US film critic and New Yorker staff writer, Hilton Als, shares a laugh with StudioFilmClub co-founder, Peter Doig
One of the questions Jonathan and I have been sending out in our Q&As; to directors is this: Can filmmaking change the world? The responses to this question have been varied. Yes. No. It already has. Driving home tonight I found my own answer: Perhaps filmmaking can’t change the world, per se, but it can certainly alter one person’s perception of it. Sometimes there is a film that is so singularly disturbing, beautiful, thought- and range-of-emotions-provoking that the universe around us, literally and figuratively, looks different after we see it. Perhaps you have a mental list of these films; I know I do. And tonight, I add one more, Peggy and Fred in Hell, which was screened as part of StudioFilmClub‘s second in a four-night programme for the trinidad+tobago film festival/09.
The first week of this year’s StudioFilmClub programme is curated by US writer and film critic, Hilton Als, who arrived in Trinidad today and was present tonight for the second of four nights of film club screenings. In his pre-show chat he apolgised that he couldn’t get here earlier, and then gave a brief explanation for his choice of films and his overarching focus on women–that, on screen, he finds women more interesting to look at than men. (Hilton’s three SFC nights are called “Three Women,” “Two Women . . . Sort of” and “One Woman.”) He also pointed to a common thread in the films that he chose, that they all in some way address themes of transformation, identity, and repulsion.
First to be screened was the work of Kalup Linzy, an artist who spent a lot of time looking at soap operas with his grandmother who raised him. Linzy’s three short films lived up to my expectations–they made up a raucous and hilarious ride of assorted Southern female characters (the filmmaker voices them all himself and plays a number of characters in drag).
For some present, the transition from Linzy’s films to the screening of the visually dense, dark and disturbing Peggy and Fred in Hell was difficult. Hilton seemed to know that this would be the case–before the screening he urged patrons to get up during the film, go grab a drink, and come back, noting that he never sits through the entire work. I took his advice but was drawn quickly back to the film, which features a couple of children–the last surviving people on earth. The movie switches between archival footage of historical moments and natural disasters to scenes of Peggy and Fred moving through a vast world devoid of humans but filled with objects of a material and media-heavy age. Their behaviour is strange and hypnotic and varies throughout; in some scenes they appear to be playing house, in others they dance or sing for a stretch, in one they are engaged in a fist-fight. Director Leslie Thornton started making the film some 20 years ago but is supposedly now “finished.” For the time being, at least.
After the screening, Hilton said of Peggy and Fred, “It’s a difficult work, I know, but it’s important to see it and other challenging works so that we can reorient our brains to the world around us.”
Next on the StudioFilmClub agenda is the screening of Kara Walker‘s short films, an hour-long programme that takes place this Friday, September 18, at 8.15 pm, with an after-party to follow. Admission is free.
A still from Leslie Thornton’s Peggy and Fred in Hell
The crowd gathers around the bar. No surprise there!
Studiofilmclub co-founder, Che Lovelace, before the screening