An Interview with Hanif Kareishi and Roger Michell
By Larry Hart
If you think of Hanif Kareishi as the angry young man from London of the ‘80s, who teamed up with director Stephen Frears for a pair of films, My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid that broke racial and sexual boundaries in British film, you might be startled at the subdued, middle-aged Kareishi recently in town to promote his most recent film, The Mother.
In recent years, Kareishi has partnered with mainstream director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes,) and has taken up novel writing in between screenplays.
In his latest work, though, Kareishi is still going against the grain, defying our youth-oriented culture to focus on the needs and wants and yes, sexual desires, of a working-class grandmother from the London suburbs who is bewildered by and in turn found bewildering by her middle-class, self-absorbed children.
When the title character, May (Anne Reid), finds herself suddenly widowed during a family visit, she is expected to go home, brew some tea and sit by the fire. But May surprises them, and herself, by announcing she is “not ready to be another lonely, idle old lady” and asks her son to take her back to London. Her daughter-in-law starts a row that drives May to take a walk. Hopelessly lost, May winds up instead at her daughter’s house, where she is comforted and taken in.
Paula, she learns, is in therapy and sleeping with the married builder who is remodeling her brother’s home. Paula, conflicted about her feelings for Darren, asks her mother to be a go-between. May, though, finds she is sexually attracted to Darren herself and Darren is only too happy to oblige. She, in turn, is pursued by a man of her generation she meets at a writer’s workshop Paula takes her to.
The tangle that ensues would be ordinary were it not for the fact that Darren is half May’s age and for the extraordinary actress who has to carry the film.
Anne Reid garnered well-deserved accolades last year, winning the Best Actress Award from the London Film Critics and at the Cinessone Film Festival. Reid creates an original character and her makeover from depressed, dependent housewife to an independent, more sophisticated woman can be found in Reid’s every expression on the screen.
Kareishi told me he and Michell admired Reid’s stage work and, although they didn’t write the part for her, knew when it was written that she fit the bill.
The rest of the cast is nearly perfect as well, with Daniel Craig (Ted Hughes in “Sylvia”) totally believable as a happy-go-lucky guy who is irresistible to women and knows it and Cathryn Bradshaw also fine as the troubled Paula.
When I caught up with the jet-lagged Kareishi and Michell at the Four Seasons Hotel for an interview, Kareishi admitted that writing fully developed women characters is new for him.
“When I was a young man I wrote about young men wearing velvet trousers and hair down to here,” Kareishi said. “As you get older, you tire of that and look for new subjects.”
Kareishi said that “even now I don’t have any confidence in my ability to write women” so he looked on the project as a challenge and relied on Michell and Reid to bring it off. Kareishi also points out that, in her own way, May is a rebel as were the younger characters he used to write about, that May finds her own pleasure is now of value, even if it’s at the cost of her family relationships. He also feels he’s still taking on taboos in film, sex among the over 6o generation, just as he did homosexuality and racial conflict in Britain two decades ago.
The film was shot in a specific neighborhood in London, Shepard’s Bush Green, which director Michell says represents just what he was looking for in this story.
“Every city, such as Washington, has its neighborhoods that reflect the changing urban landscape,” Michell pointed out. Shepard’s Bush, he said, enhanced the authenticity of the story.
As for what’s next on Kureishi’s plate, it’s a novel about his father, who was raised in colonial Bombay, India. I, for one, hope a screenplay will follow as well.
Sony Pictures Classics plans a U.S. premiere for The Mother in May with a D.C. release date of June 25.
An Interview with Morgan Spurlock, Director of Supersize Me
By Janice Berliner
Morgan Spurlock is the producer/director of the new documentary Super Size Me, one man’s journey into the world of weight gain, health problems and fast food. Spurlock takes the film audience on a month-long food frenzy across the nation, subsisting exclusively on items from the McDonald’s menu with four simple rules: (1) No options: he could only eat what was available over the counter; (2) No super-sizing unless offered; (3) No excuses: he had to eat every item on the menu at least once; (4) No giving up: he had to eat three square meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The filmmaker explores America’s obsession with McDonald’s, where the average consumer is oblivious to how many calories they are putting into their bodies when they order a coke, fries and double cheeseburger. Furthermore, the film explores the horror of school lunch programs, declining health and physical education classes, food addictions and the extreme measures people take to lose weight and regain their health.
