‘Word Is Bond’ Review: Book of Rhymes
Sacha Jenkins is the hero hip-hop needed. While his rap documentary, “Word Is Bond,” indicates he’s a first-rate nonfiction filmmaker, it also establishes him as the critic-champion of a movement, much in the way that, say, Clement Greenberg served Abstract Expressionism, or the French Nouvelle Vague critics rescued the underrated auteurs of Hollywood. He explores, explains and identifies an oft-derided genre as something with a creative ethic, aesthetic standards, a nomenclature, a literary foundation. It’s an ennobling movie, and also happens to be quite watchable.
Mr. Jenkins doesn’t enter the picture himself, nor does he approach many of the obvious names in the rap pantheon—the points made by several of the MCs he does talk to are about the purity and honesty of the lyric, what they feel is the abhorrent practice of rapping ghostwritten words and the compromises wrought by celebrity. The director allows the artists to do the talking, and while this writer is no authority, the cast list seems to have been limited to those whose work has made a significant difference to the form—from older artists like Rakim, Freeway and Nas to the anarchic Flatbush Zombies, J. Cole and the startling Anderson .Paak, who combines his rhymes with some very decent drumming and even the occasional melody.
“Word Is Bond” is not a history, or even a survey of rap; some of the omissions are curious, and obvious. But it’s always perilous to try and capture the creative process of one medium through another—many films have failed to do just that. Mr. Jenkins pulls it off.
Hal: A look at the legend
The burgeoning subgenre of documentaries dedicated to influential 1970s filmmakers gets an essential entry with Amy Scott’s Hal, a conventional yet wholly enjoyable journey through the life and filmography of the era’s revered maverick. If you know your film history, you’re well aware of Hal Ashby’s role as the tragic hero of that decade’s studio revolution. It’s rough to hear that story again, but the interviews with his contemporaries and the later generation of filmmakers he influenced long after his untimely death are insightful and entertaining enough to justify the doc’s existence. If it inspires just one young cinephile to check out Shampoo, it will have done a great service to the medium.
Scott shows that she gets it with the film’s first shot: a KEM flatbed editing machine being manipulated by a pair of hands, one of which has a joint pinched between its fingers. This is the Ashby we’re read about in numerous books and profiles. Scott then begins to tell Ashby’s story in his own words as much as possible, with Ben Foster giving voice to the lively letters Ashby would fire off to friends and enemies alike. Ashby possessed an all-consuming passion for filmmaking, and a strong sense of social justice; the latter attribute was the spark for a rich creative partnership (and lifelong friendship) with director Norman Jewison. Jewison and Ashby were a directing/editing package deal in the mid- to late-'60s, rattling off classics like The Cincinnati Kid, In the Heat of the Night(for which Ashby won a Best Editing Oscar) and The Thomas Crown Affair.
Jewison gushes over Ashby’s skill and commitment to the postproduction process, which Scott backs up with old interviews where Ashby brags about spending seven months holed up in the editing room. Indeed, when the duo set up shop in Frank Sinatra’s old bungalow on the Samuel Goldwyn lot, Jewison had Ashby’s space decorated as if it were his home because, for the better part of a year, it literally would be. Feeling the need to bring his full creative talents to bear, Ashby made his directorial debut on The Landlord, a brilliant comedy about race relations that’s as resonant today as it was then (when it whiffed with critics and stiffed at the box office). Ashby’s sophomore effort, Harold & Maude, was also dismissed by critics in 1971, but, unlike The Landlord, it would eventually find a fervent cult following. While Scott’s m.o. with this doc is to keep things zipping along, I nevertheless found myself wishing she’d spent a little time demonstrating how profoundly Harold & Maude shaped the sensibilities of Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell and Judd Apatow (the last three are interviewed in the film).
Amy Scott takes a closer look at 'Harold and Maude' director Hal Ashby
One of the comparatively unsung luminaries of 1970s American cinema receives a very fine tribute in Hal, an in-depth look at director Hal Ashby. Never a household name like Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola or Lucas and without a genuine blockbuster to his credit, the former film editor nonetheless directed seven of the finest and most emblematic films of the New Hollywood Cinema era: The Landlord, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home and Being There. Then it was all over. Digging deep into the archives for rare and revealing material to accompany interviews with many of his collaborators and intimates, filmmaker Amy Scott packs a lot into 90 minutes with this insightful and warm look at an artist whose best work always revealed a heightened social conscience.
Unlike the film school hotshots who emerged from and put their mark on that era, Ashby had already forged a successful career by the time Hollywood swept out the old and brought in the new in the late '60s and early '70s. A Utah native and a Mormon, he had a rough childhood, dropped out of high school and became a pot-smoking bohemian in the late 1940s, around the time most of his eventual New Hollywood cohorts were being born.
The Best and Worst Documentaries of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival
Few filmmakers in Hollywood history were subjected to a rise and fall as dramatic as that of Hal Ashby, who produced seven straight masterpieces in the 1970s (including Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, and Being There), and proceeded to make nearly as many misfires in the 1980s. Director Amy Scott hits most of them, and covers them well – but more importantly, she filters all of them through the overarching story of his love for the work. That love is conveyed not only via the usual talking head interviews and clips, but his personal letters (read here by Ben Foster, they’re often charming and lovely, often funny in their ferocity) and inspiring archival audio clips. “The film will tell you what to do,” he insists, and his advice is worth heeding; he made all those great movies all those years ago, and now, indirectly, he’s given us another one.
Hal featured in Los Angeles Times' Preview of Sundance '18
"Obsession. Unfetter. Unravel. Unleash. Fantasy. Nightmare." What does it all add up to? Would you believe Sundance 2018?
Though already first among leaders in the domestic film festival universe, Sundance has seen fit to rebrand itself with an enigmatic ad campaign featuring all those words and more.
But for those who regularly attend the festival, which starts Thursday night in wintry Park City, Utah, the most appropriate words might be "game of chance."
For more than at most festivals, Sundance's independently made, often out of nowhere movies are huge unknowns for audiences. Will the film you've signed up for turn out to be a monster hit like last year's "The Big Sick" or something so lamentable you can't remember its name a week later? You pay your money and you take your chance.
Lots of people, as it turns out, do exactly that. According to the Sundance Institute, last year's festival attracted visitors from 46 states and 18 foreign countries, generating an economic impact of $151.5 million.
Among the visitors this year will be a variety of celebrities of varying stripes, from RuPaul and Joan Jett to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Kronos Quartet, either as subjects of films or participants in the festival's wide variety of panels.
Sundance constantly tinkers with what it presents and how it presents it, and 2018 will see the inauguration of a new best-of-fest audience award to be called Festival Favorite.
Also, because so much episodic television is now screened, that kind of programming is getting its own official section, titled Indie Episodic and featuring, among many other shows, a glimpse of "America To Me," documentarian Steve James' ten-part look at a year in the life of a vibrant Chicago public high school.
Word is Bond on Showtime
Saboteur Media is proud to announce Sacha Jenkins' latest documentary, Word is Bond, will be airing on Showtime Network on Friday February 16th at 10pm.
Bella Vita garners Audience Choice Award at La Costa Film Festival
The network's film division took home best feature documentary for Brothers in Exile and best documentary short for Tommy and Frank. (Brothers in Exile also won the Audience Award for feature documentary.)
The festival kicked off Sept. 18, 2014, withFrank vs. God, starring Henry Cusick andEver Carradine, at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.
Throughout its four-day run, the festival screened 43 films from 13 countries and drew a number of prominent filmmakers including Ed Harris and Ron Shelton(Bull Durham). More than 4,500 attended this year's incarnation.
This year, the festival launched a partnership with Peter Guberand Mike Tollin's Mandalay Sports Media to co-curate the festival's sports-themed narrative, documentary and shorts programs.
The 2014 jury featured a roster of industry professionals, including producer Cash Warren, Boys & Girls Clubs of Carlsbad CEO Brad Holland, Emmy winner Ira Opper, KUSI-TV sports director Paul Rudy and former San Diego Chargers kicker John Carney.
A complete list of winners can be found below:
Sports Jury Competition Winners:
Feature Film: Brothers in Exile (ESPN Films)
Short Film: Tommy and Frank (ESPN Films)
Audience Choice Awards:
Narrative Feature: Una Vida, Richie Adams
Foreign Narrative Feature: White Lies, Dana Rotberg
Documentary Feature: Brothers in Exile, Mario Diaz
Documentary Feature: Bella Vita, Jason Baffa
Short Film: Tandem, Matthew Douglas Helfgot, Jared Hillman
Foreign Short Film: Bis gleich, Benjamin Wolff
Honorable Mention: h2mexico, Brent Deal
Legacy Award: Ed Harris
"Ambassador of Sports" Award: Ron Shelton
High School Short Film Competition Winner: Sofia, Jason Phillips and Brandon Chase of Canyon Crest High School
Bella Vita Releases Worldwide
BELLA VITA RELEASES WORLDWIDE on DVD, iTunes, Digital VOD AND IN SELECT THEATERS VIA TUGG.COM
Los Angeles, CA (September 22, 2014) – After a whirlwind year of festival screenings worldwide including multiple audience, cinematography and best feature awards, Jason Baffa's Bella Vita releases worldwide today on DVD, iTunes, Digital VOD and in select theaters in the U.S. via the on-demand theatrical platform, TUGG.com.
