Chicago International Documentary Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Festival

Chicago International Documentary Festival

comment

The third annual Chicago International Documentary Festival runs Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 10, with screenings at the Beverly Arts Center; Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; Copernicus Center; Facets Cinematheque; Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art; Northwestern Univ. Thorne Auditorium; Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee; and Univ. of Chicago Doc Films. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $8.50, $7 for seniors and students, and $6.50 for shows before 2 PM or after 10 PM. Passes are available for $250 (all screenings), $125 (20 screenings), and $70 (10 screenings), but only the first includes admission to the opening- and closing-night galas; for more information call 773-486-9612. Following is the schedule through April 7; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY 1

R The Real Dirt on Farmer John

"Farmer John" is John Peterson, an eccentric farmer in northern Illinois who's devoted his life to preserving both his family farm near the Wisconsin border and his 60s ideals. After his father's death, Peterson ran the business while commuting to Beloit College and falling in with a clique of hippies who adopted the farm as their retreat. During the Reagan years, as family farms collapsed across the country, Peterson lost most of his land, but eventually the business was reborn as a subscriber-supported organic farm that drew Chicagoans to work the fields and divide the crops. Directed by Taggart Siegel and narrated by Peterson, this video memoir is a beguiling combination of agrarian ode and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, deepened by Peterson's square sincerity as he struggles to find himself in relation to his family's land. 83 min. (JJ) Siegel will attend the screening. Tickets are $20. (Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 8:00)

SATURDAY 2

Gray Matter

Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) directed this 2004 TV documentary about Dr. Heinrich Gross, an accused Nazi war criminal who became one of Austria's leading forensic psychiatrists while conducting research on the brains of hundreds of children euthanized during the war. In English and subtitled German. 52 min. Berlinger will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 1:00)

R I Am Cuba, Siberian Mammoth

An absorbing and intelligent Brazilian documentary about the legendary 1964 Soviet-Cuban coproduction I Am Cuba, a monumental revolutionary epic that was disastrously received, then shelved before being revived in the early 90s. Interviewing Cubans as well as Russians who worked on the film, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, Vicente Ferraz clarifies some facts about the production--revealing among other things that cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky's wife, Bella Friedman, played a significant creative role. He's also attentive to the ironies implicit in the film's fate without being derisive or uncritical. In Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese with subtitles. 90 min. (JR) Reviewed this week in Section 1. (Facets Cinematheque, 2:00)

ISDC winners

This program of International Student Documentary Competition awardees includes shorts from Australia, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, France, Taiwan, and the U.S. Total running time is 100 min. (Society for Arts, 3:00)

R Salesman

Albert and David Maysles's documentary films are like no one else's, combining intelligence, an incredible sensitivity for character and nuance, and a technical facility that creates a subtle and compelling mood. This 1969 study of door-to-door Bible salesmen in the Boston area and in the south is a superb and truthful look at an American institution--and at the troubling relationships between fact and fiction, materialism and spiritual values. Beautifully edited by Charlotte Zwerin, this film is required viewing for anyone concerned with documentary. 90 min. (DD) Albert Maysles, the guest of honor for this year's festival, will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 4:00)

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan

In this 2004 documentary, first-time director Petr Lom looks at the practice of bride abduction, now outlawed but still common in rural Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyz with subtitles. 51 min. Also on the program: Dreamland, Latvian director Laila Pakalnina's wordless portrait of natural life thriving within a vast dump. 35 min. Both directors will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 5:15)

The German Secret

Danish filmmaker Lars Johansson follows his wife, Kirsten Blohm, as she journeys through Europe piecing together the facts about her mother's wartime relationship with a Nazi officer--a man that Blohm suspects was her father. Born in a U.S. detention camp shortly after World War II, Blohm had a prickly relationship with her beautiful but emotionally distant mother, who refused to answer questions about the father for many years, then misled her with contradictory statements. Johansson wastes time at first by indulging Blohm's self-pity, but once the puzzle of the father's identity starts to come together, the result is an affecting account of one woman's attempt to make peace with her elusive parents. In English and subtitled Danish and German. 88 min. (Reece Pendleton) Johansson and Blohm will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 6:15)

