Q&A with David Filipi, film expert at the Wexner Center for the Arts
He sees hundreds of films every year — so trust him to recommend some great reasons to turn off your streaming service and get to the local movie theater.
A fixture of the Wexner Center for the Arts, film/video director David Filipi has been steeped in moving pictures for a few decades and still goes to work eager to join people with movies. Whether that’s an audience screening of the latest Palme D’Or winner or a filmmaker in residence shaping and polishing films in the center’s editing suite, pairing good experiences and audiences is central to Filipi’s work. Because when the picture is just right and a filmmaker’s inspiration pours from a screen, movies can transport us from reality to other lives, places and moments.
Over his nearly 25 years at the Wex — including eight as film/video director — Filipi has introduced directors such as Lucretia Martel, Richard Linklater, Charles Burnett and Milos Forman to attentive audiences. He’s overseen in-house festivals of film restorations, rare baseball flicks and filmmaker retrospectives.
Who better than Filipi, in this season when prestige films pack theaters and cinephiles await award nominations, to navigate us to some great film experiences of our own?
- What is your all-time favorite movie, and why? — James McCollam ’62
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is the film that got me to think about film beyond simple entertainment. We took the Universal Studios tour as a family when I was a kid, and when we passed the Norman Bates house, the tour guide asked if anyone knew what they used as a blood prop during the shower scene. My mom correctly shouted out “chocolate syrup.” (“Psycho” was a black-and-white film, of course.) I really wanted to see the film after that. When it played on television a few years later, when I was 13 or 14, I was dying to see it. Even though it was on a small set and there were commercials, I was completely hooked. The scene that really got me was after the shower scene, when Norman is trying to sink Marion’s car in the swamp behind the hotel. Hitchcock turns the film around at that point and we find ourselves identifying with Norman, hoping he gets away with his crime. That was the moment when it sunk in that a person was at the controls of the film, manipulating the audience. I was really interested in film in a much deeper way after that.
- What are your criteria in selecting your favorite films? — Brittany Savko ’11, ’11
Like most, I encountered the films that I now consider favorites earlier in my life when I was more impressionable. Now, seeing as many films as I do in a given year (hundreds), I am thankful for any film that can surprise me or move me in an unexpected way. One of my favorite memories in this vein happened when I saw Arnaud Desplechin’s film “Kings & Queen” at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival. I was sitting with a friend who is also a curator, and instead of hustling to the next film, we just walked around the block a few times talking about the film and how moved we were by it. The next year, we collaborated on a retrospective of Desplechin’s films, and each venue brought him in to introduce the film that had made such an impression on us less than a year earlier.
- Other than “Shawshank Redemption,” what do you think are the three best films that were at least partially filmed in Ohio? — Jennifer Vinson ’89
I would recommend Billy Wilder’s “The Fortune Cookie,” which has a scene filmed in old Cleveland Stadium, and Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” with Cincinnati’s Netherland Plaza Hotel standing in for Chicago’s Drake Hotel. And I’ll include Jodie Foster’s “Little Man Tate,” because a number of scenes were shot at the Wexner Center and preserve the look of parts of the building from its earliest years.
- I don’t get to see a lot of new movies, so I’d love to know your must-see movies from 2017 and 2018. — Martha Campbell ’03
Some films from 2017 and this year that I would strongly recommend include “Get Out,” “Ex Libris: The New York Public Library,” “Wonderstruck,” “Dawson City: Frozen Time,” “Zama,” “Happy End,” “Mrs. Fang,” “Black Panther,” “First Reformed,” “Quest,” “Dunkirk,” “Annihilation,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Third Murder” and “Sorry to Bother You.” A few films that haven’t opened in Columbus that I would add are “Non-Fiction,” “Burning,” “Shoplifters,” “Monrovia, Indiana” and “3 Faces.” Keep in mind, many of the best films don’t play at the local multiplex. Check out art houses and alternative venues to see what is screening there.
- Documentaries seem very popular, and Netflix has made them more accessible than ever. Has anyone studied the relationship between increased access and resulting action by affected viewers? —Jennifer Rudy ’08, ’10 DRP
I’m not sure there is conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of documentaries to change behavior, but the studies I have read indicate that while some are good at raising awareness about a given issue, they might not be that effective in leading to action. Perhaps the most well-known documentary that led to a positive outcome is Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” (1988) which ultimately led to the exoneration of Randall Adams, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder. We show many issue-oriented documentaries at the Wex, and one thing we often discuss is that these films tend to attract those who already agree with the point of the view of the film. It is definitely a conundrum. But there is no doubt that documentaries can move people and reveal hidden stories to a degree not possible in the mainstream media, and it is up to the audience to not just passively take in the film but to act after seeing the film.
- My grandson is coming for a visit, and I’d like a recommendation for a movie to watch with him. He’s 12 and very athletic, and he’s seen all the “Harry Potter” movies. I’ve been thinking along the lines of “Rudy” or “Bend It Like Beckham.” — Gregory Cook ’71
Our 10-year-old daughter loves the “The Bad News Bears” (1976). It’s a great, underappreciated baseball film that is very much in keeping with the style and spirit of some of the great “New Hollywood” films of that era, and Walter Matthau gives one of his great performances as a washed-up, often drunk, player-turned-pool cleaner who finds himself coaching a ragtag Little League team. There are moments of mildly adult language and content that parents might want to approve before letting their child watch it.
- Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie? — Paul Ulliman ’61
I will say “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie if everyone agrees to watch a wonderful, largely unknown Christmas film called “Remember the Night,” starring Barbara Stanwyck as a woman charged with shoplifting just before Christmas and Fred MacMurray as a New York lawyer trying to convict her (who instead winds up bringing her to his family home in Indiana for the holiday). You can probably guess what happens from here. Check it out this holiday season.