Archive for the ‘Films & Filmmakers’ Category

Review: 51 Birch Street

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Doug Block’s 51 Birch Street opens today at Cinema Village in New York. The film has really been tearing up the festival circuit, and now Block is semi-self-distributing the film via Truly Indie, the distribution service brainchild of Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner.

The film is being billed, not incorrectly, as a documentary mystery: Just a few months after Doug’s mother dies, Doug’s father suddenly announces that he’s engaged to his former secretary. It’s not long before Doug finds himself at their wedding, awkwardly toasting the new couple. At the reception his father, the groom, is a different man. What’s the story?

Was his father unfaithful? Was his parents’ seemingly happy marriage a sham?
Doug starts asking questions and the more the detective digs, the more uncertain he is he wants to know the truth.

On one level, 51 Birch Street is a well-made, if somewhat conventional, autobiographical documentary. Block’s conflicts with his father reminded me of Alan Berliner’s Nobody’s Business and, though it’s unfair to compare the two, I do wish that 51 Birch Street had some more stylistic flair. The visuals rarely transcend the plain, home-movie look so common to video, and Block’s voice-over sometimes explains more than is necessary.

But the movie is about looking beneath the surface, and on that meaningful score 51 Birch Street succeeds. Block shows us a seemingly stable marriage, then peels back layer after layer until he discovers the heartbreaking truths of two unfulfilled lives and the relationship they both outlived, but never abandoned. Implicit throughout is a critique of blind allegiance to “family values”: What good is a golden-anniversary marriage, if it’s stale, maybe even dead, at its core? The comparison to Updike (as at least one reviewer has made) is apt: This couple could have lived at 51 Birch Street. Or in your suburban neighborhood. Or maybe in your own home.

51 Birch Street makes an impact. I’ve thought about it every day since I saw it well over a week ago.

Check it out for yourself at a screening in your area.

Pinewood Dialogues Online

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

The Museum of the Moving Image in New York has posted MP3s of dialogues they’ve held over the last several years with major figures in (largely North American) film. Todd Haynes, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch and David Cronenberg are just a few of those interviewed.

Check out the dialogues here.

[Via Green Cine]

Call for Submissions: Journal of Short Film

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

The Journal of Short Film is looking for submissions for their Winter 2006 edition. The deadline is November 8th.

In the email that the JSF sent me about their call for submissions they noted that this issue will be guest edited by Sam Green. It’s a funny bit of coincidence, getting this notice, as I just screened a clip from Green’s The Weather Underground in the class I taught today.

So: Submit those shorts to the JSF. And see The Weather Underground, if you’ve not already.

Small Gauge Madness: Home Movie Day

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

August 12 is Home Movie Day. As part of the festivities, small-gauge film-related events will be held in 27 states and 6 countries this year.

This is the first I’ve heard of it, but apparently Home Movie Day is in its fourth year. Here’s some information from the website:

Home Movie Day was started in 2002 by a group of film archivists concerned about what would happen to all the home movies shot on film during the 20th century….

The Home Movie Day founders envisioned a worldwide celebration of these amateur films, during which people in cities and towns all over would get to meet local film archivists, find out about the long-term benefits of film versus video and digital media, and—most importantly—get to watch those old family films! Because they are local events, Home Movie Day screenings can focus on family and community histories in a meaningful way. They are also an education and outreach opportunity for local archivists, who can share information about proper storage and care for personal films, and how to make plans for their future.

Great stuff. If you happen to go to one of the events, post a comment and let us know how it went. My ladyfriend and I are hoping to attend the one in Richmond.

On a related note, if you’ve got a lot of 8mm or Super-8 movies that you need to have transferred to video, check back tomorrow.

No Time to Waste: 48-Hour PSA Project

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

A while back I wrote about a 48 hour documentary project, now along comes a 48-hour PSA project that is the brainchild of Asian Arts Initiative Executive Director Gayle Isa and Sara Zia Ebrahimi, who shared some thoughts on this site about film co-ops.

Because of the meetings, the event is largely Philadelphia-based, but if you’re interested in participating you might send them an email (info below) to inquire if you can play along. (They’re planning on uploading to BlipTV, after all.)