by Jordan Canahai - posted 6:06 am, November 24, 2015
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Joshua Oppenheimer is one of the most important filmmakers in the world right now. The director’s Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing addressed the Indonesian Genocide of the 1960s from the point of view of the perpetrators, giving audiences one of the most acclaimed documentary films of the 21st century while starting a long-overdue dialogue in Indonesia about those awful events and their impact on the country’s present. With his follow-up film, The Look of Silence, Oppenheimer once again explores the Indonesian Genocide, this time from the point of view of a family of survivors, detailing their lives in the wake of those atrocities and his central subject’s confrontations with those who were responsible. I was fortunate enough to speak briefly with Oppenheimer about The Look of Silence. Although our conversation was shorter than planned, he proved extremely articulate, intelligent, and friendly, speaking at length about the experience of making The Look of Silence, its impact on Indonesia, and his thoughts on the country’s future. A special one-night-only screening of The Look of Silence is being presented by the Cultivate Cinema Circle at North Park Theater, tonight at 9:30 pm.
When you began production on The Look of Silence it was after you finished filming The Act of Killing, but before that film’s release, and you’d been friends with Adi and his family for years before then. How did filming affect your relationship?
Oppenheimer: We all became much closer. I’m in touch with Adi and his family every day. We showed them the film in 2014 before its release and asked them should we not release it until the perpetrators have passed away or if there is more political change in the country in order to protect their safety. Adi and his families response was that the film needed to be released. Together we planned a way of releasing the film that would protect their safety, proposing that they move to Denmark where I’m based and where they can live as long as necessary until it’s safe for them to return to Indonesia or they can settle permanently. Thankfully, there had been so much change as a result of The Act of Killing since its Indonesian release it had prompted the mainstream media and public to finally talk openly about the genocide on a national scale. It had led to the Indonesian President releasing a statement acknowledging for the first time that what happened in the 1960s was a crime against humanity. Even though the government insisted this was not a result of the film, it was a wonderful moment all the same. Adi’s family said there had been so much change, we shouldn’t lose this momentum and the second film should be released.
In fact, the team in charge of releasing The Act of Killing said there had been so much change, that if we can assemble a robust enough team to monitor the family’s safety and move them to another part of the country, then Adi should be able to play a major role in the movement towards truth, justice, and reconciliation, which is ultimately what’s happening. Making a film with anybody is to take a very intimate journey and you become very close to your subjects, I’m still very close to Anwar Congo of The Act of Killing. I’m not close, however, with many of the people who had smaller roles in both films. Many of them hate the films because they challenge their power and the wealth they plundered during the genocide and in the years after.
The Look of Silence is an extremely personal, intimate, and revealing film in regards to Adi and his family. What was his reaction to the final film?
Oppenheimer: Adi spends about a third of his time traveling inside Indonesia with The Look of Silence. He was present at the films first screening in Indonesia. The Look of Silence came out of being directly because of the space created by The Act of Killing, but where The Act of Killing was initially screened in secret, The Look of Silence has been released by two government agencies, the Human Rights Commission and the Chakrata Arts Council, something unimaginable with The Act of Killing. Its first screening was held in Indonesia’s largest cinema a year ago, there were billboard advertisements around Chakrata and 3,000 people were present, twice the theaters capacity so an additional screening was added. Adi received a 15 minute standing ovation after each one. It had also happened to be National Heroes Day on this date, and trending worldwide on Twitter was “Today we have a new National Hero and his name is Adi Rukun.” Since then, The Look of Silence has screened over 4,000 times around Indonesia for an estimated 350,000 people. When not working as an optometrist, Adi travels to many of the more high profile screenings and presents the film, both in Indonesia and internationally. It has become a very important part of his life; he actually apologized to to me in a recent Q & A in Paris before an audience saying “I’m sorry to have used you, Joshua, to have you make these two films.”
