W H A T :
The 2007 Oscar-Nominated Short Documentary Films
W H E N :
Screening at 7:00 pm,
doors open at 6:30 pm
W H E R E :
click for Directions & Map
T I C K E T S :
$7 tickets are ONLY available online, by phone, at the Museum, and at the door subject to availability.
...and at these locations
($9 tix only, cash only),
click each location below for a map:
Sitwell's Coffee House
513 281 7487
Lookout Joe Coffee Roasters
513 871 8626
Shake It Music & Video
513 591 0123
The Bean Haus
859 431 2326
Tickets will also be available at the door, subject to availability.
UPDATE: Hanley Denning, whose heroic efforts were depicted in the Oscar-nominated Recycled Life, died this year at age 36 as a result of injuries sustained in a traffic crash in Guatemala. Director Leslie Iwerks hopes the Academy nomination will help further "Hanley's legacy of work on behalf of the poor and suffering." To learn more about Hanley's organization, Safe Passage, click here: www.safepassage.org.
"...a stunning example of not only exceptional filmmaking, but also the human spirit. These are films you'll talk about and hopefully learn from."
~ Larry Thomas, Film Critic WVXU & WGUC
About Oscar Docs
Join us for the rare opportunity to see the entire slate of current Academy Award-nominated documentary short films (including the Oscar winner) -- this is the only screening of these films in the Cincinnati area.
AUDIENCES RESPONDED positively to the quality of the short documentary films last year, including a sellout at the Freedom Center and requests for an encore. CWC has arranged to make this presentation an annual event, hence the "2nd Annual Oscar Docs."
SHOT IN China, Guatemala and the USA, the 2007 line up consists of four films ranging in length from 18 to 39 minutes each, with a total run time of 134 minutes. The directorial composition of the nominated films reflects a positive trend in the industry - three of the four works were directed by women filmmakers. Another outstanding woman film director, Cincinnatian Melissa Godoy, will lead the post-film discussion both nights.
WHILE THE broad theme for the 2006 Oscar slate was "Remembrance," for 2007 the Academy nominated a group of films that embrace a different, and timely, general theme - "Overcoming Adversity." This year's films deal with community reaction to AIDS in China and the growing number of orphans created as the disease spreads amongst families; the adventure of exceptionally talented American high school students as they pursue careers in the performing arts; the amazing odyssey of a concert pianist forced by a rare disease to play with only one hand; and the Guajeros of Guatemala who inhabit and work at one of the largest toxic garbage dumps in the world.
THESE FOUR powerful films tell important stories about life in America, Asia and Central America, with themes that are universal. You will come away with appreciation for the bonds that unite humanity, transcending borders and governments -- people's courage and tenacity in fighting for survival and building better lives that include education, health care, meaningful work and a future for their families.
Melissa Godoy, David & Rita Stull
Ms. Godoy creates independent film and programming for public television. Her current production, Do Not Go Gently, (World Premiere, Cincinnati World Cinema, March 2007), is on national tour and also airs on PBS stations around the country. Previously, she was Line Producer of A Lion in the House by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, which premiered at Sundance and aired on primetime PBS through Independent Lens in June of 2006. Classical Quest, a film she directed featuring the the Starling Chamber Orchestra, that compares classical music to time travel, has been airing on public television from 2000 to the present.
In 2004, Godoy completed production on the interactive virtual community for violinists with Kurt Sassmannshaus, ViolinMasterClass, currently used in over 25 countries. Godoy was the coordinating producer and a director for the award-winning NEA & NEH-funded High Definition installation in the Cincinnati Art Museum. In 2003, she served as script supervisor to Julie Dash on Brothers Of The Borderland; and in 2004, she directed What Is Freedom?, both large screen projections at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
During the last presidential election, Godoy was a field producer/director of photography for the cinéma verité feature, Election Day, by Katy Chevigny, which had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Festival in March. Godoy has also produced HD spots for BET and Procter & Gamble. Her programs have earned numerous industry awards including two regional Emmys. Melissa also produces Viewfinder, a monthly talk show about independent filmmaking on Cincinnati's public television station, CET.
