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“One Big Birthday Present”: Judith Guest on Robert Redford’s Adaptation of Ordinary People

On November 2, 2016, writer Judith Guest introduces the Walker Art Center’s screening of Ordinary People, the Robert Redford–directed film based on her 1976 novel. In 1976, before my novel, Ordinary People, was published, I got a letter from Robert Redford telling me that he’d received my manuscript from his reader in New York City and […]

Ordinary People (1980) Directed by Robert Redford Shown: Timothy Hutton (as Conrad Jarrett), Mary Tyler Moore (as Beth Jarrett)

Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People. Photo courtesty Universal Pictures/Photofest

On November 2, 2016, writer Judith Guest introduces the Walker Art Center’s screening of Ordinary People, the Robert Redford–directed film based on her 1976 novel.

In 1976, before my novel, Ordinary People, was published, I got a letter from Robert Redford telling me that he’d received my manuscript from his reader in New York City and wanted to let me know how much he’d enjoyed it. I was thrilled, but it didn’t occur to me that this meant he was interested in making it into a film, until my publisher called to say there had been three movie offers on it. “Two are from big studios, which means they might make it. Or they might just buy it to keep somebody else from making it. And the third offer is from Redford.”

“So, what do you need from me?” I asked. “We want you to tell us who to go with.” I thought for about 2-½ seconds about it, as you can imagine.

From then on, it was all one big birthday present. Redford would send me drafts of the screenplay (written by Alvin Sargent), with a note attached saying, “Judy, feel free to wail.” Once he called to run some names by me: “Tell me how you feel about these guys,” he said. I listened to the names of actors, some whom I loved, and some not so much. “Hey, this sort of feels like playing God,” I complained at one point. “Never mind that,” he said. “Just tell me if you like him or not.” Then I mentioned an actor I liked, and he said, “Nope, he’s got weird eyes.” And I saw how one’s acting job could hang by a thread that small.

He told me this was to be his directing debut. “Needless to say, I want the movie to be good,” he said. “And if it is, it should give your book a lot of shelf life.” Which, of course, it has. And for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

Redford sent his production manager to scout the Twin Cities as a set, but since the Minnesota Film Board had yet to be founded, there wasn’t much support for it, and they decided instead to film in Chicago. But Redford did come to Minneapolis to do some casting. He said that New York kids had too much angst and California kids didn’t have enough, and he wanted to cast the lead, Conrad, from the Midwest. While he was here, we went over the script together. I mentioned one scene that hadn’t worked for me, and he said, “Yeah, I don’t like it either. Don’t worry, it’s gone.” Another scene, where Conrad and his doctor hug during a therapy session, prompted me to say that, as much as I liked the idea of them having that moment together, I thought it would take away from the primary embrace at the end, between Conrad and his father. “No, no, this will work,” he assured me. And then proceeded to act out both scenes for my benefit. “Okay,” I said when he was finished. Who wouldn’t have? I had my own private screening with Redford starring, for heaven’s sake.

At one point I confided to him my many frustrations with the character of Beth, the mother. “I don’t see her as a villain,” I said. “But people seem to hate her. I have a lot of sympathy for her, and yet I wasn’t able to get that across. Some characters are like poems: you never finish them, you just abandon them in despair. “ He told me, “I see how you as the author might feel like that, but for me, and for the purposes of this movie, I think she works just fine.” So I quit worrying about her.

He never did cast Conrad in the Midwest; he used California actor Timothy Hutton in the role, but he did find Scott Doebler, a Twin Cities drama student, to play the role of Conrad’s brother, Buck. And I remember him telling me how much he loved Mary Tyler Moore as Beth, the mother: “You barely have to breathe at her, and she knows exactly what you want.”

Judith Guest and Robert Redford on the set of Ordinary People, Chicago, 1980. Photo courtesy the author

Judith Guest and Robert Redford on the set of Ordinary People, Chicago, 1980. Photo courtesy the author

I got to visit the set in Chicago twice, and I met all 80 people on the crew and found out what each one of them did on the movie. I also made a good friend, Jim Sikking, who played Calvin’s law partner in the film. He and his wife, Florine, are natives of California. We still exchange Christmas cards, and I see them whenever I am in LA. So for me, this experience was as good as it gets.

And the best part of it was the night of the Academy Awards. I should mention that they were postponed for a day, due to the fact that President Reagan was shot. Thus does life pre-empt art. On the following night my neighbors, Doug and his wife Linda, had a party. Doug set up three TVs and we all sat around them, making predictions while he taped the show. The movies Ordinary People was up against for best picture were Elephant Man, Tess, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Raging Bull. I loved them all and didn’t think OP had a prayer of winning. I can still see Redford sitting at one end of the row and Scorsese at the other—two guys who couldn’t appear more different from each other!

It was up for six Academy Awards and won four: best picture, best director, best screen adaptation, and best supporting actor. And every time it won an award, we’d all jump up and down and scream our heads off, and the phone would ring and it would be my dad calling from Detroit, saying, “D’you believe this??!!” After the party was over, and everyone had left, Doug turned to me: “Let’s watch it again!” We didn’t, though. At least, not that night…

Afterward I sent my mother a copy of the letter I had gotten from Redford, and she called to tell me she had copied and mailed it to several of her friends. “But, that’s all right, isn’t it?” she asked. “I mean, the letter belongs to you, right?”

“Well, no,” I said. “Legally a letter belongs to the person who writes it, not the person who receives it.”

My mom thought about this for a minute. “You mean if he found out, he could sue me?” And then her voice got all quivery and excited: “Oh, gosh, I hope he sues me!”

Ordinary People screens November 2 as part of Robert Redford: Independent/Visionary, a 25-film retrospective and dialogue. 

The Odds: Jeff Chang on Cultural Equity and #OscarsSoWhite

A month after Jeff Chang’s Who We Be: The Colorization of America (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) hit bookstores, the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, was announced. In the two years since that book—which looks at the “explosion of cultural expression that moved us forward toward mutual recognition amidst a cascade of regressive policies, laws, and […]

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Host Chris Rock speaks onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Chris Rock hosting the 88th Annual Academy Awards, February 28, 2016. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

A month after Jeff Chang’s Who We Be: The Colorization of America (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) hit bookstores, the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, was announced. In the two years since that book—which looks at the “explosion of cultural expression that moved us forward toward mutual recognition amidst a cascade of regressive policies, laws, and political maneuvers”—the notion that there ever was a “post-racial” moment has come to seem “naive, even desperately so,” Chang writes in his new book, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation (Picador, 2016). Through six essays, the author and journalist argues that despite our many celebrations of “diversity,” we’ve “slid back toward segregation”—in the political, policy, and entertainment spheres. Moving from the rise of Donald Trump to the emergence of the Movement for Black Lives, the changing suburbs to the equality-challenged spaces of Hollywood, We Gon’ Be Alright makes the case that, as Chang told the Washington Post earlier this month, “we don’t naturally fall into a situation that is equitable. Equality is something we have to fight for.”

Here, we share Chang’s chapter on race, Hollywood, and the recurring #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.

* * *

When the Academy Awards came around in the second year of #OscarsSoWhite, I decided I would support Spike and Jada’s boycott—my little twenty-first-century version of honoring the picket line, engaging by disengaging. But in this era of converging media, there is no escaping Big Cultural Events. When my friend Kai texted me, I could no longer ignore the damn thing. “Yikes,” she wrote. “Jose sparked a POC fight on Twitter about anti-Blackness.”

Jose was our friend Jose Antonio Vargas, the indefatigable undocumented Pinoy activist who at that moment was one of the main targets of a brilliant and viciously funny Black Twitter hashtag #NotYourMule.

As Chris Rock worked through his opening monologue, Jose had tweeted, “When will @chrisrock bring up Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, Native American actors and opportunity?” Others, it turned out, were wondering the same thing. Ming-Na Wen tweeted, “Chris Rock hasn’t once brought up other minorities who have worse odds at the #Oscars.” Black writer and activist Mikki Kendall replied, “Someone tell me not to do a #NotYourMule tag about the expectation that Black people take all the risk to advance representation in media.”1

Kendall had summoned Zora Neale Hurston— the patron saint of Black Twitter, the respectability-politics-exploding writer-fighter who knew her way around an incisive diss. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston’s character Nanny declares, “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” Kendall’s hashtag set the feeds flying—tweets about Black solidarity for POC, POC anti-Black racism, Peter Liang, it was all on the table. In its 2016 nominations, the Academy ignored what might be called the Black Lives renaissance—the broad, urgent work of Black actors, directors, and others who were telling some of the most important stories of our time. It was the second year in a row that April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag mobilized audience fury at the blatant omissions.

