Notes From The Program Director | Week of January 20th
Notes From The Program Director
Week of January 20th, 2023
Hello, Pickford friends!
I’m pleased to say we’ve got three of last week’s films continuing this week:Broker,Corsage, andSkinamarink. It’s wonderful to see so many enjoying an extraordinary film likeCorsageand also Koreeda’s latest delight inBroker.The story of the journey ofSkinamarink, from inception to big screen, continues to be enthralling, too: Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball made the film for a mere $15,000--fully sourced by crowdfunding--and then, after a harrowing festival experience in which his film was pirated and leaked online, he was forced to agree to an official release of the film almost a year earlier than originally planned. This tiny film that has had such a rocky start, however, performed so brilliantly in theaters its opening day--Friday, January 13--and was welcomed so warmly by audiences, the distributor has expanded its theatrical run another week and has opened the film in more theaters. In a new and uncertain post-pandemic cinema landscape, where all but the biggest budget films often struggle to find a theatrical audience,Skinamarinkis a success story for cinephiles everywhere to celebrate.
And new to our screens this week is another small budget independent film, not quite so small and independent as Skinamarink, but a film that is happily reminiscent of a golden age of indies: When You Finish Saving the World.
When You Finish Saving the World is the feature debut from actor (now director and writer!) Jesse Eisenberg. Premiering at last year's Sundance and reminding me of another fantastic old-school indie film To Leslie (which we played last year), Eisenberg’s film feels like a throwback to the Sundance of another era: one of those small, well-made indies that explore social issues or ideas through very specific characters and relationships. Reviews last year of When You Finish Saving the World drew comparisons to Noah Baumbach and Miranda July, and this film does, indeed, have a similar feel; it's particularly akin, perhaps, to the social satire of Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, a film that also, of course, featured Eisenberg. When You Finish Saving the World has the sharp and sometimes bitter wit of Baumbach’s earlier film, and it is also, similarly, a comedy-drama and a coming-of-age tale involving fraught parent-child relationships.
Perhaps best known for his role in Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard as "Ziggy" plays a high school boy who's deeply invested in developing an online audience for songs he writes, sings, and plays, until he falls for a fellow student whom he desperately wants to impress but whose more expansive vision of the world and impressively informed sense of social justice and activism shames his more obviously limited and immature ideas and ideals.
Julianne Moore (as always, marvelous in her role) plays Ziggy's mother, Evelyn, an NPR-donating, nice white liberal, who takes pride in running a shelter for women, and who, in her vague disappointment about Ziggy, fixates on another boy whose mother is in the shelter, a surrogate son of sorts that she believes needs saving and that she's sure she can save, launching him, through the force of her goodwill, into her own idea of a life of success.
Ziggy and Evelyn's self-involved and separate but parallel pursuits showcase two once-close members of a family, each laser-focused on other people whom they think will bring them happiness, while harboring irritation and resentment towards one another -- lonely in their own families, as it were, and trying to find connections and contentment elsewhere. Ultimately, the film is an often beautifully drawn character study and a comedically-tinged social critique, wryly observing the ways apparent altruism often gets tangled in narcissism and the ways that family members, particularly, might fail to truly see and embrace one another. It’s an impressive debut from Eisenberg, whose roots in indie film show their strengths here.
This weekend we are also delighted to have the privilege of hosting the 5th annual Treaty Day Film Festival, a festival that has now expanded to a multi-day celebration, including children’s programming for some schools on Thursday and Friday. The community is invited to the public portion of the festival, here at the Pickford, on Saturday, January 21, where there will be two sessions to choose from: a short films program at 10:00 am and a feature film program at 12:45 pm. All films have been curated or created by Children of the Setting Sun Productions. Children of the Setting Sun Productions (CSSP) notes, “Treaty Day is an important part of all of our history and that is the message we want to convey as we embark on this journey. What was once a single day event has turned into a three day festival to share these powerful films with more people and increase the impact on our community. Each event will include an opening ceremony with traditional dancers and song. The festival will center around CSSP’s latest documentary, ‘Our Sacred Obligation.’ This inspiring film focuses on the importance of dam removal for the survival of salmon.”
This week also brings the return of Indie Lens Pop-up films: “Indie Lens Pop-Up is a neighborhood series that brings people together—virtually and in-person—for film screenings and community-driven conversations. Indie Lens Pop-Up draws local residents, leaders, and organizations to discuss what matters most, from newsworthy topics and social issues, to family and community relationships.” This week’s film, co-hosted by Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival (BHRFF), is Love in the Time of Fentanyl, a deeply compelling film that could not be more urgent in its subject matter: “As deaths in Vancouver, Canada reach an all-time high, the Overdose Prevention Society opens its doors—a renegade supervised drug consumption site that employs active and former drug users. Its staff and volunteers do whatever it takes to save lives and give hope to a marginalized community in this intimate documentary that looks beyond the stigma of people who use fentanyl and other drugs.”
As always, Indie Lens films are free, and for this film, playing Thursday, January 26 at 1:00 pm, BHRFF will be leading a short discussion following the film. Indie Lens films, always thought-provoking and connecting to real world subjects, invite engagement, and we are grateful for this opportunity for viewing and discussion.
This weekend, the Sundance Film Festival begins, so next week, I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from this weekly newsletter and watching as many festival films as I can. The line-up this year looks fabulous, and I’m eager to discover new films we might be able to bring to Bellingham!