DAILY NEWS: New Wang Film Unrated;
Microcinema Continues; and Chediak Chats
by Anthony Kaufman and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE, with a report from Brandon Judell
>> MPAA Stamps NC-17 on “Center of the World,” Artisan Will Release It Unrated; Website Continues Unchanged
(indieWIRE/03.15.01) — When it opens on April 20th, Artisan Entertainment will debut Wayne Wang‘s latest film, “The Center of the World,” unrated and uncut. The decision comes following a ruling on Tuesday by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that stamped the film with an NC-17 tag.
Shot on digital video, the film chronicles the sexual relationship between a computer engineer (Peter Saarsgard) and a stripper (Molly Parker) and features some explicit erotic moments and one graphic shot that involves a lollipop. “We as a studio and a distributor have always stood behind the filmmakers and what their visions are,” Amorette Jones, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Artisan, told indieWIRE. “Wang certainly uses footage that’s titillating and that pushes the envelope, but I think he’s created a terrific story that we stand behind.”
Last August, Artisan released Darren Aronofsky‘s “Requiem for a Dream” unrated after a similar brush with the MPAA. Added Jones, “With regard to the explicitly sexual material in both films, we think it’s pertinent to telling that story.”
“I think it’s good that we can go out unrated,” Wang told indieWIRE. The filmmaker is no stranger to ratings controversy, his 1990 film “Life is Cheap… But Toilet Paper is Expensive” received an X rating from the MPAA and launched a crusade to get rid of the unfair label. “There are certain problems still associated with [being unrated]. But if you go out rated, it’s going to end up X, and if it’s X, you can’t even buy ads,” he noted, equating X with the contemporary alternative, NC-17. “If you go out unrated, you can still buy ads, and you can still play it at certain theaters.”
However, Wang indicated that the United Artists theater chain will not be booking the movie and UA confirmed this. “If it’s not rated, we won’t play it,” explained Kurt Hall, president of United Artists Theaters, in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. While United Artists did show “Requiem for a Dream,” Hall said it was the last time — an exception to their policy. Interestingly, underscoring the crux of the problem that distributors face, Hall pointed out that if the film were to be rated NC-17, UA would in fact screen it.
Meanwhile, the film’s web site www.center-of-the-world.com has also generated some heat, of course, the MPAA has no jurisdiction on the Internet. Shot by Wang and created with a company called Hi-Res, the site is an interactive strip club, complete with a faux online sex chat with porn star Alisha Klass (who appears in the movie).
When asked whether Artisan foresaw a problem with children accessing the erotic web site, Jones argued, “I don’t consider it pornographic. Our goal was to develop a web site that evoked the same type of mood that we thought the film did.” Continuing, she added, “I’m proud of the campaign and we certainly did push the envelope, but the film pushes the envelope and we had to respond in kind.”
Wayne was a little less steady when asked how he felt about children visiting his film’s web site. “It says that under 18-year-olds are not supposed to get in there, so I hope kids don’t get in there,” Wang said, “If they did, I don’t know what to say. Is it that easy to access?” he asked uncomfortably.
Still, Wang stands behind his movie and its marketing. “One of the reasons I did this film is because after years of everybody saying there’s so much stuff you cannot do, it’s just so refreshing to be able to say, ‘I’m not going to worry about any of it,’ and just do it — and at the same time, be responsible for it,” he declared. “I’ll be responsible for every image; the lollipop in the pussy is just what Alisha Klass does when she goes stripping.”
[For more information on the censorship battle surrounding “Life is Cheap…But Toilet Paper is Expensive,” read Mark Lipsky’s editorial, linked below.]
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>> Microcinema Announces Latest Independent Exposure Tour
(indieWIRE/03.15.01) — Microcinema has announced that they are mounting another international screening and lecture series called “Independent Exposure.” It will showcase 60 screenings and 7 lectures around the world. So far, festivals and other events in 11 countries have been confirmed for 2001.
