Isabel Castro (MIJA)
Mija starts at a party store, to celebrate a birthday. It's one of many milestones in the life of Doris Muñoz that director Isabel Castro captures with charm and relatability as we see Muñoz suffer a huge career setback, then rebuild. Rejecting the tropes of depressing documentaries, she tells a story filled with incredible challenges, but also joy, hope and love.
Mija has all the calling cards of a great music movie, but it's also a magnificent story about immigration and two families' paths to the elusive American Dream. Muñoz's livelihood, and her family's security, depends on her ability to discover pop stars. She sees thrilling potential in Jacks Haupt, a young Texas singer-songwriter who could be the next big pop star.
In this episode, Castro talks with us about telling a different kind of immigration story, one that often feels more like an enthralling feature than a documentary. And we hear some pretty great music along the way, too.
View all episodes
Steven Holleran (Sympathy for the Devil)38:05Cinematographer Steven Holleran doesn't do anything the easy way. For A Boy. A Girl. A Dream: Love on Election Night, he shot one continuous 90-minute film while racing down Sunset Boulevard. For Missing, he handed off cameras to the actors. And for his latest project, Sympathy for the Devil, he found ways to make a car ride with Nicholas Cage and Joel Kinnaman freakishly compelling.
Sam Hargrave (Extraction 2)32:11Extraction 2 director Sam Hargrave thought long and hard about how to top the 12-minute nonstop action sequence in the first Extraction, and thought of one way to do it when he saw a weather forecast calling for snow: "What if we light Chris Hemsworth on fire?"Here's our full talk with Hargrave about stunts, Oscars, the writer's strike, and yes, fire. And also the insane prison break sequence.If you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out our previous interview with Sam Hargrave about 2020's original Extraction.
Marc Levin (It's Basic)41:31The new doc IT'S BASIC examines how the idea of Universal Basic Income – giving people money to do with as they please —plays out in the real world. The doc by Marc Levin explores how innovators like former Stockton, California mayor Michael Tubbs have helped introduce programs that get money directly into the hands of those who need it. What do they do with this money? It's not what cynics would expect.Pictured: Marc Levin, left, and Michael Tubbs
Sav Rodgers & Alex Schmider (Chasing Chasing Amy)36:36Sav Rodgers was a 12-year-old queer kid in Kansas when he first found his mom's VHS copy of Chasing Amy, the Kevin Smith film he credits with saving his life. It also inspired Sav's triumphant TED Talk and now the documentary Chasing Chasing Amy, which premiered at Tribeca.In this episode we talk with Sav and Chasing Chasing Amy producer Alex Schmider about films that serve a perfect purpose despite their imperfections, and making movies with representation that aren't just about representation. Photo: Kevin Smith and Sav Rodgers
Nardeep Khurmi (Land of Gold)40:38Nardeep Khurmi wrote, directed and stars in Land of Gold, a cross-country, cross-cultural road trip exploring the dynamic between a Punjabi American truck driver (Khurmi) and a Mexican-American girl named Elena (Caroline Valenicia) whom he finds hiding in his trailer."Can you get more American," he asks, "than two communities of color, who have been marginalized by the country they want to call home, banding together to find their piece of the pie?"The film arose in part from his fascination with the intersection of Indian and Mexican immigrants in Southern California, fueled in part by a chance encounter with a very good restaurant.
Ali Afshar (Casa Grande)52:45Ali Afshar has one of the most unique origin stories in Hollywood. His family moved to Petaluma, California after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and he sought peace against a backdrop of tragedy by wrestling and street racing. A stuntman older brother helped him make his way into acting, and he soon became a producer as well. His latest project is the bilingual upstairs-downstairs family drama Casa Grande, now airing on Amazon's Freevee.But that barely scratches the surface of a story that includes racing success, shooting Christmas movies in a converted barn, and his goal of eventually telling the story of the German heavy metal band The Scorpions. His production company is ESX Entertainment.
Alex Convery (AIR)33:30Alex Convery grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the 1990s, when Michael Jordan was a superhero. He watched the Jordan doc THE LAST DANCE during pandemic lockdowns, like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, he saw an amazing movie idea about the creation of Nike's trademark sneaker, Air Jordans.Two years later, Convery's script has been made into a movie directed by Ben Affleck, starring Affleck, Matt Damon, Viola Davis and other A-listers. It's a fascinating, fun film that looks like the first surefire Oscar contender of 2023. We talked to Convery about how he pulled it off, his love of William Goldman, and using VHS for masterful expositition.
Barbara Kopple (Gumbo Coalition)28:00Two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple helped invent the modern-day documentary with her groundbreaking Harlan County, USA, which recounted a brutal coalminers' strike in dirt-poor Harlan County, Kentucky and won the 1976 Oscar for best documentary. She won her second Oscar in 1991 for American Dream, about a heartland strike against the Hormel Foods corporation.She returns to the grassroots struggle for survival and dignity in her new film Gumbo Coalition, about the work of the Civil Rights groups the Urban League and UnidosUS during the Trump presidency. We just saw it at the 25th anniversary edition of the Sarasota Film Festival, where we recorded this episode.In addition to docs about social issues, Kopple has also made some fascinating films about celebrities at heightened moments, including the Woody Allen film Wild Man Blues and the Dixie Chicks portrait Shut Up and Sing. But what unites all of her films is a cinema vérité style in which she lets her subjects do the talking and observes with minimal interference.
William Sherak (Scream 5 & 6)48:01Born into the film industry, William Sherak has a long family history with innovators like James Cameron and George Lucas. He tells us about running Hollywood's go-to 3D company at exactly the right moment, watching Jurassic Park with Steven Spielberg, connecting with directing duo Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett), and helping salvage the Scream franchise from the smoldering wreckage of The Weinstein Company. He also tells us why practical effects work so well for slasher movies, making a Scream in New York, and how it's going with Neve Campbell.