Teodoro Maniaci

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Teodoro Maniaci
Born New York
Residence Brooklyn, New York
Education Tufts University, Graduate Film School of New York University
Occupation cinematographer, director
Employer Self-employed
Known for Documentary One Nation Under God, cinematography for Tao of Steve and TV specials
Partner(s) yes
Children none

Teodoro Maniaci is an award-winning American cinematographer and documentary director, with dozens of motion pictures and television shows to his credit. While his other films have had many reviews in the business, he is best known to both the movie-going public and film-studies academics as the director of the ex-gay documentary, One Nation Under God.

Personal life and education[edit]

Maniaci was born and raised in Long Island, New York. He attended Tufts University outside of Boston, Massachusetts and received a master's degree from New York University Film School in 1990.[1][2]

He is a member of the Directors of Photography Union, Local 600.[3]

Career as a cinematographer[edit]

Maniaci has filmed an extensive body of work as a cinematographer, including most notably, Clean, Shaven and The Tao of Steve.[4][5] He has also contributed to a large number of films that have not made a lot of notice outside Hollywood.[citation needed][6][7] These include Party Monster,[8] Outsourced,[9][10] and Inside Deep Throat.[11] Another of his recent films, The Business of Strangers, has had good reviews.[12][13][14]

Furthermore, he was the director of photography for at least five major television specials: Saturday Night Live in the '90s: Pop Culture Nation, Saturday Night Live in the '80s: Lost & Found, Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook, Live from New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live, and Sex and the City: A Farewell.[4][15][16]

He was director of photography for Shaolin Ulysses, which was shown on PBS.[17][18]

Maniaci was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Black Bear Film Festival in Milford, Pennsylvania, and has won several awards for his work.[2] He has filmed several music videos and short films.[2] One such short film was Reality in 2003, which was featured in the Woodstock Film Festival.[19]

When interviewed, Manianci found it difficult to describe his personal style of film-making:

"If you look at the films I’ve shot," Maniaci says, "you’d be hard-pressed to say there’s a single person behind them. They're all really different looking, different styles of filmmaking. Lodge Kerrigan’s Claire Dolan, for instance, is an incredibly formal art film with very precise, almost geometric sort of chrome-and-glass photography. It’s very voyeuristic. Whereas in The Opportunists the camera is invisible. The shots are carefully chosen, but the film is not about the camerawork. It doesn't call attention to itself."
Pressed to characterize his approach, Maniaci explains, "My style is highly adaptive. I try to create a look that’s appropriate for each film. It’s not about me attaching myself [to a project] and it becoming about me. It’s about me becoming part of it – trying to figure out what that project wants to be. Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven, for instance, was very intense and gritty" – the polar opposite of Claire Dolan. "Michael Benson’s Predictions of Fire, on the other hand, is a highly stylized propaganda film for a political art movement, and Bette Gordon’s Luminous Motion is a strange psychodrama with surreal overtones."

For future work, he claims, "I’d love to do a sci-fi rocker film. We need a good sci-fi rocker movie!" [20]

Kudos/Praise[edit]

Filmmaker Magazine screened two early films shot by Maniaci, and reviewed them favorably:

Jenniphr (sic) Goodman's The Tao of Steve and Myles Connell’s The Opportunists were two of the more striking- looking films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Although they differ dramatically – one exploits the expansive landscape of Sante Fe, N.M., as backdrop for a philosophical romantic comedy; the other portrays the idiosyncrasies of an outer-borough auto mechanic (and reformed safecracker) with incisive neighborhood detail. They were both shot by the same cinematographer, Teodoro Maniaci.
Since graduating from N.Y.U. film school in 1990, Maniaci has built a DP reel distinguished as much by its high quality as by the eclectism of its styles.

—(emphasis added) Filmmaker Magazine web site

He received the AMPAS Cinematography Award for The Savage Sleep and the Hamptons International Film Festival Cinematography Award for Searching for Paradise. [2]

Outsourced was featured at the Seattle International Film Festival to acclaim. The official festival synopsis and review was:

After his entire Seattle call-center department is outsourced, Todd succeeds in hanging onto his job only by agreeing to go to India to train his own replacement. With such bemusing cross-cultural comedy at hand, can love be far behind? Culture-shocks and obvious stereotypes are wittily sidestepped in this warm and charming crowd-pleaser.

[21]

Clean, Shaven was given "un certain regard" at the Cannes Film Festival, a runner's-up prize.[22]

Maniaci's cinematography in The Tao of Steve was given special praise by one reviewer:

Visually, Steve features bright, vivid colors in the beautifully shot (by Teodoro Maniaci, Smoke) interior and exterior Santa Fe scenes. The sky is always a perfect blue, and the sunsets are always amazing. If Steve were a bigger film, I'd almost expect Santa Fe's population to double in the next year. It looks that incredible. If Steve's beauty doesn't sell you on Santa Fe, maybe All the Pretty Horses will. The Billy Bob Thornton film, which was also shot in the New Mexico city, will hit theatres at the end of this year.

—Sick Boy review of Tao of Steve[23]

Lodge Kerrigan gave Maniaci thanks as a team player in an interview about the filming of Claire Dolan:

We used a lot of reflections to create the idea of image-based sex, image-based commerce, and we used a minimalist style to exclude a large part of the chaos of New York City: We wanted to create a sense of dread and impending doom. And I have to say, I owe a lot to the producer, Ann Ruark, to Teo [Teodoro Maniaci], the cinematographer who shot it, and to Sharon Lomofsky, the production designer. The collaboration between all of us formulated the look, and no doubt if I had worked with different people, the look of the film would have been significantly different.

—Interview of Lodge Kerrigan[24]

That film's "sex scene" was given special kudos:

The first time we see call girl Claire ... she is encased in a rectangular glass phone booth, trading fake intimacies with her clients as she arranges her schedule. Immediately afterwards, she contemplates her image in the interior of a mirror-lined hotel elevator on her way up to an assignation. In the ensuing sex scene, DP Teodoro Maniaci brings echoes of the lush erotic fantasies Helmut Newton created in the late 70s but without their mock-heroic celebration of power and passion. The room's ceiling is oppressively low, while the skyscrapers outside form mute voyeuristic panoramas.

—Ken Hollings' Review of Claire Dolan[25]

David Mulholland wrote for The Paris Film Festival that The Business of Strangers has a unique feel. In his words:

At a discussion sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West, (director Patrick) Stettner confessed to spending more on scouting locations and location budget than the actual film. And it shows. Along with cinematographer Teodoro Maniaci, the hotel scenes are striking in their "anyplace" feeling and that annoying balance of composition that you might expect from a Marriott brochure picture. The carpeted lobbies, plush hotel rooms and maddeningly soothing cocktail lounges come alive as if they were a character playing straight-man to the madness that ensues.

[12]

Another reviewer wrote about the camera work in that film in this way:

(In) Patrick Stettner’s The Business of Strangers, you learn a lot about Julie. She’s on the move, traveling first class, but everywhere she goes looks the same; all the restaurants, boardrooms, and hotel suites feature the same bland décor. As Julie click-clicks through a starkly white airport, Teodoro Maniaci’s camera tracks behind her, then moves around to reveal her game face: prepared and in control. The problem is, she can never be sure just what she’s prepared for and in control of, but that is the precise nature of her business, which is characterized by treachery and tension.
Indeed, minutes after Julie’s in-charge intro, things start to go wrong....

—Cynthia Fuchs, editor, review at [26]

Criticism[edit]

While Maniaci has scored a number of hits, some have not received public acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gave him only a 69% on their "Tomatometer".[27]

Tao of Steve[edit]

Maniaci's most critically acclaimed early work was The Tao of Steve, which he co-directed with Jennifr Goodman, and was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival.[28]

It had generally favorable reviews.[23][29][30][31][32][33] However, it received a 6.6 from "Rotten Tomatoes".[34]

One Nation Under God[edit]

Of all the films he has worked on, the one most identified with Maniaci is One Nation Under God, about the Ex-gay movement, in particular the Exodus movement. He was both co-producer and co-director for this 1993 documentary.

