The Silk And The Flame
The Silk and the Flame chronicles Yao’s journey home from Beijing to his familial home in the provinces for the Chinese New Year. Nearing forty and still single, he returns to visit his deaf-mute mother and invalid father, whose dying wish is to see his son wedded to the right woman and starting a family of his own. Yao, a closeted homosexual, would prefer to find the right man. He has done well in the capital and supports his parents, his elder brother and his brother's children. His professional achievements have earned the family's respect further fueling their dismay that he is still a bachelor. Ever the dutiful son, he finds himself sacrificing his own needs in order to fulfill their expectations.
The film is an intimate look into everyday life in China, where the economic boom of the cities stands in stark contrast to the poverty experienced by those living in the countryside. Schiele uses stark black-and-white photography to provide a fascinating and subtle narrative that reveals how deeply entrenched the Confucian values that shape Chinese society are, the legacy of the social tumult of the twentieth century, and the family’s own battle with the simple means of communication that most of us take for granted. The film offers an intimate portrait of familial bonds, of traditional values and the pressure to conform.
Among the precious few highlights screened in the Panorama section, Jordan Schiele’s The Silk and the Flame (2018) reminded us that documentary can be a vehicle for great storytelling. Yao, a Beijing resident nearing forty, returns to his home village for Chinese New Year to visit his deaf-mute mother and invalid father, whose dying wish is to see his son wed. Yao, however, is gay and has no plans on getting married. Rather than hammering out an ethical argument, Schiele uses stark black-and-white photography to evince a fascinating and subtle narrative that reveals how deeply entrenched all his subjects are in China’s tumultuous history of the past century, the Confucian values that shape that society, and their own battles with the simple means of communication that most of us take for granted.
Like “Dressed for Pleasure”, “The Silk And The Flame” also explores the weight of parental pressure on younger generations who desire nothing more than to explore their own sexuality without fear of judgement. In this documentary, audiences meet a man called Yao who travels back from Beijing to his family’s village so that they can celebrate Chinese New Year together. While Jordan Schiele’s camera captures everyday life in rural China with fascinating insight, what stays with audiences long after the credits roll is how Yao selflessly puts aside his own needs to support his family, all while fending off their relentless need to see him settle down with a nice woman.
Man on Fire
"Whether religious or not, each successive generation inherits a history that must be reckoned with. Here is a film that hopefully will encourage you to find a language for this reckoning, and to speak it."
ELIZABETH PROUTY, CO-CAPTAIN OF THE SLAMDANCE DOCUMENTARY FEATURES PROGRAM
"Joel’s disquieting film explores the length one White preacher was willing to go to remind us of our racist history. Like the Buddhist monks whose suicide by fire raised awareness for their cause, some see his act of self-immolation as a radical protest, others believe it’s a sign of mental illness, some feel it’s the ultimate sacrifice. At a time when we’re grappling to define a collective history, this story illustrates how difficult it is to find common language, let alone common ground.”
LOIS VOSSEN, INDEPENDENT LENS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Grand Saline, Texas, a town east of Dallas, has a history of racism, a history the community doesn’t talk about. This shroud of secrecy ended when Charles Moore, an elderly white preacher, self-immolated to protest the town’s racism in 2014, shining a spotlight on the town’s dark past. “Man on Fire” untangles the pieces of this protest and questions the racism in Grand Saline today. Overall, “Man on Fire” encapsulates the racial climate in Grand Saline and chronicles Moore’s life and death, presenting Grand Saline and Moore as two pillars of the flm’s narrative: one a disjointed man seeking truth and communal repentance and the other a community whose present is inextricably tied to their past.
DIRECTOR, PRODUCER CINEMATOGRAPHER, EDITOR: Joel Fendelman
PRODUCER: James Chase Sanchez
PRODUCER OF MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION: Sandra Bertalanffy
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Gil Talmi
Duration: 54 minutes
The Last Refugees
The fate of refugees to the US has been the subject of bombastic media headlines since Trump's inauguration. This cinema vérité style documentary follows the Kalajis—originally from the besieged city of Aleppo —allowing for a peek into the lives of those who seek a new life in America. The viewer becomes immersed in this family’s journey, as they travel from Jordan to their new home of Philadelphia. As the popularity of the New York Times’ “Welcome to the New World” comic proves, Americans long to understand the plight of refugees in a deeper way than bombastic media commentary allows.
Director: Tanaz Eshaghian
Duration: 40 min and 1 hour version
Language: Arabic with English Subtitles
Fire And Ashes, Making The Ballet RakU
Raku pottery prizes spontaneity in the interaction of fire and falling ashes and this stunning documentary and performance film capture the beauty of both traditional Japanese pottery and the novel The Golden Temple, by the Japanese author Mishima.
This engaging one-hour film goes behind the scenes with composer Shinji Eshima and San Francisco Ballet resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov as they recount their collaboration with the original cast of RAkU. It brings together a confluence of eastern and western cultures in music, literature, philosophy and dance. The contributions of Butoh, martial arts, chanting Zen monks, the rigors of rehearsal with Yuri Possokhov, and the enduring friendships of the artists are all featured in the documentary preceding the stunning performance which was recorded in a film studio.
The performance is shot cinematically in the style of a dramatic film, providing an intimate relationship with the dancers. From the film’s opening narrative scenes, it establishes an intimate style that carries through the ballet performance. This gives viewers an immediate and powerful sense of being close to the dancers, rarely shared in dance films.
Producer/Director: Shirley Sun
Choreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Composer: Shinji Eshima
Principal Dancers: Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith, Pascal Molat
Dancers: Gaetano Amico, Steven Morse, Sean Orza, and Myles Thatcher
San Francisco Ballet
Run time: 64 minutes
To The Edge Of The Sky
When their sons are diagnosed with a fatal disease, four mothers evolve from caregivers to determined political activists as they fight the FDA for access to a potentially lifesaving drug.
Victims of Duchennes Muscular Distrophy are usually diagnosed around age 5, and aren’t expected to live beyond their 20s. To the Edge of the Sky provides intimate access to the lives of four women and their families, with all the strain on personal relationships and the effort to meet the demands of treatment and achieving accessibility for their increasingly ill children. Unsatisfied with the answers they receive from the FDA regarding testing of a new drug, the women — as leaders of a nationwide group of Duchenne parents — learn how to navigate governmental agencies and corporate boardrooms to reach their desperate goal. A moving battle depicting citizens’ roles in shaping the policies that affect all our lives, the struggles of parents with terminally ill children, and the mainly unseen world of pharmaceutical development.
UPDATE (August, 2017): Due largely to the political efforts of the four women featured in To the Edge of the Sky, the “Right to Try” bill just passed in the U.S. Senate. The Right to Try Bill allows terminally ill patients access to medicines after only Phase One FDA testing, before full approval. The law has already been signed in 37 states.
Directors: Jedd & Todd Wider
DP: Gerardo Puglia
Run time: 4 x 30 minutes
One Mind is a rare cinematic portrait of life inside one of China’s most austere and revered Zen communities. The monks at Zhenru Chan Monastery continue to uphold a strict monastic code established over 1400 years ago by the founding patriarchs of Zen in China. In harmony with the land that sustains them, the monks operate an organic farm, grow tea, and harvest bamboo to fuel their kitchen fires. At the heart of this community, a group of cloistered meditators sit in silence for 8 hours every day. Suggesting a Zen version of the critically acclaimed film Into Great Silence, One Mind offers an intimate glimpse into a thriving Buddhist monastery in modern China.
Director Edward A. Burger (Amongst White Clouds) has lived and studied with Buddhist communities throughout China for over 15 years, and is the first Western filmmaker to be granted such unprecedented access to the daily rituals and traditions practiced in this remote mountain monastery.
Directed by Edward Berger, 81 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles
A Campaign of Their Own
Out of the still-heated debate about the 2016 presidential election upset emerges A Campaign of Their Own, a unique sidewalk-level history of the Sanders campaign that exposes Democratic Party fault lines many Americans still fail to see. Follow the experiences of passionate and concerned campaign activist Jonathan Katz, and experience crushing frustrations that include New York state’s voter suppression laws, the DNC’s convention-delegate rules designed to squelch minority opinions, and the release by Wikileaks of credibility damaging DNC emails. From a vantage point never witnessed by mainstream media, A Campaign of Their Own belies the mythology of the Democratic party’s reconciliation with disaffected working people and reveals a yawning policy gap likely to divide Democratic voters in elections to come.
A film by Lionel Rupp and Michael Mitchell
Directed by Lionel Rupp
Produced by Michael Mitchell
Written by Lionel Rupp and Michael Mitchell
Run time: 74 minutes
Winds of Downhill
Seven homeless people share their views on life, art and beauty, as well as their fears and dreams, at a New York City soup kitchen. We are reminded that all people, regardless of how poor or mentally ill, have humanity, and it is this humanity that allows one to see the poetry that surrounds us all, despite the desperation of one's own circumstance.
Directors: Jedd & Todd Wider
Director of Photography: Gerardo Puglia
Length: 21 mins.
Where Justice Ends
Where Justice Ends is at the intersection of two important and timely topics of social justice — conditions within the U.S. prison system and the injustices that befall transgender people encountering the law. The staggering conditions at the center of this film are largely invisible, but perhaps nowhere else do the inequities of our criminal incarceration fall more heavily than the on the transgender community.
Where Justice Ends looks into why so many transgender people encounter the police, how those encounters often lead to discriminatory treatment, and the inhumane conditions that transgender people all too frequently experience. The film examines how high unemployment of transgender people, family rejection and homelessness contribute to staggering rates of incarceration. One of every 6 transgender persons is likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lives, and nearly one of every two black transgender people will be similarly incarcerated.
In the late 1980s, one transgender woman refused to endure continual abuse, assault and rape in prison. As explored by Where Justice Ends, her struggle led to the most significant ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, requiring humane treatment of all prisoners. As the film reveals, little has improved in the almost-intervening years up to today.
Told through the words of transgender inmates and experts, Where Justice Ends casts a light on one of the most hidden social injustices in our country. Narrated by the Tony award-winning stage, screen and tv actor Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Directed by George Zuber. 56 minutes. English.
Water Makes Us Wet
With a poetic blend of curiosity, humor, sensuality and concern, this film chronicles the pleasures and politics of H2O from an ecosexual perspective. Travel around California with Annie, a former sex worker, Beth, a professor, and their dog Butch, in their E.A.R.T.H. Lab mobile unit, as they explore water in the Golden State. Ecosexuality shifts the metaphor “Earth as Mother” to “Earth as Lover” to create a more reciprocal and empathetic relationship with the natural world. Along the way, Annie and Beth interact with a diverse range of folks including performance artists, biologists, water treatment plant workers, scholars and others, climaxing in a shocking event that reaffirms the power of water, life and love.
Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, USA, 75 min. English
Ingles en 100 Dias
Learn common English phrases in these short fun clips that bring English to life for native Spanish speakers.
100 x 1 minute episodes
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