Directed by Hope Litoff USA / 2017 / 86 minutes New York Premiere
How do you deal with the material objects left behind when you lose someone you love? Gifted photographer and artist Ruth Litoff, plagued by a lifetime of mental illness, committed suicide in 2008. It took her sister Hope six years to empty the packed storage bin. "I feel like I've trapped her in there," says Hope.
In an intimate, riveting and brutally honest film that delicately balances art and mental illness, director Hope Litoff — obsessed with the need to understand her sister's madness and struggling with the guilt of not being able to save her — organizes the vast collection of exquisite photographs that share space with mountains of prescription medicines, journals, and stuffed animals. Nearly devoured by her own demons, Hope works tirelessly to fulfill her sister's final wish: that her work be seen by the world. 32 Pills is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, beseeching us to empathize with Hope as she faces this daunting task. — Barbara Pokras, ACE
40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie
Directed by Lee Aronsohn United States / 2017 / 100 minutes World Premiere
Boulder, Colorado, much like Woodstock, NY, was a mecca for peace, love and music in the 60s and 70s. Fresh out of the Woodstock Concert era, a band of hippies, with a sound reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Grateful Dead, was roaming around Boulder, playing wherever they could and winning a dedicated following. Among those fans was university student Lee Aronsohn, who was deeply affected by the band, tracking them everywhere and memorizing their songs. Although the musicians played two of the earliest Telluride Bluegrass Festivals, they broke up in 1976 without ever releasing an album. Decades later, that same student, now a successful television producer ("The Big Bang Theory", "Two and a Half Men") set out to find the scattered members of Boulder's most influential and elusive jam band, "Magic Music," hoping to get them to play one last show. This is his and their story. Indeed, a magical one. — Sveltana Krotek
Against All Odds- The Fight for a Black Middle Class with Bob Herbert
Directed by Bob Herbert USA / 2016 / 76 minutes East Coast Premiere
A disappearing middle class is one of the hot button political issues of the day, but middle class black Americans are the hardest hit. Celebrated veteran journalist Bob Herbert takes us on an illuminating journey through American history, relating the past to the present through rare archival footage and in-depth interviews with some of the most influential thinkers of our time, effectively making the point that the American Dream, through its very design, is systematically and deliberately kept out of reach of black families. Precise, affecting and eye opening, "Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class with Bob Herbert" drives the point home that we still have a long way to go before true economic equality is realized, while shedding light on our socioeconomic system that is disproportionately working against black Americans. However, as Bob Herbert says, "There are no barriers that can't be overcome. When dreams remain unrealized, it simply means the fight goes on." — Evan Thomas
A Symphony of Hope
Directed by Brian Weidling USA, Haiti / 2017 / 87 minutes New York Premiere
In the wake of the catastrophic 2010 Haitian earthquake, composer Christopher Lennertz, inspired by his friendship with Hands Together founders Father Tom Hagan and Doug Campbell, thought to use music to reignite hope. Starting with a Haitian folk theme, Lennertz enlisted 25 award-winning Hollywood composers to create a symphony, writing sections sequentially, like a musical chain-letter. With composers of such films as Jurassic Park 3, Wonder Boys and Passion of the Christ, the music of live studio sessions is woven into a whole piece by filmmaker Brian Weidling, incorporating documentary footage of Haiti from its revolutionary beginnings, to the disaster, then its aftermath as Haitians rebuild their homes, and finally, a future of hope. Full of humanity, A Symphony of Hope confirms the importance of art, music and culture to reconstruct a country in crisis and affirms that the world is built stronger by people working hand in hand. — Colton Cox
Arthur Miller: Writer
CLOSING NIGHT FILM Directed by Rebecca Miller USA / 2017 / 101 minutes
Arthur Miller: Writer is an intimate portrait of the great American playwright and social critic, Arthur Miller, from the unique perspective of an award-winning filmmaker — his daughter, Rebecca Miller. The film contains material never before seen by the public, including in-depth interviews and home-movie style glimpses into Miller's persona — quite different from the face that was presented in formal interviews and to the press. Rebecca Miller opens the door to the man behind the icon, delves into the roots of his life as an artist, and explores his character — both its strengths and its weaknesses.
Directed by Emilie Bunnell USA / 2017 / 66 minutes East Coast Premiere
Lori and Alana matched on Tinder and quickly became best friends and lovers. Soon after, Lori discovered that Alana, a bright and endearing young woman suffering from Lupus, was in kidney failure and facing an uncertain but abbreviated lifetime of nightly dialysis and a myriad of related health issues. When Lori learns she's the perfect kidney donor match, she doesn't hesitate to offer her healthy "bean." If the transplant succeeds, Alana's life expectancy could be doubled or tripled. But if it fails, Lori will go through risky surgery and lose a healthy organ in vain. Is it love, foolishness or the ultimate act of selflessness on Lori's part? "How do you repay someone for something like this?" asks Alana. "You don't," says Lori. "It's a gift," summing up what the film itself is to viewers.
Becoming Who I Was
Directed by Moon Chang-Yong and Jin Jeon South Korea / 2017 / 95 minutes
East Coast Premiere In Hindi, Ladkahi, and Tibetan with subtitles
SYNOPSIS: In a sweeping story of a young Buddhist boy who discovers he is the reincarnation of a Tibetan spiritual master, Becoming Who I Was, follows his momentous trek across Asia to rejoin his monastic order. Accompanied by his aging godfather, the documentary captures Padma and Urgyan on their epic journey over eight difficult years, surmounting all odds to pursue his spiritual destiny. Focused on its two compelling central personalities, we are deeply moved by their unconditional love set against a backdrop of political and geographic adversity.
Becoming Who I Was captures both the enormity of the Asian landscape and the quiet, private moments of boy and man as they endure their challenge. When Padma enters adolescence and becomes conflicted by the immensity of his undertaking, Urgyan remains a steadfast and kind mentor, propelling them toward their goal. Touching and uplifting, Becoming Who I Was is a universal story of compassion and love through adversity, and the reclaiming of a suppressed identity.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Directed by Alexandra Dean USA / 2017 / 84 minutes
America knew Hedy Lamarr as a Hollywood idol -- a beauty queen and pin-up in cinema's Golden Age -- but few knew her as the inventor of the technology behind WiFi. Director Alexandra Dean offers an intimate look into the life of Austrian-born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, who fled a dangerous marriage in the middle of the night and boarded passage to America. A chance encounter with Louis B. Mayer thrust her into the Hollywood limelight. But despite her newfound fame, Lamarr's passion remained her knack for technology, whilst her adopted country preferred a woman selling bonds over one creating military technology.
A story of suppressed genius, Bombshell taps into conversations with Lamarr's family, Hollywood notables, and the late star to reveal her frustrations with a world that would recognize her only for her beauty. A feast for our modern zeitgeist, and a cautionary tale for a society that still often denies the brilliance of women. - Colton Cox
The Chocolate Case
Directed by Benthe Forrer The Netherlands / 2016 / 90 minutes North American Premiere In English, Dutch, German, and French with subtitles
The Chocolate Case opens with a horrifying premise: what if each time we purchase a bar of chocolate we finance child slavery? The documentary follows a group of intrepid Dutch journalists who've dedicated themselves to changing our perception of the $100 billion cocoa industry that fosters the exploitation of cacao farming communities in a vast global trading network. Using humor as its hook to create an exposé of massive implications, The Chocolate Case draws attention to the corporate institutions that create this injustice — from attempting to convict one of themselves for the crime of financing child labor through buying chocolate, to visiting the oppressed African communities that are victimized by this industry. Light-hearted moments steer the film's optimism, as the good-natured journalists, tirelessly determined to effect change, become beacons of hope for a righteous cause. Chocolate lovers will undoubtedly take their next bite with a new mindset. — Colton Cox
The Cycle (America Divided)
Directed by Solly Granatstein, Lucian Read and Richard Rowley USA / 2016 / 78 minutes New York Premiere
"This is our America. And it isn't what we promised." For generations, the daily life of minority citizens has been in a state of crisis. Adapted from the EPIX docu-series and guided by such high-profile correspondents as Norman Lear, Jesse Williams, Common, and Zack Galifianakis, The Cycleexamines the pervasive and longstanding structures of racial discrimination in America, reinforced by a political system that disenfranchises poor people and people of color. To their outrage and incredulity, they witness the damages of systemic inequality in housing, education, criminal justice, and politics, all the while highlighting individuals who've dedicated themselves to battling these issues. The Cycleintones that we are living in a pivotal moment — one in which we must decide how to combat corrupted systems that have long plagued our nation. Provocative and illuminating, this documentary raises the voices of those who seek to stamp out the fires of segregation as it endures today. — Colton Cox
Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution
Directed by James Redford USA / 2017 / 71 minutes New York Premiere
CAN we make enough renewable energy to supply the world's needs and replace fossil fuels? HOW will we do that? And, WILL we? In his convivial and earnest drive to understand the issues and solutions, James Redford, co-founder of The Redford Center with his father, Robert Redford, takes us on a country-crossing, three-year odyssey to get real, comprehensible answers to complex questions and technologies. Happening explores the current state of engagement of corporations, governmental departments, communities, entrepreneurs, and activists, with an enlightening look at what is being done to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The film reveals some exciting developments in the dawn of the clean energy era as it creates jobs, turns profits and makes communities stronger and healthier all across the US. Appropriately titled, this topically relevant documentary is not only informing, but also uplifting, as we discover what is actually happening in America to reverse climate change. — Jeff Morris
*Sponsored by Hudson Solar and Dandelion
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
Directed by Griffin Dunne USA / 2017 / 94 minutes
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a biographical documentary featuring the life of influential American writer, Joan Didion. Directed by Joan's nephew, Griffin Dunne, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold enlightens the viewer with an unprecedented, intimate perspective on Joan's life and career accomplishments. The film features interviews from Joan herself, as well as close family and friends, interwoven with contextual archival footage/stills to visualize Joan's astute writing. Joan, famous for bringing order to disorder through her words, exposes, examines and divulges the most pivotal events in American history, making her one of the most recognizable and influential voices within the literary world. The story of this film not only considers Joan Didion the writer, but gives light to Joan Didion, the individual.
Directed by Lucija Stojevic Spain / 2016 / 83 minutes New York Premiere In Spanish with subtitles
La Chana was one of the greatest stars in the flamenco world, captivating audiences worldwide with her innovative style and breathtaking use of rhythm in the 1960s and 70s. Peter Sellers, with whom she is featured in The Bobo, invited her to Hollywood. Instead, at the peak of her career, she disappeared from the scene.
La Chana takes us into the heart and mind of the self-taught Gypsy dancer Antonia Santiago Amador, aka La Chana, as she returns to the stage after a break of two decades to give a final seated performance. The secret behind her disappearance, we learn, is that for 18 years she was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband. In this dramatic story about the process and power of creativity, aging, perseverance, and re-invention, La Chana crystallizes the inevitable clashes between her life's extremes and contradictions; between the artist on stage and the woman behind the scenes.
The Last Pig
Directed by Allison Argo USA / 2017 / 54 minutes
The Last Pig is a lyrical meditation on what it means to be a sentient creature with the power to kill. Immersive, experiential and self-reflective, the film follows a pig farmer through his final season.
Bob Comis lives a simple life on a bucolic farm in the Hudson Valley where he gives his pigs a high-quality life until it's time to transport them for butchering. The film follows Bob's internal reflections as he wrestles with his conscience between his superior farming practices, producing quality food, and coming to see pigs as intelligent, aware creatures. Filmed with exquisite cinematography showcasing the landscape in all seasons, The Last Pig doesn't preach or try to convert. Instead, the viewer watches as Bob comes to a life changing decision in his farming. A poignant story on the connection between man and animal that leaves both vegetarians and carnivores much to contemplate long after the film is over. — Gene Fischer
Mary Janes: The Women of Weed
Directed by Windy Borman USA / 2017 / 85 minutes East Coast Premiere
Women are changing the face of today's fastest growing industry, cannabis. Join filmmaker Windy Borman as she explores the movement to end marijuana prohibition, her own relationship to the plant, and the stereotypes surrounding it. Through a series of empowering and educational interviews with a broad diversity of women leading the industry today, Windy's own assumptions are transformed as she discovers that cannabis liberation intersects with some of the most urgent social justice issues of our time including environmental sustainability, ending the War on Drugs and the prison-industrial complex, and the destructive domination of Big Pharma.
My Name is Pedro
Directed by Lillian LaSalle USA / 2017 / 97 minutes World Premiere
Who was your most inspirational teacher? For thousands of students in the Bronx and elsewhere, that teacher is a man named Pedro Santana. Yes, we've seen inspiring documentaries about the failings of our public education system before. Yes, we've seen stories of inspirational educators who bravely try to change the system. But if you don't know Pedro.....well, you don't know jack! Pedro may just be the definition of an iconoclast. In a story as uplifting as it is troubling, he is a man who throws a very wide shadow. This brilliant documentary might at first seem like déjà vu, before the story zigs and zags in ways that will leave you thinking..."OMG, didn't see that coming." Wonderfully human, yet epically important, My Name Is Pedro will challenge your notion of what it means to be "Fiercely Independent" as it brings into focus how seriously in jeopardy our country's education system is. — Jeff Morris
Nat Bates For Mayor
Directed by Bradley Berman and Eric Weiss USA / 2017 / 76 minutes East Coast Premiere
Nat Bates For Mayor documents the outrageous 2014 Richmond mayor's race, home to the second largest California refinery. In a brazen move, Chevron spent over $3 million to back 83-year-old African-American stalwart Nat Bates. Bates makes a Faustian bargain with the corporate behemoth to preserve the waning power of Richmond's African-American working class community, whose rich history dates back to World War Two. It's black against white; pro-development against eco-friendly; David versus Goliath. Is Bates the savior or stooge? A wacky ride with some entertaining and offbeat political personalities, the guerilla-style documentary follows the candidates as they lock horns in a battle for mayor and the future of the Bay Area oil town. With cameos by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and legendary civil rights leader Andrew Young, the film is a potent mix of corporate influence, race, gentrification, homophobia, political self-determination, and humor – all told through the stories of bigger-than-life small-town characters.
