Bebe Nodjomi ‘s Iran: A Memory is a found footage, experimental, performative documentary currently featured on the website for the Farhang Foundation 6th Annual Short Film Festival (http://www.farhangfilmfest.org).
Oscillating between New York and Iran, Nodjomi searches for the meaning of home and identity through her father’s documentation of Iran, reflecting on the past that she otherwise could not remember were it not for the medium of film.
Nodjomi was born and raised in New York and has made frequent trips to Iran with her family but has not returned since 2009. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Film Studies at Columbia University. She plans on writing her Master’s Thesis about Post-Nationalist Iranian Cinema. Below are excerpts from a recent conversation between Bebe Nodjomi and IndependentFilmNow.
Mike Fishman: Bebe, in Iran: A Memory you utilize film footage that your father shot of Iran and of you and your family when you were much younger. Did the idea for your film grow out of that footage or did you have the idea for the film and realized that you could incoprorate the footage to explore your themes?
Bebe Nodjomi: I first began assembling this film for an experimental class back in 2012. I was inspired by a lot of work we were watching by filmmakers who explored their respective heritages. I decided to go and look back at what my father had filmed on your basic homevideo DV camcorder and came across footage of the roads, mountains, family outings, and of course myself as a younger girl. I think looking back at this image of a younger me inspired me to “find myself” and better understand who was in the past when I traveled to Iran and who I am now in New York, having not traveled back since 2009. The addition of my cousins footage came in a year later when I was looking through the completed short and I realized I needed something light to make it more relatable and comedic, however, the dialogue still ties into the general theme of blood shed in Iran.
MF: Is that where the images came from of you painting grass blades red?
BN: Yes, the grass sequence is a continuation of this blood shed in Iran theme. It refers specifically to the 2009 Green Wave Movement that attempted to outcast the fraudulent votes that made Ahmadinejad the president again for four subsequent years. The mini revolution was swiftly kept at bay with harsh violent sanctions from the government and I wanted to portray that as best I could without specifically referring to the event but rather subtextually referencing it in a poetic manner such as painting.
MF: As with most experimental filmmakers you utilize sound to comment and expand upon your images, such as the sound of cars on a highway and judicious use of music and ambient sound. Tell us about your approach to creating the soundscape for this film.
BN: For my soundtrack, I simply kept using snippets of pre-existing sound from the footage I had of Iran and constantly pasted them over various images. In particular I used the sound of cars zooming by to establish a sense of time and disorder, for example when I have the sound of cars passing by while my father dances with my cousin. Originally I had wanted to use a traditional Iranian pop song, but because of copyright issues I decided to use the car sound which perhaps even creates an alienative quality about the moment. I tried my best to use Godard’s sound technique of dropping sound down every now and then to help the viewer truly pay attention to what is happening on screen.
For more information about Bebe Nodjomi, please visit her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/bebe.nodjomi
Stranger is a short film about a young woman on the verge of madness, paranoia and hallucination.
Status: Complete, as of March 2014
On May 10th it will premiere at Beyond the Beaten Path Film Festival in SoCal, sponsored by the SoCal Independent Film Festival.
Snail Racing is a surprisingly serious sport with people coming for all around the world to take part in the championship held in a little village called Congham in Norfolk. The event started to simply raised money for the local church but now is a massive event bringing a lot of controversy with the likes of sport drugs, illegal breeding and gambling. At first the event comes across as a beautiful, English family fun day out but there are many things hidden in the dark so we went exploring into the underground snail race.
Shown at U-Festival 2014 – http://www.ufestival2014.com/
Visit the website: http://redcherryproductions.wix.com/snails-pace
Find it on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RedCherryProductions?ref=hl
Follow it on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RedCherryProd
To purchase Do No Harm on DVD: http://www.shop.donoharmmovie.com
Do No Harm Website: http://donoharmmovie.com
Do No Harm on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DoNoHarmMovie
Roddy Bogawa’s fascinating documentary, Taken by Storm brings us into the world of Storm Thorgerson, co-founder of Hipgnosis, the company responsible for the unique and often-startling designs of dozens of classic vinyl album covers from the late 1960’s to the 2000’s including such iconic album designs as Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and Led Zeppelin’s “Presence.” In showing Mr. Thorgerson at work, Mr. Bogawa takes us into an earlier era of artistry, where physical crafting and painstaking staging of photographs were relied on as opposed to the technical shortcuts of today’s computer-generated ease. When Mr. Thorgerson set out to create the cover of Pink Floyd’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” depicting dozens of hospital beds lined up in the English countryside, dozens of hospital beds it was despite the obstacles one would expect to find in arranging such a photograph including the inevitable English rain.
So, too, has filmmaker Roddy Bogawa continued to work often with 16mm film, preferring to get his hands dirty rather than clicking on a mouse. Excerpts from a recent conversation with Mr. Bogawa about Taken by Storm and his approach to film are below. Taken by Storm premiered at South By Southwest in 2011 and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in 2013 as part of Roddy Bogawa: If Films Could Smell, a mid-career retrospective.
Mike Fishman: You’ve worked a lot with 16mm film, which has a tactile nature to it as compared to digital video. Was part of what drew you to this particular subject the tactile feel of film and your interest and teenage memories of album covers, which often opened up to reveal more design elements?
Roddy Bogawa: Absolutely! I learned how to make films doing black and white photography and then super-8 (which was like trying to work with curly pasta!) and then finally 16mm film. I’ve done almost all my work in 16mm film because I love the image, the grain of the film, and the physicality of working with it – threading a film camera magazine, loading and unloading it, even having to take it to a lab to get processed. My last three feature films were all cut in 16mm on a Steenbeck six-plate editing machine which means you work with tape splicers, grease pencils, sharpie pens, and boxes and boxes of film and sound rolls. My memories of learning to work in film have to do with all of this…the editing room as an absolute mess. There used to be notes and pictures taped all over the walls, you could smoke while working, old burrito wrappers on the floor. It was a studio! Now with computer-based editing systems (and I don’t say ‘non-linear’ because cutting on a film flatbed is non-linear editing), you’ve got none of this. You sit in an air-conditioned room, calling in a sushi lunch, and staring blankly at a computer screen for hours. There’s precisely NO physicality to this other than the click of a mouse. Not only is this terrifyingly boring to me but I have a belief that the fact that with film editing you would have to move around, pull the film, look at your cutting marks, find your log sheets to locate a shot, thread and re-thread reels, creates moments when your eyes are forced to look elsewhere and your brain drifts into another space where you get ideas about editing and relationships of shots and concepts.
The act of editing should really be the physical act of articulating your thoughts, but computer-based editing pushes you to be lazy because you can always undo your last edit with a key command. Even if you are quick with a tape splicer, an edit would take a certain amount of time and thus you would think about why you were making a cut before you would do it. This for me is a huge geological shift in editing that came far too quickly. I’m not a technophobe in a cave but I do think tools affect creativity and these particular tools aren’t predisposed for thinking. It’s the same with writing. How quickly has the method of how we write changed with first the word processor and then the computer? At this moment, I’m answering your questions while typing on a laptop and editing and re-writing at the same time as punching the keys rather than trying to write out a draft and then going back and doing a re-write. I try as much as possible to not do this with writing and also editing on a computer system but it’s fighting a landslide of bad habits formed by technology.
It’s a good correlation to pose vinyl records against this parallel shift and I do think it’s possibly one of the reasons that opened the door between Storm and I. Not that we were anti-technological curmudgeons but that we intuitively felt this shift and recognized the larger social function that was getting lost in the shuffle. Vinyl records were not just physical objects but also the source of information in the pre-internet days. This is where you would read about who was the producer and engineer, what musicians played on the LP and also of course, who designed the cover and packaging. Hipgnosis was a name that popped up on many records that I had as a teenager and I was fascinated by the fact that sometimes the “company” or whatever I fantasized it was, was spelled strangely and also occasionally mis-spelled as “Hipnosis.” This was also where you studied pictures of the band to model your clothes or hair style on and when I got into Punk music, where I thought about politics, albeit naïve at the time.
