Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Non-English Language Films Project

[Update: Elusive Andy Horbal post found. See below.]

For the very few who haven't read about or contributed Edward Copeland's Non-English Language Films project, I suggest you do so over at at Edward Copeland On Film. Regrettably, I was unable to contribute to the first round of nominations but I will be contributing my Top 25 in just under a month (ballots are due September 16). I think this is a rich project for a number of reasons. First, as a follow-up to the inevitably flawed project that was the Online Film Community's Top 100, this list serves as something of a statement from online film writers concerned about their own image and place in film scholarship and eager to contribute to that larger dialogue, a dialogue which (as I wrote previously) is happening right now, partly because of the growing body of worthy criticism here on the web.

One especially notable aspect of this project is that it doesn't include just film bloggers, but instead a wide variety of critics, scholars, and online writers. On that list, we see established journalistic critics like Carrie Rickey and Jonathan Rosenbaum alongside several prominent film bloggers, not to mention a few academic critics. Putting together such a list is a progressive step in the interactional nature of blogging and its place in film criticism. When it's finished it will not represent an authoritative list as voted on by a group or committee falling under the same name such as the "Online Film Community" or "American Film Institute". This instead includes a variety of perspectives and exists primarily for the exposure of these voices in a participatory experience (almost like a seminar) during which readers and contributors can learn about films they've missed and what other film lovers and critics think about international films.

Of course the rigorous structure to this list --which bars silent films and all English language films-- is limiting, but such restrictions are necessary for this project to succeed. Besides, this experiment will not represent the be-all-end-all of non-English Language movies but instead will generate discussion and dialogue about films that deserve more discourse and criticism in the online writing circuit as well as in the published ones. As Edward has noted, this may only be the beginning of projects like this. That there are some restrictions will not hinder the experience for me at all; it only opens possibilities for more projects like this in the future. Personally, I'm glad to take part in it. Although my experience with many of these movies is not nearly as vast as most other contributors, I have been watching these films rigorously of late in hopes of broadening my sensibilities before I submit my list. Many of my picks may still be fresh in my memory and will have seen only once (I just saw Jacques Tati's wondrous Playtime for the first time last night and its still dancing in my head), but that probably adds a flavor to my contribution that others may not have. In time, I'll have seen many of these movies; some several times as others have. So though I feel somewhat inexperienced, this project like online film writing in general has opened innumerable possibilities for me as I continue my own experiences in online writing and criticism.

One last note, somewhat unrelated: Andy Horbal recently shared a brief thought (which, he explains, was posted, accidentally removed, and is now up again) comparing film blogging to filmmaking, which is kind of a profound insight in its simplicity. In light of the above discussion and the participation and collaboration I'm seeing in the online film writing world, Andy's words resonate strongly. It's actually kind of inspiring (If I can find the post, I'll provide a link). I have always been of the mindset that art requires criticism just as much as criticism requires art, but this specific comparrison of film blogging and filmmaking --and the various levels of them-- is a neat idea.


Edward Copeland said...

This does seem to be going well so far, so further down the road I probably will do lists on documentaries and silent films, though the criteria or those will be much less rigorous. Interestingly, voting just started Monday (with nearly a month of voting left to go) and I've already received 59 ballots and every one of the 122 eligible films have received at least one vote. The only downside so far is that few people are including quotes on the movies with their ballots and I really want those to go with the results when I post them much like I've done with my Oscar surveys.

Ted Pigeon said...

Well, unlike the first round of voting, I will be contributing my Top 25 this time, but probably not until the end of the deadline. I'm thinking about cooking up an article to post in mid-September (when the lists are due), including my Top 25 with a paragraph or two descriptions of them, similar to your Top 100, Ed. I will have more to say about the films at that time, as well as comment on my own exploration of various international films, which I've needed to do for a long time. I don't think my views on films I only saw once and recently will take away from my views, since I study and watch all of cinema, but many of the entries on my list will be movies I only recently saw, however good or bad some may think that is. Nevertheless, this whole project has given me motivation to really get into these movies, and it will hopefully continue through the Fall, when I will be venturing to see as many of Antonioni's, Bergman's, and various other filmmakers' movies as I possibly can.

Edward Copeland said...

I'm holding off my balloting as well until I can see as many of the nominees that I haven't seen as I can. I just finished watching Playtime as well. I remember prior to the initial voting, there was some debate as to whether it qualified, so I assumed it was mostly silent, but I have no such worries now. There is a lot of foreign dialogue that is subtitled along with plentiful sound effects and music.

Andy H. said...


A very brief thought (for Ted Pigeon)

Ted Pigeon said...

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Andy! For a moment, I thought I might be going crazy since I couldn't find the post. Now it all makes sense...

I'll update my post now.