|Blog Web Exclusives Director Interviews Festival Coverage Our Videos Load & Play|
I took a course in Marxism in college, and the reading list included the classic Marx-Engels texts, Lukacs, the Frankfurt School, and then some contemporary thinkers who were reconsidering Marx from other angles. I think the professor hoped we'd all turn into Rawlsian liberals by semester's end -- that didn't happen, but that's another story. Anyway, one little book we read as part of the class was Andre Gorz's Farewell to the Working Class. Remembering it, hopefully correctly, many years later, the book argued less for Marx's concept of meaningful work and more for expanded leisure time. As technology and science reduce our need to work, society needs to reorder the necessary work that remains to allow more time for the citizenry to engage in creative and rewarding leisure pursuits. Gorz envisioned a future when everyone was a poet, painter, musician...
At the time, the book dovetailed with developments in the European labor movement, specifically a push towards a reduction in the work week. But this was also pre-internet, and it's interesting to consider Gorz's argument today. Whereas the idea that everyone can, or should, be a creative artist seemed like a fanciful idea at the time of the book's publication in 1980, now it's almost accepted. Apple markets its computers around its iLife suite of applications promising that everyone can be competent photographer or recording engineer. People have blogs, or Tumblrs, and because "curation" has now been democratized as an artistic practice, you don't even have to be creative to be a creative person.
It's funny, my class -- which was part of the so-called slacker generation -- pretty much scoffed at the book. Even then, many of us resisted the work/leisure divide Gorz seemed to be maintaining. We wanted meaningful work, and if you're reading this newsletter, then you, like me, might have looked -- or still be looking for it -- in the film industry. But, if you're looking at film through the prism of the labor movement, it can be very a strange vocation. If you're not in one of the craft unions, or working for a company -- that is, if you're a producer or writer or director, at least in the independent world -- you're spending a lot of time working on spec, in hopes of a future payout. And, when it arrives and you do the math, that future payout often means you've been working at poverty-level wages. You can draw different conclusions from this. You might think, okay, I have to work at making the kind of films that can attract more money, i.e., more commercial ones. Some people can make that kind of calculation; others can't, or simply don't want to. They stand by their vision, market be damned. Or, you might realize that you need to shift your work energies towards building economic infrastructure, to build a system that can make this passion or yours more remunerative. Again, not everyone can do this, and of those who are able to do so, only a tiny, tiny subset seems to wants to.
Or, perhaps, you bifurcate your practice. You recognize that some of what you do is intended not to put food on your table but to feed your soul in other ways. Which means, you try to make all that other stuff surrounding making films -- everything that happens when you are not, in fact drawing a paycheck -- more pleasurable. You try to make the gruel less grueling. Here I'm referring to Ira Glass's riff on producing which you've probably seen on the site. It's a hilarious piece, but, if you're a producer, it's funny in a painful way. Glass, a first-time producer who has scored a huge indie hit with Sleepwalk with Me, says that, in film, the percentage of gruel and the percentage of fun is so out-of-whack. Every job has gruel, he says, but filmmaking just has so much of it.
How to balance work and fun; how to make your life your work; how to make the gruel more fun; how to add a bit of gruel so your fun puts food on the table? On this Labor Day weekend I don't have any great answers here, but sometimes it helps just to think of the questions.
See you next week.
P.S.: Many of you know the work of filmmaker John Maringouin, who we selected for our "25 New Faces" list in 2006. His Big River Man is a hilarious and heartfelt tale of adventure and human endurance. But now, Maringouin is fighting his own medical battle, and he needs our support. Maringouin is in urgent need of lung surgery and is uninsured. A medical fund has been set up for him by filmmaker Stephen Kijak. Read more about the situation and contribute here at the link. And if you are in New York on Tuesday night, join me for a benefit screening at the IFC Center of Big River Man. All proceeds will go towards the fund, and IFC will be making an additional match. For info on the IFC event, click here, and I hope to see some of you there.
GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS SEPTEMBER 14TH Signaling the official kick-off for the film awards season, IFP's Gotham Independent Film Awards honor the filmmaking community, expand the audience for independent films, and support the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition. Distribution companies or producers who have self-distributed their films in 2012 have two weeks remaining to submit 2012 releases for consideration in the following categories: Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Director, Breakthrough Actor, and Best Ensemble Performance. The deadline for these submissions is 5pm EST on September 14, 2012. Nominees in all categories will be announced on October 18th. This year's Gotham Awards will take place on Monday, November 26th at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Applications, along with full criteria for all awards, are available here.
Hammer to Nail Review
Mads Brügger, The Ambassador
Gotham Independent Film Awards Submission Deadline is September 14th
THE AMBASSADOR By Paul Sbrizzi
For the Fox News crowd, the Central African Republic could be seen as the future they've been waiting for: a skeleton government that rules hand in hand with ruthless, unregulated business interests over a scarred and scared population tamed with free wine and/or summary executions when they get out of hand. In The Ambassador, Mads Brugger ups the ante on the Sacha Baron Cohen gag of creating a caricatured persona for himself and traveling to a genuinely scary place (the CAR is arguably even more dangerous than the American backwoods explored by Borat and Bruno). It allows him to shed light on and satirize rampant corruption and abuse of power, while keeping miles away from any Michael Moore heavy-handedness.
Read more THE AMBASSADOR In Mads Brugger's The Ambassador, the filmmaker/journalist journeys to the Central African Republic posing as a foreign diplomat wishing to open a match factory. However, Brugger has another goal in mind - to uncover the inner workings of the blood diamond trade. Like his Sundance award-winning film The Red Chapel, Brügger's latest has been described as simultaneously hilarious and insightful. You can read Damon Smith's interview with Brugger here. LAWLESS John Hillcoat's Lawless follows the true-life exploits of the Bondurant brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke), a bootlegging gang from Franklin County, Virginia. Musician Nick Cave (who also scored the film with Warren Ellis) wrote the script based on Matt Bondurant's novel The Wettest Country in the World, a chronicle of his grandfather and great-uncles. Lawless features a stellar cast including Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan. LITTLE BIRDS In Elgin James' Little Birds, 15-year olds Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker) are best friends living near the Salton Sea. Lily aches to leave their hometown while Alison is reluctant to go anywhere beyond the familiar. That is until they meet three kids who take them on a road trip to Los Angeles. Little Birds also stars Leslie Mann, Kyle Gallner and Kate Bosworth. To coincide with the release of Little Birds this week, R. Kurt Osenlund interviewed Temple for Filmmaker. This week on the blog, Howard Feinstein reviews The Good Doctor (pictured left), Michael Murie discusses Frontline, and Nick Dawson shares the trailer for Ben Wheatley's Sightseers.
To read more posts from our blog, click here.
MADS BRUGGER, THE AMBASSADOR By Damon Smith
Two years ago, Danish filmmaker Mads Brugger received heaps of praise and a certain level of notoriety for his North Korea documentary, The Red Chapel, a surreally funny glimpse at the repressive routinization of daily life inside the hermit kingdom that won the Grand Jury Prize for international documentary at Sundance. To some, the controversial film was merely a highwire stunt: Brugger managed to gain entrance to the totalitarian state (along with two gagmen, one a self-described "spastic") by posing as a communist theater director attempting to mount a comedy in the interest of cultural exchange. The disadvantages of his unique position on the inside grow from slight irritation at being continually shadowed by his nosy minder, Mrs. Pak, to near total abasement at an anti-American rally.
San Diego Black Film Festival
Regular Deadline: August 31
Late Deadline: September 28
WAB Deadline: October 31
Festival Dates: January 31 - February 3
Phoenix Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: August 30
Regular Deadline: October 29
Late Deadline: November 28
WAB Deadline: December 14
Festival Dates: April 4 - 11
Sundance Film Festival
Official Submission: August 31
Late Submission: September 24
Festival Dates: January 17 - 27