COLUMNS

  • LADIES OF THE LAKE

    THE STATUS OF female filmmakers in the twenty-first century remains grim. In 2016, two federal agencies began an investigation into discrimination against women directors in Hollywood, prompted by the ACLU’s abysmal findings on sexism in the industry. In June of this year, the Directors Guild of America published a report on the 651 films released theatrically in the US in 2017—from the microbudgeted to the big-studio-backed—which found that women accounted for only 16 percent of directors.

    Against this bleak data, several initiatives from the past five years have reminded us of the

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  • Rise, Resist

    DIRECTOR STEPHEN MAING might just be the next Laura Poitras. Poitras produced his previous short film, The Surrender (2015), on State Department intelligence analyst Stephen Kim’s prosecution under the Espionage Act, and she is the executive producer of his latest inflammatory feature, Crime + Punishment, an account of racist policing in New York and its ripple effects in Ferguson and beyond. The film focuses on two intertwined stories: the NYPD 12, a group of Latinx and black cops who stood up against racial profiling and filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, and a private investigator

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  • Swiss Watch

    THE YEAR’S EDITION OF THE LOCARNO FESTIVAL—held every August along Lake Maggiore in southern Switzerland—was preceded by buzz of a different kind: the news that its artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, would be ending his five-year run to join the Berlinale in 2020. This announcement lent an air of anticipation and ambiguity to a festival that has long embraced the unpredictable in its championing of a conception of cinema as diverse and experimental as one is likely to find at a major festival. Where else would Bruno Dumont (who received a lifetime achievement award) share the eight-thousand-seat

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  • Lost and Found

    NOT LONG AFTER HER HUSBAND, the philosopher and Resistance leader Robert Antelme, was ambushed by the Gestapo in Paris in 1944 and deported to Buchenwald, Marguerite Duras logged the ensuing period of uncertainty in a diary that would spend the next four decades yellowing in a cupboard, supposedly forgotten. In 1985—one year after Duras enthralled the world with The Lover, a slim, fathomless autofiction of scarring desires too often misread as one of brave romance—the journal was finally published, alongside other memoir-like vignettes and two fictions, as La Douleur (Pain). The word is euphemistic.

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  • Square Space

    ASIDE FROM THE OBVIOUS—the low-resolution artifact of the square monochrome image that leaves cirrus-like trails when in motion, all framed in a black box—what is most striking about the pictures produced by the Pixelvision camera is their sense of intimacy. Designed to be used by young, untutored shooters, the teensy plastic lens holds a foggy but constant approximation of “focus” without need of manual adjustment, in both long shots and close-ups as near as a few centimeters from the subject.

    This ability to get close—extremely close—was taken advantage of by Sadie Benning. While making short,

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  • À La Mode

    EVEN AMID ALL THE FAKE-NEWS FLAPPERY ONLINE, documentary form has seldom been as robust as it is today. Nonfiction film festivals are stretching the already blurred boundaries drawn up by the documentary tradition, and art spaces are increasingly embracing nonfiction media, especially in moving-image form—of which the New Museum’s John Akomfrah exhibition is just the most recent example. One crucial locus for this convergence of documentary cinema, experimental media, and contemporary art is FIDMarseille, an international film festival now in its twenty-ninth year that has long cultured these

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  • Oh Henri!

    THE PHRASE THAT PHOTOGRAPHER HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON IS FOREVER LINKED TO—that of “The Decisive Moment”—seems near to an assertion of the primacy of the still image’s power over that of the moving image, the single absolutely right frame over hundreds of approximate ones, and suspended tension and mystery over unfurling drama. The phrase provides the title for an exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs currently on display at the International Center for Photography, accompanied by a program of moving-image work produced by or dedicated to the photographer at Anthology Film Archives. In a

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  • Sorry Not Sorry

    THE TIME TO DO THE RIGHT THING is now or never. The urgency coursing through Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You makes it a perfect movie for the blazing summer of resistance. When Riley’s debut feature played at Sundance in January, it seemed like African American lysergic futurism. Six months later, even its most surreal moments are less prophetic than terrifyingly close to ordinary life in 2018—maybe with the exception of the human/horse gene-editing thing.

    What Riley brings to his first feature film is twenty-seven years of making music as the leader of the Oakland political hip-hop collective

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  • Creative Nonfiction

    ONCE THE BLAZING FURNACE OF THE NORTH OF ENGLAND, Sheffield’s steel mills had for the most part gone cold by the 1980s. It was around this moment of postindustrial bottoming out that the city was reinvented, via much public money, as a haven for the arts, one outgrowth of this being the founding in 1994 of the nonfiction Sheffield Doc/Fest. During the course of the quarter-century since, the reputation of Doc/Fest—the largest festival of its kind in England and one of the largest in the world—has waxed and waned, as festival reputations tend to do, though this year was held up for particular

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  • Women About Town

    WHENEVER I WATCH Allan Moyle’s teen girl coming-of-age screwball comedy Times Square (1980), I remember the real-life story of Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick and the radically queer underground filmmaker Barbara Rubin meeting in the psychiatric hospital to which, in the early 1960s, their respective families (Sedgwick’s was Boston Brahmins, Rubin’s middle-class Queens Jews) committed them for drug use. One of Warhol’s most memorable screen presences, Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971. In 1963, at age seventeen, Rubin made Christmas on Earth—the all-time most subversive American avant-garde

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  • Girl Power

    A TERRIFIC PREVIEW of the summer’s hot independent movies and a place to make discoveries, this year’s BAMcinemaFest is one of the best in the series’s ten-year history. The films show only once, with the directors doing a Q&A after each screening. The sold-out opening night has Boots Riley presenting his debut feature, the dark, delirious Sorry to Bother You, which at Sundance seemed like Black Futurism but six months later is more like a prophecy fulfilled—maybe not today, but probably tomorrow. The visuals are as eyeball-rattling as a comic strip; the soundtrack by Tune-Yards and Riley’s

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  • The Royal Treatment

    WE TAKE IT FOR GRANTED—or should, at least—that access to the motion picture apparatus at the highest levels of authority indicates a certain advantage of birthright. If feature fiction filmmakers’ publicity doesn’t make a point of mentioning that they didn’t grow up more than comfortable, it’s a pretty safe bet that they did. Hollywood nepotism and garden-variety privilege march through top-ranked film schools every year, and then there’s the case of Count don Luchino Visconti Count di Modrone. There aren’t many defectors from the ruling class coming from this high in the ranks; as such, their

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