Sundance Institute and Adobe Announce 2020 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellows

Posted by Larry Gleeson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Ten Emerging Artists Selected from Short Film Submissions on
Sundance Co//ab

Winning Short Films To Be Screened As Part of
Celebration of Sundance Film Festival: London

Los Angeles, CA – Sundance Institute and Adobe announced the class of 2020 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellows today, chosen from a global pool of more than 1,600 applicants. Hailing from a broad geography, from Nashville to Hong Kong, and rooted in a diverse array of creative disciplines from documentary filmmaking to narrative shorts, these 10 emerging artists selected will engage with a year of mentorship and support from Sundance Institute and Sundance Ignite founding partner Adobe.

Fellows were selected from a one-to-fifteen minute short film submitted to the Sundance Ignite x Adobe Short Film Challenge, hosted for the first time on Sundance Co//ab, the Institute’s digital community platform. The ten Fellows were selected for their originality of voice, creativity in storytelling, and rigor of their craft.

The Fellowship is artist centric, with a goal of advancing each fellow to their next step in their filmmaking journey, both artistically and professionally. The Fellows will kick off their fellowship year with the Sundance Ignite Digital Filmmakers Lab, which began on Monday, July 13 on Sundance Co//ab and continues through the end of the week. The week-long lab will include sessions to prepare Fellows for the year ahead, from presenting your artistic self, pitching your project to case studies and goal setting.

Later this summer, nine of the Fellows’ winning short films will be screened as part of Celebration of Sundance Film Festival: London, made available to all Festival passholders digitally on demand throughout the UK. Adobe is the Presenting Partner of Celebration of Sundance Film Festival: London, which runs August 7–9; more details are available at london.sundance.org.

In addition to receiving a complimentary year-long membership to Co//ab and a two-year Adobe Creative Cloud membership, each fellow will be paired with a Sundance Institute alumni mentor. This year’s mentors are Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), Patricia Cordoso (Real Women Have Curves, Queen Sugar), Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice, Chasing Coral), Lacey Schwartz (Little White Lie), Hannah Pearl Utt (Before You Know It), Malik Vitthal (Imperial Dreams, Body Cam) and Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated, The Innocence Files).

“We’re proud to support these ten emerging artists, who are creating bold new work that brings their stories, voice, and passion to life,” said Meredith Lavitt, Director, Sundance Ignite. “Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellows aren’t tomorrow’s filmmakers, they’re today’s filmmakers – and we’re thrilled to welcome them into the Sundance family.”

“At Adobe, our mission is to enable creativity for all. We believe that everyone has a story to tell and that those stories deserve to be heard. When we elevate a broader and more diverse set of voices we can create change within ourselves, our communities and the world,” said John Travis, VP Brand Marketing, Adobe. “We are so proud to partner with Sundance in the Sundance Ignite program and look forward to working with this year’s fellows to help bring their stories, creativity, and perspectives to the world.”

Sundance Ignite is supported by Adobe; Arison Arts Foundation; The Birth of a Nation Fellowship, founded by the creative and producing teams of the film​; Southwest Airlines; East West Bank; and Jason Michael Berman.

The 2020 Sundance Ignite x Adobe Fellows are:

Jacob Anderson is a Kentucky-based writer, director, and cinematographer. He attended Western Kentucky University and graduated with a degree in Filmmaking. Post-graduation, Jacob has become a working cinematographer based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. He has begun writing and directing his own projects that will explore the boundaries of genre within the American South. Recently, Jacob has begun writing his first feature film and next short that will explore intimate stories about people against a backdrop of the American South. Once established, his goal is to bring film opportunities to other budding southern filmmakers in the future.

Sasha Argirov is a Canadian writer/director based in Vancouver. His short film, Personals, is soon to begin its festival tour. He is developing his debut feature about an anxious college student who lures his girlfriend as a vessel for his mother’s ghost. He likes making films about lonely people in unusual situations.

Giselle Bonilla is a mediocre bartender desperately pursuing a back-up career as a filmmaker. She graduated with Honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Film & Television Production. Her thesis film received the Horizon Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and went on to compete in various festivals across the country. She is currently developing her first feature, and aims to shoot her proof of concept under the guidance of the Ignite Fellowship. Giselle is currently based in Los Angeles.

Aurora Brachman is a documentary filmmaker and MFA student in Documentary Film at Stanford University. She is also the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in Filmmaking to the pacific island nation of Kiribati where she directed the docuseries Between the Tides. She is currently working on a documentary about Club Quarantine, a virtual queer dance party where hundreds of people from around the world gather each night during the Covid-19 lockdowns. She primarily makes work about the experiences of various marginalized communities and is committed to collaborative and ethical storytelling.

