News to Me: Delays, Downtime, and Going Digital
Our Nixon (Penny Lane, 2013)
1. So ends the first week of quarantine here in NYC, and in keeping with the work-from-home guidelines, we’ve launched a brand-new podcast series—doing our part to flatten the curve. Releasing new episodes daily, “At Home” sees editors Nicolas Rapold, Clinton Krute, and Devika Girish joined by a range of special guests to discuss how we’re all coping in containment (i.e. what we’ve been watching). For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the film industry, we have another new series, “Reaching Out,” where writer Mark Asch does just that—reaching out to directors, distributors, and other industry workers to see how we might better manage during these unprecedented times. And lastly, Jonathan Romney shifts gears for his latest Film of the Week column, covering all the festivals that have either cancelled or gone entirely online.
2. Checking in with local theaters, a volunteer at Spectacle in Brooklyn tells FC: “We are receiving a lot of support from our immediate community, artists and programmers who have collaborated with us in the past. I’m sure we’ll be doing fundraisers, stoop sales, et cetera ‘after’ all this is over, like everybody else.” And while joint efforts like the Cinema Worker Solidarity Fund (now with UK edition) are helping to keep individuals afloat, some smaller institutions are bound to struggle in the ongoing crisis. “I think COVID-19 is going to rescale the culture industry in New York City,” he continued. “Don’t be surprised if some arts venues, like restaurants, have to close ‘temporarily’ and never come back . . . Spectacle is a 100% volunteer organization, and all our ticket sales go back into operating the space. It’s perverse to say, but we’re blessed by that in this situation, and now beginning to think about how we can help other venues hit harder than us.” The Film Stage has posted an excellent guide to supporting art house theaters during the crisis.
3. Working together seems to be key during times like these. But if you need some reading that goes beyond just the film world, here are two great essays on how we might better love thine neighbor: Jennifer Cooke at Commune on when “the world gets smaller and we return to a state where immediate community matters more”; and Whitney Curry Wimbish for The Baffler, who writes: “I’m drawing a lot of hope from the upswing in mutual support because it reveals a basic human impulse that lives just below the surface of our broken and unhappy society. Instead of continuing to believe that ideas like community, togetherness, and human connection are stupid dreams for sappy Pollyannas, this period of crisis shows that they are in fact binding impulses that live on even when every message shoved on us since birth says they should not.”
4. In an act of kindness and community, a number of producers, distributors, and directors are making their films available online. This includes several of Sky Hopinka’s acclaimed shorts—Fainting Spells, Dislocations Blues, and Jáaji Approx. among them. Paz Encina has opened up her Vimeo for free viewing, including her Cannes-award-winning debut feature, Hamaca Paraguaya. Re:Voir is making one film in their collection free to view each day until March 31st (use the password STAYHOME). Other worthwhile watches include Guy Maddin’s Vertigo-inspired The Green Fog (discussed on-mic by Michael Koresky), Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli’s Empathy, and the many wonderful nonfiction works of Penny Lane. Arthouse Convergence has compiled a list of “virtual screening rooms,” including Film at Lincoln Center’s Bacurau showing. And keep an eye on Anthology Film Archives, who have announced plans to start online screenings in early April.
5. More on the “free things to keep you busy” front: Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay has made the Spring 2020 issue of the magazine, available as a PDF. Eliza Hittman’s Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always dons the cover—and though our would-be FC talk with the director was necessarily canceled, you can still catch up with Hittman in the inaugural edition of that aforementioned “Reaching Out” series, telling Mark Asch: “I feel lucky—the silver lining is that I got to premiere the film in the U.S., I got to premiere the film internationally, and it was celebrated; I’m sad that it won’t have the theatrical life that we had planned, but I also think you have to be realistic and adjust the sails a little bit.” (If you can’t wait for the film’s delayed release, here’s Sheila O’Malley’s review from our current issue.)
6. Japan’s Toei Company is getting ready to join the great digital migration, with plans to release a globally available YouTube channel on April 6. Toei has been a mainstay in Japanese entertainment since the 1950s, best known today for their many animation series—Devilman (long before the Netflix remake), Dr. Slump, and Dragon Ball among them. Rather than dumping these series all at once, Toei will take on an old-world release schedule, with all ’70s shows having their first two episodes released on April 6, and then receiving weekly updates on different days thereafter.
7. “The manufacture of the weapons of war and the manufacture of images and text are linked in this country . . . The fantastic amount of control the Pentagon has on these productions is really insidious. Hollywood accepts this, then acts like it doesn’t affect the movies they make, that they are not ideological and that entertainment is neutral and doesn’t need to be questioned or investigated, just consumed.” For The Los Angeles Review, Riley Mang spoke with A.S. Hamrah to discuss his unique approach to criticism. The conversation covers everything from Hamrah’s childhood, his book, his varied film-world career, to making ends meet in New York. (Content warning for upcoming critics, some depressing advice: “it is not a good life. It’s a hard life.”) If you’re new to Hamrah’s work, here’s a piece on the (still forthcoming) Film Forum restoration of The Conversation.
8. A new online short-film festival, My Darling Quarantine, has been launched by Venice International Film Festival advisor Enrico Vannucci, with all proceeds going toward two specific causes: Medecins Sans Frontiers, who are currently working to help the 42,000 asylum seekers trapped on the Greek islands; and cultural institutions and workers, especially those who work freelance. Hosted by the online film magazine Talking Shorts, the festival will run as follows: “Every week Talking Shorts will present an online programme of seven short films on the subject of ‘dystopia’ that have been suggested from our quarantined short film friends around the globe. The audience can then vote for their favourite film.” You can read the official press release here.
9. As in the above, and with Jonathan Romney’s aforementioned column, many festivals are taking to the digisphere where possible. One of the most recent examples includes the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, meant to run in mid-May, which is unable to be delayed “for organizational and financial reasons.” The organizers are now working toward an alternative edition, possibly online-only, with festival director Lars Henrik Gass stating: “We believe that cultural offers can and must be maintained even in a social crisis, and that we are called upon to find creative solutions to this.” One festival still fervently resisting the move: Cannes, who, after initially deferring their decision until mid-April, has now announced that the festival cannot run on its planned dates of May 12-23, and that the team is considering several options instead—“the main one being a simple postponement.”
10. We mentioned a few weeks back that a new online resource had been made available in honor of Barbara Hammer. This week, Another Gaze has published this essay on the radical filmmaker’s storied life and death, in which Gabriella Beckhurst writes: “In addressing the need to offset the exposure of art-making and social advocacy with care, Hammer showed us that the personal was always at stake. During the lecture at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Hammer’s tone became momentarily conspiratorial. ‘Guess what,’ she said, ‘the art of dying is the same as the art of living.’”
Since time, time, time is on your side right now, we leave you this week with Part 1 of Peter Watkins’s 14-hour-long film The Journey (its remaining parts are available via the same uploader):