The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) announces their partnership with AJ+, the new digital platform from Al Jazeera Media Network that commissions original, innovative and engaging short documentaries from journalists and filmmakers around the world. AJ+ in association with the Camden International Film Festival will select five independent filmmakers who will be given the chance to pitch their short documentary concepts and works-in-progress to a panel of filmmakers and industry leaders at this year’s CIFF. Based on the pitch, AJ+ will commission up to five projects at up to $10,000 per project. Submissions for this opportunity are now open through August 25, 2014 at midnight PST.
All selected filmmakers will be provided with an All Access pass to CIFF (September 25-28, 2014) and a stipend to support both travel and accommodations during the festival. This opportunity is for stories driven by strong characters, compelling voices, and unique insights into events and issues that may be local but resonate with our connected and globally-minded audience. Pieces must be current, but not necessarily driven by current affairs.
In the channel’s first-ever live pitch session, they are calling for original short film ideas and projects that look to the future. Apocalyptic images have haunted our timelines all summer. Now they are asking filmmakers for short documentary films that engage with one of the following questions:
Pitches will be accepted from filmmakers of all nationalities. They may be drawn from feature-length documentary projects, although concepts that work as a standalone short film are preferred. Films that have already been completed or released online are not eligible for the pitch.
Following the success of last year’s The New York Times Op Docs live pitch at CIFF, the first of its kind in North America, the festival continues to cultivate new opportunities for documentary filmmakers in both feature and short content through their Points North Documentary Forum, which runs concurrently to the festival and recently expanded with their own Points North Fellowship, whose 2014 fellows will be announced September 2.
The fee for submission is $25 and the deadline is August 25, 2014 at 12 midnight PST.
For more information about Al Jazeera’s AJ+, please visit:
The Points North Fellowship enhances and expands upon the well-established Points North Pitch, a unique opportunity to pitch documentary works-in-progress to an international delegation of funders, commissioning editors and producers before a live audience. Submissions are open until July 18, 2014. Filmmakers, send us your works-in-progress!
For more information, visit www.camdenfilmfest.org/pointsnorth
Camden International Film Festival launches the Aging in Maine Screening Tour, a new statewide program that brings screenings of award-winning documentary films and discussions to more than ten different communities between March and July 2014.
The tour is the second part of CIFF’s inaugural Engagement Summit: Aging in Maine, a unique program that connects Maine-based nonprofit leaders with documentary films and filmmakers to develop community-based social action campaigns designed to engage communities in a thoughtful inter-generational dialogue around the issues of aging and dementia-related illness.
During the 2013 festival, fourteen organizations from across Maine convened in Camden to identify a wide range of needs facing aging communities and the organizations that support them, as well as workshops on how to utilize the power of nonfiction storytelling to advance their advocacy goals. Participating nonprofits included the Aging Consultation Services, Aroostook Agency on Aging, the Bingham Program, Dirigo-Maine Geriatrics Society, Eastern Area Agency on Aging, Maine Gerontological Society, MaineHealth, Methodist Conference Home, Office of Aging and Disability Services, Pen Bay Healthcare, Seniors Plus, Spectrum Generations and the University of Maine Center on Aging. “The summit and screenings are proving to be a superb way in which to mobilize Maine’s aging services providers and help them share with the larger public poignant stories of both the joys and challenges associated with growing older,” said Len Kaye, Director of the University of Maine Center on Aging. “The beneficiaries will be Maine’s citizens who will leave the film screenings better informed of the issues, places to turn for help, and the emerging opportunities associated with Maine’s ranking as the oldest state in the nation.”
Films screened as part of the Aging in Maine tour will include CIFF’s 2013 Harrell Award for Best Documentary, The Genius of Marian, a selection of short films called Golden Shorts and other aging films including Age of Champions, First Cousin Once Removed and Last Dreams, which also received a Special Jury mention at last year’s festival.
AGING IN MAINE Screening Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, March 18th at 7pm - University of Maine at Orono
Screening: Golden Shorts
Q&A with Len Kaye, Director of the UMaine Center on Aging
Wednesday, March 19th at 7pm - Strand Theatre, Rockland
Screening: First Cousin Once Removed
Saturday, March 22nd at 3:30pm - Colonial Theatre, Belfast
Screening: The Genius of Marian
Wednesday, April 2 at 6pm – Portland Museum of Art, Portland. FREE
Screening: The Genius of Marian
Films screened during the Aging in Maine screening tour include:
THE GENIUS OF MARIAN
Directed by Banker White and Anna Fitch
Synopsis: The Genius of Marian is a visually rich, emotionally complex story about one family’s struggle to come to terms with the changes Alzheimer’s disease brings. After Pam White is diagnosed at age 61 with early onset Alzheimer’s, life begins to change, slowly but irrevocably, for Pam and everyone around her. Pam’s husband grapples with his changing role from primary partner to primary caregiver. Her adult children find ways to show their love and support while mourning the slow loss of their mother.
