Film Forum

Independent Spirit Award Nominees: Directors to Watch

“Songs My Brother Taught Me” is one of 5 feature debuts singled out for praise by the Independent Spirit Awards. Image via The Sundance Institute.

“Songs My Brother Taught Me” is one of five feature debuts singled out for praise by the Independent Spirit Awards. Image via The Sundance Institute.

This Friday, January 8, Filmworks is pleased to present “James White”. An intimate and honest character study of modern family and morals, “James White” has emerged as one of the best reviewed independent films of 2015.  Among its many accomplishments is a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature for director Josh Mond.  The Best First Feature award has distinguished itself by finding some of the most exciting new voices in cinema. Past winners and nominees include Spike Lee for “She’s Gotta Have It”, Quentin Tarantino for “Reservoir Dogs”, and Lena Dunham for “Tiny Furniture”.  The 2015 nominees represent a similarly intriguing and diverse list of directors to watch.


“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Set in San Francisco in the 1970s, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” follows 15-year-old artist Minnie as she begins an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Based on a graphic novel, the film brings Minnie’s drawings to life to help her sort out her own feeling about sex, love, and happiness. Director Marielle Heller has been singled out for praise of her imaginative grasp of material and her ability to allow Minnie’s story to remain in her own control.


“Manos Sucias”
Josef Kubots Wladyka’s feature debut took on the international drug trade and how and why two smugglers would risk their lives for the huge payday that black-markets can afford. Wladyka has been praised for crafting a film that both addresses the complications of international drug policy and works as a tightly wrought adventure piece.  “Manos Sucias” shows both the stakes and rewards of drug smuggling as well as the conditions that inspire two different men to risk their lives becoming a part of it.


“Mediterranea”
One of Filmworks’ festival films for 2015, “Mediterranea” explores the complicated struggles faced by refugees. Two men flee Africa for a better life in Italy, only to find their new home may be more dangerous than the one they left. Director Jonas Carpignano created an intimate and personal story that manages to encompass the scope of a geopolitical crisis.


“Songs My Brother Taught Me”
This strong debut from director/producer Chloé Zhao explores the complicated family dynamics of a young man and woman growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Johnny and his sister cling to each other through family dysfunction until their long-absent father dies. The loss prompts Johnny to contemplate leaving the reservation for Los Angeles, but the move would require abandoning his sister. In order to capture modern life on a Reservation, Zhao shot this feature at Pine Ridge using amateur actors.  The result is a gripping drama that has been creating waves on the festival circuit.

 

Fae Giffen studies at San Jose State in the School of Library and Information Science graduate program. She serves on the Filmworks board, working on marketing and development.

 

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.