Posted by Elena del Valle on April 3, 2017
James E. Billie
Photo: Peter Gallagher
Video: Wrestling Alligators, Inc.
James E. Billie was born an outcast in the Florida swamps and grew from poverty to become chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the most influential man in his tribe. Some might say he is the most influential Native American leader in the past 100 years. Under his leadership the Seminole Tribe became wealthy from reservation gambling on its Florida land. Wrestling Alligators The New Seminole Wars, a 90-minute documentary completed in 2016, shines a bright light on Billie's life, showcasing via vintage news clips, photos, and interviews how he became an alligator wrestler, war veteran, poet, and important leader of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The film was shown at the Palm Beach Film last week and should be available in digital format soon. Scroll down to watch a video clip from the documentary.
Billie controlled a giant gaming organization that owns casinos and businesses all over the world including the Hard Rock Cafes and Casinos brand. Thanks in large part to his efforts, according to the documentary, the Seminole people's lives were transformed over a 50 year span from living in small huts to being wealthy today. There are between 4,000 and 5,000 Seminoles in the tribe. As a young man Billie wrestled alligators for tourist tips. Later, he enlisted for Vietnam where he served with distinction. After the war, Billie started a chickee hut-building company and became interested in tribal politics. He was elected chairman in the late 1970s. Along the way Billie was nominated for a Grammy that launched his music career.
"We made the film to share James Billie's and the tribe's incredible story," James Eowan, producer of the film, when asked by email about the purpose of the documentary. "This is a story most people have no idea about. Most people don't know the tribe owns Hard Rock, for instance, and if they do, they have no idea how they got to that point."
In 1972, Billie started a small high stakes bingo hall in Hollywood, Florida. It was an instant hit, leading to further gaming success, court fights with the state and federal government, and to a wealth not seen until then among Native Americans. He remains a controversial figure inside and outside his tribe, even at 72, according to promotional materials for the film. The tribe kicked him out of office as chairman of the Seminole Tribe for a decade, only to reelect him in 2011.
"We were extremely fortunate in that James Billie and the Seminoles of Florida have been covered by different facets of the media quite extensively over the years," said Eowan when asked by email what percent of the documentary was from archival footage. "And the tribe also has quite an extensive archive of footage and stills. I would say a good 50 percent of the film is archival and the rest is footage we shot. But we ended up with close to 200 hours of shot footage once we were done."
The film staff started working on the documentary in December of 2012 and finished it in April of 2016 with a budget of less than one million dollars from independent sources. The producers hope to capture the attention of viewers with a passing interest in Native Americans and that "the film's quintessentially American story of a man and his people pulling themselves up from their bootstraps will appeal across all audiences."
Posted by Elena del Valle on March 27, 2017
Poster for My Hero Brother
Photo, video: My Hero Brother
My Hero Brother, a heart-warming, 78-minute Israeli film in Hebrew with English subtitles completed June 2016, will be part of the 22 Annual Palm Beach Film Festival (visit pbifilmfest.org/event-calendar) taking place beginning March 29, 2017 in Palm Beach County, Florida. Scroll down to watch a trailer.
Happy and sad at the same time, the film is uplifting and inspiring. Filmed in India with a budget of $306,000 the movie shares the story of a group of remarkable young people with Down syndrome and their siblings who trek through the Indian Himalayas together. Along their journey unresolved conflicts and the complexities of growing up with a Down syndrome child in the family surface.
The idea germinated when Enosh Cassel, later a producer in the film, felt that his busy lifestyle was taking a toll because he wasn’t spending enough time with Hannan, his beloved Down syndrome brother. According to a spokesperson, “In 2011, the two embarked on a challenging trek in the Himalayas, in order to spend some much needed quality time together.” On their return, Cassel received requests from people who wanted to set out on a similar trek with their own Down syndrome sibling. On August 2013, after two years of planning and preparation, a group of 11 sibling couples (“neuro-typical” and Down syndrome) set on a journey to the Indian Himalayas, where My Hero Brother was filmed.