As she loses the ability to write, Pam’s eldest son, Banker, begins to record their conversations, allowing her to share memories of childhood and of her own mother, the renowned painter Marian Williams Steele who died of Alzheimer’s in 2001. The Genius of Marian paints a powerful contemporary portrait of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease, the power of art and the meaning of family.
Directed by Estephan Wagner
Synopsis: LAST DREAMS follows three women during their last month of life. Through them we get an intimate and honest picture of what it means to be close to death – stories of solitude, reconciliation and love during the process of saying goodbye. We follow their relationship with doctors, nurses, priests and family members. We are present when they discuss their most intimate subjects, when they express their love for their family members and as they go through a fundamental and final transformation.
FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED
Directed by Alan Berliner
Synopsis: Synopsis: A distinguished poet, translator, critic and teacher, Edwin Honig wrote dozens of books and poems that attracted critical praise around the world. His seminal translations awakened English-speaking readers to previously overlooked literary giants, resulting in honorary knighthoods from the king of Spain and the president of Portugal.
In FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner’s paints a deeply personal portrait of his “good friend, cousin and mentor” as Honig journeys through the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. A stark reminder of the profound role memory plays in everyone’s life, this moving essay on the fragility of being human.
AGE OF CHAMPIONS
Directed by Christopher Rufo
Synopsis: Age of Champions is the award-winning PBS documentary following five competitors who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. You’ll meet a 100-year-old tennis champion, 86-year-old pole vaulter, and rough-and-tumble basketball grandmothers as they triumph over the limitations of age.
The Washington Post called the film “infectiously inspiring” and theater audiences across the country have fallen in love with its light-hearted take on growing older. It’s a powerful story to share with the whole family and get inspired to be healthier, happier, and more active.
OLD PEOPLE DRIVING
Directed by Shaleece Haas
Synopsis: Old People Driving chronicles the adventures of 96-year-old Milton and 99-year-old Herbert as they confront the end of their driving years. The film follows Herbert as he takes his last drive, hands over his keys and comes to terms with the reality of life without a car. Milton, meanwhile, continues to drive every day and vows to do so until he feels he’s no longer safe on the road. Through their stories, and a review of the latest traffic safety research, the film dispels some of the myths about elderly drivers without shying away from the fact that many will outlive their ability to drive safely.
The Aging in Maine screening tour is sponsored by Camden National Bank. Many screenings will be FREE and Open to the Public. Additional screenings will be announced as the tour continues.
Camden International Film Festival’s Engagement Summit: Aging in Maine program is presented in partnership with Working Films and the University of Maine Center on Aging, with generous support from the Fledgling Fund, the Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation, Camden National Bank, the Bingham Program and the Portland Museum of Art.
CIFF’s Ben Fowlie, Caroline von Kuhn and Sean Flynn headed to Park City last month for the Sundance Film Festival. You can check out Sean Flynn‘s coverage for indieWIRE of Sundance’s New Frontiers program below as he asks us: Are Interactive Films Transforming Modern Storytelling?
[Editor's note: This article ran in indieWIRE on January 28, 2014]
Near the end of a panel discussion titled “The Story World: Creating Interactive Experiences That Work” – part of the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program – Jonathan Harris cautioned aspiring new media storytellers to think about the tradeoff between timeliness and timelessness in their work. “Whenever you’re dealing with bleeding edge technologies, there is the trap that you’re just doing things that are very timely,” he said, “but in five years they just look kind of silly.”
Harris went on to cite Michael Naimark’s distinction between “first word art” and “last word art”: First word art is experimental, rule-breaking, lacking in any predefined formal structure that allows us to compare it to other art of its time. Last word art, as Naimark explains it, is “virtuosity after the rules have been fixed.”
These categories seem like a perfect way to frame the 2014 New Frontier exhibit, a small but growing part of an institution that has done more than any other to bring boundary-pushing independent film into the mainstream. In the footsteps of the festival that birthed it, New Frontier is creating a platform for films and interactive artworks that “expand, experiment with, and explode traditional storytelling,” often (though not always) with the help of bleeding edge technologies. As the time-honored tradition of watching films in a theater occupies a shrinking portion of our media-saturated daily lives, it seems appropriate that Sundance invest in nurturing a new generation of artists and storytellers who work in code rather than celluloid and invite the audience into their work as active participants rather than passive spectators.
But at a festival still steeped in the established art of cinema, the question inevitably arises: Will any of these experiments in storytelling transcend the category of “first word art” and become the dominant forms of tomorrow? Or are they merely timely novelties whose relevance is tied up with the technologies that enable them?
A fitting entry point into these questions was Doug Aitken’s “The Source (Evolving),” a six-channel video installation featuring 23 evocative, fast-paced conversations about creativity between Aitken and an eclectic cast of artistic pioneers from various disciplines and generations. The installation creates an immersive experience that begins with the viewer standing in the center of a 2,000 square-foot circular pavilion, surrounded on all sides by six looping projections and a cacophony of overlapping sound emanating from each. As the viewer moves toward one of the projections, short walls separating each screen bring the sound of that conversation into focus.
The intention, according to Aitken, is to “allow the viewer to create their own narrative, to splice together a series of ideas” by moving through the space. One could imagine the same material being woven together into a feature-length documentary, but instead the artist chose to present these conversations in a way that is “unmediated and unfiltered,” so that each visitor experiences them in a slightly different order and duration. In this sense, “The Source (Evolving)” might be labeled a “database documentary,” an emerging interactive genre that was on display in a variety of forms at New Frontier.
Another approach to database documentary was found in Jonathan Harris’ “I Love Your Work,” a project built around an elegant web interface that invites users to explore the lives of nine women who make lesbian porn in New York City. Similar to one of his previous pieces, “The Whale Hunt,” Harris began shooting with a strict set of rules, shadowing each of his subjects for a 24 hour period and capturing a 10 second clip every five minutes during their waking hours. The resulting six hours of raw footage is arranged in a chronological timeline that users can watch in sequence or access at random. The project’s brief pornographic scenes are framed by a far greater quantity of moments from the women’s everyday lives. We see them crawling out of bed, making breakfast, riding the subway, dancing, smoking in parking lots, and at times making confessions to the director that hint at deeper conversations. Appropriate to the subject matter, these mundane moments tend to conceal as much as they reveal, offering abbreviated 10-second windows into the subject’s lives that are at once intimate and abstract.
Perhaps most striking about this algorithmic approach to storytelling is that there is no director commentary, no central narrative that ties the women’s lives together, no big documentary lessons to be learned. Harris characterizes it as an “experiment with story DNA,” a tool to unearth “sub-stories” within a larger narrative. In this sense, the experience of navigating “I Love Your Work” places the user in a role akin to the documentary editor sifting through raw footage, looking for a story to emerge. Yet even in the absence of a traditional storyline, we can find voyeuristic pleasure (and meaning) in the opportunity to gaze momentarily into the daily lives of others.
The biggest attraction at this year’s New Frontier was undoubtedly the cluster of projects utilizing the new Oculus Rift virtual reality system. From the moment the exhibit opened to the public, these stations were crowded with enthusiastic technophiles lining up for a chance to try on the headsets. One of the VR experiences on offer was “Sound and Vision,” a 10-minute Beck concert film directed by Chris Milk and designed specifically for the Oculus. The film places viewers inside a large circular soundstage filled with concentric rings of audience members and performers, allowing them to explore a complete spherical field of view using only natural head movements. Viewers can switch between three camera positions at any time, swiveling their heads to see and hear the performance from different angles. The sensory effect of exploring a screen without edges is uncanny, but also uniquely exhilarating. The performance comes to life in a way unimaginable with linear films played back on a rectangular screen, an idea that may one day seem antiquated. During the “Story World” panel, Milk – a veteran of both traditional and interactive music videos – came across as a true believer, claiming that “VR is the next great platform for humanity to tell stories in.”
Kamal Sinclair, Senior Manager of the New Frontier Story Lab, described 2014 as a tipping point year for the program – a result of expanding support within the Institute and “a huge jump” in the number of people that make New Frontier part of their festival experience. Is such growing interest a sign that interactive films are on track to fundamentally transform storytelling as we know it?
A common refrain at New Frontier seem to refute this notion. “This isn’t about replacing film by any stretch,” claimed data artist Aaron Koblin. “You can lose yourself in a very different way in a non-interactive film.” It may be too soon to tell whether any of these new forms will reach the institutional status of cinema, but what does seem clear is that a new horizon is opening up in interactive media, creating entirely new ways to look out at the world and lose ourselves in the experience of a story.
The Camden International Film Festival is now accepting submissions for the 2014 festival! If you’ve got a film, we wanna see it! Submit now, submit here: http://www.camdenfilmfest.org/submit