The Bay Area filmmaking team of Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega hasn’t exactly parachuted into the zone of conflict between government surveillance and civil rights. It’s a topic they’ve been addressing, in one form or another, for nearly 20 years. Add in the remarkable fact that they’re both children of civil rights lawyers — their fathers were actually colleagues — and you’ve got filmmakers who are deeply immersed in this thorny terrain. Their last feature film, Better This World, told the story of two radicalized Texas friends who became the target of a domestic terrorism sting at the 2008 Republican National Convention. For Eric & “Anna,” they collaborated with The Intercept contributor Trevor Aaronson on a longform article to complement their film. All three talked to Field Notes about the challenges and benefits of crafting a narrative largely (and in the case of the film, entirely) from surveillance material, and of reporting a story for which crucial factual details have only recently been made available — details that call into question the American government’s motives and methods.

Did you originally come together because of a shared interest in these issues — the intersection of surveillance and activism?

Kelly Duane de la Vega: Katie and I met at Berkeley High. We were family acquaintances. Then we both lived in New York on different occasions, both worked as documentary filmmakers, then both moved back to our hometowns and reconnected. Katie had read a New York Times clipping about a couple of activists that got arrested, and there was an entrapment allegation, and we were immediately interested. Within weeks of reconnecting it became our first project. That was in 2009. We’ve been making short to long form documentaries together ever since.

Katie Galloway:: Our fathers worked together as civil rights lawyers, but we didn’t find this out until we worked together. So there’s this history of growing up in the Bay Area in the ’70s and the Black Panthers and SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], which are our cultural roots. My first film on informants was in the mid-’90s, about the use of government informants in the drug war.

Duane de la Vega: I was in the process of working on a piece about John Walker Lindh and was very interested in activism and what is taking it too far, and what happens once you get caught up in the legal system. That film project didn’t end up going forward, but I had a really long-standing interest in that intersection between the government and activism. And then when we made Better This World, it got a lot deeper.

Were you hesitant at all to take on another project in this topic area?

Galloway: For this story, the defense team and the people involved came to us after Better This World because [the stories] were so similar. But we said we couldn’t make this film for a number of reasons, one being that someone else was working on it, but also because we were interested in moving on to other subjects. But it stuck with us. I knew Laura [Poitras] from a long time ago, and we had gone back and forth about the Eric and Anna story for years. So when Eric was released [from prison] I emailed her and said, “Are you interested in doing something on this now?”

Considering how long you’ve been making films in this area, how have you evolved as both journalists and filmmakers over that stretch of time? And would you say those have evolved in tandem, or does one tend to fuel the other?

Duane de la Vega: I think we’re both the kinds of people who are constantly reading newspapers and nonfiction and watching what’s happening. So much has changed [in filmmaking] and we both continued to educate ourselves along those lines and worked on our craft. So in some ways they evolved in tandem and as we’ve grown together as partners.

Galloway: I was raised really in the journalistic model, and did a lot of Frontline [episodes], and so for my subsequent films I’ve been reaching to break free — well not free, but away from a more standard model, towards finding my voice. And I would say Kelly is largely responsible for helping me get there. All of [these films] have been made with no narration, and different storytelling styles that make it much more difficult actually to tell the story. But Kelly and I feel pretty clear that the storytelling we like to do is close to the bone, character-driven narratives with a backdrop that’s huge, that’s at least national but where you can find a very personal way in.

You cover a considerable amount of ground in such a short span of time with this film. My sense of and feelings about both Anna and Eric clearly evolve, and I’m also given a strong larger picture of what it means in terms of justice and government overreach. And yet it’s all communicated through surveillance footage. Was it difficult to manage all of that in just 15 minutes?

Duane de la Vega: It was really difficult because there are layers and layers, and so many options, and the story’s really complicated. But we thought there was power in the surveillance footage in and of itself. That so much of the narrative could evolve from just providing a little window into what was going on. So we tried to pick themes that were representative of the overall picture, and that would allow people to spend time with the characters and get a rhythm of their speech and let them develop, and by doing so paint a portrait of what was going on.

Galloway: When making Better This World we knew that we wanted to make surveillance a character, but we didn’t know quite how it would move and effect people. And so it was quite a natural evolution [on this project] to go, “Why don’t we make it all surveillance?” Leave everything else behind and let the surveillance more or less speak for itself.

I would imagine the editing process for dealing exclusively with surveillance footage was quite different — you’re constructing a story based on what that footage did or didn’t show, on what is or isn’t visible or audible.

Duane de la Vega: Usually it’s a case of trying a lot of different options before you find the right one. That’s the hard part. But once you figure out how you’re going to proceed the stories start to work on their own, and that’s how you know you’re on to something. Beyond that there’s a lot of pre-post — there’s digging, there’s typing up the transcripts, thinking how each will visually play against each other. It was originally developed for Frontline as an hour [-long film], so we had a lot of great stuff pulled. It has to be said of Mike Nicholson, who’s our third producer and graphics editor — we would not be here without him. We would talk with him about ideas and then he would send us back something beautiful.

I like the combination of high and low fi to the film. Graphically, you’ve got typed text and handwritten script, meanwhile you’ve got high-tech surveillance that nevertheless captures pretty cruddy footage. There’s something metaphorically meaningful to that.

Galloway: There’s a quality to these young kids — I mean they’re not kids, she’s a teenager and he’s in his early 20s — there’s kind of a casual, slapdash quality to the whole thing. The scribbled notes, the ellipses and dashes and starting in the middle of things. Here are these young, kind of spacey, not very threatening young people that get presented post-9/11 as someone to fear, as domestic terrorists. And then there’s the style of the FBI’s investigation, where the Ts were not crossed and the Is were not dotted.

You mentioned that Eric & “Anna” was originally intended for Frontline at a longer length. Could you talk about how you adjusted to the shorter length, and what was lost and what might be gained from the adjustment?

Duane de la Vega: Katie and I have produced quite a bit of short format work over the years. We love long format, and we love short format. There’s something really accessible about a short format piece that people can watch at home and on their computer. Obviously with a long format piece there’s a lot of things that would’ve gone into it, probably contemporary interviews and more reenactments. But short form is an incredibly important medium for what we do — it allows us to tell more stories to a wider audience, and not have to crank out a film every three years.

Galloway: You aren’t expected to have all the answers in short form. It sort of unburdens you from this idea that everybody has to have a full picture of everything when they’re done — with the Frontline hour, for example. There are very different standards by which it’s judged. And it’s also lovely to be in conversations with other work.

And with this film you’ve been in direct conversation with Trevor Aaronson’s reporting, which is launching alongside the film for Field of Vision.

Galloway: We worked with Trevor back at the investigative reporting program at Berkeley, where Kelly and I were filmmakers in residence. He wrote a book on post-9/11 domestic security apparatus, taking a broader view.

Trevor Aaronson: I was in the group of fellows that came a year after Katie at UC Berkeley. Katie was still working with the program when she was finishing Better This World, and my focus at that time was on the FBI’s use of informants, specifically the use of informants in stings in Muslim communities post 9/11. Katie was orbiting around the same planet, so to speak, in the sense that she was focusing on the use of informants among left wing political activists. The tactics that the FBI uses are similar in the targeting of both Muslims and left-wing activists. The use of stings, the use of informants.

Galloway: So when we decided to do this story we called Trevor and brought him in to do some of the documents research while we were working on the film — to find out what happened with the government burying, losing or not having these documents. He wrote a first draft and sent it to us, and we were able to add details or flesh things out, and we’ve basically been passing the draft back and forth.

How did you conceive of this written piece as working alongside the film?

Aaronson: Our hope was to try to complement the two as best as possible. I tried to keep a lot of information in the story that would take readers kind of beyond what was in the film. But this was a project that had already been off the ground before I came in. The incredible work that Katie and her team were able to do, getting access to all this video and audio footage that hadn’t been made public before. It gave me the opportunity to work from these videos and tell that narrative. At the same time what I try to do in my story, which is something that can’t be as easily done in a visual work, was to leverage the documents as much as possible. Most of my work is really working with court documents and public records to put together a larger narrative, to give a context to the video, and also explain how it is that a man goes to prison for ten years and finds out that there were 2,500 pages of evidence not provided at his trial. So in some ways there is overlap and there’s no way that there couldn’t be overlap with a written story and a visual story on the same thing. Our hope was that for people who watch the film but also read the story that there won’t be a lot of redundancy, that the visuals and the conversations that Katie used would reveal new things to the person who had read my story and vice versa.

When I talked to Glenn Greenwald a couple weeks ago about the piece that he did with Heloisa Passos, he talked about how film can accomplish certain things more efficiently than writing can normally accomplish, and it challenged him to think of how to use the written piece differently in light of that.

Aaronson: In my story I make the case, I think, that Anna was flirtatious and she was leading Eric on. Now you can describe that in a written story, but when you look at Katie and Kelly’s film, there’s that scene, that visual, of her in the car reaching over and touching him on the leg. And that says so quickly what took me like 1,500 words to explain in the story. There was no way I could compete with that very visceral scene where she does that. So my goal was to say hey, let’s try to tell the whole story of how Anna got in that car. Like this idea that she was just a community college student, even though there’s still this perception that FBI informants are these highly trained people who go undercover. When in truth this was a 17-year-old community college student who the FBI recruited to be an informant.

You’re able to go a bit deeper into Eric and Anna’s stories than the short film can.

Aaronson: I think also it provides an opportunity for armchair psychology on Anna. The wanting to impress the community college professor, then later she has this strange relationship with Ricardo Torres, her FBI handler. A young woman’s desire to impress the older man in a position of authority. You can see how that creates a situation where Anna is potentially manipulated and manipulating the situation. I felt what I could contribute was this fuller picture, fleshing out the biography in a way. If you wanted a fuller picture of what happened, it really lends itself well to a longform written piece.

Both pieces, the film and the written feature, speak to the importance of having information. There’s a difference between piecing a story together in an investigative sense, and repopulating a story after years of its details being intentionally blocked.

Aaronson: Right. Unlike other stories that I’ve worked on where the entire story is new and you’re breaking all sorts of new information, this was a story that, since McDavid’s arrest in 2006, had been substantially reported. I think what we were able to do was take the new information, and take what was out there already, and put together a story that is as definitive as possible. There are also a lot of questions that still exist about why this evidence went missing. The government hasn’t come clean, and even the judge, as I mention in the story, has not taken the opportunity to force the government to explain its actions. Basically, the government got away with saying, “We can’t really explain how this happened.” Given that this is a man who spent 10 years of his life in prison, it’s kind of incredible that the government is now saying, “Oops, dog ate our homework,” you know? As I quote Ben Rosenfeld in saying, that’s kind of the opposite of accountability. Eric did stupid things — I don’t think anyone would deny that. But he wasn’t the domestic terrorist the government portrayed him to be.

That’s an incredibly damning line, that this is “the opposite of accountability.” There are still questions, but the nature of the questions have changed. So instead of “what happened?” — we now know what happened — we’re left with the more unsettling question of “why did this happen?” and “why wasn’t this citizen given a fair trial?”

Aaronson: Right — up until recently, it had always just been claims. You know, Eric McDavid claims that Anna led him on and that’s why he did what he did. And even in the prosecution’s closing arguments, they scoff at that and say there’s no proof, there’s only this one letter that we can find. Well, it turns out there were many letters and we now have those letters, and those letters show very clearly that Eric was being led on by Anna. And from the recordings that Katie and Kelly got, it’s clear that McDavid was not the leader of the plot the way the government claimed he was. These are no longer claims — these are things that are facts based on the records that we have. Now the question is, why was this evidence hidden, why couldn’t the government produce it, and why won’t the government explain what orders it gave Anna? Did the government take a 17, 18-year-old girl, and specifically order her to manipulate a 27-year-old through a promise of a sexual relationship in order to make a counterterrorism case? Because that’s the kind of stuff you’d expect on a sleazy Cinemax show. But in reality we hear, “We can’t provide an explanation for how this happened, all we know was this was in the FBI file the whole time.” And I think that’s incredible. The sad thing is I’m not confident we’ll ever get the answers to why that happened.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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