Thursday, February 23, 2012

FESTIVAL REPORT: "Love Free or Die"

By Andy McClellan
BIFF DigiComm Commando

Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Saving the World is not just a film that chronicles the trials of Bishop Gene Robinson of the New Hampshire Episcopal church as "the first openly gay bishop in Christendom." It is a film about social injustice. It is a film that, inevitably, unavoidably, and purposefully, directly addresses gay rights within a religious frame.

Many in the LGBTQ community struggle with a sexuality that is not accepted by their religion. The director of Love Free or Die, Macky Alston, has a personal connection to the film and the subject. Growing up, religion was the family business, and several generations of Alston men were ministers. But as a gay man, Alston wrestled with the conflict with his faith, the lack of acceptance, for years.

To the question, "Who are we to change 2,000 years of thinking?" Bishop Robinson responds, "Why not us?" This was "something I needed to amplify," says Alston.

"My rights, my freedom, my ability to have my husband and my children, is a fight that's taking place on a religious battlefield," Alston said during the Call 2 Action discussion following the film. "The frame is a religious frame."

"Love Free or Die" director Macky Alston
There is still much resistance within the religious community, and the United States as a whole, to acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and same-sex marriage. "People who love us still vote against us for religious reasons," Alston points out. A change in viewpoint can be extremely difficult. For many people of faith, if same-sex marriage is acceptable, "then everything they've ever believed is wrong. People are wrestling with this stuff, and need help," said Alston.

An important point made by the discussion panel was that people cannot be expected to shed their religion. Acceptance of gay and alternative lifestyles must tally with religion doctrine, and emphasis must be placed on accepting people, and not accepting injustice.

In Love Free or Die, through the efforts of Bishop Robinson and many others, we see the Episcopal church bless gays and lesbians, not only as members of the church, but also as eligible for appointment to official positions, such as bishop, and same-sex marriages. For Alston, this was "God's dream coming true, and certainly mine, and I believe Gene Robinson is right."

Later in the nearly hour-long discussion, Alston added simply, "What it takes to be a moral person is to live justly."

More information can be found at

FESTIVAL REPORT: Producing Your Own Documentary Workshop

Abigail Wright, who led Sunday's documentary workshop.
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando

On Sunday afternoon in the Canyon Theater at the Boulder Public Library, filmmaker Abigail Wright brought up passion early in her discussion of making documentaries.  With all the work that goes into making a documentary, you need a passion which will sustain you for a long time.  The Workshop was a co-production of Boulder Digital Arts and BIFF and was a fascinating look at both the tangible and intangible aspects of documentary filmmaking. 

Wright of Miranda Productions has an award-winning background in documentary film and provided both an inspiring and practical overview of the making of a documentary.  Beginning with intensive and broad-ranging research, Wright covered the preparation that goes into a documentary well before any shooting begins.  She presented a different way of thinking about documentary in terms of classic feature genres like Western, Detective, War (with subsets for Survival and Sports), Science Fiction/Fantasy,  Music & Dance and Art & Culture.  She also stressed the visual nature of the medium, noting that only in recent centuries with widespread literacy have we begun to think in words whereas huge areas of our brain have been hard-wired for thinking and dreaming and even communicating in pictures and gestures. 
Abigail Wright leads the Documentary Workshop. [Photo by Donna Crain]
She also asked for participants' emails, in order to send a package of material to help in making a documentary. From budget to framing, Wright gave an inspiring presentation not to be found in a typical how-to seminar.

FESTIVAL REPORT: Master Animation Class with Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton's drawing for Donna Crain --
By Donna Crain
Workshops and Panels Coordinator and BIFF DigiComm Commando
On Saturday, February 18, Academy Award nominee and Cannes-award-winning animator and filmmaker, Bill Plympton, kicked off BIFF's 2012 Workshop Series with a Master Animation Class held in the Canyon Theater at the Boulder Public Library. Plympton charmed the house with drawing demonstrations interspersed with film clips, telling hilarious stories while advising how to make it as an independent artist. 
Bill Plympton addresses his Master Animation Class. [Donna Crain]
Plympton joked, "People say negotiating with Disney is not so much good cop/bad cop as good cop/anti-Christ. I had to say no (to them.) But it's a question we all have to ask ourselves. If you want to work for Disney, you'll make a lot of money, have health benefits (which I don't.) You'll work on a film that is seen by millions of people. But I'm a little underground." He went on to encourage attendees to follow their passion, giving specific advice on how they could make a living if they chose to remain independent as he has done.

He also took questions from the audience. When asked about his process, Plympton noted that he still drew with pencil on paper, having people in his studio scan each hand drawn image into the computer. "I just really love drawing pencil on paper," Plympton shared, "I've been doing it since I was three. There's something precious about the sound and the feel." That is best evidenced by how prolific he is, arriving at his studio around six each morning, and completing between 120 and 150 drawings per day. 

And, while that may seem like a lot of drawing, "a feature length film is about 30,000 images," he told the crowd.

With attendees ranging from kids just starting out as animators, to an older, self-proclaimed lifelong fan, Plympton made himself accessible to all after the workshop. He chatted and signed autographs,  sending everyone off with a "Dog" drawing and the impression that they had just spent a memorable morning with an incredibly cool dude.
Bill doing the sgining thing for fans. [Donna Crain]