Every year, the number of boring and dumb films greatly triumph, and the hunt for an honest
and smart piece of work is weakened by 100 herds of films lacking any integrity. There are two important aspects of cinema which are being disregarded: 1. Its greatness as a form of art 2. Its unique importance as a way of grabbing hold of an audience. When these two elements are forgotten, the moviegoing experience dwindles. It is no longer special. It is a frightening shift in perception: Has going to the movies become nothing more than a slightly amusing pastime? In the 1920s, we would have witnessed movie theaters brimming with eager audiences. People used to be very affected by films - they were exciting and full of heart, they captured life with brilliance, they provoked a sense of wonder and surprise of what the world may hold in store. They were more than just a waste of time. We are very unhappy that cinema has stopped making a dent in society. Dear Hollywood, rarely can you be taken seriously. You’re a big moneymaking business, so it’s not like we can expect you to deliver us high art, but if you’re going to be in charge of the films seen by the masses, at least go back to your roots and remember how to entertain us honestly. We want at least 50 great movies for the whole year, not 6 or 7. Dear IFC and Sundance, you might be the bigger tragedy - two companies in support of independent filmmaking that should prevent today’s moviegoing experience from turning into a game of counting clichés, but it’s the opposite. No matter the genre - horror, comedy-drama, mystery, romance; your so-called “indies” rarely do anything more than follow silly trends, just like your big brother Hollywood. Rather than make something meaningful, you cater to audiences based on what’s hip. Philly, it sure feels like cinema is dying. So are we - life is too short for us to be watching the same things over and over.
Cinema is dead.
We love cinema! And we understand what it means for a film to be cinematic camera, sound, a screenplay and actors, coming together with a purpose to tell a story, to surprise and provoke audiences across the globe and make it worth their time, to entertain with a meaning. We are enthusiastic about films and we want to make, show and talk about films that need to be made, shown and talked about. It is always a beautiful thing when a good film comes together, whether it be by a modern auteur or one of the old masters, whether the film be artsy brilliance or classic and solid storytelling. We are individuals who care about the foundation of making cinema from the heart, and we have started a collective of us.
We are Shooting Wall.
How could there be a lack of ideas? A lot of time has passed since cinema’s golden age, but do not tell us there are no ideas left - we have many. Do not say TV has replaced the movies - that is blasphemy. It is 2011 - cinema is still a fairly new medium and its eternity is good as the written word. Our idea, simply, is to strengthen its foundation, and freshen up its perception. We would like to try taking it back. We want film people who are sick of seeing all these bad films getting made for the wrong reason, film people who will not settle for it and refuse to accept this nonsense, who are not afraid to take risks, and who want to openly discuss films and the state of cinema and their own theories on how it all works. Today, let us make certain there will be more artistic practice within tomorrow’s filmmaking. Let our passion be properly honed and proven vital. We can go to extremes to get our films made: Break into buildings to film panoramas, commit grand larceny stealing helicopters to get our shots from above. We want filming techniques old and new and especially the undiscovered. It is 2011 - technology is out there helping creative people get noticed without the difficult assistance of capitalist and corporate chains. We want to discover filmmakers and theorists who are interested in cinema as a lifestyle or art - not a business. Cinema is forever, so let us celebrate good movies and make some ourselves. Join our revolutionary cinematic organization. There needs to be something to assure a cinematic future that’s worth a damn.
Cinema never dies!
Shooting Wall is a revolutionary cinematic organization founded in Philadelphia, PA. While a theoretical collective is not new to art theory, our aim is to actually displace the deplorable cinema of the modern. A vanguard of film theorists who are not parasites, but who actualize the future of their art. Cinematic soldiers, preparing for a coming war to assert a criterion for the cinematic. This criterion:
Film is a Visual Medium. Film is an autuer-based art. Film is not reality.
Cinema that employs an understanding of film-form has slowly disappeared. At fault: theory departing to the academic grave, critical complacency, and inherent issues with the mainstream. A militant community or militia, fortified by the formidable and persistent foundation of theory, will be the army cultivated to fight an imperative war. In short, we're leaving the academy, hitting the streets, and cannot be stopped. Filmmakers, theorists and critics, Shooting Wall is insisting you need to start taking film more seriously. We are engaging in cinematic total war, the line in the sand is drawn, are you a comrade or enemy of cinema? If you fall into the latter, do not expect mercy. The last words you will hear: FILM THEORY IS NOT LOVE, IT IS THE HAMMER WHICH WE USE TO CRUSH THE ENEMY!
Featuring locally and independently produced short films by filmmakers associated with Shooting Wall. Films for filmmakers and cinephiles who are tired of mediocrity! Screenings of films by Karl Starkweather, Jonathan Seidman, Ben Webster, and Joshua Martin. The first films of the Shooting Wall revolution!
Sunday April 10 7pm
Featuring Zero for Conduct (1933) by Jean Vigo, Barres (1984) by Luc Moullet, and The Grave Delinquents (2010) by Joshua Martin (made independently in Philadelphia).
Sunday April 24 7pm
704 South Street • Philadelphia, PA 19147 woodenshoebooks.com
Film Movements are Failures
Best of 2010 How to be a Woman, According to Darren Aronofsky
36 Views and a Devastating Glare: Notes on Summer, 2010
On the Current State of Documentary Film
Paul Akerman Franz Walsch
Mediocrity and American Awards Shows
Karl Starkweather Joshua Martin Joshua Martin
The Failures of American Film Festivals A New Mode of Production and Distribution Looking Forward
Editor-in-Chief: Carrie Love Executive Editors: Jon Seidman; Joshua Martin Editorial Director: Karl Starkweather Special Contributor: Katy Gronsbell Guest Contributor: Ben Webster Drawings: Jon Seidman; Sean Favre (seanfavre.blogspot.com) Photography: Alex Halpin (email@example.com) Design Director: Josh Christensen Blog Editor: Joshua Martin Cover Design: Josh Christensen
HE FILM WAVES POST-1950 never exist beyond an infantile age. With a maximum output of 7-8 years, their successes come into contention with their initial goals and their lack of program. Films born out of these movements are cherished in the world of cinema for their devotion to film history and theory. Since the birth of cinema there have always been those who made entertainment without using the tools cinema has to heighten its expression. The films of the Waves post-1950 filled the void for those who value these strengths. The Waves represent an inability though to move beyond having minimal influence to become tactically viable entities that could forcibly displace the hegemonic influence of the Big Cinema of Hollywood or of International firms. DEVELOPMENT OF MOVEMENTS: All the Waves revolved around a change in technology, new forms of distribution, socio-political shifts, and economic demands. With technology the creation of cheaper and less cumbersome equipment produces a more liberatory environment for the populace at large to engage with filmmaking. It also created or lent to the initial methodological aspirations of several of the Waves (low budget, handheld, location shooting, etc). Distributional development in the era of the Waves lead to
the growth of a 16mm underground, using the television as a viewing medium, and these put profits towards making more Wave films. Society changed in the Wave era of the 60’s in large part as a result of a post-war baby boom that lead to the rise of a youth culture that demanded radical and edgy films. This youth, in both urban centers and artistic circles, started to rebel via politics too. Wave films, due to their limited budgets, could survive solely catering to such political minority audiences. Then economic demands brought about master Hollywood’s continual profit crisis on account of some new technology they have to compete with like TV and/or lack of control due to the studio system’s collapse. If you have a combination of most or all of these, something just will occur cinematically. You saw the development of the Nouvelle Vague in France, the Nuberu bagu in Japan, Direct Cinema in America, etc., all around the same time due to these factors. WHY THE WAVES CRASH: There are specific actions or outcomes of the Waves that make them dig their own graves: Realism: They all tend to be a return to realism, which is due to many Waves filmmaker’s adoration of French Impressionist Cinema, Socialist Realism, and Italian Neo-Realism. This was a result of the political context of
these films and the filmmaker’s view that Realism was a revolutionary act against the glossy Hollywood cinema, the theatrical British cinema, and the literary films of France. Additionally, in certain countries with Socialized or Semi-Socialized systems like former Czechoslovakia or Canada, Realismnarrative or documentary was inherently favored by the State institutions. This ideological adherence to Realism leads to more limitations than innovation, as it puts restrictions on what you can do with film (see Functionalist Realism in Shooting Wall #1). Politics: The political obsessions of many of the Wave filmmaker’s lead to films that were purposefully alienating and only were preaching to the choir of a small intellectual audience. The connection to the political is considering that all these Waves wrote manifestos: Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Glaz, British New Cinema’s Free Cinema manifesto, New German Cinema’s Oberhausen Manifesto, and New American Cinema’s The First Statement of the New American Cinema Group. Capitalism/Member Identification: Some the Waves, like the French New Wave or New German Cinema, would become co-opted and turned into a marketing device. This is bad for another reason, for Waves lead to the identification of the members by critics, film producers and businessmen. With little capital to go around in the first place in foreign cinemas from the public or private sector, it meant those who were seen as members of a Wave are given preference for financing. Such entangling of business with the revolutionary nature of the Waves lead to several of the chosen Wave filmmakers becoming more devoted to the industry than to their original ideals. Genres: The films in Waves tend to become genres with similar stories
and aesthetics. The filmmaker’s don’t work enough to grow as artists and get frustrated when their style is not having the same impact. Regionalism: A major dilemma is they tend to be classified by their country by critics or industry, which is a mixture of the fact each Wave’s culture does have heavy effect on their themes, but industries are set locally and nationally. A NEW EPOCH: In 1975, Hollywood came across the Blockbuster with Jaws and its financial difficulties for a time were over. Its tactic of using foreign cinema to make up revenues was slowly phased out and their monstrosities soon became the focus. This is why film history seems to have a hard time dealing with what happened after the 1970’s. Film schools revel in the cinema from 1900 to the 1970’s. Film studies does the same or searches endlessly across the globe for the few obscure films that possibly get distribution every year that have the same devotion and innovation the Wave cinemas did (for examples look at film journals such as Film Comment, Cineaste, Sight and Sound). It also needs to be stated that bad cinema has always been the majority. These Wave films weren’t taking the place of larger productions, but found a window in the 60’s-70’s to get seen. What I’m suggesting then with this analysis is that there is a need for a new path for future film movements. It seems we are ripe for a sprouting of a new international film movement. We have the cheapest and most efficient technology available in the history of cinema, so the lack of funds that our increasingly Neo-Liberal world can’t produce is not an excuse. Distribution, though there are still issues, has benefited greatly from video upload
and torrent sites. (see Joshua Martin’s “A New Mode of Production and Distribution” in this issue) Any aspiring filmmaker has the whole history of cinema accessible for him/her to study and master. What should the next movement do to take power? It needs to use the new technology: The high definition cameras of today are easier to use than million dollar 35mm cameras. This means that more time should be spent on innovation, when in the past years it had to be spent raising funds for the film stock, editing, lighting and dollies. A new movement should innovate in a formalist sense, we should see new forms of lighting, brand new color
due to the lowered cost of putting them on. Stay away from politics or politically influenced productions: A new movement will work to create political cinema that doesn’t speak to a few and pat itself on the back. It should learn from where the political films of the past failed to take larger influence and slowly work towards a moment of great impact. In regards to production, we should engage in collectivized experiments in film work, but remain mindful that collectivism doesn’t inherently equal Left Wing and/or watchable cinema. Study film history: Almost every film is available to you at anytime on the internet. The new movement needs to have the highest level of film knowl-
palettes through the new abilities of the camera and the editing equipment, new set designs, longer takes, and greater use of dollies and cranes due to extra funds. Distribute digitally: It needs to take hold of the reality on the street and start creating a network. Over the next few years we will see resolutions of computer devices and internet speeds increase, several theaters will convert to digital servers and high definition projection, and hopefully many small venues will open up and will play films
edge. Those who do not immerse themselves in past cinema are then just putting on a front. There is no excuse for one who admires film to not take in its history when it’s so incredibly easy to do so in the 21st century. Filmmakers need to abstain from funding: With production costs being the cheapest in human history, start working towards making big films with low budgets. This will deter the marketing attempts of business and also keep the movement from wasting its time with outmoded ways.
Alex Halpin 2010
The movement needs to be international: A network will be vital. When this new movement begins we need to start screening each other’s films nationally and internationally. Uploading sites that cater specifically to this new cinema need to be created and those need to have processes of keeping poor cinema off this site. A strong international network will also mean more good films will be available, where as many foreign films now never make it to the States. We must make it hard for them to make a national cinema some package they can sell. An international tendency will lead to a larger impact of the movement. In short, we need to have a larger discussion. The Wave cinemas repre-
sented what low budget cinema made by those with a devotion to film could accomplish. Their cinema emerged, in part, as a result of socio-economic shifts, no different than what we are facing now. They, even if their aim wasn’t to take power, couldn’t move beyond being a either strong or weak influence on the industry and not reforming Big Cinema. We are at a point in the world of film where taking power is possible. What movements and Waves do is they bring the discussion back to film form. It is vital then to have this discussion interspersed with new possibilities for the world of cinema. We need something then with a persistence of force built on new theory and new practice.
