As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the news of Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind, it is worth posting news of a contemporary movie that shows the fragile state of film and the highly volatile and transitory condition of motion picture media that has continued to build over the past two decades. David Riker, the director (The Girl) and writer (Dirty Wars) who is the featured Close-Up interviewee of Chapter 5 of Moving Images, has recently initiated a Kickstarter campaign to bring his universally praised first film La Ciudad back into circulation.
In only 15 years, this important movie that features a series of stories about undocumented immigrants in the United States – “a treasure,” according to Roger Ebert, “simply a great film,” from the Washington Post, and compared with neo-realist classics by Variety – became virtually unseeable, with a few worn prints in circulation and the DVD release out of print, its company having folded. This particular story is a highly valuable one for media educators and students to explore, because it touches on many issues of great importance to 21st century mediamakers: newly developing funding resources and methods, direct pitches to audiences, film preservation, and social issues addressed in movies. Another important corollary to this story is that it ties in with one issue that media teachers have to deal with constantly: reminding students of the necessity to carefully preserve and archive their own work. Are you making copies and keeping track of them? Do you control the formats and have access to them? I find that often enough, the answer is no. Students often do not pay enough attention to this, and from time to time, former students contact me asking if I have copies of their work. “Well, I’ll be happy to check,” I say, wanting to add, “and do you remember the first things I went over when we started class? And telling you that there’s a decent chance you will be creating treasures that will be priceless to you in years to come…”