Friday, September 21, 2012

Matthew Bourne’s SWAN LAKE: Five Things to Know

Dancers, delight! Bryn Mawr Film Institute will show Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake in HD on Thursday, September 27 at 7:00 pm with an introduction by Maurice Kaplow. BMFI Intern and ballet enthusiast Mireille Guy gives five reasons why this production is a must-see.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake: Five Things to Know
By Mireille Guy, BMFI Intern

There is something about Swan Lake that makes artists come back to it, reinterpreting the tale in some new and contemporary way. (Black Swan anyone?) Matthew Bourne’s version of the ballet might be one of the most unique of these interpretations, and his modern twist is as refreshing as it is bold.

This ballet will be a pleasure to see on Bryn Mawr Film Institute’s silver screen, and here are five reasons why:
  1. What most obviously makes Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake unique is its almost all-male cast. Both the prince and Odette/Odile are played by men, as is two-thirds of the corps. Here the traditional femininity of the swan is challenged by Bourne, who has stated:
    “The idea of a male swan makes complete sense to me. The strength, the beauty, the enormous wingspan of these creatures suggests to me the musculature of a male dance more readily than a ballerina in her white tutu.”
    This casting decision changes the dynamic of the whole piece, creating an exciting ballet. So for those of you who have seen the traditional version of Swan Lake, don’t expect Bourne’s reinterpretation to be the same.

  2. Bryn Mawr Film Institute is thrilled to have the renowned conductor Maurice Kaplow introduce the screening. A Lower Merion local, Kaplow has conducted for both the New York City Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet. He has also composed pieces for the Pennsylvania Ballet as well for Penn State University.

  3. First premiering in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has dazzled audiences for almost two decades, and it has the Tonys to back it up—three Tonys to be exact. Matthew Bourne won Tonys in 1999 for Best Director of a Musical and Best Choreography; the show also won Best Costume Design. So add those three to the list of over 30 international awards that the show has received!
  4. It has royal connections. Partly due to the fact that Bourne’s Swan Lake was produced in England, there is speculation that the show can be seen as an underlying commentary on the British monarchy. More specifically, a comparison has been made between the unsatisfied and deprived prince in the ballet and Prince Charles. And on a more obvious level, the queen and the monarchy in the ballet have been compared to the British monarchy. In any case, there is definitely a regal air to the ballet.

  5. Remember that part at the end of the film adaption from Billy Elliot, where his father comes to see him perform as an adult? Well the film ends with Elliot magnificently leaping onto the stage in front of full crowd. In that scene, Elliot is performing Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake—he is playing the lead swan.
These are just a few reasons why Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is a must-see for ballet buffs and non-ballet buffs alike. Bourne’s dynamic ballet is bound to be a classic, enhanced at Bryn Mawr Film Institute by Maurice Kaplow's great introduction.

Mireille Guy is a sophomore at Swarthmore College currently interning at Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Juliet Goodfriend: Toronto International Film Festival 2012

By Juliet Goodfriend, President, BMFI

I arrived early on Saturday morning this year. Alas that is a bit late, as there are many films that show only in the first day or two and never get repeated. Lesson learned. Nevertheless, in the nearly five days I did spend at the festival, about 23 films were ingested. Indeed, so many were really good films this year that I tended to stay to the end of most of them and therefore saw fewer to write about.

As usual, I found myself torn between movies that I should “preview” for their BMFI potential and those that might be shown only at a festival where this would be my only chance! In most cases I stuck to business and looked at movies that were likely to be available and attractive to us (in other words I saw no experimental films and not enough foreign language entries).

While there were more good films on my roster than ever before, there were a few that did not make the grade, for one reason or another. And, much to my frustration, there are a few I missed that I know we will want to get (eg. Anna Karenina, Stories We Tell, and Silver Linings Playbook). With more than 300 films, the real trial is selecting what to see. This year I tweeted after just about every film and I include my tweets below along with a few other thoughts that may have the benefit of distance-from-viewing.

