Carefully composed imagery of labyrinthine trains tunnels forms a kaleidoscopic, abstract subterranean setting, in which “Underground” is set. Translucent faces appear reflected in train windows, platform surveillance monitors, and glossy digital billboards, transforming a bustling public transportation network into an intimate place of communal storytelling and trauma airing. Each figure shares their harrowing recollection of harassment they experienced while riding the subway with the aim of empowering victims and witnesses alike to take action against predatory behaviour. These ghostly monologues mirror the ways such incidents are often invisible and are too often forgotten altogether.
Assistant Director & 2nd Camera Operator
Directed By Victor Kossakovsky
Aquarela is a unique and truly visual journey into water, the very substance that is making all life forms on earth possible. In this film, the magnificent, artistic documentary-maker Victor Kossakovsky, plunges into the ‘spirituality’ and essence of water and takes audiences on a visually poetic and dramatic journey reflecting their own personal connection to water at every level.
“The Harvesters” is a short observational documentary about three Maasai men harvesting honey in the Mau Forest in Kenya. Without any dialog and with a pensive camera, “The Harvesters” is a carefully composed portrait of often invisible labour in a now extinct forest.
“Passion Play” is a short documentary that thrusts the viewer inside the middle of a visceral re-enactment of the last hours of Christ’s life, as portrayed by the local towns people of Angles, Philippines. Every Easter the town organizes a passion play that culminates in a procession and crucifixion of the same person who feels it is his pentane to by nailed to the cross after surviving a near fatal fall some twenty years ago. This dialog-less mediation on religious traditions and spectacles gradually separates itself from reality and embraces a bombastic “Hollywood” style orchestral score to emphasize the performative and theatrical aspects of worship. The subjectively of shock and delight, worship and sacrilege, meet in a tense document of passions not for the squeamish.
Founded in 2016 by Sol Calero, Ethan Hayes-Chute, Derek Howard, Christopher Kline, and Dafna Maimon, CONGLOMERATE explores the potential of the Television Network model, utilizing the organizational structure and output format of “television” while building a collectivity-focused network. While the overall project is conceived of as a Gesamtkunstwerk, each video segment ties into and utilizes a different artistic practice or gesture. At times these segments form an entire TV show or video work, while at others they appear as a structural element facilitating a greater whole, without hierarchical division. Through the multiple ways the different elements and modes of collaboration are woven together, the Blocks form a kind of network of voices, perspectives, relations, skills, and collective affective labor. The varying degrees of involvement of CONGLOMERATE’s makers and contributors create platforms within platforms, or artworks within artworks, where one artist’s practice can be featured within another’s. This flexibility and continuous shifting of vision and responsibility from maker to maker offers a new potential model for the sustainable and independent realization of larger art projects.
Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John tells the story of the five children (whose names comprise the title) of John Hanmer, a Canadian police officer who lived a troubled life before suffering a tragic death. The film explores how the children, scattered around the world, have each been forced to resolve their father’s troubled past without him.
Varicella portrays the tender and trusting relationship between two sisters who share a common dream: becoming a soloist ballet dancer. Nastia, 13 years old, and Polina, 7 years old, are studying at one of the most prestigious ballet academies in Russia through being selected among 5500 talented children from all across the country. In order to make their dream come true, they practice intensively at the academy for six hours every weekday.
Flanked by her phlegmatic sidekick, Dariko is the only outside broadcast journalist at a local Georgian television channel. With derisory resources, she races from one report to another to give an honest, if not objective, image of the current events that shape her environment: from the capture of a “giant” owl to the obituaries – where we thus learn that the bearer of the Soviet flag fluttering over the Berlin Reichstag in 1945 has just been buried — passing via the elections. Noticed with Bakhmaro (2011, screened as part of the Focus Georgia, VdR 2015), Salomé Jashi provides, with humour, distance and a consummate sense of framing, a pseudo-ethnographical portrait of a community that, due to modernity and technological miniaturisation, has never ceased to gather material about itself. The multiplication of camera angles (journalist, filmmaker, amateur filmmakers) in The Dazzling Light of Sunset induces a relative competition between images and their distinct depth of focus. She turns the micro-events that punctuate this tragi-comedy with absurd overtones into revealing examples of a country whose transition still looks chaotic.
