Two years ago, the Cinema Eye Honors came up with the Hell Yeah! Prize specifically to recognize Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy, which had ultimately led, after 17 years, to the release of the West Memphis Three. And it’s apparently only an award to be given out if there’s someone and some films to deserve it. This year, they’ve chosen Josh Fox for his two Gasland documentaries.
The original Gasland was nominated in 2010 solely in the graphic design category, and it was surprising to see Gasland II not nominated at least for the new television-focused honor. Having them both celebrated in this way is therefore pretty great, unless of course you’re not on board with their anti-fracking cause. It is interesting that the honor makes it seem like an endorsement of one side of an issue whereas what the Paradise Lost trilogy was being recognized for was far less controversial or debatable.
But Cinema Eye is not giving the Hell Yeah! to Fox for the goal of his films so much as what they’ve already done. As CEH Founding Director AJ Schnack puts it, “His work is largely responsible for spurring a national debate on the issue of hydraulic fracking.” And it’s true. That’s the docs’ real power so far is they really did jump start that conversation for most Americans.
CEH also announced its five nominees for this year’s Heterodox Award this week. That’s their special prize to a work of fiction that “imaginatively incorporates nonfiction strategies, content and/or modes of production.” I’ve seen two of the films (Daniel reviewed another), and the lot is an interesting mix. So far, though I like Computer Chess more, I think Escape From Tomorrow features the most notable docu-like elements. Check out the nominees and their descriptions below.
Directed by Andrew Bujalski
Masterfully evoking the nerdy world of artificial intelligence engineers at a weekend computer chess convention, Andrew Bujalski’s 1980-set feature feels like a low-fi emissary from a pre-networked age. Shot in black-and-white on vintage video cameras, Computer Chess’s near-anthropological recreation is enormously witty — a loopy commentary on social ritual mediated by technology.
Escape From Tomorrow
Directed by Randy Moore
The copyrighted images of the Walt Disney Corporation are deliciously appropriated by Randy Moore for his comic fantasia, Escape from Tomorrow. Shot secretly using consumer DSLRs and a stealth crew at real Disney theme parks, the film is both a hilarious psychosexual comedy and, with its legal provocation, a demonstration of how our childhood memories are the stuff of intellectual property disputes.
Interior. Leather Bar.
Directed by James Franco and Travis Mathews
Some 40 minutes of gay S&M footage was purportedly deleted from William Friedkin’s 1980 feature Cruising, and it is this lost material that inspires Travis Matthews and James Franco’s Interior. Leather Bar. What initially feels like a behind-the-scenes documentary about the recreation of these scenes turns into something very different as the film plumbs issues of sexual anxiety, the cinematic history of gay representation and the power of celebrity.
Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho
The social strata of a Brazilian seaside high-rise are depicted with a hallucinatory tension in Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds. When a wealthy apartment complex — the director’s own — is hit by a series of crimes, a private security firm creates its own unease in a film that cooly captures a society amidst economic and cultural transformation.
Post Tenebras Lux
Directed by Carlos Reygadas
Boundaries between documentary and fiction, myth and autobiography are elided in Post Tenebras Lux, a seductively mysterious feature from Carlos Reygadas. A rich family moving to a mountainside home in a poor Mexican village face a series of psychic disruptions in this visually ravishing, deeply experimental work.