You see, back in 2003 when I became interested in making a film about the genocide, the Indonesian Army threatened Adi and his family and the other survivors not to participate in the film, and it was Adi who encouraged me to make a film about the perpetrators and to not give up. With The Look of Silence, he once again came forward and said he wanted to confront the perpetrators on film. I told him it would be too dangerous, but because I was well known among the Indonesian government and the perpetrators for filming The Act of Killing, and because that film had yet to be released, it would provide sufficient cover to allow us to confront the perpetrators on film safely. The people Adi wanted to confront were powerful regionally, but not nationally, and they wouldn’t dare detain us, let alone physically attack us. It was that realization that led Adi to suggest that we ought to make The Look of Silence, so the film has been an important part of his life for many years.
His mother is nearly 100-years old and is doing really well for her age, and Adi told me something very moving recently. Her whole life, she would repeat morning, day, and night, the story of Ramli’s [Adi’s older brother] murder. Since the film’s come out, however, she’s followed its release very closely around the world, and she no longer repeats the story as frequently, instead talking about other things regarding Ramli and not just his murder. While Adi wasn’t sure he’d go so far as to say she’s healing, she is comforted.
Now that both The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence have been released and this chapter on the subject of Indonesian Genocide, at least in terms of your work, is coming to a close, could you see yourself returning to the issue anytime in the future?
I wouldn’t rule it out for years in the future, but I’m starting new projects now and none of them deal with Indonesian Genocide. I feel it’s time for me to move on to other things, partly because I feel I’ve done what I can and said what I have to say about this. People often ask me why don’t I make a third film, but neither of the films are really about the genocide as such and neither of them are historical documentaries about what happened in 1965. Where the first film opened the space to talk about the genocide, the crime against humanity that took place and the criminal regime that’s been in power ever since, and the second film has allowed Indonesian’s to acknowledge the prison of fear that everyone knows they’ve been living in therefore helping Indonesian’s articulate why truth, justice, and reconciliation is needed so urgently, then the third chapter in this story is their future struggle for it. That chapter will not be written by me, it will be written by the people of Indonesia.
by Jordan Canahai - posted 9:09 pm, August 12, 2015
Chelsea Dunkelberger doesn’t like creepers. Like too many women, she’s had to deal with pervy old neighbors, obnoxious bar bros, crazy ex-boyfriends, and a dead-beat baby-daddy she now refers to only as “sperm donor”. Now the 25 year old author from Lockport is happy to debut her first book inspired by her own life, As If, Creeper, which she wrote and self-published, and which she’ll be present for a book signing of at the Pulp 716 bookstore in Lockport this Saturday.
The light-hearted first-person manuscript charts her awkward years going through puberty, her difficulties surviving high school, and her disastrous dating experiences afterwards. It details her fair share of unwanted advances, horrible dates, and terrible encounters with creepers in a manner that’s funny and honest.
Chelsea and I both went to Starpoint High School and had always been friendly, but I hadn’t spoken with her for many years until a few months ago when she reached out to me asking for the opinion of a fellow writer on her book. I had fond memories of the time we spent together in Mr. Gielow’s study hall. He was awesome and we liked making fun of him for the awkward shirtless photos of him which appear in the insert of his band’s CD back when he was a recording musician in the 90s. We liked a lot of the same movies, mostly those of the horror and action genre (she still cites Tremors as a big favorite.) We liked anything that was weird and violent and employed lots of swear words because that’s how we were back then, too. “I lived with my father and older brother so being a girly girl was never an option” she writes in her book.
I was really happy to hear from her and excited to read As If, Creeper. It was a very enjoyable read and even though movies are my thing with Artvoice I knew immediately I wanted to interview her about the book and what inspired her to write. She took time out of her busy schedule to meet me for coffee. Always the writer, she was busy journaling as I walked into Starbucks to see her for the first time since those days in study hall.
