Filmmaker Julie Sokolow On Climate Change & Documentaries [Indie Beat Podcast]

Feast your ears on a new episode of Indie Beat. On this installment we spoke to filmmaker Julie Sokolow.

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Sokolow hit the scene in 2015 with her first feature “Aspie Seeks Love.” The documentary follows David, an artist who had been posting ads seeking romance for over two decades. His life suddenly changes when he discovers that he has Asperger’s syndrome and proceeds to go through some heavy soul searching. It’s a poppy, feel-good movie, and David is an amusing presence that modern movies often either ignore or see as a punching bag. Sokolow does neither, instead making an endearing portrait of a person’s determination to claw their way out of loneliness. The movie is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and other platforms.

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Next for the filmmaker was “Woman on Fire,” a documentary centering on Brooke Guinan, the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. This film continues the character-driven approach Sokolow employed in ‘Aspie’ but opens it up to Brooke’s family, friends, co-workers, and romantic partner. It also deals with the oppression Brooke and others felt within the cis male-dominated fire department and the fight her and her non-cis male friends had to engage in to be taken seriously. Brooke is a naturally charismatic figure and is a complete joy to watch; her story is inspiring and the support she gets from those around her will certainly given even the most pessimistic audience member a large dose of hope. Check the movie out on STARZ, iTunes, Amazon, or get the dang thing on DVD.

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Sokolow’s latest, “Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story,” follows Mark Baumer, an Andy Kaufman-esque performance artist, who walked across the country (minus shoes!) to protest climate change, YouTubing his entire trip and going viral in the process. Sokolow incorporates much of this Baumer-shot archival footage, along with news footage to give context to the times (such as the 2016 election) plus her usual intimate set interviews with her subjects’ loved ones. While Sokolow’s past films chronicled here are tales of inspirational perseverance, ‘Barefoot,’ due to its subject matter, is an all-together different beast leading to a very tragic result. 

And yet, it’s difficult not to be completely drawn in by Baumer’s hyper personality and determination. The documentary, by focusing on Baumer’s particular journey, also manages to get at deeper systemic questions that we often don’t face. Who is this world for? Why is it weird to walk from place to place? Why is it completely dangerous to do so? Why was our land designed this way, and what are the repercussions of that? By raising these questions through its material, ‘Barefoot’ becomes something more than a tragic story of a truly unique artist gone too soon — it’s also a profound inquiry into the very way we have to live our modern lives, and our gateway into these questions is an uncanny individual who will gladly point at everything we take as completely normal and say “Actually, that’s weird.” ‘Barefoot’ is now traveling the festival circuit after premiering at the Heartland International Film Festival (and winning Best Premiere Documentary Feature Award) and will play Cinequest in March. Keep an eye out on the screening dates over at the website to catch it in your neck of the woods!

Sokolow and I chatted about her films plus her background as a musician, her formative films, and her inevitable foray into narrative fiction filmmaking!

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