independent film

5

I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it, but I didn’t, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn’t realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half. I didn’t know, don’t know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me.

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On this day in history in 1934, a federal prison opened on Alcatraz Island built to house the most dangerous prisoners and ones with a pension for escaping. The prison held notorious criminals such as gangsters Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. In 1963 the prison closed due to high expense of maintenance. Later in 1964, members of the Sioux tribe occupied Alcatraz Island, citing an 1868 treaty with the US government and Sioux allowing them to claim any unoccupied government land. The occupation grew in 1969 when hundreds of Native students, protesters, and activists from across the country gathered for the Alcatraz Occupation. It became a place where many found their voices in the shadow of the Civil Rights movement and in the face of continued injustices perpetrated on American Indians by the United States government. In 1971 federal marshals forced everyone to clear the island. Shortly after, the island became a public recreation area maintained by the National Park Service. In 2001, filmmaker James Fortier brought his documentary Alcatraz Is Not an Island to the Sundance Film Festival to shed light on this important historic event. The film features archival footage and photography as well as a series of interviews with participants of the Alcatraz Occupation. 

Film still and poster courtesy of Alcatraz Is Not an Island

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This Noirvember, check out Rian Johnson’s neo-noir thriller and debut feature, Brick. An homage to the hard-boiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Brick plays with recognizable film noir elements–archetypal characters, heightened dialogue, and a murky, twisting mystery plot–by placing them in a modern high school setting. Further differentiating his vision from expectations of film noir, Johnson eschewed low key lighting and hard shadows, and opted instead for a brighter visual style influenced by spaghetti westerns. Brick was recognized at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with a Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision.

Brendan Fry is a loner at his high school, someone who knows all the angles but has chosen to stay on the outside. When the girl he loves turns up dead, he plunges into the school’s social strata like a fist through a honeycomb to find the “who” and “why,” with the same single-minded devotion to his self-appointed task as the hard-boiled heroes of old. - Trevor Groth

Film still and poster courtesy of Brick/Focus Features.