LA Film Festival: Meet the Filmmakers Behind A Band Called Death, Words of Witness, and Thursday Till Sunday
ML turns the spotlight on three filmmakers screening new work at the Los Angeles Film Festival this week. Directors with films in the festival's Narrative and Documentary competitions have offered up their observations on their latest and greatest. Monday's titles include three docs: Jeff Howlett's A Band Called Death, Mai Iskander's Words of Witness and Dominga Sotomayor's Thursday Till Sunday. And trailers are included (naturally).
A Band Called Death, directed by Jeff Howlett [Documentary Competition]
Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was Death. Formed in the early '70s by three teenage brothers from Detroit, Death is credited as being the first black punk band, and the Hackney brothers, David, Bobby, and Dannis, are now considered pioneers in their field. But it wasn’t until recently — when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of Bobby’s attic nearly 30 years after Death’s heyday — that anyone outside a small group of punk enthusiasts had even heard of them. Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family chronicle, the story of Death is one of brotherly love and fierce, divinely inspired expression. [Courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
Responses by Jeff Howlett:
Howlett gives his take on A Band Called Death:
A Band Called Death is a documentary about the Hackney’s, three African-American brothers from Detroit that formed the proto-punk band “Death” in the early 70s. The film is a family story of brotherly love, and the human spirit that uncovers a treasure in the form of a 1974 demo tape that established their name in American Punk Rock History.
And why audiences should check the film out at the LA Film Festival:
The audiences should check out our film to discover an inspiring story about a band who not only played infectious, groundbreaking music but also had a rich family history to tell. The audience is taken back into a neighborhood where Motown was the religion and rock and roll was, as the Hackney's eldest describes it best "white-boy music". Following 35 years of their lives we take a journey with the Hackney family as they tell us their personal stories, the struggles of being black in a "protopunk" band and having the spirit to never give up on your dream.
Some anecdotes from the shoot:
Our film was as one of our friends put it "discovered on twitter and produced through email". Since each of the directors and producers were spread out across the map, the challenge became only viable through these virtual channels. Short end of that story is that a year into the project Mark and I were at the end of our budgets with working on the film to which we either needed to stop production or make it a ten year project. That very day it was brought to our attention that Scott Mosier was Tweeting about a trailer we had made and posted online, and saying how he would love to know more about the film. This conversation led to Scott turning on Matt Perniciaro, Kevin Mann and Jerry Ferrara who then helped develop it into the feature film it is now.
About the trailer:
This clip is of Brian Spears of Groovesville Productions who takes us on a virtual tour of the studio as the band records their first album, "For the Whole World to See."
Words of Witness, directed by Mai Iskander [Documentary Competition]
Updating your Facebook status is a political act in this visceral, on-the-ground documentary of a 21st century revolution in progress. When the Egyptian people rose up against President Mubarak, Heba Afify was a 22-year-old journalist for an English-language paper. Her Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with those of many young Egyptians, become essential weapons in bringing down the former regime, a means to rally support and focus the movement’s strength. Director Mai Iskander follows Afify into the homes and offices of protestors, organizers and citizens caught up in revolutionary fervor, providing a thrilling perspective on a populace rising up to demand the right to live their own lives. [Courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
Responses by Mai Iskander:
Iskander gives her take on Words of Witness:
Words of Witness is a feature-length documentary that follows 22-year-old journalist Heba Afify as she navigates Egypt’s revolution and the rigid boundaries of her concerned mother to examine the struggles, hopes and fears of a people on the brink of democracy.
And why audiences should check the film out at the LA Film Festival:
Despite the cultural, linguistic and societal differences that separate Egypt and the United States, Words of Witness reveals at least one universal truth: where there is no struggle, there is no progress. Whether the rallying cry is, "Out with Mubarak" or "We are the 99 percent," people everywhere know that the first step in making their country better, is to “lead themselves.” Through the lens of a country on a path to self-determination, Words of Witness inspires audiences—wherever they are—to reflect on the value of democracy and their role in the democratic process.
Iskander shares some observations about the shoot:
Since I do not look particularly Egyptian, I was often stopped and questioned as to why I was there. People were often very suspicious, and I certainly don’t blame them. This was a very tumultuous, volatile time. Here they were ripping at the seams of a regime that had been in place for 30 years. A revolution is a very vulnerable time for a country—it is only natural that they should question everything.
And some insight on the trailer:
I hoped to communicate the deep desire to shape one’s own fate—which dwells within not only a people, but also within every individual. I wanted to tell a story that shows how this desire cannot be quelled indefinitely; eventually it will overcome any obstacle in order to be realized.
Thursday Till Sunday, directed by Dominga Sotomayor [Narrative Competition]
In the soft pre-dawn light, a young family loads into their car and begins a journey that will affect them all far deeper than the usual weekend get-away. With a mixture of nostalgia and anxiety, Thursday till Sunday deftly captures the end of a childhood as the young daughter, from her vantage point in the back seat, begins to realize that something is strained — or possibly broken — between her mother and father. With uncommon beauty and style, writer/director Dominga Sotomayor perfectly captures the emotional dynamics of a young family at a crossroads and the claustrophobia of the open road. [Courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
Sotomayor gives her take on Thursday Till Sunday:
It's the road trip of two children and their parents to the north of Chile during a long weekend. Everything is seen from 10-year old Lucía's distant and fragmented point of view. As the landscape gives in to the desert, the parents' crisis is revealed and the holiday slowly turns into a possible last family trip.
And why audiences should give it a look at the LA Film Festival:
I hope they will connect with real feelings, along with their own childhood memories and the sensation of being a kid.
Some anecdotes from the set:
The anecdotes are several (shooting almost everything within the constraints of a car; having kids in every shot; traveling with the whole crew out of the city), but most of these were self-imposed challenges and ended up working in favor of the film. I personally believe the greatest challenge of the film was creating a sense of intimate atmosphere and an overall intimate film when surrounded by a very 'un-intimate' environment during the production (trucks, crew, grip, etc); keeping the children's energy upbeat and have them feel this trip as a long game.
An observation about the trailer:
I wanted to transmit the overall atmosphere of the film, its ability to convey genuine emotions, and introduce the point of view of the 10-year old girl that drives the whole film.