“5,” a film about New York by Huntington resident, Phillip Gladkov, 23, came to the Cinema Arts Centre on April 22, Earth Day. The film depicts the four seasons.
“5” animates one day, beginning in upstate-spring with a sunrise. Summer flows with a focus on rivers, their sources in the Adirondacks, their mouths spitting the viewer into New York City, fall and winter. A chronological film shot over three years forces consciousness in the creator (and Gladkov hopes, the viewer). A perfect shot taken of flowered mountains in the evening cannot be used if the film’s evening depicts snow and city. But apparently, even weather has loopholes. “I loved overcast days shooting in the city because you can kind of fake it,” Gladkov said.
Gladkov grew up in New York City and sometimes left it for a month or two during the summer. Departure can instill perspective, as withdrawal from a drug and subsequent sobriety can. While remote from skyscrapers and subway-homes, Gladkov appreciated New York City’s cultural diversity and abhorred the “lack of space, lack of life. Everything is paved over.” As he made “5,” Gladkov experienced the psychological toll of a nature-versus-city dichotomy. He spent a total of two months – broken up – in the Adirondacks. Each time he returned he said he would “see people in the street, people sleeping in the subways because they had no other place to sleep and next to incredibly affluent people. There’s enough wealth in Manhattan to house everyone, there’s enough space in Manhattan – empty space – to house everyone.”
The things we notice drive our opinions, our conversations, our social media posts and hopefully, our actions. Gladkov said he made “5” “to show people what we’re replacing” with our strip malls. He attributes humanity’s collective complacency and oblivion to the lack of an aerial view. So, with drone, helicopter and some (“because there are some things I just can’t get”) stock footage, he provides us with one. “Whether they decide if they like that change or not is up to them,” he said. After a friend saw the film, he commented, “so we are destroying nature to build cities and the cities are destroying us.” Gladkov said, “profits are always put over green space. Once you clear green space it’s hard to bring it back to what it was. It’s essential for everything: for cleaning air, for animals, for the psychological benefit of not staring at Jericho Turnpike.”
Gladkov calls himself an “independent independent filmmaker.” He funded “5” himself, by working. “I was on the camera; I was editing it; I was researching all the places to shoot; I was researching the weather conditions; I was researching what time flowers come at what part of New York; when the foliage hits and where; what conditions will lead to inversion [an effect of temperature shifts in the mountains which causes heavy fog]; what camera settings to use,” he said. He promotes it himself on Instagram, on Facebook, on his website, by putting up flyers in town, by applying to festivals, by calling and emailing the Cinema Arts Centre weekly until they responded to him. “I know they are very busy there though,” he said with grace. “It’s a hard film to sell,” he said, because there is no easy theme to attach to. He compares “5” to documentaries like “Earth” except his is without narration and with more destruction: to nature and to humanity. “Documentaries like ‘Earth’ and ‘Life’ show this one side but if they were to just pan the camera you’d see the oil rig that’s polluting all the baby seals that you just smiled at,” he said. “5” is no tourism commercial for New York State but it is a microcosm for the world.
For many of the shots in the city, he said, “I found the cheapest helicopter place I could find.” He had to rig a workaround as the helicopter’s setup was for still-photography. In the Adirondacks, he hired a Cessna plane, one of those tiny ones you may know as a puddle jumper. Due to inversion, the pilot couldn’t land for an extra hour. Just before he finally did land, visibility cleared up enough so that the pilot said, “alright, I can kind of see the runway, we’re going in.” And then they went into a cloud and Gladkov thought, “God, if you let me out, I will finish this film.” Inversion also happens to be one of Gladkov’s favorite things to shoot: “It’s common but you have to be at the top of a mountain to see.”
It would be incorrect to bill this film as only an environmentalist on. Clips of protests and of performers during Chinese New Year remind us that humanity can be just as transcendent as nature. Gladkov invites us to the tops of mountains: one is made of rock and earth, the other of metal and glass. For about 70 minutes, we will all have the same view.
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