Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Pressure's On

The pressure’s on to finish most of the programming. The Preview Guide copy has to go to the designer, Rick Montoya, on August 10. So I met yesterday with our writer, Sean McCord, to hand him a batch of titles to begin writing up. Usually, we drop in a lot of fake blurbs and give ourselves until early September to replace them with newer titles …but I’ve got this program mostly figured out. Some of the invited films have already announced their participation. Chris Hansen’s very pleased to have his Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah in the program, and I’m pleased we can present his hilarious and well-executed faux documentary. Avid readers of this blog will surely recognize Chris as a serial commenter here, but I swear his compliments didn’t sway me.

I’ve been hunting for prints of the classics. First, I checked the reliable distributors. Jessica at Kino had Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice. Sarah at Janus provided The Seventh Seal. So much for the easy finds. Where are good 35mm or even 16mm prints of Ordet, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Miracle, and DeMille’s The King of Kings? Throughout the week, I was in touch with the kind archivists I know (including Bob Harris, Ray Regis, Steffen Pierce, and Caroline Yeager). The first three films are still elusive. Anyone else have any clues?

The best part of the week was working on panel discussion topics. I drove to Washington DC last weekend to hang out and brainstorm with Pat Aufderheide. We caught the Sugimoto, Christenberry, and Kiefer shows on the Mall, and A Scanner Darkly in Bethesda, and only stopped talking while the movie was running. I first met Pat when she was writing film reviews for In These Times in 1980. We’ve crossed paths many times since then, and her Center for Social Media at American University has become an annual organizer of panels at our festival. This year, we think we want to gather a panel of media makers who reach beyond preaching to the converted, and now we’re calling around to gather the ideal panel members we imagined, including David Van Taylor and the Jesus Camp directors.

Pat also led me to some old friends--Bobbi Abrash, her Research Director, who also helps run, with visual anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, the Center for Religion and Media at NYU. Their NYU center is likely to host another panel at our festival, possibly addressing spiritual performances. While thinking about their panel, I experienced another one of those odd coincidences that are constantly occurring this year. I looked at a 1980 short film that DeeDee Halleck had sent me called Bronx Baptism, and the film blew me away. It was filmed by DeeDee with, believe it or not, artist Richard Serra and Babette Mangolte. I think it’s a forgotten gem, beautifully shot and filled with provocative cinematic, political and spiritual discoveries. I raved about it to Bobbi and Faye, and Bobbi wrote back: “You have unerring instincts!” It turns out Faye had presented it just after it was made as part of a program on the Bronx, a program that helped launch her career.

2 Comments:

Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Guilty as charged (as a serial commenter). I can't help it -- I really just find the process behind the curating of a festival to be an interesting read.

But I'm glad my comments didn't sway you! I'd rather have the film make it in on it's own merits. Thanks for the "shout out" from your blog.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The rights to Rossellini's oeuvre are notoriously messy. James Quandt of the Cinematheque Ontario and MoMA are currently organizing a Rossellini retrospective, so they would know where you could find prints of The Miracle. (Cinecitta recently restored ten Rossellini films.) They'd also probably be good sources for your other films, too.

Good luck,

Doug
editor, www.mastersofcinema.org

6:24 PM  

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