The reason why you're seeing pink, is that every year at this time, I write a blog post in this color to focus on breast cancer awareness, adding my voice to the effort of encouraging everyone (both men and women) to pay attention and respect to their bodies before something catastrophic happens.
Autumn is my favorite season (so says the title of this post). I am one of the few people I know who actually looks forward to winter. I love this time of year when one can feel a profound energy shift in the air, knowing it's time to hunker down, find a cozy spot and commune with your inner muse in a quiet but invigorating way, reflect on the past (frenetic) year, and plan what will be necessary to the soul and spirit when a new lighter season rolls around again. (Berlin street photo courtesy Nizhal Nijamagiradhu's photostream.)
I can't say I'm surprised to still find myself in this city since I had a feeling a more permanent stay than the month of July was in the works. As has been my habit in the past few years, I travel extremely lightly, realizing that in my maturing years (ahem) the burden of possessions (and sometimes the burden of places and certain people) can be easily discarded, when once upon a time they meant way too much. To most of those people, in fact, I'm sure it's as if I was never there.
So it was with just one lousy suitcase that I landed here and felt embraced according to my expectations--which were nil. Unlike my expectations when I moved to NYC--goodness, what a load, what a burden, of expectations! But I realize, as well, that I wouldn't be here where I am now, doing the things I'm doing and getting the opportunities that are coming my way, if I hadn't settled there (and I use that term very loosely) for a while. So I will continue my quest to become a "new European" in a more legitimate way, since I've found a place that feels like it could be a true home. I would not be the first artist, and won't be the last, to experience that in this "poor but sexy" city. As most of us know, there are very few places where poor but sexy people can survive these days with our dignity intact.
Some interesting things (at least to me) of note in NYC this month, a place that will have to serve merely as another spiritual home instead of a physical one: Just in time for Halloween, Carnivalesque Films will release the DVD for Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher's October Country on the 19th of this month. It's no secret to readers of this blog that I adore this film and the filmmakers (pictured right) have become precious friends. I will be conducting an interview with them that will be published soon somewhere--we're hoping for Senses of Cinema! However, to legitimize the proceedings, some other critics love it, too, and here's what they've written about OC: AO Scott of the New York Times says, "Like a Joyce Carol Oates novel rendered as a documentary. The filmmakers are as sensitive to visual nuances as they are to details of behavior." Andrew Barker at Variety calls it "breathtaking." And S. James Snyder of ARTFORUM calls it, "An hypnotic, impressionistic spectacle." I just showed it here in Berlin to an extremely appreciative audience.
Filmmaker, James T. Hong, was one of the guest artists when I attended the Flaherty Film Seminar as a Fellow in 2008. During that week, guest curator, Chi-hui Yang, showed us selections of Hong's work, all of his pieces shocking, haunting and incendiary. He is a filmmaker who breathes fire into some of the most heinous instances of historical and modern-day revisionism and propaganda, searing away the encrusted detritus of deeply-embedded public lies to expose the truth behind carefully constructed ideologies. It's powerful stuff.
The October Flaherty screening on the 11th at the Anthology Archives will feature Hong's and Yin-Ju Chen's Lessons of the Blood with a post-screening discussion with Hong and Yang. In 2008, the participants of that year's Flaherty only got to see a small portion of this 106-minute film, as it was a work-in-progress then. "Stylistically aggressive and often controversial, the films of James T. Hong tackle the things of which we'd rather not speak, in ways designed to provoke us to respond. Focusing on the history and victims of Japanese biological warfare, Lessons of the Blood is a meditation on propaganda, historical revisionism, and the legacy of World War II in China. This arresting film highlights how nationalism and the United States have influenced the Sino-Japanese conflict, and how governments, ideology, and propaganda affect the reception and perception of 'historical truth.'" (You can watch the riveting trailer here.) Hong and Yang will also be appearing at UnionDocs in Brooklyn this weekend. Don't miss seeing this film. I hope to show it here in Berlin soon with the cooperation of the filmmakers.
Julia Bacha's award-winning documentary, Budrus, will open in theaters this month in the US. The Quad Cinemas in NYC will open the film on the 8th; the Music Hall in Los Angeles will open the film on the 22nd; and, on the 29th, the film will open at the West End Cinema in Washington, DC. I saw this extraordinary film at the Berlinale this past February where the audience was treated to a wonderful post-screening discussion with the filmmakers and the amazing main protagonist, Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar. I cried from the first frame to the last--and also through the entire Q&A. (Look for my review coming soon on Hammer to Nail.)
The International Documentary Association will host a Doc U session with Bacha at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York City this Tuesday, the 5th. IDA Board President, Eddie Schmidt, will be in discussion with the producer, writer, director, editor of Budrus. You can register and buy a ticket for the event here. (Pictured, film still of Morrar's 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, who joins her father in the fight to save their village.)
