Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias Program

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Closing Distances 3 Brings POV Executive Producer Simon Kilmurry to Cuba

The Americas Media Initiative organizes groundbreaking U.S. documentary film tour; PBS’s award-winning documentary series POV to tour Cuba for the first time, April 5 - 14, 2014

For the third year in a row, a U.S. documentary program will tour Cuba. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias 3, which takes place April 5-14, 2014, will bring Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer of PBS’s award-winning POV (Point of View) television series, to Cuba. He will do a presentation about several of the Latino films that have aired on POV and screen the new POV film GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL. Alexandra Halkin, Director of the Americas Media Initiative (AMI), a non-profit that works with Cuban filmmakers, organized the tour. The Cuban organizational counterpart providing the logistical support is the Young Directors Film Festival (Muestra Joven), based in Havana. The tour will begin with a presentation by Mr. Kilmurry at the Young Directors Festival and then Ms. Halkin and Mr. Kilmurry will travel to the Isle of Youth and Pinar del Rio, where they will screen GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL and engage in Q&A sessions with Cuban audiences.

In spring 2012 AMI launched its pioneering Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias U.S. Documentary tour with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and was the first time that the MoMA did an official program in Cuba. Since then, the Closing Distances tours have screened six U.S. documentaries and engaged with Cuban audiences in Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Holguin, Bayamo, Guantanamo, Baracoa, the Sierra Maestra Mountains and Havana. Interviews and portions of the presentations have been broadcast on Cuban National Television, reaching millions of Cubans throughout the island. AMI is the only U.S. organization that Cuba has allowed to screen U.S. documentaries in the Cuban provinces.

Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and beginning its 27th season on PBS in 2014, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television screening films from around the world. POV has presented more than 365 films to date. POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys, 15 Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the Prix Italia and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Commitment to Diversity Award. POV has pioneered the art of outreach, using nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. 

Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias 3 will screen GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL, directed by Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Paul Stekler, and Peter Odabashian. New Orleans is the setting for the film, which serves up a provocative mix of race, corruption and politics to tell the story of the re-election campaign of Stacy Head, a white woman in a city council seat traditionally held by a black representative. Supported by her irrepressible African-American aide Barbara Lacen-Keller, Head polarizes the city. Featuring a cast of characters as colorful as the city itself, the film presents a New Orleans that outsiders rarely see. The film was an Official Selection of the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and is a co-production of ITVS. It will be broadcast on POV on July 14, 2014.

Simon Kilmurry oversees all of POV programs, including production and programming, POV digital, community engagement and development. He is also the executive producer of America ReFramed, a documentary series on the WORLD Channel. He has served on juries and panels at film festivals around the world including IDFA, Hot Docs, Visions du Reel, and Doc Aviv. Alexandra Halkin is a documentary filmmaker and Founding Director of AMI. Ms. Halkin, a Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellow, has been working on documentary projects in Cuba for over two decades. AMI focuses on the distribution of Cuban independent and community media in collaboration with Icarus Films in New York. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias 3 is funded in part by the Ford Foundation.

 

 

 

AMI organizes Closing Distances 2, US Filmmaker Minda Martin to tour Eastern Cuba

The Americas Media Initiative organizes ground breaking U.S. documentary film tour in Eastern Cuba, May  17 – 24, 2013

Burlington, VT – For the second time in less then one year, a U.S. documentary shorts program will tour Cuba. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias 2 will feature the films of U.S. filmmaker, Minda Martin. The tour is organized by Alexandra Halkin, Director of the Americas Media Initiative, a Burlington, VT based non-profit that works with Cuban filmmakers.  The Cuban organizational counterpart providing the logistical support is the Young Directors Film Festival (Muestra Joven) based in Havana. Ms. Halkin and Ms. Martin will screen Martin’s films and engage in Q&A sessions with Cuban audiences in the towns of Bayamo, San Pablo de Yao based in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, Guantanamo, and Baracoa.

Minda Martin is an award winning experimental documentary and narrative filmmaker. Her films, including The Long Distance Operator (2012), Free Land (2009), Monsoon St., ¹77 (2006), anda.k.a. Kathe (2000) have screened at international and competitive venues including the Locarno International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Vienna International Film Festival, Buenos Aires International Film Festival, among others.  

Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias 2 will present two of Ms. Martin’s films, FREE LAND(2009) and Mother’s Heritage (1995). As a child, filmmaker Minda Martin's life was one of poverty, constant relocation and even homelessness. FREE LAND incorporates found footage, historical documents and personal interviews as she traces her family's history through the forced Cherokee relocation in the 1800s. What emerges is a challenging, heartbreaking and visually arresting documentary that draws unsettling parallels between land, history, Cherokee culture and American identity. Martin creates a unique cinematic landscape that conveys the trauma of displacement and the reality of poverty. Mother’s Heritage tells the story of Ms. Martin’s mother’s untimely death: she was accidentally shot by one of her brothers.  In her absence, her story is told through recollections of family members who discuss the many challenges she faced during her life.

 

 

For the first time, U.S. documentary shorts program toured Cuba visiting five towns, organized by the Americas Media Initiative and The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film, March 25 – April 8, 2012

For the first time, a U.S. documentary shorts program toured Cuba. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator at The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film and Alexandra Halkin, Director of the Americas Media Initiative, a Burlington, VT based non-profit that works with Cuban filmmakers. The Cuban organizational counterpart providing the logistical support is the Young Directors Film Festival (Muestra Joven) based in Havana. Ms. Halkin and Ms. Berger will screen the program and engage in Q&A sessions with Cuban audiences in the towns of Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Holguin, Gibara and Havana. The films will be presented at the end of the tour at the Young Directors Film Festival in Havana.

The goal of Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is to screen a selection of U.S. documentary short films that present unique and diverse local U.S. experiences to a wide Cuban audience that has very little information about the U.S. and, through cultural exchange, to increase understanding and foster dialogue between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is made up of four documentary short films and one animation short. Two of the documentaries, Sara Neeson’s Poster Girl (2010), about a young female American vet sent to Iraq who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday’s The Barber of Birmingham (2011), about 85 year old James Armstrong, a foot soldier in the civil rights movement of the 60’s. Both films were nominated for Academy Awards in the Documentary Shorts category. Other films in the program are Jesse Epstein’s Wet Dreams and False Images, a Sundance award-winning documentary that uses humor to raise serious questions about the commercial marketing of false illusions about female physical perfection, and Anthony Weeks’s Housekeeping, about a migrant hotel housekeeper’s meditation on her life and the lives and habits of the people for whom she works. Miss Devine, directed by the Rauch Brothers, is a short animation based on a StoryCorps conversation between cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson who recall their fearsome Sunday school teacher, Miss Lizzie Devine.

Sally Berger is a film and media curator, lecturer, and writer. Her exhibitions at the Museum explore multiple genres including experimental, documentary, and dramatic narrative film. Berger is director of the annual Documentary Fortnight: MoMA’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film, featuring contemporary trends in nonfiction film/media, founded in 2001.  Alexandra Halkin, is a documentary filmmaker and Founding Director of the Americas Media Initiative—Cuba Media Project. Ms. Halkin, a Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellow, has been working on documentary projects in Cuba for nearly two decades. The Americas Media Initiative—Cuba Media Project is a new organization focused on the distribution of Cuban independent and community media in the United States. Closing Distances/Cerrando Distancias is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Eastman Foundation.