- The Act of Killing
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer; 2012; 115 min.
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00AM / The Blue Note
Saturday, Mar 2 / 7:00PM / Little Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:00PM / Forrest Theater
This monumental work situates itself in terrain so terrifying that few filmmakers would dare even visit. After connecting with a handful of boastful Indonesian thugs with a genocidal history, Joshua Oppenheimer offers them the opportunity to revisit their past through filmed recreations of their crimes, including action-movie-style massacres and executions. Oppenheimer then shows the men the footage, allowing them to process the human wreckage they have left behind. As their fascistic political movement continues to wield power in Indonesia, Act of Killing charts the depths of the psychology of murder, torture, rape and intimidation that nothing in the cinema or literature of genocide has come close to touching. It is impossible to not be shocked, dazzled, incredulous and utterly changed. To quote Werner Herzog: “I have not come across a documentary as powerful, surreal, and frightening in a decade.” Executive produced by Errol Morris. (JS)
- After Tiller
Dir. Martha Shane & Lana Wilson; 2012; 88 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 5:30PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 3:30PM / The Blue Note
Sunday, Mar 3 / 4:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Following the May 31, 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller, four doctors remained in the United States willing and able to perform late term abortions. These are their stories. No single issue more divides America or has more calcified viewpoints than that of abortion, particularly late-term abortions. After Tiller approaches the issue with a clear viewpoint, but also a sincere urge to not demonize the opposition, nor lionize these doctors. What we get instead is incredibly intimate access to counselling sessions and one-on-one doctor/patient meetings that open up the issue in never-before-seen ways. Regardless of one’s personal views about abortion, this movie is engaged in bringing these doctors out of the shadows and revealing their lives and humanity, in all of its complexity. (DW)
- The Ascent of Man (shorts)
Friday, Mar 1 / 5:00PM / Little Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 3:00PM / Forrest Theater
Sunday, Mar 3 / 6:00PM / Big Ragtag
The evolutionary model is featured in this stunning, four-film collection whose protagonist begins life as an ape before becoming a little boy, then a college student and finally an old man. Suck on that, Stanley Kubrick! Primate Cinema: Apes as Family (dir. Rachel Mayeri, 11 min.) Prepare for your mind to be turned inside out by this original movie made expressly for the chimpanzees at the Edinburgh Zoo where a primate drama is intercut with the chimps’ responses to the film. Untitled (30 min.) In this gorgeously shot vignette, a boy lives with his mom in a yurt and is in love with nature but not with his Waldorf school. Praxis (dir. Bruno Moraes Cabral, 30 min.) If one wonders how a teenager becomes a fascist, you might start your research at a Portuguese university where hazing rituals are rife. Resistance (dir. Renate Costa & Salla Sorri, 20) In this powerful portrait of human dignity we visit the ancient-looking Alberto Bonnet who lives a self-reliant life in remotest Paraguay. (PS)
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite; 2013; 82 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:30PM / The Globe
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:30AM / Missouri Theatre
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00PM / Forrest Theater
Even in captivity, orcas, the largest predatory mammal in the world, grow as large as 12,000 pounds. While our popular imagination is filled with the likes of Shamu and company at Sea World, the footage in this film reveals a much more harrowing history—that of Tilikum, a captive orca responsible for at least two human deaths. In her directorial debut, Gabriela Cowperthwaite amasses a trove of amateur footage shot by former Sea World trainers and combines it with interviews to paint a damning portrait of how these parks treat large sea mammals. It’s a careful, well-reasoned argument, given additional power by the eye-popping footage and thrilling narrative of Tilikum, the killer whale. (DW)
- Boys & Their Toys (shorts)
Friday, Mar 1 / 8:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:30AM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 5:00PM / Little Ragtag
Dudes exert their masculinity, for better or worse. It's okay to giggle! In Century (dir. Kevin Jerome Everson, 7 min.), an off-camera crane operator plays with his (or her) dinner. Meanwhile, with one swift pull of the trigger, a charismatic New Zealand man puts dinner on the table in the deftly executed I Kill (dir. David White, 9 min.). Hold your horses, we're not done with the cows yet: in The Roper (dir. Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, 6 min.), we're introduced to Kendrick, a young black calf roper navigating his way through the rodeo world. The unclassifiable The Near Future (dir. Sophie Goyette, 18 min.) is a mesmerizing character study of a pilot who waxes poetic up in the skies. Our favorite music video of last year is also a fine example of non-fiction filmmaking: Oblivion (dir. Emily Kai Bock, 4 min.) finds the musician Grimes dancing in a hyper-masculine stadium. The Whistle (dir. Grzegorz Zariczny, 17 min.) is a charming look at a foolish referee who finally decides to grow up. Finally, we close our program with Da Vinci (dir. Yuri Ancarani, 25 min.), the latest showstopper from the director of Il Capo (T/F 2011). This hypnotic documentary takes a high-tech medical operation and recontextualizes it as a work of science fiction. (CB)
- The Captain and His Pirate
Dir. Andy Wolff; 2012; 76 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 10:00PM / Little Ragtag
Friday, Mar 1 / 6:30PM / The Blue Note
Sunday, Mar 3 / 1:30PM / The Globe
Only two films into a promising career, German director Andy Wolff (On the Other Side of Life, T/F 2010) is unrivaled in creating a precise sense of place. In The Captain and His Pirate he makes the most of these skills, offering a striking juxtaposition of location—a makeshift pirate camp on a Somali desert and an experimental German psychiatric hospital. In these distant places we meet two men, the eloquent pirate leader Ahado and the troubled former captain Krysztof Kotiuk. Gradually we learn the harrowing details of the four months they spent together as captive and overlord aboard the Hansa Stavanger cargo ship. As the men struggle to come to terms with their strange bond, we discover something more powerful than social roles or moral norms: the overriding human need to be understood. Plays with “Bradley Manning Had Secrets” (dir. Adam Butcher, 6) (DS)
- Computer Chess
Dir. Andrew Bujalski; 2013; 92 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 10:30PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 8:30PM / The Globe
Sunday, Mar 3 / 6:00PM / The Blue Note
Take a trip back to 1980, a more innocent time - Kasparov’s world chess title remained safe from Deep Blue, geek wasn’t yet chic, and even the most ecstatic futurist couldn’t imagine we’d soon carry supercomputers in our pockets. Indie cult favorite Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha, Beeswax) drops us into a nondescript hotel conference room filled with computer programmers, following them as their primitive computers battle for the title of AI chess champion. Along the way, we encounter swingers, a room of cats, a new-age seminar and thorny philosophical questions about the human-machine nexus. Though its story is delightfully fictional, Bujalski’s fidelity to this moment in time (his actors are largely computer experts, and he shoots on an old-school Sony video camera) gives his film the feeling of recent history, re-lived. Computer Chess is rich with ideas yet never dense, funny (in Bujalski’s drier-than-dry fashion) and at moments deeply touching. (JS)
- Crash Reel
Dir. Lucy Walker; 2013; 108 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 10:00PM / Missouri Theatre
Saturday, Mar 2 / 1:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Sunday, Mar 3 / 8:30PM / The Blue Note
In 2009, Kevin Pearce was arguably the best snowboarder in the world, winning competition after competition, making lots of money and, with a core group of fellow riders (dubbed the FRENDS crew), preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah. Then he crashed. Returning True/False filmmaker Lucy Walker (Wasteland) brings a story that transitions smoothly from breathless aerials to emotion-fueled familial conflict, telling Kevin’s story (and that of his family) with grace and compassion. What starts as a high-adrenaline sports story grows increasingly deeper and more resonant, an inspiring tale of friendship, recovery and brotherly love. Sponsored by Retina Associates (DW)
- Cutie and the Boxer
Dir. Zachary Heinzerling; 81 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 3:00PM / The Globe
Saturday, Mar 2 / 8:30PM / Missouri Theatre
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:00PM / Missouri Theatre
Sentimental without being saccharine, Cutie & the Boxer may be the best-crafted film of the year. He’s a hard-drinking conceptual painter who never quite made the grade. She’s the sweet-faced devotee and former art student who set aside her own dreams to serve him, through thick and thin, for 40 years. But as Ushio and Noriko Shinohara slip, stumble and fumble into their twilight years, they find moments of clarity and connection. Miraculously, Zachary Heinzerling and his camera are there at all the right moments. Drawing from gorgeous, intimate verite footage and a trove of archival materials, he captures arguments over the dinner table, Noriko’s discovery of her own voice, Ushio’s creation of a monumental new work—in about three minutes—and an improbably triumphant gallery opening. This tale of dedication, creativity and fierce tenacity (a noteworthy debut for Heinzerling) sets a new standard for the warts-and-all nonfiction love story. (JS)
- David Holzman's Diary
Dir. Jim McBride; 1967; 74 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 7:30PM / Little Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 8:00PM / Big Ragtag
David Holzman's Diary comes on as a first person, documentary-style, chronological diary of David, a young man recently unemployed and potentially going off to war. David rambles for the camera about his ambitions and ideas, shoots his home and surroundings, and generally tries to give a wholistic sense of his life (including his TV watching and masturbation habits). The footage is so raw that it seems to be edited in camera, with David visibly switching the machine on and off, and including interstitial sequences of placement, light flares, and distorted sound. Yet it’s all a fiction. Released in 1967, director Jim McBride’s movie anticipates (and pre-satirizes) the next half-century of first-person cinema—of video cam monologues, of YouTube exhibitionism, of faux confessionals, of media’s psychic irresolution. Sponsored by NEA Artworks (EH)
- Dirty Wars
Dir. Richard Rowley; 2013; 87 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 4:30PM / The Blue Note
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:00PM / The Blue Note
Saturday, Mar 2 / 9:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Barack Obama, assassin. It’s an assertion that few who voted for him would care to consider. But according to war journalist Jeremy Scahill, Obama has greatly expanded the activities of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a once-covert unit given responsibility for a “kill list” of those considered hostile to the U.S. A reporter for The Nation and author of the bestselling Blackwater (which blew open the story of U.S. corruption in Iraq), Scahill traces JSOC’s rapidly expanding role. Director Richard Rowley, summoning the spirits of Sam Spade and Woodward and Bernstein, portrays Scahill is a dogged gumshoe, traveling from dusty huts outside Abottabad to seedy D.C.-area motels to the halls of Congress. Astonishing in its research, its dramatic impact and its potentially government-shaking thesis, Dirty Wars builds a deeply troubling case that the “global war on terror” has sidestepped our Constitution, spread beyond borders and spun out of control. (JS)
- The Expedition to the End of the World
Dir. Daniel Dencik; 2011; 90 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 7:00PM / The Blue Note
Saturday, Mar 2 / 6:00PM / The Picturehouse
Sunday, Mar 3 / 12:30PM / Forrest Theater
This gaspingly beautiful travelogue brings us aboard a magnificent wooden schooner as it drifts through the remote inlets of Northeast Greenland. A motley crew of artists and scientists are on a road trip with no clear mission, simply observing and pondering questions of environment and existence. They riff on ideas big and small, and hilariously contemplate the absurd. It's all punctuated by a heavy metal score, fulsome dabs of Danish testosterone, and sublimely astonishing images of the mystical North. There's neither preaching nor moralizing here, yet the evidence of environmental ruination is blunt. We witness, literally, massive ice caps collapsing before our eyes. A movie built on moments of bliss and grandeur, its vistas remind us how small and young humanity is. (SF)
- The Fall
Dir. Peter Whitehead; 1969; 110 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 5:00PM / Little Ragtag
The Fall is a bow shot and parting shot for Peter Whitehead, a 30 year-old British filmmaker who dropped the mic and scarcely returned to the stage after all was edited and done, literally wandering the desert to teach falconry in Saudi Arabia the decades that followed. This would be tragic if the film didn’t entail a career’s worth of ideas and developments deployed at once. In town for the 1967 New York Film Festival, Whitehead was cajoled into training his lens on Gotham, the de facto capital of a civilization he found both kinetically alluring and politically deplorable. From that autumn through May of 1968, he would shoot a daunting spectrum of activity: a pro military rally in Washington Square Park, an anti-war march on D.C., art openings, art happenings, poetry readings, football games, dance parties, photo shoots, Newark in smoldering ruins, and the tide-turning sit-ins at Columbia University. Sponsored by NEA Artworks (EH)
- The Garden of Eden
Dir. Ran Tal; 2012; 74 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 5:30PM / The Globe
Saturday, Mar 2 / 7:30PM / Forrest Theater
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:00PM / Little Ragtag
It’s summer at Israel’s Sakhne National Park and the springs are crawling with locals and vacationers at leisure, sunbathing, barbecuing, swimming, and socializing. Returning with each season, The Garden of Eden paints exquisite vignettes of the park’s visitors: the old and the young, the evangelists and the atheists, the loners and the lovebirds. Personal testimonies resonate with love lost and found, but in a place where identity, religion and nationality are so intertwined, the country’s tangled, painful politics are a constant undercurrent. Zionist pioneers, disenfranchised Arabs, the orthodox and the non-religious co-exist in the microcosm of the Sakhne. With a distinctive, stimulating interplay between sound and image, The Garden of Eden is a visually sumptuous and skilfully constructed look at both the universals of humanity and the specifics of a troubled nation. Plays with “Dusty Night” (dir. Ali Hazara, 20) (JH)
- The Gatekeepers
Dir. Dror Moreh; 2012; 97 min.
Saturday, Mar 2 / 1:00PM / Missouri Theatre
Sunday, Mar 3 / 1:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
The opening scene in Dror Moreh’s film—a crosshairs fixed on a vehicle traveling down a road— looks a bit like a video game. But the choice whether to pull the real-life trigger has implications that will resonate on an international scale. Such decisions are made by the director of Shin Bet on a daily basis. Pulling off the remarkable feat of interviewing all six of the former chiefs of Shin Bet (Israel’s supercharged equivalent of the CIA), Moreh provides a startling master class on the practices and complex ethics of counter-terrorism. The Gatekeepers unfolds as Shin Bet starts tracking terrorists in the Occupied Territories, soon turns nearly every Arab into a suspect and, as the country splinters under stress, is forced to investigate Jewish terrorists connected at the highest levels of government. This Oscar-nominated film is essential viewing: a real-life Bourne Identity that reveals military and intelligence operations spinning out of control through the lens of the men who had their fingers on the trigger. (JS)
- I Am Breathing
Dir. Emma Davie & Morag McKinnon; 2012; 73 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 8:00PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 3:30PM / The Picturehouse
Sunday, Mar 3 / 4:00PM / The Globe
This deeply moving, humanistic film is about Neil Platt, a Scottish architect faced with his own mortality. Afflicted with a condition that has paralyzed him from the neck down, Neill’s final months are filled with gracefully endured indignities, all of which he memorializes on his blog. Framing the film is Platt’s letter to his son Oscar, offering heartbreaking insight into the meaning of one’s legacy. Davie and McKinnon were granted intimate access to Platt and his family (including his devoted wife Louise) over the course of two years, and they make good use of flashbacks to happier, healthier times. We may abstractly understand that we are all terminal, but through the down-to-earth Platt, we can hear death’s knocking in a palpable, sometimes humorous way. This, he says, is "a tale of fun and laughs with a smattering of upset and devastation." Plays with “Slomo” (dir. Joshua Izenberg, 16) (PS)
- The Institute
Dir. Spencer McCall; 91 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 10:30PM / Big Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:30AM / Odd Fellows Lodge
Sunday, Mar 3 / 8:30PM / Little Ragtag
That rare documentary provides a gordian knot of game, movie and urban exploration. After the Jejune Institute sprung up in San Francisco a few years ago, it attracted adherents, observers and detractors by launching a “game” that spilled onto the streets, alleys, underground tunnels and mausoleums of the Bay Area. Players wove stories together, some true, some fictional, some with a bit of both, exposing a parallel world, wherein every esoteric sticker or flyer became a potential Rosetta stone that would unravel the elusive mystery percolating under the surface of everyday life. (DW)
- The Last Station
Dir. Cristian Soto & Catalina Vergara; 90 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 7:30PM / Little Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 12:30PM / Forrest Theater
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:30PM / Big Ragtag
“Do they leave us here, or do they throw us away?” That’s not merely the question posed by one nursing home resident to his captive audience; it’s the question haunting every frame of Cristian Soto and Catalina Vergara’s masterful, quietly provocative depiction of daily life at a Chilean nursing home. A man painstakingly clears foliage from the yard, dragging a patio chair behind his walker in order to rest. Another, magnifying glass in hand, slowly makes his way through a book of contacts and crosses off names as he discovers who among his peers still lives. In compiling image after heartrending image, Soto and Vergara demonstrate a necessary empathy, an absurdist sensibility and, most significantly, an unflinching eye. The result is a portrait of courage (and resignation, and despair, and faith, and acceptance, and grace) in the face of the unspeakable. (KP)
Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel; 2012; 87 min.
Saturday, Mar 2 / 5:30PM / Big Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:30PM / The Blue Note
It begins with bubbles. Bubbles and darkness and a swell of sound. And then the camera is rising up and breaking the surface and there is light and birds swarming and air . . . all suspended in a moment before the ship hits the next trough and we are thrust once again beneath the waves. This is immersive filmmaking. A film crew of two, on a boat outfitted with dozens of cameras, is hellbent on maximizing every roar and whisper, of bringing into focus every splinter of wood and wet seagull feather. Welcome to “sensory ethnography”: an idea that a filmmaker can recreate, through sound and light and careful construction, the moment in the field, at maximum strength. The only thing missing is the smell of the sea brine, but that’s not hard to imagine. Sponsored by Dr. Timothy McGarity (DW)
- Lost & Found (shorts)
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:30PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 5:30PM / Forrest Theater
Sunday, Mar 3 / 5:30PM / Little Ragtag
Losing something often opens up the opportunity for something else to be found, whether animals, a country, fellow men or a life story. These five films explore the duality of losing and discovery. Pouters
(Paul Fegan, 2012, UK, 15 min.) Neighbors Rab and Danny have long been competitors in the cutthroat Scottish sport of “doo fleeing”, as witnessed in this humorous look at the art of pigeon flying and stealing. Reindeer
(Eva Weber, 2012, UK, 3 min.) A visually striking portrait of reindeer herding by the Sámi people of northern Finland. Ziamlia
(Earth) (Victor Asliuk, 2012, Belarus/Poland, 30 min.) Decades after the Second World War, missing Soviet soldiers still lie under an earth transformed from battlefields to forests. Here, volunteers search for those needing a proper burial. I’ll Stop Crying if You Stop Crying
(Andy Glynne, 2012, UK, 4 min.) A tender tale of one boy’s journey from Eritrea to the UK, told through his young voice and lovely animation. A Story for the Modlins
(Sergio Oksman, 2012, Spain, 26 min.) The discovery of a box of photos on the sidewalk leads Oksman through the mysterious and bizarre life of Elmer Modlin and his family, shut up in a Madrid apartment for decades.
- The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
Dir. Tinatin Gurchiani; 2012; 97 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 5:30PM / Big Ragtag
Friday, Mar 1 / 10:00PM / Little Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 6:00PM / The Globe
Filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani returns to Georgia and posts an ad inviting young people to audition for her film. She then asks probing questions of the people who turn up, prompting them to reveal very personal stories about their lives and hopes for the future. The film moves from her raw and often confrontational casting interviews to poetic, cinematic moments in the lives of these young people outside of the audition room. Georgia, a former Soviet republic, has been through some traumatic conflict since independence in 1991 and many of those who audition bear the scars of those times. Others are just trying to deal with the universal complications of growing up and finding one’s place in the world. The end result is a powerful kaleidoscopic portrait in parallel of a country caught between the past and the future and the young people who feel similarly caught in transition. (IK)
Dir. Greg Barker; 100 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 7:30PM / Missouri Theatre
Saturday, Mar 2 / 4:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:00AM / The Blue Note
More supernova than news story, the hunt for Osama Bin Laden keeps giving, including the runaway success of Zero Dark Thirty. Now Greg Barker (Sergio) has made a thrilling movie about the backroom researchers, mostly women, who made it their mission to track the noted Al Qaeda head for almost two decades. The storytelling here is crackling sharp, and the investigators are a colorful bunch, most notably a brazen cowboy-type named Marty Martin and a consistently funny analyst named Cindy Storen. While the search’s use of torture techniques has stirred up a considerable firestorm over ethics and efficacy, Barker mostly focuses on the thrill of the hunt. Deploying motion graphics, the film somehow mines tons of data, headshots and flow charts into a visceral experience where we become as enmeshed as its subjects in connecting the dots. Sponsored by University Affairs (PS)
- The Moo Man
Dir. Andy Heathcote; 2013; 98 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 3:30PM / The Globe
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:30AM / Jesse Auditorium
The most unlikely star of the year is a half-ton Friesian cow named Ida. Her co-stars, the other 55 cows on a family farm in Sussex, England, are pretty darn captivating too. The farm is run by Stephen Hook and his father Phil, and, well, you're also going to become quite attached to them. About a decade ago the Hooks converted to organic milk, both because of the price premium and the fact that they were already farming that way. Further, faced with a financial pinch from corporate food purchasing, they decided to sell raw, unpasteurized milk direct to consumers. But this isn't an issue film. It's a love story about the day-to-day mutuality and exchange between humans, land and animals. It's also pastoral bliss: tender, dreamy and surprisingly moving. Sponsored by University Affairs (SF)
Dir. Pablo Larrain; 2012; 118 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 2:30PM / The Blue Note
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00AM / Jesse Auditorium
Sunday, Mar 3 / 7:45PM / Missouri Theatre
Can an ad man be a hero of the revolution? Set in 1988, No chronicles the nationwide referendum in which Chile decided whether strongman Augusto Pinochet should ("Yes") or shouldn't ("No") remain in power. Gael García Bernal stars as René, a young, successful ad man approached by the leaders of the "No" contingent. As he produces his landmark campaign, René struggles to find a marriage between his language of advertising (i.e. rainbows, smiles and mimes) and his clients' language of agit-prop, a balancing act Larraín's entertaining, erudite script cleverly mirrors. In telling this fascinating true story, Larraín’s biggest formal gamble was to shoot on period-specific U-matic video stock, which allows the film to replicate the look of 1980s television. Larraín seamlessly blends this narrative footage with the real life "No" advertising campaign – the result is a dazzling chimera that looks old but feels new. Sponsored by Columbia Daily Tribune (CB)
- Northern Light
Dir. Nick Bentgen; 2013; 104 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 2:30PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 1:00PM / The Globe
Sunday, Mar 3 / 12:30PM / Little Ragtag
Walt Komarnizki and Isaac Wolfgang suffer the daily grind so they can take ice-covered curves at impossible speeds. Snowmobiling is their passion, maybe their obsession. But as the recession creeps into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the fragile balance between chasing their dreams and making ends meet grows ever more precarious. With a Wiseman-like attention to gesture, and a painter’s eye for color and composition, director Nick Bentgen has created a film about family and the pursuit of small victories. Lingering over the shades of winter blue and white in the U.P., he’s also created a “racing” movie paced, with no small sense of irony, at the cadence of rural life. But more than anything, Northern Light is a rarity among sports films: one that sees, clearer-eyed than most, the enterprise as an escape. (KP)
- Pandora's Promise