Three of Hearts

Susan Kaplan's 2004 documentary about a Manhattan threesome ought to be more engaging. Two young men fall in love and move in together, but they both also enjoy women. So after a few unsuccessful attempts, they add a woman to their relationship, Samantha, who eventually has a child by each. They all claim it's not mostly about sex, but we learn little about how they negotiate their relationships over 13 years and even less about their careers or other interests. As their desires become more conventional and self-centered, fissures develop. Yawn. And Kaplan's decision to violate documentary principles by using songs to "narrate" some sections is simply irritating. 95 min. (FC) Kaplan will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7:30)

Darwin's Nightmare

Austrian director Hubert Sauper's 2004 documentary charts the destabilizing effects of the international trade in fish and arms that has developed since the introduction into southern Africa of the Nile perch, which threatens to overrun native species but has enabled a booming export business. In English and subtitled Swahili, Russian, and Sukuma. 107 min. Sauper will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 8:15)

Mad Hot Ballroom

Marylin Agrelo's feature follows a group of New York City 11-year-olds who venture into the world of competitive ballroom dancing. 110 min. (Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 9:00)

Heroes--Between Day and Night

Cem Madra's 2004 portrait of an Istanbul pimp shows his contradictions, obnoxiousness, and instability: he gets raging drunk yet worships in the mosque, insults his girls and argues with them about money yet has sex with them. He borrows money to go to Russia to try to enlarge his stable but has only limited success. Human trafficking is implicitly compared to a real estate agent's peddling of expensive homes, making a familiar point about capitalism. Better is the way the handheld camera captures the pimp living moment to moment without principles, but spending 101 minutes with him isn't especially pleasant. In Turkish, Russian, and Moldavian with subtitles. 101 min. (FC) Madra will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 9:30)

SUNDAY 3

Wellstone!

If this loving portrait (2004) of the late Minnesota senator by Laurie Stern, Lu Lippold, and Dan Luke veers close to hagiography at times, the filmmakers' unabashed reverence can be excused somewhat: in an age of partisanship and cynicism, Wellstone was a principled politician who commanded respect from both sides of the aisle. A restless college professor who from early on fought for social change when he believed injustice was being committed, Wellstone emerged the unlikely victor in Minnesota's 1990 senatorial race against the Republican incumbent. In an unheard-of act of testosterone for a rookie senator, he immediately distinguished himself by filibustering the Johnston-Wallop energy bill, which would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. While soft when addressing anything even remotely critical of Wellstone, who was killed along with his wife and daughter in a 2002 plane crash, this is a candid portrait of a real iconoclast, as much a loving family man as an irascible champion of the underdog. 88 min. (JK) The directors will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, noon)

Remembrance

Mexican director Marcela Arteaga's 2003 feature is an impressionistic portrait of filmmaker Luis Frank, a Lithuanian native whose career prior to his eventual exile in Mexico included stints as an American spy and as a volunteer in the Spanish civil war. In Spanish and Russian with subtitles. 86 min. (Society for Arts, 1:00)

Martins' Passion

In the 60s Brazilian pianist Jo‹o Carlos Martins was considered the rival of Glenn Gould as an interpreter of Bach. At the height of his career he injured his right arm playing soccer, and his life began a series of twists: he was by turns a stockbroker and a boxing promoter, then returned to the piano, recording extensively but rarely performing. In this 2003 documentary from Germany, Irene Langemann follows Martins as he attempts another return to the stage playing music for the left hand alone. Langemann captures his vitality with telling details--like the way his now useless right hand hovers near the keyboard when he plays. In English and subtitled Portuguese. 96 min. (HSa) (Facets Cinematheque, 2:15)

R Occupation: Dreamland

Filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds, embedded with the 82nd Airborne at Fallujah in the winter of 2004, offer a damning chronicle of failure and chaos. The soldiers seem like aliens, utterly unable to communicate with the Iraqis. Many enlisted because they didn't have many other options, and an officer encourages them to reenlist by suggesting they'll fail at life outside the army. Most stunning are moments when gunfire suddenly erupts or an explosion goes off ahead of the soldiers--incidents that seem like a response to the way they've harassed the citizens. The closing titles explain that the marines who replaced the 82nd were withdrawn in May--and in November the U.S. nearly destroyed the city. Not recommended for those who don't like hearing the word fuck. 78 min. (FC) (Society for Arts, 2:45)

