william steig drawing

Race in Film: Festen (The Celebration)

The inclusion of an African American character in Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film Festen (see previous post) is a curious thing.  First I should make clear that the character is indeed an American man of African descent, not a black Dane, or an African immigrant (an important distinction). In the middle of Helge’s birthday dinner, sister Helene’s boyfriend Gbatokai (played by Gbatokai Dakinah*) arrives outside in a cab. Surprise! He’s black! Thinking he’s a hotel guest come to rent a room, brother Michael runs out to send him away, and is ridiculously offensive. Poor Michael can’t stop trying to prove his masculinity. He makes a fool of himself once again attempting to defend an institution that will soon be proved a […]

Festen (The Celebration)

* This is a particularly rambling one, so get a snack or something* When I was younger (I’m an ancient 26 now if you must know) I was very anti hand held camera. I do not like extraneous camera movement. I’m not a fan of the hovering camera. There are rarely any truly static shots anymore and this breaks my heart. In a spirit of instinctive contradiction I am avoiding all camera movement, which is so much in the fashion that the experts think it indispensable. – Jean Cocteau First you must understand that everything you read comes straight from the moist soul of a deeply devoted Visconti fan (he is in my gut you know. Helmut Berger lives inside […]

Bread & Chocolate: Memoirs of a Suspicious Foreigner

This is Mirror’s first guest post! Every now and then select persons will bless us with their most personal musings on film. James has been a dear friend of mine for years and years. I recall one particularly wonderful afternoon spent getting very drunk on a stone bench in Boston’s Little Italy whilst sharing our delight over Jean Cocteau’s “The Art of Cinema.” We are creative soul mates and must live at least 500 miles apart or else die in the heat of each other’s suns. This is the only reason why James lives in Beunos Aires, Argentina. Together we would cause far too much trouble. *** For the past few years I have been living in Buenos Aires, enjoying […]

Race in Film: Shanghai Express

**I’m a little sick. Please excuse the stuffed nose voice** As evidenced by this very Race in Film series, color is a large part of my life. This is frequently not by choice, as was certainly the case when I was a child. It is 1993. I wear turtlenecks under Champion sweatshirts like on TV. I feel proud about this, my first deliberate sartorial decision. I sit at my desk and quietly enjoy the feeling. The room is hushed. We scrawl on a worksheet. The substitute teacher calls me to her desk. We all look up. “Kartina,” she says. “What are you?” Her eyebrows draw together in the middle. “Are you Eskimo?” She must find out. She must know. Unfortunately […]