By Boris Nelepo and Celluloid Liberation Front 9/22/2014: We were saddened to hear of Peter von Bagh’s death on September 17, 2014. In Citizen Peter, More →
A crisis in film criticism does not exist, as film criticism has never been in such a vibrant, healthy state, and should really be reconfigured as a crisis signalling the end of modern media (e.g., the newspaper, the alt-weekly). When Cinema Scope was founded 13 years ago, the need for a printed fulcrum around which Canadian-based film criticism of the international variety could rotate was, to me, painfully obvious. It’s less so today, but we persist, perhaps out of inertia, certainly not for profit—I remain disappointed with the number of subscribers to the hard copy of this magazine, which includes twice as many articles as you’re reading online—but out of the love that we have for cinema.
So to commemorate 50 issues, I came up with the silly (not stupid) idea of deciding on the best 50 filmmakers currently working under the age of 50 (or the top, or the greatest—I’ve spent far too much time pondering this silly adjective). I’m anticipating heaps of criticism for this in the blogosphere, but I hope this leads to a little discussion outside of the pages of this magazine, and provides a snapshot of where cinema finds itself today. To be clear, these are not my favourite 50 filmmakers; there are a few that I would have preferred to be on there (sorry guys and gals), but the foibles of the real world intervened. Just like consigning films to calendar years, putting together 50 Under 50 creates an arbitrary line in the sand—40 Under 40 would be more daring, but I missed out on that one, and I’m certainly no ageist—yet it’s still a gamble. Some writers perceived the task as a chance to place bets as to who will be around, say, 20 years from now. (Certainly this magazine won’t, but if it does, I promise 100 Over 100, even if it’s 80 pages on a 123-year-old Manoel de Oliveira.)
This list also represents a contemporary Cinema Scope canon, as those filmmakers who make up the 50 Under 50 should be familiar to regular readers (24 filmmakers on the list have been interviewed in previous issues). The list was compiled in consultation with our regular stable of writers, who were allowed to approach their choices with complete freedom; it was also important for me to have 50 contributors, some of whom played significant past roles and have moved along, or have been too busy to write recently. Same goes for filmmakers, whose views are essential to any discussion on cinema, so extra special thanks to Denis Côté, James Benning, Ben Rivers, Raya Martin, Alex Ross Perry, Albert Serra, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who has kindly provided two original paintings of his choice, Lucrecia Martel, which you can find in the magazine in full glorious colour.
Just as crucially, the 50 Under 50 is herein subsumed within a regular issue of Cinema Scope proper, and I wanted this one to start off with a feature-length piece relating to issues in contemporary film criticism. Well, luckily J. Hoberman got fired. There are also other historical features, the usual columns, essays on the latest festival films (including some crazy thoughts on 50 Under 50 member Miguel Gomes’ Berlin-standout Tabu, which provides the striking cover art for this issue), though Currency for now continues on a weekly basis over at Cinema Scope Online. And, if you have this in your hands, you’ll notice a significant upgrade to the print quality and design. Hope we’ve got the cash to keep it going for a little while longer. Vive le Cinema Scope libre! And people, once again, it’s two words. Why is it so difficult?
A different version of this editorial appears in the print version, which contains all the articles listed in the table of contents, looks really good, and you should all buy it.