Multicultural Film Festival Focuses on ‘Reality Narratives’

“To Chris Marker: An Unsent Letter” Screens April 16
“Raising Shrimp” stars Andy Danylchuk, assistant professor of environmental conservation

Focusing on the theme of “Reality Narratives,” the 21st annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, presented by the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies, will screen award-winning documentaries, shorts and narrative features from Europe, Peru, the Soviet Union and the U.S. every week from Feb. 5 to April 30.

Nine filmmakers will be present for discussion and the series features several New England premieres. All films are accompanied by critical introductions by scholars and filmmakers; all events are free and open to the public. Screenings are held in the Flavin Family Auditorium, 137 Isenberg School of Management, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings.  

The series opens Feb. 5 with “At Berkeley,” master documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s epic study of the life of the University of California, Berkeley during a period of economic crisis. “At Berkeley” is a love poem to the idea of the university and the ways that universities both foster and compromise dissent.

On Feb. 12, the festival welcomes back Kimi Takesue to present “Looking for Adventure,” her new documentary study of tensions between the commodification of Peruvian culture for foreign consumption and the tourist’s desire for adventure. 

In observance of Black History Month, on Feb. 19, legendary radical activist Angela Davis speaks for the first time about her 1970s imprisonment as a terrorist and conspirator in “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” directed by Shola Lynch.

On Feb. 23, the festival brings together two short Italian films written by Neapolitan novelist, poet and screenwriter Erri De Luca: “The Night Shift Belongs to the Stars (best narrative short, Tribeca Film Festival 2013), directed by Edoardo Ponti, and Andrea Di Bari’s meditation on post-memory of World War II, “Beyond the Glass.

On March 5, in observance of International Women’s Week, Jérôme Sesquin’s documentary “Maryse Condé, A Voice of Her Own,” features interviews with the distinguished writer, born in Guadeloupe, whose novels explore the relationships between African peoples and the diaspora.

On March 12, co-sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy, a division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, Hungarian director Diana Gróo will be present to discuss “Regina,” her poetic documentary set in 1930s Berlin, constructed from archival materials and based on a single surviving photograph of Regina Jonas (1902-44), the first woman rabbi. 

An evening of films from Turkey debuts on March 26 with “My Child,” as ­parents of LGBT children meet to discuss the meaning of parenthood, family, and activism in contemporary Turkish society; “Eight,” in which a widow’s quotidian life brushes against the infinite in a spare yet lush short piece; and “Sansara,” an allusive portrait of destruction and renewal, filmed in the wake of Turkey's campaign of village evacuations as a response to the “Kurdish problem.” The filmmakers will be present for discussion.

Screening on April 2, “Ladies Tailor,” Leonid Gorovets’s drama of the fate of the Jews under Nazi and Soviet tyranny, is set in Kiev on the eve of Babi Yar, as a Jewish tailor and his family pack their belongings, argue and reminisce. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies and the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival, the screening will be followed by a discussion with Olga Gershenson, Judaic and Near Eastern studies.

On April 9, Robert Gardner’s new documentary, “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story,” foregrounds the courageous WWII secret agent and clandestine radio operator, Britain’s only female Muslim war heroine, who was later awarded the UK’s highest civilian decoration; the director may be present.

On April 16, Emiko Omori’s “To Chris Marker: An Unsent Letter” captures the notoriously private French filmmaker through interviews with his colleagues and admirers; the film is paired with Marker’s “If I Had Four Dromedaries,” composed of photographs shot by the director through his travels to 26 countries, revealing the secret link between still and moving images; with an introduction by Kristian Feigelson, University of Paris/Sorbonne Nouvelle and a specialist on the films of Chris Marker.

Renowned Polish director Lech Majewski will be present for questions following the screening of his feature film “The Mill and the Cross,” starring Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling and Michael York, inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “­The Procession to Calvary,” set against a backdrop of religious persecution in Flanders and focusing on a dozen of the 500 characters depicted in the 1564 painting.

The festival closes with the New England première of “Raising Shrimp,” plunging the viewer into a vivid, rarely-seen world of rugged fishermen and jungle laboratories, exotic bacteria, teeming coral reefs and Asian outsourcing in the search for homegrown solutions to America’s most popular seafood. The film’s star, Andy Danylchuk, assistant professor of environmental conservation, will be present for discussion. The event is co-sponsored by the department of environmental conservation and the College of Natural Sciences.

Major sponsors of the festival include the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the UMass Arts Council Arts. Additional support comes from Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival; Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies; Women’s Philanthropy, a Division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts; department of languages, literatures and cultures; department of environmental conservation and the College of Natural Sciences.



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