The Act of Killing (Director's Cut)

The Act of Killing burst onto the world stage two years ago, an explosive high-wire act combining the most rigorous historical research and a truly visionary approach to nonfiction filmmaking. It was, and remains, a controversial film, both for its slippery line between art and nonfiction and its much-debated strategy of working closely with mass murderers. These questions of art and ethics are at the very soul of True/False, and it remains a film that, regardless of where you stand, demands to be seen and discussed as part of the new nonfiction canon. Joshua Oppenheimer’s director’s cut expands the run time, building out narrative elements that were only sketched in the official US release and adding muscle to a film that stands as an epic achievement in cinematic nonfiction. To quote no less an authority than Werner Herzog, "You have not seen The Act of Killing until you see the director’s cut." (DW)

Almost There

For many, Peter Anton’s house embodies an end-of-life nightmare: the utility companies long ago shut off the heat and electricity, the floorboards are rotting, and the detritus of a chaotic life is precariously stacked to the ceiling. But for the filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden, Anton’s home is a treasure trove, a startling collection of unseen and fascinating paintings, drawings, and notebooks, not to mention Anton himself, a character worthy of his own reality TV show. Though aging, infirm, cranky, and solitary, Anton also is funny and utterly resilient. Rybicky and Wickenden’s remarkable journey follows a gifted artist through startling twists and turns. By its quietly satisfying ending, Almost There has provided enough human drama for a season of soap operas, plus insights into mental illness, aging in America, and the redemptive power of art. (JS)

Anything Can Happen (N/N shorts)

As a filmmaker working in the communist Polish People’s Republic (1944– 1989), Marcel Łoziński found many ways to cleverly, subversively criticize his government. Sometimes the line between clever and devious was thin. In the 1990s, as his country transitioned to democracy and overt censorship faded away, Łoziński created three of his most intimate, poignant, and reflexive films. “89 mm from Europe” (1993, 11 min.) profoundly observes a ritual at the border of Europe and the Soviet Union. In “Anything Can Happen” (1995, 39 min.), Łoziński's young son approaches older strangers in a park and asks them a series of simple but tough questions. Finally, in “So It Doesn’t Hurt” (1998, 47 min.), Łoziński revisits one of his past documentary subjects, this time using a gentler, observational approach. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Arena of Life (N/N shorts)

Famous for both his cinematography (see Through and Through) and still photography (check out his exhibit at Uprise Bakery), Bogdan Dziworski is one of Poland’s most imaginative visual artists. In this shorts program, we focus on the spectacular, unconventional profile films he directed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “Arena of Life” (1979, 20 min.) takes us behind the scenes of a circus as tireless performers put on a show. “Biathlon” (1978, 11 min.) ogles professional skiers as they triumphantly shoot into the sky and then crash to the ground. The masterpiece “A Few Stories about a Man” (1983, 20 min.) introduces us to Jerzy Orlowski, an agile armless man, and shows us how he dives, draws, skis, and, yes, urinates. In the melancholic, whimsical “Szapito” (1984, 29 min.), Dziworski revisits the circus and observes older performers as they struggle to nail their acts. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Special thanks to Wytwórnia Filmów Oswiatowych

Best of Enemies

In 1968, the desperate ABC television network, a distant third in the ratings, hit upon the unlikely pairing of the disdainful conservative William F. Buckley with the jeremiad-spouting liberal Gore Vidal to cover the presidential nominating conventions. The ripping good Best of Enemies shows a brief shining moment when these prep-school-educated intellectuals sparred nightly. With access to a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes footage, Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon revisit and revitalize the story to crackling effect. These pivotal debates, which haunted each man for the rest of their lives, were grand political theater, summoning the ’60s culture war like no other event. The two effete, sometimes malicious characters emerge as surprisingly sympathetic, no matter where you sit on the political divide. (PS)

Bitter Lake

Bitter Lake is a milestone film by Adam Curtis, the master ransacker of the BBC’s rich archive. Curtis is chasing after an elusive, fresh take on Afghanistan’s oft-reported, little-understood place in modern history. Manically kneading, pounding, and stretching the form, he has created an amalgam of experimental, archival, and essay film. In Curtis’s deft seesawing between the absurd and horrific, we see an experienced hand at the top of his game. Bombshell scenes such as one Marine’s confession and a tense presidential motorcade intermingle artfully with the casually discarded ephemera of the everyday. Somehow, by the end of the film, it’s no hype to say that the 70-year-old shadow of Franklin Roosevelt’s meeting with Ibn Saud at Bitter Lake hangs over all of us. Here is an enormous, and unlikely, accomplishment. (PS) Presented by Restoration Eyecare. 

