director AmatIn an exclusive interview with Independent Ethos, Amat Escalante, best known for receiving the 2013 Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his recent film Heli, talks about winning that award, why his film is so controversial and violence on film, among other topics. A close collaborator with Carlos Reygadas, who also was awarded Best Director at Cannes only a year earlier, Escalante shines a light on independent filmmaking with a conscience. The director tackles one of the more important issues in his country: drug trafficking and the ills it’s surrounded by, such as corruption, power in the hands of the few and suffering.

Although Heli is only his third full-length film, Escalante has a strong voice and a particular point of view. His take on filmmaking includes a deep faith in audience members who do not want to be told how to feel or what to think. The Mexican director shows his own perspective through a realistic style that is closer to his own life experience than what he sees on popular movies or television. He was in Los Angeles when he called Ana Morgenstern, who wrote a glowing critique of the film yesterday (read the review here). They spoke in Spanish. You can read the English transcription below.

Ana Morgenstern: How did you feel about winning the Cannes prize for best director? Were you surprised since Carlos Reygadas won the award the previous year?

Amat Escalante: Well, while being in the competition you are aware that there might be a possibility of winning, maybe one in 20 or maybe more because there are 20 movies competing and five of those get awards. So, to begin, it was quite impressive to be able to be part of the competition for the first time. When they called us the last day of the festival, telling us to go to the awards ceremony, I was very happy to hear the news that we would win something, but we didn’t know what it would be. That’s when I thought that the best director award was out of the question because Carlos, who is a close collaborator and producer in Heli, had just won the previous year. heli.still.0013130I thought to myself, it would be too unlikely to win that prize. So, winning best director was absolutely surprising. It was great for the entire team that the film was recognized with such an important award after working on it for over five years. On top of that, it was so important that Mexico won best director for two consecutive years. In that sense, the experience was very rewarding, and it has helped boost interest in the film. When it opened in Mexico, I think being recognized in the festival helped a lot, because a lot of people showed up to watch the movie, and it’s been selling well in video. It has also been sold to 35 countries. I don’t think the success is due just because of the award. I think it’s because the film tells a story that envelops the audience, and it’s a thrilling movie, but the award has certainly helped a lot.

How have different audiences received the film?

In Cannes, the film was shown on the first day of screenings. Everybody was anxious to start watching the competing films, so being the first one meant that it grabbed lots of the attention. The audience in Cannes is mostly press; there are also industry people but mostly press. The first encounter with the press in Cannes was brusque. I think they did not understand some parts of the film, and they paid too much attention to the violent parts without seeing the love story that the film also tells. heli_still_0008482I was a little surprised by that. Later on, though, the jury, which was mostly composed by filmmakers, received the movie a lot better. They liked the film, including Steven Spielberg who said it was one of his favorite films from the past festival. He was also the president of the jury that year. In Mexico, the acceptance of the film by the public and also the critics was great for me. They understood the movie very well, and they thought it was important that a movie like that was made. We ourselves premiered and distributed the film in Mexico without the backing of millions of dollars, which is what normally happens with other commercially distributed films. Even so, a lot of people went to see the movie, and I’m very happy about that.

What do you think are the different reactions to your film between a Mexican and an American audience?

Paul Hudson of Outsider Pictures, who is currently distributing the film, is taking a risk because he loves the movie, and he wants people to go see it in the States. But this is a big risk to show it in theaters to American audiences. It would be easier to put it straight to DVD and TV. It’s very different, the public’s reaction in the States because when you do not live in Mexico, even if you’ve lived in Mexico or you’ve been living a few years abroad, you start to idealize the country. I think some people are embarrassed to see a situation that is taking place in Mexico. heli_stil_.0014121They do not see why that should be seen outside of Mexico or why to make a film about that. That’s what I’ve encountered in the States. But many people have liked it too, it’s shown in several festivals, and I just showed it at a University in California, and the reactions have been very favorable, to save a few of people who get angry and feel attacked by the sheer force of the film. I’ve seen that reaction abroad a lot, but less so in Mexico because in Mexico, the film came out of Cannes labeled as an extremely violent movie. But people in Mexico have been able to see beyond that, and I think a lot of people in the States will be able to see that too and that they’ll like the film because of the story it tells and because of the characters.

Why do you think the reaction to the violence in Heli has been so visceral?

