Category: Documentaries

PHLF Presents ‘First Person Singular: I.M. Pei’ Screening


On August 16th, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), an organization dedicated to saving buildings with historical significance in the Pittsburgh region, will pay tribute to the legendary architect I.M. Pei with a film screening at their Landmarks Preservation Resource Center (LPRC).

With a career spanning more than five decades, the prolific Chinese-American architect has became known for designing some of the world’s most recognized buildings. In the documentary First Person Singular: I.M. Pei, he leads viewers through the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Bank of China, the Meyerson Symphony Center, the Miho Museum and other examples of his work. Pei also discusses his innermost philosophy and principles, as well as his work with notable clients Jacqueline Kennedy, William Zeckendorf, Francois Mitterand and Paul Mellon.

In Pittsburgh, he was commissioned by a New York developer to build three buildings that would comprise the Washington Plaza in the lower Hill. However, only one element of the three-building plaza was constructed.

First Person Singular: I.M. Pei will screen at 6 p.m. in the LPRC at 744 Rebecca Avenue, Wilkinsburg, PA 15221. The event is free for PHLF members, $5 for non-members. RSVP by emailing or by calling 412-471-5808 ext. 527.

CMOA Honors Filmmaker Tony Buba With Premiere Event


Image courtesy of Braddock Films.

On August 4th, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) and WESA will present the retrospective No Place but Home: An Evening with Filmmaker Tony Buba. The event is part of The Double Exposure Series, a part of CMOA’s Time-Based Media Project, which features “artists, preservationists, curators and scholars discussing the legacy of avant-garde film and video of the 1960s–1980s, including works in CMOA’s permanent collection and beyond.”

Since 1974, Braddock-based filmmaker Tony Buba has made over 20 films through his company Braddock Films, including the The Braddock Chronicles, a dozen black & white short documentaries chronicling life in a “dying milltown.” The event will include the premiere of No Place but Home, a documentary short by Ryan Loew and Matthew Newton that examines Buba’s career. Also showing are a selection of Buba’s films, including Betty’s Corner Café (1976), Washing Walls with Mrs. G. (1980), Mill Hunk Herald (1981), Fade Out (1998) and Ode to a Steeltown (2007), as well as a never-before-seen short.


Tony Buba (left) with George Romero.

No Place but Home: An Evening with Filmmaker Tony Buba will take place at 6 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. A post-screening Q&A with Buba will follow. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

ReplayFX Finds A Pinball Wizard And More In Gaming Docs


From July 28th through July 31st, the ReplayFX Arcade & Video Game Festival will convene at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, bringing with it over 1,000 modern and classic amusements, including pinball, consoles and tabletop games. Also featured in the lineup are three documentaries highlighting colorful characters and places that represent some of America’s cherished gaming pastimes. See film schedule and details below:

July 29th

8 p.m.

SBK The-Movie (2014)


A true story 35 years in the making, the documentary from director Aaron Re chronicles one man’s journey to become a legend of the boardwalk by claiming the title of world champion in the fast-paced sport of professional Skee-Ball.

10:15 p.m.

Wizard Mode (2016)


In the game of pinball, there is no greater reward than Wizard Mode – a hidden level that is only unlocked when a player completes a series of lightning-speed challenges. Robert Emilio Gagno has dedicated most of his life to mastering Wizard Mode, and is now one of the top pinball players in the world. He also happens to have autism. The first feature  documentary from Salazar Film is a candid personal perspective on autism through the life of one of the world’s greatest pinball players. The film follows Robert as he seeks to balance his quest to become a world pinball champion and his growing real world responsibilities, culminating at the largest pinball tournament in the world, Pinburgh in Pittsburgh, PA.

July 30th

The Lost Arcade (2015)

8 p.m.


Directors Kurt Vincent and Irene Chen explore the legacy and influence of one of the last great video arcades in their feature documentary. Chinatown Fair opened as a penny arcade on Mott Street in 1944. Over the decades,the legendary gathering place, known for its tic-tac-toe playing chicken, became an institution, surviving turf wars between rival gangs, rising rents and the explosive growth of home gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation that shuttered all other arcades in the city. But as the neighborhood gentrified, this haven for a diverse community faced its strongest challenge, inspiring its biggest devotees to next-level greatness.

All screening events are included with ReplyFX admission. See ticket prices and packages at the festival website.

The Warhol Takes A Stand With ‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry’


The Warhol will soon unveil Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, an exhibition exploring the significant influence of these two artists on modern and contemporary life, focusing on the parallels, intersections, and points of difference between their practices—Warhol representing 20th-century modernity and the “American century,” and Ai representing life in the 21st century and what has been called the “Chinese century” to come. In conjunction with show, the museum will host daily screenings of the 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Alison KlaymanAi Weiwei: Never Sorry is the inside story of China’s most famous international artist, and most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.

The film captures a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China, and her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.

The film will show daily at 2 p.m. from June 3rd through August 28th in the Warhol theater. Film schedules are subject to change. Free with museum admission

Hollywood Theater Gets Raucous With The Damned Doc


The Hollywood Theater will continue their tradition of spotlighting documentaries about underground music with The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead, a look at the UK band whose influence spanned over the punk, New Wave and goth eras.

From Lemmy filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first U.K. punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. The documentary includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones of The Clash, Lemmy and members of Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Guns ‘N’ Roses, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band’s complex history and infighting. It captures the band as it celebrated its 35th anniversary with a world tour and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while other former members battled cancer.

The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead will screen from May 27th through May 29th. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the door.

Melwood Screening Room Gets ‘Trapped’ With Abortion Doc


On May 26th, Melwood Screening Room will team up with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, Women’s Law Project, Pittsburgh Pro-Choice Escorts and New Voices Pittsburgh to present Trapped, a documentary about the struggles of the clinic workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of a battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women.

Since 2010, 288 laws regulating abortion providers have been passed by state legislatures. In total, 44 states and the District of Columbia have measures subjecting abortion providers to legal restrictions not imposed on other medical professionals. Unable to comply with these far-reaching and medically unnecessary laws, clinics have taken their fight to the courts. As the U.S. Supreme Court decides in 2016 whether individual states may essentially outlaw abortion (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt), director Dawn Porter‘s film follows clinic workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of the battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women.

The Trapped screening event will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and are available for purchase at the PPWP website.

Row House Premieres ‘Food Systems’ Doc ‘The Ecosystem’


Nearly six months after hosting a sneak preview at Ace Hotel, filmmaker and co-founder of The Glassblock David Bernabo will unveil his work Food Systems, Chapter 3: The Ecosystem. The final installment of a three-part documentary series will premiere on May 10th at Row House Cinema.

The Ecosystem shows the challenges of farming in and around Western PA from climate change to fracking to strip mining and skyrocketing land prices to monocultures and their impact on diet and food pricing. The film looks at cheese making with Lori Sollenberger at Hidden Hills Dairy, the life cycle of farmed trout at Laurel Hill Trout, the history of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, and Legume‘s legacy of local meat.

The film also features various area farms, as well as businesses such as Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream and Hop Farm Brewing Company, Bill Fuller of Big Burrito, Alice Julier and Nadine Lehrer of the Chatham University Food Studies program, and local food writer Hal B. Klein.

The  Food Systems, Chapter 3: The Ecosystem premiere will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 and are available for purchase online.

Best Limited Releases Coming To Pittsburgh: May 2016 Edition

The Family Fang – Hollywood Theater


Adult siblings Baxter (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Nicole Kidman), scarred from an unconventional upbringing, return to their family home after an unlikely accident. When their parents (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) — performance artists famous for elaborate public hoaxes — suddenly go missing under troubling circumstances, Baxter and Annie investigate. Unsure whether it’s foul play or just another elaborate ruse, nothing can prepare them for what they discover. The Family Fang opens on May 6th at the Hollywood Theater.

Born to Be Blue – Harris Theater


In the 1950s, Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) was one of the most famous trumpeters in the world, renowned as both a pioneer of the West Coast jazz scene and an icon of cool. By the 1960s, he was all but washed up, his career and personal life in shambles due to years of heroin addiction. In his innovative anti-biopic, director Robert Budreau zeroes in on Baker’s life at a key moment in the 1960s, just as the musician attempts to stage a hard-fought comeback, spurred in part by a passionate romance with a new flame (Carmen Ejogo). Born to Be Blue will open on May 6th at the Harris Theater.

Elstree 1976 – Harris Theater


When George Lucas began work on a mysterious project named Star Wars in North London back in 1976, no one could have predicted how it would go on to shape cinema as we know it, least of all the legions of on-screen extras. In this affectionate, crowdfunded documentary, we meet ten of those bit performers who appeared, however fleetingly, in Lucas’ box office behemoth. The film paints an intimate portrait of these performers, examining how their brushes with Lucas shaped the paths of their lives. With a cast ranging from Darth Vader himself, David Prowse, to a performer whose character was cut entirely from the finished film, this is not so much a film about Star Wars as the story of a group of people united by one life-changing experience. Elstree 1976 opens on May 13th at the Harris Theater.

Tale of Tales – Harris Theater


In one yarn, the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) desperately yearns for a child, which she and her husband the King (John C. Reilly) are willing to go to dark extremes to conceive and protect. Meanwhile, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) is so obsessed with raising a giant flea that he barely notices his own daughter (Bebe Cave), whom he mistakenly marries off to a brutish monster. And in Strongcliff, two impoverished old sisters mistakenly attract the attention of the womanizing king (Vincent Casell) who is drawn to their song but has not yet seen their faces. Tale of Tales opens on May 20th at the Harris Theater.

