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VARDA BY AGNÈS
This final film from the beloved Oscar-winning Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019) is a characteristically playful, profound, and personal summation of the director’s own brilliant career. At once impish and wise, she acts as our spirit guide on a free-associative tour through her six-decade artistic journey, shedding new light on her films, photography, and recent installation works while offering her one-of-a-kind reflections on everything from filmmaking to feminism to aging. “Both an excellent primer for newcomers, and a wonderful parting gift for longtime fans. The perfect way for the legendary auteur to have the last word.”– David Ehrlich, Indiewire (in French w/English subtitles)
n this deeply personal follow-up to his landmark debut Ixcanul, Jayro Bustamante shifts his focus from rural Guatemala to the denizens of Guatemala City but once again sets his sights on an individual caught between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds. When handsome and charismatic Pablo arrives at his affluent family’s house everyone is eagerly awaiting the return of their beloved son, devoted father and caring husband. A seemingly exemplary pillar of Guatemala City’s Evangelical Christian community, Pablo’s announcement that he intends to leave his wife for another man sends shock waves through the family. As Pablo tries to acclimate to his new life in the city’s gay subculture with the liberated Francisco, his ultra-religious family does everything in its power to get their prodigal son back on track, no matter the cost. (in Spanish w/English subtitles)
One of the best pictures by formerly blacklisted director John Berry, Claudine stars the late, great, Diahann Carroll as a single mom in Harlem living on welfare with six kids. Her life is one of daily negotiations with “the system”—both comical and frustrating—as even a low-paying job or marriage to her boyfriend (James Earl Jones) could impact her benefits due to government program rules. Claudine was produced through Hannah Weinstein’s Third World Cinema, dedicated to creating films about the black experience for a broad-based audience. Curtis Mayfield wrote the score, which features vocals by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.
TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM
An artful and uplifting documentary on the life and works of the legendary storyteller and Nobel Prize-winner. Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed novels, her role as an editor of iconic African-American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University. In addition to Ms. Morrison, the documentary features interviews with Angela Davis, Hilton Als, Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley and Oprah Winfrey, who turned Morrison’s novel “Beloved” into a feature film. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
A FACE IN THE CROWD
“A Face in the Crowd is a film that has been unjustly overlooked over the years, for it is more pertinent now than ever. Director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg, inspired by the TV performances of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, wanted to explore the dangerous power of the media, which could sell politicians like soap. Andy Griffith stars as Lonesome Rhodes, an Arkansas drunk who is “chosen” to become a popular hero on television and radio, whence he wields great commercial and thus political influence. Lonesome Rhodes plays the guitar (not well, but loudly); exudes and extols the homely virtues (not eloquently, but persistently); and applauds political ignorance as he plays on it.” – Pacific Film Archive In retrospect, the film not only presaged the rise of Donald Trump, but also, perhaps, his fall. With Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau.
In the shadow of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, a young girl, Manu, and her mother lovingly breed a colony of bees. Meanwhile, as Manu’s activist father protests the construction of a giant telescope on the mountain’s sacred ground, a group of scientists study the landscape in preparation for our inevitable relocation to Mars. Ambitiously linking the earthbound and the cosmic, the intimate and the expansive, Sarah J. Christman’s documentary tracks these existentially fraught narratives with an acute attention to time, scale, and historical consequence. As her monumental images gather force, Swarm Season takes on a potent allegorical dimension.
MY TWENTIETH CENTURY
Budapest, 1880: twins Lili and Dora are born, nearly simultaneously with Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb—a key piece of cinema history. This genesis moment for modernity provides the backdrop to a whimsical story of the two young women, who are split up at a young age after their mother’s death and take on entirely different life trajectories: Dora becomes a hedonistic courtesan, Lili a militant revolutionary. Operating in the same proximity, however, the two both become embroiled with the mysterious figure of Z, a man of shadowy history and even darker motives. Through luminous black-and-white photography and thickly surreal passages of pure imagination, director Ildikó Enyedi weaves an intoxicating tale, one that garnered her the Golden Camera award (best first feature) at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and helped put Hungary on the world cinema map. ( in Hungarian w/ English subtitles)
“In Jamie Catto’s engaging documentary, the core arcs of Ram Dass’ life and teachings coalesce through historic clips and extensive interviews, manifesting the unique existence of Richard Alpert/Ram Dass, the bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies whose spiritual guidance has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom. Through his turns as scion of an eminent Jewish family from Boston, rock-star Harvard psychologist, counter-culture rascally adventurer, Eastern holy man, stroke survivor and compassionate caregiver, Ram Dass has worn many hats on his journey. The film captures a loving man full of joy, wit, honesty, and wisdom, at ease in conversation while sharing his considerable pains and pleasures. The life experiences that have freed him from the attachments of his ‘Somebodyness’ have transformed him into the radiant soul who now inspires a new generation to address the vast question of ultimate freedom.” – Mill Valley Film Festival