WITHIN OUR GATES (Oscar Micheaux, 1920) / ST. LOUIS BLUES (Dudley Murphy, 1929)
209 West Houston St.
Tuesday, January 28, 6:35
Series continues through February 13
#OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale have you disappointed and mad? Film Forum is offering just the medicine with its four-week, sixty-film festival “Black Women: Trailblazing African American Actresses & Images, 1920 – 2001.” Running through February 13, the wide-ranging series consists of movies starring Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy Dandridge, Cicely Tyson, Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, Diana Ross, Angela Bassett, Diahann Carroll, Oprah Winfrey, Juanita Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster, Ella Fitzgerald, Vonetta McGee, Alfre Woodard, Lonette McKee, Lynn Whitfield, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, Whitney Houston, Halle Berry, and many others, made by black, white, male, and female directors. The oldest film being presented is the oldest surviving film made by an African American director, Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates, on January 28 at 6:35. A response to D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Micheaux’s film, released in 1920 after trouble with the censor board, packs a whole lot into its seventy-nine minutes, giving the film an epic feel as it deals with violent crime, rape, slavery, poverty, education, love quadrangles, Jim Crow, subservient blacks, mixed-race romance, the Great Migration, and other incendiary topics.
“I have always tried to make my photoplays present the truth, to lay before the Race a cross-section of its own life, to view the Colored heart from close range,” Micheaux explained on January 24, 1925. “It is only by presenting those portions of the Race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights. . . . The recognition of our true situation will react in itself as a stimulus for self-advancement.” He does just that with Within Our Gates, in which Evelyn Preer plays Sylvia Landry, a young woman in love with Conrad Drebert (James D. Ruffin). However, Sylvia’s supposed friend, the manipulative Alma Prichard (Floy Clements), is also in love with Conrad and determined to steal him from her. Meanwhile, Alma’s stepbrother, gangster Larry Prichard (Jack Chenault), wants Sylvia, who is not interested in him. Larry is being closely watched by a detective, Philip Gentry (William Smith), who was tipped off by the FBI as to his whereabouts.
A car accident leads Sylvia to meet Dr. V. Vivian (Charles D. Lucas) and philanthropist Elena Warwick (Mrs. Evelyn), who wants to help Sylvia, but Elena’s friend, the racist Geraldine Stratton (Bernice Ladd), would rather see no women gain the right to vote if a new amendment would include black women as well. The story shifts gears when Alma tells Dr. Vivian about Sylvia’s past, involving Sylvia’s adopted family, a robbery and shooting, a white landlord (Ralph Johnson) and his brother (Grant Gorman), and a tattletale Uncle Tom (E. G. Tatum) seeking to gain favors, all shown in flashback. It’s a complex tale filled with surprising twists, and it’s a critically important film in the history of black cinema.
Micheaux’s first work was The Homesteader, which is lost; he would go on to make such pictures as Body and Soul, Veiled Aristocrats, and Underworld. The Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center restored Within Our Gates in 1993 from a lone Spanish print, so most intertitles were rewritten in English, and a section in the middle was lost. In 2016, DJ Spooky (aka Paul D. Miller) added a guitar-and-piano-based soundtrack, but the Film Forum screening of a 35mm print will be accompanied by a live score played by Steve Sterner. In addition, it will be preceded by Dudley Murphy’s sixteen-minute 1929 short St. Louis Blues, highlighted by Bessie Smith in her only film appearance. The series continues with such films as both Foxy Brown and Jackie Brown, The Color Purple, Set It Off, Lady Sings the Blues, Monster’s Ball, and Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.
I WISH I KNEW (Jia Zhang-ke, 2010)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Opens Friday, January 24
Throughout his professional career, which began with the 1997 underground hit Pickpocket, Sixth Generation Chinese writer-director Jia Zhang-ke has shuttled easily between documentaries (Useless, 24 City) and narrative features (The World, Still Life) — and it’s not always obvious which is which, as his steady, poetic style is built on subtlety, slow rhythms, and an innate sense of realism (and he freely mixes fantasy and reality as well). His 2010 documentary, the Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard selection I Wish I Knew, adds elements of fiction to its compelling examination of the intimately personal side effects that resulted from the Chinese civil war and Cultural Revolution, as many people left Shanghai for Taipei and Hong Kong. Jia and interviewer Lin Xudong meet with elderly men and women who tell tragic stories of family and friends being murdered and executed by the government; an especially poignant scene is set at a community gathering where senior citizens dance to Dick Haymes’s version of the old standard “I Wish I Knew”; one of the interviewees sings into the camera, “I wish I knew someone like you could love me / I wish I knew you place no one above me / Did I mistake this for a real romance? / I wish I knew, but only you can answer,” which could be as much about a personal relationship as the revolution itself. Jia also talks with several filmmakers and actresses, from Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wang Toon to Huang Baomei, Rebecca Pan, and Wei Wei, illustrating how Shanghai has been depicted on film with clips from such movies as Hou’s Flowers of Shanghai, Xie Jin’s Huang Baomie, Wang’s Red Persimmon, Lou Ye’s Suzhou River, Wang Bing’s To Liberate Shanghai, Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Cina.
