Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mama Africa begins a theatrical run at the IFC Center tomorrow

I saw MAMA AFRICA back in 2011 when I first covered Tribeca on a press pass. It was the first film I saw at the festival that year. It was a film tat as hung wit me ever since and is highly recommended. Here is my review from 2011

MAMA AFRICA is the a celebration of the life and times of South African singer and activist Miriam Mekeba. It's told via archival footage and interviews with friends and family. The film is like getting to know the feel of it's subject rather than a straight forward biography of her life. I think the best term would be tone poem, which considering the wall to wall and non-stop music is, I think apt. We watch how Miriam sings, gets involved in politics (though as she said "I never sing about politics, I only sing the truth"),raises a family and sings some more. Its a wonderful celebration of a life and of music.

I grew up on the music thanks to my moms (both of them) who loved the songs, so I was in heaven as long as the songs played. The trouble for me came about half way in when I realized that as good as an over view of the life the film is, it really isn't all that detailed. I mean once we get passed about 1964 any sense of time goes out the window (We learn of the death of her daughter and how it affected her only to jump back in time to talk about her and other things.) It's a quibble of a sort since the film is very entertaining and the sort of thing I'll get on DVD just so I can use the film as a sort of musical mix.

MAMA AFRICA begins a week long run at NYC's IFC Theatet tomorrow. For details go here

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s & 1980s February 2-4 at the Quad

The Quad presents this diverse series of animated short films from the '70s & '80s exploring a range of topics—desire, pop culture, autobiography—and forms, from detailed hand drawings to explosive abstractions to collage and beyond

This series examines the work of a group of American artists who approached film through independently-produced, frame-by-frame animations in the 1970s and 80s. Made primarily by artists with no formal animation training, this selection of films incorporates autobiography, visual fantasy, abstraction, medium specificity, and biting satire. Some artists explored cel and hand-drawn animation while others explored new directions in kinetic collage. Some used flicker and abstraction and others explored the affective potential of film through psychedelic fantasy. This series highlights themes of the body and sexuality, media critique, psychedelia, structure and composition, the animated diary, and the influence of cartoons. Lending historical context to recent developments in both animation studies and the role of animation in contemporary art, we present a timely investigation of this era of invention and energy in experimental animation, suggesting a landscape of artists whose work needs to be considered anew.

Curated by Herb Shellenberger, who will introduce each screening.

Independent Frames is sponsored by Lightbox Film Center (Philadelphia).

Program 1: Exploded View
This collection of shorts surveys responses to the pop art and psychedelia boom of the mid-1960s and early 1970s with works of graphic collage, violent flickering colors and sensory overload.
TRT 70m
Film-Makers’ Showcase, Francis Lee/Fred von Bernewitz, 1963, 3m, 16mm; The Pop Show, Fred Mogubgub, 1966, 7m, digital; Oh, Stan Vanderbeek, 1968, 9m, 16mm; America is Wating, Bruce Conner, 1981, 4m, 16mm; Jungle Madness, Don Duga, 1967, 6m, 16mm; Scanning, Paul Glabicki, 1976, 3m, 16mm, Pesca Pisca, Irene Duga, 1968, 3m, 16mm; Doppler Effect Version II, Dan Agnew, 1968, 4m,16mm; Evolution of the Red Star, Adam Beckett, 1973, 7m, 16mm,
3D Movie; Paul Sharits, 1975, 8m, 16mm; Circles of Confusion, Bill Brand, 1974, 15m,16mm

Fri February 2, 7.00pm

Program 2: Shape and Structure
While structural film was the dominant form within the avant-garde tradition at the dawn of the 1970s, this program explores how animators used shape and structure in a variety of ways that differentiated their works.
TRT 64m
Ten Second Film, Bruce Conner, 1966, 10 sec., 16mm; Runaway, Standish Lawder, 1969, 6m, 16mm; Object Conversation, Paul Glabicki, 1985, 10m, 16mm; Zip-Tone-Cat-Tune, Bill Brand, 1972, 6m,16mm; Colored Relations
Barry Spinello, 1970, 5m, 16mm; Diagram Film, Paul Glabicki, 1978, 14m, 16mm; Precious Metal Variations, David Ehrlich, 1983, 4m, 16mm; Saugus Series, Pat O’Neill, 1974, 18m, 16mm

Sat February 3, 1.00pm

Program 3: Underground Cartoons
American experimental animators didn’t simply turn their backs on the cartoon tradition, but productively incorporated some of its best and most subversive elements into their independently-produced films.
TRT 76m
Academy Leader Variations, Various artists, 1987, 6m, 16mm; New Fangled
George Griffin, 1990, 2m, digital; Curious Alice, United States Information Agency, 1971, 13m, 16mm; Filet of Soul, Victor Faccinto, 1972, 16m, 16mm
Impetigo, James Duesing, 1983, 5m,16mm; Tugging the Worm, James Duesing, 1987, 9m, 16mm; Quasi at the Quackadero, Sally Cruikshank, 1975, 10m,16mm; Puttin’ on the Fur, George Griffin, 1981/2016, 7m, digital

Sat February 3, 2.45pm

Program 4: Introspection
Here animators turn their attention inward with personal films, which correspond to the deeply introspective diary films that formed a key part of the New American Cinema the previous decade.
TRT 75m
Self Portrait, Maria Lassnig, 1973, 5m, 16mm; Three Short Films (School in the Sky, Going Home Sketchbook, Whale Songs), Mary Beams, 1971-80, 21m, 16mm; Milk of Amnesia, Jeff Scher, 1992, 6m, 16mm; Odalisque, Maureen Selwood, 1980, 12m, digital; Five Short Films (Interior Designs, Remains to Be Seen, Traveling Light, Set in Motion, This Time Around), Jane Aaron, 1980-89, 19m, digital; Glass Gardens, Lisa Crafts, 1982, 5m, 16mm; Hand Held Day,
Gary Beydler, 1975, 6m, 16mm

