Sing Your Song

Mon May 21 8:15 Wed May 23 7:30
(US / 2011 / dir by Susanne Rostock)
Unrated / 105 mins.
“If we take time to understand each other, together we can turn the world around,” says singer/activist Harry Belafonte.
Essentially on the frontlines of every progressive political battle in modern memory, Belafonte claims he “just can’t let them win,” referring to the racists, warmongers, and government malefactors he’s spent a lifetime fighting. After being blacklisted in the McCarthy era, the singer marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil-rights era, worked against apartheid in South Africa, fought hunger through instrumental work with USA for Africa, and worked to combat gang violence through programs with inner-city youth. A remarkable man, his story reminds us of the power of art to change lives and that one person can, indeed, make a difference. Speaking in his warm, mellow voice, Belafonte narrates the film, making it a personal and intimate experience. Now in his mid-80s, he notes at the end that perhaps it would be pleasant to live out his remaining years in luxury and reflection — but that “there’s just too much in the world to be done.”

“To call SING YOUR SONG an epic might seem overblown, but it isn’t just the story of man, but the story of a country and a century”.
– John Anderson, Variety

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Irene’s Survivors: A Scoharie Story

Sunday May 20 at 1:00
*FREE SHOW with student filmmakers In Person
Near the end of the summer, I drove through the village of Schoharie, NY and was amazed at the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for my Introduction to Broadcast Journalism/Television class to create a mini-documentary about how this storm affected this community.  One of our science teachers, Tara Miller is from Schoharie and was instrumental in getting us contacts.  We visited many individuals, including some high school seniors, conducted interviews and shot still shots and B-roll (additional footage used with a voice over).  All of the Red Hook students received training using professional grade video cameras, learned about white balancing, lighting, recording sound using different kinds of microphones and non-linear editing using Final Cut Pro software.  We filmed over eight hours of footage, which was finally cut down to just under an hour long.  These students experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity and created an informative piece that hopefully can be used to raise awareness and /or funding to help your village with their struggles.

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Rabbit à la Berlin

Tues May 22 at 6:00

(Germany & Poland / 2009 / dir by Bartosz Konopka)
Unrated / 51 mins.
Narrated with the wonder and genteelness of a storybook, this Oscar nominated documentary – a fascinating look at history through the eyes of animals – explores the world of the thousands of wild rabbits who lived in the Death Zone of the Berlin Wall.
For 28 years, the strip of earth enclosed between the two walls was a safe enclave for rabbits. Full of grass, the zone had no predators and guards to ensure that no one disturbed them. But while the dismantling of the Wall in 1989 may have been a source of great joy for some, it had a catastrophic effect on the population. “For the rabbits, it was like an exodus. It was very dramatic and terrifying for those animals,” the 37-year-old Polish director says. “In the fate of those rabbits, there was some kind of prediction: a bad weather forecast for people.” Serving as an allegorical tale of a totalitarian system, Rabbit à la Berlin ingeniously captures a historical moment from a vantage rarely seen.

“If Werner Herzog remade WATERSHIP DOWN, this would be his template…a lovely modern mini-myth, sarcastic and Beatrix Potter-y in turn.”
– Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

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Disco and Atomic War

Wed May 23 at 8:15
Sun May 20 at 7:30
(Estonia / 2009 / dir by Jaak Kilmi)
UR / 80 mins.
Blending delightful dramatic reconstructions with kitschy retro footage, Disco and Atomic War interweaves intrigue and hilarity to tell the tale of ordinary citizens engaging in illegal activities to circumvent a propagandistic media.
When a giant antennae was constructed in 1980s Finland, ordinary citizens in Talinn, Estonia learned how to use copper pipes, mercury thermometers, and other found objects to make their own illegal receivers. Before long, rock ‘n roll and disco music, hit shows like Dallas and Knight Rider, and movies such as Star Wars and Emmanuelle permeated the country’s borders. To combat the “soft power” of Western pop culture, the Soviet state took increasingly absurd, ultimately futile lengths to maintain control over the viewing habits (thus, the hearts and minds) of Estonian citizens. With its colorful staging and ironic musings, Kilmi’s film creates an unforgettable portrait of people engaging in subtle subterfuge to evade state power.
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Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Thu May 24 at 8:00
Fri May 18 at 8:00
(US / 2011 / Dir by John Foy)
UR / 86 mins.
Philadelphia artist and resident Justin Duerr found his first Toynbee Tile in the late 90’s.  It was a linoleum tile glued to the asphalt of a busy intersection reading:  “TOYNBEE IDEA / IN Kubrick’s 2001 / RESURRECT DEAD / ON PLANET JUPITER.”
Over the years Justin and his friends did research and exploration to discover that the tiles had been found in cities all over the U.S. since the 80’s, from Boston to Kansas City, and even as far as several South American capitals. The group hones their search for the tile’s author down to two likely suspects and also discovers the ingenious method the unorthodox messenger uses to place them onto busy streets and interstates without being seen.  With clues as odd as the lines of a David Mamet play, a theory of molecular regeneration, and a strange call taken by Larry King live on the air, who wouldn’t be curious.
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5 Broken Cameras

