Let it be known this is your last week to get in anything besides horror films y’all, so listen up. We’ve got an anthropology-themed film fest, a drug-fueled road trip romance, mule-inspired capitalist critique, and ha woops– a horror marathon. Enjoy!
Margaret Mead Film Festival
Thursday, Oct. 22 through Sunday Oct. 25 at the Museum of Natural History: $12 per screening
Anthropology is kind of a weird field, to say the least. Like, studying humans gets a little deterministic and tricky real, real quick. And for a good chunk of its existence– really, up until like real, real recently– anthropology was the domain of old, balding white dudes with a gentile blood lineage and certain screwy delusions about race and superiority. Even if the fathers of anthropology are nothing more than a pile of dead-ass dust by now who live on only as creepy old busts or parodies of themselves in Wes Anderson movies, the field is still rife with problems of cultural relativism: Who decides what’s worthy of “study”? Who is counted as “curious” enough to be relegated as an object of scientific inquiry? And why are they deemed worthy of being classified less as humans and more as biological organisms and creatures of predictable habit?
Of course these are questions that are gnawing at me as I read the description for the 2015 Margaret Mead Festival, a fest dedicated to anthropological documentaries, but less so when I look at the actual lineup. There’s the obvious problem of the “gaze,” particularly with documentary filmmaking– but as long as we keep this in mind, some of these films are irresistibly awesome looking and demonstrate that open-mindedness, engaging with your sources and their viewpoints, as well as a willingness to understand (instead of relegating other people as removed subjects of “study”) both of which come with the territory in good documentary filmmaking, can make anthropology productive and not horrible.
There are almost too many cool movies to pick from, but a few stood out from the crowd. East Punk Memories (Friday, Oct. 23, 10 pm) delves into the Eastern Bloc punk scene in Hungary. The film was actually shot in the ’80s on Super 8 by French filmmaker Lucile Chaufor (who was in some punk bands of her own) at a time when Hungarian authorities were all “NO, WTF” about literally everything. The filmmaker recently returned to Hungary and tracked her subjects down.
Another standout is El Cacao, a film that traces the origins of “Swiss” chocolate to a farm in Panama and presents a challenge to widely-held ideas about fair trade, and globalization.
Probably the most of-the-moment film at the festival is Die Unsichtbaren (The Invisibles, Friday Oct. 23, 7:30 pm), a 2014 German documentary about the growing immigration crisis in Europe that has clearly only become more extreme since filming wrapped. The doc focuses on a handful of undocumented migrants from a variety of conflict zones after they arrive in a small town in Germany, just across the border from Poland and face what seems like an interminable waiting game to see whether they will be granted asylum or sent back.
Check out the full lineup here.
The 5th Annual Spectacle Shriek Show
Saturday, Oct. 24th, first screening starts at noon, last one starts midnight at Spectacle Theater: $25 at the door
Gore, witchcraft, and camp abound at Spectacle’s fifth annual horror marathon happening this weekend. It’s only $25 for 13+ hours of horror and it’s gonna be freaking great. Don’t get me wrong, Spectacle is one of the best theaters in town, but their seats leave a little something to be desired. (Hence the charm, though, people!) So I’m guessing they’re gonna be handing out chocolate medals to people who make it all the way through, or they’ll possibly just kick you out because that’s weird.
Really, though, the best thing about marathons like these is you can buy your $25 ticket, check out a movie or maybe two, then dip for some beers and food, return a little tipsier, and do it all over again. It’s the circle of life, and thankfully Spectacle has a working bathroom. Throw in a doobie and you’ve got it pretty much made.
Anthropophagous 2000 delivers on the gross factor (it’s a German film, go figure) with a story about an unfortunate group of friends who accidentally wander onto a cannibal’s property. Apparently a habit of eating humans leads to a life of isolation– weird– so the man-eating dude is able to feast on his prey on his own private property god-dangit. Is this really a metaphor for Europeans’ negative assessment of North Americans’ hyper-protectiveness over their private property? Is this what happens when people have enormous appetites, a predilection for violence, and inexorable power over their homes, guns, and land? Two words: Donald Trump.
Check out the full lineup of films over yonder.
One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct
Sunday, Oct. 25th, 8 pm at Anthology Film Archives: $10
Artist Lauren Bon coordinated a spectacular event in the fall of 2013 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the aqueduct, which allowed not only the film industry in Southern California to prosper but the population to swell to where it’s at now. The Los Angeles-based artist was concerned by the disconnect she felt between the people of LA and their water supply. With the continuing drought in California and the realities of climate change, it’s beginning to look like the area won’t be able to sustain its current population much longer.
Bon has imagined (or hints at, at least) the possibility of end times for capitalism and wonders how people will take care of themselves if or rather when that happens, without the necessarily skills or even awareness of how their most basic needs, in this case water, arrive at their disposal. To raise awareness about the implications of the ongoing crisis and remind people of the incredible achievements of those who settled this area before them, Bon coordinated a month-long journey across the aqueduct involving a stampede of 100 mules marching from the water source in the Cascade Mountains to the aqueduct intake.
One of the more fascinating distinctions the artist makes is between Americans’ conception of water, in which it’s seen as a commodity and a given, versus how some societies understand water as a blessing, one that has to be respected and shared between all living things (not including your perfectly manicured shrub statues and pond full of coy fish). It’s also pretty weird to think about 100 mules moving across a desert is considered “art” in America and “lol life” in most other places.
Friday, Oct. 23 through Thursday, Oct. 29 at IFC Center: $14
I have a Pavlovian sort of response to the words “Iggy Pop,” which makes me instantly thirsty for 10,000 beers and bad decisions. The Stooges! OK, so Iggy’s present withered self is a subtle reminder of the inevitably of death, old age, and declining coolness– but apparently he’s still got a bit of romance in those old bones because he’s let himself be cast in a rom-com for the not-basic Millennial set. See how I’m cleverly avoiding the “H” word? Well, one “H” word anyway.
Gus is a scuzzy dude with long stringy hair and a heroin problem– he resembles Jay Reatard in all the wrong ways and none of the right ones. At first it looks like he’s just another one of those trust-fund kids living in New York City with a seemingly endless opium supply chain and a cool old car, but turns out the Rolls Royce is stolen. A babe-ish tattoo artist finds this out the hard way. I mean, seriously, who ever responds to a guy yelling at you to “hop in” the car by actually hopping in the car? And why is she into this guy in the first place? He’s clearly high all the time. These questions, ladies and gentlemen, are exactly what’s regrettably pulling me into this film. Guilty pleasures, somebody’s gotta have em.