Special Edition # 45

Special Edition # 45 marks my return after a hiatus due to things that I can’t tell you about. Well, I could tell but then I’d have to kill you.Which would be a bit unfair given that there are lots of lovely DVDs due out very soon. So, rather than dwell on an emotional reunion, let’s just get straight on with it shall we?

A Facebook movie? Whatever next? A musical about My Space? An opera about Google? Not to worry. In The Social Network (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) David Fincher has confounded the critics and created a compelling drama. Mark Zuckerberg is a precocious Harvard student who, with the help of his friend Eduardo Saverin, creates ‘thefacebook.com’. As the site explodes in popularity, Zuckerberg and his colleagues begin to taste the life of celebrities with all the money and fame that it brings. But popularity breeds jealousy and Zuckerberg finds himself in the middle of numerous lawsuits. But has he brought the problems on himself? Aaron Sorkin manages to keep the technogeek banter to a minimum and tell a tale of how pride always comes before a fall. Fincher’s direction is compelling utilising a complex structure whilst Jesse Eisenberg is excellent in the lead role alongside the likes of Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Like all good filmmaking, this takes inspiration from the unlikeliest of places and shows that whilst technology moves on, the human capacity for hubris remains the same. This is a two edition with commentaries and featurettes. 

 

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Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival Celebrates 36 Years of Weird

Although the final schedule for 2011's Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival has not yet been announced, festival director Garen Daly has already noticed a jump in ticket sales. The festival, which began at the Orson Welles Cinemas, began as a 24 hour science fiction retrospective in 1976 and now stretches ten days, taking place at the Somerville Theater.

Like many other festivals, the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival uses OpenFilm to collect submissions. The deadline this year is January 31st, but Assistant Curator Liz Pratt maintains that she and Daly will have plenty of time to finalize the selections. “We want to make sure we can receive as many submissions as possible,” she explained, “because this festival is a great jumping-off point for young directors and lower-budget films. And since we have so many hours to fill with the 'Thon, we can always find room to fit in something great that we've found at the last minute.”

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PUMA.Creative Catalyst Awards - Accepting Proposals

PUMA.Creative Catalyst Awards

Dear Friends, 

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new international documentary development fund. 

The PUMA.Creative Catalyst Awards are here to support the development of your documentary film idea and give you resources to shoot and edit your trailer. The award is open from now until March 2nd 2011.

With four open calls each year, there are 40 awards available of up to 5,000 Euros each. Awards are open to emerging and established filmmakers working anywhere in the world. 

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Seize the Future – Master Workshop on Funding, Marketing and Distribution of Independent Films

After the sold-out premier workshop in London, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Scottish Documentary Institute are bringing Seize the Future to Edinburgh.

Sheffield Doc/Fest is now inviting applications for this special 2 -day Master Workshop on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th March 2011.

This course is designed for independent filmmakers and artists determined to get their work seen widely, create social impact, and earn a living in the digital age. 

Leading distribution strategist and President of Paradigm Consulting Peter Broderick, and Sandi DuBowski of Trembling Before G-d, A Jihad for Love, and Budrus and Outreach Director for The Good Pitch, will co-present this workshop.

The workshop will feature multi-media presentations, breakout groups, and interactive sessions. There will be networking opportunities during coffee breaks, lunch, and throughout the workshop. Everyone will have a chance to connect and lay the groundwork for future collaborations.

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As web moves to TV, child protection is key, but ISP-level filtering won't work

So, Digital and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has backed MP Clare Perry's calls to create a firewall of Britain to support the seemingly reasonable aim of protecting children from pornography (and potentially keeping adults from materials classified under the Obscene Publications Act). With the web now moving further towards the TV, the suggestion is not much of a surprise.

While it's tempting to dismiss it as an attempt for the government to filter the web so it can block a future Wikileaks - especially after Vaizey's Network Neutrality misfire - the discussion of how to deal with the difference between TV, where you can't say certain words before 9pm, and the web, which knows no limits, needs to take place. And as The Register - telling people to calm down - points out, Vaizey has suggested he doesn't want to legislate but wants to act as broker between industry and ISPs.

