Some Outstanding Movies from Filmland 5 – Arkansas Online by ACS | Episode Movies

The Arkansas Cinema Society’s Filmland event (this year it’s called Filmland 5) returns next week.

Looking at their schedule, perhaps the film I’m most excited about is Kristian R. Hill’s documentary God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, which explores techno music’s roots in the black inner-city communities of Detroit and Chicago like this one culture was “appropriated” and commercialized by European artists in the 1980s.

As regular readers of this column may know, I hate to review films I haven’t seen, and while “Drum Machines” was shortlisted for films to see at this year’s Tribeca Festival, I didn’t get it. But I’m interested in their reasoning, because what we call cultural appropriation these days is just one of the ways art evolves organically. There is a moral difference between Pat Boone, who covers “racing records” to make money off white audiences who are denied access to reality, and Keith Richards, who wants to be Elmore James.

In general, I’m not in favor of dictating an artist’s tools or medium. Whites can play the blues. You don’t have to listen to them.

And admittedly, when I think of “Techno” I immediately think of Kraftwerk, which was founded in Düsseldorf in 1970. Kraftwerk started out as part of the “krautrock” scene – meaning they were pretty much a standard rock band mixing psychedelic and art rock (think a Teutonic King Crimson) before turning to full electronic noisemakers in the ’70s . They had a very successful series of pop records from 1974 to 1981 – “Autobahn”, “Trans-Europe Express”, https://news.”The Man-Machine” and “Computer World”. In some circles, their sparse arrangements and hypnotic drum machines were seen as a sort of Apollonian antidote to the Dionysian punk rock scene.

But I guess Kraftwerk plays no role in this particular history of techno, which – from what I’ve read – focuses on the genre’s “origins” in Detroit and the simultaneous rise of house music in Chicago. The film’s thesis is that techno was largely invented by six black Detroit artists who revolutionized black music in the 1980s. The style then spread to Europe, largely through the efforts of Richie Hawtin, an Englishman raised in Ontario near Detroit who found some success as a popularizer of techno in the early ’90s.

I assume Hawtin is cast as a whitewasher in the film and the film claims he was hated in Detroit for profiting from bootlegging.

While I’m not a techno expert, I’m interested in hearing that argument. Most of the reviews I’ve read – and most of the people who have written about “God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines” seem to have some expertise, or at least pretend to be, and would probably roll their eyes at my naive reference to Kraftwerk — acknowledging the film’s usefulness while noting that it functions primarily as a love letter to the Detroit scene. With delicious beats.

I’m on much better ground with Empire of Light, the Sam Mendes film (opens early December), which opens the festival on Wednesday. Because I actually saw that movie.

Empire of Light’s merits include a stellar cast and superb visuals and world-class setting – a fading but still beautiful seaside cinema in Margate on the south coast of England in 1981 (one of the film’s key scenes takes place in a premiere of “Chariots of Fire” in the theater). I haven’t read much about it, but it’s another film that, like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma (2018) and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019), feels like an iteration of the filmmaker’s personal experience.

This means that at least in its best moments, Empire of Light feels like a memory game. Mendes grew up in North London, but the Easter weekend of 1981 saw several ‘seaside rampages’, with young people – including punks and skinheads, some with Fascist or Nazi persuasions – rioting in several seaside towns, including Margate, where 39 people were arrested. Mendes would have been 16 that spring and well aware of both the Brixton riots, which were taking place in south London, and the seaside killing sprees. (It was a sort of spring-break tradition in England in 1981, starting around 1964 when the mods and the rockers started to compete. See Franc Roddam’s 1979 film version of The Who’s “Quadrophenia”.)

The main problem with “Empire of Light” is that it can never be pinned down to a specific type of film. It’s alternately a dark workplace comedy, a quirky May-October romance, a beautifully crafted exercise in nostalgia, a platform from which Olivia Colman could launch another Best Actress campaign, and an appreciation of hands-on magic in the style of Cinema Paradiso”. of moving images. While any of the films would have been good, just fine, the end result here is an impatient cable watcher who changes channels abruptly and too often. It’s good filmmaking, and cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers his usual excellent images, but it’s hardly the most satisfying or safe filmmaking.

Still, it should draw a good audience and a few Oscar nominations. I’m not good at that, but I reckon Deakins and Colman are almost certain candidates; while Colin Firth has a shot at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. (Though I’d rather see Toby Jones as the wise and battered old projectionist who gets the offer.)

Filmland 5 premiere night will also screen In Nikyatu Jusu’s debut film, Nanny, which stars Anna Diop as an undocumented Senegalese nanny for a Manhattan couple (Morgan Spector and Michelle Monaghan), preparing for the arrival of the son she has left her behind when a violent supernatural presence begins to infiltrate her dreams and waking life.

OK. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the critics were kind to it – Diop’s performance and Jusu’s efficient storytelling were particularly praised.

Other films in this year’s lineup include Neil LaBute’s thriller House of Darkness, which was shot largely on location in Northwest Arkansas; The Inspection, Elegance Bratton’s drama about a young gay black man who joins the Marines; the 1998 comedy There’s Something About Mary by the Farrelly Brothers; and Turning Red, the well-received Pixar family film earlier this year.

Announced guests who will be attending the post-film Q&A sessions include House of Darkness director LaBute and actor Gia Crovatin; “Something About Mary” cinematographer and cinematographer Mark Irwin; and “Drum Machines” director Kristian R. Hill and producer Jennifer Washington.

A series of workshops and panel discussions are also planned. Visit for more information on the programs and entry prices for events or to purchase tickets. ACS members receive a 50% discount on all Filmland events.

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