Notes From Silverdocs festival: From Scorcese to Lee Elia

As Josh so kindly notes, I've been on a bit of a conference bender of late. The latest one is AFI's Silverdcos conference and documentary film festival. I missed Al Gore speech (which received rave reviews), so for me the festival started with Jim Jarmusch's interview of Martin Scorcese as part of AFI's tribute to "Marty's" non-fiction work. (AFI feted Scorcese in 1997 for his narrative work.) The dynamic duo was preceeded by clips from Italianamerican, The Last Waltz, Mio viaggio in Italia, Il, and No Direction Home. Scorcese discussed how his approach to non-fiction has affected his approach to his fiction work; the interviews he did of his family for Italianamerican contributed to the clean camera approach that he used for the dialogue scenes in Raging Bull, for instance.

The star from Italianamerican was Martin's mother, revealing that her turn in Goodfellas was not a stretch. (Scorcese revealed that that scene, one of may favorites, was almost entirely ad-libbed, with the exception of the famous painting.) I also hadn't realized that Scorcese did not shoot the interviews with Dylan for No Direction Home. Jarmusch mentioned that Scorcese and his work are often "name-checked" in rap music– Scorcese seemed surprised.

Jarmusch: Your feature film career has always been interspersed with documentaries. What was the difference in approach between these two?

Scorsese: The material leads me to the style of any particular film. With documentaries, it's the subject matter and the people who are being portrayed that suggests my approach, the shooting and editing decisions and the overall look of the film. Music also plays a strong part… The goal is always trying to get at the truth of your subject, striving for authenticity and human truth.

I was able to see parts of 5 films yeserday, including the shorts Alberto Cabanas' Man Up,  , a haunting look at militarism and father-son relations, and Dan Jawitz's Glimpse, a Powaqqatsi-esque look at contemporary South Africa. 

I capped off the evening with a screening of Fuck (I wonder what kind of comment spam that will generate?). The film is a review of the "the social, political, personal, historical, linguistic and artistic significance of the word." It was a fun Friday screening, not profound, but with entertaining interviews with folks ranging from Billy Connolly to Hunter S. Thompson to (public radio's own) Sandra Tsing Loh— Pat Boone, Ice T, and Dave Marsh stood out. It includes an unedited version of then-Cubs manager Lee Elia's 1983 rant  against unsupportive "3,000" fans in which he dropped the F-bomb 17 times in 3 minutes . (Ah, those were the days– when Cubs fans didn't flock to the park without regard for the quality of baseball.) Steve Anderson revealed that if broadcast, the film would be subject to $260 million in fines under the latest indecency legislation Bush signed this week. (Neither Howard Stern nor Michael Powell were interviewed, but both make appearances.)

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