chatham orpheum

Programmer Notes: Opening Night Selections

HalalLove-stillI am so excited to bring to Cape Cod another edition of the Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema. For a couple of years now I have wanted to add comedies to the program, but I was never able to get the ones I wanted until this year. Opening night at the Chatham Orpheum Theater (Thursday, May 4, 6 p.m.),, after a wonderful reception with Middle Eastern food and cash bar, I am proud to present to you the feature comedy from Lebanon, Halal Love (and Sex) by Assad Fouladkar.

Halal Love (and Sex) was chosen because it is funny, at times dramatic, well acted, and overall a wonderful film, but also because this is a comedy I feel you will relate to, even as different as our countries are. In the film, we meet three romantic couples at different stages in their relationships. Living in a Muslim country, and being Muslims themselves, the rules and codes of their religion and culture restrict how they can behave, but there are also certain “loopholes” that give the characters some hope that they can resolve their romantic issues. This is something I think people who follow other religious traditions will relate to, but also, all of us can find ourselves in the situation of being stuck between what our hearts desire and what our communities will allow.

Humor is an essential human coping mechanism, but from the images we see of Lebanon, the Middle East, and the Arab world, one would think there is no sense of humor in these places. We only hear about terrorism, refugees, anti-Americanism, and religious extremism. So, although this film is a comedy, I believe it is still a vitally important film to screen this year, and I hope you will join be there tomorrow night.

To read more about Halal Love (and Sex) and its director’s thoughts about making the film, check out this story in Variety from when the film was screened at Sundance  last year.

18119506_791511167678237_5634968043991553126_nIn addition to the reception and screening of Halal Love (and Sex), we will be showing E.A.S., a short film by Kays Al-Atrakchi, an Iraqi-Italian filmmaker living and working in the United States. The film takes place in the U.S. in the near future, at a time when Arab-Americans must hold special ID cards. It was a film Al-Atrakchi made before President Trump was in office. In his director’s statement, Al-Atrakchi says, “When I came up with the original idea that ended up becoming E.A.S., I imagined a fictional America where Arab immigrants were viewed as hostile and national ID databases and interment camps were quickly becoming the law of the land. I could never have imagined that my fictional vision of an increasingly paranoid America would be so close to becoming reality.”

We are hoping to discuss this short film with Al-Atrakchi via Skype right after it screens, so please join us for this.

Opening Night is Thursday, May 4, with a reception at 6 p.m. and the screenings starting at roughly 7 p.m. Tickets ($25 including the reception) are still available online or at the box office at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, 637 Main St., Chatham.

Heart of the Dog… A Belated View

heartofadog

Still from Heart of a Dog written and directed by Laurie Anderson.

I’m not the type of person who is always the first to see every interesting film that comes out. Although I did travel 85 miles to see the first screening of David Lynch’s Inland Empire when it came out in 2006, and I was willing to travel some 200 miles to see Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D debut  (Goodbye to Language, 2014) in New York, more often than not I see things I want to see when they play near me and the time is convenient. Such was the case with Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog, an essay film that came out several months ago but which I just saw this afternoon at the Chatham Orphuem. And what a delight it was to be the only person in the theater watching this contemplative documentary that spans the terrain of memoir, experimental film, and philosophy.

Although it is often summarized as such, Heart of a Dog is not really about the passing of Anderson’s rat terrier Lolabelle. The film begins with Anderson describing a dream in which she gives birth to the dog after having had it implanted in her uterus some time prior. It starts us off on a thread that is woven through the film’s structure. Anderson admits that the dog did not want to be implanted in her but that “it is just the way it had to be.” As we move from there to discover Anderson’s relationship with Lolabelle over several episodes, it’s clear that it is not the dog’s wishes or thoughts—even when the camera takes the dog’s point of view—that we are witnessing; it is Anderson’s own needs that come through, something pet owners don’t always understand.

Anderson weaves in a discussion about the impact of 9/11 (thankfully not including actual footage from the event), our surveillence culture, Buddhist philosophy, her relationship with her mother, why we dream, and the nature of memoir itself. All of these elements had me searching for connections, trying to understand what the film was about.

Is it an essay on death? Perhaps. But it is also about the ways in which we construct understanding of the world around us by putting ourselves at the center. There is a kind of natural self-centeredness that is unavoidable.

I left the theater in a state that was simultaneously thoughtful and accepting. I was intellectually engaged in trying to understand the work, but also very comfortable with not understanding it, on an emotional level. Ultimately, it was a very satisfying experience for me and I would love to hear from others who have seen the film and enjoyed it. What did it make you think about? (And if you haven’t seen it yet… its’ still in Chatham through Thursday afternoon.)

Albert Maysles’ Iris

I meant to post this earlier, but here it is anyway…

Documentary legend Albert Maysles finished out his career with this new film about equally legendary fashion maven Iris Apfel: Iris. The film is currently showing at Waters Edge Cinema in Provincetown and the Chatham Orpheum

Here is my review of the film in Provincetown Magazine.

Special Screenings of Northern Borders

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick and Genevieve Bujold in Jay Craven's "Northern Borders."

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick and Genevieve Bujold in Jay Craven’s “Northern Borders.”

This week, there are a couple of screenings of the film Northern Borders by Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven. I had the opportunity to interview Jay when he brought the film to Wellfleet last month. At that time, I also watched the film, which stars Genevieve Bujold and Bruce Dern (he did this film before Nebraska, and I believe it was an influence on his portrayal in that film). It is beautifully shot, well-acted, complex, and moving.

There is a screening in Chatham at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on Thursday, with a cocktail reception; and there is a screening with a workshop led by Jay Craven in Provincetown at the Waters Edge Cinema on Friday. Here is a link to the article on ProvincetownMagazine.com.