One of the interesting things about growing up in Miami is that you see a lot of film and television productions. I remember seeing a Harrier jet in the middle of the street near my father’s office because True Lies was being shot there. Scenes from The Crew and episodes of Burn Notice were shot a few blocks from my childhood apartment. The causeway by my high school was shut down because they needed to shoot, of all things, the music video for Sisqo’s “Thong Song”. And these were just the productions that I personally encountered, there were tons more that I won’t bother naming. Yet in all these years of seeing my hometown on big and small screens, there wasn’t a single one of them that told a real Miami story about real Miami people from real Miami communities. Everything was some kind of cheap music video, some capitalist nouveau riche fantasy, some tropical bikini fantasy for white people. You never hear about the immigrants from all over Latin America and the world hustling in warehouses, flipping merchandise, laying marble tiles, praying in strip-mall churches. You never hear about how the City let public housing be cannibalized by fancy contractors so that they could build private residences to push subprime mortgages with. And you sure as hell don’t hear about the black and brown people living in Liberty City, much less about those that are queer. But that is what makes Moonlight a film of rare power, in that it renders, in masterful strokes of black and blue, a story that was once invisible. Personally, the film resonated deeply with me, even though my young life in Miami was different from Chiron and Kevin’s. For the first time in my 30+ years, I saw fragments of familiar experiences (riding sad in a sad metromover, smoking a blunt on South Beach at night, jokes about jitneys, black beans from Cuban diners) in a film of staggering beauty, written and directed by fellow Miamians working with a Miami crew. And holy shit, it was the best film of the year. <3 [Edit: It actually fucking won best picture]
When a major film critic compares something currently running to “a Disney movie”, it is not often taken as a compliment. Why is this? With almost 150 films under its belt, Disney is a behemoth of filmmaking experience. Yet, the company, a god in modern media and endlessly funded, takes very few risks in their own creativity by enforcing a single formula on multiple stories, even ones that are already cohesive enough without them.
For instance, I think of what’s become known as the Disney Acid Sequence.
Look around. In this very moment, you can do anything you want to, limited only by your physical limitations in time and space. Lick the window. Drag your knuckles on the floor. Hug the person next to you. It’s your prerogative. That’s the beauty of life. Total freedom within any moment.
Games and movies restrict freedom; they shrink it down to a few rules for us to operate within. Video games use goals. Movies use plot. These devices don’t have to be simple, but they usually are. Most video games offer spatial challenges - clearing levels of bad guys by navigating space, for example - most films illustrate social challenges - how a hero navigates various outside pressures, sometimes physical, always emotional, in order to save the day.
A lot of people think that by making video games more social, as opposed to spatial, video games may mature into an art form much like film did, much like literature before it.
I think that’s selling what’s possible in an interactive experience far short.
For me, the most powerful films are those that break rules and defy expectations. Rather than bending the story to fit within some conventional format, great filmmakers mold the medium to fit the story. The fabric of the medium itself becomes a world that the director is exploring; they make exceptionally thoughtful choices at every moment.
When the medium is interactive, the designer’s choices are the rules themselves. The user is literally given a license to explore; the designer supplies the constraints. A powerful experience is one where the presence of the unknown is palpable, and the process of discovery defies expectations. In other words, rational order is difficult to discern but there is a feeling that it exists.
And the narrative - rather than bending a story to work within a series of rational choices, like choose your own adventure books, the rules themselves define what’s possible and organically reveal the story.
Last night MoMA Film hosted its first-ever VR screening as part of this week’s series Slithering Screens: 10 Years of New Frontier at Sundance Institute. Following a talk by the filmmaker Lynette Wallworth, audience members used virtual reality headsets to experience a 3-D, 360-degree short film about an indigenous elder in the Australian outback who witnessed the British government’s 1950s atomic weapons tests.
[An Evening With Lynette Wallworth as part of Slithering Screens: 10 Years of New Frontier at Sundance Institute, April 25, 2016. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for MoMA]
Blanca Rego is an audiovisual artist from Barcelona, Spain. She studied Film Direction and New Media and she works with video, sound and text. She is very interested in the relationship between image and sound. This theme is very present in her artwork which is posted as glifcker.
Curator Christopher Y. Lew writes on Rachel Rose, whose first U.S. exhibition opens tomorrow at the Whitney.
Rachel Rose (b. 1986), still from Everything and More, 2015. High-definition video, color, sound; 11:33 min.; with mylar, PVC, and carpet. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee