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Lesley Coffin 158 posts

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Emmy-nominated ‘What Haunts Us’ seeks change from within

With the increasing number of newly released documentaries, it’s rare to stand out from the pack. Alongside City of Ghosts, Jane and Strong Island, Paige Tolmach’s What Haunts Us is nominated for the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking at this year’s Emmy awards.

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Allison McAlpine is in search of our night skies in ‘Cielo’

That rare chance to appreciate the beauty of the night sky lead documentarian Allison McAlpine to make her new film Cielo. Filmed in multiple locations where the night sky of Chile can be appreciated, including scientific institutions and personal residences, McAlpine has created an impressionist documentary which combines a once in a lifetime experience to experience the beauty and magnitude of our night skies.

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Megumi Sasaki seeks nuance in ‘Whale of a Tale’

As the community of Taiji claimed their hunting practice was part of their way of life and activists argued it was a brutal practice of animal abuse, leading to an outright culture war. Japanese born, US resident Megumi Sasaki (director of Herb & Dorothy) saw the growing debate as an opportunity to see the multiple sides of this controversial subject as well as address the universal need we have for rational conversation when confronted with such issues.

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Three’s company for ‘Summer of 84’ co-writer Anouk Whissell

While we’ve seen a rise in the number of directing partnerships in the past decade, the three-person team is still a rarity. But for the team of RKSS (Roadkill Superstar) made up of Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard and Yoann-Karl Whisse, three heads are better than one.

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In a world full of grey, Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir brings ‘The Swan’ to life

The connection between nature and narrative can be a beautiful and powerful way of expressing a character’s inner thoughts and emotions. Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir shows this beautifully in her new film The Swan, based on the classic Icelandic coming of age novel by Guðbergur Bergsson.

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‘Night Comes On’ director Jordana Spiro finds artistic purpose

Night Comes On tells the story of sisters Angel (Dominque Fishback), a young woman who’s just aged out of the foster system after spending time in juvenile detention, and her younger sister Abby (newcomer Tatum Marilyn Hall).

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‘Nico, 1988’ a twist on the biopic

As popular as the biopic genre may be, overcoming the roadblocks to making an effective film are hard for some filmmakers to avoid. This especially true when telling the story of a celebrity whose life audiences have seen play out already. Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli was well aware of these difficulties when making her new film Nico 88, about rock singer Nico.

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‘Good Manners’ a modern twist on classic horror story

Dutra and Rojas also created a stunning piece of cinema which fully embraces the genre traditions the film comes from. We spoke with Juliana about taking a modern approach to the werewolf story, incorporating current social issues, and her filmmaking partnership.

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Paula Eiselt captures change from within in documentary ’93Queen’

Director of 93Queen, Paula Eiselt managed to capture the beginning of this new organization (Ezras Nashim) and they emerged from the ground up.

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Tiffany Bartok remembers ‘Larger Than Life’ inspiration

In her sophomore film, Larger Than Life: The Kevin Aucoin Story she’s once again tell the story of an artist gone too soon, but this time focuses on the personal and professional life of make-up artist legend Kevin Aucoin, using rare footage and stills and intimate interviews with those who knew him best.

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‘Far From the Tree’ director Rachel Dretzin takes closer look at family and otherness

For more than two decades, Rachel Dretzin has been focusing her camera of American culture with her documentary films at Frontline. From her debut film Hillary’s Class, she’s won a Peabody (The Lost Children of Rockdale County) the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Prize (Failure to Protect) and Emmy (Growing Up Online). But now Rachel is […]

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Documentarian Kimberly Reed brings ‘Dark Money’ to light

After her breakthrough film Prodigal Sons, documentary filmmaker Kimberly Reed has returned to her home state of Montana for her sophomore film, Dark Money.

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Clio Barnard explores the mind in ‘Dark River’

In Clio Barnard’s third feature film, following The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, she continues her study on the impact of poverty in the U.K. with her new film Dark River. Like her previous film The Selfish Giant, the focus is squarely on the aspects of life the public tries to overlook.

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Modern Prospero and Miranda in Debra Granik’s ‘Leave No Trace’

Eight years after her award-winning Winter’s Bone emerged as a sleeper hit, Debra Granik (Academy Award-nominee for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay) once again is poised to hit it big on the indie circuit with her new film, Leave No Trace.

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Madelyn Deutch keeps ‘The Year of Spectacular Men’ all in the family

What makes The Year of Spectacular Men so special is the fact that the film stars a real-life Hollywood family, Madelyn “Maddie” Deutch, Zoey Deutch and their mother Lea Thompson, all of whom took major roles behind the camera for the first time.

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‘Never Steady, Never Still’ beautifully depicts mother-son journey

Kathleen Hepburn has had to consider this challenge since being faced with her mother’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s’ disease. And this reality inspired her feature film debut Never Steady, Never Still.

