MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, MOONLIGHT & THE SALESMAN

The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 6-26,2016) is packed with so many wonderful films that it is going to be a challenge to figure out which ones to watch.

For the next couple of weeks I will share a few of the films that caught my eyes. Here are my first 3 films that had me rooted in my seat and had me thinking about them long afterwards. When a film makes you think then the filmmaker has succeeded in connecting with you. That does not happen so often in this information rich age of ours, where we are bombarded with information every breathing second. I sat transfixed as I watched these films. I somehow managed to scribble a few lines in my notebook to remind me later what was it about these film that caught my attention. Transfixed is the right word to describe all 3 films:

  • The Eagle Huntress 
  • Moonlight 
  • The Salesman

Director Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress is a stunning and gorgeous film set in Mongolia that will take your breath away. The film is about a young Kazakh teenager Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who with the help and support of her father trains and becomes an eagle huntress and breaks down an ancient social tradition and barrier in her community. There are no shrill dialogs or long arguments in the film. It is all about patience, courage and trying over and over again until you get it right. We also get to see the teenage side of Aisholpan as she hangs out with her girl friends and paints her nails with her younger sister.

Traditionally, the training and learning the skills to become an eagle hunter is passed from father to son. In The Eagle Huntress we see how one father decides to break the norms and mores of his society and train his young daughter to become a hunter. Aisholpan displays innate courage and strength as she learns to catch and train her own eagle with the steady support of her father.

Special mention must be made of the scenery in The Eagle Huntress and the fantastic work by cinematographer Simon Niblett. The vast steppes of Mongolia in its various moods are gorgeously captured in the film.  I suspect they used drone cameras for some of those beautiful shots of the Mongolian landscape. Watching the Mongolian landscape reminded of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah’s films, where the scenery is a definite character in their films.

Here is the screening and ticket information for The Eagle Huntress at MVFF.

Filmmaker Barry Jenkin’s  Moonlight is a poetical and lyrical film about love and masculinity in the African-American community. The film is based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney’s called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Moonlight is about a young boy and how his family, friends and society shape his growth from boyhood to adulthood. What is interesting is the way the camera was used for each act.  James Laxton‘s camera work brilliantly captures and sets the mood for the film. You will have to watch Moonlight to find out for yourself on how the camera was deployed to create that mood for each act. This is a film that will stir your emotions and make you think about how we treat and judge people. It also underscores how a little love and kindness goes a long way.

Jenkins will be at the screening of Moonlight at MVFF.

Here is the screening and ticket information for Moonlight at MVFF.

Iranian filmmaker Farhad Ashgari’s award-winning film The Salesman (Forushande in Persian) makes for an absorbing watch and leaves you thinking about marriage, love, friendship and about truth and our value system.

The Salesman is about a young couple in Teheran, who are part of a small theatre group that is staging Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.The young couple’s life undergoes a significant change when they move into a new apartment. The film stars Shahab Hosseini and  Taraneh Alidoosti as the young couple. Hosseini won the best male actor and Ashgari won the best screenplay award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Ashgari will be at the screening The Sales at MVFF.

Here is the ticket and screening information for The Salesman at MVFF.

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VIDEO: DHRUV KHANNA OF KIRIGIN CELLARS, OLDEST WINERY IN SANTA CLARA VALLEY

Meet Dhruv Khannna, a lawyer and owner of Kirigin Cellars, the oldest winery in Santa Clara Valley. 2016 marks the centennial year of  Kirigin Cellars located in the oldest wine growing region in California.

Khanna combines the tech and agriculture strands of Santa Clara Valley, once known as “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” and now known as “Silicon Valley,” and home to some of the best hi-tech companies in the world.

We sat down with Khanna to find out how he went from a lawyer and co-founder of Covad to the owner of Kirigin Cellars. He shares what kinds of grapes they grow at the vineyard and their list of red and white wines. Kirigin is also known for its dessert wine – the coffee and chocolate infused Vino di Mocca, which is a creation of the former owner Mr.Kirigin.

This is perhaps the only winery in the USA that has a cricket field along with a couple of soccer fields. Khanna is passionate about playing cricket.

This interview was aired on TV in the USA.

Kirigin Cellars is open for wine tasting everyday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Address: Kirigin Cellars
11550 Watsonville Rd Gilroy, CA 95020

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PODCAST: RASIKA KUMAR ON TECHNOLOGY & DANCE

Rasike Kumar

Meet Rasika Kumar, who has learnt the fine art of balancing her twin interests in technology and dance. You could say Kumar combines the professional interests of her parents – her father is an engineer and her mother is a dancer. And growing up in Silicon Valley she was surrounded by cutting-edge technology and tech companies.

Kumar studied computer science at MIT and now works as an engineer at Google. Before discovering her love for science and math she discovered her love for dance. She was surrounded by music and dance and learnt to dance at the age of 4 years old since her mother Mythili Kumar is a dancer, choreographer and founder of Abhinaya Dance Company in San Jose. The route to studying computer science was less direct than learning to dance points out Kumar. She is a choreographer, lead dancer and Associate Director at Abhinaya Dance Company.

We sat down with Kumar to find out how she developed an interest in science and math and what was the role of her parents in helping her nuture her interests in science and arts. Did she have challenges learning math? Who helped with her math and science homework? Did she want to be a computer science engineer? How does she balance her interests in technology and dance? Tune in to find out the answers to these questions and more.

LISTEN: RASIKA KUMAR ON TECHNOLOGY & DANCE

This interview is part of our Women in Science and Technology TV series. You can watch the interview with Kumar here.

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This interview with Kumar was sponsored by Zoho Corp.

 

A LOOK AT 39th MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL OCT 6-16, 2016

MVFFThe annual Mill Valley Film Festival, which is one of the last film festivals in California before the Oscar season starts is back this year with a fantastic mix of films. Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the festival that started the same year the first Star Wars film was released.

The 39th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) runs from Oct  6-16, 2016. and features, shorts, documentaries, panels and live music featuring international, national and local filmmakers, actors and musicians. Gael Garcia BernalAshgar Farhadi, Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman, Annette Benning, Ewan McGregor, Joel Edgerton, and Damien Chazelle are some of the guests who will attend the festival.

German films are the focus of this year’s festival along with a section called ¡Viva El Cine! that features films from Latin America and Spain.

 

 

What is new at this year’s festival are a clutch of culinary films that pay homage to well-known chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Ella Brennan.

There are some new and interesting trends in this year’s festival like the relationship between women, films and technology. There is an interesting panel discussion on The Women Behind Hidden Figures that will feature female filmmakers behind  20th Century Fox’s new film Hidden Figures. Then there is a panel on Storytelling in Virtual Reality that will look into the  challenges and opportunities of storytelling.

This year’s festival has a list of wonderful films that poses quite a bit of challenge to movie lovers. For example take the opening night films: Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and Dennis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Both films have got great reviews. So, which film would you like to see on the opening night?

The centerpiece of the festival is Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women starring Anette Benning, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Lucas Jade Zumann.

The closing night film is  Director Jeff Nichols’ Loving starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. The film is based on a true story about an interracial couple and how they were arrested because they violated the anti-miscegenation laws. The couple filed a law suit that went all the way to the Supreme Court, where they won their right to marry. Nichols’ previously directed Mud and Midnight Special.

Besides films there will be live music performances by various artists like Fred Hersch, Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas and Thao Nguyen among others. The live music performances will be held at Sweetwater Music Hall.

For tickets and information check out Mill Valley Film Festival’s website.

 

PODCAST: MYTHILI KUMAR OF ABHINAYA DANCE COMPANY

Mythili Kumar, Abinaya Dance Company

 

Mythili Kumar is the founder, choreographer and artistic director of Silicon Valley-based Abhinaya Dance Co. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the award-winning dance company that is recognized for teaching Indian classical dance & innovative dance dramas. Besides teaching dance, Kumar also teaches classical Indian dance forms at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

We sat down to speak with Kumar about how she got interested in dance and her journey from India to California and the founding of Abhinaya Dance Company. Kumar came to study nutrition science at the University of California, Davis in the late 1970s. She moved to Silicon Valley after her marriage and got involved with teaching dance at her school and at local universities like Stanford, San Jose State University and University of California, Santa Cruz.

LISTEN: MYTHILI KUMAR OF ABHINAYA DANCE COMPANY

Besides Kumar, her daughters Rasika Kumar and Malavika Kumar also teach at Abhinaya Dance Company.

This was a TV interview that aired in the USA.

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PODCAST: JASON COHEN ON SILICON COWBOYS

Jason Cohen of Silicon Cowboys @kamlashow.comFilmmaker Jason Cohen’s Silicon Cowboys traces the rise and fall of Compaq, the personal computer (PC) company.  Compaq was the company that challenged IBM and changed the PC landscape in the 1980s.

Compaq was founded by Rod CanionJim Harris and Bill Murto in Houston, TX. The founders were partially inspired by Silicon Valley’s culture. At one point Compaq was the fastest growing company in the tech industry. The company was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP). In 2013 HP discontinued Compaq’s name.

We caught up with Cohen at the Computer History Museum, where Silicon Cowboys was partially filmed. We wanted to find about what drew him to make Silicon Cowboys? How was the idea born? How did Compaq change the PC landscape? And, how was Compaq’s culture different? Was he inspired by AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, a TV series that is loosely based on Compaq.

LISTEN: JASON COHEN ON SILICON COWBOYS 

Cohen is a Berkeley-based filmmaker. His short film Facing Fear was nominated for an Oscar in 2014.

Silicon Cowboys releases in the San Francisco Bay area on Friday, September 16, 2016

  • Title: SILICON COWBOYS
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Status: Releasing on September 16, 2016 in theatres and VOD
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: Documentary

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Jason Cohen

 

 

silicon-cowboys

 

PODCAST: TULA GOENKA ON BOLLYWOOD INTERNSHIPS IN AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Tula GoenkaTula Goenka teaches film production and multimedia storytelling at Syracuse University, NY. A few years ago Goenka started a first-of-its-kind Bollywood internship program for under graduate students. As part of the internship program students spent time in Bombay or Mumbai, the entertainment capital of India and home to Bollywood film industry. Some students went on to work for Bollywood films as Goenka explains.

Prior to teaching at Syracuse University, Goenka worked with well-known filmmakers like Spike Lee, Mira Nair and James Ivory. She is the author of  Not Just Bollywood: Indian Directors Speak.

In this interview we talk to Goenka on how the idea for Bollywood internship was born and what has been the response to the program? We also talk about her work with Lee and Nair.

This interview  was originally recorded in 2009.

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PODCAST: JUSTIN TIPPING ON KICKS

Justin Tipping @kamlashow.comJustin Tipping directed and co-wrote Kicks, a coming-of-age film set in the San Francisco Bay area. The film revolves around a young teenager Brandon (Jahking Guillory), who dreams of owning a trendy pair of  sneakers or kicks. He owns an old and frayed pair of sneakers, while all his friends sport brand new, funky shoes. And through sheer luck Brando gets a new pair of sneakers. He  barely gets to enjoy his brand new sneakers before he is attacked and the sneakers are stolen from him. Shock gives way to resolve and Brandon decides to fight and get his sneakers back.The rest of the film revolves around how Brandon plots to get the sneakers back and in the process undergoes a transformation.

Tipping set the story in Oakland, which is where he hung out growing up in the East Bay. He trains his lens on the twin sub-cultures of this region that we barely get to hear or see: sneaker culture and side show. The film is partly inspired by Vittoria Di Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and the notion of masculinity in American culture.

