Blogs Crosscuts Emily Hanson

Emily Hanson is a multi-disciplinary artist focused in creative writing, design, and aesthetics. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Augsburg College and has worked as a contributing blog writer and intern in the Walker Art Center’s Film/Video department since January '09.

Winter’s Bone

Director Debra Granik is no newcomer to the harshness of reality. Drawn to subjects with daunting conflicts, Granik’s work focuses on perhaps the grittier facets of life, but does so in a present, observational manner—not to mention starkly beautiful. Similar in title, Down to the Bone, her first feature length film, shares the parallel themes […]

Director Debra Granik is no newcomer to the harshness of reality. Drawn to subjects with daunting conflicts, Granik’s work focuses on perhaps the grittier facets of life, but does so in a present, observational manner—not to mention starkly beautiful. Similar in title, Down to the Bone, her first feature length film, shares the parallel themes of human struggle and perseverance with her latest release Winter’s Bone. Down to the Bone garnered critical acclaim, winning Sundance’s Dramatic Directing Award and the Special Jury Prize for Vera Farmiga’s performance.

Fresh off the festival circuit—with the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Drama in tow—Winter’s Bone, directed by Debra Granik, will grace the Walker Cinema June 2nd. Based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, the story is set in the Missouri Ozarks, but truly takes form in the main character Ree Dolly, through her travels and tribulations to save not only her home but also her family.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ8kqytI_oA [/youtube]

The Sundance Channel also put together a nice (and brief) video of Granik discussing Winter’s Bone:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpwmVzgUh1s[/youtube]

Debra Granik’s work has previously screened in the Walker Cinema, in 1999 as a part of Women in the Director’s Chair with Snake Feed, as well as the premiere of Down to the Bone as a part the 2005 Women with Vision film festival.

Debra Granik will be at the Walker June 2nd to introduce Winter’s Bone and participate in a Q&A following the screening.

Kelly Reichardt: Off the Beaten Track Clips and Trailers

Wendy & Lucy [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJjOnz8I8oA[/youtube] Old Joy [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL1X_7jIcIM[/youtube] Other films in the series include River of Grass and Kelly Reichardt’s short films Ode, Travis, and Then a Year. These films screen as a part of the Kelly Reichardt: Off the Beaten Track Regis Dialogue and Retrospective. Visit Walkerart.org for more information.

8-Ball With Daniel Barrow

In anticipation of his visit to the Walker next week, Daniel Barrow was kind enough to answer a few questions. 1. What is your favorite VHS tape you own? I have an extensive collection of 1980s Winnipeg public access television. In the mid nineties a big cable company purchased Winnipeg’s VPW station and one of […]

Daniel Barrow

In anticipation of his visit to the Walker next week, Daniel Barrow was kind enough to answer a few questions.

1. What is your favorite VHS tape you own?

I have an extensive collection of 1980s Winnipeg public access television. In the mid nineties a big cable company purchased Winnipeg’s VPW station and one of the first things they did was toss the local archive of public access tapes. In 2004 I set about to recompile this otherwise lost history. I began kind of shyly looking up names in the phone book because I was pretty sure that the producers of these shows had kept copies of their own work at least on VHS. ALmost all of them did and so I created a whole show about my most prized collection of VHS tapes which I titled Winnipeg Babysitter.

2. When you’re creating new work which comes first, the image or the story?

I generally begin a new story with a series of seemingly unrelated visual gags. I’m an “idea person” and always have a lot to work with. I stack those ideas in various configurations and then write a story around them. My hope is always that the best visual ideas will rise to the surface and the dumb ideas will sink to the bottom of the pile to comprise the background. It generally means that my narrative are very dense and detailed.

3. If you had to describe your aesthetic in one word, what would it be?

“whiney”

4. Your story is features the story of a garbage man—is there an odd job you have always wanted to do, and/or do you find yourself living vicariously through your characters?

I’ve never wanted to be a garbage man but I can certainly think of worse jobs. A real garbage man was nice enough to let me ride with him in his truck one morning, when I was developing the story. It was a pretty interesting gig and I was fascinated by the strange architectures businesses constructed to enclose their trash. If you go behind big malls you will see rows of little sugar shacks that house an assortment of incredible, sticky and weird oddities.

But the idea was really to create a portrait of a failed artist. The fate of being a garbage man was a cliched paranoia amongst teenagers when I was growing up. In art school particularly I think a lot of kids are there to stave off the idea of being career minded.

5. You create your work using some low-tech tools, what would you do if you were given access to a huge budget?

I think I would really like to try working with a huge budget but it’s very important to me to stay connected to the process of making the art. I can only imagine that bigger budgets usually involve bringing in crews of people to realize one’s ideas. I could do it but I think I would need to be very strategic and have some skilled advice.

6. What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

My primary references are to film and comic books. I guess the most unexpected influence might be public access television. Certain programs really branded themselves on my mind as a kid and were my first introductions to a DIY aesthetic and authenticity in art.

7. Which artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaVSh1bsUrw&feature=related[/youtube]

8. ???

Persistence of Vision: A Journey

In looking forward to the upcoming events of “Expanding the Frame: Journeys,” a parallel revealed itself to me, whether intentional or not. Besides the theme of journeys, another common thread that binds the films and artists together is the persistence of vision. This diligence spans beyond the artistry and transcends to a humanistic plane.  This […]

Zhao_Liang-Petition_PPIn looking forward to the upcoming events of “Expanding the Frame: Journeys,” a parallel revealed itself to me, whether intentional or not. Besides the theme of journeys, another common thread that binds the films and artists together is the persistence of vision. This diligence spans beyond the artistry and transcends to a humanistic plane.  This vision is what takes the artist on the aforementioned journey.

Ellen Kuras, for instance, worked for over two decades documenting the story of The Betrayal. The film was shot in multiple locations and allowed for the characters to grow in age and experience over the course of production.

Similarly, for the film Liverpool , Lisandro Alonso took his time in order for the film to organically reveal itself. Different in approach from The Betrayal, Alonso set out to the location, invested time in understanding the aesthetic and life of the people and place, and then began production nearly a year after his initial visit.  In his process, he was able not only to understand a different way of life but also capture it on film because of his meticulous process.

This persistence of vision, this dedication to the people and craft of documenting, is also beautifully apparent in the work of visiting artist Zhao Liang. In his most recent documentary film, he explores and displays what petitioners in China go through in order to potentially be heard. 

Since 1996, Zhao has filmed the “petitioners” who come to Beijing from all over China to file complaints about abuses and injustices committed by the authorities. He follows the sagas of peasants thrown off their land, workers from liquidated factories, and homeowners who have seen their dwellings demolished but received no compensation. Often living in makeshift shelters around the southern railway station, the complainants wait months or even years for justice and face brutal intimidation.

This to me is the ultimate journey, the epitome of the title, the theme, the reason they are filmmakers. I feel that it is the relation of the human first, the instinctual element that drives them to document the subject in the first place. The artistry either coincides or comes as an afterthought—second nature. Zhao Liang is definitely no exception to this.

Camera Austria recently did a piece on Liang in which he talks about his audience and his subject—a dynamic that when put together completes the cycle of the artist and the persistence of vision.  Below is an excerpt from the interview:

A conversation with Zhao Liang

In summer 2009, following the film festivals in Cannes and Locarno, Zhao Liang also presented his video documentary film “Petition” (2009) during his course at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg. He had been shooting this film for more than ten years, editing 500 hours of footage for one year. The photographer, video artist and documentary film-maker observed and accompanied people from all over China travelling to Beijing, living there in a slum, the “Petitioners’ Village”, to present their case to the Petitions Office, to complain about wrongs done to them at work or in private, and to demand justice, an undertaking that would often last several years. The interview conducted by Hildegund Amanshauser together with Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann focuses on the methodology and historical, social and art historical background of the various productions of the artist, who was born in Dandong in Liaoning province in 1971 and lives in Beijing.

Hildegund Amanshauser: With the aid of the different formats, you reach different audiences, the Chinese and the international public, the film public and the art public. What role do these different audiences play for you?

Zhao Liang: First and foremost, I address the Chinese audience. My work focuses on social reality in China and I would like it to improve something in this society, that’s the crucial thing for me. I hope that the Western public get an idea of circumstances in which people are living at the same time in a different place. I want to make people think. When my work Petition was showing in Songzhuang, the audience was upset, many of them didn’t even know that people lived in such poor conditions in China. But what happened to these people could happen to anyone, everyone has to realise that. The problems I portrayed in Petition are big problems facing Chinese society, problems that will have to be solved in the near future. The important thing for me is that as many people as possible see my film so that they learn the truth. Also, it would be important for “higher levels” to see the film too, maybe it would help them get to know our society better and implement reforms. I even considered sending the film to the chairman or the minister, but I didn’t. I cannot imagine them really watching the film, perhaps they know about the situation and don’t want to change it, or perhaps they can’t. When ordinary people see my film, they find it very exciting, and perhaps that can ultimately sway the government.

 —Hildegund Amanshauser, Camera Austria 108/2009

The full interview can be found in Camera Austria 108/2009.

It is this empathy of the human that makes films real, allows for them to permanently reside in our subconscious and consequently become more aware of the world around us.

Zhao Liang will be at the Walker Friday, January 29 at 7:30pm to introduce Petition, and Saturday January 30 for a gallery talk at 3pm followed later that evening by his film Crime and Punishment. For more details, visit walkerart.org

Life During Wartime

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBKzHhtCTMM[/youtube] Formally, the film is deep-dish pleasure. Cinematographer Ed Lachman (using the Red camera system) enables Solondz to raise his visual game to a new level; the richly colored compositions are as bold as the dialogue. —Variety After a four year hiatus from filmmaking, Todd Solondz is back with his latest feature Life During Wartime. […]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBKzHhtCTMM[/youtube]

Formally, the film is deep-dish pleasure. Cinematographer Ed Lachman (using the Red camera system) enables Solondz to raise his visual game to a new level; the richly colored compositions are as bold as the dialogue.Variety

After a four year hiatus from filmmaking, Todd Solondz is back with his latest feature Life During Wartime. Not to be confused with the Talking Heads song, Life During Wartime is an un-sequel (more of a variation to) Happiness because it stands alone as a singular body of work. Solondz (who made quirky indie favorites like Welcome to the Dollhouse, Storytelling, Happiness, and Palindromes), does not stray too far from his prior films in regards to his controversially dark themes (child abuse, suicide, incest, etc), but does in the regard of compassion. The characters in Life During Wartime have undergone life and the most brutal of its hand, and the way in which Solondz depicts them is with utmost honesty. His ability to tactfully comment the less than savory elements of human behavior—although at times uneasy and unsettling in nature—solidifies the understanding of the people in the film, of society’s capacity of growth and compassion.

While it is not necessary to see Happiness before seeing this film, there are subtle and very funny references to the previous film for those who are familiar with this work. The same characters, played by different actors, have moved on. Their lives have changed, but the memory of something terrible from the past lingers as three distant sisters reconnect and create a portrait of those seeking love and rebuilding family, all to the backdrop of mounting fear of terrorists.

The Walker will be hosting a sneak preview of Life During Wartime on Wednesday October 28th at 7:30 pm.

Tony Manero

Tony Manero is not a name often associated with Chile’s dark days under Pinochet’s regime. For those unacquainted with the 1971 film Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero is the charismatic character John Travolta plays. Naturally the question to consequently follow is how exactly do the dots of Saturday Night Fever and Pinochet connect? In a […]

tonymanero

Tony Manero is not a name often associated with Chile’s dark days under Pinochet’s regime. For those unacquainted with the 1971 film Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero is the charismatic character John Travolta plays.

Naturally the question to consequently follow is how exactly do the dots of Saturday Night Fever and Pinochet connect? In a simple response, through Pablo Larrain’s latest feature Tony Manero. But in actuality, the answer is not that easy.

Derived by both Larrain and actor Alfredo Castro, Tony Manero makes political and social commentary on Chile (and the United States, simultaneously). Released in 1978 in Chile, Saturday Night Fever came about in one of the bleakest and most miserable times during General Augusto Pinochet’s rule. Director Pablo Larrain and actor Alfredo Castro shared the role of writer, and as the film shows, were able to develop a story that not only exists in allegorical, but also in literal terms.

On the surface, it seems that the film is merely about a social outsider who is unable to break his obsession with Saturday Night Fever and consequently the American Dream. Because of his deep commitment to the film, he finds himself in a routine of watching it in the local theatre repeatedly, auditioning for Chile’s version of Saturday Night Fever, and eventually embodying a dark mutilated version of the character Tony Manero and perhaps Pinochet himself.

With the historical understanding of Chile and the time period, Tony Manero embodies the psychological process of living in a country that undergoes a deep cultural change, which defines how citizens act and relate to the world.

The film has garnered quite a bit of attention as of late. In a recent article from the Village Voice, J. Hoberman writes,

“Impassive but alert, Raúl not only internalizes Tony’s version of the American dream, but memorizes Tony’s lines for use in the four-actor version of Saturday Night Fever he’s staging, with an inexplicably adoring cult of losers, in a grungy Santiago cantina. Raúl’s obsession is complemented by a total disinterest in any human contact… Feasting on this bizarre fascist posturing, Larrain suggests that, with his sordid charisma, Raúl is a miniature Pinochet—reproducing the brutality of the state in his willingness to steal, exploit, betray, and kill in the service of a fantasy.”

Larry Rohter from the New York Times also did a piece on the film that is worth checking out.

As Pablo Larrain stated in an interview,

“I wanted to tell the little story of a man obsessed with what is foreign to him, who lives in a country going through the cultural process which defined our actual way of acting and relating to the world. A prowl on the process of a common man and what surrounds him; or as well, a fragment of something bigger that cannot be seen, because finally, the dance of Raul Peralta’s is, to me, the dance of all Latin-Americans. The dangerous air of underdevelopment and it’s delirious wild abandon that saw itself very much exposed and threatened during the seventies, in the middle of the military dictatorships that struck our region.” (Tony Manero Press Packet)

And that he does.

Tony Manero screens as a part of the Premieres: First Look Series in the Walker Cinema September 11, 7:30 pm, September 12, 4:00 pm, September 12, 7:30 pm, September 13, 3:00 pm. For more information, visit the Walker website.

Herb and Dorothy/ No Impact Man: Free Film/Video

Everyone loves free stuff, regardless of what the free thing is. In my humble opinion, free art, especially free film screenings, is even better. Film/Video has two events coming up, both of which are at no cost. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vma2T5luy08&feature=related[/youtube], The first takes place on September 15th as a part of the “A Think and a Drink” […]

Everyone loves free stuff, regardless of what the free thing is. In my humble opinion, free art, especially free film screenings, is even better. Film/Video has two events coming up, both of which are at no cost.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vma2T5luy08&feature=related[/youtube],

The first takes place on September 15th as a part of the “A Think and a Drink” member program with the screening of Herb and Dorothy, a documentary about the legendary art collecting couple the Vogels. Herb and Dorothy, he a retired postal worker and she a retired librarian, have built one of the most influential and extensive modern art collections to date. The documentary features a handful of artists the couple has collected from and consequently developed a relationship with over the years.

This event is free to Walker members.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9Ctt7FGFBo[/youtube]

Walker Film/Video is also pleased to announce, as a part of the Premieres: First Look series, the screening of No Impact Man on September 16th in the cinema. The documentary is based around author Colin Beaven’s (and consequently his wife and daughter) 2007 initiative to live a no-impact lifestyle. What started as perhaps a farfetched idea spiraled into a high-traffic blog, news stories, and documentary film, but ultimately the transformation from the Manhattanite lifestyle Beaven and his wife Michelle were accustomed to.

Co-Directors Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein followed Beaven’s family as they changed habits and adapted to their new lifestyle. The film and blog have created quite a stir, not only about the concept of living a no-impact lifestyle, but also around Colin Beaven’s motives (rumored as a gimmick for his new book). Regardless of your take on the issue,  it seems best to actually see the film and decide for yourself. Viewers have reacted across the spectrum, from being moved by the lifestyle concept, to not being sold on the Manhattanite’s motivation. And now it is your turn to see the film (for FREE!) and make your own mind up.

Co-Director (and native Minnesotan) Laura Gabbert, who has a lush history with Walker Film/Video (participating in Women with Vision and other programs) will be in attendance for the screening along with a Q&A session following the film.

Check out the No Impact Man blog and/or book for more background on the project.

No Impact Man will be playing at the Landmark Cinema beginning October 2nd.

Reoccurring Images

Recently, seemingly obscure and/or random movies have been infiltrating my life. You see, I have no real problem with this, however, after having a film pop-up over three times within a period of one week, it begins to feel not-so-coincidental and instead just weird. Two weeks ago, I embarked on a cross-country trip to California […]

6a00e54ff1492b883401053702d4a4970c-800wiRecently, seemingly obscure and/or random movies have been infiltrating my life. You see, I have no real problem with this, however, after having a film pop-up over three times within a period of one week, it begins to feel not-so-coincidental and instead just weird.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on a cross-country trip to California via a ’99 red Chevy Cavalier. On day one, my copilot mentioned that she put Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on her laptop to watch. I laughed, found the movie fitting for our excursion, and recalled a random moment in history—when I was a freshman in college; a friend wrote a bogus grant that allowed access to the HUGE soccer dome on campus. There we projected Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on the inside of the dome and encouraged students to bring sleeping bags and lay on the Astroturf to watch the movie.

On day five of our trip (the first four were scenic-scapes of driving), we arrive in California. We take the BART to San Francisco and walk up one million hills. On the descent of the last hill, we land upon an old repertory theatre, whose marquee reads, “Tonight’s Movie: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Day six, I walk into a kitsch/vintage store and a wind-up Pee Wee doll hangs in the window.

Day Seven, the last day in California. Somewhere in Chinatown, a dusty bobble-head-sized Pee Wee guards the cash register in a tourist market.

I get home and forget about Pee Wee’s strange inclusion in our journey; how this movie and others have found a way of infusing themselves into my life. When I thought all was safe, Pee Wee turned up again, almost an entire week after arriving home. Upon making an alteration appointment for a bridesmaids dress, I asked the man at the shop where exactly they were located. He gave me the precise location, and added that there is a different tailor next door and to make sure I go to the one with Pee Wee Herman in the window.

Now it had surpassed coincidence and chance.

What this made me realize is that the movies, as much as we may deny, are inescapable. Past and present films hold a prominent place in the collective conscious and unconscious, and have a tendancy to reveal themselves when the relevant time indicates. It seems that not a single day is able to go by without some mere mention or film reference. What will be next? Cool Hand Luke or reoccurring images of Paul Newman?

So my curiosity lingers, and wonders what the new film/image will be and how it will work itself into my life.

A Brief Encounter with Elia Kazan–A Look Back on the Director’s Files

In cleaning out the K files, I opened Elia Kazan’s folder. For those who are unfamiliar with Kazan, he was a film and theater director known especially for his works On the Waterfront, and  A Streetcar Named Desire. Kazan was nearly blacklisted as a Communist by the HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee) but instead […]

In cleaning out the K files, I opened Elia Kazan’s folder. For those who are unfamiliar with Kazan, he was a film and theater director known especially for his works On the Waterfront, and  A Streetcar Named Desire. Kazan was nearly blacklisted as a Communist by the HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee) but instead turned in eight friends to save his name. In 1999 he was granted an Honorary Academy Award, the Life Time Achievement Award, in 1999 which caused a stir among actors and directors–both current and  those once-blacklisted.

I assumed that either nothing would be in the file or that what did remain would be newspaper clippings and photocopied articles. Don’t get me wrong, these things were in here, too. But what I found was a short correspondence between the Walker and Kazan. The request was to have him in attendance for a potential Regis Dialogue. His response, although not rude, was short and to the point. Something to the effect of, “No, ask me again when I am eighty. And too, flattery is bad for the soul.” I could not help but smile at the pointed rejection, at his dry touch of humor.

Needless to say, Kazan did not take part in a dialogue and passed away in 2003 at the age of 94. In the file, no later correspondence exists nor did he ever come for a dialogue–perhaps nobody contacted him when he was eighty, as he suggested.

The Heartbreaking End to an Obsessive Compulsive Journey and/or The Delirious Findings of the Director’s Files

The Film/Video director’s files. Where to begin? Perhaps in starting, it would be appropriate to explain just what exactly these elusive files are. The director’s files consist of nine large and four small drawers in the office that house hundreds of manila folders. There is one folder (in some cases multiple) for each director with […]

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The Film/Video director’s files. Where to begin? Perhaps in starting, it would be appropriate to explain just what exactly these elusive files are. The director’s files consist of nine large and four small drawers in the office that house hundreds of manila folders. There is one folder (in some cases multiple) for each director with whom the Walker has been in contact or has had any relation with. So, since the beginning of the files (which I assume was in the 70’s), oodles of newspaper clippings, letters, and other seemingly pertinent items have been placed in the files. Also since the beginning, a plethora of, well, junk (like copies of copies of articles, “while you were out” slips for past curators, etc.) has been added.

Over the course of the past five months, I have worked on unearthing the contents of these drawers. To be fair, they have been worked on for nearly three years, but I as an individual have only been with them for nearly half a year. In the beginning, it was arduous, even dreadful. Imagine having nine large, mostly unorganized drawers housing dusty, potentially very important or very meaningless content staring you in the face every day. Initially, I thought of the task of cleaning out the files as busy work, as something nobody else wanted to do, therefore intended to keep the intern occupied, while cleaning out the beast that no one else had the time to touch. But luckily, I was wrong. I was terribly, terribly, wrong.

img_8076My assignment for the content itself was quite simple-discard any print outs from the New York Times, IMDB, or any other document that is easily accessible online, put aside any direct contact, photo or correspondence with the director to be archived, and keep anything else in the folder. I then replaced the bent manila folders with shiny new ones, labeled them, and maintained/restored the alphabetical integrity.

 

Last week, after having graduated, I had a new burst of life. It was weird, really, because I assumed that graduation, just like birthdays, would do nothing for me-I wouldn’t feel older or smarter, but would simply keep on keepin’ on with my usual life-but that wasn’t the case. I was extremely motivated to accomplish something, anything (as if a diploma wasn’t object enough) and set my sights on the director’s files. I figured that since they had been worked on for three years with little progress, I was going to be the one to plow through and put my organizational competency (and/or slight OCD) to good work.

What I found was a new yet old aesthetic. I found pieces of history-letters typed on thin onion-skin like paper, photographs, and postcards-from some of the greats such as Maya Deren, Elia Kazan, and Bruce Conner. It really was quite beautiful sorting through these documents, these passing notes of history that still remain. There was something very meditative and methodical about cleaning the drawers, and something that verged on the edge of sad. In handling these carefully crafted artifacts, I realized that the art of the letter is nearly gone. Almost every transmission between the artist and the Walker up until the 1990’s was via letter or postcard. An air exists around these letters of thoughtfulness and sincerity that seems lost in the era of e-mail and constant communication.

It took me just over a week at full throttle to complete the files after chiseling away at them for some time, and strangely enough became saddened as I finished the last drawer. It felt like the end of an era as I put the last folder away, felt as though I just sorted through the last of the sincere. But as I ended my romanticized soiree not only with the files but with history, I realized that because these documents exist here, they not only serve as an aesthetic art form in themselves, but are true artifacts of the past and what is yet to come in the future.

So what I leave you with is a few things. One, think about extending yourself past an e-mail and writing a letter, whether small like a postcard or grandiose like a diligently crafted letter composed on an old typewriter. And two, since I did not know how long the director’s files would take me, I decided to extend a similar unknown to this blog by creating a series of posts (whose length is currently undetermined) that will document in pictures and vivid recollections a few specific encounters I had with the director’s files.

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