Posts Tagged ‘Sundance Film Festival’

Notorious Mr. Bout Photo 2The last few days I’ve been swept away by the “power of Sundance”…the parties, the dinners, the lunches, the cocktails, the meetings with celebrities and industry types. It’s been loads of fun but, with more than a few of these events under my belt, I’m having a fundamental shift in thinking.

What I thought was the power of Sundance is, in fact, just the necessary “social fluff” of the festival. It’s what has to happen in order for filmmakers to recoup the time, energy, and money they put into creating a film. It’s not actually the real “power”.

The real power of Sundance is the films themselves…the stories that are told and what happens after they are shared.

The films, whether funny, sad, humorous or horrific, make us think…and talk. Sometimes we talk with the person sitting right next to us while the credits are rolling. Sometimes we talk with people while waiting for a bus or while sitting in a cab outside our hotel. And sometimes, just sometimes, the story told in a film is so very good that we talk with whomever we are standing with in the line for the loo (bathroom).

Yes, the loo.

At 9.00am this morning, I saw The Notorious Mr. Bout. 90 minutes later, while waiting in line for the loo, I found myself involved in a heated conversation with a group of women about the rights and wrongs, the justice and injustice, of international arms dealings and the trial of arms dealer Viktor Bout, the main character of the film. Such is the wonder and power of Sundance.

If you’ve seen the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War and think you have a sense of what international arms trading is like…you don’t. You have the Hollywood view of it. When you see The Notorious Mr. Bout, you get a truer look at the inner workings of the business and the characters involved. Turns out, it isn’t all that glamorous.

Photo Credits: Alla Bout

Photo Credits: Alla Bout

Making the most of an extraordinary amount of personal video from the Bout family, and mixing it with their own footage of conversations with Alla Bout, Viktor’s wife, and Viktor himself, directors Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin, take us on an incredible journey that ends up raising more questions than it answers.

“Why”, for example:

“…isn’t international arms trading illegal?”

“…did the DEA go after Bout when he, according to Gerber and Pozdorovkin, is one of the smallest, least important, arms dealers in the world?”

“…don’t we think more about the fact that companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and BAE Systems need dealers to resell old missiles, small arms and ammunition so they can make and sell new and improved missiles, small arms and ammunition?”

“…was a Russian the DEA’s sole focus? Why not an American? Was he really a Merchant of Death or just a scapegoat?”

Of course, the ladies in the loo-line and I never did come to any consensus on the above questions but we enjoyed a lively discussion. And, we readily admitted that The Notorious Mr. Bout raised our awareness on an issue that none of us had never given any thought to before.

And that, Dear Readers, is the real “power” of Sundance…films, free from commercial and political pressure, that make us think…question…and talk. Now all that’s left for you to do is see these films when they are released and experience the “power” of Sundance for yourselves.

Sundance Festival Panels and Conversations at http://www.sundance.org/festival/article/your-guide-to-2014-sundance-film-festival-panels-and-conversations/

Advancing Cultural Dialogue with Sundance Institutes Film Forward program me at https://www.sundance.org/filmforward/about/

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Today I’m giving you the facts, and just the facts, regarding Irish films at Sundance 2014 as they are reported across various media outlets. None of these are my own opinions.

There are four films at Sundance that have an Irish connection. They have either received funding from the Irish Film Board (IFB), have been filmed in Ireland, have been in post production in Ireland, star Irish actors, or some combination of the above. The films are: Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank; John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary; Ciaran Cassidy’s The Last Days of Peter Bergmann; and Jack Paltrow’s Young Ones.

Currently there are trailers for only three of the films:

Press coverage, as of today, for the films at Sundance {good, bad and indifferent} includes the following:

Calvary from The Hollywood Reporter: “John Michael McDonagh’s 2011 debut, The Guard, provided the wonderful Brendan Gleeson with a vehicle for some of his best screen work, playing an Irish West Country cop unencumbered by diplomacy skills. But the follow-up collaboration of the writer-director and lead actor is in a whole different league. Gleeson’s performance as a man of profound integrity suffering for the sins of others is the lynchpin of this immensely powerful drama, enriched by spiky black comedy but also by its resonant contemplation of faith and forgiveness. Representing a considerable leap in thematic scope and craft for McDonagh, Calvary deserves to reach the widest possible audience.”