Communications, Arts & Education have been the focal points of Dave Stull's professional contribution to the quality of life in Greater Cincinnati. Upon graduation from Miami University in Oxford in 1957 and subsequent completion of military service, Mr. Stull entered the broadcasting profession, where his primary passions were news, education and working with young people.
After a stint in the news department at WKRC in Cincinnati, Mr. Stull moved to WLWD in Dayton where he did it all: news, weather, sports, hosted a teen dance show and afternoon movies, and provided color commentary for the broadcasts from the Dayton Speedway. He also created a children's show called Mr. Hop, which he brought with him when he returned to Cincinnati and a position with WLWT. While there, he hosted a Cincinnati classic favorite, It's Academic, and worked in weekend news, weather and sports. Later, with Nick Clooney, he co-hosted the Vivian dela Chiesa Show.
At the age of 40 Mr. Stull switched gears, pursued and received his Masters in Education from Xavier University and began teaching. After an initial three year period at Taft High School, he moved to the School for the Creative and Performing Arts where he served as the Drama Department Chair, directed major shows and handled technical theater duties. Upon retirement from the Cincinnati Public Schools, Mr. Stull was a part-time acting instructor at NKU.
With an undergraduate degree in Theater and Education and her MFA in Theater, Rita Stull has been involved in Arts and Education in Cincinnati for several decades and throughout her career has worked diligently to integrate the arts into the fabric of our community.
Her experience has been diverse yet focused: first as a drama teacher at the high school level where she also directed shows; then as a District Director with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission where she integrated arts and theater into community centers; and then as the City of Cincinnati's first Cable Administrator.
Currently, Ms. Stull leads a public sector consultancy, advising local governments, education and community arts groups on the development of policy that will protect the public interest in the realm of telecommunications in the 21st Century.
A RECYCLED LIFE
An Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Leslie Iwerks
Conducted by Film Historian & Writer Karie Bible, founder of FilmRadar, on February 9, 2007.
Oscar season is in full swing, so FilmRadar would like to shine the spotlight on the short filmmakers who are nominated this year. First up in the series is Leslie Iwerks whose film A RECYCLED LIFE is up for the Best Short Documentary Academy Award. A RECYCLED LIFE is a moving and heartbreaking look into the lives of impoverished South Americans who live, work and exist soley by means of the garbage in a landfill.
How did you first come to learn about this dump/landfill?
Mike [producer and still photographer Mike Glad] and I were shooting a project on the Maya and traveling all throughout the country of Guatemala with a small crew. When we drove into the Antigua dump to unload some trash, I noticed two children, a brother and a sister living in a large cardboard box inside the dump. This was their home, and they didn’t have parents. I couldn’t believe people lived like this. Some time later, in the Antigua bookstore, I found a book called ‘Out of the Dump’ by Nancy McGirr. This book chronicled the lives of children living in the Guatemala City dump.
What were the obstacles you faced during filming?
The wretched smell of the dump, first of all, was often unbearable. It got worse the deeper into you went in, and for better or worse, that is where we did most of our filming, at the lower and middle platforms. The overall environment was heavy duty, just seeing so many people making their livelihood from trash, and so happy to find a bagel, or discarded chicken, a day old McDonald’s Happy Meal, or a browned banana from the refuse. It was heartbreaking to see kids knowing no other life than this, and not going to school or gaining a better future through education and proper adult attention.
What was the most difficult thing about the shoot?
For me it was just shooting in this place, it was the harshest environment I’ve ever experienced. But the people, the energy, the surreal images I’d encounter every day kept me going in such a creative frenzy. Mike and I became deeper and deeper committed to the people, their lives, their hopes and dreams with every interview and story we captured. It was very difficult to see the way people lived, and as Hanley Denning put it, the way the line was blurred between the trash dump and their homes, as trash bags filled their ‘living rooms/bedrooms.’
Was it hard to gain access or to get people to speak to you?
Most often it was not difficult to get people to speak with us, but we did have to tell them up front we weren’t typical journalists out to exploit their situation, as most have. Mike took photos of many of the guajeros, and brought them back as gifts on return trips. They loved them and appreciated so much that we gave back. We soon gained many friends in the dump, and appreciate so much their openness to tell their stories and confide in us.
Was it difficult emotionally to see people in these circumstances?
