Independents' day at HFA
Series features directors making movies that feel like real life
The director John Cassavetes despised "shorthand" films -- movies "that manipulate audiences into assuming quick, manufactured truths," as the Cassavetes scholar Ray Carney put it in a 2003 Globe interview. Instead, Cassavetes "looked for ways to require audiences to live through various experiences along with him," Carney said.
Perhaps because audiences are hyper-primed for "reality-based" entertainment, there is a wave of Cassavetes-inspired young filmmakers who are following in the director's seemingly unchoreographed footsteps. (One such is his daughter Zoe ; see Page N9.) They make movies that feel more like real-life scrapbooks than three-act narratives, with fiction that seems like documentary and dialogue that sounds like improvisation (some of it is).
So here's a nifty idea: Have Carney -- who teaches film at Boston University, has authored more than 10 books on Cassavetes, and manages the website www. cassa vetes.com -- help curate a program of the best and the brightest of this new breed of film.
Carney and Harvard Film Archive senior programmer Ted Barron have selected 19 films for this summer's second annual survey of "New American Independent Cinema." The 13 features and one program of six shorts either haven't found major distribution, haven't gotten big press coverage, or haven't won awards at big festivals. It's work that, as Carney writes, "flew under the radar" with "narratives [that] are not reducible to the group-hug ethos that says everything will be OK if only you have friends."
The program opened this weekend and runs through July 10. Among the works featured are Frank V. Ross's "Hohokam," about a young couple whose relationship is being pulled down by overdue credit card bills and a constant chatter of bicker (today at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 9:15 p.m., with Ross attending Tuesday); Kentucker Audley's "Team Picture , " about a 20-something musician who "drifts and dawdles for most of the movie," as Carney puts it (Monday at 7 p.m., with Audley attending); and Mike Akel's "Chalk," a satire that is to public school classrooms what "The Office" is to the white-collar workplace (Friday at 7 p.m., with Akel attending).
Also playing is David Ball's "Honey," about two couples and the passive-aggressive way that lovers fight -- or as Ball puts it, "How you can reach this point with another person where they've hurt you and you've hurt them and you're both thinking, 'My God, I didn't know I was capable of doing that to someone, and I didn't know I was capable of withstanding that from someone' and yet you don't just run away because sometimes you have nowhere else to go" (Wednesday at 7 p.m., with Ball attending).
Other films include Mike Gibisser's "Finally, Lillian and Dan"; Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin's "Apart From That"; David Barker's "Afraid of Everything"; Nick Peterson's "Yellow"; Joe Swanberg's "Hannah Takes the Stairs"; Aaron Katz's "Quiet City"; and Ronald Bronstein's "Frownland."
The HFA has a MySpace page at myspace.com/harvardfilmarchive in addition to its more traditional site at hcl.harvard.edu/hfa . The MySpace page has trailers to movies and links to filmmakers' sites. Information about the program is also available at 617-495-4700.
WOODS HOLE FEST SNEAK PEEK: Independent filmmaker Les Blank, whose works include "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins" and "Burden of Dreams," will be filmmaker in residence at the 16th annual Woods Hole Film Festival, which takes place July 28 to Aug. 4.
Blank will lead a master class on documentary filmmaking Aug. 2 and be part of a panel discussion on the future of long-form documentary in the age of Internet video. He'll also attend programs and parties throughout the week and screen his new "All in This Tea" on July 29. Made with Gina Leibrecht, the movie follows American tea importer David Lee Hoffman deep into remote regions of China to find world-class handmade teas.
(According to Blank's website, he's also at work on a digital video about documentary film pioneer Richard Leacock, who's "having the time of his life in Normandy, France." Leacock attended the Woods Hole and Plymouth Independent film festivals last summer and is currently creating biographical DVDs of his own memories, photos, tales, and, says Blank, "if we're lucky, some recipes of some of the finest meals I've ever had.")
The festival will celebrate the DVD launch of the 1971 shark documentary "Blue Water, White Death" with a screening of that film July 28. The opening night party that evening is at the Captain Kidd Waterfront Restaurant and Bar. Full details about the festival and the film schedules are posted at woodsholefilmfestival .org , or call 508-495-3456 .
GENERATION WHY: Novelist Douglas Coupland has become a screenwriter? Who knew? Coupland has teamed up with television director Paul Fox to make the comic feature film "Everything's Gone Green," about a young man trying to keep from slipping into black-market capitalism. Coupland-style, he's satisfied with just enough but surrounded by people who will never have enough. The movie is getting a seven-show engagement at the Museum of Fine Arts starting Friday at 6:15 p.m. Screenings run through July 14. Schedule details are at 617-267-9300 and mfa.org/film.
Leslie Brokaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.