Calvary from Variety: “McDonagh and his collaborators have delivered a technically immaculate work that feels appropriately austere by comparison. D.p. Larry Smith’s widescreen compositions are framed with unfussy precision; as stunning as the rugged landscapes are to behold, particularly the shots of waves breaking against cliffs (the production shot on the east and west coasts), the lighting and color balancing of the interior shots are no less exquisite.”

Calvary from The Guardian: “Calvary boasts a sharp sense of place and a deep love of language. It’s puckish and playful, mercurial and clever, rattling with gallows laughter as it paints a portrait of an Irish community that is at once intimate and alienated.”

Frank from The Hollywood Reporter: “Whimsy and madness mix for an very unappetizing cocktail indeed in Frank, a gently eccentric account of an avant-garde band whose leader wears a large artificial head with a cartoon face painted on it. Irish director Lenny Abrahamson clearly means to beguile with this weird mix of moods and methods — goofy comedy here, sudden slashes of tragedy there, momentary eruptions of musical inspiration overshadowed by admitted mediocrity — but the mash-up of elements combine with a singularly unpleasant roster of characters to create a work of genuinely off-putting quirkiness. Particularly gullible younger audiences and fringe music fans might synch up with the sensibility here to create a modest cult following, but on any serious level this oddball creation doesn’t cut it.”

Frank from Variety: “Of all the acting challenges Michael Fassbender has faced, none quite compares to performing without the use of his face. That’s precisely what’s required in “Frank,” a weird and wonderful musical comedy about an oddball outsider band whose mentally ill frontman insists on wearing an expressionless plaster mask at all times — both onstage and off, in the shower and even to bed. It’s the sort of affectation that gets films labeled as “quirky,” although this one happens to be inspired by a true story. Luckily, helmer Lenny Abrahamson (“Garage,” “Adam & Paul”) puts the pic’s eccentricity to good use, luring in skeptics with jokey surrealism and delivering them to a profoundly moving place.”

Frank from Collider: “Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is a funny, warm, thoughtful story about crafting an artistic identity, and needing to seize on to someone else’s expression when you don’t have one of your own.  It also provides an insightful look at the fault in trying to forge an identity based on the acceptance of others instead of embracing one’s own oddities and shortcomings even if the world at large sees them as “insane”.”

Young Ones from Collider: “Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones is remarkable in how it does so much right, and yet it leaves the viewer completely cold.  Its strengths are undeniable and its flaws are subtle, so subtle that it can be confusing as to how such a technically superb picture can be so ineffective.

Young ones from Variety:A hodgepodge of Western, sci-fi and Greek tragedy, “Young Ones” is certainly one of the more unique films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. But the sophomore effort from Jake Paltrow (“The Good Night”) gets so bogged down in its primal tale of murder and revenge that the most intriguing elements become little more than futuristic window dressing. Unfolding in three distinct chapters, each featuring a different protagonist, the visually rich and dramatically spare pic plays a bit like a cinematic graphic novel. A cult following could be in the offing, but commercial prospects otherwise appear limited.”

Young Ones from The Hollywood Reporter: “Ponderous, self-important and thematically narrow, Jake Paltrow’s dystopian future Western set in a Dust Bowl where water is controlled by the state and monopolized by industry is all oppressive mood and atmosphere with not much on its mind beyond an old-fashioned tale of murder, retribution and a robo-cow. Young Ones is visually commanding and not without inventive ideas, plus its pared-down narrative at least rescues Michael Shannon from the thudding memory of Man of Steel. But otherwise this lethargically paced, dehydrated update on There Will Be Blood will be strictly for artsy minimalist sci-fi enthusiasts.”

