Spot on Producers: Sarah Mosses

Sarah Mosses is a force to be reckoned with, and we here at Influence Film have been lucky enough to work with her on a number of occasions, including on our film of the month THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST (the film is proudly supported by our affiliate Influence Film Features). One of the many passions we share with Sarah is bringing people together around documentary films, in fact she very aptly she named named her consultancy “Together Films.” So, we were excited to connect with her once again and learn more about her long history as a champion for the medium we love, and learn more about how we can support the brave musicians fighting to be heard in THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST.

What is it that draws you to documentary film?

I’m extremely interested in the passion, power, and excitement of real experiences. Discovering characters who have lived through extraordinary moments, and are able to tell these stories in compelling ways to an audience.

What is your history with documentary? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?

My career in documentary started out with the incredible ladies at the BRITDOC Foundation; I started off working at the BRITDOC Festival way back in 2006 and then progressed up to Partnerships Manager working across the Good Pitch and BRITDOC Films Distribution slate. The projects that I worked across, such as Ping Pong and One Mile Away had strong links to social impact campaigns and the launch of the idea of an Impact Producer to support the release of these films. I loved creating new viewing experiences for audiences and bringing on partners to enable these campaigns. This followed me into setting up Together Films after I left. I now consult and mentor with various film Producers, Directors, Distributors, Exhibitors, Charities who are looking to reach new audiences. I don’t explicitly work with just socially minded content these days, but my bedrock was definitely in this area.

You work as a Producer and as an Impact Producer. Since impact production is an increasingly important aspect of documentary filmmaking, but at the same time is a rather new term for many, could you explain what it means to you and your work?

The term Impact Producer was devised when I was at BRITDOC to describe a very diverse and multidisciplinary person on the team who could support the film to ensure that it not only hit it’s commercial remit, but also delivered on the social capital possibilities. By this, did it move the audience to take some form of direct action, and if so, what action did we want them to take? Depending on the films needs this could include building up partnerships with charities who are working in your area (think Greenpeace if you film discusses climate change), through to brand engagement (for funding and reach), and advising on distribution plans to ensure that the right audiences see the film in the right place. What is crucial is both an awareness of film distribution and communications planning so that you can ensure the film is available where it can make the best change. And of course have an eye on costs and where you might be able to raise a budget to cover this extra work.

Can you tell us a bit about the impact campaign around THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST Has there been any specific moment, achievement, or change that you are the most proud of?

When reviewing what could achieved with the release of this film, we were extremely focussed on ensuring that musicians who had experienced some form of censorship could be supported. We started by making sure to promote the albums released by the musicians featured in the film. With piracy at such a high, just buying an album by a censored artists can have a great effect. More importantly we felt compelled to support musicians in a more practical manner, so we launched the Music In Exile Fund, alongside our partners at Index on Censorship. After launching at the London Film Festival, we collected donations at screenings events and were able to grant the first fellowship to Smockey, a rapper from Burkina Faso, who had his music studio fire bombed by government supporters. The funds will help him rebuild part of his studio, and provide tangible support on tour engagements across Europe, in order to help sustain his work in his home territory and expand his reach to new audiences.

The fund will be launching as a stand alone charity in 2017, and aims to support multiple musicians each year.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around this film? Has it stirred up any strong opinions?

The film has started so many conversations, and it’s interesting to meet with audiences after each event to see what has touched them the most. It was saddening to hear that a lot of people didn’t realise that this had even happened in Mali – talk of Boko Haram and ISIS had populated the news, but the Mali situation hadn’t been covered as extensively. Most were shocked at the level of violence that had occurred in the country, and the fact that music had been suppressed. Many discussed their shock at a world without music and tried to contemplate what life could be like without radio, street musicians or gigs taking place.

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is. What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST?

Our first priority would be to keep buying music. Go to your local record store and buy an album from a musician that you know has been persecuted. Songhoy Blues album ‘Music in Exile’ is an incredible debut and, we have released a Soundtrack album, which includes tracks from all the musicians featured in the film. If you are feeling more generous and would be interested in donating to the Music in Exile Fund then please email to find out more.

What would your documentary playlist consist of?

The films I would recommend to watch alongside They Will Have To Kill Us First are Searching for Sugar ManPussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Finding Fela, and We Are Together.


THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST is Influence Film Club’s featured films for October 2016. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by Isis Graham


Documentary Playlist: Evolve To Resolve

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge,
aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Humans are prone to conflict. Just look at any history text and you’ll quickly find a laundry list of clashes between clans and countries, personalities and militaries, family members and brethren. But if we’ve learned anything from the past it’s that perpetual warfare does no one any favors. It is with an empathetic eye, careful consideration of concessions and a committance down the long hard road toward reparations and forgiveness that mankind may move forward.

But first, conflicts must be resolved. In some cases communities can transform through the dedication of courageous individuals willing to take a radical approach such as the streetwise Chicago group at the center Steve James’ THE INTERRUPTERS who employ their former involvement in violence and crime to dissuade others. Or Grace Lee Boggs whose story is told in AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS, a pioneering first generation Chinese-American political activist and champion of the Black Power movement who continued to blaze a transformative path until she reached 100 years old.

Sometimes things become so intolerable for both sides of a conflict, that to continue fighting would be irreparably detrimental. Thus, pride must be swallowed and a truce must be sought in salvageable compromise. The ordinary Liberian women who populate Gini Reticker’s PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL become so fed up with the ongoing civil war in their country that they reach out to one another to bring an end to the conflicts and a new, peaceful start for their people, while in Lisa Fruchtman and Rob Fruchtman’s SWEET DREAMS a remarkable group of Rwandan women emerge from the devastation of the 1994 genocide to forge a new future for themselves through the therapeutic nature of drumming and the soul-soothing virtues of ice cream entrepreneurship. Compromises are made and the long process of reconciliation begins.

For some, that process can painfully linger for decades. Joshua Oppenheimer’s unflinching THE LOOK OF SILENCE deals explicitly with the inability of the people who lived through the Indonesian mass killings of ‘65-’66 to reconcile with the horrific events that tore communities apart and left victims to live amongst the murderers that took the lives of their kin. And while not as emotionally charged, Fredrik Gertten’s BIKES VS CARS attempts to reconcile a world in which the car industry is wreaking havoc on our environment while bikes remain overlooked as an obvious solution for clean and sustainable daily transportation.

Conflict resolution may not be easy, but it is of utmost necessity if we wish to see peace for the generations to come in our wake. These six films form a framework of empathy and reconciliation to strive for by example.

The Interrupters
THE INTERRUPTERS tells the moving and surprising story of three brave people who aim to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. This film is an intimate view of violence, its causes, and its interrupters.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
By plunging us into writer, activist, and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs’s lifetime of vital thinking and action, and traversing the major U.S. social movements of the last century, AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS takes us on a journey into the power of ideas and the necessity of expansive, imaginative thinking to propel societal change.

Sweet Dreams
SWEET DREAMS follows a remarkable group of Rwandan women as they emerge from the devastation of the 1994 genocide to create a new future for themselves through drumming and ice cream. In the words of Kiki Katese, the founding member, “Because of our history, people know how to fight against, but not for. We want to change that equation.”

Pray the Devil Back to Hell
PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL chronicles the story of the Liberian women who came together to end war and bring peace to their country. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war.

The Look of Silence
Through its footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide in THE ACT OF KILLING, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered and the identities of the killers. THE LOOK OF SILENCE serves as a powerful companion piece that initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.

Bikes vs. Cars
BIKES VS CARS investigates the daily global drama in traffic around the world, meeting with bike activists in Sao Paulo and Los Angeles who struggle to be granted space, and surveying cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where cycling is an integral part of city life, all while contemplating the revolutionary changes possible if more cities moved away from car-centric models.



Spot on Directors: Johanna Schwartz

Director Johanna Schwartz was planning to attend the 2013 “Festival au Désert” music festival in Mali when she learned about the controversial music ban imposed in the north of the country under the newly instated Sharia law. Having spent more than a decade documenting life and culture on the African continent, she felt compelled to travel to Mali nonetheless, and thus began her journey filming THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST: MALIAN MUSIC IN EXILE.

What is it that draws you to documentary film? 

I have always been drawn to filmmaking in general as a way to tell stories. Film can engage so many people in so many unique ways. But I became specifically interested in Documentary during film school. At that time there was no such thing as a documentary feature film in the cinema, or short form documentary online. There was only broadcast. But even so, I found that the stories I was able to tell using documentary were far more powerful than the stories I could tell on the fictional side. I realised that I could create a bigger impact, that documentary had a kind of power that narrative film did not. It captivated me and I never looked back. The industry has changed so much in the past 20 years, but the power of documentary hasn’t diminished.

What is your history with documentary? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?

I spent a long time working to commission in British television, taking any job that came across my desk. Archaeology, History and Environmental issue films were my bread and butter. I had to work to live, and television provided me with many opportunities to do so. I was definitely drawn more to issue-based films, but with every passing year the call for these kinds of films shrunk and the competition to direct them grew. Even the commissions I did get were never entirely satisfying. I realized that if I wanted to make the kinds of films that really excited me, I would need to leave TV and enter the world of independent film. It was scary, but it paid off, and I have found my passion – stories where music and geopolitics collide. These are the stories that I am now pursuing full time.

How did you get to know the musicians in the film? Were there any other musicians that you wished you could feature but that there wasn’t time for?

We interviewed perhaps double the amount of musicians than we needed. Meeting them was not difficult at all. I enjoyed meeting all of them but felt very strongly that the musicians we featured within the film had to have a deeply personal connection to the conflict and had to move the plot along at every turn. Every character in the film is there for a reason, their story is laid out for our audiences for a reason. We wanted to tell all sides to the story, not just one. Not everyone in the film makes good decisions, not everyone is a “hero”. This was extremely important to me.

You artfully weave together the story of a delicate political situation and very upbeat joyful music. How does the film communicate how intrinsically music and human rights are intertwined?

I hope that the film communicates how the musicians feel themselves. I don’t wish to communicate what I feel, rather, what they feel. The musicians all speak of how vital music is in Malian society, and it was our job to find a way to make the audience feel that too. It’s not enough to just hear the words. Filmmaking is a language. And we used this language to convey so many complex emotions had by these incredible musicians.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around this film? Has it stirred up any strong opinions?

The film is about so many things. Earlier today I sat with a group of American university students and they went around in turn talking about their favourite moment in the film. I was so proud that they were taking different things away from it, and this has been my experience at every Q&A. For some, the story of Songhoy Blues’ rise to success and their perseverance and bravery is the most powerful aspect. For others, it is the moment where Moussa describes how tourists are afraid of him and think he might be a terrorist for wearing a head scarf, and how this opens up an understanding about Islam and extremism. For others, the story is about women and their immensely important role in the unfolding narrative. For others, this is a story about refugees… The film has many layers and is not about one thing or another, just like life.

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is. What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST?

Please visit our website and take action. You can buy a CD/digital download of one of the artists, or indeed the soundtrack to the film featuring all of them. You can recommend the film to a friend. You can buy Andy Morgan’s book “Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali” to learn more. You can donate to the Music In Exile Fund which helps persecuted musicians around the world. There are so many ways to become involved, but most importantly, talk about these issues with other people. Talk about musical freedom of expression, talk about extremism, talk about Mali. Lets keep this conversation alive and spreading.

What would your documentary playlist consist of? 

I won’t list my favourites as that list is constantly changing (Werner Herzog is always on there somewhere), but if you like this film and want to continue on the musical theme, I would recommend Searching for Sugarman; Anvil! The story of Anvil; Súme: The sound of a revolution; The Punk Syndrome…there are so many great music documentaries (just google ‘best music docs of all time’) but I have to say I like the ones that show a side of the music industry, or of musicians themselves that is surprising, sometimes dark but always brilliant.


THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST is Influence Film Club’s featured films for October 2016. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by Isis Graham


Spot on Directors: Christopher Walker

As current events and news cycles attest, we are living in a time of increased political and religious extremism. While extremism appears in different forms, it is essentially a radicalism that extends beyond rational thought and the bounds of normal reason. It generates a space where dialogue and debate have no place, as those advocating their views in extreme forms lack an ability to hear another side, perspective, or point of view. The danger of extremism and the ideologies associated with it rests on radicalized divisiveness, separatism, and in its worst forms, violence against those who fall outside one’s own group or belief system.

We discussed our August film of the month WELCOME TO LEITH with director Christopher Walker. He and his co-director Michael Beach Nichols provide an unflinching look at Leith, North Dakota, where white supremacists attempt to secure a foothold in the small American town in order to spread their extremist ideology.

What is it that draws you to documentary film?

