High Museum of Art: Films

Dali: A Passion For Film by Linda Dubler

Gabe Wardell, former director of the Altanta Film Festival, has begun writing a new blog on film and television for Creative Loafing.  Check out his thoughtful post on our Dali-related film programs that begin this week on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. in the Richwhen exhibition curator Elliott King will present Dali The Filmmaker.  We’ll be showing An Andalusian Dog, the dream sequence, from Spellbound,  and the the Disney collaboration, Destino.  Follow this link to Gabe’s blog, Screen Grab.

The dream sequence in Spellbound

Looking Ahead to the Latin American Film Festival by Linda Dubler

Those Who Remain, screening on October 27 at 8 p.m. in the Rich Theatre as part of the upcoming 25th Latin American Film Festival.

by Julie Chautin

 The High’s Latin American Film Festival is twenty-five years old and many of us who love Latin American films have been coming for most, if not all of those years.  Every fall we look forward to greeting old friends with lots of abrazos (hugs) and catching up with news, just like at a family reunion.

 And family reunions, or the lack of them, gives poignancy to Those Who Remain, the beautifully filmed documentary about family members who stay in Mexico when their loved ones go north to work in the United States.

 Directors Carlos Hagerman and Juan Carlos Rulfo visited homes and villages all over Mexico and let wives, children, parents, and friends of the workers tell their own stories.

 One of the wives, Rosa, is overseeing work on the house she and her husband are building with the money he earns up north in the U.S.  But since he is away, she tells us, she makes the decisions for everything.  The camera quietly pans the house.  It’s new and modern, and very empty.  More empty houses appear on the screen.  They are ready to be lived in, but instead, stand alone and empty, waiting.

 Then village streets appear with no one on them.  Everyone has left to go north, says one remaining neighbor.

 Yet, in another town a man has come back for good, and he is happy to be home.  He uses the money he made to buy land and build an arena so his village can hold a rodeo, just like in the old days.

 And there are more reassuring sights.  A group of girls play a lively game of soccer. One talks about continuing her studies because that’s what her father wants her to do.  That’s why he’s working up north.

 When the Los Angeles Film Festival gave their Documentary Award to Hagerman and Rulfo in 2009, the jurors applauded the film’s “generosity of spirit and lyrical grace that illuminates a human landscape with fresh eyes, … documentaries can be both journalism and poetry.”

Those Who Remain

 There is poetry as the camera films a young girl twirling in her communion dress.  And an old man looks contentedly over his land.  This is a story that cries to be told, and laughs too.

 Director Carlos Hagerman received his BA in Mexico City and then won a Fulbright scholarship to the NYU film school that has graduated other directors whose films we’ve shown in Atlanta.  He worked several years as a director in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu´s film production company.

 Director Juan Carlos Rulfo is also the cinematographer.  He is the son of writer Juan Rulfo (1918-1986) often cited as one of the finest writers in 20th century Latin America.  He wrote the novel Pedro Páramo, a forerunner of magic realism, in which a man goes back to his father’s hometown and finds only ghosts.  One of the films Juan Carlos Rulfo has made is in homage to his father.  He visited his father’s hometown and interviewed its inhabitants.  They were not ghosts, they just had trouble remembering.  Thus, the title Del Olvido Al No Me Acuerdo (I Forgot, I Don’t Remember).

 In his later years the elder Rulfo became a photographer.   Both his visual eye and storytelling abilities may have easily nurtured the filmmaker and cinematographer his son became.

 But family ties don’t stop there.  Juan Carlos Rulfo is married to Valentina Leduc Navarro, the film editor for Those Who Remain.  She also worked on sound editing.  She is the daughter of the Mexican film producer Berta Navarro and film director Paul Leduc.

 In 1991 Berta Navarro visited Atlanta as a guest of the High along with her film, Cabeza de Vaca.  During her stay I took her out for lunch and she told me about her family.  Now her daughter, the next generation, has made one of the films we are showing.  Like I said, every festival seems like a family reunion.

The High will show the film with English subtitles. View the Spanish language trailer here:

An Interview with the Director of The Harimaya Bridge by Linda Dubler

This interview with Aaron Woolfolk, the director of The Harimaya Bridge, originally appeared on the Eleven Arts website.

The Harimaya Bridge will screen on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m. as part of the High’s Japanese Film Festival. Learn more about the screening and read a film synopsis here >

Harimaya Bridge

Q: How did The Harimaya Bridge come about?

A: After college, I went to live and work in Japan as an English teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. After that I returned to the U.S. and went to graduate film school. It was while I was in school that I started to think about how I could establish a career as a filmmaker, and what could make me stand out. I had loved my experience in Japan and it was still very much apart of my life, so I decided that I should do something with that.

I started thinking about and writing The Harimaya Bridge in film school. But I knew I had to demonstrate that one day making a feature film in rural Japan wasn’t a crazy notion. So for my thesis project I wrote and directed two short films in Japan…a comedy called Eki (The Station) and a drama called Kuroi Hitsuji (Black Sheep). Those shorts were very successful, and I was on my way.

Q: You are the first African-American to direct a feature film in Japan. Talk about how that influenced the project, and how the main American characters being African-American influenced the story.
A: When I originally started writing The Harimaya Bridge, one of the things I wanted to do was get the point across that “American” does not automatically equal “Caucasian”…though I think things have come quite a ways since then, what with the popularity of hip-hop and stars like Will Smith. And, of course, President Obama has really cemented that. Mostly, though, I really wanted to show how there are a lot of African-Americans and Africans out there experiencing all the world has to offer, whether it’s living and working abroad or something else.

I think me being black, and the American characters being black, gave the project a certain edge. A lot of people in Japan were attracted to it because they had never seen anything like it before. Ultimately, though, the people who made this happen told me they liked how having black characters made it unique, but that they fell in love with the script because they thought it was a beautiful story that was universal to everyone regardless of race or nationality.

I like how the main characters being black are an important factor, but the audience isn’t hit over the head with it. It’s not forced down your throat. I guess it reflects my own experience in Japan. When I first went there and got in front of a classroom of students, the first words out of my mouth weren’t, “I’M BLACK!! Now, let’s study verbs. And did I mention that I’M BLACK?!” Because I didn’t need to say it. That’s just the way it was. And that’s how the American characters are written and acted.

What’s funny is how some people come to the film with pre-conceived notions. Like, it’s a film by a black director with black characters, so they assume the film will have a hip-hop vibe and characters taking urban grittiness to Japan. Hey, I like hip-hop and gritty urban movies as much as anybody. But this project was inspired in part by the quiet, pastoral Japanese films I saw and fell in love with when I first got into international cinema. It was always my intention to make this film in that style. So those people who think “black” always equals rap and inner city madness…they might not last through the first 10 minutes. <laughs>

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Danish Film Fest’s Greatest Hits by Linda Dubler

Keep the Danish Film Festival vibe alive at home with these terrific movies featured in past festivals at the High.

Adam’s Apples

The extraordinarily prolific and talented writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen (who wrote Brothers, After the Wedding, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, and Stealing Rembrandt, among other pictures) wrote and directed this wry and subversive black comedy. It explores punishment and redemption through the story of Adam, a neo-Nazi youth who’s sentenced to perform community service at rural half-way house. The program is based in a tiny country church and run by Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen), a blindly optimistic priest who excels at turning the other cheek. With rehabilitation in mind, Ivan demands that Adam set a goal — any goal — for himself. Adam’s snide reply — “I’d like to bake an apple pie” — results in a major commitment: he’s assigned the task of guarding an apple tree on the church grounds until the fruit is ripe enough to pick. As he waits out Mother Nature, he has plenty of time to get to know the two other cons — a kleptomaniac who preys on women and an anti-capitalist Afghani immigrant who robs gas stations belonging to multi-nationals — as well as a homeless pregnant woman (Paprika Steen). A dark comedy, even by Danish standards (where it’s not unheard of for suicide and child abuse to be given a bleakly comic twist), Adam’s Apples won three Roberts, Danish cinema’s highest award.

After the Wedding

Susanne Bier is a brilliant director of actors who excels at bringing complex, contradictory characters to the screen. She followed up her gripping drama, Brothers (remade in English by the British director Jim Sheridan, with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the warring siblings) with After the Wedding, a haunting exploration of love, deception, and responsibility. At the story’s center is Jacob (the ubiquitous, charismatic Mads Mikkelsen), a Dane living in India who manages a cash-strapped orphanage there. Jacob’s single-minded devotion to the children, including his adopted son, is tested when a potential donor, Jorgen (a dangerously hale and hardy Rolf Lassgard) offers a desperately needed donation only on the condition that Jacob travel to Copenhagen. Reluctantly he agrees, but once back in Denmark discovers that courting Jorgen will involve more than a simple meeting. Pressured into attending the philanthropist’s daughter’s wedding, he dons a tux and drives to the party, where events unfold that will profoundly reshape the future for not only Jacob, but Jorgen and his family as well. In his Los Angeles Times review, Kenneth Turan wrote that “Susanne Bier mainlines emotion. She has a connection to feelings and passions that is as direct and potent as an addict’s needle piercing a vein. Her fierce and compelling dramas . . . serve it up straight, no chaser, and dare anyone to flinch.”

