Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Up? Docs at Belcourt's Dynamite 'Doctober'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 5:09 AM

If you accept Godard's adage about the cinema being truth 24 frames a second, The Belcourt stands to show roughly 58 million frames of truth over the next month. Every October, the Hillsboro Village arthouse turns over its first-run programming to its annual "Doctober" survey of nonfiction film. The slate of current documentaries has evolved into a month-long festival that includes reissues as well as new releases.

The 15-film series starts next Friday, Oct. 4, with the Robert Reich economic-divide doc Inequality for All. It concludes Oct. 30 with the restored version of Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme's epic Parisian essay film Le Joli Mai. In between are music docs, adventures, protest films, real-life thrillers and slices of history, whose subjects range from super sidemen of soul to a deadly standoff between Philadelphia police and urban radicals.

Having made its bank for the summer on the surprise smash 20 Feet From Stardom, the theater hopes lightning will strike twice with the Sundance/NaFF hit Muscle Shoals, which opens Oct. 11. It's joined in the lineup by the gripping K2 disaster-in-real-life account The Summit, the evangelical exposé God Loves Uganda, the restoration of Shirley Clarke's once-scandalous Portrait of Jason, and the self-explanatory The Trials of Muhammad Ali. Of special note are two films by early hip-hop chronicler Charlie Ahearn: his new film Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer and the 30th anniversary restoration of his cinematic time capsule Wild Style.

Below, the entire lineup with dates. Watch for announcements about panels and guest speakers in conjunction with certain films.

DOCTOBER Full Schedule

Opens Friday, Oct. 4
Dir. Jacob Kornbluth, USA, 2013, 85min, PG, DCP

In lectures, books, and years of commentary, former labor secretary and current UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich has argued passionately that widening income inequality poses one of the most severe threats to our economy and democracy. Filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth, inspired by Reich’s book Aftershock, tackles this massive topic by effectively adapting Reich himself into documentary form. Asking how we got here and what happens if we don’t act, Kornbluth and Reich dissect countless issues—among them wage stagnation, consolidated wealth, manufacturing, financial instruments, capital markets, globalization, and election politics—with an uncanny ability to render complex principles digestible. In this AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH for the economy, Reich presents a compelling, intellectually rigorous narrative bolstered by abundant research and graphics. In upholding rational inquiry over ideological prisms, he encourages us (as he does his students) not to share his opinion but to challenge our own assumptions. (Sundance Film Festival Program Guide)

Friday-Sunday, Oct. 4-6 and Thursday, Oct. 10
Dir. Bill Siegel, USA, 2013, NR, 94min, DCP

Befitting its extraordinary and complex subject, the film examines Ali’s life outside the ring, beginning with the announcement of his deeply held and controversial Islamic religious beliefs, and the decision to change his “white man’s name” of Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Yet, it is not a conventional sports documentary. The film explores his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, even after his status as a conscientious objector was denied, on the grounds of protesting racial injustice at home—while capturing his passion and anger in interviews and television appearances culled from a rich variety of rare archival sources. Ali’s choice of belief and conscience over fame and fortune resonates far beyond the boxing ring, striking issues of race, faith and identity that continue to confront us all today.

Sunday-Tuesday, Oct. 6-8
Dir. Mary Fishman, USA, 2012, NR, 88min, HD

BAND OF SISTERS tells the story of Catholic nuns and their work for social justice after Vatican II of the 1960s. For Catholics who wonder what became of the nuns they knew in habits and convents many years ago, for activists who may feel profoundly discouraged given the problems of today’s world, for women seeking equality in their church, and for people of all faiths yearning for an inclusive and contemplative spirituality, BAND OF SISTERS challenges us to ask what really matters in life. And as we seek what matters, how do we go about changing our lives and the world around us?

Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 8-9
Dir. Molly Bernstein, USA, 2013, NR, 88min, DCP

Ricky Jay is a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor (often a mischievous presence in the films of David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson)—and a performer who regularly provokes astonishment from even the most jaded audiences. DECEPTIVE PRACTICE traces Jay’s achievements and influences, from his apprenticeship at age four with his grandfather, to such now-forgotten legends as Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini and his primary mentors, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Featuring rare footage from his 1970s TV appearances (doing Three-Card Monte with Steve Martin on “The Dinah Shore Show”) and told in Jay’s inimitable voice, this is a remarkable journey inside the secretive world of magic and the small circle of eccentrics who are its perpetual devotees.

Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 9-10
Dir. Cullen Hoback, USA, 2013, NR, 79min, DCP

Every day, billion-dollar corporations are learning more about your interests, your friends and family, your finances, and your secrets... and are not only selling the information to the highest bidder but freely sharing it with the government. And you agreed to all of it. With fascinating examples and so-unbelievable-they’re-almost-funny facts, filmmaker Cullen Hoback exposes what governments and corporations are legally taking from you every day—making the future of both privacy and civil liberties uncertain. From whistle blowers and investigative journalists to zombie fan clubs and Egyptian dissidents, this disquieting exposé demonstrates how every one of us has incrementally opted-in to a real-time surveillance state, click by click —and what, if anything, can be done about it.

Opens Friday, Oct. 11
Dir. Freddy Camalier, USA, 2013, PG, 111min, DCP

In a tiny Alabama town with the curious name of Muscle Shoals, something miraculous sprang from the mud of the Tennessee River. A group of unassuming, yet incredibly talented, locals came together and spawned some of the greatest music of all time: “Mustang Sally,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Wild Horses,” and many more. During the most incendiary periods of racial hostility, white folks and black folks came together to create music that would last for generations and gave birth to the incomparable “Muscle Shoals sound.” At the heart of the story is Rick Hall; overcoming crushing hardship, he managed to entice talent like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett to come and record what became their hit albums, backed up by the funkiest white men ever—the homegrown house band, the Swampers. As the word spread about the electrifying musical chemistry in this unexpected place, the likes of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Staples Singers, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Simon and Garfunkel magnetically followed suit. Interviewing an incredible roster of musicians, director Greg Camalier unearths a rich history of this unheralded gold mine of American music. (Sundance Film Festival Program Guide)

Friday-Sunday, Oct. 11-13 and Wednesday, Oct. 16
Dir. Zachary Heinzerling, USA, 2013, R, 82min, DCP

Once a rising star in the ‘70’s New York art scene, 80-year-old “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara is prepping for his latest show, hoping to reinvigorate his career. His wife and de facto assistant, Noriko, seeks her own recognition through her “Cutie” illustrations, which depict their chaotic 40-year marriage. CUTIE AND THE BOXER captures two lives united by a dedication to art-making for a touching meditation on the eternal themes of love and sacrifice.

Sunday, Oct. 13 and Wednesday, Oct. 16
Dir. Charlie Ahearn, USA, 2013, NR, 74min, Digital

In the infancy of hip-hop, Brooklyn-born photographer Jamel Shabazz documented the pioneers of music and style who would launch an enduring worldwide phenomenon. Charlie Ahearn, the director of the seminal graffiti movie WILD STYLE (also playing Oct. 20, 22-23), pays tribute to both Shabazz and those who defined hip-hop before it had definition. More than just vintage shots of kids rocking Puma Suedes, Kangols, and pin-striped Jordaches in Times Square and Fort Greene Park, Shabazz’s photographs have hundreds of (oftentimes tragic) stories behind them, and the film gives voice to these images with dozens of interviews with Shabazz himself, graffiti pioneer and hip-hop historian Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, legendary rapper KRS-One, and more.

Friday-Thursday, Oct. 18-24
Dir. Nick Ryan, UK, 2013, R, 95min, DCP

K2, commonly known as Savage Mountain, is an extension of the northwestern Himalayan Mountain range and is located in the remote region between Pakistan and China. With an unprecedented fatality rate of one in four climbers, it has rightfully earned the title of the second most murderous mountain. But with any high risk sport comes the love of the challenge, and in August 2008, 22 climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit. Forty-eight hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished into thin air. Like a horror movie come to life, it was as if the mountain began stealing lives, one climber at a time. THE SUMMIT is a seamless pastiche of the climbers’ firsthand footage, after-the-fact interviews, and reenactments. It plays like an engaging narrative film as it focuses on the mystery behind one extraordinary man, Ger McDonnell, who was left behind in the death zone as his best friend searched in vain to find him, rescuing several others. As the legend surrounding McDonnell and the 10 others grows, fearless new climbers are drawn to test themselves against the deadliest mountain on earth.

Friday-Sunday, Oct. 18-20
Dir. Shirley Clarke, USA, 1967, NR, 105min, DCP

The third film in restoration heroes Milestone Films’ “Shirley Project” (the previous two, THE CONNECTION and ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA, screened at the Belcourt last year), Shirley Clarke’s 1967 film PORTRAIT OF JASON finds the filmmaker interviewing Jason Holliday aka Aaron Payne—house boy, would-be cabaret performer, and self proclaimed hustler giving one man’s gin-soaked, pill-popped view of what it was like to be colored and gay in 1960s America. Eschewing editorial, the director simply allows Jason to speak his mind. The film received significant backlash, including accusations of exploitation. Swedish director Ingmar Bergman put it most simply, declaring it to be “the most fascinating film I’ve ever seen.”

Saturday-Monday, Oct. 19-21
Dir. Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, USA, 2013, NR, 81min, DCP

THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING! is a comedy documentary which follows a band of Muslim-American comedians as they visit big cities, small towns (including Murfreesboro), rural villages, and everything in between—not only to perform but also to create ridiculous interventions in unsuspecting town squares, like the old classic “Ask a Muslim Booth” and “Name That Religion.” Throughout the film, comedy icons like Jon Stewart, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Lewis Black, Aasif Mandvi and media heavy weights like Rachel Maddow, Russell Simmons, Soledad O’Brien and Congressman Keith Ellison comment on the power of comedy and the political scope of bigotry. The film is truly about freedom of religion in America for people all faiths. And rest assured, you’ve never laughed this hard at a Muslim.

Sunday, Oct. 20 and Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 22-23
Dir. Charlie Ahearn, USA, 1983, R, 82min, 30th Anniversary Digital Restoration

While not strictly documentary per se, WILD STYLE is a document of the earliest days of hip-hop in the boroughs of New York. Everything in WILD STYLE is authentic—the story, style, characters, and most of the actors, are drawn from the community. It follows the exploits of maverick tagger Zoro (real life graffiti artist Lee Quinones), whose work attracts the attention of an East Village art fancier (Patti Astor) who commissions him to paint the stage for a giant Rappers’ Convention. It features a pantheon of old-school pioneers, including Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee, The Cold Crush Brothers and more.

Friday-Thursday, Oct. 25-31
Dir. Roger Ross Williams, USA, 2013, NR, 83min, DCP

A battle rages in East Africa, where crosses replace guns and shouts of prayer roar louder than missiles. American evangelical Christians have chosen Uganda, with Africa’s youngest and most vulnerable population, as their ground zero in a battle for the soul of a continent. American missionaries and religious leaders are working with African pastors in a radical campaign to eradicate sin through the most extreme measures. The stakes are nothing less than life and death. Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams exposes the missionary movement in Uganda as an outgrowth of Africa’s colonialist past and a 21st century crusade to recreate a continent of people in the image and likeness of America’s most extreme fundamentalists. Williams captures vérité footage so shocking that viewers may be squirming in their seats. Masterfully crafted and astonishingly provocative, GOD LOVES UGANDA may be the most terrifying film of the year. (Sundance Film Festival Program Guide)

Saturday-Monday, Oct. 26-28
Dir. Jason Osder, USA, 2013, NR, 95min, DCP

In this astonishingly gripping documentary, director Jason Osder has crafted that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied row house. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated—and resulted in the tragic deaths of 11 people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to “...let the fire burn.” Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.

Sunday, Oct. 27 and Wednesday, Oct. 30
Dirs. Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, France, 1963, NR, 145min, New Digital Restoration

The restoration of Chris Marker’s legendary portrait of Paris in May 1962 premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, exactly half a century after the original won the International Critics Prize there. Meticulously restored by the film’s cinematographer and co-director, Pierre Lhomme, according to Marker’s instructions—trimming the original by almost 20 minutes—and featuring a lovely English voiceover (Marker’s preference for anglophone audiences) by Marker’s comrade and friend Simone Signoret, LE JOLI MAI emerges as one of the director’s most poignant and important works.
Characteristically witty and generous, Marker’s epic “direct cinema” inquiry into the possibility of happiness during France’s first springtime of peace in many years (following the recently signed ceasefire that marked the end of the Algerian War) is structured in two parts. “A Prayer from the Eiffel Tower” orchestrates a heady polyphony of Parisians—a nervous clothing salesman who is happy only in his car or when his till is full, a besotted couple who know they are unique in their bliss—offering acerbic and sometimes hilarious observations on the state of the nation, and often dodging the obvious. “The Return of Fantômas” broadens the film’s scope to examine the social and political history of Paris, including recent street demonstrations, racial tensions, and—the future always contiguous with the past in Marker’s cinema—technological revolution.

Through Doctober, the Belcourt Theatre partners with the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and other local nonprofit arts organizations for Artober Nashville, an annual month‐long celebration of arts and culture in Nashville, designed to inform and inspire the community’s awareness of and participation in the array of activities in October.

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