Thursday, April 30, 2009
Italian investigation of a citizen above suspicion
By Ed Rampell
Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo – about Italy’s Christian Democrat senator for life and seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti -- is an appropriate political movie to release on May Day.
Coming at a time when there’s buzz about holding the war criminals who authored the infamous, unconstitutional torture memos and those who carried out these brutal Orwellian interrogation techniques accountable, the main interest most American viewers will have in this foreign film is that it focuses on the trial and tribulations of a high ranking politician.
Toni Servillo (also seen in 2008’s Gomorrah) drolly, coyly, coolly depicts Andreotti, as a sort of grand Christian Democrat diva of politics. Andreotti was investigated and charged in connection to the 1979 murder of a journalist, Mafia ties (Sorrentino wittily depicts Andreotti’s inner circle as being a Cosa Nostra-like cabal that would do another Tony -- Soprano -- proud), corruption, etc. Sorrentino’s film is in the great tradition (in terms of content, if not style) of Italian Neo-Realism, as practiced by the movie maestros Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti and political cinema, in particular, Elio Petri’s 1970 Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.
Il Divo deals with notorious cases such as former Prime Minister Aldo Moro's 1978 abduction and assassination by Italy’s ultra-left terrorist faction, the Red Brigades. Roberto Calvi, the Vatican-linked banker found hanging at London’s Blackfriars Bridge, is also dealt with (as he was, I believe, in Francis Ford Coppola’s underrated 1990 The Godfather: Part III and more recently in Tom Tykwer’s 2009 BCCI thriller, The International).
Unlike Dennis “the Moviegoer Menace” Lim’s recent L.A. Times review of the DVD release of In the Realm of the Senses, which – without a spoiler alert warning those who have not seen this 1976 film -- rather unforgivably divulged the sensational ending of Nagisa Oshima’s erotic classic, I won’t reveal how Andreotti’s trials turned out. I’ll let you, dear reader/viewer, find out for yourself. After all, that’s part of the joy of watching movies – right, Mr. Loose Lips Lim?
Suffice it to say that the scheming Machiavellian Andreotti, who is 90, suffers from migraines, conclusively proving once and for all that sometimes god does not work in mysterious ways, and also has a pretty good sense of humor.
Hopefully, Sorrentino’s newest film, La Partita Lenta, will also be released here. In any case, after watching the Neapolitan auteur’s Il Divo on May 1, all out of the theatres and into the streets to demand war crime tribunals for the Bush regime’s architects and purveyors of torture. After all, if Italians can investigate citizens above suspicion, why can’t we in the land of the free and home of the torturers?
LAAPFF 2009 is here
By Don Simpson
The 25th Anniversary Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) launches the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month (which would be May). LAAPFF 2009 will showcase 181 films -- 35 feature films and 146 shorts and videos -- from both Asian Pacific American and Asian international directors representing 26 countries. The festival also features several seminars (open to the public).
LAAPFF will run from April 30 thru May 7, 2009 at the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), Laemmle’s Sunset 5 Theatres, Downtown Independent Theatre, The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, and the Aratani/Japan America Theatre.
Here’s a taste of what LAAPFF 2009 has to offer:
Jay –- There are actually two Jays in Jay. We meet the first Jay, a gay Filipino school teacher, just after he was brutally murdered. We then meet the second Jay (Baron Geisler), the host of a television reality show, as he coerces the deceased Jay’s family to participate in his program. The film bounces fleetingly between reality and the television reality show – and as the film progresses reality turns into fiction. Director Francis Xavier Pasio gives a frank and brutal portrayal of reality television in the Philippines but the criticisms translate worldwide. Recommended.
Kolorette –- Structurally, Kolorette is challenging, as it has more in common with surrealist art films than traditional narratives. There is a play and there are songs. There is a lot of deceit, lust and envy. But to be perfectly honest, I did not quite understand everything director Ruelo Lozendo is attempting to convey in this film; yet in my world that can be interpreted as a compliment. One might suspect that a film titled Kolorette would most likely be in color. That suspicion would be wrong.
Lala’s Gun -- The Miao tribe has lived in the forests of south-eastern China for over 2,000 years, still respecting the traditions of their forefathers. Boys become adults at the age of 15, at which time they are typically given a gun by their father. Lala’s (Wang Jishuai) adulthood initiation ceremony is approaching, but because his father abandoned him at birth so he has no one to give him a gun. Lala decides the best solution would be to aimlessly wander across south-eastern China in search of the father he has never known or seen. Highly recommended.
Love Exposure –- Clocking in just shy of four hours, Love Exposure spends a good deal of time building the back-story of the film’s protagonist, Yu (Takahiro Nishijima)…and gratuitously focusing on panty shots…but I’ll get back to that later. Yu’s mother dies while he is just a child. Before she dies, Yu’s mother gives him a statue of the Virgin Mary. Yu’s father becomes a Catholic priest, but then his fancy is tickled by another woman. Overburdened by the guilt of his own actions, Yu’s father forces Yu to confess on a daily basis. Yu’s dilemma is that he is a good person with little or nothing to confess. At first he makes up sins, but his father sees through him; so Yu is forced to find sins to commit, hence Yu falls in with a questionable crowd. Yu is taught by his new friends how to steal, fight and take stealth photographs up women’s skirts. Yu promptly becomes a skilled panty shot photographer; he is considered to be a pervert, but he never gets off from the photos. Eventually Yu meets the girl of his dreams (his Virgin Mary) – he knows this because glancing at her panties makes him erect. And that’s just the first 45 minutes! Highly recommended for recovering Catholics with a penchant for peeking at panties.
The Rainbow Troops –- At least ten pupils must attend Muslimah (Cut Mini Theo) and Harfan’s (Ikranagara) decrepit Islamic primary school located on a tiny Indonesian island, otherwise the school must close. It is quite obvious that ten students will eventually show up. Inspired by Andrea Hirata's 2005 novel, Rainbow Warriors, director Riri Riza revisits the ten students’ adventurous, yet motivational and educational, schooldays in one long flashback told from the point of view of one of the students who has returned home as an adult. .Recommended.
Shiro’s Head -– Vince Flores (Don Muna) is our humble narrator. Let’s just say that Vince has some issues to deal with involving his own questionable past as well as his family’s history of secrets. Vince was left crippled and guilt-wrecked after the death of his father. Vince is now attempting to reconcile his guilty conscience, but his checkered past and family’s secrets promptly catches up to him. Noah (Matt Ladmirault), Vince’s doppelganger, returns to Guam to visit his best friend Jacob (Julian Santos). Jacob, Vince’s half-brother, is murdered by a mohawk-ed assassin (Dion Lizama) forcing Vince and Noah to form an alliance to avenge Jacob’s death.
Winds of September -– Boys will be boys. In the case of Winds of September, we are talking about a tight-knit group of high school boys that enjoy baseball, girls and beer. The boys find it difficult to stay out of trouble, just as their favorite baseball team gets into some trouble of their own. Eventually, the trouble gets the best (or worst) of all parties in this Neorealist-cum-New Wave gem. Highly recommended.
Yamagata Scream –- Directed by and starring Naoto Takenaka, Yamagata Scream is a hyper-stylized visual trip into a crazed Japanese fantasyland chockfull of vengeful zombie samurais, circus-like townspeople and cute Japanese high school girls on a history field trip.
For more information, please visit http://www.vconline.org/festival/
Thursday, April 23, 2009
By John Esther
A thrilling documentary looking at the state of play in Los Angeles politics, power and people, Scott Kennedy Hamilton's Oscar-nominated documentary hits Los Angeles tomorrow on the opposite side of town from where the recorded events occurred.
Screening at the West Los Angeles' NuArt Theatre, The Garden chronicles the corrupt killing of what was once America's largest community garden -- located in south central Los Angeles. Formed out of the riots a la the failure to convict Rodney King's clubbing cops, the garden was a place where locals could tend and tender their terrain, toiling in the spirit of community.
