Spa Night
Thursday September 8, 7:45 pm at Metrograph: $15

This one’s been held over at the Metrograph again and it looks like this is finally, actually, literally the last time you can catch Spa Night within the stylish confines of the Lower East Side’s newest art house theater and perhaps the only ciné in the whole wide city with a concession stand that looks like it was designed by a serial killer. You’ll find that Spa Night is replete with that very same understated but stylish weirdness. It’s a quiet, crawling film fraught by teeth-gritting tension so overwhelming you get the feeling everything’s about to come crashing down if you breathe too loudly.

Metrograph is calling this film, set in LA’s Koreatown section at a boys-only spa, a “portrait of forbidden sexual awakening.” To us, it looks like Jim Jarmusch on a heavy dose of Horny Goat Weed and poppers. The filmmaker Andrew Ahn himself is as fresh as those crispy, fresh-washed spa towels, and since this is his debut feature, he’s definitely one to watch y’all.

Mind Your Own Business: Cinema Against Street Harassment
War Zone (1998), Stop (2015), Michelle’s Story (2015)
Thursday September 8 (7:30 pm), Saturday September 10 (5 pm), Friday September 16 (10 pm), and Sunday September 25 (5 pm) at Spectacle: $5

Getting catcalled is mostly just annoying but occasionally it can feel threatening, and sometimes even dangerous for many victims of street harassment. Sure, having someone fling snide sexual comments at you might not sound like a huuuuge deal (uh, especially for people on the other end of the stick), but the truth is that getting catcalled– a relentless reality for most women worldwide– reinforces second-class status. It’s also just sort of medieval. Really, it’s like jousting, or eating with your hands–it just doesn’t make sense in light of modern mechanics.

And because it’s easy to be a pop psychologist if you try, I can tell you with confidence that “Sup sexy? Nice ___ what have you,” translates to: “I’m lonely and primally insecure about my ability to effectively spread my seed far and wide.” However the implicit message of all catcalling is that women are interchangeable objects whose sole purpose on planet earth is for the entertainment of idle men.

The good people at Hollaback (an anti-street harassment organization at the forefront of what they’re calling the “movement to end harassment in public spaces”) are working to put an end to the phenomenon by raising awareness and encouraging people to talk back to their aggressors. “The real motive of harassment is intimidation,” their website reads. “To make its target scared or uncomfortable, and to make the harasser feel powerful.” One way to flip the power switch? “By exposing it,” Hollaback says, and so they’ve created a database of harassment and assault stories (they’ve already collected more than 8,000 of them )where anyone can share their experience and support other victims.

Spectacle is screening three documentary films shot in the same spirit. The first, War Zone, made in 1998, started out as a short for filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West’s MFA thesis project at SVA and included footage of Hadleigh-West confronting street-randos face-to-face. What you’ll see at Spectacle is the filmmaker’s full-length feature which was expanded to include on-the-spot shots of women from across the country as they waltz down the street and, after encountering all manner of harassment, ask the perps to explain the sexual harassment with a camera pointed directly up their nostrils. Two more 2015 short films are included in the lineup, Julia Retzlaff’s Stop and Michelle’s Story directed by Aden Hakimi.

Friday September 9 through Thursday September 15 at IFC Center: $14

Cameraperson, which blew up the festival circuit earlier this year, is a documentary on documentary filmmaking that’s one-part Sontag’s On Photography and two-parts personal/professional/philosophical film memoir.

The movie is directed by Kirsten Johnson, who’s best known for her role as cinematographer of Citizen Four and Pray the Devil Back to Hell, among other social justice-oriented/politically-minded documentaries. Over the course of her career, Johnson has traveled the world, and has worked alongside the likes of Laura Poitras (who will field an after-screening Q+A with Johnson on Friday September 9 at the 7:40 screening) and contributed to some very important documentaries of our time.

Along the way, she’s struggled with the complex power that’s inherent in controlling the camera lens, a position which can influence the way people express and present themselves to you and their imagined/real audience. Interestingly, though Cameraperson is propelled by Johnson’s work (clips from her numerous projects over the years), we see and hear very little of Johnson herself, proving that she’s not simply going to hand this one to you. Instead, the message starts to coalesce only through careful observation– watch Johnson’s hand enter the frame of a beautiful sunset and start to grasp at some rather distracting blades of grass, and ask yourself what she’s doing and why.

(Still from "Phi Phenomenon" via Light Industry)

(Still from “Phi Phenomenon” via Light Industry)

Community Control and Phi Phenomenon 
Monday September 12, 7:30 pm at Light Industry: $8 at the door

Think we’ve come so far since the Civil Rights era? Um.

In 1967, a group of New York City-based filmmakers founded an organization called Newsreel, a New Leftist movement dedicated to recasting the most important news stories of the day, including coverage of the Black Panther Party, the Yippie or Youth International Party, and student protests. In doing so, it aimed to thwart the looming influence of capitalist/patriarchal/white supremacist ideology.

By the ’70s, the group had made “hundreds” of films, according to one historical account that also compared the group’s ideology to that of early-Soviet filmmakers like Dziga Vertov and his Kino Eye.

One of the Newsreel members, Roz Payne, now based in Richmond, Virginia, has maintained the group’s extensive film archive, which makes sense– Payne was instilled with a suspicion for the powers that be from an early age. As she told one blog her mother, a Communist Party member, had been jailed and her family hounded by the FBI.

“We decided to make films that would show another side to the news. It was clear to us that the established forms of media were not going to approach those subjects which threaten their very existence,” Payne recalls on her blog. “Our films tried to analyze, not just cover; they explored the realities that the media, as part of the system, always ignores.”

Light Industry hass gotten ahold of Community Control, a 50-minute documentary shot by Newsreel in 1969 that details what happens when “experimental” public school districts located in the predominantly black communities of Brownsville and East Harlem become the center of a conflict between the Department of Education and local residents. With the backing of the Black Panther Party (which has a long history of supporting black communities in their battle for self-determination) local activists, “demanded total oversight of every aspect of their children’s pedagogical environment, from curriculum to staffing,” Light Industry writes. The result is a multi-faceted conflict between a labor union, the police, and Black Power– “culminating in a city-wide teachers’ strike, with police brutality and charges of anti-semitism further troubling the waters.”