Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Greetings from San Francisco

I’ve been here since Friday. Alongside fellow jurors Marian Masone and Ed Arentz, I’ve seen ten of the eleven films vying for the $10,000 SKYY prize, which we’ll hand out on Wednesday night at the Golden Gate Awards. The films are all directors’ first features, drawn from all over the world.

We had a competitive award in the Virginia Film Festival last year, with jury and audience prizes given to the best undistributed film out of a pack of six. The award tied in to the IN/JUSTICE theme, because all of the films were critically acclaimed and eminently deserved distribution. This year, we’re going to concentrate more on our theme and drop the competitive sidebar. Does anyone think we’re making a mistake and should make an award competition a permanent component of our event?

When the opportunity arises, I am looking at films that fit our REVELATIONS theme. I saw a feature called THE GIANT BUDDHAS,  an essay film by Christian Frei on the implications and aftermath of the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Valley Giant Buddhas, which were 1600 years old but, alas, not Islamic. I was disappointed, and  found it plodding and not that illuminating. SILENT HOLY STONES is a surprisingly irreverent film about the allure of TV to young monks in training in Tibet, made by a Tibetan director. It’s not what you’d expect in a Tibetan Buddhist film and so I’m looking into showing it. Unfortunately, I missed INTO GREAT SILENCE, a nearly three hour portrait of the Grande Chartreuse monastery that my colleagues are raving about. A fellow programmer is going to send me a DVD, and I am fairly confident that I am going to be pursuing it for our festival.

I got to see Tilda Swinton give the annual State of Cinema address here. She was eloquent, moving and beautiful. She talked memorably about, among other things, how Derek Jarman led her and others to be rebellious artists, and about how inspiring his film about St. Sebastian was for the emerging gay movement in 1976. I immediately added SEBASTIANE to my list of likely prospects. My wife, Jill Hartz and I knew Jarman, and visited him at his amazing cottage in Dungeness, under a nearby power plant and surrounded by a strangely wonderful garden of mostly lifeless objects. That day, Jarman was brooding because he’d had an argument with Tilda while directing her in a stage production. The next day, he called to apologize for not being more gracious and offered us one of his black paintings, called “A Song for Dungeness,” with angel figurines emerging out of thick black paint. I will display it in the theater when we show Jarman’s film. Tilda, will you come visit us too?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - I just discovered this site, and find it very intriguing, to open the film programming process up - so had to add at least a couple thoughts, as a CVille resident.

What about Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev? It's tough, beautiful, perfect, revelatory in thousands of ways... Plus, I would DIE to see that film on the big screen...

Henry Bean's The Believer has been deeply influential for me - though I know you showed it some years before.

My first real encounter with cinema was the library scene in Wings of Desire. An incredible film that tries to merge the heavenly and the earthly; it takes my breath away every time I see it.

And what of films where the take is, essentially, that God does not reveal himself - like Bergman's trilogy of Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence? That theme, it seems, could be found in dozens of films, and could include those that follow the 60s generation, hippies, cult members (like Jane Campion's Holy Smoke) to films that focus on those at the bottom of society (like the Maysles' Salesman or the Welsh miners of How Green Was My Valley).

4:35 PM  

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