Filmmaker readers should check out two essential articles in the Village Voice this week by friends and colleagues Anthony Kaufman and Ted Hope. Both deal with the relationship between our current political climate and the state of indie filmmaking today.
Kaufman, who gives up his “NY Scene” column in our magazine this month due to his move to Chicago, asks the question, “Reagan-era callousness sparked an indie film renaissance. Will Bush 2 inspire another?” Kaufman’s piece winds its way through discussions with Christine Vachon, James Schamus and Jeff Levy-Hinte before concluding with a trenchant inquiry by HBO’s Colin Callendar: “Whether a Bush II cinematic renaissance arises out of technology-based grass-roots movements or from within the studio system itself, Callender places the onus on today’s culture creators. ‘What is an independent movie?’ he asks. ‘Is it about the artist as agent provocateur or the artist as apologist for the status quo?'”
In producer Ted Hope’s piece, Hope remembers the politically engaged filmmaking of the ’80s and ’90s but doesn’t seen a corresponding movement now:
“I have always felt the HIV scandal — the government’s complete indifference to everyone’s health and life — was a great stimulus to indie film production. Whether you were gay or straight, the message was clear in the Reagan-Bush era: The government not only didn’t care about anyone who was different from the old boys, but actively wanted the ‘outsiders’ removed. Recognizing this neglect as an act of aggression encouraged all to embrace new aesthetics, new subjects, new methods, and new technology. The threat of extinction upped the urgency. You were either on the bus or a complete roadblock.
“Yet I have not felt a similar effect from the equally reprehensible policies of today, be it the invasion of Iraq, the blatant lies to the public, the inequitable redistribution of wealth, the hypocritical morality of the ‘values’ coalition, the invasion of our privacy and reduction of our civil rights, the continued neglect of Africa, the rise of American ’empire,’ etc.”
Kaufman’s piece is more of a survey of viewpoints, opinions which open up onto some intriguing new ideas and directions of thought, while Hope’s is both sober assessment and call to arms. Read them both and post your thoughts.