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Interview: Doug Block Discusses THE KIDS GROW UP

October 25, 2010

For his latest film, a documentary titled The Kids Grow Up, acclaimed filmmaker Doug Block chose to turn the camera on his daughter Lucy. By weaving archival footage, on-camera present day life and heartbreak with humor, Block relives the first seventeen years of his daughter’s life before sending her off to college. This personal account of his daughterâ??s childhood translates into a universal story of modern-day parenting and learning to let go.

I had the opportunity to chat with Doug Block prior to the film’s opening this weekend at the Angelika, which was greatly received by The New York Times and The New York Daily News. Read the interview below and be sure to purchase your tickets to The Kids Grow Up HERE.

Congratulations on your film! The Kids Grow Up is a very intimate portrait of your family, how was the experience of watching the finished product with your daughter Lucy and wife Marjorie?
DB:
Nerve wracking, because in both cases I needed to show them a rough cut much earlier than I would have wanted to in order to make sure they were okay with it. But I didn’t think either would have major problems with it and they didn’t. My wife just thought at first that it would take a long time for her to objectively be able to judge it.

What was Lucyâ??s reaction to the film?
DB: She had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she thinks it’s a really good film, and she’s a tough critic. But she’s a pretty normal kid with no desire to be the center of attention and certainly no desire to be famous on any level. It’s definitely helped a lot for her to be three years removed from the filming and to have gained some perspective from being older.

Has her life changed at all after screenings of the film?
DB:
Not really. She spent last year doing her junior year abroad in Buenos Aires, so she missed almost our entire festival run. As for the theatrical release, which is just about to begin, I think she’s mostly trying to ignore it as best she can. Which is more than fine with me. I think that’s a very healthy attitude.

How much of the film was shaped around what Lucy and Marjorie felt comfortable with, how involved were they in the editing process?
DB:
They weren’t involved at all in the editing process. But I made sure they saw both the rough and fine cuts before anyone else expressly to address any discomfort they might have had. Lucy is a bit mortified by one particular scene, but only asked me to change one shot and not the scene itself. Which I did. If they had seriously objected to anything it would have come out, no questions asked.

I also gave Lucy the chance to put the nix on the entire film once it was entirely shot but before I began raising money to edit it. When she returned for Christmas vacation her freshman year, I showed her 30 minutes of roughly assembled footage involving the most difficult and emotional scenes in the film and told her if she felt the film would seriously impact her life for the worse that now was the time to say no. I’d shelve it right then and there. She just said she thought it would be a good film and signed a release form. On the other hand, next to her signature she drew a picture of a pile of steaming poop and wrote “This is what I think of your film.”

Lucy BlockDid â??normal lifeâ? resume after the completion of The Kids Grow Up or do you find yourself still in documentary mode?
DB:
Both, actually. Life continued pretty normally all during the making of The Kids. It’s not like I shot obsessively, maybe only 35 or 40 hours over the course of Lucy’s last year at home. The only difference was that Lucy left home for college in the middle of the process, and my wife and I had to deal with an empty nest. Now that was tough, every bit as tough as I’d anticipated.

You played three roles in this film: father, filmmaker and husband. What was that process like?
DB:
Balancing these various roles gets to the very nature of making these kinds of personal films. Though I take my filmmaking very seriously, I always tried to be a father and husband first. Which meant if Lucy or Marjorie didn’t want me to shoot something, I didn’t shoot it. If they wanted me to put the camera down at any point, I put it down. And, once we were editing, if they had problems with any scenes, it was always grounds for discussion. But bottom line was that I’d never try to force anything over on them. They had to approve of everything, ultimately. And they did.

People often ask about including Marjorie’s episode of depression and whether or not that was too invasive. Shooting it was by the far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my professional life. But I was sure at the time, given how vocal and committed she’s always been to destigmatizing depression, that she would want it depicted. And it turns out she strongly wanted it to stay. It’s a very powerful section of the film and audiences admire her courage for showing that side of herself. In turn, she’s very proud of the matter-of-fact way the film deals with it. We both hope to do a lot of outreach to national organizations dealing with mental health, talks are already well underway. I’m not a social issue filmmaker, but I’m proud that the film, by quirk of fate, has the potential to make a significant impact on public perceptions.

Doug Block with wife Marjorie A. Silver and daughter Lucy BlockDo you feel like you may have missed the actual experience of Lucyâ??s departure as a result of being behind the camera?
DB:
Not really. I think it actually intensified the experience because I spent so much time thinking about it and observing it. I’m pretty focused when I get into shoot mode.

Have you seen any reactions from parents who have or are sending their children off to college?
DB:
Yep, they get pretty emotional. But then it seems to be hitting everyone who’s been a parent hard, no matter what the age of their children. We sometimes have to practically peel moms and dads off the floor after screenings. What’s particularly gratifying, though, is that young people in their 20’s and 30’s who aren’t parents are appreciating the story from Lucy’s perspective, and bring to it all these emotions from their own experiences of having left home. So almost everyone sees something of their own story in it, no mater where they’re from. Leaving home and learning to let go are primal universal experiences.

Like The Kids Grow Up, your previous film 51 Birch Street was an intimate portrait of your family life. Do you anticipate covering other aspects of your family life or do you plan to shift the focus off of yourself in regards to future projects?
DB:
My wife and I struggling with the empty nest is the leaping off point for my next film, a personal documentary about long-term marriage that I’m currently in the middle of shooting. But the film will mostly look outward. My own marriage frames the story but I’m not sure how major a role it will play. I’ll think a lot about it as I shoot, but will leave the final decision for the editing room. That’s the thrill of these kinds of films. They start out as one thing and always take on a life of their own once the ball gets rolling.

Meet Juliette Lewis This Weekend at The Angelika New York!

October 21, 2010

This weekend one of our generation’s most prolific entertainers, Juliette Lewis will be hosting Q&As in support of her latest film Conviction at The Angelika New York! The Academy Award Nominated actress and acclaimed musician plays Roseanna Perry in Conviction, a true story about a working mother (played by Hilary  Swank) who puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother (played by Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongfully convicted of murder.

Juliette will be stopping by the Angelika New York this weekend to host three Q&As, you won’t want to miss this one! We’ll also be hosting an exclusive interview right here on At The Angelika Blog next week, stay tuned! Purchase your tickets for Conviction HERE, Q&A showtimes below.

Q&As with Juliette Lewis at The Angelika:
Friday, 10/22 following the 5:30 PM Show
Saturday, 10/23 following the 7:00 PM
Sunday, 10/24 after the 5:30 PM

Purchase Tickets

Interview: Director Eyad Zahra Talks TAQWACORES, Q&As This Weekend!

October 20, 2010

While surfing Wikipedia one night a few years ago, filmmaker Eyad Zahra stumbled across influential American Muslim writer and performance artist Michael Muhammad Knight. Intrigued, Zahra picked up Knight’s novel The  Taqwacores, a story about a fictional group of misfit Muslim Americans living in Buffalo, NY. Taqwacore, a term that combines the word Taqwa (the Islamic concept of “God-consciousness”) with (hard)core punk-rock, describes Knight’s imagined culture collision of Muslim punks…which in response developed a real life art scene!

Reading The Taqwacores was no less than a life-changing experience for Zahra, setting forth the novel’s film adaption. Along with the inevitable financial restraints of independent filmmaking, The Taqwacores had to overcome being told that the film was uncastable. Against all odds the film debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was called one of The Ten Best Films of The Sundance Film Festival 2010 by Time Out London!  We are proud to present The Taqwacores this Friday, October 22nd at the Village East Cinema along with special Q&As with the cast and crew.

Q&A Friday, October 22nd following the 8PM Show: Eyad Zahra (Writer/Director), Michael Muhammad Knight (Writer), Volkan Eryamn (Actor), Allison Carter (Producer)
Q&A Saturday,October 23rd following the 8PM Show: Michael Muhammad Knight (Writer), Volkan Eryamn (Actor), Allison Carter (Producer)

Eyad, congratulations on your feature length debut! In your own words can you explain the taqwacore culture and what drew you to it?

