By Kristin Reiber Harris
Flower Punk, Alison Klayman’s film recently released on The New Yorker documentary site, delights visually and aesthetically with the bonus of illuminating Japanese cultural traditions regarding the natural world. Alison Klayman is a veteran director who has created a body of work frequently focusing on artists. Her debut feature, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry premiered at Sundance in 2012. There it was awarded a US Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance and was later shortlisted for an Academy Award.
Klayman recently had a conversation with NYWIFT board member Joyce Pierpoline about Flower Punk and her career. Alison clearly enjoyed directing her film project documenting the life and work of Japanese botanical artist Azuma Makoto. The film follows Azuma in his Tokyo studio and beyond. Originally from a small town in Japan, he came to Tokyo with a high school buddy to play in a punk band. His buddy, photographer Shiinoki Shunsuketo, is now his partner in their botanical art business JARDIN des FLEURS. Shiinoki documents Azuma’s work in still, timelapse, and video. Some of their more unusual projects include botanical sculpture sent into space and under the ocean. There appear to be no bounds to the team’s creative energy and desire to experiment.
As Azuma weaves his magic arranging flowers, he talks about his passion for flowers and his philosophy. Cut flowers have a 10 day life span. This makes him feel like he is chasing the game of life. He even finds beauty in the dying out of those flowers. A deeply spiritual man, Azuma was very moved by the devastation of the tsunami in Fukushima. He delivered floral arrangements to local schools and planted sunflowers in the radioactive areas of the disaster. Azuma marveled at nature’s ability to regenerate in those regions contaminated by radioactivity. He clearly has a deep connection to the natural world and great reverence for life; plants in particular. Alison joined Azuma in his home village with his mother and other family members. He said his mother taught him to love flowers, saying they were God’s work and should be picked and displayed.
Lush imagery and a fascinating, articulate artist make this 30-minute documentary a must see film for anyone interested in how human’s actively connect to the natural world and flowers as a form of creative expression.
Watch the full NYWIFT conversation with filmmaker Alison Klayman here:
In director Tracy Droz Tragos feature documentary Plan C, a hidden grassroots organization doggedly fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. With abortion restrictions and bans going into effect, Francine Coeytaux and her team of providers established Plan C — a grassroots organization dedicated to expanding access to medication abortion. NYWIFT member Jess Jacobs, the film’s executive producer, has a career-long history of activism – including work with the Plan C organization before the movie was even made! She spoke to us about Plan C’s Sundance premiere, her passion for reproductive justice, and the power of community.READ MORE
Let’s welcome new member Arielle Duran to NYWIFT! Having been raised in Ridgewood, Queens, Arielle Duran is a proud New Yorker and versatile storyteller of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. Since graduating from the University of South Florida's Zimmerman School, where she studied broadcasting and production, Arielle’s theatrical talents have been showcased in notable television shows such as The Calling and American Rust, among other projects. In addition to acting, Arielle is currently pursuing screenwriting as a graduate student at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Arielle spoke to us about her New York roots, storytelling, and honing her craft.READ MORE
Since premiering and winning the Jury Prize in the 2022 Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival (the first to do so from the Indian subcontinent), Joyland has moved audiences worldwide with its human portrayal of the limits of love in the face of patriarchy. The film follows the youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family as he takes a job as a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque, and quickly becomes infatuated with the strong-willed trans woman who runs the show. The film is both a loving portrait of the people of Lahore, Pakistan, and a painful depiction of how rigid traditional gender roles and repressed sexuality can have a ripple effect that harms the whole community. NYWIFT member Katharina Otto-Bernstein, who produced Joyland, spoke to us about discovering new artists through mentorship, political pushback on Joyland, and how Malala Yousafzai helped the film finally reach Pakistani audiences.READ MORE
In the 2023 Sundance Film Festival short film Take Me Home, a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged sister must learn to communicate in order to move forward after their mother’s death. It captures of a moment of terror experienced by so many siblings of those with disabilities, when they are suddenly responsible for making a plan for a loved one who cannot live on their own, potentially upending both their lives as they also work through their grief. For writer and director NYWIFT member Liz Sargent, the story hits close to home. And she cast her own mother and younger sister to play versions of themselves. Sargent spoke to us about finding support in her identity as a sibling guardian, beautiful moments working on set with her family, and her joyous Sundance experience.READ MORE