Super Size Me is Spurlock’s first feature film. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he has conceived and created more than 60 projects during his 12 years in the industry. From commercials to music videos to television shows, Spurlock has had the privilege of working with such companies as MTV, ESPN, NBC, Fox, TNT, VH-1, Sony and MCA Records. In 1999, Spurlock’s full length play, “The Phoenix,” won the Audience Favorite Award at the New York International Fringe Festival. He subsequently picked up Best Play honors at the Route 66 American Playwrighting Competition in January, 2000. Also in 2000, his corporate image piece for the Sony Corporation, “Do You Dream in Sony?” won the Chicago Film Festival for Corporate Production and the U.S. Film and Video Festival for top Multi-Image Production.
A native of West Virginia, Spurlock founded The Con, a New York based production company. The Con created the hit web show, “I Bet You Will” in 2000 and became the first show to jump from the Internet to MTV, in 2002. After producing 53 episodes for the network, the company took its profits and used them to fund their first feature film, the fast food documentary Super Size Me. He came up with the premise of the film while watching a television report concerning a lawsuit brought by two girls who claimed McDonald’s had caused them to become obese. The film has gone on win major awards including Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival 2004 and MTV-News Docs: Prize Full Frame Film Festival 2004 and was closing night film at the just completed FilmFestDC.
Ms Janice Berliner, DC Film Society member and award-winning radio newscaster, interviewed Spurlock in his hotel room with a fellow reporter on May 3rd.
Janice Berliner: Did you frequent McDonald’s as a child growing up?
Morgan Spurlock: I never went to McDonald’s growing up, only when I traveled on vacation or one night Mom would be tired and we might go to a fast food joint, but it was a rare thing. It was a special thing. It was important for my mother to cook dinner everyday and thank goodness, because she instilled a lot of values into me about what you should and shouldn’t eat. She planted a garden in the backyard and almost every summer I would curse her to no end because I was 12 and had to go out and weed the garden and it was the worst experience. But when I look back now, I’m so grateful that I had that ... to have that relationship with our food. To pull a carrot out of the garden and rinse it off and eat one. There’s no relationship with food anymore. We have very little relationship in the drive-thru mentality that one eats. It’s all mechanical, fast and now. No thought goes into where did it come from? You know, what’s it going to do to me--now, later, next year? We need to get back to that idea.
JB: How did you get into the film business?
MS: I always wanted to be in the entertainment business ever since I was a kid. When I was three years old, I remember watching a New Year’s show and seeing a bunch of stand-up comics and knowing I wanted to be a comedian. And then I went to college while doing stand-up and was also trying to get into film school and got rejected from the University of Southern California five times before being accepted at New York University and completely fell in love with filmmaking. I fell in love with the idea of creating stories. I’ve been a writer all my life. I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a little kid. It’s just second nature for me. (He took two years of broadcast journalism courses at U.S.C. then transferred to N.Y.U’s film school.)
JB: What does it feel like now when you walk by a McDonald’s restaurant?
MS: I smell it and I want it. I smell a Big Mac to this day and I crave it. My mouth starts watering. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs. It’s unbelievable, but the minute I would bite into one, I would feel terrible because I would get this McFilm aftertaste, that’s gummy and I can’t explain it. The french fries taste like smoked plastic to me. Their food doesn’t even taste like food, it’s just unnatural to me. The fountain cokes--for hours afterwards I breathe a chemical aroma through my nasal passages. It’s like my body has become so hypersensitive to the food that I can just completely pick it apart now.
JB: Why didn’t you interview the two girls suing McDonald’s for becoming obese?
MS: I couldn’t interview the girls for the film because the lawsuit was still going on while I was making the film, so I interviewed their lawyer. We don’t need them. You talk to their lawyer and you get the whole picture. We ask him, “Why are you suing McDonald’s.” He replies, “You mean motives besides monetary compensation? You want to hear a noble cause, is that it?” That’s all you need to hear.
