearly admires Gorbachev for being the kind of world leader that’s in short supply today, known for his grace, wisdom, and commitment to peace.
Now 87, Gorbachev speaks like a man with nothing to lose. He is respected more outside Russia than inside, where he’s blamed for the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991. He laments that “we didn’t finish the job of democracy in Russia.” And he worries that others took the wrong lessons from perestroika: “Americans think they won the Cold War and this went to their head. What victory?”
NY PRESS SCREENINGS
Thursday, April 25th at 2:00PM
Village East Cinema, 181-189 2nd Ave, New York
Tribeca Film Festival accredited press only
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SCREENINGS
 
Friday April 26th at 6:00PM, 
Village East Cinema, 181-189 2nd Ave, New York
Screening followed by a Q&A with Werner Herzog
 
Saturday April 27th at 3:00PM
Regal Battery Park, 102 North End Ave, New York
Sunday April 28th at 1:00PM
Regal Battery Park, 102 North End Ave, New York
Limited tickets available for public screenings

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL at the Beacon Theater: The Line-up

2019 Tribeca Film Festival
Beacon Theatre

The series looks back on the Wu-Tang Clan’s career, combining intimate interviews from each of its nine living members with never-before-seen archival footage and performances. Directed by Sacha Jenkins. Executive Produced by Sacha Jenkins, Peter Bittenbender, Chris Gary and Peter J. Scalettar.
After the New York Premiere Screening: a special performance by Wu-Tang Clan
World Premiere, Feature Documentary directed by Steven Cantor and produced by Jamie Schutz. Driven by a constant need to create, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio takes on new projects, including some of his most personal music to date as well as Phish’s ambitious New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden.
After the Premiere Screening: a special performance by Trey Anastasio Band
Spinal Tap is the loudest band in England and they’re making a comeback with a North American tour promoting their new album “Smell the Glove.” Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) sets out to make a documentary of the legendary rock band’s exploits on the road, featuring front men Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bearing witness to the highs and lows of what makes a musician into a rock star. [Released March 2, 1984]
After the Screening: This Is Spinal Tap stars and creators Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner, will pay tribute to the band with a special musical performance and a conversation to follow.
Martin Scorsese is an Academy Award®-winning director and one of the most influential and celebrated filmmakers working today. He has directed some of the mostly highly-regarded, critically acclaimed films, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence. He will sit down with the Academy Award®-winning actor and frequent collaborator Robert De Niro, who he has directed in nine feature films, including his Academy Award® -winning performance as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. This legendary duo will come together at the Beacon Theatre to reflect upon their illustrious decades of collaboration from Mean Streets to their upcoming film, The Irishman.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now celebrates its 40th Anniversary with Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, a never-before-seen version of the film restored in 4K Ultra HD from the original negative. The Beacon Theatre will be outfitted for this exclusive occasion with Meyer Sound VLFC, a ground-breaking loudspeaker system engineered to output audio frequencies below the limits of human hearing, giving the audience a truly visceral experience. Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning vision of the heart of darkness in all of us remains a classic and compelling Vietnam War epic. Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a dangerous, mesmerizing odyssey to assassinate a renegade American Colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost.
After the Screening: An evening with Francis Ford Coppola who will reflect on the film and discuss its elaborate restoration.
Get Tickets

Tribeca Film Festival NOTIFICATIONS

              FILMS AT TRIBECA FF

 

Short History of the Long Road, Tribeca Film Festival

Sabrina Carpenter,’Short History of the Long Road,’ Tribeca Film Festival (photo courtesy of the film and TFF)

            THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD

*World Premiere Screening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition*

Written & Directed by: Ani Simon-Kennedy

Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Steven Ogg, Maggie Siff, Danny Trejo

For teenage Nola, home is the open road with her self-reliant father and their trusty van, two nomads against the world. When Nola’s rootless existence is turned upside-down, she realizes that life as an outsider might not be her only choice.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, April 27th at 2:30 PM at Village East Cinema 07 (World Premiere)
Sunday, April 28th at 5:00 PM at Regal Battery Park 06
Wednesday, May 1st at 5:45 PM at Village East Cinema 03
Saturday, May 4th at 9:00 PM at Regal Battery Park 

Purchase tickets by going to Tribeca Film Festival website. See the film guide at the top of the website page.  TRIBECA WEBSITE:  CLICK HERE

 

 FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN

FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN
Watch the trailer HERE!
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2019
In select theaters and VOD on June 7th, 2019
FEATURING ALEC BALDWIN AS JOHN DELOREAN
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SITE:  CLICK HERE

 

SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight Film, ‘The Day Shall Come’

Marchant Davis in 'The Day Shall Come,' SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film

Marchánt Davis in ‘The Day Shall Come,’ SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film (photo courtesy of the film)

The Day Shall Come directed by Chris Morris, co-written by Chris Morris and Jesse Armstrong takes real-live accounts of how the FBI attempts to trap terrorists and hate groups and spins a fantastical yarn that is in whole is frighteningly realistic. Indeed, Morris culled research from stories which run to the overarching plot of this film, NOT the specifics. The events recall dastardly Keystone Cops episodes of law enforcement who entrap faux criminals, while real killers, i.e Parkland, 911, Columbine, Tree of Life Synagogue, Las Vegas, etc. have their way with US citizens.

Chris Morris creates a complicated, humorous and sardonic plot to send a powerful message to us about real terrorists and the convenient conversion of folks into harmless, safe, FBI-styled terrorists in the wake of the Bush era “war on terror” and Trump era terrorists on the border mantras used to herd the brains of American Citizens. At the bottom of Morris’ contentions? If we are not circumspect watchmen, law enforcement can become overweaning and abuse its powers. This is especially so when the risk reward ratios are tied to terrorist quotas which allow agents to convert folks to terrorism rather than locate actual terrorists and skillfully infiltrate their groups which takes years/decades.

Marchánt Davis, Danielle Brooks, Anna Kendrick, The Day Shall Come, SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film

(L to R): Danielle Brooks, Marchánt Davis, Anna Kendrick in ‘The Day Shall Come,’ SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film (photo courtesy of SXSW and the site)

In The Day Shall Come, Morris’ compact film resounds with currency, insanity and selects as its hero a black man. Considering historically blacks have proportionately not engaged in terrorist activities and have continually been victimized by law enforcement, this is an extremely satiric choice.

Moses, a self-proclaimed Floridian preacher, his wife Venus and four saintly “soldiers” attempt to raise up a religious following and by peaceful means, overcome the corrupt white culture that is displacing hundreds with gentrification and soulless development that decries affordable housing. On a wing and a prayer, some meds for bi-polar disorder, his converts and his raggedy church/farm that sells eggs and chickens to make ends meet, Moses (a hysterical and well-paced performance by Marchánt Davis) attempts to stop the continual threats of eviction and sell-out to developers with a shuck and jive routine that grows tired even for his once empathetic landlord.

Money is king. Money is the soul and song of existence in a culture which has extruded Moses and his church from its society and left them on the precipice of humanity. Without money, one cannot live even a meager existence with dignity. And Moses rag tag group Star of Six, cannot even begin to think about activism with any viability.

Chris Morris, SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film, The Day Shall Come

Chris Morris, SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film ‘The Day Shall Come’ (photo courtesy of the site)

Desperate to forestall the end of his ministry and the abject misery of extreme poverty for himself, his children and his church family becoming like the thousands of Floridian homeless, Moses is driven to use “any means necessary” to fulfill his destiny and keep his church in the promised land where God has placed him. But where will he come up with the rent?

Enter a slimy pedophile miscreant with a taste for teenage girls and the FBI’s immunity to abuse them in a continual quid pro quo. Reza (Kayvan Novak) is the enslaved puppet informant of the FBI whom they send out with gobs of taxpayer cash to lure, entrap and capture those groveling for their last dimes (like Moses) to turn them into “enemies of the state” and terrorists. Terrorists are needed to prove this branch of the FBI “are worthy” of their budget and the jobs they hold.

In the case of Moses who goes off his meds to speak to God and Satan and refuses to carry rifles, AK-47s, glock pistols or anything that shoots bullets, the impoverished preacher, his wife and four congregants are hard cases to prove as terrorists, even though they are an uber tiny “radical” group. The nature of who the FBI is willing to convert to terrorism is beyond the pale. But Reza is the perfect foil for his handlers to squeeze. He is stressed to come up with a ready plot to snag Moses, though a three-year-old can see Moses has mega mental issues and terrorism is not one of them.

But desperate to continue his sexual abuse of teen girls, Reza’s urges compel him to work quickly or his equally amoral, slimy handlers Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick), Andy (Dennis O’Hare) and other FBI officials will cut off his chick supply and throw him in a greasy Florida jail with worse perverts. That they are more into “fighting” terrorism with the most unlikely of candidates than get a red, hot, live sex offender, is ironic and damning. But, hey, this is credible considering the backlash against the #metoo movement and rampant world sex trafficking that could be ameliorated if… but it is not considered that important, nor is rape, for that matter.

Marchánt Davis, Danielle Brooks, Chris Morris, Anna Kendrick, SXSW 2019 World Premiere Narrative Spotlight film, The Day Shall Come

Danielle Brooks, Marchánt Davis, Chris Morris, Anna Kendrick in SXSW 2019 Narrative Spotlight film ‘The Day Shall Come,’ (photo courtesy of SXSW and the site)

With Reza’s lust working overtime, a plan is conceived to snare Moses who by this time, enveloped with stress about money, has gone off his meds and is convinced the lightening strike on a large crane in a development zone is God’s sign that he is with Moses whatever he does. How Moses goes from a poor, non-violent preacher who means well to an FBI terrorist supplying arms to the KKK is the stuff of satiric greatness that only a Brit like Chris Morris could evolve with horrific authenticity, supple comedy and riotous laughter. The coda at the end which identifies what happens to Moses, his wife, his four congregants and the FBI agents is both sickening and too realistic.

The Peter Principle is alive and well according to Chris Morris in The Day Shall Come, which also proves that in a septic tank, the really big turd chunks rise to the top. By comparison, Moses and his church are crystal clear water preyed upon by evil creatures twisted by their own hellishness.

The actors who portray the agents are depicted with skill. We dislike them immediately once we understand their self-dealing intentions. And indeed, Davis’ comedic “performance with a purpose” as the bi-polar preacher who hears from God and Satan is truly exceptional. The supporting cast and wife Venus (Danielle Brooks) do their wacko leader proud.

The themes Morris touches upon are numerous, varied and styled with clever twists. Many vital concepts about human nature and the human condition, good vs. evil reversals, abide with humor in this clever work. Most importantly, we understand how corruption self breeds like a toxic bacteria once it begins. When there is no moral force to oversee the rabidly power-hungry and abusive who are supposed to be caretakers of the law, every wicked trope, every sick meme congregates on the warped and diseased host, then spreads. This is not a pretty portrait of the FBI, but it is a darkly wicked one which will resonate. Physician? Heal thyself or your own disease will rot you from within.

The Day Shall Come will be released later in the year. Don’t miss this sardonic, zany and “too-true-to-look-away” film. And do not in any way confuse it with satire against black activist organizations. This is aimed front and center at the FBI. Moses and his group are cast in the most extreme and crazy light possible to reveal “how” terrorists are made and how economic inequality and overweaning power structures mold harmless, faux “terrorists” into bogey men then use them in their institutional PR campaigns.

 

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival Opens With ‘THE APOLLO THEATER’ HBO Documentary Film

Tribea Film Festival, AT & T

2019 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL® SET TO OPEN WITH WORLD PREMIERE OF

HBO DOCUMENTARY FILM THE APOLLO ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24

Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams’ film celebrates the historic New York City cultural landmark where musical legends were discovered

Features interviews with Pharrell Williams, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Ta-Nehisi Coates and more

NEW YORK, NY – February 13, 2019 – The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will open its 18th edition with the world premiere of the HBO Documentary Film The Apollo. Helmed by Academy and Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, The Apollo chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark, the Apollo Theater. The film will debut at the iconic theater itself on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 and later this year on HBO. The feature-length documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes verité with the team that makes the theater run. The Apollo features interviews with artists including Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx. The documentary is produced by Lisa Cortés, Nigel Sinclair’s White Horse Pictures, and Williams. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24-May 5.

The Apollo covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage. The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle and the broad range of African American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.

The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. The space has created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for a myriad of artists including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.  

“We’re excited to finally be going uptown to play the Apollo,” said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder and CEO of the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years. It’s seen the emergence of everything from Jazz to R&B to Soul and Gospel – all quintessential American music genres, and this is the time to remind people of our nation’s rich history. ”

The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression,“ commented director Roger Ross Williams.  “The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time.  I was fortunate to make my first film with HBO and I am thrilled to be coming back home with The Apollo. Premiering at The Tribeca Film Festival, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a dream come true.”

“The Apollo Theater is a symbol of the creative spirit of New York and beyond, and I’m very happy that we’re kicking off our 18th Festival celebrating it with this documentary from Roger Ross Williams,” said Tribeca Co-Founder Robert De Niro.

The Apollo, directed by Academy Award-winning and Tribeca alumnus Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; Life, Animated) and is produced by Lisa Cortés (Precious), White Horse’s Nigel Sinclair (George Harrison: Living in the Material World; Undefeated), Jeanne Elfant Festa (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Pavarotti) and Cassidy Hartmann (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, Pavarotti) along with Williams.

The Apollo will have additional screenings during the Festival. Passes and packages to attend the Festival go on sale on February 19, 2019.

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival will announce its feature film slate on March 5.

Hashtag: #Tribeca2019

Twitter: @Tribeca

Instagram: @tribeca

Facebook: facebook.com/Tribeca

Snapchat: TribecaFilmFest

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Tribeca FF 2018, Hamptons FF 2018 Review: ‘To Dust,’ Starring Matthew Broderick

To Dust, Matthew Broderick, Gheza Rhoeig

(L to R): Matthew Broderick, Géza Röhrig  in ‘To Dust,’ directed by Shawn Snyder (photo courtesy of the film)

For atheists death is a macabre subject if they fear oblivion. For the religious death is an inevitable part of life and nothing to fear because there is something beyond. Those of various religious persuasions believe that as the mortal body turns “to dust,” the immortal spirit is in the loving embrace of a God of light, forgiveness and joy. The conundrum occurs for the religious who have a crisis of faith: 1)in a loving God; 2)in a spiritual dimension beyond the physical plane. When that siege of doubt appears and embraces the coffin of a loved one as a cemetery caretaker lowers it into the ground, depending upon the ability of the individual to “bury” fears and doubts, death and the mourning process can be catastrophic. In the instance of the Hasidic Cantor, Shmuel, (played by the wonderful Géza Röhrig of the Oscar winning Son of Saul), death turns him inside out and upside down. And it is his “turning” that creates the wonderful comedic situation of To Dust.

Tribeca FF 2018, Shawn Snyder, Jason Begue, Matthew Broderick Géza Röhrig, To Dust

(L to R): Shawn Snyder, Jason Begue, Matthew Broderick, Géza Röhrig, ‘To Dust,’ Tribeca Film Festival 2018 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Part of the charm of To Dust, written by Jason Begue and Shawn Snyder and directed by Snyder lies in the superb casting of Röhrig and Matthew Broderick. as research buddies getting a handle on the rate of body decomposition after death. Röhrig has the right measure of intensity and frenzy as he attempts to confront the stark and unsettling images of what has happened to his wife’s soul and body. She died suddenly and unexpectedly leaving him with two young children. Broderick is his perfect foil. He portrays the dead pan, unassuming, steady, science professor (Community College, upstate New York), who Shmuel seeks out for information about the progress of his dead wife’s physical decomposition. Clearly, Shmuel cannot confront the emotional impact of his wife’s absence so he obsesses about her burial underground. He worries that she must suffer for a long the time until she finally turns “to dust,” an injunction of the scripture. In his own logic Shmuel imagines when her body arrives at its final “dust” phase, she will have arrived at peace.

There is no reasoning with him that the contrary might be true, that at the point of death, she entered realms of joy. And though Broderick attempts to shake Shmuel from his obsession, there is no stopping a man addicted to tormenting himself with emotional devastation handily submerged by a preoccupation with precise facts about decomposition. There is only the opportunity to extend one’s kindness, befriend the tormented one and help him relieve his misery going down the path of least resistance. And that is what Broderick does.

Hamptons International Film Festival, Tribeca FF, Matthew Broderick, Géza Röhrig, To Dust, Shawn Snyder Jason Begue

(L to R): Matthew Broderick, Géza Röhrig, ‘To Dust,’ Tribeca Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival (photo courtesy of the film)

Cleverly, the writers and the director quickly pass over the logic of the circumstance that anyone but Albert would dump Shmuel, ignore him, or call the police on him. However, the haunted Shmuel is a wandering ghost who does not know that his “deadness” outside covers up his raw bleeding wounds inside. Thus, if Broderick doesn’t help him with this scientific experiment, Shmuel’s state is such he will be haunted forever. Who knows what he might do? Thus, the kind teacher/helper, gradually allows himself to be persuaded to partner with Shumel on this secret adventure. Their friendship and rapport becomes the humanity and beauty of To Dust and the emotional payoff in satisfaction points is huge.

Broderick’s impeccable comedic timing and his fabulous intuition for what can get a laugh comes from his extensive experience acting on Broadway and Off Broadway. It is this pacing garnered from years of sensing audiences that he translates humor flawlessly to the screen. The comedy of the situation bounces back and forth on Shmuel’s and Albert’s journey of discovery. Broderick’s Albert becomes hooked out of curiosity, compassion and the fact that he has nothing much else going on in his life. And besides. He’s an open-minded stoner, not an uptight evangelical Christian.

Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder, Géza Röhrig, To Dust, Tribeca FF, Hamptons FF

Géza Röhrig in Tribeca FF Q and A after the screening of ‘To Dust,’ directed by Shawn Snyder, written by Shawn Snyder and Jason Begue (Carole Di Tosti)

Tribeca FF Q and A, Matthew Broderick, To Dust, Shawn Snyder, Jason Begue

Matthew Broderick at the Tribeca FF Q and A for ‘To Dust,’ directed by Shawn Snyder, written by Shawn Snyder and Jason Begue (Carole Di Tosti)

The adventures they encounter involve grave robbing, but for a good purpose, research, and a visit down South to a “Body Farm” and other experiences. Many of the scenes at the grave or woods dealing with the wife’s shrouded body are hilarious and the ironies abound. The scenes with the pig are hysterical. The very idea that they would experiment and even touch the animal considered filthy among the Jewish orthodox who do not eat pork indicates the extent to which Shmuel is beside himself in horror at her death. His shuddering torment is worse than touching the porker a 5000+ year-old tradition of banning the cloven-hoofed from the Jewish Orthodox diets and presence. How Broderick and Shmuel deal with the unclean or ” trade”  —  האַנדל (טמאis beyond the pale riotous.

Also, there is the apprehension that they could be stopped and questioned by the police for their secret deeds. How would they answer for themselves? Making rational sense of what they are doing with Shmuel’s wife’s body to the legal authorities conjures all sorts possibilities. This alone is priceless sardonic humor.

The dialogue is exceptional because these actors are so authentic in their attempts to deal with the absurdity of death from their perspective as citizens of life. The concept of death taken to its existential extreme is one we all must confront. What happens to us after our hearts stop and our brain function completely ceases? Does consideration of what is beyond and of what we will look like 10 years after death terrify? Certainly, we identify and empathize with Shumel. So does Albert. We have to because we are mortal. And how fast do we decompose if we are not embalmed? The Jewish tradition stipulates burial before sundown of the day of death.

Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder, Géza Röhrig, Tribeca FF, Hamptons FF, Matthew Broderick

Géza Röhrig in ‘To Dust,’ directed by Shawn Snyder, Tribeca FF, Hamptons FF 2018 (photo courtesy of the film)

If the actors and the situation created by Snyder and Begue weren’t so humorous, we would be as frightened as this husband is every time his imagination resurrects his wife. She torments him with the only thing left of her, her body. If not for the situational absurdity and humor, we would be saddened for this husband’s emotional debility in not being able to get over her loss.

That would be a different film. As a result, there is not even an affirmation that there is a life after death or that she resides in another dimension, or has achieved a God consciousness. In all that these Orthodox Jews have sacrificed in their lives to uphold their religious culture and folksways, one would think that there would be much consideration and comfort available to the living as they mourn the passing of their beloved. However, introducing the concept of the sweet hereafter would throw in an inappropriate twist based upon religious tradition. And it would change the tone of this film. Its richness in moving between surprise, comedy and sardonic jokes forces us to shift on a dime and follow along. The fact that the director and writer have engaged us in this very dark subject, then made us laugh about it is sheer perfection.

Also, another irony is not lost on us as aa truism in life: those who readily help others cannot easily help themselves. Here is a religious cantor who sings at funerals and helps others grieve by stemming their sorrow with his beautiful, anointed voice. In his own life he is incompetent at helping himself grieve and mourn. Indeed, the religion to which he has devoted his life and purpose is insufficient until he confronts his loss in real time and doesn’t disassociate from it. Albert’s friendship and camaraderie is crucial for Shmuel. And then occurs a brief intervention by his young children which forces him into the realization that he and his wife are in different mediums. One way to engage with her is to be present for his children and shake off the concept that she experiences soul torment based on a material/empirical time constraint.

To Dust works on many levels. It captivates, entertains and enthralls us with unanswerable questions that we will never answer in our bodies. And that’s the rub of it. Thankfully, laughter, too is  a part of the mourning process. To Dust reminds us of this with bucketfuls of humor. For that and the adroit way the writers and directors negotiated this particular and inventive story with grace, humanity and love makes it a must-see.

This film screened at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and 2018 Hamptons International Film Festival. It won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival. It opens on 8 February 2019.

 

 
 

HIFF 2018 Coverage and Film Review: ‘Border,’ Special Jury Prize For Acting

 Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

(L to R): Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander in ‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo courtesy of the trailer)

Once again the Hamptons International Film Festival 2018 sparked interest and traffic during Columbus Day weekend. Crowds lined up in East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor for film screenings, celebrity talks and special events. The 126 films hailed from around the world. And a number of them had previously won prizes at other festivals. “We are thrilled that these diverse, unique, and entertaining stories resonated with our audience,” said HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent.

Though I screened other films on Friday, fellow movie lovers told me that The Hate You Give astounded them. The Hamptons panel selected Amandla Stenberg as one of their Breakthrough Artists. She and director George Tillman Jr. gave a powerful introduction on Friday night for The Hate You Give. This film screens this weekend. An important film for our times, the film unsurprisingly garnered a post-screening standing ovation. This HIFF Audience Award Winner for Narrative Feature was the only film to receive such an accolade.

