“Art of the Real” kicks off in New York

by Christina Clarke

On Friday, April 11, Art of The Real, a brand-new film series debuted at New York’s Lincoln Center. Produced by The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC)—home of the New York Film Festival—“Art of the Real” is showcasing 35 non-fiction films during the next two weeks (it ends April 26) that explore the concept, structure and meaning of documentary as an evolving art form.

All the films included in “Art of The Real” are technically non-fiction, though where “reality” or “documentary” i.e. reporting ends and fictional narrative begins is deliberately, often magically inconclusive. If the best documentaries reveal hidden truths about their subjects, these films go further suggesting that what constitutes reality or truth is simply a matter of opinion. And viewpoints, especially in the context of these non-fiction films, are not only moving targets, they’re also moveable feasts.

Bloody Beans, dir. Narimane Mari (2013)

The series features more than a dozen recently completed titles, such as James Benning’s US 41 +HF +signs (2014); Robert Greene’s Actress (2014); Narimane Mari’s Bloody Beans (2013) which won the top prize at CPH:DOX Festival in Copenhagen last November, and Stephanie Spray & Pacho Valez’ Manakamana (2013) which begins a theatrical run April 18 at NYC’s IFC Center.

For more on Manakamana and the ground-breaking docs of the Sensory Ethnography Lab, follow this link.

Forest of Bliss, dir. Robert Gardner (1986)

“Art of The Real” also includes a smattering of landmark genre-busting docs – like Derek Jarman’s captivating Blue, (1993), Robert Gardner’s harrowing and subtitle-free Forest of Bliss (1986) and Alberto Grifi & Massimo Sarchielli’s still disturbing Anna (1972-75).

The series opened Friday with the playful La última película, co-directed by Raya Martin & Canadian Mark Peranson, which had its world premiere last fall at TIFF.

Read about director Mark Peranson’s first film, Waiting for Sancho.

Olivia’s Place, dir. Thom Andersen

Also this past weekend, legendary non-fiction filmmaker, historian and educator Thom Andersen, who was recently feted with a retrospective at the 2014 Ann Arbor Film Festival, presented 35mm prints of several newly restored titles including Olivia’s Place (1966/74); Red Hollywood (1996), and Eadweard Muybridge: Zoopraxographer (1975). He also screened a new short, Hey, Asshole. (An interview with Andersen and more on the series will appear in POV later this year.)

Oddly, this extraordinarily adventurous and viscerally provocative series is running concurrently with another much bigger and more conventional annual film event: The 13th Tribeca Film Festival, which opens April 16.

An “Art of the Real” all-access, all-screening pass may be purchased for $99 USD. For a schedule and more information about the series, visit the FSLC website.