The outside world, however you define it, is knock-knock-knocking on your door. Between the baseball playoffs, the herky-jerky economy, the cacophonous election campaign, the teetering Euro, the in-flux Arab world, the (hopefully) rejuvenating Arctic ice layer and whatever rocks or visitors are heading our way through deep space (to continue the outward trajectory to possibly absurd lengths), one has to be alert to the latest developments. Perhaps the greatest function that filmmakers serve is the transmission of their culture's concerns and values to people in other countries, as well as to their fellow citizens. October brings a deluge of reports from afar and not so far.
The Next Voice You Hear
In his most recent book, An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, the venerable critic and historian J. Hoberman revisited American movies in the decade following World War II. The U.S.A. circa 1950 might as well be another country, except that Hollywood is grappling with the same themes today: fear of unseen enemies, youth culture, war and its aftermath, unkept promises. Hoberman drew on his book for the Pacific Film Archive series An Army of Phantoms: American Cinema & the Cold War, running Oct. 5-27, 2012, and he jets in from New York to introduce William Wellman's The Next Voice You Hear (Oct. 5) and Sam Fuller's The Steel Helmet (Oct. 6), and to give a more expansive talk before John Ford's Fort Apache (Oct. 7). The only thing scarier than the present is the past. For more information visit bampfa.berkeley.edu.
The Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct. 4-14, 2012) has championed American independent filmmakers since its inception 35 years ago -- before it was cool, in other words. Bay Area directors are accorded a special place of honor in this year's program by sheer force of numbers, with new documentaries and features by Emiko Omori, Russell Long, Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, Lisa Fruchtman, Rob Nilsson, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Kelly Richardson, Melissa Howden, Will Parrinello and John Antonelli, among others. For a harrowing, haunting view from abroad, Canadian director Kim Nguyen's War Witch dramatizes the life of a female child soldier in Africa with honesty, poetry and empathy. For more information visit mvff.com.
Man Without a Cell Phone
The 16th Arab Film Festival (Oct. 11-21, 2012), bless 'em, opens with a comedy. The protagonist of Man Without a Cell Phone is a young, immature Palestinian-Israeli whose social life is threatened (and political awakening is triggered) by his father's efforts to "evict" the nearby cell tower. All politics is local, they say. The rest of the AFF lineup offers fewer chuckles, but just as many insights into a diverse part of the world we still don't pay enough attention to. For more information visit arabfilmfestival.org.
A Brighter Summer Day
The San Francisco Film Society's ambitious fall season continues with Taiwan Film Days (Oct. 12-14, 2012), which devotes a weekend to such modern concerns as the neuroses of urban living, looking for love in an uncertain world and balancing family traditions with autonomy and independence. So far away yet so close -- these are, in fact, universal concerns. For more information visit sffs.org/.
The San Francisco Cinematheque's longstanding mission of presenting the best avant-garde film and video represents a commitment to explorers and reporters working in a different dimension. Light, not geography, is the territory perennially under investigation by filmmakers who are masters of sensation, evocation and delicacy. The Lighted Field: Beings and Relations, Oct. 18, 2012 at SFMOMA's Phyllis Wattis Theater, brings together work by such leading lights (pardon the pun) as the world-renowned Andrew Noren (Imaginary Light) and S.F.'s own, equally admired Nathaniel Dorsky (Pneuma. For more information visit sfmoma.org/.