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Jonathan Demme and Jem Cohen Occupy Wall Street with New Doc Shorts

by Anthony Kaufman
October 27, 2011 1:38 AM
2 Comments
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Last week, I wrote about a burgeoning doc director inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Now veteran filmmakers Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") and Jem Cohen ("Benjamin Smoke") are getting into the act. Both Demme and Cohen have traveled to downtown Gotham recently to make short films about the protest movement.

Demme released his 15-minute verite montage on YouTube (see below), telling Deadline, “I have no agenda, but I’m an enthusiast and support this so passionately that in a tiny way I wanted to contribute.”

“I’m from the hippie generation," he explained. "I came aware in that age of protests and demonstrations. These young people are living that sense of potential change, and when you go downtown to see it, it’s such an oxygenated atmosphere that it’s thrilling."

"Many people dump on Barack Obama, they say once he got in office he didn’t do anything. But neither did we, the people who supported him and then went off and lived our lives.... This is a voice that cannot be ignored, and it is fantastic that young people are spearheading it. They turned out and helped get Obama elected, they evaporated after, but here they are and they are passionate. These kids are deep in student loan debt, trusting there would be positions for them, and either they can’t get jobs or they’ve been laid off."

"There is justifiable outrage.”

The first of Jem Cohen's shorts--which was shot only days ago--played on Wednesday night at New York's IFC Center as part of its ongoing “Short Attention Span Cinema” program. Each of the first four films in the series will screen for a week before IFC Center’s regular features. A fifth film will premiere at DOC NYC’s Spotlight Gala on November 8, before the screening of "The Island President" and a post-film discussion with director Jon Shenk and filmmaker-author-activist Michael Moore.

“Some of my films are made over spans as long as ten years, but others are done in immediate, visceral response to unfolding events,” said Cohen. “In regards to Occupy Wall Street, when friends asked me where the newsreels were, I decided to plunge in and make some myself."

"We knew there’d eventually be many documentaries made about the phenomenon and that there were already short advocacy pieces in support of the movement (as well as YouTube slams against it)."

"My own interest lay elsewhere: in a kind of reporting based on direct observation that expresses solidarity without propaganda, while leaving room for experimentation and lyricism. I’m making these films in homage to both an astonishing, homegrown political groundswell and a documentary tradition forged by filmmakers such as Jean Vigo, Joris Ivens, Humphrey Jennings, Agnès Varda, and Chris Marker—to whom my newsreels are dedicated.”

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2 Comments

  • Maria | October 27, 2011 10:50 AMReply

    Love that awesome woman's spirit starting at 7:19
    ...We are not disaffected - We are not disconnected! ...

  • Garret | October 27, 2011 7:13 AMReply

    Great post, Anthony. Thanks!

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