On Monday night I went to a screening of the SXSW-bound Putty Hill, Matt Porterfield's exquisitely directed and formally rigorous portrait of a group of Baltimore residents, mostly youth, dealing with the overdose of a friend. The film's artistic influences are varied -- Pedro Costa, Robert Bresson, Harmony Korine, among others -- but mostly the movie came out of acts of defiance and deliberation. When financing for a larger-budget film, Metal Gods, fell apart, Porterfield held onto some of his cast, quickly scripted a five-page treatment, and decided to make a film set solely in 15 locations he knew he could get. The film's structural limitations create a perfect frame for Porterfield's compelling and sensitive blend of documentary and fiction techniques. I'll try to write a bit more about the film for our SXSW section by the weekend.

At the screening Ted Hope and I talked about the Oscars of the night before. Ted, who, as most of you know, is a prolific blogger and Twitterer, said he was surprised that some people had complained to him that he wasn't posting during the Oscars. I experienced something of the same. Watching both the Oscars and the Spirits with my laptop open, I felt that I should be saying more. But with the exception of Bruce LaBruce's sardonic quips, most of the Twitter people I followed seemed to all be saying the same thing. Maybe I wasn't feeling witty enough, but I didn't feel like adding more exclamation-laden posts to the Twittersphere. (I did a couple, mostly noting that The Hurt Locker is Filmmaker's first Best Picture cover story film.) My Blackberry was buzzing all night, though, with "news alerts" updating me on the latest awards at the events I was already watching.

Ted and I talked about the good side of this -- that live television events have become more fun because they are about communal dialogue, and seeing who can top whom in their running commentary. This conversation made me happy, though, that I had seen Putty Hill at the screening. The film has the kind of pacing and intense focus that needs the theatrical frame -- or, at least, the enforced offline status of the darkened screening room. Its emotional effect is too complicated for one to experience while simultaneously tweeting.

There were drinks after the screening and I walked to the bar with the filmmaker Amos Poe. I've been a fan of Amos's throughout the years (in fact, where is the DVD reissue of Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole?) and was happy to hear that an old script of his I read 20 years ago as a script reader for New Line Cinema has new life in the marketplace. Amos is working on a fascinating version of Dante's Divine Comedy comprised entirely of still photographs. (You can see the trailer on his website amospoe.com). Amos liked Putty Hill too, and as we walked we both remembered the underground culture of New York in the '80s. "Back then you could do a screening of a film like this and 400 people would show up," Amos said. "And we didn't have Twitter or Facebook or any of this stuff." Maybe the idea of being "alternative" or "marginal" or "oppositional" was a more defined one then, I wondered. We weren't as subdivided into "niches." "I think we used to be alienated from the mainstream culture as a 'group,'" Amos said, "whereas now, the additional social networking sites create a bubble for more personal alienation since we 'feel' connected by Facebook."

Yesterday I caught Tino Sehgal's This Progress at the Guggenheim Museum on its final day. It's been on my to-do list for the six weeks of its run, and I felt stupid for waiting so long. The piece is intended to be a calm and flowing experience, but on Wednesday there were so many people, like me, who waited until the last minute. The museum was packed, and the loud din of everyone talking made it hard to engage fully in the piece. Still, it was great. If you haven't read about it, you enter the museum and encounter a couple kissing in choreographed slow-motion on the ground level. (This is another Sehgal piece, The Kiss.) You walk up the ramp through the museum and realize that it has been stripped of art. A child approaches you and asks if you'd like to follow him or her. You say "yes" and you are asked, "What is progress?" As you answer, you stroll up the museum ramp with the child and are handed off to a teenager who continues the conversation. At two more steps other handoffs occur and eventually you end up with an older person who, at the top of the ramp, says, "The name of this piece is This Progress" before leaving you. You look down and see the couple, still kissing, below.

You walk back down the ramp and think about your conversations. Mine branched out to include discussion of a direct ballot initiative in New York City with a young man who said he was making a film about it; a debate over whether Platonic friendship was truly possible between potential lovers; the Roman philosopher Cicero, and his belief that man was only part of mankind when participating in the Republic; a Danish shipping company who has become successful after deciding to ship cargo slower; and a woman who demonstrated the positive and negative outcomes of "progress" when, while receiving a new experimental treatment for breast cancer, she was the victim of identity theft. As you stroll back down the ramp thinking about all of this you pass other couples, engaged in conversations of their own. You leave kind of dizzy, trying to piece together your thoughts.

In the New York Times, Sehgal said this about his piece: "My work definitely needs this framing as art, and the stronger this framing is, the more works of mine are possible." I took the bus home.

Tomorrow I'm going to SXSW, where I'm sure I will listen to many panel conversations about interactivity, new ways of relating to audiences, and the participatory nature of the internet. I'm sure during some of them my mind will drift, alighting on strands of dialogue from my encounter with Sehgal and his deft conversationalists.

