In the 1970s and 1980s, sports and politics began to mix in unsavory ways, from the horrific massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972 to boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Summer Games. But sports can also lift nations and their place in the world in remarkable ways. Three years before the “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Olympic hockey team won the Gold Medal in Lake Placid, a previously unsuccessful Israeli basketball team was attempting to pull off a miracle of its own at the 1976-77 European Cup Championship. Writer-director Dani Menkin tells the improbable story of Maccabi Tel-Aviv in On the Map, an exciting, superbly made documentary about a group of dedicated men whose on-court efforts were about more than going after the cup. “It’s not just basketball,” point guard Bob Griffin explains. Menkin mixes contemporary and archival footage for maximum impact; seeing the surviving members of the team donning their jerseys again and watching themselves in the biggest international game an Israeli team has ever participated in is tremendously moving. “It was something so unbelievable, so wishful, a great, golden place in sports history,” says sportscaster Alex Giladi, who took much of the amazing footage shown in the film. Fascinating insights emerge as Menkin speaks with Griffin, power forward Eric Minkin, forward Lou Silver, guard Miki Berkovich, center Aulcie Perry, superstar point guard and captain Tal Brody, and Jennifer Boatwright, the widow of small forward Jim Boatwright, in addition to former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who played with Brody on the U.S. National Team, former NBA commissioner David Stern, NBA commentator Simmy Reguer, and broadcaster Gideon Hod. Among those putting Maccabi’s battles against Italy’s Mobilgirgi Varèse, Spain’s Real Madrid, and Russia’s CSKA Moscow Red Army into political perspective are former finance minister Yair Lapid, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Maccabi president Shimon Mizrahi, and longtime Soviet prisoner and activist Natan Sharansky.
On the Map is a terrific documentary, particularly because Menkin (39 Pounds of Love, Dolphin Boy) was able to acquire so much outstanding black-and-white and color footage of the events discussed in the film, from Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan greeting the team on court before games to Brody practicing by himself, from players sharing a prophetic cake to head coach Ralph Klein giving inspirational locker-room speeches. There is also archival footage of the 1972 Olympic massacre, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin preparing to resign, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat meeting with U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and the 1976 Air France hijacking that led to Operation Entebbe. In the middle of it all is Brody, a kid from Jersey who helped change Israel and its position on the world stage. “There are some things that are more important than sport,” Stern says. “The excitement was just too much. I wanted more,” Perry asserts with a big smile. On the Map expertly delivers big-time on both accounts. The film opens December 9 at Cinema Village, with Menkin participating in Q&As following the 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 screenings December 9-11.
Who: Paul Giamatti, Jane Kaczmarek, Billy Porter, Kathryn Erbe
What: Paul Giamatti Curates Stories from the New York Review of Books
Where: Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, 2537 Broadway at 95th St., 212-864-5400
When: Wednesday, December 7, $30 ($80 premium), 7:30
Why: For more than fifty years, the New York Review of Books has been exploring American culture, society, and politics, publishing articles by prominent writers from around the world. On December 7, Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Brooklynite Paul Giamatti will be at Symphony Space for the latest edition of “Selected Shorts,” in which actors and other artists read specially chosen short stories. Giamatti will be curating the evening, choosing fiction from the collection of the prestigious New York Review of Books, a roster that includes W. H. Auden, Anton Chekhov, Saki, Daphne du Maurier, Elizabeth Hardwick, and so many others. “I go to the New York Review of Books for everything weird, wild, classic, and obscure,” the star of Sideways, John Adams, and American Splendor explains. “They’ve got one of the greatest collections of authors, past and present, on the planet.” Taking the stage to perform the works will be seven-time Emmy nominee Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle, Apollo 11), Tony winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots, Shuffle Along), and Tony nominee Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Speed of Darkness). The program is being held in cooperation with the NYRB Classics, a series “dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction from different eras and times and of various sorts.”
