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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Vermont Gets ClickHoled: No Indie Films Here, Please

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 1:17 PM

Vermont will be taking no part in mumblecore™ — at least not according to ClickHole. Yesterday, the Onion's delightfully irreverent content platform posted the piece, "Supporting the Arts: Vermont Is Offering a Tax Credit to Incentivize Indie Filmmakers to Stay the Fuck Out of Its State With That Bootleg Duplass-Brothers-Rip-Off Bullshit."

The title pretty much lays it all out, but it's a great full read anyway, especially if you get thrills every time you see the word "Vermont" in a major outlet, real or otherwise.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Film Tour Remembers NEK Novelist Howard Frank Mosher

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Howard Frank Mosher - JAKE MOSHER
  • Jake Mosher
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Film history is littered with failed adaptations of novels. Oftentimes a film adaptation falls prey to the commercial time constraints of movies, and the necessity of wholesale excising of text. Sometimes it’s just a matter of poor casting decisions. Then there are authors like James Joyce and William Faulkner, whose stream-of-consciousness styles are for the most part unfilmable.

But occasionally, a writer and director’s artistic sensibilities coalesce with such kinship that their paths seemed destined to cross. Such was the case with director Jay Craven and celebrated Northeast Kingdom novelist Howard Frank Mosher, who died from cancer on January 29 at the age of 74.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

New RETN TV Channel Hosts Local Filmmakers

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 11:50 AM

Still from Alec Julien's film "Anonymous" - ALEC JULIEN
  • Alec Julien
  • Still from Alec Julien's film "Anonymous"
In late June, the Regional Educational Television Network announced a new channel carried by Burlington Telecom. Called BTV HD, it's dedicated to the works of local filmmakers.

The high-definition programming runs on Channel 216. According to a June 26 press release, it carries "different programming than RETN's current standard-definition educational access channel found in the BT channel lineup at Channel 16."

The first local film to debut on the new channel was "Anonymous" by Alec Julien, by Burlington writer, educator, musician and graphic designer. Seth Jarvis directed. The first-time filmmaker said that RETN provided equipment for the production, and that executive director Jess Wilson served as the lighting director.

"When she asked me to premiere "Anonymous" with RETN, I was happy to oblige," Julien said.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Documentary on Syrian Refugees Draws a Large Crowd in Rutland

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 4:42 PM

A still from '8 Borders, 8 Days' - COURTESY OF '8 BORDERS, 8 DAYS'
  • Courtesy of '8 Borders, 8 Days'
  • A still from '8 Borders, 8 Days'
In the summer of 2015, Sham decided to take life into her own hands. For 16 months, the Syrian refugee and her children had been living in Lebanon as they waited for their application to be resettled in the U.S. to be approved. Finally, Sham decided to make the journey that hundreds of thousands of her countrymen had already taken in order to start a new life after fleeing the war in Syria.

Sham put herself and her two kids on a flimsy raft to cross the Aegean Sea, before landing on the Greek island of Lesvos. Thereafter, they continued their journey by ferry, taxi, foot, bus and train to reach their final destination: the German capital Berlin.

As the family went in search of a better future, Amanda Bailly was with them to document their journey. Last night on World Refugee Day, Bailly held a screening of her 60-minute documentary film, 8 Borders, 8 Days, at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Local Banllywood Company Shoots Latest Film in Burlington

Posted By on Sun, May 28, 2017 at 10:49 PM

Cast and crew of 'Juniya 2' - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Cast and crew of 'Juniya 2'
A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Dan Bolles wrote about Punjabi singer Shael's latest video, "Meri Jaaan," which was filmed in Burlington. The video's producer, Razaq Baloch, said many viewers wanted to know where it was shot. While Shael's video might have piqued Bollywood fans' interest in the Queen City, Vermont is familiar to Banllywood fans.

Since 2009, Muktar Aden and Mohamed Muktar have made six feature films and distributed them through their own production company, Banllywood Entertainment. The pair also has a weekly news program, "Somali Bantu TV," which is filmed at the studio of the Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington and runs on Channel 15.

Last Saturday, Aden invited me to watch them film their seventh movie, Juniya 2, at Ethan Allen Park. Besides headlining the film, Aden, known as Muktar America among Banllywood fans, is also the producer and action-scene instructor. Mohamed Muktar is the cameraman and has a supporting role.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Watching Big Brother: Local Theaters Screen 1984

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 2:21 PM

Bob Flag as Big Brother - 1984 FILM STILL
  • 1984 film still
  • Bob Flag as Big Brother
One of the best weapons that "the arts" has at its disposal is, well ... the arts. In light of President Trump's threats to completely defund the National Endowment for the Arts, it seems safe to say that the NEA and its supporters have guns drawn — figuratively, of course.

