Artforum swoons over the Maryland Film Festival
In a post about the Maryland Film Festival called “Weird and Wonderful,” Artforum magazine all but swooned over Baltimore’s weirdness.
The author, Nick Pinkerton, noted that “Baltimore’s fest is as welcoming as its slate is challenging, and its motto, ‘Film for everyone,’ is no put-on. Screenings were almost uniformly well-attended by Baltimoreans from all walks of life, and on the stroll north along Charles Street from the Hotel Monaco (where all fest invitees were housed, and whose lobby hosted the nightly bacchanals) to the theater, it was not uncommon to be drawn into a conversation about the merits of, say, Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise Trilogy, with a barista who’d noticed one’s festival lanyard.”
He goes on to add, initially of If We Shout Loud Enough, the documentary about Double Dagger, but then of the scene as a whole: “Double Dagger are credited with resuscitating the local music scene after the city’s best-and-brightest had, per credited music historian Tim Kabara, ‘moved to cultural hubs like Williamsburg, to worship The Strokes.’ The arts have since thrived in the last low-overhead city in the Northeastern corridor, and an assertively prideful school of Baltimore filmmaking has concurrently reemerged. As one interviewee in Shout observes, supporting your local scene usually means sitting through a lot of crap bands—but I can report, as one with no ties to the place, that the contingent of Charm City cinema at this year’s fest was unusually strong.”
The piece includes some unfortunate factual errors: In discussing Matt Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker, Pinkerton rather doofily refers to Porterfield’s previous film, Putty Hill, as “Welcome to Putty Hill.” And he refers to 12 O’Clock Boys director Lotfy Nathan as “Lofty.” That these embarrassing errors remain in the piece three days after it was posted is pretty unforgivable.
After a discussion of 12 O’Clock Boys, Pinkerton notes that “The festival has effectively piggybacked on the city’s new hip stature, fostering relationships with local musicians like Deacon and Animal Collective,” and concludes by asking: “Who can say if the Baltimorean renaissance will continue for one thousand years, or if it’s already in its Indian summer?”
While we’re grateful to see Artforum show some much-deserved love for MFF, the final question is really kind of stupid. First of all, it judges this renaissance entirely by outside notice, so that if you’re not the kind of place where people move to worship, say Dan Deacon instead of the Strokes, then you are in an “Indian Summer.” And to say it is a renaissance is to discredit all of the art being made before Artforum sent Pinkerton to town. More than anything, it would be really nice if Artforum – which has been woefully short on coverage of Baltimore visual art – would take the time to look at our, uh, art scene.