Movie Review: 2002 NYUFF: Investigation Of A Flame, Soundings, Amplified Voices
I never really know how to review pure experimental films, the kind that are a manipulation of the actual raw material that makes up celluloid. But I enjoy watching them. Done well, they can be trippy, engaging experiences that stimulate the mind while the eyes and ears are filled with unnatural stimuli.
With that said, Sandra Gibson‘s Soundings was a stream of scratchy lines and color-manipulated frames. It was, like a good experimental film, trippy and engaging, but that’s all I can really think to say about it.
But Soundings was paired with two traditional documentaries of the radical political slant dominating the New York Underground Film Festival this year. The first doc was Angela Aguayo and Lauren Banta’s Amplified Voices, about a controversial anti-abortion installation erected on the University of Texas’s campus. However, clocking in at less than 15 minutes, Voices was just a cursory coverage of the event. What happened was that a radical anti-abortion group put up giant posters of aborted fetuses in the main campus gathering area along with other anti-abortion propaganda.
The University gave permission for the installation to go up, so it wasn’t an illegal activity. But the whole issue stirred up a whole host of First Amendment issues. While the anti-abortionists were allowed to promote their viewpoint, when activists came out to protest the posters they were harassed for such things as using a bullhorn to create a disturbance, even though the implication was that forcing people to look at gigantic disgusting pictures wasn’t thought to be a disturbance.
As a document of the incident, Voices did its job. However, I just thought the film could have had a lot more depth to it.
The opening of Lynne Sachs‘ Investigation of a Flame took more of a poetic approach to its subject than Amplified Voices did, but unfortunately I didn’t stay for the entire film. The movie dealt with a 1968 incident where a group of Vietnam War protestors stole and destroyed selective service records in Maryland. I had a bit of trouble following the piece, so instead of staying for the whole film I went outside to check out a modern day protest.
Angered over the NYUFF’s exclusion of a documentary about notorious anti-gay minister Fred Phelps, ol’ Fred and a bunch of his cronies came out to NYC to protest the festival.
Fred’s “church” runs a website called godhatesfags.com and is probably most famous for demonstrating outside the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the homosexual teenager who was savagely “gay-bashed” several years ago.
Well, Fred is still using poor Matthew as his anti-gay poster boy. He and his gang were also in town to protest the original HBO movie The Laramie Project. (Laramie was the town Matthew was from.)
About 15 or so fag haters showed up at the Anthology Film Archives, about a quarter of the festival-goers who were out heckling them. Fred’s gang was singing hymns and holding up a variety of offensive signs, including ones celebrating the fact that Matthew Shepard is probably rotting in Hell, another calling former NYC mayor Rudy Giulliani a “fag enabler,” and another calling us movie aficionados “NYUFF Fags.”
However, the most shocking sign I saw said “Thank God for 9/11.” I assume these horrible people were applauding one of the worst tragedies in American history because it took place in NYC, which they perceive to be a bastion of homosexuality. I found that to be especially appalling, as I believe most people will, and don’t think I need to comment on it further.
But just for the record, New York Underground Film Festival Director Ed Halter said that the fest didn’t select the Fred Phelps documentary not because of Fred’s controversial nature, but that it simply wasn’t a good film, which I have read that it’s not a particularly well-made film elsewhere, too.