LETTER FROM THE CEO
This past month, PFS was in Minneapolis. Full disclosure, Minneapolis is my hometown and that of our director of programming Andrew Peterson and our new shorts programmer Valerie Deus, whom we’re excited to welcome to the team. While March is not the ideal time weather-wise to visit Minneapolis (East Coast reporters visited the state in the fall of 1885 and wrote, “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation”), it was a great time to catch-up with a group of filmmakers whose films had screened in Provincetown. Norah Shapiro’s documentary TIME FOR ILHAN won the PIFF 2018 audience award, Melody Gilbert screened her film THE SUMMER HELP about seasonal workers from Bulgaria at the Waters Edge Cinema, STAY THEN GO director Shelli Ainsworth participated in our women’s residency program, and emerging director Shelby Dillon revealed that PIFF was her first festival. Speaking to an intimate group of fifty about their work and the challenges that they face working outside of the industry—the filmmakers provided an inspiring reminder about the resilience and stamina of these talented artists.
Fortunately, each and every one of these filmmakers embraces the power that they have as artists to effect positive change. They do their part by opening up a window into the lives and worlds of those whom we are not accustomed to seeing (the foreign worker, the female muslim politician, the mother whose son has autism.) Ainsworth said, “The best way I can contribute is to tell the stories that matter to me and hopefully in the process, cultivate a more empathetic world.”
Later this month, we’ll be in Palm Springs during Fashion Week to interview Costume Designer Frank Elmer talking about the craft of designing for the screen. On April 6th, board members Christine Barker along with advisory board member Javier Morgado and a great champion Ken Fulk are hosting a soiree to benefit all of our efforts.
Closer to home, in Provincetown, on March 23rd, we hope that all who can join will participate in our Women’s Media Summit retreat where we will strategize about the most effective ways in which we can contribute to a national conversation around equity that continues to advance the cause forward. The good news, since the first summit, the numbers are changing. In a recent USC Annenberg Initiative study, conducted by 2018 WMS keynote speaker Stacy Smith, the number of women directing in Hollywood has increased from 1.9% to 4% and the number of black directors has climbed from six to sixteen in the past year. Importantly, among the several conclusions drawn from the study are that we need to support non-profit organizations that provide training to new filmmakers. Whether you’re a filmmaker or not, you are encouraged to attend! Your voice and input is vital to this important conversation.
In the meantime, here’s sending warmth and gratitude to our friends in Minneapolis and those throughout the world who are building empathy in the world. We’re working hard to ensure your success.
Christine Kunewa Walker, CEO
Welcoming Our Festival Staff!
Valérie Déus is a poet and film curator. Her work has been featured in The Brooklyn Rail, Midway, aforemention productions, the St. Paul Almanac and most recently in The BeZine. Her chapbook, Skull-Filled Sun, is available on Amazon.
When she’s not writing, she hosts Project 35, a local low-fi radio show featuring music from all over the diaspora and poetry. She curates Film North’s Cinema Lounge and is the Shorts Programmer for the Provincetown International Film Festival.
This is Chris’s first official year with PIFF as festival co-manager. He was previously engaged for the production of PIFF’s 2018 – 20th anniversary gala. Combining his admiration for Ptown and movies, this is a perfect match and he feels privileged to work on this year’s festival. Chris has been working in production for most of his career on a range of projects, having 20+ years of experience in media/video/event production. When he is not working on PIFF he is an independent events and media producer and director. Last year and currently he worked with DKR Films on the “Our History Project” Plymouth 400 video series, Ptown TEDx, and most recently he worked for Columbia Pictures on Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig.
Most of Chris’s career has been working as a senior producer, program manager, and director at creative branding agencies. He worked on events, brand campaigns, and digital media productions at Cramer for a wide range of corporate and nonprofit clients on projects acknowledged with multiple Telly awards. A longtime Boston resident transplanted from upstate New York, Chris is a three-time participant in the 48 Hour Film Project as well as a three-time Boston marathon runner. He lives in Dorchester and has no pets.
THE LAUNCH with JULIE ROCKETT
Writer and Director Matt Brown hails from my hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts. When I interviewed him he said, “Growing up there, nobody’s parents worked in the film industry. Hearing about someone that was in show business was akin to hearing that someone worked on the moon. It didn’t even register to me as a possible career until I was 20.” I know exactly what he means by that. At that time, maybe an episode of Spenser For Hire or exterior shots of Cheers were filmed in Boston, but for the most part, Hollywood seemed to exist on another planet. In view of that, it is amazing that Matt forged his own path into filmmaking with little to no experience or connections.
Last year, his labor of love, The Man Who Knew Infinity, was released. He read the book many years ago and even though he describes himself as, “definitely not a math whiz,” he was attracted the human relationship at the core of this story and dedicated years into getting this film made. Matt will be directing another film soon and is developing a television project. Despite that busy schedule, he made time to speak to me about his favorite films.
JR: I always like to start with this question: What was your first favorite film?
MB: My first favorite film was kind of a toss up between Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Arc, but I was only six or seven years old with Star Wars, so I will probably say Raiders made the bigger impression. I remember the opening sequence so well with the giant boulder rolling towards Indy and all the poison darts being shot at him. I saw it in the theatre which was so jammed packed with people, long lines and cars parked illegally on the roadside. It was a real event that lived up to the hype, the likes of which I don’t think we will see again for movies. I have lots of favorite films from different periods in my life, but Raiders was really the first where I was like, ‘Wow! Movies are the greatest thing in the world!’
