Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sundance Film Festival, Saturday (1/26), Post 6

On our last day of the festival we watched the heavy-handed Upstream Color (Carruth, 2013), a film which I find far more intriguing to write about when considering both the philosophical notions that propelled the film and the psychology of its fans.

At the same time, the production values and soundscape of Upstream Color are incredible, and even the story rather straightforward and in some ways interesting. Yet the dialogue seems to never achieve a level of sophistication beyond the title's style of poetry, which could be either sad or funny -- perhaps that was the intention of the film.

Then we watched Rising From Ashes (Johnstone, 2013), a documentary about the Rwandan bicycle racing team and narrated by Forrest Whitaker, at the Windrider Forum's closing event. The trailer is posted below.

Highlights of the day certainly included student Peter Varburg's mention in the New York Times article on Sister Rose Pacatte published on Saturday. Freedman's article is entitled: "Acting as a Mediator at the Crossroads of Faith and Film," which also includes the Windrider Forum.

Peter Varberg, interviewed by Samuel G. Freedman for the NYT article.

Saturday evening we were super excited to see that Fruitvale and Circles, which I couldn't help but praise earlier in the week, won in their respective categories: U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, and World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award. In a sense, I have become attached to these films. Also super happy to see that Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? won the Audience Award for YouTube shorts.

This week has been more incredible than I could have imagined. I errantly expected to be moved by a couple films and sit through a lot of overly-artistic, under-produced drivel. Instead, I had the time of my life, so many awesome films. I absorbed the entire vibe as best as I know how, from the midnight screening of S-VHS to the political engagement of Citizen Koch and 99%, and character portraits in documentaries and feature films alike. As a first-time attendee, I can't wait to find out if it is this great every year.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sundance Film Festival, Friday (1/25), Post 5

  The filmmakers of Fruitvale at the Windrider Forum, 2013.

This morning at the Windrider Forum we had the chance to interact with the filmmakers of Blood Brother (Hoover, 2013), a documentary about one Christian's recent endeavor to help children infected with HIV in India, and the outstanding filmmakers of Fruitvale, which I blogged about yesterday -- definitely go and see it.

In the early afternoon we also saw Citizen Koch (Deal and Lessin, 2013), which deals with getting corporate spending by the likes of AFP out of our current political landscape by showing the events surrounding the attempt to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Highlights, among others, included endearing Louisiana governor and congressman Buddy Roemer's effort to get into the media limelight during his 2012 presidential campaign, and a Christian woman's decision to vote Democrat for the first time upon realizing that Republican Scott Walker is failing his constituents. Certainly, as the filmmakers point out, the issue of money in politics is bigger than both political parties.

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Being at Sundance is this special place where -- I'm already taking it for granted -- one just expects to be able to see directors, producers, actors, actresses, and cinematographers... before and after the screenings, hear their stories and responses to audience questions, shake their hands. So much talent, hope, desperation, entertainment, laughter, money ...dreams.

Sundance Film Festival, Thursday (1/24), Post 4

I was disappointed to miss the Windrider Q&A with the makers of God Loves Uganda (Williams, 2013) today, yet very pleased to attend the world premiere of the essential: 99%—The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film. Upon walking out of the theater, I overheard a number of people describing how they did not understand the occupy movement as it occurred, but understand it better now -- so cool how so many directors submitted footage to create this film.

Unfortunately, I fell asleep during What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love, but

you have to see: Fruitvale (Coogler, 2013). The depiction of Oscar Grant, his life, and murder in 2009. Coming on the heels of seeing 99%'s depiction of Oakland -- the backdrop of Fruitvale -- earlier in the day, and totally absorbed by the characterization of Oscar Grant's last day... I left thinking: truly remarkable. Must-see.

We rounded out the day -- my mind is in total natural-high, can't believe how weird, great, wonderful, and strange film/life is -- with the hilarious and wacky Virtually Heroes (Echternkamp, 2013), which splices together eleven 1980s b-Vietnam War Films into a video game that the protagonist must complete in order to win the love of his life. Preceded by this short:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sundance Film Festival, Wednesday (1/23), Post 3

... a brief update for Wednesday at Sundance – so far we’re 5 for 5 with our films, no duds. All have been super entertaining and excellent in their own right. On Wednesday we watched:

Circles (Golubovic, 2013) at the Library, a feature length film, shot in that slow aesthetic in the vein of Hou Hsiao-Hsien – perfectly paced, with elements -- to an extent -- of a mystery/what happened in terms of the film’s narrative construction, with balanced characterization and outstanding acting, the best acting of any film I’ve seen here so far. I believe that this film will see, and deserves, wide-release.

Newlyweeds (King, 2013), also at the Library, was wonderfully entertaining, one of the audience favorites at the festival so far. I laughed for at least 15 minutes total throughout the film, including at least 3 minutes in one stretch during a flashback in which the protagonist imagines his life of today as if he were living in a 1970s Blaxploitation film.

Meanwhile, the “Shorts Program 4” at Prospector was another fine series of films, including: Black Metal (9 min), Boneshaker (12 min), The Captain (5 min), The Curse (17 min), Gun (17 min), On Suffocation (7 min), You Are More Than Beautiful (27 min).

My favorite shorts included Black Metal, which portrays a black metal singer who contemplates the fact a murder was committed by a fan ostensibly inspired by his music, and the The Curse, which represents issues of gender and coming of age in rural Morocco.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sundance Film Festival, Tuesday (1/22), Post 2

Today's highlight: Life According to Sam (Fine & Nix, 2012), a 90 minute documentary about Sam Berns, today aged 16 and diagnosed with progeria.

It's a moving film that, as a parent, can be quite emotional as one considers that single-minded desire to care for one's children -- thus, to see Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns, and their family rallying around them, both care for their son and race to find a cure for progeria makes for an almost entirely engaging piece. I know I'd like to return to this film again, whether that means re-watching it, writing about it, or reflecting on it, which is inevitable.

Especially because the psychology of Dr. Leslie Gordon is, in particular, fascinating -- I believe that audiences will unconsciously, perhaps, endorse the film because of her appeal, the fact that she is helping so many, living a life of purpose, willing to lose sleep and not feel tired -- in devotion to her family and a cure.

While Sam is the film's hero, the documentary leaves a lot to reconsider in terms of her representation, desire, comments, and action.

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Today was a bit more mellow at the festival ... worked a bit on the Annotated Bibliography of Taiwan Film Studies in the morning and attended the Windrider Forum opening session in the mid-afternoon.

... still one more film on the list today: a midnight screening of S-VHS.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sundance Film Festival, Monday (1/21), Post 1

Today the PLNU Sundance Film Festival class -- Dr. Alan Hueth, five students: Kyle, Sam, Peter, Harris, and Sean, and myself -- arrived in Salt Lake City to attend the festival.

We headed south of Park City initially in order to locate our residence for the week, then we hit the town. The theaters are a bit spread out around Park City, yet a convenient shuttle service keeps the crowds moving from place to place. Jam packed buses reminded me of Taipei.

In the evening we attended the Windrider Forum kick-off event where we watched two Oscar nominated shorts: the wonderful stop-motion animation Head Over Heels (Reckart, 2012), which represents the lack of communication between husband and wife by depicting one walking along the ceiling while the other moves along the floor, and The Buzkashi Boys (French, 2012), which presents a dramatic coming-of-age story set in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The screenings were followed by a Q and A with Head Over Heels writer and director Timothy Reckart, whom we also had the pleasure of eating dinner with, and The Buzkashi Boys producer Ariel Nasr. Each offered smart, articulate, and humorous responses to audience questions.

Afterwards, PLNU student Peter Varberg conducted a few brief interviews for the short film he is making.

 The Buzkashi Boys producer Ariel Nasr, interviewed by PLNU student Peter Varberg.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Nation and Transnational Film Theory

In the mid-1990s, Appadurai suggested that modernity at large means, perhaps, the end of the nation state. (1) But this idea seems less likely today. Chris Berry writes in his article “From National Cinema to Cinema and the National,” in Valentina Vitali and Paul Willemen’s edited volume Theorising National Cinema: “However, if the idea of the territorial nation-state as a transcendent and exclusive ideal form is no longer tenable, that does not mean either that the form of issues of the national disappear.”(2)

Indeed, a careful consideration of the role of global capitalism and its interrelationship with, rather than its subjugation of, the nation is essential for filmic analysis. (3) In Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam argue that to “float ‘above’ petty nationalist concerns” is to ignore the real structure of power that the nation employs as it “facilitates the making and the dissemination” of films. (4) This observation is as persuasive for the filmmaker, as Shohat and Stam imply, as it is for the cultural theorist.

Works Cited
(1) Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 23.
(2) Berry, “From National Cinema to Cinema and the National,” in Theorising National Cinema, 154.
(3) Dissanayake: “Globalization and the Experience of Culture: The Resilience of Nationhood,” in Globalization, Cultural identities, and Media Representations, 39.
(4) Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, 285.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

While a Batman comic book fan, especially when Grant Morrison is writing it, and while I still think Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005) one of the great comic book adaptations...

... The Dark Knight Rises was not a favorite film of mine in 2012.

.... check out the script for The Dark Knight Rises over at The Editing Room -- almost classic like The Editing Room's script for The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starry Starry Night 《星空》 (Lin, 2012) and Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

Starry Starry Night (Lin, 2012) and Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012) were two of the most entertaining and pleasant films of 2012.

Both films envision childhood from the vantage point of the late pre-teen or early-teen who, as I recall from both the films and personal experience, do everything adults do for the first time without the memory of previous failure or unrealized dreams.

A transnational comparison should be anticipated if it has not been accomplished already, both in terms of analyzing their respective synoptic plots (following Peter Brook’s hermeneutic and proairetic codes...) yet also, these narratives might be mapped according to the protagonist's psychological states, recorded diary-like, intertwined with their various respective time periods/regions/actions/choices, allowing for new convergences of meaning.