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Film festival expands beyond tradition

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | APRIL 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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With a lot of moments in history, people remember exactly where they were.

Where were you, almost five years ago, when you found out Michael Jackson died? Were you among the estimated 3 billion watching on July 7, 2009, as Jackson was laid to rest?

Nick Twemlow was.

Twemlow remembers the entire funeral, from the white gloves worn by Jackson''s brothers to the performances of Jackson''s songs given by other showbiz royalty.

This weekend, at the Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival, Twemlow will showcase a piece centered on Jackson''s funeral titled "Richard Prince." The festival will feature a variety of screenings and competitions at FilmScene, 118 E. College St., beginning at 7 p.m. today and continuing through Saturday.

"It''s a study of two people who lost their childhoods to fame and my study to find their ghosts. It''s a study of motion," Twemlow said. "I chose a portion of the memorial, Brooke Shields giving a eulogy, and then I distort her image a lot. I think of it more as a painting you might look at to study subject matter."

Interwoven with Shields' eulogy are images of the Calvin Klein denim commercials she did as a child, gradually altering into unrecognizable sounds before coming back together in a twisted version of Jackson''s famed song "Dirty Diana."

The six-minute film is just the start of a series Twemlow worries he may never be able to complete unless he receives grants to continue his work.

"The series is called American Glyptix; a glyptic is just an engraved gem-stone," he said. "I want to make a series of these celebrity memorials, and then I want to have them projected onto little gemstones that would distort the image. I''m really interested in how we celebrate death, especially celebrity death. It''s kind of incredibly crazy the amount of worry we have over these celebrity deaths. It''s a way to look at how we mourn these celebrities, especially given the way we don''t really like to talk about death."

Nothing was shot by Twemlow; he ripped the shots from television broadcasts and other locations. Given the appropriation, he said, the film is experimental — a similarity among many of the documentaries.

The similarities, though, may end there.

Filmmaker Anna Swanson''s submission "rights of passage," follows her long-distance relationship over the past two years, exploring "the ethics of documenting the ''Other'' and the self."

"When I was a younger filmmaker and student, I used to take pictures of people or record them without getting consent," Swanson said. "I thought that this kind of voyeuristic surveillance was more ''real.'' But over the last couple of years, I''ve had some huge shifts in thinking about this, and I was lucky enough to record that process of growth in myself, which has been catalyzed and co-discovered with my partner."

The "autoethnographic film," as described by Swanson, reflects on how being in an intimate relationship has contributed to her growth in an ethical capacity. The spark for the documentary came nearly four years previously, yet the work is not set in stone. Swanson said the project is something she could continue to work on, edit, revise, and answer new questions she has ran into throughout the creative process.

Swanson believes the Iowa City Documentary Festival is perfect for her film, because it creates a space to "discuss work that pushes hard on the boundaries of the documentary, on the borderline between nonfiction and fiction."

The festival has a strong tradition in the Iowa City area and brings filmmakers from across the world into the community, said Brad Maxwell a film-committee member.

"Arts and culture play such an instrumental role in Iowa City," he said. "Our team believes we owe it to  both ourselves and the community at large to deliver the best film festival possible. Iowa City Documentaries expands beyond the traditional roots of nonfiction filmmaking and takes viewers on a visual journey through the blurred lines of reality."


Competitive Show No. 1
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: FilmScene, 118 E. College
 
Competitive Show No. 2
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: FilmScene
 
Competitive Show No. 3, No. 4, No. 5
When: 2 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: FilmScene

Click here to view Twemlow's video "Richard Prince."


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