Best Limited Releases Coming To Pittsburgh: December 2015 Edition

Entertainment – Hollywood Theater


A broken, aging comedian tours the California desert, lost in a cycle of third-rate venues, novelty tourist attractions, and vain attempts to reach his estranged daughter. By day, he slogs through the barren landscape, inadvertently alienating every acquaintance. At night, he seeks solace in the animation of his onstage persona. Fueled by the promise of a lucrative Hollywood engagement, he trudges through a series of increasingly surreal and volatile encounters. In director Rick Alverson’s hallucinatory fugue, Gregg Turkington stars as The Comedian, caught in a struggle between being the center of attention and the object of alienation, occasionally challenged by an unexpected cast of characters played by Tye Sheridan, John C. Reilly, Michael Cera, and Amy Seimetz. Entertainment opens on December 4th at the Hollywood Theater.

Mediterranea – Harris Theater


In director Jonas Carpignano‘s acclaimed debut, Ayiva leaves his home in Burkina Faso in search of a way to provide for his sister and his daughter. He takes advantage of his position in an illegal smuggling operation to get himself and his best friend Abas off of the continent. Ayiva adapts to life in Italy, but when tensions with the local community rise, things become increasingly dangerous. Determined to make his new situation work he attempts to weather the storm, but it has its costs. Mediterranea opens on December 11th at the Harris Theater.

The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution – Regent Square Theater


PBS presents the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and many others, the film is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America. The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution will open on December 14th at the Regent Square Theater.

Weekly Movie Roundup: November 23rd – November 29th

November 25th

Planes, Trains and Automobiles


AMC Loews Waterfront 22 will serve a large helping of comedy this holiday season when it screens the 1987 John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The film stars Steve Martin as a frustrated businessman who, during a disastrous trip home for Thanksgiving, begrudgingly teams up with an annoying, but helpful traveling salesman (John Candy). Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost between $5 to $10 and are available for purchase online or at the theater.

November 27th

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans


The Parkway Theater will spotlight a turbulent period in the life of a beloved star with Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans. By 1970, Steve McQueen ruled Hollywood. He was the King of Cool and the world’s most notorious ladies’ man. Hot off the back of classics like The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt, the racing fanatic began production of his passion project, Le Mans, centered on the 24-hour car race in France. But the infamously troubled production was plagued with financial troubles, on-set rivalries and the star’s own personal issues. The documentary interweaves newly discovered footage and McQueen’s private recordings with original interviews to reveal the true story of how this cinema legend would risk everything in pursuit of his dream. Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans opens at the Parkway Theater on November 27th and screens through December 3rd.

November 28th

The Ruckus Bros. & Tracksploitation Present Purple Rain


Pittsburgh DJ duo Tracksploitation will join The Ruckus Bros. at the Rex Theatre for a tribute to the 1984 rock n’ roll cult classic Purple Rain. The event will incorporate the film into a live musical performance of its bestselling soundtrack, which spawned such hits as  “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and the chart-topping title track. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 and are available for purchase at Ticketfly.

The Rocky Horror 80s Show


The Hollywood Theater and Junior Chamber of Commerce Players will put an 80s spin on The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a special midnight shadowcast. The performance includes an appearance by Jaime of New Jersey-based Rocky Horror shadowcast group, Home of Happiness. Guests are encouraged to wear their best 80s gear. Tickets cost between $5 to $8 and are available for purchase at Showclix.

RiffTrax Titanic


Your heart will go on at Row House Cinema when Titanic gets the RiffTrax treatment. The 1997 romantic disaster mega-hit depicts the famous 1912 shipwreck through the story of two lovestruck passengers, the beautiful socialite Rose (Kate Winslet) and starving artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio). Though the blockbuster film went on to win multiple Academy Awards, its schmaltzy soundtrack, outdated CGI, and overblown production make it perfectly riff-worthy. The show begins at 9:20 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase at the Row House website. The event is part of the theater’s We Love Leo! week.

Row House Taps Goose Island Doc ‘Grit & Grain’


For 25 years, the Goose Island Beer Company has worked to create award-winning brews that “capture the hearts, imaginations, and palates of beer drinkers.” On November 27th, Row House Cinema and its sister store, Atlas Bottle Works, will celebrate a Goose Island original with a release party and Pittsburgh premiere of Grit & Grain: The Story of Bourbon County Stout.

The documentary from filmmaker Ken Hunnemeder consists of nine chapters chronicling the process involved in making the 2015 Bourbon County Stout. The journey takes brewers from the rick houses of Heaven Hill, to the cooperages of McGinnis Wood Products in Cuba, Missouri, to the white oak forests of the Ozarks, all in an effort to produce one of the most sought after beers in the world.

The Goose Island Bourbon County 2015 Release Party and Pittsburgh premiere of Grit & Grain will begin at 6:30 p.m. Atlas will serve 5-ounce pours of the 2015 Bourbon County Stout and the 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine for $5 each (supplies are limited). Guests can participate in a charity raffle for a four-pack of the 2015 Bourbon County series. Raffle tickets are $10 each, and are available for purchase at the Row House website. All proceeds benefit Bike Pittsburgh. A lottery for access to a Chinese auction for bottles of the 2015 Bourbon County Stout, Barleywine, Coffee Stout, and Regal Rye will also take place.

Grit & Grain screenings will take place at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase on the Row House website here and here

Hollywood Theater Welcomes ‘The Lodger’ For Silents, Please!


In 1927, Alfred Hitchcock released The Lodger, a British silent feature widely considered one of the first works to showcase the director’s signature style. On November 22nd, the Hollywood Theater will screen the film as part of a special Silents, Please! movie and music event.

Inspired by the Jack the Ripper serial killings, The Lodger stars Marie Ault and Arthur Chesney as Mrs. and Mr. Bunting, two unassuming landlords who take in a new tenant (screen idol Ivor Novello). At first the couple and their daughter, Daisy (June Tripp), are quite taken with the quiet young man, until Mrs. Bunting begins to suspect he’s behind the murders of several women. Influenced by the German Expressionist movement, the film helped shape Hitchcock’s later work and, in effect, the modern horror and thriller genres.

The screening will also feature a live electronic score performed by Richard Nicol of Pittsburgh Modular and Steve Rightnour of Monorocket. Nichol previously contributed to the Silents, Please! presentation of the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis last April.

The Lodger Silents, Please! screening will take place at 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $8 and are available for purchase at Showclix or at the door.

Weekly Movie Roundup: November 16th – November 22nd

November 17th

Food Systems, Chapter 1: A Night Out


Bar Marco will host a screening of the locally produced film Food Systems, Chapter 1: A Night OutThe feature-length documentary charts the history of Pittsburgh restaurants from the late 1970s to today, from the introduction of French cuisine to the integration of world flavors and local food sources. Universal topics like the steps to open and run a restaurant, restaurant life, how class impacts restaurant choice, gentrification, sexism in the industry, and labor trends are discussed. The screening begins at 7 p.m. A discussion with the director Dave Bernabo will follow. Snacks and drinks are included. The event is free and open to the public (though donations are accepted).

November 19th November 21st

 Sembène Film & Art Festival


The Sembène Film & Art Festival will present multiple screenings “that speak, unflinchingly, to the important issues facing the modern African Diaspora.” Selections include the Rob Williams documentary Negroes with Guns, the Danny Glover-led drama Supremacy, and the Mary Lou Williams documentary The Lady Who Swings the Band. All screenings will take place at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Homewood.

November 20th

(T)ERROR Preview Screening


Carnegie Mellon University will present a sneak preview of the award-winning documentary (T)ERROR as a lead-up to the school’s 10th annual CMU International Film Festival. Shot in Pittsburgh, the film goes undercover to investigate the FBI sting operation of a Wilkinsburg terror suspect. Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a counterterrorism informant for more than two decades, takes on what he swears is his last job for the FBI and invites filmmakers to follow his covert efforts to befriend a suspected jihadist – without informing his superiors. As surprising revelations emerge, not only about Torres’ past, but also about the increasingly murky ethical grounds of his present mission, the film explores just how far we are going to prevent terror and exactly what liberties we are sacrificing to get there. The (T)ERROR preview event will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Cohon University Center, and includes a reception and post-screening Q&A with the film’s co-director Lyric Cabral. The event is free and open to the public.

Tropic Thunder Q&A


The Row House Cinema will present a special screening of Tropic Thunder with the film’s set designer, Julie Smith. The 2008 comedy stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., and Brandon T. Jackson as four actors who face real danger while filming in Southeast Asia. Smith has worked in various roles on films and television shows, including Numb3rsWalk the Line, and the Red Dawn remake. Tropic Thunder will screen at 7 p.m. Smith will introduce the film and stick around for a post-screening Q&A. Tickets are $9 and are available for purchase on the Row House website

November 20th November 22nd



The Hollywood Theater will screen the award-winning drama Difret. Based on a true story, the film from executive producer Angelina Jolie Pitt and writer/director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari follows a young Ethiopian girl and a tenacious lawyer embroiled in a life-or-death clash between cultural traditions and their country’s advancement of equal rights. When 14-year-old Hirut is abducted in her rural village’s tradition of kidnapping women for marriage, she fights back, accidentally killing her captor and intended husband. Local law demands a death sentence for Hirut, but Meaza, a tough and passionate lawyer from a women’s legal aide practice, steps in to fight for her. With both Hirut’s life and the future of the practice at stake the two women must make their case for self-defense against one of Ethiopia’s oldest and most deeply-rooted traditions. Tickets are between $5 and $8 and are available for purchase at Showclix.

Pitt Says Oh, Hi To Cult Screening Of ‘The Room’


Are you a fan of uncomfortably long lovemaking scenes? Do you enjoy throwing silverware? Do chroma keyed cityscapes fill you with glee? Then you should head to the University of Pittsburgh on November 18th for an exclusive screening of The Room.

Hosted by Pitt professor Dana Och‘s Special Topics in Film: Cult class, the event will showcase one of today’s most widely celebrated bad movies. Directed by the enigmatic, ambiguously European Tommy Wiseau, The Room debuted in 2004, and quickly became a cultural phenomenon with its warped take on relationships, American masculinity, and filmmaking in general. The surreal melodrama stars Wiseau as Johnny, a San Francisco banker whose life falls apart when he finds out his fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), is having an affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Described as a dark comedy – most likely because of the way it was received – the film became a hit with audiences amused by disconnected sub-plots, quotable dialogue (“You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”), and amateurish production.

The Special Topics in Film screening of The Room will take place at 8 p.m. in the Cathedral of Learning (Room G24). Guests will receive goodie bags, and are encouraged partake in all the yelling, throwing, and other rituals enjoyed by Room fans (those unfamiliar with the practices can reference this handy guide). In recognition of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the organizers are also asking attendees to bring non-perishable food items to donate to local food banks. The event is free and open to the public (due to explicit content, only those age 18 and over are permitted).

UnSmoke Systems Examines Art And Immigration With ‘Ellis’


UnSmoke Systems Artspace, a Braddock Redux project housed in an a repurposed school building, “seeks to generate positive and intrepid ideas about the reuse of urban space.” On November 15th, the venue will further that mission when it hosts the TEDxPittsburgh screening of Ellis, a film directed by the French photographer and street artist JR.

Set in the abandoned Ellis Island Hospital complex, and using JR’s UNFRAMED art installations, Ellis tells the forgotten story of the immigrants who built America. The short narrative film – which stars Robert De Niro and is written by Academy Award-winner Eric Roth – tells the story of the ghosts of our countries past, the individuals who fled poverty, discrimination, and dictatorships, for a chance at a new life, and eerily foreshadows the plight of those who currently seek the same opportunities and safety in this country and other parts of the world.

The Ellis screening event will begin at 4:30 p.m. A discussion panel on immigration and Pittsburgh will follow. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to register at Showclix.

Hollywood Theater Highlights Historic Pittsburgh Film Treasures


History buff John Schalcosky created The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh Facebook page as a way to explore the city’s unusual, mysterious and forgotten past. On November 15th, Schalcosky and the Hollywood Theater will team up to present an evening of rare films depicting some of the people, places, and events that helped shape Pittsburgh.

The Odd, Mysterious and Fascinating Film History of Pittsburgh will include dozens of short documentaries, commercials, newscasts, and more. The selected works include:

  • rare footage of the 1936 St. Patrick’s Day Flood
  • West View Park
  • Kennywood Park in the 1920s
  • 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training
  • 21 short films from Westinghouse in 1904
  • an episode of WIIC’s 6 0’clock news from 1962
  • various commercials and advertisements
  • bloopers from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

The Odd, Mysterious and Fascinating Film History of Pittsburgh will take place at 7 p.m. Tickets cost between $5 and $8, and are available for purchase at Showclix.

Sembéne Film & Arts Festival Kicks Off With Documentary Premiere


The Sembéne Film & Arts Festival will present a selection of works honoring Ousmane Sembène, widely considered the Father of African Cinema. On November 12th, the event will kick off with a premiere of the feature-length documentary Sembene! at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Homewood.

In 1952, Ousmane Sembéne, a dockworker and fifth-grade dropout from Senegal, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. The film from Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman tells the unbelievable true story of the “father of African cinema,” the self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought, against enormous odds, a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give African stories to Africans. Using rare archival footage, animated sequences, and more than 100 hours of exclusive material – as well as accounts from Gadjigo, who served as Sembéne’s official biographer – the true-life epic follows an ordinary man who transformed himself into a fearless spokesperson for the marginalized, becoming a hero to millions.

The Sembene! Pittsburgh premiere will take place at 6 p.m. The screening will include an appearance from Gadjigo, who will lead a Q&A after the film. A reception will follow. Admission is free, but guests must register at Eventbrite.

My People Film Series Explores Sex, Gender And Nigerian Culture


The My People film series returns to Kelly Strayhorn Theater for another round of screenings exploring the life experiences of queer people of color. The event kicks off on November 10th with a mixer featuring an open-format conversation—including the organizers of Pittsburgh’s first-ever Roots Pride—and sneak previews of this year’s films. See below for film schedule and details:

November 17th

7 p.m.



This 45-minute experimental documentary from Philadelphia-based artist Shikeith creates a virtual “safe space” through hashtagging, enabling black males to pull apart emotional restrictions often denied through crossroads of race and gender. Shot in black and white, the film features nine male subjects from diverse backgrounds with their backs turned away from the camera. They openly discuss the obstacles they have faced as young black men, such as depression, parental neglect and racial discrimination. It is intimate, sometimes uncomfortably so, exploring topics that are often taboo for young black men to discuss. The evening will include an appearance by the director. All are welcome to join the screening and discussion via Google Hangout.

November 24th

7 p.m.

My People Short Films

Ọya: Something Happened on the Way to West Africa!


Seyi Adebanjo – who identifies as a queer, gender non-conforming Nigerian – explores the Òrìṣà tradition and the powerful legacy of their great grandmother, Chief Moloran Ìyá Ọlọ́ya. Through poetry and storytelling, the 30-minute film pushes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking, exploring the complex interplay of mythology, gender dynamism, history and psychology in contemporary Nigeria. Cinema verite and traditional interviewing techniques provide insight to the sensuous, rarely-seen world of the Yorùbáland ritual practice.

Vow of Silence


Filmmaker and composer Be Steadwell‘s 28-minute fictional short tells the story of Jade, a heartbroken composer who takes a vow of silence to win back the heart of Isis, her true love. In her struggle to reconnect with Isis, she meets Jaxson, an outgoing musician. Utilizing music, magic and silence, Jade finds her voice in the place she least expects it. The film is a music-driven story placing queer women of color at the center of the narrative.

The evening will include appearances by special guests Adebanjo and Steadwell.

Tickets for the My People film series are pay what you can, and are available at the Kelly Strayhorn website or at the door. Both screening events include a mixer at 6 p.m.