(Image via Spectacle)

K: A Film About Prostitution 
Thursday March 14, 10 pm and Wednesday March 29, 7:30 pm at Spectacle: $5

“K” is just one film screening as part of Spectacle’s month of March series, Tricks of the Trade: True/False Portraits of Sex Work, which features four separate, cross-cultural, semi-fictional, but mostly very real portrayals of sex work. Shot in Budapest in 1989 by director György Dobra, the doc captures the world’s oldest profession– prostituáltakról in Hungarian (try saying that one ten times fast)– at a time of turmoil, when Communist Party-controlled governments and institutions across the Eastern Bloc were collapsing. Hungarians found themselves in an especially bizarre position because things in their country at least… were fairly calm during the transition to democracy.

The films features close-up interviews with sex workers who flock to Rákóczi Square night after night, and set up shop in the city’s red light district. Spectacle writes that Dobra’s subjects include “cross-dressing sex workers, a woman whose face was slashed by a client, and the off-and-on (and, to some extent, staged) relationship between young sex worker Andrea and her ‘boyfriend’ Tarzan, a pimp and lifelong resident of the Square.”

Seriously, though, I have so many questions– did Lenin’s abrupt departure have an impact on prostitution? Were sex workers somehow vindicated by capitalism’s comeback? After all, they were self-sufficient capitalists whose ownership of the means of production (their own bodies) would have been impossible to root out completely, even under totalitarian pressure.


Contemporary Color
Friday March 3 through Thursday March 9 at IFC Center: $14

I don’t know about you, but “bursting with joy” isn’t an accurate way to describe… well, anything right now. Like, it actually feels weird reading that phrase out loud, doesn’t it? Well, if you plan to see Contemporary Color, get used to it.

The documentary captures a special event held in 2015 where David Byrne and a bunch of sparkly, seemingly randomly associated collaborators including St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado (?), and Ira Glass (??), took over Barclay’s Center and brought in practitioners of a bizarre art/sport-form called color guard, or “synchronized groups who perform choreographed routines with flags, rifles and sabers.” Which is pretty, pretty weird. So how on earth did David Byrne get involved with this… this flag-spinning thing? Only one way to find out.


Swastika
Friday March 3, 7:30 pm; Thursday March 9, 10 pm; Tuesday March 21, 10 pm; Monday March 27, 10 pm at Spectacle: $5

Spooky times we are living in, y’all– all this tangled Russian web unweaving, so much new fake news news! It’s enough to wanna sell your American passport and run away to Canada, or something. Until each of us can pool enough money to buy the necessary gear for pursuing our lives 2.0 north of the border as freelance fur trappers, most of us are stuck where we’re at, which is a place without enough sand for all of us to bury our heads.

So let’s try and place this whole mess within a rational context, shall we? (And, like, actually get off our butts and get involved.) Explanation can actually be somewhat comforting, as opposed to giving into panic and seeing our current leadership as a crew of actual monsters. On the other hand, being too abstract and ironic about the whole thing is dangerous as well.  As a former Russian studies professor once told me, “Historicize, historicize, historicize!”

One of the majorly disturbing trends we’ve seen are the appearance of swastika graffiti. While on the one hand in New York City we’ve seen a backlash from the public and a significant response from our politicians, all condemning the symbol of hatred and genocide, there’s a tendency to dismiss the swastikas as nothing more than a bad joke by teenagers trying to make trouble. This argument misses a major point about the underlying power of this symbol– it was created by regular people, and used by everyday folks who committed horrendous acts. If you’re looking for some Incredibly Shitty Hulk with a Hitler mustache, you’re never going to find hatred.

The opening sequence of Swastika, screening throughout the month of March at Spectacle, says it all: “If Hitler is dehumanized and shown only as a devil, any future Hitler may not be recognized, simply because he is a human being.”

(Flyer via Anthology Film Archives)

New York Feminist Film Week

Tuesday March 7 through Sunday March 12 at Anthology Film Archives

On a much more posi note, the good people behind Woman with a Movie Camera– an organization “committed to increasing the visibility of trans/cis women filmmakers and all genderqueer/trans filmmakers”– have put together an ambitious, week-long program, screening next week at Anthology Film Archives.

The first annual NYFFW’s theme is “feminist film genealogies” which, sure, might sound like a oh-so-blah Undergrad Film 101 course. But hey, we’ve gotta start somewhere, don’t we? But seriously, this is gonna be great.

The programming is broken up into eight separate parts with themes such as “Dismantling Islamophobia” and “Ecofeminisms.” The artist at the center of the fest’s emeritus-celebratus is Barbara Hammer, the incredibly prolific filmmaker responsible for more than 80 films over her movie-making career and as one of the great “pioneers of queer cinema.” And because this is Feminism 2017, the fest “celebrates the intertextuality of film while recognizing the unique contributions of household names like Cheryl Dunye, […] Agnès Varda, and Maya Deren, alongside new and emerging filmmakers.” Get there.