Sun February 4, 1.00pm

Program 5: Bodymania
From morphing bodies engaged in rapturous copulation (Desire Pie) to disembodied parts (The Club, Seed Reel), artists respond to the waning sexual revolution and the women’s movement, expressing agency and stimulation while at the same time depicting complex forms of desire.
TRT 75m
The Club, George Griffin, 1975, 4m, digital; Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People, Ayoka Chenzira, 1985, 10m, digital; Bust Bag, Don Duga, 1964, 6m,16mm; Dissipative Dialogues, David Ehrlich, 1982, 3m,16mm
Head; George Griffin, 1975, 10m, digital, Tub Film, Mary Beams, 1972, 2m,16mm; Seed Reel, Mary Beams, 1975, 4 min, 16mm; Crocus, Suzan Pitt, 1971, 7m, 16mm; Desire Pie, Lisa Crafts, 1976, 5m,16mm; Flesh Flows, Adam Beckett, 1974, 6m,16mm; Asparagus, Suzan Pitt, 1979, 20m, 16mm

Sun February 4, 3.00pm

Film Comment Selects announces its full line up


Opens with Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Life and Nothing More and features new works by Wang Bing, Ildikó Enyedi, and more

Highlights include a complete retrospective of director Nico Papatakis's subversive works and a 25th anniversary screening of Tom Joslin & Peter Friedman’s Silverlake Life: The View from Here

Life and Nothing More
New York, NY (January 16, 2018) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces the lineup for the 18th edition of Film Commentmagazine’s annual series, Film Comment Selects, February 23-27. The cinematic showcase returns with a selection of titles curated by the magazine’s editors, offering strikingly bold visions, mixing New York premieres of new films and long-unseen older titles that deserve the big-screen treatment.

“It’s a rare chance to see the lively mix of films that our critics have raved about but that haven’t hit New York theaters yet,” said Nicolas Rapold, Editor-in-Chief of Film Comment. “This year’s edition is made especially exciting by a rare retrospective of the inimitable Nico Papatakis, whose work will be exciting for many to discover.”

The festival opens with the New York premiere of Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Life and Nothing More, an intimate chronicle of an African American family living on the margins in Florida, starring an astonishing non-professional cast. Other new works in the lineup are Ildikó Enyedi’s Berlinale Golden Bear-winner On Body and Soul; Mrs. Fang, Wang Bing’s unflinching document of an elderly woman in her final days, which won the Golden Leopard at Locarno; the North American premiere of Katharina Wyss’s powerful debut feature Sarah Plays a Werewolf, about a woman who channels her fears into theater; Govinda Van Maele’s fiction feature debut Gutland, featuring Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps; the U.S. premiere of Slovenian director Rok Biček‘s The Family, a compassionate portrait of a young man’s life over the course of 10 years; and experimental artist Bertrand Mandico’s exhilarating, gender-bending Wild Boys.

In addition to these anticipated new works, the 2018 slate features a retrospective of radical filmmaker Nico Papatakis, who had a “body of work that blends anarchic fury with visceral and transcendent poetry” (Yonca Talu, Film Comment). All five features directed by Papatakis, who subversively and provocatively explored themes of race, class, gender, and politics and produced films by Cassavetes and Genet, will be screened, including the meta terrorist drama Gloria Mundi, Cannes selection Les Abysses, and Walking a Tightrope, which stars Michel Piccoli as writer Jean Genet (a personal friend of the filmmaker). Film Comment Selects will also present a 25th anniversary screening of Tom Joslin & Peter Friedman’s extraordinarily powerful documentary Silverlake Life: The View from Here, which follows Joslin and his partner Mark Massi as they struggle to live with AIDS.

Organized by Madeline Whittle and Film Comment magazine staff.

Tickets go on sale Friday, February 9. A pre-sale for Film Society members and Film Comment subscribers begins Friday, February 2. Single screening tickets are $15; $12 for students and seniors (62+); and $10 for Film Society members and Film Comment subscribers. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or All-Access Pass. Learn more at
With the kind support of the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York. Special thanks to Manuela Papatakis.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONSAll films screen digitally at the Walter Reade Theater unless otherwise noted. Where possible, film descriptions are excerpts from Film Comment magazine.
Opening Night
Life and Nothing More 
Antonio Mendez Esparza, U.S./Spain, 2017, 114m 

“The African American single mom and teenage son at the center of this drama are lifelong residents of northern Florida but remain, at best, provisional citizens of their own country. Rendering characters they developed in tandem with their director, these non-professional but astoundingly gifted performers convey so much of what matters in so many working-class black lives.” —Nick Davis, Toronto Film Festival 2017 online coverage 
New York premiere 
Friday, February 23, 6:30pm (Q&A with Antonio Mendez Esparza) 

The Family 
Rok Biček, Slovenia/Austria, 2017, 106m 

“Slovenian director Rok Biček started The Family as a film-school student and proceeded to film a life in full: a boy, Matej, seen growing up, watching his father die and becoming a father himself, breaking up with his girlfriend, and battling her for child custody. A twist on observational cinema, Biček’s portrait of the anti-heroic young man defies stereotypes of working-class and dysfunctional families, refrains from passing moral judgments, and retains an open fondness of his subject.” —Tina Poglajen, Nov/Dec 2017 issue 
U.S. premiere 
Tuesday, February 27, 6:45pm 

