What’s Screening: March 31 – April 6

The Bay Area’s biggest film festival opens this week. And there are plenty of great films around that have nothing to do with SFIFF.


New films opening

A The Settlers, Roxie, opens Friday

I found this documentary extremely difficult to watch, but also desperately important to experience. It tells the history of the West Bank settlements, mostly through the words of determined, militant, racist, religious fanatics with a world view that’s at odds with basic human decency. It leaves you feeling that there’s no hope for a just peace–probably because there isn’t any hope. You won’t get this one out of your system easily.

Worth Catching

A Sonita, Roxie, Wednesday, 7:00

Sonita examines the dilemma of a teenage refugee from Afghanistan living in Iran (which is an enlightened society compared to country of her birth). She wants to be a rapper, and has the talent and determination to succeed. But her mother wants to sell her to a potential husband back home in Afghanistan; the money from the sale will buy Sonita’s older brother a bride. A moving, suspenseful true story about one amazing person and the millions in plights much like hers. This may be the best documentary I’ve seen since Hoop Dreams.

Promising events

1984, Sunday: Castro; Tuesday: Balboa, Elmwood, Lark, RoxieYerba Buena Center for the Arts

I’ve never seen this version of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, appropriately enough released in 1984. Orwell wrote the book as an attack on Stalin’s Soviet Union, but it works as a warning on all forms of totalitarianism. Many independent theaters throughout the USA will screening it Tuesday (the Castro for some reason is doing it Sunday), as a warning about the current drift of our country.

Citizen Kane with William R. Hearst III, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 6:30

I’m not going to tell you here why Citizen Kane is a great film; you probably already know. If you don’t, you can read my A+ appreciation. But this screening is special. Citizen Kane‘s story was loosely based on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who did everything in his power to suppress the film. Thursday evening, Hearst’s grandson, William R. Hearst III, will have a discussion with film historian David Thomson. Part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Val Lewton double bill: I Walked With a Zombie & Cat People (original, 1942 version), Stanford, Friday through Sunday

In the 1940s, Val Lewton produced a remarkable series of low-budget, psychological horror movies. This double bill starts a Lewton series that will run through the end of April, with most of the prints coming from the Library of Congress. I saw Cat People a long time ago and liked it very much (I also liked Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake). I haven’t seen I Walked With a Zombie.

Recommended revivals

B+ The Triplets of Belleville, New Mission, Monday, 10:15

A modern, low-budget, dialog-free animated film for adults (and teenagers; it’s rated PG-13). The story involves a French champion bicyclist who’s kidnapped by mobsters and brought to America to…Never mind, it’s just too weird to explain. But who cares? The jokes are funny, the visuals are clever and original, and the music swings (the triplets of the title are an aging vocal trio).

B Donnie Darko, Roxie, Friday through Wednesday

How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers must deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun. New restoration.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)