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Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Blog Home

Happy New Year TWIFF Community! We moved to a new blog address. Check it out:

From now on, you can find our latest posts on the blog address above. So go ahead and bookmark our new blog address, and while you're there, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. You will receive the latest TWIFF news and updates right in your inbox.

Thank you for being part of our community!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Full Interview with Filmmaker Matt Dworzanczyk

The shortened version of the following interview first appeared in the TWIFF 2015 Festival Magazine. As promised, here is the full interview for everyone to enjoy!

“Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love” takes audiences into the annual secretive Love Market held far up in Vietnam’s remote mountains. It delves beyond the myths and into the reality. It is one of this year’s Best Documentary Feature winners. Filmmaker Matt Dworzanczyk tells us more.

TWIFF: How did you hear about the Love Market and what prompted you to make a documentary on it?

Matt Dworzanczyk: The myth of the Love Market is something that came up few times over my many years in Vietnam. Most recently, it was an older man at a small tea stall in Bat Trang village, near Hanoi, who among other colorful stories of his life, told me of this wild love market in the far north.

I knew of the love market in Sapa before - a silly tourist gimmick in another region of Vietnam - which had nothing to do with love nor was it even really a market. But there was all that mystery around the Khau Vai Love Market, it was so remote - it was said to be the real deal!

I’m a narrative director, docs are new to me. But after the success of “DPRK: The Land of Whispers,” my North Korea doc, and with so many colorful tales around the Love Market, I figured - let’s do it!

TWIFF: Do people find love at the Love Market or is it more like the legend where ex-lovers meet in secret?

MD: The Vietnamese government, the tourism industry and the locals themselves will each give you a different answer (or be confused by the question!). The film shines some light on what the event is and what it probably is not. And as a filmmaker, I try to go deeper to show more authentic beauty (and hardships) of local lives and not just romanticized legends.

TWIFF: What was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

MD: Translations! There are 52 ethnic minorities in Vietnam (most in the regions we filmed in), each speaking their own languages. Not only that, but dialects of even the same language differ greatly between regions! So finding a Hmong translator in the city was no guarantee at all that we’d communicate with the locals. Many languages are spoken and not written, many people are illiterate, and aside from the language itself - there is a lot of distrust between the minorities and the Kinh (lowland) Vietnamese. Then on top of it all, there’s me - a rare foreigner, with weird hair, asking people personal questions on camera. This was all a massive challenge!

Through some friends, I met this young Hmong girl - the girl grew up on the streets selling souvenirs to tourists, she didn’t go to school yet taught herself English. She’s not a professional translator and cannot write, but everything in our film is typical daily life to her. Despite the potential repercussions she faced by helping me, it was invaluable to have her join my crew.

I made a number of trips to the mountains, each time picking up an extra piece of the story, each time gaining more trust from the locals until we all felt comfortable with each other. With time, the story and the film finally did come together and the people who had initially been apprehensive of me and the camera became my good friends.

TWIFF: What was it like to add animation to your film?

MD: One of the most artistic elements of the film are the animations!

After months of wasted efforts with unprofessional VFX team, I was forced to fire them. I had no budget, few options and no knowledge of that aspect of post production. So I started thinking back on animation techniques over the years and got all the way to the 1920s and the “Adventures of Prince Achmed,” considered the first animation film ever made. The time period fit perfectly and the look was very much in my style!

It was a tireless process of cutting paper pieces and meticulously moving dozens of elements frame by frame.

Three months of 16-hour workdays later, I had finished six minutes of animation! And it looks fantastic! It was the most creative work I’ve done in a while and I am very proud of it!

By the way, there is are really cool “Behind the Scenes” article at discussing in more detail this whole process!

TWIFF: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

MD: After six years in my dear adopted hometown Hanoi, earlier this year I sold all my belongings, got on my motorbike and along with my dog Travi, set off towards the horizon.

I’ve so far gone some 15,000 km, crossed six countries, and a few days ago, completed my most epic and personal new screenplay, which has been in the works for a few years. It’s a story of an adult man journeying a world where children never grow up called “Cripple Crows.”

I miss the world of narrative film. There’s certainly no lack of ideas in my head and everyday lately is an adventure - let’s see where the road takes me!

Congratulations again to Matt Dworzanczyk. “Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love” had its World Premiere on Sunday, September 27 at 10:40 am at the New People Cinema. You can learn more about this film at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You Deserve a Thank You!

This past weekend was our 5th year celebration and it was awesome! Thank you to everyone who came out to support us and our wonderful filmmakers. Thank you to our volunteers, sponsors, partners, guests, and award presenters. We couldn't have done it without you.

A massive thank you goes out to all of our filmmakers this year. We were blown away by the high caliber of your films. We had so many winners and official selections because your films reflect the goals and mission of TWIFF. We do what we do because we believe in you! We hope all the best for your next projects.

Stay connected with us here and on our Facebook page as we will share pictures and recaps of TWIFF 2015.

Filmmakers! Submissions for TWIFF 2016 is now open! Check out our Call For Entries page for more information.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Meet Our TWIFF 2015 Hosts!

TWIFF warmly welcomes this year's Red Carpet Host, Alexandra Heard!

