Did You See This?

Those Frozen Horses

Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg (2007)

The entireFindingCommittee of documenta 16, the 2027 edition of one of the most prestigious contemporary art events in the world, resigned this week after accusations of anti-Semitism were leveled against one of its members. On Thursday, New York Times Magazine poetry editor Anne Boyer submitted a searing letter of resignation, taking aim at the newspaper’s coverage of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The waves of protests and counterprotests, resignations, firings, and cancellations that have been tearing up the cultural landscape since at least the firing of Artforum editor David Velasco a few weeks ago eventually had to hit the film-festival circuit as well. So far, they’ve hit hardest at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. As Hannah Strong reports for Little White Lies, the dynamic between filmmakers and festival organizers has taken new twists and turns nearly every day since IDFA opened on November 8, and overall, “the situation has severely damaged the trust between some filmmakers and IDFA.”

IDFA 2023 rolls on through the weekend, though, and this year’s awards were presented on Thursday night. Shoghakat Vardanyan’s 1489, which tracks her family’s search for her twenty-one-year-old brother after he went missing in the renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, won Best Film. Mohamed Jabaly won Best Director for Life Is Beautiful. In 2014, Jabaly was shooting in Norway when the borders to Gaza were closed, meaning he couldn’t go home. But the Norwegian government would neither recognize his Palestinian passport nor grant him a work permit, and so, stateless and unemployed, Jabaly was stuck for years with a host family in Tromsø.

This week’s highlights:

  • Sabzian, the multilingual Belgian film journal, has relaunched its site, introducing a film index, wherein each page devoted to a single film is “a scrapbook of references, quotes, and reading suggestions,” and presenting six collections. “To try and live together”: The Films of Anne-Marie Miéville, for example, gathers five articles, ten film pages, and the latest news related to the filmmaker whose work, as Stoffel Debuysere and Gerard-Jan Claes write in their introduction, addresses “the challenges of communication and the trials of love.” Further collections focus on Kathleen Collins, Harun Farocki, and Cecilia Mangini.

  • Todd Haynes’s “piquant, immensely pleasurable” May December “intelligently explores gendered role-playing and our culture’s seemingly unslakable appetite for lurid scandals,” writes 4Columns film editor Melissa Anderson, and it begins its theatrical run today. Haynes has been talking to Jake Nevins (Interview), Nicolas Rapold (Notebook), Joshua Rothkopf (Los Angeles Times), and Xuanlin Tham (AnOther), and Sight and Sound has just republished Amy Taubin’s interview from its May 1996 issue, which came out just after Safe arrived in the UK. “I know it’s hard and mean to make a movie where there’s no escape,” said Haynes, “but just walk around.”

  • Metrograph Journal editor Annabel Brady-Brown has set up a long and terrific conversation between Courtney Stephens, codirector of The American Sector (2020) with Pacho Velez, and Guy Maddin, who at one point admits to fibbing quite a bit both in and about My Winnipeg (2007). He was once in Reykjavík when “someone with a high, beautiful, Icelandic accent asked, ‘Is it true about the horses freezing in the river?’ I looked up, and it was Björk. I thought, ‘Good God.’ I had this policy that during Q&As for certain questions I’d lie every second time and tell the truth every second time. And it was time for Björk to get a lie. I said to myself, ‘I can’t lie to Björk!’ Then I went, ‘No, I must lie more to Björk.’ I really elaborated about the frozen horses, and followed up with what the whole winter was like, improvising great heaps of nonsense for her.”

  • For the Guardian, Kate Kellaway talks with Tilda Swinton about Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter and passes along questions from Pedro Almodóvar, who asks about David Bowie; Apichatpong Weerasethakul; writer Olivia Laing, who gets Swinton talking about Derek Jarman; composer Max Richter, who sparks memories of early moviegoing; and Wes Anderson, who wonders who she’d like to play. “I imagine a detective,” says Swinton, “or maybe, rather, the provincial lady of a decrepit manor with a deep love of detective fiction who is irresistibly drawn into solving some gruesome, convoluted intrigue.”

  • Reviewing our new box set Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar for RogerEbert.com, Walter Chaw contrasts the on-screen personas of Chan and Bruce Lee. “Where Lee is invulnerable,” writes Chaw, “Chan is constantly in agony; where Lee is driven by the taste of his own blood, Chan is inspired by a little tipple or a slug of bong water; the voices of ancestor warriors ennoble Lee, Chan coached by a gang of pink-haired ghosts he masters by pissing on them.” With Chan’s directorial debut, The Fearless Hyena (1979), “a star—some would say the greatest action star the world has ever seen in terms of the sheer number of people who flocked to see him perform—was well and truly born.”

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