“In the course of the film, I hope that the viewer will undergo an experience that will change his way of looking at the main characters: not as ill-fated people who have been given a chance to experience a brief release from suffering, but rather as human beings blessed with qualities many of us yearn to have, struggling with their limitations in an highly admirable and courageous way, with the ability to open the hearts of those around them and turn them into better human beings,” the director states on the film website.
Yonatan Nir (Dolphin Boy) directed and produced by the film, which according to promotional information became an overnight success. In the first three months of distribution the producers booked 150 educational screenings in Israel, the film was accepted to several international film festivals, and won the Best Documentary Film Award and the Audience Choice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The filmmakers received funding from The Shalem Fund, Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, Mifal Hapais, Avi Chai Fund, and The Second Authority. In addition to the Film festival screening future information on where to view the movie may appear at myherobrother.org
Posted by Elena del Valle on March 22, 2017
Es Nuestro Momento poster - click image to enlarge
Photo, video: Buchanan's
Hoping to connect with reggaeton music loving bicultural adult Latinos, 21 and older, who balance two cultures Buchanan's, a Scottish whisky maker, partnered with SoundCloud to offer them the Es Nuestro Momento Feat. J Balvin contest campaign and competition. The contest ran March 6-20, 2017. The prize was a trip to the 2017 Latin Billboards in Miami and a chance to meet J Balvin in person. It included a microsite where participants could watch the Es Nuestro Momento video with Balvin singing a capella vocals of a new and unreleased track by the same name. To enter the contest, they were required to create their own version of the song including Balvin, and upload their version to the website for people to vote for their favorite version by April 7. Balvin will select the winner and announce his or her name via his Facebook page April 19. Scroll down to watch an Es Nuestro Momento campaign ad.
The contest was a segment of Buchanan’s integrated marketing campaign, which was promoted through out-of-home advertising, television spots, digital ads with dedicated responsible drinking creative, social media and experiential, in addition to this consumer contest. According to a spokesperson, the contest was “being amplified through PR, digital, social, and paid integrations including Nylon En Espanol, Telemundo, and Billboard.”
Balvin’s song, inspired by the brand’s recent 360 Es Nuestro Momento marketing campaign, was designed to celebrate the Latino community and its positive influence on American mainstream culture. A campaign spokesperson did not respond to a question about measurement of the contest results. According to a press release, “Through this contest, Buchanan’s aims to inspire people to pursue their passions and celebrate their successes.”
Born in Medellin, Colombia, J Balvin is a Latin-Grammy and Latin Billboard-winning musician. He became the first reggaeton artist to surpass one billion views on YouTube. He has collaborated with artists including Pharrell, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber. SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform where users may upload, record, promote, and share their original sounds.
Posted by Elena del Valle on March 1, 2017
The Defenders of Life poster
Photos by Julio Costantini © 2015 Popcorn & Friends, video clips used with permission © 2015 Popcorn & Friends
In 2015, film director Dana Ziyasheva and her four person team completed Defenders of Life, a 94-minute film in three languages, Ngabere, Spanish, and English, about underage marriage among the Ngäbe people of Costa Rica. Much of the dialogue is in Ngabere or Spanish with English subtitles. It was titled after Defenders of Life, an ancient Ngäbe sacred song celebrating the tribe's respect for and symbiotic relationship with nature, ancestors and fertility. The film is available exclusively at Flix Premiere, an online video on demand service. Scroll down to watch video clips from the movie with subtitles.
Defenders of Life, a fiction film about real life issues, was born out of the real-life friendship between Carmen, a Ngäbe matriarch, and the director while she was a guest at Carmen's house. During that time they discussed Carmen's life and her hopes and fears for her daughters and granddaughters. Much of the film was shot on Ngäbe land and featuring Ngäbe.
“We both wanted to give voice to the voiceless, leaving a proud testimony of her ancient civilization under threat and show the place and challenges of women in this culture,” Ziyasheva said in a press release. “We both wanted it to be aesthetic and allegorical. Carmen's story is my story too. I was afraid to break away from my society in defiance of the decision-makers of my country. I was equally afraid to leave the comfort and security of the United Nations. It doesn't matter how good or bad a life situation is, people fear the unknown. To make audiences around the world relate to a story of an indigenous woman lost in a rainforest was my goal as film director in this project.”
