Mark Cousins’ Film Festival Manifesto

It seems that this past September, Mark Cousins, creator of The Story of Film: An Odyssey, published an intriguing manifesto calling for a re-evaluation of values and aims among the film festival programmers of the world that is just beginning to emerge within the online film community (I only discovered it this past week courtesy of MUBI’s Notebook). You can view and save it in .PDF form here; I for one, as someone who loves to attend and cover film festivals when I can, am definitely in support of this document’s spirit of adventure and call for positive change in the rather insular world of film festivals. Whenever I go to a film festival, it’s not just the films that draw me in, but also all the other delights that that specific experience can offer. Thus, I am all for the inclusiveness, creativity, sense of identity, and close-knit, communal vibe that make film festivals so special and that Cousins is beseeching fest organizers to not lose sight of.

How about everyone else – thoughts?

TIFF Review: You Are Here



Here is an experiment. Take the name of six colours, write them in random order several times using a coloured pen that does not match the name of the colour. Time yourself reading this list of colours. Write the same list of colours using only black ink and time yourself reading the list. The mind works is strange ways, and has trouble if preconceived associations to familiar things or objects get too close to one another. Daniel Cockburn, a Toronto video artist has just made a wild and crazy jump into features with a film-slash-brain-experiment that wants to perform a witty and colourful brain massage. He wants to play with your cerebellum in the same way that the perception of film works: ‘Persistence of Vision’ as shutters push single frames to form the illusion of movement. We will ignore the contradiction that he mainly shoots on video. Contradictions are what the film is about.

Cockburn wants to expand your consciousness or provide the illusion of expanding your consciousness or expand your consciousness while providing the illusion that he has not. You Are Here. The statement is both a location as well as a confirmation of existence. Different things, really. The red dot that defines your location on the map can be just as much of a misleader as a guide. The meaning of the film goes beyond the dual-nature of the title into something that is both profound and a profoundly funny. It is science. It is art. It is absurd and hilarious sleight-of-hand. It is an ultra lo-fi version of Inception in which the filmmakers might as well be Leonardo Di Caprio and company (in shabbier clothing mind-you) and the audience are simultaneously the beneficiary of planted ideas and the mark of a baffling grift. The TIFF catalogue labels the film as Dr. Seuss meets Samuel Beckett, and I cannot really argue with that. It is an apt a description as you are going to get without telling you much. When it ended after an all too brief 75 minutes, I was upset. I wanted to see how many more times the filmmakers could fold their narrative in upon itself while keeping me in its spell. Riding the wave, before it collapsed. Like any good performer, Cockburn knows to keep the audience wanting more. Or they ran out of money, drugs or the ability to keep a hold of the reigns. I am sure the director will never tell.
Would you like to know more…?

Why We Fight (on Movie Blogs)

There are two free-floating ideas on the film blogosphere that I would like to call out as bullshit, and my hope is that the more they are recognized as bullshit the less people will cling to them. I see them as the ‘all or nothing’ approaches. They are as follows:

1) Film taste is wholly subjective, so nothing is debatable

2) Film taste is wholly objective, so everything is debatable

Nothing kills a thread faster than someone proclaiming that all debate is futile because ‘film is subjective’. By this logic, the forum that exists is just a depository of self-contained opinions that need not even brush up against each other, lest they be challenged in any way. On the flipside, you have the predatorial approach based on the assumption that ‘everything is debatable’ including how a person must feel about the film. Sometimes this is just trolling, but more often than not it is a genuine presumption of knowing how everyone must feel. These are the extremes and unfortunately they play out on occasion on Row Three, hence my desire to put a spotlight on them.

Despite the obvious subjective quality to personal taste, opinions can co-exist, healthy debate can happen. For some, this will be glaringly obvious, but take a look at any movie forum and time and again you will see that this farce does play out. Still it takes all kinds, and there is certainly a benefit when aggressive types stick their neck out for people to get agitated enough to join in (we at Row Three have a knack for doing that, i.e. the Signs water theory, the politics of Milk), but after the ball gets rolling things tend to fall apart because somewhere, someone neglects how exactly we relate to film, and how film relates to our lives. There are useful boundaries that we can hold to, to keep the insightful threads ricocheting into the hundreds.

First, lets do away with this fallacy that film is subjective and therefore everyone is right. This is not kindergarten. At its best, a film community can be a place to confront your feelings, articulate them, come to some conclusion that you would not have independently. While there are indisputable aspects to one’s opinion (i.e. your emotional response), the causes are not so indisputable and can and should be challenged. There is a tendency for people to get upset when told that they do not feel what they feel, and it’s usually the fault of the accuser missing their mark; what is meant is not that someone does not feel the way they do, but rather the justifications for why they feel that way rings false. Would you like to know more…?