Wednesday, December 12, 2012

LET FURY HAVE THE HOUR: Antonino D'Ambrosio's feel-good doc about art, politics and the possibilities for change

How strange it is to see a documentary about subjects dear to one's heart and mind, and featuring a number of talking heads -- John Sayles! Eve Ensler! Van Jones! Richard D. Wolfe! -- whom you have admired for years -- and then find yourself arguing with the movie more and more often as it alternately crawls or barrels along. That was the state TrustMovies found himself in while watching the new film -- the first full-length from Antonino D'Ambrosio -- bearing a most interesting title, LET FURY HAVE THE HOUR.

Arguing with a movie is not necessarily a bad thing. At least you are engaged with it, which is pretty easy to be, so far as Mr. D'Ambrosio's film is concerned (the filmmaker is shown at left). Based on his book of the same name, that also featured the sub-title Joe Strummer, Punk, and The Movement That Shook The World, the documentary is mostly a series of talking heads (I counted some 38 participants listed in the end credits) who talk about art, music (many are themselves musicians), poetry, politics, economics and social change. At the film's beginning, the writer/director tells us this: At the dawn of the 1980s two leaders rose to power, speaking not to the people's aspirations but to their fears, not to their need to come together but their desire to pull apart. These two convinced millions that there was no alternative."

OK. So I'm thinking, who are these two? Milosevic (but he was the end of the 80s)? Maybe some crazy African dictator? Forget that. D'Ambrosio means Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The filmmaker, via his talking heads, then explains how and why these two reactionary conservatives spread their gospel and created the huge disparity between the very rich and the rest of us.

Then he seals the deal by telling us that the music and poetry and arts community rose up in a kind of "Creative Response" that was able to counteract the reactionary movement. Sort of. But did it? And if so, is it still working? To its credit, the movie does address that age-old question Can art makes any difference in the world? But its answer is pretty half-assed, I'm afraid. Yes, many of us love art, which can become a kind of salvation for our minds and spirit. But as to putting food on the table or solving the world's problems, this is more problematic.

There is a lot of intelligence on display here -- from everyone from from Sayles to Chuck D (above: rapper and founder of Public Enemy), Staceyann Chin (below) to Edwige Danticat. Ms Chin, toward the end of the film, explains it this way: The question isn't, Are we moving forward or backward? The questions is, Are we on the right side of history." Fair enough.

But when someone else opines, "I think we're ready for a leap," one can't help but wonder, where -- into the abyss? Everything here is about art of all kinds, with nary a mention of something that might greatly effect art (and all else) like climate change. Religion (and its discontents) is also nowhere to be seen or heard. And certain religions around the world, as practiced by their more fundamentalist believers, would gladly kill many of the artists shown in the film, particularly the women.

Change is inevitable, yes, as (I think) Ms Chin points out. But I would suggest that, while we're on the right side of history, unfortunately the wrong side -- corporations, the wealthy, the powerful -- is definitely winning. How do we change this, short of armed revolution (which we may not stand much chance of winning)? I don't know -- and the movie, feel-good inspiration-fest that it is, doesn't have a clue.

Worth seeing -- and arguing over -- Let Fury Have the Hour, a CAVU Pictures release and running 88 minutes, opens this Friday, December 14, in New York City at the Quad Cinema, and will open in other cities across the country come January. Click here to see currently scheduled cities and theaters.
Note: As a special treat, there will be 
Q&As with the filmmaker following 
the 7:25pm show on Friday 12/14, 
following the 5:15pm & 7:25pm shows 
on Saturday, 12/15 and following the 3:00pm & 
5:15pm shows on Sunday, 12/16.

No comments: