To hail the arrival of spring this week, the Film Society of Lincoln Center continued its greening of the Walter Reade theater with help from the environmental doc "Garbage Warrior", while both the Film Society and MoMA celebrated newness with the New Directors/New Films festival. In the meantime, the IFC prepared for a season of "Stranger than Fiction", filled with some particularly exciting guests.
Film Society Screens "Garbage"
The Film Society of Lincoln Center screened the latest in its eco-themed "Green Screens" series on Tuesday night with Oliver Hodge's documentary "Garbage Warrior", produced by the Sundance Channel as the premiere film in the second season of its environmentally-focused series "The Green". The film is the story of outsider architect Michael Reynolds and his fight to create livable, sustainable housing out of garbage.
Working in his hometown of Taos, New Mexico, Reynolds was able to create a series of houses that grew their own food, powered themselves, recycled their waste and provided for their own water and temperature regulations.
"My houses are able to eliminate a huge percentage of a person's impact on the environment" Reynolds told indieWIRE before the screening, "and they can make you completely independent."
Unfortunately, they could not meet legal building codes, and Reynolds' architectural license was revoked. Ever since, he has split most of his time between lobbying to effect legislation to provide for sustainable housing allowances, and working on charitable projects in disaster areas that have need of his services, such as the post-tsunami Andaman Islands.
"We always depend on three things- land, permission and funding," said Reynolds. "In all third-world countries, the permission is really easy, and the land, because they need the help so often. The funding is where things get tricky."
Said director Hodge, "There have been a lot of first-rate films, lately, about impending disaster- "An Inconvenient Truth", "Crude Awakening", "The 11th Hour". We felt this was more of a call-to-action film, to inspire people to live off the grid. We need the negative documentaries...because people need to learn what is happening, but we need films like this, as well, to show there are other options on how to live."
Reynolds is currently working on a number of projects, such as creating a sustainable orphanage in Africa and attempting an urban prototype, while Hodge is working on another environmentally-themed doc.
"I'm not trying to brand myself a green filmmaker, but it is where my heart lies," said Hodges. "I'm a filmmaker and an activist.... I think documentaries can absolutely change the world."
"Garbage Warrior" will be shown on the Sundance Channel on April 1st.
ND/NF Opens With "River"
On Wednesday night, New York celebrated the opening of the 37th annual New Directors/ New Film festival, a collaboration of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art that is perennially one of the strongest, most exciting programs around. Focused on spotlighting filmmakers from around the world in the beginning stages of their career, the festival has launched such filmmakers as Pedro Almodovar, Wong Kar Wai and Steven Spielberg.
"When the selection committee was looking at films, we focused on filmmakers with a real, personal vision," said MoMA's Rajendra Roy. "There are legacies coming out of auteur cinema that factor into ND selection. We're not looking for filmmakers with future commercial viability, we're looking for ones with the strongest personal style, with a visual and structural stamp more than a narrative ability."
This year's festival features a sidebar of filmmakers who have previously screened at both ND/NF and later at the New York Film Festival, including Todd Solonz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse", "Storytelling") and Charles Burnett ("My Brother's Wedding", "To Sleep with Anger").
The festival opened with Courtney Hunt's Sundance-winner "Frozen River", the suspenseful drama of a harried single mother (Melissa Leo) and a troubled, rebellious Mohawk woman (Misty Upham) who form a tense, hostile partnership smuggling people over the Canadian border. The film is based on Hunt's earlier short film, of the same title, which played at the New York Film Festival in 2004.
"Even before it won at Sundance, I knew this was the perfect film for us," says Marian Masone, of the Film Society. "It's a wonderful, solid story, by a true American independent filmmaker, with an independent vision. It's not a scary movie, per se, but it had me on the edge of my seat... and it's just not like anything else, it's not part of some sub-genre, which is really what we look for, more than anything."
The festival continues over the next two weeks at both MoMA and the Walter Reade theater, featuring 26 features and 6 shorts. Standout selections include Lance Hammer's beautifully paced southern drama "Ballast; Serge Bozon's WWI fairytale "La France"; and Constantina Voulgaris' ode to goth/hipster romance, "Valse Sentimentale".
"Fiction" Sets Seventh Season
On Tuesday night, April 1st, the IFC center will host the premiere of the seventh season of what is fast becoming a New York institution, "Stranger than Fiction", filmmaker/programmer Thom Powers' weekly screenings of hard-to-find documentaries and subsequent Q&As with their filmmakers.
Kicking off the series is Margaret Brown's stunning tale of two cities "The Order of Myths", the story of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, where all of the celebrations are divided strictly by race. It's an impressive film made better by Brown's access to the strictly segregated mystic societies of Mobile, in which her family is actively involved.
"This was the best doc I saw at Sundance, and my first choice for opening the series," says Powers. "besides the incredible level of craft, it should make for a great discussion, as not only Margaret Brown but also one of the film's subjects- Britain Youngblood- will be present."
"It's also nice to start with something new, as I have a lot of older films this season," continues Powers. "It's definitely the biggest name year I've ever put together."
That it is. Any lover of non-fiction film should be thrilled to see the filmmakers who will be present: Nick Broomfield with "Tracking Down Maggie: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Thatcher", Al Maysles with "Showman" and "Psychiatry in Russia", Barbara Kopple with "My Generation", and Jonathan Demme with "The Agronomist". Powers has also just announced that "Hearts and Mind" director Peter Davis will be showing his long unavailable 1971 documentary "The Selling of the Pentagon".
"I've been thrilled with the development of STF," says Powers, who would like to expand the program outside of New York (he has already curated a mini-series at Pleasantville's Jacob Burns Film Center). "It's turned out that half the experience is showing the film, and the other half is the community that gathers afterwards, at the bar, sharing ideas and blowing off steam."