Who: Rana Abdelhamid, Susana Cook, Margo Jefferson, Elizabeth A. Sackler, Adrienne Truscott, Lenora M. Lapidus, Catharine R. Stimpson
What: A Discussion on Women’s Lives After the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Where: New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th St., 212-924-0077
When: Monday, December 5, $5, 7:00
Why: Much has been made about statistics that show forty-two percent of women voted for Donald Trump for president, choosing an accused sexist, misogynist, and worse over Hillary Clinton, a woman who has fought for the rights of women and children for decades. On December 5 at New York Live Arts, a group of women will take part in “An Open Spectrum: Critical Dialogues Forum,” addressing the topic “What Will Be Different? A Discussion on Women’s Lives After the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.” Curated by Brian Tate and Janet Wong, the event will feature WISE founding president Rana Abdelhamid, performance artist Susana Cook, Pulitzer Prize–winning critc Margo Jefferson, arts activist Elizabeth A. Sackler, PhD, and multidisciplinary choreographer, writer, and performer Adrienne Truscott; feminist scholar Catharine R. Stimpson will serve as moderator, and ACLU Women's Rights Project director Lenora M. Lapidus will deliver special remarks. Held in conjunction with MAPP International, the talk will focus on how women’s lives and gender equality might be affected during Trump’s presidency and what can be done about it; a wine reception will follow.
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Monday, December 5, $15, 7:00
After an eight-year break from directing, Noah Baumbach returned with the exceptional, unexpected drama The Squid and the Whale. You’ll think you’ll know just where this semiautobiographical 2005 Sundance Film Festival award winner (for writing and directing) and New York Film Festival hit is going — yet another painfully realistic look into the dissolution of a New York City family — but lo and behold, The Squid and the Whale will surprise you over and over again. And even when it does head toward the cliché route, it adds just the right twist to keep things fresh. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan Berkman (Laura Linney) are reaching the end of their marriage, and their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), aren’t handling it very well; Walt is taking credit for having written Pink Floyd’s “Hey You,” and Frank has developed the curious habit of pleasuring himself and then – well, you’ll have to see it to believe it. And while Joan hits the dating scene and has begun writing, Bernard is becoming a woolly has-been author who just might be getting the hots for one of his sexy students (Anna Paquin). Set in 1986 Park Slope (there are scenes shot in Prospect Park, the Santa Fe Grill, and other familiar Brooklyn locations) and at the American Museum of Natural History, The Squid and the Whale features sharp dialogue, well-developed characters, and outstanding acting from a terrific ensemble that includes several rising stars. The soundtrack includes Lou Reed’s great “Street Hassle” and a score, composed by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (of Luna), that borrows liberally from Risky Business, of all things. The Squid and the Whale is screening December 5 at 7:00 at Metrograph, with Baumbach (Frances Ha, Greenberg) on hand for a Q&A. As a bonus, the first 150 ticket holders will receive a Criterion tote bag and a copy of the director-approved Criterion Blu-Ray 4K digital transfer of the film, a package that includes new interviews with Baumbach, Daniels, Eisenberg, Kline, Linney, Wareham, and Phillips, a behind-the-scenes documentary, audition footage, a booklet essay by Kent Jones, and Jonathan Lethem’s 2005 interview of Baumbach. (A 9:15, $15 screening has been added as well, without the Q&A or goodie bag.)
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, December 3, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors World AIDS Day with its free First Saturday programming on December 3. There will be live performances by MC and producer SCIENZE, the Brooklyn Ballet (The Brooklyn Nutcracker), and DJ Sabine Blaizin; a curator tour of “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty,” led by assistant curator Carmen Hermo; a Community Resource Fair focusing on political advocacy; a hands-on sketching workshop with live clothed models; pop-art talks of “Infinite Blue” led by teen museum apprentices; a Day With(out) Art / Visual AIDS screening of the video compilation Compulsive Practice, followed by a discussion with Juanita Mohammed of the Women’s AIDS Video Enterprise, feminist writer and Brooklyn College film department chair Alexandra Juhasz, and HIV and gay civil rights activist Justin B. Terry-Smith; and a screening of David Kornfield’s The Red Umbrella Diaries, followed by a talkback with documentary subjects Dale Corvino and Essence. In addition, you can check out such exhibits as “Iggy Pop Life Class by Jeremy Deller,” “Beverly Buchanan — Ruins and Rituals,” “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago,” “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas,” “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty,” and “Infinite Blue”; admission to “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present” requires a discounted admission fee of $10.
ONE NITE ONLY: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2013)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Thursday, December 1, $16, 6:30
In honor of World AIDS Day, Nitehawk Cinema is teaming up with UNAIDS for a special presentation of the Oscar-nominated Dallas Buyers Club. When foul-mouthed homophobic womanizing racist Ron Woodroof (a career redefining and Oscar-winning Matthew McConaughey) suddenly finds out he has contracted the AIDS virus and has thirty days to live, he is determined to do whatever it takes to stay alive. Soon he has set up a small operation where people with HIV and AIDS can obtain medications that the FDA has not approved but that appear to help control the disease. Based on a true story that was documented in a Dallas Life magazine article in August 1992, Dallas Buyers Club is a gripping look at the AIDS crisis as seen through the eyes of a macho Texas electrician and rodeo man who doesn’t like what he sees when it comes to the medical establishment, believing that doctors and the FDA are in bed with the big pharmaceutical companies, who want to fast-track the questionable AZT drug. Jared Leto gives a spectacular Oscar-winning performance as Ron’s business partner, Rayon, a transgender woman trying to live life as a woman; Leto, almost unrecognizable, immerses himself in the complex role, avoiding genre clichés as the Marc Bolan-worshiping Rayon works alongside Woodroof. And McConaughey goes the full Christian Bale route as Woodroof, losing fifty pounds to play the gaunt wheeler-dealer who loves life too much to just give up. The cast also features Jennifer Garner as Eve Saks, a doctor who is sympathetic to Ron and Rayon’s plight; Denis O’Hare as her strict boss, Dr. Sevard; Griffin Dunne as a former doctor helping AIDS patients in Mexico; and Deerhunter lead singer Bradford Cox as Rayon’s lover, Sunny. Directed by Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) and written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club is a powerful examination of a different side of the AIDS dilemma. The film, which was nominated for six Oscars and won three, is screening at Nitehawk on December 1 at 6:30 and will be followed by a Q&A with Treatment Action Group HIV Prevention Research and Policy Coordinator Jeremiah Johnson.
CINÉSALON: BACK HOME (BLED NUMBER ONE) (Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, 2006)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, November 29, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through December 13
FIAF’s Cinésalon series “Poetic and Political: The Cinema of Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche” continues November 29 with Ameur-Zaïmeche’s second feature, Bled Number One (Back Home), the follow-up and kind of prequel to Wesh Wesh and the second part of an unofficial trilogy that concludes with Adhen (Dernier Maquis). Kamel (Ameur-Zaïmeche) has returned home to his isolated village of Loulouj in northeast Algeria after having spent several years in France. Meanwhile, Louisa (Meryem Serbah) has left her husband, Ahmed (Ramzy Bedia), but her parents (Meriem Ameur-Zaïmeche and Larkdari Ameur-Zaïmeche) and brother (Soheb Ameur-Zaïmeche) insist she go back to him, saying she is bringing shame on the family. Both Kamel and Louisa feel like outsiders in their own village, which is balancing precipitously between the past and the future. The desperados, a group of young men who are spreading fundamentalist Muslim views, is battling with the patriots, the longtime members of the community, threatening violence on anyone who doesn’t follow the letter of the Koran. During Zerda, the pre-Islamic ritual of slaughtering and serving a bull in which the women are kept separate from the men, Kamel, in his ever-present orange hat, decides to be with the women instead, and the men, feeling shunned, remind him over and over that he is not to eat with them. The treatment of women in this patriarchal society is a central focus of the film. Louisa wants to break free of the chains that bind her, but she takes a bigger risk every time she strays from accepted, outdated convention. And the more Kamel proves to be his own man, the more the other men want to be rid of him. In fact, the patriots closely watch the town border, refusing entry to anyone they don’t want inside.
The film, which was written by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche and Louise Thermes, is photographed in a documentary style, with long shots both in time and distance; often what is being said among the characters can’t be heard and is not translated into English, as it is more for setting a realistic pace and a naturalistic flow. The muted, faded greens and blues of the village residences stand in stark contrast to the lush green mountainside and bright blue sky. The few times there is music, it turns out that it is being played live by Rodolphe Burger by the sea; at one point he sings William Blake’s “The Little Vagabond,” about God and the Devil. Bled Number One (“bled” in Algerian means “field” or “terrain”) is a subtle, poetic film laden with sociopolitical undertones, a melancholic yet beautiful work from an auteur who deserves a bigger audience. “To write Bled Number One, I didn’t return at all to Algeria to capture something about today’s youth there. I wrote this story based on my holiday memories,” Ameur-Zaïmeche has said. “But it is also because I felt that things hadn’t really changed, that time passes differently there. You have the time to reflect and be, faced with the elements. . . . A film is a gesture, a burst, a job, an enterprise, an action. An action in life, a pure lesson of life. It is here that we grasp something alive. For it is necessary to remain alive, no matter what else happens.” Bursting with life, Bled Number One is screening at FIAF on November 29 at 4:00 and 7:30; the later show will be followed by a Q&A with ArteEast executive director Jaime-Faye Bean, and both shows will end with a wine and beer reception. “Poetic and Political: The Cinema of Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche” continues December 6 with Smugglers’ Songs before concluding December 13 with Story of Judas.