I think it’s because of how I show violence. I think that we are used to seeing people die in the big screen. It’s the most common thing when you go to the movies that somebody dies or somebody gets killed; that’s what’s normal. If you think about it, it’s rare when you go to the movies and somebody doesn’t die. Out of 10 movies maybe there’s one where nobody dies. The most normal is that people get killed on screen. For example, in Batman Dark Knight about 15 people get killed in the first five to 10 minutes.  But there is a way of showing death that people are used to, but when you show it in a different way, as if you were sitting right there without diversions, it’s different. I didn’t want to make violent scenes that were sexy, or dynamic or cinematic. I wanted to make those scenes un-cinematic. heli_still_0027175For me, cinematic has to do with editing and camera movements but those scenes are shot in an “anti” cinematic way, “anti-Hollywood” let’s say. That’s why people have a bad reaction to it. In a similar way, people are not used to seeing the acting style shown in my film and react poorly to it. For instance, in Mexico, people can watch a lot of telenovelas and never complain about the acting, but to me that acting is completely false and not credible, but when they watch my movie they complain about the acting because they are not like in a telenovela. People have already been so programmed in the way they watch something that they can be upset when they’re shown something that’s not within the parameters they expect it to be. Not everybody, obviously, but when people are very set in a way and a movie breaks with that there might be a clash sometimes. But this is also why this movie is so powerful. It is outside of the way in which we normally see things.

How did you prepare for this film in terms of research, raising funds and pre-production?

It took about four years to raise the funds to make this film. Normally, one would take about two years to get money for an independent film. In that time, I was also writing the script with the other screenplay writer Gabriel Reyes and searching for the cast. We did not do research. Rather, we are very observant. I think of myself as someone who listens and is very sensitive. Everything that is in the film is known in Mexico. For instance, that scene with the DEA officer was taken from a YouTube video that I think you can still get if you look up “cops in León Guanajuato torture another cop.” Everyone knows that it happens, and I’m not revealing anything 7940295312_057c038a31_othat I had to go and look for. We are just simply connecting the dots. There are some things in the film that we took directly from the newspapers and some situations we took directly from real life, and from there we started to construct a story. It was not necessary to do research because everything in the film is taken from the public domain. I wanted to go a different route, not research, but showing humanity and sensibility. That’s also how we did the casting. We got people that are from that area, live there, and could be in that situation in some way. The cast bring with them a lot of the context and the reality that adds to the authenticity of the film. We also changed some of the dialogue to fit the way in which they would say something.

How did you carry out the casting? Are they all non-actors?

Yes, they are all from that region, except for the main actor, who is from Mexico City and was going to acting school when we cast him. My brother, Martín [Escalante], found everyone in the street including the girl and the detective. I interviewed them, took photos and started to get to know them, and that’s how I knew they were right for the part. None of them, except for the main character, had acting experience.

How do you think the drug conflict will evolve?

I live in Mexico and love my country. That’s probably why I made the film, out of concern. I think people with a lot of power in Mexico— that’s just a handful of people— are interested in having this ongoing violence and corruption. I think that it is something relatively easy to eradicate if people really wanted to, but there’s a lot of people that are doing fine with corruption and violence. I don’t mean common people but the top echelons, even from the United States. The conflict is making a lot of people rich. The war against drugs could go another way, drugs could be legalized or something like that to stop the assassination and extortion of so many people. EstelaEscuelaFullThose options simply do not exist because people with power are not interested in things really getting better. I don’t think a movie can really create a change, but I think that it’s important to reflect on the problems in the country. It’s important that we look at our own problems and that we let other people see them as well, and that gets you closer to a change. For instance, when you are sick, the first thing you do is go and tell someone else or show someone where it hurts. I think Mexico has a virus that affects certain parts of the country, or certain sectors of society, and through talking about it we can start to advance. The movie is also about young people, the new generation; that’s where I think hope lies, but we as a society need to look after those young people and those babies through education and care and not abandon them like so many people have been abandoned in Mexico. For example, the girl in the movie that has a baby at 13, the 6-month-old baby that appears in the film was born to a 14-year-old mother. This is not common, but it’s something more or less common in Guanajuato. That situation is related to education and all that. What that child that was born from a 14-year-old mother will become, it’s likely that he will end up doing something not morally correct.

