Defiance: A Discussion With Director Edward Zwick
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
We may be hunted like animals, but we will not become animals. We have all chosen this--to live free, like human beings, for as long as we can. Each day of freedom is a victory. And if we die trying to live, at least we die like human beings.
The plot line of Defiance (Edward Zwick, USA, 2008) can be succinctly summarized as Variety did: "The story of three brothers who escaped with scores of Jews, built a city and fought the Nazis" but Defiance is a good deal more than that. This epic film is based on an extraordinary true story from Nechama Tec's non-fiction book of the same title. In 1941 the Jews of Eastern Europe were being murdered by the thousands. Three unlikely candidate for heroism stepped forward to lead a desperate battle against the Nazis. Unlikely in that before this they were more hoodlums than heroes, petty crimes mostly. Daniel Craig, Liev Schrieber and Jamie Bell star as the Bielski brothers--three young, Jewish, working-class farmers from the remote countryside of Belarus.
Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond) directs turns this little known story into an intensely moving action-drama about the complicated nature of vengeance and salvation, the power of community mixed with the will to live in desperate times. The Bielski brothers and the community they formed in the dark and wintry forests of Nazi occupied Eastern Europe is but one of the under-reported World War II stories. When the war ended local Gentiles witnessed an astounding, almost surreal sight: more than 1,200 Jews suddenly emerging from the forest. At first the locals thought they were ghosts. How could these few survive while so many thousands were sent to the death camps?
Zwick shot the story of "Freedom begins with an act of defiance" (the ad tag line) in Lithuania as Belarus was not available. "The popular iconography of the Holocaust," Zwich said, "has been mostly one of victimization. It's important to add complexity to that notion--to understand that there is a difference between passivity and powerlessness, that the impulse to resist was always present. Defiance is about those who managed to fight back, but it is also about the enduring conflict between the desire for revenge and the desire to save others. It's a story that compels us to ask ourselves: 'What would I have done in these circumstances?' And in that way, I think, it becomes a deeply personal experience."
At the interview Zwick was asked what the response had been from the Jewish community. "We screened the movie at the museum in Battery Park in New York City, to 19 survivors, to the Bielski family and at the Holocaust Museum here. The response has been enormously successful. One survivor said, 'I never thought my story would be told.' There is that urge to testify."
"In researching this film we found a trove of unpublished documents. Tuvia had an unpublished biography that the family allowed us to use. There were anecdotes from the family as well as other survivors. We had the problem of compressing years of fighting, building and surviving into a tightly structured screenplay. There were special moments when filming. Other survivor families came to Lithuania when we were filming. One woman who was the child in the film came when we filmed her parents' wedding."
I asked Zwick how he was able to cast the actors who are in such demand today. He said, "Great casting directors who signed not only the leads but actors from the English National Theatre. Everyone took a quarter of their normal salaries. The film was made for thirty million dollars, not a lot for a major film. Some actors were playing in the Lithuanian Modern Theatre at night and for us during the day and occasionally at night."
"Clay Frohman showed me Tec's book at a Dodgers' game in 1995. In 1996 we optioned the book. At that time I was working on Blood Diamond and Daniel Craig wanted the lead role but the studio would not cast a then-unknown actor. When we were ready to cast Defiance, I flew to England and talked with Daniel and he was available and wanted to do this film."
"Making the film had its difficulties. During filming I kept the actors' trailers far away from the set to keep people together. There they were bundled for warmth, cold and wet. People did this for months and this developed the collegiality. The three leads bonded really well. It was humbling--nothing like being cold and wet to build community. The make-up people were really excellent; in some of the close-up shots you can see the dirt under the fingernails. The actors had to constantly work on their accents. There was real levity on the set and that was helpful in creating the childhood in the film. We had no time to rehearse."
When asked why he was making a Holocaust film now, he replied, "It is the 11th hour. All are now in their 80s. Soon we will have no living memories of the Holocaust."
"Once the script is done," Zwick said when asked about script changes on the set, "It is pretty much set. In writing the script we contacted the actors by email. There was one moment when Daniel was looking for a special line and on the spur of the moment screamed, 'Our revenge is to live.' That was such a perfect line that we left it in."
"After all the films I have made I know how hard it is. Everyone is away from family and friends for months. In the end every film becomes personal. You have to find something of your self in it. Being there, on that ground, in the forest with unmarked graves--it is hallowed ground. You have to find where you fit into that picture. You learn a lesson with every picture. Unfortunately you will have new lessons in the next film."
"In television we have the opposite of epic films. That's one reason to go to the movies. To travel some place in time, to see something we never would see." I asked him about the survivors used in the film. "Several Lithuanians were survivors. An old woman who is shown in the film sleeping and eating came every day. The musicians who had the wedding were also survivors."
When asked about the rough side of Tuvia, Zwick said, "Tuvia does things that are questionable. He was not schooled in decent principles. In the ordeal of surviving he took on the coloration of those that hunted them. He did things he did not want to talk about after the war. The other survivors now approach him as a saint. He kept them alive. After the war soldiers often do not want to talk about their wartime experiences; they reject that violence. And so it was with Tuvia. We know they killed prisoners. We don't know how or why."
Although the film was not intended as a documentary, I asked how much was invented. "We try to adhere to reality but some scenes had to be invented. I invented the moment of the dogs with Ilka. That caused her to change and become part of the group. I believe that the rules are not hard and fast. You know them when you see them, Did the brothers have that punch out at that moment? Tuvia's autobiography is filled with contradictions.There were ten or twelve other partial biographies, all are incomplete.
Zwick was asked about Daniel Craig playing a Jew in Munich and in this film. "I've heard of Protestant Envy but Jewish Envy?" Since in most of his films the actors get grubby, I asked him if when he called the actors reached for a bar of soap? He gave a hearty laugh and said he had never been asked that before.
Why are so many Holocaust/Nazi films coming out this year? (Valkyrie, The Reader, and Good). "Mine has been in the works for 12 years. I think we are running out of traditional Holocaust films and are now looking for the non-traditions." Another in the works is the documentary maker Michael King's The Rescuers: Heroes of the Holocaust which focuses on non-Jewish diplomats who rescued Jews. It is being shot throughout Europe and will retrace the route of thousands of escapees as they fled to China, Portugal, Argentina, Japan, Britain, the US and even the small Caribbean island of Curacao. Princess Alice of Greece hid Jews in her Athens palace.
The Cinema Lounge
The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, January 12 at 7:00pm. The topic to be discussed is "Oscar Predictions: The Top Five."
The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the second Monday of every month at 7:00pm at Barnes and Noble, 555 12th St., NW in Washington, DC (near the Metro Center Metro stop). You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Daniel R. Vovak, ghostwriter with Greenwich Creations.
Last month at Cinema Lounge
On December 8, 2008, we discussed "What the hell did I just watch; aka Bad Hooks." We determined that there are five classifications for why bad hooks occur.
(1) Misleading marketing tricks,
(2) "Jumping the shark." For instance, like when Rocky IV singlehandedly ended the Cold War,
(3) It's over before it begins,
(4) Rating system inconsistency. Live Free or Die Hard (2007) had the mistake of not going for an "R" rating,
(5) When movies forget why the audience is there in the first place.
Tank Girl (1995) was lost after Ice-T played a kangaroo. In Gladiator (2000), it seemed as if they did not know how to properly end the movie. Pleasantville (1998) was lost when racism interfered with an otherwise nice concept of gradually adding color to a black-and-white film. Breaking and Entering (2006) lost the plot in the court room scene. Short Cuts (1993) was lost on the early reference to phone/porn sex and with the earthquake at the end. The Pirate Movie (1982) seemed to be written with drug-induced help. Why was The Dark Crystal (1982) a scary movie about Muppets? Gone with the Wind (1939) was lost when the war ended. The movie could have ended right there. Minority Report (2002) should have ended earlier. Gods and Generals (2003) "was so long that I thought the movie was over, and it was just intermission," said someone in the group. The Ice Harvest (2005) had a disingenuous trailer hook. Solaris (2002) was slow science fiction. No Country For Old Men (2007) had a trailer like a thriller movie, though instead it was a film with bad storytelling. Art School Confidential (2006) got darker and darker. "It's like someone said, 'No one will need to see it if we see it honestly, so let's spruce it up'."
