2016 Film Series

Paris is Burning
Jennie Livingston, 1990

“In 1990, documentarian Jennie Livingston released Paris Is Burning, a poignant film about the patrons of the then-still-burgeoning vogue ball scene. A safe space for disenfranchised, often poor, gay and transgendered Blacks and Latinos in a time when it could be deadly just to walk down the street as such, the vogue ball of the late ’80s and ’90s was a site of transformative glamour, beauty, and empowerment — a tradition that continues to this day. Featuring gorgeous voguing and runway legends like Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Avis Pendavis, and Venus Xtravaganza, Livingston’s documentary immortalized a very specific moment in both gay and trans culture and in New York City, before both were changed forever by the dual clouds of AIDS and gentrification.”—Julianne Shepherd, npr.org

 The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Göran Olsson, 2011

“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” among other things an extraordinary feat of editing and archival research, takes up a familiar period in American history from a fresh and fascinating angle. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Swedish television journalists traveled to the United States with the intention of “showing the country as it really is.” Some of the images and interviews they collected have been assembled by Goran Hugo Olsson into a roughly chronological collage that restores a complex human dimension to the racial history of the era.” –A.O. Scott, The New York Times

The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012

“The Act of Killing is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan génocidaires, Anwar Congo and his friends have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own triumphant history, becoming role models for millions of young paramilitaries. The Act of Killing is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. And The Act of Killing is a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on television chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number.”— theactofkilling.com

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm
William Greaves, 1968

“In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, director William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making. A couple enacts a break-up scenario over and over, a documentary crew films a crew filming the crew, locals wander casually into the frame: the project defies easy description. Yet this wildly innovative sixties counterculture landmark remains one of the most tightly focused and insightful movies ever made about making movies.” –Criterion.com

 Holy Motors
Leos Carax, 2012

“The French film-maker Leos Carax has made his first feature in 13 years, and it is a bizarre surrealist odyssey whose magic ingredient is comedy. This is a gorgeous furry teacup of a film, preposterous and filled with secrets; it is itself one big secret. Holy Motors is simultaneously immersive and alienating. The audience is forever being encouraged to forget about narrative sense and slip into a warm bath of unreason, but persistently jolted back out of it with non-sequiturs, accordion interludes, gags and unexpected chimps. Carax’s star is his longtime collaborator Denis Levant, playing Monsieur Oscar, an enigmatic businessman employed by a shadowy organization… being ferried around Paris in the back of a white stretch limo; at the wheel is his trusted driver, Céline, played by Edith Scob… Monsieur Oscar has a number of “appointments” to complete by the end of the day, whose specific needs he assesses by scanning various case folders. For each appointment, he gets into a new disguise…But what on earth are these appointments?… the absurdity and dream anti-logic give an unexpected force to the serious and passionate moments, which are the more moving and disturbing because they come out of nowhere and are so overwhelmingly real.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

 Beau Travail
Claire Denis, 1999

“A gorgeous mirage of a movie, Claire Denis’ reverie about the French foreign legion in eastern Africa suggested by Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Foretopman, benefits especially from having been choreographed by Bernardo Montet… Combined with Denis’ superb eye for settings, Agnes Godard’s cinematography, and the director’s decision to treat major and minor elements as equally important, this turns some of the military maneuvers and exercises into thrilling pieces of filmmaking … and converts some sequences in a disco into vibrant punctuations.  The story, which drifts by in memory fragments, is told from the perspective of a solitary former sergeant … now living in Marseilles and recalling his hatred for a popular recruit that led to the sergeant’s discharge; the fact that his superior is named after the hero of Jean-Luc Godard’s Le petit soldat and played by the same actor almost 40 years later (Michel Subor) adds a suggestive thread, as do the passages from Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd. Most of all, Denis, who spent part of her childhood in Djibouti, captures the poetry and atmosphere–and, more subtly, the women–of Africa like few filmmakers before her. A masterpiece.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, the Chicago Reader

Night Moves
Kelly Reichardt, 2013

“Night Moves, Ms. Reichardt’s sharp and haunting new feature… can be described as a thriller with political overtones, about three radical environmentalists plotting to blow up a dam. Their motives, while not fully articulated — there is never a lot of talking in a Kelly Reichardt movie — seem to be a mixture of despair, muddled idealism and boredom. Their seriousness is unquestionable, but the film is less interested in assessing the justice of their cause than in probing the contours of their experience.”—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Nostalgia for the Light
Patricio Guzman, 2010

“For his new film master director Patricio Guzmán, famed for his political documentaries… travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe. The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, “disappeared” by the Chilean army after the military coup of September, 1973. So while astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women, surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after twenty-five years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families’ histories.” –Icarusfilms.com