Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New York Asian Film Festival annouces titles

Opening Gala is the World Premiere of Kazuya Shiraishi’s Japanese crime epic Twisted Justice, Centerpiece Gala is the North American Premiere of Ralston Jover's Hamog (Haze), and Closing Gala is the International Premiere of Adam Tsuei’s The Tenants Downstairs from Taiwan

51-film festival features spotlights on the cinemas of Hong Kong, South Korea, and Southeast Asia

Festival honorees include Lifetime Achievement awardee Iwai Shunji, Screen International Rising Stars Go Ayano, Jelly Lin, and Teri Malvar, and Star Asia Award recipients Miriam Yeung, Lee Byung-hun, and John Lloyd Cruz

New York, NY (May 31, 2016) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema announced today the complete lineup for the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which will take place from June 22 to July 5 at the Film Society and July 6 to 9 at the SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street). North America’s leading festival of popular Asian cinema will showcase 51 feature films, including one World Premiere, one International Premiere, 16 North American premieres, two U.S. Premieres, and 14 films making their New York City debuts. Featuring in-person appearances by more than 30 international filmmakers and celebrity guests from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.

The Opening Night gala will be the World Premiere of Kazuya Shiraishi’s wild crime epic Twisted Justice, based on Yoshiaki Inaba’s autobiography and starring Japan’s hottest actor (and Rising Star honoree) Go Ayano as his country’s most corrupt police detective. The Centerpiece Gala is the North American Premiere of Ralston Jover's Hamog (Haze), an empowering and thrilling tale about a gang of street kids, headlined by Rising Star honoree Teri Malvar. Closing Night is the International Premiere of Adam Tsuei’s The Tenants Downstairs. Based on a screenplay and story by former NYAFF guest Giddens Ko (You Are the Apple of My Eye), the blackly comic, sexually explicit thriller features Simon Yam as a landlord spying on and manipulating the lives of his tenants. Filmmakers and cast members from the three films will be in attendance at their respective screenings.

"We set out this year to champion a much broader range of Asian cinema," said NYAFF Executive Director Samuel Jamier. "For example, we are particularly excited by a new breed of noir film, rooted in social issues, that is emerging in both China and Southeast Asia. With these and other selections in the lineup, we want to show that Asian films are still exploring new directions for world cinema."
Faithful to its Chinatown roots and central to its lineup, the festival will feature a Hong Kong Panorama, showcasing the most innovative films from the Special Administrative Region, with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York. From a coming-of-age drama about high-school girls who become involved in the sex trade (Lazy Hazy Crazy), to a feel-good baseball movie set within Hong Kong’s public-housing system (Weeds on Fire), to a hard-boiled gangster omnibus (the Johnnie To–produced Triviṣa), these films are revitalizing local genre staples with a fresh spin. The program also includes Nick Cheung’s Keeper of Darkness, Herman Yau’s The Mobfathers, and Adam Wong’s She Remembers, He Forgets.
The South Korean Cinema lineup includes a vibrant mix of thrillers (both supernatural and surreal) from first and second-time directors that are daring twists on genre films (Alone, The Boys Who Cried Wolf, and The Priests), and insightful art-house dramas focusing on social issues from established directors (Jung Ji-woo’s Fourth Place, about how much we demand from the next generation, and E J-yong’s The Bacchus Lady, about the plight of the country’s abandoned elderly). In co-presentation with the Korean Movie Night New York Master Series, NYAFF will feature the two latest films by Lee Joon-ik, who will attend screenings of Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (with producer and screenwriter Shin Yeon-shick) and The Throne. Together with Lee Jong-pil’s The Sound of a Flower, the triptych examines the scars of South Korea’s troubled history. The festival’s 11 South Korean films are presented with the support of the Korean Cultural Center New York.
NYAFF’s Taiwan Cinema Now! section defies genres with first films by new directors Adam Tsuei (The Tenants Downstairs), Vic Cheng (The Tag-Along), and Lee Chung (The Laundryman) that expand the horizons of the island's genre cinema. The section, presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, is completed by two powerful dramas from established filmmakers Tom Lin (Zinnia Flower) and Cheng Wen-tang (Maverick), which explore loss and redemption.

Southeast Asian Cinema receives a greater focus this year, reflecting how the region is making some of the world’s most innovative films. Highlights include the Tamil-language Jagat (Brutal) from Malaysia, the acutely observed Heart Attack from Thailand, and empowering youth noir Hamog (Haze) from the Philippines. Just as glamorous and talented as their Northern neighbors, stars who will appear in person include John Lloyd Cruz, Teri Malvar, Sid Lucero, Gwen Zamora and Annicka Dolonius (stars of the Philippines’ sensuous surfing drama Apocalypse Child), and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (from the social-media slasher flick Grace).
Special screenings include a full day of films on July 4 from noon until midnight celebrating the indie spirit of Hong Kong cinema. The day will conclude with the hotly anticipated 10 Years, winner of Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, which examines life in Hong Kong in an imaginary future when Cantonese is a second-class language and where the island has completely fallen under Mainland control. Special screenings also include the Founding Fathers Tribute, a focus on the favorite films of the festival’s programmers, from Michael Arias’s madcap animated feature Tekkonkinkreet to Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Pang Ho-cheung’s Love in the Buff starring Miriam Yeung, alongside a Surprise Screening of a contemporary classic that holds special significance to the founders of NYAFF.
The 2016 Star Asia Awards honorees are Hong Kong’s Miriam Yeung, the Philippines’ John Lloyd Cruz, and South Korea’s Lee Byung-hun, and all three box office mega-stars will be in New York in person to discuss their newest films and their careers. Yeung, whose charismatic girl-next-door persona epitomizes the anything-is-possible spirit of Hong Kong, stars in in Adam Wong’s romantic drama She Remembers, He Forgets. The film is her return to the screen after headlining the biggest local hit of 2015, Little Big Master. Cruz, the Philippines’ most popular movie star, who broke box-office records in last year’s romantic drama Second Chance, transforms himself into a father who will do anything in festival selection Honor Thy Father, a powerful crime epic from Erik Matti. Lee, South Korean cinema’s leading man and one of the few to successfully cross over to Hollywood, stars in Inside Men, Woo Min-ho’s takedown of the corruption at the heart of South Korea’s institutions. Lee, who has been seen in multiple blockbuster action franchises (G.I. Joe, Red 2, Terminator Genisys), is best known for South Korean films The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil, and Bittersweet Life (by Kim Jee-woon), and in key roles as a tormented soldier in Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area and as a lowlife-turned-king in Choo Chang-min’s Masquerade.
In addition to the Star Asia Awards, previously announced award recipients include:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Iwai Shunji. The first Japanese recipient of the award, he will present his three cinematic epics—Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001), and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016), also starring Ayano—during the festival's opening weekend. Iwai has proven himself one of Asia’s most influential filmmakers since his mid-1990s Undo, Picnic, and Love Letter. He is recognized for capturing the spirit of the times, and stretching the cinematic language of Asian cinema. Despite his early successes, he has continued to reinvent himself, recently directing his first animated feature.
Screen International Rising Star Asia Awards – China’s Jelly Lin, Japan’s Ayano Go, and the Philippines’ Teri Malvar. Lin made a powerful debut this year, showcasing her natural comedic skills in Stephen Chow's fish-out-of-water tale The Mermaid, China’s highest-grossing film; 15-year-old Malvar has already proven herself one of Asia’s most naturally gifted actresses, and stars in festival selection Hamog (Haze), in which her violent street kid character is kidnapped into a twisted household to work as its maid; and Ayano, Japan’s hottest actor of 2016 who is being recognized for his chameleon-like range, stars in two of the festival’s key films, Twisted Justice and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle.
Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema – Yue Song. The Chinese actor, director, and stunt choreographer will be honored for his old-school, balls-to-the-wall instant-classic kung-fu flick The Bodyguard. Yue found fame online by uploading action-packed training videos and short films that became cult hits in China, before making his first feature King of the Street. His new film has found a natural home in our anniversary edition.
Credits:Curated by executive director Samuel Jamier, senior programmer Stephen Cremin, and programmers Rufus de Rham and Claire Marty.
The New York Asian Film Festival is co-presented by Subway Cinema and the Film Society of Lincoln Center and takes place from June 22 to July 5 at Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater, and July 6 to 9 at SVA Theatre.
Keep up to date with information at www.subwaycinema.com and www.filmlinc.org. Subway Cinema can be followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nyaff and Twitter at www.twitter.com/subwaycinema.
FULL LINEUP (51): *Guests in attendance; see next section for complete list
CHINA (4):
- The Bodyguard (dir. Yue Song, 2016)*
- Mr. Six (dir. Guan Hu, 2015)
- Saving Mr. Wu (dir. Ding Sheng, 2015)
- What’s in the Darkness (dir. Wang Yichun, 2016)*
Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York
- The Bodyguard (dir. Sammo Hung, 2016)
- Keeper of Darkness (dir. Nick Cheung, 2015)
- Lazy Hazy Crazy (dir. Luk Yee-sum, 2015)
- Love in the Buff (dir. Pang Ho-cheung, 2012)
- The Mermaid (dir. Stephen Chow, 2016)*
- The Mobfathers (dir. Herman Yau, 2016) w/short Killer and Undercover (dir. Lau Ho-Leung, 2016)
- She Remembers, He Forgets (dir. Adam Wong, 2015)*
- Triviṣa (dirs. Frank Hui, Jevons Au & Vicky Wong, 2016) *
- Weeds on Fire (dir. Chan Chi-fat, 2016)
- 10 Years (dirs. Kwok Zune, Chow Kwun-wai, Jevons Au, Ng Ka-leung & Wong Fei-pang, 2015)*
JAPAN (13):
- All About Lily Chou-Chou (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2001)*
- A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2016)*
- Creepy (dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016)
- Hentai Kamen 2: The Abnormal Crisis (dir. Yuichi Fukuda, 2016)
- Kiyamachi Daruma (dir. Hideo Sakaki, 2015)
- Miss Hokusai (dir. Keiichi Hara, 2015)
- Swallowtail Butterfly (dir. Iwai Shunji, 1996)*
- Tekkonkinkreet (dir. Michael Arias, 2006)*
- Tetsuo: The Iron Man (dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
- Twisted Justice (dir. Kazuya Shiraishi, 2016)
- What a Wonderful Family! (Yoji Yamada, 2016)
Plus, an additional two titles to be announced at a later date
Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Center New York
- Alone (dir. Park Hong-min, 2015)
- The Bacchus Lady (dir. E J-yong, 2016)
- The Boys Who Cried Wolf (dir. Kim Jin-hwang, 2015)*
- Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (dir. Lee Joon-ik, 2016)*
- Fourth Place (dir. Jung Ji-woo, 2015)
- Inside Men (dir. Woo Min-ho, 2015)*
- The Priests (dir. Jang Jae-hyun, 2015)
- Seoul Station (dir. Yeon Sang-ho, 2015)
- The Sound of a Flower (dir. Lee Jong-pil, 2015)
- The Throne (dir. Lee Joon-ik, 2015)*
- A Violent Prosecutor (dir. Lee Il-hyeong, 2016)
- Apocalypse Child (dir. Mario Cornejo, 2015)*
- Grace (dirs. Ornusa Donsawai & Pun Homchuen, 2016)*
- Hamog (Haze) (dir. Ralston Jover, 2015)*
- Heart Attack (dir. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 2015)
- Honor Thy Father (dir. Erik Matti, 2015)*
- Jagat (Brutal) (dir. Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, 2015)*
- Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (dir. Victor Vu, 2015)
Presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York
- The Laundryman (dir. Lee Chung, 2015)
- Maverick (dir. Cheng Wen-tang, 2015)
- The Tag-Along (dir. Cheng Wei-hao, 2015)
- The Tenants Downstairs (dir. Adam Tsuei, 2016)*
- Zinnia Flower (dir. Tom Lin, 2015)

CHINA (3):
- Jelly Lin (actress); The Mermaid - Wang Yichun (director); What’s in the Darkness - Yue Song (actor/director); The Bodyguard
- Jevons Au (director); Triviṣa& 10 Years - Andrew Choi (producer); 10 Years - Chow Kwun-wai (director); 10 Years - Kwok Zune (director); 10 Years - Ng Ka-leung (director/producer); 10 Years - Adam Wong (director); She Remembers, He Forgets - Wong Fei-pang (director); 10 Years - Miriam Yeung (actress); She Remember, He Forgets & Love in the Buff
- Michael Arias (director); Tekkonkinkreet - Go Ayano (actor); Twisted Justice &A Bride for Rip Van Winkle - Yoshinori Chiba (producer); Twisted Justice - Hideo Sakaki (director); Kiyamachi Daruma - Iwai Shunji (director); All About Lily Chou-Chou, A Bride for Rip Van Winkle & Swallowtail Butterfly - Kazuya Shiraishi (director); Twisted Justice
- Kim Jin-hwang (director); The Boys Who Cried Wolf - Lee Byung-hun (actor); Inside Men - Lee Joon-ik (director); Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet & The Throne - Shin Yeon-shick (producer/screenwriter); Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet
- Annicka Dolonius (actress); Apocalypse Child - John Lloyd Cruz (actor/producer); Honor Thy Father - Monster Jimenez (producer); Apocalypse Child - Sid Lucero (actor); Apocalypse Child - Teri Malvar (actress); Hamog (Haze)
- Dondon Monteverde (producer); Honor Thy Father - Shanjhey Kumar Perumal (director); Jagat (Brutal)
- Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (actress); Grace - Gwen Zamora (actress); Apocalypse Child
- Adam Tsuei (director); The Tenants Downstairs - Ivy Shao (actress); The Tenants Downstairs - Li Xing (actress); The Tenants Downstairs

Solo (2016) Open Roads 2016

Laura Morante writes, directs and stars in a film as a middle aged woman who clings to everyone, particularly the men in her life. Deciding that she needs to change she sets out to fix her life.

Compared to some of the work of Woody Allen with weird flights of fantasy, the breaking of the 4th wall and dry loopy looks at relationships SOLO is a very funny film. While employing techniques Allen has used, this is in no way a film he would have made. The sense of humor is more crazy and wonderfully unexpected. One of the joys of the film is watching how things play out.Its not that we can't guess where this will all end up, we may be able to, rather there is no way of knowing how we are going to get there. This is not a film or straight lines but meandering curves and side streets. Nothing is quite as we expect it to be and the result is a film that is delightfully refreshing.

I laughed all through this film which is not something I can say about most recent comedies.

An absolute delight for anyone liking loopy comedies.


SOLO plays as part of the Open Roads look at Italian film at Lincoln Center. For tickets and more information go here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The confounding horror of THE WAILING (2016)

The WAILING has vexed me since I saw it last week. I have been writing and rewriting the review in the hope of getting it to the point where I was happy with it. The question with the film is how much do I reveal.

To be honest it’s very easy to say that for 130 of its 156 minutes it’s one of the best horror films you’ll see all year, possibly ever.  The trouble how to I deal with the last 20 minutes of story, where something happens and well its a head scratcher? I suspect  by reviewing the film and talking about the end at the end.

The plot of the film has the residents of a small town going nutzy fagin and killing themselves and each other. The people seem to be insane and are covered in boils. Stories are rampant that it’s the doing of a weird Japanese guy living in the woods. Many people insist he is a ghost or worse. A local police officer is drawn deeper into the mystery when his daughter begins to change and seems possessed by something. When medicine fails a shaman is brought in and then things get weirder.

It’s just f-ed up visceral stuff and it gets your heart racing.

I loved most of THE WAILING. The film freaked me out, made me laugh, made me hide my eyes and it made me wish the film would break so I could get the hell out of the theater and the head space. It is most of its running time one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen.

It is a finely crafted film which gives us just enough detail to keep us connected and just enough uncertainty to make us deeply disturbed. For most of its running time it keeps us on the edge of dream logic where we know enough to go with it despite being bothered by what we are seeing not jibing with reality. We are trapped in our hero and the towns waking nightmare and there is no escape. It is the sort of ghoulish twisted delight where you want to run but at the same time you have to see what happens. Watching it I wanted to shut the film off and take a breather.

It’s just wrong in the best possible ways. It’s also frequently funny, in the right ways.

The trouble is that there is a point in the last twenty minutes where the spell is broken and soon after it seems like someone grafted the plot from another film into this one. Yes it remains tense, but the film goes to a dead stop in logic and reasoning - especially on its own terms. The ethereal dream logic is gone.

Nothing is as it was before… what we are told is the new situation in no way fits what with what before. This isn’t like a caper film where details are left out and we then see them from another POV later, this is whole scale reinvention of characters and situations. And while the film has no trouble coasting  to the end credits with enough good will that I still really love the film, my desire to let the world know how great the film was gone. I wanted to discuss the film not because its grand masterpiece but because I wanted to know what the hell went wrong with this one twist.

When I say that the twist is a problem I mean it’s a HUGE problem that several hours of discussion can’t explain away.

I telling you about the two hours of discussion because two days after I saw the film, friend and occasional Unseen Films contributor Alec Kubas-Meyer saw it. A texting conversation turned into a two hour discussion during which we hashed out everything that happened in the last twenty minutes. During the discussion I found most of the minor plot questions I had could be explained away depending on how you chose to view the film. Yea, they can be considered niggling problems but they are not catastrophic. Our discussion sorted out any problems pretty quickly but there was one thing that we can’t explain away.

The event I am talking about involves a twist in the plot that would work except that director Na Hong-Jin cut the film in such way as to make clear that the twist couldn’t or shouldn’t have occurred. It’s kind of like watching a one of the old movie serials that cheated. You know where the chapter ends with the hero heading for certain doom only when you come back the next week they escape using a means that was clearly not an option the week before. Hong-Jin gives a twist that by implication of the editing cannot possibly have happened. It’s so egregious an error that two hours of discussion can’t make it go away. (And know Alec and I tried to make it go away- as has everyone I know who has seen the film)

Don’t get me wrong I love THE WAILING, and it will almost certainly end up on my best of 2016 list because it’s such a f-ed up visceral punch but there is this one thing that keeps me from saying its one of the best horror films of all time. I’m hoping that repeated viewings and time will soften my disappointment and let me put the film where it belongs. For now I feel like I’ve seen the Mona Lisa but had to keep dancing around a woman with a big hat to see it.

Reservations aside- the film is a must see. A visceral kick in the gut that is very much its own thing.

THE WAILING  opens in theaters Friday

Roger Ballen's Theatre of Apparitions to premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Roger Ballen
Pearly Oyster's short film ROGER BALLEN'S THEATRE OF APPARITIONS is a twisted little film getting its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this June. The film was commissioned by photographer and star Ballen and is created and animated using his original artwork and was - directed by Emma Calder & Ged Haney. I'm guessing that should any one with official power the see the film they will soon be locked away some where safe where they can't get near sharp objects or film equipment because they will think they are crazy people.

Of course if that happens I'm guessing the audiences who see the film will quickly bust them out of prison because they will know that the trio are truly great artists.

I know I'd make the effort to release them since the film they have made is a truly magical experience.

It is impossible to describe what exactly the film is. A feeble attempt would to liken it to watching some ones dream, Roger Ballen wakes up and we are treated to various acts or dreams that are based on his photography.  They are twisted and nightmarish...and amazing.

And please don't worry whatever I say won't ruin what the film is because the visuals are so powerful they lessen any words used to describe them.

Calder and Haney have made a glorious little confection.Its a visceral little treat that scratches and claws its way into your subconscious where it curls up and creates a nest for itself. For the two days that followed seeing the film I kept going back to it in my head-usually at the odd random moment where it popped up and had me audibly saying "that was messed up". The murmuring resulted in odd looks when I was doing it while looking at Edward Hicks Peaceable Kingdom at the Brooklyn Museum.

I absolutely love this film. The five minutes the film runs is not enough- or maybe it is since I don't know what effect the film would have on its audience if it ran longer. We all might be trucked away.

More likely we would all fall under the thrall of director Emma Calder Ged Haney and end up clamoring for their next film...then again if you see THEATRE OF APPARITIONS that's exactly what is going to happen.

You must see this film.

The film World Premieres at Edinbugh on June 23 as part of ‘The McLaren Award: New British Animation 2’. For tickets and more information go here.

The film's release coincides with the publication of Roger Ballen’s new book A Theatre of Apparitions on September 29th by Thames & Hudson

Me Myself and Her (2016) Open Roads 206

Utterly charming and absolutely wonderful romantic comedy about two women whose long term relationship hits a rough patch just as they begin thinking that everything is okay.

Yes we've been here before.

Yes, you know exactly where its going

But frankly you won't care because it's so beautifully done.

That the film works is due to two things.

First the script which just nails its. The situations are real and the characters are spot on. I love that you could change the sexes of the two leads to anything and pretty much have the film work. The underlying story isn't dependent upon the leads being anything other than being in love. The humor comes out of the situations and not anything else.

The other reason the film works is the cast is perfect. Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli have our hearts from frame one and we're willing to go anywhere with them. They are as good a couple as you will ever see in film these days.

This film is a sheer delight and one of the great surprises-and treasures of the film year.

A must see.

ME MYSELF AND HER  plays as part of the Open Roads look at Italian film at Lincoln Center. For more information and tickets go here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nightcap 5/29/16 Open Roads starts this week, Israel FIlm Center Fest starts this week, The NY Shorts Festival starts this week, DREAM DANGEROUSLY release info, there is going to be limited NY Comic Con Coverage this year, Randi's links

John made this banner for the site way back when it started
Starting Thursday and running for six days Open Roads, Lincoln Center’s annual look at Italian film is always an absolute delight.

I have seen any number of films that have become old favorites over the years thanks to the excellent programming of the people involved with this festival. Where some series are tied to a studio or are programmed with people with an ulterior motive, Open Roads is programmed with the idea of delighting it’s audience in mind, which is something that it almost always succeeds in doing.

The simplest advice to attending Open Roads is look at the film list and schedule, pick out what interests you and then see every film they program because as I find every year it’s the films I didn’t plan on seeing that delight me most. Not that the ones I wanted to see are bad, rather the others catch me unaware and so hit me without expectations.

Now while I usually wade in and see most of the films at Open Roads, this year I couldn’t do it. Somethings are going on in the real world that prevented me from wading in past my ankles. As of right now I’ve got a couple of reviews set to go, this week I’m still working on getting you a few more.

For now know that if you have any free time over the next week or so you really need to get down to Lincoln Center and partake in a feast of wonderful Italian cinematic delights,

For more information and tickets go here.
Also next weekend are a couple of more film festivals. I’m not saying that in a flippant manner, rather its to point out that the film year here in New York is heating up

The 4th Annual Israel Film Center Festival is running at JCC Manhattan starting Thursday. It’s a great selection of film and TV programs that I really wanted to cover, but because of the way thing have fallen there just isn’t enough time. If you can go do so there looks to be more than a few great films. For more details and tickets go here.

The New York Shorts Festival has come around again and it runs Tuesday to Thursday at Sunshine Landmarl. If you love shorts this is the place to go. Every year I swear I’m going to cover it and every year I mess up and miss it. This year is no exception. This is a festival that any serious film lover should be attending as the death threats from several acquaintances can attest to. I suspect that a couple have put a hit out on me. Don’t join the hit list go get tickets. For more details go here.

Or those wanting to see Patrick Meaney’s great film NEIL GAIMAN DREAM DANGEROUSLY (my review is here and my interview with Mr Meaney is here), it is being released on Vimeo on July 8. The cost is 12.99. For details and to pre order click on the pre-order button above

And even if you are not a Gaiman fan you’ll want to see it, not just because our own Randi Mason is in the film, but also because it’s a truly great film.

For those playing the home game- I will not be covering New York Comic Con as a member of the official press. I have not been given a badge.

That’s fine, I can avoid the crowds which are pretty much out of control.

I will be trying to get a regular badge, but if I don’t get one no loss. I say that because the freaking thing is just too damn crowded- and last year they had very little film related. Unseen is a film site and while we dive into other areas that’s more on a whim or because we can shoe horn it in.

To be honest I think the reason I didn’t get the badge is I’ve been cranky about them. I also raised questions last weekend about the new way of selling tickets. I suspect I’m being punished. Punishing me is not going to change the fact that I see problems on the horizon, if nothing else it will make me bitch louder if I see something wrong.
And now Randi's links

The Ghostbuster trailers and the art of editing comedy
The sideshow attraction that saved lives
Anatomical wax models
Hey Hey We're the Monks
Black Dog The Dreams of Paul Nash
A Dave McKean interview
Why the new Ghostbuster trailer seems to be so hated
Betty White and Johnny Carson on To Tell The Truth
French Connection locations
Stan Lee on To Tell The Truth


Friday night I went to see one program at the Bosnian Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York. The original plan was to attend the whole thing but I didn't think what weekend this was so I forgot I had conflicts. (I'm still working on getting reviews up for all of the features.)

Before the film I met up with Joe Bendel and his mother. She's a lovely woman and great fun to talk to.
Introducing the evenings program

The evenings program began with the short LIONHEART. The film is the story of a woman who took a job at  hotel thinking she would be working in the kitchen. Instead she ended up a sex worker who tried to kill herself and only got free when she agreed to marry a man who bought her freedom, though even then she ended up in an abusive relationship.

The film is a matter of fact telling of her life supplemented by stories from two officials who explain the cultural background of  why it happened and the sex trade. Its a punch in the face and as the film goes on you feel waited down by the story. Its a really good film that doesn't go for shock and awe but bowls you over with its quiet power

The short was paired with Danis Tanovic's TIGERS from 2014. Tanovich's NO MAN'S LAND won the Oscar in 2001 and rattled cages.  That his TIGERS has not been seen in the US until now suggests that its crushing power, which is directed full bore at Nestle and other makers of infant formula, is something the companies in the cross-hairs don't want seen.

TIGERS tells the story of Ayan, a stand in for whistleblower Syed Aamir Raza whose life story is pretty much what we see on screen. A film crew is attempting to ascertain how true his story is. They want to tell his story but want to know if they are going to be sued into the stone age. After debating if they can use the real company name (the real life Nestle which is seen fleetingly) they decide against it and change the name and then Ayan tells his story.

Ayan was a pharmaceutical salesman  who wasn't having luck selling locally made drugs because everyone wanted those from the Western multinationals. Seeing an ad to work for just such a multinational he talks his way into getting hired. The product is baby formula and Ayan is one of the best salesmen. Several years in he discovers that the formula is killing children. Poor parents are cutting the formula with impure water to make it go farther and its causing children to die from dehydration, a problem the company had been aware of for decades. He quits and decides to blow the whistle but the road is dangerous.

Tanovic has made a film that manages to over come some uneven performances and a couple of bumps to be a film that will rock your world.

And I mean it will rock your f-ing world.

It has been ages, since I've seen a film where when the film ended no one moved. No one spoke, No one did anything except stare at the screen shell shocked. When it was done and the lights came up every one got up and silently walked to the exit and the street. No one talked until they hit the doors to the street. Joe, his mom and I just sort of staggered to the subway

While most certainly a narrative and a messy polemic, the film is also a kind of straight on documentary. These things happened and are happening, the statement at the end that the film contains footage of dying children from when the film was shot in 2013 produced an audible creak in the theater as if the whole audience shifted in their seats in absolute horror.

It is not a lie to say that seeing TIGERS was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of my life. It may not be conventionally one of the best films ever made but is one of the most ass kicking. It's a poke in the eye and a boot on the throat and a quiet whisper in your ear "Children are dying what are you going to do about it?"

Highly recommended

If you need to know why BHFF is one of the best kept secrets in NYC its because a film like TIGERS or any of the other films will screen, blow its audience away, and unfairly barely register on the rest of the film world in New York. Next year you all have to go to the festival- you will thank me.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Almost Sunrise (2016) soars as a deeply moving film portrait of two men trying to heal Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. and Human Rights Watch Film Festival

World Premiering at the Tellluride Mountainfilm Festival and playing soon at several other festivals ALMOST SUNRISE is the story of Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, two veterans who decide to walk across America hoping to find a way to heal themselves by spreading awareness of PTS and the fact that 22 vets kill themselves everyday.

We have to applaud Michael Collins for making a film that genuinely will move you to tears. To be certain there are a couple of big moments where you would think you would react emotionally, however, quite unexpectedly, there are several moment in ALMOST SUNRISE where I was reaching for something to wipe my eyes, not because there was some great cathartic moment going on but because I simply felt something for Voss and Anderson as fellow human beings and not characters on the  big screen. These men are our friends and family and we are moved.

Collins has a made a film where life in all its small moments are on the big screen and we are so much better for it. For example the inter-play between the men and their families is absolutely priceless. Collins doesn't over use sequences  or discussions of the men as military people, we know who they are, that's why we are hearing these stories, rather he cuts things so that the men and their families are seen as families to the point where if you didn't know what the larger context was you would think its just a family drama. Its an achievement that makes us care about Voss and Anderson so much more than if the were simply soldiers. They are ultimately us, or our sons or brothers or husbands.

I love that director Michael Collins has fashioned a film that transcends what has become an over crowded and over done genre of documentary, the wounded vet film. There is no doubt that we must help the men and women who keep us safe in anyway we can. We must make sure that they get the help they need. Many filmmakers have correctly realized that the perfect way to make sure they get the help is to tell their stories. Unfortunately most do so in ways that lessen them by making each story seem like every other one. While the stories are similar, the films don't have to be, since no two soldier is exactly the same. Filmmakers need to break away from the same story construction drum beat.

Michael Collins has moved away and shaken things up so we are seeing it all in brand new way. Not only are we seeing the the story of two wounded soldiers with fresh eyes but  Collins has managed to make the story much more universal. As he had done with his earlier film GIVE UP TOMORROW the plight of one man, or in this case two men. Not only has Collins made the two men part of our family by showing us theirs, he then takes the next step by bringing in other people along the way. What Voss and Anderson experienced and are fighting for is for all soldiers everywhere - and these men and women are just like us as well

You may think its easy to relate the whole world to two men or even to just the few of us in the audience and you'd be wrong. Yes, you can intellectually make the connection,- we know these men are supposed to be all all men because that's what film does but to be able to do so in such away that we're reaching for a tissue to wipe away tears because the only thing on screen are two men walking and talking is something truly special.

ALMOST SUNRISE is truly special and must be seen.

The film was the opening night film last night at Telluride and it screens  tomorrow and Monday. For more information and tickets go here.

The film plays June 11 and 13 at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. For details here.

The film will also play later in June at AFI Docs.

The film will play in 2017 on PBS

Friday, May 27, 2016

Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman (2015)

This biography of Paul Newman focuses entirely on his racing career. Its a good look at the actor from another perspective entirely.

Directed by Nate Adams and actor/talk show host Adam Corolla WINNING is an engaging film that really explains what Newman was to the racing world. Its a story I thought I knew but instead I found out that I was really lacking in information- I didn't realize just how good he was.

Filled with talking heads and tons or archival footage this is a super little documentary that manages to put you into the places and races that Newman was in. You really get a sense of Newman the racer.

One of the things I like about the film is that it is as self effacing as Newman was himself. Yes we see him win and help racers race but it doesn't trumpet anything. This is what he did, so what big deal

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shaun Clark is a genius and his film NECK AND NECK proves it

Shaun Clark is a genius.

Clark is a filmmaker/animator who makes films that crawl inside your brain and set up permanent residence. His film LADY AND THE TOOTH has stayed with me since I saw it at Fantasia. If you say the title I instantly see the film play out in my head.

Clark’s latest film is NECK AND NECK and it was announced yesterday as being part of the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival and it’s even better than his last film.

The film is a version of one of Shakespeare's plays- I won’t say what, I don’t dare say what simply because in the films five minute running time it pretty much takes the three hour play and condenses it down perfectly. Watching the film I was struck by how razor perfect the film is. It’s the essence of the story laid out.

The reason the film works, and the reason that Clark is such a brilliant filmmaker is he not only uses words, but he nails the visuals. The visuals are half the film and the snake like characters manage to be both the actual characters and the subconscious representations of the psyche. Bodies entwine- literally. We watch as characters change as poison is poured into their soul and we see how a simple action can be misconstrued and lead to…

Well that would be telling.

This film is as good a short film as they come.

When I saw the film last week I had had a bad day. Things didn’t go right. I was way behind in stuff to review. I had received a copy of – earlier in the day but I didn’t want to see it. Then suddenly I said what the hell and I put it on. It was like watching someone catch lightning in a bottle. It was one of those films that got my adrenaline going- crazily I emailed Shaun Clark…

NECK AND NECK is a great film.

Shaun Clark is a great filmmaker. As some of you know I have a Kool-Aid List- a list of filmmakers who’s work is so good and so consistent that I’ve drunk the Kool Aid and will follow them anywhere. I really think Shaun Clark belongs on that list-he’s just making these films that just rock your world a couple of minutes at a time.

NECK AND NECK world premieres at Edinburgh and it would behoove you to make the trip to see this film because it will rock your world.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In Brief: Our Everyday Life (2016) BOSNIAN-HERZEGOVINIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2016

The Bosnia Herzegovinian submission to the Oscars OUR EVERYDAY LIFE is a look at a modern middle class family struggling to get by.

As the patriarch struggles to maintain control of his company, his wife struggles to get along. Their son is a slacker and their daughter, having left the country during the war only contacts them via Skype. Revelations are soon coming that will shake the family to it's core.

A typical modern family drama spiced up with the lingering shadows of a not long ago war and the effects of the country still being rocked from the change from Communism to Capitalism, OUR EVERYDAY LIFE over comes it's seeming run of the mill story thanks to stunning performances and a visual style that plunks us down in the middle of the action. Scenes play out in longish takes which allow the actors to really let go in their performances.

This is a super little film, that while may not be the best of the best, manages to take a the domestic drama genre and turn it into a something that is special and worth going out of your way to see.

OUR EVERYDAY LIFE plays Friday night at SVA. For tickets and more information go here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Speaking Dangerously: Patrick Meaney on his career and Dream Dangerously, his masterpiece on Neil Gaiman

I have been trying to write an introduction to this interview with Patrick Meaney for several days now and I’ve been failing miserably. It’s not that I have nothing to say — rather, it all sounds bogus and as if I’m trying to hype a man who needs no hype. Trust me: if you’ve seen Meaney’s earlier films (in particular GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS and WARREN ELLIS: CAPTURED GHOSTS) you know he’s a man who makes films that are wonderful portraits of the people he chooses profile. His films reflect the artists in ways that most other documentaries would never consider.

And then he made NEIL GAIMAN: DREAM DANGEROUSLY and the universe changed.

With DREAM DANGEROUSLY, Meaney has made a film that transcends its subject to be about something greater. While specifically about Neil Gaiman and his final large scale book tour, the film is actually a film that explores why we need to create. Yes, the film is about the tour and Neil’s work, but it’s also about why he creates, and how and by extension how we all do. That's what’s really special about the film. Meaney frames it so that the specifics of how Neil creates echoes into the lives of everyone who has ever been driven to do anything.

Now, I came to this interview ass-backwards. It was not something that I really was planning on doing, nor was it something I wanted to do (I was a bit too busy). However an interview was suggested by Unseen’s chief researcher and social media director Randi Mason (who was interviewed for the film) and one thing lead to another.

To be honest, my plan was to simply ask couple of quick questions and be done with it… but then I saw DREAM DANGEROUSLY and my universe changed. I had to talk to him. (Actually, I wanted to give him a big hug, but that wasn’t possible since he was on the opposite side of the country)

I had the chance to do the interview with Meaney via telephone, but I opted to do it via email. I loved the film so much that I wanted to make sure that everything was right. I wanted to make sure all the questions and all of the answers were exactly as we both wanted them. I wanted to make sure that I asked everything I wanted to get answers to.

And I wanted to make sure that the interview stayed on point. Had I spoken with Patrick on the phone, I know I would have been very tempted to ask a number of questions that would have revealed too much about the film or been so specific that no one really would have cared except me. I wanted this to be an interview that would work before you see the film and not just after.

First, I want to thank Randi for getting me involved in all of this. Second and most important, I want to thank Patrick Meaney for not only doing the interview (and doing all the typing) but letting me be the first to see the wondrous treasure that he is shortly going to unleash on the world. NEIL GAIMAN: DREAM DANGEROUSLY rocks, and it's something that he should be thanked for repeatedly.

(All images in this interview are courtesy and copyright of Patrick Meaney)

Patrick Meaney (left) and friend take a break after a long shoot
STEVE: Thank you again for letting me see the DREAM DANGEROUSLY. I hope I didn't make too big a fool of myself gushing over it (note: the Unseen review is here). Trust me, my feelings for the film are genuine. I love the film, which was something the people I spoke after seeing the film are well aware of. (I'm going to take another pass or two at the film and do another piece.)

PATRICK: That’s awesome to hear. As I mentioned, you were literally the first person to see the film outside of the team, so it was great to hear some positive feedback. And it’s really nice to know that you got so much of what we were trying to convey with the movie.

STEVE: You’ve made a career out of profiling comic creators and comic related subjects. Where other filmmakers have profiled one writer or artist and were done, you’ve created almost a cottage industry. How did you come to do so many comic related films?

PATRICK: There’s a couple of reasons. On one level, I think it was a trust from the comics community, and other people felt like, well, if Grant Morrison trusted him to do a movie, I guess I will too. As we’ve gone on, it’s become easier to get interviewees, since we have a track record of projects to point to that give people confidence that this is going to be something professional and real, and not a take down or puff piece.

But, I think it’s also just a rich untapped field to tell stories about. It’s hard to make a new statement about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or Alfred Hitchcock or Scorsese, but in comics we have these people who are absolute masters of the medium whose stories have never been told. I had barely seen any video of Grant before we did the movie. Neil is out there a bit more, but there’s never been a feature length piece about him, and that’s kind of crazy.

And, the other biggest reason for doing these particular biographical subjects, is that they all developed public personas that are just as fascinating as the work, and in many ways integral to it. Reading The Invisibles almost requires knowledge of Grant’s own experiences at the time. And with Neil, his rapport with the fans has been key to his success since day one. You see as much fan art of Neil himself as you see of any of the characters. I think there was something about that era of comics in particular, in the late 80s and early 90s, when creators were rock stars, and it’s fun to explore that.

STEVE: Were you someone who was going to conventions and readings during the comic writer as rock star days?

PATRICK: No, I was a bit young during that time, and didn’t get into comics until the tail end of that. So, I wound up reading basically all the big Vertigo series quickly in succession, jumping from Watchmen to Sandman to Preacher to The Invisibles and then reading the end of Transmetropolitan was it was coming out. I read a bunch of interviews and got a sense of the personas of these creators, but I didn’t go to too many cons until later, and didn’t go to big cons like San Diego or New York until the mid 2000s, when it was a bit of a different scene. But, I definitely got a sense of it via the Warren Ellis Forum and other online places like that.

STEVE: Your most well-known films are on comic giants Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and now Neil Gaiman. What brought you to them and what made them trust you?

PATRICK: Grant was the first project we did. I had written a whole series of blogs going through The Invisibles, issue by issue, just for fun. And I got approached to turn those into a book. So, I think it was checking that out that made Grant feel like I got his work, and saw where he was coming from. I had never done a documentary before, or a film project on that scale, so I’m really happy that he took a chance and entrusted us with his story. From there, I think knowing that Grant was cool with us made it easier for Neil and Warren to trust.

With Neil in particular, it was a bit of a different experience, since we filmed him on the road and out and about a lot more. So, I think being around us so much, and being filmed so much, made him let his guard down a bit and start to make jokes to the camera and get into it more.

STEVE: You came to Grant through your love of The Invisibles. What brought you to Warren?

PATRICK: I read Transmet early on when I was getting into comics. I actually got into comics seriously a bit later than some people, when I was around 14 or 15. I started reading Claremont X-Men, then jumped into Vertigo stuff. I always liked superhero stuff, but was even more into Phillip K. Dick style weird and mind bending sci-fi stories, and found those in comics.

At that time, I also started going on the Warren Ellis Forum. So, for me, Warren’s work was inseparable from his personality. I remember how cool it was to read the forum and see the culture that existed there. Now, lots of the regulars have gone on to be huge comics personalities, like Kelly Sue, Fraction, Kieron Gillen, Antony Johnston, etc. But, back then they were the ‘inner circle’ of the forum. I wasn’t a big poster, but I loved reading it, always found Warren very funny and cool, and got into comics through what they were doing there, and picked up a lot of books as a result of tips from people there.

So, for me, getting to do the film on Warren was exciting because of the work he had done, but even more so because it was a chance to be in a room with this legendary guy who had shaped my approach to comics and interest in creativity back then.

STEVE: I’ve heard you say that your films are structured around your subject's personality. How do you determine what that is, and how do you translate that to the screen?

PATRICK: With Grant and Warren, both films are centered around contrasting the ‘persona’ or ‘legend/mythology’ that they’ve built up around themselves. So, you might think of Grant Morrison as a drug tripping fifth dimensional shaman, but who is he really? Or Warren is a crank, whiskey drinking, foul mouthed cyber guru, but how much of that is a construction? So, I tried to start by introducing the public perception of them, then proceed to dig deep and discover what lies behind that, and how they were able to build that image. I’m basically taking the standpoint of the casual fan and the knowledge that they have of the person as the jumping off point to dig in deeper.

Neil is the same to some extent, in that you start on the outside, knowing his work, maybe having been to an event or heard him read, but then we go behind that and see how everything he does for the public both enhances and hinders his desire to be a writer.

STEVE: Do you go into a film and start shooting with the assumption its going to be one thing, or do you simply go in and just see what happens?

PATRICK: I always start with an outline, that goes over the major beats of what I have in mind for the story and arc. But, it usually changes quite a bit. Usually we’ll shoot with the main subject a few times, so I’ll go off and edit what we have in between those shoots and start to get a sense of what the story of the film is going to be, then we can ask the next round of questions to clarify.

With Grant at first, we interviewed him for three days with about 15 hours of footage, so I asked about all his works, all kinds of stuff that was fascinating. And I was thinking, we have to have some Seven Soldiers in the film or we have to have some New X-Men in the film, since I loved those works and wanted to feature them. But, ultimately we realized that the story was about Grant and the way his life and work mirror each other. So, it became less about the works themselves than how they reflected Grant’s experiences at the time of writing them.

Ultimately, the movie finds itself in the process of creating it, and the more you get to know the subjects, the more you understand what the story needs to be.

That’s the other big reason that you can’t stick to an outline. We’ll usually shoot around 40 hours for a project. With Neil, it was probably closer to 60. The biggest thing I realized early on was how to distinguish between a moment that is great on its own terms, and one that serves the story. I’ll sometimes allow a comedy bit that’s not super relevant to get into the movie, just because it helps keep people engaged with the movie and gives them a little breather. But generally, I try to be pretty ruthless about only putting in what enhances the story and is entertaining or insightful on its own merits.

So, with Neil, I love Miracleman. I would have really wanted to include it, but it’s not a key part of his overall story, so it didn’t make it into the cut.

STEVE: How do you prep for your films? Do you go in and reacquaint yourself with everything the subjects have done, or are you less concerned since your films aren’t literary retrospectives, but more portraits of the artists as human beings?

PATRICK: I try to read everything they’ve done, as best I can. With all three of these subjects, they’re so prolific, it’s hard to read absolutely everything, but I don’t want to be interviewing Warren and not know what Transmetropolitan is for example. And I like all their work a lot, so if there’s something I haven’t read, it’s a good opportunity to go out there and do it.

STEVE: Is there anything that you wanted to read but couldn't get your hands on? Did you read Neil's Penthouse pieces?

PATRICK: No, I didn’t read a lot of his journalism era stuff, like the Duran Duran book or the Penthouse pieces. I’d be curious to check it out, but I don’t think the subject matter was really essential to what we were doing. I know with Grant I’ve still never read ‘New Adventures of Hitler,’ and hadn’t read Zenith at the time we did the movie, so there was stuff that was hard to find. But with Neil, most of his work is in print and accessible, so it’s easier.

STEVE: When you shoot a film what is your target audience? Are you looking for a fan of the subject, of comics? Or are you hoping to cast a wider net? Or in your heart of heart you don’t care and you’re making the film for yourself because you wanted to do a film on Neil or Grant or Warren?

PATRICK: I always want to strike a balance of creating a film that will be accessible to someone who has no idea who these people are, but still feels totally fresh to people already familiar with the subject. So, if I’m talking about one of their works, I’ll try to reference it primarily through the lens of how it reflects the person or the ideas it presents, rather than the story.

So, with the Neil doc, we decided to talk about the origins and inspirations of the works, more than the content of the works themselves, since I think that’s more relatable to a wide audience than going into nitty-gritty plot details. I love to listen to Grant or Neil talk specifically about their works, but that can make the film’s appeal a bit too narrow, since it’s not that thrilling to hear someone talk about a comic book you’ve never heard of. But, you don’t want to shortchange the works either and not give anything substantive about them. That’s the challenge.

But my hope is always to reach people who can think about the ideas we’re talking about and enjoy those, even if they’ve never heard of the people before. And with Neil in particular, we were trying to create something that people who like to write or create could watch and enjoy, even if they’re not Gaiman fans.
Neil reads

STEVE: Do you think that you had an easier time going for the general audience with Neil because he has been a best selling novelist as opposed to being primarily a comics writer?

PATRICK: To some degree, particularly with Coraline having become a movie and an American Gods TV show coming down the line, people will be more familiar with that stuff. But, in some ways it’s actually harder. The cool thing about comics is you can show stuff on screen. So, even if you don’t know what Sandman is, you can see freaky pale godlike guy and get the idea. But depicting Neverwhere or The Graveyard Book is a little trickier.

But, I do think Neil’s higher profile does make it a bit easier to target a general audience, as well as the fact that, at least when we were filming him, he was mostly out in the world doing stuff. So, we can observe him more in action rather than just through his words and anecdotes.

STEVE: How did the Neil Gaiman film come about?

PATRICK: We actually first got in touch with Neil around the time we were wrapping up the Grant doc. We were already deep into Ellis at that point, and were talking about other potential subjects to tackle, and Neil was certainly one of the most iconic and fascinating writers of all time in comics, as well as one of my personal favorites. So, we got in touch and he said he was interested, but scheduling wasn’t quite right then. It took a little bit, but finally came together in earnest when his last tour was coming up. I pitched the idea of following him on that tour, he liked it and that was where the movie really kicked off. You’ll notice that some of the interviews in this movie, like Wil Wheaton and Lenny Henry, were the same sessions as what was in the Ellis documentary.

STEVE: Did you shoot the Neil questions knowing the material was going to be used, or as something to have in case the project came together?

PATRICK: We were already planning the movie at that point, but it was very early stages, so only some of what we filmed ultimately fit in the final film. But there’s some good additional stuff that will probably turn up on the DVD.

STEVE: I know the film was been a long time in the works. I heard it was promised for last year, but I know you were still shooting last year. What prompted the delay? I believe you had said at New York Comic Con that the focus was going to be on the relationship between Neil and his fans, and while that's in the film, the film is now firmly on Neil and his race to get back to creating. Was there a change in focus? How did you pick the focus?

PATRICK: It did take a long time, for a few reasons. We had some ups and downs working with a potential distributor, that delayed things a while, but ultimately definitely worked out for the best.

It took a while to figure out the best focus for the film. As I mentioned, the original idea was to do a year in the life, but after we went on the tour, it felt like that was such an in depth and cool thing, we should try to focus more around that, since the rest of the year is going to pale in comparison. But, there was a lot of back and forth with the producing team about how much should the movie be strictly tour centric or more biographical or some hybrid of the two.

We had a pretty solid cut of the movie, and went to interview him one more time. And that’s where we talked more in depth about the writing process and his life as a writer, and once we had that material it became clear that was the other spine of the movie. The story was about the conflict between Neil was a writer and Neil enjoying the opportunities created by his writing. It’s about Neil as public figure versus Neil as private creator. And that conflict sort of knit together everything we had and was a great spine for the movie, that I think is pretty relatable whether you’re as successful as him or not: the conflict between observing life and processing it into stories, or just living it.

STEVE: When you sat down with Neil did you do an extensive interview on all his life and work or did you pick and choose?

PATRICK: We sat down with Neil several times for interviews, we started with a more extensive look at everything, but as time went on, it became clearer what the film was about, and we decided to focus on the elements that were thematically or narratively relevant. We already had so much material from shooting about 15 events on the tour that we had a great base of stories to work from and could hone in on whatever was missing.

STEVE: How long did you actually shoot with Neil? Was it the entire tour? You seem to be with him the entire time in England. Forgive me, but wasn't the stuff you shot at the Brooklyn Synagogue after the tour? And why did you go back?

PATRICK: We filmed with Neil at a couple of US stops, through all of Comic-Con and through all of the UK stops. So, it was about three weeks worth of events total. Ultimately, the UK became the core of the movie, since that’s where we spent the most time with him. That said, the American fans are generally much more enthusiastic than the UK crowd.

And we had just shot with Neil a few days before that Brooklyn event. He invited us to come down and shoot it, so we picked up some additional footage there.

STEVE: Was anything off limits?

PATRICK: Not particularly. There’s a lot of stuff we talked with him about that didn’t wind up in the film because it didn’t fit, some of which we’ll release on a DVD or other bonus format.

STEVE: As to the DVD/Blu-Ray super-special edition — what extras can we look forward to?

PATRICK: We’re figuring out the details now, but there’s a whole lot of deleted material to choose from. I’m thinking about potentially putting an entire alternate earlier cut on the DVD, which includes a lengthy section set at San Diego Comic-Con, which includes some really funny moments with Neil, Jonathan Ross and John Barrowman. There’s also lots more interview stuff with Neil, where he gives insight into the writing process, and a look at how he’s working on the new Good Omens TV series.

STEVE: Good Omens TV? I hadn't heard that was so active.

PATRICK: It was just announced that it’s back on, as a six-part TV series that Neil will be writing. I believe it’s being produced by the BBC, but there’s an outlet here in the US who will be picking it up.

STEVE: While we're talking current Neil projects: any thoughts, or did you catch anything on the Black Mirror-esque project, American Gods TV show or How to Talk to Girls at Parties film?

PATRICK: I heard a few things, but am not sure what can be said or not, so I won’t comment on that front. American Gods is shooting now though, with an eye towards a 2017 premiere.

STEVE: You just mentioned a different version of the film to me. How different was the earlier cut of the film?