In response, Academy head Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first woman of color ever to hold the position, pushed her board to pass a plan “doubling the membership of women and diverse members of the Acad emy by 2020.”2 The actors’ branch alone was 88 percent white. Even the Academy’s language of change was awkward and out of touch, directed largely at convincing its “non-diverse” members. Here was another American institution, led by a Black woman, whose leadership and membership remained unrepresentative of and unresponsive to a constituency that had changed. The story sounded Clinton Sparks familiar.

In fact, it reminded Jose of a 2014 Hollywood Reporter cover essay written by Chris Rock, packaged under the headline IT’S A WHITE INDUSTRY. IT JUST IS. In it, Rock wrote personally and passionately about his efforts to create opportunities for other Black actors and artists in a closed studio system. Jose had been particularly struck by two paragraphs.

“But forget whether Hollywood is black enough,” Rock wrote. “A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough?” He continued:

You’re in L.A., you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist— not racist like “F— you, nigger” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. Th ere’s this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. . . .

You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now.3

emergingusstat

Source: #EmergingUS on Facebook

Jose had been so moved that he and his team produced a powerful video, “I, Too,” for his EmergingUS platform that they debuted the day of the Oscars. It seemed to have been inspired by Coca-Cola’s 2014 Super Bowl ad, “America the Beautiful.” But in his piece there was no cynical ploy to sell sugar water. Instead the video offered beautiful images of Latinos in Los Angeles—a parking lot flagger, a taquería food worker, a seamstress, a deliveryman, an elderly worker on a bus, a young mother and her child—all set to the sound of a man reciting in Spanish Langston Hughes’s famous poem “Yo también canto América.”

Jose later recalled, “When Rock started his monologue, I thought maybe he’d repeat a line or two from his essay.” So he tweeted his question. But as the night and the feeds rolled on, he realized that Kendall and others were likely reading something else into it—a misplaced anger about Rock’s omission, or, worse, an aggrandizing “what about me” ethnic solipsism, an expression of non-Black POC entitlement. As Kendall put it, “Solidarity doesn’t look like Black people taking the risks & every one else reaping the rewards.”4

If Twitter’s brevity does nuance no favors, its velocity can reveal complexity very quickly. When #OscarsSoWhite gave way to #NotYourMule, the discussion branched from the whiteness of Hollywood to the relative invisibility of different communities of color. But both hashtags also reminded non-Black people of color of the central role Black protest and creative expression has played in moving us all toward cultural equity. After all, “I, Too” had reappropriated Langston Hughes. For years, Black directors, producers, and writers had been the champions of opportunities for other non-whites. Jose knew all of this very well. By the next day, the conversation had moved beyond whiteness and invisibility to the stakes in the struggle for equity. It is the continuing strangeness and difficulty of race that all of these conversations have to happen at the same time.

But we must begin somewhere. So let us start with the whiteness of Hollywood. American popular culture, by its nature, trades on optimism. It wants spectacle with its trauma. It wants its laughs, its happy endings. This is the legacy of a national culture birthed in the twin narratives of cowboys-and-Indians and blackface minstrelsy.

It may also be true that we have entered into a new golden age of representation. Many of our biggest icons are people of color. Our pop landscape appears desegregated. Take television. For about a decade, from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, networks featured shows that centered on Black lives, from the groundbreaking Cosby Show to Living Single. But by the turn of the millennium, shows like Girlfriends and George Lopez were the exception. Cable picked up the slack, making stars of Dave Chappelle and Tyler Perry, and telling important stories on shows such as The Wire and The Shield. On the networks, characters of color had come to appear mostly in big ensemble shows, giving emergency rooms and criminal courts their verisimilitude of diversity. These were images of a “post-racial” America, mostly featuring middle-class people of color who were just like middle-class white people, except for the color of their skin.

In the first year of Obama’s presidency, ABC’s Modern Family reconstructed the suburban sitcom by augmenting the stock white nuclear family with an extended clan that featured a gay couple with an adopted Asian American child, and a patriarch with a gorgeous young Latina wife and child. In Hollywood elevator-pitch terms, it was Married with Children meets I Love Lucy and The Birdcage. But its surprise success made it possible for TV execs to gingerly step back toward shows with leads of color. For twenty years, Asians had not had a lead on television, but in 2016 Fresh Off the Boat, Quantico, and Dr. Ken were among ABC’s top shows. ABC was also home to Black-ish and Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. On Fox, Empire continued to crush the ratings. They were the big stories in a company town that loves to celebrate its successes.

So maybe it seems a bit rude, a bit vibe-killing to note that, despite all of this, Hollywood remains overwhelmingly white. But it does. In February 2016, when Channing Dungey, an African American woman, was named president of ABC Entertainment, she became the first person of color to head a major network. In 2014, less than 6 percent of executive producers and 14 percent of writers were of color.5 These numbers had barely changed in a decade. Hollywood may indeed be run by the most liberal whites in the country—some of them have written and acted and produced with the deepest of empathy. But they can never be a substitute for people who can tell their own stories best. That was the lesson of Black-ishFresh Off the Boat, and Empire’s breakthroughs, a lesson that needed to be relearned every twenty years or so. Millions wanted to see shows written, directed, and acted by people of color telling stories about themselves. Duh.

And yet the odds of a person of color breaking into the upper echelon of the culture, where the stories and songs and visions that we tell ourselves about ourselves—with all their values, meanings, and instructions for living—are gathered, made, and produced, and then marketed, sold, and pushed back to us, remain long indeed.

Culture, like food, is necessary to sustain us. It molds us and shapes our relations to each other. An inequitable culture is one in which people do not have the same power to create, access, or circulate their practices, works, ideas, and stories. It is one in which people cannot represent themselves equally. To say that American culture is inequitable is to say that it moves us away from seeing each other in our full humanity. It is to say that the culture does not point us toward a more just society.

ABC's Black-ish

ABC’s Black-ish. Courtesy Disney | ABC Television Group

Artists and activists have long demanded better representation for people of color, women, poor people, and rural people. They have asked: Who is represented in and through cultural production? How does their representation, underrepresentation, or misrepresentation undo or reproduce various forms of inequality? But cultural equity is not just about representation. It is also about access and power. How can important cultural knowledge survive? Who has access to the means of production of culture? Who has the power to shape culture?

By the end of the twentieth century most developed countries had established modern structures to support the production of culture. Funding for the arts came through four primary sectors: the state, the culture industry, philanthropy, and community.

Culture was an important tool to develop and project a national identity. Democratic countries such as Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, and Denmark funded the development of large cultural sectors through government ministries. But such state-sponsored cultural production did not necessarily imply the building of propaganda machines. That false narrative was a peculiar product of the Cold War and the culture wars.

In fact, before the Cold War, the United States led the world in building a robust, democratic cultural policy. The New Deal supported the art and the artists who created the enduring images, stories, and songs of the “American century.” Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothea Lange, Orson Welles, Charles White, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright were all beneficiaries. The artists exposed in equality in America. They forged a new national narrative that wielded values of inclusion and resilience against hardship and despair.

The culture industry reacted belatedly to this shift. Popular movies reflecting progressive values like It’s a Wonderful Life or On the Waterfront came long after the peak of the cultural front. At any rate, the Hollywood blacklist campaigns brought an end to this period of rich expression, illustrating how sensitive industry leaders were to the pressures of being labeled “red.” By itself, a culture industry concerned with a bottom line or political pressures would not lead toward equity.

As an answer to Soviet soft power, President Johnson established the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1965. The NEA played a key role in funding the growth of fledgling institutions that made up the arts uprisings of the 1970s and 1980s. At its peak, the NEA controlled the equivalent of half a billion 2015 dollars annually, and ecosystems of arts organizations from Appalachia to Los Angeles produced a generation of artists of color and women, queer, and avant-garde artists who would popularize multiculturalist ideas.6

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, right-wing moralists attacked these same artists and ecosystems by vowing to defund the NEA and NEH. By the mid-nineties, they had succeeded in forcing many arts organizations to close shop. Conservatives argued at the time that if an artist could not find someone to pay for their art, or fund it themselves, then maybe it did not deserve to be made. Consolidation of the culture industry followed. George Yudice has famously called this moment “the privatization of culture.”7

By the end of the 2000s, New Zealand, a country that is seventy times smaller than the United States, was appropriating $50 million more to its Ministry for Culture and Heritage than the United States was to the NEA. Between 2000 and 2010, state funding for the arts dropped by over a billion dollars.

Inequality in the American arts world now is more severe than even income inequality. Nationally, the top 20 percent of income earners receive 50 percent of the income. In the U.S. arts world, the top 2 percent of organizations garner 55 percent of philanthropic grants. Seventy-five percent of organizations serving underrepresented populations have budgets of under $250,000.8

Of every foundation dollar given in the United States, only eleven cents goes to the arts. Five and a half cents goes to arts organizations with budgets of more than five million dollars. One cent goes to arts organizations serving underrepresented communities. Less than half a cent goes to arts organizations that produce work related to social justice.9

For the last decade, many of the largest nonprofit arts institutions have been confronting the vexing question of “audience,” namely the steep declines in aging white patrons. Yet many of these same arts institutions seem to have little interest in questions of equity and instead seem to be positioning themselves to follow their narrowing audiences down into oblivion. It is too early to know if crowdfunding, the for-profit version of the age-old sweat-equity model so popular in the 1960s and 1970s, can be of service in the push for cultural equity. On the one hand, here is where cultural moves always start: with the enthusiasm of creation, in the spirit of beating the odds. But the odds remain what they are.

* * *

Viola Davis of How To Get AWay With Murder. Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group Follow Flicker, used under Creative Commons Todd Wawrychuk

Viola Davis of How to Get Away With Murder. Photo: Todd Wawrychuk for Disney | ABC Television Group, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

History reminds us that desegregation is not a destination; it is a constant struggle. It took until 2015 for the Emmys to honor a Black leading lady. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” said Viola Davis, the star of How to Get Away with Murder, upon winning her award. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” Spike Lee, who received a 2015 honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement before the nominations angered him into boycotting the February ceremonies, said in his acceptance speech, “It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio.”10

For decades, the problem was not even seen as a problem. Only in light of the justice movements and rising cultural activism have many of the art world’s and culture industry’s leaders tried to address the problem. One sign is the recent flood of reports documenting the extent of cultural inequity. Here’s a short list of their recent (re)discoveries:

• 87 percent of American museum leaders, curators, conservators, and educators are white. More than half of security and facilities workers are nonwhite.11
• Of the largest museums, theaters, and dance companies in the United States, none have annual budgets of less than $23 million. Of the twenty largest African American and Latino museums, theaters, and dance companies in the United States, only five have annual budgets of more than $5 million.12
• In a survey of over 1,000 New York City arts organizations, 69 percent of those polled agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel my organization is diverse.” Yet 78 percent of board members and 79 percent of leadership staff in these same organizations were white. The city is 33 percent white.13

And yet access and representation are only a part of the problem of cultural equity. Even if these issues are addressed, the question of power will remain. In a world that is no longer white, to borrow from James Baldwin, will the culture point us toward greater understanding and justice, or will it reproduce social inequities?

These questions had Jose Antonio Vargas disheartened the day after the Oscars. He worried that some might have mistaken his intentions. Two days later he posted an essay he had written entitled “Here’s What I’ve Learned About #NotYourMule.”14

First, he wrote that while “it would have been helpful,” he now felt Chris Rock was in no way obligated to speak for non-Blacks. Indeed, as the discussion had proceeded during the Oscars ceremony, Latinos and Asian Americans started their own hashtags to focus on underrepresentation. He concluded by saying that he did not believe that race was solely a “Black vs White” issue, but that he vowed to address anti-Black racism in his future work. He wrote, “. . . white people don’t always need to be at the center of the conversation.”

But there was more racial controversy lingering from the Oscars, in the form of tone-deaf jokes Sacha Baron Cohen and Chris Rock told at the expense of Asians. Rock had tried to inject some humor into a required segment about the accountants’ tabulation of the votes. “They sent us their most dedicated, accurate, and hardworking representatives. Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz,” he said, as three Asian American kids carrying briefcases walked onstage to laughter and not a few groans.

“If anybody’s upset about that joke,” Rock added, “just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”

Cohen’s joke was delivered—unscripted and unapproved by show producers—in character as British wigga Ali G. “ Here comes yet another token Black presenter,” he began. He went on to say, “How come there is no Oscar for them really hardworking tiny yellow people with no dongs? You know, Minions.”

As with Sarah Silverman’s skits circa 2003–04, Cohen’s “post- racial” humor turned on the shock value of saying racist things in a faux-clueless manner to an audience that knew they were racist jokes told by white liberals for white liberals. Audiences could indulge in the communal thrill of laughing at the stereotypes while staying safely above it all. Here again was why white Hollywood liberalism could never be a substitute for cultural equity.

Chris Rock understood this problem well. The power in his art, like Dave Chappelle’s and Patrice O’Neal’s, came from dancing on the line between white flattery and Black truth. There was one way in which Rock’s Asian joke might have been made subversive, become the kind of grace note that Jose had been seeking. It might have made the joke, worthy of Rock’s cutting intelligence, something funny and uncomfortable rather than merely awkward and denigrating. Rock might have told the joke as a retort to the model minority myth.

Rock might have spoken to Asian American in-betweenness, pushed the Oscar audience to see beyond the threat of curve-raising automaton “tiger children” into a community made up of both math whizzes and sweatshop laborers. But then again, at this moment in history in that auditorium, before a nearly all-white audience that appreciated Black performance but rewarded only itself, while Asian Americans remained unrepresented and African American solidarity under-reciprocated—maybe not. All things are not equal. Perhaps that kind of joke could have been told only in the context of a more equitable culture.

Throughout his career, the folklorist Alan Lomax argued for the importance of cultural equity. He said that arts produced by diverse groups of people are socially valuable because they offer us ideas, technologies, and values that help us figure out how to live together. The real benefit of a vital, equitable culture lies well beyond the money there is to be made. It offers us a sense of individual worth, bolsters our collective adaptability, and forms a foundation for social progress. In that sense, cultural diversity is just like biodiversity—at its best, it functions like a creative ecosystem. The final product of culture is not a commodity, it is society.

But we are far from that ideal. If cultural activism and justice movements can succeed in decentering whiteness and improving access and representation—and all the evidence suggests that the odds on that are still very long—we will still need to address the ways in which we see each other. Perhaps one day we may no longer need an #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. But we will still have to deal with the kinds of inequities that made #NotYourMule. What, then, will a culture of transformation look like?

Excerpted from We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, published in September 2016 by Picador USA. Copyright © 2016 by Jeff Chang/Picador USA. Published by arrangement with Picador USA. All rights reserved. For more from Chang, read a chapter from Who We Be: The Colorization of America or watch the 2007 Walker panel discussion related to his book Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop.

 

Cover of Chang's book, featuring art from Damon Davis's "All Hands on Deck" series

Cover of Chang’s book, featuring art from Damon Davis’s “All Hands on Deck” series

Notes

1 Marisa Kabas, “How Chris Rock’s Oscars monologue sparked the #NotYourMule protest,” Daily Dot, February 29, 2016.
2 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, “Academy Takes Historic Action To Increase Diversity,” January 22, 2016.
3 Chris Rock, “Chris Rock Pens Blistering Essay on Hollywood’s Race Problem: ‘It’s a White Industry,” The Hollywood Reporter, December 3, 2014.
4 Kabas, Daily Dot, ibid.
5 Writers Guild of America, West, “WGAW 2015 TV Staffing Brief,” March 2015.
6 Data is available at National Endowment for the Arts website. Figures were adjusted for inflation.
7 George Yudice, “The Privatization of Culture,” Social Text 59 (Summer 1999): 17–34. Also see: The Expediency of Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).
8 Holly Sidford, “Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy,” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, October 2011.
9 Sidford, ibid.
10 Kory Grow, “Spike Lee Blasts Acad emy’s Lack of Diversity in Oscar Speech,” RollingStone.com, November 16, 2015.
11 Roger Schonfeld, Mariët Westermann, with Liam Sweeney, “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey,” July 28, 2015.
12 Devos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, “Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present, and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies,” September 2015.
13 Roger C. Schonfeld and Liam Sweeney, “Diversity in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community,” New York City Department of Cultural Affairs report, January 28, 2016.
14 Jose Antonio Vargas, “Here’s what I’ve learned about #NotYourMule,” Medium.com, March 1, 2016.

“Unseeable” Cinema: Peter L. Galison and Robb Moss Discuss Containment

Peter L. Galison and Robb Moss have a nose for the contemporary world’s most difficult questions. Following their 2008 documentary Secrecy, which endeavored to shine a light into the obscure world of classified government secrets, Galison and Moss’s new film, Containment, about nuclear waste storage, may set itself an even more ambitious task. With a hundred million […]

Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s Containment, 2015. Photo courtesy filmmakers.

Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s Containment, 2015

Peter L. Galison and Robb Moss have a nose for the contemporary world’s most difficult questions. Following their 2008 documentary Secrecy, which endeavored to shine a light into the obscure world of classified government secrets, Galison and Moss’s new film, Containment, about nuclear waste storage, may set itself an even more ambitious task. With a hundred million gallons of radioactive waste remaining from the Cold War arms race, and more being generated every year, the unsolved problem of safely storing these materials will have ramifications that stretch tens—and even hundreds—of millennia into the future. Splitting time between nuclear production and storage sites in South Carolina and New Mexico, and the regions surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan (which suffered a meltdown in 2011), Containment explores the problems—both practical and ethical—presented by the storage of hazardous waste. Approaching the topic from scientific, political, and civilian perspectives, Containment couples expert analysis with on-the-ground footage from the world’s nuclear hot spots to show both the gargantuan logistical challenges and moral urgency of this difficult issue.

Galison and Moss spoke with Crosscuts about collaborative filmmaking, “crazed future historians,” and their shared love of conceptual self-sabotage. Containment screens in the Walker Cinema on Thursday, March 17, as part of the Cinema of Urgency series.

What can you tell us about Containment’s inception? What originally drew you to this story?

Peter L. Galison: Robb and I had been collaborating for a decade—first, in teaching a course, bringing student filmmakers into scientific laboratories to think about the way the real work of technology, medicine, and science could be put on film. Then, finishing in 2008, we co-directed Secrecy, a feature documentary about the the moral, political, and technological controversies surrounding national security secrecy. Containment grew first out of work I was doing (in print) on the strange new lands that are at once our wild, biodiverse landscapes, and at the same time some of our most radiologically contaminated. I was utterly taken aback by the Department of Energy’s drive to mark one of these sites to warn the future against digging—for a period of 10,000 years. Robb and I began our discussions around this extraordinary, tragic, imaginative project.

Robb Moss: For me, the sheer fun of teaching with Peter led me to want to make a film with him, and we made Secrecy. Secrecy, of course, is a terrible idea for a film; there is almost nothing to see, and no one wants to talk to you. Filmmakers often start with a visual idea, something you can point the camera at, but in Secrecy there was almost no in-the-world material for the camera to see. As a way of imagining this secret world, we thought we might want to include animation into the mix and began working with the wonderful animator, Ruth Lingford. Secrecy premiered at Sundance early in 2008 and showed at the Walker later that year. We returned to use animation in a more extensive way in Containment.

Containment splits its focus between the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, and the area surrounding the former Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. What led you to choose these three locations?

Galison: We began with our focus squarely on the WIPP site. It was the only open, licensed, deep underground nuclear repository, and it was for that burial ground that the far-future markers had been designed. Then we thought the story really had to take into account the source of this waste: the detritus of nuclear weapons production that had taken place over decades at places like the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Japan’s triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, meltdowns—hit in March 2011, while we were already filming. Soon after that, we realized we had to confront the massive loss of nuclear containment that ensued, but it took two years or so before we were in a position to travel to Fukushima. But then we saw a way to finish the film around these three sites: the production of nuclear materials, the burial of this waste, and the catastrophic release, in the Japanese accident, of materials that left waste strewn over the land.

Moss: It was incredibly difficult to gain access to these three sites, but it was extraordinary to be at each of them. Being underground at WIPP was both beautiful and chilling: underground tunnels filled with miners excavating caverns in the salt (the location of the WIPP site was chosen because the salt was still intact—and therefore perhaps stable—after having been deposited some 250 million years ago). We filmed huge barrels of nuclear waste as they were emplaced in these caverns. Utterly sci-fi. At SRS, we walked over huge mounds of underground containers, called tank farms, consisting of 51 one-million gallon tanks filled with 39 million gallons of nuclear waste.

Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s Containment, 2015. Photo courtesy filmmakers.

Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s Containment, 2015

In addition to policymakers and experts in various nuclear fields, the film is peppered with interview subjects who bring more of a layperson’s sensibility to the topics at hand. How did you go about finding voices in the communities affected by these issues? What kinds of stories were you looking for?

Galison: From early on we wanted the film to get at the lives people lived around the waste. We wanted to know not only what the waste was and how it was managed, but also what life was like for someone who lived and worked with these materials on his or her mind. We talked and wandered with preachers and miners, cattlemen and politicians, housewives and scientists. We were less interested in polemics for or against nuclear power and more focused on people who lived and worked in and around these sites.

Moss: In particular, we were interested in the experiences of those who had lived around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants before the radioactive releases. Watching them move about in their former, now radioactive homes, was both sad and unnerving.

You come from very different backgrounds academically—Peter, as an expert on the history of science, and Robb, with more experience as a filmmaker. Describe the collaborative process on this project. Did you find yourselves occupying distinctive roles, or was there quite a bit of overlap?

Galison: From the very beginning of our collaboration, we have worked to avoid separating roles. We both think about the big ideas of the film, we both get into the details of transitions, silences, music, animation, archives. We are both in the field at every shoot. Essential, truly essential, to the whole of our work is a third member of our team: our editor Chyld King. Many hours each week—over the many years of these two films (Secrecy and Containment)—we have shared an edit room: experimenting with different cuts, looking for ways to elicit the particularity of characters and places. It is one of the great privileges of my life that I’ve been able to work with Robb and Chyld over these last years.

You’ve talked about how on both Containment and Secrecy you set out to, in a sense, film the “unfilmable”—classified information in Secrecy and both invisible radioactive contamination and an unknowable future in Containment. What have these projects taught you about representing intangibles on film?

Galison: We have worked so hard to bring the invisible into visibility because we are convinced that unseeable abstractions are easy to let slide. If secrecy is unimaginable, if nuclear waste is so utterly out of our perceptual range, they vanish from our national awareness. This aim has brought us to unexpected places in our filmmaking: to deepening use of animation and graphic novel sequences, for example; to the use of artworks integrated into film; to back and forth between observational, site-specific filming with soundstage recording of interviews. I should say we both hugely enjoy the challenge of finding ways to put the imperceptible onto the screen.

Moss: In both films we dug ourselves into very deep conceptual holes that we had to dig our way out of. This meant years of trial and error as we found our way through the material. This is both the fun and agony of filmmaking.

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Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s Containment, 2015

Do you each have a favorite futurist scenario from your research into the WIPP site long-term nuclear waste warning plans? Some of them get pretty zany.

Galison: The scenarios sure did get zany—the futurists themselves were so astounded by the difficulty of their 10,000-year task that they slid into the absurd. One particular scenario that didn’t make it into the film in any detail involved a cult called “the Markuhnians” (a cross between Herbert Marcuse and Thomas S. Kuhn). The idea that crazed future historians of science—ignoring absolute scientific truth and hunting for lost mystic scrolls—might be responsible for the catastrophic release of nuclear materials particularly warmed my historian of science soul.

Moss: I am still partial to the Nickey Nuke scenario: a nuclear waste theme park that has families coming to see Nickey Nuke for 10,000 years, one that through endless fun, continuously transmits the warning not to dig into the waste. Amazing.

Ultimately, your film seems to raise a lot more questions than it answers. How optimistic are you about our future as it relates to the containment of nuclear waste? What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?

Moss: In some ways our film functions like the warning markers that we discuss in the film, and will probably fail for similar reasons. Perhaps we can raise some awareness of these issues in the present, and perhaps that is all we can do.

Galison: Is there hope? In a way I think the film, even the long-shot hope that we can warn the far-distant future, is an act of extraordinary hopefulness. True, to paraphrase Immanuel Kant, there are some tasks that are both necessary and impossible. Try to speak to a time nearly twice as far from us [in the future] as Stonehenge is in the past? How remarkable. We—who can barely plan beyond a fiscal quarter or a two-, four-, or six-year election cycle—trying for once to think about our planet in the long run. Do I think this or that particular scheme is a surefire method? Of course not. But pressured to think beyond the tiny radius of our individual lives, we might just create a precedent for caring about the planet that will mean something for those who follow.

Corporeality and the Prosthetic Being: Christophe Wall-Romana on the Cinema of Jean Epstein

Jean Epstein (1897–1953) helped to rein in a new era of filmmaking in the 1920s. Breaking from the typical theatrical narrative arc, Epstein introduced new filmic techniques and concepts such as photogenie that employ time and movement in an effort to disturb the viewer. Professor Christophe Wall-Romana, from the Department of French and Italian at the University of […]

Jean Epstein’s Finis Terrae, 1928 Photo courtesy Anthology Film Archive

Jean Epstein’s Finis Terrae, 1928. Photo courtesy Anthology Film Archive

Jean Epstein (1897–1953) helped to rein in a new era of filmmaking in the 1920s. Breaking from the typical theatrical narrative arc, Epstein introduced new filmic techniques and concepts such as photogenie that employ time and movement in an effort to disturb the viewer. Professor Christophe Wall-Romana, from the Department of French and Italian at the University of Minnesota, suggests that Epstein’s cinema is a corporeal cinema: one that is felt physically in the spectator’s body. “Epstein is very interested in the cinema as a kind of robot,” Wall-Romana states, “a kind of prosthetic being, and that kind of view seems very close to digital ways of thinking about virtual reality and alternate realities, SIMS, and whatnot.”

Photogenie originates from the “prosthetic” nature of the camera: it is an “artificial eye” that can perceive what ours cannot. Epstein’s interest in the perceptual mechanics of the camera is also connected to filmic time: its ability, as Epstein describes it, to “free us of terrestrial–that is, solar–time, from whose rhythm, it seemed, nothing would ever dislodge us. We feel introduced to a new universe, to another continuum…”.Epstein’s cinema disrupts our understanding of the world, making us see anew, and reminds us of our corporeality.

During an interview with Wall-Romana, guest speaker at several of the screenings in our Jean Epstein: Intelligence of Cinema series and author of Jean Epstein (Manchester, 2012), we discussed Epstein’s approach to filmmaking and his relevance today.

What are Jean Epstein’s greatest contributions to filmmaking and film studies? What is his relevance today?

He was a key member of what is called the first French avant-garde from the early ’20s that came right after World War I, and it contrasts with the second avant-garde which is Dada, Surrealists, and later Cubists and geometric filmmaking. What characterizes the group that he belongs to with directors like Abel Gance, Jacques Feyder, Marcel L’Herbier, and Germaine Dulac is that they’re committed to narration, as opposed to the Surrealists and Dadaists, who love to chop any narrative expectation to shock the viewer. Since Epstein and these directors are still working within the structures of commercial filmmaking, they have to work obliquely and sort of smuggle avant-garde techniques within an overall narrative structure.

As for the relevance of Epstein and his friends to the history of cinema, it’s probably technical innovations and their main idea that cinema is about rhythm and music: seeing the unfolding of the film through the narrative as a certain form of rhythmic perception or metaphoric music. Some of the directors composed sequences by timing shots in a musical way. They used a lot of super-impressions, composite shots, close-ups, and odd angles and compositions, and Epstein was the leader of that group. They expanded the technical register of cinema. That is one of the main ways of thinking about his work.

Another way to think about Epstein’s filmmaking, and that’s more my own approach, is that it’s corporeal cinema: it’s about the body, the body of the perceiver—the spectator, but also the body of the director, and the body of the actors. It’s really about communication between bodies. A lot of cinema before that was literary cinema, adapting stories, adapting novels, being subaltern to literature. He sort of flipped that around and said, “No, the thing about cinema is that it’s about the world and about bodies and the machine in the middle.” That’s what cinema is about. So he changed the whole framework of how to think about cinema. He influenced very contemporary thinkers, like Gilles Deleuze and Jacque Rancière—one of Rancière’s main writings on cinema is an argument against Epstein in some ways, but with Epstein in other ways. Godard, even though he ignored Epstein, later recognized that Epstein had a strong influence. So he finds his way throughout the history of cinema as well. Even Hitchcock said that his idea of suspense had been developed seeing some of Epstein’s movies, even though it’s a very different version, the idea of time and temporality being sort of suspended, and you don’t know exactly why. He thought, “Hmm, I could use that as a sort of purely filmic device.”

What is Epstein’s concept of photogenie, and where is it at work in his films?

Photogenie is a very difficult concept. One way it was characterized in early film history, that is in the ’60s and ’70s, was that it was a kind of naïve belief in the magical power of the camera to disclose something that could not be seen otherwise. So it was a kind of animism or magical thinking, but I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I think for Epstein, photogenie is a certain way of communicating directly with the real, not in a magical way but in a concrete way. For example, he has shots that show a progressive close-up of a telephone. The telephone, which at the beginning is a purely narrative instrument, by the time you have the slow shots that close into and narrow around the phone, it becomes a strange object that has a personality. That’s one way that Epstein defines photogenie, as something that teases out the personality of objects and things in the world. So it’s a form of animism, yes, but it’s a way of rethinking things we take for granted, making them enigmatic again, and showing that we live in a world of affects, human and otherwise, not an inanimate world. So photogenie really means that cinema animates the world, literally.

How does photogenie affect the viewer’s experience of Epstein’s work?

Photogenie is a moment that is at a tangent from both the flow of the film and the narrative arc. Photogenie takes you out of the ease of flowing with the film, out of your expectation of what is going to happen because of the plot. Photogenie stops you and takes you to the side and says “look at this.” You don’t exactly know why, and the shots are made to suck you into a series of images that you cannot quite understand, so it’s a very disruptive device. I think what it makes the viewer do is really step out of the comfort zone of being taken on a journey, as people say, and to ask, “Why am I seeing this? What am I feeling?” Photogenie makes you feel something in your body, which is not necessarily comfortable. For example The Fall of the House of Usher is a very uncomfortable film to watch because it’s a lot of very slow movements—not just slow motion, but slow movements in addition to slow motion—of the protagonist, and you almost feel like, “Uh, why is it so slow, what is going on?” I tell my students always to feel the film in your body, as opposed to just forgetting your body, which is what Hollywood cinema makes you do, to forget who you are and suddenly the film is over and it’s like, “Oh, my God.” You never forget your body, you never forget that you’re embodied watching a film of Epstein’s, and that’s a big dimension of photogenie.

Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher, 1928 Photo courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Jean Epstein’s La Chute de la maison Usher, 1928. Photo courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Where does Epstein fit within historical film theory? Do you see a resurgence of classical (pre-psychoanalytic/semiotic) film theory?

There’s a huge interest because we’ve gone through the movements of the film as text, the film as a conscious structure or collective unconscious, the film as revealing the way a society structures how we think. And now we’re going back to earlier filmmakers, and Epstein is one of them, but also people like Guy-Blaché, Balacs, Vertov, and Eisenstein, who are all part of this larger movement. It was a cinema that didn’t hesitate to tackle the world. It asked, “What is the world, how do we view it?” I think some of the concerns of film theory have felt very provincial, or very small, and there’s a certain thirst for cinema that can tell us, “What is the cosmos?” Epstein is very interested in the cinema as a kind of robot, a kind of prosthetic being, and that kind of view seems very close to digital ways of thinking about virtual reality and alternate realities, SIMS, and whatnot. I think for these guys this would have been a great way of thinking. The digital and the post-digital in some way connect to earlier film theory, whereas critical movements from the ’60s to the ’00s were involved mostly in social critique. You have to be careful because some of the critiques that have been made against earlier film theory were that it was apolitical, and that precisely semiotics, feminist readings, and Marxists readings have brought in a politics that wasn’t there before. I think that is a very bad and weak reading of those films. They are fantastically political; they are political in a different way. So Eisenstein is taken to be the first one to make a deeply political film, but I think Epstein and his friends made a lot of political work, but in a very different mode. For example, Finis Terrae, I think is an amazingly political film because it’s a film made by a collective: the filmmaker, a small crew, and a village of people who are supposed to be politically very conservative. The Britons, they’re deep Catholics, they historically hated the left. But Epstein wanted to break those ideas and work directly with people on what their life experience is, and they welcomed him. What’s more political than that?

So there’s new views on seeing the politics of early film theory, which makes it more interesting and again it resonates more with our period. Being political is no longer about big pronouncements or the revolution: it’s more about going somewhere and doing something with and for people who are otherwise disconnected, poor, underrepresented, etc. Also, Epstein was gay, briefly out of the closet and back in again in the early ’20s, and I think his cinema is political in the way he critiques heterosexual melodramas. It was very hard to weave in openly queer topics in cinema at the time because of censorship, but he managed to do that, using equivocations and concealment. For example, in Finis Terrae, it’s about two boys who are passionate friends: a queer eye would read through that, but the film has one of them meet his girlfriend at the end, so appearances are saved! Same in Double Love, where gambling is a cypher for homosexuality. In The Three-Sided Mirror, the story is about a man who’s supposedly in love with three women, but in fact he loves only his automobile and kills himself with it. We can’t really say Epstein was a queer activist, but in a way I think that’s exactly what he did.

How did you become interested in Epstein’s cinematic philosophy and film work?

It was purely by chance. I was working on a dissertation on poetry and philosophy, and I was not very happy with the way it was going. Also I was working on Georges Bataille, and there was a lot of work being done on him at the time. Then I just found this book in the library at Berkeley and it hadn’t been checked out for thirty years, and I thought this book is extraordinary (Today’s Poetry: A New Mindset, from 1921). I looked around and there was nothing written, zilch, on this book! I thought this is really weird and I started to look more into—and I didn’t know he was a filmmaker at the time—so I discovered him as a writer, then discovered his film work, which was very hard to get. There were only two films of his that were available, one VHS and DVD, this was in the early 2000s. So I went to the Cinemathèque Française in Paris and looked at all of his movies and thought, “This is incredible.” Little by little I wondered why he has been bypassed by all of film history. There are a number of reasons for that, and I thought that was worth thinking about. For instance he was half Jewish and gay, two strikes in the interwar period in France! In fact, I discovered he way gay when I was working in the archive in Paris, and I stumbled upon his unpublished manuscript on male homosexuality. That was another motivation for me, even though I wasn’t working in queer studies: to get his work and thinking out, show how he circumvented censorship. And I love his films, and I love his writing! He’s such a fresh, genuine, sometimes angry—but in a good way!—kind of guy, and he’s very idiosyncratic. He just builds stuff, he’s not at all a scholar, he’s not at all a film historian, he was a just a kind of crafter and maker of ideas and of artworks.

What remains the terra incognita of Epsteinian research?

It’s nice you use terra incognita on the day when Finis Terrae will be playing, so the end of the world versus the unknown lands. I went to a conference in Rennes a couple of years ago in Brittany on Epstein, and there were four or five PhD students working on Epstein. They were working on very specific things within his work, so now it’s becoming a field of study. Someone was looking at his conferences, his published conferences, and was trying to read the same scientific texts that he read for those conferences, to understand better his background. So there are a lot of micro studies coming out on Epstein, but I think the terra incognita is still his films, which for a filmmaker is a horrible thing to say! Some of them have just recently come out but he has about forty-five films and only about eighteen are available. So I think until there is a collected film edition of Epstein that is available so people can view his films, and discover them, and be blown by how contemporary he is in some ways, I think he will remain marginalized. His writings are now coming out in French, and I translated the first book of his into English (The Intelligence of a Machine, Univocal) so critically he’s becoming more studied, but he is still not shown enough compared to other films of the silent era. Although the silent era itself is sinking fast, but that’s another issue! The silent era is becoming itself a huge terra incognita in some ways even though many contemporary filmmakers who are doing interesting things are harkening back to silent cinema. People like Guy Maddin or Soderbergh, they know their silent cinema very well and exploit it as something that nobody has contact with anymore. So I’m really glad to see that the Walker is trying to change that, and show silent films as what they were: a different kind of cinema!

Footnote

1 Qtd in Remes, Justin. Motion[less] Pictures: The Cinema of Stasis. ed. John Belton (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 81–82.

 

Smuggling Perspectives, Morocco’s Mule Ladies

On Monday’s front page of The New York Times is a still from video journalist Almudena Toral’s Morocco’s Mule Ladies. The film, just shy of six minutes long (which you can watch on the Times website), documents the way women in Morocco make their living smuggling Spanish goods from Melilla. This comes only four days […]

Still from Yto Barrada’s The Smuggler (2006)

On Monday’s front page of The New York Times is a still from video journalist Almudena Toral’s Morocco’s Mule Ladies. The film, just shy of six minutes long (which you can watch on the Times website), documents the way women in Morocco make their living smuggling Spanish goods from Melilla. This comes only four days after Yto Barrada’s visit to the Walker, during which she screened her short silent film called The Smuggler (2006) as part of the Expanding the Frame series. The film shows one of these “mule ladies” demonstrating how she belts on blankets and fabrics to her person. Under the circumstances, The Smuggler becomes a peculiar case study for Morocco’s Mule Ladies.

In Barrada’s film, the woman speaks casually to the camera standing before a black backdrop – shot inside the Cinema Rif during its renovation. Layered on a chair beside her are blankets which she comically fastens to her body. Her granddaughter appears on screen twice to help, smiling at the camera as her grandmother bounces up and down, trying to jostle the load into place. In eleven minutes she dons and removes the blankets.

Striking a deep contrast to Barrada’s film is Toral’s Mule Ladies, which not only documents what it’s like to be at the border crossing between Morocco and Melilla, but how the atmosphere there has become violent in recent months. There are people running, screaming, and even bleeding on camera.

Eight years separate the making of these films, and it’s obvious that the conditions of smuggling jobs have worsened in that time, but the disparity between these two elucidations is still baffling. Seeing these films side by side leads one to question the polar reactions they incite. Despite their differences though, the films do share in common — notwithstanding degrees of manipulation — a desire to show truth.

At first glance, Barrada’s film seems to have been intended as an objective observation of a woman and her life, but by dodging every shred of environment from the image, Barrada makes a comedy of her protagonist’s story. Meanwhile, with precise editing, an emotional score and journalistic shots from the hip, Toral manages to make a compellingly sympathetic case for women whose smuggling has become a primary means of survival. In the end, it’s their means of manipulation that subvert their meaning.

Yet, there is some beauty in how, rather than contradicting each other, these two films can suppose emotionally-opposite examples of a total experience — of a lifestyle and its people.

Home & Misrepresentation: Polar Vortexes and Palm Trees

As natives of the Upper Midwest, we find ourselves frequently subject to stereotypes in media. Actors portray us in film, theater, radio, and television by exaggerating our accent and donning outfits that almost exclusively consist of fur hats, flannel shirts, and knee-high winter boots. Fortunately we’ve learned to laugh along and occasionally accept that these […]

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As natives of the Upper Midwest, we find ourselves frequently subject to stereotypes in media. Actors portray us in film, theater, radio, and television by exaggerating our accent and donning outfits that almost exclusively consist of fur hats, flannel shirts, and knee-high winter boots. Fortunately we’ve learned to laugh along and occasionally accept that these depictions aren’t actually that far from the truth. But, there is a recurring misrepresentation of the Midwest itself in mainstream movies that we seem to continually overlook. This is apparent in films like the Coen brothers’ Fargo (1996), Donald Petrie’s Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Craig Gillespie’s Lars and the Real Girl (2007).

For instance, in the opening credits of Fargo (1996) we open up to a blank white landscape. A car appears from nowhere over a long period of time. It tows another car equal in size behind it as if to say, in winter, one must carry the weight of two.

Incidentally, we soon learn that one of the main characters, Marge Gunderson (played by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand), is pregnant. When we first encounter her, she is investigating a crime scene on the side of what may or may not be the same road from before. This time she and her partner meet and casually discuss the details of a triple homicide. At one point Marge asks her partner, “Where is everybody?” He responds, “Well, it’s cold Margie.”

Petrie’s  Grumpy Old Men is much goofier, featuring comical slapstick behavior with music to match. All in all, however, this film reflects the same damp and idle lifestyle as Fargo. In this scene, two grown men get in a fight out on a frozen lake and are egged on by fellow ice-fishermen. The fight only ends when an even older man, a former teacher, scolds them for their quarreling. They are children — malformed men.

Finally, in this clip from Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Lars (played by Ryan Gosling) viciously throws a rose off screen when faced with the opportunity to give it to a cute new girl in town. Notice that while winter hasn’t quite set in, the trees in the background are bare. All that remains of nature are the people within the scene, their heads down, bodies hidden under layers of polyester. Even when Lars finds himself holding a freshly cut rose, he tosses it off screen, as if protesting life.

All these films take place in desolate landscapes, bereft of life, within which characters either flounder emotionally or, in the peculiar case of Fargo’s Marge Gunderson, they are unmoved, free of emotion, almost un-human. Rather than showing how the Upper Midwest is misrepresented in film, these scenes reveal how our home has been under-represented. Viewers of these films are only given a small fraction of our story.

The benefit of this under-representation is that the appeal of our home remains, at large, a secret. We remain a flyover region, the precious space over which coastal commuters can indulge in airborne libations and precious siestas. However, there is an artist at the Walker whose creative and curatorial work is deeply concerned with the misrepresentation of her home, an under-representation with much at stake, that is built upon romantic visions belonging more to Western colonization than simply dramatic entertainment.

Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada, is a film and visual art exhibition that will be on display in the Burnet Gallery until May 18. Visitors who explore the gallery and Barrada’s other works will find that the artist is very much concerned with the misrepresentation of Tangier. For example, her photograph Briques (2003/2011) —  which is not featured in the show — reveals a blunt and honest look at the haphazard beauty of scattered housing projects in Tangier. It is a photograph that wishes to tell the whole truth, a truth that escapes alluring and romantic vacation photos. It encompasses a bleak existence, while holding a childlike curiosity for the hills that roll off far into the distance. In contrast, her sculpture Palm Sign (2010), with its multicolored marquee light bulbs on an aluminum and steel palm-shaped sculpture, satires the exciting and exotic dream that palm trees have come to symbolize in advertisements and popular discourse around the world. Simultaneously, it addresses the palm tree as non-indigenous to North Africa, inherently a symbol of colonization. While these works are both beautiful and striking, they seem to begrudge the artist’s relationship to the place they represent.

As president of the Cinematheque de Tanger, a nonprofit organization based out of the Cinema Rif in Tangier, Barrada has also hosted thousands of screenings and promoted North African cinema worldwide. As part of the Walker exhibition, the upcoming film series A Riff on the Rif: In the Spirit of the Cinematheque Tangier is comprised of several films curated by Barrada. These stories are told in places like Tangier, Casablanca, and Algiers — cities that we in the United States only encounter on very rare, often brief cinematic occasions that are emblazoned with wildly exotic themes and Western obscurity. While audience members may expect to be immersed in unfamiliar territory, they will find instead that stories of the Rif are intimately threaded to somewhere deeper than setting or place. They are, in fact, irrevocably invested in what it means to belong to North Africa.

This is undoubtedly something Barrada hoped to achieve in this program. The Rif series is an important opportunity for viewers to experience a part of the world in ways they never have before, ways that are far more intimate and native. Characters of The Rif are genuinely of the worlds they live in, and many of their stories were born out of real experiences of the filmmakers. If you are the least bit concerned with misrepresentation, or would like to see North African cinema curated by a North African, this is your chance.