Reel Paradise

An entertaining and occasionally insightful piece of self-promotion by indie film maverick John Pierson, who asked director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) to film part of his yearlong project to reopen and operate an old movie theater on the remote Fijian island of Taveuni. Pierson fell in love with the shuttered 288-seat theater while working on a television project, bought it, and moved his whole family there to help renovate and run it. The result plays at times like an extended version of The Osbournes: eccentric showbiz dad, levelheaded mom, both exasperated by the antics of their two sassy teenagers. What saves the film from complete triviality is James's willingness to raise questions about the impact the movies (mostly Hollywood blockbusters) and the family's presence has on the local culture. In English and subtitled Fijian. 110 min. (Reece Pendleton) James will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 3:00)

Battle for Life

This 2000 production by Czech filmmakers Miroslav Janek, Vit Janecek, and Roman Vavra chronicles a year in the life of a small Czech village known for its eccentric civic celebrations, among them the title event, a reenactment of a fictitious battle against the Nazis. In Czech with subtitles. 88 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 4:00)

Call It Democracy

This rambling 2004 documentary on recent U.S. presidential elections is all over the map, bouncing from presidential races in 1960 and 2000 to a gratuitous still of the burning Twin Towers. The failed attempt to reform the electoral college system in the 70s is sadly instructive, and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's charge that "corruption" led five Supreme Court justices to rule for Bush in 2000 rings true. But director Matt Kohn zeroes in on 2004 simply by mentioning the discrepancy between the exit-poll numbers and the final results and hints that the election was stolen without unearthing any real evidence. 84 min. (FC) Kohn will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 5:00)

The Innocent

Innocent death-row inmates who've been set free are the subject of Lauri Feldman's documentary, which melds their stories into a single powerful narrative. A section on their arrests is followed by sections on their convictions, their lives in prison, and their exonerations. After they're released, many of them suffer from depression, and one reports that people still regard him as having been "involved in a murder." Interspersed with the stories is a cross-country walk by some of the former inmates, an attempt to persuade Illinois governor George Ryan to commute all death sentences in the state. Feldman provides poignant details that only deepen the viewer's outrage--the inmate who tries to commit suicide by swallowing toilet paper, the freed man haunted by dreams that he's going back. 70 min. (FC) Feldman will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 5:30)

Shape of the Moon

From the elaborate crane work and arty angles of the opening shots, it's clear that this 2004 film is not going to be a conventional documentary. Leonard Retel Helmrich examines three generations of a Jakarta family struggling with Indonesia's shifting religious climate, but it's nearly impossible to focus on the people when the camera is hovering, circling, and turning upside down like a pesky insect. Many scenes feel staged for this ridiculously intrusive camera, which leaves us to assess this not as documentary but as art, a classification under which it does not fare well. In Bahasa Indonesian and Javanese with subtitles. 92 min. (HSa) Helmrich will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30)

Robert Capa, the Man Who Believed His Own Legend

French director Patrick Jeudy attempts to demythologize legendary war photographer Robert Capa (1913-'54) in this 2004 portrait originally made for television. Jeudy, whose previous documentaries took a psychoanalytic approach to Jackie and Bobby Kennedy, maintains that Capa's life was a series of lies designed to mask something--though just what is never fully explained. Instead the entire basis for Jeudy's speculations seems to be his claim that Capa faked his famous photograph of a Spanish Republican militiaman being shot, an allegation thoroughly discredited by the most recent research. Even more pathetic, next to none of Capa's major works appear in the film: the photographer's estate refused Jeudy permission to use them. Given the outrageous amount of innuendo he serves up here, I can't say I blame them. In English and subtitled French. 52 min. (Reece Pendleton) Also on the program: Joachim Haupt and Sabine Pollmeier's 27-minute film Peppers and Nudes: The Photographer Edward Weston (2004). Jeudy will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7:15)

La sierra

In the hillside slums of Medellin, Colombia, paramilitary groups and leftist guerrillas battle for control. As this 2004 documentary shows, this isn't about political ideology--it's a turf war among thugs. To give this nightmare a human face, filmmakers Scott Dalton and Margarita Martinez profile three people: a 22-year-old paramilitary commander with a fatalistic outlook, a 19-year-old soldier who's lost a hand to a grenade and now spends most of his time high, and a pregnant 15-year-old who's trying to remain optimistic about her jailed boyfriend. The intense focus on this trio makes for good portraiture, but it left me hungry for more about the social context that shaped them. In Spanish with subtitles. 86 min. (HSa) (Chopin Theatre, 7:15)

R The 3 Rooms of Melancholia

Pirjo Honkasalo's bleak, meditative 2004 documentary, about children who have been orphaned or dispossessed as a result of the Russian-Chechen conflict, eschews any attempts to make sense out of this long-running war. Instead Honkasalo probes the faces of her young subjects, whose sorrow and ennui resonate vividly. She divides this elegant video into three parts: in the first she visits a boy's military academy on the island of Kronstadt near Saint Petersburg; in the second she tours Grozny, Chechnya's bombed-out, eerily lifeless capital, where she follows a woman who rounds up stray children. One heartrending scene shows the woman prying several youngsters from their ailing mother so that they can be cared for at a refugee camp, which is the setting for the third part of this disquieting film. In Russian, Chechen, Arabic, and Finnish with subtitles. 106 min. (JK) (Facets Cinematheque, 8:00)

The Last Mogul

As president of the entertainment conglomerate MCA, Lew Wasserman was a key figure in the demise of Hollywood's studio system and the dawn of the TV era: he negotiated the first percentage deal for a movie star; pioneered the licensing of old movies to television; and, after acquiring Universal Studios, led the way in studio production of TV series and movies. For decades he was the most powerful man in Hollywood, brokering deals with prominent Washington Democrats on behalf of the industry, though his own demise in the 90s, when MCA was bought by Matsushita, was a sign of the times as well. This documentary was produced by Bravo, which may explain the slightly gaga narration and preponderance of journalistic celebs (Peter Bart, Larry King, Dominick Dunne, Helen Gurley Brown). But writer-director Barry Avrich offers a cogent appraisal of Wasserman's importance to the industry and duly notes the darker aspects of his empire (among them MCA's alleged ties to organized crime). 105 min. (JJ) (Society for Arts, 9:00)

Three of Hearts

See listing for Sat 4/2. (Chopin Theatre, 9:00)

Martins' Passion

See listing for this date above. (Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 9:00)

MONDAY 4

R The Fall of Fujimori

Filmmaker Ellen Perry scored quite a coup when Albert Fujimori, the deposed president of Peru, granted her his first extensive interview since fleeing to Japan four years ago as a fugitive wanted by Interpol for corruption, kidnapping, and murder. To her credit, Perry isn't taken in by Fujimori's attempts to distance himself from the controversies that plagued his presidency. Helped by Kim Roberts's excellent editing, she succinctly chronicles his unlikely ascent and subsequent collapse, which was prompted in part by his reliance on his ruthlessly deceptive secret-police chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. The events of his presidency play out like an erratic pageant--particularly when Fujimori's estranged wife decides to run against him and he retaliates by stripping her of her title as first lady and transferring it to their daughter. In Spanish and Japanese with subtitles. 83 min. (JK) Perry will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 11:30)

Robert Capa, the Man Who Believed His Own Legend

See listing for Sun 4/3. Director Patrick Jeudy will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, noon)

R Highway Courtesans

Director Mystelle Brabbee devoted ten years to this portrait of the Bachara, a community of families in central India whose livelihood consists of prostituting their eldest daughters, some as young as 12, along India's major highways. The tradition goes back centuries, but by tracking the seven-year odyssey of a young girl named Guddi from dutiful daughter to family rebel, Brabbee is able to puncture the system's facade of social acceptability, exposing its contradictions in memorable fashion. In English and subtitled Hindi. 71 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Society for Arts, 1:30)

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off

Patrick Collerton directed this 2004 British film that follows a 36-year-old man dying of a rare skin disease through his final months, when he decides to make the most of the time he has left. 56 min. Also on the program: Maciej Adamek's 26-minute film I'm With You (2004). In Polish with subtitles. Collerton and Adamek will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 2:00)

Twist of Faith

An Academy Award nominee for best feature documentary, this 2004 film from director Kirby Dick (Derrida) tracks the struggles of Toledo firefighter Tony Comes after he files a lawsuit charging his diocese with the cover-up of his and others' sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. 87 min. (Society for Arts, 3:30)

