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.
Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, Battery Park City
20 Battery Pl.
August 11-17, free
The thirty-eighth annual Battery Dance Festival takes place August 11-17, featuring more than two dozen companies from around the world. Formerly known as the Downtown Dance Festival, the event is hosted by the New York City-based Battery Dance, which was founded by artistic director Jonathan Hollander in 1976. The free festival takes place Sunday through Friday in Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park at 7:00, followed by Everybody Dance Now at 9:00, beginning August 11 with Danuka Ariyawansa from Sri Lanka, Leah Barsky and Cristian Correa from Argentina, Mezopotamya Dans from Turkey, Dancers Seeking Refuge — Hussein Smko from Iraq, Battery Dance, and Music from the Sole. The August 12 lineup consists of Water Street Dance Milwaukee, Jon Ole Olstad, Mari Meade Dance Collective / MMDC, Laboration Art Company from France, Pony Box Dance Theatre, Mezopotamya Dans, and Emma Evelein Dance and Choreography from the Netherlands. On August 13, taking the stage will be Laboration Art Company, Janice Rosario & Company, Buglisi Dance Theatre, NVA & Guests, YYDC, and Ashlé Dawson — Breaking Conformity Productions. August 14 brings Ballet Nepantla, B-E from Lithuania, VIVO Ballet, Ballet Boy Productions, konverjdans, Chloe London Dance, Vanaver Caravana, and a world premiere from Battery Dance choreographed by Razvan Stoian.
August 15 celebrates India Independence Day with Dancers and Drummers of Manipur, Darshana Jhaveri, Sanjib Bhattacharya, Sinam Basu Singh, Surbala Devi Bachaspatimayum, Monika Devi Kongengbam. Brojen Kumar Singha Thingom, Angousana Singh Oinam, Premkumar Singh Lourembam, Rajika Puri, and narrator Sutradhar. On Friday, August 16, the performers are SEAD’s Bodhi Project from Austria, Reuel “Crunk” Rogers from Curaçao, MATHETA Dance, Keerati Jinakunwiphat / DIVE, Battery Dance, and Annalee Traylor. The festival concludes August 17 with a ticketed indoor show at Pace’s Schimmel Center with SEAD’s Bodhi Project, Reuel “Crunk” Rogers, Dancers Seeking Refuge — Hussein Smko, B-E, and Battery Dance at 6:00 (general admission $10). In addition, there will be a series of workshops at Battery Dance Studios at 380 Broadway, with Laboration Art Company on Sunday, Battery Dance on Monday, Mezopotamya Dans on Tuesday, Emma Evelein Dance on Wednesday, SEAD’s Bodhi Project on Thursday, Manipuri Dance on Friday (all at 10:30), and B-E Dance on Saturday at 10:30 and Reuel “Crunk” Rogers on Saturday at 1:30.
“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.
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.
LIVING HISTORY WEEKENDS
New-York Historical Society, courtyard
170 Central Park West
August 3-4, free with museum admission ($6-$22), 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Series continues through September 15
Last week, the New-York Historical Society hosted “Trans Identity and the Incredible Story of Deborah Sampson, Revolutionary War Hero,” an illustrated lecture by Alex Myers about the life and times of his ancestor Deborah Sampson, whose life he documents in his award-winning book Revolutionary, a fictionalized version of the brave young Colonial woman who disguised herself as a man to become a soldier in the Continental Army, eventually earning a military pension. Sampson herself — actually, History at Play actress Judith Kalaora — will be at the museum August 3-4 for “Revolutionary Summer: Deborah Sampson, Fighting Woman,” a Living History Weekend presentation being held in conjunction with the exhibition “Revolutionary Summer.” From 11:00 am to 3:00 pm each day, Sampson will be in the N-YHS courtyard, leading members of her regiment, the 4th Massachusetts, in military drills and other activities. Living History Weekends continue through September 15 with such other programs as “Fighting on Horseback” August 10-11 and “George Washington’s Encampment” August 17-18 and 24-25.
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.
Regal UA Midway Theater, Queens Library at Forest Hills, Queens Museum, Queens Brewery
Forest Hills continues its ascent in the film world with the third annual Festival of Cinema NYC, which kicks off August 2 with Hannah Elless’s short Nora Ephron Goes to Prison and the East Coast premiere of Camilo Vila’s 5th of July, about a series of events that befall a man (played by Jaleel White) after the fireworks are over. The films will be preceded by a red carpet and followed by an after-party. The fest continues through August 11, with twenty narrative features, seven documentaries, a handful of free events, and more than seventy international shorts in addition to web series and animation, experimental works, and music videos. On August 7, Indie Film Collective will present the 72 Hour Short Film Challenge, consisting of a dozen shorts made in three days starting with a line of dialogue, a prop, and a genre. You can find out more about Indie Film Collective at a panel on August 6 with founder and creative director Joseph Eulo and his team.
The Queens Library at Forest Hills and the Queens Museum will be home to several free programs (advance registration required), including “A Different Perspective — a Series of Experimental Films from Around the World,” “Monuments & Flowers” (by Arte East), “Race, Sex & Hold the Mayo!” (by the Asian American Film Lab), Surviving Birkenau: The Dr. Susan Spatz Story followed by a Q&A with director Ron Small, Carnaval de Cuba followed by a Q&A with director Roberto Monticello, and the New York premiere of Matej B. Silecky’s Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother. The closing night films on August 10 are Santiago Rizzo’s Quest — the Truth Always Rises, about a troubled middle schooler obsessed with tagging, and Francesco Filippi’s half-hour animated Red Hands, followed by the awards dinner celebration on August 11 at the Queens Brewery.