The JFilm Festival returns to bring 11 days of international Jewish-themed films, guest speakers, and more to various venues throughout the region. This year’s lineup features the Pittsburgh premieres of 20 narrative and documentary films from 12 countries.
The event opens on April 26 with Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, a documentary about childhood friends from summer camp who visit Israel to make a movie about Jewish baseball players, never dreaming it would turn into a run for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The screening includes a Q&A with Pittsburgh native and MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo, who appears in the film, and a pop-up after-party.
Other documentaries in the line-up include Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me and Monsieur Mayonnaise. Helmed by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the achievements and tensions that surrounded the career of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., including his conversion to Judaism and his tumultuous relationship with Black America.
Sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, Monsieur Mayonnaise follows French-born Australian artist and cult filmmaker Philippe Mora as he uncovers his father’s remarkable exploits in the French Resistance and his mother’s miraculous escape from a prison camp. The story is told through a montage of found footage and Mora’s own artistic renditions.
Among the narrative films showcased is the comedy Humor Me. Faced with a midlife crisis, Nate (Jemaine Clement), a struggling playwright, moves into a New Jersey retirement community with his father (Elliott Gould). Filmmaker Sam Hoffman’s directorial debut also stars Annie Potts, Bebe Neuwirth, and Erich Bergen, who will appear at the festival.
Representing Pittsburgh is local filmmaker David Bernabo, who will premiere his work In a Dark Wood. The documentary charts the path of composer and University of Pittsburgh music composition professor Mathew Rosenblum’s “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath,” a highly personal concerto written for world-famous clarinetist/composer David Krakauer.
Other films include the Dutch historical drama An Act of Defiance, the Israeli/German drama The Cakemaker, and Itzhak, Alison Chernick‘s documentary about legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman. The festival will also present a number of Q&As with various directors and actors and three sessions of Film Schmooze, a casual post-film discussion led by local scholars and sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Studies Program.
See the JFilm website for showtimes and ticket prices. Screenings will take place at SouthSide Works Cinema and other select locations, including AMC Mount Lebanon 6, the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
From April 20–22, Reel Q brings back the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival (PUFF) for a weekend of thought-provoking works about the LGBTQIA+ experience. The event includes a diverse array of feature-length and short documentaries addressing various aspects of LGBTQIA+ history and culture, including the HIV/AIDS crisis and the LGBTQIA+ influence on punk music. See schedule and details below:
Idol Worship: An Evening with Mink Stole and Peaches Christ
PUFF opens with a special presentation of Idol Worship: An Evening with Mink Stole and Peaches Christ at the Regent Square Theater. The show is an intimate, revelatory, and heartfelt happening that takes the form of a chat/variety show starring living legend and cult film icon Mink Stole, and is hosted by drag impresario and filmmaker Peaches Christ. The dynamic duo have been close friends for almost two decades and would like to invite you to join them for this special happening. With interviews, stories, film clips, anecdotes and live song this is a wildly entertaining, and uncensored exposé that aspires to be as hilarious as it is revealing.
Tickets cost $15 in advance, $20 a the door. VIP tickets are available for $40 in advance, $45 at the door. VIP tickets include a meet-and-greet with Mink Stole and Peaches Christ, an exclusive Q&A, early venue access, and reserved seats.
In Full Bloom (2015)
1 p.m. (Doors 12:30 p.m.)
The feature-length documentary by Michael D. Brewer chronicles the lives of 15 actors (13 transgender and 2 gay) whose paths cross during the production of Lovely Bouquet of Flowers, the unprecedented stage play created and written by Jazzmun Nichcala and director David Hays Gaddas. Fiction becomes reality, when behind-the-scenes footage of the rehearsal process and vignettes from the climactic performance are interwoven with expert testimonies and compelling personal interviews from the cast, that deal with family, inner conflicts, coming out, surgery, hormones, and the complexities of sexual identity and orientation. By sharing their own journeys and speaking to issues, such as relationships, spirituality, and careers, the film challenges the viewer to move past stereotypes and to see the commonalities we all share as human beings.
Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS (2017)
4 p.m. (Doors 3:30 p.m.)
Directed by Harriet Hirshorn, Nothing Without Us tells the story of the inspiring women at the forefront of the global AIDS movement. Combining archival footage and interviews with female activists, scientists and scholars in the US and Africa, the film reveals how women not only shaped grassroots groups like ACT-UP in the U.S. but have also played essential roles in HIV prevention and the treatment access movement throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The film explores the unaddressed dynamics that keep women around the world at risk of HIV while introducing the remarkable women who have the answers to ending this 30-year old pandemic.
