Q&A: Wexner Center film expert David Filipi

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From the September 26, 2013 edition

David Filipi is one of Columbus’ leading film experts, working in the Wexner Center’s film and video department since 1994 and as its director since 2010. Filipi is responsible for bringing in renowned filmmakers — Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, Philip Kaufman, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin — for retrospectives and discussions. In an interview with Alive, Filipi discussed his most beloved achievement (the Rare Baseball Films project), some of his favorite visiting filmmakers and upcoming programs.

 

I got interested in film because I had a professor who had one of the largest personal film collections — actually on film — in the country. I learned a passion for preservation and restoration from him. The Hitchcock 9 series [exhibiting at the Wex Oct. 10-25] is the most ambitious restoration project the British Film Institute has ever undertaken. Of the films Hitchcock made during the silent era, nine of them survived. The BFI restored all of them, and now they’re touring in the U.S.

 

One of my favorite events we ever did was a documentary about former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. He’s probably my favorite guest we’ve ever had. Number one, I’m a huge baseball fan so to just sit and talk to him about how he pitched to Rod Carew or someone like that was an unbelievable thrill. He was a great guest; just really smart. Maybe because we have so many artists and filmmakers that it’s such a difference talking with athletes.

 

I’ve been doing the archive baseball program [Rare Baseball Films] for 10 years, and really enjoyed organizing it and the feedback I get from that every year. There aren’t that many events that we do where you get that kind of feedback; people come up to you and want to talk to you about it sometimes for an hour. That’s very gratifying.

 

The Politics in Film event came about with Fred Andrle, [former WOSU “Open Line” radio show host and associate with OSU’s Humanities Institute]. He’s such a great civic resource. He’s really interested in movies and we always said we should do something. We each picked out a few films with political themes. Some have very overt political messages … other films have a political side that maybe 90 percent of moviegoers don’t think about.

The Milos Foreman retrospective was a lot of fun. We showed his first American film, “Taking Off.” He’d made a number of great films in Czechoslovakia. It’s a film that, for a lot of reasons, is really hard to see and we had this brand new 35mm print. It’s very much a time capsule of the early ’70s, so I think a little part of him was wondering how an audience today would react. It was a sold-out house and when he came up on stage, people gave him a wild standing ovation. It was overwhelming and he really got emotional about it.

Guy Maddin has been here five or six times. Our relationship with him has taken on another level. He received our Residency Award a few years ago, which helped him get started on his feature film “Keyhole” and a lot of it was post-produced here with our editors working on it.

There were some crazy ones too, like when Jim Jarmusch was here. He’s such a rock star. All the hipster kids just wanted to bask in his presence.

I can’t tell you how many filmmakers come through that aren’t household names yet. David Gordon Green was here with “Snow Angels.” All the films he’d made to that point were independent. Someone always asks, “What’s your next project?” He said, “When I was young I really loved those ’80s buddy cop movies like ‘Tango and Cash.’” Everyone was like, “What the?! The guy who made George Washington?” “Pineapple Express” was his next film.

 

Photo by Ryan Young