This World: Inside Israel's Jails

Director Nick Read's BBC documentary goes inside two maximum-security Israeli prisons housing convicted Palestinian terrorists. 59 min. Also on the program: Alireza Ghanie's Lesson From Bam (2004, 23 min.), which was filmed just after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 68,000 Iranians. In Farsi with subtitles. (Chopin Theatre, 4:00)

R I Am Cuba, Siberian Mammoth

See listing for Sat 4/2. Director Vicente Ferraz will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30)

The Journey: Portrait of Vera Chytilova

An irritating and frustrating 52-minute account (2004) of the woman I regard as the greatest Czech filmmaker, offering a meager sense of her transgressive and innovative work while allowing her to rattle on about her family and current domestic life without revealing much that's distinctive about either. Clips from Chytilova's films aren't identified by Czech director Jasmina Blazevic until the closing credits, and even viewers who have some acquaintance with her work--which apart from the 1966 classic Daisies can be difficult to find--are set adrift with few signposts about the shape of her prolific and varied career. In Czech with subtitles. (JR) Reviewed this week in Section 1. Also on the program: Martin Sulik's 58-minute Czech film The Key for Determining Dwarfs or the Last Travel of Lemuel Gulliver. (Society for Arts, 5:30)

Lost Children

This Ugandan-German coproduction, directed by Ali Samadi Ahadi and Oliver Stoltz, examines the plight of the "lost boys," northern Ugandan youths kidnapped and forced to fight by the rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army. In Acholi with subtitles. 95 min. Stoltz will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 6:00)

The German Secret

See listing for Sat 4/2. Lars Johansson and Kirsten Blohm will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 7:30)

Tales From the Inside

Guadalupe Miranda's 2004 film looks at the day-to-day life of women inmates at a Mexican federal prison. In Spanish with subtitles. 76 min. (Society for Arts, 7:30)

R The Liberace of Baghdad

Originally director Sean McAllister planned to make a movie about life in Baghdad immediately after the so-called end of the second gulf war, but when he befriended Samir Peter, the articulate, funny, resolutely chain-smoking title character of this 2004 documentary, he opted instead to train his video camera on him. Once the most popular concert pianist in Iraq, Samir formerly maintained a rather extravagant lifestyle, with a large, lavish house and plenty of booze and women. By the time McAllister finds him, he's holed up in a small room in the basement of a Baghdad hotel, playing nightly for a scattering of mercenaries and military personnel and too afraid to make the trek back to his house each night to join his children. In English and subtitled Arabic. 75 min. (JK) McAllister will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 8:00)

The Concrete Revolution

Xiaolu Guo's 2004 documentary looks at the effect of Beijing's massive recent development projects on the laborers who toil behind them. In Mandarin with subtitles. 60 min. Also on the program: Jarek Sztandera's 18-minute film For a Miracle (2004). In Polish with subtitles. Xiaolu and Sztandera will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 9:00)

Shape of the Moon

See listing for Sun 4/3. (Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 9:00)

Grey Gardens

The cinema verite movement finally unveiled its exploitative heart with this unpleasant 1976 documentary on Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie--two relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis living in squalor and oblivion amid the ruins of their East Hampton estate. David and Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter) directed, with an attitude of curdling condescension clearly emerging from their vaunted "blank" style. 94 min. (DK) (Facets Cinematheque, 9:30)

Mission Accomplished and Torture in the Name of Freedom

In Mission Accomplished (2004, 45 min.), German documentarist Helmut Grosse argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq only to secure its oil supply; Jor Armbruster and Armin Stauth's Torture in the Name of Freedom (2004, 45 min.) examines the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Both films are in German with subtitles. (Chopin Theatre, 9:45)

TUESDAY 5

The Power of Nightmares

Adam Curtis's three-part BBC documentary (2004) argues that neoconservatives and radical Islamists alike have cultivated a culture of fear in order to achieve their own ends in the war on terror. 155 min. (Society for Arts, 11:30)

Banffy Castle

Tobias Muller's 2004 documentary looks at the inhabitants of a psychiatric hospital in rural Romania. In German and Romanian with subtitles. 45 min. Also on the program: Phantom Limb (28 min.), San Francisco filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt's reflections on the childhood death of his brother 40 years ago. Muller will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, noon)