JB: In the film you discuss how your sex life suffers and your girlfriend is in the film talking about it. How is it now?
MS: Back on top! My sex life improved almost immediately. I think anyone who is having erectile dysfunction ought to think about what they’re eating. A doctor never asks what you’re eating. Doctors ask your symptoms and very little focus in on nutrition. It’s all about the pill. Let me give you this to fix it. Kids in school may have Attention Deficit Disorder, “we better put them on Ritalin.” You know what? Why not take all the junk food out of school? Skip the sugar, let’s get the corn syrup out and let’s examine it again. But we’ve become a quick-fix society culture, where we want it done now. We want it taken care of. We want the surgery. We want the pill. Give it me now, from the way we eat to the way we live. We need to just slow down and examine what we’re doing to ourselves.
JB: How did you select the doctors for the film?
MS: None of the doctors were my doctors. Doctor Daryl Isaacs’ office is right next to mine in Soho. I was fortunate that the first three doctors I spoke to were all on board. They were also so diverse. It’s a nice blend of personalities.
JB: Can you compare the harmful effects of smoking to fast-food eating?
MS: I think the difference with smoking is, you can stop smoking. With this, you can’t stop eating. What we need to do is really focus on education. Educating consumers. We’ve been pointing fingers for years. It’s the parent’s fault, etcetera. What we need to say is, we all play a part in this and in finding a solution. McDonald’s has already taken steps. It has eliminated the super size option. It has rolled out healthier menu options. Companies will follow their lead because they’re the leader, which is why I picked them for the movie. What needs to happen now is there also has to be more consumer education. What’s in their food? How often should they eat it? If you don’t exercise, how often should you come in to get a Big Mac? How often should get a large coke, large fries and double quarter pounder with cheese? The question is are they going to tell their consumers, if you don’t exercise, you should only eat it this much, which is what they should do, but will they? Because then, they’ll start to limit their profitability and their bottom line. Ruby Tuesday’s has already announced their menu will list calories, the fat, and the sugar, all underneath each food item. That’s a great step--putting the information right in front of you, when you’re at the point of purchase. The fast food restaurants say all our information is available on-line. Why should I have to go on-line before I come to a restaurant to decide what I want to eat? I should be able to walk in and there’s the board and its right there. Double quarter pounder with cheese--690 calories. We need to educate the consumers in this way, so they can start making educated choices. Parents also need to make educated choices in terms of their lifestyle. Parents are the greatest role model a kid has. If you’re a parent and you eat out four or five times a week and don’t exercise, your kid is going to eat out four or five times a week and not exercise when he grows up and you need to think about it. CheeseCake Factory, Olive Garden, Outback, all these place--the portions are gigantic. If you and I go to Outback, we sit down and order the bloomin’ onion, which is delicious, it’s deep-fried with dipping sauce. We split one of those--we’ve just split between us, before our food even has come anywhere between 2,000 to 2,500 calories. So right there, you and I had over 1,000 calories before our steak comes, our salad, our dressing, our baked potato, our other side vegetable, our dessert, our coke, our coffee. So we’re sitting down at one meal at a restaurant and think it’s better than fast food because it’s a restaurant. But we’re taking in three to 4,000 calories in one sitting. Once again, consumer education. People don’t know this and they need to get this information and people say, is it the company’s job to give it to you? Yes, it is! It’s a corporation’s responsibility to educate its consumers, especially at a time like this, when obesity is now about to pass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in America. We need this information and the corporations need to be responsible in getting it to us. McDonald’s feeds 46 million people around the world everyday. They have a huge obligation to educate their consumers. Someone told me in Japan you can get the MegaMac. It’s basically a Big Mac with four patties.
JB: Why did you put yourself in the film as the guinea pig?
MS: I put myself in the film because I would never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. There was also no guarantee that if I did ask someone else to do it that the minute the camera wasn’t on, this guy and we weren’t around, that he wouldn’t be in a closet eating some asparagus behind my back. That he’d be sneaking some cauliflower or broccoli on the side. I couldn’t chance that and I know that if I committed myself to this, I wouldn’t waiver from the menu. I wouldn’t eat anything else and so trust was the biggest reason and that we would stay the course in making the film.
JB: Were you concerned about your health while making the film?
MS: I was concerned about my health later, but not in the beginning. My concerns were very minimal until about week three, when I had three different doctors telling me you need to stop, because we don’t know what’s going to happen to you. So I wasn’t concerned about my health until then. My girlfriend and friends all said stop, you’ve proven your point. I called my brother, who stills live in West Virginia with his wife and kids, and I told him what all the doctors said and he said, “Morgan, people eat this shit their whole lives. Do you think it’s really going to kill you in nine more days?” I said, “That’s the most logical think I’ve heard yet.” No, I’m going to keep going. But I’m so glad I did because look what happened. At the end of three days, my final blood test--my cholesterol came down a little bit. My liver function came down a little bit. Were all my body functions going to return to normal? No. All the doctors said, “There’s no way these numbers are coming back to normal. So what was happening? Just like Doctor Siegel said in the beginning of the movie, “Your body is extremely adaptable.” My body was adapting to this terrible environment that I was putting it in. It was doing whatever it could to stay alive and keep going. That’s what we do. We adapt. We are a species that adapts and carries on. So how many people around the world are saying, “I can eat whatever I want. I feel great. I feel good. But your body isn’t living, your body’s just surviving and that’s a scary thing to think about.
JB: What was the goal of this film?
MS: My goal with this film was to open the door to a dialogue. To get people thinking about what they put in their mouths. How they live their lives? How we do or don’t exercise? What kind of role model are you as a parent? To plant this seed that will hopefully effect changes within your own life and inspire you to go out and do something about it.
JB: What is your key to your success?
MS: The key to anything is persistence, time, belief and patience. Those are the four things you need to realize, especially in a career like this. You have to continue on. You’re going to find hardships. I know plenty of people who dropped out of this business for years now and you have to understand that things don’t happen overnight. Things take time. You have to really believe in your vision. Believe in what you want to accomplish and you have to be patient. You can’t get upset or anxious. There are still so many things I want to accomplish, but one day at a time, that’s all you can do.
JB: What is your next project?
MS: I just sold a TV show to FX, which is an extension of this movie. I wanted to create a show that would also be a social commentary. It’s called “30 Days.” Each show is an hour. We take someone and for 30 days we put them in a situation that they wouldn’t want to normally be in or normally think about putting themselves into and we follow them as they go through their trials and tribulations associated with it. Issues such as religion, sexuality, poverty and we deal with these serious issues in a fun and exciting way. It will come on the air this fall. After that, I want to do a scripted film before I do another documentary. The documentaries I want to do will take a lot of time. Super Size Me took one year. This is fast. The other documentaries will take at least two years, maybe even longer.
Super Size Me opens May 7 nationwide and is being presented by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Current Trends in African Films
By James McCaskill
ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. This article is compiled from interviews with African directors Zeka Laplaine (The Garden, Congo/France, 2003) and Ntshaveni WaLuruli (director of The Wooden Camera, 2003). Comments from the participants in the public forum Which African Cinema? Melodramas or Authenticity are also included: Tunde Kelani (whose Nigerian home videos were featured at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam), Keith Shiri (writer) and Jeremy Nathan (producer). I am greatly indebted to the IFFR press department for their assistance in arranging these interviews. The 34th IFFR takes place from January 26-February 6, 2005.
Since the independence movements in the 60s there has been a discernable African cinema. The first films by these pioneers were strongly influenced by Italian neo-realistic films after World War II such as Bicycle Thief. Unique experience of colonization produced the vocabulary of 60s and 70s films. Films from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria were typical of Francophile Africa, those countries previously under French control, in that they conformed to French concepts of Africa. Stories had to be set in dusty road villages and ignored the growing reality of life in urban centers. Unlike the British, who largely abandoned former colonies, the French set up central government ministerial departments for continued commercial and cultural contact with their former colonies. This relationship led to a Cinema of Dependency with funding only available to filmmakers meeting narrow guidelines. Often these directors could not afford traveling to Paris to see their films. As one might expect, a new generation of directors rebelled at this relationship.
