SVA/BBC Design Film Festival

sva film

Yesterday I attended the SVA/BBC Design Film Festival, which meant several hours sitting in the darkened auditorium of the SVA Theatre in Chelsea to see a series of BBC-produced documentaries on design. Hosted by SVA’s MFA Design co-chair Steven Heller, the day-long event was the first occasion these films had been screened in the United States.

The first three films were part of Design Classics, a half-hour series I remember watching as a pre-teen. Each episode focused on a different example of a timeless commercial design: in this instance Levi’s 501 Jeans, the Sony Walkman, and the Barcelona chair. In today’s age of globalization the programs seem quite quaint today, but as studies of design success remain highly pertinent.

After lunch there was a screening of Selling the Sixties: How Madison Avenue Invented a Decade, a film that tells the story of the advertising world that inspired Mad Men, and blatantly produced to cash in on the success of the hit series. The film included interviews with luminaries such as author Gay Talese and legendary advertising creative director George Lois to tell the story of consumerism in America and its discontents. Following the film Mr. Lois appeared in a raucous Q&A, during which he was not afraid to slam Mad Men for its total misinterpretation of the industry and the era it purports to faithfully depict.

The final film of the day was entitled Books: the Last Chapter?, a full-length documentary that asks timely questions as to the future of the printed medium in the digital age. The film was part of the Imagine… arts series by Alan Yentob, Creative Director of the BBC, where as controller of BBC2 where he commissioned the first films that focused specifically on design. After the screening Mr. Yentob appeared in a thought-provoking conversation with Adam Harrison Levy.

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