The Cinema Lounge
The Cinema Lounge meets Monday, February 19, 2018 at 7:00pm. Our topic is "Sex on Film." In its earliest days, Hollywood films were pretty open about sex for their time. Then in the 1930s, under threat of outside censorship, studios stuck to the "Hays Code" severely limiting what could be shown or discussed on screen. Clever filmmakers had to learn to go around the Code, implying and suggesting but going no further.
In the 1950s, American theatergoers started seeking out foreign films, in part because they could show much more than Hollywood fare. Finally, in the late 60s, after years of weakening, the Code was revoked, replaced by the MPAA ratings system.
Fifty years later, we can argue about how much freedom filmmakers truly do have. Also, with all that's available online, has sex on film lost its power? Is it provocative or merely titillating?
The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the third Monday of every month (unless otherwise noted) at 7:00pm at Teaism in Penn Quarter, 400 8th St., NW in Washington, DC (closest Metro stop is Archives, also near Metro Center and Gallery Place). NOTE: We will meet in the downstairs area. You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Adam Spector, author of the DC Film Society's Adam's Rib column.
A Fantastic Woman: Q&A with Director Sebastian Lelio and Actress Daniela Vega
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
A Fantastic Woman (Chile/Germany/Spain, 2017) was screened in the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017 to glowing reviews. The director, Sebastian Lelio (Gloria, Disobedience) was present with the transgender actress Daniela Vega for a brief Q&A discussion. Marina, a young night club singer and transgender woman wakes to find her older boyfriend suffering from an aneurysm and helps him down the stairs to get him to the hospital. Her lover Orlando’s family, including his son and ex-wife, are very rude and make wild accusations about Marina which she must deal with and rise above. The film, director, and actress have been nominated for or won awards at several film festivals, including the 2017 Berlin Festival Teddy Award for best LGBT themed film.
As in his earlier film Gloria, Lelio presents the main actress Marina, here also as the central figure who must fight to regain her dignity, right to love, right to be, and right to grieve for her lover. The director and star received a standing ovation in Toronto. It is also Chile’s submission to the Oscars as their pick for Best Foreign Language Film and it has made the final cut of five nominees for the award this year.
TIFF Moderator: The film seems very controlled, stylized and polished. I wondered if this was from the initial script, or the editing, or if you had continuous changes?
Sebastian Lelio: First, thank you for the wonderful reception here in Toronto (applause). The script was well written but Daniela of course brought much to the character. I chose Daniela Vega and the idea of transgender, because it’s such a challenging and current concept. The film interacts with the character of Marina and her problems. Marina and indeed her identity refuses to be labeled in one word and I hope the film shows this also. In many ways it is film of many themes: a romantic film, a funeral movie, a film about humiliation and revenge, but above all, a character study. Some feel it has a documentary element at its heart. It could also be said to be a film about a ghost at times. In Spanish, “género” means both genre and gender, so we also talk about a transgender woman in this way.
TIFF Moderator: For Daniela, the character is so strong, varied in emotions, and the story so personal. What drew you to do the film, was it the script?
Daniela Vega: It’s beautiful to be able to combine in the arts what is personal and universal. I thought it was an important story to tell and that I didn’t need a specialized passport to play this part or transport the story. I wanted a more stylized film than I did for Gloria.
Audience Question: You had Sonia and Bruno acting in such terrible or angry characters. How did you as a director work with the actors to create this feeling on the set and trust within all the cast?
Sebastian Lelio: I think because Daniela was at the center, we explored easily the other aspects. But after the hard scenes we would hug and know it was the characters reactions and not the real actors reactions.
Audience Question: The taping scene was so powerful. How it was to go through that painful scene?
Sebastian Lelio: Yes that was a nightmare and a painful scene to do for all of us. If we did it more than once, how to get the same reaction of fear could be difficult.
Audience Question: How did you make Daniela appear softer and capture her as a wonderful natural woman?
Sebastian Lelio: We did takes before and we always let Daniela present herself. We didn’t have to overstate the politics of the film. The film stands on its own as a political statement. Also the script was to be about a modern woman, not necessarily a transgender woman at first, but one that could echo the issue of today. The character developed even more into the transgender character; especially after meeting Daniela. I really had her in mind to play Marina long before I made that clear and that she agreed to do it. Remember that she had not done a great deal of acting before really, but was more a lyrical singer, artist, or performer. We worked with her a great deal and her acting but it was very rewarding in the end.
Audience Question: What about the use of the place and geography in the story?
Sebastian Lelio: We wanted to make a film about Santiago, this strange dreamlike, yet Frankenstein of a modern city, an ancient city, with colonial structures, and with new construction. We picked the locations carefully and also wanted to show some Winter scenes, but we also wanted a certain green like touch in the city.
Audience Question: Will this film be distributed within Latin America as well as elsewhere?
Sebastian Lelio: Yes, we hope to show it in Latin America where possible, but it could also touch on the life of a transgender woman in New York.
Audience Question: We assumed what would be in the locker and it wasn’t. Was this planned?
Sebastian Lelio: When she looks in the locker, it is more a personal thing to her, not necessarily monetary.
Audience Question: What inspired the film and did you do research?
Sebastian Lelio: I have not seen any of the few films about transgendered persons. Of course we met transgenders and we were looking for an actress. I went to a cultural event and we found Daniela there and were so lucky after a conversation of two hours we were enchanted by her beauty and later talent. After about two years and some more discussion and trying to find an actor/actress, we decided she would be the best actress and I think we were right (applause).
SONY Picture Classics is the distributor in the United States and the film will open locally on February 8, 2018.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
On February 1 at 7:30pm is a special event "A Night Inside THE ROOM + The Disaster Artist" with Greg Sestero in person. The evening includes a reading from Sestero's best-selling memoir "The Disaster Artist," the source material for James Franco's movie, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of The Room, a live reading of selected scenes from Wiseau's screenplay featuring setting, dialogue and plot devices which were cut from the film, a sneak peek at Wiseau and Sestero's reunion film Best F(r)iends, a Q&A and book signing with Sestero and a screening of The Diaster Artist.
"Iranian Film Festival: Iran Inside Out" (February 21-March 6) reprises some of the films shown during January and February at the Freer. Titles in February are Breath (Narges Abyar, 2016), Disappearance (Ali Asgari, 2017), and Negar (Rambod Javan, 2017), with two more in March.
"2017: A Look Back" (February 23-March 13) is a collection of some of the best films from 2017. Titles in February include Good Time, The Florida Project, Mudbound, The Square and Get Out.
Freer Gallery of Art
A new series of Japanese classic films is beginning at the Freer. On February 2:00pm is Double Suicide (Masahiro Shinoda, 1969).
The 22nd Annual Iranian Film Festival continues in February. On February 4 at 2:00pm is the revenge thriller Negar (Rambod Javan, 2017); on February 9 at 7:00pm is Tehran Taboo (Ali Soozandeh, 2017), an animated film about Tehran's underbelly; on February 16 at 7:00pm is When God Sleeps (Till Schauder, 2017), about an exiled musician; on February 18 at 2:00pm is 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017), an experimental film in which the late Abbas Kiarostami used photographs and animation to imagine what may have happened before and after the image captured in the photograph. Many of the Iranian films shown at the Freer in January and February can be seen at the AFI in February and March.
On February 23 is a special event Iranian Art, Music and Film starting at 5:30pm with a cash bar and a sneak peak at a new exhibition The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran. Two films at 7:00pm are the short film Images of the Qajar Dynasty and the feature Once Upon a Time, Cinema (1992), both by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
Just added! On February 24 at 3:00pm is Sailing a Sinking Sea (Olivia Wyatt, 2015)), a documentary about the Moken people, sea-faring nomads who live along the Andaman Sea. Shown with the short animated film The Fox of Shichigorosawa (Tune Sugihara, 2014).
National Gallery of Art
"Stan Brakhage: Metaphors on Vision" (February 10-11) is a three-part program of avant-garde short films, all introduced by program curator Thomas Beard. Program I is on February 10 at 2:00pm; program II on February 10 at 4:00pm and program III on February 11 at 4:00pm.