I am interested in the human condition. The understanding of people and exploring extraordinary circumstances they may be going through.  I feel like this is all tied into trying to understand myself more clearly.

Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?

I began my career as an editor, which is something I have been interested in most of my life – I like the feeling of putting things together, the satisfaction of a completed project. In my early work as an editor I worked primarily on documentaries with an overt social issue bend.  I feel like working on these types of films informed my current sensibilities as a director. There is an importance and place for these films but I have strayed away from this. I’ve grown to approach films with strong subjects or characters which lend to verité filming, letting scenes play out as a scripted film would. We as documentary filmmakers need to give our audiences more credit, the less hand holding the better. I like to remove the stigma of documentary as only a champion for causes or issues. We lose the art of the medium if we ignore the vast tools that filmmaking allows us to utilize.

How and your co-director, Michael Beach Nichols, came across the story of what was happening in the New York Times. How did this discovery develop into a documentary? 

My co-Director Michael Beach Nichols and I had been scouring the news for stories that could be interesting as feature documentaries.  When Michael came across the story in Leith, we thought it could have a lot of potential.  It was certainly something that most filmmakers would look at as a goldmine of compelling story and characters. We followed the story as it slowly developed, but it wasn’t until we read that Kynan Dutton (a white separatist), his wife and five children had heeded Craig Cobb’s call and moved out to Leith to begin work on his vision of an all white enclave that we decided to take action.

We called Leith Mayor Ryan Schock to see if he would be open to two filmmakers coming out to capture what was happening, he agreed to it and started spreading the word of our arrival. Our initial plan was to make a short doc. We weren’t sure how far Cobb would get, or if his plans would quickly fizzle out. We spent ten days in Leith, filming with anyone we could, including Kynan Dutton, Mayor Schock, his wife Michele, Gregory Bruce – as well as Lee and Heather Cook, who lived across the street from Cobb and Dutton. It was unfortunate to learn that Cobb wasn’t in town while we filmed that first trip, he was on the east coast for a talk show taping which would later become an infamous viral video.  The week after Michael and I returned to New York City we learned of Cobb and Kynan’s arrest for an armed patrol of Leith.  We knew then that this had the legs for a feature documentary.

You incorporate footage collected from many different sources throughout the film, and interview people involved in the story coming from a wide-range of perspectives – creating what feels like a balanced view of what unfolded. Do you think that this is an accurate take away? And how was it for you as  a director working with something so sensitive to engage with all the different players in the film and present their perspectives in the way that you did?

Our initial conception of the film was to shoot with as many people from the town as possible, being that the town had 24 residents, this didn’t seem too much of a stretch. With this idea, we also felt strongly that we would not make the film if we could not speak with both sides of the issue and give each side ample screen time to give their points of view.  There are too many films that take an overt side, losing subtlety and nuance to issues that are more than just black and white – we searched for the grey areas. We made sure to keep our personal feelings out of it. We set out to make a film which presented both sides of a very sensitive issue and let the viewer make their own conclusions, and also challenge them along the way.

In the months of making this film we were lucky to find that the town residents, as well as Craig Cobb’s camp, had been filming each other. This was a huge blessing in terms of pivotal scenes that we weren’t there to film, the armed patrol being the most important.  With all this footage from both sides we were able to put together an objective film that honored our initial intent as filmmakers as well as a more compelling and rounded out documentary.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up some strong opinions?

One of the more interesting things I have noticed since the release of the film is the utter shock that something like this could happen in America these days. In more intimate settings, people have questioned what they would have done if it had been their community while also acknowledging the First Amendment as important in protecting all Americans. Can we pick and choose what viewpoints are and aren’t allowed in a free society as long as these views don’t impinge on others?

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is. What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching WELCOME TO LEITH?

People often ask us what they can do to stop people like Cobb from doing something like this again – and the answer is honestly hard to come to. The cleverness Cobb employed in buying property allowed him to use the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to protect himself from housing discrimination based on religion, color and creed. This speaks to how America operates. Democracy is messy!

What would your documentary playlist consist of?

Harlan County U.S.A, Salesman, Sherman’s March, Thin Blue Line, Brother’s Keeper, Paris is Burning.


WELCOME TO LEITH is Influence Film Club’s featured films for August 2016. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview: Isis Marina  Graham


Spot on Directors: Robert Gordon

This month, Influence Film Club is featuring BEST OF ENEMIES as our featured film, so we caught up with co-director Robert Gordon to discuss his work. Together with his co-director Morgan Neville (and the skillful editing of our friend Aaron Wickenden), Gordon looks at the historical U.S. television event of 1968 when William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal squared off in public debate. This televised debate marked a new era in public discourse and television programming. Both leading authors and intellectuals, the two men took place in what would greatly shape today’s media spectacle, for better or worse. Both masters of debate in their own right, they didn’t always keep their cool, and we stand to learn as much from their mistakes as from their skillful methods of argumentation.

What is it that draws you to documentary film?

Truth, being stranger than fiction, proves a compelling way to share stories of how societies become what they are. As a lapsed fiction writer, I find the constraints of documentary—that constraint being the facts—make for a more challenging way to work. Instead of manufacturing events, we have to build powerful narratives from the random realities of what really happened.

What is your history with documentary? How does it intersect with your career as a writer? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout both?

I knew I’d tell stories, but I thought I’d write novels. Then, in my early 20s, I found that no one was interested in my fiction, but that people liked to hear the stories of things that happened to me in Memphis, my home. There, I’d become involved with artists and musicians from earlier eras, and began to see how geography and economics and commerce all had huge influences on art. Art may be ideas, but the influences that create it are myriad, and the holistic picture of all the forces interacting is more interesting than the individual element out of context.

You had a wealth of archive footage at your fingertips when it came to making BEST OF ENEMIES. What was it like working with this footage, what were its strengths and limitations? 

I can’t think of any limitations—it was just a blast. As it was coming in, the editors would post their favorite finds of the day and they were always great. From the beginning, the assemblies that came out of the editing room, archive heavy, were thrilling. We edited for months and months and then when we made the HD transfers of the film footage, there were images in the footage that we never realized were there. Sometimes sound effects had to be changed. We thought Gore was tossing a book on a table and had a thunk in the track, but when the HD transfer came in, it turned out the table was a sofa! So it’s no exaggeration to say that watching the HD transfer was really, even after months of editing, like seeing all the footage anew.

How do you think the film serves as a metaphor for the current political climate in the United States?

That’s both the easiest and the most difficult question. In the simplest way, our film is two opposing political forces that believe the other is going to ruin the country. But it gets more complicated when you consider that Buckley and Vidal actually engaged in dialogue, responding to what the other said. Today, no one listens, it’s just accusations and acrimony. The fear each side has of the other is the same, the refusal to compromise is the same, but Buckley and Vidal were willing to hear what the other said and refute it. That’s why their moment is so interesting: It’s when dialog broke into two separate monologues.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up some strong opinions?

Best of Enemies manages to reflect both a horrific funhouse mirror image of where we are now, and also a hopeful model. If once people were not afraid to bare their education and intelligence on TV, perhaps that culture can return. But if even men of the highest intellectual capacities devolve into schoolyard name-calling, is there any reason for hope?

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is. What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching BEST OF ENEMIES?

Engage in real dialogue with someone who holds opposing beliefs.

What would your documentary playlist consist of? 

  • Sermons and Sacred Pictures—an experimental short doc that blends archival footage with new, and that develops an ethereal space somewhere between reminiscence and observance.
  • At the River I Stand—a great hour that uses archival footage to tell the powerful story of recognition for striking Memphis sanitation workers in 1968.
  • 20 Feet From Stardom—my film partner’s master telling. This is a great example of building compelling stories within the constraint of facts.
  • When We Were Kings—a great blend of sports, music, travel and cultural collision. Context is everything.
  • Primary—conveys the innate power of observational and verité filming.
  • Senna—great storytelling through archival footage


BEST OF ENEMIES is Influence Film Club’s featured film for July. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to Influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by Isis Graham


Spot on Directors: Jerry Rothwell

In celebration of summer and outdoor activities, Influence Film Club is embracing nature, our environment, and the act of protecting it by featuring HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD as our June film of the month. In the film, director Jerry Rothwell delves into the archives to discover the origins of Greenpeace, arguably the most well known non-governmental environmental agency in the world.

Beginning with its formation in the early 1970s and their first activist campaign in Alaska, Rothwell follows the group’s initial successes, failures, and growing pains as he pieces together old footage with contemporary recollections from the colorful cast of characters involved during the agency’s formative years. If you’ve ever wondered how to start an organization, big or small, to make a change in the world, or put a good idea into action and help it grow, watch this documentary! The Greenpeace story includes words of wisdom, guiding steps, and important lessons for all of those hoping to be world change makers, but also for anyone interested in human nature and working together toward a common goal.

After sitting down with Jerry last year at Sheffield Doc/Fest, we were excited to get his take on documentary filmmaking, transformation, and digging into the Greenpeace film archive.

What is it that draws you to documentary film?

I think it’s the improvisatory side of documentary that grabs me. Making a documentary is a kind of dance with the real world: you can have preconceived ideas but they always have to develop in response to the unfolding and elusive reality you are portraying. The best documentaries are a journey of discovery for the filmmaker as well as for the audience.

I heard a story about Howard Hawks recently that made me think about the differences between fiction and documentary storytelling. When Hawks adapted The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler he phoned Chandler to ask him about a detail in the plot that was puzzling him. “Who killed the chauffeur?,” he asked the writer. “Damned if I know” replied Chandler. The world of a fiction is, by definition, sealed. Documentaries, on the other hand, always refer out to the wider reality from which the story is drawn.

This means that documentary stories are always unresolved. Life goes on in the world the film is portraying. It is left to the audience to do the job of finding resolution, so documentaries have a great power to motivate their audience to engage, beyond the limits of the film, in the lives and issues they explore. It might be as simple as asking ‘What’s that person doing now?’ or ‘How does my life relate to theirs?’, but it motivates action, empathy and engagement.

What is your history with documentary? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?

My films to date have been about very different subjects – a punk band, a lone sailor, a sperm donor, two girls from an Ethiopian village, a wine fraudster – though maybe there is a similar approach to each story. Somebody told me they thought a common theme was friendship and tested loyalty–and that may be true, though it’s not conscious. I try and find stories where there is the possibility of transformation happening on many levels–personally, interpersonally (in people’s relationships), and socially. After finishing a film, I tend to want to do something really different–in subject matter and approach–which is maybe why the themes are so varied. It’s one of the pleasures of documentary making, to plunge into an area you maybe don’t know much about and spend time with those for whom it’s an everyday experience.

Was your experience making this film like any of the other filmmaking experience you have had? How was it similar or different?

Making a film where the story is historical is a different challenge to making one where events are unfolding as you shoot–and each requires its own approach. Both archive films and those shot contemporaneously require a strong relationship with the subject and inevitably the finished film is just one possible view. I tend to work in the same way for both–starting with a sense of a rough possible shape, which gradually adds detail and depth as production develops. In an archive film, watching archive for the first time is a bit like shooting–it sparks ideas and the shape of the film develops in an interaction with the material.

You had an extraordinary wealth of archive footage at your fingertips when it came to making HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD. What was it like working with this footage? What were its strengths and limitations?

Greenpeace was very supportive of our exploration of the archive and allowed us access to it without having any editorial control over the film, which was important to me. I started with the shape of a story based on Hunter’s writings, so I was looking for archive material that would help tell that narrative, but then, working with editor Jim Scott, the archive itself started to dictate how particular scenes worked. There were areas where the Greenpeace footage was very strong (for example the first anti-whaling campaign) and areas where there was very little (for example of meetings and behind-the scenes proceedings).  We did a lot of research looking for archive held by others, so maybe 30% of the archive in the film comes from other sources – news, personal archive, photos.  I think in total, including all the archive and the interviews, we had around 100 hours to work with, of which maybe 20 hours was shot by the original Greenpeace crews. There were two suitcases of quarter inch reel to reel tape which we knew was the audio to some of the footage, and reuniting those with the right pictures and synchronizing them was a labour of love.

The footage shot by the Greenpeace crews was great to work with because we were able to access the original rushes footage – good, clean 16mm – which hadn’t been already cut. That allowed us to edit the footage much more freely and to include moments before and after the point where you’d usually cut. This footage had been shot for a particular, perhaps even propagandist, effect and at one point in the film Bob Hunter talks about Greenpeace’s early campaigns as a kind of performance, so being able to play with the footage in that way helped us to explore that idea.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up some strong opinions?

We’ve now screened the film in over 40 countries and in each I’ve found myself in conversations with audiences about the dynamics of social change today: in Spain, where the anti-austerity party Podemos was entering Parliament and Catalunya was edging towards independence; in Kiev, fresh from the bloody protests in Maidan which toppled a president; in Mexico, where the missing 43 inspired a nationwide outcry against the government; and even in Britain and the US where Corbyn and Sanders were unexpectedly making discussion of socialism mainstream once again. The tensions shown in the film –  between idealism and pragmatism, vision and compromise  – currently seem to be at the forefront of people’s minds.

The conversations circle around the same dilemmas. How do we square the visionary idealism required to imagine a better world, with the pragmatic politics that might take us there?  What’s the relationship between demanding change (campaigning, protesting speaking out) and making change (through community action, government, political parties)? How does a movement relate to the organizations it gives birth to? And what part do stories and images play in this process?

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is. What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

For me one of the legacies of the story of the early Greenpeace is that just a handful of people who were very focused on what they wanted to achieve can have an astonishing impact. I hope their powerful example inspires people to engage in the issues that affect their communities, focus on specific things they want to change, build broad coalitions, avoid being distracted by internal politics and think big in the way they communicate about their activism.

What would your documentary playlist consist of? 

My list of favorite docs is constantly changing – but here are six I’d recommend today, all of them in different ways trying to explore elusive and contested truths:

The Three Rooms Of Melancholia (2004) – Pirjo Honkasalo’s lyrical and distressing film about the Chechnyan conflict

Stories We Tell (2012) – Sarah Polley’s exploration of her family’s secrets navigating the borders of fact and fiction

The Look Of Silence (2014) – Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to his disturbing The Act Of Killing which is as affecting and uncompromising.

The Ark (1993)– Molly Dineen’s series about London Zoo as Thatcherite business management permeates the Royal Zoological Society.

The Thin Blue Line (1989) – Errol Morris’ film about a miscarriage of justice that playing historical events like a thriller but one with profound ambiguity.

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) – a crazy, morally challenging film about war, silence and justice as Kazuo Hara follows a world war two veteran demanding answers from his military officers about the destruction of his regiment.


HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD is Influence Film Club’s featured film for June. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together. Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by: Isis Graham


Spot on Directors: Fredrik Gertten

When a child first rides a bike, freedom is the sensation that comes flooding in. I can glide atop the pavement! I can take myself places! When Aline Cavalcante and Dan Koeppel hop atop their bikes in São Paulo and L.A., they too feel that sensation. Yet somehow in their quest to take themselves where they’re going with their own power, they are making a political statement, climbing atop their activist chariots and riding bravely into the mainstream crawl of the automotive norm. Why? They live in cities where car is king.

Swedish director Fredrik Gertten lives in Malmö, Sweden and he hops on his bike every day to pedal himself to and fro. Much as in the world’s cycling capitals Copenhagen and Amsterdam, riding a bike is not a political statement or environmental stand. It’s just a practical way of going about one’s daily business, a relatively safe and reliable means of transportation.

Our film of the month for May, BIKES VS CARS takes a humanistic approach to the environmental issue of transportation. Although less cars on the road certainly leads to greener societies, the film presents a picture of the devastating and often fatal chaos that prevails in cities around the world where the automotive industry has been allowed a free hand to draw up their car-dominating urban schemes. Uncovering some of the motivating factors – both political and financial – Gertten presents a people-centric look at how we choose to get ourselves around.

What is it that draws you to documentary film?

Documentaries are, most of the time, stronger than fiction. It’s also a genre with a growing audience all over the world. There are so many people around the world who want to know and understand more about the world. I have always been interested in society and human stories. When you make docs you combine a lot of interests, skills and passions. BIKES VS CARS showcases that quite well. I love bicycles, I am interested in trying to understand how the powerful do their tricks and how we can challenge that, which is quite important right now when our planet is in crisis over climate and overspending natural resources. I also love to travel and meet people, creating my own projects. I love my job.

What is your history with documentary? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career?

I have done docs for more than twenty years. I came from journalism but also from a background of organizing music festivals in my city. I don’t know how to describe my thread more than passion. I have been doing films about the Malmö FF, the football team from my city, the changes of the city- including architecture, building of the bridge- and also international stories like BANANAS!* and Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Was your experience making with BIKES VS CARS like any of the other filmmaking experience you have had?

Every film is a new challenge. This film is more of an essay film, but I also wanted it to be character driven, I needed one person to carry the weight of the gridlocks, the aggression, the climate change on her shoulders. In my films I want to package information with emotions so it stays with you. The idea is that if the audience make the conclusions themselves it will stay for ever.  A lot of people tell me that they can never ever buy a Dole banana again, or that they from now on will commute on bike: I love to hear that.

What is it that drove you to tell this story? How did you come across the characters? And how did it develop?

I always been interested in city planning and what makes or breaks a good city. At this point in history most city planners know that the private car is making life in cities unbearable. People are stuck in traffic for hours every day. First I pin pointed the bigger structure of the film. I wanted to talk about how the car lobby once upon a time took over the cities and how they keep selling their ideas today. I wanted to have a young woman as a lead in the film so we started to look for her. She should be a person in development, not a classic leader. We found Aline blogging and asked for a Skype with her. I could se that she could work fine on camera. From then on it was a step-by-step process. It takes time and I am never certain of success. It’s a hard job, but with a great team of producers, cinematographers and editors everything can be possible.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up some strong opinions?

I have now met audience all over the world with this film. The very cool thing is that people everywhere starts to talk about their own city. The film inspires and works as a tool for people working for change. They might be politicians, city planners, architects, urban developers, students or just people who wants to ride their bike to work without getting killed.

Often after watching documentaries, people wonder what the one most important thing they can do is? What is this one thing you would recommend to someone after watching Bikes vs. Cars?

The best thing you can do for a film is to tell more people about it. Tell them to watch on a platform where to filmmakers get payed like Vimeo. For us at WG Film a film is much more than a screening. We update our Facebook and Twitter everyday with new stories about the subject matter. This community work is joyful but also quite expensive. There’s no funding at all for that work so all help we can get to help this dialog with audience around the world, the better.

What would your documentary playlist consist of? 

The documentary world is growing and there are so many good films coming out. Check out the films supported by Influence Film, or check the programming of festivals that have played your favorite films. In Sweden check the programming of Doc Lounge. If you like a film of one filmmaker, check out the website of the producer or distributor. You will be surprised of many great films you can find. Enjoy.


Save 15% by using the code BikesInfluence when renting or buying BIKES VS CARS on Vimeo.

BIKES VS CARS is Influence Film Club’s featured films for May. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by: Isis Graham


Spot on Directors: Geeta and Ravi V. Patel

Our film of the month for April is Influence Film Foundation supported MEET THE PATELS and we can’t get enough of this raucous romp through one of life’s rites of passage. Siblings Ravi and Geeta V. Patel introduce us to the tried and tested Indian tradition of arranged marriage, comically situated on American soil. As a first-generation Indian-American, Ravi grapples with the parts of himself that respond to the ways of the old world, while the status quo of his contemporaries also make complete sense, while his sister Geeta captures it all on film. A humorous rollercoaster ride through the amusement park of family relations, the core-shaking questions Ravi confronts resound with anyone out there who has ever contemplated marriage for themselves.

What is it that drew the two of you to make documentary film together?

Ravi: Common problems.

Geeta: As siblings, we avoid making anything together and I still don’t understand how this happened!?

Ravi: It started by accident – just as a home video. And then when we saw the chance to make something personal, something that could make an impact, it became a very exciting prospect. That said, it was very not easy at first because we have such different sensibilities and it took us a long time to learn how to deal with differences. Thanks to this process, I think we are both now better artists, and much closer as siblings.

Both work in film and television, how does your experience of making a documentary compare to your other work? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout?

Ravi: Documentaries take much longer.  I mean it’s tedious and lacking money. That sucks. But it also was film school for me. And making something that matters – I guess you could say it taught me what art is, to me.

Geeta: Documentaries have this magical element of human nature, world events, the complete unexpected and uncontrollable. It’s an experience that is like no other in that the story tells itself to you most of the time, rather than you writing it.

Documentarians often set out to make one film and end up making another – did you have a specific idea about how the film would turn out? And how did that evolve?

Ravi: We initially wanted to make this more journalistic piece, however as time went on, the vérité aspects and the intimacy of revealing our own family and community felt like the stronger film.

Geeta: The most important thing to us was to make a film that our own family would want to watch. As strange as this sounds, it’s a tall order!

How was it for both of you documenting such a personal experience? Did it bring you closer? Was there any point that you felt like you needed to stop filming, or that the film facilitated certain situations? For example, Ravi, do you think without the film as a vehicle, that you would have ever told your parents about Audrey?

Ravi: It’s hard to say what would have happened without this film, however I know that it changed my life and made all my relationships stronger.  But yeah, it’s hard, and weird  being the subject of your own film. But because I got to see myself from a third party perspective of a director and editor, I think in many ways it did help me try to change, and I guess be a better character in life. Does that make sense?

Geeta: Many times, we wanted to stop making the film. It’s a really uncomfortable and inconvenient process,  and may I just add that the camera was really heavy! This film was also a huge test of my relationship with Ravi. At one point, we thought we’d never talk to each other again. This was the point that changed everything because the lesson of the film became the lesson of our relationship: We chose to make our relationship work. We changed for each other. Now, our relationship is stronger, something new, and quite a dream.

I have to ask – what’s going on now? Have either of you found “true love”?

Ravi: Haha.. Everyone asks us that, of course. We want to keep this a mystery.

Geeta: He says that, but it’s all over social media if you google us. Patels love social media.

What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up any unexpected reactions?

Ravi: The film has sparked loads of discussion between parents and their kids.

Geeta: In general, people of all communities and backgrounds have been writing to us about how the film has changed how they deal with their relationships with spouses, friends, brothers, sisters, children… It’s been amazing to hear all these stories!

Ravi: The unexpected stuff: 1) I expected, or at least hoped, that Indians would love this film. I’m still shocked that it seems almost every Indian I know has seen it. That’s crazy. 2) even more unexpected is the diverse audience this film has resonated with. People are relating to it in so many ways I did not see coming.

It’s not often that a documentary can be classified as a romantic comedy, and you manage to do it so well! Many documentaries inspire people to learn more, take action or get involved in some way, and while Meet the Patels might not be your typical doc, is there anything people can do after watching the film?

Ravi: People don’t spend enough time on their relationships these days. We hope they will talk to the people they love and learn how to be in a healthy relationship. It’s really hard! I also think the main thing we are hoping people take from this film is that they just make effort in communicating with the people they love. In many ways, this film is broadly about how to love your family.

Geeta: Yes, as small a step as this sounds, it’s the key to everything in life. This film is indeed a social issue film. It’s just disguised as a funny film. This was entirely our goal and we’re so excited that it’s working.

What would your documentary playlist consist of?

Ravi and Geeta: Hoop Dreams, Ghosts of Cite Soleil, Sherman’s March, Racing Dreams, Roger and Me, Waltz with Bashir


MEET THE PATELS is Influence Film Club’s featured films for April. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one (or two) of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film(s) to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film(s), providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by: Isis Graham


Documentary Playlist: Am I a Good Person?

“Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”
― David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

When is it ok to lie? Is it ever? What about those seemingly harmless little fibs we’ve all passed off as the truth once in blue moon as not to make a bad impression, to avoid insulting someone, or to shield a loved one from unnecessary grief? Are those ok? If so, where does the line begin to blur between good intentions and plain deception?

There could be a whole sub-genre of documentaries devoted to this question. Most of Errol Morris’ oeuvre is devoted to the notion of self-deception and its explication across the ripples of personal and political catastrophe, while countless other filmmakers peel back the falsehoods and fabrications of those looking to leverage their way up social ladders the world over, such as in Alex Gibney’s THE ARMSTRONG LIE, where former biking world golden boy Lance Armstrong’s long denial of using performance enhancing drugs to become the biggest name in the history of the sport is stunningly shattered. Or on a smaller scale, the ruthless door-to-door bible salesman of the Maysles Brothers’ vérité classic SALESMAN exploit low-income families by bending the truth to make that all important extra buck.

Somewhere in between is ART AND CRAFT’s art forger Mark Landis, who duplicates masterworks and donates them to museums for the sheer satisfaction of duping the pros into believing they are authentic. There is certain fear induced adrenaline rush one experiences when attempting to pull the wool over one’s eyes, as there are no guarantees and success only comes with skill. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s CATFISH plays with this notion of thrill seeking through baiting potential lovers via the digital divide. In the age of the internet, one’s identity can be almost wholly invented, while the truth is merely an option to dole out only if completely necessary. Is this entertainment or self preservation?