Nothing Without Us screens at the Melwood Screening Room. Tickets cost $10.
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution (2017)
7 p.m. (Doors 6:30 p.m.)
Director Yony Leyser presents the story of Queercore, the cultural and social movement that began in the mid-1980s as an offshoot of punk and was distinguished by its discontent with society’s disapproval of the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender communities. Underscoring interviews from figures such as Bruce LaBruce, G.B. Jones, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, John Waters, Kim Gordon, and many more are clips from movies, zines, concerts, and actions iconic to the movement. As steeped in the radical queer, anti-capitalist, DIY, and give-no-fucks approach as queercore itself, the movie reveals the perspectives and experiences of bands, moviemakers, writers, and other outsiders, taking audiences inside the creation of the community—and art—so desperately needed by the same queers it encompassed.
Expanding Gender: Youth Out Front
1 p.m. (Lunch 12:30 p.m.)
This short film program includes four documentaries that explore the varied identities of trans and gender-expansive youth and young adults. Selected works include Tomgirl, A Place in the Middle, Monica’s Story, and Passing.
Expanding Gender: Youth Out Front screens at the Melwood Screening Room. Admission is pay-what-you-can.
Tongues Untied (1989)
3 p.m. (Doors 2:30 p.m.)
Directed by Marlon Riggs, Tongues Untied blends documentary footage with personal account and fiction in an attempt to depict the specificity of Black gay identity. Besides detailing North American black gay culture, Riggs recounts his own experiences as a gay man, including the realization of his sexual identity and of coping with the deaths of many of his friends to AIDS. Other elements include footage of the Civil Rights Movement and clips of Eddie Murphy performing a homophobic stand-up routine. The film is a part of a body of recently released films and videos that examine central issues in the lives of lesbian and gay Black people. Riggs’ work challenged television’s generic boundaries of conformity during the late 80s and early 90s. The television documentary during this time was the conventional talking head, expert interviews, and personal testimonials commonly on public affair issues.
Tongues Untied screens at the Melwood Screening Room. Admission is pay-what-you-can.
Row House Cinema will offer two weeks of great Japanese cinema with the third annual Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival (JFFPgh). The event strives to strengthen the general understanding of Japanese culture by providing audiences in Pittsburgh with cutting-edge, original films depicting authentic representations of Japan.
“The festival is growing so fast, we had to expand it to two weeks this year, making it one of the largest Japanese film festivals in the country,” festival director Brian Mendelssohn said in an official statement.
The festival opens on April 6 with the Pittsburgh premiere of Neko Atsume House. Based on the mobile game sensation Neko Atsume, it follows a struggling novelist who develops a special relationship with a cat that has an unusual way of easing his anxieties. VIP guests will get to cuddle kittens in the Bierport Tap Room before the film.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
The festival schedule will focus on four selections that push gender roles and sexual boundaries in Japan, including Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend, and Antiporno. Also included are the classic samurai films Yojimbo and Sanjuro from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, as well as a brand new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster masterpiece Godzilla.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical – Le Mouvement Final (2018)
In this filmed version of the Japanese musical, Usagi Tsukino says farewell to Mamoru Chiba as he is set to leave for school in America. As Usagi says goodbye, she faints, and a super idol group called the Three Lights appear to catch her fall. Meanwhile, new groups calling themselves Sailor Guardians appear, but are they friend or foe?
The Day Of The Western Sunrise (2018)
A film expertly animated and produced by local Pittsburghers, The Day of the Western Sunrise tells a true story of a surprise atomic bomb test from the perspective of fishermen on the sea nearby – and in the path of danger.
Wandering samurai Sanjuro finds himself in a rough gambling town run by two warlords and their hired thugs. While Sanjuro sets out to rid the town of all these pestilences by playing the two warlords off against each other, his efforts are complicated by the arrival of the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver.
This sequel to Yojimbo draws wandering samurai Sanjuro into the local politics of a group of young men determined to clean up corruption in their town. However, the town’s evil Superintendent is determined to kill off anyone standing in his way, so it’s up to Sanjuro’s cunning and swordcraft to ensure that the Superintendent’s plan does not come to fruition.
Your Name (2016)
The fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the fifth highest-grossing non-English film worldwide tells the story of a high school girl in rural Japan and a high school boy in Tokyo who swap bodies. They build a connection by leaving notes for one another until they wish to finally meet, but something stronger than distance may keep them apart.
Director Sion Sono takes on the Japanese movie studio Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno (romantic pornography) works of the 1970s and 80s in this film-within-a-film. Fashion star Kioko is bored in her apartment, waiting for a meeting with Watanabe, a chief-editor who’s interviewing her. In the domination and humiliation game between her and her assistant, the roles will slowly invert. Unless it’s all fiction?
See the monster movie that spawned a multimedia franchise, including 32 feature films and that has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest-running film franchise in history. Created by the H-bomb, a 164-foot-tall dinosaur-like monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy Japan and the rest of the world. Can the monster be destroyed before it’s too late?
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
The third in a series of five films which depict a gang of vicious teenage schoolgirls who get their kicks from gang fights, street muggings, and rock and roll. This time Mako and her gang The Alleycats clash with racist macho pigs The Eagles after Mako starts dating an Afro-Japanese man. Row House will screen a new restoration of the film.
Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend (1989)
The precursor to the infamous genre of tentacle porn, this complicated horror/fantasy/erotica tells of parallel realms of demons and man-beasts and a 3000-year-old legend that foretells the coming of the Overfiend—a being of unimaginable power that will unite all three realms into a land of eternity.
* Please note that some films in the festival contain graphic sexual imagery or sexual violence and may not be suitable for everyone.
The Pittsburgh Japanese Film Festival takes place from April 6-19 at Row House Cinema. Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 for matinees before 6 p.m. Opening night event tickets cost $15-30 and $10 for closing night. Discounts apply to college students, Lawrenceville residents, and guests who come in costume. You can also purchase a full festival pass for $36.
On March 24, the University of Pittsburgh will host the Serbian Movie Festival. Presented by the Serb National Federation, the Center for Russian & East European Studies and the Radio Television of Serbia, the event includes three of the country’s most popular movies from 2016 and 2017. See schedule and details below:
The Promise (Dir. Zeljko Mirkovic, 2016)
In this documentary from Zeljko Mirkovic, a French family moves to a remote village in the north of Serbia. They believe they have found a promised land for growing grapes and wine-making. But they also face distrusting locals with old habits. A new challenge awaits them back home in France – persuading sommeliers that superior wine can be made in an unknown and problematic region. Can they awake hope and breathe a new life into the old village?
Serbs on Corfu (dir. Sladjana Zaric, 2016)
A documentary by Radio Television of Serbia describing one of the most tragic events faced by the Serbian people – the exile of the entire nation, army, and government of Serbia to the island Corfu, Greece during World War I. In order to avoid a capitulation of their country to the Austro-Hungary Empire, the Serbian Government and army (including the civilian population) decide to leave their own country and cross Albania during the dead of winter to reach the Allies at the Adriatic Sea. This was a unique case in world history that an entire nation immigrated to save their lives.
Santa Maria della Salute (Dir. Zdravko Sotra, 2016)
A story about the love between beloved Serbian poet Laza Kostic and his friend’s daughter, Lenka Dundjerski. The affair inspired one of the most beautiful love poems of Serbian and European poetry, Santa Maria della Salute. The biopic went on to become one of the most popular movies in Serbia in 2016 and 2017.
All screenings will take place in Room 232 of the Cathedral of Learning. All movies will be shown with English subtitles. Pizza and light refreshments will be provided between the first two films. Admission is free and open to the public.
From March 22-April 8, the Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival (CMUIFF) will present documentaries, narrative films, and shorts from all over the world examining the festival’s 2018 theme Faces of (In)Equality. Inspired by a quote from author Kurt Vonnegut – “The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal” – the featured works are meant to explore “what it means to be equal or unequal in any of these words’ multiple senses and connotations.” The festival also includes director appearances, panel discussions, and more. See a film schedule and details below:
Life and Nothing More Opening Reception
The festival opens with the Pittsburgh premiere of Life and Nothing More (Spain/USA, 2017). The work by Antonio Méndez Esparza (Aquí y Allá) stands as a story about ordinary people, all played by nonprofessional actors. In it, a single mother with a haunted and unforgiving past struggles to make ends meet with her three children in Florida. The event will take place in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium and includes a reception and Q&A with Esparza. Tickets cost $15 general/$10 seniors & students
and are available online or at the door.
The Doctor From India (US, 2018)
Directed by Jeremy Frindel (One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das), The Doctor From India is the fascinating story of one man’s mission to bring the ancient healthcare system of wellness called Ayurveda from India to the West in the late 1970s. In this meditative, immersive portrait, with interviewees including Ayurvedic practitioner Deepak Chopra, Frindel documents the life and work of Dr. Vasant Lad who, fulfilling his destiny as foretold by his family guru became a holistic health pioneer, helping to bring Ayurveda, which was almost unknown when he first arrived in the west, to become one of the most prominent alternative health systems in the world today.
Spoor (Poland, 2017)
Based on Olga Tokarczuk‘s best-selling novel Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, this ecological thriller from director Agnieszka Holland follows a retired engineer and animal rights activist who lives alone in the Klodzko Valley on the Czech-Polish border. When the mysterious deaths of local hunters are blamed on animal attacks, she suspects something far more sinister.
For Ahkeem (US, 2017)
After a school fight lands 17-year old Daje Shelton in a court-supervised alternative high school, she’s determined to turn things around and make a better future for herself in her rough St. Louis neighborhood. But focusing on school is tough as she loses multiple friends to gun violence, falls in love for the first time, and becomes pregnant with a boy, Ahkeem, just as Ferguson erupts a few miles down the road. Through Daje’s intimate coming-of-age story, For Ahkeem illuminates challenges that many Black teenagers face in America today, and witnesses the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to survive.
Beauty & the Dogs (Tunisia/France, 2017)
When Mariam, a young Tunisian woman, is raped by police officers after leaving a party, she is propelled into a harrowing night in which she must fight for her rights even though justice lies on the side of her tormentors. Employing impressive cinematic techniques and anchored by a tour-de-force performance from newcomer Mariam Al Ferjani, Kaouther Ben Hania‘s film tells an urgent, unapologetic, and important story head-on.
Scarred Hearts (Romania, 2016)
During the summer of 1937, Emanuel, a young man in his early twenties, is committed to a sanatorium on the Black Sea coast for treatment of his bone tuberculosis. The treatment consists of painful spine punctures that confine him to a body cast on a stretcher-bed. Little by little, as Emanuel gets accustomed to the limitations of his new life, he discovers that inside the sanatorium there is still a life to be lived to the fullest.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (France, 2017)
In Paris in the early 1990s, a group of activists goes to battle for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. The organization is ACT UP, and its members, many of them gay and HIV-positive, embrace their mission with a literal life-or-death urgency. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, the newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s radical firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough.
The Departure (US, 2017)
Ittetsu Nemoto, a former punk-turned-Buddhist-priest in Japan, has made a career out of helping suicidal people find reasons to live. But this work has come increasingly at the cost of his own family and health, as he refuses to draw lines between his patients and himself. The Departure captures Nemoto at a crossroads when his growing self-destructive tendencies lead him to confront the same question his patients ask him: what makes life worth living?
Short Film Competition
The 2018 Short Film Competition will take place at the Melwood Screening Room.
Clash (Eshtebak) (Egypt, 2016)
Set entirely in an 8m police truck, a number of detainees from different political and social backgrounds are brought together by fate, during the turmoil that followed the ousting of former president Morsi from power.
Risk (US, 2016)
Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) returns with her most personal and intimate film to date. Filmed over six years, Risk is a complex and volatile character study that collides with a high stakes election year and it’s controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story with unprecedented access, Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. In a new world order where a single keystroke can alter history, Risk is a portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice.
3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Mali Blues (German, 2016)
For centuries, traditional music has unified Mali’s society. Yet the music of Mali is in jeopardy. Radical Islamists introduced sharia law, prohibited dance and secular music and destroyed instruments. Mali Blues tells the story of four musicians who refuse to accept hatred, suspicion, violence and a radical interpretation of Islam in their country.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (US, 2017)
What do the most ravishingly beautiful actress of the 1930s and 40s and the inventor whose concepts were the basis of cellphone and Bluetooth technology have in common? They are both Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon whose ravishing visage was the inspiration for Snow White and Cat Woman and a technological trailblazer who perfected a secure radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes during WWII. Weaving interviews and clips with never-before-heard audio tapes of Hedy speaking on the record about her incredible life—from her beginnings as an Austrian Jewish emigre to her scandalous nude scene in the 1933 film Ecstasy to her glittering Hollywood life to her ground-breaking, but completely uncredited inventions to her later years when she became a recluse, impoverished and almost forgotten.
Pendular (Brazil/Argentina/France, 2017)
The debut feature from Julia Murat follows an unnamed young couple, a sculptor and a dancer. They have just moved into a massive loft, with a ceremonial ribbon of tape laid down the center to mark where the sculptures will be displayed and the dances performed. Gradually the young artists’ works bleed together and inspire one another, moving the rhythm of the loft back and forth like a body rocking in a chair. With intense sexual imagery and unforgettable original art pieces, the film is an incredible collaboration that melds sculpture, dance, and film in perfect balance.
Human Flow Closing Night Reception
Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change, and war in the greatest human displacement since WWII. Human Flow (China/Germany/USA, 2017), an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact. Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey, from teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders.
All screenings take place in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium unless otherwise noted. General admission tickets to the opening night film and reception are $15, $10 for seniors and students. General admission tickets for all other screenings are $10, $5 for seniors and students. Full-access festival passes are available for $50, $25 for seniors and students. All tickets are available for purchase at the CMUIFF Faces of (In)Equality website.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the August Wilson Center continue to showcase African-American contributions to cinema with another edition of the Black Bottom Film Festival. From February 23-25, the event features a selection of full-length films, shorts, and documentaries that focus on “the recurring themes of spirituality, race, family conflict, honor, duty and working-class struggle, themes ever-present in August Wilson’s The Pittsburgh Cycle plays.” The event will also include intimate Q&As, a dance party, and workshops for writers and actors.
See event schedule and details below:
Pittsburgh Short Films
The Pittsburgh Short Films program will present two selections, the documentary Wendell Freeland: A Silent Soldier (dir. Billy Jackson) and the drama Tale of Four ( dir. Gabourey Sidibe).
Wendell Freeland: A Silent Soldier tells the story of the late Wendell Grimkie Freeland, a Pittsburgh African American leader, attorney, activist, and Tuskegee Airman who worked quietly, but effectively, on significant civil rights battles. As a young Army Air Corp officer during World War II, he risked court marshall and death for defying racist orders to respect segregated officers’ facilities on an Indiana U.S. Army base. He also engaged in successful Pittsburgh battles for civil rights in public accommodations, police conduct towards Black citizens, fair housing, economic opportunity, and other matters. The film includes interviews with various subjects, including Freeland himself, as well as archival photos and footage.
With Tale of Four, Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actress, Gabourey Sidibe makes her directorial debut in a multi-layered story that spans one day in the life of four different women who are connected through their quest for love, agency, and redemption. Inspired by Nina Simone’s song, “Four Women,” this film examines four separate stories reflective of multi-faceted African American women connected by the inner city building that they live in, ultimately converge on one fateful day through unheralded acts of bravery.
TruthSayers Speaker Series Presents: April Reign
This event will feature guest April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
Love Jones (dir. Theodore Witcher)
Say hello to Darious Lovehall and Nina Mosley, two confused lovebirds who discover that you can never underestimate the power of a love jones. Stars Larenz Tate, Nia Long, and Khalil Kain. The event includes a pre-screening Q&A with Kain.
90’S Themed After Party with DJ Selecta
Odds Against Tomorrow (dir. Robert Wise)
Harry Belafonte produced and stars in this 1959 crime drama about a man who hires two very different debt-burdened men for a bank robbery until suspicion and prejudice threaten to end their partnership.
Cinderella Man (dir. Ron Howard)
The work of production designer and 2018 Black Bottom Film Festival Cinematic Excellence Awardee, Wynn Thomas, will be on display when the festival screens the 2005 period drama, Cinderella Man. The Oscar-nominated film stars Russell Crowe as James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up professional prizefighter who came back to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World and a national hero in the 1930’s. A Q&A and awards ceremony for Thomas will take place at 3 p.m. before the screening.
Double Play (dir. Ernest Dickerson)
Based on the book by Frank Martinus Arion, Double Play is a vibrant, multi-textural drama set against the beauty and bittersweet complexity of Curacao, where poverty and wealth are two sides of the same coin. In a high stakes game of dominoes, players confront their lust, desperation, rage, and remorse with deadly consequences. Directed by Ernest Dickerson, this film stars Lennie James and Louis Gossett, Jr. The movie’s producer, Lisa Cortes, will attend the Black Bottom Film Festival.
Pittsburgh Short Films
The Pittsburgh Short Films program will present two selections, Night Shift (dir. Marshall Tyler) and Inamorata ( dir. A-lan Holt). In Night Shift, a night in the life of a bathroom attendant at a Los Angeles nightclub goes haywire. In Inamorata, a clairvoyant woman finds something unexpected during an intimate encounter with her fiancé’s lover.
Magnificent Life of Charlie (dir. Bobby Huntley)
After her sister Brandy’s untimely death, everyone is taken aback by Charlie’s unorthodox (and seemingly chipper) approach to her grieving process. Follow Charlie and her friends Kayla and Keturah as they go along for a wild, hilariously exhilarating and bittersweet ride – which will surely be the craziest day of Charlie’s life. A Q&A with director Bobby Huntley and star Ashley Evans will take place before the screening.
Last Life (dir. Michael Phillip Edwards)
Produced written and directed by Michael Phillip Edwards, Last Life is a tale about two African-American lovers who learn they’ve been together over the course of many lifetimes and that they must come to terms with the purpose of their repeated union. They are told by their doppelganger spirits that they only have days to live and achieve their goal (healing the divide between a former slave woman and slave man) after which they will die and never return. Edwards stars in the film as well, along with Tamika Lamison and Kobe Reverditto. A Q&A with Edwards and Lamison will take place before the screening.
Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different (dir. Phil Cox)
Betty Davis is known for her outsized life, fashion and music in 1970s America. She arrived on the scene to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion style, and outrageous funk. But her raunchy lyrics and explosive stage energy clashed with the race and gender stereotypes of her time, leading the NAACP and black middle class to object to her music and boycott her performances. She befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, wrote songs for the Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, and married Miles Davis, turning him from jazz to funk. Then she vanished. The documentary explores how she became a major influence on a diverse array of artists. A Q&A with director Phil Cox will take place before the screening.
Black Bottom Film Festival Closing Reception
All events take place at the August Wilson Center unless otherwise noted. Tickets cost $25 for a day pass $55 for a festival pass, and are available for purchase online, over the phone at (412) 456-6666 or in person at the Theater Square Box Office.
From February 16 – 28, the theater will rollout a host of Potter-themed events on-site and at various venues throughout Lawrenceville. The schedule includes a family-friendly Wizarding Weekend, where adults and children can take part in hands-on activities such as Herbology Classes at Reed&Co, a free Potions Lab in the Bierport taproom (AKA The Leaky Cauldron), and a specially curated, wizard-themed local vendor fair at Belvedere’s Ultra Dive. Grown-up Potterheads can enjoy such adult-oriented fun as live music from the Pittsburgh wizard rock band Muggle Snuggle and butterbeer tasting. There will also be sorting hat ceremonies, trivia nights, fortune telling, and more.
Of course, the theater will also show all eight of the Harry Potter films, with many screenings featuring extra fun twists such as drag queen storytime, a live owl appearance courtesy of Humane Animal Rescue, and Weasley Sweater Night, where guests who wear an ugly sweater and get $1 off concessions.
For the past 10 years, the 5Point Adventure Film Festival has showcased inspiring outdoor films, art, and performances at events in Colorado, North Carolina, and Washinton. Now, 5Point will inspire local audiences to pursue their own amazing experiences with the first-ever 5Point Film Festival Pittsburgh.
On February 3, 5Point Film Festival Pittsburgh will gather area outdoor enthusiasts for an evening of movies, recreation, refreshments, and more at the ASCEND: Pittsburgh indoor rock climbing gym. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with fun activities such as slacklining, crate-stacking, and wall climbing, food and beverages, gear, and raffles. Raffle drawings and film screenings begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets for 5Point Film Festival Pittsburgh cost $5 in advance at Eventbrite, $10 at the door. The event is a collaboration of ASCEND: Pittsburgh, the upcoming gear shop, 3 Rivers Outdoor Company, and Cultivate. Raffle proceeds will go to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Climbers Coalition and First Waves.
From January 25-February 1, the Hollywood Theater will give horror fans reasons to brave the cold when they present a selection of new and beloved films for its Janu-Scary event. The selections include a previously unreleased cut of Suspiria, a Norwegian horror comedy and a special double feature from Dread Central Presents. See film descriptions and schedule below:
Dread Central Presents: Zombiology & Turbo Kid
the Hollywood Theater joins with the horror blog and entertainment company Dread Central to present a double feature of Zombiology and Turbo Kid.
When a monster from a popular animated show appears and starts a zombie outbreak, it’s up to eccentric duo Lung and Chi-Yeung to stand up and fight in this action-packed horror selection from Hong Kong.
Turbo Kid (2015)
In a post-apocalyptic future, a young solitary scavenger obsessed with comic books must face his fears and become a reluctant hero when he meets a mysterious girl.
January 26-February 1
Mom and Dad (2017)
Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star in this pitch-black horror -comedy about a worldwide mass hysteria where, for 24 brutal hours, parents turn violently against their own children.
January 26 & 30
Trench 11 (2017)
As World War One reaches its bloody climax, a team of Canadian, British and American troops investigate a top-secret underground German base, only to find a highly contagious biological weapon that turns its victims into mindless killers.
The Gate (1987)
A young Stephen Dorff stars in this cult horror classic about a suburban kid who accidentally opens a demonic portal in his backyard. Screens on 35mm.
The Hollywood Theater will screen a newly discovered, uncut 35mm Italian print of Suspiria, courtesy of the Chicago Cinema Society. Widely hailed as the most shocking and hallucinatory horror movie in history, director Dario Argento‘s masterpiece stars Jessica Harper as a young American ballet student who arrives at a prestigious European dance academy and is confronted by a series of bizarre and horrific deaths.
