As economics editor for Channel 4 News in the U.K. and the author, most recently, of PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Mason is well-suited to examine the tumultuous recent history of Greece, which has confronted both creditors and the European Union on the austerity measures that have crippled the country’s economy.

Alongside frequent co-conspirator Theopi Skarlatos, Mason tracked the political upheaval in Greece; Skarlatos directed their collaborative fourpart series, #ThisIsACoup, while Mason produced and narrated the films. In this wide-ranging conversation, he talks about capturing the moment when hopes were at the highest, striving for access to key Syriza politicians navigating new power and internal party disagreements, and what he hopes other journalists can learn from the film.

How did you first come to follow what’s going on in Greece?

Mason: I was at the Davos conference in January 2010 at the moment that it had dawned on everybody that Greece had a bunch of debt that was completely unpayable. I remember the then-prime minister, George Papandreou, surrounded by journalists, thinking to myself, “Shit, I know what’s going to happen here.”

I have a connection with Greece going back to the mid-1980s — a family connection to the Greek left, when the Greek left was so tiny that its conferences could be in a very small room. By 2010, there’d been a ton of unrest among young people, even in the very good years. During the period of the anti-globalization movement, when Seattle and Prague were going up, the Greeks were massively involved in that.

So I knew two things: one, how badly Greek society would take it if a huge austerity problem was imposed. And two, that the Greek left was serious, that it had spent 20 or 30 years becoming mature, becoming ambitious for power. It was not out of the question that if Greece went into a crisis, it was something that had the power to blow the whole societal system of the country apart.

So I can remember that moment [looking at] Papandreou, thinking, “I have to get back in touch with everybody. This is going to be big.” By May of that year, I was in Athens reporting on the first austerity program, which by now seems relatively mild. But it was enough to effectively bring the government down.

Had you anticipated how things might go down this past January with the elections?

Mason: On election night, me and Theopi looked at each other, saying, “We have to record this, because it’s going to be an epic clash.” We weren’t certain the Europeans would smash [the newly elected government], but two people said to me — sources I won’t name, one on the left of Syriza, one in the very heart of the global banking system — “Are these guys crazy? This is fucking Europe they’re dealing with. This is Goldman Sachs.”

Here are some intelligent voices on the fringes saying there is going to be absolute catastrophe, they’re going to take them on, and the Europeans will destroy Greece. But there’s people in the center of Syriza saying, “Hey it’s fine, we’ve been told — Renzi told us, Obama told us — it’s all going to be fine.” It was a car crash that you could see from the first night of election.

What was your strategy for reporting and capturing the story?

Mason: We didn’t know how this was going to end, or when it was going to end, but we both assumed there would be a two- or three-month period in which there would be a kind of Greek spring. And we knew [after that] there would be some kind of a deal, some kind of a compromise with Europe. And after that’s over, that people will feel deflated. And we’ve got to capture the moment when hopes were at the highest, because there are a bunch of other left movers in Europe who will want to learn from it.

One thing we decided was to push into the countryside and record the deep Greece, as I call it. I’d spent almost 24 hours a day reporting on that January election, and I never even left Athens. So we said number one, deep Greece. Number two, working class Greece.

Then the third thing we wanted was the story of the radical movement. There is a place in Athens called Exarcheia, which is like the old Left Bank combined with the old Lower East Side combined with the old Berkeley of ’68. It’s impossible to get a camera into it, even on a good day, even when you have a hoodie and a big T-shirt with Che Guevara on it — that camera is going to be atomized in the moment, as long as it’s late enough in the day for the guys of the movement to actually be awake.

So we challenged ourselves to just go and push cameras out, to find people who’d want to talk to us. We knew we’d get the government side, but you have to work really hard to get a coherent narrative out of the people.

Did you have any idea of what you were going to hear in the countryside?How did one aspect of your work inform the other? The functioning as a Channel 4 broadcaster and economist, and pursuing this film project?

Mason: I knew that this would be the biggest political economic story of 2015. I didn’t know then there would be a refugee crisis on the same scale — something that doesn’t really feature heavily in the movie. But the fact that I’m a day-to-day journalist means I couldn’t be there all the time, so what I did was put my name to an appeal for funds. I put my name to producing the film. And for me producing is an unusual role because normally I’m reporting, I’m hands-on with the filming. Theopi is a longtime collaborator of mine. I knew if I could just raise the money to put her there in the situation that she could find the right people — we would eventually have a story.

In the interim I had to cover the British election. I had to cover a bunch of other stories that are quite interesting, and one gets sent around to do them. But I realized I couldn’t sleep and do my day job unless I knew I had a handle on the whole Greek situation. That’s why I put myself in the unusual role of producer.

Were you in touch frequently with Theopi, hearing about what she was filming and finding?

Mason: I would consult week by week and say, “What are you doing this week?” Theopi is the kind of journalist who will follow the story, cover those two extremes — pretty pictures, as it were, and rioting, and sometimes the two are the same. I didn’t have to micromanage the shooting — what I did was concentrate on building the journalistic relationship with the key politicians, and that took us some time.

We hear from [then-Finance Minister Yanis] Varoufakis and the other guy, [Euclid] Tsakalotos, who is now the finance minister, fairly early on, but it took us some time to get ourselves accepted and trusted inside the Maximo, which is the mansion of the prime minister, in terms what we were actually trying to do. They were trying to run a country in the midst of a crisis, and they were also a very inexperienced party — they struggled to do the daily news framing that the White House or 10 Downing Street would do.

So having to deal with documentary filmmakers was a complete low order for them. But I spent some time trying to think through how to solve that problem and eventually, in the movie, I think we did.

You solved the problem in terms of gaining access, or deepening the access you had?

Mason: This was a party that eventually split. Between January and August there were internal disagreements going on, and I found it sometimes difficult to understand, because whenever they’re speaking to me on camera, or even off camera, they’re trying to minimize the amount of internal disagreement that there was. In retrospect we know more about it, but at the time, if people say something to you as a journalist, you can only believe them until you have evidence to the contrary.

It was navigating that issue rather than the problems of access. By the time of what we call the “rupture,” the time when they threw off the relationship with the IMF and said fuck you — by that time we had [established] a mutual trust, which enabled me and Theopi to maintain our independence as journalists and draw boundaries. But you know, we’ve had to struggle, fight, hustle, for every time we got the access.

Where do you see the film fitting within the spectrum from news to documentary, from the topical to the historical? You’re putting it out there much quicker than most documentaries, but not as quickly as if it were straight news.

Mason: I’ve done enough news on this — this is certainly not news. It’s not even current affairs analysis. It is a film in four parts that you could quite easily watch, and in its later iterations I think it will be watched as a whole. It is a film in four parts that has the ambition to be cinematic, that has the ambition to also tell a deeper story.

In Syd Field’s book about screenwriting, he said to take a phrase that must sing throughout the film and tape it to your typewriter. And here that phrase is “Europe smashed the first left government in modern history. The politicians made mistakes, but the people were always really strong.” That’s what it’s about.

The film is pure chronology — we did a ton of retrospective interviews with key people, but in the end almost none of it fits in the documentary, because we realized once we got to the edit that we could stay in the moment for almost the entire movie. In terms of the turnaround time, we were clear to our funders that we wanted to make the first draft of history, but as a documentary.

I’m not worried about the fact that other documentaries will come out. I’m not rushing to beat people because I know that we have the story. The only thing that could beat it would be a fictional feature film that could tell the story of all the secret meetings, which we can’t tell.

If I were to sit on the rushes of this and wait five years until everyone has written their memoirs, Syriza is out of power and everyone can come clean about what’s going on, then certainly it will be a more valuable historical document, but it might not be more accurate or fresh. The brilliant thing about working with Laura [Poitras] is that she understood that for some documentaries, timeliness is important. And also that the platform allows you to play with the genre.

Were you uncertain as you went along of where would be your end point? It could have come at the end of episode 3, but the episodic structure allows you to have these multiple climaxes or multiple endpoints, which seems like an accurate depiction of how it all went down.

Mason: The interesting thing for us was the moment that they won the referendum. You know, either they win or they lose and that’s going to be the end of the thing. So they defeated the dragon, and either a bigger dragon will come eat them or the big dragon is going to fly off into the distance and they shout hurray. And that was right — the climax is the moment they win the referendum and the end is the moment that they completely surrender despite having won the referendum. We really knew that.

One of the biggest challenges I had, as somebody who is managing, by that time three crews every day — sitting there coming off the end of my day job at 10 p.m. every night — was trying to take stock of what’s happening and then reorganizing people for the next day. I felt a bit like Mozart in the film Amadeus. He’s trying to write two things at once, and we were doing that.

During that time we’re trying the hardest we can to keep ourselves going, but we knew the biggest climax had already happened, and we said again and again how many more shots of people queuing at ATMs do we need? We keep saying the queues don’t differ — there is no dynamic to them, there is just this horrible status like economic snowfall, and it makes everything quiet.

Nevertheless it was still valuable that you were filming. There was more of the story to tell. And you were the right people to tell it.

Mason: I’m very keen to leave behind in Greece some greater capacity to do this kind of journalism. Nine-tenths of the Greek broadcast and print media is hostile to Syriza, hostile to social justice, and has been described at oligarchic, corrupt, and totally biased. The other tenth are really good journalists who have had no money for five years.

The left government comes into power, and many of them have personal skin in the game of that left government and therefore when it comes to asking difficult probing questions and thinking really objectively — I wouldn’t expect them to do that because they are reliant on the good will of the mass movement that has brought this government to power. The kind of media that needs to be in Greece is independent of the left government, critical of it, asks it tough questions, but also is not in the pocket of oligarchs, money launderers and criminals who have been running that country for 70 years.

I am determined to leave behind teams of people who watched how Theopi and I worked. We’re both BBC-trained journalists — watch how we work and understand that it is possible. Objectivity towards the issue and responsibility towards your participants — basic, obvious public service journalism that barely exists in Greece. One of the first things I want to do when I get this edit out of my hair is get back there and do seminars around the movie, around the film with the people who were involved with it. What did we learn and what can we cascade down to our fellow colleagues in the Greek media?

How would you anticipate the film might be received in Greece, as well as the type of journalism you’d like to see pursued there?

Mason: Whatever the beauty of the shots, however brilliantly constructed the narrative is, the mere fact of seeing behind the scenes in this government is such a head fuck. Because no other media have got it.

Everybody who is Greek that’s seen rushes or excerpts from this, they tend to clutch at their throat and go, “Wow, I’ve never seen this. I’ve never seen the prime minister’s office. Who knew the chief of staff has a bust of Lenin on his desk?” It’s going to do their heads in, but after it does their heads in, I want them to say, “Well, what happened? What did we learn from that?”

#ThisIsACoup, Episode I: “Angela, Suck Our Balls” #ThisIsACoup, Episode II: To Pay or Not to Pay? #ThisIsACoup, Episode III: Oxi — The Greek Word for “No” #ThisIsACoup, Episode IV: Surrender or Die

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

François Verster and Simon Wood are South Africa-based filmmakers and the directors of Scenes from a Dry City, a new Field of Vision short about the water crisis in Cape Town.

The film looks at the terrifying march towards “Day Zero,” when the city’s water taps will be turned off due to prolonged drought, from a variety of perspectives, including: car washers, anti-privatization protesters, Christians praying for rain in a mass service, and well-to-do golfers on a lush private course. These vignettes are juxtaposed with images of a drought-stricken reservoir and the network of canals that carry an ever-decreasing trickle of water to Cape Town. Though “Day Zero” has reportedly been postponed, the core issues explored in the film—namely race, class, access, and privilege—remain relevant.

Scenes from a Dry City premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2018 and later screened at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, where it won the Mini-Doc Award. Verster and Wood recently spoke to Field of Vision about their award-winning film, what it was like to blend their filmmaking styles, and what they hope audiences will glean from their work.

What inspired you to make a film about the water crisis in Cape Town?

François Verster: Simon and I both live in Cape Town. At the beginning of last year, the public were suddenly receiving warnings that the taps may be turned off, and predictions were being made, ranging from exploding sewerage pipes to typhoid epidemics to social insurrection. Many wealthier Capetonians actually left the city for Johannesburg, the supermarkets ran out of bottled water after panic ensued, people started stockpiling, and there was a general sense of simply not knowing how life would proceed should there be no water. The government issued photos of water distribution points, which would be controlled by the army and would mean queues of tens of thousands of people every day. The public was asked to befriend elderly neighbors and to assist them when the time comes. Schools issued warnings of possible closure.

We were both intrigued by the way hidden social dynamics were coming to the fore in the process, and we both saw a great opportunity for a film that looked at Cape Town through the vehicle of a crisis that went across the board. I had made a film called Sea Point Days that consisted of vignettes of life in a specific part of the city, and Simon had made a film called Orbis, which uses powerful single visual scenes as a medium for storytelling. And we both felt that the situation presented a golden opportunity to deliver a highly creative insight into the bigger societal issues we have explored in our other films. I was in discussion with various people about doing something, and when the opportunity to do something for Field of Vision came up it totally made sense, both because of the urgent timeline and because of being able to contain a very big subject in a tight, limited form.

Simon Wood: Every man and his dog wanted to make a film about Cape Town being the first major city to run out of water last year. Most of these films were expository documentaries positioned around a sensationalist armageddon. I am not and never will be an environmental impact, social justice type of filmmaker. I saw an opportunity to use water as a lens to explore societal dynamics in a place which is rife with inequality. Thematically, I was interested in nature’s indifference to man, which allows the film to use water a neutral device to travel though Cape Town’s surreal maddening at the hands of a disinterested mother nature.

How did this collaboration come about? Had you worked together before?

Verster: We have been consulting on each other’s films and also developing a film called Zephany: The Hidden One together for some time. Because of the urgency involved in doing something on the water crisis, and because there were so many facets to cover, it made sense to try to work with another director. We at one point considered making a longer film that involved different directors from different parts of Cape Town, but in the end the short documentary form worked out very well for us.

Wood: François is South Africa’s greatest observational filmmaker, so I was obviously really keen to work with him! My films have been driven primarily by a strong visual aesthetic and less concerned with narrative, so I thought if we collaborated it would be an interesting clash of documentary personas, and by God it was! Oddly, I think the film works best when it intercuts between our separate styles: the golf scene in the empty canal, filmed by me, blends really well with François’s observation of the protest march. I hope these contrasting styles, opinions, ideas lead to something unsettling that connects with a broader idea around perception and reality.

You discuss showing not only the environmental impact but also the social and economic impact of the drought. Why did you think it was important to show those aspects as well?

Verster: I am primarily a social documentary filmmaker, so the human side, which is of course inseparable from environmental issues anyway, was always the entry point for me. As mentioned, the threat of water running out had a profound impact on Capetonians’ existential sense—it was as if society had been prodded in such a way so as to reveal both its fault lines and, perhaps also, its strengths and positive characteristics. In many ways Cape Town’s spatial geography is a monument to Apartheid planning, and now municipal resources are applied highly unequally across the city’s population. What was also illuminating was how many wealthier people would, for example, vocally complain about how car wash operations in the poor townships were wasting water, without any acknowledgement of the fact that in many of those areas a single tap could be serving an entire street. Or of the structural economic advantages involved in being able to dig well points or boreholes to keep gardens and swimming pools going in the wealthier areas. The water crisis cost the region over 30,000 jobs in the agriculture and tourism sectors, and of course the poorer employees were the first to go. The cost of municipal water itself shot up, and this was of course much harder for poorer households to accommodate. In the wealthiest areas, some house-owners continued watering their lawns as before, opting to pay the hefty fines—because they had the funds to do so—rather than saving water. On the other hand, there was also a very positive sense of people pulling together across race and class barriers towards a common cause.

Wood: I guess because people from privileged backgrounds, myself included, love to bang on about the environment, whilst for the majority of people in South Africa the main concern is how they will be able to provide for themselves and their families on a daily basis. These raw realities are somehow ignored and rarely discussed.

What was the process for gaining access for the ride-along with a member of local law enforcement that is featured in the film?

Verster: We had a very good relationship with Cape Town’s city police and had filmed with them a number of times before filming the chase sequencer in the film. The city was fairly open about what they were doing and the police in general, to our mind, seemed to want to cooperate with both the media and with the bigger debates that were going on. Yet it felt very strange and unsettling to be driving around in a police car filming people being booked for washing cars or watering their gardens, particularly in a place that has so many massive other societal problems.

Wood: I had been on several water operations with the police before I shot the car washer chase scene. It was fortunate that I was interviewing the officer in the car as the situation unfolded: the police officers in front of us were in an unmarked car and pulled up to the illegal car wash and all hell broke loose as they jumped out and tried to arrest the guys. It did feel fairly surreal to put so much effort into chasing men who were trying to make a day’s wage by washing cars. Everyone felt fairly deflated after the guys were arrested. But I think the film offers a not impossible view of a future where water is a precious entity and governments will fight to control it.

Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to shoot due to issues of access, timing, et cetera?

Verster: We were hoping to film more of the excessive use of water by certain richer Capetonians. For example, we had planned to film how farmers—who have water concessions from government—deliver water by truck to private swimming pool owners. In an area close to where I live, a massive multi-apartment complex that boasts fourteen brand new swimming pools has just been constructed, which seems crazy given that the general understanding has been that private pools are no longer a luxury Cape Town can afford. Even municipal pools have been threatened with closure. But because of the sensitivity around this kind of abuse of privilege it was not possible, in the time span we had, to arrange access to filming this.

Wood: The film uses water as a vehicle to travel though Cape Town, so it was really important to me that this journey had a strong aesthetic. I spent a lot of time searching for strong compositional moments in different landscapes: I filmed in underground water tunnels, dams, rivers, under bridges, and obviously underwater. When the golfer got into the empty canal to play the shot, I hadn’t taken a weekend off in two months. It was a Sunday, and my partner Meghna was pissed off that I decided to spend the afternoon filming in an empty canal. I had been wandering around that space for two hours when he nearly hit me with his ball. It’s a rare moment where a really bad golf shot landed in an amazing location whilst the sun was in the right part of the sky, and the right lens was on my camera creating a beautiful compositional observational moment of which I am very proud and makes the many weekends and pissed-off wife all seem worth it. Annoyingly, because it’s a beautiful shot, people think its staged or fake, I promise you it isn’t.

Why did you choose to make a short film instead of a feature-length film about this particular subject?

