Summer Night, actor Joseph Cross’s directorial debut, offers a twist on the standard ensemble coming-of-age flick: Its protagonists are not a bunch of high school teens looking to get stoned and laid before leaving for college (or not) but a group of older twenty-somethings facing more serious choices about their future. The film, which opens this weekend at Cinema Village, still has to fight genre clichés and mundane digressions as it tells the stories of close-knit friends gathering at a music bar appropriately called the Alamo in their small-town American community on the last night of summer. Jameson (Ellar Coltrane) is the film’s centerpiece, an all-around-good dude with a sound perspective on life who surprises everyone that night by arriving at the show with the impossibly hot, black-leather-clad Harmony (Victoria Justice), who’s not the kind of woman he usually dates. The less-flashy Corin (Elena Kampouris), who is working the door at the Alamo, is more his speed, but as we will learn, most of the characters are deeper than the usual genre stereotypes.
Longtime couple Seth (Ian Nelson) and Mel (Analeigh Tipton) reach a crossroads when she tells him she is pregnant, while Jack “Rabbit” (Bill Milner) is shocked to learn his best friend, and possible true-love romantic partner, Lexi (Lana Condor), has lost her virginity to someone else. Rugged musician Taylor (Callan McAuliffe) unexpectedly meets up with the very sweet, younger Dana (Ella Hunt) after he is mugged in the woods. Bass player Caleb (Hayden Szeto) is a nice guy who just wants to have fun, Vanessa (Melina Vidler) has a thing for Taylor, and Andy (Justin Chatwin), the most outgoing and boisterous among them, secretly wonders whether his time has already passed. Meanwhile, older bar patron Luke (Khris Davis) represents potential stability, having settled down with a wife and kids.
Written by first-time screenwriter Jordan Jolliff, Summer Night takes a while to kick into gear as you figure out whether you want to spend any time with these characters, and there’s too much live music (featuring real bands Ruby the RabbitFoot, Roadkill Ghost Choir, and Deep State) — “Is this, like, all you guys do? Sit around and talk about bands nobody cares about?” Vanessa asks — but Cross, who played Tom the barista in Big Little Lies and Augusten Burroughs in Running with Scissors, eventually finds his groove. The relationship between Caleb and Dana is sweet, and Coltrane (Boyhood, Blood Money) stands out as the group’s conscience as the characters realize there are consequences to their actions, and inactions. The key line just may be when Mel says, “This is not the plan,” with some adapting better than others.
The immigration and refugee crisis is at the heart of husband-and-wife filmmaking team Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin’s The Sweet Requiem, opening July 12 at IFC. Unfortunately, the film gets bogged down in its agenda-driven narrative. Writer-director Sonam and producer-director Sarin, who were both born in India — Sonam’s parents were Tibetan refugees — have been outspoken regarding the treatment of Tibetans by the Chinese government, as depicted in such earlier works as 2007’s fictional Dreaming Lhasa and the 2010 documentary The Sun Behind the Clouds, but they tend to make their points with a heavy hand, often preaching to the choir. The Sweet Requiem follows that pattern.
The film travels back and forth between the present day, when a grown Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker) is shocked to see Gompo (Jampa Kalsang) at the Tibetan refugee settlement in North Delhi where she and other exiles live, and eighteen years in the past, when Gompo leads a small party, including the young Dolkar (Tenzin Dechen) and her father, Migmar (Rabyoung Thonden Gyahkhang), on a dangerous journey across a frigid, snow-filled landscape as they attempt to escape China and make it to the Indian border alive, knowing that the Chinese military is looking for them. Dolkar works in a threading salon but wants to go back to school, and she has a tight-knit group of friends, including Dorjee (Shavo Dorjee), who is attracted to her, but she is haunted by what happened on the journey, especially to her father and old man Ghen-la (Nyima Dhondup) and by her inability to contact her mother, Tsering (Tashi Choedon), and sister, Wangmo (Lobsang Dolkar), who stayed behind. Desperate to know what’s happening in the land she left, Dolkar watches as a stream of monks set themselves on fire as political statements.
The Sweet Requiem has a strong setup and it looks great, David McFarland’s (mostly) handheld camera moving from the pristinely white Himalayan mountains of the past to the refugee settlement of the present, with its dark and narrow winding corridors. Sonam and Sarin explore the connection between the refugees and the Tibetan culture; several characters wear pro-Tibet T-shirts, but they also attend dance-workout sessions that meld India with Tibet and other cultures. Sadly, such lines as “The spirit of the Tibetan people will never be broken” land like lead; subtlety is not the filmmakers’ forte. But Dechen, in her cinematic debut, gives a poignant performance, and the cinematography and Michael Montes’s score stand out. Opening weekend will feature several Q&As with Sonam and Sarin, joined by Tim McHenry on July 12 at 2:30, Beth Citron on July 13 at 2:30, John Halpern on July 13 at 7:40, and Scott Macaulay on July 14 at 2:30.
THE ATOMIC CAFE (Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader & Pierce Rafferty, 1982)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Saturday, July 13, 6:30
Series runs July 12-14
The time is ripe for a 4K restoration of the absurdist 1982 documentary The Atomic Cafe as President Trump deals with the nuclear capabilities and arsenals of Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty were searching archives for propaganda films when they discovered a treasure trove of military and government shorts about the atomic and hydrogen bombs and how the American people should face any oncoming threats. The three filmmakers, who will be at Metrograph on July 13 at 6:30 to introduce a special screening of the 2018 restoration, weaved sensational footage together into an hour and a half of clips that range from the hysterically funny to the dangerously outrageous. Young students are taught to “duck and cover.” Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets Jr. describes how easy it was to fly over Hiroshima and drop the bomb but then admits his shock over the eventual destruction it wrought. Presidents Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower discuss the impact of the bombs. A radio duo makes jokes about the decimation. Scenes of the horrific damage to Japanese victims are shown in silence. Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy defends the Bikini Atoll test, where island residents are assured everything will be fine — as are soldiers who will be in the vicinity of various tests.
While Russia escalates the Cold War — yes, they were our avowed enemy for quite some time, although the film includes President Richard Nixon joking around with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev — and a battle between North and South Korea looms, Americans drink “Atomic” cocktails and dance to “Atomic” songs. The execution of Ethel Rosenberg is explained in disturbing detail. A military officer tells the troops, “Watched from a safe distance, this explosion is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man,” and in a training film a military chaplain says to a few soldiers, “You look up and you see the fireball as it ascends up into the heavens; it’s a wonderful sight to behold.” Loader and the Raffertys fill the film with a vast array of black-and-white and color footage of nuclear bombs exploding into immense mushroom clouds, accompanied by a wide range of mood-enhancing music. It would be easy to dismiss most of the archival material in the film as ridiculous, outdated propaganda from a bygone era, but in this age of fake news, social media, lies from the White House, a war on journalism, and a president cozying up to enemies and taking issue with longtime allies, it’s more than a little bit frightening too. The Atomic Cafe is screening in the three-day series “Secret Histories: The Films of Kevin Rafferty & Friends,” which runs July 12-14 and also includes 1991’s Blood in the Face, 1992’s Feed, 1999’s The Last Cigarette, and 2008’s Harvard Beats Yale 29-28, offering unique looks at parts of the American experience.
Fifth Ave. and 25th St., Brooklyn
Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, VIP entry 6:00 ($75), general admission 7:00 ($40)
Between 1823 and 1895, Irish immigrant William Niblo (1789–1878) operated three iterations of Niblo’s Garden, a theater on Broadway near Prince Street that specialized in Victorian entertainment. Historic Green-Wood Cemetery takes you back to those times with the seventh annual “A Night at Niblo’s Garden,” two nights of a vaudevillian extravaganza curated by Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, with live music, contortionists, fire-eaters, and more, performing on the banks of Crescent Water, in front of Niblo’s newly restored mausoleum. Niblo will again be portrayed by Ben Feldman, while Mrs. Niblo joins in the fun this year, chosen from social media auditions. VIP entry begins at 6:00 and includes a tour of the mausoleum, refreshments, and prime seats; general admission opens at 7:00. Picnics are encouraged — right where Niblo and his family used to gather for food and drink with family and friends — but no coolers or outside alcohol is permitted.