But then low, low, low and behold and beholden to special interests, backroom deals are being made and it is time to give the poor people one more eviction notice. So the farmers resist, politicians politicize and pander, courts counter and cave, race raises its rancid head and a few Hollywood heavies lend their help.
The follow up to his award-winning documentary, OT Our Town, Kennedy's documentary is engaging and enraging, pointing more than just a few fingers of blame toward those we might not want running our city or state any longer.
JEsther Entertainment: Did you feel your documentary was filling a void the local media failed to fill?
Scott Hamilton Kennedy: Absolutely. People could go on a rant on how the local press didn’t get it right. There are good people working in that medium, but it’s the nature of the medium. You can’t capture the complexities in one minute or three-minute sound bites.
JE: How did the presence of a film crew influence the narrative? Perhaps some politicians appeared when they normally would not have?
SHK: That’s a funny thing what the camera does. I would say that I was around these farmers for so long that they definitely got more comfortable around me. When I filmed at city council, especially during the early days, everybody made his or her statement. Thank God they did. It shows how they talk out of both sides of their mouth. They stand up and say, “This is the most amazing garden. It’s an honor it was created in our city. It’s a symbol of how we can all work together, but we’re really sorry it has to come to an end. It’s not our fault it’s coming to an end. It’s a legal decision.” But if you stick with the story, you find out that “legal argument” is not really telling the whole story.
JE: It is nothing against the NuArt, but why release the film over here in West Los Angeles? You could hardly be further from the heart-less of the matter.
STK: That’s funny. Hopefully we’ll start here and then play in other theaters.
JE: You are from Silver Lake and you are “white.” There are no “white” players in the documentary. How conscious were the farmers, politicians and others of your race?
STR: I didn’t think at the beginning of this film that it was going to be that much about race. I thought it was going to be a film about class; class in terms of money and power. But in post-production what was really presented was how hard it is not to be derailed from doing best by ourselves and the community. I could have done another documentary about race in LA. The Wire was a huge influence in giving me a lot of confidence in terms of letting the grey areas in there.
JE: Outside of the lawyers, pretty much the leaders on both sides were women.
STR: Yep. That’s a good point. I was raised by smart and powerful women. That had an influence. I don’t know. It’s something you pulled out of it. One of the fascinating things about getting this story out is seeing people’s reactions.
JE: What do you think the similarities between building a garden in this environment and making a small documentary on this kind of subject?
STR: There are definitely some metaphors: I hope we have a good harvest with this film; and people find our film nutritious. [Laughs.] You got it.
JE: Lastly, what do you think about these interviews where you talk about your work? Does it serve the work? Should the work speak for itself?
STR: [Laughs.] Jiminy Christmas, putting the microscope on the microscope. I am sitting here in the hopes of getting as many people in seats as I can. As the gardeners jumped through as many hoops as they can to save the garden, I’ll jump through as many hoops to get people to see the film. That said, it can be a bit silly talking about yourself over and over again.
By John Esther
The most controversial figure in professional sports since the great Muhammad Ali's heyday heroics in the boxing and political rings, former-heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson cuts a complex, crazy and callous character.
On November 22, 1986, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at the age of 20. Less than one year later he would also become the first boxer to simultaneously own all three major boxing belts: WBA, WBC, and IBF.
The talk of boxing immortality, less than five years later Tyson's reign was knocked down by his controversial 53-week-long marriage to actor Robin Givens (The Cosby Show) followed by a rape conviction and two counts of deviate sexual conduct against Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America Contestant.
It was a sharp rise, fall, rise and demise by one of the most dynamic boxers in American history. To often make matters worse Tyson could not keep his mouth shut, frequently composing some the most ludicrous responses and justifications for his behavior (memorably parodied by In Living Color's Keenan Ivory Wayans and The Simpsons Drederick Tatum).
A force out of control, Tyson finally encountered and created one chaotic situation after another until he quit spontaneously and ceremoniously during a fight with Kevin McBride on June 11, 2005.
Now in his 40s, the retired Tyson looks back at his upbringing in the Bronx, his tutelage under boxing coach legend Cus D'Amato, romance, sex, fighting, boxing, and much more through multiple cameras in James Toback's Tyson.