Govinda Van Maele, Luxembourg/Belgium/Germany/France, 2017, 107m

“A stranger wends through twilit wheat fields in the exquisite opening moments of Govinda Van Maele’s fiction feature debut [starring Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps] ... By the following morning he’s courted by an elder who finds him a gig and lodging—and then Gutland quietly maunders from folktale to pastoral noir to Polanski-esque uncanny and, finally, back to folk tale. Call it a ‘village film,’ with an eerie ambiance of secrets, insularity, and sinister solidarity.” —José Teodoro, Nov/Dec 2017 issue 
New York premiere 
Saturday, February 24, 6:45pm 

Mrs. Fang 
Wang Bing, China, 2017, 86m 

“Wang Bing’s latest documentary trains its camera very tightly on the face of a bedridden elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s in a small rural Chinese village. For a while, it seems as though Mrs. Fang is content to use the camera as a tool to unflinchingly record a human being close to her final breath. Yet Wang Bing is after something completely different, as the filmmaker goes into other territory, somehow more and less tangible than a portrait of dying.” —Michael Koresky, Toronto Film Festival 2017 online coverage 
New York premiere 
Sunday, February 25, 9:30pm 

On Body and Soul 
Ildikó Enyedi, 2017, Hungary, 116m 

Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin, Ildikó Enyedi’s visually imaginative film tracks the highs and lows of an unforeseen romance conducted partly through dreams. Film Comment celebrated Enyedi’s “ludic, freewheeling storytelling” with last year’s home-video release of her 1989 favorite My Twentieth Century, and her newest marks a triumphant return for this Hungarian filmmaker. A Netflix release. 
New York premiere 
Monday, February 26, 6:45pm 

Sarah Plays a Werewolf 
Katharina Wyss, Switzerland/Germany, 2017, 86m 

“Katharina Wyss’s heady debut feature centers on Sarah, a young woman channeling her powerful depth of feeling into the artistic and psychological outlet of theater. As the 17-year-old protagonist in a staid Swiss town, Loane Balthasar is unnervingly transparent, giving herself over to her character—and, like Sarah, 20 times more present than anyone around her. The film’s title captures a life fraught with energy.” —Nicolas Rapold, Jan/Feb 2018 issue 
North American premiere 
With the kind support of the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York. 
Sunday, February 25, 7:00pm (Q&A with Katharina Wyss) 

Wild Boys 
Bertrand Mandico, France, 2017, 110m 

“Some might be quick to suggest Mandico’s similarities with Guy Maddin due to his new film’s whacked-out narrative, alienating use of studio sets, and brusquely outré acting. Exiled teenagers are sentenced to hard labor on a mysterious island, left to their own devices and then transformed... All the teens are played by actresses, with ever-fearless, weather-beaten Elina Löwensohn leading the way. Little else in 2017 was quite as exhilarating, eye-popping, intoxicating, seductive, carefree, funky, sexy, and fun.” —Olaf Möller, Jan/Feb 2018 issue 
New York premiere 
Saturday, February 24, 9:30pm 
25th Anniversary Screening
Silverlake Life: The View from Here 
Tom Joslin & Peter Friedman, U.S., 1993, 99m 

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, this is one of the cornerstone documentaries abot the AIDS crisis. “Silverlake Life is about a couple, and one of the guys is filming his boyfriend, who is ill and dying. I didn’t want to represent the disease too much [in BPM (Beats Per Minute)], because I thought it was so real in Silverlake Life. I didn’t want to make the same thing because you can't do more than this film, because it was real and it's a very, very moving film. I love it so much.”—Robin Campillo, director of BPM (Beats Per Minute), interviewed in July/Aug 2017 issue 
Sunday, February 25, 4:30pm 

Special Section: Five Films by Nico Papatakis 
“It’s become a cliché to call a filmmaker ‘rebellious,’ but from Gance to Eisenstein to Pasolini to Buñuel, the 20th century saw true rebels who fiercely defied both the cinematic and political establishments of their time. Nikos Papatakis (1918-2010)—nicknamed Nico in France—holds a profound and unique place in this lineage through a body of work that blends anarchic fury with visceral and transcendent poetry. Born in Addis Ababa to an Ethiopian mother and a Greek father, Papatakis was an outcast by nature, mocked and ostracized as a child for being biracial. Deeply rooted in personal experience, Papatakis’s films are politically, morally, and formally subversive explorations of race, gender, and class that use the medium as a vehicle of opposition and dissent.” —Yonca Talu, Sept/Oct 2017 issue 

Les Abysses 
Nico Papatakis, France, 1963, 90m
This allegorical portrait of the Algerian resistance was inspired by the real-life story of the Papin sisters, two maids who brutally murdered their employers in 1930s France—also the basis for Jean Genet’s influential 1947 play The Maids and Claude Chabrol’s 1995 psychological thriller La Cérémonie. 
Friday, February 23, 9:30pm 

The Shepherds of Disorder 
Nico Papatakis, Greece, 1967, 117m 

The Shepherds of Disorder (aka Thanos and Despina) juxtaposes an anthropological and materialist study of a rigid rural community with the mythologically imbued, forbidden romance between a rebellious shepherd and the angelic and compliant daughter (Olga Karlatos) of a rich conservative family, engaged in an erotically charged power game. 
Saturday, February 24, 4:30pm 
Gloria Mundi 
Nico Papatakis, France, 1976, 115m 

Papatakis’s most psychedelic film, Gloria Mundi centers on an actress (Olga Karlatos) playing an Arab terrorist who takes her role to another level. Papatakis’s virulent denunciation of consumer capitalism and a hypocritical left-wing intelligentsia that deems itself political but does not take any action, begins with a scream and ends with an explosion. 
Sunday, February 25, 1:45pm 

