This spring IU Cinema has launched a new Staff Selects Film Series providing Cinema staff members with the exciting opportunity to share some of our favorite films with our community. There are so many films I can imagine wanting to screen, but the instant that IU Cinema’s Business Manager Carla Cowden first proposed the series Andrea Arnold’s amazing film Fish Tank flew into my mind. I was startled by the clarity and immediacy of that choice. Later when it came time to draw names to see who would have a chance to program this season and my name was chosen, again Fish Tank came to mind instantly and fiercely. No doubt. It had to be Fish Tank.
Since then I’ve been asking myself, “Why Fish Tank?” Here are a few thoughts:
When Fish Tank world premiered —and won the Jury Prize—at Cannes in May 2009, IU Cinema was still in the visioning stages. Jon Vickers had not yet been hired as our Founding Director. We were still half a year away from breaking ground on the University Theatre renovation that would transform the old live theatre space into a state of the art “place for film™.” Had the Cinema been up and running at the time IFC Films was distributing the film in early 2010, certainly Fish Tank would have been among our International Arthouse Series offerings. After all Arnold’s short film Wasp was an Oscar® winner. Her first feature film Red Road and her most recent feature American Honey (Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf), both also won the Cannes Jury Prize. Andrea Arnold is an auteur of considerable vision and cinematic power, whose work we have not yet brought to the Cinema. I realized that my selection was in part a way to help us circle back and fill in that gap.
Another reason I feel thrilled to bring this film to the Cinema is that it is designed to be seen in a theatrical space where the audience’s attention is riveted to the big screen, and communally we have the opportunity to be engulfed by the experience of witnessing 15-year-old Mia (powerfully embodied by newcomer Katie Jarvis) as her life is irrevocably altered when her mother brings home a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). Streaming the film off Netflix isn’t the same experience at all. I can’t wait to be in the Cinema with you as together we surrender to Arnold’s powerful, skillful cinematic invitation to be fully present with Mia’s visceral, stunning coming-of-age.
The intensity of Arnold’s work is not always easy to put into words. I’m grateful that filmmakers in the #DirectedbyWomen community responded to my invitation to share “What Andrea Arnold’s Films Mean to Me.” Now I step aside and invite you to experience Arnold’s work through the lens of these women directors. I appreciate their taking time to share their insights. I hope this inspires you to join me on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be introducing the film, then absorbing the experience with you.
“From the first moment I saw Andrea Arnold’s short film “Wasp,” I thought, “Holy sh*t!” Completely shocked and captivated, I’d never seen anything so raw and so real. Having grown up watching countless action movies in the 90s with my dad and older brother, I was no stranger to brutality on screen but what Arnold captured was far more disturbing: the violence and chaos of poverty. She hails from a country that specializes in exquisite period pieces about corseted aristocrats but she makes truthful, nuanced films about people living in housing projects. Techniques like handheld camera have become a cliche of directors striving to make “gritty” films but Arnold’s camera never feels like a cheap device that draws too much attention to itself. It is, like her, a careful and compassionate observer of people who are often overlooked.” Joyce Wu (She Lights Up Well)
“Andrea Arnold makes films that are distinctly dirty, honest and elegant at the same time. She makes films that drip with the real magic of daily living, and the beauty in the horror of its challenges. When I watch her films I feel fully immersed and absolutely absorbed. I feel like I am living the lives of her characters, an experience as gritty as it is poetic. Watching Arnold’s work helped me locate my own language within social realism.” Sarah Sellman (American Bear: An Adventure in the Kindness of Strangers)
“Andrea is herself a misfit (in a very good way) so her characters have opened up a new breed of women, who don’t conform to mundane stereotypes.” Vaishnavi Sundar (Pava)
“I love Andrea Arnold’s realist style of filmmaking. Her films are beautifully raw, honest and usually feature a strong female surviving an underprivileged existence.” Aimee Morgan (Shelter)
“AA’s films have always been seared in my memory + are a source of inspiration. Her personality represents real freedom also!” Sophia Carr-Gomm (The Wider Sun)
“Complex women characters.” Shashwati Talukdar (Bachpan: The Girl)
Fish Tank directed by Andrea Arnold screens at IU Cinema Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Staff Selects Film Series. We’re currently in the planning phase for the Fall 2017 Staff Selects offerings, which will be programmed by members of IU Cinema’s staff.
Barbara Ann O’Leary, Indiana University Cinema’s Social Media and Web Specialist, is delighted to serve as editor of A Place for Film Blog. Barbara’s love of film—particularly the work of women filmmakers—inspired her to launch the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party initiative.