Tue May 22 at 7:30

(Israel, France, Netherlands, Occupied Palestinian Territory / 2011 / Dir by Emad Burnat)
UR / 90 mins.
* Shown in conjunction with BANG BANG CUT and FARKAH, two short films by Casey Asprooth-Jackson & Salah Daoud. Casey Asprooth-Jackson In Person Q&A.
When Emad Burnat got his first video camera in 2005, he “never thought of making films.”  He got it to keep a video record of his new family before the arrival of his first son, Gibreel.  On the the same day as his birth, Israeli forces attack their West Bank village, and he is compelled to film both events.
For the next five years he brings his camera to every demonstration against the evictions, wall building, and Israeli settlements being erected at the fringes of their small community.  When a camera is destroyed, usually by being tossed to the ground or shot with a bullet, he gets a new one.  The five cameras each have a story; they witness troubling things, and blend the personal and political history of a small yet enduring place. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. Thank you to Peggy Ahwesh and the Al-Quds Bard Study Abroad Program.
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Rain in a Dry Land

Tues May 22 at 8:00

(US / 2006 / dir by Anne Makepeace)
UR / 82 mins.
* In Person: Director Anne Makepeace
Capturing the strangeness of contemporary America through the eyes of new immigrants, Rain in a Dry Land tells the story of two Bantu families who relocate from refugee camps to homes in urban America after managing to escape the 1991 civil war in Somalia.
While they learn about staircases in a Cultural Orientation class, in a most haunting image, Arbai and her daughters descend the steps of their new house like nervous mountaineers. And while they learn the phrase “I shall go to the supermarket,” when Madina searches for “a round chicken,” she recognizes none of her options for fried or frozen meat as poultry. Speaking candidly about their situations and, at low ebbs, communicating sorrow and frustration through their eyes, the film’s subjects don’t soft-sell the difficulties of finding jobs, paying bills, and adjusting to drastically different climates, cultures, and languages. As it follows their first two years in their new homes, Rain in a Dry Land creates suspense as to whether they, and others like them, will prevail.
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Hell and Back Again

Sun May 20 at 5:45

(2011 / USA / dir by Danfung Dennis)
UR / 88 mins.
* In Person: Iraq Veteran Derek McGee
Pushing 2nd Battalion through the rocky barren landscape of southern Afghanistan, Sgt. Nathan Harris is wounded just before completing a mission deep into Taliban territory.  Hell and Back Again viscerally depicts the emotional and physical hazards of a wounded soldiers’ return home.
With a metal bar holding his shattered leg together, Sgt. Harris endures painful physical therapies and an increasing reliance on prescription medication like Oxycontin.  The film deftly toggles between the frenzy of battle and the more inward torment of readjusting to civilian life.  The film’s concussed soundscape and stunning imagery, courageously shot by director Danfung Dennis, propels the viewer deep into the heart of the soldiers’ experience.  Winner of last year’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and a 2012 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary, WE RECOMMEND this incredible film.
Article by Derek McGee
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Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Mon May 21 at 7:30

