Many Documentary Winners Migrate to D.C.’s March Movie Madness
Many of the films at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, including nearly all of the prizewinners, had international or political themes. The documentary selections were particularly regarded as being very strong this year. And with AFI/Discovery’s SilverDocs staff braving the cold in Park City, Utah, to attend the festival, expect some titles to hit the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md., in June. Here are some Sundance documentary selections with ties to the Washington, D.C., area:
National Geographic alums Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, who work from Chevy Chase, Md., grabbed the Sundance Documentary Directing Award (Independent Film Competition). Scheduled for a fall release, the duo’s “War/Dance” could be described as a children’s musical set against the backdrop of beautiful landscapes in a Ugandan war zone. When reality is this unique, why go to the trouble of making up a fictional screenplay?
Errol Morris protégé Jason Kohn (director-producer), D.C.-raised Joey Frank (producer-assistant director), and Jared Goldman (producer) won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize (Independent Film Competition) for “Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)”—a sweeping look at Brazilian frog farms, corruption, kidnappings and plastic surgery.
Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton McMillan and Michael Schweitzer won the Documentary Film Editing Award for “Nanking,” an adaptation of Iris Chang’s book “The Rape of Nanking.” After reading it on vacation, Washingtonian Ted Leonsis (AOL vice chairman and owner of the Capitals hockey team) was overcome by the story’s importance, so he became a producer and patron, commissioning a film adaptation and practicing what he dubbed “filmanthropy.”
Charles Ferguson’s documentary “No End in Sight” won a Special Jury Prize for clearly illuminating “the misguided policy decisions that have led to the catastrophic quagmire of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq,” according to the festival. Its premiere came complete with a D.C.-style panel of former Bush officials in Iraq and policy wonks. In addition, D.C.-born Rory Kennedy’s highly awaited “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” has premiered on HBO. Check listings for repeats.
Many of the offerings at Sundance will be screening in Washington, D.C., as part of the city’s own eclectic film festivals this month (see Repertory Notes below).
In fact, two Sundance 2007 world cinema selections will have free Washington premieres in the D.C. Environmental Film Festival at the National Gallery of Art, one of the best theater venues in town. On March 17 at 3 p.m., Edward Burtynsky’s large-format photographs are showcased in Jennifer Biachwia’s visually entrancing documentary “Manufacturing Landscapes” (followed by “The Spirit of Places”). The beautiful images document the environmental impact of China’s economic engine, such as the infamous Three Gorges Dam that displaced more than 1 million people. On March 24 at 4:30 p.m., catch Jessica Woodworth’s docudrama hybrid “Khadak,” in which the Mongolian government forces nomadic herders to relocate from the mountain steppes to a town.
Separately, a few Sundance 2006 encores will also be screened in the area: On March 19 at 10 a.m., D.C. native Chris Quinn’s “God Grew Tired of Us” (Grand Jury Prize: Documentary) is screened free for school groups at the Lincoln Theater. Also, D.C. native Davis Guggenheim’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, plays at the George Washington University on March 17 at 7 p.m. and at the National Geographic on March 20 at noon. Who knows—maybe Al Gore will stop by?
And although not as many films come to town as in New York and L.A., plenty of excellent cinema still hits local screens. March is particularly packed with festivals and series—and Washingtonians get a break on the travel expenses, logistical hassles and impossible-to-get tickets associated with Sundance.
About the Author
Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.
Environmental Film Festival (EFF)
The massive Environmental Film Festival returns for its 15th year in the nation’s capital from March 15 to 25, bringing with it 115 different films spotlighting environmental issues from 27 countries. In addition, nearly 100 filmmakers, scientists and other special guests, including many of Washington’s ambassadors, will be on hand for the screenings, which take place at some 40 venues throughout the city.
Expect a diverse assortment of documentaries, features, archival and children’s films covering everything from an IMAX view of Hurricane Katrina to an ethnographic portrayal of Australia’s Ramingining Aboriginal community.
(202) 342-2564, www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org
The annual celebration of culture from French-speaking countries (which also includes concerts on March 9, 16, and 29 to 30) is sponsored by the Francophonie Committee of Washington, D.C., in collaboration with the Smithsonian Associates.
“Cinéma de la Francophonie” runs every Tuesday in March at 7 p.m. On March 27 at the Freer Gallery of Art, the Washington premiere of Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley’s “Away from Her” will probably be followed by a Q&A with the first-time filmmaker.
La Grande Fête de la Francophonie takes place on March 23 at La Maison Française—featuring music by the Casablanca Band, DJ TASS and dancers. More than 30 embassies, governments and associations from the Francophone world present their culture and cuisine.
Hirshhorn: Guarani and Zidane
On March 22 at 8 p.m., catch a rare Guarani-language screening: “Hamaca Paraguaya (Paraguay Swings),” which follows an older couple’s wait for their son’s return from the Chaco war in 1935. The Un Certain Regard/FIPRESCI winner at Cannes 2006, Paz Encina’s debut feature is the first commission of “New Crown Hope,” which invites artists to react to the themes of Mozart’s final three masterpieces (“The Magic Flute,” “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Requiem”). To commemorate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, the city of Vienna instigated the sweepingly ambitious multimedia project produced by renowned theater-opera director Peter Sellars and collaborators.
On April 7, “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait”—which appeared in the New Frontiers section at Sundance 2007—can be viewed as a conceptual art profile of French-Algerian soccer star Zinédine Zidane, the best player of his generation. The 17 cameras shoot 90 real-time minutes of Zidane during his team Real Madrid’s Spanish league game with Villareal on April 23, 2005.
Near the end of the match, Zidane is ejected with a red card (for shoving). Ironically, he’s now immortalized for the red card that marked his infamous last act before retirement. During overtime in the World Cup 2006 final, he head-butted Italian player Marco Materazzi in response to repeated insults of Zidane’s ancestry, mother and sister.
(202) 633-1000, www.hirshhorn.si.edu/programs/films.asp
D.C. Independent Film Festival (DCIFF)
In 1999, a new festival to showcase local independent filmmakers was born, called D.C. Dance. The homage to Sundance followed the tradition of Park City’s shadow festivals Slamdance, Slumdance, X-Dance, Tromadance, etc. Unfortunately, as founder Carol Bidault recalled, “No one got it.” Transformed into the D.C. Independent Film Festival (DCIFF), the festival’s programming, much like Sundance’s, has expanded over the years to include films from across the globe, often selections on the international festival circuit.
From March 1 to 11, DCIFF includes screenings and panels, paralleled by the D.C. Independent Music Festival, at the University of the District of Columbia. After the opening ceremony, DCIFF presents its 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award to British producer-director John Daly, who won back-to back Oscars as producer of “Platoon” and “The Last Emperor.”
(202) 537-9493, www.dciff.org
AFI Silver Theatre
Cinema Tropical presents the Cuban rap doc “Young Rebels” (March 3-7) and Argentinean comedy “Magic Gloves” (March 10). The “Infernal Affairs” trilogy—the original Hong Kong hit that was remade as Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”—runs March 9 to 15. From March 10 to April 9, catch the Bard on the big screen in Shakespeare Cinema, including Richard Loncraine’s “Richard III.” Japanese humanist Kenji Mizoguchi gets a mini-retrospective from March 16 to April 26. Shirley Clarke—New Yorker with Italian Neorealist Eye runs March 16 to April 10; Fred Zinnemann Centennial—Vienna to Hollywood runs March 16 to April 24; and the World of Jacques Tati is featured from March 24 to April 23.
(301) 495-6700, www.afi.com/Silver
Freer: Celebrating Kerala Cinema
From March 2 to 18, six films honor the 50th anniversary of the state of Kerala, in association with the Embassy of India. On March 4, director Anup Kurian presents “Manasarovar.”
(202) 357-2700, www.asia.si.edu/events/films.asp
Through August, the new Monthly Film Screening Series continues at the KORUS House of the Korean Embassy (March 28), the Kenney Auditorium at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Service (March 15), and the George Mason Public Library (March 21) in Annandale, Va.
(202) 663-5930, www.dynamic-korea.com/korus_house/cinema_korea.php
National Gallery: Nazi Art and Béla Tarr
On March 4, Lynn Nicholas and Robert M. Edse appear in person for “The Rape of Europa,” which recounts the effort to restore art looted by the Nazis. See recent beautiful but very bleak works from Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr—March 18’s “Damnation” and March 25’s “Werckmeister Harmonies.”
(202) 842-6799, www.nga.gov/programs/film.shtm
Goethe-Institut: Wagner in Hollywood
In conjunction with the Washington National Opera’s production of the second part of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, the Goethe-Institut presents Wagner in Hollywood every Monday at 6:30 p.m.: “The Scarlett Empress,” “The Uninvited,” “Humoresque” and “Apocalypse Now.”
(202) 289-1200, www.goethe.de/washington
Pare Lorentz DVD
Classical label Naxos released a new DVD of Pare Lorentz’s beautiful New Deal environmental documentaries “The Plow that Broke the Plains” and “The River.” The Post-Classical Ensemble’s modern recordings of the famous Virgil Thompson soundtracks, conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez with narration by Floyd King, recreate June 2005’s AFI Silver Theatre performances.
About the Author
Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.