Posts Tagged ‘Medicine For Melancholy’

Decade’s Watch List

December 2, 2009

As 2010 arrives many critics and curators are creating their top 10 lists of the decade. As we enter the decades final months I thought I’d start with my top ten directors to watch whose careers started this decade.

1.  Michelange Quay (EAT FOR THIS IS MY BODY)

2. Serge Bozon (LA FRANCE)

3. Albert Serra (HONOR DE CAVELLERIA, BIRD SONG)

4. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (A PERFECT DAY, I WANT TO SEE)

5. Miguel Gomes (OUR BELOVED MONTH OF AUGUST)

6. Anders Edström, C.W. Winter (THE ANCHORAGE)

7. Paz Encina (PARAGUAYAN HAMMOCK)

8. Barry Jenkins (MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY)

9. Lisandro Alonso (LA LIBERTAD, LIVERPOOL)

10. Xiaolu Guo (HOW IS YOUR FISH TODAY, SHE, A CHINESE)

Barry Jenkins interview posted

May 18, 2009

Check out the first part of Kathy Fennessy’s interview with director Barry Jenkins while he was in Seattle to present his film Medicine for Melancholy over at SIFFblog.

Watch a Q&A at Northwest Film Forum with Barry here:

Independent Spirit Award

February 19, 2009

This weekend the awards program to be excited about isn’t the Oscars, its Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards. Why you might ask? Well it just so happens that our very own Lynn Shelton is up for the Acura Someone To Watch Award. Coincidentally so is Barry Jenkins director of MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, who will also be at Northwest Film forum on Monday to present this film, which opens tomorrow in our cinemas. Jenkins is also nominated for Best First Feature. MEDICINE’s Director of Photography James Laxton is  nominated for Best Cinematography. Among his competiton is Lol Crawley with BALLAST, also opening tomorrow in our cinemas.

BALLAST has its fair share of nominations with nods to twelve-year-old JimMyron Ross for Best Supporting Actor, Tarra Riggs for Best Female Lead, Lance Hammer for both Best First Screenplay and Best director. And the film is nominated for Best Feature.

The Best Foreign Film category features two upcoming screenings at Northwest Film Forum, Carlos ReygadasSILENT LIGHT (arguably the best film of a generation), and Steve McQueen‘s HUNGER.

Needless to say, there’s a lot we’re rooting for. Good luck to everyone!

Two great American indies…

February 16, 2009

…play for ONE WEEK ONLY beginning this Friday.

Check out the press for Ballast:

“The one indisputably great film at Sundance ’08… (This) poetic and profound movie transcends categories and announces the arrival of a major new filmmaker.” —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“Four stars: One of the few American pictures of 2008 to say what it wants to say, visually and narratively, about a specific situation and part of the country, in a way that transcends regional specifics.” -Chicago Tribune

“The movie is a beacon of independent filmmaking, not simply because Hammer opted more or less to self-distribute it, but because it’s evident that we’re a million miles away from Hollywood.” -Boston Globe

“A serious achievement and a welcome sign of a newly invigorated American independent cinema.” -NY Times

Winner of the Best Director award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and voted one of Roger Ebert’s “Top 20 Films of the Year.”

and Medicine For Melancholy:

“It is an exciting debut, and a film that, without exaggeration or false modesty, finds interest and feeling in the world just as it is.” -NY Times

“Smart, funny, and visually gorgeous, with the intimacy of a relationship drama and the resonance of a city portrait.” -NY Magazine

“Visually more sophisticated than the bulk of features to yet come out of the new wave of DIY independent American cinema, narratively smoother and yet still boundless in mold-breaking ambition, Medicine for Melancholy offers a self-contained rebuttal to claims that precious, naturalistic dramas about the existential dilemmas of hipster singles are exclusively a white man’s game.” —Karina Longworth, Spout

Now watch the Ballast trailer:

And the Medicine for Melancholy trailer:

Buy tickets for Ballast
Buy tickets for Medicine for Melancholy

Class and Cinema in the City

January 27, 2009

Dennis Lim reviews Medicine For Melancholy.

“MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY,” an independent feature by the first-time writer-director Barry Jenkins, opens the morning after a one-night stand. Micah and Jo, who don’t yet know each other’s names, are young and black, and for want of a more descriptive term you might call them hipsters. In San Francisco, where the African-American population is less than 7 percent and where “black indie kids” (to use Mr. Jenkins’s term) are scarce, that gives their hookup added significance — at least for Micah. As he puts it to Jo, “You ever realize just how few of us there really are?”

For Mr. Jenkins, who is African-American, the question resounds within the context not just of Bay Area indie culture but also of American indie filmmaking, which is not exactly a bastion of diversity.

Like so many movies about 20-something urbanites, “Medicine for Melancholy,” which had its premiere at South by Southwest last year and opens in New York on Friday, concerns the search for self-definition. But it stands apart for its forthright attention to the push-pull of inclusion and exclusion that comes with being a minority member of a subculture.

Mr. Jenkins, 29, drew on his own experience as a recent transplant to San Francisco. Born and raised in Miami, he studied filmmaking at Florida State University, then worked at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions in Los Angeles. But he grew disillusioned with the industry, and he quit his job to travel the country. He met a woman from San Francisco and moved there to be with her. The end of that relationship, and the period of introspection that followed, led him to make “Medicine for Melancholy” (which is up for three Spirit Awards this year, including best first feature).

“As a person of color from the South, San Francisco was the first city that really made me feel like an other,” Mr. Jenkins said over breakfast in Brooklyn recently. Because he was in an interracial romance when he got there, he added, “I was almost buffered.”

“When that relationship was off,” he said, “it was like I was seeing the city for the first time.”

“Medicine for Melancholy” follows Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) for a 24-hour period as they feel out each other’s quirks and hang-ups. Mr. Jenkins credits “Friday Night,” the 2002 French film about a brief encounter by one of his favorite directors, Claire Denis, as an inspiration. As a literal date movie, trained on an attractive couple playing out a talky mating ritual as they wander a photogenic city, “Medicine” also recalls Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.”

The characters keep circling back to questions of race and assimilation, but the film is less an identity-politics polemic than a credible portrait of a young man wrestling with those issues — a situation Mr. Jenkins found himself in not long ago.

He acknowledged that it was odd to experience a racial epiphany in, of all places, liberal San Francisco. But this is also a city where the African-American population is proportionally less than half of what it was in 1970 (the most visible emblem of the black exodus being the razing and redevelopment of the Fillmore district).

Mr. Jenkins’s ambivalence about San Francisco comes across in his film’s visual pallet . The digital-video images, so desaturated they border on monochromatic, have a romantic softness, and San Francisco looks even lovelier than it tends to in more expensive movies. But Mr. Jenkins also liked the idea of “reflecting the theme of a city with the color taken out.”

In making a film so attuned to its physical and psychic environment, Mr. Jenkins joins the ranks of regionalist indie directors whose movies are anchored in a powerful sense of place. “Medicine for Melancholy” does for San Francisco what Kelly Reichardt has done for the rural Pacific Northwest (in “Old Joy”), Lance Hammer for the Mississippi Delta (“Ballast”), Robinson Devor for the Seattle area (“Police Beat”) and Ramin Bahrani for the unseen pockets of New York City (“Chop Shop”).

“It’s absolutely rooted in its milieu, but it’s by no means a parochial film,” said Graham Leggat, the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. Referring to Mr. Jenkins’s somewhat critical portrait of the city, he said: “It’s not a problematic film for San Francisco. It’s a film made in the spirit of how the city would like to think of itself, as a progressive place where people are fairly oppositional.”

Mr. Leggat noted that while the Bay Area has long been home to a robust enclave of documentary and experimental filmmakers, “there’s not really a vigorous narrative-filmmaking middle class.” The film society has expanded its activities to include production assistance and is committing funds to spur the growth of local filmmaking. But for now, Mr. Leggat said, “there’s not a critical mass of folks who can make a livelihood just working in the business.”

Mr. Jenkins can attest to that. He saves on rent by living with the parents of his cinematographer, James Laxton, an old friend. Through the production of the film he worked as a shipment supervisor at Banana Republic. He made “Medicine” with a bare-bones crew, on a budget that is, even by D.I.Y. standards, small change. (His official answer when people press him for numbers: “Probably less than the cost of your car.”)

Mr. Jenkins wrote the film nearly two years ago — “before Obamania took off,” he said — and race has since moved to the forefront of the national conversation. But instead of toying with vague notions of a “postracial” America, “Medicine” wonders what it would mean to look beyond race, when race still looms large in matters of cultural identity and social justice.

“Micah comes across as pro-black, and Jo’s is more of a post-race point of view,” Mr. Jenkins said. “When I started the film I was teetering between these two viewpoints. It’s like I was splitting my personality in two.”

Making the movie has helped clarify his thinking. “For me the film ended up being even more about class than race,” he said. “Micah talks about the city pushing black people out, but it’s really about pushing poor people out.” With a wry smile, he added: “I used to be obsessed with race. I’m more obsessed with class now.”

The film plays NWFF February 20-26.

Medicine For Melancholy Interview

January 15, 2009

Barry Jenkins, director of the thoughtful San Franciscan feature Medicine For Melancholy, was interviewed by indieWIRE today. We’ll be screening the film in late February.

Top 10 Of 2008

December 12, 2008

For the purists out there, I want to be clear that many of these films were actually released in 2007, but I didn’t get a round to viewing them until 2008. My apologies to the purists. For Seattleites, many of these titles have yet to surface in our city, and trust me when I say I’m trying incredibly hard to get them seen here. In the meantime, here’s what you might call my adulterated top 10 list for 2008:

  1. In The City of Sylvia – José Luis Guerín (coincidentally opening today at Anthology Film Archives in New York)
  2. Liverpool – Lisandro Alonso
  3. La France – Serge Bozon
  4. Import/Export – Ulrich Seidl
  5. Summer Hours – Olivier Assayas
  6. Hunger – Steve McQueen
  7. Medicine For Melancholy - Barry Jenkins
  8. When It Was Blue – Jennifer Reeves
  9. Man On A Wire - James Marsh
  10. Wall-E – Andrew Stanton

The rest of the NWFF staff will post their lists soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from our audiences. Please contribute your own top 10 lists in the comments section.


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