american filmmakers


This organization is raising money so Muslim American filmmakers can tell their own stories

  • A community of Muslims and allies in San Francisco are raising funds to provide Muslim American filmmakers with grants to counter false narratives about their religious community.
  • The American Muslim Storytellers grant is in partnership with the Islamic Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit organization providing scholarships to Muslim American community members.
  • The crowdfunding campaign was launched on Saturday on Indiegogo, with a campaign goal of $10,000. 
  • The funds will provide Muslim American filmmakers grants between $1,000 and $4,000.
  • “We wanted to give people a way to directly support the American Muslim community,” Michael Morgenstern, founder of the grant, said in an email. “Anyone who believes that Muslims deserve a powerful voice today can give directly to people who want to tell their own stories.” Read more

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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. 

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

“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.

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. 


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


‘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!

anonymous asked:

Who would you say is the most iconic/important director (obvs female) and why?

This is such an interesting question. What is iconic, what counts as important? To me it would be someone who’s shown longevity in their career, someone who is critically well-regarded but has also had some measure of commercial success, someone with a distinct visual style and someone who has been influential to other filmmakers.

Off the top of my head I can think of maybe 10 women who would easily deserve that title.

If someone put a theoretical gun to my head right now and made me pick one I’d probably say Jane Campion. People maybe not have watched her movies but they usually know her name or if you mention The Piano they’ve heard of it even if they haven’t seen it. People also think she was the first woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars (she wasn’t, it was Lina Wertmüller a woman with a distinctive incredible style who is one of my favourite filmmakers but one whose work has faded into obscurity). The Women and Hollywood blog does mini-interviews with every female director at every major festival and one of the questions they ask everyone is what their favourite film directed by a woman is and films by Campion routinely turn up (she’s probably one of the most cited directors).  

However even though she’s young and I still think has a long career ahead of her, I feel Sofia Coppola coming up fast. Coppola is another one of those few female film directors you can mention that everyone knows. Her earliest films are almost at their 20 year anniversaries and they have endured and are remembered. She’s won a slew of awards, her style is distinct to the point where it can be parodied. People like to mock her for her tumblrcore style but her movies predate tumblr by nearly a decade. Also as someone who watches a lot of no/low budget movies just because they’re directed by women her style is imitated a LOT. I admit that I used to take her talent for granted, but after watching the umpteenth movie about a teenage white girl having existential ennui while staring out a window I started appreciating Coppola as a filmmaker. She knows what she’s doing in a way people trying to imitate her just don’t.

Bigelow is another one I feel strongly about. I think she is super under appreciated as a filmmaker, even with the Oscar. I spent a few years watching all of her films and she’s so distinct, even her action movies are carefully crafted. The only thing with Bigelow is that despite her age she peaked rather late (after Coppola despite being twenty years older) and I still feel like her best work is ahead of her so it’s hard to say what her longevity as a filmmaker and her influence will be. Point Break and Strange Days have held up well, but I also want to know what the legacy of her late career work will be.

Of course, women didn’t just start directing in the 90s. There are many women who directed before then who put out iconic movies that are well regarded, but these women aren’t known at all to mainstream audiences, even if they are beloved by cinephiles. Alice Guy Blaché was the first woman to direct narrative films, but few people outside of film students want to watch shorts that are over a century old. Leni Reifenstahl pioneered several film techniques but her legacy is tainted by her associated with Hitler and the fact that her most innovative films are literal Nazi propaganda. Agnès Varda has a career that spans over 60 years, but until recently people didn’t take her seriously as a filmmaker and most of her films were unavailable outside of France. Chantal Akerman is a legend and so many filmmakers were inspired by her and borrowed from her, but her movies made little money, were not widely seen and are not well known to mainstream audiences.

And of course it wouldn’t be right to mention how many women of colour had their careers completely decimated literally for just being who they were and wanting to tell stories about people who looked like them. If there aren’t women of colour who fit my criteria of iconic/important it’s because they were never able to build up the body of work to be so. White women in western countries don’t necessarily have it easy (even someone as privileged as Coppola has faced rampant sexism, including accusations that she doesn’t direct her own films), but they do have more opportunities than other women.

Recently their has been a small resurgence of the work of black American female filmmakers getting released or re-released. I finally got to watch the work of Kathleen Collins and Julie Dash and you know what? These women had genuine talent, they were truly gifted, and they were never given the opportunities to create more than one feature film. That’s why I try to stress to people that it’s important to go to the theatre and buy tickets for movies made by women, especially women of colour, and to appreciate them in the now. Because if  you don’t support them they won’t be able to make more films and not everyone hits it out of the park their first time. Bigelow won an Oscar for her 8th film. So many women directors don’t even get to make a second.

The American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras is best known for her works about post 9/11 national security policies.  She won the 2015 Academy Award for Citizenfour, her film about the controversial whistleblower Edward Snowden. Her latest film, Risk, centers on the man who started the whole Wikileaks revolution — Julian Assange.  Our critic at large John Powers has a review.

‘Risk’ Is A Messy, Ambitious Portrait Of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

Any story dealing, however seriously, with homosexual love is taken to be a story about homosexuality while stories dealing with heterosexual love are seen as stories about the individual people they portray. This is as much a problem today for American filmmakers who cannot conceive of the presence of gay characters in a film unless the specific subject of the film is homosexuality. Lesbians and gay men are thereby classified as purely sexual creatures, people defined solely by their sexual urges
—  Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies

Kathleen Collins b. March 18, 1942 d. September 18, 1988

Collins was an American filmmaker. 

Graduating in 1963 from the Sorbonne with an M.A. in French literature and cinema Collins returned to America and began working as a professor of film history and screenwriting. 

Collins wrote extensively during her lifetime including short stories, screenplays, and plays, most of which was unproduced and unpublished while she was alive. 

In 1980 she was able to direct her first film, The Cruz Brothers and Mr. Malloy, a short film that was screened at festivals. Bolstered by her success, Collins directed her first feature film, Losing Ground in 1982 for which she is credited as being the second African-American woman to direct a feature length film. The film did not make it outside of the festival circuit and did not receive a theatrical release. It would be her last film. 

Collins was diagnosed with breast cancer and succumbed to the disease in 1988 shortly after marrying her second husband, fellow academic Alfred Prettyman. She left a trunk’s worth of written material to her daughter, Nina Collins, the bulk of which was unpublished and unseen. 

In 2015 Nina Collins worked with Milestone Films in order to have her mother’s work re-stored and distributed making it publicly available for the first time following a small festival run.

A collection of her short stories titled Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? was published in 2016. 

I could never be (or work for) one of those die for the art type ppl. Like nope. I’ll sure as hell die from depression but not for some damn film. 

& everyone talks about film in militaristic terms like “in the trenches” and directors as “generals,”  “soldiers to die for the cause”. Idk why. I mean probably bc of American filmmakers’ proximity to the military but….

This is why, especially for his conduct on The Shining, I can’t like Kubrick. Bc what he did to Scatman Crothers & Shelley Duvall is unacceptable. Working a 70 year old black man to near physical death & causing a woman to break down? For what? Some lame ass movie w furry porn thrown in? Nothing is that important

My name is Amarachi Nwosu and I am a Nigerian-American self-taught photographer, filmmaker and writer. I have worked with a number of brands, organizations and companies in cities like Lagos, Tokyo, New York, London and Los Angeles.

As a writer for platforms like Highsnobiety and Okayafrica, I am dedicated to telling unique stories that bring identity and culture to light. My work has been featured on platforms like CNN Africa and I have worked on documentary projects with VICE Japan. I have also produced and shot social campaigns for Adidas Tokyo that featured the first woman of color on their Instagram page.