Archive for June, 2007

They’ll tax the street

June 30, 2007

Did anyone else catch this today in the New York Times? (OK, I didn’t either — I read about it on boingboing.net, uncultured hack that I am.)  I hope this isn’t the future of filmmaking in public spaces.

New York Times 

June 29, 2007

City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography

Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

Julianne Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, said the rules were not intended to apply to families on vacation or amateur filmmakers or photographers.

Nevertheless, the New York Civil Liberties Union says the proposed rules, as strictly interpreted, could have that effect. The group also warns that the rules set the stage for selective and perhaps discriminatory enforcement by police.

“These rules will apply to a huge range of casual photography and filming, including tourists taking snapshots and people making short videos for YouTube,” said Christopher Dunn, the group’s associate legal director.

Mr. Dunn suggested that the city deliberately kept the language vague, and that as a result police would have broad discretion in enforcing the rules. In a letter sent to the film office this week, Mr. Dunn said the proposed rules would potentially apply to tourists in places like Times Square, Rockefeller Center or ground zero, “where people routinely congregate for more than half an hour and photograph or film.”

The rule could also apply to people waiting in line to enter the Empire State Building or other tourist attractions.

The rules define a “single site” as any area within 100 feet of where filming begins. Under the rules, the two or more people would not actually have to be filming, but could simply be holding an ordinary camera and talking to each other.

The rules are intended to set standards for professional filmmakers and photographers, said Ms. Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, but the language of the draft makes no such distinction.

“While the permitting scheme does not distinguish between commercial and other types of filming, we anticipate that these rules will have minimal, if any, impact on tourists and recreational photographers, including those that use tripods,” Ms. Cho said in an e-mail response to questions.

Mr. Dunn said that the civil liberties union asked repeatedly for such a distinction in negotiations on the rules but that city officials refused, ostensibly to avoid creating loopholes that could be exploited by professional filmmakers and photographers.

City officials would not confirm that yesterday. But Mark W. Muschenheim, a lawyer with the city’s law department, which helped draft the rules, said, “There are few instances, if any, where the casual tourist would be affected.”

The film office held a public hearing on the proposed rules yesterday, but no one attended. The only written comments the department received were from the civil liberties group, Ms. Cho said.

Ms. Cho said the office expected to publish a final version of the rules at the end of July. They would go into effect a month later.

The permits would be free and applications could be obtained online, Ms. Cho said. The draft rules say the office could take up to 30 days to issue a permit, but Ms. Cho said she expected that most would be issued within 24 hours.

Mr. Dunn says that in addition to the rules being overreaching, they would also create enforcement problems.

“Your everyday person out there with a camcorder is never going to know about the rules,” Mr. Dunn said. “It completely opens the door to discriminatory enforcement of the permit requirements, and that is of enormous concern to us because the people who are going to get pointed out are the people who have dark skin or who are shooting in certain locations.”

The rules were promulgated as a result of just such a case, Mr. Dunn said.

In May 2005, Rakesh Sharma, an Indian documentary filmmaker, was using a hand-held video camera in Midtown Manhattan when he was detained for several hours and questioned by police.

During his detention, Mr. Sharma was told he was required to have a permit to film on city property. According to a lawsuit, Mr. Sharma sought information about how permits were granted and who was required to have one but found there were no written guidelines. Nonetheless, the film office told him he was required to have a permit, but when he applied, the office refused to grant him one and would not give him a written explanation of its refusal.

As part of a settlement reached in April, the film office agreed to establish written rules for issuing permits. Mr. Sharma could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Dunn said most of the new rules were reasonable. Notably, someone using a hand-held video camera, as Mr. Sharma was doing, would no longer have to get a permit.

Toronto enticing already!

June 27, 2007

Just got an e-mail about films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. I’m already salivating at the chance to see new films from Bela Tarr, Jacques Rivette, Alexander Sokurov, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Carlos Reygadas and Roy Andersson. A very promising line-up indeed!

Here’s the e-mail I received today:

“Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” will premiere as a Gala Presentation at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival, organizers have announced. Reprising the roles they originated in seven-time Academy Award-nominated “Elizabeth,” Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush star in the historical thriller. Queen Elizabeth I (Academy Award-winner Blanchett) faces bloodlust for her throne and familial betrayal in this installment. Growing keenly aware of the changing religious and political tides of late 16th century Europe, Elizabeth finds her rule openly challenged by the Spanish King Philip II (Jordi Molla)–with his powerful army and sea-dominating armada–determined to restore England to Catholicism.

In addition to the second installment of “Elizabeth,” Toronto has also announced 32 international selections that have screened at festivals globally, set for this year’s TIFF, taking place September 6 – 15.

“These are many of the finest films to have screened at other festivals recently,” commented Noah Cowan, festival co-director in a statement. “These films were handpicked by TIFF Programmers to represent the crucial cinematic innovations and moments of onscreen delight from the last several months of cinema.”

Announced films include (with descriptions provided by the festival):

Special Presentations:
“No Country for Old Men,” directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, USA
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law – in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) – can contain.

Masters:
“Alexandra,” directed by Alexander Sokurov, Russia/France
Filmmaker Sokurov (“Russian Ark”) tells the story of a woman who travels to visit her grandson, a Russian officer stationed in the Republic of Chechnya.

“Le Voyage Du Ballon Rouge,” directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, France/Taiwan
Hou Hsiao-hsien (“Three Times”) pays homage to Albert Lamorisse’s “The Red Balloon” in a film about Suzanne (Juliette Binoche), her son Simon and a mysterious red balloon.

The Man from London,” directed by Bela Tarr, France/Hungary/Germany
The simple life of lonely Maloin is blown apart when he witnesses a murder.

“Ne Touchez Pas La Hache,” directed by Jacques Rivette, France/Italy
Based on a short story by Balzac, “Ne Touchez Pas La Hache” reunites influential auteur Rivette (“Out One, Va Savoir”) and actor Jeanne Balibar for a film about seduction and revenge amidst the extravagant balls of 1820s Restoration Paris.

“One Hundred Nails,” directed by Ermanno Olmi, Italy
Announced as the last feature of his career, Ermanno Olmi (Palme d’Or winner for 1978’s “The Tree of the Wooden Clogs”) presents a film about a young and eminent professor who finds himself at the centre of a difficult investigation.

“Ulzhan,” directed by Volker Schlondorff, Germany/Kazakhstan/France
A man’s relentless quest to both find an ancient treasure and heal his wounded soul.

Real to Reel:
“The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories,” directed by Andrey Paounov, Bulgaria/USA/Germany
A documentary about a village turned concentration camp, turned city, turned nuclear power plant.

Visions:
“Import Export,” directed by Ulrich Seidl, Austria
A Ukrainian nurse abandons her family for a better life in Austria. An unemployed security guard leaves Vienna for Ukraine.

“Ploy,” directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand
Ratanaruang (“Invisible Waves”) returns to the Festival this year with an erotic psychological drama which sees three strangers locked inside a hotel room.

“Silent Light,” directed by Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands
Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize for 2007, the film tells of Johan, a married North Mexican Mennonite who falls in love with another woman.

“A Stray Girlfriend,” directed by Ana Katz, Argentina/Spain
Filmmaker Katz takes on writing, directing and acting with “A Stray Girlfriend.” After an argument with her boyfriend on the bus, Ines storms off at the wrong stop, only to find herself lost and alone on the open road – far from the holiday resort where she was meant to spend a romantic getaway.

“The Tracey Fragments,” directed by Bruce McDonald, Canada
McDonald (“Roadkill,” “Highway 61”) delivers the story of Tracey, a 15-year-old who seeks refuge from schoolyard torment and an unstable home life by way of her elaborate imagination.

You, The Living,” directed by Roy Andersson, Sweden/France/Germany/Denmark/Norway
Andersson puts forth a film he describes as “simply a tragic comedy or a comic tragedy about us (human beings).”

Vanguard:
“Les Chansons D’Amour,” directed by Christophe Honore, France
Julie and Ismael attempt to reignite the spark between them by inviting a third person, Alice, into their bed – and singing about it – in this romantic drama musical. But when tragedy strikes, everyone and everything is left at loose ends.

“Control,” directed by Anton Corbijn, UK/Australia
Dutch photographer Corbijn moves into filmmaking with the story of the life and death of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.

“Naissance Des Pieuvres,” directed by Celine Sciamma, France
Teenage girls awaken their sexuality amidst the world of synchronized swimming.

“The Orphanage,” directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, Spain
From producer Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Laburinth”) comes a film about a woman’s return to the abandoned orphanage where she grew up and her conviction that something long-hidden and terrible is lurking inside.

Contemporary World Cinema:
“And Along Come Tourists,” directed by Robert Thalheim, Germany
A young German – completing his civil service abroad in Auschwitz – must care for a former concentration camp inmate with a fetish for suitcase repair.

“The Banishment,” directed by Andre Zviaguintsev, Russia
The eerie tale of one family’s relocation from an industrial city to the remote birthplace of husband and father Alex (Konstantin Lavronenko – Best Actor, Cannes 2007).

“Caramel,” directed by Nadine Labaki, Lebanon/France
Contemporary dilemmas face a group of women in a Beirut beauty salon.

“The Edge of Heaven,” directed by Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey
Focused on the interweaving lives of six people in Hamburg and Istanbul, the film – winner of the Award for Best Screenplay at Cannes 2007 – is the second in what filmmaker Akin (Head-On) calls his “Love, Death and the Devil” trilogy.

“Faro – La Reine des Eaux,” directed by Salif Traore, Mali/France/Canada/Germany/Burkina Faso
Zanga arrives after many years to the village he was once driven out of. At the moment of his arrival, something happens that the villagers interpret as the river spirit Faro’s angry reaction to his return.

“Happy New Life,” directed by Arpad Bogdan, Hungary
Attila has no idea what it means to be a gypsy, but with the help of official documents containing details about the family who abandoned him, he may soon unearth his unknown Romani past.

“Home Song Stories,” directed by Tony Ayres, Australia
The moving story of a Chinese woman who comes to Australia in the mid-sixties.

“In Memory of Myself” directed by Saverio Costanzo, Italy
Finding himself in an existential crisis, Andrea decides to join a monastery only to find his life of ritual and prayer to be under constant surveillance.

“Iska’s Journey,” directed by Csaba Bollok, Hungary
After a life of begging for food, collecting pieces of old metal for money and buying schnapps for her parents, Iska and her sister are discovered on a coal heap and put into a home.

“The Mourning Forest,” directed by Naomi Kawase, Japan/France
Retirement home resident Shigeki and staff member Machiko find themselves on a journey of discovery when a landslide forces their car into a ditch in this Cannes Grand Prize winner for 2007.

“Munyurangabo,” directed by Lee Isaac Chung, USA
Fifteen years after the genocide, two Rwandese teens travel from the city to the countryside on a quest for justice.

“Mutum,” directed by Sandra Kogut, Brazil/France
The gloomy world of adults is witnessed though the eyes of a peculiar child.

“Secret Sunshine,” directed by Chang-dong Lee, South Korea
Actor Do-Yeon Jeon (Best Actress, Cannes Film Festival 2007) stars as a woman trying to set out a new path for herself in the town where her late husband was born.

“Under the Same Moon,” directed by Patricia Riggen, Mexico/USA
Featuring America Ferrera (TV’s “Ugly Betty”), this film by first time filmmaker Riggen tells the tale of the love that endures between a mother and her son despite physical separation. “

KILLER OF SHEEP heldover

June 25, 2007

We are pleased to be able to hold KILLER OF SHEEP for another week!

The film will be playing this weekend (Friday, Saturday & Sunday) at 9:15PM only.  It will continue July 2, 3, and 5 (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) at 7 and 9:15PM.

Swashbuckler preview – while it lasts

June 21, 2007

Proof that you should not delay in blogging about something that includes an external internet link: My file-sharing savvy (and evidently law-breaking) intern Jessie recently posted YouTube clips from films in our upcoming SWASHBUCKLER MARATHON. They were an exciting taste of what’s to come next weekend. I put off mentioning the clips on Hot Splice, and now the best clip has been taken down!

The clip from THE CRIMSON PIRATE is still up [here], but KING SOLOMON’S MINES is no more. I suppose I’ll have to trust our programmer that it is as good as she says and watch the film in the cinemas with the other neo-luddites – no YouTube previewed guarantee. Sigh.

Catch the CRIMSON PIRATE clip while you can.

The international film festival continues

June 19, 2007

Film lovers, fear not the closing of SIFF 2007.  There is still much celluloid beauty to be appreciated in Seattle.  This summer, Northwest Film Forum is showing new and rare movies from Mali, Belgium, and Russia, as well as classic rep from China and France, award-winning local films, special guests, and our very own Swashbucklers series.   Best of all, in most cases you have a full week of screening times to choose from, rarely need to wait in line or show up 45 minutes in advance – and can’t beat our member ticket price of just $5.

So, as you forlornly paste your platinum pass into the scrapbook, or proudly look at your stack of ticket stubs, remember that the feast of great film continues.   Come by our cinemas, grab a calendar, and continue to take chances on new on-screen experiences.

AN UNSEEN CLASSIC

June 18, 2007

killer-of-sheep.jpg

There was a lot of talk around SIFF about forgotten screen gems, recent discoveries and the like. We at NWFF think that every we’re the very best in the city at giving Seattlites the greatest cinematic discoveries, and boy do we have one for you this week. Unearthed for 30 years, this Friday we bring you Charles Burnett’s masterpiece KILLER OF SHEEP. Turst me when I say nothing, I mean absolutely nothing in SIFF even comes close.

Since the film premiered in New York last month, the country has literally abuzz about this brilliant first feature. I will go out on a limb and say Burnett is the greatest living black American director. His films have never received the recognition they’ve deserve but he is noted for imaginatively combining black folk material, a touch of prose poetry, and a realistic depiction of middle-class black family life in Los Angeles.

The stunningly shot KILLER OF SHEEP (1977), was filmed over a series of weekends on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000, using friends and relatives as his actors. Milestone Film acquired the rights to the movie (which never acquired commercial distribution) after Burnett had collaborated with the U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive to restore it. The film was blown up to 35mm and was provided with a significantly improved sound and picture quality.

KILLER OF SHEEP takes place in and around the Watts ghetto in mid-’70s Los Angeles. The central figure in this realistic, understated film is a depressed slaughterhouse worker, Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), who is married with two children, makes little money and labors at a dehumanizing job that he hates. The film provides an episodic portrait of this decent workingman’s daily life. Nothing dramatic occurs, but Burnett invests his images of ordinary activities with such emotional resonance that the everyday becomes luminous and poetic.

I can not reccomend this film enough, and clearly based upon the national coverage below, neither can anyone who’s seen it. If you miss this one, you’ve done yourself a disservice. Get you tickets now!

Listen to these:
NPR

And read these:
MPR
New York Times
International Herald Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
LA Times
Ebony
New York Magazine
San Francisco Chronicle
Philadelphia City Paper
Salon.com

Self Distribution and Inlaws and Outlaws

June 15, 2007

Last night I attended a screening of Inlaws and Outlaws at the Cinerama, a film that hosted numerous fund raising screenings here at the Film Forum, all of which I ashamedly would preview for a screening at NWFF by popping in, seeing a bunch of talking heads, fast fowarding a little way, see a bunch more talking heads and dismissed. After sitting through the screening last night, I must admit, this system of previewing material is absolutely flawed.

Although I completely disagree with the films aesthetic approach to filmmaking, it surprisingly won me over. Rarely have I seen such honest testimonials in any film, forget a locally produced, independently financed documentary. This can only be a testament to Drew Emory and his ability to make his subjects comfortable with him. Many people in town had discussed the work with me, suggesting that it was too PBS, too much like a PSA, but I think they too must have seen the talking heads and immediately dismissed the work. This is really a shame cause Inlaws and Outlaws is worth your time.

Fortunately this screening was the beginning of its theatrical release. This week you can catch it at the Uptwon Theatre. With a little help from a donor from Oklahoma, Drew is entering into an arena called self-distribution. If you’re not in the film business, this probably doesn’t seem that daunting, but it is. It requires lost of money, and time, which is why Drew’s been fund raising for so long.

Having seen the film, I now feel compelled to do my part. Since I can’t afford to support Drew with any money of my own, I’m offering up this blog post. Now do your part and go see Drew’s film this week at the Uptown.

what?! GUERRILLA FILMMAKING with Jon Moritsugu is not full?!

June 13, 2007

Unbelievable — this is a fantastic opportunity to learn from the lo-fi master. Indie legend Jon Moritsugu is the wildly creative, wacky, witty, and resourceful director of FAMEWHORE, MOD F*CK EXPLOSION, and SCUMROCK (which features members of TV On The Radio). If you have an idea for an original, memorable film that will stand the inventiveness test of time — and you actually want to see it get MADE — Jon Moritsugu is the man to know.

This class should be full! Get the details and sign up here.

In anticipation of Mark Rabil’s NWFF visit

June 13, 2007

Last Sunday night there was a great interview with Darryl Hunt and his lawyer Mark Rabil on NPR’s Tavis Smiley show. You can listen to the whole thing here, but I’m most excited now for Mr. Rabil’s appearance at our opening weekend of THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT (July 27-28). Both men are unbelievable examples of understanding, wisdom, and enduring zen-like patience. Mr. Rabil’s perspective on the legal process, racism in America, and how to simply “keep the faith” is sure to stimulate a fascinating Q&A and discussion.

In addition to the Tavis show, there was a similar story about the trials of Larry Peterson examined at length on last night’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’d recommend a listen for a fuller picture of how DNA evidence is changing the justice system and the frustrating and complex way this technology affects the victim’s family and their search for closure.

Ousmane Sembène you will be missed…

June 11, 2007

I just got an e-mail from our former communications director Nick Vroman tipping me off to the passing of one of Africa’s most important filmmakers Ousmane Sembène. The Sénégalese director was regarded by many as a father of African film. His voice and his example encouraged Africans to build a tradition of expressing themselves in this medium, and is largely responsible for its now rich heritage.

It would be difficult to overestimate Ousmane Sembène’s contributions to African Cinema. He was a profoundly decent, funny, generous man, and an inspiration to filmmakers at home, and a compelling ambassador for African Cinema abroad. But he was no idle elder statesman: Guelwaar, which was made when Sembène was nearly 70, reminds us of the vitality and continuity of his creative, moral, and political vision. Faat Kine, made when he was in his late 70s, demonstrates the agility of his vision, the strength of his social analysis and satire, his ability to identify with the young.

In this interesting article on his death, you can begin to get a sense of the uphill battle it must have been for him to create such great works of art. This is a great loss for cinema, but an even greater loss for Africa. Ousmane Sembène we will miss you.