5.April.2012: Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky would have turned 80 yesterday, and The Voice of Russia printed an interview with his sister Marina who traces the family line in her memoir, Splinters of the Mirror. “He got the courage and generosity from his grandfather Alexander Tarkovsky,” she says, “stubbornness and gentleness from the other grandfather Ivan Vishnyakov, bright talent and the sense of humor from our dad, hidden vulnerability from our mother. My brother got it all, and his life was full of trials and triumph.” You can watch cinematographer Michal Leszczylowski‘s portrait of the director, Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, as well as Tarkovsky’s final film The Sacrifice, at Fandor.
Filmmaker and activist Jamaa Fanaka died this past weekend at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 69. Closely associated with the radical black cinema that flourished at UCLA in the 1970s, Fanaka was the founder of the Directors Guild of America’s African American Steering Committee and brought discrimination suits against the Directors Guild. In an obituary for The Los Angeles Times, Dennis McLellan writes, “The Mississippi-born Fanaka was still enrolled in the UCLA film school when he wrote, produced and directed his first three feature films, financed with competitive academic grants and funds from his parents: Welcome Home, Brother Charles (1975), Emma Mae (1976) and Penitentiary (1979), which was both a critical and box-office success.” McLellan also quotes Jan-Christopher Horak, who as director of UCLA Film & Television Archive oversaw last year’s L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema series: “ Fanaka’s films are ‘extremely interesting because they navigate a path between basically Hollywood-style filmmaking and independent filmmaking—very low budget, but at the same time very close to the community. He used amateur actors in secondary roles and shot in the community, and the stories came out of that community.’” Read more on the ‘L.A. Rebellion’ in Brandon Harris‘s interview with Julie Dash for Keyframe last month.
A weeklong run of Leo McCarey’s Ruggles of the Red Gap at Film Forum has Farran Smith Nehme cheering for The Mubi Notebook. She opens her close appreciation of the film, “Ruggles of Red Gap gets my vote for the most patriotic American movie ever made. It is purely, beautifully what it appears to be: a comedy about a man forced to take a crash course in American manners and principles who, in the way of many immigrants, gradually comes to love and appreciate the place more deeply than some natives. Ironically, this valentine to the U.S. has been available chiefly in a Region 2 import DVD with permanent French subtitles.” You can stream several of McCarey’s earlier slapstick shorts at Fandor now.
The Chicago Reader’s Ben Sachs recommends the 1986 Black Audio Film Collective film Handsworth Songs, which screens tonight as part of its Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center: “The mosaiclike structure—which incorporates interviews with riot victims, archival footage from the ’50s and ’60s, and musical performances—successfully conveys the unorganized resistance of minority groups against the overwhelming racism of the time (as a pointed news clip reminds us, Margaret Thatcher was all too willing to stoke racist sentiment for political gain).”