An independent filmmaker familiar with his own brand of fame and miss-fortune, some of Toback's credits include Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir of the Great Jim Brown, The Gambler, The Beat That Skipped My Heart, Love and Money, Exposed, The Pick-Up Artist, Bugsy, and When I Will Be Loved (featuring an odd cameo by Tyson). Havard-educated and computer illiterate, Toback's films often explore and underscore masculine rage in the face of mortality. It was only fitting Toback should make a film about Tyson.
In this exclusive interview we spoke to Toback about the layers of Tyson and Tyson.
James Toback (talking to a young woman): Somehow I have been a magnet for people who are borderline psychotic or who have crossed over. They usually come to my movies. At any Q&A I have at least two-three people saying, “Hi, I have your story here. I want to give it to you tonight. Here’s my phone number. If you could call me around 1 a.m.” There was one screening where I panicked because there were about 15 of them. I wound up giving my actual cell number to all 15 of them. Later that night I got bombarded with about 100 calls. I said to each one of them. "If you could call me in 18 months, that would be great.” So 18 months minus two days I’m going to change my phone number. [Laughs.] It’s going to be a fucking onslaught.
[The woman leaves. Greetings are exchanged.]
JEsther Entertainment: Speaking of onslaught. You have known Mike for years. Why was it time to tell the story?
JT: How long are we going to be around? We’ve talked about doing it for a while. I’m obsessed with death as an immediate reality. I told everyone I was going to be dead at 26 and it doesn’t embarrass me. I still think I’m going to be dead any day. Tyson can’t believe he’s 40. Everybody he knows is dead, in prison or strung out on drugs. Given that death is the only thing we know is going to happen, at a certain point you say, “It’s now or never.”
JE: Beyond the death connection, what do you have in common with Mike?
JT: An experience of madness, a love of extreme behavior -- both in oneself and in others, a feeling that there are no rules except the ones you make up yourself. It’s important to know yourself and it’s important to have yourself fully revealed to yourself; also a love of boxing, a love of certain sports.
JE: You mention boxing. What are the similarities between boxing and filmmaking?
JT: The stakes are immensely high. If you make a movie or go in for a prizefight, the repercussions of failure are disastrous. And the advancement is huge. If you do it and it pays off there’s an inordinate importance to each of the events in your career.
JE: Mike is credited with being an executive producer and he is a buddy of yours; how much influence did he have making the film?
JT: Zero. That was part of the deal. He didn’t see anything until it was done. I couldn’t have done it any other way. Executive Producer, as you may have noticed over the years, as a title, does not resonate with actual significance with the people who hold it.
JE: How did the friendship influence the areas were you went?
JT: I just assumed he didn’t want to do the movie if he didn’t want to be unadulterated-ly confessional. That was the whole point of it. He asked a question and then had two cameras shooting for the next 45 minutes without interrupting. If there were 10 minutes of silence, fine; let’s see what happens after the 10 minutes of silence. It was a completely relaxed environment where he could come up with whatever occurred to him.
JE: What do you think the medium could not capture about Tyson? What do you know how Mike that is not in Tyson?
JT: Nothing. The toughest thing was to get that sense of madness. The stylistic framework I came up, with the split screen and multiple voices, actually took care of that problem.
JE: Tyson seems to have matured in many ways over the years with the noticeably exception of sex. He still seems to be a kid. Did you ever talk to him about it? “Hey, Mike, you still sound like that kid.”
JT: No, because the idea was not to adulterate anything he was saying and to let him come across in his own way. Just as he in not a censor of himself, I didn’t want to be a censor. For instance, he says, "fellatio," when what he means is cunnilingus.
JE: The natural process of editing does censor.
JT: That’s not censoring. That’s selection. That’s what I had to do as opposed to releasing a 30-hour movie.
JE: Do people question your wise choice not to include other interviewees?
JT: That has been asked at least once at every Q&A I’ve done. It never occurred me to do that. The story is basically psychoanalytic – allow a guy to be on the couch, literally and figuratively, and let all of his voices out.
