Archive for film wish list

Why We Fight Screenings

Just noticed on IMDB that Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight, which I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, is finally receiving a limited theatrical release, starting this weekend in New York and Los Angeles.

According to the Women’s Action for New Directions website, Why We Fight should be hitting DC on February 10 (the website has a full schedule). I’ve generally heard positive things about the film, so very much looking forward to seeing it.

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From the Vaults

Just a quick link to an upcoming screening at the National Archives: This Thursday night at 5:30 PM, “From the Vaults: The Way We Worked on Film,” a program featuring “a selection of short subjects, newsreels, and film clips from the motion picture holdings of the National Archives documenting various occupations, working environments, and labor-saving practices.”

The following night features the documentary, Roll on Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the Bonneville Power Administration, which focuses on Guthrie’s temporary job with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bonneville Power Administration.

Both film programs are part of the Archives’ temporary exhibit, “The Way We Worked,” which features photographs, audio, and video documents of work experiences during the years 1857-1987.

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Miranda July Videos

For my DC readers: I just noticed that the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be screening a collection of Miranda July’s short video and sound work tonight at 7 PM (reservations are required). If July’s debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know is any indication, tonight’s program should be quite interesting.

Mentioning July also gives me an excuse to link to her on-going web project, Learning to Love You More, which continues to evolve in really interesting ways, particularly the most recent “assignment,” in which contributors are asked to “give advice to yourself in the past.”

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Work in Progress: Scapegoat on Trial

This morning, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a “Work in Progress” panel discussion sponsored by the Washington Jewish Film Festival. This year’s work in progress was a documentary film, Scapegoat on Trial, co-directed by one of the fathers of cinema verite, Albert Maysles, and Academy Award nominee, Josh Waletzky. The panel was moderated by another documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who directed The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, among other films.

In Scapegoat on Trial, Maysles and Waletsky will be introducing contemporary audiences to the somewhat forgotten story of the Beilis Affair, in which Mendel Beilis, a Jewish resident in Kiev was framed for the brutal murder of a young Christian boy in March 1911. The framing was cynically concocted by the tsarist secret police and reiled upon the Blood Libel, asserting that the murder was part of a human sacrifice. The case against Beilis collapsed, however, when it became clear that much of the evidence had been fabricated. During the time of the trial, it provoked international outrage, but the story is not as widely known as it should be, in part due to the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent collapse of tsarist Russia. The story is quite obviously significant, if only because it’s worth learning about the heroism of the people who protested against the blood libel. But the film is also significant because versions of the blood libel persist to this day, as the recent documentary, Protocols of Zion, points out. In addition, the film raises important questions about the negative effects of demonizing vulnerable groups in order to promote fear and produce genocidal campaigns, as the recent events in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Darfur illustrate.

Maysles and Waletzky showed about nine minutes of the film, which is still in production, but even in those brief scenes, I was struck by the wealth of materials they will be using. Perhaps the most compelling material for this wanna-be archivist was footage from a 1913 Russian documentary that told the story of the Beilis Affair, complete with re-enacted scenes of Beilis’ arrest and “home movie” clips of his family and other participants in the case, including the corrupt officials who testified against him. In addition, Maysles and Waletzky were able to interview Beilis’ 95-year old daughter in her retirement home in the Bronx. I’ll admit to being utterly floored by this access to history, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the completed film.

During the panel, Maysles also noted that the documentary also represents an implicit commentary on the degree to which mass media in the United States is “dedicated to dehumanizing” others, calling specific attention to the dehumanizing images offered in commercials and reality TV. In this context, Maysles recalled the experience of filming the 1955 documentary, Psychiatry in Russia, during the height of the Cold War, only to have the realization that “they’re just like us,” which of course makes it far more difficult to see the Soviets as enemies.

I’ll also admit to being more than a little star-struck by the opportunity to meet Waletzky, Kempner, and especially Maysles, after the panel ended. In particular, I had the chance to talk at some length with Maysles about the role of documentary as potentially humanizing other people. Watching this material and getting a sense of Maysles and Waletzky’s plans for the project left me feeling both energized and enthusiastic about the political potential of documentary filmmaking.

