There are a number of strong, defiantly independent movies opening this weekend, including Laura Poitras's astonishing documentary The Oath, and Harmony Korine's unclassifiable Trash Humpers. But I want to take a minute to tell you about another filmmaker, Brent Green, whose debut feature, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, opens tomorrow at New York's IFC Center. I haven't seen it yet - Green finished it only days ago - but I've been a big supporter of his work since I first came across it while sitting on the Creative Capital film and video panel in 2004. At the time, Green was screening his haunting, charmingly low-fi animated shorts at rock clubs backed by performances of bands like Califone and Sin Rojas. He'd sell DVD-R's with hand-painted covers at these events, and he told me when I interviewed him for Filmmaker's 25 New Faces 2005 feature that his main inspirations were musicians like Vic Chestnutt and writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Langston Hughes and Jack Kerouac.

When Green applied to Creative Capital I don't think he had received a grant before; he was a total newcomer to the system. Many people think that to get any kind of award or acceptance that "you have to know someone." Green didn't. He got the grant because we all loved the films.

The next summer Green appeared at the Creative Capital retreat, where his mixture of work-in-progress footage and live narration blew away the attendees. Particularly struck were the gallerists, who saw in Green a promising young visual artist. He was soon embraced by the art world and had exhibitions at the Bellwether Gallery and the Getty Museum. He decided to make a feature that would apply his animation style to work with live actors. As you can read about in the current issue of Filmmaker, he built the entire set himself on the grounds of his farm in Pennsylvania, and he shot the film "frame by meticulous frame." Such an effort was not just process - it was part of the film’s meaning. Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then is based on the true story of a man who decides to build his own fantastical house in order to heal his dying wife. Writes Green in Filmmaker, "One of the main points of the film is: 'You have to build your own world. Everyone does it. From the richest Wall St. investor and medical venture capitalist to the biggest nerd dropping a McFish into a deep fryer. All of us do it.' In my mind, the film's design is a physical representation of how much not just Leonard but every single person I respect really builds his own world."

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then runs two shows a day through May 13 at the IFC Center, and a gallery show containing excerpts from the set is up at the Andrew Edlin Gallery through June 5. Tonight and Saturday Green and Brendan Canty will perform with Green's Paulina Hollers at the Museum of Modern Art's Creative Capital retrospective.

For everyone asking whether there is truly original work coming out of the independent community, whether there are new ways to reach audiences, and whether there are models to explore beyond traditional theatrical plays or yet-to-mature online models, Green's work - and his methods - are for you. I hope you check them out.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her) has a wonderful knack for capturing women's stories in an honest and revealing way, often performed with minimalist dialogue and finely-trained actresses. Mother and Child centers on adoption and how it affects the lives of three women: Karen (Annette Bening), who is looking for the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), the daughter who Karen gave up, and Lucy (Kerry Washington), a young woman looking to become an adoptive mother. Their stories are full of love and loss, and have a sense of realism that is refreshingly honest to see.

Fresh off of his success at the Tribeca Film Festival with Freakonomics and My Trip to Al-Qaeda, veteran documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney sets his eyes on the corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Casino Jack and the United States of Money. A man with international ties and money to burn, Abramoff (who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence) was involved with Russian spies, Chinese sweatshops, mob hits, and illegal trading. Gibney's film illuminates that while Abramoff was the poster boy for influence peddling, many politicians will do almost anything to get elected. It's appalling, yet fascinating to watch.

From Oscar-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country), The Oath is a gripping look at two men associated with Al-Qaeda who are living dramatically different lives. Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former bodyguard, is a taxi driver in Yemen, while his brother in-law, Salim Hamdan, is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. In the current issue of Filmmaker, Scott Macaulay wrote, "While telling a factual story about the political, legal and intelligence issues informing our war against al-Qaida, Poitras also draws a complex, novelistic portrait of two men whose intertwined destinies tell us more about this conflict than most newspaper articles ever could." Read his interview with her here.

Nominated for several French Cesar Awards and a winner at the Berlin International Film Festival, Welcome, written and directed by Philippe Lioret, centers on a Kurdish teenage boy named Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) who is traveling from Iraq to England to see his girlfriend. His trip is long and arduous, taking him into Calais in France, where he becomes stuck with other illegal immigrants, or "clan-destines." France won't allow them back home because of the war, but they are clearly not welcome in the country. Bilal decides to get swimming lessons from a French swim instructor Simon (Vincent Lindon) so he can swim the English Channel to get to his girlfriend. The two develop an honest and touching symbiotic relationship. Welcome explores the risks and rewards of crossing ethnic boundaries to form understandings of each other, and to find similarities hidden underneath the differences.


This week on the blog, U.S. directors call for the release of imprisoned director Jafar Panahi; Jason Guerrasio gives his notes from the Tribeca Film Festival; Roger Ebert looks at film criticism in the age of the Internet ; and the winners of the Tribeca Film Festival are announced.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

Independent Film Week (September 19-24, 2010) is the oldest and largest forum in the U.S. for the discovery of new projects in development and new voices on the independent film scene. The Project Forum is a meetings-driven forum connecting filmmakers who have new narrative and documentary projects with key industry executives interested in identifying projects with which to become involved at the financing or distribution stage. Friday, May 7, marks the final, extended deadline for Emerging Narrative (for U.S. writers and writer/directors seeking producers and agents to develop, produce, represent and finance their scripts). The same date is the early deadline for Spotlight on Documentaries (for U.S. filmmakers in production or post-production seeking financing partners, broadcast/distribution opportunities, and festival invitations). The final deadline for No Borders (for U.S. and International producers with partial financing on new narrative projects seeking additional partners) is set for May 21, which is also the final Spotlight on Docs deadline. Full criteria and applications here.

By Brandon Harris

Shirin Nestat doesn't shy away from complexity. Her internationally lauded photography and video installation work takes as its primary subject matter the epistemology that informs how we view Muslim women and the real world forces which shape their lived experiences. She challenges stereotypes and received knowledge in all of her works, a quality that has not gone unnoticed by the international art world. read more


Astoria/LIC International Film Festival
Next Deadline: May 15. Final Deadline: June 15
Festival Dates: Oct 22-24

Roxbury International Film Festival
Final Deadline: May 15
Festival Dates: July 29-Aug 1

Rhode Island International Film Festival
Final Deadline: May 15. Late Deadline: June 1
Festival Dates: Aug 10-15

Woodstock Film Festival
Early Deadline: May 21. Late Deadline: June 21
Festival Dates: Sept 23-Oct 3


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