Leaving Home—to Look for America

Brooklyn Poster larger vrsnThe Adirondack Film Society (AFS) Screening Series Version 2.0 continued at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) March 11-12, 2016 with the three-time Oscar-nominated, Brooklyn.  The highly acclaimed romantic drama—nominated for three Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Best Adapted Screenplay of 2015—tells the heart-wrenching story of one young Irish woman’s journey leaving home behind in the “old country” to finding a new home—and a new love—in America.

Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey lands in 1950s Brooklyn to start work in New York City, where she has been sponsored for employment and the promise of great opportunity. She is at first homesick and despondent but then embarks on a romance that will ultimately force her to decide what home really is.

Here’s what Rolling Stone had to say about Brooklyn: “There will be bigger, wilder, weightier movies this year, but none lovelier than Brooklyn. I relished every moonstruck minute of it. The astonishing Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Hanna) lights up the screen in a performance that takes a piece of your heart.”

The 2015-2016 AFS Screening Series at LPCA concludes for this season on Friday and Saturday evening, April 15-16 (rescheduled from April 8-9), at 7 p.m. with the compelling real-life drama that unabashedly reveals a devastating truth, Spotlight—winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2015. And save the dates for the annual Lake Placid Film Forum, happening Wednesday through Sunday, June 8-12.

Cold Warrior Weekend

The Adirondack Film Society (AFS) Screening Series welcomed back four-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jim Brown to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) February 12-13 to screen his new documentary, Free to Rock, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland.

Rock ‘n’ roll spread like a virus across the Soviet Union despite attempts by the country’s Communist government to outlaw it. Thousands of underground bands and millions of young fans who yearned for Western freedoms helped fuel the nonviolent implosion of the Soviet regime. Free to Rock features Presidents, diplomats, spies and rock stars from the West and the Soviet Union who reveal how rock ‘n’ roll music was a contributing factor in bringing down the Iron Curtain and ending the Cold War.

Producer/director/writer/cinematographer Jim Brown is responsible for some of the most popular and critically acclaimed musical documentary programs of the past four decades, including Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time, Woody Guthrie at 100: Live at the Kennedy Center, Don McLean: American Troubadour, Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust-The Bridge to Russia and Concert for Newtown.

In February 2015, the AFS Screening Series showed his film 50 Years with Peter, Paul and Mary, which Mr. Brown introduced in person and helped lead a robust discussion about following two screenings of it. Free to Rock, which had the distinction of premiering this past November in Washington, DC before Congress to help mark the 50th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities, engendered a similarly wide-ranging discussion with its LPCA audience this past February.

Tom Hanks plays James B. Donovan (inset) in “Bridge of Spies”

The Cold War theme continued President’s Day weekend with a special matinee screening of the Steven Spielberg thriller—and Oscar nominee for Best Picture of 2015—Bridge of Spies on Sunday, February 14th, at the Palace Theatre on Lake Placid’s Main Street. Co-presented by the Adirondack Film Society and the Lake Placid Institute, the screening featured in-person appearances by Beth Amorosi and Trish Muccia, granddaughters of James B. Donovan, who is played in the film by Tom Hanks. Along with AFS Artistic Director Kathleen Carroll and Operations Mgr. Fred Balzac, Ms. Amorosi introduced Bridge of Spies and, with Ms. Muccia, participated in a post-screening discussion of the film, the real-life adventures of Mr. Donovan (who detailed the same story told in the film in his book, Strangers on a Bridge) and their family’s long ties to Lake Placid.

A New King and Queen of the Indies

mistress america posterThe latest film by independent writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, While We’re Young) stars his real-life love—and the film’s co-writer/co-producer—Greta Gerwig, who continues to receive accolades for her performances and is rapidly becoming recognized as one of contemporary film’s leading comic actors.

mistress america kitchen photoIn Mistress America, Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York City, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig)—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—Tracy is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes.

Year 2 of the Adirondack Film Society (AFS) Screening Series at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) resumed in January with this most recent collaboration by Baumbach and Gerwig, a witty comedy about what it means today to be young, gifted and female and to pursue your dreams in the Big City.

Describing Baumbach and Gerwig as an “indie cinema power couple,” Michael Oliver Harding of dazeddigital.com writes: “Since first hitting it off on the set of their misanthropic rom-com Greenberg, this on/off-screen pairing (they co-write while she stars and he directs) has collaborated on two remarkably astute portraits of contemporary New Yawk women: aspiring, late-twenty-something dancer Frances Ha and zany girl-about-town Mistress America. The latter screwball picture…should establish them once and for all as a creative tandem to be reckoned with.”

mistress america great white wayMistress America premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired and released this past August by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film received a positive review from more than 80% of critics, according to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, which sums up the critical consensus as “Mistress America brings out the best in collaborators Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, distilling its star’s charm and director’s dark wit into a ferociously funny co-written story.”

Richard Brody, writing in the August 24, 2015 issue of The New Yorker hails Mistress America as a masterwork of literary cinema: “…It’s a work of brilliant writing, one of the most exquisite of recent screenplays. While watching the film, I wanted to transcribe the dialogue in real time for the pleasure of reading it afterward (and I hope that the screenplay, which Gerwig and Baumbach co-wrote, will be published as a book). The center of its writerly wonder is Brooke’s wild verbal whimsy.”

You can read the entire review here.

The Cameras Kept Rolling Even After the Explosions Occurred

The Adirondack Film Society Screening Series at LPCA returned for its second season with a powerful documentary about blues music, terrorism and the redemptive power of love that helped mark the 14th anniversary of September 11th

BBTB poster_AFS_hiresLAKE PLACID, NY — The second year of the Adirondack Film Society (AFS) Screening Series at LPCA opened with a compellingly powerful documentary about blues music, terrorism and the redemptive power of love and human perseverance, helping the North Country remember the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.

Blues by the Beach tells the story of what happens when the filming of a documentary about Mike’s Place, a live music blues bar on the waterfront in Tel Aviv, Israel is interrupted by a terrorist bombing—and how the survivors pull together and reopen this special place in the Middle East dedicated to peaceful coexistence among a clientele from diverse faiths and nationalities. The film was shown Friday and Saturday, September 11-12, at 7 pm.

In keeping with the tradition of the AFS Screening Series and its companion event, the Lake Placid Film Forum (returning June 8-12, 2016), of not just showing movies but curating, analyzing and helping to educate audiences about the films its screens, both the Friday and Saturday evening programs featured in-person appearances by the producers of Blues by the Beach, the husband-and-wife team of Jack Baxter and Fran Strauss-Baxter. They introduced their film and participated in a post-screening Q&A moderated by AFS Artistic Director Kathleen Carroll.

In addition, copies of the brand-new book, Mike’s Place (First Second, 2015, hardcover, 190 pp.), which tells the same story as Blues by the Beach but in graphic-novel fashion, was available at both screenings for purchase and for signing by Mr. Baxter, courtesy of The Bookstore Plus, 2491 Main Street in Lake Placid (518-523-2950, www.thebookstoreplus.com).


Altered Takes

Blues by the Beach began as a documentary whose aim was to show viewers that there is more to the Middle East than seemingly endless war and terrorism. New York-based filmmaker and freelance journalist Jack Baxter (writer/director/producer of the critically acclaimed 1995 film Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X) had originally traveled to Israel to make a documentary about the trial of a notorious accused terrorist, but that project doesn’t pan out. He’s just about to head back home when he happens on Mike’s Place, where one rule is strictly observed by the diverse clientele of Israelis, Arabs, Europeans, and Americans: never, ever talk politics or religion.

Immediately enamored with the intercultural mix and American blues-style music, Baxter teams up with bartender/filmmaker Joshua Faudem and begins filming. However, the appearance one night of a suicide bomber suddenly and harrowingly shatters the peaceful atmosphere—radically altering the arc of documentary’s narrative, as the film takes a poignant turn toward examining the lives of the survivors. The result of this collaborative effort is a film that resonates with recovery, perseverance and hope.

Blues by the Beach has won numerous awards and accolades since it was first released in 2004 (www.bluesbythebeachfilm.com). Playwright and filmmaker David Mamet hailed it as “a very, very important film…[that] ranks, along with One Day in September  as an actual, undeniable presentation of the unmitigated horror of terrorism.” It won the Pierre Salinger Award for Best Documentary at the 12th Annual Avignon/New York Film Festival and the Conflict & Resolution Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

MikesPlace_cover-300CMYKAdding to the heightened interest in the documentary is the publication, this past June, of the graphic novel Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv. Written by Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Koren Shadmi, Mike’s Place is described by its publisher as Casablanca meets Syriana and Argo—a multi-plot thriller that chronicles the story of this infamous terrorist attack in painstaking detail (www.mikesplacebook.com).