JE: Lastly, what do you think about these interviews where you talk about your work? Does it serve the work? Should the work speak for itself?
JT: It should speak for itself. Ideally there would be no promotion for any movie. The Soloist opens the same day. I’ve seen 30 spots for the film. By the way, have you seen the film?
JT: Is it any good? Do you think people are going to like it?
JE: It’s not sentimental. It has a very strong love/hate relationship with Los Angeles.
JT: Oh really? Well, you don’t have to promote that movie. It’s there. Most movies you do. The less money you get spent (on marketing) the more marketing you got to do. If I didn’t do it how many people wouldn’t be aware of it? I don’t know because I’m an Internet ignoramus. Ultimately, nothing I say is going to change what’s on the screen. This doesn’t matter. There it is. You could talk about it all you want.
Monday, April 20, 2009
By Don Simpson
I participated in my first yoga class 15 years ago and I have practiced yoga intermittently ever since. If I have learned one thing about yoga, it is that it means different things to different people. Heck, yoga means different things to me on any given day! Sometimes I utilize yoga for physical strength and agility, other times to clear my mind and relax, and occasionally yoga is my portal to reach a higher level of consciousness. It depends on what I need at the time, and no one can force me to use yoga in a way that I am not prepared or willing to use it.
With her new documentary, Enlighten Up!, Kate Churchill set forth to learn more about the potentials of yoga -- a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S., practiced by tens of millions of Americans -- more precisely, the potential of spiritual enlightenment. To do so, Churchill chose a yoga virgin (29 year-old journalist, Nick Rosen) as her guinea pig.
A true man of science, Rosen proves a tough sell on the spiritual aspects of yoga. In such a forced and impersonal setting – under constant surveillance of an unblinking eye and a director who becomes more and more frustrated every day of the shoot – who can blame him?
Over six months of yoga immersion, Rosen appreciates the physical, and occasionally even the mental, benefits of yoga while consistently remaining skeptical of anything resembling spiritual enlightenment. Churchill and crew follow Rosen across the United States and all the way to India as Rosen searches for a yogi that can convince him that true enlightenment does exist; but think about it, if the indisputable truth of enlightenment that Rosen is searching for did exist…well…let’s just say the world would be a much different place. Essentially, Rosen is looking for the impossible and of course he never finds it.
What Rosen does discover is a hodgepodge of infamous yogis (including Norman Allen, Alan Finger, Dharma Mittra, Diamond Dallas Page, Pattabhi Jois, Dr. Madan Kataria, and B.K.S. Iyengar), many of whom provide the much needed comic relief of the film. If there is anything to learn from Enlighten Up!, it is that most yogis can be extremely entertaining and accommodating.
I doubt Enlighten Up! will convince anyone to try yoga for the first time; but forever questioning and changing yoga practitioners like myself, it does provide comfort that we are not the only ones. It seems that only a handful of the yogis have truly fine tuned and cemented their yogic path, knowing precisely what yoga means to them and how they want to utilize it.
For the rest of the yoga practitioners of the world, we will just remain a bunch of wandering souls just trying to make sense of yoga until one day enlightenment smacks us upside the head.
My dreams for your reality.
By John Esther
Winner of Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize (for science in film) at Sundance Film Festival 2008, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer is impressive for what must have been a very small budget.
Haunted by his father’s murder, which he accidentally arranged, Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña) heads to Tijuana “the city of the future” in this futuristic film. There he hooks himself up to a world-life system (“nodes”) and works his mechanical arms to the boneless truth of a reality disconnected from natural world around him.
Poignant and apropos, this superb film works out several themes on multiple levels.
Born in 1973 to native of Peru and the United States, the now-New York based media artist and filmmaker grew up in a New Jersey suburbia where assumptions about race, immigration and identity where assumed and under-questioned.
Over the past 15 years, Rivera has explored these issues in his work via the eyes and advent of the technological revolution of our times.
In this exclusive interview, we spoke Rivera about his labor in love and waiting.
JEsther Entertainment: This film has been ready to go since early last year. How does it feel to hold onto it this long and still be discussing it?
Alex Rivera: [Laughs.] I feel a bit like a robot. The film is a labor of love. It took about 10 years to get it done. I’m completely delighted and relieved it’s making it out into the world now. But what I would say is this: ten years ago, when I dreamed of making a science fiction movie in Spanish, with the main character as a migrant worker living in Mexico, who looks outside – and the film would be a way of looking at politics and economics through science fiction – I was joking. I never thought the film would get made. Now 12 years later it’s about to be released in theaters. There are billboards around town. I’m like stunned. I feel like I’m living in film or a virtual reality. It’s a delight.
JE: Which of the characters do you identify with the most and why?
AR: If you wanted to get psychological the three characters are pieces of myself. The one I identify with the most is the journalist (name). I have been making films with the naive hope of changing the world, that are meaningful, connect to economics, that a lot of people in America might not be able to see otherwise. Though her stories and dreams Luz hopes she can tie these things to the world. As an American I know I am tied to the world.
JE: You mentioned filmmaking. Flimmaking is often seen as dream factory. Your title would suggest the marketing of sedation or numbness.
AR: Film is such a beautiful medium. In can do so many wonderful things. But I prefer that silver screen up there not to be an escape hatch into a false reality for ninety minutes. I want that silver screen to be a window where people see something real. Even though this film is a science fiction and a fantasy, I really hope and believe the best part of it is that it is a window into a very possible future.
JE: The way she sells her memories seems to address how our personal and collective historical memories. History is no longer an experience based on empirical data or memory but rather the visual recreation of it by some stranger.
AR: Absolutely. The concept of downloading your memories into a social network is where we will end up. If you look at the history of the camera, the first ones were the size of a building, now they’re the size of a cigarette and can be broadcast around the world. That process isn’t over. Where does it end? It ends with the camera disappearing, with it becoming a part of us. We can share with other people what we see and what we hear. Kodak had that slogan, “Share your memories.” That’s where we’ll end up: anything that can be lived will be recorded and shared. What questions will that raise about privacy, honesty…Will we know when we’re being recorded? We don’t know now; what’s it going to be like 20 years from now?
JE: And our minds may travel across vast spaces yet our bodies remain in a singular area. A person who is only free in his or her mind takes on a new meaning/context. Conversely, Luz is now selling her mind and not her body, which would, or could, be construed as progress.
AR: I am sure there are bizarre gender politics in this movie I haven’t been able to pick up yet. I like the idea of this female character enabling the sort of revolutionary act at the end of the film. It’s by, it seems, doing something as passive as listening or storytelling. That’s the revolutionary act. I like that. I don’t think there are enough badass female protagonists in science fiction.
JE: Where they tend to be extremely objectified – if you look at video imagery. Unless you look at female scientists in movies; but they are usually the best looking scientists one would ever see. Let us talk about the Mexico-U.S. relations in the film.
AR: Sure. I see the relation of Mexico and the U.S. as microcosm for the whole planet. Mexico is part of the so-called developing world. The U.S. has been the most powerful country on the planet. The fact that those two countries share a border produces all kinds of fascinating conflicts that resonate with what is happening around the world.
JE: So a sequel may expand the geopolitics?
AR: I would love to do a sequel connecting Jakarta with Los Angeles, Mumbai to London, the occupied West Bank to New York.
JE: The speed of narrativity increases at Internet connectivity speeds.
AR: I hope the film does not come off as anti-technology. Technology is making the world more connected. It’s destroying distance. Places once isolated from one another are now profoundly connected to the point where you can have a solider living in Las Vegas but bombing in Pakistan, and going home to his family at night for dinner. It’s all happening on remote control. We live in a connected planet. Who is becoming more powerful? That’s the question for me. We can see the way the military is using connectivity. We can see the way corporations use connectivity. How can everyday people use it? And we definitely are. In the elections, crowd sourcing, the financing of elections, in Iraq the cellphone videos of soldiers have been some of the most direct dispatches from the battlefield. That’s an example of normal people using technology to break down barriers. Technology is not good. Technology is not bad. It’s a battlefield. Sleep Dealer is about who’s winning that battle.
