Very excited to be screening my short documentary KISS THE PAPER at Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this coming weekend!
Limited edition letterpress posters, postcards, and DVDs -- hand-made by Alan Runfeldt of the Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop (Alan is the star of the movie!) -- will be available for the first time. Come to our shows at Treasure Mountain Inn on Sunday, January 22nd at 1:30pm or Monday, January 23rd at 3pm.
KISS THE PAPER screens alongside several beautiful short films as part of the Americana Documentary Shorts program.
HELL AND BACK AGAIN has been shortlisted for an Academy Award!
At long last, the official poster and official trailer for HELL AND BACK AGAIN!
Our incredible team has put so much passion and dedication into making this film, and I can't wait for you to see it. HABA rolls into theatres across the U.S. and the U.K. starting Oct. 5th. Ask your local cinema to show it on their screens and please share the trailer with your friends!
HELL AND BACK AGAIN is coming soon to a theatre near you!
You can catch a special preview of HABA at DocuWeeks in both New York and Los Angeles, which is happening in just a few weeks at the end of August and early September.
Our official theatrical run begins on October 5th, 2011 at the Film Forum in New York City and October 14th at Laemmle Monica in Los Angeles. This will be followed by screenings in San Francisco, Berkeley, Honolulu, Ithaca, Dallas, Philly, San Diego, Atlanta, Taos, DC, Denver, Tacoma, Seattle and more cities to come. Feel free to request the film at your favorite local theatre!
Additional screenings are still being scheduled, so for the most current dates and locations, please check the HABA website.
More reactions from the festival circuit and press screenings...
Hell and Back Again has such clarity of vision that it feels and plays like a narrative film, and it sticks with you for weeks. - IndiePix
One of the best documentaries of the year and an example of brave, uncompromising journalism.
- The Critical Movie Critics
Danfung Dennis' disturbing and powerful war documentary Hell and Back Again turned out to be a masterpiece. - Edinburgh Guide
A powerful and important study of the implications of the long standing war on terror, on a national and a personal basis.
- The Ooh Tray
Hell And Back Again will leave you with a tense chest, and a new sense of appreciation for the freedoms we have here in the US and the soldiers that allow us to have them, despite your feelings on the war. - Ion Cinema
With powerful and penetrating footage shot with Dennis' discerning eye and shrewd editing from the impressive Fiona Otway ... the two stories depict a very complete picture of the realities of war in the 21st century. A welcome addition to the sub-genre, offering new insights without losing impact. - Cinefile
Michael Apted presents the first-ever 'Best Documentary' prize to HELL AND BACK AGAIN at the Moscow International Film Festival. This festival started back in 1935 under the leadership of Mr. Sergei Eisenstein himself!
Also, indieWIRE names HABA one of the "best indie movies of 2011" (so far), based on polls of over 100 critics and bloggers. Our film is in good company too, joining the ranks of Steve James' THE INTERRUPTERS, Peter Richardson's HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, James Marsh's PROJECT NIM, Goran Hugo Olsson's BLACK POWER MIXTAPE, David Weissman's WE WERE HERE, Clio Barnard's THE ARBOR, Richard Press's BILL CUNNINGHAM NY, and Patricio Guzman's NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT.
A couple of my fellow Flaherty Seminar survivors have gathered an impressive roundup of info, contemplations, and links to some of the (90 at last offical count, but possibly more) films we watched this year:
An interesting cyclical irony stirs beneath the veneer of this film...
Really appreciate this review of HELL AND BACK AGAIN, which touches on some of the deeper, less obvious themes in the movie. Also one of the first reviews to question what it means to create a documentary with war footage so beautiful that it looks like it could have been shot for a fictional Hollywood feature... It's a profoundly important question and one that shaped our film at its core. I'm surprised we haven't heard more discussion about this in response to HABA.
I'm really curious why this little bit of news hasn't gotten more attention... A Federal judge approved a $3.4 billion settlement over squandered royalties that were supposed to be given to Native Americans in exchange for oil, gas, grazing and other leases. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is quoted as having said: "The government mismanaged these resources on a staggering scale."
Danfung Dennis, director of HELL AND BACK AGAIN, does a video interview with London's Guardian in conjunction with the Sheffield Doc/Fest.
And an interview with BBC.
Also, this detailed post-Sheffield write-up of HABA riffs off of Danfung's public conversation with BritDoc Foundation's Beadie Finzi and says some very kind things about the film:
Danfung, many affirm, has done something quite different, so different. Hell and Back Again and the small team that shaped it: Roast Beef Productions Producers Mike Lerner and Martin Herring; the editor Fiona Otway whose Felliniesque intercut and parrallel editing weaves silk through the film. In addition, Sabotage Films, Thought Engine and the BritDoc Foundation are contributing to Gombrich's schema plus correction model for narrative-art film making. The cinematography is lush, the characterisation indelible, its narrative reflexively beautiful, the finished product - a must see.
Alright, I'll admit it. I like slow films. I also like so-called "art films". Not every last one, mind you, (and these definitely aren't the only kinds of films I like) but I like enough of them to keep buying movie tickets and occasionally risk being bored or annoyed by something I don't enjoy. But over the years, I've met a surprising number of smart, talented filmmakers who seem to think slow, artsy films are a scourge upon the medium -- pretentious insults to the craft of storytelling. These films are elitist, they argue, created to make audiences feel part of a small, snobby insider club of people who "get" the film. They cite marginal box-office revenues as market-proof that slow, artsy films don't really deserve to exist. If the masses aren't voting with their wallets to see these films, clearly the films have no value or importance. I have such a hard time with these arguments... Because in my opinion, many contemporary box-office hits are completely formulaic and predictable, and don't make much of an effort to reflect the complexity of the world I live in. I lose my patience quickly with them. I'd much rather take my chances with a film that tries to break the mold and risk being disappointed, knowing that I might also discover a film that invites me to experience the world in an entirely new way. For all these reasons and more, I thought that this New York Times article, In Defense of Slow and Boring, was an interesting read.
Tickets for KISS THE PAPER and HELL AND BACK AGAIN are now on sale at the AFI Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival, which runs June 20th through 26th, 2011 (located in Silver Spring, MD, just outside of Washington DC).
HABA director Danfung Dennis will be in attendance for Q&A and is also presenting a not-to-be-missed workshop on shooting with DSLRs.
In addition, Alan Runfeldt, who is the letterpress printer featured in KISS THE PAPER, will not only be in attendance for the Q&As, but will also be doing a hands-on demo of some of his table-top letterpresses outside the theatre. Check out the beautiful poster he made for the movie!
Reel Grrls, a Seattle-based non-profit that teaches hands-on filmmaking to teenage girls, has had a special place in my heart for a long time. But the recent David vs. Goliath fiasco between Reel Grrls and Comcast has re-affirmed for me everything I love about this organization.
As Reel Grrls Technical Director Lila Kitaeff stated in her recent interview with KUOW:
Part of what we really want to teach our students is standing up for your values and speaking out. If anything, this has just made us want to do that even more.
Very honored and eager to be attending the 57th annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminars this summer, as a Flaherty Fellow no less! (Big shout out to the Wyncote Foundation for supporting my fellowship...) These seminars have been convening filmmakers for 57 years - what an incredible legacy! One hundred participants, including American and international media artists, critics, scholars, librarians, curators, students, and filmmakers, will spend an intensive week in upstate New York screening and dicussing seminal works of film all day and all night long. It's a time for us to focus on ideas and creative process, building community and engaging in rich dialogue around the contemporary practice of filmmaking. The topic this year is "sonic truth", curated by Dan Streible from the NYU Cinema Studies program. Can't wait.
My short documentary KISS THE PAPER and the feature doc I edited, HELL AND BACK AGAIN, will both screen at AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival, which takes place June 20-26, 2011 in the Washington DC area. Silverdocs is one of the most respected documentary film festivals in the United States, so I'm very excited! More info coming soon on screening dates and times.
Just found out that the Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association, has awarded me a grant to help with getting my short documentary KISS THE PAPER out into the world. Thanks so much to PIFVA and the grant sponsors - Wyncote Foundation, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Fels Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. I am honored and grateful!
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." -Friedrich Nietzsche
As part of an effort to reset its cultural agenda and return to its roots, Edinburgh International Film Festival, one of the world's longest-running festivals, presents HELL AND BACK AGAIN on on June 25th and June 26th. Edinburgh is also hosting this year's UK armed forces day parade and so HABA will have a very special screening with an audience of British soldiers and their families on the closing day of the festival.
From the festival program notes:
This is a war documentary, the likes of which you've never seen.
The London-based finance/sales/production company Independent has acquired HELL AND BACK AGAIN for its new distribution division, along with the mumblecore hit TINY FURNITURE.
The head of distribution at Independent, Eric Stevens, says of HELL AND BACK AGAIN:
This is a really important film, which we're very excited to have acquired. I haven't seen a documentary like this before and it is sure to resonate.
HELL AND BACK AGAIN crosses the pond for its much-awaited premiere in the United Kingdom! Catch it at the Sheffield Doc/Fest on June 10th and June 11th. From the festival program notes:
A mesmerising story of one man and his demons on and off the battleground.
HELL AND BACK AGAIN announces a distribution deal! Our movie will hit theatres in major American cities starting in October 2011 through New Video. The theatrical release will be followed by video-on-demand and DVD. In the spring of 2012, HABA will be nationally broadcast to millions of viewers on PBS as part of their Independent Lens series. Independent Lens has an amazing on-the-ground outreach program too, which will ensure that HABA becomes an active tool in creating community dialogue.
This is absolutely one of the most satisfying moments for me as a filmmaker -- seeing the work go out into the world at long last!
Independent Lens is very excited to partner on this transcendent film.
Lois Vossen, Founding Series Producer.
We are honored to release Danfung's film, where so much courage is on display - from his breathtaking cinematography to soldiers on the frontline to Nathan and Ashley's struggles at home. Our long-term, multi-platform release schedule ensures that the widest audience, particularly groups and communities most directly impacted at home by war overseas, will have an opportunity to experience this stunning achievement. Mark Kashden, New Video
After years of hard work, courageous introspection, and potent creative collaborations, Seattle filmmaker Eli Kimaro is finally sharing her debut feature documentary with the world. A LOT LIKE YOU screens at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 24th and June 12th. Don't miss it!
Not only a remarkably personal record of the filmmaker's own ethnic awakening, but also a compelling study on the roles that race and sex play in forming our cultural identities.
Just got the news that my short documentary KISS THE PAPER will screen at Athens International Film and Video Festival, which runs April 22nd - 28th.
HELL AND BACK AGAIN, a feature-length documentary I edited, will screen at Hot Docs in the lovely city of Toronto, Canada. Don't miss it -- May 3rd and May 5th, 2011.
Sean Farnel, one of the Hot Docs programmers, has called it:
...one of the great recent films about war, a visually arresting and intimately powerful story of soldiers in battle and at home, that does the impossible: it shakes our shell-shocked senses with the brutal realities of war and the profundity of human resilience, love and compassion.
Join us for a very special screening of HABA at Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC on Saturday April 16th at 8:30pm. The film plays in a beautifully restored theatre with 1,000 seats. A lot of the film was actually shot nearby in the small town of Yadkinville, North Carolina, where Sergeant Nathan Harris (our main character) grew up. It will be really wonderful to finally share the movie with this community!
From the festival program notes:
The intricate, surreal juxtapositions, which have the viewer ricocheting between America and the Middle East, come as close as cinema ever has to capturing how a Marine experiences war. This powerful, compassionate film is a gut-wrenching reminder that a battle at the front is always followed by another at home.
A really nice article in Filmmaker Magazine about Danfung Dennis, director of
HELL AND BACK AGAIN. Written from a refreshingly personal perspective by a marine veteran and fellow war journalist Stewart Nusbaumer.
Director Danfung Dennis and Editor Fiona Otway made [a] jarring contrast between the self-confident Marine leading his men in war and the dependent Marine struggling in mental and physical pain at home the central thread of Hell and Back Again. An intercutting of scenes weaves us through both narratives, slamming us back and forth between the dangerous combat and the savage peace, the juxtaposition of two ugly worlds uses sound layered and slowed to overlap the narratives. It's stark realism merging with dreamy realism. And the viewer ricochets between two horrors until the repetitive intercutting brings the two together into one. It's a theme that I have written about and discussed late into the night. For those who have been in intense combat, the war always follows them home. Whether they have a shattered body or a wounded mind, or, as with Sergeant Nathan Harris, both, when they leave the battlefield they are only beginning another war.
