These are fraught days. As I have written in this space too often, it’s past time for filmmakers, curators, producers, exhibitors, distributors, and online platforms to step up to the demands of their historic moment, stop proceeding on automatic pilot, and summon the courage to offer visions of a different future.
Interview: Karim Aïnouz
Madame Satã at Twenty
A Night of Knowing Nothing
Refugee Narratives—Before Flee
Insomnia of a Serial Dreamer
Page Views: Lynn Spigel
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cannes Film Festival at Seventy-Five
Columns: Dementia, Close-Ups, Julia Child
Not since the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 that ended its Prague Spring, and the Chilean coup of 1973 that ended the presidency of Salvador Allende, has the film world been as galvanized by one country’s struggle as it has been in 2022 by Ukraine’s—though, of course, countless other global conflicts, atrocities, and deaths (Brazil, Yemen, Syria, Gaza) have also deserved such attention.
Say the words out loud: alpha—delta—omicron. Add whatever variant(s) have emerged since this article’s deadline. Greek-alphabet letters, recited like a chant, singsong, may sound like a nursery rhyme.
The fall equinox (the time of this writing) seemed to mark the world in its terms: literally and metaphorically light and dark, day and night, good and evil, floods and droughts, a global order torn between the forces of positive and negative energies.
As the year 2021 crept along, it became increasingly schizophrenic. Emerging from pandemic lockdowns was euphoric—until news of the redubbed Delta variant began to dash hope and cause doubt or panic. Still, theaters announced their reopenings and cinephiles flocked, some nervously, some exuberantly. The Pacific Film Archive, profiled in this issue, set September 1 as its indoor reopening date.
It has been more than a year since this editorial space filled with speculations about streaming films and the closing of theaters. It was with distinct excitement, then, that I began to read the reopening announcements. The beloved Paris Theater in New York City, with its lease now held by Netflix and with programming selected by former Museum of the Moving Image curator David Schwartz, trumpeted an Al Pacino retrospective. The Film Forum, that mainstay of downtown New York tastemaking, announced its theater’s reopening while retaining its virtual marquee, too.
It is a human habit, perhaps, to project the present into the future—a default mode that drives forward even when the road has crumbled. So it was with film in Year One of the pandemic, characterized by a state of denial shaded with panic. By the end of 2020, film festivals were adjusting their schedules according to an imaginary “after” as if the vaccine were set to materialize imminently, universally, and magically everywhere, to step out from behind the curtain and restore life to what it used to be: movie theaters open, film festivals under way.
Over the first months of the pandemic, the internet filled with streaming playlists, Zoom masterpieces, and classic revivals. The litany of canceled or virtual film festivals had become the new normal, with everything from SXSW to Cannes to Telluride called off or moved entirely online, and then evolving into hybrids or customized drive-ins.
This editorial was written on the Fourth of July, that annual orgy of barbecues and tin-hat patriotism made worse this year by the unprecedented arrival in US cities of bomb-grade fireworks—explosives that shook the ground, sending dogs cowering and possibly softening up the urban population for a battlefield future. This appears, however, in the FQ issue emerging just prior to the 2020 US presidential election, an event destined to change the future of this country and the world and, yes, the film and TV world, in ways that are equally unpredictable, confusing, and terrifying.