Very difficult. We compare the dump to a Hieronymus Bosch painting. It was hard to be an objective filmmaker without getting emotionally caught up. Often times behind the camera I would have tears streaming down my face because of what I was looking at through the lens. No one should have to live this way in the world, and around the world.
The generosity and spirit of so many people living in the most extreme poverty touched me beyond words. So many people in the dump are more generous and giving with what little they have to offer than most people who make more in one day than they do in a year. Getting to know and understand many guajero’s basic worries, concerns, hopes and desires, it is truer than ever that we are all one and the same, with or without wealth, and I believe no one has the right to judge others less fortunate or less lucky than themselves. I live with greater gratitude and appreciation for life in general because of this film.
You come from a family tradition of filmmaking. When did you first realize that you would follow in the family footsteps?
From an early age I studied my grandfather’s animated films, both for Disney and his own Iwerks Studios, and became very inspired by his talent and technical achievements, especially his design of Mickey Mouse. My father (also an Oscar recipient for Lifetime Achievement in Technical Contributions to the industry) and my two brother’s are also amazing artists. Being surrounded by creativity in my family always pushed and inspired me, and I knew that art and film would be in my future one way or another. A childhood friend’s mother recently reminded me that when I was 13 and watching the Oscar Ceremony at their house, I said ‘Someday I’ll be up on that stage, just watch.’ I had forgotten I told them that, but it has always been an internal dream and a goal of mine to make films high enough in quality and substance worthy enough for such an honor.
What documentaries have influenced your work and your overall style?
One film that touched me greatly was Frieda Lee Mock’s ‘Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.’ The opening of that film was so beautifully crafted, and the character so well developed, the music so touching, I knew that was the quality of filmmaking I needed to shoot for. I am also a Michael Apted fan, for his amazing talent in crafting both extraordinary documentaries and feature live action films. I am pursuing the same career approach and broadening my scope of storytelling capabilities.
I’m developing a live action feature, an animated short, as well as some other feature docs.Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
© 2007, Karie Bible, FilmRadar
Karie Bible is a film writer and film historian living in Los Angeles, and she is the creator and prime contributor to "FilmRadar," http://www.filmradar.com, an intriguing site with film articles, reviews and interviews like the one above, plus trailers, events, booklists, etc.
She is a volunteer with the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Conservancy, and has also hosted and introduced films for The Art Deco Film Festival aboard the Queen Mary in 2006.
Karie made her television debut as a guest film critic on AMC’s THE MOVIE CLUB with John Ridley and appears in a segment called “Hollywood Hideaways” for Turner Classic Movies. She has also been a guest panelist on G4/Tech TV’s “Attack of the Show.” In addition to the FILMRADAR project, Karie writes short stories and is developing ideas for a film history book. Please visit her website!
The Blood of the Yingzhou District
(Oscar Winner Best Documentary Short), China, 2006, 39 minutes
Director Ruby Yang explores the devasting impact of the hidden AIDS epidemic on children in rural China, a country not commonly associated with this disease. A young boy, Gao Jun, is one of the central characters in this groundbreaking documentary. Orphaned when both his parents died of AIDS, Gao Jun is himself infected with the disease. His situation is not unusual -- 75,000 Chinese children have been orphaned by the disease.
The film exposes the tragedy of the impoverished Chinese as they are practically forced to donate blood for food and money in order to survive, ignorant of the unsafe medical practices that would cause them to contract AIDS. In many of these cases for a mere sum of 50 Yuan, they end up passing the disease to their children. As the parents die, they often leave their children shunned by family, friends and society to live as outcasts on the fringe of society. The Blood of the Yingzhou District illuminates both the personal struggles of these children and the social impact of AIDS on the Anhui Province, where social stigma and misinformation about the disease are rampant.
Director Yang and producer Thomas Lennon follow Gao Jun for a period of one year as he is moved from foster home to foster home while his closest surviving kin - his uncles - weigh what to do with him. The older uncle's dilemma: if he allows his own children to play with Gao Jun, they will be ostracized by terrified neighbors. The younger uncle's dilemma: so long as Gao Jun remains in the house, the young man may not be able to find a wife.
Gao Jun is one of several children of the Anhui Province we come to know in this extraordinary film. Others include Nan Nan, who after her parents' death, was shunned by relatives and left to live without adult care with her teenage sister; and the Huang siblings, who vividly describe their ostracism at school. But the filmmakers and the real-life characters do not wallow in dispair -- we see Nan Nan reveal her impish humor and joy; the Huang children resolve to become educated and then out-perform those who shun them; and Gao Jun demonstrate his ferocious determination to live.
Shot with small-format cameras entirely by Chinese film crews, The Blood of Yingzhou District depicts the strength of the human spirit in overcoming adversity and achieves a level of intimacy and candor rarely seen in documentary work from China.
See a brief interview with director Yang and producer Lennon at the Oscar award ceremonies: http://tinyurl.com/2cmtod.
Principal Awards & Selections
(Oscar Nominee), Guatemala, 2006, 38 minutes
Imagine that you and your children are one of several thousand families living in a special community. Your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents lived there before you.
You have no expense for your family's education or health care, because there is none. But virtually all of your food is free, brought in daily, and your diet varies widely. One day you have rice, another day chicken, another day pasta - whatever the garbage trucks deposit.
Welcome to life at the huge garbage dump in Guatemala City, one of the largest in the world. You live next to and work in the dump, amid the vultures, rats, flies and incredible stench, gleaning anything that might be recycled and sold, and the average income is $6 a day. You work hard and long hours - sunrise to sunset, struggling to survive. By the way, the dump is toxic - rife with chemicals and methane gas. The last big fire lasted for a week, casting a pall of ash over the entire city.
In Recycled Life, director Leslie Iwerks exposes the generations-old culture that has taken root at the vast, toxic Guatemala City Garbage Dump. It is the story of Guatemala's Guajeros - the 'dump dwellers' - proud, and industrious people who recycle one million pounds of trash a year. Their fate is incredible, yet they maintain their dignity, humor and hope and the Guajeros survive through tenacity and hard work. Narrated by Edward James Olmos, this is a story of real life, far beyond the comfortable confines of the developed, affluent world that we inhabit.
See an interview with director Iwerks at the Oscar award ceremonies, where she talks about tech considerations and offers advice to would-be documentary filmmakers: http://tinyurl.com/2pwgxr.
Rehearsing a Dream
(Oscar Nominee), USA, 2006, 39 minutes
Director Karen Goodman (3 Oscar nominations, 3 Emmy wins and the Dupont-Columbia Award for Independent Programming), shares the experience of some exceptionally talented high school students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds who, courtesy of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA), are given the chance to spend one week learning from leading figures in the performing arts.
From roughly 8,000 applicants each year, 150 of the country's most gifted 17- and 18-year-old students are selected to participate in the annual "Young Arts Week," performance workshops established in 1980 to ensure the future of American art via financial and educational assistance to young talent. These finalists are brought to Miami for an all-expense-paid week of master classes, showcase performances, exhibitions, enrichment programs, and final adjudications.
Nine artistic disciplines are represented: theater, film & video, jazz, music, photography, visual arts, dance, voice, and writing. Mentors include experts in each area, such as actress/singer Vanessa Williams, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, conductor/composer Michael Tilson-Thomas, choreographer Jacques d'Amboise, etc.
Unlike American Idol where the contestants want to be instant stars of pop culture and make money, Young Arts Week is the antithesis -- in Rehearsing a Dream we see young people with real ability, serious about their chosen art form, seeking direction, wanting to explore and build their artistic talents.
Some participants come from large metro areas where, as with the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts, they receive support and recognition within the system. And these lucky students tend to have ready-made outlets in their environment - community theatre, jazz bands, filmmaker groups, dance groups, etc.
But many others hail from small cities and towns and rural areas, where they are frequently ostracized for their "artsy" inclination and pushed into mainstream existence. Without the financial support and moral encouragement provided by the NFAA through Young Arts Week, these kids would not be able to overcome the obstacles to artistic expression and accomplishment, and would likely spend the remainder of their lives thinking "what if..."
NFAA mentor Mikhail Baryshnikov put it this way, "Isolated, discouraged and misunderstood by family and friends, [at Young Arts Week] they can blossom with like-minded peers in a supportive environment 'that gives them a green light' to explore their craft."
