Also Being Featured Are the New Art Docs The Space Between: Marina Abramovic and Brazil, Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack, the Powerful Dramas Once Upon A River and Peru’s Oscar Entry Song Without a Name and More Celebrated Music Docs from Robert Mugge, Including the AcclaimedSun Ra: A Joyful Noise
This March, leading independent SVOD service Film Movement Plus commemorates Women’s History Month with seven exclusive SVOD premieres hailing from talented women filmmakers, including two acclaimed dramas making their North American debuts: GODLESS, the feature film debut of Bulgarian director Ralitza Petrova and SUMMER SURVIVORS from Lithuanian writer-director Marija Kavtaradzė. Art and music are also on tap in a variety of documentaries, including THE SPACE BETWEEN: MARINA ABRAMOVIC AND BRAZIL, AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES: THE WORK OF ROSAMOND PURCELL, QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK, several Robert Mugge music docs, including SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE, and a pair of award-winning dramas from first-time female filmmakers with Melina Leon’s SONG WITHOUT A NAME, Peru’s Official Oscar Entry and Haroula Rose’s powerful ONCE UPON A RIVER.
Film Movement Plus March highlights are as follows:
Friday, March 5 NORTH AMERICAN EXCLUSIVE: GODLESS (WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Directed by Ralitza Petrova
In a remote Bulgarian town, Gana (Irena Ivanova) looks after the elderly with dementia, while trafficking their ID cards on the black market of identity theft. At home, she provides for her jobless mother, with whom she hardly speaks. Her relationship with her car-mechanic boyfriend is no shelter for love either – with sexual attraction vanished, intimacy is reduced to an addiction to morphine. Nothing seems to have consequences on the nurse’s conscience, even the incidental murder of a patient, who threatens to expose her fraudulent dealings. Things start to shake up, when Gana hears the music of Yoan, a new patient, whose ID card she has trafficked. A growing empathy for the old man unlocks her drugged-up conscience, and she is ready for change. But when Yoan is arrested for fraud, she learns that doing ‘the right thing’ comes at a high price in Petrova’s feature film debut that garnered international awards and acclaim, including the prestigious Golden Leopard at the 69th Locarno Film Festival, as well as the Best Actress award for Ivanova at the same festival.
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: THE SPACE IN BETWEEN: MARINA ABRAMOVIC AND BRAZIL (WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, SPOTLIGHT ON BRAZIL)
Directed by Marco Del Fiol
In search of personal healing and artistic inspiration, Marina Abramovic travels through Brazil, experiencing sacred rituals and revealing her creative process. The route is comprised of poignant encounters with healers and sages from the Brazilian countryside, exploring the limits between art and spirituality. This external trip triggers in Marina a profound introspective journey through memories, pain and past experiences. A mixture between road movie and spiritual thriller, the documentary brings an unprecedented approach of the intimate creative process of one of the most important artists of our time. “Ruminative and filled with stunning widescreen landscapes, the film stands several aesthetic rungs above HBO’s 2012 doc, The Artist Is Present” (Sean Malin, The Austin Chronicle).
FM+ PREMIERE: AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES: THE WORK OF ROSAMOND PURCELL (WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Director Molly Bernstein
Finding unexpected beauty in the discarded and decayed, photographer Rosamond Purcell has developed a body of work that has garnered international acclaim, graced the pages of National Geographic and over 20 published books, and has attracted admirers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Errol Morris and Stephen Jay Gould. AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES details Purcell’s fascination with the natural world – from a mastodon tooth to a hydrocephalic skull – offering insight into her unique way of recontextualizing objects both ordinary and strange into sometimes disturbing but always breathtaking imagery. A New York Times Critic’s Pick – “Now it’s clear to me that she is without question our greatest living 17th-century photographer” (A.O. Scott).
FM+ PREMIERE: PRIDE AND JOY: THE STORY OF ALLIGATOR RECORDS (ROBERT MUGGE MUSIC DOCUMENTARY SERIES)
Director Robert Mugge
The theatrical music documentary from DEEP BLUES director Mugge uses the March 1992 Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Tour concert at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Cabaret as the hub for a fascinating look at the pivotal Chicago blues label. Presenting musical highlights from one of the many 4+ hour concerts that made up the tour, glimpses of Alligator’s Chicago offices, and profiles of key performers and staff members, THE STORY OF ALLIGATOR RECORDS highlights the idealistic label head Bruce Iglauer, the ups and downs of indie label-dom, and Iglauer’s ever-articulate insights into the wonderful universality of the blues experience. Songs in the film include Pride and Joy and Ed’s Boogie (Lil’ Ed), Pussycat Moan and Lord, I Wonder (Katie Webster), El-Bo and Beer Drinking Woman (Elvin Bishop), I’d Rather Go Blind (Koko Taylor), Wife For Tonight and I Want All My Money Back (Lonnie Brooks), It’s A Dirty Job (Koko Taylor with Lonnie Brooks), and Sweet Home Chicago (final joint encore).
Friday, March 12
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK (WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Directed by Deborah Shaffer
At 88 years-old, Audrey Flack holds a unique place in the history of contemporary art in America. Feminist, rebel, mother, painter, sculptor and teacher, Audrey’s often controversial 40-year career evolved from abstract expressionism in the 1950s to photorealism in the 1970s. One of the first women ever included in the famed Janson’s History of Art, Audrey continues to create, explore, and inspire with her unique style and indomitable spirit. QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK, a documentary from Oscar® and Emmy® Award-winning director Deborah Shaffer (The Wobblies, To Be Heard) and co-director/editor Rachel Reichman (Hitchcock/Truffaut, A Letter to Elia), follows Flack as she takes her work in a brand-new direction and reveals her long-term struggles as the mother of a child with autism. Flack has something deep and genuine to communicate to the world. She is a provocateur and a rebel, an example and an inspiration, and this feature-length documentary is a moving portrait of an artist who is still testing, still experimenting, still searching. “A thoroughly engaging documentary portrait of an artist … Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack is the perfect introduction to its subject, comprehensive in its detail and captivating in its approach” (Christopher Reed, Hammer to Nail).
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: I AM A DANCER
Directed by Pierre Jourdan
One of the greatest ballet dancers of his generation, Rudolf Nureyev is at the height of his powers in this intimate 1972 documentary portrait, which offers an unprecedented look at the training and dedication behind his electrifying art. Providing a unique glimpse into Nureyev’s personality, preparation and technique, I AM A DANCER, newly restored in HD and available on Film Movement Plus in time to celebrate Nureyev’s March 17th birthday, includes excerpts from his performances in the classical ballets La Sylphide with Carla Fracci, and The Sleeping Beauty with Lynn Seymour; in addition to sequences from the modern ballet Field Figures with Deanne Bergsma, and Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand with his long-time partner Margot Fonteyn.
FM+ PREMIERE: RUBEN BLADES: THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES (ROBERT MUGGE MUSIC DOCUMENTARY SERIES)
Director Robert Mugge
Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1986, Mugge’s documentary tells the story of Panamanian “salsa” singer Ruben Blades and his success in crossing over from the Hispanic market to the international arena. Following the singer to Harvard where he gets his master’s degree in International Law, to his old neighborhood in Panama, to California for a recording session with Linda Ronstadt to New York for a performance at S.O.B.’s, THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES is a must-see, called “a refreshing portrait of an artist with a demonstrative grace and an irresistible beat” (Martin Keller, Twin Cities Reader).
Friday, March 19 NORTH AMERICAN EXCLUSIVE: SUMMER SURVIVORS(WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Directed by Marija Kavtaradzė
Indre is an ambitious young psychologist, keen to get ahead at the psychiatric unit where she works. In exchange for research privileges at the clinic, she reluctantly agrees to accompany two patients cross-country as they travel to another unit located in a seaside town. Indre quickly finds herself the leader of a rather disparate group: whereas the outgoing Paulius suffers from bipolar disorder, prone to manic mood swings, the introverted Juste’s wounds are more hidden from sight. But as they navigate through the journey, their internal struggles prove increasingly similar, and what would appear to be a carefree summer trip with friends could actually be the beginning of a meaningful healing process. SUMMER SURVIVORS is a refreshing, if bittersweet story that — just like the start of every summer — is full of hopes, surprises, and the promise that anything is possible. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Screen Anarchy called it “a genuinely moving, skillfully executed cinematic experience, marking Kavtaradze as a talent to follow.”
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: SONG WITHOUT A NAME(WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Directed by Melina Leon
Based on harrowing true events, SONG WITHOUT A NAME, Peru’s Official Oscar® Submission for Best International Film at the 93rd Academy Awards®, tells the story of Georgina, an indigenous Andean woman whose newborn baby is whisked away moments after its birth in a downtown Lima clinic – and never returned. Stonewalled by a byzantine and indifferent legal system, Georgina approaches journalist Pedro Compos, who uncovers a web of fake clinics and abductions – suggesting a rotting corruption deep within Peruvian society. Set in 1988, in a Peru wracked by political violence and turmoil, Melina León’s heart-wrenching first feature renders Georgina’s story in gorgeous, shadowy black-and-white cinematography, “styled like the most beautiful of bad dreams” (Variety).
