This year’s Molly Schlich Independent and International Film Series – presented each winter by the Springfield Art Association – continues the yearly tradition of bringing the sorts of movies to the city that otherwise are rarely, if ever, screened at our local multiplexes. These include foreign films, documentaries and lower-budget, critically acclaimed domestic titles. Starting in January and lasting through March, with Sunday matinees and Tuesday evening screenings at AMC’s Parkway Pointe 8 (3025 Lindbergh Blvd)., the series is a godsend for area film buffs suffering from blockbuster-itis but who still appreciate experiencing cinema on the big screen (as opposed to on their smartphones).
SAA executive director Betsy Dollar said that the process of selecting films for the series was especially difficult this time. “I made the mistake of expanding the committee,” she explained. “Adding that many more voices made it so there wasn’t anything that was a universal yes. In the end, they all said, these are our choices, it’s your film series – you decide. So this year’s selection might reflect a little more of my personal tastes than usual.”
Jan. 13 and 15: A Fantastic Woman
The series kicks off with a Chilean film which also happens to have won the 2018 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It features an electrifying performance by Daniela Vega as Marina, a trans woman who comes under suspicion after the loss of her partner.
Jan. 20 and 22: Science Fair
As is often the case with art films, the themes of this year’s series can be heavy and sometimes emotionally difficult. Not so much with Science Fair, which Dollar says is the most lighthearted film this year – a documentary that tells the story of several students from all over the world competing to get into the International Science Fair. “These kids are 15 or 17 years old and they are studying stuff that I can’t comprehend except on a mild, basic level – it’s mind-boggling,” said Dollar. “They are all incredibly driven and almost all of them come from immigrant backgrounds. The stories of these kids are very uplifting and inspiring.”
Jan. 27 and 29: Foxtrot
The second film in this year’s series is an Israeli drama, also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year. Foxtrot, which focuses on a family in the aftermath of a military tragedy, features “incredible acting and beautiful cinematography,” according to Dollar. “The way the setting is shot – everything from the tiles on the floors up – is just gorgeous. It’s a very intense story but the acting is amazing and it’s well worth the time and energy.”
Feb. 3 and 5: Puzzle
Another somewhat lighter film was purposely slated for Super Bowl Sunday. Puzzle stars Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting, No Country for Old Men) as a woman who finds herself through competitive puzzle-building. “I consider it slightly more of a woman’s film,” Dollar said, “although I friend of mine recently watched it with her husband and he enjoyed it, which is a good sign.”
Feb. 10 and 12: A Taxi Driver
“Men are always asking me for a film with a car chase,” Dollar said, “and now there finally is one.” This film (not to be confused with the 1976 Scorsese-DeNiro bloodbath) is based on the true story of the taxi driver who got a German news correspondent into the thick of the pro-Democratic Gwanju uprising in South Korea in 1980. The correspondent documented the demonstration and got the film out and showed the rest of the world. This fictionalized version “has some tense moments, but is also very sweet and funny at times,” according to Dollar.
Feb. 17 and 19: In the Fade
Feb. 24 and 26: The Square
This somewhat brutal Swedish satire makes elaborate fun of the contemporary art scene. “I don’t begin to curate on the same level as the main character here, who is running an internationally known museum, but I recognize some of the stuff that happens. It’s very funny,” said Dollar. The film is in both Swedish and English and features a supporting performance from Elizabeth Moss (Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men).
March 3 and 5: The Guilty
The series ends with last year’s winner of the Sundance Festival’s Audience Award in World Cinema. The entirety of The Guilty takes place inside a police dispatch office with only two or three characters. “All of the visuals are suggestions and descriptions of circumstances – your brain does all the work,” Dollar explained. “It’s fascinating – probably the images most of us come up with as we listen to the descriptions is far more gruesome than what any director would probably create – it’s an intriguing way to go about an entire film.”
This year’s launch party for the series will be held at the SAA campus on Wednesday, Jan. 9. In addition to screening trailers of all of this year’s films, it will also feature the premiere of the locally produced short film Meet Uncle Paul. The 15-minute documentary, developed and directed by area filmmaker Jessica Bursi and shot by Josh Hester, tells the life story of Bursi’s uncle, who was born with Down Syndrome in the mid-1950s. Bursi and Hester will be at the event to speak about the film. Uncle Paul himself may or may not be in attendance.
Scott Faingold can be reached at email@example.com.