The problem of French funding was addressed by Zeka Laplaine. "I got money to make The Garden from Europe but not from France where I live. The French support a lot of African films through the Corporational National. They want to continue a cultural relationship between France and their former colonies. But if you talk about something they don't want you won't get funding. They only want to see certain kinds of films made. Even film festivals in France won't show this film. It has been shown at Sundance, Rotterdam and Italy. My film is told from the point of view of a young French woman on her first trip to Africa and is threatened by being the only white person in a black area."
Ntshaveni WaLuruli also feels that, "We depend too much for our finances from outside. The only place that raises money locally is Nigeria. I just started to raise funds for my next feature, an ecological thriller. An investigative journalist tries to understand why a lake has turned toxic. Finding it difficult to raise funds for this non-traditional African film." He has also found it difficult to get funding for films on AIDS.
"One of France's best known actors has a film he wants to make," WaLuruli continued. "He has a script and cast but can not get funding. Why? It talks about slavery."
By the 1990s unsound economic programs led to harsh cuts in cultural programs. Often the Minister of Culture was at the bottom of the cabinet power structure as they had little staff and no budget. Funds from government and external sources dried up. Civil wars often made cinemas themselves dangerous targets. Film production stalled and film houses closed down. Today there are far fewer cinemas across Africa than there were in the 60s. It was more economically feasible to convert film houses into storage centers.
Ntshaveni WaLuruli made the point that, "In South Africa we have young filmmakers who were trained all over the world. If we like it or not our training background affects the way we make films. No other country has the social and cultural features of South Africa. No other country has townships the way we do. Life here is at a very different pace. Very few films show our fast life. French influenced films show people riding donkeys and getting water from the river."
"We have no rules but other people have lots of rules," Tunde Kelani said at the forum. "We have to go to Europe to beg money, which is very difficult. The people who give the money dictate what can happen." WaLunuli is saddened that the South African government forgot that it was the artists who supplied the needed support against Apartheid. Today the funding seems to be going for sports and not the arts. Sophiatown by Pascale Lamche showcases the works of international stars such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim that showed a community considered so dangerous that bulldozers were called in to raze this phenomenally rich cultural community which might have been a paradigm for a new South Africa.
Lack of trans-Africa film distribution make it difficult for filmmakers to view each other's work. Ironically it was a French backed film festival in Ouagadougou that has led to some growth. Today this West Africa film festival is the largest and most important one on the continent. There are four major festivals that attract distributors and filmmakers from around the world. The one in Carthage features films from north of the Sahara; Sithengi highlights southern African works and the newest, Zanzibar does the same for east Africa.
While only six years old, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (June 25 - July 4) is growing in importance. As Festival Director Imruh Bakari said in an interview with Geoffrey Macnab, "We try to not only focus on the Indian Ocean region which we call the Dhow Countries, but to try to give a better profile to East Africa cinema." Bakari explained that ZIFF isn't only a film festival--it also celebrates art, music and literature and hosts debates. "We are the crossroads between Asia, the Arab states and Africa," Bakari said. East Africa cinema tends to be less well known than films from other countries. That may change as Bakari explores the possibility of emulating Rotterdam's CineMart in bringing together directors and film financers. (See below for more on CineMart).
ZIFF currently shows around 100 films. The competition includes 15 Dhow features with many of these African or International premieres. The majority of the big screenings take place in the festival's open air auditorium--The Old Fort. The next festival, June 25-July 4, plans numerous events celebrating the 10th anniversary of the end of Apartheid. As part of the Dhow culture Iranian and Indian films will be showcased. There are plans for a retrospective of the highly accomplished Mira Nair. The Indian born director, writer, and producer was nominated for an Academy Award for her first feature, Salaam Bombay. Her next film Mississippi Masala and the later Monsoon Wedding garnered international awards. Nair's latest film is a Thackeray classic, Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon playing Becky Sharp. This film debuts in the fall.
Nigerian home video production is one way for Africans to make films that African want. This phenomenon has brought fresh energy to the local film industry and is seeping onto the world market by way of Nigeria's immigrant population. They make 600 films a year with an income of 50,000,000 euros.
Each title is limited to a run of 200,000 copies that are distributed through video clubs. All with no film funds, no government subsidy and no outside investment. It is a home grown film industry. Films are made quickly with a digital camera on a budget of less than $15,000. Films are rushed to market to stove off Nigeria's notorious pirate industry. Within a day your film can be copied, given a new title with new header and end credits added and for sale on the streets.
This recent development succeeds by focusing on local cultural issues, such as traditional beliefs, religions, and sectarianism and is aimed at a narrow market. The easy availability of digital cameras means anyone can be a film maker. Lack of talent and training is no drawback. Tunde Kelani, TK as he is known to his friends, provides training. His grandfather got him interested in Yoruba literature. TK went from making documentary photos to trainee TV cameraman to the London International Film School. He returned to a Nigeria under a harsh dictatorship. With high crime making public cinemas too dangerous, home videos became a popular alternative. The great ethnic diversity in Nigeria--there are 250 ethnic groups with Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa the largest--has provided the basis for stories for the home market.
Some recent films show the courage of young talented filmmakers that may be the way forward for African cinema. And some, strange as it may seem, were made with French funding. All of the people I talked with spoke of the difficulty of getting screens for African films. The vast majority of films shown are European or American--not too different from other parts of the world. Most were convinced that if films that were made were relevant to the lives of the people, they would come back to the cinema. Two films that come to mind that did this were Bye, Bye Africa (Mahamat Saleh Haroun, France/Chad, 1999) and Mama Africa (Burkina Faso/France, 2002). The latter one was generally considered flawed by the attempt to link the three short films made by three talented female directors (Fanta Regina Nacro, Zulfar Otto-Sallies and Ingrid Sinclair). The stories focused on young people growing up in modern Africa.
Haroun, who not only directs but plays one of the two major roles, in Bye, Bye Africa looks at the difficulty of making films there. The lack of money, facilities, and distribution dependent on film house screenings and festivals out of Africa are faced head on. A French resident film maker returns to Chad fifteen years after he left because his mother died. There he sees first hand the economic crisis underlying the difficulty in making films. Given a small budget, small crew with mostly a non-professional cast he has made an intriguing film.
Everyone that I talked with felt that there is new energy in African filmmaking. There may be a marketplace selection of film and directors but after the selection process African films will be stronger and more relevant to the citizens of Africa. Films will be made that focus first on the home audience and these can exist with blockbuster films.
An excellent documentary on the importance of music in the apartheid struggle is Amandla! which ran for several weeks in D.C. a year ago. Both activists and musicians are interviewed and their music is highlighted; and the cringing pictures of protest, funerals and riots make one aware of the sacrifices that were made.
Hubert Bals Fund and CineMart Films at Cannes
By James McCaskill
ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. Four films financed in part by the Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) and seven supported by CineMart Project (CMP) were accepted for this year's Cannes Film Festival. The HBF receives funds from Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, three Dutch non-government development organizations and the Dutch public television network NPS. CMP is supported by MEDIA Programme Of the European Union, The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Hivos, the Dutch Film Fund and the Rotterdam Film Fund.
Films receiving HBF money are La Nina Santa (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina, 2002) in the main Cannes competition. Cronicas (Sebastian Cordero, Ecuador, 2003) in the Un Certain Regard section received both HBF and CMP funding. Other main competition films with CM backing were Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2004) and Nobody Knows (Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Japan, 1999. Hotel (Jessica Hausner, Austria, 2003) and Whiskey (Juan-Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, Uruguay, 2002) continue the CMP steak in the Un Certain Regard division. Directors' Fortnight 2004 has Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina, 2002) supported by HBF. International Critics Week 2004 has the last HBF sponsored film, Thirst (Tawfik Abu Wael, Palestine/Israel).