(US / 2011 / dir by Lea Pool)
PG / 98 mins.
*A Benefit for Breast Cancer Options, screening will be followed by discussion.
Who could possibly see anything wrong with a symbol that has mobilized people to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for breast-cancer research since the 1980s? Léa Pool’s devastating documentary about the industry and culture around breast cancer addresses the rise of corporate involvement in fund-raising for charities, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the impact such “cause marketing” has on research into the disease.
“If people actually knew what was happening they would be really pissed off,” says Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action San Francisco. “They should be.” Brenner is one of a line of impassioned women who raise their objection to the pink ribbon campaign’s “tyranny of cheerfulness,” demonstrated by scenes of pink-clad women walking and running for cancer fundraisers. The line of critics accuses the campaign of promoting an overly peppy quick-fix mentality, and of focusing too much on early screening and achieving a “cure” for the disease, instead of researching causes and protection from environmental contaminants. Additionally, while generous fundraisers are lauded for their contributions, others are cautioned to “think before you pink,” lest they be treated with disdain for making profits from pink merchandise. Powerful and incendiary, Pink Ribbons Inc. questions how far the millions raised through marketing campaigns go toward stopping the disease that kills 59,000 North Americans annually.
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Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Sun May 20 3:00

(US / 2011 / dir by Constance Marks & Philip Shane)
Unrated / 80 mins.
* In Person: Patrick Wadden and guests from ARM OF THE SEA PUPPET THEATER
Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo tells an inspiring story about the oft unrecognized talent behind one of America’s most adored characters.
Initially mocked for “playing with dolls,” Kevin Clash started out making his own puppets as an adolescent in Baltimore in the 1970s. After becoming the first African American puppeteer to join the Jim Henson organization via the film Labyrinth, he joined the Muppet Brigade on Sesame Street. And when an exasperated colleague tossed Elmo his way, he re-invented the furry red Muppet from his initial grunty caveman persona to the cuddly love magnet of today. Arguably the creative force behind today’s Sesame Street, Clash now produces, directs, and travels around the globe training other artists. A documentary as gentle as its subject, Being Elmo won’t fail to warm your heart.
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Border Stories

Fri May 18 at 7:00

(US, Mexico / 2008 / dir by Ben Fundis, John Drew, and Clara Long)
* Ben Fundis (one of Upstate Film’s very own) presents…
The U.S.-Mexico border is the most frequented international crossing in the world. The longest land boundary between the developed and the developing world, the border extends for 1,969 miles.
Over a period of months, a documentary crew traveled along the border from Brownsville/Matamoros to San Diego/Tijuana. As they traveled, they edited short videos to show the human face of the politically charged region. Isolated from the whole, the videos – of minute men and musicians, ranchers, activists, doctors, and deejays – may seem disparate, but together they form new meanings that transcend their individual subject matter. Designed to play off one another in any order, they come together in what the filmmakers call a “mosaic documentary” – one with no beginning, middle, or end. Join us for a special one-night Border Stories screening featuring Upstate’s own Ben Fundis.
Border Stories Website

What We Need is the Impossible! A Program of Documentary Shorts by Sam Green

Wed May 23 at 6:00

(US / Dir by Sam Green)
Unrated / 80 mins.
* In Person: Director Sam Green
The inspirational San Fransisco-based documentarian Sam Green (THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND) has been mak­ing award-winning short doc­u­men­taries since the late 1990s. For one night, he returns to Upstate for this special program.
Films include:
: visit Southern China to explore the world’s largest shop­ping mall, which is actu­ally nearly com­pletely empty. lot 63, grave c: an elegy for Mered­ith Hunter, the young man who was killed by Hells Angels at the noto­ri­ous 1969 Alta­mont con­cert. THE FABULOUS STAINS: BEHIND THE MOVIE: the remark­able story of the cult film directed by Lou Adler in 1982. THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE: a por­trait of Esperanto, the arti­fi­cial lan­guage that was cre­ated in the late 1800s with the hope of cre­at­ing world peace, and the world­wide move­ment of peo­ple who still speak it.Run­ning through Green’s films is a cel­e­bra­tion of ide­al­ism and the search for mean­ing along with the often humor­ous real­i­ties of human folly. An honor to present, this selection of films is not to be missed.
Sam Green’s Website

