Say What?


on audiovisual and literary translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

Sidebar: Personal recommendation

I still feel really new at this whole “blog” thing, so forgive my discomfort with mixing business & personal.  However, seeing David Oliveros’ new film Watercolors has forced the issue for me, and I am quite grateful.

Some background:  I first “met” David on a social networking precursor site, called, devoted to screenwriters & screenwriting, five years ago.  We read one another’s work,  I was quite impressed with his, he not so much with mine (but encouraging nevertheless).  He commited the cardinal sin for the site (& maybe screenwriters in general), of actually admitting he didn’t finish reading my work, but met with me in person while passing through New York.  The last I remember was following the progress of his script as he unflinchingly took it from page to screen.

Out of nowhere, I read about it opening here in New York at the Quad Cinema this weekend.  I’ve seen it and am mostly moved because of what it is not:  a run-of-the-mill teen film, seen on a Disney-related channel (ABC Family or the like).  Because the subject matter is gay male teenagers, and their budding sexuality, it effectively has been censored from mass audiences.

David mentioned during the post-screening I attended the film had been called “pornographic,” which it is not.  The production values are highly imperfect (and even permiable).  Likely because it’s independent, gay-themed, and extremely low budget.  A striking comparison are two French films, one Presque rien and more directly A cause d’un garçon, which I had helped get screened at the 2002 LGBT Reel Affirmations Films Festival in Washington, DC, and also deals with a swimmer (but a very different plot).  The latter was produced by, and shown on, roughly the equivalent of Fox (eg a relative newcomer that dates to Fox’s founding in the US), M6.  If American culture were not so much under the vise-grip of right-wing ideologies on so many levels, David’s film might have been just another ABC Family special, that most of us older folks would have missed, while millions of young people could have enjoyed, identified with, and had their still early life experiences validated by, it.  Pity.

Filed under: divers, French film industry, US film industry, , ,

The Year of the Avatar: translation and American film, 2009

This past year, American film discovered the world.  After Slumdog which was utterly bilingual and foreign, but made with USA/UK financing, American filmgoers were swept away by Taken, which seemed utterly American in its take-no-prisoners brevity, yet was 100% French from start to finish (see my interview with Unifrance’s John Kochman earlier this year), and managed to make it into the top 20 box office films of 2009.  (Something that Slumdog, even after umpteen Oscars and a delayed wide release last year, could not do.)

International film production, as not just a soup with different ingredients, but a real mix that can serve varying continental palates, finally, in the US anyway, seems not only viable but necessary and a reality.  By year’s end, Avatar was feeding positive messages to eight-year old boys about the difference between chosen and necessary warfare (via subtitles no less!), and It’s Complicated was subtly reinventing the American romantic comedy in a highly nuanced way, reminiscent and evocative of the other American south (as in “of France”).  And Nine, a remarkable translation of film to Broadway musical to Hollywood musical, announced itself as a flashy triumph of multi-ilingualism, with a literal and figurative tug of war for Daniel Day-Lewis’ heart and soul between the wonderful Marion Cotillard and the amazing Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench mixing things up with her show stealing “Folies Bergères” number in French.

Having been smitten with both Italian film and Italy in my youth, I could understand why critics might fault the film for its stingy imagination cinematographically, confining the characters’ ruminations to a soundstage.  But certainly Cinecittà was a destination for Fellini and his contemporaries, professionally, and the tribute is fitting I think.

Filed under: audiovisual translation, French film industry, translation, US film industry, , , , , , , , , , ,

As the ball falls: the ATA Conference in Times Square

OK, OK, so this all happened two months ago, but certainly we would have liked and appreciated a contemplative look back from the swank perspective of the Marriott Marquis tonight.  Like many sectors in the global economy during the past year, the translation industry has grown and contracted in all directions during 2009.  I was able to take in just one day of the wonderful ATA Conference in October, and was very happy to speak with a few fellow translation bloggers about their insights on the past year and what could lie ahead.

Judy Jenner is one of the”It” women of the translation blogoshere.  With her sister Dagmar, she not only runs a cross continental business covering a handful of languages, but blogs, and solo frequently contributes to the ATA Chronicle (and I believe will have a regular column in it shortly).  Her business acumen about translators seizing their both vision and control of their financial destinies is spot on.

Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux are two other “It” women in our field, generously sharing their extensive knowledge and experience through a series of podcasts they jointly host, along with their separate blogs.  Both have also done professional service, in particular Corinne through the book she’s published on getting started in the translation business.  I’ve whittled down our quick meets to about a New York minute for each.  Happy New Year to all, and to all an awesome year ahead (we hope) in translation!

Filed under: translation, , , , , , ,