Did You See This?

“Let’s Be Scared All the Time”

Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (1972)

While we’ve been gathering a little perspective on last month’s edition of Cannes—see, for example, the recent reflections from Film Comment’s Devika Girish and James Wham in the Baffler, and, at Reverse Shot, notes on the festival’s queer-themed movies from Juan Barquin as well as a conversation between programmers Eric Hynes and Edo Choi—the festival world was rocked on Tuesday by news of the impending departure of Sundance director Tabitha Jackson just over two years after she took over from longtime director John Cooper. Jackson guided Sundance through two of its most tumultuous editions, taking the festival online during some of the darkest days of the pandemic in the winter of 2021 and making a last-minute shift to a hybrid event earlier this year as the Omicron wave peaked.

In other festival news, Il Cinema Ritrovato programmers have written up a guide to this year’s edition, set to take place in Bologna from June 25 through July 3, and Locarno has announced that it will present a career achievement award to Costa-Gavras during its seventy-fifth edition (August 3 through 13).

Before we sample a few of the week’s highlights, let’s take a moment to remember Julee Cruise, the singer best remembered for her work with David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti, and especially for her ethereal renditions of “Mysteries of Love” in Blue Velvet and “Falling,” the vocal version of the theme for Twin Peaks. Cruise, who was sixty-five when she passed away on Thursday, also covered Elvis Presley’s “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” for the soundtrack of Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World.

  • In Sarah Maldoror’s landmark first feature, Sambizanga (1972), an Angolan woman, Maria (Elisa Andrade), goes looking for her husband, a revolutionary who has been arrested by Portuguese colonial authorities. Writing for Metrograph’s Journal, Chrystel Oloukoi observes that the ensemble of the film is “not the able-bodied masculinist vanguard of the revolution, as one might easily expect, but women, children, the disabled, the elderly, the unattended, and the unaccounted for . . . Few filmmakers embodied so fully the ambition of a cinema without borders, inflected by socialist and Pan-African ideals.”

  • Introducing his interview with Wayne Wang for the New Yorker, Hua Hsu calls Chan Is Missing (1982) “a masterpiece of ’80s independent film, and it remains one of the most profound meditations on immigrant identity ever made.” Wang talks about growing up in Hong Kong in the ’50s, living in the ’60s on a ranch in Northern California where Joan Baez and Jerry Garcia would swing by, and challenging himself with each new feature. “For me, it’s facing failure, facing not knowing what you’re doing,” he says. “Let’s be scared all the time. I think being scared is important.”

  • Programer Aily Nash has edited the new issue of Non-Fiction, the journal from London’s Open City Documentary Festival. Nash has asked contributors “to respond to how the political is enacted through form,” and she talks with artist Diane Severin Nguyen, who tells her, “I really see victimhood as an impetus to transformation.” Filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh writes that the crust of the earth “acts as the borderline between being and non-being for the living,” and James N. Kienitz Wilkins (The Plagiarists) reads his contribution, “Real Property,” out loud.

  • Film Studies for Free, Catherine Grant’s outstanding guide to open access resources, has returned after a break of a few years with an entry rounding up links to essays and interviews related to Julia Leyda and Kathleen Loock’s new audiovisual essay, “Climate Fictions, Dystopias, and Human Futures.” In just over ten minutes, Leyda and Locke present a guide to the themes and narrative strategies of cli-fi milestones, beginning with such precursors as Planet of the Apes (1968) and Soylent Green (1973) and landing on one of last year’s most-derided yet most-watched movies, Adam McKay’s apocalyptic comedy Don’t Look Up.

  • For a new recurring feature, Passage, Sabzian is inviting critics, filmmakers, and cineastes to send in “a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.” The first three entries come from Adrian Martin, who gleans insight from a misremembering of a snippet from a sentence in a 1977 text on Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) by Raymond Bellour; Cristina Álvarez López, who draws from a passage of Chris Marker’s 1994 essay “A Free Replay (Notes on Vertigo)” observations on the power of fiction; and Romain Lefebvre, who suggests that we would do well to listen when people such as Roberto Rossellini and Jonas Mekas exaggerate.

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