FRI.MAR.3-SUN.MAR.19: at WALKER ART CENTER, 1750 Hennepin, Minneapolis
(Tune in Tues, Mar. 7, 11am to KFAI for an interview with Walker Art
Film Curator of the fest SHERYL MOUSLEY with Lydia Howell and an
interview with Joanna Koeler by Jennifer Nemo of KFAI News/MOVIE TALK on
“Catalyst” .KFAI 90.3fm Mpls 106.7 fm St Paul all shows archived for 2 weeks www.kfai.org)
Hollywood is still a boys club when it comes to directing. This year’s Oscars had a hard time finding significant roles by women for the Best Actress category—which shouldn’t be surprisng given that 75% of all roles are played by men tobe gin with! There’s an alternative to all this artistic testerone: WOMEN WITH VISION Film Festival( at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Fro, MAR.3thru Sun.Mar.18). It’s a wonderfully diverse selection that spans the serious to the silly, has established directors of true greatness (like India’s DEEPA MEHTA) to future film-makers(SAT. MAR.4, 10am-5:30pm GIRLS IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR, film
by youth age 8 to 18…and it’s FREE!) Documentaries to fictional drama. the deeply personal to the the contradictions of politics, the festival offers something for every cinematic taste—including a series of films called BLACKLISTED–looking at films who’s screenwriters or actresses were banned from Hollywood in the 1950s Red Scare. Here’s some of
highlights and my “don’t miss” picks.
OPENING NIGHT FRI, MAR.3,7pm
See CHILE’s nomination for this year’s Oscar: “Play/Playx” directed by licia Scherson. It’s an urban love story set in today’s Santiago.
9pm-11am: VLADMASTER (4 screenings). Portland Or. performance artist VLADIMIR takes a toy–the View-Master–and turns into an
audeince=participation means of film-making. You’ll be issued your own steroscope” to experience the orignal narratives that Vladimir creates alng with her won score!
The ‘Elemental Trilogy’ directed by DEEPA MEHTA—(DON’T MISS IT!)
Outside of Hollywood, no one produces as many movies a year as
India(knwon as ‘Bollywood’) but, DEEPA MEHTA has created contrroversy from her very first film. Now living in Canada, her feinism and concerns for her country informes Mewhta’s works. Her ‘elemental trilogy’ (that’s taken since 1996 to do) are all available to be seen for the first time. They show Mehta’s virsatility and depth, how intimate lives converge with the burning issues of the day—or timeless religious questions.
*SUN. MAR. 5, 2pm: FIRE (1996)
This is the first film to take on the subject of Lesbianism in India and got Mehta death threats. Inevitably, current audiences will compare the film to this year’s surpprise hit and Oscar nominee “Brokeback Mountain” (a film I liked very much). Both films deal with ‘forbidden love’ between a couple of the same gender and the tensions between social duty and individual happiness, in
the context of emrging same-sex love. But, that’s where the similarities end.
FIRE has a kind of complexity that “Brokback” never quite reached.
Partly this is due to the cultural differnce. Set in contemporary India, FIRE is as much about gender roles as it is about Lesbian love. Both women are married when they meet–as sisters-in-law. Radha has been “a good wife” for 15 years—13 of them celibate, as her husband pursues his spiritual life through “resisting all desire”. Sita (who seems to be around 19 or 20 years old) has just married Radha’s brother-in-law —who’s more intersted in spending his nights with his mistress. Radha and Sita spend their days running the family resturant, caring for their elder mother-in-law (silenced by a stroke) and coming to care about each other. Mehta realy delves into all the characters’ lives: the older husband’s spiritual struggle, the loutish younger husband—both of whom are ultimately self-absorbed. A male caregiver helping with the mother-in-law also becomes a symbol of unfulfilled sexual desire.
Mehta artfully interweaves Hindu religious stories as counterpoints to her characters’ struggles. There’s definitly a subtext which trancends same-sex love: how human being s handle desire? Does one succumb to it
without any restraint or sense of consequence to others? Does one reject all desire as “evil”? Or is there a “middle path”–that is, can desire be balanced with duty to others and responsiblity towads one’s self? Gender matters in these questions as the ‘double standard’ means that husbands can committ infidelity with little consequence–or deny sex totheir wives–while women are expected to remain faithful wives.
For all the outrage that attended Mehta making this film, the ‘sex
scenes’ are subtle. This is a film centered on love as the path to
self-discovery, but, done with so much more sophistication than most “coming out” films. In English
***Sun.Mar.12, 2pm “EARTH” by DEEPA MHTA (1999)
Mehta shows she can take on the epic and not lose her firm graps of the personal. “Earth” is set in 1947, as India was coming ut of British colonialism into independence—and the Sikh/Hindu/Muslim turmoil that would crack the country in two, creatingPakistan. Mehta anchors the film on a circle of friends with diverse relgious/ethnic backgrounds,
who vow that they will not be aught up in the turmoil, but, will remain loyal to each other. There’s a cross-religioun love story, quirly friendships and strains that tear–all seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl. It’s a powerful film that provokes thought as Iraq is faced with its own religious strife. Mehata recreates the horror of violence invading every day life and how it scars people’s connections.With English subtitles
***Sun. Mar.19, 8pm “WATER” (2005) DEBUT
Set in the late 1930s as Gandhi emerges from prison and leads his walk across India for independence, Mehta unites the concerns of her first two film in the trilogy: the roles for women and the fate of India. An 8-year-old girl is made a bride in an arranged marriage to a man—which lasts only briefly when he dies. Hindu custom blames widows for their husband’s death and isolates them in special ashrams to “repent of their sin that caused” that death. This girl becomes the fulcrum for the
diverse women–from 8 to 80–in the ashram.DEEPA MEHTA SPEAKS AFTER THE SCREENING.
*Wed. MAR. 8: “Our Daily Bread” This 1934 labor classic is one of the few film to deal with the Great Depression and its devastation (and possiblity for social/economic justice). Directed by King Vidor, it shows a group of laborers who flee unemplyment by trying to survive on the land–and create a new kind of communal living. Actress KAREN MORLEY was later banned from films in the “Communist witch-hunts” of the 1950s. This is part of the festivals series called BLACKLISTED. (more BLACKLIST films below)
*Thur. Mar.9, 7pm (FREE) “Sisters In Law” Co-directed by Florence Ayisi and Kim Longinotto, this documetary is set in Cameroon,Africa. A woman judge and prosecutor go to a village where no man has been charged with
domestic violence in 17 years–in part due to the imposition of Shira law–a form of Islamic law that’s very repressive of women. Local women find their couage and their voices as these two powerful women shake things up! After the film a discussion is led by the Director of the MN AFRICAN WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION, Nyango Melissa Naubanagni,
Sat. Mar. 11, 6pm “One Night”
Instead of going to a friend’s house to soend the night(so her mother can be with her boyfrined), a teenager decides to hitchhike across her city–Tehren, the capitol of Iran.She encounter three diffeent men for
three different adventures. Selected for Cannes Film Festival. This is the directing debut of 34-year-old Iranian filmmaker Niki Karimi, who’s already established herself as an actress in Iran.Farsi with English subtitles
The series BLACKLISTED!
As the Cold War began to gain momentum after WWII, the Red Scare heightened. Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy led investigation of the
House Un-American Activities Committee (known as HUAC) looking for Communist spies in government, industry(unin organizers especially!), education and Hollywood. many were fired and put on the “blacklist” which meant no ne would hire them…including in the movie industry. This seriews features works by screenwriters or actresses who were BLACLISTED.
Revel in the glorious light and shadow of film noir! Many of the
‘suspense techniques’ still used in films were invented in this genre of the 1940s and 50s.
Wed. Mar.15, 7pm “Escape”
William Wyler directed this 1940 anti-Nazi film (one of the first to
oppose Hitler)–which got many in the film investigated. It was thought this film was ‘propganda” to get the U.S. into the war against Hitler, when until,Pearl Harbor, Americans were mostly ‘isolationsist”.
*SAT. MAR.18 , 3pm “The Locket” (1946)
This psycological thriller is a twist on the ‘femme fatal” theme where this woman is more vulnerable than vixen. Screenwriter NORMA BARZMAN broke gorund with her”nesting” technique of flashback, which remains very effective. The film rolls backgwards, settling in a time period until it ‘jumps’ further backwards, to reveal a surprise ending one never expected! perhaps, part of what got Barsman on banned from Hollywood for 30 years was the subtle critique of the American class system withher troubled protagonist’s respense to the wealthy. MEET NORMA BARZMAN and her talk about her memoir “The Red and the Blacklisted”.
Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin, Minneapolis
Complete festival schedule www.walkerart.org (612)375-7600
Tickets; 8 gen/$6 Walker members Some films are FREE