The 2018 Greenwich International Film Festival opens tomorrow. Four days of special events, films and panel discussions, this is a festival that has grown and evolved in the past 3 years, since its first year in 2015.
This year it consists of 33 full-length films, 16 short films, 6 panels and special events, along with the Changemaker Gala, where each year GIFF awards those who have used their voice for positive social change through their philanthropic endeavors and their career accomplishments. This year those recipients will be actress and author Ashley Judd and Duncan Edwards, Executive Director for Waterside School.
This year, I will be attending the following films and events, some with my fellow members of Cultural Pursuit. Descriptions of these, and the full selections of films and events can be found here: greenwichfilm.org.
The Price of Everything + Q & A with cast and crew
Shakespeare Wallah + Q & A with Director James Ivory
Panel – Women at the Helm: A Conversation About Female Directors
João, O Maestro+ Q & A with cast and crew
After each I will return here to share my impressions.
Looking forward to this year’s festival!
All images courtesy of Greenwich International Film Festival
MCQUEEN, 2018, Documentary
An intimate story told in chapters, this documentary recounts the ascendence of Lee Alexander McQueen, the creative, hard-working genius of the fashion world – a prolific and immensely creative clothing designer who rose to great fame in a relatively short amount of time. Sadly, he ended his life at the age of 40 in 2010.
This film shares his journey from the points of view of those close to him as it celebrates his accomplishments: how he began in the fashion industry, the connections he made early who stayed with him throughout his career, with video clips and narratives that helped give us an insight into who he was as a person, his strong bonds with his family and those around him who supported and accompanied him through his journey to the top of the fashion industry- not only with his own clothing line, but what he created for the fashion house of Givenchy. Throughout, we had an opportunity to look in on some of the most remarkable shows he produced, which were avant-garde, mesmerizing and truly groundbreaking.
As for the film itself – the photos of him in the early years, the gritty images of the nightlife, the stories his friends and family told to the camera, the excerpts of his shows, and the background of the origin of his themes – all helped us understand more about who he was as a person and as an artist – what we gained, what we lost, and the profound impact he made with his creative contributions that continue to inspire.
There were 5 short films that were included in this selection: The Hammamis, L.A. Fadeaway, Uzma the Greatest, Cats Cradle, A Train to Rockaway and Notes from Dunblane: Lessons from a School Shooting.
Each brought us into the world of those featured in the film and told their stories. They were carefully and thoughtfully conveyed, with tremendous respect and empathy for the subjects, whose story was sometimes difficult subject matter, such as Notes from Dunblane and The Hammamis. That filmmakers took the time, made the effort to put together this difficult footage, and conducted many interviews to bring us into these situations in such an intimate way is a testament to their commitment to tell the story with authenticity and sensitivity.
For more information on the individual shorts: greenwichfilm.org
From the points of view of artists (Larry Poons, Gerhard Richter, Marilyn Minter, George Condo, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jeff Koons), as well as experts like Amy Capellazzo, Chairman of the Fine Art division of Sotheby’s, plus collectors, art dealers, historians and critics, this film was about the contemporary art world and how the monetary value of work is determined, how auctions are organized and planned, and the perspectives and processes of artists. It also explores what pieces can mean to collectors and what motivates a purchase or trade. It’s quite revealing and a very good way to learn about the contemporary art market.
Not having watched a black and white film in a while, this was a treat. I realized how much one may miss with color: the sparkle of jewelry, the gleam of satin, carved architectural details of exotic architecture and the much more noticeable composition of a given frame – I thought of the colors in real life, how one would know how to choose the colors of cars, clothes, buildings so they would translate properly with the right sort of contrast.
A couple of interesting facts that came out of the Q&A with Director James Ivory and John Farr (from Bedford Playhouse) was that the film was made in black and white mainly for budgetary reasons. For one misty forest scene – when they went back for another filming session it was a bright sunny day, so they had to use Army issue smoke bombs that emitted a yellow smoke, which would not have worked, for obvious reasons, in a color film. Another small detail, but notable: Mr. Ivory first became interested in India when he went to an art dealer to buy an art piece by Canaletto, having loved Venice after he shot a documentary there. The client who was there just before him was looking at Indian miniatures, which he saw laid about, and he became fascinated with them. That’s where it began.
Among James Ivory’s other films are the recent release Call Me By Your Name, A Room With A View, Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day, The Bostonians, Surviving Picasso, and many more.
WOMEN AT THE HELM: A PANEL DISCUSSION
Although I arrived late (I came from the James Ivory Q&A at the Avon), I arrived in time to hear the second half of the Women At The Helm conversation. Panelists included Bernadett Tuza-Ritter (Director, A Woman Captured) Maria Giese, (Co-Founder Women’s Media Summit), Hannah Storm (Director, Rowdy), Annie Howell (Co-Director, Claire In Motion) with moderator Briana Rodriguez (Backstage). What I heard was advice to women such as encouraging self-empowerment, “stay steady”, and seek out mentors and groups that have a supportive environment. Progress has been made, but there are many areas that can use more female involvement: not only for equality, but to learn more from a woman’s point of view.
I first learned of Lauren Greenfield when I discovered there was an exhibition at the International Center for Photography in New York City recently. I wasn’t able to make it to the exhibition before it closed in January, but it certainly was intriguing. I had seen her film Queen of Versailles, so I knew she had an uncanny ability to tell a story.
Rather than describe the film, which has many layers and points of view, here are the words that ran through my mind as I left the theater: Revealing, Sobering, Courageous, Hard to watch, Stunning, Mesmerizing, Eye-opening, and Thought-provoking. As I shared on Twitter shortly after the film: If you’re concerned about our culture, our society and where we seem to be headed, this film will probably have an effect on you. It certainly did for me.
Two ways to learn more: watch the trailer, and read a couple of reviews, from The New York Times and Indiewire:
Lauren Greenfield Tries to Capture the Meaning of Money, by Jason Farago, The New York Times, October 17, 2017
10 Films Directed by Female Filmmakers You Can’t Miss This Summer Season, by Kate Erbland, Jude Dry, David Ehrlich, Chris O’Falt, IndieWire, April 20, 2018
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the entire screening of this film on 6/3, I hope to see it in its entirety soon.