Art of the Real, a nonfiction filmmaking showcase at Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, celebrates its fourth year with 27 films in the lineup, continuing the exploration of cinematic possibilities of the film/digital medium.
This year, the series highlights established figures such as Heinz Emigholz, Robinson Devor, Jem Cohen as well as newcomers Theo Anthony (Rat Film), Salomé Jashi (Dazzling Light of Sunset) and Shengze Zhu (Another Year).
It also gives well deserved recognition to the Chilean cinema with two from documentary veteran Ignacio Agüero and two from José Luis Torres Leiva whose film The Sky, the Earth and the Rain made an international splash in 2008. His new film The Wind Knows I'm Coming Back Home, starring Agüero will be shown as well.
This edition also pays tribute to radical Brazilian filmmaker, Andrea Tonacci who founded Cinema Marginale against more conventional Cinema Novo movement. It will be a rare accasion to see his films - Blah, Blah, Blah, Bang Bang and Hills of Disorder, all in 35mm.
As I cover the series in its forth year, I realize that this so-called nonfiction/hybrid way of filmmaking has always been present as long as the film medium has been around, intrinsically woven into its DNA, yang to the narrative fiction filmmaking's yin, that it's no groundbreaking, brand new thing to be embraced. But for me, it's a much more exciting, stimulating and less limiting form than the narrative fiction ever will be. Art of the Real remains to be the coolest film series, even by New York standards. Below are some of the highlights from the series.
Art of the Real runs April 20 through May 2. Please visit FSLC's website for tickets and more info.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com
Rat Film - Theo Anthony *Opening Night Film
There hasn't been a film that more effectively and entertainingly illustrates the 'inner city' problems than Theo Anthony's Rat Film. The subject is Baltimore, MD. Just like many declining city on the Eastern Seaboard, Baltimore has its share of problems with violence, segregation and poverty ever since the urban planning became a thing after the great depression. Anthony connects the dots with the city's rat problem and poor living conditions of its inhabitants, juxtaposing and paralleling at length, the science experiments involving rats since the 30s (by the Johns Hopkins researchers), and that of human counterparts.
Rat Film is perhaps the most devastating, thought-provoking anthropological study ever put on film in years. It slyly brings forth the institutionalized racism using not only wealth of data, an old educational film sounding narration, VR graphics but also human characters and their interactions. He shows inadequacies and impersonable nature of the data and technology in illustrating the human cost of an American inner city's decline and gracefully balances out with the presence of a philosophical city pest control officer who guides us through the vagaries of human life. Definitely one of the year's very best.