The Boston Latino International Film Festival – Night 5

Now in its tenth year, the Boston Latino International Film Festival has brought to Boston many outstanding Latin American films that explore a variety of topics—from the environment to politics to music and so on. The festival lasts approximately a week and includes two days of free screenings, making it the largest film festival in New England with more free film programs than any other.  Here are some of the films that stood out for me during the fifth night of screenings.

Reservado
Director: Edy Soto & Ben Teplitzky / 10 minutes/ Mexico – USA / Short

Reservardo, Directed by Edy Soto and Ben Teplitzky. Image credit: Reservado Facebook Page

Set in Ciudad Juarez, but filmed in El Paso, Texas, Reservado tells the story of Xavier, a waiter at one of the most luxurious restaurants in the city. Based on real life events, Xavier wants to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring; however he just has to work twice as hard to save up the money he earns. The filmmakers take a rather intense and serious story and add humor to it, further stressing the current life and death situation in Juarez. Its seductive cinematography makes for a memorable experience.

Sin Pais
Director: Theo Rigby / 20 minutes / USA / Documentary

Sin Pais (Without Country), Directed by Theo Rigby. Image Credit: http://sinpaisfilm.com/

One of the most compelling and heartbreaking documentaries on immigration I’ve seen in a long time, Sin Pais is a testament to the nightmare that many immigrants are living today.

Directed by Theo Rigby, winner of the 2010 Student Academy Awards (The Oscar) for Best Documentary, Sin Pais follows the Mejia family as they face their new reality— deportation. Separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the parents are forced to leave behind everything they worked hard to attain in the United States.  Rigby will take you on a journey you will never forget.

If this documentary ever plays at a film festival near you, I highly recommend you see it. The film has garnered multiple awards and has been the official film selection for countless festivals across the world. A MUST SEE! You can also purchase a copy of the DVD by clicking on the film title above.

Watch the trailer here:

AbUSed: The Postville Raid
Director: Luis Agueta / 96 minutes / USA / Documentary

An intense and infuriating, yet inspiring documentary about the largest, most expensive and most brutal immigration raid in the history of the United States, AbUSed: The Postville Raid exposes the discrimination and abuse that immigrants working for Agriprocessors—a Kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa were subjected to.  Nearly 400 workers were arrested, mentally and physically abused by the company and tortured and treated like cattle while being processed by Customs and Immigration Enforcement. It is a devastating film to watch, but one that will leave you feeling empowered and begging for social justice. You can purchase the film on DVD or ask your library to purchase a copy.

Anonymous Boston

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

The last time I saw an exhibition that literally made me tremble was at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the Mark Bradford show (November 19, 2010 – March 13, 2011). This time around, it wasn’t Bradford that almost moved me to tears, but rather an exhibition at Fourth Wall Project on social justice and gun violence in Boston. Words could not even begin to describe the emotions I felt as I read every wall text, looked at every photograph and listened to the desperate pleas of families (a haunting audio piece was part of the show) in Anonymous Boston a multimedia exhibit that focused on life, rather than the devastating effects of gun violence.

Organized by media producer and human rights activist Joanna Marinova Jones, Anonymous Boston directly and indirectly brought to light many issues that have long been ignored by public officials, and people not directly affected by gun violence. Anonymous Boston aimed at empowering those families who have experienced devastating losses—by giving them a voice with which to tear down the derogatory comments left behind by anonymous bloggers on online news articles.

Newspaper clippings with stories on the victims made this exhibition not only interesting, but relevant on so many levels. The headlines are nothing short of sensational, they nurture the anonymous monsters that leave tactless comments that hurt victim’s families.

Fueled by the insensitive, inaccurate and superficial media coverage of violence in Boston, these anonymous bloggers further exacerbate the situation by relentlessly attacking not only grieving families, but an entire race. Their comments, some of which I have quoted above, are difficult to stomach.

It’s much easier to ignore the issue or point fingers and blame the victim’s family, rather than to take a stand to stop gun violence. It is also much easier to say “if it is not happening to me, then it’s not my problem— why should I care about all the violence that is destroying your community?”

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

What happens in Boston is everyone’s responsibility. I could not help but feel mentally drained and spiritually devastated, but always remaining hopeful—as I was confronted with blatantly racist and ignorant comments left by these bloggers next to a victim’s photograph. It’s easy to hide behind a veil rather than to discuss the real underlying issues as to why these things are happening in our city.

To say that what happens in Roxbury, Dorchester or Mattapan isn’t my problem— is to be part of the problem, as a family member of one of the victims in Anonymous Boston was quoted saying.

Anonymous Boston communicated a powerful message and I sincerely hope that those who experienced it listened. Gun violence is the product of complex cultural issues. We as a culture are obsessed with guns and yet we wonder why there is so much senseless violence in this country. My only regret was not being able to experience this exhibition more than once, as I went on the second to last day before closing. 

All other uncredited images are by Anulfo Baez.

Angel Reapers

Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry's "Angel Reapers" American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.(Photo by Sara D. Davis/ADF 2010)

Finely crafted furniture and harmoniously proportioned buildings are some of the things that come to mind when one hears the name “Shakers.” The Shakers (their formal name was The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) considered work as a form of worship, a belief reflected in every aspect of their lives, from their simple unadorned furniture to the separate but equal living quarters. They believed in being perfect and in practicing celibacy. This fascinating group of people are the subject of Angel Reapers, a hybrid theatre, music and dance show presented by Arts Emerson at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Angel Reapers is choreographed and directed by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Martha Clarke and written by Alfred Uhry, winner of the Academy Award (Driving Miss Daisy. Yes, this Driving Miss Daisy), two Tony Awards (Parade, which I saw a few years ago at the Boston Center for the Arts and The Last Night of Ballyhoo) and a Pulitzer Prize (not to brag, but last night’s opening was even more fantastic thanks to the presence of Clarke, Uhry and Arthur Solari, the musical director). Angel Reapers isn’t shy to explore and indulge in the many pleasures that the Shaker denied themselves. It is ravishing, seductive, and erotic made compelling by Clarke’s marvelous choreography and the many traditional Shaker songs sung a cappella. Angel Reapers will leave humming one or two of those songs as you exit the theatre. Of this, I’m certain.

Angel Reapers is playing until November 20th. For ticketing information, trailer, and more images click here.

The Hermaphrodite – Aphrodite and the Gods of Love

Statuette of Aphrodite untying a sandal (Sandalbinder) Greek, East Greek, Late Hellenistic Period, 1st century B.C. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Catharine Page Perkins Fund.

The Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating the Greek goddess of love and beauty in “the first museum exhibition devoted to Aphrodite.” Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (October 26, 2011 through February 20, 2012) features approximately 160 classical works drawn primarily from the museum’s extensive (and one of the finest in the country, second only to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) collection of Greek and Roman art. The museum’s proactiveness in returning looted works to Italy has resulted in an outstanding collaboration with the Italian government noticeable in 13 important loans in the exhibition, nine of which are from Rome and Naples. The exhibition also features a Sleeping Hermaphrodite which is among these nine loans (more on this work later).

It is only natural for this exhibition to open with the birth of Aphrodite, her rising from the sea out of a shell. According to myth, the Titan Kronos castrated his father Ouranos and flung the genitals into the sea where a mixture of white foam was created, giving birth to Aphrodite.  The goddess’ ancestors, cults, beauty, marriage, and myth are also explored in depth with objects that range from perfume bottles to mirrors. Her place in the history of the female nude in Western art was the subject (for the most part) of a symposium held on November 5th, 2011 (I live tweeted the first half of the symposium, but finding those tweet may be somewhat difficult as I tweet quite often).

Not only is Aphrodite associated with beauty, love and marriage, but also with war and male potency. Aphrodite had many children, including Priapos (the well endowed god of fertility and protector of livestock) and Hermaphroditos, the two-sexed son, portrayed as a beautiful female figure with male genitals. This Sleeping Hermaphrodite is the biggest and most talked about surprise in the show. How could one not discuss its beauty?

I was somewhat surprised at people’s reactions upon seeing the other side of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite. This isn’t the first and only hermaphrodite in art history, but if you go and experience this show, you’ll understand the thrill (for lack of better word) this wonderful work ignites. Here are some examples of other hermaphrodites in art history. You decide for yourself how the hermaphrodite in the exhibition compares to these ones here, but there are many more than the three I have posted here:

Love how the light delicately shines on this hermaphrodite; the material also helps.

Hermaphrodite, Giovanni Francesco Susini (died 1646), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow, 1977. Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Reverse) Hermaphrodite, Giovanni Francesco Susini (died 1646), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow, 1977. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Possibly the most famous hermaphrodite (at the Louvre) in the history of art:

Borghese Hermaphroditus, Roman copy of Greek statue C2nd BC Altered by Bernini. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

And of course, there are also standing hermaphrodites:

Statue of Hermaphroditus, Marble, Pergamum, Hellenistic style, 3rt ct. BC. Istanbul Archaeological Museums. Photo: User Sandstein on Wikimedia Commons

The most recent out of the hermaphrodites I present here, proving that Aphrodite is a force to be reckon with.

Sleeping Hermaphrodite, 2008 – 2010, Barry X. Ball, after the Hermaphrodite Endormi (Ermafrodito Borghese). Belgian Black Marble

Sleeping Hermaphrodite, 2008 – 2010, Barry X. Ball, after the Hermaphrodite Endormi (Ermafrodito Borghese). Belgian Black Marble

For You I Feel Lucky

Boston painter and performance artist Jessica Gath, known to many of us as The World Famous Secretary, has been exploring performance as a means of making people feel loved. “For You I Feel Lucky,” her latest work in the series entitled “For You,” was performed on Tuesday November 8th at The Hallway Gallery in Jamaica Plain. The goal of this performance was to “create in a room of strangers, a potential for an increased affinity in a short amount of time,” says Ms. Gath.

Strangers formed the core of this work. To participate, personal references were required by the artist who then contacted these via telephone or email. Three fill in the blank questions were asked and at least any one of the three was required from the reference. The answers provided the framework for the performance.

