Sonic Youth. Brutal backyard wrestling matches in suburban Southern California. American Indians getting kicked off their land — in the 21st century. Documentaries on these subjects are among the highlights of Urban Nomad Film Fest (城市游牧影展), which runs through May 9 at Taipei Artist Village, Paris Night Club and Nanhai Gallery.
Urban Nomad is an annual festival for experimental and digital film founded in 2002 by Taipei-based journalists David Frazier and Sean Scanlan. Much of the content is light-hearted shorts submitted by Taiwanese directors, while a significant portion of the international documentaries treat social and political topics. Each evening has two programs: a series of (mostly) Taiwanese shorts, and one international feature.
Last year more than 2,000 people attended Urban Nomad-related events, says Frazier, and the fest is becoming an important forum for young Taiwanese filmmakers, much as Spring Scream (春天吶喊) established itself as a rite of passage for up-and-coming bands, according to Tony Wu (吳俊輝), an experimental filmmaker and professor at Shi Hsin University.
“What young Taiwanese filmmakers do now is often very experimental,” says Wu, whose films have screened at each Urban Nomad since 2002 and more recently has helped produce festival segments. “Urban Nomad attracts young directors because most film festivals in Taiwan, such as Golden Horse and Taipei Film Festival, focus on narrative films and feature documentaries.”
One of the biggest draws this year is Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake, a 2008 documentary about indie-music legends Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon shot by a group of high school students given complete access to a concert in Reno, Nevada. It will show on May 2 at Taipei Artist Village, followed by a concert with Golden Horse nominees KbN (凱比鳥), and again on May 8 at Nanhai Gallery.
WHAT: Urban Nomad Film Fest (城市游牧影展)
WHEN: Through May 9
WHERE: Taipei Artist Village (台北國際藝術村), 7 Beiping E Rd, Taipei City (台北市北平東路7號); Paris Night Club (夜巴黎�?, 5F, 89, Wuchang St Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市武昌街二段89號5樓); Nanhai Gallery (南海藝廊), 3, Ln 19, Chongqing S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市重慶南路二段19巷3號)
ADMISSION: One-day tickets are NT$200 or NT$150 for students, NT$750 for five tickets purchased in advance at the following locations: Mo!Relax, 20, Ln 60, Taishun St, Taipei City (台北市泰順街60巷20號); KGB, 5, Ln 114, Shida Rd, Taipei City (台北市師大路114巷5號); Bliss, 148, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段148號); Mei’s, 16, Ln 37, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街37巷16號); Nanhai Gallery (南海藝廊), 3, Ln 19, Chongqing S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市重慶南路二段19巷3號); Mary Jane’s Pizza (台北市溫州街89號), 89 Wenzhou St, Taipei City. NT$350 for the May 2 Sonic Youth documentary and band show. Free on May 3 for Filipino nationals
ON THE NET: urbannomadfilmfest.blogspot.com
Tonight’s program at Taipei Artist Village begins at 7:30pm with Here Comes Greatness (2009), made by a couple of directors who spent seven years filming amateur backyard wrestling leagues in the Los Angeles area, where teenagers throw each other against barbed wire in makeshift rings littered with broken fluorescent lightbulbs and thumbtacks, and the blood and pile-drives are real.
Tomorrow’s program combines the serious (political documentaries from Singapore, China and Hong Kong and a panel on how Asian filmmakers hope to effect change, from 2pm at Taipei Artist Village) with the strange (Heavy Metal Jr, a documentary about a preteen Scottish metal band and their parents, then a party headlined by “Mississippi delta punk blues” one-man band Bob Log III, at Paris Night Club from 7:30pm and 10pm, respectively).
On Sunday at Taipei Artist Village, Wholphin editor-in-chief Brent Hoff will talk about what he looks for in short films and how his DVD magazine is creating a market for them. Hoff’s talk is at 3pm and will be followed by a viewing of American Outrage, which tells the story of elderly Shoshone sisters who have been fighting the US government and gold mining corporations over attempts to expropriate land from their ranch.
Also this Sunday: a Q&A with Hong Kong’s Fredie Chan (陳浩倫) and a screening of his film about a group of citizen journalists detained by Japanese authorities en route to protest the 2008 G8 Summit. Rounding out the evening will be a nightcap of eight shorts.