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan

See listing for Sat 4/2. Director Laila Pakalnina will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 2:00)

R State of Fear

Pamela Yates directed this insightful chronicle of the violence that gripped Peru between 1980 and 2000, as the murderous Shining Path movement waged guerrilla war against the nation's brutally repressive military forces. The film nimbly covers the conflict's background, starting with the Shining Path's founding in 1970 amid a series of military coups, then presents an effectively impressionistic account of the war, which ultimately claimed the lives of 70,000 civilians, and its aftermath. Yates makes good use of her access to participants in Peru's Truth Commission, creating both an engaging historical survey and a timely warning about the perils of declaring war on terror. In English and subtitled Spanish. 94 min. (Reece Pendleton) Yates will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 3:00)

Call It Democracy

See listing for Sun 4/3. (Chopin Theatre, 4:00)

Old Believers

Jana Sevcikova's 2001 documentary looks at a tiny Romanian religious community whose faith has remained unchanged since the early 17th century. In Czech with subtitles. 45 min. Also on the program: Michaela Pavlatova's TV movie On Grandma (2000, 29 min.), which combines animation and archival footage to recount Czechoslovakia's course through the 20th century from the vantage point of the filmmaker's grandmother. In Czech with subtitles. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30)

Wellstone!

See listing for Sun 4/3. The directors will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 5:30)

Lost Children

See listing for Mon 4/4. Director Oliver Stoltz will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 6:00)

R The 3 Rooms of Melancholia

See listing for Sun 4/3. (Facets Cinematheque, 7:00)

Tropic of Cancer

Eugenio Polgvsky's 2004 film follows a group of families living under primitive conditions in the desert of San Luis Potosi. In Spanish with subtitles. 52 min. Also on the program: Martin Boege's The Embargo (2003, 35 min.), which looks at the demise of a formerly all-powerful union of Vera Cruz harbor workers. (Society for Arts, 7:30)

Mad Hot Ballroom

See listing for Sat 4/2. (Chopin Theatre, 8:30)

Darwin's Nightmare

See listing for Sat 4/2. (Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 9:00)

Shape of the Moon

See listing for Sun 4/3. Director Leonard Retel Helmrich will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 9:00)

This World: Inside Israel's Jails

See listing for Mon 4/4. (Society for Arts, 9:00)

WEDNESDAY 6

Omar and Pete

In this 2004 documentary, local filmmaker Tod Lending (The Legacy) takes an intimate look at the struggles of two Maryland ex-cons struggling to reintegrate themselves into society. When we first meet Omar, he's full of plans for his postprison life. Armed with his faith (he's converted to Islam in prison), a supportive family, and a team of counselors, he seems primed to succeed--which makes it all the more painful when he faces setbacks that even his longtime friend Pete, a fellow ex-con, can't help him overcome. Lending lets us see Omar for the flawed but likable man he is, and in the process gets us to care deeply about his fate. 83 min. (HSa) The director will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 11:30)

Dhakiyarr vs. the King

In this 2004 production Australian filmmakers Tom Murray and Allan Collins journey with a group of aborigines as they seek answers from white authorities about the long-ago murder trial and subsequent disappearance of a venerated tribal leader. In English and subtitled Yolngu. 56 min. Also on the program: German director Marc Wiese's Radovan Karadzic--Most Wanted? (2004, 45 min.). In German and Serbian with subtitles. (Chopin Theatre, noon)

R The Real Dirt on Farmer John

See listing for Fri 4/1. Director Taggart Siegel will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 1:30)

Heroes--Between Day and Night

See listing for Sat 4/2. Director Cem Madra will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 3:00)

R The Liberace of Baghdad

See listing for Mon 4/4. Director Sean McAllister will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 3:30)

The Passion of Maria Elena

Mercedes Moncada's 2003 film follows a Mexican Indian woman's pursuit of justice after her child is killed in a hit-and-run. 76 min. In Spanish with subtitles. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30)

Regular or Super--Views on Mies van der Rohe

Canadian directors Joseph Hillel and Patrick Demers's homage to Mies (2004, 56 min.) features interviews with Stanley Tigerman and Rem Koolhaas. Also on the program: British director Sam Huntley's short Polish Your Shoes (2003, 11 min.). Hillel will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 5:30)

