May 13th, 2015

PDN Video: Gillian Laub on Winning Over Reluctant Subjects to Film “Southern Rites”

Gillian Laub: "Southern Rites" And The Challenges of Access from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

In 2009, Gillian Laub’s story in The New York Times Magazine about segregated high school proms in Mount Vernon, Georgia, stirred national outrage, which finally forced the community to integrate the proms. Afterwards, Laub faced down the hostility and threats of locals to work on a documentary film about race relations in the area. In this PDN video, she describes the challenges of filming where she was unwelcome, and how she managed to win the confidence of her subjects– including a murder suspect who had granted no media interviews before he sat down with Laub. Titled “Southern Rites,” the film debuts May 18 on HBO. Laub’s still photographs are showing at Bonnie Benrubi Gallery in New York City from May 14-June 27, 2015. Damiani will also publish a book of the work in June.

PDN Photo of the Day: Gillian Laub’s “Southern Rites”

Shaul Schwartz’s Reel Peak Films: A Production Company Devoted to Editorial Documentaries

August 5th, 2013

Documentary Showcases Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer, Hip Hop Historian, Activist

Jamel-Shabazz-Street-Photographer“Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer,” the new documentary about the photographer whose books Back in the Days and A Time Before Crack chronicled the rise of hip hop culture in New York in the 1980s, is playing this week at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn. It will also be shown in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco this fall.

The movie follows Shabazz as he photographs on the subway and in the neighborhoods that he has photographed since the 1970s. It includes extensive interviews with him about his photography.

Directed by Charlie Ahearn, who also directed “Wild Style,” about early rap, “Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” includes interviews with Fab Five Freddy, KRS-One and other musicians from the day. They probably help draw in audiences. But once in the theater, they’ll learn that Shabazz was interested in more than just the music and the culture. He was also trying to celebrate life in a community that was often ignored by the media, by outsiders, by government.

In a 2010 interview with PDN, Shabazz said, “It’s about recording history for future generations to see, and showing the dignity and the integrity in our community, something that’s not often shown in the media.”

Shabazz worked as a corrections officer in Riker’s Island, the New York City detention center. After working a shift, he would come home to Brooklyn and take photos as an antidote. He got in the habit of carrying fruit in his pockets that he would give away, in order to encourage kids to have a healthy snack. “I look for love, compassion, the human spirit of a person.” he told PDN.

You can view the trailer on Vimeo.

October 11th, 2010

“Last Minutes With Oden” Documentary Wins $25,000 Vimeo Award

Eliot Rausch accepts $25,000 Best Video prize at Vimeo ceremony.

The online documentary “Last Minutes With Oden” won the award for Best Video and its director, Eliot Rausch, won a $25,000 filmmaking grant at the first Vimeo Festival + Awards.

The ceremony, held October 9 in New York City, ended a weekend of video workshops, lectures and slide shows sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing site.
“Last Minutes with Oden” also won the Best Documentary category. It documents a former drug addict, Jason, having to put his dog, Oden, to sleep. In accepting the award, Rausch said, “I think Jason’s transparency and brutal honesty in Oden’s last moments are what made [the film] so successful.” He noted that he had asked Jason, to attend the ceremony, but “he’s flat broke.” When he accepted the grant, Rausch said Jason had asked for help getting his teeth fixed if Rausch won the grant “because his teeth are rotting.” Rausch didn’t say how he responded, but said, “I feel this is as much his film as mine.”

Among the other winners in the nine categories was “Thrush,” a series of still photos edited together to depict a couple’s six-month relationship, which won for Best Narrative. In a videotaped acceptance speech, filmmaker Gabriel Bisset-Smith said, “People are disappointed when they find out [the man and woman] aren’t real.”

The awards ceremony, which honored video creators who use the web to reach a wide audience,  struck a poignant note when the award for Best Motion Graphics was given to the Turkish-born Onur Senturk. In accepting Senturk’s award, a friend and fellow Turk noted that the award was encouraging to video artists in Turkey, where Vimeo was banned two weeks ago. Three years ago, the Turkish government banned access to YouTube.

Two honorary awards were also given. The Digital Maverick Award was given to the Neistat Brothers, who have made hundreds of online videos since 2000 and recently launched a series for HBO. The Feature Presentation award went to “Star Wars Uncut,” a retelling of Star Wars made up of hundreds of short clips created by Star Wars fans –using everything from Claymation figures to amateur actors in costume —and then edited together.

Award winners were selected by judges in nine categories:
Best Remix: Breakdown, by Kasumi
Best Original Series: Break-Ups, The Series, by Ted Tremper
Best Music Video: Liars’ “Scissors” by Andy Brunel
Best Documentary: Last Minutes with Oden, by Eliot Rausch
Best Experimental Video: oops, by Chris Beckman
Best Captured (given to a video that documents a performance or work of art): Fluid Sculpture by Charlie Bucket
Best Motion Graphics: TRIANGLE, by Onur Senturk

The winning videos and all the finalists can be viewed on the Vimeo Festival +Awards page at