Calendar

Oct
11
Fri
Vermont Filmmakers’ Showcase 1 @ Film House
Oct 11 @ 2:30 pm

THE WORST THING ABOUT COMING OUT
Director: Rob Barracano & Champlain Filmmaking Students Documentary
Run Time: 60 minutes
Sponsor: The Vermont Filmmakers’ Showcase is sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s and the Vermont Arts Council
FREE SCREENING Screening free, recommended donation of $5+.
World Premiere.
Followed by panel discussion at 3:45
What is the worst thing that happens when coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gender or queer? The answers, and much more are revealed in this touching and inspiring film. A feature length documentary derived from the interviews on the website, Worstthingaboutcomingout.com an on-line repository for queer community coming out stories, aimed at serving queer folks that are still in the closet. Read more…

Panel: Self-Identity + Home: Ourselves in Our Community @ Film House
Oct 11 @ 3:45 pm
Talks & Panels
Sponsor: Champlain College

FREE TO ATTEND
Panel accompanies the screening of The Worst Thing About Coming Out and celebrates National Coming Out Day.
Panelists include: Rob Barracano, Dr. Eric Ronis, teacher, Dr Ame Lambert – of Champlain College, Dr. Kim Fountain of RU12, Representative Joanna Cole, John Chagnon, Health & Wellness Coordinator, RU12 and Tate Bates who appears in the film.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare

Oct
12
Sat
Short Term 12 @ Film House
Oct 12 @ 8:15 pm

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
USA | 2012 | Fiction | French w/English subtitles
Run Time: 96 minutes
Film source: Cinedigm
Sponsor: Lorna-Kay Peal & Michael Smolin

Short Term 12

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Winner of both the Grand Jury Narrative Feature and the Narrative Audience Award at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, Short Term 12 is moving, honest, and emotionally revelatory. Focusing on the residents and caretakers at a residential foster care center for at-risk teenagers, Short Term 12 explores the difficult and extremely human realities of what it means to take care of another person. The story is told largely through the eyes of Grace (rising star Brie Larson, who won Best Actress at the Locarno Film Festival for her performance), the facility’s supervisor, as she tries to find ways to deal with her own life as well as those of the residents. Grace is put to the test with the arrival of Jayden, a troubled new arrival with whom she finds a special connection. Shot in an unobtrusive, handheld style, Short Term 12 is raw, sincere, and, at times, unexpectedly funny, with terrific performances at every level.

Awards

Grand Jury Award SXSW, Best Actress Locarno Film Festival

Oct
14
Mon
Lunchtime Shorts: Remixed @ BCA
Oct 14 @ 12:00 pm

A Program of short films that recycle and repurpose found footage.

The Lunchtime Shorts Series is sponsored in part by Middlebury College

Curated by Deb Ellis

The Film of Her

Director: Bill Morrison | USA | 2013 | Run Time: 12 minutes

FilmofHer

A Library of Congress clerk tries to save early cinematic treasures in this doc-fiction hybrid.

An Incomplete History of the Travelogue, 1925

Director: Sasha Waters Freyer | USA | 2012 | Run Time: 10 minutes
Travelogue1925_

Subverting the form of the amateur ethnography film to reflect upon our anxiety & fascination with race, evolution, and civilization, this lyrical essay film captures the spirit of excess embodied by The Great Gatsby (1925) in fragments from home movies.

Lucky Strike

Director: Shashwati Talukdar | Run Time: 1 minute

Shashwati_Talukdar_Lucky strike

Ready! Aim! Light Up! Lucky Strike commercials from the fifties and atomic bomb tests meet their match.

End of an Error

Director: Peter Freund | USA | 2013 | Run Time: 10 minutes

EndofError

The 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings marked the beginning of the end of the “Red Scare” in the U.S. An exploration of the phantasmatic character of historical memory, the relationship between historical and narrative time and more.

Ghost of Yesterday

Director: Tony Gault | USA | 2011 | Run Time: 6 minutes

ghostofyesterday still 2

A rotoscoped collage of anonymous home movies inspired by childhood memories of religion, altered consciousness and watching in wonder as cocktails played their magic on adults around me.

Bonobo – Cirrus Music Video

Director: Cyriak Harris | USA | 2012 | Run Time: 3.5 minutes

Bonobo

Subverting the form of the amateur ethnography film to reflect upon our anxiety & fascination with race, evolution, and civilization, this lyrical essay film captures the spirit of excess embodied by The Great Gatsby (1925) in fragments from home movies.

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Oct
15
Tue
Lunchtime Shorts: Reality? @ BCA
Oct 15 @ 12:00 pm

A program of some of the most interesting and varied international documentary shorts.
Your ticket includes lunch. Come up to the Loraine B Goode room on the 2nd floor of BCA, grab your sandwich and drink, sit down and watch the films.

The Lunchtime Shorts Series is sponsored in part by Middlebury College

Program curated by: Orly Yadin

No Ordinary Passenger

Director: Cabell Hopkins
UK | 2012 | Documentary | 8 minutes

Noordinarypassenger_WEB

86 years old and positively fearless, Stan Dibben recalls his hair-raising, tarmac-skimming career as a World Champion passenger.

Coffee Time

Director: Maria Fredriksson
Sweden | 2011 | Documentary
Run Time: 14 minutes

Coffee Time

A quartet of proper Swedish ladies of a certain age get together for a coffee klatch; they nibble on sweet cakes, sip from fine china and discuss all the usual things: viagra, cock rings and orgasms. Just like your grandmother used to do.

The Stitches Speak

Director: Nina Sabnani
India | 2011 | Documentary | 10 minutes
Sponsor: Documentary Educational Resources

Stitches-Speak

After

Director: Lukasz Konopa
UK | 2011 | Documentary | 7 minutes
Playing in the program Lunchtime Shorts: Reality?

After, Lukasz Konopa

Film about contemporary life in Auschwitz. In an observation from dusk to dawn, it portrays the theatre of everyday life around the grim confines of this former concentration camp.

Americanized

Director: Abhi Singh
USA | 2013 | Documentary | 4 minutes

Americanized

Irish Folk Furniture

Director: Tony Donoghue
Ireland | 2012 | Documentary | 8 minutes

IrishFolkFurniture

A animation film that explores a local craftsman’s restoration of a rural piece of furniture in a small Irish community.

Abuelas (The Grandmothers)

Director: Afarin Eghbal
UK | 2011 | Documentary | 9 minutes

Abuelas

In a small apartment in Buenos Aires a grandmother (abuela) is surrounded by reminders of the tragedy that befell her family during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Using real life testimonials from the Grandmothers of May Square the films is a testament to the tenacity of the women who conitinue to fight for the truth about their missing relatives.

The Bubbleologist

Director: Jan Bednarz
UK | 2012 | Documentary | 6 minutes

Bubbleologist

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Oct
16
Wed
Lunchtime Shorts: Animated @ BCA
Oct 16 @ 12:00 pm

A selection of award-winning international animated films.

The Lunchtime Shorts Series is sponsored in part by Middlebury College

Your ticket includes lunch. Come up to the Loraine B Goode room on the 2nd floor of BCA, grab your sandwich and drink, sit down and watch the films.

Curated by Orly Yadin

When One Stops

When-One-Stops

Director: Jenni Rahkonen
Finland | Fiction | Animation | 7 minutes

The world won’t stop turning even when one stops turning with it.

 

Gates of Life

Gates Of Life

Director: Hannes Vartiainen, Pekka Veikkolainen
Finland | Fiction | Animation | 6 minutes

Brief moments of life stolen from passing-by strangers form a sequence of events hidden in plain sight.

 

Oh Willy…

Oh WIlly

Director: Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels
Belgium | Fiction | Animation | 17 minutes

Forced to return to his naturist roots, Willy bungles his way into noble savagery.

 

Damned

Damned

Director: Richard Phelan
UK | Fiction | Animation | 9 minutes

An over-ambitious beaver goes too far when he gets the chance to realize his ultimate dream.

 

Miss Todd

Miss Todd

Director: Kristina Yee
UK | Fiction | Animation | 13 minutes

The story of one young woman who dreams of flight in 1909, just as the whole of mankind is learning how to fly. Her passion is tireless, but in this era, she has more than gravity holding her down.

