As we look ahead to the independent cinema events in town, one word comes to mind: variety. The one positive aspect of most of the specialty screenings taking place for one day (or even one show only) is that they rarely conflict with one another, making it easier for cineastes to gorge themselves on a cornucopia of celluloid sustenance.
Those more like globe-trotting soldier-of-foodie Anthony Bourdain than persnickety Mikey from the old Life Cereal TV spots will find plenty to tempt their optical and aural palates over the next seven days.
First up is a free screening at The Sentient Bean on March 27, courtesy of Occupy Savannah.
That non-partisan group is focused on "combating corporate interests in our government and ensuring that all people have a fair chance in society." It's hard to argue with that mission statement (although many valiantly try).
Occupy Savannah Movie Night is a monthly event that finds feature-length free speech and civil rights-oriented documentaries in the cozy environs of this award-winning vegetarian and vegan eatery.
The title of this month's feature has yet to be announced, but the show will start at 7 p.m. with no admission charge.
Skipping ahead to April 2, The Lucas Theatre hosts the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour for one show only.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "Didn't that just come to Savannah? Why it is back again so soon?"
That's a fair question. This particular mountain film fest did not just come through Savannah. That was the other mountain film fest. The one that's based out of Telluride, Colo., as opposed to Alberta, Canada.
Tellruide Mountainfilm Fest did stop here just a few weeks back, but was presented at Trustees Theater.
So, what's the difference between the two? Well, they're both internationally acclaimed touring showcases for award-winning short films centered around themes of exploration, adventure, culture, environment and mountain sports. And they both trek around the globe bringing highlights from the actual film festival they represent to thousands and thousands of viewers at hundreds of screenings. And both festivals work with local host organizations in each destination to more accurately reflect the needs and interests of those local audiences. But, as I said before, this one's from Canada, not Colorado.
If you already caught the Tellruide Mountainfilm Fest a few weeks back, you're bound to enjoy this similar event. And if you weren't able to make it to Trustees for that one, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at the Lucas is a wonderful choice, as well.
Best of all, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit two worthwhile nonprofits supporting ecologically sound principles: the Georgia Conservancy and the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. Admission is $10 at the door or in advance through www.savannahboxoffice.com.
Shifting gears, if asked to name the top five feature films ever made about the horrors of war, what movies would be on your list?
Odds are one would not be Larisa Shepitko's B&W masterpiece "The Ascent." That's likely because here in the Western world, it's one of the most obscure foreign films of its stature. Although it was awarded the Golden Bear (the highest honor) at the 27th Berlin Film Festival, and was selected as the Soviet Union's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at our own Academy Awards that same year (1977), for decades this grim, contemplative religious allegory was essentially unavailable in most parts of the world. It could only be found with great difficulty, and then on blurry, poorly transferred VHS tapes, often without subtitles of any kind (the film is in Russian and German).
Described by critics and viewers alike as "intense," "grueling," "dark" and "frighteningly authentic," it's set during WWII in the snow-covered Russian countryside, where two Russian men behind enemy lines are forced to trudge across a great distance to find food while trying to avoid not only Nazi patrols but withstand the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the Russian winter.
A bleak rumination on the inhumanities perpetrated in the name of patriotism, it's a slow-moving film which bears a resemblance to the work of the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Stunning and poetic, it's often described as a motion picture everyone should definitely see once, but will not likely wish to return to for repeated viewings, as a result of the emotional wallop it packs. Tragically, Shepitko died in a car crash barely two years after "The Ascent" was released, while scouting locations for what would have been her next project. As a result, this film remains the final - and perhaps greatest - effort of one of the world's most promising cinematic visionaries.
On April 2 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society will screen the complete, restored version of this little-known gem in honor of the 37th anniversary of its original release. The film will be shown in spoken Russian and German, with English subtitles. Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission. It is recommended for mature audiences only.
And finally, on April 3, the SCAD Museum of Art presents a sneak preview of the new feature "Eye of the Hurricane," starring Campbell Scott, Melanie Lynskey and Brian Doyle-Murray. Well-received at worldwide festivals, this family drama about the aftermath of a hurricane in the Florida Everglades is told through the eyes of a wounded child, and has been likened to such classic coming-of-age films as "Stand By Me" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." It was the first feature film shot in nearby St. Marys, Ga., and will soon premiere on the STARZ cable network.
Writer/director Jesse Wolf has recently relocated to Savannah to teach in the film and television department at SCAD, and will be on hand for a Q&A after the film. Wolf says he had many requests from locals who wanted to see the film, so he arranged this public screening. The show starts at 5 p.m., and admission is free for SCAD ID holders and museum members. The public is welcome to attend for free (but must pay the cost of museum admission). Look for more details in next week's Film Scene.
Till then, see you at the movies, and remember to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.