Bella Vita (www.bellavitafilm.com) is Baffa's chronicle of Chris Del Moro's pilgrimage back to his ancestral Italian homeland with elite professional surfers Dave Rastovich, Lauren Lyndsey Hill, Conner & Parker Coffin and Italian stand-outs Alessandro Ponzanelli and Leonardo Fioravanti as they explore the burgeoning surf culture blossoming amongst the Mediterranean’s oldest and cherished traditions.
“We’ve had an amazing international festival run,” notes L.A. based filmmaker, Baffa, “ I see it as a film about life as told through the eyes of these surfers traveling in Italy. I’m so honored how audiences throughout the world have embraced it’s introspective themes and I’m excited to finally show it to the world.”
“A stunning piece of visual art" as reviewed by the London Arts News, Bella Vita has screened at festivals in 8 countries, winning awards in the U.S., France, UK and Germany.
“The film has a lot of heart. I see it as a fantastic Italian meal, where course after course something is served up that is better than before,” says renown free-surf professional and environmental activist Dave Rastovich.
Shot in 35mm and supported by its core community via a Kickstarter finishing campaign, the visually-stunning coming-of-age surf journey features Chris Del Moro tracing the roots of his Italian heritage in a tribute to the grandparents who raised him and on a hunt for the elusive waves that captured his imagination as a young boy.
Rollicking to a superb surf film style soundtrack including a track by Grammy Award Winning Artists, Mumford & Sons, the film explores the history of a passionate Italian surfing subculture in a reflective look at the ways this group has sustained its traditions in the face of globalization and hyper-commoditization by embracing time-tested methods focusing on sustainability and craftsmanship.
Staying true to its grass roots origins, the film is currently available in major U.S. theaters via TUGG.com, an on-demand theatrical distributor which, like Kickstarter, allows passionate film audiences to support and promote local screening events by pre-purchasing tickets toward an activation threshold. Anyone can request and promote a screening within their immediate community and the film has seen a remarkable turnout among surf lifestyle enthusiasts and retail outlets sponsoring screenings around the country. Visit www.bellavitafilm.com/see-film for info on local screenings and on how to host a screening.
Bella Vita's custom-designed collector's edition DVD release features an eight-panel package with postcards and artwork by Del Moro as well as commentary from Baffa and Del Moro, a companion "making-of" feature and English, Italian, Spanish and German subtitles.
Complimenting the film’s roll-out, a series of “Filmmaker Edition” wines are in the works via Italian cast-member and wine-maker, Piergiorgio Castellani, under the Zio Baffa label.
Additionally, special edition publisher Arkitip has released a limited edition companion book, Arkitip #0059 - Bella Vita, with a selection of stills, interviews, sketches, backstory and artwork created by Del Moro. Each issue includes a custom Bella Vita Velcro-wallet thanks to the support of Quiksilver.
Filmmakers and Cast are available for interviews upon request. Photos and editorial assets are also available upon request.
For more information on Bella Vita and to view the film trailer, please visit
Media Contact: Greg Schultz / firstname.lastname@example.org
DVD Distribution: James Ravenel / email@example.com
Theatrical/Digital/TV: David Kennedy / firstname.lastname@example.org
Bella Vita Wins Audience Choice Award!
Bella Vita wins the Audience Choice award at the 2014 Costa Rican International Film Festival
Bella Vita will be making its French Premiere at the International Surf Film Festival d'Anglet. Mark your calendars for Friday July 11th at 6pm.
For more info & tickets: http://surf-film.com/
Newport Surf Fest
Stoked to be kicking off Surf Fest IV for newportFILM on Thursday July 10th in Queen Anne Square.
Make sure to RSVP and come meet Director, Jason Baffa by RSVPing here: http://bit.ly/1jkYUWS
If you're in Honolulu, join Jason Baffa at the Ward Village Courtyard Cinema for a screening of Bella Vita. This is an outdoor screening, so you'll have to bring your own chair.
Starting June 12, Ward Village, in partnership with the Hawaii International Film Festival and Consolidated Theatres, will host Courtyard Cinema, a new monthly film series that will showcase a selection of HIFF curated films!
Check out www.wardvillagecourtyardcinema.com for all the details.
Danielle / Gold Star Child
Letter writing and coping with grief
Jeanette Chervony / Gold Star Child
REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS AND THE FALLEN
Colleen Shine / Gold Star Child
NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY