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High Falls Film Festival Spotlights Rochester Talent


If films focused on women and their experiences are rare, women in roles behind the camera are rarer still. Shorter still is the list of film festivals with a mission to represent female perspectives. The 12th annual High Falls Film Festival — held in Rochester, New York, from October 23 - 26, 2014 — carries on its tradition of honoring independent films by female storytellers who work on both sides of the camera.

The opening film I Know a Woman Like That was produced by mother-daughter team Elaine and Virginia Madsen. Virginia, best known for Sideways (2004), produced the film that her mother — poet, producer and playwright Elaine — directed. The director will be on hand to discuss the movie. With Q&As following most films, festival goers get an ample opportunity to interact with filmmakers.

The festival will debut three world and two U.S. premieres among its 19 screenings of over 35 international and U.S. films, documentaries and shorts. Paula Hernandez's U.S. romantic drama Un Amor Argentina  about adolescent infatuation that unfolds over time into an enduring love triangle — premieres on October 23. Alexis Krasilovsky's U.S. documentary Let Them Eat Cake premieres October 24 and looks at pastries through a scope both sensual and socioeconomic.

Also debuting October 24 is Courtney Cobb's world-premiere documentary Crafting a Nation about the breweries behind the craft beer craze. A second world-premiere documentary is Caroline Krugmann's We Weren't Given Anything for Free, about 22-year-old Annita Malavasi becoming one of the Italian resistance's few female commanders in German-occupied Italy. Lastly, Ann LeSchander's romantic comedy The Park Bench uses both live action and animation to tell the story of a graduate student and her American Literature tutor falling in love over their park bench talks.

There will be three separate short programs: Short Cuts, the Women of SoFA Short Program put on by RIT's School of Film and Animation, and a free program of 14 Children's Shorts from five countries. One of these films has special Rochester interest, as it was made in the local Public School 8 after-school program.

Another feature of particular interest for Rochester-area film enthusiasts is the educational panel Lights, Camera Action: Tips for local Filmmakers. More than just adding local interest, these regional features foreground HFFF's affiliation with Rochester as the birthplace of motion picture film: George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company in 1888 and invented motion picture film there, according to the HFFF website.

To learn more, go to:

High Falls Film Festival
October 23 - 26, 2014

Dryden Theatre
900 East Ave
Rochester, NY 14604

Little 5
240 East Ave

Rochester, NY 14604

Getting Real With "Red Hollywood" At The Film Society

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening Noël Burch and Thom Andersen’s not uninteresting essay-film, Red Hollywood, which explores the contribution of screenwriters who were Communists or fellow travelers, in its documentary series, The Art of the Real, which runs from April 11th to April 26th, 2014.

With his work of the 1960s and ‘70s, Burch emerged as one of the most important critics in the history of cinema, an arch-modernist dialectical materialist — although, as I understand it, with a Stalinist background — and went on to direct avant-garde films. He later repudiated his rejection of Hollywood and adopted a more sociological, less ultra-formalist approach —as reflected in Red Hollywood — dovetailing here with the interests of Andersen, an intriguing figure in his own right.
rh2The outcome of this collaboration is a work devoid of any aesthetic dimension but not without some intellectual rewards. It is a remarkable fact that of the many clips of old films employed in Red Hollywood, so few invite an artistic appreciation of the contributions of these victims of the McCarthyite blacklist. (That so many of the clips are from poor copies only enhances this impression.) One interesting exception is an extraordinary scene between Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Genevieve Tobin from the 1934 Success at Any Price, scripted by John Howard Lawson. At least as a piece of writing — and superb acting by Fairbanks — this is exceedingly impressive. Interviews with blacklistees such as Paul Jarrico, Alfred Levitt and Ring Lardner Jr are illuminating, but the real highlight among these is the brilliant commentary by Abraham Polonsky, probably the greatest writer and director among those expelled from Hollywood in the wake of the “Red Scare”. 
Red Hollywood screens on Saturday, April 12th at 6:30 pm and on Sunday, April 13th at 2pm.
Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY  10023

212 875 5601212 875 5601

The Debut SR Socially Relevant Festival Offer Meaningful Fare This March

SRlogoThe Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York focuses on socially relevant human stories to raise awareness of social problems by offering positive solutions through the medium of cinema. 

