american filmmakers

If you think about why any story moves us, it’s because of a quaking moment of recognition. It’s never the shock of the new, it’s the shock of the familiar.
—  Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of the Oscar-nominated film The Look of Silence (2014), speaks about his practice as a documentary filmmaker. 

anonymous asked:

Hi! As a nonnative person, I was wondering if you could recommend at least 5 movies with native lead/supporting characters? I already have Rhymes for Young Ghouls to the list.

So apart from Rhymes For Young Ghouls, here are a few personal recommendations. Please note that not all of these films pass The Aila Test, but are still really good films with great characters and stories.

 I will specifically recommend live action films about Native Americans / First Nations, but if you want me to recommend films featuring other indigenous people (or animated films!), let me know.

1)  Maïna (2013)

Despite not passing The Aila Test, I personally loved Maina. This is the sort of film I wished The Revenant would have been like. It takes place in a pre-colonial time where two different indigenous groups met for the first time and stars a great main character. The film also tackles many uncomfortable issues including kidnapping, assimilation and sexual assault with surprising nuance and honesty without exploiting or glamorizing them. 

2) Empire of Dirt (2013)

Of the recent Native films I’ve watched, Empire of Dirt might make the Top 3. The film stars THREE indigenous women in leading roles in a modern setting who grow together by learning to love and forgive each other. Sometimes the acting falls flat in places but the overall story and interaction between the characters has a lot of sincerity. It’s one of those films that confronts a lot of Native hardships head on but does so in a healing, cathartic way. I also love how all three of the main characters are very flawed and make a lot of mistakes and bad decisions but are allowed to learn from them rather than be punished or demonized for it. 

3) Smoke Signals (1998)

Smoke Signals is a comedy, but don’t let that fool you. There are some very emotionally charged themes in this movie from alcoholism to domestic violence. The film handles these subjects honestly but with enough humor to take most of the edge off. 

4) Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (2007)

This is the film that introduced me to Adam Beach. It is NOT a happy story but is a very important film to watch, especially in light of the protests at Standing Rock. The only thing I have a problem with is that there isn’t a native woman in a leading role (or many speaking roles, for that matter). Mentally prepare yourself before watching it if you think you’ll be too upset. 

5) Thunderheart (1992)

Thunderheart unfortunately casts a non-Native as the main character (who is supposed to be biracial, White and NDN) but the supporting cast are played by Native actors and Sheila Tousey is perfect as Maggie Eagle Bear. The film serves as an allegory for the Wounded Knee standoff in the 70s and is STILL relevant and important to this day. I would absolutely recommend. 

I hope this helped! 

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”

Happy birthday, Mr. Jarmusch.

Read J. Hoberman’s essay on where it all began: STRANGER THAN PARADISE.

Look through polaroids of Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni while filming DOWN BY LAW.

Or watch Jim talk about musicians, filmmaking, Robert Mitchum, and the Sons of Lee Marvin.
‘American Vandal’: How Two Guys Combined ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and Got One of 2017’s Best Comedies
The Netflix true-crime satire is one of the most pleasant surprises of the fall. Here’s how co-creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault pulled it off.
By Steve Greene

As the world anxiously awaits the release of Wonder Woman, we highlight Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. Themes of gender, power, and influence are explored in this film that chronicles the evolution of heroic women in pop culture – from the comic book superheroines of the 1940s, to TV action chicks of the 60s and 70s, to big screen blockbusters of today. The film received the 2011 Documentary Film Fund Grant from Sundance Institute, and went on to premiere at the 2012 South by Southwest film festival.

All film stills courtesy of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

“Work is always the same. The difference stems from the fact that usually much more money is involved in American productions. They have bigger budgets, and hence, longer schedules where everything is done in a slower pace. In Australia, you’re working with low budgets, and everything moves quickly, and I enjoy that.”

“I find that when there’s more money involved, people solve problems with money rather than using their brain. That’s the major difference. When there’s a problem in a low-budget movie, people have to think their way out of it, but in American movies, someone just writes a cheque.”

–  Joel Edgerton on the difference between working on American films and Australian films; photographed with Blue-Tongue Films colleagues David Michod and Spencer Susser
Venice: Guillermo del Toro Wins Golden Lion for 'The Shape of Water'
The Three Amigos have conquered Venice.

“Accepting the award, which he already nicknamed “Sergio Leone,” del Toro said, “If you remain pure and stay with your faith, whatever you have faith in, in my case it’s monsters, eventually things go right.” He dedicated the award to young Mexican and Latin American filmmakers who are working to push the fantasy genre.”


In 1991 Julie Dash premiered her first feature, Daughters of the Dust, at the Sundance Film Festival, which went on to win the award for Excellence in Cinematography. The film is set in the early 1900s and follows a Gullah family of women preparing to move from the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina to mainland America. Daughters of the Dust was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a national release. 

The film appears to be a source of inspiration for Beyonce’s Lemonade. The visual album echoes imagery from the film with shots of young African-American women in the Southern wild and desolate beaches wearing turn of the century garments. 

Daughters of the Dust screened at the Festival again in 2012 as a part of the “From the Collection” program. The film has recently been digitally restored by Cohen Film Collection and will screen at film festivals and theaters in addition to a Blu-ray release this fall. Click here to view a trailer for Daughters of the Dust.

Film stills courtesy of Daughters of the Dust

An epic pioneer story set in post-WWII South, Dee Rees’ Mudbound pits two families against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and abroad. Devastating in its power and authenticity, Mudbound is destined to become a classic.

Rees is a long-time Sundance alum, attending the 2007 Screenwriters Lab and 2008 Directors Lab with Pariah.  She ultimately premiered both the short and feature versions of the film in 2008 and 2011, respectively and the feature was awarded the Excellence in Cinematography Award.

Rees returned to the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with Mudbound, which opens in select theatres and on Netflix Friday, November 17. 

Check out the powerful acceptance speech Dee Rees gave as the recipient of the 2017 Sundance Institute Vanguard Award.  The award celebrates innovation, originality, independent spirit, and visionary storytelling.

Film still courtesy of Mudbound

Maya Deren b. April 29, 1917 d. October 13, 1961

Deren was a Ukranian born Russian-American avant-garde filmmaker. 

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Deren and her family were forced to flee the USSR due to anti-semitic pogroms. They arrived in the U.S. when Deren was 5 years old. 

In 1943, using money from an inheritance, Deren made her first film, Meshes in the Afternoon which she co-directed with her husband, Alexander Hammid. The result was an experimental, independently financed 14 minute short film that won the Grand Prix Internationale at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival and immediately launched Deren as an influential filmmaker and a pioneer in the avant-garde movement. 

Though none of her films would ever reach the success of Meshes in the Afternoon, Deren continued to produce short, surrealist and avant-garde films throughout her lifetime to critical success and acclaim. Her works remained independently financed and she was critical of Hollywood and commercial films throughout her whole life once saying, “I make my pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick.”

She died of brain hemorrhage at the age of 44. 


‘Look what happens when we don’t talk to each other’: Korean American filmmakers’ L.A. riots stories

“The mainstream media made it sound as if the 1992 L.A. riots were caused by black-Korean conflict,” [Kim-Gibson] said. “That boiled my blood, because that was not the case. Black-Korean conflict was one symptom, but it was certainly not the cause of that riot. The cause of that riot was black-white conflict that existed in this country from the establishment of this country.”

Media reports that pitted the African American community against their Korean immigrant neighbors, Kim-Gibson felt, “were tremendously wrong. So I decided I could not have the mainstream media tell our stories. We had to go and tell it ourselves.”

Jiang Wen: “Too Complicated to Explain”

From Oracle Bones: A Journey through Time in China (a National Book Award finalist) by Peter Hessler:

At the end of my last day on set, I rode away with Jiang Wen in his private van…. I asked the actor about his favorite movies, and he told me that as a young man, over a period of ten years, he had repeatedly watched Raging Bull.

“When I saw that movie,” he said, “it wasn’t as if it was an American movie, or a movie about a boxer. I felt like it was about my home.”

I asked if his copy had Chinese subtitles, and he shook his head. “I only understood ten per cent of it,” he said. “But really it’s just a matter of seeing it and understanding the mood. I liked the shades, the blacks and whites, and I liked the atmosphere. And I liked Robert De Niro, because in that movie he reminds me of my mother. His attitude reminds me of her.”

I asked, somewhat carefully, “What’s your mother like?”

“Too complicated to explain,” he said. “That’s another movie I’ll make someday.”    

FYI, this was during the filming of Warriors of Heaven and Earth. I’ll definitely be posting more from this book!