Commenting back in December on the early Irish line-up for Sundance 2014, James Hickey, Chief Executive, of the Irish Film Board said: “Irish film has performed very well at Sundance over the last number of years. Films such as The Guard, Once, His and Hers, and The Summit have all been discovered at the festival and have gone on from there to be distributed internationally.” “Both Frank and Calvary showcase the excellent work happening right now in the Irish industry and they include a world-class line-up of Irish stars including Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson. Chris O’Dowd, Domhnall Gleeson, Aidan Gillen and Killian Scott. It is a very positive start to 2014 for the industry and a great representation for Ireland internationally.” 

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Oh good Lord! I just rolled in from the Sundance 2014 Day One Party and just have to say…it was AMAZING! No, I did not go to the An Artist at the Table event up at Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley, where the meal was prepared by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. At $1,500 per person it was a little too rich for my pocketbook. Nor did I go to the Eccles Theater, where guests were welcomed by Robert Redford and then watched the opening night premier movie, Whiplash. Nope…though I did hear both events were very well done this year.

Day One Party 2014


Instead, I was over at the Legacy Lodge at Park City Mountain Resort having an absolutely brilliant time dancing my heart out and sipping on ice cold beverages courtesy of Stella Artois and Ketel One. Billed as “annual celebration where filmmakers and Festival friends reunite or meet for the first time” it didn’t disappoint.

I was thrilled to say “hello” to Michael Rossato-Bennett, Director/Producer of the film Alive Inside, right off the mark, and many other people I met today {or is it yesterday?} while walking on Main Street. And, as I was leaving the party, I had a lovely chat with Ryan Patrick McGuffey about raising the Irish presence a wee bit higher at Sundance next year {Ryan, I’m not letting you off the hook…you said you were “in” and I have witnesses!}.

All in all, it was great craic (fun)…just sorry I didn’t get more/better photos!

Film news to follow tomorrow…from Sundance 2014…goodnight.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.27.05 AMToday is Day 1 of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and like so many others (50,000 give or take a few!), I am excited and delighted to be in beautiful Park City, Utah during the 30th Anniversary year of this prestigious event.

In his own words, Founder and President of the Sundance Institute, Robert Redford has said, “I started Sundance to provide a home for independent storytellers and inspire a community of people to experience their work. Three decades later, this simple idea continues to drive all that we do.”

It was a simple idea…give independent filmmakers a place to showcase their work and let’s see what happens.

Now, 30 years later, the Sundance Film Festival has become an institution that reaches out to the four corners of the world and brings filmmakers, movie lovers, industry-types, celebrities, everyone together for ten days of watching and learning. It is, in two words…simply terrific.

To get a brief overview of the past 30 years, check out this interactive timeline the Sundance Institute has posted on their website. And, see John Cooper, Director Sundance Film Festival, and Trevor Groth, Director of Programming Sundance Film Festival, talk about the 2014 event and looking back at three decades at The Wall Street Journal.

For a full listing of films at this year’s Sundance, check out the online version of the Film Guide. And, last but not least, to read about the Irish entries check out Calvary, Frank, and The Last Days of Peter Bergmann.


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Winter city landscape, Park City, Utah.

Photo credit: Keith L Kendrick

Yesterday I walked up Park City’s Main Street and it was eerily quiet. I thought there would be more of a “Sundance buzz” about the place given the film festival starts on Thursday. But, as of yet, there are almost no PIB’s {“People in Black” – a term Parkites use to describe the film industry types who take over the town during Sundance}, sponsorship bars, movie stars, limousines, posters or fliers to be seen.

I couldn’t help but think, “so this is what it feels like when you’re in the calm before the storm”. If you look closely, however, there are a few shop owners moving out of their spaces to make room for the Sundance take-over and some builder-types moving in film and party equipment…but that’s about it.

