Renee Tajima-Peña received the Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Rogue Award for her “films of lasting significance and current relevance.”
Her films, “My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha” and “No Más Bebés,” were screened on the second weekend of AIFF2020’s three-week virtual film festival.
“No Más Bebés” tells of immigrant mothers who sued doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and ’70s.
A Harvard graduate in East Asian studies and sociology, Tajima-Peña is professor of Asian American studies and filmmaking at UCLA. We visited by telephone.
EH: How did you become a filmmaker?
RTP: I was a student activist in high school and college. In college I got interested in filmmaking with other activist students; we did our own videos. We decided to make videos about things we cared about. We did that as part of being activists. It was very rudimentary. Continue reading Rogue Award winner talks about her films
Filmmaker David Garrett Byars’ monumental documentary “Public Trust” will be shown June 12, at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
AIFF has moved online and extended the festival to 24 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impetus for the making of “Public Trust” was President Trump’s proclamations dismantling two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in southern Utah. The move stripped legal protections from nearly two million acres of federal public lands.
“Public Trust,” produced by Robert Redford and Patagonia, is cinematically breathtaking in the magnitude and beauty of the landscapes.
Byars’ first feature film, “No Man’s Land,” which depicts the 41-day occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is now available on Prime Video and YouTube.
EH: You didn’t go to film school, you just learned on the job?
DB: Every time I make a film, I learn more and more. If I do have one skill that makes me uniquely suited to be a director, it’s that I know I don’t know everything, and I need to learn it. I really do count on the people I work with in a very collaborative way to put their fingerprints on the film and make it better than merely the sum of all our efforts.
Continue reading Filmmaker David Byars talks about ‘Public Trust’
Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Rachel Reichman have produced a masterful documentary, “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack,” to be screened at the AIFF2020 Virtual Film Festival.
Beginning May 22, we can see the AIFF films over a period of three weeks in the comfort of our homes. “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack” will be streamed all day Wednesday, June 3.
Audrey Flack, now in her 80s, is an American artist whose works include abstract expressionism, new realism, photorealism, sculpture and drawing.
Both Shaffer and Reichman have had successful careers in the film industry. Shaffer, whose work reflects social and political activism, won an Oscar for her documentary “Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements.”
Reichman’s recent films include “Hitchcock/Truffaut” and “ISIS and the Internet.” We met via Zoom.
EH: Why a documentary about Audrey Flack?
RR: She’s really an engaging person, you are intoxicated by her. She’s a great storyteller. Her work is really bright and symbolic; it’s intense graphically; it’s accessible. You can fall in love with it without having to know a great deal about art, because there is just so much readily there for you to embrace. I had really strong feelings about the art history aspect of it and the art context of it. But there’s a lot of meat there in terms of the period, the post-War era. Continue reading The story behind ‘Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack’
Violinist Alicia Svigals and pianist/composer Donald Sosin were scheduled to accompany “The Ancient Law” at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. The 1923 German silent film is based on a true story, in which the son of an orthodox rabbi breaks with tradition and becomes an actor.
With luscious production values and great acting, “The Ancient Law” relates the experience of great theater (Shakespeare) to religious devotion. We chatted one morning about live music and silent film.
DS: It’s an amazing story that people go nuts over, in a way that I’ve not seen before. I’ve played for about 4,000 films. This film produces a reaction that’s over the top.
EH: How does music relate to the structure of storytelling in film?
DS: In classical and pop music, there are different musical forms that are at the composer’s disposal. When you’re working with a film, everything has to be based on what’s going on emotionally and pictorially. Continue reading Music elevates the power of silent film
Actor Andrew Perez played Klaus Kinski both in film and live performance during the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Klaus Kinski was an explosive, eccentric German actor, who was directed by Werner Herzog in a number of films including: “Fitzcarraldo,” “Nosferatu the Vampyre,” and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.”
The film “My Dinner with Werner” is an uproarious spoof, directed by Maverick Moore, portraying a murderous battle between, Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog. Perez’s one-man theatrical performance, “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski” is a thrilling tour-de-force, written by Perez, and impeccably directed by Eric G. Johnson.
I met with Perez and Johnson at the Schneider Museum of Art where we viewed the Apocalypse exhibit.
EH: How did you construct “The Second Coming of Klaus Kinski?”
AP: The logic of it is that he is dying. It is a platform for his redemption, where his soul is doing battle in his moment of passing. It’s like a dream. His demons start ambushing him, and he’s defending his life, which leads him into the past. Continue reading Transitioning between film and stage
EH: Are your films thematically linked?
GL: I think they all are. There’s definitely a main character that is unhappy, not being fulfilled by life.
AL: I think there is a lot of grace and love for all of these characters. They have passion and are wanting more.
GL: Wanting more out of life or wanting certain doors to open that are not opening. I think “Phoenix Oregon” is the same kind of story. A midlife crisis: two guys feel the clock ticking. They are not living the life they want, so they have to do whatever they can to change it, and take those risks.
Continue reading Characters who want more out of life
Ashland Independent Film Festival Artistic and Executive Director Richard Herskowitz has put together a stunning festival, bringing in numerous films, filmmakers, panel discussions, interviews, live performances, gallery exhibitions and interactive events for a four-day run that concludes this evening, April 16. We visited at Bloomsbury Coffee House to discuss his vision of independent filmmaking and festivals.
RH: A film festival is inevitably a potpourri of things. It’s got to reach a lot of different tastes and audiences. I create a kind of a meta film out of a lot of different movies by creating themes and connections between them. At the same time there is scholarship and education involved.
One of the major themes of the festival this year is the importance of classic film — preservation and exhibition. Without the knowledge of classic film, emerging filmmakers lack a foundation. Being exposed to films done in the past makes you realize that there are alternative ways of doing things than films done in the present. I’ve seen filmmakers, inspired by classic films, do things in a different way. The way we do things now has evolved and will transform again in the future.
EH: What separates a good film from a great film?
RH: I don’t make those judgments. My inclination is to see films historically. Films speak to particular moments. I resist objectifying a work of art. I think works of art are historically based. I do believe there are masterpieces. Continue reading Festivals celebrate collective film watching experience