Posts Tagged ‘silverdocs’

Nine Lives of Marion Barry Finds New Relevence On HBO

nine-lives-of-marion-barryIt was only a week or two after viewing The Nine Lives Of Marion Barry at AFI Silverdocs earlier this summer, that the story told in the film took another turn. When Barry was arrested for stalking his mistress last month, I took in the event with new-found insight on the life of Marion Barry.

For youngsters like me, the former mayor of Washington DC is mostly known for scandal and drug use- the subject of many Weekend Update jokes. However to others Marion Barry was a civil rights leader, and the man who transformed some of the worst neighborhoods of Washington DC.

Fresh off it’s Silverdocs run, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry premiered on HBO this past Monday. The film directed by Dana Flor and produced by Toby Oppenheimer, intertwines Barry’s start in DC with his 2004 campaign for city council. The 78 minute profile depics Barry as a social leader who constantly battles scandal after scandal, but like the film’s title, manages to bounce back every time.

While film shows an inside look of Barry’s life, from riding down the streets of his Ward to his humble apartment in what looks like the middle of the projects, there’s nothing special with the production values- what really makes the film is the subject and story that is almost too spectacular to believe.

Before you write Barry’s latest scandal off, I encourage you to check out the film and learn more about where Barry truly came from- I assure you it’ll change what you originally thought of the current Ward 8 councilman and DC icon. The film is scheduled to re-air at various times throughout the month, check HBO for more details.

SilverDocs 2009: Interview With Facing Ali Producer Derik Murray

I also had the chance to talk with Facing Ali producer Derik Murray, you can listen to the poorly recorded phone interview here (hey I’m a blogger- not an audio engineer!)

In the interview Murray talks about his past work doing Hockey films, “you’re based in Vancouver, you’re based in Canada and you don’t do Hockey- you don’t get a lot of work.”

He also talks about his relationship with director Peter McCormack and how the two came together to make Facing Ali a reality. Besides McCormack, Murray put together a dedicated crew, “the people I select to work on the project were passionate about and they never left my side… they are passionate about the project to this day,” and tackled the challenge of contacting families and acquiring the archival footage that em compasses the majority of the film. Murray says after SilverDocs, the film will be going to LA and NY and with luck it could reach a wider audience release.

Facing Ali premiered to a sold out crowd at SilverDocs last week, for those that haven’t had a chance to see it can catch it tonight as the festival wraps up.


Facing Ali
Showing at AFI SilverDocs
Monday June 22nd, 8:00 PM
AFI Silver Theater

SilverDocs 2009: Q&A With The Filmmakers Of "The Shutdown"

shutdownThis past week I met Scottish filmmakers Adam Stafford and Peter Gerard. They were excited to have their short The Shutdown, screen earlier at SilverDocs. The piece is described as, “a mesmerizing portrait of the influence of an oil refinery in a Scottish town.” What really interested me was the fact two quarter-lifers were already running a production company making films, so we exchanged some e-mails and here’s a little Q&A I had with the duo:

Patrick: Reading Adam’s Q&A on SilverDocs it looks like you’ve always wanted to be involved and work in film- what led you two to choose this kind of career?
Adam Stafford: To me it’s not a career; there are career film makers, but for me it’s something more than that, it’s a case of finding the truth and the narrative and bringing the two together. It’s a case of pushing the framing of the images to a point of unacceptability. Werner Herzog said you should work as a bouncer at a sex club or a car park attendant to raise money to make films. I work as an operator for the emergency services to raise funds to make mine, and that won’t stop until someone comes along and offers us money for the next project. Until then, I will work and build up my projects from the dirt.

Patrick: You talked to me last night about the unique story and approach of The Shutdown, but what do you hope audiences walk away with after they see your short?

Adam Stafford: With a sense of something that they’ve never seen before: a documentary featuring no people, but with a stunning narrative coupled with a soundtrack of ambient drone and pink smoke.

