Art, film June 15, 2012 By Sophie Mollart

Marina Abramović. Photo Credit: David Smoler

Marina Abramović. Photo Credit: David Smoler

header14 The Artist Is Present
Over the stretch of her thirty-year tenure as performance art’s matriarch, Marina Abramovic has unceasingly pushed the boundaries of the corporeal. In the Spring of 2010, the Museum of Modern Art housed a retrospective of her performances to date, as a troupe of young artists re-enacted highlights of her earlier work. The centerpiece of the show, The Artist is Present, is explored this month in a new documentary. Evolving from a previous performance – Nightsea Crossing – in which she and Ulay, her former lover and collaborator, would sit silently, eye to eye, hour upon hour. This time, Ulay was to be replaced by whoever should wish to partake, as the audience was invited to silently commune with Abramovic for the duration of their choosing.

Filmmaker Matthew Akers originally approached the prospect of filming Abramovic with a healthy skepticism: “I had been to school for sculpture and I’d never witnessed great performance art so I was suspicious. When I met her she was incredibly charming, we hit it off right away, but I told her, if we do this, you can’t have any editorial control, that means if I find out stuff that’s less flattering to you, you’re going to have to let me use that. She said – listen little baby – she calls everyone little baby – you can have total control, I’ll give you the keys to my apartment, don’t worry – and about a week later she gave me the keys to her apartment.”

film May 9, 2012 By Sophie Mollart

<em>Patience (After Sebald)</em> screening at Film Forum from May 9

Patience (After Sebald) screening at Film Forum from May 9

patienceheader Patience
It has been suggested that the Rings of Saturn – fragments of dust, ice crystals and meteoric debris that rotate the sixth planet from the sun – once formed a moon that wandered into the planet’s gravitational pull, was shattered by its tidal effect, and set consequentially into a perpetual orbit.

German-born writer W.G. Sebald’s most well known work follows a similar course – an accumulation of dispersed fragments, a spiritual homelessness that accompanies his pursuit for the location of the self in space. Transplanted to the east coast of England in 1970 – it was in the Suffolk countryside where Sebald formed his work of meandering, elliptical power.

Documentary filmmaker Grant Gee, best known for his film Joy Division, celebrates Sebald’s journey in his new work Patience (After Sebald). “In Sebald’s book Austerlitz, a character compiles old family photographs, images of places and locations in his past, in the hope of unlocking the secret of his trauma. He does this playing a game of patience – or solitaire, in English. I connected to that idea, using structure and montage in order to unlock something.’’


Greenspace, film May 3, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

Las Vegas Fountains/ATO Pictures

Las Vegas Fountains/ATO Pictures

title88 H2Over?
It is quite literally everywhere. It covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and accounts for approximately 60% of our own composition. The thought that we could be running out of water seems unimaginable, and yet the combination of overuse, contamination, and the effects on the water cycle posed by climate change likely makes water the most unstable and therefore the most valuable resource of the 21st Century. The UN estimates that 3.4 billion people may suffer water shortages by 2025, and the problem stands to worsen from there forward.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu illustrates in her new documentary that water strains are fast becoming a vital concern not simply for a portion of the world’s population but for just about all of us. She recently spoke to Planet about directing “Last Call at the Oasis” and the things she learned along the way:


film April 13, 2012 By Marina Zogbi
Whit Stillman (director) on set Photo by Kerry Brown, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Whit Stillman (director) on set
Photo by Kerry Brown, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

stillmanheader2 Whit Stillman
Filmmaker Whit Stillman’s small, idiosyncratic body of work is highly regarded, even venerated, by a discerning group of moviegoers. Arch, witty dialogue; cheerful but flawed characters; and a touch of social commentary mingle easily in his ensemble dramedies. It’s impossible to mistake a Whit Stillman film for anyone else’s.

His first feature, Metropolitan (1990), about a set of young, upper class New Yorkers, was full of razor-sharp dialogue and savage wit, yet it rang true emotionally and was embraced by many from less privileged backgrounds. Barcelona (1994), starring Taylor Nichols and beloved Stillman favorite Chris Eigeman, was a similar comedy of manners, but set abroad with considerably raised dramatic stakes. The relatively big-budget The Last Days of Disco (1998), starring Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale, along with Eigeman, may have been a box office disappointment, but it too boasted sharp dialogue, excellent performances, and engrossingly imperfect characters – the Stillman trifecta.