JE: The connectivity is there yet where is the physicality? You and I are talking right now at the same table. In the future it may be from our rooms at home, filtered our “people.”
AR: One of the most fun scenes to film is when they make love. They take these jacks to their body. They’re not only able to penetrate each other in the old-fashioned way but to actually see what’s in each other’s minds, too.
JE: Which might not be a good thing if you are not that attracted to your partner.
AR: [Laughs.] You might see in their mind that their thinking about somebody else. That scene was a provocation. Part of the statement of the overall theme of the film is that part of the physicality of who we are is that the sociability of our relationships are not disappearing but our becoming morphed and tweaked by technology and going very strange places.
JE: For my last question -- which goes back to what we were talking about earlier -- what do you think about these interviews where you talk about your work? Does it serve the work? Should the work speak for itself?
AR: I got interested in making films because I don’t think the world is humane and just enough. We live in a world that’s violent and we’re alienated from the violence around us. We don’t see it here. I hope these films attack that world order, but I also hope they’re fun and seductive. That being said, it never hurts to stand by the film and speak about it. It never hurts to speak next to the film and engage in conversation. I love hearing your questions. I’m not somebody who has a vision, I put it on the screen, and that’s the end of the process. I’m a person who tries to listen to the world.
By Carlin Nguyen
The IFFLA will host to a total of 15 feature films including, five feature length documentaries, along with 16 short films. Also, the IFFLA will feature seminars gearing towards topics including: “The State of the Indian Entertainment Industry” and “Film Financing: Co-Productions and Alternatives.”
The following capsule reviews are four examples of this year's IFFLA.
Kanchivoram -- As an aging man, Vengadam (Prakash Raj) is transported to his hometown after being released from jail. As the bus nears its destination (and throughout the movie), Vengadam recalls events that lead up to the present day: marriage, newborn child, dealing with low wages as a silk weaver, murder, and crime. What lead to this present day is drastic – Vengadam makes one sacred promise for his new born daughter (by the time she weds). The problem – he can’t afford it and has to conform to drastic measures to make this promise come to life.
[Ed. Note: The format for this article deviates from the standard. We are trying to rectify the situation. Thank you.]
Friday, April 10, 2009
By John Esther
In the wake of the recent departure of the the director of the Sundance Film Festivial, Geoffrey Gilmore -- amongst other film festival leaders -- Wally Weisman, Chair of the Board of the Sundance Institute, announced the resignation of Ken Brecher, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute.
Brecher's resignation goes into effect April 30, 2009, but he will assume the role of Strategic Advisor for the nonprofit arts Institute for the next two years.
Recruited in 1996 by Sundance Founder, writer-director-actor Robert Redford, Brecher came to Sundance having been a foundation president, a museum director, and an artistic director in the theater.
""I have completed my work in building an outstanding leadership team," said Brecher. "I could not be more confident that the Institute is now poised for the next phase of its innovative work in supporting independent artists."
Brecher's primary responsibility has been the Institutes's core programs. Under his leadership, among other activities, the Feature Film Program began its work in Western Asia, supporting regional film artists. Now in its fifth year, this annual program serves participants from the region.
In addition, Brecher was a key participant in establishing the Sundance Institutes's Documentary Fund. Working in more than 50 countries, it is one of the largest human rights, civil rights and freedom of expression documentary funds. It has supported films such as Academy Award nominees and winners Born into Brothels, Iraq in Fragments, and the recent Trouble the Water.
Brecher also reconceived the Composers Lab and expanded the Institute's support of film composers through the creation of the Sundance Institute Film Music Program. During his tenure, the Playwrights Retreat evolved into the acclaimed Sundance Theatre Program.
Brecher has been responsible for establishing the Institute's strong and diverse base of support for the $26 million annual operating budget. He has attracted major grants from The Ford Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, The Doris Duke Foundation, The Open Society Institute, The Annenberg Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others.
"Brecher's efforts will stand the Institute in good stead in the years ahead," said Weisman.