Synopsis[edit]

This film is about how lesbians and gay men try to become "ex-gay". The film focuses on one ex-ex-gay male couple, but also shows how through such techniques as the women wearing make-up and the men doing butch or macho mannerisms. It also includes black and white archival footage.[35] It also goes in some historical background, for context.[36]

Yahoo describes it as "A documentary about the contemporary struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights, focusing on the religious, right-wing proliferation of curative therapies for homosexuality." [37]

"Judge" Patrick Bromley at DVD Verdict gives a fuller synposis:

Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper ... are "ex-gays," working as spokespeople and recruiters for Exodus International, an organization committed to converting gay men and women into a heterosexual lifestyle. After months of working and traveling together, the two inevitably realize that they are, in fact, in love with one another—that their supposed conversion was nothing more than a repression and denial of their true selves. The two ultimately leave the families they had started during their "straight" lives (though the film does point out that both still spend a great deal of time with their children and are, by all accounts, good fathers) and marry — in the civil ceremony sense, anyway (we all know gay people can't really get married). These two men were long touted by Exodus International as success stories—proof that their methods work — but directors Teodoro Maniaci and Francine Rzeznik use them to prove an altogether different point: homosexuality can not be reversed. It is not a choice.

—Patrick Bromley at DVD Verdict, online at [38]

Critical response[edit]

In 1993, Maniaci shared the Audience Award at the San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival for One Nation Under God.[2][39][40]

The documentary was shown on the PBS television show, P.O.V. in 1994. The New York Times reviewed that showing on Channel 13 for the New York City market, giving a mixed blessing. The reviewer liked many parts, but demurred, "Unfortunately, One Nation Under God has a patchy, jumpy, overdone quality. The producers can't bear to leave bad enough alone: suddenly you find yourself watching homosexuals being rounded up by German Nazis. Nor can the producers resist some mushy proselytizing." [36] In concluding, he wrote, "A significant argument is advanced here that opinions about homosexuality have less to do with science than with religion, morals and politics. If the producers had been able to contain themselves, develop that argument in a more coherent way and make their case without decoration, One Nation Under God might have been a considerably more consequential work." [36]

The movie was rated by PlanetOut's PopcornQ with 4 Stars, and described as a "riveting documentary (that) offers the most dynamic historical overview of gays and lesbians in modern American society since Before Stonewall." [41]

It receives a A-minus at Yahoo films.[42] Amazon.com customers have given it a 3.5 stars out of 5.[43] One Nation Under God holds a 6.8 out of 10 on IMdB.[44]

DVD Verdict gave it a 79, stating, in part:

The documentary itself is not even particularly well made; it only captivates the way that it does because of its subject matter, aspects of which, thanks to some recent legal battles, seem more relevant today than ever before. Yet it's directly because of the controversial nature of the topic that I almost wish the filmmakers had explored it with more depth—the finished product is a bit simplistic in its approach, with the "reformers" coming off a bit too clownish.... The film clearly sides with the homosexual community ....
Though One Nation Under God comes close to succeeding, it falls short as both a film and a documentary in the end. It has its merits — not only does it provide a compelling look into a little-known movement, but also traces some of the roots of American homophobia and exclusion. At the same time, however, it does little more than reinforce what you might already believe; the opposing views are so polarized that there can be no in-between. While there's certainly no film that's going to convince me that homosexuality is wrong or needs "correcting," I wouldn't mind seeing a film that's a bit smarter, or raises better questions, or presents an opposing side that's less fanatical or more widely identifiable. After all, a much larger population is going to need their views challenged before we can come around as a society and make some significant changes.

DVD Talk rated it well, Francis Rizzo III writing:

This is a very good documentary, one that's both entertaining and informative. It also serves as a time capsule of sorts, enabling you to compare 2004 to 1993 (and not just in terms to fashion, which is entertaining in and of itself.) After watching it, I had to know what happened to Sy Rogers. Doing some searching online didn't leave me disappointed. And neither did this movie. If you can find it cheap and you're interested in the subject matter, it's worth a buy, but it's a renter for most due to the lack of extras. Either way(,) check it out, for an interesting view of gay history.

Rotten Tomatoes has not rated the film.[45]

Cultural impact[edit]

Rare amongst indie documentaries with significant gay content, One Nation Under God has become fodder for academia in film studies.[46][47][48]

In an article entitled Bullets, Ballots and Bibles: Documenting the History of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle in America, the film "to a certain extent also embodies a traditional 'coming out' narrative." [49] In that article, scholar Bruce R. Brasell notes that the movie

explores the recycling by religious fundamentalists of discredited psychiatric treatments from the Sixties, reparative theory, to 'cure' homosexuals today. A whole cottage ministry known as the ex-gay movement, complete with organizations and star names, has sprung up within fundamentalist Christian circles. The film, composed primarily of interviews, with inserts of psychiatric educational films, archival footage, public lectures, photographs, graphics, and some minor Voice-of-God narration, explores this movement and its historical roots. Like Ballot Measure 9, the film allows representatives from both sides of the debate to speak on their own behalf. Similarly, like Ballot Measure 9 and unlike Coming Out Under Fire, any editorializing is made primarily not through a Voice-of-God narrator but instead by the juxtaposition of film clips of the two sides' public representations of themselves.

