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Mise En Scene April 10
The Amazon Goes Digital
The Independently produced, award-winning doc "Children of the Amazon," by Denise Zmekhol, will premiere on PBS stations nationwide in April on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (KQED April 18, 2pm). Ms. Zmekhol, a photographer and now filmmaker out of Berkeley, takes us back to the Amazon where she photographed indigenous children and activists like Chico Mendes, of the rubber tappers union, who was brutally murdered shortly after her photo of him (above) was taken 15 years ago.
It is only fitting that the film, which tells of a highway plowing through the planet's largest forest, has a blog a multimedia strategy, and a Web short "Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops." Brazilians are the most media-obsessed people on earth. Unlike Arabia, where photography is sometimes forbidden, or Marin County, where folks also cover their faces when a camera comes, Brazilians love the lense - it's the only place I've ever been thanked for taking someone's picture, and they didn't even ask for a copy! - as well as movies, television and, of course, the Internet.
When hiking into the Indian village outside of Cariava, Bahia, which had been impoverished and sleepy in 1980, I was surprised to find it bristling with TV attenas. Television is how Brazilians watch soccer, Carnaval and their beloved soaps, and it is only logical the indigenous population would follow suit, and now follow on to the Web. Moreover, this is not unique. The Women's Film Festival is showing "Hidden Truth," by Samfya, a Zambian group that trains disenfranchised women in filmmaking.
According to Chief Almir Surui, of the Surui people featured in "Children of the Amazon," "I realized the need to use Internet technologies to make my people's situation known." Together with Zmekhol, modern outreach, and technology, he might save an ancient culture. See childrenoftheamazon.com. - D. Blair
The Asian Black Panther Story
Richard Aoki wasn’t black but as Japanese boy who grew up in a concentration camp during World War II, he certainly felt that way – which is why filmmaker Ben Wang decided to document him. Wang’s 94-minute doc “Aoki” opened in the Asia American Film Festival playing at San Francisco’s Sundance Theater.
Still Oakland’s largest contribution to history, along with Jack London and Gertrude Stein, the Black Panthers emerged in 1966 to fight peacefully – or otherwise – for African-Americans through “Black Power” as opposed to civil rights. Although its violence and hedonism often alienated its church-going Oakland black constituency, its romanticism resonated with whites and others as well as blacks worldwide.
Wang and partner Mike Cheng were fascinated to learn of Aoki as students at UC Davis six years ago, and interviewed him for their college paper. They realized his story merited much more than an article – it deserved film.
“Meeting Richard, it was definitely eye opening,” Wang remarked. “To be able to hear firsthand experiences on all these types of social issues we were interested in.” Wang and Cheng interviewed Aoki and original Panthers, and put the film together over five years, showing the life of the Japanese civil rights fighter.
His family moved to Oakland, after enduring the internment camps of World War II, and he befriended Bobby Seale and Huey Newton before they founded the Panthers. Aoki rose up in the party, became a field marshal, actually helping acquire its first weapons. Just before he died on March 15, 2009, Aoki watched a rough cut of the film. Cheng was there in the hospital.
“The Oscar Grant protests [over the killing of the innocent Grant in a BART station] and all those meetings were going in full swing,” Cheng reminisced. “Richard was in the hospital – every time I saw him he was trying to get the updates, trying to find out what was going on.” Cheng feels the film is a door between cultures and generations. “His life was about discipline and consistency, commitment to solidarity with different communities of color,” and hopefully people will enter that door and continue. –D. Blair
Theatre Owners Hustling to Add 3D Screens
Although this new trend was announced years ago and heralded all last year, the success of “Avatar” has caused producers to start scrambling to switch shows shot in 2D to 3D through digital technology, while theater owners do likewise.
“Its typical of Hollywood to get things wrong,” griped James Cameron, director of “Avatar,” about their rush to do it on the cheap. He himself is tricking up “Titanic” for a 3D release but undoubtedly ultra-artistically. Just as with sound, Cinemascope, and stereo before it, 3D is the new kid on the block – no way around it.
Hence, the theaters that have 3D are still running “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” both acclaimed by adults (director Tim Burton has an show of his lovely preliminary drawings at New York’s MOMA), which means there is no where to show “How to Train Your Dragon,” now in theaters, without kicking out good earners.
The 3D boys were crying “wolf” at the first 3D Entertainment Summit, held at the LA Universal Hilton last September. Back then, however, it was regarded as only a gravy maker, due to the added ticket prices for summer blockbusters. Now 3D is 24/7/365, the great savior of cinema, whose imminent demise, in the face of video on the big or small screen has long been reported (although a 3D TV has already come out from Samsung).
Wags were warning of the end of theatrical films within 3-4 years in the mid-1980s, but like all end-of-the-world predictions, that couple of years is always a few more years away. Indeed, theatrical film’s best year in history was 2009, with 10.6 billion in sales, albeit with “Avatar” taking 10%. 2010 should be even better, since 3D movies quadrouple attendance, according to Carmike Cinema spokesperson, Richard Hare (“Variety,” 3/11/10): “On ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ and ‘Up,’ we actually had nine times.”
Summer is traditionally 3D time, and the studios are gearing up: DreamWorks’ “Shrek Forever After,” May 21; Disney’s third “Toy Story,” June 18; “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time;” and shortly thereafter, Universal “Despicable Me,” and not to mention all the retooled 2D films.
Unfortunately, the tech is still lagging and 3D “looks dark,” a problem only offset by the double projection system, like the one being installed at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater by savvy owner Allen Michaan. A lefty who likes to grace his classical marquee with statement protesting the war, he wisely stays on top of the trades, trends and tech.
Posted on Apr 03, 2010 - 12:28 PM