Awards:  Student Academy Awards – Gold Medal

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Tanta Agua (So Much Water) @ Black Box Theatre
Oct 16 @ 6:00 pm

Director: Ana Guevara, Leticia Jorge
Uruguay | 2012 | Fiction | Spanish w/English subtitles
Run Time: 96 minutes
Film source: Film Movement

Tanta Agua

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Winner of multiple awards at several international film festivals, Uruguay’s Tanta Agua is the directorial debut of Ana Guevara Pose and Leticia Jorge Romero. Simple in premise but emotionally complex, Tanta Agua (roughly translated, “So Much Water”) takes us along on a “fun” resort vacation as a divorced father (Guzzini) tries to reconnect with his kids, 13-year-old Lucía (Chouza, in a terrific performance) and 10-year-old Federico (Castiglioni). But the constant, torrential rain and the awkwardness between the family members make any sort of reconnection nearly impossible. Rather than play this situation for pathos, Pose and Romero extract from it gentle comedy and true insight into adolescence, especially in the film’s latter half, which focuses on Lucía’s misguided attempts at a summertime fling. Tanta Agua is the exact opposite of heavy-handed, leaving it up to the viewer to process and reflect on its emotional genuineness, and on the kind of uncomfortable family situation with which we can all identify.

Awards

Knight Grand Jury Prize – MIFF; Best First Feature – Guadalajara Film Festival

Oct
17
Thu
Lunchtime Shorts: Fictions? @ BCA
Oct 17 @ 12:00 pm

4 short fiction films from 4 continents.
Your ticket includes lunch. Come up to the Loraine B Goode room on the 2nd floor of BCA, grab your sandwich and drink, sit down and watch the films.

The Lunchtime Shorts Series is sponsored in part by Middlebury College

Program curated by: Orly Yadin

Cook Book

Directors: Martin Briggs-Watson & Andrew William Robb
USA | 2012 | Fiction | 11 minutes

Cook-Book_12

Shot without dialogue, Cook Book is a short comedy about the hazards of cooking a romantic meal.

La Hija (The Daughter)

Director: Jazmin Rada
Spain, Argentina | 2012 | Fiction | Spanish w/English subtitles | 5 minutes

LA HIJA_THE DAUGHTER_ STILLS_ POSTER Higher-Res._ CONTACT INFO

Challenging her father’s excuses not to play, Fatima uses her imagination and special balloons.

Meathead

Directors: Sam Holst
New Zealand | 2013 | Fiction | 11 minutes

Meathead

Michael is a seventeen year-old kid who gets a job at the local meat works. The place is challenging and his fellow workers aren’t exactly welcoming of new blood. It soon becomes clear that this day isn’t going to be about just trying to fit in.

The Mass of Men

Director: Jan Bednarz
UK | 2013 | Fiction | 17 minutes

Mass-of-Men-still-4

Inspired by the events surrounding the London Riots in 2011 and the subsequent infamous speech made by Prime Minister David Cameron, The Mass of Men gives harsh insight into the dangers of repression, disillusionment and apathy.

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The Attack @ Film House
Oct 17 @ 7:30 pm
Director: Ziad Doueiri (read interview)
Lebanon | 2013 | Fiction | Hebrew, Arabic w/English subtitles
Film Source: Cohen Media Group
Sponsor: Barbara McGrew
Also: Film with discussion

The Attack

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This challenging film – a Lebanese-French-Qatari-Belgian coproduction – focuses on the seemingly small, interpersonal questions and connections which, in reality, underpin even the most dramatic political struggles. Set in present-day Israel, The Attack’s title refers not only to the Israel-Palestinian conflict but to a more metaphorical assault on the closest personal relationship of a doctor who, in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing, finds himself at the epicenter of the battle. The Attack, which has won festival awards and attracted great critical praise, asks two simple yet potentially harrowing questions of every one of its viewers: How well do you really know the people you love? And, furthermore, what are the consequences of truly knowing everything about them? The film walks the tightrope that just barely separates not only Arab and Jewish cultures, but love and hate, as well. It is the personalized approach that gives this film its universal focus.

Interview with Director Ziad Doueiri (PDF)

Laurence Anyways @ Black Box Theatre
Oct 17 @ 7:45 pm

Director: Xavier Nolan
Canada | 2013 | Fiction | French w/English subtitles
Run Time: 161 minutes
Film source: Breaking Glass Pictures

Laurence Anyways

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Winner of several major festival awards, Laurence Anyways is the third film from Quebeçois enfant terrible Xavier Dolan, whose films I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010) were both international sensations. Evoking Rainer Werner Fassbinder (via Douglas Sirk), Wong Kar Wai, and Pedro Almodóvar, Dolan, not yet 25, has created a rich brew of daring cinematic accomplishment. A love story rendered impossible by the fluid nature of sexuality and identity, Laurence Anyways takes us through the many-gendered permutations of the romance of Laurence and Frédérique (Suzanne Clément, winner of the Un Certain Regard award for her performance at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival). Laurence, living as a man, reveals to his lover Frédérique that his life has been a lie, and that to be true to himself, he must live as a woman. Unsurprisingly, this revelation changes the nature of the couple’s romance, but not in ways that either of them would ever have expected. Bold, ambitious, and frank, Laurence Anyways is a challenging statement about gender, love, and human nature.

Awards

Best Canadian Feature film; Suzanne Clément – best Actress

Oct
18
Fri
Lunchtime Shorts: On the Edge @ BCA
Oct 18 @ 12:00 pm

A special program of short experimental films, curated by Carole Zucker.

The Lunchtime Shorts Series is sponsored in part by Middlebury College

Carole Zucker is a Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, where she taught for 35 years. She has published 7 books and is working on a biography of the acting teacher, Stella Adler. Zucker teaches acting workshops in Montreal and the Burlington area, and will be teaching acting for Film Production students at Champlain College.

Eigenheim

Eigenhiem
Directors: Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy | Germany | 2012 | Experimental | 16 minutes

In the German Democratic Republic children played with dollhouses made to resemble the type of life they would one day grow up to have. Now many of these houses can be found for sale on Ebay or in collectors’ hands.
The dollhouses that survive do so as idealized images of a time and place that no longer exists. Through the words of their past and new owners, Eigenheim looks at the memories that once dwelled in these spaces to explore the remnants of a lost world..
About the Director: Anja Dornieden is a filmmaker currently living and working in Berlin. She obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to study at The New School University from 2007 until 2010. During her time in New York she started making her own documentary and experimental films in Super8 and 16mm.

I Was Here

I-was-here
Director: Phillipe Leonard | Canada/Quebec | 2008 | Experimental | 5 minutes

These images were captured during a long afternoon spent sitting in front of the Pantheon in Rome, paced by the sound of a shutter regularly opening and closing for long exposures whose duration was counted off in a whisper. At precise intervals, the photosensitive surface recorded the constant flow of tourists, people-watchers, cars and animals as they moved, stopped, gathered, and took photos. The historic building thus reveals itself as a magnet whose pull on people has lasted for centuries. I Was Here is a reference to the common phrase often found scratched on public walls, marks left as visible proof of a person’s visit to a place. Like that age-old practice, travel photography is an attempt to record a person’s presence in a particular place – a photographed place taken home as proof. The soundtrack comes from the same place, but from a different timeline: it was compiled from the audio tracks of amateur videos posted to YouTube. These audio snippets, all recorded in front of the same landmark, tell a collective story through each “I” that has recorded a visit to that same piazza. The clips of murmuring crowds were then edited and manipulated to give them a particular synchronization with the images.
About the Director: Philippe Leonard is a filmmaker living and working between Montreal and New York. His artistic practice explores still and moving images through film, photography, performance and installations emphasizing a hybrid approach between analogue and digital techniques. His theoretical and aesthetic reflections focus on the temporality and spectral dimension of physical spaces, sensory documentary practices and urbanism. Distributed by Light Cone and CFMDC, his work has been showcased in notable international contexts such as the Rotterdam International Film Festival (Netherlands), Festival des Cinémas Différents (Paris), Cineteca di Bologna (Italy), Festival du nouveau cinéma (Montreal), EXiS Experimental Film and Video Festival (Seoul), European Media Arts Festival (Germany), O ‘Gallery (Milan), Museo Nitsch (Naples), Edinburgh International Film Festival (UK), Annecy International animated film festival (France), Anthology Film Archive (NYC), etc. As a cinematographer, he is involved in artistic, documentary and commercial audiovisual projects, using a broad range of cameras and formats: Super 8, 16mm, 35mm, HD, etc. He is a member of the Montreal collective of experimental cinema Double Negative

