Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Aug. 17th: More on propaganda films

As yesterday I mentioned a propaganda film I saw over the weekend, and since I do movie reviews for a living (Sort of) I figure that I'll recount my experience at the New York Underground Film Festival last March:

New York Underground Film Festival is one of the more justly obscure of the many that one can find in this town every week. What you get to see are usually sexually or politically perverse, although you occasionally see a gem.

This time we’re not that lucky.

It was the Saturday before the end of the festival and there were a couple of flims that were overtly political and anti-American, so being that they were the only ones I could fit in my schedule I gave them a look-see.

The first one was "We Interrupt This Empire" which was actually one of three shorts on the subject of the war in Iraq. A very popular subject among young radical filmmakers who believe in the doctrine of Anarcho-masochism.

For example: the opening film was a six minute short called "Footage Of A March 27, 2003 Demonstration Against The U.S. Invasion Of Iraq." It was black and white blurry video which had really no plot and was for all intents and purpouses pointless. We saw some people protesting, and if it wasn’t for the title cards, we wouldn’t know what was going on. Even then we barely had a clue.

It was genuinely painful. At six minutes it was way too long.

Second was a longer short called "About Baghdad" and this one wasn’t bad at all.

"In July 2003, Sinan Antoon, an exiled Iraqi writer and poet, returned to Baghdad and along with his palls Director Suzy Salamy, Maya Mikdashi,, Passam Haddad, and Adam Shapiro and interviewed some of the locals in order to see how they survived the war. It was slightly informative and for the most part rather cute. These people have some talent.

The "feature presentation" was "We Interrupt This Empire" presented by Whispered Media, Video Activist Network, and Sf Indymedi, all of which are lefty wannabe revolutionaries celebrating their taking over San Francisco the day that Bush began bombing Baghdad back in March of ’03.

The quality of the documentary ranges from the merely amateurish to downright awful. I’ve seen propaganda before and this is some of the least convincing I’ve seen in ages. There’s some complete bullshit background reports that are interspersed with reports of the huge protest, which included peaceful marches and the trashing of offices and the pie-ing of innocent TV journalists.

Fun for the whole family? Nah!

Then, after a nourishing early dinner at one of the many bistros surrounding the Anthology Film Archives in the East Village, We attempted to see Andreas Horvath’s "This Ain't No Heartland."

"Is this Smalltown, USA, or one outsider’s highly filtered view of Midwestern America at a historically critical moment?"

I’d like to be certain one way or the other, but God didn’t want me to know. We waited to get into the theater for what seemed like forever. So we got in about ten minutes after the show was supposed to have started. Y’see the theater we were supposed to get into was being used for other things. Fine.

Then the film started. It started with a quote from Herman Georing about how governments can lead their people to war, clearly emphasizing what was going to be the Bush=Hitler theme of the film. Then we meet some moron with a pickup truck spouting off about life. We know he’s a moron as he sounds like one, rambling on and on ending up saying that Americans aren’t free to do drugs…

Then the film suddenly stops for some reason. They fix the video machine, and start again. We see the same clip, then there’s the little glitch we saw before. They stop the film. We wait while they get a different PAL video machine. Someone from the festival offers soda. I should have taken it, but by the time I decide to ask, we get take three. Same exact stuff and same result.

Then they decide to use Yoko Ono’s giant screen TV. This makes things worse and they cannot get the vertical hold to work….we begin to get antsy.

So they go back to the original machine. This time we get past the original moron and then go to a scene at the Iowa state fair, where the people are saluting a different national anthem than the rest of the country. Then we go back to the moron getting into his pickup truck. The director decides that this isn’t the best machine to show the film on and it’s stopped. The management offers everyone their money back and says there’s going to be another try at ten thirty that evening. Which I cannot go to as I’ve got work early the next morning, which is too bad. It would have been fun to trash it.

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