Monday, June 30, 2008

What's Chinese for customer service?

No more Chinatown buses (if can at all be avoided w/ out paying a lot for an alternative) I think; the ride from NYC to DC took about 6 hours!!!! Some of the reasons for the delays: the bus circled around NYC for like 30 mins to 1 hour, I got on the bus @ 10 AM, the bus left NYC close to 11 AM, no explanations or apologies from the driver/management, etc., then in Philadelphia we had to get off the bus (very difficult to get a clear answer from anyone who is running the operation as to exactly what's happening - many of the employees do not seem to speak or understand English well), wait for another bus about 30 - 45 mins, and finally we were back on the road (several passengers had by this point gotten into arguments with the "management" or other employees who were running the bus service re: the non-existent customer service, lack of clear (or almost any) communication re: unexpected changes, etc.) - so all seemed a bit better for a while, heading towards DC - EXCEPT - in Baltimore no one announced the fact that we were in Baltimore and a young mother with a child discovered a few minutes after we left the Baltimore station/stop that we had just left Baltimore; more shouting matches, attempts to discard passengers in the middle of the highway with cars going all around the bus at 60-70 miles an hour (finally the bus pulled over to the side of the road, still, I did not see a very safe way for the woman & her daughter to get off the highway, but the bus moved on) - after all that we finally made it to DC.

Is it worth it to pay more to do the NYC to DC trip in half the time & with some familiar kind of customer service as opposed to the "Chinatown bus service" kind? Definitely.

Will have to explore Megabus, Bolt, Vamoose & other bus services from DC to NYC for the next trip. I am off that Chinatown bus service kick, if I can help it. Wanting to punch the driver is not worth saving $s by using a $35 DC to NYC round trip "service". Next time I'll take a bus company that knows how to play the customer service game well.

Other than that; coming back to DC in an annoying & long bus ride, the trip to NYC was awesome & productive; looking forward to the next trip to film more bloggers for my indie film blogger doc. Some pics from the weekend tomorrow.

- Sujewa

Tambay Obenson on being interviewed for the indie film blogger doc

From Tambay's blog The Obenson Report:

"After the day was all over, I sat in my apartment staring at nothing for an extended period of time, realizing how invigorating it all was, spending time with these 3 fellows. These are the kinds of people I need to be around more often, for reasons I already mentioned. As an artist, especially a scribe, one can lead a rather insular life, understandably; but the experience of being around other artists from time to time is just as necessary, and that's something I tend to forget sometimes... until I have a day like I did yesterday. Thus I plan on making a habit of this."

Read more here.

Related: Brian "The Film Panel Notetaker" Geldin on observing a shoot for the doc.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Got 2.5 hrs of interviews for The Indie Film Bloggers (a great start) - Thanks a lot NYC!

Thanks to the Chinatown bus, a very helpful MTA/NYC subway train station employee, and specially Brian "The Film Panel Notetaker" Geldin, Tambay "The Obenson Report" Obenson, & Brandon "Cinema Echo Chamber" Harris, & of course a sweaty but still beautiful New York City, I shot the first 2.5 hours of interview footage for my doc The Indie Film Bloggers today. Had a great time filming the interviews, learned a lot. Will have some photos from the weekend when I get back to DC/MD this week. And possibly a "in-production"/promo trailer for the doc in the coming weeks/July. Lots more interviews with lots more indie film bloggers in the coming weeks (any indie film blogger who is interested in being in the doc can e-mail me ( & we'll see if we can work together on this project).

Speaking of IFB subjects, check out this Amazon page for info. on Tambay's real indie & self-distributed feature Beautiful Things. About the movie; from one of the review quotes on the Amazon page: "With its judicious use of black and white, New York, and a cool jazz score, this at times puts me in mind of early John Cassavetes and, with it's improv/unscripted feel, it's like you're actually privy to the intimate details of a real young couple's relationship - from its fledgling flirty stage, through its angst ridden, flailing progress, to its uncertain demise..."

Looking forward to checking out my DVD of Beautiful Things. You can buy a DVD of the movie from Amazon & do the same; might be a very rewarding experience.

- Sujewa

Happiness Is No Fun at The Obenson Report

Check out filmmaker & blogger Brandon Harris's blaxploitation meets Godard short film Happiness Is No Fun at filmmaker & blogger Tambay Obenson's blog The Obenson Report.

While I was in Brooklyn earlier today I got a chance to check out a rough cut/one possible version of a new short film by Harris; featuring Ry Russo-Young in a lead role - very interesting, very well done, looking forward to seeing the final version. When I hear about any screenings of Harris's new short I'll mention it here.

- Sujewa

Friday, June 27, 2008

Be back Mon...

... with photos from the Hot Summer Night Shorts (event went well, the handful of people who attended had a good time, Hansen's Clean Freak was a favorite) screening event, & perhaps notes & pics from shooting interviews for The Indie Film Bloggers in NYC on Sat.

- Sujewa

Got the full title for the indie film blogger doc

Here it is:

The Indie Film Bloggers: A Portrait of a Community.

More about it here.

- Sujewa

TONIGHT - Hot Summer Night Shorts in Kensington, MD



Image from GDMF by James M. Johnston

Hot Summer Night Shorts USA 2008

Seven new short films by directors from various parts of the U.S. of A. Being shown on a large/10 foot long screen, away from the summer heat in one of the coolest bookstores in Maryland, with some of the filmmakers in attendance. Lemonade will be served. Event programmed & presented by filmmaker & blogger Sujewa Ekanayake. Interesting times will be had; come join us.

Films: GDMF, 1 on 1, Clean Freak, Magnus & The Air Quotes Woman, knock.knock, Plain US, (and a short by Dave Nuttycombe, details soon). Total running time of the program: 2 hours.

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mary Stuart Masterson on self-distributing her film The Cake Eaters

Masterson on that subject and more at The Film Panel Notetaker blog.

- Sujewa

Brandon "Cinema Echo Chamber" Harris is in for the blogger doc

More on that at The Indie Film Bloggers site/blog.

- Sujewa

Jarmusch in the Simpsons

Apparently Jim Jarmusch acted in a Simpsons episode recently, more info. here.

- Sujewa

The book industry may be a good model to use in accomodating the new developments & growing the US film industry

The following three things, I believe, are true:

1 - Hollywood movies are popular, both in the US & world wide

2 - Because of digital production & the web, more non-Hollywood filmmakers can make movies now, and thus more movies are made now than 10 years ago

3 - There are more film festivals in existence now, compared to the number 10 years ago; and most festivals are generally well attended

So what does this mean for the US film industry, in all areas (Hollywood, indiewood, real indie/DIY, etc.), for the future?

Reportedly around 600 movies were released theatrically in the US last year. Several thousand, around 5000 according to one count, movies are made in the US - in Hollywood & outside of Hollywood, and most likely that number will increase.

Is there a US creative industry where tens of thousands of unique products/titles are released to consumers each year?

Yes, the book industry. According to this & other sources, in recent years over 100,000 books were published in the US. In 2007 the book industry's revenues were at $37.26 billion (according to this study), and in 2012 they expect book industry revenues to be at $43.46 billion.

I have not seen studies that combine the revenue of Hollywood movies and non-Hollywood movies to give a total picture of the amount of revenue generated by all filmmaking & distribution activities in the US. One study reports Hollywood revenue alone to be at $42.6 billion in 2006.

The desire to watch Hollywood movies and the desire of non-Hollywood filmmakers to make thousands of movies each year is not going to go away, and both desires, most likely, will increase - resulting in more customers US & world wide for all kinds of American movies (Hollywood & indie) & also resulting in an increase of number of films produced each year.

In a few years, it may happen that 50,000 or more new films will become available each year to consumers through several avenues and the overall revenue & profits for the film industry will increase because some of the new films, new indie films, will serve customers that have been under served by Hollywood in the past. The very high cost of producing & distributing Hollywood movies makes it impossible to serve all or even many different types of customers. However, the much lower cost of producing real independent movies, and the lower cost of making them available to interested audience members using the lower cost publicity & delivery abilities of the internet, can result in more revenue for the overall US filmmaking & distribution industry.

The digital enabled jump in filmmaking will, I think, ultimately be a positive development for the entire film production & distribution economy.

As the book industry shows, it is possible for a US creative industry to release over 100,000 unique products each year and generate, overall, a very healthy amount of revenue.

Thus, I believe, the future for the US film industry looks bright - because of the increase in filmmaking due to digital and because of the popularity of the web, the increased efficiency in communications due to same, and not in spite of it.

So, Hollywood & its indiewood friends, the increased levels of production in the real indie world & the increased web interest in all manner of films is ultimately a good thing for everyone. The shape of the US film industry's future may be: Hollywood at the core, and the tallest & most visible of the elements, as it has been for decades in America, but, with the outlying areas greatly expanded, with thousands of low budget digital movies being made & each marketed to relatively small groups of people - using both traditional avenues (theatrical & home entertainment) & relatively new avenues - film festivals and the web. Collectively these small groups that will be served by thousands of low budget, off-Hollywood digital indie movies may add up to a significant number of people, and a significant amount of revenue.

This change, the film industry changing its shape to resemble the book industry in many ways will be a good thing for all - more work opportunities for filmmakers, more revenue for companies & investors, more satisfying art/entertainment/media options for a greater number of consumers.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NC 7/11, Atlanta 7/12 to do interviews for The Indie Film Bloggers

It is quite possible that the only indie film blogger in Fayetteville, NC is Chuck Tryon, but in any case, will be in F-ville on Fri 7/11 to interview Chuck for my doc The Indie Film Bloggers. Then the next day, Sat 7/12, I'll be in Atlanta, to interview Noralil Ryan Fores & friends for the doc. Summertime indie filmmaking road trips to new (at least new to me) parts of the world, very exciting.

- Sujewa

Congrats on 20 years of indie excellence Zeitgeist!

If I were to develop an indie film theatrical distribution business (which, come to think of it, I would like to do), I would follow the Zeitgeist Films model (from the Village Voice article re: the company's 20 year anniversary):

"Gerstman and Russo, veterans of indie distribs First Run Pictures and Interama, respectively, joined forces in 1988, working in an elevator-sized apartment in the West Village for $175 per month. "We started the company with $1,000 each and $900 on a credit card," recalls Gerstman. Their first release was Bruce Weber's nonfiction boxing portrait, Broken Noses, followed by a collection of shorts from Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon's Apparatus Productions. Soon after, they released Haynes's feature debut, Poison, along with a bevy of work from budding auteurs, such as Guy Maddin's Archangel, Atom Egoyan's Speaking Parts, and The Films of the Brothers Quay."

More here.

And, the company is cool when approaching the big distribution changes that others are busy exploring at the moment:

"While other distributors are experimenting with video-on-demand and Internet distribution, Gerstman and Russo, in their typically tentative style, aren't leaping headlong into the new-media arena. "Big transformations are really not our thing," says Gerstman. "We're theatrical distributors. We're not looking to become producers..."

Read the entire excellent & inspiring article by Anthony Kaufman here at the Village Voice.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The real indie film perspective backlash to Mark Gill's "sky is falling" speech has officially begun

I just spoke with a couple of non-indiewood/real indie filmmakers who have completely bought into the wisdom expressed in Mark Gill's L.A. Film Festival "sky is falling" speech as being relevant to them & the entire indie spectrum. I tried to convince them that Gill is talking about indiewood stuff; movies made for over $5 million or so, using Hollywood filmmaking skills & experience & featuring Hollywood actors & promoted by Hollywood distribution skills & muscle, & with Hollywood expectations of box office success and not real indie movies ("no" budget, no star, more or less self-distributed in most cases, first or second or third time features, very small crews, etc.), not sure how successful I was at getting my point across. However, not everyone in the indie world believes that Gill's perspective applies to the entire indie film realm. 2 examples:

My post from earlier today.

Anthony Kaufman's post re: the 20 year anniversary of Zeitgeist Films (to whom a gross of $1 million is a success story, as it would be - probably, provide expenses were less than that - to most small businesses in America), just saw it up on the web a minute ago.

This of course is in no way a hard critique of Gill's advice, knowledge or experience (at least that's not what I am doing), I am sure he is well qualified to offer the indiewood sector of the industry advice on improving their business, but the "sky falling" to them is largely irrelevant to real indie films like Yeast, White Lies, Black Sheep, Quiet City, etc. & their makers or indie filmmakers that operate in that realm - the real indie world (also the realm that I & the vast majority of indie filmmakers/real indie filmakers operate in).

- Sujewa

Tales of the Starlight Drive-In - a comic book

Click on the image to go find out about this intriguing comic book.

- Sujewa

Barry Jenkins interviews cinematographer Asif Siddiky

At ShortEnd Magazine. From the interview:

"SM: (laughing) See that’s funny because I always feel like on a set the DP has the most responsibility.

AS: To be honest, I haven’t had much responsibility DP’ing for narrative. Natural Causes was my first time doing that so I don’t have too much to base that on. With that experience in particular, the four of us [Siddiky and collaborating directors Michael Lerman and brothers Alex and Paul Cannon] were sort of sharing the load of making that film. And so in some ways I had the least to worry about of the four of us.

I’ve definitely worked on films doing behind the scenes documentaries for bigger productions, and I’ve seen that; I’ve seen the hundred man crews and all the lighting and all the stuff that goes on to produce the one shot after hours of work, and as I’m thinking about where I want to go with this, that’s really not the direction I want to head in at all. I prefer to work with small crews."

Read the rest of the interview here.

- Sujewa

The Obenson Report is going to be a part of The Indie Film Bloggers

Discovered a new blog called The Obenson Report - focusing on Africa related filmmaking (or re-discovered it, I think I saw it at one point in the past), & the blogger Tambay Obeson is interested in being interviewed for my new doc The Indie Film Bloggers, so, that interview will be happening this weekend in NYC. Check out The Obenson Report if you haven't yet, the first few posts that I read were interesting.

There are thousands of indie film bloggers, at least, and my movie can probably provide portraits of at least a dozen or so. So far the line up of subjects for the doc is shaping up well; self/Sri Lankan-American DIY filmmaker & blogger, Brian Geldin/Film Panel Notetaker; NYC based unique film blog (i don't know of any other blogger that does what Brian does - as the 100% focus of their blog), Chuck Tryon; media professor & blogger (thus his writing style is generally different & more detailed than those of most other non-academic bloggers), Noralil of ShortEnd Magazine fame in Atlanta, Tambay/Obenson Report/notes on Africa & diaspora related filmmaking, plus a few others that I am talking with at the moment re: the doc - all in all I hope to provide a detailed snapshot of blogging about indie film at this point in time and an introduction, maybe more, to a few people who spend time on a regular basis thinking & writing about indie film & related matters. The finished doc should be a treat for audience members who are into indie films & blogs & interesting people - audience members like me basically :)

- Sujewa

Yeah, don't worry about that Mark Gill speech too much, fear is mostly a Hollywood thing

Yes, some divisions - the "indiewood" ones - of Hollywood may be in trouble, as Mark Gill spoke of in his recent speech; but, the list of problems don't really affect real indie filmmakers. See the indieWIRE article for Gill's list of woes in their full & original version; I'll just offer a brief version of each "sky is falling" item & my brief thoughts about each as it relates to real indie film:

1: Re: Picturehouse and Warner Independent closing

That's an indiewood thing, does not affect real indie filmmaking & distribution.

2: Re: New Line's staff cut

Again, an indiewood thing.

3: Re: Paramount Vantage

Another indiewood thing.

4: Re: Sidney Kimmel

Another indiewood thing (i think, not too familiar with SK).

5: Re: ThinkFilm's financial troubles, lawsuits, etc.

Now we are bordering on the real indie world. Hopefully Think & filmmakers, vendors will work out their problems (meaning people owed money will get paid eventually).

6: Re: Another five companies in financial trouble

Which companies? More indiewood places?

7: Re: Wall Street money to Hollywood drying up

That's a Hollywood problem. Not relevant to real indie filmmakers. Actually, Hollywood only focusing on the tent pole movies, etc. will be good for real indie filmmakers - the smaller/character driven movies for grown ups will be made by off-Hollywood filmmakers when Hollywood no longer wants to make & sell those.

8: Re: 5000 movies got made last year, 603 released theatrically

That's cool. There is always space for more. Real indie films mostly screen at festivals or DIY screenings at alternative spaces or at theaters that are slanted towards real indie stuff. Hollywood theaters having too many Hollywood & indiewood movies to show is not a problem for real indie filmmakers.

9. Re: rising advertising costs

We have blogs.

10: Re: other entertainment options

That's cool. People looking for good movies will still find them.

11: Re: most American independent films not selling well overseas.

That's cool. There's 300 MILLION people here in America - that's a lot of people. Just 10,000 or so customers can make a real indie film a financial success.

12: Re: indie film financiers exiting the business

That's cool, most real indie films are mostly self-funded anyway.

13: Re: the rising cost of theatrically releasing a movie

Most real indie films don't get a theatrical release, they get festivals, other screenings, & then on to DVD, etc.

So, real indie filmmakers, don't worry about people whose biz model is based on Hollywood freaking out about changes; grab your MiniDV camera, grab some talented & underemployed actors, write that great & or very interesting script, shoot your movie for somewhere between nothing and $10K or so, submit to festivals, do other screenings, sell DVDs, be happy, & repeat.

The sky is not falling for real indie filmmakers. There is no sky/limit/limitations that can hold real indie filmmakers back at this point (all you need is a day job for $s + a DV camera + time). People have been making off-Hollywood, actual indie films under much tougher conditions for decades. Now is a great time to be a real indie filmmaker; the Hollywood & indiewood people will find other things to do if & when their biz model becomes outdated, no doubt (and I think they are a little bit paranoid at the moment, as long as theft/illegal DVDs & downloading is curbed, H-wood should continue to be a popular & profitable business; lots of people in this world have loved Hollywood movies for close to a hundred years).

Hollywood & indiewood are not necessary for making & showing/selling movies. Even if those two elements of the entertainment economy close down, there will still be movies made & shown by people - specially by people who, at the moment, are driven to make movies even when they are far outside of Hollywood - yeah, the real indie types. So, no worries. The sky is just fine for us.

- Sujewa

Monday, June 23, 2008

Will be interviewing/filming bloggers this weekend in NYC for my indie film bloggers doc

I'll be in NYC this coming weekend (Sat 6/28 & Sun 6/29) interviewing & filming indie film bloggers for my new film - the documentary The Indie Film Bloggers. Any NYC based bloggers who write about indie film & are interested in participating in the doc (specially if we have not spoken about it already) can e-mail me ( ), and we can see if you/your blog is of interest to the doc and if this doc is a project relevant to you/your blog. Thanks.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SilverDocs '08 winners

Here's the SilverDocs award winners press release:


THE GARDEN Wins Sterling US Feature Award

Special Jury Mention to TROUBLE THE WATER

THE ENGLISH SURGEON Wins Sterling World Feature Award

Special Jury Mention to THE RED RACE


Honorable Mention went to GROUND FLOOR RIGHT and ONE DAY

Music Documentary Award Goes to THROW DOWN YOUR HEART

THE ORDER OF MYTHS Wins The Cinematic Vision Award


KASSIM THE DREAM Wins the American Film Market/SILVERDOCS Award

Writers Guild of America Documentary Screenplay Award to FORBIDDEN LIE$

Feature Audience Award to be announced Monday, June 23, 2008

Short Audience Award to be announced Monday, June 23, 2008


Silver Spring, Maryland, June 22, 2008—SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced its distinguished award winners, culminating the weeklong Festival activities that included screening 108 films representing 63 countries, free outdoor screenings and live performances, and a five-day concurrent International Documentary Conference attended by over 650 filmmakers, film and television executives and media professionals exploring the documentary in action, and has a particular emphasis on youth, education and next generation media artists. Winning filmmakers received over $70,000 in combined cash and in-kind prizes. The Audience Award winners will be announced on Monday, June 23, 2008.

This year's SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a US Feature goes to THE GARDEN directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy which documents a 14-acre oasis rising out of the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak.

The Sterling Feature Jury noted that "For tenacity in storytelling in the face of injustice, and the filmmaker's singular vision in bringing a gripping, dramatic, and important story to the public eye. The Garden has raw emotion, visceral energy, and nail-biting twists and turns. It unravels a complex and layered tale of the destruction of America's largest urban farm that must not be forgotten."

Honorable Mention went to TROUBLE THE WATER by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. The film weaves together first person footage with their own into an evocative dialogue that reveals a powerful, heart-wrenching, infuriating and ultimately inspiring Katrina survival story.

This year's inaugural SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a World Feature goes to THE ENGLISH SURGEON directed by Geoffrey Smith, which tells the story of British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who performs surgery in the Ukraine with the crudest tools. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak.

The Jury noted: "We are awarding the Sterling Jury Prize to the most poignant and inspiring film we saw - a film that profiles two human beings who dare to step outside the system to do something extraordinary, and becomes a delicate, deep, and respectful exploration of life, death friendship and hope."

Honorable mention went to THE RED RACE directed by Chao Gan, which chronicles Chinese passion for gymnastics against the backdrop of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a Short Film was given to WHAT WOULD THE DROP KNOW ABOUT THAT?, directed by Jan Zabeil, which examines foreign-born custodial workers at The Reichstag in Germany, who guide us through a stunning contemplation of the significance—or insignificance—of one person among institutions and nation-states. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash.

Special Jury mention went GROUND FLOOR RIGHT, directed by Marlene Schiott Rasmussen, which provides a peek into the life of Fang, a bird hoarder in a cramped apartment.

For its cinematic vision, the Jury also provided a special mention to ONE DAY directed by Ditte Haarlov Johnsen, a complex story about a West African woman working as a prostitute in Denmark.

The SILVERDOCS Music Documentary Award presented by Gibson Guitars went to THROW DOWN YOUR HEART directed by Sascha Paladino. The film chronicles Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck's enthralling journey through Africa to uncover the roots of the Banjo, an instrument now regarded as quintessentially American. Gibson Guitars will present a Gibson Les Paul Standard to the winner valued at $3,700.

