Buffalo is full of people helping to cultivate cinema and we want to celebrate those involved. The Cultivators is a new monthly feature in which we highlight individuals who are integral to the presentation, promotion and production of film here in the queen city.
Photo by Sarah Jane Barry.
THE CULTIVATORS #001
JORDAN M. SMITH
Director at Cultivate Cinema Circle | Film Critic at IONCINEMA, Influence Film Club, and Stranger Than Fiction | Social Media Coordinator for DOC NYC | Librarian at Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
I grew up in Salamanca, NY, a small town in the southern tier where there was a two screen theater that I hazily remember catching mainstream blockbusters like Titanic and Liar Liar at before it closed and was converted into a section of what is now an antique mall. The only other big screen option was to drive 20 miles to the nearest multiplex. Thankfully, we lived three doors down from a Movie World rental shop. Anytime I found myself looking for something to do, I’d wander over and scan the shelves for something that looked out of the ordinary or had a cover plastered in festival leaves. I can’t tell you how many times I rented Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream and Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke before I bought my own copies.
Growing up I was always swimming in music—playing in bands, DJing events, releasing LPs of bands I loved—so it wasn’t until grad school that I really fell hard for cinema. I found myself watching at least a single film each day, sometimes more, and found that I needed to find a way to make mental use of this sedentary activity. So I started writing down my thoughts as a way to process and deepen the experience. It’s only grown from there.
I could list so many, but I’ll give two.
The first time I saw a film in a theater by myself is not necessarily my favorite, but certainly one of the most memorable. After I dropped my wife (then girlfriend) off at the airport for her first trip abroad, I went to see No Country For Old Men, which was not playing anywhere near where I lived at the time. The only other people in the theater were three older couples. I was devastated by the film and was completely weirded out by the whole experience. I drove the long ride home in a daze only to arrive to surrealistically find my father throwing my brother out of the house, literally standing on the roof throwing his belongings into the front lawn.
Second: Convincing my very disgruntled wife (still, then girlfriend) to spend one of our first trips to Toronto in the dark of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Lightbox to see Olivier Assayas’ six-hour terrorist epic Carlos only to have her admit that it was a great film which she highly enjoyed. A couple years later, I had the opportunity to sit down with Assayas to discuss his new film Clouds of Sils Maria, just after having interviewed his wife Mia Hansen-Løve about her own highly personal film Eden, about her DJ brother. Later that day, we all danced (my wife included) in the shut down streets of Toronto as her brother spun mid-90s French EDM (not normally my jam) in celebration of the film’s release.
Back at the start of 2009, a good childhood friend and I packed up an overstuffed moving truck full of both of our belongings and jammed it into a beautiful little restored apartment on Chenango along with an acquaintance we’d met at college in Fredonia. I’d just been accepted into UB’s Library Science program with the intention of becoming a public librarian (which I have since) and was lucky enough to get a job working at the Lexington Co-op as well as a gig writing about film for IONCINEMA. Seven years later my wife and I are still here and have absolutely no intention of leaving any time soon!
Movies: preferably downtown; preferably on 35mm; preferably retro, world, and indie cinema. Where did all the art houses go? Where did all the changeover 35mm projectors go? Who wants to invest in bringing these back to Buffalo? Let’s make this a reality.
I’m a slow reader, so my to-read pile is towering much, much higher than my read pile. That said, reading about movies is an essential facet of my overall cinema experience. What better way to unpack the films you love, learn about the historical context of when the films were made, and discover new films to watch and read about at the same time?
My essential picks thus far:
- Theory: Adrian Martin’s Mise en Scène and Film Style
- Biography: David Thomson’s Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles
- Memoir: Roger Ebert’s Life Itself
- Pure Cinephilic Gossipy Fun: Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
Plus, subscriptions to Sight & Sound, Cinema Scope and Film Comment are a must.
TOP TEN FILMS
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou , directed by Wes Anderson
- The Tree of Life , directed by Terrence Malick
- There Will Be Blood , directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
- The Devil and Daniel Johnston , directed by Jeff Feuerzeig
- The Passion of Joan of Arc , directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
- The Shining , directed by Stanley Kubrick
- Sans Soleil , directed by Chris Marker
- Princess Mononoke , directed by Hayao Miyazaki
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial , directed by Steven Spielberg
- The Lovers on the Bridge , directed by Leos Carax
Film stills from left to right, top to bottom are Romeo + Juliet, Princess Mononoke, Titanic, No Country for Old Men, and Carlos.