REFIRING: Michele Mitchell & Nick Louvel, “A Brief History of How Wine Built ‘The Uncondemned'” (4/6)

12096341_868072906640092_2435155195542638530_nAs a lifelong media junkie, I despair at how much junk assaults us in the name of “news.” And ironically, the bigger the production budgets, the more likely it is that the content will skew superficial, the better to be “advertising-friendly.” So, in this cultural context of warped values and eroding commitment to the public’s need-to-know, Film at 11 is a standout source of quality journalism that is “responsibly rogue.” With enormous determination, they have achieved the seemingly impossible: self-financing hard-hitting award-winning documentaries on some of the biggest issues confronting global citizens today. Uncomfortable storylines with uncomfortable visuals that no one wants to talk about that are not remotely “advertising-friendly.” In “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” they dared to question where the millions of disaster relief funds are actually going. Their most recent production, “The Uncondemned,” recounts the first time when rape was successfully prosecuted as a war crime in 1997, a story that unfortunately remains all too timely and I predict will foment a turning point in pubic awareness and international law. It has already inspired grass-roots support from strangers around the world like I’ve never seen before. And we’re now allowed to reveal that the “The Uncondemned” has received the Hamptons International Film Festival 2015 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film on Conflict and Resolution.
I have known Film at 11’s Executive Producer Michele Mitchell since she was on CNN three-times daily as a political correspondent. She read from her first book at one of my downtown storytelling showcases (don’t ask me how she found the time to write!). Even those decades ago, her ambitions were always to delve deeper into meaningful stories. In Nick Louvel, she found a visual talent to complement her verbal talent; they were a co-directing team dynamic duo. They went on many shoots in dangerous places that often lacked infrastructure basics and when they came back to NY, they then endured many sleepless marathon film editing sessions. Given all they survived, it’s the most terrible tragedy that after dropping off their film for their world premiere screening on September 24th, Nick died in a car crash. 
So we dedicate this week’s Featured Creative series to Nick Louvel’s extraordinary legacy, which would have been impressive for anyone of any age, but is all the more so given his premature death at 34. Film at 11 will never be the same without him, but losing Louvel has redoubled their commitment to honoring his passion for their idealistic mission: that the world needs more powerful movies to be agents of positive change. Once you see any Film at 11 production–especially “The Uncondemned”–I am confident that you will be processing your discomfort by asking yourself, “How can I personally contribute to making the world a better place?” What better impact could anyone ever hope to have?
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief

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“This wine is for the love of humanity.
There is no better cause than justice.”
— Pam Starr, Crocker & Starr

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© Film at 11

It all started over a glass of wine. “The Uncondemned” co-director Michele Mitchell was with wine distributor Josie Zeiger at a wine bar in New York City that is famous for its female master sommelier, brainstorming ideas on how to raise funds to make the documentary.

“A wine auction! Of wines made by women!”

Because winemakers in Napa are asked all the time to donate to charity, Zeiger advised Mitchell to fly to California to meet with them in-person.  Mitchell made two trips in February and March 2014, driving through the valley with her younger sister, tasting wine and showing the vintners some footage shot in November.

34 Winemakers Donated for the June 1, 2014 Auction in New York City.

And then Stacey Bressler of Bressler Vineyards told Cathy Buck, owner of the historic Cameo Cinema in downtown St. Helena about the film.

“Let’s do a fundraiser at the Cameo!”

On March 5, 2015, co-directors Mitchell and Nick Louvel brought the rough cut of their documentary to workshop with the women winemakers at the Cameo and raise further funds with a VIP special pour and dinner at Cindy Pawlcyn’s famous Napa restaurant.

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© Film at 11

“I’ve always been grateful that here in Napa we don’t need to try support our schools by selling brownies at a bake sale. You need to sell a LOT of brownies. Wine is even more delicious and can raise serious cash. It is so gratifying to help you shine a bright light into dark corners and make us all pay attention.”
— Cathy Corison, Corison Winery

 “We need to make a wine for the film.”

That was the indomitable Pam Starr in April 2015. She quickly gathered Cathy Corison, Helen Keplinger, Schatzi Throckmorton and Jennifer Williams Porembski to the cause. The aim was to make a wine that could not only be sold to benefit the film but also to make it in time to pour at a private screening hosted by the filmmakers–a screening that would be the first time Witnesses JJ, NN and OO saw the film, and saw it before it ever premiered to the public. That screening was slated for Kigali, Rwanda on June 17th, the anniversary of when the indictment against Jean-Paul Akayesu was historically amended to include the first-ever charges of rape as a crime of war.

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© Film at 11

“The Uncondemned is a truly special project that we are proud to support. The story of these women’s courage in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the perseverance of the prosecutors and advocates, who propelled their case through the International Tribunal is powerful and singular. It is this kind of brave storytelling that one can only hope will prevent history from repeating.”
–Schatzi Throckmorton, Relic Wines

The winemakers met on April 24 to create the blend. They met again on  May 16 to bottle.

Pulling from their own 2013 barrels and also donating bottles, corks, foils, and more, these five women—five of the top US winemakers—made The Uncondemned Special Red (Oakville): 60% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 9% petite verdot and 1% malbec.

Only 24 cases were made, one of which was consumed on June 17, 2015, by Witnesses JJ, NN, OO and their friends and family in celebration of what humanity can accomplish together.

This post was originally published here.

See more of Michele Mitchell’s Featured Creative posts on our Ideablog

2014-05-11 18.07.06~~~Michele Mitchell is the executive editor and co-founder at Film at Eleven, where she has been director/producer of Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” (OPB/PBS) and executive producer of “Reporting for Duty” (PBS). A Murrow award winning broadcast journalist known for her political investigative work, she is a former correspondent for “NOW with Bill Moyers” (PBS) and was the political anchor at CNN Headline News. She has reported extensively from most of the 50 states, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North Africa. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Michele started her career on Capitol Hill. She is the author of three books, including two regional bestselling novels, and currently writes the “Letter from New York” column for GQ Italia. She is on the board of advisors for the Authors Guild, BYKids and Water is Life. On Twitter as @MicheleFilmAt11

NickDRC~~~ Nick Louvel directed his first independent feature “Domino One” before graduating from Harvard University in 2003. He went on to work as creative assistant to screenwriter Eric Warren Singer on Sony Pictures’ “The International.” His second directorial feature “Never Die”, a literary documentary, is currently in post-production. He has directed short-form content for clients such as Chase Bank, Emotional Branding Alliance, Howcast, and IFC FIlms. He was the editor of “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” and the editor and director of photography of “The Water War”. On Twitter as @NickLouvel

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