Utopia in Four Movements

“If you’re a filmmaker today you have to accept that people are going to watch your work on a laptop while they’re checking their email,” said Academy Award-nominated director Sam Green before Thursday night’s sold-out opening of his new “live documentary,” Utopia in Four Movements, at The Kitchen in Chelsea. ”I’m still very much attached to the magic of cinema, so part of making a live film is that people will have to come see it.”

So what’s it like to watch a live documentary? Kind of like watching a lecture, but with a full band and the prettiest PowerPoint presentation you’ve ever seen. On the screen, Green’s footage traced the history of twentieth-century Utopian dreams: Mao’s socialism, the constructed international language Esperanto, and the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens, during which participants buried a time capsule to dig up in 5,000 years. “It’s so weird because most time capsules are buried for like a hundred years. It just show’s how hopeful New Yorkers were about the future then.” Green, who is based in San Francisco, narrated the film while moody Brooklyn “porch-techno” band The Quavers, along with former Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, performed the soundtrack.

Green says there’s a “small wave” of artists taking on the live format today. There’s the filmmaker Brent Green, who screens his films with a live band, sound effects and narration. And there’s San Francisco’s Pop Up Magazine, a popular live magazine-cum-variety show. “I believe people are hungry for live things,” he said. “Plus, sitting in your apartment watching a documentary about Utopia’s just kind of sad.”

Sam Green’s upcoming documentary about Esperanto will be released early next year. The Quavers will play on October 30 at Union Docs.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 12, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    also along these lines (“live” film) — todd chandler’s flood tide: http://floodtidefilm.com/

    “…In the summer of 2008, the crew built and floated seven large, boat-sculptures down the Hudson River, putting on performances in towns along the way. While documenting the real life journey, Flood Tide is a work of fiction that uses the voyage as its centerpiece.”

    it screened outdoors, at the point they finally came ashore, w/ a live soundtrack. neat. :)

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