Five alumni have contributed to exceptional documentaries that were shown this January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Marc Shmuger ’80 is one of the producers of We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, which had its premiere at Sundance. Directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, the film is an in-depth study of all things related to WikiLeaks and the larger global debate over access to information. It tells a compelling story of what happens when a small group of people decide to break open the intelligence vaults of the world’s most powerful nation. The director uncovers a tangled web of incredible bravery, high ideals, questionable ethics, and stunning hypocrisy.
In his Hollywood Reporter review, David Rooney writes: “Unfolding like an espionage thriller but with a methodical journalistic skill at organizing a mountain of facts, the film raises stimulating questions about transparency and freedom of information in a world in which governments and corporations have plenty to hide. It should be a magnet for op-ed coverage when it goes out mid-year theatrically and on digital platforms from Focus World.”
Sebastian Junger ‘84 is the director and co-cinematographer of Which Way Is the Front Line from Here?: The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington which also had its premiere at Sundance. The late photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington always searched for the humanity within wartime conflict, as seen in his award-winning body of work.
He and Junger spent a year filming a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in their Academy Award–nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film Restrepo. Hetherington died from a mortar blast in Libya in 2011.
Junger artfully combines footage of Hetherington at work and interviews with his family, friends and colleagues to capture his compatriot and friend’s unique perspective, compassion, and intense curiosity about the human spirit.
In his Hollywood Reporter review, David Rooney writes: “Junger’s facility for sharp journalistic prose is an ideal complement to Hetherington’s instinctual visual sense. The director points out that war provides a unique experience of male camaraderie not reproducible in society. Eloquent illustrations of that are seen in Hetherington’s tender images of the platoon in Afghanistan, notably the incongruously idyllic ‘Man Eden’ and the ‘Sleeping Soldiers’ series, which unmasked the heavily inked tough guys as vulnerable boys. …The film seems very much an extension of Hetherington’s own complex internal dialogue concerning war, seeing conflict as something hardwired into young men that gets co-opted to become part of the political process.”
The film will air on HBO on April 18.
Sara Dosa ’05 is associate producer for Inequality for All, directed by Jacob Kobluth, which was screened as part of the U.S. Documentary completion and received the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award in Filmmaking at Sundance.
The documentary is inspired by former labor secretary and current UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich’s book Aftershock. Reich has argued passionately that widening income inequality poses one of the most severe threats to our economy and democracy.
Kornbluth and Reich examine such complex issues as wage stagnation, consolidated wealth, manufacturing, financial instruments, capital markets, globalization, and election politics. The film contains interviews with economists, politicians, and experts and documents the struggles of regular working people.
The film has been acquired by the Weinstein Company’s Radius label and was funded partly by individuals who gave money to Kickstarter.com.
Martha Shane ’05 and Lana Wilson ’05 are the directors of After Tiller, which was shown as part of the U.S. Documentary competition. Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, only four doctors in the United States continue to perform third-trimester abortions; all colleagues of Dr. Tiller, they sacrifice their safety and personal lives in their unwavering conviction to help women. For some in the pro-life movement, these doctors are “murderers” who must be stopped.
After Tiller proovdes an upclose look into each of the four physicians’ private and professional struggles. The documentary includes wrenching scenes in the clinics, when they counsel distraught patients facing serious losses. Viewers are placed in the shoes of both practitioner and patient and are faced with the full complexity of each decision. Decades after Roe v. Wade, legalized abortion remains an extremely volatile issue in America.
At Sundance, Shane and Wilson received a $5,000 grant from Women in Film, as well as $1,000 worth of scheduling and budgeting software from Entertainment Partners. The two directors were recently interviewed about After Tiller at Democracy Now! and Indie Wire.