My Summer of Love

Minnesota filmmakers remember the warm-weather flicks that got them hot (or bothered)

Eric Tretbar's films include Snow and The Horrible Flowers.

 

STAR WARS

BY DANIEL BERGIN

I saw Star Wars on an end-of-the-year field trip in school when I was 11. Once John Williams's opening fanfare jolted me back into my seat, I was forever lost in George Lucas's fairy tale--Kurosawa meets Joseph Campbell in space. My Star Wars buzz lasted throughout the summer of '77. However, I vividly recall one of my well-meaning white teachers protesting the absence of minorities in the film. I had to endure one of those only-black-kid-around-when-a-teacher-talks-race moments. I broke the awkwardness by offering, "Well, it's outer space. So there were green and blue people in it." It worked. We could all continue to enjoy the myth from a galaxy "far, far away" now that it was free from the issues that were all too near. But I knew the teacher had a point. In fact, there had been enough protest that Billy Dee Williams was brought in as the playa/rebel Lando Calrissian. As a filmmaker I always try to consider everyone in my audience. And I'll always bristle at how the opening-weekend paradigm has unmade the art of American cinema. But as a film fan, I'll forever cherish my wide-eyed experience with the ultimate popcorn movie.

Daniel Bergin's films include North Star: Minnesota's Black Pioneers.

 

DO THE RIGHT THING

BY JEANNE-MARIE ALMONOR
AND JOHN SHULMAN

Can a summer blockbuster have drama, racial conflict, and political impact--and still draw an audience? In the summer of 1989, Spike Lee proved it could. We were civil rights lawyer wannabes at the time, just starting law school, and Spike stuck it to us with his fiery Do the Right Thing. He was "just" a filmmaker, but his movie had a greater impact on racial justice in one summer than most lawyers could have in a lifetime. One of us (Jeanne-Marie) grew up in Brooklyn, where Do the Right Thing was shot. The other (John) shot hoops with the movie's actors after each day's filming. More than a decade later, we made our own movie about racial conflict and oppression right here in Minnesota. It was our attempt to do the right thing--and our star (Roger Guenveur Smith) had launched his own career with Spike!

Jeanne-Marie Almonor and John Shulman are the co-directors of Justice.

 

FAHRENHEIT 9/11

BY LU LIPPOLD

Last June, right before Fahrenheit 9/11 was released, rumor had it that this film was about to change everything. That was the buzz among documentary filmmakers who had seen a sneak preview: Fahrenheit was going to turn the tide against Bush for sure. We dared to hope. But it seems you can't release a movie in June and expect people to take it seriously. Summer blockbusters are supposed to be entertainment, not fact after depressing fact. When you walked out of Fahrenheit 9/11 into the balmy night, weren't you a little bewildered by Michael Moore's barrage of information? Like what was that thing about Bush père and the Saudis? That poor mother of the dead soldier--wasn't that sad? Should we go have ice cream now? Or margaritas?

Lu Lippold is the director of The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall and the co-director of Wellstone!

 

THE X-FILES

BY MATT EHLING

There are moments when pop culture and the sensibility of the times collide in surprising and instructive ways. Chris Carter's 1998 film--and the TV series that preceded it--captured the essence of an uncertain decade, wedged between the twilight struggle of the Cold War and the fearsome age of 9/11. Carter's program rode a cultural wave that flowed from 1991's JFK, which brought hidden histories and ulterior motives foursquare into the American psyche. A door had been opened, and some awkward questions were on the table. During the X-Files years of the 1990s, it was often difficult to tell where Mulder and Scully stopped and the TV news began. We saw paramilitary troops drag a six-year-old out of his home at gunpoint. We read reports of Cold War radiation tests being carried out on the mentally retarded. In Scotland, someone started cloning sheep. The X-Files decade revealed a deep unease with our assumptions about the past, and a haunting disquiet with our direction into the future. During the '90s, we searched for answers in new places, and we saw the cultural ripples everywhere: from Ross Perot to the internet, from Nader voters to survivalist expos, from the Ventura administration to the WTO protests. In the years since, Mulder and Scully have hung it up. A grim new era has emerged, leading us to embrace easy answers to complex questions, to demonstrate our willingness once again to close the door and turn away.

Matt Ehling's films include Security and the Constitution.

 

THE ROAD WARRIOR

BY JON SPRINGER

Released in July of '82, this virtual remake of The Outlaw Josey Wales still has enough juice to transport its thoroughly deconstructed Western hero across vast wastelands of cynical, self-possessed culture--and back home safely into the realm of cinematic (and moral) plausibility. With the help of the "Man from the Sky," Mad Max (Mel Gibson) discovers that he must allow this trickster/god to lure him back into community, to save his life and sanity. Can the average action buff, now 20 and 30 years removed from Rockatansky and Wales, still grasp this need? We share the Gyro Captain's god's-eye view of anomie, murder, and supercharged hyper-individualism running on empty. Yet Pappagallo offers Max the strikingly catholic alternative: a chance to rebuild a life of dignity within an embryonic society that sees the fuel as a means, not an end. Let's hope the important liberal message imbedded in this cinematic masterpiece (or Reagan-era propaganda piece, as you like) isn't lost: It takes a postapocalyptic village.

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