The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to help NYC recover from the WTC attack. The 2018 edition reminds us that the buildings came down 17 years ago. One way to mark it isThe Proposal about Mexican architect Luis Barragan (1902–1988). After his death, his archives were sold to Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra, a gift for his bride-to-be, Federica Zanco. They formed the Barragan Foundation, Switzerland, that “owns the copyright in all works—houses, buildings, developments, urban interventions, gardens, landscapes, images, sketches, plans, photographs, texts, manuscripts, films and other media—created by Luis Barragán. In 2013, artist Jill Magid became interested in Barragan’s colorful, lean architecture. She wrote Zanco requesting access, and was turned down (as are virtually all overtures); their correspondence becomes a narrative feature of the film. So she comes up with a proposition: with the family’s permission, Magid exhumes the architect’s cremated remains, takes 525 grams of ash, and crushes them into a 2-carat diamond, set into an engagement ring. This is proffered to Zanco, in exchange for the archives’ return to Mexico. It’s a replacement for Felbaum’s wedding gift. So far, Zanco has not accepted the proposal. In Amateurs, a fictional Swedish factory town is in decline. The prospect of German big box store, Superbilly, locating there initiates a campaign against a rival town known for potatoes. Two best friends, Aida of Iraqi heritage, and Dana, whose is Turkish/Yugoslav, make a film about their multi-ethnic town, and question whether a store selling shoddy goods made by cheap labor is a prize worth winning. Virtual Arcade, the digital gallery that shows VR, AR, MR and 360° video, showed works suggesting ways to express architecture. Biidaaban: First Light projects a future Toronto after a cataclysm, still recognizable — City Hall (1899 old building and Viljo Revell’s 1998 curved towers) and Osgoode station — but overgrown. Signs of life are apparent, so all is not lost. Poetry in native tongues speak of living in nature. Photographs and architectural models generate this city of the future. Laurie Anderson’s Chalkroom (also on display at Mass MoCA) “in which the reader flies through an enormous structure made of words, drawings and stories” that Anderson says “define the space.” She says, “Words sail through the air as emails. They fall into dust. They form and reform.” Fire Escape: An Interactive VR Series is an updated Hitchcockian Rear Window, where you peer into apartments in gentrifying Brooklyn from a fire escape. Vignettes show us the lives of a lesbian couple, an older black man, and a millennial, while the brash landlord discusses circumventing building inspectors with the super. Hero thrusts you into a Syrian own square teeming with life until a bomb falls. You feel the earth shake and a hot wind blow across your face. You then follow the screams of a trapped child, inching along a precipice and although you want to rescue, you cannot. It’s a visceral, disturbing experience that allow us to experience space without being there. Objects in Mirror AR Closer Than They Appear is an immersion of domestic and office objects, laced with AR technology that permit exploration of this playground of memory and things. Short films tackled the built environment. Saul’s 108th Story is the tale of an Empire State Building window washer. Hula Girl, the 94-year old Australian woman who brought this 1960s classic design to the U.S., only to have the invention stolen from her, can still twirl. Another design icon is I Heart NY, Milton Glaser’s classic logo created when the ailing city needed love. Fire in Cardboard City is an animated tale of saving a metropolis from incineration. Cardboard is used in Paper Roof, where two sisters build a house to escape their troubled family life. Brooklyn Breeze is a romp through the borough to a Dreamland Orchestra soundtrack. Brooklyn locals, the Mafia, help a young evicted woman in So You Like the Neighborhood. Cassandra Bromfield chronicles her Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative in Brooklyn since 1985 in Into My Life. Cosmic Debris is a Hungarian animator’s unexpected friendship with his idol, Frank Zappa, and 9 @ 38 is the attempt to play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Korean border. Visual and fashion arts were represented by The Man Who Stole Banksy about a scheme to extract a Banksy mural from a wall in Palestine to sell to the highest bidder; The Gospel According to André on the black, gay fashion icon, and his Jim Crow-era North Carolina background; the fashion maverick Alexander McQueen, who broke rules until his death in 2007; and Mapplethorpe, on photographer of both BDSM and flowers, who died at 42 of AIDS, was complemented by the documentary Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, on the photographer and his partner/patron. Films on music were deeply satisfying. Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA chronicles the creative process of the composer of the Oscar and Grammy winner (The Last Emperor) creating his album async (2017). “Before Oprah, Before Arsenio, There was Mr. Soul!” the 1968-1973 PBS black Tonight Show, steered by Ellis Haizlip. It mixed black culture with politics, with guests Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, Ashford and Simpson, Al Green, Muhammad Ali and Arsenio Hall, many for the first time on screen. Another standout was Nico, 1988 a dramatic account of the lead singer of the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol superstar, during the last two years of her life. Danish actress Trine Dyrholm delivers a raw, arresting performance as this manic, worn-down talent goes on tour to save herself. Bathtubs over Broadway about Late Night with David Letterman writer Steve Young’s quest for “industrial musicals,” the full-scale Broadway-style productions for the annual meetings of GE, McDonald’s, Ford and Xerox (think Diesel Dazzle and My Bathroom) and featured performers Florence Henderson, Martin Short, and Chita Rivera, and songwriters Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (Fiddler on the Roof). Howard describes Broadway lyricist Howard Ashman, who with Alan Menken, wrote music for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before he died of AIDS at 40. Satan & Adam chronicles the unlikely partnership of one-man black blues band Sterling Magee (James Brown, Ray Charles) and white harmonica player Adam Gussow, who met on the street in 1986. Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes profiles the record label founded in 1939 by German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff who believed in music as a revolutionary force, that presented Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Norah Jones. Songwriter tracks the making of Ed Sheerin’s album + (2017). The Velvet Underground Played at My High School recounts the band’s first performance at a NJ high school in 1965. The literary and performative arts were represented by Mary Shelley, portrayed by Elle Fanning, as the author of Frankenstein; Rise of A Star, on the making of a ballet at the Paris Opera Paris (Catherine Deneuve plays the company head); Together, a 360° video of two male dancers; the documentary Every Act of Life on playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class , Love! Valour! Compassion! ; Love, Gilda a doc on the SNL comic; and You Shall Not Sleep, an unnerving feature about a theater performance in a disused mental asylum that hold secret in its walls. 9 @ 38, director Catherine K. Lee Amateurs, director Gabriela Pichler Bathtubs over Broadway, director Dava Whisenant Biidaaban: First Light, Project Creators Lisa Jackson, Mathew Borrett, Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, director James Crump Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, director Sophie Huber Brooklyn Breeze, director Alex Budovsky Chalkroom, Project Creators Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang Cosmic Debris, director Patrick Waldrop Every Act of Life, director Jeff Kaufman Fire Escape: An Interactive VR Series, Project Creators Vassiliki Khonsari, Navid Khonsari, Andres Perez-Duarte and Sam Butin Fire in Cardboard City, director Phil Brough The Gospel According to André, director Kate Novack Hero, Project Creators Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari and Brooks Brown Howard, director Don Hahn Hula Girl , directors Amy Hill, Chris Riess I Heart NY, director Andre Andreev Into My Life, directors Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling and Grace Remington Love, Gilda, director Lisa D'Apolito The Man Who Stole Banksy, director Marco Proserpio Mapplethorpe, director Ondi Timoner Mary Shelley, director Haifaa Al Mansour McQueen, directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui Mr. Soul!, directors Melissa Haizlip and Samuel Pollard Nico, 1988, Susanna Nicchiarelli Objects in Mirror AR Closer Than They Appear, Project Creators Graham Sack, Geoff Sobelle, John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser Paper Roof, director Judith Tong The Proposal, director Jill Magid Rise of A Star, director James Bort Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA, director Stephen Nomura Schible Satan & Adam, director V. Scott Balcerek Saul’s 108th Story, director Joshua Carlon So You Like the Neighborhood, director Jean Pesce Songwriter, director Murray Cummings Together, Project Creator The Factory at Facebook The Velvet Underground Played at My High School, directors Robert Pietri and Tony Jannelli You Shall Not Sleep, director Gustavo Hernandez
Posts tagged with "Tribeca Film Festival":
At Tribeca’s “immersive” Virtual Arcade, the virtual reality (VR) film The People’s House offered a tour of the public and private rooms of the White House with tour guides Barack and Michelle Obama. Highlighting artifacts and artworks as the embodiment of the philosophies and policies of their administration (Michelle cites Alma Thomas’s painting Resurrection, 1966, in the Old Family Dining Room), it is a stark reminder of how quickly life has changed. It was comforting to think that The People’s House is a vessel that will continue to change as administrations come and go. The following is a rundown of films and VR installations that use architecture and art that appeared at the recent festival, and that you should look out for. A few referred to the dilemma of finding or keeping housing in New York City. The Boy Downstairs finds Zosia Mamet’s character locating the perfect Brooklyn apartment when she returns to New York from a few years in London; her character is granted approval by the resident bohemian landlady who takes her under her wing, only to find that her ex-boyfriend is in the basement apartment. Will real estate triumph over emotional health? Black Magic for White Boys is an independently produced TV pilot where New York real estate plays a key role: a landlord is frustrated that he cannot raise his tenants’ rent, a magician hatches a devilish plan to save his small theater, and gentrification is causing an older version of New York to fade away. Permission finds woodworker Will (Dan Stevens) fixing up a brownstone for his long-time girlfriend Anna (Rebecca Hall), to whom he can’t quite propose. As they begin to experiment with other people, Will’s handmade furniture and house are no longer creating a home. I LIVED: Brooklyn investigates the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. If you missed Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory, its segments have been woven into a film featuring Cate Blanchett playing different characters (newscaster, homeless man, puppeteer, punk rocker) who deliver architecture manifestos by Bruno Taut (1920/21), Antonio Sant’Elia (1914), Coop Himmelb(l)au (1980), Robert Venturi (1993), as well artists’ manifestos including Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95, and others on Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Situationism, Merz, Spatilaism, and The Blau Rider written by Tristan Tzara, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and others. Artist Laurie Simmons stars in her directorial debut, My Art. Although her character has been able to sustain her life as an artist by teaching, she has not broken out, while her students (real life daughter Lena Dunham’s character, for example) and friends have. She accepts the summer loan of a gracious summer house, complete with gardens and pool, and spends the summer making films that recreate Hollywood films. These finally give her both the satisfaction and attention she craves. Scenes take place at the Whitney Museum and Salon 94 Bowery. Shadowman is Richard Hambleton, a street artist who was part of a trio that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s whose work appeared all around New York City streets. The other two became art stars, their work came inside to galleries and was widely collected, and both died young (drug overdose and AIDS). Although Hambleton at first attained commercial and critical success—featured in LIFE magazine, and with works displayed at the Venice Biennale—he spun out with homelessness and an addiction to heroin. The film chronicles his rediscovery and a planned comeback, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with Hambleton still painting his mesmerizing shadow-like figures. Movingly, he says that although he is still alive while his fellow artists are not, he is the waking dead. What a contrast to Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, which chronicles this confident, gregarious artist and filmmaker from his childhood in Brooklyn and Brownsville, Texas, through his rise as a Neo-Expressionist painter (remember his plate paintings?). Schnabel came to be acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot-tall pink Venetian-styled house in the West Village called Palazzo Chupi) as he moved into filmmaking (Basquiat, 1995, Before Night Falls, 2000, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007). We have access to Schnabel and to friends and colleagues Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. Schnabel is one of many art luminaries who appear in Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World which lifts the curtain on the art world economy, or the glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce where art is created, exhibited, and sold. Museum directors (Glenn Lowry, Michael Govan), collectors (Michael Ovitz), auctioneers (Simon de Pury, Amy Cappelazzo, Lisa Dennison), gallerists (Iwan Wirth, Andrea Rosen), artists (Rashid Johnson, Marina Abramowitz), and many more, appear. Another crash and burn, but with a comeback, is Zac Posen in House of Z, the name of his fashion house. Son of an artist father, he attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with Stella Schnabel, Paz de la Huerta, Claire Danes, and Jemima Kirk, for whom he created outfits. He rose quickly at age 21, then his brand fell out of favor and his challenge was to rebuild his company and his reputation in a tenuous dance between art and commerce. More consistent is Hilda, a short about octogenarian Hilda O’Connell who has been making art since the 1950s. She started in a studio on 10th St. alongside Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick, and Esteban Vicente, and showed at the Aegis Gallery. She continues to make paintings that use language and alphabets in colorful, gestural work. At Tribeca Immersive, in Apex we see a city withstand a violent windstorm created by a looming sun. The viewer is surrounded by buildings being whipped by the elements. Island of the Colorblind is inspired by Pingelap, a tropical island in Micronesia with an extraordinarily high percentage of achromatopsia (complete colorblindness), a highly hereditary condition. The filmmaker says, “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it. If the colorblind people paint with their mind, how would they color the world, the trees, themselves?” The Island of the Colorblind consists of three kinds of images; ‘normal’ digital black and white photos, infrared images, and photo-paintings. Together they are symbolic attempts to visualize how the colorblind people see the world. A highlight is Hallelujah, which reimagines Leonard Cohen’s song. The experience is centered around a five-part a cappella arrangement sung by one singer with a wide vocal range in-the-round. As you rotate your head to view each rendition, the directional sound moves with you. Hallelujah employs Lytro Immerge, which enables live action VR content to behave as it does in the real world. The opening night film was Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which profiles the music impresario behind the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and more. Best Documentary Feature, Cinematography and Editing prizes went to Bobbi Jene, which follows dancer Bobbi Jene Smith’s return to the U.S. after starring for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. Also of note are: Blues Planet: Triptych, which explores music written in response to the Gulf Oil spill and performed by Taj Mahal; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is about the screen siren who was also an inventor; actors John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale dialogue on the vital subject of hair in the aptly-named Hair; Letter to the Free is about jazz behind bars; New York is Dead depicts artists who become hitmen to ear money; Nobody’s Watching is about a successful actor in Argentina who can’t get noticed in New York; Tom of Finland is about cult artist Touko Laaksonen who comes to Los Angeles; King of Peking is about a pirate movie company run by a 1990s projectionist in Beijing; When God Sleeps is about exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi living under a fatwa after terrorist attacks in Europe; and two films are about war photographers, Hondros and Shooting War. And I was charmed by Auto, which takes on self-driving cars: an Ethiopian immigrant driver with 40 years experience is forced to “drive” one and picks up a couple more accustomed to the service with amusing consequences. The People’s House, project creators Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios) The Boy Downstairs, directed and written by Sophie Brooks Black Magic for White Boys, director Onur Tukel Permission, director and writer by Brian Crano I LIVED: Brooklyn, project creators Jonathan Nelson and Danielle Andersen Manifsto, director and writer Julian Rosefeldt My Art, director and writer Laurie Simmons Shadowman, director and cinematographer Oren Jacoby Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, director and writer Pappi Corsicato Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, director and writer Barry Avrich House of Z, director and writer Sandy Chronopoulos Hilda, director and writer Kiira Benzing Apex, project creator Arjan van Meerten Island of the Colorblind, project creator Sanne De Wilde Hallelujah, project creators Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar, Within, Lytro Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, director Chris Perkel Bobbi Jene, director and writer by Elvira Lind Blues Planet: Triptych, director and writer Wyland Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, director and writer Alexandra Dean Hair, director John Turturro Letter to the Free, director and cinematographer Bradford Young Nobody’s Watching, director and writer Julia Solomonoff Tom of Finland, director Dome Karukoski King of Peking, director and writer Sam Voutas When God Sleeps, director and writer Till Schauder Hondros, director and writer Greg Campbell Shooting War, director Aeyliya Husain Auto, project creator Steven Schardt
The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, now in its 15th year, featured a wide array of films on architecture, art, and design, many soon coming to a screen near you. They range from profiles of artists Maurizio Cattelan, Elizabeth Murray, and Chris Burden to feature films that use architecture in unexpected ways: a futurist feature film called Equals showcases buildings by Tadao Ando, High-Rise is set in a Brutalist apartment block modeled on Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower in London, and Tom Hanks starrer A Hologram for the King is sited in new, incongruous modern economic incubator structures in a remote desert locale. Equals, starring Kristen Stewart, portrays the ATMOS collective, a seeming utopia. To create a zen atmosphere that keeps workers calms and productive, the filmmakers chose locations in Japan and Singapore featuring elegant minimalism and lush surroundings that evoke a reborn world. Director Drake Doremus asked “If we could start over and do things right this time, what sort of aesthetic would we create?” They chose the Awaji Yumebutai Conference Center on Awaji Island near Osaka, designed by Tadao Ando, which features the poetic use of concrete; the Sayamaike Museum, also near Osaska and by Ando, where water interacts with light; and Nagaoka University of Technology. In Singapore, the floorplans of Daniel Libeskind’s Reflections Tower apartments were recreated on a soundstage. (Production designer Tino Schaedler trained as an architect and worked for Libeskind). Equals opens with Nicholas Hoult’s character in bed in his spartan, all-white apartment with panoramic views. He emerges, slides the sleeping unit into the wall which vanishes from view. With the push of a button, the kitchen pod slides out. When he gets dressed in the ATMOS collective’s standard cream-colored uniform, the closet pod rolls out. It’s a rational, sleek solution, like living on a ship. However, this is a world where physical contact and emotional bonds are forbidden, and those who have impulses are diagnosed as diseased. Once again, modern architecture symbolizes evil in film. A rather different, futuristic vision is depicted in A Hologram for the King. Based on Dave Eggers’s book, Tom Hanks’s character Alan Clay, in financial distress after the Great Recession of 2008, goes to Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic teleconferencing system to the king. Taking hours-long daily drives from Jeddah to the surreal ghost town KAEC or “King Abdullah’s Economic City” (dubbed “King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade” in the film), we see vacant skyscrapers and half-completed construction projects. Denied permission to shoot in Saudi Arabia, the filmmakers shot in Morocco where they created this new city from scratch, and exaggerated all the elements for effect. Director Tom Tykwer said, “The real place has a handful of big buildings and connecting streets, so we down-scaled that into this absurd kind of roundabout street system that circles about itself.” It is what an aspirational culture deems a prosperous, modern city. What was considered futuristic when J.G. Ballard wrote High-Rise in 1975 was the recently completed brutalist Trellick Tower by Erno Goldfinger, although rather than its true location in West London, the fictional high-rise is located at One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, Docklands. Forming the basis for the film, Ballard’s high-rise seemingly offers all the conveniences of modern life in one structure—swimming pool, school, supermarket, high-speed elevators—but the isolated world has its own social order that quickly degenerates. As power fails, amenities are unequally distributed with the poorer lower-floor dwellers losing out to the richer residents above, culminating in the top floor penthouse with vast private gardens occupied by the building’s architect, played by Jeremy Irons. Bedlam ensues. Shot in Belfast, Northern Ireland, key locations are the Bangor Leisure Centre designed by Hugo Simpson in 1970, the Old Stena Terminal on Ballast Quay whose foyer was inspired by Corbusier, the Ashby Building at Queen’s University and Kilroot Business Park. In another social experiment, graphic designer Stegan Sagmeister turns himself into a design project in The Happy Film. His exhibition Six Things at the Jewish Museum in 2013, originating as The Happy Show at the ICA Philadelphia, began the process. Sagmeister tries to achieve greater happiness by redesigning his personality through three controlled experiments: meditation, therapy, and drugs. The journey exposes deeply personal, raw emotions and realities with failed relationships amid professional successes. The opposite is true of the elusive protagonist of Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back. The “Cattelan” who is interviewed is actually a stand-in, Artistic Director of the New Museum, Massimiliano Gioni, in a ruse that is in keeping with Cattelan’s prankish artworks. If you saw his 2011-12 exhibition at the Guggenheim, Maurizio Cattelan: All where his entire output was suspended in the rotunda, and he declared his retirement from art—revoked by his recently announced 18K gold fully functional toilet at the museum titled Maurizio Cattelan: America (and Enter at Your Own Risk—Do Not Touch, Do Not Feed, No Smoking, No Photographs, No Dogs, Thank You, 1994/2016 with its live donkey at this year’s Frieze)—you will recognize this subversive artist. Chris Burden, in an interview before his death in 2015 in Burden, helps illuminate this art maverick, probably best known for Shoot (1971), a performance where a bullet penetrated his arm, and led to his reputation as the “Evel Knievel of the art world.” He moved from 2-D to 3-D to performance art, seeing that motion could push the art forward. The film’s focus is primarily on his 1970s output, with a coda to his last pieces, Urban Light (2008) street lamps permanently installed outside LACMA, and Ode to Santos Dumont his lyrical last work honoring an early aviator that gently flies inside the gallery. Another artist is interviewed in her final days in Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray, where the fallout from her cancer is on full display, as she works towards a retrospective at MoMA. Her diary entries are read by Meryl Streep. Other documentaries included The Banksy Job about art terrorist Andy Link or AK47 of “Art Kieda” who steals graffiti artist Banksy’s sculpture The Drinker, a parody of Rodin’s The Thinker; Reset on the making Benjamin Millepied’s dance Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward with music by Nico Muhly, for the Paris Opera Ballet just before his sudden departure as Director of Dance; Strike a Pose on the mostly gay dancers in Madonna’s Truth or Dare tour during the height of the AIDS epidemic; Taylor and Ultra on the ‘60s, The Factory and Being a Warhol Superstar featuring Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet just before their deaths; and Artists of Skid Row on an L.A. artist who paints the future he hopes for. Films: Equals, Drake Doremus, director. Release on Direct TV May 26 - June 29, theatrical release July 15 A Hologram for the King, director Tom Tykwer. In limited release High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley. Release May 13 The Happy Film, directors Stefan Sagmeister, Ben Nabors, Hillman Curtis Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, director Maura Axelrod Burden, directors Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray, director Kristi Zea The Banksy Job, directors Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey Reset, directors Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai Strike a Pose, directors Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan Taylor and Ultra on the ‘60s, The Factory and Being a Warhol Superstar, director Brian Bayerl Artists of Skid Row, director Tyson Sadler
The recent 2014 Tribeca Film Festival screened a remarkable number of films on displacement. People were displaced from their homes—often forced but sometimes voluntary—for financial reasons, discrimination, landlord harassment (or irritation), and natural disasters. In the film Below Dreams, which takes place in New Orleans, a character says “Everybody needs a room.” Here are a few seekers. An arts colony of puppeteers, performers, acrobats, and magicians live in the Kathputli Colony in the Shadipur neighborhood of central New Delhi in a 50-year old shanty town built on government land. Tomorrow We Disappear follows Puran the Puppeteer, Rahman the Magician, and Maya the Acrobat as their way of life is threatened. The land they live on has been deeded to a developer who plant to build Raheja Phoenix, the city’s tallest skyscraper. What distinguishes this population is that they are working artists, not beggars. It’s a universal problem—think of the evicted residents of Carnegie Hall studios.The poignancy of their problem and the limited solutions offered are palpable. A true New York real estate and relationship story is Love is Strange (screenshot at top), where a long-time gay couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) marry, promoting the firing of the main breadwinner by the Catholic school where he teaches music. Forced to sell their beloved apartment, which they bought when it went coop after decades of renting, they wind up with a mere $17,000 after the 25 percent flip tax, broker’s fee, and sales tax, so they wind up living separately, bunking in with friends and family, in very unhappy circumstances. They apply for subsidized housing, instructed to do so directly to developers for low-income apartments in mandated set-asides awarded by lottery (they qualify by making less than $20,000 between the two). By chance they score a rent-controlled $1,500/month apartment on Morton Street, but by then it’s too late for them. One Year Lease (winner Best Documentary Short) chronicles the short-lived stay of a gay couple in a Manhattan apartment they’ve lovingly fixed up. The building is owned by a persistent, unintentionally funny landlady who lives directly above, and who we only hear on the many voicemail messages she leaves. First friendly, if intrusive—she worries about their cat, wants their discards—she grows more irritated as they clearly ignore her requests/demands. They flee after one short year due to nudging. Filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski grew up at 70 Hester Street, a former Roumanian synagogue (Congregation Shaarey Shamoyim) cum illegal whisky still cum raincoat and plastic shower curtain factory that his artist parents, Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins, rented in 1967. The 1860-1880 (date uncertain) building was sold in 2012 forcing his parents to vacate. The two-storied apartment, with the railed upper balcony floor for Jewish women worshipers and the lower floor for men, round stained glass star window and skylights, is filled with art, and is a loving reminder of a rich, happy life lived here. At least the building is slated to become gallery and cafe space. Of Many is the story of a rabbi and an imam, both at NYU, who work together to catalyze multi-faith collaborations between their student worshipers. The safe space they find is rebuilding homes after natural disasters in New Orleans and Joplin, Missouri: disaster knocks down the house, and then it breaks downing barriers. The Gaza strip, however, proves more difficult. Also of interest is Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary. In addition to Bjarke Ingels talking about his Lego Towers (exhibited at Storefront) and his upcoming Lego Museum, we also meet Adam Reid Tucker, a self-proclaimed “failed architect” who is now the firm’s architectural artist. On his own steam, he crafted a architectural landmarks in Legos that was noticed by the firm which decided to create sets for sale called Lego Architecture. They now include the Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, Empire State Building, Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, Sydney Opera House and more. Other Lego projects that focus on the built environment are the MIT City Scene Project which is “visioning” Cambridge, Mass, and Zoom, an educational mapping program being used in Brazil and elsewhere. A few films make use of interesting architectural settings: In Order of Disappearance features a Modernist cast-concrete and stone house in Norway as the home of a mob boss (what is it with Modernism as a symbol of villainy?) with armchairs of molded women’s faces pointing outward and a room filled with white hand sculptures, which is contrasted with another mob boss’s headquarters in a prop rental house full of chandeliers, wooden bureaus, vitrines, and tables. A nearby unnamed city has new skyscrapers with different building tops, some stepped, some sloped, set against a snowy white backdrop. Incident Urbain features two men talking about the Dominique Perrault Building, the Biblioteque Nacional, as they wander through it. There is much discussion about the use of glass and the cinema Perrault was forced to build under protest, while the film intercuts between architectural models and the built buildings. Back home, Match begins with Patrick Stewart’s dance teacher giving instruction at Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s Juilliard rehearsal rooms at Lincoln Center. He goes home to Inwood with shots of an arched subway station entrance, a flight of pedestrian steps, and rooftops vistas of the George Washington Bridge.
As Spring approaches, perhaps in the spirit of rejuvenation, the New York City Council has unanimously approved plans to revitalize Manhattan's Pier 57, the historic pier located at 15th Street and the Hudson River. In 2009 architecture firm Young Woo & Associates set in motion a plan to transform the Pier into a multi-use cultural, retail, and restaurant hub, and, with the City Council's approval in hand, the developers can finally begin the long-awaited redevelopment of the pier. Pier 57 was built in 1952 by Emil Praeger. At the time of construction the engineer received great acclaim for his pioneering design—the Pier floats on three buoyant hollow concrete boxes that were flooded down the river. The new plan to restore the historic landmark conserves the original framing while renovating the 375,000 square feet of interior and rooftop space. While Young Woo & Associates would not release new renderings of the updated design, previous renderings hint at what may be in store. The plan’s most enticing design feature involves the repurposing of sixty 160-square-foot "Incuboxes," or shipping containers, which will be leased to artisans and merchants for $3,000 a month and used for retail and restaurant space. Additionally, the new plans call for adding an amphitheater and a marketplace featuring recycled airplane fuselages that will serve as food kiosks and performance spaces. A public green rooftop, “Sky Park,” will offer waterfront views of the river and New Jersey and will be used to host exhibitions and performances, as well a serve as the Tribeca Film Festivals permanent outdoor venue. Construction of the new and improved Pier 57 is expected to begin in October, with completion targeted for 2015. Hudson River Park Trust Chairperson Diana Taylor said in a statement, “I am so pleased that this project which is so vital to the Park can now go forward. This new Pier will include sorely needed open spaces for Park visitors and will result in much needed revenue to help operate and maintain the Park to the high standards we have come to expect."
Susan Morris sends along her recommendations for the Tribeca Film fest, which ends Sunday, including her favorite, My Queen Karo, above. For those interested in films that include architecture, a number of entries in the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival may be of perplexing interest. Striking, in particular, is the number of films where homes are the sights of hothouse mayhem. Here’s my guide to who did what to whom and, above all, where. It’s moving day in the wry Academy Award-winning short The New Tenants (directed by Joachim Back) for a bickering yet loving gay couple who move into a drab apartment in an outer borough. Unbeknownst to them, a murder has taken place there, and, one-by-one, the oddball characters who reveal the apartment’s grizzly history are the un-welcome wagon that disrupts their lives. Dream Home (directed by Pang Ho-cheung) with the tag line is “What would you do, if someone blocked your view?” takes the greedy building bubble of high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong to an extreme. Purportedly based on a true story, a woman whose life has been shaped by the teardowns that destroyed her childhood neighborhood and replaced it with massive high-rises (and where gangs assist the government in ejecting tenants). Her compulsive aspiration is to acquire an apartment in the building that replaced her childhood home with a view of Victoria Harbour. This desire leads to a calculated murderous rampage. The director said she’s “killing astronomical property prices….[in a] bloody protest against the property developers who continuously inflate Hong Kong’s housing market,” only to be thwarted by the subprime mortgage crisis once she acquires her flat. Even the opening title sequence is laced with blueprints in three languages. Open House (directed by Andrew Paquin) begins with a realtor touting the spatial flow of a cold, sterile house to prospective buyers. The house soon becomes a prison for the owner after a psychopathic house hunter hides in the basement during the open house event, and entraps her in the crawl space while he plays house with his girlfriend. The director wanted to explore impulses “even darker than the physical horror of home invasion.” The Disappearance of Alice Creed (directed by J Blakeson) is a DIY guide for converting an abandoned apartment into a soundproof, secure kidnapping lair. Inspiration came from David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER where lovers borrow a friend’s apartment for a tryst that in turn inspired Billy Wilder’s more cynical THE APARTMENT where a striver lends out his place for multiple flings and films in general, said the director, that are “based around one location – Repulsion, Shallow Grave, The Shining and so on. That sense of growing unease you get from The Shining really inspired me.” My pick is My Queen Karo (directed by Dorothée van den Berghe) that sensitively mines the director’s own experiences growing up in a utopian squat in 1970s Amsterdam. Parents Raven and Dalia with their 10-year old daughter Karo leave Belgium for Holland to start a commune based on shared money, shared ideals, shared sex, and a commitment to a redistribution of realty by ending property ownership. Inside the loft they commandeer, even the space is shared; it is only demarcated, at Karo’s request, by a taped-off outline on the floor delineating her “room.” The squat veers from being a shelter to theater set to fortress. In addition, there’s Please Give (directed by Nicole Holofcener) with its almost mainstream cast including Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. Kate (Keener) and Alex (Platt) have purchased the next-door apartment in their Lower Fifth Avenue building, which is still inhabited by the crotchety, elderly Andra. While they await the moment they can enlarge their home, the couple work in their 10th Avenue store specializing in mid-century modern furniture purchased from “the children of dead people” who sell off their deceased parents’ possessions. In Every Day (directed by Richard Levine), a television writer who works at the Steiner Studios in the Brookyn Navy Yard, enjoys her lucrative recompense in a penthouse apartment atop the Hotel on Rivington. Short films of interest include Walkway (by Ken Jacobs), an expressionistic rendering of a wooden walkway that throws out the notion of terra firma; Collision of Parts (by Mark Street) a kaleidoscope of New York City and other urban streetscapes with facades set in motion while walking, running and driving; and Berlin (by Martin Laporte), comprised of B&W and color stills of the city depicting symbols of workers on building facades, transportation structures (train and metro stations), graffiti covered doorways, statuary, and spontaneous public art.