Friday, July 21, 2006

Focus on Scandinavia

I’ve watched a LOT of movies these past few weeks. Like last year, the new documentaries on our theme are really strong, and there are going to be a lot of them in the program. Others have noted that the inadequacy of the mainstream news media is inspiring a renaissance of independent documentaries addressing social issues. Among the documentaries that could show up in our program are Jesus Camp, Deliver Us From Evil, Jonestown, Keep Not Silent, A Flock  of Dodos, God of a Second Chance, and Iraq in Fragments.

Narrowing down the classics is the hardest part. There are so many great classics of spiritual cinema, most catalogued here, and passing on The Decalogue, Groundhog Day, and Andrei Rublev will be painful. But I may have found the hook that will give shape to the program, and rationalize my exclusions.

The Virginia Film Festival and the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Education are joining forces to sponsor an annual spring film travel program, part of the University’s Travel&Learn programs for adult travelers. In May of 2007, we hope to travel to Denmark and Sweden to look at the historical and contemporary film traditions of these nations, including the legacies of Ingmar Bergman and Dogme 95. (If enrolling in the weeklong program interests you, please contact for more information).

So I’ve decided to focus on Scandinavian spiritual classics, as a prelude to the Scandinavian trip. The region is obviously highly evolved both spiritually and cinematically. The Danish film professor who will be my teaching partner on the travel program is likely to come to our festival to introduce the films. I’m presently searching for good prints of Dreyer’s Ordet, Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and Axel’s Babette’s Feast. The Andrei Tarkovsky film we’re likely to show is  The Sacrifice, filmed in Sweden and marked by Bergman’s  influence. I’d like to throw in a Dogme 95 film (the whole movement parodies religion), or von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, but may not have room.

Strange coincidences keep materializing with this program. Our opening night film is an American film with a Scandinavian fixation, and that’s all I can say. A famous Swedish émigré director may be premiering his latest film at the festival.  And Volvo has just signed on as a primary sponsor of the festival this year (really….it’s a happy coincidence).

Don’t worry. I’m still planning to show Rosselini, Bresson, and Bunuel, since I’m sure they visited and were fond of Scandinavia.


Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Richard -- this sounds like an excellent way to bring focus to your selection. Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing the documentaries you mentioned, especially Jesus Camp.

The Travel & Learn program sounds very cool, too.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Dr. Flix said...

All the suggestions so far sound great - regarding the documentaries you mention, I saw Jonestown at SilverDocs and it was absolutely incredible. I also highly recommend Danielson: A Family Movie (JL Aronson)- as mesmerizing as Jonestown, but considerably lighter. I've written in detail about these films on my blogspot page

Can I also suggest some Quebecois films? Many are suffused with elements of Catholicism. Specifically Leolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1992), Le Confessional (Robert Lepage, 1995), Jesus of Montreal (Denys Arcand, 1989), Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971) and Pour la suite du monde (Pierre Perrault, 1963) would be great. More Americans should be exposed to these classics of Canadian cinema. Of course the original is La Petite Aurore, L'Enfant Martyre (Jean-Yves Bigras, 1951) - one of the earliest and most popular Quebecois features, it is apparently being remade as we write.

I wonder if the Quebec government bureau in DC would be interested in sponsoring some films - they are always looking for publicity - and Canada is HOT now after the Alberta showcase at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival.

PS - If we are talking about films that "provoke a spritual experience in the viewer" I would advocate for some DOGME films. Not to mention the fact that the whole movement has a spiritual underpinning to it.

And the filmmaker as god? What about The Truman Show?

11:21 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Let me second the Danielson recommendation -- of recent films that overtly discuss the difficulties of combining faith and art, you'd have a hard time finding a better one. A couple other thoughts: Makhmalbaf's A Moment of Innocence is probably more about morality than religion per se, but man, I'd love to see that programmed. And the Dardennes' Le Fils is religious imagery a-go-go in service of a Christian parable, not to mention one of the best films of the past half-decade.

As (I think) the closest-to-C'Ville voter in the Arts & Faith Top 100 List, I'm glad to see the shout-out in this blog's first post, and I'm looking very forward to this year's festival.

10:37 PM  

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