Created with the belief there is an “overwhelming lack of independent-oriented screening rooms,” Independent Exposure began in 1996 by hosting monthly programs at the Speakeasy Café‘s Backroom in Seattle. Since then, the program has screened the short, video and digital work of over 500 filmmakers from throughout the world. To date, the series has screened work in 100 cities in 31 countries.
This year, over 300 films from such geographically diverse backgrounds as L.A., Northern Ireland, Australia and Slovenia will screen. Upcoming Independent Exposure screenings include the Fountainhead Lounge in Atlanta, the Newport Beach Film Festival, in addition to events in Skopje, Macedonia, Monterrey, Mexico and Bellevue, WA. [Brian Brooks]
[For more information on Independent Exposure, visit:
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>> Miami Fest’s Chediak Reflects on the State of Hispanic Culture
(indieWIRE/03.15.01) — Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, “Star Maps,” “Amores Perros,” Antonio Banderas, and finally a Hispanic weathergirl in the Big Apple. My, how times have changed since “Chico and the Man.”
But the man who prophesied that Hispanic culture was on the rise is also the man who’s focused a spotlight on Spanish-language directors for the past two decades. indieWIRE caught up with this gent, film festival director Nat Chediak, just as this cigar-chomper finally was able to take a deep breath. The festival he created, The Miami Film Festival, now ably run in conjunction with Florida International University, had just ended its 18th year on March 4.
Among the newsworthy events: The audience award went to Fernando Trueba‘s Latin jazz documentary “Calle 54.” The FIPRESCI Prize, awarded here for the first time, went to Oscar Roehler‘s “No Place to Go” for Best Feature, screening at the upcoming New Directors/New Films festival, and to Guy Maddin‘s “The Heart of the World” for Best Short.
Other worthy efforts that received the sound of applause included Barbet Schroeder‘s “Our Lady of the Assassins,” Eliseo Subiela‘s delirious “The Adventures of God,” Bruce Weber‘s hectic “Chop Suey,” Patrice Leconte‘s “The Widow of St. Pierre,” and Uli Gaulke‘s “Havanna, mi amor.”
“You know every time a Latino makes it, it’s good for everyone,” Chediak responded, when asked about the trickle-down effect of Ricky and Jennifer. “What will be happening in the next ten years is the diversifying of the process. It will not just be the sexy star of the moment. It will extend itself to different kinds of music and film. It will be quality that transcends [the barriers].”
“We’re a real humongous chunk of the population,” he continued. “And if not now, in the next couple of years, we’re going to be the number one minority in the country. We have the thorn of a different language going against us, but there are many ways to skin a cat. I think films such as ‘Calle 54’ are an echo of what’s to come,” he continued.
“Take ‘Amores Perros’ which is unapologetic,” Chediak said. “You know we’re not a politically correct bunch. We bite and we have an edge. And I like that. I like that we’re getting away from again the pop, cutesy flavor of the moment into some serious shit.”
Surprisingly, the one film that seemingly accomplished the most good in the last two years for the Hispanic arts Chediak criticizes. “I’m eternally happy that Ry Cooder went to Cuba and the whole ‘Buena Vista Social Club‘ phenomenon came to pass, because I’m very happy that anyone at the end of their lives should receive the recognition that they deserved,” he says. “That said, ‘Buena Vista’ opened the floodgates, and everybody descended on Havana like vultures, trying to come up with things of equal caliber. You can’t meet that demand even if you had a master musician living on every block. Supply in no way met the demand, and there were a lot of people cashing in on the whole ‘Buena Vista’ craze.”
Moving on, since success talks, are the money-people opening up to producers of Spanish language films? “The thing about it right now is that nobody has a clear idea of how to approach this phenomenon,” Chediak trumpeted. “Everyone’s groping in the dark: filmmakers in Latin America, distribution executives in the U.S., festival directors the world over. I feel very deeply that many people don’t know what they’re looking for.”
“But here is a largely untapped population being fed very limited offerings. These sorts of offerings have yet to be developed. The numbers are there, and I think the rapid succession of [Hispanic] fads have led people to the realization that [the Hispanic culture] is not a fad anymore,” Chediak concluded. “It is a fait accompli and we better learn what do with it.” [Brandon Judell]