Who: The Black Eyed Peas, Pearl Jam, Katie Couric, will.i.am, Manuel Oliver, Greg Kahn, Cheryl Horner McDonough, Manju Bangalore, Rebecca Boldrick Hogg, Kevin Hogg, Jammal Lemy, John E. Rosenthal, Meghna Chakrabarti
What: Livestreamed movie premieres and panel discussions
Where: Parkland Rising YouTube and Facebook
When: Tuesday, June 2, free with RSVP, 8:00, and Wednesday, June 5, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: June 2 marks the sixth National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which started in 2015 to call attention to the rash of school shootings and do something about it; just because there is no in-person school across the country right now, resulting in no recent mass murders at educational institutions, doesn’t mean we still don’t have a horrific problem in America. And what happens when schools reopen? This June 2, the day will be honored and the victims remembered with the livestream premiere of Cheryl Horner McDonough’s 2019 documentary Parkland Rising, which examines the February 14, 2018, shooting that killed seventeen students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The film features interviews with David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Matt and Ryan Deitsch, Emma Gonzalez, Fred Guttenberg, Cameron Kasky, Patricia Padauy-Oliver, and Manuel Oliver. “We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again,” Gonzalez says in the film. The event is hosted by the Black Eyed Peas and Pearl Jam; executive producer Katie Couric will introduce the film and moderate a postscreening conversation, which brings together executive producer will.i.am, Change the Ref founder Manuel Oliver, Gun Safety Alliance co-lead Greg Kahn, former March for Our Lives LA chapter co-lead Manju Bangalore, and two-time Emmy winner McDonough.
Three days later, June 5, is Wear Orange Day, a tribute to Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in a Chicago park in 2013 at the age of fifteen, a week after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration parade. At 7:00, Parkland Rising will have an encore Wear Orange screening, followed by a discussion with Marjory Stoneman Douglas student and parent activists Corin, Oliver, Padauy-Oliver, Rebecca Boldrick Hogg, Kevin Hogg, Jammal Lemy, and Stop Handgun Violence cofounder John E. Rosenthal, moderated by WBUR host Meghna Chakrabarti. Guttenberg, the father of shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg, said in a statement, “Since the coronavirus outbreak began, gun sales have skyrocketed to an all-time high in the US, potentially putting millions of new deadly weapons into unlicensed, untrained, unsafe hands. Now more than ever, we must take action on the issue of gun violence to prevent the kind of tragedy my family experienced in Parkland. I’m glad this powerful film will be available for all American voters to learn what we went through and to inspire more people to join the fight for change.”
I’ve long maintained that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who were born in Brooklyn, and those who wish they were. As a Brooklyn native who lives in Manhattan, I’m still a regular visitor to the world’s greatest borough. But it’s now been more than two and a half months that I’ve been hunkered down in Murray Hill, barely leaving my apartment to get supplies, forget about going to BAM. TFANA, the Brooklyn Museum, Coney Island, BRIC, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or other Brooklyn cultural institutions in addition to eating out and visiting friends there. But I can get more than a taste of my hometown by checking out the twenty-third annual Brooklyn Film Festival, which goes virtual this year with the apt theme: “Turning Point.” From May 29 through June 7, BFF will present nearly 150 feature-length and short fiction, nonfiction, animated, and experimental works from around the world. Although everything is free this year, you are encouraged to support the festival if you can by donating here.
For those seeking even more of a connection to the area that was settled by the Dutch in 1636, the following films were made by Brooklyn-based directors: Morgan Ingari’s Milkwater, John Klingman’s Snatchers, Andrew Leibman’s Rooftop Refuge, Drew English’s Everybody’s OK, David Shayne and Jacob Roberts’s Lewiston, Connie Huang’s Ai Baba: (Love Dad), Lindsey Phillips and Shirin Ghaffary’s Rhythm’s Gonna Get Ya, Lorenzo de Guia’s Leeper, Mojo Lorwin’s Summer in the City, Rachel Harrison Gordon’s Broken Bird, Daniel Ferrer’s Ex Disposer, Kevin P. Alexander’s Boys & Toys, Courtney Ulrich’s Peter Has to Go to the Doctor, and Kana Hatakeyama’s Fitness! Or a Story about Sweat.
I have spent many an hour experiencing the unique work of sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard, walking around her dazzling large-scale wood sculptures at Galerie Lelong and art fairs, outside the Barclays Center, and in Madison Square Park. But it wasn’t until watching Daniel Traub’s hourlong documentary, Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own — which opens virtually May 29 on Film Forum’s website — that I have come to understand and appreciate her work that much more.
“She is using her own experiences to think about how abstract forms can be evocative and representative of what the human condition is,” arts writer Patricia C. Phillips says in the film. “It’s indisputable that there’s something about Ursula’s process that makes the work incredibly distinctive. And just continuing to pursue that with more and more depth and persistence over the years, it reveals some answers but always this feeling that there is also something being withheld.”
