1. February. 2012: February is shaping up to be a dream month for New York City-based cinephiles with the full programs announced for the Film Comment Selects series at Lincoln Center (February 17–March 1) as well as the Documentary Fortnight at MoMA (February 16–28).
Beginning with FCS, one of the throughways of this year’s program seems to be the found footage film. Critic J. Hoberman proves there’s life after the Village Voice with Land Passion War of the Christ Worlds. Writing for this site last month, Michal Oleszczyk gives some sense of what we can expect: “Hoberman’s teaching style was aloof yet exciting. Associations percolated in our minds as he created a veritable video-gallery show. He rubbed movies against one another in hope of drawing sparks, turning classroom screenings into full-blown installations. At one point, there were no less than three movies playing at the same time, Calvary-style, with The Passion of the Christ (2004) regally at the center, and two other howls of post-9/11 dread: 28 Days Later… (2002) and War of the Worlds (2005) at the extreme right and left (“the two thieves,” Hoberman called them).” The ubiquitous James Franco will also be on-hand to present My Own Private River, his re-imagination of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho using discarded footage from the original shoot (Van Sant is no stranger to such quixotic projects having recreated Hitchcock’s Pscyho). The series also features master collagist Adam Curtis’s latest essay film, All Watched Over by Machines of Living Grace. Nico Baumbach earlier wrote about the film for Film Comment, “Here [Curtis] brilliantly provides the thread that connects Ayn Rand’s darting eyes on The Mike Wallace Show to the genocide in Rwanda and the invention of video games.” On the more mainstream side of things, FSC features a double feature by comedic director by David Wain, whose Role Models earned very special praise from Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson: “When I think of Role Models (2008), the film I’ve seen more often than any other in the last decade—except maybe Colossal Youth—the word that comes to mind is wise.”
Documentary Fortnight’s offerings are no less intriguing and broadly international. Along with those films already acclaimed on the festival circuit (The Tiniest Place, Aita), there are many less tested works here: Jim Hubbard’s history of the ACT UP activist group, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP; Jeff’s Silva’s portrait of two Serbian immigrants living in California, Ivan & Ivana; Without Gorky, a portrait of the painter; When the Bough Breaks, the latest epic picture of injustice in China; El Field, about agricultural labor along the U.S.-Mexico border; and The Great Northwest, a recreation of an earlier road-trip. From the archive comes Elizabeth and Mary, a rarely screened work by Direct Cinema pioneer D.A. Pennebaker, and a multipart retrospective of the longstanding media activist collective Paper Tiger Television.
Back at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Brandon Harris files a general report that focuses special attention on CineMart, an international platform for filmmakers in the early stages of production to meet with industry people. Harris explains, “Most of the films in CineMart are here to foster conversations that may eventually lead to a project being financed through the labyrinth of European public financing, pre-selling foreign territories through a sales company who takes on the project or leveraging the bankability of an international movie star for private equity in the countries where state funding is less significant, such as the United States.” Among the 33 filmmakers seeking additional support this year are Old Joy director Kelly Reichardt; Quentin Dupieux, whose latest picture Wrong sharply divided critics at Sundance; Ruben Östlund, whose Play has been similarly divisive; and Romanian rising star Florin Serban (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle).