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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Screening Gotham: June 30-July 2, 2006

A few of this weekend’s worthwhile cinematic goings-on around New York:
–You should know going into Andrew Berends’ Iraq documentary The Blood of My Brother (opening today at Cinema Village) that the film takes itself almost too seriously to bear. But if you will allow me, I intend that as a compliment. Rather than reiterate another 90 minutes of counteracting platitudes from Americans and Iraqis thrown together by war, Berends walks into the maw of the insurgency and just rolls tape. His overriding conceit tracks Ibrahim, a young Iraqi whose life implodes following his brother’s death at the hands of coalition forces. Split between his family responsibilities and a febrile drive for revenge, he considers joining the Shia uprising. But while Ibrahim hedges, Berends follows the ragtag Medhi Army into and out of mass protests, funerals, prayers and, ultimately, gun battles with American tanks and helicopters.

Medhi Army fighters from Sadr City take up arms in The Blood of My Brother (Photo: Andrew Berends)

The tone and action supercede the icy cynicism of The War Tapes or mournful revelation of Control Room; it is the first Iraq doc I have seen in which death permeates every frame. That said, The Blood of My Brother is not quite a great film–it reflects a cloying political self-consciousness at times when it should let its director’s hard-won images speak for themselves. But to the extent Berends reveals danger as the only sense more resonant than hopelessness, you pretty much have a waking nightmare on your hands. And fair warning: Animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture.
–On a lighter, trashier note, the Pioneer is reviving Showgirls for one final June screening. I would elaborate on what a treat this is, but I doubt I can say it better than good old Jeffrey the projectionist (via Pioneer’s MySpace page):

Ladies, mention this mySpace blog post and get discounted admission. BITCHES TO THA FRONT. BITCHES TO THA BACK. BITCHES ALL AROUND BITCHES SMACK SMACK SMACK. I don’t know what that means, but it’s okay. You know what, anyone can just come and mention this mySpace blog and get discounted admission. That’s how we roll: GENEROUS.

Rumor has it that “discounted admission” means $6.50 instead of the regular $9. Which, you have to admit, is a small price to pay for such date-ready debauchery.
–You knew that last week’s rainout would not enough to break the spirits of the gang behind the Billyburg Short Film Festival, which unspools this evening with host Michael Showalter (Stella, The Baxter) presiding. Films include Braden King’s music video Bonnie “Prince” Billy: Horses and the 2006 BSFF Best in Show, Baby Eat Baby–”a film about war and truth starring nude babies and people made of clay.” Assuming you survive, an afterparty featuring live music by Japanther follows.

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“Chad Harbach spent ten years writing his novel. It was his avocation, for which he was paid nothing, with no guarantee he’d ever be paid anything, while he supported himself doing freelance work, for which I don’t think he ever made $30,000 a year. I sold his book for an advance that equated to $65,000 a year—before taxes and commission—for each of the years of work he’d put in. The law schools in this country churn out first-year associates at white-shoe firms that pay them $250,000 a year, when they’re twenty-five years of age, to sit at a desk doing meaningless bullshit to grease the wheels of the corporatocracy, and people get upset about an excellent author getting $65,000 a year? Give me a fucking break.”
~ Book Agent Chris Parris-Lamb On The State Of The Publishing Industry

INTERVIEWER
Do you think this anxiety of yours has something to do with being a woman? Do you have to work harder than a male writer, just to create work that isn’t dismissed as being “for women”? Is there a difference between male and female writing?

FERRANTE
I’ll answer with my own story. As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me. That phase ended after a couple of years. At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them. I devoured books at that age, and there’s no getting around it, my models were masculine. So even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men. I didn’t want to write like Madame de La Fayette or Jane Austen or the Brontës—at the time I knew very little about contemporary literature—but like Defoe or Fielding or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or even Hugo. While the models offered by women novelists were few and seemed to me for the most part thin, those of male novelists were numerous and almost always dazzling. That phase lasted a long time, until I was in my early twenties, and it left profound effects.
~ Elena Ferrante, Paris Review Art Of Fiction No. 228

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