Five Questions With... Kana Hatakeyama, Writer/Director of OKAASAN (MOM)

After the loss of a beloved family member, a daughter returns from far away to her mother's home in Japan; mother and daughter attempt to work past the guilt and distance in order to reconnect, each in their own ways. 

We spoke with Kana Hatakeyama, writer/director (and actress and producer, too!) of OKAASAN (MOM), playing in the shorts program "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" on Sun, June 24 at 9am. Read more with Kana and catch the film this weekend!

KANA HATAKEYAMA

KANA HATAKEYAMA

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

KANA: I had been working on writing several different projects, but this is the one that I ended up finishing first. It wasn't a conscious choice, but I think it did come out first because it was important to me. That being said, the film was shot in my native Japan, and it had been a goal of mine as an artist to capture what my beloved homeland has meant and felt like for me over the years--a bit different in perspective from the representation of Japan in film I'd been exposed to growing up in the U.S., which generally seems to focus more on the exotic aspects of the country and culture. I wanted to portray a mother-daughter story set in an area of Japan that I personally love, a distinct Japanese space where bits of the urban and the mythical nature co-exist. Also, as a Japanese woman and an Asian-American woman, I wanted to tell a story with two female Japanese, Asian protagonists who are fully human, complex, and do not play into any sort of stereotypes.

NFF: Why or how did you decide to have your own mother act in the film?

KANA: I had written it with her in mind, and I had always felt that something about her way of being in real life would translate beautifully on-screen. In addition, I only had 6 weeks from when I decided I was going to shoot it to production, and I was also self-financing and thus working with a very limited budget, so I had financial and time constraints that I would have had to contend with had I decided to find another actress. And although my mom hasn't been working professionally as an actress, she did theater when she was in university, so acting wasn't something that was totally foreign to her. Also, part of the reason I wanted to make the film was to get to spend time and do something meaningful with her, so I asked. Initially she hadn't thought she was going to be acting in it so she was like, "I can't," and I was like, "Mom, you must." And fortunately she ended up agreeing to do it :)

NFF: I know you have a background in theatre - how was making a film similar or different?

KANA: It was really cool and a bit surprising to discover, what I found most similar to the rehearsal process in theater was the editing process. In theater, you rehearse, you try things, and you come up with some sort of draft, a version of the scene or play. You do it, you learn from it, and then you build on it, with each new draft, new layer, new rehearsal. Sometimes you discover that what you had before worked better, sometimes you try something completely new and different. The editing process was very similar. Working with my wonderful editor Ronnie Rios, we'd come up with a cut, we'd watch it, learn from it, and try again, and with each new cut, we were able to get closer to the core of the story, which to me is exactly the same as the rehearsal process in theater. I loved it. 

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

KANA: Because we had a skeleton crew--partly because I didn't have the money to hire more crew, transport them, and house them, and also because I thought a smaller crew would work better for this intimate story I wanted to tell--beyond directing and acting, there was a lot to be done, including basic but very important stuff like making sure there was enough coffee and food for everyone. I had help from my mom and our AD, but at the end of the day there was very little time for sleep, so that was challenging, wearing so many hats at once. A lovely surprise I had while filming was the fact that my dog is a very talented and eager actress, as she barked her way into more scenes than she was originally written into. Fortunately, it worked out because she was brilliant, and really brought so many additional layers to the film. She is a star, and I'm very proud of her and her work in the film.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

KANA: I'm so excited to screen in Nantucket because I've heard such wonderful things about both the festival and the island! I've never been to the island or the film festival, so am really looking forward to getting to discover both. I hope that Nantucket audiences in turn will get to discover a part of Japan that they may not have yet been exposed to, as well as relate to something explored in the film, whether that be loss or guilt or mother-daughter relationships.

Five Questions With... Writer/Director Tucker Pearson

During winter in Nantucket, two young men steal pieces of art from unoccupied homes in the short film THE OFF SEASON, playing in Shorts: Everything Is Gonna Be Alright on Sunday, June 24 at 9am. We spoke with writer/director Tucker Pearson - take a look below, and see his short this Sunday! 

