Notes From The Program Director | Week of September 22nd, 2023
Notes From The Program Director
Week of September 22nd, 2023
It’s great to be back in Bellingham after a whirlwind of a trip to the lovely city of Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival. I managed to watch 29 films over the span of 8 days, a lovely mix of smaller indie and international films, prestige arthouse films, and rousing crowd-pleasers, and I’m eager to get many of these films on Pickford screens.
It’s hard to choose a favorite from TIFF, but the ones I loved the most wereEvil Does Not Exist(the newest stunner from Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who directedDrive My Car);Close Your Eyes(from Spanish auteur Victor Erice);The Boy and the Heron(the magical new film from none other than Hayao Miyazaki);TheZone of Interest(a profound and devastating film from Jonathan Glazer);The Holdovers(a warm-hearted, witty comedy-drama from the great Alexander Payne and hitting our screens November 10!);The Royal Hotel(a provocative, fantastic thriller from the brilliant Kitty Green, on screen here on October 6);The Beast(the intense, visually stunning, sci-fi film from Bertrand Bonello that made a big splash this year at Venice);The Teachers’ Lounge(a riveting drama and Germany’s entry into the Oscars);Fallen Leaves(the newest wry delight from Aki Kaurismaki);American Fiction(a wonderful satire starring the great Jeffrey Wright);Woman of the Hour(Anna Kendrick’s fantastic feature film debut -- sadly, picked up by Netflix, who is not a friend to theatrical releases);Hit Man (Richard Linklater’s newest crowd-pleaser -- sadly, also picked up by Netflix); andDream Scenario(a hilarious sci-fi film starring a magnificent Nic Cage).
Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, in anticipating the theatrical releases of those TIFF films, we have two new terrific films opening this Friday:The Unknown Country, which I wrote about in mySept. 1 newsletterandA Compassionate Spy.
A Compassionate Spyis the new documentary from Steve James and Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), and it's the utterly fascinating real-life espionage story of Manhattan Project scientist Ted Hall, who, unlike Robert Oppenheimer (whose ethics were a bit muddier), became convinced that the nuclear weapon would be disastrous for the whole world, and so in an effort to take the power out of just one country's hands, he decided to take the radical step of giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, thus changing the course of nuclear history. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that if both countries had the weapon, no one would want to use it. He was ultimately suspected of espionage and questioned repeatedly by the FBI, but they were never able to prove what they suspected, and the secret of what he'd done was kept by just him and his wife for many years.
It's a film that tackles more of the explicit ethics of the bomb that Christopher Nolan’s filmOppenheimerleaves out or only hints at, and it’s a film that puts us as audience members in a truly interesting "what would I have done??" position: choose "patriotism" and country -- or make the "compassionate" choice you believe will save humanity and betray your country's secrets to the "enemy"? It’s a film that’s sure to prompt questions and discussions and would certainly make a fantastic double feature withOppenheimeritself, both films covering the multi-faceted, complicated history from different angles.
We also have three special events this week you won’t want to miss: the irrepressible Jack Black inSchool of Rockfor our Kid Pickford selection on Saturday afternoon (1:30) and evening (10 pm);Nothing’s For Free, a heart-pounding documentary about the birth and legacy of freeride mountain biking, playing Sunday at 4:30; and on Thursday Sept. 28,The Engine Inside, a documentary about the “unique power of the bicycle to change lives and build a better world,” a special showing forClimate Action Weekand sponsored byWalk and Roll Bellingham. Attendees toEngine Insidewill be entered into a raffle with a chance to win some wonderful prizes (including a bike!).
Finally, don’t miss the last chances to see the delightful heart-warmerScrapper, playing just Saturday and Sunday;Barbie, which will be leaving our screens very soon; andTheatre Camp, for its final week.