At its twenty-second annual session - for middle-agers like festivals - last November, Mead Festival showcased a parade of new films that expanded public understanding of complex issues in many countries, particularly in the developing world. Mead provides this important service to the intellectual and scientific community of New York City, but also to the general public. The excellent director of the Mead festival is Elaine Charnov. After the festival is over, six programs of more than two hours each are on a national tour, under the direction of Melanie Kent.
In general, Mead programmed his films thematically - e.g. B. This year: social prejudice; Health; portraits; Capabilities; Aging; decline of traditions; and a large contingent of films that could perhaps be categorized as “native” – in which ethnic tribal minorities use modern media to document and affirm their indigenous cultures, and also to resist homogenization.
Let's start by caring for the elderly -Sauna, ten charming minutes from Vilnius, in Rimantas Gruodis, Lithuania, shows us the oldest bathhouse in the city. Looks like this. Ruined plaster, old pipes, also old clientele. The bathhouse is open to men four days a week; women, three days. This last surviving bath house in the city is a small social hub for old retirees - a place where they sigh, complain, exchange jokes that everyone knows by heart and perhaps experience some relief.
Chan Tsai-gen and his neighbors, by Wu Yii-Feng, from Taiwan (85 min), shows us a group of elderly people, originally from China, living precariously in old huts on top of a mass grave from the Japanese occupation. It's a film full of sweet and painful memories, forgotten dreams and leftovers. But with dignity.the sadness of the skinfrom Belgium by Richard Olivier (57 minutes) begins with facts about taxidermy, preservation of hides, hair and skins, teeth, tusks and tusks, etc., for display purposes, e.g. B. in museums, where gorillas and bears in realistic representations delight school-age children. We get to know the methodology of this profession, cruel but necessary, which we tend to take for granted. But in our typical lives we rarely encounter this second strand of taxidermy, the preservation of beloved pets, particularly dogs and cats, by their elderly and bereaved owners. These pets are skinned and stuffed with god knows what to create a lifelike pose, almost like the deceased original. A grotesque but funny movie? Not exactly, because the love these lonely humans have for their departed animal companions is so genuine and urgent - we see their caresses, their loving caresses, their soft murmurs, even kisses - we'd be ashamed to laugh.
bread day, much admired in Berlin and at the New York Expo in December, is an extraordinary study of a forgotten Russian village in the dead of winter. (The film has been mentioned more than once in these pages, but it deserves the attention it gets.) Every now and then, when the government remembers, an old wagon is abandoned on a siding a few miles from the village; Inside are boxes of bread, never enough. Five or six elderly people - there don't seem to be any young people around - have to trudge through the heavy snow, rock the wagon when it's frozen to the tracks and then push it into the village, a tremendous effort. There, bread is distributed by an elderly woman to elderly neighbors, one or two loaves at a time, according to a rationing system, while being molested by an old drunk. Meanwhile, the camera records the barren landscape, the voracious cubs tending to their emaciated mother, the goats wandering around trying to find something to eat. Without forcing the material, Russian director Sergei Dvortsevoy creates in fifty-five minutes a melancholy portrait of an abandoned, sad and hopeless Russia.
Elsewhere, Mr. Yasunoto is also an elder and villager, the director of a once poor rural community in remote Hokkaido. Popular and energetic, he puts his hope in children, emphasizing teaching the heart and mind. He is perhaps one of the few beleaguered traditionalists and idealists left in modern industrialized and urbanized Japan. on his profileheart of the country(90 min., Japan), director Leonard Kamerling portrays a man and a way of life that seem threatened.
Elsewhere, Dr. Robert Douglas Spencer, an abortionist, an elderly gentleman revered in his small town. As a general practitioner, Dr. Spencer had been a citizen of Pennsylvania's coal mining districts since the 1920s. His patients included poor miners crippled by work accidents and wives with many children. One day a miner's wife begged: Can you terminate this pregnancy? 1923, this was the first of Dr. Spencer's 40,000 Safe and Cheap Abortions He Started Nearly Half a Century EarlierRoe x Wadelandmark decision. Inexpensive - $5, never go over $100.