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We can show the absurdity of what a cinephile has to deal with by contrasting what critics and the mainstream deem to be the best films. This surely has been an issue throughout the history of cinema because there was never a golden age. Bad cinema has always existed, though some critics have mistaken or pushed these films as the exemplification of good cinema. Focusing only on the American modern and mainstream, we have been accosted with Mystic River, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, Little Miss Sunshine, The Hurt locker, Sideways, Inception, Black Swan, etc. when films like There Will Be Blood, A Single Man, Last Days/Paranoid Park, Public Enemies, Children Of Men, Wendy & Lucy/ Old Joy, Bubble, etc., did not receive the attention they deserved. This last
year, the more intellectual film community has rallied around Winter’s Bone, which is a solid film, but being solid shouldn’t classify you as spectacular. Critic’s complacency has created a system in which they praise mediocrity while dismissing experimentation and films that work outside of the mainstream. This year, for example, brought us three of the best films in recent memory: Trash Humpers, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives and Blue Beard. These films have gotten little to no distribution, born out of the lack of connection between the public and industry to the critic. They still have their jobs though, especially due to awards seasons, when they’re seen as akin to sports commentators. They are meditating on mediocrity and somehow justifying it to themselves as ‘The Best of the Year.’
Given the present state of cinema, it comes as no surprise that the best films of the year didn’t get distribution and weren’t forced upon the masses by critics. More than half of this list was viewed either at a one night screening, a festival, or by acquiring it after days of searching on the internet. The other films should be added to the pantheon of quality cinema, but they will only ever get the viewership of an obsessive minority. With the #1 film, we felt it represented something unique to American filmmaking. Blue Beard at #2 was one of the most underrated films of the year from one of the best directors creating work today. Film Socialisme marked possibly the end of Godard’s genius and it did so through a culmination that lead to it being the best of In Praise Of Love, Histories Du Cinema, and Notre Musique. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives lived up to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s pronouncement that through the film he “pushed the possibility of what cinema can do because it is such a young medium.” With the other films, if you can access them, do so. If not, put your anger towards modern film.
1. Trash Humpers 2. Blue Beard
Harmony Korine Catherine Breillat Jean-Luc Godard
3. Film Socialism
4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives 5. Face
Tsai Ming-liang Jessica Hausner Claire Denis
7. White Material 8. Dogtooth 9. Mother
Giorgos Lanthimos Joon-ho Bong David Fincher
10. The Social Network
*Aronofsky in this context refers to the entire team under the director. With the reverberating rattle of popular and analytic reviews of 2010’s Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky makes the jump from director-with-that-heroinmovie into wide release territory. Just as Danny Boyle broke into the collective American bleeding heart with Slumdog Millionaire - a far cry from
but misses the mark on crucial female content. The Madonna and The Whore complex is dragged through the narrative with expected duality. Yes, Natalie Portman’s petit figure and creamy skin goes great with the innocent White Swan and her dark hair and sudden/ unlikely cleavage lends itself to the Black Swan. Yes, ballet = undeveloped girls in tutus, pink pointe shoes and grace. Yes, a pink room full of fluffy bears suggests a girl sleeps there. Whup-dee-doo. For a movie about dancing and insanity – two topics frequently associated with women – Aronofsky handles her latebloomer trip into adult sexuality and responsibility with little grace. Aronofsky is unable to capture the nuances of female relationships and prevented his own film from becoming anything more than a beautifully meandering dream of the Internet porn generation. Want to see Natalie Portman masturbate in a twin size bed next to Barbara Hershey, a strong female whose concerns and ambitions are sacrificed for screen-time of Portman whipping her head around to stare off-screen? Want to see the girl from That 70’s Show go down on Portman while she’s rolling? How about Winona Ryder stabbing herself for shock value instead of furthering the rabbit hole? A lack of subtly and understanding of the feminine perspective – or basic thought patterns of human beings – killed Swan.
Trainspotting - Aronofsky followed his fetishistic cinematic talents into the limelight. Aronofsky is a man, and a ham-handed one when it comes to femininity. His approach to the sexual awakening of a woman is the rejection of an effeminate Frenchman that auto-corrects Portman into the mouth of the slutty-eyed Mila Kunis (complete with the rebellious characteristics of smudged black eyeliner and Prom Weekend tribal tattoos). Cruel and cringe inducing, Black Swan is an achievement in pacing and swinging camera equipment
The experience of cinema-going is detached from the cycling of the seasons. Aside from the volume of coats and hats piled onto empty seats, the climate-controlled, darkened room remains the same winter, spring, summer, or fall. A strange alignment, then, that in the space of one hot week in July both of my trips to the cinema synced with the world outside. Not with the crowded streets of New York or Philadelphia to which I returned from the dream chamber per se, but with a far sweeter, pastoral summer, a universal summer of short sleeves, bathing suits, and sun dresses. Jacques Rivette’s 36 vues du Pic Saint Loup blissfully rides out the season with an eccentric romanticism; Maren Ade’s Everyone Else overturns and explodes it with the seething unease of a 60s ghetto on the verge of a summer riot. Incidentally, both films were among the best released in 2010, and, as is often the case, the most overlooked. To relay the narrative of 36 vues is to miss the point; like Rivette’s most fascinating works, the blunt exposition is only an infrastructure around and through which mysterious flows of desire and conspiracy move. Here there is an old-fashioned traveling circus, touring through a region of France dominated by the peak of Mt. Saint Loup, a prodigal daughter returning to the circus family, and the hapless romantic who falls for her and for the allure of arcane circus arts. But what animates the film is the co-incidence of Rivette’s characteristic extranarrative flows with the sensual flow of
the summer breeze. It blows through the canvas flaps of the circus tents, through the temporary camps, around the foothills, accompanied by the gentle song of crickets, driving Kate and Vittorio along with it. Suggesting the gentle hallucinations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is as though a small rift has opened by way of a hazy summer fever, through which impossible love can gesture and forms from the past inhabit the present with their full force. Hence a parallel spaced sequence of a clown routine involving many plates and a pistol- a pure yet baffling performance absolutely out of sync with contemporary modes of entertainment. Rivette’s reverence for a popular art form eclipsed by postmodern modishness should strike a chord. Reviews of 36 vues tended to note it as a minor work of an aging master, if it was noted upon at all. Only opening on one screen in the US (the awful, overpriced, union-busting IFC Center, naturally), it disappeared in the noise of, well, you know the rest. As an initiate in the conspiracy, I propose the following inversion: it is precisely masterful and lovingly crafted works like 36 vues that are major, and the like of Avatar and The King’s Speech which are minor, if we deign to register them at all. Ade’s Everyone Else drains the romance from the summer countryside as surely as it abolishes the warm breeze. It is the burning heat of the sun, not the kiss of comforting air, which sets the tone. Deploying duration as a cinematic strategy, Ade
lays bare the degradation of a young couple’s relationship from carefree fun in the sun to interminable forced march. Contra conventional dramatic practice, the film works not by pinpointing and highlighting moments of overcoded emotion and decision to draw in the audience, but by backing away and slowing down, thereby allowing fissures of desperation and crisis to emerge at a properly human pace. What should be languid and pleasurable becomes tense and unbearable. Such is the fate of Gitti and Chris’s doomed summer vacation. Well-executed, naturalistic Eurorealism is neither groundbreaking nor distracting, in other words the ideal medium for this smart study of characters under whose bronzed bodies swirl reserves of selfdoubt, class resentment, unfocused erotic energy. Rivette’s ethereal flows coagulate here in the hard glare of Gitti
towards her erstwhile soul-mate, one of the film’s material testaments to the strangeness of love in its persistence and closure. Need I comment on the general apathy with which Everyone Else was met with last summer, grossing barely over $100,000 on a handful of American screens? Shortly before the publication of this article, in the depths of a harsh Philadelphia winter, summer’s spirit hailed again. Icy pavements and temperatures in the 20s outside, inside International House’s dark theater I enjoyed Miguel Gomes’s outstanding Our Beloved Month of August, a film faithful to its title. The houselights go up, revealing a pitifully small Saturday night audience for the one-off screening. How much longer until the end of winter?
The last decade or so has seen an increase not only in the number of documentary films being made, but, particularly in the number of documentaries getting distribution and playing in “independent” movie theaters across the United States. There are times during the year, when the number of documentaries playing at a theater like The Ritz in Philadelphia outweighs the number of fiction films playing. This would not necessarily be so distressing, except that the majority of these documentaries, frankly, are not cinema. These documentaries which have seen such a resurgence are predominantly explanatory (about artists, filmmakers, writers, famous people, etc.), political (The Tillman Story, An Inconvenient Truth, No Impact Man, et. al), or “quirky” (about eccentric individuals or occurrences such as Winnebago Man, Marwencol). Now, there are certainly great documentaries that fall into each of these categories, but they also transcend these simple descriptions, while the documentaries that are popular right now do not. This leads to my main gripe with these documentaries: they are not cinema and do not belong in the movie theater,
but instead, are better suited for DVD or PBS, as they do not appear to be made by artists with exceptional styles or with anything in particular to say about their subjects or about cinema. These kinds of documentaries never move beyond their subjects to create something truly original, meaningful, or artistic. The most interesting documentary films and filmmakers use the documentary form to create a personal style and reflect on ideas and themes. When I think of true visionary documentary filmmakers, certain people come to mind: Agnes Varda, Frederick Wiseman, Errol Morris, Chris Marker, Dziga Vertov, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Pedro Costa, etc. These filmmakers have taken the documentary and made it something unique, interesting, and cinematic. Their films are cinematic and not merely informative; they are able to consistently use their subjects and the form to create films about more than just their subjects. The documentaries which are currently being played all over America are merely clogging up theaters and lines of distribution when they should left for PBS.
Each year between December and March, the cinema is subjected to an odious tradition which in America is known as Award Season. Year after year a number of average films, filmmakers, actors, and technicians are given awards for mediocre and uninteresting films and we are told that these are the “best” films of the year. Looking back at its history, I don’t believe that the Academy Awards have ever given the award to the best film of the year and, more times than not, they give the award to films which aren’t even good. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the Academy Awards, but hold true over 95% of the awards given out
in America during award season. The Golden Globes, SAG, DGA, WGA, Independent Spirit Awards, film critic’s awards, etc all celebrate the mediocrity of American film. The films chosen are always the obvious choices and there is little to no discrepancy between awards. This year almost every award under the sky has been given to David Fincher’s The Social Network. I am not knocking this film as it is a good film, though not a masterpiece and definitely not the best film of the year. The real issue here is that there are usually more than 2 or 3 great or good films which are released in a given year and yet it is consistently 2 or 3 films which
Alex Halpin 2010
are given all the praise and all the awards. No one disagrees? Everyone in the industry is fine with conforming to these generally held truths that there really is a best film of the year. Those of us who look at film in a more discerning and critical way know that there is not one best film for the year, let alone a best film of all time. We know that there can and should be many films out there which deserve to be celebrated and awarded and praised, but which, either because they are too demanding or not appealing enough to a mass audience, receive no nominations or awards at all. Of course the idea of awards and awards shows in itself is really counterproductive and, in terms of the Oscars and The Golden Globes, are really more narcissistic and self-congratulatory than legitimately about honoring the
so-called best films of the year. Critics awards, however, should be a place for the purveyors of cinematic wisdom to be rewarding and getting the word out about truly original and great films which have been released in a given year. And yet, this year nearly all of the film critic’s awards went The Social Network or Black Swan (possibly one of the worst films of the year). We have a Hollywood mainstream only interested in basking in their greatness and a critical majority who are so lazy and inept that they cannot even engage in healthy debate about what the best films being made are. There is no longer any difference between Hollywood and film critics; they have all given up on cinema. Mediocrity is reigning supreme and Shooting Wall can no longer let this stand!
Shooting Wall, or a cinematic organization with the aim of waging war on deplorable cinema, should not be seen as a force of negation. We do not wish to genuinely or satirically hate all of current cinema. When we see a film that from the point of analysis constitutes a good piece of cinema, we are ecstatic. Sadly we find most of these films are with little to no distribution. Then, with Big Cinema, rarely the films they produce could be called masterful. They exist though, and this is where we differ with the obscurists (those who want to come off as special for only engaging in rare works) or with the simple critical lens of some Left theorists, who denounce anything Hollywood could offer, suggesting rather the creation of an anti-cinema and/or the adulation of experimental cinema. Both arenas contain a myriad of films that we at Shooting Wall are fans of, yet we are working towards something unique. We want to see that films that expand the possibilities in filmmaking are made and viewed. We immensely adore cinematic cinema, but our negative tone might be the most dominant until change is made. We are working towards that change.
Alex Halpin 2010
The past few years have proved to me that American film festivals have all but completely lost their artistic importance for cinema and, instead, have become consumed by money, name power, and certain culture elitism which has become the enemy of cinema. It seems to me that American film festivals have decided that the only reason people attend film festivals anymore is to be able to say they were the first to see a particular film. The purpose of these film festivals no longer seems to be a chance to discover and discuss the most interesting films being made. The majority of American film festivals basically fall into two categories these days; one, they exist in order for films to be bought and sold. This is true of Sundance, for example, whose very existence hinges on how many films get sold and for how much. This seems to determine to the festival organizers and the attendees whether or not the festival has had a successful year. Second, film festivals offer the opportunity for people to see films before their friends. This is true of the Philadelphia Film Festival, where the majority of the films screened already had distribution, had played at many other film festivals throughout the world, and would be playing at a local movie theater sometime in the near future. Why should we go the Philadelphia Film Festival and pay $12 to see something like Black Swan, when less than two months later it was playing at the Ritz? Just to say we saw before others did? Just so we could update our blog with our opinion
on the film two months before others had the chance to see it? I cannot think of anything more counterproductive than this. Why should I waste my time? Or, better yet, why should I waste my money? I see no purpose for film festivals like these to even exist. There was a time when going to a film festival was the highlight of the cinephiles’ year. It brought new, exciting films, which didn’t make it to the theater because they were too challenging, but were right at home in the film festival environment. A cinephile could spend an entire week seeing as many as 4 or 5 films a day, make important discoveries, and watch films with other people who shared their enthusiasm for the most cutting edge and interesting films being made. Film festivals used to be a place for both cinephile and filmmaker to experience what was best about arthouse films. Filmmakers actually had the opportunity to get their films shown at these festivals, even if they would never receive any kind of adequate distribution. This was the purpose of the film festivals. A venue for emerging talent; a place for filmmakers like ourselves to have audiences like us watch their films. Surely if the theaters were not going to take chances, then film festivals would. The film festival could take chances! Did the Philadelphia Film Festival take any chances this year? Nope. Not one. Even the more difficult films they did play (like Godard’s Film Socialism or Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) were still obvious choices. And
how many local films did they play? How many films by unknowns? Barely any. I do not believe a Shooting Wall filmmaker could even get a short film screened at the Philadelphia Film Festival. Why, in a city that already gets all the mainstream “arthouse” films, doesn’t the Philadelphia Film Festival try to play films that we may not get? Why not take some chances? Why not try to cultivate a cutting-edge
Midsize and small film festivals are not the only culprits in the dumbing down of arthouse and independent cinema; the large American film festivals are even more egregious. Large festivals like Sundance and South By Southwest exist as corporations more than film festivals. They simply cultivate a certain kind of style or look, which becomes associated with that particular film festival and
film festival that is constantly looking to discover new filmmakers and films? Instead, they are lazy and are only interested in how many people they can get into the theaters so they can keep their corporate sponsors. The Philadelphia Film Festival is only used here as an example, as this kind of situation exists all over America in every large to midsize city. They all offer the same no risk, cookie cutter programming that is plaguing the American Cinema right now.
then program their films to reflect this style. The majority of the films that come out of festivals look like this and sound the same. You can easily recognize a Sundance film; it looks like a Sundance film. These festivals continue to promote their brand of films and filmmaker without allowing much room for anything outside of that niche. A film screens at these festivals if it fits in with their brand. If it fits in with their brand, then hopefully the film will be sold for seven figures and
be released with the coveted “Official Selection” title, which will draw in its already prescribed audience. It is seen as a success by the festival. Look how much money the films that play at our festivals sell for; aren’t we so great? Festivals like these are a cancer on cinema and should be summarily destroyed. Shooting Wall wants to propose a new kind of film festival; a festival that is created by, run by, curated by, and attended by filmmakers, critics, and devout cinephiles. We are proposing a festival where filmmakers can submit their works for free, whether they are shorts or features or somewhere in between makes no difference. We will give no preference to the length, the style, or the tone of the films. The festival will only be about good and interesting cinema. If the only films we consider worth screening are short films, then it will be all short films. The festival will
depend on the films; we will not create a mold and then expect the entries to fit into said mold. We want to create an environment where the work can speak for itself. It makes no difference how much your film cost or whether it was shot on film or video or HD; all that matters is the content of your film. It will be an opportunity for filmmakers and cinephiles to be in an environment where the more challenging your film is, the better! I hope to spend the next few months hammering out the details and, hopefully, submitting a proposal for the First Annual Shooting Wall Film Festival. We can no longer stand by idly and watch cinema be destroyed by tasteless sycophants whose only interest is money and fame. The film festival is one of the most vital and necessary parts of cinema and Shooting Wall is prepared to restore it to its rightful place.
OT COMIN HO E
G WSOON IN G
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It is obvious to all of us at Shooting Wall that there are problems in cinema, both mainstream and socalled “independent” cinema as well. The problem is only partly a lack of quality films being made because great and interesting films are being made all the time (though perhaps not quite as much as we would like). The problem, to us, seems to lie largely with distribution. Great films can be made and are being made, but can they be seen? 2010 showed us that it is very difficult to make quality, cutting edge, and/or challenging cinema and get people to see it. Distribution has been taken over almost totally by money and corporations. Cinema is being reduced (in “independent” cinema as well as Hollywood cinema) to the lowest common denominator. All that seems to matter is what will make money. Even independent movie theaters, such as our Ritz here in Philadelphia, have succumbed to this trend to such an extent that unless you live in New York or L.A. it is incredibly difficult to see really challenging, original, and thought provoking cinema. Theaters and distributors are becoming less and less willing to take chances on difficult films. Many theaters are being inundated with unoriginal documentaries or Sundance/SXSW approved “indie” films. These films are not innovative. These are films with built in audiences and are safe. If a theater like the Ritz, in Philadelphia, plays these movies, they feel like they are guaranteed to make at least some money. Unfortunately, American Cinema depends on profit and profits equal success. This
is the reality of the situation (capitalist cinema) and, especially with a crippled economy, very few theaters are willing to take any chances. I propose that if the system is not willing to produce, distribute, or show the kind of films that we want to see, then we need to take cinema back. In last decade, the means of production and distribution have become affordable and accessible in a way they never have been. A filmmaker can buy equipment and editing software and make their films for practically no money at all and totally independent of any studio, completely outside the system. Not only have the means of production become affordable, but the means of distribution has also become accessible. Digital projectors are easily available, an infinite amount of DVDs can be made, and films can be posted on a myriad of websites. If all of these means are available to us, affordable, and accessible, then why aren’t we taking complete advantage? Why aren’t we taking control of cinema? If we are frustrated with mainstream cinema and with the “system,” then fuck the system. Fuck mainstream cinema. We can produce our films ourselves and we can distribute them and we can write about them and we can cultivate our own system and our own cinema. It is time to stop sitting around and simply complaining about how cinema is dying, how no one is seeing good films, and how good films don’t make it to a large city like Philadelphia. It is time for action. It is time that we make our own kind
of cinema. Shooting Wall is the beginning of a new community of filmmakers, producers, critics, and distributors who can create the cinematic revolution ourselves. I propose everyone get together and buy and share equipment, ask friends for help, and make their films. MAKE YOUR FILMS! And once your films are made, you can control your own destiny. Invite people to your house for a screening. Ask a coffee shop or gallery or your school if you can set up a
screening. SHOW YOUR FILMS! Post them all over the internet. Submit them to film festivals yourself. Send them to Shooting Wall. We will review them; we can help start the dialogue about these films. If you like your friends films, write about them! Make a blog! Join the Shooting Wall blog! This is a rare opportunity for us filmmakers and cinephiles to take back the cinema. We can do whatever we want and there should be no one stopping us. This is Shooting Wall!
Drawing by Jon Seidman
Shooting Wall members talk about what they are looking forward to in the coming weeks and months:
Miral - Julian Schnabel Meek’s Cutoff - Kelly Reichardt Abstract Expressionism and Film at MOMA (thru April) Heartbeats - Xavier Dolan Pop Cinema: Art and Film in the UK and US - 1950s – 1970s at International House (April) Poison – 20th Anniversary Screening ( I-House) (In Los Angeles Spring 2011) I Wish I Knew - Jia Zhangke (Calarts Theater) Battleship Potemkin - Sergei Eisenstein - Restored print at Nuart Theater- LA More - Barbet Schroeder (LACMA) Tree of Life - Terrence Malick
Photo by Alex Halpin
Noteworthy DVD releases/reissues:
Fat Girl - Catherine Breillat - Featuring interviews with director and behind-the-scenes footage Pale Flower - Masahiro Shinoda - New restoration with select scene director commentary White Material - Claire Denis - Featuring interview with Denis and Huppert and essay by Amy Taubin
SHOOTING WALL © 2011
SHOOTING WALL ©2010