As the nearly two-hour documentary reaches its conclusion, they interview younger people, including bestselling writer, blogger, and race-car champion Han Han, who don’t share the same conflicted memories of communism and the Cultural Revolution, instead praising an evolving modern-day capitalistic Shanghai that has brought them vast wealth, with no interest in the past of Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, and Chiang Kai-shek. Throughout the film — which is finally being released theatrically in the US, opening January 24 at Metrograph in a rarely screened director’s cut that puts back censored images and adds missing facts — Jia’s onscreen muse, Zhao Tao, who has appeared in many of his works, walks through contemporary Shanghai, pausing as she languidly looks out over the ever-changing city, where intensely poor neighborhoods are being torn down right around the corner from massive construction projects. Commissioned for the 2010 World Expo held in Shanghai, I Wish I Knew might not have been quite what the expo folk expected, but then again, they did give carte blanche to Jia, who never takes the easy way out, creating yet another complex, confusing, and controversial cinematic experience.
BROKEN BARRIERS (KHAVAH) (Charles E. Davenport, 1919)
Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center
165 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Sunday, January 19, 12:30
Festival runs January 15-28
The New York Jewish Film Festival pulls out a special treat on January 19, the world premiere of the National Center for Jewish Film’s restoration of the long-lost Broken Barriers, aka Khavah, the first cinematic adaptation of one of Sholem (Sholom) Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman stories. The tale will be familiar to fans of Fiddler on the Roof, although there are significant narrative distinctions. In a small Ukraine village, the Jewish Khavah (Alice Hastings), daughter of Tobias the Milkman (Giacomo Masuroff) and Golde (Billie Wilson), falls for the Russian Orthodox Fedka (Alexander Tenenholtz), son of Ivan (Phil Sanford), the chief constable, and Parasha (Sonia Radin), after one of Fedka’s friends (Raymond Friedgen) drunkenly assaults Khavah’s younger sister Tzeitel (Hanna [Ganna Kehlmann] Kay). As Fedka and Khavah consider marriage, Tobias (an alternate pronunciation of Tevye) grows angrier and forbids their relationship. But when a devastating government decree is delivered to Ivan, everyone reconsiders their future.
Billed as “a love drama of the Ukraine” in the opening credits, Broken Barriers features actors from Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater on Irving Place (Schwartz would go on to famously play “Tevya” on stage and screen) and the Russian Opera Company; only Sanford had any cinematic experience, and it shows, as the acting is heavy-handed, especially by Hastings, who seems to be attempting to break barriers with her overemoting. (“Broken shall be the barriers that stand between me and happiness!” Khavah declares to her father.) But director Charles E. Davenport tells a tight little tale, limiting the amount of dialogue intertitles and including such poetic statements as “Conscience has a way of bringing us all to the realization that paternal efforts in our behalf are too lightly valued.” Cinematographers Irving B. Ruby and Jack Young shot the film outdoors in the New Jersey wild and in a Manhattan studio, effectively capturing the strife of a poor Ukrainian village while using superimposition to evoke memories. At the heart of the story is whether religious beliefs trump family; the reaction of Fedka’s parents and Khava’s are very different, as is the ending of this rediscovered nugget. The screening will be accompanied by live music by Donald Sosin. A joint presentation of Film at Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum, the festival continues through January 28 with such other works as Elise Otzenberger’s My Polish Honeymoon, Rachel Rusinek and Eyal Ben Moshe’s I Was Not Born a Mistake, and Dror Zahavi’s closing night selection, Crescendo, about an attempt to establish an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned ninety-one years old on January 15; he was only thirty-nine when he was assassinated. In 1983, the third Monday in January was officially recognized as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of the civil rights leader who was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. You can celebrate his legacy on Monday by participating in the twenty-fifth annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service or attending one of numerous special events taking place around the city all weekend long. Below are some of the highlights.
