g The Film Panel Notetaker: December 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

10 Favorite Films I Saw in 2008

Here's 10 films I really liked a lot that I saw in 2008, whether they were released theatrically, have no distribition yet, or I just saw them at a festival. There's a whole bunch of films I still have yet to see, so perhaps this will be revised. I followed no rules here. Agree or disagree, this is only my opionion. Have a very happy new year!

1. Frost/Nixon
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Intimidad
4. Milk
5. Frozen River
6. Chop Shop
7. Trouble the Water
8. Happy-Go-Lucky
9. In Search of a Midnight Kiss
10. Be Like Others

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thom Powers Top 10 Favorite Doc Events 2008

Stranger Than Fiction's Thom Powers offers his Top 10 Favorite Documentary Events in 2008 over at the STF Blog. Thom's #2 (March: Cinema Eye Honors) is similarily my #2 from last week's Top 10 Favorite Panels and Q&As of 2008.

As a tribute to Stranger Than Fiction, here's my notes from the STFs I attended in 2008.

"Film As a Subversive Art" - Jan. 29, 2008
WHOLPHIN - February 12, 2008
"Join Us" - April 8, 2008
"My Generation" - May 13, 2008
"When We Were Kings" - May 20, 2008

Be sure to check out the schedule for Stranger Than Fiction's upcoming season at stfdocs.com.

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Check out first nine minutes of "Indie Film Blogger Road Trip"

Here's the first nine minutes of Sujewa Ekanayake's documentary Indie Film Blogger Road Trip. These segments feature interviews with Anthony Kaufman and Tambay Obenson. The full 95 minute documentary (including my interview) will be available at screenings and on DVD in 2009. Enjoy!

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Reflections on 2008 and Top 10 Favorite Panel Discussions and Q&As

2008 saw the birth of the One-on-One Q&A, where I interviewed a number of filmmakers including Lucia Small and Ed Pincus (The Axe in the Attic), Leah Meyerhoff (Unicorns), Paul Krik (Able Danger), Fritz Donnelly (To the Hills 2), Phillip Van (Come Wander With Me), Sue Williams (Young & Restless in China), Daniel Robin (My Olympic Summer), Josh Koury (We Are Wizards), Lucía Gajá (My Life Inside), Tambay Obenson (Beautiful Things), Dawn Scibilia and Alan Cooke (Home), Richard LeMay & Jason Brown (Whirlwind), and Paul Lovelace & Sam Douglas (The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to Lose).

New to the contributing notetaker team was Erin Scherer (
Are You From Bingo?), who helped me tremendously at South by Southwest, and contributions by aliases Majimafia and Ultradevotion. AMPeters and Jennifer Warren were back with more notes this year, as well. I also want to thank my friends Adolfo Doring and Amanda Zackem, whose film Blind Spot played at the Woodstock Film Festival, for taking me to the mansion on top of the hill :)

And before I forget, thanks to IndieGoGo for making The Film Panel Notetaker one of its resources, to indieWIRE for listing it as one of their Blogs They Love, Infincine and any other blog or website that linked to here.

I made my first trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW and a return trip to Silver Spring, Maryland for Silverdocs, while also staying on the home front for the New Directors, New Films, Tribeca Film Festival, New York Film Festival, IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Conference and Woodstock Film Festival. I also made appearances at a number of very-well programmed film series, screenings, and discussions including Stranger Than Fiction, Rooftop Films, the Museum of the Moving Image, and MoMA. And in March, I was very fortunate to attend the first ever Cinema Eye Honors for nonfiction film presented by Indiepix.

And I cannot close this year off without mentioning fellow indie film blogger and DIY filmmaker extraordinaire Sujewa Ekanyake’s documentary
Indie Film Blogger Road Trip, in which Sujewa generously interviews me and several other indie film bloggers about the rise and somewhat unseen future of indie film blogs. Just trying to see how many times I could put the phrase ‘indie film blogs’ in one paragraph :)

Like last year, it was very hard for me to narrow it down to just 10, as there were so many interesting and wonderful conversations from which to choose. (If you would like to share some of your favorite panel discussions of 2008, please leave a comment.) I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or just my love of non-fiction films, but most of the Top 10 has something to do in one way or another with documentaries. But much of my underlying reasoning can really be attuned to the following criteria: Information and material that I learned and haven’t seen before at panel discussions, diversity in the members on the panels, great moderators, the way in which the panel or discussion was presented, and the ability to entertain, enlighten, and inspire my readers…as well as those that made me laugh my ass off...you know who you are :)
Here’s hoping for more of these wonderful attributes…as well as new surprises…in the year to come.

A Tribute to St. Clair Bourne
Museum of the Moving Image
Astoria, NY
February 10, 2008
This was a very lively discussion that introduced me to the work of the late St. Clair Bourne, who produced and directed many documentaries about prominent figures in African American culture and history including Paul Robeson, John Henrik Clarke, Gordon Parks, and Langston Hughes. Moderated with much respect and appreciation for Bourne and his work, Warrington Hudlin led a great mix of scholars and critics. Nonso Christian Ugbode also presented a clip montage that he edited of Bourne’s films. That same montage would be screened a month later during a tribute to Bourne during the first annual Cinema Eye Honors, which leads into the perfect segway for my #2 pick…

Cinema Eye Honors Roundtable Discussion
New York, NY
March 18, 2008

To my surprise and delight, halfway through the ceremony for the Cinema Eye Honors, co-chair Thom Powers gathered to the stage four directors whose films were nominated for awards that evening including Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside), Esther B. Robinson (A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory), Jason Kohn (Manda Bala) and Pernille Rose Grønkjær (The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun) for a roundtable discussion. While I did kvetch about the lack of light in the seating area for me to see my own notes I was taking, the whole experience of it all trumps that, and I therefore bestow #2 to this very clever and might I say daring idea to break up an award show with a discussion with its honorees.