TUCKER PEARSON

TUCKER PEARSON

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

TUCKER: My original inspiration for the film came from reading the police blotter in the Inky Mirror on occasion. I had this catalog of interesting and bizarre criminal activities that had occurred on the island in the back of my mind, and thats what got my imagination going. I wanted to tell a story about the off season on the island, and funny enough I found that to be a really compelling title.  

NFF: Do you have a background in art, and/or how did you choose the pieces represented in the film?

TUCKER: I originally studied at Wheaton College in Norton, MA before I transferred to New York University to pursue film at Tisch School of the Arts. When I was at Wheaton, I was a Fine Arts major and concentrated in photography and sculpture. Also, my grandmother has one of the most amazing collections of art that I have ever seen, and I have spent countless hours just admiring her pieces. Many of the pieces you see in the film are actually hers.  

NFF: Do you see these guys as villains or heroes?

TUCKER: This is such a great question!!! I feel that in the mind’s of my characters, they see themselves as heroes at the beginning — kind of like Robin Hood types. However, as the film progresses, they begin to see one another as the villain. I think that’s the essence of the film, a morality split between friends.    

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

TUCKER: As I am sure most Nantucketers know, winter weather can be wildly unpredictable and at times pretty extreme. Weather definitely was a major challenge for us because we had to be prepared to alter our schedule at the drop of a hat. Shooting around the island while maintaining consistent light was tricky for my team, yet the weather blessed us with an awesome surprise for a pretty pivotal scene. We had a blizzard kick up the morning we shot the golf scene, and it worked incredibly well for the story. It was a really happy surprise.  

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

TUCKER: I am so incredibly happy to have this film be included in the Nantucket Film Festival. I consider Nantucket home, and so it was my goal from the beginning to have this film premiere here. It’s kind of like the ultimate homecoming for me. It’s beautiful to see the journey of this film come full circle, from concept to production to premiere. My hope is that everyone will be able to take something away from this film. If it keeps people thinking after they have left the theater — thats the ultimate success for me as a storyteller.

Five Questions With... Miguel Alvarez, Director of ATLANTIC CITY

ATLANTIC CITY is about two men working odd jobs throughout Texas, as one longs to see his estranged mother. With Raúl Castillo (also starring in We the Animals).

We spoke with director Miguel Alvarez about the film, playing in the EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT narrative shorts block on Sun, June 24 at 9am. Read more with Miguel below, and catch his short on Sunday morning!

MIGUEL ALVAREZ

MIGUEL ALVAREZ

NFF: Can you talk about your inspiration for the film?

Miguel: I’m from San Antonio and wanted to make a film about the city as seen from a different perspective. I also wanted to make a film about family and all the messy entanglements that come with it.

NFF: I hear you're super close with the two lead actors - was this story written with them in mind?

Miguel: Yes! I always had both Felix Solis and Raúl Castillo in mind for the film. The three of us are close friends and had talked about making something together for years. Felix and Raúl have a brothers-like relationship and we wanted to play off of that.

NFF: Is it easier or harder to work with people/friends you know?

Miguel: Both! Because we’re all good friends communicating was easy on set. But sometimes you think that because we all know each other so well that we can read each others’ minds, but you find out pretty quickly that isn’t the case!

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

Miguel: Well, we filmed in four separate cities in five days, with rain tossed in. That was challenging.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

Miguel: I’m hoping audiences walk out with a better appreciation for what family means. Whether related by blood or not, we all have people who we are extremely tight with and are constantly faced with choices that affect that relationship.

Five Questions With... Charlie Tyrell, Director of MY DEAD DAD'S PORNO TAPES

In MY DEAD DAD'S PORNO TAPES, the filmmaker tries to better understand his deceased father through random objects he inherited, including a pile of dirty movies. 

We spoke to filmmaker Charlie Tyrell - read more below, and see the film in the Shorts of the Year block, playing Sat, Jun 23 at 9:00am!

CHARLIE TYRELL

CHARLIE TYRELL

NFF: The film is obviously very personal. Was anything off-limits to use in the film?

CHARLIE: Not really - I mean there were tons of limitations in general. The first being that we only wanted to animate with objects that belonged to my dad, and the second being that I knew my mom, brother, and sister wouldn't really be up to on-camera interviews which is why they were (unknowingly) interviewed and recorded over the phone. But I did keep my family a little in the dark about what kind of content I would include in the film, so it was pretty terrifying when I finally showed it to them. 

NFF: Can you talk a little about the decision to incorporate animation in the storytelling?

CHARLIE: I generally try to incorporate stop motion or animation into any project I'm working on, but in this case it happened to be a perfect fit. My dad's not around to get answers from and there are very little home movies so we had to tell the story with his stuff. But Martha and Phil (the stop motion team) really brought their talents to the table by giving these inanimate objects such fluid movements that really help with the exploratory nature of the story. And then Marty (our 2D animator) brought an extra layer with his animations - including having all of the subtitles for the interviews in the hand writing of the person speaking. That was especially hard to do for my dad and grandmother - we had to source old notes and christmas cards to build an alphabet of their printing.  

NFF: How has your family reacted to the film?

CHARLIE: Well my mom is (obviously) great and has been very supportive through the whole process. I think even if I made a film that she didn't agree with, she would respect that it was my personal perspective. My brother and sister have also been appreciative about it. I think we all find it kind of nice to introduce total strangers to our dad.  

NFF: Has making the film changed or expanded your understanding or relationship to grief?

CHARLIE: This film was kind of made out of a feeling that I hadn't completely settled my grief. Since my dad passed away when I was in my second year of university I felt like I never got to know him as an adult and had to acknowledge that I would never be able to know him from that perspective. So this was me as a fully formed adult taking what I had left of him and what we all knew of him to try to build that to develop a better understanding of him.

NFF: Are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

CHARLIE: Of course! And I'm pretty bummed that I couldn't be there. I'm always happy to be surprised by what someone takes away from the film. I've had strangers come up to me after screenings or send me very personal emails that say "I had the exact same relationship with my dad" or some people can't get past the title. But I made this film for myself so even if it's not a person's cup of tea then I'm totally cool with that too. 

Five Questions With... Sarah Ginsburg, Director of SPACESAVERS

Sarah Ginsburg's short documentary SPACESAVERS profiles how when it snows, Boston residents respond to threats to parking spaces with subconscious self-expression.

We spoke with Sarah about this short and sweet doc - read more, and check it out in the shorts program "It's All True," playing Thursday, June 21 at 9am!

SARAH GINSBURG

SARAH GINSBURG

NFF: What inspired the film? Are you a Boston local?

SARAH: I went to school in Boston and stuck around for about 5 years after graduating, watching a majority of my peers leave for bigger cities and warmer climates. As rent prices increased, I found myself living in a funny little residential neighborhood in Somerville alongside mostly retired folks who had grown up there. Boston's winter of 2015, with its relentless and record breaking snowfall, showed me a side of the city, including my own quiet neighborhood, I hadn't seen before but totally believed. The items people chose to put out on the street and save their much labored over parking spot spoke so loudly to me. I saw determination, persistence, wit, humor, pride, sacrifice and artistry in the space saving operation but then I also saw a simple way to document it. 

NFF: The film communicates everything it needs to in just three minutes. Did you cut a lot of material down, or did you always intend it to be a snapshot? 

SARAH: As with any film ever made, the stripping down of this film in the edit was painful but necessary. With the help of friends' feedback, I let the space savers be the lead in a solo performance instead of trying to paint a well-rounded portrait of the neighborhood and all its quirks. Once I recovered from losing some of my favorite shots, I focused on creating different feelings and bringing out the whimsy of it all by playing with the order of shots and audio.

NFF: Did you discover any particularly weird or interesting space spavers? 

SARAH: It's not in the film but there's the well-known and highly anticipated bust of Elvis that some one in Southie puts out every year. I love to see any type of toilet out there doing its job. My favorite in the film is definitely the walker that my next door neighbor's put out with a laminated sign explaining why it would be rude to move the walker and take the spot.

NFF: Did filming present any particular challenges you weren't anticipating? 

SARAH: Taking your gloves off to set up a freezing cold metal tripod and press record as gusts of wind blow snow in your face can be challenging but I'm extremely tough and brave and had on a super warm winter coat given to me by my mom, so I was just fine.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film? 

SARAH: I consider Boston and Nantucket to be friends. There's a camaraderie that exists probably because of proximity, sports teams and extreme weather. Just as you'd help your neighbor shovel their car or maybe just share their pain from inside your warm home as you watch them shovel their car, I imagine Nantucket residents and festival attendees enjoying a little bite of Boston's rich heritage captured.  

Five Questions With... Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe, Director of THE TALE OF FOUR

We're so thrilled to host our Afternoon Tea Talk at #NFF17 on Sunday, June 25 at 2:15pm with Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe (Empire, Precious), who will be presenting her directorial debut, THE TALE OF FOUR

This multi-layered story inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women” spans one day in the lives of four different women connected by their quest for love, agency and redemption. Featuring Jussie Smollett (Empire) and Ledisi.

Gabourey’s directorial debut is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology short film series, which works to cultivate and spotlight the voices of women behind the camera, in order to provide emerging female filmmakers with the support to realize their creative vision.

We spoke with Gabourey about her film - read more below, and join us for tea, treats, a screening and conversation on Sunday!

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe

NFF: What peaked your interest in directing? Was it this story specifically, or had you been thinking about it for awhile? 

Gabourey: One of my producers, Kia Perry had the idea to adapt Nina Simone's song, Four Women, into a short film and she let me hear the song and I could see the entire story unfolding as I listened. Listening to this song, is what peaked the director in me. I had never thought about directing before that moment. 

NFF: Are there directors whose style you wanted to emulate, and/or directors who inspire you?

Gabourey: I'm inspired by many of the directors I've worked with like Sanna Hamri, Victoria Mahoney and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. I'm also inspired by directors I want to work with directors who change the way people of color see themselves like Ava DuVurnay and Dee Rees.

NFF: Were you familiar with the Nina Simone song prior to the film and/or did you use it for inspiration in any way while you were preparing?

Gabourey: I'd never heard the song before the idea of turning it into a film but while prepping the film, I listened to the song over and over and googled Nina Simone performances pretty much non stop because we wanted the world of the film to feel and look as much like a world Nina Simone would fit into as possible. We wanted the film to feel the way Miss Simone's made us feel with her music. 

NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Gabourey: What surprised me is how much I loved directing. How much I loved making decisions about everything. Big decisions from how a love scene should be shot, to small decisions like the color of nail polish on a teenagers hand. They are both really important decisions to make because every decision drives the entire story forward.  

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Gabourey: I'm so excited to show the film in Nantucket! For one, I've always wanted to visit Nantucket. Among other locations, I've planned many excursions and weekend trips to Nantucket in computer class when I was a broke teenager in high school who obviously couldn't afford to go on an actual trip at all. I've always felt drawn to the beauty and serenity of Nantucket and finally I get to visit it in the most amazing way! Through my film! Through art.  And what my art is intending to do, is to encourage audiences to walk away feeling a greater connection to the humanity, the sensitivity and the grace of the quiet struggles our neighbor shoulder.  By telling the stories of these four women Nina Simone sang about, we are honoring Nina, we honor our mothers, our communities and ourselves. We hope to encourage the audience to do the same after watching our film. 

Five Questions With... Directors Pulkit Datta, Liam Harris, and Peter Stanley-Ward, Directors of KIDS SHORTS

We have a screening for the whole family! A selection of both animated and live action films are in our KIDS SHORTS program - we spoke with directors Pulkit Datta (WISHFUL WHISKERS), Liam Harris (PERCHED), and Peter Stanley-Ward (LITTERBUGS) about their films. Read more below, and join us at the Dreamland 9:45am on Saturday, 6/24!

NFF (To all): Your film is in the "Kids Shorts" block - did you set out to make a kid-friendly film?

Pulkit: I didn’t really plan on making a children’s film. It organically turned out that way. When the idea for the story first came to me, I just wrote the script out of a burst of inspiration. But I think because the story was always from the perspective of a little girl, and there’s so much innocence and wonder in her world, it became labeled as a children’s film by people who were reading the script to give me feedback, and how it was evolving. It’s always surprising and exciting when a script starts taking its own path, so then I just embraced it as a kid-friendly film. And I’m so glad I did, because so far it’s been a hit with all the kids we’ve shown it to.

Liam: We didn’t specifically go out with the idea to make the film for a specific aged range, we intended right from the start that this would be a film for all ages. Having grown up with animated family adventures, I wanted to follow suit and give the audience the opportunity of experiencing the film with each another, no matter where you are from or how old you are.

Peter: We did and we also wanted the whole family to enjoy it. We wanted to make a live-action film with an all kid cast. This is something that was common when we were growing up but isn’t so much these days. There are lots of animations for kids now, which we love as well, but wanted to make a film with real kids in for this generation.

NFF (To Pulkit): Can you talk a little about your inspiration?

Pulkit: WISHFUL WHISKERS is a story that's close to my heart. It was inspired by the time I've spent playing with my nephew and niece. I loved experiencing their limitless imagination - they can conjure up entire worlds around them, using the most mundane objects and furniture. That, to me, was incredibly fascinating and fun. So a big part of the inspiration to write the script was from playing games and make-believe with them. 

The whole mustache angle came in because it’s such a strong and identifiable symbol, and has been over time, around the world. Mustaches signify so many things in different places. It’s a universal thing. And it’s so intertwined with gender identity. Everyone likes to have fun by pretending to have a mustache, even women. So I thought, what if in the world of the film, the little girl actually wants a mustache? It’s a way to play with gender boundaries within the context of a children’s film. And it’s fun! 

NFF (To Liam): Which shows or animators influenced you most?

Liam: I would say one of my most influential animators would be Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). He is one of the original pioneers of 2D animation and at the ripe old age of 84 he still animates on paper today, which is extraordinary! Not only that he has since taken on the role of tutor to thousands of up and coming animators, which is truly inspiring. His recent film ‘Prologue’ was nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar which like I said at his age is really unbelievable, I can’t say enough how much belief that gives a young animation filmmaker like myself. I hope to still be as enthusiastic and devoted about animating when I reach his age!

NFF (To Peter): The production design is so wonderfully specific. Did you have the world in mind when you were originally conceiving the shoot?

Peter: Thank you and yes, we did have a very clear idea of what we wanted this world to look and feel like. This began with lots of preparation and included mood boards that evoked the tone and palette we wanted, and a location scout to make sure we found the right place. Marie Lana was our production designer on Litterbugs and she understood this world totally. The sets she built for us were amazing and it took our breath away every time we walked onset. We also wanted a rusty metal vibe throughout the whole movie, so very deliberately, virtually every frame has some sort of rusty metal in it.

NFF (To all): Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket families will take away?

Pulkit: I’ve heard great things about Nantucket Film Festival, so I was excited when WISHFUL WHISKERS was selected for the festival. I’m always fascinated by how kids react to this film because they’re always very honest. And so far, kids (and adults) have been picking up on different themes and moments of the film. So I’m looking forward to screening the film for Nantucket families to see what jumps out at them. It's a film that I hope encourages and inspires people to think beyond traditional boundaries of social norms and re-embrace their inner child. And above all that, it’s a joyful film, and for me, a successful screening is simply when the film makes the audience smile. 

Liam: I’m super excited to be showing Perched at Nantucket, I feel the location and audience there is perfectly fitting for sharing our story. With the beautiful harbors and long history of the whaling community, I believe our mariner themed story suits Nantucket just right. I hope that the families in attendance take away exciting conversations and a joint experience of laughter and fun whilst watching it. The film showcases bravery and the ability do the right thing and hopefully that message gets across and people take away a positive outlook towards their lives. (Also that seagull’s aren’t all that bad!)

Peter: It’s amazing to have our little film go to places like Nantucket. We wanted kids from around the globe to see this, but we never dreamed it would reach so many families all over the world. We are very proud of the whole film and the message against bullying and in support of friendship is universal, and it seems to mean a lot to many people. Nantucket is a great festival and it’s a real honour to be a part of this year’s line-up. We’re especially excited to be in the kid’s short section. I think if the audience can have just a taste of the wonder that the films I grew up with gave me, then everybody who made Litterbugs would be very happy with that.

Five Questions With... Narrative Short Filmmakers from THROUGH THE FIRE

NARRATIVE SHORTS: THROUGH THE FIRE screens Friday morning at 9 AM at Bennett Hall. We spoke with several filmmakers included in this program:

  • David Brundige, Writer/Director of LAURELS
  • Charlotte Barrett and Sean Fallon, Writers/Directors of THE PHANTOM MENACE
  • Chris Carfizzi and Hilary Mann, Co-Writers of THE FINGER
  • Aude Cuenod, Writer/Director and Benjamin Friedman, Producer of SCRAP DOLLS
  • Jeannie Donohoe, Writer/Director of GAME
  • Micah Perta, Director of DAYTIME NOON
  • Holly Voges, Writer/Director of FELL

And ok, there are technically seven questions here (one for each filmmaker!)...but who's counting? Read more below and join us on Friday!

DAVID BRUNDIGE, LAURELS

NFF: The film pokes fun at the festival world. Have you had bad festival experiences to draw from, or is this all imagination? 

David: Artist egos are so fragile, and my characters, one a notable feature director and the other a newbie short film director, react quite differently to their film festival granting them a shared hotel room.I love going to film festivals because the audiences, filmmakers, and programmers are so great, but there's a side of festivals, especially from afar, that creates prestige which can overshadow the celebration. We artists sometimes get distracted by the validation that comes with selection and awards.

CHARLOTTE BARRETT AND SEAN FALLON, THE PHANTOM MENACE

NFF: The location and production design is super specific to the story telling. Did you have to construct any of it, or was it pre-existing?

Charlotte and Sean: We shot the entire short at Frank & Sons Collectible Show, a twice weekly comic convention in the City of Industry, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles. Most conventions have a singular theme be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Comic Books, etc., but Frank & Sons is a wonderful hodgepodge of everything you could imagine collecting like Disney World Pins, 80s WWF action figures, and McDonalds happy meal toys. That diversity gave us the flexibility to stage scenes in thematically relevant settings. We added certain elements to scenes, like the American Flag at the end of the movie, but the only location we had to construct was the Celebrity Autograph Area.

However, being a low budget short meant we had to shoot on days Frank & Son was open. So every scene except for when Jim gets Robert Picardo’s autograph was shot on the live convention floor. It was completely chaotic and a lot of fun to shoot an emotional and personal story amid a working convention. All the background extras were just convention goers who had no idea they were going to be in a movie, but gave their permission by entering the building (we had signs posted!).

CHRIS CARFIZZI AND HILARY MANN, THE FINGER

NFF: The Finger is in the "Through the Fire" group - without giving anything away, how do you think that theme relates to your film as a larger theme?

Chris and Hilary: Our guiding principle in writing was this: ‘You admire a character for trying more than for their successes’*. In The Finger, we took the most momentous night of Luke and Laura’s relationship so far and made it as difficult as we could imagine. The real love in The Finger is found when they try again and again to make it work despite the challenges.
* from Pixar’s Rules for Storytelling

AUDE CUENOD AND BEMJAMIN FRIEDMAN SCRAP DOLLS

NFF: How did the film come together? 

Benjamin: Aude brought her inspiration to Detroit to develop the narrative further. It’s there that we met and collaborated for the first time.

Aude: I was studying film at Wesleyan University when I met a 70-year-old artist who made art out of abandoned objects. I was fascinated with how he transformed objects that others had thrown away into beautiful sculptures. The artist told me he had once tried to help a young boy from a broken home by teaching him how to make art and I found the story of this intergenerational friendship and connection through art beautiful. I was drawn to Detroit mostly because of the amazing art I saw there during a scouting trip: specifically Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project and Olayami Dabls’ African Bead museum. Most of the cast/crew was Detroit based and it was my first time working with them.

JEANNIE DONOHOE, GAME

NFF: Your lead performer is incredible - did she already know how to play basketball, or did you have to teach her? Did you look for an actor who knew the sport, or was that not as important as a good actor?

