The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents Neither/Nor, True/False’s annual exploration of “chimeric” cinema, i.e. filmmaking that contains elements of fiction and nonfiction.
In each edition, a visiting critic curates a slate of films which will be screened at Ragtag Cinema the week of the festival. All Neither/Nor screenings are free. If you have questions about the series, you can read about the ticketing details here, or feel free to email Chris Boeckmann at [email protected].
For the fourth edition of the 2016 edition of our Neither/Nor sidebar, we are collaborating with film critic Nick Pinkerton on a series exploring Mondo (or so-called “shockumentary”) cinema and its offshoots:
MONDO CANE Warning: Contains graphic content
WEDNESDAY, MAR 2 / 8:30PM / BIG RAGTAG
Dir. Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi & Paolo Cavara; 1962; 108 min.
Released in 1962, Mondo Cane is a leering transcontinental tour: knee-walking drunks in Hamburg, a high-end restaurant in New York City where the hoi polloi dine on insects, the tragic effects of atomic radiation on the wildlife of the Bikini Atoll, and the effects of the bikini upon sailors enjoying shore leave. Frequently the film takes bounding leaps from one side of the planet to the other. Rather than chastening the savage with the example of superior civilization, the cheek-and-jowl positioning of images from the industrialized and undeveloped world shows the continuing importance of rites and rituals in both. The purpose of this is not necessarily to elevate the lowly savage, but to place kennel, a dog’s world. (NP)
AFRICA ADDIO Warning: Contains extremely graphic content, including footage of an execution
FRIDAY, MAR 4 / 9:00PM / BIG RAGTAG
Dir. Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi; 1966; 140 min.
This widely maligned and misunderstood follow-up to Mondo Canebegins with the ceremonious exit of the British government from Nairobi, Kenya, on Dec. 12, 1963. It then offers a collage of scenes from around the African continent after most European powers had pulled up stakes. Occasional bits of comic relief — a public slide show teaching a black supremacist curriculum, tribal warriors receiving government-issue boxer shorts from the Sudanese Legion of Decency, a couple of lions being interrupted in flagrante delicto by tourists honking their car horns — are few and far apart. There is an all-encompassing mournfulness for both the departing colonials and their former subjects who, as the voice-over postulates, have been left to their own preparation for self-governance. (NP)
DES MORTS Warning: Contains graphic content
FRIDAY, MAR 4 / 5:30PM / BIG RAGTAG & SATURDAY, MAR 5 / 10:00PM / BIG RAGTAG
Dir. Jean-Pol Ferbus, Dominique Garny & Thierry Zéno; 1979; 105 min. Q&A with dir. Thierry Zéno
Des Morts begins with an American mortician in a crisp white lab coat grooming a dead body — the first of many visible herein — cleaning the hands with the intent efficiency of a trained manicurist. Alain Pierre’s electronic dirge scores the scene, one of the few instances of non-diegetic music in this otherwise stark, undecorated film. Operating in the globe-trotting spirit of Mondo Cane, Des Morts visits altogether six countries and three continents. We see funeral processions wending their way towards village cemeteries in Zéno’s native Wallonia and the theatrical ululation at a South Korean wake. But if the filmmakers’ initial schematic plan was to deplore the American way of death, it was complicated evident empathy. (NP)
THE KILLING OF AMERICA Warning: Contains extremely graphic content
THURSDAY, MAR 3 / 10:30PM / BIG RAGTAG & SUNDAY, MAR 6 / 3:30PM / BIG RAGTAG
Dir. Leonard Schrader & Sheldon Renan; 1982; 90 min. Q&A with dir. Sheldon Renan
The Killing of America begins with a channel-surf atrocity exhibition and a tour of Los Angeles by night, all helicopter views and crime scenes. Voice-over stalwart Chuck Riley, reading the narration in an impassive, clipped style, introduces the basic premise: “America is the only industrialized nation with the high murder rate of countries at civil war.” The culprit? “Guns, and more guns.” From a slo-mo replay of the non-fatal shooting of Ronald Reagan, we move along to a reproduction of the events leading up to the most-viewed home movie ever, the Zapruder film. This, we’re informed, was “the day the American dream of freedom was wedded to the American nightmare of murder.” In its call for stricter gun laws, the film is nothing if not coherent, as well as prescient. (NP)
Revisit past Neither/Nor series via the online versions of the monographs:
2015 Monograph – In which Ela Bittencourt guides us through chimeric Polish cinema of the 70s, 80s and 90s.
2014 Monograph – In which Godfrey Cheshire introduces us to the self-reflexive Iranian cinema of the 1990s.
2013 Monograph – In which Eric Hynes explores the chimeras of New York City in the ’60s.