Saturday, June 2, 2007

Take Two Begins June 12th

The idea began with the desire to get some momentum going for our company, Direct Arts. Too broke to put up a show, we figured what we could do was mount a regular reading and screening series. Thus, Take Two! was born.

From now until we're too pooped to party, every 2nd Tuesday of the month, Direct Arts will present a reading and a screening of a short- and a full-length theater and film piece at Bar on A, 170 Avenue A & 11th Street, from 6pm-8pm.

The format of the evening will be one short piece followed by a full-length piece. Networking will be encouraged during intermission and after the event. The goal is to 1) provide a forum where people in both the theater and film industries can connect, 2) showcase work that explores the intersection of different ethnic and social groups, while 3) providing a showcase for some really great fringe indie artists.

The inaugural Take Two will set a precedent for this (hopefully) catalytic monthly event, with a screening of Nanobah Becker's short film CONVERSION and a reading of my script OBSOLESCENCE, with a phenomenal cast including Wai Ching Ho (ROBOT STORIES), Kathy Shao-Lin Lee (RED DOORS) and Omar Koury (BROWNTOWN).

Navajo/German filmmaker Nanobah Becker graduated from the Directing MFA program at Columbia University in 2006. Her senior thesis project, CONVERSION, won prizes at a host of native American film festivals including Best Short Film at the Cherokee International Film Festival, before being selected for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. inspired by an actual 1950s incident, CONVERSION tells the story of a catastrophic meeting between Christian missionaries and a Navajo medicine man in Ojo Encino on the Navajo reservation. Becker is currently working on a feature screenplay called FULL in which she explores traditional Navajo thinking about gender and sexuality through the story of a young, queer Navajo man trying to make it as a DJ in NYC.

Victoria Linchong's screenplay OBSOLESCENCE was also inspired by an actual incident. She was in a traffic jam on the FDR Drive, when she was amazed to see an old Chinese woman walking down the yellow line on the highway, oblivious to traffic. The script came to be about urban displacement in its story of a used bookseller who attempts to redeem his failures by helping an old Chinese woman suffering from dementia find her family. Meanwhile, the old woman's daughter confronts the past she renounced as she searched for her missing mother. OBSOLESCENCE passed the first round of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, was a "top contender for the Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus and is now a finalist in the Boston International Film Festival, where the grand prize is up to $500,000 towards full production. This first reading of the script will feature a fabulous multi- ethnic ensemble cast: Lori Tan Chinn, Casandra Kate Escobar, Robert Fitzsimmons, Wai-Ching Ho, Omar Koury, Kathy Shao-Lin Lee, Rosanne Ma, Jackson NIng and Tana Sarntinoranant.

So come one, come all - Tuesday, June 12th 6-8PM at Bar on A, corner of 11th Street and Avenue A. FREE!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Film Fests Flood NY

So it's FINALLY warm. The squirrel who uses the fire escape out the window as a highway looks a lot better - during the winter he was kind of mangy looking. I love the riotous colors of the new bright green leaves and purple pansies.

Tribeca Film Festival is over - an Israeli film, MY FATHER, MY LORD, took the $50,000 prize for Best Narrative Feature and a Mexican filmmaker, Enrique Begne, took the $25,000 prize for Best Narrative Filmmaker. I saw his film, TWO EMBRACES, and liked it, but really had issues with the cinematography. Grainy, shaky, handheld and way too close. My boyfriend and I were sitting in the third row and had to turn away a lot out of seasickness. There were nice performances in the film, which was a little like Wong Kar Wai or Jim Jarmusch set in Mexico, with lonely two sets of people in transitory hit-or-miss relationships. I preferred the second story, which was bascially about a cabbie's response to a guy who has a stroke in the back of his cab, but the first story, about two mismatched rebels without a cause, was also nicely realized. Haven't seen too many other films so can't say how it stacked up against other narratives. As far as it stacking up against current independent cinema, I thought it was very good, but not astonishing. Still, it beats Hollywood any day.

New York being what it is, more more more film events are on the horizon! It's hard to keep up with everything - who has the time or money??

Ken Watanabe will be at a screening of his new film MEMORIES OF TOMORROW on Thursday May 10 at 7:30

The Bicycle Film Festival will be in NY May 16-21

Subway Cinema's NY Asian Film Festival is coming up June 22 to July 8 - lots of really cool and wacky films including a 15th Anniversary screening of John Woo's HARD BOILED -

Me, I'm going to catch KILLER OF SHEEP before it disappears from IFC and Johnnie To's ELECTION at Film Forum I'm not one for creature features, but THE HOST over at Cinema Village looks pretty amazing Maybe I'll send my kid.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

New to New York

Today on the bus, two people who must be new to New York stood in front of me, carrying a whole cardboard tray of Dunkin Donuts coffees. Okay, so my question is, why they would choose to buy at Dunkin Donuts instead of at the organic coffee and cookie place two doors up the block? Don't they know that they are not only supporting a huge conglomerate that is threatening to chew up the character of the neighborhood, but also destroying the environment with FIVE jumbo styrofoam cups? Why would some character-less, plastic, fastfood franchise appeal to them more than a comfortable, neighborly place? Do they honestly believe that the coffee is better??? Or are they robots programmed to get coffee only in places that are registered in their regional American minds??? I don't understand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who's Street?

I’ve always thought of street signs as an indication of a healthy community. You know – those handbills with phone numbers on pull-off fringes at the bottom, calling for community meetings or offering babysitting services, wheat-pasted or taped to lampposts and bare sides of buildings. An ex-boyfriend used to chastise me for stopping in front of every streetlamp to read them. But as a born and bred New Yorker, keeping an eye out for noteworthy signs is something you train yourself to do. Over the years, I’ve found great subletters, my lost cat and incredibly cheap apartments through signs on the street. I also learned about underground events that I never would have otherwise heard about.

So I was surprised to learn that posting signs on New York City streets is actually illegal. Apparently, according to the New York City Sanitation Codes 10-117 through 10-122, “only city government agents can post signs or stickers on city property.” Offenders can be fined from $75 up to $250 for each poster.

The legalities of posting handbills touches on the issue of commercial speech versus free speech, which has been debated in the Supreme Court since 1942. But we’re talking about handbills posted by individuals, which are very different from those insanely profuse glossy ads created by large advertising companies to carpet bomb a community into consumer submission. Posting handbills is the mom-and-pop way of marketing, a time-honored tradition for small businesses and community activists – flyers for theatrical events have been around since Shakespeare’s time; political posters date back to the French Revolution and the Revolutionary War. Recently, however, city agencies have been intensifying their poster laws– Boston beefed up its ordinances in 2006, Hawaii in 2002, San Francisco in 1999, Arizona in 1998. Part of this is no doubt due to relatively new technologies such as Xeroxing and desktop publishing, which have suddenly made it possible for nearly anyone to produce flyers in far more copious quantities than ever in history. In my mind, though, the benefits of handbill posting are far deeper and more precious than the short-term (and easily solved) inconveniences of litter and marred lampposts.

New York City also toughened its poster law in 2003, upping the fine from $50 minimum to $75 minimum and giving both the Sanitation Department and the Police Department the right to subpoena telephone company records in order to get information on handbill posterers. The 2003 amendment also includes a “rebuttal presumption” that the person whose phone number appears on the handbill is responsible for its placement, directly counteracting Bob Z vs. Environmental Control Board, a 1991 New York State Supreme Court case, which ruled that it was unconstitutional to fine someone because his name was on an illegally placed poster. A few “concerned citizens” have also made it their duty to rip down posters in the name of city beautification. People who have an issue about street signs invariably say that it "cheapens the quality of life”.

The pervasiveness of that Giuliani slogan is alarmingly insidious. What quality is there to life if communication between people in their communities is regulated by city agencies? What those groups of “concerned citizens” don’t understand is how local grassroots communication needs to be nurtured in the face of giant corporations, whose presence in neighborhood streets increases as local businesses all but vanish. Block after block, on telephone kiosks and giant billboards, we see notices from the Gap, HBO, mega-clubs such as Roseland and Webster Hall, huge music companies such as Sony and BMG. Some of these are illegal too (there’s been a crackdown on posting on construction sites lately) but large corporations have the option for legal street advertisements on telephone kiosks and billboards, which are way above the means of small theaters, local rock bands, piano teachers, dog walkers and handymen, all of whom have little besides their own wits and are unable to compete if they are punished for their self-reliant marketing strategies. Not only do small businesses suffer, but cracking down on street posting also encourages isolation within communities, leading to the breakdown of community itself. There is little public benefit in punishing people for putting up signs looking for roommates or lost pets, or fining small bands for putting up flyers announcing their next gig. The streets reflect the community. Sanitizing them doesn’t increase the quality of life – it increases the quality of lifelessness.