Monthly Archives: February 2012

some shameless plugs

I am once again taking all Cinema and Media Studies courses this term (including Comps), so it’s been pretty CAMS-y up in here.  On top of that, my friends Sam and Jack and I decided to submit to the annual Carleton film festival/competition, the Golden Schillers — which meant that two weekends ago, facing an 11:59pm submission deadline on the same day, we began shooting a minor masterpiece entitled The Perfect Hipster.

First of all, let me just take this opportunity to thank my fellow filmmakers for getting behind on this conceptual project — it’s a brainchild of mine that’s been gestating for about 2 and a half years, ever since I had the happy coincidence of finding Jorgen Leth’s short film The Perfect Human and the blog Look at This Fucking Hipster sharing space in my mind for one perfect moment.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I had a) just written a final paper on The Five Obstructions and b) was at that point going through an existential crisis regarding my own identity and whether to apply the term ‘hipster’ to myself, which resulted in my spending a lot of time exploring the Internet’s conception of hipsterdom.  Anyway: I’ve wanted to do this for the longest time, never have, and when I casually mentioned it to Sam one evening during a break on our radio show, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who found it appealing as a project.  Sam told Jack, we formed a team (team name: Unicorn something something…), and the rest is history.

Appropriately, The Perfect Hipster is a film based on a film you’ve probably never heard of, unless you are a CAMS major, a hardcore Lars von Trier fan (the continual reworking of The Perfect Human is the centerpiece of his film The Five Obstructions ), or, I don’t know, Jorgen Leth.  It combines Danish existentialism and infinite white rooms with contemplative, probing voiceovers with too much irony and a healthy dose of plaid and PBR.  And it stars campus hip-stars Alex and Chisa — they are phenomenal and so understated.  It’s uncanny.

Here is the original basis for our film: Jorgen Leth’s masterpiece.  So good.

But the most amazing thing, to me, is that we produced it in less than 10 hours, from the moment we turned on the camera to the final moment when we finished exporting and submitted the piece with roughly 90 seconds to spare, and we’re pretty fucking proud of it.  A lot of work goes into the filmmaking process, and a lot of it requires processes that in turn require SO MUCH WAITING, or just time invested, so our adventure two Mondays ago was one of those experiences that makes me so excited for the real world — the possibility of finding a workflow and a creative team that just jives and gets really interesting, aesthetic, challenging filmmaking DONE.  So, props to us.  And watch out, real world.

Of course, with respect to the awesomeness of what we produced, you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you are on the Carleton Campus, the Golden Schillers are tomorrow (FRIDAY!) night in the Chapel at 8 pm, and obviously this is where all the cool kids will be.  After attending Sam’s CAMS comps talk in the Weitz — 4:30, room 133, be there or be square.  I would say what it’s about, but you probably haven’t heard of it.

on finally seeing pariah

I’ve been looking forward to the film Pariah ever since I first saw the trailer at BAM this summer (and subsequently blogged about its uncannily consistent juxtaposition with the trailer for Gun Hill Road).  I even mentioned this state of heightened anticipation while seated near James Schamus at one of the several formal meals that we enjoyed together while he was at Carleton last term; when he overheard my comment, he interjected with something to the effect of “THIS FILM IS SO GOOD! YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT.”  Which, even coming from the guy who runs the company that produced the film (Focus Features), struck me as totally genuine and basically made me even more excited for the release of the film this past December (if that had been possible…).

Adepero Oduye rides the bus in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, as Alike in Pariah.

So: on Friday night, thanks to Carleton’s Metro Arts Access Fund and the efforts of Sarah Berlin (Sarah: you rock.), I was at long last able to see Pariah.  For those of you who don’t frequent Autostraddle (or similarly queer-ish online publications) and have therefore missed the ongoing hype about the film, the basic premise centers on the coming-of-age of Alike, a black lesbian teenager in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who excels at school and expresses herself through poetry, wants to find a girlfriend ASAP, and isn’t exactly out to her parents.  Familial clashes ensue over time spent with her openly lesbian best friend, Laura, and her mother, played with surprising sobriety by Kim Wayans, decides that forcing her into acquaintance with a colleague’s daughter, Bina, will solve things.  So of course a sleepover with Bina turns out to be Alike’s first romantic counter.

Aasha Davis as Bina and Adepero Oduye as Alike.

Pariah is director Dee Rees’ first feature, an expansion of her earlier short film, and it preserves so much of what won it the Audience Choice Award in 2007 at the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival: the great cinematography, the very Brooklyn feel of the mise-en-scene, the poignancy and rawness of the performances, especially that of star Adepero Oduye, the honesty of the storytelling, undoubtedly the openness and necessity of the story content in this day and age.  But here’s my complaint: somehow, even expanded to 86 minutes, it still feels like a short film — the ending seems too soon, our glimpse into Alike’s coming of age too short, too easy.  Perhaps this is because the temporality of the film is so fluid, that the final scenes and Alike’s preparation to leave for California and college come so quickly, but it feels as if the conflicts that were driving the film remain less than fully examined, or left to remain unresolved.  And while this is frustrating to a viewer who wants more of any good queer cinema we can get, perhaps it also speaks to the lingering unspeakability of these questions of identity.  Even with films like Weekend (dir. Andrew Haigh, streaming on Netflix NOW, run don’t walk to SEE THIS) and Pariah being released in 2011, queer cinema is still finding its voice, just like Alike and her poetry.  But it is finding it, and with that, finding wider audiences — and I firmly believe that we can only expect more truthful, powerful, beautiful work to ‘come out’, as it were, as the decade progresses.  Especially if I have anything to say about it.