The award for Best Documentary went to O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman’s epic saga.
Congratulations. How does it feel to be culminating in such a prestigious honor after this journey?
It’s incredible, surreal, weird, all of those things.
What initially inspired you to tackle this subject and then do it in such a long series?
It’s a really weird answer: They asked me. I didn’t have any inclination on my own about making a movie about O.J. or making a movie about anything else in that regard. They asked. I thought about what that story is to me and how big that is an American story about race, about class, about gender, about the media, about celebrity in America, and that’s a story I wanted to tell.
What are some lessons that you took away from this as a filmmaker?
If you try to make a film about something, no matter how long, people will engage, and that’s a nice thing.
Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro)
It’s brilliant how you use his story to speak about history.
Baldwin’s saying history is the present. It’s not about going back. It’s about knowing where you come from, so that you can be more efficient today. You can also understand the confusion right now. It’s really tough for young people, in particular, to see through the haze of this confusion. Words don’t mean the same thing anymore. Baldwin words are so strong, so analytic, so poetic, so human that they can help you understand what’s going on.
When I saw the movie, the election hadn’t taken place ye.
It’s exactly, the movie is right in the right time. I do hope that it will help people. By the way, White and Black understand where they are today, and why it is important to take one step back and to think before we act.
Do you have plans for your next movie yet?
My next movie’s already finished, so I’m taking some time off for the next two, three months. The next movie is The Young Karl Marx.
Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with the project.
Well, it’s been a 10 year long process, and when Raoul got the rights to the Baldwin’s story, or access to Baldwin’s work, he asked if I could be part of his team. We have another producer who works with us, Amy, and it’s been a long haul, but that’s how I got involved.
Tell me about working with the Baldwin estate.
We worked with the Baldwin Estate, specifically Gloria Karefa-Smart, who is the executor of the estate, and she is the one who actually gave the rights to Raoul. They’ve been very supportive from the get-go, and without their approval, and their love, and constant backing, this film would’ve been impossible to make.
Tell us about your show.
Our web series, Surviving, is nominated for Best Breakthrough Short Form Series. I wrote it and directed it. This is the executive producer, Dewayne Turrentine, and we are thrilled to be here. Our show’s about two sister who are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, and trying to find their scientist father who has been kidnapped by the government. Their trying to stay away from the infection, and also the government. That’s why we’re here. Two sisters, two black sisters, kicking ass in the apocalypse.
What inspired you to create the show?
I love the Sci-Fi genre, and I think that women of color are completely underappreciated, and under represented in the Sci-Fi genre. I wanted to see two brown sisters kicking ass and taking names in the zombie apocalypse. I wrote it and directed it, and being a woman of color myself, I think it’s important for us to create opportunities for each other. We’re thrilled to be here.
Keith Maitland (Tower)
Obviously it’s a real event that happened, in Austin. What made you decide you wanted to make a movie about this horrific event?
Growing up in Texas, the tower shooting is a story that I’d heard bits and pieces of, but I had never had an opportunity to engage with the real history. It’s not something that’s taught in schools, and even at the University of Texas, where I went to school, it isn’t a piece of history that people want to engage with, and want to talk about. I’d always been curious about it for 30 plus years.
Finally, 10 years ago, I decided if somebody doesn’t make a film about it for the 50th anniversary, I will, so four years ago we started working on it. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to connect with the real people who lived through this, who survived the tower shooting. To honor the people we lost that day, and to engage in a conversation that I think we all need to have about gun violence, about public shootings, and about overcoming trauma.
You heard about what happened on OSU today, right?
Yeah. It’s horrible that we live in a culture, and a society where, every morning you wake up and if you look to Twitter, you look to the news, there’s another event that just has us shaking our heads. There’s nothing to contextualize it, and there’s nothing that helps us understand. What do we do with this information, and how do we move forward as a culture, and as a society, to end this? Our film doesn’t have the answers to those questions, but I hope what it does is, it is allows people to engage in the conversation in a deep and meaningful way. Maybe smarter people than me will figure out policies, will figure out shifts, that will move us forward as a society. I think we need that. That was the first. That was the first, and yet, they’re still going on. Like you said, nobody has the answers. Nobody has the answers, and when it happened, nobody understood what was happening. I think the biggest difference is that right now, in a big crowded public space like this, if we heard one loud noise we’d all know immediately what it probably meant, and we’d all take care of each other and ourselves. Back then, nobody knew what it meant. There was a real opportunity then, to try and get ahead of this phenomenon. Somewhere along the way, our culture shifted, things changed, and we’re still confronted with it. We need to make a shift.
Who are you looking forward to meeting tonight?
I’m just thrilled to be here with my team of producers. My wife, Sarah Wilson, who’s my cinematographer. My producers, Megan Gilbride, and Susan Thomson, and Amy Rapp. We’re just thrilled to be here, and to celebrate the work that our entire team did to get us here, and to hobnob with some celebrity filmmaker types, and other documentary filmmaker types. We all worked so hard, all year long. Every once and awhile we get to get dressed up and drink someone else’s booze. Our team motto tonight is, “Win, lose, booze.”
The documentaries are incredible. They really are some good documentaries. I saw Weiner the other night.
You know, Weiner’s so great. I had a chance to get to know the two great filmmakers behind that, Elyse and Josh. You couldn’t find more down to Earth, bright, open minded, people. To think about the hours, and hours that they spent hanging out with that unique individual, and putting together that film. It’s so entertaining, but it shines a light on a certain type of personality that, I don’t think, any of us completely understands.
The evening was presented by deep euphoria Calvin Klein, Fiji Water & Landmark Vineyards.