Stanley Nelson: History in the Making
SXSW Film Conference & Festival
Austin, Texas
March 9, 2008
Stanley Nelson is one of my favorite historical documentary filmmakers. Not only did he show clips from a few of his docs (Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till), he also screened a sneak peek clip of his upcoming film Wounded Knee that is now an official selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It was the first time Nelson showed this clip to the public. I noted in my notes that I often like panels that include film clips because they bring a lot of perspective into the discussion.

Behind the Screens - Under Our Skin
Tribeca Film Festival
New York, NY
April 27, 2008
While I attended several filmmaker conversations myself at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, the notes provided by contributing notetaker AMPeters helped this particular discussion on the documentary Under Our Skin make it to #4. Peters’ notes solicited the most comments than any other notes on The Film Panel Notetaker this year. It was clear by the subject matter of the film, lyme disease, and the information presented in her notes that people were clearly affected.

My Olympic Summer
New Directors/New Films
New York, NY
March 30, 2008
The Q&A with My Olympic Summer director Daniel Robin at New Directors, New Films is clearly an example of fiction blurring the lines of non-fiction, a topic addressed by many a film blogger this past year. A re-telling of the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics with real home movies that are manipulated into what I felt to be an artitistic and compelling story, the reaction by audience members during the Q&A who thought it was all real, only to learn that it was non-fiction, seemed to shock and irk many of them, which made for a tense, yet very important discussion.

Acting Out
June 14, 2008
Notetaking newcomer Ultradevotion provided notes from the Acting Out panel featuring out actors and filmmakers such as Heather Matarazzo. 2008 was the first year The Film Panel Notetaker attended NewFest, and ultimately a milestone year for the LGBT community as same sex marriages were declared consitutional in the state of Califoria, but then upsettlingly repealed in November when Proposition 8 received the majority vote, which has since then lead to nationwide protests.

No Borders Case Study with John Hadity
Independent Film Week
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
New York, NY

2008 marked my 8th visit to IFP’s annual Filmmaker Conference (fka IFP Market & Conference), but the first year I was invited to attend a seminar that was not a part of the conference itself, but rather the No Borders International Co-Production section. That seminar was a rather interesting and informative talk on single picture financing presented by finance guru John Hadity.

Shooting in India
Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival
New York, NY
November 8, 2008
This was also my first time at the MIAAC Film Festival and since I’ve never heard people talk about what it’s like to shoot a movie in India before, my interests were immediately sparked. Parvez Sharma (A Jihad for Love) did a nice job moderating a group of panelists who were either from India and shot a movie in India or weren’t from India and shot a movie in India. Either way, all had interesting stories to share.

Herb and Dorothy
Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 21, 2008

Herb and Dorothy the movie was quite a nice change of pace with its light-hearted subject matter compared to more hard-hitting, yet equally well-made documentaries I saw at Silverdocs. So it was even nicer a treat to see Herb and Dorothy the people make an appearance at the Q&A after the screening along with the director Megumi Sasaki.

Actors Dialogue: Mary Stuart Masterson & Melissa Leo
2008 Woodstock Film Festival
October 5, 2009
Woodstock, NY
Martha Frankel nearly brought me to tears with laughter for a second straight year in a row with her casual yet very-well researched moderation for a conversation with actresses Mary Stuart Masterson and Melissa Leo at the Woodstock Film Festival. Hey, Martha…stop being so funny so I can let other panels have a chance to be on here next year, will ya?

Honorary #11
Here's to Life: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to One Life to Live
New York, NY
June 10, 2008
I try not to veer off topic too much on The Film Panel Notetaker, but how can I leave out one of my very favorite panels of the year? Thanks again to Ultradevotion for her very colorful commentary!

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Docs in Progress Open House

Over the weekend while visiting my family in Maryland, Sujewa Ekanayake and I met up with Erica Ginsberg, Executive Director of Docs in Progress, at the not-for-profit organization's new "Documentary House" in Silver Spring, Maryland, just a few short blocks away from the AFI Silver Theater, home of Silverdocs. Erica told us about the open house Docs in Progress is holding this Thursday night. Wish I could be there myself, but will be back in New York. If anyone in the DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area would like to attend, here's more of the details courtesy of Erica.
You are invited to join us at an Open House this coming Thursday, December 4 between 6:00-9:00 pm at "The Documentary House" in downtown Silver Spring.

This is an opportunity to tour Docs In Progress' new space which serves as our administrative offices and as a training and educational center for aspiring and experienced documentary filmmakers.

We look forward to this event to recognize alumni of our programs, thank our program sponsors and partners, introduce our new board, and welcome both the DC/Baltimore-area film community and Silver Spring's local community.

This Open House is also serving as our end-of-year fundraiser. Since this is our inaugural year in the space, there is no door charge, but, if you have not already made a tax-deductible contribution, we can accept your donations (checks, cash, or online credit card transactions).
We look forward to welcoming you!

Erica Ginsberg, Executive Director

Adele Schmidt, Director of Programs and Services

Sam Hampton, Director of Planning and Special Projects

Docs In Progress
Although our offices and training center are in Silver Spring, we will continue to hold screenings in Washington DC and Baltimore. A special thank you to The Documentary Center at the George Washington University and Creative Alliance for being amazing and generous sponsors of our screening programs.

Docs In Progress
The Documentary House
8700 First Avenue
(corner of First and Fenwick)
Silver Spring, Maryland

We are only a few blocks from the Silver Spring Metro. Drivers can park in the gravel lot behind our house or in the Cameron Street Garage (garage parking free after 7 pm)

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