The Photograph 
Nico Papatakis, Greece/France, 1986, 102m 

Papatakis’s most accessible, gripping, and poignant work is a meticulously crafted, intimate meditation on immigration and exile centering on a 26-year-old Greek man fresh out of prison (where he was tortured for being a communist’s son) who leaves for France in hopes of a better life and strikes up a complicated friendship with a distant relative. 
Monday, February 26, 9:15pm 
Walking a Tightrope / Les Équilibristes 
Nico Papatakis, France, 1992, 120m
The director’s final film—starring Michel Piccoli as a fictional version of Papatakis’s friend Jean Genet—is a compendium of the themes and motifs that pervade his distinctive filmography, including the torturous nature of love, the suffering induced by exile, and suicide as an act of rebellion. 
Tuesday, February 27, 9:15pm
FILM COMMENTPublished since 1962, Film Comment magazine features in-depth reviews, critical analysis, and feature coverage of mainstream, art-house, and avant-garde filmmaking from around the world. Today a bimonthly print magazine and a website, the magazine was founded under the editorship of Gordon Hitchens, who was followed by Richard Corliss, Harlan Jacobson, Richard Jameson, Gavin Smith, and Nicolas Rapold. Past and present contributing critics include Paul Arthur, David Bordwell, Richard Combs, Manohla Dargis, Raymond Durgnat, Roger Ebert, Manny Farber, Howard Hampton, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Richard Jameson, Kent Jones, Dave Kehr, Nathan Lee, Todd McCarthy, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Tony Rayns, Frank Rich, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Elliott Stein, Amy Taubin, David Thomson, Richard Thompson, Amos Vogel, Robin Wood, and many more.
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTERThe Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center to shine a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image, this nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international film. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including Film Comment, the U.S.’s premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it will remain an essential art form for years to come.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. American Airlines is the Official Airline of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. For more information, visit and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.

In Brief: Across The Waters (2017) NYJFF 2018

Based on a true story, ACROSS THE WATERS tells the story of a guitarist and is family who flee to the north of the country looking for a way to escape the Nazi's. It seems the coalition that had kept the Danish Jews safe has collapsed and now no one was safe. The family is hoping to make their way and connect to the underground who they have heard are ferrying people to Sweden.

This is a very good is overly earnest film about a flight to freedom. Gorgeously shot, the Second World War has ever been made to look this good. The film moves by twists and turns in such a way as to be play as the top notch thriller that it is. It is also a moving and truth portrait of good people rising to help others in dark times.

If I must quibble with the film it's in that the copious use of close ups often works against the film making not so much claustrophobic but simply uncomfortable.

On the other hand the natural drama in the story lifts it all up and makes it all compelling.

Definitely worth a look when it plays at The New York Jewish Film Festival.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thoughts on Hostiles (2017) the first time through

On the verge of mustering out, an army captain is forced to take captured Native American chief and his family from New Mexico to Montana so he can die at home. He wants no part of it, but he is  not one to disobey orders, especially if it means he will lose his pension.  Along the way he will pick up a woman whose family was killed by raiders, fight off various forms of attack and have to come to terms with who he is.

HOSTILES was not what I expected. That is a good thing.

Billed in TV commercials as an action packed road trip, it is in fact a deliberately paced, thoughtful examination of our souls.It is a film that isn't action packed but has action. It has moments of intense violence and touching humanity.

I don't know were to begin discussing this film. It's not that there isn't anything to say but almost that there is too much to say. Literary in construction, I suspect some people may not like some of the thoughtful exchanges that pass between the traveler. This is a film with a lot on its mind. It is a film poses a good many questions such as who are we really? What is the cost of war? What is the cost of racism? and most importantly can we find a way back to being human? It is a film that makes a stab at answering, or if not answering then wrestling with, all of them as well a several dozen more.

A road movie of the soul, we are on a trip where all of the characters are going to have to deal with the crucibles of themselves. On the road and in close quarters, with no routine but the travel everyone has to face who they are, what they've done and how they feel or don't feel about it. It is a journey that could ultimately free them and return them to humanity or destroy them utterly, a fate that is faced by a few of the travelers. And if there was ever any hope of not having to face their pasts it goes out the window when they pick up a prisoner for transport. An fugitive soldier wanted for murder, he once served with Christian Bale's captain and he knows of Bale's dark deeds. Pleading to be let go, since he didn't do anything Bale hadn't done before, Bale has to find away to keep his charge in chains and his soul intact.

Along the way the film moves us to not just think, but to feel. Twists and violence bring us feelings of shock and awe. Seemingly small moments bring us to tears. This is a film that engages all of us on all levels.

I want to say more. I want to discuss what happens but as this posts HOSTILES is still only in selected theaters so most of you haven't yet had a chance to see it. I don't want to spoil this film by saying too much of what happens. Additionally I want to, nay I need to see this film again simply because this film surprised me so much I need to go back and link up some moments and really take in what happens so I can properly discuss them.

HOSTILES opens wide in theaters across the country Friday. It is highly recommended for anyone wanting an excellent movie or a thoughtful western

The Road Movie (2017)

Full disclosure at the start- I am a huge fan of  Russian and Eastern European dash cam videos. My reaction to the film must gauged by the fact that I've seen a good number of these videos as stand alones and as part of  amateur compilations of  the various footage.

70 minute long compilation of Russian dash-cam videos will either delight you or bore you to tears.
Made up of some bone crushing, WTF videos which have been stitched together to form a kind of an hour long POV road trip. Frequently mind bending this film is guaranteed to make you spill you popcorn all over the place since viewing it becomes a trip you can't escape from.

And if you have the option,  the biggest screen possible is the absolute way to go since it puts you in the car making the impacts all the more jarring because you can't look away and you never know what is going to happen next.

