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June 12 – August 6, 2017

Cinema of Resistance

At a time when so many feel called to resist the White House’s attacks on numerous fronts, we at the HFA feel compelled to do our part. Cinema has always been a method of examining the world the way it is, in order to understand it, to begin to change it, to imagine it otherwise. So we begin a monthly series of films animated with the spirit of protest, of pointing out oppression and working towards justice. These screenings will be designed to spark discussion, beginning in our theater directly after the screening. – David Pendleton


Monday June 12 at 7pm

Zoot Suit

Directed by Luis Valdez. With Daniel Valdez, Edward James Olmos, Tyne Daly
US 1981, 35mm, color, 103 min

El Teatro Campesino was founded in 1965 California during the Delano Grape Strike to share information among the striking farmworkers and to entertain those on the picket lines. A decade later, the troupe’s artistic director, Luis Valdez, combined Broadway, Brecht and East L.A. to tell the story of a central episode in Chicano history: the Zoot Suit riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murder and trial. The “riots” were actually a series of attacks in Los Angeles by servicemen on leave in June 1943 targeting Latino men, chosen because of their zoot suits. A couple of months later, a group of young Chicanos were railroaded into court on a murder charge for which they were innocent. Out of the chronicle of these events, Valdez presents a musical about racism and justice that does exactly what Brecht said theater ought to do: entertain and educate. By focusing on a mythical, omnipresent narrator, the iconic El Vato, able to move through space and time at will, Valdez gives cinematic life to Zoot Suit. Print courtesy Universal Pictures.

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Monday July 3 at 7pm

Do the Right Thing

Directed by Spike Lee. With Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee
US 1989, 35mm, color, 120 min

Spike Lee’s tale of the complexities of race exacerbated by the police, those enforcers of state-sanctioned white supremacy, may now be considered a classic, almost thirty years after its initial release, but that status has not dulled the film’s cathartic anger nor its controversial edge. The film follows the goings-on on a single block in Brooklyn over the course of a single, sweltering summer day, from a morning of simmering tensions, focusing on a white-owned pizzeria, to a night of violence. Do the Right Thing teems with life, thanks to an extraordinary ensemble cast and a soundtrack that brings together hip hop, jazz and R&B. Some have even credited the film with helping to revive interest in the political ideas of Malcolm X.

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Sunday August 6 at 7pm

Life is Ours (La vie est à nous)

Directed by Jean Renoir. With Jean Dasté, Pierre Unik, Jacques Brunius
France 1936, DCP, b/w, 66 min. French with English subtitles

La vie est à nous is unique in Renoir’s oeuvre in that it is not a narrative film but a mixture of film essay, fiction and documentary meant to bring to the screen the political concerns and hopes of the working class as the French Communist Party conceived of them during the heyday of the Popular Front. The Party commissioned Renoir to make the film, and he enthusiastically accepted. The film is ingeniously constructed in episodes that alternate between documentary and narrative while also including humorous interludes and sections of direct address. The whole is meant to lay out a series of social contradictions and then to suggest solutions to them—a sort of vast montage.

Salute to France

Directed by Jean Renoir and Garson Kanin. With Claude Dauphin, Garson Kanin,
Burgess Meredith
US 1944, 35mm, b/w, 34 min

During World War II (and with his son fighting as an American soldier in the Pacific), Renoir petitioned the US government, without success, to be considered as a director of the kind of propaganda films that Capra, Ford and many others were directing. He finally got his chance at the suggestion of Burgess Meredith, who was helping to produce a short to acquaint US troops with the culture of France, a country they would soon be called upon to liberate. Renoir shot the fictional parts of the film, about three soldiers, one American, one British and one French, but did not take part in the editing, which injects plenty of historical footage.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700