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.
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.”
Extra Innings, by new, New York filmmaker Albert Dabah is picking up traction as it won Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival last month and has also been chosen as an Official Selection at both the Dumbo Film Festival and the upcoming Jersey Shore Film Festival — June 25th, The Showroom Cinema, Asbury Park, NJ. Also look for the film on June 26th at The Screening Room at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst, NJ.
“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.
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.
The Quiet One, a cinematic memoir about bassist Bill Wyman, founding member of The Rolling Stones, directed by Oliver Murray, played at Tribeca Film Festival and is set to start a theatrical run in June. It’s far from the typical music documentary. Based on Wyman’s immense, personal archive of film, photographs and audio, including new voice-over commentary by Wyman himself, Murray (previously a music video director) had the unenviable task of making a documentary that would offer something fresh to fans or insightful to music historians, while working under the employ of the notoriously private man-of-few-words. The film is oddly fascinating for all the reasons it aims not to be…