THIS IS NOT A MOVIE
A graduate of the Meisner acting technique from the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in NYC and Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Yung Chang brings emotional depth and cinematic realism into his work.
Yung Chang is the director of Up the Yangtze (2007), China Heavyweight (2012) and The Fruit Hunters (2012). Up the Yangtze was one of the top-grossing documentary releases in 2008 and in 2013, China Heavyweight became the most widely screened social-issue documentary in Chinese history. He is currently completing a screenplay for his first dramatic feature, Eggplant. Chang was the Spotlight Artist for the 2019 Reel Asian International Film Festival where a live script reading of Eggplant was performed to a sold-out audience by talented actors from Kim’s Convenience, The Handmaid’s Tale and Locke & Key.
His latest feature documentary, This is Not a Movie is about Robert Fisk, the iconoclastic Middle East correspondent. The film is co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Watch a deleted scene from the film.
Chang’s films have been critically-acclaimed, receiving awards in Paris, Milan, Vancouver, San Francisco, the Canadian Screen Award, Taiwan Golden Horse (twice), Cinema Eye Honors, among others and have been nominated at Sundance, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Emmys.
Learn more about Chang by visiting his website and Twitter account below.
Up the Yangtze (2007) trailer
China Heavyweight (2012) trailer
This is Not a Movie (2020) Trailer
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Marielle Heller is an extremely talented American writer, filmmaker and actor. She is best known for writing and directing the comedy-drama film The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), based on the 2002 graphic novel titled The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, which she received as a Christmas present from her sister in 2006. The film received critical acclaim at Sundance, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The film also won the Grand Prix of the Generation at the Berlin International Film Festival and was named best first feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. Heller next directed the biographical drama film Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) about literary forger and writer Lee Israel, based on the author’s memoir.
Drawn to stories about people, it was announced in 2018 that Heller would direct A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a film that chronicles an interview Tom Junod conducted with child entertainer Fred Rogers for Esquire magazine, and how the encounter impacted the journalist’s life. Tom Hanks agreed to join the project once Heller signed on as director, having previously met through Hank’s son, Colin.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
In 2018 the filmmaker Morgan Neville took the story of Fred Rogers and the impact he had on television broadcasting, on childhood, and on American culture and made it the subject of his award-winning documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Along with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001) stands as one of the boldest experiments in American educational television ever created — and also among the most beloved. More than anything, though, Neville’s film was a profile in compassion and integrity for an era (our own) that so desperately needs it.
Now the story of Fred Rogers has been transformed into a biopic, and the man who dons the iconic cardigan-and-Sperry-topsiders is none other than Tom Hanks. In other words, a famously decent man who won so many accolades over the course of his career, including a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, is being played by another famously decent man who just won the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment” at the 2020 Golden Globes.
Even better, in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the story of Fred Rogers takes on allegorical proportions. The film’s tagline says it all: “We could all use a little kindness.”
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The Twentieth Century
Screening at The Film House: The Twentieth Century (2019) from Matthew Rankin, the Montreal-based, but Winnipeg-proud director and established auteur of the so-called Winnipeg Miserabilism school of cinema.
His latest gonzo pastiche of history, The Twentieth Century, is a feature-length bi-faux-pic of MacKenzie King, Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, whose aesthetic is part Guy Maddin-esque outlandishness (see Tales From Gimli Hospital , Careful , My Winnipeg , among others), and part Bill Morrison-esque decrepitude (Decasia , Dawson City: Frozen Time ).
The Twentieth Century follows on the heels of two recent absurdist historical portraits: 2014’s Mynarski Death Plummet, which imagined the last moments in the life of Andrew Mynarski, the World War II war hero (and fellow Winnipeger), and 2017’s The Tesla World Light, which dared to take on the genius of one Nikola Tesla.
The Twentieth Century plays The Film House three times over the next couple of weeks: February 28, 29, and March 6. Canadian history nerds, report! Canadian experimental narrative fans, rejoice!
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Céline Sciamma has been one of the brightest lights of French cinema over the last 15 years, ever since Water Lilies (2007), her directorial debut, made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007. Sciamma followed this success with two more highly acclaimed and award-winning films – Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014) – that together comprise a “trilogy of youth.” These three films established Sciamma as a modern master of the “banlieue drama” – contemporary narratives set in Paris’s sprawling and troubled suburbs. And all three have been praised for their subtlety and insight, as well as the depth and humanity that they’ve brought to issues of gender, youth, identity, sexuality, class, and, especially in the case of Girlhood, race.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
With Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Sciamma has taken on what appears at first glance to be a very different project: a costume drama set in pre-revolutionary 18th-century. Here again, however, Sciamma addresses issues of gender, identity, sexuality, and class, but she’s done so in a breathtakingly beautiful film, and one that stands as one of the most powerful studies of art and the creative process in recent times.
The story is of a young artist named Marianne (Noémie Merlant) who is brought to a remote part of Brittany to paint the portrait of young woman, Héloise (Adèle Haenel), so it can be sent to an Italian nobleman and thus secure her arranged marriage to him. The problem is that Héloise objects to having her portrait painted, so Marianne must do so surreptitiously, under the guise of being an innocent and understanding companion. What ensues is a rather remarkable love story, one that A.O. Scott of The New York Times has described as being, “like a lost work of 18th-century literature: at once ardent and rigorous, passionate and philosophical.”
Scott is far from the only one who has been impressed by Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Critics around the world have been effusive in their praise, and there’s not question the film has earned Sciamma her widest and greatest acclaim yet, including the Best Screenplay and Queer Palm awards at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and the prizes for Best Actress (Merlant) and Best Cinematography at the 2019 Lumières Awards, France’s equivalent to the Golden Globes.
Greta Gerwig first began making waves as an actor, writer, and director in the early 2000s, when she became a key figure in American independent cinema’s so-called “mumblecore” scene. Within a few years she’d started to appear in bigger budget, more widely distributed “Indiewood” productions including Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women (2016), where she was part of a terrific ensemble that included Annette Bening and Elle Fanning. Even when she wasn’t cast in a leading role, Gerwig was the kind of actor who could steal the show, and critics singled her out as, “one of the most original actors of her time.”
Since the early 2010s, Greta has collaborated with her partner Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story (2019), on several films, including Greenberg (2010), Frances Ha (2012) – for which she received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance in the title role – and Mistress America (2015).
And then came Lady Bird (2017). Suddenly Gerwig was being lauded as one of the most talented writers and directors of her time, and one who’d managed to transform her adolescence in Sacramento, CA into a breathtakingly original film.
How does one follow up Lady Bird? With Little Women, apparently. Gerwig’s choice seems to have puzzled those who consider Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century classic of adolescent fiction to be nothing more than that – a classic of adolescent fiction (not to mention one that’s already been adapted for the screen several times before). Gerwig, however, had something entirely more audacious in mind. What’s she created is not a straight adaptation of Little Women, but an irreverent one, a mash-up that combines both volumes of Little Women (“Little Women” and “Good Wives”) with later works of Alcott’s (such as Rose in Bloom), elements of Alcott’s biography (including snatches from her journals), and a healthy dose of Gerwig’s own autobiography. The result is both a work of daring ingenuity and a study of ingenuity itself, as well as those forces, gendered and otherwise, that would restrain and impede it.
Greta Gerwig wrote and directed Lady Bird (2017), a coming-of-age story of a high school senior (played by Saoirse Ronan) and her strained relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). The film marked Greta’s solo directorial debut and, among other things, showcased her ability to gain the trust and harness the energies of a phenomenally gifted group of young actors, including Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Beanie Feldstein.
Critics praised Gerwig’s screenplay and direction, and the performances of Ronan and Metcalf. Lady Bird was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year. Lady Bird won two awards – Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actress (Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) – at the 75th Golden Globe Awards and earned five nominations at the 90th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
Gerwig’s nomination for Best Director made her the first woman in eight years (and one of only five women in Oscar history) to have been nominated in this category.
Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig talk Lady Bird | Film4
The gifted Kiwi writer/actor/comedian/filmmaker first attracted international attention in the early 2000s, when his short film, Two Cars, One Night (2004) was nominated for an Academy Award. This sassy, touching and atmospheric film established Waititi as a filmmaker to keep an eye on, and it showcased his knack for working with child actors and for addressing societal barriers (gender, class, sexuality, and so on) and how we might overcome them.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Waititi fully capitalized upon his early success with Boy, a clever, feature-length coming-of-age film set in rural New Zealand in 1984. Boy was notable for its humour, for its handling of a complicated father-son relationship, and for its ’80s pop culture savvy, and it went on to become a box office sensation – the highest grossing Kiwi film of all time.
Waititi’s next smash hit came in 2016, with the release of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This hilarious action-adventure romp, starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison – yet another in a line of hyper-talented child actors who’ve starred in Waititi’s films – broke New Zealand box office records all over again, and it still stands as the highest grossing domestic film of all time there.
Comedy and acting work
Waititi was part of a five-member ensemble So You’re a Man which toured New Zealand and Australia. He was also half of the comedy duo The Humourbeasts alongside Jemaine Clement, which received New Zealand’s highest comedy accolade, the Billy T Award, in 1999.
He has acted on screen since early in his career, including roles in his own films: Boy and What We Do in the Shadows, which he co-directed and co-wrote with Jemaine Clement. The two also worked together on the TV show Flight of the Conchords.
Waititi won an Oscar on Feb. 9 for Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first Indigenous person to win in this category. The question is, what did he adapt? His source is Christine Leunens’ Caging Skies. Leunens was born in the U.S., but is a citizen of Belgium and New Zealand. Caging Skies has little to do with satire and black comedy. It has been described as a “dark, disturbing novel,” and Waititi took great liberties in bringing his version to the screen.
TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT (2004)
Honey Boy is the fictional feature film debut from Alma Har’el, a director who previously was best known as a documentarian, as well as for her music videos.
You can get a sense of Har’el’s aesthetic sensibility (and her colour palette) from her webpage
Her most famous film to date is Bombay Beach, a mesmerizing study of life in a community of outcasts living in a post-apocalyptic setting along the shore of the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley.
If you’re not familiar with the Salton Sea region and conditions in California’s interior (including Bombay Beach), Dana Goodyear’s article “The Dying Sea” from 2015 is a real eye-opener.
Music video collaboration
Alma Har’el and Shia LaBeouf first collaborated on a music video for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós in 2012 (NSFW).
In the case of Har’el, the result is “Fjögur Píanó,” a wildly ambitious emotional journey in which a couple — Shia LaBeouf and Denna Thomsen — passes through all the stages of a relationship amidst imagery ranging from psychedelic drug trips to a room decorated with butterflies. And, of course, there’s dance, as there was in Bombay Beach, with the couples’ shifting relationship beautifully charted by the shifting of their bodies. Har’el was selected this past year as one of our 25 New Faces, and, more than a music video, “Fjögur Píanó” is an exciting work from one of our most spirited and innovative young directors.
– From Filmmaker Magazine by Scott Macaulay