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‘Golden age of documentaries’ finds favor in film series

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“We are in the golden age of documentaries,” declared Erika Mallin, executive director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, as evidenced by the fact that documentary film is the most-watched genre across all movie streaming platforms.

On July 25 and Aug. 1, the Aspen Institute Arts Program and Aspen Film will offer audiences some thought-provoking film selections in the 2022 Eisner/Lauder New Views Documentaries and Dialogue Series, which is sponsored by Leonard Lauder and Jane and Michael Eisner.

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Mallin shared, “Aspen Institute Arts Program’s mission is to give artists — who are some of our great innovators and changemakers — the opportunity to talk about the bigger issues and the challenges that we face as a society.”

In 1949, Aspen Institute founder Walter Paepcke brought together people from a myriad of disciplines — the arts, philosophy, sciences and business — to better understand the world and its shifts after World War II.

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In that spirit, Aspen Film and the Institute have been doing the New Views Documentaries and Dialogue Series for over a decade, with a brief hiatus in 2018. Mallin shared that documentary film aligns with the mission of both Michael Eisner and Leonard Lauder in reinvigorating the Institute’s Arts Program about 10 years ago, when it began with the late businessman and philanthropist Sidney Harman.

The three-person Arts Program team, which Aspen Film Executive Director Susan Wrubel called “phenomenal,” collaborates with Aspen FIlm to curate films covering relevant and timely topics.

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“The whole idea of the series is that it’s a salient documentary that always has a relevant conversation that follows. We usually look for films that have not been widely exposed and deal with conversational topics of the day. I think that’s the beauty of documentary right now, anyway,” Wrubel explained.

This year’s post-screening dialogues focus on the filmmakers and allow audience members to delve deeper into topics during Q&A sessions.

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“Subject”, directed by Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Hall, screens on July 25. The film, which had its world premiere at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival, is a documentary that  “looks in on itself.” It’s an examination of the documentary film industry that delves into the ethics and responsibilities of documentarians and what happens to the film’s subjects after the cameras stop rolling.

For their film, Tiexiera and Hall examined “Hoop Dreams”, a 1994 film about two African American high school basketball players in Chicago who dream of becoming professionals, “The Staircase”, an HBO Max true crime miniseries, and “The Wolfpack”, documentary that observes the family life of a father and his seven children who rarely leave their New York City apartment.

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Journalist Andrew Travers will moderate the “Subjects” post-screening discussion with directors Tiexiera and Hall and Mukunda Angulo, one of the children from “The Wolfpack” who is now 27 years old.

“The brother [Mukunda Angulo] that broke free and got [his siblings] to go outside was sort of the leader to leave this oppressive home. Mukunda’s brother, Govinda, one of the film’s subjects, is now a filmmaker,” Wrubel explained.

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The Aug. 1 screening of “Still Working 9 to 5”, directed by Camille Hardman and Gary Lane, examines the 1980 groundbreaking comedy film, “9 to 5”, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, and features candid interviews with the actors. The film also includes interviews with Rita Moreno, who had a big part in the original film, and Allison Janney, who was in the 2009 Broadway cast of “9 to 5: The Musical”.

“The film examines how now, 40 years later, women are still fighting the same battle in the workplace that they were fighting when the film was made,” Wrubel shared.

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Breeze Richardson, executive director of Aspen Public Radio, will lead the post-screening “Still Working 9 to 5” conversation.

As documentary film gains in popularity, Mallin said, “Hopefully, they will get more money flowing toward them – which is always an issue – and again, this is why we want to bring this kind of work forward.”

All screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. at Aspen’s Isis Theatre with doors opening at 7 p.m. Masks are required for all attendees except while eating or drinking. Single tickets for each screening are $20 ($16 for Aspen Film members and Aspen Institute members) and can be purchased online at aspenfilm.org

Tags: #Aspen Film #Aspen Institute #film #Jeanne Souldern #youth in film
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