James Baldwin: Vocalizing History
Digital Sovereignty Online
Billy Woodberry’s Return to Form
Thriller’s Queer Feminist History
Rotterdam & Sundance Festivals
Writings on Juana Inés, Jackie, Earth
and Kate Plays Christine
RIP John Berger
James Baldwin: Vocalizing History
A long-view interview with filmmaker Billy Woodberry conducted by screenwriter and scholar Josslyn Luckett gives the filmmaker his due and reflects on his prolific career as an independent filmmaker. The unfolding of Billy Woodberry’s career—both his own new work and the recent critical revaluations of his classic work, such as the naming of Bless Their Little Hearts (1983) to the National Film Registry in 2013—makes words like “rebellion” or “revival” only marginally useful. Any research into the full range of his film work, including his multiple roles as film actor, film narrator, video installation artist, and film history and production professor at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) since 1989, reveals a Woodberry who might be more properly termed an underground “renaissance” man than a rebel.
FQ Columnist Bilal Qureshi reflects on Deepa Mehta’s film Earth at an important moment in Indian and global history. Writing from New Delhi, he had the opportunity to speak to Mehta in person about her life and work, and that discussion is woven into this column. Since making Earth almost twenty years ago, Deepa Mehta has seen her stature grow to include film festival premieres, an Oscar nomination, and a platform as one of the rare women auteurs on the international stage. She has lived in Canada since the 1970s, but her most celebrated films are not about immigrant displacement or hyphenated identity. Rather, she has always told Indian stories. From the groundbreaking story of a lesbian relationship between two housewives in suffocating arranged marriages (Fire, 1996) to the forced exile of widows in orthodox Hindu scripture (Water, 2005), she has confronted uncomfortable social realities in Indian society. Although she has been labeled an anti-national and had sets burned and cinemas attacked by the religious right for insulting traditional values, she has taken the challenges in stride and continued making films.
Editor B. Ruby Rich weighs in on the latest issue of FQ, new revivals in a time of duress, trends in distribution, FQ’s approach to watching, writing, thinking about cinema and media in a time of ongoing political repression, and more.
It is not uncommon for me to pick up a book—any kind of book—and as I begin to read it, to make mental notes of elements of the story or facts that intersect with my own experiences. I am certain that I am not alone in this practice of suturing myself into these written realms. Film scholars have been developing multiple theories regarding notions of subject formation ever since Jacques Lacan first developed the concept in the 1950s–60s. From Daniel Dayan and Pierre Oudart to Jacques Alain-Miller to Christian Metz to Stephen Heath to Laura Mulvey to Kaja Silverman, despite this post-post–ad infinitum structural moment, debates on the logic of the signifier persist in film and media studies.
Jonathan Demme’s death has moved the film world. Jonathan Demme was a founding member of a cinematic generation. He started out with Roger Corman, then left Hollywood to go back East and hung his shingle in New York city at the exact moment when the independent film movement began. Never an intellectual or theorist of his own work, he could be scorned as cinema-lite, yet the eulogies piling up reveal how universally beloved he was. FQ has always paid attention to Demme. Here are two articles from the FQ archives to mark his passing.
Something troubling is happening in the film world in Albania. Some weeks ago, the country’s Institute for Communist Crimes proposed that films from the country’s communist era (1946-1991) should be banned from television. They argued that screening movies made during these 45 years would encourage nostalgia for the old Enver Hoxha regime which was, of course, an oppressive dictatorship in many ways. Its labor camps and prisons were places of terror. Many were murdered because of their political dissent or non-conformism. But banning the estimated 200 films made by the Albanian Film Institute from 1945 and then the Kinostudio from 1952 would be a counter-productive way to deal with the wounds of the past.
Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans are true pioneers and godfathers of American Independent Cinema. The New York Times’ critic Janet Maslin called their film Hollywood Shuffle “exuberant satire,” and accurately noted its “reality-minded humor.” That’s a remarkable achievement considering that the film is remembered not only for its breakthrough critique of the entertainment industry’s stereotyping of African Americans, but also for its free-wheeling sketch comedy structure that feels fresh and original while also bringing to mind The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, 1947), the films of Preston Sturges, and the early work of Woody Allen. The film was made in twelve days over the course of two years for $100,000, much of it put on credit cards. It grossed $5 million in its initial release and was honored at the 1987 Deauville Festival and again in 1988 at the Spirit Awards. It is as funny a work as it is serious, and as serious as it is funny.
In Memoriam: Brian Henderson. April 17, 1941- March 1, 2017. Brian Henderson wrote frequently for FQ and was a longtime member of the FQ Editorial Board. To celebrate his contribution to the field of film and media studies, we offer here his first feature-length article published in FQ’s pages.