Pasa picks Re­views of films not to be missed

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ALL EYES AND EARS

If your knowl­edge of the state of Chi­nese-Amer­i­can re­la­tions is lim­ited, jump­ing into All Eyes and Ears might feel like one of those dreams where you have to take your fi­nal high school history exam but you haven’t been to class all se­mes­ter. We fol­low Jon Hunts­man, the for­mer gover­nor of Utah, dur­ing his stint as U.S. Am­bas­sador to China, as he trav­els with his adopted Chi­nese daugh­ter Gra­cie to the land of her birth. Gra­cie, who was aban­doned in a fruit mar­ket when she was two months old, nar­rates parts of the film from a record­ing booth in pas­sages that show the seams of this strangely paced, con­fus­ing yet il­lu­mi­nat­ing doc­u­men­tary. Chi­nese com­mu­nism’s ties to com­merce and au­thor­i­tar­ian cap­i­tal­ism are ex­plored, as are the history of op­pres­sion of the Ti­betan peo­ple and the hu­man rights abuses against Chi­nese cit­i­zens who en­gage in dis­sent. The film fo­cuses on the le­gal ad­vo­cate Chen Guangcheng, who has fought for the rights of moth­ers not to be forced to abort their fe­male ba­bies. (In China each fam­ily is lim­ited to hav­ing one child, and boys are prized.) The tone of the doc­u­men­tary is oddly hu­mor­ous, and the in­ter­sect­ing parts seem to be build­ing to some sur­prise twist, but other than men­tion­ing that the ef­fort­lessly charm­ing Hunts­man en­tered the 2012 pres­i­den­tial race af­ter leav­ing his am­bas­sador post, no twist is re­vealed. Still, All Eyes

and Ears is well worth its view­ing-time for those in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about the topic, even if its last­ing mes­sage is that China and the United States are at pro­found ide­o­log­i­cal odds, and our trade re­la­tion­ship is prob­a­bly un­sus­tain­able. — Jen­nifer Levin Doc­u­men­tary, 90 min­utes, not rated, 7:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15; 11 a.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

AL­MOST THERE

For many years Peter An­ton lived in a crum­bling home in East Chicago with no heat and elec­tric­ity. There, he qui­etly amassed a large col­lec­tion of his paint­ings and draw­ings, por­traits the self­taught artist, now in his eight­ies, made of passers-by while out on the streets. Film­mak­ers Dan Ry­bicky and Aaron Wick­enden spent eight years doc­u­ment­ing the life of the ir­ri­ta­ble, funny, and charis­matic An­ton, an el­derly “out­sider” artist who re­treated to the base­ment of his home when he was younger to avoid an over­bear­ing mother — although there are other rea­sons, too, which we even­tu­ally learn.

The foul-smelling in­te­rior is crammed with art­work, books, trash, and other de­tri­tus, much of it de­cayed. But there the film crew

comes across An­ton’s elab­o­rate, il­lus­trated au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal note­books that he ti­tled “Al­most There,” and which they then try to have pub­lished. When that ven­ture fails, they em­bark on a plan to ex­hibit An­ton’s paint­ings at In­tuit: The Cen­ter for In­tu­itive and Out­sider Art in Chicago, but the wills of film­mak­ers and artist are tested. When his prop­erty is con­demned, An­ton, while pre­par­ing for his first ma­jor ex­hibit, is forced to leave the home he’s in­hab­ited since the 1940s.

A scan­dal threat­ens to de­rail the In­tuit ex­hibit when the truth sur­round­ing his ar­rest in 1980 emerges. An­ton’s shame sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent, more than any­thing else, drives him to re­treat from the world. He is a man bur­dened by the weight of his se­crets. An­ton is liv­ing a wretched ex­is­tence, but he ac­cepts the help of­fered him, al­beit on his own terms. He wants the world to hear his story and longs for for­give­ness. His re­demp­tion through his art (even if it isn’t all that good) is an in­spi­ra­tion. Al­most There avoids the ha­giog­ra­phy that of­ten ac­com­pa­nies artist doc­u­men­taries and is an hon­est and sat­is­fy­ing por­trait. — Michael Abatemarco Doc­u­men­tary, 93 min­utes, not rated, 10:50 a.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

BABUSHKAS OF CH­ER­NOBYL Af­ter the melt­down of the Ch­er­nobyl Nu­clear Power Plant in 1986, a ra­dioac­tive dead zone was es­tab­lished and it be­came illegal for the peo­ple who used to live in the area to re­turn to their homes. In de­fi­ance of this, about 1,200 peo­ple went back, on foot. Over the years the men have died off, and now just a few hun­dred peo­ple, mostly women, are left to farm land and eat fish and game that have been de­clared deadly by the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment. Babushkas of Ch­er­nobyl, a doc­u­men­tary co-di­rected by Holly Mor­ris and Anne Bog­art about some of the women sub­sist­ing in the re­gion, is sad yet up­lift­ing. It is illegal to live in the Ex­clu­sion Zone but the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment still sends in doc­tors, sci­en­tists, and aid work­ers to pro­vide the women with med­i­cal care, pen­sion funds, and other ser­vices. The women, as iso­lated as they are in the for­est, have been friends since child­hood. They con­tinue to get to­gether to drink, sing, and re­call their youth. Though one woman lacks a thy­roid due to ra­di­a­tion-in­duced can­cer and another com­plains of body pain, they are ac­tive and ba­si­cally happy — at­ti­tudes that seem to be keep­ing them alive. The film also fol­lows “stalk­ers,” Ukrainian youth who want to recre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment of a video game set in the Ex­clu­sion Zone, as well as on­go­ing ef­forts to con­tain the ra­dioac­tive dust that has been blow­ing around Ch­er­nobyl for al­most 30 years. — Jen­nifer Levin Doc­u­men­tary, 72 min­utes, not rated, 5 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; 6 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17; 12:30 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18th; Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

BREAK­ING A MON­STER Un­lock­ing the Truth is a speed-me­tal trio made up of early-teen African-Amer­i­can boys. With the help of some very sup­port­ive par­ents, the young Brook­lynites played around New York City be­fore fi­nally up­load­ing a clip of them­selves at the Times Square sub­way sta­tion to YouTube. Their per­for­mances defy ex­pec­ta­tions — not only do they pre­fer rock to rap in 2015, but as gan­gly and in­no­cent-look­ing kids, they ap­pear as if they should be bal­anc­ing equa­tions in the math club rather than shred­ding guitar so­los on the street. They might be seen as a nov­elty if they weren’t im­mensely tal­ented, pos­sess­ing a high pro­fi­ciency and a knowl­edge of ev­ery rock-star pose in the heavy-me­tal tome. If you saw them on the street or on YouTube, you’d prob­a­bly stop and watch.

One per­son who did stop and watch was Alan Sacks, a showbiz lifer — he helped cre­ated the 1970s sit­com Welcome Back, Kot­ter — who felt they could be­come stars and came on as their man­ager. This job proved to in­volve babysit­ting as much as ca­reer guid­ing — in one scene, he cuts one of the boys off from drink­ing Coca-Cola— but he se­cured the lads a lu­cra­tive record­ing con­tract with Sony Records.

And then came the hard part. Watch­ing these kids on YouTube is one thing; get­ting peo­ple to buy al­bums is another. The mu­si­cians play fes­ti­vals such as South by South­west and Coachella, but it’s hard to avoid selling them as a nov­elty. The kids re­ject mar­ket­ing that makes them into car­toons and take vo­cal lessons, but noth­ing fully takes.

Luke Meyer’s doc­u­men­tary fol­lows them around dur­ing this time, pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the boys’ re­la­tion­ship with Sacks as they slowly grow frus­trated with one another. The band has thus far yielded a book and this movie — but no al­bum. Rather than paint an up­ward tra­jec­tory, the arc of the film heads up be­fore skid­ding side­ways. That doesn’t al­ways make for the most com­pelling cin­ema. Let’s hope these kids get a happy end­ing — but it will have to be in the se­quel. — Robert Ker Doc­u­men­tary, 82 min­utes, not rated, 6 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Vi­o­let Crown

DOROTHEA LANGE: GRAB A HUNK OF LIGHT­NING New Mexico-based film­maker Dyanna Tay­lor’s doc­u­men­tary, a la­bor of love, orig­i­nally aired last year as an episode of Amer­i­can

Mas­ters for PBS. Tay­lor mines jour­nals, letters, pho­to­graphs, and rare archival footage to tell the story of the pho­tog­ra­pher be­hind

The Mi­grant Mother, a De­pres­sion-era im­age that’s be­come as iconic as any paint­ing by Ge­or­gia O’Keeffe. Tay­lor, Lange’s grand­daugh­ter, nar­rates, re­veal­ing a por­trait of Lange (1895-1965) as both pri­vate in­di­vid­ual and pro­fes­sional pho­to­jour­nal­ist. A bout of po­lio in child­hood left her with one foot per­ma­nently dam­aged, but she over­came her phys­i­cal im­pair­ment to fol­low her pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy. Lange had two mar­riages: one to the pain­ter May­nard Dixon and the sec­ond to the economist Paul Tay­lor, who fig­ures promi­nently in the film. Her mar­riage to Tay­lor be­came a last­ing en­deavor that had an im­pact on both their ca­reers.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher, Lange was mo­ti­vated by com­pas­sion, cov­er­ing west­ward mi­gra­tions into Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing the Dust Bowl. She pho­tographed the na­tion’s work­ing-class poor for the Farm Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and her im­ages were among those in­tended to gal­va­nize Congress to ini­ti­ate re­lief pro­grams for up­rooted fam­i­lies. Lange’s work was wide in scope, and she put a hu­man face on so­cial in­jus­tices. She pho­tographed in­terred Ja­panese-Amer­i­cans dur­ing World War II, farm lands dev­as­tated by mon­u­men­tal dust storms on the Great Plains, and work­ers on strike, among other sub­jects. Lange achieved an in­ti­macy with her pho­to­graphs stem­ming from a work ethic that de­manded she re­main at a re­move from her sub­jects, like a fly on the wall, a can­did prac­tice with last­ing in­flu­ence on pho­to­jour­nal­ism. Tay­lor brings poignancy to the nar­ra­tive, par­tic­u­larly when Lange pre­pares for a ma­jor show at New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art dur­ing the last year of her life, an en­ter­prise she wouldn’t live to see com­pleted. — Michael Abatemarco Doc­u­men­tary, 90 min­utes, not rated, 6:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15, The Screen, 3 chiles

EM­BRACE OF THE SER­PENT

Colom­bian di­rec­tor Ciro Guerra’s film, a Cannes award-win­ner, is a mes­mer­iz­ing ad­ven­ture tale set in the Ama­zon rain for­est. The film boasts out­stand­ing black-and-white cin­e­matog­ra­phy by David Gal­lego. The story fol­lows two nar­ra­tives, one set in the early 1900s and the other in the 1940s, and moves back and forth be­tween them to fol­low the ad­ven­tures of two men on par­al­lel jour­neys, each search­ing for the rare yakruna, a flower with valu­able heal­ing prop­er­ties.

Guerra and co-screen­writer Jac­ques Toule­monde Vi­dal based the screen­play on the early and mid-20th cen­tury jour­nals of Ger­man ex­plorer Theodor Koch-Grun­berg (played by Jan Bi­jvoet) and Amer­i­can ex­plorer Richard Evans Schultes (Bri­onne Davis). The men are ac­com­pa­nied on their jour­neys by Kara­makate, a shaman, played by Nil­bio Tor­res as a young man and An­to­nio Bo­li­var when the char­ac­ter is older. Kara­makate is nearly the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of his tribe. He is mis­trust­ful of the white men and griev­ing over the loss of his own peo­ple and cul­ture. The white men’s re­spec­tive trav­els are an odyssey into Kara­makate’s world, and he is the true pro­tag­o­nist of the story. Theodor, faced with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness, comes to de­pend upon the shaman’s knowl­edge of herbs in or­der to sur­vive. In ex­change, he agrees to help Kara­makate find the re­main­ing mem­bers of his tribe.

Through its non­lin­ear struc­ture we see im­pe­ri­al­ism’s last­ing ef­fects on the rain for­est and and how the rise of in­dus­try has led to loss of habi­tat and vi­o­lence due to the rub­ber trade. Colo­nial­ism’s dele­te­ri­ous legacy is at the heart of the film, ex­pressed most tellingly in a se­quence set at a Span­ish mis­sion where na­tive chil­dren, aban­doned as a re­sult of the rub­ber-plan­ta­tion vi­o­lence and abuses, are at the mercy of a cruel priest who whips them for speak­ing their own lan­guage.

Em­brace of the Ser­pent calls at­ten­tion to the tremen­dous loss of knowl­edge and cul­ture in the Ama­zon but does so with­out pan­der­ing or be­ing di­dac­tic. The film un­folds in dream­like pas­sages as it takes its sin­u­ous route to­ward its con­clu­sion. — Michael Abatemarco Drama, 125 min­utes, not rated, in Span­ish, Ger­man, Cata­lan, and Por­tuguese with sub­ti­tles, 7:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Vi­o­let Crown; 3:15 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles.

FRAME BY FRAME

Af­ter years of op­pres­sion, pho­to­jour­nal­ists are flour­ish­ing in Afghanistan — but it is still a ter­ri­tory fraught with dan­ger. This doc­u­men­tary by Alexan­dra Bom­bach and Mo Scarpelli is won­der­fully told and pho­tographed. The story of the fledg­ling free press is in­spir­ing, but the jour­nal­ists’ im­ages and their sub­jects’ sto­ries are more of­ten sad than joy­ful.

Un­der the Tal­iban, which con­trolled Afghanistan be­gin­ning in 1996, tak­ing a pho­to­graph was a crime. Af­ter the U.S. in­vaded in 2001, the Tal­iban lost Kabul and the jour­nal­is­tic revo­lu­tion be­gan. But now, with the for­eign sol­diers and media de­parted, Afghan jour­nal­ists are on their own, op­er­at­ing in dan­ger­ous realms.

In one telling seg­ment, Farzana Wahidy is filmed at a Herat hos­pi­tal, talk­ing to a doc­tor in au­thor­ity. At first, he con­sents to her tak­ing a few pic­tures in the burn ward. But when she asks about self-im­mo­la­tion vic­tims — women who set fire to them­selves to es­cape ex­treme­ley abu­sive re­la­tion­ships — he tells her to leave. One pa­tient’s fa­ther-in-law talks ev­ery day with Pres­i­dent Karzai, the doc­tor tells her. If Karzai finds out about this, “It means my life is in dan­ger tonight.” Then he says there is a mul­lah in Herat who is also dan­ger­ous.

Wahidy tries to say she has to take some pic­tures to tell the news, and he sim­ply says, “Go ahead. You can write news, but it should be about men.” She an­swers that that doesn’t make sense, be­cause women are also part of so­ci­ety, at which point he says, “The cam­eras stop this very mo­ment. That’s it.”

The other pho­to­jour­nal­ists the film­mak­ers fol­low are Wakil Kohsar, Massoud Hossaini, and Na­jibul­lah Musafer. Musafer is shown with a young woman stu­dent in a bright blue, bird-shaped pedal-boat float­ing by a car­ni­val set in a desert sand­scape. They’re tak­ing pic­tures as Musafer talks about com­po­si­tion and beauty.

Kohsar is shown pray­ing. “Tak­ing a photo is not a sim­ple job,” he says. “I cover cul­ture, tra­di­tion, so­cial prob­lems, sub­jects that I feel deeply about in my heart, things that I’ve seen and felt.”

Pho­to­graphs are so much a part of hu­man life, but the Tal­iban would visit photo shops and tear up fam­ily photos and beat the pho­tog­ra­phers. The film­mak­ers al­ter­nate the pre­sen­ta­tion of such facts with gor­geous color photos of faces young and old, as well as war-maimed chil­dren. There are peo­ple cap­tured in the dis­tresses of war, in tears, and also beau­ti­ful, evoca­tive photos of chil­dren, and ad­dicts fix­ing over a lit­tle fire — all facets of life, the stuff of jour­nal­ism.

We see Wahidy pho­tograph­ing women box­ers train­ing. “What I’m try­ing to do is fo­cus deeper in the life of Afghan women, not just show­ing one side,” she says. “Pho­tograph­ing women is a very sen­si­tive thing in Afghanistan. Most Afghans doesn’t like their wives to be pho­tographed. ... It’s very im­por­tant for me to be in Afghanistan now and to be pho­tograph­ing.” The jour­nal­ist is so pretty, and she has such a great smile, but she is sad­dened ex­plain­ing that she has no pho­to­graphs from her child­hood. They were all de­stroyed. So much hap­pened in my life dur­ing the Tal­iban regime,” she says, hold­ing back tears. “The first thing that was taken was my ed­u­ca­tion.” She also was beaten, at thir­teen, for not hav­ing her face cov­ered.

Hossaini won a Pulitzer Prize for a photo he took af­ter a bomb ex­ploded at an an­nual re­li­gious event in 2011. As he re­calls it, one phrase sounds like the jour­nal­ist’s credo: When there is an ex­plo­sion in the war zone, “Ev­ery­one’s run­ning away and I’m run­ning to that place.”

In another heart-wrench­ing spot, Wahidy is sit­ting with a woman who was mar­ried off at eleven, and from the first day was as­saulted by her in-laws. She tells the jour­nal­ist that her fa­ther-in­law emp­tied a fuel con­tainer on her and lit her on fire. When she opened her eyes, she was in the hos­pi­tal in Herat. The in-laws took her six-month-old daugh­ter. As she ex­plains that she has tried to find her and get her back, she is cry­ing and so is Wahidy. At the end of the film, she says, “I want to use pho­tog­ra­phy in a way to not be voice­less again.” — Paul Wei­de­man Doc­u­men­tary, 85 min­utes, not rated, English and Dari with sub­ti­tles, 5:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema; 1:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 4 chiles

HON­EY­TRAP

When fif­teen-year-old Layla first ar­rives in Lon­don from Trinidad to live with her mother, she has out­grown her shabby, un­fash­ion­able cloth­ing. One of the first things her mother says to her is that she can’t af­ford to buy her any­thing new, and soon af­ter, she laughs at Layla for eat­ing and tells her to clean up the dishes so she can go out. Layla (Jes­sica Sula) is pret­tier than her mother, pret­tier than the girls at school — who en­cour­age her to shoplift new clothes — and pret­tier even than Bey­oncé, whose face she uses as in­spi­ra­tion as she teaches her­self to flirt in the mir­ror. It’s no sur­prise when she at­tracts the at­ten­tion of more than one Brix­ton boy, but Layla is in­ex­pe­ri­enced, im­pres­sion­able, and al­ready dam­aged by too lit­tle love and too much ne­glect. Her new crowd is street­wise and jaded, quick to kick one another to the ground over per­ceived slights and sex­ual in­dis­cre­tions.

The act­ing in Hon­ey­trap feels ef­fort­less, sim­i­lar to the raw energy of movies like Kids, and the set­ting is the same closed-off teenage world of gray rape, ca­sual phys­i­cal abuse, and petty and less-petty crime. The girls are des­per­ate for the af­fec­tions of boys whose high­est pri­or­i­ties are smok­ing pot and play­ing video games. Layla is more de­vi­ous than she’s will­ing to ad­mit to her­self, ma­nip­u­lat­ing a boy who loves her to make a neigh­bor­hood rap star jeal­ous, a de­ci­sion with vi­o­lent con­se­quences she be­lieves she is pow­er­less to pre­vent. — Jen­nifer Levin Drama, 93 min­utes, not rated, 3:45 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, Vi­o­let Crown; 12:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3 chiles

HOW TO WIN AT CHECK­ERS (EV­ERY TIME) Josh Kim’s first fea­ture is a com­ing-of-age drama set in a small town in Thai­land, and ob­served through the eyes of eleven-yearold Oat (Ingkarat Dam­rongsakkul), an or­phan be­ing raised by his aunt (Vatanya Thamdee) and his adored older brother Ek (Thira Chutikul). Ek is the bread­win­ner, work­ing as a bar­tender in a sex club owned by the lo­cal crime boss (Kowit Wat­tanakul), and fac­ing the threat of con­scrip­tion into the army at the up­com­ing an­nual draft lottery. Ek is in an open ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with Jai (Arthur Navarat), a rich boy from the up­scale side of town.

Though Oat and Ek do play check­ers, and Oat buys a book that teaches him to beat his brother fair and square, the an­swer to the ques­tion im­plied in the ti­tle is plain: Cheat. Oat wit­nesses Jai’s fam­ily brib­ing his way out of the draft, and tries to do the same for his brother. But his naïve bumbling only makes things worse.

Kim deals in an ap­peal­ingly straight­for­ward fash­ion with Thai so­ci­ety’s easy ac­cep­tance of gay and trans­gen­der re­al­i­ties, while at the same time show­ing the sleazy side of that life when it is cir­cum­scribed by poverty and des­per­a­tion. The story uses a fram­ing de­vice of the adult Oat (Toni Rakkaen), now a suc­cess­ful gang­ster who has learned how to win, wak­ing from a re­cur­ring night­mare and look­ing down on the city from his lux­ury ho­tel room. It’s an un­nec­es­sary gim­mick. The real strength of the pic­ture is in the lov­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two broth­ers, and es­pe­cially Chutikul’s warm, mov­ing per­for­mance as Ek. The film by Kim, who is Korean-Amer­i­can, has been cho­sen by Thai­land as its sub­mis­sion to the 2016 Academy Awards. — Jonathan Richards Drama, 80 min­utes, not rated, in Thai with sub­ti­tles, 1:45 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST

There are fewer 250,000 Samoans and Ton­gans liv­ing in the United States, yet they are 28 times more likely to play in the NFL than any other eth­nic group. This “Poly­ne­sian pipeline”

to the NFL rep­re­sents a glim­mer of hope to young men and fam­i­lies in their un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties. It’s a lit­tle bit like bas­ket­ball is to African-Amer­i­cans or base­ball to Latin Amer­i­cans in sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ties: The odds of mak­ing it to the big time are great, but enough peo­ple have suc­ceeded at it — most fa­mous among Poly­ne­sian football play­ers is for­mer Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Po­la­malu — that it looks like a vi­able way out of a hope­less eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

In Football We Trust is a doc­u­men­tary in the style of the iconic 1994 film Hoop Dreams. It fol­lows sev­eral Poly­ne­sian teenagers in Salt Lake City as they at­tempt to achieve their goals of mak­ing the NFL. Har­vey Langi, Fihi Kau­fusi, and broth­ers Leva and Vita Bloom­field are the four play­ers who fin­ish up their high school ca­reers while field­ing schol­ar­ship of­fers, cop­ing with in­juries, fight­ing temp­ta­tion from lo­cal gang life, and fac­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of tak­ing part in a re­li­gious mis­sion. They’re all win­some kids — the Bloom­field broth­ers have beam­ing smiles, good na­tures, and a teenage awk­ward­ness that be­trays their age.

Un­for­tu­nately, their sto­ries are all com­pressed into a fairly brief run­ning time. The football nar­ra­tives quickly feel too much like sub­plots, crowd­ing out the boys’ more in­ter­est­ing so­cial and fam­ily lives. The Poly­ne­sian com­mu­ni­ties in Salt Lake City — brought there by Mor­mon mis­sion­ar­ies go­ing back more than 150 years — rep­re­sent an in­trigu­ing world that few peo­ple know about, and the film is most fas­ci­nat­ing when it ex­plores this. The fact that we spend so much time watch­ing peo­ple run around on a football field that could be any­where is a shame. The pro­duc­tion val­ues are very strong, but the movie doesn’t stand out in a crowded field of sports doc­u­men­taries. One hates to say this about some­one else’s life story, but at least in film form, this is all ground that we’ve cov­ered be­fore. — Robert Ker Doc­u­men­tary , 87 min­utes, not rated, 5:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15; 2 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; Vi­o­let Crown, 2.5 chiles

IX­CANUL (VOL­CANO)

The fas­ci­nat­ing fea­ture di­rec­to­rial de­but by Jayro Bus­ta­mante is both col­or­ful and vis­ceral, the scenes bathed in the sat­u­rated hues of fab­rics and land­scape. It opens with sev­en­teen-year-old Maria (María Mercedes Coroy), look­ing glum, hav­ing her hair fixed by her mother, Juana (María Telón). They go to a black place close to the ac­tive vol­cano that looms over their home and of­fer prayers. But first they drag a sow into a boar’s pen. “They don’t want to do it,” Maria says. Her mother’s re­sponse is to give the an­i­mals rum. We see Maria watch­ing, and hear the sounds of pig sex.

Maria faces an ar­ranged mar­riage to Ig­na­cio (Justo Lorenzo), fore­man of the cof­fee plan­ta­tion on which her fa­ther works. But she is more in­ter­ested in Pepe (Marvin Coroy), one of the cof­fee­bean har­vesters.

Se­lected as the Gu­atemalan en­try for the Best For­eign Lan­guage Film at the 88th Academy Awards, Ix­canul (Vol­cano) is an in­ti­mate por­trait of a peo­ple, Kaqchikel-speak­ing Mayans in Gu­atemala. Bus­ta­mante fo­cuses on the mother and daugh­ter — on their re­la­tion­ship and on the ac­tiv­i­ties of women in the cul­ture. Here they are, beat­ing hay, car­ry­ing loads of fire­wood on their heads, slaugh­ter­ing a pig, and pray­ing on lava near the steam­ing vol­cano: “Thank you, earth, wind, wa­ter, vol­cano. Bless my daugh­ter with a good mar­riage.”

Ig­na­cio as­sures her par­ents that Maria will have ev­ery­thing she needs. Juana tells his par­ents, “Don’t worry, she’s a good cook. She planted the last cof­fee trees. Best harvest ever. Very good cof­fee.” Maria looks the op­po­site of happy.

As they pick cof­fee beans, Maria talks to Pepe, ask­ing about the United States, where he wants to go. He says peo­ple in the U.S. have cars and big houses and the elec­tric­ity works all the time. “What does the air smell like there?” she asks. “I don’t know.” “Here, the air smells of cof­fee. And of the vol­cano.” Later, when she asks her mother what’s be­hind the vol­cano, Juana says, “Cold weather.”

One night, out­side a bar, Maria of­fers her­self to Pepe, and they make love on the spot. Later he tells her how he will go to the other side of the vol­cano and walk to the U.S., adding, “Well, there is Mexico in be­tween.”

“Are you tak­ing me with you?” Maria asks.

Although Pepe as­sured her, dur­ing their love­mak­ing, that, “The first time, noth­ing hap­pens,” the girl is now preg­nant. Juana soon knows and tells her that when Ig­na­cio finds out, her fa­ther will have to find work at another plan­ta­tion and they will have to find another dwelling. They pay a visit to a “spir­i­tual guide” who makes of­fer­ings to a dummy with a big cigar in its mouth.

Juana bathes Maria and tells her to mas­sage her belly ev­ery day to bring the baby’s head in the right po­si­tion. When the girl says she feels like the vol­cano, Juana tells her, “You have the light of life in­side you. That makes you mag­i­cal. You must lay your hands on the sick hens. You can heal them.”

An at­tempt by Maria to use that power to re­pel dan­ger­ous snakes in the fields sets off a dra­matic se­quence of events, in­clud­ing a fu­neral. — Paul Wei­de­man Drama, 93 min­utes, not rated, Kaqchikel with sub­ti­tles, 7 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15, the Len­sic, 3.5 chiles

MEKKO

This gritty, gritty dive into the mis­eries, joys, and dan­gers of life in a Na­tive Amer­i­can home­less com­mu­nity is con­vinc­ingly hon­est — shot in a doc­u­men­tary style — and not for the faint-hearted: There’s quite a bit of vi­o­lence and lots of swear­ing. Semi­nole/Musco­gee film­maker Ster­lin Harjo wrote and di­rected the 2015 film, named for its pro­tag­o­nist. It be­gins with snip­pets about his child­hood com­mu­nity, now long aban­doned, in Ok­la­homa. Ev­ery­one left when peo­ple started get­ting sick. The young Mekko had told his grandma that the wa­ter was bad and when the ill­ness reached epi­demic level just weeks later, she said he was an akkerrv, a seer.

We meet Mekko (played by Rod Ron­deaux) as he is leav­ing prison. It’s the end of a 19-year sen­tence for killing his cousin dur­ing a drunken fight. “I thought about them ev­ery day,” we hear in his in­ter­nal di­a­logue. “I thought about my cousin John. I thought about grandma. I thought about the words she spoke to us.”

The parolee gets him­self three hot dogs with ev­ery­thing, and ex­ults in fla­vors ab­sent for so long. In an al­ley, he finds a black hat with a feather. It fits. He vis­its an In­dian woman, his cousin, and tells her he’s a bet­ter man now, he just wants a chance. She an­swers, “We’re not fam­ily any­more, and none of my fam­ily wants any­thing to do with you.” That’s two ups and one down since his re­lease. He walks the streets of Tulsa as we hear spooky, empty mu­sic. It’s night and some­one seems to be fol­low­ing him. He turns sev­eral times, shout­ing, “What do you want?”

Mekko has a more pos­i­tive en­counter in a diner, where he rel­ishes cof­fee and pie (one cho­co­late, one ap­ple) and meets a wait­ress named Tafv (Sarah Podem­ski) who shows him kind­ness. Out­side, he en­coun­ters a bad-mouthed home­less guy in a wheel­chair. He buys him some­thing to eat. The next morn­ing, sirens cry through the street; the man has been mur­dered.

“Grandma says the sick­ness was brought by a witch,” he is think­ing. “It’s be­cause the peo­ple had stopped the cer­e­monies.”

Find­ing him­self in a group of home­less “street chiefs” laugh­ing and telling sto­ries, he meets one he knows, Thomas “Bun­nie” Small­hill (Wotko Long). They visit a bar, play some pool, then go into a movie-theater lobby, where Bun­nie talks the em­ployee out of some pop­corn.

Life on the street is rough, but this is a com­mu­nity and peo­ple all try to help each other. But then there’s Bill (Zahn McClarnon), who we find in the home­less camp do­ing drugs and talk­ing about witches. He says he has a war­rior heart, and he ex­presses a par­tic­u­larly dark hos­til­ity to any­one who looks at him. Mekko and Bun­nie con­front him and later that night they’re at­tacked as they sleep.

That sit­u­a­tion gets worse on sev­eral fronts be­fore an even­tual home­com­ing — and mem­o­ries of grandma cook­ing and of her lessons about be­ing good. — Paul Wei­de­man Drama, 87 min­utes, not rated, 8 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; 3 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17; Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3.5 chiles

RIGHT FOOTED

Jes­sica Cox was born in 1983 with­out arms. In Right Footed ,a doc­u­men­tary about her life and ac­tivism di­rected by Nick Spark, the de­tails of why she was born dis­abled are never dis­cussed, nor are the body me­chan­ics of how she learned to eat, write, drive, play pi­ano, fold laun­dry, and do a mul­ti­tude of other tasks with her feet. The fo­cus in­stead is on Cox’s achieve­ments, her mar­riage, her ca­reer as a mo­ti­va­tional speaker, and her ac­tivism and ad­vo­cacy. She has a black belt in tae kwon do and she is a li­censed pi­lot. She trav­els all over the world on be­half of Hand­i­cap In­ter­na­tional and lob­bies politi­cians about the hu­man­ity of dis­abled peo­ple, who in some coun­tries are de­nied school­ing and even birth cer­tifi­cates. While watch­ing Cox fly an air­plane solo for the first time is im­pres­sive, her in­ter­ac­tions with chil­dren who share her dis­abil­ity are the true heart of the movie. She helps a lit­tle girl learn to swim, eats a meal with a shy boy in Ethiopia, and wel­comes three ado­les­cent girls from a sum­mer camp she worked at to her wed­ding so they can imag­ine one day dat­ing and find­ing love. Cox has a ready smile and the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude so of­ten lauded by able-bod­ied peo­ple who are inspired by the hard­ships of oth­ers, but just be­hind that is a steely re­solve that you can’t help but feel is in­trin­sic to her char­ac­ter, re­gard­less of her dis­abil­ity. — Jen­nifer Levin Doc­u­men­tary, 80 min­utes, not rated,1 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; 3:45 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18; Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

ROMEO IS BLEED­ING

Donté Clark used to dream big. “I wanted to be the big­gest drug dealer in the neigh­bor­hood,” he says, flash­ing a daz­zling smile. Now his dreams are big­ger, and his fo­cus is on sav­ing lives, not de­stroy­ing them. When Molly Raynor, a white high school teacher so young that Clark re­mem­bers think­ing she was a fel­low stu­dent, rec­og­nized his tal­ents for writ­ing and per­form­ing, she coaxed him into her or­ga­ni­za­tion called RAW Tal­ent, where he works with ghetto kids to tap their abil­i­ties and chan­nel their frus­tra­tions into per­for­mance cre­ativ­ity. Clark, now in his midtwen­ties, and his stu­dents live in Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia, where the ghetto neigh­bor­hoods of North and Cen­tral Rich­mond have been at war for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber, like the Mon­tagues and the Ca­pulets. Clark be­came fas­ci­nated with the lo­cal par­al­lels to Shake­speare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers, and has worked with his kids to adapt Romeo and Juliet to re­flect the war-zone cir­cum­stances of their lives. Boys who were alive at the be­gin­ning of this doc­u­men­tary are dead by the end, and though friends and fam­ily are dev­as­tated, no one is sur­prised. As they work to­ward the open­ing night of their pro­duc­tion, the play is not the thing, the process is, and it har­nesses the fierce tal­ent and in­tel­li­gence of the African-Amer­i­can kids who pur­sue a dream of some­thing bet­ter. Di­rec­tor Jason Zeldes (an editor on the Os­car-win­ning 20 Feet From Star­dom) bril­liantly shapes the ma­te­rial, show­ing us the other Amer­ica in which ghetto kids live and die with small hope of a way out, and the hunger with which some seize the op­por­tu­nity to find an open­ing. As one young man says, “Some things you just can’t change. You can try, though.” Romeo Is Bleed­ing is a pow­er­ful cry of con­science, and a call to ac­tion. — Jonathan Richards Doc­u­men­tary, 93 min­utes, not rated, 4 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema; 5:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

THE SEV­ENTH FIRE

Hope doesn’t show its face much in di­rec­tor Jack Pet­ti­bone Ric­cobono’s non­fic­tion film The Sev­enth Fire, which takes an un­com­pro­mis­ing look at how a cul­ture of gang vi­o­lence, drugs, and gam­bling have laid waste to an In­dian reser­va­tion in Min­nesota. The ti­tle comes from an Amer­i­can In­dian leg­end about seven prophets warn­ing of things to come: first a rejection of cul­ture and com­mu­nity and then the prom­ise of the younger folks set­ting things right by lead­ing the clan back to tra­di­tional ways.

The di­rec­tor chose two crim­i­nals for his pro­tag­o­nists. Rob Brown is the forty­ish would-be writer who is head­ing to jail for the fifth time and try­ing to re­flect on how his ac­tions have hurt those around him. One of his pro­tégés is the teenage Kevin, who is go­ing to prison for the first time on a drug-re­lated charge. These two and their friends are the type of peo­ple who set the din­ner ta­ble with co­caine, heroin, and meth and down them with a six-pack of beer. Both men have im­preg­nated their girl­friends be­fore they head off to the Big House, and though they con­vey af­fa­ble qual­i­ties on cam­era, it may be a chal­lenge to em­pathize with their sit­u­a­tion. They speak of their crim­i­nal deeds with a ca­sual aloof­ness that sug­gests they do not un­der­stand the im­pact their ac­tions have on oth­ers.

But there’s no deny­ing the pic­ture packs a punch in its de­pic­tion of peo­ple who have run down their last dead-end street. “One out of 10 ev­ery 10 years will make it out of here,” a sym­pa­thetic el­der says re­fer­ring to the reser­va­tion, which is framed in the film as a prison or war zone. The movie is less a doc­u­men­tary than an up-close look at a dy­ing com­mu­nity that hasn’t the where­withal to stop the de­struc­tion. Na­tive Amer­i­can film­maker and Santa Fean Chris Eyre served with ac­tress Natalie Port­man as ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers on the film. — Robert Nott Doc­u­men­tary/drama, 78 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, the Len­sic, 3 chiles

SHE’S THE BEST THING IN IT

Mary Louise Wil­son has been a pro­fes­sional Broad­way ac­tress for more than half a cen­tury. In 2007 she fi­nally won a Tony Award for Best Per­for­mance by a Fea­tured Ac­tress in a Mu­si­cal (Grey Gar­dens). In this warm­hearted doc­u­men­tary by di­rec­tor Ron Nyswaner (Os­car-nom­i­nated screen­writer of Philadelphia), we see Wil­son’s Tony ac­cep­tance speech: “Do I de­serve this? You bet!”

Recog­ni­tion, though, came at a cost. The phone stopped ring­ing. Pro­duc­ers, Wil­son says, fig­ured her ask­ing price had gone up. So the seventy-eight-year-old char­ac­ter ac­tress headed south to her na­tive New Or­leans to try her hand at teach­ing act­ing at Tu­lane.

Much of this film fo­cuses on that class, where the neo­phyte teacher draws on her dis­tant ex­pe­ri­ence in the leg­endary San­ford Meis­ner’s classes at New York’s Neigh­bor­hood Play­house School of the Theatre to help her con­nect with her young stu­dents. It’s slow go­ing; for a while they seem baf­fled, and so does she. But even­tu­ally she breaks through, and the kids clearly seem to adore her. Some of them even learn some­thing.

When we’re not in class, or vis­it­ing with Wil­son and her older sis­ter in New Or­leans, the film in­serts in­ter­views with a sta­ble of A-list tal­ent, ac­tresses like Frances McDor­mand, Estelle Par­sons, and Tyne Daly, who dis­cuss their ap­proach to the craft. Wil­son also talks us through an as­sort­ment of film clips that il­lus­trate her points about act­ing. Most il­lu­mi­nat­ing is a sec­tion on Meryl Streep, who Wil­son hails as “the best ac­tress liv­ing, pe­riod.”

The film doesn’t re­veal a lot about the pri­vate Mary Louise Wil­son. When the film­maker asks about her short-lived mar­riage, she gives a bit, but then clams up: “I don’t want to say any more about that.” She’s an ac­tress who be­lieves in dis­ap­pear­ing into her roles and keep­ing her own per­son­al­ity out of the spotlight. It’s com­fort­ing to check the record and find that Wil­son has con­tin­ued to find work on and off Broad­way (most re­cently in On the Twen­ti­eth

Cen­tury) since her re­turn from Tu­lane. — Jonathan Richards Doc­u­men­tary, 79 min­utes, not rated, 1:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts; 3 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18, Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

SIEM­PRE FLA­MENCO

Film­maker Christo­pher Michael Roy­bal, a devo­tee of fla­menco, pro­filed Al­bu­querque’s Yjas­tros troupe in 2010’s The Span­ish Room. Five years later, af­ter fire de­stroyed the stu­dio and the group’s gui­tarist suf­fered a stroke, he of­fers another in-depth look. The heart of the film is its in­ter­views with the dancers and film clips of stun­ning per­for­mances, in­clud­ing at El Farol.

In 1999, Joaquín Encinias founded Yjas­tros: The Amer­i­can Fla­menco Reper­tory Com­pany, a unit of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fla­menco that was es­tab­lished seven years ear­lier by his mother, Eva Encinias-San­doval.

A text panel in­forms us that Yjas­tros is the com­pany in res­i­dence at the Univer­sity of New Mexico’s depart­ment of theater and dance. Other pan­els say each Yjas­tros mem­ber ded­i­cates over 500 hours per year re­hears­ing, and most also work at Tierra Aden­tro: The New Mexico School of Aca­demics, Art and Arte­sa­nia. “Yjas­tros are dancers, per­form­ers, but they’re also life­long ed­u­ca­tors, shar­ing what it means to grow,” Encinias says.

His twin sis­ter, Marisol Encinias, is prin­ci­pal dancer. “You never stop learn­ing, and you never stop chal­leng­ing your as­sump­tions in learn­ing an art,” she says in an in­ter­view, adding that fla­menco “con­stantly chal­lenges you to look deeper and to be more free and loose in how you see things, but to be fo­cused and have dis­ci­pline as you’re do­ing it.”

One of the younger dancers in Yjas­tros is Ne­varez Encinias, Joaquín’s son. “One thing that’s so in­ter­est­ing about the makeup of the com­pany,” he says, “is that the peo­ple who are here are be­cause of ma­tured life choices and a sort of sus­tained in­vi­ta­tion of this re­ally gnarly thing into their lives.”

The film hits a sad note when it re­calls the Oc­to­ber 2013 con­cert in Texas at which gui­tarist Ri­cardo Anglada suf­fered a par­a­lyz­ing stroke. He was told he would never re­cover, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to play the guitar, but when his fam­ily and friends heard that as­sess­ment, they raised the money needed to get him back to New Mexico. He walked out of an Al­bu­querque hos­pi­tal af­ter one month and set about work­ing to re­gain his abil­i­ties. He per­formed with the com­pany 13 months af­ter the stroke.

In Jan­uary 2015, the in­sti­tute opened its new Con­ser­va­tory of Fla­menco Arts build­ing at 1620 Cen­tral Ave., on the cor­ner of Pine Street. In the fi­nal seg­ment of the film, Anglada plays, beau­ti­fully. — Paul Wei­de­man Doc­u­men­tary, 76 min­utes, not rated, 3 p.m. Thurs­day, Oct. 15, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3.5 chiles

SIR DOUG AND THE GEN­UINE TEXAS COS­MIC GROOVE

“This is Doug Sahm and this is KOKE FM, the only place you’ll hear cos­mic cowboys, West-Coast-freaky cowboys, and of course our own Austin cowboys, of which there are more all the time!” This groovy salu­ta­tion comes half­way through the doc­u­men­tary

Sir Doug and the Gen­uine Texas Cos­mic Groove, il­lus­trat­ing the cos­mol­ogy of mu­si­cian friends and col­lab­o­ra­tors that Sahm cul­ti­vated in the heady 1970s Austin scene. Along with lu­mi­nar­ies like Wil­lie Nel­son and Sahm’s band­mates Augie Mey­ers and Fred­die Fen­der, Sahm changed the sound and style of Texas mu­sic, start­ing out with pop hits like “She’s About a Mover” in the ‘60s with the Sir Dou­glas Quin­tet, then achiev­ing ma­jor suc­cess in the ‘90s with his Tex-Mex su­per­group the Texas Tor­na­dos. The story of Sahm’s life and in­flu­ence is told in this rol­lick­ing film, which boasts an im­pres­sive num­ber of in­ter­views from Sahm’s fam­ily mem­bers, co­horts, and ad­mir­ers like Dr. John and Billy Gib­bons of ZZ Top.

Raised in San An­to­nio and in­flu­enced by the Western swing sounds of Bob Wills, along with Te­jano mu­sic and the blues, Sahm was a steel guitar child prodigy, mak­ing his ra­dio de­but at age five as Lit­tle Doug. In his early twen­ties, inspired by the suc­cess of the Bri­tish In­va­sion, he formed the Sir Dou­glas Quin­tet. The group’s name was cho­sen in an ef­fort to pass them off as English — never mind Sahm’s sig­na­ture Texas drawl, or that two of the band mem­bers were clearly His­panic. The group soon found its sin­gles climb­ing the charts, and ap­peared on TV’s Hul­la­baloo in 1965, play­ing against a castle back­drop in full mop-topped, be­suited re­galia. (Host Trini Lopez blew their cover af­ter the per­for­mance, how­ever, proudly out­ing them as fel­low Tex­ans.) Soon, Bob Dy­lan was pub­licly count­ing him­self as a Sir Doug fan, and af­ter a drug bust and some time spent in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the Doug Sahm sound evolved into a more psy­che­delic form of Texas-in­flected rock, which de­pended on the in­ter­play be­tween Augie Mey­ers’ Vox or­gan and Sahm’s rous­ing wild­man vo­cals.

The film cel­e­brates the sa­cred pur­suit of “the groove,” a term Sahm ap­plied not just to in­fec­tious mu­sic, but also to good food and beau­ti­ful women. The typ­i­cal Be­hind the Mu­sic-es­que set­backs that Sahm en­coun­ters along the way are, ac­cord­ing to one of his sons, just ex­am­ples of peo­ple “mess­ing with the groove.” Sahm died in Taos in 1999, and given his sta­tus as one of the beloved greats of Texas mu­sic, this fizzy doc­u­men­tary is an over­due trib­ute to his laid-back ge­nius. All hail Sir Doug! — Molly Boyle Doc­u­men­tary, 83 min­utes, not rated, 7:30 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16; 3:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17; 10:30 a.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18; Vi­o­let Crown, 4 chiles

SONGS MY BROTH­ERS TAUGHT ME

“Any­thing that runs wild has got some­thing bad in them,” says the char­ac­ter Johnny Win­ters at the start of Chloé Zhao’s emo­tional fam­ily drama. “You want to leave some of that in there.” Johnny (John Reddy) is talk­ing about break­ing horses, but he may as well be speak­ing of him­self. He dreams of leav­ing his home on the Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion in South Dakota and start­ing fresh in Los An­ge­les. The world he would be leav­ing be­hind is one of quiet des­per­a­tion. His re­cently de­ceased fa­ther, who Johnny never knew, left be­hind 25 chil­dren by nine dif­fer­ent women. The walls of the house he shares with his sin­gle mother and younger sis­ter are cracked and peel­ing. Johnny takes to a life of petty crime, deal­ing in con­tra­band al­co­holic bev­er­ages, banned on the reser­va­tion due to ram­pant al­co­holism. The back­drop for this ex­is­tence is the serene, windswept prairie cap­tured in quiet, poetic mo­ments by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Joshua James Richards.

Jo­hhny is try­ing to save up some money to head West and be with his girl­friend Aure­lia (Taysha Fuller) while elud­ing lo­cal gangs and tribal po­lice. When his thir­teen-year-old sis­ter Jashaun (JaShaun St. John) over­hears the news by lis­ten­ing to Johnny and Aure­lia in con­ver­sa­tion, she be­gins a search to un­der­stand more about her ab­sent fa­ther. The re­la­tion­ship of brother and sis­ter is ex­plored with ten­der­ness, and the per­for­mances from St. John and Reddy are strong. As he draws closer to his goal, Johnny is torn be­tween a de­sire to es­cape from his deep-rooted her­itage or to re­main.

Songs My Broth­ers Taught Me is a heart­break­ing film whose cast is com­posed pri­mar­ily of non­pro­fes­sion­als. It made a splash at

Sun­dance this year, where it was nom­i­nated for the Grand Jury Prize. It was also nom­i­nated for a Golden Cam­era at Cannes. The fea­ture is part of SFIFF’s Na­tive film pro­gram, which screens the top Na­tive films from in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals. — Michael Abatemarco Drama, 98 min­utes, not rated, 4:15 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, Vi­o­let Crown; 6 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts; 1 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18, Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

THE STATE OF MAR­RIAGE

This June, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees the right to same-sex mar­riage. In the weeks lead­ing up to the de­ci­sion, count­less peo­ple across so­cial media ex­pressed their sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity through hope­ful words and rain­bow-themed avatars. Fol­low­ing a 2012 elec­tion in which three states voted in fa­vor of same-sex mar­riage, the de­ci­sion had a feel­ing of in­evitabil­ity, and the public sup­port al­most taken for granted. It’s easy to imag­ine that younger peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those in left-lean­ing com­mu­ni­ties, couldn’t even con­ceive of a world in which this wasn’t the com­monly held public opin­ion.

And yet, as older peo­ple know, this most cer­tainly was not the case. Jeffrey Kauf­man’s doc­u­men­tary The State of Mar­riage walks the en­tire move­ment back to what could be con­sid­ered its ground zero: the 1999 Ver­mont Supreme Court case of Baker v. Ver­mont, which made the Green Moun­tain State the first to legally rec­og­nize same-sex civil unions, as the grass­roots move­ment helped sway the opin­ion of politi­cians and the public.

At the heart of this move­ment were lawyers Mary Bo­nauto, Su­san Mur­ray, and Beth Robin­son — three women who proved to be in­tel­li­gent, ar­tic­u­late, ded­i­cated, and charis­matic enough for the task. These traits also make them su­perb doc­u­men­tary sub­jects; they are cap­ti­vat­ing and highly lik­able as they re­count their story to au­di­ences.

The story it­self is sur­pris­ingly grip­ping, con­sid­er­ing we all know the even­tual out­come. Kauf­man leads us through the many twists and turns of the move­ment, and the highs and lows ex­pe­ri­enced by the even­tual vic­tors. He also in­tro­duces us to the cou­ples in­volved in the law­suit and, to a small ex­tent, also gives the op­po­si­tion some cam­era time. He paints a full enough por­trait that the film feels weighty, like some­thing that be­longs in a time capsule.

That doesn’t mean it’s strictly a his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment. One of the things that makes the doc­u­men­tary so fas­ci­nat­ing is how re­cently it all took place. It’s in­cred­i­ble to think that just over 15 years ago, in what is ar­guably the most lib­eral state in the coun­try, same­sex civil unions were prac­ti­cally an un­think­able dream and met with in­cred­i­ble op­po­si­tion. It is as­ton­ish­ing to con­sider that the move­ment — and, more im­por­tant, public opin­ion — has come so far in so lit­tle time.

Kauf­man does not stop the film with the 1999 Ver­mont Supreme Court de­ci­sion, how­ever. That rul­ing mo­ti­vated the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion to strike back in pow­er­ful num­bers, and made what could have been a happy end­ing for the left into the be­gin­ning of a much longer bat­tle. This is per­haps the film’s most cru­cial sug­ges­tion — that all of those peo­ple who gave them­selves rain­bow-themed avatars in 2015 need to get out and vote in 2016. The fight for hu­man rights and equal­ity is one that never ends, but

The State of Mar­riage is an in­spir­ing look at one ma­jor vic­tory and sev­eral hero­ines worth remembering. — Robert Ker Doc­u­men­tary, 82 min­utes, not rated, 11 a.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Vi­o­let Crown; 1:15 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 4 chiles

THER­APY FOR A VAM­PIRE

What makes Aus­trian di­rec­tor/writer David Rühm’s hor­ror com­edy Ther­apy for a Vam­pire work is not the pic­ture’s wry one-lin­ers about the un­dead (“Life’s lost its bite,” a de­pressed vam­pire says at one point), but rather its em­pha­sis on char­ac­ters search­ing for an iden­tity that they and oth­ers will em­brace.

It is Vi­enna, 1932. Lucy (Cor­nelia Ivan­can) is the sad-faced wait­ress look­ing to ful­fill her artist boyfriend Vik­tor’s fan­tasies — like wear­ing a dress, dye­ing her hair blond and maybe smil­ing once in a while. She in­ad­ver­tently finds a chance to de­fine her­self when she meets the mys­te­ri­ous Count Közs­nöm, played by To­bias Moretti. The blood-drink­ing count is down­right sui­ci­dal, fed up with his needy vam­pire wife (Jeanette Hain) and in se­ri­ous need of psy­cho­log­i­cal help. En­ter Sig­mund Freud (Karl Fis­cher), who agrees to take on the count as a pa­tient for a hefty price. Mean­while the count’s wife, seek­ing self-re­flec­tion, hires Vik­tor (Do­minic Oley) to paint her por­trait, as she has never seen what she looks like (vam­pires do not cast im­ages in mir­rors, re­mem­ber). Ther­apy for

a Vam­pire leads its four main char­ac­ters through a labyrinth of blood­lust and love as they each seek to find them­selves in very dif­fer­ent ways. As the two vam­pire char­ac­ters tire of their lifestyle, Lucy is smit­ten with the idea of liv­ing for­ever and fly­ing, which leads to the ex­pected com­pli­ca­tions and some fun spe­cial ef­fects. It’s an of­ten sharp and amus­ing tale, but it never quite shifts into full throt­tle to take off on all cylin­ders — or wings, in this case. — Robert Nott Hor­ror/com­edy, 87 min­utes, not rated, 8:30 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles

THEY LOOK LIKE PEO­PLE

There is a mo­ment in They Look Like Peo­ple when the pro­tag­o­nist Wy­att (MacLeod An­drews) says he doesn’t think he’s schiz­o­phrenic. But the film he’s in is not so sure. He hears voices, suf­fers night­mares in which loved ones shape-shift into fright­en­ing crea­tures, and gets mys­te­ri­ous phone calls in the mid­dle of the night im­plor­ing him to be vig­i­lant be­cause “they” are ev­ery­where. Writer/di­rec­tor Perry Black­s­hear in­fuses his first fea­ture-length film with am­bi­gu­ity, con­trast­ing the in­ti­mate hu­man re­la­tion­ships of Wy­att’s friends with the sever­ity of his delu­sions. Wy­att be­lieves evil be­ings are pos­sess­ing the souls of peo­ple in a plot to take over the world.

De­spite its thriller-like over­tones, They Look Like Peo­ple is a sub­tle, ob­ser­vant, char­ac­ter-driven psy­cho­log­i­cal drama with con­vinc­ing per­for­mances from its lead cast. Black­s­hear has an ear for gen­uine di­a­logue. The in­ten­sity builds slowly, as most at­ten­tion is fo­cused on Wy­att and Chris­tian (Evan Du­mouchel), a life­long friend who takes him in. It’s the nor­malcy of their ex­changes that throws Wy­att’s dilemma into sharp re­lief. He lives with a bur­den he knows is ir­ra­tional. He sus­pects that Chris­tian’s love in­ter­est Mara (Mar­garet Ying Drake) is his en­emy, that New York is the set­ting for an im­mi­nent bat­tle be­tween good and evil, and that he is one of few in­di­vid­u­als blessed with spe­cial knowl­edge. Wy­att sneaks into the base­ment while Chris­tian is at work to out­fit it as bunker, stock­pil­ing axes and mod­i­fied power tools to use as weapons dur­ing the com­ing fray. He’s mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to save his friend, but his ac­tions could have mur­der­ous con­se­quences. They

Look Like Peo­ple is about loy­alty, trust, friend­ship, and the lengths peo­ple will go to to save a loved one, even if they don’t know they need sav­ing. — Michael Abatemarco Thriller, 80 min­utes, not rated, 9:30 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 16, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema; 1:30 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 18, Vi­o­let Crown, 3 chiles

WELCOME TO LEITH

If you’re look­ing for a good hor­ror movie this year, then you could do a lot worse than Welcome to Leith, a doc­u­men­tary about a mi­nus­cule town in North Dakota that gets se­verely dis­rupted when in­fa­mous white su­prem­a­cist Craig Cobb be­gins to buy up prop­erty. At first, the lo­cals think noth­ing of it — they don’t even know who he is, and some of them are so shel­tered from the out­side world that they don’t even know what the “white power” move­ment is.

They fig­ure it out quickly enough, how­ever, when he be­gins invit­ing like­minded peo­ple to take up res­i­dence, with the in­tent of legally vot­ing them­selves into of­fice and mak­ing the town their own lit­tle Aryan Utopia. As they bring their scheme closer to fruition, they grow more and more threat­en­ing, even­tu­ally strolling the streets with loaded weapons, look­ing to goad the lo­cals into all-out con­flict.

Di­rec­tors Michael Beach Ni­chols and Christo­pher K. Walker frame it as a thriller — tak­ing a back seat to the ac­tion, opt­ing against nar­ra­tion, and keep­ing talk­ing-head opin­ing to a min­i­mum. They slowly in­crease the vol­ume on a moody score, help­ing to es­ca­late the sense of dread as ten­sions rise be­tween the two fac­tions. The town it­self is a small patch of homes and trees in the mid­dle of a vast land­scape of empty beauty — not un­like many small towns in New Mexico — and in the movie, Leith seems to be per­pet­u­ally in au­tumn or win­ter, with skele­tal trees and sunken-in build­ings adding to the creepi­ness. Cobb stalks this land­scape al­most like the shark in Jaws; he’s al­ways a threat and when­ever he ap­pears, chaos seems to reign.

The town is pop­u­lated by fewer than 30 peo­ple, so the film gives you a fairly good sense of ev­ery­one there — a gen­er­ally lik­able mix of lif­ers and folks who wan­dered in, partly to be near the jobs cre­ated by the oil in­dus­try and partly to es­cape some­thing in their past. It’s very in­ter­est­ing to watch them band to­gether to force out a threat that they never asked for. One of the weapons that both sides use is in­for­ma­tion; through cam­eras and the in­ter­net, they dig up each other’s pasts and record each other’s daily ac­tions. Cobb un­der­stands the power of in­for­ma­tion — un­der­stand­able, as he’s pub­licly known as a ter­ri­ble per­son — which makes it more in­cred­i­ble that he al­lowed Ni­chols’ and Walker’s cam­eras into his life. — Robert Ker Doc­u­men­tary, 85 min­utes, not rated, 4 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 17, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

All Eyes and Ears

Al­most There

Babushkas of Ch­er­nobyl

Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Light­ning

Break­ing a Mon­ster

Em­brace of the Ser­pent

How to Win at Check­ers (Ev­ery Time)

Frame by Frame

Ix­canul (Vol­cano)

Mekko

She’s the Best Thing in It

Romeo Is Bleed­ing

Right Footed

Sir Doug and the Gen­uine Texas Cos­mic Groove

Songs My Broth­ers Taught Me

Welcome to Leith

They Look Like Peo­ple

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