Week three of SIFF 2015 is upon us and there are numerous screenings in my top picks for the week with the directors present. Included in my picks: several documentaries reflecting on film and media, two films with unique and intimate views into Los Angeles, and international tales that balance lighthearted fun with dark humor.
Friday, May 29: Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution @ AMC Pacific Place @ 9:30 PM
The Black Panther Movement was misrepresented the moment it began, but its media-savvy leaders managed to use this to their advantage during the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement of the 60s until violence from within and without tore the group apart. This documentary features interviews with original members, journalists and FBI agents, assembling a profound portrait of one of the most notorious and influential protest groups in American history. Special guest Ericka Huggins will be in attendance.
Director: Stanley Nelson
Principal Cast: Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Jamal Joseph
Running Time: 116 minutes
Saturday, May 30: The Lamb @ The Egyptian @ 4 PM
A beautiful and witty coming-of-age story set in an Anatolian village, The Lamb follows Mert, a boy who is due for his circumcision, and his family, who are struggling to find the funds to prepare for a proper ceremony. The harsh life they lead—and the rather grim ritual at hand—allows for plenty of black humor and strong characterization.
Director: Kutluğ Ataman
Principal Cast: Nesrin Cavadzade, Cahit Gök, Mert Taştan, Sıla Lara Cantürk, Nursel Köse
Country: Turkey, Germany
Running Time: 85 minutes
Sunday, May 31: City of Gold @ Harvard Exit @ 4:30 PM
A new take on culinary adventures. We are all familiar with Anthony Bourdain and his rogue style of foodie adventures abroad, but have we explored the rogue areas of our own cities? Pulitzer prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold takes the audience on a tour of Los Angeles’ overlooked culinary gems, shying from trendy restaurants and celebrity chefs and finding the best delicacies at Mom-and-Pop stops around the sprawling city.
Director: Laura Gabbert
Principal Cast: Jonathan Gold
Running Time: 88 minutes
Monday, June 1: Chuck Norris vs Communism @ SIFF Uptown @ 4:30 PM
I have heard that Chuck Norris can blow bubbles with beef jerky, but I didn’t know he could literally kick communism in the face. Well, not really! But in the ideological isolation of 1980s Romania, bootleg VHS tapes of Western action movies fomented powerful dissent against the totalitarian Communist regime. From the SIFF website:
Director Ilinca Calugareanu grew up attending these clandestine VHS nights, where friends would revel in stories of heroism and marvel at the lavish settings which featured such rarely seen symbols of freedom as fully stocked supermarkets and wild fashion trends. This nostalgic and thrilling documentary combines dramatic reenactments, interviews, and scenes from the best (and worst) of ’80s cinema to tell an inspiring tale of how movies really can change the world.
The director is scheduled to attend.
Director: Ilinca Calugareanu
Country: United Kingdom, Romania, Germany
Running Time: 82 minutes
Tuesday, June 2: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films @ SIFF Uptown @ 9:30 PM
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus said yes to the most ridiculous script ideas and what resulted was Death Wish, Cyborg 009, American Ninja, Over The Top and Top Kick—all those quintessential B-movies of the 80s, loaded with flying kicks, big hair and bad one-liners—which helped fund headier fare, including the Oscar-nominated Runaway Train and John Cassavetes’ Love Streams. The fast-paced rise and fall of their studio, Cannon Films, is documented in this frenetic documentary.
Director: Mark Hartley
Principal Cast: Franco Zeffirelli, Bo Derek, Dolph Lundgren, Molly Ringwald
Country: Australia, USA, Israel, United Kingdom
Running Time: 105 minutes
Wednesday, June 3: Love, Theft & Other Engagements @ AMC Pacific Place @ 7 PM
A striking dark comedy from Palestine, Love, Theft & Other Engagements follows a car thief who gets mixed up in a hostage exchange between Israeli and Palestinian officials. Conflicts in the Middle East may be a staple of the news cycle in the west, but this kind of narrative is not typically on our radar. It’s a refreshing jewel, beautifully shot in black and white. Directors Muayad Alayan and Rami Alayan scheduled to attend.
Director: Muayad Alayan
Principal Cast: Sami Metwasi, Maya Abu Alhayyat, Riyad Sliman, Ramzi Maqdisi, Kamel Elbasha
Premier Status: North American Premiere
Thursday, June 4: Tangerine @ The Egyptian @ 7 PM
Two transgender besties, Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra, raise hell over the course of the night to chase down Sin-Dee’s ex-boyfriend and pimp, who has a new girlfriend with, “like, vagina and everything,” all while Alexandra is courting people to attend her big cabaret debut. Gorgeous cinematography (filmed amazingly on an iPhone 5s) meets raunchy comedy and high emotions. Screenwriter Chris Bergoch is scheduled to attend this showing.
Director: Sean Baker
Principal Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanyan
Running Time: 89 minutes