Christo in Paris

This 1990 documentary by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Deborah Dickson, and Susan Froemke tracks Christo and Jean-Claude as they drape the Pont Neuf. In English and subtitled French. 58 min. Also on the program: the Maysles brothers' Muhammad and Larry (1980, 26 min.), which looks at Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in the weeks before their world champion heavyweight matchup. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 6:00)

R Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire

When the genocide in Rwanda reached a fever pitch in 1994, the majority of Western forces there hightailed it out, permitting the slaughter of over 800,000 civilians in fewer than 100 days. One of the notable exceptions was Canadian general Romeo Dallaire, the man in charge of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, whose repeated calls for immediate intervention on the part of the international community went unheeded. Canadian filmmaker Peter Raymont follows Dallaire as he returns to Rwanda ten years later hoping to put to rest the personal demons he's wrestled with since leaving. This is a deeply engaging portrait of a remarkable man and a brutally frank indictment of the West's moral cowardice in the face of a tragedy it could have prevented. In English and French with subtitles. 91 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Chopin Theatre, 6:00)

Crimson Sails

Miroslav Janek's 2001 feature focuses on a floating theatrical production that toured several European ports. In Czech with subtitles. 80 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 7:15)

R Occupation: Dreamland

See listing for Sun 4/3. The directors will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7:15)

Dust to Glory

Sports documentarist Dana Brown (Step Into Liquid) turns his attention to the Baja 1000, a grueling off-road race down the Baja Peninsula open to motorcycles, ATVs, custom-built trucks, and even Volkswagen Beetles. In this 2005 feature, Brown mixes jaw-dropping footage of the action, an assortment of human-interest stories, and a dash of humor with a lot of vague philosophizing about sports and the meaning of life. The action is exciting, but the rapid-fire narration jumps around too quickly, making it difficult to keep straight the personalities meant to hold the film together. And while surfing, Brown's previous subject, pits the individual against nature, this race is all about the machines--which makes the philosophizing seem a little silly. PG, 97 min. (HSa) (Beverly Arts Center, 7:30)

R Golub: Late Works Are the Catastrophes

Chicago-based Kartemquin Films has added a 25-minute update and a subtitle to its documentary masterpiece (1988) about the Chicago-born leftist painter Leon Golub. I'm grateful for the new material, which documents the "fatalistic" yet playful later phase in Golub's work up to his death in 2004 and fills another gap by better conveying the paintings of his wife, Nancy Spero. But I'm somewhat dismayed by the way the overall emphasis of the original (which will be available separately on a forthcoming DVD) has shifted away from the social reception of Golub's political paintings toward a more conventional biographical approach. Tom Sivak's music throughout remains striking and original. 80 min. (JR) Reviewed this week in Section 1. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 7:30)

R The Fall of Fujimori

See listing for Mon 4/4. Director Ellen Perry will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 8:00)

Darwin's Nightmare

See listing for Sat 4/2. Director Hubert Sauper will attend the screening. (Facets Cinematheque, 8:45)

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off

See listing for Mon 4/4. Director Patrick Collerton will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 9:00)

The Last Mogul

See listing for Sun 4/3. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 9:15)

Children of the Decree and The Last Godfather

Sicilian reporter Marco Amenta attempts to track down the reputed head of the Cosa Nostra, a fugitive for more than 40 years, in The Last Godfather (2004, 60 min.). In Italian with subtitles. Florin Iepan's Children of the Decree (2004, 52 min.) looks at the years when Romanian dictator Nikolae Ceausescu banned abortion and all forms of contraception. In English and subtitled Romanian. Amenta will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 10:00)

THURSDAY 7

Regular or Super--Views on Mies van der Rohe

See listing for Wed 4/6. Director Joseph Hillel will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, noon)

ISDC winners

See listing for Sat 4/2. (Society for Arts, 1:00)

The Concrete Revolution

See listing for Mon 4/4. Directors Xiaolu Guo and Jarek Sztandera will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 2:00)

But the Hour Is Near

Yuris Poskus's 2004 feature follows two Riga street preachers. 87 min. In Latvian with subtitles. (Society for Arts, 3:00)

Orphans of Nkandla

British directors Brian Woods and Deborah Shipley's documentary (2003, 80 min.) looks at the plight of South African children orphaned by AIDS. In English and subtitled Zulu. (Chopin Theatre, 4:00)

R Hitler's Hit Parade

Oliver Axer and Susanne Benze collect two dozen big-band recordings from Nazi Germany, illustrating the songs with footage from period musicals, cartoons, newsreels, propaganda, and home movies to create a swirling impressionistic collage of pop culture in the Third Reich. Unlike the directors of East Side Story (1996), which looked at musical comedies from the Soviet bloc, Axer and Benze dispense with any narration, interviews, or captioning of source material, making their rhetorical points through fluid editing as the silver-screen fantasy of a joyous fatherland is gradually punctured by shots of dead soldiers and doomed Jews. Given the beauty of some of the color animation and dance numbers--and the scant attention paid to this chapter in cinematic history--the filmmakers' ambitions seem rather limited. But the sheer magic of the music and images, and the horrors they concealed, put any receptive viewer in an unexpected and uncomfortable position. In German with subtitles. 76 min. (JJ) (Society for Arts, 5:15)

Out of the Forest

Limor Pinhasov and Yaron Kaftori Ben Yosef's 2004 feature follows a Lithuanian Holocaust-era diarist. 90 min. In English and subtitled Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, and Hebrew. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30)

The Men Who Would Conquer China

New York investment banker Mart Bakal, who specializes in privatization in formerly communist countries, attempts to take his act to China in this 2004 documentary. His well-connected Hong Kong partner, Vincent Lee, is far more appealing, telling the obnoxiously aggressive Bakal he's too impatient and condescending; Lee's also the one who comes up with a workable plan. This is most intriguing as a portrait of an arrogant American: Bakal doesn't want to build relationships with Chinese partners by buying a small company; he wants to invest big and become a billionaire who leaves his mark on the world. The overly picturesque imagery isn't nearly as interesting--director Nick Torrens includes way too many airplane takeoffs and pans up skyscrapers. 78 min. (FC) Torrens and Bakal will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 6:00)

Dust to Glory

See listing for Wed 4/6. (Copernicus Center, 7:00)

R Golub: Late Works Are the Catastrophes

See listing for Wed 4/6. Directors Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal will attend the screening, which is sold out. (Society for Arts, 7:00)

Rhythm Is It!

Thomas Grube and Enrique Sanchez Lansch's 2004 feature chronicles a youth outreach program undertaken by the Berlin Philharmonic. 100 min. In English and subtitled German. (Facets Cinematheque, 7:30)

R State of Fear

See listing for Tue 4/5. (Beverly Arts Center, 7:30)

Omar and Pete

See listing for Wed 4/6. (Chopin Theatre, 8:00)

Meet Marlon Brando and What's Happening!: The Beatles in the U.S.A.

Two celebrity profiles by David and Albert Maysles, shot within 18 months of each other but showing their iconic subjects at dramatically different points in their relationship with fame. What's Happening! (1964, 70 min.) follows the Beatles on their historic swing through New York, Washington, and Miami in February 1964, a trip that included their first two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Still giddy with all the attention, they listen to themselves on transistor radios and lark about for the camera. More interesting but much harder to find these days is Meet Marlon Brando (1966, 28 min.), filmed during the actor's New York press junket for Morituri. Confronted with a succession of fawning interviewers from local TV stations, Brando does everything he can to keep it real, dismissing the movie and quizzing his interlocutors about themselves. (JJ) (Copernicus Center, 8:45)

66 Seasons

Peter Kerekes's television documentary (2003, 86 min.) focuses on a famous swimming pool in Kosice. In Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak with subtitles. (Facets Cinematheque, 9:15)

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo's self-portraits have become so iconic that seeing her as a real person in home movies gives an odd little jolt. That's one pleasant surprise in this 2004 documentary on Kahlo's life and--to a frustratingly lesser extent--work. With support from PBS, Amy Stechler (Ken Burns's ex-wife and a writer and editor on several of his early projects) uses the now formulaic mix of photographs, archival footage, and interviews with experts (author Carlos Fuentes is a standout) to take us through Kahlo's life: the traumatic accident, her devotion to Diego Rivera, and her numerous affairs. It's solid and informative, if a bit too familiar. In English and subtitled Spanish. 86 min. (HSa) (Chopin Theatre, 10:00)

Add a comment