The Island President

Fri May 18 at 4:30
Sat May 19 at 5:30
(US / 2011 / dir by Jon Shenk)
PG / 101 mins.
The Maldives is made up of small island atolls that don’t come more that 2 meters above sea level.  It is a nation on the front lines in the losing battle against climate change as the oceans rise and consume the country island by island.  Soon, the entire population will be forced to relocate.  It will be the first loss of an entire country due to our own influence on the rising temperatures around the world.
The Maldives’ charismatic president Mohamed Nasheed came to power in 2008 during the country’s first democratic election in 30 years.  Risen from the street, the former social activist gives a large voice to a small population, he is not afraid to say that larger countries are murdering smaller ones like his.  Determined not to let the drowning of his homeland happen in vain, he takes the story to the United Nations and around the world, and gives an impassioned though futile plea for the world to comprehend that climate change is no longer up for debate, it is real and it is happening and we must save what is left before it is too late.
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Kati With an I

Thu May 24 at 7:30

(US / 2010 / Dir by Robert Greene)
UR / 86 mins.
* In Person: Director Robert Greene
A story that is familiar to every person and rarely captured cinematically, the uncomfortable transition out of childhood is brought to the screen by debut filmmaker Robert Greene.
He follows Kati living in rural Alabama during the last months before her high school graduation.  At first the details of her situation are shadowy, and the revelation of “what happened” is parsed throughout the build up to graduation day and her departure to rejoin her parents, who recently moved to North Carolina.  She hopes her fiancé James will come with her for the summer.  She goes to the mall, goes swimming, and lives out her summer in front of the camera.  The film’s cinematographer Sean Price Williams carefully and tenderly navigates his way through Kati’s life, taking in the minute details of a typical rural upbringing and making it extraordinary.  Though is difficult to highlight the issues dealt with in this film without giving away its conclusion, rest assured that it will reverberate long after the credits roll.
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General Orders No. 9

Fri May 18 at 9:15
Sat May 19 at 8:00
(US / 2009 / dir by Robert Persons)
UR / 72 mins
The outward expansion of American cities made irreversible changes to the original map they were placed upon.  Robert Persons, in his first film, spent 11 years filming areas around Atlanta and exploring how, in the words of the film’s narrator, “deer trail becomes indian trail becomes county road”.
A poetic elegy for a disappeared landscape, the film gets at the essential components of our communities that live off the land by consuming it.  The film’s title is taken from a letter written by General Robert E. Lee to his troops after the surrender at Appomattox.  Highlighting their courage, he told them that they had been “compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.” The film does not make suggestions for how to better temper the flame of progress, it merely beckons us to explore and understand what is left before it is completely erased. 
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Sat May 19 at 6:45
Thu May 24 at 6:00
Sun May 20 5:30
(Switzerland / 2011 / dir by Nick Brandestini)
UR / 88 mins.
Nestled in the inhospitable Death Valley near a top-secret weapons station and the burnt remnants of the ranch where Charles Manson was arrested, Darwin’s 35 denizens carve a life for themselves in a town with few jobs, no organized religion, no government, and little water.
Darwin’s alien landscape, shot wide by a filmmaker with an outsider’s eye for the dustily hyperreal, is teeming with strangeness. While some residents bury weapons caches, hoard food supplies, and tend survival gardens in preparation for the coming apocalypse (projected by their postmistress Susan Pimentel), others have comfortable homes amid vast desert vistas and talk of the comfort they find in an end-of-the-road kind of life. The result is a film with understated power that touches upon themes of survival, self-discovery, community, and the paradox of civilization itself. An engaging paean to the outer frontiers of Americana, Darwin carries a deeply resonant edge. “If Darwin, California didn’t exist, David Lynch would have had to invent it.” – Eric Monder, Film Journal International
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This Way of Life

Sun May 20 at 8:15
Fri May 18 at 6:00
(New Zealand / 2009 / dir by Thomas Burstyn)
Unrated / 85 mins.
A captivating, visually ravishing documentary, This Way of Life captures four eventful years in the lives of a Maori family living a Rousseau-like existence in remote northern New Zealand.
At the heart of the family are Peter, a horse-whispering father, and Colleen, a tenacious and centered mother of six. As they talk with unassuming vitality about the values they are teaching their kids, who are beautifully filmed fording rivers and riding bareback through the East Coast dunes, the love the family shares is so visible it makes their ramshackle home life look idyllic. But when Peter and Colleen lose their house and several of their horses as the result of a family feud, they are forced to negotiate the social and material obstacles that endanger the life they love. This Way of Life rings a succession of loud and true notes as it explores the fragile process of building philosophical utopias in the midst of a messy world.
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