Detail from the first “I Am Eye” flyer (Via Microscope Gallery/ “I Am Eye”)
Probably the best known film to come out of the I Am Eye scene opens with a view from the cameraman’s car as John Heyn and Jeff Krulik pull into a a sweaty asphalt parking lot full of Wayne’s World clones. “I’m ready to rock!” the spandex-clad kids with big hair exclaim un-ironically, throwing up devil horns and alternating between sloshing around beer bottles and back-bent air guitar. The next 15 minutes or so of Heavy Metal Parking Lot(1986) is nothing short of sheer brilliance and even though the film– which has won praise as “the original viral video” and “the Citizen Kane of wasted teenage metalness”– is approaching its 30th anniversary, it feels supremely right-now. In a lot of ways, this “sleeper” bootleg hit anticipated the kind of cheeky, ironic tone that today we see everywhere in art-making.
Likewise, I Am Eye, the DC-based “independent film forum” that ran from 1982 to 1991 out of a DIY venue called dc space, was a hotbed for underground filmmakers whose influence is still felt today, even if what they screened back then is seriously hard to find now. But for the first time in 25 years, the founders are gathering up their old reels and holding a screening/reunion at Microscope Gallery in Bushwick that opens this weekend. More →
Three Sisters Tuesday, June 21 (7 pm) and Sunday June 26 (7:30 pm) at Spectacle Theater: $5
For six months, documentary filmmaker Wang Bing embedded himself in a tiny rural village, Xiyangtang, in China’s Yunnan province, following the lives of three sisters all under the age of 10, orphaned, and living under crushing poverty. Their mother has died and their father, who occasionally pops into their lives, but never long enough to see if they’re even meeting their basic nutritional needs, has gone to the city to work. The family represents some of the major problems for China’s rural residents– an extreme lack of resources that is leveled unevenly by women, and therefore children as well, when men leave to find work in urban areas (China is one of the few places in the world where the suicide rate for women surpasses that of men, and many of the suicides are related to death by fertilizer poisoning). More →
As a work-resident of Greenpoint, I feel lucky that I can reap the benefits of the neighborhood without having to pay the increasingly steep average rent. My existence up here is dependent on a fair amount of lying to myself– that I can afford to eat at the nice restaurants here (false), that the nice people who work in the hip boutiques actually believe I’m going to buy something this time around (so false). But what really charms me about the neighborhood are its eccentricities– the picture window on Franklin decorated neatly with dozens of bobble heads gyrating in unison, the Polish bars where you can bet there’s a strange scene going down or at the very least some $1 Jell-o shots to pick at, and of course the ancient bag lady who shuffles along Manhattan Avenue screeching in a mix of gibberish and maybe Old Church Slavonic, sometimes disappearing down into the subway or inside an apartment, knowing that she can safely leave her bags and carts anywhere she pleases.
The great giver of free things, House of Vans, has announced they’re teaming up with Rooftop Films (the latter just dropped their 20th-anniversary summer programming) for two undeniably sick events happening next week. The super group of summertime chill times are calling the almost back-to-back affairs “cinematic music events,” and for the low, low price of $0 you too can see two music-centric documentaries followed by performances from Danny Brown, The Casualties, and more. It’s all happening at House of Vans. Read on for more deets.
Grrrl Germs: a Visual History of Riot Grrrl 1990-1997 Various screenings, now through Saturday May 28 at Spectacle: $5.
It’s been nearly 30 years since the Riot Grrrl movement challenged punks everywhere to reexamine their subculture, demanded “girls to the front” at shows, and delineated punk’s physical and intellectual spaces as welcoming to women, but also as zones that were for and by a diversity of voices. Riot Grrrl may have become the victim of sensationalism due to a desperately out-of-touch media trying to figure out what the hell was going on with these tattooed, pierced, and sex-crazed Gen Xers.
Green Room Friday, April 29 through Thursday, May 5 at Nitehawk: $12
Is there anyone more punk than Patrick Stewart? Apparently there is, and it’s Patrick Stewart on a murderous rampage, hellbent on killing a little punk band for no apparent reason. Green Room might be the most bizarre combination of genres we’ve seen come together under one film in a long, long time. Fusing together snuff, Saw-like torture horror, teen drama, punk movies, and backwoods suspense, the film follows a punk band as they embark on a tour that takes them to some real hillbilly places.
Queens-born rapper Awkwafina (the alter-ego of Nora Lum) says she’s been doing some serious “hustling” in the last couple of years: recording an album, putting out an NYC guidebook, and making the big move to Greenpoint. She’s not there for the cute boutiques and charming scenery (after all, she made her fame with “NYC Bitche$”, in which she deftly buried an entire section of our humble Brooklyn borough for being overrun not just by transplants, but adult-baby transplants). Rather, she has a “rent control situation” weighing in her favor (“I’d live anywhere if it was cheap,” Lum told us last spring).
Taking a stance against nuclear weapons proliferation might not be as controversial as hating on vaccines– as we saw when Tribeca Film Festival announced it was pullingVaxxed: From Cover-Up toCatastrophe, the doc made by a disgraced doctor that pushes the dubious theory linking autism to vaccines. But the filmmakers behind The Bomb(premiering Saturday, April 23) are nevertheless hoping t0 strike an equally urgent chord with festival audiences, even if they’re reluctant to call it an “activist” film.
“Well, it’s an immersive film and music experience. It’s a human story, too,” explained Smriti Keshari, one-half of the filmmaking team behind theimmersive, multimedia documentary focused on the persistent threat of nuclear weapons. “It’s one that makes you realize just how powerful individuals can be when they care about something. I think all art is political if it’s a reflection of what’s happening around you.”
It’s been nearly a decade since Lee Tesche, guitarist for the Atlanta-rooted band Algiers (whose brain-jostling blend of gospel and hardcore punk has been sort of blowing up since the band release their self-titled debut last spring) convinced a longtime idol, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, that his hometown music scene was worth documenting. Canty, along with his collaborator Christoph Green, had been working on an episodic rock-documentary series for the past few years, Burn to Shine, a stripped-down take on various music scenes across the country. And Tesche wasn’t wrong in thinking it was high time they came to Atlanta. The doc captures bands like Deerhunter and Black Lips at the moment before they blew up big, as well as veterans like Shannon Wright, who went on to stake out even wider renown.
But Volume 6, shot in 2007, became something of a time capsule, after it failed to see an official release when Canty, Green, and many of the bands they had filmed, ran up against the collapse of the DVD industry and advent of YouTube mid-way through the project. Finally, almost ten years later, Burn to Shine 6: Atlanta is seeing a proper premiere as Algiers has set out on an East Coast mini-tour, playing music and screening Tesche’s portion of the series along the way. Tonight marks the band’s New York City stop, when they’ll be playing Le Poisson Rouge (along with Savak) following an 8 pm screening of the new BTS installment.
Soplo de Vida Saturday April 9 and Saturday April 16, 10 pm at Spectacle: $5
Do you find yourself still watching new eppies of True Detective well into season two, ignoring the hammy dialogue and neverminding the complete void of character development that is Detective Colin Farrell? Do you often invoke the phrase, “It can’t rain all the time” with complete and utter sincerity only to be lol’d at by your friends who just don’t get it? Well, it’s likely you’re a fan of noir. It’s ok, friend, this is your safe place. But given all of the above, it’s likely you’ve had your way with the Hollywood stuff. Here’s a curveball– Soplo de Vida (“Breath of Life”) Colombian director Luis Ospina’s singular detour into noir. Too bad he only made one of these, because as it turns out, he’s rather good at it.