In its seventh year, MoMI's First Look film series, organized by chief curator David Schwartz and associate curator Eric Hynes, introduces bold, formaly inventive, innovative international films to start the new year. And to all the adventurous cinephiles, this is definitely a good way to start 2018.
This year's selections in First Look go beyond the traditional screen presentsuch as Daniel Cockburn's quasi-film lecture All the Mistakes I've Made (Part 2); a new program of Radio Atlas short works comprised soley of audio recordings and projected subtitles; and even a work being produced during the festival, an update of Wim Wenders's documentary Room 666 in which filmmakers talk about the state of the art form.
First Look to open with U.S. premirere of Blake Williams's 3-D film PROTOTYPE, and will include new boundary-breaking work by James Benning, Ken Jacobsm and an exciting array of emergining artists from around the world January 5-15. Please visit MoMI website for more details.
Here are 7 outstanding films I was able to sample:
The Last Days in Shibati - Hendrick Dusollier
Disappearing urban slums have been documented before - Fountainhas of Lisbon in Pedro Costa's films, Kowloon: The Walled City by a German TV channel in the 80s, and of course, 24 City by great Jia Zhangke among many others. Frenchman Hendrick Dusollier spends a year in the last old district in Chong Qing one of the mega cities situated in the southern China. He films its inhabitants as the neighborhood slowly but surely disappears.
Unlike many other documentaries or dramatizations of a specific place, Dusollier let himself exposed and known to his surroundings. Everyone he meets and treats him as a foreign man with the camera who doesn't understand the language but films everything. His insistence as mostly silent observer wins over some curious inhabitants, namely a barber and his mother whose open, dimly lit shop continues to serve the community under the threat of imminent eviction, Zhou Hong, a neighborhood kid who shows Dussollier around through the labyrinthine dark alleys and Mrs. Xue Lian, an old woman who makes living by picking up bottles and who turns out to have the biggest collections of weird junk in the corner deep in Shibati.
Dussolier comes back to the place and revisit these people, sometimes with an interpreter, sometimes not. He visits them after they were forced to relocate. They understand that he is in Shibati to film what's going to be lost forever. It's this mutual understanding that makes Shibati different from other anthropological documentaries. Dusollier keeps things personal and human.