Directed by Nick Taylor USA, Canada / 2017 / 96 minutes East Coast Premiere
Documenting the work of the brilliant community organizer Wade Rathke, The Organizer takes us through his process of founding ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the first of its kind community-based organization. Starting with a few driven welfare moms in Arkansas, ACORN quickly mushroomed into a highly energized and mobilized half-million strong constituency that influenced government and corporate policy on the local, state and federal levels. Through Wade's leadership, ACORN created unprecedented voter registration drives and brought economic gains for countless low income families, changing the socio economic and political map of the regions it operated in. But controversy and scandal resulted in the organization's ultimate collapse and demise, taking down Rathke with it. The Organizer is a story of particular relevance in these highly charged political times and one with a lot to teach us. —Svetlana Krotek
Ram Dass, Going Home
Directed by Derek Peck United States / 2016 / 32 minutes New York Premiere
Ram Dass, Going Home is a profound and poetic encounter with cultural and spiritual icon Ram Dass at his home on Maui. In the final chapter of his life, the intimacDerek Pecky of the film imparts a sense that you are right there with him. Together with the beautiful music of remarkable composer Paul Cantelon, this is a rare opportunity to be in the presence of one of the most inspiring people to grace the planet. A meditation on life that adds meaning to our everyday experience.
The Rape of Recy Taylor
Directed by Nancy Buirski USA / 2017 / 91 minutes
The numbers of women raped in Jim Crow South were staggering. In danger for their lives, they didn't report the crimes and their stories went hidden. Not Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old mother who was gang raped by six white boys in 1944 Alabama. Unbroken, she spoke up, and with the help of Rosa Parks and legions of women, they worked to get Recy Taylor justice. Set against a backdrop of soulful music, documentarian Nancy Buirski masterfully crafts the mood as we witness a terrified black woman running for her life. This powerful emotional charge persists throughout the film as we move back and forth in time. Weaving vintage clips of early race films — black stories told by black filmmakers for black audiences — with mood-setting visuals from the actual locations and current interviews with her siblings more than 70 years after the event, the hurt, indignation and ultimate vindication go far beyond one woman's story to expand on the history of race in America.
Roll With Me
Directed by Lisa France USA / 2017 / 90 minutes World Premiere In English and Arabic with subtitles
When director Lisa France received a call from Gabriel Cordell, a paraplegic man looking for someone to document the challenge of his life, she had no idea how much this would change her own life and that of many others. France and her quickly assembled ragtag crew - all with their own issues - filmed Gabriel's attempt to be the first person to roll unassisted on his human-powered wheelchair from Santa Monica, CA to Long Island, NY in 100 days, aiming to set a world record. The undertaking was physically and emotionally arduous, not just for Gabriel, but the entire team, herded in cramped quarters throughout the trip. And everyone, from Gabriel, his team, the film crew, to the thousands of bystanders who crossed paths with Gabriel, was transformed in some way forever. Roll with Me is a moving testimony to one man's incredible and undefeated spirit, and to the power to rise up and meet whatever comes that is in us all. — Svetlana Krotek
Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me
Directed by Sam Pollard USA / 2017 / 100 minutes US Premiere
Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me is the first major documentary to examine Davis' vast talent and journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th-century America. Davis' career was legendary, so vast and multi-faceted it was dizzying in scope and scale. Yet his life was complicated and contradictory. A veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions trying to stay relevant, Davis strove to achieve the American Dream in a time of racial prejudice and shifting politics, caught between the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America. By embracing Judaism, he yoked himself to another persecuted minority.
Featuring interviews with Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kim Novak, personal photographs from Davis' vast collection, and excerpts of TV, film and concert performances, the film explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across America from the Depression through the 1980s. —Courtesy of American Masters Pictures
Shingal, Where Are You?
