By Troy Hasselman, October 6 2019 —
Calgary Cinematheque is launching their 2019–2020 season this month. The film series, which screens innovative, groundbreaking, challenging and often overlooked films from across different time periods and countries will be playing at different venues across the city, including the Globe Cinema, Plaza Theatre and the University of Calgary campus.
“Gary Burns and his partner Donna Brunsdale co-founded the organization with some other eminent figures in the Calgary film and arts community. Gary Burns’ film waydowntown was the first film ever played at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF),” says Calgary Cinema Board member and programmer Jason Wierzba. “They’ve done interesting, brave bookings with classic films and they’re often shown on film, as they’re intended to be shown. I’ve been a regular attendee for many years and joined the organization about three years ago.”
This year’s edition will include a Master’s series which focuses on Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami and will screen five of his films including Where is the Friend’s Home?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees — which make up the Koker trilogy — The Wind Will Carry Us and Close Up. These films focus on his work from the 1980s and ‘90s, where his popularity rose and he came to international attention after receiving the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry. Wierzba says that there has been talk of doing a series on Kiarostami’s work for years.
“It’s been an idea that was circling. Sachin Gandhi was our president and is a world cinema programmer for CIFF, he really pushed hard to do Kiarostami last year,” Wierzba says. “We learned that there were a bunch of restorations of his work in progress at the time, so there would be films available in the near future but not in time for last year. This year, I came to the table with the idea of doing the Kiarostami series. There is a criterion box set that came out about a month ago of the Koker trilogy. Those films are key works of the late 20th century and changed the film landscape in ways that are still being experienced. I have a very personal relationship with all of those films.”
This season will also focus on the Taiwanese New Wave of the 1980s and ‘90s with works from directors such as Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang highlighting the series, which takes a retrospective look at the explosion in Taiwanese filmmaking that occured in these decades.
“The idea for that came from Kevin Dong, who does a lot of our marketing and programming footwork. These are films that matter to me very much as well,” Wierzba says. “Much of the season is comprised of fairly recent restoration of these films. We’re throwing in one film by Tsai Ming-liang, Vive L’Amour, which won an award at the Venice International Film Festival in 1994. Tsai Ming-liang is often discussed as part of the next phase of Taiwanese cinema, but when the great filmmakers of Taiwan are discussed, Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang are always mentioned, so those are the filmmakers we wanted to represent.”
On top of these is a series which focuses on representations of sexuality in cinema and how these depictions have changed overtime, with films spanning from the 1920s to the 1990s being screened. Wiezba notes that depictions of sexuality in film are not necessarily more frank and open as time has progressed, using the 1929 German film Pandora’s Box as an explanation.
“I don’t think progress develops in a real organic, linear fashion,” Wiezba says. “There’s false starts and all kinds of little pockets of activity at all times, that step backwards and forwards. In different socio-cultural contexts, sexuality is expressed and grappled with in different ways. We happen to be showing Pandora’s Box by G.W. Pabst. The film came out in 1929, right in the middle of Weimar Germany. To say that 2019 Western Canada is more sexually libertine than 1920s Germany would be a patent falsehood. Before the ascension of the Nazis, it was wild. Public displays of queer sexuality were common, there’s a lot of drugs and wild stuff going on at the time. It’s a different context than what you’d find in England in the 1920s.”
The series will also look at examples of sexuality in American films, including mainstream films from the era of production codes which strictly governed depictions of sexuality in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1964 film Marnie. LGBTQ+ sexuality is also explored in films such as William Friedkin’s Cruising, Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses and Sally Potter’s Orlando.
“Marnie’s a film about sexual hang ups and weird predatory patterns. This is framed in a fascinating and scrupulous way because there was still a production code at the time, so these issues had to be handled in such a way. The series goes off in some wild directions, especially in terms of the representations of queer sexuality. Funeral Parade of Roses is about a lot of the emancipatory projects of the ‘60s, the sexual revolution and revolutionary politics. Cruising is a controversial film that was protested by middle-class gay men upon its release because it’s about the leather scene and violence and crime.”
The lineup will also include a showcase on contemporary world cinema which is still yet to have most of its lineup announced, with the exception of Ryüsuke Hamaguchi’s Asako I & II.
“We have our eyes on December for the rest of the lineup to be out,” Wiezba says. “They will be announced as they’re made. With the committee setup we have, there are going to be discussions, dialogue and disagreements along the way, so I have to make sure that everyone has a voice. It’s an ongoing process.”
The 2019–2020 season of Calgary Cinematheque will begin with a screening of Where is the Friend’s Home? On Oct. 10 at the Plaza Theatre. A schedule of screenings and information on tickets can be found on the Calgary Cinema website.