VIFF Vancity Embraces Black History Month
(January 21, 2015 – Vancouver, BC) The VIFF Vancity Theatre has announced its plans to honour Black History Month. On Mondays throughout February, Vancity Theatre will screen a varied series of especially curated films, including documentary, music, comedy and drama. These films were curated with programming support by Barbara Chirinos. Chirinos is the Executive Director of the Granville Island Cultural Society, a Board Director of the Haida Gwaii Film Festival, and Board Director at the Alliance for Arts and Culture.
Here is the list of films and the days and times they are scheduled to screen:
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (pictured above): Sun. Feb 1, 6:10pm; Mon. Feb 2, 8:45pm; Tue. Feb 3, 5:30pm; Wed. Feb 4, 8:30pm; Tue. Feb 17, 6:30pm; Wed. Feb 18, 8:30pm DIRECTOR: Alan Hicks CAST: Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Justin Kauflin (USA, 2014, 84 min.)
“As joyful as a jumping jazz riff, Keep on Keepin’ On is an inspiring story of devotion, dedication and multi-generational friendship.” wrote Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star. Keep on Keepin’ On might document the passing of a musical torch from one century to the next, but for one sticking point: The first torch plain refuses to go out.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe Meet “the happiest sound in jazz” — and maybe the brightest mentor, too. Clark Terry was Dizzy Gillespie’s favourite trumpet player, but he’s also an inspirational teacher — the antithesis of the character played by JK Simmons in Whiplash. Shot over the course of five years by first time filmmaker Al Hicks, Keep On Keepin’ On depicts the remarkable story of the 93-year-old legend. A living monument to the Golden Era of Jazz, Terry — a mentor to Miles Davis and Quincy Jones — is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie’s and Duke Ellington’s bands. In the 1960s he broke the colour barrier as the first African-American staff musician at NBC — on “The Tonight Show”. Keep On Keepin’ On highlights Terry’s friendship with the preternaturally gifted Justin Kauflin, a blind, 23-year-old piano prodigy who suffers from debilitating stage fright. Not long after Kauflin is invited to compete in an elite Jazz competition, Terry’s health takes a turn for the worse. As the clock ticks, we see two friends confront the toughest challenges of their lives. Keep On Keepin’ On is a film crafted with great affection by Hicks — another former student of Terry`s — a grace note for his teacher, infused with soulfulness and serendipity. 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
THROUGH A LENS DARKLY Mon. Feb 2, 6:30pm DIRECTOR: Thomas Allen Harris (USA, 2014, 92 min.)
As Mia Tramz of Time Magazine wrote, “An extraordinary new documentary by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, is at-once a deep, rich dive into the history of African American photography and — transcending the subject at hand — a master class in visual literacy.” Inspired by Deborah Willis’s book, Reflections in Black, Through a Lens Darkly casts a broad net that begins with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris’ family album. It considers the difference between black photographers who use the camera to define themselves, their people, and their culture and some white photographers who, historically, have demeaned African-Americans through racist imagery. The film embraces both historical material (African-Americans who were slaves, who fought in the Civil War, were victims of lynchings, or were pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement) and contemporary images made by such luminaries as Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems. The film is a cornucopia of Americana that reveals deeply disturbing truths about the history of race relations while expressing joyous, life-affirming sentiments about the ability of artists and amateurs alike to assert their identity through the photographic lens.
BLACK ORPHEUS Mon. Feb 9, 6:30pm DIRECTOR: Marcel Camus CAST: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveira (Brazil, 1959, 100 min.)
“A riotous, rapturous explosion of sound and color, Black Orpheus is less about Orpheus`s doomed love for Eurydice than about Camus’s love for cinema at its most gestural and kinetic.” according to Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post. Then there’s this: “An almost irrationally infectious retelling of the Orpheus-Eurydice chestnut set during carnival and feverish with hip-swiveling hustle, exploding local color, and sleeve-worn heart.” wrote Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice. And finally this from writer David Ehrenstein: “From the moment of its first appearance, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959—where it won the Palme d’Or—it was clear that Black Orpheus was a very special film. Taking the ancient Greek myth of a youth who travels to the land of the dead to bring back the woman he loves, and transporting it to the slums of modern day Rio de Janeiro, this bittersweet romantic tragedy has charmed audiences the world over with its beauty, color, and—above all—its music. In fact, so important is Black Orpheus‘ musical dimension that you might say the film`s roots aren’t in images but in sounds … Though bossa nova had been the cornerstone of Latin American music for many years, it`s safe to say that prior to the release of Black Orpheus the world at large had never really heard it before. The film changed the world of music overnight. Its composers, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá, became international stars. The film`s main themes, “Manha de Carnival” and “O Nossa Amor,” permeated the public consciousness in a way that hadn’t been seen since Anton Karas’ unforgettable zither theme for The Third Man. But make no mistake, none of these musical glories would have been possible without the film that holds them all together—Black Orpheus.”
