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Cinéma Vérité

March 24 (Friday) 9 pm

Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment

Boston Premiere!
Director Peter Wintonick in Person
Directed by Peter Wintonick
Canada 1999, 35 mm, b/w and color, 110 min.

This unique feature documentary investigates the history and contemporary legacy of the revolution in nonfiction filmmaking known as cinéma vérité. Covering the period between 1958 and 1968, when documentary film was throwing off its heavy technical ballast and discovering its subjective freedom,Wintonick’s film follows the geographic development of the genre, from the Cinéma Direct movement in Quebec and Cinéma Vérité in France to Candid Eye in Canada and Free Cinema in the United Kingdom. Through interviews with the prime practitioners of this movement (Perrault, Brault, Leacock, Pennebaker, Wiseman, Koenig, et al.) and their heirs (Barbara Kopple, Roman Kroiter, Gillian Caldwell), as well as numerous extracts from their films, Cinéma Vérité questions this revo-lutionary movement and examines the impact it continues to exert today.

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March 27 (Monday) 7 pm
March 30 (Thursday) 7 pm

Lonely Boy

Directed by Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroiter
Canada 1962, 16mm, b/w, 26 min.

An early classic of North American cinéma vérité produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Lonely Boy focuses on the teen hysteria generated by the young pop singer Paul Anka at the beginning of the 1960s. Combining performance footage with behind-the-scenes documentation, this short film prefigured the feature-length rock documentaries that would be made later in the decade.

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March 27 (Monday) 7 pm (with "Lonely Boy" above)
March 30 (Thursday) 7 pm (with "Lonely Boy" above)

Happy Mother's Day

Directed by Richard Leacock
US 1963, 16mm, b/w, 30 min.

One of the key figures in the evolution of the modern American documentary film, Ricky Leacock began his career as a cameraman for the pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty and went on to help launch the vérité revolution. His Happy Mother’s Day takes an amused look at the media circus created by the birth of quintuplets to the Fisher family in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Realizing that he (and partner Joyce Chopra) are part of the problem, Leacock shifts attention from the babies themselves to the mix of happi-ness and hypocrisy emanating from the family’s entrepreneurial neighbors.

March 27 (Monday) 9 pm
March 30 (Thursday) 9 pm

Don't Look Back

Directed by D. A. Pennebaker
US 1967, 16mm, b/w, 96 min.
With Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan

This fascinating document captures the metamorphosis of the young Bob Dylan from pleasant folk singer to withdrawn rock star as his tour moves through a rather gray and unswinging England in 1965. Dark shades firmly in place, music’s greatest chameleon parries and thrusts with square interviewers, jokes with Joan Baez and Donovan, and chuckles over the "anarchist" tag hung on him by the British press. Filmed with a restless hand-held camera, this is a portrait of the artist as an opaque young man.

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March 28 (Tuesday) 7 pm
March 29 (Wednesday) 9 pm


Directed by Albert and David Maysles, with Charlotte Zwerin
US 1969, 35 mm, b/w, 95 min.

After participating in the famed creative crew that produced experimental television at Time, Inc. in the 1960s (along with Robert Drew, Ricky Leacock, and D. A. Pennebaker), Al Maysles and his brother David set out on their own to make Salesman, which covers six weeks in the life of four traveling bible salesmen. Eschewing the European vérité style of direct engagement with often sensational subjects, the Maysles’s unobtrusive camera follows the four men—the Badger, the Bull, the Gipper, and the Rabbit—through their snowy door-to-door walks in New England and phone calls to wives back home. The resulting work, which the directors called a "nonfiction dramatic feature," concentrates on drawing meaning from the quotidian aspects of the human condition as it forges insight into a peculiarly American mixture of faith and commerce.

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March 28 (Tuesday) 9 pm
March 29 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Titicut Follies

Directed by Frederick Wiseman
US 1967, 16mm, b/w, 89 min.

"By order of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Titicut Follies may be shown only to legislators, judges, lawyers, sociologists, social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, students in these or related fields, and organizations dealing with the social problems of custodial care and mental infirmity." And so for two and a half decades, Wiseman’s first documentary film went unseen in Massachusetts because of the horrors it chronicled in an institution for the criminally insane and the threats it posed to the state. Taking the position that if an institution receives tax support citizens have a right to know what happens in it, and that reportorial access is a constitutional right, Titicut Follies initiated a string of Wiseman documentaries that have continued to examine the institutions that form the fabric of America.

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