the spirit of the times
Illustration by Risko
The documentary KOCH opens in New York on February 1st.
AFFILIATION: Student-run non-profit at The University of Iowa
SPECIAL SKILLS: The only independent art house for who-knows-how-many miles around shows many different formats (see below), and is entirely student run, which is super cool.
DCP ?: Yes, but can also show 35mm, 16mm and even 8mm (bring those home movies)
FIRST ZEITGEIST MOVIE: Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 2003
PRICE OF A SMALL POPCORN: $1 — all concessions are $1! Except large popcorn: that’s a whopping two bucks.
Don’t let anybody tell you that art house movie theaters only live in big cities on the coasts. The Bijou Theatre, run by students at the University of Iowa, has been projecting independent and international cinema in Iowa City since 1974. When it comes to programming for such a large community and campus (the university has over 30,000 students), the Bijou aims to be an “educational cinema,” but always takes audience suggestions, favoring auteur driven material like Elena, which opens there on Friday.
Like independent cinemas everywhere, The Bijou is trying to keep up with the need to convert to DCP. Thanks in part to support from student government, they have recently completed the conversion process, but plan to maintain their 35mm reel to reel as well. The student-run theater is doing so well, they’re looking to move to a larger space in downtown Iowa City. “This is very exciting,” current executive director Jesse Damazo told us, “but also long term & challenging.” The student staffers are pictured here in lovely Polaroids—below are executive director Jesse and programming director Charles.
If you find yourself in Iowa City this weekend, shell out a dollar for a popcorn and catch Elena at The Bijou!
MoMA has a Quay Brothers inspired cocktail! Created by the Quay Brothers themselves, the drink, named for this scandalous 18th century portrait, mixes “absinthe, fresh blueberry syrup infused with Strega (an herbal liqueur similar to Chartreuse), sparkling rosé and Angostura bitters,” according to Ehren Ashkenazi, bar director at The Modern—a job title that brings surges of jealousy.
Sip it gingerly (or guzzle it down, we’re not your mom) when you check out their exhibit, running through January 2013.
Follow the link for full description, rules, and prizes!
Stop-motion animation auteurs the Quay Brothers will be at the Modern Museum of Art on August 9th, 2012 (a Thursday) to introduce their film Institute Benjamenta as part of MoMA’s retrospective on the twin brothers (On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets). They still look mostly like they do in the above photo, but you should see for yourself in person - the Brothers aren’t known for making a lot of public appearances. Click through for more info!
AFFILIATION: Pittsburgh Filmmakers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization.
SPECIAL SKILLS: the Regent Square Theater’s Sunday Night Classics series (a great way to conclude the weekend), Film Kitchen at Melwood (a monthly program of locally made films and videos, now in it’s 13th year) and hi-end 16mm projection (yes, it still exists).
DCP ? : Currently installed at the Regent Square, planning Harris and Melwood conversions down the line when funds become available.
FIRST ZEITGEIST MOVIE: Tony Buba’s Lightning Over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy in 1988
PRICE OF A SMALL POPCORN: $3.00
When Pittsburgh Filmmakers was founded in 1971, its primary mission was to serve non-commercial filmmakers and photographers in the Pittsburgh area by providing low-cost access to the expensive tools of their art forms. More than 40 years later, their mission continues with the addition of extensive education, membership and exhibition programs.
Pittsburgh Filmmakers operates three single screen theaters in the Pittsburgh area that feature American independents, documentaries, and first-run foreign films, as well as an ongoing weekly series of popular classics. All three theaters are equipped to project Super-8, 16mm, reel-to-reel 35mm, and certain digital formats. Pittsburgh Filmmakers also produces, hosts and programs the Three Rivers Film Festival, held annually in early November.
The Melwood Screening Room was built in 1995 as part of extensive renovations that converted an urban warehouse into attractive headquarters for Filmmakers’ administrative and equipment access offices, classrooms, and sound stage. Located on the second floor, the Screening Room shares a lobby with Filmmakers’ Galleries.
The Harris Theater opened as Avenue Cinema in 1931 and featured “continental pictures.” In 1935 it changed to the Art Cinema, a name it kept for more than 50 years. By the 1960s the Art Cinema was part of the city’s red-light district and became an adult movie theater. It was renovated in the early 90s as part of a strategic cultural renaissance; The Harris has been programmed and operated by Pittsburgh Filmmakers since 1995. It is the only movie theater in downtown Pittsburgh.
The Regent Square is one of the last remaining single-screen neighborhood theaters in the region and is surrounded by funky shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and art galleries. Built in 1938, old-timers fondly remember going to see the Marx Brothers, Bogart & Bacall and John Ford Westerns at the original theater – a tradition that continues with the Sunday night classic film series.
We’ve had the privilege of bringing our films to Pittsburgh with Pittsburgh Filmmakers since the very beginning of Zeitgeist, and we’re thrilled to present our Russian noir Elena at the Regent Square Theater today… click here for tickets!
(special thanks to Gary Kaboly of PGH Filmmakers)
Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life (Quay Brothers, 1995)
(image and additional info from http://classyeats.blogspot.com/2010/01/magic-lantern-spokane.html)
SPECIAL SKILLS: $3 bottomless popcorn. There is nothing else to be said. Perfection achieved.
Owner Joe Davis discovered the Magic Lantern in the nick of time - after showing a short at the theater in 2008, he discovered that the Lantern was to be no more. Instead of mourning his newfound love by crying on public transit like a normal person, he took it upon himself to revamp the theater. Despite being in the middle of his med school residency, Davis took over the theater in 2009. Now friendlier to post-and-pre-film socializing, the theater sports an intimate coffee lounge - outfitted with a pretty delicious snack selection (exhibit A: COOKIES). They serve DOMA espresso and chocolate-covered espresso beans - a must if you’re competing the 50-hour Slam (a film-making competition) hosted there. In addition to the 50-hour slam, the Magic Lantern hosts the Spokane International Film Festival and Spokane’s Jewish Film Festival.
We’ve only heard great things about Joe and the Magic Lantern. If you’re in Spokane, pop by and tell us what you think of the place! For more info, see the Magic Lantern’s website.
ELENA opens there this week!
Director Yung Chang is no stranger to Zeitgeist’s offices – the Chinese Canadian filmmaker has been a familiar face here at Z since he won multiple awards for his 2007 documentary Up the Yangtze. Back now for the release of his latest, China Heavyweight (also a documentary), Chang and I sat down for a chat about boxing, filmmaking, and a famous feud involving a certain mopey Canadian.
I read in a few interviews that you were excited about making China Heavyweight because it was an opportunity to explore how the end of Mao’s boxing ban has changed life in China… but how did you initially come upon that as a topic?
Our producer, Peter Wintonick [who also produced Manufacturing Consent] found a story about boxing in China and presented it to me and was just sort of offering it to me as an idea. I kind of thought about it, and the first thing I started to do was dream about the films that I love about boxing. When I thought about On the Waterfront, and I thought about these sort of movies – western films about hard-up stories – it led me to think about putting, you know, that idea of a western boxing movie in China, what would that be? It wouldn’t be like, a kung-fu movie – I love kung-fu movies too, but what is a kung-fu movie? They often deal with themes like honor, loyalty, redemption – those kind of things. It’s sort of the boxing genre of Asia. Here you would look at boxing movies like the kung-fu movies of the West. So I was playing with that, I was thinking about that a lot. It really made me dream about what the story would be about. So I think the idea started with the daydreaming. Even with Up the Yangtze for example, I think it always starts with what do you imagine the film to be like, and what will it feel like? I felt like it would be that kind of story where you follow the evolution of someone trying to become something. And that was exctiing to me. The tropes of a boxing film were really exciting to me. And I wanted to try to make that happen.
Was it easy to get Coach Qi and the school to agree to let you in?
That wasn’t a problem! I think there was a mutual collaboration. Everytime you embark on a project, you always hope that there’s a give and take between that relationship, right? I think the Master and the Coach both saw the benefits of collaborating with us. But they didn’t think – a lot of people don’t really know what a documentary is in China. They think it’s like an interview, and then you go. You spend, you know, an hour and then you leave. We kept going back and back, like, two years later we were still shooting, you know –
Were they surprised?
They were. They got it after about the first month, they were like, “Okay these guys are here to stay.” We just hung out with them. And that’s what you do. You don’t shoot all the time, you spend a lot of time with them and you get to know everybody. And it was so fun! We had a great time making the film, and I got so close to everybody, and it was emotional. You really get wrapped up in their lives.
Do you stay in touch with Coach Qi?
I’m in touch with him constantly. Right now he’s training the girls for their first provincial match, competition – ever. It’s gonna be at the end of July, so he’s busy working on that. He came with us to Sundance and Toronto, he likes the movie. He says that the movie kind of is a true experience of a boxer in China.
Did he like the whole press experience of going to the festivals?
Well… the first time to America for him was Sundance, and that was maybe not the best thing for him because it was so jarring to be in the middle of nowhere with people just getting on buses everywhere going to see movies. It’s weird. I don’t think it was a good impression. But it was good that people loved him and were supportive and cried and gave him standing ovations, and they were just so – I think he needed that to be able to watch the film and just be able to get the scope of his character. To get an outside perspective of that. I think he likes that now. In Toronto he was a huge hit – we had a twitter thing where we arranged fans of the film to go train with him in the park. It was amazing – he had a great time.
I was just gonna ask if he trained you at all…
He likes to tease me a little bit, so – he beats me up. It’s hard to box. I can’t do it.
What are some of your favorite films, boxing or non-boxing?
You sort of have your flavor of the month. I can think of so many movies that are so different, and they have all been influential, and I love them. Like, Bicycle Thieves is a film that I love. If I wanna get artsy like that, I think Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, those kind of movies are awesome. Anything by Kurosawa is amazing. Ozu. I like David Lynch. Love documentaries, like good old verité documentaries. Grey Gardens, Hoop Dreams.
I think I saw on your blog a screenshot of Videodrome.
Oh my god, I love Cronenberg. Lately I’ve also loved Uncle Boonmee [Who Can Recall His Past Lives]. And then a movie that I constantly think about, that inspired the title sequence to The Fruit Hunters [Chang’s next documentary] is Enter the Void by Gaspar Noé. You can’t get it out of your head. Have you seen it?
I haven’t. It’s in my queue.
It’s crazy. And I think being in a movie theater is so important to watching a movie and having it affect you. Like when I think about – I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia when I was high school at a rep house and it was CinemaScope; it was amazing. Those kind of things.
How long do you give yourself between projects? Or is it something you don’t really have control over?
I wish I could have more control – I wish I had the foresight to know that I should have control over it. But I’m a filmmaker that is sort of like that kind of actor who’s worried about where the next job is gonna be. I’m always gonna take everything I can take. I have the fear that people just lose interest and I’ll just – who knows what will happen in this fickle, fickle world of film. You wanna just keep working I think. It’s a practical, pragmatic kind of Chinese thing, I think, that makes me wanna do that. In an ideal world I would do one film and then get it out there and wait, go on holiday, go to the beach or go fishing, and then have the other film come out. Nope. For this one I had two movies shooting simultaneously – China Heavyweight and The Fruit Hunters – which is insane and I would not recommend again to anybody.
I have one final, very goofy question in relation to boxing. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this ongoing Chris Brown/Drake feud.
Oh yeah, they had a fight!
Well they’ve been offered a million dollars each to do a boxing match, and i don’t know if you had a theory as to who would win.
Do you know that Drake is Canadian?
He grew up near the high school I went to in Toronto. I don’t know what Chris Brown’s background is; what’s he like?
I think he had kind of a rough upbringing.
Who won the fight in the club?
Well Chris Brown had the cut on his face, which he claims is from a bottle that Drake threw, but Drake, as far as we know… well, Drake claims not to have done any such thing, but also didn’t have a scratch on him. So was there a winner? I don’t know.
Were they feuding over Rihanna?
That’s what the rumor is.
She is amazing that way. Okay, see, Chris Brown is not good for what he did to Rihanna. Drake though… whose music is better? There’s so many different categories you can measure in terms of gauging who would you want to win. God. I have to answer this.
But see, if I say –
You can say if it would be by points or by knock-out or by whatever. You can determine a lot of things about how you think it would go down. But ultimately I wanna know who you think would win.
Who’s at their fittest right now?
Probably Chris Brown.
He’s taller, he’s –
He’s definitely taller. And he’s a dancer. And Drake’s kind of like –
Drake’s not. He’s a crooner. Huh. Well, just knocking aside all their backstory – I think that Chris Brown would probably win. But it would be maybe by decision, it would be maybe like a ten-rounder thing and it wouldn’t be a knock-out. We’re talking about a judge deciding. Close.
I think I agree with you. I’ve thought about it a little bit.
Best question of the whole interview.
(This interview has been condensed and edited.)
China Heavyweight is now playing at IFC Center in NYC!
BORN: July 27, 2007
AFFILIATION: Operated by Film Streams, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the concept of film as art and encouraging educated discussion of cinema. Oscar-winner Alexander Payne is a board member and frequent collaborator.
SPECIAL SKILLS: The theater offers a monthly Free Student Night (first Monday of every month), and their concession stand offers wine, OMAHA STEAKS BEEF STICKS (which exist and sound delicious), and local coffee and beer (among other, healthier snacks). Oh, and scones (arguably the greatest baked breakfast good).
DCP ? : Currently, the larger theater (there are two) offers digital projection, but both screens will soon be DCP compatible.
PRICE OF A SMALL POPCORN: Technically the small is $4, but they also offer a Fun Size® for $3.
FIRST ZEITGEIST FILM: Up The Yangtze
In 2005, Rachel Jacobson did what half of us have been threatening to do for years, leaving New York for greener pastures – her hometown of Omaha, specifically, where she had dreamed of opening an art-house theater. Just a year later, construction began on what would become the Ruth Sokolof Theater, which opened July 27, 2007 with screenings of La Vie en Rose and Seven Samurai.
What we really admire about Film Streams is their commitment to education and community enrichment – they have their own education program, which teaches film history and criticism to high school students. Q&A screenings with visiting filmmakers supplement their community development and education programs, as does the aforementioned Student Night. Aspiring Omaha filmmakers can submit their work to Film Streams’ Local Filmmakers Showcase.
Approaching its five-year anniversary, Film Streams has screened films for over 210,000 visitors and presented more than 200 First-Run premieres of American independents and foreign films. Their annual gala - Feature - draws spectacular guests for thought-provoking conversations about film. Jane Fonda will be at this year’s gala (July 22) in conversation with Alexander Payne. Oh, and Elena opens there today.
Check out Film Streams’ new blog to learn more about this amazing theater!
Not far from us (until September 26) is this beautiful piece by NYC-based sculptor Carole Feuerman - a slightly modified version of a sculpture she showed at the Venice Bienniale in 2007.
From the artist’s website:
“Originally, I was going to name the sculpture Serena, after La Serenissima, an island of the city of Venice. However, I decided to title it Survival of Serena,due to my concerns about the serious flood problem this beautiful city has.”
We were shocked and impressed to find that those water droplets are part of the sculpture!
The sculpture has been captivating passersby since its installation on May 20th. Zeitgeist’s Adrian Curry saw Guy Pearce admiring it just last week (no word on whether Pearce was on his way to steal more roles from genuinely old men… [cough] Prometheus [cough]). Stop by and see it in person at Petrosino Square before someone buys it and takes Serena away!
(all photos taken by the author)
BORN: September 2007
AFFILIATION: Operated by Plimoth Plantation, a national, not-for-profit, bi-cultural, living history museum in Plymouth, MA. Films are shown in the Plantation’s Visitor Center’s 220 seat Linn Theater.
SPECIAL SKILLS: Beer and wine on Saturday nights, fresh organic popcorn with real butter(!), showcasing of Native American films
DCP ?: Digital projection (but not DCP). However, the theater has invested in major system upgrades that will be DCP compatible.
FIRST ZEITGEIST FILM: Fados
When the Pilgrims first hopped off the Mayflower and scuttled across Plymouth Rock, their first thought was probably not, “good lord, where is the nearest movie theater,” but it should’ve been. Because subsequently, from 1620 until 2007, there simply wasn’t a place to catch an independent or foreign film on the south coast of Massachusetts. If you were hankering to see an off-beat doc or read subtitles, you had to drive out onto Cape Cod, or into Boston.
Ed and Charlotte Russell were tired to making these treks. Both were volunteers at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum which strives to tell the story and uphold the legacy of the original Plymouth Colony. They knew the museum’s theater was empty at night, and asked if they might try to run a cinema in it during off-hours. The museum gave them eight weeks to try to make this idea work. It was almost immediately a success, with a dedicated and delighted audience flocking to the Plimoth. This core audience still fuels the theater, which now does two shows a day, and will be showing Elena starting this weekend.
As if the setting of Plimoth Plantation weren’t cool enough, the theater has developed appealing quirks of its own, deepening its distinction. You can enjoy a beer or glass of wine with your movie on Saturdays, and organic popcorn with real butter is served all week long. In keeping with the “bi-cultural” mission of The Plantation, the theater also showcases Native American films and filmmakers. And if you feel the need to leave the dark oasis of the movie theater (we’re not sure why you would, but to each his own), you can catch Shakespeare plays in the summertime, done as they would’ve been in the 17th Century. All told, The Plimoth is a truly one-of-a-kind movie theater experience.