CHICO & RITA Mon. Feb 9, 8:45pm DIRECTOR: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando CAST: Voices: Limara Meneses, Eman Xor Oña, Mario Guerra (Spain/UK, 2010, 94 min.)
“The year’s best musical and one of the year’s finest animated films, this utterly delightful Spanish movie is an affecting, funny, historically accurate and at times pleasingly erotic story.” said Philip French, Observer. “A delightful riot of colour, design, emotion and music.” wrote Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight. “Sexy, sunny and sweet-natured, this lovely animation by film-maker Fernando Trueba and artist and designer Javier Mariscal is a 1940s love story with all the brassy passion of a Barry Manilow number, set in the nightclubs of Havana and New York. Rita, voiced by Limara Meneses, is a beautiful Cuban singer who has to scrape a living; Chico (Eman Xor Oña) is a talented, underemployed pianist thunderstruck with love for Rita when she meanders on stage for a solo. Their passionate affair and professional partnership is endangered when a smooth-talking Yankee impresario tells Rita he can take her to showbiz glory in New York, but has no interest in lover-boy Chico coming along as well. The great names of both Cuban and American jazz are invoked, and Chico and Rita’s tragicomic love story meshes very pleasingly with this musical backdrop. There is heartbreak, but a happy ending.” wrote Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.
BEYOND THE LIGHTS Mon. Feb 16, 6:10pm DIRECTOR: Gina Prince-Bythewood CAST: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover, Tom Wright, Machine Gun Kelly (USA, 2014, 116 min.)
“On its surface [it] seems to be a candy-colored pop fantasy about the love between a beautiful hip-hop superstar and a hunky cop. To be fair, it’s not not that. But how bracing today to have a film that’s at once fun, patient, romantic, and real … Beyond the Lights is a deft, gorgeous movie … As we watch this dreamy, colourful piece of musical and romantic wish-fulfillment, we get the distinct sense we’re watching real life unfold.” — Bilge Ebiri, New York magazine. “One of the most pleasurable moviegoing experiences I had this year.” — Manohla Dargis, New York Times.
The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis devoted much of her “best of 2014” end-of-year wrap to a passionate celebration of this old school-meet-nu-school music biz melodrama, and to denouncing the endemic racism and sexism in the film business that makes it so rare for African-American women to be able to tell their stories. Dargis didn’t address distribution, but it is worth pointing out that this screening marks the Vancouver theatrical premiere of what is, to all intents and purposes, a thoroughly commercial, mainstream movie — and a very good one. Belle star Gug Mbatha-Raw is marvellous as the extraordinary young singer who is propelled in to a rollercoast career in pop by her ambitious mother (Minnie Driver). The movie chronicles how the music industry remakes her in its own highly sexualized image, but suggests (with an element of wish fulfillment) that there is a way out, and true love can save the day.
RICHARD PRYOR TRIBUTE: RICHARD PRYOR LIVE IN CONCERT + DINO ARCHIE Mon. Feb 16, 8:30pm DIRECTOR: Jeff Margolis CAST: Richard Pryor (USA, 1979, 120 min.)
“Probably the greatest of all recorded-performance films. Pryor had characters and voices bursting out of him … Watching this mysteriously original physical comedian you can’t account for his gift and everything he does seems to be for the first time.” — Pauline Kael “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at a stand-up act, and I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much about comedic influences in one sitting.” — Michael W Phillips
For many, stand up comedy reached its highest expression one night in December 1978, at a theatre in Long Beach, California. In a performance of such authority and control it will astonish anyone who only knows him from his movie roles, Richard Pryor channels searingly candid autobiographical tales of pain, hurt and humiliation into gales of hilarity. Pryor knew poverty, abuse and racism all too well, and these became his comedic touchstones (though he`s equally brilliant impersonating a deer). This is masterclass in comic writing and performance, and the chance to enjoy this film with an audience should not be missed. The screening will be proceeded by a half hour set performed by Vancouver-based comic Dino Archie.
KING: A FILMED RECORD … MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS Mon. Feb 23, 6:30pm DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet & Joseph L Mankiewicz FEATURING: Martin Luther King Jr, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Ruby Dee, James Earl Jones (USA, 1970, 185 min.)
“History of immense power.” — Los Angeles Times.
King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis is the landmark documentary that chronicles the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama, and culminating with his assassination in Memphis in 1968. Originally screened in theaters for only a single night in 1970, King: A Filmed Record combines dramatic readings by Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones and Paul Newman, among others, with newsreel and archival footage to create a powerful and comprehensive record of Dr. King`s legacy and the American Civil Rights movement. King: A Filmed Record is an indispensable primary resource of a pivotal moment in American and world history.
Please note: This is a sneak peek at what’s coming up next month. There are no links to these films on the Vancity website, but you should check back on a regular basis. We have been told that the links to get details on these films and to order tickets will not be available until Friday, January 23.
Once again this year, Northernstars.ca will honour Black History Month by featuring a Black Canadian filmmaker on its home page every day throughout the month of February.