This touring program continues Thursday, June 2, through Thursday, June 9, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $9, free for Facets members. Following are selected screenings; for more information and a complete schedule call 773-281-4114 or see facets.org.
Enemies of the People Veteran Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath spent more than ten years interviewing members of the Khmer Rouge, from foot soldiers to Pol Pot's second-in-command, who took part in the extermination of more than two million civilians in the 1970s. This video documentary, which Sambath directed with Rob Lemkin, combines devastating firsthand accounts with an intimate study of the journalist, whose parents and brother were among the casualties. Like Claude Lanzmann's Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985), this poses one of the most difficult philosophical questions—what it means to live with the legacy of genocide—and it shares with that film a fundamental respect for the viewer's intelligence. Sambath and Lemkin forgo images of atrocity to contemplate the souls of both its victims and its perpetrators, often to profound effect. —Ben Sachs 93 min. Dary Mien of the Cambodian Association of Illinois takes questions after the Thursday screening. Thu 6/2 and Tue 6/7, 9 PM.
The Green Wave This 2010 documentary about the protests that followed Iran's 2009 presidential election is a good primer on the country's current political climate; too bad its extensive use of animation amounts to little more than topical kitsch. Director Ali Samadi Ahadi uses a variety of talking heads, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, to explain why people became disillusioned with the Ahmadinejad government and how their rallies and demonstrations came together through social media. Interspersed are actor voice-overs of first-person accounts that were culled from blogs and Twitter, but unfortunately Ahadi chooses to illustrate these with animated drawings that rely too heavily on ham-fisted melodrama and confusing visual metaphors. This could have been striking; instead, it's merely informative. In English and subtitled Farsi. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 80 min. Kaveh Ehsani of DePaul University and Danny Postel, editor of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran's Future, take questions after the Saturday screening. Sat 6/4, 7 PM, and Tue 6/7, 6:30 PM.
In the Land of the Free . . . Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this documentary revisits the controversial cases of the Angola 3, who collectively served more than a hundred years of solitary confinement in Louisiana's vast Angola Prison. The understaffed prison was a hellhole of inmate abuse, murder, and sex slavery back in 1972, when Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, both serving time for robbery, were convicted of having stabbed a young guard to death. The flimsy evidence against them may have been less pertinent than the fact that they were organizing a prison chapter of the Black Panthers; Robert Hillary King, another Panther, was transferred to the prison shortly after the murder but likewise wound up in solitary confinement for decades. (King was released in 2001; the other two were transferred out of solitary in 2008 but are still serving life sentences.) Director Vadim Jean interviews King, various advocates for the still-incarcerated men, and even the widow of the murdered guard, who no longer believes Woodfox and Wallace are guilty. The documentary makes a strong case that the three were political prisoners who suffered heinous human-rights abuse. —J.R. Jones 75 min. Thu 6/9, 7 PM.
This Is My Land . . . Hebron Documentary makers Giulia Amati and Stephen Natanson look at Jewish settlements in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank. The style of this 2010 video is strictly TV—talking heads, infographics, news clips—but the street footage is striking. (One scene of Israeli soldiers trying without success to mediate a dispute over an olive garden is more effective than any number of slickly animated maps.) The structure is halfhearted but the images are succinct, which suggests that the directors know where and what to shoot better than they understand how to use the material. Nonetheless, this is fascinating and revealing; the fact that a movie as shaky as this one can make a convincing case against the settlers speaks for itself. In English and subtitled Hebrew and Arabic. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 72 min. Fri 6/3, 8:30 PM.
12 Angry Lebanese In 2008 and '09, actress and activist Zeina Daccache mounted an ambitious drama-therapy program at Roumieh Prison—the largest maximum-security facility in Lebanon—that culminated in a widely publicized staging of 12 Angry Men. Her documentary covers the sessions leading up to that production, and aside from a few self-congratulatory moments it's refreshingly free of sentimentality. The movie has a fleet, impressionistic sensibility, mixing scenes in rehearsal and different scenes in performance; this mosaic approach privileges the therapeutic process over the show's artistic success and elicits empathy for the prisoners, many of whom are serving life sentences. In Arabic with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 78 min. Meade Palidofsky of Storycatchers Theatre takes questions after the Friday screening. Fri 6/3, 7 PM, and Sun 6/5, 4 PM.