One thing on the Internet that isn’t remotely cancelled, fortunately, is the Popula Film Club. This week, we bring you a group of uncommonly confident artists whose works explore, and sometimes encourage, deep alterations in human lives.
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (dir. Alanis Obomsawin, 1993)
via National Film Board of Canada (free)
Documenting the 1990 Oka Crisis, where indigenous Mohawk peoples came into armed confrontation with the Canadian government over a land dispute, Kahnesatake brings us an on-the-ground accounting from the indigenous perspective. The intimate camerawork of the protests, showing the passion of the Mohawk people willing to give their lives for the fight, shows us the real stakes risked by those who truly experience injustice. The documentary laces its protest footage with beautiful cinematography of the Oka regions forests and rivers, setting the stage in the midst of a natural haven that has belonged to the Mohawk for centuries. The film documents a sustained effort of resistance over decades, even centuries. Kahnesatake is by all accounts a landmark film in indigenous cinema history.
National Film Board of Canada is a public producer and distributor which aims to finance and cultivate unique and nationally significant works by Canadian filmmakers and storytellers.
Family Romance, LLC (dir. Werner Herzog, 2020)
MUBI (with subscription)
The visionary Werner Herzog has mastered the realms of both narrative cinema and documentary. In his latest film, Family Romance LLC, he blends his two paths. “Family and romance are a business now,” he claims in the introduction to the film, which is set in Japan. A company hires people to play the roles of absent family members; the film follows a few of these family-members-for-hire as they help their respective clients cope, painting a strange, sometimes uncomfortable, but humanistic portrait of what it means to be ‘part’ of someone’s life.
MUBI is an independent streaming website with a self-proclaimed “ruthless” approach to streaming. They present a new film each day, it lasts for 30 days, and then it goes away.
Seven Songs for Malcolm X & The Last Angel of History (dir. John Akomfrah, 1993/1996)
The National Gallery of Art (free)
The National Gallery of Art continues its presentations of rare works by underseen artists with two shorts from Jacob Akomfrah. Seven Songs for Malcolm X is a biography recounted from multiple angles and points of view, told by those who witnessed his speeches and his untimely assassination firsthand, seeking justice for a man whose life was taken because he told the truth. The Last Angel of History, made three years later, is an experimental documentary with a brilliant color scheme exploring the concept of “Afrofuturism.” It tells the story of a time-traveling data thief solving the riddle of his own future. Akomfrah explores how the metaphor of temporal displacement has been used in Black media, from movies to music videos to fashion design.
The National Gallery of Art is a Smithsonian-funded museum in Washington D.C. showcasing great works of classical and modern art.
Tommaso (dir. Abel Ferrara, 2020)
Film at Lincoln Center ($12 virtual ticket)
Semi-autobiographical and wholly radical, the American-Italian enfant terrible Abel Ferrara uses a quaint Italian setting to tell the tale of a marriage on the rocks. The deeper the filmmaker Tommaso dives into his work, the more he feels his (much younger) wife and child growing distant from him. Jealousy sets in. He begins to see and hear things. Willem Dafoe gives a typically powerful performance in this deeply personal character study and confessional tale. A quintessential late-career film from a master filmmaker.
Film at Lincoln Center is a major exhibition house for artistic and independent cinema.
The Popula Film Club brings you worthwhile options to stream, chosen with a view to quality, and to withholding as much money as possible from the oligarchs and monopolists of Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and the like.
Please send your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, POPULA FILM CLUB.