The films are divided into two categories:
A. Films with great appeal for BMFI
B. Interesting films, but not necessarily for our theater
Films with great appeal for BMFI (in order of my having viewed them):
  1. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, USA)
    Tweet: “Frances Ha focuses on the soul-challenged 20-30s but with some great lines and editing by Jen Lame whose parents are BMFI fans. Congrats.”
    This black and white film is all Greta Gerwig, so if you like her you’ll like it. She does “gawky” very well and her employment problems typify today’s college grads. For that reason alone it is not comfortable even though funny.
  2. Frances Ha
  3. A Late Quartet (Yaron Zilberman, USA)
    Tweet: “A Late Quartet captured me, as emotion, acting and Beethoven won the day… Faults and all, I fell for it.”
    Illness, aging, deception, overblown egos, illicit and unsatisfied love—all to the music of Beethoven’s last string quartet, what could be better? Using musician doubles would have made it better, since it’s too hard for non-string players to fake it. But I quibble. You will love it, as I did, with its flaws.
  4. A Late Quartet
  5. The Company You Keep (Robert Redford, USA)
    Tweet: “The Company You Keep conveys via Redford an important message and reminder about those who struggle with social action. Moderate/Extreme.”
    Having gone to Bryn Mawr College with Diana Oughton (who was killed in the “Weatherman” Greenwich Village mansion making a bomb) and Kathy Boudin (who served many years in prison for her part in a misguided, socially-motivated bank robbery), I wanted to see this film for insights into what my made my college-mates commit those well-intentioned but horribly immoral acts. The story shed light on the fugitive phase of Kathy’s life. However, it is carried a bit too far to be believable in the end. One wonders how individuals should demonstrate disagreement with the “state of things”. Reverend King was far more successful, but that’s an answer this film does not suggest. As a thriller it works wonderfully.
  6. The Company You Keep
  7. Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell, UK)
    Tweet: “Beautiful recreation with Bill Murray catching FDR in essence if not entirely in diction.”
    Reviews have been mixed for this film, but it kept my interest and is a part of FDR’s life that most do not know. His connection with the stammering King George puts “sequel to The King’s Speech” in mind, but I treat it more kindly. Both men had significant disabilities that plagued their lives. Watching Bill Murray struggling as a paraplegic had me sobbing. And when he encourages the King to persist and be confident, more tears flow.
  8. Hyde Park on Hudson
  9. Thanks for Sharing (Stuart Blumberg, USA)
    Tweet: “Preferred Shame, but this one can be shown with no shame.”
    The topic: rehab for sex addicts. The stories: a bit weak. The cast: excellent. Shame put you in the skin of a sex addict, an uncomfortable place to be. Thanks for Sharing reassures you that rehab is possible, but it also alarms you about the prevalence of the addiction, especially in an era of teasing clothes and fashions. What should a young person wear in the city? Don’t ask these characters!
  10. Thanks for Sharing
  11. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
    Tweet: “The Master in 70mm treat for eyes, ears but little for deeper brain. Terrific score and Phoenix soars.”
    Now that I have some distance from this film and the benefit of reading excellent criticism, I have much greater appreciation for it. I think it demands serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between an elder “master” and his acolyte. That this is not a plot-centric film does not detract from its interest.
  12. The Master
  13. Quartet (Dustin Hoffman, USA)
    Tweet: “Saw the other Quartet at public screening Dustin Hoffman introduced. Lovely, ancient musicians all still good.”
    These retired performers’ egos are now on the line, off stage. No need to have body doubles for this cast of wonderful musicians and singers (okay, maybe for Maggie Smith); the supporting roles are all retired professionals. Dustin Hoffman achieves a sensitive mix of fun, silliness, and sympathetic performances. The ravages of old age are relieved by music. Tell that to every youngster who resists music lessons in favor of sports. You can’t be an athlete at 85, but you can still enjoy playing an instrument or singing. You just have to practice, practice, practice when you’re young. Don’t get me started! Why didn’t my mother insist I practice more? (It’s always the mother’s fault.)
  14. Quartet
  15. Fly with the Crane (Li Ruijun, China)
    Tweet: “Fly with the Crane, a Chinese elegy on death. So simple and captivating.”
    Death, the theme again, is treated with quiet reverence and curiosity. This movie argues against state-mandated cremation in China. As an old grandfather tries to explain death to his grandson and granddaughter they become partners in promoting burial—his own, alive. Tender with a bit of a bite, as you can imagine. Little commercial value, but would be great for our 3rd or 4th screening rooms when we get them built!
  16. Fly with the Crane
  17. The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark)
    Tweet: “The Hunt, best movie of the day but so wrenching and so late at night I could not endure it all. Wish I could see it again. Another prize.”
    This may be the best film I saw, but certainly not the easiest. When a whole community turns against a young teacher accused of sexual “abuse” in a kindergarten, the staid and reasonable Danish society no longer seems so desirable. Vinterberg is a master!
  18. The Hunt
  19. What Maisie Knew (Scott McGehee, David Siegel, USA)
    Tweet: “What Maisie Knew is poignant and as timely as when Henry James wrote it. Hard to watch the pain but a good flick.”
    James wanted to expose the neglect of some parents and society 100 years ago. This film makes that neglect palpable and credible in our own day. While the film does not follow the life of Maisie as far as the book does, there is quite enough material to chew on. And excellent acting.
  20. What Maisie Knew
  21. The Attack (Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon)
    Tweet: “The Attack, an excellent story reveals an Arab Israeli MD’s conflict and his wife’s hidden extremism. Well done though questions linger.”
    With some distance from the film I think it was a bit unrealistic and certainly not as interesting as Paradise Now, which also tried to examine the conflicts and motivations of suicide bombers. In The Attack, the husband’s search reveals deep cracks in his own integration into Israeli society.
  22. The Attack
  23. Argo (Ben Affleck, USA)
    Twitter: “Argo absorbs because of Affleck’s directing not his affect. An improbably true and tense thriller with a sappy but true end.”
    He is characteristically flat in this film, but Affleck’s directing is sharp and capable of evoking real sweat in the viewer. The story of how the USA saved six Americans who escaped Iranian hostage takers is surprisingly and alternately funny and suspenseful.
  24. Argo
  25. Kon-Tiki (Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg, Norway)
    Tweet: “Remember Kon-Tiki? This film brings it and Thor to life. Terrific.”
    Anyone who read Heyerdahl’s book or saw his documentary will want to see this film and those who never did will be in for a treat. It’s quite remarkable how the raft trip is captured on film and the color and imagery are spectacular, once it gets underway.
  26. Kon-Tiki
  27. Great Expectations (Mike Newell, UK)
    If you can see this during the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth, all the better. Its vividness makes for some troubling gore, but it keeps moving and stirs an interest in re-reading the original.
  28. Great Expectations 
  29. Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta, Germany)
    This is a film worth seeing, despite poor acting in some of the supporting cast. Many a philosophy class will enjoy it and there is much value in bringing Arendt’s analysis of evil to the public square—the cinema. In von Tratta’s words, this film is an attempt to transform “thought into film.”
  30. Hannah Arendt
  31. The Patience Stone (Atiq Rahimi, Afghanistan/France)
    Tweet: “Patience Stone, one of the very best. An unspeakable drama of women’s life in Afghanistan. Beautifully made. Remarkable and probably won’t be seen.”
    On reflection, this film is somewhat too centered on the sexual frustration of the young wife of a comatose husband. But even with that distortion, it reveals—quietly and sympathetically—how repressed and abused are women by the Taliban (who are not named, per se). Her monologues with her husband spin out the details and consequences of the horrid mores of this society: rape and prostitution have more to offer than she experienced with him.
  32. The Patience Stone
Interesting films, but not necessarily for our audiences:
  1. Gebo and the Shadow (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal/France)
    Tweet: “Oliviera still making films. One set, few characters, much angst about soul and life. Beautiful of course and easy French dialogue”
    One has to see the latest film by this 103-year-old master. Despite wonderful stars (e.g. Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau, etc.), the static nature of this adapted play does not make for easy viewing. Its focus on capitalism’s effect on personal relations and the beauty of its set make the effort worthwhile.
  2. Gebo and the Shadow
  3. Love, Marilyn (Liz Garbus, USA)
    Tweet: “An interesting twist on documentary where all her lines and others’ were declaimed by today’s stars misidentified in labels.”
    I found this documentary only barely satisfying. We don’t really need to know anything more about Marilyn, though seeing her handwritten diaries had the potential to bring her to life. Who the stars were who were reading those lines was totally confusing.
  4. Love, Marilyn
  5. At Any Price (Ramin Bahrani, USA)
    Tweet: “At Any Price reveals the ugly, competitive world of big farming. Writing sags but Dennis Quaid soars.”
    I went to see this to learn more about farming, and that it succeeded in teaching me. It is a good movie, well-acted and directed, but probably would not interest our audience. I should have seen Silver Linings Playbook instead!
  6. At Any Price
  7. Arthur Newman (Dante Ariola, USA)
    Tweet: “Lifeless, walkout… Blunt and Firth do USA accent well. But nothing to say. Waste of great actors.”
    Why were English actors chosen for these dull, American characters? Why even bother making this film?
  8. Arthur Newman
  9. To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, USA)
    Tweet: “To the Wonder… wonder how Malick lost his way. I wonder why I stayed and if there were 140 words in it. A lot of hayfields.”
     An absolutely irritating film. I had hay fever from the endless scenes of flat fields of grasses. And the trite way of filming “in love with a graceful French woman”—sprite-like dances around parks and 360 degree pans, give me a break. Should have walked out on this one, but I kept hoping for Malick redemption!
  10. To the Wonder
  11. Imogene (Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman, USA)
    Tweet: “Imogene is surprisingly funny and endearing. A light and silly antidote to The Hunt and The Attack.”
    I was prepared not to enjoy this film at all. And, with time, I have come to believe I really should not have! So maybe I recommend this only as a break from really good, serious, films. It’s not got enough going for it.
  12. Imogene
  13. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, USA)
    Tweet: “What to make of Spring Breakers? Horrifying parody but how close to real makes me want to keep student loans at high interest!! Wow!”
    This was my “stretch” selection. I have not seen so much T-and-A in a non-pornographic film. I had no idea that the main male character was James Franco, so disguised was he with studded teeth. And I knew nothing about the director’s controversial filmmaking history. The cinematography is really inventive: “Harmony Korine thinks in pictures that no one else could even dream up” (Noah Cowan in TIFF catalogue). Please tell me that college is not what this film shows it to be.
  14. Spring Breakers

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BMFI's Fall Film Preview

By Dan Santelli, Programming Intern, BMFI

The leaves are turning brown, kids are waiting at the bus stop, and the heat of the summer is giving way to the brisk chill of the winter to come. That’s right, it’s fall. A time for pigskin throwing, pumpkin carving, back to school-ing, and, most importantly, movie going.

Joaquin Phoenix in P. T. Anderson's The Master; starting Friday, Sept. 21st at BMFI.
Now that fall has arrived, Oscar movie season is underway. BMFI is on a mission to bring you the best and most important contenders throughout the coming months, beginning with the new Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) film, The Master, which starts this Friday, September 21. Other notable features we’re hoping to show include Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray in an already much discussed performance as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The kids might be back in school, but mark their calendars to make room for the return of BMFI’s Kids Matinee series, beginning Saturday mornings in October with a month long celebration of Fantastic Fantasy films. From the soaring aerial sequences of How to Train Your Dragon to the swashbuckling swordfights of Spielberg’s Hook, there’s adventure everywhere you look. November will bring the cartoonish antics of Bugs, Daffy, and all our favorite Tunes from the Warner’s gang. The series will end 2012 on a literary note with five film adaptations of popular books—including Spike Jonze’s visualization of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and the Muppet’s take on Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Dustin Hoffman stars as the malevolent Captain Hook in Spielberg's fantasy--screening on Sat., Oct. 27th at BMFI.

One of the most talked about events in cinephile circles this year is the arrival of the films by acclaimed Russian director Aleksei Guerman. Featuring work rarely exhibited outside Guerman’s native Russia, this unique retrospective—including five indisputable masterworks—took New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center by storm earlier this year. Praised for his inventive and stylized camerawork, in addition to rebelling against the oppressive Soviet ideologies, Guerman has positioned himself as the one of the greatest living filmmakers. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see the films of a cinematic master, showing Tuesday afternoons in late October and early November. For more information on Guerman, read distinguished film critic J. Hoberman’s write-up from 1999 published in Film Comment.

Director Aleksei Guerman (left) at work. A retrospective of his work begins Tues., Oct. 23rd at BMFI

Speaking of important filmmakers, BMFI is proud to continue its tradition of showcasing the best of independent film with a series of five films with distinguished guests conducting post-screening Q&As. The Filmmaker Appearances series will include Judd Ehrlich’s documentary entitled Magic Camp, which follows a summer’s worth of education and fun at Tannen’s Magic Camp, held annually at Bryn Mawr College. The series will conclude with a special screening of Bryn Mawr native Alex Perry Ross’s much debated film, The Color Wheel. Praised by A.O. Scott as “sly, daring, [and] genuinely original,” The Color Wheel explores a brother-sister dynamic as two young misfits trek across the state and discover life’s weird detours.

Filmmakers aren’t the only distinguished guests making appearances at BMFI this fall. The "What’s Up, Doc?" series returns with a slew of great movies, featuring introductions by some of the area’s top medical practitioners. These movies include a seasonal Halloween favorite: schlock maestro William Castle’s spookarama The Tingler, starring the electrifying Vincent Price. From Steven Soderbergh’s medical thriller Contagion to the subtle nuances of Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in Awakenings, the doctor is in. Each "What’s Up, Doc?" screening, will feature a free give away, courtesy of the Bryn Mawr Hospital.

"SCREAM, SCREAM FOR YOUR LIFE." William Castle's classic spookarama The Tingler screens Wed., Oct. 24th at BMFI.

So drop those rakes, put down those leaves, and hold off the pumpkin carving. Satisfy your movie fix and come on down to BMFI, where there’s always something new and something classic. Our One Night Only screenings this season include Tombstone, Renoir’s Grand Illusion, Joss Whedon’s Serenity, and a free-for-members screening of Frank Capra’s hysterical State of the Union (perfectly timed the upcoming election).

Catch the Serenity crew on the big screen, as part of BMFI's The Late Show series, on Fri., Oct. 19th.

For more information about these and all the other filmic delights at BMFI this season, check out the fall issue of Projections, available in the atrium lobby or online. As Siskel & Ebert would say, “we’ll see you at the movies.”

Dan Santelli, BMFI's Programming Intern, is a 2012 graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor's degree in Film and Media Arts. A lifelong cineaste, his favorite films (in no particular order) include Leon: The Professional, The Night of the Hunter, Touch of Evil, Blue Velvet, Brazil, Apocalypse Now, Dressed To Kill (1980), Halloween, and Les Yeux Sans Visage.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Creating FAMILY: A Q&A with Filmmaker Patrick Wang

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

Often when a debut filmmaker takes on too many roles in a production, it takes its toll on the final product. Not so with Patrick Wang, the force behind the acclaimed indie In the Family. For his work as the writer, director, producer, lead actor, and distributor of the sensitive drama—his first feature—Wang has received awards at several film festivals and the film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

But it wasn’t always easy for the thespian-turned-filmmaker; the film initially received rejection from almost 30 festivals before Wang’s inventive distribution strategy paid off, leading to fabulous reviews from the New York Times and Roger Ebert and winning In the Family places on over 25 best-of lists.


Bryn Mawr Film Institute will feature the independent drama for a special one-night showing next Wednesday, September 12 at 7:00 pm, followed by an in-person Q&A with Wang. The story of a gay Tennessee man (played by Wang) who becomes embroiled in a custody battle for the six-year-old child that he and his late partner were raising together, In the Family has been praised for its character-driven approach, subtle storytelling, and authentic-feeling Southern setting.

Wang answered my questions via email about his roles onscreen and off in In the Family, his inspiration, the importance of character, and capturing the South onscreen.

Before writing this film, you had taken a few years away from theater and film. What inspired you to write this story? Why now?

I remember being stunned by a statistic I read about how many kids in the U.S. were being raised by two dads or two moms. Part of the surprise was that I didn't know any of these families at the time. An image popped into my head one day of a particular family: two dads of mixed race raising a six-year-old kid in the South. They had a middle class life in a mid-sized town. I wondered about them and fell in love with them and the details of their lives. The writing came more from a place of curiosity than political urgency.

One of the remarkable things about this film is that, despite the hot-button issues it touches upon (eg. gay marriage, racial intolerance, adoption rights), it is framed as a personal drama, not a political statement. Would you discuss your decision to write In the Family that way?

I don't think I have much of a talent for making political statements. Political complexity baffles me, whereas when I think of the complexity of people’s lives, I seem to get somewhere. When I was younger, I would write from the top down. I'd have all the thematic material and philosophy mapped out, and all the details would be in service of these masters. I was a terrible bore, I'm sure as much to my readers as I was to myself. When you look at people, they are full of surprises, and that is everything. You watch them openly and carefully, and the drama reveals itself. The time for craft will come, but I believe you must observe the characters first. They teach you the politics, the structure, the art.

You have worn an astonishing number of hats for In the Family: actor, writer, director, producer, and now distributor. Which is the most challenging for you? The most rewarding?

I think the acting was the greatest challenge. Of all the positions I took on, I had the most experience as an actor, about 15 years coming into the project. But it is performance, and performance has to materialize at a particular time or you have nothing. So there was a very different type of risk involved with this job compared with the others.

