My wishes came true. Within the month Cineaste accepted two of my interviews, Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive inivited me to participate in their Afterimage series and San Francisco publicists Larsen Associates invited me to conduct on-stage interviews with talent attending film openings in the Bay Area.
So I'm back, once again engendering mischief, with—as wordsmith Phil Cousineau has laid out—the understanding that "mischievous" stems from the same root as "achieve" (rising in popularity in the 14th century "to describe a malicious deed or a selfish accomplishment"). How much in love with words—whether spoken or written—can one fellow be to color some of his most favorite conversations of the year as "selfish accomplishments"? Here they are, offered alphabetically.
|Photo: Andrea Chase / Killer Movie Reviews
Hao Hsiao-hsien (The Assassin, 2015)—Everyone and his sister interviewed Hao Hsiao-hsien during his press rounds promoting his much-anticipated chuan'qi, The Assassin. I can't take much credit for that opportunity; but, was pleased that I got him to talk about gun control in the United States. I didn't see him talking about that anywhere else, and felt it was an important corollary to the film's central theme of insurbordinate conscience vs. blind obedience. But, more importantly, I was delighted that Gary Mark Morris published the transcript "A Different Space and Time: Hou Hsiao-Hsien on The Assassin" at his site Bright Lights Film Journal (BLFJ). I've been wanting to publish a piece in BLFJ for years. When I first started writing on film back in 2005, BLFJ gave me the courage to advance the pleasure of queer readings of film. I look forward to an ongoing relationship with Gary and his site in years to come.
Nino Kirtadze (Durakovo: Village of Fools, 2008; Something About Georgia, 2010)—I'm someone who needs their world news curated and the documentary genre has become my favorite way of learning about global issues, specifically events in Russia and surrounding regions. Discussing her documentaries with Nino Kirtadze at her Pacific Film Archive (PFA) residency in conjunction with their Afterimage series was welcome and rewarding. It was a delight to befriend her and I'm immensely grateful to Susan Oxtoby and PFA for their invitation. Kirtadze's Durakovo (winner of the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival) profiles the autocratic head of a rehabilitation center outside Moscow, but leads us to consider how political power in the Russian Federation works today. Something About Georgia examines the August 2008 war with Russia over the disputed region of South Ossetia and Georgia's relationship with the European community. Our multiple conversations over her week-long residency have been transcribed and I'm in the process of drafting a feature article on same. I'm hoping to publish that one at Film International sometime next year. Once again, wish me luck.
Dolissa Medina (The Crow Furnace, 2015)—I never take for granted the good fortune (dare I say luxury?) of interviewing lauded film talent, but have long felt it important to give equal attention to filmmakers less well-known rising up through the ranks. When I can use The Evening Class to help promote the work of filmmakers who are also friends, it's even more satisfying. Dolissa Medina and I first met during our involvement with the Galería de la Raza's (Re)Generation Project, founded by Amalia Mesa-Bains in 1995 to facilitate the involvement of the next generation of the Bay Area's Chicano/a and Latino/a artists. Since then, she has advanced as a found footage filmmaker, with The Crow Furnace being her best work to date. I'm often interviewing talent in fancy hotels like the Fairmont or the Ritz Carlton but my conversation with Dolissa was made all the more memorable for being intimately tucked away in a café and in the shelter of a stairwell during a rainy San Francisco afternoon as we assessed our roles as economic exiles gauging how "all skylines frame spectacles of loss."
|Caption: Andrea Chase / Killer Movie Reviews
Steve Seid—Long the champion of the film maudit and the eccentric, let alone caught in the gravitational pull of the pulp oeuvre of David Goodis, and an exponent of the Mexican mastery of cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, it was with considerable sadness and unflinching respect that I conducted an "exit" interview with PFA programmer Steve Seid upon his retirement. Seid's maverick programming over the years has provided many an insight, often delivered through a laugh, and I'll sincerely miss his curatorial signature in PFA's next phase of exhibition.
|Photo: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN
Abderrahmane Sissako (Timbuktu, 2014)—And so we return to this entry's introduction where I am recovering from illness in Palm Springs while attending the Palm Springs International Film Festival, whose Awards Buzz program annually offers the Oscar®-shortlisted Foreign Language films. Affirming to publish in an American film magazine, I have to shout out here to Richard Porton who years back invited me to contribute to Cineaste, and who helped usher in my first manuscript for them—"Hidden Certainties and Active Doubts", my conversation with Sissako—thereby securing my first dream come true for the year. That conversation was published in their Spring 2015 issue vol. 40: 2, pp. 42-45. Moved by a real-life incident, Sissako's Timbuktu depicts how the "values of humanity" have been taken hostage by portraying the menace that Islamic fundamentalism poses for a family in Timbuktu. Elegant and kind as we conversed, Sissako further reminded me that—along with documentaries—conversations with foreign directors allows me a sense of being in communication with the world.
|Photo: Rick Madonik / Toronto Star
|Photo: Kate Grosswiler