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in Filmmaking
on Jul 23, 2007

If you’re in New York tomorrow night come and check out an evening we are co-hosting with the IFC Center that’s dedicated to one of the most vital film artists working in New York City today: Jem Cohen.

Here’s what the press release says:

“An Evening with Jem Cohen” features the acclaimed filmmaker of Chain, Benjamin Smoke, and Lost Book Found in person to present the New York premiere of his new documentary BUILDING A BROKEN MOUSTRAP, a portrait of the Dutch band The Ex, which Cohen describes as “Concert film. City film. Protest film.” With a stylistically unique but ultimately humanistic approach, Cohen has been documenting artists, musicians and urban culture for more than twenty years. His collaborations with Fugazi, Vic Chesnutt, Elliott Smith, Smoke, Cat Power and others are striking examples of his ability to translate music into a visual medium. The evening also includes some new and recent short films.

I first came across Jem’s work in the late ’80s when I saw his This is a History of New York. Since then I’ve admired the various strands of Jem’s career, from his poetic street reportage to his collaborations with a series of great bands and musicians His work has spanned the heyday of music video and somehow he managed to keep his head during this era’s enticements and obscenities to keep producing films of real value and values. Jem’s done amazing filmmaking in the almost 20 years since that early short, This is a History of New York, but this quote from Steve Seid about that piece seems like a nice entry to quote as an introduction:

“The richness of Cohen’s vision is found in his haunting imagery and the perception that the thriving city of New York is really the accumulation of humanity’s failures, as well as its triumphs.”

If you don’t know Jem’s work and would like to sample before viewing, Bilge Ebiri’s pick of the evening in New York contains a short film. He posts on the magazine’s site Little Flags, which Jem made in 2000.

From Ebiri:

From the World Trade Center towers looming in the background, to the errant bits of paper drifting through the air, to the spectators’ blustery apparel (matching “Fuck Saddam” T-shirts!), to the young woman sitting forlornly on the ground, seemingly overwhelmed, to the little American flags of the title that gradually become refuse, Cohen manages to say more about the desperate times we’re living in than pretty much any other film of recent vintage, narrative, documentary, or otherwise.

The show begins at 7:30 at the IFC Center, 3rd Street and 6th Avenue.

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