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‘Set It Up’ team talks dream collaboration, chemistry and reviving the romantic comedy

The screwball rom-com tells the story of two overworked assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who try to set up their bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) and hope their romantic satisfaction trickles down into a happier work environment for all.

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Melanie Mayron premieres ‘Snapshots’ at Soho International Film Festival

To many audiences Melanie Mayron’s been a familiar face on screens since the 70s. From her breakthrough performance in Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends to her Emmy winning role as Melissa on Thirtysomething, she’s had a long and impressive career playing complex and idiosyncratic women. But since 1990 she’s been cultivating her second career in Hollywood as a director including work on more than 50 series.

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A hidden side of the suicide crisis in ‘The Valley’

In recent years, we’ve seen startling statistics on the rising mental health crisis in America, especially among young people. It seems to have become epidemic, yet we struggle to face these issues directly as a country. But for first time writer-director Saila Kariat, the epidemic facing the country is only complicated by the cultural stigma placed on mental health within the Asian American community.

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High schoolers journey from China to U.S. in ‘Maineland’ doc

Chinese born Miao Wang, director of Beijing Taxi, followed this phenomenon in her new film Maineland. For more than three years, she followed the educational and personal growth of affluent high schoolers who choose to come from China to attend American, private boarding schools, including one in blue-collar Maine. Focusing on students Stella and Harry, the American high school experience is given a new perspective.

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Amy Adrion gives voice to women behind the camera in ‘Half the Picture’

Amy Adrion graduated from UCLA’s MFA directing program and received awards from the Directors Guild of America as a student filmmaker. Yet, she and many other women were struggling for opportunities to land directing jobs. So she turned her camera on female directors who had come before her to tell their stories of success and struggle in Half the Picture.

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Theresa Bennett’s ‘Social Animals’ hides love letter to James L. Brooks

The rom-com stands up as one of the most beloved film genres we have, yet we’ve been experiencing a severe drought in recent years. More importantly, the need for rom-coms with a modern touch can be hard to find. Enter writer-director Theresa Bennett with her new film Social Animals. The Austin-set comedy focuses on about-to-be […]

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Lauryn Kahn’s girls trip inspires new comedy ‘Ibiza’

Summer has arrived and it’s that time of year for travel. But if you’re using this holiday weekend for a staycation, Netflix’s Ibiza is just in time. The new film about a business trip for Harper (lead Gillian Jacobs) turning into a girls trip with her two best friends (Vanessa Bayer and Phoebe Robinson) comes from Lauryn Kahn; It is based on a trip she took to Spain that she financed with the sale of her first screenplay. Although Kahn has been in the business for more than a decade, including writing and directing shorts for Funny or Die, this is the first screenplay she has had produced and released. Appropriately enough, Ibiza is bit of return home for Kahn who selected fellow Funny or Die alumni Alex Richanbach to direct the film (it is also produced by her former boss and mentor, Adam McKay).

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Carla Simón’s debut film ‘Summer 1993’ a family affair

In Summer 1993, writer-director Carla Simón tells her own story of grief and adoption.

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Director Elissa Down tells coming-of-age story with American film debut ‘Honor List’

Focusing on the immediate aftermath of title character Honor (Arden Cho), her three lifelong friends (Rienks, Karrueche Tran, and Sasha Tierterse) attempt to live out her three wishes, including take revenge on the school bullies. Australian director Elissa Down (The Black Balloon) brings a slightly outsider view on this story of a very American high school experience, a subject we discuss in our recent interview about her American film debut.

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Sophie Lorain’s ‘Slut in a Good Way’ re-imagines the teen sex comedy

The French language film tells the story of three lifelong girlfriends, Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), Megane (Romane Denis) and Aube (Rose Adam), who take jobs at the “Toy Depot” where a plethora of teenage boys work alongside them.

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‘State Like Sleep’ director talks grief, filming in Brussels and appeal of Michael Shannon

After producing multiple shorts, documentaries and experimental films, Meredith Danluck is the latest director to explore these ideas with her feature-narrative debut State Like Sleep.

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‘Yellow is Forbidden’ peeks into fashion house of Guo Pei

After her grand, hand-embroidered gown was worn by singer Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala, Pei became the designer to watch in the fashion world, and perfect subject for the Tribeca documentary Yellow is Forbidden. New Zealand director Pietra Brettkelly (2015’s The Flickering Truth) can appreciate the artistic drive which motivates her subject, even if as we discussed, she isn’t a follower of the industry herself.

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Actress Ashley Bell steps behind the camera for ‘Love and Bananas’

Four years later, Bell is still acting (including last year’s Novitiate) and adds director to her resume with the feature Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story.

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Norah Shapiro’s ‘Time for Ilhan’ follows first Somali-American elected to legislation

Ilhan Omar was the first Somali-American elected to legislation. The Somali immigrant has served as a community organizer in Minneapolis for years before deciding to run for the House of Representatives, a journey captured by director Norah Shapiro for her documentary Time for Ilhan.

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