Latest Blog Posts

by Cynthia Fuchs

20 Feb 2012


“Nobody knew how the revolution would end, but the event itself was extraordinary,” says Masud Kimiai, “And full of idealism and beauty.” As the director of Snake Fang (Dandan-e-mar) and The Journey of the Stone (Safar Sang) remembers the Iranian Revolution in 1979, you see a mix of footage, crowds waving flags in the street and women dropping flowers from balconies, and a few shots later, police chasing after citizens, helmets white and guns raised. Most viewers of Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution, will know that this shift from exhilaration to fear and aggression had its seeds in decades of corruption and resentment, in weak internal infrastructures and not-so-secret interventions by the West. What may be less well known is how closely the film industry in Iran has mapped, anticipated, and helped to shape the nation’s political movements and fractures.

This story is unveiled in Nader Takmil Homayoun’s 2006 documentary, available now on Link TV‘s excellent broadcast and online series, A Bridge to Iran. In tracing how movies in Iran have been put to use by both Reza Shah Pahlevi and his son, and the fundamentalist religious regime under Khomeini, the film makes the broader point, that media shape, support, and can challenge other regimes, even when those regimes don’t think of themselves as such.

by Imran Khan

17 Feb 2012


Dizraeli’s excursion into East Indian rhythms gives food for thought in “People Taking Pictures”. The British rapper’s scathing attack on Western tourism explores the concepts of exoticism over a hand-drummed groove and some snatches of Bollywood splendour. His observations make a compelling case for the exploitative damage that a single click of a camera can cause and he isn’t beyond calling himself out on that charge. Dizraeli’s dagger-tipped rhymes are thrown so swiftly, they can leave you unsteady (that is, if they don’t cut you first). But the full-bodies beats and their vigorous rhythms (courtesy of Tom Caruana) should help regain your balance.  Check out the first single from the upcoming White Man (Moves) album.

by Sachyn Mital

17 Feb 2012


At the end of October last year, the camera manufacturer Canon held a launch party for its new printer model, the Pixma Pro-1. While some were psyched to see some of the new 1D-X cameras on display, others were excited for a performance from Herbie Hancock, though the two are not mutually exclusive.

As part of the evening, Hancock’s performance of “Chameleon” was captured, in photograph form, with cameras lent to various attendees (“crowd sourced”) and hung from the ceiling to be spliced together to create a “stop motion” music video (which of course features the printer). The result is interesting to say the least and is presented here for your viewing pleasure.

by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Feb 2012


“My partners and I are always searching for Dr. King’s perspective,” says Tavis Smiley during the first minutes of his documentary, Stand. In 2008, Smiley wonders, “How did we arrive at this critical place in our history?” And so, as Barack Obama is running for president, poverty growing, the US is engaged in two wars, and more black men are incarcerated than ever before, Smiley and a group including Michael Eric Dyson, Wren Brown, and Cornel West (“Definitely,” he says, “not your typical black men”) take off on a bus trip to look for Martin Luther King Jr.‘s perspective. Screening on the Documentary Channel this month, the documentary is comprised of footage by Smiley’s professional crew and also by two teens from Memphis, Robert Smith and Daron Keith Boyce, who wield their digital camera with a mix of enthusiasm and awe.

Much like the ride in Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus, this one alternates betweens on the bus (the space tight and the conversation lively) sand setting down the passengers in a series of locations (though here, they always have places to stay and eat). It also provides multiple occasions for sharing stories and some wisdom too (Dyson: “It’s hard sometimes when you’re in the parade to see what’s on the float” or again, West: “Don’t confuse your voice with an echo”). When a new partner joins in, like Dick Gregory, Smiley uses the opportunity to historicize: “Comedy has been important for black folk,” he asserts, “Things have been so challenging and bleak for us at times,” that it’s helped to have artists who “say stuff on stage that we can’t say, who are willing to check America, check white folk.” What the riders say here—and they can claim a large stage, to be sure—is less directed at white folk than black men, words of encouragement and direction, exhortations to excellence and consciousness. They’re a small, atypical group, and they listen to one another. 

by John Garratt

16 Feb 2012


Anthony Braxton, prodigal son of the AACM movement and MacArthur grant recipient, has just released his very first recorded opera, Trillium E, in the form of a four-disc box set. He seems to understand the financial, as well as mental, undertaking customers require when encountering works like this, so he has decided to release a free career sampler. Composition, Improvisation, Synthesis: Selections from the Tri-Centric Foundation Archives runs the gamut of his numerous instrumental works (identified only by number) as well as an improvisational piece and excerpt from Trillium E itself. All it will cost you is a little bit of personal information, and all 79-plus minutes of this wonderful, wild music is yours.

An NPR story mentioning both Trillium E and Composition, Improvisation, Synthesis: Selections from the Tri-Centric Foundation Archives can be read or downloaded here.

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