Franocofonia – Regent Square Theater


Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum’s history and artworks, master director Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark) applies his uniquely personal vision onto staged re-enactments and archives for this fascinating portrait of real-life characters Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich and their compulsory collaboration at the Louvre Museum under the Nazi Occupation. These two remarkable men – enemies then collaborators – share an alliance which would become the driving force behind the preservation of museum treasures. Franocofonia opens on May 27th at the Regent Square Theater.

CMOA Welcomes Tilda Swinton For ‘Seasons In Quincy’


On April 19th, actress Tilda Swinton will stop by the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) to introduce a sneak preview of The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, a documentary about the prominent art critic, novelist, painter and poet. The event marks the beginning of a new collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh’s film program and CMOA.

Presented in four vignettes, the film presents a portrait of Berger who, in 1973, abandoned the metropolis to live in the tiny Alpine village of Quincy. He realized that subsistence peasant farming, which had sustained humanity for millennia, was drawing to an historical close. He determined to spend the rest of his life bearing witness to this vanishing existence, not least by participating in it. Berger’s trilogy Into their Labours chronicles the peasant life of this Alpine village and its surrounding countryside.

The film is the result of an eight-year project by Swinton and University of Pittsburgh Professor of English and Film, Colin MacCabe. Swinton served as executive producer and directed the Harvest segment. MacCabe produced the film with the Derek Jarman Lab in London, directed the first segment Ways of Listening, and co-directed A Song for Politics with Bartek Dziadosz.


The Seasons of Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger sneak preview will take place at 8:30 p.m. in the CMOA Theater. Swinton and MacCabe will both make an appearance at the screening. Ticket cost $35, $30 for members, $25 for students with valid ID, and are available for purchase on the CMOA website.

University Of Pittsburgh Says Ciao To Italian Film Festival USA


From April 1st through April 16th, the University of Pittsburgh will once again host Italian Film Festival USA, a traveling event dedicated to promoting new Italian cinema in cities across the country. From the story of an anti-Mafia worker trying to help a farm cooperative to a documentary about Italian emigrants searching for better futures, the seven featured films were chosen to display the range and vitality of contemporary Italian filmmaking. See the festival schedule and details below:

April 1st

7 p.m.

An Italian Name (Il nome del figlio)


The extrovert Paolo and the beautiful Simona are expecting. At a dinner with Betta and Sandro, the refined and literate couple, and Claudio, the eccentric musician, one question will lead to an argument that will shake up the night: the name of Paolo and Simona’s son. An Italian Name (Il nome del figlio) will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

April 2nd

7 p.m.

Mafia and Tomatoes (La nostra terra)


Nicola Sansone is the proprietor of a farm in Southern Italy that is confiscated by the government and assigned to a cooperative. As the cooperative is not successful, Filippo, who works in the anti-Mafia offices in the North, is sent to help. An Italian Name (Il nome del figlio) will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

April 7th

7 p.m.

Emergency Exit: Young Italians Abroad


Anna, Mauro, Milena, and the others do not know each other, but they all have something in common: they left Italy, transferring abroad and betting on the opportunity for a better future. This documentary reports what the young Italians living abroad do, think and dream, and relays whether they will remain or return and if leaving is really the emergency exit to change their uncertain future. Emergency Exit: Young Italians Abroad will screen in the Cathedral of Learning, Room G24 .

April 8th

7 p.m.

Me, Myself, and Her (Io e lei)


Marina and Federica have lived together for several years, but their love story is now at a crossroads. Just when Marina thinks that they can consider themselves a couple, Federica endures a series of events that causes her to have an identity crisis. Me, Myself, and Her (Io e lei) will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

April 14th

7 p.m.



The city of Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, is home to the oldest horse race in the world: The Palio. This documentary captures the intensity of the event and the beauty of Siena. It creates a fascinating portrayal of this secular tradition and recounts the dramatic story of a young jockey, Tittia, who, in search of glory, challenges his shrewd mentor, Trecciolino. Palio will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

April 15th

7 p.m.

Una storia sbagliata (Another South)


Stefania is a nurse from Gela, Sicily, who takes part in a humanitarian mission to Iraq during the second Gulf War. There she finds a world that is much different than what she imagined and heard. For Stefania, it is primarily a trip of self-discovery of her past, love for Roberto, and prior life. Una storia sbagliata (Another South) will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium.

April 16th

7 p.m.

I, Harlequin (Io, Arlecchino)


Paolo Milesi, host of a famous television program, is forced to return to his hometown to take care of his father, a well-known actor and interpreter of the Harlequin character. The old wounds of their difficult relationship are reopened, while Paolo slowly rediscovers the fascinating world of the Commedia Dell’Arte—a world that will make him question his own superficial existence. I, Harlequin (Io, Arlecchino) will screen in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. A closing-night reception in the Frick Fine Arts Cloisters will follow.

Festival attendees will be invited to partake in an audience competition by rating films on a scale of one to five stars. Ballots will be tallied from all screenings on the national tour, and the film with the highest score will receive the Best Film Award. The movies will be shown in their original filming languages with English subtitles when necessary. The screening schedule follows. All screenings are free and open to the public.