Global Lens 2007 opened last night at the Walker Art Center. While it might have been cold and snowy outside, the Walker Cinema offered refuge with journeys to China and Algeria. From April 11–22 Walker hosts nine feature films from nine countries and a shorts program offering the same variety. Sponsored by the Global Film Initiative, Global Lens serves as a venue to emerging filmmaker and films that have little or no chance beyond the festival circuit. The past two years I have attended the series I have been amazed by the subtle power that these films. To their credit, the films are the complete antithesis of a Hollywood film, but as a result lack the marketability that is so important to distributors these days. The Global Film Initiative obviously plays by different rules, and provides much need support to international films that tend to fall through the cracks. I was curious about the series, so decided to ask Dean Otto, Walker Film/Video Assistant Curator, a few questions about the series:
KS: This is the fourth Global Lens and the third that the Walker has partnered with the Global Film Initiative. Was that first year impeded by the Walker expansion or were we late-comers to the series?
DO: Actually, this is the fourth time that we’ve partnered with the Global Film Initiative. We presented their first touring program in January 2004 and there was the break during the construction of the Walker expansion. We did some catch-up work though after we opened in screening two of the touring programs across one season in September 2005 and May 2006.
The Walker is one of fourteen U.S. partners with the Global Film Initiative. How did you first get in contact with the Global Film Initiative?
While he was still with Cowboy Booking, Noah Cowan (now the Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival) asked to meet with Cis Bierinckx and I during the Toronto Film Festival to ask if we would have any interest in being a site for the Global Lens series. As their mission was to support emerging filmmakers from developing countries, provide distribution to those films, and to create curriculum guides for a few of the films to encourage high school students to become engaged with international cinema and the issues raised in the films. We said yes immediately as it fit into our plans to focus on global programming and to screen work from emerging filmmakers and follow their work over the course of their careers. I was really drawn to the educational component as well. I really feel that many Americans can’t or won’t travel abroad and particularly to places outside of Europe . Though cinema, this may be the only way Americans can experience these other cultures and it’s essential to promote cross-cultural understanding.
The list of Board Members is impressive by anyone’s standards: Pedro Almodvar, Béla Tarr, Lars von Trier, and my favorite crazy man Christopher Doyle, just to name a few. How active are the Board members in finding and selecting films?
They are an advisory board who helps the GFI staff to identify emerging filmmakers and projects to consider for funding and distribution. I can find out more details of projects they’ve identified over dinner with GFI’s chair Susan Weeks Coulter who is visiting the Twin Cities today.
If the Global Film Initiative did not exist, what would happen to these films?
Many of the films would have languished unproduced or undistributed. Lately, more film festivals have developed funds to support filmmakers from countries without established national arts councils to help independent filmmakers. The Rotterdam Film Festival has the amazing Hubert Bals Fund which was celebrated in a series at the Walker in April 2003. The Berlin Film Festival has also launched a similar fund and the Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah who was here to introduce a screening of his film MERCEDES in March 2006 was one of the first recipients of a grant from them. I think its fantastic that these festivals are helping to foster production in addition to exhibition.
I’m pretty excited to see Li Yu’s DAM STREET . I saw Li’s first feature FISH AND ELEPHANT a few years back, and thought to myself “this is a very brave filmmaker.”
I agree. Since completing DAM STREET she’s completed a new film LOST IN BEIJING that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The screening was controversial as the version she wished to screen was not approved by the Chinese censors.
I was really blown away by the cinematography and complex narrative structure of A WONDERFUL NIGHT IN SPLIT. Director Arsen Anton Ostoijic is clearly a director to track. I was surprised by the dark humor in KILOMETRE ZERO and disturbed by the familial tension in THE SACRED FAMILY.
All the films screen at least twice. Will there be any special guests at any of the screenings to take note of?
As in the past we’ve invited the local academic community to introduce a few of the screenings. Jason McGrath from the Asian Literatures and Languages Department at the University of Minnesota introduced the screening of DAM STREET last night. Jolle Vitiello of the French and Francophone Studies department at Macalester College was here to introduce ENOUGH as well. Jolle had just bought the documentaries of Djamila Sahraoui who directed ENOUGH so that was some amazing synergy. Our good friend Fernando Arenas of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at U of M will be here on Sunday, April 15 to introduce the screening of ANOTHER MAN’S GARDEN. Fernando is working on a chapter on films from Mozambique for his new book.
Any idea what might be on the dock for Global Lens 2008?
I wish I knew. The Global Film Initiative staff rarely gives hints about their slate of films until everything is finalized. I didn’t know the selections for this edition until December.
See these films while you can. Check out the full schedule of Global Lens 2007 screenings here.
Saturday 4/14 Of Love and Eggs 1pm