Posted tagged ‘sterlin harjo’

Ambiance and Ambivalence at New Direc– Aw, Screw It All, Let’s Get Hammered.

March 30, 2009

After drinking sake with Armond White, joshing with A.O. Scott and seeing a couple pretty-darn-good movies, I felt pretty content with my experience writing for New Directors/New Films, solid in the knowledge that I’d had a few adventures, laughs, et cetera. However, apparently this was not enough for the editorial staff who decided, with the precision of moving plastic soldiers in a game of Risk, to throw me in to the one situation I wasn’t prepared for:

An after-party.

IMG_1478  Film Society Bloggers

The filmlinc blog's New Voices are out on the scene!

“Just make sure I don’t get too drunk too fast,” I told my friend. I thought for a second. “Or too slow.”

The Directors’ After-Party for the New Directors/New Films Festival was held Sunday night at Josephina, a classy New-American joint with organic-natural themes, the sort of place that seems smart and doesn’t do too bad either. People filed in from on early, starting at around 8:30 and a burst of unexpected rain seemed not to deter them.

As for the atmosphere, it was a difficult for me to discern who was who. Unlike Cannes or Sundance, ND/NF is a “working” festival; the people here aren’t on vacation. They see their films and then go home or go to work or back to their lives. Thus, there’s not a lot of opportunity for socializing before-hand in a small community like Park City, where the parties go on for nights.

Instead though, you manage to get an interesting cast of characters gathered from around the city’s film scene in one place. Given my singular ignorance, I was fortunate to run into a figure from my school, the well-connected-and-witty Jeremiah Newton, who volunteered to point out to me various figures, including film critics, directors, distributors and movie-house owners.

Still, the directors were hard to pick out, something that can be testified by the most common question asked to me that evening (“Do you have a film in the festival?”), to which I could only shake my head and grit my teeth, identifying myself as a lowly blogger. Still stranger were the times one managed to actually locate a director. Sterlin Harjo of Barking Water, a Native American road movie, was a nice guy, but after talking to him about the dearth of money for Native American cinema and Chris Eyre’s career, he was surrounded by his friends back from the buffet and I had to move.

IMG_1587 So Yong Kim, director of Treeless Mountain

Memo to Nick Feitel: the director above is So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain)

A man I later found out was Vladimir Kott, of the Russian family comedy The Fly, said “yes” when I asked him if he was a director, but that was just about all the English he spoke.

“What film?” I asked enthusiastically.

“Zeflai,” he responded.


“Zeflai. Zefli.”

We had a stand-still, for a moment, at the buffet.

“I have, uh, translator,” he said as he returned to getting food and turned away from me.


Updated: Another director I.D....Jack Pettibone Riccobono, co-director of KILLER

But all in all, I had a pretty good time, which I suppose is the point of these after-parties. Learning how to duck the Key-Lime-Tart Vodka-Drink offered and find your way to a glass of Merlot or a Whiskey Sour proved a good skill to learn and I even had some street cred with people coming up to me about my interview with Armond.

“Free booze, free food. Some good movie talk. I’ll take it in a flagging economy,” a fellow student told me.

“Come on,” I told my date. “My ears are turning red, along with the rest of my body.”

And then home.

-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice

All photos by Susan Sermoneta.


ND/NF: Winding roads and life’s complications in Sterlin Harjo’s Barking Water

March 26, 2009


Frankie and Irene once loved each other almost a lifetime ago, and then things fell apart. Then they loved each other again a little later, and things fell apart again, this time for good. (“If you ever leave me again, that’s it,” she tells him, then he leaves her.) The film leaves little doubt what happens each and every time: Frankie, inevitably, is the part of the equation bringing about the falling apart.

Only now Frankie is dying, discharged from the hospital to return home to die. And that complicates matters considerably. He isn’t “that other person” anymore, but Irene facing Frankie standing at her doorway isn’t so sure. As an audience member, I have stood inside the threshold of similar doors with Irenes, or out on the steps with Frankies, and I have come to expect these types of films to concern themselves largely with arguing a case one way or another: Frankie is now “another person” or he not. He has learned his lessons, the hard way, or not. She will forgive him and open up to him again, or she will not.  But in the case of Sterlin Harjo’s frank, unsentimental Barking Water, it turns out that the “complicates matters considerably” portion of the setup is the key one.

A handful of other reviews and postings about this film can’t wait to tell you how the film turns out in their opening pitch; find that elsewhere. I’m more taken as a viewer, with how this movie takes the structure of the road movie, the love story, the getting back together story, and lets in the natural rhythms of two human beings who have spent a lot of time with each other and apart. The trip isn’t long enough to save anyone — Frankie’s medical condition is terminal — but it is long enough to get beyond the course-redefining mission of the road, to show us much deeper into this non-couple couple.

Irene reaches a breaking point. Frankie has been listening to a song on a mix tape over and over — a song had become what I thought was a leitmotif for the journey. Irene demands he give the song a break. “We haven’t listened to my music at all,” she says. As she says this, I realize that I, like Frankie, haven’t yet considered what she might want to hear, driving all those days and days beside him. Frankie likes the song, sets the deck to play it again, so Irene pulls the car to the side of the highway. She jumps out. Walks a dozen yards further down the highway by herself. There she stops, facing away from Frankie, waiting. Frankie remains in the car, waiting. Even with Harjo’s nice writerly touches throughout the film, lines of dialogue tucked in after explosive arguments, or rising up from whispers to penetrate silences, he holds off telling us anything more about what is going on inside Irene. Irene returns to the car, telling Frankie, “Just play it quietly.”

Harjo’s Barking Dog engages questions from his own his life, gives portraits of the communities he bridges, unafraid to veer off the main narrative interstate for us to really see some places. This film, like the couple at its center, like all roadtrips, finds great moments along the routes of local two-lane highways. At the end of the press screening, a notoriously “show-me” crowd, someone in the darkness called out, “If you don’t have tears in your eyes after that, you have no heart.” Gauging from that measure, I had plenty.

-Matt Griffin

Buy Tickets
Thu Mar 26: 9 (FSLC)
Sat Mar 28: 3 (MoMA)