Annakarinaland

Annakarinaland
Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou

2009-06-24

Revisiting Bergman's Persona

Persona

Persona
Sweden / 1966

Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, filmed on Fårö (Sheep Island) where the Swedish octogenarian’s summer home is located, is enigmatic and pulsating. Even after multiple viewings it is persistently compelling, primarily because of its contemplative thematic structure, partially devoid of language that allows the spectator to inscribe meaning. Bergman, in a recent interview and screening of Persona on Swedish Television, said he was weary of all the interpretations. He also revealed that in the beginning shooting the film was extremely problematic.

Persona, the third joint venture between Bergman and cinematographer Sven Nykvist, is renowned for its poignant use of close-ups. In the making of Fanny and Alexander, Bergman admits they had ongoing differences on how to move the camera. A tightly constructed mise-en-scene allowed minute control of rhythm and acting in his later films, in which Nykvist kept the camera still. This style was well suited to the director whose strongest suit is the theater.

Persona begins with a montage — what Bergman calls “dream imagery”: The notable rattle of a film projector and illuminated filmstrip moving through its machinery alerts the spectator to the art instrument of filmmaking. (Bergman as a child lived close to a movie theater called ‘Slottsbiograf’ [‘Castle Cinema’], located below the castle where Queen Christina planned her abdication in the 16th century.) There his love of film was cultivated and some of his favorite images are to be found in this montage. A caricature of an erect penis for one eighth of a second, an image typically found in books on ancient Greece, was cut by Swedish censors. (Bergman’s excitement for its reintroduction on the recent Swedish Television broadcast made the old master look pathetically immature.) Other sequences include actors brandishing devils and skeleton suits frightening a sleeping man in pajamas from a silent film. An old cartoon is projected upside down, momentarily caught in the sprocket holes. A spider stretching its deadly appendages, gutted sheep, and a nail hammered into a hand are other, more disturbing images.

A shot of a Swedish forest introduces clips of aging faces and feet, appended with the sound of water from a tap. The telephone rings and a boy lying on a bed covered by a white sheet sits up, puts on his glasses and reads Lermontov's Vår Tids Hjälte (Hero of our Time). He stretches his hand towards the projection of a woman’s face (Bibi Andersson). As the credits roll, a sequence of a self-immolating monk is shown, followed by the faces of Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann and Jörgen Lindström, the young boy. It is no accident that the images from the montage sequence precede the film and are later revealed visually or metaphorically; Persona is a meditation on martyrdom, heroics, fear, and sacrifice in personal relationship.

Persona is the story of a meeting between an artist (Liv Ullmann) and a nurse (Bibi Andersson). Elisabet Vogler is an actress who, during a theatrical performance of Electra, is suddenly unable to deliver her lines. She excuses herself for being “full of laughter.” This episode sends her into “an hysterical reaction” where she refuses to speak. Elisabet is admitted into the psychiatric ward of a Swedish hospital following three months of self-imposed silence (laced with laughter along with some humming). The psychiatrist brilliantly played by the late Margaretha Crook suggests that nurse Alma travel with Elisabet to her country house and dialogue with the actress for her rehabilitation. She believes that the actress is trying to seal herself hermetically from the world by refusing to speak and requires personal assistance in a natural setting. The stark austerity of the hospital room (a studio of the summer house at Fårö) with only a hospital bed on wheels, a night table, and TV might make anyone come unglued. The invitation is certainly a privileged one that not all Swedes can expect for convalescence. Bergman recalled that Persona was written following convalescence from an inflammatory illness that among other symptoms left him partially paralyzed in one arm.

Before the journey, Elisabet witnesses on her television news footage of the self-immolation of a monk protesting the Vietnam War. Bergman admits this was his first overt usage of politics in his films. Curiously, the footage in English with an American commentator and no subtitles goes against the practice of Swedish Television that must provide Swedish translation to all previously recorded broadcasts.

Bergman, in voice-over, announces how Elisabet and Alma go off to the doctor’s summerhouse. The convalescence on Fårö takes several twists demonstrating how the symbiosis in caretaking is precarious where the roles can suddenly reverse. Alma uses the silence to relate her experiences, flattered by a serious actress taking her to heart. She even envisions Elisabet coming to her bed at night in a homoerotic dream that is timelessly potent. 1

Eventually, Elisabet sends off Alma with an unsealed envelope to town. Considering it her medical duty to read it, Alma is distressed to find that she is under the microscope of Elisabet and is outraged. Her tale of an orgy with teenagers that led to her pregnancy is first received with empathy and later is patronized by the worldly actress who confides in the letter to her husband that Alma may be infatuated with her. The roles reverse and Alma zeroes in on Elisabet with the acumen of a medical professional. Bergman is didactic with the revelation that neither Alma’s aborted child nor Elisabet’s abandoned boy was wanted. The manner in which Alma confronts her and describes how she probably perceives her boy could be in part a description of her own aborted fetus.

Alma is also visited at night by Elisabet’s husband, less memorable than the dream of the elegant actress flowing into her room with a long white nightgown. She denies being Elisabet to Mr. Vogler but later assumes her identity, perfunctorily exclaiming she is satisfied with their life together. However, by day, Elisabet is no more eager to return to her life with her husband and boy than the day she lost her ability to speak. This seems to send her further into “hysteria.” The discovered letter sets off a chain of events where Alma confronts Elisabet and brings up her neglected little boy that needs attention. During one scene Elisabet examines a photo of a boy being held at gunpoint by Nazi soldiers and looks away with horror.

For Elisabet and Alma alike, the introspection is overwhelmingly painful where shame and tumult are shared and mirrored. In one scene, Alma questions Elisabet, her face shown in close-up, and later the same dialogue is used with Alma in close-up. There are no easy answers to why the two are precariously balanced in complicity, their faces forming an incongruous whole after this scene. There is perhaps something for each of us to project into this unbalance, but Bergman, as in so many other films, believes that failed motherhood contributes to hysteria and that woman is ultimately and inextricably linked to her biology. In the end, we see Alma in her nurse’s uniform coming into the room to help Elisabet. Are they back again in the hospital or did they ever leave?

1 – The scene where Elisabet stokes the hair of Alma is reminiscent of a classic scene from Maya Deren’s At Land where a woman strokes the hair of two women, a sequence which was determined "lesbianish" and as such described homophobically by The New Republic film critic Manny Farber.

2009-06-17

Queer Women of Color Film Festival, San Francisco June 12-14

The 5th Queer Women of Color Film Festival affectionately referred to simply as QWOCMAP was held at the Brava Theater in San Francisco this past weekend June 12-14. This amazing festival features the films of women who attend a 13 week professional filmmaking program under the tutelage of San Francisco filmmaker Madeline Lim, assisted by Development & Events Manager - Kebo Drew, Festival Manager - Elisa D. Huerta and an amazing staff of volunteers.
Lim spoke about developing a proactive stance rather than a reactive stance to combat the stereotypical depiction of queer women of color. Far too often people of color die in films, which is an all too familiar trope, said Lim. "We need to create out own images, and tell our own stories", she exclaimed and QWOCMAP is living proof of this.
The strong community support for this festival includes Mayor Gavin Newsom and a host of sponsors. The festival is free and there are daily feasts donated by local eateries. But generous donations and community support keep this festival going. Despite budget cuts for culture, QWOCMAP is determined to survive and with the Queer Women of Color Media Project will continue to provide hands on education for filmmakers.
The 353 seat theater was filled to near capacity and the enthusiastic crowd gave artful feedback to the work of these filmmakers. It can only be said that the festival is getting better and better, and the films increase each year in quality as far as camera work, editing, sound and dialogue.
The theme of the festival this year was immigration and an afternoon "Convening Community" panel discussed "Multiple Borders" which was comprised of LGBTQI (Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, & Intersex) coalitions in human rights for queer women of color immigrants. On the panel were Noemi Calonje, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Philip Hwang, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, Madeleine Lim, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project and Laura Rivas, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights. An important area to recognize with the passage of Proposition 8 against gay marriage is the absence of legislation for same sex partners to sponsor their international partners. Prior to the panel there were several screenings of films on this topic including Madeline Lim's Sambal Belacan (1997), a film which is banned in Singapore about three queer Singaporean immigrants.
The filmmakers took the theme of immigration to task with some highly creative work. The poster icon of the festival is a still from Mr and Mrs Singh by Punam S, a film in which a married couple live a double life as a gay man and lesbian.
Other films this year include the animated short Two Embrace by Arizona filmmaker Carrie House. This little documentary presents a narrative that isn’t in the history books about Native Americans and the first immigrants to America, the Europeans.
Jolie Harris takes on the problematic cliché that is makings its way around in Gay is NOT the New Black. Harris said she was saddened by the wedge of disparity driven between what she believes is the white LGBT community and people of color. She believes that the connection which attempts to links Proposition 8 with the minority vote is inherently racist. The passage of Proposition 8 for gay marriage in California was blamed on people of color who supported Obama but not the marriage initiative. This inflated claim had a heyday in the media, which as a far from objective power structure is known to create conflict. But these messages were taken as factual. Harris said that the issues in the LGBT community seem far less radical than before, such as the rights for gays in the military and the right to install the age old institution of marriage. She feels that there are far more important issues that call for activism.
Tera Greene's Queerer Than Thou is a humorous collection of some of current labels in queer culture, from the classic 2.0 gay man to several creative distinctions for different LGBT populations, presented with a brilliant timing. One of the more inventive films of the festival was the scifi comedy with elaborate alien costume design in Dimension of IS: A Spectacular Future by filmmakers Gigi Otalvaro-Hormillosa and Heather Cox-Carducci.
The brilliant dialogue of (B.K. Williams in What if?, tackles the hidden implications of how outside is an outsider at a dinner party in a explosive standoff between Desiree Rogers and Monica Bhatnagar.
Cruzito’s moving documentary Non-Resident Alien chronicles the activist prose of the queer Afro-Cuban hip-hop trio Las Crudas Cubensi who have been performing since 1995.
The artists who were in the house had never seen the film which is complete with footage from Cuba. The festival concluded with a riveting concert by the group who have recently made the Bay Area their home.

2009-05-14

The Eclectic 62nd Cannes Jury=Woman Power

On day one of Festival de Cannes, there were the usual "steps", photocall, and press conference rituals. Asia Argento clearly was the happiest camper of the entire lot that gave the most to the press. Her enthusiasm radiated as she bent over backwards to satisfy the cries of the paparazzi. With photographers lined on the left and right she managed to smile for them all. Shu Qi was soft spoken and gave curt answers to questions through her interpreter. Perhaps they were especially short because she was asked by a Cannes fest interviewer if she would pay particular attention to Asian films as a juror.
The word "judge" was bantered around, after all this is a jury that will assess the work of several directors and award prizes. Isabelle Huppert declared, "I don't think we are here to judge. I think we are here to love films, and to see what we love more than others".
Sharmila Tagore , the brilliant actress from Satyajit Ray's films said that she thought Isabelle Huppert would be a tough jury president. Robin Wright Penn seems to not enjoy the limelight at all. She was in an out of her photo shoot in a matter of seconds but she came on strong in the press conference about choosing films from the heart. In her personal life this seems to be a key issue. The men in the jury didn't exude any notable charisma: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Hanif Kureishi, and Lee Changdong - all excellent craftsmen. The exception was James Gray who boldly exclaimed that he didn't want to know anything about the films beforehand and go in cold.
In looking at this panel, we have two young actresses, two middle-aged and one almost 60--all extremely beautiful women, now or at one time. This seems to be the standard at Cannes for women jurors. As few are directors, next best are the directors muses: Nanni Moretti, Satyajit Ray, Michael Haneke, Hsiao-hsien Hou, Sean Penn. The men stand on their merits as directors and screenwriters.
President Isabelle Huppert (b: 1953) has an eclectic panel and it will be interesting to see its choices in ten days. After day one, we won't hear anything from the jury members until then.
Festival de Cannes is one of the most ritualized festivals out there, known for brilliant art house films, and scandals, and for sending shockwaves of new iconography down the festival pipelines to smaller venues, distributors and DVD markets. What this 62 Cannes might be most remembered for is this particular Madame la Présidente who has suffered on screen in a number of roles that are typically created for beautiful women on screen: as a young woman who kills her parents in Violette Nozière (1978), a prostitute for Jean Luc Godard in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980), a brothel madam in Michael Cimono's Heaven's Gate (1980) and most recently as a self deprecating piano teacher who falls in love with her younger student in Michael Haneke's La pianiste (2002).
Perhaps her strongest role was as the last woman to be executed in France for performing abortions: Une affaire de femmes (1988).

2009-05-13

Madame la Présidente !

Isabelle Huppert, Madame la Présidente ! - 62e Festival de Cannes !
Asia Argento! Cannes official competition jury member 2009! It doesn't get better than this!

Two of cinema's most visceral, outstanding actors will be scrutinizing the work of this year's line up of auteurs including Jane Campion, Quentin Tarantino, Lars Von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Gaspar Noé.
Let's rock and roll!


2009-03-29

Vivre Sa Vie: Living "the life"

Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze Tableaux (1962) is one of J L Godard's earliest films starring his wife at the time, Anna Karina. The form of the film is twelve tableaux or chapters, a narrative convention in several Godard films. The twelve chapters follow the evolution of Nana's metamorphosis from wife to prostitute - "the life". (The English translation of the title, My Life to Live, betrays the meaning of the title).

There are frequent gazes by Anna Karina at the camera, and shots of Paris as a moving image tour by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, in medium and long shot. The reverence with which Godard frames his young wife is captivating.

Anna plays Nana Kleinfrankenheim, a young 22 year old woman from Flexbourg near the German border with three brothers and two sisters. Anna Karina born in Denmark also bears an outsider name: Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer.

Out of financial desperation Nana becomes a prostitute in Paris. Godard's preoccupation with the theme of prostitution is well known. An opening quote sets the stage, "Il faut se préter aux autres et se donner a soi-mème by Montaigne -"lend yourself to others and give yourself to yourself" (Man ska låna sig åt andra och ge sig åt sig själv). Ironically Nana is never able to do this. She is caught in the world of assumptions about women, which inevitably involve sexual metaphor. "If you say something coarse to a woman and she protests, she is a slut", says a man in a café, "but if she smiles, she is a lady". To stand apart from the ordinary prostitute, Nana is quickly established as a lady when a pimp tells Nana that her hairstyle is ugly, and she smiles. She soon turns to prostitution after she is locked out of her apartment for not paying rent.

1 Un bistrot - Nana veut abandonner - Paul - L'appareil a sous. (At a bistro, Anna wants to leave Paul, flipper, pinball game)
The film begins with Nana breaking up with her husband Paul and leaving him and their child. She has fallen out of love because he doesn't seem to notice her and she thinks he is mean. She wants him to loan her 20 francs, her rent, and he refuses. He has taken photos of her which she wants to see. She tells him that she has met someone who thinks she has a chance in movies. When she meets this man he shows her models of his work with scantily clad photos of women that he claims he sends to producers. She also asks him for 20 francs.
In real life J L Godard wanted to put Anna Karina in Breathless (1960) but she refused to star naked. He argued that she had already taken off her clothes for Palmolive as a model. Anna Karina was indignant and said that she was wearing a flesh toned bathing suit and accused Godard of undressing her in his mind.



2 Le magasin de disques- deux mille francs - Nana vit sa vie (at a record shop, two million francs, Nana lives her life)
3 La concierge - Paul - La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc - Un journaliste (The concierge, Paul and The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc, a journalist.)
Nana works in a record shop where a clerk owes her 20 francs. At night she goes to the movies and in one scene she watches The Passion of Jeanne D' Arc by the Danish director Carl Dryer (1928) with classic closeups of Maria Falconetti's face. In the scene Jeanne is interrogated by priests including the sympathetic father played by Antonin Artaud who tells her she is going to die and will be burned at the stake. One of many premonitions on the death of Anna.

4 La police - interrogatoire de Nana (the police interrogate Nana)
Nana is arrested for theft from a woman who "drops" 1000 francs. Though she offers to return it, the woman presses charges. She has now lost her apartment and claims she lives with friends. The police asks her what she is going to do and she replies, " I don't know, I am someone else". Already Nana has separated from her authentic self.

5 Les boulevards extérieurs. Le premier homme - La chambre. (The suburbs, the first man, the bedroom).
Nana goes to the suburbs of Paris where other prostitutes gather. Later she is propositioned by a man for sex. She is repulsed by her first encounter, a man who forces him to kiss her with an open mouth.

6 Recontre avec Yvette - Un café de banlieue - Raoul - Mitraillade dehors (Meeting with Yvette, a café in the suburbs, Raoul, shooting outside)
Nana meets Yvette, a housewife with children abandoned by her husband who has become a sex worker. Nana remarks that everyone is responsible for their actions. J L Godard may imply that Nana is not a victim, but freely chooses her lifestyle. Yet in almost very encounter with men she is a commodity of exchange that works against her will. The necessity of prostitution for the buyer is articulated. A French in the background tells the story of a man who lives with his wife in the suburbs, where his wife doesn't wear sunglasses and works in a factory in Créteil. They live a domestic life and only see his godmother, and never go to the Riviera. Anna looks straight into the camera. Nana meets Yvette's pimp, Raoul, who tells Nana her hairstyle is ugly. In Godard's Band à Part, Arthur first gets Odile's attention (Karina) by telling her that her hairstyle is ugly.

7 La Lettre - Encore Raoul - Les Champs Elysées (the letter, enter Raoul, Champs Elysées)
There is a closeup of Raoul's financial ledger with the women he pimps. A man is shot outside the café. As the police rush up, Nana runs away to another café overlooking a large boulevard. She writes a letter to get work in a firm on referral from a friend, and offers to send a photo. Raoul who has followed her tells her she can make much more money as a prostitute. He begins by telling her that she radiates goodness and that he is her friend. Nana wonders what category of women he has put her in. He replies that there are three categories: women with one, two and three expressions. After the conversation Raoul blows smoke in her mouth and she blows it out with a smile.

8 Les aprés-midi - L'argent - Les lavabos (bathroom sink) - Le plaisir - Les hôtels (afternoon, money, pleasure, hotels)
A series of off screen questions between Raoul and Anna establish the nature of her work: how much she will earn, what happens with the police, etc. He tells her the law. Before 1946 known prostitutes were registered with the police and health board and since 1947 only with the health board. In 1958 prostitutes are not supposed to walk back and forth on the streets, and stay away from Bois du Bologne and Champs Elysees. The establishing shot for this line of questioning is the Arc d' Triomphe on the Champs Elysees, then shots of Nana in a car, her hands receiving money, and shots of fully clothed clients and fixtures in hotel rooms.

9 Un jeune homme - Luigi - Nana se demande si elle est heurese A young man, Luigi, Anna wonders if she is happy
10 Un trottoir - un type - le bonheur n'est pas gai (A sidewalk, a particular type of man, happiness is not gay)
Frequent artful closeups of Anna Karina's face used by Godard created her legendary iconography. One poster shots for the film is Nana standing in a sunlight in front of a billboard on a street smoking before she meets a trick. She leaves with a man, un type, who changes his mind about whether he will pay for sex or not in a threesome.
Anna Karina loved to dance and sing, and in this sequence Nana dances to a jukebox for Raoul and his men in a billiard hall and a young man she falls for. Raoul promises to take her to the movies but changes his mind. As part of the ritual used to establish prostitution, she swings around a pole, with the lyrics of a French tune "swing swing swing" in refrain.

11 Place du Châtelet - L'inconnu - Nana fait de la philosophie sans les savoir (Place du Châtelet, the unknown, Nana unknowingly, ovetande, engages in philsophy)
Nana asks an old man to buy her a drink in a posh café. In real life this is the philosopher Brice Parain. They speak about the regulating function of words. References are made to Plato and The Three Musketeers. The philosopher says one lives another life by not speaking and has to go through death. During the conversation Nana looks at the camera. Knowingly.

12 Encore le jeune homme - Le portrait ovale - Raoul revend Nana (Enter a young man, The Oval Portrait, Raoul sells Nana).
Godard in voice over quotes The Oval Portrait by Edgard Allen Poe (Oeuvres Edgar Poe) while the young man Anna has fallen in love with reads in bed. In the passage an artist paints his wife and in its perfection realizes she must die. Anna is going to quit working for Raoul and move in with her lover. Raoul grabs her as the husband of the concierge does when she tries to get the key to her apartment. She is taken for a ride in a car with a bunch of thugs. She asks what she has done wrong. Raoul tells her she has refused customers, and she responds that they disgust her. In a set up she is for the final time exchanged for money with another group of thugs. Raoul shorts them 1000 franc, and they don't hesitate to shoot her. Afterwards Raoul completes the execution and shoots her. The film ends.

As Godard explores prostitution, he postures his own wife as a commodity throughout the film. After her first film with him he didn't want her to work anymore, ironically a typical scenario when a customer falls for a prostitute, and the ultimate commodification through total ownership. It is not unlike a pimp taking control of an independent prostitute.

Karin left Godard seven years later, and he was so indignant that he cut up her clothes. Their marriage can be described as highly toxic, with periods of calm, fighting, possessiveness and desertion. After years of this, their final collaboration was Made In U.S.A, where Anna Karina shows her defiance of this liaison to the camera, a film that signifies the end of the relationship.

Les Tableaux
1 Un bistrot - Nana veut abandonner - Paul - L'appareil a sous.
2 Le magasin de disques- deux mille francs - Nana vit sa vie
3 La concierge - Paul - La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc - Un journaliste
4 La police - interrogatoire de Nana
5 Les boulevards extérieurs . Le premier homme - La chambre
She goes to the exterior for her first job. Maillot Palace
6 Recontre avec Yvette - Un café de banlieue - Raoul - Mitraillade dehors
7 La Lettre - Encore Raoul - Les Champs Elysées
8 Les aprés-midi - L'argent - Les lavabos - Le plaisir - Les hôtels
9 Un jeune homme - Luigi - Nana se demande si elle est heurese
10Un trottoir - un type - le bonheur n'est pas gai
11 Place du Châtelet - L'inconnu - Nana fait de la philosophie sans les savoir
12 Encore le jeune homme - Le portrait ovale - Raoul revend Nana.

2009-03-27

Créteil 31 Honors Anna Karina

Here is a photo of Anna Karina. You may not recognize her. Her face is hidden, behind a camera. The camera eye eclipses the wide eyes that have become immortalized. In the interview below, a photographer claims that it was Anna Karina's eyes that set her apart from other models. These eyes which have become Karina's trademark are behind the agency of a lens. As réalisatrice (director), she does the observing, she looks at us. Though we know Anna Karina as J L Godard's muse, some years after she broke up with him she went on to make a movie, Vivre Ensemble (Living Together)in 1972. There is only one copy of the film in the world, and I saw it at Créteil Films de Femmes 31. (13-23 March) at Cinema La Lucarne in Créteil.
The film, like Vivre Sa Vie, (Living "the life") has a tableaux form. It can be seen as a response to Godard's film. It is the story of Julie (Anna Karina), a hippie girl with a lifestyle involving drugs and alcohol and casual sex who enters into a relationship with a teacher, Alain (Michel Lancelot). He quits his job to be with Julie and slowly becomes a part of her world, leaving his business suits and proper manners behind for a new bohemian life. In the process he becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. Julie's values change when she becomes a mother, but Alain slowly deteriorates, giving private lessons to children while drunk. In Vivre Sa Vie, Godard's Nana says that we are all responsible for our actions. Although her husband tries to blame Julie for his decline in Vivre Ensemble, Karina emphasizes that he makes his own fate as does Julie but is sympathetic to Alain and the existential angst of his life. Set in New York and Paris, there are many enchanting moments that capture the spirit of the 70s with the political activism, flower power and posture of just letting people be. Karina has made a poignant film that is both whimsical and melancholic.
Anna Karina was honored with a retrospective of films at Créteil this year which includes the first one that she made at 14 in Denmark: Pigen og Skoene - the Girl with the Shoes (11', 1959). The director IB Schmedes noticed Anna on the street dancing and singing. The film won a prize at Cannes at 1959 as the best short. Pigen og Skoene features a tall and very mature Anna sporting a pony tail who spots a pair of high heels that she wants to wear on a date. The shoes cause great pain for her feet and make her late. So her comfortable pumps catch up with her so that she can run to meet her boyfriend. In this film, Anna Karina, born Hanne Karin Bayer in Copenhagen Denmark in 1940, shows how she was ready for the camera. In films with Jacques Rivette, George Cukor, Luchino Visconti and J L Godard she shows a sensibility and wit that have made her an art house icon. Anna Karina continues to make films and her latest feature Victoria caught the attention of Korean youth who skipped school to see it where it debuted at the Pusan Film Festival in 2008, the 30th Florence International Women's Film Festival, 2008 and the 31st Créteil Films de Femmes Festival, 2009. Victoria ,
is directed and written by Anna Karina with music by Philippe Katerine. It is an experimental musical road HD video about a mysterious mute woman, Victoria, Louis' boss who gets gigs around Quebec for two musicians in drag, Stanislaus and Jimmy. Victoria's connection with Stanislaus turns out to be karmic. The film is low budget with artful invention and a clever narrative style.

Below:
  • Exclusive interview with Moira Sullivan and Anna Karina at Créteil on Movie Magazine International, April 1, 2009, 9pm PST, 90.3 FM San Francisco, national webcast from April 3-9th.
  • Exclusive interview with Moira Sullivan and Julie Dash at Créteil on Movie Magazine International,March 25, 2009, 9pm PST, 90.3 FM San Francisco, national webcast from March 27 - April 2.


2009-01-20

Obama's and Michelle's Dance

Finally, an inauguration worthy of watching, finally inaugural balls worthy of watching, finally a presidency that commands respect. Finally an African American in the White House. This moment, this dance, this president is the strongest, most dignified and most gifted leader we have had in a long time - and alongside every powerful man, is a powerful woman, and now we have both. A thinking man and a thinking woman. We have waited a long time, for this moment , this dance! But remember Obama is not a messiah and it will take a long time to undue the wreckage of Bush Jr.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
Barack Obama, January 20, 2009.

2009-01-12

Good Gravy for Tina Fey

Its a great year for Tina Fey who reminded everyone at the Golden Globes tonite that the Internet can always cut you down to right size if everything seems to go too well.
And for good luck she told cyber scrooges "babs in la crosse", "cougarletter" and dianefan to "suck it".
This was Tina Fey's night, even if she almost tripped on the red carpet going up for her award. The comedienne who comically brought out the very worst on Sarah Palin was voted best actress in a TV comedy on January 11 by the Hollywood Foreign Press.

2008-12-02

Gus Van Sant Gets Milk Nearly All Right

If Gus Van Sant's new film Milk about the late Harvey Milk had been released before November 4th maybe it might have made a difference towards defeating Proposition 8 which takes away the rights of gays and lesbians to marry in California. Certainly in his lifetime, the late gay supervisor successfully rallied against the Proposition 8 of that time, the Briggs Initiative - Proposition 5 - which would have taken away the rights of lesbians and gays to teach in schools and ANYONE who supported them. This was the time when ex beauty queen Anita Bryant worked to get such an ordinance passed in Dade County Florida. Harvey Milk believed that if you didn’t register to vote you were giving away your rights and he pounded that home at the Civic Center during Gay pride 1978 a high point of the film. I heard Milk and registered for the 1st time after his powerful speech.
Gus Van Sant has done an excellent job of making a completely well crafted movie about the life and times of Harvey Milk who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in San Francisco on November 27th 1978 - and tomorrow it will be exactly 30 years since Dan White, an ex fireman executed these two men in their offices under the influence of Twinkies. The film premiered earlier last month in San Francisco on October 28th and all the actors were on hand with Gus Van Sant to usher in the film at the Castro Theater.
Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk and he is totally convincing in every scene in representing this wonderful and enthusiastic supervisor who knew about people and their needs and how to successfully implement policy by building grass root connections. Harvey Milk energized the gay community and helped make the Castro a booming mecca for gay men. Though lesbians preferred to hang out in the East Bay or in the Mission, according to activist San Francisco educator Sally Gearheart Milk was concerned that lesbians were represented in every issue and brought in Anne Kronenberg ( Alison Pill) to run his campaign. Its hard to not fall in love all over again with Milk and thanks to the efforts of Sean Penn he is made real down to his truly humble happy and hard working persona. Josh Brolin plays Dan White brilliantly, a homicidal man Milk believed was a troubled latent homosexual. Despite his childish excesses Harvey Milk continued to fraternize with White even seconds before he was shot. Less successful in the film is Diego Luna as Milk’s lover Jack Lira. In real life though he was caught up with helping distressed men his long-term relationship with Scott Smith (James Franco) endured even after they went separate ways.
The film is not only the story of Harvey Milk but the galvanization of the gay community in San Francisco and while Milk would have been quick to point out that there are very few lesbians in this film – something that Van Sant seems to miss - he would have been happy to know that things changed during his life for the better. It is not always easy to make an historical film that rings true to life but Milk is one of those films that seems to get it mostly right.

Movie Magazine San Francisco Airdate November 26 2008

2008-11-05

Obamaland USA

San Francisco, November 5th 2008
Its an incredible win for Barack Obama, no, incredible is not the word. Its credible. This victory shows that the old paradigm has shifted because we have evolved. The limited blue state, red state argot created out of the aftermath of the last eight year administration is soon to become obsolete just as other significations seem to have marched on. Remember when a red state was a Marxist state?
The color scheme this time seems to be a purple united states. At least that is how Obama envisions it. His victory speech on election night has to be one of the most powerful he has made to date, and of any politician of recent time for that matter, revealing so much more of his core. Obama is also a writer. Nobel prize recipient Toni Morrison points that out. He writes his own speeches and is not dependent on ghost writers. Clearly he won't be needing them for his inaugural address either. I recall the last inauguration that I watched in transit at Logan Airport in Boston. I was excited about a new time that promised a different kind of change. Poet laureate Dr Maya Angelou afterwards called Bill Clinton the first "black" president. Barack Obama is the real first. But he is far more than that. His refreshing ideas are what make him stand out more than anything, as well as his cool and refusal to stoop to manipulation and bating. He also picks his own staff and his running mate. He doesn't have to stiff it to anyone like the McCain camp who is already hanging out Governor Palin. As if to say that if McCain lost it was because of a woman. Obama shows every sign, so far, of making his own decisions and being comfortable in the driver's seat.
But now we come to another issue on election day that did not go so well. California Proposition 8, a deftly worded bigoted Mormon funded proposal to ban gay marriage passed by a small majority (5000 votes). One of the most expensive campaigns on a single issue in US history. How can it be, and of course the answer is inherent in the question, that we can embrace change on so much but not on the subject of marriage rights for lesbians and gays? The time has not come? What comparisons can we make here? Repealing Roe/Wade is not going to happen in this presidency, but perhaps gay marriage will not either. Civil rights for all is the paradigm waiting to shift, and perhaps San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is the person that will make that happen as he steps into the national arena. Could he be the "first gay mayor" for making it known that this was a real election day defeat in a blue state that is far from the color purple.

2008-10-21

Journalist Ulrike Meinhof: From Theory to Practice


Veteran Swedish journalist Steve Sem-Sandberg takes issue with Uli Edel's film The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany 2008)
based on Stefan Aust's novel. He believes there is insufficient background provided for how Ulrike Meinhof turned from political analysis to political activism and violence.
Sem-Sandberg's study of Meinhof - Theres (1996) discusses in depth how Ulrike Meinhof was working on a screenplay about young women in the
Eichenhof correctional institution called Bambule, a film that was silenced when Meinhof became identified as a member of the 1970's terrorist group RAF - Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction). Bambule is briefly mentioned in Edel's film. Sem-Sandberg argues that for Meinhof this institution where women were repressed and silenced at an early age was a microcosm of the new Germany, a politically repressive machinery built out of the wreckage of Nazi Germany, transformed into a modern police state which violated civil liberties. Meinhof not only had an intellectual understanding of the fascist nature of Germany, claims Sem-Sandberg, she had witnessed it first hand at Eichenhof and in the gender hierachy of society. Bambule allowed her to engage in political action and stop writing for the cultural political journal konkret where her estranged husband Klaus Rainer Röhl served as editor. It is not easy to understand how Ulrike Meinhof became one of the most wanted criminals in modern German history but Sem-Sandberg claims its out there waiting to be re-discovered.

The Baader Meinhof Complex suggests the genesis of Meinhof's activism came from the public attention she garnished covering the pompous state visit of the Shah of Iran and his wife on June 2 1967, representing a country of vast illiteracy and poverty (the film's introduction). Though Iran was far away from Eichenhof, she witnessed the protests of young Germans against this visit who were beaten and shot. Here it is implied that Meinhof is only a step away from acting on her ideals.
Two years later Meinhof is interviewed (above), a single mother of two young girls. She discusses oppression in the home where women are caregivers who serve their husbands and children. She is aware that a major source of conflict for women is how to combine their political life with a personal life. She also stressed how important it was to maintain a power balance at home - something she had a hard time experiencing in her marriage
. On a small scale beginning in the home, she provides an astute and insightful analysis on the politics of repression based on personal experience as a young woman.

In The Baader Meinhof Complex,
Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) has a privileged position as a journalist, a position that she uses to later help free Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) from prison in 1970. She has him transfered to a building with minimum security under the pretext of conducting an interview. The rescue plan includes having young women from Eichenhof gain access to the building and later let Gudrun Esslin (Johanna Wokalek) and Holger Meins (Stip Erceg) into the building. When the situation becomes violent and guards are shot, Ulrike Meinhof decides to escape through the window with the rest of the group - a pivotal move into a world of armed violence and political analysis and the beginning of the Baader Meinhof group. Sem-Sandberg claims that this event is shown without context and trivialized in Edel's film just as Bambule.

