Memorial Day weekend saw absolutely perfect weather in New York, as well as the absence of most film programmers, the quiet is not to last. The summer season has now kicked off, with the Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s tribute to Israel’s 60th anniversary and the Media that Matters Film Festival launch at the IFC Center. The packed upcoming week features a prom, a failed heavy metal band, a 9/11 conspiracy thriller and a conversation between the Bourne filmmakers and a neuroscientist. Let summer begin!
You Never Looked so Young
The past decade has seen a Renaissance in Israeli film. As this month is the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting its “Israel @ 60” to coincide with the tributes and celebrations continuing throughout the city, and yet the series commemorates not just a milestone in Israeli history but a golden era in its cinema.
“The 60th anniversary celebrations gave us a good reason to program this series,” says Film Society director Richard Pena, “but we really wanted to celebrate this decade in Israeli cinema, because we feel that it’s important for people to see how this has become one of the world’ truly remarkable cinemas. Its filmmakers are often able to face rather uncomfortable, often unflattering aspects of Israeli society, not just the Palestinian situation, but more personal matters.”
The series opened on Wednesday night with a screening of Eran Riklis‘ Berlin International Film Festival audience award-winning “Lemon Tree,” in which a Palestinian widow’s lemon orchard is threatened when an Israeli minister moves in next door. The week offers a rare visit from prickly (and criminally underseen, at least in the states) auteur Amos Gitai, whose challenging politics and structuralist formalism helped change the face of Israeli cinema, with his latest film “Disengagement,” with Juliette Binoche and Jeanne Moreau. The series also includes highlights from previous New York Film Festivals, such as Avi Mograbi‘s wry examination of Israeli/Palestinian violence “Avenge But One of My Two Eyes,” and Keren Yedaya’s “Or (My Treasure),” about an aging prostitute’s relationship with her daughter.
Pena has his own explanation for the insight in recent Israeli film. “In the early 1990s, there was a feeling for a few years that a real corner had been turned, that peace or something like it was on its way. We’re so far away from it now, and in the dissapointment that followed, people have had to ask what the future is going to hold for them. The artists began turning their camera on themselves, with a critical eye, and ever since, Israeli films have had a courage that even American films don’t have, in criticizing Israel.”
The series continues through June 5.
Tellin’ it like it Is
Also on Wednesday night, the IFC Center saw the world premiere of Art Engine‘s 8th annual Media That Matters Film Festival, a collection of documentary, animation, and spoken word short films with an attention to social justice. The screening kicked off a full week of events for the festival in New York, with an awards ceremony tonight, another screening at Tribeca Cinemas on Friday night, a party at Rose Live Music in Williamsburg, and a free screening for youth next Friday at the Paley Center. The festival is available online starting on 5/29.
“We were one of the first online festivals,” says Katy Chevigny, executive director of Art Engine. “We designed the whole festival for the internet, because of the connectivity and access the internet provides. We kept the films short, at first they were all 8 minutes or under, because that was our assessment of how much an internet server would play before the system keeled over and died. This was pre-Youtube.”
Viewers online have an advantage of attendees of the live screenings (which go on to play around the world in various venues), as every film is accompanied by links to organizations and charities where they can help take action. The issues explored in the 12 films range from the rallying of unemployed Argentinian factory workers in Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin‘s “Argentina Turning Around,” to the mysterious dissapearance of honeybees in the Meerkat Media Collective‘s “Every Third Bite,” to teenage ignorance in the festival’s youth winner, 17 year-old Niaz Mosharraf‘s “America for Dummies.”
“This was one of the points we wanted to prove,” says Chevigny. “The internet provides a way to really harness the energy that a viewer experiences when they view a strong piece of media, to channel it into making a change. You can forget or lose interest if you go to a screening and then have hours before you go home, but when the link is right there with the film, you’re more likely to do something.”
To harness your own energy to a cause, watch the Media That Matters Film Festival for yourself at the organization’s website http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org .
After a few slow weeks, the New York film scene bangs back into life this weekend. Among the many upcoming events and series:
The Sundance Institute invades BAM for the third year in a row, with its much beloved Sundance at BAM series. Including such festival standouts as “Man on Wire,” “Ballast,” “The Order of Myths” and “Sleep Dealer,” the series opens with Nanette Burstein‘s documentary portrait of middle-American adolescent life “American Teen,” followed by a prom in BAM’s beautiful Howard Gilman Opera House. he weekend will see screenplay readings, live music (including a performance by Canadian heavy metal also-rans Anvil, featured in the lauded documentary “Anvil! The True Story of Anvil!“), and art installations from the festival’s New Frontier program.
The 11th annual Brooklyn International Film Festival opens on Friday night at its new primary venue, the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope, with the U.S. Premiere of Brooklyn filmmaker Paul Krik‘s 9/11 conspiracy theory film noir “Able Danger.” “We are using the slogan Cinergy 2008,” says festival director and founder Marco Ursino. “It shows what our festival is. In a political world that pushes isolation rather than harmony, we want to use the festival as a platform for a new way of living, a form of unity and synergy.”
Ursino started the festival in 1998 at the sadly now defunct Commodore Theater in Williamsburg. “When we started, it was mostly a Manhattan crowd. Brooklyn didn’t come to the festival at all, but things have change so much both with the festival and with Brooklyn. We had 5 years at the Brooklyn museum and the crowd was suddenly completely local, and we’re hoping we have a new crowd again at the Lyceum, which is a music venue that has a young feel to it… we’re branching out into some music this year, and not just films”.
The festival continues through June 8.
MoMA’s “Bourne” Collection
MoMA celebrates the summer with a tribute to the blockbuster “Bourne” trilogy, recently added to the museum’s collection, with a screening of all three “Bourne” films. The series coincides with the World Science Festival, also underway this weekend, and Friday night’s screening of “The Bourne Identity” will be followed by a conversation with director Doug Liman, producer James Schamus, and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi for one of the more unlikely programs to be featured at the museum.