WE THE ANIMALS (Jeremy Zagar, 2018)
Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. at Mercer St., 212-995-2570
Landmark at 57 West, 657 West 57th St. at 12th Ave., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, August 17
Documentarian Jeremy Zagar’s first feature, We the Animals, is a deeply sensitive and intimate coming-of-age drama about a ten-year-old boy on the cusp of starting to understand issues of race, class, and sexuality. Based on the 2011 novel by Justin Torres, a fictionalized version of his real family story, We the Animals is set in upstate New York in the 1990s, where Paps (Raúl Castillo) and Ma (Sheila Vand) are raising three young boys, Manny (Isaiah Kristian), Joel (Josiah Gabriel), and Jonah (Evan Rosado). Paps is a security guard from Puerto Rico, while Ma is of Italian-Irish heritage and works the graveyard shift at a brewery. The boys all sleep in the same room; they often huddle together and call out, “Body heat! Body heat!” as if they are one. But Jonah, the youngest, is a little different. He’s more delicate, needing more of his mother’s love and touch. He hides a notebook under the bed in which he writes down thoughts and draws pictures of flying and freedom, which are inventively brought to life by animator Mark Samsonovich. When Paps and Ma have a fight and the father leaves, it affects Jonah more than his brothers. He soon starts hanging around with a local non-Latinx teenager who introduces him to pornography, but it’s not the women who Jonah finds himself intrigued by. As his parents’ relationship continues to be volatile, Jonah grows more distant with his brothers as he explores new aspects of who he might be — or become.
Zagar (In a Dream, Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart) incorporated his documentary experience in making We the Animals, giving it a realistic feel as the story unfolds at a slow but natural pace. Cinematographer Zak Mulligan favors a handheld 16mm camera to further enhance the believability of the narrative. Zagar spent two and a half years first casting the boys, then working with them — all three first-time actors — before filming began. Zagar, who cites Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) and Ken Loach (Kes, Riff-Raff) as major influences, and co-screenwriter Daniel Kitrosser remain faithful to the book, but Zagar often kept the camera rolling after a scripted scene, allowing the boys to improvise in character, and Zagar and coeditor Keiko Deguchi ended up using some of that footage in the final film. The story deals with masculinity and machismo very honestly and directly, with their impact clear on the mother and her three boys. It’s all a kind of fever dream, one in which Jonah, wonderfully portrayed by Rosado, has created his own separate world, an escape from the brutality he sees in his father and the victimization of his mother. Despite that, the film still manages to be bittersweet and gentle, with a warm soundtrack by Nick Zammuto. An absolute gem that won the Innovator Award at the Sundance Film Festival, We the Animals opens August 17 at the Angelika and the Landmark at 57 West. The first weekend features a trio of postscreening Q&As at the Angelika, with Castillo, Vand, and Torres at the 7:20 show on Friday, Castillo, Vand, Kristian, and Torres after the 7:20 show on Saturday, and Castillo and Torres following the 2:40 show on Sunday.
West 135th St. between Malcolm X Blvd. & Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Saturday, August 18, and Sunday, August 19, free, 12 noon – 10:00 pm
Festival continues through August 25
The theme of the 2018 Harlem Week festival is “Women Transforming Our World: Past, Present & Future,” along with the subtheme “The Community within the Community,” saluting LGBTQ rights. The festivities continue August 18 with “Summer in the City” and August 19 with “Harlem Day,” two afternoons of a wide range of free special events along West 135th St. Saturday’s programs include Harlem Senior Citizens Synchronized Swimming, the NYC Children’s Festival in Howard Bennett Playground (with a parade, exhibits, games, arts & crafts, live music and dance, health testing, and sports clinics), the Harlem Week Higher Education Fair (with more than fifty colleges and universities), “Dancing in the Streets” with live performances and WBLS DJs, the International Vendors Village, the Fabulous Fashion Flava Show, the “Uptown Saturday Concert” (with Sarah Vaughan National Competition winner Ashleigh Smith, Bishop Marvin Sapp, Raheem Devaughn, and the Jeff Foxx Band), and the Imagenation Outdoor Film Festival in St. Nicholas Park. Sunday’s “Harlem Day” celebration features live performances on three stages, the International Vendors Village, the Upper Manhattan Auto Show, Our Health Village, the Upper Manhattan Small Business Expo & Fair, USTA Children’s Tennis Clinics, and the second day of the NYC Children’s Festival (with a Back to School theme).
Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, Battery Park City
20 Battery Pl.
August 11-18, free
The thirty-seventh annual Battery Dance Festival takes place August 11 to 18, 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 will begin August 11 in Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park with a screening of Rob Fruchtman’s new documentary, Moving Stories, about Battery Dance Company’s trip to India, Romania, Korea, and Iraq to work with at-risk youth. For the following six days at 7:00 in Wagner Park, there will be free dance performances, with Battery Dance, Ariel Rivka Dance Company, Hivewild, Martha Graham School, Caterina Rago Dance Company, and Anno Kachina, Christopher Nunez, and Hussein Smko on Sunday, Iker Karrera Dance Company, Douglas Dunn + Dancers, JOIN Ensemble, Jamal Jackson Dance Company, and AThomas Project on Monday, Battery Dance, Asya Zlatina and Dancers, Iker Karrera Dance Company, DANAKA | Dana Katz, and Citadel + Compagnie on Tuesday, Parul Shah Dance Company, Sandip Mallick and Musicians, Anuj Mishra with Kantika Mishra and Neha Singh, and Piyush Chauhan and Preeti Sharma on Wednesday (for the annual Indian celebration, this year titled, Kathak!), Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, Citadel + Compagnie, Paranoyak Crew, and Skopje Dance Theater on Thursday, Damir Tasmagambetov, Ballet Nepantla, Paranoyak Crew, and Mophato Dance Theatre on Friday, and Battery Dance, Skopje Dance Theater, and Mophato Dance Theatre on Saturday (at the Schimmel Center at Pace; advance RSVP is required).
“Having the opportunity to perform and teach around the world, it is only natural that we would bring back to our home in Lower Manhattan the amazing treasures we discover overseas,” Hollander said in a statement. “With countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America this summer, we will celebrate and explore vibrant forms of dance in a setting that represents New York’s history as a destination for immigrants.” In addition to the film and dances, there will be free workshops at 1:30 on August 12 with Battery Dance, 10:30 on August 13 with Iker Karrera Dance Company, at 10:30 on August 14 with Paranoyak Crew, at 12:30 on August 14 with Sandip Mallick, at 10:30 on August 15 with Citadel + Compagnie, at 10:30 on August 16 with Mophato Dance Theatre, and at 10:30 on August 17 with Skopje Dance Theater. Advance registration is required here.
The free summer arts & culture season is under way, with dance, theater, music, art, film, and other special outdoor programs all across the city. Every week we will be recommending a handful of events. Keep watching twi-ny for more detailed highlights as well.
Sunday, August 5
Movies Under the Stars: Escape to Witch Mountain (John Hough, 1975), Beach 94th St. off Shorefront Parkway in Rockaway Beach, 8:00
Monday, August 6
Movies Under the Stars: Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018), Cunningham Park, Queens, 8:00
Tuesday, August 7
signs & symbols: artists & allies, group exhibition opening featuring work and discourse, with live performances and discussions continuing every Thursday night through September 7, signs & symbols, 102 Forsyth St., 6:00
Wednesday, August 8
Hip to Hip Free Shakespeare in the Park: All’s Well That Ends Well, directed by Owen Thompson, Flushing Meadows Corona Park at the Unisphere, continues in repertory with King Lear at various parks through August 25, Kids & the Classics workshop at 7:00, show at 7:30
Thursday, August 9
SummerStage: Wild Style 35th Anniversary Reunion at the Amphitheater with special guest DJ Funk Flex, with Almighty Kay Gee, Busy Bee, Charlie Ahearn, DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore, DJ Tony Crush, Eclipse, EZ AD, Grand Master Caz, Patti Astor, and Rodney C and preshow hip-hop dance workshop with Fabel, East River Park Amphitheater in John V. Lindsay East River Park, 6:00
Friday, August 10
Lincoln Center Out of Doors: West Side Story Reimagined, with Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band and poetry by La Bruja and Rich Villar, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30
Saturday, August 11, 18, 25
Norte Maar’s Dance at Socrates, with Kristina Hay and Hilary Brown | HB² PROJECTS and Gleich Dances with Sarah Louise Kristiansen on August 11, Movement Migration | Blakeley White-McGuire and Project 44 | Gierre Godley with Janice Rosario & Company on August 18, and Kyle Marshall Choreography and Kathryn Alter and Dancers with Thomas/Ortiz Dance and konverjdans on August 25, Socrates Sculpture Park, 4:00
Sunday, August 12
Blues Brunch with Bill Sims Jr., Bryant Park Southwest Porch, 12 noon
Hunters Point South Park, Gantry Plaza State Park, Queensbridge Park, Socrates Sculpture Park
August 4-5, free, 1:00 - 8:00
