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.
JAY MYSELF (Stephen Wilkes, 2018)
209 West Houston St.
Opens Wednesday, July 31
In 1966, Brooklyn-born photographer Jay Maisel moved into the 1898 Germania Bank Building on the corner of Bowery and Spring, purchased with a now astonishing $25,000 down payment. Nearly fifty years later, in early 2015, after decades of taking pictures and collecting tens of thousands of random items, he was forced to sell the graffiti-laden, six-floor, 36,000-square-foot property because of rising maintenance costs; at fifty-five million dollars, it was the largest private real estate deal in New York history. One of his protégés, Stephen Wilkes — who back in the 1970s knocked on Maisel’s door and showed him his portfolio — documents Maisel’s months-long exit from the landmark building as he and a team of assistants sift through the maelstrom and Maisel regales him with stories from his career, which has included shooting for advertising agencies, Sports Illustrated, New York magazine, and jazz legends. “Objects are there for you only if you really see them. If you don’t, they don’t exist. And a lot of people don’t see things,” Maisel philosophizes. “Before you’re going to be able to see, you have to look. And before you can look, you have to want to look. And art is, to some effect, trying to make others see what you see.”
Maisel, a calm man with a penchant for littering his sentences with curses, leads Wilkes through the six floors, showing items from his vast collection, one that borders on hoarding. “Each floor represented a certain partition of his mind,” Wilkes explains. Wilkes speaks with such other photographers as Jeff Dunas, Duane Michals, Dan Winters, Peter Murphy, Matt Dean, Hale Gurland, Barbara Bordnick, Jamie Smith, and Melchior DiGiacomo, who rave about Maisel’s influence and his iconoclastic personality. “He sees all this potential in things that no one else would. He just has such a sense of play,” his daughter, Amanda, says. Maisel, who carries a camera everywhere he goes, constantly snapping pictures, adds, “What I’m trying to do all the time is to try and see things anew, to see things the way a child would see them.”
The quintessentially New York documentary doesn’t dig too deep into his personal life and tends to be overly worshipful, but Maisel, who turned eighty-eight earlier this year, is an engaging character, chomping on a cigar, telling of his studies at Yale with Josef Albers, and going through boxes and boxes (and boxes and boxes) of stuff — what many would call junk — that he refuses to part with as the team from Moishe’s is faced with a virtually impossible situation. “I think there’s a delight in the perception and the enjoyments of objects,” he notes. There’s also a delight and enjoyment in watching this mensch over the course of seventy-eight minutes. Jay Myself opens at Film Forum on July 31, with Maisel and Wilkes participating in Q&As at several shows from July 31 to August 4.
“You’re the most beautiful thing in our life, but what a life I’ve brought you into. You didn’t choose this. Will you ever forgive me?” Waad al-Kateab asks in the extraordinary documentary For Sama. In 2012 during the Arab Spring, Waad, a marketing student at Aleppo University, joined the protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. She started taking photos and cell-phone video, then got a film camera as she became a citizen journalist, documenting the escalating conflict, trying to find moments of joy amid the brutal, senseless murders of innocent men, women, and children. She met and fell in love with heroic doctor Hamza al-Kateab, who was determined to keep his hospital running as the bombings got closer. Waad and Hamza got married, and on January 1, 2016, she gave birth to a healthy girl, Sama.
The film, directed by Waad (who also served as cinematographer and producer) and Edward Watts (Escape from ISIS), is a poignant, unflinching confession from mother to daughter, explaining in graphic detail what the families of Aleppo are going through as Russian and Syrian forces and Islamic extremists maintain a constant attack. “We never thought the world would let this happen,” Waad explains as the body count rises — which she intimately shows, not shying away from shots of bloodied victims being brought into the hospital, a pile of dead children, or a desperate attempt to save the life of a mother and a newborn after an emergency caesarean. “I keep filming. It gives me a reason to be here. It makes the nightmares feel worthwhile,” Waad says.
She captures bombings as they happen, films families huddled inside their homes while machine guns can be heard outside, talks to a child who says he wants to be an architect when he grows up so he can rebuild Aleppo. Because she is a woman, Waad gains access to other women that would not be available to a male filmmaker as they share their stories of love and despair. Waad and Hamza plant a lovely garden to bring color to the dank, brown and gray city. A snowfall covers the turmoil in a beautiful sheet of white. The pitter-patter of rain offers a brief respite. But everything eventually gets destroyed as Waad and Hamza struggle with the choice of leaving with Sama or staying to continue their critical roles in the rebellion, she depicting the personal, heart-wrenching images of war — in 2016, her Inside Aleppo reports aired on British television — he tending to the ever-increasing wounded. “The happiness you brought was laced with fear,” Waad tells Sama in voiceover narration. “Our new life with you felt so fragile, as the freedom we felt in Aleppo.” Winner of the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at Cannes among other awards, For Sama opens at the Quad on July 26; on July 27, Waad, Hamza, and Watts will participate in Q&As with Nermeen Shaikh after the 4:45 show and with Tomris Laffly at the 7:00 screening.
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
July 26 - August 15
“During Godfrey’s several visits to Iran throughout a decade, he formed a relationship with my father that I had rarely seen him having with other writers. I believe this is because of Godfrey’s ability to go beyond the surface, his unique views and interpretations,” Ahmad Kiarostami writes in the foreword to film critic Godfrey Cheshire’s latest book, Conversations with Kiarostami (Film Desk, July 29, $18). In the 1990s, Cheshire went to Iran on multiple occasions to interview writer-director Abbas Kiarostami, helping introduce the new Iranian cinema to the West. Cheshire will be at IFC Center for three special presentations during the fab festival “Abbas Kiarostami: A Retrospective,” a three-week series comprising virtually all of Kiarostami’s shorts and full-length works, from award-winning, well-known tales to rarely screened gems, many in 2K or 4K restorations. Among the films being shown are the Koker Trilogy (Where Is the Friend’s House?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees), Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry, Silver Lion winner The Wind Will Carry Us, the early documentaries First Graders and Homework, and Kiarostami’s first two features, The Traveler and The Report.
In his Criterion essay on Taste of Cherry, Cheshire writes, “In Abbas Kiarostami’s universe, it might be said, there are no things, only relations between things. Likewise, in his cinema: no films, only relations between films—and within them. And between them and us.” Cheshire will delve into those relations at a trio of talks, beginning July 27 at 7:10 with “Kiarostami and Koker,” focusing on the trilogy and showing Through the Olive Trees. On August 3 at 5:10, for “Unseen Kiarostami,” Cheshire will screen the 1976 comedy A Wedding Suit and talk about that film as well as such other early works as Bread and Alley, Experience, and Fellow Citizen. And on August 4 at 5:20, for “Cinema in Revolution,” Cheshire will be joined by film professor Jamsheed Akrami for a screening of the initially banned Case No. 1, Case No. 2 and a discussion. In his online bio of Kiarostami, Cheshire calls the auteur “the most acclaimed and influential of Iran’s major filmmakers” and notes how in the twenty-first century “Kiarostami broadened his creative focus, devoting more time to forms including photography, installation art, poetry, and teaching,” exemplified by his 2007 exhibition “Image Maker” at MoMA and MoMA PS1. Keep watching twi-ny for reviews of individual films during this must-see retrospective.
U.S. Grant National Memorial Park
Wes 122nd St. & Riverside Dr.
Sunday, July 28, free, 12 noon - 8:30 pm
Festival runs July 28 - August 31
Tens of thousands of people are expected to converge in U.S. Grant National Memorial Park on July 28 for the beloved Great Day in Harlem festival, part of the forty-fifth annual summer Harlem Week celebration. This year’s theme is “Our Local History Creates a Global Impact,” focusing on Harlem’s cultural influence around the world, while the music theme is Bill Withers’s classic “Lovely Day.” A Great Day in Harlem will feature an International Vendors Village from 12 noon to 8:00, the Artz, Rootz, and Rhythm International Cultural Showcase at 1:00, the Regional Gospel Caravan at 3:00 with Bishop Hezekiah Walker, the McDonald’s Gospel Super Choir, Kirk Franklin, and a tribute to Dr. Bobby Jones, a Fashion Fusion Showcase at 4:30 honoring the Black Fashion Museum, and “A Concert under the Stars” at 6:00 with Nicole Bus, Harlem Week music director Ray Chew, and more paying tribute to Spike Lee and the thirtieth anniversary of Do the Right Thing and Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang in honor of the group’s fiftieth anniversary. Harlem Week continues through August 31 with such other events as the Youth S.T.E.A.M. Hackathon on August 1, New York City Economic Development Day on August 8, Summer in the City on August 17, Harlem Day on August 18, and Harlem Restaurant Week beginning August 19.