January 31, 2006
International Film Festival Rotterdam
World Premiere

March 15, 2006
Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, London
Opening Night Benefit Gala film and the festival's public premiere the following night, March 16.

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Ferne Pearlstein is an American filmmaker based in New York City. As a director, cinematographer, producer, and editor, she has worked on dozens of documentary films which have won numerous awards and have been screened and broadcast around the world. In 2004 Pearlstein won the Best Cinematography prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival for her work on IMELDA a feature documentary about Imelda Marcos for which she lived and traveled with the former First Lady of the Philippines during her campaign for the presidency. Her most recent work as a director—the feature documentary SUMO EAST AND WEST, which she also produced, photographed and edited—premiered at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival and was shown nationwide on PBS's Independent Lens series. Its two-year festival run culminated in an outdoor screening on Oahu's Waikiki Beach for 7000 people at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Most recently, Pearlstein edited the narrative feature LAND OF THE BLIND starring Ralph Fiennes and Donald Sutherland, which will premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2006, as well as serving as second unit director of photography and associate producer on the film. She is also one of only a handful of female cinematographers featured in Kodak's long-running "On Film" advertising campaign, in the pages of American Cinematographer magazine.

with Donald Sutherland

with editor/2d unit director and wife Ferne Pearlstein (at camera)

with Ralph Fiennes (in orange suit) and Cory McAbee

with cinematographer Emmanuel Kadosh

with Donald Sutherland

with Tom Hollander

with cinematographer Manu Kadosh



Pearlstein began her career as a still photographer, graduating from the University of Michigan in 1987 and the International Center of Photography in New York City in 1989. She subsequently began working for the New York bureaus of two Japanese newspapers, the Tokyo/Chunichi Shimbun and the Chugoku Shimbun, where over the next two years she published photo essays on subjects as diverse as the business of Broadway, the oil industry in Oklahoma, the homeless in New York, drug-busting SWAT teams in Miami, and the Chicago mercantile exchange. In the summer of 1991 Pearlstein was sent to Japan to live and work with the paper's photo editor and his family, an experience recorded in a weekly photo series called "An American Woman in Japan," published in the Tokyo Shimbun in the fall of 1992.

After returning from Japan, Ferne turned to motion pictures, enrolling in Stanford University's Masters Program in Documentary Film. Her first student film—a black & white short titled RAISING NICHOLAS, about an 8-year-old Honduran boy who had been adopted by a gay male couple in San Jose, California—was chosen for the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. Her MA thesis film, TO MEET THE ELEPHANT (1995), followed a group of Californians who are Civil War re-enactors on the side of the Confederacy.

Even before graduating from Stanford, Ferne had begun working as a professional cinematographer on projects such as THE AMERICAN PROMISE for PBS, and later Desmond Morris's THE OPPOSITE SEX for BBC/Discovery. Her subsequent work as a cinematographer includes Deborah Dickson's RUTHIE AND CONNIE: EVERY ROOM IN THE HOUSE for HBO (2002, World Premiere—Berlinale), about a pair of Jewish grandmothers in Brooklyn who fell in love; Jan Krawitz' BIG ENOUGH (2004, SXSW, PBS/POV), the sequel to Krawitz' award-winning PBS film "Little People"; Robert Edwards' THE VOICE OF THE PROPHET (2002, Sundance, Toronto, Human Rights Watch), an interview filmed in the World Trade Center with the head of security for Morgan Stanley, who subsequently died on September 11; John Anderson's SECRET PEOPLE (1999, PBS/Independent Lens) about a Louisiana leprosarium that was the last such facility in the continental United States; Vanessa Roth's TAKEN IN: The Lives of America's Foster Children (1998, winner of a DuPont Columbia Award; also co-producer), Sam Ball's PLEASURES OF URBAN DECAY (2000, Sundance, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival), about the cartoonist Ben Katchor; Linda Bryant's MUSTAFA (2005, Spike TV); and Laura Harrison's DREAMING OF KAWTHOOLEI, a feature-length documentary about Burma's ethnic Karen minority, filmed in the refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border and in the rebel camps of the Karen Liberation Army in Burma itself.

In 1998 Pearlstein made the first of two month-long trips to the Philippines to shoot IMELDA, directed by Ramona Diaz. With unprecedented access to the notorious former Philippine First Lady, Diaz and Pearlstein followed Mrs. Marcos across the country as she campaigned for the presidency in 1998. Seven years in the making, the film premiered at Sundance in 2004, where Ferne won the Excellence in Documentary Cinematography Prize. IMELDA went on to screen in numerous festivals worldwide, on nationwide US television on PBS's Independent Lens, and in theatrical release in the US and abroad. (In the Philippines, the film outgrossed "Spiderman 2" in its opening weekend.)

While shooting IMELDA, Pearlstein also co-directed and edited DITA AND THE FAMILY BUSINESS (2000, Oxygen), a feature documentary about co-director Joshua Taylor's maternal grandmother Dita Mañach Goodman, a Cuban socialite who in the 1930s wed the heir to New York's Bergdorf Goodman department store.

Playing with the Big Boys

Seeking a project that would take her back to Japan, Pearlstein next began work on SUMO EAST AND WEST a feature documentary about the culture clash between Japan and the West, viewed through the story of Americans in this ancient Japanese sport. Given the highly visual subject matter, Pearlstein made the decision to shoot on Super 16mm, an unusual choice at a time when digital video was rapidly supplanting motion picture film as the medium of choice for documentary. Beginning with a small seed grant, Pearlstein spent the next four years working on the project, along with her husband and partner Robert Edwards (whom she met while shooting his film "The Voice of the Prophet"). Funding was eventually provided by ITVS (Independent Television Service, an arm of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,) PIC (Pacific Islanders in Communications), NAATA (the National Asian American Telecommunications Association), the Japan Foundation, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission.

SUMO EAST AND WEST had its world premiere at in May 2003 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, followed by screenings at numerous festivals including the 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the Director's View Film Festival in Connecticut, where it won First Prize.

"(SUMO EAST AND WEST is) an engrossing exploration on the meaning of tradition and the inevitability of change. Behind the camera, Pearlstein managed to look past the grotesque and the spectacle to capture the elegance at the heart of the game. Under her direction, every belly-slap, diaper-hitch, and thousand-pound tumble becomes a moment of beauty and grace."
The Austin Chronicle

In April 2004 the film was screened for an audience of 7000 people outdoors on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival's "Sunset on the Beach" film series. The event included a blessing of the screening by a Shinto priest and a sumo demonstration by Wayne Vierra and members of the Oahu Sumo Club, who are featured in the film. In May 2004 an hour-long version of SUMO was shown nationwide on PBS's Independent Lens series. It has since been shown on international television around the world, and is now available on home video.
(For more information, go to www.sumoeastandwest.com.)



Recently Pearlstein has shifted her focus from documentary to narrative film, as cinematographer on the shorts EASTER SUNDAY (2005, Tribeca Film Festival), directed by Jasmine Kosovic and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, and THE SUZY PROPHECY, directed by and starring Heather Juergensen (star of "Kissing Jessica Stein").

Continuing this trend, in the fall of 2004 Pearlstein re-located to London to work on partner Robert Edwards' narrative directorial debut LAND OF THE BLIND, starring Ralph Fiennes and Donald Sutherland. Working with the brilliant Israeli cinematographer Emmanuel Kadosh, Pearlstein served as second unit director/DP and second camera on the film, which she also associate produced and edited. "Land of the Blind" is scheduled to have its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival on January 31, 2006. In March 2006 it will be the opening night film at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival/London.

Now safely ensconced back in New York City after more than a year in London, Pearlstein is currently at work on the screenplay for her own narrative directorial debut, titled EVIE'S TEARS.

    © 2006 Ferne Perlstein