However as much as I like the film, and I do like the film, it never quite builds up a full head of steam thanks to uneven editing. While there are things that will amaze and take your breath away (driving through a forest fire or watching the roof of a building go sailing to name a few) the pacing is never consistent or expected. Rapid cuts of crashes will be capped with a crash and the long take of people stopping to help  follows it. Any rhythm is lost by the seeming random inclusion of a full video for no real reason.

On the other hand the fact that you never know wat is going to happen next keeps you interested. Also seeing this on a movie screen makes this a kind of "you are there" experience that transcends it's You Tube origin.

Recommended and a must see on the big screen.

Monday, January 15, 2018

From the Vault: Postwar Brit Noir plays at the Quad January 29 - February 1

In this new ongoing series the Quad unearths underseen gems from the Cohen Film Collection's archive. For this inaugural edition, we're pleased to present four darkly tinted Brit Noirs from the postwar era

Cast a Dark Shadow
Lewis Gilbert, 1955, UK, 82m, DCP
In this taut thriller, Dirk Bogarde plays a schemer who uses his charm to wed an older wealthy woman, then stages her death to look accidental and seeks out another victim.

Dancing with Crime
John Paddy Carstairs, 1947, UK, 83m, DCP
After his war buddy is killed by black marketers, Richard Attenborough sets about bringing them to justice, sending fiancée Sheila Sim undercover at the dance hall from which they operate.

Val Guest, 1962, UK, 107m, DCP
An absorbing and entertaining murder mystery following Brighton policeman Jack Warner who pursues the murderer of a woman whose body is discovered in a lonely beach house.

Wanted For Murder
(aka A Voice in the Night)
Lawrence Huntington, 1946, UK, 103m, DCP
Respectable businessman Eric Portman acts out his obsession with his hangman father by picking up and strangling shopgirls—until the prospect of marriage gives him hope that he can overcome his serial killing ways.

The Cohen Film Collection (formerly The Rohauer Library) is a world-renowned archive of rare movie classics consisting of over 700 features and shorts that span 75 years of cinema. This treasure trove was amassed by Raymond Rohauer (1924–1987), the film curator of the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art in New York, who devoted his life to collecting these distinguished films. This unique library was acquired by Charles S. Cohen in 2011, and is now undergoing systematic preservation and restoration to make it possible for these films to be available to today's filmgoers. The Cohen Film Collection continues to augment its library through the acquisition of classic art cinema from around the globe, ensuring that this varied collection will grow and expand for years to come.


When an Israeli actor hires a Palestinian handyman things take a turn for the worse after a woman is assaulted in the neighborhood.

Uneasy comedy thriller wit a strong political edge examines the bond between Palestinians and Israelis and how they view each other. While decidedly entertaining I kind of wish it adn't been trying to be so much about the political subtext.

Solid documentary about the immigration of thousands of Eastern European Jews into Argentina at the turn of the 20th century. Many were mislead into going to the country only to be forced into prostitution while others turned tricks to survive. Director Daniel Najenson turns our notion of the whys and hows upside down by revealing is own families history. An excellent piece of filmmaking  that quietly reveals the truth that our history is rarely the simple tales written down but someting much more complex.

Documentary/drama hybrid tells the story of four of the almost 2000 Jews who is in plain site in Berlin during the war. This is a very good if slightly over long film highlighting stories I'm guessing most people were completely unaware of. This is a film tat grabs you and sucks you in partly because you don't believe they did it and partly because you want to see what happens. Definitely one to see when it plays at the festival.

For more information and tickets to any of these films go here

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Radu Jude's documentary of life in Romania from 1937 to 1944 is going to either thrill or annoy the audience. Made up of photographs by photographer Costica Acsitne over which period music, speeches and excerpts from the diary of Dr  Emil Dorian the film seeks to reveal what life was life in the country on the small scale and the large.

Mirroring the work of filmmakers like Chris Marker who used a similar technique, DEAD NATION is at times a heady mix of words and images. However on a personal level the film never truly clicked with me. The problem was that I could not make the words connect with the image except fleetingly wit the result that this is a film I like more than I love. On the other hand I have spoke with a couple of colleagues who found the film rapturous since they connected with the film and what it is trying to do.

Despite my lack of emotional connection this is still a powerful film. The film's portrait of the antisemitism running through the country is often chilling because of the narrations you are there at tat moment description. Additionally when the word and image come together it is a powerful portrait of a country and a time and place most of us are not familiar with.

Very much worth a look.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg (1990) NYJFF 2018

One of my heroes is Raoul Wallenberg. He was assigned to the Swedish Embassy in Budapest in 1944 and quickly proceeded to save as many Jews as he could, with the number put around 100,000. What endeared him to me was his absolute drive to do the right thing even to the point of telling Nazi officers that they were losing the war and if they didn't respect the papers he had given the Jews , he would make sure that they were punished after the war.

While Wallenberg did so much in roughly six months many people still don't know who he is because in January 1945, he got into a car and disappeared off the face of the earth. All tat is certain is tat te Soviets picked him, but after that noting. THE MISSION OF RAOUL WALLENBERG is a film looking into the mystery.

Released in 1990 and now being screened at the New York Jewish Film Festival in a new restoration, the film seeks to probe the disappearance as best it can. Following leads, the filmmakers talk to people claiming to have seen Wallenberg after his arrest as well as Wallenberg's sister and brother as they travel trough Russia looking for answers. The film also seeks to speculate as to the reasons why it happened. Nothing is clear and in the 28 years since the film was released even more twists and turns have emerged (for example he as connection to the American OSS).

A wonderful puzzle box of a film this is a trip down a rabbit hole. Plots are speculated, false leads are followed and very few answers are arrived at- though it's clear there was a KGB file since his possessions ad to come from somewhere. I was enthralled.

