Thursday, December 23, 2010

Exclusive Interview with Paul Wright, Ph.D., Instructor for “Trafficking in the Absurd: The Coen Brothers’ Films”

By Meredith Slifkin

Where will you be Wednesdays this January? Sign up for the new BMFI course, “Trafficking in the Absurd: The Coen Brothers’ Films,” which meets on Wednesdays (Jan 5.-Jan 26) from 6:30pm-9:30-pm in the Multimedia Room. This exciting course will examine the “comic absurdity” and “flawed humanity” prevalent in the works of the notoriously quirky (and brilliant) Coen brothers. There will be a special focus on Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and A Serious Man.

The instructor for “Trafficking in the Absurd” is Paul Wright, Ph.D., who was good enough to give me an exclusive interview about the course, and about his personal interest in the Coen Brothers. Wright is an Assistant Professor of English and the Co-Director of the Honors Program at Cabrini College. Previous courses he has taught at BMFI include Scorcese’s Cinema of Loneliness, Kurosawa: East Meets West, and Icon in the Director’s Chair: Clint Eastwood. Posted below is our enlightening interview:

Q: Why the Coen Brothers? What attracts you to their body of work, both personally and academically?

A: The Coen Brothers first got under my skin with their unique sensibility sometime around 1986, when I saw their first feature, Blood Simple, on television late one Saturday night. Aside from being unable to sleep for the suspense of that film, I was struck by their knack for exposing the self-delusion of their characters--the characters' inability to see the world except through their own prism of misbegotten assumptions. This is a theme the Coens have returned to many times over the years. Academically, what has continued to enchant me is their unabashed love of film genre. They have tackled nearly every cinematic genre imaginable--suspense, slapstick, the gangster film, art-house, film noir, spy-thriller, western, spiritual morality tale, and more. They approach each film genre with a genuine passion for the material and the form, but always with an eye toward ironic re-imaginings of those forms.

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski (1998). "Trafficking in the Absurd: The Coen Brothers' Films" begins Wednesday, January 5 and continues on Wednesdays through January 26.

Q: “Trafficking in the Absurd” is a striking name for the course, can you explain your choice of this title?

A: I think it was a viewing of The Big Lebowski that inspired me here. When the Dude (Jeff Bridges) is told another character is a nihilist, he responds, "Ah, that must be exhausting." I think this perfectly captures the Coen Brothers' playful (and to my mind, very healthy) sense of the absurd in so many of their films. For them, life's absurdities are not merely existential or coldly philosophical in nature--they embody the self-involved comedy that each of us makes of our daily lives, so often without intending it. It's not just the Coens who "traffic in the absurd"; we all do.

Q: What can students hope to get out of this course?

A: To build more on the previous response, I'm hoping that people come away from the course understanding that blunt honesty need not equal contempt. Aside from the course's focus on the great artistry of the Coens as writer-directors, I stress that for all the Coens' revelry in human beings' penchant for self-importance and self-deception, the Coens' brutal candor and irony never amount to outright contempt for the human condition. I have read some dismissive assessments of the Coens that argue they are misanthropes. This seems as off the mark to me as criticisms of the great Japanese director Ozu, who was said to have treated actors only as props and "colors" for his palette. I think these criticisms of the Coens miss their fundamental appreciation for the downright charms of flawed human beings trying to break out of the orbits of our own delusions. There is something profoundly engaging and affecting about Coen characters; even a villain in Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men has a perverse charm. While most of us (thankfully) are less like Anton and more like the bumbling characters of Burn After Reading, what's essential here is the quirky charisma of Coen characters. It might be unsettling just how much of ourselves we recognize in these characters, but that recognition is also a great pleasure in its own right. There is a reason so many gifted actors gravitate toward the Coen Brothers, and I think it's bound up with the celebration of flawed humanity in their writing.


“It’s not just the Coens who ‘traffic in the absurd’; we all do.”


Q: Your academic interests also include the European Renaissance, does this influence your work in film studies at all? I imagine Machiavelli is actually pretty relevant to the films of the Coen brothers…

A: Yes, when I wear my other academic hat, I teach the European literary traditions of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. I did my doctorate in comparative literature under the direction of an historian; I suppose "cultural historian" is the best way to describe my scholarship. This isn't as far-fetched a connection to cinema as one might think. If there is a defining feature of Renaissance culture, it is its increasingly anxious sense of the theatricality and performative aspects of our world. Long before becoming a best-selling Shakespeare biographer, Stephen Greenblatt famously wrote about Renaissance courtiers and writers engaged in "self-fashioning"--i.e., the drive to mold and in essence create the "self" as a fiction indispensable to our social lives. If you think about the Coen Brothers' ironic sense of their characters trying to fashion their own lives and meaning in the world, you realize that many of the themes we ascribe to modern theater and cinema (or even "post-modern" society at large) have deep roots in the historical past. I actually find a powerful resonance between my two areas of study. As for Machiavelli, one can certainly find in The Prince a kind of handbook for would-be "players" and manipulators. What I love about your question is that, like the Coens, Machiavelli also has a real knack for exposing those princes who fail precisely because they assume the world looks at things as they do. This is the cardinal sin of the Coen Brothers' moral universe.


Michael Stulhbarg in the Coens' 2009 Oscar-Nominated,  A Serious Man

Q: Do you have a favorite film by the Coens? Or any on the syllabus that you’re especially excited to be teaching?

A: It's so tough to pick a favorite obviously, so I can only throw out the powerful associations of certain of their films that get me every time. As I said above, Blood Simple had the most formative impact when I saw it in high school. Miller's Crossing also comes to mind as it bridges the venerable gangster genre with the primal loneliness that comes with living among others; I often think of this film as the existentialist's Godfather. O Brother Where Art Thou, that loose and wonderful adaptation of Homer, speaks to the literature professor in me. Fargo channels my inner mid-Westerner, and as an adoptive father, I can't watch Raising Arizona without laughter and tears. If I had to pick two films that are favorites in my current stage of life (whatever that is exactly), I'd have to go with The Big Lebowski and A Serious Man. Lebowski has the virtue of being endlessly re-watchable and charming; A Serious Man is its more somber and philosophical cousin, I suppose. Both are films I find myself sharing and quoting obsessively with a like-minded soul in my life. At any rate, I guess you could say I love the Coens all round.

Special thanks to Paul Wright for graciously agreeing to this interview. Sign up now for “Trafficking in the Absurd: The Coen Brothers’ Films.” The cost is $100 for BMFI members and $125 for non-members. Click here to register online, or call 610-527-4008 x107.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BLACK SWAN Meet-and-Greet with Dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet!

By Meredith Slifkin, BMFI Intern

What could be more exciting than seeing the new thriller, Black Swan? Going to a pre-screening meet-and-greet at BMFI with real dancers from the film! Black Swan is the psychosexual thriller from Darren Aronofsky, director of 2008’s critical darling, The Wrestler, which starred Mickey Rourke as an aging pro-wrestler with personal woes. In Black Swan, Aronofsky uses his signature gritty style to explore another intense medium of performance, ballet, and an even more troubled protagonist, a ballerina played by Natalie Portman. Indeed, Portman’s character is as much antagonist as protagonist in this psychologically complex film, which explores the dark side of her character that emerges as the result of a rivalry with a fellow dancer and the demands of starring as Swan Queen in the canonical Swan Lake. Black Swan features thrills, chills, and some really phenomenal acting from Natalie Portman, who has already been nominated for a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award for her performance.

Natalie Portman commands the screen in Black Swan, opening at Bryn Mawr Film Institute on Friday, December 17.
In addition to being an intense character study, Black Swan also provides a window into the elusive world of professional ballet. The film immerses the viewer into this world as fully as the dancers themselves; it would be an understatement to say that ballet is their raison d’etre.

Meet real dancers from the Pennsylvania ballet at the Meet-and-Greet before the 8pm screening of Black Swan on Monday, December 20.

At BMFI you have the opportunity to understand this world even better, at the meet-and-greet with dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet who appeared in the film on Monday, December 20. Gather in the atrium to mingle with the dancers and enjoy some “holiday spirits” from the cash bar. This is your chance to ask all about the life of a professional dancer and what it was like to work on the film. The meet-and-greet begins at 7:00pm and is a free event, but regular ticketing prices do apply for the screening that follows at 8:00pm.

Can’t get enough of the ballerinas? Well, they will be staying for a special Q&A after the screening, so you’ll have a chance to ask them some more questions! Like, “Who’s dreamier in real life, Vincent Cassel or Darren Aronofsky?” Ok, probably no one will ask that question, so come prepared with some good ones of your own!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Yule Blog

By Meredith Slifkin, BMFI Intern

Whether you believe that ‘tis the season to be merry, or you see the spread of yuletide joy and just want to shout “bah humbug!”, there is something at BMFI to help get you in the holiday spirit! Yes, all members of the family (even the Scrooges) will want to spend a cozy day at the theatre and enjoy one of the great events in BMFI’s Holiday Happenings series. The screenings include everything from classic holiday films like It’s a Wonderful Life to a simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. For a complete list of shows, dates, and times, check out the Holiday Happenings page, or keep reading for a few highlights.

For the music lover there’s The Nutcracker from the Bolshoi Theatre. Does anything embody the holiday season more than this classic ballet? And broadcast from the historic Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow at that—I can just picture a blanket of snow coating the Kremlin in a perfect scene of winter splendor. The only word for it is transplendent (Annie Hall fans?).

Snowflakes will leap across BMFI's screen at the live simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet's production of The Nutcracker
You too can be “the richest man in town” if you get in the holiday spirit by coming to the screening of It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Whether you watch it every year or you’re taking the kids to see it for the first time, you’ll love to see George lasso the moon and hear that bell ring atop the Christmas tree. Don’t miss this special matinee screening on Saturday, December 18.

Jimmy Stewart realizes that he has "a wonderful life" in the Frank Capra holiday classic, featured on December 18.
What could be better than going to see the beloved Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music? Going to BMFI’s The Sound of Music Sing-along, back for a third year in a row! Rejoice and be merry in song and in costume at this special event. There’s always free popcorn for those who come in costume, and this year there will even be a cash bar where you can partake in some “holiday spirits”.

More than one kind of “spirits” will abound at the screening of Drexel Professor Ian Abrams’s version of A Christmas Carol! Abrams has edited together many different versions of the film to create one seamless retelling of the classic tale that features Scrooges as varied as Mr. Magoo, Alastair Sims, and Bill Murray. Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Steven Rea will introduce and discuss this delightful take on a holiday classic.

Michael Caine, shown with the muppets in A Muppet Christmas Carol, is one of the many Scrooges featured in Ian Abrams's compilation.
Here’s a complete list of BMFI's Holiday Happenings:

The Nativity Story • Saturday, December 11, 11:00am
• Spano Conducts Sibelius • Monday, December 13, 12:30pm
A Christmas Carol: A Unique Take on a Holiday Classic • Wednesday, December 15, 7:30pm
It's a Wonderful Life • Saturday, December 18, 11:00am
• Live Simulcast: The Nutcracker • Sunday, December 19, 11:00am
Black Swan reception • Monday, December 20, 7:00pm
The Sound of Music Sing-along • Wednesday, December 22, 7:00pm

Wishing a very happy and healthy holiday season to you all!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BMFI Preview: Winter Programming Highlights

By Meredith Slifkin, BMFI Intern

Bryn Mawr Film Institute patons rejoice! The new film and program schedule for December 2010-March 2011 will soon be available. Yes, happy days are here again, now that you can glimpse into the future and foresee four glorious months of films and events at BMFI. For the full list of screenings and classes, grab a copy of the new issue of Projections when it comes out December 9 or visit http://www.brynmawrfilm.org/, which has details for all of the upcoming events. For now, I will just whet your appetites with a preview of a few of our exciting new programs.

Oscar season is almost upon us, so that means a flurry of year-end films already gaining buzz. Among the new releases are the much anticipated Black Swan, the thriller from Darren Aronofsky starring Natalie Portman; The King’s Speech, which features Colin Firth as King George VI; and True Grit, a Western from the Coen Brothers starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, and Matt Damon. Let me just repeat some of those names for you—Aronofsky, Firth, Coen, Bridges, Brolin—these highly talented actors and filmmakers are each coming off of recent Oscar wins and nominations, so you can bet that their new films will be must-sees!
The King's Speech, which stars Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, is scheduled to start at BMFI on December 25.

In addition to a great crop of new releases, BMFI will also be featuring a truly unique selection of One Night Only films that you won’t want to miss. (Really, don’t miss them--they are shown for one night only, after all!) Come to a special screening of the award-winning animated charmer My Dog Tulip and a free (yes, free!) Master Class with the filmmakers, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who will talk about the art of animated documentary and creating films in the digital world. I know that I’m excited for the screening of Kings of Pastry, the documentary about a three-day French pastry baking competition. This isn’t an episode of Top Chef or Cake Boss, these chefs are skilled artisans competing for a coveted title that would earn much more than bragging rights—it would fulfill a lifelong ambition. Did I mention that there will be free treats at the screening?

We all have our favorite classic films, and delight in the opportunity to see them on the big screen. The Remembering Film Legends series will feature the films of two recently departed greats—the Academy Award-winning director and Philadelphia native, Arthur Penn, and the iconic Tony Curtis. You won’t want to miss Curtis in Some Like it Hot, the uproarious comedy voted the funniest film of all time by the American Film Institute! This ultimate classic will be shown in conjunction with a Cinema Classics Seminar taught by BMFI’s Director of Education, Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D.  

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon shine in Some Like It Hot. The comedy classic will be shown as part of a tribute to Curtis and featured at the center of BMFI's newest Cinema Classics Seminar.

As many of you have already discovered, BMFI is not just a place for film, but also for broadcasts of incredible music, theatre and opera performances from renowned venues all over the world. From the comfort and convenience of BMFI you can see Romeo and Juliet from the Globe Theatre in London, or Pagliacci from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. And of course the popular Philadelphia Orchestra Concert Series will continue will live HD simulcasts.

Spend Valentine's Day with Romeo and Juliet, broadcast in HD from London's Globe Theatre.

Now you can see ballet simulcasts as well—for the first time BMFI has added ballet to the program, including live simulcasts of the holiday favorite The Nutcracker from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and the classic Giselle from London's Royal Opera House, among others! Check out the list here.

This is only a taste of what's coming. To learn more, keep a look out for the new issue of Projections (mailed to members and available at the theater starting December 9) or visit http://www.brynmawrfilm.org/!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

METROPOLIS and Fritz Lang's Legacy; or, Robot Doppelgangers: Kitsch or Classic?

By Meredith Slifkin, BMFI Intern

On Monday, October 25, Bryn Mawr Film Institute is hosting both a screening of the sci-fi epic Metropolis and a Cinema Classics Seminar, a one-session class that focuses on this classic film and includes the in-theater screening. Why is this a must-see film? Long before James Cameron was out there sinking giant ships and painting people blue, trying to tackle tough issues of class and race while offering up a big budget Hollywood extravaganza, Fritz Lang was making groundbreaking cinema.


Metropolis is the most expensive silent film ever made—that's money well spent on the breathtaking sets and visuals that create this dystopian futuristic setting. The production of this film was executed on a grand scale and the result is far ahead of its time. In the industrial society depicted in Metropolis, the citizens are either “thinkers” or “workers”; the exaggerated gap between them serves as Lang’s commentary on Capitalistic society. The plot combines social commentary, science-fiction, and even a love story, making Metropolis a classic of epic proportions.

Metropolis director Fritz Lang is a titan of early cinema and has had an enduring influence on film. He was born in Vienna in 1890 and fought for Austria during the First World War, an experience that he cited as being influential to his work. After years of military service, travel, and education all over Europe, Lang became involved in acting and then filmmaking. Eventually he landed in Germany, where he thrived as part of the German Expressionist movement. Lang made a name for himself by combining art with entertainment, making classic films such as Metropolis (1927) and M (1931), which are both technically spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.



In 1934 Lang fled the ever-strengthening Nazi regime in Germany for Paris, though the circumstances of his exodus remain controversial. It is speculated that Lang actually met with the infamous Joseph Goebbels before leaving, though it is unclear whether this meeting was called because Goebbels wished to interrogate Lang about his arguably anti-Nazi film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, or whether Goebbels was in fact so impressed with Lang’s ability as a filmmaker that he offered him a post as head of the German film studio, UFA. To further complicate the situation, Lang worried that he would be persecuted for being half-Jewish (despite being raised Catholic). At the same time his marriage to Thea Von Harbou was falling apart because of her increased identification with the Nazi party. Amidst all of this controversy it is unclear exactly why Lang left Germany, but it is known for certain that by 1934 he had fled to Paris, where he worked briefly before coming to the United States in 1936. Lang brought his talents to Hollywood where he continued to make acclaimed films into the 1960s. He is credited with introducing the German Expressionist style to American cinema, which was especially influential to the emerging film noir genre.

What is German Expressionism? Well, it’s a film genre that began in Germany in the 1920s, and has heavily influenced probably all cinema to follow. It is highly stylistic, with plots and characters that are often steeped in madness or psychological distress. German Expressionism toes the line between the real and the surreal, while often crossing over into the realms of paranormal and science-fiction. Equally important is the visual style of German Expressionism—the stark lights and darks, dramatic shadows, exaggerated make-up, and constructed sets. The result is a disorienting exaggeration of reality, and an overwhelming sense of creepiness. German Expressionist influences are clearly visible in film noir, horror, psychological thrillers, and of course science-fiction films. If you were to have a conversation with say, Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, or even Mr. Cameron, I’m sure they’d have a lot to say on the matter.


Metropolis is a true cinema classic. Now you can enjoy Fritz Lang’s masterpiece on the big screen as he intended, restored to its original glory--this new version includes 25 minutes of recently discovered footage that had been lost since 1927! If that’s not enough, I’ll leave you with two words: robot doppelganger!

At BMFI:
Metropolis screening - Monday, October 25, 7:00pm

Cinema Classics Seminar: Metropolis (registration required) - Monday, October 25, 6:30-10:00pm
Seminar includes in-theater screening, lecture, discussion, readings, and popcorn and a drink.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Filmmakers Amp Up Screening of ROCK SCHOOL

Producer Sheena Joyce and director Don Argott rocked the house at last night’s screening of Rock School, their 2005 Sundance hit about Philadelphia’s original Paul Green School of Rock. The husband-wife filmmaking team’s first documentary feature focuses on Paul Green, the foul-mouthed (but effective) teacher of a group of remarkable nine- to seventeen-year-old musicians who more than do justice to the music of Frank Zappa and Black Sabbath.

Filmmakers Sheena Joyce and Don Argott sign BMFI's autograph book after the screening of Rock School.

This screening kicked off our four-film series celebrating the contributions that Bryn Mawr College alumnae have made to film in honor of Bryn Mawr College’s 125th Anniversary.

Bryn Mawr College president Jane Dammen McAuliffe introduced Sheena Joyce, class of 1998, before the screening, and both Sheena and Don answered audience questions afterwards. Keep reading for selections from the Q&A!
Q: How did the project come about?
Don Argott: The project took shape because I had a production company with another partner. We had always planned on doing a feature, but mostly we had been doing commercial work and corporate videos. He wanted to go to LA, but I had no interest in going there. After the company dissolved, I wanted to do something creative to remind myself why I was in the business. I was out walking when I saw a poster for the Paul Green School of Rock. It had this cartoony type and caught my attention. This was back in 2002, before everything was online, and so I didn’t have a lot of information to go on, but I dug around a little. Finally, I looked up his number in the phone book and gave him a call. I told him I’d like to do a documentary about him, without ever having met him. He said, “All I ask is that you take it seriously and do it for real.” (Apparently VH1 had been in talks about doing something but then backed out, so he was a little protective.) There was something about our first meeting and we hit it off; it helped that I am a musician, too. Two days later, I was there with my camera, and stayed there for the next nine months filming. Sheena quit her job at the film office and came on as a full-time producer on the project.
Sheena Joyce: I was working at the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, the area's film commission, which acts as a free producer to visiting productions. I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage Don, and I offered to help him with this new project. It started at night and on weekends, but eventually, I got so involved, I quit my job, and we formed 9.14 Pictures together.

Q: What’s Paul Green doing now?
DA: He used this opportunity with the kids to build from there. As we were in post-production he opened up a school in New Jersey and one in Downingtown and used the marketing push from the film to franchise. Now there are 48 franchises across the country. He sold off the company and lives in New York now. He's still involved in music, though, and has a new venture called Studio House.

Q: What was it like seeing the movie again on the big screen?
DA: This is the first time we’ve seen the movie in five years, since it came out. It was amazing seeing the film again. It put me back in the spot of where we were then. I forgot how funny it was! It was so nice to revisit it. It brought back a lot of memories.

Q: What other features have you done?
SJ: After this we did Two Days in April, where we followed four college football players as they entered the NFL draft. The project was funded by Netflix and the film is available on Netflix. We followed that up with The Art of the Steal, about the Barnes Foundation’s move from Merion, which was featured at the Toronto Film Festival and released nationally this year. It is now on DVD and will be on Showtime in October. Currently we have four documentaries we’re working on in various stages of production.

Q: This was your first film. How has your approach to filmmaking changed since, if at all?
DA: We cut our teeth on this thing, we were so naïve. We thought, “No one listens to Frank Zappa anymore, it’ll be easy to get the music rights.” $250,000 later… Rock School was like getting our Ph.D. in filmmaking.
SJ: It was trial by fire, but the real work begins when you sell it. You have to make it “deliverable”—get clearances, photo licenses, releases, music licenses. I would say that our procedures have changed, but our filmmaking hasn’t changed. We still try to bring a rock and roll sensibility to whatever we do—even The Art of the Steal opens with a cover of a Black Sabbath song done by a jazz trio called The Bad Plus.
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Bryn Mawr College's President, joined BMFI's Juliet Goodfriend (seated)
to welcome filmmaker Sheena Joyce, Bryn Mawr College '98.
 

The Celebrating Bryn Mawr College Film Series continues with three additional screenings, starting with Christopher Strong, starring Katharine Hepburn '28, which will feature a talk about the famous alum's influence on cinema by Bryn Mawr College film studies professor Dr. Homay King. Then filmmaker Susan Koch '76 will introduce and discuss her documentary about the Homeless World Cup, Kicking It. The series concludes with the return of Sarah Schenck '87 to Bryn Mawr Film Institute to screen and discuss her first feature film as producer, Virgin, starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Robin Wright.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: Juliet Goodfriend's Notes

This year was a watershed for Toronto, with the opening of the gorgeous Bell Light Box, the first six stories of a new high rise with five state of the art theaters, three galleries for film art, a reference library, more than two restaurants of high quality, conference and education rooms, and a shop—all dedicated to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Every square inch is named to recognize a donor, and the whole thing is a gorgeous and uplifting tribute to film!

The industry and press screenings, which I attended, were split between the Bell Light Box and the horribly noisy, gaudy, mall-like Scotia Bank metroplex, a contrast that made the new venue even more desirable. Both were within three blocks of my hotel and I actually never ventured farther.

I clocked over 70 or 80 hours watching films and have about 35 notches on my belt (which I tightened somewhat, since there was no time for eating much). Even so, there were many "must sees" that I missed.

The "themes" this year? Several films dealt with families recovering from or dealing with the aftermath of ghastly actions done to or by their children/siblings, including Rabbit Hole (child is run over and killed), Beautiful Boy (child becomes a mass murderer), Aftershock (children caught in the 1976 earthquake of Tangshan, China), and Conviction (sister defends her brother who is accused and convicted of murder). The two post-Holocaust films I saw (The Debt and Sarah's Key) dealt with its aftermath and the impact on families of exposing a "truth". And, to be expected, the documentaries all tangle with “truth,” often in connection with family ties (Tabloid, Client 9), leaving the viewer wondering which part of what they saw was fact and which fiction. But I leave it to the critics to expound further on themes.

Let me add, however, that, as in the past several years, blood is abundant. But it had a different character at this year's festival, i.e. more clinical and less often from gun-violence: surgical blood, body parts/function, and vomit. Blood poured forth from incisions, amputations (127 Hours), and gouge wounds (Black Swan). In Three, by Tom Tykwer, a good film, we were treated to the surgical excision of a testicle from shaving prep to the gland dropping into the tray! We were also introduced to home dialysis, though it was not shocking (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). Curiously, almost every film I saw had a vomiting sequence! Why? How does propelling the contents of the stomach propel the narrative? And did I mention defecation? That body function was also not ignored by the directors. It has been added to urination as key streams in most films. What is the director saying by putting a character on the toilet or displaying the gushing contents of the stomach?

These perverse memories will fade, I hope, as the residue of some really fine storytelling and beautiful cinematography lingers. At least I hope so. In fact, too much will fade, too soon, except for those great films we are able to show at BMFI. And there will be many, I promise.

Below is the list of films I saw, categorized as "Miss-able," "Interesting, but not for BMFI", and "Will Try to Get This for BMFI". I also list some that I missed but others said were terrific.

Will Try to Get This for BMFI

127 Hours (Danny Boyle, USA)
The most memorable film I saw, this one rises above its fact-based storyline—it follows the plight of a young outdoorsman (James Franco) stuck in a canyon crevasse who must amputate his arm to escape—with verve and visual style. 127 Hours’ score, scenery, spirit, and sensitivity immerse one in the experience as only a great film can do.

L'Amour Fou (Pierre Thoretton, France)
No doubt here that this documentary captures truthfully the life and accomplishments of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, through their art and furnishings collection. If you liked Valentino, you’ll like this!

Another Year (Mike Leigh, UK)
One of the best, for sure, this poignant film deeply and tenderly observes a couple’s life over the course of a year, contrasting their warm marriage with the empty or unhappy lives of friends and family.

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, USA)
To soak up Tchaikovsky and backstage ballet for 103 minutes is my idea of great entertainment, even if the Tchaikovsky is “adapted” and Natalie Portman is no Margot Fonteyn. Reminiscent of The Red Shoes, this film’s ballerina doesn’t have a chance against her fantasies, an overbearing and seductive ballet-master, jealous dancers, and her ballet-mama, a breed well known in the hallways of ballet schools everywhere. It is a gorgeous film that pits the White Swan against the Black Swan.

Client 9: The Rise And Fall Of Eliot Spitzer (Alex Gibney, USA)
A terrific documentary about the tragic (to my mind) downfall of New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer. Shown to be a victim of the Wall Street tycoons whose practices he tried to correct, Spitzer himself explains what he can about his weaknesses and assumes responsibility for his “downfall.” However, it looks like his moral weaknesses were minor compared with those of arrogant state legislators and investment bankers. Such a sad tale, especially for Spitzer and his wife.

Cool It (Ondi Timoner, USA)
A response to An Inconvenient Truth, this documentary about Bjorn Lomborg (author of The Skeptical Environmentalist) raises interesting questions about the “value” of various means of combating global warming and places them in contrast to other imperatives on which the same funds could be spent. Interesting and possibly controversial.

Conviction (Tony Goldwyn, USA)
An earnest, true, and improbable story about an uneducated Boston woman (Hilary Swank) who goes all the way through college and law school in order to defend her brother (Sam Rockwell), convicted of murder. Good enough.

The Debt (John Madden, UK)
An excellent thriller, this Nazi-hunting film features Helen Mirren leading a good cast. After years of torment following the botched capture of a concentration camp surgeon, three former Israeli Mossad agents get a second chance. Again, it is the impact of the truth on her family that drives Mirren’s character and deepens our interest in this film of international intrigue.

The Illusionist (L’Illusionniste) (Sylvain Chomet, UK)
The most beautiful film of the festival, this is a work of great art that brings to life an unproduced script by Jacques Tati using hand-painted animation. It is a magical piece about the limits of magic and imagination, of innocence, and the bond of dreams unfulfilled. There is even a self-reflective moment when the character Tatischeff (Tati’s real name) views Mon Oncle at the cinema. A bit boring, but anyone who loves visual art will wallow happily in its beauty.

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, UK)
An adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel, this film does not feel like science fiction. It is so naturally acted that its characters and 20th century setting are utterly believable… until you realize they are not. The film does not make explicit moral comments about its content, but viewers are invited to, for sure!

Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, USA)
A fine film about a couple trying to recover and save their marriage after their son is killed by a sweet kid driving a bit too fast. Nicole Kidman plays the wife who cannot move on after this event; we ache for her even as she becomes obsessed with the teenage driver.

Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah) (Gilles Paquet-Brenner, France)
No quarrels with this, except the utterly predictable ending. Kristin Scott Thomas is believably anguished as she realizes that her in-laws’ apartment was one from which a Jewish family was evicted during the Nazi occupation of Paris, beginning her obsession with its former tenants. Her exposure of the truth and its effect on her husband and his family structure the tale.

Tabloid (Errol Morris, USA)
A doc that makes you laugh at the saddest, craziest revelations about a beauty queen with a high IQ and an absurd history. Another take on truth and lies and the media’s construction of both, this is a hoot, even if one feels sad for the nutty lady.

Tamara Drewe (Stephen Frears, UK)
A very well-made film and one of the few comedies I saw, Tamara Drewe was thoroughly enjoyable, though not “great”. Set in the English countryside mostly at a writer’s retreat, the film includes a range of characters and comic situations to catch and hold one’s interest: impudent teenage girls and their ghastly pranks, an arrogant, successful writer and his much-wronged wife, a struggling and nerdy academic, and a herd of cows that… no, I won’t spoil it.

The Trip (Michael Winterbottom, UK)
The best comedy and one of my favorite films of the fest, this movie brings together Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, both remarkable comics and actors, on a trip through the Lake District with stops at the best inns and restaurants. It is apparently mostly improvised. I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack! Brilliant, as they say. I wish I had understood all the Brit-only allusions.

Interesting, but not for BMFI

Aftershock (Tang Shan Da Di Zhen) (Feng Xiaogang, China)
Aptly described as an epic, this film recreates the horrible Tang Shen earthquake of 1976 in which 240,000 were killed. Indeed, it is dedicated to them, but goes on to show documentary footage from the recent Cheng Du quake. At its heart the film deals with family issues, especially poignant to the Chinese: favoring sons over daughters. It is heart-rending and the earthquake scenes and footage are not for the faint of heart.

Beautiful Boy (Shawn Ku, USA)
Parents try to cope with the aftermath of their 18-year-old son committing mass murder. This is tough material and fairly well done.

Casino Jack (George Hickenlooper, Canada)
Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff well, but the movie is not sure if it is a comedy or a tragedy. As with most historical fiction, it does not announce its deviations from the fact, but I admit it kept my interest.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, USA)
The caves of Chauvet in 3D! This is a Herzog travelogue about an area twice as old as Lascaux. The art and anthropological paleontology are more exciting than the 3D, but that technology reveals the contours of these remarkable caves as 2D could not. Everything Herzog does is worth seeing, including this, in whatever dimension you find it.

Confessions (Kokuhaku) (Tetsuya Nakashima, Japan)
This film proved to me that wearing uniforms, even in socially-considerate Japan, will not make nice kids out of destructive middle school bullies. The teacher’s vindictiveness after these kids murder her child drives the movie’s plot and morality. Gadzooks, it was a film that made me want to call my kids and tell them to pull the grandchildren out of school to keep them from evil!

I Wish I Knew (Hai Shang Chuan Qi) (Jia Zhangke, China/The Netherlands)
A personalized history of Shanghai from the 1930s to now with many excursions into the history of Chinese film, this is too long and too slow to capture most viewers, but it contains many interesting scenes of China over the past 70 years. The film is all told through interviews with mostly elderly Shanghainese whose indomitable spirits are so inspiring. For those with an interest in China, this is worth sitting through.

Mamma Gogo (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland)
A self-revealing satire about Icelandic film and finance industries that form the backdrop for an odd homage to his recently deceased mother. The narrative is held together by his mother’s steep decline into dementia, even as Iceland’s economy does much the same.

Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
Very dry, dour, and slow, so I left.

Norwegian Wood (Noruwei No Mori) (Tran Anh Hung, Japan)
I did not see enough of it to comment, but it looked promising.

Special Treatment (Sans queue ni tête) (Jeanne Labrune, France/Luxembourg/Belgium)
Isabelle Huppert shows her verve and acting style in this odd film that pits psychoanalysis against prostitution as therapies for bourgeois angst. A very funny premise.

Three (Drei) (Tom Tykwer, Germany)
The director of Run Lola Run, Tykwer has put together an entertaining love triangle—first a wife and then her husband fall in love with the same man. It has some very funny plot twists, clever cinematography, and for probably the first time in the history of narrative feature film, the surgical excision of a testicle! I would show it, but who would come see it?

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat)
(Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK/Thailand/France/Germany/Spain)
This prize winner left me wondering “Why?” What was it about and why did it win? Yes, it has a gentle touch and a lyrical spirit, but is it worth the prizes it got in Venice and Cannes? Someone help me.

Miss-able

Curling (Denis Côté, Canada)
Character transformation through the very odd game of curling? Well maybe for Canadians, but not for me.

Everything Must Go (Dan Rush, USA)
I didn’t see enough of this to comment, but Will Ferrell does “sad” at least as well as he does “funny”. However, I wonder why he is shown peeing and then wiping the drips from the toilet? Are we meant to think he is caring? Oh well, at least he did not vomit during the footage I viewed.

It's Kind of a Funny Story (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, USA)
This film totally missed its potential to be really funny and clever and therefore it is rather painful, despite some good acting. If nothing else were showing, you might go see it.

Last Night (Missy Tadjedin, France/USA)
I did not make it through the end, but many folk liked it.

Miral (Julian Schnabel, UK/Israel/France)
A monumental disappointment! Following The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which won numerous international awards, this film shows that Julian Schnabel can make really bad movies, too. Often filmed out of focus with a palsied, hand-held camera, it is visually unwatchable. The script is clumsy, pedantic, and one-sided.

Passion Play (Mitch Glazer, USA)
The question on everyone’s lips as they left this film, even before it was over, was “How did this film get made and why was it admitted to TIFF?” It is pretty dreadful. Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, and Bill Murray don’t save it; the premise is ridiculous. It offered me some time to nap.

What's Wrong with Virginia (Dustin Lance Black, USA)
Nothing nice about this flick, not the characters nor their actions. Okay if you are in the mood for a downer about religious crackpots in the guise of the law who take sexual advantage of the mentally ill! If this is small-town America, keep me in the cities, Lord!