January 28 & 31
The Midnight Man (2016)
Alex is a typical teenage girl who lives with her sick grandmother, Anna (Lin Shaye). While searching through the attic, Alex finds directions to a game, which played properly, will awaken “The Midnight Man,” an evil being who will make your worst nightmare come true. At first, Alex and her friends think the game is harmless fun. It is—until The Midnight Man comes to play for real. When Dr. Goodberry (horror legend Robert Englund) comes to the house to check on Anna, he can sense The Midnight Man’s presence, and warns the kids that when The Midnight Man comes to play, he plays to win.
January 29 & February 1
Vidar the Vampire (2017)
Vidar Haarr is a 33-year-old, sexually frustrated bachelor farmer who leads a Christian, monotonous, and strenuous working life on his mother’s farmstead in the Western outskirts of Norway. In a desperate attempt to break free from routine, Vidar prays to a higher power to grant him a life without boundaries. Unfortunately, his prayers are heard, and Vidar wakes up one evening as the Prince of Darkness in sin city, Stavanger.
Tickets for individual films are available for purchase on the Hollywood Theater website or at the door. Guests can also purchase a Janu-Scary festival pass to see five films for $30 (Dread Central Presents: Zombiology & Turbo Kid and Suspiria are not included with the pass).
From January 19-25, the Hollywood Theater will present the 19th annual Animation Show of Shows, a program that brings new and innovative short films to audiences at animation studios, schools and, since 2015, theaters around the world. Over the years, 36 of the films showcased went on to receive Academy Award nominations, with 10 films winning the Oscar.
The current touring program includes 16 animated shorts from around the world that have a “special resonance, presenting compelling ideas about our place in society and how we fit into the world.”
“Because animation is such a natural medium for dealing with abstract ideas and existential concerns, the Animation Show of Shows has always included a number of thoughtful and engaging films,” states founder and curator Ron Diamond in a press release. “However, more than in previous years, I believe that this year’s program really offers contemporary animation that expresses deeply felt issues in our own country and around the world.”
Included is Niki Lindroth von Bahr‘s Grand Prix-winning The Burden, a film that explores the tribulations, hopes, and dreams of a group of night-shift employees, and David OReilly’s Everything, a procedural, AI-driven simulation inspired by the late philosopher Alan Watts. The show also features selections from Pixar and Disney veterans, a 50-year-old restored short, and other treats from filmmakers working in hand-drawn, stop motion, and 3D animation.
See a list of films below, along with synopses and images courtesy of Animation Show of Shows:
Can You Do It (Quentin Baillieux, France): Joyfully mixing incongruous elements from the highbrow world of horse racing and the “mean” urban landscape, this beautifully designed music video explodes preconceptions of race and class as cultures gracefully collide on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles. The infectious track by L.A. artist Charles X, whose music combines strains of hip-hop, soul, and jazz, is perfectly realized in the stylized blend of abstraction and representation, languidness and kineticism, in this evocative nocturnal fantasy.
Tiny Big (Lia Bertels, Belgium): A series of seemingly unrelated vignettes expressed through simple black-and-white line drawings, punctuated with occasional surprising bursts of color. Underscored by a soundtrack featuring the sounds of nature – wind, waves, crickets – the film eschews narrative, challenging viewers to draw their own conclusions about the significance of ritualized actions in a world that’s both hauntingly familiar and decidedly strange.
Next Door (Pete Docter, U.S.): An over-imaginative young girl drives her middle-aged neighbor crazy with her noisy adventures until a shared enthusiasm brings them together. Directed by two-time Oscar-winner Pete Doctor when he was a student at Cal Arts, Next Door is a wonderful evocation of the power of imagination and the possibility of finding common ground.
The Alan Dimension (Jac Clinch, UK): Sometimes having special powers beyond those of most mortals doesn’t work out all that well (especially for your long-suffering wife), as this very funny tongue-in-cheek fable amply demonstrates. Blessed – or cursed – with the gift of precognition, the eponymous Alan discovers that being “the next step in cognitive evolution” can wreak havoc with your domestic life – and lead to some hard choices.
Beautiful Like Elsewhere (Elise Simard, Canada): As much about light, color, texture, and sound as it is about “story,” Beautiful Like Elsewhere evokes a mysterious dreamscape of shimmering tableaux that seem to exist just on the edge of consciousness. Populated by human and nonhuman organisms, classical images and pure form, this allusive world, which may be a vision of the afterlife, hints at a deeper level of awareness and meanings beyond words.