Ana Morgenstern

Heli opens this Friday, May 30, in South Florida at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, Bill Cosford Cinema and the Tower TheaterProgram Note: Independent Ethos critics Ana and Hans Morgenstern will introduce Heli on opening night, this Friday, at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, at 9:15 p.m. and again Saturday, at 7 p.m. Let us know if you will be there by signing up on our Facebook event page. For screening dates in other parts of the U.S., visit the film’s official website here.

Update: Heli is also showing in Broward County Friday and Saturday only at the Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood … if you absolutely can’t come see in Miami Beach.

(Copyright 2014 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

post-tenebras-lux-posterPost Tenebras Lux, the fourth film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas demands a relaxed, open mind well aware of the boundaries of cinema and in search of something fresh. The cinephile with an adventurous taste looking for something new in the forms of narrative structure and framing will leave a film like this invigorated. Those looking for something traditional will only feel frustrated, however. But resist and miss a vital message about the class divisions that seem to perpetuate themselves via the mind-numbing escapism most filmmakers are comfortable to exploit for profit and cheap thrills.

Post Tenebras Lux (Latin for “After the darkness, light,” a term lifted out of the Book of Job) is a slippery affair that oozes a vibrant, vital energy looking to obliterate the confines of cinematic narrative for high impact of a social message that seems to trouble the filmmaker to the core of his being. He puts his own lifestyle at the center of culpability by placing his own progeny in the film as the main characters’ children. post-tenebras-lux702As you watch the main character Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) try to mingle with the working class while indulging in bourgeois life, which includes a sex adventure to France with his quietly suffering wife Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo), one has to wonder how much of this is autobiographical, at least on the level of conscience. The abstract manner of this film speaks to the filmmaker’s own frustration with the hypocritical idea of it, for ultimately, how can an art film truly speak to the concerns of the other, much less the subaltern.

Illustrating the futile divisions in class systems, Reygadas, who also wrote the screenplay, juxtaposes vignettes of a small town in the lush forest landscape of Central Mexico, bookended by a children’s rugby match in the U.K. post_tenebras_lux_3Consider the Jungian principal of synchronicity, and the narrative conceit should feel easier to accept, as both settings will illuminate the other in an incongruent but impactful manner. For the most part, the film follows an upper-class family that remains as humanly flawed as the rest of town’s denizens in the lower classes, yet social constructs result in an impenetrable division, despite Juan’s efforts to socialize and mix with those under his employ or simply living in the same area. It all comes to a head in a violent encounter as banal and distant as Reygadas dares to conceive.

The film opens with an evocative if startling exterior scene at dusk. A little girl Eleazar (Eleazar Reygadas) stomps through a muddy meadow as a pack of dogs run back and forth around her, harassing a herd of cows, some of which attempt to copulate. The child, who must be about 3 years of age, is monosyllabic, uttering words like “dog” and “cow” and what will soon be revealed as the names of her immediate family. Post-Tenebras-Lux-Cannes-ImageShe sloshes around, fascinated by the mushy ground, as the dogs zip around her and nip at the agitated cows. The sky looms dark with gray clouds pregnant with rain and rumbling electricity. The opening scene carries on long enough, in what seems a single take, to turn from dusk to pitch black and only the sound of animals and the child’s startlingly playful voice resonate from a darkness broken up by flashes of lightning.

Scene 2: Enter the devil. The presence of evil is revealed in the family’s home. The glowing red thing, with no features but its silhouette and testicles hanging and swaying like a pendulum, creeps through the family’s fancy home, carrying a toolbox and bathing the walls in a red glow. The thing takes its time to establish itself. It feels as long as the opening scene, inviting the viewer to wonder.FOTO-DIABLO-5 When the little boy of the house, Rut (Rut Reygadas), awakes, he stares at the figure with a sort of curiosity that implies he might be dreaming it but also an awareness that such visions can wholly come to children as rather real (read: traumatic). The scene may feel long, but it allows for it to creep under the skin, so it might echo and illuminate the following scenes that range from violence to animals, subjugation of men and the environment and degradation of love. This is not any easy film to experience, and there are many lengthy, quiet scenes similar in length that range from startling to mundane. But there are also chatty scenes that illustrate Reygadas’ concern also has a sense of humor.

