Wisconsin Public Television’s Director’s Cut kicks off its 11th season this Friday! We’ve got a great lineup this season, starting with my first guest: Erik Ljung, director of the documentary The Blood is at the Doorstep.
On April 30, 2014, Dontre Hamilton, a black, unarmed man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee police officer responding to a non-emergency wellness check in a popular downtown park.
Filmed over the course of three years in the direct aftermath of Dontre’s death, this intimate verite documentary follows his family as they struggle to find answers and challenge a criminal justice system stacked against them. Offering a painfully realistic glimpse inside a movement born out of tragedy, this explosive documentary takes a behind the scenes look at one of America’s most pressing social issues.
Read more about this film, and about my interview with filmmaker Erik Ljung.
The film’s protagonist is Father Wally Kasuboski, known in Panama as “Padre Pablo.” Though he has lived in Panama for the last 28 years, he is a native of Ripon, Wis. – also Sensenbrenner’s hometown, which is how the filmmakers made the connection with their subject. Their engaging documentary shows how Padre Pablo became the catalyst for bringing clean drinking water and infrastructure to a poverty-stricken region of eastern Panama. Continue reading Director’s Cut: “From Mass to the Mountain”→
This week on Director’s Cut, I’m joined by director Noah Hutton to discuss his award-winning documentary Deep Time. Deep Time explores how the oil boom, one of the biggest in recent history, has affected a small community in North Dakota.
This week on Director’s Cut, it’s all about family, as director Mac Smith joins me to discuss Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood. It’s a solid film about a world I admit I knew very little about. Smith, a Hollywood sound professional, took on this passion project to tell a poignant, insightful and heartfelt story.
The full-length documentary looks at the competitive world of drum and bugle corps, where performers must be offered a contract in order to be part of the team.
Smith knows his topic well; he was a Scout himself. The experience was so enriching that, years later, he dedicated a couple years of his life to telling this story.
This week on Director’s Cut, it is my pleasure to welcome accomplished writer/director Rob Cohen to discuss his very funny documentary Being Canadian. Rob’s body of work as a comedy writer is impressive. His writing credits include The Simpsons – he wrote the ‘Flaming Moe’ episode –The Ben Stiller Show & TheBig Bang Theory. Most recently he was working on podcast phenomenon Marc Maron’s show as both writer and director.
Being Canadian is Rob’s love letter to his homeland but was educational for him as well. It is an extremely well-directed and well-produced film, and as with most of Rob’s creations, it’s very funny and very dry. Rob interviewed tons of celebrities, most from Canada and a few from here in the States. The interviews are interesting, funny and set in some crazy locales. As a comedy writer and self proclaimed student of the craft myself for many years, even I was surprised at how many great comedians and writers are from Canada. Their ratio of great comedy writers to actual residents probably far outweighs what we have here and it hurts at little. Well, okay a lot. But at least it’s a little warmer here?
As great an interview as Rob is, he was a great sport too, hanging out to riff and do some improv with me as we delved into his mysterious Hollywood legend that he always downplays. We explored the ‘myths’ of his career like – Is the Milhouse character from the Simpsons really based on you? Did Aimee Mann really write a song that was inspired by you?Is there an action figure from Austin Powers 2 based on your character? And of course Did you really have a classmate named, Peter Poontip? Be sure to check out the web extras for the answers.Continue reading Director’s Cut: Rob Cohen & “Being Canadian”→
This week on Director’s Cut, we welcome writer-producer-actor J.T. Arbogast to discuss his film Angel’s Perch. Arbogast, who makes his home in Los Angeles, hails from West Virginia. It’s a place he is still very fond of and where Angel’s Perch was shot. He was happy to come to Madison to discuss his passion project which hit very close to home and was semi-autobiographical.
Angel’s Perch is about hot-shot architect Jack, who is handed the project of a lifetime. At the same time, he is dealing with the death of his young wife, and his grandmother’s ailing health and dementia. Yes, the film has a lot going on emotionally, but Arbogast and his team pull it off. The plot has a little something for everyone, from young busy professionals more focused on their careers to those who know or have dealt with relatives dealing with a family member with dementia. Arbogast is a good actor and portrays an earnest and compassionate leading man as his story unfolds.
In addition to writing chops, Arbogast has an eye for comedy and a background as well. He studied improv comedy for years and brought his talents to this personal story. Angel’s Perch is peppered with comedy throughout the film and it is well placed. It happens just when the viewer needs a break from heavier plot moments. Angel’s Perch is folksy and will tug on the heart strings just the right amount and make you laugh a little, too. Join us this Saturday night at 10 p.m. for Director’s Cut and Director’s Cut Presents on Wisconsin Public Television…your home for independent film!
This week on Director’s Cut, we welcome actor Mike Batayeh to discuss the film Detroit Unleaded. Mike is a co-lead in the film and while I primarily talk to directors and producers, I think it’s great to get a perspective from an actor’s point of view. Mike is animated and passionate about the film plus has a long list of acting credits.
Detroit Unleaded tells the story of a young Arabic couple who meet at a gas station run by Sami (E.J. Essi) in inner city Detroit. Sami takes over the operation after his father’s death and has bigger dreams. But when he meets Naj, played by the beautiful Nada Shouyahib, it helps ease the pain. Batayeh plays Sami’s cousin who has big entrepreneurial plans for the two of them as they compete with the more upscale, successful station in the neighborhood.Continue reading Director’s Cut: Mike Batayeh & “Detroit Unleaded”→
This week on Director’s Cut we welcome Kristin Catalano, the creative force behind the documentary Clarence. Clarence tells the story of World War II veteran Clarence Garrett who decides to return to college to pursue his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after “cutting class” for more than 50 years.
It’s hard enough to stay focused on your education after a week-long spring break. Picture yourself returning to the world of academia after fighting in a war, raising a family and having a full career while now being hard of hearing, lacking computer skills and moving at a snail’s pace while going from class to class.
The film is a thumbnail of Clarence’s life, one spent overcoming obstacle after obstacle and doing so the only way Clarence knows how, with a never-say-die, can-do attitude. The story Catalano tells is not only inspiring but also uplifting. Clarence’s infectious personality elevates those around him with his “you’re only here once so why be anything but upbeat” attitude.
Catalano does a nice job of showing how Clarence immerses himself in campus life, making solid friendships with a generation of students at least twice removed from his own and engaging his professors in the process. There is no way anyone can not feel great about life while watching Clarence achieve his long postponed dream after making sacrifices to provide for his family and putting the academic needs of his children before his own.
The biggest challenge for Clarence, and possibly Catalano as director, was when Clarence was hospitalized shortly before completing his first semester, forcing him to fall behind. Clarence takes this in stride as just another of life’s inevitable hurdles. Since quitting never seems to have been an option for Clarence in his life, he pushes on as he has always done, with a determined yet whimsical grace.
Please put the bottle rockets down for an hour or so and join us for Director’s Cut on Wisconsin Public Television 9 p.m. Friday night to celebrate a nice little film about a great, inspiring American. Hope to see you then, indie film fans. Have a fun and safe 4th of July!