One Book Film Series Kicks Off Oct. 3 At Central Library
Films address themes of migration, resilience, and reconciliation
The San Diego Central Library hosts a nine-part program (running Tuesdays Oct. 3 through Nov. 28) of diverse films that address the themes of peacemaking, migration, resilience and reconciliation featured in the One Book San Diego 2017 selection “The Sandcastle Girls.”
Chris Bohjalian's novel mixes stories about his own Armenian-American heritage with that of his main character, Laura, in order to explore questions and issues relating to the Armenian genocide that took place between 1915 and 1918 under the Ottoman Empire in Turkey.
Rebecca Romani — who guest blogs for Cinema Junkie — co-programmed the film series with the San Diego Central Library's Marc Chery.
"When we went to choose some of the films we were looking at things that were concurrent with the themes of the book but would also broaden the themes," Romani said. "We didn't want to just stop in Armenia. We're also looking at things like reconciliation between communities where there has been a lot of violence and also refugee stories, What could be presented as part of a refugee story but we also wanted to look across continents because things have taken place in many different places including the U.S."
The film series begins Tuesday, Oct. 3 by focusing specifically on the Armenian genocide with "The Cut." The film tells the story of one Armenian family suffering through the horrors of 1915-18.
But from this focused open the film series fans out to cover a broad spectrum of stories that include the documentary "Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock & Roll," the Oscar-winning "Long Night's Journey into Day," and the Blaxploitation classic "Three the Hard Way."
Chery suggested "Three the Hard Way" for the series and it proves eerily fitting. Made in 1974 it boasted the first time Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly — the three biggest African American action stars at that time — would join forces on one film. The film was directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. (son of the great photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks) and focused on a plot by white supremacists with a plan to "poison" the water supply of three major cities with a lethal substance that would be as selective as "a lady buying perfume" and kill only "black folks and leave the rest of us alone ... just like sickle cell anemia."
Romani said the plot that seemed far-fetched and paranoid in 1974 resonates differently today with things like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
"There have been very serious consequences for the community there including low birth rates, issues with babies being born with problems, and a whole slew of issues in Flint, Michigan, it's mostly African American, so interestingly enough this may be from 1974 but really it's a film for 2017," Romani said.
It's precisely the kind of film that Romani and Chery hope will spark a lively post-film discussion, which is a key component of the One Book Film Series.
One Book Film Series Schedule (from San Diego Central Library press release)
"The Cut," Oct. 3
In 1915, a man survives the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, but loses his family, speech and faith. One night he learns that his twin daughters may be alive and goes on a quest to find them. Directed by Fatih Akin, 138 minutes, Germany/Turkey, 2014.
"Mustang," Oct. 10
In a village in northern Turkey, when five orphan girls are seen innocently playing with boys on their way from school, their scandalized conservative guardians confine them while forced marriages are arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them. Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 97 minutes, France/Turkey, 2015.
"On the Bride’s Side (Io Sto con la Sposa)," Oct. 17
A Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist meet five Palestinians and Syrians in Milan who entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa after fleeing the war in Syria. They decide to help them complete their journey to Sweden, and hopefully avoid getting themselves arrested as traffickers, by faking a wedding. Directed by Antonio Augugliaro and Gabriele del Grande, 90 minutes, Italy/Netherlands, 2014.
"Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock & Roll," Oct. 24
This film examines Cambodia's recent history through its rock music of the 1960s and '70s, culminating in the genocidal Khmer Rouge's dismantling of the society and murder of 2 million of its citizens. Combining interviews of surviving rockers with never-before-seen archival material and rare songs, this film tracks the twists and turns of Cambodian music as it morphs into rock and roll, blossoms, and is nearly destroyed along with the rest of the country. Directed by John Pirozzi and Andrew Pope, 95 minutes, USA/Cambodia.
"Belvedere," Oct. 31
In the Belvedere refugee camp 15 years after the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia during the former Yugoslavia, a widow yearning to forget the tragedy of war, spends most of her days in a bittersweet routine of caring for her extended family and searching for the remains of her husband and son. An emotionally rich portrait of war’s troubled aftermath. Directed by Ahmed Imamović, 90 minutes, Bosnia, 2010.
"Sometimes in April," Nov. 7
In 1994, Hutu nationalists raised arms against their Tutsi countrymen in the African nation of Rwanda, beginning of one of the darkest times in African history. Over the course of the next 100 days, citizen would turn against citizen, tearing families apart and resulting in the death of 800,000 people. In this film, a Hutu soldier (Idris Elba) tries to get his family to safety during the genocide, while years later his brother stands trial for his actions. Directed by Raoul Peck, 140 minutes, USA/Rwanda, 2005.
"Long Night’s Journey into Day," Nov. 14
This Oscar-winning film tells four stories of apartheid in South Africa, as seen through the eyes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. White soldiers who have killed African National Congress activists, black activists who have killed whites in political attacks: can there be forgiveness when the full truth comes out? Directed by Deborah Hoffmann and Frances Reid, 94 minutes, USA/South Africa, 2000.
"Even the Rain (También la Lluvia)," Nov. 21
As a film director (Gael García Bernal) and his crew shoot a controversial film about Christopher Columbus’ conquest in Cochabamba, Bolivia, local people rise up against plans to privatize the city’s municipal water supply. Directed by Icíar Bollaín, 103 minutes, Spain, 2010.
"Three the Hard Way," Nov. 28
The story involves a white supremacist plot to taint the U.S. water supply with a toxin that is harmless to whites but lethal to blacks. The only obstacles that stand in the way of this dastardly plan are the three biggest Blaxploitation action stars of the 1970s: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, who shoot, kick and karate chop their way to final victory. Directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., 90 minutes, USA, 1974.