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See It Now (on your iPhone): Sally Potter’s "Rage"

Dear Traveler,

You are invited to the premiere of a movie called Rage.

Who: Director Sally Potter, starring Steve Buscemi, Dame Judi Dench, Jude Law, John Leguizamo, and Diane West, among others.
What: An unconventional murder-mystery—a series of individual interviews that look like they were shot on a schoolboy’s cell phone camera—set during New York Fashion Week. The first film ever to premiere on mobile phones.
When: Now. Or whenever you’d like. Since Monday, Babelgum has been debuting an episode a day (there are seven total, one for each day of the week)—that is, before the film’s theatrical release in London later today, which will be broadcast live across Europe via satellite and followed by a virtual Q&A at 5pm EDT with Potter, Law, and other stars Skype-ing in from around the world; you can send questions via text or Skype video.
Where: Everywhere. Anywhere.
How: Just download Babelgum’s free iPhone application and watch.

Fascinated? Me too. I spoke with Potter about her mobile approach and how it might revolutionize movie-going—and travel.

Q: How much do travel and mobility influence your work, and this film in particular?
A:
Hugely. I thought to myself, I’m going to give people a film that that they could put in their pockets and take with them. You can have a more traditional theatrical experience, obviously, by seeing it on the big screen, but there’s something about small that can be beautiful, and that can be equally intense if it’s designed right.

With each of the films that I’ve done I’ve traveled around the world, either to produce it or to present it or to do Q&A’s. Every time I listen to the audience to find out what it is I’ve really done. Does the work travel? Is it culturally limited?  How will it stand up under different conditions?

My whole feeling about cinema really comes from a feeling for it as an international medium—it can have this global reach that transcends cultural boundaries. Now, with global warming, the physical travel from place to place takes on a different significance, so I’ve become interested in things like mobile releases and virtual premieres. That, I think, is another definition of travel and leisure.

Q: You can watch Rage virtually anywhere. What, in our opinion, would be the ideal place to see it?
A:
Fortunately, there is not one ideal, but many choices. It is precisely giving people the freedom to find out in their own way that I find rather exciting. Somebody could pull this movie out on the plane or on the train and watch it with headphones, or see it at home on DVD or Blu-ray, or experience one of its occasional theatrical screenings. Wherever you are, when you really get involved in a movie, you go into it—your attention goes into the world on the screen, whether it’s big or very small.

Q: What came first, the story or its portable structure?
A:
The story came first, over ten years ago—when I didn’t even own a mobile phone—but I put it away. Then, a couple of years ago, I found this mind-boggling global reach through my blog—people from 80 countries could come to my website and communicate with each other and with me. It was absolutely thrilling. I would do cell phone reports, and one day I had a eureka moment—I’d found a framing device for the story. The structure of the film—the way of looking at it and the way of filming it—all came from my direct experience with the internet and my own mobile phone.

Q: Do you plan to do more mobile film releases?
A:
I really don’t know. We’re going to learn a lot of lessons from this one, and not just for ourselves—everyone will benefit from all the mistakes I’ve made. If it works as I hope it will, it will stimulate the desire in people to buy the DVD; because it’s being put out free by cell phones and on the Internet, the only way it’s going to generate income is for people to want to then own the film for themselves. This is a gamble. There’s this feeling of “My god, this is the future.” But just like the music industry, we don’t yet quite know how this new model is going to work.

Q: What’s your favorite movie to watch on the road?
A:
The other day I watched La Strada, Italian for "The Road." I hadn’t seen it in years, and it was a great reminder of Fellini’s art. He created the first of the road movies, and I absolutely love him for it.

Christine Ajudua is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

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