Thursday, June 22, 2006

From LA to the Flaherty Seminar

I’ve been picking up the pace on my programming lately, and have made two trips—to L.A. to consult with members of the Festival’s well-connected Advisory Board and, now, to Vassar College, where I’m participating in the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar.

In L.A., I had an uncanny experience. There’s an upcoming film that may be our closing night event at the Paramount, if we can attract the star and director to come along. I’m uncomfortable about committing to a film I haven’t seen, but the personnel are impressive and I might have booked it sight unseen. But while walking on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, I was handed an invitation to a test screening for this  very film. I had to lie and say I’m not connected with the film business; but, since She’s collaborating on the programming of this year’s REVELATIONS festival, God has forgiven me.  The film was wonderful, and if it all comes together, it’s going to be a spectacular closing night event.

It was an exciting board meeting, and the board members are really pitching in this year with ideas and connections. That’s all I can say for now, but the guests and premieres are going to be thrilling.

Here at Vassar, I just met and invited Stanley Nelson, the director of Jonestown, which I had caught and admired in San Francisco. I’ve recently been in touch with Valerie Cooper, a professor in Religious Studies at U.Va. who is teaching a course on Race, Religion, and Film, and she’s excited about collaborating on this and other programs.

I also was blown away by an amazing work of video game/installation art called Waco Resurrection. When I get back to Charlottesville, I’m going to try to interest the U.Va. Art Museum in helping to install this piece during the festival. It’s a ten-minute game in which the player assumes the role of David Koresh. Here’s how it’s described on its website:

“Waco Resurrection re-examines the clash of worldviews inherent in the 1993 conflict by asking players to assume the role of a resurrected "cult" leader in order to do divine battle against a crusading government. While the voices of far-off decision-makers seem resolute and determined, the "grunts" who physically assault the compound appear conflicted and naive in their roles. The game commemorates the tenth anniversary of the siege at a unique cultural moment in which holy war has become embedded in official government policy. In 2003, the spirit of Koresh has become a paradoxical embodiment of the current political landscape - he is both the besieged religious other and the logical extension of the neo-conservative millennial vision. Waco is a primal scene of American fear: the apocalyptic visionary - an American tradition stretching back to Jonathan Edwards - confronts the heathen "other" - in Waco Resurrection, the roles are anything but fixed.”

The  programmer, Eddo Stern, was fascinating today during the Flaherty discussion on video games and other new media art forms. He and the other artists on the panel talked about the difficulty of interjecting critical thought into the gamer’s experience of playing their alternative video games. In Waco Resurrection, the player, wearing a David Koresh mask and punching keys on the keyboard, can shoot a lot of ATF agents and attract many followers, before he or she inevitably dies. But do any of the ideas in the previous paragraph sink in?  Stern has interesting things to say about how he tries to provoke  reflection, and so I hope to bring him with the piece to Charlottesville.


Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Richard -- I've read about the Waco game, and I find it fascinating and no doubt an interesting and thought-provoking addition to your theme this year.

I wanted to mention that I recently sent you my film (at your request) -- a comedic take on a man who mistakenly believes himself to be a messiah, It was shot in Waco, and I live there as well (I teach at Baylor). Would love to contribute to the discussion of religion and the notion of the messiah, as it relates to my film and other visions of the same issue.

Yes, I'm very much putting in a plug for my film here :-) But the topic is of great interest to me, which is of course why I made the film in the first place.

Chris Hansen

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard -

Have you considered To End All Wars? I recently viewed it again and was amazed at the message of self sacrifice for the betterment of others. It is a very spiritual film on many levels and one that challenges the human soul.


5:35 PM  

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