WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE (Roberto Minervini, 2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, Howard Gilman Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Opens Friday, August 16
Roberto Minervini follows up his Texas Trilogy – The Passage, Low Tide, and Stop the Pounding Heart – with the powerful sociopolitical call to action, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? The film is shot in sharp, distinctive black-and-white by cinematographer Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos so that it looks like a fictional work from the civil rights era, but it is an all-too-real documentary that shows what’s happening in the US today, even though far too many Americans would deny the inherent realities the movie depicts. Italian-born director Minervini, who is based in the American south, tells four poignant stories steeped in oppression: Judy Hill is struggling to get by, running a bar that has become an important meeting place for the Tremé community while also caring for her elderly mother, Dorothy; Ashlei King hopes that her young sons, fourteen-year-old Ronaldo King and nine-year-old Titus Turner, come back safe after going out to play in a junkyard; Mardi Gras Indian Chief Kevin Goodman melds black and Native American traditions in changing times; and Krystal Muhammad and the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense protest the killings of two African American men at the hands of police.
Beautifully edited by Marie-Hélène Dozo, the film, which was shot in Louisiana and Mississippi in the summer of 2017, captures the continuing results of institutionalized, systemic racism and income inequality in the United States. “We’ve been set free, but we’re still being slaves,” Judy Hill proclaims. “Nowadays, people don’t fight; they like to shoot,” Ronaldo teaches Titus. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? is the kind of film that should be widely seen, including in schools around the country, to highlight the everyday impact of racial injustice. There are no confessionals in the film, no so-called experts discussing socioeconomic issues; instead, it’s real people, struggling to survive and fighting the status quo and America’s failure to effectively face and deal with its original sin. The most controversial section involves the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the members of which march through town declaring, “Black power!” When they face off against the police, they make some arguable choices, but what’s most important is what has taken place to even put them in that situation. There’s a good reason why the title, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?, is framed as a question, one that every one of us should look in the mirror and answer for ourselves.
A selection of the New York Film Festival and numerous other festivals, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? opens August 16 at Lincoln Center, with Minervini participating in Q&As with Hill and Muhammad on August 16-17 at 3:30, and Minervini will introduce the 9:00 screening on August 16 with Hill and the 6:00 screening on August 17 with Hill and Muhammad. There will also be a reception after the 6:00 and 9:00 screenings on August 16.
“In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m just looking for guidance in how to be a blind artist,” filmmaker Rodney Evans says in Vision Portraits, his remarkable new documentary opening August 9 at Metrograph. Evans follows three artists as they deal with severe visual impairment but refuse to give up on their dreams as he seeks experimental treatment for his retinitis pigmentosa. Manhattan photographer John Dugdale lost most of his eyesight from CMV retinitis when he was thirty-two but is using his supposed disability to his advantage, taking stunning photos bathed in blue, inspired by the aurora borealis he sees when he closes his eyes. “Proving to myself that I could still function in a way that was not expected of a blind person was really gonna be the thing,” he says. “It’s fun to live in this bliss.” Bronx dancer Kayla Hamilton was born with no vision in one eye and developed iritis and glaucoma in the other, but she is shown working on a new piece called Nearly Sighted that incorporates the audience into her story. “How can I use my art form as a way of sharing what it is that I’m experiencing?” she asks.
Canadian writer Ryan Knighton lost his eyesight on his eighteenth birthday due to retinitis pigmentosa, but he teaches at a college and presents short stories about his condition at literary gatherings. “I had that moment where I had a point of view now, like, I realized blindness is a point of view on the world; it’s not something I should avoid, it’s something I should look from, and I should make it my writerly point of view,” Knighton explains. Meanwhile, Evans heads to the Restore Vision Clinic in Berlin to see if Dr. Anton Fedorov can stop or reverse his visual impairment, which is getting worse.
Vision Portraits is an intimate, honest look at eyesight and art and how people adapt to what could have been devastating situations. Evans, who wrote and directed the narrative features Brother to Brother and The Happy Sad, also includes animated segments that attempt to replicate what the subjects see, from slivers of light to star-laden alternate universes. Metrograph is hosting several postscreening Q&As opening weekend, with Evans, Hamilton and cinematographer Mark Tumas, moderated by Sabrina Schmidt-Gordon, on Friday at 7:00; with Evans, moderated by Yance Ford, on Friday at 9:00; with Evans, moderated by Imani Barbarin, on Saturday at 7:45; and with Evans, moderated by Debra Granik, on Sunday at 4:00.
