A Conversation with Patrick Creadon, Director of Wordplay
By Pete Langlois, DC Film Society Member
Wordplay is a documentary that focuses on the man most associated with crossword puzzles, New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz. Director Patrick Creadon introduces us to Will’s world, his puzzle contributors, and several celebrities who are devoted fans of the puzzle. Wordplay also takes us through the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where almost five hundred competitors battled it out for the title of “Crossword Champ.” Wordplay is Creadon’s directorial debut, after fifteen years of film and television work as a cameraman, and is a presentation of O’Malley Creadon Productions, whose principals are Creadon and his wife, producer Christine O’Malley.
Storyboard spoke with Patrick Creadon in Washington DC on June 19, shortly after the film premiered in New York.
Storyboard: So, a movie about crossword puzzles...
Patrick Creadon: I know, what a horrid topic! What were we thinking? I didn’t do crossword puzzles in college, but I used to watch people in the cafeteria doing them and wondered what the fuss was about. I started doing them five or six years ago, and it became something for my wife and me to do together. We got the idea for the movie around Christmas 2004 when we gave each other crossword puzzle compilations by Will Shortz as gifts, and it just went from there.
Storyboard: From concept to finished film in less than a year, quite a feat.
Patrick Creadon: The minute that the idea hit us, being something we enjoy and something we understand because we do the puzzle, we knew that the topic wouldn’t eat us alive. I didn’t want to do a movie that took twelve years to make; I had no desire to do that. One of my favorite films of all time is Hoop Dreams. I know some of the guys that worked on that film, it was long journey and we didn’t want to do that on our first film, because we felt like we might never finish. Once Will (Shortz) agreed to it, we had all the elements we needed. Will’s the puzzle master and he wanted to do it so that was it, that was day one, we didn’t have to have meetings, we didn’t have to sell the idea to someone else, all we had to do was make a really good film and try to get it into some festivals--that was our only mission.
Storyboard: Was it a challenge to make the movie visually interesting?
Patrick Creadon: It never occurred to me at the beginning that the movie would be boring. I always knew that we would work with Brian Oakes, our graphic designer on the movie; he got the concept right away and was able to bring the puzzles to life on screen. Besides the mechanics, you can find drama and humor anywhere. There is a great movie called Big Night by Stanley Tucci that is seemingly about nothing but evokes a real connection. I really loved My Dinner With Andre as well. Wordplay isn’t exactly like those films, it’s a documentary of course, but I’ve done a lot of work with PBS (as a cameraman) on all kinds of documentaries and so I knew there is drama and humor anywhere, and I wanted to bring that out.
Storyboard: Will certainly has many devoted fans, and you interviewed several well known ones including Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and Ken Burns. In the movie, they are all doing the same puzzle that we saw being created earlier in the film, how did you pull that off?
Patrick Creadon: That was a busy day; no, I’m kidding. That day (May 31, 2005) we were in New York and bought a whole stack of papers, because we knew the interviews were going to be during the summer. We were already talking to most of the people, but we hadn’t booked the interviews yet, and we would bring them the paper on the day of the interview. So we wanted to try to keep everyone from solving the puzzle until the day we met them, but these are pretty busy people who have a lot on their plate, and as we were calling them we realized they have bigger things to do. I mean are we really going to call the former President (Clinton) and tell him not solve the puzzle on May 31st? Is that really something that he needs to be aware of? But when they solved the puzzle in the movie, even people who had already solved it had already forgotten about it. That’s the thing about the puzzle, and it just goes to show you, it’s important to a lot of people because it’s a part of their daily routine, but once it’s solved it’s gone. Ken Burns says it’s like skywriting, it’s really big and powerful for a few moments and then it just goes away. I thought that was cool, I thought that was a really great analogy.
Storyboard: Then we come to the tournament--who knew how competitive crossword puzzle solving could be?
Patrick Creadon: Oh boy, it was exciting. We live in a world where often times the Superbowl is not that interesting or exciting, but yet you can go to a crossword puzzle tournament and find high drama and passion, and that’s not a knock on pro sports at all. The World Series was pretty exciting last year, I’m from Chicago so that was really cool and exciting, but I think there’s drama and passion anywhere you look, I’m really convinced of that. Even though we didn’t expect the tournament to be as exciting as it was, it’s not surprising to me that it was like that, because anytime you get five hundred people together who really love something and who are competitive, and who want to win, you’re bound to get some interesting results.
