Sacred Places, April 24
Gianni di Gregorio (Italy, 2008). On the Feast of the Assumption, money troubles compel a middle-aged Roman living with his aged mother to take in three other nonnas (grandmothers) for a night. Their wiliness and warmth keep Gianni on his toes as friendship unexpectedly blossoms.
Gerald Peary (U.S., 2008). For a century, film critics have made the case for great films. Who will make the case for them? Enter Gerald Peary, who offers this stimulating tour through the rise, fall, and reorientation of film criticism in the United States. Gerald Peary in person.
Christopher Felver (U.S., 2009). This portrait of poet and City Lights cofounder Lawrence Ferlinghetti traces a legendary and remarkably influential literary life, from the early Beats and the Howl censorship trial to the notorious antiwar banner hung outside the bookstore, “Dissent Is Not Un-American.” Christopher Felver in person.
Anders Østergaard (Burma/Denmark/Sweden, 2008). This harrowing, breathless documentary revisits the 2007 protests by hundreds of silent monks and thousands of chanting citizens against Burma's military dictatorship, using the stunning concealed-camcorder footage smuggled abroad by a cadre of courageous young reporters.
Pamela Yates (U.S./Uganda/Congo/Colombia/Netherlands, 2008). The International Criminal Court's attempts to prosecute powerful killers who formerly acted with impunity is examined, through accounts of victims, prosecutors, and human rights activists, in this fascinating, often encouraging account of the pursuit of justice. Pamela Yates in person.
Federico Fellini (Italy, 1957). Mel Novikoff Award recipient Bruce Goldstein in person. Fellini's wife and muse, Giulietta Masina, portrays the spunky prostitute Cabiria in this humorous and ultimately transformative story of the survival of the human spirit by one of cinema's greatest filmmakers.
N. C. Heikin (U.S./South Korea/France, 2009). Through a series of extraordinary interviews with North Korean refugees, N. C. Heikin's stylistically inventive documentary presents a devastating indictment of Kim Jong Il, one of the world's most brutal-and illusive-dictators. N. C. Heikin in person.
Avi Mograbi (Israel/France, 2008). Israeli “docu-essayist” Avi Mograbi reveals the deepest longings of a nation in conflict in this genre-breaking and original work in which a young Israeli soldier participates in a revenge operation and anonymously speaks of his experiences.
Pierre Schoeller (France, 2008). Guillaume Depardieu, in his last performance before his untimely death last year, brings heart-piercing intensity to the role of a brooding social outcast living in a hut in the woods near Versailles whose life is upended when a young homeless woman decides to leave her five-year-old son in his care. Pierre Schoeller in person.
Carlos Sorín (Argentina/Spain, 2008). Bedridden eighty-year-old Antonio prepares a perfect homecoming for his estranged son. Though confined to his room, he takes one last stroll through the beautiful Patagonian landscape in this elegantly lyrical and humanistic film. Carlos Sorín in person.
Claire Denis (France, 2007). Denis magically limns the story of a father and daughter facing the inevitable, her independence, in this beautiful tale set among a small circle of black Parisians and their friends. Soulful Alex Descas stars, and Ingrid Caven has a memorable cameo.
Barmak Akram (France/Afghanistan, 2008). When a veiled woman abandons her infant son in the back of his cab, Khaled journeys through the streets of war-ravaged Kabul in an attempt to find the child's mother in this bittersweet comic fable.
Joe Berlinger (U.S./Ecuador/England, 2008). This lively and gripping documentary follows the shifting course of a lawsuit brought by 30,000 Ecuadoreans against Chevron for the contamination of the waters and streams of the Ecuadorean Amazon.
Olivier Assayas (France, 2008). Assayas's richly meditative and expressive new film uses the perspectives of three adult siblings on the disposition of their mother's estate to explore the meaning, passions, and memories we invest in objects and our surroundings.
Ursula Meier (Switzerland/France/Belgium, 2008). Home explores the gradual deterioration of a family's peaceful existence when the long-unused stretch of highway that borders their house suddenly opens to public use. Ursula Meier in person.
Suman Mukhopadhyay (India, 2008). A young Bengali intellectual's rebellion against conservative society takes him from atheism to mystical asceticism and relationships with two women in this story of love as both a game and a war of ideas, based on Tagore's classic 1916 novella. Suman Mukhopadhyay in person.
Aida Begic (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008). A remote mountaintop village of strong-willed widows and orphans provides the atmospheric setting of this Bosnian magical-realist film, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes's Critic's Week, which investigates the memories of war and the everyday pleasure of life.
Lee Anne Schmitt (U.S., 2008). This portrait of forgotten California industrial towns unsparingly documents their current condition with poignant commentary amid a backdrop of vast horizons and hulking factories.
Karim Dridi (France, 2008). Karim Dridi creates a vivid picture of Roma life in an enclave on the outskirts of Marseille. Thirteen-year-old Marco, a runaway from foster care, prefers this place of hard living and big, messy families to life on the outside.
Andrés Wood (Chile, 2008). This affectionate patchwork of stories about ordinary people struggling to follow their dreams in the Chilean metropolis-a social worker, a hairdresser, a bank loan officer, a classical musician-is presented with such penetrating empathy that it rises to the level of human comedy.
Michelangelo Antonioni (Italy, 1955). This early Antonioni tour de force masterfully weaves a web of relationships among an ensemble of desperate upper-class Italian housewives. A new digitally restored print offers an unparalleled opportunity to rediscover this rarely screened classic.
Fernando Eimbcke (Mexico, 2008). With droll observational humor reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch, writer-director Eimbcke's feature follows teenage Juan as he struggles to fix the family car in a Mexican seaside town in the aftermath of a minor accident and amid deeper emotional undercurrents. Director of Photography Alexis Zabé in person.
Atom Egoyan (Canada/France, 2008). A teenager's homework assignment rattles old family skeletons and becomes an Internet sensation when he fabricates a tale of terrorism about his dead parents, presenting the story as truth.
Benjamin Gilmour (Australia/Pakistan, 2007). This sensitively and beautifully shot debut film follows its appealing nonprofessional cast through the harsh, lovely terrain of remote northwestern Pakistan, in a story of a boy who would rather go to school than make firearms for his father. Benjamin Gilmour in person.
Yun Suh (U.S./Israel/Palestine, 2009). The Israel-Palestine conflict is seen anew through a rainbow of sexual identity in this heartfelt documentary centered on the diverse denizens of Jerusalem's lone gay bar, a haven of unity amid the region's seemingly eternal clash of cultures and religious strife. With short Tongzhi in Love (Ruby Yang, U.S., 2008). Yun Suh in person.
Gaël Métroz (Switzerland, 2008). Gaël Métroz, inspired by the writings of the famous Swiss adventurer/philosopher Nicolas Bouvier, discovers a deep connection to nomadic peoples and the physical and spiritual beauty of their worlds. A travel film unlike any you've seen.
Peter Greenaway (England/Netherlands, 2008). This provocative cine-essay by the director of The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover reframes Rembrandt's The Night Watch as an indictment of seventeenth-century Amsterdam's ruling elites.
Nancy Andrews, Kevin Jerome Everson, Adele Horne and Paul VanDeCarr, Lewis Klahr, Kerry Laitala, Charlotte Pryce, Scott Stark (U.S., 2008–2009). Seven experimental films vary from collage animation and puppets to 3-D imagery. Ninety-three candles on a birthday cake and a woman's near-death experience remind us of the fragility of life and the power of the moving-image medium . . . as well as the reverse. Kerry Laitala and Paul VanDeCarr in person.
Heddy Honigmann (Netherlands, 2008). Heddy Honigman returns to her native Peru for her latest deeply humanist exploration of everyday resilience and resignation. In Lima, “the forgotten city,” in the shadow of the presidential palace, bartenders and buskers create their own reality to survive an economy in ruins.
Sergei Dvortsevoy (Kazakhstan, 2008). Returning to the dry, unforgiving Hunger Steppe of southern Kazakhstan after a stint in the Russian navy, a young sheep herder dreams of establishing a family and a successful nomadic existence. When his large ears interfere with the courtship of a neighboring girl, he scrambles to keep his dream alive.
Mikhail Kalatozishvili (Russia, 2008). In the desolate beauty of the Kazakh steppes, a young Russian doctor without adequate medical supplies struggles to treat a surreal parade of locals with medical emergencies. Beautifully filmed and well acted, Wild Field successfully carries on the tradition of dark, existential Russian tragicomedy.
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor (U.S., 2009). From behind the headlines on the War on Terror comes this unexpected yet utterly American story: an intimate portrait of Hamza Pérez, Puerto Rican–born former gang member turned politically conscious hip-hop musician, community activist, family man, and devout Muslim. Jennifer Maytorena Taylor in person.
Lourdes Portillo (U.S., 2008). Persistence of Vision Award recipient Lourdes Portillo in person. A Mexican film crew led by a self-important director pursues the story of three fishermen who find a wayward package of cocaine off the Mayan coast. Portillo's sly, semi-fictional documentary ruminates on globalization's erasure of local culture.
Jean-Marie Téno (Cameroon/France, 2009). Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Téno profiles a poor but lively neighborhood in the capital of Burkina Faso, where a cine-club proprietor tries to include Burkinabe films among the action and Bollywood fare. With short Hommage (Jean-Marie Téno, Cameroon/France, 1985). Jean-Marie Téno in person.