The outstanding ninth annual festival of international cinema, Documentary Fortnight 2010, will present 43 films at the Museum Of Modern Art in NYC. The series takes place February 17th through March 3rd.
Highlights of the film festival include Chinese Ghost Story. Directed by Dan Boord and Luis Valdovino, Chinese Ghost Story mixes ancient folklore with buried history to poetically recover and unravel the plight of thousands of Chinese immigrants who entered this country in the mid-19th century in an escape from brutal oppression in China, only to find themselves as virtual slaves building the Transcontinental Railroad. And during which nearly 1,300 Chinese exploited immigrant laborers lost their lives.
The filmmakers visit the stunning yet indifferently silent landscapes along the railroad tracks joining East and West, in search of unmarked graves and unsung imagery. And in an eloquent yet melancholy tribute to absence as persistent presence, and cinema in the service of reclaimed historical memory.
Also screening is Australian director George Gittoes’ controversial The Miscreants Of Taliwood. Combining mockumentary with serious investigative photojournalistic intent and even graphic ‘Taliwood’ snuff cinema, Gittoes assumes local ethnic garb in Pakistan and does driveby filming of the Taliban in primitive paparazzi style, even while making his own undercover Bollywood movie on the sly, and starring himself.
The emotional effect repeatedly veers strangely between amusing and chilling, as the Taliban incinerates video stores hawking Bollywood and Western cultural fare, seemingly to snuff out the competition, so to speak. And while their own shops featuring DVD bluntly cautionary thrillers with actual beheadings thrive, as an otherwise thorough Gittoes curiously selectively bypasses that other reality show in progress currently taking place, the one being produced by the US military. Likewise, is the filmmaker’s Eurocentric perspective of viewing anything foreign as akin to inscrutable or simply humorously eccentric aliens inhabiting another planet.
Closing Documentary Fortnight the evening of March 3rd, is the New York premiere of Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez’s delightfully introspective Double Take. Locating Alfred Hitchcock and a meddling body double within the volatile historical currents of the legendary filmmaker’s day, Grimonprez sheds light on a potpourri of landmark events. Including the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, Sputnik, spectacle sparring between Nixon, JFK and Khrushchev, television versus radio, cinema versus television, consumerism, coffee commercials as sinister metaphor, and finally ‘fear as commodity’ in a concocted catastrophe culture, within what seems like the ultimate reality film noir.
Not to mention, revelations regarding Hitchcock’s own creative conflicts pitting personal artistic impulses against a grim imperative as small screen reluctant entrepreneur. Along with considerations of problematic private weight issues, human mortality juxtaposed with one’s art as eternal entity, and the sidebar enigmatic anatomical disappearance of Hitchcock’s navel.
Many of the directors will be present for audience discussions following the screenings of their films. More information about Documentary Fortnight is online at: moma.org.