Natalie A. Chao is a filmmaker and visual artist who completed her B.A degree in Film Production at USC in Los Angeles, with a focus in cinematography. Born, raised and currently based in Hong Kong, she is interested in bridging the gap between realism and poetry in order to tell stories through a more engaged and intentional gaze, one that can map out our memories, not draw lines between camera and subject, identity and politics.

In the context of Hong Kong’s ongoing political crisis, she questions whether a collective gaze is possible, and is engaging with what it means to create a living documentary, one that seeks to do more than reducing ourselves to numbers on a statistic, politicised events on a historical timeline. Why do we want to remember? Who is the archive for? These are the questions that shape the experience of filming her first feature-length documentary.

Mariales Diaz is a queer, gender expansive Dominican immigrant raised in Brooklyn. They create documentaries and narratives focused on exploring human relationships, the conceptualization of the “American Dream,” and intersectionalities within identity. Their storytellings center Black and brown trans and gender expansive folxs. Mariales is a graduate of the SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory, a Fall 2019 Creative Culture Valentine and Clark Emerging Artist Fellow at the Jacob Burns Film Center, and a 2019 NeXtDoc Fellow. They are currently working on a second short film with Creative Culture, exploring the story of two enamored teenage girls seeking revenge on one of their assaulters.

Kourtney Jackson is a Toronto-based writer and filmmaker. She won the 2018 Emerging Director’s Spotlight Award at the Regent Park Film Festival for her experimental documentary pitch for Wash Day, which later premiered at TIFF Next Wave and recently screened at Breakthroughs Film Festival. Ever contemplative of the cosmos, Kourtney aims to tell unexpected stories grounded in Afrofuturism, absurdism, and joy. These days, you can find her in her room shamelessly eating out of a carton of Chapman’s vanilla ice-cream, as well as writing a short film about loving friendship, sinister betrayal, and the poisonous but delicious fruit that is ackee.

JoeBill Muñoz is a Mexican-American filmmaker. His directorial debut, Follow the Sun, chronicles the lives of migrants making their way across Mexico. It screened in festivals across the country and was nominated for a student award by the IDA. He is currently an associate producer on a feature about global food, water, and land issues at The Center for Investigative Reporting, and the producer-writer on an independent feature about the California prison hunger strikes against indefinite solitary confinement. He has worked for Frontline, the Investigative Reporting Program, and The Associated Press.

Zenzele Ojore Zenzele Ojore is a filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist from Houston, Texas based in New York City. Her award-winning short films have played at festivals including Sundance (Horizon Award) and SXSW. She received her undergraduate degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2018, and is presently a dean fellow in the graduate film program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Zenzele is currently writing the feature length version of her short The South is My Sister’s Skin, as well as developing an upcoming short film that she intends to shoot next summer in Louisiana.

Sean Wang is a filmmaker from Fremont, CA, a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and a Google Creative Lab 5 alum. His work has been viewed millions of times online and has aired on primetime television. Most recently, Sean contributed sequences for the feature film, Summertime, which premiered in the NEXT category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and his short film, Still Here (還在), was featured by the American Film Institute, Short of the Week, and Vimeo Staff Picks.

He is currently working on two short films: one about a young couple’s last night together in New York City and another about growing up told through the pages of a middle school yearbook. He is also developing his first feature film: a coming-of-age story set in the summer of 2008.

Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories for the stage and screen, Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, City So Real, Top of the Lake, Between the World & Me, Wild Goose Dreams and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Adobe
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Media Contact:                                                                     For Adobe:                                   Emily Andrews                                                                     Karen Do
emily_andrews@sundance.org                                          karendo@adobe.com

 

 

Nashville Film Festival Announces Move to Virtual Format and Plans to Produce Innovative, Original Content in 2020

Posted by Larry Gleeson

New Model Will Expand Audience Reach and Increase Accessibility While Delivering a Safe & Enjoyable Festival Experience

NashFilm 2020

*Featured photo: St Louis, Missouri, NashFilm fans, Kate and Jan Rogers pose for a photo at the 50th Nashville Film Festival, October 5th, 2019. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

The Nashville Film Festival today announced its plans to shift to a virtual model for this year’s event, which will take place from October 1-7, 2020. This year’s festival will be the most accessible version to audiences yet, and both filmmakers and film lovers will be given unique opportunities to connect and enjoy digital screenings, panels, filmmaker Q&As, musical performances, and other original content online.

The festival altered its format to ensure it could produce a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees in light of evolving health & safety protocols related to the coronavirus. The virtual festival will feature more than 200 films and include Creators Conference panels, Q&As and other exclusive content that will bring the magic of the Nashville Film Festival to attendees from the comfort and safety of their homes. As part of the new format, “virtual social” opportunities will connect audience members directly with filmmakers and other film fans to discuss their favorite movies.

 

Jason Padgitt
Jason Padgitt, NashFilm Executive Director

“Like many other live events around the world, we’ve had to adapt to prioritize the safety, comfort and well-being of our community,” said Jason Padgitt, Nashville Film Festival executive director. “This year has given us an opportunity to think creatively about how we can make the festival more accessible and innovative than ever before, and we are excited to deliver a memorable experience that honors all the reasons we’ve become known as a premier event for content creators and film enthusiasts.”

The festival, which is now in its 51st year, will continue to deliver the world’s best independent films and provide a showcase for Tennessee’s most talented filmmakers. The full program and film lineup will be announced in August 2020.

Updated Virtual VIP Badge options are now available at nashfilm.org.

NashFilm Virtual 2020

(Source: Nashville Film Festival News Release)

Who Wants to Know Wong Kar-wai, The Grandmaster

Academic Paper

Wong Kar-wai Wants To Know

By

Larry Gleeson

 

Director Wong Kar Wai is a postmodern art cinema auteur. In her Harvard Review of Philosophy article, “What is Postmodernism?” Eva T.H. Brann defines postmodernism as it relates to art cinema as an “incredulity toward metanarratives.” (Brann) Director Wong’s films In the Mood for Love, 2046, Chungking Express, and The Grandmaster all evoke an aversion to any metanarrative. Using a variety of cinematic techniques including voice-over narration in a self-reflective manner, non-traditional plot structures, eclectic mise-en-scene, and music to evoke loneliness, anxiety, alienation, atmospherics, and sense of powerlessness and insignificance, Wong operates within a deeply embedded commercial cinema with innovation while repressing the reuse of genre films straddling the Hong Kong New Wave and the Hong Kong Second New Wave.

 

Wong’s use of the cinematic, voice-over narration technique is an important aspect of art cinema as it allows an introspective performant into the inner, emotional world of the characters. It serves as a self-confessional and helps break away from the narrative characterization and allows the work to be character-centered and Wong utilizes the voice-over narration repeatedly in his film work. For example, in Chungking Express, Wong uses the narrative voice-over with police officer #223 philosophizing about the people he brushes by and whom he may never meet or even become friends with after introducing the cold, industrial world of Hong Kong juxtaposed against a criminal, underworld element embodied by the woman with the blonde wig-wearing dark sunglasses at night. Wong appears, on the surface to be making a film about cops and gangsters while on a deeper level it’s just a film about their lives and existence within a post-colonial identity that has been borrowed from the West and traditional Chinese history simultaneously.

 

The Hong Kong New Wave and Second New Wave embodied a filmic revolution with jump cuts, long takes, and narrative ambiguity. (Wham)The New Wave movements were “representing a social movement structured within a framework of iconoclasm, opposition, and the avant-garde,’ while the filmmakers were “a generation with an unusual sense of unity also identified with international culture and consumerism,” and economic self-interest. (Kar) Wong is very attuned to social sentiments. His improvisational techniques seemingly have tapped into the subconscious force shared by all of humanity. His filmic technique was built upon the highly profitable, commercial television outlet shaping a political idealism while he witnessed capitalism replacing culture and tradition. Haihong Li, in his doctoral dissertation “Cinematic Hong Kong of Wong Kar-Ai,” discusses how Wong Kar-wai exquisitely exploits the potential of music in his films and its effects on signifying emotions oftentimes adding to actors’ performances. In 2046, Wong introduces Bai Ling with Connie Francis’s “Siboney.” The music intensifies the seductiveness and passion of the scene and in doing so successfully creates the seductive and passionate character of Bail Ling. Wong allows the music to represent and speak for Bai Ling. The passionate Latin beat highlights Bai Ling’s mysterious and exotic allure as she is constantly falling in and out of love. (H. Li)

 

Moreover, in Chungking Express the musical song, “California Dreamin’,” by the folk-rock band The Mamas and The Papas, is repeatedly heard throughout the film as Chinese pop star Faye Wong dreamily dances across frames in a totally disconnected manner in relation to her environment and to those individuals who inhabit the same space as she does. Also, Wong uses music to foreground a certain ambiance or some desired characteristics of a place. For example, Indian music calls attention, in the opening of Chungking Express, to the multicultural environment of the Chungking Mansion. In “Wong Kar-wai,” Stephen Teo believes Wong’s distinctive improvisational filming technique leaves no room for subjectivity and it becomes a precedent for showing what is not there. Teo goes on to say most of Wong’s filmic characters are elusive and slippery with an ambivalence of the Hong Kong cultural space and are seen as searching for purpose and have taken on lost identities. (Teo)

 

In addition, Wong never really allows a professional identity for the two police officers to emerge in Chungking Express. The two police officers together have no given, formal names and are only referred to as 223 and 663. Also, no concrete details are provided regarding their police work. Another referent is a number that is just a number and can easily be replaced by another number giving little regard for their individual personhoods. This concept of numbers and time serves as a postmodern man’s frustration and emotional repression and Wong effectively utilizes them to change people’s emotional identification with time using highly accurate figures to quantify. “I was 0.01 cm from her in the closet,” “57 hours later I fell in love with this woman,” and “Six hours later she was in love with someone else.” Wong mixes dark humor and elegance with poetic expression and interpretation and qualifies, therefore, as an art cinema technique according to the framework David Andrews Lays out in his book, “Theorizing Art Cinema.” (Andrews)

 

Wong’s use of numbers cinematically is also evident in 2046 as 2046 is the adjoining room number that he and Su Li-Zhen occupy and where he searches for Lulu and it’s also a metaphor for the never-ending train where his novels take place. A narrative voiceover delivers another instance of dark humor with “love is all about timing. It doesn’t matter if you meet the right person if it’s too soon or if it’s too late. The camera shows Faye Wong breaking the Fourth Wall (looking directly into the lens) and fades to black. Wong wants us to identify with Faye Wong’s character. Yet, in the postmodern vein, is it, Faye Wong, from 2046, or is it Faye Wong from Chungking Express? These themes of discordant time and space reverberate throughout Director Wong’s entire body of work. And, while 2046 has more in common with In the Mood for Love, Wong initiates the number and time references to further obfuscate the viewer and thereby continue the deconstruction consistent with postmodernism as his time and number referents mimic 2046 in a quantitative manner beginning with 24 December 1968 and ending with 24 December 1969. Interspersed along the way are references to the Christmas zone of 12/24 – 12/25 and the next story “2047” (she didn’t respond because she probably loved someone else) and the appearance of writer’s block one hour after questioning whether the ending to “”2047 was too sad and could it be changed. The frame stays the same as the time goes from one hour later to ten hours later to one-hundred hours later.

In the Mood for Love

Again, Wong appears to be traveling in a non-linear realm as another narrative voice-over informs the viewer that Chow’s life has now lost all meaning as he’s been gambling every day and that Black Spider had his hand cut off for cheating after coming to Chow’s rescue. Wong uses rainfall as a flashback device to connect the ending of In the Mood for Love in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with 2046. Unable to speak of his passion for Su, Chow embarks on a journey to reconcile his action with his alter ego and the women he engages within 2046 are all various representations of Su. Yet, Wong can’t stop with this simplistic interpretation as it would subscribe to a metanarrative. In keeping with his postmodern bent, he introduces a female character who promises to help Chow recover his gambling losses and to quit gambling for a 10% commission, and under no circumstance will she bankroll Chow. Chow asked the woman her name. Her response, “Su Li Zhen” – the same name as his love interest from In the Mood for Love. Again, Wong is blurring the lines between films and fictionalized characters in a postmodern manner. Furthering the reconciliation of Chow’s innermost self, Wong shows Chow revealing his love for another man’s wife and why he moved to Singapore. With tears, Su tellingly states to Chow,” If you ever escape your past, look for me.” The film closes where it began only on a different plane with a push into a gray mattered hole.

 

While most traditional films are constructed of independent plots and storylines with an introduction, character and thematic development, climax, and denouement, Wong’s films focus on a state of mind, an atmosphere. This stylistic technique is at once both postmodern and art cinema and is most evident in 2046 as the film opens in a science fiction setting where nothing changes and dreamscapes are presented without a definitive timeline. In 2046 the same characters appeared in the film In the Mood for Love. Wong also uses similar-looking scenes in 2046. When In the Mood for Love, Chow and Su have had a nice dinner, they are seen in a taxi together. Chow tries to hold Su’s hand with considerable trepidation. In 2046, the glamorous Lulu is sexier than Su and dominates her licentious drinking buddy in the back seat of the taxi and he soon passes out of consciousness. Interestingly, in keeping with the deconstructionist vein of postmodernism, 2046 repeatedly shows scenes that appear to be reconciling Chow’s unresolved issues from In the Mood for Love.

 

Typically, traditional characters only appear in one movie or in a sequel perhaps. Yet, Chow Mo-Wan appears in both 2046 and In the Mood for Love. Chow, however, has two seemingly distinct dispositions as he comes across as cold, complex, and mature in 2046 whereas, in juxtaposition, In the Mood for Love Chow is timid and psychologically gentle. In 2046 Chow is very aggressive sexually and the passionate scenes are akin to soft-porn and fall within art cinema film parameters set out by Andrews in “Theorizing of Art Cinema.” (Andrews) Moreover, Wong uses a scene where Chow has declined sex after questions of him not being in the mood or it not being the right night. Again, Wong parallels dimensions between In the Mood and 2046 with Chow’s internal conflict in consummating with Su and the fact he couldn’t talk to anyone about his actions.

 

Moreover, other characters appear in both film characters in the form of Su li-Zhen, Wang jing-wen, and Lulu. Moreover, Tony Leung and Shirley (Faye) Wong have consciously created characters that cross boundaries personality-wise in the postmodern deconstruction of ideologies, knowledge systems as well as the myths of fictional characters. In an art cinema stylistic ambiguous ending, Wong’s closing scene In the Mood for Love shows Chow whispering into a hole and covering it with dirt to seal what he didn’t want anyone to know and begins 2046 with the same action only in a futuristic setting diametrically opposed to the ancient Cambodian Buddhist temple he uses to close In the Mood for Love.  Still, questions remain about where Hong Kong will end up in the year 2046. In addition, to the above-mentioned films, Wong also addressed various elements and various groups of immigrants in Days of Being Wild, As Tears Go By and Fallen Angels depicting fringe Hong Kong characters who are marginalized with little understanding of where they come from and with little understanding of who they are.

 

Nevertheless, these characters lived and fought for what they believed in. And while Wong reminisced about the 1960’s and the Shanghainese community represented In the Mood for Love, he also muses over the dilemma Hong Kongers face as they move into the future. With a fifty-year grace period of self-rule under the Chinese governmental banner, Wong seemingly advocates for the will of the people in his postmodern art cinema films culminating in the epic The Grandmaster. Wong uses The Grandmaster to explore and present the Chinese martial arts tradition as a cultural artifact depicting seven schools with separate traditions forming the underpinnings of Chinese martial arts fighting society. Wong intimates that the road ahead will not be an easy one. Nor will it be a road to shy away from. He poses the question at the end of The Grandmaster, “What do you want your style to be?” In essence, Wong is challenging his viewers, and, more specifically, Hong Kongers, as to what they want the future of Hong Kong to look like. Seemingly, he is subtly advocating a separate and independent Hong Kong comprising both Western culture and traditional Chinese culture – one that is Hong Kong in the present respective of long-standing Chinese tradition combined with the newer Western capitalist consumerism overtly displayed in Chungking Express and subtly displayed through highly stylized costuming and sophisticated choreography inThe Grandmaster.

 

 

Bibliography

Andrews, David. Theorizing Art Cinema: Foreign, Cult, Avant Garde, and Beyond. Austin: University Of Texas Press, 2013.

Brann, Eva T.H. “What is Postmodernism?” The Harvard Review of Philosophy 1992.

Kar, Law. “An Overview of Honk Kong’s New Wave Cinema.” Kar, Law. Hong Kong New Wave: Twenty Years After. Hong Kong, 1999.

Li, Haihong. “Cinematic Hong Kong of Wong Kar-wai.” Athens, 2012. Dissertation.

Teo, Stephen. Wong Kar-Wai. . London: BFI Pub, 2005.

Wham, James. “The Hong Kong New Wave.” n.d.

 

Uncle Boonmee Intersects With Pan’s Labrynth

Academic Paper

Worlds Real and Metaphysical

By

Larry Gleeson

 

In the two films, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” by Guillermo del Toro and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, both directors take on the challenges of exploring the inner worlds of memory and imagination and how these components are ultimately an expression of the self’s reality. In his influential 1975 essay, “The Apparatus: Meta- psychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in Cinema,” French theorist Jean-Louis Baudry compared cinema to the lights flickering on the back wall of Plato’s cave— an illusory shadow show from which we need to liberate ourselves. Apichatpong thinks exactly otherwise. His cinema cave is dedicated to recovering a repressed history, healing pain, and connecting our spirits with others.” Although still influenced by the aesthetics of the Old Thai Cinema with long takes Apichatpong takes on much larger risks in his metaphorical storytelling techniques combining human and animal, carnal with the marvelous and the surreal with the sublime. On the other side, Guillermo Del Toro uses fantasy with a plethora of traditional “fairy-tale tropes—the testing of the heroine in her encounters with monsters and ogres, the forest as a liminal space between worlds, fabulous creatures such as fauns and fairies who guide the heroine on her journey toward becoming a princess—or, in the context of the film, towards death and transfiguration,” (according to Clark and McDonald in their paper, “’A Constant Transit of Finding’: Fantasy as the realization in Pan’s Labyrinth.”) to navigate the politics of war and nationhood during a bloody civil war. Both approaches to tackling experiences – often repressed due to emotional and psychological scarring – have transformative power in their cinematic expression with the potential to assist and aid the disturbed psyche.

Andre Bergstrom in his “Cinematic past lives: memory, modernity, and cinematic reincarnation in Apichatpong Weerasethkul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” states “In both its individual impact and cultural functions, cinema fulfills many of the same roles in modernity that spiritual practices – such as rituals, visions, conceptions of the afterlife, prayer, and meditation – have fulfilled and continue to fulfill across a wide spectrum of societies, serving as a connection between the individual and a larger, even transcendent, view of the world….Brazin (from his famous essay on the “Ontology of the Photographic Image,” italics, mine) suggests that cinema goes even further in linking temporal representation, through memory, to a spiritual concern with the role of subjectivity beyond death.” (Bergstrom)

Uncle Boonmee, opens with a text box that reads “Facing the jungle, the hills and vales, my past lives as an animal and other beings rise up before me,”  as diegetic sounds of crickets and birds chirping and the visual of daybreak reveal a silhouette of a grazing, horned bull. Much like the scene from Pan’s Labyrinth, this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film as the insects and the natural setting provide a setting for the film to deliver its message of life and the transitions to and within the life after. The dark gray hue provides a veil between the two worlds – this one we see and the metaphysical world we don’t see with just our vision – as the insects and chirping bird sounds help facilitate a transformative experience with a supernatural feel.

For example, when the silhouetted bull comes into view it as if he is human. In a sense, he is as he represents one of Uncle Boonmee’s past lives. Soon we see he is tethered to a nearby oak tree. This is a long take and is reminiscent of Old Thai Cinema aesthetics. The diegetic sound of his heavy breathing and shuffling hooves add to the bull’s powerful presence as the camera moves in for a close-up. The bull frees himself and makes his way down into the pasture transforming from a black silhouette into a massive gray bull moving away from the camera. A cut is made on action to a wide shot of a verdant pasture with a majestic mountain range in the background. The bull is shown crossing from right to left until it gets to the center of the frame when a cut is made and the camera still shooting wide but with only half as much space between. The camera tracks the bull now galloping in a pan until the bull exits frame left into a wooded area.

In his interview, “Learning about time: an interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul,” Ji-hoon Kim discusses with Apichatpong his examination of the jungle and how it relates cinematically. The next sequence of shots take place in the forested area and provided a spirited experience of the bull snorting and plodding in the creek.  Most of these shots are high angle. A reverse angle shot shows a man coming into frame and tracks him until he takes the bull by the lead back in the direction he entered the frame. Uncle Boonmee is about the final days of a rural Thai man, Boonmee, who is suffering from kidney failure. Boonmee has the ability to remember his past lives and shares the trek to where all his past lives life began with his dead wife’s ghost and the return of his lost son in the form of a monkey ghost. Ultimately, Apichatpong is providing a cinematic experience with the spiritual significance of memory while preserving time.

Del Toro also illustrates alternating parallel worlds in Pan’s Labyrinth while attempting to depict and deconstruct the harshest of realities in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Roger Clark and Keith McDonald state in ‘“A constant Transit of Finding”: Fantasy as Realisation in Pan’s Labyrinth,”  “Ofelia gains access to a transformative world in which fantasy acts both as an escape and also as a means of making sense of her situation.” (Clark, McDonald pg. 5) The scene where Ofelia enters the labyrinth is a prime example. The scene is shot in dark colors of violet and medium blues to contrast as it creates a subliminal, spectral backdrop. The film hinges here on this scene as the diegetic sounds of a creature or creatures scurrying around awaken her as she slowly comes out from under her covers with a lunar light essence. At a low angle close up her toes reach for the rug by the bed when a creature scampers across her toes. She recoils back under the covers as the edit takes place eventually switching to her point-of-view of the faun creature. His appearance is at once fearsome and fantastical.

