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Case Number 16735: Small Claims Court

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Our City Dreams

First Run Features // 2008 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 2nd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum would like you to take this hat filled with perfume and a plum as his first serious art statement.

The Charge

Art girls hit the big city!

The Case

Five women artists move to New York, and this documentary follows their dreams of making it in a city known for its art scene. The subjects include Ghada Amer, Kiki Smith, Marina Abramovic, Swoon and Nancy Spero. It's a varied group of ages and ethnicities along with several different mediums and aesthetics. Because we have five stars and only an hour and twenty-five minutes, it's hard to feel like everybody gets examined intensely. The documentary is good for people who don't know much about the art scene or the women depicted, but those who do may find it lacking in depth. Our City Dreams is simply Art 101, and aspires to be nothing more. That should be enough for most viewers though, because it's nice to get to know these gals on a more personal level. Perhaps where the film excels is in the idea that we should examine the artist's life more than their work sometimes. The conceit is they are allowed to talk about anything while we look at a survey of their work. The cameras follow them as they prepare shows, and even when they travel abroad to do work elsewhere. We get a segment on each artist, and all the women are great subjects.

The transfer is a mix of current interviews shot on digital video and old stock footage films for the more seasoned artists. Skin tones are off a bit, often looking more orange than they should. Some of the details in paintings pixelate, and so we suffer through digital noise now and then. Extras include a brief look at the making of the film with comments by director Chiara Clemente. There is a short film that looks at the works of Stephen Sprouse. Also included are text biographies of the artists which will help neophytes understand who these women are.

Our City Dreams has five women talking about art and the city they make it in. It's a love letter between the visual arts and the one place that celebrates the highs of the art world better than anywhere else. The documentary is a fascinating glimpse at five important voices who have a lot to say. There's plenty of unusual antics such as a sixty year old woman directing men to beat the ocean tide with whips during a seven hour performance art piece, and then there is the show of a woman's graffiti-inspired wooden cutouts of people. You're never quite sure what dames with an idea are going to do in the Big Apple. But one thing you do know, they're more than willing to talk about it on film!

The Verdict

Not guilty of anything but dreaming big.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Short Film
• Biographies


• IMDb

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