Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Going Underground: Five Signs That We're Marching Backwards In Time


Some people might say my life is in a rut, 
But I'm quite happy with what I got 
People might say that I should strive for more, 
But I'm so happy I can't see the point. 


Somethings happening here today 
A show of strength with your boy's brigade and, 
I'm so happy and you're so kind 
You want more money - of course I don't mind
 
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes
--The Jam ("Going Underground")


As the old saying goes, the only certainty of history is that it always repeats itself. What goes around, comes around. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior...and so on. If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard all these cliches, I'd be living in a mansion somewhere in the south of France.

Even so, there's no going around the fact that we're living in some of the most regressive times since the 1980s...a feeling that's hammered home by five negative social trends that keep the commentators' tongues wagging. Without further ado, shall we roll the credits, then?

1. This Just In (America Has Officially Joined The Hamburglar Nation): Doubt persists about whether we've finally spent our way out of our economic doldrums, though some of the usual established voices have apparently decided that's so ("Slow U.S. Economic Recovery Is Gaining Momentum": Wall Street Journal, 6/24/13).

However, the number of part-time jobs (read: 35 hours or less) has grown by 2.8 million since the Great Recession officially kicked off in December 2007, according to The New York Times. By contrast, the number of full-time jobs has fallen by 5.8 million.

Also, if you add two significant subgroups -- those who want full-time work, but have to settle for part-time, and those workers who have up looking -- the official unemployment rate effectively doubles, from 7.7 to 14.3 percent.  Get the rest of this cheery memo here:

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/the-rise-of-part-time-work/

2. Permanent Fiesta For The 1 Percent Department.: Most analysts agree that those pesky little 1 percenters have enjoyed quite a party since the 1980s, when everybody seemed to strut around with oversized portable phones, and sweaters stuffed with big shoulder pads, waiting for their share of the wealth to trickle down their direction...today, the crickets keep on chirping, and they're still waiting.

How one-sided the party became isn't always apparent, though, until you read the Economic Policy Institute's May 2012 report, "CEO Pay And The Top 1 Percent," which states that U.S. workers' compensation grew by just 5.7 percent between 1978 and 2011. By contrast, CEO compensation swelled by more than 725 percent during the same period.

When stock options are included, the overall CEO-to-worker compensation ratio grew from 18.3-1 in 1965, to 411.3-1 in 2000, and presently sits at 209.4-1 in 2011 (a reflection, presumably, of the backlash that greeted such fripperies, once the economy flew south). Read the remainder of the bad news for yourself here:

http://www.epi.org/publication/ib331-ceo-pay-top-1-percent/


I'm going underground, (going underground) 
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound 
Going underground, (going underground) 
Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow 


3. At Least Keith Partridge Had Something To Fall Back On: The One-Paycheck Household has faded into a relic of "The Partridge Family" era...when the widowed bandleader (Shirley Jones)  could sleep soundly, knowing that she and her velvet-clad pop combo could cover all their monthly bills, plus Keith's college education tab, and have a few shekels left over for the occasional meal out.

Nowadays, however, Shirley and company would have to whore themselves out on the fast food or retail McJob Circuit, because their concert guarantees wouldn't keep up with the runaway cost of living.  This phenomenon is well-documented in The Two-Income Trap (Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke).

As the authors note, married couples with children are twice as likely to file bankruptcy as their childless counterparts, and about 75 percent more likely to fall in foreclosure: "The problem is that so many fixed costs are rising -- health care, child care, finding a good home -- that two-income families today actually have less discretionary money left over than those single-earner families did." Keith Partridge, eat yer heart out!  For the rest of the story, go to this link:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/11/two-income-trap

4. Your Wallet (In The College Industrial Complex's Crosshairs): As even our mainstream media friends have finally acknowledged, educational debt has reached astronomical levels in this country, to the tune of $1 trillion, with roughly $180 billion in some kind of default or others. We've actually reached the point of generational debt, which promises to keep future lenders out of the cold, and off the street corner.

"Wait a minute," you say, "didn't President Obama and his minions sign some type of law regulating interest rates on student loans?"  Well -- as USA Today makes clear -- even with the changes, the feds stand to pocket $175 billion in profit from students over the next decade. As Ogden Nash once remarked: "Professional men, they have no cares/Whatever happens, they get theirs":

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/25/student-loan-rates-will-feed-fed-profits/2696241/

5. Read My Lips, Bud, The Needle Hasn't Moved A Millimeter Around Here: As of 2009, an estimated 50.0 million nonelderly Americans lacked health insurance. According to the Employee Benefit Institute, the figure represents about 18.9 percent of the populace. Except for dips in 2004 and 2007, the number and percentage of the uninsured ranks has continued to climb, making the Clinton-to-Bush-era transitional low point (15.6 percent, in 2000) seem awfully quaint, indeed. You can find additional interesting information about this topic here:

http://www.ebri.org/publications/benfaq/index.cfm?fa=hlthfaq10


What you see is what you get 
You've made your bed, you better lie in it 
You choose your leaders and place your trust 
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust 
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns 
And the public wants what the public gets 
But I don't get what this society wants 
I'm going underground, (going underground) 


Released in March 1980, "Going Underground" marked the first of three instant chart-toppers for the Jam, and still stands up as one of the most potent blasts of social commentary that Paul Weller ever unleashed.  What kind of society, no matter how prosperous, allows the scenario of "kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns" to occur, again and again?  In short, this song is all about prosperity versus priorities, with the average person falling considerably short of the finish line -- then, and now.

For yours truly, "Going Underground" became one of the handiest songs to blow off some steam, and a marker of hope that -- some day, somehow, somewhere -- the majority (whoever they were) would finally wake up, and shake the cobwebs off their brains...once the hangover of failing to get rich quick set in.  That never happened, of course.

As even many conventional Democrats are loath to admit, the Clinton era set dizzying new standards for go-go finance that would have made Reagan-era fixtures like junk bond king Michael Milken -- or his silver screen counterpart, Gordon Gekko -- wet their knickers with joy. Realpolitik, in it all its grimy, joyless variations, was the order of the day.

Whenever anyone dared to ask, "Isn't all this go-go business gospel getting slightly out of hand?", they'd hear the Status Quo Police respond: "Shut up! As long as we can print more money, it shouldn't be a problem." Other times, you might hear something like this: "Shut up! For most folks, debt's a way of life now. As long as they can buy their latest toys on credit, it shouldn't be a problem."

One common denominator ties all these statistics together: they represent snapshots of the choices that American society -- at its leanest, meanest, most mindlessly Darwinistic, and socially regressive -- forces citizens to make on a constant basis, whether it's food versus medicine, or child care versus earning a living wage...and so on, and so on, and so on.

This is a situation that makes no bones about community, with no other ethic laid out on the table beyond survival of the fittest. How the average person navigates this dog-eat-dog maze, of course, is strictly up to them...but, as these figures suggest, they're continuing to lose the battle...and don't even think about attempting to win the war.  --The Reckoner

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Search Of The Underdog: Lionel Rogosin's Cinematic Legacy Revisited (Interview With Michael Rogosin, Pt. 2: 5.22.13)



Lionel Rogosin seems in rip-roaring form, judging by this college lecture photo, taken around 1974 -- which usually serves as a standard reference for all those endless montages of Nixon's resignation, streakers bounding across high school graduation stages, and never-ending lines at gas stations nationwide...that grace just about every one of those period pieces that your friendly neighborhood dream factory is continually spitting out.

Though Lionel Rogosin couldn't have known at the time, Nixon's swansong year would also mark his tenth -- and final -- completed film, Arab-Israeli Dialogue (whose still photo is below)..which he shotout of necessity, in the basement of his Impact Films studio.  Rogosin's final full-length feature, Woodcutters Of The Deep South, had appeared in 1973; this time around, his last effort would clock in at 39 minutes, and hint of an extended story that would wait nearly 40 more years to be told.


As we detailed in our previous installment, Lionel Rogosin would never complete another film during his lifetime, which ended in 2000.

At long last, however, his cinematic legacy is beginning to make itself felt, through the efforts of his son, Michael Rogosin, whom my kindred cohort, Chairman Ralph, interviewed for his website (www.chairmanralph.com), and appears by his permission. (Thanks to Michael for providing the photos.) This installment begins with a discussion of the '60s' freewheeling social vision, and how it influenced the Lionel Rogosin's vision.  --The Reckoner


"HE WASN'T ACCEPTING THE STATUS QUO":
MICHAEL ROGOSIN INTERVIEW, PT. II

CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): Well, this is one reason why people go back to the '60s so much, because there was this idea..."our institutions are not serving us well, and they can do better, and we can do better."

MICHAEL ROGOSIN (MR)
: Exactly. As you say, my father was one of that generation.  Did he do this to get rich?  Obviously not, 'cause he just made a lot of problems for himself (laughs) – but he did what he believed in. Can you change the world?  Maybe, maybe not, but he was trying to do those things through cinema...and it's really a fascinating subject.

CR
: Sure – because your father could quite easily have hooked up with any of the trends happening at the time, and made life much easier for himself – but he chose not to do that.

MR
: That brings us back to Arab-Israeli...there's just so much of his mind at work, showing these things that people didn't want to see, but were so important.  Forty-four years afterward, and it's as relevant today to discuss it, as it was [then].  It's kind of mind-blowing, and an inspiration to get these things out there.  It's an obligation.

CR
: My feeling is, you can't really back off...because it's going to make it [working conditions] a little better for the next guy. It's not just about you.

MR
: Exactly.  The only film's that more about me – and it's really about me and my father – is the personal one. But the work is too important to let go.  If I don't do it, who's gonna do it?  That's one of the things [explored] in my personal film: what is his role, of legacy? 

I'm happy, and I'm really thrilled that people contributed in a selfless way [to the Arab-Israeli Kickstarter campaign], so we could get this film done, you know – because we financed it all ourselves, and it comes to a point where you can't [anymore].  That really makes the whole thing worthwhile – I really, really feel [good] about that.  So I'm looking forward to it.

I'm hoping that by September, we'll have a documentary on Arab-Israeli, [along] with the film – which we can show – and, eventually, this new interview, which we're not sure how to handle yet.




CR
: The one thread they [Lionel Rogosin's films] have in common is – all involve the underdog, in some way, shape or form.

MR: That actually brings me back to Good Times. One of the messages of that film, which I find remarkable -- I don't know if people pick up on it -- comes back to what you're saying: "We all have a kind of a responsibility, to do something."

Having those people making those comments at the cocktail party [in the film] – it's like, “OK, can we just stand by, and do nothing, or can we do something?” You're doing [things] with your website, your journalism, and all that.  Everyone can do something, you know?


CR
: Yes, absolutely.  So what's the strategy for your father's writings? You said that your father's not necessarily a great writer – but, nevertheless, he left us a lot of written documentation [of his work].

MR
: For the writing – with [help from] a young researcher, we pulled out things from different periods to make a collection.  But it's a matter of finding somebody to be a collaborator, find the right people.  I also realize something else: in cinema, you can't tell all the stories, unfortunately.  That's why there needs to be a research center somewhere.  It's really a matter of partners, and my energy.  If someone says, “Oh, we'd love to do a collection of writing,” that would be great, you know.

CR
: The thing about your father is – he was a man in his time, and yet, very much not of his time, perhaps even 30 years ahead of his time.  True?

MR
: That's exactly right.  He was obsessed with social justice, and all those things – all that comes through in the films.

CR
: Certainly, one other obvious legacy of his work is the idea that, “You don't take shortcuts.  You don't do the easy thing.”

MR
: Oh, yeah, yeah, that's true, too – if you put it into phrases like that.  I guess there would be a certain amount of lessons you'd have to take from each film, but that's definitely it.  And that you don't accept everything, you fight for what you believe in.

When he went to South Africa, to make a film against apartheid, it was not for his own benefit: “This situation is an awful thing in the world.  We have to fight it.  We can't accept that.  We've just been through World War II, when awful things were happening, and we're not going to let it happen again.”


Beyond what each film is actually saying, he wasn't accepting the status quo, he was fighting for what he thought world justice should be...in every film,  whether it was popular, or unpopular...and they were all basically unpopular.  When he made Come Back, Africa, he thought he'd have some success – he thought that people would be interested in the poor black people, oppressed in South Africa, and he was naïve. They didn't give a damn.

CR
: Yeah, I imagine that had to a sobering moment for your father....

MR
: Exactly, but he did it, anyway, you know?  He had to do it.  And I found that [to be] the message in Good Times – that we are all responsible for doing something in this world.  I think there are a lot of messages in there...things about the way you make cinema, the way you film faces, for instance...they're like portraits.

And the way that you get so real. That's something I noticed in the films – as you say, in Black Roots [for example].  They're so real, but yet, it's cinema.  It's not fake. It's not imposed, and by studying those methods, filmmakers can get some more depth in their films, you know?

CR
: Very much so. If you look at a lot of the things [that] folks are doing today, there's a lot of time being wasted on gimmicks.

MR: Yeah, there's a lot of that – why do people make films?  They want to have a nice career – but that wasn't his motivation at all.  It's like, something is gonna come out of this, to do better – he was completely obsessed with that, with social justice.  He had to show those Bowery men. He had to show the people in South Africa.  He had to show the dangers of nuclear war.

He had to show, in Black Roots, what it was like to be black in America, in the '70s...he had to show, in Black Fantasy, a mixed couple – which nobody wanted to see...Woodcutters, this obscure thing in the woods...he had to show it. He's not doing it for any other reason, except a deep obsession with something that has to be done.  He's not sitting around, saying, “OK, I wanna make a film, but what subject could I do?”  And that's a big difference.


If you really wanna do something really important, it's gonna have to come out of some deep motivation, you know?  It can't be artificial.  It doesn't work – or it does work, if you want to make some entertainment, I guess.  But it's a different ball game.

CR
: That's why I connected with them, and once you get all this stuff done, that's why people will connect with it, as well.

MR
: OK, I hope so – it's encouraging, what you've told me.  It's really encouraging, and I'm really happy that you enjoyed the films, and Black Roots, as well...'cause we know about the early films.  But I need a motivation to continue, finish this, and get people to see the later films – that's kind of my obsession now.  Thanks so much for following us, and giving your thoughts, and all.

CR
: Well, thanks for giving so much of your time today to do this.

MR
: Let's keep in touch, definitely.

MORE INFORMATION:
Black Roots Overview (Turner Classic Movies):

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article.html?id=568367%7C570286

Ms. Magazine:
The Verbal Karate Of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.
:
http://www.msmagazine.com/summer2011/verbalkarate.asp

Museum Of Modern Art Press Release:
"What's Happening" Series (Including Black Roots)
:
http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/4506/releases/MOMA_1970_July-December_0025_86.pdf?2010


Museum Of Modern Art Press Release:
Lionel Rogosin Retrospective (6/18-25/90):
http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/6805/releases/MOMA_1990_0056_59.pdf?2010

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Search Of The Underdog: Lionel Rogosin's Cinematic Legacy Revisited (Interview With Michael Rogosin, Pt. 1: 5.22.13)


Here at Ramen Noodle Nation, we pride ourselves  as cultural curators of the obscure, the overlooked, and the unheard. -- be it art, film, literature, music.  In that respect, Lionel Rogosin (1924-2000) fits the bill perfectly, as my good friend, Chairman Ralph, most emphatically stresed during a series of email exchanges on the subject. 

Long before it became fashionable to pursue your own visions -- typically, with your own money -- Rogosin was doing exactly that, only 50-odd years ago. He cut a formidable cinematic figure through the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with his breakthrough, On The Bowery (1955), and kicking into high gear with his searing anti-apartheid critique, Come Back, Africa (1958); and Good Times, Wonderful Times (1965), which intercuts mindless chatter at a posh London cocktail party with war atrocity footage from around the globe.

Rogosin maintained his artistic momentum with Black Roots (1970), Black Fantasy (1972), and Woodcutters Of The Deep South (1973), which respectively examine African-American culture, interracial love, and tree cutters fighting to avoid corporate exploitation. Needless to say, these aren't the sorts of subjects that pry open corporate checkbooks aplenty. Rogosin struggled throughout his career to gain the kind of exposure and funding that later cinema-verite exponents like Michael Moore would leverage into, well...honest-to-goodness careers.

As a result, Rogosin never completed another film after his last feature, Arab-Israeli Dialogue (1974), and spent the remainder of his life attempting to complete various unrealized projects. At long last, however, there is the glimmer of a revival on the horizon...which his son, Michael Rogosin, is working to spearhead. With that in mind, we present Part I of this exclusive interview (which appears by the consent -- and permission -- of www.chairmanralph.com.)  --The Reckoner


"I'M ON A MISSION TO GET THOSE FILMS SEEN":
MICHAEL ROGOSIN INTERVIEW, PT. I
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): First of all – congratulations for reaching your (Kickstarter) goal (for Arab-Israeli Dialogue).

MICHAEL ROGOSIN (MR): Oh, thank you, yeah – I was quite happy about it.  I was rather worried in the middle [of the campaign], there – it was actually quite difficult to even get a minimum amount of money to do this documentary. But I did a lot of personal emailing, had personal meetings with some peace groups, and that led to some more (funding opportunities), and we managed.

After this is done, there'll be one more film which I didn't make a film about – and I wasn't planning to, because I thought it was the weakest of my father's films: Woodcutters Of The Deep South.  It's a film that I had actually some involvement in, as a kid, when we went to Alabama, or Georgia – the story of my father's later films is that he had no support whatsoever, so the budgets were actually nonexistent, I would say. 

But, by hook or by crook, he made the documentary – of course, his means of filming were [on] reduced 16 millimeter. I'd seen a bad VHS copy  – so I kind of forgot about it, saying, “OK, if I don't do one [a documentary] on one of the films, that's OK.  I'll kind of let that go.”

Then I got a call – actually, a few emails and calls – from a researcher at Alabama University, asking to see a copy of Woodcutters.  At first, I said, “No, it's a very bad copy.”  I finally managed to review it again, and my perspective has changed.  I saw the film in a completely new light, actually {laughs).  And, I realized, this film's subject was very interesting.

I sent him the copy, and he also told me that it was about a very unique situation – a cooperative of black and white woodcutters working together in the South, in the '70s.  It captured this particular historical period.  Of course, it was a subject nobody else would have really wanted to do, or approached, at that time...but he was so adamant about those kind of things.

CR
: Yeah – of course, you'll be going through all that footage, and whatever notes your father made...because it sounds like he left a lot of documentation, a lot of writing behind.

MR
: Yes – for all these films, I've had to go into the archives now.  I've started in 2000, can you believe that?  I've been making the films since about 2004 or '05 – actually, it's like a goldmine, fascinating.  My daily life is listening to my father on [film].   I also digitalized an enormous amount of documents, photos, and audio [material], so I have all this information to work with. I've been living with him since 2005, in this obsessive way, so when I do get to the end of this, it's going to be kind of a shock, I guess...

CR
: But, at least, we'll have closed the circle, so to speak.

MR: Exactly.  And you start realizing, “Oh, my God, what have I got myself into?”  I had a very difficult period from 2002 to 2004, trying to get things restored. We did get one book published – which was quite a big thing – in South Africa, but besides that...we didn't get that much [done].  If I'm lucky, I'll be finished in a year and a half.  I'm always called to promote it [the work], so I don't mind talking about it – but, at that point, I hope that I won't be doing this all day long.





CR
: When I stumbled across your father's work on TCM, I had a “road to Damascus” moment: “How come I missed this?  If I don't know it, then it's got to be obscure.”

MR
: Yeah – well, I guess, because it's so hard to see.  When was the last time something was actually out there?  My father was not only a filmmaker, he was also a distributor.  His films were shown on the university circuit, but that's a long time ago – and never on American television. 

The only way you could have seen them would be some obscure VHS [copy], and you would have had a hard time finding copies, so this is a breakthrough.  We're starting to make some progress. TCM – it was fantastic that they did that [the retrospective airing], because no other American station would show those [films]. In 50 years, they didn't get shown on television, if you could believe that.

CR
: Of course, that cuts to another issue in media, doesn't it – who decides what can be shown, or what people get access to [see]?

MR
: Exactly.  My father wrote a lot about that...he would constantly talk about that.  There's other filmmakers of his generation – that considered themselves, not “blacklisted” – [but] “greylisted”. In other words, they were kind of put off the circuits, you know?  He would call it “Madison Avenue fascism,” 'cause they don't kill you – they make it so they can't see your work.  I guess On The Bowery, and the [other] films that he made, were considered threatening to the powers that be, or something...

CR
: Well, the one that he seemed to get the most flack for was Good Times, Wonderful Times...

MR
: Yeah, true, true.  People don't accept that film – it's the one where you have really divergent opinions.  A lot of young people actually think it's really modern, and interesting, and some people say, “Oh, it's cliché” – but other people are extremely affected by it, you know? 

