Culture Vulture

When I was reading up on the Anilogue Film Fest that Gravity is currently a part of I did a doubletake when I saw a familiar logo come up, flashing on the side of the screen. The logo was for none other than the Goethe Institute, the New York branch of this organization probably being one of my first real encounters with cultures other than my own! In college a friend of mine was studying German and he would tell us of the wonders of this place, a sharp building nestled in between skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan, so we all decided to go and see what it was all about. And what wasn't it about?! I saw so many films (one of my first big screen Herzog experiences was there! another an animation composed of thousands of picture postcards rapidly in succession like a dizzying flipbook of places!), experimental art (a music piece composed of turning on and off flourescent lightbulbs, the buzz and hum creating a weird atmosphere of sounds and lights!) and even my first brush of installation art/intense modern design (a recessed kind of fabricated hole that people were urged to lounge on and converse!). The events held there, free or nearly free, helped me see a variety of things that I had no idea existed. At some point after this experience I started paying a little more attention to other International Cultural Institutes hidden throughout New York too. Which led me to my first Maysles encounter!

A film screening with an introduction and Q&A by Albert Maysles was being promoted at the French Insitute: Alliance Francaise years ago so I decided to go! But it wasn't a Maysles film they were showing, instead it was one of Maysles favorite films Pour La Suite Du Monde. Every frame of this film has stayed with me since it was first reflected onto my eyes that very day! Pour La Suite Du Monde is a (highly led, sometimes even categorized as "ethnofiction") documentary that tracks a Canadian Island as it reclaimed it's tradition of Beluga Whale hunting in the early 60s. It is hard to describe both the beauty and the people captured in this film as they follow their ancestral footsteps in the snow- you just have to watch it, which you can above!!!!! (Thank you National Film Board of Canada!)!!! After the screening of the film Maysles took the stage where, in his trademark Eastcoast drawl, he talked of his love of documentary film, the social responsibility of documentarians (outraged that young filmmakers weren't entrenched in the political atrocities and wars that were springing up everywhere in the then recent post 9/11 landscape), and, in keeping with the film he had just screened, about how documentary films can do, say and encapsulate any message for the betterment of mankind! Another indelible film moment for sure!

Now that I think of it, even when we were in the Netherlands the Czech Culture Center hosted an art exhibit of Jan Svankmajer! Where Brent met the legendary stop motion, grandfather of pixelation! (street that the Czech Culture Institute is on in The Netherlands pictured here!) I guess what I am getting at is....cultural institutes are pretty much the best! I'm not too familiar with the landscape of them but if you live in a major city you should see what they have to offer! Also, does anyone know if the U.S. has these centers abroad? Given our current reputation I hope we have something worthwhile to offer/show of our culture out there...



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