Posted by Elena del Valle on September 15, 2021
Max Calderan in The Lost Desert
Photos: Empty Quarter Studio
The Lost Desert, Empty Quarter Studio’s first feature length documentary, was acquired by STX and released last month on ad supported TubiTV.com. Most of the story takes place in Saudi Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali desert, where Max Calderan, an Italian extreme athlete, sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream: to walk 700 miles from west to east in an inhospitable uninhabited terrain.
An all male on the ground support team follows him in a caravan of vehicles, monitoring his well-being and filming. From idea to release the 83-minute film required four years of work. The company founders funded the project’s $1.2 million costs, hoping the film will appeal “to anyone who has big dreams and goes to any length to accomplish them. It will appeal to the elite sports athletes and fans, as well as people interested in natural history, science, culture and travel.”
“I met Max Calderan in 2016 and was immediately taken by his charisma, passion, and mission to accomplish his lifelong dream,” said Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios, in a press release for the documentary. “I wanted to tell Max’s story and document his last, greatest challenge – to cross the largest sand desert in the world. I’m very proud of our film crew, who captured this inspiring story in one of the world’s harshest, deadliest, and most remote deserts. This is an inspiring story about a man pursuing his lifelong dream. It’s a story about perseverance and passion. And it’s a story about one of the least traveled to, most inhospitable places on earth.”
Described as having spent years crossing deserts on foot Calderan, a driven self-effacing athlete in his fifties, braved punishing heat (averaging 117 degrees Fahrenheit, according to promotional materials), shifting sand dunes of up to 1,000 feet as well as “poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and any number of life-threatening challenges” in the making of the documentary. According to promotional materials, among Calderan’s eleven world records in desert exploration, he has run 90 hours straight without stopping in Oman. He also once ran 225 miles in 75 hours across a Saudi Arabian desert in summer.
Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios
When asked about the greatest challenge the film presented Sprague said, “Transporting our crew and thousands of pounds of equipment and life-sustaining supplies in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.” The greatest reward? “Successfully capturing the story and wrapping production in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.”
The documentary was directed by Christopher Cassel. Michael Haertlein (Jane Goodall: The Hope) was director of photography, Marcelino Belizario (Bad Suns) handled Aerial Cinematography, Adriano Bravo (Human Weapon) was sound recordist, Benjamin Frank was assistant camera operator, and Rosie Walunas (But It Doesn’t Have Me) was editor.
Empty Quarter Studios, a New York and London based film and television production company, creates original non-fiction content “using moving images to tell epic, immersive and transformational stories borne out of exploration, travel, history, science and everyday life in the world’s most exotic and unreachable places” for global distribution.
Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, is an “ad-supported video-on-demand service with over 30,000 movies and TV shows, 65+ local and live news channels, and 250+ entertainment partners.” Stxfilms is a five year old division of Eros Stx Global Corporation, which “produces, acquires, distributes, and markets motion pictures at scale.”
Posted by Elena del Valle on June 30, 2021
The Latino Experience (from left to right) shorts: Body and Spirit in Times of the Pandemic, Pasos de Valor and The Blue Cape.
Video, photo: PBS SoCal
Southern California PBS station PBS SoCal and KCET is scheduled to air The Latino Experience, a three-part series of short films in English and Spanish, by Latino filmmakers beginning Tuesday July 6 and Wednesday July 7 at 9 p.m. P.T. Five of the 13 films were made by Southern California-based filmmakers. Two of the short films, Body and Spirit in Times of Pandemic; and The Daily War, are set in and around Los Angeles. Scroll down to watch a video trailer of The Daily War.
What criteria was used in selecting the films? “PBS announced a call for submissions for scripted and unscripted projects of all subjects, but were particularly interested in projects that focused on contemporary Latino/a/x culture produced and created by Latino/a/x persons,” a PBS spokesperson responded by email. Filmmakers were eligible for support grants between $5,000 and $25,000. She explained that “Successful submissions needed to include: a clear story arc; confirmed access to the story and participants; a unique perspective on contemporary Latino/a/x culture; an engaging formal and aesthetic approach.”
According to a press release the films for the series were selected ”by a panel of experienced filmmakers” from entries received by PBS following a call for submissions in August 2020. The press release also indicated “The shorts received funding support as well as a national broadcast as part of the series.” The names of the judges and their affiliations were not identified. Bill Gardner and Wendy Llinas are listed as executives in charge for PBS for the series.
When asked what channels PBS used to announce its search for submissions the PBS spokesperson said,”PBS announced the project on PBS.org, through social media, and through their network of member stations. In addition, PBS producing partners such as Latino Public Broadcasting and NALIP also shared the announcement.”
PBS received more than 240 entries. PBS decision makers expanded the series to three hours from the two-hour special they had planned to accommodate “the overwhelming response to the call for submissions.”
When asked to identify the source(s) of funding (public, private, which grants) the spokesperson replied, “The Latino Experience was funded by PBS. Additional funders contributed to the production of some of the individual films.”
Some of the films of the series are: The Blue Cape written, directed and produced by Alejandra López and produced by María José Delgado; Body and Spirit in Times of Pandemic directed and produced by Andrés Caballero; Pasos de Valor written, directed and produced by Natalia C. Bell; The Daily War, a co-production with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), directed and produced by Karla Legaspy and co-produced and written by Adelina Anthony; Noche Buena written, directed and produced by Andres Rovira. It was also produced by (and starring) Ray Tezanos.
Posted by Elena del Valle on May 26, 2021
It’s Not A Burden poster
Photo, video: Greenie Films
It’s Not A Burden The Humor and Heartache of Raising Elderly Parents, a new 90-minute documentary from Michelle Boyaner and Greenie Films spotlights the issues faced by the adult children of several elderly people. Some of them are living in assisted living facilities, some with dementia and or debilitating health conditions; some had passed away by the time the film was made. Boyaner and her mother feature prominently, often in video taken in the car. The emotionally charged 2020 film features candid conversations with the adult caregivers and their parents in several locations in California as well as Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Scroll down to watch a short video introduction.
“Sometimes I pretend like she’s somebody else’s mother and that way I can be nicer to her,” Boyaner, who had been estranged from her mother until she made a promise to look after her to her sister, says in the documentary.
A bit later in the documentary one of the adult women who is her mother’s full-time caregiver asks, “Who’s going to take care of me?” when she gets old like her mother since she has no children. The producers found participants among their circle of friends and their friends. When asked about the goal of the documentary a spokesperson explained by phone that they hoped to remind viewers that when they look at their aged parents they remember who they were and that they are still those same people inside.
Made with the fiscal support of The Film Collaborative and Kickstarter funding. The film was written, directed and produced by Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Boyaner (Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson). Barbara Green (A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour) served as cinematographer, editor and producer. Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality) and Wendy Zipes Hunter (Voices of Parkland) were producers. The original score composed by Joanna Katcher (Nice Manners) featuring songs by Danielle Ate The Sandwich. Maxine Lapiduss, Aaron Lustig and Barb Held were executive producers.
Gravitas Ventures (North American), a Red Arrow Studios Company, will distribute the documentary due to be released on video on demand (VOD) in the United States June 1, 2021 on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Vimeo.
Posted by Elena del Valle on January 19, 2021
The Climate Crisis Font English language landing page – click to enlarge
Video, photos: Helsingin Sanomat
Photo Tuomas Jääskeläinen: Juha Törmälä
, “the biggest subscription-based newspaper in the Nordics,” dedicated several weeks of work spread over months to the development of The Climate Crisis Font designed to visualize the urgency for climate action. The new font is available for download free of charge at TypeToAct.com. Scroll down to watch an English language video.
The Climate Crisis Font designed to visualize the urgency for climate action – click to enlarge
“The main limitation is that it needs to be kept freely available and free of charge,” he said. “The font is intended for anyone who wishes to make a point about the impact of climate change, be it the media, designers, artists, activists or anyone else.” He explained that “the font has been designed to work in all latin-based alphabets when it comes to e.g. diacritics.
When asked other than drawing attention to climate action what makes the font special or distinctive he replied: “
I think it’s the fact that it’s based on actual data. We haven’t done a massive search, but I suspect it’s among the first data-based fonts in the world, if not the first. That, and the way the scalable OpenType technology lets the font align with the yearly data, is what makes it special for me.”
Tuomas Jääskeläinen, art director, Helsingin Sanomat
Regarding the budget or budget range for the creation of the font he said: “
Unfortunately I cannot disclose the budget, but it is a reasonable investment considering the scope of work needed.”
Helsingin Sanomat, a private for profit entity, is published by Sanoma Media Finland, a leading Finnish multi-channel media company. The paper’s primary language is Finnish.
Posted by Elena del Valle on October 28, 2020
Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan play a Canadian couple in The Sounds
Photo: Acorn TV
Video: South Pacific Pictures
Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan play Maggie and Tom Cabbott, a Canadian couple in The Sounds, a psychological thriller from Shaftesbury in Canada and South Pacific Pictures in New Zealand. When Tom disappears, dark secrets and family plots complicate matters for Maggie. The TV miniseries is available in the United States via Acorn TV, a commercial free subscription streaming service offering foreign programing. Scroll down to watch a video trailers.
In the eight episode miniseries the happily married Canadian couple start a new life and a new salmon fishery business in a small harbor town. What starts as a promising adventure for the couple seeking to escape Tom’s oppressive family quickly spirals into an unsettling story.
“It was made for Acorn TV and CBC and Sky TV NZ,” said Rachael Keereweer, head of Communications, South Pacific Pictures. “The primary target audience here in New Zealand was a relatively broad, 25-54 demo. From idea, the show was several years in the making. The actual production schedule, including pre-production was 6 1/2 months with a shoot period of 13 weeks from mid-August to late November 2019.”
The visually stunning background scenery in The Sounds is in New Zealand. The series was filmed in Whangaroa at the top of the North Island in an area called the Bay of Islands and in Auckland.
“It’s a mystical, magical, wonderful, beautiful place,” said Lefevre about the Malborough Sounds in a series press kit. And when asked about the most enjoyable aspect of working on The Sounds Whelan said, according to the same promotional materials, “Shooting up North in Whangaroa, I’d never been there before and spending a couple of weeks out on the water, on yachts and kayaking and doing all sorts of cool things in beautiful locations around New Zealand.”
The program was created and written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Blessed Are the Cheesemakers, The House of Daughters). Other creative staff include Peter Stebbings, director, and executive producers Kelly Martin and Sally Campbell.
South Pacific Pictures, in operation for 32 years, has produced more than 5,600 hours of drama series and serials, feature films, reality programming and documentaries for New Zealand, Australian, Canadian and United Kingdom broadcasters, according to the company website.
Shaftesbury is a Toronto based creator and producer of original content for television, film, and digital content, according to the company website. That includes 13 seasons of Murdoch Mysteries, three seasons of Frankie Drake Mysteries, three seasons of Slasher, Hudson & Rex, Departure, Dead Still, and The Sounds.
Posted by Elena del Valle on September 17, 2020
Light and Space
Photo, video: KECT
For serious art lovers California PBS station KCET will premier the eleventh season of Artbound at 9 p.m. P.T. Wednesday September 30. The hour long program featuring three artists and their work will focus on The Light and Space movement of a group of artists in California in the 1960s who explored minimalism with attention to the interaction of light and space. The materials the artists relied on to create their “perceptual experiences,” such as polyurethane, fiberglass and plastics, emerged from the postwar aerospace industry. The artists are Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Helen Pashgian. Primary production was December 2019 to February 2020. Scroll down to watch a video preview.
Artbound is an Emmy award-winning arts and culture series that examines the lives and works of arts of culture innovators, especially those making an impact in Southern California. The first episode will air again at 8 p.m. P.T. on Friday October 2 on PBS SoCal and at 10 p.m. E.T./P.T. Tuesday October 6 on Link TV (DirecTV channel 375 / Dish Network channel 9410). The episodes should also be available for online streaming following their initial broadcast on kcet.org/artbound, pbssocal.org/artbound and linktv.org/artbound as well as on Amazon, YouTube, Roku, Apple TV and the free PBS App.
Posted by Elena del Valle on August 19, 2020
Gustavo Dudamel, host of the new series In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Photo, video: Adam Latham, KCET, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association
Southern California station KCET and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (LA Phil) will offer In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a six episode series of performances from the past 10 years. Hosted by Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director of the Philharmonic, the series will launch Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 9 p.m. P.T. on KCET with Hecho in Mexico (Made in Mexico). It is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS stations around the country in early 2021, according to a press release. Scroll down to watch a video.
Hecho en Mexico features Dudamel and the LA Phil, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Natalia Lafourcade, Los Angeles Azules, YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), and La Santa Cecilia. Gustavo and Friends is scheduled to air a week later at the same time featuring Dudamel, LA Phil, Misty Copeland, Pablo Ferrández, Amanda Majeski, J’Nai Bridges, Issachah Savage, Ryan Speedo Green, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC).
On September 2 at 9 p.m the series will feature Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl Featuring Dianne Reeves with Ivan Lins, Christian McBride, Chucho Valdes, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Kamasi Washington and Mega Nova (Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter). Musicals and the Movies is scheduled for the following Wednesday featuring Dudamel, LA Phil, Kristin Chenoweth with Kevin Stites Audra McDonald with Bramwell Tovey, and Sutton Foster with Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Música Sin Fronteras (Music Without Borders) is scheduled to air Wednesday September 16 at 9 p.m. P.T. to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Scully, Dudamel and LA Phil, Carlos Vives, Café Tacvba, Siudy Garrido Flamenco Dance Theater, and Paolo Bortolameolli. Fireworks! is scheduled for the following Wednesday at the same time featuring Katy Perry, Pink Martini, Thomas Wilkins, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Diego El Cigala, Dudamel and LA Phil, and John Williams.
With a seating capacity of nearly 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl is among the largest natural amphitheaters in the world. KCET, a content channel of the Public Media Group of Southern California, is a donor-supported community institution, according to press materials. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association presents live performances of orchestral, pop, rock, country, jazz, blues, Latin, world music, opera, chamber, Baroque, organ and celebrity recitals, theatrical performances, explorations of film music, dance, comedy, and multimedia productions.
Posted by Elena del Valle on June 3, 2020
This Is Cristina (Ella Es Cristina) poster
Photo: Figa Films
One of the feature films in this year’s 19th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), part of the Festival’s Official Selection, was This is Cristina (Ella Es Cristina). The 82-minute Chilean film from Mar Humano and Primate Lab, in Spanish with English subtitles, was directed by Gonzalo Maza and distributed by Figa Films. Scroll down to watch a trailer.
Salma Hayek was executive producer along with José Tamez and Siobhan Flynn. The film received support from the Fondo de Fomento Audiovisual. The 2018 film, starring Mariana Derderian, Paloma Salas, Roberto Farias, Daniella Castillo, Nestor Cantillana, Alejandro Goic and Claudia Celedon, tells the story of two women in their thirties, Cristina and Susana, who have been best friends since high school. As their lives change their friendship suffers and is tested. There is a surprise ending. The film should be available at festivals and online beginning in September.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Los Angeles based Festival, established in 1997, included seven feature films and 23 short films from 12 countries. The festival took place May 5 to 31, 2020. The countries represented were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Spain, United States and Uruguay.
Other features included Paper Children and The Last Rafter. Shorts included: 1, 2, 3, All Eyes On Me Accents; Acuitzeramo; Ailin on the Moon; Baby; Blanes and St. Muller; Borrachero; Flesh; Flowers Within; Lady Justice; María; Miguel; Muy Gay Too Mexicano; Napo; Ode to the Beans; Rizo; Say You Will; Status Pending; The Undocumented Lawyer; and Wilderness.
An organization spokesperson declined to identify the names of the individuals responsible for selecting films for inclusion in this year’s festival. Funding, she said, is from “sponsors, donors and grants.” As of this writing the only contact information available on the event website is via a contact form. No street address or phone number are listed.
According to a press release for the festival “LALIFF is presented by the Latino Film Institute (LFI), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to showcase, strengthen, and celebrate the richness of Latino lives through the audio-visual event. According to the LALIFF About Us page, “The Latino Film Institute (LFI) showcases, strengthens, and celebrates the richness of Latino lives by providing a pipeline, platform, and launching pad from our community into the entertainment industry.” It describes LALIFF as “dedicated to showcasing the entirety of human experience from the Latino perspective, whether through film, television, digital, music, art, or any other vehicle, regardless of platform.”
Posted by Elena del Valle on May 6, 2020
Nuestras Madres poster
Photo, video: Outsider Pictures
Nuestras Madres (Our Mothers), a 78-minute documentary style drama in Spanish with English subtitles from Outsider Pictures had its virtual theater release at 15 locations in the United States last week. The somber film was Winner Camera D’or, Cannes Film Festival and Belgian Entry to 92nd Academy Awards. Scroll down to watch a trailer.
It features Mexican actor Armando Espitia as Ernesto, a young anthropologist working for the Forensic Foundation in Guatemala in 2018 during the trial of the soldiers who sparked the civil war. Charged with identifying the bodies of the missing he has a personal mission. Emma Dib is Cristina, his mother.
The account of an older woman from a small village convinces Ernesto he has a promising clue to find his father, who went missing during the war. Although his mother and his boss urge him to leave well enough alone he presses forward.
César Díaz, director, heard from his mother about his father, also a “disappeared” guerrilla fighter. He began the project as a documentary about military massacres during the Guatemalan civil war in the 1970-80s. After meeting women in the villages where the fighting took place he turned it into a feature drama. According to promotional materials, their testimonies, often full of violent tales, reveal the story of Guatemala’s history as one of the first Central Intelligence Agency “Black Operations.”
“In Guatemala, fathers are absent as a general rule,” Díaz said in a press release (he was not available for a podcast interview). “Many children born of rape think that their father just left at some point. I therefore wanted the mother to reveal her secret, because it is a way of accepting and living with the consequences of what has happened. In a post-dictatorship, post-war situation, I think there must be collective acceptance, which can then be followed by individual moving on. Nuestras Madres is, to my knowledge, the first film to deal with this subject head-on.”
According to press materials for the film only 1 percent of the disappeared have been identified after over 20 years of searches. The genocide trial in the film is a mixture of many trials taking place, as is the uncovering of mass graves and returning the bodies to the families.
The film was made with the support of Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles Proximus Eurimages. Born in Guatemala in 1978 Díaz studied in Mexico and Belgium. He attended a screenwriting workshop at La Fémis (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l’Image et du Son, the FEMIS Film School) in Paris, France. He has been a fiction and documentary film editor for more than a decade. He directed the short documentary films Semillas de Cenizas screened in twenty international film festivals. Nuestras Madres is his first feature film.
Beginning May 1, 2020 Our Mothers became available nationally via local art house cinemas for $12 per ticket, split equally with the local cinema to help support them during the pandemic. As of this writing the theaters are: in California: Los Angeles at Laemmle Theaters, Davis at Varsity Theater, Larkspur at The Lark, Santa Ana at The Frida Cinema, San Diego at Digital Gym Cinema; in Denver, Colorado at SIE Film Center; in Florida: Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in Miami at Tower, in Tampa at Tampa Theater; in Michigan: Detroit at Cinema Lamont, Ann Arbor at Michigan Theater; in St Louis, Missouri at Webster University Film Series; Albuquerque, New Mexico at The Guild Cinema; in Buffalo New York at North Park Theater; in Cleveland, Ohio at Cleveland Cinematheque; and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Cinespeak.
Posted by Elena del Valle on April 6, 2020
Video: Discovery en Español
Looking for more information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Spanish? At 9 p.m. E/P Wednesday April 8, 2020 Discovery en Español will air COVID-19: Pandemia 2020, a 43-minute special. The original program was in English. The Discovery en Español version will be in Spanish. Scroll down to watch a video clip in Spanish.
The special features suspenseful background music, news clips, domestic and international archive footage and on camera interviews with a handful of individuals from Mercatus Center at George Mason University, University College London, Council on Foreign Relations, The New York Times, and University Wisconsin-Madison.
The special outlines the general way the disease spread throughout China and other countries around the world in months, prompting a widespread quarantine in China, quickly mimicked by other countries.
It explains that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refused to adopt the COVID-19 test offered by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), insisting on developing its own. This caused grave delays as the initial tests were faulty. According to one expert interviewed on the program flattening the curve efforts will result in the same number of people being stricken by the virus. It will take longer than without the social isolation measures.
The program was produced by ITN Productions for the Science Channel. The executive producers for ITN Productions are Ian Russell and Sarah Jane Cohen; Nick Powell is the producer. The executive producer for Discovery and Science Channel is Gretchen Eisele. The special will repeat on Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m. and will also be available in the Discovery en Español Go app.