Hangman (Paul Julian and Les Goldman, U.S.): Originally produced in 1964 and restored by the Animation Show of Shows, Hangman is an adaptation of a poem by Maurice Ogden about a town that allows its citizens to be executed one by one. With its universal themes of persecution, injustice and personal responsibility, this powerful film speaks to all eras and nations and may be seen to have particular relevance in our own time.
The Battle of San Romano (Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland): Georges Schwizgebel’s “deconstruction” of a painting by Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) is a meditative and hypnotic exploration of the visual elements that comprise Uccello’s masterpiece, which itself is renowned for the skill with which the artist brings order to the chaos of armed conflict. Yet, with its deliberative pacing and haunting score, the film is more than simply a masterful exegesis of color, form, and space, evoking deeply felt emotions about the nature of conflict and the horrors of war.
Gokurosama (Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, and Romain Salvini, France): Channeling the spirit of Charlie Chaplin – or perhaps Jacques Tati – this very funny tale of a series of unfortunate events in a Japanese mall displays both an impressive attention to detail and great comic timing. Even if you’re not a fan of chiropractic, grown men dressed as fuzzy animals, automated conveyances, garish décor, and/or robotic cleaning devices, Gokurosama will show you how, when you put all of these together, it spells highly entertaining animated mayhem.
Dear Basketball (Glen Keane, U.S.): Directed and animated by Disney veteran Glen Keane and scored by legendary composer John Williams, this moving short film brilliantly brings to life a poem written by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant on the occasion of his imminent retirement from the sport he loves. Chronicling Kobe’s journey from a young boy shooting baskets with rolled-up socks to his arrival at the pinnacle of basketball celebrity, Dear Basketball pays tribute to the ideal of pursuing one’s dream, as well as having the wisdom to know when it’s time to move on to the next challenge.
Island (Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel, Germany): A host of fanciful flora, fauna, and geological formations go about their daily lives in this engaging and highly imaginative foray into the wilds of a strange and colorful world. Accompanied by hissing, wheezing, whistling and tweeting, the action takes on increasing urgency, ending in a surprising climax that’s as natural as it is unexpected
Unsatisfying (Parallel Studio, France): Unsatisfying is about those frustrating, annoying, disappointing little things of everyday life, those little “not such a big deal, but still…” moments that make you cringe. It was inspired by those “most satisfying” videos, which can be found all over the internet, that relate a series of enjoyable moments to contemplate. The slightly retro design and warm reassuring colors, which seem to come from the end of a nice summer day, contrast with the unpleasant situations and emphasize the frustration of the endings.
My Burden (Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden): If Ingmar Bergman had made stop-motion animations with singing, dancing animals, they might have looked a little like this. Set in a small commercial park, this melancholy and mordantly funny film (which could have been titled “Existential Angst – The Musical”) explores the tribulations, hopes, and dreams of the denizens of this downscale microcosm of Western society. At once bitingly satirical and genuinely moving, “The Burden” is a beautifully realized paean to despair.
Les Abeilles Domestiques (Alexanne Desrosiers, Canada): Usually it’s not a good sign when a film opens with death walking in the door; however, in this wry short, the appearance of the Grim Reaper (who exits again as quickly as he arrived) is just one of several intersecting stories that unfold within the hive-like confines of the film’s tranquil universe. Deftly playing with narrative structure – while challenging the viewer to keep up – Les Abeilles Domestiques is a masterful exercise in “deconstruction” that’s both extremely clever and highly entertaining.
Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon (Tomer Eshed, Germany): The common chameleon is equipped with double-sided vision, a remarkable camouflage ability, and a tongue that can stretch out twice the length of its body. Despite all of its advantages, it has yet to develop appropriate countermeasures against its biggest weakness. This cautionary tale reminds us yet again that sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, especially if our powers of discernment leave something to be desired.
Casino (Steven Woloshen, Canada): This jazzy, impressionistic depiction of the iconography and energy of a gambling casino (a favorite destination of director Steven Woloshen’s late father, to whom the work is dedicated) is all the more impressive for having been created in Woloshen’s signature style of drawing directly onto the film. With Oscar Peterson’s “Something Coming” as its upbeat soundtrack, the film is a breathlessly kinetic and visually dazzling representative of the possibilities of nontraditional animation techniques.
Everything (David OReilly, U.S): Based on the work of philosopher Alan Watts, who was instrumental in popularizing Eastern religion in the West, this brilliantly conceived and executed short explores the interconnectedness of the universe and the multiplicity of perspectives that underlie reality. Like Watts himself, the film is both playful and profound, and its unique iconography – from somersaulting bears to interstellar flora – allows it to convey weighty ideas with lightness and lucidity.
Tickets to the Animation Show of Shows are available for purchase on the Hollywood Theater website or at the door.