10%: What Makes a Hero?
What makes a hero? What compels someone to stand up for what’s right, to defy social pressures and fight for one’s beliefs? Award-winning director Yoav Shamir (“Defamation,” TCFF ‘09) sets off on a quest in pursuit of the elusive “hero gene” that takes him around the globe, from his home in Israel where activists stand up against the occupation of Palestine; to Congo where primatologists study social structures in bonobos; and on to New York where a “subway hero” risked his life to save someone who fell on the tracks. With a fearless and wryly playful style, Shamir’s film is a fascinating look at morality that will challenge your preconceived notions of heroism.
For the last two decades, Doug Block has supported his documentary filmmaking career by moonlighting as a wedding videographer. 112 Weddings later, he has amassed hundreds of hours of footage of couples on their big day when their love was new and energetic. But what are their marriages like years later? Who has kept the spark and who has lost it? Block revisits nine couples to see how their marriages are (or aren’t) working out, asking the difficult questions about what it takes to make a relationship work. From ecstatic celebrations to intimate and candid present-day interviews, “112 Weddings” explores love and the true meaning of commitment with curiosity, humor, and heart.
This year’s great music doc gives an all-access pass to the star-studded 12-12-12 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, featuring performances by a who’s who of the last half-century of rock and pop music, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, and more. Set against the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects on New York City and ongoing recovery efforts, directors Amir Bar-Lev (“The Tillman Story,” TCFF ‘10) and Charlie Lightning mix energetic performance footage with casually hilarious candid moments from backstage in this expertly made concert doc.
Joining the great genre of improbable heist movies is the true story of government protestors who used the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden as cover to handily defeat J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI at the height of the Vietnam War. Meet the members of the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, who used crowbars instead of computers to expose government records to the media in March, 1971. Retold by the participants, confessing on camera for the first time, and through archival footage combined with compelling reenactments, we see the fascinating parallels between Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and this small group of dedicated academic activists who exposed thousands of files from a regional FBI office.
5 Broken Cameras
We’ll never forget having Emad Burnat and his family here in Traverse City for sold-out screenings that helped launch the film’s successful run to an Oscar nomination bid. When Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat purchased a video camera to record the birth of his son Jibreel, the joyous family moment coincided with the invasion of Israeli bulldozers set to make way for Jewish colonists. Burnat joined in his town’s peaceful resistance against the advancing settlers, documenting his involvement with the five titular cameras that became casualties of the ongoing border conflict, smashed or shot over the course of five years of harrowing demonstrations. The resulting footage, which Burnat reconstructed collaboratively with Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi, presents a microcosm of an international tragedy reframed through the lenses of one family’s experience. A brilliant, wrenching, devastating film, not to be missed.
5 to 7
Maybe there are some people you are meant to love, and some you are meant to marry—this idea, and the French “cinq à sept” affair (liaisons scheduled during that hazy time between leaving work and arriving home) are explored in this gloriously romantic, Audrey Hepburn-esque love story. After Bérénice Marlohe (“Skyfall”) and aspiring writer Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”) fall in love at first sight, it takes time for him to accept the open relationship she has with her husband, but soon he’s attending the married couple’s dinner parties with the husband’s mistress in attendance, too. His parents (Glenn Close and Frank Langella) are memorably slower to accept the concept, and eventually, he has to decide if the 5 to 7 window is enough. A funny and earnestly sentimental crowd pleaser, “5 to 7” has the power to change the way we think about relationships.
Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine
Offering a fresh perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Al Helm” (Arabic for “The Dream”) follows an African-American Christian gospel choir as they team up with a troupe from the Palestinian National Theater to perform a play about Martin Luther King, Jr., and spread the concept of equality through non-violence to the people of the West Bank. Filmmaker Connie Field captures the power of art to change the way people think as both the Americans and Palestinians find they have much to learn from each other in this unique cultural exchange, providing new insight into life in Palestine under occupation and how a young generation is changing the political conversation through non-violent acts of protest.
If you’ve ever worried about what lurked behind the door or under your bed, this gruesome treat is sure to ignite your deepest primordial fears. When a gothic nightmare of a children’s book called “Mr. Babadook” mysteriously appears in the home of Amelia, a stressed out single mom, and her deeply troubled, tantrum-prone son Samuel, the book seems to take on a life of its own, and Samuel becomes increasingly convinced that the storybook creature is out to kill them both. Even after trying to rid themselves of this terrorizing tome, Samuel’s aggressive outbursts take a violent turn toward his mother. Amelia must decide if her son is truly unhinged or if there really is a boogeyman creeping in her halls. One of the most critically-acclaimed and stylish spookers of the year, this darkly evocative fairytale laced with pure psychological terror is a simmering elaborately designed, and deeply unsettling look at familial tension.
The Bachelor Weekend
Who doesn’t love a boisterous Irish comedy—especially one with this much heart? The unlikely bachelor at the center of the titular weekend is Fionnan, a guy more interested in talking wedding details than jetting off for organized debauchery. At the insistence of his fiancée Ruth, however, he reluctantly agrees to cut loose for one last prenuptial hurrah with his best mates (one of whom just so happens to carry a torch for Ruth). But when Ruth’s notoriously unpredictable brother, known only as “The Machine,” turns up, what started as a relaxed camping adventure becomes a rowdy journey into the wilderness as they encounter more than their fair share of unexpected detours. In this “The Hangover” for the discerning moviegoer—where nothing says male bonding like a memorable sing-along or a raucous de-trousering—it’s how the wacky comedy plays off an underlying sweetness that makes this a side-splitting pleasure.
Bag of Rice (Kiseye Berendj)
Featured in TCFF Board Member Mark Cousins’ acclaimed documentary “A Story of Children in Film” (TCFF ‘13) and lovingly restored with the help of Cousins and his friend Tilda Swinton, this lost treasure of cinema is coming to the Bijou. “Bag of Rice” is an unforgettable urban odyssey around Tehran as seen through the eyes of a child. Determined to escape boredom at home, four-year-old Jairan accompanies her half-blind and stubborn elderly neighbor on an errand. Both are ill-equipped to face the unexpected challenges of the journey and must rely on the kindness of strangers to navigate the bustling city. What starts as an odd-couple adventure turns into a profoundly moving parable as these unlikely companions make their way through the world. It’s one of the great humanist, heartwarming delights in cinema.
Bending the Light
From renowned director and TCFF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Michael Apted (“56 Up,” TCFF ’13) comes a revealing and marvelous look at the heart and science of image making. Taking you on a passionate journey, “Bending the Light” explores the divinely harmonious relationship between the artisans who craft camera lenses and the masters who use lenses to reflect humanity’s hopes, fears, and dreams. Whether peering into the infinite vastness of the solar system, freezing a beautiful moment in time, or creating indelible moving images that live within our hearts and minds, they paint with light in an attempt to create transcendent understanding. A must-see for anyone with an interest in the photographic arts, this poetic and soulful film will astound you with its breathtakingly beautiful imagery. In English, Japanese with subtitles
Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai ri yan huo)
Heads up, noir fans—this one should be first on your list. Moody with working-class despair, encroaching danger, and pulp romantic fatalism, and set in a wintry industrial city in Northern China, the top prize winner from this year’s Berlin Film Festival is a powerfully controlled detective thriller with no heroes and no villains. Five years after a tragically botched arrest attempt of a suspect implicated in the grisly discovery of dismembered human remains, an alcoholic ex-detective now working security in a coal factory begins the old investigation anew when more body parts are found. A knotty plot rewards mystery buffs’ concentrated efforts, and features a plethora of sublime cinematic moments: a shootout the likes of which you’ve never seen; a dazzling tracking shot that moves the story from 1999 to 2004; and a perfect, absurdist unexpected ending.
Blind Dates (Brma paemnebi)
Forty-year-old schoolteacher Sandro still lives with his parents in Tbilisi, in spite of his nagging mother’s insistence that he grow up and find a wife. After joining his friend on an unsuccessful blind double date, fate lends a hand when he meets Manana, the mother of one of Sandro’s students, and sparks soon fly. The only catch: Manana’s temperamental husband is set to be released from prison the next day. Bound and determined not to miss out on his one chance at true romance, Sandro will do whatever it takes to keep in contact with Manana—even if that means aiding her husband in some not-so-legal business. A sweet and compassionately human comedy-drama, Georgian New Wave director Levan Koguashivili’s winning film is a tragicomic look at the quest for true love and honor.
Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d'Adèle)
Adèle (played by an unforgettable 19-year-old Adèle Exarchopoulos) comes of age in one of the most explosive, intense, masterful, and quintessentially French films you’re ever likely to see. The first Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner to deal with LGBT issues, based on Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, and infamous for its sexually explicit encounters between the two actresses, this epic story of love is not a single frame longer than it should be. Beautifully paced from the introduction of the high school protagonist and her electric first encounter with blue-haired punk artist Emma, and on through the years, as class, career, flirtations, and time erode their love. The sheer power of the truth acclaimed director Abdellatif Kechiche reveals about the ache of tumultuous relationships will leave you breathless and transformed.
Dwight lives a peaceful existence as a beach bum in a Virginia resort town, scraping by on food scrounged from dumpsters and generally avoiding confrontation with the locals while sleeping in his beat-up Pontiac. But his life is given renewed purpose when he receives word that a man with whom he has a score to settle is set to be released from prison. Dwight is spurred into action as a hapless assassin with the will and motivation—but not necessarily the resources—to exact revenge. His ineptitude as a killer sets off a chain of events that leaves him in a desperate fight to protect his family. An award winner at Cannes, director Jeremy Saulnier’s masterful revenge thriller is rife with blackly comedic moments and heart-pounding thrills.