Critics Jump Into “Art of the Real”

Posted by Erik Luers on 4.16.2014


Robert Greene's Actress

As Art of the Real, the inaugugral edition of our newly revamped series seeking to redefine the standard definition of documentary, continues through April 26, a passion and need for a serious analytical discussion about the work has been emerging. Both classic and brand-new documentaries screen through next weekend.

Writing for The New York Times, Eric Hynes reflected on some of the older films featured in Art of the Real. “One, Rouch’s ecstatic African travelogue, Jaguar, was filmed nearly 60 years ago. Another, an outlandish dissection of hippie radicalism, Anna, was produced in the 1970s but has a power to shock that remains undiminished. And none belong to any standard documentary canon. They are like limited-edition LPs plucked from a record store bin, evidence of earlier cinematic uprisings but also perennially ripe for rediscovery.”

Through a well-culled and dynamic collection of formally inventive, intellectually stimulating nonfiction films (new and repertory),” John Oursler raved in The L Magazine, “the FSLC programmers repeatedly show that documentaries can and should be held to the same filmmaking standards as narrative films, namely by championing the symbiosis of form and content, and by interrogating the notion of epistemological certainty.”


Corneliu Porumboiu's The Second Game

Looking at Corneliu Porumboiu's The Second Game (one the festival's Opening Night films), Ela Bittencourt reflected on the film in Slant: "Offering a soccer match as a metaphor for a fallen system that transformed sports into nationalistic pageantry of pride and honor, while secretly rigging games—and, politics—behind its citizens' backs, The Second Game turns an ordinary, nostalgic gesture into a self-reflexive time capsule."

"If there’s a common denominator among the new films," noted Paul Dallas for Indiewire, "it's that they're produced outside the traditional film industry by filmmakers working on their own terms.You won’t find Sundance-ready selections here. Among the films receiving premiers are debut features by young Brazilian filmmaker Davi Pretto, whose Castanha offers a partially fictionalized portrait of an aging drag performer, and French Algerian director Narimane Mari's award-winning post-colonial fable Bloody Beans. Other titles include The Ugly One, by prolific artist Eric Baudelaire, Lukas the Strange by Filipino director John Torre, and Time Goes by Like a Roaring Lion by German filmmaker Philipp Hartmann."

Writing for Artforum, Nick Pinkerton also had some encouraging things to say about the films represented in Art of the Real. "Once the barriers of what constitutes documentary have been breached," Pinkerton reflects, "the application of the 'documentary' tag becomes increasingly discretionary. After all: The machine cannot lie! To paraphrase Animal Farm, all movies are nonfiction, but some movies are more nonfiction than others. Even the burden of photographic proof isn’t a requirement at Art of the Real."

"An often brave collaboration between filmmaker and subject, Actress is the closing night selection in Art of the Real," The Wall Street Journal proclaimed in a piece on filmmaker Robert Greene, "Film Society of Lincoln Center's nonfiction cinema showcase that begins Friday. As with the 34 other programs in the two-week series of documentary features and shorts, the film pushes at perceived boundaries of the form."


Eric Baudelaire’s The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images

Art Info took a look at several featured films, observing that Amie Siegel's Black Moon "uses the conventions of narrative cinema as a loose frame for her hypnotic film about a group of armed female revolutionaries traversing a barren and destroyed landscape. That landscape, however, is not a post-apocalyptic future but the boarded-up and foreclosed housing developments of the present, and the film ingeniously collapses the genre modes and the documentary realism, resulting in something that feels not of an imagined future but of the immediate now."

Finally, Max Nelson of Film Comment recommends multiple titles in Art of the Real, perhaps none more enthusiastically than the one possessing the longest title. "For me, the series’ overarching themes concerning the creative balance between nonfiction directors and their subjects came into focus with Eric Baudelaire’s The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images," Nelson writes. "Adachi is a filmmaker who followed up an early string of revolutionary fiction films by moving to Lebanon, assuming a significant role in the recently formed Japanese Red Army  and setting down his camera for nearly 30 years. In 2000, after serving a three-year prison sentence in Lebanon on passport charges, he was extradited to Japan, where he now lives a tightly restricted, relatively isolated life. (He is forbidden to leave the country.) That same year, after decades in hiding, Fusako Shinegobu, the Red Army’s founder, was arrested after a neighbor informed the police of her whereabouts."

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