March is bursting at the seams with compelling film programs and events. From classics to cult, from pure diversion to works of social consciousness, from 35mm to digital, there is something happening every week in different corners of Philadelphia.
Soy Cuba en Filadelfia
There are two chances to see Mikhail Kalatozov’s Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) this month. The first is Tuesday, March 12, at 7pm at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (824 Lancaster Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA). Made in 1964 as a Cuban/USSR co-production, the film was shelved for nearly 30 years. At once direct and abstract, its camera roams, even levitates, and viewers are rendered as invisible specters bearing witness to a fluid expression of a city, a land, its people, and their stratification and fomentation. Soy Cuba plays again at the Lightbox Theater at International House (3701 Chestnut Street) on Friday, March 15, at 7pm.
The scene on South Street
For lighter diversions and some scrappier DIY environs, South Street Cinema (329 South Street) will host a fantastic spread of more recent “classics,” including a gem from the 50s and a turn by Brando as an ill-fated Roman politician. The more-cult-than-classic Highlander shows on Tuesday, March 7, followed by the Liz Taylor/Van Johnson drama The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) on Sunday, March 10. While Julius Caesar (1953) sets a stark tone for the Ides of March on Friday, March 15, Alan Parker’s infectious and irrepressible “musical” The Commitments (1991) and Neil Jordan's supernatural comedy of errors High Spirits (1988) make for a whimsical and irreverent St. Paddy’s Day double feature on Sunday, March 17. South Street Cinema closes the month in stylish excess on Friday, March 22, with the '90s watershed moment itself: Clueless (1995). A full schedule is available online.
Raising social awareness with film
Slought Foundation (4017 Walnut Street) and Lightbox Theater are holding it down for socially minded cinema this month. On Thursday, March 14, Lightbox will show Astra Taylor’s documentary What Is Democracy? (2018), which seeks to answer the titular question in a round and thorough investigation of ancient and recent history. Afterward, Taylor will be in conversation with Uncivil podcast host Chenjerai Kumanyika. Slought and the SP2 Social Justice and Arts Integration Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania will present Göran Hugo Olsson’s film Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialist Self-Defense (2014). Slought says Concerning Violence is "a bold and fresh visual narrative from Africa based on archive material from Swedish documentaries [from 1966 to 1987] covering the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule." The film will be presented on Friday, March 29. Check Slought's calendar and Lightbox Theater's calendar for times and admission.
Classic Kurosawa & Ozu
Rounding out the month in 35mm with one heavyweight classic and one rarity, Japan holds March’s nostalgic spotlight to the end. Kurosawa Akira’s immeasurably influential breakout Rashomon (1950), which flays wide open the idea of trustworthy testimony, screens at the Philadelphia Film Society on Wednesday, March 27, at 7pm in all its silver-screen glory. Even though Yasujirō Ozu will be getting the red-carpet treatment in April at Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Lightbox Theater is setting the stage early on Friday, March 29, at 7pm with the master’s rare 1933 silent noir Dragnet Girl, featuring a live piano score by Coupler.
One must therefore choose between Concerning Violence and Dragnet Girl that evening, but either selection yields a win.