Apr 27, 2011

Difficulties in Going "Public"

At the close of “‘White Slavery’ Versus the Ethnography of ‘Sexworkers’: Women in Stag Films at the Kinsey Archive,” author Linda Williams lobbies for greater access to the Kinsey stag film collection among scholars and archivists, however, she also mentions the “need” for “public screenings”; a proposal that I find both intriguing and problematic (Williams 130). While it is one thing to allow researchers and scholars – knowledgeable about the historical and cultural elements of these films – to have access to screening these works, it is quite another to open such screenings to the public. Due to the controversial and potentially offensive content of many of these films, it is probable that screenings open to members of the public would require a careful and skilled contextualization in order for people to understand how these films can relate to the study of film history and culture.

Williams states that she “do[es] not claim to know how an archive of hard-core films should present its contents…to the public,” but still maintains that these films should “be made available to those interested” in them (128). In the past, numerous provocative film, photography, and art exhibitions have sparked controversy, despite the fact that they were presented within a museum setting – think of the Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, or Wojnarowicz’s Fire in My Belly at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Sometimes a scholarly/artistic venue and curatorial contextualization are not enough to persuade members of the public to look at provocative or offensive material in a different light. While this fact is not a legitimate reason to bar the public from viewing these works, it is still incumbent upon curators and archivists to remember that with controversial works, context and understanding are everything, and with public exhibitions, these variables are less easy to control.

Works Cited

Williams, Linda. “‘White Slavery’ Versus the Ethnography of ‘Sexworkers’: Women in Stag Films at the Kinsey Archive.” The Moving Image 5.2 (Fall 2005): 107-34.

Apr 20, 2011

Long Shadows: The Late Work of Satyajit Ray

Hello All,
Here is a great opportunity to see a retrospective on one of India Cinema's most respected and renowned directors Satyajit Ray. Long Shadows: The Late Work of Satyajit Ray runs from Apr. 19 - Apr. 26 at Lincoln Center.


Cruel Cinema: New Directions in Tamil Film at BAM

As a Bollywood enthusiast, I am well aware that India contains multiple film industries based on regional languages and leads the world in quantity of film productions. However, aside from watching a Satyajit Ray (India’s most respected director) film that hails from the Bengali industry, I had never seen any of the other Indian Cinemas. With that being said, I jumped at the opportunity to see Cruel Cinema: New Directions in Tamil Film program consisting of four films by four Tamil directors over the course of four days (April 14-17) at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn. This traveling program was presented by 3rd i, an organization dedicated to showcasing innovative and experimental independent films promoting diverse images of South Asians.

Based in the southern region of Tamil-Nadu, Tamil language films follow Hindi Cinema (based in Mumbai) in popularity, box office gross, and number of productions a year. Cruel Cinema not only provided a unique glance for a Western audience into one of the more unknown film industries of India, but also showed four directors that are the core of a Tamil New Wave. These films are not the run of the mill extravagant musicals as seen in both Hindi and Tamil popular films, but are independent films that depict the violent lives of criminals and outcasts in a gritty mise-en-scène. I went to the opening night to see Selvaraghavan’s Pudhupettai, a gangster film about an outcast's quick rise to the top, juxtaposing both elements of horror (the gangs walk around with machetes slicing one another and the main character is oddly possessed with murderous, supernatural powers) with bits of comedy and cheerful item numbers (song and dance bits). Overall, entertaining with a dark tone, this films both departed from and expanded the traditional escapist entertainment of its popular cinema counterparts by stylizing the gritty, slums.

BAMcinématek was a good organization to host and show the program. The theater was large enough to house the more than forty people that turned out to see the film, the majority were non-South Asians. I would have been interested to hear what is their interest in this type of film. Cruel Cinema was accompanied by a handy program booklet that not only provided a synopsis, Cast & Crew credits, print information (Pudhupettai was a new 35MM print with beautiful color!), but also information about the Tamil New Wave, the series, the directors, 3rd i Cinema, and a short essay entitled Film Culture In Chennai by Lalitha Gopalan originally printed in Film Quaterly. While the information was very valuable for someone really interested to read the very colorful booklet and get details, the program (especially the first night) could have benefited from a speaker from 3rd i Cinema or from BAM to introduce the film and talk about the series. Although my screening was very enjoyable, such an introduction, may have convinced me to come again another night.

Apr 19, 2011

Approaches to Provocative Programming

In reading Chi-hui Yang’s reflection on his experience programming the Flaherty seminar, I became interested in his assessment of the Flaherty as a place where attendees have been known to start notorious debates with one another. I wondered, in programming for a specialized venue such as the Flaherty, where you are presenting a body of work to a select audience of individuals who are highly knowledgeable and often very opinionated about film, at what point, if any, does the urge to intentionally provoke viewers factor into the programmer’s decisions when selecting and arranging films for presentation?

Chi-hui, who provided a very detailed and highly-intuitive lecture regarding his approach to curating and programming, made a number of comments on this topic. He admitted that he was initially taken aback when the 2008 seminar’s “wrap-up” discussion turned into a heated debate between two of the participants, however, in time he came to realize that this explosive and ambiguous ending to the seminar would force people to continue thinking about the various issues that the program had raised regarding the theme of “migration,” even after the event had concluded.

Since this time it appears that Chi-hui’s philosophy towards curating and programming has become one of quiet provocation. “If a program doesn’t upset people’s notions of what they’re looking for,” he remarks, the program is ultimately “less successful.” And while I tend to agree with Chi-hui’s mantra of subverting conventions and using innovative programming to promote alternative ways of looking at certain films, I wonder how one can anticipate the line between slightly upsetting viewers’ expectations and presenting something that unintentionally sparks a huge debate or controversy? How do you curate a program that presents just the right about of thought-provoking controversy when “controversy” itself is so subjective?

Apr 12, 2011

Drive-In Cinephilia

Coming of age during the turn of the millennium, I am not ashamed to say that I am a product of this era that has given rise to a new state of cinephilia. Growing up in a small town in Idaho, where the options of seeing the newest release (or any film for that matter) were relegated to a second-run release at the local drive-in (although the double features were well worth the 5 dollars per person) or waiting until they were released on DVD in which my father would not only purchase them for his growing collection, but then purchase the Deluxe or Anniversary editions that would inevitably follow.

I was not privy to art house theaters that would project original 35MM prints of classics defined as a canon nor do have I had a defining film experience that turned me into a cinephile. Discovering the Turner Classic Movies channel at 17 is as close as I get to that kind of defining moment.

Thinking about the 21st century cinephilia or the death of cinephilia in relation to the changing modes of theater/film into laptop/digital, my experience with film has been defined outside the film theater. And yet, it does not make me any less of a film lover. I would equally enjoy watching a canon film at Anthology Film Archive or a bad bootleg copy of the latest Bollywood release with even worse subtitles.

However, something that I think makes two experiences significantly different is not the quality or the format, but the communal experience of sharing it with others. So as my experience has been defined outside theater, it has still been very much enjoyed with others. I may enjoy watching bad bootleg copies of Bollywood films, but even better I enjoy sharing that bad-bootleg copy with others, something I thing any of the authors who write about cinephilia such as Sontag may not agree with.

Sontag defines cinephilia as a clear cut, pure experience that is defined in a theater with celluloid film, not allowing for any redefinition or malleability. When the concept did start to evolve in the late 20th Century, she cried the death of cinephilia! Yes, cinephilia may never be the same homogenized experience that gave rise to an attitude and life-style, but it is still present and very much alive today. How else would a girl from a small town in Idaho end up loving films?

Terrace Drive-In, Caldwell, Idaho

Apr 8, 2011

EAI in Times Square: April 13 - 19

Curating in a big way....

40 Years of Video Art

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) celebrates its 40th anniversary with a
special project for Times Square. In partnership with the Times Square
Alliance and MTV, EAI brings artists' visions to the MTV 44½ LED Screen.
Marking EAI's 40 years of support for moving image art, EAI in Times
Square celebrates video art's rich history of creative intervention in one
of the world's most dynamic media landscapes.

April 13 - 19, 2011
Noon - 4pm and 6pm - 11pm

Saturday & Sunday, April 16-17
Full program also plays at noon

MTV 44 ½ Screen
Times Square
Broadway between
44th and 45th Streets
New York, NY 10036

EAI partners with the Times Square Alliance and MTV to present artists'
video in the astonishing visual landscape of Times Square. From April 13
to 19, EAI will highlight the remarkable creative media interventions of
artists on a spectacular scale. Works by Vito Acconci, Dan Asher, Phyllis
Baldino, Dara Birnbaum, Gary Hill, Shigeko Kubota, Takeshi Murata, Nam
June Paik, Martha Rosler, Stuart Sherman and William Wegman will be seen
daily on MTV 44½'s large-format LED screen.

Drawn from EAI's archive, one of the world's leading resources for media
art, the videos will play at the top of each hour, between noon and 4pm
and between 6pm and 11pm. On Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 the
complete program (25:16 min) will also play at noon.

Spanning the 1960s to 2011, the works range from bold animations and
visual poems to witty performances and vibrant electronic experiments. Nam
June Paik's rarely seen Hand and Face (1961) is one of his earliest media
works; Dara Birnbaum's 30-second Artbreak was commissioned for broadcast
by MTV in 1987. Shigeko Kubota brings a profusion of electronic cherry
blossoms to the heart of Times Square, while Martha Rosler eyes domestic
labor in a suburban backyard. William Wegman's dogs perform a timeless

Each day's program will begin with Takeshi Murata's EAI 40th Anniversary
Intro (2011). Linking video art's history to the digital present, this
piece was specially commissioned by EAI for its 40th Anniversary
programming. Murata's video can also be viewed online at

Much as early video artists sought to "slow down" television and "talk
back" to the media, these creative interjections will challenge viewers to
reconsider their visual expectations of Times Square and experience it in
new ways. Encountered on MTV's large-scale LED screen, these visions will
engage the public not just as consumers, but also as active viewers.

Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins said, "We're thrilled to
partner with Electronic Arts Intermix and MTV to support this diverse and
dynamic collection of videos through the medium that makes Times Square so
distinctive to people around the world: our billboards."

Program Schedule

Noon: Takeshi Murata, EAI 40th Anniversary Intro (2011, 1:05 min)
1 pm: Shigeko Kubota, Rock Video: Cherry Blossom (1986, 3 min)
2 pm: William Wegman, Dog Duet (1975, 2:37 min)
3 pm: Martha Rosler, Backyard Economy I (1974, 3:20 min)
4 pm: Stuart Sherman, Chess (1982, 30 sec)

6 pm: Dara Birnbaum, Artbreak, MTV Networks, Inc. (1987, 30 sec)
7 pm: Vito Acconci, Three Frame Studies: Push (1969-1970, 2:59 min)
8 pm: Nam June Paik, Hand and Face (1961, 1:25 min)
9 pm: Phyllis Baldino, Suitcase/Not Suitcase (1993, 36 sec)
10 pm: Gary Hill, Objects With Destinations (1979, 3:41 min)
11 pm : Dan Asher, Artificial Illuminations: Calligraphic (1997, 55 sec)


EAI in Times Square is part of an ongoing series of events and projects
marking EAI's 40th anniversary year. For more information about upcoming
programs in this series, please visit www.eai.org.


About the Times Square Alliance

Times Square Arts presents temporary cutting-edge art and performances in
multiple forms and media to the 360,000 to 500,000 daily visitors to New
York City's Times Square, making it one of the highest profile public arts
programs in the United States. Since its inception three years ago, Times
Square Arts has featured works by a diverse group of more than four dozen
prominent and emerging artists. The Times Square Public Art Program is
made possible in part by the NYC Cultural Innovation Fund of the
Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the NYC Department
of Cultural Affairs. www.TimesSquareNYC.org/arts


About MTV 44½

A standout among the large electronic displays in Times Square, MTV 44½
captures the eyes of viewers with unique programming, live tapings,
special events, concerts, and MTV-branded creative that breaks through the
clutter in Times Square. www.mtv445.com


EAI: Celebrating 40 Years

Founded in 1971, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is one of the world's
leading nonprofit resources for video art. A pioneering advocate for media
art and artists, EAI fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution and
preservation of video art and digital art. EAI's core program is the
distribution and preservation of a major collection of over 3,500 new and
historical media works by artists. EAI's activities include viewing
access, educational services, extensive online resources, and public
programs such as artists' talks, exhibitions and panels. The Online
Catalogue is a comprehensive resource on the artists and works in the EAI
collection, and also features extensive materials on exhibiting,
collecting and preserving media art: www.eai.org.

posted by
Dan Streible 

the Swank family

Dear Curating Moving Images, 

How do I get film prints for my special event? 
I'm not a professional or commercial movie exhibitor. 
Can I still get 16 or 35mm prints to project?

In the dark, 
J. H.

Dear J., 

You're in luck. One big nontheatrical film distributor dominates the field, and as the last surviving distributor of this type, Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. distributes for most all of the "majors."

 Below is some text from the company's website. Note that Swank serves several caterogies of venues, including Museums and Film Societies.
 The company traffics in the loan of movies on DVD, videotape, 16mm and 35mm film prints. 
You can also search the company's available movie titles and other credits at http://college.swankmp.com/museums/search.asp . Swank has, for example, 5 Ann Sheridan movies availabe for rent. And 2 Charlie Chan movies.

The offiical blurb:

"Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. founded in 1937, is the major non-theatrical movie distributor, online CE/CME education distributor and public performance licensing agent in venues where feature movies are shown publicly.

Founded in 1937, Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. is a successful, growing business privately owned by the Swank family and led by Tim Swank, Chairman. Headquartered in St. Louis, Swank also maintains sales offices in New York, Berlin and Paris, with an international shipping and distribution facility located near Chicago.

Major Hollywood and independent movie studios have appointed Swank as their exclusive licensing and distribution partner to offer their box-office hits for public performance in non-theatrical markets (markets outside theaters). Swank represents Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Dreamworks Pictures, New Line Cinema, Lionsgate, MGM, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Tri Star Pictures, The Weinstein Company, Focus Features, Miramax Films, Overture Films, Warner Independent, Paramount Classics, Paramount Vantage, Fine Line Features, HBO, Hallmark Hall Of Fame Productions, United Artists, National Geographic, ThinkFilm, Magnolia Pictures, Newmarket Films, First Look Studios, First Independent Pictures, Monterey Media and many other independent studios.

Swank Motion Pictures provides both public performance licensing rights and licensed movies to numerous non-theatrical markets, including worldwide cruise lines, U.S. colleges and universities, K-12 public schools and libraries, American civilian and military hospitals, motor coaches, Amtrak trains, correctional facilities and other markets such as parks, art museums and businesses."

 Hope that helps you, J. H.





Apr 7, 2011

Foreign Film Festivals

There was an interesting article last week in The Guardian about England embracing International Film Festivals.

It raises an interesting point about what kind of audiences are attracted to foreign film programming. Is it only native speakers of the film or are regular English-speaking British people embracing foreign film? It would be really interesting to look at American audiences as well in regards to international film festivals.

~Sam L

Barthes vs. Haiku

in '75
films were not sixteen dollars
so go ahead––sleep

Sontag vs. Dargis

Manohla Dargis's piece in the New York Times "The 21st-Century Cinephile" rebuts many of the claims that Susan Sontag's article "The Decay of Cinema" discusses. Susan Sontag's lament of the death of cinephilia was clearly written before the world of blogs, message boards, facebook and twitter. She writes at the end of her piece, "If cinema can be resurrected, it will only be through the birth of a new kind of cine-love." Over the past 15 years since Sontag wrote her piece, cinema has been resurrected.

Dargis mentions a number of ways that cinema is still alive. For examples, the DVD, and now Blu-Ray, has made it possible to see movies you never could have before. Fans are able to see international, avant garde and short films quite easily, paving the way for not just viewers, but collectors. This may have the potential to deter people from seeing films in the theatre or at a festival, but I think for the most part, the access will fuel the desire to see these films on the big screen. There is a reason why places like Anthology and Film Forum still exist; people enjoy the cinematic experience. Maybe the audience numbers aren't as large as they were in the past, but the love of cinema still exists.
Dargis does rightly point out the problem with multinational corporations owning film studios, but this is an issue for a number of art forms. Truly great music for example, is no longer played on the radio because large corporations own the majority of the air waves. Those who truly love music have sought other ways to learn about the next big thing, primarily through blogs and message boards. This does not mean music is dead, but the way we learn about it and listen to it has changed. This is the same with film. You can easily learn about the next great French film by simply following a blog or even contacting someone from France. Cinephilia isn't dead; it has just evolved.

Apr 6, 2011

Manohla Dargis and 21st Century Cinephilia

In her article “The 21st Century Cinephile,” NY Times film critic Manohla Dargis writes, “Not long ago, movies were bigger than life; today you can buy a movie, hold it in your hand and take it home to watch again and again, a revolutionary step in the short history of the medium.” She writes this in 2004 and since then the medium has gone further and further towards a digital revolution. It’s true that more and more of my peers are downloading or streaming movies from their computers and it makes me wonder how long theaters will be in the picture. Video stores are on the outs, will theaters be next?

This also begs bigger questions, such as what will this mean for the ever-changing nature of the cinematic experience and what it means for the art of film? With easy access to movies and the constant barrage of movies releasing in theaters, perceptions of cinema are bound to change. The medium runs the risk of losing its cinematic quality, that is, its beauty and its art.

On the other hand, this constant access allows mainstream audiences exposure to films they’ve never seen or heard of, and it allows independent filmmakers a chance to have their films seen. Case in point my parents. With the advent of Netflix’s Watch Instantly they’ve been able to watch movies from all over the world. These were two people who loved their Pierce Brosnan thrillers, who are now indulging in the works of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujirô Ozu. Twenty years ago, the availability of these films in theaters would have been quite limited.

I, for one, am extremely grateful for online streaming of old classics and new releases (many a paper has been written thanks to Netflix). Yet, I agree with Dargis—going to see a movie in theaters is not yet a dead tradition. There’s nothing quite like seeing Late Spring or 8 ½ on the big screen.

Dargis and the Digital Debate

In “Floating in the Digital Experience,” Manohla Dargis poses an important but daunting question about the future of cinema: should we care about the switch to digital? I first thought about this topic last September when I attended an event at Lincoln Center and heard director David Fincher (who has been shooting on digital for years), remark that “saying [he was] anti-film” would be “like saying [he was] anti-dinosaur.” In other words, he was not against shooting on film – he simply felt that this practice was on the verge of extinction.

If the switch to digital is as inevitable as Fincher suggests, Dargis’ question gains new relevance: should we bother caring about something that is going to happen whether we like it or not? For me, the answer is yes, because while the changeover to digital filmmaking may be unavoidable, the manner and style in which this new technology is utilized is still open for debate. There are different styles of digital filmmaking, and some are more beneficial than others. Fincher crafts his films in such a way that the use of digital shooting actually enhances the themes of the narrative; his masterful crafting of an eerie but oddly familiar San Francisco in Zodiac would have been inconceivable without the aid of digital technology. However, Michael Mann often uses digital filmmaking to create mystifying visual schemes that have little correlation to his films’ stories (i.e. Public Enemies), and thus have a detrimental effect on the success of their narratives.

Celluloid does seem to be headed the way of the dinosaur, but that does not mean that cinema is dead. Filmmaking is still a creative art form, and great directors will find innovative ways of using this new technology to further the artistic progression of the cinematic medium; Fincher already has.

Apr 2, 2011

Fwd: TFF Sunday press screening of Cinema Komunisto postponed

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tammie Rosen <trosen@tribecaenterprises.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 8:41 PM
Subject: TFF Sunday press screening of Cinema Komunisto postponed

Please note that the scheduled Tribeca Film Festival press screening on Sunday at 11am of Cinema Komunisto has been postponed as the print is stuck in Serbia.

Sorry for the inconvenience (and another email in everyone's inbox).



Tammie Rosen

VP of Communications

Tribeca Enterprises

375 Greenwich Street

Apr 1, 2011

BAMcinématek Obstinate Memories: The Documentaries of Patricio Guzmán

Chilean documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzman is a legend in my family, so when I saw that his documentaries were going to be shown at BAM I knew that a) I had to go see at least one and b) I had to let you all know about. The program runs this weekend and most of next week. Click through the image for all the showtimes.
I'd definitely check out his new documentary (which is the one I'll probably end up going to), Nostalgia for the Light or his first documentary La Batalla de Chile (The Battle of Chile). Hope to see some of you there!