The sixth edition of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Migrating Forms festival opens tonight, runs for nine days and, in his extensive overview at the House Next Door, Steve Macfarlane argues that it “remains the art-house event of the New York moviegoing calendar, even as institutions like the Museum of the Moving Image and Lincoln Center have gotten in on the act by spotlighting similar contemporary works with newer programs like First Look and Art of the Real, respectively. Programmed by Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry, the 2014 festival peers into the 21st-century crisis of verisimilitude with playful aplomb, featuring works that don’t so much blur fact and fiction as they put quotation marks around every ‘fact’ on screen and take their respective digressions from there.”
Caroline Golum‘s preview for the L Magazine begins with the retrospective of work by William Greaves, “the pioneering African-American experimental filmmaker and documentarian [who] passed away this August at the age of 87. His flagship avant-garde film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968), features the simultaneous participation of multiple documentary film crews ambling through the human wunderkammer that is late-60s Central Park. Made concurrently with his proto-PBS news program Black Journal, the film was largely unseen until its restoration and re-release in the early aughts. There’s also a rare back-to-back screening of the Emmy Award-winning 1968 program Still a Brother, and 1974’s The Fight, about Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s legendary 1971 bout at Madison Square Garden.”
Back to Steve Macfarlane for a moment, who notes that Gina Telaroli‘s Here’s to the Future! chronicles “a single day in the fall of 2011 wherein the filmmaker rounded up friends and collaborators to light, stage, and shoot a scene from Michael Curtiz’s 1932 The Cabin in the Cotton. The film’s hushed, luxurious opening carries the timbre of a 23-piece band warming up for a concert, regularly zeroing in on any one of many miniscule details of production (resetting of lights, grappling to get the perfect medium close-up) before the first ‘Action!'” And Glenn Kenny and Hillary Weston interview Telaroli.
Wrapping Toronto 2014 back in September, I gathered these quick notes: “Soon-Mi Yoo’s Songs from the North ‘mixes rare footage shot inside North Korea by the filmmaker during several trips she took during 2010-12, with archival footage from the US National Archives and flat-out astonishing material Yoo discovered online.’ Paul Dallas for Filmmaker: ‘Sensitively structured and emotionally complex, the film balances the personal and the political, offering a welcome corrective to the often cartoonish and condescending characterization of North Koreans by US media.’ More from Eric Kohn (Indiewire, A-), Peter Labuza (Film Stage, B), Michael Sicinski (Cinema Scope) and Neil Young (THR). And Adam Cook talks with Yoo for the Notebook.”
Migrating Forms trailer by Jacolby Satterwhite
Update: “This year’s edition features work by 30 artists from 12 countries, ranging from Rachel Rose’s microscopic ruminations on mortality to Cory Arcangel’s deep browse through the Subway sandwich chain’s bizarre online empire, while also finding room for the scrappy postapocalyptic sci-fi of Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney for Film Comment. “Heinz Emigholz’s The Airstrip—Decampment of Modernism, Part III is another urban journey colored by loss, though this time in a rigorous documentary form. It is the 21st installment of his Photography and beyond series, in which the filmmaker attempts to ‘look at architectural spaces that… have been sorely neglected by “architectural history,”‘ as well as how they function and feel in the communities they serve. In The Airstrip, he focuses on modernist structures, capturing them in a series of comprehensive long takes and taking in the surrounding neighborhoods and the populations that course through them.”
Updates, 12/12: “Trying to define the parameters of the Migrating Forms festival, I’m tempted to say that, more than any other New York fest, it imagines what cinema will look when and if it wholly leaves behind the twentieth-century definition of ‘cinema,'” writes Nick Pinkerton for Artforum. “Making such a statement, however, would ignore some essential things about MF, now in its sixth year and its second at BAMcinématek, like the importance of film history to the fest.” A bit further in:
[Gabriel] Abrantes’s thirty-two-minute Ennui, Ennui, here in one of the four dedicated shorts programs of eighteen programs overall, imagines global politics in terms of dysfunctional parent-child pairs—a husky Afghan teenager reluctantly cast as a warlord by his overbearing mother; the princess he’s meant to kidnap and her touchy-feely father; a French Libraries Without Borders volunteer and her brittle diplomat mother (Edith Scob); and Barack Obama and his “daughter,” a military drone named Hellfire Destroyer #503027. I was recently dumbstruck by Taprobana, Abrantes’s “biopic” of the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões, and Ennui, Ennui is another unapologetically high-polish long short full of gross-out gags appropriate to a direct-to-DVD American Pie sequel, disarmingly tender and stunningly bratty.
Genevieve Yue for Art Agenda:
Left unanswered is the question of what it means to serve up these various forms as if flipped through in the manner of a restless channel surfer—a metaphor all the more fitting for the festival’s ongoing emphasis on television, as evident in the accompanying sidebar program Tube Time showing at Anthology Film Archives. There’s undoubtedly value in creative disassociation, of stepping from Cory Archangel’s Freshbuzz (2014), a mesmerizing plunge into the vicissitudes of Subway’s website, to Rolf Forsberg’s allegorical Ark (1970), a dystopian sci-fi vision of an embattled Noah struggling to preserve life amidst a polluted, ruined landscape. It’s an unlikely itinerary, but there’s potentially much to be gained in seeing works that don’t often go together.
The bigger picture is one of increasingly blended spaces between art and experimental film, and how these “migrations” have transformed the meaning of previously distinct practices and histories.
For Film Comment, Julian Ross talks with Park Jung-bum about Alive in which the director himself plays Jungchul—see the reviews that came out of Toronto. Ross: “A manual laborer who scrapes together a living in the Gangwon province, Jungchul has run out of luck and savings: his parents are dead; his sister suffers from acute depression and her daughter is fatherless; his attempt to industrially produce soybean paste has resulted in nothing but rotten produce; his team manager has betrayed him and his colleagues and fled with their pay. Amid such hard times, Jungchul struggles onwards with aggressive physicality and a primal drive for survival…. The experience of watching its three hours of anguish may at times feel like walking through mud, but Park’s belief in the stamina of his characters pulls us through to the end: giving up is not an option for Jungchul.”