Storyboard: Yet originally the movie was going to be much more focused on Will Shortz than the puzzle players.
Patrick Creadon: We weren’t really even going to do that (film the tournament); going into the project I didn’t even know there was a crossword tournament. Originally the movie was going to be a much more traditional profile on Will and his life. In a way I think you get that in our film, but that’s not the main thrust of the film. It evolved thanks in large part to Will for encouraging us to meet the puzzle creators, to come to his tournament, to interview the puzzle fans. A lot of the creative input came from Will; he’s a very modest person, he doesn’t seek the limelight, and he did not see this as some sort of big ego boost. His suggestion was to find the story of his life in the people who do crossword puzzles, because those people are his family in a way. It was a great idea; Wordplay isn’t the movie we thought we were making but it’s what we ended up with, and I’m glad that it came out that way. After a year and a half I still really enjoy watching the movie, it’s a fun film to watch and people seem to enjoy it.
Storyboard: Wordplay opened to sold-out screenings in New York the weekend of June 16, what are the plans for a wider release?
Patrick Creadon: I think it’s in about 45 or 50 theaters the following weekend (June 23) and then about 80 the weekend after that (June 30). I think the goal is to do 150 to 200 prints and to play those around the country so we’ll probably end in around 400 or 500 theaters during the course of the run, which is an incredibly big run for a movie we made in our bedroom (laughs).
Storyboard: From your bedroom, and then on to Sundance.
Patrick Creadon: We were so naive--it’s a miracle we got it out and done, because we didn’t really know what the Sundance deadline was until we were done shooting. We (Creadon and Editor Doug Blush) cut the film every single day for eight and a half weeks, and we shipped it out the day of the deadline, September 30. People kept saying that the movie is really good, that it would be great at Sundance, but there is no way to know. They called us the day before Thanksgiving and said congratulations, you got in. We were crying we were so happy; we had tears of joy literally, because Sundance is a big deal. There were 760 documentaries that were trying to get 16 slots in the American documentary competition and we got one of them, which is pretty cool. I think part of the reason we did really well there was because we were different, we were the “fun” documentary, we weren’t trying to change the world.
Storyboard: What’s next for O’Malley Creadon Productions?
Patrick Creadon: I love documentaries, but I also love new challenges, so I don’t really know what we’re doing next, but I certainly wouldn’t be against the idea of making a movie with actors and actresses. We have absolutely no plans for anything right now; we want to finish this off and figure out our next plan. I would say of all my favorite sub-genres, I love movies that are shot like a documentary but are not actually a documentary. I love This Is Spinal Tap, that’s one of my all-time favorites, I love Best In Show. Our first date was seeing Breaking The Waves, to me it felt very much like a documentary, hand-held camera everywhere, and to me it’s just a certain style that adds a lot of energy to the film which I really like. I’m sure we’ll do lots of documentaries down the road because I really love them, we just have to wait for another good idea, or in our case a bad idea which turns out well.
Storyboard: Last question: pen or pencil?
Patrick Creadon: Oh, someone just gave me this (pulls out a mechanical pencil with a crossword puzzle pattern on the side) and I love it. I’m a pencil guy; where else in life do you get to use a pencil? It’s like you grow up and all of sudden the pencil is put away and you never see it again. I will use a pen if I have to, but I like to erase. Jon Stewart, he’s a glue stick guy.
Wordplay was released by IFC Films and The Weinstein Company and opened in New York on June 16 and other selected cities (including Washington DC) on June 23.
An Interview with Rebecca Dreyfus, Director of Stolen
By Larry Hart, DC Film Society Member
The “heist” film, usually jewelry or great works of art, has been a staple of Hollywood for decades in comedies as well as drama. The real thing tends to be a lot less glamorous and often devastating to the victims, particularly in the case of stolen works of art that can be lost forever. A few years ago Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” was stolen from the Munch Museum in Norway in broad daylight and it has never been recovered.
In this country, the most expensive art heist in American history took place in 1990, when apparently two guys dressed as Boston policemen stole 13 of the world’s great paintings from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They are valued at $500 million and, despite the offer of a $5 million reward, not one painting has been recovered.
Stolen, in fact, is the name of the documentary about the theft that has recently made its way to the Landmark “E” Street Cinema and, in an interview with Storyboard, filmmaker Rebecca Dreyfus talked about her personal interest in this event: “I had gone to the museum as a child and it was very clear to me that it was the creation of one person (Isabella Stewart Gardner) and this made an impression on me, that the museum was very much hers.” Dreyfus said that the museum, which consists entirely of the Gardner personal collection, was not like any other. “It is an intimate place, as if you are in somebody’s home,” Dreyfus said. “It was like my special place.”
Although paintings by Rembrandt (including “The Sea of Galilee”) are among the missing paintings, for both Dreyfus and for a number of people interviewed in the film, it is the paintings by Vermeer, in particular “The Concert,” that produce the most emotion and, in fact, was the motivating force for Dreyfus to make the film when there had been no progress in solving the case after 12 years.
“Although Rembrandt may be more famous to the public, Vermeer’s paintings as actually more valuable,” Dreyfus told us. “There are only 35 known surviving works of Vermeer in existence.”
Dreyfus said the “The Concert” had a special hold on her when she first saw it as a young girl and found others included in the film for whom it had the same effect, such as Tracy Chevalier, who wrote “The Girl with a Pearl Earring ” about another Vermeer painting that was the basis for the recent film.
Dreyfus assembled an expert production team, including her mentor, the veteran documentarian Albert Maysles as her Director of Photography. The story of Gardner, a 19th Century Grande Dame who created the collection, would alone have made for an interesting film and the ability to cast two fine actors, Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott as the voices of Gardner and art connoisseur Bernard Berenson who guided Gardner to purchasing great works of art brings both the characters and the paintings alive. (“A good casting director and great lines from the letters between Gardner and Berenson” was all Dreyfus would say about it). As you might imagine, Gardner was no shrinking violet and her iron clad will creating the museum stated that no work of art be moved or replaced. This means that to this day the empty frames where the paintings were hung stand testament to the crime.
But like many documentaries, it’s the unexpected that gives the film a touch of drama. In this case, it was stumbling upon Harold Smith, renowned art detective, a man, now in his late 70s, with a scarred face from skin cancer, who wears an eye patch and a bowler hat.
“When I decided to make the film, people said if I was going to make a film about stolen art, I had to talk with Harold Smith, that he was a fascinating guy and he was one of the world’s great experts. So I figured I’d set up one interview to use with others in the film. But when we got there and found out what we were doing, he kind of looked at us and said ‘You know I’m up nights thinking about the Gardner art.’ He said he believed a new search might provide some results. It was obvious that this was an obsession with him. We never really talked about it, we just started following him around.”
In this case, following him around produces a trek across two continents, secret meetings with Boston’s underworld and even possible links to terrorist groups. The search is still ongoing although not one painting has surfaced.
As for deciding to go ahead and finish the film, Dreyfus said it was not a tough decision. “We had decided from the beginning that we were not going to wait for an ‘ending,’ that it was a rich film, whether the case was solved or unsolved and, at a certain point my producer (Susannah Ludwig) and I said, ‘You know what? We’re done.’”
Dreyfus said she is so committed to seeing Stolen through as it plays around the country, that she is not set on her next project but she knows it will be a feature film. “My producer and I have a joke, that next time we want to know the end before we start.”
Autumn: Comments by Erin Harvey, Director of Photography
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
When Ra'up McGee's film Autumn (France, 2004) opened at Landmark's E Street Cinema, Director of Photography Erin Harvey was present to make comments about the film.
"Ra'up send his regrets. He wanted to be here but the film is opening tonight in Chicago and he needs to be there. Then he flies San Francisco where it opened also. The film is being screened in DC, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
"It has not be shown in France. We are working hard to get it shown there but the French consider it an American film as the director/writer, Director of Photography and finances are all American. They allow only a few American films to be shown, usually Hollywood blockbusters. We are working to get it on Google and maybe DVD.
"I wanted to tell the story visually. One of my favorite shoots was the four days in the Paris Metro. Also the shoots in the forrest. That had a lot of long dolly shots. Most of the film was shot on a regular tripod.
"Ra'up gave the photography to me. We would go scout locations then I would go back to my apartment and storyboard--even the fight scene in the warehouse was storyboarded. I would my storyboard with the director and he would let me know if I missed something important.
"We met in film school in Los Angeles. We worked on documentaries together. He knocked on 200 doors in Paris to get funding to make this film and came up with nothing. He did come up with the actors, including Irène Jacob who starred in Red. All are experienced actors and work regularly in France. Finally we came up with backing from an American and then went out to made the film. We had total control.
"Ra'up wrote the screenplay before he went to Paris but then had it translated into French. He lived in Paris for seven years. A few lines were changed on the set; once we got to Paris the script was pretty well locked in.
"Originally we went over for a month of prep work then planned to do a month's shoot, come back to the US and finally return for the final month's shoot. We could not do that as the actors were contracted for another film so we had to shoot it all in two months. That is a lot of time for an Independent Film.
"Ra'up's father took him to a lot of French films when it was a kid. A professor in undergraduate school turned him on to French films.
"One major problem occurred when the French lab processed our film and scratched several important scenes in the warehouse, ruining two days of shooting. We had to do a digital blowup to correct this. We had problems every day; the weather was not what we wanted. The year we shot it was really hot. Leaves went from green to brown without the Autumn colors that we wanted. French law allows for 8 hours for shooting each day. In the US, 10 or 12 hours is not unusual.
"We wanted this to feel like a native's Paris not a tourist's Paris with shots of Eiffel Tower. There was only one such shot and that I took from my bedroom window of the town partially obscured by fog. All the film was shot in Paris except for the stone house in Brittany and the German bunker on the beach.
"It is so hard to get independent films shown. No marketing budget means no audience.
"The film title was decided first--it sets the mood for the whole thing. This was our first feature film although we have made documentaries. We have been through so much together. We get along well together, but it may take another seven years to make another film.
"I found French difficult to learn. The actors spoke some English. I got along with the actors, especially Samuel Dupuy who played Claude, the young up and coming gangster guy. He almost cried when he saw the film at our reunion.
"I had never done big lighting before. We had a young and talented crew. Our only issue was the 8 hour day. We tried to push for a little more time, 15 minutes there and half hour here.
"The largest French film festival in the US is in Richmond. They sent it back saying it was too violent."
Seen at Silverdocs: Director Gary Tarn Discusses Black Sun
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
Black Sun, shown at the recent Silverdocs Film Festival has already received a nomination as Best British Documentary.
"Why should we follow the talking head format for documentaries," director Gary Tarn rhetorically asked me at the Rotterdam Film Festival. "Can we not have the spoken word divorced from the head? How far can you go with the visual idea? I wanted to capture all the things that someone is looking at during a conversation. The music can be the glue that holds everything together."
London born Tarn came to documentary making from music. Self-taught, he has studied Asian and African music and has served an apprenticeship writing music for commercials, films and television. Tarn also wrote the score for the Quay brothers' The Phantom Museum.
In searching for something solid, an event that changed a life, where music would be that glue, Tarn recalled a book he had read twenty years earlier: artist Hugues de Montalembert's distressing account of the robbery that went truly wrong when burglars threw paint thinner in his face, blinding him. (Eclipse: An Autobiography was published in 1982.) De Montalembert says, "I am dead to my past life and not yet reborn to this new one.'' The book tells of his rebirth, his conquering of fears, and his refusal to allow his friends to make him an invalid. He fought to learn the skills needed to travel alone and experience new cultures.
"I wanted to know what had happened to him," Tarn continued. The composer turned document maker traced de Montalembert, called and "two weeks later we met in Paris. I played him some of my music and found a wonderful man who has coped with tragedy in a miraculous way. I recorded some interviews, took them away and six years later had the film. It took six years to overcome my fear, the fear of the blank page. I had sixteen hours of bits. At that time there was a technical limitation of equipment but computers became faster and now held greater memory. When I got my Apple G5 that made it easier to work on a piece, close it down and go on to something else. I had a transcript that highlighted the great parts."
"I was on the streets of New York with limitless time, no family then and had financial backing, so I could just shoot. I found interesting subjects in New York just by looking. In India you could just stick the camera out the window and get great shots. In the cutting room, I began with his narrative. I wanted the film to be feature length. How do I make it interesting for 70 minutes? I had great visuals but no dialogue; I had sections, like the shots in India that I wanted to keep, so I began electronic processing of that footage, fiddling with shots from India. The visual tinkering reminded me of Batik work. Then I went back to Paris and filled in missing dialogue, the odd phrase, the missing word. That's when I shot his hands writing in India. That was filmed at his kitchen table in Paris. I wanted to use footage from Iceland to represent his assertion that blind people seem to be thrown in a pit because you never see them. I wanted to use footage of bubbling pits in Iceland to represent that."
Throughout the film, it is indeed Tarn's music that is the glue that holds this fascinating documentary together. The Toronto festival reviewer wrote, "Black Sun is a unique cinema experience, one that resonates long after viewing. As a film about living on one's own terms. de Montalembert's riveting story is truly inspirational. As a film about loss, perception, memory and faith, its insights are offered with simplicity, lightness and beauty. Blindness is often depicted in the movies--but rarely with the pragmatism, poetry and truth of Black Sun.
The London Film Festival said, "While we hear de Montalembert's words, director Gary Tarn presents exquisite, artful images of the city where his attack took place and of the countries and communities he discovers. The result is a poetic medical-psychological suspense, a beautiful travelogue, and a deep meditation on identity and rediscovery."
Keep Black Sun on your list of films to see; it's likely to show up somewhere.
Norman Hatch, WWII Cameraman Talks to Audience at Archives
By Annette Graham, DC Film Society Member
A program "Combat Cameraman" at the National Archives held June 23, consisted of two short documentary films With the Marines at Tarawa and To the Shores of Iwo Jima, but the real attraction was cameraman Norman T. Hatch's attendance. With War Tapes now in theaters, his comments are relevant today.
In his introduction before the films, Mr. Hatch remarked that in 1939 there were only 17,000 marines, a smaller number than the New York Police Department. By 1940 they were using Army training films and people were beginning to ask about photography. The Marines needed to make their own training films so a photographic section was created. They studied the "March of Time" series, a sort of prototype documentary form. Photo units were formed and trained in New Zealand and Australia. Of course back then lightweight cameras such as those used by the soldiers in War Tapes didn't exist and 35mm cameras were not only heavy but used 90 feet of film per minute. There was no way they could carry that much weight, so they bought up all the 16mm cameras they could.
Mr. Hatch said, "Tarawa was not one-third the size of Central Park in New York City. The battle lasted 76 hours--3 days of intense fighting; 6,000 people [mostly Japanese] were killed, 1,000 were wounded. Never before had photography been done of a heavily fortified island. Everything was new. We made it up as we went along. I went to Tarawa as a Staff Sergeant; we went there with high hopes. John Ford had made two films (December 7th of 1943 and The Battle of Midway of 1942) and had gotten Academy Awards for both of them. We said, 'We're going to beat Ford'. All his staff were people he hand-picked--professional crew. We had 19 year old kids and no prayer of an Academy Award." [Note: In fact, With the Marines at Tarawa (1944) won an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary; To the Shores of Iwo Jima (1945) was nominated but lost to Hitler Lives].
Mr. Hatch continued, "In Tarawa we were brand new. It was thought that in that film the combat engagements were too repetitious so for the next film [Iwo Jima] we tried to do more story telling. We called in three divisions, 90-100 cameramen among the 90,000 men. I would assign a marine to the howitzer division. He lived with that unit and photographed them. Another covered a medical batallion. Never had that been done before, photographing emergency operations in the field. It was used as a training film. The battle on Iwo Jima lasted 32 days. When it was over we took our footage to Warner Brothers for editing and the public saw it in theaters two weeks after the battle was over. Thus there was no cost to the government; industry paid for it. What the public saw of the war was 80% military camera and 20% newsreel camera."