I think being a distributor has been the most rewarding in that I have learned the most in the process. It has taught me so much about theater houses, communities, real-world projection, and responses. And I've met some of the neatest people in the most unlikely places.

Filmmaker Patrick Wang and his pint-size co-star Sebastian Brodziak in In the Family, a compelling drama about a gay Tennessee contractor trying to regain custody of his late partner's son.

How did you decide to cast yourself in film? What were some of the difficulties of directing your own performance?

After I had been resisting for a while, one of my producers finally convinced me to consider casting myself. I spent some time working on a couple scenes and then recorded them with a camera. They were awful, and so I thought, ‘Well that was a horrible idea.’ But then the next day I tried again, and I started to give myself the benefit of direction and trying to improve. I got better, but I needed to answer the tough question: how quickly could I progress through this role? So I spent several weeks in this cycle of performing, evaluating, and revising to test if it was likely I could become fluent in the role by the time I needed to start rehearsing the other actors. At the end of this test period, I determined that it would take five months of rehearsing six days a week on my own to get there. So that's what I did. Vanity is the greatest difficulty in directing yourself. Not necessarily that you're in love with yourself, but that the details of you naturally speak louder than the other details. I found I needed to practice mentally forcing the details into a normal balance to be able to properly evaluate what was going on.

How did you craft your character’s voice, first as a writer on the page and then as an actor, accent and all?

That's a great question. Generally, I think of a character's written voice as a combination of how they think and the particular social situation they are engaged in. One of the fascinating things about Joey is that he doesn't really change his voice based on who he's talking to. He is remarkably, at all times, comfortable with himself and without pretense. That makes the writing a lot easier and the performing a lot harder. To keep things dynamic, it becomes all the more important for Joey's thinking to be transparent when he speaks. I started with what I thought of as a pretty standard male Western Tennessee accent, but for the long stretches of dialogue that Joey has, I found the technical and emotional range a little narrow. So like a good pair of boots, I kind of just lived with the accent a little bit and let it stretch out where it wanted to. In the end, you have something that's not off the assembly line, but it's unique and comfortable.

You’ve said in other interviews that you had never been to Martin, Tennessee where In the Family is set when you wrote the film, yet the film is unanimously praised for its authentic Southern setting. What did you do to capture the town from afar?

There were a couple seeds of Martin in there. I happened to speak to a couple people from Martin at one point, I saw pictures of houses and vegetation, I saw a map and a demographic report. I've spent time in small towns and in different parts of the South. But I didn't dwell much on these things. Perhaps surface details of language and some mannerisms are different, but I assume the human heart behaves in Martin as it does in the rest of the world. I assume that possibility and diversity and change all flow through the town, in a unique way. Maybe the trick to nailing a setting is finding foreignness in some surrounding details, but not at the center of things.

In addition to your stage experiences as a director and actor, you are also an economist. How does the latter influence your approach to theater and film production?

In the decade I worked as an economist, the two most useful skills I learned were how to manage a team and how to walk into the middle of a mess and think clearly. Both skills translate directly to filmmaking. What's interesting to me is that a lot of decisions in the film industry are made in the name of business, but this is not business as I know the term. I know business as something inventive, dynamic, well-risked, and intertwined with humanity, not a thing apart. Not the dominant view in the film industry. I participate in the business of film not to be a cog in today's markets but to be part of creating tomorrow's more interesting markets.

Patrick Wang, Sebastian Brodziak, and Trevor St. John go through their morning routine in In the Family

After getting rejection letter after rejection letter from almost 30 film festivals, you decided to premiere the film yourself at one theater in New York City, which led to a fantastic New York Times review and great buzz (and, later, film festival accolades). What made you decide to take a chance on this distribution method?

Honestly, there weren't all that many possibilities left at the time. It was a bit of a Hail Mary, but I have an appetite for risk. And while in some respects I am a patient person, I wasn't going to spend a year waiting for someone else to get a clue. It's hard building something outside of the system, but at least you know where the responsibility lies and know that work is getting done. Progress may be slow, but you can keep it moving forward. I'd rather spend a year slowly building something than a year at someone's mercy.

Is there a question that you wish someone would ask about you or In the Family?

I wish Liv Ullmann would ask me for a copy of the film. I would say, “Yes, of course, Liv.”

Hear that, Liv? Thanks so much, Patrick.

