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CULTUREARTICLE

What Enrique Iglesias, Ethan Hawke, and Experimental Porn Mean for the Rise of Cinema du Drone

By now, you've probably read about the bloody and bizarre drone mishap at Enrique Iglesias's Tijuana concert, in which the Spanish singer sliced his hand while trying to grab a flying drone that was recording the show this past Saturday night.

This gross yet weirdly triumphant run-in (Iglesias is seeking treatment but nonetheless went on with the show, smearing his bleeding hand in the shape of a heart on his white t-shirt) is just the latest incident in which this increasingly popular flying technology has infiltrated our pop cultural landscape.

Sure, we've seen the proliferation of drone usage in any number of literally killer, on-screen battle sequences among X-Men and Avengers alike, and the object made for a pretty memorable prop in last year's acclaimed Swedish satire Force Majeure, in which an attractive family's rapid unraveling takes a biting turn with the sudden appearance of a child's toy drone in a tense scene of patriarchal emasculation.

But, if anything, drones have taken a much more resonant and centralized form in current entertainment. No longer just the obligatory, robotized killing machine chasing Jason Bourne, drones are actually being acknowledged, dramatized, emotionalized, and reckoned with both in film and in other, more unexpected forms of entertainment:

Andrew Niccol's well-received 2015 Tribeca title Good Kill, in which Ethan Hawke depicts a different sort of American Sniper in the form of an emotionally-deteriorating drone operator, is slowly wrapping up its brief limited run in select theaters. (New Yorkers can still catch it at the IFC Center; everyone else can find it On Demand.)

Anne Hathaway, who's been increasingly and unfortunately elusive from the big screen ever since her Oscar coronation, recently wrapped up a celebrated run at the Public Theater in Julie Taymor's thematically-pertinent and visually-rich production of Grounded, George Brant's one-woman show about an unstable fighter pilot struggling to readjust to a new drone assignment.

The New York City Drone Film Festival is indeed a thing that actually exists. This niche event, billed as "the world’s first event exclusively dedicated to celebrating the art of drone cinematography," recently finished its first ever festival run this past March, where prizes were awarded to projects like Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer's soaring short film Superman with a GoPro (a Narrative and Best in Show winner).

OK Go were also honored for "I Won't Let You Down," their latest viral experiment in music video pageantry, in which a roaming, drone-operated camera captures a colorful, Busby Berkeley-ish musical routine in fluid, sped-up one-shot.

And, finally, there's the brilliantly-titled Drone Boning, a short film that lies somewhere between experimental art and pornographic poetry on the genre-classification spectrum. Directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci of Ghost Cow Films used an airborne camera to shoot beautiful, overhead nature shots across San Francisco, in which hired, far-away performers just so happen to be having sex, finally answering the question, "What would a Terrence Malick-directed porno filmed entirely in wide shot look like?"

The film, which began, according to LaGanke in an interview with Motherboard, as a "funny commentary on privacy and voyeurism," manages to be sly, stunning, and totally inappropriate for at-work viewing without any gratuitous, in-your-face provocations. Take that, Gaspar Noe. Watch the absolutely-NSFW trailer below on your own time:

It'll be intriguing to see where the future of Cinema du Drone will lead the filmmakers and storytellers who have already begun to use drones more creatively and compellingly than as just another piece of anonymous weaponry in the Marvelverse. Whether they're being employed to explore the political import of their own contentious usage or else testing the bounds of visual storytelling as we once knew it, drones are quickly becoming a boon to the entertainment world -- even when in the hands of soulful Spanish crooners, they're hazardous.

Whatever their future, we'll be watching. And, likely, so will they.

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