Despite many grand shots outdoors, Reygadas subverts the landscape with the use of a beveled lens that refracts the edges of the image leading to a doubling or sometimes quadrupling of the frame’s edge, creating an invisible if suffocating border around the people he has focused his camera on.Post-Tenebras-Lux This is not some indulgent, random use of experimental lensing. There is a symbolic relevance to the flourish. Post Tenebras Lux is a darkly poetic wake-up call about people who have lost their humanity and could very well continue to lose it should they allow themselves to succumb to complacent entitlement. It’s as harsh an experience as the recent class-concerned Paradise: Love, another exclusive screening revealing the brave programming that continues at the Miami Beach Cinematheque (My review: Film Review: ‘Paradise: Love’ peels away layers perpetuated by Disney gloss of post-colonial times). However, whereas Paradise: Love found potency in its raw delivery of frank exchanges between two different worlds of people, Post Tenebras Lux takes a more abstract approach. The narrative frequently jumps around with seemingly disconnected scenes that demand an open mind by the audience prepared for an interpretive experience. Post-Tenebras-LuxTo understand, however, might mean you will have to look at something that you might not like to see, be they scenes that shock on-screen or conversations that demand inference from a social standpoint of the same hypocrisy Reygadas seems to struggle with. It does not have to feel negative, and he offers hope at the end.

Post Tenebras Lux won Reygadas the best director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It is a brilliantly structured work that encapsulates earthy characters, startling scenes of suspense and inventive cinematic techniques not seen in his prior work. It stands as one of this year’s truly transcendent films. The director seems very aware of breaking down and recreating the rules of cinema for such an experience to hit the audience. With Post Tenebras Lux, Reygadas shows a daring vision to experiment that echoes beyond panache and into consciousness that may aggravate some but never undermines its grander, insightful message that ultimately overshadows any idea of pretentiousness.

Hans Morgenstern

Post Tenebras Lux runs 115 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and is not rated (this is in no way for kids, however). It opened in South Florida at this year’s Miami International Film Festival, during which an early version of this review first ran. Post Tenebras Lux begins a limited engagement at the Miami Beach Cinematheque on Friday, May 31. I have been asked by the Cinematheque to introduce the film on opening night, Friday, and the following Saturday night, so be there for either of those screenings and say hi and learn a little more about this movie.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

post_tenebras_lux_ver4_xxlgDay 7 of the Miami International Film Festival included some very interesting meetings with a couple of smart filmmakers and discussions with some rather brilliant film watchers after a screening of one the festival’s more daring films: Post Tenebras Lux.

The afternoon began with a lovely lunch with none other than Whit Stillman, a man whose work in independent cinema in the 1990s heyday of my movie-going remains unforgettable. I plan to have an article about our conversation on this blog where he and I both reconsider Damsels in Distress together, and talk a lot about my somewhat negative review (‘Damsels in Distress:’ Stillman dumbs it down after almost a generation in hiding).

The man came across self-effacing and very open to criticism, despite feeling a bit heartbroken that the film did not play as long as he had hoped in theaters. He seems quite invigorated to be working again and shared some great ideas for follow-up films in confidence. So you will just have to wait and see, but I, for one, am looking forward to what this director has to offer.

He is at MIFF as part of the jury for the Knight Ibero-American Competition. Whit Stillman on set of Damsels. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsStillman said he is not allowed to comment on his job at MIFF as the jury continues to screen films in what may be the festival’s most important competition. But we still had a lot to talk about over lunch and coffee. Part of our conversation will be revealed in what will surely be one of the more interesting articles on this blog.

The only screening I could fit in yesterday was Post Tenebras Lux (Latin for “After the darkness, light,” a term lifted out of the Book of Job) at the intimate O Cinema, which is playing host to some of the more challenging films of the festival in its “Visions” category. Post-Tenebras-LuxThe fourth film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas demands a relaxed, open mind well aware of the boundaries of cinema and in search of something fresh. The cinephile with a distinguished taste looking for something new in the forms of narrative structure and framing will leave a film like this invigorated. Those looking for something traditional will only feel disappointed. I heard a lot of grumbles about the length of the film, as many never felt engaged by it. One person scrawled “This is the worst movie ever!!” on O Cinema’s chalkboard “Everybody’s a Critic” wall.

