Archive for the ‘Films & Filmmakers’ Category

Lost in Light Launches

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez’s Lost in Light project website has officially launched. If you missed my post about it in October, the project is “devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time.”

Now that the project has begun, Jennifer and Aaron are ready to start accepting Super 8 and 8mm films for free transfer to video and inclusion on their videoblog. They are also accepting creative works made in Super 8 and 8mm for posting to the site.

Click here to find out more about having your Super-8 and “regular” 8mm movies transferred to video for free. The transfers they’re offering are flickerless, and they look good. Check out their first post to see a sample.

If you’re interested in submitting creative work, click here.

James Longley: SRF Interview

Monday, December 4th, 2006

‘You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,’ he told the president. ‘You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.’ Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.

— from Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward

While the title of James Longley’s mesmerizing new documentary, Iraq in Fragments, literally conjures images of the now-infamous “Pottery Barn rule”, the connection runs much deeper than the title. Like Colin Powell’s admonition to the president, James Longley’s film actually considers the situation of the Iraqis. I say “actually” because, though it may seem like an obvious consideration, Iraq in Fragments is, to the best of my knowledge, the only American documentary about Iraq — and this year has seen several of those — that focuses solely on the citizens of that fractured nation

Divided into three discrete segments (hence the title’s double-meaning), Iraq in Fragments first follows a fatherless 11 year old working in a Baghdad garage. The second section chronicles the growth of the militant followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. The film closes with a portrait of a family of Kurdish farmers. It’s an illuminating approach, one that prevents it or us from making generalizations about how Iraq’s citizens, have, and haven’t, been transformed by the war. I imagine it will also help American audiences understand, at least a little, how American forces are viewed — as occupiers by some, as liberators by others. Certainly, the time Longley spent with his subjects (well over a year, and 300+ hours shot) helps provide a perspective that’s been absent from what we see on the nightly news.

While Iraq in Fragments would be noteworthy for its content, the film also happens to feature striking cinema verite cinematography and edgy editing, which gives the film a quality that is more poetry than prose. The style creates an impressionistic sketch of what it might feel like to be in Iraq, without (in my opinion) grossly aestheticizing the pain, rage, and hope he finds there.

The combination of style and substance has been met with critical praise. At Sundance, where it premiered, Longley took home honors for directing, editing, and cinematography — a first for a single film. Since then its laurels include Best Documentary awards at major film festivals (Full Frame, Thessaloniki, and Chicago, among others), as well as a Gotham Award.

That Longley did most of the work (e.g., cinematography, editing, music, etc) single-handedly will make the film’s achievement that much more impressive for some. Longley, though, suggests that working this way was precisely how he was able to achieve things.

We emailed back and forth last week, soon after Iraq in Fragments was short-listed for the Best Documentary Oscar.

(more…)

Dance Party USA

Friday, November 17th, 2006

I’ve heard good things about Aaron Katz’s microbudget feature Dance Party USA, which opens in New York today. If you’re in New York, go see it. If you’re not, order the DVD like I did.

Here’s an interview conducted by David Lowery.

And here’s one from indieWire.

Lost in Light

Friday, October 27th, 2006

A few weeks ago, in an effort to show my students some of the more interesting film and video work being created for the web I discovered Have Money Will Vlog. It’s an ingenious site that helps media artists raise funds to produce their web-distributed videos and films. The project budgets are in the $2000 – $3000 range, and the donations are usually small — $10, $20, and so on. Of course, that money adds up when you consider all the people online.

You get what you pay for, too. The work you’ll find on HMWV is about, oh, a zillion times better than anything you’ll see on YouTube or Google Video. (Unless, of course, you have some predilection for watching pre-teens doing karaoke in front of their webcams.)

Anyway, if you’ve not yet run across Have Money Will Vlog, now is a particularly good time to check out the site (and to dig in your pocket for some loose change) because funds are currently being raised for a project by Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez, two Iowa City filmmakers. The project is called Lost in Light and, in Jennifer’s words (via email) the project is “devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time.”

In fact, as they state on the Lost in Light websites (HMWV site, official site), “we will provide free Super 8 and 8mm to video transfers to anyone who asks, in exchange for posting their video to the Lost in Light site and on the Internet Archive with their choice of Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Lost in Light will include articles and features by members of the filmmaking and film preservation communities, video tutorials for making 8mm films, as well as creative work, all with the goal of preserving and championing this important film format.”

So, send them your Super-8 and 8mm films. And send them some $ while you’re at it.

Online Viewing Tip: UbuWeb Films

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

If you’re at all interested in avant-garde cinema or video art, you need to check out Ubu Films, which features works, both rare and well-known, by everyone from Vito Acconci to Agnes Varda. In a perfect world, YouTube would look more like this.

Of course, if you’re aghast at the idea of watching experimental films on your computer monitor, consider this justification from the Ubu website:

UbuWeb is pleased to present dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. However, it is important to us that you realize that what you will see is in no way comparable to the experience of seeing these gems as they were intended to be seen: in a dark room, on a large screen, with a good sound system and, most importantly, with a roomful of warm, like-minded bodies.

However, we realize that the real thing isn’t very easy to get to. Most of us don’t live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the hefty rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.

We realize that the films we are presenting are of poor quality. It’s not a bad thing; in fact, the best thing that can happen is that seeing a crummy .avi will make you want to make a trip to New York to the Anthology Film Archives or the Lux Cinema in London (or other places around the world showing similar fare). Next best case scenario will be that you will be enticed to purchase a high quality DVD from the noble folks trying to get these works out into the world. Believe me, they’re not doing it for the money.

Well said. Now, go check it out…

UPDATE (May 12, 2016): If you do get turned onto Vito Acconci’s work (or were already a fan), check out his Artsy page, which an alert reader just pointed us towards.