My screening coverage of the films included one unique and memorable multiple award winner. Border, “GRÄNS”, directed by Ali Abbasi, received the HIFF 2018 Special Jury Prize for acting for the two lead actors, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff.  Border, selected as Sweden’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, also received a Cannes Film Festival award. The “Un Certain Regard” 2018 prize evinces the striking and memorable elements of this fantastical feature narrative that haunts with ironic, thematic truths. Thus far, Border received 6 wins and 9 nominations. Before it completes its screening cycle, it surely will win more awards. What a novel and extraordinarily compelling film!

Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018

Eva Melander in the award-winning ‘Border’ by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Border

The screenplay adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “Let the Right One in,” mixes fantasy, horror, drama, mystery, romance and magical realism with scenes of banality. Screenwriters Ali Abbassi, Isabella Eklof, John Ajvide Lindqvist distill tension and gyrate it throughout the arc of plot and character development. They accomplish this by moving back and forth between static scenes and frighteningly realistic glimpses into the world of eerie phantasmagoria.

Invariably, the mundane static occurs in the scenes of city life. The mysterious environs of the forest, the lakes and streams and “wildness” of nature convey the fantastic, beautiful and ethereal. As the conflict increases and events unfold with fearful intensity, the natural elements, rocks, woodlands, streams predominate. The forest becomes a notorious symbolic playland. The themes speak to rejuvenation and abiding in the sanctuary of nature. This balanced haven is free from cultural conformity, stereotypical, fascist definitions (borders), of gender, appearance, class, and societal strictures.

Gradually, and with great care, the screenwriters reveal the true nature of the characters and lead us to their unexpected, extraordinary outcomes. To the director’s and writers’ credit, their storytelling precision artfully gives nothing away. They lead us to surprise twists, shock, delight and the strange acceptance of beauty in ugliness. The scenes, compactly shot and effected, do just enough to forward the action and suspense. When the revelations come, they unfold in the organic fury of the characters. And their rage spirals into dangerous, increasingly mystical events. Eventually, we understand how the thread of circumstances unfolds in a final overall truth laden with profound themes. These are further interwoven with preternatural threads of Norse mythology.

Border, Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018

‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018 (photo from the trailer)

Especially in its characterization Border suggests that civilization and cultural norms demean and destroy uniqueness and particularity. And the societal emphasis on the empirical and materialistic nullifies an entire species of beings whose very preciousness is made anathema by cultural obtuseness and limitation.  This is superb writing and a superior adaptation perfectly infused by the brilliant, empathetic acting turns of Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff.

Initially, the director introduces us to protagonist Tina (Eva Melander), in her sterile, uninspiring work environment as a customs official. However, as a border agent, Tina’s talents display a preternatural gift of smell. Notably, she targets drug addicts and illegal substances simply by sniffing individuals who come across her path. Her gifts extend to inanimate objects. For example, Tina sniffs out sealed bottles of alcohol.

But when she sniffs a micro disc that has pornography, we note the acute strangeness of this behavior. Tina tells her bosses that she senses and feels the fear and guilt associated with the object. By this juncture in the film, the second and third gyrations of character development have taken place. By then she has encountered a mysterious stranger, Vore (Eero Milonoff). His smile menaces. And he could be her brother in his unusual resemblance. He intrigues her and appears to be the most fascinating event that occurs in her tiresome existence. Also, the micro disc turns up later and ties in all the mysteries of character and conflict Tina confronts on her road to self-actualization.

Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

L to R): Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander in ‘Border,’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Succinctly, the director sets up Tina’s lifestyle and environs. And these suggest subtle elements which guide her evolving journey as she discovers her true identity. Before meeting Vore, her monotonous days pass uneventfully in the atmosphereless unit at Passport and Border Control. And her evenings with cute Roland (Jorgen Thorsson), whom we initially believe is her partner, are equally purposeless. She doesn’t appear to have interests. Her lifestyle manifests a disordered order. And though Roland cages fighting dogs on her property which he exploits for gambling elsewhere, she could care less.

Because they don’t have an intimate relationship, though he wants one despite her unusual, homely appearance, we question why Roland remains with her. Finally, during a conversation with her father, we get it. Roland makes little money and must live off her largesse. In a quid pro quo she appreciates companionship, so she allows him to stay in the house she inherited from her disabled father whom she visits in a nursing home.

Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

Eva Melander in ‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Ali Abbasi ingeniously and believably sets up Tina’s “quiet life of desperation” emptiness, isolation and loneliness to enhance themes. Tina’s life mirrors the lives that many lead, i.e. a circumscribed, hateful existence, defined by nullifying social mores. Also, the tedious monotony of her days sets up the contrast to the new life introduced by the eerie, preternaturally appealing Vore.

Tina can’t forget Vore’s weird, repulsive attractiveness. This mystery leaves the questions initially unanswered until the end of the film. Perhaps, it is because of her own life of cruel banality and her disinterest in sex with Roland? Nevertheless, we cannot forget a comment a colleague confessed to her when he frisked Vore whose gender appalled him.

So when Tina runs into the sinister Vore in a shopping area and he mesmerizes her, we fear for her. Eventually, this encounter results in an invitation to rent a place on her property where she rents to another family with a baby. Roland, creeped out by Vore, like us, questions why she takes in a stranger. He makes an excellent point for the macabre embraces Vore. And indeed, we anticipate that Vore’s wild, naked romp in the woods where he screams with violence and pain signals that he will destroy Tina and the others if he stays. Unless, of course, Tina becomes intimate with him.

There is no spoiler alert. You will have to see how Tina makes her way through the horror and adventure to decide what path she will choose. Does she select a road toward defining her own contentment throwing off cultural shackles in the process? Or does she pick the well-traveled road of futility because she has become accustomed to it? Or perhaps she may be the one to merge both roads to attain a higher goodness?

