ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

In David Mamet’s captivating Broadway hit “Race,” a court case involving race and sex causes three lawyers to get real about their own beliefs, at A.C.T. through November 13, 2011

In David Mamet’s “Race,” which has its West Coast premiere at San Francisco’s A.C.T., law firm partners Jack Lawson (A.C.T. core acting company member Anthony Fusco, left) and Henry Brown (Chris Butler) discuss whether they should take on a controversial case involving a white man raping a young black woman. Photo by Kevin Berne.

What do you get when you mix three attorneys with a white man accused of raping a black woman?  It all depends.   David Mamet’s  dramedy “Race,” which has its West Coast premiere at San Francisco’s A.C.T.(American Conservatory Theatre), uses a not-so-straightforward scenario of rape to explore the complex world of sexual and racial politics and our discomfort at talking about our deeply held beliefs.  When Jack Lawson (Anthony Fusco), Henry Brown (Chris Butler) and Susan (Susan Heyward) are roped into defending Charles Strickland (Kevin O’Rourke) a wealthy white man who appears to have raped a young black woman in a hotel room, we quickly see how this law firm operates.  Their mandate is to get their client off the hook by whatever legal means available, despite the truth.  Newly-hired associate Susan is most challenged.  As a young black woman, she empathizes with the victim and grows increasingly uncomfortable as a zany defense strategy involving a red sequined dress unfolds, but being new and lowest on the totem pole, she has little power to stand-up directly to her two senior partners.  While the two men spar directly each other about their respective assumptions about racial relations and sex and power dynamics and what may have really unfolded in the case, Susan finds non-verbal ways to assert herself, proving she is not as naïve as she presents.  White versus black; male versus female; privilege versus underprivileged–each character at first seems to conform to certain perceptions but then doesn’t.  Personal convictions and prejudices are road-tested all around by Mamet who also explores the predatory nature of the news media.  

Law firm associate Susan (Susan Heyward) quietly pays close attention to the racially charged case. As the play develops, she proves to be not as naïve as she is presumed to be. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Given Mamet’s track-record for presenting first-rate controversy, “Race” has no real shock impact─it has been upstaged by some of the racially-repugnant language currently on television but it is an entertaining puzzler hat offers a wide platform for exploration of our own deep prejudices.   The 2009 play also has an uncanny applicability to the issues in the highly-publicized case against former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn for allegedly sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in May of this year.  The shift in that case came when the Manhattan County District Attorney’s office disclosed in a letter to the defense team that the accuser admitted to lying on her 2004 asylum application and subsequent lies were then revealed.  Separating out and isolating issues relevant to the case at hand became part of a legal and media extravaganza and personal biases and projections were intentionally whipped up.  In rape cases, it seemed that one needed to be the near perfect victim, whereas, the friends, family, and supporters of the accused, a man of great wealth and power, argued that he was a certainly seducer but not a rapist.  Justice was a game that was to be played out and the truth was something else.  

Law firm associate Susan (Susan Heyward) and law firm partners Jack Lawson (Anthony Fusco, left) and Henry Brown (Chris Butler, second from right) prep their wealthy client Charles Strickland (Kevin O’Rourke) for questioning at A.C.T. through November 13, 2011. Photo by Kevin Berne.

At the end of the first act of “Race,” lawyers Lawson and Susan are debating the Strickland case when Susan tells Lawson, “This isn’t about sex. It’s about race.”

“What’s the difference,” Lawson asks. “It’s a complicated world, full of misunderstandings. That’s why we have lawyers.”  “Race” explores what’s at the heart of our biases and the world of sin that attorney-client privilege can hide.  At 90 minutes, without intermission, with a four member cast, and all set in a law firm’s conference room, it is one the best productions in A.C.T.’s recent history.  Alert: intentionally coarse language.  

Cast: Anthony Fusco as partner Jack Lawson; Chris Butler as partner Henry Brown; Susan Heyward as associate Susan; Kevin O’Rourke as wealthy client

Directed by Irene Lewis; scenery by Chris Barreca; costumes by Candice Donnelly; Lighting by Rui Rita; Sound design by Cliff Caruthers

“Experts Talks Back” special post-show discussions:  Delve deeply into the issues raised by “Race” with legal and cultural specialists leading discussions about many of the provocative topics that percolate throughout the production:

Friday, October 28, 2011, following the 8 p.m. performance:  Regina Arnold, a former rock critic who teaches at Stanford University, leads a discussion about race and ethnicity in today’s popular culture, moderated by Edward Budworth, A.C.T.’s groupsales and student matinee representative.

• Thursday, November 3, 2011, following the 8 p.m. performance:  Mary McNamara, a white collar criminal defense lawyer who was named one of the top 50 women lawyers in Northern California, leads a discussion moderated by Patrick S. Thompson, a partner at Goodwin Procter and a member of A.C.T.’s Board of Trustees.

• Thursday, November 10, 2011, following the 8 p.m. performance:  Wilda L. White, executive director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, and Jennifer Madden, deputy district attorney in Alameda County, lead a discussion moderated by Patrick S. Thompson, a partner at Goodwin Procter and a member of A.C.T.’s Board of Trustees. 

Admission to all Experts Talk Back events is free with a ticket to Race; the discussions will take place in Fred’s Columbia Room on the lower level of the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco).

Details:  The West Coast premiere of “Race” runs through November 13, 2011; tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at http://www.act-sf.org.

October 28, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SF Opera: “Made in Sweden” honors Swedish tenor Jussi Björling on the centennial of his birth, November 7, 2011

Leontyne Price as Lenora and Jussi Björling as Manrico in Il Trovatore, 1958, at San Francisco Opera. A special concert to commemorate Jussi Björling on the centennial of his birth will be held November 7, 2011. Photo: courtesy SF Opera

Swedish tenor Jussi Björling’s  flawless vocal technique, silvery beauty of tone, gleaming upper register, and superb interpretive skills made him one of the greatest and most beloved tenors of the twentieth century.  The Consulate General of Sweden, in cooperation with San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, will present “Made in Sweden” a special concert to commemorate the extraordinary musical legacy of late Swedish tenor, Jussi Björling (1911-1960), and to mark the centennial of his birth, on Monday, November 7 at 7 p.m., in the Conservatory’s Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall, 50 Oak Street.

The multi-media program features live vocal performances by Mats Carlsson, a leading tenor of the Swedish Royal Opera and the first recipient of the Scandinavian Jussi Björling Society Award, established in 2008.  Björling expert Bertil Bengtsson will also offer historic recordings and a slide show presentation highlighting some of the greatest performers of the classical Swedish singing tradition, including Björling, Birgit Nilsson and others.  Audiences will embark on a fascinating and moving journey through the life of this incomparable artist and Swedish music and cultural history.  Special guest Anders Björling, Jussi Björling’s son, will introduce the program.  One of the greatest operatic voices of the 20th century, Jussi Björling, who was acclaimed at the world’s major opera houses during his historic career, gave nearly two decades of memorable performances at San Francisco Opera.    

Lyric tenor Mats Carlsson will perform folk songs and opera arias accompanied by leading Swedish pianist Love Dervinger.  In recent years, Carlsson has established himself as one of the most sought after tenors in Sweden in both opera and concert. He is praised for his shimmering Nordic timbre coupled with an Italianate style.  After a recent performance Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, noted that “Carlsson’s crystal clear diction and perfect blend of light and dark timbre of his voice can compare to Set Svanholm and Fritz Wunderlich.”

Jussi Björling as Chevalier des Grieux and Licia Albanese as Manon Lescaut in San Francisco Opera’s “Manon Lescaut,” 1949. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Opera

Bertil Bengtsson is a co-founder of the Scandinavian Jussi Björling Society, and is a longstanding consultant with the Jussi Björling Museum in the singer’s hometown of Borlange, Sweden. For twenty-five years he has researched the life and career of Jussi Björling as well as other great singers of the past. His international lecture venues include the Smithsonian Institution, Friends of English National Opera, London, and The St. Olav and Kirsten Flagstad Festivals in Norway. He has also produced radio programs and articles about Jussi Björling and other singers.

Tenor Jussi Björling was born in Sweden in 1911.  He became a member of the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1930, and two years later began his international career in Germany, followed by Vienna (1936), Chicago (1937), and London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden (1939).  He made his New York Metropolitan Opera debut in 1938 and sang as the leading tenor for the company for the next two decades.  Björling made his San Francisco Opera debut in 1940 as Rodolfo in La Bohème.  His career with San Francisco Opera spanned from 1940 through 1958, with repertory at the War Memorial Opera House and Company tours to Los Angeles and Sacramento including La Bohème, Un Ballo in Maschera, Il Trovatore, Roméo et Juliette, Faust, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Don Carlo, and Rigoletto.  Björling’s flawless vocal technique, silvery beauty of tone, gleaming upper register, and superb interpretive skills have made him one of the greatest and most beloved tenors of the twentieth century.  He was regarded as the foremost Italian-sounding tenor of his day in the spinto rôles of Puccini and Verdi, and he also excelled in French opera. His tragic, early death in 1960 at age 49 ended a brilliant career that began during the acoustic era of recording and extended to the advent of stereophonic sound.

Swedish tenor Mats Carlsson, of the Swedish Royal Opera and the first recipient of the Scandinavian Jussi Björling Society Award will perform at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on November 7, 2011. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Opera.

PROGRAM:

Jussi Björling (1911-1960) possessed one of the greatest tenor voices of the 20th century. His musical legacy, along with other great performers of the classical Swedish singing tradition, will be celebrated in his centennial year with a combination of vocal performances by Mats Carlsson, leading tenor of the Swedish Royal Opera, and a multi-media presentation by Björling expert Bertil Bengtsson.  Audiences will be taken on a fascinating and moving journey through the life of this incomparable artist and Swedish music and cultural history. Special guest Anders Björling, Jussi Björling’s son, will introduce the program.

 

MUSICAL SELECTIONS: (Mats Carlsson & pianist Love Dervinger)

Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) / Saa tag mit hjerte (So take my heart)           

W. Peterson-Berger (1867-1942) / När jag för mig själv i mörka skogen går (When I walk by myself in the dark forest)

August Körling (1842-1919) / Aftonstämning (Evening mood)  

Ragnar Althén (1883-1961) / Land du välsignade (Thou blessed country)   

F. Liszt (1811-1886) / Piano solo: Petrarch Sonnet 104       

Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) / Jag längtar dig (I long for you)

C.L Sjöberg (1861-1900) / Tonerna (Harmony) 

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) / “Recondita armonia” from Tosca         

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) / “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore

F. Chopin (1810-1849) / Piano solo: Ballade No. 4 in F-minor 

Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886) / “Cielo e mar” from La Gioconda        

Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901) / ”La donna è mobile” from Rigoletto   

TICKETS:  $20, available through the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 or www.sfopera.com.   

The concert will be November 7, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco.

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: San Francisco Opera’s new “Don Giovanni” lacks that vital spark, runs through November 10, 2011

Lucas Meachem, a former Adler Fellow, plays Don Giovanni in San Francisco Opera’s new production of the Mozart classic. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Of all Mozart’s operas, Don Giovanni, holds a special place.  A fusion of tragic and comic impulses based on the legendary scoundrel Don Juan and set to breathtakingly gorgeous music, it never fails to entertain.  A new production of this masterpiece opened at San Francisco Opera last Saturday (October 15, 2011) and while enjoyable enough, it failed to ignite the passions.  Inconsistent singing and unconvincing acting were the main culprits.  The production is hinged on the all important title role filled by baritone Lucas Meachem, a former Adler Fellow, with a rich and glorious voice who has delivered several stunning performances at SF Opera.  He was vocally adequate but lacked the commanding presence─charisma, swagger and roguishness ─ to be utterly beguiling and magnetizing, which is essential to the rake’s part.  His chemistry with the ladies─Ellie Dehn as Donna Anna, Serena Farnocchia as Donna Elvira and Kate Lindsey as Zerlina─was plain flat, both when he was required to be sexy or violent.  He played Don straight, as a cold-hearted jerk, and wore aviator-style sunglasses throughout the performance and a stylish dark leather coat which gave the impression that, while he had wealth and power, he was basically a rich coward in hiding.  