CITY OF WATER DAY
Saturday, July 13, free
“What water is there for us to clean ourselves?” Nietzsche asked in 1882’s Parable of the Madman. If we’re not careful, we won’t have much clean water to do anything in the future, which is why City of Water Day has become such an important event. The twelfth annual celebration of H2O takes place on July 13, with special water-related activities in all five boroughs, with the South Street Seaport Museum as home base. The ever-popular Con Edison Cardboard Kayak Race is set for Brooklyn Bridge Beach on the Manhattan side at 1:30, but you can watch the kayaks being built at Peck Slip beginning at 10:30. The Waterfront Festival at Piers 16 and 17 features food trucks and booths from such organizations as Animal Haven, Billion Oyster Project, BioBoat, Earth Day Initiative, Hudson River Sea Glass, National Museum of the American Indian, NYC Winter Lantern Festival, Oceana, Shore Walkers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Untapped Cities, festival host the Waterfront Alliance, and others. Boat tours (free unless otherwise noted) include NYC Sightseeing Cruises at Pier 15; sails at 1:00 and 4:00 ($20) on the South Street Seaport Museum’s 1885 schooner, Pioneer; one-hour sails aboard the schooners Adirondack and America 2.0 from Pier 62; trips on the Fireboat John J. Harvey from Pier 66; a Lower Harbor Cruise from Pier 82 at 11:00 am; and a Landmark Cruise departing from Pier 83.
The second annual Jamaica Bay Festival, on Beach 108th St. and Beach Channel Dr., features kayaking, fishing, surfing, hiking, bird watching, art, nature, and more. Among the many other events are Boogie Down to the Sound at SUNY Maritime’s Waterfront Open House, a Bronx River Lake Paddle, Community Rowing and Birding at Hunts Point Riverside Park, a Mile Hike and Talk Along the Harlem River in Roberto Clemente State Park, Low-Tide Nature Discovery at Bushwick Inlet Park, Seining the River Wild at Pier 4 Beach, NOAA’s USS Monitor Trail Marker at the Greenpoint Monitor Museum, Shoreline Clean-Up at Sherman Creek Park, the River Project’s Wetlab at Pier 40, Outrigger Paddling from Pier 66 in Hudson River Park, Harlem River Community Rowing at Muscota Marsh Dock, a Sustainability Scavenger Hunt in Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, the Last Harvest Celebration with Solar One in Stuyvesant Cove Park, a Fishing Clinic in Gantry Plaza State Park, Flushing Creek Rising Sea Tours from the Flushing Bay Boat Ramp, a Hunter’s Point South Park Tour, Evening Kayaking at the Alice Austen House Museum, and a Lighthouses in Danger tent outside the National Lighthouse Museum.
Brooklyn Cruise Terminal
72 Bowne St., Red Hook
Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, $95-$390
Twenty-two drivers and eleven teams will hit the streets of Red Hook for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship grand finale, taking place July 13 and 14 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. On Saturday, the gates open at 7:00 in the morning, with practice on the Red Hook Circuit at 7:30 and 10:00, qualifying at 11:45, and racing at 4:00. On Sunday, the gates open again at 7:00, with practice at 9:00, qualifying at 11:45, and the race at 4:00. Tickets begin at $95 for the grandstand and $390 for the podium lounge. The family-friendly Allianz E-Village is open all day both days, with live performances (beatbox flautist Greg Pattillo, King Charles Unicycle Troupe, banjo and bass duo Coyote Crow, Emphasis Entertainment Dance Crew, others), stunts, technological innovations, autograph sessions, virtual reality simulators, Smorgasburg food, and more ($12, kids under twelve free with adults). Team DS Techeetah, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne and André Lotterer, are currently number one in the standings with 216 points, followed by Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (Daniel Abt and Lucas Di Grassi) at 173, Envision Virgin Racing (Sam Bird and Robin Frijns) at 150, and the Nissan e.dams team (Sébastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland) at 139. During the races, watch out for Attack Mode, and you can vote to give five drivers a Fanboost.