Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blank City

Showing at the Hot Docs Film Festival: Blank City, directed by Celine Danhier

Synopsis from the film's Facebook page:

Uncovering New York’s underexposed filmmaking movements circa 1977 to 1987, this provocative documentary begins when New York City was ripe with cheap rent, cheap drugs, a summer hit by “Son of Sam,” and a 25-hour blackout. Captivated by the newly emerging downtown music scene, and inspired by Amos Poe’s 1977 punk documentary Blank Generation, two distinct groups of novice filmmakers emerged, hell-bent on capturing the volatile world around them.

The first group, a rebellious group of artists, musicians and writers, came together to create films soon to be labeled “No Wave Cinema.” Stark and confrontational, the films mirrored the rising “No Wave” music scene as well as referencing French New Wave, Film Noir and the films of John Waters and Andy Warhol. Filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, Eric Mitchell, Beth B, Charlie Ahearn, and Lizzie Borden showcased the city’s grittiness, bearing witness to the early East Village art and music scenes and the birth of hip hop. Short, long, color or black-and-white, the films portrayed themes of alienation and were all made on the fly with virtually no budget. Although several filmmakers broke out with more accessible independent films, the No Wave Cinema movement burned out quickly.

The second group exploded onto the downtown scene in 1984. "Cinema of Transgression" filmmakers Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, Tommy Turner, and Casandra Stark incorporated harsher realities of sex, violence and drugs. Theaters banned the films and the Wall Street Journal denounced them. When these films screened outside New York, prints were often confiscated or protested against. But just as quickly the downtown filmmaking community further disintegrated as jealousy and circumstance tore the group apart.

Though short-lived, the indelible and lasting impression these strange and exciting film movements created continues to play a part in inspiring a new generation of independent filmmakers.

The film's website is here.

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