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Tag Archives: Peter Snowdon

we-are-going-01We are going to record

Yesterday I went with Marcella and comps to MoMA’s film series, Documentary Fortnight, invited by friend Peter Snowdon, to see a new short film of his, We Are Going To Record.  This was a nice piece, shot by his collaborator, Juan Javier Rivera, in a small village in the Peruvian Andes, where a large copper company has its sights on local deposits.  Thwarted by lack of adequate funding to make the film they intended, Peter culled many hours of footage to make this droll commentary, which it is suggested is a metaphor for the indigenous people’s struggles with the copper company.  I read it rather otherwise.  The shots, in a small improvised studio are all static, of a handful of people brought in to record their memories, some music, some poems.  What we see is the process of professional sound recordists from Lima setting up.  We never hear a note played, the intended words said.  Rather we get the complete failure of those doing the recording to be conscious of themselves and what they are putting these people through.  As the film, 11 minutes long, plays out, it becomes a rather comic collision of cultural and social mores.  Discreet, funny, sad, it has a hint of Pedro Costa in the simplicity with which it is done, though while the film itself is respectful of those who were to be recorded, it shows the curious failure of the pro’s to respect the natives.  Very nice film.

The rest of the program was for me a surprising melange of near amateur “experimentalism” of a quality that I was surprised was being shown in the hallowed space of MoMA, and struck me as the kind of things I get from students, and a ghastly slickness in a 3D portrait of a prison in Norway, part of a Wim Wenders conceived package of films about “the souls of buildings.”  This one was slick, the 3D meaningless and irritating, the voice-over grating, and the over-all thrust utterly wrong-headed.  The audience responded with tepid applause.

Controversies

There was though one film which was quite good, Controversies, by Winnipeg filmmaker Ryan McKenna.  Using archival tapes from a famed radio show, McKenna drolly shoots, in gorgeously done extreme wide-screen b&w, portraits of people in their homes, and some out of doors, tossing in a few actors (naked), and cityscapes, as we listen to comments phoned in for the show.

 

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controversies1Controversies

Owing a touch to Diane Arbus, and to Guy Maddin, McKenna makes a somewhat surreal and down-beat portrait of his home town.  A bit on internet research suggests there is a whole school of Winnipeg filmmakers working in a vaguely similar tone.

In both cases, if chance let’s you have a look at these, I suggest you grab it.

On another level, in the NY Times read a puff piece on a Sundance favorite, so they said, English filmmaker Yann Demange.  In it he is quoted this way:

“I saw images of the streets, and it was something like Cormac McCarthy’s descriptions in the book ‘The Road,’ ” he said. Sidewalks were torn up; burning cars filled the air with black smoke. “It looked like the apocalypse.” His film, he resolved in salty terms, would treat the scene as a moody thriller. “Every frame,” he said, “should have an element of mystery to it.”

The production still posted with the article, from his film about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, looked like this:

22YANN2-articleLargeProduction still for ’71

Boy, look at that grit, the uniform just out of the costume department, not worn 3 hours.  And the spic and span kid.  Yep, movie folks really know what real is.  Like the glossied up botox brigade on last night’s spectacle in Hollywood.

 

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SM ROXONMARFLOORENDMarshall Gaddis and Roxanne Rogers in SLOW MOVES

Following a very nice screening of Last Chants for a Slow Dance at Light Industry (155 Freeman, Greenpoint, Brooklyn), to a sold out house and very nice response, this weekend we follow up with screenings of four different films at Spectacle, 124 S. 3rd St., (near Bedford), Brooklyn, NY.  See this:   http://www.spectacletheater.com/jon-jost/

bd-baseballMarshall Gaddis in Bell Diamond

Films showing will be Slow Moves, Bell Diamond, Parable, and The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima.   I’ll be there for all screenings (hope there’s a good wi-fi cafe and/or bar nearby!)

KATSU1_22smThe Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima

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Parable

Yesterday I went to MoMA’s documentary series to see my friend Peter Snowdon’s film, The Uprising.  I’d seen it in a rough form 3 years ago, and at the time he was very discouraged and said he was ready to stop and give up on it.  I found what I saw very strong and encouraged him to carry on and figure it out and finish.  He says my little nudge helped, and after all this time he finished it.  The film is composed of YouTube and other internet uploads of materials shot by people in the ”Arab Spring,” often rough things shot with cell-phones, i-Pads, DSLRs or whatever people had that they could shoot with.  Peter amassed a huge amount of this, and after his editorial labors I think he’s come up with a really strong and amazingly good film – can I say a kind of “masterpiece”?

the_uprising_peter_snowdon_02

Eschewing voice-over and explanatory materials, the film dives directly into the visceral reality which shifted from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Yemen and Syria, as the populist demand for change, for an end to corruption and dictatorships, spread like wild-fire across the middle-east.  Seizing on this emotional roller-coaster, riding from the delirium of massive crowds to the grim deaths of unarmed civilians in the face of military power, The Uprising seems to me orchestrated as a symphony, using the shifting tonalities and qualities of the various images used – blurred, jagged shifts of light, sometimes shifting into solarized simplicity – and cuts them with an internal aesthetic which verges often towards abstraction, but without ever lapsing and losing the emotional intensity of the situation.  Indeed, I think it is just this abstract infrastructure which makes the film work so powerfully.  Equally, the sound is used in this abstract sense, building into musical crescendos, and then going silent, shifting in concert with the images to orchestrate exactly as do the abstract sounds of a symphony, coaxing, enticing, shifting one’s inner world through pure aesthetics, yet ones which touch deeply inside us.   I know it was a lot of work, but I am glad Peter stuck to it and found (one of) the films which was in his material.  Powerful stuff.

Here’s a listing of upcoming screenings:

February 20, 2014 – 6pm : Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (NY), USA
not a screening, but a talk + Q&A with Peter Snowdon and Bruno Tracq

February 23, 2014 – 5:30pm : Images Cinema, Williamstown (MA), USA
followed by a Q&A with Peter Snowdon

February 26, 2014 – 7pm : Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, New Orleans (LA), USA
followed by a Q&A with Peter Snowdon

March 3, 2014 – 5:30pm : University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (NC), USA
followed by a Q&A with Peter Snowdon

March 7, 2014 – 7:30pm : The Center for Middle East Studies, New Brunswick (NJ), USA
followed by a Q&A with Peter Snowdon

March 27, 2014 – 7:30pm : Université Populaire, Brussels
followed by a talk with Bruno Tracq

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