2020 festival films
Richard Estes has been called the “father of photorealism” but has humbly avoided media attention over his long career. “Actually, Iconic: Richard Estes” invites viewers into Estes’ world with unprecedented access to the artist and his masterpieces. Through conversations about his technique and inspirations, and interviews with leading curators and critics this intimate portrait does more than just explore Estes’ pioneering genius; it humanizes it.
With many of Africa’s key species, including elephants, reaching levels near extinction, Akashinga is a radical, new and highly effective weapon against poaching. Founded by former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching leader Damien Mander, the women-only team of rangers, drawn from the abused and marginalized, is revolutionizing the way animals are protected and communities are empowered — and its members’ own lives are being transformed. Mander’s innovative approach to conservation calls for community buy-in rather than full-on armed assault against poachers: If a community understands the economic benefits of preserving animals, then it will eliminate poaching without an armed struggle. This short film is a celebration of the courage, conservation and unorthodox thinking that’s leading to massive positive change.
When an unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, they wage a near impossible battle against the Department of corrections. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, Belly of the Beast exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.
More than a decade after leaving the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (the “Moonies”), through a trove of never before seen footage from within the church and extraordinary home videos of her family’s upbringing alongside Reverend Moon and his disciples, filmmaker Cara Jones attempts to finally break free from the religious movement which dominated her childhood. BLESSED CHILD is one daughter’s attempt to unpack the legacy of the decisions her parents made while challenging assumptions – hers and ours – about cults and family.
When MIT researcher, poet and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini uncovers racial and gender bias in AI systems sold by big tech companies, she embarks on a journey alongside pioneering women sounding the alarm about the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence that impacts us all. Through Joy’s transformation from scientist to steadfast advocate and the stories of everyday people experiencing technical harms, Coded Bias sheds light on the threats A.I. poses to civil rights and democracy.
Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy explores Diana’s vibrant, unconventional life, blending vérité with archival footage, photographs and interviews. Viewers accompany her in intimate settings at home – cooking, gardening, and traveling to accept awards and speak to audiences. The film features interviews with notable chefs and friends including Alice Waters, José Andrés, Rick Bayless, and Gabriela Cámara, along with footage from Diana’s TLC cooking show, “The Art of Mexican Cooking.” Whether she is instructing chefs at her infamous “Boot Camp” cooking school, blazing her truck over the cobblestone roads of Zitácuaro or sunbathing with a scotch on her balcony, Diana is captivatingly bold, spirited, and unapologetically herself.
When Charles Chiu, a Chinese-American man from California, travels to Mississippi to visit the grave of his father who abandoned him as a baby, he and his family stumble upon surprising revelations that change their lives. Along the way, they meet a diverse group of local residents and historians, who shed light on the racially complex history of the early Chinese in the segregated South during the Chinese exclusion era. Their emotional journey leads them to discover how deep their roots run in America.
In the Shadow of the Pines is an animated short documentary about a difficult father-daughter relationship. Drawing on childhood memories, Anne Koizumi, the filmmaker, explores her upbringing with her Japanese immigrant dad, who was also the janitor at the elementary school she attended. The film explores the idea of shame and how it can shape and define us while also concealing who we can truly become.
If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.
This is the story of a superstar athlete- and why the sports industry hasn’t put her on your radar. AJ Andrews is the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, an award given to the best fielders in baseball for decades. But winning the Gold Glove did not change the fact that Andrews earns less than $15k a year in an industry more willing to pay female athletes to model than to play their sport.
Anna is 16, and lives with her young mother, Rebecca. It is the end of another summer defined by her mom’s flings and conquests, but during which Anna begins to discover her own sensuality. As Anna learns she is pregnant, her mother sees herself in her daughter, at the same age, facing the same choices. And if Anna’s decision implies a rupture in her relationship with Rebecca, she will find support where she least expects it.
With animal agriculture occupying roughly 45% of the world’s surface area , producing m ore greenhouse gases than cars, the prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is a wake – up call for solutions. The planet’s future may lie with “clean meat,” also known as “cell – based meat” and “cult ivated meat , ” a food science that grows real meat fro m animal cells, without the need to slaughter animals. Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and food giants Cargill and Tyson have invested in the birth of this new industry, instilling confidence that cell – based meat may soon come to market as a s ustainable alternative to conventional meat.
My mother’s own story has often been lost or misinterpreted to serve a myth. This elegant film about her ― the real Vivian Liberto, not the Hollywood version ― is painful but compassionate, wrenching but true. Even though she was an intensely private woman, I think she longed to have her story told, and her place in the history of my family acknowledged with respect and love. Matt Riddlehoover and Dustin Tittle have succeeded in giving her that place. My sisters and I are deeply moved by and grateful for My Darling Vivian. -Rosanne Cash
Alatha’s father calls himself a Mover. Using African dance moves, he helps kids in Khayelitsha township to transcend their hardship (drugs, poverty and abuse) and “find their superpowers.” The Mover is also a single father. And while he has helped many kids, he still has difficulty getting his own daughter to find her own powers. But in a tender moment together, this is all about to change.
In the midst of a global mental health crisis, millions of people have turned to mindfulness. But does it actually make us happier and healthier? In a world-first experiment, journalist Shannon Harvey recruited a team of scientists to put mindful meditation to the test. But what began as a year-long self-experiment soon became a life-changing experience.
Taking a look behind the headlines of #MeToo and Time’s Up, NEVERTHELESS follows the intimate stories of 7 individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or school context. From a writer’s assistant on a top TV show to a Tech CEO and 911 dispatcher, the film shines a light on the ways in which we can shift our culture and rebuild. Nevertheless we persist.
PERSONHOOD tells a different reproductive rights story – one that ripples far beyond the right to choose and into the lives of every pregnant person in America. Tammy Loertscher’s fetus was given an attorney, while the courts denied Tammy her constitutional rights and sent her to jail. Through her story, the film reframes the abortion debate to encompass the growing system of laws that criminalize and police pregnant women. At the intersection of the erosion of women’s rights, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration, Tammy’s experience reveals the dangerous consequences of these little-known laws for American women and families.
Alarmingly, African American girls are the fastest-growing population in the criminal justice system and the only group of girls to disproportionately experience criminalization at every education level. The film underscores the challenges Black girls face with insights from multiple experts across the country who have worked extensively in the field of social justice, gender equality and educational equity, giving context to the crisis and providing a roadmap for how our educational system and those who interact with Black girls can provide a positive rather than punitive response to behaviors that are often misunderstood or misrepresented.
In 2016, at Standing Rock, the youth of many tribes unite the Native Nations for the first time in 150 years and rise up in spiritual solidarity against the 3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL). These young Native leaders known as ‘water protectors’ join together to honor their destiny as they pray and protect Mother Earth by leading a peaceful movement of resistance which awakens the world.
A near college graduate, Danielle, gets paid by her sugar daddy and rushes to meet her neurotic parents at a family shiva. Upon arrival, she is accosted by various estranged relatives about her appearance and lack of post-grad plans, while her confident ex-girlfriend, Maya, is applauded by everyone for getting into law school. Danielle’s day takes an unexpected turn when her sugar daddy, Max, arrives at the shiva with his accomplished wife, Kim, and crying baby. As the day unfolds, Danielle struggles to keep up different versions of herself, fend off pressures from her family and confront her insecurities without completely losing it.
SINGLE is a relatable, anti-romantic comedy that delivers an entertaining and insightful examination of human connection that also challenges preconceived notions of life with a disability. Kim, born with one arm gets set-up on a blind date with Jake, who has one hand, and she is pissed.
On Edgecombe Avenue in Sugar Hill, Harlem, Marjorie Eliot is making sure her apartment building’s iconic jazz legacy lives on. Marjorie and her son have been hosting jazz concerts in her apartment every Sunday for the past 26 years, a pursuit of overcoming grief through music. This film tells the story of the woman behind the piano, and how Marjorie’s generous vision came to be and the life it has taken on since, as she leaves behind her own legacy.
THE FIGHT is an inspiring, emotional insider look at how these important battles are fought and the legal gladiators on the front lines fighting them. Directors Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres capture the rollercoaster ride of the thrill and defeat in these deeply human battles. When a mother is separated from her child, a soldier is threatened to lose his career, a young woman’s right to choose is imperiled at the pleasure of a government official, and the ability to exercise our basic right to vote is threatened, the consequences can be devastating to us and to future generations. THE FIGHT celebrates the unsung heroes who fiercely work to protect our freedoms.
Filmed over five years in Kansas City, this documentary follows four kids – beginning at ages 4, 7, 12, and 15 – as they redefine “coming of age.” These kids and their families reveal intimate realities of how gender is re-shaping the family next door in a never-before-told chronicling of growing up transgender in the heartland. The film is a nuanced examination of how families tussle, transform, and sometimes find unexpected purpose in their identities as transgender families. Lighthearted and deeply moving, this story teaches us something new about being human.
From the director of the Peabody Award-winning Newtown comes an insightful, rousing coming-of-age story about youth determined to stand up and fight for justice at a most critical time in American history. Sparked by gun violence ravaging their schools, Us Kids chronicles March For Our Lives as they pull off the largest youth protest movement in the U.S., determined to build an inclusive, unprecedented movement addressing racial justice, a growing public health crisis and shocking a political system into change.
Soaring above the chaotic spectacle of ‘80s and ‘90s Los Angeles, a young couple revolutionized breaking news with their brazen helicopter reporting. Culled from this news duo’s sprawling video archive, WHIRLYBIRD is a poignant L.A. story of a family in turbulence hovering over a city unhinged.
After the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman by a police officer rocks the police department, Chief Hartneau is pushed out and a new male chief takes over, appointing only men to top level positions, threatening the gains that the women have made within the force. Women in Blue explores these women as they continue their fight for gender equality, and explores a deeper look at race, violence and diversity within policing in America.