"This film exists!"

If you were in midtown New York this weekend you may have encountered a bespectacled young man strapped into a sandwich board reading, "We buy gold!" That man was not a jewelry district hustler but a film director, and underneath his deliberately wayward come-on was that simple statement, that, for all of today's talk of "new models" and yet-to-be-invented distro schemes, is really what it's all about. Our films exist. They are here.

In their brief career, Josh and Benny Safdie (the guy in the sandwich board handing out flyers about this weekend's opening of Daddy Longlegs) have become, to my mind, our best cinematic links to a more innocent time in New York independent film. In terms of the business, it wasn't necessarily an easier time, and I'm not sure if I was a young filmmaker that I'd want to go back there. But in terms of the culture, it was a time when independent film didn't feel like a struggling little industry but rather a connected part of not just New York culture but New York life. I won't run down a list of directors who the Safdies recall for me, because comparisons are beside the point. Let's just say that when I watch their films the "industry observer" side of me checks out. I don't think about the raw talent that might develop some day, and I don't wonder who is going to see their films.

That talent is here now. So are the films. People like me - and hopefully you - will see them. They are for people like us. Josh and Benny Safdie are here.

Another way of saying the above comes from Eric Kohn in his piece on the directors in Indiewire he wrote: "The Safdies and their colleagues don't make movies empowered by ideological argumentation, but they nonetheless signify freedom from the system--meaning Hollywood, naturally, but also the endless stream of repetitive genre exercises that fill nearly every modern American film festival. Nobody can deny that the industry is in flux, and everyone in it sounds confused or pessimistic about future prospects. The myth of the next Soderbergh died long ago, but ingenuity still matters. Filmmakers like the Safdies possess the audacity to ignore the pressure--or perhaps to defy it with same brazen chutzpah of their latest onscreen creation."

For my long conversation with Josh and Benny Safdie, go here on the Filmmaker site. And to check out Benny in that sandwich board, view this short video. Finally, for a video conversation with the two directors shot by Jamie Stuart, check back on the blog later in the day. And then, please go see their movie when it opens at the IFC Center on Friday, or around the country soon, or on VOD beginning this week as well. I love Daddy Longlegs and hope you will love it too.

On another note, I'm leaving for Cannes later today. I'm a little stressed because of the volcano ash cloud and my Zurich connections each way. Check back regularly on the blog for my reports and hope to see some of you there.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

The latest film from Ken Loach (My Name is Joe, Bread and Roses), Looking for Eric centers on Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), a postman who is left to care for his two unruly stepsons after their mother abandons them. While one of the boys, Ryan (Gerard Kearns of Shameless), is influenced by a local gangster, Eric struggles with his relationship with his first wife and his daughter, whom he both walked out on. Eric feels trapped in his rut of a life and finds guidance through surreal conversations with his sports idol, the French soccer player Eric Cantona (playing himself). A winner at the British Independent Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor John Henshaw, Looking for Eric is a sad and funny mix of comedy and drama, not offering any easy solutions but just taking a bit of the piss out of life.

Is it ever anyone's intention to make the worst movie ever? Not really, but when a horrible movie gets cult status years after its release, it's pretty sweet. Best Worst Movie, a documentary by Michael Stephenson, looks at the history of Troll 2, a schlocky horror film that has become a cult, Rocky Horror-like sensation. The film is made by its then-child star, Michael Paul Stephenson, who tracks down the Alabama dentist who co-starred and its Italian director. But far from being a camp fest or a simple "so bad its good" celebration, Best Worst Movie winds up being a poignant rumination on mankind's drive to create something meaningful in the world. Read Scott Macaulay's interview with Stephenson here, in which he talks about his employment of "fair use" to include clips from the MGM-owned Troll 2 without paying a license fee.

Co-directed/written by Josh and Benny Safdie, Daddy Longlegs (a.k.a. Go Get Some Rosemary) debuted at the Cannes Film Festival's Director's Fortnight to much critical success. In his interview with the Safdies at Sundance, Scott Macaulay wrote, "Daddy Longlegs is the story of Lenny, a projectionist and divorced dad, and it's set during the summertime two weeks he has custody of his two young sons. Lenny's lifestyle is both perpetually frazzled and compulsively bohemian, and his take on parenthood is somewhere between unaffected love and a call to child services. Lenny is based on the Safdies' own dad, and their ability to weave their complicated emotions about him into a work that is alternately shocking, free-spirited and joyful is testament to their extraordinary emotional intelligence as directors." Check back to the Filmmaker site later today for a video interview with Josh and Benny Safdie.

Chronicling Japan's longtime fascination with bugs, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, directed by Jessica Oreck, is an interesting exploration into a culture that respects and admires insects, both as expensive pets and as motifs in artwork and poetry. In his interview with Oreck in our Spring issue, Michel Tully wrote, "In Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, Oreck travels to Japan to explore that country's ongoing fascination with insects. Interviews with experts are interwoven with verite footage of collectors and everyday citizens going about their daily lives, which are in turn threaded throughout by a poetic voiceover that sheds more light on the history surrounding this entrancing subject. Perhaps the best compliment one can pay to Oreck's film is that it's so refreshingly hard to describe."


This week on the blog, Keira Knightley stars in an art installation piece by Stuart Pearson Wright; Apparition head Bob Berney resigns from his post; and Scott Macaulay blogs on Facebook's increasing invasion of users' privacy.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

The recent flurry of openings of Independent Film Week Project Forum alumni projects - The Oath and Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo playing in theaters now, Entre Nos opening this week, the Oscar-winning Music by Prudence premiering on HBO next week, and Cropsey, Pelada, and Howl soon to come - are coinciding with the deadlines for the 2010 Project Forum, in which another selection of promising works in development and production will be presented to the industry for potential involvement. Friday May 21 marks the final submission deadline for both Spotlight on Documentaries (for U.S. filmmakers in production or post-production) and the No Borders International Co-production Market (for U.S. and International producers with partial financing on new narrative projects seeking additional partners). Be sure to seize this opportunity if you have a project relevant for submission this year. Full details here.

By Mary Anderson Casavant

For enthusiasts of Second Life, a 3-D virtual world that enables users to interact with each other through avatars, all the hype surrounding Avatar must have seemed kind of overblown. After all, they'd been living their own science fiction fantasies for years, and their virtual world reflects the fantasies of millions of people, not just Mr. Cameron's. read more


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