g The Film Panel Notetaker: A Frenzy of Nonfiction Films at IFC Center

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Frenzy of Nonfiction Films at IFC Center

Q&A after screening of Barbara Kopple's My Generation at IFC Center.

This week I saw some really incredible nonfiction films at IFC Center. Monday night was a travelling festival of short documentary films called doxita, and last night was Barbara Kopple's 2000 feature documentary My Generation, about all of the Woodstock music festivals (1969, '94 & '99), which played as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series co-presented by the Woodstock Film Festival (taking place Oct. 1-5, 2008).

The six amazing little documentaries that made up doxita completely transfixed me into another world. All telling such simple, yet profound mostly personal stories from around the globe. The films included:

Vángelo Monzón (Argentina/Sweden, Andréas Lennartsson, 8 min.) - A visit with Vángelo Monzón who's been making bricks in Argentina since he was a boy.

Cross your Eyes, Keep them Wide (USA, Ben Wu, 23 min.) - An invitation into the San Francisco "Creativity Explored," a work space for artists with development disablilities

The Guarantee (USA, Jesse Epstein, 10 min.) - Through animated drawings, a man tells how he considered plastic surgery for his ballet career.

El Cerco (Spain, Ricardo Iscar/Nacho Martin, 16 min. ) - A breathtaking look at tuna fishing in the Mediterranean sea where the fight is a ritual of blood and death.

Martin Thomas (UK/Wales, Dylan Wyn Thomas, 31 min. ) - The sometimes painful yet ultimately joyous journey of one man's quest to stop his stammer.

Shit and Chicks (The Netherlands, Kees van der Geest, 10 min. ) - A portrait of a traditional method of feeding chickens in Ghana, done with gentle restraint.

To top that off, I really enjoyed watching the transition of music and generations from the late 1960s to the 1990s all in under two hours during the screening of Kopple's My Generation. Kopple was in attendance and did a Q&A along with the producer of all the Woodstocks, Michael Lang, who had asked her back in 1994 if she wanted to make a documentary about the 25th anniversary music festival. Kopple said that since the festival was being funded primarily by Polygram Records and the festival was going over budget, the film itself was nearly not made. Kopple said she wouldn't have that and somehow managed to work on it for the next five years up through next festival in 1999.

When asked if it was a problem getting the rights to the music for her film, Kopple said that Polygram already had the rights for the music in 1994. It was more difficult getting rights from Warner Bros. for the music from 1969. In 1999, she went individually to each band. For instance, she spent nearly six months leaving pleading messages with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. The experience to her was difficult, but well worth it.

Lang was asked what he thought while watching the film go from one era to the next and how he picked the bands to play each time around. He responded that when you look at such a long period of time, you see how you have changed. Things that felt the same from the first Woodstock through the last are the emotions. The different generations blended so easily together. In 1999, the kids who attended Woodstock felt lost. It was two years before 9/11 when the world would change again. The experiences from the first festival was similar to the later festivals in that the experience was re-created for a new generation. And as for the music, Lang picked the bands to perform in 1969 that he liked, while in '94 and '99, he picked the bands that both he and his kids liked.

Finally, Lang was asked what he felt about Woodstock '94 and '99 being sponsored by corporations. He said he would have preferred not to have corporate involvement, but there's a reality to making this happen. Had they not had those sponsors, tickets probably would have been as much as $300 a piece.

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