by George Lekovic
Producers must produce, no matter what the circumstance. For Here and There, which shot in New York and then Belgrade, we faced the burning down of the U.S. embassy and the call for all Americans to leave Serbia. This was the week before we were scheduled to start shooting in Belgrade.
David Thornton, our lead American actor, called me from a diner in Los Angeles. He was eating a sandwich and watching the embassy burn. He was, quite understandably, worried. So I lied to him. “Nothing to worry about,” I said. “It happens every day. It’s actually quite normal. After every soccer match, something burns down.” Somehow, that made David more confident.
Then the U.S. State Department withdrew its staff from Serbia, and suggested all American citizens leave the country. That happened the day we all flew to Serbia. But somehow I convinced the cast and crew to stay and make the movie.
Our tenacity and confidence worked out. The sane majority of Serbs greeted this Serbian-American film with open arms, and collaborated happily on the production. During the shoot, we even tried to set up a meeting of U.S. diplomats and Serbian officials on our set. That didn’t happen, but we still got a mighty fine film.
Here and There opens New York City at the Quad on May 14, Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall on May 21, and many other cities soon after. The film won an award at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, and director Darko Lungulov serves on one of Tribeca’s juries this year.
Serj Tankian is a profoundly international artist – born in Beirut of Armenian heritage, grew up in Los Angeles, now lives in New Zealand – and his fanbase, too, is all around the globe. So it’s completely appropriate that our fan-sourced release of Serj’s movie the Elect the Dead Symphony has gone international. Check out the constantly evolving list of venues.
Thanks in large part to Serj’s own fans, who have suggested screenings and then helped make them happen, Cinema Purgatorio has taken its first bookings ever in Italy and South Africa, with dates in Armenia, Poland, Lebanon, and New Zealand likely coming soon. Meanwhile, some young friends in Brazil have complained about the lack of bookings in Latin America. We don’t like that either. So, let’s make something happen.
That said, our emphasis remains North America, and we’ve taken 19 dates so far across the U.S. And as a New York City company, we’re elated to be screening this symphonic film at the legendary Leonard Nimoy Theatre at Symphony Space.
The kinds of venue are profoundly mixed. In Turin, Italy, we’re showing at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, while in Chicago we’re screening at Lincoln Hall, a rock club recently constructed from the old Threepenny Cinema, near where John Dillinger was shot.
Meanwhile, we’re also taking orders for copies of the movie and CD, and encourage iTunes buyers to preorder it there.
Such heterogeneity of geography, venue-type, and method is integral to Cinema Purgatorio’s approach. These days, lots of film people issue endless press releases and hold repetitive, self-promotional panels about the new world of distribution and exhibition. Their directives generally include working directly with an internet oriented fanbase, across physical platforms and geographical borders, open to unique screening conditions and adjusting release windows. We’re never on those panels. We’re too busy executing today what the people on those panels prophesy for tomorrow.
If you’re a Serj fan, or just a curious Cinema Purgatorio follower, we hope you’ll check out our list of screenings, and if one’s not near you, consider working with us to set one up. Wherever you are.