OVID’s January Releases: Films by Alain Resnais, the Lupita Nyong’o Recommended Doc “Softie” & More
OVID.tv, the curated streaming destination for documentary and art-house films from around the world, rings in 2021 with an extraordinary lineup of films. Explore the 18 new titles across eight days in January (and four pages) below.
Friday, January 8th
Fool’s Mate (Le Coup du Berger)
Directed by Jacques Rivette
Icarus Films | Feature | France | 1957
An early film from the six-decade career of hugely influential French director and critic Jacques Rivette.
Claire (Virginie Vitry) is given a gorgeous fur coat by her lover, Claude (Jean-Claude Brialy). To avoid raising her sleepy husband’s suspicions (Etienne Loinod), she hatches a plan to “find” a baggage claim ticket on the floor of a cab. Claim the bag, see that it contains a fur coat – and voilà! – she can wear it without fear. “The perfect crime,” as her lover says… But is it?
While long running times would become a Rivette trademark, Fool’s Mate is a tautly paced short drama that unfolds like a chess match, with moves and counter-moves as each side tries to outwit the other. The digital restoration highlights the film’s exquisite cinematography. Virginie Vitry is a sexy, pouty, luminous lead, and the film features cameos by Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Claude Chabrol.
Directed by Antoine Raimbault
Distrib Films | Feature | France | 2019
As a juror at Jacques Viguier’s trial, Nora (Marina Foïs) is convinced that he did not kill his wife. This intuition quickly becomes an obsession. She persuades Eric Dupond-Moretti (Olivier Gourmet), the most famous lawyer in the country to defend him. Together they start a compulsive fight to prove his innocence against all odds. That quest has a price they might not be ready to pay.
“A gripping real-life courtroom drama.” —The Hollywood Reporter
European Film Festival 2019, Thessaloniki Film Festival 2019
The Girl with the Bracelet
Directed by Stéphane Demoustier
Distrib Films | Feature | France | 2017
At 16 years old, Lise (Melissa Guers) is accused of murdering her best friend. As the trial starts, her parents (Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni) stand right by her side. But once her secret life is revealed in court, the truth becomes indistinguishable.
“I love you” means nothing. Everyone says “I love you”. A young girl called to the witness stand casually drops these disarmingly simple words that are enough to give one chills. That is a recurring feeling throughout this unusually precise courtroom drama, where words and their power are at the center of attention. In this case, the legal proceedings become the ritual of a society putting its own youth on trial.
“A probing, ambiguity-laced psychological profile.” —Variety
Wednesday, January 13th
All the World’s Memories (Toute la Memoire du Monde)
Directed by Alain Resnais
Icarus Films | Short | France | 1956
This recently restored early short by French New Wave director Alain Resnais (perhaps best known for Hiroshima Mon Amour), pays homage to the National Library of France. For centuries, the library has served as a repository for all the country’s publications, and more: Maps, prints, comic books, priceless manuscripts, gems, and medals all form part of the collection.
Much like Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, All the World’s Memory takes us on an impressive and impressionistic tour, from the reading rooms, to the stunning architecture, to the stacks and the physical plant. We also accompany a new arrival to the library – a recently published book – on its journey from reception to cataloguing to the moment it takes its place on a shelf, joining millions of other items that have made their home here for centuries. At the intersection of artistic and informative, All the World’s Memory is a unique look at the effort to catalogue as much knowledge as possible in one of the world’s great libraries.
Cannes Film Festival 1957, Best Picture Award
Cannes Film Festival 1981, Grand Prix Award
Directed by Alain Resnais
Icarus Films | Short | France | 1957
Classic French New Wave director Alain Resnais’ early film, Van Gogh won an Oscar for best short documentary film. Recently restored, this 1948 boundary-pushing short brilliantly evokes the life of Vincent Van Gogh, using only his paintings as visuals. Van Gogh traces the great painter’s life and work, from his early days as a realist in the Netherlands, to his stay in Paris, the peak of his career in Provence, and then the dark days of madness that descended on him.
The black-and-white renderings of Van Gogh’s paintings, coupled with a dramatic musical score, are surprisingly evocative.
Notes on Marie Menken
Directed by Martina Kudlacek; Music by John Zorn
Icarus Films | Documentary | USA | 2007
Martina Kudlacek, director of the critically acclaimed In the Mirror of Maya Deren, brings us the story of Marie Menken (1909–1970), one of New York’s outstanding underground filmmakers, who inspired and worked with renowned artists Andy Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger and Gerard Malanga, and became known as “the mother of the avant-garde.”
Originally an abstract painter and collage artist, Menken produced nearly two dozen experimental shorts, gracefully using a hand-held Bolex camera to create rhythmic patterns of light, color, form and texture, and compose exquisite visual poems. Rich in excerpts of Menken’s work, the film also features the rare and fascinating footage of “The Duel of the Bolexes” she conducted with Andy Warhol on a New York rooftop.
The large, loud and tempestuous Menken, whose volatile relationship with husband Willard Maas reportedly inspired Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, became a Warhol superstar making memorable appearances in The Life of Juanita Castro and The Chelsea Girls.
Featuring interviews with Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger, Gerard Malanga, Peter Kubelka, Alfred Leslie, Billy Name, and The Chelsea Girls star Mary Woronov.
