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By Mark Peranson
When the history of 2020 is written, if we make it that far, the disruption of the usual mechanisms of exhibition, production, and distribution of cinema will (rightly) appear as a footnote, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are more important crises to manage, but here’s not the place to deal with them in any satisfying way. If the last issue appeared just as COVID-19 was locking us all indoors, this one is born as people are emerging onto the streets, not to head back to normalcy, but to express anger. So I’m sure the last thing you want to hear from me are complaints—after all, we are still publishing, and a physical issue no less.
To make a long story short, many challenges were faced for this issue; the first, financial, was resolved thanks to the additional support provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, for which we are grateful. In terms of content, I also decided to concentrate more than usual on new work which is readily available to be seen online or on physical home-based media, whether in terms of the DAU project, which is currently in the process of being released on demand on the internet, one installment per week or so; made-for-television/streaming series such as Trigonometry and Ozark; films that have skipped proper theatrical releases due to circumstance (all the Currency reviews); film festivals which moved onto the internet (Visions du Réel, Images); and even musical performance (music is a thread which connects a number of the pieces, a careful reader will discover).
What we will cover next time around it’s too early to say. However, unlike a certain apocalyptic contributor in these pages, I am confident that soon enough we will all be back in the cinema, attending festival screenings, cinematheques, and seeing Tenet, because cinema, as it is currently defined—namely a theatrical, communal experience—is part of culture. (I do think that many festivals and distributors have seen the advantages of virtual screenings, and the near future will include online components.) Coronavirus survivor Christian Petzold’s Undine, which was scheduled for theatrical release soon after the Berlinale, will be hitting cinemas the first week of July. And one of the films of the year—regardless of what gems can be mined from the “Cannes 2020 label” or anything that might show up in a truncated Venice—merits inclusion as a statement of one direction of what represents a legitimate cinematic future.
C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s eight-hour The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) premiered in the initial Encounters competition at the Berlinale, where it was the deserved winner (full disclosure etc. etc., but I didn’t make the thing), and has yet to have a public screening since, nor have the filmmakers consented to an online showing. As theatres start to open up and festivals migrate back into the real world, readers will have the opportunity to spend a full day in a cinema and watch this film soon—distribution deals have been done for North America, France, and Japan, with other countries pending (Grasshopper will also be giving Winter and Edström’s fiction debut, 2009’s The Anchorage, a proper release in the US). Feel free to skip over the first ten pages that follow until your time comes if you’re concerned with spoilers.