Music director Nicola Luisotti, by contrast, was the life of the party, bursting with energy and passion and thoroughly engaged with his orchestra at all times.  As magnetizing as he was to watch though, he was not able to elicit the nuanced performance he pulled from his orchestra in Turandot, which opened SF Opera’s fall season.  At times on Saturday, the orchestra outpaced the singers.  For those who have been watching Maestro Nicola Luisottiwork his magic since he joined SF Opera as its music director in 2009, the choice of three Italians, who all have their U.S. debuts─director Gabriele Lavia, set designer Alessandro Camera, and costume designer Andrea Viotti─ seems evidence of his broadening influence at San Francisco Opera.   Despite his reputation in Italy as an acclaimed film

Alessandro Cameo’s minimalistic set design for SF Opera’s new production of “Don Giovanni” features 22 large 300 pound mirrors in ornate gilded frames that descend dramatically onto a stage that is virtually empty. Marco Vinco (Leporello) and Serena Farnocchia (Donna Elvira) in Act I. Photo by Cory Weaver.

director, Mr. Lavia’s production was not a particularly imaginative or fluid take on this musical masterpiece.  He placed the story in traditional period setting and there it decidedly sat with Don Giovanni as a brute. Andrea Viotti’s lush period costumes were executed in restrained hues with the exception of Don Giovanni, who wore a long leather coat and sunglasses.   

Most striking was Alessandro Cameo’s minimalistic set design.  As the opera opened, 22 large (6’ wide x 16’ tall) dark mirrors in ornate gilded frames descended dramatically onto a stage that was virtually empty stage, save for a few scattered Louis XV style chairs.  Coming fresh from Richard Serra’s drawing retrospectiveat SFMOMA, I was struck by how powerfully and elegantly geometric forms can define space.  As these mirrors descended, shifted, and settled in at different heights, they impacted the viewer’s sense of

In “Don Giovanni,” Lucas Meachem plays the lecherous Don Giovanni who tries to woo Zerlina, (Kate Lindsey) who is celebrating her wedding with Masetto. Photo by Cory Weaver.

mass and gravity, ushering in a dark and ominous presence, and making for an experience that was as visceral as it was visual.  (Click here to read about how these special polycarbonate mirrors were constructed backstage at SF Opera).  The program notes indicate that Lavia’s symbolic take on the mirrors–reflecting on the essence of man and witnessing his many sides.  That said, the initial brilliance of this grand entrance of the mirrors wore thin when it was repeated in the same fashion a few more times in subsequent acts. Aside from the mirrors, the stage remained quite empty, save for tombstones and mist in the cemetery scene and an elegantly set dinner table in the final scene where Don Giovanni’s feast is interrupted by the Commendatore who ushers his descent to Hell.  

Stand-outs: Italian bass Marco Vinco, making his United States debut as Leporello, Don Gioivanni’s discontented servant, who is actually on stage more than any other singer, delivered a thoroughly convincing, endearing and humorous performance.  Bass Morris Robinson, also making his SF Opera debut was exceptional in the role of the Commendatore. Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsay, also debuting at SF Opera, as Zerlina, the young girl who catches Don Giovanni’s eye at her wedding party to Masetto, sang lyrically in her duet “Là ci darem la mano” “There we will be hand in hand “) but will be remembered for the way she suggestively spread her legs on stage.    

The epilogue was cut in this Luisotti-selected mix of Vienna and Prague versions of the opera.  All told, it is Mozart’s music that shines most in this production. 

Lucas Meachem (Don Giovanni), Marco Vinco (Leporello) and Morris Robinson (The Commendatore) at an uncomfortable pre-dawn dinner just before Don Giovanni’s descent to Hell, Act II of “Don Giovanni” at SF Opera through November 10, 2011. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Performance Dates: Sung in Italian with English supertitles, there are seven remaining performances scheduled for October 21 (8 p.m.), October 23 (2 p.m.), October 26 (7:30 p.m.), October 29 (8 p.m.), November 2 (7:30 p.m.), November 5 (2 p.m.) and November 10 (7:30 p.m.), 2011.

Bruce Lamont Lectures:  All performances will feature an informative Opera Talk by educator and chorus director, Bruce Lamott. Talks begin 55 minutes before each performance in the orchestra section of the War Memorial Opera House and are free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance.

Details: Tickets are priced from $21 to $330 and may be purchased at www.sfopera.com or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330]. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, San Francisco. Casting, programs, schedules, and ticket prices are subject to change.  For further information: www.sfopera.com.

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oakland Director Brian Lilla’s “Patagonia Rising,” tells of looming disaster for Patagonia as Chile struggles to meet its energy needs, screens at DocFest this Thursday and Saturday

Deep in the heart of Patagonia, in Southern Chile, flow two of the world’s purest rivers, the Baker and Pascua. Fed by vast glacial systems, these free-flowing watersheds drive biodiversity in temperate rainforests, estuaries and marine ecosystems.   They also sustain Patagonia’s indigenous gauchos, proud and hearty folk who live simply off the land.  Patagonia and its inhabitants are the focus of Oakland filmmaker’s Brian Lilla’s new feature documentary Patagonia Rising which investigates a plan under evaluation by Chile at the time of filming to build five large hydroelectric dams on two of the world’s purest free flowing rivers in Patagonia, Chile, the Baker and Pascua Rivers.  Talking with residents of Patagonia, environmentalists, renewable energy experts and businessmen supporting the dams, the documentary aims to sort out this complex conflict over energy development in Chile.   In the vein of the thoughtful and largely successful Up the Yangtze,(Director Yung Chang, 2007) which explored life inside modernizing China at it prepared for the three gorges hydroelectric dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world,  Patagonia Rising tells a similarly epic story but feels much less monumental in scope and suffers greatly from a lack of cohesive editing and concrete information to bring the salient issues into sharp focus.  What the film does best is explore the dam’s likely collateral human damage for several Patagonians living in proximity to these rivers and to outline environmental and biodiversity concerns that teams are working presently to quantify.  Interspersed with director and cinematographer Brian Lilla’s lush and vast vistas of Patagonia’s rivers, glaciers, mountains and remote gaucho life, the film does raise global awareness about Patagonia but, once it’s got our attention, it doesn’t give the audience anything constructive to do with their concern.  The film begs for more of attention-grabbing snapshots of Patagonia’s unique beauty and for more facts and better organization.      