Friday, January 17
BAMcafé Live 2020: BAMcafé Live Featuring Blak Emoji and Starchild & the New Romantic, curated by Black Rock Coalition, BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 9:00
Saturday, January 18
BAMcafé Live 2020: The 1865 w/ Major Taylor, curated by Black Rock Coalition, BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 9:00
Saturday, January 18
Monday, January 20
BCM Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Volunteer Projects with Repair the World, Create a Peace Box workshop in ColorLab, Storytelling in the Sensory Room, and the Heart of a King Shadow Puppetry Workshop, $13, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday, January 19
Martin Luther King Day Choral Eucharist, with the Cathedral Choir, volunteer Chorale and Boy and Girl Choristers, and poet in residence emerita Marilyn Nelson, 11:00 am followed by a Spirituals SING led by Alice Parker, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 2:00, free
Soul to Soul, with IMPACT Repertory Theatre, Lisa Fishman, Cantor Magda Fishman, Elmore James, and Tony Perry, conceived and directed by Zalmen Mlotek, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., $35-$65, 2:00
Monday, January 20
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March: “Equity Now: Today’s Youth Speak Out for Social Change,” Harriet Tubman Memorial Triangle on 122nd St. at 10:00 am to Manhattan Country School at 150 West 85th St. at 2:00, free
Thirty-Fourth Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, performances by Son Little and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, the art exhibition “Picture the Dream,” and a screening of Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace (Alan Elliott & Sydney Pollack, 2018), BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 10:30 am
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including a scavenger hunt in the “Activist New York” exhibit, storytelling, and art workshops, Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St., free with museum admission of $14-$20 (under twenty free), 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (LÅT DEN RÄTTE KOMMA IN) (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park
188 Prospect Park West
Tuesday, January 21, $95, 7:15
If you have a taste for the ghoulish, you’re likely to get sucked in by Nitehawk’s latest Film Feast, in which a multicourse meal accompanies a movie for the cinematic gourmand. On January 21, Nitehawk’s Prospect Park branch will be serving up a delicious gem, the original Swedish thriller Let the Right One In, a chilling yet tender coming-of-age story about friendship and the meaning of family. In a snow-covered Stockholm suburb, twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is severely bullied by Conny (Patrik Rydmark), Andreas (Johan Sömnes), and Martin (Mikael Erhardsson). The frail, blond Oskar dreams of getting even, but he always backs down. But then he meets the dark-haired, somewhat feral Eli (Lina Leandersson, dubbed by Elif Ceylan), who has moved in next door in their apartment complex. While Oskar lives with his divorced mother (Karin Bergquist) — his father (Henrik Dahl) has moved out to the country — Eli lives with Håkan (Per Ragnar), an older father figure who goes out to gather what Eli needs to survive: blood. But the aging Håkan begins encountering difficulties, forcing Eli to go out and hunt down her own food. As people start to go missing in the small community, Eli and Oskar’s friendship begins to blossom, two outsiders coming to terms with who they are. But when Oskar suddenly strikes back, Conny’s older brother, Jimmy (Rasmus Luthander), gets involved, and the steaks, er, stakes, get a whole lot higher.
Based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a gripping horror film that is one of the best of the young century. By making the protagonists children with common adolescent problems, Lindqvist, who wrote the screenplay, and director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Snowman) create a more realistic setting, so the scares are that much more intense. Hedebrant and Leandersson have a magical chemistry, their tentativeness and fears intoxicating. They exist in a world that is meant only for them; all of the adults are essentially peripheral, whether parents, teachers, or community members wondering what is going on, and the other kids are merely in their way. And it’s all about that very moment; they both might be twelve, but Eli is going to be that age forever while Oskar gets older.
The atmosphere is thick and tense throughout, elevated by Hoyte van Hoytema’s inventive cinematography and Johan Söderqvist’s dramatic score, performed by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. Despite some very memorable scenes involving shocking violence, at its heart Let the Right One In is a sweetly innocent love story, albeit with a few unusual complications. Matt Reeves directed a 2010 English-language remake starring Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz, and the National Theatre of Scotland staged a terrific theatrical adaptation that played at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2015, but there’s still nothing like the original, a visually stunning and psychologically adept fresh new take on the vampire legend.