Yesterday, arts blog Hyperallergic reported that approximately 400 people gathered at New York City Hall for a Rally to Save the Arts. Today, IndieWire estimates that some 90 movie theaters nationwide will screen Michael Radford's 1984 (!) film adaptation of George Orwell's landmark dystopian novel.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Local Producer Brings Gun Documentary Home to Stowe

Posted By on Sun, Apr 2, 2017 at 8:54 AM

From The Gun Shop
  • From The Gun Shop
The opening title card of The Gun Shop, a 2016 documentary produced for Channel 4’s Cutting Edge series in the U.K., states that there are more than 56,000 places to purchase a gun in America. What follows is a balanced look at firearm ownership and gun violence, using a single shop in Battle Creek, Mich., as a microcosm of the divisive American gun debate.

The Gun Shop was coproduced by Stowe resident David Rocchio, founder and president of Stowe Story Labs. That nonprofit group is devoted to facilitating the work of aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers.

“The reason I wanted to make this film is, I like guns, and I like my local gun shop, but I also get that we need to really do something about handgun violence in America,” Rocchio says. “And the way the system now approaches these issues is through opposite camps. I just wanted to start a dialogue, and the way you start a dialogue is to listen.”

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Howard Frank Mosher's Imagination of Vermont: A Tribute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 1:50 PM

Howard Frank Mosher - COURTESY OF JAY CRAVEN
  • Courtesy of Jay Craven
  • Howard Frank Mosher
Vermont writer Howard Mosher died on Sunday, January 29. Filmmaker Jay Craven worked closely with Mosher since 1985 when he optioned the story rights to his book Where the Rivers Flow North. Craven has made five films based on Mosher’s stories. He and actor Rusty DeWees, who appeared in all of Craven’s Mosher films, will appear this Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, 7:30 p.m., at the Stowe Town Hall to talk about their collaboration with Mosher. They'll also screen Where the Rivers Flow North (Friday) and A Stranger in the Kingdom (Saturday).

Like thousands of Vermonters who have been touched by Howard Mosher and his writing, I feel a deep sense of loss at the realization of life without him. No one has produced a larger body of work exploring the distinctive character and culture of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. No one has been more generous to fellow writers, taking time to chat, read their work and help them. No one was more tirelessly committed to his readers, through his cross-country sojourns in his 20-year-old Chevy Celebrity (dubbed the “loser cruiser") and his frequent signings at independent bookstores throughout New England.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Cinema Casualties Series Gets in the Christmas Spirit, Sort of

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 2:30 PM

OK, so maybe not everyone has the same definition of "the Christmas spirit." Maybe horror fans in particular have a very special understanding of the term that encompasses the schlocky Silent Night, Deadly Night movies. The first of them — about a kid traumatized by a killer Santa who then grows up to become a killer Santa — drew outraged think-of-the-children protests when it appeared in 1984.

In the wake of the very real horrors of 2016, however, perhaps a killer Santa suddenly seems a bit less threatening as a concept and a bit more, well, refreshingly absurd. Anyway, it's sure to please the self-aware fright fans who show up for Cinema Casualties, a Burlington film series that I wrote about a few months ago.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

On Jealousy, Jokes and English Muffin Pizzas: Dan Bolles and Steve Waltien Interview Mike Birbiglia

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 6:30 AM

  • Courtesy of Mike Birbiglia
  • Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia is a comedian, actor, director, writer and English muffin pizza savant. His latest film, Don't Think Twicecenters on a close-knit NYC improv comedy troupe that begins to splinter when individual members attract the attention of a network sketch-comedy show called "Weekend Live." It's a not-so-subtle stand-in for "Saturday Night Live," long the holy grail for improv comedians. 

In the thoughtful, shambling style that has become his signature, Birbiglia explores themes of jealousy and ambition. Perhaps most potently, he also ponders the inevitable moment when aging artists are forced to confront Peter Pan syndrome and reconcile creative passions with the desire for conventional stability.

Birbiglia stars in the film alongside the likes of Keegan-Michael Key ("Key & Peele") and Gillian Jacobs ("Community"). Among the film's other notable comedic talents is Vermont's Steve Waltien, who plays the supporting (OK, minor) character Hugh Finn. Waltien is a Shelburne native and an alum of the iconic Chicago improv theater Second City. He's presently a writer on Jon Stewart's forthcoming animated HBO series. (Full disclosure: He is also one of this writer's oldest and dearest friends.)

On Sunday, October 23, Birbiglia brings his new show, "Thank God for Jokes," to the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. Ahead of that performance, we checked in via email to ask him about comedy, his new movie and his mastery of English muffin pizzas. 

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