In my opinion: the film oozed a vibrant vital energy in search of an impactful delivery of a social message many will not be happy to hear. Reygadas, who also wrote the screenplay, juxtaposes vignettes of a small town in the lush forest landscape of Mexico, possibly Valle de Bravo, bookended by a rugby match in the UK. Consider the Jungian principal of synchronicity, and the narrative conceit should feel easier to accept, as both settings will illuminate the other in an incongruent but impactful manner. For the most part, the film follows an upper-class family that remains as humanly flawed as the rest of town’s denizens in the lower classes, yet social constructs result in an impenetrable division that comes to a head in a violent encounter as banal and distant as Reygadas dares conceive.

The film opens with an evocative if startling exterior scene at dusk. A little girl stomps through a muddy meadow as a pack of dogs run back and forth around her,Post-Tenebras-Lux-Cannes-Image harassing a herd of cows, some of which attempt to breed. The child, who must be about 3 years of age, is monosyllabic, uttering words like “doggie,” “Cow” and what will be soon be revealed as the names of her immediate family. She sloshes around, fascinated by the mushy ground, as the dogs zip around her and nip at the agitated cows. The sky looms dark with gray clouds pregnant with rain and rumbling electricity. The opening scene carries on long enough in what seems a single take to turn from dusk to pitch black and only the sound of animals and the child’s startlingly playful voice resonate from a darkness broken up by flashes of lightning.

The next scene is not even worth spoiling. Suffice it to say a presence of evil is revealed in the family’s home, which takes its time to establish itself, so it might echo and illuminate the following scenes that range from violence to animals, subjugation of men and the environment and degradation of love. This is not any easy film to experience. It shouldn’t be so it might have the impact of a slap in the face to what Reygadas may just consider an ignorant, complacent society.

Despite many grand landscapes, Reygadas subverts many of the images by the use of a lens that refracts the edges of the image leading to a doubling or sometimes quadrupling of the frame’s edge, creating an invisible if suffocating boarder around the people he has focused his camera on. Post-Tenebras-LuxPost Tenebras Lux is a darkly poetic wake-up call about people who have lost their humanity and could very well continue to lose it should they allow themselves to succumb to complacent entitlement.

It was the first transcendent film of the festival (you have to break down and recreate the rules of cinema for such experiences) and led to some great conversations with friends I found in the audience. Later that night, I met with the subject of the following two articles I wrote:

Brady Corbet was relaxing in an indoor cabana at Niki Beach for one of the festival’s after parties. We drew him away with chit-chat about film, including Post Tenebras Lux, which, despite a bias he admitted to having (he considers the director a friend), he still loved. Robert Bresson is a clear influence in the film, so his appreciation makes sense. Corbet will host a very special one-night only screening of the Bresson classic Au Hasard Balthazar 936full-au-hasard-balthazar-postertonight as part of MIFF (get tickets; this text is a hyperlink).

He also offered a rather banal reason for why his new film Simon Killer did not appear in the festival line up: the studio, IFC Films, may have grown tired of pushing the release date further back for festival appearances. However, a little bird told me it is scheduled to appear at a local art house in South Florida. Stay tuned to this blog for the official announcement and hopefully an interview with Corbet.

As much as I would like to see a 35mm print of Au Hasard Balthazar, tonight, I will cover the tribute to Spanish director Fernando Trueba for the “Miami New Times,” which will include a one-night only screening of his new film, the Artist and the Model. THE ARTIST AND THE MODELExpect pictures and a narrative of the night’s events on that publication’s “Cultist” blog on Monday (weekend means time for a break for some writers). If you want to go tonight for this tribute to one of the festival’s more consistent contributors, visit this link for tickets.

Meanwhile, Post Tenebras Lux will screen on more night, Sunday, for those looking to catch a bold, daring film at MIFF (click here for tickets).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

About

October 13, 2009

film_vinyl_depthAbout Independent Ethos

We seek to celebrate the independent ethos of artists in music and film whose creations push against the grain of corporate-subsidized popular culture, even though interaction with the corporate world of art has grown more and more inevitable in this day and age. Above all, the spirit of independent art is celebrated here, as both critical and important. Though indie artists, labels and studios are of most interest, the existence of commercially successful artists who still get away with being creative while making a fortune will not be ignored. There are also corporate-sponsored artists who the industry takes an honest chance on as originals and pioneers.

We do not pretend that there is no social part in creating art. This cannot be avoided. Even though most of the focus is on the final product, we like to hear from artists about the creative process (there will be interviews on this blog both new and reprinted from the past). Finally, it’s important to point out that the artist’s vision is seldom synonymous with ultimate meaning, which is a highly subjective and personal experience. That said, we tend to favor the psychological implications of art, particularly in film (we like to call the movie screen a mirror).

Speaking of film, when it comes to movies, good old-fashioned film remains the preferred medium, despite its gradual continued disappearance. Likewise, as far as listening to music, nothing rivals the warm sound of a clean slab of vinyl. Expect lots in regards to vinyl reviews, reissues, and even finds during record hunts.

As for digital media shared through this blog, we by no means intend to profit off any artist by sharing mp3s and videos, least of all contribute to the pockets of bootleggers, but we may cover both official and unofficial material, both in regards to music and film, for the sake of thorough representation and historical reasons and also to benefit the artists’ exposure. If anything shared seems an offense to any artist or its sponsor, it will be removed upon request.

Contact us directly via email: indieethos(at)gmail.com with any leads you want to share. Studios, labels, bands, pitches from contributors are welcome (do share any clips with any pitches, but remember, this is not for money). We’d be happy to analyze vinyl records and/or promos. Those can be sent by mail to:

Independent Ethos
10500 SW 108 Ave. #B-306
Miami, FL 33176

Finally, you can also subscribe to alerts of posts here and get lots of bonus news on music and film by subscribing to our Twitter account: @Indieethos. We also have a  Facebook page we hope you will “like” and follow.

Remember, we at Independent Ethos take art seriously and can be critical. Art must move us forward and stimulate the intellect and the primal senses at the same time.

Authors

Hans Morgenstern - headshot

Hans Morgenstern
Editor & Creative Director

Hans holds a degree in print journalism from Florida International University and a Master’s degree in English with a certificate in Film Studies from the same university with many years of experience in the publishing world. A card-carrying member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a voting member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, Hans has been writing about music in magazines and weeklies since 1992. His work has appeared in the pages of various publications including: The Miami Herald, Pure Honey, The Miami New Times, The Broward/Palm Beach New Times, CMJ Music Monthly, Goldmine Record Collector’s Magazine, among others. On-line, he’s a national film critic for Hollywood.com and covers the Miami art, film and music scenes on Cultist and Crossfade blogs.

On Movies:
Hans’ film experience comes from an academic background. He wrote his Master’s thesis on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and its subversion of the classical Hollywood cinema form (read an abridged version here: http://bit.ly/ZOh3BF). Hans has taught a class on cinema and American Culture at Barry University for several semesters before completing a Master’s degree. During his studies, he presented a thesis paper on Eyes Wide Shut on an academic panel as part of the university’s involvement with the Miami International Film Festival. Hans has also spent several years working at the MIFF and the Miami Jewish Film Festival working in the programming departments at both festivals.

On Music:
Hans’ interest skews toward the alternative rock world. The figurehead for his musical tastes starts with David Bowie, which makes him a big fan of the early ‘70s progressive/art rock scene, German Krautrock music of that same era, then the later postpunk movement in England, which also spawned Goth rock, industrial and the new romantics in 80s. He also has a keen interest in contemporary scene of alternative music, including post rock, dream pop, shoegaze, twee, noise pop, pastoral chamber pop scene. Current bands of major interest include Deerhunter, MGMT, Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire, among others.

Ana Morgenstern profile pictureAna Morgenstern
Co-founder & Contributor

Originally from Mexico City, Dr. Ana Morgenstern is a researcher based in Miami, FL. An expert in contemporary Latin American Politics, she searches for the intersections between art, politics and the human experience. Her research has been published in academic journals. An avid reader and cinephile, Ana’s favorite films from contemporary film auteurs include: Pedro Almodóvar (Talk To Her), Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), Noah Baumbach (Greenberg), Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation), Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), Wong Kar-wai (In The Mood For Love), Carlos Reygadas (Post Tenebras Lux), Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof). Some of her favorite contemporary albums include: Belle & Sebastian (The Boy With the Arab Strap), Camera Obscura (My Maudlin Career), Carla Morrison (Compartir), Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues), Fiona Apple (Extraordinary Machine), Mala Rodriguez (Malamarismo), Of Montreal (False Priest).

kinopoisk.ru

Yesterday, the “Miami New Times” arts and culture blog “Cultist” published an interview I performed with actor Brady Corbet. He is at the Miami International Film Festival to introduce Robert Bresson’s masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar in 35mm during a one-night only screening this Friday (buy tickets).