JR: Do you have a favorite documentary?
MB: When We Were Kings is hands down my favorite documentary of all time. When I rented it I think I watched it three times in a row, literally. I just didn’t know! Ali bomaye! Ali is the real G.O.A.T. and all this talk of Lebron or Brady is absurd in comparison. As for the documentary itself, I was so blown away by how the film captured the time, the politics, the music and culture. It’s the first time I truly understood the emotional impact a documentary could make. Granted having a Ali as the subject is kind of cheating…
I also remember Hearts of Darkness making a strong impression on me when I first got into film. And I have lived on a steady diet of Ken Burns, I’m watching Jazz now. Fog of War was pretty enlightening and I remember seeing Roger and Me in the theatre, packed at the time, ahh the good old days…
JR: What was your first R rated film?
MB: The first R rated film… this is a tough one… I remember as kids we snuck into Alien, back when you could finish seeing one film and then sneak into another theatre at the multiplex. And yeah, that’s one where I wish we hadn’t. It was traumatizing, with the guy’s belly exploding!
Also I remember seeing Deer Hunter and the Russian roulette scene at too young an age! And, of course, there was Stripes with the shower scene and mud wrestling! It’s interesting how film was such an integral part of growing up for our generation. It was a far more innocent approach than how it must be for kids with searching the internet today! I feel like much of what we learned through movies helped form our emotional intelligence. Or, perhaps, lack there of, depending on the films.
JR: Do you have a dream subject or person you would like to work with?
MB: Is there a dream subject?…. Not so much for me, but more a dream approach to filmmaking. I am a student of history and many of the stories I gravitate towards are set in other times and often remote locations. I love to recreate worlds to help tell these stories. Part of that is probably my love of adventure, but I’m a bit old school in that I would far prefer to find a great location and fill it with real props and real people rather than CGI everything. But there are costs to this, and at the end of the day whatever serves the film best is what is most important. But when I see a film like There Will Be Blood, I become inspired.
JR: What film do you feel is under-appreciated?
MB: Hmm, again, tough question. The landscape has changed so much recently. So many more films are getting made because of new technology, but so few films actually getting any support on release. So I feel that most films being made now are probably under-appreciated. We don’t even know they exist unless we trip over them by dumb luck. It is easier to point out about past films, as recently as five years ago, that had big P and A expenditures and still did poorly because of critical response or timing that might have caused them to be overlooked. But today, it’s very very difficult to get noticed. So I wouldn’t have just one film to suggest, although I did write one called London Town that had little to no support from the distributor, but slowly is finding its own audience in the kids it was written for.
JR: Is there a film from your youth that you find holds up? Is there one that doesn’t hold up?
MB: I can report that It’s a Wonderful Life and Sound of Music hold up brilliantly. I watched The Shining a little while ago, one of my all time favorites, and it too was great until the blood scene in the elevator. Not so sure the 70’s style VFX held up there. We also watched A Star is Born from the 70’s the other night. The performances were great, especially Streisand, but boy maybe the 70’s should just stay in the 70’s. (laughs)
JR: What is that made you fall in love with filmmaking?
MB: I fell in love with filmmaking through mostly Independent and European films. I always loved characters and stories, but I discovered it more as an art form when I finally realized that subtitles were not a four-letter word and there were so many wonderful films outside of Hollywood. I remember loving Europa Europa and, of course, Cinema Paradiso, but Kieslowski’s Blue is probably the film that really caught my attention and inspired me to want to make films myself.
JR: I read that your film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, took 12 years to make. Was there a moment when you thought the project might never see the light of day, and if so, what turned things around?
MB: Infinity was very difficult to get made. A film about math, starring an Indian and a closeted British Don with an unknown writer-director was not exactly screaming “fund me!” to Hollywood. But when Dev Patel signed on things began to turn around, and then Jeremy Irons said yes. I suppose we just needed to wait for Dev to get old enough for the role and then we were lucky enough to have him take a chance on me! He was so good that it was worth the wait.
JR: It has been soo great to speak with you! Best of luck on your upcoming projects!
MB: Thank you!
Says WIFVNE President Alecia Orsini: “The Women’s Media Summit is an important event that continues the conversation around changing the landscape for women in film. Not to mention a great day of sisterhood.”
WATERS EDGE CINEMA IS CLOSED FOR CLEANING
RE-OPENING ON MARCH 15
A non-profit arthouse cinema, operating year-round, and contributing to Provincetown’s tradition as America’s oldest and most vital art colony. Located on the mezzanine between the 2nd and 3rd floor of Whalers Wharf.
Never-before-seen footage and audio recordings take you straight into the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin embark on a historic trip to the moon. (Rated G, 93 min)
Laura and her two children travel from Argentina to Spain to attend her sister’s wedding. The joyful reunion soon turns tragic when her older daughter gets kidnapped — revealing a dark web of hidden secrets. Starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. (Rated R, 133 min)
Playing this month in The Provincetown Film Art Series
Curated and hosted by Howard Karren, Arts Editor of the Provincetown Banner
LATE SPRING (1949)—It may not translate directly to American experience, but in Ozu’s tender masterpiece, 27-year-old Noriko (a radiant Setsuko Hara) passionately believes that staying home to look after her aging father and not getting married is an expression of her independence and freedom. Co-written and directed by Yasujiro Ozu, with Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu, in Japanese with English subtitles. (108 minutes)