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In 2005, Wu Wenguang, a founding figure of China’s independent documentary movement, joined forces with choreographer Wen Hui to create the Beijing-based Caochangdi Workstation. The collective’s first initiative, the Village Documentary Project, selected ten villagers from nationwide applicants who’d come across newspaper ads about the project. The villagers were trained to use DV cameras over three days and returned to their respective villages with their new tools to gather materials. With no specific instructions on what to capture, they were free to film whatever they saw fit. After a
Rodolfo Castillo-Morales is a Mexican filmmaker and programmer. He has participated in several fiction and documentary short films, video art installations, feature and documentary series, and has photogpraphed documentaries with directors from Mexico, Spain, El Salvador and Serbia. He was the programmer of DocsMX and co-creator of Plataforma MX in Mexico City. Today he’s the Programming Director of the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG) and the FICG Cinematheque as well as General Coordinator of DocuLab: Documentary Laboratory. Currently, he is preparing two documentary features as director, writer, and Cinematographer.
It’s been 23 years since Sandi DuBowski’s groundbreaking Trembling Before G-d, which uncloaked the lives of Hasidic and Orthodox gays and lesbians, made its Sundance debut. Since that time DuBowski has built a career at the intersection of religion and queerness, social activism and filmmaking, always avoiding the binary choice in favor of the “and.” This insistence is a bond shared by the director-producer and the riveting Israeli-American star of his latest feature Sabbath Queen—a doc over 21 years in the making focused squarely on Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, a descendant of 38 generations of Orthodox rabbis.
If you don’t already know what the Swahili word amani means, we won’t spoil it here, as Nicole Gormley and Debra Aroko’s Searching for Amani treats it as a final reveal, after their documentary has also searched for a killer, a motive, and the manner in which climate change and the descendants of colonialism have caused conflict and death in Kenya. The American Gormley and Kenyan Aroko tell their story through the eyes of Simon, a 13-year-old whose father was murdered while working as a guide at a wildlife conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. Simon longs to be a journalist when he grows up, and his
“No one enters trucking from charm school,” notes Desiree Wood, star of Nesa Azimi’s long-haul road trip film Driver , which follows the founder of REAL Women in Trucking as she works her minimum wage on (18) wheels job from coast to coast. Indeed, Wood, a forty-something who retired from stripping and now finds herself in a financially precarious gig (that puts her at far greater risk of sexual assault to boot), serves as our no-nonsense guide to a sightseeing-cinematic world hidden in plain sight. As another seasoned trucker attests, it’s a beautiful country and she gets paid to see it
Tommaso Santambrogio’s Oceans Are the Real Continents (2023), which opens on a black-and-white shot of an older Cuban woman sweeping her doorway, reminiscent of the indulgent, and seemingly quotidian scenes in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days , is a film that captures the human condition in all its humor, pain and joy. Santambrogio’s debut docudrama feature, which premiered at Venice Days in 2023, is a triptych that follows three generations of characters in San Antonio de los Baños, where time seemingly stands still. Entrancingly poetic, Oceans Are the Real Continents
Whether we are unemployed creatives, overwhelmed freelancers, or underpaid employees, it can often seem like everyone else has figured it out. Social media is a constant stream of people announcing new jobs, festival screenings, and prestigious grants and awards. Yet more often than not, the filmmaker who had the big premiere, received all the accolades, and even successfully sold their film is still struggling to get by, just like the rest of us. So how are filmmakers actually making a living?
Lance Oppenheim has had a productive year. His new feature Spermworld hit Hulu at the end of March, and now his three-part docuseries Ren Faire is airing on HBO, with episodes simultaneously showing up on MAX. The two projects happened nearly simultaneously, but while they both share Oppenheim’s highly stylized mode of documentary filmmaking, they center incredibly distinct casts of characters and situations. Ren Faire goes behind the scenes of the Texas Renaissance Festival , which for 50 years has been run by founder “King” George Coulam. In Coulam, the series has one of the more vivid
Chris Wilcha released his breakthrough film, the Slamdance award-winning documentary The Target Shoots First , in 2000. Like so many foundational Gen-X works—Douglas Coupland’s Generation X , for example, or movies like Reality Bites (1994) — it presumed that one of the worst things a twentysomething could do was “sell out.” In The Target Shoots First , this was examined through Wilcha’s vantage point working a day job at Columbia House, the infamous, then-omnipresent mail-order CD club that lured fans in with the initial promise of 8 CDs for a penny (followed by additional mandatory purchases
Two days before the 10th edition of the Kolkata People’s Film Festival (KPFF) began, India roiled in a frenzy of celebration. All the agencies of command and control announced the January 22 consecration of the Ram Mandir—the enthronement of the Hindu deity Rama in his alleged birthplace, Ayodhya—as a day for pomp and self-congratulation. Many states declared it a public holiday. The building of the Ram Mandir in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on the devastated powder of a 16th-century mosque, the Babri Masjid, which was dismantled brick by brick by Hindutva mobs in 1992—a friend once called this destruction one of the most fissiparous acts in the history of independent India—marked the psychic normalization of a supposedly secular democracy into a so-called Hindu Rashtra, a nation for and of Hindus.