Defenders of Life tells the story of Esmeralda, a Ngäbe indigenous girl who lives on a reservation in Costa Rica. Esmeralda's grandmother Carmen raises her alone because the girl's mother was murdered by her jealous boyfriend. In the movie, as in real life, when a Ngäbe girl reaches puberty, she becomes eligible for marriage, as is the custom of the tribe. When the village elder asks for her hand in marriage, Carmen must decide whether Esmeralda should follow in the footsteps of Ngäbe women or break away from the tradition and long term from the community.
During the filming of Defenders of Life
"We had a script, but since the Ngäbe actors playing their own roles were all non-professionals, most of whom don't know how to read, we relied a lot on rehearsals and improvisation. I wanted the film to go beyond the ethnographic clichés. We show that Ngäbes are multi-layered, with contradictions, and made of good things and bad things like everyone else. But most of all, they are authentic, true to themselves and they don't get intimidated by outside pressure," said Ziyasheva.
In the film, Pamela, an anthropologist from the University of Costa Rica, and her son Feb, an American tween, advocate different approaches to the dilemma of an indigenous people's society. Through his friendship with Esmeralda, Feb becomes part of tribal dynamic, while well-meaning Pamela aims to force her notion of development on the Ngäbe. Most of the filming took place in the indigenous Ngäbe community of La Casona in Southern Costa Rica, near the border with Panama, and a little bit in San Jose, the Costa Rican capital.
The film, produced by Popcorn & Friends, was recognized with award at Mostra Amazonas de Cinema, Brazil; Burbank International Film Festival, California; Viva! Latino Film Festival NYC Int'l, New York City; Madrid International Film Festival 2016; Love International Children Film Festival, California; International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality, Indonesia; Global Independent Film Awards, online; and Depth of Field International Film Festival, online.
"To make this crazy guerilla-style project possible, I was lucky to assemble a unique international team of passionate film professionals from France, Brazil, Cuba and Costa Rica. They were all 100 percent dedicated to the idea of living and working with the Ngäbe in the rain forest in order to make this film, no matter the hardships, budget constraints or physical risks," said Igor Darbo, producer, by email via the film's publicist. "Snakes were never too far, both in the story and on set! Of course it also took time to gain the Ngabe's trust, especially the men's and after visiting the community multiple times and taking part in their festivals and assemblies, I develop a bond with Don Francisco, the elder leader who then agreed to play the old man marrying the teenage girl in the film. That bond was the mirror of Dana's relationship with Dona Carmen, the protagonist and that's what made the film possible. As a producer, I am extremely proud that Defenders of Life was able to touch the heart of people on all continents, but most of all of the enthusiastic reception it got from the Ngäbe themselves."
Ziyasheva is an award-winning author, scriptwriter and film director from Kazakhstan. She has 25 years of field experience as a journalist. As adviser for Communication and Information of the United Nations she has traveled from Iraq to China and Central America. In 2016, her debut novel Shock was published in France.
Popcorn & Friends is a boutique production company founded in March 2012 by Darbo to produce “highly creative international films that are both entertaining and meaningful.” After winning the Best Co-Production Project award at the Shanghai International Film Festival for its high-concept Chinese treasure hunt The Dragon Angel, Popcorn & Friends produced Defenders of Life.
Between 200,000 and 250,000 Ngäbe people live on both sides of the border between Panama and Costa Rica. The community in the film is about 1,500 people large in Southern Costa Rica. According to the film producers, the Ngäbe (Ngabere is their language) are torn between tradition and assimilation into the modern society. Their youth start to slowly lose command of their native idioms and follow traditions less while education in Spanish and work opportunities in the city draw them further away from their ancient roots.
Posted by Elena del Valle on September 28, 2016
Touching the Light (Tocando La Luz)
Photo, videos: Doc World, World Channel
Hoping to reach a diverse, young audience under 40, on September 18, 2016 Doc World, a new showcase of non-fiction storytelling from around the globe, launched a selection of 11 international documentaries. The series kicked off with the world premier of The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor. The staff at Doc World selected each film to serve as “a vignette of personal stories and the struggles of different cultures and societies.” Doc World is brought to viewers by World Channel, public television's nonfiction, news and documentary programming. Scroll down to watch two video clips about the series.
Produced by award-winning filmmaker Arthur S. Dong, the The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor tells the story of Haing Ngor, one of the most recognized survivors of the Cambodian genocide and a man who became a worldwide ambassador for justice in his homeland, only to be murdered in a Los Angeles Chinatown alley. The film was based on Ngor's autobiography and produced in a mix of animation and live action. All the films in the program will also stream at a later date, and another 10 films are scheduled to become available online later this year. Additional information on the Doc World series may be found at http://worldchannel.org/programs/doc-world/
Chris Hastings, executive producer, World Channel
“The stories we choose are focused primarily outside the United States,” said Chris Hastings, executive producer and creative director, World Channel when asked how the films were selected for inclusion. “That’s the main criteria for Doc World: the films take place outside the U.S. and tell a unique story about person, place, history or event that highlight communities Americans would not normally see. To be selected, the films first have to be great stories that are told in creative way and deal with an array of compelling themes (history, social issues, environment). We find the films for Doc World in few ways, starting with our partners in the U.S. that include ITVS, Center for Asian American Media, National Black Programming Consortia, and others who are actively funding and looking for films.”
Other documentaries in the series include: Tocando La Luz, World Premiere September 25; Five Days to Dance, October 2; Kismet, October 9; Among the Believers, October 16; Waiting for August, October 23; My Atomic Aunt, October 30; A Goat for a Vote, November 6; Tashi's Turbine,November 13; Prize of the Pole, November 20; and Walking Under Water, November 27. All, except Among the Believers and the first two films, will be airing in the U.S. for the first time.
Hasting's team attend international festivals like HotDocs in Canada and Sheffield Doc Festival in England to screen and meet with filmmakers to solicit submissions; are in contact with distributors like First Hand Films in Switzerland and Rise and Shine Media in Germany; and receive suggestions from public television channels, like the BBC and The Why Foundation in Denmark.
“It’s been amazing to see how many films that are out all over the world—and are great stories—which have not broadcast in the United States,” Hastings said by email via a publicist. “We are so grateful for what we found thus far. Our team at World is small but very diverse and with our partners we select the films for Doc World together.” When asked what the Doc World budget is he said, “Both Doc World and World Channel are funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
About Doc World
About Tocando La Luz
Posted by Elena del Valle on August 10, 2016
Photos, video: Candy Factory Films
Soledad, a suspenseful, soulful 95-minute indie drama released in theaters July 26, 2016 features a world-weary ex-con limo driver and a high school couple he's driving to their prom in Los Angeles. The work of first-time writer-directors Eduardo Maytorena and Wayne Mitchell the film received the Grand Jury Prize Runner-Up at the 2015 Dances with Films Festival, and was an Official Selection at the San Francisco Latino Film Festival and the 31 Chicago Latino Film Festival. Soledad, a Candy Factory Films movie, was released via VOD (video on demand) and digital HD on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Scroll down to watch a video clip.
In the film, Victor (Jesse Celedon), a lonely, Latino limousine driver lives a solitary existence: lifting weights in his small apartment, saying silent grace over breakfast, and enduring the disrespect of his clients night after night. One evening, after defending Raquel (Montanna Gillis, The Vatican Tapes, Don Peyote), his well-off passenger, from being assaulted by her prom date, Victor's simple act of compassion sets off a series of events destined to bring back a past he has fought desperately to escape. The film takes viewers on a meandering and sometimes violent road trip with sexual situations (no nudity), through the city of Angels focusing on the unlikely friendship between Victor and Raquel.
A scene from Soledad
Soledad was shot over 17 days between January and April of 2014, mostly in Downtown Los Angeles, Silverlake, Echo Park, Pico Rivera, Glendale, and Mission Hills, with a budget of $120,000. In 2015, it toured U.S. and international film festivals.
“We never shot more than three nights in a row since we could only afford to use the limo on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, (Weekend rates were too steep), ” said Mayortena by email through the film's publicist when asked about the making of the movie. “Post production lasted 10-12 months as we continued to make changes up to our delivery to the distributor.”
When asked about funding for the movie, Mayortena replied, “I work at a Spanish radio station as a creative sales director. I shared my vision of Soledad with one of my clients Douglas Bravo and he was intrigued. After a few more conversations he agreed to give us the money on two conditions. One was that we (myself, writing directing partner Wayne Mitchell and lead actor Jesse Celedon) invest our own money in the film so his investment was protected. The second was to take our vision of a short film and grow it to a feature so there would be an opportunity to see some return on investment. We are very blessed and grateful to Douglas for challenging us to dream bigger.”
Candy Factory Films, founded by Jason Ward, strives to be a “forward-thinking, filmmaker-friendly multimedia company dedicated to producing and distributing high impact, unique and compelling films.”
Click to buy Soledad
Posted by Elena del Valle on April 6, 2016
When Elephants Were Young
Photos, video: canazwest pictures
Canadian filmmaker Patricia Sims cares about endangered Asian elephants, a great deal. She and her collaborators dedicated five years to filming elephants and elephant handlers in Thailand at the end of which they produced When Elephants Were Young, an 86-minute documentary narrated by actor William Shatner. The film, in English and Thai with subtitles, will show at 5:30 p.m. April 8 at the Cinemark Palace, 3200 Airport Road, Boca Raton, and 12 noon April 13 at the Parisian 17, 545 Hibiscus St, West Palm Beach, as part of the Palm Beach International Film Festival in Palm Beach County, Florida.Scroll down to watch a trailer of the film.
Patricia Sims and Michael Clark dedicated five years to the project
The film follows Wok, a young man, and Nong Mai, his young captive elephant, in their struggle to make a living begging on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. When the opportunity arises to release Nong Mai to the forest Wok must decide, torn between his affection for the elephant who is also his only source of income, what is best. Can an elephant who has only known a life of captivity survive in the wild? The film zooms into the daily lives of its protagonists, examining the paradoxes of elephants in captivity.
According to Sims, When Elephants Were Young will appear in theaters across North America on World Elephant Day, August 12, 2016. Theater listings should be available in June. Around that same time it should become available globally on various video on demand platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. In Canada, it is slated for broadcast on the CBC Documentary Channel in fall 2016.
Asian elephants in Thailand from the film When Elephants Were Young
“There were many, many challenges, as is often the case with independent documentary filmmaking!” Sims said by email when asked about the biggest challenge she faced in the making of the film. “For sure, funding was a big challenge, and continues to be so even for this release stage of the film. There are many costs required to release our film, or any film, to the public. Often people are surprised to learn what is involved in the distribution stage for independent film, and what it takes to get a film out to the world.”
Patricia Sims, director, and William Shatner, narrator, When Elephants Were Young
The film's budget was under one million dollars. Sims relied on “a combination of self-funding, crowd-funding, and private funding and a lot of in-kind support from many generous people who wanted to help us tell this story, and support the elephant cause.”
When asked about the rewards and surprises along the filmmaking journey, she replied, "We’ve had many amazing surprises and rewards with this film! Unfortunately, I can’t mention what they are here because it will ruin the ending of the film’s story. People will have to watch the film to see what our biggest surprises and rewards have been!”
Sims was director and producer and she co-wrote the documentary with Michael Clark. She has a passion for large-brained megafauna such as dolphins, primates, and elephants. She and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation launched World Elephant Day on August 12, 2012.
As technology activist, cinematographer, and editor, Clark has employed his talents to portray the interconnectivity of life on this planet. He has won international awards for his work and his credits range from documentaries to episodic television, commercial and feature film productions. He seeks “to use digital and traditional media to inspire awareness, awe, and action for a mirthful, sustainable future.”
Posted by Elena del Valle on August 19, 2015
Chef Giovanna Huyke, host, La Cocina Viva
Photo, video: La Cocina Viva
Spanish speaking cooking show fans in central Florida will have a new alternative beginning September 7, 2015. That is when La Cocina Viva will air weekly from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. featuring healthy Latino dishes from Latin America and the Caribbean. The brainchild of Ruben Gonzalez the 30-minute program was produced for under $100,000 by Sima Communications and co-directed by Gonzalez and Giovanna Huyke, a chef.
