Stranger Than Fiction - WHOLPHIN - February 12, 2008
Two weeks ago, The Film Panel Notetaker shared notes from the Film as A Subversive Art Q&A at Thom Powers’ popular documentary series at New York’s IFC Center, *Stranger Than Fiction. Last night was week six of STF presenting Brent Hoff and Emily Doe of the DVD anthology Wholphin published by McSweeney’s. The event was sold out.
* Next week at Stranger Than Fiction is Best of Orphan Film Symposium presented by curator Dan Streible and special guests. Every other year, archivists from around the country gather to present unusual films of unknown origins dubbed "orphans." Founder Streible returns to STF with a rich sampling.
Thom opened the program by asking the audience if they had ever heard of Wholphin. A good chunk raised their hands. Thom said, “You’re virgins now, but you’re leaving here experienced.” Then he mentioned that that Issue 5: Winter Edition of Wholphin will be available soon. Thom then brought up Brent and Emily, who came in from San Francisco to brave the snowy weather in New York.
Last night’s line-up included a diverse array of non-fiction films from the outright hilarious to the very serious. And they were:
Heavy Metal Jr.
This was third viewing of this humorous short doc about a band of pre-teen Scottish heavy metal rockers. The first time I saw it was on the 4th edition Wholphin DVD. Then I saw it again on Sundance Channel recently. It was even better in a theater listening to other people’s reactions. Brent made a joke that there were no CDs of the music from the film to sell afterwards in the lobby, but it is available online.
This, and all of the following films, was my first viewing. The short doc examines the behavior of bees that are drawn to a special flower that produces fermented nectar, enabling them to be in an inebriated state. Other bees are also given alcohol in a research lab to examine their behavior. The doc, which was produced by Wholphin, features Brent in a bee suit.
Much like the strange behavior of the drunken bees, Piece By Piece examines the addictive behavior of human beings who are drawn to making the Rubik’s Cube the soul essence of their being. Groups and individuals talk about their experiences of solving the colorful cubical puzzle in competitive matches. Brent said that all of the records since the film was made have been shattered. Jigar, who worked with Westside Filmworks on the film, said the idea for the documentary came from students at a summer workshop to film speed cubers. The directors of the film picked up cubing during the production and they all became quite good at it.
Next up was a series of one-minute films involving violence to balloons made by Wholphin contributor and artist William Lamson. Thom asked William why he chose balloons? William said they are really cheap material and all have a life span. Lamson is also known for his giant paper airplanes short film that has been playing as the trailer before the main program in Stranger Than Fiction for the past several weeks. Thom mentioned this short will also appear on Issue 5 of Wholphin.
A 30-minute excerpt of the feature documentary American Outrage was the final film screened. It is about two Shoshone Indian grandmothers in Nevada who struggle to keep their animals and livestock on native land that had been granted to their ancestors in a peace treaty many years ago. The U.S. government claims that these women and the Shoshone do not have rights to this land, and take evasive actions to round up their horses, killing and injuring most of them in the process for the sole purpose of clearing the land so they can dig for what is supposed to be one of the richest deposits of gold in the world. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the government soon decides that they’re going to make this land a test site for nuclear bombing, so the grannies and the people stand up and protest.