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Cine-vanning in Florida

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By Bill Daniels

It was late spring and just starting to get really hot in the Dirty American South. I was 2-weeks out on a 2-month screening tour with my hobo graffiti documentary Who is Bozo Texino?, driving a big counter-clockwise circle around north America. I’m driving my good old 1965 Chevy van, very primitive but very reliable. Out of the 45 shows I had planned, the show in Pensacola, Florida sounded like it would be a blast. My buddy Mike Brodie was planning a big event with a photo exhibition of his freight-riding photography to go with my film screening. The show was indeed wild. It was packed with punks and tramps and circus freaks and sex workers. Many had driven in from New Orleans, and they were a beautiful and colorful bunch of flowers. After the show we all went to the beach for a wild party. People were playing music, dancing naked around the fire, swimming— it was a magic sight beneath the moon. A freight train parked right next to us and everyone ran and drew on the side of the train. The party lasted until noon. I was still wasted, blissed-out, and now sunburned when I asked my local friends about the drive to Tallahassee, the town of my screening that night. “Oh, about 5 hours” they say, “And don’t forget about the time zone difference, it’s really 6 hours.” Oh No! Time zone difference?!?! I realize there is no way I will make it. But, I might make it to the end of the show for the Q&A. I jump in the van and push the pedal to the floor. The Chevy has not had a working speedometer for many years, so I am driving according to the temperature gauge, going as fast as I can with out blowing the motor. It’s already hot in Florida, and I’ve got the van’s heater on the help cool the engine. We call this a “Hell Ride.” I call the venue on the cell phone, “I’m going to be a little bit late…. Can you stall the show a bit…?” They have some cartoons they can show first. Great. The van and I are sweating and maxed out. I make it to the theater and running up I can hear the music from the credit roll just finishing. Say what you will about Florida, but it has two time zones.

Published in Ekran, 2008 (April/May)

Written by Nika Bohinc

March 26, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Postcard from Kosovo

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By Veton Nurkollari

As I am about to write this postcard from Kosovo I can not help but mention cinemas in Prizren, the second largest city in Kosovo. The long gone cinema Radnik, or the beautiful open air cinema Lumbardhi, whose future doesn’t look very bright either. Those were places I spent countless hours in, places I never ceased loving and ultimately places that inspired me to do something about my own city. But I am not going to lament over their fate because otherwise this would be another story about the dying of cinemas. Instead I’ll try to tell you the story of a city in Kosovo where lack of cinema paradoxically paved way to the birth of film festival.
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Written by Nika Bohinc

March 17, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Film Filter Filth (A Postcard From Delhi)

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By Neel Chaudhuri

A daydreaming cinephile or film student will often develop a certain kind of obsession over a film. This is where you wish it were your film, your filament that gave light to the idea in the beginning and your voice that called the wrap. It is certainly not an uncommon preoccupation, but an altering one for most. That is to say the films often change, the obsession remains the same. For me, however, the object of this sort of fantasy has for long been constant. I first saw Woody Allen’s Manhattan as a student, alone in a dark screening room, with the New York skyline spread across the wall and Gershwin blowing out of the speakers. When I returned to my room I picked up a dictaphone and recorded – as does the character of Isaac (Allen himself) – my list of the things that make life worthwhile. Right at the top, alongside Lolita and Casa Piccola’s profiteroles, was the film itself.
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Written by Nika Bohinc

January 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Postcard from Singapore

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By Ben Slater

What do you usually write on postcards from far-away places? Something about the weather perhaps. Well, it’s been raining hard these past few weeks in Singapore. Rarely a day goes by when the light doesn’t fade from the sky, still air roughly shaken by wind, and then a downpour begins. Except it didn’t rain on National Day (August 9). By some well-organised miracle, the country was spared the sight of this annual mega-million dollar spectacular (live and televised) parade being drenched in warm water. This is the day that Singapore celebrates its independence (since 1965), a combination of excessive Vegas showbiz with North Korean-style displays of military might. Singapore on ice – with weapons. A demonstration of stealth attacks segueways into a Finding Nemo rip-off, 500 schoolkids dressed as colourful sea creatures. Thousands more extras are martialed onto the stage, singing, dancing, waving glow-sticks, lights and kites, as an ersatz narrative of the country’s ‘emergence’ is represented by an in-line skating lion-fish-man. The audience, waiting for the fireworks, look awed and bored in equal measure. But National Day is actually rain-proof. Not to say that the state can control metereological conditions – but rather if the clouds do disgorge, the show will just go on, and the national myth – endurance against the odds – is only affirmed.
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Written by Nika Bohinc

August 20, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Postcard from Vancouver

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By Mathieu Ricordi

The general proclamation echoed around Vancouver residents is that the city – commonly nicknamed »Hollywood North« – is THE place to be for movie people. Putting stock in such a statement may not depend on determining its validity as truth or fabrication, but on a person’s own cinematic priorities. I cannot speak for Metropolises in lands abroad, but when it comes to Canadian cities, not one comes close to Vancouver’s mystifying display of the seventh art form’s split personality – the age old confusion between its role as glamour machine on wheels, incorporating any group or individual that either plays a part in greasing its wheels or the simple excited waving as it travels by, and its function as a cultural and creative outlet for skilled artists to form, and astute human receptors to ruminate over. Therefore, the stone-chiseled local outlook in my home city – the one that deems the area the »it« place to be for cinematic aspirations – is an assertion that will reveal itself in a person’s own determining of what side of the movies’ dual persona is most relevant and identifiable to them. Make no mistake; Vancouver is a movie service town, equivalent to an olden day railway town. Whether it’s the X-Men franchise or the latest Ben Stiller blockbuster, this city is a prime pit-stop for some of the most vaunted Hollywood production vehicles passing through for a complete working, before returning back to their home-base for the final creative touches prior to being shipped off to the multiplexes― where proud Vancouver residents can point to the screenings’ end credits at the names they recognize. There seems to be an inordinate amount of pride for most people here in knowing anyone who rolled cable or served Craft service on one of these movies; as there is gratification in recognizing a nearby street, or acquaintances’ living room. In this respect Vancouver is a booming movie spot, a strip of land that somehow managed to come close enough architecturally to be able to mimic certain American cities on celluloid, and that took advantage of a weaker national currency that enabled the transient Tinseltown producers to keep a longer leash on their budgets. But what of the Vancouver citizens who actually want to create moving pictures? As a bourgeoning filmmaker, I can speak from experience when I say it is a different picture than the one always painted by the city’s biggest promoters. It is one thing to have practically no industry to call our own, but it is even sadder when independent work is prevented from happening at every turn. Since Vancouver knows only the servicing of Multi-Million dollar Hollywood films, every business, residential home, and other potential set is wise to the highest value of a day’s filming in their space. Unions and the municipality are scarcely less helpful― the former charging high minimum fees even for non-professional crew members or actors, the latter making any second of outdoor shooting an extremely expensive and restrictive process. The only form of leniency from any of these gatekeepers comes solely through participation in promotional film contests where the participants have 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit their short works. It is particularly irksome to fathom that the only way to get support in your city as a filmmaker is to have to lessen the quality and preparation of your work to fit into a certain »festivity«. Then again, these back-handed encouragements to build some sort of cinematic foundation with our own talent goes hand in glove with the unspoken mantra of the city – the appeal and surface are what make the cinema, and those who take part don’t need to build, so long as they share a part of the glitz; Vancouver has chosen its side of the movies’ dual persona.

Published in Ekran, 2007 (July/August)

Written by Nika Bohinc

May 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm

A Malaysian Renaissance

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By Benjamin McKay

The recent success of Malaysian films on the international festival circuit comes as no surprise to those of us who have been watching the recent independent films emanating from Kuala Lumpur and supporting their development over the past seven years or so. A small but dynamic burgeoning independent film culture exists now in the Malaysian capital and the other film cultures of Southeast Asia have begun to take an active interest in developments in new Malaysian cinema. With Tan Chui Mui’s recent success at Pusan and Rotterdam for Love Conquers All (2006) and the award of the International Jury Prize in Berlin to Yasmin Ahmad’s Mukhsin (2006) it seems the world has finally realized the value of the work being produced in Malaysia.

The independent film community in Kuala Lumpur works parallel alongside an existing and long established mainstream commercial film industry. The Malaysian mainstream has however rarely in the past forty years or so managed to make much of an impact outside of its own national borders. Producing Malay language films and featuring largely Malay performers and storylines these films often ignore the cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity that is a feature of plural Malaysian society. The mainstream cinema is an ethnic rather national cinema. The emerging independent film culture challenges that narrowness by embracing the diversity of the society that is producing it.

The Malay language film industry does however have an impressive lineage born out of a studio based production culture that was largely centered in the city of Singapore. Singapore was a part of the British colonially controlled larger Malay world until it became an independent city state in 1965. The first screenings of films commenced in what was then Malaya in 1901 and the region has consistently had some of the largest cinema attendance figures in the world since those days. Local productions in the Malay language began being produced during the 1930s. Production stopped during the years of the Japanese occupation, but commenced again in the post war era after 1947.
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Written by Nika Bohinc

March 3, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Posted in English, Mirror

Movement in Terrible Immobility

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By Gabe Klinger

I am writing dually from the two cities that, more than any of others, have been forced upon me by life circumstances: São Paulo, Brazil, and Chicago, USA – cities that, in just about every which way imaginable, have little correspondence, except of course in their vast differences. Having just returned from a month-long stay in the South American megalopolis to the Midwestern “windy city” – where I live for most of the year –, these differences are rather simple to define: São Paulo is tropical and temperately pleasant while Chicago tends to push its seasonal limits (enduring bitterly long winters is unfortunately a reality here); São Paulo is situated in an underdeveloped country and the poverty is everywhere while Chicago – like most major U.S. cities – tends to hide (i.e. segregate) its destitution from the glossy business landscape that dominates downtown areas; and lastly, São Paulo is a thriving industry city and even gets to call itself the economic center of Latin America while Chicago lost its claim as the “second city” (next to New York) when Midwestern industry began to disperse to neighboring towns a quarter of a century ago in a successful attempt to raise living wages (we have a nifty word for it: gentrification).
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Written by Nika Bohinc

January 23, 2007 at 1:45 pm