The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun

If the portraits of cranks and obsessives made by documentarists Werner Herzog and Erroll Morris are your cup of tea, then check out The Monastery, an oddly endearing, seriously funny film that offers definitive proof that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s the story of an ornery retired parish priest and confirmed bachelor named Mr. Vig who nurtures the dream of turning the crumbling castle he calls home into a monastery.

The Monastery

This mission  leads him to contact the Russian Orthodox Church, whose officials are intrigued but not entirely sold on the offer. They decide to send out an exploratory force of nuns, led by Sister Amvrosija, a vigorous, determined woman half Vig’s age whose take charge attitude quickly sets her at odds with her host. The battle of wills is on, and director Pernille Rose Gronkjaer captures it in what Eye for Film‘s Andrew Robertson called “a wonderful little film, a delightful portrait of two very different characters . . . a meditation on the nature of faith and desire.”

Just Another Love Story

Of course it’s not. Just Another Love Story is a deliciously convoluted romantic thriller that explores the allure of the unknown and the thrill of assuming a new identity. Its protagonist, Jonas, is a  crime scene photographer who is happy enough with his career, marriage, and fatherhood. Then he’s involved in a car crash. Jonas and his family are unharmed, but the other driver, an emotionally distraught woman named Julia, falls into a coma. When Jonas turns up at the hospital for a visit, her family mistakes him for Julia’s mysterious boyfriend, Sebastian, who she met recently while traveling in Vietnam. Jonas doesn’t correct them, and when Julia awakens, amnesia-ridden and partially blind, she takes Jonas to be her lover, a role he hungrily embraces. But the past has a way of catching up, and as in any noir worth its shadows, it has a bloody grip.

Linda Dubler

Five Questions for Julie Chautin by Linda Dubler

Julie Chautin is an avid film viewer who programs films for the Murphy, N.C. Public Library and writes about them for local publications. She and her husband Jerry are longtime supporters of the High’s annual Latin American Film Festival.

Julie Chautin

Julie Chautin

Is there a film that changed your life?

I don’t know if it changed my life, but I nearly shouted out at a screen in a crowded theater when I saw Alfonso Cuaron’s film, A Little Princess.  Near the end of the story, the father returns from war and doesn’t recognize his daughter.  Thanks to Cuaron’s direction, I was so pulled into that film that I had to stop myself from yelling, “Look at her!  That’s your daughter.”  My reaction shocked me.

What’s more, I almost didn’t see it at all.  Eleanor Ringel wrote an item in the Atlanta Journal Constitution to go see A Little Princess before it left the local theaters. She added something like “You’ve trusted me before, haven’t you?”  It made me laugh, but trust builds up between a reader and a movie reviewer.  And they open doors you may not even see.

What’s the first movie you remember seeing?

My parents used to take my brothers and sister and me to the movies at the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit.  And sometime in the 1950’s, Gone with the Wind was re-released. I remember sitting wide-eyed as Scarlet walked among the wounded soldiers.  I also loved old movies on television.  Marx Brothers movies like A Night at the Opera.  My sister and I would watch It Happened One Night whenever it came on.

How has programming films for audiences in Murphy, North Carolina, changed the way you view movie going?

It’s a lot of fun to program movies, and I do look at movies wondering if the Murphy audience might also enjoy them.  The weekly newspapers publish my movie reviews and that has made all the difference in getting the word out.

Film Movement, an indie film distributor has a special program for libraries.  Their film A Simple Curve used woodworking as the framework for a story.  Murphy is about ten miles away from the John C. Campbell Folk School where they teach arts and crafts.  So the film got a lot of attention.

S Simple Curve

A Simple Curve

Sometimes I’ve been able to add another dimension to the movie going experience.  When we showed Sideways I brought a bottle of Pinot Noir and everyone had a little taste.  My friend Nora King, a former Atlantan who now lives in Murphy, brought over a special snack when we showed Babette’s Feast: fried quail.  After watching Babette cook for two hours, we had a taste of what she had been serving.

In a small town library you often can get a sense of people’s own stories.  Recently for the 9/11 anniversary I showed The Guys, the film about a fire chief writing eulogies for his men lost in the Twin Towers.  A local fireman came with his daughter to see the movie and at some point he had to leave the room when his emotions got the best of him.

You’ve been part of the High’s Latin American Film Festival for many years. Would you share a favorite moment or memory of the festival?

Anyone who’s attended the Latin American Film Festival knows it’s full of great films.  The friendships that grow among the moviegoers are the added bonuses.

One of LAFF’s early films was Hello, Hemingway about a young girl in 1950’s Cuba.  She lived in the beach area where Earnest Hemingway had his house. After the film a man, a stranger, told me his family had emigrated from Cuba decades before.  And just like in the movie, they had lived down the road from Hemingway!   He was so excited to see his old neighborhood in that film.  His name is Marcus Maya and he comes every year to the festival.  He’s not a stranger anymore – he’s family.

Hello Hemingway

And, Linda, another of my favorite memories is opening night about ten years ago.  After you’d been studying Spanish awhile, you gave your welcoming speech in Spanish.  I thought the audience would clap.  I was wrong.  No one clapped.  They were too busy cheering!  They already appreciated the festival bringing cinema from their native countries to Atlanta.  And now you’re learning their language?  Everyone was touched.

Five movies that Films at the High audience members should see this year?

I loved The Visitor; The General with Buster Keaton.  Film Movement films, Arranged, A Simple Curve and Adam’s Apples.

The Song of Sparrows by hmablogmaster
November 5, 2009, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Guest Blogger, Review

The Song of Sparrows will open this year’s Iranian Film Today series on Friday, November 6 at 8 p.m. in the Rich Theater. Learn more about this series at High.org/Films. Review by Eleanor Ringel Cater.

The Song of Sparrows

My friend Forrest Rogers used to have a name for certain kinds of movies. He called them, “Pigs and Mud” movies.

You know, the ones with subtitles, that, even when they earn raves, sound about as appetizing as a bowl of cooked carrots (It’s GOOD for you, the reviewer seems to be pleading).

So, when I read that The Song of  Sparrows concerned the plight of an Iranian ostrich wrangler… well, you can just imagine. Ah, Pigs and Mud AND Ostriches!

But sometimes the carrots are sugar-coated. At least, that’s the case here. The Song of Sparrows isn’t just good for you; it’s just plain good in its own low-key, meandering way. I’d planned to turn it off after 15 minutes and found myself watching to the very end.

Hard-working Karim (Reza Naji) loses his job at the ostrich ranch after losing one of his birds (the ensuing Follow That Bird chase is as hilarious as it is poetic). His daughter has just lost her hearing aid, so it’s off to the big city to find a new job.

Karim finds one, inadvertently, when a busy businessman jumps on the back of his motorbike and barks out an address. And, voila (or however they say it in Iran), Karim has a new job as taxi of sorts. Contrasting Karim’s adventures in Tehran with his often tumultuous family life, Oscar-nominated Iranian director Majid Majidi creates an involving human story that sometimes comes off like a silent comedy.

No, it’s not a heavy-hitting cross-over foreign-language hit like last year’s Oscar-winner, Slumdog Millionaire, but the two movies have more in common that you might think.

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Review: Ballroom (Latin American Film Festival) by Linda Dubler
Ballroom will be screened on Friday, October 30 as part of the Latin American Film Festival.

All the world’s a ballroom in Ballroom, Lais Bodansky’s prize-winning film about a down-at-the-heels dance hall in Sao Paulo whose clientele is a little frayed around the edges, as well. That’s because they’re mostly AARP-ready regulars who gather weekly to see and be seen. In some cases, it’s implied, it’s the only way a few of them have to affirm that, yes, they are still alive.



Now, that sounds tragic and, granted, a sense of imminent mortality underlies this gently bittersweet movie. But there is humor, too, and the sort of plainly human observations we don’t usually see in standard Hollywood fare. Age spots and wrinkled necks aren’t really the point here. They’re a given. I admit it; you’ve seen this before: the ballroom as a microcosm of life. We see the survivors, who take life as it comes (I couldn’t help but note that a LOT of the women asked to dance are blonde).
But Bodansky demonstrates it’s not always easy to swirl your way into changing your life. Among the many mini-dramas we observe:
• an aging lothario who ignores his elegant regular date when a fresh-faced young newcomer (there to help her boyfriend with the music) arrives on the scene.
• a desperate woman who ages visibly each time she’s passed up by a potential partner (she’s as lovely as anyone, so her situation is much more complicated than an easy Ugly Duckling scenario).
• the mysterious minx — is she tragic or powerful — who prowls  the club like a predatory animal, waiting to pounce (or be pounced).
• the poor gentleman dubbed El Skunko, who dances all the time, every time… alone.


The structure is hardly new; we’ve seen it in dozens of pictures, ranging from Saturday Night Fever to Strictly Ballroom. But Ballroom has a quiet confidence, a killer soundtrack and a cast of actors so natural (and talented) you almost forget it’s not a documentary. Add some terrific laughs and a tender heart and to me, that’s entertainment.