by Lindsay Utz, 2012 Fellow
For the past year my fiance and I have been based in Providence, Rhode Island (he's teaching at a college nearby). The best part of being here has been getting to explore a part of the country that was totally new to us, including Boston -- a city I had only ever commuted through. So when the opportunity to go to the Independent Film Festival Boston came up we decided to make a trip out of it, packing our bags and heading north on the train. After all, is there a better way to get to know a city? Think about it: you spend days with locals, make friends with the ticket takers, drink at neighborhood bars, mark up your film schedule at the corner coffee shop and master the city's subway system.
When I arrived Friday afternoon and first set eyes on the filmmaker's lounge I knew it was going to be a good weekend. The lounge had the most thoughtfully curated and well-stocked snack tables I have ever seen, from prosciutto, fruit and cheese to homemade pie! No joke -- the festival staff even baked muffins and cooked soup for the filmmakers! How cool is that?
The first film I saw on Friday was a documentary called Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters which follows the acclaimed photographer on his 10-year journey to create a series of surreal portraits of small-town America. Crewdson is known for his complicated, painstaking setups which often involve the equipment and crew you would associate with a major motion picture: grip trucks, steam machines, cranes and all. More than just a portrait of an artist, the film really captured the whole arc of the creative process through the eyes of the artist. To an outsider Crewdson may seem like a maniac, but to those of us who work in creative fields, especially editing, it's not hard to relate to his OCD and relentless pursuit of perfection. One of the most interesting moments in the film was when we started to see what goes into the post-production of his elaborate photographs. The IFFB audience was palpably disappointed to learn that in spite of his dogged quest for 'the perfect image,' in the end, he often uses a composite of multiple takes. Maybe it's disappointing because we hope he would pursue the post-production of his images with the same purity and evangelism he uses to shoot his images. Does it sully the finished product somehow to know that ultimately he had to 'manipulate' it in order to obtain his much sought after ideal?
Later that evening, I went to see Detropia, edited by my dear friend Enat Sidi, who received the editing award at this year's Sundance for her work. (Enat worked closely with me as an advisor on Bully.) I had seen a rough cut of the film last year but I was pumped to see it finished -- and I was floored. It's truly a stunning example of documentary editing at its best. It is nothing less than a visual poem. It bestows on Detroit a sort of dignity, even nobility, as its inhabitants attempt to salvage meaning and grace out of the rubble of its blighted neighborhoods. Also Erin Casper, last year's KSFEF, was an associate editor on the film. Go Enat and Erin!
Another film that I really enjoyed watching, despite the nagging frustration that there wasn't enough breath between the interviews, was Joe Berlinger's Under African Skies, a doc about the controversy stirred when Paul Simon teamed up with local musicians in Johannesburg to make his iconic Graceland album. Simon was accused of being a cultural opportunist and exploiting African musicians. Alternatively, others argued he helped showcase the work of musicians subjugated under apartheid, who would otherwise never have been heard. The film's archival footage is AMAZING... but I wanted more of it! (For a taste of what I'm talking about, check out this incredible clip of the super rad Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes live on SNL in 1986... and turn up the volume.)
Apart from the movie-watching, the other highlights of the weekend were the KSFEF mixer, held at a bar near the theater where I got to meet board members Lewis Wheeler and Ann Kim, as well as one of Karen's best friends Lucia Small. And the following day KSFEF sponsored a fantastic panel called "Editing the Documentary" which featured Jen Fineran, editor of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry; Andy Robertson, editor of We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists; Kevin Belli, editor of The List and was moderated by Bill Anderson, an editor who was also a dear friend of Karen's. I was really happy to get to meet all of these wonderful people and felt proud to be representing the KSFEF in a place where Karen had spent many years living and working.
Thanks to Adam Roffman and the rest of the magnificent, ALL-VOLUNTEER (!!!) staff of IFBB for putting on an awesome, down-to-earth festival with a great lineup and a rockin' opening night dance party!