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A-8 The Park Record ‘Anote’s Ark’ immerses audience in climate crisis Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues, January 20-23, 2018 COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE Elle Fanning and Peter Dinklage appear in “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Reed Morano, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE As a remote island nation faces the possibility of sinking into the sea, its president tries to make the world aware of his people’s plight. The Sundance World Documentary Competition film “Anote’s Ark” tells their story. Cinematography brings life to an urgent message NAN CHALAT NOAKER Park Record contributing writer If President Anote Tong looks familiar, it is because he has spent the last five years tirelessly trying to draw the world’s attention to his country’s desperate plight. He traveled to the Vatican to plead with Pope Francis. He addressed the United Nations and appeared alongside former U.S. President Barack Obama at the Paris Climate Accord sessions. He flew over the North Pole to witness the melting glaciers, and waded through countless media interviews trying to convey the message that, due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, his country is about to sink into the sea. If that happens, he warns, other lands will follow. According to Tong, The Republic of Kiribati is the canary in the coal mine. In 2012, Matthieu Rytz joined Tong’s Quixotic quest to raise awareness of Kiribati’s precarious future. Rytz, an accomplished photographer based in Montreal, specializes in covering the effects of climate change on remote communities. Together, he and Tong deliver a powerful message. The film’s opening scenes offer a soaring aerial perspective of a verdant island surrounded by a pristine, aquamarine sea as President Tong explains, “We thought that, because we were so isolated, we were immune from the tribulations of this world. But here we are, subjected to the global phenomenon of climate change.” From the air, Rytz’s camera descends to sea level where fishermen pull in their nets, children play in the water and families gather in simple thatched roof dwellings. If not for the rising sea, it would be paradise, but Tong’s warnings and Rytz’s deft camera work foretell the coming storms and floods. In addition to Tong’s international travels – including a scientific expedition to the Arctic Circle – Rytz follows a local family as they struggle to maintain a livelihood on their shrinking island. First the father, then the mother, are forced to find work elsewhere, a fate shared by many of their countrymen. As Tong’s term as president comes to an end, he vows to continue his efforts to save his nation. Although his hopes to reverse climate change have dimmed, he explores the possibility of building a floating island, or as a last-ditch option, buying land on a nearby island in Fiji. Tong’s eloquence, paired with Rytz’s stunning photography, combine to form a compelling Sundance-worthy documentary. The film is screening as part of the festival’s New Climate section and will hopefully further amplify Tong’s message that climate change is not a political issue but a global humanitarian crisis. “ANOTE’S ARK,” an entry in the Sundance Film Festival World Documentary Competition, is set to screen at the following locations and times: Friday, Jan. 19, 8:30 p.m. Egyptian Theatre Saturday, Jan. 20, 6:45 p.m. Redstone 1 Tuesday, Jan. 23, 6 p.m. Broadway 6 Salt Lake City Wednesday, Jan. 24, 3 p.m. Sundance Resort Thursday, Jan. 25, 3 p.m. Temple Theatre Friday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m. Temple Theatre Alone after an apocalypse Companionship examined in‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ JAMES HOYT The Park Record Reed Morano wants to break the post-apocalyptic movie mold. “I Think We’re Alone Now” is a feature film directed and shot by Morano centering on Del (Peter Dinklage), the last man on Earth. The thing is: He prefers it that way. “Del is actually at peace and is happy. He’s content with it. ... He’s actually OK without any people around,” Morano said. Del lives a life of diligently scavenging supplies and burying bodies until Grace (Elle Fanning), a young, energetic woman, appears with what the film’s blurb calls the “threat of companionship.” “She couldn’t be more opposite from him,” Morano said. “To see the way these two people play against each other makes for, I think, a bunch of interesting scenarios.” The director says the film explores themes like human con- nection and whether or not it’s really possible to live without companionship. Unlike in many post-apocalyptic works, Morano said, it wasn’t important to explain what happened for this cataclysm to take place, or even to “save” what’s left of the world. “If there really was the end of the world and there was no one left, you wouldn’t be sitting there trying to figure out why, you’d be sitting there trying to figure out how to survive emotionally,” Morano said. “What does that do to your mental state and psychology?” Morano said everything about the production, from its small crew to the methods she used to set the tone, reflected the film’s themes and aesthetic. “It does make you feel like you’re more alone in the world when you watch the film,” Morano said. “I’m working on a job now where the crew is like four to five times the size of the crew I had for ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ and it’s a completely different feeling. … Much in the way that Del was alone taking care of this town by himself, there were so few of us I think we all felt like we were doing the listening of one man.” Morano said the film took on a purpose for both Dinklage and Fanning as well. “This was a very special film to the three of us,” Morano said. “It really bonded us together, it was a very intimate experience. … When the film was over, it was really, really hard for us. We didn’t want to go to our next