Thursday, March 29, 2007

Home Movies

A suggestion came in today that we show Su Friedrich’s film about her father, Sink or Swim and Alan Berliner’s film about his dad, Nobody’s Business. Friedrich also made a film I love about her relationship with her mother, The Ties That Bind.

Su has been to our festival several times, but, somehow, I’ve never brought Alan Berliner. Alan and I were film students together in Binghamton in the early ‘70s (Alan’s voice, I insist, carries the intonations of his influential film professor, Larry Gottheim). Alan has accumulated a tremendous body of work that could be described as “experimental home movies.” He's an incredibly talented editor of archival footage, including the home movies of many unknown families he stitched together in Family Album (1988). That film brought out cultural and formal patterns linking the amateur movies, and was illuminating and funny, like all of his work. Along with Nobody’s Business, Intimate Stranger, and his latest, Wide Awake, it deserves to be showcased in connection with our theme, and I’ve already asked Alan to hold the dates November 1-4.

When Alan gets here, he’s going to find that some of the editing stations at the local Light House media access center for high school students are named after his movies. Light House founder Shannon Worrell is a big fan, and she says her students are inspired by Alan’s editing skills.

Another filmmaker who works with home movies is Peter Forgacs, whom I’d love to invite. He compiles his films from historic home movies reaching back to the Nazi era and postwar Hungary. I’ve also gotten in touch with Patricia Zimmermann, author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film and the upcoming Mining the Home Movie, and she may be presenting films collected at the Smithsonian’s Human Studies Film Archive.

Any other ideas for me in the home movie area? Should we have an open screening of home videos?

And do people have more filmmakers to suggest who have made films about their parents or kids?


Anonymous Jeena said...

I like your blog, it’s always fun to come back and check what you have to tell us today.

3:02 AM  
Blogger DaiLo said...

Stumbled across a small article about your blog in the latest "Arts & Sciences" mag for UVA alums and was pleased to check it out. I think it's a terrific idea to "open up" the fest programming world to the public! After all, a film fest isn't supposed to be only for the cognoscenti or an insular group. Glad you're doing this. I loved attending the VAFF while I was a student and living in C'ville.

RE: your call for suggestions, here are a few:

SANSHO THE BAILIFF (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954) - a mother's love and a father's teachings are the strength to overcome hardships

BRIGHT LEAVES (Ross McElwee, 2003) - Well, McElwee always deals with himself, but this was (IMO) the one that really looked into his lineage

YI YI (Edward Yang, 2000) - already mentioned, but it's a masterpiece of family melodrama. Epic, yet totally focused and thoroughly moving. Taiwanese cinema tends to excel at these things, also see:

A TIME TO LIVE, A TIME TO DIE (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1985) - Less traditionally narrative than Yang's work, but a moving portrait of generations in Taiwan. Also good for your theme are A SUMMER AT GRANDPA'S, DUST IN THE WIND and CITY OF SADNESS.

THE YAKUZA (Sydney Pollack, 1974) - a terrific Hollywood production, with blood ties and honor/sacrifice at its heart

CARRIE (Brian DePalma, 1976) - Horror sprung from the homefront

LATE SPRING (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949) - Ozu always made amazing family-related films, so take your pick, but this is a personal fave.

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (John Cassavetes, 1974) - Amazing portrait of marriage and complex gender perceptions

THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US (Vittorio De Sica, 1944) - BICYCLE THIEVES is rightly remembered as a classic, but De Sica's CHILDREN is, IMO, even more devastating. The anguish of a broken marriage seen through the eyes of a child.

THE BROOD (David Cronenberg, 1979) - Divorce via early, squirmier Cronenberg

THE STEPFATHER (Jospeh Ruben, 1987) - a la the SHINING, horror located in the father figure. Similarly:

PARENTS (Bob Balaban, 1989) - Twisted horror portrait of nuclear family life in suburbia

IVAN'S CHILDHOOD (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962) - The memories of family fuel a child's pursuit for vengeance in this amazing first film by Tarkovsky.

ONIBABA (Kaneto Shindo, 1964) - Dark tale about a mother and daughter who ambush hapless samurai and sell their gear to survive during a feudal war

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (Steven Spielberg, 1974) - Still one of the best things he's ever done, IMO. A husband and wife try to kidnap their own child from foster care.

A lot of these movies are made by foreign filmmakers who also have long since passed on, so I'm not helping with guests suggestions. McElwee, I suppose, should be available. Bob Balaban too. Gena Rowlands for WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

Anyway, great theme for a fest. Good luck with it!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Scott Burnet said...

I'm sure it's far too late at this point (now early June) to make suggestions, but I keep remembering appropriate films that you might be able to use to fill any gaps in the schedule. Here are a few more:

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE: The pioneering generation gap movie, with original advertising that emphasized the shock of "bad boys from good families." It's hard to find a more intense family confrontation as that between James Dean and movie dad Jim Backus.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: What about the 1940 version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, screenplay (in part) by Aldous Huxley? Family honor and family love hold equal importance here.

Preston Sturges' MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK or HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, two classics with damn near the same case--though that could be said about many Sturges films. Both wartime satires, the former highlights the potential scandal of (sort of) unwed motherhood in a close-knit small town, while the latter deals with Eddie Bracken's humiliation at not being able to live up to the family military tradition. Both would work well now, with the current war situation.
I may still have a few more way-too-late suggestions, but that's what i come up with now.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

I'm loving the blog and getting very excited for the festival. I watched a Brazillian movie the other day about a family's trek across the country. It's based on a true story. The title is Middle of the World. Another movie I watched is Central Station. I think this fits in along the lines of alternative families. It is also Brazillian. It's about a woman who sees a boy's mother killed and takes him under her wing so that she can return him to his father. I believe it really shows that family is what you make it.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about "Grateful Dawg" in the home movie category?? I know it premiered here in C'ville a few years back and Gillian Grisman spoke at the opening, but it would be cool to get her back. Plus, it's an excellent film!


5:32 PM  

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