Headline Rewind: WikiLeaks and All the President’s Men

On weekends when the Walker Cinema is empty, Walker Staff will point you to other films pulled from a headline in the week’s news in a series called Headline Rewind. News Event: Pfc. Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks Appearing before a military judge yesterday for more than an hour, Pfc. Bradley Manning confessed to supplying a […]

On weekends when the Walker Cinema is empty, Walker Staff will point you to other films pulled from a headline in the week’s news in a series called Headline Rewind.

News Event: Pfc. Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks

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Appearing before a military judge yesterday for more than an hour, Pfc. Bradley Manning confessed to supplying a vast quantity of military and diplomatic files to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks. The former intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq alleged that he provided this suppressed information in order to make the public aware of the volatile secrets its government was keeping, as well as to spark an open debate about American foreign policy. According to Manning, he came to the conclusion that none of the materials he uploaded to WikiLeaks — which included videos of airstrikes resulting in civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, logs of military incident reports, information regarding detainees at Guantánamo Bay, and 250,000 cables sent by American diplomats internationally — could damage national security. Nonetheless, his ten guilty pleas could lead to 20 years in prison, and possibly more if military prosecutors decide to charge Manning with violating the United States’ Espionage Act.

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Private Manning’s testimony — especially his statement that “the world would be a better place if states would not make secret deals with each other” — has only added to his underground appeal among advocacy and whistleblower groups. The eternal debate regarding government secrets and its willful misleading of the American public (specifically the question of whether policymakers and politicians should suppress information in order to “protect” the country) has only intensified in the digital age, when anyone with Internet access can disseminate vital information to mass populations. This controversial question is manifested in the figure of Private Manning, who represents a courageous freedom fighter for some, and a potential threat to national security for others.

Film Recommendation: All the President’s Men

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The Orwellian tendency of governments to hide information from their constituents may be even more pertinent in an online age — a fact supported by the number of WikiLeaks documentaries in various states of distribution — but the question has been relevant (and insurmountable) practically since the days of Nero. One of the finest films to deal with the hegemonic suppression of information, as well as the enterprising quest by journalists and activists to uncover these secrets, is Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 film All the President’s Men. Released less than a year after the fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War — a time when the barbaric crimes committed by the U.S. government and military were beginning to come to light, and when American action-thrillers were at their bleakest and most outraged (see also Pakula’s 1974 The Parallax View and Sydney Pollack’s 1975 Three Days of the Condor) — All the President’s Men follows two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (who wrote the book on which the film is based), as they uncover the Watergate scandal via their top-secret government contact, Deep Throat. Ultimately they discover that Watergate was not merely an attempt to conceal Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (a scheme intended to sabotage Nixon’s democratic opponent), but American covert operations as a whole.

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If Private Manning and Julian Assange, among others, act as modern-day Bernsteins and Woodwards, then All the President’s Men‘s brilliant, formally complex portrayal of the interpenetration (and active resistance) between the government and mass media might shed some light on how volatile information is both concealed and exposed in the 21st century. The dogged investigations and editorial marathons undergone by Woodward, Bernstein, their Post editor Ben Bradlee, and various colleagues have transformed over the last four decades, yet the nebulous infrastructures meant to keep political machinery chugging away have remained in place. All the President’s Men is one of the finest, most disturbing, yet ultimately inspiriting exposés of the dark pathways through which such combustible information travels. The film is available on DVD through Netflix, on instant viewing at Amazon.com, and on YouTube.

Walker Staff Picks for Film 2012

The water cooler always buzzes with talk of movies, and it can reach a fever pitch in the Film/Video Department, occasionally roping in people from other departments. The lists below reflect the camaraderie, belligerence, and free-form sharing of these conversations as we digest the year in film each in our own special way. Courtney Sheehan Film/Video Intern […]

The water cooler always buzzes with talk of movies, and it can reach a fever pitch in the Film/Video Department, occasionally roping in people from other departments. The lists below reflect the camaraderie, belligerence, and free-form sharing of these conversations as we digest the year in film each in our own special way.

Jai Bhim Comrade, Anand Patwardhan, 2012

Jai Bhim Comrade, Anand Patwardhan, 2012.

Courtney Sheehan
Film/Video Intern

I spent July 2011-July 2012 traveling to twenty film festivals in India, Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia on a research grant called the Watson Fellowship. For the most part, I stuck to lesser-known festivals in small cities and towns, which means that some of these films have yet to (and may not ever) make it to the U.S.  Because shorts get the shaft all too often, more than half of these titles run less than an hour in length. The final flair: this list consists solely of documentaries and animated films.

Jai Bhim Comrade by Anand Patwardhan, India
Mobitel: A Cell Phone Movie by Nedžad Begović, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Abendland by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria
Mirage by Srđan Keča, UK/UAE
Sag Mir Wann… (Tell Me When…) by Steffen Köhn and Paola Calvo, Germany
Apour Ti Yapour. Na Jang Na Aman. Yeti Chu Talukpeth. (Between the Border and the Fence. On Edge of a Map.) by Ajay Raina, India
Empire of Dust by Bram van Paesschen, Belgium
Oedipus by Paul Driessen, the Netherlands/Canada
Villa Antropoff by Kaspar Jancis and Vladimir Leschiov, Estonia
Le Tazidermiste by Paulin Cointot, Dorianne Fibleuil, Antoine Robert, and Maud Sertour, France

 

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Behn Zeitlin, 2012. Courtesy Fox Searchlights Pictures.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Behn Zeitlin, 2012

Jeremy Meckler
Film/Video Intern

This year was a powerful one for movies, with a few surprisingly high-quality summer blockbusters (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Cabin in the Woods, Premium Rush) some excellent independent documentaries (This is Not a Film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, The Queen of Versailles) and some decent formulaic Oscar bait (Silver Linings Playbook, Argo). These are the movies, though, that were most impactful on me this year. While many other films may indeed have been more skillfully crafted, written, shot, and  performed, these are the ones I will remember. Full disclosure, I have yet to see Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Tabu, or Something in the Air, and I suspect that at least one of them might have made this list otherwise. Also, I hated Cosmopolis.

10) Moonrise Kingdom
9) Margaret
8) The Master
7) Wreck-it-Ralph
6) Skyfall
5) The Turin Horse
4) Holy Motors
3) The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
2) Django Unchained
1) Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ugetsu, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953

Ugetsu, Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953

Matt Levine
Film/Video Intern

My first choice is sort of an evasion: while it was actually made by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1953 and has long been one of my favorite movies, I saw it last year on 35mm for the first time at the Trylon, and it was like seeing it for the first time all over again. (I didn’t think it was possible for the ending to be any more devastating.) As for actual  2012 releases, a number of the most acclaimed films underwhelmed me a bit (Holy Motors, The Master, and the astonishingly bad Silver Linings Playbook especially), so here are the films that actually blew me away last year:

1. Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953)
2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Boznia and Herzegovina)
3. This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Iran)
4. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, USA/UK)
5. The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy)
6. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, Hungary/France/Germany/Switzerland/USA)
7. Looper (Rian Johnson, USA)
8. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil)
9. The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, Indonesia/USA)
10. Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, Canada/Spain/Japan)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, 2012.

Emily Davis
Film/Video Bentson Researcher

Top 10 movies adapted from a novel, in no particular order. The task of coming up with a top 10 list for people like me who are not hardcore movie goers can be a lot of pressure and a bit overwhelming. So, I came up with the theme Top 10 movies adapted from a novel to narrow the selection.

The Hobbit
Cosmopolis
Anna Karenina
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Wuthering Heights
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer
Life of Pi
Bless me Ultima
Lincoln
The Lorax

Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, 2012.

Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, 2012.

Kathie Smith
Film/Video Program Manager

Below are the top ten films I saw for the first time theatrically in 2012, regardless of release date or distribution status. In alphabetical order.

Cosmopolis (2012) David Cronenberg
Deep Blue Sea (2012) Terence Davies
Faust (2011) Aleksandr Sokurov
The Gang’s All Here (1943) Busby Berkeley
Leviathan (2012) Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel
Margaret (2011) Kenneth Lonergan
Napoleon (1927) Abel Gance
Neighboring Sounds (2012) Kleber Mendonça Filho
Tabu (2012) Miguel Gomes
Three Sisters (2012) Wang Bing

Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, 2012.

Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, 2012.

Gary White
Human Resources Director

Top ten films of 2012, in random order.

Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln
Argo
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playbook
Moonrise Kingdom
The Sessions
Les Mis
Hitchcock
Arbitrage

 

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Alison Klayman, 2012.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Alison Klayman, 2012.

Jared Maire
Mailroom Specialist

2012 was a year for tears. It only makes sense that I list all the movies I cried at in 2012. Feel free to give me a hug or pat me on the back if you see me in the corridors of the Walker.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry @ Walker
The Avengers @ Southdale
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye @ Walker
How to Survive a Plague @ Lagoon
Keep the Lights on @ Lagoon
Beasts of the Southern Wild @ Walker
Moonrise Kingdom @ Lagoon
Irwin Swirnoff’s short films @ Madame of the Arts

There were movies I didn’t actually cry at and really enjoyed, such as:
Beyond the Black Rainbow @ Trylon
Holy Motors @ the Edina

“Her Life Was In Your Hands, Dude:” Jenny Jones’ New Book on The Big Lebowski

Much ado has been made about Joel and Ethan Coen’s legendary Twin Cities roots. From the cheesy Minnesota colloquialism in William H. Macy’s accent in Fargo to their magnum Minneapolis opus, the St. Louis Park epic A Serious Man, these two natives have never left their home far behind. But now, springing up in the […]

Much ado has been made about Joel and Ethan Coen’s legendary Twin Cities roots. From the cheesy Minnesota colloquialism in William H. Macy’s accent in Fargo to their magnum Minneapolis opus, the St. Louis Park epic A Serious Man, these two natives have never left their home far behind. But now, springing up in the twin cities, is a book about one of their least Minnesotan films, the quintessentially Los Angelic The Big Lebowski The Big Lebowski: An Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of all Time. Jenny Jones, author of The Annotated Godfather and formerly of the Oak St. Cinema and the Walker Art Center, traces her connection to the Coens back to before their first film hit the screens; Jones and Ethan both served a stint working at St. Paul’s legendary Embers Restaurant, but her own explorations into Lebowski are only the beginning. Through two hundred plus pages, Jones’ book delves into the personal stories behind the film, from interviews with actors and crew members to the links between Lebowski and films as disparate as The Good the Bad and the Ugly and The Wizard of Oz.

The cover of Jones’ book even features a spinning bowling ball which reveals various Lebowski-esque objects when spun.

As a brief introduction to the intellectual project of the book, Jones agreed to talk a little about The Big Lebowski’s Minnesota roots and its connection to the Coens’ larger project. Jones began this point by talking about the film’s production and release, particularly its connection to Fargo. The script for Lebowski was finished before Fargo’s, yet the peculiarities of shooting schedules meant that Fargo was shot earlier and released a full two years before Lebowski. Their link however is undeniable, built not only on their temporal overlap, but also on the ways the films mirror each other.

Fargo is a fictitious film masquerading as a documentary, due mostly to one screen claiming that:

“THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

Meanwhile The Big Lebowski,  one of the most stylized, and least realist films in the Coen’s filmography, is actually based on real events that took place in Hollywood. While there was no money buried in northern Minnesota (though according to legend many would-be treasure hunters have gone up there looking) there is a man in Los Angeles who had a ratty old rug that “tied the room together” and who once went after a high schooler who left a piece of homework in his stolen car.

Joel and Ethan Coen on the set, visualizing their version of a real Hollywood story.

Lebowski is also a very Minnesotan film, despite its Los Angeles exterior. The Coens have never truly felt comfortable in the stifling Los Angeles climate, and so Lebowski–their film most explicitly about that culture–cannot avoid its own perspective. Lebowski is a film about the view of L. A. from Minneapolis. Whether it’s the Dude’s (or Walter’s or the Stranger’s) seemingly out of place personality traits, or the deliberate name-dropping that Bunny Lebowski is a runaway from Moorhead Minnesota, this film is full of people who don’t fit into Los Angeles, just like the Coens themselves. The Dude even takes his name from a Minnesotan; the Coens had a friend growing up named Jeffrey Lebowski. Fargo, on the other hand, is a very Hollywood story, despite its Minnesotan exterior. The completely fabricated story, partially based on the very Californian idea that “there’s gold in them there hills,” is more linked to the history of gritty films noir and west coast detective novels that inspired the Coens as early as Blood Simple (whose title is taken from a Dashiell Hammett line). While the Coens saw the Dude as the anti-Phillip Marlowe, a sort of bumbling non-detective who stumbled into a world of thugs and intrigue, Marge Gunderson of Fargo is really more of a mid-westernized hardboiled detective. Would Marge have done a better job in the Dude’s position? Probably, buy that is only speculation. What is apparent through their split personalities is that both Fargo and Lebowski have carved themselves a space halfway between Minneapolis and Hollywood.

Marge Gunderson, the Coens’ hardboiled Minnesota detective, is portrayed by Joel’s wife, Frances McDormand.

Jones’ intimate knowledge of the Coens was also bolstered by her time helping to organize the Regis Dialogue and Retrospective held at the Walker in 2009. In person, and in her book, she is full of the kind of quips only accessible to a serious aficionado. “The Coens love playing with people of different heights. The nihilists span from 6’7” to 5’4”, which actually caused a lot of trouble for them to all be framed in the same shot,” or “the Coens love putting big guys into small cars.” With a blend of intimate knowledge, research, history, and interviews, The Big Lebowski: An Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of all Time puts forward a variety of understandings of one of the Coens’ biggest hits. How do I know so much about this book? In the spirit of full disclosure, I was involved in much of the background for this book, working as a research assistant for Jones and earning an acknowledgement that is one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received.

The bleak Fawn Knutsen farm in Moorhead, Minnesota, childhood home of Bunny Lebowski.

To promote her new book, Jones will be attending a few events around town where you can ask her your own questions about this film. On October first and second, she will introduce a screening of The Big Lebowski (on 35mm film even!) at the Trylon microcinema, and sign books after the screening at the Trylon’s new neighbor, Moon Palace Books. On October tenth you’ll have your own opportunity to be a part of the movie, when Jones judges a Lebowski-themed costume contest at Subtext Books. The book is on shelves at book stores and Urban Outfitters near you, and will even make it to the Walker Shop. The book even received a brief write-up in this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Curator Sheryl Mousley’s Films of 2011

When we asked our Film/Video Curator Sheryl Mousley for a list of her Top 10 Films of 2011, she said she never makes top ten lists. So we asked her to give us a list of which films she watched in 2011.  So, in addition to our Top 10’s blogpost, she provided us with the […]

When we asked our Film/Video Curator Sheryl Mousley for a list of her Top 10 Films of 2011, she said she never makes top ten lists. So we asked her to give us a list of which films she watched in 2011.  So, in addition to our Top 10’s blogpost, she provided us with the massive list of all of the films she watched in 2011.

These are films seen in cinemas, movie theaters or at festivals.

This list does not include short works, artists’ cinema or installations, or films shown as a video projection in galleries/museums; nor does it include any feature films watched on DVD or streamed. Listed in chronological order.

Films Sheryl Saw in 2011:

Nine Muses

The Black Power Mix Tapes 1967

On The Ice

Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Ticket to Paradise

Here

Page One: A Year Inside the NY Times

These Amazing Shadows

Happy Happy

The Convincer

Terri

!War

Red State

The Fighter

True Grit

Blue Valentine

Triumph 67

Curling

Nostalgia For The Light

Cameraman: The Life of Jack Cardiff

Kinshasa Symphony

Hitler in Hollywood

The Light Thief

How to Start our Own Country

The Green Wave

Bill Cunningham New York

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Home For Christmas

El Velador

Lover Boy

August 31, Oslo

Chatrak (Mushrooms)

Sauna on the Moon

The Kid with a Bike

The Day He Arrived

Goodnight, Nobody

We Need to Talk About Kevin

The Artist

This is not a Film

Take Shelter

Melancholia

The Tree of Life

Le Havre

This is the Place

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

The Help

Bridesmaids

The Turin Horse

The Story of Film

Passerby

The Descendents

The Island President

Pina

Living in the Material World

Footnote

A Separation

A Dangerous Method

In Darkness

Shame

Habibi

Goodbye First Love

Dark Horse

Almayer’s Folly

Whore’s Glory

Trishna

360

The Deep Blue Sea

Arirang

Crazy Horse

The Woman in the Fifth

I Wish

Warriors of the Rainbow

Hysteria

A Monster in Paris

The Invader

The First Man

Headhunters

The Education of Auma Obama

ALPS

Twixt

My Week with Marilyn

Marcy Martha May Marlene

Young Adult

Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy

Drive

The Skin I Live In

Hugo

Urbanized

The Adventures of Tintin

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball

 

Feature Films Watched at the Walker in 2011:

Utopia in Four Movements

Uncle Boonmee Recalls His Past Lives

Syndromes and a Century

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then

Basquiat

Before Night Falls

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Berlin

Miral

Wuthering Heights

Citzen Kane

Meek’s Cutoff

Self Made

The First Grader

Badlands

Days of Heaven

The Thin Red Line

The New World

Purple Rain

Trauma

Factotum

A Simple Plan

Purple Haze

Northern Lights

Fargo

Snow

Mallrats

Sweet Land

Slacker

subUrbia

Dazed and Confused

Tape

Before Sunrise

After Sunset

Waking Life

Thin Ice

Daisies

Riddles of the Sphinx

Variety

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Empty Suitcases

Surname Viet, Given Name Nam

One Way or Another

The Descendants

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