Friday, April 01, 2011
David Koch's worlds collide at Film Festival. Anger in Fitzwalkerstan -- what the booing was about.
David Koch exists in two different worlds. One is Fitzwalkerstan, where he is reviled as the rich puppet master advancing a crude right wing agenda by financing such proxies as Scott Walker and the Tea Party. Then there's the world of New York City, where he lives and has until recently been widely respected as a civilized patron of the arts and culture and also a generous donor to cancer research. The two worlds intersected briefly at the Thursday night screening of "Bill Cunningham New York" at the Wisconsin Film Festival.
The documentary focuses on photographer Bill Cunningham, 80-plus and still going strong, whose street fashion photos have appeared in the New York Times for more than 30 years. He also photographs charity galas for the Times. At one of these charity events, it might have been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I'm not sure, Cunningham -- who seems to get on well with people from all walks of life -- is introduced to David Koch and starts to take photographs of him with other charity patrons. Then there's a cut to the pages of the Times, where there's a whole layout of Cunningham's photos of Koch meeting and greeting fellow members of New York high society.
As it dawned on the audience what they were looking at, a chorus of hisses and boos erupted -- aimed not at Cunningham, whom the audience loved, but at Koch. It was a strange moment. A couple years ago, when the film was shot, few people outside New York had ever heard of David Koch, and those who had were mostly unaware of his politics. When the film was made, this brief passage was just another example of Cunningham's working life amidst the New York glitterati. Now events -- not in the city where it was shot, but in the city where it was being screened -- have given it a political significance that scarcely existed before.
Who knows? Maybe one of these days David Koch be facing boos in New York as well.