I arrived early this year because I bought a Sundance “Package” {a type of ticket option}. In all there are five different types of ticket options, ranging from Festival Passes to Utah Locals Passes, and each option determines when you get to buy or select your film tickets and what Offscreen events you may attend. Despite the expense, I am thrilled to say the ticket package I opted for

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 3.22.38 PM

Photo Credit: Sundance Institute

allows me to get into 15 of the films I wanted to see {including two of the three Irish ones}! Now, I only have to wait list for tickets to two more films.

If you’re going to Sundance, you’ll want to know there is a new electronic wait list system: it’s called eWaitlist. Sundance Institute {which puts on the Film Festival} launched eWaitlist in the last few days so film goers will no longer have to wait in lines, in the freezing cold, for up to two hours to see the movies they could not get tickets for in advance. The mobile-enabled check-in system allows festival goers to reserve a line position over the internet, and provides self-serve kiosks for those without an internet capable device. You have to sign up for eWaitlist in order to avail of the service but it only takes a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 3.34.54 PM

Celebration of Music and Film
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hickerson

In addition to movies, there are a huge number of events surrounding Sundance which are, actually, part of the Sundance Institute. These are not “pop ups” that are sponsored by banks, drinks companies, or the like. They are official Sundance festival experiences, called Offscreen events, that round out the two weeks with music, art, and guest speakers. You don’t need special tickets or passes or credentials to get into or participate in many of the Offscreen events which is a real perk for those of us who are not big name industry types or celebrities.

One place I am hoping to get into this year is the Filmmaker Lodge. It’s supposed to be “a casual meeting place and café designed to cultivate dialogue among filmmakers, industry leaders, and the press.” Having never been in it before, I don’t know what to expect but I have been told there will be a series of lively panel discussions and conversations on a range of current issues. It should be interesting.

Of course, there are parties, parties, parties everywhere. I have tickets to two of the big ones but will tell you more about these {and whatever else I manage to get into} as they happen. For a full list of non-Sundance Institute events, timetables, and notes as to whether you need an invitation to get in visit Sundance Party List, The Tracking Board, and Guest of a Guest websites.

Brita's Sundance Water Bottles

Brita’s Sundance Water Bottles

Shuttling between movies, parties, and other Sundance events will be easy…so long as you don’t plan on driving. The great news is all the buses in Park City are free. Yes, you read that right…free. Pick up a copy of the Transit Map and  keep it with you at all times. There will also be free Festival shuttle buses that will stop in front of all Festival theatres and venues. The service starts at 5.45am daily and ends at 2.30am. Peak hours are from 8.00am to midnight for all routes, so allow yourself plenty of time to get around.

What else can I tell you that may be helpful or interesting? Hmmm…well, the base of the Park City Mountain Resort is 6,900 feet above sea level and the top of Jupiter peak is 10,000 feet. This is relevant only because you don’t want to get altitude sickness while at Sundance. The trick is to stay hydrated. Brita are offering free FilterForGood Nalagene bottles at all official venues throughout the Festival and you can refill them at various Brita Hyrdration Stations, which are conveniently marked on the Festival transit maps with a water drop.

The weather forecast looks good for the next ten days. The highs are 35°F/2°C during the day and the lows are 17°F/-8°C in the evening. For now there is no snow on the radar, which is bad for any skiers/snowboarders, but that could change {as we know only too well in Ireland}. Plan to dress in layers, wear Sorel boots, and bring a coat {preferably not fur or you’ll find yourself being hated on}…and, for heavens sake, leave your black attire at home {see comment above about PIBs}. Also, because of the elevation and the expected sunshine, pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

Sundance Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/sundancefest

For sensible and fashionable thoughts on what to wear at Sundance at http://nubry.com/2014/01/what-to-wear-8-surprising-packing-tips-for-sundance-film-festival/

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The Irish are headed to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival and, for the third year in a row, so am I!

The Irish films Calvary and Frank will have their world premiere at Sundance and The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, which premiered at the IFI (Irish Film Institute) Stranger Than Fiction event last September, will be competing in the Documentary Shorts Programme.

Calvary is a black-comedy-drama telling the story of a Catholic priest who has one week to put his life in order after being told, during confession, that he will be murdered. The film reunites Brendan Gleeson with The Guard director John Michael McDonagh, and also stars Marie Josée Crozé, Isaach De Bankolé, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Dylan Moran, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Pat Shortt, and David Wilmot.

Frank is an offbeat comedy from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson. It tells the story of “a wannabe musician who finds himself out of his depth when he joins a maverick rock band led by the enigmatic Frank – a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head”. It is loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of the late cult musician Chris Sievey. It stars Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy.

The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, directed by Ciaran Cassidy and produced by Morgan Bushe, tells the story of a man (calling himself Peter Bergmann) who arrives in Sligo town in the summer of 2009. Over the last few days of his life, he goes to great lengths to make sure no one will ever know who he was or where he came from. It won the audience award for Best Short Film at the IFI Stranger Than Fiction event.

All three films were supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB). James Hickey, Chief Executive of the Irish Film Board recently said, “Irish films have performed very well at Sundance over the last number of years. Films such as The Guard, Once, His & Hers, and The Summit have all been discovered at the festival and have gone on from there to be distributed internationally.”

Having three films this year at Sundance is a roaring start for the Irish film industry. I, for one, can’t wait to see each one and promise to report all the happenings of Sundance 2014 in the coming days.

Press release from the Irish Film Board at http://www.irishfilmboard.ie/irish_film_industry/news/Major_Irish_feature_films_Calvary_and_Frank_to_screen_at_Sundance_Film_Festival_2014/2340

Blog from John Murphy, editor of The Last Days of Peter Bergmann at http://johnmurphyeditor.com/2013/12/11/peter-bergmann-is-going-to-sundance/

Follow Irish director Ciaran Cassidy’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/CiaranCass

Praise for Irish film maker Lenny Abrahamson on Variety at http://variety.com/t/lenny-abrahamson/

Follow John Michael McDonagh, director of Calvary, on Facebrook at https://twitter.com/ReprisalFilms

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Irish Producer/Director Nick Ryan won the Sundance Film Festival Editing Award for a World Cinema Documentary this past weekend in Park City, UT for his thrilling film The Summit.

Flying to an altitude of 23,500 feet (7,162m) on K2, a mountain more challenging and dangerous than Everest, Ryan operated a Cineflex camera system mounted to a Pakistani Army helicopter, filming aerial footage of the shoulder above Camp 4 and the Serac. His film chronicles “the deadliest day in modern mountain climbing history,” and sheds light on the still-unresolved 2008 expedition in which 11 of 25 climbers died. The story focuses on Irish climber Ger McDonnell, originally from Kilcoran, Co. Limerick, who risked his own life to save others.

The Summit will première in Ireland at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on Sunday, 24th February, at 2.30pm at the Savoy.

Praise for Ryan’s film includes:

“This remarkable film puts us in their shoes – literally between the world’s most ferocious rock and the icy hard place of imminent death. As such, The Summit dignifies the actions of the surviving climbers by putting their earth-bound detractors in their precipitous plight. Similarly, the technical contributions merge in ferocious splendor: Howling winds, topped off by Nick Seymour’s edgy musical score, acclimatize our senses to the deep drops and harrowing heights of The Summit.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Remember Sylvester Stallone’s 1993 action film Cliffhanger? Well, it’s nothing like that. The Summit is a hell of a lot more intense, and it’s a way better all around film with an intriguing story.” – Geektyrant.com

“The Summit…, it’s well worth catching on the largest screen you can find. A fascinating insight into the lives and deaths of those driven to conquer the world’s most ‘perfect’ extremes…The Summit is informative and diligent film-making. it’s never less than engrossing.” – Twitchfilm.com 

“The alluring imagery, thorough research, and emotive content does ensure a gripping and distinctly human story. The result is a brutal but fascinating affair. – Thehollywoodnews.com

“The project attracted some of the most talented names in documentary filmmaking. Writer Mark Monroe (of Academy Award-winning The Cove and The Tillman Story,) and Academy Award-winning executive producer John Battesk (Searching for Sugar Man, Restrepo, The Imposter). – Siliconrepublic.com


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A still from Tony Donoghue's Irish Folk Furniture.

A still from Tony Donoghue’s Irish Folk Furniture.

For the last five days I’ve been fortunate to be in Park City, Utah again for the Sundance Film Festival.

It’s been a crazy week…a fabulous week…an emotional week.

As I sit here and quickly write this post, I have already seen three films. I have tickets for another four. The subject matter includes the hardship and death of an illegal emigrant (Who is Dayani Cristal), pornography (Lovelace), police brutality (Fruitvale), nuclear energy (Pandora’s Promise), the power of activism (Occupy Wall Street), the crushing reality of hate (Valentine Road) and, finally, classism (American Promise). All-in-all, it’s pretty heavy stuff.

So you can imagine my great relief and joy when I was able to sit with my laptop and watch a light-hearted Irish “short” film on YouTube called Irish Folk Furniture.   It is a charming eight-minute animated documentary following 16 pieces of traditional folk furniture as they are repaired and returned to their owners. It was made by director Tony Donoghue and producer Cathal Black after ten years of research and interviews conducted in Co. Tipperary.

Last night Tony and Cathal were rewarded for their efforts by winning the Short Film Special Jury Award in Animation. There were over 8,000 short-film submissions made to Sundance this year. 65 were chosen for the competition. 7 won.

If you have a few minutes, watch this superb little film. It is “full of life and told with beautiful simplicity.”

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This just in…I received an email from Nancy Schwartzman, Outreach Campaign Director, for the film The Invisible War. Last week the movie won The Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award in the Documentary Competition! What follows is the great news in Nancy’s own words:

Dear Friends,
We are thrilled to announce that “The Invisible War” has won the Audience Award in the Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival! It has been an exhilarating week! We’re blown away by the positive responses to the film, and your commitment to taking action with us, to make a difference in the lives of thousands of military sexual assault survivors.
We couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of our Executive Producers, Geralyn Dreyfous, Maria Cuomo Cole, Regina Kulik Scully, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Abigail Disney, and Nicole Boxer-Keegan. We give special thanks to Mary J. Blige, who joined us for the premiere and will be writing an original song for the film.
Buzz for the film began building even before our Sundance launch, when on Wednesday January 18, “The Invisible War” was featured on NBC’s nightly news with Brian Williams.  Featured in this piece was Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta’s press conference announcing (in anticipation of our film’s release) that the military would make every attempt to improve it’s responsiveness on issues of sexual assault.  We plan to hold Panetta accountable to his vows, via our advocacy campaing to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of  thousands of assault survivors who do receive neither justice or adequate care.
On Friday, January 20th, the day of the premiere, anticipation was high. Survivors flew in from all over the country to join us in Park City, Utah. We were honored to have service members Kori Cioca and several others join us with their partners and families for premiere weekend to see the film and answer audience questions.
Immediately after the screening ended, the impact was clear. There was a standing ovation and outpouring of emotion. One audience member was so moved, he offered to anonymously pay for the surgery that Kori Cioca so desperately needs, as a result of her rape and lack of responsiveness from the VA. Supporters in the audience included Senator Barbara Boxer, Brigadier General Loree Sutton, Representative Jackie Speier and Representative Michael Turner. Following the premiere, we convened at an after party that included an intimate conversation with Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Siebel Newsom about the importance of challenging the epidemic of sexual violence in our military.
On Sunday 1/22, survivors, advocates, and filmmakers came together for a community speak out. Survivors dialogued with members of the local anti-violence advocate community, members of the Utah VA, and we hosted a virtual conversation about MST on twitter using the hashtag #Notinvisible. Tweets and photographs are compiled here on Storify.
In the week following the premiere, the buzz was unstoppable and positive reviews and support poured in. From The Daily Beast to Reuters, to The Associated Press to The L.A. Times, the message about “The Invisible War” and the epidemic of military sexual assault it uncovers were felt far and wide across America thanks to the attention of the mainstream media.
Our outreach team also took to the internet to help spread the word, joining the Women’s Media Center for a virtual discussion about Military Sexual Assault with over 16,000 participants.
The actions we wanted to ignite are starting to occur!  In just over a week, we have over 2,000 signatures directed at the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and the Veterans Affairs Committees to take direct and immediate action to take the reporting of rapes outside of the chain of the command, and make getting disability benefits for military sexual assault survivors much easier.
Will you join us in sending a clear message to Capitol Hill?
Sign up to host a screening in your community: invisiblewar@filmsprout.org if people see this movie, this issue will no longer remain invisible.
Thanks for your support,
Nancy Schwartzman
Outreach Campaign Director