Jeannie: Nicole Williams was terrific to work with in every way -- she's an amazing person, actress, and of course, a great basketball player.  The character AJ Green is in high school, but Nicole actually already finished college, and she played basketball throughout (at Nevada).  The casting of her role in particular was a tall order.  It was a huge priority for me to find someone who could play basketball extremely well. I didn't want to cheat the shots or double the action with a stand-in player.  I also think the lived-in experience -- that Nicole has really played basketball at a high level for so long -- was essential on an emotional level within the production. I believe that lends an important authenticity to the role. In addition to assessing skill, I was looking for a compelling, interesting actor who could also pass as a boy and look high school age.  Nicole checked all the boxes and was instantly a great collaborator. This film was her acting debut, and I'm grateful to our casting directors Lisa Pantone and Gigi Berry for discovering her.

MICAH PERTA, DAYTIME NOON

NFF: Shooting in a car is notoriously hard - can you talk a little about that challenge?

Micah: I come from the commercial world, so we shot on a process trailer, which is totally complicated, but also a much easier way to direct talent. Basically we had a caravan, starting with a cop car followed by a union flatbed truck with the car and camera operators mounted on top, followed by a car for hair and make up and art department.  Every time we cut we would pull over to the side of the road.  But I was able to watch the actors on a monitor and talk to the them through a walkie (and not have to be in the trunk).  It was fun, and worked great, but I will probably do something with less car next time around.

HOLLY VOGES, FELL

NFF: The film is deliberately ambiguous. Do you prefer storytelling that asks questions, rather than provides answers?

HOLLY: I prefer stories that are challenging. Projects that provoke the audience to ask questions related to the story and well as themselves are most interesting to me. I don’t think this necessarily means not giving answers, but leaving some room for interpretation means a more active audience, which I definitely prefer. 

Five Questions With... Nina Horowitz and Alexandra Liveris, Directors of Short Docs THE MARGARET LAMBERT STORY and EYES OF EXODUS

We spoke with Nina Horowitz, director of THE MARGARET LAMBERT STORY and Alexandra Liveris, director of EYES OF EXODUS, both included in DOCUMENTARY SHORTS: LIFE JOURNEYS, screening on Thursday, June 22 at 11:15 AM. Read more with Nina and Alexandra below, and check out their films this week at Bennett Hall!

NFF (To Nina and Alexandra): How did you first become acquainted with and interested in your subjects' life and story?

Nina: There is a famous quote from the author Virginia Wolff,  “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” Here is my truth, I am Jewish and I was a competitive high jumper in both high school and college. I was vaguely familiar with the story and the rumors about Margaret Lambert, but I did not know much more than she was unable to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Life can be full of unexpected opportunities, and when I was asked to work with the Olympic Channel and develop films to showcase the impact of the Olympic Games , I knew this was the story I wanted to explore and document.

Alexandra: I started filming EYES OF EXODUS while visiting my grandfather’s birthplace. I was struck by the surreal dynamic of locals, vacationers, and refugees coexisting side-by-side on this fairytale island. It wasn’t until I became engaged in the underbelly of the town, did I understand that this coexistence wasn’t surreal, it is our global reality— only visually heightened when you are dealing with a population of 300.

NFF (To Nina): Can you talk a little bit about obtaining the archival footage and material/s? How difficult was that process?

Nina: I thoroughly enjoyed the work involved with searching and finding archival footage for this film, and I had decided early on that the perfect archival would be critical to sharing Margaret’s story. Our subjects in the film generously donated old photos, articles and videos for us to use in the film. Another leading provider of archival in the film was our distributor, The Olympic Channel, who had an impressive and unlimited bank of archival from every recorded Olympic game, specifically from the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, which were the first ever broadcast live to the world.

NFF (To Alexandra): Immigration is a hotly contested topic all over the world right now. Do you think your film might be able to provide some perspective on the global refugee crisis?

Alexandra: My intent was to make a short film that humanized both the refugee and local experience during a small, but crucial part of the Syrian refugee crisis—the first stop into Europe. I was interested in using Kastellorizo as a microcosm to explore how this global crisis affects all of our choices and destinies, refugee or not. Kastellorizo only has a population of 300 and for this reason it is easier to show all sides of humanity more clearly. My main focus was showing something that is not often talked about--the difficulties of altruism. 

