I’m gonna take a break this week from my filmy philosophizing 2014 Cinematic Investigations Log to spotlight one particularly important issue coming up next month: Section 215 of the Patriot Act is going to expire...er, retire...On June 1st, the sun is setting on Section 215. Do you know Section 215? You’d better be sure that Section 215 knows YOU.
I’ll call on John Oliver and Edward Snowden in a minute to help illustrate why it is important that we pay attention here.
I had another movie going experience that was lovely this Saturday (getting the idea that all I do is watch movies? You’re WRONG!) at Videology in Williamsburg. Ashleigh and I went to check out the premiere of a new one by a filmmaker named Tyler Rubenfeld. It was starring our friend Jenna D’Angelo (who can be seen in NBP’s Promiscuous Music Video), and to be honest we didn’t know what to expect. The name of the film is Wake Me When I Leave and the genre is tagged as ‘Experimental / Psychological Horror’.
What a fantastic film! Jenna is absolutely amazing in it, infusing her subtle performance with a sense of dread that increases in pitch as the movie’s feeling of linear time unravels. She is a total natural who seems to feel right at home in a film with no trustworthy narrative progression or easy anchor of ‘factual information’ from scene to scene. Her work reminded me of the seemingly effortless comfort with difficult material that actresses like Tilda Swinton exude. The supporting cast is spot on, too, filling scenes with memorable, off-kilter, and sometimes menacing exchanges.
Director Tyler Rubenfeld pulled from a strong lineage of (as he put it) ‘women having visions’ films (Bergman’s Persona, Lynch’s Mulholland Dr.) while managing to never buckle under their weight. It is clear that he has a vision and aesthetic voice that is completely his own and worthy of material support so that it might expand and deepen with access to more resources and a wider audience. Wake Me When I Leave is genuinely unsettling with bursts of laugh-out-loud humor of the oddball variety. I had a blast concocting elaborate thematic and narrative theories all day after watching this one. I can’t wait to see where he goes next!
I hope that this film will find its place in the festival circuit, but far more than that, I’d love to see Rubenfeld’s work featured and available on a great streaming service like Fandor so that you can enjoy it too.
For now, though, I recommend checking out Tyler’s short film Vlogger on Vimeo. This one also stars Jenna D’Angelo and Michael Fentin. I sort of see it as a companion piece to Wake Me When I Leave, the latter expanding and deepening many of the ideas explored in Vlogger while shifting weight from a male to a female POV. The contrasts between the two in this context are pretty fascinating. Oh, it also features our friend Dave Bombay from WFMU’s Knuckle Sandwich as ‘The Drug Dealer’, making good on his deep dry deadpan. Sup, Dave?
Alright, Patriot Act. Get your ugly ass in the room so we can get a look at ya.
It seems pretty important that every U.S. citizen with a body and a brain cell take some time to think and talk with each other about Section 215 of the Patriot Act as June 1st approaches. For example, when ‘Generally Law Abiding Citizen Q’ hears a vague story on the news about government surveillance, perhaps this sentence pops into his head:
“Well, I’m not breaking any laws so nothing for me to worry about. Besides, it does seem to be for our own good cause ISIS.”
However, if ‘Generally Law Abiding Citizen Q’ goes out and tests this supposition by getting into a genuine conversation with another American, there is a chance that said other American might be hip to the fact that section 215 is essentially an anti-constitutional manipulation tactic and threat leveled at all citizens of this country:
‘We have a gun. We’re going to point it at your head. We won’t pull the trigger unless you do something bad. Trust us.’
It becomes a bit tougher to be ok with someone like that tracking and storing your phone calls/metadata trails. Speaking of metadata, here is a quote from the former director of the NSA and CIA, Michael Hayden:
“We kill people based on metadata”.
Okie-dokie. So thanks to this alarming conversation, ‘Law Abiding Citizen Q’ might begin to want to research this further, understanding that it is a very risky proposition putting one’s trust in the words alone of the sort of government that spies so extensively on its citizens in case they step out of line. ‘Law Abiding Citizen Q’ might also discover that Section 215 has NEVER ONCE stopped a genuine terrorist threat. Certainly since the Patriot Act came into play there have been plenty of opportunities, no? And who are these people that Michael Hayden is offing using metadata trails? If they were terrorists, wouldn’t the media be non-stop victory squawkin?
I’m gonna let John Oliver do the talking from here because that man is sharp and hilarious. Please take 30 min to watch this episode of Last Week, wherein Mr. Oliver discusses surveillance and travels to Russia to interview Michael Snowden. You will laugh. You might cry, too, when you begin to consider that Section 215 could reach it’s death date and be quietly renewed AGAIN with no major protest from an American public who genuinely don’t seem to give any sort of shit about government surveillance or its implications unless it involves their personal private super special dick pics.