Rehearsing a Dream is a portrait of how involved and engaged youth find their humanity in, and reflect ours, through creativity. Their optimism is contagious. If you harbor any doubt about the importance of art, and arts education, in our society, this film will change your thinking.
Listen to this insightful NPR interview with director Karen Goodman and producer Kirk Simon as they discuss Rehearsing a Dream: click here. Requires Real Player, but definitely worth the effort to download if you do not already have it - get it here for free: http://tinyurl.com/2fgnew.
(Oscar Nominee), USA, 2006, 18 minutes
In this concise and moving film, Director Nathaniel Kahn (the Oscar-nominated director of My Architect) tells the tragic, and ultimately triumphant, story of classical pianist Leon Fleisher, who at age 37 and at the height of his career, inexplicably lost the use of his right hand. A child prodigy, Fleischer was groomed at an early age for a life in classical music -- he made his public debut at age 8 and was considered a piano virtuso at age 16 after performing with the New York Philharmonic under Pierre Monteux.
When he was a young boy, Fleisher relates, "my mother gave me a choice: become the first Jewish President of the United States or become a great concert pianist." But after the events of 1964-65, when he saw his right hand curl into a virtual claw, Fleisher became a victim of despair. He tried various therapies, searching for a cure, but nothing worked.
What appeared to be the devasting end to his career became the beginning of deep personal growth and development for him as an artist and as a person.
Fleischer began performing pieces written exclusively for the left hand (written by famous composers for another pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I). With a resurgence of his typical intensity, he widened the scope for such works enormously as he performed and recorded several pieces written for the left hand only, including the Blumenfeld Etude, Godowsky's Treasure Waltz and the Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with the Berlin Philharmonik. In 1996, Fleisher premiered American composer William Bolcom's "Concerto for Two Pianos, Left Hand" in concert with Gary Graffman, another one-handed pianist.
Determined to overcome adversity, Fleisher also refocused his talent and energy by becoming a conductor and teacher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, as well as mentoring a number of talented artists. Through his teaching, Fleisher's influence on classical pianists in North America has been enormous; his students are among piano faculty members at most major music schools.
None of these important developments in the field of classical music would have happened if Fleisher had stayed the course as a virtuoso pianist without his period of disability. Does Fleisher believe in destiny? "Yeah, I guess so," he replies. "I believe in karma. 'My karma ran over my dogma!'"
In the 60s and 70s, doctors were mystified by Fleisher's condition. In the 80s he had surgery to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome, but the treatment was insufficient for the full use of his right hand. By the 90s medical science had advanced to the point where his condition was diagnosed as focal distonia. Via treatments described as "experimental," the medicos used Botox to relax the muscles of his deformed hand and starting in the late 90s Fleisher gradually regained some keyboard dexterity. Not until 2000 - 35 years after his initial affliction - was he able to effectively use his right hand in public performance. And then only sparingly.
In the film, Fleisher himself tells the story of his decades-long struggle to find a cure for his mysterious ailment while reshaping his career to accommodate his loss. Director Kahn's interviews with Fleicher are conveyed in a matter-of-fact way that eschews pity and does not dwell upon the huge emotinal impact of his situation. The film features musical segments and close-ups of Fleisher's hands as he plays - very revealing and informative. Another bonus is the capture of Fleisher discussing how to teach music.
Fleisher's style has changed between his pre-disability days and his two-handed delivery now. Perhaps a factor of maturation and musical experience (he's pushing 80 now), and no doubt a result of his harrowing experience with his hand. Most notable is his use of silence - pauses that create anticipation in the listener. "Silence is not the absence of music," he tells his students. "One hears new implications," he said. "I think one has a tendency to take more time. One takes time to listen." Fleisher attributes much of his stylistic change to becoming a conductor during his disability and feels he is a better pianist because of it. Fleisher's son Julian is more direct, detecting "a certain note of gratitude" in his father's playing these days.
A lesser person might have given up and settled for a career on the periphery of classical music or in another field entirely; but Two Hands shows how dedication and courage can overcome adversity, in this case allowing a remarkable person to share his artistic gift in a number of wonderful and vital ways.