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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

The Death of Mr. Puiu and the rigidity of a communist system

thedeathofmrlazaresc572398.jpgBetween screenings, I’m trying to carve out the time to close the books on a few more euphoric moments from Sundance, but then I find probably the most depressing story I’ve seen so far this year, from Bilge Ebiri at ScreenGrab: a gifted filmmaker who might just have quit: Ebiri reports on a press release that “Cristi Puiu, winner of the 2005 Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Bear for Short Film at the 2004 Berlinale, announced at a recent press conference in Romania, his decision to no longer participate in the contests held by The Romanian National Centre for Cinematography. The announcement follows the denial of development funds for two of his projects, which were submitted to the latest contest organized by the Centre for Cinematography… Puiu [also] stated that he will not make use of the funding granted to another one of his projects during a previous contest…” Illuminates Ebiri, “[T]he idea of a smallish Romanian film director choosing to forgo state support for his films may not seem like a big deal, but… Puiu is the director of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu the much-acclaimed masterpiece that made its way to the top spots in… critical surveys in 2006… In countries like Romania, state funding through organizations like the Center for Cinematography is absolutely crucial for film production to survive…This is Puiu basically saying he will not accept this funding, even if it means he never gets to make another film, which it very well might. The release goes on to say that “the hard line decision is a protest against what Puiu sees as the ‘rigidity of a communist system’ still present within the Centre for Cinematography and the way the organization spends public money on productions with no value.” Fuck. You can find a remarkable earlier interview with Puiu at the link.

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch