Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

The Making of “Making a Murderer”

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

“Making a Murderer” directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos in person!

In this one of a kind event, DOC NYC artistic director Thom Powers conducts a live 90-minute interview with “Making a Murderer” directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, accompanied by clips, to focus on how the project came into being. They’ll discuss the ten year process of reporting, editing and releasing the series.

“Making a Murderer” follows the controversial story of Steven Avery in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and raises troubling questions over the process of justice in America. After the premiere of the first two episodes at DOC NYC in November 2015, the ten-hour series was released on Netflix in December. It swiftly became one of the most discussed documentaries ever. In the whirlwind of debate over Avery’s case, there’s been scant attention paid to the craft of the series that was ten years in the making. Whether you’ve binged the whole series or only know its reputation, this deep dive into the project is a fascinating look at the challenges and opportunities of independent documentary.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“The acme of no-budget, Buddhist-animist, faux-naïve, avant-pop magic neorealism, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a movie in which conversing with the materialized spirits of the dead and watching the so-called living on TV exist on the same astral plane.

As marvelously eccentric as it is modest, Weerasethakul’s sixth feature (winner of the Palme d’Or last year at Cannes) is, like many of his previous movies, set mainly in the forests of remote, poor, northeast Thailand, a place where multiple times co-exist and parallel lives converge. The pre-credit sequence of humans and water buffaloes hunkered down by smoky fire in the woodsy dawn could be a scene out of Pather Panchali, until a glimpse of a humanoid “monkey ghost,” red eyes glowing like coals, signals that we have entered the filmmaker’s primeval realm. The unblinking creatures are borrowed from the cheap horror flicks of Weerasethakul’s youth; the untethered buffalo could be an earlier incarnation of his protagonist, Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar).

Elderly Aunt Jen and her young nephew, Tong, both played by Weerasethakul regulars, enter this enchanted forest, having driven up from the city to visit Boonmee, Jen’s brother-in-law, who, dying of kidney failure, has relocated to an isolated jungle house. (Faint strains of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” are heard inside.) Boonmee explains that “spirits and hungry animals” can sense his sickness and, sure enough, mid–evening meal, the ghost of Boonmee’s long-dead wife, Huay, materializes at the table. Shortly after, another red-eyed monkey ghost, who is the manifestation of their long-lost son, Boonsang, appears out of the jungle—a constant presence that, thanks to the ongoing chorus of birds and crickets, is more soothingly pastoral than scary.

No one is particularly surprised by the apparitions, least of all Boonmee. (Ghosts are attached to people, not places, Huay explains.) As a former photographer, Boonmee is used to trafficking in the spirit world. Weerasethakul is similarly relaxed and tolerant of ambiguity. Influenced by the Warhol movies he may have seen (or only heard about at the Art Institute of Chicago)—as well as Thai notions regarding the transmigration of souls that he may no longer actually believe—the filmmaker has a taste for distanced camera positions, real-time expositions, deadpan humor, and blatant non sequiturs. Before Huay can guide her husband toward death, Weerasethakul provides a delightfully inexplicable digression, perhaps involving one of Boonmee’s past incarnations. A great lady carried through the jungle stops by a waterfall to admire her reflection, which, thanks to a spell cast by the Lord of the Water (a large catfish), has suddenly grown youthful. Intoxicated by this illusion, she wades into the pool, dropping her jewels as offerings, as the concupiscent fish thrashes between her legs.

Boonmee possibly passes by the same pool on his nocturnal voyage to the underworld, following Huay through the bush—Aunt Jen, Tong, and the camera trailing behind—into a grotto of sparkling rocks and reflective puddles. “This cave is like a womb,” he observes. Laser-red eyes illuminate the darkness, and the next morning, Boonmee is gone. Cut to a cheerfully garish Buddhist funeral, with Aunt Jen in attendance, and Tong, who played a monk in Syndromes and a Century, unexpectedly among the saffron-robed devouts. Tong briefly thereafter occupies center stage as the narrative gently twists around itself. He wakes up in the jungle, glances at his cell phone, and goes back to sleep, only to turn up at the motel room where Aunt Jen and her daughter (another Weerasethakul veteran) are counting the funeral money. He asks to take a shower and does so while the women idly watch soldiers on TV, then projects his ectoplasmic form to a local karaoke bar.

Ending with one last, playful paradox, Uncle Boonmee seems the fullest expression yet of Weerasethakul’s singular sensibility. A work of unostentatious beauty and uncloying sweetness, at once sophisticated and artless, mysterious and matter-of-fact, cosmic and humble, it asks only a measure of Boonmeevian acceptance: The movie doesn’t mean anything—it simply is.” – J. Hoberman, Village Voice

Part of the series “Mysterious Splendors: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul”

Blissfully Yours

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“In Blissfully Yours, a delicate, ethereal dream of a film from the young Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, two women and a man voyage into the wild, away from civilization and its discontents. Under a lush canopy of green, the travelers settle onto the bank of a small river for a modest picnic and some languid sex, cooling themselves in the lucent water and plunging into a parallel stream of tears. In this film, which opens today in Manhattan and marks the emergence of one of the more original and promising new voices to hit the international cinema scene in recent years, the primordial world offers only modest respite from everyday troubles.

The film begins with the two women, Roong (Kanokporn Tongaram) and Orn (Jenjira Jansuda), hovering next to the man, Min (Min Oo), in a doctor’s examination room. Suffering from a rash that has covered his body in painful lesions, Min remains silent throughout the exam while the women speak on his behalf. We don’t know yet that he’s a Burmese migrant worker or perhaps in exile and is probably in Thailand illegally. What we do know is that the women are trying to get a work permit for him, but the doctor won’t cooperate. Shot in the actual offices run by the filmmaker’s doctor parents in the northeastern Thai city Khon Kaen, this opening exchange has a naturalistic awkwardness, with the actors crowding the frame with a palpable, almost comic sense of collective unease.

That unease gently dissipates as the story unfolds and the three main characters make their way into the forest. Because Mr. Weerasethakul isn’t interested in conventional narrative, however, the story doesn’t unfold in a linear, three-act fashion; rather, it leisurely zigs and zags, first to the factory where Roong painstakingly hand-paints Disney figurines until her hands ache, then to the office where Orn’s husband works.

Although he pokes about the edges with a sharp, almost ethnographic eye, Mr. Weerasethakul doesn’t linger in any of these places. We’re there just long enough to catch a glimpse of normal everyday Thai life, as if the filmmaker wanted us to see these chilly institutions so that we can fully appreciate or at least intuit (Mr. Weerasethakul doesn’t like to overstate his intentions) the importance of the coming idyll.

For Min, Roong and Orn, the trip into the forest will be no simple day in the country; it is something more urgent and necessary. What it means to each character emerges slowly through fragments of conversation rather than through speeches and scripted epiphanies. You don’t need to know the political backdrop to understand or enjoy “Blissfully Yours” — the film’s aesthetic pleasures are generous — but a sense of the larger context enriches the overall experience.

There’s a suggestion that Roong is a member of the Karen ethnic group, a hill tribe people who live in northern Thailand and eastern Burma and have been involved in human-rights struggles with both countries. Like Min, whose skin rash probably developed after he hid from the police in a septic tank, she enters the forest like a refugee.

When the three characters finally find their way into the forest, a journey punctuated by an unexpectedly funny joke pegged to the film’s credits and a plaintive encounter between Orn and a male acquaintance, the mood and the look shift into a different register. There, in a forest as thick with mystery as a painting by Henri Rousseau, Mr. Weerasethakul lets loose beauty with a vengeance.

As the filmmaker freely indulges in the forest’s voluptuousness and his own feel for composition, his characters — freed from work, the city and everyday life — shed their clothes and tentatively bump against one another with both pleasure and frustration. In this secret place, where even the smallest gesture becomes an epic of emotion, these three people finally find a moment of quiet by letting the earth swallow them whole.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times

Part of the series “Mysterious Splendors: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul”

Syndromes and a Century

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“None of the films of Thailand’s finest filmmaker—filled to the brim with quiet exchanges and lush green backdrops—are ever going to break him “wide.” Wishing for that will only hurt. But if there’s a just deity in cinema’s cosmos, this Chicago-schooled director, celebrated for 2004’s Tropical Malady, will at least be seen by a few more people.

Really, he won’t bite. Syndromes and a Century, Weerasethakul’s latest, is actually kind of funny. He’s made that most uncool of things: a film about his parents, who evidently met at a rustic medical clinic outside Bangkok (both are doctors). But in a welcome spirit of playfulness, his movie is far from sentimental, the preromantic acquaintance unfurling in a botched interview between an attending doctor (Sawaddikul) and her nervous new charge (Iamaram), a transplant from the military. He fumbles for answers; she barely lets on how cute she finds him. Elsewhere on the grounds, a young dentist (Cherkam) yearns to be a pop singer, and the whole compound seems to vibrate with the promise of blooming.

It’s here—about halfway through, as is the filmmaker’s wont—that things shift radically. Suddenly, we’re not among the crickets, but in a sparkling white modern facility, a touch chilly. The interview plays itself out again; indeed, many of the characters reappear in tweaked circumstances. Love springs eternal?Syndromes is too complex to characterize as a simple case of country mouse versus city mouse. Its rhymes and echoes make its folds endlessly fascinating. Try it.” — Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York






Tropical Malady

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“An intoxicating fever dream of love and tigers set on the edge of the knowable world, this exemplifies Thai director Apichatpong ‘Joe’ Weerasethakul’s unique line in bifurcated films that tease out the transcendental through patience, repetition and an eye for the everyday sublime. The first of its two halves, a romance between two young men set against an indulgent society, is perhaps more easily digestible; the second is a mythic riff in which the rainforest becomes the backdrop for a tug-of-war of the soul.” – Time Out’s 101 Films of the Decade 

Part of the series “Mysterious Splendors: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul”

Mysterious Object at Noon

Monday, February 8th, 2016

“Shot in 16-millimeter black and white with Dolby sound, then blown up to 35-millimeter, this singular experimental feature from Thailand is a freewheeling collaboration between filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul and villagers he encountered while driving south from Bangkok. After hearing a story en route, Weerasethakul asked others to continue and/or modify it; back in Bangkok, he shot portions of the narrative with nonprofessional actors. The entire film is a heady mix of fiction and nonfiction, with fantasy and actuality rubbing shoulders at every stage, and what emerges from the collective unconscious of the participants is surprising and fascinating. Weerasethakul packages his findings in diverse and inventive ways: as an improvised outdoor musical performance, as a game played by school children, as a collaborative description in sign by two teenage deaf-mutes. I can’t think of another film remotely like it. ”  - Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Part of the series “Mysterious Splendors: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul”

National Theatre Live: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Following the hugely successful Coriolanus and King Lear, National Theatre Live brings the Donmar Warehouse’s highly acclaimed new production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses to cinemas.

Directed by Josie Rourke (Coriolanus), the cast includes Elaine Cassidy (The Paradise), Janet McTeer (The Honourable Woman) and Dominic West (The Wire). In 1782, Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of sex, intrigue and betrayal in pre-revolutionary France scandalised the world. Two hundred years later, Christopher Hampton’s irresistible adaptation swept the board, winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play. Josie Rourke’s revival now marks the play’s thirty year anniversary.

Former lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont now compete in games of seduction and revenge. Merteuil incites Valmont to corrupt the innocent Cecile de Volanges before her wedding night but Valmont has targeted the peerlessly virtuous and beautiful Madame de Tourvel. While these merciless aristocrats toy with others’ hearts and reputations, their own may prove more fragile than they supposed.

The Mind of Mark Defriest

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Director Gabriel London in person!

When a legendary escape artist comes up for parole after more than 30 years behind bars, a chance for freedom must be weighed against his infamous past. Once known as Houdini for his multiple and improbable jailbreaks, Mark DeFriest was condemned to Florida’s worst prison after a lone psychiatrist in a minority opinion declared that he was faking mental illness. When this legendary escape artist comes up for parole after more than 30 years behind bars, including 26 in solitary confinement, Mark’s remaining supporters forge an unlikely alliance to argue for his freedom. Along the way, they uncover lingering questions about whether Mark should have even been sent to prison, yet face the daunting task of explaining why a notorious troublemaker deserves to go free.

Among the Believers

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Q&A with directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi & writer/producer Jonathan Goodman Levitt!

Closing night Stranger Than Fiction: Winter 2016

Firebrand cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS supporter and Taliban ally, is waging jihad against the Pakistani government with the aim of imposing Shariah law. His primary weapon is his expanding network of Islamic seminaries for children as young as four. AMONG THE BELIEVERS follows Aziz’s personal quest, and charts the lives of two of his teenage students who are pawns in his ideological war.


Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Directors Luke Meyer & Andrew Neel in person!

10th Anniversary!

Called “eloquent and occasionally touching” by the New York Times, the film covers an epic war raging through the fantasy realm of Darkon. Skip Lipman, a suburban stay-at-home dad leads his rebel army in a monumental quest to topple a mighty empire and lead the Realm to new era of liberty and glory. The documentary investigates the LARPers lives in the game and out of the game offering insight into the players complex relationship with fantasy and reality. The film is set to the backdrop of the real war then taking place in Iraq, highlighting the American cultural disconnect prevalent during the Bush era wars. DARKON, beloved for its light-hearted romp in the quirky imaginations of suburban Americans, has also been a point of reference as an ethnographic study of our relationship with escapism, war and fantasy.

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