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I’m at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this week and it’s quite an event. There are the obviously beautiful people like Kate Bosworth, Emily Blunt, Taylor Swift and Ireland’s own Eve Hewson (daughter of Bono and Ali Hewson) walking around but they pale in comparison to the amazing indie films on offer. Today I saw The Invisible War, a groundbreaking documentary investigating the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military against women and men.

When Amy Ziering, the producer of The Invisible War, kindly offered up a ticket I was delighted. Then I went home and Googled the movie…90 minutes about rape? To say I was concerned about attending the film is a huge understatement. I quite literally didn’t want to go. Thankfully, however, I did. This is an amazing, shocking, sad, powerful and hopeful film. Please click here to see the preview.

It opens with a few light-hearted vintage military recruitment ads aimed at women. These are followed by clips of women talking about why they chose to enlist. Quickly, the interviews turn serious, and within minutes of starting we learn that each woman (and one man) in the film is a survivor of rape at the hands of a comrade.

Shockingly the following stats unfold: the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that as many as 16,150 service members were sexually assaulted in 2009; at least 20 percent of service-women and 1 percent of men have experienced sexual trauma while serving (which is twice the rate for the civilian population); that only 8 percent of sexual assault cases in the U.S. military are prosecuted and 2% result in convictions. The final shock is the extremely disturbing statement from the Dept. of Defense that rape is considered “an incident to military service”.

Really…”an incident”?! Since when is rape an incident to any career choice? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently “one sexual assault is one to many”. Here. Here. Now, what’s being done about it?!

For The Invisible War’s main subject Kori Cioca, not enough. The class-action law suit she and her fellow survivors took against Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, was dismissed in 2011. She has been denied necessary medical attention from the Veterans Administration for the surgical treatment of her jaw which was dislocated by her rapist. She and her family have had to suffer the public airing of a very private trauma in order to receive any justice…and that justice is coming too slowly. If there is a silver lining to Kori going public it is that, as a direct result of The Invisible War being screened this week during the Sundance Film Festival, someone has come forward and offered to pay for her much needed surgery. The estimated cost is upwards of $50,000.

The generosity of the anonymous couple is wonderful but it is not enough – Kori is only one victum. To help the others, and the ones yet to come, we must help bring about a change by taking action. Please, get involved in one of the following ways:

1. Sign and share a petition supporting the STOP Act and the Holley Lynn James Act 2012. It takes less than two minutes to do.

2. See The Invisible War, tell your friends about it or host a screening party.

3. Text NOTINVISIBLE to 313131 to stay informed as to how to bring this issue to Washington.

4. Watch your local PBS listing for The Invisible War which will be showing in 2012/2013 on Independent Lens.

There’s one last thing we can do but it’s a long shot…Amy Ziering jokingly asked if anyone in our audience knew of a way to get this film to President Obama. If you believe in six degrees of separation then this should be possible. Today, I asked a designer friend of mine, who knows someone close to Michelle Obama, if she could help get this film before the First Lady. We’ll see what happens. If everyone tries, maybe together we can be successful! Please help.

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