Shot entirely through a peephole of a door, Doctor Korbes chronicles the voyeuristic relationship that develops between a filmmaker and his compulsively hoarding neighbor. What starts as surveillance footage prompted by a mysterious break-in, evolves into obsessive documentation of bizarre occurrences over a two-year period. The camera bares witness to the comings and goings of a variety of people: prostitutes, the fire brigade, the police, all seen from the perspective of spying on one’s own neighbor. A 7 minute excerpt can be watched below.
With this film Victor Kossakovsky grants himself a childhood wish. Haven’t we all asked ourselves as children where we would come out if we dug a tunnel right through the centre of the earth? Haven’t we all wondered at some point what was happening just at this moment beneath our very feet at the other side of the planet? In this film those reveries turn into reality. In breathtaking images and a stunning montage we go on a trip to the world’s rare inhabited land-to-land antipodes. We discover the wonders and contradictions of nature and people around the globe. With unprecedented camera movements and exhilarating new perspectives our conventional view of the world is challenged. On the evocative title follows a revolutionary film, that gives three cheers to our planet and its people in all their antagonisms and commonalities: Vivan las Antipodas!
Breathing Room is a personal visualization of how strands of memory saturate a specific space. A continual tracking shot travels through an elderly man’s home, exploring the dilapidated domestic space in it’s owner’s absence and presence. A disappearing boy, a frightening dog, a ghostly book, and a bursting furnace animate the rooms and personify the layers of history that have settled here over a lifetime.
“The Boyz II Men Effect” (Saturday, March 27 at 10 p.m. ET) – Before Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and 98 Degrees, there was a “boy band” from Philadelphia called Boyz II Men that ruled the charts. With their incredible vocal harmonies and preppy-cool style, Boyz II Men became the “soundtrack to our lives” with hits like “End of The Road”, “I’ll Make Love To You”, “Motown Philly,” and “One Sweet Day” – heard at weddings, proms, karaoke bars, and funerals alike. Going back to the band’s humble beginnings in Philadelphia, this episode pays homage to the influential R&B group who set the template for ‘90s boy bands. Featuring interviews with band members Nate Morris, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, GRAMMY® AWARD-winning producer and musician Babyface, and Nick Lachey.
“The Brill Building in 4 Songs” (Saturday, April 10 at 10 p.m. ET) – New York City’s Brill Building and pop music go together like bread and butter, or in this case, like King n’ Goffin, Leiber n’ Stoller, or Barry n’ Kim. In the 1950s and 60s, songwriters, record producers, and wannabe pop stars flocked to 1619 Broadway in New York with dreams of churning out the next big hit. Full of small rooms with upright pianos, The Brill Building was labelled a “song-factory”, but its true spirit grew out of a community that collaborated and challenged each other to achieve greatness. The result would culminate in an incredible musical era known as “The Brill Building Sound” and would define pop music to this day, delivering hits like “Leader of The Pack,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Sugar Sugar.” Featuring interviews with singer Andy Kim, Neil Sedaka, Steven Van Zandt, and singer-songwriter Linda Perry.
In PLAN C, we enter a secretive world: a wide-reaching, underground web of advocates that circumvent unjust laws and fight against restrictive legislation. This hidden network is all around us, made up of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators, who are working to increase the availability of reproductive healthcare for women across the country. And now, as the world is thrust into the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for “at home” abortions is at an all-time high. Our film will embed in this growing network that is working tirelessly to expand access to at-home abortions.
directed by Tracy Droz Tragos
A long-form documentary that follows A.J. and his 16-year-old mother, Sarah, in the first five years of A.J.’s life, living on the edge of poverty in the Heartland of America. Perhaps Sarah’s story was written before she became a mother, or perhaps she will chart her own course. This film explores her challenges, choices and options as A.J. moves through his toddler years and starts kindergarten and Sarah turns 21.
