New American Filmmakers
Since 2007, the Vilcek Foundation has been a proud sponsor of the New American Filmmakers program. Curated and presented in collaboration with the Hawaii International Film Festival, the program seeks out the most talented foreign-born filmmakers currently contributing to American cinema. The result is a diverse program that draws upon cinematic genres and traditions from around the world.
This year’s entries, to be presented at the 33rd annual HIFF showcase in Honolulu, cover everything from a childhood friendship during the Bougainville Civil War, to two estranged cousins on a road trip through California, to escalating madness in the happiest place on earth. See below for more about these films and the creative immigrant filmmakers behind them.
Andrew Adamson, Filmmaker
New Zealand native Andrew Adamson is an acclaimed director, writer and producer. Adamson’s latest feature, MR. PIP, is adapted from Lloyd Jones’ award-winning novel. Adamson made his directorial debut with SHREK, the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. He went on to write and direct SHREK 2, which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Adapted by Andrew Adamson from the best-selling novel by Lloyd Jones, MR. PIP is the story of how Mr. Watts, a teacher on the war-torn island of Bougainville, helps a young girl survive the violence of her daily life through the power of imagination. Mr. Watts reads from his favorite book, Great Expectations, and 14-year-old Matilda is transported into the Victorian world, finding inspiration, friendship and hope when her real life is filled with harsh uncertainty and danger.
MR. PIP was set in Bougainville during the 1990s when the country was torn apart by a war over copper mining and land rights, and most of the story it tells is very close to the experiences of the people there. Mr. Watts, expertly portrayed by Hugh Laurie (TV’s HOUSE), represents the post-colonialist who hopes to make a difference but is thwarted by the civil unrest of a turbulent culture mired in corruption. Writer-director Andrew Adamson also expertly transitions from his commercial work (the SHREK and CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series) into more intimate stories.
Chad Hartigan, Filmmaker
Chad Hartigan was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking. He wrote and directed his first feature, LUKE AND BRIE ARE ON A FIRST DATE, in 2008, which premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival and went on to spawn a Latin American remake in 2013 called LUNA EN LEO. THIS IS MARTIN BONNER is his second feature.
THIS IS MARTIN BONNER
Winner of the NEXT Section's Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Chad Hartigan's moving second feature has an air of simplicity but proves a subtle meditation on friendship, faith and human connection. In his fifties, Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn) leaves his old life behind and relocates to Reno, where he finds work for a church-based program that helps released prisoners transition to life on the outside. Divorced with two adult children, he tries speed-dating and passes time as a soccer referee on weekends. Meanwhile, Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette) has just been released from a 12-year prison stint. His program mentor, Steve, is charitable and helps him adjust, but Travis finds Steve's Christian devotion uncomfortable and reaches out to Martin instead. The two men form an unlikely friendship that provides them unspoken support and understanding.
Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette offer standout performances, approaching their characters with a low-key restraint that evokes the awkwardness of starting life afresh, well into middle age.
—John Nien, Sundance
Harry Gregson-Williams, Filmmaker
One of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers, Harry Gregson-Williams worked on all four installments of the SHREK franchise; garnered a BAFTA nomination for the score for the first SHREK; and received Golden Globe and Grammy Award nominations for his score to THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. His long list of film credits also includes critically acclaimed THE TOWN as well as Oscar-nominated GONE BABY GONE, both collaborations with director Ben Affleck. The longtime L.A. resident was born in England and attended London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Gregson-Williams’ most recent project is Andrew Adamson’s MR. PIP.
Jean-Michel Dissard, Filmmaker
Before directing I LEARN AMERICA, Jean-Michel Dissard produced several critically acclaimed films chronicling adolescent youth, including RAISING VICTOR VARGAS (2002), RIKERS HIGH (2005), and EZRA (2007). He also co-wrote and produced DOWN TO THE BONE (2004), directed by Debra Granik. Dissard is on Cine-Institute’s Advisory Board, the only film school in Haiti. Originally from France, Dissard immigrated to America when he was a teenager. He is a dual French-U.S. citizen.
I LEARN AMERICA
The children of immigration, here to stay, are the new Americans. How we fare in welcoming them will determine the nature of this country in the 21st century and beyond. The International High School at Lafayette is a New York City public school dedicated to serving newly arrived immigrant teenagers, with more than 300 students speaking two dozen languages from 50 countries. The students strive to master English, adapt to families they haven't seen in years, confront the universal trials of adolescence, and search for a future they can claim as their own. In I LEARN AMERICA, five resilient immigrant teenagers come together over a year at the International High School at Lafayette and struggle to learn their new land. Through these five vibrant young people, their stories and struggles, and their willingness to open their lives and share them with us, we "learn America."
Junya Sakino, Filmmaker
Junya Sakino was born and raised in Japan. In 2000, He moved to the U.S. to pursue his directing career. In 2003, he made his U.S. directorial debut with short film THE JAZZ ADDICT. Sakino subsequently went on to study film at CSU Long Beach directing shorts, VANITY MIRROR, THE SPIRAL RING and ORIZURU (2006). SAKE-BOMB marks his debut as a feature-length director.
A "sake-bomb" is a cocktail created by dropping a shot of sake into a pint of beer. The alcoholic collision of the Japanese and the American encapsulates the contentious relationship between Naoto and Sebastian, the main leads of SAKE-BOMB, one of the funniest Asian-American comedies of the last few years.
Sebastian is a bitter, self-deprecating wannabe Internet star from Los Angeles. He has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, who can't take his juvenile slackerdom anymore. When his cousin Naoto (Gaku Hamada), a naive sake maker from Japan, shows up to find his own ex-girlfriend in Northern California, Sebastian reluctantly takes him on a road trip to go find her. Along the way, cultural misunderstandings, underhanded behavior and hijinks ensue; it’s clash of cultures ready to explode. Together they meet a colorful group of characters and situations as they come to grips with who they are and the true nature of the significant others they are pursuing. The film is the debut feature of Japanese-born and L.A.-based producer Junya Sakino and Jeff Mizushima (the award-winning ETIENNE!, SALAD DAYS [HIFF 2012]).
Soojin Chung, Filmmaker
A native of South Korea, Soojin Chung holds an MFA from the AFI Conservatory and has helped to produce numerous award-winning short films such as PORTRAIT FOR LEONORE. Soojin has also worked on eight major feature films including Park Chan-Wook’s LADY VENGEANCE. Chung recently co-founded production company FORERUNNER FILMS and has several projects in development. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW is her latest feature film.
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW
Jim White is an average American family man, mostly content to exist within his humdrum reality. At the tail end of a theme-park vacation with his loving wife and two beautiful children, he is awakened by an unsettling phone call from his boss, who tells him that he has lost his job. Shaken by the information, he decides to spend his last day on vacation with the family without notifying them of the bad news. As his wife and kids gallivant through the park with Jim in tow, almost zombie-like from the earth-shattering news of his firing, he snaps out of it when he sees and becomes intrigued by two young, nubile French teens. Along the way, his paranoid psyche spirals even further, and the fine line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred. (The film was shot without permission at the ubiquitous theme park.)
First-time writer/director Randy Moore takes a bold and creative step into uncharted territory, inviting viewers on a surreal, postmodern voyage into the seedy underbelly of family entertainment. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW can only be experienced on the big screen.
Explore the impact of immigrant artists on American Modernism. Drawing on their diverse backgrounds, these artists often made their new home the subject of their work, creating celebrated images of the American landscape, from New York to New Mexico.
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