As good and as trippy the film does have two minor flaws. The first, which isn't really a flaw as such, is that the film can be light on details concerning Wallenberg's life. This is about the search and not the man so if you don't know the man you may feel lost. The second minor issue is that after almost 30 years the film could have used some sort of brief updating. In the intervening more facts (The OSS and Sweden declaring him dead) have been discovered as well as new possible answers (e may have been executed) have arisen. While not necessary a brief post script would have helped make it clear that even 73 years on people are still looking for answers.

A great documentary and highly recommended when it plays the New York Jewish Film Festival.

For tickets and more information go here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vazante (2017)

I was lured into seeing Daniela Thomas's VAZANTE (The Surge) because the listings I found listed it as an action adventure. An action film it is not. Nor is is it really an adventure. It is instead a slow burn drama with one hell of an ending.

In 1821, a rich land owner returns home with a load of slaves and gifts for his wife and soon to be born child. Unbeknownst to him both wife and child have died in child birth. Filled with grief he eventually marries his wife's niece. However he returns to wandering while is new wife is left alone with the slaves.

Slow building drama is a beautiful exercise in mood and place. Watching this film in a darkened theater you can't help but feel all sorts of emotions including dread, isolation and madness. The rich cinematography is a kind of extra character with each image filling in volumes that the characters never express.

The sense of place and of isolation felt in this film is rare. I'm hard pressed to name a film outside of the work of Werner Herzog where you not only feel that you really are some place remote, but also that there was no one there but the characters (not actors) and a cameraperson recording reality.


This is a special film, but it is also not for all audiences. This film is moves at a methodical pace. We are in a place and in a time and things more according to that time. If you can't click with the film's deliberate pacing you are going to feel bored. If you can click with the pacing  then you are going to moved by the film, since the film is all about the ending.

Currently in theaters  VAZANTE is recommended

The New York International Children's Film Festival announces the first films for 2018



VR JR., NYICFF’s first Virtual Reality mini-fest,

Clockwise: Lu Over the Wall, White Fang, Wolves in the Walls, A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2

NEW YORK (January 11, 2018) – The Oscar® qualifying New York International Children’s Film Festival has announced their 2018 Opening Night, Opening Spotlight, Centerpiece, and an inaugural Virtual Reality mini-fest. The 21st anniversary of the Festival will run from February 23rd – March 18th. Established in 1997, the Festival is the nation’s largest for children and teens and will present animated, live action, documentary, and experimental shorts and features from approximately 30 countries. Tickets go on sale January 17th for members and January 24th for the general public at

This year’s Festival opens on Friday, February 23rd, with the East Coast premiere of anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall. Boasting a distinctive, off-kilter animation style, eye-popping color palette, and outrageous music, Yuasa’s latest gem is, at its core, a captivating coming of age story. The eponymous Lu is a manic mermaid with a show-stopping voice who helps Kai, a gifted teenager unfulfilled by small-town life, discover his own. Winner of the Grand Prize Cristal Award at Annecy 2017, Lu evokes charming hints of Miyazaki, but claims a frenetic energy and surreal, freewheeling structure all its own.

Rounding out Opening Weekend is the Saturday, February 24th, Opening Spotlight screening of Academy Award®-winning director and NYICFF alum Alexandre Espigares’ debut feature, White Fang. An ambitious animated retelling of the classic Jack London novel, White Fang employs the voice work of Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Eddie Spears, and Paul Giamatti to tell the epic journey of White Fang’s life from pup to sled-dog to abused prizefighter and beyond, set in the gorgeously rendered landscape of the Pacific Northwest frontier.

On Saturday, March 10, NYICFF presents a special sneak peek Centerpiece screening of The Austere Academy: Parts 1 & 2, the highly-anticipated first episodes of Netflix’s original program A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and based on the Lemony Snicket series by Daniel Handler, this lauded adaptation is hailed as having “a respect for the ability of young minds to perceive offbeat, incongruous humor, the very quality that made the books so successful in the first place” (The New York Times). The new season returns with an all-star cast, including the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and plenty of nefarious schemes to catch the Baudelaire orphans. Season 2 releases March 30 only on Netflix.

The 2018 Festival will also showcase the inaugural edition of VR JR., a full weekend of Virtual Reality experiences, a special VR creators’ talk, and demos uniquely curated to provide a thoughtful point of entry for children and families to explore this new medium. Taking place Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, the pioneering program showcases the latest VR projects that place kids at the helm of their own immersive story world. Projects include the East Coast premiere of the Neil Gaiman picture book adaptation Wolves in the Walls, directed by Pete Billington, and Golden Globe-nominated director Jorge Gutiérrez’s Son of Jaguar, a new Google Spotlight Story placing viewers into the story of a family of Mexican wrestlers.


● LU OVER THE WALL, dir. Masaaki Yuasa (Japan) – 2018, East Coast premiere, Animation, 107 minutes

Though obedient to his family, Kai’s quiet life in a traditional Japanese seaside town starts to rock and roil when he secretly joins a band with his classmates. His true interest is where they practice —on the foreboding Merfolk Island—a place that turns out to be even wilder than the town lore suggests. Enter Lu: a mermaid girl with the soul and voice of a pop star, who steals the show in this shape-shifting, musical/anime hybrid.


● WHITE FANG, dir. Alexandre Espigares (France/Luxembourg/USA) – 2018, East Coast premiere, Animation, 85 minutes

NYICFF alum and Oscar®-winning short film director Alexandre Espigares returns with his feature debut, a thrilling and thought-provoking adaptation of Jack London’s classic tale. White Fang and his fellow canines call the rugged beauty of the Yukon territory home, but with the Gold Rush of the 1890s they are thrust against the harsh life of profit-seeking prospectors. Will the tribal leader or a new peacekeeping couple offer White Fang another path?


