Notes From The Program Director | Week of March 17th, 2023

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Notes From The Program Director

Week of March 17th, 2023

Melissa Tamminga

Rich Text

Hello, friends!

We’ve had to say goodbye to several brilliant films this week, EO, Close, Emily, and the newly anointed Oscar-winner Women Talking, and these sad goodbyes remind us of just how much we are longing for our new, second space on Grand Street, and the three more screens it will house. With those additional screens, we’ll be able to hang on to beloved films a bit longer, rather than being forced to let them go as we have this week, to make way for other films.

But we did find the space on our two current screens to bring back the seven-time Oscar winner, the Pickford film of 2022, Everything Everywhere All at Once, for two more encore shows, this Friday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 22. It promises to be a joyous celebration of a well-deserved win for the Daniels, Michelle Yeoh, Key Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and everyone involved in the making of one of the zaniest, most delightful films of the year. 

And new to the Pickford are two films we’re eager to share with you: The Quiet Girl and Inside.

The Quiet Girl, a feature debut from Irish director Colm Bairead, is the first Irish-language film to be nominated for an Oscar, and so it’s perhaps the perfect way to open St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Much like last week’s Close, The Quiet Girl features another phenomenal performance from a child actor, and its wonderfully understated but deeply evocative and immersive visual style also centers on the inner life of a child who is dealing with fraught circumstances.

Cait is "the quiet girl," an ignored and neglected middle child in a large, poor family, whose mother is pregnant (again) and saddled by the immense cares of many mouths to feed and whose self-absorbed heavy-drinking father seems to view his bundle of children merely as a collective nuisance. Whether they are clean, whether they have lunch, whether they can read, is not something that the burdened mother can manage to find out and it is not something the father cares to find out. With the coming new baby and school out for the summer, Cait's parents decide to get her out of the way by sending her away to their relatives, a middle-aged, childless couple, Eibhlin and Sean, and it's in this context that Cait experiences a kind of tenderness and attention she's never felt before.

Over the course of the film, as Cait becomes absorbed into the quiet daily rhythms and gentleness of her new summer home, we watch Cait--though still very quiet and observant--begin to come into her own, to relax the tension and the wary watchfulness she needed at home with her parents and at school. We also learn something of the backstory of her caretakers, a significant history that heightens the meaning of Cait in their home, and we become more and more invested in the relationship of this newly formed trio. The film delivers its story so quietly and subtly, however, that I wasn't quite aware of exactly how invested I was until the very end when the summer comes to a close for Eibhlin, Sean, and Cait, and the final moments reduced me to a quietly sobbing puddle of a person.

Of our three Pickford-screened Oscar-nominated International Features, it's a difficult choice among EO, Close, and The Quiet Girl, for they are each brilliant in their own way. This truly lovely and delicate film, however, might just have the edge for me.

Inside, our second new, theatrical-run film, directed by Vasilis Katsoupis, stars Willem Dafoe, in a singular, riveting performance.  The essential conceit of Inside is fairly simple but Katsoupis’s commitment that central idea is remarkable: a would-be art thief, Nemo (Dafoe), finds himself trapped with invaluable works of art in a soundproof, unbreakable penthouse--a bullet-proof glass box, as it were--with no ability to contact the outside world. As such, we as an audience are trapped inside this space, too, forced to confront the realities of its confines, a situation which helps point to the film's eventual thoughtful reflections on the value of art in the face of human vulnerability and mortality. Nemo, then, functions as a kind of no-man and everyman at the center of that reflection.  And with only soundless security footage and dream sequences to complement the penthouse space, the film ultimately makes for a wonderful showcase for Willem Dafoe as an actor, a one-man show, and he is, as always, mesmerizing to watch.

The film is also beautifully shot; many of its frames look like works of modern art themselves in their composition, and also thus invite audiences, in an elliptical way, to consider the medium of film itself as an artform.  Like many of the inscrutable works of art Dafoe is trapped with, however-- striking pieces that are often unclear or subjective in their meaning, if arresting in their visual impact -- the film may potentially either engage us as viewers or confound us, depending on what we decide we want from the film. If we just want a "heist film," we may be disappointed; if we just want a "survival story" akin to The Martian, we may be disappointed. But if we want a film that is both of those things and neither of those things and if we want a film with dazzling visuals, a standout performance, and a more challenging experience that will leave us with questions at the end, like arthouse movies often do, the film will simultaneously delight and provoke. I was also struck by what the film offers in its finale: there’s a "did he? or didn't he??" situation that inevitably led to some excited conversation among those of us industry folks who saw the film together last month, and I think it will leave other viewers chatting about it in the lobby afterwards, too! I’ll be eager to hear how others interpret those final scenes.

In addition to these two new films, we also have three very special film events this week:  our long-running Children’s Film Festival, back for a triumphant return after the pandemic hiatus; the second to last film in our Tanaka Kinuyo series; and a screening of the film Scarborough, based on the book of the same name, with the author, Catherine Hernandez, in attendance.

The Children’s Film Festival will run on Saturday and Sunday, from 10-2, and it has three programs of short films, curated by our multi-talented Executive Director, Susie Purves. Two of the film programs hail from the Seattle Children’s Film Festival at the Northwest Film Forum, our sister city and sister cinema, and the third program -- animated shorts specifically from Washington state -- will be especially exciting for us locals. Creators Phoebe Wahl and Andrea Love will be here with their short film and some of the puppets featured in the film, so the day should prove a particular delight!

Equinox Flower, the sixth film in our 7-film Tanaka series, will offer us an example of Tanaka Kinuyo’s skill in acting to complement what we’ve seen of her stunning abilities as a director, and it will be introduced by Dr. Colleen Laird. Equinox Flowerwas the first color film made by director Ozu Yasujiro and it promises to be a mesmerizing experience, as Ozu films always are, but I will be most interested this time in watching Tanaka’s performance. Even her brief appearances in some of the films she’s directed so far have been riveting, and this larger role will give us a chance to celebrate her acting work more fully.

Finally, playing Tuesday, March 21, 2:45 pm, Scarborough, directed by Shasha Nakhai and based on the book of the same name by award-winning novelist Catherine Hernandez, is a deeply moving film centering on the children and families of Scarborough, a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood in Toronto, Canada. The story gives space to different characters, Hina, a Muslim, school-worker, who fights to help the children under her care; Bing, a gay Filipino-Canadian boy whose father struggles with mental illness; Sylvie, an Indigenous girl whose family seeks housing security; and Laura, a little girl who suffers a history of neglect. The film is a deeply empathetic look at those whose lives are often invisible, and it celebrates their joys as much as their difficulties, helping us fully enter into the snapshot we’re offered. Novelist Catherine Hernandez, whose visit here has been sponsored by WWU’s Center for Canadian-American Studies (CAN-AM), will be with us for a Q&A after the screening, led by Christina Keppie, Director of CAN-AM. Hernandez will also be taking part in a book-themed dinner at Evolve Cafe, on Tuesday evening, and in a reading and discussion of her book at Village Books on Wednesday, March 22 -- a truly rich selection of events!

It’s a wonderful week for celebrating film and art. See you at the movies, friends! 


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Pickford Film Center

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