Need an excuse to stroll through some beautiful, less-frequented parks this weekend? Then check out the second annual INSITU. INSITU takes the concept of site-specific dance to a new level, involving nearly two dozen companies and individuals performing or leading workshops over the course of seven hours in four parks along the Queens waterfront. The schedule allows for fans to be able to see every piece once as they make their way through Long Island City. Produced in partnership with Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement, INSITU features a wide-ranging lineup (with the name of the piece they will be performing in parentheses): César Brodermann & Sebastian Abarbanell (As We Get Weaker Together), Alice Gosti (Bodies of Water), Quilan ‘Cue’ Arnold (The Third Rail), N E 1 4 Dance (Constricted Not Constructed), and workshop with Melissa Riker Kinesis Project (Breathing with Strangers) in Hunter’s Point South Park; House of Ninja (Peer/Pier), Renegade Performance Group (Landing), Donofrio Dance Company (Other), Sarah Chien (Pathway), Sarah Elgart | Arrogant Elbow (Shape of Memory), and workshop with Cecilia Fontanesi of Parcon NYC (Space Pillars) in Gantry Plaza State Park; Kate Harpootlian and artists (Play), A Lady in the House Co. (R a l l y), Douglas Dunn + Dancers (Portal), AnA Collaborations (Seeking Love), and workshop with Christopher Núñez (Move Your Number) in Queensbridge Park; and Sophie Maguire & Emma Wiseman (Mimosa Pudica), Javier Padilla & the Movement Playground (Full, Flock, Folk, Together), Babacar Top/TopdanceCompany (Anger of Bulimia), Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival (Gentrification of My Beat), Fleuve | Espace danse (The Breath of Dawn), and workshop with JoAnna Mendl Shaw of the Equus Projects (Hands on, Eyes on, Bodies Moving) in Socrates Sculpture Park.
Each piece runs less than fifteen minutes during four sequences that begin at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00. There will also be a community dance segment at the end of the first three sequences. As Brodermann and Abarbanell explain about their piece, “It was my own body that needed to survive / It was my own body that needed to be caught / It was my own body that learned how to fly / It was my own body that decided to try”; on Saturday and Sunday, you can see bodies doing all kinds of things during this ultracool festival celebrating movement and nature.
THE ATOMIC CAFE (Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader & Pierce Rafferty, 1982)
209 West Houston St.
Opens Wednesday, August 1
The time is ripe for a 4K restoration of the absurdist 1982 documentary The Atomic Cafe as President Trump deals with the nuclear capabilities and arsenals of Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty were searching archives for propaganda films when they discovered a treasure trove of military and government shorts about the atomic and hydrogen bombs and how the American people should face any oncoming threats. The filmmakers weaved sensational footage together into an hour and a half of clips that range from the hysterically funny to the dangerously outrageous. Young students are taught to “duck and cover.” Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets Jr. describes how easy it was to fly over Hiroshima and drop the bomb but then admits his shock over the eventual destruction it wrought. Presidents Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower discuss the impact of the bombs. A radio duo makes jokes about the decimation. Scenes of the horrific damage to Japanese victims are shown in silence. Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy defends the Bikini Atoll test, where island residents are assured everything will be fine — as are soldiers who will be in the vicinity of various tests.
While Russia escalates the Cold War — yes, they were our avowed enemy for quite some time, although the film includes President Richard Nixon joking around with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev — and a battle between North and South Korea looms, Americans drink “Atomic” cocktails and dance to “Atomic” songs. The execution of Ethel Rosenberg is explained in disturbing detail. A military officer tells the troops, “Watched from a safe distance, this explosion is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man,” and in a training film a military chaplain says to a few soldiers, “You look up and you see the fireball as it ascends up into the heavens; it’s a wonderful sight to behold.” Loader and the Raffertys fill the film with a vast array of black-and-white and color footage of nuclear bombs exploding into immense mushroom clouds, accompanied by a wide range of mood-enhancing music. It would be easy to dismiss most of the archival material in the film as ridiculous, outdated propaganda from a bygone era, but in this age of fake news, social media, lies from the White House, a war on journalism, and a president cozying up to enemies and taking issue with longtime allies, it’s more than a little bit frightening too. The Atomic Cafe opens August 1 at Film Forum — where it debuted in 1982 — with Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty participating in Q&As following the screenings on August 2 and 3 at 7:10 and August 4 at 5:10.