“Once in a Lullaby” now available on YouTube

After an exciting run on the film festival circuit, including a hometown Tribeca premiere and numerous awards and accolades, the feature length documentary about the PS22 Chorus is available on YouTube . . . the place where it all began.

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New Jersey Institute of Technology & County College of Morris

I have always dreamed about “graduating” in my education career and moving from the high school level to the college level.  After 15 years, and in the midst of the politically induced turmoil in public education, it seemed like the time to go for it.  I dusted off the CV and portfolio and submitted to local institutions.   I was both elated, and surprised, to not just get an offer; but two.

I am thrilled to work as Multimedia Producer/Editor for Web and Instructional Services at New Jersey Institute of Technology.  After three months, I finally feel comfortable saying that it is a great work environment and there are so many amazing things happening here to document with my camera.  I am truly proud to work for this institution that recently was ranked #1 by Buzzfeed on their list of “Cheapest Best Colleges”.

I am also very excited that I will be teaching an “Introduction to Multimedia” course at The County College of Morris.  I was pretty blown away by the textbook they sent me and am already writing curriculum for this Spring semester course.  It is proving to be a delightful challenge.  If you, or anyone you know, are interested in an introductory overview to Multimedia production enroll in my MED 110 course

Here are a few of the recent videos that I produced for NJIT:

 

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The Gleaners

While I was in China for American Film Showcase I did a bunch of one-on-one workshops with emerging Chinese filmmakers.  I was incredibly inspired by many of the films that we were work-shopping and the energy of IFChina Original Studio was refreshingly vital.  I had planned on taking a hiatus from film-making but one Director I met while I was there has made that impossible.  Ye Zuyi has honored me by allowing me to Produce his film “The Gleaners” and I am super excited to help get eyeballs on this mindblowing film.  Part documentary, part scripted feature, and shot entirely in long static takes the film pushes the envelope of the medium and deals with themes fascinating and relevant in this day and age when China is changing quicker than the internet.

The film will premier at “Visons du Reel” in Switzerland.

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“The Gleaners” is an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a filmmaker and his family as they struggle to adapt to both a changing world and a traditional one. Can the filmmaker’s family accept that he is more interested in choosing to document a famine that happened 50 years ago than choosing a wife? Will the family continue to farm their land and grow rice as they always have or sell it to developers? How can they adapt to life in modern China when the country itself is in the midst of identity crisis? The film explores these topics and more in a refreshingly original style that bridges the gap between documentary and narrative feature while providing a delightfully intimate portal into family life in modern China.

The film consists of 27 fixed lens shots that tell the story of both his life, and his family’s, over the course of three years. This raw style of storytelling creates a sense that the viewer is in China as a member of the Zuyi family watching their destiny unfold. Ye Zuyi purposely chose to create a film that eludes category and contains elements of both narrative feature and documentary. He doesn’t sacrifice story for craft however, and the slow hypnotic pace lures the viewer into his reality.

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Director Ye Zuyi on set.

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Still from “The Gleaners”

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Still from “The Gleaners”.

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SXSWedu, AFS China, Broadcast Premier

Amer_Film_Showcase

This Spring brought a triple-treat almost simultaneously.  “Once in a Lullaby”  was selected by American Film Showcase for some documentary diplomacy in China.  American Film Showcase is an initiative by the United States Department of State in partnership with The University of Southern California Cinematic Studies Department to ship filmmakers and their films to countries that we may-or-may-not have a good relationship with.  The goal is to increase peace and goodwill between nations and I think it is one of the coolest things our government is doing.  I’m still finding it hard to believe that I was sent as an envoy to screen “Once in a Lullaby” and “We Love You” to Chinese audiences.  While there I also met with Chinese filmmakers and taught lectures and workshops to both college-age and High School students.  I have been wanting to travel to China for a long time and it was an amazing experience and an incredible honor.  You can read all the details and view some pictures on their website at the link below.

Jonathan Kalafer’s report from Wuhan, China

While I was bouncing around in China “Once in a Lullaby” received its broadcast premiere on public television.  Check your local listings for WLIW and NJTV to see if there are any more screenings coming up.  I was a little sad that I wasn’t able to watch the film broadcast over cable but it was a heck of a reason to miss it.  Thank goodness for DVR.  I was especially happy because the broadcast was preceded by a fun interview with John Servidio.

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Right after China I got to realize another dream of mine.  I always wanted to go to SXSW.  SXSWedu is SXSW for educators and I only had enough time to pack a bag before I traveled directly to Austin Texas for screenings in the legendary Alamo Drafthouse Cinema as part of SXSWedu film program.  It was an amazing screening and there were many educators in the audience which contributed to a lively and thought provoking Q&A.

I’m still having a hard time believing I had that much fun and learned that much in such a short span of time.  What a fantastic end to a brutal Winter!

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T.I.F.F. Kids and American Film Showcase

It has been a little more than a year since our premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and it is amazing to think of all the amazing experiences the past 12 months have brought.  Bonding with and amongst audiences around the emotions and themes “Once in a Lullaby” touches on has been tremendous.  I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks everyone who came out to a screening or wished us well from afar (including the 5,000 plus likes on Facebook).  Tiff.kids and American Film Showcase are like two cherries on top of a year long sundae.

-1The Toronto International Film Festival has a reputation for awesomeness amongst filmmakers and audiences alike and our experience at their tiff.kids children’s festival proves once again that it is very well deserved.  We had three amazing audience filled screenings (with Mr. B in attendance!) and we even got (favorably!) reviewed by the young film-critics Flick and Flack.

The experience at tiff.kids was particularly meaningful in that it really drove home the fact that “Once in a Lullaby” appeals to children as well as adults.  This was crucial to my vision as director (and a parent) and I couldn’t be happier to contribute a film that can be enjoyed together as a family.

They even had an unbelievable interactive area called Digiplay Space for the kids that really showcased the medium’s potential.  My son and my nephew came along and we had a blast!  They loved the green screen and 3-D printer they were allowed to play with!  Thanks again TIFF!

Amer_Film_ShowcaseThe American Film Showcase is a collaboration between the USC Cinema Studies Department and The U.S. State Department, the Showcase highlights the value of documentaries in fostering understanding and cooperation, dialogue and debate.  “Once in a Lullaby has been selected to screen in an undisclosed-as-of-yet country.  I am as surprised as anyone who knows me that either the U.S. Govt. or a prestigious film school like USC would want me as an envoy but I’ll give it my best shot!  Check back here for updates on where we end up going.

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Audience Award (and awesome time) at Woodstock Film Festival, I.F.P. Gotham Audience Awards

As you may have seen on Indiewire “Once in a Lullaby” received the Audience Award for “Best Documentary” at the 13th Annual Woodstock Film Festival!  It was a wonderful festival all around (the Colony Cafe must be the coolest Filmmakers’ lounge in the world) and the audience really had some amazing insights and questions during the Q&A.  I hope to re-visit this post with some more details but for now . . . .Thanks Woodstock!

IFP_Gotham

As a direct result of the Audience Award at Woodstock we were selected by I.F.P.’s Gotham Independent Film Awards Audience Award.  They have created a “virtual” audience award where people vote online.  If you have a moment and would like to support the film please visit our page there and give us a vote.  It is very much appreciated!

In non-film PS22 Chorus news: the chorus was invited to sing at the Presidential Inauguration!

We have become an “Official Selection” of the Boulder Film Festival

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Glowing LA Times Review, Lost TV Segment, New Screenings

LA Times film critic Gary Goldstein had wonderful things to say for our screening at DocuWeeks such as;  “Talk about inspiring” . . . “memorable, well-observed”. . . “joyous documentary” . . . “be prepared to be enormously moved” . . . .    pretty flattering stuff coming from a reviewer not known for puff in the movie mecca of the world!

L.A. Times Review: Once in a Lullaby captures the joy of success

After our premiere at Tribeca, Fox 5 News covered us twice.  One news segment went on their web site here, but the other one never went online.  I didn’t catch it on TV but heard about it from my co-workers the next day.  As it turns out my sister-in-law’s father-in-law DVRs Fox 5 News and he recently surprised me with a DVD of this lost spot.  He rocks! Check it out courtesy of Bob Kahn:

We are also very happy to announce more screenings at some awesome festivals!

The Woodstock Film Festival – Sat. Oct. 13 6:30PM, Fri. Oct. 12 11:30AM

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Hot Springs Documentary Festival – Oct. 14 – 23

HOT SPRINGS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL

Aspen Film Festival – Wed. Oct. 3 12:00PM @ Wheeler Opera House, Sat. Oct. 6th 6:30PM @ Isis Theatre

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First Glance Film Festival/Philadelphia – November 5-11

More specific info about these screenings will be updated when it becomes available.

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