I had a conversation with a couple of friends recently at the Rotterdam Film Festival about a film that's making its way through the festival circuit. "I liked his previous films," one said, "but this one I don't get. I had no idea what he was trying to say." The other friend and I jumped to the filmmaker's defense. "You see, he's trying to challenge your idea of what a film is. And: you can't read the film like a conventional narrative. He's pulling in all these ideas from the art and performance worlds, and you have to watch the film with these other contexts in mind."

I don't think we convinced our friend, but the conversation did throw me back more than a few years to my college literary theory classes, particularly to literary theorist Stanley Fish's idea of "interpretive communities." Very briefly, Fish argued that books' meanings are culturally constructed by groups of readers who share common values and assumptions, "interpretive communities." (There's more to it than that, but this is a short Editor's Letter. Apologies to Fish for the horrible reductionism that follows.) One way of answering our friend would have been to simply note that two of us were part of one interpretive community and the third was part of another.

I thought about all of this in the context of the evolving conversation in the independent community about audience. Some filmmakers, I think, make the mistake of thinking that their audiences are defined by the reach of their social networking tools. If you can get someone's email or attract them to your website, then they are part of your community. On one level, yes, but are they part of a community that will read your film in a way so as to form a community that will sustain its meanings?

As you know, I like to use these newsletters sometimes to work out half-finished ideas that make their way into the magazine or blog at a future point. This is definitely one of those. When I checked out the Wikipedia page for "interpretive communities" to make sure my memory of Fish's concept was sound, I was reminded of a second part to his theory, which is about our inability to truly know the membership of interpretive communities because the required communication would itself have to be interpreted. So maybe this whole theory isn't applicable to independent film (or, if it is, is a Michel Gondry movie). Maybe it's my roundabout way of getting to the idea that marketing has to evolve beyond the simple reference points and emotional button-pushing of studio film advertising and build a website or VOD portal and they will come, strategy of some independents. Maybe we have to make sure that ideas of meaning and cultural value are not drained from the process of promoting our movies. These are definitely ideas we will be exploring in the new issues of Filmmaker. You can always join the conversation by emailing me at editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com or through, yes, our Twitter and Facebook pages.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

Roman Polanski returns to his paranoid style with The Ghost Writer, an eerie tale involving murder, politics and deceit. A successful ghostwriter, known as The Ghost (Ewan McGregor) signs on to write the memoirs of the former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan), who is slightly unnerved that his predecessor for the job died under mysterious circumstances. It seems to be a routine job until the prime minister is accused of war crimes involving imprisoned suspected terrorists. As the media attention swarms his home, The Ghost uncovers secrets about the P.M.'s past that places his own life and security in jeopardy, and he questions the motives of the seemingly trustful politician who he is working for. Released alongside the controversy of Polanskis arrest in Switzerland on decades-old child rape charges, The Ghost Writer is one of the more masterful political thrillers to have arrived in recent years.

A gorgeously shot film written and directed by Jessica Hausner (Hotel, Lovely Rita), Lourdes centers on an ethereal-looking yet formidable woman named Christine (Sylvie Testud from Beyond Silence), who is wheelchair-bound and on a pilgrimage to the French "town of miracles," Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary was said to have once appeared to a peasant girl in the 19th century. She's not trying to cure herself of her affliction or make herself walk, but rather to get away from the monotony of her daily life. With a group of those both ill and in good health, Christine visits the holy sites in the south of France, a trek that challenges her ideas of herself. A winner of four awards at the Venice Film Festival, Lourdes does not see Christine as a "saved" victim. Rather, it's a precisely controlled and beautiful film about finding clarity, strength and peace by taking a breath and appreciating nature and the mysteries of the unknown.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay highlights Berlin entry, Beautiful Darling (pictured left), a documentary by James Rasin about the life and times of the enigmatic Warhol superstar Candy Darling; appreciates the creativity and uniqueness of title sequences in films at Forget the Film, Watch the Titles; and notes that the offbeat film festival CineKink has returned for its seventh year.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

IFP's Script to Screen Conference addresses the new landscape and opportunities facing content creators working across platforms in film, television and new technologies. Script to Screen explores new opportunities available to independent filmmakers and directly connects aspiring and working screenwriters to the decision-makers of the film, television and new media business. Join Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen), Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), Monty Ross (Do The Right Thing), Ry Russo-Young (You Wont Miss Me), Lena Dunham (Creative Nonfiction, Tiny Furniture), representatives from Focus Features International, Sundance Channel, BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, Tribeca All-Access, Vox3, Sundance Screenwriters' Lab and many, many more! Produced in partnership with Writers Guild of America, East. Tickets and schedule now available here.

By Brandon Harris

A stunning meditation on the coming of age of an Arab/Corsican criminal in the unforgiving French penal system, Jacques Audiard's A Prophet is that rare bird that feels utterly at home as an art house blockbuster (its pedigree includes the Grand Prix in Cannes, multiple European Film Awards and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film) and as a potential crossover hit. It follows a young prisoner named Malik (a terrific Tahar Rahim), who enters jail as little more than a homeless petty thief, but after being taken under the wing of a ruthless Corisican gangster (Neils Aerup), slowly builds an empire of his own. read more


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Festival Dates: June 4-20

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Festival Dates: Nov 19-21


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