The violent story of the Baader Meinhof group weighs heavily in the film. Through a montage of historical footage and re-enacted events such as the shooting of civilians in Vietnam, Uli Edel shows the power imbalance and oppression in society that creates terrorism. Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz), the head of the Bundeskriminalamt (German bureau of investigation) tries to piece together why young people are becoming terrorists in Germany, naïvely intellectualizing the violence - a phenomena that Meinhof had spent years studying before becoming an activist. It is Herold who lights up like a Christmas tree when he connects the protests over US military imperialism in Vietnam, the generous supply o f US weapons to Israel, and the search for oil in the Middle East - to the bombings and gun power of the RAF. As military police he knows that terrorism is a reflection of power imbalance and his strategy is to make it larger and crank up the volume full blast to squash any resistance, thereby creating an über police state with tacit support of the German population. In response Ulrike Meinhof quotes Mao who states that a clear line of distinction is created when the enemy tries to squelch the truth by blacklisting the protest(ers). When she is incarcerated and isolated at Köln-Ossendorf she is aware of the effect this has on the psyche. When she later interacts with Gudrun Esslin at Stammheim to get their case prepared for trial they turn on each other. But although Esslin was considered the leader of the RAF it is actually Meinhof's analysis of repressive political systems that sets them apart from senseless young hooligans, and which motivates their cause and conviction. Esslin no longer can make sense of Meinhof's analyses that have served the RAP before their incarceration. She insists that RAF take full responsibility for their actions - and that a rescue mission be set into operation to get them out.

The Baader Meinhof Complex is Germany's contribution to the Best Foreign Language film category for this year's Academy Awards. It is a riveting chronicle of events from June 2 1976 to several bank robberies and bombings and the incarceration of several members of the RAF. Events leading up to the trial of astonishing legal impropriety and the presumed execution of Meinhof, Esslin and Baader reveals a bungling intelligence apparatus gone haywire that just wants to make it go away, anyway. There has been a distinct glamourization of violence and sexuality up until this point. The Baader Meinhof Complex is after all aimed at young people who weren't born at the time, and older people who were young at the time. At Stammheim it stops. Gone are the devil may care rides on the freeway at top speed, the spirit of collective action and the intoxicating suspense and high of several planned attacks that consume the film almost until the end. Yet the incarceration of the RAF leaders encouraged more young people to continue their cause. The execution of members of the Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972 is linked to the RAF, further evidence of the proverb that if you cut off the head of a dragon more will grow in its place. Bob Dylan's song at the end that "the answer is blowing in the wind" describes how little Germany understood its youth and their rebellion. The Baader Meinhof Complex articulates the mind and muscle behind political violence and it resonates deeply for those trying to make sense of terrorism today.

2008-10-07

Lesbos Remains Lesbos

The transliteration of the name of the Greek island Lesbos (Λέσβος) in the northeastern Aegean is Lesvos. The classic Greek letter [β -beta] is pronounced [v-vita] in modern Greek. The inhabitants of Lesvos are Lesvians and it is not really accurate to refer to them as Lesbians because of a Beta/Vita confusion. To get around this some islanders call the island Mytilini, the name of the capital city, and are sensitive about being associated with Lesbians who are gay women. In fact Dimitris Lambrou, the Greek editor of the right wing journal Davlos brought the issue to court in Athens to forbid the use of the name Lesbian by gay women claiming that Lesvians have the exclusive right to it. The Athens court ruled against the measure on July 18th and fined Lambrou $366 dollars, a token sum considering the ridulous fuss. For it is not only the use of the word lesbian that Lambrou wants to limit to the residents of Lesbos but even who is or isn't a lesbian - such as the poet Sappho who was born on the island.

The island of Lesbos was named in antiquity after the Thessalian hero Lesbos, husband of Methymne, daughter of Makar. The name Lesbos is thought to come from the poet Sappho who was born on the island in 7 BC and who wrote romantic poetry to women. Some islanders strongly disagree that she was a lesbian and there are rumors that lesbians who visit the island to honor Sappho scare away tourists. But it seems to be the consensus of most islanders that tourism is on the increase because of international lesbians.

Don't these people have something better to do with their time? Whether Sappho was a Lesbian or just a Lesvian? Whether its Lesbos or Lesvos ? For example helping the wildlife (Lesbian spelled with a B) - or birdwatching on Lesvos spelled with a V when the birds first land after winter migration.

Note: I have regularly visited Lesb/vos for the past 12 years and have made films on the island which have been shown in Sweden, Greece and France.

2008-10-03

"No Tears, No Applause, No Ontoward Outburst..."?

There was only one clear issue in the "debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin that both Democratic Republican VP candidates agreed on - according to moderator Gwen Ifil. But having done that, why did it prompt hearty laughter from the conservative Washington University student body in Missouri? Was it comic relief, or was it such a clear cut choice that it was non-polemical? The entire round of exchange took probably tops 3 minutes - and we're on to "foreign policy".

"IFILL: The next round of -- pardon me, the next round of questions starts with you, Sen. Biden. Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?

BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.

It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.

IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that's sometimes where those steps lead.

But I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.

But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.

But I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.

IFILL: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?

BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.

The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we really don't have a difference.

IFILL: Is that what you said?

PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.

IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let's move to foreign policy." (Laughter from audience).

Palin and Biden are consistent in one respect: "infantalizing" same sex partners via limited civil rights. The Alaska Governor is known for "Palinisms" (not unlike Bush Juniorisms) - circuitous often indirect and nonsensical mumbo jumbo. Let's look at it Sarah: Gwen's question to you was whether you supported gay marriage and "your answer is not the same as Joe's and it is that you do not". You explained that some of your "friends" would not be happy that you are "tolerant" of everyone's right to choose a partner. You admitted you have a "diverse" group of friends ( gay?). But that you are skeptical of same sex partners having hospital visitation and contractual rights. That in approving this you are concerned that we would be moving closer to the definition of marriage that is operationally "defined" as a union "between a man and a woman". BTW your colorful "folksy " superlatives: "bless their hearts, " the Feds" , "I betcha"," heck of a lot", and " darn" - and your Joe Six Pack and Hockey Mom analogies and beliefs on Russian foreign policy and climate change - will go down in history.

Joe, your "diplomatic " sanction of gay "civil rights" may appear more liberal. Maybe that is because you didn't have to imply "some of my best friends are gay" or "my other friends would not be happy about my position". But leaving the responsibility of same sex marriage up to "faiths" and "people who practice faiths" in a nation with a clear legislative separation of church and state is not far from cornball. Amen.

2008-10-01

Tieing the Knot in San Francisco after 55 years, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

"On June 16, 2008 lesbian rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in the first same-sex marriage ceremony since the California Supreme Court ruled in May that it was unconstitutional for the state to deny the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples".

This video of the wedding by Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff shows the ceremony officiating by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Phyllis Lyon died only months after the wedding.
“Registered partnership” - not marriage - has been legal in Sweden since 1995 and exists in several countries today. The clinical phrasing makes it easy to create and dissolve partnerships, like registering a business. The first partnerships were often created as expressions of political victory – a milestone for so-called “equal protection under the law”, but which does not come close to the meaning of honor and commitment in marriage. This was a hard earned victory in California shot down in 2004 and which still risks extinction on the ballot in November 2008. Massachusetts paved the way in the USA to make it happen. Hopefully one day it will become Federal law and we can sponsor our partners wherever they reside. There are seven “nations” in the world today that acknowledge marriage including Massachusetts and California. The right to marry should be a fundamental right and certainly is embodied in what is meant by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Neither of the Presidential candidates sanction marriage. Nor did Hillary (or Bill) Clinton. Certainly Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon showed the world love and endurance for 55 years. And as more “nations” legalize marriage let these two women’s love be a shining beacon. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is one of the most courageous and forward thinking politicians we have today. The words he read for Del and Phyllis about marriage express that it is something that should be carefully considered. For sure this is what these two lesbian pioneers did and they waited over two generations for the right to legally marry.