Other movies that fell apart were The Meteor Man (1993), Blankman (1994), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Magnolia (1999), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Nowhere in Africa (2001), Artificial Intelligence (2001), Miami Vice (2006), Poseidon (2006).
New Book: Hollywood Bohemians
By Annette Graham, DC Film Society Member
Back in the early days of cinema, actors were not identified in the credits, partly because the companies were afraid that the most popular would demand ever-higher salaries. But the public insisted on knowing the names of their favorite stars and while star worship wasn't a new phenomenon, movies reached a far greater audience than vaudeville or the stage. Soon millions of people in large and small towns were discussing film actors and eagerly lapping up details about their personal lives. Fan magazines and gossip columns abounded to feed this hunger. The movie businesses wasn't particularly reputable and attracted many arty types, often ostracized for their non-conforming behavior. These outliers--actors, set designers, writers, and others found a home in Hollywood and soon the name "Hollywood" became synonymous with a glamorous, risqué lifestyle. Hollywood embraced this reputation as a fun place full of wild parties and used it to publicize their product. This is the setting for Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream written by a DCFS member, Brett Adams. The book is divided into five major chapters each dealing with a major Hollywood location.
Brett Abrams: Thank you for inviting me to discuss my book, Hollywood Bohemians with you and the members of the DC Film Society. I really enjoy being a member of the group.
Storyboard: What gave you the idea for this book?
Brett Abrams: I started writing a book about the gays and lesbians in early Hollywood and noticed these not so subtle hints about adulterers and gays and lesbians in gossip columns and fan magazines. I had to find out why the newspapers and studios put these images out in the public during the 1920s and 1930s.
Storyboard: What is the purpose of your book and what do you want readers to take away from it?
Brett Abrams: I wanted to show that adulterers, gays and lesbians played a little discussed yet not very hidden part in the Hollywood dream during the Golden Era. It is fun to show the roots of something that is prevalent today and this book features these bohemians who represent forerunners of today’s media with their focus on celebrities and their sexuality. The bohemians became the first systematic effort of the mass media to expand its market by associating itself with images that stretched cultural boundaries.
Storyboard: You did a lot of research, reading 70 novels about Hollywood written 1917-1950 to get a feel for the era, newspaper gossip columns and fan magazines, and viewing films. How many films did you look at and how did you track them down?
Brett Abrams: I watched over 25 films and all of these movies are listed in James R. Parish and Michael R. Pitts’ book, Hollywood On Hollywood. While a few of the movies are available on VHS and DVD, I had to rely on the collection of the Library of Congress to watch most of them in the Library’s Motion Picture Research Center.
Storyboard: How did you find a publisher and how did you pitch your book idea?
Brett Abrams: The book emerged from the dissertation I wrote for my history degree so I marketed it to a few academic publishers without success. I decided to write a version geared to a more popular audience and approached several publishers before finding McFarland. The editor wanted me to include more stories and details about the stars and other living characters in the book. His idea improved the book greatly.
Storyboard: What do you mean by "bohemian" and why did you use that term?
Brett Abrams: "Bohemian" captures both the sexual risqué behavior of the people and that they lived in an arts colony outside the norms of the larger society.
Storyboard: Did the people of the time refer to themselves as bohemians?
Brett Abrams: While they certainly knew the term I did not come across anyone of these people or authors in Hollywood novels using the term.
Storyboard: How did you pick the actors and others you chose to talk about?
Brett Abrams: The actors and other industry people in the book presented themselves to me. Stories about their wild and risqué doings appeared in gossip columns and magazine articles for months or years.
Storyboard: Do you have a favorite bohemian?
Brett Abrams: Rudolph Valentino is my favorite because he’s still mysterious to me. He married twice and both times the marriage was unconsummated. He willingly put his body on display in Natacha Rambova’s bizarre costumes. I would have enjoyed getting the chance to talk with him about all of it.
Storyboard: Structuring the book in terms of places (nightlife, parties, home, behind the camera, etc.) seemed odd and risky but after reading the book it seems brilliant. How did you decide on them? Did this present any special difficulties?
Brett Abrams: That is a really good question. The places, including nightclubs, star homes, the studio lots, were all the most important markers of how everyone understood Hollywood as a town and as the movie industry. All of the publicity features one of these places. Since the Hollywood bohemian imagery was on the very edge of but still a part of the regular Hollywood publicity they included one of these key Hollywood places as well. So I chose to adopt the structure that was already present in the materials. This also provided the opportunity to organize the chapters in the book from the most public locations to the most private locations.
Storyboard: What other structures did you consider?
Brett Abrams: I considered structuring the book according to the type of characters in the imagery, adulterer males, butch women, bachelor males, effeminate males but this seemed like I was creating categories. This method of structuring the story did not fit in as neatly with the more usual Hollywood hoopla as the focus on locations did.
Storyboard: You say that Hollywood allowed bohemian behavior because it was good for publicity. People loved knowing inside information on their favorite stars (just like today) and got a thrill from their risque behavior. Why were movie bohemians allowed to get away with so much more than stage bohemians?
Brett Abrams: This is another excellent question. There are probably three reasons why Hollywood could get away with presenting the behavior but the Broadway theater world could not. Hollywood was a more organized industry that had greater control over its publicity and the relationships with the entertainment-reporting organizations. Hollywood moved away from images of stars based on the personality the performer played on screen which enabled them to incorporate personal behaviors like sexuality in their images of performers. The Broadway stage did not take that approach as often or as methodically. Finally, Hollywood operated in a self-contained community and was also a powerful national industry. The industry could use claims of self-censorship to hold the opposition to its risqué colony at bay for most of the twenty-five years of this study.
Storyboard: Do you think today's audience can pick up on some of the subtle cues in movies from that time? I know what pansies refer to of course, but had no idea what violets meant.
Brett Abrams: I think that many people can pick up on the references. As you said, words like pansy and opposite gender references are fairly clear. I showed a film clip of the dress designer in the movie Hollywood Hotel and the audience picked up on his natty attire and exaggerated hand gestures as he talked.
Storyboard: If someone was interested in reading a Hollywood novel written in that era, what would you recommend?
Brett Abrams: Two Hollywood novels I would recommend are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon and James M. Cain’s Serenade because they are well written and tell an interesting story.
Storyboard: Can you recommend any movies?
Brett Abrams: I enjoyed Grand National’s Something to Sing About and Warner Brothers’ Hollywood Hotel. Two smart movies about the Hollywood system are M-G-M’s Bombshell and RKO’s What Price Hollywood? which was the precursor to the two versions of A Star is Born.
Storyboard: When was the book published and how has it been received by reviewers and/or film historians?
Brett Abrams: The book came out officially in December 2008. The reviews have been positive so far with everyone accepting the conclusions and enjoying the stories.
Storyboard: This would make a fascinating documentary film, with film clips illustrating your points. Ever thought of doing a project like that?
Brett Abrams: I agree and have given talks using some film clips. I do not have the cinematic perspective to create such a documentary but I am open to work with someone with those gifts.
Storyboard: Any other books you are working on?
Brett Abrams: Over the past few years I switched my focus of historical study to Washington, D.C. since I live here and like the city very much. I have a book coming out early next year called Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, D.C. The book examines the politics and rationales behind both built and proposed stadiums showing how the capital developed but also how our culture’s relationship with sports has changed over the last 130 years.
Storyboard: Thank you. Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream is available at Amazon. The book has extensive notes, a thorough bibliography and an index.
The Wave: in "Film Neu" New German Films
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
The Wave (Die Welle, Dennis Gansel, Germany, 2008) was screened at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival and will be shown on January 24 (9:30pm) and January 25 (1:30pm) at Landmark's E Street Cinema as part of "Film Neu" the film festival of new German cinema, now in its 17th year (see below).
So you think another dictatorship would be impossible in Germany...? (Rainer Wenger).
In 1967, a Palo Alto, California, Cubberly High School history teacher Ron Jones conducted an experiment in his class. While studying National Socialism a student asked him a question he could not answer, "How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people? How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about the concentration camps and human carnage? How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizens say they weren't there when it happened?"
In a flash Jones decided to conduct a classroom experiment. He instituted a regime of strict discipline, restricting the students' freedom and forming them into a unit. The name of the movement was The Third Wave. Jones was amazed at the students enthusiastic response to the obedience he demanded of them. The classroom exercise was scheduled to last one day but soon the entire school was involved. Those who questioned the discipline were ostracized; students spied and reported on each other, and those who would not join were attacked. Jones called off the exercise on the third day.
A half century on Extreme Obedience is still not well understood. There have been studies seeking to replicate the Palo Alto experiment. In 1971 Philip Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment (human behavior where the subjects were prisoners--see also the German film The Experiment from 2001) and Stanley Milgram's 1962 study where he looked at the willingness of regular people to follow instructions from authority figures that go against their own conscience and convictions.
When asked how he came to direct and co-screenwrite (with his long-time friend Peter Thorwarth) Gansel said, "I have always been very interested in this subject! The question of whether fascism could happen again, how the fascist system works, how people can be led astray, holds a lot of fascination for me. I guess it has to do with my own family history. My grandfather was an officer during the Third Reich, a fact which my father and both my uncles have problems with. As a young man I often asked myself how I would have behaved in that situation. In Before the Fall (NaPola, Germany, 2004), I dealt with the question 'How was it back then?' How did the Nazis lead people astray? In The Wave the question is 'How could we be led astray today? How could fascism work? Would it be possible today? Could that kind of thing happen again, at a normal German school, here and now?"
"I vividly recall the first time I read the novel The Wave. The first question you ask yourself when reading it, of course is, 'What would I have done? Would I have gone along with it?' In the 1960s in the USA, maybe that was an issue then. But nowadays in Germany, no way. But I think there is more to it than that. That was the starting point for us to say, let's have it take place in modern-day Germany, and examine the question, 'Could it happen now'?"
When asked about the research for the film, Gansel replied, "We had Ron Jones' original notes, of course. So we knew fairly well how the experiment went. But once we had decided to relocate the story to present day Germany, that meant reimagining it as a German story, in a specifically German setting. Since we both grew up in similar environments, we said, 'Let's have it take place at the kind of school we went to. There are characters in the movie that I went to school with, that Peter Thorwarth went to school with. There are teachers that we would have liked to have, and ones we actually did have. Retaining that real-world angle was a bit of help. Then we developed the story based on those characters. The way we imagined them, what they would do in certain situations, so things would develop naturally from there."
"Of course it helps to have a highly charismatic personality as the teacher," he said when asked if the experiment depends on the popularity and acceptance of the teacher. "Someone who is a real leader, with real leadership qualities, who can persuade people. I believe that the fascist system he constructs is so nefarious psychologically that it can happen again anywhere and any time. Give people who didn't have any say before in their own little area of responsibility. Let the great differences that used to divide the student body be eliminated, giving everyone the chance to distinguish him or herself. I think that's something that would work anywhere, especially in something like a school system. And anyone who goes to high school knows what that is like: the popular kids, the social leaders are at the top of the pecking order. And a lot of students who may be more shy or that you don't notice at first glance just don't get a shot. I'm convinced that if you took a system like that and stood it on its head over night--that that would definitely work again."
When Ron Jones, the teacher, was asked about the new film he said, "One of the stunning feelings of being here on the set right now and watching a group of students is seeing ghosts. I am seeing the actual students, so I am back in 1967 and there is Doug fooling around, and there is the class comedian Steve, those two women sitting upfront, Aline Lavin and Wendy, who are so bright and wonderful and there is Norman sitting in the back row with his gold tooth smile, and Jerry. I am seeing this strange reminder of that similar class. You know, German culture is unique. You're the only ones I know that are really concerned about violence. You study it because you don't want it to happen again.
Jones was asked about the consequences for him. He said, "Not because of The Wave, but because of fighting for civil rights and stopping the war in Vietnam, I was dismissed from that school three years after the experiment and was never allowed to teach again in public high schools. So my life took a great change I hadn't anticipated. I have taught the mentally disabled for most part of the last 30 years."
For additional information on Ron Jones, The Wave and a previous film visit the website. See The Wave at Landmark's E Street Cinema on January 24 and 25.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
The AFI will be showing first-run films for most of January, but there are two special one-time shows. On January 27 at 7:00pm is The Glow of White Women (Yunus Vally, 2007) the "Best of INPUT" (the International Public Television Screening Conference) from the INPUT 2008 in Johannesburg. This documentary by and about Yunus Vally explores the effects of the discriminatory apartheid laws on his life. On January 19 at 1:30pm is King: A Filmed Record ... Montgomery to Memphis (Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1970), a compilation of documentary footage.
Freer Gallery of Art
The Freer's 13th annual festival of Iranian film presents six new films during January and February. On January 9 at 7:00pm and January 11 at 2:00pm is Banana Skin (Ali Atshani, 2008); on January 16 at 7:00pm and January 18 at 2:00pm is Three Women (Manijeh Hekmat, 2008); on January 23 at 7:00pm and January 25 at 2:00pm is Head Wind (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2008); more in February.
National Gallery of Art
"Teuvo Tulio: Northern Tones" is a short series of films by Finnish director Teuvo Tulio (1912-2000). On January 4 at 4:30pm is Song of the Scarlet Flower (1938); on January 10 at 2:30pm is Cross of Love (1946) shown with The Way You Wanted Me (1944); and on January 11 at 4:30pm is In the Fields of Dreams (1940).
"The Rebel Set: Film and the Beat Legacy" is a 6 program set of films to accompany the Robert Frank exhibition. On January 17 at 2:30pm is Beat (Christopher Maclaine, 1958) shown with The End (Christopher Maclaine, 1958) and Cry of Jazz (Edward O. Bland, 1958). On January 17 at 4:30pm is Pull My Daisy (Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, 1959) shown with The Savage Eye (Benn Maddow, Sidney Meyers, Joseph Strick and Haskel Wexler, 1959). On January 18 at 4:30pm is Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959) shown with Bridges-Go-Round (Shirley Clarke, 1958). On January 25 at 4:30pm is a program of short films by Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baillie and Ken Jacobs. On January 31 at 2:00pm is Echoes of Silence (Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965) shown with Happy Birthday to John (Jonas Mekas, 1972-96). On January 31 at 4:00pm is He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (Jonas Mekas, 1985).
Special events include The Sign of the Cross (Cecil B. DeMille, 1932) on January 3 at 2:30pm introduced by Martin Winkler. On January 18 at 12:30pm is An American Journey (Philippe Seclier, 2008) which retraces Robert Frank's trip around the United States in 1955.
National Museum of the American Indian
A Thousand Roads (Chris Eyre, 2005) explores the lives of four Native Americans: a Mohawk stockbroker, an Inupiat girl in Alaska, a Navajo gang member in New Mexico and a Quechua healer in Peru. Shown with two short films daily at 1:00pm, 2:00pm and 3:00pm. This is an additional screening at 5:30pm on Thursdays.
The National Postal Museum
On January 10 at 1:00pm is a double feature of films related to recent postage stamps: Jezebel (1938) stars Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, both featured on postage stamps and Hallelujah (1929) which was featured on a Vintage Black Cinema stamp.
National Portrait Gallery
On January 10 at 7:00pm is A Single Woman (2008), a documentary about the first U.S. congresswoman Jeannette Rankin who was elected to represent Montana in 1916 and 1940. Following the screening is a discussion with film director Kamala Lopez.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On January 14 at 6:00pm is a documentary, part of the series Art: 21 Place featuring behind the scenes discussions with Laurie Anderson, Richard Serra and other artists in their studios and homes. On January 22 at 6:00pm is a program of short films including Running Outburst (Charlemagne Palestine, 1975), Female Sensibility (Lynda Benglis, 1973), Walking Forward-Running Past (John Baldessari, 1971) and others.
Films on the Hill
On January 10 at 7:00pm is Goose Woman (Clarence Brown, 1925) with Louise Dresser as a former opera diva who, hungry for publicity, inadvertently gets her son involved in a murder investigation--based on a still-unsolved murder from 1922. "African Diamonds" is a pair of 1950s technicolor thrillers about diamonds in Africa: on January 23 at 7:00pm is the great classic King Solomon's Mines (Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton, 1950) and on January 24 at 7:00pm is Duel in the Jungle (George Marshall, 1954) starring Dana Andrews whose centennial is January 2009.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On January 25 at 3:00pm is Tulia, Texas, a documentary about an overzealous drug agent in a small town in Texas. Speakers will include Naomi Long from the Drug Policy Alliance Network and William E. White, an attorney who represented the defendants.
