The Mumblecore film movement

Join the Mumblecorps

Swanberg*. Bujalski. Duplass. Katz. Many cinephiles have heard the names, some have seen their work, a few know them through the festival circuit, and I'd guess that at least two of you reading this have actually been in one of their films. What's the deal with this mumblecore** gang; how is everyone connected within this social/artistic network? (I'm buying the domain MyMumblecore.com before Rupert Murdoch can get his hands on it!)
For the purpose of this colorful exercise and excuse to pick up my old illustrator pens (how I used to pay rent in a former life), I've tried to anchor to SXSW 2007 films, since if I put in every name/film with overlap, I'd be playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon all the way back to Dziga Vertov. (For instance, the white lines of distribution are entirely specific to Benten Films, the official collaborative leap between LOL and Fish Kill Flea.) While I haven't, say, distinguished between Craig Zobel's position as a producer of David Gordon Green's George Washington compared to Mike Tully's role as hair and make-up, my point is the tangled web of interconnectedness itself, not all-encompassing accuracy.
For that matter, I'd almost have to include SXSW Festival Producer Matt Dentler for putting so many of these people and films in the same room, including Ronnie Bronstein's Frownland, which played at the fest this month and has gained fans and friends on the chart above. Ronnie is a projectionist in NYC, as is Aaron Katz, so I really could go on and on and make the world seem even tinier.
And speaking of Dentler, he'll be moderating an Austin Film Society panel about film blogging on Tuesday, April 10th. I'll be taking part while I'm down in Texas to screen Fish Kill Flea again, and with me in the discussion will be Joel Heller (DocsThatInspire.com), Jette Kernion (Cinematical.com) and Mike Curtis (HDforIndies.com). Come check it out, Austinites!
* I'm drawing a dark grey line of special thanks to Joe Swanberg, who showed me even more linkage without adding names nor films. Methinks we're getting into fractal mathematics here.
** While "mumblecore" and the also proposed "Slackavetes" are fun to say and so ridiculous that I fear they'll never disappear, I think both are misnomers and unfair dismissals of the continually expanding work these filmmakers are putting out. The origin of mumblecore can be read about in this post by Spencer Parsons (who, himself, is technically connected to the hive: his upcoming feature debut I'll Come Running shares producers with Hannah Takes the Stairs and Old Joy, the latter of which costars Will Oldham, who was in The Guatemalan Handshake. It never ends!)

Aaron Hillis. 2007

Comments:

That's a cool illustration. From being a filmmaker on the complete outside of this, sitting in Norway following the formation of this movement, with curiousity, and reading about all these films and SXSW itself from all these different sources, it has become very fascinating and compelling. But since you're all screening the films mostly in US festivals, it remains for me to actually SEE the films themselves (except "Dance Party, USA", which was screening in NYC when I was there in November). It's really aching to keep this curiousity at bay, when all these apparently wonderful films exist seemingly close, but still yet far away.
Karsten [08:55AM, 03/30/2007]

Thanks, Karsten. It is troublesome that a lot of these wonderful films have a hard reaching international audiences, but I can think of a couple things in place that should remedy that in due time. The biggest problem is that many of them don't have distribution (yet), so even those with multi-region DVD players (which I'm guessing a guy like you would have) can't take advantage of their ability to play North American discs. Be patient, my friend -- you'll get your peepers on 'em!
Aaron! [12:19PM, 03/31/2007]

Yeah, I know Benten have got LOL up their sleeve, so I'm waiting for you to release it upon the world. And I hope for more and more of these films to play european festivals and start gaining ground (especially when "Independent American Cinema" is not any longer what it... is. Or whatever that means.)
Karsten [04:32PM, 04/01/2007]

Awesome chart. The MTA should put you in charge of conceptualizing the next subway map.
In seriousness...I think what's interesting about this "movement" is its relative lack of self-consciousness. Insofar as I've been observing the way it's springing up, it really has been about various filmmakers doing their own respective things and discovering each other, and their affinities, in the context of fests like SXSW. More like an ad hoc community than an actual movement, which is all to the good. I see over at Anthony Kaufman's blog there are some commenters sniffing at the middle-class-whiteness of "it" "all." I think that misses a crucial point, in that within this ad hoc community's ethos, there's plenty of room for non-middle-class, non-white artists, and that as they emerge, they will be completely welcomed and at home within this community.
GK [09:33PM, 04/01/2007]

I shed a drunken, Florentine tear that I don't appear on the list myself...but then again, I tend to include either carefully annunciated dialogue or no dialogue at all in my films, so it aint't no thing. But for those who haven't actually had a chance to see them yet...Benten, do your thing! Ready-made niche!
Sorry, I've had a bit too much wine.
David Lowery [05:32PM, 04/02/2007]

GK: Totally agree on all points (especially the classist fallacy), though I'll still probably use the word "movement," even if Mumblecore is kinda silly and inaccurate. I see their collaboration as a direct and progressive form of influence on one another, even when their films and trademarks are incredibly different. Maybe the "it"-ness of this thing at this moment isn't so much about a style, goal, clash, reinvention or whatever, but the bridge of social networking and technology: an artistic community like this could only happen now thanks to blogs, email, MySpace, DV cams, Final Cut, ProTools, etc. and SXSW -- which may be an analog experience in person, but it's also the most wired film fest I can think of. What defines a film movement, anyway?
David: Don't take it to heart! I purposely strayed toward SXSW 2007 or else I'd be drawing until my arm literally fell off. (Though I'd totally get a machine gun in its place, a la Grindhouse.) I could've also put on Dia Sokol, Frank Ross, Nate Meyer, you... I'm telling ya, it's endless. As for the "ready-made niche," you're certainly on to something!
Aaron! [06:06PM, 04/02/2007]

Bujalski's Funny Haha has come a long way I must say. Literally. (And for the wrong reasons.) It became available here in the Philippines in a pirated version on DVD and peddled in the streets.
This is brazen, but I picked up a copy myself. It's no excuse, but I doubt I would ever have afforded a legit copy and seen this wonderful movie.
fan modine [12:39AM, 04/05/2007]

Aaron: Did you catch "Grindhouse"? Most fun that I have had at the movies in ten years. When Tom Savini showed up I knew that we were in for a blood bath. Thought that the Tarantino film would have played better as the first film, it seemed as though the brakes were put on after the heart pounding Terror Planet. The real crime of the evening is the fact that the other films will never be made.
Paul Doherty [10:32AM, 04/08/2007]

I have my issues with Grindhouse, as you can read here. Wish I had had as much fun as you, because I'd gladly take Kill Bill any night of the week... just wait for Hot Fuzz, this season's real must-see pastiche of B-genres!
Aaron! [11:22AM, 04/08/2007]

Hey C-philiac,
I just wrote an article about Mumblecore for the IndieFilmPedia, linked to your chart, check it out here:
http://www.indiefilmpedia.com/Mumblecore
I'll also post my current version of the article at my blog: http://www.diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com/, since IndieFilmPedia is a wiki, someone might come along & change & add stuff (which is not necessarily a bad thing, can be good).
Oh, and re: what a commenter said about incorporating minority filmmakers to Mumblecore, could happen, but not necessary; many excellent minority real indie/low budget filmmakers have been working long before Mumblecore came along: Greg Araki's early work, Jon Moritsugu's stuff, just to name a couple of people.
Another aspect of M-core seems to be that all filmmakers, for the moment, are straight. Todd Verow was making real indie DV movies about 5 years before M-core, but with gay content, as far as I know (i've only seen 1 of his flicks so far).
M-core seems like a movement "lite", a movement by accident, & of convienience, as opposed to a well planned movement like the French New Wave.
Either way, interesting.
- Sujewa
Sujewa [07:27PM, 04/08/2007]

Identity politics is a wave born out of and a reaction to the deadening 60s politics in the US. It's a strategy used to criticize any aspect of a genre or movement simply by launching a critique of race, able bodied, gender, sexuality, age, eye color, hair style, clothing, etc etc etc. Therefore, I hope critiques against any so called "movement" can be as original as the movement itself. Identity politics is not original, but that doesn't mean it's unrelated. It's just rehashing old critiques that make me yawn even though they are sometimes justified.
David Redmon [08:42PM, 04/09/2007]

Hi Sujewa,
Just for the record...Kevin Bewersdorf is gay, so that might help break up the striaghtness of this group...I also heard a rumor that Nathan Zeller was black, but I saw his films and I don't think that's 100% true.
Sean Bewersdorf [11:17PM, 04/09/2007]

David,
Re: "Identity politics is a wave born out of and a reaction to the deadening 60s politics in the US."
Maybe.
" It's a strategy used to criticize any aspect of a genre or movement simply by launching a critique of race, able bodied, gender, sexuality, age, eye color, hair style, clothing, etc etc etc."
OK.
"Therefore, I hope critiques against any so called "movement" can be as original as the movement itself."
Hmmm. That's a difficult one to figure out. In the case of M-core, it is not very original, people have been making low budget indie movies about twentysomethings at least since the early 80's or earlier. Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation displays some Mumblecore qualities.
I guess some people wondering why everyone in M-core is a "white" male in a country & world with major "race" problem issues/apartheid type stuff/caste system/segregation, etc. is not too surprising.
"Identity politics is not original, but that doesn't mean it's unrelated. It's just rehashing old critiques that make me yawn even though they are sometimes justified."
As far as I know people criticizing M-core re: it being all "white" is a new thing, as M-core is a new thing. But I guess yawning about it is probably OK, at least for you, probably/maybe "ethnic"/"racial" diversity in indie film movements is not an issue that really matters to you or at least not an issue that you care about too much. But I am sure people who care about that issue will continue to bring it up.
There is, however, among several minority indie filmmakers that I know, the perception that it is easier for "white" male filmmakers to get press for their work. Maybe true, maybe perception, but an awareness of advantage/disadvantage related to skin color/ethnic group ID in the indie film field does exist.
On the bright side, we are talking about no-budget DIY movies. Something pretty much anyone who really wants to do it can do. Maybe the critics are more frustrated with the lack of ethnic diversity in indie film as a whole & M-core is an easy target for venting that frustration. Also, two of the most successful ($s & press & further distro wise) recent low budget indie self-distributed films are Gene Cajayon's The Debut & Greg Pak's Robot Stories. Both by minority filmmakers. Also, Afro-Punk got/keeps getting a nice amount of press for a real indie film.
But I do think, by and large, the US indie film has a soft segregation type thing going on, maybe. Well, difficult to tell, but sometimes it seems that way. Not too many minority & female filmmakers getting a ton of press from indieWIRE, etc. But maybe things are different in various parts of the country, from scene to scene (the indieWIRE scene being just one of many). Jon Moritsugu told me in '05 that he has seen a lot of minority indie filmmakers making work in the West Coast.

Sean B.,
Sounds good re: the gay, black status of people mentioned.
- Sujewa
Sujewa [04:14AM, 04/10/2007]

Sujewa, Thanks for your thoughtful responses, however I'm afraid I didn't clarify my comment. I'm all for expanding and opening up diverse points of views from multiple positions. Still, identity politics seems to me to fail and doesn't go far enough in expanding possibilities - that's why I "yawn" at its internal limitations even though it's still an important though easy and limited critique. MTV's "The Real World" is one outcome, for instance. The questions you raise require empirical methods and I'm not sure the data exists to support or deny your statements. And please don't assume what matters to me - check my history or ask. Thanks and good luck with your film.
David Redmon [02:52AM, 04/12/2007]

Where is Brendan McFadden???
JD [03:31PM, 05/31/2007]

Oh, man. This again, months later?
JD, I politely refer you to Paragraph 2 in the post above ("...my point is the tangled web of interconnectedness itself, not all-encompassing accuracy."), and do know that I've already apologized to Brendan weeks ago. I also didn't include Anish Savjani and other producers who weren't SXSW 2007 directors. Mumblecore: There's No There There.
To hell with it, I'm erasing everybody's names and links and just putting up a photo of puppies in heat.
Aaron! [06:05PM, 05/31/2007]

All roads lead to Dia Sokol.
Wiley Wiggins [04:38PM, 08/28/2007]