Tag Archive for alumni films

Film on Author Tim O’Brien by Matthews ’93, Mittelstadt ’92 to be Released March 2

war and peace of tim o brienA new film by Aaron Matthews ’93 and Jennifer Mittelstadt ’92 will be released March 2 on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and other digital streaming platforms.

The film, titled The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien, follows the renowned author of The Things They Carried and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien, as he struggles to write one last book. The documentary dives deep into the meaning and impact of war, as well as the effect of America’s forever wars on civilians and soldiers. It also gives an in-depth look into the creative process from the perspective of one of America’s most influential living authors.

Watch the film’s trailer online here.

Matthews, who spent five years creating the film, met O’Brien during an interview he directed for PBS called The Draft. “Working on that project, I became interested in how most Americans are so disconnected from the wars we wage, how so few people in this country bear the burden of killing and dying,” Matthews recalled. “When I talked with Tim, I had my heart blown open. He was a smart, funny wordsmith—which you might expect from a legendary author—but he was also emotionally raw and open in a way that I found electrifying. In his trademark jeans and ball cap, he presents as this regular guy. But he’s not a regular guy. He’s operating on a higher level, able to express big ideas, especially about the meaning and impact of war, in a powerful, relatable way. Plus, he chain-smoked throughout the interview, so the frame was filled with cinematic swirls . . . Everything about him screamed ‘not your typical ivory tower writer.'”

Films Created by 9 Alumni Screened at 2021 Sundance Film Festival

brusier

A film titled Bruiser was presented at the Sundance Film Festival 2021. Eight recent Wesleyan graduates created the film.

A film featuring the works of eight Wesleyan alumni was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Titled Bruiser, the film focuses on a boy named Darious who begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood after his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley. Bruiser was presented in Sundance’s Short Films category.

The film was directed by Miles Warren ’19; assistant directed by Eliza McKenna ’20; written by Warren and Ben Medina ’19; produced by Gustavo René ’19, Albert Tholen ’15, and Lauren Goetzman ’19; and designed by Emma Cantor ’19. Costumes were designed by Regina Melady ’18.

Former classmates René and Warren began collaborating on projects during their freshman year at Wesleyan. “We switch off producing each other’s work,” René said.

During their sophomore year, René and Warren wrote a film called Huntress, which René produced and Warren directed. And during their senior year, Warren produced René’s senior thesis film, which ended up winning the Steven J. Ross Prize for best undergraduate film. Bruiser is their latest collaboration.

In addition, Richie Starzec ’14 worked as the assistant to director Edgar Wright, of the film The Sparks Brothers, which also screened at Sundance. The film illuminates Ron and Russell Sparks’ music journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums.

The Sundance Film Festival, founded in 1978, is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It includes competitive categories, featuring documentary and dramatic films, both feature-length and short films, and out-of-competition categories for showcasing new films.

Trans in Trumpland by Zosherafatain ’10 to Stream Feb. 25 on Major Networks

Zosherafatain filmA four-part documentary film series directed by Tony Zosherafatain ’10 will stream on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Topic starting Feb. 25.

Titled Trans in Trumpland, the series investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans during the Trump administration era. The series was featured in VarietyNBC NewsDeadline, and The Daily Beast.

“We’re at a crucial moment in our country, and Trans in Trumpland encapsulates the past four years, not just for trans people, but for a wide variety of groups,” Zosherafatain said. “There is a lot of intersectionality in the series, including race, immigration, income inequality, and other structural issues.”

Zosherafatain, a trans-Iranian-American and co-founder of TransWave Films, began directing and producing films in 2012 after realizing that there weren’t many movies exclusively about trans people. He previously directed I am the T, a documentary series about trans experiences around the world.

“I was moved to create the series the first week that Trump took office. Within that first week, he removed any mention of LGBTQ rights from The White House website, creating a sense of urgency in me. I knew I had to do something to shed a light on the plight of transgender Americans,” Zosherafatain said.

With Trump now out of the White House, Zosherafatain credits President Joe Biden for passing executive orders that protect the LGBTQ community within a few days after the inauguration.

“I definitely think that things will improve drastically with Biden now in office. He has made other promises to advance trans rights. I’m very optimistic about his presidency. However, trans equality has a long way to go on the state level, which is an issue that Trans in Trumpland heavily investigates,” Zosherafatain said. “The next four years will be incredibly crucial for the transgender community.”

Zosherafatain and his work also have been featured in The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, BBC News, The Advocate, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine.

“Cirque du Cambodia” by Gershon ’94 to Make World Premier Oct. 21

cambodiaA film directed by Joel Gershon ’94 will make its world premiere on Oct. 21.

The documentary, titled “Cirque du Cambodia,” is about two teenagers from Cambodia who learned how to become circus performers at a special school for the arts near their home village. They became determined to become the first Cambodians to take the stage with Cirque du Soleil after seeing one of their videos. The two of them moved across the world to Montreal, where Cirque du Soleil is headquartered, in order to attend the world’s most elite circus school after getting full scholarships there. The film follows them on their journey as they try to reach the top of the circus world.

Gershon started work on this film in 2011.

“I filmed the two Cambodian main characters for more than six years as they continued to try to fulfill their dreams, shooting in four countries. The film features three spoken languages,” Gershon said.

The film will have its first screening as part of the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) on Oct. 21, and it will be broadcast for free for California residents. Watch the film’s trailer online here.

Films, Shows by Ristov ’21, Heliczer ’93, Stone ’05 and Stone ’05, Okun ’22, Zosherafatain ’10 Released, Screened at Festivals

calling fatherA film directed by Leon Ristov ’21 was selected to be screened on demand during the Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 14–21. The 12-minute piece, titled I’m Calling Your Father, is among only 10 films selected for the festival’s TeenArena program.

The film tells the story of Damjan, a 16-year-old who gets jumped by neighborhood hooligans. Damjan’s hard-headed mother comes up with a plan to protect him.

Ristov’s film was supported through a Gordon Career Center Summer Grant. Rent the film online here.

invisiblefatherA film directed by Thérèse Heliczer ’93 will make its world debut at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival Aug. 22–23. Titled The Invisible Father, the feature-length documentary focuses on beat poet and experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer, who helped shape “new American cinema” in the 1960s.

Through interviews with family and friends, found photos, and archival footage, Thérèse Heliczer explores her father’s artistic legacy and the creative life of a man she never knew.

Tickets are available online here.

stone and stone '06A web series created by twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 (also known as Stone and Stone) was accepted into the Chain Film Festival and The Big Apple Film Festival in New York City Aug. 18-31.

The show, titled Going Both Ways, features Adam, who recently married and had a child, and Todd, who recently came out as gay. Going Both Ways explores their two worlds–of new parenthood and new sexual identification–and the joys, challenges, and humor that come with both lifestyles.

Watch episodes online here.

cookie cutterA screenplay excerpt by Stephanie Okun ’22 is featured as part of the virtual Irvington Arts Incubator Series this month.

Cookie Cutter follows Debbie, a 40-something who recently left a fulfilling, flourishing career in journalism to take care of her children and now must navigate the consequences of that choice. Debbie got married straight out of college, but she’s a different woman now.

Okun wrote the play last semester at Wesleyan while taking the Advanced Playwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theater Edwin Sanchez. Sanchez narrates the film, and Alex O’Shea ’19, Bryce Jenkins ‘21, and six others act in the play.

trans in trumpIn addition, Tony Zosherafatain ’10 is the director of a forthcoming documentary series called Trans in Trumpland.

Trans in Trumpland investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans navigating life under President Donald Trump’s administration. Told through a road trip narrative across remote parts of the United States, the film explores the transgender experience in politically hostile states.

Production was completed in 2019, and the film will premiere on streaming platforms next fall.

Zosherafatain is the co-founder of TransWave Films, a New York City-based production company.

The series was recently featured in Variety and on NBC News after signing actress Trace Lysette as an executive producer. The film also received coverage in The Daily Beast.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Contagious Civic Engagement”

In this essay, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 calls for a “virtuous contagion” to stimulate voting and other forms of civic engagement among young people, and writes about how this can still be possible at a time of social distancing. “The best way to attack cynicism, apathy or voter suppression is through authentic civic engagement between elections,” he writes. “One of the great things about this kind of engagement is that it is contagious. As we replicate efforts to bring people into the political process, we create habits of engagement and participation. Concern for the public sphere—like a virus—can spread. Usually this happens through face-to-face interaction, but now we must turn to virtual tools—notorious in recent years for being deployed to misinform or stir hatred—to strengthen networks for democracy.”

2. WSHU Public Radio’s “Off the Path from New York to Boston”: “Be(a)man”

Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Jesse Nasta ’07 is interviewed for this NPR podcast, which examines the histories behind sites from New York to Boston. He discusses the Beman family, who founded the Beman Triangle neighborhood of freed African American slaves, as well as Middletown’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. “There’s so much amnesia around New England slavery,” said Nasta. “But the other part of it is how [the Bemans] emerged from enslavement by the 1800s, built free communities, built free churches, forged the Underground Railroad. And if you think about it, the church that they founded is still going strong two centuries later.”

3. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education: “Celebrating Women in the Academy”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor, who serves as faculty director of the McNair Program, is honored as one of the Top 35 Women in Higher Education. The profile notes: “Her research group has included over 75 students to date, spanning high schoolers to Ph.D. students, with women and other underrepresented students comprising more than three-quarters of her lab members. In addition to her research, she has been a passionate advocate for diversity, lending time and energy to provide opportunities in science for female, minority and low-income students. Taylor was awarded the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching for her passion and dedication to supporting the academic and personal development of all of her students. Her track record of mentoring diverse students culminated in being named Wesleyan University’s McNair Program faculty director in 2018. Beyond Wesleyan, she founded and continues to run a Girls in Science camp for elementary through middle school aged girls, which highlights the diversity of women that exists in science and raises funds to enable nearly half of the students to participate tuition free.”

4. Associated Press: “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime? Echoes of ’30s in Viral Crisis?”

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, spoke to the AP for an article comparing the current economic crisis, sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Great Depression of the 1930s.“There are more levers now for the government,” he said. “There’s a lot now that the government can do that it wouldn’t even have thought of doing in the 1930s.” One example is a rarely used 1950s-era level that Trump invoked last week, the Defense Production Act, which empowers the government to marshal private industry to accelerate production of key supplies in the name of national security.

5. The New Yorker: “Breaking Transmission: The Fight Against the Coronavirus Offers a Strategy for Cutting Carbon”

Citizen Outlaw, a book by Charles Barber, writer-in-residence in Letters, was cited in this article on interrupting cycles to solve serious problems as diverse as gang violence, the coronavirus, and climate change. “Jumping in at exactly the right time makes all the difference,” explains Barber, who has written extensively on mental-health and criminal-justice issues. He cites studies showing that, otherwise, a single death can lead to a cascade of violence. In an Illinois study, for instance, “a single incident . . . was linked through the victim’s social networks to 469 separate violent incidents.”

6. The Hartford Courant: “Learning from Home and Learning from School Have a Lot in Common”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Psychology Steve Stemler offers advice to parents who are now responsible for educating their children at home due to COVID-19-related school shutdowns. Drawing on his research on the purpose of school, he writes: “Many school districts are providing families with some form of online curriculum that includes instruction on all the academic subjects covered in schools. But, as educators know, schools strive to develop not just strong readers and mathematicians but also humans who are emotionally resilient and socially capable, who will contribute to the world as good citizens. Parents may have more to teach their children than they think.”

7. The New York Review of Books: “Pandemic Journal: Michael S. Roth, Middletown, Connecticut

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 wrote a first-person account of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the University. He said, “Wesleyan is a residential school, one with a strong sense of engaged and community-based learning. Now, faculty are giving seminars and singing lessons at a distance, but we all know that the fabric of liberal education here comes from mutual entanglement.”

Alumni in the News

1. NPR: “David Biello: A Journey Into Uncharted Territory

In this experimental episode of TED Radio Hour, TED Science Curator David Biello ’95 takes listeners to uncharted places, such as outer space, the deep ocean, and our own brains.

2. Rolling Stone: “‘Blow the Man Down’: A Maine Noir with Money, Murder and Matriarchy

The debut feature film from Bridget Savage Cole ’05 and Danielle Krudy ’07, now streaming on Amazon, is reviewed. The New England noir’s review is favorable: “Blow the Man Down winds its way around the notion that behind every small town’s facade is a whole mess of secrets.”

3. Jazz Journal: “Chris Dingman: Embrace

Chris Dingman ’02 was interviewed about his latest album, Embrace. Embrace received a good review in the article. The album was referred to as “a beautifully warm ensemble sound, and the publicity cites influences from West African traditions and South Indian music, which Dingman has studied.”

4. Cord Cutters News: “Apple’s First Original Movie ‘The Banker’ Is Now Available to Stream

AppleTV+ released its first major movie, The Banker, starring Samuel L. Jackson, produced by Joel Viertel ’97. The article says, “The strong acting seems to be enough to carry the film – it got a 100% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.”

Viertel ’97 Produces The Banker, Featuring Samuel L. Jackson

The BankerA new film produced and edited by Joel Viertel ’97 centers on revolutionary entrepreneurs Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), who devise a risky plan to purchase buildings in “white only” neighborhoods during the 1960s, to help black families pursue the American dream.

Inspired by true events, The Banker premiered at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., on March 2, and is now available for viewing on on Apple TV Plus.

The New York Times featured The Banker in a March 20 article.

Viertel, a film studies major at Wesleyan, also produced Birth of the Dragon (2016), Zipper (2015), Ready or Not (2012), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), and many other films.

PBS Documentary by Weisberg ’75, P’05 Set to Premiere on April 6

Roger Weisberg ’75, P’05 (Source: brokenplacesfilm.com)

This April, PBS will premiere Broken Places, a documentary that explores why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive. Broken Places is written, produced, and directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Roger Weisberg ’75, P’05, whose previous PBS documentaries have won over 150 awards, including Emmy, DuPont-Columbia, and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.

Broken Places revisits abused and neglected children that Weisberg and his team profiled decades ago. The film interweaves longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few internationally renowned experts to help viewers better understand the devastating impact of childhood adversity as well as the inspiring characteristics of resilience.

In addition to shedding light on exciting new developments in neuroscience that help explain the dramatic outcomes that the film reveals, these experts share their insights into the people and systems that either failed the film’s main subjects or helped them overcome the formidable obstacles they encountered.

Broken Places is Weisberg’s 33rd national public television documentary. It will premier at 10 p.m. on Monday, April 6 on PBS (check local listings) and pbs.org.

brokenplaces

Albertalli ’05 Prepares for Big Screen Release of Debut Novel

Clinical psychologist and YA novelist Becky Albertalli ’05 is the author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, an award winning coming-of-age story published by Harper Collins in 2015. It follows Simon Spier, a junior in high school struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity without coming out, before a leaked email threatens to compromise his secret and his comfort zone. This past October, Fox 2000 Pictures and Temple Hill Entertainment began developing a movie adaptation of the book. The major motion picture will feature a star-studded cast––including Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford and Jennifer Garner––and is set to be released in March 2018.

Directed by Greg Berlanti, the comedy-drama film of the same name as Albertalli’s debut novel is currently in post-production. Fans of the popular book and members of the cast, like Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller and Josh Duhamel, are excited to see an underrepresented, LGBTQA-centered story told on the big screen.

Hawley ’91 Debuts Documentary Film

Suki Hawley ’91, director and editor for the award-winning independent film studio RUMUR, is debuting the collaborative’s latest film in New York this week. The documentary, titled All the Rage, chronicles the work of renowned physician Dr. John Sarno and his radical methods for treating chronic pain. It will debut at Cinema Village in New York on Friday, June 23. A Q&A with directors and special guests will follow after every screening Friday (June 23), Saturday (June 24) and Sunday (June 25).

All the Rage comes at a critical time, when the epidemic of chronic pain is afflicting over 100 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Dr. Sarno, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and writer of four bestselling books on pain management, is considered a medical pioneer in the field for the connections he draws between his patients’ emotions and their pain. Despite backlash from the mainstream medical community, Sarno has spent 50 years developing his revolutionary treatment program. Some of his most notable patients include Larry David and Howard Stern, both of whom are featured in the film.

Tyrnauer ’91 Creates Film About Urban Activist Jane Jacobs

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer ’91 is the producer and director of Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a new documentary about author and activist Jane Jacobs. Most famous for her influence on urban studies and urban planning, Jacobs’s legacy will be playing out on screens in nearly 20 cities across the country.

The documentary film chronicles her rise as a critical voice and visionary during the urbanization movement of the 1960s. Fighting to preserve urban communities against the threat of destructive redevelopment projects, Jacobs did much to influence modern understandings of urban environments and the American city.

Lame ’04 Discusses Film Editing Manchester by the Sea

Film editor Jennifer Lame ’04 spoke to the Los Angeles Times on her experience working on Manchester by the Sea, by Oscar-nominated director and writer, Kenneth Lonergan. The drama, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is about a man who returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

In the interview, Lame explained how one scene between the divorced main characters made her surprisingly emotional in the editing process. “I’ll never forget the day I got the Michelle and Casey scene,” said Lame. “Just watching raw dailies, I was crying. That’s never happened. That scene crushed me.”

Lame also reflected on her time at Wesleyan where she studied film. She said she fell in love with the editing process here, but struggled to find satisfying work until she landed a gig in 2007 as an apprentice editor on Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet.