Film series: Guest Filmmakers

Student working on film projector

image from the film THE INHERITANCE

image from the film THE INHERITANCE

Over Cornell Cinema’s 50+ year history, hundreds of filmmakers have visited to present their work and enrich the viewing experience for patrons, but the pandemic made that impossible last year. Thanks to the magic of Zoom, though, we still managed to engage several filmmakers in discussion about their work after it was made available via our virtual screening program, filmmakers like Brett Story with The Hottest August and John Gianvito with Her Socialist Smile, discussions that were recorded and now live on our website, a nice benefit of the Zoom world.

This Fall we’ll offer a mix of both in-person and virtual filmmaker presentations, with the Zoom discussions taking place in the theatre, our visitors projected on the big screen, and audience members on hand to ask their questions in person.

Our first event will be held in conjunction with a special advance screening of the soon-to-be-released Dear Evan Hansen, adapted from the Tony award-winning musical of the same name. We expect executive producer Michael Bederman & actress Avery Bederman (who attends Ithaca College), and possibly production designer Beth Mickle, to join us via Zoom. Per new Cornell University COVID guidelines, this event will be open to members of the Cornell community only. The event is free, but reservations need to be made online in advance.

October (when we hope events will be opened up to the wider community) will feature three in-person visits, the first added after we initially announced our Fall line-up: we'll be hosting the co-director of the Nigerian film Eyimofe (This is My Desire), Arie Esiri, who will join us for a post-screening Q&A on Friday, October 1, which will be moderated by Daniel Fermín Pfeffer, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Dept of Performing & Media Arts. Esiri's visit is sponsored by Performing & Media Arts and the CU Migrations Initiative.

Filmmaker and biologist Alexis Gambis, who founded the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City, will visit on October 5 to present Son of Monarchs, which was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and was cited by the jury “for its poetic, multilayered portrait of a scientist’s growth and self-discovery as he migrates between Mexico and NYC working on transforming nature and uncovering the fluid boundaries that unite past and present and all living things.” The main character in the film was inspired by Cornell professor Robert Reed (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), a butterfly biologist, who will participate in a post-screening panel discussion with Gambis.

Next up is filmmaker Ephraim Asili, who will present his feature-length debut, The Inheritance, on October 14. The film is an astonishing ensemble work set almost entirely within a West Philadelphia house where a community of young, Black artists and activists form a collective. The Vanity Fair review described it as a “boldly political, quietly experimental film [that] asks what it means—and costs—for Black people to form intentional communities.” The post-screening discussion with Asili, who chairs the Film and Electronic Arts Program at Bard College, will be moderated by Cornell professor Samantha Sheppard (PMA).

Trans filmmaker Madsen Minax will join us via Zoom following a screening of his acclaimed personal documentary North by Current on November 4. The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year and its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was described as:

“An examination of the relationships between mothers and children, truths and myths, losses and gains. After the inconclusive death of his young niece, filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his rural Michigan hometown determined to make a film about the family's wrongful persecution. But soon the scope of his project expands and he finds himself investigating the depths of generational addiction, Christian fervor, and trans embodiment. Like the relentless Michigan seasons, the meaning of family shifts, as Madsen, his sister, and his parents strive tirelessly to accept one other. 

“Using home movie footage and present day interviews to chart their story, the filmmaker traces the fine line between the truths and fictions that exist in every family. Turning the camera towards himself, Madsen confronts his own relationship with masculinity and his interrogation of what it means to be a good brother. The result is a deeply personal tour de force; a thoughtful, provocative rumination on identity and familial responsibility.” (Lucy Mukerjee)

The following night (Nov 5) we’ll be joined in-person by experimental filmmaker Daïchi Saïto, who will present a program of three short 35mm films, including his latest, earthearthearth, which had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam earlier this year. An otherworldly journey through the Andes mountains in Chile, the film was produced through strictly analog processes—shot on 16mm, edited on film and blown-up to 35mm—and Saïto employed numerous processes to create the film’s “swirling, psychedelic visuals [that] are married to a beautifully undulating soundtrack by saxophonist Jason Sharp.” (Sheffield DocFest) This will be a spectacular show, and a very rare opportunity to see these films projected in 35mm. Don’t miss it. 

Also not to be missed: Ithaca College professor and filmmaker Mitch McCabe, who will present her short film, Civil War Surveillance Poems Pt 1 (CWSP), before a screening of The American Sector, on November 18. The first piece of a multi-part project, CWSP functions as a speculative experimental nonfiction contemplating an impending American civil war, mixing call-in radio and 20 years of verité footage from McCabe’s archive. We’re looking forward to seeing Parts II–V!

Related films

image from the film Son of Monarchs

Son of Monarchs


image from the film The Inheritance

The Inheritance


image from the film Eyimofe (This is My Desire)

Eyimofe (This is My Desire)


image from the film North by Current

North by Current


image from the film earthearthearth & more

earthearthearth & more


image from the film The American Sector

The American Sector