2008-09-30

Palin for President? OMG!


There wouldn't be much point in spotlighting women in the media if a few moments weren't spent on Sarah Palin, much as I dislike having to do it. The woman N.O.W will not endorse, the woman that is a Vice Presidential candidate to a Presidential candidate that will slash all federal spending except to veterans and troops overseas. The woman who said " bet they're sorry now" to the Democrats for NOT choosing a woman, i.e. Hillary Clinton.
This election was so clearly Hillary Clintons' but maybe the goofuses in the Republican party headquarters who couldn't read the signals correctly put just any woman on the ticket. Hillary Clinton was often the brunt of jokes about her gender, and Sarah Palin is no different. But while the arguments leveled by Clinton had foresight, Palin seems to be winging it alone, hit or miss, mostly miss on a variety of topics that makes it clear that any old woman isn't the same as someone who knows what she is doing. A Christian right candidate with a ready made constituency that opposes Roe Wade, evolution and stem cell research is the last thing we need. And if the senior McCain were to pass on, "bet we'll be sorry now".

These positions were expressed by Palin in speeches during the past few years:
  • Rejected sympathy for Down's Syndrome son, as gift from God. (Aug 2008)
  • Opposes embryonic stem cell research. (Aug 2008)
  • Only exception for abortion is if mother's life would end. (Jul 2006)
  • Opposes explicit sex-education programs. (Jul 2006
  • $7 billion savings plan for education & transportation. (Dec 2007)
  • Marriage only be between and man and a woman. (Nov 2006)
  • No spousal benefits for same-sex couples. (Jul 2006)
  • Teach creationism alongside evolution in schools. (Aug 2008)
  • Pledge of Allegiance with 'Under God' is good enough. (Jul 2006)
  • Global warming affects Alaska, but is not man-made. (Aug 2008)
  • Hunts as much as she can; freezer-full of wild game. (Aug 2008)
  • Health care must be market-and business-driven. (Jan 2008)
  • Visiting injured soldiers in Germany was trip of a lifetime. (Sep 2008)
  • Energy is a foundation of national security. (Sep 2008)
  • Miss Congeniality in statewide beauty pageant in 1984. (Aug 2008)

By far the biggest blunder is illustrated in the latest edition of The New Yorker: since Russia is within a bird's eye view of Alaska Palin feels she has qualified foreign policy experience. This may only amount to cooperating on trading missions across the border - such as exchanging wild game or whatever but the claim will land her in the Idiot Hall of Fame. Too bad she is a woman. It makes it worse. It may be true that dumb politicians resonate with voters such as George Bush Jr, and maybe its just a ploy to play dumb. But stupid is as stupid does.
Let's not forget George Jr reading a book upside down at a school for young children, or appearing on camera like a deer in highlights when told about the WTC on September 11th.
There is something remarkably similar about the recent utterances of Sarah Palin. Aren't they enough of a red flag? No wonder Obama wants to target funding for early education.
Katie Couric's soon to be legendary scoop with the "executive of" the state of Alaska reveals a riled up often incoherent and bumbling fool at work.
I sincerely feel for Sarah Palin, I truly do because she is doing the best she can, the best she thinks she can, though she could do far better if she were another person altogether, which she isn't.
Fifteen hundred women in Anchorage Alaska aren't particularly happy with the "executive of" and protested her nomination two hours after it was made, an event nowhere in the media. And remember the woman mysteriously escorted out during the nomination?

Truly women don't vote for a woman just because she is a woman. Are we learning yet? At least Sarah Palin should know something more about politics than being a poor Hillary imitation for Vietnam war veteran John McCain.

2008-06-29

Tilda Swinton, Isaac Julien and Derek Jarman


On the closing day of San Francisco Pride, a day full of a grand parade through the streets of San Francisco one of the most brilliant films of the Frameline LGBT Film Festival, Derek screened to an audience at the Castro Theater. The artistic director of the festival Michael Lumpkin had wanted to show one of Jarman's films, which were impossible to find in a 35mm print in the USA. That is something to take note of since Derek Jarman and his films reminds us of a time in British filmmaking that no longer exists, a combination of the political, the artistic and, with a focus on gay sexuality in several complex films such as Sebastiane (1976) and Caravaggio (1986). Jarman served as production designer for Ken Russel's fascinating treatise on sexuality and the repressed clergy - The Devils. (1970). And without Jarman, Tilda Swinton said her industry career would never have taken off. She was asked to deliver a lecture on Jarman, a lecture that turned into a documentary film that she produced and wrote and which was beautifully directed by Isaac Julien.
Swinton is featured in the documentary, staring at times straight into the camera as she did in Sally Potter's Orlando. "Here I am, and this is what I believe. So what do you think? Her and Julien's appearance in the film personalizes it and is never out of place. It allows for the material to update, and for the memorial to take place. And when we look at the images, we do miss Derek Jarman.
Jarman was productive at a time before Margaret Thatcher and while the lucrative funding the British Film Institute gave to artists to develop their own voice in cinema was intact. Looking at some of his work it is with melancholy that one notes that this kind of film is not being made, this kind of film is not screened at Frameline, for after all Frameline simply culls from what is out there and is a showcase of the latest in LGBT cinema. Jarman marched in gay parades, just as we did today and when diagnosed with HIV gave a voice to his illness. Recall the years when Pride parades were virtually non existent in the 80's. His last film Blue with a voice over on his illness set to a blue screen was made just before he died in 1994.
Derek is an outstanding collage of the work of Jarman, his films, music videos, and a lengthy interview with Colin McCabe in 1990 at his home Prospect Cottage in Dungeness which serves as a voice over to his images. His artistic sensibility is so incredibly rich and dynamic that it is impossible to not be inspired by his work and appreciate his contributions to cinema, art and set design. Swinton and Julien's homage hits home.

