The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the Sundance Institute announce the 2013 slate of eight films and filmmakers, who have been invited to participate in this year’s Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue. This year’s films and filmmakers will travel to eight locations, reaching a number of underserved communities in California, Maine, Washington and Puerto Rico. The initiative will also travel overseas to China, Taiwan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jordan. At each site, filmmakers will hold screenings, extended Q&A’s, workshops, and master classes at universities, film and cultural centers, museums, libraries and other community, educational, and cultural venues. Over the first two years of Film Forward, more than 31,819 people attended 241 screenings/presentations and 60 workshops and panels conducted by Film Forward’s filmmakers and other film professionals.
Representing various countries, Film Forward’s multicultural roster of films challenges audiences to examine, reflect and celebrate diversity. The U.S. Embassies overseas add value and are critical partners of the Film Forward in developing quality screenings and programs abroad. This year’s films include the following:
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012)
Director: Benh Zeitlin
SYNOPSIS A spellbinding adventure set just past the known edges of the American Bayou, Beasts of the Southern Wild follows a girl named Hushpuppy as she takes on rising waters, a sinking village, changing times, an army of prehistoric creatures and an unraveling universe that she bravely tries to stitch back together through the sheer force of spirit and resilience.
The film, shot on location in the coastal parishes of Louisiana with local non-actors in the lead roles, came to the Sundance Film Festival a hand-made, fiercely imaginative underdog and left a runaway hit and winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize as well as the Excellence in Cinematography Award. By the time that happened, the fictional “Bathtub” – a fantastical bayou neverland inspired by real Southern Louisiana communities where people persist against all odds to revel in life, no matter what comes – had taken on a life of its own in the hearts of many, unfolding with all the indescribable sights and untamed emotions of a dream in progress.
Much like Hushpuppy’s survival in the midst of raging storms, both in the sky and her heart, the whole enterprise of Beasts of the Southern Wild began as a pipe dream that became possible only through the commitment of a strongly united community. For director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin, who makes his feature debut after a series of award-winning shorts, including GLORY AT SEA, it started with a question that had been on his mind for a long time: why do people stay in the places they love, with the people they love, even when they know big trouble is on the way?
BIOGRAPHY Benh Zeitlin (Directed By/Screenplay By/Music By) is a filmmaker, composer, animator, and founding member of Court 13. His award-winning shorts include Egg, Origins of Electricity, I Get Wet, and Glory At Sea. He lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a pack of wild animals.
BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2012)
Director: Stacy Peralta
SYNOPSIS In the 1980s,a gang of disenfranchised, but weirdly talented kids rejected mainstream American culture such as baseball, football and the traditional sports to follow a loser activity and redefined "winning" in the process.
Mentored by Stacy Peralta, a former world champion skateboarder, the "Bones Brigade" began in 1979 as commercial skateboarding was on the verge of dying off. But Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill, Tommy Guerrero and Stevie Caballero had nowhere else to go. The anti-establishment world of skateboarding was the first comfortable environment many of them had ever known. Focusing their controlled desperation into a disrespected art form allowed them to overcome abusive homes, pulverizing lack of confidence, abandonment issues and social isolation.
They all continue to skate today and their cultural impact continues to reverberate with spheres of influence blasting far beyond skateboarding; inspiring NYT bestsellers, record setting video games and millions of kids who embrace skateboarding around the world.
BIOGRAPHY Stacy Peralta began skateboarding at the age of five and is now considered one of the founding fathers of modern-day skateboarding. He was one of the key players on the now historic Zephyr Skateboard team and the first Z-Boy (Zephyr) to systematically capitalize on his skateboarding reputation with lucrative sponsorship deals. After three life-changing years of world travel, product endorsements, TV and film appearances, and at the age of nineteen, Peralta walked away from his sponsored career as a professional skateboarder and joined George Powell to form the innovative skateboard manufacturing company, POWELL-PERALTA. Five years later, Powell-Peralta became the industry leader in products, graphics, advertising, videos and in the creation of the now famous skateboard team – THE BONES BRIGADE – the team that launched the stellar careers of Tony Hawk as well as five other world champion skateboarders. In 1984 Peralta discovered his true passion while producing, editing and directing the Bones Brigade Video Show, the first of what became known then as Action Sports Videos. They followed with six more skate videos, which eventually lead to offers within the motion picture industry as a second unit director; Thrashin, Gleaming the Cube, and Police Academy 5. In 1990 Peralta left Powell-Peralta to become a full time writer-director and worked in network TV for the next six years in the area of documentary, comedy, and various series and specials. In 2000 he wrote and directed the critically acclaimed DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS which won the Director’s Award and the Audience Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. His film also went on to win the 2002 Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Award. In 2003 Peralta was hired by Sony Pictures to write the fictional screenplay for “The Lords of Dogtown which was released to critical acclaim in 2005. In the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, Peralta’s second documentary, RIDING GIANTS, became the first documentary ever to be chosen for the opening night premiere film of the festival. 2008 Peralta returned to Sundance with his film; Crips and Bloods, Made in America – a documentary film that focused on the gang problem of South Los Angeles. Most recently, Peralta premiered his most recent documentary film, Bones Brigade, An Autobiography at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
CHASING ICE (2012)
Director: Jeff Orlowski
SYNOPSIS In the spring of 2005, acclaimed photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth's changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history.
Chasing Ice is a feature documentary about one man's mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, Balog conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic, by helicopter, canoe, and dogsled, to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers.
Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether, risking both his career and his well-being. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for him to see the fruits of his labor. But his hauntingly beautiful videos compress those years into seconds. His Extreme Ice Survey captures ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist doing everything in his power to deliver hope to our carbon-powered planet.
BIOGRAPHY In 2007, Jeff Orlowski got his first taste of the Arctic when as a Stanford student he seized an opportunity to work as a videographer with acclaimed photographer James Balog on the initial expedition of The Extreme Ice Survey (EIS). That winter, the EIS team scouted and filmed glaciers that now appear in the documentary feature film Chasing Ice. Orlowski, a New York native, has been filming the EIS project around the world, working in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable on locations in Iceland and Greenland, Bolivia, the Alps, Alaska, and Glacier National Park, Montana. Jeff’s previous work has taken him to the Tour de France for a behind-the-scenes documentary, and he has photographed and filmed Robin Williams, Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela and many others. Orlowski’s Geocaching: From the Web to the Woods won Best Short Doc at Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2008, he won the Best Editing award for his last film The Strange Case at the Action on Film Festival, Pasadena, California. Orlowski’s imagery has exhibited at Denver Museum of Nature and Science; The Aspen Institute; The Scripps Institute; The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, 2009; and before the U.S Congress on Capitol Hill. In 2009, Orlowski founded Exposure, a film production company dedicated to socially relevant filmmaking, with an eye towards issues important to humanity. Clients have included: General Motors/Saturn; Blackboard; Apple Inc.; The Jane Goodall Institute; Stanford University; and The Race Across America. Jeff lives in Boulder, Colorado.
LA MISMA LUNA (UNDER THE SAME MOON) (2007)
Director: Patricia Riggen
SYNOPSIS Under the Same Moon tells the story of Rosario, an undocumented Mexican immigrant working in the United States with the hope of giving her son, Carlitos, a better life, while leaving him under the care of his grandmother. Being apart from her son leaves her heartbroken, and Carlitos misses her just as much, ever hopeful that she will return to Mexico to be with him. When all hope for a reunion in Mexico is lost, circumstances force Rosario and Carlos to each embark on their own journeys in a desperate attempt to reunite. Along the way they meet many people, both benevolent and ill intended, and learn just how challenging it is to be alone and ever watchful for the authorities. They frequently have no choice but to rely on the kindness and mercy of strangers. Despite crises of faith in their choices, Carlitos and Rosario manage to never give up hope.
While the story is not based on one actual event, there are thousands of similar stories on either side of the border between any countries with disproportionate access to resources, such as the United States and Mexico. This tale of the determination and bravery of one immigrant woman resonates among the Mexican American community in the United States, and is frequently hailed as a film that gives a compassionate, respectful portrayal of the undocumented immigrant experience.
