Features

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Sundance

What does Sundance mean to independent film and filmmakers in 2008?


Breaking Through: For the makers of "Slingshot Hip Hop," a film about Palestinian rappers, Sundance is a place to get noticed.

Sundance is growing in every which way, from the number of submissions (more than 8,000 this year) to the festival's online presence (which now includes a number of downloadable shorts). But as it gets bigger, is it getting better? That's the question that The Independent's Erin Trahan posed to upstarts looking for their big break this year, veteran filmmakers, Park City locals and more.

Sundance is growing. More submissions than ever--8,000 for 2008. More screenings. More countries of origin represented in both the feature and documentary competitions. More arms of the Sundance empire--institutes, labs, the Sundance Channel--at work. More categories to sift through than a sane film-goer can practically comprehend, let alone stand in line for.

Will Success Spoil the 48 Hour Film Project?

The 48 Hour Film Project has a legion of devoted fans and a worldwide presence. Now, if the founders could just figure out a way to pay the bills without selling out.


Weekend Warriors: The cast and crew of "Maestro Percival"

Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, the founders of the 48 Hour Film Project, have developed a legion of devoted fans who churn out shockingly clever short films in shockingly short periods of time. Having expanded from Tulsa to Tel Aviv, the question is this: Can the partners find a way to pay the bills without selling out? The clock is ticking.... Nadine Heintz reports. (The photograph at left is of the crew of Maestro Percival, a prize-winning short that came out of the 48 Hour Film Project in Baltimore.)

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in January, director David Butler and his motley film crew set up shop in a cavernous yellow brick building on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore’s Little Italy. The team, known collectively as Bargain Basement Films, started straggling in at about 7 a.m.

Funny Women

So Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and a filmmaker walk into a bar...the story behind "Making Trouble," a film about Jewish comedians


Joan Rivers in an early nightclub appearance. Credit: Photofest, Inc.

Bring together a group of women for an evening to appreciate the rich legacy of Jewish humor by female comedians, and what happens? They think what they’ve seen and heard is too good not to be shared. So they decide to make a film. Then one of them volunteers to foot the bill and, before the laughter fades, the Jewish Women’s Archive and it’s director, Gail Reimer, are producing Making Trouble, and introducing audiences anew to the incredible talents of Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein.

Sarah Silverman is the controversial comedian du jour. Her capacity to shock today's audiences may be distinctly Silverman, yet her career stands on the shoulders of several comedic foremothers. Her routines echo the boldness of Fanny Brice, the sexuality of Sophie Tucker, and the brashness of Joan Rivers to name just a few.

The History and Legacy of AIVF (Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers)


In 1975, when a small group of energetic filmmakers convened the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers in their living rooms and makeshift offices, the word “independent” didn’t yet conjure up a world of arthouses, busy film festival circuits, and documentary filmmakers with household names.

Why We (Still) Need AIVF


When I started to write this article, I began with a David Letterman-esque list of 20 reasons we need AIVF. I included practical items like “to get a job,” “to fill out an IRS schedule C for an unincorporated business,” and “to find out which film festivals are scams.” But the real reason we need AIVF is to find each other. We need to know where we are.

Blurring the Lines

The boundary between her film—about children with cancer—and her life evaporated when Julia Reichert herself was diagnosed with cancer


Ohio-based filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s 3-hour and 45-minute documentary A Lion in the House follows five families with economically and racially diverse backgrounds over six years during their fights against childhood cancer.

Hell or High Water

How the independent film community is coping with Katrina


In 1998, I joined the production team of Julie Gustafson’s Desire, a documentary about teenage girls from three diverse New Orleans neighborhoods. Funded by both local and outside foundations, Desire was one of the first in New Orleans to create paid opportunities for local documentary makers.

Moving Images

The best docs do more than educate—they inspire real change


Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me (2004) was an unqualified hit. The documentary, which followed Spurlock as he ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days and interviewed a string of experts on the rapidly worsening American obesity epidemic, was nominated for an Oscar. It won at Sundance and at countless other festivals.

State of Fear

How one filmmaker realized that terror abroad would lead to the truth about terror at home


The Last Shot

Piecing It Together

Storytelling in the Digital Age


Shortly after Jean-Luc Godard released Breathless in1960, an exasperated journalist said to the young director: “Surely you think that a film should have a beginning, middle, and end.”

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