Brush With Fame (shorts)

The membranes separating us from the rich and famous are punctured in these seven films. In “The Reagan Shorts” (dir. Pacho Velez, 10 min.), the codirector of T/F 2014's Manakamana uncovers some unexpected snafus in the archives of President Ronald Reagan. The enigmatic “White Chimney” (dir. Jani Peltonen, 25 min.) takes us to an old Finnish hotel where, in 1939, a movie cast gathered for an infamous party. “Copycat” (dir. Charlie Lyne, 8 min.) explores the conflicted legacy of an overlooked, ahead-of-its-time horror film. Next up, a brief detour (1 min.) as we experience a country star’s trailblazing entry into the world of social media. We close with a knockout: “Transformers: The Premake” (dir. Kevin B. Lee, 25 min.), a spectacular “desktop documentary” that uses online media to tour a Michael Bay blockbuster. (CB) 

Cartel Land

Dr. Mireles Valverde, a tall, mustachioed man in a wide-brimmed Stetson hat, is our ostensible hero, the founder and leader of Autodefensas, a people's police that sprung up in the Mexican state of Michoácan to combat violent drug cartels. We track Valverde’s fairy-tale ascent as he recruits vigilantes to his side in town squares, and we witness Autodefensas’s methods, including a jaw-dropping car chase followed by the abduction of a family man that ends in a Gitmo-style warehouse. A parallel through line involves an armed vigilante leader named Tim “Nailer” Foley of the Arizona Border Recon, sure to be played by Sam Shepard in the fiction adaptation. Upending the simplistic black hat/white hat themes of literature, film, and political discourse, Cartel Land shows that the days of heroes and villains are long over. We are all implicated, all culpable. (PS)

The Case of Pekosiński (N/N)

“Who am I, truly?” Shortly after Bronek Pekosiński was born, his mother threw him over a fence onto a pile of potatoes. He never learned her name; she was on her way to a concentration camp. He grows up and becomes a Polish chess master. As his reputation grows, the communist government takes advantage of his mysterious biography, turning him into a poster child for the state. By the early 1990s, Pekosiński is nearing the end of his life. He is in awful shape: partly paralyzed, drunk, suffering from amnesia. Director Grzegorz Królikiewicz (Through and Through) tracks down Pekosiński and convinces him to star in his own biopic. Pekosiński plays himself in every period of life, from infancy to the present day, in this astonishing experiment. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Century of the Self

The Century of the Self argues for the importance of Edward Bernays, a little-known nephew of Sigmund Freud who brought his uncle’s insights to America in the 1920s, creating both “public relations” and modern advertising by replacing rational arguments with carefully constructed appeals to base drives. He was central to the postwar political project to create a stable society, which later psychoanalysts turned on its head, employing radical methods to liberate the “real” self in the face of a repressive society. Despite this dispute, the psychoanalysts’ shared belief in the supreme importance of the inner self came to define the 20th century. This complex and fascinating story is deftly handled by Adam Curtis in a dazzling four-part tour de force, as his narrative illuminates decades of misconceptions and manipulations at the heart of how we see the world. (DS)

The Chinese Mayor

Mayor Geng Yanbo wants to restore the city of Datong to its former imperial glory and create a tourist destination showcasing green energy. However, his city is China’s most polluted, and his plans involve moving a third of the city’s population, many poor and with nowhere else to go. Zhou Hao, the film’s director, has extraordinary access to the day-to-day life of Geng. The film is both intimate and massive in scale as it takes in his intense political meetings, spontaneous conversations with citizens, and conversations with his wife. As the faux-historical wall gets erected, tense debates ensue with contractors. The Chinese Mayor gives us a unique perspective on the ground-level politics of modern China, as we’re accompanied by the very human protagonist at its heart. (IK) Presented by Marketing & Communications at the University of Missouri.


“I no longer prefer blue skies,” says a young Pakistani man. “I prefer gray skies, when the drones don’t fly.” A new kind of American-led warfare—war without soldiers—has redefined life for communities around the world as remotely operated aircraft target, and execute, presumed militants. This evenhanded yet intensely emotional essay follows the drone inventor who believes war is eternal; the US “pilot” who, from across the world, killed with a press of a button; villagers who witnessed their loved ones destroyed in front of them; and policy experts who see the nature of warfare being transmuted before our eyes. This is journalism delivered with a poetic touch, offering disturbing and enthralling footage: rows of soldiers operating their consoles in a vast room, Afghanis frantically digging through the rubble after an attack, and night-vision nightmares of targets in the crosshairs. (JS)