Alexandra Heard is a professional dancer and actress from the Bay Area. Her passion for the arts has allowed her to perform on stage and in front of the camera with many talented music artists and actors alike.

Alexandra's current project is a sequel to an independent horror film "Dead End 2" (produced and directed by Jordan F. Ghanma), in which she plays a detective. It is scheduled to premiere in October 2015, with a DVD release in March 2016.

TWIFF also gladly welcomes this year's Red Carpet Co-host and Screening Host, Jackie Castillejo-Guingona!

Jackie Castillejo-Guingona started her career in acting doing theater in the Philippines and branching out into televesion with roles in weekly dramas and daily soap operas. As a former Philippine national tennis champion, Jackie attended colleges in Florida and Texas on full tennis scholarships, graduating with a BA in Broadcast Journalism.

Jackie conceptualized a weekly sports, travel and adventure television show on the ABS-CBN channel called "Sports Unilimited." Starting off as the Head Writer and Assistant, she eventually became the Director and part-time Co-host of the show for 11 years, until she moved back to the United States to settle down. She is now based in Daly City, California.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

World Premieres at TWIFF 2015

TWIFF 2015 is excited to announce that we have 3 World Premieres in this year's festival! Plus, one California Premiere. Check them out below and buy your tickets now to watch them in the New People Cinema on September 26 and 27.

World Premieres

"Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love"
Winner: Best Documentary Feature
Directed by Matt Dworzanczyk
Screening: September 27, 10:40 am

Winner: Best Narrative Feature
Directed by Chandu Yarram
Screening: September 26, 6:20 pm

"The Faith in Ailao Mountain"
Winner: Best Inspirational Family Journey
Directed by Ci "May May" Zhang
Screening: September 27, 5:40 pm

California Premiere

"The Mayo Conspiracy"
Winner: Best Comedy Feature
Directed by Craig Horwitz and Anthony Vollmer
Screening: September 26, 3:25 pm

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

TWIFF 2015 Winners

Here they are! This year's TWIFF Winners! Among the 23 Officially Selected films for TWIFF 2015, 15 of them won awards in 10 categories. We are very excited and impressed by the caliber of this year's films. Many of them have truly captured what it means to raise awareness for local and global issues, as well as influence positive social change.

Congratulations to all the TWIFF 2015 Winners! Be sure you catch their films in September. Buy your TWIFF tickets now!

Best Social Entrepreneur Short
“Hula is My Language”
Directors: Raymond Martino and Shailynn Shirley
Producer: Liza Krassner
RT: 15 minutes

Best Social Entrepreneur Feature
“Our Food Chain”
Director: James Bruce
RT: 66 minutes

Best Documentary Short
“Plundering Tibet”
Director Michael Buckley
RT: 24 minutes, 20 seconds

Best Documentary Feature (3 winners)
“Great White Lies”
Director: Skyler Thomas
RT: 60 minutes

“Furthest From the Wild”
Director: Alex Tello
RT: 68 minutes

“Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love”
Director: Matt Dworzanczyk
RT: 89 minutes

Best Narrative Short (3 winners)
“Twin Lotus”
Director: Yucheng Zhao
RT: 15 minutes

Director: Lisa Donato
RT: 17 minutes

Director: Brandon M. Freer
RT: 13 minutes, 19 seconds

Best Narrative Feature (2 winners)
Director: Mark Atkins
RT: 89 minutes

Director: Chandu Yarram
RT: 112 minutes

Human Spirit Award
“Decoding Baqtun”
Producer/Director: Elisabeth Thieriot
RT: 90 minutes

Best Inspirational Family Journey
“The Faith in Ailao Mountain”
Director: Ci “May May” Zhang
RT: 55 minutes

Best Comedy Feature
“The Mayo Conspiracy”
Director: Craig Horwitz and Anthony Vollmer
RT: 76 minutes

Best Student Film
“Take a Stand”
Director: Austin Fickman
RT: 5 minutes

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How to Lend Your Voice to an Indie Filmmaker

When director Sarah Berger created "The Way Back to Yarasquin," she didn't just tell the story of Mayra Orellana-Powell, but she gave voice to many small coffee growers in Honduras.

When directors Ralph Vituccio, Paul Goodman, and Tom Clancey created "Shipbreakers," they gave voice to many people who risk their very lives to receive small pay in a very dangerous industry.

These are just two of the independent filmmakers that have been part of the TWIFF community. Every year, we see and hear the stories of people we will never meet because of the indie filmmakers that dared go out into the places of the world most of us will never see in the real life.

These indie filmmakers are not just telling stories, they are giving voice to people and cultures that we help, awareness, or better change.

Sadly, when it comes to their films, indie filmmakers don't have much of a voice either. They are drowned out by Hollywood blockbusters. While entertaining, those movies do not enlighten us about what's really going on in the world and the people who need us to pay attention.

You can lend your voice to indie filmmakers and help them give voice to the world.

TWIFF's Community Partner program will partner you or your company/organization/group with an indie film we are screening for the festival.

Community Partners become the voice of that indie film and its filmmaker by marketing it to their community and selling TWIFF tickets to the Red Carpet and Screening.

We need Community Partners to join us in giving a louder voice to independent filmmakers. Contact us today and sign up to become a Community Partner!