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March 31 – May 11, 2018

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 present 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.

This program is supported by the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities and co-sponsored by the Film Study Center, Harvard.

Special thanks: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Cozette Russell—Film Study Center.

Film descriptions by Haden Guest and Hugh Mayo, Class of 2018.

Lee Anne Schmitt in Person
Saturday March 31 at 7pm

Purge This Land

Directed by Lee Anne Schmitt
US 2017, DCP, color, 80 min

Lee Anne Schmitt is a film essayist whose fascination with American landscape and history has inspired a number of quietly powerful works that recover repressed, forgotten and misremembered chapters from this country’s difficult and still-contested past. In Purge This Land, Schmitt ambitiously explores the charged history and legacy of racism in America, visiting potent yet eerily vacant historic sites of slave revolts and race riots in order to trace the paths of important figures, such as the radical abolitionist John Brown and Nat Turner, while also interweaving reflections upon her own family history. Dedicated to her own biracial son, Schmitt’s latest film is an ardently personal work that refuses to distance her own outrage and experience of racism from her careful recollections of the unsettling historic record. Carefully offsetting Schmitt’s 16mm footage with powerful text and archival imagery, Purge This Land offers a measured yet ultimately devastating condemnation of this nation’s bloodstained yet still underappreciated history of racial inequity and injustice. Widening the complimentary topographical and archaeological perspectives of her earlier films, Purge This Land injects a new political urgency and call to action into her cinema.

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Monday April 30 at 7pm

Sacco and Vanzetti

Directed by Giuliano Montaldo. With Gian Maria Volontè, Riccardo Cucciolla, Cyril Cusack
Italy 1971, 35mm, color, 125 min. English and Italian with English subtitles

Often cited as one of the most nationally divisive events in American history since the Civil War, the Massachusetts trial and execution in 1927 of accused Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti embodied a dark moment of police state paranoia and xenophobia that seems especially important to consider today. Giuliano Montaldo’s searing recreation of the trial remains the best cinematic remembrance, and the most angry and outspoken. One of the highpoints of the white heat political turn of Italian cinema in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Sacco and Vanzetti was the second part of Montaldo’s so-called “Trilogy of Power,” three films focused on historical distortions of authority: political power in The Fifth Day of Peace (1970), the story of German deserters tried and executed by Nazi prisoners in a Canadian POW camp, and religious power in Giordano Bruno (1973), which chronicles the trial for heresy of the eponymous 16th century philosopher and scientist by the Roman Inquisition. The abuse of power depicted in Sacco and Vanzetti is, of course, judicial, and fueled by naked demagoguery and racist nativism. Featuring a powerful score by Ennio Morricone—including his music for the ballad Here’s to You, whose lyrics about the trial were written and sung by Joan Baez—Sacco and Vanzetti is anchored in incredible performances by an unusually restrained Gian Maria Volontè as Vanzetti and Riccardo Cucciolla, whose movingly dignified Sacco rightfully earned him a Best Actor Prize at Cannes. Montaldo’s patient yet deeply emotional recreation of the trial and last days of Sacco and Vanzetti effectively builds a mood of simmering anger and despair designed to inspire not resignation but action.

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Introduction by Hugh Mayo
Friday May 11 at 7pm

La Terra Trema

Directed by Luchino Visconti. With Luchino Visconti, Antonio Pietrangeli, Antonio Arcidiacono
Italy 1948, DCP, b/w, 160 min. Italian with English subtitles

La Terra Trema is an austere opera set in the Sicilian fishing village Aci Trezza. The harmony of the people and the sea, the rhythm of festivals and hardships, compose a unique form of docufiction. Charting the arc of one family’s attempt to secure economic self-sufficiency, the film was to be part one of an epic Marxist trilogy, including two unmade episodes on miners and farmers. In realizing a mature aesthetic of landscape, Visconti created a film so impressive as to make him wholly distinct from his already avant-garde contemporaries in Neorealism. – Hugh Mayo, Class of 2018

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