Hate crimes against Muslims occur with unfortunate frequency these days, but in 1994 when the first American mosque was destroyed by an act of arson in Yuba City, Calif., they were a rarity. In his new documentary, An American Mosque, director David Washburn chronicles the building of that mosque, its destruction, and the community’s response to the crime.
Washburn initially brought the film to festivals in 2012, but is showing a longer version of the documentary at community screenings this year, including at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC) this Saturday.
The depiction of the Yuba City Muslim American farming community shown in the film is a departure from mainstream media portrayals of Muslims, which often focus on their foreignness. For example, Khalid Saeed, who donated five acres of his farmland for the mosque, is a longtime farmer whose family immigrated to California from Pakistan in the 1950s. “It’s a very sympathetic and important portrayal of a really interesting California community,” said Raeshma Razvi, the director of the arts and culture program at ICCNC who organized the screening.
(East Bay documentary filmmaker Les Blank died at his home in Berkeley yesterday at age 77.)
Les is more. Useless to try to compile a “greatest hits” for a man who virtually invented the up-close, impressionistic, roots-music biopic. But here are a few unforgettable favorite riffs from the career of a filmmaking, music-loving, life-embracing son of a gun:
Twenty-five voting members of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle met Sunday afternoon at the Variety Club Screening Room on SF’s Market Street to inform you what movies you shouldn’t have missed this year after all.
Typically for the SFFCC, no one film swept the awards. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master captured Best Picture honors, and that movie’s Joaquin Phoenix was named Best Actor. The upcoming release Zero Dark Thirty took Best Director plaudits for Kathryn Bigelow, with Best Original Screenplay going to Mark Boal.
We get emails to help Kickstarter campaigns on pretty much a daily basis. As noble and worthy as the endeavors may be, their messages can get lost amid the sea of projects, all needing money and attention RIGHT NOW.
But this one caught our eye. Alive Inside is a documentary (with a Kickstarter campaign, naturally) about a social worker who discovers how music can "awaken deeply locked memories in patients with Alzheimer's and dementia." NY-based filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett is trying to raise another $15,000 in the next five days to get his movie finished. Check out this rough cut; pretty compelling stuff.
Via Invisible Oranges, a new documentary (available online in its entirety) questions whether touring is worth it for metal bands. The film, Why You Do This, follows the Long Island mathcore band Car Bomb as they play funky venues to a handful of people. Most local bands expect touring (and existing, for that matter) to be a money-losing endeavor, but the question is whether hitting the road is necessary, not just financially, but career-wise. Could it even be a career-killer? Or is sleeping in vans and skeezy motels an essential band experience?
We've learned not to expect too much at the Academy Awards, but this year's nominees for Best Picture take the cake. The list includes Moneyball, a surprisingly riveting movie about looking at spreadsheets, held together by Brad Pitt's stunning depiction of former Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (who has garnered a certain pop culture cachet and a massive cult of adoration, especially over the past year). Also: Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which was saved only by Corey Stoll's portrayal of Ernest Hemingway. And: The Help. I mean, do we even have to say what's problematic about that movie? Oh, and finally: War Horse, Spielberg's new World War I movie, beloved by horse fetishists everywhere.
Somewhere in Hollywood, Michael Douglas is smothering on lip gloss to prepare for a heavy make-out session with Matt Damon. Douglas is set to play Liberace (and Damon his young lover) in the gay-for-pay Oscar bait that is sure to be the upcoming Steven Soderbergh biopic on the flamboyant pianist (due out in 2013). Meanwhile, in Oakland, artist Chris Vargas is readying his own version, Liberaceón, which reimagines the over-the-top musicmaker as an outspoken AIDS activist, rather than the closeted Nancy Reagan-lover he was.
Nurse your St. Pat's hangover Get ready for the weekend by checking out our critics' choices.
Amoeba Music is sponsoring Kevin Bacon Night, tonight at Eli's Mile High Club (3629 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland). In addition to screening the '80s movie Quicksilver, the event will feature music, bacon-themed food, drink specials, and $5-off coupons to Amoeba with one menu item purchase. 8 p.m.
Val Kilmer gave a pretty memorable performance as Doors frontman Jim Morrison way back in 1991, but there's no substituting the real deal. Hence, When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors, a new feature-length documentary on the legendary LA band (Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger), which screens at the Sundance Kabuki tonight at 7:10 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The doc "uncovers historic and previously unseen footage of the illustrious rock quartet and provides new insight into the revolutionary impact of its music and legacy. Directed by award-winning writer/director Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, the film is a riveting account of the band’s history."
Morrison has been plenty idolized since his untimely death in 1971, but if anything, the documentary serves as a reminder of just how lacking the current music scene is in charismatic rock stars. The release of When You're Strange comes accompanied by the release of a soundtrack, which includes thirteen songs from the band's six albums, plus live performances from the Ed Sullivan Show and the Isle of Wight Festival.