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Archive for July 2015

Sensory Stories at MOMI Are Novel

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Stepping into the new world of storytelling at the Museum of the Moving Image is a sensory treat experience. I’ve been hooked since first experiencing some of these innovative forms of narrative at the Tribeca Film Festival 2014. As soon as I put on the head visors, and was transported to a virtually 360 degree world, I was part of the action.

Sensory Stories invites visitors to encounter new immersive technologies and creative experiments that engage sight, hearing, touch, and smell. These virtual reality experiences, interactive films, participatory installations, and speculative interfaces offer insights into a possible future where stories engage more of our bodies than just our eyes and ears.

The possibilities for sharing life’s stories and identifying with others are incredible through these mediums. In Clouds Over Sidra, created by Gabo Arora and Chris Milk, we enter a Syrian refugee camp and hear from the children who have spent much of their childhoods far from home. The way it is shot from a height, increases the feeling of children talking to adults and the narrator, a young girl, shares her dreams and, her frustrations as she tours us around the camp. We are so close to the action that you can almost smell the breads being baked in the camp bakery.

In Way To Go, I found myself standing instead of sitting and becoming almost dizzy from the power of the interaction with Vincent Morisset’s cartoon like character who runs on the edge of a forest path.

Chris Milk’s Evolution of Verse is a gorgeous poetic vision of nature with overtones of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

You don’t need a headset to see the possibilities and yes, magic of this art form. Cube, created by Google’s Creative Lab, is literally a cube that tells stories that move and transform depending on how you turn the sides.

If it’s smells you’re after, Goldilocks and The Three Bears: The Smelly Version, created by Melcher Media and Vapor Communications, delivers whiffs of coffee and chocolate. Now if that could only be combined with the bakery of in Sidra, I’d never leave the home.

John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes directed by Michael Epstein and Mark Thompson is a great way to remember the genius of Lennon as we are privy to his creative process while writing music in Bermuda.

There are many more wonderful exhibits that offer new ways of looking at the world. The power of these methods, beyond dazzling with the technological virtuosity of the work, is that it can help communicate empathy. In Herders, by Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael, we are invited into the home of people’s whose way of life is disappearing, made even more poignant by the dance and prayer of the lone Mongolian Shaman in the steppes.


On the third floor, Parade by Laurent Craste is pure magic. you’re asked to move a light and make vases dance…and they do. I’ll say no more, but the charming guard, Chris, will help you figure it out.

The exhibition can be seen until July 26th and is traveling to the Phi Centre in Montreal, where it will be on view from August 11- September 27.

Written by nancykoan

July 24, 2015 at 9:13 pm

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Irrational Man Won’t Get Tenure

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What I appreciate about Irrational Man, Woody Allen’s latest effort, are the unexplored moments, or better put, the places I explored after suitable reflection. It’s true that his idealized society, this time, a small university town (Brown?) is like other locales in his films; places of privileged where the mundane survival issues are hushed. Emma Stone (Jill) is a pianist who never once thinks of her future arthritic fingers and Joaquin Phoenix (Abe Lucas), a disgruntled and disappointed, but brilliant philosophy professor who doesn’t sound like anyone I’ve heard speak at Cuny University’s Heidegger Conference. But his enthusiasm for what he teaches comes through as much as Stone’s enthusiasm for him.

The story for me begs the most important meaning- of- life question: why are complicated men so damn interesting? Are they smarter than the rest of humanity or is a tragic personality the greatest aphrodisiac going? I, too, have fallen under the spell of ‘l’homme miserable’, but they were usually a little funnier than Abe Lucas. And though he is quite cute, the bloated stomach that Mr. Phoenix’s Lucas carries around hardly makes the heart beat faster.
But bad boys are irresistible, and once Stone crosses over, moving further and further from her loyal nice bland guy (Jamie Blackley), all bets are off. Still, there was something not quite passionate enough…but then the professor is a depressive who can’t even get it up for another teacher, desperate Rita (Posey Parker), or himself. That is until… he finds purpose.
Now here’s where I found the particular remote quality of the dialogue unsettling. Stone and Phoenix overhear a conversation about an unjust child custody situation. It was great that Woody wrote the story in favor of the woman at the hands of a derelict husband… it is more and more frequent that male judges rule against good mothers. At least upstate. But the entire conversation didn’t sound authentic…it was like they were eavesdropping on a stilted soap opera, with the mother even saying something like, the “kids sit all alone, when he’s at the garage…where he works.” Obstensibly, her friends would have already known that her ex is a mechanic. And the mother speaks like an English professor which is also confusing.

What would have been fun is if Emma and Joaquin heard two different stories. Or interpreted them slightly differently. But they in fact, agree on the immorality of the situation, which no amount of philosophy can defend and so they bond even tighter.
When Abe Lucas decides to do, not not do, to be, not not be, the story kicks in. He has finally found a purpose, something to live for. But even a depressive, alcoholic might notice that in judging the judge, he too is a judge and where as a philosopher does that take you?
Still, we see serial killers every day who may be convinced that their murdering of others and playing god is justified and to them feels as if they are finally alive. One may not believe in God, but in taking specific actions, it seems that humans think we can act like our idea of a God. The bigshot who takes no prisoners.

Mr. Allen is a magician even when the story sticks a bit. If magic is an illusion, then perhaps hard principles of right and wrong may also be illusion. And he creates the situation that raises the question of consequence.
I recently handed over a taxi to Mr. Allen, who had slipped unnoticed out of a memorial for a show biz colleague of his. He was there even though no one else saw him.
And the same thing is true in his films. He’s always there. Not just by the talent he attracts, the music he employs and the great look by Santo Loquasto; but by raising hard questions about life, cleverly disguised in the cloak of comedy. His questions and concerns about life and morality become ours, even when the voyeurs of us are busy trying to figure out how much of the story reflects Mr. Allen’s own personal voyage. Still, at the end, there’s always the eggs.

Written by nancykoan

July 20, 2015 at 4:05 am

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Tunisian Filmmaker Speaks Out

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tunisia1_2149486bphoto courtesy of Telegraph
Tunisia is viewed as the lone democratic success story in the Arab Spring. But the North African nation has many issues, including an uneven economy and, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization in London, the distinction of having more citizens — up to 3,000 Tunisians — thought to have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight as jihadists than any other country. It has now suffered a recent terrorist attack on foreign tourists. I decided to ask a fellow member of I.A.W.R.T. (International Association of Women in Radio and Television) her thoughts. I.A.W.R.T. deals with women in the media, images of women and violence against women
After finishing film studies in Paris, Khadija Lemkecher worked as an assistant director to Georges Lucas, Cedric Klapish, Rachid Bouchareb, and Nouri Bouzid. Following a career making commercials, documentaries and fiction films, she became the youngest Tunisian woman to own a production company making her film “Bab El fella-the Cinemonde.” Her latest short film is the award-winning “Night Blind Moon”. She is in post-production on “Women of The Pseudo-spring” and writing her next feature “Sirens Isolate Themselves to Sing.”

Her films always have women as the central focus and she advocates for the rights of women through her art and her activism.
N: Were you near the event?

K: I live in Tunis—it’s about 120 km from Sousse.

N: How does it feel to have violence so close by?

K: Fear and also rage are the predominant feeling I have.

N. Do you think it will affect tourism? And do you think most Tunisians blame the West for the creation of ISIS, with Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

K. Sure it affects tourism and all our economy–, almost one person from ten is living from tourism!

Tunisians don’t blame the West at all; we blame ourselves and how we chose this government after these two elections.

N. As the lone democratic success story in the Arab Spring, why do you think terrorists groups are breaking in?

K. No one believes that democracy can exist in an Arab country and no one can believe that Islam can be modern and moderate — these fanatics have their own view about religion and they will make anything to break our successful story.

N. Glenn Greenwald on Stop the War Coalition says this terrorism is not a threat in the west, and is overblown causing more bias against regular practicing Moslems? Do you concur?

K. Sure, Muslims are the first victims. We have from the first election (when the Islamist party was in the government) faced the terrorism and the murders. And till now every month policemen and military are targets, especially in Ramadan!

N. Are you a Moslem? How do you feel about the way women are faring today and in particular in these terrorists’ clans? Do you have or know any woman who has been recruited?

K. I am Muslim. These young women that join this pseudo-Jihad are indoctrinated in a cult. They are generally young and socially in difficulties… sometimes they are following a lover who is fighting with these groups. These girls can’t imagine that they will make prostitution in the name of Jihad! They come back home pregnant with disease like Aids….

N. As a woman and media person, what can be done to stop the movement?

K. We must fight the evil at its source. Why do our young people become terrorists and the youth suicide rate is so high in Tunisia? We have to review our education system and put culture at the center of young people’s lives, who abandoned no longer know how to gather for a music concert or a movie, but gather around these black flags, listening to that bearded sow hate speech, murder and jihad. These voids young of any personal judgment, they are hypnotized and become desperate to die. So I say education and culture, the two concepts that the dictator Ben Ali has removed, are the only ones who can save our youth indoctrination.

I want to note that the budget of culture in Tunisia is 0, 38 per cent while the budget of religious ministry is 16 per cent!!! . No theatre, no concerts, no dance, no library … No sports either!!! How can they live in a village where there’s only a coffee and a mosque?!!! See who is teaching in this mosque?!!!! You understand, Nancy?

Peace?! I think in Tunisia we need year to build a peaceful Arab democracy. It will be hard years especially for us who are in the culture. After my last movie we were threatened with death and I think the next one will be harder, but we have to continue the fight for my daughter and my son. I know that they are suffering but don’t want to give up now. I want to work for the peace of my children and all the children of the future.

I know that one day, maybe I will not be with them, but they will live in a real democratic Arab country, and it will be the first.

Written by nancykoan

July 3, 2015 at 3:25 am

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