Indeed Vaizey was cautious when the issue was first raised by Conservative MP Claire Perry in the Commons on November 23rd, afraid of what he called a 'Twitter Storm', but in yesterday's Sunday Times he said he wanted to see the ISP industry introduce measures soon. To recap what Perry was calling for:

"I am asking for a change in regulation that would require all UK-based internet service providers to restrict universal access to pornographic material by implementing a simple opt-in system based on age verification."

Yet - as anyone who understands the web's structure will know - there is no 'simple opt-in system'. So asides from the censorship problems of blocking entire websites - spelt out well by the Guardian today, which points out that sites like Flickr, YouTube, Blogger and Tumblr all have adult channels - is the practical fact that the kind of filtering Perry and Vaizey are calling for just has never been proven to work - indeed research below suggests it could slow down connections by up to 86% while wrongly blocking millions of child-safe websites, and letting millions more child-unsafe websites flood thru.

There are three ways to crudely filter content by age:

  • on websites themselves, putting responsibility on publishers; 
  • in browsers, putting responsibility on parents and those who control the web connection; 
  • and at ISP level, which requires the ISPs to track, review and filter all of their traffic thru some automated process.

Vaizey pointed out to Perry in the commons debate that a UK adult website was recently prosecuted for not providing sufficient adult content warnings on their front page (which in turn alerts browser blockers like CyberNanny). Perry responded that this is no help with foreign websites and suggested that most parents are either too busy to know how to install a filter in the browser - "through technological ignorance, time pressure or inertia or for myriad other reasons, this filtering solution is not working" - so the responsibility should be with the ISP.

To avoid parents having to take responsibility for what their children has access to (unlike alcohol, cigarettes, DVDs or TV in the home) Perry says the ISP should play a kind of gatekeeper nanny, filtering all content unless someone tells their ISP they are an adult, while presumably auto-filtering anything else that looks like it might be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. And here is where many online have started to panic - it would surely just be a matter of time before other kinds of content got added - first suicide forums, racist hate sites, terrorism related content, then alleged copyright misuse perhaps. At such a point, the Internet would be a different place, subject to the whims of the government of the day. If a filter was in place it would be a challenge for MPs to avoid using it as a political tool, and it's hard to imagine in the long term during, say, student demonstrations them not blocking sites for protesters who 'may be planning violence', or sites which publish damaging leaked confidential documents.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves - right now, all that's happening is a meeting of ISPs and concerned parties, around a table, some time next month. And whatever the outcome of that, the simple issue is that ISP-level auto filtering doesn't work. As well as slowing down web connections considerably, ISP-level filters fail to block what they’re supposed to, and succeed in blocking what shouldn’t be.

It's a no brainer - how could can anyone other than a well-informed human distinguish between, for instance, scenes from Lars von Trier's Antichrist or Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ and material currently banned under the Obscene Publications Act?

In one of the main studies into the area, ahead of trying to implement a similar Australia-wide firewall, Australia's OFCOM, the ACMA, did research into the accuracy and impact of ISP-level filtering, called “Closed Environment Testing of ISP-Level Internet Content Filtering” which showed five big problems with ISP filtering:

  1. All filters tested had problems with under-blocking, allowing access to between 2% and 13% of material that they should have blocked;
  2. All filters tested had serious problems with over-blocking, wrongly blocking access to between 1.3% and 7.8% of the websites tested;
  3. One filter caused a 22% drop in speed even when it was not performing filtering;
  4. Only one of the six filters had an acceptable level of performance (a drop of 2% in a laboratory trial), the others causing drops in speed of between 21% and 86%;
  5. The most accurate filters were often the slowest.

If you were one of the 3 - 18 million inaccurately blocked websites because of ISP filtering (based on 231m websites world), who would you sue for loss of business? The government? The ISP? Meanwhile websites that auto-publish content, like Netribution, as well as web forums, would be at risk of being blocked automatically from the actions of one user - only the web giants who could afford constant 24-7 moderation would be able to survive.

The fact that children and teenageers have access online to images and video beyond my wildest imagination when I was that age has long troubled me, and a serious debate between ISPs, web and browser companies, content producers and end users is a good thing - especially as the web moves to the TV. It also troubled me when working in a primary school last year which had a strict web firewall,that it offered unlimited access to YouTube - which is filled with adult content - but not the website we'd built for the school, or the Vimeo videos embedded in those pages (until we spoke to a filtering help desk for 30 minutes).

So it's an important issue, but what must be avoided - after the chaos of the Digital Economy Act - is for an MP with rudimentary technical understanding to push thru an invented 'solution' to a genuine problem that bears so little relationship with reality they end up creating a heap of new problems - and alienating the people whose support would be needed for a solution to work.

Because the only solution that I can imagine working is the crowd-model, the - gulp - Big Society answer. A huge federated opt-in crowd-built database run by parents, teachers and concerned people ticking off websites and video safe for different ages, based on common guidelines. And then browser and operating system makers could hardwire a very simple way for parents to turn ON a filter for their children not showing anything that isn't on the ever increasing list for that age group. Crude, but more dependable than any of the other controls - and at the same time not absolving the parent from their responsibility over what their child can do at home.

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October Country: a Masterclass with Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher

Friday 10 December 2010
14:00 - 17:30

Venue: Hunter Lecture Theatre (O17) - eca - 74 Lauriston Place - EH3 9DF

Don't miss our final masterclass in 2010 including the Scottish premiere of the award winning October Country by Mike Palmieri & Donal Mosher.

 We are delighted to welcome Mike and Donal to winterly Edinburgh. We saw this film at Sheffield last year and it blew us away!

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HUSH YOUR MOUTH Double Win

UK urban drama HUSH YOUR MOUTH was awarded top prizes at Festival Bragacine in Portugal. At the Augusta Awards 2010, HUSH YOUR MOUTH was awaded the Grand prize for BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM and director TOM TYRWHITT won the award for BEST DIRECTOR.

This gritty micro-budget drama featuring a largely young cast of talented new-comers has been described by critics as "a seething, stylish and raw piece of cinema".

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Discovering Latin America Film Festival will shine bright in London this month

From the 18th to the 28th of November the Discovering Latin America Film Festival (DLAFF) will reach its 9th edition exhibiting a compilation of the best recent film productions from Latin America. Award-winning films such as Argentine feature The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) and Costa Rican Cold water of the Sea (2010) will be exhibited in participating venues throughout Central London such as Odeon Covent Garden, Odeon Panton Street and Tate Modern.

The Discovering Latin America Film Festival (DLAFF) is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom and for the ninth year promises to present the city of London with a wide variety of brilliant feature films and shorts, as well as exciting documentaries spanning the whole political spectrum, thrilling retrospectives, thought-provoking master-classes, enthralling discussions with film directors and many other events.

A chance to meet the ‘Argentine Woody Allen’ in person

One of this year’s star guests will be renowned Argentine director Daniel Burman, whose introspective style has often been compared to that of Woody Allen. Brother and Sister (2010), the most recent of Daniel’s films, will be featured in the fourth of the festival’s gala nights on Tuesday 23rd of November. Daniel will be present at the screenings to discuss his work and show his support for the Discovering Latin America Film Festival’s (DLAFF) cause.

Revenue from ticket sales will help a community project in San Salvador

Part proceeds from the 9th DLAFF ticket sales this year will benefit the Salvadorian Children’s Earthquake Trust (Salcet), a UK registered charity established in 2005 in response to the emergency and long term rehabilitation needs of children affected by earthquakes and other natural disasters in El Salvador and other vulnerable countries. The grant awarded to Salcet by Discovering Latin America (DLA) will be used to fund the construction of a sewage and drainage system for the San Carlos municipality, located in the northern outskirts of San Salvador.

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