Some films, such as Vikram Gandhi’s Indian guru hoaxing KUMARÉ, employ deception as a means to greater, altruistic enlightenment. But lying, even with good intentions, is inherently malicious. When the truth finally comes to the fore, feelings will be hurt and trust, no matter how intimate, will be shattered. No films deal with this idea more intimately than Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL, in which the filmmaker’s own mother purposefully obscured her bloodline for the sake of protecting the immediate family unit.

Were these people right in attempting to pass off untruths as gospel? Does this make them a bad people or do their intentions exonerate them? These six films play with the idea of lying and the trick balance between decency and deceitful. Are you a good person?

KUMARÉ is a documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. At the height of his popularity, the Guru Kumaré must reveal his true identity to his disciples to unveil his greatest teaching of all.

The Armstrong Lie
Sports legend Lance Armstrong’s improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace. Using interview footage from before and after Armstrong’s doping admission, THE ARMSTRONG LIE explores one of the biggest lies in sports history.

Stories We Tell
STORIES WE TELL is a highly original documentary that explores how we construct our own reality through stories. Sarah Polley’s family and friends weave different narratives into a complex portrait of her mother who died when Sarah was eleven.

Art and Craft
Beginning as a cat-and-mouse art caper concerning one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history, ART AND CRAFT is rooted in questions of authorship and authenticity, eventually giving way to an intimate story of mental health and the universal need for community, appreciation, and purpose.

SALESMAN follows four door-to-door salesmen that walk the line between hype and despair as they ply across the American Northeast and Miami trying to sell expensive Bibles to low-income families.

In this tale of electronic attraction, love, deceit and forgiveness, the dark reality of how far one woman was willing to go to soothe her emotional aches and pains is unearthed, and CATFISH asks the question: what exactly can we trust in this age of virtual connections?


Spot on Directors: Michael Rossato-Bennett

Music plays an instrumental role in each and every one of our lives. The opening seconds of a song can stir up an entire range of emotions, catapulting us back to that first kiss or the feel of the breeze in our hair on that summer boat ride. In the midst of a winter storm, a breezy melody can transport us to the soft sands of a tropical beach. With its sonic strength, music interlaces itself deep into the fabric of our memory and offers a bridge back to the places, people, and passions of our past. We all know that music and memory are intertwined, yet witnessing exactly how intertwined they are can still surprise us.

After being moved by the work of social worker Dan Cohen while shooting a few short videos for a website, director Michael Rossato-Bennett fearlessly followed the founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory as he struggled against a tired healthcare system to inject the healing powers of music into the lives of individuals suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s – resulting in our touching and beautiful film of the month for March, ALIVE INSIDE.

What is it that drew you make “Alive Inside”? 

A friend of mine asked me to do it, to build a website with some films in it for a social worker named Dan Cohen. There was a tiny bit of money, and I did it as a job. I got my equipment and my crew, and we went into this 600 bed nursing home, and there was Dan.  and there was Dan.  He was trying to spread his idea of bringing personalized music to elders.  And he wasn’t having a tremendous amount of luck spreading the idea, so we thought if we could show what he was doing, that might help him. That was it.

When you make a documentary film, you shoot, and you shoot, and you shoot, and sometimes, suddenly, a moment happens- and it brings a tear to your eye. You know you’ve hit something, something real- that your instinct, or whatever it was that set you down this path of shooting, was correct. You have a film!  In this case, we went into the hospital, down these corridors of sadness.  Here I am, I’m a free and unfettered human being, and I’m walking down these corridors of these silent and shut-off people, literally just waiting.

We go into this room, and see this man–literally a blob in a chair, entirely collapsed in on himself, as inward as he possibly could be, divorced from the outer world. Dan puts a pair of headphones on him, and starts to play the music from when he was young, from 80 years ago, when his soul was just forming.  I’m filming, watching this man as he, slowly, sort of come to life- starts singing, and when that happens a chill runs up my spine. It is like seeing Lazarus, a man rising from the dead. And it doesn’t stop, we take the headphones off him, and all of a sudden he is speaking to us in poetry, and singing to us in a voice that is so full of wisdom, so beyond my own.

And I have tears in my eyes. I cried five times that first day of shooting. And I said right there, “Okay, that’s it, this is my next film.” I didn’t have to find “a moment” – it was right here, in front of me. If it hits me like this, there is something here that needs to be told.  If there is this much life hidden in these people, if all it takes a little sprinkle of their own past, their own humanness, to awaken this kind of life and poetry, this is where I belong!

Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career as a documentary filmmaker and in other pursuits? 

The red thread of my career is awakening.  I think we are dangerously asleep.  Wake up!  lets find a better path!

My skills are that I’m kind of fearless in a way, that’s my whole skill set really.  I live my whole life sort of without a safety net, if you will. It gives me a kind of freedom.  As a documentary filmmaker, your freedom and your allegiance, these are your true allies. So, for me, my freedom and my allegiance are deeply intertwined.

My allegiance is to that unknown place, that is a part of everyone, that seems to inform all of the best things we do. And so, if you ask me what my work is, I suppose I should say that on every level of my life, including my positions on artistic, political, and social issues, it’s seeking that place. And that is actually what has given what I do some legs- the capacity to touch people. And I’ve found personally, that the deepest, safe thing that you find: that will give you the most nourishment.

The film is very touching, specifically because it deals with the subject of elderhood, connection and memory, subjects we rarely discuss yet many of us fear. What has been the primary conversation you have observed people are having around the film? Has it stirred up some strong opinions and feelings? 

We’ve become a tremendously fractured communal being. We’ve separated ourselves from our deepest sources of inspiration and justice, and intelligence, perhaps. So, my artistic and social experiments are based on trying to hit notes that are deeply within our consciousness, that ring. Alive Inside; it’s a film about death, it’s about dying, it’s about Alzheimer’s disease, but that’s ok, it hits something.

A friend of mine said, “You’re making a film about  death, dying, and old age: my three least favorite subjects in the world.” And I was like, “Yes, that’s true! they are everyone’s least favorite subjects!”

But this is the key, the key that I’ve found, the choice I’ve made in this endeavor that made all the difference, to go through the door of music and emotion. See, when you seek through music and emotion, it enters humans in a place where it is a reality beneath the mind. And so, people are able to, in my experience, people have been able to open themselves to questions that they usually hide from. Questions that our entire society banishes–literally hides in the darkest corners of our subconscious, attempts to push into the unconscious.

I guess I’m just trying to shine a light on things that are inescapable and interconnected, and I find this in emotion and in music, powerfully.

The film is strangely not disturbing. There are so many messages we get in this culture about division, yet this film is about connection, and it really opens people’s hearts up. I love talking to audiences after they see it.  They are very beautiful and open with the parts of their being they don’t usually linger in. I find them both grateful and happy to sit in those places within themselves. My hope is they have to courage to change life for someone. People write me every day to tell me the story of the magic of music and the mind.

Often after watching documentaries, people feel moved to take action or get involved in some way. What actions would you recommend people take after watching “Alive Inside”?

I would recommend visiting to find out how you can engage further – there you can support the Alive Inside Foundation with a donation, sign up to volunteer or get engaged, and learn about how to make a playlist for someone close to you using the AIF Memory Detective App.

The film is truly a call to action – what were your goals and what kind of impact has the film had? Has anything occurred that has left you with the feeling “this is why we made this film”?

I want to help make the dream of returning connection, aliveness and music to our elders come true. There’s so many people in nursing homes, and, a couple million out of sight, and I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve gotten from people telling me ‘oh my god this is so beautiful, I wish I had seen this before my father passed…’ or even sadder, people say, ‘If I had only known, my father was a composer, he played piano his whole life, and I never thought to bring him his music while he was going through his dementia.’ Or the opposite story, ‘oh, thank you for showing this to me. I went in and my father or my mother was sitting like a bump on a log, and I gave her music, and she was happy for a moment, and she came back the way she was three years ago, just for a moment.’ So, we’re just trying our best.

What would your playlist of documentary favorites consist of? 

What Happened Miss Simone, The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, The Cats of Mirikitani, Into the Abyss, and The Wolfpack.


ALIVE INSIDE is Influence Film Club’s featured films for March. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one (or two) of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film(s) to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film(s), providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by: Isis Graham


Doc-tails at Tempo Documentary Festival 2016

A good documentary is just the beginning…

Influence Film Club invites you to three evenings after work- “doc- tails” at Barbro where documentary lovers and documentary filmmakers will have the opportunity to meet each other. Have a drink and take part of in-depth talks about some of the year’s Tempo movies.

The first 20 drinks each evening are on us – so come early!

Wednesday 9/3 at 17:00-18:00:
Influence Film Club discusses Sonita.

NOTE the schedule change: Unfortunately Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, director of Sonita, is not able to travel to Stockholm due to passport issues. We’ll still be at Barbro ready to discuss the film and the intersection between art, music, and politics.

Thursday 10/3 at 17:00-18:00:
In conversation with Jerzy Sladkowski director of Don Juan.

Friday 11/3 at 17:00-18:00:
In conversation with the Hussin Brothers, directors of America Recycled.

Moderated by: Isis Marina Graham

Free entrance with Tempo’s membership card!
Hosted in English.


Documentary Playlist: Run Along the Edge of Madness…

“You’ve got to burn straight up and down and then maybe sideways for a while and have your guts scrambled by a bully and the demonic ladies, you’ve got to run along the edge of madness teetering, you’ve got to starve like a winter alleycat, you’ve go to live with the imbecility of at least a dozen cities, then maybe maybe maybe you might know where you are for a tiny blinking moment.” – Charles Bukowski

Much like Bukowski himself, who spent much of his 73 years in the crazed haze of an alcohol infused fervor, enduring the whoas and joys of a starving artist with the emotional and creative extremes that come with such a provocative lifestyle, artists throughout history have often embraced all forms of madness in hopes of harnessing wild eyed authenticity in the name of art and purpose. For many, suffering and beauty are two sides of the same coin.

Non-fiction cinema is packed to the gills with such characters, from the men and women behind the cameras to those who’ve submitted themselves freely to be taken in by our watchful gaze. Like the wildly empathetic, grizzly obsessed nature-boy whom lost his life to the jaws of those he so loved in GRIZZLY MAN, the manic-depressive emotionally raw singer/songwriter at the heart of THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON, or the OCD-afflicted world travelling freedom fighter of POINT AND SHOOT, many are propelled to document their own unstable existences, unknowingly reaching out on their own to the anonymous unknown as if the visual documentation of one’s life itself might bring some form of lucidity to an otherwise mad caper. As we see, autobiography doesn’t seem to make their journey through life any easier, yet they continue nonetheless.

Others merely embrace their lunacy, knowing all along that their life’s endeavors are those of idealistic moonstruck dreams. The tightrope walker of MAN ON WIRE damns all logic, personal safety, and even legality in an act of singularly spectacular physical performance, while the abiding filmmaker of AMERICAN MOVIE, eyes deep in debt and personal crises, obsessively crusades in the name of his perfect picture. And much like Bukowski himself, the starving outsider artist at the center of ALMOST THERE has lived a life fueled and haunted by mental volatility in the pursuit of artistic revelation. Sometimes one must let go of reason and stability to reach out for something greater.

The following six films bring us closer to that “edge of madness” that Bukowski so lovingly speaks of, allowing us a view of the world detached from logic through the eyes of dreamers and madmen.

Man on Wire
MAN ON WIRE explores tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center in what some consider “the artistic crime of the century”.

Grizzly Man
In GRIZZLY MAN Werner Herzog explores the life and death of Timothy Treadwell who lived among the grizzly bears of Alaska for 13 consecutive summers until being attacked and eaten by a bear in 2003.

Almost There
For filmmakers Rybicky and Wickenden, Peter Anton’s home is a treasure trove, a startling collection of unseen and fascinating paintings, drawings, and notebooks, not to mention Anton himself. ALMOST THERE is a remarkable journey following a gifted artist through startling twists and turns.

American Movie
The story of filmmaker Mark Borchardt, his mission, and his dream. Spanning over two years of intense struggle with making a movie, family issues, financial decline, and personal crisis, AMERICAN MOVIE is a portrait of ambition, obsession, excess, and one man’s formidable quest for the American Dream.

Point and Shoot
With a gun in one hand and a camera in the other, 28-year-old OCD-afflicted Matthew VanDyke set off on a 35,000-mile motorcycle trip through Northern Africa and the Middle East, where he undergoes a self-described “crash-course in manhood.”

The Devil and Daniel Johnston
THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON follows the long and winding road traversed by Daniel Johnston – manic-depressive singer/songwriter/artist – on his way from childhood to manhood in this portrait of madness, creativity and unrequited love.