Through Ofelia, we learn the importance of finding resiliency in the face of adversity. Her estate reality and her forest fantasy are juxtaposed much like adulthood and childhood and on a larger, a nationhood perspective, a juxtaposition between a competing democracy and dictatorship. In addition, the film represents “an important addition to the literature of childhood itself, exploring as it does the intersection of childhood, war, masculinity, and monstrosity that Del Toro began representing in an earlier film…” (Clark)

In her “Lullabies and postmemory: hearing the ghosts of Spanish history in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, 2006) Irene Gomez-Castellano states “’Mercedes’ Lullaby” serves as a structuring leitmotiv of the whole film and as an allegorical device that subtly extends the meaning of Ofelia’s individual story to a national realm: that of the Spanish history of the twentieth century, its traumatic past and its historical process of forgetting and remembering its origins.” (Gomez-Castellano) del Toro vividly displays this notion early on as  Captain Vidal, a Spanish military officer, begins his morning routine of shaving. The scene opens with a close-up of a refined-looking hand with smooth and toned skin. As the camera pulls out a rather rustic room is revealed briefly before the camera pushes back into a nicely carved razor handle in the Captain’s well-manicured hand. This sets the tone for the rest of the scene.

The Captain is meticulous about his uniform, his boots, and his appearance. He is the embodiment of the Franco regime and its repression. His arrogance is not only displayed in his hygenic physicalities, but it also becomes blatantly apparent in his verbal complaint to Mercedes about the coffee being burnt. He strokes Mercedes’s shoulder in a semi-sexualized manner after vocalizing his displeasure while requesting she look into it. Mercedes recedes smoothly and relays the Captain’s remarks to the servants in the kitchen who refer to the Captain as a dandy and a “hussy fussy.” Mercedes fills a tub for Ofelia. The camera cross-cuts to Ofelia being directed about the evening’s dinner party. Ofelia quickly escapes with her Crossroads book and its illusory world of magic as an escape to the traumatic world of the estate. The non-diegetic music score augments the visual world and assists Ofelia to feel her past and to come to terms with it.

Similarly, Jonathan Romney states in his review, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives,” that “If, as Apichatpong suggests, cinema can be a means of erasing consciousness and the past, its more exalted function is to reconcile – to bring together past, present and future (“I have no concept of time anymore,” says Huay). And in a similar vein to Del Toro’s cinematic backdrop, the Spanish Civil War, Apichatpong’s modern Thailand had experienced high political tension surrounding immigration from Laos and it appears in the scene with Boonmee’s sister-in-law, Jen, and her suspicion of immigrants as killers and smell.  (Romney)

While Pan’s Labyrinth, doesn’t dell as deeply into the metaphysical realm of reconciling past, present, and future as Uncle Boonmee, it does attempt to represent a differing aspect of memory: one is chronological time represented by Captain Vidal’s pocket watch and the other being the illusory myth and its erasure of chronological time represented by the faun, the labyrinth, the underworld, and Princess Ofelia. In the end, we see a dying Captain Vidal asking Mercedes, as she holds the Captain’s baby boy in her arms, to remind the boy how his father died. Mercedes refuses to break the hold and the perpetuation and the legacy of violence. Thus, Spain has been freed from the past. (Gomez-Castellano)

Del Toro allows Ofelia to sacrifice herself in order for her baby brother to have a life free from the harsh memories of the past as Ofelia refuses the faun’s request to pour a drop of her brother’s blood.  This causes Ofelia’s real death. Yet, briefly, Del Toro allows for the assimilation of worlds with Ofelia the Princess of the Underworld, dying in the space between worlds. This visual unites Ofelia’s real world and her kingdom. Mercedes hums a lullaby and an image appears in the book of Ofelia at a Royal Court.  Likewise, Apichatpong toward the end of Uncle Boonmee e manipulates time and space.  Tong, the monk can’t sleep and has violated his vows visiting the hotel room of Jen and Roong. He showers and puts on civilian attire. Jen invites him to go with her to get food and takes his hand. Tong looks back and the camera reveals the three of them still sitting on the bed. This is Apichatpong’s way of saying the material world and the spiritual world, are not far apart. (Gomez-Castellano)

In conclusion, both Guillermo del Toro and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, illustrate memory and imagination as an expression of the self’s reality through their film’s respective characters, Ofelia and Uncle Boonmee. As the films are set in differing cultures, the representations are also differing. Del Toro’s film utilizes myth juxtaposed against real-time while Weerasethakul juxtaposes the metaphysical aspects of past, present, and future. Furthermore, both films make use of social commentary on troubled individuals within dominating nationalistic parameters of their respective countries. Spain is in the Civil War and Thailand is under enormous political pressure due to Laotian immigration Interestingly enough, Uncle Boonmee contains strong spiritual overtones while Pan’s Labyrinth is steeped in strong violence and harsh reality. Yet, the respective characters suffer from thematically conflicting maladies. Ofelia suffers from a spiritual malady while Uncle Boonmee suffers from a physical malady. Nevertheless, in closing, both films represent each respective individual character’s own self reality.

Ofilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Naremore, James. “Films of the Year.” Film Quarterly 2011: 34-47.

Kim, Ji-Hoon. “Learning About Time: An Interview With Apichatpong Weerasethakul.” Film Quarterly 2011: 48-52.

Clark, Roger and McDonald, Keith. “A Constant Transit of Finding: Fantasy as Realisation in Pan’s Labyrinth.” Children’s Literature in Education March 2010: 52-63.

 

 

 

Today’s AFI Movie Club Film: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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A League of Their Own comes to bat with an all-star lineup that includes Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and AFI Life Achievement Award Recipient Tom Hanks – who taught us all that “There’s no crying in baseball!” –one of AFI’s greatest movie quotes in cinematic history.

A beautiful film and heart-warming story about a difficult time in American history. Professional baseball has been canceled due to World War II. To help continue the traditions of America’s past time, a women’s professional league is formed to help fill the gaping hole by the overseas war effort. Highly entertaining! Check it out. But before you do listen to director Penny Marshall has to say about A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN in this exclusive AFI Archive video:

Interesting Facts

  • Before any actress read for a part in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, she had to take a baseball test. Each actress either had to be good at baseball or trainable in order to even audition. Roughly 2,000 actresses tested on a field at USC – including director Penny Marshall’s own daughter, Tracy Reiner.
  • Actual players of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League can be seen in the final scenes of the movie – both at the baseball field and at the Hall of Fame.Former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Dolores “Pickles” Dries taught Rosie O’Donnell how to throw two baseballs at once during filming. Director Penny Marshall added the trick throw into the movie.
  • Rosie O’Donnell originally read for the part of Marla Hooch. After director Penny cast Megan Cavanagh in the part, Marshall had the part of Doris Murphy changed to better fit O’Donnell. Marshall thought she was funny, a good actress and a very good ball player so she made sure to find a place for her in the movie.
  • Director Penny Marshall had the teams play real baseball games with cameras rolling to get extra footage of game play.
  • A short-lived sitcom based on A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN aired in 1993. Tom Hanks and Penny Marshall both directed episodes of the series.
  • A community field in Huntingburg, IN, was enlarged and rebuilt to stand in for the Rockford Peaches’ home field. Construction was done to code so the structure could remain in use after filming, and the revamped stadium was named League Stadium in honor of the production.
  • Over $10 million was spent in Indiana during the production of the movie – becoming one of the greatest economic impacts of any film produced in Indiana.
  • The role of Ernie Capadino was specifically written with Jon Lovitz in mind.
  • During the barn scene in which Jon Lovitz meets Geena Davis and Lori Petty, production had to be temporarily paused because a cow in the background was giving birth. The calf was named after director Penny Marshall.
  • Wrigley Field doubles as the fictional Harvey Field in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. The character “Walter Harvey” is based on chewing-gum tycoon P. K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise and organized the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943.
  • The movie doesn’t end at the credits. Engage with your family, friends and others like you who love the movies. Check out the AFI Movie Club Discussion Questions for this movie and post your responses in the comment section!

Discussion Questions

-Why do you think Dottie is reluctant to attend the opening of the Hall of Fame at the beginning of the film?

-What was the political climate like in the U.S. that led to the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? How did World War II influence the experience of American women?

-Why was it so difficult for society to accept women playing baseball?

-Describe the sisterly dynamic between Dottie and Kit. What were their major points of conflict?

-What makes A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN important in today’s society even after 25 years?

-Why was Doris willing to tear up the photo of her boyfriend and throw it out the bus window?

-Which player in the movie had your favorite nickname?

-What makes the line “There’s no crying in baseball!” so iconic that it is still quoted today?

– What did the league managers expect from their female players, in terms of traditional feminine qualities, appearance and behavior? Why was this expected of them as athletes?

-Why was it important for director Penny Marshall to include the scene of the African American woman throwing the baseball back to the players on the field?

-Did Dottie drop the ball on purpose at the end of the film? If she did, what would that signify about her relationship with her sister Kit?

-Why was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League short-lived? Why does a women’s baseball league not exist today?

-How would you rate A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN?

About AFI Movie Club

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time. AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI shines a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing the Movie of the Day. Audiences can “gather” at AFI.com/MovieClub to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience.

AFI MOVIE CLUB

(Source: AFI News Release)