Notes From The Program Director | Week of April 7th, 2023
Notes From The Program Director
Week of April 7th, 2023
Newsletter for April 7-13, 2023
Pickford audiences have spoken and so we’re hanging on to the Oscar nomineeThe Quiet Girl, and Oscar winnersThe WhaleandPinocchiofor one final week, and I’m also pleased to say the hilariousSmoking Causes Coughing, which had a couple of teaser preview shows last weekend, is here for a full week’s run. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed as hard during a film as I did duringSmoking Causes Coughing, and just thinking about the film’s “barracuda sequence” as I type, threatens to send me into giggle fits. Director Quentin Dupieaux’s work certainly won’t be for everyone, but anyone who loves the wacky and outrageous won’t want to miss this one.
New to our screens this week we’ve got two very wonderful and very different films:Roise and FrankandNo Bears.
Roise and Frankis, quite simply, a delightfully feel-good, gently funny Irish-language indie with lots of heart. It's no surprise to me the film was a huge hit in Port Townsend when it played at the Port Townsend Film Festival last year, and it’s guaranteed to warm our Bellingham hearts, too. The film follows Roise (pronounced Roh-shuh), a recently widowed, grief-stricken and lonely woman whose life takes a turn when a dog, an apparent stray, turns up on her doorstep and refuses to leave. To the dismay of her practical son, the local medical doctor, Roise begins to believe the dog is her dead husband, Frank, reincarnated and returned to her. And so with Frank at her side, Roise begins to re-engage with the world around her, and, noting another lonely soul, a young boy who wants to join the local children’s Hurling team but is too shy to do so, Roise and Frank take him under their wing. It's a warm and gentle story about loss and the way that family and community helps to heal that loss, but most of all, it's about how the love of a good dog is better than just about anything and how a wise and loving pet might know exactly what we need when other people don't. And in honor of our Saturday screenings of the film, the Whatcom Humane Society will be joining us in our lobby with a slideshow of adoptable pets available. Adorable animals on a Saturday afternoon -- what could be better?
No Bearsis the latest film from the extraordinary Iranian filmmaker, Jafar Panahi, and it is a masterpiece. Some of you may have had the chance to see another Panahi film with us recently for our February Cinema East selection,3 Faces, and many may remember the harrowing political persecution under which Panahi has been working for most of his career but particularly since 2010, when he was charged with “anti-government propaganda,” sentenced to six years in prison and put under a 20-year ban on directing movies, writing screenplays, giving interviews, or leaving the country. Defiant in the face of these restrictions, Panahi has persisted in his art, making such films as the cheekily-titledThis Is Not a Film(2011),Closed Curtain(2013),Taxi(2015),3 Faces(2018), and nowNo Bears(2022).
Panahi has made self-reflexive films exploring artistic, personal, and political freedom for most of his career, and this film continues to probe those ideas and to push the boundaries of cinematic expression, while also interrogating the nature and ethics of filmmaking itself. Like many of his earlier films, here, Panahi plays a fictionalized version of himself: a filmmaker named Jafar Panahi, who, banned from making films and from leaving the country, has traveled to a small Iranian village bordering Turkey, and from that secret and remote location, is directing a film, which itself is being shot in Turkey. In the midst of the drama of making his secret film--a task complicated by unreliable wifi and an inability to stay in touch with his Turkish crew--Panahi becomes unintentionally embroiled in the local village politics after he takes seemingly innocent photos of the the villagers and the local leaders then insist he hand the photos over in order to prosecute a crime they say has taken place: a love affair between two young people.
What unfolds is a delicately nuanced and layered examination of social and political issues, particularly the gendered oppression and religious fundamentalism of the society, but Panahi doesn’t let himself as a filmmaker off the hook either, and the film examines the dubious ethics, and sometimes even just bumbling mistakes, filmmakers might run into. Ultimately,No Bearsis a thematically complex, formally ingenious film, laced with both humor and tragedy; it is, quite simply, a brilliant piece of work. There are just four chances to see the film, which is not available on any streaming platform, and I’m delighted to say Jeff Purdue, Cinema East programmer, will be here for an introduction to the April 8 Saturday screening at 3:00 pm. You won’t want to miss it!
In addition to the varied cinematic delights ofNo Bears, Roise and Frank, The Quiet Girl, The Whale, andPinocchio, we also have three very special standalone events this week:Little Richard: I Am Everything, Tuesday, April 11;National Theatre Live: The Crucible, Wednesday, April 12; andProject Pivot, Thursday, April 13.
Little Richard: I Am Everythingis a vibrant new documentary about, you guessed it, Little Richard, aka Richard Penniman, "rock n roll’s most dynamic forefather and icon." While the documentary itself is fairly straightforward formally, there is nothing straightforward about Little Richard, and he is just an incredible presence. The film explores his life, his roots, his family, his early brilliance, his bold audacity, his identity as a Black queer person, his contradictions, and it illuminates the ways in which he, in many ways, created rock and roll, but also how many others who imitated and learned from him, especially white musicians, have gotten the credit. If you've seen Baz Luhrmann'sElvis, you may remember the scene where Elvis encounters Little Richard and then clearly takes the inspiration from Little Richard into his own music, style, and movement. This documentary also fills in the gaps and digs much deeper into that truth, detailing just how much rock stars like Elvis, Bowie, the Beatles, Elton John, Mick Jagger, and many others owed to him. It's a wonderful film, and while beautifully filled with infectious music, also provides much-needed exploration of the need to reclaim a history that has so often been badly told, the Black, queer roots of rock and roll denied or erased.
After a March hiatus,National Theatre Live(NTL) is back with a new imagining of one of the most well-known American plays, Arthur Miller’s classic,The Crucible. The Salem witch trials have perhaps rarely and unfortunately seemed more relevant than they are today, and Miller’s “parable of abuse and power” holds a particularly pungency. I can’t help but think ofWomen Talking, which recently played with us, as a companion piece to the play’s themes and characters: “A witch hunt is beginning. Raised to be seen and not heard, a group of young women in Salem suddenly find their words have an almighty power. As a climate of fear, vendetta, and accusation spreads through the community, no one is safe from the trial.”
Finally, we’re delighted to be able to screenProject Pivot, a new film from a local, Washington filmmaker, Charley Voorhis.Project Pivotfollows "three accomplished athletes, a rock climber, a mountain biker, and a skateboarder, who go on a three day adventure to try and learn each other’s sport. Two mental health professionals come along for the ride to help make sense of what they witness while these three athletes confront fear, pain and vulnerability to break down what it means to have grit and passion." The film, a deeply engaging, family-friendly watch, offers so much joy: watching each of these athletes excel in their own sport, each mesmerizing in their own ways, in their unique strengths and abilities, is just pure pleasure, and it’s also fascinating to follow their struggles as they try sports they are almost wholly unfamiliar with. We’re so pleased, too, that Charley; his producer, Alicia McKee; and one or two of the film's participants will also be present after the screening for a Q&A. It’s going to be a great evening!