One of the most versatile and original talents in contemporary world cinema, the Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger has made an art of crossing boundaries, both geographic and formal. From April 19-29, 2012, Museum of the Moving Image will present the first U.S. retrospective to feature both Glawogger's documentary and fiction films.
The series includes seven of his features, as well as two early shorts, and opens with a preview screening of his latest film, Whores' Glory, followed by a conversation with the director. This major documentary explores the sex trade in three very different cultures-Buddhist Thailand, Muslim Bangladesh, and Catholic Mexico-and was both acclaimed and much debated by critics at recent international film festivals. The third part of a globe-spanning trilogy on extreme working conditions, Whores' Glory will screen alongside the first two documentaries, the multi-city symphony Megacities (1994), which profiles twelve stories of survival, and Workingman's Death (2005), a majestic documentary about the world's most dangerous jobs.
About his documentary method, Glawogger has said "I alter reality to show reality," freely admitting that he restages and intervenes in his subjects' lives to capture the reality of the moment. He acknowledges that it is impossible to enter a situation with a camera-and in his case, often a 35mm film camera-and not affect what happens. Through this practice, Glawogger is able to fill his documentaries with stunning camera work, brilliantly composed with saturated colors and under the most extreme conditions. In Workingman's Death, cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler memorably follows an Indonesian laborer burdened with twin baskets of sulfur down the side of a volcano; while in Megacities, an Indian dye worker is himself dyed with vibrant hues of yellow, red, and blue. Glawogger also gains remarkable access into the worlds he captures, most notably in Whores' Glory where he immerses the viewer in transactions of sex for money without sensationalism or judgment.
While the work trilogy depicts lives at the usually invisible margins of society, his other films examine more privileged characters who find themselves crossing borders. The gently humorous documentary France, Here We Come! (2000) takes a multifaceted approach to chronicling the Austrian soccer team's unlikely ascent to the World Cup through the eyes of some ardent fans, including a blind musician and a bank auditor and his mother. The fiction features Slumming (2006) and Contact High (2009) are both dark comedies whose protagonists end up far from home with comic and tragic consequences. Kill Daddy Good Night (2010), freely adapted from the novel Das Vaterspiel by Josef Haslinger, weaves together the stories of a Polish Jew whose father was murdered during World War II, an Austrian video game designer hoping to sell his violent father-shooter game, and his ex-girlfriend in New York who has a mysterious request.
Whores' Glory opens theatrically in New York on April 27, 2012, at Lincoln Plaza and Cinema Village. The film is being released by Kino Lorber. On Friday, April 20, UnionDocs (www.uniondocs.org) in Brooklyn will present a Master Class with Michael Glawogger.
Unless otherwise noted, films are free with Museum admission and take place at Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106.
The screening schedule is as follows.
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 7:00 P.M.
With director Michael Glawogger in person
2011, 119 mins. The third installment of Glawogger's documentary trilogy observes prostitution in three very different contemporary environments (and three very different cultures). At a brothel in Bangkok called the Fish Tank, sex work is treated like any other business transaction. In the ironically named "City of Joy," the red-light district of Fardipur, Bangladesh, the job is a totalizing way of life. And in La Zona, a lawless section of the Mexican border town of Reynosa, prostitution intersects with drugs and violence to create a culture of fatalism. Presented without sensationalism or judgment, and benefiting from a remarkable degree of access, Whores' Glory is an immersive, unblinking look at the world's oldest profession, and how it continues to be shaped by the forces of money and religion. Winner of the Orizzonti Special Jury Prize, 2011 Venice Film Festival.