Field Niggas

Set entirely at night, Field Niggas takes us to the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem and introduces us to its faces. Not just avoiding but repudiating condescension, director Khalik Allah’s camera, a longtime, welcome presence in the neighborhood, spotlights his subjects in stunningly composed, dignified portraits that are hypnotically woven with street images. The non-synch audio track consists of conversations with and among those faces: dreams, regrets, arguments, affection, observations, opinions. Field Niggas is a mesmerizing viewing experience, that finds its rhythm using field hollers. The title draws from Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots” speech, in which he targets the power balance that creates a dangerous wedge between the “house slaves” and the “field slaves.” Khalik Allah’s singular, trenchant film serves as an ardent call to rise above social constructs. (CB)

Finders Keepers

At first glance, Finders Keepers could be considered a slim slice of cornpone. Yes, it is a classic, weird-ass freak show about two men locked in a pitched battle over one of their misplaced limbs. But these self-aware rednecks’ tussle becomes a more transcendent look at the nature of modern media through the use of reality TV tropes, the quest for fame and grace, and other elusive themes. Amputee John Wood and entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant are both authentic, immensely quotable Southern characters, who were made for the big and small screen. Whisnant even admits to rehearsing for this moment for his entire life. While it begins as a diverting human-interest story, its impact deepens over time. It’s the film’s meta-to-the-max orientation and surprisingly complex tragicomic characterizations that win the day. (PS) Presented by Holder Susan Slusher Oxenhandler. 

Girl You Know It's True (shorts)

Set to an infectious pop soundtrack, these four shorts find ingenious ways to reflect on the recent past. In “Former Models” (dir. Benjamin Pearson, 20 min.), the rise and fall of a prefab boy group is the impetus for a heady investigation into notions of identity. “Object” (dir. Paulina Skibińska, 15 min.) offers entrancing abstract images of an underseas dive, leading to an unexpected conclusion. “The Blazing World” (dir. Jessica Bardsley, 19 min.) locates and reflects on the intersection of kleptomania, depression, and Winona Ryder. Finally, “The Woolsworth Choir of 1979” (dir. Elizabeth Price, 20 min.) bracingly fuses ecclesiastical architecture, a notorious fire, and the Shangri-Las. (CB)

Going Clear

Based on Lawrence Wright’s exposé of Scientology, Going Clear is a jaw-dropping, bonkers piece of journalism. Piling engrossing, sometimes salacious details sky high, Alex Gibney traces the story back to the movement’s origins in the pulp fiction of the postwar era and its founder L. Ron Hubbard’s bizarre melding of psychology, celebrity worship, and sci fi. It locates vivid details with some of the organization’s apostates, who had intimate knowledge of its inner workings. Mixed in with the fascistic imagery—nothing can quite prepare you for the Albert Speer–inspired stagecraft of Scientology gatherings or its enforcement squad, “the squirrel busters”—are tabloid-like revelations about Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The film gives insight into why intelligent, curious individuals can allow themselves to be degraded. Going Clear is scary-good. (PS)

Hear My Cry (N/N shorts)

In 1968, several months before Czech student Jan Palach set himself on fire and sent shock waves throughout the world, a Polish man named Ryszard Siwiec committed self-immolation at a Warsaw harvest festival. The event was barely reported and quickly forgotten. After the Polish People’s Republic dissolved in 1989, first-time director Drygas (who, because of censorship, almost gave up on filmmaking during the communist era) attempted to rectify this by interviewing spectators and Siwiec's family. With Hear My Cry, he discovered an astounding, heartbreaking story (46 min). Plays with “Wanda Gościmska, ... a Weaver” (dir. Wojciech Wiszniewski, 1975, 21 min.) and “Carpenter” (dir. Wojciech Wiszniewski, 1976, 14 min.), two masterpieces from the late Wiszniewski, a director who creates shocking, subversive profiles of former communist role models. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Heaven Knows What

Harley is discarded by her love Ilya and turns to Mike. All three are young heroin addicts, existing in a state of continual transit among the lost, forgotten, and ignored of New York City. Heaven Knows What is concerned less with the inevitable rut of hustling and scoring that comprise an addict’s life and more with the operatic drama and the strange-yet-recognizable logic of the central trio’s passionate couplings, instantaneous betrayals, and frightening altercations. This more-than-fiction film is an adaptation of an unpublished memoir by recovering addict Arielle Holmes, who inhabits Harley and her recent past in a singular performance that goes well beyond acting. Heaven Knows What is a uncompromising dive into the emotional toll of addiction. (DS)

How to Change the World

Greenpeace was born in 1969 when a ragtag group of journalists, hippies, and scientists living in Vancouver tried to stop a US atomic test. Fortunately, they were media savvy from the beginning, capturing their seat-of-theirpants activist adventures on film. Out of this vivid archive and sly narration by Robert Hunter, an early guiding force of the organization, Jerry Rothwell has created a thrilling, sometimes terrifying film. The youthful energy is palpable in action-packed scenes, including one in which activists confront a Russian whaling ship in a tiny Zodiac dingy. Soon, though, idealism comes up against reality, compromise, human nature, and the complexities of managing a growing organization. This insightful film is also a vibrant, moving reflection about the ongoing struggle to balance the political and the personal. (IK) Closing Night screening presented by Columbia Daily Tribune.

How to Live (N/N)

In 1976, young Polish families are flocking to an idyllic, governmentsponsored summer camp. The purpose of the camp is to instill communist values in the families. Over nine days, the newlyweds partake in a series of drills involving singing, marching, and role-playing. After several days of inane exercises, camp leaders introduce a contest that brings out the worst in everyone. How to Live is the amusing, cunning feature debut of Marcel Łoziński, Polish documentary’s arch provocateur, who slyly embedded four of his friends in the camp. After it was finished, the film was banned. Plays with “Front Collision” (Marcel Łoziński, 1975, 11 min.) On the verge of retirement, an exemplary train conductor makes an unfortunate mistake that costs him his reputation and his retirement ceremony. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

I Am the People

I Am the People is not another Arab Spring documentary. It is altogether different and somewhat radical in its conception. Egyptian-French director Anna Roussillon had the good fortune of finding a middle-class family located far from Tahrir Square who freely shared their everyday lives and political views. The heart of the film is the easy rapport that Roussillon shares with her subjects, ranging from good-natured teasing to more cutting remarks about the gap between the European worldview and the Arab one. This is a gentle, humanistic portrait of one family perched between old ways and modernity, between religious and secular, literally between donkeys and satellite dishes. Television and radio play a major role in the film, as political developments unfold with alacrity, but it is the sophisticated, grassroots commentary from family members that make this so special. (PS)

Il Segreto

It’s January, and determined young kids from Naples’ impoverished Spanish Quarter are running rampant through the city gathering items for a legendary event. There is a conspiracy afoot, and we are invited to the inner circle, mostly in low light and always with a thick layer of street sounds. The absurd single-mindedness of these Neapolitan rascals is matched by director Cyop & Kaf’s manic ability to communicate both a vivid sense of place and the illogic of the young and restless. “They’re not young kids, they're beasts!” one neighbor observes. In this rousing, multivalent film, a tense, urgent atmosphere underscores the depiction of mob mentality (very close to the Italian mob’s historic home base). A paean to people and place, this allegorical film revels in the camaraderie and antagonistic affection of youth. (CB)


At the end of 1989, the United States invaded Panama, an event whose realities have been distorted by those on both sides of the conflict. The motivations, facts, and figures remain an invisible history that is rarely revisited. Invasion does not recount the attack as it happened but as the people of Panama remember it, allowing individual memories to create a compelling collective narrative. Director Abner Benaim confronts the reliability of nonfiction storytelling—both behind the camera and in front of it—raising questions of documentary form, the nature of perception, and even the audience’s own role in the propagation of the past. Through striking personal accounts that culminate in elegant, painterly imagery, the silence of the Panama invasion is finally given a voice, one that resolves cacophony into clarity. North American premiere co-presented with the Miami Int’l Film Festival (DK)

Jeff, Embrace Your Past

In 1992, the first major Jeff Koons retrospective was held in San Francisco. Already both lauded as a visionary and reviled as a provocateur, Koons is in energetic good humour as he and his wife—Italian porn star/politician Ilona Staller—roll into town for the show. Intriguing and canny in equal measure, Jeff, Embrace Your Past features everyone caught up in Koons’s success— the curators, the consultants, and the collectors—and captures the artist on the cusp of greatness. Plays with Abandoned Goods (dir. Pia Borg & Ed Lawrenson, 2014, 37 min.). Between 1946 and 1981, patients at a rural English mental hospital participated in a pioneering art therapy program. Like a time capsule from inside the asylum, Abandoned Goods mines a rich archive of thousands of works to become a profoundly moving exploration of outsider art. (JH)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Billionaire Robert Durst is not a lucky man. He has seen loved ones and people close to him die, many of them violently. But there’s a counternarrative. What if he’s who killed them? Longtime collaborators Smerling and Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) tackle one of the most sensational series of unsolved murders in recent history and craft a film that plays more like House of Cards than Unsolved Mysteries, with some of the most striking and thrilling re-creations ever staged. In doing so, they also pave the way—with a clear hat tip to The Staircase—for serious, episodic nonfiction programming. The Jinx rivets us, makes us gasp, and gives us new hope for longform nonfiction. T/F will bundle episodes 1 & 2 on Friday, episodes 3 & 4 on Saturday, and episode 5 on Sunday (leaving 6 as a cliffhanger to follow a week after the fest). (DW)

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

The most gifted and troubled rock star (a term he hated) of his generation is rescued from caricature in a gutsy, expressionist, immersive spiral into his artistic mind. Kurt Cobain was a conflicted soul but compulsively talented, filling journals with drawings and tapes with home recordings. This material is lovingly sifted by Brett Morgen (2007 True Vision honoree), who masterfully wields animation and collage to reveal never-before-seen sides of Kurt and bring us to a kind of closure about his beautiful, terrible life. No deification here, no grand claims, but a lot of evidence that Kurt Cobain was damn talented, not to mention a more loving father than he had any right to be. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is created with tremendous panache, pairing Kurt’s genius with a passionate filmmaking vision. (PS)

Life According to Ohad

Ohad is an impassioned animal rights activist and Israeli. After seven years shunning his carnivorous family, Ohad, now 32, gives in to their wish to share family dinner again. This ain’t no picnic: Ohad is determined to let his family know the extent of his beliefs. Just as Ohad assumes the burdens of factory-farmed animals, Eri Erlich and his bare-bones street-style film crew explore Ohad’s world from his perspective, unyielding and strident as it is. (Warning: explicit images!) As Ohad fights against the muted conscience of the meat industry and the complacent humans that worship it, we are brought to the front lines of an uncivil war. Will Ohad soften his edges for the sake of family harmony or will his family finally see the light? (DK)

The Look of Silence

It opens with crickets. The only sounds on an otherwise peaceful evening in rural Indonesia, as the sky darkens through a micro-rainbow of blue and indigo. Thus, with calm equal to the bombast of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer begins his companion film, also about the 1965-66 genocide but now from the victims’ perspective. Adi Rukun, optometrist, lives with the weight of his brother’s murder and two parents burdened with memories. Adi tracks down the perpetrators, and, in one of the film’s more poetic images, tests their vision, not only dredging up ghosts but endangering his entire family. Adi’s quest represents an act of bravery almost unmatched in cinema, and the film, with quiet intensity, demands that we bear witness. What we do after that is up to us. (DW) Presented by The Crossing. 


As Ukraine tenses, Kiev’s Independence Square becomes a 24/7 hub of political activity. The air is filled with bombastic political rhetoric, anthems, poems, and protest songs. Daily life scurries along on the margins of history. But the nights become increasingly fraught, and eventually the tensions spill over into the daytime. As the speaker system that once blared polemics against the government begins to bark orders to protesters turned foot soldiers, Maidan reveals the slow-burn transformation of festive protest into violent, life-and-death political struggle. Throughout the film, director Sergei Loznitsa captures the action with long static shots and minimal explication. The result is a political-economic Rorschach blot worthy of the age of Occupy, Ferguson, and the Arab Spring. Is Maidan documenting a protest? A riot? An occupation? A revolution? What’s the difference? (KP)

The Measure of All Things

It is often the work of nonfiction filmmakers to grab that thing that hides in plain sight and hold it up for inspection. They interrogate events or ideas that are familiar but remain unexamined. Such is the case with The Measure of All Things, the newest performance/hybrid project from director Sam Green. For those who grew up with the Guinness Book of World Records, it seemed like something that had always and would always exist. But the history of the book is complex, even tragic. Interweaving short films, live narration, and a stellar live score by T. Griffin, Catherine McRae, and Brendan Canty, Green shares the believe-it-or-not history of the McWhirter Brothers layered with a more philosophical examination of why “world records” mean so much to us. It’s a funny, engaging, and surprisingly emotional performance by a creator working at the vanguard of nontraditional nonfiction. (DW) Presented by Aggregate.


With vertiginous camerawork and white-knuckle adventure, Meru takes a headlong plunge into unpacking the overly simple answer “Because it’s there.” In 2008, three climbers set out to summit the shark fin route on Meru Peak - what is, arguably, the hardest mountain climb in the world. The team, straight out of central casting, was comprised of Conrad Anker, one of the most seasoned and respected alpinists in the world, Jimmy Chin, an elite mountain photographer/videographer, and Renan Ozturk, a young climber looking to prove himself. Their journey, expertly organized by Chai Vasarhelyi with a strong sensitivity for character and narrative, would span years and include injury and tragedy. It all makes for a gripping yarn, but also reveals much about what drives humanity to explore the most dangerous corners of the world.

Of Men and War

Of Men and War situates us in the middle of a Napa Valley–based retreat center for PTSD-afflicted veterans of the Iraq war. Some rage and rail against the world’s indignities, but over time their deep humanity emerges, thanks to the efforts of pioneering therapist Fred Gusman. Deeply grounded in authentic, earthy characters, including wives and children, filmmaker Laurent Bécue-Renard gains stunning access to these fragile souls and their stories. And he and his collaborator Camille Cottagnoud have an uncannily intuitive way with their cameras, creating a uniquely fluid intimacy. Of Men and War is a big movie about forgiveness, group dynamics, trust, guilt, shame, and the value of counseling and anger management. (PS) Presented by Veterans United Home Loans.

Probation Time

Part of a tight-knit religious family in Jerusalem, we meet director Avigail Sperber as she endures a breakup with her girlfriend and struggles to raise a child without her. Then another test arrives with the release from prison of her little sister, a troubled young Ethiopian woman, who questions the family’s strength with accusations of conditional love. While their mother sets boundaries to protect herself from more betrayal, all nine brothers and sisters worry about the possibility of relapse. A deeply honest and sympathetic portrait of a multi-generational family in crisis, this film brilliantly parallels the struggles of an adopted daughter with those of cultural, ethnic, and religious assimilation. The rules that govern her court-ordered probation are clear-cut. Those that govern her position in the family are less so. (AV)

Rules of the Game

Directors Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard train their cameras on the workers and clients of Ingeus, a French consulting firm that locates work for the young and unemployed. With a snappy pace, we track a handful of millennials as they navigate the Ingeus bootcamp. The primary obstacle facing each is an inability to sell themselves to prospective employers. There’s something fascinating, amusing, and sometimes squirm-inducing about watching these prospective workers struggling in coaching sessions; some, like the singular Lolita, are not well-adjusted to the dictates of the workplace or even simple social conventions. Bories and Chagnard find a way to bring out humor (their pithy title cards work extremely well) while also eliciting empathy. In the film’s final minutes, it transcends its deceptively simple surface to become something much more hard-hitting about the modern global economy. (CB)

Secret Screening Blue

A film about our undying desire for panaceas, Secret Screening Blue exposes our collective gullibility and reveals how something seemingly benign could lead to tragic results. This is cinema limned with a strong dose of rigorous journalism. Propulsive and artful, Secret Screening Blue is the rare film that seeks to make a difference while respecting the audience’s agency in deciding what that difference should be. (PS)

Secret Screening Green

When she wakes up from a long sleep, an impulsive Dorothy Gale takes her best companion on a quest across a sprawling landscape. She only has one wish, and that is to find where the great wizard lives. On her way, she overcomes mounting obstacles with the help of a Scarecrow with family troubles, a Tin Man who wants a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who desperately needs courage. Ultimately, Dorothy finds a warm embrace in an Emerald City that is open to all comers. NC-17 for violence, sex, and drug abuse. (PS)

Secret Screening Orange

An examination of the things we celebrate and sacrifice in life. Intimate and personal, this film takes an expansive view of the processes behind art and creation. Secret Screening Orange stakes its territory on the edge of what constitutes a nonfiction film and expands the borders of how a documentary can get at something approaching “truth” even while it is actively deconstructing it. (DW)

Secret Screening Red

Filmmakers build narratives all the time, but rarely do they carry the sculpted Shakespearean power of those in Secret Screening Red. Set amidst a time of political upheaval and infused with the anticipation of change, this film finds drama in both streets and hallways. Tensions are high, but the promise of change is palpable. (DW)

Secret Screening Yellow

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it,” Albert Einstein said. Hope springs eternal for this collection of obsessive absurdists who spin out endless variations on the surreal in an attempt to make sense of the passing parade. Whether young or old, they are always certifiably idiosyncratic, and some would say quite strange. Secret Screening Yellow’s filmmakers have a real affection for humanity, and it shows in this gentle, funny crowd-pleaser. (PS)

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

A million bits of video from a thousand different sources appear on screen, smuggled out of Syria as testament to its implosion. Peaceful demonstrators are shot dead in the street, young men are tortured and humiliated, civilians flee destroyed cities carrying the bodies of their children. Explaining, framing, and recoiling from these images, Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed offers a fragmented essay in voice-over, questioning the possibility and significance of cinema in a world with such horror. Living as a frustrated exile in Paris, he eventually begins a lengthy Facebook correspondence with a Kurdish woman named Wiam Simav Bedirxan, still inside Syria in the besieged city of Homs. Their extraordinary conversation provides a moving backdrop to scenes shot by Simav herself of life in the rubble of Syria’s protracted civil war. (DS)

Something Better To Come

The most celebrated film of last year was Boyhood, a 12-years-in-the-making coming-of-age narrative feature about a middle-class boy in Texas. In far-off Moscow, filmmaker Hanna Polak was engaged in an even more committed, perilous project, following a girl named Yula from ages 10 to 24 as she lived in a massive landfill just outside the city. Finally completed in the hours prior to T/F, Something captures a real adolescence lived at the extreme margins. Polak artfully contextualizes Yula’s story amid those who didn’t quite make it in Putin’s Russia. Not interested in wallowing in misery, the film instead captures the authentic rhythms of a difficult life filled with music, animals, and the universal touchstones of adolescence. (DS)

Spartacus & Cassandra

On the outskirts of Paris, there's a circus tent, and in that tent lives a stern, compassionate, 21-year-old trapeze artist named Camille. Meanwhile, out in the streets is a stubborn, drunken homeless man. He's the father of Spartacus, age 13, and Cassandra, age 10. After the government's child services branch intervenes, these young Roma siblings must acclimate to life with the tough-loving Camille while trying to figure out what to do about their unreliable, reckless father, who seeks to leave the country. Firsttime director Ioanis Nuguet's enthralling debut latches onto its creative, charismatic protagonists and tells their story in a collaborative fashion. The audacious, inspired result vibrates with life, deftly alternating nail-bitingly tense scenes with glorious, impressionistic montage. (CB)

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Once the enfant terrible of the doc world, with a bumbling persona that hid his wicked intellect, Nick Bloomfield may be older, but he’s still a world-class sharpshooter when it comes to deflating those with power. Here he takes his camera into the Los Angeles community where one of America’s most prolific serial killers hid for decades. Preying on women of color—many of them sex workers—the Grim Sleeper was cloaked by the intersection of race, poverty, and police indifference. Buoyed by the guidance of Pam Brooks, a “fixer” of sorts, Tales of the Grim Sleeper is a damning account of the disposability of persons deemed “undesirable.” As the rallying cry of “#BlackLivesMatter” trends on Twitter and police power is under scrutiny, Broomfield captures an uneasy zeitgeist with measured outrage and the power of a hard-boiled thriller. (CBe)

Tea Time

This charming account of a group of Chilean women who have met for a tea party on an appointed day every month for 60 years is a film of rich visual textures and worldly reminiscence from friends who have seen their share of life. It’s also a haunting yet tender examination of mortality and loss. The tea parties become smaller and smaller every year as members of the group die or become too frail to attend. While the women are sitting around the table, though, they are wonderfully alive. The filmmakers capture the twinkle in their eyes as they talk about old lovers, old friends, old adventures, and the state of the world today. This is a gentle, beautiful film that finds transcendence in small pleasures. North American premiere co-presented with the Miami Int’l Film Festival (CB)


In an effort to prevent attacks against the nation, undercover FBI agents are buddying up to potential terrorists around the country. Saeed “Shariff” Torres has worked as an FBI counterterrorism informant for more than 20 years. The father of a young boy, Shariff now yearns to leave his dangerous job behind. At the start of (T)ERROR, Shariff is headed to Pittsburgh. He claims this is going to be his last sting and, as preposterous as it sounds, he’s invited two filmmakers to tag along and document his work. Confronted with an ethically murky, high-stakes story, directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe respond with poise and tenacity. Their stunning film thrills and bewilders in equal measure. (CB)

Those Who Feel the Fire Burning

A storm on the sea, crashing waves, screams, a splash, and we bob on the choppy surface. Up. The raft is distant now, a blur of light. Submersion. Darkness. And then, unexpectedly, light. The formally adventurous Those Who Feel the Fire Burning is a specter’s stroll through migrant Europe. From our guide’s disembodied perspective, we glimpse drug use, lonely phone calls home, personal traumas recollected, religious fervor, makeshift wakes on the pier, and a young girl’s wish that resonates with our spirit’s predicament: “I want to fly to places I haven’t seen yet. I’ve seen more than enough of this place.” With its episodic structure, Those Who Feel the Fire Burning coalesces into a pointillist portrait of migrant life as limbo: invisible, solitary, and nothing like the paradise that was promised. (KP)

Through and Through (N/N)

In his feature-length debut, Grzegorz Królikiewicz casts Franciszek Trzeciak and Anna Nieborowska as Jan and Maria Malisz, a struggling married couple that, out of desperation, commits a heinous crime. When they’re put on trial, we discover just how much they love one another. While Through and Through is ostensibly a work of fiction, there’s documentary in its blood: the film’s famous opening party sequence is essentially documentary footage, and the film is based on a real crime. In its extended courtroom scenes, Franciszek and Anna sit in the same benches as the Malisz couple once did, and Królikiewicz turns the situation into a psychodrama, grilling Franciszek and Anna with a series of tough personal questions. Plays with “Rat Catcher” (Andrzej Czarnecki, 1986, 20 min.), an eerie profile of a rat exterminator who reveals his secrets. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Time Is A Thief (shorts)

In six shorts, we meet a resilient cast confronting the past and withstanding the present. In “{THE AND} Marcela & Rock” (dir. Topaz Adizes, 12 min.), a committed couple is put through a cathartic wringer. “Yaar” (dir. Simon Gillard, 19 min.) offers a look at Burkina Faso gold mining, first hypnotizing, then horrifying. “Mallwalkers” (dir. Sean Clark, 15 min.) keeps pace with the early risers at the cavernous Mall of America. “My Gal, Rosemarie” (dir. Jason Tippet, 16 min.) is a bittersweet ode to an enduring married couple. “Eric, Winter to Spring” (dir. Danya Abt, 15 min.) profiles a poet/taxi driver. Finally, “Call of Duty” (dir. Matt Lenski, 6 min.) locates a wisecracking New York court clerk who tries his best to pep up the waiting room. (CB)

The Visit

This speculative film documents “man’s first-ever encounter with intelligent life from outer space,” and shows international experts scrambling to manage a close encounter. Academics, theologians, defense ministers, and even the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs desperately draft responses and devise protocol. Following 2010’s Into Eternity (about nuclear waste burial), Michael Madsen returns to themes of gargantuan scope. He constructs exquisitely composed, classically balanced sequences with haunting shots of sculpture, foliage, frozen crowds, and mobilizing special forces. As the film progresses, these everyday moments increasingly seem foreign, even alien. Music, from pulsing synthesizers to cinema standbys Strauss and Arvo Pärt, heightens the suspense and strangeness. When, in voice-over, Madsen asks the alien “Will we ever understand you?” it’s clear that this is a question for us all. (DF)


Sister cities Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras take pride in defying the stereotypes about the US-Mexico border. Sitting on opposite sides of the Rio Grande, their deep cultural and economic bonds manifest every year in an exuberant festival. But when the threat of brutal drug cartel violence raises its head in the south, fear, paranoia, and outside interference threaten to redefine the bonds built on friendship and small-town values. The Ross Brothers train their cameras on these events and their repercussions in the lives of two men from Eagle Pass: a hard-working cowboy and a straightdealing law man. The filmmakers’ observational approach communicates this complex story clearly yet subtly through fascinating details and rich moments. Western is soaked with a sense of place and brims with stunning landscape cinematography and cascading visual themes. (DS)

What Happened, Miss Simone?

This richly expressive biopic of the legendary singer and civil rights icon Nina Simone is narrated by the late singer herself, serving up intimate insight into Simone’s psyche. We get a guided tour of her life, beginning with her early days as a piano prodigy in a rural North Carolina church. She rose to fame and found transcendence in the civil rights movement—we witness her electrifying performance of the career-changing anthem “Mississippi Goddamn” (written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing). But tragedy was always close at her heels. After an eight-year exile in Liberia, Simone found her way to Switzerland and then Paris, where she re-emerged as a singer. This honest, layered film doesn’t shy away from her personal demons. But it also exalts her as a brave black woman whose music still holds sway. (PS) Presented by Marketing & Communications at the University of Missouri.

White Out, Black In

We are dropped in a desolate, industrial landscape in the exurbs. Two marginalized men, victims of state violence, one paralyzed and one with prosthetic limbs, plot revenge in the key of Black Power, hence the sloganlike title. They play ’80s tunes (hello, Timex Social Club) and, of course, time travel. When are we? Low tech, low fi, with a thick layer of hushed nostalgia— the future is now. This witty and politically incisive sci-fi docudrama is set in a dystopic future Brasilia, featuring strange transmissions from a female leader and an exhilarating mash-up of documentary and fictional film conventions. Sometimes confounding, sometimes fascinating, White Out, Black In is hypnotic to eye and ear—it’s difficult to look away, and why would you want to? (AV)

You Can't Get There From Here (shorts)

Aspiring actors, New York tenants, the homeless, and a restless flock of birds all search for stability. First up, {Secret/Short} (dir. unknown, 19 min.) embeds us inside a government organization and observes its systems for dealing with the disenfranchised. “The Face of Ukraine” (dir. Kitty Green, 7 min.) closely observes young performers as they audition to play legendary Ukrainian figure skating champion Oksana Baiul. In “Hotel 22” (dir. Elizabeth Lo, 8 min.), a Palo Alto late-night bus route is turned into a traveling homeless shelter. “Layover” (dir. Vanessa Renwick, 7 min.) observes a flock of Vaux’s swifts as they careen around an Oregon tower. The director of “One Year Lease” (dir. Brian Bolster, 11 min.) hilariously chronicles his experiences with the landlady from hell. Three smart, thoughtful men discuss their taboo desires in the sensitive, transfixing “Among Us” (dir. Guido Hendrikx, 24 min.). (CB)