A search for a successor to Brecher has been delayed.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
By Don Simpson
My twelvth South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) turned out to be my poorest attended (I have countless excuses, but I will refrain from boring you with them). However, from the screenings and events that I did have the chance to experience, SXSW appears to have answered several of my complaints from prior years. Most notably, several theater locations were impossible for pedestrians to reach in a timely manner; the 16th annual SXSW (which ran this year from March 13-21t) featured a condensed group of theaters (the only theater located outside of Austin’s small downtown was accessible by a free shuttle bus for the first five days of the festival). Guaranteed admission (for up to 10 percent of the theater capacity) for two films per day was made available for every badge holder each morning at a ticket booth located in the convention center. (Every film festival should do this! It is also worth noting that badge attendance increased significantly. I heard it was at least a 30 percent increase from previous registration highs, which was obvious throughout the festival with sell-out crowds aplenty.)
Though I missed some notable Mumblecore films (a signature of SXSW) such as Andrew Bujalski’s Beeswax and Joe Swanberg’s Alexander the Last, I did catch Humpday, Lynn Shelton’s follow-up to one of my favorites of SXSW 2008 (My Effortless Brilliance).
A long lost friend, Andrew (Joshua Leonard), shows up at Ben’s (Mark Duplass) front door in the middle of the night. Andrew’s carefree lifestyle pushes Ben’s “white picket fence” marriage to Anna (Alycia Delmore) to the snapping point; especially when, while drunk and stoned, Andrew and Ben conceive of a gay (“beyond gay”) porn film (an “art project”) in which they will play two straight males who just happen to have sex. Leading up to the climax, the two friends continue to push the limits of freedom and normality in human relationships. Hilarity ensues as Humpday reconfirms Shelton’s seemingly effortless brilliance.
Brett Gaylor’s RiP: A Remix Manifesto takes artistic copyright on a turn to the left (check out http://www.opensourcecinema.org/) as it follows the mantras of Creative Commons and free copyright visionaries like Lawrence Lessig. With RiP, Gaylor’s intent is to prove the artistic relevance of remixing music (using Girl Talk as his primary subject). Gaylor’s treatise is that there will never be an artistic expression that is completely new, and that everything creative relies predominantly on recycling (in this case, remixing) something from the past so artistic creations from the past must be readily accessible. In making this documentary, Gaylor himself knowingly infringes on countless copyright infringements (visual and audio); so don’t expect to see this one in the theaters anytime soon.
My Suicide, directed by David Lee Miller, almost deserved its hype. The story is about Archie (Gabriel Sunday), a high school student who decides he wants to film his own suicide as project for his video production class. Instead of becoming a freaky outcast, he quickly evolves into the most popular guy at his high school; even the girl of his dreams, Sierra (Brooke Nevin), wants to hang out with him. It’s sort of a ridiculous plot, but it does cleverly speak to the way high school students have become immune to (even thrive on) violence. Structurally, My Suicide utilizes inventive techniques to tell its story but the stunted overacting is reminiscent of a senior thesis project.
Writer-directors Cliff Bogart and Kyle Bogart (both recent University of Texas at Austin graduates) enjoyed three sold-out screenings of their first feature, Artois the Goat. Artois plays like a quirky Scandinavian art film but is set in Texas and utilizes amateur American actors. Laughs-a-plenty were heard from the entire audience and the cinematography was gorgeous. Unfortunately (similar to My Suicide) the acting spoils the goat’s milk (the film is about a craft cheesemaker).
Feature Film Jury Awards went to Aron Gaudet’s The Way We Get By (Documentary Feature - Special Jury Award), Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross’s 45365 (Documentary Feature - Grand Jury Award), Scott Teems’ That Evening Sun (Narrative Feature - Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast), Judi Krant’s Made in China (Narrative Feature – Grand Jury Award). The Feature Film Audience Awards went to Jennifer Steinman’s Motherland (Emerging Visions), Geralyn Pezanoski’s Mine (Documentary Feature) and Scott Teems’ That Evening Sun (Narrative Feature).