Friday, November 4, 2011

One-of-a-kind documentarian George Gittoes is back -- with an AFA retrospective

Last year at one of MoMA's important documentary programs, a then-new film from Australian filmmaker George Gittoes made its New York debut. TrustMovies was bowled over by it (still is) and devoted his lengthiest post yet to the film and to Mr. Gittoes, who is shown in the photo above.  (You can read that post here.) Starting today at New York's Anthology Film Archives, a seven-film retrospective of Mr. Gittoes' work is being shown over three days -- November 4 -6.  If you have any interest in the middle east, the Taliban, documentary film-making of a sort that simply doesn't occur elsewhere, get to this program at least once -- preferably for THE MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD, tonight 4 at 7:15 pm or tomorrow at at 9:00 pm

Below is the AFA's description of this series, with info on each film:
Anthology is thrilled to present a retrospective on George Gittoes, the Australian artist and filmmaker. Each of Gittoes’ utterly unique and totally gonzo films is a journey that exposes us to revelatory truths from the most unexpected angles. An Australian artist who is as highly regarded for his paintings, drawings, and epic diaries as he is for his documentaries, Gittoes is attracted to war-torn countries and peoples in strife. He has traveled to and produced work in such places as the U.S., Central America, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Somalia, the Middle East,Western Sahara, Sinai, Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, Congo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Bougainville, China, Tibet, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Timor, Russia, Yemen, and Iraq.

Whether talking to troops about the music they play while at war or actually making low-budget, direct-to-video action/melodramas in Pakistan, Gittoes constantly amazes with the bravado of his vision and the sensitivity of his touch.

George Gittoes will be in person at selected screenings to discuss his films; please visit forupdates.

To be screened:

2009, 92 minutes, video.
This film takes us on an extraordinary journey to the remote Tribal Belt of the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. To enter thisworld, Gittoes dresses in local costume and agrees to become an actor in the low-budget Pashto Telie Movie industry. Teaming up with Pashto action and comedy stars, they make the ‘last telie movie’ – an over-the-top action drama, played out in what must be one of the craziest of film locations.
    In this unpredictable documentary-drama hybrid, the Telie Movies – with their hilarious combination of American movie culture, village storytelling traditions, and Bollywood style – are intercut with the real-life drama of Gittoes’s extreme journey into the no-go zone of the Taliban-controlled Tribal Belt.
–Friday, November 4 at 7:15 and Saturday, November 5 at 9:00.

1986, 65 minutes, 16mm-to-video.
Filmed on location in Nicaragua, this film focuses on six women who recount their struggles during the Sandinista Revolution and their reliance on writing poetry in order to cope.
“This is a salute to the women and poetry of Nicaragua – a toast to the power of verse and the indomitable courage of the female fighters who, throughout their country’s history, have in many cases, fought their battles with the lyrical pen until they were able to do it by force of arms.” –David Leser, WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN
–Friday, November 4 at 9:15.

2004, 95 minutes, video.
The war in Iraq continues to be explored and dissected from many different angles, but in this film Gittoes ventures into the war-torn country to explore firsthand how music plays a part in the lives of the soldiers involved in the conflict. The film showcases spontaneous musical performances by a cast of battle-weary soldiers, with the sounds ofgunfire and bursting mortar shells forming a frightening backdrop. Americanculture came to Iraq wired into its tanks and helicopters, a live soundtrack to war with songs such as “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”, “Round Out”, “The Tank”, and “Bombs over Baghdad” memorized by every soldier and forever linked to the violent events that accompany them.
     “Music, often pumped through tank and Humvee sound systems into individual helmets, has become a soldier’s chief means of personalizing, justifying, heightening, and denying the experience of war. Mr. Gittoes hasmade a strong movie about [this subject].” –NEW YORK TIMES
–Saturday, November 5 at 4:15.

2006, 103 minutes, video.
In the follow-up to SOUNDTRACK TO WAR, his film about music and war in Iraq, Gittoes turns to the murky underbelly of the Land of the Free. RAMPAGE is another journey into the forbidden zone, this time addressing America’s war in Iraq via its own backyard: a tough Miami ‘hood.
     “Gittoes draws together musical ambition, family ties, and several definitions of war in this vital package. … A sobering reflection on U.S. domestic affairs threaded through the story of hip-hopping brothers in an ultra-dangerous Florida ‘hood.” –Richard Kuipers, VARIETY
–Saturday, November 5 at 6:30.

This interconnected trilogy of Pashto love stories was made in Jalalabad, the second largest city in Afghanistan. The only Westerner involved in their production, Gittoes collaborated with an entirely Afghan and Pashtun cast and crew.

2011, 125 minutes, video. In Pashto with English subtitles.
In Afghanistan the most dangerous thing you can do is to fall in love. In this society of strictly arranged marriages more lovers are murdered by their own families than soldiers killed in the war.
     A young filmmaker, Hamza, falls in love with Jasmin, the daughter of the owner of Love City, a lavish Wedding Hall. The owner is very rich and protective of his daughter. He tells Hamza that he must give up his career as an actor and director before he can even be considered for Jasmin’s hand. When Jasmin is promised to a cousin and a wedding arranged with short notice, the two lovers decide to have their own secret wedding…
–Sunday, November 6 at 3:15.

2011, 127 minutes, video. In Pashto with English subtitles.
Asma, the eldest daughter of a Wedding Hall owner is coming home to Afghanistan from her University in Peshawar, Pakistan when she and her girlfriend Ghuty are kidnapped. They are saved by two men: Asma’s cousin Ikram, who has always loved her, and a playboy, Karim. Karim is the owner of a fancy restaurant and has a reputation as a gangster. Asma falls for Karim while she is creating a Talk Show based on the Oprah Winfrey model. She soon discovers Karim is a fake and a criminal and realizes she has made a big mistake. Ikram forgives her and helps her to use her Talk Show to bring Karim and his corrupt gangster network down.
–Sunday, November 6 at 6:00.

2011, 125 minutes, video. In Pashto with English subtitles.
Ghuty, an American girl brought up by Afghan parents who have fled as refugees and made good in the U.S., returns to Afghanistan and creates a love song dedication show on local Jalalabad radio. A mysterious woman, Shandana, calls in to tell her sad love story, and as a result she and her former lover, a tailor named Khan, are reunited. At the same time, talk show host Asma falls in love with Zaki, an Afghan translator for the U.S. forces. Soon Asma’s mother arrives to force her daughter to return to Ohio, only to discover that Zaki is the son of a man she was in love with until they were separated by the war with the Russians. When these characters return to their native village they find that all their pasts are interconnected.
–Sunday, November 6 at 8:45.

Several of Mr. Gittoes'  films are now available via download at the following links: SOUNDTRACK TO WAR : THE MISCREANTS OF TALLIWOOD : RAMPAGE:

For more info on George Gittoes, simply click here.
For more information on Anthology Film Archives, click here; to purchase tickets, here; and for direction to AFA, here.

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