Tag Archive for alumni films

Arteta ’89 Directs Well-Reviewed New Comedy Film Cedar Rapids

Miguel Arteta '89 / Fox Searchlight

The latest film by director Miguel Arteta ’89, Cedar Rapids (Fox Searchlight Pictures), opened to positive reviews in mid-February after being well-received at the Sundance Film Festival. The comedy, written by Wisconsin native Phil Johnston, stars Ed Helms (The Office) as an earnest insurance salesman who is asked by his small town firm to attend an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he learns about life in a weekend as he befriends a motley bunch of party-loving conventioneers played by John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire).

In her New York Times review, film critic Manohla Dargis praises “this wistful, equally tender and rauncy comedy of self-discovery” as well as Arteta’s direction.

Indie Film by Fleischner ’06 Now on DVD

Film by Sam Fleischner '06

Wah Do Dem, the delightful and often surprising indie film directed by Sam Fleischner ’06 and Ben Chace, is now available on DVD, after a successful theatrical tour in June.

The film centers on a young man named Max (Sean Bones) who lives in Brooklyn and is abandoned by his girlfriend (Norah Jones) two days before they are set to take a cruise they won to Jamaica. Max winds up alone on the high seas navigating through crowds of grey-haired cruisers. When the cruise liner docks in Jamaica, he quickly escapes the tourist zone, loses track of time and his personal belongings, and encounters a diverse group of local inhabitants along the way.

The movie contains music and appearances by MGMT (Ben Goldwasser ’05 and Andrew VanWyngarden ’05), Santigold (Santi White ’97), Yeasayer, The Congos, Suckers, Myskal Rose, Mr. Lexx and Sean Bones.

Wah Do Dem played at several film festivals, including the Los Angeles Film Festival (Winner Juror’s Award), BFI London Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Spokane International Film Festival (Winner Best Picture), New Zealand Film Festival, San Francisco Indiefest and Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica.

Rich ’06 Interviews Turteltaub ’85 about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Jon Turteltaub '85 (left) and Nicholas Cage.

Cinema Blend writer Katey Rich ’06 recently interviewed director Jon Turteltaub ’85 about his latest film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which stars actor Nicholas Cage, who has worked with the director on several other projects. The movie—which opened nationwide last weekend—deals with Balthazar Blake, a master sorcerer (Cage) in modern-day Manhattan who has to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar needs help, so he recruits a reluctant protege (Jay Baruchel).

Both Rich and Turteltaub were Wesleyan film majors. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Katey Rich: What’s the working relationship like between you and Nic Cage after making the two National Treasure movies together?
Jon Turteltaub: Nic and I had gone to high school together, and that’s a gazillion years ago. Immediately after high school I went to Wesleyan and became an angsty college student, and he went to star in motion pictures and be on the cover of GQ. Lives definitely went separate directions, and we basically lost touch. We would run into each other at restaurants or something on occasion but never really saw each other until we had a meeting about National Treasure, in 2003 I think.

KR: So you make these two movies together and come into Sorcerer, which it seems like he was even more involved in. What was different about this film?
JT: It doesn’t alter the power dynamic in any way. Once Jerry is on board to produce, it becomes Jerry’s production. And once I’m on board to direct it becomes my, sort of, creative universe to run. The sense of responsibility to Nic was very large. I wanted to be sure that I was delivering what his expectations and hopes were. It’s not like he was a hands-on guy, counting the pennies in the budget and looking over our shoulders or anything, but there was much more of a sense on this film than on National Treasure that I had to do right by him.

KR: It’s fun watching him develop the sorcerer character as the movie goes on. It seems like it would be interesting to watch that process happen too.
JT: And he was really good at driving that personally, understanding that. Even that joke where [Jay Baruchel] says “Are you insane?” and he puts his fingers up [in a “little bit” sign]– Nic added that. Nic is very aware of the perception out there of Crazy Nic Cage. I really deeply believe this is one of the most perfect blends of actor and character I’ve ever seen.

Zimbalist ’02 Co-Directs The Two Escobars

Film by brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist '02.

Brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist ’02 have directed The Two Escobars, a documentary about the infiltration of drug money into professional soccer in Colombia during the 1980s and ’90s.

The subjects of the film are Pablo Escobar, a founder of the Medellin cartel who poured some of his wealth from cocaine trafficking into pro soccer, and Andrés Escobar, a star of the national team who accidentally kicked a ball into his own team’s goal at the 1994 World Cup.

The film was screened at the  Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in April as part of the World Documentary Competition. It will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival this month and on ESPN on June 22.

The filmmakers recently talked to the New York Times and Indie Wire about the film.

In their interview in Indie Wire, the brothers commented: “On our filmmaking journey through diverse walks of Colombian society, it became clear that this was far from a classic “deal-with-the-devil” narrative. Rather, this was the story of the passions and dreams of a people intrinsically tied to the rise and fall of a team of unlikely warriors . . . Stories such as this revive our childhood fascination with sports and confirm the fundamental role they play in shaping our world.”

Excerpt from the film at ESPN.com

Missed Connections short by Robertson ’01 at Tribeca Film Festival

Still from Missed Connections.

Missed Connections, a short documentary directed and produced by Mary Robertson ’01, will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan in April.

Once found on the back pages of local papers, Missed Connections is a forum on Craigslist where those who regret their timidity make appeals to the “Ones Who Got Away.” Robertson’s documentary peers inside these popular online messages-in-a-bottle asking whether love lost can be found again.

Robertson is a producer and director of nonfiction media. For television she has produced and directed long- and short-form documentary programs for major broadcasters. She recently completed work producing two hours of This Emotional Life, PBS’s popular series on happiness. For radio,

Documentary by Junger ’84 to be Broadcast by National Geographic

National Geographic Entertainment has picked up the rights to Restrepo, the documentary by journalists Sebastian Junger ’84 and Tim Hetherington that follows a platoon of American soldiers in Afghanistan. The film won the Sundance Film Festival grand jury documentary prize and is set for release on June 2. The National Geographic channel, which has worldwide TV rights, will broadcast the film next fall.

The film was named after a 15-man outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S military.

“From May 2007 to July 2008, Hetherington and Junger dug in with a platoon of men from Battle Company, the Second Platoon of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based at Restrepo,” notes a National Geographic press release. “Named in honor of the platoon’s medic, PFC Juan ‘Doc’ Restrepo, who was killed in action, ‘Outpost Restrepo’ had no running water, no Internet, no phone communication, often no electricity or heat, and it was attacked as many as five or six times a day.”

Says Lisa Truitt, president of National Geographic Cinema Ventures says, “Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger have made a film unlike any other about men in harm’s way. We see their courage. We experience their frustrations. We share their bonding. We hear the music they listen to, and we see the snapshots of their kids that they pass around. It is something that audiences have never before experienced. As they fight the Taliban, these 15 men win our hearts and minds in a way no fictional film can.”

To read the release from National Geographic click here.
To see Junger and Hetherington in a YouTube interview on Restrepo, click here.

War Documentary Co-Directed by Junger ’84 Wins Prize at Sundance

"Restrepo" filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington.
“Restrepo” filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington.

On Jan. 30, Restrepo, a documentary about the Afghanistan war co-directed by Sebastian Junger ’84 and Tim Hetherington, received the grand jury prize for a domestic documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Junger and Hetherington spent a year with part of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade in Korengal Valley, known as the deadliest valley in Afghanistan, and as a stronghold of al Queda and the Taliban.

Indie Wire recently interviewed the two filmmakers and said that the documentary “may be one of the most experiential and visceral war films you’ll ever see. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers reveal the humor and camaraderie of men who come under daily fire, never knowing which of them won’t make it home.”

In the interview, Junger said: “We were granted complete and almost unlimited access by the US military, and despite having shot very sensitive footage— civilian casualties, dead American soldiers—we were never censored in any way. Our biggest obstacle was gaining acceptance by the men themselves, though after a couple of trips that no longer seemed to be an issue. Without the trust and outright friendship of the men in the platoon, this film would not have been possible. Both Tim and I were seriously hurt during the course of the year in the Korengal—Tim broke his leg, I tore my Achilles tendon—and our physical welfare was probably the gravest threat to the completion of the film.”

Youth in Revolt, Directed by Arteta ’89, Opens Nationwide

Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta '88. (Bruce Birmelin/Dimension Films)

Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta ’88. (Bruce Birmelin/Dimension Films)

The critically acclaimed film and television director Michael Arteta ’89 (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Six Feet Under) has directed a new film, Youth in Revolt, which is based on the cult novel by C. D. Payne. The film opened nationwide to generally positive reviews on Feb. 8.  The work had previously been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and will be part of the upcoming Berlin Film Festival Generation lineup.

Miguel Arteta ’88

Miguel Arteta ’88

The movie stars the popular young actor Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad, Juno) who plays a frustrated 16-year-old virgin named Nick Twisp. Cera’s character takes on an assertive French alter ego, Francois, to win the heart of Sheeni, a young girl (played by a talented newcomer, Portia Doubleday) who lives in the same town and loves French culture. The cast also has a stellar supporting cast, known for their sharp comic timing, including Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, and Mary Kay Place.

In her review in The New York Times, Manohla Dargis called the film an “often charming coming-of-age tale” and went on to praise Arteta: “As a director Mr. Arteta … has the kind of quiet talent that can be easy to overlook. He’s particularly good with actors, partly because he doesn’t crowd or push them. His scenes never feel forced or rushed, even when they skew toward the madcap. … Mr. Arteta is equally good with the supporting cast, which is packed with recognizable faces that might be distracting elsewhere but instead add different colors.”

In a recent article about Arteta in The Hartford Courant, writer Ron Dicker describes the director as showing “a refreshing mix of brain power, frankness, and vulnerability” and says that Arteta “credits [Wesleyan film professor Jeanine] Basinger for laying the technical and emotional groundwork so he could pursue his calling, fears and all. She showed him films by Frank Capra and Howard Hawks. Watch and learn, she demanded.”

Arteta also has received professional support from fellow Wesleyan alumni such as Matthew Greenfield ’90, who produced several of Arteta’s films; Mike White ’92, who wrote the screenplays for two of Arteta’s films; and film director and playwright Paul Weitz ’88 (About a Boy, In Good Company, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant).