The Cinema Lounge Celebrates Its First Anniversary
The Cinema Lounge Discusses
the Changing Face of Film Criticism
By Brian Niemiec
"Why do we have critics, anyway?" I asked.
"So I can see movies for free," Bill Henry quipped back, setting the
tone for the rest of the evening.
On June 11, Cinema Lounge met for our first anniversary to discuss
the changing face of film criticism. Joining us were DC area film critics
Bill Henry, Joe Barber and Willie Waffle. The topics ranged from choosing
a favorite film critic to Roger Ebert's new partner, Richard Roeper.
After Bill's quip, he likened himself to Consumer Reports for
movies. They all agreed that they function as consumer advocates, suggesting
films for which you should or shouldn't plop down your $9. However,
they did agree that their opinions have very little influence over studio
juggernauts like Pearl Harbor or Swordfish.
Bottomless studio advertising budgets can propel those films to tops
at the box office despite poor reviews. Instead, they prefer to champion
smaller films, like Memento or Following,
that don't get much exposure due to the budget constraints of smaller
studios. Good reviews will get people out to see the movie and from
there word-of-mouth hopefully takes over.
Our discussion soon turned to the Internet, where just about anyone
can be a film critic. There are endless sites to post your own reviews.
Joe thought it was great that the Internet allows everyone a say. At
the same time, he fears that so many voices with varied opinions can
dilute the impact of the reviews making them ineffectual.
The conversation continued for nearly two hours. Participants learned
the secrets of new theater openings and the buzz on some upcoming films.
It was a great way to kick off the second year of Cinema Lounge.
Join us for our next meeting on Monday, July 9, as we discuss Hollywood's
uneven relationship with sports films. As always, we will meet at Borders
Books, 5333 Wisconsin Ave. NW, at 7:30 p.m. in the Café Espresso on
the 2nd floor. Can't wait to see you there.
An Interview With Student
Director Hans Smitsman
By Jim McCaskill
The following interview took place at Cafe Steven, Amsterdam, in early
May 2001. Hans Smitsman is one of five student directors nominated for
the Student Foreign Language Academy Award to be presented on June 10.
This is his first interview.
Q.Tell me about Ahmed Was Hier (Ahmed Was Here),
your nominated film.
A. Ahmed came together with the cooperation of
three other students: Iris Huizinga, Daniel van Veen and Bianca van
Riemsdyk. We had spent much of the year on another script that was just
not coming together. We trashed that and quickly began
This film is about a foreigner's peek into another culture. A foreigner
is invisible; no one will talk with him. In this film he tells his story
to the camera. It is a tragic comedy about an Egyptian who want to be
accepted. He does not want to get into trouble but does. He is locked,
naked, outside his house but no one sees him. No one helps him. His
situation goes from bad to worse and he ends up in prison. The primary
colors used in this film are the colors of the Dutch flag: red, white
Q. What is your film background?
A. I have just graduated from the Netherland Film and Television
Academy. Admission is very competitive as only twelve as accepted for
the four-year program.
Ahmed is my second film. The first was
Gloria, not a musical but they sang. I like to play with
the topic of incest. So far everything I have done is an experiment.
Q. Did you always want to go into film?
A. First I went to Agricultural University. We had to dig a hole
but I was more interested with the visual aspect of the photograph than
the hole. My mother is an artist and so I have always had an interest in
visual communication. Painting is too lonely. Film is collaborative.
With film you can unite as everyone has to work together to make it
Q. Who has influenced your work?
A. Peter Greenaway is almost like a Dutch painter in the way he
makes film. He is concerned with texture. Bernardo Bertolucci is also an
influence. Fassbinder is too.
Q. How was your film funded?
A. All films made in the Netherlands receive state subsidies. The
producer gets both state and private funds. Very difficult to make a
film without government support. The state has an active role as they
can say we like the beginning and ending but not the middle. You have to
have a script doctor make changes.
Q. Let's return to Ahmed. The theme of the outsider
seem to run through both your films. Do you consider yourself an
A. I was born in Holland and at the age of one we moved to
Israel. My family stayed there for five and one-half years. At the time
of the Yom Kippur War we returned to the Netherlands. Stayed here for
six years and then moved to the UK. After four years there we moved
Q. Anything else in your background that leads to understanding
A. My parents divorced when I was 12. My father discovered that
my mother was having a lesbian affair.
Q. What do you expect from an actor?
A. Minimalist acting. Understating is very effective in film. The
actors and I try to find the content of a scene and really focus on
that. The director helps you get to the level that makes a film
Q. What do you expect from an audience?
A. I'm still not making the film I should. I'm still trying to
find out what I want do with film. The audience wants to be entertained.
I want to make a film that interests me. When you make a film with state
funds you have an obligation.
Q. What film do you want to make?
A. I am working on a script about our 11 City Skating Contest. It
begins with the skater's death. An Egyptian wants to win the contest and
If all goes well I will make a film about Alexander the Great.
Everything he did was extreme. I also want to make a film about Isabelle
Ebenhard. She went to war dressed as a man and was killed in
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