The Reeler
FESTIVAL CALENDAR

JUNE

--Brooklyn International Film Festival
--Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
--Media That Matters Festival
--NewFest LGBT Film Festival
--Rooftop Films
--Swiss American Film Festival
--Urbanworld

JULY

--Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Films
--NY African Film Festival
--NY Asian Film Festival
--NY Asian American Film Festival
--NY International Latino Film Festival
--Reel Venus Film Festival
--Rooftop Films
--Rural Route Film Festival
--Scanners: The NY Video Festival

AUGUST

--ACE Film Festival
--Central Park Film Festival
--LaCinemaFe Film Festival
--NY Korean Film Festival
--Rooftop Films

SEPTEMBER

--Coney Island Film Festival
--Impact Festival
--IFP Market/Independent Film Week
--NY Brazilian Film Festival
--NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness
--Next Reel International Film Festival

OCTOBER

--Cinekink
--CMJ FilmFest
--DocFest
--E.Vil City Film Festival
--Fordham Law Film Festival
--Hamptons International Film Festival
--Harlem International Film Festival
--NY Film Festival
--NY Bad Films Festival
--NYC Horror Film Festival
--NY Turkish Film Festival
--Pordenone Silent Film Festival Weekend at BAM
--Russian Film Week
--South Asian International Film Festival
--Woodstock Film Festival

NOVEMBER

--African Diaspora Film Festival
--Avignon New York Film Festival
--Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival
-- International Dog Film Festival
--Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
--Native American Film + Video Festival
--NY International Independent Film and Video Festival
--NY Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival
--Queens International Film Festival

JANUARY

--Explorers Club Documentary Film Festival
--NY Jewish Film Festival

FEBRUARY

--NY Arab and South Asian Film Festival
--Red Shift Festival
--SinCine Fest

MARCH

--Craic Film Fleadh
--Fusion Film Festival
--Harlem Stage on Screen
--Independent Thai Film Festival
--New Directors/New Films
--NY International Children's Film Festival
--NY Underground Film Festival
--Westchester Film Festival

APRIL

--Brooklyn Underground Film Festival
--Gen Art Film Festival
--Havana Film Festival in NY
--NY African Film Festival
--Sprout Film Festival
--Tribeca Film Festival
--Urban Visionaries Film Festival

MAY

--Bicycle Film Festival
--Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival
--NY International Children's Film Festival
--NY Minute Film Festival
--NY Polish Film Festival
--Pacifika: NY Hawaiian Film Festival
--Sundance at BAM
--Be Film / Tribeca Underground Film Festival

ONGOING --Animation Block
--Asbury Shorts of New York
--Caroline's Funny Film Shorts
--First Sundays Comedy Film Festival
--NewFilmmakers

NYC Film Festivals

April 3, 2009

To Fuck and to Fear

By S.T. VanAirsdale

As accidental companion pieces go, you'd have a hard time surpassing this weekend's documentary combo of American Swing -- the beneficiary of a one-week extension at the Quad -- and We Live in Public, director Ondi Timoner's Sundance-winner that will close New Directors/New Films on Sunday night.


Peas in a pod (L-R): Larry Levenson and partner Mary at Plato's Retreat; Josh Harris at Quiet, c. 1999 (Photos: Donna Ferrato; Interloper Films)

The overlaps between Swing and Public extend far past their fascinations with self-made New York mavericks -- the former with Larry Levenson, the proprietor of the legendary swingers club Plato's Retreat; the latter with Josh Harris, the Internet mogul and putative tech-art pioneer whose own subterranean social experiment, Quiet, refracted Levenson's '70s-era liberation standards through a battery of Web cams and televisions for global dissemination. They go further still beyond the coincidences of, say, shared subject Donna Ferrato, the photographer and countercultural adventurer who vouches for both enterprises at their respective peaks, or the closures of each facility exactly 14 years apart, by the cops, on New Year's Eve (Plato's was padlocked in 1985 after months of prostitution hassles; Quiet was busted, ostensibly as a milennial cult, in the last minutes of 1999).

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March 31, 2009

Tribeca Gets Half-Shelled

The Tribeca Film Festival is preparing to launch its 2009 edition next month, aided by a leaner program and some much-needed turnover. But as any TFF veteran can attest, it will take more than a little press-friendly (re?)invigoration to stir New Yorkers' interest after years of ambivalence. It will even require more than Jessica Biel appearing in a Noel Coward adaptation. Indeed, this calls for a free outdoor screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will make a special guest appearance along with reporter April O’Neil to show off their crime-fighting skills and take part in the Drive-In’s giant Pizza Party. New Yorkers will unite to attempt to smash the Guinness World Record of the largest gathering of people dressed as ninja turtles.

Get yours here, I guess. And, after the jump, learn what else the bet-losers in your cohort have to look forward to April 23 at the Tribeca Drive-In. -- STV

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October 11, 2008

The NYFF Marathon

By John Magary

Like civilization, the New York Film Festival plans on ending with a bang this weekend. Go down with 'em, my friends, go down with 'em. But what to watch? You can’t leave the fantasy caskets of the Ziegfeld and Walter Reade for too long -- even if the 70-and-sunny forecasts hold, it’s just too scary out there -- so I’ve drawn up a relentless itinerary for Saturday. Stray from it at your peril.


O Holy Nuit: Mathieu Almaric and Catherine Deneuve in A Christmas Tale, one of the highlights of the closing weekend of the New York Film Festival (Photo: IFC Flims)

First, head to A Christmas Tale at the Ziegfeld (11:15 a.m.). Families have assembled and reassembled for the holidays an awful lot in movie history, but rarely have they been so bracingly and hilariously transparent. Arnaud Desplechin, hurling fearlessly with co-writer Emmanuel Bourdieu into the sweet spot of their collaboration, has carved from quickly melting ice an intensely nuanced comedy, wild with resentment. Despelchin’s astonishing stable of regulars -- Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Devos, et al -- are so in sync with their try-anything director that, moment to moment, the film takes on an almost collage-like emotional range. The New York Film Festival doesn’t give out awards, but if it did, I’d say this is the pony to beat. And if there were a second place prize, this would probably deserve that, too.

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October 8, 2008

A Woman Under the Influence

By John Magary

I have heard from a few people that tickets for Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman are selling like hotcakes. This is a good sign. This could be a swing upward. Perhaps Curiosity is on the march. If you weren’t able to take it in Monday, and you are not currently among the ticketed, buy some online. If you can’t get them online, go to the Ziegfeld today at 5 p.m., and stand. It’s worth it; at the time of this writing, there is no distributor for this unbelievably thick work of art. Bring something to read -- something that wakes you up -- and have a coffee, because once 6 rolls around and you get inside -- and you will get inside -- you will be asked to engage in a crowded, clammy, centerless world, layered with past revelations and present worries: After running over something in the road, Verónica (María Onetto) suffers a head injury and enters a world of newfound distress; all spinning margins and shifting truths, it's not far off from the world you're living in, you know, right now. Go in fresh and focused. The film is a creeping beauty, but a beauty all the same.

I hope to talk more about The Headless Woman in a future post, but for now, a few words from Martel herself, complete with visual aids:

THE REELER: I’d like to start with the nuts and bolts of your writing process. The Headless Woman feels so lived-in. The characterizations are rich and extremely subtle. How did you build the film from the ground up?

LUCRECIA MARTEL: The writing of the actual script begins after a long period of collecting elements from all over the place. I take notes on dialogue that I hear, abstract ideas, my own reflections, thoughts about people I know. I usually end up with a thick notebook full of notes on all these elements. Then at some point, I come up with a plot or narrative structure that allows me to organize all these random elements I’ve collected.


Lucrecia Martel explains it all

Undoubtedly, all of my films are organized in layers. For example, if I had to draw it, it wouldn’t be a straight line ... [drawing a single arcing line] ... Normally the structure of a film would be a single line: starts here, then this happens, then it evolves, then it ends. For me, it’s like this ... [drawing a wavy line] ... this layer is a storyline ... [draws two more wavy lines on top of the first, causing overlap] ... and these are more layers, more storylines ... so that at any given time within the film, you have, say, three layers. Let’s say that in one specific scene, there’s one layer in the foreground, and then a second layer in the background, and then a third layer even farther in the background. This then evolves, and in a following scene, the third layer, which was in the background originally, then pops up to the foreground. And what was in the foreground now gets switched to the background.

So ... [pointing to a single wavy line] ... say this storyline is “crime.” Maybe in the first scene, we’ll see a knife ... [writes “knife”] ... Then in the second scene, the “crime” storyline moves into the background, and we only hear the sound of the knife, or maybe deep in the frame we’ll see the shine of the knife’s blade. So, in all scenes, all layers are present, but in different degrees. For the “crime” storyline, we’ll start with a knife, then perhaps move to a dead body on the ground. “Crime” will be present throughout the film, but in different ways. Because I use this layer structure, I don’t feel the need to put things out there in a very demonstrative way from the start. By the time we get to a later scene, the presence of “crime” will be clearly felt.

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October 6, 2008

King Richard II -- The Sequel

By John Magary

As we enter the second and final week of the 46th New York Film Festival, we resume our conversation with Richard Peña -- Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, and Omniscient Grand Poobah of the NYFF -- on the topics of film education, film selection, film audiences, filmmakers and more.

THE REELER: What about a community outreach for film, like reaching kids? By the time you show a kid his first black and white film in high school or whatever, it’s almost too late.

RICHARD PEÑA: We do have a kind of educational outreach program that we’ve been doing for about a year and a half now, and I think that we all see it as something we’ll be doing more intensely when we have our new theater. We’ll just have a lot more room. The Walter Reade is just one screen, and we don’t have access to it all the time... We’ve been more limited with that. Also, funds: It’s a great thing to do, if someone’s paying for it. But it’s hard to spend money if there’s no return on it. Obviously, there may be a long-range return, but it’s hard for an organization that’s paying its own way.

Just for an example, one of the things I’m really looking forward to when we have the new theaters is the ability to do a sort of constant program of screening film classics. Every Tuesday, we’ll have, you know, Open City, the next we’ll have Citizen Kane, the next week Stagecoach, the next week The 400 Blows, the next week Ivan the Terrible. So that these films are in sight -- it’s not like they’ve disappeared. When I was growing up in New York, you would have so many repertory theaters. Films would be in the New York Film Festival, then they’d open commercially -- the vast majority of them. Then after that, they’d move into these repertory circuits. You’d never have to wait too long [to see any given film]. Within a year, all these films would be shown in various cinemas. Nowadays, when’s the last time Dancer in the Dark was shown on screen in New York City? I don’t know. Who’s the last person to do a Lars von Trier series? I can’t even remember. It’s the idea that these films disappear from a theatrical presence. Of course, they’re on DVD, but I think we all feel that’s different. So one of the things that I’m looking forward to as a programmer is the ability to bring back films like that so that new generations can discover them as films.

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October 4, 2008

Night and Day Difference

By John Magary

I love the South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, but he annoys the crap out of scores of people -- and considering his unfortunately low profile in the United States, I do mean “scores.” Like Robert Altman or Tsai Ming-liang or Woody Allen, his films blend into one another, with a hushed merry-go-round of characters who seem more or less a bald reflection of their creator. No controversy to teach here -- this is Intelligent Design, straight up. Not to say that his films pump out the same EKG, but there is, on his part, a hesitancy to stretch one’s legs beyond familiar reflection, or even personal document. Patience with Hong depends on patience with the following things: clumsy misogyny, drunkenness, misguided love, misguided obsession, bad-idea sex, repetition, sluggishness, melancholy, confusion, narcotized will and lots of sleeping. The days burble by on the shoulders of a passive brand of bad judgment.

The films are a lot funnier than I’m making them sound.


High art: (L-R) Kim Young-ho and Park Eun-hye in Night and Day, screening today at the New York Film Festival

And his narratives are meticulous. This is romantic hyperbole, but it’s fun to write: Night and Day is Hong’s Moby Dick. His Ahab is Sungnam (Kim Young-ho), a perpetually bemused (and married) 40-something painter, who has escaped to Paris after getting caught smoking pot in Seoul. His white whale is Yujeong (Park Eun-hye), a suitably fogged art student roughly two decades south of Sungnam, whittling away her ex-pat art school days by plagiarizing other students’ paintings. What we see is a day-by-day log, more or less, of Sungnam’s time in Paris, broken up with date-specific title cards and the creeping second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. In place of whalers, we get tourists. In place of the ocean, we get the milky overcast skies of Paris. In place of single-minded obsession, we get... Actually, we get single-minded obsession. Sungnam takes his accidental exile as a chance to cast off the ties of adulthood and find himself, which, considering his age, will strike the viewer as either poignantly funny or gratingly pathetic.

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October 3, 2008

Better Luck Gomorrah

By John Magary

Gomorrah, written and directed by Matteo Garrone (and screening Friday and Sunday at the New York Film Festival), is more panorama than story. Its landscape is the Camorra (“the System”), the brutal, all-devouring crime enterprise that dominates the Italian provinces of Naples and Caserta. The Camorra, we’re told in a press kit (and in an ominous, kind of superfluous title card at the film’s end), has been responsible for more than 4,000 deaths, and generates approximately 150 billion euros a year. Furthermore, we are told, it “has even bought shares in the reconstruction of the Twin Towers in New York City.” The System’s reach is far and unstoppable and oh-shit-happening-right-now-at-Ground-Zero, and Garrone lets the squelching gigantism of it all bully him into a vast, violent, strangely uninvolving structure.


Guns and Poses: A scene from Gomorrah, screening this weekend at the New York Film Festival (Photo: IFC Films)

There’s a money collector, a tailor, a 13-year-old fledgling, a 20-something fledgling, and a pair of rank dumbasses. For viewers of The Wire or The Sopranos, this kind of buckshot cross-cutting narrative -- the small-time morality tales of small-time hoods -- will be familiar. Garrone’s narrative approach, however, is boldly uninflected and fashionably resistant to synthesis. The stories don’t intersect, or really add up to much. Each character feels credible, and there’s the requisite bloody shock. It doesn’t glorify the life and thankfully resists the Tropical Electricity™ of City of God. And the film’s epically static non-structure clearly points to something: that the corruption on display here is so horrendously thorough that rooting it out is near impossible. There’s no Don Corleone here, no Family to pin. There’s just terminal disease. Late in the film, when a character breaks free with a roadside burst of righteous indignation -- the only explicit flare-up in the film, if memory serves -- our faith that he’ll remain free has been (understatement warning!) minimized.

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October 2, 2008

Summer of Love

By John Magary

A word about France.

It’s inevitable, this divvying up of a festival’s offerings into national trends. We are post-global, or something, I know, and with the increasing connectivity, the world just gets smaller, and the access gets better -- Kazakhstan’s representing hardcore at the Festival this year! But there’s also a drop off in... I think there’s a French word for this. Yeah: mystique. The old ecstatic glimpse in international cinema, when films might have enchanted through sheer force of exoticism -- “Who cares what’s happening, they’re Chinese!” -- has subsided a little, dulled by the web and the Discovery Channel and the glories of aeroplane travel. This is a good thing, mostly. We’ll always be attracted to the exotic, sure, but maybe now we can watch a movie in Kazakhstan without gawking; we can look past looking, see more and more of ourselves with each passing frame. Understanding, empathy, etc. That’s what I like to think anyway.

Long story short, every now and then, I like to remind myself how neat it is that I can sit in a dark theater in New York and, for lack of a better term, visit with Kiyoshi Kurosawa or Pablo Larrain or Brillante Mendoza. It’s neat, isn’t it, the mystique?


Charles Berling (left) and Juliette Binoche portray siblings in Olivier Assayas's Summer Hours, screening tonight as part of the New York Film Festival (Photo: IFC)

But, seriously, this is an election season. Let’s sharpen the knives: How’s France doing? Very well, actually. Exceedingly well. Holy shit, they’re dominating: They’re like the United States of art cinema, spreading their imperial seed to South Korea (Night and Day, set in Paris) and Cuba/USA (funding for Che) and -- where else? -- Kazakhstan (funding for Chouga…maybe Tulpan, as well? I can’t keep track anymore). That’s just the tip of the funding iceberg. Let’s face it: Without French dollars, the NYFF might’ve had to cancel this year.

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September 28, 2008

King Richard II

By John Magary

Richard Peña joined the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1987, controversially replacing New York Film Festival co-founder Richard Roud as the event's programming chief less than a year later. Now overseeing his 21st festival alongside his FSLC colleague Kent Jones and critics J. Hoberman, Scott Foundas and Lisa Schwarzbaum, Peña recently spoke with The Reeler about this year's selection and how the NYFF both reflects and rejects some of contemporary cinema's most conspicuous trends. (Part 2 of his interview will run here later this week.)

THE REELER: This is your 21st year programming the New York Film Festival. What are some of the bigger changes in the landscape since the 26th festival?

RICHARD PEÑA:
In terms of film, I would probably say a more challenged arena, one can say, for serious cinema. We've had both in a certain way, a kind of explosion of venues--festivals and whatever--but on the other hand, I think there's been a diminishment in terms of the place for foreign-language and just overall challenging film. One of the big challenges all of us face is finding younger audiences. There is a kind of issue that "art cinema" is beginning to seem like an interest for people over 50. People who are under that age, for whatever reason, aren't refilling the seats.

The landscape's changed in that certainly when we talk about international cinema now we mean that much more. It's far broader than when the New York Film Festival began, when there was really a handful of countries that produced films every year. This year, we have two films from Kazakhstan--not that unusual, but certainly it was almost unthinkable, I think, when the festival was started. It would have been more difficult even when I began my own tenure here. On the other hand, many things about the festival remain the same -- we've certainly kept the same size of it, the same profile. I found the example of my predecessors very inspiring and tried as much to live up to it.

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September 26, 2008

Class Consciousness

Ed. Note: The 46th New York Film Festival opens tonight at Avery Fisher Hall, but for the last two weeks, esteemed filmmaker and Reeler operative John Magary has been haunting the Walter Reade Theater, seeing what there is to see. He'll be reporting back here periodically with his findings in the weeks ahead, supplemented by observations from yours truly and perhaps a few other special guests. Please welcome him, and many thanks as always for reading. -- STV

By John Magary

Fall 2008. Coney Island… gone. Yankee Stadium… gone. Lincoln Center… scaffolded. Pinkberry… boundless! Wall Street… different. Take a moment before it all starts, you Gotham stalwarts disillusioned by financial collapse and condo metastasis, to look skyward, or UWS-ward, and thank your lucky stars that the New York Film Festival is still here, pretty much the same as it ever was. It’s still small, still gives no awards and appoints actual working critics (!) to its selection committee. With its bones thrown to the black-tie opera set, it’s skewed a little fancy. And it is, after 46 years, still the very best. For the New York Film Festival gives what all the best festivals give: Reverence.


Star pupils: A scene from Laurent Cantet's The Class, the opening-night selection of the 46th New York Film Festival (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

That said, opening night films often feel engineered to lightly warm the blood, halting tastefully before boil. After all, it’s the festival’s most gala-rrific night, when the Film Society must earn the “society” in its name, and the choice usually is to preen rather than cluck. Under the gussied up watch of patrons and pretties, we are offered, in Avery Fisher Hall’s creamy packaging, a formally cautious, high-toned, perfectly pleasing bit of cinema, usually with distribution firmly in place. We get The Queen. We get Wes Anderson. We get something probably not Asian. Out of necessity, it’s a night for them. And I wasn’t quite ecstatic to hear that Laurent Cantet’s The Class would be opening the festival this year.

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