The Circuit of Excess: Film Industry, Taboos and Online Conversations

I have just come back from a pretty intense full immersion session in taboos, censorship and cinema hosted at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Yes, in the Czech Republic, right where Fifty Shades of Grey‘s sex symbol Jamie Dornan was presenting his latest film, Anthropoid. At this time of the year this city has a quite interesting multifaceted vibe: elderly people convene there for the thermal baths, but you can also easily party all night long or go for a stroll in the nice venues and meet iconic stars the like of Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier.

The 4th TorinoFilmLab Alumni Meeting at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

I had a very refreshing experience there, as always with the TorinoFilmLab Alumni Meetings. The topic for this year’s edition was “Provocative cinema – Addressing taboos, dealing with censors, generating debate and acting for change.” Having spent the past few months teaching a module on “Transgressive Culture” at Middlesex University, which is run by Dr Theresa Cronin at the School of Media and Performing Arts, the focus of the Meeting seemed an appropriate coincidence. So I felt I had to propose a case study focused on transgression and cinema.

Getting ready for "The Circuit of Excess: Film Industry, Taboos and Online Conversations" at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

I teamed up again with my friend and former Audience Design participant Juan Morali. This time we also had an amazing technological partner on board in the agency Sentisis, which works with big data and specialises in sentiment analysis and monitoring of online conversations in Spanish-speaking countries.

We focused on a topic that has proved a very popular theme across decades and film genres: cannibalism. We specifically analysed the buzz surrounding Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno and introduced the provisional findings of a study which considers viewers’ media habits, primary discussed assets in online conversations, preferred devices, as well as geo-localised insights on fans of the horror genre.

Final poster for Eli Roth's film "The Green Inferno".

I framed our analysis within transgression as a promotional tool involving the wider film industry: festivals, niche distributors, academic approaches and fan communities. The aim of my talk “The Circuit of Excess: Film Industry, Taboos and Online Conversations” was to address transgression as a commodity and consider censorship and taboos within cinema mainly drawing on Mikita Brottman‘s analysis of the impact and legacy of “offensive films” such as Cannibal Holocaust, Faces of Death, Snuff and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Mikita Brottman's "Offensive Films" book cover.While on 9 July I discussed Roth’s mainstream horror paying homage to the cult Italian cannibal cycle, that same day TFL Alumnus Edwin presented his personal experience with Indonesian cinema and censorship. On the 10th Azize Tan, the director of the Istanbul Film Festival, explained why last April Turkish filmmakers pulled out their films over a censorship row. Finally, documentarist Peter Kerekes introduced us to his cinematic international exploration of censors as “manual workers”. Oh, of course we had plenty of nice food and drinks too, because TFL takes great care of its Alumni.

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“Marco Lusini: The Colours of the Human Soul” Opens Tomorrow at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery

What immediately strikes you while going through Italian artist Marco Lusini’s biography (1936-1989), are the many art forms he experimented with before finding his ideal medium, painting. Photography, lithography, illustration, black ink drawing, not to mention sculpture and poetry, were all fertile ground in which the Siena-born “astronaut of inner space”, as Riccardo Belloni defined him, started his exploration of the human condition. His influences are as numerous as the media he delved into, including sources such as German playwright Bertold Brecht, French poet Arthur Rimbaud, and the primitive Sicilian landscape.

Marco Lusini as photographer on location – Florence 1960s – Private Collection

In the career of an artist, when dust has settled, the time has often come to look back at the whole production with a fresh perspective. The occasion for this for Lusini is the retrospective which opens tomorrow at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery, which hopefully will be a path to a wider, international audience for his work.

Marco Lusini "Untitled" – (late 1970s) – Lithograph – 50x70cm – Private Collection

Marco Lusini: The Colours of the Human Soul is a collective effort curated by London-based filmmaker Laura D’Asta, with New Yorker art historian Gerhard Gruitrooy. As such, the exhibition is also the first organic attempt to go beyond Lusini’s best-known cycles like the Oneiric Landscapes. It aims to shed light on his wider research with a specific focus on universal themes such as loneliness and internal emotions frozen in time, represented by his iconic melancholic human figures set in dream-like worlds.

Marco Lusini, "Untitled" – from Oneiric Landscapes | Acrylic | 80 x 80 cm | 1982 | Private Collection

It’s not by chance that whole project started from the curators’ personal memories and first encounters with Lusini’s art, as The Colours of the Human Soul is explicitly “dedicated to the artist for his lasting inspiration to a younger generation and to a visionary who sincerely believed in the importance of staying true to one’s own artistic values.” The fact that this message comes from London, a city where everything seems to be possible but also stands as a burial of broken dreams, is even more fitting.

The exhibition is on display until 7th July at Fiumano Fine Art Gallery, while other artworks by Lusini will be simultaneously showcased at the American West Valley Art Museum in Peoria (US).

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: Creativity, Business And Guitar Players. Part 1: D. J. Ashba

Given the fact that I love rock and roll as much as I love cinema, and possibly even more, I have decided to write a series of posts on creativity in the music business by looking in particular at guitar players. I’ll start with a guy from a small town in Indiana, US, who made it in one of the most competitive industries and is still faithful to his motto: ‘conquer the world’.

A few days ago Guns N’ Roses and Sixx: A.M. guitarist D.J. Ashba visited GearFeast in Sweetwater, Indiana, for a guitar clinic and Q&A with the audience. He was then interviewed by Mitch Gallagher and shared advice on how to reduce risks if you work in the music business – or in any other creative industry, for that matter.

D.J. Ashba on stage.

Ashba is currently recording the next Sixx: A.M. album, a follow-up to Modern Vintage. Aside from his career as a guitar player, composer and producer, he manages a range of companies in media and advertising. During the interview he focused particularly on advice he received from his friend and band mate Nikki Sixx.

According to him, the key words are diversify and have a back plan, Ashba told Gallagher, because ‘If you put all your eggs in one basket, all you’ve gotta do is drop ’em, and they’re gonna break; and every one of ’em will break.’ If instead you set up a number of buckets in different areas, they will generate revenue streams that will balance out the businesses that are not going well.

D.J. Ashba wearing Ashba Clothes.

Ashba currently runs his own lines of clothing and accessories, Ashba Clothing and Build a Beanie; works with brands the like of Virgin Entertainment through his creative agency, Ashba Media; and has partnerships in place with Monster Energy Drinks, Ovation and Gibson Guitars, with whom he developed his own signature models.

D.J. Ashba, his signature Gibson Les Paul and limited edition Dodge Challenger.

When he’s not touring the world, you can spot him driving in Las Vegas on ‘The Death Ride’, the Dodge Challenger limited edition that West Coast Customs made exclusively for him. Not bad at all for a small town boy from Monticello who was raised in a strictly religious family with no access to television and dreamt of becoming a rock star…