Tag Archive for alumni films

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.

Feldstein ’15 Dubbed ‘Breakout’ for Neighbors 2

With Yahoo's Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2 versus her real-life college experience.

With Yahoo’s Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2, versus her real-life college experience.

“There is an entire neighborhood full of funny people in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” wrote Kevin Polowy, senior editor at Yahoo! Movies. “But some of the film’s biggest laughs belong to newcomer Beanie Feldstein, who makes her major-studio movie debut as the party-hearty sorority pledge Nora.”

Feldstein ’15, a Los Angeles, Calif. native and sociology major at Wesleyan has been acting on stage since she was 5, with “three to six musicals a year every singer year from 5 to 22,” ending last year with graduation.

She tells Yahoo that Neighbors 2 was not a typecasting situation: “My college experience was nothing like Nora’s. I was such a lame person. I had never done drugs. They had to teach me how to use a lighter, and how to inhale. That scene where I smoke weed in the movie was actually my first time smoking anything.”

Also invited to appear on the Conan O’Brien Show, Feldstein recalls more of her college career: four years as a tour guide. “My friends like to call me TGB—Tour Guide Beanie—and it’s an entirely different person than me. I’m already pretty peppy, but she’s on a whole other level. I could sell anything at that point—I mean Wesleyan’s really easy to sell; it’s a great place.”

Award-Winning Film by Grillo ’80 in Limited Release Feb. 26

Jack of the Red Hearts, a new film by director Janet Grillo ’80, will open in limited theatrical release on Feb. 26, 2016.

Jack of the Red Hearts, a new film by director Janet Grillo ’80, will open in limited theatrical release on Feb. 26.

Jack of the Red Hearts, a film by director and executive producer Janet Grillo ’80, depicts a family raising a child with autism, as did her first feature, Fly Away

This new work features Famke Janssen (of Taken and X-Men) and AnnaSophia Robb (Carrie Diaries and Soul Surfer). Jack of the Red Hearts has garnered 11 festival awards both in the United States and abroad including the jury award at the inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, co-founded by activist/actor Geena Davis, to promote women and diversity in filmmaking. Jack of the Red Hearts will open in limited theatrical release on Feb. 26, in 25 AMC theaters across the country. It will also air on LIFETIME during April, which is Autism Awareness month.

“As a filmmaker, I’m committed to exploring what it means to be human; our humor, pain, clarity and contradiction,” Grillo wrote in her director’s statement. “Movies, like life, can be hilarious and heart wrenching, in turn. When we explore and express ourselves with total candor, the truth shows up. It charms and alarms, entertains and moves us. My guiding principle in directing Jack of the Red Hearts has been authenticity … allowing the audience to become a ‘fly on the wall,’ entering the worlds and experience of these characters. Including the autistic child’s point of view, according to her neurological difference, illustrates that the ‘spectrum’ of her experience is related to our own.”

See the trailer here or on Facebook.

JotRD_Postcard_FINAL5_JAN_Back_Digital

Bay ’86 Directs New Film about 2012 Benghazi Events

David Denman, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber in 13 Hours. (Photo: Dion Beebe/Paramount Pictures)

David Denman, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber in 13 Hours. (Photo courtesy of Dion Beebe/Paramount Pictures)

Michael Bay ’86 has directed a new film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Paramount), which opened in U.S. theaters on Jan. 15. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, the movie traces what happened Sept. 11–12, 2012, when terrorists attacked two Central Intelligence Agency compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

The film tracks six security operatives, most of them former military, who defended the diplomatic compound and nearby CIA annex. The cast includes James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa and Demetrius Grosse.

In his review in Slate, film critic David Ehlich writes: “Bay has stated that his intentions were simply to honor the heroism of the guys on the ground, and 13 Hours bears that out. The result … is one of the most politically astute films about America’s foreign politics in years ….”

In National Review, critic Stephen Miller also praises the film: “Audience members familiar with the director’s style will still appreciate all the hallmarks of a Michael Bay film present in 13 Hours. Witness the gritty close ups, muted slow motion, earth-rattling explosions, and long tracking shots of bombs and bullets that will draw direct comparisons to his previous work on The Rock and Bad Boys. … this is Bay’s most serious film to date. He does a good job of laying out exactly how and when the attacks took place at the consulate and later at the annex building. We never feel lost in the firefights.”

For featurettes and a trailer for 13 Hours, go to the director’s website.

Carpignano ’06 Awarded for His Debut Film

Jonas Carpignano '06 - Photo courtesy of the filmmaker

Jonas Carpignano ’06 (courtesy photo)

In his recently released debut film Mediterranea (IFC Films), director and writer Jonas Carpignano ’06 focuses on two friends from West Africa’s Burkina Faso (played by non-professional actors Koudous Seihon and Alassane Sy) who take a hazardous journey to Calabria, Italy, across the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to better their economic fortunes.

Carpignano recently received two awards for his work: the Independent Film Project’s Gotham Award for Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director and the Best Directorial Debut Award from the National Board of Review.

In his New York Times review of the film, Stephen Holden writes that Carpignano “has adopted a low-key neorealist style, using hand-held cameras that intensify its ground-level perspective. The character-driven film focuses on the day-to-day experiences of people struggling to find a foothold in a hostile land that throws up nearly insurmountable barriers to assimilation. … Mediterranea is impressive for the degree to which it lends its characters complex human dimensions and gives equal weight to everyone’s joys and frustrations.”

Carpignano was recently profiled in Interview magazine. His hometown is the East Bronx, N.Y. but he currently lives in Gioia Tauro, Calabria, Italy, where his feature film takes place.

“My knowledge of film as an art always came from Italy; it came from my grandfather,” he said. “I grew up on neorealism and the giallos—the Italian horror films. To me, that was the difference between film just being escapism and something being seen as an art. My grandfather instilled that in me.”