Sept. 24 is Art House Theater Day, a national celebration created by the Art House Convergence to recognize cinemas like the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre that promote cinema arts by providing access to independent films. But why should the celebration only last a day? Instead, Art House Theater Day is just the start of a week of six evocative independent films.
The week starts with a rare cinematic experience—the chance to see legendary Frederick Wiseman’s first and latest documentaries back to back on the big screen. The Art House Theater Day features a special 5oth anniversary screening of a newly restored version of Wiseman’s milestone Titicut Follies (1966). Filmed in black-and-white by cinematographer John Marshall (The Hunters), Titicut Follies is an unflinching portrait of life within the Massachusetts State Prison for the Criminally Insane—and spurred changes in the way U.S. mental hospitals are run. You can’t find this on Netflix or Hulu, so just seeing it is a are occasion, but this screening alco includes never-before-seen news trial footage of Wiseman testifying before the Massachusetts State Legislative committee investigating who was responsible for granting permission to make the film, along with a pre-recorded conversation between Wiseman and director Wes Anderson. On screen September 24 at 1pm. Get tickets.
The same day at 4pm you can see the director’s latest documentary, Ex Libris: New York Public Library (2017). His 42nd film takes viewers to the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, inside the headquarters of a landmark institution that has served the public since 1911, and now deftly navigates the digital age in pursuit of its mission. Ex Libris will also be shown Sept. 26 at 7:30pm and October 3 at 1pm. Get tickets.
Also on the 24th, at 7pm, is Bill Morrison’s (Decasia) Dawson City: Frozen Time. This mash-up of rare silent films and newsreels, archival footage, and interviews tells the true story of a long-lost collection of film prints from the early 20th century, unearthed in 1978 in the titular Canadian Gold Rush town. Silent film fans, history buffs, and those who generally love a good yarn can’t miss this unusual tale of the life of a series of celluloid images, set to an enigmatic score by Sigur Rós. Dawson City also screens Oct. 3 at 7:30pm. Get tickets.
It’s the job of documentaries to dig up untold stories, and Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana correct glaring omissions in rock history with Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017). This eye-opening investigation into the roots of pop music explores both the musical influence of Native American rhythms and beats on the songs we love today, as well as the contributions of musicians like Link Wray (the film’s title is taken from his slouching 1958 instrumental that saw a sexy revival as part of Pulp Fiction‘s soundtrack), Charlie Patton, and Mildred Bailey whose indigenous heritage was not often disclosed for fear of discrimination. Rumble is on screen Sept. 26-Oct. 1. Tickets and showtimes.
After reinterpreting the past, the indie-film series continues Sept. 28 with a free screening of the very timely City of Ghosts, an urgent, visceral perspective of the Syrian resistance by award-winning director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land). This is the story of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of anonymous activists/citizen-journalists who banded together in 2014 to document and expose the atrocities committed by ISIS and the Bashar al-Assad regime. Sponsored by Hawaii J20+, the screening is followed by a discussion with two founding members of RBSS. More info.
Indie film week concludes with an offbeat meditation on immigrant life in the US. Radio Dreams (2017), directed by Babak Jalali (Frontier Blues), is set in the fictional PARS-FM—a Farsi-language radio station broadcasting from San Francisco—and follows the station’s program manager Hamid (played by the “Iranian Bob Dylan” Mohsen Namjoo who currently lives in exile in the US) over the course of a single day as he prepares to broadcast a live jam session with Metallica and Afghanistan’s first rock band, Kabul Dreams. On screen Sept 29-Oct 3. Tickets and showtimes.