Coming up in Philly film: New beginnings and memory

'The Price of Memory' screens on January 18. (Image courtesy of Lightbox Film Center.)

In some ways, the start of a new year is like a collective reset button on society. Realistically, not much has changed since December 31, but we try to reimagine ourselves through introspection and resolution in a brief window of transition between holidays. As you take a personal walk down memory lane and try to define the new you, here is a list of film events in January that challenge the notion of memory and explore its role in shaping our lives.

‘The Price of Memory’ and Bodymania

On Thursday, January 18, at 6pm, Lightbox Film Center teams with the University of Pennsylvania Law School to host a screening of The Price of Memory, a feature documentary detailing Queen Elizabeth II’s 2002 visit to Jamaica, where she was petitioned for slavery reparations by a group of Rastafari. Filmed over the course of a decade, director Karen Marks Mafundikwa offers compelling evidence of the lasting legacy of slavery in the daily lives of Jamaicans and sheds light on Great Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. Co-hosted by Penn Law as a preliminary event for its symposium related to reparations claims, the event is free, but advance registration is required. It's happening at Penn's Fitts Auditorium.

The following evening, come back to Lightbox at 7pm to check out Bodymania — a collection of obscure animation shorts that explore the changing sexual mores of late 1970s America. Femme-forward in nature and entirely hand-drawn in each frame, these films offer an immediate post-women’s-lib perspective on sex and sexuality from mostly female directors. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Desire Pie director Lisa Crafts, a New-York-based animator who teaches in the Film and Video Department at the Pratt Institute. Part of a weekend-long series of indie animation shorts programs called Independent Frames, tickets are $10 ($8 for students and seniors).

Jazz and a prison break

For another women-centric film event, visit the Free Library of Philadelphia City Institute branch in Rittenhouse Square on Wednesday, January 24 at 6:30pm for a free screening of The Kim Loo Sisters. This feature documentary tells the unlikely story of four biracial Chinese-American sisters who were among the best-known female jazz quartets of the 1940s and ’50s, and who shared a stage with Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, and others during their peak popularity. Constructed from archive footage and original interviews with the sisters, this film tells the compelling story of how they navigated issues like race, gender, and class to achieve stardom at a time when the odds were stacked against them. Filmmaker Leslie Li will conduct a post-film Q&A.

On Wednesday, January 31, Bryn Mawr Film Institute hosts a screening of feature documentary Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey. It tells the story of an American writer whose prison sentence for drug smuggling charges in Turkey was cut short by his escape. Since its release in 1978, Hayes’s book and its subsequent film adaptation, Midnight Express, made Turkey infamous for the alleged human-rights abuses Hayes witnessed during his five-year prison stay. This documentary follows Hayes as he returns to Turkey for the first time since his escape, investigating the blurred lines between fact and fiction, and exploring the role of cinema in shaping collective memory and suggesting its malleability, unreliability, and impermanence. Tickets are $12.50 ($10 for seniors, kids, and students). 

At right: The Kim Loo Sisters. (Image via IMDB.)

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