Iraqi Odyssey 
Thursday Dec. 3, 6:05 pm and 9:20 pm at IFC Center, 323 6th Avenue: $14
How much do you know about Iraq, like really? Take away the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, and our 43rd President’s awful pronunciation of the name belonging to a country that’s informed so much public discussion in the past few decades (but so little real understanding), and we’re guessing the answer is: not so much. Iraqi ex-pat filmmaker Samir takes viewers on an informative trip through his homeland’s history through a very personal lens, his family tree.

Today’s your last day to see Iraqi Odyssey at IFC, so we suggest you jump to it. Samir rewinds to 50 years ago, around the time he was born, when everything seemed totally cool in Iraq. The Revolution had just been successfully completed and there were all kinds of new opportunities for men and women. But things quickly spiraled downward into chaos, dictatorship, and war. Samir’s family members, forced to leave their home to protect themselves, are now scattered all over the world along with 4 million other Iraqis who fled the country.

Through interviews, Samir explores the tension between leaving in order to protect one’s self from harm, and the desire to return home and help fix and support the place you came from. Iraqi Odyssey brings a much-needed human face to the tragic saga of civil war, dictatorship, and US intervention in Iraq.

United in Anger
Sunday Dec. 6, 6 pm at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th Street: $5 suggested donation
This 2012 documentary chronicles the history of ACT UP, the grassroots movement that formed in 1987 and took direct action to confront the beginning of the AIDS crisis when it became clear the US government wasn’t going to act in ways that would help the sick. While many Americans stood by, allowing fear and homophobia to hinder their ability to help their fellow humans, a group of New Yorkers started what would become a powerful movement. ACT UP demanded and eventually won access to experimental drugs and a response from the country’s leadership.

The group staged several memorable protests, including one that disrupted the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where ACT UP activists chained themselves to a balcony demanding that drug companies lower the extremely high price of HIV/AIDS drugs. Archival footage of many of these demonstrations is included in the doc, providing a perspective that drives home how very urgent this health crisis really was. Surviving members also help recall the events of the late ’80s and early ’90s and lend the doc a sense of oral history. The film was released the same year the critically acclaimed documentary How to Survive a Plague hit theaters– they both cover the same subject, so if you’ve seen one, seeing the other might provide an interesting comparison point.

The filmmakers will be on hand after the screening to participate in a Q&A session and proceeds will benefit the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, a cultural center, bookstore, and event space at the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea which hosts educational events including screenings, readings, and talks.

(Via Mono No Aware / Facebook)

Looks fun, right? (Via Mono No Aware / Facebook)

Mono No Aware IX
Friday, Dec. 4, 7 pm to late and Saturday Dec. 5, 7 pm to late at LightSpace Studios, 1115 Flushing Avenue: FREE.
The film and educational institution Mono No Aware does a lot to promote the intersection of art and filmmaking. They offer some drool-worthy courses on filmmaking with Super 8, animation, and editing– you know, stuff for nerds. Usually these things cost a pretty bundle of doll hairs though, as such things generally do, which can leave some of us hopelessly browsing through the offerings every so often with a long, deep sigh. If you count yourself a film nerd though, here’s your chance to soak up some Mono No Aware programming that’s completely free. It’s the ninth annual Mono No Aware exhibition!

The exhibited stuff in question is something called “Expanded Cinema,” or video and film as art. Check out new work from Brooklyn-based artists and filmmakers from Iowa City, Toronto, Vienna, Atlanta, and as far away as Iceland. A 16mm video and live sound performance piece called Eye Spoke Chorus by Timothy David Orme and Kir Jordan offers a pretty good representation of what to expect: “A time-lapse of motion and vocal blur animated by a fractal form that builds and reverses, coincidentally in the time equivalent of pi.” Neat!

You can also look forward to video-related installations (multi-channel and otherwise), more music, and still-life projections. Oh, and as you might expect there will be some festive happenings going down too– drinks, snacks, DJs ‘n such. Check out the full list of programming yonder.

James White
Thursday, Dec. 3 through Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street: $13.50.
Giant man babies– we all know one. Their moms did their laundry up until a year ago, and it’s something they’ve failed to figure out on their own since. (Hence never going into a man baby’s apartment without a gas mask on.) And if they want to get home and play Call of Duty Black Ops III and smoke weed all night, then they deserve it, dammit.

James White, the main character in James White (played by a nearly unrecognizable Marnie’s hot boyfriend from Girls) is a giant man baby for sure, but on top of that he’s a “mess,” as his therapist informs him. No job, drugs, babes, booze. No inkling of his cosmic uselessness. You get the idea. It’s a deadly combination that makes for unhinged hedonism and cringe-worthy scenes of James just doing James, otherwise known as James being totally socially inept, selfish, and lacking any and all self-awareness. But suddenly, when his mother falls seriously ill, James doesn’t have the luxury of doing whatever he wants anymore.

We get it– you’re probably wondering, “Why should I care about some white guy figuring out how not to be a total dick?” Well, to be honest, we can’t super answer that one right now for ya and honestly are wondering the same thing, but from what we’ve heard about the award-winning film, the acting is superb. One critic compared Christopher Abbott’s portrayal of James to “the kind of volatile, unpredictable energy of the actors in a John Cassavetes film,” which certainly bodes well. But here’s to hoping there’s something self-aware in this story about James White-dude, at least hints that his mundane struggles are still just some cis gender white dude stuff.