Fewer trailers

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week we lovingly get put to sleep, fight the power, watch some gay porn judgment-free, go back in time to see colonialism through the eyes of ancient Mexico, and admire the plight of those on Easter Island.

Max Richter’s Sleep

Director Natalie Johns’ latest is soothing.

A film for these frenetic times; a meditative respite from the rush and chaos of the modern world, studying the universal experience of sleep that unites us all.

Look, many people are having trouble sleeping this past month (present company included). For those who need it, this trailer is visual Ambien. I cannot think of another movie that has captured my attention and makes me feel as cozy, like a well-tucked-in child, as this one. When I saw this covered on CBS Sunday Morning last year the concept intrigued me. People sleeping outside and attending a concert, essentially, while you’re sleeping, seemed strange. However, the more I sat with it, the more I saw how unique this is. A lullaby for adults, a way to practice self-care in the midst of dozens of others in a shared space, it all seems so alien now. However, I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening at this very moment.

And She Could Be Next

Directors Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia make me care about politics again.

And She Could Be Next follows a defiant movement of women of color as they transform politics from the ground up. Filmed during the historic 2018 midterm elections, the series features organizers and candidates (including Rashida Tlaib and Stacey Abrams) as they fight for a truly reflective government, asking whether democracy can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized.

Never mind that this is executive produced by Ava DuVernay, certainly helpful for this film’s visibility, just watching this trailer gave me hope. Looking around for leaders during this current pandemic, it is painful and heartbreaking to see that monied interests trump anything approximating genuine concern for the majority of Americans living through this. The trailer shows that there are still people, women of color no less, willing to fight against the political establishment that is deeply entrenched everywhere.

Circus of Books

Director Rachel Mason is here to tell a tale about a marginalized and prosecuted group of individuals through the lens of porn. Interestingly enough, that tale is being told by her parents.

For over 35 years, the gay porn shop Circus of Books gave Los Angeles’ LGBT+ community a space to socialize and celebrate themselves without judgment. Executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Circus of Books is the debut documentary from artist Rachel Mason, who finally asks the least radical people she knows- her parents- how they became American’s biggest distributors of gay porn.

There are obviously more sanitized stories to tell about the plight that those of the LGBT+ communities had to endure through the decades, but I am here for all of this. If you read between the lines of what this trailer is building up to, this place was a safe haven. It’s a place in public where congregation and socialization from disparate groups were free of derision or judgment. If you can move past the salaciousness, this is sweet and endearing.

Eating Up Easter

Sergio Mata’u is not here to mince words.

In a cinematic letter to his son, native Rapanui (Easter Island) filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu explores the modern dilemma of their people, descendants of the ancient statue builders, as they face the consequences of their rapidly developing home.

It’s stories like this that are wildly affecting. These are the homelands and cultures of people who want to share the gifts they were given, but at what cost? This is really rough around the edges production-wise, but the message is clear. The notions of globalization, what it is doing to their land, and how it is interfering with their way of life, is a fair criticism. This is honest, straight-forward, and compelling.

499

Imagine if director Rodrigo Reyes did this with American culture.

Stranded in modern-day Mexico, a 16th-century conquistador (Eduardo San Juan) begins a journey, visiting bereaved relatives of murdered activists, exploring haunting strip clubs and traversing misty mountains. A narrator brings to life text from old diaries, as the time traveler crosses over dunes and through bustling cities, detailing accounts of how the Spanish dehumanized the societies with whom they met, and with what impunity they maneuvered and battled. There are hints of remorse over the violence they unleashed, but these are few and far between.

Director Rodrigo Reyes combines documentary and a bit of fiction, using magical realism to draw a parallel between the apocalyptic sacking of Tenochtitlan and the harsh reality of many modern-day Mexicans. The carefully crafted cinematography and the dream-like style of the film serve as a gentle backdrop for the restrained tenacity and stubborn hope of all the migrants, activists, and grieving mothers. In bringing these issues to the forefront, 499 can provide a way for a country and its citizens to finally start healing from centuries old wounds.

This is a long description, but it serves as a guide to how to watch this trailer. Without this context I’m not sure it makes sense, but once you know, it’s a fascinating way to approach a narrative like this. Talking about the ways a country, a citizenry, has evolved from its beginnings looks at the present in relation to its past. It would be eye-opening, for sure, if our ancestors, this land’s ancestors, commented on what they think of what we’ve become.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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