Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A breakdown in methods of distinguishing

HRAFF is upon us again -- you know, that's the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival, which I have been helping curate for two years now. Opening night was last Thursday night with The Opposition, followed by much drunkenness on free wine. Sunday night was the first of two regular sessions I'm attending before closing night on May 18th.

That was the lovely Ethiopian movie Lamb, directed by an Ethiopian named Yared Zeleke. It's a feature that I did not see in the course of helping select the films, and it is the second movie named Lamb I've seen with a release year of 2015.

The first was directed by Ross Partridge, an American who also stars in the film.

Both posters appear here.

The seeing of this second movie, lovely though it was, has thrown my lists into disarray.

Normally, when I see two movies with the same name, I distinguish them in my lists by including the release year in parentheses afterward. But this is the first time in my long history of watching movies -- exactly 4,800 with my Sunday night viewing of Get Out -- that I have seen two movies released in the same year with the same name.

So to fix it, I wrote them as Lamb (2015, Ross Partridge) and Lamb (2015, Yared Zeleke), though I did not like doing so.

It may seem like a small point, but ... well, it is a small point. There is no "but."

Wikipedia handles the distinction slightly differently, calling them Lamb (2015, American film) and Lamb (2015, Ethiopian film). Wikipedia does not consider its readers to know or care who Ross Patridge and Yared Zeleke are, or more to the point, does not consider the director of a film to be its most salient distinguishing characteristic. And they're probably right, that country of origin is a more universal distinguishing method.

Me? Country's not such a great idea, but I now know that I will accept director as a secondary distinguishing characteristic, if release year fails. And the actual way of writing it has precedent as that's how I display the titles, release years and directors of films in my Most Recently Seen lists to the right on this blog.

If there are ever two films directed by the same director in the same year, I don't know what I'll do -- though I can only imagine that happening if a director was so successful with a short film that someone immediately handed him or her the money to make it into a feature, and somehow that feature was released in the same calendar year.

The Lamb/Lamb problem could have been resolved if only release year were determined by theatrical release date, as part of me argues it should be. But I suppose it was hard to really consider Partridge's version a 2016 film when it played at South by Southwest in March of 2015, only finally attaining a limited release in January of 2016 after playing countless other festivals. (Okay, I counted them -- there were only six.)

Zeleke's film is a bit more definitively a 2015 film, having premiered at Cannes that year and having not to this date attained a U.S. release date (because come on, the U.S. is really what we're talking here, isn't it? Even though I live in Australia). Though it did get a theatrical release in Frances, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Mexico, of all places. And, of course, Ethiopia. I suppose going by the logic of theatrical release dates, Lamb could actually be a 2017 or even 2018 film, if it ever does get that U.S. release. Its Australian release is certainly in 2017, if we are going to count HRAFF, its Australian premiere.

So I guess I have seen either two or zero films named Lamb released in the year 2015.

That really clears things up.

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