For that article we spoke about the merits of this 1966 film, its importance in the world of cinema and his own personal experience with the movie. You can read that article here:

cultist banner

We spent the other half of the interview discussing the merits of watching and making movies in 35mm. Based on other posts written on this blog, a reader will notice a concern and interest I have in the format (here are two particular in-depth posts about it: ‘Side By Side’ presents close examination of digital’s quiet conquest over filmTo accept the death of celluloid). Brady CorbetCorbet revealed an equal, if not deeper concern than I about the state of 35mm, and I found it wonderful to know a filmmaker as young as he (24) not only shows concern about it, but is also taking steps to keep the format alive.

When the leaders at MIFF asked him to host a screening, he agreed to do so only if it were a 35mm film print. “I said, ‘Well, here’s ten films I’d be happy to screen, but I want to make sure that it’s a print. I don’t want to screen a DCP [Digital Cinema Package],’” he recalls and explains:  “First of all, DCPs are very unreliable. They’re fussy, and there’s frequently drop outs. There’s all sorts of problems with them, and second of all, there’s a majesty about celluloid that at this point is impossible to replicate.”

He considers the idea to replace film cameras with digital rather premature, noting that the image capable with the highest quality digital camera has yet to match what can be achieved with 35mm. “I saw Leos Carax speak after a screening of Holy Motors this year, and he said this very funny thing in regards to the digital movement. Denis Lavant in 'Holy Motors.' Still Image courtesy of Indomina ReleasingHe said, ‘I feel like we were prescribed an antidote or a medicine for something that we weren’t sick for yet,’ and so for me, unfortunately, I think that eventually, maybe in five years or 10 years, I don’t know, it will be impossible to tell the difference, but right now you still can.”

Corbet will not go as far as calling all digital filmmaking inferior to 35mm. He says there are certain master filmmakers who understand the various capabilities of either format and some that know how to work in either one when the occasion calls for it. For instance, he gives passes to both Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke (whose movies he has acted in) because they know what it is like to work on film.I think those two guys have been making some of the best movies of our generation, clearly. But it’s an interesting thing. for them it’s probably very exciting because when they started their careers, Lars got to make his first five or six projects on film, and then I understand how freeing and exciting it must have been for him to shoot Breaking the Waves digitally.breaking-41 I’m sure it sort of re-invigorated his interest in the medium. So, as far as they’re concerned, I think they can do whatever the hell they want.”

However, when it comes to a current generation beginning to craft work with digital translation, a lot of the creative process gets lost, as many mechanics are taken for granted. “I think it’s a strange thing for this next generation of filmmakers to grow up on digital without having to learn the analog, for lack of a better word. I feel like you should have the experience of working with something tangible first and understand that deeply and then make a choice.”

Corbet knows firsthand what it’s like to shoot a film on 35mm. His first short film, which played at the Miami International Film Festival in 2008, was shot and projected in 35. He is disappointed that most people will now only have a chance to see it online:

Protect You + Me from Paul Rubinfeld on Vimeo.

“The transfers that have existed online, there’s a lot of problems,” he notes. “They’re either too bright or too contrasty. When you get into the process of exporting it or the output or whatever, when the contrast goes that black, then suddenly you don’t get that milkiness or that nuance that 35mm has naturally. So it’s kinda hard to tell on a computer, but you could tell when it was projected. And Darius Khondji shot that film, so it’s very striking visually. I mean, I was 18 or 19 years old when I made it, so it’s sort of like looking at baby pictures now. But there’s still something to it I think. I haven’t seen it in a while.”

Corbet has also shot in digital, most recently regarding a much-liked music video for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes. “I always knew people will be watching the video on computers,” he says. “It’s a very modern video, so we shot that on the Alexa, and I’m very happy with the look of it. It’s very appropriate for the content, very suitable. That was shot by Jody Lee Lipes who shot Martha Marcy May Marlene and other things that we worked on together. I basically wish—my hope for 35mm is that simply it remains an option.”

