INTERVIEWS Apt Pupil: Bi Gan on Long Day’s Journey Into Night By Blake Williams I Like America and America Likes
Before we begin with the quarterly ranting, a quick clarification regarding last issue’s incendiary Cannes wrap-up. I fear that many readers might have missed the humorous undercurrent in the piece, one that, perhaps adventurously on my part, was written under the assumption that readers would have connected it to previous such Cannes wraps of varying degrees of crabbiness. That being said, thanks to everyone who enjoyed themselves, and apologies for the note that follows, which won’t contain as many jokes and won’t be as fun to write, either, though probably just as anguished. Usually I take this opportunity to recommend some films that we haven’t covered in this or previous issues that will be screening at various festivals this fall, but (a) I think we’ve been on top of most films out there that are truly worthwhile—well, in terms of what I’ve seen—and (b) as this 40th issue marks the tenth anniversary of Cinema Scope there are some long-standing concerns that I’ve gone over before, but need to get off of my chest once again.
Looking back on earlier writing is something that I really don’t enjoy doing (truthfully, once an issue is done, I barely even open the cover again), but such a not insignificant anniversary merits some self-reflection. Ten years ago when I started this magazine, at the time of the Toronto International Film Festival, it seemed that there were few such options available to readers in Canada. It began as a bit of a personal indulgence, and to a certain degree it remains as one: the films that are covered in these pages are, by and large, films that I like and films that I think deserve more attention. Ten years later, this remains the case. Daily newspaper criticism and alt-weekly journalism is getting significantly worse and worse, and some film magazines have stopped publication. But the good news is that in the interim there has been an explosion of writing on film on the internet, and the question remains as to whether or not a print publication still has meaning in the present time and place. Or if one can survive at all.
With the economic crisis, the past year has been a difficult one for all print media with the drying-up of advertising dollars, Cinema Scope being no exception. But thanks to careful budgeting, we have continued to provide the same content, and even improve some elements that readers seem to care about—not least all the wonderful colour bursting out of this issue, our modest tenth anniversary present to you—thanks in no small part to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, to whom I personally wish to extend the utmost gratitude for their continued support in a time when arts funding has been taking a series of body blows. As long as I’m thanking people, it almost goes without saying that I include all past and present contributors, as well as our highly dedicated and underpaid skeleton staff, past and present.
If you’re reading this on our website, you’ll have noticed that things have been redesigned a little, with one goal being eventually getting more back issues and content online, and we’re currently working out a way of getting a digital edition for those of you who might prefer to read it that way—I acknowledge that the internet is the way that the bulk of you engage with our content. However, and I don’t say this lightly, the most concrete and satisfying guideline for assessing the success of a publication is by the number of subscribers. So thanks to all of you as well…but…I would have expected that after ten years of doing this, our subscriber base would be much higher, especially in Canada. We’ve managed to keep the subscription price and the issue price of the magazine far lower than it could (or should) be. In case you’re reading this for the first time, that’s only $20.
Just to be clear for those people who tend to worry: there is currently no catastrophic financial crisis going on at the Cinema Scope headquarters (probably thanks to the fact that there isn’t really a headquarters); it’s more a crisis of will, and I only am speaking for myself. (And I don’t think it’s only the exhaustion speaking.) All of us who work on the magazine do it with the hope that we’re contributing something to a dialogue. After ten years it still sometimes seems like a monologue.
Just as I finished putting this issue to bed, word came to me about the murders of Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc This needless and horribly sad event remains as shocking a week later as it did on that day, as it will for who knows how long. As will the regrets. To write of one in this immediate context, though Alexis contributed what must have been one of his last pieces to the last issue of Cinema Scope, on Raya Martin’s film Independencia, I can’t help but kick myself for not being more proactive in getting him involved in the mix. But one of the things that differentiated him from other writers is his commitment to one issue—Filipino cinema. Even if we didn’t know each other that well, like with many others he persisted in the jokily formal “Mr. P” as a means of greetings in person and email, I found in him a kindred spirit, a true amateur, a writer and activist spurred to contribute to our little community due to the love of cinema, not the desire to have his opinions made known to the world. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll take a knowledgeable advocate over a technically skilled and prolific writer any day of the week. Alexis didn’t waste his time writing about films that he didn’t like, and each thing that he wrote mattered. I knew Nika for longer than Alexis, and saw her more often; he was soft-spoken (or maybe he was that way around me) and she was more opinionated—and argumentative—but as much of a promoter of the cinema that she loved, including, but not limited to, Slovenian film. She always made an impression on me. Films mattered to both of them, difficult films, but cinema wasn’t the be all and end all. In the past week there has been plenty of heartfelt tributes to the two of them posted on the internet, including Alexis’ to Nika, but I’d rather keep personal memories personal, only to say that part of the tragedy of being part of a virtual community is that interactions too often remain faceless, and we should all take as full advantage of those rare occasions, such as at film festivals, where something like business (or something that resembles business) brings people together. The last time I saw Nika was in Lisbon this past April—of course, during a film festival—but I would have liked to have spent more time with the two of them together. The chance did present itself near the end of last year, as they came to Vancouver to visit Alexis’ family over the unexpectedly stormy winter holidays, and we planned to meet up. As it happened, once our flights were booked, they flew into town on the day after I flew out. In hindsight, I wish I had been snowed in.
This issue is dedicated to both of them.