Cinema Explorations

Dedicated to fostering the voices and choices of our community of film lovers, our winter film series is programmed by a volunteer steering committee to present works of cinema from around the world and encourage the shared experience of communal film viewing and thoughtful discussion.

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Faces Places
Jan. 6 & 7 | 10 a.m.

At 89, Agnès Varda is, along with Jean-Luc Godard, the wise elder remnant of the path-breaking French New Wave, and a specialist in crafting fascinating, open-eyed studies of people living eccentric lives on society’s fringes. “It is the people who have no official place in society who need to be listened to,” she has said, and here, in collaboration with the wildly popular young French street artist JR, she combines footage of the process of creating large-scale photographic images of marginalized people—a goat-herder, a waitress, a postman, the wives of dockworkers—with stories of how she came into contact with them. The tone of Faces Places is delightfully improvisational and whimsical; the growing friendship between JR and Varda, two artists separated by five decades, is charming; and the fearless Varda allows the melancholy, in the meditations on those she has lost or outlived, flow, too.—Larry Gross, Telluride Film Festival. In French with English subtitles. Rated PG. 89 minutes.

Holy Air
Jan. 20 & 21 | 10 a.m.

Adam is a Christian Arab in Nazareth—a vanishing minority within a minority in the Holy Land. His wife Lamia runs a foundation for women’s rights. Learning that Lamia is pregnant and his father very ill, Adam realizes he has not achieved much. Despite his prior businesses failing, he makes a last-ditch effort to make it big. What could be better to sell in the Holy Land than the very air the Virgin Mary breathed during her annunciation? But in order to successfully market it he needs to find allies from the three cultures ruling over Nazareth—Jewish politicians, the Muslim mafia, and Catholic church officials. In a politically unstable world where religion is just another commodity, can Holy Air be Adam’s salvation or is it just an illusion? In Hebrew, Arabic, English, Italian, and French with English subtitles. Unrated. 81 minutes.

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Mon Oncle Antoine
Feb. 3 & 4 | 10 a.m.

Claude Jutra's sweeping portrait of village life in Quebec during the late 1940s is set in a community dominated by its asbestos mine and foreshadows a strike that many cite as a seminal event in reorienting Quebec politics—openly roiling in 1971 when the film was made. The focus, however, is on teenage Benoit working at Christmastime in the center of village life at his uncle’s general store. Confronting sex and death, he observes those around him first as an innocent adolescent and then as a knowing adult. Subtle, realistic, and shaded with a blend of nostalgia and menace, Mon Oncle Antoine has been called one of the greatest Canadian films of all time. In French with English subtitles. 104 minutes. Unrated, but viewer discretion is advised.

Santa & Andrés
feb. 17 & 18 | 10 a.m.

Cuba, 1983. Santa is a young woman working on a state farm. Andrés is a middle-aged gay novelist who, the government says, has “ideological problems.” Judged opposed to the Revolution, someone needs to be sent to watch him and see that he doesn’t commit acts of public opposition. Santa is assigned to monitor his house arrest. This political odd-couple slowly discover that they have more in common than they expected. Cuba’s submission for the 2017 Best Foreign-film Oscar, it was named a New York Times Critics Pick. “Santa & Andrés begins as a film about separation and pain, but becomes a movie about reconciliation and healing”—Monica Castillo, New York Times. “With quiet precision, (screenwriter and director Carlos) Lechuga charts Andrés’ resilience and Santa's awakening, using a naturalistic visual style and sparse dialogue that reveals how these characters instinctively read between the lines.”—Serena Donadoni, Village Voice. In Spanish with English subtitles. Unrated. 105 minutes.

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March 3 & 4 | 10 a.m.

12 August 1945: An Hungarian village, in the wake of war and in the shadow of Russian occupation, rises for the wedding day of the town clerk’s son. At 11 a.m., a black-clad father and grown son suddenly appear at the railway station. The villagers—suspicious, remorseful, fearful, and cunning – anticipate the worst from the two Jews and behave accordingly.  The bride's former fiancé returns. Within hours, everything has changed. Secrets, sins, reckoning, love, betrayal, confrontation emerge. Based on the acclaimed short story "Homecoming" by Gábor T. Szántó and adapted by Szántó and Director Ferenc Török, a complex picture of a society facing the horrors they’ve experienced, perpetrated, or just tolerated for personal gain is revealed. A superb ensemble cast, lustrous black and white cinematography, and historically detailed art direction contribute to this eloquent drama. We are proud to present this film in association with the Maine Jewish Film Festival. In Hungarian with English subtitles. Unrated. 91 minutes.

The Other Side of Hope
march 17 & 18 | 10 a.m.

Aki Kaurismäki’s wry, melancholic comedy—a clear-eyed response to the current refugee crisis—follows two people searching for a new life. Displaced Syrian Khaled has escaped war-ravaged Aleppo and lands in Helsinki as a stowaway; meanwhile, middle-aged salesman Wikström leaves behind his wife and work using poker winnings to buy a conspicuously unprofitable seafood restaurant. After Khaled is denied asylum, he eludes deportation to Aleppo—and fortuitously the paths of the two men cross. As deadpan as the best of the director’s work with a deep well of empathy for its down-but-not-out characters (many played by Kaurismäki's ever-reliable stock company), the film is a bittersweet tale of human kindness in the face of official indifference. “The issue of migrants and refugees [may] still be something from which cinema mostly averts its gaze, [but] not Kaurismäki’s cinema…. His humane comedy [has] absorbed this idea, [and] in fact embraced it with almost miraculous ease and simplicity”—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian. In Finnish, English, Arabic with English subtitles. Rated PG. 101 minutes.

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