USA – 2013 – 75 MIN – COLOUR - FEATURE - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY DOUGLAS KASS & ROGER KASS
2015 WILD & SCENIC AWARD WINNER - "BEST IN THEME"
Based on a magazine essay written by noted best-selling novelist Jonathan Franzen for The New Yorker and widely republished around the world, EMPTYING THE SKIES chronicles the rampant poaching of migratory songbirds in southern Europe. Songbird populations have been drastically declining for several decades, and a number of species face extinction imminently. The film explores the wonder of these tiny globe-flying marvels, millions of which are unlawfully slaughtered each year for large sums on the black market, and follows an intrepid squad of pan-European bird-lovers who risk their lives waging a secret war against poachers, disrupting illegal trapping and freeing as many birds as possible.
EMPTYING THE SKIES is Jonathan Franzen’s first foray into motion picture production.
Douglas Kass is an Adjunct Professor of Filmmaking and Film Studies at Elon University in the United States of America. He earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television and his Bachelor of Arts degree with High Honors in Film/Art from Wesleyan University, where he also received the prestigious Frank Capra Award. Emptying the Skies is Mr. Kass’s first feature-length film. His previous work includes several shorts subjects, including the documentary, Behind the Walls of S-21, a devastating recollection of life and death at the notorious S-21 Prison during the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia, a film which includes rare interviews with survivors and the prison’s most notorious executioner. Behind the Walls of S-21 was funded by the United Nations and distributed by The Documentation Center of Cambodia on Independent Networks throughout Asia.
Roger Kass is a producer of motion pictures which include multi-Oscar and Golden Globe nominee A History of Violence, directed by David Cronenberg; Edmond, based on David Mamet’s play and screenplay, starring William H. Macy; Liberty Kid by Ilya Chaiken; the PBS American Masters series Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film; and Ti West's indie horror hit, The House of the Devil. Mr. Kass is also an entertainment and media lawyer, for which his credits include The Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscar-winning Affliction, and The Crow, Brandon Lee’s tragic final film. He has also served pro bon for The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Refugee Project. Roger Kass earned his BA in East Asian Studies from Wesleyan University and a JD from Boston University School of Law, where he was a Paul J. Liacos Distinguished Scholar and an American Jurisprudence Constitutional Law Award winner.
Award-winning novelist, The Corrections & Freedom. When The Corrections was published in the fall of 2001, Jonathan Franzen was probably better known for his nonfiction than for the two novels he had already published. In an essay he wrote for Harper's in 1996, Franzen lamented the declining cultural authority of the American novel and described his personal search for reasons to persist as a fiction writer. "The novelist has more and more to say to readers who have less and less time to read," he wrote. "Where to find the energy to engage with a culture in crisis when the crisis consists in the impossibility of engaging with the culture?"
Five years after publishing the Harper's essay, Franzen became fully engaged with his culture. The Corrections was an enormous international bestseller, with translations in 35 languages, American hardcover sales of nearly one million copies and nominations for nearly every major book prize in the country - Franzen was awarded the National Book Award for this novel. As if sales and critical acclaim weren't enough to boost his profile, the author found himself in a public relations imbroglio over his conflicted reaction to his book's endorsement by Oprah's Book Club.
Jonathan Franzen's first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City (1988), was a reimagination of his hometown, St. Louis, through the eyes of conspirators and terrorists from southern Asia. His second novel, Strong Motion (1992), was a thriller-cum-love-story set in the student slums of Boston. Both books displayed Franzen's ability to connect the personal and the political, the emotional and the social, in compelling and richly textured narratives.
Born in Western Springs, Illinois, in 1959, Jonathan Franzen grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1981 he studied in Berlin as a Fulbright scholar and later worked in a seismology lab at Harvard. Franzen is also the author of a bestselling collection of essays, How to Be Alone and the memoir The Discomfort Zone. He recently published a new English translation of the play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. He has written the New York chapter of Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey's 2008 collection State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, inspired by the state guides written for the WPA in the 1930s. His short stories and his essays, including political journalism, have most recently appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Essays, The New York Times, and The Guardian. A new collection of his nonfiction, Farther Away (which includes Emptying the Skies re-titled as Ugly Mediterranean), appeared in 2012. His next book, due in October 2013, will be The Kraus Project, in which he translates and annotates essays by the satirist Karl Kraus.
Franzen’s most recent novel is Freedom, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux -2010). In August 2010, he was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine -- only the second time in the last decade that a living writer has been on the cover of this national magazine. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, the review’s editor, Sam Tanenhaus, declared Franzen’s Freedom, “a masterpiece of American fiction,” and the book debuted at #1 on the Times bestseller list. In September 2010, Freedom was chosen as Oprah's 64th Book Club pick, and Franzen and Oprah made up with each other on air in December 2010. Freedom won the 2011 John Gardner Prize for fiction and the Heartland Prize. It was also chosen as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010 and as a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In March 2012 he was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In November 2012 he was awarded the first Carlos Fuentes Medal at the 26th Guadalajara International Book Fair
An interview with Jonathan Franzen
- THE GLOBE AND MAIL
"EMPTYING THE SKIES is an urgent reminder that immediate action is long past due.”
- THE TORONTO STAR
“Flock to this"
- NOW MAGAZINE
"This is a film that demands to be seen if not just for its urgent and shamefully unfamiliar content."
- ON THIS DAY IN FILM
“...EMPTYING THE SKIES beautifully illustrates the complex relationship between modern humanity and wild animals…"
- THE TORONTO FILM SCENE