NFF (To Nina and Alexandra): What surprised and/or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Nina: One of the biggest surprises, which may sound funny, was Margaret Lambert herself.  At 103 years old, she still recounts her life narrative with such clarity and passion. It became a huge inspiration for the film.  I was also surprised how the people closest to her shared her story with clarity  and without the resentment or anger that some might have expected toward her persecutors. Margaret's attitude and acceptance of her history are compelling and at times, emotionally wrenching. She is an exemplar of positivity. She lost a title and the opportunity for a gold medal, but she gained a life in the US that she valued more than anything else.

Alexandra: The different reactions my refugee friends had to the island. A few very young men told me that they wished they never came to Kastellorizo because they expected the Red Cross to be available to them and they didn’t have enough money to buy hotel rooms and food from the locals. Another couple were happy to spend a few days on the island after surviving war torn Syria so they could enjoy the honeymoon they never had. 

NFF (To Nina and Alexandra): Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Nina: I cannot wait to show my film and meet some of the incredible filmmakers that I'll be featured alongside.  This is a distinguished festival, I’m absolutely thrilled to be included in this year’s program.  I'm looking forward to seeing as many films as possible and eating delicious seafood.

I hope the audience is moved, inspired and can also laugh a little. Margaret lived in a time of great political uncertainty, yet she found ways to recreate herself and to honor her past. At 103 she is able to be grateful for the life she has had. My goal is to have us all pause, reflect and recognize that if we are lucky, the road is long and our stories can inspire generations to come.

Alexandra: I know that Nantucket is a community of compassion and with 1/113 people worldwide currently living as refugees, I hope that EYES OF EXODUS will inspire an environment of continual education and compassion on a very complex issue.

Five Questions With... Lisa Cortés, producer of THE TALE OF FOUR

THE TALE OF FOUR is Oscar®-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe's (EmpirePrecious) directorial debut. We're proud to present this piece at our Afternoon Tea Talk on Sunday, June 25 at 2:15pm, followed by a lively, moderated conversation accompanied by tea and treats.

This multi-layered story inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women” spans one day in the lives of four different women connected by their quest for love, agency and redemption. Featuring Jussie Smollett (Empire) and Ledisi.

Sidibe’s directorial debut is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology short film series, which works to cultivate and spotlight the voices of women behind the camera, in order to provide emerging female filmmakers with the support to realize their creative vision.

We spoke with producer Lisa Cortés about the film, and are also happy to present the first trailer, below. Take a look, and join us on Sunday!

NFF: Can you talk a little about how this project came to you? Why were you interested in this script?

Lisa: I've had the pleasure of knowing Gabby (Gabourey) since working with her as a Producer on "Precious". When she was putting together the team for The Tale of Four, she and her manager reached out and asked if I'd be interested in joining the team. Hello, where do I sign up? I love when personal and professional relationships come full circle. 

The story is timely and relevant to where we find ourselves right now. The script spoke to me because it compliments much of my work which has been committed to telling expansive stories about our Black bodies.  

NFF: The film asks a lot of questions about identity and how we define ourselves. Do you think self-image is something that can be shaped and changed, or is it more structured and set?

Lisa: Self-image can be fluid. The woman I am is different from the girl I was. The change happened because I did the work (which never stops) and met the right people along the way who supported my quest.  What's important is that we create mirrors in our work that provide vistas and portals to possibility and change.

NFF: Why is this film important right now?

Lisa: The characters in the film were inspired by the women that Nina Simone sang about in 1966 in her iconic song, "Four Women".  Some of the challenging situations and microaggressions that these sisters undergo are still a part of our everyday experiences as Black women. If it's true that "the more things change, the more they stay the same",  I hope that their are lessons for empowerment and self love to be found within our film.

NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Lisa: I have tremendous respect for Gabby and was delighted to see that all the ideals she upholds and represents are a part of her directing style.  We had a set filled with committed, smart and passionate people. Yes, there were challenges but along with the other producers - Refinery29 (Amy Emmerich, Shannon Gibson and Kate Bolger) and Kia Perry we always built upon our community to find solutions.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Lisa: I am so looking forward to premiering our film at Nantucket. The strong direction and rich programming of the festival promises to provide a forum for thoughtful exchanges about film and its ability to create empathy and fuel change.

Producer Lisa Cortés

Producer Lisa Cortés