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Documentary Feature

American Grindhouse

Directed by: Elijah Drenner, USA, 80 minutes, Rating: MT

Spiritedly recounting the genealogy of American Exploitation Cinema, from early classics like Freaks and Reefer Madness to the days of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blaxploitation and beyond, the film is a subversive crash course on a lesser-known but equally influential side of American film history and features testimony from filmmakers including Joe Dante, John Landis and Larry Cohen.  Director to be in attendance for screenings

An African Election

Directed by: Jarreth Merz,
Ghana/Switzerland/USA
,
89 minutes, Rating: TN

Timely in light of recent political unrest elsewhere on the African continent, An African Election is a riveting boots-on-the-ground look at the 2008 democratic election held in the nation of Ghana.  With so much at stake, the suspense is palpable as an entire nation, regardless of political affiliation, electrifies in the run up to a pivotal election day.  Director to be in attendance for screenings

Armadillo

Directed by: Janus Metz Pedersen, Denmark, 100 minutes, Rating: MT

Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, this bone-jarring war documentary embeds itself with a group of Danish soldiers at Armadillo, a military base in southern Afghanistan.  In his six months on the front lines, director Pederson unflinchingly encapsulates the atmosphere of new millennia warfare and the psychological implications of a life under constant siege.

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

Directed by: Craig McCall, UK, 90 minutes, Rating: TN

Essentially a master’s thesis on the life and work of famed cinematographer Jack Cardiff, Cameraman demonstrates for audiences the stunning work Cardiff created for the screen. Cinematographer of such seminal films as The Red Shoes, African Queen and Last Days of Pompeii, Jack Cardiff’s work in the film industry began in 1918 and has left the world with an unforgettable film legacy.  Director to be in attendance for screenings

Circus Kids

Directed by: Alexandra Lipsitz,
USA/Israel
,
86 minutes, Rating: TN

What happens when a youth circus troupe has the opportunity to travel from St. Louis to Israel to collaborate with the Galilee Circus, a local troupe comprised of Jewish and Arabic children? Circus Kids is a powerful, interfaith film that follows the kids’ experiences and witnesses the understanding that grows between youths who have little in common but their love of the circus.

Genpin

Directed by: Naomi Kawase, Japan, 92 minutes, Rating: MT

A cavalcade of mothers negotiating their final months of pregnancy serve as the binding thread of this contemplative documentary that muses on the almost otherworldly bond between mother and child.  At a renowned Japanese clinic nicknamed the “House of Birth”, director Naomi Kawase subtly explores motherhood’s mysterious power as she trains her lens on the phenomenon of countless, seemingly effortless natural births.

Kinshasa Symphony

Directed by: Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer,
Germany/Democratic Republic of Congo
,
95 minutes, Rating: TN

Amid the clamor of downtown Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo and third largest city in Africa, exists the only all-black orchestra in the world.  This uplifting and vibrant film introduces us to its eclectic cast of players—most of whom work full-time jobs and perform on hand-built instruments to boot--as they struggle to stage an open-air performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  Conductor Armand Diangienda of the Kinshasa Symphony will be in attendance for screenings (4/9 & 4/10)

Miss Representation

Directed by: Jennifer Siebel Newsom, USA, 89 minutes, Rating: TN

Filled with interviews with journalists, scholars and politicians including Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem and Condoleeza Rice, this revealing documentary addresses the harsh reality of the representation of women in modern society. Miss Representation studies the norms forming the message that a woman’s value lies in her youth, beauty and sexuality.

Note: The 4/17 screening showtime is actually 12:45, not 12:30 as it appears in the schedule grid

Nénette

Directed by: Nicolas Philibert, France, 70 minutes, Rating: TN

Rapt observation of Nénette, a 40-year-old orangutan who’s resided at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris since 1972, has the uncanny knack for eliciting astonishing bits of philosophy and whimsy from her human visitors.  The film is the latest effort from Nicolas Philibert, whose 2002 film To Be and To Have is also featured in our Contemporary French Masters Spotlight.

Space Tourists

Directed by: Christian Frei, Switzerland, 98 minutes, Rating: TN

In Space Tourists, director Christian Frei examines an age-old dream of man: the desire to leave our planet as a “normal person” and travel into outer space.  For 20 million dollars, the American Anousheh Ansari was able to fulfil this childhood dream, and this remarkable documentary follows her journey into space and shows everyday life as it is on the International Space Station.

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