"From Vault to Screen: British Film Institute National Archive" (February 18-March 31) is a five-part program of recently restored films from the BFI Archive. On February 18 at 4:30pm is The Informer (Arthur Robison, 1929), the first of many adaptations of the Liam O'Flaherty novel. More in March.
"Avant-Garde to Underground: Outliers and Film, Part I" (February 3-March 16) features documentary portraits of outlier artists and works by experimental filmmakers. On February 3 at 2:00pm is "Short Films by Bruce Conner" and on February 24 at 4:30pm is the documentary James Castle: Portrait of an Artist (Jeffrey Wolf, 2008) with an introduction by the filmmaker. More in this series follows in March and Part II continues in April and May.
Special events in February include three French films: Day for Night (Francois Truffaut, 1973) on February 3 at 4:00pm, the restored Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (Jean Renoir, 1936) on February 4 at 4:30pm; and a "cine-concert" Edmund Kean: Prince Among Lovers (Aleksandr Volkov, 1924) with live music by Gabriel Thibaudeau and Frank Bockius on February 25 at 4:00pm. On February 24 at 2:00pm is the dance documentary No Maps on My Taps (George Nierenberg, 1979) followed by About Taps (George Nierenberg, 1985) with the director present to introduce the two films.
Museum of American History
On February 18 at 2:00pm is a film screening and discussion in observance of the Day of Remembrance Never Give Up, about a Japanese American lawyer who challenged the legality of the 1942 order incarcerating 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII. The film's Executive Producer and Co-Director Holly Yasui and others will take part in a Q&A after the film.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
On February 22 at 2:00pm is a screening of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (Louis Massiah, 1995) to commemorate the 150th birthday of W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1953). Filmmaker Louis Massiah will be present for discussion.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On February 3 at 3:00pm is Bamboozled (Spike Lee, 2000) followed by discussion with the film's editor Sam Pollard. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On February 13 at 7:30pm is Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz, 2017), Israel's official pick for the Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film award. Stars Lior Ashkenazi.
On February 20 at 7:30pm is Naples '44 (Francesco Patierno, 2017), a documentary based on the memoir of post-WWII Naples by British soldier Norman Lewis. After the film is a discussion with historian Dr. Sheldon A. Goldberg, from the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.
On February 27 at 7:30pm is The Boy Downstairs (Sophie Brooks, 2017), about a young writer in New York City.
On February 23 at 6:30pm is the documentary Red Cabbage and Blue Cabbage (Anna Hepp, 2011), about a Turkish-German family.
National Geographic Society
On February 1, 2 and 3 at 7:00pm is a selection of films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
On February 9 at 7:00pm is Men of Bronze (William Miles, 1977), a documentary about the "Harlem Hellfighters," black American soldiers who served with the French army in WWI. A panel discussion follows the film.
On February 13 at 7:00pm is Aya of Yop City (Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, 2015) and on February 27 at 7:00pm is Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannaud, 2007), both animated films.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On February 16 at 6:30pm is the anime film Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016), a sci-fi drama about two teenagers whose bodies get switched.
On February 21 at 6:30pm is A Farewell to Jinu (Suzuki Matsuo, 2015), about a money-phobic man who moves to a northern village.
The 14th Annual Showcase of Academy Award-Nominated Documentary and Short Film Nominees begins on February 28 at 7:00pm with Faces Places (Agnes Varda, 2017), one of the five contenders for Best Documentary Feature. More in March.
"Cinema Arts Bethesda" is a monthly Sunday morning film discussion series. On February 11 at 10:00am is the award-winning Italian film Like Crazy (Paolo Virzi, 2016), about patients at a mental institution. Breakfast is at 9:30am, the film is at 10:00am and discussion follows, moderated by Adam Spector, host of the DC Film Society's Cinema Lounge and author of the column "Adam's Rib." A season pass is available.
On February 7 at 8:00pm is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James, 2016), a documentary about a community bank in Chinatown which was accused to mortgage fraud. This film is one of the five Oscar nominees for Best Documentary.
On February 14 at 8:00pm is Milada (David Mrnka, 2017), a historical drama about Milada Horáková, the only woman executed on the basis of fabricated charges of conspiracy and treason in a political show trial by the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia. Part of the "Czech Lions" series.
On February 21 at 8:00pm is Souvenir (Bavo Defurne, 2016), starring Isabelle Huppert as a former singing star. This month's pick for the "French Cinematheque" series.
On February 28 at 8:00pm is An Israeli Love Story (Dan Wolman, 2017), set in 1947, for the "Reel Israel" film series.
Italian Cultural Institute
On February 6 at 6:00pm is What Are Clouds? (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967), a short film followed by a lecture about Pasolini's work by Barth David Schwartz, author of Pasolini Requiem.
On February 8 at 6:00pm is Fiore (Claudio Giovannesi, 2016), a social-realism film set in a juvenile detention facility.
On February 13 at 6:00pm is Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1968), in honor of its 50th anniversary.
New York University Abramson Family Auditorium
On February 8 at 6:30pm is the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Men in Aleppo (Fiyas Farrad, 2017) about the Syrian White Helmets volunteer organization.
On February 15 at 6:15pm is Charlie vs. Goliath (Reed Lindsay, 2017), a documentary about a former Catholic priest who runs for U.S. Senate. A discussion follows the film.
Library of Congress
The Mary Pickford Theater
at the Library of Congress starts a new series of films showcasing the Library's collection and including newly preserved films. On February 21 at 7:00pm is School Daze (Spike Lee, 1988) starring Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Ossie Davis.
"Monster Melodies: From Magic Dances to Audrey Tunes" is a film series accompanying the library's concert season. On February 1 is Little Shop of Horrirs (Frank Oz); on February 8 is Labyrinth (Jim Henson); on February 15 is Beetlejuice (Tim Burton); on February 17 is The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen); and on February 22 is Gremlins (Joe Dante). All are at 7:00pm.
Anacostia Community Museum
On February 7 at 11:30am is Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (2017) a documentary about the role of black colleges and universities throughout 150 years of American history.
"Capital Classics" at Landmark's West End Cinema
Classic films are shown at the West End Cinema on Wednesdays at 1:30pm, 4:30pm and 7:30pm. On February 7 is Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945); on February 14 is To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1945); on February 21 is An American in Paris (Vicente Minnelli, 1951).
Atlas Performing Arts Silent Film Series
On February 11 at 4:00pm is La Boheme (King Vidor, 1926) starring Lillian Gish and John Gilbert. Andrew Simpson provides live music accompaniment.
On February 16 at 8:00pm is Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011), part of the audience-participation "Quote Along" series of films. Shown at the Old Firehouse, 1440 Chain Bridge Rd.
Reel Affirmations XTra
On February 16 at 7:00pm is Something Like Summer (David Berry, 2017).
On February 7 at 7:00pm is Les Amants du Pont Neuf (Leos Carax, 1991). After the film Nicholas Elliott, US correspondent of Les Cahiers du Cinema, will lead a discussion of the film with Q&A.
The Jerusalem Fund
On February 3 at 5:30pm is The Last Dance of Kocho … and Its Missing Girls, about the Yazidi girls of Iraq kidnapped by ISIS militants in 2014. The filmmakers Amish Srivastava and Lijman Ahmad will discuss the film.
George Mason University
On February 2 at 5:00pm is a screening a discussion of the documentary Bending the Arc (Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos, 2017), about Partners in Health, founded by doctors and activists which brought health care to Haiti. The film will be introduced by Dr. Michael Von Fricken of GMU's Department of Global and Community Health and the discussion is led by Dr. Carole Smarth. Open to the public.
Loudoun Symphony Orchestra
On February 24 at 7:30pm the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra plays Andrew Simpson's full orchestral score for Chaplin's 1917 comedy The Immigrant. Location: Riverside High School, 19019 Upper Belmond Place, Leesburg, VA. Other music pieces are included in the program.