International and indie film buffs should check out the veritable bonanza of fine selections at the Film Forward Festival coming up this Thursday night, May 12. Movies will be showing in eight Smithsonian venues on the National Mall. See below for details, and check here for ticket information.
A Small Act (2009): 6:00, Hirshhorn Museum
One person can make a difference. Chris Mburu grew up in an impoverished environment in Kenya, yet he went on to become a Harvard-educated human rights lawyer, thanks to a primary and secondary education sponsored by an anonymous Swedish woman. Jennifer Arnold’s inspiring documentary tells Mburu's story, and how he hopes to pay that generosity forward.
Udaan (2010): 6:00, Freer Gallery of Art
In this Hindi coming-of-age film, 17-year old Rohan is expelled after being caught watching naughty movies with three of his friends. Forced to return home, he finds an untenable situation with a domineering, abusive father and they clash regarding Rohan's desire for a more creative profession. But on the upside (there's always an upside), Rohan eventually gets a chance to begin a relationship with a six year-old half-brother whom he never knew existed.
La Mission (2009): 6:00, Smithsonian American Art and National Portrait Gallery, McEvoy Auditorium
Acceptance is the theme here, as Benjamin Bratt grows the requisite tough-guy goatee to play a macho, rehabilitated ex-con living in the Mission District of San Francisco and who gradually comes to grips with the fact that his teenage son is gay. Oh, and the Bratt character likes driving and fixing lowriders, too.
BOY (2010): 6:15, National Museum of the American Indian
Director Taika Waititi’s film is set in 1984 New Zealand, where Boy, an 11-year old Michael Jackson fanatic, and his brother Rocky, are forced to rely on their abundant imaginations to create an epic version of their father while he’s in prison. However, Boy and Rocky must eventually face the actual version of their father upon his release and return home. Much more comedic than that last sentence implies, the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Afghan Star (2008): 6:30, S. Dillon Ripley Center
There’s pop culture in Afghanistan? That’s what director Havana Marking set out to show in this documentary, as he followed the path of four contestants from start to finish on what is essentially the Afghanistan version of "American Idol." The female contestants took their lives into their own hands, facing death threats and condemnation. Afghan Star picked up the World Cinema Directing Award for documentary film at the 2009 Sundance festival.
Last Train Home (2009): 6:30, S. Dillon Ripley Center
Millions of Chinese peasants leave their families and children behind to go to work in city factories for the majority of the year. And for many of them, the Chinese New Year holiday gives them their annual chance to return via railroad to the countryside to see their loved ones. This documentary focuses on one family’s story, including the parents’ 1,000-mile journey home as part of the world’s largest single human migration.
Amreeka (2009): 6:30, National Museum of American History, Carmichael Auditorium
When a Palestinian mother, played by actress Nisreen Faour, and her son leave a potentially dangerous area in the Middle East to go live with family in the United States, it’s not a smooth transition for anyone. They arrive shortly after the start of the war in Iraq, and must deal with anti-Arab sentiment, along with the rigors of fitting into a new society. Yet director Cherien Dabis deals with the potentially heavy subject matter in a heartwarming fashion, and the charismatic Nisreen Faour shines in a lead role.
Winter's Bone (2010): 6:30, Natural Museum of Natural History, Baird Auditorium
Watch this and you’ll probably never think of the Ozarks in the same way again. Unless of course you already cook meth in the woods, or you usually have to track your daddy down with the help of Uncle Teardrop to make sure you and your siblings don’t get your house repossessed by the bail bondsman. This gritty Best Picture-nominated-film doesn’t pull any punches, and I for one, would have been happy if it had sent The King’s Speech home from the Oscars empty-handed.