New York, NY
Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia have been working together for over ten years, writing and directing one feature film and ten shorts. Working mostly with non-professional actors and no crew, the pair film in different cities, exploring how the places people inhabit affect their lives. Their feature debut, OK, Enough, Goodbye (2010), follows the attempts of a middle-aged man to adjust to life without his mother, who moves to Beirut. The film depicts daily life in Tripoli devoid of the clichés of war and violence recounted in the media. The film won them an award for Best New Director from the Arab World at the Abu Dhabi Film Fest.
Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown’s first feature, Be Here to Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt (2005), about the troubled country music artist, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival (2004). It was listed by Time Out at number seven among the “50 Greatest Music Films Ever.” Her next feature, The Order of Myths (2008), focuses on the Mardi Gras celebrations—the oldest in the country—in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, and explores the complicated racial issues of the city and its rituals. The film won many honors, including a Peabody Award (2010), an Independent Spirit Award (2009), and a Silverdocs Cinematic Vision Award (2008).
The son of Korean parents, Lee Isaac Chung has stated that his attempts to reach across cultures as the only minority family in rural Arkansas led him to make films in countries where he is a foreigner. Chung shot his celebrated feature Munyurangabo (2007), in the native Kinyarwanda tongue in 11 days, recounting the emotional story of two young friends who struggle with the legacy of age-old ethnic divisions. The project started as a filmmaking course that Chung conducted for locals, and he established a collective there whose members have made award-winning films. Munyurangabo was selected to screen at several prestigious venues, including the Cannes Film Festival.
Jacqueline Goss works in film, video, animation, and programming. Goss often works in two-dimensional digital animation to create “animated documentaries,” where, in her words, “historical document meets the unabashedly subjective eye.” Her most recent film, The Observers (2011), documents the climatologists who work at the Mt. Washington Weather Observatory. Her works have been screened at numerous venues such as the Anthology Film Archive in New York and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and she has been awarded a Herb Alpert Award (2007), among other honors. Goss is an Associate Professor at Bard College.
Writer and director Barry Jenkins’s first feature, Medicine for Melancholy (2009), was hailed by The New York Times as one of the best films of the year. It depicts the flirtations between a young African American couple amidst the background of a gentrified San Francisco, offering an alternative to the more usual cinematic depictions of “urban African Americans” amidst gang-related violence. Jenkins has also created four short films.
Phil Solomon is an acclaimed experimental filmmaker working in both film and video. He was a long-time colleague and collaborator of legendary filmmaker Stan Brakhage. In his work, Solomon often integrates found and original materials and uses photochemical and optical treatments to create expressive textures and images. His most recent work, American Falls (2010), is a multimedia, triptych installation inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara. Using altered film emulsion and images culled from various sources, the piece depicts “the pageant of American mediated iconography,” transforming the falls into a metaphoric landscape of the American dream. Solomon sits at fifth place on Film Comment’s 2010 “Top Fifty Avant-Garde Filmmakers of the Last Decade” list. He is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Nicholas van der Kolk creates audio documentaries for NPR’s Snap Judgment as well as his own podcast, Love + Radio. He is also the co-founder of the Megapolis Audio Festival. Van der Kolk’s work features experimental sound design on an eclectic range of topics: a woman who gives away her life savings as an experiment; a pair of rogue taxidermists; and probably the only radio story involving Karl Rove, Motley Crue, and the mafia. In The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt, he profiles Detroit’s only stay-at-home strip-club manager. The piece won the Gold Prize for Best Documentary by the Third Coast International Audio Festival (2011), the first podcast to do so in the history of the competition.
Tze Chun is a screenwriter and director whose films, in his words, “look at universal issues through the lens of culturally specific, character-driven narratives.” Chun’s short, Windowbreaker, played at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival as well as over 30 other international festivals and won the audience award at the 2007 New York City Short Film Festival. His first feature film, Children of Invention, recounts the tale of two Chinese-American children who must fend for themselves when their mother is arrested for taking part in an illegal pyramid scheme. The movie, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, screened at over 50 film festivals, winning 17 festival awards including eight Grand Jury or Best Narrative Feature prizes.
Oak Park, IL
Steve James is a celebrated producer and director of several award-winning documentary films. His most renowned film, Hoop Dreams (1994), follows the lives of two high school students with dreams of becoming basketball players. The film won numerous honors, including a Peabody and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995, and was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. James’s most recent film, The Interrupters (2011), portrays a year inside the lives of former gang members in Chicago who now intervene in violent conflicts. That film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Miami Film Festival and a Special Jury Award at Full Frame Documentary Festival.
San Francisco, CA
John Jota Leaños is an interdisciplinary artist working in animation, installation, and performance. His works address social issues by merging traditional Chicano and mestizo cultural expressions, such as Day of the Dead imagery, with contemporary media and technology. Through the use of humor and popular songs, Leaños confronts topics such as how war, border violence, and globalization intersect with class, gender, and race. He has created a series of “populist animations,” including Los ABCs:¡Qué Vivan los Muertos!, that use mariachi music to critique war.