“When I began writing the book I was working a part-time job and pretty bored with it, but I always loved writing in my spare time and telling stories. My friends always enjoyed hearing me tell stories about my bad dating experiences and some of the crazy situations I’ve been in, so they also encouraged me to share those stories,” explains Chelsea. “My hope is that girls who read this will be entertained, but also that they can feel encouraged knowing that their own bad experiences with creepers are not unique to them. Ideally they can even pick up on the warning signs I describe so that they can avoid getting into relationships with similar guys in the first place.”
“First and foremost, I just want to apologize on behalf of my entire gender for putting you through all the things you went through in the book”, I said right away. “That’s all right,” she said laughing. “You were never a creeper so you have nothing to apologize for.” All the same, As If, Creeper would be a valuable read for young man as well, as it’s a perfect text on how NOT to treat women under any circumstances.
Although the events detailed in As If, Creeper are mostly funny, many of Chelsea’s own life experiences that she doesn’t explore in great detail in the book are far less amusing. She became pregnant with her daughter when she was 19 and worked hard to raise and support her in the following years. Despite the struggles of being a single mother and the negative experiences and disappointments she’s faced due to men, Chelsea’s ability to find humor in even the worst of times proves very inspiring. She’s hard at work on her second book and hopeful As If, Creeper will receive more widespread exposure in time. She also hopes to someday write a script adapting it as a movie or TV series.
I always thought Chelsea was an awesome person, but after reading her book and sitting down and hearing her story first-hand, I now think she’s a role model and inspiration to young women as well. She is the featured artist of the week at the coffee shop and comic book store Pulp 716. It’s about a half hour drive from Buffalo and she will be present there Saturday, August 18th, at 2pm for a book signing. As If, Creeper is also available through Amazon.
Also she has a boyfriend, so if you’re a creeper and reading this don’t get any ideas.
“You have to go through some creepers to find a keeper”, I mused at one point during our conversation. For the record, Chelsea, you still have permission to use that line in your next book.
by Jordan Canahai - posted 3:14 pm, August 6, 2015
The following is a press release about the latest film production happening in our city. Since I’m always happy to highlight the exciting work of Buffalo artists and keep readers informed about events in our filmmaking community I thought it would be worth sharing. And since extras are needed it presents others with a great opportunity to contribute. I look forward to covering the production in greater detail in the future and being back in print for a special August issue of Artvoice next week, Hope you’re all enjoying the summer! – Jordan
With a continued focus on creating opportunities for Buffalo and Erie County’s cultural economy and emerging film industry, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown welcomed the film cast and crew of Two for One to Buffalo today. The production began filming in Buffalo on August 2nd and continues through August 17th.
“Buffalo’s vibrant film industry continues to grow, providing jobs and opportunity to city residents and business owners,” said Mayor Brown, noting that so far this year there have been nine feature films shot in the Buffalo area, with over 215 production days and an economic impact that exceeds $10 million. “The City of Buffalo is committed to being a ‘film-friendly’ city and we will continue to welcome productions like ‘Two for One’ to the City of Good Neighbors.”
The film, directed by and starring Jon Abrahams (Meet the Parents, Scary Movie), is the actor’s directorial debut. Abrahams co-concepted the story with Michael Testone; Testone scripted. While many of the scenes will be shot in Buffalo, others locations will be filmed in New York City and Los Angeles.
The cast also includes Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Designing Women), Erika Christensen (Traffic, Parenthood) and Nicole Elizabeth Berger in lead roles. Hometown favorite Stephen Henderson (Lincoln, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) has a role as a piano teacher.
Matt Quinn (the film’s director of photography) and Abrahams have been friends since they met in New York City as kids; Abrahams traveled to Buffalo for many visits, and was certain that the city would be the perfect setting for his film.
Locations include an Allentown residence, Buffalo State College Campus, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Marco’s Restaurant, Niagara Falls, Sportsmen’s Tavern, and The Lodge.
Two for One is being coordinated with the help of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission and plans to utilize an all-local crew while shooting in the area. Extras are needed. Email photo and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
About Two for One:
The film, a dramedy, has family relationships at its heart.
A young up-and-coming artist in New York City has his life and dreams forever altered when the tragic events of 9/11 take the lives of his two best friends and he accepts guardianship of the couple’s two young daughters. Now 11 years later, and teaching art at an elementary school, he raises the girls as if they were his own, but the financial grind to live in NYC is too much, so he decides to take the girls away from the only place they’ve ever called home and move back to Buffalo where he grew up. This “non- traditional” family now faced with change, new surroundings, and a new journey, must learn how to adjust to this new life, while trying to find themselves along the way.
by Jordan Canahai - posted 4:02 pm, July 29, 2015
Buffalo filmmaker Travis Carlson is proud to present his new video Buffalove, a moving tribute to the Queen City. In just a little over a minute, Carlson’s striking compositions capture a young woman’s journey through some of Buffalo’s most iconic vistas and locales, effectively conveying what makes our city of good neighbors special. Check it out if you’re in the mood to smile.
“Our goal is to be happy”, says Carlson, who currently works as a Videographer with Pegula Sports and Entertainment. “We’re happy when we are creating something of quality – preferably it’s somehow innovative, creative, and imaginative too.”
“At 24 years old, Travis has focused on story telling through different mediums in over 26 different countries. To his credit is a two hour feature film, a dozen shorts, numerous feature screenplays, a novel, and scores of photographs. These skills have recently proven themselves in the advertising industry as an Associate Creative Director.
Born in Minnesota and raised in a rural community in Western New York, Carlson graduated Summa Cum Laude from SUNY Buffalo State. He’s developed cherished roots for the region where he works and resides, yet living and studying around the world has him eager to continually branch out while creating compelling stories and building an enjoyable life.” – from Travis Carlson Pictures
by Jordan Canahai - posted 4:33 pm, July 1, 2015
In the last few years, Buffalo State College’s Television and Film Arts program has produced a growing number of talented young artists and filmmakers whose work has received increased recognition and attention from those involved in the WNY filmmaking community and beyond. Two such filmmakers, Jake Plumeri and Jack Petrillo, are proud to present their ambitious new web series, Stringer’s End.
The mystery-thriller series focuses on Rory Barnes, a college student and journalist who finds himself suffering from amnesia and memory loss, haunted only by visions of a mysterious girl he’s convinced has gone missing. As he sets out to uncover the girl’s identity, he finds himself journeying deeper into the rabbit hole of his dreams and memories, finding unlikely allies as well as unexpected dangers lurking behind the facade of his seemingly normal college town. Meanwhile, the sudden emergence of a new designer drug on campus raises even more questions than answers, leading Rory to wonder if he can really trust anyone, even himself, and just haw far he’s willing to go to discover the truth.
Series creator/writer Plumeri and director Petrillo began developing the miniseries over a year ago in June 2014 while they were classmates in the Television/FIlm arts program at Buffalo State college, with shooting commencing a few months later in September and proceeding over the following months. The series was funded through an Indiegogo campaign which raised a budget of over $2000. The production included over 50 individuals involvement, most of whom were students from SUNY Buffalo State and the University of Buffalo, a well as others in the Buffalo filmmaking community. The series also features an original composition from Louis Febre, an Emmy award-winning composer based in LA.
Every episode of Stringer’s End is available for viewing on the series Youtube page…
JAKE PLUMERI- Creator/Writer/Executive Producer
JACK PETRILLO- Director/Director of Photography/Editor/Executive Producer
CHRISTINA WARD- Line Producer/Executive Producer
VAN DINH- Assistant Director/Producer
JOE MIANO- Composer
EMIL GORANOV and HARLEY NELSON- Opening Titles
by Jordan Canahai - posted 4:09 pm, June 17, 2015
The Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) is set to take place this weekend. The event, which I wrote about in greater detail in our cover story, is a unique fusion of food, wine, and film, and it’s all happening just across the border throughout the Niagara region. The latest project from Toronto International Film Festival founder Bill Marshall is a great opportunity for those involved in Buffalo’s film community and local movie lovers alike to share in a world-class film festival experience without having to travel far or spend a great deal of money. Amongst the many films being shown, here’s some brief words on a few that are worth checking out.