Hope to see some of you in Austin.


Scott Macaulay

Winner of 13 film festival awards with a world premiere at Sundance, Children of Invention, a feature film debut from "25 New Face" Tze Chun is an intimate and tense drama about the stresses of the adult world on children. After being evicted from her apartment, Elaine Cheng (Cindy Cheung) and her two children Raymond (Michael Chen) and Tina (Crystal Chiu) scrounge around for a place to live. Elaine is determined to find a good job and keep her family together, but life is hard, unpredictable and scary. She attempts to maintain an optimistic front for her children's sake, hoping that a pyramid-like marketing scheme will revive her economic fortunes. But when she mysteriously disappears, the children are left to fend for themselves. With strong performances by both the adult actors and the children, Children of Invention is a quietly powerful film that's particularly resonant in today's economic times. Watch Chun's '07 Sundance short, Windowbreaker.

Following his breakthrough horror/comedy success The Host, Bong Joon-Ho switches gears with his new film, Mother, a kind of character-based mystery with shades of Hitchcock. After her mentally challenged son Do-Joon (Won Bin) is framed for a teenage girl's murder, the mother (Kim Hye-Ja), is determined to clear his name, and investigates the case despite the protestations of the local police. Her love for her son and her indomitable strength is the fire that pushes her towards justice, and Bong deftly keeps the audience captivated, subverting their expectations in surprising ways. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, Mother is another intriguing gem from the mind of Bong and co-writer Park Eun-Kyo. Bong said the starting point for the film was working with Kim Hye-Ja. "[She's] an actress already well known to Korean audiences as the stereotypical warm-hearted mother," Bong says. "But for some reason, I sensed a psychotic side of her. Once I'd noticed that about her, it was what I wanted to make the film about: exploring the psychological or psychotic aspects of her personality." Read our interview with Bong below.

Written as what he calls a sort of "B-side" to his wife So Yong Kim's film In Between Days, Bradley Rust Gray's The Exploding Girl is a film centering on a young college girl named Ivy (Zoe Kazan) whose epileptic seizures keep her from truly enjoying life and opening herself up. Concerned over the emotional and physical distance between her and her boyfriend, she continually tries to contact him, only to be shut out. Her best friend Al (Mark Rendall) is staying with her and her mom, and not too secretly has a crush on her. The Exploding Girl features Kazan as a childlike young woman who is not as naive as she appears, giving the actress another step into her rise as the next indie "it girl." Interviewed for our current cover story (by fellow director Ramin Bahrani), Gray discusses the film that was the artistic template for The Exploding Girl as well as his approach towards building a character on screen. "I was like, 'I'm doing Hou Hsiao-hsien's film [Cafe Lumiere]," he says. "I was learning about the character through observation as opposed through 'being her.'" Subscribe to our digital issue to read this interview as well as access our back issues up until 2005.

A documentary about the invasion of Iraq by the perspective of real U.S. Marines, director Kristian Fraga's film is intense, raw and real. Severe Clear takes actual video footage shot during the invasion by First Lieutenant Mike Scotti and his fellow Marines, bringing the war straight to civilians' eyes and souls. Told through Scotti's journal entries and his footage, the film explores the meaning of being a Marine, coming face to face with death and destruction, and justifying one's own actions for peace at the expense of others. Interviewed at last year's SXSW, Fraga says the last thing she wanted to do was take a side on the war. "When we made the film the idea was to put the viewer in the shoes of these troops," she says. "To me it should be irrelevant whether or not you disagree with them or have any moral objections to war. It was more like, how can we have you walk in their shoes?"


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay posts a mini-retrospective of Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's (pictured left) movies, including Near Dark and Strange Days; links to blogger Mark Suster, who gives some tips on making the most out of sitting on a panel; and Jason Guerrasio posts the speech that Best Documentary Oscar winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) didn't get to make on the Oscar stage.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

IFP's Script to Screen Conference, presented in partnership with the Writers Guild of America, East, 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. Featuring some of the most prolific industry innovators and iconic screenwriters in independent film today. Join Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen), Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen), Peter Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, About a Boy), Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), Monty Ross (Do The Right Thing), Ry Russo-Young (You Wont Miss Me), Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), Anne Carey (Adventureland), Lisa Cortes (Precious) representatives from Focus Features International, BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, Tribeca All-Access, Vox3, Slamdance Film Festival, Sundance Channel, Filmmaker Magazine, and many, many more! Tickets and schedule now available here.

By Livia Bloom

Mother, the latest film by South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, is an inky affair. The humor is dark and the sky is a soggy shade of gray. The bumbling characters have limited prospects, and when love exists, it's intense and deranged enough to kill for... read more


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