The SILVERDOCS Cinematic Vision Award went to THE ORDER OF MYTHS directed by Margaret Brown. The film explores the oldest and still segregated Mardi Gras in the U.S. The filmmaker will receive $2,500 cash.

The SILVERDOCS WITNESS Award in honor of Joey R. B. Lozano was given to PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL by Gina Reticker, an exposition of the thousands of Liberian women who peacefully ended the civil war that claimed over 250,000 lives through non-violent protests and organizational acumen. The award is given to the strongest documentary about human rights violations or social justice issues. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash.

The American Film Market/SILVERDOCS Award for a film that shows exceptional market promise went to KASSIM THE DREAM by Kief Davidson, which chronicles the career of Kassim Ouma, a former Ugandan child soldier who defected to the U.S. and became a world champion boxer. The filmmaker will be presented passes to the American Film Market this fall, airfare, five nights hotel and pre-arranged meetings with potential partners ($5,000 value).

The Award Winner for the Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) Grant went to THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM by Michael Webber. The feature-length documentary spotlights an extraordinary police officer whose work in handling dangerous encounters with wild animals in America's suburbs illustrates the problems of the exotic animal trade and owning dangerous wild animals as pets. The director received a $25,000 grant.

The Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East have named writer-director Anna Broinowski as the winner of the first-ever WGA Documentary Screenplay Award for her film FORBIDDEN LIE$, which investigates accusations that Forbidden Love author Norma Khouri fabricated her biographical tale of a Muslim friend who was murdered for dating a Christian. The award carries with it a prize of $2,500 and the winner will be granted one-year free membership in the WGAW or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus.

The SILVERDOCS Audience Award Winner for a Feature and for a Short will be announced on Monday, June 23, 2008. They will each receive $4,000 in services from Alpha Cine.

Sky Sitney, Director of Programming said, "We were honored to be entrusted with the world premiere of THE GARDEN, and 
thrilled to launch it with the esteemed Sterling US Grand Jury Prize. The film represents the very best the documentary form has to offer; a beautifully crafted film that takes us on a complicated and surprising journey, and that gives a voice to the voiceless."

Patricia Finneran, Festival Director, said, "By expanding our awards to include a world feature competition we signals our recognition and deepening appreciation of global culture. How appropriate that the first sterling world feature goes to The English Surgeon, a deeply personal film about a commitment to global health care."

"Our greatest goal in joining with AFI to produce SILVERDOCS was to celebrate and honor the creativity of independent filmmakers and the documentary art form. With these awards, we are honoring those filmmakers from around the world whose vision and storytelling truly excel," said Carrie Passmore, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility.

The SILVERDOCS award winners were chosen by an eminent Festival jury including:

Sterling US Feature Jury: Sandi Dubowski, Filmmaker and writer (TREMBLING BEFORE G-D); Ramona Diaz, Filmmaker (IMELDA, SPIRITS RISING); Mila Aung-Thiwn, Filmmaker and Producer (CHAIRMAN GEORGE)

Sterling World Feature Jury: Steve James, Filmmaker (HOOP DREAMS, STEVIE); Almudena Carracedo, Filmmaker (MADE IN LA, WELCOME, A DOCU-JOURNEY OF IMPRESSIONS); Igor Blazevic, Director, One World, International Human Rights Documentary Festival and co-director of ten documentaries for Czech Television.

Sterling Short Film Jury: Ryan Harrington, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund; Sarah Price, Filmmaker (SUMMERCAMP, THE YES MEN); AJ Schnack, Filmmaker and Writer (KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON)

Best Music Documentary Jury: Felix Contreras, reporter and producer, NPR's Arts Information Unit; Susan C. Lewis, producer, Big Pita Lil Pita Production and oversees creative development with partners Alicia Keys and Jeff Robinson; Paul D Miller, conceptual artist, writer, and musician. Miller is best known as his "constructed persona," DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid.

For Festival and Award photos go to the SILVERDOCS press room at:

The SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival honors excellence in filmmaking, supports the diverse voices and free expression of independent storytellers and celebrates the power of documentary to improve our understanding of the world. Now in its sixth year, the festival runs June 16-23 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in the Washington, DC area, and has expanded by two days to meet growing demand. The 2007 Festival featured 100 films from 43 countries presented to over 21,000 attendees, including the influential audiences of the nation's capital and media professionals from around the world. The concurrent five-day SILVERDOCS International Documentary Conference presents thought-provoking presentations and engages a diverse group of over 1,000 filmmakers and industry leaders concerned with the future of non-fiction storytelling, production and distribution. For more information, go to

About the American Film Institute
AFI is a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media. Additional information about AFI is available at

About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications is the world's number-one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Planet Green, Investigation Discovery and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including Discovery Communications is owned by Discovery Holding Company (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB), Advance/Newhouse Communications and John S. Hendricks, Discovery's founder and chairman. For more information, please visit"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hurricane Katrina doc Trouble the Water Q & A notes from SilverDocs, at Film Panel Notetaker

Check out the notes here. From the post:

"Q: How did you decide before the storm to start doing the videotaping? What was going through your mind? Why did you decide you wanted to document what was happening?

Kimberly: I purchased the camera I had used a week maybe or so before the storm came. My purpose for purchasing the camera was to record family events. I had never used a camera before in my life until the day before I started recording. That's not in the movie, but I was just playing with it. Once we realized we were going to stay, I figured that it would be history. Once we realized we couldn't leave, it was like we have no other choice but to stick it out. If it's going to happen how they say it is, we're going to record it. We were like, we can sell this to the news if we get something good. (Audience laughs out loud.) Another aspects was if we die, people would know exactly how we died if they found the tape somehow."

Read the rest of the Q & A notes here.

- Sujewa

100 new indie bookstores opened last year

From Paul Constant's Text Message from Los Angeles article in The Stranger:

"BEA attracts 36,000 booksellers, publishers, publicists, sales representatives, agents, lawyers, and authors (along with 1,000 journalists who report incredibly polite accounts of the weekend's events) to a different city every year, and every year the American Booksellers Association (ABA) kicks off the weekend with a party in a grand ballroom. This year, there is actually something to celebrate—something that cuts against the industry's self-fulfilling death wish: One hundred new independent bookstores opened in America last year. One speaker describes "recolonizing the parts of America that chain stores had left barren." This is, by any measure, a big deal."

Read the rest of the article here.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link.

- Sujewa

Interview re: marketing the balloon doc Twisted

At The House Next Door.

Wedding over, SilverDocs, etc. tomorrow

It was a long day in badly designed dress shoes but on the bright side, an awesome wedding, good times hanging out with many members of the family, good food, lots of videotaping.

I plan on checking out some SilverDocs action tomorrow & Sunday. Too bad I missed the Spike Lee event on Thu; would have been cool to see a discussion featuring one of the most relevant US filmmakers of the last quarter century.

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beginning Filmmaking, a short by Jay & Ella Rosenblatt, @ SilverDocs

Just watched a screener DVD of Jay Rosenblatt's short film Beginning Filmmaking, about his attempt to get his 4 year old daughter Ella interested in filmmaking. Short is funny, simple, touching/sweet, and at times surreal (also at times I wondered if parents pushing what they are into too hard on their kids is a bad idea), and overall relatively unweird goodness. Here is SilverDoc's description of the film; from this page:

"In this endearing portrait of a very young artist, an enthusiastic father discovers truth in the cliché “creative differences” when he attempts to teach his 4-year-old daughter about filmmaking. Ella learns what she wants to, discards what she doesn’t, and is determined to be a star in her own mind."

Short screens in the Shorts Program 3 on Friday 6/20. Go here for more info.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OK, a bunch of people will get the chance to see Medicine for Melancholy

indieWIRE reports that Medicine for Melancholy will be distributed by IFC Films. Read about it @ iW:

Thanks Camera Stilo blog for the link.

- Sujewa

SilverDocs '08 is on yo

Check out the films list here.

And go to the front page & scroll down for some video from Day 1 of SilverDocs.

- Sujewa

Rescuing the Critical Mass With 'Exile Cinema' article

Note to current or future film/indie film entrepreneurs out there; 1. there is a market for interesting, well done writing about art/indie/foreign movies (as there is a consumer appetite for such movies; witness the mushrooming of film festivals), 2. a lot of the people - film critics - who can do the writing are being let go by their employers - newspapers, 3. if you can create profitable platforms to deliver good writing about art/indie/foreign films, there will be a large pool of talent who can do the work, 4. so, get busy, think about ways to build businesses/revenue streams that make use of the talents of film writers; not only will such businesses be very interesting ones to be a part of & operate, you'll contribute to the preservation and broadening the influence of a rewarding - on several levels - art/entertainment form.

For an introduction to the world of people who take art/indie/foreign movies seriously & can write well about them, check out the New York Sun article Rescuing the Critical Mass With 'Exile Cinema'.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chuck Tryon & Amir Motlagh are into the bloggers doc project

I plan on interviewing both Chuck Tryon & Amir Motlagh for The Indie Film Bloggers this summer.

- Sujewa

The most important stuff you would need to shoot a DV short or feature available for sale

Buying used gear is always tricky (hell, even buying new camera gear can be tricky, once I bought a 1 chip camera brand new & had to return it to the manufacturer because of a pixel issue on the flip-out LCD display), but if you know who the seller is, I guess the risk is less. Film fest programmer & blogger Tom Hall is selling his VX-2000 3 CCD DV camera. Comes with a shotgun mic & a few other useful things such as a Beachtek adapter if you want to hook up XLR audio cables to the camera (all the info., w/ links to info. on accessories, here). That camera & mic, etc. can be used to shoot features & shorts & whatever else you might want to videotape. Check out the Ebay auction of the camera here, bids start at $999. If the camera is in good shape (Tom says it is, he's gotten it checked out by a service shop, more info. here), it could be a good deal.

And yes, I know a lot of people are thinking about switching over to HD gear, but I feel like I just got my DV filmmaking things set up/not tired on shooting & editing DV yet, I'll be using DV for at least another couple of years; I am not a big fan of people having to replace gear every year or so. Well shot (lit well, etc.) DV can look great either projected on a theatrical size screen or compressed onto a DVD.

- Sujewa

Monday, June 16, 2008

Plain Us and knock.knock reviews at Hollywood Is Talking

Brief reviews of Amir Motlagh's shorts Plain Us and knock.knock at Hollywood Is Talking.

- Sujewa

Don't drink the tap water in some parts of Montgomery County, MD for the next three days

From Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission:

***update 7:15am***
Contact WSSC Communications 301.206.8100
(Laurel, MD June 16, 2008): The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is issuing a precautionary boil water advisory for Montgomery County outside the beltway, with the exception of customers who receive their water from the City of Rockville.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission experienced a major water main break at 9:15 p.m. on Sunday evening. This resulted in the loss of water pressure or water service for large areas of Montgomery County outside the Beltway.
When water systems lose pressure there is an increased risk of contamination. Although we do not have an indication that the water system has been contaminated, as a precaution, the WSSC and the Maryland Department of the Environment recommend if you live outside the beltway in Montgomery County, that you boil all water before use. Water should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute and cooled before using. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and food preparation.
The boil water advisory will continue until further notice, the water pressure is returned, the system is thoroughly flushed and the acceptable water quality is confirmed by water testing. We expect this process to take at least three days.
In addition, Mandatory Water Restrictions are now in effect for those customers in this same geographic area. This is an effort to keep up water pressure for fire protection. These restrictions include;
No outside watering
No filling swimming pools
No laundry
No dishwashing
Limit toilet flushing
These restrictions will remain in effect until some time later today.
We regret the inconvenience that this may cause.
Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail
For more information, please contact WSSC Communications at 301.206.8100.
WSSC is the 8th largest water and wastewater utility in the nation, serving more than 1.8 million residents in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. We operate and maintain seven water and wastewater plants, 5,500 miles of fresh water pipeline and over 5,300 miles of sewer pipeline. In our 90-year history our drinking water has always met or exceeded federal standards.
WSSC Home Contact Us Privacy Policy Web Master

14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, Maryland 20707
Main: 301.206.WSSC (9772) Toll Free: 1.800.828.6439
Emergency: 301.206.4002"

Visit the WSSC info. page here.

Review of Fauborg Treme in ShortEnd Magazine

At ShortEnd Magazine check out the review of David Logsdon's documentary Fauborg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. From the review, written by Tracy Jones:

"The dominating factor in this film to me, as an African-American, was how detached I felt in part because I had no idea how influential and important New Orleans was to America. "New Orleans is not so much overlooked as put into a separate category," Elie explains. "All Americans are aware of the city and have a vague knowledge of the music and celebrations here, but they don't connect that to the mainstream of American history and culture." When Katrina struck New Orleans, the media appeared to have a moment of honesty and determination to passionately report on this tragic event through a perceived objectivity. They managed to expose the incompetence of the federal government, but in all their human interests stories, from MSNBC to CNN, they somehow missed revealing the vast, ingenious history that is told in Faubourg Treme."

Read the rest of the review at ShortEnd.

- Sujewa

Miracle at St. Anna trailer

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Re: Jonathan Marlow's "There are far too many people making movies that have no business picking up a camera" idea

In his follow up to the post about film festivals and indie film distribution, Jonathan Marlow says the following:

"About 20 years ago, David Thomas (frontman for the legendary Pere Ubu) suggested that there were far too many bands in the world. I think it's time to revive his appeal and apply it to the motion picture industry. There are far too many people making movies that have no business picking up a camera. I've said it on panels and now I'll put it in print - if you're a filmmaker and you suspect that you're not up for the challenge, please stop! We've had enough. The business of filmmaking, like the process of politics, often discourages our best and brightest. These days, the good ones generally give up on the Sisyphean hurdles and find some other practical line of work. Audiences are then regularly left with a particular personality type that continues to make films-about-nothing long after they should've stopped. If we can promote the former and deride the latter, we've done our part."

Read Jonathan's entire post here.

I will have to disagree with Jonathan's position on this matter. I do not think there are enough good movies around, and good movies come out of filmmakers making a lot of movies, even some not so good movies from time to time. Even if there is a ton of movies, there really is no problem with more being made, just look at the book industry; some experts (book sellers, dealers) I just spoke w/ think more than 20,000 - 40,000 books* get published in the US every year these days. In a similar way, in a country with 300 million or so people & a world with 6 billion or so people, I don't think there could ever be too many movies. The distribution system for the large number of indie films available now has not been fully developed yet, but many people are working on it, and in time it should be possible to get every film to its interested audience; just as thousands of books enter the economy each year, it should be possible to accommodate thousands of indie films each year, I think, eventually.

