Defining Moment of the Decade
If you had to boil down the decade to just one defining moment, what would it be? Is it a moment of the head, of the heart or of the soul? One early on that would pave the way for what was to come, or one near the end that summed it all up? To us, it’s all of the above, in very different instances.
The Shaadi of Netflix + India
I ragged a lot on streaming services over the past few years, especially Netflix during the time when it seemed like they were actively and vindictively trying to usurp and shut down the culture of going to the movie theatre. Recently however, with the restoration of The Other Side of the Wind (2019) and the release of brilliant documentaries and films like Roma (2018), Okja (2017), The Irishman (2019) and the resounding dedication to funding and distributing independent cinema from India, they are in my good graces again… for now.
But seriously, Netflix has had an indelibly positive effect on Indian independent cinema finding a voice of distribution to the global market. Films from regional filmmakers like Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, Vetrimaaran, Gurvinder Singh, and Qaushik Mukherjee to independent Hindi movies like Umrika (2015) and Mumbai Cha Raja (2012) that are shafted out of theatre spots by big-budget studio films have found a home on Netflix and are readily available for audiences around the world with access to the site to watch these movies which traditional distribution avenues have failed for decades to give importance or attention to. That, regardless of one’s opinion of the business-side of Netflix, is an undeniable win for cinema.
Watchu Think About Death?
In Khalid Allah’s Black Mother (2018) the film had already completely rewired my brain when from behind the camera, in my memory from about two feet behind me somewhere deep in my own brain, comes Allah’s own booming voice. “Grandpa…watchu think about death?” The film was speaking to itself, to me, to time, to the end of life. This film, as close to an organic, thinking and feeling being as a movie has ever come, suddenly felt smarter than most people. I felt I was being watched and judged by Allah’s images, having come loose from his brain and the island in which it’s filmed, and it was the most invigorating, thrilling moment of moviegoing I’ve had in years.
Getting my Head Split Open
It can be easy to get disheartened about the state of cinema, if one looks only at Hollywood and how American cinema has changed over the last decade. Perhaps the most indicative of this was the launch of the new 3D technology, right before the close of the last decade. How many films have since been foisted upon us with this technology, that added little to nothing to either the films artistically or intrinsically, or to the viewing experience in general, but only added to the ticket price? But throughout the decade artists that work entirely outside of that part of the industry proved that no matter what cynical, financial motive was behind the creation and use of the technology, it didn’t have to be our enemy. I would often get headaches from 3D the first few years, the rare times I saw them. The worst offender though, would have to be Jean-Luc Godard, when he let his 3D-cameras diverge paths to figuratively split my head open with two images going in two directions at the same time. It was oh so painful to experience, but mindblowing at the same time. I had never seen anything like this, and have never since. I hated and loved it at the same time. By splitting the image into two, making my eyes and brain do painful things they weren’t made to do, an
d 80-year-old filmmaker, who for decades made nothing of interest to me, opened my mind to new possibilities of technology and art in the 2010s. There’s still hope.
Kaj van Zoelen