Dir. Robert Stone; 2013; 87 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 5:00PM / The Picturehouse
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00AM / Forrest Theater
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:00AM / Forrest Theater
Could we have dodged the bullet of climate change if nuclear energy had been embraced, not demonized? Is there any way to upend environmentalists’ prejudices against nuclear power? And how much damage was done by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? Pandora’s Promise provides a timely argument that we can fix the world by emulating the French, who’ve gone whole-hog for nuclear. Veteran filmmaker Robert Stone (Neverland) seeks to lay waste to the nuclear bugaboo, taking on concerns regarding the storage of radioactive byproducts, the cost, weaponization and more. Far from a corporate whitewash, Pandora’s Promise enlists environmentalists such as Stewart Brand to make the case that we must recast our views. Elegantly marshalling archival footage and sharp new interviews to accompany a present-day tour of important nuclear sites, this richly textured essay is sure to touch off a heated debate. (PS)
- Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer
Dir. Maxim Pozdorovkin & Mike Lerner; 2013; 86 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 9:15PM / The Blue Note
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00PM / Little Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 5:30PM / Forrest Theater
Pussy Riot came together as a feminist punk collective, hellbent on public protest after Vladimir Putin returned to power in 2011. In February 2012, five Pussy Riot members staged an unauthorized performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, an Orthodox church in Moscow. This performance lasted only 40 seconds before it was broken up, but video of the performance was uploaded to YouTube. A few weeks later, three members were arrested by Russian authorities and charged with hooliganism. Suddenly Pussy Riot became renowned the world over, their colorful dresses and balaclavas becoming iconic symbols of punk protest spirit. Filmmakers Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorvkin obtained access to extensive footage of the women in custody and on trial. This, together with DIY videos of their previous performances and interviews with family members, gives us a fascinating and spirited insight into the story behind the headlines. (IK)
- Secret Screening Blue
2013; 75 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 2:30PM / The Picturehouse
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:00AM / Little Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 6:30PM / The Globe
Secret Screening Blue could be a film noir in which The Wrong Man is implicated, but in real life, things are not so simple. Sure, the villain is a bad man of almost mythological proportions. But the boys next door are no angels either. As one says, "It's not like the movies. It's just a bunch of guys with guns." Building on some particularly knotty moral ground, this mystery features some of the most memorable on-screen characters, real or fictional, in recent memory. (PS)
- Secret Screening Gold
2013; 90 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 2:30PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:30AM / The Globe
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:00AM / Little Ragtag
They may be hapless, but they are enduring. A group of entertainers who’ve lived through cataclysmic changes in their society, only to come out the other side with their sweetness intact. Performing nightly, they summon ghosts of a bygone era, one increasingly out of whack with what surrounds them. Part funny, part elegiac, this documentary provides the warm flavor that too often is missing from the genre. It offers a rich gumbo of tones and, with the softest of touches, deftly weaves in details that tell the troubled modern history of a city, a nation, and shows the perils of growing old. (PS)
- Secret Screening Green
2013; 86 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 9:30PM / The Blue Note
Friday, Mar 1 / 10:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 6:00PM / The Blue Note
Like a cinematic Heart of Darkness, there’s a novelistic sweep to this story about a group of odd dreamers out to change the world. Featuring cheeky narration that subverts nature docs and rich, 21st-century videography, this is a vivid adventure, climaxing with a culture clash which breaks this seemingly tossed-off film into tiny little pieces. Fair warning: contains strong sexual content. Plays with “Tina Delivers a Goat” (dir. Joe Callander, 2 min.) (PS)
- Secret Screening Orange
2013; 93 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 7:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 8:30PM / The Picturehouse
Sunday, Mar 3 / 1:00PM / The Picturehouse
A tight-knit group’s radical lifestyle agitates both the local authorities and the surrounding community as disaster looms. This fresh and engrossing debut offers a chilling look at their downfall. A pungent tour de force of editing, Secret Screening Orange carefully weaves together an astonishing array of archival videos to reveal a dark, largely forgotten episode. (CB)
- Secret Screening Red
2013; 75 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 8:00PM / The Picturehouse
Saturday, Mar 2 / 2:30PM / Little Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 10:30PM / Big Ragtag
In repressive societies, creating art and maintaining dignity is not child’s play. These artists are no match for a cruel regime, but they still fight for their very souls, even if it means being in exile from the place they love. When we witness the police crackdowns, the scenes are so chilling, it’s clear that the stakes couldn’t be higher. Plays with “Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration” (dir. Dana O’Keefe & Sasha Kliment, 10). (PS)
- Secret Screening Silver
2013; 92 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:00PM / The Picturehouse
Saturday, Mar 2 / 12:00PM / Little Ragtag
Sunday, Mar 3 / 6:00PM / The Picturehouse
The protagonist is an awkward, working-class guy who has never believed in himself. By plunging himself single-mindedly into an esoteric pursuit, over the course of the film we see his development into a much more expansive person capable of being comfortable in the world. Secret Screening Silver is a psychologically rich doc benefitting from extraordinarily intimate, sometimes claustrophobic cinematography, richly intuitive editing and a lot of heart and soul. Witness a man who finds his calling and overcomes his fears. (PS)
- Sleepless Nights
Dir. Eliane Raheb; 2012; 128 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 12:00PM / Little Ragtag
Friday, Mar 1 / 5:00PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 12:30PM / Big Ragtag
A man responsible for countless deaths meets the mother of one of his victims nearly 30 years after the killing. He, a high-ranking intelligence officer during Lebanon’s Civil War, is off scot-free thanks to a nationwide pardon, and she is still searching for her son’s body. Director Eliane Raheb pulls no punches in her incisive, explosive debut, which also takes stabs at Lebanese bureaucracy and outsider forgiveness movements. By instigating jaw-dropping confrontations, Raheb reveals a damaged nation that refuses to examine the source of its pain. While Sleepless Nights is built around messy emotions and tumultuous friction, it’s photographed and edited with artistry and precision. It is a confounding triumph of political art, investigative journalism and confrontational cinema. (CB)
- Stories We Tell
Dir. Sarah Polley; 2012; 108 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 7:30PM / Missouri Theatre
Friday, Mar 1 / 7:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Every family has its dark secrets. And, without offering any spoilers, it’s safe to describe the subject matter of Sarah Polley’s delightful, twisty and emotionally acute essay as familiar. But two elements make Polley’s work—an investigation of her parents’ hidden history—truly memorable. The first: she has a devastating knack for encouraging relatives and family friends to speak truthfully to the camera. The second arises from Polley’s instinctive understanding of the layers of craft, manipulation, wishfulness and even deceit that all storytellers—from professional filmmakers to families sitting around the dinner table—use to reinvent ourselves and our world. Stories We Tell is the latest chapter in one of the most remarkable filmographies in world cinema, as Polley, the former child star (Adventures of Baron Munchausen), acclaimed actress (a favorite of Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Tom Hooper) and Oscar-nominated writer-director (Away from Her), proves herself a documentary maker of the first order. Plays with “My Favorite Picture of You” (dir. Dan Lindsay, 4) Sponsored by Consulate General of Canada (JS)
Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Ilisa Barbash; 2009; 101 min.
Sunday, Mar 3 / 1:00PM / Big Ragtag
A Montana rancher and his two hired hands lead 3,000 bleating sheep up the rugged but gorgeous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains in this breathtaking film from True Vision recipient Lucien Castaing-Taylor. With a series of engrossing, impeccably composed shots, Castaing-Taylor renders the sweat, tears and laughs inherent to this dying tradition (filming started in 2001, when the last federal grazing permit was granted). Among other things, Sweetgrass demonstrates keen attention to the possibilities of sound and image. During filming, Castaing-Taylor stuck microphones on animals and strapped his camera to his body for an eye-level sheep shot. The result is a strange and thrilling work of immersive cinema. (CB)
- These Birds Walk
Dir. Omar Mullick & Bassam Tariq; 2013; 70 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 8:30PM / The Globe
Saturday, Mar 2 / 1:30PM / The Picturehouse
Sunday, Mar 3 / 3:30PM / The Picturehouse
Abdul Sattar Edhi is a philanthropist known throughout Pakistan for his nursing homes, women's shelters and orphanages. He's prime material for hagiography and over-explanation, a storytelling mode first time directors Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq categorically resist. Set in the center of Karachi, These Birds Walk instead plunges us into the life of Omar, a young runaway who resides in one of Edhi's homes. As we watch Omar navigate an environment where boys pick cruel fights, make up and suddenly disappear, we're faced with the overwhelming uncertainty of his future. After screening a rough work-in-progress cut at True/False 2012, Mullick and Tariq traveled back to Karachi, gathered more footage and spent a year editing. Their finished product is a revelation, a tough but tender work of non-fiction cinema that offers an engrossing narrative bathed in startling lyricism. Plays with “Marcel, King of Tervuren” (dir. Tom Schroeder, 6) (CB)
- Twenty Feet From Stardom
Dir. Morgan Neville; 2013; 89 min.
Saturday, Mar 2 / 6:00PM / Missouri Theatre
Sunday, Mar 3 / 7:30PM / Jesse Auditorium
You know the voices. They sigh “ooh ooh” and they lilt “doo do doo” and, once in a while, they belt “WHOA O WHOA.” But unless you’ve been digging in the crates, hands covered in the dust of a hundred forgotten LPs, you don’t know their names. Until now. Twenty Feet from Stardom lifts the curtain on the world of backup singers and, in doing so, dazzles us with a group of women we wish we’d known all our lives. There’s Judith Hill, who stepped out of the shadows singing Heal the World at Michael Jackson’s memorial concert; Darlene Love, who spent years in the shadows of Phil Spector; and Merry Clayton, who’s ten-ton voice provides Gimme Shelter’s terrifying soul. Director Neville wields a delicate touch and an obvious love for his subjects, as he charts the personal histories of these spectacular voices. Sponsored by Holder Susan Slusher & Oxenhandler (DW)
- Village at the End of the World
Dir. Sarah Gavron; 2012; 76 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 4:30PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 3:30PM / Missouri Theatre
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:30AM / Big Ragtag
Nestled in a bay in northwest Greenland, about as far from the rest of humanity as you can get, lies the village of Niaqornat. It may be frozen for much of the year, but it’s not frozen in time—just methodical about moving forward. Tourism, climate change and the Internet all figure in this story of a people whose way of life is changing, but this film is far from a polemic. Instead it’s a beautiful portrait of a town, full of sweeping vistas on one hand and a Facebook-obsessed teenager on the other, the kind of film that takes us somewhere new and then reminds one of just how similar we all really are. It’s a subtle gem of a film, buoyed by the photography of a cinematographer who has shot a number of episodes of Downton Abbey. Plays with Dear Valued Guests (dir. Jarred Alterman & Paul Sturtz, 15 min.) (DW)
- Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
Dir. Sebastian Junger; 2013; 79 min.
Saturday, Mar 2 / 6:30PM / Jesse Auditorium
Sunday, Mar 3 / 12:30PM / Missouri Theatre
In 2006, photographer Tim Hetherington and writer Sebastian Junger traveled to the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan to document a besieged, isolated U.S, military outpost. Four years later, their Restrepo became one of the most immediate and harrowing war films ever made. In 2012, while covering the revolution in Libya, Tim Hetheringon was struck by shrapnel and killed. While much has been said about the mentality of the war reporter, and many films made to memorialize lost friends, Which Way achieves an apotheosis of both. Junger uses gritty humor and steely compassion to chart the career of his friend, opening up chapters previously unknown to all but Hetherington’s closest intimates, and he also reveals truths about those who seek the “bang bang.” No mere hagiography, this is a well-rounded portrait of a man who was compelled to put himself in harm’s way in order to bring back his stories to the rest of us. We are lucky for that, and for Junger’s dedication to making this film about a man who departed far too soon. Sponsored by The Crossing (DW)
- Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Dir. Marc Silver; 2012; 80 min.
Friday, Mar 1 / 8:00PM / Big Ragtag
Saturday, Mar 2 / 1:00PM / The Blue Note
Sunday, Mar 3 / 1:00PM / The Blue Note
An unidentified body lies decomposing in the desert on the U.S. side of the Mexico border. The only identification? A tattoo across his chest that reads “Dayani Cristal.” From this inciting incident, the movie unfolds on both sides of the border. Forensic scientists work to find clues, examining the tiniest corporeal details and sifting through massive databases. And the filmmakers map the journey, from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico, that this man undertook. Veering from traditional documentary techniques, Gael García Bernal takes on the role of the deceased man, retracing his steps and meeting fellow travelers along the way, all heading to El Norte. As the threads draw together, the mystery comes to a dramatic, emotionally powerful conclusion. (DW)
- Winter, Go Away!
Dir. Elena Khoreva, Denis Klebleev, Askold Kurov, Dmitry Kusabov, Nadezhda Leonteva, Anna Moiseenko, Madina Mustafina, Sofia Rodkevich, Anton Seregin & Alexey Zhiriakov; 2012; 79 min.
Thursday, Feb 28 / 9:30PM / Forrest Theater
Saturday, Mar 2 / 11:00AM / The Picturehouse
Sunday, Mar 3 / 10:00AM / Missouri Theatre
In the late winter of 2012, Russia found itself at a crossroads. Vladimir Putin seeks a third, extended term as president, a position he “left” earlier to serve as prime minister. The continued consolidation of power by his party revives painful memories of the authoritarian past and eradicates the possibility of political neutrality. An independent newspaper sends 10 young filmmakers into this crisis to document two months worth of back-room meetings, large-scale demonstrations, electioneering gimmicks and spontaneous acts of dissent, covering all strata of society. The resulting film eschews prepared remarks from “experts,” instead offering a powerful and direct survey of the frantic political moment. With hand-held immediacy, Winter, Go Away! captures the passion and frustration of the opposition, the cavalier callousness of the established order and the confusion and paranoia of those caught in between. Plays with “The Other Day” (dir. Victor Kossakovsky, 10) (PS)