Wednesday, November 5
Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, USA, 62 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 7:15 p.m.
Covering a lot of the same ground as 2001 ImageOut entry Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc's Adventures in Plastic, this Kathy Bates-narrated documentary focuses much less on the Jewish lesbian folksinger angle as it shows the liberating effect Tupperware had on women in the 1950s. The burpable bins not only kept their lettuce from wilting, it also provided these women with easy, esteem-building jobs that finally allowed them to unchain themselves from the kitchen and temporarily wander into the living room for that strange suburban rite of passage known as The Tupperware Party.
Dig the cheesy period sales training films and the bizarre, Wonka Land-esque Florida headquarters of the company, as well as the part where the already emasculated husbands of successful saleswomen were forced to quit their jobs and dress in drag.
Anything But Love
Robert Cary, USA, 99 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 7:30 p.m.
Isabel Rose, who also co-wrote the film with Cary, stars as a struggling cabaret singer with a meddling mother and crippling lack of a love life. We see Billie's topsy-turvy life bounce around from terrifying lows (she gets canned from her airport lounge gig) to dizzying highs (she hooks former high school BMOC-turned-successful lawyer) to creamy middles (Andrew McCarthy gives her piano lessons). "Creamy middles" is a pretty good way to describe the painfully white, milquetoast McCarthy, whose character first despises then grows to love our Billie.
But who will she choose: The smarmy attorney with broad shoulders or the '80s heartthrob with the creepy stare? And, oh my God, was that Eartha Kitt? Love is, just as in real life, filled with occasionally witty dialogue and a been-there/done-that vibe. Rose will attend the screening and do some crooning at the opening-night party at Montage Grille afterwards.
Yamina Benguiggui, France, 97 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 9:15 p.m.
After the visiting Germans broke all of France's toys in World War II, the country turned to Algeria to create a labor force to aid their rebuilding efforts. But the North African men weren't allowed to bring their wives with them. That changed in 1974, which is precisely when this film is set. Zouina is sad to leave her mother back home but anxiously awaits a reunion with the husband she hasn't seen in years. The fun quickly screeches to a halt, though, as Zouina and her three kids have all sorts of trouble with their new neighbor (think a French Gladys Kravitz... from hell!) as they remain, essentially, prisoners in their own home. Zouina's husband beats her at the drop of the hat, too, and she plans an escape at the perfect time: When her husband and wicked mother-in-law are off shopping for sheep.
Thursday, November 6
Li Yang, China, 91 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 6:50 p.m.
Li's multiple award winner (Silver Bear in Berlin, Best Narrative Feature in TriBeCa) was banned in China for being too judgmental about that country's Powers That Be. They've vowed that Li will never be allowed to make another picture in China, so you'd better catch this one, which is about illegal coalmines.
Sergei Bodrov, Jr., Russia, 85 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 7 p.m.
While Li might be able to make another film away from his native China, Sisters is guaranteed to be the sole directorial effort from Bodrov. He and much of his crew lost their lives last year in an avalanche while working on his second film. But that shouldn't keep you from appreciating this movie, which is about two half-sisters whose mobster pop's actions turn the girls into potential kidnapping victims.
Julie Lopes-Curval, France, 88 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 7 p.m.
Cannes Golden Camera winner (Best First Feature) about the locals in a summer resort town.
Roberta Torre, Italy, 87 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 7:15 p.m.
Based on a true story from 1984 Sicily about the wife of a drug kingpin who sells his wares through unusual means --- a shoe store where you get baggies of white powder jammed into the tips of your penny loafers. And it ain't Gold Bond, either. Angela (Italian stage star Donatella Finocchiaro) runs the bogus storefront with great success, at least until young, handsome hood Masino shows up and starts stocking her shelves in the back room, if you get my drift.
The Feds have the store bugged, which means they've heard Angela and Masino and their steamy blue light specials. Now Angela has to choose between coming clean with husband Saro about her affair, or working with the Feds to topple Saro's drug empire. Very pretty and dark, with sensual sex scenes, great fades-to-black, and a Brian Eno-David Byrne song. Finocchiaro was nominated for Italy's version of the Oscar for her performance.
This is Not a Love Song
Bille Eltringham, UK, 88 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 6:30 p.m.
There are plenty of tales about men stranded on strange farms with explicit instructions not to touch the farmer's always curvy daughter, but this isn't one of them. Instead, this Of Mice and Men-ish story (inspired by Public Image, Ltd., natch) is about two colorful Scotsmen (Michael Colgan and Kenneth Glenaan) who run out of gas, hike to a farm, accidentally kill the farmer's daughter, and then find themselves on the run from a frightening tracker (Harry Potter's David Bradley). It's a little like Deliverance mixed with Beckett and a smidgen of Gus Van Sant's Gerry, which, ironically, is the name of the farmer's dead daughter. Written by The Full Monty's Simon Beaufoy.
Los Zafiros: Music From the Edge of Time
Lorenzo DeStefano, USA, 85 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 9 p.m.
Think of this documentary as a follow-up to the wildly successful Buena Vista Social Club. But instead of focusing on a bunch of Cuba's popular musicians, this one is about one band --- the Zafiros, who are constantly referred to as the Caribbean's version of the Beatles. Lots of archival footage, along with interviews with the group's two surviving members, and spectacular music that would make even the dead tap their toes.
Sarah George, USA, 80 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 9:15 p.m.
"It's against the law, but it's not that against the law," explains one of the subjects of George's stunningly colorful documentary about professional hobos, to whom "catching out" means illegally riding boxcars to the destination of their choice. The Bill O'Reilly in me wanted every one of these scofflaws rounded up and thrown in the clink, or at least unmercifully beaten by the trainyard bulls, but I still really enjoyed watching. And that's got to be the sign of a good film, right?
Some of these tramps are surprisingly intelligent (one is even an attorney), but the highlights of the doc involve a couch full of lazy potheads attempting to explain the righteousness of train hopping. They can't finish a thought, let alone hold down full-time employment, so their lifestyle choices kind of make sense. Super score from Pete Droge.
Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl, Austria, 90 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 10:45 p.m.
Three stories revolving around an Austrian gas station.
Friday, November 7
My Architect: A Son's Journey
Nathaniel Kahn, USA, 116 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 6:50 p.m.
Kahn is the illegitimate son of renowned architect Louis Kahn, whose elegant concrete monstrosities include the Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute. His documentary is a mission to learn more about the father he never knew... 25 years after his mysterious death in a Penn Station men's room.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Sijie Dai, China, 116 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 7 p.m.
Luo and Ma are sent off to a mountain camp that promises to turn the potentially dangerous intellectuals into proper Communists. Their once-fanciful lives are now filled with long, hard days of carrying buckets of excrement up mountains, making even Sisyphus pity them. The cute Chinese seamstress sparks the interest of both Luo and Ma, who decide to share their secret stash of illegal books with her. Passion and escapism fantasies are born, mostly revolving around Honoré de Balzac's Old Goriot. Nicely filmed and nominated for a Golden Globe earlier this year.
Siddiq Barmak, Afghanistan, 83 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 7 p.m.
If you're into watching films that will make you want to go home and kill yourself (and who isn't, really?), you won't want to miss this tragic picture, the first to be made in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The story, very similar to the Afghans-working-in-Iran film Baran, is about a young girl who is forced to chop off her hair, ditch her burqa, and pretend she's a boy in order to earn money to feed her family (her male relatives are all dead from the various wars).
Osama made my palms sweaty on more than one occasion, effectively playing on our paranoia as we imagine the horrors that await the girl if she's ever busted. The girl, who takes on the name Osama, is adorable and was found begging on the street when writer-director Barmak cast his film. A leading contender for Oscar's Best Foreign Film race, as well as a triple winner at Cannes.
Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator
Helen Stickler, USA, 82 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 9:15 p.m.
A documentary that plays like a strange cross between Dogtown and Z-Boys and the John Holmes pic Wonderland. Mark "Gator" Rogawski was, in the '80s, one of the top skateboarders in the world. Then there's that pesky business about a woman he murdered and buried in the desert.
Valérie Guignabodet, France, 92 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 9:30 p.m.
One disillusioned husband and one inflatable love doll. A French version of Mannequin?
Mark of Caïn
Alix Lambert, Russia, 73 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 9:45 p.m.
Now that Oz is off the air, its fans can take temporary solace in this documentary about prison life in Russia. It starts off very promisingly, showing the incredibly detailed (and completely illegal) tattoos which immediately identify the social standing of the inmate, as well as distinguishing the particular crimes they've committed. Imagine, tattoos that actually mean something.
Then Caïn takes a weird turn, transforming itself into a lame, weepy tale about the mistreated prisoners, who whine about overcrowding, health care, and the difficulty their families face when trying to smuggle stuff to them. Hello? It's a Russian jail, not Club Med.
Saturday, November 8
Mirra Bank, USA, 84 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 11 a.m.
Remember Where the Wild Things Are? That children's book with the island of monsters and the pajama-clad kid who looks like Tobey Maguire? Well, the guy who wrote and illustrated it was Maurice Sendak, and in this documentary he teams up with Connecticut's Pilobolus Dance Theater to stage his A Selection, a meditation on the Holocaust. Yes, folks, it's just that exciting.
Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Iran, 75 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 11 a.m.
A documentary about Iran's recent presidential election, with an emphasis on the troubles Iranian women face.
The Same River Twice
Robb Moss, USA, 78 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 11 a.m.
Naked hippies performing extreme outdoor sports. 'Nuff said.
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer
Aparna Sen, India, 120 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 1 p.m.
A mother and child on the bus to Calcutta are stopped at a Muslim-hunting Hindu mob-formed roadblock. The woman pretends to be the wife of a Muslim photographer on board so he won't be dragged off and killed.
She Got Game: Behind the Scenes of the Women's Tennis Tour
Abbey Jack Neidik and Bobbi Jo Krals, Canada, 78 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 1:30 p.m.
You've probably all heard of Martina Hingis and Venus Williams, but raise your hand if you know Sonya Jeyaseelan. Yeah, that's what I thought. Jeyaseelan is the main subject of this interesting documentary that, as the title suggests, shows us the ugly underbelly of the highest-paying women's sport in the world.
Sure, the game has come a long way since women were forced to play in whalebone corsets (which is about as far as you can get from Anna Kournikova's outfits in her latest Maxim spread), but can it possibly be a good thing when Jeyaseelan is considered over-the-hill at age 25? Or that she doesn't have a high-school diploma on which to fall back when her tennis career ends? Join us for the agony of lost childhood and the horror of corporate sponsorship, won't you?
This is a Game, Ladies
Peter Schnall, USA, 114 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 3:15 p.m.
Schnall follows the trials and tribulations of the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
Sisters in Cinema
Yvonne Welbon, USA, 62 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 3:15 p.m.
Women have a difficult enough time getting their foot into Hollywood's door, but women of color have an even tougher time of it. This documentary shows the history of black female filmmakers, beginning in --- believe it or not --- 1922.
Liz Garbus, USA, 82 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 7:15 p.m.
Garbus, who brought The Execution of Wanda Jean to last year's festival, returns in 2003 with her latest, a SXSW Audience Award winner that again focuses on the incarcerated (her doc The Farm: Angola, USA was nominated for an Oscar in 1999). This time, Garbus points her camera at two young girls serving time in a Maryland juvenile detention center for committing violent crimes on the streets of Baltimore.
Shanae stabbed a friend to death when she was 12. The attention-starved Megan is in for various assault charges stemming from her non-stop escapes from foster care. Neither seems particularly upset about what they've done, and why should they? The Waxter Children's Center seems like a summer camp, with inmates enjoying soda and snacks in virtually every scene. Things slowly start to change, though, as Garbus follows the two girls for a period of three years, eventually showing what happens once they're released from Waxter.
