Archive for Stranger than Fiction

Still Socialiting- with Legends

Posted in art, Book, film, People of Color, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, like a lost child I continue to stray from the Brooklyn Socialite path, but never too far my friends. Never too far. All the while as my keyboard fingers have gone limp, my little legs have still run from one cultural event to the next. Indeed, I have much to report.

In adventures in the surreal I have recently found myself in 2 interesting settings. One, a friendly neighborhood book group, with a selection of my peers. We had gathered to discuss A Mercy, by the legendary Toni Morrison. Halfway through some questions arose about characters and the author’s intention, when one of the group said, “Well, I’ll just call her and ask her, hold on a sec.”  “Excuse me?” I stuttered out. “What does she mean she’ll just call her?” “Well Toni Morrison is her grandmother.” Another member offered. Oh, I saw. Morrison was called and I sat dumbfounded. There was so much I wanted to ask her.

To continue on the theme of six degrees of separation, the next day, out of Brooklyn and all the way uptown at the 92 Street Y, I was picking up my ticket to Chinua Achebe from the press representative and he mentioned in passing that all 900 seats of the auditorium were packed. “I haven’t seen the Y this full since Toni Morrison was here.” He said. Of course, Morrison again.

My second brush with legend this past week or so, was a screening that I had the occasion to attend on the rooftop of the Chelsea Hotel. Yes, after seeing Chelsea on the Rocks, Abel Ferrara’s docudrama (it had re-enactments, many) next door at the Chelsea Cinema, I moved considerably closer to that old ghost, new art temple of legend, yes the Hotel in question. I got past the reception who didn’t seem to want to let any of us up to Sam Bassett‘s penthouse apt. We did make it though, the very small crew of myself, 5-6 other journalists, Sam, his girlfriend Erin Featherstone (I was having fashion week flashbacks, I had been to her show, but in person, she was more real life-like and very nice. Bryant Park makes one grand I suppose.) and Stanley Bard himself, with his support team of family and friends. There we sat, with an amazing view of the city, in Basset’s studio/home and watched the work unfold. His documentary, Stanley Bard, was decidedly different from Chelsea on the Rocks, although they were made at similar times, with similar subject matter. The comparison is a whole article in itself, but for now let’s leave it at more, on the gentle, kind and very talented Bassett, to come.

Next stop: Another screening in the series put on by the Royal Flush Festival. This art/music/film festival is a smallish local affair, still they have managed to pack their theaters and involve some amazing contributors. One such element of amazement, was Justin Strawhand’s film, War Against the Weak. Based on the seminal, critical history of  U.S. eugenics by Edwin Black, this film really mines our history in a way that many are not yet ready to own. It tracks how the Rockefeller foundation, along with several other rich American families funded eugenics research in the U.S and Germany from the beginning of the 20th century, all the way up through the Second World War. The startling tenet of the film is that Nazism was directly inspired and to some degree funded by racist American science, and what’s more, many other institutions and policies that remain in place here, to this day, were motivated by eugenics. A sinister origin is revealed for the SAT, the IQ test, and much of the  documentation, which has been kept by government agencies like jails and schools throughout the past century. Again much more can be said on the subject, and in order to verse myself more fully, I purchased, yes with my own limited funds, the last copy of Edwin Black’s book in the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Here once more, I accidentally approached legend, this book happened to be a hardcover, signed by the author.

But let’s take a step back, dedicated readers of this blog may remember that I first met Justin back in the spring at Full Frame. We got into a long discussion about Eugenics outside of a festival party. De ja vu, a couple of weekends back, when I was at the Hamptons Film Festival, lying low as Industry (that means I was on the screening committee, not that I am now an industry bigshot of any kind) who should I find myself hanging out with outside a party again. Yes, of course Justin and here it comes out that I still haven’t seen his film and the plan is made to be at his Royal Flush screening. Wait, what else happened in the Hamptons?

Well, I saw a lot of films and I took a little morning trip to Montauk, my favorite part of that area, where I went to Joni’s my favorite brunch spot in New York state. Oh, it’s charming, has amazing organic food, lots of  which is homemade. I also made a point to go the water everyday and watch the fishermen and walk and relax. Ahh the Brooklyn Socialite will survive Brooklyn only with regular exposure to nature. Yeah, I’m making a rule to get out as much as I can.

OK, but what were the filmic highlights? Let’s see, Shadow Billionaire, was intriguing, The Paper Man was great because of the fact that lots of stuffy audience members walked out in the middle including, one former Mayor Giuliani. Yes, this was my brush with not legend, but ignominy. Oh the shame. I wanted to give him an earful, but I was too polite to interrupt the film, unlike some people. Mira Nair’s collection of shorts was intense, also earned several walkouts, but as Guy Maddin (yes legend is the theme today) once shared with me the fact of the very high walk out rates in his films, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad sign.

To conclude with legends, and to reference my less than clever pun (Still Socialiting) yes I’m not just a boob, this is a reference to the film Still Bill. I saw it this week at Stranger than Fiction. The film is about, yes the legend, Bill Whithers, who after all these years is still Bill. He’s kept his roots and remained down to earth, a family man, who hasn’t released a record in 30 years, after such epic songs as Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone and Grandma’s Hands. The film is candid and touching and made me really want to find the last autographed copy of the Bill Whiters CD at Barnes and Noble on 14th street.  Maybe my luck will hold.

The Way We Get By Review, Mashable, Central Park

Posted in film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow guys! I just discovered that there is wireless in central park. I have been sitting here for the better part of the afternoon, offline, when all along I could have been blogging…well wonders never cease! Any way,  here is the run down from last night:

I was a very dedicated Brooklyn Socialite, after editing all day I tore off into the glorious heat and made my way over to the 92 Street Y Tribeca, Mashable was doing one of their networking/educating/mashing events. It reminded me of Mediameshing, except I didn’t run into the gawkerteam, maybe they were all tweeting away at Tribeca. Anyway I did dutifully mingle, with a lot of friendly PR people(!) and then the event finally started about 20 minutes before I had to leave for Stranger than Fiction. I did catch a few presentations done by start-ups, including Sluth.com, which is a wine aggregator (if you know what that is) and Savvy Auntie, which actually seemed pretty interesting, a social networking site for aunts, which are apparently about 40% of women.

I was sorry that I had to miss their advice about how to become wildly succesful, because I’m sure that would have come in handy, but it was time to catch the screening of The Way We Get By. I have plans to interview the directors, so hold off for that, but in the meantime, my initial review:

The Way We Get By is a film that cleverly navigates the subject of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without clearly choosing sides. It avoids the left right dichotomy and instead focuses on the human experience of loss, bravery and kinship. It is about the Troop Greeters of Maine, who gather day and night at Bangor Airport to welcome and see off all of the soldiers who fight in Iraq. Although it is such a remote airport, 90% of the flights in and out of the war zone, pass through there. The greeters have already seen almost 1 million members of the military return through Bangor.

The majority of the greeters are senior citizens and the film follows 3 of the most committed and older members of the group, including the mother of one of the directors. What is so interesting about the subjects is how they seem to live just for the opportunity to brighten someone else’s day. This reveals the isolated state that many older folks live in, believing that their utility has passed. People who have worked their whole lives, raised families and some who have personally served in the military reach their 60s and 70s and begin to feel that society no longer values them. If they are not providers, what is their purpose? Although, they may be of great value to their families and respected by their communities; living alone, and sitting idle, the subjects in The Way We Get By seem to be at a loss when they are not giving their time and support to the troops.

The dignity and integrity of these people will stir even the coldest heart. I cried repeatedly! see it

CIFF Dance Party at Santos Tonight-Come!

Posted in film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hello Friends, just a quick heads up. The Camden International Film Festival, has an exciting film, The Way We Get By screening tonight at Stranger than Fiction, it is sold out, but the after party at Santos is definitely not. And, its Free! So come and meet the documentary film intelligentsia…

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For more about the film and the screening My Flavorpill preview:

“Stranger Than Fiction, Thom Powers’ quality weekly documentary series, teams up tonight with the Camden International Film Festival and POV to present the New York premier of The Way We Get By. The film centers around a dedicated trio of senior citizens who keep permanent vigil at a rural Maine airport, determined to welcome home every soldier returning from Iraq. They hug the men and women in uniform, offering them cell phones to make their first calls with, shoulders to cry on, and, most strikingly, a moment to exhale before they re-enter civilian life.”

See you tonight!

Brooklyn Socialite on Huffington Post-Bedstuy Meadow

Posted in film, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I hope you all have had the chance to check out my Huffpo post on the Bedstuy Meadow project. Here’s a little excerpt below and a link to rest of the post. Tonight I’m going to check out a doco on Al Franken at Stranger than Fiction. Report back to come, and I hope to see you all there!
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Last week I interviewed a Brit, Andy Lang, about his new film based in Cuba. I was thinking Global then, but this week’s interview is all about acting local. Saturday morning I woke up early and suited up in full-body rain-gear, then trudged through the downpour to my rendezvous point in Zone 4, which happened to be about 3 blocks from my apartment. I was feeling quite stealth and shrouded in mystery as I arrived at lab 24/7, a basement apartment, which doubles as an event space. There I met, for the first time, about 30 of my neighbors and was given a seed bag, a map and a small team to work with. Me and my new planting crew then spread out over Bedstuy to begin scattering wildflower seeds. There were 5 meet-up zones and 100 volunteers in total. We all found each other and signed on to the project after a new website sprung up, promoting the Bedstuy Meadow Project, created by one woman who envisioned it all, Deborah Fisher.

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Some Southerners are Awesome- my Top 5 Meets

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Woah guys, let’s not take me too literally, I actually had a great time in the South and met a lot of really cool people. These are my top 5 in order of most to least Southern.

1.Laura Edwards, the founder of Lillian’s List and her partner Elaine Andrews. They are both from NC and were super hospitable, they invited me to sit at there presenters table while I was nervously reliving a cafeteria scene in some 90s coming of age film. They called over to me, ” There’s a free seat here!” Finally, I was the popular kid.

Ok, beyond my tendency to see life as theater, what is so awesome about these ladies is 1. Their personalities and 2. What they do. Lillian’s list, inspired by Emily’s list was founded in 1998 with the mission of getting Democratic pro-Choice women elected to the North Carolina legislature. So far they have succeeded at getting 18 such women elected.

2. One of these NC legislators, Laura’s sister, is number 2 on my list. Pricey Harrison of the NC House of Representatives, told me about the excessively offensive emails she gets from people. Apparently some idiots out there in Internet land think that it’s acceptable to issue death threats against those who support gay and women’s rights, food safety and the environment. Well I say keep up the good work Pricey, and those lurkers out there reading this, please speak up to support her work!

3. Alright, confession: the remaining 3 people on my list are not actually from the South, but I did meet them there, so it counts. Number 3 is slightly further South, in my old school digs, yes that’s right, New Jersey. Hailing from Jersey City, Justin Strawhand came to Full Frame to promote his film War Against the Weak. I haven’t seen it yet, so I won’t say much, but I can report that I had a very engaging conversation with him about the film’s topic: Eugenics. What I learned is that the US had a active program up until World War II, the legacy of which remains with us today in the form of the SAT’s, people who experience forced sterilizations, and in several other surprising manifestations. More to come on this subject.

4. The next person on the list is from Manhattan, but I’m still counting that as South of Brooklyn. Cameron Yates  writes for Indiewire and is working on a new documentary called The Canal Street Madam, watch the trailer here. It is about a New Orleans madam, who ran a brothel with her mother as bookkeeper, and her daughter as one of the call girls. He was given the Garret Scott Award by Full Frame, in honor of a young documentary filmmaker who died a few years ago. The grant helps, emerging filmmakers, who are in the process of making their first feature film, to gain fiscal support and mentorship. This year the award was co-presented by our friend Thom Powers from Stranger than Fiction.

5. Number 5, who does a poor job of being from the South (unless you count South Brooklyn) is Rachael Rakes, from the Feminist Press. She is the former partner of Garrett Scott and also a co-presenter of that award, and she told me that she is actively seeking trans writers and transrights advocates for publication in the Feminist press. This def. gets her on the awesome south list, not to even mention the fact that she is also a writer at Brooklyn Based and has starting a doc film series in Brooklyn at the Bell House! What what, is all I can say.

Did you meet someone interesting this week? Who?! Comment comment, wherever you are.

Girls Like Us-STF-Examined Life-Twitter-Zoe Leonard

Posted in art, film, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

The pace of my life is accelerating all too quickly and its hard for me to keep up with myself, aghhh, that sentence doesn’t make sense, edit, delete comma, insert quote marks, no parenthesis stop, no, just talk! So yes, rather than get the editor’s blues I’m going to speak freely, in an at times sloppy state of mild dishevelment. Let’s go:

So I was in the sauna at the gym on Sunday when I overheard some girls talking about kicking winter’s ass, and facing the last snow storm and just hitting march right out of the ballpark, whoa! I was inspired, I realized I must apply this go-get-em attitude to all things in life. I’ll let you know how that goes, so far not perfectly.

Next topic: Today I joined Twitter and people are starting to follow me, you can too, my user name is BSrobyn. That stands for Brooklyn Socialite Robyn, not that card game Robyn, or ok, out with it, Bull Shit Robyn. Def. not that.

Topic 3: Girls Like Us. This is a great film from the late 90’s that I saw at Stranger than Fiction last night. Oh, how I love STF, I finally found a club that would have me as its member (this is a Marx Brothers reference, if you don’t get it, you can’t join the club!). The documentary made by a lovely lady couple, tracks 4 teenagers from the time they are 13-14 until they are 17-18. The girls, who all live in South Philly, speak candidly about sex, childbirth, their relationships with their family and friends and their goals in life. This film won Sundance back in the day and it’s easy to understand why. Like Trouble the Water it sort of magically captures those tragedies and joys of life, which are often rendered mundane, as people avert their eyes to experiences of “othered” social groups.  The 4 girls, 2 white, 1 black and one South Asian all seemed to struggle to define themselves independently of their relationships with men. While, their parents and guardians strove to keep them on a track towards college and career. 3 of the women, now pushing 30, joined us at the IFC center after for a Q & A. They all seem to have turned out quite well and consider their experience being in the film to have been enriching and not exploitative.

On the way out of the theatre I saw Astra Taylor the director of Examined Life, which is an excellent film that I saw last week in preview. I feel somewhat ill-equipped to review it properly as I missed the first 20 minutes, but I will just say that Cornel West, who was one of the philosophers that Taylor interviewed, was completely amazing. He spoke fully and freely about every subject from Jazz to Nihilism. See it now at the IFC center! West and Taylor will be there in person for a Q&A after tomorrow’s show.

Finally, Zoe Leonard. I somehow faced the dreaded subway for a really long haul as I hot tailed it up to 155th to check out Zoe Leonard’s show at the Hispanic Society. Yesterday I met a cartographer. Cartographer, if you’re reading this, hello. I met a cartographer and I saw this collection of old maps, which Leonard curated at the Dia at the Hispanic Society. There is something Mystical about maps, quietly stunning, reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth, which by the way is one of my favorite books (if you have read this and love it, you can be in the club). Leonard also had an exhibition of her photographs, which captured the East Village as it was changing, through the mapping of storefronts and charting of the journey that the products in those stores might take on as they enter a third world market. Reverse globalization, recycling consumerism. Interesting ideas. Yesterday I met a cartographer. The filmmaker Gregg Bordowitz spoke about Leonard’s exhibition on Saturday, his films sound like something that I would be fascinated by, but I haven’t seen them yet, so hold on. Hold on.

STF-William Greaves Tribute

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

If you don’t already know who William Greaves is, here is the background, plagiarized from myself via Flavorpill:

“Tonight, Thom Power’s weekly documentary series, Stranger than Fiction, pays tribute to the “Dean of Black Documentary,” William Greaves. Famous for producing the PBS series Black Journal and for his feature film, Ali the Prize Fighter, Greaves has consistently expanded the perimeters of African-American filmmaking. Longtime Spike Lee editor Sam Pollard joins a panel with Eyes on the Prize director Orlando Bagwell and Elvis Mitchel, co-creator of The Black List to discuss Greaves’ contributions. This night of tribute is presented in collaboration with the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.”

Now for a round up of the evening:

Let me start in the middle, or er um, the end. When the screenings finished and the panel was winding down, Thom introduced William Greaves, who had all the while been sitting quietly in the back of the cinema. Greaves said, “Thank you all for coming, I had no idea there were so many people interested in and still following my work.” He also said that he is and has always been concerned about the state of our country.

This concern is evident in his work. We had the privilege of watching black and white clips from his early films, including Emergency Ward from 1959, Still a Brother and The First International Festival of African Arts. The Dean of Black cinema has definitely covered many subjects of great social importance.  In these early films alone,  he tackles mis-treatment of the ill, the mentality of the Black middle class, police brutality and a history of the arts, which focuses on African, and African American roots.

Next, Thom screened a segment from Ali the fighter, in which Muhammad Ali gears up for a fight with Joe Fraser. Ali comments that people have never seen anything like him before, He is a witty, fast-talking, fighter. He also notes that people hate him because he’s black, because of his religion and for the fact that he avoided the draft.

The clip, which I would say sparked the most curiosity from the audience was a scene from Symbiopschotaxiplasm: Take One. According to a comment made by one of Greaves collaborators, which appears in the film itself, ” The film has no determinable plot whatsoever.” This may sound like a bad thing but the little slice of it that I saw looked brilliant. He collaborated with Steve Buscemi on part 2 1/2, who was also in the audience tonight.

The panel of Black male filmmakers, editors, and producers was extremely appreciative of Greaves, as they showered their thanks on him for the role he played in mentoring  and inspiring them. I exchanged a friendly nod with Buscemi (in my mind a terrific actor) in the hallway and a brief hello with Sam Pollard (ditto on editor)  and the women from Full Frame, who traveled to New York to be at this special tribute. Another great night at Stranger than Fiction.