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by Faith Korpi

15 Mar 2011

Film festivals are essentially a collection of films you’ve never heard of, and will probably not get the chance to see unless you live in L.A. or New York. But, now with Netflix and iTunes, films are so much more accessible to us peasants. So, I see festival coverage as, “Hey! You probably won’t get to see this in the theater, but it’s good, so when it pops up on the instant queue you should watch it”.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is one such film. It created buzz at Sundance and will undoubtedly continue to do so as it makes its way through the festival circuit. This doc had all the warm fuzzies (I couldn’t think of a way around that) usually reserved for the inspirational sports genre. The puppeteer, Kevin Clash, has a similar story. Just a kid from Baltimore who was fascinated by the likes of Jim Henson and Captain Kangaroo, he started making puppets out of materials he found around his house. From there, his story is of passion and drive, mixed with some serious good fortune.

It was funny being in a theater of 600-plus people, average age being somewhere in the mid-30s, and everyone becoming giddy whenever Elmo was on screen. Have to admit, I was crying within the first two minutes. Clash took over the character of Elmo from another puppeteer on Sesame Street and when he did, he said he thought it was important to come up with what Elmo was. “Love” was the simple answer. Cue waterworks.

by Faith Korpi

14 Mar 2011

2011 marks the 25th anniversary of SXSW – what started as a music festival in the Live Music Capital of the world; Austin, Texas, and is now one of the trendiest media industry events to attend. The Film and Interactive portions of the festival are in their 18th year, the latter now being the largest with 20,000 registrants. With the recent news of Warner Brothers partnering with Facebook, it seems only right to have the film and tech industries collide at such an event.

During SXSW (or “South By” to those in the know), the city of Austin turns into a giant coffee shop – everyone is driven by their own agenda, caffeine, and the need to find an electrical outlet. This is my third SXSW experience, and second time at the film festival. As someone who works in the industry and also calls Austin home, I am particularly fond of this insanity that engulfs the city for 10 days every spring.

by Jennifer Davis

7 Feb 2011

A penetrating look at death and dying, How to Die in Oregon is an HBO-produced documentary that explores the lives of people suffering from debilitating terminal illness.  Oregon was the first state in the nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide in 1994, and, since then, over 500 terminally ill Oregonians have ended their lives. The film opens with footage, director and cinematographer Peter Richardson didn’t actually shoot…

A man surrounded by his friends and family is about to drink a lethal dose of Seconal that will put him into a coma and eventually kill him. The footage, shaky and rough, is captured on a hand-held camcorder by a witness in the room. A representative from an organization called Compassion and Choices of Oregon tells the man that it’s not too late to back out. Then, she asks him to describe what will happen after he drinks the milky liquid in the glass. He answers, “I will die and I will finally be happy.” He gulps down the overdose, lies down, and slowly slips into a coma, singing a few lyrics from the folk song, Old Black Joe: “I’m coming. I’m coming. For my head is bending low.”

by Jenn Misko

5 Nov 2010

An omnibus collection of short films held together by a location-based theme, Revolución initially brings to mind such recent collaborative projects as Paris, Je T’aime, New York, I Love You, and Tokyo! Instead of just love of a city, however, the stories of Revolución share much more specific themes. They’re held together by producer Pablo Cruz’s loose conceptual question: “What does the Mexican Revolution mean to you today?” Inspired by the centennial celebration of the uprising-turned-civil-war and eventual establishment of what has since been the political system of Mexico, each filmmaker who contributed a piece took a unique approach, but it’s perhaps more interesting to explore what these pieces have in common than the ways in which they differ.

In addition to Helmer Cruz, directors Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Fernando Eimbcke, Mariana Chenillo, and Patricia Riggen took the stage for a Q&A after the film’s New York Film Festival screening, to an audience peopled with a significant proportion of often-elderly Spanish-speakers. According to the filmmakers on hand, the centennial celebrations are so ubiquitous in Mexico right now that it’s like a year-round holiday, although it’s doubtful most people know exactly what they’re celebrating. This skepticism of blind patriotism is one common thread in many of the shorts, particularly encouraging in light of the fact that this project was in large part funded by the Mexican government. The filmmakers were clear that the government had no creative input on the project, which in their words criticizes it openly, telling the story of the spirit and promise of a revolution which may not have been completely delivered upon.

by Jenn Misko

3 Nov 2010

The New York Film Festival recently concluded its 48th year of operation. It’s certainly one of the stuffier festivals I’ve attended, held in uptown Manhattan at the Lincoln Center and peopled largely by old-money, high-society patrons-of-the-arts types. Being a twentysomething living in Brooklyn and getting by on a Netflix subscription and something like $20,000 a year, I naturally felt a little out-of-place trying to slip past the old ladies with mink stoles and hide the holes in my jeans.

Luckily, though, despite the sometimes-stuffy atmosphere, the NYFF’s programmers had more than the upper crust in mind when laying down this year’s slate of films. Set up as a showcase rather than a competition, a wide range of nationalities, backgrounds, and levels of relative fame were represented in this year’s choices: although the fest’s opening film was The Social Network, its closer was Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, and its centerpiece was the Helen Mirren-starring iteration of The Tempest, the real meat was to be found in the in-between zones.

One of the festival’s featured directors, for example, was Kelly Reichardt, whose Meek’s Cutoff was a decidedly un-mainstream and non-uptight affair. In addition to showing the film twice with a Q&A following each screening with Reichardt and actors Paul Dano, Neal Huff, and Tommy Nelson, the NYFF also included Reichardt in an installment of its series of “HBO Director’s Dialogues”, in which Reichardt sat down for an extended interview with the very knowledgeable critic Melissa Anderson, taking some further audience questions afterward.

//Mixed media

Players Lose Control in ‘Tales from the Borderlands’

// Moving Pixels

"This is an interactive story in which players don’t craft the characters, we just control them.

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