Which brings us (14 years later) to Damsels in Distress, a more lighthearted film, though set in a somewhat familiar milieu – an insular East Coast college campus – and featuring typically self-important yet fragile characters. Actress of the moment Greta Gerwig stars as Violet, ringleader of a group of girls who are figuring out their love lives while trying to save their fellow students from depression, bad odors and general low standards, mainly through dancing. Though Taylor Nichols has a small role as a teacher, Eigeman is noticeably absent.


film April 5, 2012 By Sophie Mollart

Pres. Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed. Chiara Goia.

Pres. Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed. Chiara Goia.

headerislandpres The Island President
As democracy flaps its butterfly wings across the Arab world– creating ripples from Tunisia to Wall St. – events foreshadowed back in 2008, when a small Islamic state in the Indian ocean elected their first democratic president. The Maldives, known primarily for it’s idyllic beaches, a paradise for the super wealthy, is the world’s lowest-lying nation, making it particularly vulnerable to the rising sea levels brought about by the changing climate. Their new leader, Mohammed Nasheed, a civil rights activist, had been imprisoned and tortured under the rule of the former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Documentary filmmaker Jon Shenk (The Lost Boys of Sudan) was immediately drawn to Nasheed’s story:

“It just kind of jumped off the page, he came into office and started saying things about the environment that one wishes their leaders would say. I was just attracted to him because of the package of it – new in office, leading up to Copenhagen, the fact that it involved climate – which is an issue I really care about, and the fact that it could be a human story. At the time, it was like, wow – this is proof, a dictatorial Islamic country can turn into a democracy without violence. It was amazing. And then when we met him it was like, this guy, he’s a one in a billion kind of character – he’s handsome, he’s charismatic, he’s personable, he’s fun to hang out with. So we pitched him the idea.”

Greenspace, film March 16, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

All images courtesy Supply & Demand Integrated

All images courtesy Supply & Demand Integrated

filler29 Hope Springs Eternal in Japanhope title Hope Springs Eternal in Japan
Lucy Walker’s Academy Award-nominated documentary begins with the event itself. A massive torrent of ocean water engulfs a modest coastal town, destroying everything in its path. Onlookers are heard crying out from behind the camera’s position, situated safely upon a hilltop, as the slow-motion obliteration unfolds below. Some on the ridge race down to bring others to safety in the final moments before the water reaches them. A few of them are successful. Others lose their own lives trying.
     The found footage is a terrifying reminder of just how devastating the tsunami was when it hit the Pacific coast of Northern Honshu over a year ago now. The numbers are well-known: a 9.0 magnitude earthquake; a tidal wave that topped 130 feet in at least one location; 22,000 dead or missing. But to experience the disaster in real time lays bare the true magnitude, complete with the emotional trauma of watching an entire community of buildings, homes, cars, and the people who fill them whisked away in a matter of moments.
     “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” which airs later this year on HBO, deals with the shock and heartbreak of that horrible event. But it’s what followed the tragedy that occupies the heart of the movie. Ms. Walker, the filmmaker responsible, tells Planet she was profoundly inspired by the boldness and grace she saw in the Japanese people, particularly in the evacuated disaster zone, as the country braced itself for a long painful recovery in the aftermath of so much destruction.

film February 29, 2012 By Chloe Eichler

Forgive 1 The Forgiveness of Bloodfiller29 The Forgiveness of Bloodmartson title1 The Forgiveness of Blood
For his first film Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston teased an uncompromising and sincerely delicate story out of the world of Colombian drug trafficking, and won himself a slew of international awards in the process. Eight years later, his follow-up deals in a subject no less morally ambiguous. The Forgiveness of Blood asks what happens when two Albanian teenagers are drawn into a blood feud by their father, who may or may not have killed a man. Now according to Albanian social code, the family owes a life, and teenage siblings Nik and Rudina must put their entire lives on hold. The most jarring thing about these events is not the lengths the children must go to, or even the fact that all this is enforced by nothing but social code, with no state law to back it up. The real shock is that Nik and Rudina are modern-day Albanians bowing to a custom that’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.
     Shot on location from an entirely Albanian script, Marston recruited a cast of non-professional actors and stayed close to the land to raise some essential questions. To what extent are we responsible for the actions and beliefs of our families? What is the “right” retribution for murder? And how long will this ancient practice survive?

CE: Why Albanian blood feuds?
JM: I think the thing that’s fascinating about the blood feuds was more the contrast of the old and the new in Albania. Specifically the idea that someone, a kid, could be sitting in his house playing video games and sending text messages, but the reason that he’s in his house is that he’s stuck in a feud because of this old, ancient tradition.

Greenspace, film January 9, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

"Protester" by T.J. Watt, Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Protester by T.J. Watt, Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

title77 Is Anyone Listening?
When injustice occurs, is there anyone there to notice? That’s the question at the center of Marshall Curry’s documentary “If a Tree Falls,” in relation both to devastation to the environment that goes on unabated in the face of peaceful protest and to the terror prosecution of a generally mild-mannered man with a secret past involvement in acts of arson meant to put a dramatic end to that ecological harm. Curry, an Academy Award-nominated director, follows the story of Daniel McGowan, now serving a seven-year prison sentence for his actions as a member of the radical Earth Liberation Front, which was once branded by the Justice Department as the nation’s greatest domestic terrorism threat. But the filmmaker tells PLANET that if audiences bring an open mind to his latest film, (which itself has been shortlisted for this year’s Oscars), they’ll hear arguments about a conflict more nuanced than it might appear on its surface.
     “At the height of the movement, people had very heated passions,” Curry said in an interview, discussing the militant environmental activism that manifest itself in the mid-90’s.“ But I think in retrospect, whether it was members of the Earth Liberation Front like Daniel or whether it was the prosecutor who put them in prison, they ultimately saw the complexity in that story, and that’s what our goal was in making the film, to capture some of that complexity.”

film December 1, 2011 By Sophie Mollart

126 Wim Wenderstitle73 Wim WendersThe tip tap of dripping water, the vibrations of sinuous, graceful shapes duelling with the containers of water they will scatter across the stage in the quicksilver, freestyle manner of a troop of nimble Jackson Pollocks – these are the dancers of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. Later, the dancers will, in turn, swim breast stroke through the stream emblazoned upstage, to the vital, haunting compositions of Jun Miyake.
At the time of her death in December 2009, Bausch was set to be the subject of a documentary directed by her long time friend, filmmaker Wim Wenders. Wenders described to PLANET first encountering Bausch’s work a quarter of a century ago: It was a big day in my life. I was quite unprepared – like many people, I thought dance didn’t concern me. I’d seen some classic dance and was not touched by it, so I didn’t expect much, I tried to resist it, but my girlfriend insisted – so I caved in and was ready for a boring evening, but after about five minutes I found myself on the edge of my seat weeping uncontrollably. I realized this was big, that I’d just discovered something that was really going to change my life. It wasn’t like anything I thought dance could be – it was immediate and contagious and physical and direct – my body understood it before my brain understood it.

film November 18, 2011 By Natasha Phillips

124 Mark Jackson   Withouttitle69 Mark Jackson   Without
WIthout is the new feature film written and directed by Mark Jackson, with cinematography by Jessica Dimmock and Diego Garcia. Hauntingly shot in lush, luminous color, the film has a gritty realism that is softened by a sensitive performance by newcomer Joslyn Jensen, whose intense portrayal of a girl on the edge of an emotional breakdown has drawn comparisons with a young Isabelle Huppert.
     The story centers round a teenage girl (Jensen) who takes a job as a caretaker for a near catatonic elderly man on a remote Pacific Northwest Island. With no internet or cell phone access, she is almost completely cut off from the outside world and struggles to maintain a daily routine. As the days pass, she begins a slow progression of mental and emotional disintegration, all the while grappling with her own issues of loss, guilt and sexuality.