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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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton