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For 39 years now, the first sign of spring is a mating dance between the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center called New Directors/New Films. The series culls the latest creations from directors who themselves tend to be recently hatched.
Noteworthy selections include Mia Hansen-Løve's Father of My Children (Le père de mes enfants) and exiled Iranian video artist Shirin Neshat's Women Without Men. Coincidentally, both stories pivot on a suicide.
The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival runs March 11-21, 2010 at the Castro Theatre and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco, and other venues, and, in conjunction, the festival is also being held for the ninth year in San Jose on March 19-21. Presented by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), the 28th edition showcases an array of films that span the genres, from international horror and romantic comedies to documentaries on poet/ activists and a Japanese American Black Panther. This year's edition of the largest festival dedicated to Asian and Asian American films also coincides with the 30th anniversary of CAAM, and to celebrate they present a lineup of live events, interactive projects, online contests and more. Leading films are:The Opening Night Gala film, Today’s Special, directed by David Kaplan, starring Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show), Naseeruddin Shah and celebrity chef Madhur Jaffrey. A sous-chef whose life is turning to hash finds renewal with some unlikely characters. The Centerpiece Film, The People I've Slept With, directed by Quentin Lee, is a new comedy about a promiscuous young woman who suddenly finds herself pregnant. Starring Karin Anna Cheung (Better Luck Tomorrow), Archie Kao (CSI) and James Shigeta.The Closing Night Gala film is Au Revoir Taipei, directed by Arvin Chen, which follows a lovesick boy and a female bookstore clerk through the sights and streets of nighttime Taipei in their quest for love.Other features in this awesome lineup include:God is D_ad, directed by Abraham Lim, won the Best Picture award at last week's Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles. This road trip gathers together some strangers headed for a gamers' tournament in Chicago for a journey that prompts the question: are we bound by free will, an omniscient God or the roll of the Dungeon Master's dice? The U.S. Premiere of The Message, directed by Chen Kuo-fu and Gao Qunshu. In Japanese-occupied Nanjing, “the Phantom” is leaking Japanese secrets to the resistance. Five suspects are rounded up: will they destroy one another—and the resistance—to save themselves? Starring Li Bingbing and Zhou Xun (Suzhou River).Hong Kong’s entry for this year’s Academy Awards is Prince of Tears, directed by Yonfan. Two young sisters come of age during Taiwan’s brutal anti-communist crackdowns of the ‘50s.Documentaries include:The World Premiere of Lessons of the Blood, directed by James T. Hong and Yin-Ju Chen. This film is a brilliant exploration of the explosive and contested history of Japanese atrocities and biological warfare in China during WWII. Aoki, directed by Mike Cheng and Ben Wang, highlights the life of Bay Area Japanese American activist Richard Aoki (1938 – 2009), a founding member of the Black Panther Party. From a Japanese internment camp to the Vietnam War and a friendship with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, Aoki’s remarkable life and activism is covered through interviews, contemporary footage and archival material.State of Aloha, directed by Anne Misawa reveals that despite its reputation, the 50th state in the Union is far from an idyllic paradise. Narrated by Hawai’i resident Jason Scott Lee, this documentary explores the hot-button controversies surrounding Hawai’ian statehood and all that it has entailed.Other special presentations:A Retrospective of Lino Brocka, the first Filipino director to screen at Cannes. The four films selected for screening are:Manila in the Claws of Neon, about a young provincial looking for his lost love in Manila; You Have Been Weighed and Found Wanting, about a sensitive young man who is drawn to the outcasts of his small town; Insiang, about a young woman in the slums of Tondo whose efforts to respect her "serpent-like" are blown apart by the mother's younger lover; and Bayan Ko, about how depoliticized individuals are still, no matter what, destroyed by economic circumstances. The film’s Cannes screening caused a furious Marcos regime to revoke Brocka’s citizenship.This year’s "Spotlight" is on Oscar and Emmy-award winning producer, director and writer Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: a Strong Clear Vision). Two of her latest documentaries are screened, and she will be present for discussions following the screenings.Lt. Watada – Lieutenant Ehren Watada is the bravest man in the military, or the best friend of Al Qaeda, depending on whom you ask. Mock’s riveting documentary tells the lieutenant’s tale, from heroic enlister in the armed forces to famed resister of the Iraq War. Sing China! – The Los Angeles Children’s Chorus tours across a China preparing for the Beijing Olympics. Part travelogue of a nation on the verge of change, part cultural investigation of American preteens having their eyes opened to a new world, and all an extraordinary musical experience. Other festival events include The Bonesetter’s Daughter: Making of an Opera (Working Title ) is a work-in-progress screening of a new opera written by Amy Tan from her novel, sung by the San Francisco Opera."Up Close & Personal with the Asian American Film Industry," a session with top film producer Karin Chien (The Motel, Robot Stories). "Imagining Atrocity: City of Life and Death and the Nanjing Massacre on Film," presented by Michael Berry, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies at UC Santa Barbara. "Best Fest Photo Contest": Attendees can submit their Festival photos and enter to win a Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder plus two Fast Passes to the 2011 SFIAAFF. Entries in three categories: Paparazzi – Snap photos of favorite Festival celebritiesPlaces and Spaces – Get shots of the many beautiful & iconic venues of the FestivalFest Faces, sponsored by shu uemura – Capture all the fabulous faces of the FestivalAbout the FestivalThe Center for Asian America Media presents the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) every March. The SFIAAFF is the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films, annually presenting approximately 120 works in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose. Since 1982, the SFIAAFF has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema.For more information, visit festival.asianamericanmedia.org. San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival March 11-21, 2010Castro Theatre29 Castro St., San Francisco415-621-6120Sundance Kabuki Cinemas 1881 Post St., San Francisco415-346-3243
For the fifth consecutive year, New Directors/New Films presents a matinee series comprised of past festival highlights.
This year, the focus is on France, a country whose emerging filmmakers have been an integral part of the ND/NF program since its inception.
It has included such future masters of world cinema as André Téchiné, François Ozon and Laurent Cantet. The following five (re)discoveries from the past two decades — none of them currently available on DVD in the U.S. — are no exception. Blame It on Voltaire (La Faute à Voltaire) (ND/NF 2001)2000. FranceDirected by Abdel KechicheThe new “face” of Europe, belonging to African and Arab immigrants, has rarely been as powerfully captured as in this remarkable debut film by writer-director Kechiche (L’Esquive, The Secret of the Grain). Young Moroccan Jallel (beautifully played by Sami Bouajila) comes looking for the lights of Paris but instead finds black-market jobs and crowded hostels. Yet he also discovers a bracing solidarity between newcomers like him and other outcasts from French society — especially Lucie (Élodie Bouchez, from The Dreamlife of Angels), a disturbed young Frenchwoman who gives Jallel a very distinctive experience of his new country. Avoiding sensationalism, Kechiche renders one man’s dreams, fears and desires, as well as the concrete concerns of his daily life.130 min.Tue Mar 30: 3:15 (FSLC) Hometown Blues (Le Bleu des villes) (ND/NF 2000)1999. FranceDirected by Stéphane Brizé.How many versions of a life can one live? Are we stuck with our first choice? In his sweet but sturdy first feature, Brizé (Mademoiselle Chambon, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2010) asks these questions and many more. Florence Vignon, who co-wrote the script, plays Solange, a put-upon meter maid married to Patrick, who slaves away at the local morgue. Ready to make the move into a new house, life jseems okay for these two until Solange’s childhood friend, now a celebrated TV weather-girl, gives her a glimpse of other possibilities. With visions of a new life in her head, Solange returns to her first love — karaoke singing — and suddenly those house plans fall by the wayside. Moments of deadpan humor buoy this bittersweet tale of upsetting the status quo. 105 min.Mon Mar 29: 3:15 (FSLC) Sound and Fury (De bruit et de fureur) (ND/NF 1989)1988. FranceDirected by Jean-Claude BrisseauThe real-life experiences of French cinema’s enfant terrible Brisseau (Secret Things, Exterminating Angels) inspired this powerful and provocative opening-night film from the 1989 edition of New Directors/New Films. Set in the Paris suburbs, Brisseau’s film explores with sensitivity and signature urgency the loneliness and disaffection of two teenagers, Bruno (Vincent Gasperitsch) and Jean-Roger (François Négret) — innocents in the jungle of high-rises and savage school gangs. Tenderness gives way to violence and back again as these “lost” youths must rely on their street smarts to survive. Winner of the Prix Spécial de la Jeunesse at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. 95 min.Fri Apr 2: 3:15 (FSLC) Victor (Victor…pendant qu’il est trop tard)(ND/NF 1999)1998. FranceDirected by Sandrine VeyssetOn a cold winter’s night, a young boy runs away from his parents and their kinky sexual fantasies, and winds up spinning on the merry-go-round of a carnival that’s come to town. After fainting in the arms of Mick, one of the workers at the fairgrounds, he is taken to the home of Trish, a young prostitute who doesn’t really know what to do with this young thing — she’s got problems of her own. But Victor seems to be the impetus for Trish to take control of her life, and likewise, Victor comes to life in her (maternal) arms. Veysset (Will It Snow for Christmas?) finds the poetry in reality in this down-to-earth fairy tale, and turns the concept of family on its head. 88 min.Wed Mar 31: 3:15 (FSLC) When the Cat’s Away (Chacun cherche son chat)(ND/NF 1997)1996. France. Directed by Cédric KlapischIn this delightful opening-night film of the 1997 New Directors/New Films, young and hip makeup artist Chloé (Garance Clavel) can’t find anyone to watch her cat while she goes on vacataion, so she leaves her precious Gris-Gris in the care of an eccentric old woman. When she returns, she finds the cat has disappeared. Aided by a cadre of senior citizens, who search for the missing feline with an enthusiasm not seen since D-Day, Chloé encounters myriad locals that she would never have otherwise met. Likewise, writer-director Klapisch (L’Auberge Espagnole, Paris) lets his camera wander in unexpected directions as we discover how the disparate characters of a neighborhood come together to form a community. 91 min.Thu Apr 1: 3:15 (FSLC)
For many Americans, "terrorism" is an anthropological term meaning dark foreigners. They might be surprised to learn that it was how a U.S. Senate committee once described corporate America's tactics to crush labor unions.
Social documentarian Leo Hurwitz reenacted findings from that official body — the La Follette Senate Civil Liberties Committee — in his 1942 feature film, Native Land. The hybrid documentary raised the specter of fascism and called exploited workers to action. Narrated by Paul Robeson and co-directed by Paul Strand, it's now seen as an early waypost of progressive filmmaking in this country, and whether you're gainfully employed or a jobless statistic, you can catch it at an Anthology Film Archives series saluting Hurwitz and his peers.
Titled "Leo Hurwitz and the New York School of Documentary Film," the retrospective will unfold March 10-19, 2010, at Anthology's shrine to indie/avant-garde filmmaking in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Following the crowd was never Hurwitz's way. Leading was, and arguably the Brooklyn-born son of a Russian socialist shook up the documentary narrative more than most. Yet he was in fine company with fellow filmmakers Strand, Willard Van Dyke, Ralph Steiner, Sidney Meyers and later pariah Elia Kazan, among others. Seeded by Robert Flaherty and Pare Lorentz, the New York School marked a second generation of American media frontiersmen who would bushwhack the way for the TV documentary and next for the flowering of non-fiction filmmaking in the 1960s and 70s.
Anthology begins its look back with modern documentary's 11-year gestation period, from 1931 to 1942. It continues on through Hurwitz’s hounded productions of the McCarthyite 1950s (when Kazan "named names") along with his contribution to cinéma vérité and the more artistically driven, less political films of his later career.
Exposing what forces spurred reactionary elements toward a taste for red meat, a collective of left-liberal photographers, filmmakers and critics came together in 1930 under the aegis of the Film and Photo League. Anthology's roundup of their shorts and newsreels includes Detroit Workers News Special 1932: Ford Massacre and two works about national hunger marches, photographed from the perspective of the marchers.
Depression breadlines, Hoovervilles and labor unrest are chronicled here not only as a social document, but also as a way of rallying audiences of workers who otherwise might not grasp the scope of the economic debacle and class tensions. "When you put your hand in your pocket and you can touch your total savings, your life is revealed as not the private thing it seemed before. It becomes connected with others who share your problem," as Hurwitz is quoted saying in William Alexander's book, Film on the Left.
Agit-prop filmmaking also united the Nykino group, which Hurwitz split from the Film and Photo League to co-found with Steiner and Irving Lerner. A segment called "Nykino and American Documentary Film in the Thirties" showcases such films as Fred Zinnemann and Strand's docudrama about a fishermen’s strike in Mexico, The Wave, and Steiner's irreverent poke at religion and poverty, Pie in the Sky (featuring loopy antics by Kazan and Group Theater colleagues).
"American Documentary Film in the Thirties" clusters some of the decade's most poetic work. It opens with Lorentz's The Plow that Broke the Plains, which laments the Dust Bowl — arable land sold out for a quick buck — and plugs the green-minded policies of the New Deal. Strand, Steiner and Hurwitz contributed cinematography alongside images by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, and Virgil Thompson composed the score. Lorentz's next film, The River, may be better known (it's not included in the series), but Washington-funded The Plow had the distinction of being the first motion picture to enter the Congressional archives.
Valley Town, by Van Dyke shares Anthology's 30s marquee; its study of steelworker's family thrust into poverty when automation eliminates jobs holds up as one the most searing portraits of that hard knocks era.In 1936 Hurwitz joined with Strand and fellow travelers in founding Frontier Films, the first nonprofit documentary production company in the U.S. Its politically committed slate debuted with Heart of Spain, Hurwitz's half-hour film about the Spanish Civil War. Heart of Spain will be shown in part one of two Frontier Film blocs. It's followed by China Strikes Back, which marked two more firsts: footage both of Mao Tse-Tung at his Yenan base and of the Chinese Communist army; and a dialectical approach to editing that not only became emblematic of Frontier Films but also fashioned a long-lingering sensibility in the art form.Native Land was Frontier Films' swansong. In "After Frontier Films," Anthology pays tribute to a 1948 feature entitled Strange Victory, the only production of Hurwitz's subsequent shingle. The documentary, which dissected post-War racism and complacency in the U.S, won awards at the Karlovy-Vary and Venice Film Festivals.In the 50's and 60's, while blacklisted, the Harvard-educated Lefty continued to make independent films and, with Life magazine photographer Fons Iannelli as his "front," co-produced, directed and edited a number of segments for CBS's "Omnibus" magazine show. Emergency Ward gives a sampling in "The Pre-history of Cinéma Vérite."
After pocketing Emmy and Peabody awards for directing Verdict for Tomorrow about the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Hurwitz produced several feature-length films for National Educational Television, including Essay on Death: A Memorial to John F. Kennedy. Rather than rehash the all-too-familiar details of the President's assassination, Hurwitz took art, literature and such actors as Christopher Plummer to plumb the meaning of death. The film will unspool in one of three "Hurwitz in the Sixties" spotlights, as will his other artsy NET productions, The Sun and Richard Lippold and In Search of Hart Crane.
Anthology audiences will find mostly short works in this New York School series, however, Dialogue with a Woman Departed stands to test their bladders. A four-hour epic collage dedicated to Hurwitz's late second wife and co-worker, Peggy Lawson, it was shot over eight years in the 70s. It was his last major production, and it earned him an International Film Critics Prize in 1981.
Hurwitz's seminal short, The Scottsboro Boys, about the 1931 trial of nine black teens falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama, is absent from the Anthology lineup. Yet for a bit of Hurwitz trivia told by Tom Hurwitz (who assisted Anthology in mounting the exhibition), his father redirected his energy to the Scottsboro project after reaching out to Charlie Chaplin to no avail.
Had the silent comic come through, the New York voice of Leo Hurwitz — and the generations he influenced — may have sounded different. The resonance it achieved fills 10 days that will shake your documentary world.Anthology Film Archives32 2nd AvenueNew York, NY 10003(212) 505-5181www.anthologyfilmarchives.org
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