Archive for the ‘Distribution & Screenings’ Category

Hooray for Nollywood!

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Intrepid reader Ben Hartman alerted me to a fine, if all too short, article in Wired about the third largest film industry in the world. Where is that, you ask? Nigeria.

The article is really a tease — and an effective one at that — for two recent US-produced documentaries, Welcome to Nollywood and This is Nollywood.

Until I can get my hands on those documentaries, and some actual Nollywood movies, here are some articles that I enjoyed reading today as I educated myself about the Nigerian film industry.

Cinema of Nigeria page on Wikipedia.

Welcome to Nollywood. An extensive article from The Guardian.

Nollywood drought at Fespaco. BBC article discusses allegations of snoobery at Africa’s most prestigious film festival towards Nollywood pix.

Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood. NYT article from 2002(!).

The Nollywood Phenomenom. Article found on the World Intellectual Property Association website (WIPO’s website tells me that it is a “specialized agency of the United Nations”).

DIY Guerilla Drive-In

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

This Guerilla drive-in Instructable takes me back to my days in Philadelphia where the venerable folks at Mambo Moving would drive one of their trucks around to different neighborhoods and host the Lawn Chair Drive-In. Good times.

Tip: Consider coupling these Instructables with Liz Cole’s tips on DIY touring, which was the sixth-ever post on SRF.

Rest in Peace, Edward Yang

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

Via the Filmmaker Magazine blog, I’ve just learned that writer-director Edward Yang has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 59 years old.

In 2006 I started to catch up with Yang’s films. The first one I saw was 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day. The film is not available commercially anywhere in the world, but I had managed to secure a 2-DVD bootleg of the 237 minute epic. I was laid up in bed, sick, with nothing else to do, so I figured a four-hour movie would be a good way to pass the time.

It’s a stunning film, but when it was over — well before it was over, actually — the devastating impact the film had on me was buoyed by my thrill at discovering a filmmaker so in control of the medium.

Still, even that film did not prepare me for Yi Yi, which I caught up with late last year after Criterion released it on DVD. As I mentioned in my year-end posting, the experience of watching Yi Yi at home last winter was the best moviegoing experience I had all last year.

One of the reasons I would never want to be a full-time movie reviewer or critic is my inability to put into words experiences like seeing Yi Yi. Peter Bowen’s post over at Filmmaker quotes A.O. Scott’s review of it in the Times, and that gives a hint of what I myself felt:

As I watched the final credits of Yi Yi through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.

There’s something so exciting about discovering the work of a new artist whose work you hold close to your heart: There’s the thrill of going through the back-catalog, hoping that there are more treasures to discover. And, if that artist is still alive, still working, there’s the eager anticipation of looking forward to their new work, which is a kind of joy in its own right.

Today, when I heard the news of Yang’s death on June 29th, I — and all of his fans — lost the chance to feel that latter kind of joy. All that’s left for us is the chance to appreciate the work Yang created while he was here.

It may take years before I can see all of his films — none besides Yi Yi are available on DVD — but however long it takes, I’ll be thankful they remain to be seen. Yes, “gratitude” is the right word.

Thank you, Edward Yang. Rest in peace.

***

If, like me, you’re coming late to Edward Yang’s work here are some ways to learn more:

Online Resources:

    Edward Yang: IMDB entry

    Edward Yang: Senses of Cinema biography — this includes several links to interviews, essays, etc.

    Edward Yang: Wikipedia entry

    Edward Yang: AP Obituary

    Added 7.3.07:

    Edward Yang: NYT Obituary [Manohla Dargis]

    Edward Yang reflections on GreenCine

    Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews of Edward Yang films

Books:

    Edward Yang

DVD:

    Yi Yi is the only film of Yang’s to be commercially released on DVD, either in the USA or (to the best of my knowledge) abroad. Bootleg DVDs for at least some of Yang’s other films are known to be available on the internet.