Corbet does recognize that digital technology has unique aspects in certain lighting environs that makes 35mm obsolete. He brings up Simon Killer, a film he co-wrote with its director Antonio Campos and which he plays the titular role. “I think there are plenty of occasions when digital technology is more appropriate,” he says. “For example, a film we have coming out in a couple of months, called Simon Killer was shot on the Alexa, and we couldn’t have really shot the movie on any other format because the Alexa and its sensitivity to light sees more than human eyes see. You can shoot in really negative lighting circumstances and you still have a viewable image. That film we shot without any film lights. We shot it with augmented practicals and available light, so we could have never made that movie for the price we made it for and made it look as good as it looks without that technology.”

simonkiller_a

It’s an uphill battle for 35, and Corbet recognizes this. When producers and studio heads or even your own collaborators on the films, like actors and actresses, want to see that day’s takes before the end of the day, it cannot be done with 35. “The problem is also that it’s an issue of immediacy too,” he notes. “They want to see dailies shot all day, and they want to review it at 7 p.m., as soon as you’ve wrapped up photography for the day … People are just getting less and less patient.”

He notes that impatience has a detrimental effect on the creative process. “I believe that sometimes affects the content in a really negative way because you’re rushing things and sometimes it’s nice to sit with something for a little while, and imperfections are a nice thing too. They give an image life.”

Going back to the screening tomorrow night, Corbet has hopes that the film print will look quite nice. “I have a feeling that the print that we have of Au Hasard Balthazar is probably going to look pretty pristine because I imagine it’s a print that Rialto did of the last release of it, so I think that they’re new prints.”

Hans Morgenstern

Au Hasard Balthazar will screen Friday, March 8, at 7:15 p.m. with an introduction by actor/director Brady Corbet as part of the Miami International Film Festival (buy tickets to the event here; this is a hyperlink).

Note: This was to be a post on Day 6 of the Miami International Film Festival and Dark Blood, but a meeting at the “Miami New Times” dragged long into the night, and I missed the screening. Day 7 it’s back to an intimate venue: O Cinema for a film with less hype following it than Dark Blood but much critical acclaim: Post Tenebras Lux (click here for tickets).

Post-Tenebras-Lux

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

2013_MIFF_POSTERThe coverage for the 30th Annual Miami International Film Festival has begun in earnest. I hope to document all the coverage I contribute on this blog and highlight some films I find noteworthy or even not so noteworthy.

A couple of small things already appeared yesterday in the “Miami New Times.” They include a movie review and a conservation with the festival’s director. The titles below are hot links to the articles:

MIFF’s Jaie Laplante Talks Cinema at the Intersection of Hollywood and Latin America

Guess which one of the three reviews in this article I wrote:

MIFF 2013: Murder, Marriage, and Madness in This Week’s Biggest Movies

The meat of the coverage on Independent Ethos, however, shall be the result of taking in the following screenings/events (all titles are hotlinks to tickets and trailers):

Friday, March 1
7:00 PM: TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM (OPENING NIGHT FILM)

Saturday, March 2
3:00  PM: ANALYZE THIS: A CRITICS POWER IN TODAY’S FILM CULTURE

6:15 PM: THE BOY WHO SMELLS LIKE FISH

9:15 PM: THE HUNT (JAGTEN)

The hunt still

Sunday, March 3rd

1:00 PM:

FILL THE VOID (LEMALE ET HA’HALAL)

5:00 PM: BOB WILSON’S LIFE AND DEATH OF MARINA ABRAMOVIC

7:00 PM: THE HYPNOTIST (with Career Achievement Tribute to LASSE HALLSTRÖM) (Hypnotisören)

Monday, March 4th
7:00 PM: MY GERMAN FRIEND (EL AMIGO ALEMÁN)

Tuesday, March 5th
7:00 PM: NO

9:30 PM: EVERYDAY

Wednesday, March 6th

7:00 PM: DARK BLOOD

movietalk-riverphoenix-darkblood630-jpg_202136

Thursday, March 7th
7:00 PM: POST TENEBRAS LUX

Friday, March 8th
7:00 PM: THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL (with Career Achievement Tribute to FERNANDO TRUEBA) (EL ARTISTA Y LA MODELO)

9:45 PM: REALITY

Saturday, March 9th
11:00 AM: CONVERSATION WITH CRISTIAN JIMENEZ (the director of Bonsai, which I reviewed here)

6:45 PM: BEIJING FLICKERS (YOU-ZHONG)

9:45 PM: AFTER LUCIA (DESPUÉS DE LUCIA)

Sunday, March 10th
1:00 PM: BLACKFISH

4:00 PM: LEVIATHAN
My most anticipated film of the festival, see the trailer:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)