Café Forgot Documentary Screening

Last night at Anthology Film Archives, Café Forgot and No Agency showed a test screening of an untitled documentary about the already legendary East Village shop. No Agency, a management company representing young female and gender non-conforming creatives, issued a questionnaire (complete with complementary tiny pencils) after the screening which included such inquiries as “Do you plan your [social media] posts?” “How many minutes late is acceptable?” and “Does nothing matter?” Feeling strangely compelled to save the questionnaire as an artifact of blossoming Gen Z brilliance, I walked home in the New York night and contemplated what I had seen.

Directed by filmmaker Cyrus Duff, the work in progress was replete with hallmarks of digital nativity but also full of yearning nostalgia for a bohemian past. Interviews with founders Vita Haas and Lucy Weisner were interspersed with scrolling imagery from the store’s Instagram, set to classical music like Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. The effect was one of intense futurism mixed with a reverence for creative predecessors, be they Baroque, Classical, or Victorian— anything to escape a present of soulless e-commerce and impersonal minimalism.

The artifact.

Of note were the innumerable instances of upspeak and “likes” that punctuated interviews of the film’s protagonists. As much a deliberate stylistic affectation as choice in clothing, accessories, or hair color, this ubiquitous Kardashian-speak has become a fashion dialect— a signifier uniting young creatives of the Disaffected Anthropocene. The most moving point of the film was when Vita spoke about always being dumped during active phases of Café Forgot. Enacting the perennially feminine tendency to blame oneself for the demise of a relationship, somewhere in the course of consuming her cigarette she arrived at a liberating conclusion: “Maybe I’m just choosing the wrong people.” 

And about those cigarettes: it might be perverse to call it refreshing, but the widespread and noticeable rejection of vapes in this documentary was nothing less than euphoric. It’s in line with the what sympathizers of Café Forgot are reclaiming: cigs instead of Juuls. Trying something on in person instead of one-click buying online. Making a niche print biannual instead of churning out endless content. Call it resistance or Romanticism, it’s exactly what we need.