MEMO: Anticipating The Block

MEMO: Anticipating The Block
By Ron Deutsch

So if you’re reading this, you already know, right? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be telling you. I mean, you’ve all had the memo sitting on your desk from Tiffany and Dirwood over in marketing. And you’ve memorized the list of summer genre blockbusters you’re supposed to be “most anticipating,” right? (Personally, I think they just photocopied the same list from last year, or maybe even the year before. You wonder sometimes if the guys up in corporate actually know what’s going on down here.) So, okay, you’ve got your DC/Marvel Universe, your JJ Abrams, your Spielberg, your Michael Bay. What am I missing? I forget already. But, like I said, if you’re here, you already know what all the cool kids down in the mail room have been all atwitter about since March. Because within the time it took to exit the theater at its South by Southwest screening, connect devices to the interweb, and hit the transmit button you all knew which film was really the one you were going to be hoping and waiting for till summer – Attack the Block.

And right off the bat there was the anxiety and fear that North Americans might never get a chance to see it. It didn’t have a distributor over here. The suits were all anxious and fearful that audiences would be all lost and confused by the thick South London accents and dialect.

At the SXSW post-screening Q&A, first time director Joe Cornish (who’s already been bumped upstairs, thanks to his co-screenwriting credit on one of the “most-anticipated” films of Christmas, Tin-Tin) told the sated audience that, “American distributors are nervous about language, the slang…. My gut feeling is maybe they underestimate you guys. With 20 years of hip-hop culture, with ‘The Wire,’ did you feel this was difficult? No? Well, then tell your local distributors….” And so they went forth and twittered. Would Attack the Block get distribution? Would Attack the Block be dubbed? Would it be subtitled? Should it be dubbed? Should it be subtitled? A whole nail-biting week had gone by since the screening and no distributor had yet picked it up. It took three whole weeks (which is like thirteen years in cyberspace, according to scientists) to find a home with Screen Gems.

Me, I’m feeling a little privileged here. I was there for that screening, and like Cornish noted before the lights dimmed, “Like you, the one thing I love about festivals is you know nothing. Seeing a film cold is kind of a rare thing in this day and age.” But that was then, and this is now. Yes there’s been a lot of hype, but I’ll say what I’ve been saying to people for months, “I’m going to tell you the plot, then imagine the best possible movie you could make from that plot: ‘A group of wannabe young gangstas in a South London project are the only ones who realize we are being invaded by aliens and the only ones to stop it.’”

What more do you need to know? Now please tell Tiffany & Dirwood to stop sending memos I don’t care to read.

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ATTACK THE BLOCK screens July 15th at 9:40pm in the Hall Theatre. More details on the film page HERE.

About the author:

Ron Deutsch

Ron Deutsch is a filmmaker, cook, journalist, author, and general gadabout. He has been a concert sound engineer for bands ranging from the Grateful Dead to the Dead Kennedys. He has worked as a production assistant for documentary filmmakers David and Albert Maysles, and as a story analyst with clients including director James Cameron and the Showtime Network, as well as selling several of his own screen and teleplays. His journalistic work has appeared in print and online periodicals including National Geographic, the Austin American-Statesman, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Gramophone, and Wired News, and his fiction has been twice featured in the Mississippi Review. He regularly teaches cooking classes paired with films as "Chef du Cinema" which he also chronicles on his blog and for the Criterion Collection website. He is associate producing the documentary Record Man, about the birth of the post-war record industry, and is featured in the documentary Echotone, about how growth & gentrification have affected Austin's music community. He is a continuing editor to IDA's Documentary magazine.

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