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Bob Lefsetz's email yesterday and came across this:"It's hard to make sense of the world. Used to be there was a dearth of information. I remember going to college and being bored. That would be impossible today. What with every movie and song ever created at my fingertips on the Internet. But with so much information available, people are overwhelmed. They can't make sense of it." I'm old enough to remember being bored too -- those times when there really was nothing on, when your record collection seemed sucky, when that one alternative radio show that turned you onto the new stuff wasn't on for another six days. You needed a media fix, a blast of something inspiring in its newness, and you simply couldn't get it. You were bored.I was reading
Of course, there are other forms of boredom. There are the deeper, more soul-crushing, more existentially challenging sorts. And then there's the boredom of some great art. I remember being in a college lit class with the late, great Edward Said. The book assigned was Henry James' The Europeans, and none of us had read it. Said exploded at our sloth before finally admitting, "Look, it's a very boring book, I know, but it's a great book, an important book."
Lefsetz's comment struck me because I've just come back from a film festival and it made me think of the relationship between boredom and cinephilia. I saw lots of great, non-boring films in Toronto. I especially liked Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, Jerzy Skolimowski's Essential Killing, Sophie Fiennes' Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow and Tran Anh Hung's adaptation of Haruki Murikami's Norwegian Wood. None of these films were boring. But I did see some films that were. There were boring films that by not insistently foregrounding a narrative deliberately allowed the viewer to drift in his own mind, like some Situationist "speculative pleasureseeker" exploring the streets of a city. And then there were the films whose subject matters were important ones, and making them flashier and more entertaining would have been untruthful. I may have been a little bored but I respected the sobriety of the filmmakers and was happy they didn't cheapen their material.
My point here is that if you are scared of boredom, or if your neural pathways have been so rewired that you need fixes of "interesting," then it's hard to discover new cinema. It's hard to be a cinephile if you need narrative excitement in every thing you see, and it's hard to be excited about finding new work if you don't accept boredom as the cost of doing business. Of course, you can wait for everyone else to tell you what's good and only see that, but to sift through the unfamiliar to find that life-changing gem you have to be prepared to spend time with yourself, to allow what's on screen to trigger thoughts in yourself, and to suspend what I fear is an increasingly prevalent reflex to reach for your iPhone or, worse, leave the theater or turn the channel. To quote Aldous Huxley, "Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty -- his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom when it comes, not merely philosophically but almost with pleasure."
See you next week.
Editor INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER CONFERENCE STARTS SUNDAY - DISCOUNT PRICING ENDS TODAY Thursday is the final day to receive the "Early Bird" discount price to IFP's Filmmaker Conference, so if you're planning to attend all or any part of it, make your move now. Just added: two free Independent Film Week "Sneak Preview" screenings have been opened to all Conference attendees (seats available on a first come-first served basis). On 9/21 IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs will present exclusive clips of films from 20 of the hottest new filmmakers soon to hit the festival circuit (followed by a reception with free beer) and Anna Farrell's 12 Ways to Sunday will World Premiere on The High Line on 9/22. Both screenings presented in partnership with Rooftop Films. The Conference itself (September 19-23) provides access to over 30 case studies, workshops and debates - and the chance for YOU to take an active role in debating where filmmaking is going next with filmmakers and executives from A&E IndieFilms, Cinetic Media, HBO Documentary Films, IFC, Magnolia, National Geographic Films, Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics and more! Info and tickets available here. Our Forums page is new and improved! Check out the new categories: how to make films, discuss the current trends in the business, job opportunities and look out for guest filmmaker moderators. Click here to get started.
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Kings of Pastry
Never Let Me Go
Jack Goes Boating
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, Kings of Pastry
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KINGS OF PASTRY This isn't a Top Chef competition: Kings of Pastry collects 16 of the world's best pastry chefs to compete in France for the title of the Best Craftsman of France. Noted documentary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus traveled to France to record the three-day competition, capturing the tension and anxiety of creating over 40 different kinds of pastries and crafting fragile sugar sculptures under intense scrutiny by the judges. "They were very nervous that we would do something that would cause [the cakes] to break," Hegedus recalls in this week's Director Interviews. "It was restricted filming, and by the third day, when everyone was going to be carrying their beautiful displays, they drew little boxes around each of the tables and the kitchens, and that's where you could stand." Read our interview with Pennebaker and Hegedus below. NEVER LET ME GO Based on Kazuo Ishiguro's best-selling novel, Never Let Me Go presents an alternate reality of England, where science advancements allow people to live past 100 years, and a cure is found for all known diseases. The cures for their ailments come at a cost that involves the boarding school students of Hailsham. These students are kept secluded from modern society, only being told bits and pieces of what they are being prepared for. Three of the students share a crucial bond, and it is their need for love and friendship that holds them together as their fate creeps near. Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek, combines a science-fiction parallel world with a timelessness involving the power of human connection. See Jamie Stuart's interview with Romanek here. CATFISH Filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Opus Jazz: NY Export) documentary Catfish, was one of the most talked about films at this year's Sundance. Tracking the interesting email friendship between Schulman's photographer brother, Yaniv, in New York and a eight-year-old girl in Michigan who came across one of his photos, the film shows Yaniv falling for the girl's older sister, a charismatic dancer and artist, who he only knows through Facebook. Yaniv and his crew decided to make a trip to see her, but the story takes an odd and mysterious twist, the less said of which the better. "The ideal viewer is always someone who doesn't know anything about it going in. Then the experience they have watching the film is most like the experience we went through in making it," says Joost, when Alicia Van Couvering talked to him at Sundance. For a more extended discussion of the film (which we're holding past opening weekend due to spoilers), visit us next week. JACK GOES BOATING The directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman, adapted from a play by Bob Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating stars a top cast of A-list theater talent (Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega) as a pair of couples in New York City dealing with life, love, and tribulations. Jack (Hoffman) is a limo driver who meets Connie (Ryan) on a blind date and they connect on an awkward and shy level. As their relationship is blossoming, the relationship of the other couple Clyde (Ortiz) and Lucy (Rubin-Vega) is slowly coming apart. A sober-minded film with esteemed actors playing difficult characters, Jack Goes Boating is an intriguing directorial debut for Hoffman. THE FREEBIE Actress Katie Aselton makes her directorial debut with The Freebie. A couple decides to give each other one "free pass" with any stranger they'd like to sleep with. It is an idea that sounds good in theory, but may be difficult to deal with the consequences. Starring Aselton and Dax Shepard as the couple, The Freebie, which played at this year's Sundance, used an actor-heavy creative style known as "upside-down" that Lynn Shelton found success with in her '09 Sundance hit, Humpday. SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO The sport of rodeo is the closest thing to gladiators in modern America, where most can't understand why one would get into the arena with a live, bucking bull, filmmaker Bradley Beesley goes to Oklahoma to visit a prison where its prisoners can't wait but to get on one for some cash and a bit of glory. And for the first time ever they're going to let women prisoners take part. This is what interests Beesley the most, as he shows these women's lives and how being part of a rodeo can help them rehabilitate into being better people. The film is produced by the IFP's Amy Dotson. This week on the blog, producer Katie Holly discusses the process of making Slamdance winner One Hundred Mornings; Werner Herzog and Errol Morris (pictured left) chat at the Toronto International Film Festival; and Howard Feinstein, Livia Bloom, and Scott Macaulay give their reports from TIFF.
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D.A. PENNEBAKER AND CHRIS HEGEDUS, KINGS OF PASTRY By Melissa Silvestri
D.A. Pennebaker is a legend in the world of documentary filmmaking. A pioneer in the art of cinema verite, he first made his mark with the 1967 classic Dont Look Back, chronicling Bob Dylan's final acoustic tour in the U.K. He met his partner (in directing and matrimony) Chris Hegedus in the 1970s, and they have co-directed nearly 30 films together since 1977, including the Oscar-nominated The War Room and the Sundance entry Startup.com. Their latest collaboration is Kings of Pastry, a whirlwind peek into the M.O.F. competition, a French pastry chef contest in which 16 of the world's best pastry chefs compete by making nearly 40 different kinds of pastries, including elaborate and often fragile sugar sculptures, all to be named the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, or the Best Craftsman of France. read more
Nashville Film Festival
Regular Deadline: Sept. 24
Late Deadline: Nov. 26
Final Extended Deadline: Dec. 31
Festival Dates: April 14-21
Slamdance Film Festival
Regular Deadline: Sept. 24
Final Deadline: Oct. 29
Festival Dates: Jan 21-27
Sundance Film Festival
Late Deadline: Sept. 24
Festival Dates: Jan 20-30