THE COCKSURE LADS, directed by Murray Foster – Great Big Sea bassist.
A Britpop band from England called The Cocksure Lads, land in Toronto to kickoff their first-ever North American tour. Ten minutes after arriving, they get into a fight over royalties and break up. The Lads scatter across the city, spending the day drinking, fighting, meeting girls and falling in love. Through it all they learn what it means to be a band – but can they patch things up before their big show that night?
My thoughts: Nothing too deep, however it’s a funny and entertaining musical comedy boasting a likable cast and a light-hearted, irreverent tone. Likely to be a big hit with audiences.
June 18 | 9:30 PM | Landmark Cinemas
FOR GRACE, directed by Mark Helenowski & Kevin Pang (USA) – Niagara Premiere [Filmalicious]
Curtis Duffy, one of the country’s most renowned chefs, is building his dream restaurant at the worst time of his personal life. Already the recipient of two coveted stars from the Michelin Guide, Duffy has ambitions for his Chicago restaurant Grace to become the best in the country. But his laser focus on his cooking career cost Duffy his marriage and two young daughters. ‘For Grace’ follows the building of Grace from concrete box to its opening night. It’s a story about food, family, balance and sacrifice. It also revisits Duffy’s turbulent childhood — How a teacher recognized talent in a troubled teenager, how an unimaginable family tragedy made Duffy seek refuge in the kitchen, and how cooking ultimately exacted a price.
My thoughts: Those expecting a fun food doc about the pleasures of working as a chef should look elsewhere, as this one makes no attempts to shy away from the darker turns Duffy’s life story takes in his relentless and troubled pursuit for perfection. However, it’s through exploring the harsh truth that sometimes working to realize a dream must come at the cost of losing those closest to us that ultimately gives the documentary its emotional power and lasting impact.
June 19 |7 PM (With Dinner) | 9:30 PM (Screening only) |Peller Estates
June 20 | 3:30 PM | Landmark Cinemas
THE LOST AVIATOR, directed by Andrew Lancaster (Australia/UK/USA/France) – Canadian Premiere [Spotlight]
Set in the Golden Age of Aviation, Andrew Lancaster follows the life and times of his great uncle, Captain Bill Lancaster. Against his family’s wishes, he uncovers a fascinating tale of high adventures, obsession, a love triangle and a sensational murder trial.
My thoughts: Part biopic, historical drama, and murder mystery, this engaging, genre-blending documentary is sure to fascinate even those familiar with the life story of Captain Bill Lancaster. My only major complaint is that the present-day segments detailing the younger Lancaster’s perspective sometimes slow the film’s momentum and ultimately prove less interesting than his uncle’s story.
June 19 | 7 PM | Landmark Cinemas
June 20 | 12:30 PM | Landmark Cinemas
For more information about NIFF and a complete list of films playing check out the NIFF website: niagarafilmfest.com/2015-films/
by Jordan Canahai - posted 1:15 pm, April 9, 2015
Writer/Director Michael Hanley’s assured independent drama Learning to Ride tells the story of Abby (Camille Stopps) and Ryan (Aaron Chartand), two lovers who are reunited through a chance encounter almost a year after they decided to go their separate ways. As a series of disjointed memories of their first love reemerges, the film explores how the two reconnect as they wonder what went wrong between them and whether they’ll ever know that kind of happiness with anyone else again. Hanley’s direction proves very assured for a first time filmmaker. Aided by a strong team behind the camera, they bring a high level of production value to the independent feature. Learning to Ride also benefits from two standout performances from the leading actors, who prove remarkable at realizing Hanley’s well-observed and insightful screenplay, despite how familiar the material may seem on paper. The end result is an intimate, honest, and moving film about love and relationships.
Learning to Ride will be playing at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival this Sunday, April 12th, at 7pm at the Tonawanda Castle.