Arlington Central Library
On January 15 at 6:30pm is Charlie Chaplin's The Kid (1921). Dr. Stephen M. Weissman, author of "Chaplin: A Life" will offer commentary on the film before and after the screening.
The "Artists in Film" series concludes in January with The Mask of Desire (Egon Gunther, 1998), about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe on January 5 at 6:30pm and Half of Life (Herrmann Zachoche, 1985) about poet Friedrich Holderlin on January 12 at 6:30pm.
On January 7, 9, 14, and 16 is Matabb (George Ekleifi, 2008), a Palestinian soap opera in 10 parts. After the January 7 6:30pm show of the first two parts is a discussion "The Role of the Arts in Conflict Resolution" with Farid Majari from the Goethe Institute in Ramallah. Parts 3-5 are shown January 9 at 6:30pm and parts 6-8 on January 14 at 6:30pm. The series will conclude January 16 at 6:30pm with parts 9-10 and followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Halim Barakat, former professor at Georgetown University and Dr. Rochelle Davis from Georgetown Univesity.
The Goethe Institute takes part in "The Best of INPUT" on January 30 at 6:30pm with Pool of Princesses (Bettina Blumner) winner of the 2008 German Film Prize for Best Documentary Film. See below for more "Best of INPUT" films. Other venues include the AFI and Embassies of Canada and France.
The 17th edition of "Film Neu" new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland takes place January 23-29 at the Landmark E Street Cinema. See below or the Film Neu website.
On January 14 at 7:00pm is 13m2 (Barthelemy Grossmann, 2007), a heist movie with a twist and starring Barthelemy Grossmann who also directed his first feature length film. On January 25 at 4:00pm is Let's Say... (Françoise Marie, 2007), a documentary about children acting out their parents' professions. The filmmaker will be present at the screening.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On January 16 at 6:30pm is "The World of Anime Fandom" a presentation chronicling anime's history and rise to fame. On January 23 at 6:30pm is Honey and Clover (Masahiro Takada, 2007) about five art school friends and based on the best-selling manga series of Chika Umino. On January 28 at 6:30pm is Zen, a historical epic about Dogen, founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism in the 13th century.
On January 10 at noon as part of the "Treaty of Paris" series is The Far Horizons (Rudolph Mate, 1955), starring Charlton Heston and Fred MacMurray as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. On January 17 at noon is Abraham Lincoln (D.W. Griffith, 1930) starring Walter Huston as Lincoln. More films about Abraham Lincoln will be shown this year, Lincoln's bicentennial.
On January 13, 14, 15, 16, and 19 at noon are documentary films about presidential inaugurations from Hoover to Bush.
Embassy of Canada
The Canadian Embassy takes part in "The Best of INPUT" on January 28 at 7:00pm with Mississippi Cold Case (David Ridgen) about a civil rights case.
"Lions of Czech Film" presents Night Owls (Michaela Pavlátová, 2008) on January 14 at 8:00pm.
As part of the "French Cinematheque" series is Two Lives Plus One (Idit Cebula, 2007) which premiered last month at the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Director Idit Cebula will be present for introductions.
On January 11 at 10:30am is Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (Danny Anker, 2007), a 60 year journey documenting the relationship between Hollywood and Nazi Germany, illustrated by scenes from more than 40 films, newsreels, and interviews with witnesses, filmmakers and scholars. Filmmaker Danny Anker will be present to discuss the film.
On January 21 at 7:00pm is "Chevolution: How a Photograph Inspired a Movement for Change" a screening of Chevolution (Trisha Ziff, 2008) and discussion by the filmmaker on Alberto Diaz's famous photograph of Che Guevara and what it means today, followed by audience Q&A.
Embassy of Austria
On January 27 at 6:45pm is a documentary film In Search of Memory (Petra Seeger, 2008) about the life and accomplishments of neuroscientist Eric Kandel, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize. Dr. Kandel and Petra Seeger will be present for Q&A. Sponsored by the Embassy of Austria; but held at the Carnegie Institution for Science, 1530 P Street, NW.