PATRICK: We had a quite different cut of the film a while back. Originally, we started the movie with some US tour stuff, then went to comic con, and got to the UK about 25 minutes in. With this chronology, we started with Neil’s success with Sandman and other comics related projects, then jumped back to delve into his childhood. The cool thing about this was we got to show a lot of great material that we shot at comic con, the problem was it made it difficult to keep the narrative feeling like a progression. So, I wound up shuffling stuff around and losing a whole bunch of material and basically structuring the whole movie around the UK tour.

In the gaps of stuff that we had cut, we shot another interview with Neil, where we delved in depth into his writing process and views on creativity, and that became the dual threads of the movie: the tour and Neil’s growth as a writer. I had always struggled with finding the right balance of tour/not tour stuff, and how to make it feel like more than just a guy signing books, and I think that honing in on this conflict between Neil’s desire to write and his enjoyment of being a successful writer gave us the internal conflict that we needed to make the movie a bit more substantive.

Some sections were basically the same. The signing in the church and pieces surrounding that, as well as most of the signing parts near the end stayed basically the same, but nearly everything else shuffled around and evolved quite a bit.

STEVE: I have to ask: is there any footage of Neil's punk band playing? Or are there any audio recordings?

PATRICK: There doesn’t seem to be. We worked pretty closely with Neil’s childhood friend Geoff Notkin, who got us a lot of photos and rare stuff, but he said that there were no surviving recordings of the band. Maybe something will turn up one day, but it seems to be lost to the ages.

STEVE: Do you have any footage of Neil actually transporting the audience from England to Moscow and back again, or have you been sworn to secrecy as to how it was done?

PATRICK: Officially, this never happened, so no cameras allowed. It’s like court proceedings, only an artist’s rendering could be used to commemorate the moment.

STEVE: You use comic panels to link up or illustrate some events in Neil's life. Was that simply because film or video doesn't exist, or simply because of Neil's connection to the comics?

PATRICK: It’s a mix of both. There’s some events he’s talking about that wouldn’t have a direct photographic correlation, so we wanted to evoke the feeling of his story, and used a more subjective illustration to do that. And in other cases, it’s just about giving a visual for something that isn’t there. I don’t want to hammer the audience over the head by illustrating everything, but I think that one of the cool things about doing a documentary as opposed to just watching a video of a Neil lecture is that we can bring some of his stories to life in a dynamic way. So, particularly for some of his funnier or more evocative anecdotes, I wanted to find a way to put those visuals on the screen.

STEVE: How did you choose who to talk to in relation to the film? I ask this because there are several collaborators the artists he worked with who aren't mentioned in the film. And while we see Amanda, Neil’s current wife, we only get a sense of his children through old photographs. Was there any plan to try and get them on camera or they just didn’t figure into what you were shooting?

PATRICK: With this movie, particularly compared to the Warren and Grant, there was so much more material shot out in the field and on the fly, that going back to interviews all the time felt a bit less essential. So, rather than try to shoot every single person who had any interaction with the person ever, as we had on previous films to some degree, we focused on a few select people, and only used small portions of their interviews. In some cases, scheduling didn’t work out, and we would have loved to get others in, but it was less interview-centric as a whole.

We shot some material with Neil and his daughter at one of the tour stops, but it ultimately didn’t feel that relevant to the story we were telling. No offense to his children as people, but in the context of the film, they’re mostly relevant to how they inspired his writing. So, we hear a lot about Holly in the context of Coraline, or how having kids early in life pushed him down the path of becoming a writer. It would have been cool to hear more from them about what it’s like having Neil Gaiman as a dad, but I don’t think that was ultimately the story we were telling.

STEVE: We see Neil's mom in the film, but I was curious if you made any effort to interview her? How about Neil's sisters?

PATRICK: We were going to interview her that night in Portsmouth, but she wound up being too tired and leaving the event early, so we didn’t get the chance. I would have loved to talk to her, or Neil’s sisters, and get some insight from them, but I think we got really good insight into Neil’s childhood from Geoff Notkin and from Neil himself. Neil’s memory is pretty remarkable, and as you can tell from the movie or reading Ocean at the End of the Lane, he remembers pretty much everything about how it felt to be a kid.

STEVE: When you're doing interviews with someone as well as Neil, there are conflicting stories about him. How do you sort out what the truth is?

PATRICK: To some degree, I view each of these movies as presenting the viewpoints of different people and letting the viewer make the decision. In editing the Grant movie originally, I had some parts about what his critics or ‘haters’ disliked about the works, and ultimately I realized, let the viewer make those calls. If you think it’s improbable that he had a vision of all time and space after watching the movie and he’s lying about it or was just on drugs, you can decide that, I don’t need to tell you what to think.

So, we had Neil watch the movie and let us know if anything seemed false to him, but ultimately I think it’s up to the viewer to decide what they think of the people and their ideas.

We had one funny experience where we screened the Warren Ellis doc at a festival and a lady raised her hand during the Q&A and said she was worried about Warren and thought he should really stop drinking and smoking. So, she might be thinking that while other people are taking whiskey shots alongside Warren.

STEVE: With someone who's been in the public eye for the last 35 years, and you're doing a film such as this — are you ever afraid that doing a film will unfairly or unjustly fix, say, Neil’s history as one thing?

PATRICK: To some degree, that is the responsibility of the project. We’re creating the most sustained visual legacy of these people as individuals. Their work is one thing, but the movies immortalize the person themselves. And that’s why I always try to let the person’s own words and feelings be the guide and try to force my own stamp on it where it doesn’t belong. I don’t want to editorialize, I want to present their point of view and attitude and life story in their own words.

But, I think there’s enough books about Neil, and his tweets and blogs, as well as his actual work, that people will have plenty of history to choose from.

STEVE: I've had interactions with Grant and Neil, and to my mind, you've gotten things right... but I have to ask, would your films have been different had they not relied on being essentially the artist telling his own story? Would you have even attempted the films without the authors' considerable participation? Since your films are very much about the authors in their own words, have you ever worried that you would be accused of not being as objective as you should be?

PATRICK: Editing together a bunch of documentaries has taught me that objectivity is very, very hard to convey. Even in just presenting someone’s words, you’re choosing what words to present, and what other people say to build that narrative. I have thought about whether or not to include more counterpoints, or, in the case of Grant, have people say, it’s improbable that you would experience perception outside of time, or something like that. But, ultimately, what interests me is not trying to make a comprehensive, objective look at the life and work of any of these subjects, but instead to get their worldview across and find a way to encapsulate it in a film.

So, I wouldn’t want to do a movie that’s just about Grant, without having his participation. It’s great to get additional insight from people talking about him, but that’s supplemental to the main experience, of the person talking about his own experiences. I do obviously play a big part in shaping which sides of the person are presented in the film, but I want to try to let their interests ands passions guide that as much as possible, and convey what really drives them in the film.

STEVE: Was there anything you wanted to cover in the interviews but didn’t? Was there anything that you really wanted to have in the film but couldn't find a way to include it?

PATRICK: I love his run on Miracleman, and think it’s a pretty crazy story of how there was a 25 year struggle to get the rights and return to writing the series. There’s a lot of drama and ups and downs there, but it ultimately didn’t quite fit into this story.

STEVE: Did you consider doing a film on Miracleman?

PATRICK: I would love to! I think it’s a great story with a lot of ups and downs. If there was something like ESPN’s 30 for 30 for comics, I think it would be a great piece. But right now, it’s probably a bit too niche, and inside to do. One day maybe...
Neil shows Patrick how to ice down his hand after a long day answering silly questions

NEIL GAIMAN: DREAM DANGEROUSLY is due for release this July.