Huyke will also host the 12 episodes of the program which will be filmed in Tampa, Florida. The target audience for the show is Hispanic Millennials and second generation Hispanics, and eventually “audiences that have an appreciation for Latino food/dishes.” The show producers hope to add English content later. Scroll down to watch a two-minute promotional video in Spanish.
"La Cocina Viva is about cooking traditional Latino dishes from the Caribbean and Latin America but in a healthy manner," said Gonzalez by email about the program.
Huyke, chief executive office, Grupo Gio, LLC, a in Washington, DC. Based company, began her career in theater. She worked in Paul Prudehomme’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans, and as an assistant to Lee Barnes, before moving to New York City to work with Chef Felipe Rojas Lombardi.
On her return to Puerto Rico she worked at the Caribe Hilton for one year. Later she founded Amadeus in San Juan, where she focused on working with native ingredients and recipes with classic techniques. She was chef at Ali-Oli, founded Don Juan in the El San Juan Hotel and Giovanna’s Café. Most recently, Huyke was the executive chef at Mio Restaurant in Washington, DC.
Posted by Elena del Valle on May 6, 2015
Jakob Salvati plays Pepper Flynt Busbee in Little Boy
Video and photos: Metanoia Films
In a town of bullies and bully enablers, prejudice and fear, an eight year old boy, who is small for his age, suffers when his father, his best friend, heads off to war. The young boy's unshakable faith in the return of his father against all odds is at the heart of Little Boy, a lovingly made 106-minute movie set in a Rockwellian United States town during World War II. Little Boy was shot entirely in Mexico and the post production work was done in Los Angeles. It took five years to produce and was completed in 2014. It was released nationwide April 2015. Scroll down to watch a trailer.
The film stars Michael Rapaport, Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, Ali Landry, and Eduardo Verastegui, and was produced by Mark Burnett, TV and movie producer (Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank, The Bible Series). In the movie, Pepper Flynt Busbee (Jakob Salvati) is willing to do whatever it takes to end World War II because he is convinced that with the end of the war his father will return home. He struggles in his difficult journey and learns several important lessons along the way.
A scene from Little Boy - click to enlarge
Little Boy, with a $20 million budget, was written and directed by Alejandro Monteverde. He also wrote and directed Bella which won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and the American by Choice Award for its positive contribution to Latino art and culture in the United States.
Posted by Elena del Valle on March 26, 2015
Buddy Valastro, host of Bakery Boss - click to enlarge
Video, photo: Discovery Familia
Interested in capturing the attention of women between 18 and 49 years of age Discovery Familia will air 13 one hour episodes, dubbed into Spanish, of Bakery Boss Mondays at 10 p.m. E/P starting March 30, 2015. The series, new to Discovery Familia, stars Buddy Valastro (Cake Boss) as he visits bakeries on the verge of bankruptcy around the country. Scroll down to watch a short video promotional clip in Spanish.
The show, produced by High Noon Entertainment, first aired in English on TLC in the United States in December 2013. It was filmed mostly in New York. Some filming also took place in Miami, Philadelphia, and Houston.
The show features the story of Pastry Is Art, a Miami bakery owned by Jenny, a Peruvian immigrant. She opened the businesses with her sister to discover work and family are not always a good match. In another episode, the host visits with Kristi, owner of Kristi G’s Cupcakes & More in Dallas. A former business executive, Kristi quit her job to open her own bakery, but business hasn’t been going so well, and she has serious problems with her employees, all relatives. According to promotional materials, in the stories showcased, Valastro listens to the owner’s problems, observes their operations, and advises the families on the best way toward financial success.
Valastro, a fourth generation baker born into the business owned and operated by his parents, grew up in New Jersey in an old fashioned Italian family. With the help of his family, Buddy grew Carlo's Bakery, expanding outside of Hoboken for the first time. In 2013, Buddy and his family opened three new bakeries in New Jersey. He also opened his first restaurant, Buddy V's, in the Venetian Las Vegas.
Part of Discovery Communications, Discovery Familia is a Spanish language network dedicated to "Hispanic women and the things they that matter in their lives." Daytime programming is dedicated to children aged two to six. In the evening, the channel offers programming for women, focusing on home décor, food, health, beauty and parenting.