Week of February 3, 2023
It’s an all-Oscars feast this week at the Pickford, and all of our theatrical-run films have been nominated for multiple Oscars: we have three Best Picture-nominated films with Everything Everywhere All at Once (also nominated for 10 other Oscars), The Banshees of Inisherin (also nominated for 8 other Oscars), and The Fabelmans (also nominated for 6 other Oscars). And we have Living, nominated for Best Actor and for Best Adapted Screenplay, an evocative adaptation of Kurosawa’s Ikiru by none other than novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. The Oscars, as we all know, don’t always get it right, but in the case of these four films, the nominations are those we can celebrate. And as the weeks go on, look out for more Oscar-nominated films, some returns of beloved films we’ve already played and some new films, like the fantastic All the Beauty and the Bloodshed(nominated for Best Documentary) and EO (nominated for Best International Film).
Our Black History Month programming kicked off this Thursday (Feb. 2) with film scholar and critic Elvis Mitchell’s marvelous new documentary, Is That Black Enough for You?!?, and we have an encore showing of the film on Saturday, Feb. 4. For many years, I've listened to Mitchell’s KCRW show, The Treatment, and he's fabulous. His debut film is, too: it traces Mitchell’s own personal history with film and the history of African American cinema in the U.S., focusing on the films of the 1970's the (so-called) "Blaxploitation" era and examining the profound impact those films had on Hollywood and on pop culture. It's the kind of documentary that makes you want to rush out and watch a bunch of films you haven't seen before or rewatch ones you have. The documentary opens up cinema itself in new ways, revealing its richness and celebrating the brilliance of often overlooked and underappreciated directors, actors, actresses, and composers, as well as examining the complexities and dynamics of the power structures of a white-centered Hollywood.
There's an excellent interview Marc Maron did with Elvis Mitchell about the documentary on Maron’s WTF podcast that I'd also recommend. The interview, in fact, pushed me to see the documentary itself, and it subsequently inspired our month’s series: we’ll be screening three of the films the documentary examines as significant to Black cinema, including Night of the Living Dead (Feb. 9), Shaft (Feb. 16), and The Wiz (Feb. 18). Each of the latter three films might be appreciated and loved on their own, but seeing them within the context Mitchell’s documentary adds power and richness to each of the already-wonderful films.
And for Cinema East this month, curator Jeff Purdue has selected Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces. 3 Faces is the fourth film Panahi has made while under a 20-year filmmaking ban in Iran, a ban “imposed for allegedly making propaganda against his country’s regime” (Variety), and in that context, the film went on to compete at Cannes and take home the Best Screenplay prize. This past summer, July of 2022 (after making yet another brilliant film with No Bears), Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison, and while his sentence was recently declared void by the country’s Supreme Court, they have still refused to release him, and as of February 1, Panahi is on hunger strike “to protest his ongoing detention at Iran’s notoriously harsh Evin prison” (Deadline). It’s a sobering thought, the contrast of freedom here, sitting in the comfort of our own cinema, watching what we please, while Panahi risks his very life for his art. Panahi’s films often feature reflections on cinema itself as well as interrogations of the repressiveness of his country’s government, whether in the restrictions on art or on others, including women, and in 3 Faces, Panahi cast himself, as a version of himself, and Behnaz Jafari, an actress also playing a version of herself, and the two go on a journey to discover the truth about the death of a young woman who was apparently driven to suicide by her family’s prohibition against her becoming an actress. Critic Jessica Kiang in her 2018 Variety review of 3 Faces calls it a “quietly fierce act of cinematic defiance” while also noting that the film reveals “a filmmaker with more cause than most to feel victimized, turning a deeply respectful, artful and compassionate eye outward, to the struggles of others, and finding such empathy there that the film amounts to a heartfelt statement of solidarity.”
And so in solidarity with Panahi himself and in support of this art we all love so much, it is our pleasure and honor to screen Panahi’s film, and to say, see you at the movies, friends.