Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best VR of 2016: Arnaud Colinart and Amaury La Burthe on Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness

This year’s DOK Neuland, DOK Leipzig’s interactive component (housed in what resembled an intergalactic pop-up tent in the beautiful, wide open Markt) allowed me a second chance to experience what will surely go down as the best work of virtual reality seen widely in 2016. Fortuitously, I’d been able to catch Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness — the accolade garnering (Storyscapes Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Alternate Realities VR Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest) VR companion piece to Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s much heralded documentary — at the charming Savannah Film Festival’s VR Showcase just the week before. (The doc itself opened at Film Forum in November.) Though it’s now available for free on various platforms, the experience of putting on a headset and virtually falling once again into a “world beyond sight” nearly brought me to tears. And how often does that kind of emotional connection happen with virtual reality? Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness is an astounding work of immersive cinema. Arthouse VR.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holland’s Own Trumpland: From Zwarte Piet to Geert Wilders

To say that the Donald Trump’s (electoral college) victory has galvanized the far right globally is an understatement. Though France’s Marine Le Pen tends to grab most of the headlines here in the States, she may soon be upstaged by the Netherlands’s Geert Wilders, who just delivered his closing statement in a hate-speech trial he deemed unworthy of his presence for most of its proceedings. (The trial stemmed from a 2014 rally at The Hague in which Wilders told supporters who’d voiced their desire for fewer Moroccans in Holland that “we will arrange that.”)

This isn’t the first time Wilders has run afoul of Dutch law. In 2011 he faced similar charges for comparing the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, along with issuing other anti-Islamic denunciations. He’s also a serious contender for Prime Minister. Sound familiar? Wilders, like Trump, is no anomaly. He’s simply the loudest voice in a seedy underbelly of intolerance that’s been running through all Western “free nations” since their founding. Indeed, Wilders and the Holland template can provide much needed insight into our own troubled, white nationalist terrain.

To read the rest of my essay visit Global Comment.

Friday, December 2, 2016

“There is a Certain Freedom to Being an Outsider”: Garrett Zevgetis on Best and Most Beautiful Things

Boston-based filmmaker Garrett Zevgetis’s SXSW-premiering Best and Most Beautiful Things (its title a nod to Helen Keller’s words) is a cinematic portrait of a young woman in Bangor, Maine, a recent high school graduate who is searching for a job to suit her skills. An anime devotee whose rebel fashion sense seems to be influenced by her vast Werecat Sisters doll collection, Michelle Smith also happens to be legally blind and has Asperger’s syndrome. As the doc progresses, though, disabilities fade into the background, upstaged by Michelle’s determination to assert her individuality (including exploring BDSM) and live her life on her own terms. In other words, just like every other 20-year-old emerging into autonomous adulthood.

Indeed, the small moments in Michelle’s coming-of-age-journey that Zevgetis captures are every bit as inspiring as the grand natural beauty of Maine. Patiently letting the story unfold, Zevgetis gives us a glimpse into the battles Michelle’s disabilities have forced her to wage — namely against condescension, preconceived notions, and other people’s ignorance (which, as Michelle puts it, should not be her burden to bear). Filmmaker was fortunate enough to speak with the Boston-based director about all this and more prior to the film’s December 2nd, NYC premiere at Cinema Village. The film rolls out to other markets in the days ahead.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.