We met Tipping in San Francisco to talk to him about the making of Kicks, and growing up in the East Bay. The film has a touch of autobiographical element – it was inspired by an incident that happened to Tipping as a teenager and it involved a pair of kicks.

LISTEN: JUSTIN TIPPING ON KICKS

Kicks opens in San Francisco Bay area on September 9, 2016.

  • Title: KICKS
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Status: Released in the USA 
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: Coming-of-age 

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VIDEO: GENE GUGLIELMO OF GUGLIELMO WINERY OF SANTA CLARA WINERIES

Meet Gene Guglielmo, a third generation winemaker from Santa Clara county, the oldest wine growing region in California. Guglielmo Winery is the oldest continuously family owned and operated winery in Santa Clara Valley.

We sat down with Guglielmo to find out the history of his family’s winery and taste a couple of Guglielmo wines. Guglielmo shares how his grandfather Emilio Guglielmo came from Piedmont in Italy to the San Francisco Bay area in the early 20th. After working in San Francisco his grandfather bought a vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley. His grandfather started making wine and slowly grew the business. After World War II George Washington Guglielmo (Emilio’s son and Gene’s father)  joined the winery and expanded it by installing new machinery and steel tanks. Today, Guglielmo makes a mix of red and white wines.

This TV interview was aired in the US.

Guglielmo Winery is locaed at 1480 E Main Ave, Morgan Hill, CA 95037. The tasting room is open 10am to 5pm every day and there is a $5 tasting fee.

 

Photos courtesy of Guglielmo Winery

SEPTEMBER IS CALIFORNIA WINE MONTH

Kirigin Cellars

 

We are celebrating California’s wine month with a series of audio, video and blog posts. In the San Francisco Bay area we are surrounded by wineries and vineyards from Sonoma, Napa, Livermore to the wineries of Santa Clara county.

Santa Clara Valley is home to the oldest wine growing region in California. Tucked away in Silicon Valley’s backyard are a cluster of wineries that make a variety of red and white wines. And some like Fortino Winery also make fruit-based wines in addition to red and white wines. Once known as vinegar alley and known for its jug wines, the wineries now produce award-winning wines.

Earlier this week I went on a tour of 3 wineries in Gilroy: Satori Cellars Winery, Kirigin Cellars and Fortino Winery. While I have visited wineries in this region I have never visited any of them during their harvest season. The purpose of this trip was to fulfill my curiosity of what it takes to harvest and make wine. Tha making wine is a lot of hard work is a mild understatement.

September is the busiest month for wineries for this marks the starts of the harvest season. What I discovered is that some wineries were busy picking their grapes and crushing them, while others were getting ready to pick them.

Tom Moller, Satori Cellars, Santa Clara Wineries

 

“When you pick the grapes is a very important decision,” points out Tom Moller of Satori Cellars Winery in Gilroy. Essentially when you pick the grapes determines how your wine will turn out at the end. The sugar level in the grapes will determine when they get picked and crushed.

 

Santa Clara Wineries

 

At Kirigin Cellars I watched as the grapes were dumped into a huge steel crusher to extract the grape juice for making the wine. “They have been picking grapes since 6 am,” points out Dhruv Khanna, owner of Kirigin Cellars that is celebrating its centennial year. They picked about 7 tonnes of grapes in the morning and by 1 pm they had them all crushed says Khanna as we stood by the wine crusher with bees buzzing around us. Surprisingly nobody seemed to pay any attention to the buzzing bees.

 

Fortino Winery

 

Fortinos of Fortino Winery

 

My final destination was Fortino Winery where I met Gino Fortino and his father Ernesto Fortino. The winery was established in 1970 by Fortino senior, who focussed on making wines from varietals. Fortino Winery is one of the few wineries that grows Charbono, a rare Italian varietal. ” We have 3 acres of Carbon out of the 80 acres in California,’ points out Fortino. Besides their estate grown red and white wines Fortino Winery also make a variety of fruit-based wines.