Both films show dead soldiers, American and Japanese. Hatch said, "The floating bodies were a concern to President Roosevelt who wanted to censor the images. There was a principle that you couldn't show dead bodies, especially faces. It was thought that it would be too much of a shock for the public. But the public hadn't seen the war. This was the beginning of the war, before Europe. It was recommended that the public see the dead and wounded. 'It will be a good shock.' So that was a definite change." Nevertheless, Roosevelt received thousands of angry calls from the grief-stricken public, especially from anguished mothers.
Mr. Hatch took questions from the audience:
Question: Did you shoot with sound?
Norman Hatch: No. There was no way we could have hauled all that extra equipment around. The sound was added later.
Q: I was in Iwo Jima and just after I came back I saw this film in Los Angeles and now I'm seeing it a second time. It was an unbelievable emotion.
NH: The photographers are removed from the men and their emotions. The photographer sees things differently. You are indifferent to certain things because you are doing something different, a story. Other photographers made the same comment. The picture is the main thing, not necessarily what is happening down in front of them.
Q: As a photographer, what was your primary purpose? Training, propaganda? Did you as a cameraman see the film before it was finished?
NH: We were documentarians. There was no way the film could have been processed so that we could see it. Our film had to go to Honolulu and then to the Joint Chiefs and then taken to Hollywood. The cameramen in the field never saw it before it was put out. Still photographers had the same problem. Any propaganda would be done in Hollywood, but there wasn't any need for it.
Q: There is a principle that observing an action changes it. Were the soldiers aware that you were there?
NH: They saw me in preparation. In Tarawa, on the front line they would say, 'You don't have to be here.' What I was shooting with the camera was as important as what they were shooting with their guns. They had too much on their minds to worry about me. They didn't try to look out for me. As I said more than once, 'I'm a regular Marine. I can pick up a rifle and use it.'
Q: Now more than 60 years later do you feel these are accurate representations? (Having gone through Hollywood).
NH: I wouldn't change anything. In Iwo Jima, it was planned what to show. Photographers had assignments.
Q: How many cameramen died?
NH: In Tarawa none in our division but one man from another division was killed on the pier. About 20% were wounded. It was a dangerous enterprise. I'm tall (more than six feet) and walking around while everyone was on the ground. Why didn't I get hit? Men said, 'You don't have to do that.' But I have to get the picture. We never thought we would get an Academy Award. Maybe it was the shock effect, rather than the film. There was a rumor that Winston Churchhill couldn't get his people to agree about landing on the French Coast. He watched the landing at Tarawa, the first successful landing of an assault force against a heavily defended beach head. Churchhill said, 'If the marines can do it in Tarawa, we can do it in France.' Of course that story is just a rumor, but a nice one.
Q: Joe Rosenthal's photograph isn't mentioned. Any comments from photojournalists at the time?
NH: At the dedication of the monument? Everyone recognized that he had taken the picture. [Note: this was the second picture of a flag raising on Iwo Jima; there were some accusations about whether the photograph had been staged]. I was ushered into the commandant's office--a wreck, tired and dirty and wanted to go home. 'No, there is a big controversy over the flag raising. We don't know the story about the two flags.' I was probably the first person who came back with any knowledge of it. Why was the picture getting raves? Was it a phony? I explained that there were two flags and the reason for the second one. Associated Press was going to sue Time Life [over the phoniness accusation] but I didn't know that at the time. AP agreed not to use "the" flag raising, only "a" flag raising.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
In July the AFI ends its Robert Altman retrospective with Nashville, Three Women and A Wedding and also its Sean Connery series of films with Outland and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Retrospectives beginning in July include a Jim Henson retrospective with The Muppet Movie (1979), Mirrormast (2005), and Labyrinth (1985); an Audrey Hepburn series with Roman Holiday (1953), My Fair Lady (1964) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961); and a Stanley Donen series with On the Town (1949), Singin' in the Rain (1952), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954); and a David Lynch series with Eraserhead (1977), Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986). Martial arts films from the 1970s and 1980s include King Boxer (1972), Legendary Weapons of China (1982), The Way of the Dragon (1972), Fist of Fury (1972), Dirty Ho (1979), My Young Auntie (1981), and The Boxer from Shantung (1972). The CinemAFICA offering for July is Across the Niger (2005). Other revivals include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws and Lawrence of Arabia. Also "Science in the Cinema" see below. Check out the website for exact dates, times and lots more films.
Freer Gallery of Art
The Freer's 11th Annual "Made in Hong Kong Film Festival" runs through July and August. On July 7 at 7:00pm and July 9 at 2:00pm is 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai, 2005); on July 14 at 7:00pm and July 16 at 2:00pm is Initial D (Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, 2005); on July 21 at 7:00pm and July 23 at 2:00pm is Justice My Foot! (Stephen Chow, 1992); and on July 28 at 7:00pm and July 30 at 2:00pm is Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997). More in August.
National Gallery of Art
A series "From Vault to Screen: New Preservation from European Collections" includes films newly restored by five archives in Britain, Italy and Switzerland. On July 22 at 2:30pm is Cabiria (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914) with Phil Carli on piano; on July 29 at 2:00pm is "Vintage Views: British Rail," a series of five shorts from the 1950s and 1960s; on July 30 at 4:30pm is Underground (Anthony Asquith, 1928), with more to come in August.
Art films and other events at the Gallery in July are In Search of Mozart (Phil Grabsky, 2006) on July 1 at 12:30pm and 3:00pm and July 2 at 2:00pm. A new documentary about philosopher Martin Heidegger, The Ister (David Barison and Daniel Ross, 2004) is on July 8 at 2:00pm. A documentary Luchino Visconti (Luca Verdone, 1983), about the film director, is on July 21 at 2:30pm and July 22 at noon. "Magical Melies" with Andrew Simpson on piano is a selection of Melies' short films on July 28 and 29 at 11:00am and 1:00pm. The musical An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951) is on July 28 at 2:30pm. To commemorate neorealist Roberto Rossellini's centennial is a program of shorts and a feature Open City (1945) on July 9 at 4:30pm.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The final film in the "Pest Fest" is on July 6 at 8:00pm, Beginning of the End (1957) with film scholar David Wilt present to introduce the film about huge man-eating grasshoppers.
National Museum of African Art
As part of "Art Night" on July 13 at 6:00pm is The Nuer (1971), about filmmaker Robert Gardner's early work among the pastoral peoples in Ethiopia. On July 27 also part of "Art Night" is Deep Hearts (1981) about the Bororo people of Niger's ritual of coming together during the rainy season to choose the "perfect" Bororo male. Both programs are moderated by Amy Staples from the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives.
National Museum of the American Indian
On July 6, 20, and 27 at noon and 3:00pm is a short documentary Teachings of the Tree People (2004), about the language and culture of the Skokomish people in Washington state.
National Portrait Gallery
On July 1 the National Portrait Gallery opens to the public after having been closed more than six years for repairs. We are eager to check out the 300-plus seat theater. You can do that on July 20 at 6:30pm when Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) is shown as part of the "Spies on Screen" film program. Call Ticketmaster for tickets at 800-555-7328.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
On July 13 at 6:30pm is Tracey Moffatt's film Bedevil (1993), the first feature directed by an Australian Aboriginal woman and inspired by the ghost stories Moffatt heard as a child. On July 20 at 6:30pm is a program of three short films by Tracey Moffatt including Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (1989), Nice Colored Girls (1987) and Heaven (1997). A documentary by Jane Cole, Up in the Sky: Tracey Moffatt in New York (1999) rounds out the program. On July 26 at 7:00pm, part of the ongoing series "Sisters in Cinema," is Maya Angelou's Down in the Delta (1998).
Films on the Hill
"Summer Swashbucklers" is the theme for July with all films based on a well-known novel. On July 12 at 7:00pm is the Washington permiere of the restored Sea Hawk (Frank Lloyd, 1924), based on the popular novel by Rafael Sabatini. On July 15 at 7:00pm is Son of Fury (John Cromwell, 1942), based on Benjamin Blake by Edison Marshall and starring Tyrone Power and Frances Farmer just before her mental illness problems. On July 19 is Black Arrow (Gordon Douglas, 1948), based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, and starring Louis Hayward.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On July 17 at 7:30pm is The Legacy of Jedwabne (Slawomir Grunberg, 2005), a video documentary about a small town in Poland whose Jewish population (more than half the town of 2,500 people) was murdered in 1941 just after the town was occupied by Germans. The filmmaker will attend to answer questions. On July 31 at 7:30pm is Tijuana Jews (Isaac Artenstein, 2005), a video documentary about the unlikely settlement of Jews in the Mexican border town.
A series of films "Get Out the Vote!" includes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939) on July 18 at 7:00pm; The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges, 1940) on July 21 at 7:00pm; and The Last Hurrah (John Ford, 1958).
Films by Helmut Käutner (1908-1980), one of the most acclaimed German directors of his time, will be seen in July and August, including films made during the Third Reich and after the war. On July 3 at 4:00pm and 6:30pm is Romance in a Minor Key (1943) which somehow escaped Nazi ideology. On July 10 at 4:00pm and 6:30pm is Great Freedom No. 7 (1944), Käutner’s first color film banned during the final months of the war. On July 17 at 4:00pm and 6:30pm is Under the Bridges (1945) which didn't appear in Germany until 1949. More in August.
The National Theatre
"Summer Cinema at the National Theater" features Billy Wilder whose centennial we are celebrating this year. On July 10 at 6:30pm is Some Like It Hot (1959); on July 17 at 6:30pm is Stalag 17 (1953); on July 24 at 6:30pm is Sabrina (1964); and on July 31 at 6:30pm is Lost Weekend (1945). More in August.
National Institutes of Health
"Science in the Cinema" is a popular summer film festival focusing on science and medicine. This year films and topics include physics in Copenhagen (2002) on July 12 at 7:00pm, with Guest Speaker Spencer R. Weart from the American Institute of Physics; forensic pathology in Citizen X (1995) on July 19 at 7:00pm with Guest Speaker Michael Sappol from the NIH Library of Medicine; Tourette Syndrome in Dirty Filthy Love (2004) with Guest Speaker Judith Rapoport from NIH. More in August. Note that the films are shown at the AFI's Silver Theater.
Screen on the Green
Shown on a giant screen set up on the Washington Monument grounds, Screen on the Green returns for another summer of classic films. On July 17 is the sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); on July 24 is a musical The Band Wagon (1953); and on July 31 is Bullitt (1968). All begin at dusk. More in August.
National Museum of Natural History
In conjunction with this year's Folklife Festival on the mall, the Museum of Natural History shows short nature films relating to Canada's province of Alberta, one of the featured entries of the festival. On July 1 and 4 at noon is A Squirrel's World, a short documentary about those destructive little critters. On July 2 at noon is A Tale of Two Swans about the Trumpeter and Tundra swans; on July 3 at noon is Fish Hunters: Pelicans and Cormorants; on July 7 at noon is Mountain Sheep: Life on the Edge; and on July 10 and 11 at noon is Owls at the Northern Edge.
Along with its regular programming, the Avalon offers family films on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10:00am. You can see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) July 7-9, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) July 14-16, E.T. (1982) July 21-23, and The Wizard of Oz (1939) July 28-30.
The Jerusalem Fund
A series of documentary and feature films from and about Palestine includes Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005) on July 12 at 6:30pm; and The Olive Harvest (Hanna Elias, 2003) on July 26 at 6:30pm. See the website for more; the series continues in August.
Now in its fourth year, Slapsticon 2006 takes place this year July 20-23 at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, 1611 N. Kent Street, Mezzanine Level, Arlington, Virginia. There are a few feature films but most are shorts. You can see dozens of comics including Will Rogers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chase, Bob Hope and Harold Lloyd along with the lesser known during four days of rare comedies from the 1910s to the 1940s. Live piano accompaniment for the silent films is provided by Ben Model and Phil Carli. Cost is $99 for the entire four days, $30 for a full day, $15 for a half-day and $10 for a third of a day. For directions to the Theater and garage parking, see the Rosslyn Spectrum website. Visit the Slapsticon website for the film schedule.