Monthly Archives: June 2010

DVD: Creation

by Lewis Manalo

I’m really more of a neo-Lamarckist, but Creation, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles and Emma Darwin looks really cool in a nerdy kind of way. And it proves that evolutionary theory is sexier than Creationism.

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This video should be my life

Then again, I think the same thing when watching Two-Lane Blacktop and most Kenneth Anger films.

Black Mountain, “Old Fangs”

Milestone Films at 20

by Tony Nigro

In honor of their 20th anniversary, tomorrow our friends at Milestone Films will have a series of screenings on Turner Classic Movies. Milestone has survived thick and thin and thinner in the independent distribution arena, never sacrificing taste for success. They also managed to put out one of my personal favorites, The Exiles, in a fantastic DVD set. Props from TCM is well deserved.

Films included in the eclectic series are Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, Killer of Sheep, Legong: Dance of the Virgins, The Bat Whispers, and of course The Exiles. Schedule information is available at TCM’s site.

Reality and Restrepo

by Lewis Manalo

The war in Afghanistan has become highly politicized, but soldiers rarely take part in that discussion. Our intention was to capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. Their lives were our lives: we did not sit down with their families, we did not interview Afghans, we did not explore geopolitical debates. Soldiers are living and fighting and dying at remote outposts in Afghanistan in conditions that few Americans back home can imagine. Their experiences are important to understand, regardless of one’s political beliefs. Beliefs are a way to avoid looking at reality. This is reality.
Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

In documentary we deal with the actual, and in one sense with the real. But the really real, if I may use that phrase, is something deeper than that. The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation which is profound
John Grierson

It’s a fact of documentaries that audiences often have trouble separating a film’s subject from the film itself. If the subject is an attention-worthy topic such as poverty or political unrest, the film can bring useful attention to that subject, but very often the film won’t be judged on its own merits. Instead, the film will be judged by the opinions the audience has of its subject. The clearest example of this is in Michael Moore Hates America, when Moore’s fans admit that they’ll support what the filmmaker has to say despite ethically questionable editing decisions. With Restrepo, pretending to take the political issues away from their subject, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington have produced a rambling and unfocused documentary that patronizes its audience with political beliefs that it assumes its viewers already have.

Restrepo follows an infantry unit of the 173rd Airborne throughout their deployment to the Korengal Valley in Eastern Afghanistan. There’s lots of shooting, there’s lots of fatigue, and there’s some death. There’s no political discussion or context for any of the footage. The reasons for the war are never addressed. The result is a lot of action that’s completely devoid of motivation. We watch the spectacle of killing and dying with a voyeuristic eye. Continue reading

DVD: Mystery Train

by Tony Nigro

Make your decision: Elvis Presley or Carl Perkins?

Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train makes a Criterion Collection debut today. Over at the label’s site, Dennis Lim has a nice piece on what I’ve always felt to be one of Jarmusch’s most nuanced films.

DVD: Squatterpunk

by Lewis Manalo

Yet another “Not a Film” by Filipino indie auteur Khavn hits American shores. A feature that made the rounds through a ton of international film festivals last year, Splatterpunk follows an eight-year-old wannabe gangster through the slums of Manila. There’s no dialog, just some titlecards and some relentless punk rock.

Poetic social realism? Fun? Exploitation? Annoying? This is one you’ll either love or hate, so you’ll have to see if for yourself.

Screening: War Don Don

by Tony Nigro

Making its New York premiere at the Human Rights Watch festival this month is War Don Don, a documentary about the trial of alleged war criminal Issa Seesay in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  A friend of Split Edit spent three years as an attorney on the controversial trial, and the stories I heard during that time have only stoked my interest in the film, if only to better understand the area’s complex political climate.  If you’re in or near New York City, check it out with a panel discussion on June 12.