From Hollywood Reporter :
This gut-wrenching, tender film is brilliantly edited by Fiona Otway who interconnects the Afghan front-line battle scenes with the home-front struggles with coherent eloquence.
From Indiewire :
Must-See Sundance Film: Hell and Back Again is a cinematic non-fiction film that is hard to shake even days after experiencing it.
From Entertainment Weekly :
Hell and Back Again is a vivid and moving testament to what's really going on in Afghanistan, and in the hearts and minds of the soldiers fighting there.
From GQ :
The Must-See Documentary. It's practically dogma by now that the only movies worth seeing at Sundance are the documentaries. ... The one documentary we can't shake, however, is Hell and Back Again, the story of a grunt injured in southern Afghanistan in 2009 during an assault on the Taliban. ... Watching a tortured Sgt. Harris show his reluctant wife how to use a handgun is to see the fog of war through new eyes.
From Moving Pictures :
Enlightening ... not afraid to use expressionistic storytelling methods ... Hell and Back Again provides great insight into the struggles soldiers face both in and out of danger ... a taut psychological drama about the pain of war.
From Los Angeles Times :
The film has an intimacy and directness that brings a heightened sense of emotion to such everyday things as going to Wal-Mart or ordering take-out, as the rigors of fighting are contrasted with the commonplace struggles of daily life. The film cuts directly from images of the firefight in which Harris was wounded to a drugstore parking lot at night, a transition that is shocking and disorienting, just as it must be for soldiers returning home.
From Movie City News :
Hell and Back Again is an extraordinary film that captures the human side of the battle - our solidiers in Afghanistan and struggling to reconnect at home, and the people they are fighting to help.
Holy crap, HELL AND BACK AGAIN won the Grand Jury Award in the World Cinema Documentary category at Sundance Film Festival! What an incredible honor. Director Danfung Dennis also takes home a much-deserved Best Cinematography Award from Sundance for his beautiful, breathtaking, intimate, courageous, and caring footage.
If you're interested in press clippings and information on upcoming screenings, please join our movie's Facebook page.
I can't remember where I stumbled upon this, but I liked it and it stuck:
We work in the dark -- we do what we can --
we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
It's a quote by Bernardo Bertolucci, who is himself lifting it (out of context, very sweetly) from the book The Middle Years by Henry James.
It has begun:
- Film.com names HELL AND BACK AGAIN as one of the Top Five Documentaries at Sundance this year.
- Indiewire publishes its 'meet the filmmaker' interview with director Danfung Dennis.
- 2011 Sundance Docs in Focus does a little write-up on why you should watch, and even makes a special mention about the editing.
- HELL AND BACK AGAIN is included in a line-up of Sundance films with music related themes. Award-winning composer J. Ralph beautifully orchestrated our sound design and wrote an original theme song for the movie, which was performed to perfection by the one and only Willie Nelson.
Huge, huge congratulations to my friend and colleague Christen Marquez who was just awarded (after years of hard work) a golden ticket in the form of ITVS funding for her doc HAKU INOA. How's that for persistence of vision. What an inspiration!
HELL AND BACK AGAIN, a documentary I edited (directed by Danfung Dennis), will have its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2011! Ours was one of 12 films selected from 796 entries, so as you
can imagine, we are thrilled beyond measure!
Click here for the official announcement and a short description of the film.
Follow this link for screening times and locations for HELL AND BACK AGAIN.
Also, the Wall Street Journal has named our movie one of the "top ten to watch" at Sundance!
In addition, according to the New York Times, HELL AND BACK AGAIN has the curious distinction of being the only war documentary in competition at Sundance this season... apparently a strange anamoly in the history of the festival. Hopefully that's a good thing.
Here are a couple of interesting and provocative articles about the absence of complex, multi-dimensional characters (particularly female characters) in "mainstream" Hollywood film fare. Both are written by former screenwriter, Jennifer Kesler.
In the first article, Kesler explains why she believes her well-intentioned film professors at UCLA taught her to write scripts that could not past the "Bechdel Test".
To pass the Bechdel Test, a film must satisfy the following three requirements:
there are at least two named female characters, who talk to each other about something other than a man.
In the second article, she writes about why she ultimately decided to quit filmmaking.
It's a disheartening but also very illuminating perspective. The substantial thread of comments that follow the articles really tap into some deep and timely issues within the filmmaking community as well.