On The Ropes Reunited On Stage

The filmmakers and cast of ON THE ROPES.

The Spring 2013 season of Stranger Than Fiction ended on Tuesday with a very special screening of On The Ropes. Directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, the Oscar-nominated documentary shares the stories of three young boxers working their way from the amateur to pro leagues and explores the impact that their boxing careers make on the rest of their lives. Burstein and Morgen document the struggles — both personal and professional — encountered by the boxers, as well as the perseverance and dedication that they exhibit along the way.

Last week, close to 20 years after production, the filmmakers were able to reunite with their subjects in front of STF’s audience. After the On The Ropes screening, Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen was joined by Burstein and Morgen, as well as three of the main subjects from the film — Harry Keitt, Tyrene Manson, and George Walton — for a Q&A.

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Could Pandora’s Promise Protect Our Future?

Friends and fellow filmmakers, Kevin Rafferty and Robert Stone, catch up after PANDORA'S PROMISE. Photo by Simon Luethi.

Changing one’s strongly-held personal and political beliefs is never an easy decision, but what do you do when you realize that you have no other choice? This is the question with which the subjects of Robert Stone’s Pandora’s Promise grapple. The film profiles a group of environmentalists who have made the transition from being anti-nuclear crusaders to being pro-nuclear supporters, as they agree that nuclear power is the only way to change the current effects of climate change. Stone presents scientific evidence to support the activists’ claims, while also exploring the challenges and struggles experienced by individuals who go against the status quo in order to defend their true beliefs. Pandora’s Promise is a bold look into the future of environmentalism and fearlessly poses questions that are critical to address in the battle to preserve Earth.

Stone joined STF’s Thom Powers for a post-screening Q&A, featuring contributions from surprise guests in the audience.

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Telling Stories About Personal Documentaries

Doug Block shares tips for producing personal documentaries after STORIES WE TELL. Photo by Simon Luethi.

Sarah Polley is best known as an actress and a director of narrative feature films. She can now add documentarian to her list of credits, as she recently directed the personal film Stories We Tell. The film, which screened at STF on Tuesday, explores Polley’s family history and uncovers secrets about her parents that she had long questioned and wished to understand. Stories We Tell uses interviews with Polley’s relatives and family friends, archival footage, and experimental techniques to investigate the nature of truth and memory. By closely examining her own history and background, Polley is able to provide unique insight into the ways in which families construct and comprehend the complex narratives of their lives.

Filmmaker Doug Block, who consulted with Polley early in Stories We Tell‘s production process, was present for the post-screening Q&A. He spoke with STF’s Hugo Perez about Polley’s process, as well as his own process when making personal documentaries.

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Remembering Tim Hetherington in Which Way is the Front Line from Here?

James Brabazon and Alan Huffman share their memories of Tim Hetherington after WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? Photo by Helena Wolfenson.

British photojournalist Tim Hetherington devoted his life to documenting war and the people most affected by it. He spent his days traveling the world and getting to know individuals and communities so that he could amplify their voices and share their experiences with the widest audience possible. Shortly after he and his collaborator, Sebastian Junger, attended the Academy Awards to represent their documentary Restrepo, Hetherington traveled to Misrata, Libya to document the ongoing civil war. While in Libya, he was killed by a mortar attack, as was fellow photographer Chris Hondros.

In the wake of this tragic loss, Junger directed Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington. The film contains interviews with Hetherington’s loved ones and colleagues, as well as videos and photos spanning his career. It is a tribute to Hetherington’s life and work, providing deep insight into his decisions to document war and its effects.

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? screened at STF on Tuesday. After the screening, James Brabazon, the film’s producer and a close friend of Hetherington’s, and Alan Huffman, author of Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer, joined STF’s Thom Powers for a conversation about Hetherington’s life and legacy.

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The Struggles of Farmers in Bitter Seeds

Thom Powers and Micha Peled conversed after the screening of Peled's BITTER SEEDS. Photo by Ruth Somalo.

Lately, stories about the Monsanto Protection Act have been all over the news. The provision allows for Monsanto, a major biotechnology company, to plant untested genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could endanger the environment, even if the legal system objects. This news has created controversy among environmental and agricultural activists, and it is amidst this controversy that Micha Peled’s documentary Bitter Seeds screened as part of Stranger Than Fiction.

Bitter Seeds follows villagers in India who are encountering a significant crisis: farmers, who have seen their crops and finances destroyed by the integration of genetically modified seeds, are committing suicide in vast numbers. In an effort to uncover the reasons why the farmers are ending their lives and what can be done to stop it, a young aspiring journalist named Manjusha travels around her village, interviewing farmers and their families about their experiences. The film profiles Manjusha and her uncle, Ram Krishna, one of the farmers struggling with depression and financial issues. The personal stories of Manjusha and Ram Krishna are interspersed with interviews with Monsanto executives and environmentalists, offering a diverse array of perspectives on the controversy. At a time when stories about the actions and effects of Monsanto could not be more relevant, Bitter Seeds puts a human face on the situation.

After the screening, Peled spoke with STF’s Thom Powers about the filmmaking process and the adventures that have occurred during Bitter Seeds‘ international screening tour.

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