Lacuna

Lacuna

Director: Shannon Harris | Canada | 2008 | Experimental | 9 minutesLacuna: 1. an empty space or a missing part; a gap; an absence. 2. a discontinuity in an anatomical structure.. A portrait of open-air theaters documented under the strange light of day, emptied of the once present hum of human voices, radioed-in soundtracks and tires on gravel

L’un Ne Va Pas Sans L’autre (One doesn’t Go Without the Other)

one doesn't go….
Director: Audréane Beaucage | France | Experimental | 7 minutes

L’un ne va pas sans l’autre is a 16mm, dance- movement film It concerns a journey to a mountaintop by a solo dancer, and two couples who act as his doubles. It is inspired by Japanese Butoh dance. The main character is an incarnation of the union between the anima and animus, somewhere  between male and female. His notion of self begins in water – in which he was born. Then  he becomes conscious of the outside world and loneliness, and finally comes to terms with his solitude and and grows into an independent human being.
About the director: Audréane Beaucage is a young experimental filmmaker from Montreal, whose work revolves around movement, light and nature. The Quebecoise filmmaker has made twenty films and video shorts.

Ritournelle

Becks_Ritournelle_5
Director: Christopher Becks | Netherlands | Experimental | 3 minutes

Working independently in two different cities, Peter Miller and Christopher Becks composed the elegantly intimate corps exquis Ritournelle: Miller created the melodic yet haunting soundtrack which Becks used as the inspiration for the 16mm film, set entirely in the confines of Becks’ Berlin apartment. The subtle beauty of light beams bouncing off the surfaces of the apartment’s rooms slowly reveals the spatial context. Circles of white light dancing across the darkness of the screen give the feeling of awakening in the early morning to glimpses of daylight sneaking through shrouded curtains. The audio track works in harmony with the soft imagery to create a lovely warmth, a respite from the frenetic action of the first three films which sets the tone for the quiet, focused observations that pervade the second half of the program. Becks is Canadian.

The Broken Altar

Broken Altar
Director: Mike Rollo | Canada | Experimental | 20 minutes

A portrait of open-air theaters documented under the strange light of day, emptied of the once present hum of human voices, radioed-in soundtracks and tires on gravel. Scripting the landscape and exploring the residue of a cinematic history, The Broken Altar forms a sculptural treatment of the architectural artifacts of these abandoned and barren spaces: speaker boxes rise from tall grass like grave markers and the screens themselves are monumental, sepulchral in their peeling whiteness.
About the director: Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Mike Rollo obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production at the University of Regina and a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts at Concordia University. His work explores first person cinema and experimental approaches to documentary filmmaking. Rollo’s films and videos have been shown at festivals, galleries, conferences and venues internationally. His film Ghosts and Gravel Roads was recognized as one of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts of 2008 by the Toronto International Film Group and received the Mikeldi Silver Documentary Award at the 50th Edition of the International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao. Mike Rollo is also a founding member of the Double Negative Film Collective, a Montreal-based group of film, video and installation artists interested in creating, curating and disseminating experimental film and video. Mike teaches film production at the University of Regina.

The Handeye (Bone Ghosts)

Handeye
Director: Juan David González Monroy & Anja Dornieden | Austria | Experimental | 7 minutes

In early 20th century Vienna Robert Musil invited Sigmund Freud to partake in, what he called, “a very special séance”. Seated at the table Musil revealed that they were going to summon the ghost of Frans Anton Mesmer, discoverer of animal magnetism and forefather of hypnosis. Musil told Freud about a series of dreams he had which involved a talking flea. Musil, who had secretly become a follower of the imaginationist school of animal magnetism wanted to question Mesmer as to the meaning of these dreams, in which said flea foretold of impending catastrophes all over Europe. It is said that Mesmer obligingly appeared and spoke in a repetitive and oblique manner. Mesmer’s words were transcribed by Freud in several scraps of paper and hidden separately in a series of objects that, owing to the vicissitudes of history, would end up in the collections of three Viennese museums. Legend has it that he who could piece together the text would find instructions for the assembly of a film. We visited these museums and, unable to break away the objects from their glass prisons, have made an attempt to reconstruct the film, hoping that the magnetic force inside the objects would transfer to the film’s silver halide crystals, allowing us to make sense of the single written testimony left over from the séance. In her diary as the lone entry for that date, Eugenie Schwarzwald, the only other known participant wrote: “A distinguished flea hypnotizes the ghost of a distinguished man.”
About the directors: Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy are filmmakers who live and work in Berlin. They met in New York where they both received graduate degrees in Media Studies from The New School University. Since 2010 they have been working together under the moniker OJOBOCA. Their work encompasses films, performances, installations and workshops. They have presented their work internationally in a variety of festivals, galleries and museums. They are currently members of the artist-run film lab LaborBerlin.

The Yellow Ghost

yellow ghost
Director: Guillaume Vallée | Canada/Quebec | Experimental | 3 minutes

Director’s note: Based on a Recurrent nightmare from my childhood, usually ending in night terror A yellow specter riding a horse, the filmstrip being destroyed by multiple expositions with a flashlight, hand-processing and a heavy noise soundtrack composed by Eric Gingras. Camera less film

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Oct
19
Sat
Laurence Anyways @ Black Box Theatre
Oct 19 @ 12:00 pm

Director: Xavier Nolan
Canada | 2013 | Fiction | French w/English subtitles
Run Time: 161 minutes
Film source: Breaking Glass Pictures

Laurence Anyways

GET TICKETS
Winner of several major festival awards, Laurence Anyways is the third film from Quebeçois enfant terrible Xavier Dolan, whose films I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010) were both international sensations. Evoking Rainer Werner Fassbinder (via Douglas Sirk), Wong Kar Wai, and Pedro Almodóvar, Dolan, not yet 25, has created a rich brew of daring cinematic accomplishment. A love story rendered impossible by the fluid nature of sexuality and identity, Laurence Anyways takes us through the many-gendered permutations of the romance of Laurence and Frédérique (Suzanne Clément, winner of the Un Certain Regard award for her performance at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival). Laurence, living as a man, reveals to his lover Frédérique that his life has been a lie, and that to be true to himself, he must live as a woman. Unsurprisingly, this revelation changes the nature of the couple’s romance, but not in ways that either of them would ever have expected. Bold, ambitious, and frank, Laurence Anyways is a challenging statement about gender, love, and human nature.

Awards

Best Canadian Feature film; Suzanne Clément – best Actress

Short Term 12 @ Black Box Theatre
Oct 19 @ 5:15 pm

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
USA | 2012 | Fiction
Run Time: 96 minutes
Film source: Cinedigm
Sponsor: Lorna-Kay Peal & Michael Smolin

Short Term 12

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Winner of both the Grand Jury Narrative Feature and the Narrative Audience Award at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, Short Term 12 is moving, honest, and emotionally revelatory. Focusing on the residents and caretakers at a residential foster care center for at-risk teenagers, Short Term 12 explores the difficult and extremely human realities of what it means to take care of another person. The story is told largely through the eyes of Grace (rising star Brie Larson, who won Best Actress at the Locarno Film Festival for her performance), the facility’s supervisor, as she tries to find ways to deal with her own life as well as those of the residents. Grace is put to the test with the arrival of Jayden, a troubled new arrival with whom she finds a special connection. Shot in an unobtrusive, handheld style, Short Term 12 is raw, sincere, and, at times, unexpectedly funny, with terrific performances at every level.

Awards

Grand Jury Award SXSW, Best Actress Locarno Film Festival

Oct
20
Sun
The Genius of Marian @ ECHO
Oct 20 @ 1:00 pm
Director: Banker White, Anna Fitch
USA | 2013 | Documentary
Run Time: 84 minutes
Film source: Filmmaker
Sponsor: Nora and Nancy Bercaw in honor of Beau Bercaw 

Playing with: There’s No Hole in My Head
Director:
 Alison Segar | USA | 2011 | Documentary | 15 minutes

Genius of Marian

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A visually rich, emotionally complex story that follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as her son, the filmmaker, documents her struggles to retain her sense of self. After she is diagnosed at age 61 life begins to change for Pam and everyone around her. Pam’s husband grapples with his changing role from partner to caregiver. Her adult children each find ways to show their love and support while mourning the slow loss of their mother. And Pam deals with the fear that she will be institutionalized for her disease. This delicate film treats the subject with a humor and a light touch while serving as a meditation on the role of memory in creating legacy.

 

Director’s Statment

I have been making documentary films for more than a decade and each project has been deeply important to me in its own way.  My most recent film, THE GENIUS OF MARIAN, is the most personal and most challenging project I have ever undertaken. I approached this film both as a loving son and as a patient observer.  It is a story about my extraordinary mother, Pam White, and her struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. On the surface, the film is about my family’s efforts to come to terms with the changes Alzheimer’s disease brings. But it is also a meditation on the meaning of family, the power of art and the beautiful and painful ways we cope with illness and loss. The last few years have been a roller coaster of emotions, filled with frustration, sadness, joy and celebration. I didn’t originally set out to make a documentary film about my mother’s disease. The project began as a series of informal recorded conversations with my mom in the months after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2009. She had begun writing a memoir called “The Genius of Marian” about her own mother (my grandmother), Marian Williams Steele. Marian was a well-loved and well-known painter and was in many ways the matriarch of our family. In 2001, Marian died of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89.

Soon after my mom started writing the book, she began to struggle with typing and other mental tasks. To help her continue the project, I began filming our conversations. For the next three years, I recorded both the big events and the small details of my family’s changing reality. I filmed my parents recounting stories of how they met and fell in love. I captured my mother’s delight at the birth of her grandchildren. But I also documented the slow erosion of my mother’s ability to dress and feed herself, her waning independence, and her fierce resistance to accepting help from professional caregivers.

I grew up feeling like my mom could do it all—and often, she did. She worked full-time while raising my siblings and me, maintained deep friendships and dedicated herself to helping others, both in her personal life and in her career as a therapist. She loved being a mom and encouraged us to be ourselves, always stressing how important it was to talk about our feelings, especially when times were tough. That’s why it was especially painful to see her frozen by the shame of her diagnosis, unable to talk openly about what she was experiencing. And despite being a loving, willing and available family, we also struggled to share our thoughts and feelings with each other. Before she was ready to talk candidly about her diagnosis, my mom and I were able to connect by remembering Marian, someone we’d both loved and had lost to the disease that was now affecting my mother. These intimate conversations became a kind of therapy space and my mom began to share the complex emotions related to what she was going through. At the same time, filming with the other members of my family provided a way for each of us to celebrate my mother’s life while processing difficult feelings about how she was changing. I am grateful to my siblings and father for having the bravery to share so openly. I have been especially moved by my father, who displayed tremendous compassion and loyalty while grappling with his changing role from partner to caregiver. The spirit of my mother’s book project was my point of departure — the deep desire to memorialize someone you love and to connect with the difficult and complex emotions that surround losing them. My goal is to create a film that finds light and beauty in a place often shrouded in shame and confusion. A patient approach to production has helped me capture the essence of my family’s story. I’ve shared warmth and intimacy in conversations with my mother, laid bare our family’s challenges in caring for her and allowed myself to feel the silence that increasingly fills my parents’ house. I believe the story is deeply important and powerfully told and I trust it will resonate not only for those directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease, but for with anyone who has had to reconcile complicated emotions around aging and loss. It is from this place that I know we have created something special.

~ Banker White, Director