We have a special program to thank for two excellent indie films in the past two years – “Lucky Grandma,” by Asian-American filmmakers Sasie Sealy and Angela Cheng, and “Nigerian Prince,” by young, Nigerian-American filmmaker Faraday Okoro. Both films were winners of AT&T Presents: Untold Stories, which is an alliance between AT&T and the Tribeca Film Institute. Now in its third year, the program awards a $1 million cash prize, mentorship and distribution to under-represented filmmakers with a story to tell. Helen Highly Recommends both “Lucky Grandma” and “Nigerian Prince.” Helen also Highly Contemplates the benefits and drawbacks of corporate sponsorship in filmmaking and in Pride parades.
“Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes,” a film by Sophie Huber, tosses you straight into a stylish mood poem. It’s medium-raucous to medium-mellow jazz with soft shots of “cool cats” opinionating on a range of topics – improvised jazz-chat. Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper, Norah Jones, Don Was, and more, these jazz musicians cross an interview-portal to play in dimensions of possibility beyond the dilemmas of yes or no. Consequently, they have a points of view more engaging than your Average Joe
It’s Gay Pride month, and we’re coming up to July 4th and Independence Day, so HelenHighly discusses three new documentaries whose hearts beat the drums of freedom, passion and change, and how in each film, art is the catalyst that brings those concepts to life. Helen Highly Recommends “A Night at Switch n’ Play,” “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes,” and “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation.”
“17 Blocks,” a documentary by Davy Rothbart, was included in my initial Tribeca Film Festival 2019 pick-list because of the compelling and devastating use of a home-video archive. The film was created due to a chance meeting, in 1999, of two kids at a Washington D.C. public basketball court and director-producer Davy Rothbart. Fifteen-year-old Smurf Sanford and his nine-year-old brother Emmanuel lived in the neighborhood, which is only 17 blocks from the White House but is a dangerous and decrepit part of the city that outsiders typically go to great lengths to avoid. When Emmanuel expressed interest in becoming a filmmaker, Rothbart lent him a video camera.
Walking on Water, directed by Andrey Paounov, is a new documentary about the latest exhibit / production by Christo, the renowned installation artist who transforms environments into experiential artwork, on an epic scale. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was acquired by Kino Lorber and is getting a theatrical run in the U.S. this spring (beginning this weekend at Film Forum in NYC). Helen Highly Recommends you see it – in a theater, ideally, on as large a screen as possible.
Helen Highly Vindicated. In the last two days I’ve heard at least two pop-culture references to an ancient play by Aristophanes. As someone who can’t seem to stop writing commentary about popular culture by comparing it to classic theater, it is refreshing to hear someone else finally do it – two people no less! Alyssa Milano and Bill Maher, thank you very much for making me feel less out of touch with the world.