Verster: As before, this was largely because of the time factor involved and also because the opportunity to make a piece for Field of Vision offered something altogether new for me. I have not made many short documentaries before and have generally tended to be skeptical about them in the sense that one cannot be immersed in a world or in a process in the way I usually associate with the documentary films I value. Yet once we started working, the relative freedoms allowed by the form became a source of genuine joy. I was amazed at how one can combine elements without needing the same amount of exposition, development or even justification. Switches of mode or tone can be made very rapidly. For example, when we get back to the car washers, the real sound environment is cut out and we move to a trickling-water sound, which we thought of as the “essence” of water in auditory form, accompanied by a bass rumble. The film somehow completely changes into something else right there - and we look at subsequent scenes very differently. My idea of documentary is that its value lies exactly in being able to combine different realities, modes of looking, even modes of reality in one space, and the short film somehow makes doing so a lot easier.

Wood: To quote Werner Herzog who combatively believes we must divorce documentary from mere investigative journalism and that the “fly-on-the-wall” approach is for “losers,” he puts it eloquently when he states: “Only by imagining and by creating and by fantasizing and bringing in deep dreams, all of a sudden puts you into a position where you start to see something deeper. You notice something that stays within you forever.” This is genuinely what I strive for, and I believe it’s far easier to take chances, present dreams and fantasies within a short film than it is a feature where we often slaves to narrative devices and economic pressures.

What do you hope people gain from watching Scenes from a Dry City?

Verster: I hope that the film works on various levels. Firstly, we would of course like to draw attention to the crisis itself, and to the social issues that are brought to the fore by it, and to how what is happening here might be a harbinger of future situations elsewhere in the world. Cape Town does have a specific set of circumstances, but it does seem as if what we experienced last year is going to become commonplace around the world. The debates around political responsibility, alternative water sources—such as desalination plants—socio-economic rights, privatization and so on are by no means resolved, and it would be good for different centers to engage on how problems are or are not being resolved. But the film also aims to work at a more existential level. One guiding idea we had was to try to think through what it would mean to see things from the perspective of water itself, one that is indifferent yet central to existence and binding everything together. The hope was that this would then also open up a different kind of look: one that is visual, emotional, perhaps at some level philosophical—at the very tough debates on race and economics raging in the country over the past few years—in a way, both the harsh divisions as well as the connectedness of Cape Town’s human population are revealed. And then of course, we wanted all of this to function partly through the cinematic qualities of the film, so that people have an experience of aesthetic beauty, or at least power, which allows a different—and possibly, at a push, deeper—kind of political engagement with reality at hand.

Wood: Beautiful! I’d like to end the interview by saying I agree with François.

Watch Scenes from a Dry City on Field of Vision.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Field of Vision announces today a new fellowship and its first-ever artist-in-residence. 

The Field of Vision fellowship is a year-long, collaborative program designed to support filmmakers in achieving their long-term artistic goals. The four 2018 Field of Vision fellows are: director Garrett Bradley (AloneBelow Dreams); director, actor, and activist Michelle Latimer (RiseChoke); filmmaker Charlie Lyne (Fish StoryBeyond Clueless); and Lyric Cabral, director of the Emmy-winning documentary (T)error.

“We are establishing this fellowship program to support filmmakers beyond project-based commissions, and to invite artists to collaborate in our editorial process," said Field of Vision executive producer Laura Poitras.  

The first year of fellows were selected from filmmakers who had worked with Field of Vision over the last three years. In addition to creating a framework for idea development, creative support, and a grant, Field of Vision will conduct workshops throughout the year in the areas of digital security, research, and legal issues. Fellows will also be invited to participate in Field of Vision’s editorial process, from identifying urgent stories to offering filmmaker feedback and guidance.

“We have wanted to support filmmakers in as many ways as possible since the beginning of Field of Vision,” said executive producer Charlotte Cook. “We are so thrilled to create these fellowships to be able to collaborate further with these incredible artists, all of whom are visionaries whose work is at the forefront of exploring the ways of combining art and storytelling and expanding the form.”

In addition to the four fellows, Field of Vision and First Look Media are jointly supporting data artist Josh Begley as an artist-in-residence in 2018. On staff at The Intercept since 2014, Begley has regularly collaborated with the publication’s co-founder Jeremy Scahill on multiple projects, including The Drone Papers. Begley’s first project as artist-in-residence is Concussion Protocol, a short film made with footage of all reported concussions sustained in the NFL this season. It has been viewed over 1.6 million times. 

January was a landmark month for Field of Vision. Yance Ford’s Strong Island, made with support from Field of Vision, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, marking the first nomination for an openly transgender director. 

Five Field of Vision-supported documentaries also screened at Sundance Film Festival, and three received special jury awards: Steve Maing’s Crime + Punishment; RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening; and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President

Founded in 2015, Field of Vision has funded over 70 shorts and provided support for 10 feature documentaries. Field of Vision is the recipient of the International Documentary Association’s Best Short Form Series award and a News and Documentary Emmy nomination. 

About the Fellows:

Garrett Bradley

Garrett Bradley is a New Orleans-based filmmaker. Her debut feature documentary,Below Dreams, premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Her work has been exhibited in several prominent venues, including the Getty Museum, Hammer Museum, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rooftop Films, New Orleans Film Festival, Hot Docs, and SXSW. Her short film Alone (Sundance 2017), which was released as part of the New York Times’s Op-Docs series, won a Sundance Jury Award and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. She has received fellowships from the Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Garrett is also the co-founder of Creative Council, an artist-led afterschool program that helps high school students develop strong portfolios and applications for college. She currently teaches filmmaking at Loyola University.

Recent Field of Vision films: Like (SXSW 2016), The Earth is Humming (to be released)

Lyric Cabral

Director Lyric R. Cabral creates investigative work that exposes new information for the public record. Cabral’s directorial debut (T)error won an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Documentary and was hailed by Variety as "a vital exposé.” (T)error has screened at more than 50 film festivals worldwide and is now available on Netflix. Lyric is a recipient of the International Documentary Association’s Emerging Filmmaker Award and has been featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. A current Rockwood/ Just Films Fellow, Lyric is a former Sundance Women in Film Fellow and a veteran of Sundance Institute’s Edit Lab and Creative Producing Lab. Prior to making films, Lyric worked as an editorial photojournalist; her photography was recently on exhibit in Gordon Parks: The Making of An Argument at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive.

Recent Field of Vision film: The Rashomon Effect (in production)

Michelle Latimer

Michelle Latimer (Métis/Algonquin) is a Toronto-based writer, director, activist, and actor. Her body of work includes Choke (Sundance 2011), which received a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Honorable Mention in International Short Filmmaking and was chosen as one of TIFF Canada’s Top Ten in 2012; The Underground (TIFF 2014); Nimmikaage (Oberhausen 2016); the feature-length documentary ALIAS, which was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award; and the Viceland docuseries Rise (Sundance 2017). Michelle is currently working on her first dramatic feature The Freedom Project, adapting the bestselling novel The Inconvenient Indian (HBO/NFB) for screen, and being the showrunner for the seriesRed Nation Rising, which is in development for Sienna. She has programmed for ImagineNATIVE, Hot Docs Film Festival, and the Dawson City International Short Film Festival.

Recent Field of Vision film: Nuuca (TIFF 2017, Sundance 2018)

Charlie Lyne

Charlie Lyne is a filmmaker and film critic, best known for the essay films Beyond Clueless and Fear Itself. He has also directed a number of shorts, including the award-winning documentary Fish Story, and the 10-hour protest film Paint Drying. His work has screened at festivals including Sundance, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and SXSW.

Recent Field of Vision film: Personal Truth (IDFA 2017)

About the Artist-in-Residence:

Josh Begley

Josh Begley is a data artist and app developer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the creator of Metadata+, an iPhone app that tracks U.S. drone strikes. Begley’s work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, NPR, The Atlantic, The Intercept, The Guardian, New York Magazine, and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Recent Field of Vision films: Best of Luck with the Wall (Doc Stories 2016, True/False 2017), Concussion Protocol

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

American football is a beautiful sport. There’s a tremendous amount of grace that goes into it. For a moment, men can fly; the highlight reels are spectacular.

It can also be horrific — like watching someone get hit by a car.

Since the season started, there have been more than 280 concussions in the NFL. That is an average of 12 concussions per week. Though it claims to take head injuries very seriously, the National Football League holds this data relatively close. It releases yearly statistics, but those numbers are published in aggregate, making it difficult to glean specific insights.

I have been tracking these injuries all season. Using a variety of methods, including reviewing daily injury reports from NFL.com, I have created what I believe is the most complete dataset of individual concussions sustained during the 2017-2018 season.

The resulting film, “Concussion Protocol,” is a visual record of every concussion in the NFL this year.

This film does not make an argument for ending football. Rather, it invites a set of questions. In the spirit of Saidiya Hartman, I am interested in “defamiliarizing the familiar.”

When we watch American football, what are we seeing?

By cutting together only these scenes of injury — moments of impact, of intimacy, of trauma — and reversing them, I hope to open up a space to see some of this violence anew.

In his recent book “Black and Blur,” Fred Moten asks, “What is it to rewind the given? What is it to wound it? What is it to be given to this wounding and rewinding?”

Representing this series of collisions in reverse — and in slow motion or “dragged time” — I hope to make strange what has for many of us become normative: the spectacular, devouring moment of a football hit that knocks a player out cold.

