EDITOR'S NOTE
The independent film scene can be obsessed with "do it yourself" production and distribution practices but DIY can also be a subject matter, as it is, of sorts, in two of my favorite films of the year that both happen to open this week. Exit through the Gift Shop, directed by the elusive British conceptual street artist Banksy, may or not may not be an insouciant cinematic jape (in other words, there's debate about the nature of the relationship between Banksy and his subject, a would-be artist/documentary filmmaker named Thierry Guetta). But regardless of your take on this pseudo-controversy, the film ultimately works as a humorously melancholy meditation on the democratization of art. What constitutes "the good" when part of art's creation involves the invention of tools that can then be appropriated by anyone? In the other film, Bahman Gohbadi's No One Knows about Persian Cats, DIY carries with it far more risk than an indie filmmaker's failure to monetize website traffic or DVD sales. Set in Iran's youthful underground rock scene, this spirited doc-fiction nybrid explores the fusion of political oppression and art, dramatizing what happens when DIY becomes not just a practical necessity but a political and moral imperative.

In other notes, I'm reading Jaron Lanier's fascinating You are Not a Gadget, in which the internet and virtual reality pioneer critiques the underlying premises of the Web 2.0 and Open Culture movements. I'll probably post something about it on the blog soon and maybe we can start a kind of Filmmaker magazine book club discussion. Before I do so I'll read this conversation, which Lanier comments about in a follow-up piece, called "Digital Power and its Discontents" that I have bookmarked in my Evernote reader. The Edge is a really fascinating site that, this year, convened a group of thinkers to discuss one of my favorite subjects: is the Internet changing the way you think? For the current conversation, which ties together Lanier and Persian Cats, they invite Evgene Morozov and Clay Shirky to debate "the subjects of dictators, democracy, Twitter revolutionaries, and the role of the Internet and social software in political lives of people living under authoritarian regimes."

In Filmmaker magazine news, our new issue should be on our site next week and heading to your mailboxes as well. I hope you check it out.

See you next week.

Best,

Scott Macaulay
Editor

      NEW IN THEATERS
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
In one of the most talked about films on the fest circuit, an erstwhile French documentarian named Thierry Guetta tries to capture the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy, who maintains a Bigfoot-like anonymity in the art world. Banksy's work has been seen all over the globe, from post-Katrina New Orleans to the walls of the Palestinian West Bank. The film not only goes in search of Banksy, but gets an inside view of the underground world of graffiti artists who risk prosecution and danger to illustrate a city with finely-tuned artistry and creativity. And it does all this while morphing into a sly satire about artistic identity as Banksy turns the camera on Guetta and watches his own art world rise.

NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS
A film about two struggling Iranian musicians (Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad) trying to leave Iran to play a gig in London, No One Knows About Persian Cats gives audiences a view at the underground indie rock scene in Tehran. Making his film in 17 days without a permit, director Bahman Ghobadi took a major risk and wound up leaving the country after its completion. It won a Special Jury Prize in the Cannes Un Certain Regard section this past year, and offers a vibrant and unexpected look at the country's young underground arts scene. It was written by Hossein Mortezaeiyan and journalist Roxana Saberi, who was held in Iran under suspicion of espionage and then released last year. Check our website next week for Livia Bloom's interview with Ghobadi, in which he directly addresses his recent public dispute with Abbas Kiorastami.

HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG?
Have You Heard from Johannesburg? is a remarkable six-part documentary about the history of apartheid in South Africa and the movement to abolish it, led by African-American activists who came of age in the civil rights movement. Directed by Connie Field, the film traces the movement, and how it pushed for international support to get rid of apartheid, using the media and grassroots action for change.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD
An unconventional comedy in the style of Young Frankenstein, Jordan Galland's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead combines Shakespeare, vampires, curses, and theater drama into a likable horror comedy. Julian Marsh (Jake Hoffman) is directing an unusual adaptation of Hamlet, and casts his best friend (and ex-girlfriend) Anna (Devon Aoki) in the lead. Strangely enough, he finds out that Hamlet was not written by Shakespeare, but by a vampire named Theo Horace (John Ventimiglia), and unless he can find the Holy Grail to reverse the curse, the whole play is doomed. For an interview with Galland, click here, and you can also read about the film's production (it was shot on the RED One camera) here.

HANDSOME HARRY
Handsome Harry, directed by Bette Gordon and written by Nicholas T. Proferes, takes four old friends back to a crime they'd rather forget. An ex-Navy man named Harry Sweeney (Jamey Sheridan) makes a promise to his dying former shipmate (Steve Buscemi) that he will carry out his wish to investigate a crime haunting his conscience that occurred when they were stationed in the Navy. But the code of silence and brotherhood that surrounds the crime threatens to destroy their lives, and bring up buried memories. A winner at the Boston Film Festival for Best Ensemble Cast, Handsome Harry, which co-stars Aidan Quinn, John Savage and Campbell Scott, to name a few, is a striking and unsettling drama about the consequences of keeping secrets to assuage one's own guilt. It's also an exciting return for Gordon, one of the leading lights of the New York downtown film scene of the 1980s, as well as Proferes, who shot one of American independent film's most influential films, Wanda.

      RECENT BLOGS

This week on the blog, critics weigh in on David Simon's new show Treme (pictured left), Mary Ann Casavant speaks with Horses director Liz Mermin, and the Canon 5D goes mainstream.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

      UPCOMING AT IFP
INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK'S PROJECT FORUM OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS
Independent Film Week (September 19-24) is the oldest and largest forum in the U.S. for the discovery of new projects in development and new voices on the independent film scene. The Project Forum is a meetings-driven forum connecting filmmakers who have new narrative and documentary projects with key industry executives interested in identifying projects with which to become involved at the financing or distribution stage. It is the best opportunity for independent filmmakers to connect with industry professionals - including producers, funders, distributors, broadcasters, sales agents and festival programmers. The Project Forum also furthers filmmaker and industry interaction with opportunities for networking at social events throughout the week. Now accepting applications for all three sections: Emerging Narrative (for U.S. writers and writer/directors seeking producers and agents to develop, produce, represent and finance their scripts), No Borders (for U.S. and International producers with partial financing on new narrative projects seeking additional partners), and Spotlight on Documentaries (for U.S. filmmakers in production or post-production seeking financing partners, broadcast/distribution opportunities, and festival invitations.) Deadlines (early/final) vary by section: Emerging Narrative (April 23) No Borders (April 30/May 21), Spotlight on Documentaries (May 7/May 21). Full criteria and applications here.

      NEWEST WEB ARTICLE
NEIL LABUTE, DEATH AT A FUNERAL
By Damon Smith

In early films like In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, writer-director Neil LaBute made it something of his stock in trade to examine dysfunctional relationships and uncomfortably intimate cruelties with vicious humor and a Mamet-like flair for acerbic, acid-tongued dialogue. read more

      FESTIVAL DEADLINES

APRIL
Santa Monica International Film Festival
Next Deadline: April 25. Late Deadline: May 31
Festival Dates: Aug 3-5

Kansas International Film Festival
Late Deadline: April 27. Final Deadline: May 27
Festival Dates: Oct 1-7

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