Postcard from Arlington
by John Gianvito
Many years ago I remember seeing a documentary on Ingmar Bergman where he was asked to give his definition of a film director. He replied that the best definition he had ever heard had come from an “anonymous” filmmaker who stated, “A film director is someone who can not think because of all his problems.”
Likely the words were Bergman’s own, and certainly these days my feelings couldn’t be more in consort. While, as a full-time teacher, I am exceedingly appreciative of the fact that I receive summers ‘off’, this ‘off’ means that due to the exigencies of administrative evaluation I work even more tirelessly during these months than while teaching. Quite apart from the steady pulls of my own work ethic loom the ever present pushes of the capitalist dictate that people must rent themselves in order to survive (a faint, pleasant memory of the film “Alexandre le bienheureux” drifts by). I write from the chaos of my apartment in a suburb of Boston, it is a rare day not in the editing room where, since late June, I have been mostly working on a feature documentary I began shooting 3 years ago in the Philippines (which now looks to be a two-part film, each feature length). I was thinking to recount some of the numerous tasks on my “things to do” list but one of today’s headaches is that I now seem to have misplaced my list. Summer pulses outside my window. So does the spot where my tooth was extracted the other day. Cinema – of others – feels far away. A growing stack of dvds sits forlornly on the floor, on my desk, on the couch, presents for a rainy day – Lino Brocka’s “Tinimbang Ka ngunit Kulang”, Katsu Kanai’s “Good-Bye”, Ruy Guerra’s “O veneno da madrugada”, Raymundo Gleyzer’s “The Traitors”, Rob Nilsson’s “Samt”, Yoshida’s “Eros + Massacre”… Somebody keeps phoning but without the courage to leave a message. Probably a solicitor. A friend arrives in two days from London, better do some laundry. Through the radio, news breaks of the passing of poet Mahmoud Darwish, who once wrote, “It is time for me to exchange the word for the deed/Time to prove my love for the land and for the nightingale:/For in this age the weapon devours the guitar/And in the mirror I have been fading more and more/Since at my back a tree began to grow.” Tomorrow I will go back to the editing room and, as if I needed a reminder, I will gaze upon a world infinitely more perilous than my own and all those many, many eyes, now turned into pixels, looking back at me, hoping, somehow, that the modest presence of my camera will make a difference.
August 10, 2008, Arlington, Massachusetts