Friday, February 17, 2012

PREVIEW: "Township to the Stage"

Trevor Noah, the subject of David Paul Meyer's "Township to the Stage."
By Brad Weismann
BIFF DigiComm Director

Township to the Stage
Friday, Feb. 17, 9:45 p.m.
First United Methodist Church

 It will be my privilege to get up and introduce this film in a few hours. The phrases "South Africa" and "comedy" don't really seem to go together -- but this film is one of the best that I've seen about standup comedy.

This portrayal of the remarkable rise of an aspiring comedian manages to be a personal portrait, an historical survey and an examination of a wounded society all at once.

And there are dick jokes. It's a win/win situation!

Trevor Noah's quick rise to the top of the comedy profession in this formerly segregated society speaks to the resentment of the comedy old-guard, whose grumblings about Noah's racial content is not so much a product of apartheid as it seems to be jealousy at someone whose star has risen faster than they deem fit. Noah must ignore this static, develop a ehadliner's worth of materials, and avoid all the pitfalls of an entertainer's life -- including a shocking family crisis that threatens to derail Trevor's big show.

Director David Paul Meyer provides us with a real portrait of nervous moments offstage, bad gigs galore, and the diligence and self-control needed to succeed in the comedy business. As a survivor of the great American comedy boom of the 1980's, I can testify that "Township" is the real deal.

Come on over! We'll chat the director right after the screening. Let's face it -- the Bouler Theater has the big movies, but the Church gets the sleeper gems. Come over and say hi! Enjoy the show!

LAST NIGHT: Happy crowd, happier honorees

(From left) Producer and BIFF honoree Anthony Bregman, screenwriter Meg Kasdan and writer/director Lawrence Kasdan in front of the Boulder Theater on Opening Night of BFF 2012. [Photo by Randy Malone]

By Beth Kovacs, BCM BIFF News and Brad Weismann, BIFFDigiComm Director

The weather was cool but the jazz was hot as the Boulder InternationalFilm Festival kicked off its eighth year on Friday night. Once again, at thehistoric Boulder Theater, Bouldercelebrated its love for independent film.

Hot Club of Pearl Street entertains the crowd. [Photo by Peter Wayne]

The night started out with the musical stylings of the Hot Club ofBoulder jazz ensemble. The Big Red F Restaurant Group offered an array oftantalizing treats from local establishments as Jax Fish House and Zolo Grill,accompanied by wine from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

BIFF staffers line up for a bow. [Photo by Peter Wayne]

Soon the crowd was ready for the first film of the festival, “Darling Companion.” BIFF was honoredby the attendance of the film’s director, Lawrence Kasdan, and its producer,Anthony Bregman. Mr. Kasdan is known as the writer of “The Empire Strikes Back,”“The Return of the Jedi” and “Raidersof the Lost Ark” and as writer and director of the classics “Body Heat”and “The Big Chill.” Mr.Bregman is best known for producing such innovative films as “The Ice Storm,” “Thumbsucker,”“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”and “Synecdoche, New York.”

[Photo by Peter Wayne]

Mr. Bregman accepted the BIFF Award for Excellence inProducing, and he, Kasdan and Meg Kasdan, writer of “Darling Companion,” satdown with BIFF Special Event Producer and Host Ron Bostwick for a chat and a Q& A with the audience.

BIFF's Ron Bostwick, Bregman, and the Kasdans. [Photo by Randy Malone]

“When you make a movie, you have 100 people saying ‘No’before you even begin,” said Kasdan in tribute to Bregman. “But an independentproducer doesn’t care about those no’s.”

Bregman said of the audience, “You got all the jokes, youunderstood where the story was going – if we could just package you and put youin every theater in America. . . “

Bregman descried his approach to producing as “director-driven”and lauded Kasdan as his moviemaking hero since Bregman was in junior highschool. Bregman described the creation of “Darling Companion” as a labor oflove for both him and Kasdan; the performers in the film, who included DianeKeaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard, worked forbelow their usual rates and everyone got used to shooting three to four pages aday, as opposed to a customary two.

As to the mechanics of financing an independent project, Bregmantalked bout the delicate negotiating need to bring financing and talent together.“The money wants to know what the package is, and vice versa,” he stated.

[Photo by Randy Malone]
Lawrence Kasdan described his big break, the opportunity tocomplete the script for “The Empire Strikes Back,” as follows: “George Lucassat down with me and said, ‘You know . . . .Darth Vader is Luke’s father.’ AndI said, ‘No shit!!?’ I’m in!” He went on to talk about his many projects,circling back to describe his inspiration for his career as his viewing of “Lawrenceof Arabia” when he was 13.

Bregman countered with his story of inspiration – the lastscene of “Raiders,” when the box containing the Ark was hidden away in a vast government warehousefull of similar containers.

“I realized that each of those boxes was a story, and thatthere were thousands and thousands of stories to be told – and I just had tohelp tell them.”

CALL2ACTION: "Granito" 10 Activism Ideas

By Andy McLellan

In 1964, General Efraín Ríos Montt became the dictatorial leader of Guatemala. For the next 20 years, the indigenous Mayan population of the most populated country in Central America was subjected to an extended and brutal military campaign, secretly waged with the support of the United States government. Death tolls are estimated to be upwards of 200,000, an the 1998 Truth Commission in Guatemala City acknowledged the events as a genocide. "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator" is the story of bringing evidence against General Montt and serving justice. The country remains largely in the dark regarding the specifics of its recent history for many reasons, principal of which are to not admit to such atrocities and shelter Montt and other government and military leaders who are responsible.

Even today, in the highlands where the conflict was focused, it is not safe to discuss what happened. Malnutrition and misperceptions persist among the indigenous peasants, augmented by sustained army propaganda that insists it was they who saved the people against the armed insurgents. A lack of education is a major factor in the continued repression of these people.

But this documentary by Pamela Yates, and its predecessor, "When the Mountains Tremble", are not the only actions being taken. There are numerous organizations seeking to educate and enable Mayan communities in the highlands. This documentary was co-presented by Philanthropiece ( and Reading Village ( as a part of the Boulder International Film Festival's call2action series, and they have identified 10 "Action Items" to encourage everyone to become involved:
1. Educate yourself! Learn more about the Guatemalan conflict and human rights violations by reading "Guatemala: Memory of Silence".
2. Show your solidarity with the Guatemalan people by signing the Justice for Genocide petition.
3. Donate to the Philanthropiece Scholars program in building the next generation of leaders for Chajul, Guatemala.
4. Donate to Reading Village and support our mission to create leaders and to promote literacy in Guatemala.
5. Stay up to date with Philanthropiece's and Reading Village's work by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook.
6. Order this film to share with your personal networks and then donate it to a local middle school, high school, or university library.
7. Invest 3 minutes! Watch "Granito, Every Memory Matters" about the film's sister project dedicated to building a digital library of firsthand accounts from the war.
8. Connect with Antonio Caba of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) to express your support. Send messages for Antonio to:
9. Be proactive about preventing future genocide and ethnic cleansing. Write your representatives in Washington, D.C. and share your outrage about human rights violations occurring around the world.
10. Create change! Become a documentary filmmaker - attend the BIFF workshop "Produce a Documentary" Sunday, Feb 19, 3-5pm at the Boulder Library.

Another organization working in Guatemala is Cultural Survival, who has established a network of indigenous community radio stations that facilitate communication, sharing, learning, unification, politicizing, and cultural survival. They can be found at

PREVIEW: "Love Free or Die"

Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Saving the World
Friday, Feb. 17, 2:45 p.m.
First United Methodist Church

After this film ends, please join us and the director, Macky Alston, and Alicia Lewis of Out Boulder for a very special Call 2 Action talkback session in the Tent!
Here's a wonderful preliminary look at Macky and his film, via the Sundance Film Festival --

And the program description: "This film features the consecration of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop in Christendom. His historic elevation by the Episcopal Church in America caused great controversy worldwide, along with a stream of death threats. But Gene Robinson refuses to leave the Church— or the man he loves. By the end of the film, because of Gene's faith and leadership, the Church has done a 180-degree turn: more gay bishops are being considered, more same-sex marriages are being blessed and, in 2010, history was made when Gene's conservative home state of New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage. Gene proves that you don't have to leave behind your Christianity, or your civil rights, just to love and be loved."

PREVIEW: "Monsieur Lazhar"

By Donna Crain
BIFF Workshops and Panels Coordinator and DigiComm Commando

Monsieur Lazhar
Friday, Feb. 17, 2:45 p.m.
Boulder Theater

Someone asked me what film I would recommend seeing at BIFF this year and I immediately thought of the Academy Award-nominated "Monsieur Lazhar," which I had the opportunity to screen a few weeks ago. It's a quirky story of Bachir Lazhar, who left a tragic past in Algeria, to become a substitute teacher in Canada. Even if you know nothing about Algerian politics (I don't), and don't speak French (it's subtitled) and find dark subject matter like suicide difficult, there's something subtly and strangely beautiful and hopeful about the film. Apparently the film is resonating with many audiences in that way. 

In a recent interview with Canadian public television, the film's director, Philippe Falardeau, explained why he thinks that is so, "In the past, people came to me and said 'we really enjoyed your film' and they were talking about the qualities of the film. Now they come to me and they say 'I was moved by your film, then they start talking about themselves, and how they felt, and how they have a kid that's in school and how it reminded them of a teacher...I think the film touches more people because we've all been to elementary school and we all have our point of entry into that film."


"Give Up Tomorrow"
Here are your best bets for Friday, Feb. 17 at BIFF 2012!

1. "Give Up Tomorrow"
Friday, Feb. 17, 5 p.m.
First United Methodist Church

This film won the Audience and Best New Director Awards at the Tribeca Film Festival! This film is co-presented by Amnesty International. Its Director, Michael Collins, and its producer, Marty Syjuco, are here with us and will talkback with moderator Shaun McGrath in the Tent after the show!

Here's the program description: "This courageous film tells the story of ablatantly unjust conviction of a 19-yearoldboy for a double homicide he didn'tcommit. The case brought in the internationalthe international human rightscommunity, which launched a grass-rootscampaign to abolish the death penalty inthe Philippines. This film looks intimatelyat the case of Paco Larrañaga, a studentaccused of murder on the provincial islandof Cebu. In personal danger through muchof the filming, the filmmakers expose aKafkaesque world populated by crookedpublic officials, cops on the take andfrenzied tabloid sensationalism. It's alsoan intimate drama focused on the nearmythicstruggle of two angry motherswho have dedicated more than a decadeto executing or saving one young man."

2. Digital Media Symposium
Friday, Feb. 17, 1 to 6 p.m.
St. Julien Hotel, 900 Walnut

Colorado’s Third Annual Digital Media Symposium is the premier showcase of innovators and technology in Colorado’s digital entertainment industry and features national and local visionaries, both creative and technical. The DiMe is a great place to learn and forge new relationships with your peers, brands, executives, developers, content providers and technologists.

Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, 2-time Academy Award Winner and co-founder of Pixar, will deliver this year's DiMe Keynote speech. Also, Disney’s Don Hahn, Academy Award-nominated Producer of such digitally-animated films as ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,' will moderate and weave together experts in both singular presentations and panel discussions.

Throughout the afternoon, hear from and speak with industry thought-leaders in
  • Film/Video
  • Sports
  • Music
  • Marketing
  • Transmedia Storytelling
  • Gaming
  • User-Generated Entertainment
Reception with live music, hors d’oevres and cash bar to follow.

3. SURPRISE! At the Filmmaker Lounge tonight from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., HOLDEN YOUNG will be playing!

PREVIEW: "Bitter Seeds"

By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando 

Bitter Seeds
Friday, Feb. 17, 12:30 p.m.
Boulder Theater

Micha X. Peled's documentary Bitter Seeds explores the answer to a shocking question: Why have 250,000 farmers committed suicide in India in the last 16 years?

To answer this question, Peled connects with a young, aspiring journalist, Manjusha Amberwar, from the farming village of Telung Takli who is trying to answer to the same question.   There have been a number of suicides in her small village, the first of whom was her own father.  While she goes door to door in her community finding answers, Peled weaves in interviews with representatives of seed companies, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and farmers' rights activists. 

We see early in the film some representatives from the seed company bump into town in a nice SUV with blaring loudspeaker.  They've come to talk to the farmers about their Bt+ seeds.  These are genetically modified with Monsanto technology – no insects, big buds.  The farmers ask some pointed questions, which will haunt the film later.  The reps need not bother, there is in fact no other option available in India ever since the US, applying pressure through the WTO, forced India to open the door to foreign companies. 

The genetically modified seeds can only perform under conditions of high fertilizer use, high pesticide use, and irrigation.  Farmers take out loans, first from banks then from illegal money lenders who charge exorbitant rates to pay for the seeds, fertilizer and pesticides.  But, for Bt seeds, applying pesticide must be timed with water application.  Since the majority of India's farmers don't have irrigation they are doomed to failure.  The seeds because they don't reproduce, thus having to be purchased every year, are not subject to natural selection and not at all suited to the local farming conditions.

Peled and Amberwar focus on farmer Ram Krishna Kopulnar whose trials are a perfect synecdoche of the Indian farmer's plight. Kopulnar, the worry on whose face is reminiscent of the character Antonio Ricci from de Sica's The Bicycle Thief, must have a good harvest this year so that his daughter “can go to school and have a good marriage.”  Daughters, though they seem to be well-loved, are a financial burden in traditional communities as marriages require large dowries.  The well-lensed beauty and dignity of the small village, where everyone is well turned-out despite the difficult conditions, allows the viewer to empathize with the shame a father must feel to have to give up his land to a money lender or to be rejected by a suitor's family because one cannot afford the dowry.   Suicide can seem the only way to free the family of debt burden.

The solution to these problems seem simple if the government were to get involved, yet the power of the forces pushing for the status quo – Monsanto, the US –  seem overwhelming. Bitter Seeds is the final movie in Peled's unplanned Globalization Trilogy which started with the much lauded Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and then went undercover into the textile industry in China with China Blue and has ended with the seed of the problem in the area of India where the cotton is grown for China's textile factories.  The trilogy goes from consumer to manufacturer to the producer of raw material in three major economic powers.  Peled said he had “the pleasure of doing one at a time” without knowing where this story would lead over twelve years, otherwise it might have been too overwhelming.

The film is showing in the Call2Action category of the film festival.  Local actions one can rally around in connection with the movie are the upcoming renewal of the Farm Bill in Congress, which subsidizes cotton farmers to the tune of 4 billion dollars in defiance of WTO law and keeps world cotton prices unfairly low. Also for the first time there are ballot initiatives in many states and counties for mandatory labeling of GMO food.  As Peled's documentaries demonstrate, it is all interconnected.