Old MCN Blogs
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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“Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author’s (or filmmaker’s or painter’s) entire body of work, among other qualities.”
~ Richard Schickel

“When Barry Jenkins introduced Moonlight, he said he hoped we see ourselves in the characters. We’re thrown into neighborhood combat with 10-year-old Chiron in Miami’s Liberty City where the empty lots, abandoned buildings, sidewalks — the shortcuts and escape routes — are his total known world. We intake vividly, like a 10-year-old, the cruel, the generous, the strangeness of others, the crack-addled neglect in a home he can’t escape. Jenkins’ characters’ lives move on, get stunted, are dulled to stupefaction, end tragically, end in separation. Moonlight is Chiron’s world. It’s the current lower-middle class, working class, disenfranchised- and-alienated-class world. Intimacy is Jenkins’ accomplishment. But, what we’re intimate with is another consciousness so totally and truthfully created, that we’re looking outward and inward simultaneously. That’s why Jenkins’ work is profound. Chiron is us and we are him, asking ourselves, ‘Who am I? Where do I fit?'”
~ Michael Mann On Moonlight