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In conjunction with the eighth annual ARTS FIRST Festival at Harvard University, we present works by three Harvard alumni, Mira Nair (class of ’79), Vasiliki Katsarou (’87), and Joshua Dorsey (’89).

May 6 (Saturday) 7 pm 
May 7 (Sunday) 6 pm

Fruitlands 1843

Directed by Vasiliki Katsarou
US 1999, 35mm, color, 35 min.
With Christopher Doubek, Willy O’Donnell, Aidin Carey

A creative recasting of Bronson Alcott’s nineteenth-century utopian experiment in communal living for a group of transcendentalists, Fruitlands was shot in a preserved Shaker village and other Massachusetts locations. Director Katsarou employs long takes and slow camera movements to capture the interaction of characters with the natural environment, as well as dream imagery and fragmented narrative inspired by Bresson, Tarkovsky, and Antonioni to render the spirituality and inner drama of the experience.

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May 6 (Saturday) 7 pm 
May 7 (Sunday) 6 pm

The Laughing Club of India

Directed by Mira Nair
India 1999, 35mm, color, 30 min.
Marathi with English subtitles

This new film by the director of Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala takes the documentary to the far edges of credibility and delight. Bombay residents, mostly middle class, meet early in the morning with their instructors to perform a series of laughing exercises. The techniques are taught in the schools as well. Uninhibited laughter seems to cure bodily disease and to provide relief from the oppressions of everyday life and release from tragic personal histories. We see a lot of Bombay in the film and meet some captivating individuals. Audiences will be challenged to remain uninfected by the laughter.

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May 6 (Saturday) 9 pm  
May 7 (Sunday) 8 pm 

Here Am I

Directed by Joshua Dorsey and Douglas Naimer
Canada 1999, 35mm, b/w, 72 min.
With Ivailo Tsvetkov, Ivailo Christov, Josef Sergichiev
Bulgarian with English subtitles

Set in the nineteenth century and shot entirely on location in Bulgaria, this film tells the story of a village ruined in war and the fright of a boy and a mute scribe who carry with them a sacred Hebrew text. The pair is pursued by an invading horseman who is interested in the text’s mystic powers. Writer-directors Dorsey and Naimer studied East European Jewish history for two years before embarking for Bulgaria, where they claim to have "found" their remarkable film: they wrote the story on the spot and filmed it, working with distinguished Bulgarian actors and making use of the region’s striking landscapes and architecture.

May 5 (Friday) 8 pm

The Wind Will Carry Us

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Iran 1999, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Behzad Dourani and the inhabitants of the village of Siah Dareh
Farsi with English subtitles

The appearance of every Kiarostami film is now a major event. From the unlikely outpost of a country poorly understood by the West, this acclaimed Iranian director (Where is the Friend’s Home?, Taste of Cherry) has virtually reinvented the narrative cinema through his unique, spare means of developing story through encounters with the environment and its inhabitants. Kiarostami loves journeys that involve psychic discovery. In this one, a group of men, sophisticated urbanites with a cell phone, arrive from Tehran for a short stay at Siah Dareh, a village in Iranian Kurdistan. Their reasons for being there are unclear to us, but their actions lead the villagers to believe they are looking for treasure. It is in the time between events—in a conversation with a café owner, in a trip to fetch milk from an underground stable—that the usual parable of progress brought to bear on backwardness is reversed. Ultimately, as in all Kiarostami’s work, the meaning of the story lies as much with the viewer as it does with the film. "Constructed with his trademark, soulful serenity and refreshingly minimalist approach," as the critic Dimitri Eipides has described it, The Wind Will Carry Us is "another essential film from a master filmmaker." 

Special thanks to New Yorker Films for this sneak preview. The film will open theatrically this summer in Boston.

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May 25 (Thursday) 7 pm
May 27 (Saturday) 3 pm

In the Presence of a Clown

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Germany/Denmark/Italy/Norway/Sweden 1997, beta video, color, 119 min.
With Borje Ahlstedt, Marie Richardson, Erland Josephson
Swedish with English subtitles

Although Bergman announced his retirement from film with Fanny and Alexander (1983), he continued to write screenplays, which others have directed (Sunday’s Child, Private Confessions). Recently, however, he wrote and directed a new film for television. Set in the 1920s, it presents the story of an aging man, a surrogate for the director himself, who has a sexual encounter with Death during a stay in a mental hospital and then struggles to produce a film about the last years of the composer Franz Schubert. Austere in style, Bergman’s film carries on his lifelong exploration of the chaotic emotional sources of art and the process of fashioning these sources into a finished work. Special thanks to SVT Drama for their kind permission to screen this film.

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May 25 (Thursday) 9:15 pm
May 28 (Sunday) 7 pm


The Making of In the Presence of a Clown

Directed by Pia Ehrwall
Sweden 1997, beta video, color, 58 min.
Swedish with English subtitles

This fascinating—and amusing—video documentary takes a look behind the scenes at a master director at work late in his career. As the camera follows Bergman around the set of In the Presence of a Clown we witness his spirited direction of the film’s principal actors and his astute concern for visual composition. The fim reveals a Bergman still very involved in every aspect of thefilmmaking process and a cast and crew having great fun while at work on this intense and strange project. Special thanks to SVT Drama for their kind permission to screen this film.

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June 1–7 (Thursday through Wednesday) 7 pm

Dream of Light

Directed by Victor Erice
Spain 1992, 35mm, color, 138 min.
With Antonio López, María Moreno, Enrique Gran
Spanish with English subtitles

Recently voted the number one film of the 1990s in an international poll of critics, Dream of Light is a truly magnificent work from Victor Erice, best known for his 1973 film The Spirit of the Beehive. Effortlessly transcending the documentary form, the film follows Madrileño painter Antonio López as he meticulously labors over a painting of a quince tree in his garden. Seeking to capture the effect of the sun’s rays shining through the tree’s leaves, López’s hope is to finish his painting before the fruit falls. Janet Maslin, of the New York Times, has called it “a thoughtful, delicate inquiry into the essence of the artistic process and a tribute to the beauty and mutability of nature.”

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June 15 (Thursday) 7 pm, 8:30 pm
June 16 (Friday) 7 pm
June 17 (Saturday) 7:30 pm
June 18 (Sunday) 7 pm


Directed by Chantal Akerman
France/Belgium 1999, beta video, color, 70 min.

Originally conceived as a meditation on the beauty of the American south, inspired by her love of William Faulkner and James Baldwin, this latest documentary by Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, Rendezvous d’Anna) was transformed by a racist crime that occurred only days before filming began in the summer of 1998: the notorious dragging-murder of James Byrd, Jr., a black man, in Jasper, Texas. Journeying from Virginia, down through Georgia, and across to Jasper, South investigates the Texas community and the brutal crime committed there with the same classically composed imagery that had so eloquently rendered the weight of history in her previous essay on Eastern Europe, D’Est. The film culminates with an exquisitely meditative tracking shot of the full three-mile length of road over which Byrd was dragged. The “long and convoluted” road Akerman herself took in creating this film was one she claimed “finally led me to understand that the film would again deal with something that continues to obsess me: history and anecdote, fear, mass graves, hatred of others, of oneself, but also the bedazzlement of beauty.”

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