BIOGRAPHY Patricia Riggen was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she began her film career as a screenwriter and producer. She moved to New York City in 1998 where she received a Master's degree in Directing at Columbia University. Her first short film, LA MILPA, screened in over 30 international film festivals and received 20 awards; among them the Student Academy Award. Her next film, the documentary FAMILY PORTRAIT, won the Jury Prize for Best Short Film at Sundance '05. She then directed and produced her first feature, UNDER THE SAME MOON (LA MISMA LUNA), which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation. It was quickly acquired for worldwide distribution by Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company, and was released theatrically in March 2008 to opening-weekend record numbers for a Spanish language film in the US. It is one of the highest-grossing Mexican films of all time. Patricia directed LEMONADE MOUTH for the Disney Channel in 2011. In the first two airings, the two-hour telecast garnered 12.5 million viewers. GIRL IN PROGRESS, her third feature film staring Eva Mendes, Patricia Arquette and Matthew Modine, was released theatrically in 2012.
THE LIGHT IN HER EYES (2011)
Directors Julia Meltzer, Laura Nix
SYNOPSIS In a courtyard off a busy street in Damascus, Syria, boisterous girls run and play before class starts in the women’s side of Al-Zahra mosque. Inside the mosque, preacher Houda al-Habash teaches the Qur’an, educating women and girls about their religion, and their rights, within their faith.
Houda’s school was founded in Damascus 30 years ago and is well-organized and energized—filled with women and girls supporting each other in their studies. Every summer, her female students immerse themselves in a rigorous study of Islam. A surprising cultural shift is under way—women are claiming space within the mosque. Shot right before the uprising in Syria erupted, The Light in Her Eyes offers an extraordinary portrait of a leader who challenges the women of her community to live according to Islam, without giving up their dreams.
BIOGRAPHIES Julia Meltzer is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She is a director and producer of the documentary THE LIGHT IN HER EYES, which was broadcast nationally on the POV series on PBS in July 2012. Meltzer is a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Damascus, Syria in 2005–6. She founded Clockshop, a non-profit arts organization that produces public projects and documentaries in Los Angeles. Her film and video work with David Thorne, has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, the Sharjah Biennial, The Toronto International Film Festival, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Meltzer is a recipient of grants from Art Matters, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Damascus, Syria in 2005–6.
Laura Nix recently co-wrote CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND: THE LEGACY OF PAT BROWN. Her non-fiction work has been shown on HBO and the History Channel, in addition to international DVD distribution. She is the writer/director of the narrative feature THE POLITICS OF FUR, which played in over 70 film festivals internationally, and won numerous awards including the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest. In 2001, Laura co-founded the production company Automat Pictures, where she directed dozens of presentations, including the feature documentary WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. As producer, she made the festival hit THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD about the political activist duo, and is currently producing their next film, THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING.
THE LOVING STORY (2011)
Director Nancy Buirski
SYNOPSIS This documentary, with its contemporary parallels, will live on as record of monumental change, not just in civil rights, but in the human right to pursue happiness regardless of color, gender or creed. A racially-charged criminal trial and a heart-rending love story converge in this definitive documentary about Mildred and Richard Loving. The marriage of Mildred (who was part-black and part-Native American) and Richard (who was white) was declared illegal in 1958 by their home state of Virginia. They refused to leave one another and, with the help of the ACLU, relentlessly pursued their right to happiness. Their case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where, in 1967, it struck down laws against interracial marriage in this country once and for all. With luminous, newly discovered 16mm footage of the Lovings and their lawyers, first-person testimony and rare documentary photographs, this film takes us behind the scenes of the legal challenges and the emotional turmoil of the landmark case. The Loving Story recreates a seminal moment in history and reflects a timely message of marriage equality in a personal, human love story.
The Loving Story is a journey into the heart of race relations in America. This landmark documentary, with its contemporary parallels, will live on as record of monumental change, not just in civil rights, but in the human right to pursue happiness regardless of color, gender or creed.
BIOGRAPHY Nancy Buirski is the Director, Producer and Writer of The Loving Story, which had its World Premiere at Full Frame in 2011. It had its TV Premiere on HBO in February 2012 and was the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It appeared at such other festivals as Tribeca, Traverse City Film Festival, the Hamptons and Palm Springs International Film Festivals, Thessalonki and Visions Du Reel among numerous others. The film was included on the shortlist for the Academy Awards. As Curator and Producer, Buirski founded and was the Director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival for 10 years. She is next directing the documentary Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun. Buirski was a Producer of Time Piece (2006), the innovative cross-cultural anthology of Turkish and American shorts. She is a producer of Harlem Woodstock(Director Alex Gibney) and Althea(Director Rex Miller), both currently in production. She is producing narrative versions of the Lovings’ story with Colin Firth and Ged Doherty and The Donner Party with Ric Burns. Prior to her work in film, she was a documentary photographer, writing and photographing Earth Angels: Migrant Children in America, and the Foreign Picture Editor at The New York Times.
