“TESTOSTERONE: VOLUME2”— More Short Films

“Testosterone: Volume Two”

More Short Films

Amos Lassen

The success of “Testosterone: Volume 1” has led to TLA’s release of a second collection of outstanding gay short films. These six films take us into the gay male psyche, the world of secrets, boarding school, disabilities and the world of infatuation.

“Beyond Plain Sight” is about Ryan, a very popular guy with a secret.

“Like Father” is the story of an older man, a bedridden patriarch who is dying of lung cancer and who confesses to his son that he has always had a penchant for men even though he was totally faithful to his wife during their long marriage.

In “Lost Years”, we meet Felix who is sent away to boarding school out of the country after his mother dies. He and his roommate Leo share first love.

“Salt” is about two men, one is a solitary computer technician and the other is an intriguing older man. Thy first met on a website where secrets and dark fantasies are shared.

“Sign” tells the story of a relationship between Ben and his partner Aaron who cannot hear. Their story is beautifully told through sign language, music and vignettes.

“Turn It Around” introduces us to Bram who meets Florian at a house party and immediately falls for him. There is a bit of a problem in that no one knows that Bram is gay.

“Acts of Infidelity” by Lena Andersson— Looking at Infidelity

Andersson, Lena. “Acts of Infidelity”, translated by Saskia Vogel, Other Press, 2019.

Looking at Infidelity

Amos Lassen

Infidelity in marriage has become quite common and to really understand it, it is necessary to understand the emotions behind it. This is what writer Lea Andersson dies so brilliantly here as she dissects the experience of “the other woman” with tremendous wit and insight.
When Ester Nilsson meets the actor Olof Sten, she instantly fell madly in love with him even though he made no secret of being married. He and Ester nevertheless started to meet regularly and begin a strange courtship. Olof insisted that he did not plan to leave his wife, but he had no objection to this new situation either.

Ester, on the other hand, was convinced that things might change. But as their relationship continued over repeated summers apart, and winters full of meetings in bars, she was forced into realizing the truth; she had become a mistress.

Ester’s and Olof’s entanglements and arguments were the stuff of relationship nightmares yet the book is written with great humor and while it is painful to read at times, it is also very clever. It is also very true. Those involved in relationships like this one often do not know how society sees this and that is probably because they do not want to know.

Lena Andersson brilliantly dissects the experience of “the other woman” and brings us a story that “feels like peeking into the mind of your best – and most infuriating – friend.”

Andersson tells it as she writes it and does so with brutal honesty. She looks at the inner workings of Ester and Olof’s on-again, off-again affair with the careful clandestine meetings and constant fear of being caught, the logistics of sneaking around a partner’s back, and the guilt and constant justifications. Ester knows that Olof has no intentions of leaving his wife and says so often and Ester declares they’re a perfect match and they should be together. Much to the frustration of her friends, she can’t help herself from finding signs in everything Olof does that their relationship is close to coming out of the shadows. Then they break up only to come back together and we see that their lives are filled with Ester and Olof break up and rejoin over the years, their games, manipulations, and arguments are the stuff of relationship nightmares.

Andersson turns the idea of pursuit upside down, subverting tropes of love, loyalty, and happily ever after and gives us  a cheeky and totally entertaining story of the lies we tell ourselves and others. Even the most faithful partners will feel guilty as they follow the many ups and downs of Olof and Ester’s complicated relationship.

“UN TRADUCTOR”— Cuba and Chernobyl

“Un Traductor” (“A Translator”)

Cuba and Chernobyl

Amos Lassen

“Un Traductor” focuses on what happened after the catastrophic accident at the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear plant. Cuba opened its medical facilities to many of the Russian patients suffering from radiation-related diseases. This is the first feature film by sibling directors Rodrigo and Sebastián Barriuso. It explores this life-and-death diplomacy through one man’s unlikely  and government-mandated participation in it. Malin (Rodrigo Santoro) is a professor of Russian literature who’s ordered out of the classroom and into the hospital to serve as a translator between medical staff and patients.

While much of the film centers on desperately ill children, the film, it avoids the maudlin and we see the restraint mirroring the protagonist’s closely guarded emotions. The drama begins in 1989, three years after the Chernobyl explosion and in the early days of the Cuban program that went on to treat more than 20,000 patients over a 20-year period. The film segues smoothly from news footage of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Cuban visit to scenes that place Malin and his young son, Javi (Jorge Carlos Perez Herrera), among the Havana residents lining the streets for a glimpse of the Soviet leader.

Soon after, Malin’s home life with the boy and his artist wife, Isona (Yoandra Suárez), is disrupted by an assignment that arrives without the slightest warning or explanation. Russian Department classes were suspended, Malin and his university colleagues report, as instructed, to a hospital (one that has been turned into a facility dedicated to treating Chernobyl patients, and where the professors’ language skills are necessary crucial). After the traumatic initiation of having to tell a young mother that there’s no hope for her daughter, Malin tries to get out of his night-shift duties in the children’s ward. Malin puts aside his thesis and lessons on Gogol to research leukemia and becomes involved with all the kids on the ward, particularly a boy of about 10, Alexi (Nikita Semenov), who lies in isolation because of his compromised immune system.  Malin is sympathetic to Alexi’s watchful father, a high school teacher (Genadijs Dolganovs). In one of the film’s most affecting exchanges, the man recalls with bitter sorrow how honored he felt to be transferred to Pripyat, the town where Chernobyl stood, to teach the children of esteemed scientists.

Malin’s intimate workplace bond with Argentine nurse Gladys  (Maricel Alvarez) gives the film its heart and soul. Álvarez gives us an unforced blend of common sense and passion. Having escaped her native country’s dictatorship, Gladys is a proud participant in Cuba’s medical system, and a believer in its larger vision; she characterizes Fidel’s program for Chernobyl patients as “an act of kindness by a leader with a big heart.” Such praise flows organically and Gladys’ gaze says everything that needs saying.

Everything we see stands in contrast to Malin’s son who s healthy and pampered. The family is also influential and affluent. As a character, Malin is taciturn and emotionally opaque and Santoro delivers an understated performance that conveys Malin’s physical and mental exhaustion along with his deepening engagement in the work he is doing without having been asked. It is through this wok that we see the day-to-day effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union on Cubans. Economic strains and shortages of goods exacerbating the simmering conflict between Malin and Isona.

The most gripping scenes take place at the hospital. Malin is experiencing matters of such urgency that anything else pales in comparison to the point where he dismisses Isona’s work as “just art.” It is only when she sees drawings by the hospitalized children that she understands the depth of her husband’s work with them.

Shot in Havana, the film captures the distinctive time-capsule quality of an isolated country, where many aspects of the story’s 1989–90 setting bear the mark of earlier decades.

The Barriusos’ film addresses a specific set of events, but as it unfolds at the intersection of socialist ideals, economic realities and personal ambitions, it’s a timeless portrait of what it means to be a cog in the wheel of a single-party regime. Whether Malin’s life was enriched or destroyed by his assignment was never part of the greater equation.

Rodrigo and Sebastián Barriuso are not only brothers but they’re also the sons of the protagonist of the film. It takes place in the critical year of 1989, when the world was starting to change to how it looks right now in terms of political factions and events to come. Cuba had to deal with the fervor of communism and revolution and freedom from capitalism.

The film moves forward with the internal conflict of Malin as he finds himself constantly saying to parents that their children might not survive and the hours that he has to work at night without enough time to be with his son. We see him trying to quit, to find a way to cope with the inherently depressing ambience of the hospital, and thus he finds a way to translate popular Cuban short stories to Russian so he does a story time at the hospital every night, or he makes activities for the children to tell or draw their tales. All this is happening while the Berlin wall falls and the support of the Soviets diminishes, but it’s only through the strength of the Cubans that they are capable of moving their project forward.

The film becomes a bit too dramatic when it tries to equate the efforts of Malin with the wants of his family, who need him just as much as the children who are sick. The film beautifully portrays the coldness of the hospital and manages to find warmth in the white faces of the Russian children that are suffering. You just might shed tears as the film approaches its end but it manages to cause us to do so in a way that makes it worth it.

“k.d. lang— LANDMARKS LIVE IN CONCERT”— A Great Performances Special

“k.d. lang – Landmarks Live in Concert”

 A Great Performances Special

Amos Lassen 

Iconic singer-songwriter k.d. lang performs a 25th anniversary concert celebrating her critically acclaimed 1992 album “Ingénue” from the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas, in k.d. lang – Landmarks Live in Concert – A Great Performances Special, premiering nationwide Friday, December 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). It will then be released on DVD

“Ingénue” let lang and co-writer-producer Ben Mink explore jazz, cabaret and Tin Pan Alley songwriting, and resulted in some of her greatest compositions.

“Landmarks Live in Concert”  features an uninterrupted performance of the complete “Ingénue” album, including lang’s GRAMMY® Award-winning hit “Constant Craving” as well as her hits “Save Me,” “Wash Me Clean,” “Season of Hollow Soul” and “Miss Chatelaine.” The concert also includes the beloved Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” and a previously unreleased song by lang and Joe Pisapia, “Sleeping Alone.” There is also an interview with lang by James Reed, an entertainment editor at Los Angeles Times.

It was twenty-six years ago that k.d. lang was embraced by the music world, its elders (including collaborators such as Tony Bennett and Roy Orbison) and audiences all over the world for her powerfully emotional voice and often quirky take on country music. “‘Ingénue’ was a change in vernacular and vocabulary in that it was personal-finding some romantic space,” said k.d. lang. “It was time. It was me. I had gotten to a time and point where I wanted to be me.”

Here is the song list:

“Save Me”

“The Mind of Love”

“Miss Chatelaine”

“Wash Me Clean”

“So It Shall Be”

“Still Thrives This Love”

“Season of Hollow Soul” (full video below)

“Outside Myself”

“Tears of Love’s Recall”

“Constant Craving”

“Hallelujah”

“Sleeping Alone”

The concert will be available to stream the following day via PBS Passport (contact your local PBS station for details) at pbs.org/gperf and PBS apps. PBS Passport is a special benefit for PBS supporters to access an on-demand library of over 1,000 hours of quality public television programming. Viewer contributions are an important source of funding, making PBS programs possible. PBS and public television stations offer all Americans from every walk of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online programming. Contact your local PBS station for details on PBS Passport.

The concert DVD and Blu-ray also will be available December 14 via MVD Entertainment Group. k.d. lang’s “Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition” was released by Nonesuch Records last year in celebration of the double platinum-selling, GRAMMY Award-winning album’s silver anniversary. The two-disc set includes remastered versions of the album’s original 10 tracks as well as eight previously unreleased performances from lang’s 1993 MTV Unplugged episode, recorded in New York City’s famed Ed Sullivan Theater.

Created by documentary and live event producer/director Daniel E Catullo III, “Landmarks Live in Concert” features a lineup of global music superstars performing at landmark locations of either historical or personal significance around the world. Past episodes featured Alicia Keys at multiple locations around New York City, Brad Paisley at West Virginia University, Andrea Bocelli live at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, Foo Fighters at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and will.i.am with the Black Eyed Peas and friends at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life” by Tavia Nyong’o— Beyond Blackness

Nyong’o, Tavia. “Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life”, (Sexual Cultures), NYU Press,  2018

Beyond Blackness

Amos Lassen

In “Afro-Fabulations”, writer Tavia Nyong’o argues for a conception of black cultural life that exceeds post-blackness and conditions of loss. Nyong’o is a historian and culture critic who looks at the conditions of contemporary black artistic production in the era of  post-blackness. We move from the insurgent art of the 1960’s and the intersectional activism of the present day challenging genealogies of blackness that ignore its creative capacity to exceed conditions of traumatic loss, social death, and archival erasure.

There are those that fear that black survival in an anti-black world is a race against time and so here we look to memory and imagination “through which a queer and black polytemporality is invented and sustained.” Passing the antirelational debates in queer theory, Nyong’o sees queerness as “angular sociality,” drawing upon “queer of color critique in order to name the gate and rhythm of black social life as it moves in and out of step with itself.” He uses a broad range of sites of analysis, from speculative fiction to performance art, from artificial intelligence to Blaxploitation cinema. Reading the archive of violence and trauma against the grain, “Afro-Fabulations” calls upon the poetic powers of queer world-making that have always been imminent to the fight and play of black life. 

Reading this helps us identify the uncanniness of black queer life and performance. We see how black queer artists and performers daily bring forth new worlds and new possibilities and in doing so have leverage their creative powers to transport us to the beyond of anti-blackness.

This is a study of performances of ordinary and the everyday, yet Nyong’o widens our horizon of the possible. For Nyong’o, Afro-fabulation is a critical poetics of black life. The book is engaged with insurgent movement and upheaval, transmutation and. Cognitive science, particle physics, queer and trans theory, and black radicalism come together here as do critical energy and powers of synthetic and figurative attention.

  “I Want to Go Home Forever: Stories of Becoming and Belonging in South Africa’s Great Metropolis” edited by Loren B. Landau and Tanya Pampalone— Belonging

 

Landau, Loren B. and Tanya Pampalone (editors).  “I Want to Go Home Forever: Stories of Becoming and Belonging in South Africa’s Great Metropolis”, Wits University Press, 2018.

Belonging

Amos Lassen

‘”I  Want to Go Home Forever’ is comprised of thirteen true stories about transformation, xenophobia and belonging in Africa’s metropolis. Chichi is a hairdresser from Nigeria who left for South Africa after a love affair went bad. Azam arrived from Pakistan with a modest wad of cash and a dream. Estiphanos hiked the continent escaping political persecution in Ethiopia, only to become the target of the May 2008 xenophobic attacks. Nombuyiselo is the mother of 14-year-old Simphiwe Mahori, shot dead in 2015 by a Somalian shopkeeper in Snake Park, sparking a further wave of anti-foreigner violence. After fighting white oppression for decades, Ntombi has turned her anger towards African foreigners, who, she says are taking jobs away from South Africans and thus aiding crime. Papi, a freedom fighter and activist in Katlehong, now dedicates his life to teaching the youth in his community that tolerance is the only way forward. 
These are a sample of the thirteen stories that make up this collection. They are the stories of South Africans, some of whom are Gauteng-born, others from neighboring provinces and they all have a common goal; they strive to realize the promises of democracy. There are also the stories of newcomers, from neighboring countries and from as far afield as Pakistan and Rwanda, seeking a secure future in those very promises. 

The narratives were collected by researchers, journalists and writers and they all reflect the many facets of South Africa’s post-apartheid decades. Taken together, they give voice to the emotions and relations emanating from a paradoxical place of outrage and hope, violence and solidarity. They speak of intersections between people and their pasts, and of how, in the making of selves and the other they are also shaping South Africa. Underlying these accounts is a nostalgia for an imagined future that can never be realized. These are stories of forever seeking a place called home.

We get an intimate look into the lives of migrants, the people they find along their journeys and the worlds they inevitably create together. We read of the complexity and contradictions of experiences of migration and understand that experience is inseparable from personal and political belonging, and perhaps even what it means to be human. 

Even though this is a “local” book, it has important lessons for a global audience on how people make sense of movement – theirs or that of others – within and across borders.

 So much has been written on xenophobia in South Africa, and yet so few have really listened with care and precision to the voices of the ordinary people. This book unsettles so many old assumptions and it  does this simply by creating a space in which people bear witness to their lives.

The stories run the gamut—the are all honest and personal and range from heartbreaking to inspiring. Each story is a study in journey-making. No matter where we may have been born, each of us looks for a place where we will be safe and respected for who we are. The stories in this collection illustrate that no journey is easy. It is always difficult to begin again. These stories also grapple with the making of a nation. They teach us about urban poverty and women’s struggles for space and freedom and of course they speak of racism. “Taken together, they illustrate the quest for dignity and so they tell the story of humanity and striving and ambition in the midst of profound difficulty.” Here is a set of global phenomena that are important to anyone who cares about the state of the world today.

“MALE SHORTS: INTERNATIONAL V2”— Acclaimed Short Films

 

“Male Shorts International,  Volume 2”

Acclaimed Short Films

Amos Lassen

Here is a select offering of acclaimed world cinema that is sure to captivate audiences. Most of us do not get a chance to see short LGBT films and here is the second volume of Male Shorts International that is trying to correct that.

Santiago Henao Velez’s’ “Free Fall” that is set in underground Colombia in the city of Medellin where sixteen year old Jhony is both hopeful and excited about his date with the boy he loves.

“Enter” is a French film directed by Manuel Billi and Benjamin Bod. It takes place during a night of heavy drinking, R. unexpectedly arrives at an apartment where an orgy is taking place. He is embarrassed and locks himself in the bathroom where he finds a man who he knows quite well sleeping.

“SR. Raposo“ (directed by Danie Nolasco) is set in 1995 and begins when Acácio had a dream in he walked hand-in-hand with a man and a woman across an all-green field.

“Ocaso” from Brazil and director Bruno Roger takes place late in the afternoon when a student and a construction worker sit on the edge of the bay and leave traces on the landscape.

“Twice” from Italy is about Diego who is 17, fragile yet full of life. His best friend Antonio knows and indulges his weaknesses, but he would also like to see him strong and masculine. One night they meet Maria, a natural beauty. To show that he is a “real man”, Diego, is ready to do anything, even to force himself to do things he would never have wanted to do. Domenico Onorato directed.

 

 

“THE FAMILY I HAD”— A True Story

“The Family I Had”

A True Story

Amos Lassen

Charity Lee is the center of a true-crime stories that’s so horrible that it’s impossible to comprehend. In 2007, Charity’s 13-year-old son, Paris, savagely murdered her four-year-old daughter and his half-sister, Ella, strangling and beating the girl and stabbing her 17 times with a kitchen knife. Katie Green and Carlye Rubin’s documentary “The Family I Had” opens with Charity’s recollection of hearing of Ella’s death, which is initially presented as an arbitrary incident. We hear the recording of Paris’s call to 911 in which he sounds remorseful and panicked, as if he’s snapped out of a slumber and is describing an act committed by some other person.

Green and Rubin begin with this incident so that we can process the shock of it, before going back to events that preceded the murder. Things aren’t as arbitrary as they seem, of course, and a shadow of ambiguity is cast upon that 911 call. The filmmakers have been granted considerable access to Charity and Paris, who’s incarcerated in a variety of Texas prisons over the course of the film. Charity is a memorable and poignant camera subject: She is heavily tatted, with close-cropped hair and intelligent and tired eyes. She looks like the warrior and survivor that she is. She’s a woman who’s struggled with a bad parent, bad men, a drug addiction, and the death of a daughter at the hands of her intelligent son who meets the textbook definition of a psychopath.

Charity’s descriptions of her own life show the knack that humans have for acclimating to the most difficult of circumstances, evolving, by necessity of survival, to find such events nearly ordinary as life continues. At one point, Charity makes a despairing and macabre joke about Ella’s murder to her mother, Kyla, who’s part of an overlapping murder controversy of her own. But this humor is a testament of strength rather than callousness, as Charity is weathering something that would break many people; she’s an advocate of prison reform, as Paris’s interviews offer chilling evidence of how incarceration ruins and rewards the antisocial behavior of its captors.

Revelations  in the film are sprung messily, almost randomly, as they often are in life. The film alternates intimate home-movie recordings, which show that Paris was a bomb waiting to detonate, with contemporary footage of Charity working with people affected by severe crimes, taking care of her new child, resonantly named Phoenix, and trying for some semblance of a relationship with Paris, whom she resents and fears but has, remarkably, appeared to have forgiven. The film documents the transferrable perversities inherent in familial life, offering evidence to both sides of the debate of nature versus nurture, while exploring the awesome durability of love, which can become its own kind of prison.

What makes this an interesting film is its filmmakers willingness to recognize that there are no easy answers to questions that no one should ever has to ask. It is a story about a murder that tears a family apart and how the people who remain navigate an entirely different world than the one they were in the day before. It presents an impossible situation for its central figure, someone who has to live the rest of her life with questions of regret and forgiveness that it’s impossible to really even imagine considering much less finding the answers that would make one sleep easier at night.

This is Charity’s situation, a woman who was working her job one night when she got a call that would forever change her life. Ella, her 4-year-old daughter, was dead. And her 13-year-old son Paris was being held for her murder. Paris had grabbed a knife and stabbed his sister to death, claiming on the 911 call that he believed the toddler was a demon (however, his own mother claims this story and the call are merely a story concocted by a boy, it’s suggested, wasn’t getting the attention he demanded). Immediately, Charity was faced with an impossible situation. As she says in heartbreaking interviews, if she tried to get Paris the help he so clearly needed, she wondered if she’d be betraying the memory of Ella. But if your son was mentally ill, would you let the system lock him up and throw away the key? 

Green and Rubin keenly understand the complexity of what they’re covering. “The Family I Had” is not an “explainer” movie. It’s not the kind of thing that’s going to tell you exactly why Paris did what he did. Were his cries for attention ignored before that fateful night? What about his mother’s substance abuse problems? What about the missing fathers in this narrative? What about cycles of emotional abuse? Or how our system really has no idea what to do with a sociopathic child, much less a single mother in Abilene, Texas? The narrative here takes a twist in the family tree that you won’t see coming and offers another layer of debate to the nature vs. nurture issues at the core of this human tragedy. 

And that’s the key to this project’s success—the filmmakers never lose sight of the human beings looking for answers to impossible questions. Charity has another child after Paris goes into a system that will release him at the age of 33. She now has to worry about what Paris may do to her new child once he’s out. Could he really do it again? Can you imagine watching someone who killed your child interact with another one? “The Family I Had” recognizes the impossible situation in which Charity has been placed, and then memorably shows us how she has to move forward, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

THE 20TH ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS

THE 20TH ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS

15 thought-provoking, poignant, and very funny animated shorts from around the world

Opens at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles – December 14, 2018

Opens at the Quad Cinema in NYC – December 28, 2018

THE 20th ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS returns to theaters across North America and will have its US theatrical premiere at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on December 14th, and at the Quad Cinema in New York on December 28th (many other cities will follow). Since 1998, THE ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS has been selecting the best in animated short films from around the world and has been presenting new and innovative short films to appreciative audiences at animation studios, schools and, since 2015, theaters in the US and other countries. Over the years, 38 of the films showcased in THE ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS went on to receive Academy Award® nominations, with 11 films winning the Oscar®.

THE 20th ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOW will present 15 thought-provoking, poignant, and very funny animated shorts from around the world. In a year when the best and worst of human nature has been on constant display, the works in this year’s show remind us of both the universality of shared ideals, as well as the diverse challenges we face. “Animation is such a flexible and open-ended medium that it lends itself to exploring the innumerable aspects of what it means to be human,” says founder and curator Ron Diamond. “And this year’s program, as much as any of our past presentations, really illuminates human strengths and foibles, and the bonds that unite us across cultures and generations.” THE 20th ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOW represents the work of artists from six countries and includes six student films. Funny, moving, engaging, and thought-provoking, THE ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS not only has something for everyone, but is a remarkable and insightful microcosm of our world.

The show has a running time of 98 minutes and includes 15 films, four of which have qualified for Academy Award® consideration *. 

The Green Bird  – Maximilien Bougeois, Quentin Dubois, Marine Goalard, Irina Nguyen, Pierre Perveyrie, FranceOne Small Step * – Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas, U.S.Grands Canons –  Alain Biet, FranceBarry – Anchi Shen, U.S.Super Girl – Nancy Kangas, Josh Kun, U.S.Love Me, Fear Me – Veronica Solomon, GermanyBusiness Meeting – Guy Charnaux, BrazilFlower Found! – Jorn Leeuwerink, The NetherlandsBullets – Nancy Kangas, Josh Kun, U.S.A Table Game – Nicolás Petelski, SpainCarlotta’s Face – Valentin Riedl, Frédéric Schuld, GermanyAge of Sail  – John Kahrs, U.S.Polaris – Hikari Toriumi, U.S.My Moon – Eusong Lee, U.S.Weekends * – Trevor Jimenez, U.S. 

 

The power of family ties, and specifically the enduring connection between parents and children, are sensitively evoked in Hikari Toriumi’s deeply affecting “Polaris,” about a young polar bear leaving home for the first time. “One Small Step,” Bobby Pontillas and Andrew Chesworth’s inspiring story of a Chinese-American girl’s dream of being an astronaut, centers on her evolving relationship with her father. The beautifully designed “Weekends,” by Trevor Jimenez, explores the complex emotional landscape of a young boy and his recently divorced parents, as he shuttles between their very different homes and lives.

The darker side of relationships is forcefully explored in Veronica Solomon’s “Love Me, Fear Me,” a tour de force of claymation that uses dance to delve into the lengths people go to to deceive each other and try to pass for something they’re not. Eusong Lee’s “My Moon” takes a more cosmic and lighthearted approach to a troubled relationship, depicting a celestial love triangle played out by the sun, the moon, and the earth.“Carlotta’s Face,” by Valentin Riedl and Frédéric Schuld, illuminates a different kind of relationship dysfunction in its sensitive portrayal of a woman who suffers from prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, and her salvation through art.

Among the other program highlights are the very funny computer animation “The Green Bird,” winner of a 2018 Gold Student Academy Award® International Animation, which harks back to classic cartoons of the mid-20th century. Oscar-winning director John Kahrs’ “Age of Sail,” the latest in Google’s series of Spotlight Stories, chronicles the adventures of an old sailor who rescues a teenaged girl after she falls overboard. Alain Biet’s jaw-dropping “Grands Canons” is a dizzying symphonic celebration of everyday objects that uses finely detailed drawings created by the filmmaker. And two very short films, “Supergirl” and “Bullets,” take their inspiration from poems composed by surprisingly eloquent preschoolers.

“BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY”— “IT S 6:00am. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?”

“Bright Lights, Big City”

“IT S 6:00am. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?”

Amos Lassen

Jamie Conway (Michael J. Fox) is an aspiring writer who leaves the wheat fields of Kansas for Manhattan  and the city’s party subculture. Hitting the clubs night after night, Jamie soon spins out of control, and he risks losing everything – and everyone he loves.

The divide between Jamie’s professional existence and his private life is laughable, but it’s becoming impossible to keep up the charade that he cares about the things he’s supposed to be doing. He works for a high-powered New York magazine, and the only two things that keep him on the job are guilt and the need for money. He needs the money because he puts it into his nose. He needs the guilt because it’s his only link to his ambitions and reality.

“Bright Lights, Big City” takes place over the course of a week or so, in which people, events and even whole days drift in and out of focus. Jamie is completely out of control. The irony is that he still looks halfway okay, if you don’t look too hard. He’s together enough to sit in a club and drink double vodkas and engage in absentminded conversation with transparent people. He drinks tremendous amounts of booze, punctuated by cocaine.

He is red-eyed, puffy-faced and trembling with fear every morning when the telephone rings. When he lived in Kansas City, he dreamed of becoming a writer. It was there he met and married Amanda (Phoebe Cates) who he met in a bar. The movie deliberately never makes clear what, if anything, they truly had to share. In New York, she finds overnight success as a model and drifts away from him. That’s no surprise since there is no stability with Jamie.

Jamie takes himself, filled with nausea and self-loathing, into the magazine office every day. He works as a fact-checker and he could care less. He had dreams once. He can barely focus on them now. One day he’s cornered at the water cooler by the pathetic old drunk Alex Hardy (Jason Robards), who once wrote good fiction and knew Faulkner, and now exists as the magazine’s gin-soaked fiction editor.

Alex drags Jamie out to a martini lunch, where the conversation is the typical alcoholic mixture of resentment against those who have made it and self-hatred for drinking it all away. By supplementing booze with cocaine, Jamie is going to be able to reach Alex’s state of numbed incomprehension quickly yet there is one glimmer of hope in Jamie’s life. He has dinner one night with a bright college student  (Tracy Pollan), the cousin of his drinking buddy (Keifer Sutherland). At a restaurant, he goes into the toilet and then decides not to use cocaine. He wants to get through the evening without drugs. He likes her.. She is intelligent and kind. Several days later, at the end of a lost weekend of confusion and despair, he looks at himself in a mirror and says, “I need help.” He telephones her in the middle of the night but his conversation is disconnected and confused. What he is really doing is calling for help.

 The movie ends with Jamie staggering out into the bright dawn of a new day and, in a scene a bit too contrived, trades his dark glasses for a loaf of bread. “Bright Lights, Big City” is a chronicle of wasted days and misplaced nights. It was directed by James Bridges and it is a film you will not soon forget.  

SPECIAL FEATURES include: 

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio

  Audio: English 2.0 Stereo, French 2.0 Stereo, Spanish Mono

  English, French and Spanish Subtitles

  Commentary with Author/Screenwriter Jay McInerney

  Commentary with Cinematographer Gordon Willis

  ”Jay McInerney’s The Light Within” featurette

  ”Big City Lights” featurette

  Photo Gallery

  Original Theatrical Trailer

  Collectible Mini-Poster