This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Science writer Dr. Ralph W. Moss tells the fascinating story of the battle over Laetrile in the 1970s in SECOND OPINION

SECOND OPINION (Eric Merola, 2014)
Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, August 29

At the beginning of Eric Merola’s Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering, a 1970s news reporter says, “Dr. Robert Good, president of the Sloan Kettering Institute, one of the world’s biggest and richest cancer research centers, said Laetrile does not prevent cancer, nor cure cancer, nor stop cancer from spreading.” For the next seventy-five minutes, Ralph W. Moss, PhD, the public affairs science writer for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 1974 to 1977, talks about what lay behind that statement and the furor that followed. He tells the captivating story of what went on behind the scenes as Laetrile, a form of amygdalin used in tumor treatment, was coveted by cancer patients but demonized by the medical establishment. The controversy over the drug, which was eventually banned in America, forced patients to go to Mexico in search of the palliative care medicine while the FDA, the National Cancer Institute, and several high-profile MSK doctors considered it to be quackery. MSK’s own top researcher, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, had exciting success treating mice with the drug, hopeful that the positive effects would be proven in humans as well. But when Dr. Good, MSK vice presidents Dr. Lloyd J. Old and Dr. Chester Stock, and MSKCC president Dr. Lewis Thomas decided that Laetrile was not the future of cancer treatment, despite what some of them had previously stated in public, Moss was confused and distressed. Others were as well; the documentary reveals that the political dimension of the debate eventually brought even the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society into the fray. Moss eventually became a whistleblower, writing numerous books on the subject, including The Cancer Industry, Cancer Therapy: The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment & Prevention, and the brand-new Doctored Results: The Suppression of Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, which spurred the documentary.

Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura’s research on Laetrile was eventually rejected by Sloan-Kettering leadership

Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura’s research on Laetrile was eventually rejected by Sloan Kettering leadership

Writer, director, producer, and coeditor Merola (Burzynski) lets Moss share his tale while sitting in a chair in the middle of a room at the Aldrich House in Providence, an odd if somewhat comforting choice, supplemented by archival footage and brief comments from Moss’s wife, Martha, son, Ben, and daughter, Melissa, in addition to Dr. Alex Pruchnicki, the only medical professional to come out in support of Moss without being anonymous. Merola also often cuts between two cameras, one a disorienting shot that shows the subject from the side, as if he had to try something different since the film is mostly talking heads. It’s quite an amazing story, and one that continues today, as labs around the world test and question the effectiveness of Laetrile. But watching Second Opinion, it’s hard not to wonder just what might have happened had MSKCC allowed Dr. Sugiura’s research to go on and the government given the drug more of a chance. The film is playing at Cinema Village, with Merola and Dr. Moss participating in Q&As following several screenings over the weekend, concluding with the 3:10 showing on August 31.



Brothers Lyle Ashton Harris and Thomas Allen Harris collaborate on a photo of their cousin Peggy in THROUGH A LENS DARKLY

Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
August 27 – September 9

Thomas Allen Harris exposes the conflicting relationship between the public and private visual depiction of African Americans in the powerful, if overly idealistic and methodical, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People. Inspired by Deborah Willis’s 2000 book, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present, the documentary examines how black men, women, and children have been portrayed in advertising and the media and on postcards since the development of the camera and daguerreotypes, depicting them in negative, stereotyped ways as animals, criminals, and, most horrifically, victims of lynchings. Over the course of seven years, the Bronx-born Harris interviewed such photographers and scholars as Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, Dawoud Bey, Coco Fusco, Chuck Stewart, and Lyle Ashton Harris (Harris’s brother), as well as Willis (one of the film’s producers) and her son, artist Hank Willis Thomas, exploring how blacks countered these distortions through family photos, where they not only controlled the image but the gaze itself. “How was, is, the photograph used in the battle between two legacies, self-affirmation and negation?” Harris (Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, É Minha Cara/That’s My Face), the founder and president of Chimpanzee Productions, asks early in the film. “Our salvation as a people, as a culture, depends on salving the wounds of this war, a war of images within the American family album.” Harris and his many talking heads look at the importance of such black photographers as J. P. Ball, James Van Der Zee, Roy DeCarava, Vera Jackson, and Gordon Parks as well as such trailblazers as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois, who used the camera to their advantage when presenting themselves and their views to the public.

The documentary does get repetitive, and Harris’s personal story occasionally stops the compelling general narrative as he attempts to relate his family history to the bigger picture. But the film is worth seeing just for the amazing archival footage, a marvelous collection of black-and-white and color photographs that show how a people can reclaim their image and validate their culture in the face of extreme prejudice. Winner of the Social Justice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Best Diaspora Documentary at the tenth Africa Movie Academy Awards, Through a Lens Darkly is playing August 27 to September 9 at Film Forum, with special events scheduled to follow one screening per day for the first eleven days, including a Q&A with Thomas Allen Harris and producers Deborah Willis, Don Perry, and Ann Bennett on August 27 (7:20), a Salute to Harlem Photographers with Renee Cox, C. Danny Dawson, and John Pinderhughes, moderated by Moikgantsi Kgama, on August 29 (7:20), a Salute to Women Photographers with Willis and Coreen Simpson, moderated by Michaela Angela Davis, on August 30 (2:50), a Q&A with composer Vernon Reid on September 1 (2:50), and a Salute to Brooklyn Photographers with Delphine Fawundu-Buford, Russell Frederick, and Radcliffe Roye, moderated by Dawson, on September 6.


Amas Musical Theatre at the Dicapo Opera Theatre
184 East 76th St. at Lexington Ave.
Tickets: $35-$45 August 27 - September 3, $35-$55 September 4-28 ($10 discount codes available here)

Billed as “a Girl-Meats-Boy Love Story,” Red Eye of Love is a new musical comedy about Selma Chargesse (Alli Mauzey), a woman who is forced to choose between materialistic meat store baron O. O. Martinas (Kevin Pariseau) and young idealist Wilmer (Josh Grisetti) in a fantastical New York City. Filled with double entendres that are likely to infuriate PETA — watch out for the dancing cows — the show is directed by Tony winner Ted Sperling (The Other Josh Cohen, The Light in the Piazza), with book and lyrics by the late Arnold Weinstein and John Wulp, based on Weinstein’s 1961 play, which earned Wulp an Obie as Best Director; the music is by Sam Davis. The costumes are by Martha Bromelmeier, with choreography by Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez; the sets are by American artist Robert Indiana, from a 1998 revival of the play. The Amas Musical Theatre production also features Dylan Boyd, Katie Chung, Daniel Lynn Evans, Tracie Franklin, Katie Hagen, Daniel May, and Sam Tanabe. There are several special postshow talk backs scheduled, including “Conversation and Collaboration from Play to Libretto” on September 7, “Conversation and Collaboration from Libretto to Musical” on September 11, and “Further Conversation with Author John Wulp” on September 21.

TICKET GIVEAWAY: Previews for Red Eye of Love begin August 27 at the Dicapo Opera Theatre, with the opening set for September 2, and twi-ny has three pairs of tickets to give away for free for performances through September 28. Just send your name, daytime phone number, and favorite, or least favorite, meat food product to by Friday, August 29, at 12 noon to be eligible. All entrants must be twenty-one years of age or older; three winners will be selected at random.


Crowds keep getting bigger and bigger every year for New York Comic Con (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Crowds keep getting bigger and bigger every year for New York Comic Con (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
655 West 34th St. (11th Ave. between 34th & 39th Sts.)
Thursday, October 9, $35, 12 noon - 7:00
Con continues through October 12; New York Super Week runs October 3-12

New York Comic Con continues to get more and more popular every year, with bigger and bigger guests and longer and longer lines. Tickets for the ninth annual event, running October 9-12 at the Javits Center, are already sold out for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the organizers haven’t even announced the full slate of activities for any of the days. So your only chance for getting in will be to go on Thursday, when there will be appearances by such spotlight guests as Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad, Hollows series author Kim Harrison, and Kristian Nairn (Hodor) and Natalia Tena (Osha) of Game of Thrones and such featured guests as Jason David Frank of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Ben Templesmith, Bob McLeod, Dustin Nguyen, Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter David, Stuart Moore, and Terry Moore, and dozens of special guests as well. In conjunction with NYCC, New York Super Week runs October 3-12 at various locations throughout the city, consisting of related events, including a thirtieth anniversary screening of The Karate Kid at the 92nd St. Y with Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove; metal monsters X Japan at Madison Square Garden; Neil Gaiman as the subject of host Ophira Eisenberg’s “Ask Me Another” live show at the Y; “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Sing-Along and Whedonverse Party” at Union Hall; “The First (and Probably Last) Annual New York Feline Film & Video Festival for Humans” at Galapagos Art Space; a “Dr. Who Trivia and Costume Contest” at the Way Station; “Cure You or Kill You: 19th Century Medical Science and Quackery” at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy; and “Rave of Thrones,” a DJ set by Nairn with special guests Zedd Stark and Trance Rayder at B. B. King’s.


A daring team of mountain climbers attempt to reach the summit of K2, risking their lives every step of the way

A daring team of mountain climbers attempts to reach the summit of K2, risking their lives every step of the way

K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS (Dave Ohlson, 2014)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Friday, August 22

In 1909, Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of the Abruzzi, sought to climb to the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world after Everest, bringing with him writer Filippo de Filippi and photographer Vittorio Sella to document their journey. To celebrate the centennial of that seminal event, alpinist and mountain guide Fabrizio Zangrilli gathered a team of climbers to attempt to reach the top of K2 in 2009, bringing along first-time director Dave Ohlson to capture their daring adventure. Situated in the Karakoram mountain range along the Pakistan-China border, K2 — one of the fourteen legendary “eight-thousanders” (mountains of more than eight thousand meters) — stands 8,611 meters tall, challenging climbers with a death rate much higher than that of Everest. “The will to just try something big, something dangerous, something extraordinary — it’s part of who we are,” says one member of the team, which includes Zangrilli, Canadian mountain guide Chris Szymiec, Austrian alpinist Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, British mountaineer Jake Meyer, and German cameraman David Göttler. As they make their way across the treacherous Karakoram Highway and through Skardu, the Baltoro Glacier, and Concordia, Ohlson cuts between thrilling still photos and film footage from the 1909 trip and the 2009 attempt, delving into the history of the spectacularly beautiful area and emphasizing how difficult it is to reach K2’s summit. “Everest and K2 aren’t even the same sport,” Szymiec says. Joined by a group of porters, they find obstacles every step of the way — and it gets even more threatening the closer they get. The film reveals the depth of the human spirit and the fierce power of nature, especially when the team has to stop when a friend dies while skiing down the mountain. Watching the seventy-five-minute documentary, you just might consider taking on K2 yourself someday — and then you’ll quickly change your mind and settle back comfortably into your chair. K2: Siren of the Himalayas opens August 22 at the Quad, with Ohlson and Jason Reid, one of the producers and editors, participating in Q&As following the 4:30 and 8:05 shows on Friday and Saturday.



Steven E. Bram goes on a very personal spiritual quest in KABBALAH ME

KABBALAH ME (Steven E. Bram & Judah Lazarus, 2014)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Friday, August 22

Approaching fifty, Steven E. Bram was looking for something different in his life. A maker of sports documentaries, a New York Jets fan, and a Dead Head, Bram realizes, “I’m hungry for a deeper kind of spirituality,” as he says in his new film, Kabbalah Me. “The challenge is where to find it.” Bram thinks he may have found it when he is led into the world of Kabbalah, the mysterious and mystical side of Judaism. The married father of two heads off in search of faith and wisdom in the film, which he made with music video director Judah Lazarus, journeying from Crown Heights to Jerusalem as he attempts to fill this major void in his life by investigating the myriad mysteries of Kabbalah. The pilgrimage leads him to relatives he’s never met before and charismatic rabbis, every one of whom has a unique interpretation of not only what Kabbalah is but when someone should enter its realm; one rabbi considers it dessert after the big meal of traditional Judaism, but others believe it’s open to anyone at any time. Meanwhile, Bram’s wife, Miriam, and his business partner, Bob Potter, are confused about his search; his spouse, in particular, is concerned about whether her husband is going to become a different person from the man she married — and, as the film shows, these are certainly legitimate fears. “I guess I have to take it one step at a time,” she says. “I mean, I prefer he not be too extreme because that would be in conflict with what I want.” But the seemingly kindhearted Bram continues his quest for fulfillment in what can certainly be considered selfish ways, and that can be a bit off-putting to viewers who don’t know him. His friends in the film may give him the benefit of the doubt, but to strangers he can come off as more than a bit overly self-involved. In addition, viewers looking to learn a lot about Kabbalah from the film will be disappointed, as it only breaches the surface with multiple explanations, resulting in more questions than answers. But Bram still manages to be an engaging character, and it’s easy to follow his exploration while wondering if there’s anything missing in your own life. Kabbalah Me opens August 22 at the Quad, with several weekend screenings followed by a Q&A with Bram.


Beer lovers will descend on Skylight Hanson Place for fourth annual Brooklyn Pour (photo by Laura June Kirsch)

Beer lovers will descend on Skylight One Hanson for fourth annual Brooklyn Pour (photo by Laura June Kirsch)

Skylight One Hanson, Fort Greene
Saturday, September 27, $55-$85, 2:00 - 6:00

Tickets are on sale for the Village Voice’s fourth annual Brooklyn Pour Craft Beer Festival, in which more than 1,500 suds lovers will get to drown themselves in more than one hundred specialty brews mostly from the tristate area. The four-hour party, held in the glorious Skylight One Hanson space in the old Williamsburg Savings Bank, will feature drink from such breweries as Alphabet City, Asahi, Braven, Captain Lawrence, Dogfish Head, Keegan, Radeberger, Radiant Pig, Shipyard, Schmaltz, Shiner, Singha, Singlecut, Sly Fox, Steadfast, Two Roads, Victory, and many more to be announced. Food trucks will be on hand to supply a solid base, and there will be live entertainment, demonstrations, meet-and-greets, and talks as well. The event runs from 2:00 to 6:00; the $85 VIP ticket gets you in at 2:00 and provides access to the private VIP lounge, free snacks, and a gift bag, while the $65 Early Entry ticket lets you enter at 2:30 and the $55 General Admission ticket allows you in at 3:00. For the event, the Village Voice is partnering with Lifebeat, Music Fights HIV/AIDS, a “nonprofit dedicated to educating America’s youth (13-29) about HIV/AIDS prevention.”