Posted tagged ‘antonio campos’

Moving Pictures: Two recent projects grapple with the Internet’s impact on storytelling

November 20, 2008

Early this week, the New York Times reported that the eggheads at MIT have launched a institute called the Center for Future Storytelling. After referring to “21st century storytelling”–a slippery concept if there ever was one–project founder David Kirkpatrick explained that part of the function of the new initiative would be to “keep meaning alive.” Scholars, graduate students and members of the film industry will use the center to expound upon the changes that technology has wrought upon Homer’s territory. It leads one to wonder, what would Manny Farber say?

Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Continuous City, a part of BAM’s Next Wave festival, might provide a fairly good primer on what “21st century storytelling” actually looks like. Providing a very of-the-moment commentary on the way the internet is not only changing artistic expression, but also basic human interaction, the production made me think about Antonio Campos’s NYFF selection Afterschool. Both projects employ the vernacular of user-generated video in all its artlessness, but, as it turns out, to very different ends.

What was so enlivening about Continuous City was how it enlarged three distinct traditions: that of film, theater and installation art, in the service of telling its three intersecting stories. J.V. (Rizwan Mirza) is a familiar character, an internet mogul with a can’t-lose pitch: his Xubu will connect the inhabitants of a increasingly fragmented world via videophones.

But this story really belongs to J.V.’s globe-trotting chief evangelist Mike. It’s through Mike’s video dispatches to his daughter Sam that the production finds its central means of commenting on how the internet both defines and facilitates communication. That these videophone dispatches played so convincingly as document was a real testament to Harry Sinclair’s performance. I truly never expected to encounter such documentary-style verisimilitude in this kind of environment. But the fact is, Continuous City probably owes more the tradition of cinema than to theater. The use of video screens allowed the three story to unfold in a kind of kinetic montage that borrow from cinema while transcending even those limitations, because the spectator here is free to select his or her own lens on the spectacle in the way they divide their attention between the live action and the video footage.

I came away from Continuous City impressed by the way the production tweaked all of these traditions and managed to challenge the viewer. Just as with Afterschool, I think I was probably less impressed with what was said than how it was said; the medium really is the message here. Still, by showing how fresh, vital and genre-bending the theater can be, Continuous City provides living proof that the heart of “story” still beats in fresh new forms.

Continuous City will be performed tonight through Sunday as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival.

True to the form they appropriate, the production invites regular internet denizens to become a part of Continuous City.

Photos courtesy of The Builder’s Association.

Moving Pictures will be an occasional series on the far reaches of film as art in the city and beyond.


Hot Tickets: Isolation and Afterschool

October 7, 2008

Director Antonio Campos and the cast of Afterschool (photo: Godlis)

Coined previously on the filmlinc blog as “the first film from the YouTube generation”, 25 year-old director Antonio Campos’s prep-school drama Afterschool is perhaps best described as just that. The film follows sophomore student Robert, introverted and lonely and unable to connect with his classmates. The film opens at a point where Robert has nearly completed a full withdrawal, barely able to eke out a cry for help over the phone to his goading, guilt-piling mother; Robert feels lost, and has no way to acknowledge his loneliness other than to conclude that he is “a bad person”. When the accidental drug-overdose death of two popular senior girls (appropriately peripheral to the camera beforehand) takes place, Robert is the first to find them; what follows is a coordinated spiral of mourning on different planes, from the school’s traditional response of a drug crackdown to the internalizing of guilt felt among Robert, his roommate Dave, and their mutual friend/sometimes-girlfriend Amy.

Campos certainly knows how to draw to life the sense of isolation and ennui of adolescence, particularly in such a charged atmosphere as a preparatory school. In fact, the no-way-out anxiety of such an atmosphere and its direct effect on Robert left me squirming in my chair. Robert is given an opportunity to craft the memorial video after the deaths, and in a startling scene of honesty he shows to the headmaster exactly his vision of what this memorial should be; free of the empty “we’ll miss you” jargon of students outside of the girls’ popular circle, Robert creates an introspective and slightly morbid memoriam that only gains the ire of the school administration. Thus is perpetuated the outcast cycle Robert can’t seem to break from.

In terms of story, Campos is treading a well-worn path; it’s his delivery that provides a new take on the material. His directorial choices are highly stylized, at times fusing the haphazard film prowess of an amateur posting to YouTube with the steady full-framed eye of a feature film director. These choices are direct and purposeful, and at times I felt very conscious of the director choosing the nontraditional composition of his shots. Campos often uses long and unbroken takes, and is unafraid to allow his camera to list in and out of the frame for his characters, sometimes going so far as to have speaking characters halved at the edges or bottom of the screen. The screenplay, at crucial points, shows some beautifully lucid moments of inspiration; although at times the film feels scattershot as to its narrative direction, Campos takes care to bring both visual and story-based elements full circle, notably a wink at the low-grade cash-cow corruption at the prep school’s highest echelons.

Buy tickets: Wed Oct 8: 9

Afterschool director Antonio Campos on “being a fly on the wall”

October 1, 2008

From our friends at Filmcatcher: Antonio Campos, 24-year-old director of Afterschool, discusses his influences and the “particular lens” his film applies to teen life.

Read more about Afterschool, or buy tickets [Wed Oct 8: 9]

Hot Tickets: the first film from the YouTube generation?

September 24, 2008

Because I spent most of my years in high school with a video camera in my bag, gathering b-roll footage of football games and collecting stiff interviews of school officials holding forth on the school lunch program, I was glad to see that the high school video production classes of the aughts are not so different than those of the 90s. In 25-year-old newcomer Antonio Campos’s debut feature Afterschool, it’s clear that the channels of distributions have changed, that’s all—instead of a weekly close-circuit video broadcast, today’s teens have a much greater number of channels for their output—not just YouTube, but also Facebook and MySpace.

The opening montage of Afterschool tosses together a piano-playing cat, the camera-phone rendering of Saddam Hussein’s execution, and a particularly sadistic bit of low-rent pornography before laying out its disturbingly off-kilter coming-of-age trajectory. While films like the Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield have made a stunt out of the DIY aesthetic that has been so much a part of the adoption of low-cost video technology, Campos insightfully explores the implications of a world those hilarious cats and gruesome executions have similar weight. His hero, Robert, a soulful, feminine-featured loner, is more of an observer than an actor, and thus becomes a particularly revealing lens on an amateur video-saturated culture.

Robert is conducting a pan of his prep school hallway when the two most popular girls in school careen into the frame, bloody and convulsing. His reaction—or lack thereof—is a jumping off point for the filmmaker to explore the moral disorientation of young people well-versed in trading video clips in lieu of actual face-to-face communication. One of the best moments in the film comes when Rob presents his cringe-inducing video memorial for the fallen twins. “Is this some kind of a joke?” asks his teacher. In his quest to put together, to borrow his terminology, “little clips of things that seem real,” it’s clear that Rob has failed to weave a sufficiently sentimental narrative. Relying heavily on artless, static compositions and long takes that are so reminiscent of the genre of amateur video he’s depicting, Campos provides a film that’s difficult to digest, but nonetheless remarkable for its insights. And miles away from those videos of piano-playing cats.

Tickets to Afterschool are still avaliable:

Mon Oct 6: 6

Wed Oct 8: 9

Snapshots: Afterschool director Antonio Campos

September 23, 2008

New York Film Festival Snapshots sponsored by:

Afterschool director Antonio Campos with his cast.

Antonio Campos

Photos: Godlis