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“A Contract With God” and Four Up-and-Coming Indie Directors

“A Contract With God” and Four Up-and-Coming Indie Directors (photo)

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Getting a little less attention than glossier fare like “The Avengers” and “Cowboys & Aliens” in the four-day firestorm of Comic-Con unveilings the past weekend was the announcement that “A Contract With God” was headed to the big screen, indie-style.

Will Eisner’s masterpiece, which consists of four semi-autobiographical short stories set in the Bronx and its environs in the 1930s, is considered a landmark of the form. It’s one of the main texts, along with “Watchmen” and “Maus,” that gets brought up by people making the case for the potential of comic books and graphic novels as art forms.

Each of the four parts of “A Contract With God” will be handled, anthology-style, by one of four up-and-coming indie filmmakers. The dream team and the segments they’ll each handle:

07262010_seanbaker2.jpgSean Baker: “Cookalien”

One of the creators of the “Greg the Bunny” franchise, formerly of IFC, then Fox, then IFC again, then MTV, Baker directed and co-wrote the naturalistic New York City immigrant tales “Take Out” (2004) (which you can currently stream on Netflix Instant) and “Prince of Broadway” (2008), along with his 2000 debut “Four Letter Words” (also on Netflix Instant).

07262010_tzechunthumb.jpgTze Chun: “The Street Singer”

“Children of Invention,” Chun’s semi-autobiographical debut about kids whose mother gets nabbed due to her involvement with a pyramid scheme, won over a dozen prizes on the festival circuit before being self-distributed in theaters this year. Two of Chun’s shorts are online — the 2006 film “Windowbreaker” and Future States contribution “Silver Sling.”

07262010_barryjenkins1.jpgBarry Jenkins: “The Super”

Barry Jenkins’ feature debut “Medicine for Melancholy” (trailer’s here) a San Francisco-set romance starring a pre-“Daily Show” Wyatt Cenac, was one of the breakouts at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival, going on to Gotham and Spirit Award nominations before receiving a theatrical release last year.

07262010_alexrivera.jpgAlex Rivera: “A Contract With God”

Alex Rivera’s first film, the sci-fi allegory “Sleep Dealer,” was set in a future where virtual reality separated immigrant labor from immigrants. The film premiered at Sundance in 2008, where it picked up both the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Check out his “Borders Trilogy” of shorts.

It’s an impressive array of diverse, talented directors. Though, as a colleague asked when I sent him the announcement, shouldn’t someone Jewish be involved in directing these stories set in and about a Jewish immigrant community? It’s a question I posed to the film’s writer/producer Darren Dean (“Prince of Broadway”), who responds:

The directors were chosen based on the fact that they were telling these remarkable immigrant and socially/culturally relevant stories of their own. Part of the selection process was a bit of a “what if” scenario. The idea of taking them out of their comfort zones and challenging them to tell stories from a world that — at first glance — was not their own was an intriguing concept.

Having interviewed Eisner years ago and developed a correspondence with him, it seemed like something he would embrace. These stories are relevant to everyone so, while maintaining the faithful, Jewish themes, the idea was to offer a fresh perspective on the graphic novel. Obviously, I’m aware that we may face some scrutiny on this level, but I’m also confident that the directors will each deliver a fascinating, honest portrayal of these timeless characters.

The film will start shooting in 2011.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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