THE COLOUR OF INK is a film about the first, and maybe last, analog medium. Ink has always been with us. It’s the liquid currency of secrets and scripture, literature and legislation: civilization’s carbon fingerprint. This documentary feature explores ink’s ancient bloodline by following a contemporary alchemist who harvests pigments from the urban wild.
PANDEMIC19 is a poignant document of the factual and emotional details of Covid-19 as seen through the eyes of three American frontline doctors. Smartly utilizing the doctors own video testimonials, this film feels alive and immediate while we remain so disconnected.
“Don’t Call Me Gay Zelig” is a 30 minute live cinema portrait that debuted at the Whitney Biennial in August 2019. The film is about gay activist Jim Fouratt who played central roll in the Stonewall uprising. Live score by JD Samson.
Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw presents his first major museum exhibition in France with a groundbreaking project, Phase Shifting Index opening at the Centre Pompidou Feb 26th, 2020. This immersive sound installation is part of his Liminals trilogy, which revealed him at the Venice Biennale in 2017. It consists of seven video screens showing seven groups of people from different periods and styles, evoking the 1950s to the 1990s.
As part of “Mutations / Creations”, the exhibition presents an original immersive project, flirting with science fiction and alternative cultures. Shaw’s business is situated at the conjunction of several contemporary questions which are just as agitating philosophy, anthropology and sociology, the sciences, in particular cognitive sciences and neurosciences, and finally, the latest technological advances such as bionanotechnologies. His work asserts itself as a plastic and sound attempt to account for these multiple developments in research, while propelling them into a fictional field, flirting with science fiction and alternative cultures.
Bulletproof observes the age-old rituals that take place daily in American schools: homecoming parades, basketball practice, morning announcements, and math class. Unfolding alongside these scenes are an array of newer traditions: lockdown drills, teacher firearm trainings, metal detector inspections, and school safety trade shows. Bulletproof weaves together these moments in a cinematic meditation on fear, violence, and the meaning of safety, bringing viewers into intimate proximity with the people self-tasked with protecting the nation’s children while generating revenue along the way, as well as with those most deeply impacted by these heightened security measures: students and teachers.
After a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School claims 17 lives, a number of students rally themselves around the tragedy as an opportunity to speak out against the national gun-violence epidemic. As their adrenaline propels a dive into full-on activism, their movement catalyzes, and students impacted by gun violence nationwide join in, giving voice to a generation of traumatized but determined youth.
Director Kim A. Snyder (Newtown, 2016 Sundance Film Festival) returns to the Festival with a film that carefully chronicles 18 pivotal months in the development of the March For Our Lives movement through a deeply personal lens. With extended access to the young activists not only on stage but in their homes and among their friends, Us Kids allows us to see them through one another’s eyes—as “normal-ass kids” bravely dealing with the weight of their traumas. Snyder tells the touching coming-of-age story of this group of driven, resilient, empathetic individuals all navigating the personal consequences of their remarkable choice to dedicate their own lives to honor the fallen and take back democracy.
In the remote and rugged mountains of the American West, two young women work alone herding cattle. Two friends spend the long summer living in a remote mountain cabin and herding cattle. Out of mobile phone reception, and usually alone, they brave inclement weather and perilous work conditions as they ponder their futures as women in ranching. A portrait of two young women who choose to work in an isolated and beautiful part of the American West.
A feature length documentary about the massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA.
Down a Dark Stairwell
directed by Ursula Liang
A nuanced look at how two communities of color navigate an uneven criminal justice system, anchored by one polarizing New York City case.
40 Days & 40 Nights (in production)
directed by Dara Kell
Echoing Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, a visionary pastor from Goldsboro, North Carolina sets out across the United States to revive the audacious movement to end poverty. Inspiring a nation to join him in voicing the everyday brutality they face, together they risk arrest, put their bodies on the line and embark on the most extensive campaign of civil disobedience in US history.