The Company (with Closing Night Awards Presentation)
Robert Altman, USA, 112 minutes
Dryden Theatre, 8 p.m.
Altman's latest, which is about as big a departure as a filmmaker may have ever made, is very short on plot but very long on the wildly physical world of ballet dancing. Even though I loved Billy Elliot, the subject matter isn't my bag. But the film still kept my interest, which caught me off guard because I was planning on hating it and sneaking a quick nap.
Neve Campbell, who was part of the National Ballet of Canada (you may have unknowingly seen her in the Toronto production of Phantom of the Opera back before Party of Five), co-wrote and stars as a member of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Shot in documentary style, the film focuses on her Ry and a handful of other dancers as they suffer through incredibly rigorous practices, frightening injuries, and various stage mothers (and fathers). Campbell does all of her own dancing and looks fantastic doing it (if not a bit unhealthily thin). Co-starring James Franco and a hysterical Malcolm McDowell as the company's ass-kissing figurehead.
Gabrielle Baur, USA, 104 minutes
Little Theatre 1, 10:30 p.m.
If you've been searching high and low for a film that can train you in the fine art of crafting fake penises, look no further than this documentary about drag kings. For our squarer readers, that means women who dress as men. Like their male-to-female counterparts, drag kings like to don outrageous outfits, get on stage, and put on huge, flamboyant lip-synching shows to extremely appreciative crowds.
It's not all about the performances, though, as one subject explains the instant empowerment she feels when the drag getup goes on. A documentary that concentrated more on that than characters like Mo B. Dick, Queen Bee Luscious, and Del la Grace Volcano might have been much more interesting and much less airy.
Sunday, November 9
True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia
Jennifer Baichwal, Canada, 70 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 10:30 a.m.
Is it art or is it arse? That's the age-old question recently posed by Mr. Billy Childish, and it could be applied to Shelby Lee Adams' photography of impoverished areas of Eastern Kentucky. Beauty certainly lies in the eye of the beholder (how else to explain the rise of Clay Aiken?), but isn't it exploitative to portray the indigent like they're extras from Gummo? Is it unfair to stage them in situations that make them seem even more hillbillyish when you snap pictures of them? Would it make a difference if Adams was born in Appalachia? Does that make his work less stereotypical? See it and decide for yourself.
Ruth Oxenberg, USA, 86 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 11 a.m.
Pickin' and grinnin' is the only thing on the menu in this documentary that follows several artists through performances at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, New York, and Louisville's annual World of Bluegrass gathering. If you don't like bluegrass, you've got no business in this neck of the woods. But if the genre is even remotely appealing to you, this doc should not be missed under any circumstances.
Featured artists --- some of whom play so fast, they defy being captured by regular 24 frames-per-second filming --- include the Del McCoury Band, Nickel Creek (which I guarantee is way better than Nickelback), Jerry Douglas, and Rhonda Vincent.
Guardian of the Frontier
Maya Weiss, Slovenia, 100 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 1:30 p.m.
Weiss's debut sounds like a foreign take on Deliverance, with three female students taking a trip down a river in a canoe.
Pearl Gluck, USA, 77 minutes
Little Theatre 2-5, 4:15 p.m.
Ordinarily, I would have no interest in a book about art history, religion, or mathematics. But combine them, like Dan Brown did with The DaVinci Code, and the three normally uninteresting topics suddenly became compelling. Same thing happened with Gluck's documentary, which is about a single woman, hardcore Hasidic Judaism, and a family's long-lost couch.
Boro Park native Gluck won a Fulbright to travel to Hungary --- her family's ancestral birthplace --- and collect stories from the Old World. Along the way, she decides to track down the now-legendary couch (called a "divan") which was allegedly used by several influential Kossony rebbe many generations ago. The doc starts out a little jumpy, but once you get used to the flow, you'll be treated to one curious hunt for an even more curious Holy Grail.