This week in New York, audiences at Lincoln Center looked at their water bottles in shame while watching the documentary "FLOW: For Love of Water" as part of the Green Screens series. A number of New York City government officials smiled to dig shovelfuls of virtual dirt for the "Digital Groundbreaking" of the Museum of the Moving Image's new expansion, and both the Film Society of Lincoln Center and BAM prepared themselves for their respective upcoming series, "Rendez Vous with French Cinema" and "A Tribute to IFC Films" respectively.
Get off the bottle!
As is obvious, there's been a huge upswing in environment-themed documentaries made in the last several years in response to increased awareness of ecological crises. The Film Society has turned the spotlight on the issue with its new series Green Scenes, which on Tuesday held a special screening of Irena Salina's documentary "FLOW: For Love of Water", which premiered at Sundance this year and focuses on the myriad concerns facing water (shortages, pollution, privatization in the third world, etc.).
"From the minute we are born," introduced Salina, "everything at all in our lives is connected to water, and I think we have forgotten it, as we pollute this water and change the weather."
As the source of all life, water is kind of a big topic, and the film suffers a bit from a lack of focus, blitzing the viewer with information and prognostication alike. The strongest points of the film are those that are most specific -- the audience may not be clear if they are watching the fallout from water privatization in Bolivia or South Africa or exactly how the World Bank was involved, but they should be pretty damn sure to drink tap water instead of bottled. The film points out that it is an invented need, no different in taste or health benefit than tap water and with a vast amount of wasted resources involved in its bottling.It's estimated it would take $30 billion to provide the world with safe drinking water; our country spends $90 billion a year on bottled water, an invented need.
"If we could get everybody to spend even a fraction as much energy on getting good ground water legislation passed as they do getting bottled water... think of what we could do," said co-founder of the "Blue Planet Project" Maude Barlow, in a discussion afterwards, the first Q&A I have seen where the participants were not served bottled water.
The next Green Screens will be "Garbage Warrior" on March 25.
MOMI's new Bilbao?
On Wednesday night, various New York City government officials joined with supporters in Queens at the Museum of the Moving Image to celebrate the groundbreaking for the museum's new expansion. In keeping both with MOMI's dedication to technology and a sensible desire to avoid an outdoor ceremony in February, the ceremony was referred to as a "digital groundbreaking," using a Nintendo Wii-style "virtual shovel" which delighted all of the participants lucky enough to use it.
"Welcome to Hollywood East!" said Queens borough president Helen Marshall, reminding the audience that in the earliest days of movies, the museum and the area surrounding it were an important location for studio film production, which fell into disrepair. "When I first came to visit the area...none of this was visible. Over the years, this museum has done a fantastic job of making sure this history is preserved."
Many of the participants expressed delight with the building, none more than Councilman Eric Gioia, who proclaimed, "This new building will do for Queens what Frank Gehry did for Bilbao." Bilbao or no, the new museum building will feature two theaters (one 262 seats and one a 71-seat screening room), an education center and more gallery space, nearly doubling MoMI's size. The exhibits will reopen to the public within a few months, and screenings will continue throughout the city at various venues.
Looking for a Rendez Vous?
On Friday night, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance will celebrate the opening of the 13th annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade theater with suspense/mystery "Roman de Gare" by Oscar winning director Claude LeLouch ("A Man and a Woman") and starring French national treasures Fanny Ardant and Dominique Pinon.
This year, the Rendez-Vous features 15 U.S. and New York premieres, including actress/director Sandrine Bonnaire's documentary about her autistic sister, "Her Name is Sabine"; animation phantasmagoria "Fear(s) of the Dark"; and the Cedric Kaplisch's latest, "Paris" featuring Roland Duris and Juliette Binoche.
"All of these films reflect that distinctly French idea of the auteur," says Film Society director Richard Pena. "They take advantage of this idea that film is a vehicle for personal expression... The thing about France is that there's so many smaller companies, as opposed to just a few huge ones. There's a place for small, quirky films."
The Rendez Vous continues through March 9.
BAM Fetes IFC Films
This weekend, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will present its "Tribute to IFC Films," a selection of five advance screenings of upcoming releases by the distribution company, as well as a week run of Ken Loach's latest film "It's a Free World." The tribute was conceived of by BAM curator Florence Almozini when she was in discussions with IFC's Ryan Werner over programming selections from their current line-up, which includes the latest films by Gus Van Sant, Hou Hsaio-hsien and Claude Chabrol.
"This is the first time we've done something like this," says Almozini, "but I would love to do it annually with IFC. I really like the type of films they've been buying in the last few years.... They really take a chance on what they buy, and they pick up the best kind of art house films."
Both Werner and Almozini expressed particular excitement for Sunday night's screening of the musical "Love Songs" (also playing at the Rendez-Vous), which will be attended by both director Christophe Honore ("Dans Paris") and actor Louis Garrel ("The Dreamers"). "Honore is the youngest director we're showing," says Werner, "and one of the most exciting...this movie surprised me so much. It doesn't feel like anything I've seen before."
"I love Louis Garrel," says Almozini. "I've been trying to get him to come to BAM for years, but even when we gave a tribute to his father he couldn't come. I'm so excited he'll be here." The "Tribute to IFC Fims" runs through the weekend, and "It's a Free World" will play until 3/6. The Loach film will also be available on IFC's newest VOD channel, Festival Direct, along with a selection of five other films acquired at film festivals world-wide.