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Writer/director/actor Lena Dunham made our list in 2009. She had just premiered her first feature, Creative Nonfiction, a formally bold autobiographical take on her college years and writing workshops. Dunham stars as Ella, a student in a writing seminar who is also in an ambiguously defined maybe-relationship with a cute guy. Her life and her writing blur, and Dunham uses both a DV-shot reality style as well as 16mm film-within-a-film sequences to explore the awkward perils of self-representation. And, oh, yeah, Dunham is funny, both in the film and in this interview she did with Alicia Van Couvering. When she revealed that her production budget was a paltry $10,000, she also relayed her parents' comments: "'What did you do with all the money?! It looks so cheap! Were you feeding your crew money sandwiches?'"
We liked Creative Nonfiction and wondered if she should put Dunham on the list that year or wait a year so we'd be closer to whatever she did next. I'm glad we decided to be early, because Dunham soon went into production on Tiny Furniture, and it's been non-stop since then. Opening this weekend, Tiny Furniture gives the directionlessness of early adulthood a tart, screwball spin in a comedy about work, family and relationships that never sacrifices honest emotional messiness for a good one-liner - although it's usually able to deliver both. The film won SXSW and propelled her into a series of new projects, including a Judd Apatow-produced HBO series and a new Scott Rudin-produced project adapted from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist writers David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. This week she's in the New Yorker in a long profile by Rebecca Mead.
In our independent industry we like to celebrate films that have broken through certain box-office ceilings, or gotten distribution deals, and often we think of these films without thinking of their makers. But the most long-running independent filmmakers are those with distinctive voices, ones who both self-generate their material as well as attract material because producers have a clear idea of the sensibility they'll be able to bring to it. Dunham is one of those filmmakers, so I'm looking forward to more work about twentysomething life and then thirtysomething and fortysomething life. Another thing we're happy about - that Dunham kept her distinctive voice sharp and uncensored and in one of the best pieces in our new issue, a conversation with fellow filmmaker Caveh Zahedi on making autobiographically-based work. Check it out online, and go see Tiny Furniture this weekend or when it arrives in your city or on VOD.
See you next week.
BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU SERIES ON THE HORIZON The Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Screening Series, presented in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art, kicks off November 18th at MoMA. The Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award, sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, is given annually as part of the Gotham Independent Film Awards™ to the most outstanding independent film of the year without theatrical distribution in place. The five nominated films - singled out from the 2010 festival circuit - will screen at MoMA from November 18 - 22. Screenings will be followed by Q & A’s with the directors: Robert Greene (Kati with an i), Mike Ott (Littlerock), Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood (On Coal River), Lynn True and Nelson Walker (Summer Pasture) and Laurel Nakadate (The Wolf Knife). Nominees for the award were selected by the editorial staff and contributors to Filmmaker, and Josh Siegel, Associate Curator, MoMA Department of Film from recommendations by critics, festival programmers and curators. See MoMA Screening Schedule..
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Disco and Atomic War
The Practice of the Wild
Ondi Timoner, Cool It
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You series at MoMA
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COOL IT Opening the public's eyes to the issue of climate change, Davis Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth introduced the dangers of melting ice caps and rising sea levels to a wider public. Ondi Timoner's (We Live in Public) documentary Cool It looks at these issues from another angle - that of controversial environmental thinker Bjorn Lomborg. Timoner says in this week's Director Interviews: "I'm a Democrat and a liberal, and I'm wary of something being positioned as the anti-An Inconvenient Truth, because I credit that film with bringing all of this into our consciousness. We wouldn't be talking about this if it weren't for Al Gore, he's done incredible work. But he used worst-case scenarios to get everyone's attention and although they could happen, they're most likely not going to, according to the U.N. [data]. Bjorn felt like that was a really important part of the film and so did the producers." Read our interview with Timoner below. TINY FURNITURE Selected as one of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces in 2009 on the basis of her first feature, Creative Nonfiction, as well as her web series, Delusional Downtown Divas, Lena Dunham is one of independent film's rising stars, a writer/director/actor able to capture the rhythms, anxieties and humor of contemporary twentysomething life with wit, self-revelation and affectionate irony. Two years ago she was someone we wrote about in Filmmaker. Today she is everywhere - shooting a new Judd Apatow-produced HBO series, in the New Yorker, and at the IFC Center, where her second feature, Tiny Furniture is opening this week. See the movie, and don't miss her typically uncensored talk with Caveh Zahedi in this month's Filmmaker and online. There she says of her autobiographically-inspired fiction, "I want to make [my work] feel more like a movie, so I just make it happen more than it happened [in real life]. I always feel like my life is like a movie in my head, so I try to make the movie match up with that." Subscribe to our digital issue to read this interview as well as access to our back issues until 2005. DISCO AND ATOMIC WAR Estonia was once ruled by the Soviet Union, and all radio and TV signals were controlled by the government. No influence from the Western world, and nothing to incite rebellion. But in the documentary Disco and Atomic War, directed by Jaak Kilmi and based on his experiences growing up in Estonia, illegal signals brought forth pop culture images like Knight Rider and disco music via Finnish television. These images broke through the totalitarian regime and encouraged Estonians to demand independence and freedom to connect with the wider world. THE PRACTICE OF THE WILD Gary Snyder isn't as well known as Beat compatriots Kerouac and Ginsburg, but he has been a major contributor to that artistic movement and its legacy. In the documentary The Practice of the Wild, filmmaker John J. Healey pairs friends Snyder and writer Jim Harrison to not only discuss the past, but their interests in Zen Buddhism, which Snyder helped to make popular in America, and finding a sense of serenity in nature. A tireless poet and activist who has fought against war and for environmental awareness, Snyder, who has won the Pulitzer Prize, is both peaceful and deeply angry at the world's injustices. The Practice of the Wild is a thoughtful look at a man who has devoted his life to the art of peace within nature. This week on the blog, Livia Bloom reports from the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Doha, Qatar; Scott Macaulay examines a frame from minute four of Requiem for a Dream; Stranger than Fiction shows War Don Don, a documentary that follows the trial of a controversial rebel leader; and the subject of transnational adoption between an American family and a Chinese girl is documented in Wo Ai Ni Mommy (pictured left) at Stranger Than Fiction.
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ONDI TIMONER, COOL IT By Damon Smith
Acclaimed documentarian Ondi Timoner has a knack for picking wildly unpredictable subjects and then going all in, detailing the drama of self-destruction from an insider's vantage point. Both Anton Newcombe, the fiery frontman of cult-rock mainstays The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Josh Harris, dotcom entrepreneur and Internet stunt artist, were brilliant, fascinating personalities dancing along the edge of personal and professional annihilation in Timoner's previous Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning films, Dig! (2004) and We Live in Public (2009). So one imagines the intrepid documentarian hunting around for another larger-than-life character to hitch her cameras to, a mad scientist, perhaps, who's also a personal catastrophe-waiting-to-happen. read more
Santa Monica International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: Nov. 15
Final Deadline: June 15
Festival Dates: Aug 5-7
Chicago International Music and Movies Festival
Regular Deadline: Nov. 19
Late Deadline: Dec. 17
Festival Dates: April 14 - 17
Boston International Film Festival
Regular Deadline for Shorts: Nov. 26
Regular Deadline for Features: Dec. 3
Final Deadline For Features: Dec. 31
Final Deadline For Shorts: Dec. 23
Festival Dates: April 15 - 24