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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Director Nadine Labaki Finds Hope amid Chaos in "Capernaum"

The Lebanese filmmaker/actor Nadine Labaki lives in Beirut, a quick drive yet a world away from Naba’a, the suburban slum where much of her astonishing new film Capernaum unfolds. One in every three of her compatriots lives in poverty, per the UNDP, and it’s this demographic that now compels her lens.  At its harrowing center is 12-year-old Zain (played by Zain Ar-Rafeea), who shares a squalid hovel with his siblings and brutish parents(Kawthar Al Haddad and Fa...

Production Design on “Isle of Dogs”: A Chat with the Fantastic Mr. Paul Harrod

Paul Harrod says one of his favorite sculptors is August Rodin. It’s not a name you’d imagine getting love from the Portland co-production designer of Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs. But considering that the visuals of this phantasmagoria jointly styled with Adam Stockhausen are a breakthrough in the art form, it’s no wonder the virtuosity behind them involved the study of a master. Harrod’s more direct influences came from stop-motio...

Stanley Tucci's “Final Portrait”: A Conversation with Production Designer James Merifield

Final Portrait is an artist’s studio tour and you’re on the invite list. The artist is Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker Alberto Giacometti, and the studio, as writer Jean Genet put it, is “a milky swamp, a seething dump, a genuine ditch.” Plaster busts and bony figures haunt the space amidst a mess of tools and splatters. It’d be downright spooky were it not for the creative spirit infusing the ruins. That legendary Montparnasse hovel is w...

Production Designer Hannah Beachler Relives “Black Panther”

Been to Wakanda? Hannah Beachler has, and her production design for the fictional country at the heart of Black Panther proves that vibranium exists. How else to explain such a radiant spectacle if not daily doses of the African El Dorado’s magic metal? The Marvel Studios actioner follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) finding his way as Wakanda’s new warrior king and superhero Black Panther after the death of his father T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani). Presiding over un...

"A Fantastic Woman": Interview with Director Sebastián Lelio

Forget “character is destiny.” A Fantastic Woman goes one better: character as aesthetic destiny. With a trans actress playing a trans woman, the challenge for filmmaker Sebastián Lelio was to unfold “a being in flux” in both form and content. His solution? A hybrid work that encompasses elements of romance, mystery, fantasy, musical and social exposé. Punsters will appreciate that the Spanish word genero means both “gender”...

Director Nora Twomey on “The Breadwinner”

A scrolling band of carnelian clouds circling clockwise, a boy in an Afghani folk costume swirling within, a radiant beam at the center: The opening frames of Nora Twomey’s animated film The Breadwinner tell a tale of light and shadow, conjuring dream imagery of the pyche’s quest towards wholeness in the larger world. In case you haven’t guessed, we’re in the realm of universal truth, seen from toon-spun Afghanistan. The allegory quickly blossoms into...

Cinematographer Rachel Morrison on “Mudbound”- Spotlight on the 55th New York Film Festival

“I dreamed in brown,” says Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) of the grime that permeates rural life in Mudbound. Her lament gave cinematographer Rachel Morrison a departure point for evoking Dee Rees’ WWII-era drama set in the Mississippi Delta. Much of what we see in the film, from fields and farmhouses to instincts and mores, comes from the sodden muck. Adapted from Hillary Jordan’s 2008 novel, Mudbound is a tale of two families, one black and one white, ...

NAB Show New York 2017

Everything’s relative. That’s how a humongous affair such as the NAB Show New York can come off like an intimate dinner party. It’s practically a pop-up compared with the National Association of Broadcasters’s older expo for media, entertainment and telecom professionals, the NAB Show in Las Vegas every April. Held six months apart, New York’s version (October 18-19) nonetheless packs nearly 9,000 attendees and 362 exhibitors in the Jacob Javitz Convention Center...

Cinematographer Sam Levy Illuminates “Lady Bird”- Spotlight on the 55th New York Film Festival

Back in 2016, cinematographer Sam Levy and actor-turned-director Greta Gerwig were envisioning the look of Lady Bird, a seriocomic coming-of-ager set in Sacramento during 2002 and 2003. “She wanted it to look like a memory,” Levy tells me in a recent phone chat. “Memory” wasn’t just some theme Gerwig randomly turned up; rather, her film partly drew on her experiences of coming up in California’s capital city. Two more words would round out the DP&rsquo...

Cinematographer Ed Lachman Talks “Wonderstruck” -- Spotlight on the 55th New York Film Festival

  Here’s a question for you: Can illustrated novels be made into compelling films? With his screen production of Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck, director Todd Haynes suggests what it takes. One handy element is cinematographer Ed Lachman. Using Kodak 35mm black-and-white and color film stocks, the cinematography shows off Lachman at his best. It’s at once rapturous and studied, classical and jazzy, stylized and raw. There’s a reason for the dualities. Tw...

"Call Me by Your Name" at the 55th New York Film Festival

Call Me by Your Name is drenched with sun, yet it’s only a partly sunny affair. Luca Guadagnino’s smart and sensuous adaptation of André Aciman’s novel basks the splendors of Northern Italy in the summertime, which is to say, at some point things will turn wintry. Fortunately for Eden’s eventual expulsé, humanity has tender mercies to soften the fall. How else could a father comfort a son as generously as Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbar...

"Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat" at the 55th New York Film Festival

  “For many forward-thinking people, the age of the white male was already over,” reflects curator Diego Cortez in Sara Driver’s documentary Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. With that Cortez, who co-founded TriBeCa’s iconic Mudd Club, sums up the Downtown New York scene of the late 70s and early 80s. Context is king in this portrait of the artist as young man. Like James Joyce’s Künstlerroman of Stephen Dedalus, ...

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” at the 55th New York Film Festival

Does anyone in your family listen? The folks in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) sure don’t. And they’re not the only ones to switch off. The scene cuts often stop them at mid-sentence, inviting bemused viewers to absorb the jolt. In his winning new picture, director Noah Baumbach elevates rudeness to an art with the aid of sharp dialogue and edits. The household he surveys contains Millennials and aging Gen-Xers along with Dustin Hoffman’s 70-something pa...

Cinematographer Shane F. Kelly Talks “Last Flag Flying"

  What is manhood? How are men to act in the world, and where do truth and responsibility fit in? Having studied boyhood in depth, now director Richard Linklater tracks the next phase of masculinity in his new film Last Flag Flying. To help visualize the maturation arc, he once again tapped cinematographer Shane F. Kelly. They both like progressions. Their previous collaboration Everybody Wants Some!! was billed as a follow up to Linklater’s Dazed and Confused,...

"Arthur Miller: Writer" -- New York Film Festival Spotlight on Documentary

“Our children are our biographers,” goes the saying, and in Rebecca Miller’s (Personal Velocity, Maggie’s Plan) documentary about her playwright father Arthur, she takes it to heart. The result, Arthur Miller: Writer, leaves just-the-facts inventorying to a more impartial observer and gets up-close and personal with dad. Thanks to Rebecca’s filmed interviews, we gain a seat at the family table with this icon of the American stage. Early on she lets...

“Loving Vincent”: A Conversation with Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Who hasn’t looked at Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night and felt the brushstrokes swirl? Like many of the Dutch artist’s oils, the dabs of color rolling around the stars and moon give an illusion of movement. Now along comes Loving Vincent to wrestle that cinematic quality into a feature film. Despite the vibrant palette, the story shades noir. Using van Gogh’s paintings to sleuth out the murky circumstances surrounding his alleged suicide,...

“Brigsby Bear”: Interview with Director Dave McCary

It’s a mainstay of the screenwriting rulebook that a protagonist must undergo special change. But such rules are meant to be broken, and Brigsby Bear, the winsome first feature from Dave McCary, makes the case for non-conformity. That’s because James, the man-child at the center of the story, remains true to who he is while the surrounding characters embrace his quirks and trace the bolder transformative arc. There’s a reason for James’ tenacity. We meet...

“Endless Poetry”: Interview with Director/Production Designer Alejandro Jodorowsky

Endless Poetry (Poesía Sin Fin) marks director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s third collaboration with his preferred production designer: himself. Like his 1970s cult classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain, which he also styled, this latest extravaganza takes a phatasmagoric deep dive into poetic consciousness. It’s from that fathomless fount that the octogenarian creator reimagines his coming of age.  The second filmed memoir in a projected series of ...

Filmmaker Johnny O'Reilly on "Moscow Never Sleeps"

“Moscow is a prison, but we love it. To leave, you must pay a bribe to the prison guards,” cracks a Russian entrepreneur in Moscow Never Sleeps. In dialogue and detail, Johnny O’Reilly’s follow-up to his debut feature The Weather Stationvividly captures the Muscovite zeitgeist, from pungent irony to soulful compassion. As the Irish filmmaker recently told me in New York, he made the film to give Western audiences an authentic view of the city he called home f...

17th Annual New York Indian Film Festival: Filmmakers Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar Talk “Turtle”

It’s Saturday afternoon at the New York Indian Film Festival, and the crowd is feeling inspired. Which is par for the course at this thoughtfully curated annual showcase of India-themed arthouse cinema, but perhaps less so at a powwow about depression. The Marathi film Turtle (Kaasav) has just stirred our souls with its message about the therapeutic power of love. Now, during the Q&A, it’s all we can do to keep from leaping from our chairs and hugging the award-winning duo that...

Tribeca Spotlight: Director Pappi Corsicato Reveals "Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait"

“Everyone knows about his pajamas, his lifestyle, his art, his movies, but not many people know about his sensitivity and vulnerability,” Italian director Pappi Corsicato recently told me. As you may have guessed, unless you’ve missed four decades of art world chatter, the public persona he was referencing is the painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. Corsicato’s aperçu followed our query about the title of his new documentary, “Julian Schnabel: A Private P...

Tribeca's Blast of "Holy Air" and Why Director Shady Srour is a Talent to Watch

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” wondered Christ disciple Nathaneal in the Gospel of John. Reframing that question in the context of present-day Israel, Nazarene writer-director-star Shady Srour has retained biblical skeptism in his debut feature Holy Air. But also wicked humor. As Philip told Nathaneal, “Come and see.” Srour plays Adam, a world-weary accountant who lives with his wife Lamia (Laëtitia Eïdo) in Nazareth. As Christian Arabs i...

Filmmaker Oren Jacoby Beams Light on “Shadowman” and Artist Richard Hambleton

“Who is the Shadowman?” asked 80s headlines about the black, phantom-like figures haunting the New York landscape. Now along comes an impressive answer in the documentary Shadowman, about their creator. Given that he is the elusive street art pioneer Richard Hambleton, mysteries still abound after the closing credits. But that’s much to the film’s credit. A beguiling portrait of the artist and his era, it leaves us raring to fathom more.   Some eight years in...

New Directors/New Films: "Menashe"

Menashe, the title of Joshua Weinstein’s fiction feature debut, could just as easily been called Schlimazel. Set amid the Hasidic quarter of Borough Park, Brooklyn, it follows the eponymous character as he navigates serial misfortune. His wife Leah died nearly a year ago; his low-paid grocery store job is on the line; and his lax approach to tradition puts him out of step with the rabbi (Meyer Schwartz) and community.   However, the worst may be yet to come: losing custody of...

Len Collin Offers “Sanctuary” at ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival

  “Nobody thinks of people with intellectual disabilities as being sexual creatures,” says Len Collin, “but they clearly are.” Collin is the director of Sanctuary, an Irish comedy about a group of adults with cognitive impairment who visit Galway, where two of them sneak off to a hotel room. They are Larry (Kieran Coppinger), who has Down Syndrome, and Sophie (Charlene Kelly), an epileptic, and this is their first go at intimacy. Tom (Robert Doherty), their b...


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