Von Rydingsvard was born in Germany in 1942 to a Polish mother and a severely abusive Ukrainian father; the large family lived in a displaced persons camp after the war, mired in poverty, struggling to survive in makeshift homes where everything was made from wood. “It was just the board between me and the outside world, and I recall my body being right next to the wall, and I could smell, I could feel,” von Rydingsvard remembers about the camp. “And there was a huge difference between what happened within this wooden structure and what happened outside of it, so that there was a kind of safety the wood gave me.”
The family immigrated to a blue-collar town in Connecticut in 1951, where she learned little about art and suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her father. She married, moved to California, and had a daughter, Ursie, but left her abusive husband with help from her brother Staś Karoliszyn and moved to SoHo in 1975, determined to become an artist. “Going to New York City woke me up in a way that was jarring and marvelous,” she says. She eventually adopted a labor-intensive process of marking, cutting, and stacking cedar two-by-fours into masterful sculptures with a dedicated team of holders, runners, cutters, and fabricators, forming their own family; they even eat lunch together every day. Traub, who directed, produced, and photographed the film, speaks with such studio personnel as Ted Springer, Vivian Chiu, Morgan Daly, and Sean Weeks-Earp while showing the detailed, grueling yet clearly satisfying work they perform.
“Her process is almost medieval,” says Mary Sabbatino, owner of Galerie Lelong, von Rydingsvard’s longtime New York gallery. Traub traces von Rydingsvard’s career from St. Martin’s Dream in Battery Park and Song of a Saint (St. Eulalia) in Buffalo, both from 1980, through a recent Princeton University outdoor commission for which she would be using copper for the first time. She had seen Traub’s short film Xu Bing: Phoenix and so invited Traub to document her 2015 Venice Bienale installation, Giardino Della Marinaressa. That became a short film, and they then decided to collaborate again, documenting the making of the Princeton commission, which led to Into Her Own.
Such friends and colleagues as artists Elka Krajewska, Sarah Sze, and Judy Pfaff, patrons Agnes Gund and Lore Harp McGovern, and Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg dig deep into von Rydingsvard’s almost proprietary use of materials, her distinction as a rare woman artist creating monumental sculpture, and the concept of time in her oeuvre. Touch is also key, from the many assistants who handle the wood, bronze, and copper in the construction of the work to the people who approach and feel the final product, something she encourages. There’s a wonderful scene in which von Rydingsvard speaks with her beloved second husband, Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard, discussing nature, beauty, and her Polish heritage. Her daughter tells stories of growing up surrounded by her mother’s process and art, and Von Rydingsvard and Karoliszyn share intimate, frightening details of their father’s abuse as she explains how she was able to turn that pain around to figure out who she was and what she wanted out of life. “I knew I needed to do my work to live,” she says.
I can’t wait until I get outside and see von Rydingsvard’s work again, in person, with this newfound knowledge and understanding of an extraordinary artist. In the meantime, I’ve already watched the documentary twice, inspired by her continuing story.
Traub, a New York-based photographer who codirected the 2014 film The Barefoot Artist (about his mother, artist, activist, and teacher Lily Yeh), and von Rydingsvard will take part in a free, live Q&A with moderator Molly Donovan of the National Gallery of Art on May 31 at 5:00, hosted by Film Forum.
Who: Mikki Shepard, DJ YB, Mamma Normadien, Baba N’goma Woolbright, Charmaine Warren, Abdel R. Salaam, Karen Thornton Daniels, Sabine LaFortune, Coco Killingsworth, Farai Malianga, more
What: BAM’s DanceAfrica
Where: BAM online
When: Through May 29 (and beyond), free (some film screenings require small payment)
Why: One of our favorite ways of ushering in the summer season is by going to BAM’s annual DanceAfrica festival, a weekend of dance, films, a street bazaar, and more celebrating African culture. The forty-second annual event is taking place online, with livestreamed performances, film screenings, archival videos, interviews, classes, and a virtual bazaar. “The spirit of DanceAfrica has no boundaries, and will always find its way to the people,” Baba Abdel R. Salaam said in a statement. Below is the full schedule. And be prepared to shout “Ago!” “Amée!!” from the comfort of wherever you are sheltering in place.