Rather than making a film about concussions with a flurry of hard hits, however, I am interested — inspired by Hartman — in looking elsewhere. How might we see the totality of this violence without just replaying the violence itself? “By defamiliarizing the familiar,” Hartman writes in “Scenes of Subjection,” “I hope to illuminate the terror of the mundane and quotidian rather than exploit the shocking spectacle.”

In a moment when black athletes are being chastised for kneeling in protest of police violence, it should not be lost on us that calls to “get back on the field” or “stick to football” are also calls for players to subject themselves to the slower forms of violence the football field contains.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Field of Vision is debuting their new film, A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN by Marshall Curry.

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN (Dir. Marshall Curry)

In 1939, twenty-thousand Americans rallied in New York’s Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism – an event largely forgotten from American history. A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN uses striking archival fragments recorded that night to transport modern audiences into this disturbing gathering. With chilling resonance in light of events in Charlottesville and around the country, the film is a reminder about the power that far-right ideology once had in America and a wakeup call about the importance of to addressing it today.

From Field of Vision Co-Founders:

Laura Poitras: "When Marshall approached us with the film two days after Charlottesville, my first thought was, 'we need to put this film in cinemas,' and release it like a newsreel."

Charlotte Cook: “When Marshall first showed us this footage we were stunned. We felt that due to this political climate it was essential to get this film out fast, but also that to do so we needed to try a different style of distribution. By playing in theatres across the country first we hope this the film will be able to reach beyond our usual audience, and into a range of communities and cities around the US. Creating a conversation around the film from the ground up. It’s extremely exciting to be able to do this with Marshall, a filmmaker we’ve been wanting to work with for a long time. And this film is so incredibly well, and thoughtfully, made. We can’t wait for people to see it.”

On Sunday September 24, the film will be shown across the country at 22 screens in Alamo theaters in:

Kansas City

https://drafthouse.com/kansas-city/show/american-assassin

https://drafthouse.com/kansas-city/show/it-2017

https://drafthouse.com/kansas-city/show/kingsman-the-golden-circle

https://drafthouse.com/kansas-city/show/mother

Yonkers

https://drafthouse.com/yonkers/show/3-d-rarities

https://drafthouse.com/yonkers/show/solaris-4k-restoration

San Francisco

https://drafthouse.com/sf/show/ingrid-goes-west

https://drafthouse.com/sf/show/beach-rats

https://drafthouse.com/sf/show/infinity-baby

Brooklyn

https://drafthouse.com/nyc/show/zardoz

https://drafthouse.com/nyc/show/dunkirk

https://drafthouse.com/nyc/show/good-time

https://drafthouse.com/nyc/show/mother

Austin Lakeline

Austin Mueller

Austin Ritz

Austin Slaughter

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/mother

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/grindhouse

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/stronger

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/the-big-sick

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/brads-status

https://drafthouse.com/austin/show/tough-guy-cinema-repo-man

The film is also playing at the IFC Center in New York until Friday playing before the 12:30pm showing of “The Unknown Girl."

The film will be part of a special event at the NYFF, and more festivals to come, along with an online release.

About Marshall Curry: MARSHALL CURRY is a two-time Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker. His film, “Street Fight,” follows Cory Booker’s first run for mayor of Newark, NJ and was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy. His follow up documentary, “Racing Dreams” tells the story of two boys and a girl who live in rural America and dream of one day racing in NASCAR. It won numerous awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, and aired on PBS and the BBC. His third film, “If a Tree Falls, a Story of the Earth Liberation Front” peels back the layers of a radical environmental group that the FBI called the number one domestic terrorist group in the United States. That film won the award for Best Documentary Editing at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to be nominated for an Oscar. Marshall was Executive Producer and an additional editor of “Mistaken For Strangers,” a comedy rock-doc about indie band, The National. Most recently Marshall directed and edited “Point and Shoot,” a documentary about a young Baltimore native who set out on a 30,000-mile motorcycle trip through Northern Africa and the Middle East and wound up joining the rebels in Libya fighting Gaddafi. It won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released in theaters and aired on PBS and the BBC. Marshall is a graduate of Swarthmore College where he studied Comparative Religion and has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Duke, Columbia, NYU, and other colleges. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Before directing Field of Vision’s latest film, “Duterte’s Hell,” with Aaron Goodman, Luis Liwanag worked as a photojournalist for local and foreign press in the Philippines. In the following essay, he reflects on his transition from taking still photographs to filmmaking, and what it was like to capture the horrors of President Duterte’s “war on drugs.

I discovered photography when I was 11. My family did not own a single camera, but our neighborhood sorbetero [ice cream vendor] had a twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera and would take our family photos for us. I remember we had so many that when I opened my mother’s closet, dozens of photo albums would cascade down from the shelves. My dad, an artist and illustrator, kept stacks of old National Geographic, Time, and Life magazines tucked away in his filing cabinet. I bought my first camera at age 12: a Kodak Instamatic. I guess you could say I was destined to be in this line of work.

As a kid, I would just snap pictures of my friends in school. As an adult, being a photographer has given me the power to make observations about daily life in my country and voice my opinion on certain issues.

When President Rodrigo Duterte came into power, the rampage of extrajudicial killings started. My fellow journalists were covering the night shifts at the police headquarters. Reports would come in—either from radio dispatch or via Twitter—and they would travel to crime scenes in convoys. It was only a matter of time before I decided to started going with them, to see the effects of Duterte’s war on drugs for myself.

Shooting this and other documentaries has been transformative experience for me. When working as a hired photojournalist, I didn’t really set up my shots—I just filmed whatever is happening right in front of me.

And as I witnessed the aftermath of the slayings, I felt like I was reconnecting to my old self. I was a police beat photographer at the onset of my career, but later shifted to more varied issues and mainstream news coverage. I became focused on issues dictated by the editorial policies of media entities that employed me.

Now, as a freelancer—and particularly with this film—I’ve had the leeway to choose stories that I feel I can interpret better visually. And although the nightly spate of killings numbed me in some ways, I felt for the people directly or indirectly affected by them.

A couple of months into photographing the killings in Manila and its surrounding metro area, Aaron Goodman, an educator and video journalist whom I had worked with previously, saw my images on social media and asked me if I was interested in collaborating with him on a video documentary about Duterte’s drug war.

While filming, we had to maintain a low-key lighting style, and only expose for the midtones. I wanted to be unobtrusive and invisible while shooting the events so that we left as few traces of ourselves as possible.

We had a limited amount of time to set up each shot. When you’re filming events as they unfold, you don’t really have control over what is going to happen. You have to visualize the image in your mind’s eye beforehand, and shoot whatever occurs in the moment.

While filming, we were very attuned to the sounds, textures, emotions and details of each scene. My approach was to linger in a single framed shot as if it was a single image and slowly transition into another well-composed frame and capture the entire story happening between those frames.

Although I am an advocate of still photographs and what photography great Henri Cartier- Bresson calls “the decisive moment,” I have discovered that video, though more fleeting, can be equally powerful in stringing together single images to make a powerful statement.

See Goodman and Liwanag’s film here:

To see more work by Luis Liwanag, visit his website here. To see the work of Aaron Goodman, visit his website here.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Featured

Scenes from a Dry City (12 min.)

Simon Wood and François Verster

The Trial (15 min.)

Johanna Hamilton

Crooked Lines (11 min.)

Monica Berra, Yoruba Richen and Jacqueline Olive

More to Watch

CamperForce (16 min.)

Brett Story and Jessica Bruder

Graven Image (10 min.)

Sierra Pettengill

Our 100 Days 7/7

American Carnage (9 min.)

Farihah Zaman and Jeff Reichert

The Town I Live In (10 min.)

Matt Wolf and Guadalupe Rosales

Captured in Sudan (28 min.)

Phil Cox, Daoud Hari and Giovanna Stopponi

Timberline (12 min.)

Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Duterte’s Hell (8 min.)

Aaron Goodman and Luis Liwanag

Conditioned Response (6 min.)

Craig Atkinson and Laura Hartrick

Our 100 Days 4/7

Here I’ll Stay (10 min.)

Lorena Manríquez and Marlene McCurtis

Our 100 Days 3/7

An Uncertain Future (11 min.)

Chelsea Hernandez and Iliana Sosa

Our 100 Days 1/7

An Act of Worship (9 min.)

Sofian Khan and Nausheen Dadabhoy

The Moderators (20 min.)

Adrian Chen and Ciaran Cassidy

Clowns (7 min.)

Alex Kliment, Dana O'Keefe and Mike Tucker

Project X (10 min.)

Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke

Hopewell (3 min.)

Lorena Manríquez

The Vote (12 min.)

Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko

Like (9 min.)

Garrett Bradley

Concerned Student 1950 (32 min.)

Adam Dietrich, Varun Bajaj and Kellan Marvin

Peace in the Valley (15 min.)

Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher

Homeland is not a Series (7 min.)

Arabian Street Artists Heba Y. Amin, Caram Kapp and Don Karl aka Stone

#ThisIsACoup 4/4

Surrender or Die (16 min.)

Theopi Skarlatos and Paul Mason

Eric & “Anna” (14 min.)

Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway

Birdie (14 min.)

Heloisa Passos

The Above (8 min.)

Kirsten Johnson