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Dead Men Voting

Via Atrios, more on the Joe Dante-directed episode of Masters of Horror from the Village Voice. Best line goes to Dante himself at the film’s premiere in Turin: “This is a horror story because most of the characters are Republicans.”

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Masters of Horror

Other people have already been talking about the Friday December 2, episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series, Homecoming, directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins), but I figured I’d mention it anyway.

In Homecoming, the country is gripped by terror when it is learned that zombies have stolen the presidential election. According to one of the IMDB reviewers (no permalink to the review, unfortunately), it sounds like the episode’s “sharp” political satire works pretty well. Yet another reason I should have cable.

Update: The entire series looks pretty interesting, with a who’s who list of prominent horror directors (Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, John McNaughton, and others).

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“A Movie about the World We All Live In”

The Washington Post has a nice Ann Hornaday article promoting tonight’s screening of Jem Cohen’s fascinating, contemplative film, Chain (here’s my original review) at the Hirshhorn Museum at 8 PM.

As I’ve mentioned, Chain focuses on two characters, a Japanese businesswoman and a teenage runaway. Both women inhabit the “corporate topography” of chain hotels, shopping centers, and other generic locations, often creating an uncanny sensation that you’ve seen that mall or that hotel before. In the article, Cohen describes how the film very gradually evolved. While traveling, Cohen would often do city portraits but “just always faced with this corporate topography in these spaces in malls and hotels, and I finally made the decision to deal with [that phenomenon] directly rather than framing it out.” In that sense, the film conveys much about how we navigate lived space, about the world we inhabit. If you’re in DC and have the opportunity, I’d highly recommend the film.

I also want to highlight Cohen’s reflection on the concept of indepednt cinema, an issue I’ve been thinking about for an essay I’m writing right now. I won’t try to re-summarize this discussion, but Cohen’s attempts to champion work by truly indepedent artists certainly contribute to any discussion of indie.

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Time Travel Linkfest

Just collecting some links on a slew of upcoming time-travel films. First, in their Cool Kids update, IFC blog reports that Michel Gondry, of Eternal Susnhine, fame has two time-travel projects planned. One is a comedy, Master of Space and Time, based on a Rudy Rucker novel. Here’s hoping my Jack Black allergy has worn off by then. The second has an “autobiographical” element with Gondry and members of his old band meeting future versions of themselves (the IFC folks also mention future plans for Miranda July, David Gordon Green, and others).

Filmmaker Magazine has the latest on Darren (Requiem for a Dream) Aronofsky’s The Fountain, including a link to an Internet teaser.

I’ve also stumbled into the news that Adam Sandler will be doing a little time travel in Click. According to the folks at Hollywood Rag, Sandler plays a workaholic (presumably working against type) who comes across a remote control that allows him to rewind and fast-forward to key moments in his life. But, then, things go horribly wrong. And I’m guessing that Sandler learns a lesson.

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More DC Screens

Darren tipped me off to a screening of Caveh Zahedi’s I am a Sex Addict on NOvember 15 as a part of the “Under the Influence” film series at the AFI Silver. According the UTI website, film starts at 6:30 PM, and Zahedi will be in attendance to discuss the film.

Speaking of the Silver, a new 35mm print of Bresson’s Pickpocket will be showing several times this week. It’s a gorgeous film, so I’m hoping to make it out this week to see the new print.

DC filmmaker and blogger Sujewa tipped me off to another blog he’s running, Filmmaking for the Poor. The blog appears to address many of the questions I’m investigating right now concerning definitions of indie and alternative cinema, as well as questions about self-distribution. Many of the entries, including this discussion of assembling cheap digital editing equipment, appear to focus on the practical issues of making inexpensive films.

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DC Screens

Just a quick link roundup of some indie film notes, including a few upcoming screenings here in DC. First, the Hirshhorn Museum will be screening Jem Cohen’s Chain. I had a chance to see Chain at the DC Underground Film Festival a few weeks ago and highly recommend seeing it. According to the Hirshhorn website, Cohen’s frequent artistic collaborator, Guy Picciotto, will be in attendance.

Playing this week at the Landmark E Street Cinema will be After Innocence, a documentary about innocent men wrongfully imprisoned for decades after new evidence became available (more information here). The screening is being promoted by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, an organization that seeks the exoneration and release of persons who have been wrongfully committed of crimes. I’ll be travelling this weekend, so I won’t get to see the film until later this week, but it sounds like an interesting project.

I also want to add more information about Sujewa Ekanayake’s Date Number One, which I mentioned a few weeks ago in the context of my discussion of indie cinema. I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but Sujewa is a DC-based filmmaker and his blog is a great resource for keeping track of his work in distributing and promoting the film. Worth noting: On December 1, Sujewa will be giving a talk about his film at the Kensington Row Bookshop in Kensington, Maryland (yep, it’s easily Metroable).

Finally, a quick reminder that screenings of Robert Greenwald’s WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price will be taking place in a few short days (November 15-16). I’ll be attending one of the DC Drinking Liberally screenings on Wednesday, November 16.

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Documenting Guantanamo

My allergies are going nuts tonight (I think it’s because the steam heat in my apartment just came on), so I haven’t been able to get any real work done. Instead, I’ve been following Darren’s IMDB-inspired example of trying to list my top 15 films of the last 15 years. My list isn’t done yet, but while I was surfing IMDB, I came across news that Michael Winterbottom, who directed Code 64 (which made the long list), is currently working on The Road to Guantánamo, a TV movie about the Tipton Three, a trio of British Muslims who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.

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Frontline on Abu Ghraib

I just happened to catch a commercial for an upcoming Frontline documentary on Abu Ghraib, The Torture Question. The episode will be airing Oct. 18, 2005 at 9pm, though obviously local times may vary.

A press release on the PBS website offers more information about the challenges of filming in Iraq and especially in Abu Ghraib.

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Documenting Katrina

While digging around on Technorati tags, I came across the news that Spike Lee is planning a documentary, When the Levee Broke, aobout the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for HBO (via Breitbart and The Thinklings). Here’s an announcement from Variety confirming the planned documentary.

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Housekeeping

I’ve recently received several great tips about some interesting film and documentary projects, so thought I’d pass the news along:

First, the promising-looking political documentary, This Divided State (IMDB), which follows Michael Moore’s controversial decision to speak at Utah Valley State College. The trailer is pretty powerful, and their website features some valuable supplemental material.

Also, a quick pointer to the caveh experiment (no relation to my blog), dedicated to the work of filmmaker Caveh Zahedi.

Finally, I’ve been meaning to call attention to The Journal of Short Film, a quarterly DVD journal containing 90-120 minutes of independent short film per volume. And, according to the website, JSF will soon be accompanied by The Journal of Political Film.

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Lost Films Found

I’ve been reading Sylvaine Agacinski’s fascinating book, Time Passing, today. TP touches on many of the questions that I’ll be addressing in my time-travel cinema book, particularly the relationship between mechanical reproduction (photography and cinema) and memory. In one particular passage, Agacinski writes about the way in which a photograph creates an “illusion of contemporaneity” between the observer and the photographed object, which results in “confusing their respective times” (92). She uses metaphors of ghosts and haunting, which inevitably reminded me of my media horror essay (currently under revision). But more importantly, her comments recalled for me one of the first known time-travel films, Berkeley Square (Frank Lloyd, 1933), a film that has haunted my project since it was a dissertation. I’d been led to believe that there were no copies of the film available, but thanks to an IMDB reviewer, I’ve discovered that isn’t the case (and if everything goes as planned I’ll have a copy in a few days).

Arne Andersen, the IMDB reviewer, also has a website worth checking out, the Lost Film Files, where Andersen lists lost films from the years 1925-1929 in the hopes of assisting researches in knwoing what’s available and what has been lost. It’s a useful resource, especially given the questions of archivability that always seem to haunt the cinematic medium.

Hoping to have more to say about Time Passing later this week. …

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