I had a chance to interview Noemi Charlotte Thieves on January 10. We were at a going-away party in Brooklyn and fell into conversation. The conversation was SO INTERESTING that I asked Noemi if we could step outside so that I could capture our conversation on my iPhone. (The ethnographic opportunity is always now.)
Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. We had to find a fire engine and cue the fire engine and the driver couldn't hit his mark. Finally we just had him drive into frame. I mean does the NYFD not give these people ANY media training? (We love. We kid.)
Noemi was wonderful to interview, an ethnographer's dream, a gift from the gods of ethnography. He's thoughtful, clear, vivid, expansive, intelligent, and illuminating.
I think Noemi is perhaps also a glimpse of the culture we're becoming.
This interview 20 years ago would have been painful and sad. We were a culture of two solitudes. Filmmakers could be popular or they be experimental. And they were tortured by the choice. They were forced to choose one side or the other.
Sometime in the last 10 years, the two extremes began to draw together. (And ironies of ironies, this was roughly the period in which the two extremes of American politics began to drive apart.) Genre and art have yet to find one another, but, as Noemi points out, the hunt is on.
So far, as Noemi also points out, it's been a happy rapprochement. The popular stuff, while democratic and accessible, was obvious to the point of being laborious and "jump the shark" awful. And the artistic work was, too often, obscure. It was, actually, as the phrase has it, "deservedly obscure." (There was a time when Canadians refused to watch anything that came from the National Film Board. They were effectively boycotting the work they were as taxpayers helping to fund.)
To combine the two extremes is to begin to construct a single American culture, a place where democratic clarity and artistic risk work together. Now, we have to figure out what to do about the politics.
(Thanks to Jeremy DiPaolo and Katie Koch for the introduction to Noemi. (How is Sweden?))