“Try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity.

Take up the battle.

Take it up.

It’s yours.

This is your life.  This is your world.

I’ll be leaving it long before you under the ordinary set of circumstances. You make your own choices. You can decide life isn’t worth living, and that would be the worst thing you can do. How do you know, so far?

Try it. See.

So pick it up. Pick up the battle, and make it a better world.

Just where you are.

Yes, and it can be better, and it must be better, but it is up to us.”

–Thank you, Dr Angelou.

“Maya Angelou” Oprah Presents Master Class. OWN, 2011.

Dolor y Gloria – Pain and Glory

Antonio Banderas. Dolor y Gloria, 2019.

With his latest film “Dolor y Gloria” (Pain & Glory), Pedro Almodovar* has given us the most personal and restrained film of his career.  But don’t let that fool you.  Almodovar is a master of self reference, and he expertly weaves this nonlinear story within a story, a memory within a memory, the film within the film, leaving me wanting more. Like the reviewer in The Guardian, I felt that “this movie was running so smoothly and so seductively that it could have gone on for another five hours.”

Largely autobiographical, the story centers around Salvador, a film director (played by Antonio Banderas) in the autumn of his life, who is facing a creative block born out of profound emotional and physical pain.  Antonio Banderas has never been better.  While he plays a passive character at the bottom of a well of depression, he is so present and allows deep emotions to boil just below the surface.  And this being an Almodovar film, there are moments that are really funny, especially when Salvador is persuaded to attend a Q&A of one of his classic films (a meta moment as we were also there to hear a Q&A with Almodovar after the screening).

Pedro Almodovar and Kenneth Lonergan in conversation at the DGA Theater. Credit: Busy K.

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Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Summer 2019. Photo by Busy K.

I can’t believe that we are approaching the end of the summer.  Where did the time go???  My summer was filled with researching upcoming projects which took me to the countryside in California, the capes of Massachusetts, science archives of Florida, and back to both kitchens and writing rooms in NYC.  I look forward to sharing more in the year ahead.

In the meantime, I enjoyed participating in NYWIFT’s podcast “Women Crush Wednesdays” this month talking about the 2019 Summit: Inclusion, Equality and Safety that was hosted at the Ford Foundation for Social Justice in June. It was a lot of fun to talk with co-hosts Margarita Cortes and Katie Chambers.

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Amazing Grace, 2018.

Get thee to the movie theater now, gentle reader, to see Aretha Franklin’s concert film Amazing Grace.  To see it on the big screen is to be transported back to 1972, to the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles where Franklin recorded her Grammy-winning gospel album.  In search of authenticity that a studio recording could never achieve, Franklin brought the studio to church in every sense of the word with the support of the Southern California Community Choir, her band, and Rev. James Cleveland, one of the most renown gospel figures of the time. Read More

NYWIFT Presents “2019 NYWIFT Summit: Inclusion, Equality and Safety” at the Ford Foundation for Social Justice

Sexual Harassment Panel: Jericka Duncan, Correspondent, CBS News; Amber Tamblyn, Author, Actress, Director, TIME’S UP founder; and Leslie Silva, Actress, Photographer, TIME’S UP founder. (Not pictured: Sharyn Tejani, Director, TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund)

For the past few months, I’ve been working with NYWIFT to organize our first annual Summit for Inclusion, Equality and Safety.  Check out the press release about the June 27th event below! (all photos by John Dallas Phelps) Read More

Death Row Stories explores the fallibility of the ultimate criminal penalty, capital punishment. Told by current and former death row inmates, each episode of Death Row Stories seeks to unravel the truth behind a different capital murder case and poses tough questions about the U.S. capital punishment system. Sundays at 8pm, ET/PT on HLN.  My episode “Body of Evidence” premieres June 30.

I directed two episodes of the series for Jigsaw Productions. This was my first foray into the true crime genre, which I’ve been following as a growing phenomenon over the past few years.  Studies show that women consume the most media about true crime.  There are many theories about why: whether it’s escapism or it’s a way to interact with our worst fears, many people are looking for reasons to why bad things happen. Death Row Stories premiered in 2014, and has since been at the forefront of true crime’s popularity exploring capital punishment in a way that’s more palatable for people who might not think they’re interested in social justice issues.

On the set of “Death Row Stories” for CNN.

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Samin Nosrat accepts the James Beard Media Award for “Best Television Program on Location” on behalf of the Salt Fat Acid Heat team. April 2019.

We won a James Beard Media Award for Salt Fat Acid Heat, our four-part documentary series on Netflix!  Coming from the food community means a lot.

I am thrilled, honored, humbled, and happy for everyone who gave so much of themselves to make this beautiful show.

Thank you for watching, and thank you for loving it as much as we do!

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Happy Women’s History Month!

This year Mellini Kantayya and I focus on women making history in our series for New York Women in Film & Television.  Check out these inspirational women!

 

Ai-Ling Lee.  (Photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ai-Ling Lee: first Asian woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for sound editing for her work in “La La Land.”  She was nominated again this year for “First Man.”
 
“Ask for what you want because sometimes people may not be aware of what you are capable of.”
 
 

Ruth E. Carter.  (Photo credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Ruth E. Carter: first African American woman to win an Academy Award for costume design for her work in “Black Panther.”

“Women still have to fight to show people that we know what we’re doing. That change is still in the works, but at least there’s more of us.”

Rachel Morrison.  (Photo Credit: rachelmorrison.com)

Rachel Morrison: first woman nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography.

“I try to see what is at the heart of the story and the character at a given moment, and let story and emotion be the factors that inform the technique.”

 

Jessie Maple.

And back by popular demand…

Jessie Maple: filmmaker, director, editor, producer, writer, cinematographer, and pioneer.

Maple is the first black woman to join the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York.

“You can’t stop progress. You can hold it up for a minute, but you can’t stop it.”