“In the Making” is an immersive journey inside the creative processes of Canada’s leading artists. The award-winning CBC Arts documentary series, now in its second season, features groundbreaking and iconoclastic artists from across the creative spectrum as they realize provocative and poignant works of art.
Host and series creator Sean O’Neill meets the artists at pivotal moments of reflection and change, taking viewers across the country and around the world to gain rare access to the intimate lives and powerful work of eight visionary artists.
The scope of In the Making is multidisciplinary, and features artists working in visual art, music, theatre, dance and comics. Each episode follows a single artist, often over a period of several months and in multiple locations, through periods of risk and realization.
Set in a sizzling New York City, The Hottest August is Brett Story’s visionary look at a culture on the precipice as both climate change and disaster capitalism eclipse our future. Despite an edgy undercurrent of anxiety, the film locates a warm humanity in interactions with a cross section of New Yorkers expert at “rolling with the punches,” as one Staten Island couple says outside of their garage. The rich set of characters includes a futuristic Afronaut, Hurricane Sandy holdouts, a Zumba instructor, and 1920s-style dancers who could be deckhands on the Titanic. While this smart, incisive essay taps into passages by Zadie Smith, Karl Marx, and Annie Dillard, Story’s presence can be felt strongly throughout: she acts as free-ranging poet/meteorologist with a farsighted ability to forecast our uncertain destiny.
Directed by Corinne van der Borch and Tone Grøttjord-Glenne
Sisters on Track is a coming of age story following the three Sheppard sisters, Tai (12), Rainn (11) and Brooke (10) from the 2016 media storm that propels them into the national spotlight, when all three are chosen to be the Sports Illustrated Kids of the Year, into their final years of Junior High. The film offers a rare intimate glimpse into a tight-knit Brooklyn family’s journey to recover from trauma and tragedy moving away from their life in a shelter. Guided by coach Jean Bell, who inspires them to beat the odds, dream big and aim for higher education the girls are finding their voices as athletes, as students and as young adults. At the heart of the story is the bond between sisters and a whole community of women, passing the baton of self-empowerment through track and field, from generation to generation of hopeful young girls.
What kind of religious expression should be permitted in a secular nation? Holy hell, something is brewing! Just a few years old, the Satanic Temple has risen from the depths to become one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. Hail Satan? bears witness as the temple evolves from a small-scale media stunt to an internationally recognized religion with hundreds of thousands of adherents. Naked bodies writhe with snakes on altars as protesters storm the gates of state capitols across the country. Through their dogged campaign to place a nine-foot, bronze Satanic monument smack dab next to the statue of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol lawn, the leaders of the temple force us to consider the true meaning of the separation of church and state.
Brandishing their sharply honed cinematic swords, director Penny Lane and producer Gabriel Sedgwick strike a cunning balance between cheeky, brazen entertainment and defiantly serious storytelling in this wickedly topical documentary that bares its horns to speak truth to power.
Around the world, far-right leaders and political movements are gaining ground—from Trump to Duterte to Le Pen to Bolsonaro. To what extent does disseminating their stories create a platform for their views? The Brink raises this question as it follows Steve Bannon, after he has left his perch as Trump’s White House chief strategist and as he continues galvanizing what he calls the “global populist movement.”
Filmmaker Alison Klayman’s deft and vigilant fly-on-the-wall camera records everything, from hotel-room meetings with Trump-supporting midterm candidates looking to kiss Bannon’s ring, to intimate convenings with far-right leaders from France, Hungary, Belgium, and Britain, all plotting their next move. When journalists arrive, we witness their attempts to puncture Bannon’s facade of disarming charm and challenge his beliefs. What is most fascinating—and instructive—is the way Klayman subtly reveals patterns in Bannon’s rhetoric and behavior, searingly capturing the way he states one thing but means something entirely different. As we watch him operate, we slowly learn how to deconstruct his methods, which have proven central to his foothold in political life—chilling as they are.
Under the guise of nonfiction, Shaw’s vérité-style trilogy imagines a dystopian—and increasingly familiar—social order in which marginalized societies strive against extinction. Through transcendental experiments and cathartic rituals, these future humans seek feelings of desire and faith that have been expunged from the species’ capacities. The medium-length Quickeners (2014), Liminals (2017), and his latest, I Can See Forever (2018), redefine the bounds of archival cinema, conveying sci-fi narratives through various retro-analogue formats and clinical voiceover narration.
filmmaker Chelsea McMullan gets the low-down with legendary American poet, essayist and one-time presidential candidate Eileen Myles, perambulating and talking poetry through the streets of their adoptive home of New York.
Originally premiered at this year’s Venice Biennale, the 20-minute film is set against a 1970s cinema vérité aesthetic, and draws parallels between the experimental spiritual gatherings of the ’70s and the effect-laden release of contemporary hedonistic subcultures. It follows a group of 8 dancers as they enact ecstatic rituals in an attempt to access a new realm of consciousness with the potential to save humanity.
My Prairie Home
Directed by Chelsea McMullan
In Chelsea McMullan’s documentary-musical, My Prairie Home, indie singer Rae Spoon takes us on a playful, meditative and at times melancholic journey. Set against majestic images of the infinite expanses of the Canadian Prairies, Spoon sweetly croons us through their queer and musical coming of age. Interviews, performances and music sequences reveal Spoon’s inspiring process of building a life of their own, as a trans person and as a musician.
Following the fragments of Federico Fellini’s most famous unfinished film, Il Viaggio di Mastorna, this short meditative documentary cinematically reveals how Fellini’s story of a man wandering through the afterlife became a graphic novel. Told by Milo Manara, the illustrator who brought Fellini’s vision to life, this richly textured documentary is a tribute to the legacy of a master filmmaker.
Deadman’s tranquil pacing and glorious vistas gently build to a climactic, clever and moving showdown between two opposing camps, between an ancient, peaceful way of life and the seductive yet violent mythology of the Wild West.
“It’s not as if we haven’t been here for a while” is a self-portrait of an artist struggling to accept the fluidity of her own nature. Filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn paints herself into a filmic landscape, whose narrative structure and cinematography is both ethereal and exact, allowing her and her audience to understand the truth of the present moment while recognizing the impermanence of all things
The Sea to Sky Corridor, a seventy-kilometre stretch of highway north of Vancouver, is changing irrevocably. Globalization is in the process of transforming an industrial resource economy into a recreational profit-centre. HWY 99 examines a transitional moment in the life of a paramedic employed by a multinational highway construction firm currently developing the Corridor.
Derek Howard is a director and cinematographer who earned a BFA from Simon Fraser University. His collaborations on short and feature length documentary and fiction films have led to screenings at the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, HotDocs, IDFA, Clermont-Ferrand, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Montreal), Festival des Films du Monde (Montreal), and many others.
Derek has participated in the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam’s Summer School, IDFAcademy, Reykjavik International Film Festival’s Trans Atlantic Talent Lab, and the Berlinale Talents program. Derek was the assistant director and 2nd camera on renowned director Victor Kossakovky’s Venice Film Festival opening night gala film “Vivan Las Antipodas” (2011), and Oscar shortlisted “Aquarela” (2018). He shot Brett Story’s latest documentary “The Hottest August,” (True/False, SXSW, & Hotdocs 2019) as well as Jeremy Shaw’s Venice Biennale premiering art piece “The Quantification Trilogy” (VIFF, NYFF, Tate Modern) as well as his upcoming Centre Pompidou 7-channel video exhibition “Phase Shifting Index.” Most recently, Derek directed a short documentary called “The Harvesters” that premiered at the VIFF (2018) and True/False (2019), and is currently completing another short called “Underground” about harassment on the subway.