First Run Features

I’ve been neglecting my blog again. All apologies considering I still seem to drive in a steady stream of traffic. So I’m bringing in some new content. I was originally going to do another Anime Beyond Miyazaki post, but that needs to be put on the back-burner a little longer considering I’m looking for 2 or 3 more recommendations. Today, because even though I’ve decided to write another entry I’m not all that sure what to discuss, I’ll be giving more recommendations as well as films that are on waiting/must see list. These will all be exclusively from one company. I will just link to the site at the very end because I do not believe it is necessary for me to put half a dozen links throughout and I want people to explore the site on their own as well.

That company is First Run Features that has helped guide and introduce me to a plethora of films that don’t get picked up by other distribution companies.  The first thing that made me fall in love with FRF was that they actually had a significant degree of films from Latin America and with great transfers. I deeply, deeply love Kino but that don’t even have 10 films from the region. FRF had introduced me to Cuban cinema, particularly through the Cuban Masterworks Collection which is where I first learned of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea who has now become one of my favorite directors ever with Memories of Underdevelopment and Guantanamera. Alea is well regarded as not only one of the best Cuban filmmakers, but one of the best in the world period. He also occupies an extremely rare position in having filmed in a Communist country but was free to make any satire and point out the problems within the society as he pleased. This is in no small part due to the fact that Cuba has maintained an ‘openness’ (at least compared to other Communist countries) about artistic critique as long as it is to build the nation (often it is said that there should be revolutions with the Cuban Revolution or at least that’s what the state sponsors), but the larger reason why he was able to be almost completely unchecked is because he was friends with Fidel Castro. The Alea gem in this collection is another one of his satires The Twelve Chairs. The synopsis is below.

The Twelve Chairs, from a story also adapted into a film by Mel Brooks, takes place in the aftermath of Cuba’s revolution, when property belonging to the rich is nationalized. On her deathbed, a wealthy woman reveals to her son-in-law, Hipólito, the hiding place of a fortune in jewels: inside one of twelve identical parlor chairs, taken by revolutionary authorities from her villa. Hipólito begins a comical hunt to find the treasure…but he’s not the only one!

Being that I’m a great fan of documentaries, they are the height of cinema to me, and the fact that I love a good ol’ belly aching from laughing I had to check out Lenny Bruce Without Tears. This wasn’t anywhere near as funny as I thought it would have been. It has little to do with the fact that Lenny may have or have not been funny to me. He was an undoubtedly funny man, my expectations were out of whack during first viewing however considering all the people that have influences him I expected ever utterance to be equivalent to God’s voice for evangelicals. Unfair expectations. Even with my heightened expectations it was still evident to see how all of his disciples got their craft from and it was absolutely fascinating that he did this at a time where the powers at be could, would, and did seriously fuck up your life if you were messing up the status quo beyond college campuses. Never did Lenny bend over backwards which is completely different these days when comedians feel the need to punk out at even the slightest hint of backlash. If you’re a fan of the craft and history of stand-up comedy, you owe it to yourself to watch this film.

There are many, many more films that I’m not going to be able to cover but I don’t want to lose attention and throw this in the draft bin and then never get back to it. The last film I would like to recommend is another documentary Brick City. It’s like The Wire except it’s real and in Newark, New Jersey. If you’ve been to Newark then there isn’t really much else to go into. If you haven’t, it’s like how Baltimore is in The Wire, but worse. What separates it from The Wire is that while it also displays the ills of the city, it’s ultimately about the resurrection of the city. Certain portions are despondent of course, but they have to be. It leads to different emotional payments than the aforementioned greatest television show of all time.


About panamaenrique

Afro-Latino film lover in NYC. I love blues, jazz, soul, funk, and everything else under the sun. Any questions, comments, or concerns about anything I say, feel free to hit me up. My contact info is there and I'll be sure to give you a lengthy response about what I said and why I said it.
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