FIVE DEDICATED TO OZU (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Saturday, August 10, 7:30, and Wednesday, August 14, 5:05
Series continues through August 14
We first saw Abbas Kiarostami’s gorgeous five-part film Five Dedicated to Ozu at the Iranian director’s 2007 multidimensional MoMA exhibit, “Image Maker,” where all five segments ran continuously and simultaneously in five semiprivate partitioned spaces, each with its own comfy bench. The film as a whole, which is composed of static shots on a beach in Galicia, are dedicated to Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, whose films attempted to catch the reality of human existence in all its simplicity. In the first episode, the coming waves threaten a piece of driftwood; we dare you not to create your own narrative in your head once the wood is split apart. (By the way, this is the only part of the film that includes any camera movement at all, as Kiarostami opts to follow the driftwood for one short moment.) For the second scene, the camera is moved to the boardwalk, with people passing to the right and left as the surf continues to crash onto the shore; this is the least compelling of the five pieces. Back on the beach for the third part, the camera finds a group of stray dogs in the distance, nestled together by the water; again, as one dog gets up and moves away, left to himself, you’ll create your own ideas about what is really happening. Next is the funniest section of the movie, as a long line of ducks don’t know whether they’re coming or going, but they do so determinedly. Finally, the last scene takes place at night, as the moon glistens in a dark sky as the sounds of frogs and nature envelop this small part of the earth. Relax and let your mind wander during this fascinating and fun cinematic experience that we found exhilarating as a single work — but we also loved how it was installed at MoMA, where you could sit down with any of the films at any time and just let them take you away. Five Dedicated to Ozu is screening the conventional way on August 10 and 14 in IFC’s comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective,” which continues through August 15 with such other films by the Iranian director as The Traveler, Close-Up, Like Someone in Love, 24 Frames, and numerous shorts.
CLOSE-UP (کلوزآپ ، نمای نزدیک) (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Wednesday, August 7, 7:50, Saturday, August 10, 1:10, Monday, August 12, 1:05, Tuesday, August 13, 7:30
Series continues through August 15
In his 1996 short Opening Day for Close-Up, Italian actor-writer-director Nanni Moretti plays a theater manager preparing to show Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 masterpiece, Close-Up. As the first screening approaches, he worries about the parking situation, the size of the ad in the local paper, the specific angle the projectionist is using, the precise minute when the film should start, how it’s going to compete with big Hollywood blockbusters, and how one of his employees is handling phone calls. “The film is about the power of cinema. Let’s be a little more enticing,” he tells her. It won’t take much enticing to get people to show up at IFC Center to see Close-Up, which is screening August 7, 10, 12, and 13 in the exhaustive, comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective.”
In 1989, Kiarostami read about a strange case that was unfolding: A man named Hossain Sabzian had been arrested for impersonating Iranian auteur Mohsen Makhmalbaf, convincing the Ahankhah family that he was Makhmalbaf and that he was going to make a movie with them in their house. Kiarostami immediately turned his attention to the story, meeting with Sabzian in prison, persuading judge Haj Ali Reza Ahmadi to let his crew film the trial, and getting all the participants, including Sabzian, Ahmadi, journalist Hossain Farazmand, and the Ahankhahs — husband and father Abolfazl, his wife, Mahrokh, and their sons, Mehrdad and Monoochehr — to allow themselves not only to be filmed going forward but to re-create specific scenes together. Thus, for example, Kiarostami restages Mahrokh’s initial encounter with Sabzian on a bus, where they talk about Makhmalbaf’s The Cyclist, and Sabzian’s arrest is also performed, complete with soldier (Mohammad Ali Barrati) and sergeant (Davood Goodarzi).
It’s often difficult to tell what is happening in the present and what has been remade from the past, which is a significant part of the film’s charm. The trial scene is an eye-opener as we watch the Iranian justice system at work; Kiarostami shoots the scene with different equipment, resulting in a grainier texture. Part of the boom mic is often visible, further blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction, reminding us that this is a film. Kiarostami also injects some pure poetry, most beautifully when the taxi driver (Hooshang Shamaei) picks a few flowers outside the Ahankhahs’ home, then kicks a green and pink aerosol can that cinematographer Ali Reza Zarrindast follows as it clinks noisily down the street. Close-Up is much more than a celebration of the power of cinema; it is a magisterial film about what makes us profoundly human. (You can find out more about Sabzian in Moslem Mansouri and Mahmoud Chokrollahi’s 1996 Close-Up Long Shot.) “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective” continues through August 15 with such other films by the Iranian director as Through the Olive Trees, The Wind Will Carry Us, Taste of Cherry, Ten, and numerous shorts.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (Abbas Kiarostami, 2012)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Tuesday, August 6, 12:55, Friday, August 9, 1:05, and Tuesday, August 13, 12:30
Series continues through August 15
Following the Tuscany-set Certified Copy, his first film made outside of his home country, master Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami headed to Japan for the beautifully told Like Someone in Love. Rin Takanashi stars as Akiko, a sociology student supporting herself as an escort working for bar owner and pimp Hiroshi (Denden). An older, classy businessman, Hiroshi insists that Akiko is the only person to handle a certain client, so, despite her loud objections, she is put in a cab and taken to meet Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly professor who seems to just want some company. But soon Akiko unwittingly puts the gentle old man in the middle of her complicated life, which includes her extremely jealous and potentially violent boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryō Kase), and a surprise visit from her grandmother (Kaneko Kubota). Taking its title from the song made famous by, among others, Ella Fitzgerald, Like Someone in Love is an intelligent character-driven narrative that investigates different forms of love and romance in unique and engaging ways. Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Close-Up) and cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima, who has worked on numerous films by Takeshi Kitano, establish their visual style from the very beginning, as an unseen woman, later revealed to be Akiko, is on the phone lying to her abusive boyfriend about where she is, the camera not moving for extended periods of time as people bustle around her in a crowded bar.
As is often the case with Kiarostami, much of the film takes place in close quarters, including many in cars, both moving and parked, forcing characters to have to deal with one another and face certain realities they might otherwise avoid. Takanashi is excellent as Akiko, a young woman trapped in several bad situations of her own making, but octogenarian Okuno steals the show in the first lead role of a long career that has primarily consisted of being an extra. The soft look in his eyes, the tender way he shuffles through his apartment, and his very careful diction are simply captivating. Despite his outstanding performance, Okuno said at the time that he was committed to returning to the background in future films, shunning the limelight, but he did star in one more film, Yûichi Onuma’s Kuujin in 2016. A music-filled tale that at times evokes the more serious work of Woody Allen, another director most associated with a home base but who made movies in other cities for a lengthy period, Like Someone in Love is like a great jazz song, especially one in which the notes that are not played are more important than those that are. The film is screening August 6, 9, and 13 in IFC’s comprehensive series “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective,” which continues through August 15 with such other films by Kiarostami, who died in 2016 at the age of seventy-six, as Homework, 10 on Ten, ABC Africa, Shirin, and numerous shorts.
EASY RIDER (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
Radio City Music Hall
1260 Sixth Ave. at Fiftieth St.
Friday, September 20, 8:00 — tickets go on sale August 2 at noon
Fifty years ago, a film came along that perfectly captured sociopolitical changes taking place across America; the golden anniversary of that revolutionary tale is being celebrated on September 20 at Radio City Music Hall with a special one-night-only screening introduced by one of the stars and featuring songs played live by some of the original artists. Tickets go on sale at noon on August 2 for Easy Rider Live, a gala presentation of a newly remastered print of Dennis Hopper’s seminal film, which was named Best First Work at Cannes, with opening remarks by costar Peter Fonda and live performances by Roger McGuinn, John Kay of Steppenwolf, and special guests, produced by T Bone Burnett.
No mere relic of the late 1960s counterculture movement, Easy Rider still holds up as one of the truly great road movies, inviting audiences to climb on board as two peace-loving souls search for freedom on the highways and byways of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Named after a pair of famous western gunslingers, Wyatt (producer and cowriter Fonda), as in Earp, and Billy (director and cowriter Hopper), as in “the Kid,” make some fast cash by selling coke to a fancy connection (Phil Spector!), then take off on their souped-up bikes, determined to make it to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras. Along the way, they break bread with a rancher (Warren Finnerty) and his family, hang out in a hippie commune, pick up small-town alcoholic lawyer George Hanson (an Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson), don’t get served in a diner, and eventually hook up with friendly prostitutes Karen (Karen Black) and Mary (Toni Basil) in the Big Easy. “You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it,” George says to Billy as they start discussing the concept and reality of freedom. “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.”
The always calm Wyatt, who is also known as Captain America, and the nervous and jumpy Billy make one of cinema’s coolest duos ever as they personally experience the radical changes going on in the country, leading to a tragic conclusion. The Academy Award–nominated script, written with Terry Southern, remains fresh and relevant as it examines American capitalism and democracy in a way that is still debated today, particularly on Twitter. And the soundtrack — well, it virtually defined the era, featuring such songs as Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” and “Born to Be Wild,” Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9,” the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today,” Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air,” and McGuinn’s “Ballad of Easy Rider.” The Radio City event should offer contemporary insight on just how far we’ve come — or haven’t — in half a century.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, August 3, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum gets ready for the West Indian American Day Carnival on Labor Day in the August edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Los Habaneros, DJ I.M., DJ TYGAPAW, and Noise Cans; a hands-on workshop in which participants can make Caribbean carnival masks; a Flag Fête workshop and performance with Haitian choreographer and dance instructor Charnice Charmant and Afrobeat dancers; teen pop-up gallery talks on “Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha”; a screening of Khalik Allah’s Black Mother, followed by a talkback with Allah and curator Drew Sawyer; Likkle Bites with food from Caribbean-owned Brooklyn businesses Greedi Vegan and Island Pops; an artist talk with Liz Johnson Artur; and the discussion “Yoruba in Pop Culture” with Grammy winner Chief Ayanda Clarke, presented by the Fadara Group. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha,” “One: Egúngún,” “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” “Infinite Blue,” “Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper,” and more.