The ambiguity presents delicious possibilities and leads to a fascinating conclusion. It reminds us that all of us for as long as we live on this planet are immigrants. And in carrying the metaphor of the film one step beyond, we may exist on the border of our own lives until we find ourselves home.  Border is psychic dynamite! Spellbinding with suspense, the film remains an award-winning standout that will haunt your imagination, if not forever, for a long while.

 

Tribeca FF 2018 Review: ‘The American Meme’ Documentary With Paris Hilton, Emily Ratajkowski, Brittany Furlan

Tribeca FF 2018, Bret Marcus, Paris Hilton, Josh, The American Meme, Social Media fandom

(L to R): Paris Hilton, Bret Marcus, Josh Ostrovsky in ‘The American Meme,’ directed by Bert Marcus at Tribeca Film Festival 2018 (photo courtesy of Tribeca FF)

What does it take to become a Social Media giant? Is Donald Trump a Social Media giant or does he buy Twitter followers as one might do and has been reported? And how easy is it to be exploited online by malign actors from adversarial  countries? When documentary director Bert Marcus began to investigate the online habitats created by wannabe celebrities capitalizing on creating their own brands from their individual styles and ethos, he wasn’t concerned about politics. He wanted to explore whether the Social Media “giants” determined by their hits and followers were happy. What did it take to command an army of millions and turn them into cold hard cash? Notoriety is celebrity these days. And the individuals he chased down gladly opened their doors for additional publicity in his documentary. And one hand washed the other in The American Meme the documentary that attempts to get to the bottom of the phenomenon that inspires American Social Media personalities but only scratches the surface.

Himself capitalizing and riding the coattails of Social darlings like Paris Hilton, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Bieber, Brittany Furlan, The Fat Jew, and Kirill Bichutsky to name a few, in the guise of “going behind the scenes,” Marcus attempts to examine these individuals’ personal lives and the impact of sustaining their memes on the digital universe. Yes, they are human beings, not two dimensional screen figures. What were/are the sacrifices of seeking celebrity? How obsessed must one be to have a legion of followers? How clever? How creatively brilliant? It is possible to then take that notoriety and become one’s own entrepreneur garnering angel investors and/or others willing to share in the glory for a profit-making investment? Of course.

Bert Marcus,Tribeca Film Festival 2018, Brittany Furlan,

Brittany Furlan in ‘The American Meme,’ directed by Bert Marcus, Tribeca Film Festival 2018 (photo from the film)

Marcus is strongest in his examination as he begins to scratch the surface of psychological and emotional burn out. How tough is it to top yourself from your last next “best thing” that your followers “loved?” And indeed, the moment one tries to find some down time from all of the frenzy of hits, the followers drop off.  You can’t be away from the screen too long. You have to promote yourself. So another question he looks at is to what extent can an uber Social Media celebrity cool it and take a vacation from their phone? Instant success is instant oblivion online, even though the trails on Vines, Instagram and Youtube videos remain. In the instance of Krill whose branding is insanity, can he and others like him looking for their digital landescape afford to stop the sensationalism or stop pushing the envelope of outrageousness? What happens when enough is enough. And is enough ever enough?

I guess one can put it this way. Can Donald Trump afford not to tweet or be controversial? Well, thankfully, Marcus’ subjects are not in the presidential hot seat. On the other hand, the same chronic indulgence in self-exploitation and selfishness disguised in the form of selflessness to entertain one’s fans, in other words, narcissism, is present. The most affective celebrities online are the ones whose craziness turns on making fun of themselves.

Bert Marcus, Paris Hilton, The American Meme, Tribeca FF 2018

Paris Hilton and Bert Marcus, Tribeca FF 2018, ‘The American Meme, (photo courtesy of Tribeca FF)

The documentary highlights the individuals stated above and also Josh Ostrovsky and Kirill Bichutsky. I particularly found the latter funny horrible and one reason why the #MeToo movement came into being. Women and men need to be educated toward what sadism, masochism and soul-destroying crowd behavior does to the culture. As a factor of The American Meme  which does not judge, it attempts to humanize yet poke fun at these Social Media stars while riding their outrageousness. Thus, the tone and purpose of the film got misdirected somehow. In exposing such a phenomenon, it is important to take a position. I found that the film tries to but fails and gets bogged down in revealing the pain and torment of self-victimization, itself victimization of those who have the strength not to. Methinks the film protests to much in the wrong areas and doesn’t protest at all what it should.

Thus, the “celebrities” exhaustion, depression and upset that they created this branding image monster that is devouring them piecemeal is a vital point. But on the other hand, that their perspective is infantile is paramount. There is so much that we should be apprised of including Climate Change, institutional and governmental discrimination, the outrageous abuses occurring at our Southern border with children imprisoned in camps without proper supervision and attention, the threat of citizens being thrown off their healthcare.

Hailey Bieber, Bert Marcus, The American Meme, Tribeca FF 2018

Hailey Bieber and Bert Marcus, ‘The American Meme,’ Tribeca FF 2018 (photo courtesy of Tribeca)

To my febrile, ancient mind this documentary is as indulgent as its subjects. Hopefully, once these Social personalities grow up, perhaps they will do something purposeful in the world. Some of them like Amanda Cerny have. But she is not one of those who clawed to the top of the Social Media platforms amassing followers through either looking stupid good or appearing arrogant and clueless and lovely or with the guys like Kirill doing the opposite and being disgusting for disgusting sake. That to me rings too much of the current political media mogul that has usurped the seat of power to brand himself and the nation. The question is, what exactly do you want to do? And if you end up killing yourself or destroying your career, do you care?

But again The American Meme is not political. However, it does highlight self-victimization and feeling victimized by one’s fans and the relentless gorging of the media on the outrageous and controversial. In any case, many will find Marcus’ revelations and/or the celebratory comments and behaviors fascinating. Indeed, this film is for those who believe that Social Media is revolutionary by bringing the American Dream right onto one’s phone camera and using one’s creativity to grab the attention of millions. That is a feat. But as Andy Warhol stated, everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. Ironically, his criticism of this in the culture, most people missed. Also, the crowd mentality around celebrity and the rabid and misguided search for the American Meme/Dream theme, if it amuses, was beautifully stated in a 1939 novel by Nathaniel West which is about Hollywood as a devouring fiction. The novel is The Day of the Locust. And West reveals the same type of frenzy driving humanity. The novel was also made into the 1979 titular film which was a barely recognizable, loose adaptation of the novel about a few of Hollywood’s failed dreamers.

As an expose, Marcus documentary is lukewarm. Would that he had gone deeper, for the idea is a fascinating one that needs exploration, certainly. As a documentary that informs with appropriate edits and Social Media intercuts, it does its job. As a position piece, it is obvious and bland. Citing more details, facts and highlighting the Social celebrities who are making it across platforms and whose creativity does rock might have been more trenchant. But then again, riding the tail wind as this film does, followers of these stars will enjoy The American Meme. As a future historical piece, Marcus has laid the groundwork for others to go beyond the surface to the psychology behind the memes. Just do it!

 

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Netizens’

Carrie Goldberg, Anita Sarkeesian, Tina Reione, Cynthia Lowen, Netizens, Tribeca FF premiere, and Q and A

(L to R): Carrie Goldberg, Anita Sarkeesian, Tina Reine, Cynthia Lowen, premiere screening ‘Netizens,’ Tribeca FF Q & A, moderated by Lauren Duca (Carole Di Tosti)

Women’s place in the culture as second class citizens viewed as sex objects and predatorized has never been more apparent with the #MeToo movement. Of course Hollywood tradition, the film industry, television and corporate business are notorious for predation of women which appears under the guise of adoration of women. Men just can’t keep their hands away from nor keep their sexual organs outside of beautiful women. They can’t control themselves. What a canard! Nothing could be further from the truth. Any form of sexual predation, rape, abuse, harassment, violence, molestation is misogyny, not adoration. There are no sexual components that apply, though men almost universally characterize such behavior as sexual and not violence. The documentary film Netizens which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, directed by Cynthia Lowen, identifies this canard, as it focuses on three women who have had to confront such abuse and its attendant misogyny online.

The battles of these women to gain justice with legal representation coincide with the #Me Too movement. Theirs has been a lonely and humiliating walk until justice arrived on their doorsteps. Various online Social Media habitats provide a way for Incells and others to band together in a cultish, vituperative fan club of twisted men, who, with anonymity and impunity, stalk, harass and insult women they deem  noxious and vulnerable. Such mentally disturbed guys with an axe to grind against females lurk behind a cyber avatar. Social media is largely un-policed by law enforcement. Nor do Social Media companies accept responsibility for such abuses which they dismiss. Law enforcement and Social Media companies are proportionately empowered by men. Conveniently due to gender bias, most do not perceive sexual harassment as a cyber crime. With regard to law enforcement, unless there is bodily harm and a name, cyber cretins easily remain beyond the justice system.

Carrie Goldberg, Netizens, Tribeca FF premiere and Q & A

Carrie Goldberg in ‘Netizens,,’ premiere screening Tribeca FF and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Cynthia Lowen’s insightful documentary follows lawyer Carrie Goldberg’s frustrations and revelations about our justice system’s (during Obama, now it’s conceivably worse), ineffectuality when dealing with cyber harassment. In this era of Russian interference on Social Media and Facebook’s “unwitting” participation with Cambridge Analytica’s handing over of user information, the potential for abuse has skyrocketed even more. Though Lowen’s film does not delve into the 2016 election aftermath and the Russian hacking, the online abuse of individuals supporting Hillary/Obama against Trump has been legion. Thus, the Social Media landscape is ripe with rotten fruits from corrupted trees that need to be cut down or burned.

Lowen’s work intimates such cyber attacks and propaganda by focusing on the elements which allow individuals to abuse and stalk. The key is anonymity and/or the ease with which poseurs may create a fictitious identity and use it as a means to insult and character assassinate.

Netizens deals with the female/male dynamic. Through the testimony and comments of Carrie Goldberg, Tina Reine and  Anita Sarkeesian, their video interviews reveal an intense personal struggle with online bullies and predators. Through her interviews primarily with these women and others of similar experience, Lowen’s documentary creates a discussion forum for activism. These three represent what happens to thousands of women daily who are attacked and bullied publicly without adequate judicial recourse in the face of Social Media companies who dismiss their complaints or tell them to “log off.” Sadly, such harassment often spills into life, especially if the warped anonymous abuser projects all of their rage and mental illness onto their hapless targets.

Not only does Lowen include interviews with advocates, experts both male and female, she incisively indicates all the forms digital harassment and cyber violence take during her interviews. Her intake of comments by teenagers and the key subjects provide vital mentoring information for women young and old. Some cyber violence tactics include non-consensual pornography, revenge porn, duress rape, and privacy invasion. The documentary’s revelations coincide with countless stories of tween abuse where male teenagers for merriment put rape videos of alcohol comatose young girls online. One such case is documented in Roll Red Roll.

Anita Sarkeesian, Netizens, Tribeca FF and Q & A

Anita Sarkeesian in ‘Netizens,’ Tribeca FF premiere and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

The consequences are often horrendous. In the instance of those who intend to maintain their business careers, stalkers and harassers often spend hours conniving to destroy the individual and her career via Social Media using online character assassination. In the case of teens violated through bullying their character destroyed on Social Media via pictures and demeaning, denigrating insults, (though Lowen doesn’t deal with suicide per se), such cyber assaults may end up in teen suicide. Only because the women Lowen highlights sought out Goldberg’s legal representation, and in the case of Sarkeesian only because of her powerfully voiced feminist activism does the film have a more satisfying conclusion. Indeed, Reine, Goldberg, Sarkessian and others rely on their inner power to thrive and step above victimization.

However, others have not been as successful. And one reason this film is vital is to educate and inspire young women to empower themselves, speak up and express their voice refusing to back down when cyber attacked, bullied, or sexually cyber predatorized online.

Lowen shadows Lawyer Carrie Goldberg and the others via cinema vérité with superb edits to effect a fascinating and at times disturbing picture of the underbelly of cyber violence. Through interviews with Goldberg and others she dissects a justice system that largely refuses to acknowledge digital abuse as a prosecutable crime. Indeed, New York State is remiss and Goldberg points this out at a speaking engagement that Lowen captures in video clips. Lowen also follows Goldberg in discussion with various clients (a young women who remains anonymous) who seek relief from being terrorized online via their photos being used to strip them of dignity and sanctity as insult upon insult violates their privacy and peace.

Cynthia Lowen speaks at Tribeca FF Q & A after the screening of Netizens.  L to R:  Lauren Duca (un pictured moderator) Tina Reine, Carrie Goldberg, Cynthia Lowen

Lowen’s interviews and shadowing of celebrity Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic, feminist, blogger and activist are particularly enlightening. Sarkessian, an outspoken feminist has taken down the gaming culture and has been threatened, excoriated and vilified for it. Sarkessian reveals the typical day of threats she receives, including bomb threats and death threats. Sarkeesian, a Canadian American is the founder of Feminist Frequency, a website that hosts videos and commentary analyzing portrayals of women in in popular culture. She hit the mark and received some of the most vile cyber harassment with her video series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which examines tropes in the depiction of female video game characters.

Anita Sarkeesian, Tribeca FF premiere screening ‘Netizens,’ Q & A

Sarkeesian’s impact may be gauged in that she needs an armed escort when she fulfills public speaking engagements. Interestingly, Lowen reveals the power of her message when she is surrounded by young women who recognize her as an influencer and want her autograph because they’ve been enlightened about the superficial and denigrating objectification of women in Video Games. In her speaking engagements, she has acknowledged the challenge of attempting to improve gender inclusivity in gaming culture and the media.

Sarkeesian has  taken on the ambivalent response of Silicon Valley companies to the threatening behavior they enable. But in their predominately male mind, money talks and BS walks. And they prefer for Sarkessian to walk out of their spaces and let “boys and men be boys and men.” Personal evolution, growth apart from infantile sexual fantasy, and obsession with video games is what drives their profits. Only until someone comes along to mine the finer angels of human nature will this subtle and accepted gender oblivion of women’s power and distinction end.

Tina Reine, Netizens, Tribea FF premiere and Q & A

Tina Reine in ‘Netizens,’ Tribeca FF premiere and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Lowen also focuses on Tina, a successful businesswoman. After a fateful relationship which the male refused to let go of, Tina was cyber harassed in the most debilitating way. The individual used revenge porn and lies to discredit her career record. Using his own money to effect a psychological, emotional campaign of hate against her, he attacked her ability to make a living. Each time Tina would go to interviews, the few that she was invited to, the false background and lies would then appear. How she finally achieves a realm of peace, confronts the individual with legal means and regains control of her emotions and career is inspiring.

 

Cynthia Lowen’s Netizens was produced before the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, a faux attempt moderated by President Trump/Republicans to appear to examine Kavanaugh’s sexual abuse of Christine Blaise Ford in response to the clamor of the public to do so. In April 2018 however, the screening at Tribeca Film Festival and the Q and A afterward gave great occasion for the audience to feel uplifted about these women who were succeeding against online abuse and bringing their character assassins to task. After the Kavanaugh hearings, the entire culture  resumed its status quo and the concept was that once again, women “doth protest too much” and should just “shut up,” or “log off.”

Also, the watershed moments of the #MeToo Movement appear to have stalled after the onrush of women came out in force against their rapists, abusers, molesters and harassers and the men, in many instances celebrities, had their careers upended from the revelations. However, after Kavanaugh there appears to be a swing of the pendulum. Indeed, power and money talk as do the Republican conservative think tanks and societies, like the Federalists.

Another set back occurred when Jeffrey Epstein’s (accused of running teenage orgy parties that touched the lives of male officials and celebrities like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton) charges were shuttered and the testimony that should have been made public of the women he sexually abused when they were teenagers, never saw the light of day. Cover-ups of predation continue, sex-trafficking continues, bullying online via Social Media continues. Each case must be fought and won on its own merit and broadcast to the world.

Kavanaugh and Epstein push backs reveal that it is not enough for women to speak out and seek justice. Cultural mores and folkways must change; this includes for men, women and LGBTQ individuals. And for that to happen, mothers and fathers in parenting their sons and daughters must change. Women and men in their approach and relationships with each other must change. And the culture’s attitudes toward sex and love must become more fluid and tolerant. Sexuality and profitability, fueled by the infantile idea that sex is “forbidden” must die a death. Amsterdam, The Netherlands may have a healthier attitude in that they legalize prostitution and cut off the idea of predation for profit at the knees. Paying for Sex is legal. Enough is enough.

In any case, change is process. Whether face-to-face or online, sexual predation of women and men is a daily war that must be fought in homes, businesses, frat parties, dorms and online to change the culture. The change must go beyond the artificiality of political correctness down into the loins and hearts of young men and boys and the minds and understanding of young women and girls. Regardless, it will happen. It’s only a matter of time and critical mass leveled by the public.

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