Recent films from Brazil, China, Egypt, Mexico, Iran, Serbia, India, Chile and Kazakhstan will make their Memphis debuts over the next five months as the Global Lens series a curated collection of independent feature films from around the world moves to its new home at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar.
The screenings are free to the public. "We thought that having the movie at the library, a free venue, might help attract an audience that otherwise might not seek them out," said Erik Jambor, executive director of Indie Memphis, which is hosting the Global Lens series with the Public Library and Information Center.
"We want to bring the world to our community, and we want the community to come to the library," said Nobuko Igarashi of the library's humanities department, who said discussions will follow some of the films.
The Global Lens series is a project of the 11-year-old, not-for- profit Global Film Initiative, which was "created to promote cross- cultural understanding through the medium of cinema," according to the San Francisco-based organization's website (globalfilm.org).
The films in the series originate from lands that represent previously unexplored cinematic territory for many moviegoers: the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and so on. Sometimes comedic, sometimes tragic, and alternately intimate and panoramic, the movies open a window onto vibrant cultures both threatened and thriving that might otherwise remain hidden to most people, except via occasional news reports, which often present these countries in an antagonistic context, as in the case of Iraq and Iran.
In the words of the Global Film Initiative's mission statement, posted on its website: "In recent times, no medium has been as effective at communicating the ranges and diversity of the world's cultures as the cinematic arts."
America's stability "depends on deep cross-cultural understanding, particularly between young Americans and the children of recently arrived immigrants," the mission statement asserts. "A comprehensive effort to give value to stories from every corner of the world plays a vital role in promoting tolerance . . ."
Foreign films generally have a hard time finding space on U.S. movie screens, and the international film industry itself has been hurt by the dominance of the American film industry. The Global Lens series is an effort to fill the gap left by a theatrical market that for the most part has abdicated interest in foreign films, with the exception of a handful of titles distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, The Weinstein Company and a few other companies. The Global Lens selections are approved by an advisory board that includes such acclaimed international auteurs as Spain's Pedro Almodvar, Denmark's Lars von Trier, Hungary's Bla Tarr and Mira Nair of India.
The local film organization that hosts the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival, Indie Memphis first brought the Global Lens series here for its 2007 film festival, screening the entire lineup over several days at the Studio on the Square.
Later, the series was hosted by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, with encore screenings at the Central Library. The library also hosts the "Wider Angle" film series, a similar lineup of relatively obscure independent features.
The films are screened off DVD via a ceiling-mounted projector onto a screen in Meeting Room C at the Central Library. The first movie in the current series, "About 111 Girls," from Iraq, directed by Nahid Ghobadi and Bijan Zamanpira, screened Sunday.
Global Lens series
The films are presented free at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar.
"Beijing Flickers" (China), 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14. Left behind by Happiness (his dog) and the Chinese economic boom, a self- destructive young man careers through the modern Beijing underground. Directed by Zhang Yuan.
"Cairo 768" (Egypt), 2 p.m. Sunday, July 28. Winner of the Best Feature award at the Chicago International Film Festival, director Mohamed Diab's film follows three women from different socioeconomic backgrounds who join together to combat the sexual harassment they experience on a daily basis.
"The Fantastic World of Juan Orol" (Mexico), 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1. Robert Soso won the Ariel Award (Mexico's equivalent of the Oscar) for Best Actor for his portrayal of an Ed Woodesque Mexican B- movie director. Directed by Sebastin del Amo.
"Modest Reception" (Iran), 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5. An oddball couple from Tehran travels across the countryside, giving away bags of money to suspicious locals. What is their secret? Directed by Mani Haghighi.
"The Parade" (Serbia), 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Gay activists in Belgrade agree to produce an extravagant wedding for the daughter of a Serbian crime boss in this sometimes tense comedy. Directed by Srdjan Dragojevic.
"Shyamal Uncle Turns Off the Lights" (India), 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8. An 80-year-old retiree embarks on a quixotic battle with city hall to stop a streetlight from shining wastefully 24 hours a day. Directed by Suman Ghosh.
"Student" (Kazakhstan), 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26. A philosophy student turns to crime as a response to the ruthless and corrupt capitalism of his post-Communist home republic. Directed by Darezhan Omirbayev.
"Southwest" (Brazil), 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. Winner of the Best Latin American Film Award at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, this dreamlike black-and-white film is set in a Brazilian coastal village where a bruxa (witch) oversees the birth of a girl who experiences her entire life, from infant to crone, in 24 hours. Directed by Eduardo Nunes.
"Life Kills Me" (Chile), 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24. Sebastin Silva, director of the acclaimed "The Maid," returns with another dark character portrait, this time of a grieving cinematographer working on a horror film.
For more information, visit indiememphis.com, memphislibrary.org or globalfilm.org.
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