The five-course feast, with each dish and cocktail named after a part of the film, consists of “”A Little About Drugs” (black cherry, lemon infused Absolut, clarified lemon juice, black shaved ice) with “Good Job Pig” (caraway scented pork belly, pickled carrots, rosemary parsnip purée); “You Smell Funny” (lingonberry, Swedish punsch, allspice, cinnamon, Absolut, Amaro Pasubio, violets, Laphroaig 10 Yr.) with “the Sled Drag” (blodpudding, celery root, Napa cabbage, lingonberry); “Oskar, Do You Like Me?” (acid adjusted apple juice, dill infused Absolut, pine, Salers, pickled apple) with “I’m Trapped” (Swedish meatballs with pour it yourself Absolut gravy); “Virginia!” (Absolut, banana, cream, walnut, caraway, served ice cold) with “Blood Brothers” (rye bröd, gravlax, apple, dill crème fraîche, beet reduction splatter), and “Thank You” (frozen chocolate and espresso martini, white shaved ice) with a “Bloody Kiss” (Hallongrotta, Absolut Pear whipped cream, powdered sugar). Smaklig måltid!
AULCIE (Dani Menkin, 2019)
Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center
165 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Thursday, January 16, 8:30
Festival runs January 15-28
Israeli director Dani Menkin follows up his 2016 documentary, On the Map, about Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv’s unlikely victory in the 1976-77 European Champions Cup, with an inside look into the life of one of its stars in Aulcie, the opening night selection of the New York Jewish Film Festival. After being the last man cut from the New York Knicks in 1976, Newark native Aulcie Perry was recruited to play for Maccabi in Israel, where the 6-10 black man — an unusual sight in the Land of Milk and Honey — quickly became a superstar, helping the team to championships, falling in love with top model Tami Ben Ami, and hanging out in hot clubs, living the high life. But it all came tumbling down in a haze of drugs, and Menkin traces Perry’s attempt to put it all back together, primarily by finding the daughter he has not seen since she was a baby.
The film is set up as Perry’s confession to that daughter, Cierra Musungay. “I always knew one thing: that I wanted to tell you my story, the way it is, with the good and the bad,” he says at the beginning. “So where do I start? People say you start at the beginning. But I wanted to start at the end, or when I thought the end was coming.” He was inspired to track her down after facing a serious health scare. “I think, that only when I almost died, I started to really live. And that’s when I wanted to find you and, maybe in some ways, find myself,” he adds.
Menkin goes back and forth between archival footage, animation by Assaf Zellner, and interviews with Aulcie’s sister Bernadine Lewis, his friends Wayne Tyre and Roy Young, his ex-girlfriend Juanita Jackson, his son Aulcie Perry Jr., and many men from his Maccabi family, including former teammates Earl Williams and Tal Brody, team president Shimon Mizrahi, co-owner Oudi Recanati, coach Zvi Sherf, and manager Shamluk Maharovsky, who was like a father to him. “In Israel, there wasn’t that much prejudice against black players, and he felt at home here,” NBA commentator Simmy Reguer says. “Aulcie came in like a blessing from the gods,” fellow Jersey native and team captain Brody recalls. And Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff explains, “At Maccabi Tel Aviv, Aulcie Perry was Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rolled into one.”
Now sixty-nine, Perry is honest and forthright thorughout, admitting his failings and wanting to make up for lost time. He makes no excuses for his precipitous fall, and he’s not seeking sympathy. He’s a man who made mistakes and wants a chance to set things right. Aulcie is a cautionary tale of redemption with heart and soul, focusing on the need to be part of a family, no matter how different and unexpected it may be. Aulcie is having its New York City premiere January 16 at 8:30 at the Walter Reade Theater, with Perry, Menkin, and producer Nancy Spielberg (brother of Steven) participating in a Q&A. Aulcie might be the opening selection of the New York Jewish Film Festival, but the twenty-ninth annual fest actually kicks off a day earlier with Picture of His Life, a documentary codirected by Menkin and Yonatan Nir about Yom Kippur War veteran and underwater photographer Amos Nachoum, showing on January 15 at 1:00, with Menkin, Spielberg, and Nachoum present. A joint presentation of Film at Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum, the festival continues through January 28 with such other works as Marceline Loridan-Ivens’s centerpiece The Birch Tree Meadow, starring Anouk Aimée and August Diehl, a fiftieth anniversary presentation of Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, and Dror Zahavi’s closing night selection, Crescendo, about an attempt to establish an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra.