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    All These Wonderful Things Interview

    December 19th, 2008


    AJ Schnack is conducting interviews with as many of this year’s documentarians as possible and posting them to his excellent, must-read blog All These Wonderful Things.

    Here is an excerpt from the interview with Jeremiah.

    ATWT: Of all the genres of nonfiction, the “film about my parents” always seems the most fraught with danger.  You run the risk of thinking that what’s interesting or damaging to you may not be so compelling to audiences.  But your father chose to be extraordinarily open for your camera.  Was there a point during his confessionals to you that convinced you that you had a feature length film on your hands or – knowing your parents – did you have a sense from the start?

    Jeremiah Zagar: I like to think of this film as a documentary love story that just so happens to be about my parents. In other words, the reason for making it was never personal. I started when I was 19 because my mother asked me to film my father — I think just because she felt we should spend more time together — and I did it because I trust her. I never expected it to amount to anything.

    Then about three months into shooting, I took my father down to West Virginia where he would be isolated from his work and from my mother. Here, he began to speak to the camera in a way he never had before. It was extremely intimate and funny and sometimes a bit terrifying. We were supposed to stay for ten days but after five my father couldn’t take it anymore and we drove home with thirteen hours of really good tape. I watched the footage over and over for the next three years, picking out my favorite moments and stories. What became clear from the footage to me and my producer Jeremy Yaches was that we could make some beautiful, surreal scenes using 35mm cutaways and that if we had a verité narrative arc maybe we could combine the surreal with the hyper real to create something exciting and hopefully new. So I went back to Philly often and shot my family, waiting for something to happen. And eventually something did.

    Read the whole thing.

    We also enjoyed the other interviews in the series so far: James Marsh from Man On Wire and Tia Lessin & Carl Deal from Trouble The Water.

    Austin Film Society Documentary Tour

    December 13th, 2008

    Julia & Isaiah Zagar from In A Dream

    Julia & Isaiah Zagar from "In A Dream"

    From the Austin Chronicle feature story Fractured Family Tales by Anne S. Lewis:

    When Jeremiah Zagar was a film student at Emerson College in 1999, his mom, Julia, suggested he make a film about his dad, Isaiah Zagar, the legendary Philadelphia mosaic artist who, since the late Sixties, has been chronicling the twists, turns, and quirks of his interior life on more than 50,000 feet of that city’s South Street walls. This seemed an excellent idea to Zagar fils, who at the time thought he knew the trajectory of a film about the artistically driven dad that he, Mom, and brother Ezekiel (biblical prophet namesakes all) loved and revered. Wrong. Dad’s story, it turns out, bore more a resemblance to his labyrinthine, Keith Haring-esque murals than his son had any reason to suspect.

    Read the rest and then come see the film @ The Alamo Ritz as part of the Austin Film Society Documentary Tour.

    Date & Time:
    Wednesday, December 17th @ 7:00pm

    Buy Tickets!

    Austin, Texas: Full Circle

    December 12th, 2008

    Austin Film Society Doc Tour

    Austin Film Society Doc Tour

    In A Dream will be screening next week at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown as part of the Austin Film Society Documentary Tour. It is a homecoming of sorts—the film premiered in March at the SXSW Film Festival. We will be at the screening for a Q&A.

    Date & Time:
    Wednesday, December 17th @ 7:00pm

    Buy Tickets!

    In the meantime, we thought we’d post up some reviews from our first go-around in Texas. Give ‘em a read through and then come see the film on Wednesday.

    Cinematical by Scott Weinberg

    As a story about art and artists, In a Dream is soft-spoken, well-paced, and smoothly engrossing. As a portrait of a sweet but slightly fractured man, it’s one of the most unexpectedly touching documentaries I’ve ever seen.

    Doc It Out by Agnes Varnum

    What follows for the Zagars is not only a testament to the power of but also a heart-wrenching tale about a in crisis. For my technically savvy readers, Jeremiah employed a variety of stocks, including 35mm, to create a complicated visual tapestry that matches the complicated artwork and emotions of the story.

    Arthouse Cowboy by Moises Chiullan

    Wondrously, Jeremiah has followed the majestic work of his father and broken these media into shards and chunks, carefully plastering them together in a provocative and fascinating mosaic of his father’s life.

    Austin Daze

    The beauty and brilliance of Isaiah’s mosaics is matched by the film’s vibrant color and brilliant editing and music. This film touched me on such a personal level, taking me on a journey into my own human condition while inspiring the creative within and leaving me with a renewed passion for life. The film has won in the Emerging Visions category at this year’s festival and is the best film I have seen.

    Hammer To Nail by Michael Ryan

    Because the family decided to cooperate, and fully open themselves up, we are treated to an amazingly intimate portrait of a unique family struggling to make sense of life’s cruel twists.

    Industry Rags

    December 5th, 2008


    From Oscar Watch: Documentary, an article in The Hollywood Reporter about all of the shortlisted documentaries that are competing for this year’s Best Documentary Academy Award:

    Veteran cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ lyrical immigrant odyssey “The Betrayal — Nerakhoon” (the Cinema Guild) is a surprise inclusion, but nowhere near as major a surprise as Jeremiah Zagar’s intimate family memoir “In a Dream” (Herzliya Films), which has no distributor, has screened at only a few festivals and has scarcely been reviewed.

    Still, in taking a reporter’s call, Zagar affects none of Herzog’s detachment. “This proves that the committee watched all the films,” Zagar jokes, “because nobody’s ever heard of ours. Just seeing my name up there with Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, people I’ve worked my whole life to emulate — it’s wild. It’s a huge, huge honor.”

    They’re right about the shortlisting being a huge surprise but incorrect about the film’s alleged lack of distribution. In A Dream will air on HBO next summer and it will be released in theaters in the spring. Stay tuned for details…

    You can read the rest of the Hollywood Reporter article here. Or see what Variety has to say about the film.

    In other news, Pitchfork Media announced their picks for the Top 40 Music Videos of 2008 and our video for Efterklang’s Cutting Ice To Snow made that shortlist too.

    The video consists entirely of deleted footage and alternate takes from In A Dream. Enjoy:

    Catching Up @ The Jacob Burns Film Center

    December 3rd, 2008

    Next stop for In A Dream is a screening as part of the Catching Up 2008 series at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York.

    We like their blurb:

    Shortlisted for Best Documentary Oscar!
    “Stunning, deeply personal” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
    Coming out of nowhere, this documentary has excited audiences at film festivals all over the country. Jeremiah Zagar has crafted a ravishingly beautiful film chronicling the descent of his parents’ marriage amid mental illness and creative brilliance. His father, Isaiah Zagar, is the dazzling and obsessively prolific mosaic artist who has covered wide swaths of Philadelphia with his public works. A documentary that’s a thoroughly original work of art in its own right.

    Date & Time:
    Wednesday, December 10th @ 7:30pm

    Buy Tickets!