Thor Klein to tell tale of Stan Ulam, with "Adventures of a Mathematician"

Adventures of a Mathematician by Thor Klein is true story of Polish immigrant and mathematician Stan Ulam, who moved to the U.S. in the 1930s. Stan deals with the difficult losses of family and friends all while helping to create both the hydrogen bomb and the first computer. Thor Klein is one of the few talented filmmakers who are fortunate to be picked by TFI (Tribeca Film Institute), and being partially funded by TFI-Sloan partnership.

We had an opportunity to talk to Thor. Here are the excerpts:

How did you find out about TFI? And how has your experience been?

My producer Lena Vurma found out about the Sloan Foundation and their collaboration with Tribeca Film Institute. So she decided to apply for it. It was a perfect fit, since my research started in NYC two years ago, when I met Stan Ulam`s nephew Alex for the first time, who lives very close to Tribeca. We`re all really happy to have the full support from the Sloan Foundation and the Tribeca Film Institute. They treated us wonderfully and we immediately felt part of the family. 

What inspired you to make the film on this particular subject, and at this time?

For me, it started when I was 13 years old. Back then I read a book about the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. A place where the U.S. invited the greatest scientists in the world to to basically one thing: Think. I was very surprised that these guys were not at all how I imagined scientists to be. They were throwing parties, driving fast cars and wearing funny hats. They were very colourful characters. I was always into science and kept thinking about them over the years and when I got older I realized that while they were in Princeton, they had to deal with a lot of drama and tragedy in their lives. A lot of them lost their families in Europe. I kept reading and I realized that the world back then was pretty similar to the circumstances we`re facing today. There was the same financial crisis, huge refugee waves and rightwing forces in power. A few years ago I came accross Stan`s autobiography, Adventures of a Mathematician that had exactly the tone that I was interested in. It is a very humorous and anecdotal journey through 20th century science. It`s a life full of great friendships and fascinating encounters, but it also has this underlying drama. In its core it`s a story of immigrants. Essentially a European film that takes place in the US.

How has been the process of researching and working on this film? Any surprising information that you discovered during that process?

A lot. I followed Stan`s tracks and started in his hometown Lvov, which is today called Lviv and is located in the Ukraine. A very cosmopolitan place back then with a lot of different minorities and languages. Stan moved to Cambridge in Massachusetts, then to Los Alamos, Los Angeles and back to Santa Fe, which he loved most. I`m constantly surprised how young he and his friends were back then, while they were doing all this groundbreaking scientific work. Most of them were in their 20s and early 30s. There always was this youthcamp amtosphere among them. 

What's your message to other up & coming filmmakers and storytellers?

It depends very much from which angle you approach filmmaking. I come from writing. It usually takes a long time until something that I wrote really convinces me. But while writing I learned one essential thing. Don`t try to convince yourself that something is good, if your inner voice tells you it isn`t. And always follow your intution. That`s what Stan Ulam and his colleagues did as well and it lead them to fascinating mathematical achievements that made the digital world possible.


Amanda Kernell, director of SAMI BLOOD #Sundance

Following strong premieres at TIFF, Venice and Dubai, Amanda Kernell's striking drama SAMI BLOOD (SAMEBLOD) screened at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the Spotlight section. The film will be released in the US in May 2017 by Synergetic Distribution. We had a chance to talk to the wonderful director, Amanda. Here it is:

SAMI BLOOD is a compelling coming-of-age story set in the 1930s about a young girl who makes a radical and brave decision to abandon her culture and tradition, leave her family behind, and pass herself off as Swedish, after facing prejudice at school due to her Lapland heritage. The film is a unique and intimate perspective on the history of the Lapland people, and tells a story of oppression that resonates across borders, generations and genders.

SAMI BLOOD features a breakthrough performance from its young lead actress Lene Cecilia Sparrok, and is a strong debut from writer/director Amanda Kernell, who based the narrative off of her own Grandmother's life.

Directed by: Amanda Kernell
Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Sparrok, Maj Doris Rimpi, Olle Sarri

Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-herding Sámi girl. Exposed to the racism of the 1930s and race biology examinations at her boarding school she starts dreaming of another life. To achieve this other life she has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.


Helene Hegemann, writer/director of AXOLOTL OVERKILL. #Sundance

AXOLOTL OVERKILL, the debut feature from writer/director Helene Hegemann, had its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the World Dramatic Competition program, 

Hegemann makes an astonishingly accomplished and stylish debut feature, at the young age of 24.  She has written two novels, including the controversial German best seller Axolotl Roadkill, which she wrote and published at the age of 17. Hegemann has also directed award-winning work in theatre and opera.  We had a chance to talk to her, here it is:

AXOLOTL OVERKILL is a tightly and kinetically edited tale of youthful excess and exuberance.   It follows Mifti (Jasna Fritzi Bauer in a breakthrough performance), a beautiful and reckless 16-year-old girl who's mother recently died. Having no use for peers her own age and being aware of the sexual power she wields with her looks and youth, she immerses herself in a world of adults of questionable character, testing the limits through the Berlin nightlife and extreme partying. 

Directed/written by: Helene Hegemann
Cast: Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Mavie Hörbiger, Laura Tonke, Hans Löw, Bernhard Schütz

Mifti is a beautiful and reckless 16-year-old girl. Her mother is dead, and her wealthy, eccentric father is too self-absorbed to be responsible for her. Mifti has no use for peers her own age, and being aware of the sexual power she wields with her looks and youth, she immerses herself in a world of adults of questionable character. Lovesick over an elusive older woman, she strikes up a friendship with Ophelia, an actress, and together they test the limits through Berlin nightlife and extreme partying.

Conversation with Ingrid Jungermann - WOMEN WHO KILL #Tribeca2016

Ingrid Jungermann is one of the most talented storytellers I have met. She’s a writer, director and an actress, “all-in-one”. And she’s a very honest, intelligent and inspiring person as well. Her wonderful film WOMEN WHO KILL, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2016, in New York City. The film is an evolved-adaptation of her WGA-nominated web-series ‘F to 7th’. It’s definitely a must watch film for all film lovers. I had an opportunity to talk to her, and it was just a great conversation. Read below, and you'll agree for yourself.

Art Shrian – Congratulations on your wonderful film, and it’s world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival. You’re a brilliant writer, director, actor, “all-in-one”. So, what inspires you to be a storyteller?

Ingrid Jungermann – I think it really started as a kid, me being the youngest of 3 siblings, with single mom. As the youngest of 3, you are lucky enough to just be an observer, and you’re kind of the one without the voice. While you may get more attention and people think what you say is cute, people do not take you that seriously. And coming from that, and being innately drawn to any kind of arts, I started writing at a very young age. I started to realize that, through writing I could have a voice. I could process things that were happening in my life. So I learned it as a coping mechanism, and a way to be heard.

A.S – What’s your message to other people who want to be storytellers?

I.J – For me specially, female filmmakers, people of color, socio economic challenges are all important subjects. Sometimes in this diversity conversation, poor people are not talked about. Making a film is not a poor person’s art form, unfortunately. That perspective is really lacking. I would say to people, who feel like there’s no opportunity, everyone is telling them to not do the thing they want to do, there’s no other point. I don’t see another reason to live a life, without doing the thing that you love. That makes no sense to me. It sucks some time, a lot of times. But I do not see any reason, why you would ever take the tiny amount of time we have, and do something you don’t love.

A.S – Wow, that’s very inspiring and moving. Thanks… So, how has been your journey? From working in Taco Bell, to Blockbuster, to selling Swarovski crystals, to being a filmmaker in New York; it’s quite a journey. How do you feel?

I.J – I don’t know if I’m a person who’s able to live in the moment, unfortunately. I struggle with that for my whole life. I feel like, I have some blinders on. I might keep those on, just because I want to do the work. And I think you constantly have to be able to tap into who you are, and be honest with yourself. Of course I appreciate it all, I feel amazing. But I also feel that this is what I wanted. I took the steps to get here. I kind of weirdly, expect it. But also realize, that it could be fleeing. And it’s going to take 10 harder steps to get to next place. I’m not sure I’m answering your question. I probably can answer that in 3 months from now (laughs).

A.S – I think I understand. You set new goals, and you’re always focused and working hard to just keep moving towards that.

The subject of the film is quite interesting. The general Hollywood perception or perspective about woman filmmakers could be quite narrow. But you make an amazing comedy/drama/thriller. What inspired you?

I.J – I think the perspective in Hollywood has mostly been masculine, by males. Like every other industry, men run entertainment too. Things are slowly changing, which is really exciting. But I have always been, sort of drawn to both sides of myself, masculine & feminine. If we are talking about a masculine film, not gender wise, since both male & female can be masculine, is like horror or even comedy. But there’s this exciting thing happening, where this great group of talented women filmmakers, are making horror or comedy or all kind of genre. They were finally given the opportunity, to embrace our masculine perspective, along with the feminine. And if people started to think more on the lines of perspective, in terms of masculine and feminine, rather than male and female, then that will open up the world little bit more. This applies across the board, even in life, if we didn’t separate it so much into male & female.

But that said, I’m very excited for what’s happening right now, because if it hadn’t been for all the female filmmakers before us, making those films they were “supposed to be making”, we wouldn’t have had opportunity to change things a little bit, and leave our stamp on films, that otherwise are not supposed to be “female films”. I’m thankful to all those women before me!

A.S – Very true. And it’s changing a lot with wonderful shows like Jessica Jones or others, where women TV/filmmakers are making these wonderful shows.

What was the most challenging and most fun part of being a writer, director and an actor for the film?

I.J – The most challenging is not being able to be at 2 places at once. So you have to give up some control of your vision. And it’s really challenging, since you start to feel, am I failing as a director if I’m not in control every moment. In the same way, that’s very freeing, because you have to trust your team - my first AD Eric LaFranchi, my DP Rob Leitzell, my PD Olga Miasnikova, my producer Alex Scharfman, my entire team and there artists. So, where it made me uncomfortable to have to let go, luckily I was lifted by the people who knew my vision, and they wanted to communicate it. So communicating your vision early on is very important, when you are in your own movie. Prep is very important, being very clear as to what you want, what you’re trying to get constantly is very important.

A.S – So where do you see yourself heading? Woody Allen of women?

I.J – My initial response is, no. I really want to sink my teeth into writing-directing, and see how far and deep I can go with that. There are many-many things that I haven’t even tapped into. And many things I want to learn. And acting, while it’s incredible, it’s keeping me from exploring other things I want to explore. I would love to be in other people’s films, but I don’t think I’ll be a lead in my own. I could be supporting character. But if I want to grow as a filmmaker, I think I need to focus.

A.S – Your next project is a Sci-Fi? How did that come up?

I.J – I started the story with Stewart Thorndike. She’s a huge inspiration to me, and she’s of that up & coming crop I was talking about. We were very collaborative for little while. She inspired me and we talked about and developed the story together for this film. I said, I want to do a female fight club movie; she suggested that we should set this in Barnard College. So this is like a privileged female fight club thing. When I was in comedy, I was always drawn to dark comedy. She comes from horror sci-fi world. So together we came up with this idea. I wrote the script, and she has been a major inspiration in creating that world for that film. It’s in development stage. And right now I’m focusing on a TV project, adapting my web-series ‘F to 7th’ into a TV show.

A.S – Last question, how do you feel about being a filmmaker in and from New York?

I.J – Is there any other city to be a filmmaker? (laughs). I want to be here. People that we are surrounded by, inspire me. I have been to LA a few times, and I’m not drawn in. I think it’s beautiful; there are very talented people there. There’s a cool indie filmmaker thing happening. But New York is my home, and the people here are the smartest, coolest and most neurotic bunch, that I’m drawn to. I feel right here!


Commitment phobic Morgan and her ex-girlfriend Jean are locally famous true crime podcasters obsessed with female serial killers. There’s a chance they may still have feelings for each other, but co-dependence takes a back seat when Morgan meets the mysterious Simone during her Food Coop shift. Blinded by infatuation, Morgan quickly signs up for the relationship, ignoring warnings from friends that her new love interest is practically a stranger.

When Jean shows Morgan proof that Simone may not be who she says she is, Morgan accuses Jean of trying to ruin the best thing that’s ever happened to her. But as she and Simone move into commitment territory, Morgan starts to notice red flags -- maybe Jean was right and Simone isn’t as perfect as Morgan’s made her out to be.

Morgan and Jean investigate Simone as if she were a subject of their podcast, they uncover disturbing clues -- a death at the Food Coop, a missing friend, a murder weapon -- leading them to suspect her not only of mystery, but of murder. In the end, Morgan has to examine all the evidence in front of her: Is she just afraid of what it means to be in a relationship or is her life actually in danger?

  • Checkout the film at Tribeca Film Festival below:

  • More about the film:

Conversation with Justin Tipping of KICKS #TFF2016

Art Shrian had an opportunity to talk with wonderful director Justin Tipping at the Tribeca Film Festival, where he had premier of his debut feature film KICKS. Let me warn you, he  is a director to lookout for. His debut feature shows what a talent house he is. He's also the debutant writer, with his co-writer Joshua Berine-Golden, and the story is as wonderful as the film. It entertains, it's funny, it's dramatic, its thriller and it's good. Very well edited, with amazing music as well, that you could practically call it a musical. Watch the interview above for more insight from the man himself!

In director Justin Tipping's feature debut Kicks, nothing is as simple as it seems. Fifteen­-year-­old Brandon longs for a pair of the freshest sneakers that money can buy; assuming that merely having them on his feet will help him escape the reality of being poor, neglected by the opposite sex and picked on by everyone ­­ even his best friends. Working hard to get them, he soon finds that the titular shoes have instead made him a target after they are promptly snatched by local hood, Flaco. Seemingly the embodiment of menace, Flaco harbors complexities of his own that will be revealed when Brandon goes on a mission to retrieve his stolen sneakers with his two best friends in tow

Boasting a strong ensemble cast, and featuring a memorable lead performance by newcomer Jahking Guillory, the film transcends a deceptively traditional hero's journey to deliver an entertaining and sobering look at the realities of inner city life, the concept of manhood and the fetishization of sneaker culture. Visually and thematically rich, with an amazing soundtrack of both hip hop classics and Bay Area favorites, Kicks creates an authentic and original portrait of a young man drowning in the expectations of machismo.

This summer Focus Features will be taking us on a new journey with the July release of their anticipated film KICKS. 

Cast: Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer, Kofi Siriboe, Mahershala Ali


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