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Dystopian Visions

Dystopian Visions (photo)

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On our last day in Denmark, a few of us in the CPH:DOX American contingent stopped by Christiania, Copenhagen’s hippie paradise and self-proclaimed autonomous zone. In stark contrast to the cobblestones and slick Scandinavian design of the main city, Christiania is dirt paths and DIY housing, a neighborhood based around abandoned military barracks that were taken over by squatters in the early ’70s.

It was too early for much to be going on, but on the main drag the cannabis market that’s made the area a favorite for backpackers and a constant source of controversy was already open, with stalls displaying giant blocks of hash for sale, while a few nearby stands offered rasta wear. A dog trotted by, and a few dreadlocked Danes warmed their hands over a trashcan fire.

“Maybe it’s just me, but this all seems incredibly ‘Children of Men,'” I said.

Or maybe it was just that dystopia was on everyone’s mind, being a strong undercurrent in the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival program. These days, dark visions of the future and docs pretty much go hand in hand, since nonfiction film has become hopelessly entwined with social issues.

With one of the most progressive, boundary-pushing, eyebrow-raising lineups you’re going to find in a documentary festival, CPH:DOX actually actively strives to get away from the idea of docs as just journalism, or as just a means of galvanizing viewers toward activism — to promote, as the programmers stressed, “the documentary as cinema, and the documentary as art.” Which ultimately meant that doses of impending doom came not with a lecture, but with artful vision — these are, after all, unavoidably troubled times.

11172009_videocracy.jpgTake “Videocracy,” Erik Gandini’s brilliant jaw-dropper about the ties between Italian politics and Italian television that could hold its own with Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” in a disturbing double feature depicting the country as careening towards “Blade Runner.” At its center is the elusive figure of Silvio Berlusconi, who’s both Italy’s Prime Minister and its major media mogul, and, in Gandini’s view, the man responsible for infecting the nation with a terminal fixation on boob tube celebrity.

That’s the kind of ambitious scope that usually defeats a project before it even begins, but “Videocracy” works astoundingly well because it’s styled as an essay, without the pretense of objectivity. Gandini narrates and makes a sort of stream-of-consciousness case for his conception of Italian today, luxuriating in a Lynchian score and hypnotic footage of glittering, never-quite-graspable talk and game shows, brightly lit sets, scantily clad dancing girls and applauding audiences — television as a sweeping sedative.

“Videocracy” hops between interview subjects, often favoring them with wordless still portraits in their chosen surroundings. There’s Rick Canelli, the singing martial artist who aspires to be a combination of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Ricky Martin, but who meanwhile is a factory worker who still lives with his mother. There’s Marella Giovannelli, the woman who lives next door to Berlusconi’s vacation villa on Sardinia, and who makes a living taking flattering photos of his party guests and making them available for purchase. There’s Lele Mora, the country’s most powerful agent, who never seems to leave his all-white house but who nevertheless manages to pull strings via cell phone — his ring tones are hymns to Mussolini, of whom he’s a proud fan.

11172009_videocracy2.jpgAnd then there’s Fabrizio Corona, the mesmerizing/repugnant head of a paparazzo ring that sells incriminating photos back to the celebrities in them. Others might call this extortion, which is what Corona gets indicted for, but when he gets out of jail, he reinvents himself as an opportunistic, nihilistic truth-teller and vaults into the realm of celebrity he used to despise, guesting on talk shows, launching a t-shirt line and making a series of paid nightclub appearances. In “Videocracy”‘s money shot (though not its literal one, in which Corona lies in bed, surrounded by a pile of cash), he showers and then preens, nude, in front of the mirror, suiting up and soaking himself in cologne, dead-eyed and directly out of “American Psycho.” An unmentioned attendant is there in the bathroom with him the whole time, but then again, so is a camera crew. As “Videocracy” makes clear, in this world, shame is for the weak.

A more tangible type of forbidding future is on view in “Cities on Speed,” four hour-long docs from Danish filmmakers, each set in a different megacity, that had their premiere at CPH:DOX. Bogotá, Cairo, Mumbai, Shanghai: all face serious urban stresses as their populations explode — well, presumably so, in the case of Bogotá, as that was the one I didn’t get to see. The best of three I did catch was “Mumbai Disconnected,” an examination of attempts to remedy traffic problems in India’s largest city.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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