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Jeremiah's Vanishing New York just a click away.)I love cities. The compression of their people, their histories, their ability to put you in a new narrative the moment you step out your door. I often worry that the New York I grew up loving is vanishing before my eyes, buried beneath a sea of Duane Reades and Chemical Banks. But then people visit from out of town and I see New York through their eyes and get jazzed about it all over again. (And when I want to get an aesthetic charge out of that New York nostalgia, there's always
I love cities, so it's natural that I love city films too -- films in which a city is not just a backdrop but a character. Vertigo, of course, is a San Francisco city film par excellence, as is Dirty Harry and Medicine for Melancholy. For New York there are many; Taxi Driver and Blast of Silence are probably my favorites. Berlin, of course, has Wings of Desire, and Rome La Dolce Vita. I spend a lot of time in Paris, and am having a harder time nailing my favorites there. Maybe Breathless and When the Cat's Away? For Austin, nothing has yet beaten Slacker. And then there are city films that make you fascinated about cities you had little knowledge of, like Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, one of my favorite films of the last few years.
As a cinematic object of reflection, Los Angeles is complicated. There is no shortage of landmarks, and, of course, the history of the city itself is intertwined with the movies. But true city films have to be appropriately self-reflexive -- they have to grasp the internal narratives of their cities while also evoking place and telling a story. Films that do that for Los Angeles? Chinatown, certainly. Kiss Me Deadly, Blade Runner, To Live and Die in L.A., Shampoo, and Into the Night are some more. Greenberg doesn't crisscross the city that much, but it does nail a particular vibe that's not often captured on screen. And, of course, there's Thom Andersen's all-encompassing doc, Los Angeles Plays Itself.
But if I had to name my favorite L.A. city film, depending on the day it could very well be Alex Holdridge's In Search of a Midnight Kiss. I love this movie. It's about a guy who advertises on Craigslist for a New Year's Eve date and winds up on a walking tour of downtown with a complicated hottie. (Their strolling journey through nocturnal L.A. is itself a commentary on the city's car culture.) The film is not about power barons or Hollywood players, which makes its drama particularly piquant. The couple visit both new and old Los Angeles, and the film's black-and-white cinematography recalls the traces old Hollywood has left behind.
Perhaps what makes In Search of a Midnight Kiss great is the way the filmmaker's emotional state bled into his protagonist's -- a broke twentysomething reeling from a shattered relationship. "I had zero dollars and my girlfriend of five years was gone," Holdridge told me when we selected him for our 2007 25 New Faces list. "I didn't know if I had the energy to start over." But he did when he got a call Christmas Day from his friend, d.p. Robert Murphy. "He'd just bought an HD camera and asked me if I wanted to make a movie. I wrote Midnight Kiss in two weeks and we were shooting on January 10."
As I start putting together this year's 25 New Faces list, I wonder about the filmmakers from prior years. I don't have to work to track what Lena Dunham is doing, but quite a few of the almost 300 people we've selected have dropped off my radar. Alex Holdridge was one. After that 2007 film, he got caught in an L.A. story that is considerably more familiar; he was bogged down in studio development. This week, Nick Dawson got an update. Holdridge has decamped L.A. for Berlin, where he fell in love and with his new girlfriend began a film set throughout the Balkans. It sounds like he's working off the same feverish energy that made Midnight Kiss so great, and, once more, it seems like he's grooving off a city. Berlin, he says, is "a live place and it's a place where people are not obsessed with . . . they're not on their iPhone all the time. It's like, my God, an iPhone is almost looked down upon because it's too materialistic. I think that's culturally more interesting, inspiring and people are producing things because it's of interest to them. They're pushing themselves creatively in ways that have nothing to do with finances. It's just so much more inspiring to be in that world."
We used as a title for the piece Holdridge's line that he'll never go back to L.A. again, a comment that prompted some passionate defenses of the town by a couple of commenters. But I have a feeling that at some point he'll be back. The proof? Check out Holdridge's reply to them in the comment thread -- a list of the eight things about L.A. he misses most.
See you next week.
P.S. - Thanks to the kind folks at Indies Unchained for their nice words about this newsletter. And check out their great blog.
P.P.S. Rooftop Films starts tomorrow night and on Saturday they are showing the excellent Think Of Me, which is something of a lost gem of the past year's festival circuit. Check it out, and read Lauren Wissot's interview with Rooftop's Mark Elijah Rosenberg here. PROJECT FORUM: SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARIES DEADLINE APPROACHING Spotlight on Documentaries of IFP's Independent Film Week is for U.S. filmmakers in production or post-production seeking financing partners, broadcast/distribution, and festival invitations and is one of the most desirable forums in North America for buyers to vet new US docs prior to public exposure. Sixty doc projects are presented to accredited industry professionals from the US and abroad during four days of one-on-one pitch meetings, pitch presentation screenings, festival programmer roundtables and social events. Participation is free of charge for the projects selected. Recent alums of the Spotlight on Documentaries include Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman's Academy Award(r) nominated If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Oscilloscope Pictures, P.O.V. ), Lauren Greenfield's The Queen of Versailles (Magnolia Pictures, Bravo) ; Bess Kargman's First Position (Sundance Selects); Marie Losier's The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Adopt Films), Rebecca Richman Cohen's War Don Don (HBO Documentary Films) and Lynn True and Nelson Walker's Summer Pasture (Independent Lens). Application deadline May 25. For more information go here.
Under African Skies
Where Do We Go Now?
Mark Elijah Rosenberg Talks Rooftop Films
Independent Film Week: Project Forum Spotlight on Documentaries Deadline Approaching
SLEEPLESS NIGHT Frederic Jardin's feature film Sleepless Night focuses on Vincent (Tomer Sisley), a morally ambiguous cop who finds himself on the wrong end of a botched drug heist and consequently must return the stolen goods to rescue his kidnapped son from a ruthless kingpin named Jose (Serge Riaboukine). Vincent's dangerous double life threatens to engulf him as he races through the night, searching for his son while dodging the criminals and internal affairs agents who are hot on his trail. UNDER AFRICAN SKIES Joe Berlinger's documentary Under African Skies chronicles musician Paul Simon's return to South Africa, where he recorded his critically acclaimed album Graceland. The film explores the political ramifications of an album considered polarizing for disrupting the United Nations cultural boycott of the apartheid regime. Berlinger stated that while he was a fan of the album, he understood the backlash and therefore flew to South Africa not knowing what to expect. Dali Tambo, head of the organization Artists Against Apartheid, is one of the many important figures interviewed to help explain the record's cultural legacy. WHERE DO WE GO NOW? Lebanese director Nadine Labaki's film Where Do We Go Now? focuses on an unnamed, isolated, and politically unstable Lebanese village where Christians and Muslims live together. The women of the village, one of whom is played by Labaki herself, band together in the face of civil strife to prevent the men from going to war. After premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Where Do We Go Now? was chosen as Lebanon's representation at the 84th Academy Awards and won the Cadillac People's Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. This week on the blog, Mike Plante discusses Sam Green's The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (pictured left), Scott Macaulay reviews the iOS app Video Time Machine, and eulogizes Adam Yauch.
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MARK ELIJAH ROSENBERG TALKS ROOFTOP FILMS By Lauren Wissot
As a writer and filmmaker just beginning to branch out into indie festival programming, I've been looking for an excuse to chat with Mark Elijah Rosenberg for quite some time. The man behind the granddaddy of open-air cinema (hard to believe Rooftop Films is now in its 16th year!) has seen his DIY endeavor expand from avant-garde shorts shown on a roof above his humble apartment to Academy Awards-destined features screened in diverse outdoor venues throughout NYC's boroughs (and beyond). But what's most impressive to me is that he's managed to accomplish all this while staying firmly grounded in his indie roots. I finally got the chance to speak with the energetic founder and artistic director a week before Rooftop's big 2012 opening. Read more
Hamptons International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: May 11
Late Deadline: June 8
WAB Deadline: June 25
Festival Dates: October 4 - 8
Santa Fe Film Festival
Regular Deadline: May 11
Late Deadline: July 13
Festival Dates: December 6 - 9
Cambridge Film Festival
Regular Deadline: May 15
Late Deadline: June 1
Festival Dates: September 13 - 23