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
For the 50th anniversary of Godzilla (1954, Ishiro Honda), the AFI shows an new uncut, subtitled print, showing from May 21-June 3. If you liked Spellbound, see Word Wars (2003, Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo) from May 14-27. A new 35mm print of Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece City Lights (1931) runs from May 7-20. Three films by Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest (1959), Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958) have week-long runs in May. Two great WWII films with two-week runs are Casablanca (1942) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Several films starring Natalie Wood include Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Splendor in the Grass (1961), Tomorrow is Forever (1946), West Side Story (1961) and Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Natalie Woods' biographer Gavin Lambert will appear for most of the shows. Other films include some Val Lewton horror movies, the Russian version of War and Peace (1967) in 70mm, and two films by Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). See the website for complete details.
American Film Institute at the Kennedy Center
The AFI at the Kennedy Center also shows the new Godzilla print from May 14-20. To accompany the new WWII memorial, the AFI shows a number of WWII films: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Stalag 17 (1953), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and more.
Freer Gallery of Art
The retrospective of films by Tsai Ming-liang which began in late April concludes in May. The films are Vive L'Amour (1994) on May 2 at 2:00pm; The River (1997) on May 9 at 2:00pm; The Hole (1998) on May 14 at 7:00pm; Wha Time Is It There? (2001) on May 22 at 2:00pm; and Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003) shown with a short The Skywalk Is Gone (2002) on May 23 at 2:00pm.
National Gallery of Art
"Milestones in Mexican Cinema: 1898-2003" continues in May with Wildflower (1943, Emilio Fernandez) on May 6 and 7 at 2:30pm; Woman in Love (1946, Emilio Fernandez); Aventurera (1949, Alberto Gout) on May 8 at 4:00pm; Una familia de tantas (1948, Alejandro Galindo) on May 9 at 4:00pm; Los Olvidados (1950, Luis Bunuel) on May 15 at 3:00pm; Tender Little Pumpkins (1948, Gilberto Martinez Solares) on May 20 at 2:30pm and May 21 at 2:00pm; Macario (1959, Roberto Gavaldon) on May 22 at 2:00pm; Juan Perez Jolote (1973, Archibaldo Burns) on May 29 at 2:00pm; El Cambio (1971, Alfredo Joskowitz) on May 29 at 4:15pm; and Reed: Insurgent Mexico (1971, Paul Leduc) on May 30 at 4:30pm. The series will conclude in June
Louise Brooks' three European films, all in restored prints, will be accompanied by Ray Brubacher: Pandora's Box (1928, G.W. Pabst) on May 16 at 4:30pm, Diary of a Lost Girl (1929, G.W. Pabst) on May 22 at 4:00pm; and Miss Europe (1930, Augusto Genina) on May 23 at 4:30pm.
Other films shown in May include My Architect--A Son's Journey (2003, Nathaniel Kahn) on May 12-15 at 12:30pm and the premiere of The World War II Memorial: A Testament to Freedom (2004, Robert Uth and Glenn Marcus) on May 26-29 at 12:30pm and May 31 at 12:30pm and 2:30pm.
National Museum of African Art
On May 6 at 7:00pm is a documentary, William Kentridge: Drawing the Passing (1999) about the animator, including some excerpts from his film Stereoscope. On May 13 at 7:00pm are two documentaries The We Mask Society: Guere Masks (1994) and A Celebration of Ancesors: Guro Masks (1994), both about masking traditions in urban and rural areas. On May 27 at 7:00pm is a documentary about Mahatma Ghandi's 21 year residence in South Africa, The Making of the Mahatma (1996, Sham Benegal).
Museum of American History
A documentary about legendary war photo journalist Robert Capa, the only photographer in the first wave of the Omaha Beach invastion, is on May 27 at 7:00pm. Director Anne Makepeace will be present to discuss the film.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The Women's Museum continues its series of films by Nordic women directors on May 16 at 2:00pm with Anja Breien's "Wives" trilogy. Beginning at 2:00pm is Wives (1975) in which three young women embark on a trip to Copenhagen; at 4:00pm is Wives--Ten Years Later (1985) with the same three women now approaching middle age; and at 7:00pm is Wives III (1996) with the women, now fifty, in a joyful and unconventional reunion.
Films on the Hill
Three films starring Robert Mitchum "the soul of film noir" are: The Big Steal (1949, Don Siegel), Mitchum's first film after his notorious pot bust, shot mostly in Mexico and shown with a Charley Chase two-reel comedy On the Wrong Trek (1936) on May 3 at 7:00pm; Macao (1952, Josef von Sternberg) with Jane Russell and preceded by a two-reel Laurel and Hardy comedy Come Clean (1931) on May 5 at 7:00pm; and Pursued (1947, Raoul Walsh), Mitchum's first starring role, photographed by the great James Wong Howe on May 7 at 7:00pm. All are "film noir" starring Robert Mitchum in his prime, and preceded by a cartoon.
DC Jewish Community Center
On May 11 at 7:00pm is Allerd Fishbein's in Love (2000, Dan Greenfield) a short film with Freaks and Geeks star John Daley, shown with All I've Got (2002, Keren Margalit), an Israeli video about a grandmother who, after death, must choose between her first love and the memories of her husband and children.
On May 12 at 1:00pm is an afternoon show of I'm Not Rappaport (1996, Herb Gardner), a comedy with Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis as two octogenarians in New York City.
On May 18 at 7:00pm is a short video, My Brother's Wedding (2003, Daniel Akiba), shown with Welcome to the Waks Family (2002, Barbara Chobodsky), a video about an unconventional orthodox household in Australia.
"How the West Was Sold: Karl May's America and the German Cinema" is a lecture by Christoph Strupp on May 3 at 5:30pm and film Apache Gold (1965, Harald Reinl) at 6:45. On May 17 is another lecture/film program with Sabine Hake speaking at 5:30pm on film audiences in the Third Reich, followed by a film Request Concert (1940, Eduard von Borsody) at 6:45pm.
To celebrate the ten newest members of the European Union is a documentary Die Mitte (2003, Stanislaw Mucha) on May 5 at 6:30pm and on May 10 at 6:30pm is a program of documentaries from the new member states.
To accompany the exhibit "Vladracul" is a series of vampire films: The Hunger (1983, Tony Scott) on May 20 at 8:00pm; Blood for Dracula (1974, Paul Morrissey) on May 20 at 10:00pm; The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967, Roman Polanski) on May 21 at 6:30pm; Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, Werner Herzog) on May 21 at 8:30pm; Dracula (1992, Francis Ford Coppola) on May 21 at 10:30pm; Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau) on May 24 at 6:30pm; and Shadow of the Vampire (2000, Elias Merhige) on May 24 at 8:30pm.
National Museum of Natural History
A short film about the devotion of the Buddhist faithful to the folk goddess Matsu Matsu--Taiwan's Guardian Goddess (2002) is on May 7 at noon, followed by an illustrated lecture by American Foreign Service officer Neal Donnelley discussing his collection of religious folk art collected from Taiwan.
On May 21 at noon is Lost Treasures of Tibet (2003) about restoration of the paintings in the Himalayan kingdom of Mustang.
A documentary about the Japanese living in Canada who were sent to internment camps after Pearl Harbor, Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story (2003) is on May 28 at noon.
On May 4 at 7:00pm is the U.S. premiere of The Man of Easter Island (2001, Thomas Lavachery). The director, son of Belgian archaeologist Henri Lavachery who was part of a scientific expedition to Easter Island in 1935, revisits the island where his father had befriended Ana, a five year old girl, to meet Ana for the first time. Thomas Lavachery will be present to discuss the film.
On May 28 at 2:00pm is A Tradition of Honor (2003), a documentary featuring interviews with 55 Japanese American veterans who served in Europe during WWII.
Campania Through the Lens is a series of three Italian films set in Naples and the region of Campania. Nasty Love (1995, Mario Martone) on May 7 at 7:00pm is about a daughter's search for understanding her mother; Gold of Naples (1954, Vittorio De Sica) on May 14 at 7:00pm features six Neapolitan episodes; and Where's Piccone? (1985, Nanni Loy) on May 21 at 7:00pm is about a man leading a double life. All three films will be introduced by Laura Benedetti, professor of Italian culture at Georgetown University.