Citizens and local police looked the other way when the Greyhound bus brought in a terrified salesman from Philadelphia or New York. His desperate letters - "Dear Dr. Spencer" - asked for his help. He couldn't refuse. The state police tried to shut down his office. Arrested three times, never convicted. Some called him "the angel of Ashland", also "king of abortionists". The respected and kind Dr. Spencer had an eccentricity or two, like his special boat car that allowed him to cross rivers. Also an occasional crazy hat at a picnic. He died in 1969.Dear Dr Spencer, Small Town Abortion(25 minutes, USA), Danielle Renfrew and Beth Seltzer. (In case you missed it, the story is reminiscent of John Irving's fictionalized treatment in hisThe cider house rules, a novel, now a musical, and soon a feature film.)
Another elder of more than local prestige was the jazz composer/musician celebrated inCharlie Mingus: Triumph des Underdogs, directed by Don McGlynn and produced by IDA member Myron Meisel (87 minutes, USA). Mingus was inspired by Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, he also said, "by the way the waiter spoke to me at dinner. companions and their wives.
Five Cuban musicians are on average 80 years old, which is also the number of minutesblack tears, by Sonia Herman Dolz from Cuba. They are "the grandparents of salsa", the five singer-musicians "La Vieja Trova Santiaguera" filmed during their five-month tour of Europe. They joke about their difficulty climbing just a few steps to the stage, but their energy immediately returns as they sing about youth, dancing and, of course, romance. European crowds love his existential realism: “What do I care if you used to admire the other and moan in pain and pleasure in his arms? As I sip my wine, I don't wonder if the glass has already satiated another inveterate drinker."
Senegalese elderly men displaced from their homes by poverty are featuredBaraka(54 min, Senegal), by Jean-Paul Colleyn and Victoria Eben. The devastating drought destroyed agriculture and livestock. The Murid Brotherhood, an Islamic sect, has to work in street markets and small shops in the United States and Europe. Still, they try to stay in touch with their close-knit community, sometimes even over the internet.
Other notable films areRed paint,orBluttinte(70 min., Argentina), directed by Carmen Guarini and Marcelo Cespedes, about a decadent daily newspaper in Buenos Aires,Chronic, which explores the murders and atrocities of the day, sensationally and scandalously tickling to build a readership that reaches near-American proportions.Red painthas a long pedigree of festival appearances and awards, well deserved.
Treyf, loosely translated from Yiddish as “non-kosher,” by Alisa Lebow and Cynthia Madansky (54 min, USA), describes, sometimes satirically, the lesbian love of two Jewish girls. They have a progressive secular Jewish identity but are forced to confront Zionism, religion and the Holocaust. This is possibly the first lesbian film of its kind to deal heavily with homophobia, anti-Semitism and other evils.
Closed, on menstruation, by Teresa Maclnnes and Penny Wheelwright (56 minutes, USA/Canada), boldly, naturally and humorously addresses a taboo subject that is still taboo in many families and cultures, including the supposedly cultured and enlightened USA of A. Beyond to expose the predominant lack of knowledge and prejudice in relation to menstruation,Closedtargets the massive, multi-billion dollar menstrual industry that markets countless menstrual prescriptions, devices, and gadgets, some of which are toxic and dangerous. The film was nominated for a 1997 IDA Award.
Spunwrench-Kahnawake Man, AsBaraka, is another representation of human determination to protect cultural identity. "Spudwrench" is Randy Home, a steelworker from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, near Montreal. He literally manned the barricades against attempts by golf course managers and police to take control of the Mohawk Holy Land. An activist like others in his tribe and other tribes, Horne worked on some of the tallest buildings in the world, but he never lost touch with his tribal roots. The film was directed by Alan is Obomsawin for the National Film Board of Canada (58 minutes).
Again directed by Obomsawin for NFB,My name is from Kahentiio(27 minutes) is about a young militant mother who is arrested after a 78-day confrontation with the Quebec government. Her sentence was extended because she refused to give up her Aboriginal name and centuries-old heritage. "She has such strength, courage and integrity," says Obomsawin, "she never lacked courage or had second thoughts." Mohawks against the Canadian army.
Mead has had ten titles from Australia and the North East Islands, according to his series From Sand to Celluloid: Australian Indigenous Media. NIDF, the National Indigenous Documentary Fund, is a factor in this prolific activist-themed production.night watchis one, by Valerie Napaljarri and Pat Fiske, Warlpiri Media Productions (30 minutes). "We don't want to cry all the time," explain the Indigenous mothers of Yuenduma, in northeastern Australia. So they organized uniformed but unarmed night patrols to root out trouble spots involving alcohol abuse, gas inhalation and domestic violence.
Another of Mead's Ten:Mabo - The life of an islander, by Trevor Graham (87 mins), about an Aboriginal exile who is delving deeper into legal action against the White Australian government's suspicion that the continent was 'discovered' two centuries ago, when it was 'discovered', leaving the premises as could be fully claimed a new finding. But a final court decision upheld Mabo and set a far-reaching precedent: Aborigines had legitimate claims to property and compensation.
Another valuable Mead group, seven titles from or about Haiti, included the avant-garde classic Maya Deren,Divine Knights: The Living Gods of Haiti, filmed in 1947/1951, edited in 1977 by Teiri and Cherel Ito (54 min.). contemporary,Resistant(156 min.) by Katharine Kean talks about the 1991 coup in Haiti and the dictatorship that followed. The US government's complicity in Haiti's turmoil is a key issue.
Mead's mini-retrospective on Taiwan spans seven titles. I already mentioned Chen.Another is Moon Children(63 min.), directed by I-Fong wu. A "moon child" is an albino, therefore different from other Taiwanese and therefore the target of ruthless discrimination. The film focuses on a sixteen-year-old boy who is finally able to study and work, but with great difficulty. Difficulties and pain are the legacy of Taiwan's moon children and adults.
Of great interest was Mead's retrospective of the career of Raoul Peck, born in Haiti in 1953, educated there and in Zaire and France, and trained in film at the Berlin Film and Television Academy in the 1980s. Peck's main, but hits the outside with big impact, for example.Lumumba(1991, 69 min.), produced by the then Democratic Republic of Congo. Patrice Lumumba, the first freely elected Congolese prime minister after independence from Belgium, was arrested by rebel officials, publicly tortured (image shown), mistreated for months and finally murdered ten months after his election.
The complicity of Western nations fearful of socialist contagion is well documented. sifted meadLumumbaafter consultation with the African Film Festival. Other Peck films have been shown, mostly fictional and based on reality.Haiti – The Silence of the Dogs(1994, 52 min.), about the exile of elected president Aristide, the relentless power of the military, the streets as places of violence, fear and death.
Concurrent with Mead were four symposiums organized by the New York University Culture and Media program, Department of Anthropology and Center for Media, Culture and History under the collective title “Screening Culture”: “Relocating 'Home'—New Documentary from Taiwan" with Taiwanese guests and film buffs to discuss their native views of Taiwan, its past, present and future, "Haitian Cinema: The International Journey of Raoul Peck", in which Peck talks about his films and times studying/working in Europe and Africa ; "What's a festival for?", in which half a dozen festival directors discussed changing representations of culture on screen; and "From Sand to Celluloid: Australia's Indigenous Media", in which panelists selected some of the key actors showcased at The mead films were.
Gordon Hitchens is Associate Editor ofinternational documentary. He was the founding editor of Film Comment for its first seven years. As a string todiversity, has reviewed more than 200 films for this journal. A former faculty member at C.W Post/Long Island University, he serves as a consultant to numerous film festivals around the world, including Berlin and Yamagata.