january 2019, arsenal cinema

Following the sun – Mikhail Kalik retrospective

Between 1961 and 1968, Soviet-Jewish filmmaker Mikhail Kalik (born in 1927) directed three films whose originality, humanity and highly personal filmic language render them the finest examples of the cinema of the Soviet Thaw. Like Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Parajanov and Marlen Khutsiev, he was considered one of the great talents of the early 1960s. The son of a famous theater actor, he was one of the first Jewish students to be accepted by the Moscow Film School (VGIK). In 1951, he fell victim to the “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign and was sent to the gulag. Only after Stalin’s death was he able to continue his studies, shooting his first films in Soviet Moldova. One of his closest collaborators was the composer Mikael Tariverdiev who remains known for his innovative and experimental, yet accessible, film scores. In 1971, a new wave of anti-Semitism prompted Kalik to emigrate to Israel, where he became known by the name Moshe (Moses in Hebrew). In the USSR, people were forbidden to write about him and his name was removed from the list of VGIK graduates. Between 1971 and his death in 2017, he made only three more films. However, he did live to see himself and his films rehabilitated in Russia. Our program, which brings together prints from Gosfilmofond and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, presents the works of a great director whose rediscovery is long overdue.

january 2019, arsenal cinema

Unknown Pleasures #10
 – American Independent Film Fest

Unknown Pleasures presents US independent films that are rarely shown in Germany. The films selected for the festival’s 10th anniversary edition are drawn to the periphery, to rural America, away from the urban centers. The sociopolitical debates of recent years are clearly manifest. The films present a country where political and economic differences are increasing and which – more and more – is characterized by its contradictions. Frederick Wiseman’s MONROVIA, INDIANA is about one of these contradictions. It is the calm portrait of a small town in the Midwest, where agriculture dictates everyday life. Wiseman listens carefully as the inhabitants speak about how the town has grown, about fire hydrants or god. The film impresses on the audience how important rural America is for the country’s overall perception of itself and how easily this is forgotten.

The fact that people do not always choose to give up on life in the city is illustrated by several of the films, for example Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED and Desiree Akhavan’s THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. While Schrader portrays the priest of a tiny congregation who has doubts and struggles with the world from which he feels increasingly estranged, Akhavan depicts the life of a teenager in a remote Christian therapy center where she is supposed to be “cured” of homosexuality.

A particular highlight of the program is the German premiere of A BREAD FACTORY by Patrick Wang who will be present. In two films inspired by the struggle to set up an alternative cultural center, he follows various characters and asks the question of what makes a community. A BREAD FACTORY is a singular work, a sprawling comedy, which is thrilling because of its ambition, its humanity and its sense for everyday moments and how they influence us.

There are many films about the border zone between Mexico and the US but one of the finest is John Sayles’ LONE STAR from 1996. Like Wang, Sayles films communities and never so impressively as in this film in which his characters travel through the complex history of the region and uncover closely-guarded family secrets.

By contrast, Penny Lane’s THE PAIN OF OTHERS seems to be located in “no place”. Through YouTube videos, in which women talk about a rare disease, the filmmaker shows us people who feel abandoned by the medical establishment (and society) and have found refuge in the matte light of of the computer screen. THE PAIN OF OTHERS is a haunting film and the most radical of the program.

january 2019, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 – Staging spaces

Between landmarks and moments of confusion – the Magical History Tour invites the audience on a journey through spaces that are significant, staged, narrative and social. Each film takes place in a defined space, whose construction is of great importance for the film's impact on the viewer. The variously arranged spaces not only allow for the marking of different styles (naturalism or artificiality) but also evoke moods and feelings (of vastness or confinement) in a cinematic manner. We are showing films in which space plays a particular role, for either the plot or the protagonists' expression of feelings.

january 2019, arsenal cinema

Catherine Binet Homage

The film universe of Catherine Binet (1944-2006) is full of magical locations, puzzling and enigmatic figures and seems like a surreal dollhouse full of neglected or concealed memories of childhood and dreams. Binet, who was only able to make a handful of films, had been almost forgotten in France until 2013 when the actress and writer Marina Vlady brought her back with the book “C’était Catherine Binet”.

Marina Vlady will be at Arsenal for both days and will speak about the life and work of her close friend Catherine Binet. On January 12, Marina Vlady will read selected chapters from her book in French language before the screening. The German translation will be read by the actress Franziska Junge.