The filmmaker Naftali Beane Rutter — a dear friend of mine! — has a screening of his documentary film “Today” on April 7th at 6pm, the closing night of the New Filmmakers 2010 Spring Festival at Anthology Film Archives. Here, via a kindly-provided screener, is a sneak peek…see you there in a few hours!
“Today” is a poignant look at three families as they continue the simple task of living in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Blaise, Stanich and McPeak families differ in race, religion and socio-economic class, yet have other profound commonalities. In spite of Katrina, the families remain more or less intact, with parents and children in the same household. The mothers, Alice, Sissy and Lore, form the backbone of each family, running things at home while the husbands work. While “Today” addresses the common roles and identities forged by motherhood, it also offers a delicate portrayal of how each woman makes motherhood her own.
As we get to know the Blaises, we feel at home with the ease and comfort they exude through their interactions. Being a family of six and living in a FEMA trailer is certainly not an ideal situation, yet Alice encourages her children to learn all they can, get an education, and pursue their dreams, even if those dreams include driving a bus. Alice’s impressive joy and hope reveal themselves as she cares for her children and in the brief moments she interacts with her husband and another family member, Uncle Lewis.
Similar to the Blaises, the Stanich family consists of five people also sharing one small living space: one room of a house Angelo Stanich, Sr. has been hired to repair. Katrina destroyed the Stanich’s home forcing them to move from Elmer, LA, to Alexander, LA and now finally to Holy Cross. They, too, had a stint in a FEMA trailer. Angelo, Sr. is present and participates in the lives of the children, but the main task of raising the children is thrust on Sissy as she navigates through the chaos that has become their lives.
In comparison to the Blaises and the Stanich’s, on the surface, the McPeaks seem rather untouched by Katrina. Lore runs with her headphones, does yoga in a park and gives mani-pedis in her work studio behind their home. Unlike the Blaise and Stanich families, the McPeaks’ world and their home have not changed much since Katrina. Lore’s world is comprised of conversations regarding farmers’ markets, designer paints and boat services. Robert and Lore have their 19th anniversary coming up, but there is a sadness to Lore. Of the three families, the McPeaks seem to be the most economically sound and stable, yet these resources only serve to point out what is missing — namely, Robert at the dinner table with his family. Robert works 12 hour shifts as a volunteer police officer and when home is often distant. Whereas the Blaises and the Staniches eat and pray together and fill their homes with the bustling of family life, the McPeak household is echoingly silent.
“Today” is essentially a portrait of how our interpersonal relationships and connections sustain us, particularly in times of loss and hardship. While there are questions I’m left asking about each of these families, the film draws us in to the nuanced rhythms of their lives. So, see the film and tell us what you think.
Way back in sheesh, 1999, long before we could embed video, we (specifically, Mikki Halpin) reviewed FOBG Sarah Jacobson’s Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Any More, “an amazing coming-of-age story…about the slow, sputtering start of sexuality and self-awareness.” (More: “You thought the sex-in-a-car scene in Titanic was hot? Wait until you see this one! Not to mention the masturbation scenes, the sex-in-a-graveyard scene, the how-I-lost-my-virginity-scenes, the coming-out scene, and the “What is a clitoris?” speech. Plus comedic relief from Jello Biafra!”) Tragically, the brilliant Sarah died in 2004 at the age of 32.
Now — tomorrow, in fact — in Sarah’s much-celebrated memory, Mikki and friends present:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS SARAH JACOBSON
An evening to honor DIY filmmaker Sarah Jacobson
And a benefit for the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant
February 15, 2010
7 pm doors, 8 pm show
Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
On Monday, February 15, 2010, filmmakers, punk rockers, feminists, and musicians will gather to remember filmmaker Sarah Jacobson (1970–2004). The evening will include an appearance from Sarah’s mother Ruth Jacobson, and her sister Lee Jacobson. There is a $5 suggested donation at the door, and all proceeds will go to the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant, which supports independent young women filmmakers.
Sarah Jacobson (1971–2004) was a a filmmaker who wrote, produced, and directed several movies in the 1990s, including “Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Any More” and “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer.” Sarah’s films reflected her punk sensibilities, her feminist beliefs, and her dedication to DIY principles. She and her mother Ruth Jacbson brought “Mary Jane” to the 1997 Sundance festival, and it was named by Film Threat as one of the “25 Underground Films You Must See.” Sarah was active in the music scene and directed several music videos, including one for Man… or Astroman? She died in 2004 at the age of 32.
After her death, filmmaker Sam Green and Sarah’s mother established the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant for young women “whose work embodies some of the things that Sarah stood for: a fierce DIY approach to filmmaking, a radical social critique, and a thoroughly underground sensibility.” Since 2004, the grant has been awarded to eight filmmakers: Marie Losier, Natasha Mendonca, Kara Herold, Gretchen Hogue, Joanna Dery, Vanessa Renwick, Ellen Lake, and Veronica Majano.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Sarah Jacobson” will celebrate Sarah’s life and work. It also launches the grant cycle for 2010 and information about applying for the grant will be available at the event and on the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant website.
The evening will begin with a short screening of samples of previous grant winners and two of Sarah’s short films. Filmmaker Barbara Hammer and Sarah’s mother Ruth will then speak and introduce “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Any More.” The evening will also include video tributes from Sarah’s fans and friends including Kathleen Hanna, Allison Anders, Tamra Davis, Sam Green, George Kuchar, Michelle Handelman, and Craig Baldwin.
Glasslands is located at 289 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
[L] to Bedford, [J] to Marcy
Something about New York Magazine’s “Vulture” blog’s plug for the film “Mardi Gras: Made in China,” caught my eye. Perhaps it was the post’s title, which contained the phrase “Ritual Breast-Baring”? Reading on, I learned that the film profiles four of the Chinese teenage factory girls who make those infamous love beads, making the point that the Western women who — in that infamous Bourbon Street courtship rite — don the beads… well, they enjoy quite a different set of human liberties. “The documentary earns an intimate, easy confidence with the girls,” says the post, “who blush and scream when they see how their product will eventually be used.”
Check out the trailer here, in versions both S and NSFW.
While we’re on the subject, what do you think? Is Are women at Mardi Gras (and while we’re at it, women on Spring Break vying for a free Girls Gone Wild t-shirt) reveling in their freedom of sexual expression and celebration of their bodies, or are they merely cheapening themselves and keeping their global counterparts from ever advancing and earning equality and respect in their own countries? Is American bad-girl behavior (if you classify this as such) what the rest of the world has to look forward to in terms of cultural advancement? Weigh in your thoughts in the comments below!