Three rules were also set in place. One, participants were asked to take the time to experience the beauty of what was about to unfold in the gallery. Two, the performance was not to last more than thirty minutes. And three, participants and performers needed to feel comfortable in their own skin. And so it began.

Any anecdotes or insights provided by the references were shared anonymously with the participants. Ms. Gath read these line by line, at times injecting her own remarks to compensate for those people who said similar things about the participants. In the end, For You I Feel Lucky was about celebrating the participants rather than the artist. It was a reflection of the participants and of those that loved them. This performance was also a reminder that each one of us has a very important role to play in fostering a strong sense of community.

For You I Feel Lucky lingered on hours after it had concluded. I felt lucky to have shared this wonderful experience with a friend and with total strangers, because their presence and being makes this world a much better place. Jessica Gath has gained a new fan, and I’m beyond excited to see what else is in the works!

Images of “For You I Feel Lucky” by Mark Sarver, Courtesy of Jessica Gath.

Ten Thousand Waves

 

Isaac Julien, "Red Chamber Room (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endora Ultra photographs, diptych, 70.9 x 90.6 in. each. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Brace yourselves Bostonians, Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves is now showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art! This breathtaking video installation had its US premiere in December 2010 at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami, now it’s our turn to stimulate our senses with beautiful imagery and sound. Viewers are immerse in a new form of storytelling – three narratives unfolding simultaneously on nine screens. Shot mostly in China’s incredibly diverse landscape, Ten Thousand Waves features images of lush bamboo jungles, daily life in Shanghai and panoramic views of the coast of England.

Isaac Julien, "Blue Goddess (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, diptych, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

 

Isaac Julien, "Mazu, Turning (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph. 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Isaac Julien, "Yishan Island, Dreaming (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Ten Thousand Waves is gorgeous to look at, mesmerizing and oh, so stylized that it reminded me of the films of Wong Kar Wai in particular In the Mood for Love as well as the films of Terrence Malick. Julien takes his viewers on a magical journey, one made even more entrancing by the appearance of Maggie Cheung as lead actress. Seriously, wasn’t she great in In the Mood for Love? Examples of stills from In the Mood for Love and The Thin Red Line:

In the Mood for Love, (2000) Wong Kar Wai

The Thin Red Line, Ben Chaplin, 1998, Terrence Malick, Director. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. Courtesy: Everett Collection

Issac Julien: Ten Thousand Waves in on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art until March 04, 2012. You’ll be mad if you miss this installation!

An Evening with Patti Smith | Patti Smith: Camera Solo

It wasn’t long ago that I was introduced to the work of Patti Smith, not as musician, but as visual artist. Using narrative form and content in song lyrics, Patti Smith pioneered the Art Rock movement in New York City. Her debut album “Horses” became an instant classic that defined a generation. It also rocked my world to say the least. Apart from her music, Patti Smith has been exploring photography since she was a teenager, but it was alongside Robert Mapplethorpe that she began to explore the medium in depth. Her most recent photographs are the subject of an exhibition at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT.

Patti Smith, Self-Portrait, NYC, 2003. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Billed as the first large scale museum exhibit in the United States in nearly ten years, Patti Smith: Camera Solo isn’t a show of epic proportions, but rather a show of intimate moments. The exhibition highlights the relationship between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature. Approximately 60 new black-and-white silver gelatin photographs and multimedia installations created between 2002 and 2011 are exhibited.

Many of the works are small and require the viewer to make more of an effort in developing a personal relationship with these. As a whole, the exhibition is much larger than I envisioned it, as I personally think of Patti Smith as having contributed more to our culture as a musician and performer than as a visual artist. Yet, since 2002, Smith has had countless solo exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country.

Patti Smith, Robert's Slippers, 2002. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Camera Solo is a deeply personal exhibition, an aspect I experienced firsthand listening to Patti Smith talk about her work at the Wadsworth. The photographs suddenly became meaningful as she discussed objects that belonged to Robert Mapplethorpe, or when she poked fun at her lack of technical skills while talking about her cameras. Those cameras are a Polaroid Land 100 and a 250 which she candidly referred to as having been “made for someone who is technically a moron.”

Gallery Talk by Patti Smith on Friday October 21st at the Wadsworth Atheneaum. Image by Diana Guay Dixon.

Smith doesn’t photograph her own things because she doesn’t have the “right camera,” she says, instead she photographs other people’s stuff. Patti Smith feels her photographs don’t need any explanation; they’re just her “sharing stuff.” That “stuff” is what curator Susan Talbott has termed “symbolic portraits” of things and people close to her heart, like Robert Mapplethorpe’s slippers which Smith says “taking a photo of Robert’s slippers is like taking a photo of Robert to me.” Her photographs are “similar to nineteenth-century amateur photographers.” Yes, some of Patti Smith’s works do come off as amateurish in technique (I’ve taken both a university level studio photography course as well as a survey course), but she obviously doesn’t have a problem with it and neither did I.

The exhibition Patti Smith: Camera Solo is on view until February 19, 2012 at the Wadsworth Athenaeum. For more information, visit: http://www.thewadsworth.org/