Tribeca Film Festival

April 20, 2016 3:26 pm

Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz are changing the game of comedy on a whole new level. Taking the young, white, hipster shows that we all know and love so much, and contributing another with a new shade of hilarious is just what “new-Brooklyn” centric television (or web-vision) needed. In their web series Shugs and Fatswe are given a glimpse into the everyday life of roommates Shugufta (Shugs) and Fatima (Fats) as they propel through their days dipping their hands in the progressive, snake person lifestyle while simultaneously having influence from their traditional upbringing. Though neither women are practicing muslims in real life, the two characters wear hijabs in the show, revolutionizing the way people look at muslim women and the assumption of how they live their lives.

After a glorious win at the Gotham Independent Film Awards this past November, Manzoor and Vaz have overtaken prestigious ground. They recently premiered season 3 of Shugs and Fats last week at part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca N.O.W. You can watch all hilarious episodes at their site here. 

When “Shugs and Fats” was first conceptualized, how did you expect the response to look? 

Nad: I didn’t have any expectations of how it was going to be received. I knew that I loved the characters and the idea, and that was enough to make it and move forward. Of course, I did think that if I think it’s this funny, then other people would also enjoy the content – but never I expected this!

Rad: And that is how it always is no matter what I am working on. The projects I least expect to work out will pop and then on the other hand when I think ‘oh we have a big name collaborator – this will make waves’ and then it never does!

What is most symbolic about this new representation of Muslim women in New York? 

Nad: The fact that it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world! I think that’s one of the reasons we were drawn to creating this. Because of the exiting stereotypes about women – that are mostly still determined by how a woman looks. We wanted to flip that, and show that regardless of appearance women are complicated, and nuanced, AND funny! Also I think the hijabs appearing in Brooklyn is looking at exploring the immigrant experience, and how we try and reconcile our cultures and traditions with the new climate in which we live.

Rad: I agree with Nadia. Obviously! I haven’t seen this type of content anywhere else yet I see women in Hijab all over New York so why aren’t they on screen?

Have you received backlash for this bold yet awesome project? 

Nad: Not really. For the most part people love it. We do have people asking why we [play] the characters in hijabs, and if our intention is to mock – which it is absolutely to NOT Do. But yes, we have definitely been in some intense conversations about the intention around this series, and we think about it all.

Rad: No, I think for the most part we have found an audience that is smart and appreciates the humor…although I don’t doubt that as the show gets more of a viewership we will encounter lots of different points of view that will not necessarily agree with our own – but that’s also partly the point of doing work like this – to allow different opinions to surface.

shugssWhat important message within the slapstick do you want people to truly understand when they watch Shugs and Fats? 

Nad: Simply, that they are 2 women, who are struggling with issues that all woman face. Whether it’s the struggle of being empowered in one’s sexuality, or finding self-acceptance – they are all the same issues that we deal with as humans. In spite of Shugs and Fats’ difference, their friendship is what allows them to grow and get stronger, and that’s a big part of the message. Female unity and friendship.

Rad: That you should never judge a book by its cover. Women, more than men, are subjected to that no matter who you are or what job you do. Hillary Clinton may be our next President, why do we care if she wears make-up or not? Its like when it comes to women we are always doing a one step forward two steps back kind of dance!

After winning the Gotham Independent Film Award, what other goals have you set for Shugs and Fats as it becomes more widely known?

Nad: We just launched season 3 on our YouTube channel, and we screened some episodes at the Tribeca Film festival – which was a total hoot. Currently, we are working on a pilot for the long form TV show. We are going to start pitching very soon, so are excited about that!

Rad: We are working on expanding the scope of our work and the first step is our work on a pilot episode for a TV show length series. I also think a movie – like an action-comedy type thing would be a great idea for these two characters. I would love for Melissa McCarthy to be in it with us!

Who are some other talented female comedians around the world that you think everyone should know about?

Nad: Ilana Glazer and Abby Jacobson are killing it, in terms of self-created female driven comedy. I also love what Samantha Bee is doing, taking the female perspective on the late night show is one thing the world needs right now.

Rad: Jessie Kahnweiler who writes a show called The Skinny on Refinery 29 is amazing. On so many levels. I can’t get enough of her level of honesty and commitment to the cause. She is like Lena Dunham but harder!

Do you envision the work of another writer/producer/actor when you create new episodes of Shugs and Fats? If so, who? What about them and their work do you think correlates with your own work? 

Nad: In terms of character work, I am definitely inspired by Ali G, and in terms of looking at the female perspective, all female comedy right now is inspiring to me.

Rad: AbFab, Broad City, even Golden Girls are all inspiring! Anything about female friendship really because that is so central to the themes we look at. As far as being out there and edgy go I think Ali G is a great model. We do live interviews and the outcome of those interviews are so like what would happen on his show!

Do you have any other shows or projects in production? 

Nad: We both have one-person shows that we are touring right now. Our background is live performance, so Rads is touring “Older, Angrier, Hairier and I am touring Burq Off!

Rad: I am also in the process of promoting my book ‘Unladylike, A Memoir’.

Written by Annie Paul


April 19, 2016 5:55 pm

We all know him. The morbidly interesting guy who takes the every-day bullshit he deals with and sort of attempts to transform it into comedy for others. Unable to truly open up about his personal drama in order to be successful at this, Paul Scott (Alex Karpovsky) is a familiar character with an opportunity to change his life for the better and not taking it.

Jeff Grace’s feature debut Folk Hero and Funny Guy premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Sunday. Tribeca’s films are known and expected to behold a portrait of creative vision in film; unique perspectives on original stories told in a distinctive style that are always comforting, knowing that true filmic innovation still has a place to thrive. For Folk Hero however, it was hardly atypical. It’s reminiscent of those lovable road movies, like one of Karpovsky’s own, Red Flag, that have similar themes of seeking inspiration and breaking out of one’s comfort zone. Meredith Hagner gives a cool performance as Bryn, the local singer-songwriter who joins the boys on tour and becomes a true test to their friendship.

A temp worker who swims in the juvenile angst of his own misfortune, dumped by his beautiful fiance who seeks a more stable and fulfilling life, Paul is given the opportunity to find himself and explore the beautiful US of A with his longtime pal; simple-minded, sexy, blonde, moderately successful folk-rock musician, Jason Black (Wyatt Russell). Paul is brought on tour as a stand-up comic to open up each of Jason’s shows. He ditches his office job and goes with every intention of both finding a crowd that would laugh at his bad E-vite joke, and figuring out how he’s going to make it back to the top…not that he was ever at the top. The overwhelming urge to yell at him to “STFU” about that pathetic joke that no one will laugh at became redundant…however self-reflective. How often do we make excuses for rudimentary behavior so we can justify never having to change? Change is scary. It’s also necessary.

Although Jason seems like the air-headed rocker dude who just lives his life night by night, he almost ends up having a real depth to him. The engaged woman that he was apparently in love with sat him down and broke the truth; “You are only good for one night.” That could have a harsh affect on anyone, but it looks like Jason got out his sorry emotions in about 11 seconds, then went right back to being good for one night. Within those 11 seconds however, he was able to insult Bryn and piss off Paul to the point that Paul finally found some new material for his comedy. This of course, muddled together with realizing the extent of one’s potential, is what ultimately brought everyone to where they were meant to be.

Despite a few dull moments of predictability, Folk Hero and Funny Guy offers inspiring bites for those who could relate to Paul’s limbo state between wanting to thrive creatively, not giving a damn about boring responsibilities like his buddy Jason, and having to buckle down and get the dreaded 9-5. It’s a coming of age movie…for grown ups. “Desire, Hope, Hunger and Freedom” are what drives the three of them to take on the dive bars of America. It’s enough to kick your ass down to self-doubt and sorrow. It’s also enough to fulfill your life more than you could ever expect.

The music throughout the movie, written by Adam Ezra, was a beautiful soundtrack to the simplicity and charm that was nicely executed by both Hagner and Russell. I didn’t expect his voice to sound as raw and sexy as it did. But the rough depth in his voice mixed with the warm and toasty sound of Hagner’s created a lovely duality that the film encapsulated.

Written by Annie Paul 

April 18, 2016 10:22 am

April 13th marked the very first day of 2016’s Tribeca Film Festival. An iconic display of visual art, this year’s screenings include some pretty ambitious entries, as well as various directorial debuts from talented, pioneering women like Katie Holmes, Leyla Bouzid and Rachel Tunnard. One woman in particular however, is truly setting the bar at a uniquely high caliber.

Defined by filmmaker Smriti Keshari as “contained chaos,” The Bomb is a fiery immersion into the uncomfortable, yet relevant reality of nuclear weapons. This media installation will include a 360° display of a combination of film footage and animation created by Stanley Donwood projected on eight massive floor-to-ceiling screens from United Visual Artists. Meanwhile, The Acid will accompany the movie with a live performance to stimulate energy and force of the nuclear subject.

Created by Eric Schlosser (writer/director of Fast Food Nation) and Smriti Keshari (Food Chains), the film is expected to be a truly emotional experience for those who hold any knowledge of the stigmatized relationship between nuclear engineering and the countries involved (or rumored to be involved) with it.

The audience will experience a recreation of nuclear testing and attacks while being immersed in the cultural and political implications of the powerful man-made technology. And the bomb couldn’t be more timely. There are currently nine nations that have stockpiles of more than 15,000 nuclear weapons; many of those weapons are far more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Tribeca Film Fest 

This screening will conclude Tribeca’s Film Fest’s Interactive and Experiential portion on April 23rd and 24th at 7PM and 10PM both nights. Preceding will be a panel by the creators of the film and actor and advocate for nuclear non-proliferation Michael Doulas. Buy tickets here

Written by Annie Paul