Storm and Po’s covers (Aubrey “Po” Powell was the other founding member of Hipgnosis) were always never easy to pin down and did in fact have many visual puns, hidden meanings, etc. embedded in the design. This was not simply clever packaging but rather taking the notion of packaging to an entirely new realm of meaning. Storm continued this throughout his career up through StormStudios and realized that what he called his “job” was not simply to market the band but instead to create what he called a visual parallel to the music. Thus, the majority of his covers are artistic pieces in and of themselves. In a funny way, I also think this freed up the musicians in certain ways – not locking the image from a cover of one of their records to a particular look or time period thereby dating it.
MF: It’s fascinating how the images on album covers become intertwined with the music, such as the prism on “Dark Side of the Moon” or “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” where the cover directly supports the actual story of the album and the story Peter Gabriel wrote that appears on the inside cover. Do you think the packaging of music will ever move back to something larger or different that will somehow incorporate that experience or we inevitably moving towards only downloadable files?
RB: I really doubt that album covers will shift back to that kind of interplay with the music and in that way, Storm was a true pioneer and genius. He, of course, was not the only one working like this and there is a handful of other designers I quite admire but I have to say Storm was one of a kind for his dogged dedication to exploring imagery in relation to music. That the “Dark Side of the Moon” cover developed from the iconic prism and refracted light graphic to images of pyramids and triangles and such, symbolizing ambition and madness, is emblematic of how Storm’s imagery was expansive in meaning.
The other cover you mention, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” really is kind of a perfect match to some of what I think was Storm’s strategy in numerous designs. I told him once that one of the overarching interpretations I got from looking hard at the bulk of his design work was that they resembled film stills or still images from a scene caught mid-action which was what always made me curious about what had just happened prior to the image or what was just about to happen. He grinned at me and that was the moment he told me he had studied filmmaking at the Royal College of Art. In fact, Po, his partner, also studied filmmaking at college and after Hipgnosis folded went on to direct numerous music related projects and documentaries as well as commercials. “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” by Genesis and “Deloused in the Comatorium” by The Mars Volta decades later are both concept albums that are visually evocative so these are cases where the music is moving more into his terrain of expertise. And most of all in something like “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” Storm got to do more than one picture for the album! He must have loved that.
While making the film over three years and spending a lot of time with Storm I decided the medium that might have worked best for him was one that got abandoned pretty quickly – the CDRom. In the architecture of a CDRom, he could have had multiple entries and exits to the imagery. It was really the epitome of a rhyzomatic form and Storm’s mind worked in those associative methodologies. I don’t think you can have the same type of pathways of information in an ebook or website with hidden buttons, etc.
In terms of the move from vinyl to CD to mp3, it’s terribly sad, not just for the music industry as it suffers financially but also how we all have lost a real social element that was in my mind very significant. The notion of sitting your friends down after dinner and spinning a record or loaning an LP to someone is completely lost with digital files and how music is now “shared.” We’ve given up what was a bonding tribal ritual for supposed convenience and consumption and moved from music unifying groups of people to the “I-Pod” and “I-phone.” Me. Me. Me. It’s the same with physical photo albums. My grandparents’ photo albums still exist and are on the shelf to pick up and look at, pictures that are 75 years old, but will the same hold true for all those hundreds of thousands of digital photos we’ve got on our hard drives? Unfortunately, I think not.
Above, from left to right: editor Karen Skloss, filmmaker Roddy Bogawa, Storm Thorgerson, and StormStudios photographer Rupert Truman at South by Southwest Film Festival, 2011. Photo courtesy of Rupert Truman.
MF: This may be an impossible question to answer but taking an album like “Dark Side of the Moon,” how much do you think the cover added to the mystique of the album? Do you think the album might have had a different reception if the cover had featured, say, a simple shot of the band on it? And by that I mean not an interesting shot like on Pink Floyd’s “UmmaGumma,” but just a plain still image of the band?
RB: Pink Floyd, by the time they hit “Dark Side of the Moon,” had really abandoned the idea of an image of a band as its identifiable symbol so the graphic of the prism fit perfectly to this arc, and then certainly after the success of the record, it solidified this feeling. Their concerts had already taken on a larger than life aspect with the light show, quadraphonic sound, inflatable balloons and an octopus, so they were moving towards another type of spectacle in their live shows. Maybe it was the advent of “prog rock” that also influenced this shift, that the bands didn’t jump about much as they had to play rather complex riffs and runs, or their desire for people to listen to them live as if visiting a play or theater setting rather than a typical rock concert but any type of portrait is literally gone from the covers after “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and “UmmaGumma.”
It’s hard to reconcile just why the prism is so perfect for the music contained in the record, or is it that it’s been ingrained in our collective consciousness to the point that we simply can’t separate the two? My memory is that it seemed very futuristic and I always thought of the prism as the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” hence the black background of outer space, which was also re-enforced by the infra-red images of the pyramids in green looking like Mars. Our inability to immediately decode the prism in relation to the music is testament to its lasting impression in a way and it clearly looks absolutely fantastic on a t-shirt! I can’t say for sure if the reception of the album would have been different with an image of the band on the cover but I do think it would have tagged the lyrics about the music industry and madness too close to the band if there had been this type of design. With this reduced graphic, people can interpret the content more freely and associate some of the songs to Syd Barrett or the snippets of dialogue about violence and death from anyone, even the listener (Editor’s note: see also Storm Thorgerson’s design for Pink Floyd’s follow-up album to “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here”). The cover also feels out of time and I do think this is one reason that the album has found its place over and over again with new generations of music lovers.
MF: What’s the status of Taken by Storm and where can people look forward to seeing it in the future?
RB: At the moment, I’m dealing with all the clearances and hoping it gets released in the coming months. I’ve been talking with independent booking agents about doing limited theatrical runs and then it’ll be released on DVD and digitally. Storm and I had talked about screenings of the film with music shows afterwards alongside exhibitions of prints of his images (Storm with his studio, StormStudios and various galleries have made limited edition silk screens of numerous images) and crazy things like screening the film in rock concert venues. It’s time for the film to come out now that Storm is gone so music lovers along with graphic designers and even advertising people can see his process and how prolific his life and career was over the forty years he worked. I always told Storm that his influence on culture went way past just the music world and hopefully when the film is widely available this will become apparent.
For more information on Roddy Bogawa and Taken by Storm please visit: http://www.roddybogawa.com.
SEEKING FILM DIRECTORS – www.SonnetProjectNYC.com/directorsignup
NY Shakespeare Exchange seeks up to 154 film directors to participate in a groundbreaking exploration of film, theater, and mobile technology. The Sonnet Project is a massive multi-artist, internet-based interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets that will put these astounding poems quite literally into the pockets of people across the globe. We will bring together an adventurous group of filmmakers and actors to create film versions of all 154 sonnets that will live on the Internet and be delivered to the public by way of a specially designed Sonnet Project mobile app.
Each sonnet video will be filmed in a unique location throughout the five boroughs of New York City, the birthplace of American cinema. From the iconic to the forgotten, we’ve chosen locations with deep cultural significance. In this way, we juxtapose the poetry of the city with the poetry of the Bard, and find a deep contemporary relevance for Shakespeare’s sometimes elusive language.
The project launched in 2013 on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday and culminates in 2014 on his 450th. Throughout the year we release a new sonnet video every 2-3 days. The videos and all supporting materials will be available free of charge to anyone in any sector of the population and foster an unprecedented level of access to Shakespearean performance.
Creative Parameters for The Sonnet Project
• The “starring roles” in each video are Shakespeare’s language, the specific NYC location, and the director’s interpretation (teams of film makers are welcome to submit – please choose one person to serve as the primary contact on the submission form. www.SonnetProjectNYC.com/directorsignup).
• Director is responsible for equipment needs.
• New York Shakespeare Exchange will assign the sonnet location.
• Highly skilled classical actors from the files of NYSX will be cast based on each particular sonnet. Director requests for basic actor types (e.g., gender, age-range, etc.) will be taken into consideration when possible. Requests to work with specific actors will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
• An NYSX text coach will work with each actor on interpreting the language, and will be present “on set” to assist with rhetorical technique and clarity of Shakespearean thought. The text coach will also be available to the director for any textual analysis questions.
• Video length must be 120 seconds or less.
• Submitted footage must be fully edited and in an “audience ready” form. NY Shakespeare Exchange will provide logos and specifications for titles and credits.
• The delivery format is 1080 HD 23.98P with sync sound.
• Video must be delivered no later than March 31.
*Once a director has submitted one video, he/she may submit to take on a second, third, even fourth. For all secondary videos the deadline is July 31.
Within these constraints, we challenge each filmmaker to express a personal cinematic style.
Take a look at the video we’ve been using for our pitches: http://vimeo.com/40493664.
WHAT WILL YOUR SONNET LOOK LIKE?
Because NYSX is a nonprofit organization and this program will be free to all audiences, we are looking for contributions of time and talent. There is no pay for involvement. Directors will be fully credited for their work.
Tee’d Off is a independent B&W short about what it takes to hold down a horrible survival job while you pursue your dreams. The characters have some unique ways of dealing with both their friendship and the challenges of being a starving artist in NYC.
Tee’d Off won the audience choice award at the Lake Placid Film Forum and screened at Tribeca Cinemas as part of the Big Apple Film Festival. It’s currently screening as Film Festival Flix National Short film Competition Winner and will be screening at the Landmark theater in Denver CO on DEc 18th.
Watch the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/52335805
Visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teed-Off/382606175100560
A long time ago… In the summer of 1981…
A tragedy of epic proportions sends five friends on an epic adventure. All they have to do is follow The Stream and back. What could possibly go wrong? Encountering bullies, a nasty storm and mystical creatures, the friends will need the force of friendship to prevail.
The Stream is a completed film. It has its red carpet premieres in Union Square, NYC on Oct. 15th, and at LA Live, LA on Oct. 16th. The movie premieres in select Regal Cinemas nationwide on Oct. 18th.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jacob_Williams8 or @dream_tree
Movie Theaters Showing the Film :
UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas 14 & RPX
35-30 38th St., Astoria NY 11101
Regal New Roc Stadium 18 & IMAX
33 Le Count Place, New Rochelle NY 10801
Regal City North 14
2600 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL
Regal Cantera Stadium 17 & RPX
28250 Diehl Road, Warrenville IL 60555
UA Riverview Plaza Stadium 17
1400 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia PA 19147
UA Washington Township 14
121 Tuckahoe Rd, Sewell, NJ 08080
Regal Peoples Plaza Stadium 17
1100 Peoples Plz, Newark, DE 19702
Regal Solomon Pond Stadium 15
591 Donald Lynch Boulevard, Marlborough MA 01752
LOS ANGELES & ORANGE CO.
Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26 & IMAX
7501 Carson Blvd Long Beach, CA 90808
Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 IMAX & RPX
65 Fortune Dr.,Irvine,CA,92618
SAN FRANCISCO / OAKLAND:
UA Emery Bay Stadium 10
6330 Christie Ave Emeryville, CA 94608
Regal Parkway Plaza Stadium 18 & IMAX
405 Parkway Plaza, El Cajon CA 92020
WASHINGTON DC / BALTIMORE / VA:
Regal Majestic Stadium 20 & IMAX
900 Ellsworth Drive Silver Spring, MD 20910
UA Snowden Square Stadium 14
9161 Commerce Center Drive, Columbia MD 21046
Regal Hollywood Stadium 24 @ North I-85
3265 NE Expressway Access Rd, Chamblee GA
Regal Atlantic Station 16 IMAX & RPX
261 19th Street NW, Atlanta GA 30363
Regal Brooklyn Center Stadium 20
6420 Camden Ave North, Minneapolis MN 55430
UA Colorado Mills Stadium 16 & IMAX
14500 West Colfax Ave., Lakewood CO 80401
DALLAS / FT. WORTH:
UA Grand Prairie 10
510 Westchester Pkwy, Grand Prairie TX 75052