Several Columbia Filmmakers Featured on the Criterion Channel
BY Angeline Dimambro, November 24, 2021
Several Columbia filmmakers are featured as part of the Criterion Channel’s current 2021 lineup. They are: Professor Tom Kalin, Professor Bette Gordon, alumnus Sudarshan Suresh ’19, alumna Mariana Saffon ’19, and alumnus George Sikharulidze ’17. Saffon’s Entre tú y Milagros is the newest addition to the streaming platform, which premiered on the channel earlier this month.
Entre tú y Milagros is a short film directed by Saffon, written by Saffon and alumna Nathalie Álvarez Mesén '19, produced by Saffon and student Jorge Granados Ross, associate produced by alumnus Saim Sadiq '19 and edited by alumnus Andrew Stephen Lee '18. Winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, Entre tú y Milagros follows Milagros, a 15-year-old whose world still revolves around her mother's affection. An unexpected encounter with death will make her question their relationship, her privilege and her own existence. The film also took home the Best Narrative Short Film Award at the Oscar-qualifying 28th Hamptons International Film Festival, and Saffon was awarded the Adrienne Shelly Award for Best Female Director in May 2021 at the 33rd Annual Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF).
Criterion’s Beatrice Loayza, who called the film a “coming-of-age tale that doubles as a meditation on the ideals that define motherhood,” sat down for an interview with Saffon to celebrate the film’s premiere on the Criterion Channel. When Loayza asked Saffon about the personal dimension of the film, Saffron shared the following: “Everything I do is personal. A lot of the questions I raise in the film are questions I’ve asked myself about my relationship to my mother. When I turned thirty, I had the shocking realization that when my mother turned thirty she was divorced and I was already two years old. I suddenly understood what it must’ve felt like for her as a woman of that age, full of certain needs and desires, to be saddled with such responsibilities. I wanted to go back to that period of her life and reevaluate what she was going through without judgment, while also questioning the contradictions of motherhood—the fact that society expects mothers to be perfect all the time and the judgment they face when they don’t conform to those expectations.” Read the complete interview with Saffon here.
Mariana Saffon is a Colombian Writer/Director. She has directed short films and commercials in Morocco, Mexico, Colombia, and the US. Her work has screened in festivals around the world. She is a Columbia University MFA graduate, and winner of the Milos Forman Directing Fellowship. Her latest short film, Entre tú y Milagros, won the Orizzonti Short Film competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in 2020. The short script won the Colombian Film Fund for short film production and the Indian Paintbrush Production Fund in 2019. She is currently writing her first feature, La Botero, which will be shot in Medellín, Colombia.
The following films by Columbia filmmakers are also featured as part of the Criterion Channel’s current lineup:
Directed by: Professor Tom Kalin
The notorious case of Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb—two young, gay University of Chicago students whose 1924 thrill-killing of fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks captured headlines as the “crime of the century”—is daringly reimagined in Kalin’s subversive New Queer Cinema touchstone. Smart, coolly stylized, and emotionally jarring, Swoon employs haunting black-and-white visuals and experimental narrative techniques to explore the social, judicial, and psychological forces that acted upon these two lives.
Tom Kalin’s critically acclaimed work traverses diverse forms and genres including narrative features, mixed media installations and short experimental films. His first feature, Swoon, was awarded the Caligari Prize in Berlin and named one of the top 100 American Independent films by the British Film Institute. Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, premiered in Cannes, opened Zurich and screened at Sundance, London, and Tribeca among many others. Nominated for a Spirit Award, it was named one of the top ten films of 2008 in Artforum and the LA Times. As a producer Kalin's films include I Shot Andy Warhol and Go Fish. He was a writer of artist Cindy Sherman’s feature film Office Killer. He has twice been included in the Whitney Biennial. A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, Kalin’s work is in the collection of the Centre George Pompidou, The Whitney Museum and MoMA.
Directed by: Professor Bette Gordon
The provocative, sexually charged tale of a woman’s journey of self-discovery, Gordon’s independent landmark offers a bold challenge to conventional notions of feminism and pornography. Emerging out of New York City’s 1980s artistic underground, Variety follows Christine (Sandy McLeod), a bright and unassuming young woman who takes a job selling tickets at a porno theater near Times Square. Instead of distancing herself from the dark and erotic nature of her new milieu, Christine soon develops an obsession that begins to consume her life. Featuring contributions from a variety of counterculture luminaries—including cult novelist Kathy Acker, who cowrote the script, musician John Lurie, and photographer Nan Goldin—Variety remains revolutionary in its fearless exploration of erotic fantasy from a woman’s point of view. Watch the Criterion Channel’s interview with Gordon about her film here.
A pioneer in American Independent Cinema, Bette Gordon is known for her bold explorations of themes related to sexuality, violence, and power. Her film Variety premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was referred to as a "Feminist Vertigo—a daring departure into the dark, obsessional world of female fantasy." Her subsequent films have screened theatrically in the US and abroad, as well as in all the major film festivals, including Berlin, Toronto, Locarno, Tribeca, London, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, and Warsaw. Her work is also featured in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, The Centre Georges Pompidou, MoMA, and Anthology Film Archives. Gordon's most recent film, The Drowning, a psychological thriller based on the novel Border Crossing by Booker Prize winning British author Pat Barker, stars Josh Charles, Julia Stiles, and Avan Jogia. Her early short films, most notably Empty Suitcases, won numerous awards and festival acclaim worldwide, including screenings at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Biennial, as well as prizes such as The Chicago International Film Festival and Atlanta Festival of Film and Video. Gordon has been the subject of recent retrospectives, including in Sao Paulo at the Int'l Film Festival, at The Barbican Art Center in London, in New York at the IFC Cinema and at Anthology Film Archives, and in Minneapolis at The Walker Arts Center. Gordon has a BA, MA, and MFA from The University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Directed by Sudarshan Suresh
The use of a seamlessly choreographed single-take lends palpable tension to this study of an afternoon in a park outside Mumbai, India, where a couple’s Valentine’s Day tryst takes a dark turn when a group of local vigilantes intervene. The film, which was awarded the Katharina Otto-Bernstein Production Grant, earned Suresh the Best Film Award at the 2019 Columbia University Film Festival.
Sudarshan Suresh is an Indian screenwriter and director from Kolkata. His previous films, Absent, Memories of the Sea, and The Rabbit, have screened and won awards at numerous international film festivals, including Aspen, Palm Springs, Atlanta, and New Orleans. He was the recipient of the Directors Guild of America Student Filmmaker Award and was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's '25 New Faces of Independent Film' in 2019.
Directed by George Sikharulidze
In 2016, in the small Georgian town of Gori—the birthplace of Joseph Stalin—the Soviet leader’s ardent admirers gather to commemorate the sixty-third anniversary of his death. What follows is part political satire and part surrealist ghost story, as an unexpected guest makes an appearance and the somber ceremony changes its tune. The film premiered on the Criterion Channel as part of the platform’s Short + Feature program alongside Miloš Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball. In his 2019 interview with Criterion’s Penelope Bartlett, Sikharulidze talked about what if felt like to return to Georgia to make the film: “Even though I have lived in the States for a number of years now, when I set out to write something, it is inevitably a story set in Georgia. Having distance from the place where you grew up helps you see it differently and that greatly shaped my perspective on my home. Moving and starting a life from scratch completely uprooted me and my sense of identity, my sense of belonging, and I think that’s very useful. I like being on the edge, in the unknown—it’s an active internal process, trying to figure out what it is you are. I like this messiness, and I find comfort in it.” Read the complete interview here.
George Sikharulidze was born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. At eighteen, he moved to the United States to pursue his studies in New York. He received a BS in Media Studies from New York University and an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University. His short films set in Georgia include The Fish that Drowned (2014), which premiered at the Clermont Ferrand Film Festival, Red Apples (2016), and A New Year (2018), which were both selected in the official competition at the Toronto International Film Festival and other festivals, winning multiple awards. His latest short, Fatherland, premiered in the official competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019. His first feature project, Panopticon, explores adolescent sexuality and Christian fundamentalism in post-Soviet Georgia. The project was selected at the Cinéfondation Residence of the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Torino Script Lab 2019. Apart from writing and directing, Sikharulidze is a professor of filmmaking at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University as well as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University.
All of the films listed above are available to stream now on the Criterion Channel.