A 2019 Cannes Camera d’Or nominee, SONG WITHOUT A NAME, and winner of more than 30 international awards including “Best Film” at the Lima Latin American Film Festival and “Best Film by an Emerging Director” at the Munich Film Festival, the festival favorite period piece has garnered raves around the world. Guy Lodge of Variety wrote that the film “prompted surface-level comparisons to Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma…but León’s far more modestly scaled Latin American period piece is entirely its own film, meshing vérité-style technique with passages of dark, folkloric reverie… León’s world-building remains mesmerizing, steeped as it is in local lore, rituals and haunting traditional music.” And Teo Bugbee of The New York Times says Song Without a Name, “sets a dramatic mood with gorgeous black-and-white photography and an original guitar score…the alienation communicated by the movie’s images feels purposeful and striking…Eventually, León’s style does read as a coherent political statement. In her version of events, national tragedies don’t explode: They linger in the air, like a poisoned fog that won’t lift.”
FM+ PREMIERE: SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE(ROBERT MUGGE MUSIC DOCUMENTARY SERIES)
Directed by Robert Mugge
Named one of the “50 Greatest Music Films Ever” (Time Out London, 1980), this rare, revealing documentary presents jazz legend and mystic Sun Ra as both philosopher and inspired leader of his most famous band, the Intergalactic Arkestra. Testimonials from colleagues are intercut with concert footage in Baltimore and Philadelphia, as well as sessions with the Ra himself, filmed in the Egyptian room of a museum, in which he looks intently into the camera as he expands on his Afrocentrist worldview. Richard Brody of The New Yorker said, “The prevalence of documentaries about musicians is a curse, because most of these films do a terrible job of showcasing music. One rare exception is the work of the director Robert Mugge, whose film Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise…is one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve ever seen. An extraordinary documentary. Revelatory.”
Friday, March 26 EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: ONCE UPON A RIVER (WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH)
Directed by Haroula Rose
After enduring a series of traumas and tragedies, Native American teenager Margo (Kenadi DelaCerna) sets out on an odyssey in search of her estranged mother. Traveling along the Stark River, she encounters friends, foes, wonders, and dangers while coming to understand her own potential. Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, this Midwestern gothic story, the feature film debut of director/singer-songwriter Haroula Rose, has been hailed as “an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom” (The New York Times).
An oft-nominated and award-winning audience favorite at dozens of film festivals, ONCE UPON A RIVER also found great critical acclaim. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times penned “It’s a stark, authentic slice of a certain kind of rough-hewn life — the calloused-hands world we see in gritty films such as Frozen River and Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace and American Woman. There’s no trace of Hollywood glamour or gloss to the story, no hint of actor-y flourishes in the deeply resonant performances. Just a lean, finely crafted, memorably real story announcing the presence of a major new filmmaking talent — and a young actor with the promise of limitless potential.” Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak said the film is “a quiet, gorgeously shot meditative sojourn into the unknown.” And Robert Daniels of 812 Film Reviews penned, “Once Upon a River — with a tremendous performance from Kenadi DelaCerna as Margo — enchants us in this simple but evocative coming-of-age tale.”
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: GOD OF THE PIANO
Directed by Itay Tal
Available in time to commemorate World Piano Day (3/29), Film Movement Plus Premieres GOD OF THE PIANO, the stylish and powerful debut feature from Israeli director Itay Tal. For concert pianist, Anat (Naama Preis), music is all she has. Having never been able to reach her father’s lofty musical standards, she rests her hopes on her unborn child. After her water breaks during a concert, she delivers a boy, who, devastatingly, is born deaf. Anat’s will to raise a musical genius who would befit her respected, musically accomplished family only becomes stronger, and she takes drastic measures to make sure her son becomes the composer her father always wanted. But when the boy grows up indifferent to his destiny as a great pianist, Anat will have to stand up to her father — and her own actions.
Exploring the uncertain nature of prodigy and the price one pays for being labeled a genius, GOD OF THE PIANO was called “a remarkably potent film” (Glenn Kenny, The New York Times) and “genuinely impressive… as enigmatic as it is compelling.” (Wendy Ide, Screen International).
FM+ PREMIERE: GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE(ROBERT MUGGE MUSIC DOCUMENTARY SERIES)
Directed by Robert Mugge
In 1976, music filmmaker Mugge created his first music-related film: GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE, a dazzling, 54-minute portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Grammy-winning composer George Crumb. The film was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and makes innovative use of color and a dialectical structure to reveal Crumb’s life (green-tinted-footage), his work (blue-tinted footage, and connections between the two (full-color footage). Included in the film are a performance of Crumb’s 1971 composition, Vox Balaenae for Three Masked Players; samples of the rural, West Virginia gospel music that has influenced him; demonstrations by Crumb of exotic instruments and unusual effects that figure in his compositions; and scenes from his home and university teaching environments.