Details: Patagonia Rising screens Thursday, October 20 at 2:45 p.m. at the Shattuck Cinema; Saturday October 22 at 9:30 p.m. at the Roxie Cinema, Theatre A and Sunday, October 23

DocFest runs October 14 – 27, 2011 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. in San Francisco and Oct. 14-20 at the Shattuck Theatre, 2230 Shattuck Ave, in Berkeley.  Parties will be at CellSpace, 2050 Bryant @ 18th St. in San Francisco.

All tickets are $11. There is a $1.39 service charge for advance tickets, highly encouraged to ensure admission to these popular screenings. The DocFestPass, good for admission to all films at the festival, as well as the Opening and Closing Night Parties, plus the annual Roller Disco Costume Party, will be $160. The BerkeleyPass is good for all screenings at the Shattuck and is $60. The YouthPass is good for all screenings at the Festival and is $25 for those under 21.  The 5FilmVoucher is $50; the 10FilmVoucher is $90. Multiple people may use multiple vouchers to attend the same screening on a space available basis. Choose films in advance at www.sfindie.com to assure admittance to the films you want to see.  Advance tickets are available at 800-838-3006 or www.sfindie.com

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playwright Robert Caisley visits 6th Street Playhouse this weekend (October 22-23, 2011) for special talks about “Kite’s Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman”

Playwright Robert Caisley, author of "Kite's Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman," which has its West Coast premiere at 6th Street Playhouse will be giving two special talks for the play's closing weekend. Photo: courtesy 6th Steet Playhouse

Playwright, Robert Caisley of Moscow, Idaho, the author of 6th Street Playhouse’s current West Coast Premiere of “Kite’s Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman,” will be in Santa Rosa this weekend for two special events associated with the final performances of his riveting play about crime and justice. While “Kite’s Book” addresses the villainy of the rich in 1750’s London and an individual who takes justice into his own hands, it’s a made-to-order commentary on Occupy Wall Street and the tyranny of the privileged.  Caisley will participate in two special talks at the theater focusing on the themes of the play.  

On Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, Caisley presents a “Know-The-Show” pre-performance discussion of the play’s themes, his inspirations for writing the piece and some personal history on the play’s subsequent productions and how they have been important to him as a playwright and artist. The pre-show discussion will begin promptly at 7 p.m., followed by the performance at 8 p.m.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011, 6th Street Playhouse Artistic Director, Craig Miller, will facilitate a more in-depth post-show, symposium style talk back with Caisley and the entire cast and crew of “Kite’s Book” for audience members who would like to stay after final curtain of the 2 p.m. Oct. 23 matinee performance.

“We hope Santa Rosa theater-goers will join us for these exciting opportunities to discuss this wonderful play and celebrate the playwright’s work,” said Craig Miller, 6th Street Playhouse Artistic Director and director of “Kite’s Book.”

For tickets or more information call 707-523-4185 or visit www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

IF YOU GO:

“Kite’s Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman”
By Robert Caisley

Set in London in the 1750s, “Kite’s Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman” is a sword-slinging, pistol-dueling, maiden-saving, jolly good time – with a fervent and poignant examination of the many variations on, and the disparities within, the human ideal that “Justice must be served!” 

Directed by Craig A. Miller
Fight Choreography by Marty Pistone

WHEN:  Through Oct. 23, 2011

LOCATION: 6th Street Playhouse,
GK Hardt Theatre
52 West 6th Street
Santa Rosa, Calif.  95401

TICKETS:    $15 to $32

PHONE: 707-523-4185
Order tickets by telephone, online or purchase at the door. Reservations recommended.

WEB SITE: http://www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, or DocFest, starts this Friday and the lineup is all over the map

The 10th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival starts Friday, October 14, 2011 with a lineup of 60 amazing, engrossing, and quirky films.

The 10th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, or DocFest, starts this Friday, October 14, 2011, and over two weeks presents 60 of the most engrossing non-fiction films on the circuit right now.  Sponsored by SF Indiefest, DocFest runs October 14 – 27, 2011 at the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco and Oct. 14-20 at the Shattuck Theatre  in Berkeley.  Highlighting the 10th SF DocFest is Dirty Pictures, Etienne Sauret’s film about Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the godfather of psychedelic drugs and one of the great chemists of the 20th century, and his quest to unlock the complexities of the human mind with psychedelics.  Over a course of five years, Sauret followed and Shulgin and his wife, Ann, tracking how they interact with their community and the influence of Shulgin’s work on neuroscience and medical research.  Closing Night brings “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story,” an engrossing profile of the legendary creator of comic super heroes including Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men and many others.  Now 87, Stan Lee’s name appears on more than one billion comics in 75 countries in 25 languages and the film profiles him and the industry his helped build.  

These political times call for answers, and short of answers—inspiration.  The Docfest 2011′s current crop of political titles provide both with great expositions like the environmental call-to-arms Patagonia Rising, an essential profile of Novel Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp, the father of current (nonviolent) revolutionary political thinking in How to Start a Revolution, the eye-opening The After Party about the ubiquitousness and danger of surveillance cameras in our lives, and Your Legal Shorts featuring local 1st Amendment hero Josh Wolf.  These and others give us powerful information that can prompt us to caution, to outrage and hopefully to action.  Stay tuned to ARThound for reviews.

Details: DocFest runs October 14 – 27, 2011 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. in San Francisco, and Oct. 14-20 at the Shattuck Theatre, 2230 Shattuck Ave, in Berkeley.  Parties will be at CellSpace, 2050 Bryant @ 18th St. in San Francisco.

All tickets are $11. There is a $1.39 service charge for advance tickets, highly encouraged to ensure admission to these popular screenings. The DocFestPass, good for admission to all films at the festival, as well as the Opening and Closing Night Parties, plus the annual Roller Disco Costume Party, will be $160. The BerkeleyPass is good for all screenings at the Shattuck and is $60. The YouthPass is good for all screenings at the Festival and is $25 for those under 21.  The 5FilmVoucher is $50; the 10FilmVoucher is $90. Multiple people may use multiple vouchers to attend the same screening on a space available basis. Choose films in advance at www.sfindie.com to assure admittance to the films you want to see.  Advance tickets are available at 800-838-3006 or www.sfindie.com

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Am important local film about teen suicide, “Archie’s Final Project,” screens in San Francisco this weekend, October 14-16, 2011

Archie and Sierra's world is upside down in "Archie's Final Project," an award-winning indie film about teen suicide written by Eric J. Adams of Penngrove and staring Gabriel Sunday of Petaluma.

In May 2009, Penngrove screenwriter/producer Eric J. Adams’  film “My Suicide,” starring Petaluma actor Gabriel Sunday, had its West Coast premiere  at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival, followed by a special screening in Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre.  Now called Archie’s Final Project, the film tells the riveting story of Archie Williams, a brilliant and troubled 17 year old ADHD, media-savvy teen who announces to his high school film class that he is going to kill himself on camera for his final film project.   Archie’s project brings unintended but devastating consequences.  Archie’s Final Project  not only delivers one hell of a story, with eye-popping effects, it’s also a portal into the complex life of today’s teens who are facing pressures they feel they can’t cope with and that adults don’t understand.  The indie film was four years in the making and parts of it were shot in Petaluma’s Phoenix Theatre.  The film has now completed its film festival run and won 20 international awards and had an amazing social media campaign that raised teen suicide awareness nationally and internationally.  AMC theaters recently picked it up to screen in the top 10 cities that “Demanded” it on eventful.com and it will screen this Friday, October 14, 2011 to Sunday, October 16, 2011 10/16 at the AMC Van Ness 14, with several screenings each day.  Tickets on sale now at amc.com

Read ARThound’s interview with Penngrove screenwriter Eric J. Adams here.

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 34th Mill Valley Film Festival starts Thursday, October, 6, 2011—ARThound looks at the lineup

Glenn Close opens the acclaimed Mill Valley Film Festival this Thursday in “Albert Nobbs,” where she tackles the role of a woman who has skirted poverty in mid-19th Century Dublin by dressing and working as a man. Close is also the subject of a festival Tribute event on Saturday night. Photo: Patrick Redmond

In the world of film and film festivals, each season has its delights.  While there may be as many as a dozen mini-fests set to launch in the Bay Area, October always belongs to the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF).  Now 34 and considered in the top lists of festivals worldwide, its organizers and programmers —Mark Fishkin, Zoë Elton, Janis Plotkin (to name a few)—have hit on a winning formula.   The 11 day festival will  present some 120 films that include Academy Award hopefuls, tributes, emerging talents, documentaries, children’s programming, and world cinema.  MVFF34 all takes place north of the Golden Gate at CinéArts@Sequoia, Mill Valley, and Christopher B, Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, and other convenient Marin locales.

Singing the Praises of WOMEN—actresses, directors, thematically

“When we looked at what seemed strong, it became quite apparent at Cannes that there was an incredible wealth of excellent performances by women,” said Zoë Elton at the festival’s September press conference.  “We have a lot of these Oscar worthy women in the festival.”   The lineup includes films featuring Glenn Close, Michelle Yeoh, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Barkin, Michelle Williams and emerging actresses like Elizabeth Olsen and Antonia Campbell-Hughes.  Ironically, one of the two opening night films, Albert Nobbs, is a gender-bender drama starring Glenn Close as a woman who has skirted poverty in mid-19th Century Dublin by dressing and working as a man—a shy butler.  Close, well-known for her performances in films such as Fatal Attractions (1987) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) is attending the festival and is the subject of a special Tribute event on festival’s second night.

The programming also reflects a strong interest in the portrayal of women in various cultures.  A number of films weave mythology and ritual with the complex contemporary reality of women’s lives. Moroccan director Mohamed Mouftakir won the Golden Stallion (top prize) at this year’s FESPACO (2011) for Pegasus, the story of a young Moroccan woman (Sadia Ladib) who is found on the streets, wounded and with no memories of her past–but with visions, flashbacks, evidence of trauma, and the belief that she has been impregnated by “The Lord of the Horse.”  The fragmented plotline which echoes David Lynch and Iranian director Mohammad Rasolof  (The White Meadows, 2009), weaves her journey to self with the experiences of her therapist, Dr. Zineb, who is treating her and on her own psychic quest. (Screens Friday and Sunday)

SEPCIAL DAYS:  OPENING NIGHT

The festival opens Thursday evening with two films that are sure bets to be included among the top independent releases of 2011.  Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, who will attend, will be screened at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center at 7 p.m.  Jeff  Who Lives at Home will have its U.S. premiere at CinéArts@Sequoia in Mill Valley at 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.  This film, which won’t hit the theatres until March 2012, stars Jason Segal and Ed Helms with Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer.  It is the story of Jeff, a sympathetic 30-year old unemployed pot head who lives in his mother’s (Susan Sarandon) basement and rewatches Signs while nurturing anxiety about clues the universe is dropping about his destiny.  The story all transpires over an afternoon of misadventures culminating in a fate-directed universe rattling ah-hah moment.  Directors Jay and Mark Duplass will also be in attendance.  After the screenings, the Opening Night Gala kicks off at the Mill Valley Community Center at 9 p.m. and goes until midnight.

CLOSING NIGHT

Closing Night will feature a special screening of The Artist starring Jean Dujardin (Cannes Best Actor),  Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle. Directed by Michael Hazanavicius, who is expected to be in attendance, The Artist is an endearing black and white homage to the world of silent film that tells the story of a silent-film star resisting the transition to sound set in 1927 Hollywood.  Just as his star wanes, another’s starlet’s rises who represents Hollywood’s new direction.  After the film, the Closing Night Party will take place at Albert Park/San Rafael Community Center from 7-10 p.m. 

Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis in “The Lady,” which screens this Saturday at the 34th Mill Valley Film Festival. Yeoh plays Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and will be the focus of a special Spotlight program. Photo: Magali Bragard © 2011 EuropaCorp – Left Bank Pictures – France 2 Cinéma

TRIBUTE AND SPOTLIGHT EVENTS

In addition to honoring Glenn Close’s career, MVFF34 is celebrating actress Michelle Yeoh and West African director Gaston Kaboré.  On Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. a Spotlight honoring Michelle Yeoh, one of Asia’s best known actresses, will take place at the Smith Rafael Film Center with a Q&A and screening of her new film, The Lady, already generating quite an Oscar buzz.   The Lady is an intimate chronicle of the life of Myanmar prodemocracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release last year.  The Lady follows Suu Kyi starting in 1988 when she returned to Myanmar, formerly Burma, to care for her ailing mother and soon became iconic in the battle against the military dictatorship.  The story focuses on her family life–her marriage to British academic Michael Aris and their two sons.  Aris, an Oxford professor, strongly supported Suu Kyi’s decision to stay in Myanmar, raising their children and playing a pivotal role behind the scenes in campaigning for her Nobel Peace Prize.  This decision, for the greater good, entailed years of separation and was a tremendous burden yet it was  mutually agreed upon and seemed to cement their courageous love.  Yeoh attends MVFF with Luc Besson, the film’s internationally acclaimed director and producer.  (click here to watch trailer)  After the program, the evening will continue with dinner at Frantoio Ristorante & Olive Oil Company in Mill Valley.

The first weekend of the Festival culminates on Sunday, October 9 at 4:30 p.m., with an MVFF Tribute to West African director Gaston Kaboré, honoring his remarkable career and contribution to African film including an onstage conversation and rare screening of his 1982 classic  Wend Kuuni (God’s Gift), the endearing story of a mute boy found in the bush and adopted by Mossi villagers whose love and tenderness help restore his voice.  Afterwards, the evening continues with dinner at Acqua Mill Valley, catered by Delicious! Catering. 

ARThound’s top five:

Coriolanus:  Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s war tragedy “Coriolanus” set in war-torn Bosnia with chilling urban battle scenes.  Fiennes also stars as Caius Martius, or Coriolanus, a powerful general at odds with the City of Rome, a role that Fiennes played on the London stage.  Coriolanus is a riveting drama about the relationship of authority, power, and the emotions that drive them and should play well reconfigured in the hotbed of the Balkans.  Martius meets his old enemy Tullus Aufidius (a very macho Gerard Butler) on the battlefield and returns to Rome as a hero.  Reveling in his triumph, he is elected to the governing consul but is soon opposed by the citizenry.  His anger at the public’s disfavor leads to his expulsion, and in desperation he turns to his sworn enemy Tullus, with whom he takes revenge on the city.  Vanessa Redgrave is Coriolanus’s iron-willed mother and Jessica Chastain is his trophy wife.  Directed by Ralph Fiennes (UK, 2011) (122 minutes).   Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 9 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley and Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA.  Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator:   Documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates has passionately been involved in investigating genocide and war crimes for over 25 years.  Her 1984 film, When the Mountains Tremble, made when she was just out of college, is one of the only documentary records of the brutal Guatemalan civil war between the U.S.-backed military junta and the indigenous peasant revolutionaries who were systematically killed in a scorched earth campaign.  A few top generals, notably Efraín Ríos Montt and Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García, were behind that slaughter of an estimated 200,000 Mayan and the disappearance of another 40,000 indigenous persons and Ms. Yates interviewed these leaders in 1982.  Granito tells the story of how some 25 years later, Yates was asked to join a team of forensic experts and lawyers and Mayan survivors in a human rights case against Guatemala’s former juntas and how her first film footage became the evidence that led to the indictment of Montt in Spain’s national courts for his attacks on Maya.  The powerful and idealistic film uses the connected stories of five people─they are the “granito,” or tiny pieces of sand─whose destinies all collide around that distant Guatemalan war, to weave an epic tale of justice.  Though somewhat narrowly focused, the film is monumental.   It is also an inspirational look at the career of a brave filmmaker who has dedicated every ounce of her being to seeing that justice is served.  (US, 2011, 104 min)  Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 5:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley.  Directors Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis will be present at both screening and will conduct a post-film discussion and Q & A. Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org

In Gao Xiongjie’s “The Butcher’s Wife,“ which has its North American premiere at the MVFF34, the struggle between a new-married Chinese couple about what they should expect from life is a tragic critique of China’s rapid modernization and the tremendous pressures it creates on those not living in urban areas. Image courtesy: MVFF

The Butcher’s Wife:  North American Premiere (China, 2011, 119 min)(Mandarin with English subtitles)  Epic in scale, this new drama tells the intimate story of a newly-married young couple in rural China facing big life decisions against the gripping backdrop of modernization that threatens to leave all but urban dwellers behind.  Months have passed and Liang, a kind and simple butcher, and his wife Qiao have not consummated their marriage because she fears pregnancy will squash her dream of entering college and starting a new life in the city.  She’s already failed the exam three times and feels intense pressure to start the life she imagines she will have.  Lang can’t bear the situation and wants intimacy and, humiliated, sends his wife to stay with her mother.  Qiao leaves for the big city to get her dream underway and it quickly turns into a nightmare.  The fictional film, a parable for any rapidly modernizing society, draws us into the hard and fractured lives of a young couple, both unfulfilled and both with reasonable expectations, for which there seems to be no easy answer.  Through its intimate portrayal of the aspirations and anguish of two individuals, the film asks us to consider what really matters most in this life and what it means when achieving that is not possible.  (contains graphic images of pig slaughter)  Directed by Gao Xiongjie.  (China, 2011, 119 min)(Mandarin with English subtitles) Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 3:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley.  Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org  

Argentinean Director Paula Markovitch’s “The Prize” coaxes an emotionally rich performance from Paula Galinelli Hertzog, as Ceci, a 7 year-old girl on the run with her mother from Argentina’s repressive military regime. The film won the prestigious Silver Bear award for outstanding artistic achievement at the 61st Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival). Image courtesy: MVFF

The Prize:  Argentinean Paula Markovitch’s impressive autobiographical feature debut is about vivacious 7 year-old Cecilia, (Paula Galinelli Hertzog) who is asked to keep a big secret about her family but can’t possibly understand the implications of that secret.  It’s the 1970’s and Ceci and her mom are living out of suitcases at a desolate and ramshackle abandoned beach town, hiding from Argentina’s repressive military and what will come to be called its “dirty war.”  If asked, Ceci is instructed to tell people only that her mom is a housekeeper and her dad sells curtains.  Ceci soons befriends her schoolmate, Lucia, but it becomes very difficult for her to particpate in activities like writing a school essay about her family and, when she does, she comes close to jeopardizing everything.  Paula Galinelli Hertzog delivers an astounding performance as a young girl trying to understand what she can believe in the adult world and struggling to feel secure in the certitude of her mother’s love when everything else seems to be shifting.  (Mexico/Germany/France/Poland, 2011) (103 minutes) In Spanish with English subtitles. Screens: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA and Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 5:45 p.m. at the Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley.  Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org

Old laws clash with the modern world in Joshua’s Marston’s “The Forgiveness of Blood” staring Albanian actor Tristan Halilaj as 17 year-old Nic who is trapped inside his home in rural Albanian because his family is embroiled in a blood feud. Beautifully photographed on location by cinematographer Rob Hardy. Image courtesy MVFF.

 The Forgiveness of Blood:  A mesmerizing drama from Justin Marston, the producer of Maria Full of Grace (2004) shot entirely on location in rural Albania that explores that small Balkan country’s insular clan culture through the story of a teenage boy and his sister.  When Mark (Refet Abazi) gets embroiled in a land rights squabble that escalates to his killing his neighbor, legal justice takes a backseat to Balkan oral code of the Kanun.  This traditional Albanian law, pre-dating the 15th century, states that when a murder is committed, the family of the deceased are warranted to get retribution by taking the life of a male in the offending clan’s family.  Mark goes into hiding but his 17 year-old son, Nik (Tristan Halilaj),  is essentially doomed to indefinite confinement at home, the only place considered safe ground.  Nic leaves his high school life of video games and flirting and becomes a volatile and stir-crazy prisoner at home while his resourceful 15-year-old sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej), takes over her family’s bread delivery business but is soon knee deep in threats herself.   As Nic feels increasing pressure to find a solution to this blood feud, his actions escalate such that his entire family is jeopardized.  In Albanian with English subtitles, the film boldly contrasts the resurgence of antiquated traditions with the lives of young people in the country’s first post-totalitarian generation, whose bright future is put at risk by these practices.   Directed by Joshua Marston (2011) (109 minutes)  Screens: Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley.   Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org

Details:  Presented by the California Film Institute, the 34th Mill Valley Film Festival runs October 6-16, 2011 at the CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley), Chrisopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael) and other venues.  Tickets are $13.50 (CFI Members, $11), unless otherwise noted, and may be purchased online at mvff.com.  Additional information:  www.mvff.com  or call 877.874.6833

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: “Honey-Brown Eyes” a drama in two Bosnian kitchens explores the human side of war, at SF Playouse through November 5, 2011

In Stefanie Zadravec’s “Honey Brown Eyes” which opens SF Playhouse’s fall season, Nic Grelli (Dragan) is a young Serbian solider embroiled in the Bosnian War who interrogates Jennifer Stuckert (Alma, a Croat Muslim) in her Višegrad apartment. She recognizes him from the days when he performed in a Balkans rock band with her younger brother. Photo: Jessica Palopoli.

In 2009, Stefanie Zadravec won the Helen Hayes Award for Honey Brown Eyes, a quietly terrifying drama set in Bosnia during the war in the early 1990’s.  This remarkable play opened SF Playhouse’s fall season last Saturday and is a perfect fit for this jewel of a company that keeps delivering one riveting drama after another. Honey Brown Eyes how humans behave in war and the reverberating mess war leaves in its wake.  The Bosnian War certainly left us in West with terrifying vision of a troubled land where brutality beats out justice.   That war, which resulted from the break-up of Yugoslavia, involved Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats, all fighting over land and attempting to settle ancient scores.  It entailed intimidation, forced expulsion and/or killing of the Bosniak population by Serb forces, and the mass rape of an estimated 50,000 women.  All the drama in Honey Brown Eyes takes place against this backdrop but occurs entirely in two small kitchens representing opposite sides of the war —one in Višegrad owned by Alma (Jennifer Stuckert), a Muslim Croat and the other in Sarajevo, owned by Zovanka (Wanda McCaddon) a Serb.  The stories are connected because, before the war, Alma’s brother, Denis (Chad Deverman), and Zovanka’s grandson, Dragan (Nic Grelli), were bandmates in a popular punk rock band that imploded because its egoistic guitar players couldn’t get along.  Director Bill English’s clever staging has both kitchen dramas occurring on essentially the same Balkan kitchen set strengthening the plot connection.   Director Susi Damilano keeps the action fast-paced and emotionally-charged, presenting characters who manage to rise above their ethnicities to find courage and hope in the chaos of war.   Is it realistic?  Zadrevec would like us to think so because only in examining our very basic assumptions about human nature and behavior does the possibility for change exist.  

In Act I, Dragan, a heavily-armed young Serb soldier, shows up at Alma’s apartment in Višegrad to intimidate and evacuate her.  He’s got a complete list of residents and is also looking for her young daughter.  Jennifer Stuckert delivers a masterful Alma, physically and emotionally exhausted, but compassionate with a strong inner core.  She relates to Dragan with kindness, offering coffee and denying repeatedly that she has a daughter.  Other than to propel the drama, it is never made clear why Alma has remained in her apartment, almost courting rape and death, and not fled.  Grelli’s edgy and amped-up performance as childish, adolescent, and adult Dragan, all rolled into one, perfectly exemplify the faces of this war.  As he butts Alma with his rifle and sends her to the floor writhing in pain, he proceeds to threaten her with torture, rape and death—and then is distracted by a small battery-operated television playing an American sit-com that he gloms onto like a six-year-old.  Through nervous conversation, they discover that Denis used to be a rocker in the same band as Alma’s brother and that war-weathered Alma is actually “honey brown eyes,” the hottie who, several years ago, inspired a song by that name and was the source of Dragan’s obsessive teen love.  That revelation changes their dynamic, adding new pressures to Dragan’s in-humane assignment and giving Alma what appears to be some leverage. 

After brutalizing the young Muslim woman, Alma, a frenzied Nic Grelli (as Dragan) plays Air Guitar in her apartment while waiting for his troops to return to take her to almost certain death in a detention camp. In each of “Honey Brown Eyes’” two acts, the characters talk about their lives and hopes — and the music — they once had and loved. Photo: Jessica Palopoli.

In Act II, Denis, a bedraggled Croat resistance fighter—and Alma’s estranged brother—shows up at elderly Zovanka’s apartment in downtown Sarajevo seeking a place to hide from the Serbs who are out hunting for him.  Zovanka (Wanda McCaddon) proves to be one amazingly vital, wise and funny woman, offering a strong and compassionate counterpoint to the brut Serbs of Act I.  Once she determines she that Denis isn’t going to kill her, she whips up soup from her only onion and offers him some fresh clothing.   Over a bottle of wine, they booth loosen up and he confides that he deserted his troops because he couldn’t stomach killing.  A hauntingly real intimacy develops between these two supposed enemies and they somehow make a silent pact that speaks volumes about the humanity of individuals in the largeness of war. 

Zadravec, who is of Slovenian descent, doesn’t concern herself too much with the specifics of the Bosnian ethnic conflict.  She instead opts to explore much larger questions the nature of relationships, love and compassion, loyalty and what unequal power does to them.  Impressively, Honey Brown Eyes probes several grey areas of human behaviour without ever diminishing the harrowing experiences of war on all involved.  What stands out is the characters’ internal battles to maintain their dignity, humanity and sanity against impossible odds.  Presented and acted with compassion and honesty, the powerful play will leave its mark.

Honey Brown Eyes:  Cast in order of appearance:  Jennifer Stuckert is Alma, Nic Grelli is Dragan, Cooper Carson is Branko/Milenko, Madeleine Pauker is Zlata (rotating), Chad Deverman is Denis, Wanda McCaddon is Zovanka, Daniel Mitchell is the radio announcer.

Susi Damliano is the producing director; Bill English is the set designer/artistic director; Kurt Landisman is the lighting manager; Brenden Aanes is the sound designer; Miyuki Bierlein is the costume designer

Details:  SF Playhouse is located at 533 Sutter Street (one block off Union Square, between Powell and Mason Streets).  Performances are Tues/Wed/Thurs. 7 p.m., Friday & Saturday 8 p.m., plus Saturdays at 3 p.m. 

Information and tickets ($20 to $50): www.sfplayhouse.org or phone SF Playhouse box office 415.677.9596. 

When Alma’s brother, Chad Deverman (Denis), a frightened resistance fighter, shows up at Wanda McCaddon’s (Jovanka’s) Sarajevo apartment during a blackout, she thinks he’s going to kill her. The two soon discover that they share a lot in common and decide to trust each other. Stefanie Zadravec’s “Honey Brown Eyes” plays through November 5, 2011 at SF Playhouse. Photo: Jessica Palopoli.

Keen for more Balkan drama?

The 34th Mill Valley Film Festival opens this Thursday, October 6, 2011, and is presenting two films with high Balkan intensity:

The Forgiveness of Blood: A powerful drama from the producer of Maria Full of Grace (2004)shot entirely on location in Albania that explores that small Balkan country’s insular clan culture through the story of a teenage boy and his sister.  When a land-rights argument between two rural Albanian families escalates to a fatality, legal justice takes a backseat to the 15th century Balkan oral code of the Kanun, or traditional Albanian law.  Its arcane customs leave Nic (Tristan Halilaj), a 17-year-old Albanian high-schooler who leads a modern life of texting, video games and flirting, a stir-crazy prisoner in his family’s home and vulnerable to revenge by the wronged clan should he step outside his home.  Nic’s resourceful 15-year-old sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej), takes over her family’s bread delivery business but is soon knee deep in threats herself.   As Nic feels increasing pressure to find a solution to this blood feud, his actions escalate such that his entire family is jeopardized.  In Albanian with English subtitles, the film boldly contrasts the resurgence of antiquated traditions with the lives of young people in the country’s first post-totalitarian generation, whose bright future is put at risk by these practices.  Directed by Joshua Marston (2011) (109 minutes)   Screens: Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley.   Tickets: $13.50.  mvff.org

Coriolanus:  Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s war tragedy “Coriolanus” set in war-torn Bosnia with chilling urban battle scenes. Fiennes will also star as the powerful general Caius Martius, or Coriolanus, a powerful general at odds with the City of Rome, a role that Fiennes played on the London stage.  Coriolanus is a rivetting drama about the relationship of authority, power, and the emotions that drive them and should play well reconfigured in the hotbed of the Balkans.  Martius meets his old enemy Tullus Aufidius (a very macho Gerard Butler) on the battlefield and returns to Rome as a hero.  Reveling in his triumph, he is elected to the governing consul but is soon opposed by the citizenry.  His anger at the public’s disfavor leads to his expulsion, and in desperation he turns to his sworn enemy Tullus, with whom he takes revenge on the city.  Vanessa Redgrave is Coriolanus’s iron-willed mother and Jessica Chastain is his trophy wife.  Directed by Ralph Fiennes (2010). (122 minutes)   Screens: Friday, October 7, 2011 at 9 p.m. at Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Street, Mill Valley and Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA.  Tickets: $13.50.   www.mvff.org

October 4, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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