A.45 at 50th – A Film About Actor James Cromwell and the Black Panthers in 1968


I got a nice surprise submission to my Vimeo Candlelight Stories Short Film group this week.  It’s a fascinating documentary about one famous actor’s experiences during the turmoil of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

John Cromwell, the son of actor James Cromwell, directed this short film with Joshua Bell. It’s about his father’s experience with members of the Black Panther Party civil rights organization in 1968. It’s a fascinating short documentary look at someone who finds himself in an unfamiliar world just trying to lend a decent helping hand. James Cromwell has been involved with the defense of the Black Panthers and other human rights causes for decades.  I like the film’s professional quality and easy capturing of the sixties look.  It presents its important and dramatic subject matter with a good dose of rather charming humor.

Here’s an article and interview with the director and his father.

Culture Shock, Level One – A Film by Bill Mousoulis

Bad Lit: The Journal of Underground Film posted a film by Bill Mousoulis called The Experimenting Angel. I liked it. So I’ve posted another of Mousoulis’ films. It features Jennifer Levy who returns from a long absence to Australia and feels dislocated while visiting a city. She wonders why the people seem so ‘deflated’ as they wander through various public/corporate spaces like malls. The film captures something increasingly common worldwide which is that quiet, blank, but seemingly normal behavior encouraged by any structure designed and erected with a corporate idea behind it. We all know how we are expected to behave when we walk past a row of Gaps, Starbucks, Banana Republics and Wetzle’s Pretzels. We obey. We perform the routine and go about our business making sure that we are perceived as correctly normal. We are guests in someone else’s house, even in our public spaces. We behave like new guests, ingratiating ourselves to the dome camera in the ceiling.  The cell phone is the absolute symbol of complete obeisance to the corporate superstructure looming above us.  We are told to engage in meaningless chatter while we walk, drive, breathe, eat, date, watch movies, run, bike, and work.  We are told to do this until it seems like normal and seems to make perfect sense.  It is as logical as being told to drop a penny on the ground every third step for every day of your life.  Steve Jobs tells you to leave him a penny on the ground every third step of every day of your life… and you damn well do it.  You know how many times Steve Jobs uses a cell phone during an average day?  None.  Why?  Because he’s much smarter than you are.

10-Minute Film School with El Mariachi Director Robert Rodriguez

Director Robert Rodriquez shows how he put several sequences together for his low-budget first feature, El Mariachi. His solutions for working with a single camera and extremely limited resources are ingenious. His consistent recommendation to young low-budget filmmakers is to simply refuse to spend any money on anything. After watching this film it becomes very apparent that the only thing really preventing people from making films is a simple lack of ability.

For further study, Mubi.com has nice in-depth article called 30 Minute Film School that covers all the shot types and lighting setups one needs in order to make a narrative film.

Here’s a fascinating continuation of the 10-minute film school in which Rodriguez shows how he filmed a complex shootout for Desperado with Antonio Banderas by using a video camera to pre-plan the entire sequence.

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

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Tokyo Night Trip – A Film by Luciana Botelho

Luciana Botelho turns cab rides in Tokyo into a gorgeous abstraction that maintains its romantic atmosphere flawlessly.  What I like about these films is how the filmmaker seems able to surrender herself to a particular time and place over the extended period of time necessary for making the film.  Not an easy thing to do.  I’ve posted about this filmmaker’s work before.