Zellner vs. Duplass

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

You probably had to be there, but for many of those of us that were, the “Zellner Brothers Vs. Duplass Brothers” short film screening was one of the highlights of SXSW 07. Here’s the video:

New Doc Qualifying Rules: Arguments, Notes, Questions

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Over at All These Wonderful Things, AJ Schnack writes in depth on a subject that has long been a source of contention and debate in the documentary community: The Academy’s rules for qualifying for the Oscars.

Probably the biggest change is “Rule IV.2“:

In addition to the Seven-Day Qualifying Exhibition, feature documentaries must complete a Multi-State Theatrical Rollout consisting of fourteen other exhibitions, as defined in Paragraph III.2, of at least three consecutive days each, at least twice daily, in any standard commercial format. These exhibitions must be distributed among ten or more states in the U.S. and must be completed by Thursday, November 15, 2007.

I was surprised when I first read about this rule (in John Sinno’s Open Letter to the Academy). Mainly, I wondered how many docs could actually qualify for such a thing; it seemed unrealistic. AJ, though, is in support of the new rule and he makes a very convincing argument in support of the new policy. Pragmatically, he notes that several films qualified this year and, philosophically, he argues that

if you weren’t hoping, weren’t planning, weren’t thinking all along that you’d have a real theatrical [run], then you shouldn’t be thinking Oscar.

I found myself surprised to agree with him. My only lingering question on the issue is whether these rules are actually more restrictive than those applied to narrative features. To the best of my understanding — and I could certainly be wrong on this — a film like Letters from Iwo Jima really only needs a one-week qualifying run in New York or L.A. to be considered for the Oscars. If this is the case, why hold docs to a different standard? It seems like the best way to maintain integrity in the process is to have narratives and docs follow the same rules.

Aside from this minor point, I only found myself disagreeing with AJ one one other issue — his support for the 35mm print requirement, which remains for docs short-listed for the Oscar. AJ writes:

Some filmmakers have complained that if your film is shortlisted, you must produce a 35mm film print, a costly process that is starting to seem unnecessary in the midst of the digital revolution. I find this complaint a bit hard to swallow, considering that just 6 years ago you couldn’t play a film festival without a print, but Apted says that it’s something the Documentary Branch is looking at, and that it’s conceivable that in the near future you wouldn’t have to have a print if you made the semifinals.

Actually, I think the 35mm print rule is a legitimate complaint.

While it’s true that six years ago you couldn’t play a festival without a print, it’s also true that six years ago the theatrical experience was defined by 35mm film prints. Today, projection on 35mm is still the standard, but it no longer defines the theatrical experience. Digital projection in commercial cinemas has become increasingly commonplace. We are in an era where some viewers can go see a digitally shot, digitally projected “theatrical film” like Zodiac, as I did.

Furthermore, most documentaries these days — including all five nominated last year — were shot on some form of video. A 35mm blow up may be an “up-rez”, but it is, in all likelihood, a decrease in visual quality of the camera original footage. In all likelihood, the best looking version is the film’s videotape color-corrected edit master tape, which is probably on HDCAM SR. Heck, it might be on DVCam.

My point is this: If a film can qualify for the Oscar without ever making a print (by the new rules, it can), and if a 35mm print is a downgrade in quality (as any 35mm blow up is) then why create some flaming hoop for cash-strapped filmmakers and/or distributors to jump through? This would be a minor point, of course, if such prints didn’t cost $20,000 or more. That’s chump change for a studio; for the smaller outfits that distribute documentaries I would imagine that’s a hefty price for what sounds like a few screenings for the Documentary Committee to decide whether or not you’ll be nominated.

The supreme irony of all of this angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debating is that if a movie ends up being nominated, most people will judge the film on DVD screeners at home. This is true of both fiction and documentary features but, either way, what’s “theatrical” about that?

**

Healthy (and ultimately minor) disagrements aside AJ’s whole article is great food for thought, at least if you’re a documentarian (or advocate of them) or if you follow the Oscars in that Inside Baseball sort of way.