Movies I wish I had seen:

Incendies

Inside Job

The King’s Speech

Little White Lies

Passione

Potiche

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Day for Peace

By TOM DI NARDO

Ever since creatures balanced themselves on two legs and discovered blunt instruments, humans have committed violence on each other, whether individually, in groups, in warfare or in many forms of savagery. Could homo sapiens ever mature to the point where peace, even temporary peace, is possible?

You can believe it after seeing British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley’s film The Day After Peace, shown around the world on September 21 (and locally at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville). The film is only one facet of the worldwide phenomenon known as Peace One Day, which has curiously been less visible in the United States than in Europe, Asia, or Africa.

Gilley convinced the United Kingdom and Costa Rica to propose a United Nations resolution, urging international non-violence on the day the UN had symbolically chosen in 1981. UN’s Secretary General Kofi Annan was highly enthused about the project, preparing the formal announcement of approval by all 192 nations of the General Assembly. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for ….. 10 am on September 11, 2001.

During the following years of global rancor, Gilley traveled to many countries, wrote to all Nobel peace recipients and achieved minor agreements and tentative covenants. He even scored a meeting with the Dalai Lama, who said that “whether in our lifetime or not, we must make the effort.”

In a bitter failure, some in the League of Arab States dismissed his idea only because he had met with Nobelist and Israeli Shimon Peres---though Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had refused to see him. But Gilley continued to ask the impossible, refining a trait that eventually began to be rewarded.

Many diverse groups around the world began to participate in related educational activities and sports. Ice cream mavens Ben and Jerry funded 70 detailed activity plans, allowing teachers from grades six to 12 to involve students in projects emphasizing tolerance, understanding and non-violence.

Though he had received support from many major personalities, including tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Gilley realized that he needed the help of famous names to widen awareness of Peace One Day. The film shows a nervous Gilley meeting actress Angelina Jolie, who first expresses a wish that worthy projects wouldn’t need celebrities. She then immediately calls her agent to block the evening of September 20, and to schedule an early end to her shooting on that day to publicize showing of the film.

One of the film’s astounding sequences is Gilley’s friendly meeting with actor Jude Law. Gilley mentions an upcoming visit to Afghanistan, and is stunned when Law asks the dates. Eventually, Law spends eight days with Gilley in remote Afghan villages, and the result is a signed pact from the Taliban leader promising no attacks toward humanitarian aid on Peace Day. Thanks to that window of safety, UNICEF workers poured in and vaccinated over a million children on that one day.

Gilley also took advantage of the overwhelming international popularity of football, the most played game in the world. The program called “One Day One Goal” supports hundreds of games all over the world on that day, with players who are normally adversaries or separated socially sharing a common experience. Competitors Puma and Adidas have both agreed to support this program in supplying equipment.

Local schools all over the country are involved in this day of unity; for instance, Germantown Friends School, with a dedication of community involvement, has invited youngsters from public and neighboring schools, plus kids from the Police Athletic League, to play together at their four fields on Tuesday. The YouTube video of “One Day One Goal” is a stunner, with the finale of the short clip showing football players celebrating in all UN countries.

A wealth of Peace One Day websites and YouTube videos demonstrate an embrace of many different facets of the September 21 celebration. One example is Jane Goodall, a UN peace ambassador and famed naturalist, who is involved with environmental problems with her Roots & Shoots program.

Eventually, it comes down to this: If one person with a dream of hope for the world can make such a huge global difference, and touch that many people, could a world of non-conflict really be possible?

If there can be Peace One Day, why not peace… one day?

Tom Di Nardo is a free-lance writer in Philadelphia.

Bryn Mawr Film Institute will be showing The Day After Peace tomorrow, Tuesday, September 21 at 5:00 pm.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Week at BMFI

Things have been busy at BMFI! Check out the schedule for the coming week:

Opening this week for limited screenings is Winter's Bone, the heart-wrenching drama about modern life in the Ozark Mountains based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell and directed by emerging talent Debra Granik. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky and Mao's Last Dancer will continue at BMFI another week.

Experience Gotterdammerung, the final opera in Wagner's epic Ring cycle, on the big screen on Wednesday, September 15 at 7:00 pm or Sunday, September 19 at 1:00 pm. These HD presentations kick off BMFI's Fall Opera Series and conclude the Ring cycle as performed by the Catalan performance troupe La Fura dels Baus in Valencia, Spain.

See The Day After Peace on Tuesday, September 21 at 5:00 pm. Jeremy Gilley's documentary about his struggle to effect world peace for just one day a year will be shown in honor of the International Day of Peace. Admission to this inspirational film is FREE for BMFI members.

Get some industry insight from local producer and Bryn Mawr College alum Sheena Joyce at a screening of her charming 2005 documentary Rock School on Wednesday, September 22 at 7:30 pm. This screening is the first in a four-film series celebrating Bryn Mawr College's 125th Anniversary.

Attend a fascinating conversation, moderated by WHYY's Elisabeth Perez-Luna, with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt as she recounts her shocking true story about being kidnapped and held hostage for six-and-a-half years. Celebrating the release of Betancourt's new memoir, this event on Thursday, September 23 at 7:30 pm will also feature a screening of the award-winning 2003 documentary The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt.

To get more out of our programming and your favorite movies, sign up for our exciting new Film Courses and our fall season of Talk Cinema! Hurry--our Film History Discussion Group: 1945-Present begins Monday, September 20, and the One Day Seminar: Cinema of the 1960s takes place on Saturday, September 25.

Coming soon:
Lebanon, an unflinching look at the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israeli forces culled from director Samuel Moaz's firsthand experiences as an Israeli solider in the conflict, will start a run at BMFI in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more information about daily moderated discussions that will accompany selected screenings of this gripping film.

We'll see you at the movies!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Supercalifragilistic: MARY POPPINS Sing-along a Hit!

Last night, Wednesday, August 4, Bryn Mawr Film Institute celebrated everyone's favorite magical nanny with a sing-along screening of Mary Poppins. A sell-out, the screening was the perfect way to conclude our "Singing in the Summer" series of sing-alongs! The 1964 Disney hit starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke still inspires the imagination as much today as ever--patrons of all ages came out decked as suffragettes, chimney sweeps, a penguin, and Mary herself! (As with all of our sing-alongs, everyone who came in costume got free popcorn.)

Check out the pictures and see the costumes for yourself. Which one is your favorite?

 Visiting all the way from Dortmund, Germany, Oskar Schleicher, Christina Weinmann, and Annicka Weinmann (right to left) joined Rosemont's Mimi Weinmann. The first group in line, their costumes ran the gamut!



These junior chimney sweeps made our Mary Poppins a family reunion. Three branches of the family gathered together just to sing along with Mary. From right to left: Sam Rovito, Ben Rovito, Shane Baeur, Matthew Dickerson, Izzy Rovito, Gabby Rovito, and Abby Dickerson.  

Maddie Clancy looked adorable in a perfect adaptation of the dress Mary wears in the animated dream sequence. The sing along was the perfect opportunity to pull out her old halloween costume.

I was hoping that someone would come dressed as a penguin! Thanks, Grace Wooten, for making my wish come true. Grace is shown here with her aunt, Eileen Cunliffe. Three generations of the women in their family came to the sing along for "a girls night out" together.


Ava Soroush was merry as Mary, with her bag, umbrella, and her father Matt by her side.


Danie Martin and Emily Maxtone-Gram are both big fans of the film, and showed their support by dressing up as Mary and a chimney sweep (with a creative choice of sweeper).  

If you enjoyed this sing-along (or wish you had come), we're going to be doing two more this fall. The schedule will be announced soon. Keep an eye on our website and look out for the new issue of Projections magazine with all the details!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Intern's Perspective: BMFI's August Programming

Richie Weker, a long-time BMFI intern and a rising senior at Lower Merion High School, reflects on BMFI's August programming. Enjoy!

If there are four things in life that I love they have to be, in no particular order, music, birthdays, girls, and food. It is often difficult to integrate these into my life, given my already busy schedule. Who would have thought that Bryn Mawr Film Institute’s August programming would help me conveniently include these delights in my life?


First, the music: on Wednesday, August 4 at 7:00pm, Bryn Mawr Film Institute will continue its tradition of sing-alongs with a screening of Mary Poppins, where patrons can sing along with Julie Andrews in her Oscar-winning film debut. If you wear a costume—you could dress up as a chimney sweep (or the chimney), the bird woman, or a penguin, for example—you get a free small popcorn! We can also finally learn how to spell the incredible “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” when the song’s lyrics appear on the big screen.

As if this wasn’t enough for BMFI, they are even throwing a birthday bash that lasts five weeks! Famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa would have hit the century mark this year and BMFI is showing five films that best represent the director’s lifelong achievements, including Rashomon, The Hidden Fortress, and Stray Dog. A movie will be shown once every Tuesday night at 7:00pm, starting with Seven Samurai on Tuesday, August 3 and ending with Yojimbo on Tuesday, August 31.

Girls are very confusing and yet fascinating to me. I have yet to fully understand them, but I am getting there through many hours of hard research and observation. This August, BMFI will offer me three great opportunities to study three big name female stars as part of the Leading Ladies of the Silver Screen film series. Running Wednesday nights from August 11 through August 25, the series features Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve.

As for food, the fourth delight, the answer is simple. The rich and buttery popcorn at BMFI is simply unbeatable! You would have to be crazy to pass up on this and the many treats that BMFI has to offer.

Thank you, Richie! Find out more information about our August programming online at http://www.brynmawrfilm.org/.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Patrons feast on FORKS OVER KNIVES with guest Rip Esselstyn

On Monday night, nearly 400 people gathered at Bryn Mawr Film Institute for the premiere of Forks Over Knives, a revolutionary documentary written and directed by Lee Fulkerson that explores the relationship between our health and the foods we eat. The film makes the profound claim that many of the diseases plaguing Americans can be controlled by rejecting a diet of animal-based and processed foods. Joining us specially for the screening, which was graciously sponsored by Whole Foods Market, was the New York Times bestselling author Rip Esselstyn, who gave a short talk and signed copies of his book, Engine 2 Diet.

Engine 2 Diet author Rip Esselstyn signs BMFI's guest book after the fundraiser reception.

Fifty patrons enjoyed a special plant-strong vegan dinner upstairs at a fundraiser reception before the film, mingling with Esselstyn as a pianist played nearby. Provided by Whole Foods Market, the delicious spread featured Engine 2 lasagna, kale salad, fruit salad and oatmeal cookies.

For those unable to get tickets to the dinner (which filled up weeks in advance), Whole Foods Market provided vegan-friendly snacks in the theatre arcade, including fruit smoothies and a summer soup made without any oils. Whole Foods also organized free health testing including blood pressure and body mass index readings.


Above: Guest Kathy Pollard gets her blood pressure taken--104/62! She beamed, declaring, "I'm powered by a plant-strong diet!" 

Esselstyn’s experience firefighting in Austin, Texas led him to write the Engine 2 Diet. BMFI was pleased to invite local firefighters to attend the event for free! Some of Bryn Mawr’s own firefighters and junior firefighters came to the event--and they brought their truck too! The firefighters were invited upstairs to grab a bite before the movie and then headed into the theatre to enjoy the documentary. Find out more about the volunteer Bryn Mawr Fire Company here.

Author Rip Esselstyn (back row, fourth from left) joined Whole Foods Market managers Ruth Harp (second from left) and Charlene Nolan (front row, center) to welcome Bryn Mawr Fire Company's firefighters to the screening.

The arcade was packed for this sell-out event! Some people came all the way from Florida to attend!

Admission to the screening was by suggested donation and all proceeds from this world premiere event and the fundraiser dinner benefited BMFI, a non-profit. For more ways to help BMFI, click here.

Did you see the film? What did you think of the event?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best of the Tredyffrin Student Film Festival at BMFI

In addition to showing independent and international cinema, Bryn Mawr Film Institute invites you to see some of the best work from the filmmakers of tomorrow. On Monday, August 2 at 9:15pm, BMFI will showcase the best films of the 4th Annual Tredyffrin Student Film Festival, sponsored by the Tredyffrin Public Library. This is a great opportunity for the public to view the hard work of the contestants on the big screen. Come enjoy a fun evening while viewing the work of these local young artists… for free!


See these festival winners on BMFI’s big screen:

First Place: The End by Dan Leung
Second Place: Vietnam by Ian Connelly
Third Place: The Adventures of Barbara and Octavius by Franklin Brown and Jake Elkin
Honorable Mention: Valley Forge by James Connors

The winners were chosen by BMFI’s own Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Valerie Temple, and Ben Hickernell and were announced on Tuesday, July 27.

Read a Main Line Suburban Life article about the festival here.

Watch the clever trailer for the festival here.

The winning films are featured as part of Open Screen Mondays, a monthly program in which filmmakers of all ages can show their work on the big screen and receive praise (or criticism) from their peers, free of charge! Find out more information online here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HOT News: Vote for BMFI!

Bryn Mawr Film Institute has been nominated as the Best Indie Theater on MyPHL17’s Best of Philly Hot List for 2010!

Here at BMFI, we feel we’ve done more than renovate a historic theater building—we’ve worked to build a vibrant community of film lovers through our screenings, film education offerings, and membership program.

All of our patrons can enjoy:
* A diverse selection of the best art house and repertory film programming
* Plays from London’s National Theatre and operas from Europe simulcast in HD
* Saturday morning Kids Matinees that families can enjoy together, October through May
* Film classes and educational programs for students of all ages
* Free discussions help you get the most out of the films you love
* The best popcorn on the Main Line!

In addition, BMFI members receive special benefits including discounted tickets and free members-only screenings.

