Digital Underground in the People’s Republic of China

Rachel Tejada shot and edited this film about independent and underground film in China. It was produced by dGenerate Films.  It’s in six short parts and covers the basics of independent film festivals and efforts to make films that will somehow survive the oversight of the repressive government.  I post this out of a measured interest, but I cannot overlook the depressingly passive sadness of everyone who so much as glances into the camera.  They consistently refer to themselves as independent filmmakers or underground filmmakers.  Underground they may be out of necessity, but they are most certainly not independent.  They are comfortably passive and have an absolute zero level of confrontation or rebellion in them.

I cannot muster significant respect for billions of people who want to express themselves and flourish but do not ever make the decision to pick up their totalitarian government leaders and drown them in the sea.  You can talk to me until you are blue in the face about your independent cinema, but until your cameras shoot something I’m not listening.

Parts 2 – 6 after the jump

Continue reading

Not Every Time – DSLR Film from Yemen

This is a preview for a television show from Yemen. It’s all shot on a Canon 7D digital SLR camera by Aimen Kasem who functioned as the show’s cinematographer.  The show is directed by Sameer Al-Afeef. People are making very beautiful things with these DSLR cameras. I’ve been using one recently for my own films and appreciate the flexibility and quality that they offer. The post production work can be very challenging but the end results are often gorgeous. I like the looks of this dramatic show from Yemen. The preview stands on its own as a short film. With such high-quality equipment and editing tools available for a modest investment, it is becoming increasingly possible to see how people in different cultures approach and think about color. The fine manipulation of color in digital film is now available to any filmmaker and has become just as much a personal expression as it has long been for the painter.

See Aimen Kasem’s work on Vimeo.

The Films of Luciana Botelho

I once suggested on this web site picking up a camera and spending the day on a street corner making a film. Moulin Rouge is a film that does that with spectacular and sublime results. Filmmaker Luciana Botelho wanders the world with her camera and makes films that take my breath away.  Standing in front of the Paris landmark, she makes a film that celebrates movement more effectively than anything going on inside the actual Moulin Rouge.  Her film is also a very simple and charming celebration of the act of photographing or filmmaking. Botelho’s films are beautiful and subtle and extremely emotional.  She fits image to music perfectly.  I’m ready to go and buy all the songs after watching these!

With the great pile of film and video available on the web, one must maintain some sensitivity to the gentle – the delicate. Botelho is a gentle filmmaker. She impresses me because she seems to me to be an artist of the glance. Her art seems based on immediate vision and impressions made almost in passing. She makes films about travel that capture the essence of a place, but primarily focus on the behavior of people, turning the overlooked into something captivating. The films hold an enormous grace and convey very powerfully the impression of an artist whose every turn of the head can lead to a film.

I like the fluctuating frame rate of these films. It focuses you in on the interesting physical movements caught by the camera in everyday situations. And yet the films flow smoothly in overall effect.  The small camera in hand that follows the eye is modern cinema.  In the film, Tokyo Slices – People, when the camera swings to catch the girl in the scarf on the subway platform you are seeing most of what you need to know about modern cinema.

I look forward to Luciana Botelho’s Los Angeles film.

Short Documenatry Film About Animator Mary Ellen Bute

The National Film Preservation Board of The Library of Congress has added a film to its National Film Registry by Mary Ellen Bute called Tarantella (1940). Here’s a short documentary about this animator and her total dedication to her art. Cartoon Brew has more information about the recent additions to the Registry.

Christopher Doyle on Cinematography

He reminds me a little of Keith Richards. He’s made some of the most beautiful films you may ever see with director Wong Kar Wai in Hong Kong. He seems to like wandering the colorful streets. Always talking about the light and color. Last night I took my new camera out along Ventura Boulevard very late. I was making a film by moving very slowly from window to window, shooting in an odd off-kilter way with closeups through glass and lights moving in and out of focus. It took me several hours to move three blocks up the boulevard. I haven’t seen the footage yet but the night was loaded with possibilities. Do you have any idea how many things you can come up with when you look inside a store’s display window? You can break it down almost infinitely and create images that have very little to do with the store. I find it a natural and obvious way to make a film. The sets are all there waiting for me to show up with my camera. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know what the film will be. It exists already and will make itself apparent when I start staring at my footage.