What’s Screening: August 6 – 12

Do you want to talk about Fight Club? If not, you can study monarchs (the butterfly kind). Speaking about education, you can peek into Oakland schools. Meanwhile, the BAMPFA will screen a movie for the first time in 17 months. And what about Afghanistan’s moribund film industry? All of that in Bay Area cinema this week.

But no festivals.

Theaters opening

This week, the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) will do its first screening since early 2020, with the documentary Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power. See below.

Special online events

B+ Thrillville Movie Club: Fight Club (1999), New Parkway, virtual, Saturday, 3:00

The movie: This is one strange and disturbing flick. Edward Norton wants to be Brad Pitt. Who wouldn’t? Pitt’s a free-spirited kind of guy and a real man. Besides, he’s shagging Helena Bonham Carter. On the other hand, he just might be a fascist. Or maybe…better not give away the strangest plot twist this side of Psycho and Bambi, even if it strains more credibility than a Fox News commentary. And Bonham Carter gets to say the most shocking and hilariously obscene line in Hollywood history.
The event: First, you should watch the film before Saturday afternoon. Then, at 3:00, join in the Zoom discussion.

New films opening

A Son of Monarchs (2020), BAMPFA, virtual

This story of a young man between two countries doesn’t really have much of a story, but since it has some fascinating characters, I have no problem about that. Mendel was born and raised in Michoacán, where he and his older brother were amazed by the monarch butterflies that migrated through their neighborhood. They also saw their parents’ accidental deaths. Now the adult Mendel lives in New York as a biologist, studying those same monarchs. Standing between two cultures, he doesn’t always know where he belongs. A visual and audio treat that brings you into different worlds while Mendel deals with both.

B Homeroom (2021), Grand Lake and AMC Kabuki 8, opens Thursday

Peter Nicks’ latest cinema verite documentary follows politically active students in an Oakland public high school (or maybe several schools; that’s not clear). For the most part, you watch the burning certainty of radical youth, but their causes are right. These young activists want police out of their school, and no more budget cuts. COVID comes in the last third, and it becomes an interesting look back at what was happening not that long ago.

New to the big screen

B Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power (2020), BAMPFA, outdoors, Thursday, 7:00

Outdoor event, and the first BAMPFA screening since COVID hit.
I’ve been voting for Barbara Lee for decades, and I intend to continue doing so. But it’s nice to learn more about my congresswoman and to discover her interesting history. She was born in Jim Crow Texas, had two bad marriages, one of which left her homeless with two young boys. She worked with the Black Panthers. When George W. Bush called for complete control going to war, she was the only Congress member to vote against it. And yet, she later worked with Bush on a humanitarian mission. It’s a conventional documentary, but it taught me a few things.

Another chance to see (virtually)

A- What We Left Unfinished (2019), BAMPFA

Afghanistan had a strong film industry when the Soviet Union controlled the country, but it was destroyed when fundamentalist Islam replaced fundamentalist Communism. Afghan American filmmaker Mariam Ghani helped preserve and digitize many films from that era – some of them never completed. Ghani’s entertaining documentary offers somewhat nostalgic, often funny, and occasionally tragic stories about the making and survival of these movies. Also, the film contains more bad acting than an MST3K marathon. You can read my fuller report.

Frequently-revived classics