Series/Festivals

Week of March 13, 2002

 Art and Cultural Awakenings: Middle Eastern Film. The Missouri Historical Society presents a series highlighting Islamic and Arab cultures. This week's film is Ramin Serry's Maryam (2000). Maryam Armin (Mariam Parris), a beautiful 16-year-old Iranian-born transplant so out of touch with her roots she prefers to be called Mary, has goo-goo eyes for a dim-bulb blond boy and dreams of becoming a newscaster -- Jessica Savitch, actually. It's November 1979, and Mary's cousin, college student Ali (David Ackert), has come from Iran to stay with Mary's family in suburban New Jersey, bringing with him an anti-Shah, pro-Ayatollah Khomeini sentiment -- which renders the entire Armin household pariahs among flag-waving Americans who, after hostages are taken at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the shah moves to New York for medical care, demand the bombing of Iran. The Armins are torn (and torn apart) by their own neighbors' newfound racism, Ali's devotion to Islam and the ayatollah and Dr. Armin's long-buried secret that involves the death of his own brother when the whole family lived in Iran. It's a shame this movie's been sitting without distribution for two years, and it would be no less a tragedy if it were viewed solely through post-Sept. 11 eyes; it's a wise and powerful tale of race and culture forcefully told, with superb performances throughout. Parris, especially, is astonishing: the wise and weary adolescent caught between cultures without ever playing the role of mawkish casualty. Plays at 7 p.m. March 19 at the Missouri Historical Society. (RW)

John Singer Sargent Film Series. The St. Louis Art Museum presents a series, in conjuntion with their Sargent exhibit, of films set in the early 20th century that reflect the spirit of the time. This week features Gillies MacKinnon's Behind the Lines (1997). Set during World War I at a mental hospital for shell-shocked soldiers, Behind the Lines (which is based on Pat Barker's novel Regeneration) observes four men who grapple with diverse but equally disturbing reactions to trench warfare: a pair of British poets (Stuart Bunce and James Wilby), a working-class man who becomes an officer (Jonny Lee Miller) and the psychiatrist who treats them (Jonathan Pryce). Their discussions and confrontations question the morality of repairing and returning the emotionally wounded to the front lines, only for them to die. The film features skillful performances that take the theoretical implications and make them immediate and momentous, and the appropriately somber color scheme emphasizes the grays and browns of war, intensifying the psychological gloom. Plays at 7:30 p.m. March 15 at the St. Louis Art Museum. (DC)

SLIFF Best of the Fest. Webster University and the St. Louis International Film Festival present a showcase of audience favorites and award winners from the 2001 festival. On March 15, two films will be shown: In Fei Xie's Song of Tibet, which shows at 7 p.m., a young Chinese woman returns to her native village and learns about her grandmother's rich life; at 9 p.m., Craig Mazin's The Specials satirizes the world of comic-book superheroes by examining the lowest of the low, the Specials, who have to do all the superhero dirty work while other, more famous crews grab the glory. Written by St. Louisian James Gunn. Roland Suso's The Tunnel shows at 8 p.m. on March 16; the film, which is set in East Germany shortly after the Berlin Wall was built, tells of a group who builds a tunnel beneath the wall to smuggle family and friends to the western side. Acts of Worship, directed by Rosemary Rodriguez, will show at 7 p.m. on March 17. Set on the Lower East Side of NYC, the film examines the intertwining lives of a photographer and a junkie. And at 9 p.m. March 17, St. Louisian Bill Boll's April Is My Religion will be presented; it's a coming-of-age story about a fledgling college student who plunges into an existential abyss and attempts to find his way out with the aid of booze and hallucinogens. All films play at Webster University. NR

Steinbeck Film Series. The St. Louis Public Library, in association with the Webster University Film Series, celebrates the 100th anniversary of American novelist John Steinbeck's birth with a series of adaptations of his work. This week features Lewis Milestone's 1949 adaptation of Steinbeck's The Red Pony. Starring Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum, The Red Pony examines the life of a boy, his horse and his attempts to escape a tense family atmosphere. Plays at 7 p.m. March 18 at the Central branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 1415 Olive. NR

 
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