GFI @ the Sierra Leone International Film Festival

How a chance encounter turned into an uncommon opportunity to support Sierra Leone’s first-ever international film festival

We’ve always invested in Africa. Grants. Film exhibitions. Time. It’s been one of the many beating hearts, since our founding, that has kept the Global Lens film series, and the Initiative, alive.

A few months ago, outside a very crowded bar in San Francisco, Kieran Ridge, advisory board member of the Palo Alto Film Festival—one of our newest partners—had the insight to introduce us to someone with a very similar commitment to Africa: Banker White, of WeOwnTV. You may recognize the name, as a few years ago, Banker directed a documentary about a music innovation in Freetown called the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars.

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Meet & Frite

GFI Founder and Board Chair Susan Weeks Coulter recounts the sights, sounds (and tastes) of the 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam

Susan with the famous GFI bag–and frites!–in hand at IFFR 2012

The 9-hours-ahead time change left me with the very worst jet-lag—I found myself laying wide awake in my hotel room at 3am, humming “We Shall Overcome” in hopes that perhaps by the third verse, I might doze off.

But the quiet time did allow for a period of reflection about Holland, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Hubert Bals Fund, and of course, the Dutch people. For those of you new to The Global Film Initiative, it was actually the Hubert Bals people who jump-started our organization back in 2003.

Noah Cowan and I had been wrestling with not only the idea of what we wanted to do in showcasing film from emerging countries/film industries, but we were perplexed at how to structure such an organization. Noah met up with Simon Field who was, at the time, heading up the Hubert Bals efforts, and explained what we wanted to do in the U.S. With Simon’s encouragement, open-mindedness, and welcome, the Global Film Initiative had found an organization “structure” that we felt

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SUPPORT: Art as Diplomacy

How film can be just as good as a handshake when it comes to crossing borders and building relationships

WATCH: Global Lens 2012 director Oday Rasheed speaks with Deb Amos of NPR about QARANTINA and living and working in Baghdad

Ever since our founding, the phrase ‘promoting cross-cultural understanding through cinema’ has echoed with every presentation of Global Lens we sponsor, every grant we award, and every educational screening we host. Our belief is that film, especially world cinema, has the ability to transcend politics and lines of conflict, exposing us to new cultures and new ways of thinking, allowing for better communication as a global society.

It’s a spectacular concept, and hardly the first of its kind—over the centuries, art and literature have always had the same power. However, when it comes to film, for as simple as it sounds, until audiences see this process in action, the phrase rings a bit theoretical, and idealistic. In fact, in a world where the majority of people consider film a form of entertainment, saying it is anything other than that is a hard sell—unless of course we “sell” it within a context other than entertainment.

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Global Lens 2012 @ MoMA and Beyond!

This year’s launch in New York set our universe in motion thanks to a host of filmmakers, friends and more than a little help from MoMA and a one-man army…

Angelica in the Stars

Angelica Dongallo, Acquisitions & Granting Dynamo, kicks-off Global Lens 2012 amongst the stars

 

What can we say–it was spectacular. And for as much as we’d really like to tell you about the launch of Global Lens 2012 in New York, pictures do the job so much better. The stars were out and in alignment, and the year began with a big bang, cosmic kismet and maybe even a few good parties–see for yourself!

Next stop: everywhere. Global Lens 2012 will be playing all across the U.S. and Canada, from Palm Springs to Boston, Latin Wave in Houston and Vue d’Afrique in Montreal–check our calendar!

A special thanks to Jytte Jensen, Curator, and Clay Farland, at the MoMA Department of Film; Consul General M. Levent Bilgen, Consul Ismet Erikan and the Turkish Consulate General of New York; Robert Avila; Gary Ponzo; Gianfranco Sorrentino and our friends at Gattopardo; Carlos Gutierrez; Tom Vick at the Smithsonian Institution; Engin “One-Man Army” Yeniduniya; and Global Lens 2012 directors Bujar Alimani, Tolga Karacelik, Carlos Osuna, Gustavo Pizzi, and Oday Rasheed–none of this would’ve been possible without you.

 

 

 

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NEWS: Ugandan Donald Mugisha Receives Largest Grant from World Cinema Fund to Finance Feature Inspired by “Bicycle Thieves” (indieWire)

Boda Boda ThievesGFI grantee BODA BODA THIEVES receives 60,000 € ($81,000) in funding from the World Cinema Fund

(via indieWire) Congrats to Ugandan Donald Mugisha whose feature film project, The Boda Boda Thieves, was one of just 5 projects selected by the World Cinema Fund to receive production funding from its allotted $283,000 grant.

Donald’s project, which he will direct, received the largest chunk of the fund – $81,000, as Norway based Switch Films has signed on to produce.

The film’s synopsis reads:

When Goodman gets a job for his son Abel as driver of a motorbike taxi or “Boda-Boda”, he feels like things are possibly finally going his way, that is, until a gang of thieves robs Abel of his treasured motorbike. We follow Goodman and his son Abel on their quest through the city to find their “Boda Boda” and in the process gain an insider’s view of urban Africa, its underworld and the generation gap between urban migrants and their first generation children. [more…]

SUPPORT: Beyond Sun-Tzu

Santhosh Daniel, GFI Director of Programs, on the business of doing “good business”

A scene from MOURNING, by Iranian director Morteza Farshbaf (Global Lens 2012)

A few days ago, at the blink of midnight, we closed a distribution deal for the Iranian film MOURNING, by Morteza Farshbaf. And, like all late-night business, it was a harried affair, replete with heavy texting and the adrenalin rush of knowing we had acquired a film that, only a few hours earlier, took top awards at the 2011 Busan International Film Festival—Asia’s largest festival and film market.

For us, it was the culmination of a long four days in Busan and also, a modest pinnacle of achievement. Normally, we don’t make a play for films that are fresh out of a festival, covered in the glitter of awards—not because we don’t see the value of the work, but simply because the strength of our endeavor has never been about being the proverbial “player,” making a deal and beating our competitors for the “hot” film on the market.

But this film struck a very different and distinct chord, and so we decided to make an offer. And in the afterglow of signing it for our 2012 lineup (Global Lens 2012), it afforded us the opportunity to consider how such a deal, for such a film, was possible…

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GRANTING: Summer 2011 Grantees Announced!

Grantees include eight-director Mexican ensemble production, THE ROOM, and acclaimed Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir’s sophomore feature, WHEN I SAW YOU

On location for Annemarie Jacir's WHEN I SAW YOU

They submitted and we reviewed. Of course, what went into each process cannot be summed up in just a few words.

Nearly 100 films in various stages of production sent in applications, detailing their hard work, passion and vision. From every corner of the world—including first-time submissions from East Timor, Guatemala and Sri Lanka—filmmakers and producers mailed carefully-composed packages that contained the fruits of their labor (thankfully, they didn’t send the blood, sweat and tears shed in the process).

We went through each application (representing 44 nations in all) reading scripts, watching rough cuts, and writing detailed coverage of each film. It wasn’t an easy or obvious decision, but we did end up choosing ten exciting projects to award production funds, and are thrilled by the creativity and brilliance in each one.

Read the official press release now!

FESTIVALS & AWARDS: Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Durban and more!

Great news, accolades and accomplishments abound for Global Lens films and GFI grant recipients! Congratulations to the following films and filmmakers:

THE LIGHT THIEF received a World Cinema Fund for distribution at the Berlin International Film Festival! Directed by Aktan Arym Kubat and currently touring in the Global Lens 2011 film series, THE LIGHT THIEF tells the story of an enterprising electrician in Kyrgyzstan and the effect of outside influences on his village—read the film’s review in Screen Daily here.

BELVEDERE screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the East of West section, which focuses on films of the former Eastern Bloc. Directed by Ahmed Imamovic and part of the Global Lens 2011 film series, the film follows a woman searching for her family in the aftermath of the Sbrenica massacre. For more information about the recent burial of the Sbrenica victims, click here.

On the heels of recent success in Cannes, GFI grant recipient SKOONHEID will be screening at the Durban International Film Festival, marking the film’s premiere in it’s native country! To read an interview

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Fruits of Labor: Oliver Hermanus and Leila Kilani Take Center-stage @ Cannes 2011

… And GFI’s native son, Alejandro Chomski, director of ASLEEP IN THE SUN, visits San Francisco

Oliver Hermanus

Two years ago, Jeremy Nathan at Dv8 directed our attention to a new talent from South Africa: Oliver Hermanus. According to Jeremy, Oliver was a young filmmaker with an unusual lens, and his work was certainly “going to be a surprise.” Of course, in the world of cinema, hyperbole is common…

But he was right. In summer 2009, Oliver’s first film about a mixed race family in Cape Town—SHIRLEY ADAMS—so profoundly caught our attention that we acquired its North American rights and, a few months later, released it as part of Global Lens 2010 with a U.S. premiere at MoMA.

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