Devin Wachs is the Public Relations Manager for Bryn Mawr Film Institute. She joined BMFI in 2005, following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College. If you send BMFI a message on Facebook or Twitter or are interested in onscreen sponsorships, she's the one who'll be in touch!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

La Vie Boheme at BMFI: Seven Facts about RENT

By Dan Santelli, Programming Intern, BMFI

First staged in January 1996, Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking rock opera Rent has established itself as a capstone of the modern musical. Earning three Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for its original stage production, Rent has taken on a life of its own in America’s pop culture and has garnered a massive cult following of devoted fans dubbed “Rent-heads”.

Now, Bryn Mawr Film Institute is proud to host a special sing-along screening of director Chris Columbus’ film adaptation of the Broadway show on Tuesday, September 11 at 7:30 pm. Free popcorn if you wear a costume!

"Would you light my candle?" Adam Pascal and Rosario Dawson in Chris Columbus's 2005 film adaptation of Rent.

Show off on Tuesday night with these seven trivia facts about Rent.

  1. Originally conceived by playwright Billy Aronson, Rent is a musical update of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. The title of Puccini’s opera is directly referenced in Rent’s signature song, La Vie Boheme. That’s why members of the prestigious Opera Company of Philadelphia will perform a number from their production of La bohème prior to Bryn Mawr Film Institute's screening.
  3. Lamentably, Rent’s creator Jonathan Larson passed away less than 24 hours before the premiere of his show in January 1996.
  5. Larson pulled from personal life experiences to create his characters. For example, Maureen dumps the central figure, Mark, for Joanne in Rent, which mirrored a real-life event where Larson’s girlfriend left him for a woman.
  7. With the exception of two principals, all the major performers in Columbus’ film are reprising the roles they played on stage.
    Take Angel's advice: Wear a costume to BMFI's Rent sing-along! 
  9. Despite capturing the look and feel of 1980s Greenwich Village, director Chris Columbus shot most of Rent on soundstages at Warner Bros. studios and select exteriors in San Francisco. Only one scene, which featured the La Vie Boheme number, was shot on location in New York City.
  11. Producer Robert De Niro sought to have his long-time friend and collaborator, Martin Scorsese, direct the adaptation. When Scorsese fell through, Columbus stepped in to helm the film.
  13. For casting the role of Maureen’s girlfriend, Joanne, director Columbus auditioned an array of talent from established stars to American Idol contestants. One of those Idol contestants was Jennifer Hudson, who ultimately lost the role to Tracie Thoms (Death Proof). Jennifer Hudson went on to portray Effie in Bill Condon’s screen adaptation of Dreamgirls (another Broadway sensation), for which she won her Oscar.

So what are you waiting for? Make a plan with your Rent-head friends, dress the parts (should you want free popcorn!), and warm up your vocal chords, as we celebrate the “Seasons of Love” at this unforgettable sing-along event.

The cast collectively sings "La Vie Boheme" in the famous Life Cafe in Greenwich Village.

Dan Santelli, BMFI's Programming Intern, is a 2012 graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor's degree in Film and Media Arts. A lifelong cineaste, his favorite films (in no particular order) include Leon: The Professional, The Night of the Hunter, Touch of Evil, Blue Velvet, Brazil, Apocalypse Now, Dressed To Kill (1980), Halloween, and Les Yeux Sans Visage.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Calling All Filmmakers: Announcing Open Screen Showcase

For six years, filmmakers and film fans have enjoyed Open Screen Mondays at Bryn Mawr Film Institute, a monthly program where aspiring filmmakers can show their work on the big screen and get feedback from the audience, for free.

Now Bryn Mawr Film Institute celebrates the best of Open Screen with a special showcase of participants’ finest work on Monday, December 3 at 7:00 pm. This special evening will be a celebration of filmmaking in the Greater Philadelphia area. The selected films will be shown on the big screen to an audience including professional filmmakers.

Do you want your film to be included in the Open Screen Showcase?
  1. Show your work at Open Screen Monday:
    Screen your short film (under 30 min) at one of our monthly Open Screen Monday nights. If you’ve already shown your work at a past Open Screen Monday, you’re set! Upcoming dates for Open Screen Monday are September 10, October 1, and November 5 at 9:15 pm.
  2. Give us a copy of your film for consideration:
    Give BMFI Lead Theater Manager (and Open Screen emcee) Mike McCracken a DVD copy of your film for consideration. You can contact him at or deliver it to him at one of the upcoming Open Screen Monday events.
You may submit more than one film. Deadline for submission is Monday, November 5.

Don’t miss this opportunity to honor your work!