Distribution aside, people who feel inclined to make an indie movie should go ahead & do so. Because, even if the first few movies are not too impressive, it is possible that over time the filmmaker will develop his or her skills and will create some very interesting movies. For some support for this idea take a look at Jim Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation and compare it to his Mystery Train or Dead Man; Jarmusch's filmmaking skills definitely improved over time, in my opinion.

For over a hundred years only a relatively few (usually wealthy and or well connected and or assisted by the wealthy and well connected/Hollywood, or few INCREDIBLY driven and resourceful) individuals have been able to make movies. But now, with the availability of digital formats, it is possible for any seriously interested individual with a day job in a first world/developed country, with some sacrifices in time & spending, to create an indie short or feature over a long period of time. Now is quite possibly the best time ever for people who are interested in making movies to go ahead & do it.

And by the time they finish that movie & or improve their filmmaking skills a couple of movies down the road, the indie distribution problem may be solved.

*update: according to this New York Times article, 175,000 new books were published in 2003.

- Sujewa

Until The Indie Film Bloggers doc is done, follow its progress at its site/blog

Soon there will be too many posts re: The Indie Film Bloggers for this general interest blog, so, until that doc is done, follow its progress at its own blog. When the doc is finished I'll post here re: screenings & other distribution related items. Also will post here when something major & or very interesting happens during the production phase.

- Sujewa

Saturday, June 14, 2008

To Georgia in July

Will be taking a little road trip to Georgia in July to interview ShortEnd Magazine's editor Noralil Ryan Fores (and anyone else from ShortEnd who happens to be around that day) for my doc The Indie Film Bloggers. Been to Savannah, GA a couple of times a few years ago (my brother went to school there for a bit); they had nice looking gigantic moss covered trees there - other than that I have not spent much time in The GA. Looking forward to visiting Georgia in July.

- Sujewa

What she does when she is not directing

One filmmaker, Anne Norda, writes about how the days were spent during a month in which she did not do anything related to movie making; at MovieMaker magazine's blog. An excerpt:

"So, during this long, dry “no moviemaking” fast, I accepted a one-day gig at the Eclectic Theater Company, writing and directing for their 24-hour festival. It ain’t Hollywood… it’s LIVE Hollywood! Actually, it’s NORTH Hollywood, which, these days, is becoming a dead-ringer for the other H. All the participants in the 24-hour madness were out-of-work somethings with this special day of respite from unemployment, strike fall-outs and half-hearted tinkerings on their computers."

Read the rest of Norda's post here.

- Sujewa

Site/blog for the new doc The Indie Film Bloggers is up

No posts of consequence there yet, working on getting the links, etc. up. Soon there will be stuff there, oh yeah. Go here & bookmark it, add to your favorites; for it is the site for a doc, most likely, about people like you; indie filmmaker/fan types who blog about indie films & related matters.

The Indie Film Bloggers movie site/blog is now in existence; let it be known :)

- Sujewa

The Incredible Hulk...This time it's emotional

From the Jimmy Kimmel show:

Obama, Bush, McCain pay tribute to Tim Russert

Tim Russert did some very good work. Very sad to hear that he suddenly, unexpectedly passed away at such a relatively young age (58). Three US leaders remember the departed news person:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Indie film blogger doc

I've started shooting footage for a documentary about indie film bloggers. If you are one, and you want to be a part of the documentary, e-mail me ( I am going to interview/videotape indie film bloggers in NYC, DC area, Baltimore & places close to those cities this summer about this thing that we do. The finished film might be interesting, might be entertaining, and will certainly be a snapshot of sorts of how quite a bit of indie film news, ideas, opinions get expressed & circulated at the moment. I hope to have the doc finished in the fall.

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Family wedding that week, won't be able to cover SilverDocs

My sister is getting married the week of 6/15, so, the whole family (well, at least several key members out of the thousands) is in town from many parts of the world (including parts unknown), causing me to schedule in much hang out time w/ these people who are reported to be related to me, so, I won't be at SilverDocs feasting on their offering of docs.

However, luckily for all of us, Brian "The Film Panel Notetaker" Geldin will be in town, taking notes, interviewing people & otherwise turning his blog into a red hot sexy source of SilverDocs '08 info.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I learned by arguing with a bunch of people who hate Spike Lee and are big fans of Clint Eastwood

On the down side, I lost a few hours of work during the last couple of days commenting at the Guardian Film Blog post re: Lee and Eastwood, but on the up side, I received a reminder lesson on a few things; value of people, their work and historical events can completely and totally be different from person to person/value of things is definitely in the mind of the beholder, Spike Lee is an incredibly unique & valuable figure in the history of American and western cinema; perhaps more people will articulate this in decades to come (since Lee does a good job, perhaps too good of a job promoting himself, perhaps a lot of people are hesitant to add to the praise at present), some people find Lee to be a threatening figure; they take everything he says at face value or as the final word on things/Lee's final perspective as opposed to perhaps being the starting question, the opening, to a discussion or an argument, and, interestingly enough, the time spent dealing with Lee haters & Eastwood fans reminded me also of being very impressed with Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima when I first saw it; a very unique, positively unique Hollywood movie that humanizes one of America's WWII enemies.

In some ways, there are similar progressive, ground breaking, pro-diversity aspects to both Eastwood & Lee's careers. Both men have directed movies about African-American jazz musicians, both act in their movies (not something every Hollywood writer/director does), and both have directed two new kinds of WWII movies (Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima; taking a look at the war experience of the enemy from multiple perspectives, Lee's upcoming Miracle at St. Anna; fictional yet quite possibly for the first time in Hollywood history a theatrically released film telling a story about African-American WWII soldiers). Maybe the little verbal battle at Cannes turned out the way it did (Eastwood telling Lee to shut up, Lee commenting that Eastwood is not his father) because the two men are similar in some important ways; both want to (and have) break new cinematic storytelling ground, and both have used stories featuring non-"white" people for that purpose (still a rare thing in the total output thus far of Hollywood). So, underneath the visible dissatisfaction between Lee and Eastwood, there might just be some recognition of similarity, and thus perhaps even feelings of competition among relatives kind of thing; of course only those two in their private thoughts can know exactly what, if anything of significance aside from the obvious & visible, is going on between the two; but from where I stand I see two artists with similar concerns and methods at odds over maybe an actual issue, maybe something else entirely.

Back to people who hate Spike Lee. Some of these people are full out racists to whom Spike Lee or any other non-"white" person can never contribute anything positive to the world. Those pathetic souls are easily recognizable in the comments, and are to be expected to show up at a discussion re: Lee's movies. But some of the other commenters at the Guardian blog made some worthwhile points; the number of African-American soldiers at Iwo Jima were few (around 900, officially assigned to supply duty) compared to the number of "white" & other soldiers (over 110,000 if I recall correctly), and there were no African-American soldiers involved in the flag raising. Thus giving Eastwood a break on not having any significant African-American characters in Flags of Our Fathers. However, these same commenters miss the larger point behind Spike Lee's critique of Eastwood's & many other WW II movies: contributions of African-American & other non-"white" WW II soldiers who fought for the Allies has been ignored by Hollywood for decades. So, to people who are aware of that reality, each fresh addition, every new WW II movie that fails to show African-American soldiers is both a continuation & a reminder of the past neglect.

Eastwood's Flags does however improve Hollywood's record of minority representation in one key way, by having the Ira Hayes character being played by a Native American actor.