Okay, Berlin stuff: I just posted my interview with Philippine filmmaker, writer and musician, Khavn de al Cruz on the BOMBLOG. Please read our great conversation here! de la Cruz will also be touring Denmark with his band, Vigo, this month. I met de la Cruz at Dokufest in Prizren, Kosova in August where we both served on various competition juries; the festival featured a program of eight of his short film works.
Coming soon on SIM: the third in my series, Projects on the Brink, essays featuring long-form documentary projects about to launch into the world. I will be talking to Marie Losier about her new feature film, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Frenchwoman, Losier, has made intimate film portraits of Guy Maddin and The Kuchar Brothers, theater director, Richard Foreman and composer, Tony Conrad. Her work has been presented regularly at museums and festivals around the world, such as the Tate Modern, the Whitney Bienniel, PS1, MoMA, Centre Georges Pompidou, the Berlin Film Festival and Rotterdam. The New York-based artist is currently the film curator at the French Institute Alliance Française.
This month, I will introduce twice-monthly film nights at my friend Giampiero's warm and intimate wine and antipasti bar, Speziale!, in my neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. On Thursday the 7th, we will be showing an incredible documentary from 2007 directed by Raúl de al Fuente called Nomadak TX. Click here for more info. Then on the 14th, courtesy of Benten Films, I will be showing Azazel Jacobs' brand new film, The GoodTimesKid. Films will start at 8:30 but it's a good idea to come early to grab a seat since space is limited. There will be a lovely selection of wines, beers and yummy snacks. Join Speziale!'s Facebook page for more upcoming events, including poker nights and film screenings. It's a great, cozy place to eat, drink and commune with international friends on chilly winter evenings.
Benten Films' Andrew Grant (also a new Berliner) and I will launch our new weekly screening series at Das Direktorenhaus Tuesday, October 26. Our first show will be devoted to the recent work of Ken Jacobs; most pieces will be German premieres. Jacobs (Azazel's pop) is one of the founding fathers of the New York cinematic underground and a major figure in the world of avant-garde cinema. So far, the program is shaping up to show the following pieces: Nymph (2007, 2 min, silent); Sky Socialist (2007, 18 min, color, sound); Capitalism: Slavery (2006, 3 min, silent); Capitalism: Child Labor (2006, 14 min, sound); Pushcarts of Eternity Street (2006, 11 min, silent); Ron Gonzales, Sculptor (2009, 20 min, sound); The Pushcarts Leave Eternity Street (2010, 13 min, silent); and, a loft (2010 16 min, silent, 3D). More information coming very soon on our fall/winter program!
Another Benten acquisition, Modern Love is Automatic, will open the 5th Porn Film Festival Berlin (October 28 - 31), new friend Jürgen Brüning's celebration of all things porno. Ambitiously, Brüning has put together a program of 134 films to exhibit over the course of four days. He's also planning a naked smoking lounge, topless arm wrestling, and "hands-on" workshops such as "A Whore's Guide to Safer Sex for Queers" with Berlin/San Francisco-based sex worker, Sadie Lune; an introduction to Japanese bondage "including basic knots, bondage of upper and lower body, securing a suspension rope, health and safety," with Hamburg-based Matthias T.J. Grimme; and, "Porn and Feminism" with Amsterdam-based erotic film director, Jennifer Lyon. All workshops are limited to 20 people and include a buffet. :) This fest I will not miss. However, about five kilos will have to come off my body between now and then if I'm to enter the smoking lounge sans culotte.
As for other upcoming festivals (not in Berlin): Because I've enrolled myself in German classes full-time, like the good school kid I am, I have to wait for proper vacations to go anywhere. However, I will be playing a bit of hooky since this is the season of many important European documentary film festivals, and I do tend to brake for documentary. Instead of sitting here on a calm Saturday afternoon blogging, I was supposed to be at the International Hamburg Film Festival; however, one week ago I ended up at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin hospital undergoing emergency surgery. I am recovering fine, but damn, I really was looking forward to going to Hamburg!
On a happier note, I do have a school break coming up mid-October and am deciding to go to one of three fests: the 8th Zagreb Film Festival in Croatia (October 17 - 23), a festival that features only first and second directorial efforts; DOK Leipzig in Germany (October 18 - 24), one of the oldest and most important documentary exhibition and market events; or, the Viennale (October 21 - November 3) in Austria. I'll keep you posted on where I end up as soon as I know--a wealth of riches, to be sure. November will bring Sheffield in the UK, CPH:DOX in Denmark and the IDFA in the Netherlands. And, of course, more news from sexy Berlin. Haben Sie einen schönen Herbst!