● A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: SEASON 2, THE AUSTERE ACADEMY, dirs. Barry Sonnenfeld and Daniel Handler (USA) – 2018, Special Preview Screening, Live Action, 98 minutes (Parts 1 & 2)

Join us for an exclusive sneak peek as the delightfully dark and witty Lemony Snicket Series goes from book to screen in season two of the Netflix original.The ever-intrepid Baudelaire siblings--Violet, Klaus, and Sunny--are back, still plagued by the evil Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) and his troupe. The challenges mount, but shabby disguises, nefarious schemes, and very big words don’t faze this resourceful trio. They won’t relent until they unlock the secret to their parents’ disappearance and enlighten a few less literate adults along the way. Season 2 launches March 30, only on Netflix.


● VR JR., Interactive VR Experiences and VR JR. Talk

We’re bringing our high-quality, innovative programming into new digital realms, offering the first dedicated Virtual Reality mini-fest for kids and families. A dynamic, interactive experience presented over the course of a full weekend, VR JR. will feature exciting VR projects, special talks, and demos. Just as we’ve made the enjoyment of artful, international films an accessible experience for young audiences, we're excited to do the same for VR. Explore a new facet of creative production with immersive experiences Wolves in the Walls, Son of Jaguar, and more at VR JR.


Distinguished by its unique mission and high-caliber programming, New York International Children’s Film Festival was founded in 1997 to support the creation and dissemination of thoughtful, provocative, and intelligent film for children and teens ages 3-18. Celebrating its 21st year in 2018, the flagship New York City Festival takes place February 23 - March 18, and has grown from one weekend of films into the largest film festival for children and teens in North America. Presenting consistently sold-out screenings for the general public and weekday screenings for school groups throughout New York City over the course of four weeks at venues throughout the city, the Festival’s rich and dynamic film program -– drawn from roughly 2,500 international submissions – boasts over 100 short and feature films, filmmaker Q&As, retrospective programs, parties, premieres, audience voting, and a Closing Night celebration. The Festival is an Academy Award® qualifying festival, one of only four film festivals in New York State – and only two children’s film festivals in the country – to hold that honor with the Festival’s esteemed jury selecting the qualifying films. The Festival experience cultivates an appreciation for the arts, encourages active, discerning viewing, and stimulates lively discussion among peers, families, and the film community.

In addition to presenting the annual event, New York International Children’s Film Festival is a multifaceted arts organization that offers year-round engagement, including a nationwide touring program, filmmaking camps, and Film-Ed educational field trips for public and private schools, with free or reduced cost school programs offering equal access to the art of film for all. Goldfish Colors is a Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Festival. New York International Children’s Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and a Humanities New York Action Grant. Girls' POV programming is supported by Eileen Fisher and Sony USA Foundation. Film-Ed is supported by AMC Cares. Japanese films at the Festival are supported by Japan-United States Friendship Commission.

NYICFF 2018 information: / 212-349-0330

Sammy Davis Jr- I Gotta Be Me (2017) NYJFF 2018

Sam Pollard's look at the great performer Sammy Davis Jr is a trilling watch. A look at the man's life through the ups and downs is going to make you want to keep watching and listening to Davis for days afterward.

Moving at a brisk pace the film covers everything you need to know about the man from winning a talent contest a three to upstaging Ethel Waters at 7 or 8, the seismic appearance with Eddie Cantor in the early days of TV  on to the Rat Pack, his political activism and his death. It's all here and it's all amazing.

As a life long Davis fan I was in heaven. My one regret is I never saw him live (I had saved for a long time to buy tickets to see him only to have illness take him). Seeing this film on the big screen was magical.You really get a sense of just how good he was and how he managed to help open the doors for those who followed him.

This is a great documentary whose only flaw is that even running 100 minutes is much too short to fully do Davis justice. Davis did so much that the film either can't cover it or breezes over it.

Still this is a must see and highly recommended. One of the Best films at the New York Jewish Film Festival

For tickets and more go here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Milwaukee Film Festival Opens Call For Entries

Free Entry for All Films; Festival Offers To Pay for Work That Is Screened

MILWAUKEE – Thursday, January 11, 2018Milwaukee Film is now accepting entries for the 10th annual Milwaukee Film Festival. Works of all genres, forms, and lengths will be considered. The deadline for all entries is Monday, June 25, 2018. The festival offers free submission for all films and, for the third consecutive year, Milwaukee Film will offer to pay for all work that is screened in the festival.

Support is also given to filmmakers through cash awards.This year, the following juried cash awards will be presented, with additional possible awards to be announced prior to the festival:

●      Herzfeld Competition Award ($10,000)
●      Cream City Cinema Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Milwaukee Music Video Award ($5,000)
●      Black Lens Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Documentary Jury Award ($5,000)
●      Cream City Cinema College Filmmaker Award ($2,500)
●      Shorter Is Better Award ($1,000)
●      Kids Choice Short Film Award ($1,000)
There will also be two non-juried audience awards, presented by Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig.
The entry form and complete information regarding eligibility for the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival Call for Entries is available at Questions about submissions may be directed to

About Milwaukee Film
Milwaukee Film is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to entertaining, educating, and engaging our community through cinematic experiences. The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival will take place from October 18 - November 1, 2018. For more information, visit us online at

Facebook: | Twitter: @mkefilm | Instagram: @mkefilm

About the Milwaukee Film Board of Directors
Milwaukee Film’s independent board is made up of the following members: Chris Abele (Past President); John P. Bania; Donna Baumgartner; Elizabeth Brenner; Karen Ellenbecker; Alexander P. Fraser (President); Cecelia Gore; Bill Haberman (Past President); Susan Haise; Katie Heil; Patti Keating Kahn; Michael G. Klein; Tracey L. Klein (Immediate Past President); Michael J. Koss Jr.; Kenneth C. Krei; Mary Ann LaBahn; Alexander Lasry; Steve Laughlin (Past President); Emilia Layden; Michael Lovell; Marianne Lubar; Sara Meaney; Mark Mone; Kenneth W. Muth; Barry Poltermann; Bob Pothier; John Ridley; Joseph A. Rock; Ramona Rogers-Windsor; Lacey Sadoff; Dave Stamm; Julia Taylor; John Utz. Emeritus members: Tom Barrett, Jacqueline Strayer.

First Look ’18: Railway Sleepers

If you ever book a ticket on Thailand’s rail system, make sure you have forty or fifty baht in your pocket. That is because there are no shortage of hawkers selling tasty sounding street food like fried peanuts, fermented pork, and pork dumplings for a mere ten baht. Of course, most western tourists are up in first class, where you can enjoy some fine dining during overnights. Sompot “Boat” Chidgasornpongse documents the breadth and diversity of Thai society, as reflected by the passengers of each and every line of the Thai railroad in Railway Sleepers which screens during this year’s First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image.

There is something soothing (or lulling) about rail travel, as the frequently dozing passengers remind us. It is not called Railway Sleepers for nothing. Chidgasornpongse is mostly content to observe, offering commentary sparingly and obliquely, as when the aisles are suddenly patrolled by heavily armed soldiers rather than fried peanut vendors.

We clearly see passengers who are rich and poor, old and young, and Buddhist and Muslim. Unfortunately, we just see them and rarely listen to them converse, which is a shame, because they probably have a lot of interesting things to say. In fact, that is why J.P. Sniadeki’s thematically similar The Iron Ministry was such a rich and engaging viewing experience. It essentially immersed viewers in the man-on-the-street opinions and concerns of a wide cross-section of Chinese society. In contrast, Sleepers is really about how the passengers relate to the train itself.

Still, Chidgasornpongse has a keen eye for imagery and the involvement of his former mentor-boss Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul is sure to spur interest on the festival circuit. It does stimulate train-based nostalgia. If you went to school in the Midwest, you maybe miss the sound of distant train whistles when you’re turning in around 3:00 in the morning. Yet, it just doesn’t stimulate on a social-intellectual level the way Iron Ministry does (but, it should be granted that is a really good documentary).

Those who are admirers of the Sensory Ethnology Lab’s documentaries (which indeed includes Ministry, as well as Sniadecki’s Yumen and People’s Park) should definitely appreciate Railway Sleepers, but even Joe Weerasethakul fans might catch their heads nodding. Best saved for an elite slow cinema-vérité audience, Railway Sleepers screens this Sunday (1/14), as part of First Look 2018, at MoMI.

Saturday Church (2017)

Damon Cardasis's SATURDAY CHURCH is a masterpiece. It is a wonderful film about finding yourself and finding a place you fit in. It is a one of a kind film that must be seen.

Ulysses is a teenage boy who is a shy and effeminate boy. He likes wearing women's clothing, something tat causes him no end of trouble. Uncertain of who he is and where he belongs, he stumbles into Saturday Church a program for LGBTQ youth. There he finds a place where he can open up and be who he is. Unsure of how the two worlds will see each other he struggles to keep his regular life and church separate. However when the two collide his life is thrown into disarray.

When SATURDAY CHURCH played Tribeca last year anyone who saw it loved it. Word was so good that I rearranged my schedule to see it because few films at Tribeca result in that much universal love. I saw the film, loved it, but never fully reviewed it because  a miscommunication about who was covering it resulted in only a brief capsule being posted. I didn't realize it until I saw that the film was coming out and I went to rerun the review only to find there wasn't anything to rerun. It was clear I had to see the film again and get something up.

This is a great film.

Refusing to be anything but itself this is a film that kind of defies classification. A heartfelt look at feeling as though you are an outsider it doesn't skim on either the good or bad emotion. We feel the pain of being unstuck in our lives and we feel the joy of finding a place to belong. Director Cardasis always manages to balance the emotions perfectly so  we feel the terror of Ulysses bible thumping aunt but at the same time he never lets Regina Taylor's performance fall completely into being a one note villain.

Cardasis also manages to blend in the musical performances (did I forget to tell you this is a musical?) perfectly. The songs come at perfect times and they manage to enhance both the emotion and plot by never going for a showstopper in a small moment.

How and why this film isn't getting a bigger buzz confounds me. This is a great great film that needs to be seen and shared. That more people haven't been talking about the film I can only chalk up to not enough people seeing the film yet. Certainly anyone who as seen it will always have it rattling around in their brain- I certainly do.

Simply put this is a beautifully made and wonderfully acted film that worms it's way into your heart and carries you along.

Highly recommended.

SATURDAY CHURCH opens in NY and LA tomorrow as well as hitting all VOD platforms


Misanthropic psychologist Elia's life is a mess. He falls asleep on his patients, his wife is getting fed up ad things just don't seem right. When a health scare send him to the gym he ends up working with personal trainer Claudia a flighty young woman with her own problems. Forced by fate to work together the pair slowly begin to repair their own lives.

Charming and increasingly funny film is just what the doctor ordered. A mix of situational comedy and a bit of slapstick the film has something for everyone, especially if you like to laugh. Initally I was not particularly impressed with the film, smiling more than I was laughing, but once the ELia meets Claudia and the characters are allowed to run free and grow I rapidly warmd to them and the film with the result that my smiles turned to belly laughs.

Absolutely enjoyable and worth your time.

This film plays Saturday at the New York Jewish Film Festival. For more information and tickets go here