Saturday, February 12, 2011

When Beauty Gets Brutal

Do you like "butt-kickin’ tights-wearing’ roller-skatin’"* ladies?

Then go see this movie TONIGHT @9.45pm.

Afterwards, join the sponsors of the film--Hellgate Rollergirls--at The Badlander in downtown Missoula for a rockin' good time.

"I am always attracted to true subcultures that act as a clan. Roller Derby is definitely that."
-Chip Mabry, Director

Documenting the Rose City Rollers in Portland, BRUTAL BEAUTY explores the recently revived contact sport of female Roller Derby, where two teams race around an indoor track trying to get ahead of the other using precision and teamwork, with a little shoving, grunting, jamming, blocking, pivoting and bruising along the way. Director Chip Mabry's interest in sports with an "amateur aesthetic" is what tuned him into the roller derby culture, as well as the unwavering commitment each of the these ladies has for the activity.

"All of them have full-time jobs and no income from the sport," he says, amazed at their dedication.

But along with fortitude there is also risk.

"I saw many broken tibs, fibs and ribs over the year of production. I was most surprised to see the exact level of anticipation from these women as the professional athletes I have covered."

Mabry got hooked up with the Rose City Rollers through friends he met while making a film about skateboarding and actually began the project feeling skeptical about the sport, as he thought it "more of a fad than a culture." But his opinion was soon changed once he spent hours upon hours with these brutal, yet beautiful, girls.

"These women made me a believer in a sport that I now think has a real future; they changed me more than I'd like to admit."

BRUTAL BEAUTY shows Saturday, February 12 at 9.45pm.
Party to follow at The Badlander--208 Ryman. The event is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

*Taken from the Hellgate Rollergirls' site

Why This Festival Rocks

There's something about opening night at Big Sky that gets me. Directors, editors, and producers are in town (we picked up 17 from the airport yesterday alone), the town is aflutter with film buzz, and the energy level all around is high, as each of the 200+ people involved with the fest have hit the ground running in preparation for 10 days of film, hard work and invaluable experiences. The intimacy of this festival, in addition to its glorious location in downtown Missoula, and the accessibility of the visiting filmmakers creates a vibe that's hard to find at any other film festival, albeit a documentary film festival.

The festival kicked off Friday night with a free screening of HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, sponsored by HBO Documentary Films. Festival Director Mike Steinberg noted that it's an incredible honor to have a free screening the first night of the film, especially in association with HBO, whose quality programming continues to inspire and awe audiences. "HBO makes it possible for us to start our event with a lot of energy. It's really a wonderful gift to this community."

Peter D Richardson, director of the film conducted a Q&A with the 800+ people who turned out Friday night at opening night of the fest. Editor Greg Snider was also in attendance. HOW TO DIE IN OREGON was recently chosen by Sundance as the winner of the Grand Jury Prize in documentary. And judging by the 800+ people who showed for this film at the Wilma, his success is surely not 0ver.

More pictures of the Opening Night at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sundance Grand Jury Prize Film Screens FOR FREE Tonight! Crowd of 800+ Turns Out.

Making its Montana premiere in the festival's American Spectrum strand, HOW TO DIE IN OREGON tells the stories of terminally ill Oregonians as they decide whether to end their life under the state's Death with Dignity Act. What emerges is a complex, poignant, and deeply moving portrait of what it means to die at the time and circumstance of ones choosing. Just last month the film won the prestigious Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary Competition at Sundance Film Festival.

The free HBO screening marks the fifth year the cable network has sponsored an opening night film at Big Sky. "It's an amazingly generous sponsorship," says Festival Director, Mike Steinberg. "HBO makes it possible for us to start our event with a lot of energy. It's really a wonderful gift to this community."

HOW TO DIE IN OREGON screens Friday, February 11 at 6.30pm, Q&A with director Peter D. Richardson follows the FREE screening.

Watch Peter D Richardson accept his award at Sundance

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Double Feature Competition Films Deal with Native American Issues

"Why is there a holiday to an Indian-killing slave trader?"

This is one of the questions asked in COLUMBUS DAY LEGACY (Saturday, Feb 12 at 2pm), a film that explores quintessential American issues of the freedom of speech, ethnic pride, and the ownership of history against the backdrop of the ongoing Columbus Day Parade controversy in Denver, Colorado.

In attendance will be filmmaker Bennie Klain, a director of documentaries and short fictions. He is the founder of TricksterFilms, based in Austin, Texas. He is a fluent Navajo speaker, often incorporating the language into his work. We asked him a few questions about the film and his hopes for future projects.

BSD: Outside of being a Navajo speaker, what is your connection to the topic of COLUMBUS DAY LEGACY? What got you interested in the controversy in Denver?

BK: I had never heard about the Denver Columbus Day parade until September of 2006, when my producer Leighton C. Peterson was a visiting professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. After talking with several people about the conflicting politics involved, he approached me with the idea of shooting during the parade the in October. We knew there was a unique human story here, and we were onto something significant when both the Italian- and Native American communities passionately emphasized that the 2007 parade—signifying the 100th anniversary of the holiday in Colorado—was the one to capture, . We returned the following year with two film crews to simultaneously capture this passionate energy on both sides.
I decided that Columbus Day Legacy needed to begin by representing both sides of this conflict somewhat equally, a difficult undertaking as a Navajo filmmaker. What emerged as a result of this persistent vision is a contemporary digital portrait of two strong and proud ethnic communities, both fighting to preserve the memory of their prejudiced experiences as representatives of the original inhabitants and immigrant Americans. Both groups were historically far removed from any political elite or aristocracy. During editing, this formed the central conflict in Columbus Day Legacy as the United States grapples with everyday questions about rights, immigration, and identity in the 21st Century.

BSD: Where do you hope to see this film go? What are your intentions for it?

BK: I hope that COLUMBUS DAY LEGACY spurs people to find out more about the origins of the holiday and also to find out more about the Italian American experience, as well as to find out more about contemporary Native peoples and how history continues to resonate in the present day. Troy Lynn Yellowwood, one of the participants in our documentary says it best, "I think there's two sides to every story. I think that's where we need to start. Find out more than I can tell you. Learn on your own. All I can do is peak your interest and then you have to do the rest."

BSD: What is your next project?

BK: Roadman is an hour-long documentary that , explores the origins and complexity of the Native American Church (NAC) through the lens of practicing Navajo Roadmen, NAC’s spiritual leaders for Navajo peoples. Roadmen are akin to ‘reverends’ or ‘ministers’ in the Christian faith, authorized to teach and minister by conducting peyote ceremonies. In traditional Navajo views, they are considered ‘medicine men’ and healers. Roadman will give a human face to these Navajo NAC Roadmen as they travel to the peyote fields in Texas, deal with the Federal government, and protect their religions freedom from both Navajo and outside forces.

It tells the story of a contemporary journey that highlights the balance struck between traditional Native and western values, through the course of a unique road trip to gather peyote, a widely misunderstood plant/medicine used by Native Americans, a group still striving for full religious and political freedom. Roadman brings to life this seemingly contradictory religious practice, following the personal stories of NAC Roadmen in Navajoland as they apprentice, pray, and go about their daily lives.

COLUMBUS DAY LEGACY will be screened Saturday, Feb 12 at 2pm with

by Anne Makepeace

Celebrated every Thanksgiving as “the Indians” who saved the Pilgrims, then largely forgotten, the Wampanoag of Southeastern Massachusetts, spurred on by their intrepid Wampanoag linguist and MacArthur honoree Jessie Littledoe Baird, are saying loud and clear, and in their Native tongue, “Âs Nutayuneân,” – We Still Live Here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: Where Race and Modernism Collide

Playing Saturday, Feb 12th at 4pm in Wilma 1

Following its highly-publicized destruction, the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex became a widespread symbol of failure amongst architects, politicians and policy makers. THE PRUITT IGOE MYTH explores the social, economic and legislative issues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the project’s residents.

We talked with director Chad Freidrichs and producer Brian Woodman about their motivation to make the film and why, decades after the subject's demise, it's still such a relevant and racially charged topic.

Big Sky Doc: Why did you want to focus on Pruitt-Igoe? What struck you about it as a topic worthy of an entire documentary?

Chad Freidrichs: Like many these days, I first heard the words “Pruitt-Igoe” in the same sentence as “Death of Modern Architecture.” The professor in an audio lecture was discussing
Pruitt-Igoe as the ultimate representative of the decline of the City of the Future envisioned by LeCorbusier and other Modernist architects and planners. This award-winning project that was supposed to change the city instead quickly transformed into a Modernist slum.

I like documentaries about really big ideas, and this was a big one for me: that beautiful
architecture with idealistic social goals ended up being worse than the conditions it
replaced largely because of its design. And considering the former site was only a couple
hours down the road from me, and in a city with which I’m pretty familiar, it seemed like
a very promising subject.

When I began my research, I came at the subject from this architectural point of
view. But I soon read an article by Katherine Bristol called “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” in
which she argued that Pruitt-Igoe had been inflated as an architectural achievement, that
it had never won an architectural award (she’s right) and that its supposed significance
was being used by subsequent architects and theorists to not only attack Modernism,
but also to aggrandize architects’ ability to significantly change social conditions, for
better or worse. This article, and others like it, guided my subsequent research and the story that we told.

What kind of challenges did you face with doing a documentary with a subject so racially charged?

Poverty and crime, the two markers most attributed to Pruitt-Igoe’s residents, often unfairly, are extraordinarily sensitive subjects, especially when race gets involved. Those were certainly conditions that existed in Pruitt-Igoe and deeply affected many of its residents; we don’t shy away from them, but we also wanted to tell another story.

If you want to tell a truthful story about Pruitt-Igoe, a story that presents life as it was
truly lived, you have to show the relative normality that prevailed. Most people in Pruitt-
Igoe lived lives free of crime. And yet, that’s not often pointed out. Many were poor, but
the focus often stops there. It usually doesn’t extend to the ingenuity and brave struggle
that the poverty engendered.

One strategy was simply to point out something that’s so mundane that it’s often
unreported: most people in Pruitt-Igoe were pretty much like people everywhere. And
I feel that simply saying that is refreshing and more truthful than the dominant image of
life in the projects that’s been presented in the past.

On the flip side, we tried to steer clear of a tendency to place all blame on racist suburban
whites for the decline of the inner city. Again, it’s there in the film; there was no way of
avoiding that issue entirely. But we also tried to show how the larger economics of home
ownership forced even well-meaning whites to abide by the dictates of segregation.
We try to put it all in context – so far as we are able in eighty minutes – to present the
complexity of life in Pruitt-Igoe, and life in the city, during those years. I think people are
ready for that.

BSD: Were you at all inspired by "Koyaanisqatsi?" Do you use it at all in the film? As a St.
Louisan, that's a huge part of Pruitt-Igoe to us--is that featured bit in the film.

Brian Woodman: We were all very aware of the film and Pruitt-Igoe’s important place in it. If you ask a lot of people, Pruitt-Igoe really is embodied in that implosion footage. It seemed pretty
difficult not to use that footage in a film about Pruitt-Igoe. However, our research led us
to an immense amount of material that added more to the Pruitt-Igoe story than just the
destruction, so the Koyaanisqatsi material plays only a small role.