A new non-profit film festival, it runs from March 14 to the 20th, 2014, at New York’s Quad Cinema; its main slate offers an international selection of narrative and documentary features representing a dozen nations.

Founded by award-winning actor, filmmaker and curator Nora Armani, the festival showcases films with human interest stories and socially impactful themes as a response to the proliferation of violent storytelling. 

The festival founders and supporters believe that by expanding knowledge about diverse cultures and the human condition as a whole, it’s possible to create a better world free of violence, hate and crime.

The festival shines the spotlight on filmmakers who tell compelling, socially relevant narratives across a broad range of social issues without resorting to gratuitous violence and violent forms of movie making.

Over 30 narrative and documentary films will screen including 12 features that compete for the Grand Prize — a week-long theatrical engagement at the Quad Cinema, courtesy of the QuadFlix Select Program. The 10 documentaries will compete for the documentary prize which offers the winner will a VOD DVD distribution deal courtesy of Cinema Libre Studio, a leader in the distribution of social issue documentaries and independent feature films.

The following lists the main slate of films in competition.  

Coney Island: Dreams for Sale
Alessandra Giordano
USA, 81min., 2013

Dovid Meyer
Paul Mones
USA/Israel, 101 min., 2013

Jean-Albert Lievre
France, 2014, 85min.

Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream
Patrick Lovell
USA, 120 min., 2013

Full Circle
Zhang Yang
China, 2012,104min.

If Only Everyone
Nataliya Belyauskene
Armenia, 2012, 94min.

Indian Summer
Simon Brook
France, 84 min., 2013

My Love Awaits Me by the Sea (Habibi Biyestannani and el Bahr)
Mais Darwazah
Palestine, Qatar, Germany, Jordan
80min., 2013

Offside Trap (Abseitsfalle)
Stefan Hering
Germany, 98min., 2012

Orphans of the Genocide
Bared Maronian
USA, 91min., 2013

Small Small Thing
Jessica Vale
USA, 85min., 2013

Feature Documentary:

Coal Rush
Lorena Luciano & Filipo Piscopo
USA, 85min., 2013

Chris Bravo, Lindsey Schneider
USA, 50min., 2013 (NYFA artist)

Destiny’s Bridge
Jack Ballo
USA, 80min., 2013 (NYFA artist)

Fred Ho's Last Year
Steven de Castro
USA, 58min., 2013

From the Black You Make Color
Richie Sherman and Judy Maltz
USA, Israel, 75min., 2012

Hamshen Community at the Crossroads of Past and Present
Lucine Sahakyan
Armenia, Turkey, 60min., 2012

Not Who We Are
Carol Mansour
Lebanon, 72min., 2013

Stable Life
Sara MacPherson
USA, 52min., 2013

The Throwaways
Bhawin Suchak
USA, 62min., 2013

Journalist/author/radio commentator Amy Goodman, host of  will deliver the keynote address on "The Impact of Socially Relevant Films" and will present an award for a film in the Rated SR Social Justice Category.  Democracy Now! currently aired by more than 1,000 radio, television, satellite and cable TV networks in North America, and watched in dozens of countries via the Internet.

Partner supporters include:

· Academic partner, the School of the Visual Arts Social Documentary department, home of the new MFA in Social Documentary filmmaking.

· Dailymotion (, the official video media partner. A selection of close to 100 film trailers from the festival submissions are viewable on an official festival page, garnering close to 100,000 visits to date.

· Village Voice (Media partner)

Other promotional partners of the festival include: 

NYFA, Indieflix, Unifrance Films International, Cineuropa, Alouette Communications, FIAF, Samuel Infirmier, Final Draft and Center for Remembering and Sharing.

New-York based metalsmith designer Michael Aram has donated a special trophy to be awarded to the recognized Rated SR honoree. 

The festival also presents the Vanya Exerjian award to a film that raises awareness to violence against women and girls, in commemoration of Armani’s late cousin and uncle, victims of a violent hate crime.

The closing night includes the Awards Ceremony reception which takes place at the Tenri Center (across from the Quad Cinema) where one can applaud the winners, see the filmmakers win their awards, and view the closing night films all on one night.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales each year of the festival will be donated to a charity selected from the fields of: poverty, homelessness, cancer and aging. Rated SR aims to promote positive social change through the powerful medium of cinema.   

For tickets there is a variety of packages and discounted ticket options are now on sale at:

Individual tickets are available at Quad Cinema:

Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York
March 14-20, 2014

The Quad Cinema
34 West 13th Street
New York, NY

Rendezvous with French Cinema Series Brings Us New Titles By World-Class Directors

french cinThis year's installment of the Rendezvous with French Cinema series, The 19th edition -- presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance Films -- annually showcases a slice of contemporary French film of the previous year.

Running from March 6th through the 16th, 2014, this festival features several interesting new works at three venues: The Film Society, the IFC Center and BAMcinématek.

In François Ozon's Young & Beautiful, a gorgeous 17-year-old — Marine Vacth, in a striking, quasi-Bressonian performance — decides to become a call-girl. The director's films are consistently stylistically accomplished and this is no exception — his handling of camera-movement, camera-placement, composition for the frame, and editing are remarkable.

Ozon, working from his own screenplay, achieves some unexpected pathos and his refusal to explain his protagonist is admirable, although I would have appreciated greater artistic ambition here, as I would regarding the director's other films.

The digital image in Young & Beautiful is mostly handsome although some sensuality is attenuated in scenes with bright light. The sphinx-like Charlotte Rampling has a memorable cameo and the great French actress, Nathalie Richard, is featured in a small role. A final bonus is the expressive use of several Françoise Hardy songs on the film’s soundtrack, each one marking a passage of time.

In Jacques Doillon’s Love Battles, from the director’s own screenplay, a young woman engages in a series of erotic and romantic confrontations with a man whom she has fixated upon. Doillon is faithful to his austere conception and risks tedium in the pursuit of artistic honesty and refusal to charm but this certainly has many of the impressive qualities that distinguish the director’s original body of work.

The intertwining of aggression and hostility with vulnerability and tenderness is remarkable here and the female lead, Sara Forestier, gives an especially compelling performance. The film is shot in a relatively loose style, with a lot of handheld shots, generating an unusual intimacy. The use of a digital format, however, proves to be a serious liability as the copious bright sunshine in the film washes out the image due to the narrow range of contrast.

Agnès Jaoui's entertaining Under the Rainbow is about, among other things, a romance between a music student and the daughter of an industrialist, interspersed with fairy-tale elements. Working with her regular writing partner, Jean-Pierre Bacri — who brilliantly co-stars with Jaoui here — the filmmaker has constructed an clever screenplay with excellent dialogue. The mise-en-scène, however, is undisciplined, lacking the  elegance of an earlier feature like Look at Me. This weakness is further compounded by the inadequacies of the digital format.

love-battles-resizedSerge Bozon's eccentric Tip Top follows the investigation by two Internal Affairs operatives into the murder of an immigrant Algerian informant. The unusual tone here is engaging and it’s pleasurably disorienting effect is enhanced by delightful, comic performances by Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain, in the lead roles. The director's style is formally controlled and characterized by abundant visual wit although the formal splendors are hampered by the deficiencies of the digital format. (The intriguing Bozon was the subject of a Film Society retrospective a few years ago.)

Bertrand Tavernier's Quai d'Orsay observes the circus-like atmosphere in which a newly hired young speechwriter attempts to please his employer, a Minister of foreign affairs. Thierry Lhermitte gives a bravura performance as the manic politician but Niels Arestrup as the chief deputy is even more impressive. 

Quai d'Orsay is not without interest but does not rise to the level of the director's best films, such as Coup de Torchon or Captain Conan. The absorbing classicism that opens the film settles into a somewhat routine conventionality for most its length. Here, again, the reliance on a digital format lamentably diminishes the visual texture.

For more information go to:

Film Society of Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY  10023

IFC Center323 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10014

30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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