Patrick: I also commented talked how I was impressed that two young guys like yourself decided to start a production company and push stuff out there- what led you two to decide to form this group of artists? This kind of work isn’t guaranteed to pay at all and I’m sure it’s not the 9-5 job that most people do after college…

Peter Gerard: I started Accidental Media while I was still in high school in Missouri. I moved to Scotland in 2000 and eventually turned Accidental Media into a full-on production company with a focus on documentaries, short films, and innovative shorts. “The Shutdown” is our first collaboration with Adam and we see a lot of potential in developing his talents along with his collaborator, the writer Alan Bissett.

Patrick: What kind of advice would you give a person looking to get into film making but doesn’t exactly know where to start?

Peter Gerard: Always start with a good story, and make sure it’s well told. It’s also essential to create a film with cinematic beauty. There are too many films these days that ignore visual aesthetics, and really that’s what film making is all about.

Adam Stafford: I agree with the above. But I would also recommend just watching films. Don’t sit around reading books about how you should construct a narrative, or how this person did that, or what this person recommends you to do to better yourself as a filmmaker. Watch films by the masters! Go out and experiment and then decide for yourself! Listen to every kind of weird music! Look at art and photography! Read Richard Brautigan, William Burroughs and Flannery O’Conner. You can be as surreal and as experimental as you like, as long as there is an honesty in your vision.

SilverDocs 2009: Sweethearts Of The Prision Rodeo Screens Today

It almost sounds like the plot of a bad action film.

Take a bunch of prisoners and throw them in a rodeo where they face off against angry bulls, ready to tear them apart. Sounds like a modern day gladiator bout but it’s reality at the Oklahoma Prison Rodeo which is billed as the world’s only “behind the walls” rodeo.

Sweethearts of the Prision Rodeo profiles the female inmates of the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, as they train and compete while struggling to live a life behind bars. Director Bradley Beesley has spent his career documenting, “oddball Americana, strange sub-cultures, and homegrown rock stars.” He has no doubt found a very interesting story and subject with the ladies of the Oklahoma Prison Rodeo.

Even though Beesley is from Oklahoma, he was inspired while on the West Coast reading The Washington Post, “I was living in San Francisco and I read an article in the Washington Post, which announced that for the first time in Oklahoma State Prison Rodeo history female inmates would be competing against the male inmates.  Because I had already thought this would make a good short film and now that females were added, I was compelled.”

The film, selected for this year’s SXSW festival, screens this afternoon and on Sunday at SilverDocs, and the film has already been sold to HBO.


Sweethearts Of The Prision Rodeo
Showing at AFI SilverDocs
Friday June 19th, 4:30 PM

AFI Silver Theater
Sunday Jun 21st, 2:30 PM
Round House Theatre

SilverDocs 2009: "More Than A Game" Profiles LeBron James And His High School "Fab Five"


Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

This year’s opening night selection for AFI SilverDocs started out as a college assignment for director Kristopher Belman.

A television production major at Loyola Marymount University, he decided to focus a project for his Documentary Production class on his hometown of Akron, OH and a group of basketball players that were quickly gaining attention on the National stage.

“Got me a B+, that was pretty cool,” Belman remarked after the last night’s opening screening.

The group of ballers he decided to film were The Fighting Irish of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, who’s line-up included the  “Fab Five”: Dru Joyce, the small yet spunky son of the team’s coach; Romeo Travis, the loner and newcomer to the longtime clique; Sian Cotton, large and in charge- an athlete in both basketball and football; Willie McGee, a troubled teen who moved from Chicago to find a better life, and of course LeBron James, dubbed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated, his rising profile would make him the superstar of an already talented team.

“More Than A Game” is not just a movie about LeBron James, but it’s about a group of five highly talented high schoolers and their friendship throughout their years as one of the Nation’s best high school teams. Something Belman fought to maintain, “people just wanted to write me a check and buy the all LeBron footage off me- they weren’t interested in having me direct anything or anything other than a highlight reel,” Belman told me in a phone interview this morning. Eventually Belman found backing through music producer Harvey Mason, Jr.


Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

Belman spent seven and a half years working on the project, since first meeting the group in 2002. After Belman graduated college he took on day work and edited the film in his bedroom on a low-end Mac laptop. During all that time he followed the Fab Five’s path from becoming an unrecognizable D-III high school team, to State champions, to the National Championship Game.

What makes “More Than A Game” such a great piece is the well crafted story that Belman carefully put together. The real-life story of the Fab Five sounds like something you would see from a Hollywood script but is told through first-person interviews, news clips, and family photographs and video.


The Fab Five at last night's screening

While there is a challenge to tell a story where the ending is known, Belman manages to keep the audience on it on the edge of their chairs. As one cast member remarked after the screening, “when I was watching it just now, I didn’t even know if we’d win the championship game!” Whether they do or not is something you’ll just have to see for themselves.

Belman’s film making takes us into the behind the scenes of a basketball team that allows us to see raw, unfiltered moments of

emotion. Kristopher told me he managed to build a relationship and comfort level with the group that turned him into an unofficial member of the team, “I think it was the fact I was just college junior… he’s a kid just trying to get a good grade… they always called me cameraman for the first few years- I don’t even think they knew my name.”

The drama and emotion Belman captures builds to a powerful ending that didn’t leave a single eye dry in the theatre- not even mine. “More Than A Game” is truly a film worthy of it’s title. A masterpiece that captures the game of basketball and five boys as they come of age and realize that basketball is more than just a game- it’s the vehicle for a lifelong brotherhood.

More Than A Game
Showing at AFI SilverDocs
Sunday June 21st, 8:30 PM
AFI Silver Theater

DC Video: LeBron James And Cast Of "More Than A Game" Arrive At AFI SilverDocs

Last night I attended the opening night of AFI SilverDocs which kicked things off with a screening of “More Than A Game.” Director Kristopher Belman and the complete cast (including King James) walked the Red Carpet for the press and fans that tried to enter the Press pen to snap photos and scream questions. Sorry guys but I don’t think LeBron is here to talk about Kobe or the Orlando Magic. Also folks, leave the questions to the actual press.

Here’s the some video I shot while I was on the Red Carpet (trust me it sounds cool but I’ve done press lines like this one before, it’s always a fight.)


As of the film I’ll be posting a complete review of that later today, I just got off the phone with director Kristopher Belman and I’m currently trying to finish the piece up before I have to go back to Silver Spring- but I will say this: never has a basketball movie ever made me cry. Ever. Not even Air Bud.

This is an amazing film that’s really more than LeBron, and yes, more than a game. The film will be screening again this weekend, check the SilverDocs website for the complete schedule and ticket information.


SilverDocs 2009 Kicks Off Tonight With A King

2-marquisBefore everyone goes Real World DC crazy this week, SilverDocs is in town again to show you real reality drama.

The Festival will run from Monday, June 15 through Monday June 22 presenting 122 films from 58 countries. Some notable films include tonight’s opening screening of More Than A Game– Kristopher Belman follows five talented young basketball players from Akron, Ohio.  Led by future NBA superstar LeBron James and coached by a charismatic yet initially inexperienced player’s father, Dru Joyce III. King James is expected to grace the Red Carpet for tonight’s screening.

The festival will close with a piece that should be of local interest, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry. As any local should know, the former mayor has had his share of successes, failures, and returns. Directors Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer explore this enigma we call Marion Barry. The two directors and Councilman Barry himself should be in attendance this weekend.

You can view the complete schedules of films here. You can purchase tickets at the SilverDocs website, most screenings appear to be in the $10 range but if you are a real docu-junkie you can also get passes to the event, and related conferences and galas.

Amy and I will be in attendance all week so expect lots of recaps, reports, reviews, and if we’re lucky, maybe I’ll get to meet some basketball royalty.

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