CR
: Well, when I watched the TCM stuff – that film, and Black Roots, were the ones that affected me most. 

MR
: That's very interesting, but – the problem is, he didn't have any distribution.  Nobody knows those later films, like Black Roots.  They're so real, I feel the same way – and that's why I'm on a mission to get those films seen.  Your saying that is really rewarding, because I feel the same way as you do. Those films should be seen.

CR
: Yeah, absolutely, because they were unlike anything that people were doing at the time, honestly.

MR
: Basically – when I say, “zero budget,” I mean, zero budget.  Just enough to scrape through.  The sad thing is, he had a potential of doing a lot of other fantastic films – he had scripts, projects that never got done. That's the tragedy of American filmmakers who couldn't get any money, or zero support from public television.

CR
: People get all misty-eyed, and say, “Wow, the '60s and the '70s, that was the golden age for films, and documentaries.” And I thought, “Well, if it was such as golden age, how come nobody got behind this guy?” 

MR
: I'm not sure, exactly, what they were referring to.  If you were part of the clique of the [W]NET, they would get funding.  If not, there was no funding, I guarantee you. Over and over, in my father's writings, and his autobiography, he talks about it, and in his lectures. There was no support for independents.  There was no money for people like him.  They were struggling.  They were distributing on the college circuit, but there was nothing for them. That's all I can say..

In fact, my father was behind a court case against public television in the '70s, which is something that nobody knows – which had 200 filmmakers attacking 'NET for not supporting people. In other words, 'NET would give money to people working for their station, but not the independents, people of my father's generation – all these people had tremendous struggles to get their films done.  I can't see that [retrospective nostalgia] at all.

CR
: Of course, in the '80s, that stuff only got worse, with all the mergers and consolidations that swept the Reagan era, which I'm sure you're familiar with.

MR
: You mean, the beginning of cable television?  He didn't benefit from cable television, for whatever reason.  He went to England, just after that time – they had a certain period, also, where they were doing amazing things. And that didn't last more than 10 years, either, so...

CR
: He didn't get the benefit of that, either?

MR: 
No, he went there, hoping: “I'm going to go to England, and I'll to get support” – and when he arrived, it was ending (laughs).  I have to say that the later years for a lot of those artists, with no support, was quite sad, in a way – very frustrating.

CR: As you say, if nobody sees you – they don't even necessarily know that you're doing anything.  And, of course, little by little, the history starts to get rewritten, where even the people involved don't recognize it anymore.





CR: Absolutely.  Circling back to where we started, with Arab-Israeli – now that you've actually met your [campaign] goal, what's next? 


MR: Well, we have a copy that's not too bad, so we're not dependent on a restoration for it.  We did make a trip to Israel, for several reasons – among them, to follow up on Arab-Israeli – a few years ago.  I felt it was such an important subject, we had to get this done.  But we had some adventures that happened while we were making the [Arab-Israeli]  documentary.

We found that the film actually inspired a concrete effort between Palestinians and Israelis to work together, which is a journal – a monthly, in East Jerusalem – so we filmed there.  I filmed them watching the film, and reacting – it's elements like that, that are a little different.  It's taking my father's work, and building on it.


And then, we found something absolutely remarkable recently.  I found some Betacam tapes with no labels, or whatever – I managed to see a little bit of it, a few years ago. It took a long time to get it digitalized, just before we started this project – but I saw the interview, and it's absolutely mindblowing. 

It's between my father, and the Israeli [subject], 17 years after the original [film] – talking about the original film, and also, the Palestinian [subject] who died.  It's going to create a lot of havoc, or dispute, but he says strong, important things that I don't hear anywhere else.  So I felt desperate to get that edited, and out – it's a piece of my father's work that has never been seen at all.  That's tremendously exciting. We don't quite have the funds to do that...but we're not too far.


CR: Yeah, I imagine.  As you said, you never imagined you'd be getting yourself in for all this work, did you?


MR
: It's very funny, because I never wanted to be a filmmaker. I said, “Oh, my God, that's something I do not want to do, sitting around in hotel rooms, trying to raise money” – because that's all I saw my farther doing.  I certainly didn't ever expect to make a film on that [his father's work]. So, who knows, at this point?


CR: So what was your original career aspiration, then, and how did that change, in the direction that you are [going] now?