If you love what we offer, help us by telling MyPHL17. With just the click of a mouse, you can show how much BMFI means to filmgoers like you! It’s easy and free to vote, just click here.

Voting is only one small way to help BMFI. You can also talk us up to your friends and family, sign up to volunteer, become a member, become a business sponsor, and/or contribute to our Theater Three Challenge campaign.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you at the movies.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire - Friday at BMFI!

The Girl Who Played with Fire starts at BMFI this Friday, June 16. We couldn't be happier to welcome the second film in the Millennium trilogy, based on the best-selling novels of Stieg Larsson. The first film adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was already a huge hit at BMFI this spring, playing for nine weeks; it has just been released on DVD. A Hollywood version of Tattoo is in the works from director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) as well, although I can't imagine anyone would be better suited to play the enigmatic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander as the Swedish sensation Noomi Rapace, who reprises her role in The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Played with Fire.

To read a summary, watch a trailer, view showtimes, and buy tickets, visit BMFI's website.

If you are looking for a good read, check out Larsson's novels--you won't be alone! Recently released in the US, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third and final novel in the Millennium trilogy, is currently number three on The New York Times bestseller list; the first two thrillers dominate the paperback bestsellers, with Tattoo featured for 54 weeks now. Forty million copies of the trilogy have been sold worldwide. According to Entertainment Weekly, that's enough for every person in Sweden to own four copies!

For an interesting article about Stieg Larsson and the trilogy's journey from page to screen, check out this recent Entertainment Weekly cover story.

Visit Larsson's website for a complete biography and fun features like the Millennium Stockholm Map.

If you're already a fan of the novels, you may also appreciate writer/director Nora Ephron's affectionate parody in this month's New Yorker magazine, The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut. (The Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Steven Rea begins his review of the The Girl Who Played with Fire by commenting on her story!)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is coming to theaters in October 2010.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shall We Sing? THE KING AND I Reigns at BMFI

Last night 150 patrons answered the question "Shall We Dance?" with a resounding "Yes!" at Bryn Mawr Film Institute's sing-along screening of THE KING AND I. The 1956 film version stars Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens, the feisty widow hired as school teacher to the wives and children of King Mongkut of Siam, played by the masterful Yul Brynner. A chorus of voices chimed in on such Rodgers and Hammerstein hits as "Hello Young Lovers" and "Getting to Know You" as the classic played on the big screen. As always with our sing-along screenings, patrons who came in costume received a free small popcorn!

Sing-along fan Anne O'Brien's costume is a composite: the King on the top half and Anna on the bottom! She's accompanied by Gail Bober, dressed as one of the King's wives.  


The family-friendly sing-along had some younger film fans dressed up too. Here Nina Zimmerman poses with her grandma, BMFI President Juliet Goodfriend.

Join everyone's favorite magical nanny for the final sing-along of the summer, Mary Poppins, on Wednesday, August 4 at 7:00 pm. Dress as your favorite chimney sweep and bring a kite or your very own flying umbrella to get free popcorn at BMFI's screening of this Disney musical treat!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ooooo-KLAHOMA! Sing-along

Oh, what a beautiful evening it was at Bryn Mawr Film Institute on Wednesday, June 2. Over 125 enthusiastic patrons of all ages came out for BMFI's sing-along screening of OKLAHOMA!, the first of three sing-alongs this summer. Fans of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit belted out such classic tunes as “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” and “People Will Say We’re in Love” as the film played on the big screen. Many even rustled up costumes in honor of the event!

Conestoga High School alums Julia Race and Emma Backe were excited
to make BMFI's sing-along a part of their summer.

Cowgirls at heart, Eileene Donnelly, Helene Snyder, and Rosemary Haggerty wore the hats and bandanas to prove it.


When asked about her lemon-bedecked hat, Pam Bentz (posing with Ted Douglas) responded, "There was a lack of citrus in Oklahoma!, and I'm here to help rectify that." 


Even BMFI President Juliet Goodfriend and the Chairman of the Board, Samuel R. Scott, wore their finest western duds to the sing-along!

If you think this sounds fun, check out the other musical classics that will get the sing-along treatment this summer at BMFI: The King and I shows on Wednesday, July 7 at 7:00pm, followed by Mary Poppins on Wednesday, August 4 at 7:00pm. Remember, patrons who come in costume receive a free small popcorn!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BMFI has a brand-new website!

Bryn Mawr Film Institute is thrilled to announce the launch of its new website, designed by Zero Defect Design. Now it will be easier than ever to check the schedule and learn about our theater's programming, news, membership, film courses, and fundraising. The new site goes live today, June 2, and will appear in your browser within the next twenty-four hours.


Explore BMFI’s new online home, keeping in mind a number of new features:

Calendar. The daily schedule appears under the calendar. Click on a date in the calendar to see all of the films showing that day. Click on the individual film titles for more information about them.

Online Ticketing. Buy tickets to screenings directly from the website through MovieTickets.com. Click the red ticket icon on the right-hand side, which leads to a general page from which you can navigate to the film and show you would like to see. You can also click the showtime for which you would like to buy a ticket.

Film Pages. Each film has its own individual webpage, featuring a description, the show times, and a trailer and review as available. Certain events are highlighted in the ever-changing box at the top of the homepage, and others are highlighted down below. Click on these highlighted events to access detailed information about them. Find the full list of upcoming screenings and events by selecting the drop-down “Films” menu and selecting “films”. Then click on any of the grey links in the resultant list to get to the specialized events pages.

Comments. Share your thoughts on any event or film that we show—fill out the comments box at the bottom of the appropriate event page and an administrator will review it and post it shortly.

Contact Form. To give feedback to BMFI, click the “Contact Us” button at the top of every page to pull up the new contact form. Select the nature of your inquiry from the drop down menu, fill out the form with your contact information and question, and the appropriate staff member will get back to you as soon as possible.

For Students. A special “For Students” section geared towards high school and college students features information about student discounts, internships, different film organizations, and a list of upcoming screenings we think high school and college students would especially enjoy.

BMFInsights. The most recent posts on BMFI’s blog are now highlighted at the bottom of our home page.

Press Releases and Press Clippings. Select highlights will be featured on the home page; click on the “about” drop down menu and select “Press Releases” or “Press Clippings” to see the full list of available press releases and press clippings.

Bookmark and Share. Click the green “Bookmark & Share” button in the grey right-hand sidebar to share information easily with family and friends.

Photo Archives. This section will be appearing shortly.


The new website also streamlines previously existing content and features, including:

Membership. To become a member, click on “Become a Member” at the top of every page, or select “Membership” from the drop-down “Membership” menu.

Donate. To donate to BMFI, click on “Donate” at the top of every page or choose “Donate” from the drop-down “Support” menu.

Film Courses and Course Archive. Current classes are listed under “Film Studies” or “Film Production” on the drop-down “Education” menu. Explore BMFI’s past course offerings online by selecting “Course Archive”.

History. Click “About” or “History” on the drop-down “About” menu for more information about the theater’s past and present.


We hope that you find the new website helpful, attractive, and easy to use!