Directed by Angelos Rallis Greece / 2017 / 99 minutes East Coast Premiere In Kurdish with subtitles
In 2014, the Yezidis, a persecuted minority in Iraq, were driven from their ancestral land by ISIS during a campaign of genocide in which more than 3,000 women and children were kidnapped. Caught in raw, sweeping cinematography, Shingal: Where are You weaves together the dramatic stories of the remaining young boys and their families, relegated to an abandoned coal mine on the Turkish border and longing for their lost home. In this poignant and beautifully executed documentary, we witness one family's desperate fight to buy back their daughter from ISIS, negotiating on the cell phone through various middlemen. Using technology to communicate confidential information in an area ravaged by terrorism, the ambiguity between powerlessness and power, hope and despair, all conveyed via digital communication, is as astonishing as it is heart breaking. While the plight of a persecuted people may seem unpleasant, director Angelos Rallis has created a touching film that is profound and compelling. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Mike Myers and Beth Aala USA / 2015 / 85 minutes
Shep Gordon, the 2017 Woodstock Film Festival Trailblazer honoree, is one of the most beloved and successful men in show business, and Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is an entertaining and inspiring tribute to this unsung hero. Within the first few minutes of comedian Mike Myers' directorial debut, you'll find yourself enjoying getting to know this warm and congenial man, as the film reveals the history of his success – a mix of skill, personality and luck. At age 21, on his first night in Los Angeles, he fell in with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and with determination and sheer chutzpah his future was launched. A life filled with sex, drugs, women, and rock 'n roll (and immense good works and generosity), Supermensch chronicles Gordon's trajectory with amusing anecdotes told by friends, a Who's Who list of celebrities that includes Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Tom Arnold, and Sylvester Stallone, among others, along with the supermensch himself.
Thank You For Coming
Directed by Sara Lamm USA / 2017 / 85 minutes East Coast Premiere
Upon discovering as an adult that she was conceived by sperm donation, documentary filmmaker Sara Lamm embarks on a genealogical quest to uncover the truth of her parentage. Thank You For Coming follows her pursuit of her biological father, and eleven years, twelve DNA tests, and 900 sixth-cousins later, she's finally uncovering some answers.
Through an online registry for donor-conceived people, she meets Jennifer — a woman conceived at the same clinic, in the same year, who shares Sara's seasonal allergies. Imbued with hope, Sara journeys across the ocean to Hawaii to meet Jennifer and compare the results of their DNA test. From there, new revelations and new relationships begin to emerge. Moving, thoughtful and sometimes hilarious, Thank You For Coming is carried by the buoyant optimism of its filmmaker, whose journey is urged forward by her newfound friends and family, simultaneously becoming a meditation on love and loss. — Colton Cox
This Is Congo
Directed by Daniel McCabe Congo, USA, Canada / 2017 / 91 minutes New York Premiere In Swahili, Lingala, French, and English with subtitles
This is Congo provides an immersive and unfiltered look into the world's longest continuing conflict and those who are surviving within it.
This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous
Directed by Barbara Kopple USA / 2017 / 91 minutes
This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous portrays the intimate journey of Gigi Lazzarato, a fearless young woman who began life as Gregory Lazzarato, posting beauty and fashion videos to YouTube from his bedroom, only to later come out as a transgender female to an audience of millions. With never-before-seen personal footage, the film provides a raw and revealing look into a life that never compromises happiness, and spotlights a family's unwavering and unconditional love for a child.
To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor
Directed by Donna Zaccaro USA / 2017 / 63 minutes World Premiere
To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor tells a story of love, marriage and a fight for equality. The film chronicles unlikely heroes — octogenarian Edie Windsor and her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, on their quest for justice: Upon the death of her spouse, Edie had been forced to pay a huge estate tax because the federal government denied federal benefits to same-sex couples — and Edie's spouse was a woman. Deeply offended by this disregard for her more than forty-year relationship with the love of her life, Edie decided to sue the United States government — and won. Beyond the story of this pivotal case in the marriage equality movement and the compelling personal, legal and political stories behind it, the film also tells the important story of our continued journey as a people, as a culture, and as citizens with equal rights.
To the Edge of the Sky
Directed by Todd Wider and Jedd Wider USA / 2017 / 121 minutes
To the Edge of the Sky is about the heroic and inspirational battle of four American mothers whose sons are diagnosed with the degenerative Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal disease and the number one genetic killer of boys, as they fight the FDA to gain access to a potentially life-saving drug. The film intimately records the transformation of these four mothers into the country's leading political activists pushing the government to allow access to a drug that may help save their sons' lives and the children of hundreds of other parents. Their story of unrelenting strength in the face of institutional adversity shows us that change is possible if you are willing to fight for it. This is a film about the power of courage, hope against all odds and the unbreakable bond between parent and child.