—Bruce R. Brasell, Bullets, Ballots and Bibles: Documenting the History of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle in America Cineaste v21, n4 (Fall, 1995):17 at Berkeley web site

The Brotherhood[edit]

In August 2007, Maniaci finished filming a new series for the Showtime television network.[citation needed] The Providence Journal editorialized on the production of Brotherhood as follows:

The production of Showtime's The Brotherhood has enlivened Providence streets on and off for months.... An occasional loss of parking spaces to film crews and tax dollars for incentives to bring them here sets some teeth to grinding, but few don't feel the tingle of curiosity when approaching one of those star trailers.... Movies mean money, and film festivals lubricate our celloid (sic) culture in preparation for more.

—Editorial, Our own little Hollywood, The Providence Journal August 22, 2007, p. B 4, see.[50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ PBS Biography
  2. ^ a b c d e Cinematographers web site
  3. ^ Local 600 listing
  4. ^ a b IMdB web site
  5. ^ Channel 4 Film listings
  6. ^ For the most complete listing, better than IMdB, see Cinematographers web site
  7. ^ PBS Bio
  8. ^ Party Monster
  9. ^ PS Films Fest on Outsourced
  10. ^ Variety on Outsourced
  11. ^ Phase 9 on Inside Deep Throat
  12. ^ a b David Mulholland, quoted at Paris Film Festival for The Business of Strangers
  13. ^ James Berardinelli review at Reel ReviewsThe Business of Strangers
  14. ^ Cynthia Fuchs, editor, review at Pop Matters on The Business of Strangers
  15. ^ SNL 90's review
  16. ^ SNL
  17. ^ PBS on Shaolin Ulysses
  18. ^ Credits for Shaolin Ulysses
  19. ^ Reality (2003)
  20. ^ Filmmaker Magazine web site
  21. ^ Seattle International Film Festival web site
  22. ^ Cannes Film Festival Guide
  23. ^ a b Sick Boy review of Tao of Steve
  24. ^ Christopher Munch, CHRISTOPHER MUNCH TALKS WITH LODGE KERRIGAN, Spurning Tricks - Interview, Artforum, Oct., 2000, found at Find Articles Interview of Lodge Kerrigan
  25. ^ Ken Hollings' Review of Claire Dolan
  26. ^ Cynthia Fuchs at Pop Matters on The Business of Strangers
  27. ^ Rotten Tomatoes web site
  28. ^ Sundance note on the Tao of Steve
  29. ^ Prairie net review of Tao of Steve
  30. ^ Seattle paper review of Tao of Steve
  31. ^ Tao of Steve
  32. ^ review of Tao of Steve
  33. ^ review of Tao of Steve
  34. ^ Tao of Steve on IMdB
  35. ^ Rotten Tomatoes synopsis of One Nation Under God
  36. ^ a b c Walter Goodman, Review/Television; Disputing the View That Homosexuality Is an Illness The New York Times, June 20, 1994, found at The New York Times review
  37. ^ Yahoo Movies synopsis
  38. ^ DVD Verdict review of One Nation Under God
  39. ^ [International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival San Francisco, California www.frameline.org]
  40. ^ PopcornQ - Planet Out web site
  41. ^ PopcornQ review
  42. ^ Yahoo Movies review
  43. ^ Amazon.com Cusotmer reviews of One Nation Under God
  44. ^ One Nation Under God on IMdB
  45. ^ Rotten Tomatoes about One Nation Under God
  46. ^ all academic web site
  47. ^ Fordham U syllabus -- Homosexuality and Catholicism Bibliography: Section XIV Lesbian and Gay Christian Movies and TV by Paul Halsall
  48. ^ Berkeley library
  49. ^ Bruce R. Brasell, Bullets, Ballots and Bibles: Documenting the History of the Gay and Lesbian Struggle in America Cineaste v21, n4 (Fall, 1995):17 at Berkeley web site
  50. ^ Providence Journal web site

External links[edit]