Bringing It All Back Home

I've been AWOL from my own blog for the past two months, but not for no good reason. What follows is an attempt to process it all and figure out where it puts me now. It seems that in September and October I entered full throttle into the realm of Chinese cinema, both past and present, and the New York Film Festival. First, my company had the good fortune to have one of its films in this year's NYFF. This was a special honor given that NYFF has been the festival dearest to me for as long as I've lived in New York. For much of September I was busy promoting the screening, organizing and hosting the film's post-screening reception, and putting up the director at my apartment once his stay at the Park Central Hotel expired.

I wish I had recorded some of our conversations, because listening to him talk about his experiences making films awakened some part of my creative awareness that had been laying dormant. Something about the way he expressed, with both passion and thoughtfulness, his inspiration for making films as well as his principles had me realize how little thought I've put into these fundamental considerations for too long. Most of all these words got to me: "To embrace your own art is to embrace a lifetime of loneliness." I realized how so much of what I've been up to for the past two or three years (at least) has had to do with the pursuit of connecting my output with the crowds - first with the blog, then with Facebook, then Twitter - with the increasing impression of noisy desperation.

But the truth of it is that I have experienced this loneliness in terms of spending hours, days, weeks working on something really important to me that a relative few will see much less care about. All September I worked on a two-part video essay for the Moving Image Source on the New York Film Festival "Masterworks" series of Chinese Communist films from 1949-1967. Producing this video essay at every step, from hunting down 18 of the 20 films on video to researching the period and consulting with great scholars like Chris Berry, was worth it in itself; it was truly a project where I felt I grew in the process. Which is just as well given that on average only a couple dozen people attended the screenings.  As a friend wrote to me, "if it was chic French May 68 communism-celebrating films, the NY 'champagne socialists' may have been out in force."

As for the main lineup, I saw 19 of the 30 films (more than I saw last year, despite everything else I had going on), with a separate post to follow on that. I guess my heavy engagement with the main lineup was due to my involvement with the Festival on other fronts, as well as the buzz generated on Twitter for most titles - sometimes I felt like I was on the floor of a stock exchange following the tickers of films.

I think the experience left me a little burned out on both the NYC cinephile scene and Twitter - I haven't been as involved in either since. Though I haven't properly had the chance since right after the NYFF I spent a week in China for the China Independent Film Festival held in Nanjing. I'll have a report on that experience later, probably on the dGenerate blog, but in a sense it was like a homecoming. China was where I had decided to make film my life's calling ten years ago.  This time I was there to bring Chinese indie films to a wider audience overseas, though by the time I left I wanted to be part of the local scene.

I haven't been quite myself since I returned 10 days ago. I've been reluctant to post on this blog or elsewhere, or just return to the routine I had established before I left. I'm craving to carve out as much downtime as possible for the rest of the year to keep soaking in the experiences of the past 2 months and what lessons I want to take from them, and have a plan for the year to come and beyond.

I know that I need to see through the end of the Shooting Down Pictures project, especially as I'm only 20 titles away from finishing. There's also Best of the Decade Derby, which I'm no longer sure what to do with. Looking back I think I was overextending myself with that plus SDP plus the video essays. Video essays are certainly something I want to continue, though what I'd like to aim for is "fewer and better," and with more instances of original footage. In general, I want to do less for the sake of just producing, put more of myself into the select things I do, and afford myself more opportunities to live.

There are other developments as well that may change the landscape of my life even further, but those are yet to be finalized. But I think, taking the broad view, there's much to look forward to.