All in all, what the Guardian post comments prove is that representation of history is something that a lot of people are passionately concerned with, and that film directors (specially if their work is being widely distributed by Hollywood) can have a significant effect on exactly how historical events are remembered and or interpreted by the general public.

I think the on-going fascination Hollywood & movie goers in many countries & communities have with World War II is a good thing; because in between stories of bravery & sacrifice, we get to see how tragic & horrible that epic conflict may have been to directly experience. Perhaps these fresh reminders by directors such as Eastwood and Lee will keep the world from sliding into a third World War. On the flip side, if another Hitler or Imperial Japan were to rise up, we could always refer to the memory of WWII - kept alive through movies & many other, more accurate, things - in order to meet & effectively deal with that challenge.

Those are some of the things I learned and or thought about by responding to comments by some people who hate Spike Lee (there were some who like Lee at the post, and some who are lukewarm on Lee) & people who very strongly disagree with Lee's critique of Eastwood's WW II movies. For the details, go to the Guardian post & read the several hundred comments.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Michael Ondaatje's got a "new" book; Divisadero

The "new" is in quotes 'cause even though Divisadero is new to me, looks like it came out in '07 or so. Check out this NPR page re: Divisadero. For all you Running In The Family, English Patient, Anil's Ghost, etc. fans. This one takes place not in Sri Lanka or during WW II but in 1970's California & pre-World War I France.

- Sujewa

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ed Halter's article on microcinemas at FilmInFocus

Check it out here.

Thanks Filmmaker Mag blog for the link.

- Sujewa

How filmmakers will get paid through the new

THR has some of the info; here.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link.

Check out for more.

- Sujewa

Miracle at St. Anna poster at Cinematical

Cinematical has the poster to the upcoming Spike Lee movie about African-American soldiers in Italy; check it out here.

Looking forward to this movie. A first of its kind I think (American/Hollywood movie about African-American soldiers in WWII).

- Sujewa

Latest re: the 6/27 short films screening

Go to the Capital City Microcinema site/blog for the latest. Still creating the program, will have all the final info. & links up at this same post later today.

- Sujewa

Dirty Harry is angry at Spike Lee; lots of Guradian Film Blog readers think it's totally cool

According to this Guardian Film Blog post, when Spike Lee pointed out that the contribution of African-American soldiers to WWII has not been reflected in many Hollywood movies about WWII (specifically Clint Eastwood's Flags & Iwo Jima), Eastwood responds by telling Lee to shut up.

And a lot of the commenters at the Guardian Blog automatically takes Eastwood's side. Even though Lee's complaint is accurate; most Hollywood movies have ignored, for DECADES, contributions made by non-"white" soldiers in the battle against the Nazis, Facist Italy & Imperial Japan. If I recall correctly, aside from African-American soldiers, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from India & other British colonies served on the side of the Allied Powers (including at least one of my own relatives from Sri Lanka), also non-"white" soldiers from French colonies. However, most WWII movies thus far, specially ones from Hollywood, have ignored the non-"white" soldiers.

Chill out Clint, Spike speaks the truth on this matter.

Go here for the Guardian post.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Notes from a Where Internet and Film Collide event, June 5

At Film Panel Notetaker.

- Sujewa

Religion Sunday post: Buddhism and war

It's Sunday in America, lots of people are doing religious stuff; so this morning I am thinking about the bizarre situation re: Sri Lanka; a deeply Buddhist country that boasts Buddhism as the state religion for over 2500 years has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

How did this come about? No doubt there are many & lengthy answers to that question.

A google search produced this document; Buddhism and war: Two Reviews.

The document looks at the book Zen War Stories, a book by Brian Daizen Victoria, about WWII era Japanese Zen Buddhism and its collaboration with the imperial Japanese government in its war & conquest project. An excerpt from the review:

"The author argues that violence is incompatible with Buddhism’s message of peace and compassion and pursues the weighty evidence of Zen’s failure to live accordingly. Victoria documents the support given by Zen Buddhists to the military regime, including masters who would later bring Zen to the west. He also shows the uses that the military intentionally made of Zen, such as modeling military life upon Zen monastic practices (from the organization of units down to mess-kits) and cultivating a philosophy which made Japanese indifferent to death and suffering—whether one’s own or others’. If a soldier did not care about his own life and was resigned to death, how much value could he see in the life of others?"

The review goes on to look at Tessa J. Bartholomeuesz book In Defense of Dharma: Just-War Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka. An excerpt from the review:

"Emphasizing the diversity within Sri Lankan Buddhism, she examines three approaches to the question of war. First, she depicts a position which she calls Buddhist fundamentalism. This extreme view maintains that the war must conclude with the defeat of the LTTE and the restoration of a unified Sinhalese Buddhist Sri Lanka. The argument for a holy race war generally follows a three step legitimation of Anti-Tamil violence: (1) Sinhala and Buddhist identity constitute a unity that is radically distinct from the Dravidian Hindu Tamil interlopers from South India; (2) Sri Lanka is the island of dharma (dhammadwipa) ordained by the Buddha himself (by his three apocryphal visits) for Buddhism such that the whole island is the Buddha’s sacred relic and the loss of its unity would destroy this legacy; (3) the justice of a defensive war for dharma justifies the preservation of Sri Lanka in its unity as a majority Sinhalese Buddhist nation through military action against the Tamils, identified with the invading damila of the medieval epics, thus associating the present situation with past threats."

So, basically, a whole bunch of statecraft issues - work related to maintaining a unified country - is blocking the actual practice of dharma & the real work of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, according to that review. The existence of the war situation probably makes it possible for the government to carry out kidnappings & extra-judicial killings & harassment of journalists; items that help create Sri Lanka's reputation as a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. Also the belief that many Sinhalese has of race theory (existence of races, some being better than others, pretty much Nazi stuff at its core); no doubt a thing amplified by the British colonial experience but completely against the core ideas and values of Buddhism as they were taught to me & as recorded in many documents world wide & throughout the ages re: Buddhism. Perhaps the work of the ancient Buddhist missionaries ultimately failed, and Sri Lanka is not really a Buddhist country any more - and is Buddhist only in name.

Maybe things will get better. 'cause, as the old (meaning a long time ago) teacher is reported to have said: "Conquest begets enmity; the conquered live in misery; the peaceful live happily having renounced conquest and defeat" (Dhammapada, verse 201)." , and who knows, a new generation of Sri Lankans could try to do a better job & actually succeed in incorporating the positive elements of Sri Lankan Buddhism into their attempts to solve long & difficult problems of the island such as violence (state & rebel), separatism, racism, recovery from colonialism, underdevelopment & poverty.

More about the two books at the review.

- Sujewa

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Trailer for Amos Poe's EMPIRE II

0. I've thought a couple of times about the trailer for Empire II since I came back from NYC.

1. Amos Poe's site, where you can buy a DVD of Empire II.

2. A review of Empire II (from the 2 reviews I read, perhaps the 3 hour movie is best watched in pieces, ideal thing to do using the DVD).

2.5. I would of course like to check out Empire I or Andy Warhol's Empire at some point (maybe not the whole 8 hours or whatever).

3. Trailer for Empire II:

Disappearances in Sri Lanka video on Human Rights Watch site

Great (well made but sad & troubling) video, check it out here.

Some background: the Sri Lankan government is fighting the separatist Tamil Tigers (who are worse than the government; uses suicide bombers, child soldiers, is a military dictatorship, kills Tamil dissidents & moderate politicians, kills innocents/non-combatants through bombing passenger buses, etc.) at the moment. One of the unofficial tools being used in this war by the government is the kidnapping & murder of anyone that they perceive is a threat to the government (the government will deny this, but people who live in Sri Lanka know this is happening, as well as outside observers). A tactic that the government of that time employed successfully to put down the Sinhala/JVP insurrection in the late 1980's.

It would be far more effective & useful for the Sri Lankan government to adopt generally accepted human rights & security practices, protection of civil liberties - including the right to dissent - during wartime, in their war against the Tigers. Have arrests & trials - real trials - by actual judges & juries - for example, of the accused as opposed to executions of suspects by the military. Extra-judicial killings & "disappearances" will fan the flames of hatred in the hearts of victims/families causing another generation of people to become easily motivated to attempt to overthrow an unjust government by force, resulting in counter action by government forces, resulting in the continuation of the state of war on the island that has kept it poor, underdeveloped & hellish for the past two decades.

Get smart Sri Lanka, stop kidnapping & killing your own citizens, start behaving like a normal/developed government, and maybe then you'll get that coveted seat in the UN human rights council that should, at present, definitely be denied to you.

Also, stop harassing & killing journalists.

Evil tactics against citizens and media is not going to help you win the war against terrorism and separatism. In fact, such tactics - disappearances of suspects & harassment of journalists - will win you fresh enemies at home and abroad, thus further delaying the return of peace & prosperity to Sri Lanka.

Once again, the link to HRW's video re: disappearances in Sri Lanka.

When this war against the Tigers is over & terrorism & separatism is defeated, Sri Lankans should definitely hold war crimes trials covering the behavior of various agents of the government during the past 20 plus years or even since the start of the independent era; 1948 on.

- Sujewa

Take Out sounds good

Check out Aaron Hillis's review of the new movie Take Out at the Village Voice.

And for more Take Out links, GreenCine Daily.

Playing now at Quad Cinema in NYC.

Official website.

- Sujewa

Conchords - "BOOM!"

Friday, June 06, 2008

Kurt Cobain About A Son on Sundance Channel tonight

Read all about the event from the director himself, here.

If you get the Sundance Channel & you have not seen About A Son yet & you are remotely interested in indie/punk/90's rock, lives of artists, & very creative filmmaking, check it out.

"Documentary filmmaker A. J. Schnack (GIGANTIC: A TALE OF TWO JOHNS) breaks nearly every established rock documentary convention in this "deeply moving" (Village Voice) examination into the short life of Kurt Cobain. The voice of the Byronic grunge rock icon is heard in excerpts from revealing interviews recorded a little more than a year before his 1994 suicide. Cobain is heard ruminating about fame, drugs, his childhood and his band as impressionistic images of locales from Cobain's life in the Pacific Northwest provide a visual counterpoint."

Congrats to Team Son on the SC premiere!

- Sujewa



Al Maiorino - Italian Genealogy, Public Strategy Group, and more!

Alfonse Maiorino




Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco blogs project

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 2 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 3 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 4 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 5 blog

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Small Business Grants page

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Small Business Chamber

Farzad Rostami – Delaware History Trail

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Historical Society

Farzad Rostami – History of Delaware


Re: festivals representing the collective judgment of the independent film community

At this blog post, IndiePix's Bob Alexander says:

"Question:If a festival can’t pay a filmmaker, then why are festivals important?

Answer:Because they represent the collective judgment of the independent film community."

(thanks A.J. Schnack for the link to Bob's post)

But do festivals really represent "the collective judgment of the independent film community"? I would have to say no. Because, the independent film community is, by my definition (and this is probably a definition that most people involved in indie films to some significant degree can agree with) people who purchase/watch indie movies (at theaters, on DVD, at festivals, etc.), people who make indie movies, people who distribute indie movies, people who promote indie movies, people who organize film festivals and other indie film screening events, people who criticize or otherwise write about, discuss indie movies. That is a lot of people; several hundred thousand people, at least, in the US. Now, do festivals represent the collective judgment of all these people or do festival programming represent the tastes of the programmers? I think festival programming represents the taste of the programmers; influenced by other factors such as films available for the fest, focus of the fest, etc.

There is no fixed, universal standard of "good" or "bad" in art/entertainment. There are only tastes; for example, I like the Jarmusch movie Down By Law, a friend of mine hates it, does that mean the movie is good or bad? No, it means that two people with two different tastes in movies disagree on the value of one movie.

In whatever form, whether they pay filmmakers or not, I am glad film festivals exist. Because, if nothing else, they do provide publicity to films and filmmakers.

However, if revenue is generated by showing a movie, it is fair to give some of that revenue to the makers of the movie, because without their work it would be impossible to have the festival/show a movie.

Now, it appears that there is a lot of interest in film festivals (good job film festival producers). But, even with that, if film festivals are operating in the red/not making any money/are not profitable perhaps that information can be shared with filmmakers so that we do not feel that we are being left out of a potential revenue stream. What are the numbers? What was the cost of producing your festival and how much money did the festival collect? Where is the proof (so that we can avoid the infamous Hollywood accounting system type accounting where no movie, no matter how popular, ever makes a profit)?

Showing movies is a lot of work. And there is a general understanding at the moment that theatrical screenings do not generate a significant (or any in many cases) profit for a lot of movies. So, if this condition also extends to film festivals, then show us the data & we'll (probably) quit asking for a share of the non-existent profit (although, revenue is generated by film fest screenings, even if there is no profit in the end, one could argue that paying filmmakers should be or could in the future be considered an essential operating expense similar to venue rental, ticketing expenses, etc., one that needs to be paid even if the fests do not ultimately produce a profit).

This - the nature of the relationship between indie filmmakers and indie film festivals - is no doubt an evolving thing; but, at the moment, it does seem weird & wrong that the maker/owner (at the indie film fest stage it is usually the same person or entity) of the movie does not receive any money from a ticket sold to a screening of that movie.

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Date Number One screening dates, DVD info. by the end of this month

I am working on setting up screenings of the new version of Date Number One. Also the DVD (will be selling the DVD just from/through my websites/mail order until all the '08 & possibly part of '09 screenings of the film are done, after that will try to sell the DVD through all open avenues). I am going to try to make the DVD available for purchase at some point this month. That is the latest re: that film; more DNO news by the end of this month/June.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

All the Vermeers in New York review at NYT in '92

Still have not seen this movie; was doing some web browsing re: Vermeer, found this New York Times review from '92, check it out here.

A little bit from the review, the basic plot of the movie:

"One afternoon, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mark observes Anna as she observes his favorite Vermeer, a portrait of a pensive young woman gazing out from the canvas. Struck by Anna's resemblance to the woman in the picture, which is not all that pronounced, Mark begins to pursue her. He pays no attention to her lack of enthusiasm and rudeness. He sees in her something of the healing serenity he associates with Vermeer. She sees him as a convenience and borrows $3,000. "

Read the rest here.

- Sujewa

Photos from the 5/30-6/1/08 NYC trip

It was my girlfriend Amanda's birthday last weekend, and she had never visited NYC before, so we took a trip. Had a great time. On the film front got to visit Pioneer Theater, Brooklyn International Film Festival, and hung out with Brian "The Film Panel Notetaker" Geldin, Mumblecore Erin/Erin Sherer, and Marc "Frownland/Yeast" Raybin. Among other attractions, Amanda visited the Folk Art Museum, and she was pretty excited about that. At the end of the trip she said she loved NYC.

- Sujewa



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