2008-06-27

Barbara Hammer is the Reigning Lesbian Filmmaker Par Excellence

You could say that Barbara Hammer has usually been involved in some kind of corporeal cinema, in one way or another. Her early films on lesbians go where no other filmmaker dared to go in exploring sexuality. Not only among the young and beautiful but the aging. She has successfully used found footage in her films, to bring to public attention old films about lesbian sexuality and presented to us closeted lesbian histories. She has used x-ray photography to show us the insides, and now the outsides in her latest film presented for the first audience ever at the Frameline LGBT Film Festival in San Francisco, A Horse is not a Metaphor. Intriguing title. I would actually say that for this film, a horse is a metaphor. But maybe that is an implied intention. Barbara is probably one of the most provocative and youthful directors anywhere. The film uses old rodeo footage, with young cowgirls wrestling with the cattle, as she so clearly seems to do when presented with her diagnosis of uterine cancer. There is also lots of footage of Barbara on a horse, and one horse in particular with eye and groin cancer, who after a sturdy diet begins to recover. This film is about Barbara's bout with cancer, which she successfully battled and is in over 18 month's remission. But it is also about reclaiming power, and the images of horses, shiny and sleek, with life running through their magnificent bodies evokes this. It takes courage and conviction to bring a film so personal and intimate to the screen. We see Barbara in the hospital, Barbara with short hair after chemotherapy, Barbara's scar from surgery, Barbara naked walking through the forest. Powerful Barbara Hammer who is not afraid to have us look, empathize and learn. That gives us life on life's terms.

Of all the films at Frameline, an evening with experimental work is a night to remember. From a woman who learned how to make movies at San Francisco State. And when she went to school she saw the films of only one woman: Maya Deren: the filmmaker that chose to make experimental, personal films.
Its time to wash away the made for TV scripts, the lesbian love that is unrequited, and the women who kills themselves because they can not have the one they love. There were several films this year at Frameline. Are we learning yet? Are these retrograde themes harking back to Sandy Dennis being felled by a tree in The Fox or Susannah York being forced to eat Beril Reid's cigar in The Killing of Sister George a metaphor for something that is happening to lesbian identity today? Even if so, Barbara makes us remember that its beautiful to be a lesbian at any age, and that the experimental format is a powerful tool of expression.
Here is a film that uses metaphor, to show an incredible joy for life despite a life threatening experience at the risk of alienating the public. "How has this film been received?", asked someone in the audience. "I don't know, you are the first audience", answered Barbara. As one of the first spectators I can only ask, what would the world be without Barbara Hammer? She has brought to lesbian filmmaking a uniqueness, a passion, a daring challenge to see and experience, sit and squirm , feel uncomfortable and provoked, and afterwards feel that you have gone through an ordeal into visionary and auditory realms that have made you richer for the experience. The choice of music by Meredith Monk, another incredible veteran artist , empowered the film and sent it soaring. "I always wanted to ride a horse", says Barbara, who took to the saddle faced with the acknowledgement that life is precious and can be cut short, so you better darn well enjoy all you can.

2008-06-26

4th Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco

The Queer Women of Color Film Festival is probably one of the most unique festivals for queer women out there. Here we can definitely take note of the new directions of filmmaking each year as each filmmaker comes to terms with the latest in technology for low budget production. Out of a series of scripts and a desire to make movies, several women tell their story with passion, dedication and purpose. The event is free and held at the Brava Theater in the Mission district of San Francisco. Directors Madeline Lim and T Kebo Drew run an excellent venue. In essence, the festival is a training ground for filmmakers, and once the film wraps it becomes part of the festival. In QWOCMAP's training program filmmakers are on a strict schedule to produce an intimate and relevant project to their own lives. They are guided by the award winning filmmaker Lim, and act and serve as crew in each other's films. Community partners include Pink and White Productions, which helped to host the Sunday afternoon "Sexually Subversive" centerpiece screening, and Trikone , a non profit organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of South Asian descent. Sponsors include Linda Harris of the Harrison Team, a real estate agency which services the LGBT community. Harris is on the board of directors for Frameline.
There is a trained staff of volunteers that usher in the block long length of women, and if you are on time there is no problem with a seat. The tradition of the festival is to serve food, also free, to make everyone feel at home. The feedback that each filmmaker gets from her film is enough to keep the images rolling for a long time, for the crowd is generous and knows what it likes.
To celebrate this event, a representative of Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke about how the festival is appreciated and honored by the City of San Francisco. With the new passage of legalized marriage in California and a conservative backlash already in gear to try to defeat the measure in November, strong community action is underway to get people out to vote. According to the representative, "let's get the measure passed, then worry about deconstructing the institution of marriage". Right on. Activism is a key component to the Queer Women of Color Festival (QWOCMAP), with leaflets in the vestibule for signatures to Mayor Newsom, "I support having a city owned Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center in San Francisco", and to Governor Schwarzenegger, " I recently attended the QWOCMAP Film Festival that was part of the Unisted States of Asian America Festival and National Queer Arts Festival". In California, public support of the arts is 3 cents per person, whereas the national average is one dollar.

This year Pratibha Parmar was the special invited guest to the festival, a British Indian who was born in Kenya and grew up in London in a working class neighborhood. She never went to film school but has made several films, one of which won the public prize for the best film at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival - Khush, a film about gay and lesbians in South Asia, and those interviewed came out for the first time . "Khush" means "ecstatic pleasure" in Urdu.

Parmar was interviewed by the award-winning journalist Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. Two other films were shown in a retrospective of Parmar's work: Bhangra Jig and Wavelengths. The films are archived by Women Make Movies in New York, an organization that rents films to schools and universities. Parmar noted the quality of the films on video and is planning on a DVD release of her work in the near future. Of particular interest is Parmar's latest film Nina's Heavenly Delight which has won several top awards at festivals in Fresno, Tampa and the Cineffable Lesbian Film Festival in Paris. Parmar plans to spend more time in the Bay Area with her partner of 16 years.

Programs were divided into three themes this year in addition to the special Sunday screening "Sexually Subversive": "Kindred Spirits", films about family relations, and "Delectably Yours", a pageant of films on food.
Highlights of some of the films this year include: Labels Are Forever (Jinky de Rivera, 2008).The opening titles reads like the introduction to Star Wars in this humorous saga about 007 Secret Agent J. Wong. Wong is sent by her boss to investigate how labels are used by a group of women only to discover that the assignment is bogus.

Luna Han takes a look at The Cock: Lesbian Owned & Operated (2008).

Han was also the better half in One in a Million by Monifa Porter (2008) a playful journey into the twists and turns of a lesbian fertility rite. If you click here you can see the festival's secret agent on duty.

Renacimiento de una bruja (Zemaya, 2008) is a spiritual oddyssey by a woman with the earth and her ancestors.

Queering My Mother (Lourdes Rivas, 2007) tells the story of mother that polices her daughter too much especially when she has met that special woman. As the title suggests, the evolution of awareness by the filmmaker's mother is at stake, and she does it in style.
Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe (Amber Field, 2008) is about a young South Korean woman comes to terms with her adoption in the USA while also questioning celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie who have adopted children from developing nations to give them better lives. The evolution of the young woman is traced as she comes to terms with being a lesbian and also a martial artist.

In Too Much Plain (Caroline Le, 2008) A young woman tries to figure out what's wrong with all her girlfriends with her best friend, only to discover that its because she wants to be more than best friends with her confidant.

A handful of the films were also shown at the Frameline32 LGBT Film Festival June 19-29 in a section called "Magical Promise", which is precisely what you can say about so many gifted directors at QWOCMAP.