EZ: Thank you! My first encounter with the taqwacore culture was through the novel. After reading it, I reached out to the author, Michael Muhammad Knight, and he told me how the novel had snowballed into a real life artist scene. As we were developing the novel into a film, the taqwacore music had started to really come to life, with bands like The Kominas and Al-Thawra starting to tour. Now the taqwacore scene goes beyond to include various types of activists, bloggers, photographers, etc. Taqwacore is not religious specific, and people of all faiths and no-faiths have supported it.

When did you first get your hands on Michael Muhammad Knight’s novel The Taqwacores of which the film is based?

EZ: After randomly coming across Michael Muhammad Knightâ??s wikipedia page, I discovered the book. Iâ??ll never forget when I read the description of his novel, as being about â??punk rock Muslims.â? Everything stopped right then and there. I called my local indie bookstore on the spot, and asked if they had it on the shelf. They did. I picked up the novel that night, and after a few readings, I finished the book. It was nothing short of a life-changing experience.

What was the process of writing the screenplay with author Michael Muhammad Knight like?

EZ: When Knight and I first began to work on the screenplay, I was very intimidated. First, this was the author of the novel, and who was I to suggest things that he might not agree with. Second, and more important, I really admired Michael a lot. I placed him on a pedestal way above me. Thankfully though, Mike saw our collaboration as mutual, and I became less intimidated to work with him over time.

The Taqwacores focuses on the fusion of two very different cultures and lifestyles, punk culture and Islam. Was it a difficult task to make sure each was represented accurately (on film)?

EZ: Yes. The last thing we wanted to do was make a film that presented a pseudo depiction of Punks and Muslims. Going into the film, I had more of a Muslim angle on things, so I had to do a lot of research to get the punk side of things understood.

Thankfully though, Mikeâ??s book gave us all the ingredients to give both communities justice. In order to keep the film a Muslim story, we kept Mikeâ??s strong use of Islamic vernacular, without the use of subtitles. On the punk side of things, we shot the film at the Tower 2012, in Cleveland, Ohio, which created an authentic punk setting for the cast and crew to work in. There were many other things we did to keep it Muslim and Punk, but these are just the first two examples that come to mind.

Have you experienced any backlash?

EZ: To many people’s surprise, no signs of backlash have been received. Although this film is not for everybody, there are people who really champion it, specifically within the Islamic community. The Taqwacores is a complex tale, trying to be as honest as possible with the American Muslim experience. Muslims and non-Muslims who have seen the film have truly respected our efforts.

I find it fascinating that the Muslim punk scene developed in response to its fictitious inception in Knightâ??s novel. How did you approach the making of the film in light of this fairly new subculture?

EZ: We tried to incorporate the real scene as much possible with this fiction film. Every song, except one, are from taqwacore bands. Characters in the film constantly reference the read bands in the film too. Last but not least, our production designer was the lead singer from Al-Thawra, Marwan Kamel.

I read in a previous interview that an industry casting director called your film â??uncastable.â? How did you overcome that challenge?

EZ: We hired an incredible casting director, Ryan Glorioso. Ryan did a nationwide talent search with peanuts as a budget. Through this efforts we locked in most of our cast. I cannot recommend Ryan enough to any indie filmmaker out there.

This film has truly had an incredible journey, from Sundance we played around the world, including Spain, Russia, Poland, and in the coming weeks Switzerland and India. The ability for our film to get out there shows that indie cinema is alive and well.

Exclusive Interview with Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson + Contest!

September 23, 2010

Fresh from The Toronto Film Festival, we had the pleasure of having Oscar Nominee Edward Norton and Director Tim Blake Nelson at the Village East Cinema last Friday for the highly-anticipated release of their film Leaves of Grass.  Prior to their Q&A’s for the weekend at Village East Cinema, Edward and Tim graciously sat down with At The Angelika Blog for an exclusive on camera interview to discuss the film. Following the interview Edward and Tim signed the film artwork featured in the video for a special At The Angelika Blog contest! (Details below)

During the sold out Q&A at the Village East Cinema, Edward announced “I used to come to this theater when I first moved to New York,” which was received with applause from the full house of fans, striving actors and critics. One of the best moments of the discussion came when a fan asked Edward “How did it feel to watch yourself watch yourself die?” Why didn’t I think of that one earlier in the night?

Don’t miss the exclusive theatrical release of Leaves of Grass now playing at the Village East Cinema [tickets] and Beekman Theatre beginning Friday, September 24th [tickets]! Tim Blake Nelson will hold two Q&A’s at the Beekman Theatre this Friday, September 24th following the 9:35 PM screening and the 7:20 PM screening on Saturday, September 25th.

Contest Details: There are two ways to win the Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson autographed movie poster (pictured above.) One winner will be announced Tuesday, September 28th at 6PM! (Be sure to follow @AngelikaFilmCen on Twitter to be notified via Direct Message and/or include your email with blog comment!)

#1) Follow @AngelikaFilmCen on Twitter and post the following: Check out @AngelikaFilmCen‘s exclusive Edward Norton & Tim Blake Nelson interview and Contest http://bit.ly/9mk2DR

#2) Leave a comment on this post listing your Top 3 favorite Edward Norton film characters. (Be sure to include your contact info.)

Q&A’s This Weekend in New York with Edward Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Ole Schell and Sara Ziff!

September 15, 2010

LEAVES OF GRASS

Beginning this Friday September 17th, Oscar-Nominated actor Edward Norton will host a string of Q&A’s at our sister theater Village East Cinema. Norton will be joined with director Tim Blake Nelson to discuss the highly-anticipated release of Leaves of Grass, a film that Roger Ebert calledOne of the year’s best! A masterpiece. Edward Norton is flawless.” You can catch this very limited exclusive engagement at the show times below and purchase your tickets HERE.

Friday 9/17: Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson Q&A following 7PM show and an introduction of the 9:50 show

Saturday 9/18 Edward Norton will host a Q&A following the 4:35PM show

PICTURE ME: A MODEL’S DIARY

Former model Sarah Ziff turns the cameras on the world of high fashion modeling in the award-winning documentary Picture Me: A Model’s Diary. Just in time for the wrap of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, Sarah Ziff and filmmaker Ole Schell (also her then-boyfriend) will stop by the Angelika to discuss their film! Purchase your tickets HERE for this exclusive engagement.

Q&A’s with Ole Schell and Sara Ziff this Friday 9/17 and Saturday 9/18  following the 7:30 shows!

INTERVIEW: Animal Kingdom Director David Michod and Actor Ben Mendelsohn

September 7, 2010

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winning crime drama Animal Kingdom is now playing at the Angelika Dallas and Plano locations, and we’ve got an exclusive on-camera interview with director David Michod and the film’s star Ben Mendelsohn. Check out the interview below and visit Angelika Plano and Angelika Dallas for showtimes and ticket information.

 

INTERVIEW: Animal Kingdom Director David Michod and Actor Ben Mendelsohn from Angelika Film Center on Vimeo.

Village East: Touching Home Q&As!

May 10, 2010

Touching Home

Join the stars and filmmakers Logan and Noah Miller in-person for a special question and answer event following the 7:30pm shows of TOUCHING HOME on Fri 5/14 and Sat 5/15 – at the Village East Cinema!

Click for more

TOUCHING HOME
Four-time Academy Award® nominee Ed Harris gives an extraordinary performance in TOUCHING HOME, an emotionally charged drama of love and redemption – a tale about family and the bonds that matter. Based on the best-selling memoir (Either You’re In or You’re in the Way) of writer/director/star duo Logan and Noah Miller, TOUCHING HOME tells the story of the painful, complicated relationship with their troubled, homeless father Charlie (Harris). Features Oscar® nominees Robert Forster and Brad Dourif, Evan Jones, Lee Meriwether, Ishiah Benben and Brandon Hanson.

A superior independent film that will certainly win your hearts.” – The Huffington Post