jobs.” “I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW,” an entry into the Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition, is set to screen at the following times and locations: Sunday, Jan. 21, 12:15 p.m. Eccles Center Monday, Jan. 22, 9:30 p.m. Redstone 1 Tuesday, Jan. 23, 9:30 p.m. Wagner Wednesday, Jan. 24, 9:30 a.m. The Ray Friday, Jan. 26, 11:45 a.m. The MARC Filmmaker’s promise to his mentor resulted in ‘Quest’ Film depicts story based on real-life events SCOTT IWASAKI The Park Record One of the reasons filmmaker Santiago Rizzo made his Slamdance narrative feature “Quest” was to fulfill a promise to his life-changing mentor and friend, Tim Moellering. Moellering was a humble Berkeley, California middle school teacher and football coach who took Rizzo under his wing and helped him cope with his stepfather’s abuse. “Quest” is based on Rizzo and Moellering’s life together. “Tim and I wrote the script together, and before he died I promised that I would make this movie for him,” Rizzo said during an interview. “I never intended to direct the movie, but I went to L.A. and got nonstop re- jections. So I sold the house that Tim and I bought and directed and made the film myself.” The second reason Rizzo made “Quest,” which will screen Monday, Jan. 22, and Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Treasure Mountain Inn, was to honor Moellering, who lost his life to cancer in 2011. “He was a humble and beautiful man who didn’t judge,” Rizzo said. “He was a tall white man who understood his privilege in society and was humble as a result of it. And hundreds of people loved him.” Moellering’s positive impact on local youth caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who wrote him a letter, Rizzo said. “The city of Berkeley also built a baseball field that cost several million dollars in his honor,” he said. “I mean, he was amazing.” Rizzo was an abused delinquent who acted out his pain with graffiti and other anti-social behavior, he confessed. “I lived this very difficult childhood,” he said. “I grew up with that abuse and it was a tiny sliver of what I dealt with as a child. I was judged at how I reacted to the situation because I wasn’t acting the way society said I should, but then again, my stepfather wasn’t acting the way society wanted him to either.” With the help of Moellering, Rizzo, who lashed out at any opportunity, was able to find peace with himself and the abuse, and “Quest” shows both of their journeys through the process. “I wanted to show the kid’s defiance and pain,” Rizzo said. “I wanted to show the reason why he acts this way is because he’s being abused.” He also wanted to show the challenge Moellering went through for helping Rizzo. “I wanted to address the way the school looked at him for helping a troubled child,” Rizzo said. “It’s hard these days for an adult male to help a boy with need, especially with the accusations of pedophilia in the news today. But I wanted to show his unwavering commitment. He knew he was COURTESY OF CINEMATIC RED Mills, played by Greg Kasyan, is an abused graffit artist in Santiago Rizzo’s “Quest.” L t f B T COURTESY OF CINEMATIC RED Dash Mihok, left, portrays Tim, a compassionate and humble teacher and mentor to the defiant and abused Mills, played by Greg Kasyan in Santiago Rizzo’s “Quest.” The film will screen at Slamdance. doing the right thing and didn’t care what anyone thought because he had integrity.” The purpose of the film is also to share Moellering’s spirit of compassion and empathy, Rizzo said. “We need more of that because there is too much ego and status in the world now,” he said. “Abuse is something beyond ethnicity, race, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds and class, and we need how to figure out how to deal with that in order for us to heal the world.” Rizzo and Moellering began writing the script in 2003 after Rizzo graduated from Stanford. “Tim’s friends suggested he write a story about us,” Rizzo said. “I was pursuing acting as a way to cope with my insecurities, and suggested we write a script and make a movie instead.” Moellering wrote the first draft and Rizzo added the graffiti scenes. “It was more about the kid and not Tim, because he was too humble to make it about himself,” Rizzo said. “After Tim died, I brought on writer Darren Anderson, who graduated from Columbia University, and we rewrote the script to make it more about Tim, because I wanted to make sure it highlighted the compassionate human being Tim was in the face of my defiance.” The film features Greg Kasyan as Mills, who portrays Rizzo’s character, and Dash Mihok as the character Tim. “We casted those two because they both had a lot of humanity,” Rizzo said. “While Greg wasn’t as tough as me as a kid, because he didn’t grow up like I did, his heart does comes out.” Mihok embodied Moellering’s characteristics. “Dash also has a lot of humanity as well and portrayed Tim as the humble, soft-spoken man he was,” Rizzo said. Even the costumes and sets during Moellering’s scenes created a humble environment. “In fact, the clothes we put on Dash were Tim’s clothes,” Rizzo said. “He wore boring clothes, but he was incredibly powerful with humility.” Golden Globe Award nominee Lou Diamond Phillips portrays Gus, the abusive stepfather. “Lou is a beast of an actor, and he looks like my stepfather, Rizzo said. “He played a manipulative monster and it was like he knew who my stepfather was.“ “Quest” has already won a number of awards at the Napa Valley, Mill Valley, Oldenburg and Berkeley Video & Film festivals. “I found that audiences are hungry for authenticity,” Rizzo said. “The audiences who have seen this film has given it standing ovations, because I think they feel it at a heart level.” “QUEST,” an entry into the Slamdance Film Festival, will screen at the following times and locations: Monday, Jan. 22, 6 p.m. Treasure Mountain Inn 255 Main St. Wednesday, Jan. 24, 12:30 p.m. Treasure Mountain Inn 255 Main St. For information visit www.slamdance.com.