MR: Well, I'm always in the artistic field.  I'm a painter, and I also had a musical phase.  I also restore houses, and I do all these other things to earn money.  So I'm quite good at restoring houses.  You don't realize your childhood, you know – where you're coming from, in some ways.  We had a lot of film culture, because we were always in my father's theater – so I don't know how I'll feel, as you say, when the end of the adventure comes.

The goal is to restore all the films, have a documentary on each one, and have them seen everywhere.  I have a feeling that Arab-Israeli will pull up the later films, so we can get them seen. Once you start something like this, you have no idea where you're going.  Either you do it, or you don't, so I have to go through with it. 


It's unfortunate that TCM didn't show my documentary on it [Black Roots], which actually is the first time I edited myself – but that will be on the Milestone version.  We have Jim Collier, who's in the film, who is still alive – I have some really fantastic interviews that we've done.  They were like that, because they were in such confidence with my father.  He really had a way of reaching something very real in cinema, so I definitely agree with that.


CR: Yeah.  It's remarkable – this [film] had the effect of, somebody started filming – and the people involved didn't realize it, but once they did, it didn't really matter.

MR:
Well, again, I can explain a fair amount about the aesthetics.  This is the kind of thing that you want to transmit to young filmmakers, actually.  He had actual methods of how to get people to say what you're hearing in front of the camera.  But the most important thing is that he loved all these people, and knew them very well. For instance, [with] On The Bowery, he was [spending] six months with the men.

In South Africa, it was the same kind of thing – months and months and months of going – and, in Black Roots, the same.  For example, Flo Kennedy, one of the people in the film – a black woman who graduated to become a lawyer – my father knew her for years, so he didn't just throw them all in a room, and start filming.  He was deeply involved with them. 






CR: What is the broader strategy to get wider recognition of your father's work?  I imagine that TCM showcase probably helped out quite a bit, didn't it?

MR: I think that helped – I'm hoping that Milestone will do another [release]; they've really done a fantastic job. Well, there's definitely a volume two in the works – with Come Back Africa, a documentary on that, and Black Roots, a documentary on that. 

So that's already going to be two Blu-Rays and DVDs of four films, four documentaries – that's significant, but not enough, because, as you say, the later films are important.  Once all the documentaries and films are done, I have to solve the restoration problem.  It'll be difficult, or we'll have to manage, somehow.

Once that's all done, it would be great if Milestone would do a boxed set of everything.  That would be the ideal goal – and this would go around in film festivals.  In Europe, my father's well-enough known [there]; once we have that body of work, we still have a lot of possibilities.  And then, I have to find a home for the archives. I also have my feature film, which either nobody will see, or somebody – I have no idea.  But that's my big obsession right now, to  finish that. 

CR: All of a sudden, we have these various tasks to do, and all these projects to get done.

MR: You get dragged into these things (laughs)...I would like to get back to my other things, at some point.  The great frustration is all the films he could have made,...but you could say that about a lot of things, for a lot of people. At least, you do something, and if you get something important done, that's all pretty good, I guess.

CR: What's even more interesting is that, throughout all this [difficulty], your father never stopped trying to realize his vision...

MR: That's true....and, since he was a distributor, you get all these problems of distribution.  The reason that he was a distributor was not only for his own films, but it was [also] to help all the independents.

And, of course, he had his distribution company, called Impact Films, which was really important in the college circuit, and really, the major thing that he did. Even [Martin Scorsese] told me – I said, “How important is the Bleecker Street Cinema, in terms of the film industry?”  He said, “As important as the films that were being made.” 

That's where these young filmmakers would go to get a film education. The Bleecker Street Cinema is an incredible story.  I think it's probably gonna be  [only] five minutes in my personal film, but that's something that someone should look into..

TO BE CONTINUED...

FURTHER INFORMATION
Come Back, Africa:
http://comebackafrica.com/

Documentary.org:
American Neorealism: Lionel Rogosin's Docs Reconsidered
http://www.documentary.org/magazine/american-neorealism-lionel-rogosin’s-docs-reconsidered

The AV Club:
On The Bowery: On The Bowery: The Films Of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 1
http://www.avclub.com/articles/on-the-bowery-the-films-of-lionel-rogosin-volume-1,71199/

The Official Lionel Rogosin Website:
http://www.lionelrogosin.org/