Through May 27
FilmAfrica: Aya of Yop City (Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie, 2012), Mother of George (Andrew Dosunmu, 2012), Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu, 2018), Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (Chai Vasarhelyi, 2008), pay-what-you-wish to $4.99
Through May 29
“DanceAfrica Visual Art: Omar Victor Diop”
Through June 14
DanceAfrica Virtual Bazaar, with clothing, jewelry, home goods, food, and accessories
Monday, May 25
“DanceAfrica: The Early Years,” with Mikki Shepard, 11:00 am
DanceAfrica Dance Party, with DJ YB, 7:00
Tuesday, May 26
“DanceAfrica: Behind the Scenes,” with Abdel R. Salaam, Charmaine Warren, and Council of Elder members Mamma Normadien and Baba N’goma Woolbright, 6:00
Wednesday, May 27
“DanceAfrica: The Council of Elders,” with Stefanie Hughley and Council of Elder leaders Mamma Lynette White-Mathews and Baba Bill (William) Mathews, 6:00
Thursday, May 28
“Education and DanceAfrica,” with Karen Thornton Daniels, Sabine LaFortune, Coco Killingsworth, and Abdel R. Salaam, 6:00
Opens Thursday, May 28
FilmAfrica: A Screaming Man (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, 2010), Chez Jolie Coiffure (Rosine Mbakam, 2018), I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017), National Diploma (Dieudo Hamadi, 2014), prices TBD
“DanceAfrica: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” with Coco Killingsworth, Charmaine Warren, and Abdel R. Salaam, 6:00
Who: RZA, Dan Halsted, Mustafa Shaikh
What: Live commentary during streaming of martial arts movie
Where: 36 Cinema
When: Sunday, May 24, $10, 9:15
Why: Rapper, writer, producer, actor, and director RZA has long displayed his admiration for martial arts movies. He is a cofounder of Wu-Tang Clan, which was named after the 1983 Hong Kong film Shaolin vs. Wu Tang, and he directed, cowrote, and starred in the 2012 movie The Man with the Iron Fists. In conjunction with 36 Chambers, the lifestyle company he cofounded in 2016 with Mustafa Shaikh — Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album was called Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) — he has now started 36 Cinema, an online site that will stream martial arts classics with live commentary. They kicked things off earlier this month with Shaolin vs. Wu Tang, and on May 24 they will head to Japan for the 1980 jidaigeki favorite Shogun Assassin, a crossover film directed by Kenji Misumi and Robert Houston, inspired by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s long-running manga series Lone Wolf & Cub. The film features Tomisaburo Wakayama, the brother of producer and Zatoichi star Shintaro Katsu, as Ogami Ittō, a former executioner who has become a righteous defender of the common people and who lives by a very specific code; the film was sampled in Wu-Tang member GZA’s 1995 album, Liquid Swords, which was produced by RZA. RZA will provide live commentary, joined by Shaikh, who will moderate viewer questions, and Hollywood Theatre head programmer Dan Halsted. Tickets are limited and cost ten dollars; you will receive a link an hour before showtime. “Meet the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter!” the film’s tagline declares. We can’t wait.
Who: Charles Busch, Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Austin Pendleton, David Amram, F. Murray Abraham, William Electric Black, more
What: Live concert and summit (and many other events)
Where: Theater for the New City
When: Saturday, May 23, free, 8:00 (festival runs May 22-24)
Why: Since 1996, Theater for the New City’s annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts has been a harbinger of summer, three days of multidisciplinary performances taking place in and around the organization’s East First St. home. But the twenty-fifth anniversary of the popular weekend event goes virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s slowed down in the least. From May 22 to 24, the festival, whose theme is “Renaissance: Arts Alive 25,” will feature 250 participants providing music, dance, theater, discussion, and more, all for free. The centerpiece occurs on May 23 at 8:00 with “The Mt. Olympus of LES Love!,” a concert with an amazing lineup consisting of Charles Busch, Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Austin Pendleton, David Amram, F. Murray Abraham, and William Electric Black, followed by a summit that attempts to answer the question “Where do we go from here?”
The three-day celebration will feature such speakers as Nii Gaani Aki, Michael Musto, Brad Hoylman, Carlina Rivera, and Candice Burridge; theater excerpts with Barbara Kahn, Anne Lucas, Eve Packer, Greg Mullavey, the Drilling Company, Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, and others; comedy from Reno, Stan Baker, Trav S.D., Wise Guise, Izzy Church, Epstein and Hassan, and Ana-Maria Bandean with Gemma Forbes; dance with Ashley Liang Dance Company, Constellation Moving Co., Dixon Place, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Wendy Osserman Dance Company, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, and Zullo/RawMovement; music by Donald Arrington, Allesandra Belloni, Michael David Gordon and the Pocket Band, Art Lillard, and Yip Harburg Rainbow Troupe; cabaret with KT Sullivan, Marissa Mulder, Eric Yves Garcia, Aziza, and Peter Zachari; and poetry readings by Coni Koepfinger, Tsaurah Litzky, Lola Rodriguez, Bob Rosenthal, Lissa Moira, and Brianna Bartenieff; along with puppetry, film screenings, children’s events, and visual art, all for free, although donations are gladly accepted.