Category archives: Visual Arts

  • Even in a field of distinctive and cutting-edge animated films, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is unusual. Directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), the long-gestating passion project of producer Salma Hayek features the work of eight international independent animators, in addition to Allers’ crew. Though constructed as a children’s tale, the film contains sophisticated animated segments inspired by chapters from Lebanese poet Gibran's much-quoted guide to philosophical and spiritual enlightenment. The framing story’s simplistic narrative and overly broad humor, presented in traditional (if not actually hand-drawn) animation style, is somewhat at odds with its dark political overtones, adding to the disconnect.  Despite its flaws, however, The Prophet -- buoyed by a diversity of splendid animation -- becomes surprisingly poignant by its conclusion. Very loosely based on its source and set in a vaguely Middle Eastern land, the narrative involves a rambunctious little girl whose mother (voiced by Hayek) cleans the rooms of a poet (Liam Neeson), imprisoned for seven years due to his inflammatory writing. One day he is told that he will be released to return to his own country, but the authorities -- autocratic bad guys (Alfred Molina, Frank Langella) -- aren’t exactly truthful. While young children might not understand the film’s themes of censorship, artistic freedom and tyrannical political regimes, older kids will probably be put off by the story’s naive presentation[...]
  • This week, while we are trying to figure out how to somehow incorporate bodysuits into our late-Summer wardrobe, or how to convert a shirtdress into a layering piece, Paper Magazine has issued a fantastic round-up of 15 fashion stars-to-come that you need to know about right now . These designers are fresh out of design school, probably excited to hit the ground running this September when the official 2015 international Fashion Week season returns after Summer hiatus. Here's a sneak peak at FOUR of the designers featured in the round-up that are going to be household names by the time the 2016 Fashion Week season cycles in. You're welcome. 1) Jon Max Goh, Parsons The New School for Design Photo: Hiu Zhi Wei  Talented design, who also has a great singing voice, creates gender fluid ready-to-wear that doesn't conform to mainstream norms. “I’m interested in asking why and how we design the way we do—and answering these questions by designing in a way we don’t,” Goh tells Style.com. 2) Samantha MacDonald, Savannah College of Art and Design Photo: Samantha MacDonald This designer-to-watch will not be as easy to find on future high-fashion runway but she will certainly influence popular style as in-coming Assistant Fashion Designer at Macy's starting this Fall. 3) Elizabeth Hilfiger, Rhode Island School of Design Photo: Elizabeth Hilfiger Tommy's middle daughter might prove to be a chip off the old block, effortlessly creating preppy fast fashion like h[...]
  •   There are two different ways to write about The Amina Profile, Sophie Deraspe’s startling new documentary about Syrian activist Amina Abdallah Arraf, author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus. One way is to tell the story that has already been covered in the press but is not necessarily that widely known in this country. The other is to review the movie up to a point, leaving a big chunk of it vague for anyone who may not be familiar with the narrative (and doesn't conduct a Google search before finishing this paragraph). Maybe there’s a sort of middle ground? The doc begins with texting between two young women who have connected on a social media site: Amina, a Syrian American living in Damascus; and Sandra, a French Canadian living in Montreal. It soon becomes flirtatious and sexual, mainly on the part of Amina, who seems starved for this kind of forbidden contact. The film shows Sandra recalling the genesis of this digital relationship and how she becomes intrigued by details of Amina's life as an activist circa 2011, at the dawn of the Arab Spring. She gets caught up in Amina’s daring new blog A Gay Girl in Damascus and the latter's reports of police harassment due to her outspoken views. At one point the mainstream press picks up on the post “My Father, My Hero,” in which Amina describes how her dad defended her against the police. She becomes a heroic figure in the blogging community, a sympathetic symbol of the Syrian revolt. Punctuating this na[...]
  • Damian Marcano’s debut feature, God Loves the Fighter, is a raw, highly stylized film about life in the rough Laventille neighborhood of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port of Spain. Replete with a cast of colorful characters (played by an all-Trinidadian cast), eye-popping visuals, and a strong soundtrack of music by Q Major and Freetown Collective, God Loves the Fighter is a loose, impressionistic film that makes up in grit and atmosphere what it lacks in cohesion. It’s also a rare depiction of the struggling inhabitants of a city that has one of the highest crime rates in the Caribbean. The film is largely narrated by King Curtis (Lou Lyons, half of reggae/spoken word duo Freetown Collective), a charismatic street poet and vagrant who describes Port of Spain’s poor east side as “a dirty, nasty concrete jungle of fallen leaves.” Curtis introduces us to a variety of characters, filling us in on their often-bleak back stories. These include main protagonist Charlie (Muhammad Muwakil, Freetown Collective's other half), who is trying to find legitimate work; Dinah (Jamie Lee Phillips), a young prostitute who finds solace in a local church; Moses (Simon Junior John), a middle-aged taxi driver who runs drugs in order to make ends meet; and Putao Singh (Darren Cheewah), a sinister thug who spouts bad ethnic jokes as he commandeers a combination bar/brothel/cocaine ring that controls just about everyone in the film. These characters (there’s also a young boy and his grieving, ab[...]
  • No doubt about it, fashion and music have an almost symbiotic connection. Tastemakers like Gwen Stefani make it look so easy, right? However, with the hit-and-misses of musical fashion designers like Kayne West, finding a way to successfully meld the two together is not an easy feat. That's what makes former fashion accessories designer Krista Retto such a fascinating subject. She's flawlessly applied her talents in marketing and advertising into successful jewelry-making career, and then reinvented herself again (of course using all the skills she's mastered) to create a music company. She's the co-founder of the Big House Companies, comprised of a music publishing house (Big House Publishing) and a indie record label (BHi Music Group), that has found a way to harness all of her past experiences into one all-encompassing career. Ready to reinvent yourself? Krista gives some insight into how it's done. Read and learn after the jump. BhpNewYork.com Jacqueline Colette Prosper, yummicoco.com 1) Tell us how you got into jewelry making. I fell haphazardly into the world of jewelry. I went to Senegal, West Africa for music (out of pure love) and, while there, also discovered the beauty of gems and jewelry-making. When 9/11 hit, I stepped out of my corporate life and volunteered for months at the World Trade Center site, came home each night and made jewelry to steady myself. I had lost more than 30 people that I knew and I was more than rattled. Out of she[...]
  • Eran Riklis’s A Borrowed Identity starts out on a humorous note, as we see young Eyad (Razi Gabareen) attempting to improve his family’s TV reception by adjusting the roof antenna, while his father Salah (Ali Suliman) shouts instructions out the window. Though Eyad loses his footing, falls and is knocked unconscious, the generally blasé reaction of his family lets us know he’ll be OK. We learn that Eyad and his family – Salah, mother (Laëtitia Eïdo), grandmother (Marlene Bajali) and several brothers – are Arabs living in the Israeli town of Tira. Although the film, which is set in the 1980s and early 90s, retains moments of levity throughout, it soon becomes a serious coming-of-age story about a young man who is caught between two often clashing cultures. According to a 2013 census, over 20% of Israel’s population are Arabs, citizens of Israel who consider themselves Palestinian by nationality. A Borrowed Identity is based on the semi-autobiographical novel Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua, who also wrote the screenplay. It’s a clear-eyed look at the difficult situation of people who are not full members of the society in which they live, as well as the well-intentioned attempts by those in power at bridging that gap. In one early, mordantly funny scene, young Eyad casually announces, “Mom, I brought home my Jew,” the result of a school program endeavoring to bring together Palestinian and Jewish children. We learn that Eyad's father attended university as a youth, but[...]
  • Now in its 26th edition, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival will take place in New York City from June 11 to 21, with 16 films from around the world that celebrate the power of individuals and communities to create change. The festival, co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center, is organized around three themes: Art Versus Oppression, Changemakers and Justice and Peace. Special programs include a discussion on the ethics of image-making in documenting human rights abuses, a master class on international crisis reporting and digital storytelling, and a multimedia project on women activists of the Arab Spring. The festival kicks off on June 11 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch, which includes a screening of Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land, which exposes two vigilante movements that have arisen from Mexico's drug war. Opening Night on June 12 features Marc Silver's 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, about the 2012 shooting of a black teenager, Jordan Davis, at a Florida gas station and the trial of his killer, Michael Dunn. On the festival's Closing Night, Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution will screen; the renowned documentarian's history of the Black Panther Party contains rare archival footage, from the party’s beginnings to its ultimate dissolution. The directors of these and other films will be on hand for post-screening discussions. Other films to be shown include Ayat Najafi's No Land’s Song (Art [...]
  • Known as the Super Bowl of Drag, RuPaul's Drag Race, now in its 7th season, will announce this year's winner tonight on LOGO-TV! I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it! Image Credit: Mathu Andersen/LOGO Full disclosure: It's one of my all-time favorite program, and I totally believe it is one of the best shows on TV. And what's wonderful is that I'm not the only one. RuPaul's Drag Race's fans span all social backgrounds and sexual orientations! Sure this year's edition hasn't been the most outstanding season, with mostly lackluster "Lip Syncs For Your Life." it's still great to see the evolution of all of queens, especially the finalists Ginger Minj, Pearl and Violet Chachki. Getty Images for LOGO Here are three fabulous fashion moments as shared to me by Blog Founder, Social Media Strategist Nichelle Stephens, and fellow fan. Like me, she's not quite sure who she's rooting for: "I can't decide but I think I am #TeamViolet," she says. Ginger Minj After last season's Ben de La Creme and Darienne Lake, Ginger Minj seemed like a weak mash-up of the two.  However as the season progressed, you can see that Ginger has Southern charm with campy sensibilities and style. Jason Kempin, Getty Images for Logo TV The best look for her was runway look on the penultimate episode.  The white gown was gorgeous; her makeup was glamorous with being too much and her wig was teased up into a perfect crown.  LOGO-TV Violet Chachki Violet Chachki is waist traini[...]
  • This week: two very different movies from female directors, who are (sadly) still an extreme minority, even in independent film. I Believe in Unicorns and Gemma Bovery both open on Friday, May 29th. Leah Meyerhoff’s first feature, which she both wrote and directed, is the semi-autobiographical I Believe in Unicorns, a simple yet visually inventive film about a sensitive teen’s first love (and sex) affair. Davina (played by the wonderfully soulful Natalia Dyer) lives with and cares for her disabled mom (played by Meyerhoff’s actual mother, Toni), whose husband abandoned her many years before. We all know -- or were -- girls like Davina: creative, whimsical, deep-thinking types who live largely in their imaginations. Davina collects unicorn toys, dresses inventively and takes searching self-portraits with a Polaroid camera. One day she spots Sterling (Peter Vack) skateboarding with his pals and becomes smitten with the sexy, slightly older teen, who is clearly a Bad Boy. (Though the moody, kinetic Sterling might seem a bit goofy to us, he is devastating bait to a 16-year-old.) He becomes equally charmed by her and they soon become a couple, but not without some glitches; after their first sexual encounter backstage at a punk club, he becomes distant much to her distress, but she pursues him almost aggressively.  It's unusual and somewhat refreshing to see a teenage girl's desires portrayed so matter of factly and Dyer is great at showing how the inexperienced Davina i[...]
  • Right from the start, it’s clear that Stephen Bradley’s Noble is not a small nor subtle depiction of Christina Noble, the Irishwoman who has devoted her life to helping orphaned and abandoned children in Southeast Asia. The score’s swelling strings and the characters’ obvious intentions create an old-fashioned TV-movie vibe. Yet, this film version of Noble’s (literally) incredible story packs a significant punch anyway, due to strong acting, beautiful cinematography and the palpable spirit of its indomitable subject. Early in the film, we see Christina as a child (played by the wonderfully sharp Gloria Cramer Curtis) singing in a pub in 1955 Dublin; her Dickensian childhood is marked by a charming but drunkenly abusive father and gravely sick mother, along with a brood of equally destitute siblings. Christina prays fervently in church for things to get better, to no avail; a theme that will recur many times throughout the movie. Next we see grownup Christina (Deirdre O’Kane) arriving in Ho Chi Minh City in 1989, walking around and taking in the sights, which include many impoverished street children whose plight she relates to and resolves to alleviate. She has an easy way with people, singing for government officials and joking around with a sourpuss hotel receptionist who we know will become an ally by the end of the film. Soon she begins caring for local street urchins, obtains a temporary work visa, and struggles to raise money for a social and medical center fo[...]
  • Patrik-Ian Polk, creator of the LOGO series Noah’s Arc and subsequent film Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom, as well as Punks (2001) and The Skinny (2012) is one of the few filmmakers around portraying the lives of gay African Americans. His new movie Blackbird, based on the novel by Larry Duplechan, is a coming of age story that is both melodramatic and charmingly offbeat. Shot in Polk’s hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the film is unusual for several reasons, not least of which is its main character’s plight: a small-town, devoutly Southern Baptist teen heavily conflicted about his homosexuality. It isn't an issue often explored in popular media. The movie stars sweet-faced, angelic-voiced Julian Walker as charismatic choirboy Randy, who wants desperately to be a good Christian, yet keeps having disturbing (to him) sexual dreams about his schoolmate and friend Todd, on whom he clearly has a crush. This attraction is obvious to everyone but him, especially his coterie of open-minded friends and fellow drama students, including the wisecracking, openly gay Efrem (Gary LeRoi Gray, who has the movie’s funniest lines), football player Todd (Torrey Laamar), who is dating rebellious preacher’s daughter Leslie (D. Woods), and Crystal (Nikki Jane), who wants to lose her virginity to someone she actually likes, i.e., Randy. The kids come up with the idea of putting on a male version of Romeo and Juliet, starring Julian and the incredibly game Todd. Though Randy’s friends are[...]
  • It’s tempting to wonder what Kurt Cobain would have thought about Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the much buzzed-about new documentary by Brett Morgen. On the one hand, he probably would have appreciated the unorthodox visuals, much of it dark, unsettling animation that builds on the musician’s own drawings. He would probably have been OK with Morgen’s use of Cobain himself as the main narrator, through interviews, home movies and notebook entries. But being an easily humiliated soul (one of the film’s revelations) who both craved attention and hated fame, Kurt might have had a hard time digesting such a raw, unflinching portrayal of himself, or really, any portrayal of himself. As the film shows again and again, Cobain was tormented by his own contradictory nature – he both wanted and despised normalcy, success, maybe life itself. Like Morgen’s The Kid Stays in the Picture (adapted from producer Robert Evans’s autobiography), this is far from a conventional documentary. With its elaborate animation sequences and chaotic audio and video montages culled from films, ads and other sources including Cobain himself, it’s almost an art film – which makes sense given Morgen’s attempt to portray the inside of his subject’s head. It’s not a pretty place. Montage of Heck (the title comes from one of Kurt’s own audio creations) is the first documentary about the Nirvana frontman that is “fully authorized” by his family. (Daughter Frances Bean Cobain is an executive producer; Ku[...]