TOWN OF RUNNERS (2012)
Director Jerry Rothwell
SYNOPSIS Town Of Runners is a feature documentary about young runners from Bekoji - an Ethiopian highland town which has produced some of the world's greatest distance athletes, including world and Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu.
Made by award winning director Jerry Rothwell, the film tells the stories of three teenagers - Alemii, Hawii and Biruk - who dream of following in their heroes’ footsteps. The film follows three years in their lives as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood. Set against the background of the seasonal rhythms of this farming region, and the impact of increased urbanization and globalization, Town Of Runners is a unique insight shows rural young Africans, living between tradition and the modern world, as they strive to build their own future.
BIOGRAPHY Jerry Rothwell is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes the award-winning feature docs, Donor Unknown (More 4/Arte/CBC/PBS/VPRO) about a sperm donor and his many offspring Heavy Load (IFC/ITVS/BBC), about a group of people with learning disabilities who form a punk band, and Deep Water (Pathe/FilmFour/UK Film Council co-directed with Louise Osmond), about Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated voyage in the 1968 round the world yacht race. His latest film is Town of Runners (PBS/Arte/RHK/ITVS), released theatrically in the UK in 2012, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Films in development include How To Change The World, about the founders of Greenpeace. Past credits include The Late George Shaw, for Channel 4’s Art Show series, the Modern Painters series of short films for Channel 4 and TV and radio programs for BBC, Carlton, Channel 4, Teachers TV and the Arts Council. Another strand of Jerry's work has been participatory production, working with people to tell their own stories on film. He played in lead role in developing Hi8us Projects improvised dramas with young people for Channel 4, in establishing First Light, the UK Film Council's scheme for young filmmakers, and in setting up digital storytelling exchanges between marginalized communities across Europe. In 2007, Goldstein Knowlton completed her one-year tenure as a Producer in Residence for the Sundance Institute, working with Michelle Satter in the Feature Film department; working with both the Writer and Director Labs, providing mentorship and resources for past Lab participants, and coordinating the Sundance/Sloan Grant and Lab Fellowship. Goldstein Knowlton is currently developing both fiction and documentary films. Born and raised in Chicago, Goldstein Knowlton studied Neuroscience at Brown University. Following college, she remained in Providence to serve the Governor of Rhode Island in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations. She subsequently worked raising funds for film preservation at The American Film Institute, first in Washington, D.C., and later in Los Angeles. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
VALLEY OF SAINTS (2012)
Director: Musa Sayeed
SYNOPSIS Widely considered to be the crown jewel of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a sprawling aquatic community where erupting political violence often distracts from the natural beauty. Gulzar, a young, working-class boatman, plans to skip town with his best friend in search of a better life, but a weeklong military curfew derails their departure. Forced to wait it out, Gulzar takes a job assisting a pretty scientist named Asifa. As they navigate the floating landscape, collecting water samples for an environmental study, an unlikely relationship blossoms between the two. When Asifa's research reveals harmful pollutants, Gulzar realizes that the ecology of the lake and an entire way of life face an alarming threat, and everything in his own life begins to take on a new hue.
Lush cinematography heightens the region’s visual splendor in this enlightening feature. Intricately weaving contemporary issues with traditional culture and ancient myths, Valley of Saints is avibrant, lyrical film about finding one's path home in a changing world.
BIOGRAPHY Musa Syeed’s debut feature film “Valley of Saints” premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for World Cinema: Dramatic and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. It is currently on the international festival circuit. He previously co-directed “Bronx Princess” (Official Selection, Berlinale) and produced “A Son’s Sacrifice” (Best Doc Short, Tribeca Film Festival), both of which aired nationally on PBS. Syeed is also currently working on two interactive projects, Kashmir is Beautiful (a Facebook game) and 30 Mosques (a crowdsourced community storytelling platform) that were developed at the Bay Area Video Coalition's Producers Institute for New Media Technologies and the ITVS/Mozilla Hackathon. Syeed has also taught film for Williams College and was a Fulbright fellow in Egypt.