“Shines a quavering if welcome ray of light on a largely forgotten figure in the American avant-garde film scene … salient details and observations emerge in the documentary.” —Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Thursday, January 14th
Directed by Nanni Moretti
Distrib US | Documentary | Italy | 2018
In the early seventies, the world was watching as Chile democratically elected Socialist leader Salvador Allende. His political ideals and aspirations—among them providing education for all children and distributing land to the nation’s workers—terrified the country’s right-wing, as well as the U.S., who helped orchestrate a military coup that replaced him with dictator Augusto Pinochet. This tragic history has been well documented, but Italian director Nanni Moretti (Caro Diario, Ecce Bombo) adds an angle many viewers may not know about: the efforts of the Italian Embassy to save and relocate citizens targeted by the fascist regime. Told through the testimonies of those who were there, Santiago, Italia is a chilling depiction of living under junta rule and an ultimately inspiring expression of hope amidst dire circumstances.
“The Italian director Nanni Moretti crafts this fiercely earnest documentary with a frank simplicity that feels remarkably original.” —The New Yorker
Directed by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter
Icarus Films | Documentary | Austria/Germany | 2020
With stunning cinematography and meditative pacing that recalls the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, Space Dogs is a singular work that de-centers humans in order to uncover a forgotten history. Archival footage of the Soviet space program is interwoven throughout the film, reveling in the bizarre tests and procedures the canines were subjected to in preparation for space travel. The hum of space-age machinery blends seamlessly with the hypnotic drone of the soundtrack, which in turn echoes the alien sounds of the modern city.
“A complex work that goes under your skin.” —Film Comment
“Full of visuals that seem pulled from another planet.” —The New York Times
Special Mention, Locarno IFF 2019
Best Austrian Film & ExtraVALUE Film Award, Viennale 2019
Special Jury Award, FIDOCS 2019
Friday, January 15th
An Elephant Sitting Still
Directed by Hu Bo
KimStim | Feature | China | 2018
Under the gloomy sky of a small town in northern China, different protagonists’ lives are intertwined in this furious tale of nihilistic rage. While protecting his friend from a dangerous school bully, 16-year-old Wei Bu pushes the tormentor down a staircase. WEI escapes the scene and later learns that the bully is hospitalized and gravely injured. Wei’s neighbor, the 60-year-old Wang Jin, is estranged from his family and, with nothing to lose, decides to join him. Later the pair is joined by Huang Ling, Wei’s classmate. She is bedeviled by a destructive affair with a married school official.
“Powerfully absorbing! An act of solemn, disciplined and passionate protest.” —New York Times
“One of the greatest recent films! The film is a masterwork of a rare sort, perhaps of a unique sort.” —New Yorker
Berlin International Film Festival 2018, FIPRESCI Prize
Hong Kong International Film Festival 2018 – Audience Choice Prize
New Directors New Films, NY
Locarno International Film Festival 2018
Toronto International Film Festival 2018
Outcry and Whisper
Directed by Wen Hai and Zeng Jinyan
dGenerate Films | Documentary | China | 2020
A performance artist approaches a dais with a quiet formality, then proceeds to slowly and deliberately slice a series of cuts into her face with a razor. A doctoral student/filmmaker, under house arrest and constant surveillance, walks up to a vehicle following her and holds up a sign saying, “Shame to insult a woman.” Female factory workers describe being arrested and harassed when they stand up for their rights.
Shot over eight years, Outcry and Whisper is a highly personal and sometimes uncomfortably intimate documentary chronicling women’s oppression and resistance in mainland China and Hong Kong. One remarkable and tumultuous sequence is shot in the midst of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations.
Zeng and Wen previously collaborated on We the Workers, a verite documentary about the struggles of largely male union activists organizing workers in China. With Outcry and Whisper, their focus on women broadens the scope beyond labor. From factory workers gathering to demand collective bargaining to women gathering for a feminist film group, they highlight the common struggles women face, and their inventive and powerful means of fighting back.
“There is no denying the cumulative power of these accounts of the female experience of oppression, in all its many guises.” —Wendy Ide, Screen Daily
World Premiere, Visions du Reel Documentary Film Festival 2020
Jean Rouch International Film Festival 2020
Wednesday, January 20th
Directed by Valerio Mieli
Distrib US | Feature | Italy | 2018
A love story, seen through the memories of one young couple: recollections altered by moods, different perspectives, and time itself. A journey through the years of two individuals, united, divided, happy, unhappy, deeply in love or in love with others, told in a single stream of emotions and shades of feeling. Over the course of the film, he (Luca Marinelli) learns that love can last, while she (Linda Caridi) learns to live with nostalgia. Their memories change over time: fading or bursting in happiness, in a present that fast slips away.
“An ambitious tour-de-force about love, time and memory.” —Hollywood Reporter
La Biennale di Venezia 2018: Giornate degli Autori, Official Selection
BNL People’s Choice Award, Special Mention FEDIC, NuovoImaie Award (Linda Caridi)
The Invisible Witness
Directed by Stefano Mordini
Distrib US | Feature | Italy | 2018
Adriano Doria is “the entrepreneur of the year” in Milan. He drives a BMW, wears a flamboyant Rolex, has an adorable wife and daughter and a beautiful mistress. But now he is under house arrest, accused of murder.
Thursday, January 21st
Directed by Nora Claire Miller, Peter Miller & Amy Linton
Icarus Films | Documentary | USA | 2020
Egg Cream is a short film about the enduring meaning of a beloved chocolate soda drink born on the Jewish Lower East Side. The egg cream contained neither eggs nor cream – it was a product of necessity and hardship, but a source of joy and sweetness. Through a tour of egg cream establishments led by a filmmaker and his young daughter, exhaustively researched archival imagery, and even a song by Lou Reed, the film examines the Jewish experience in America and the mythology of a simpler time.
“A warm-hearted plunge into the alchemical swirl of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer that is the egg cream… A remarkable family saga!” —Michael Stern, Roadfood
“A powerful story of culture and history tied together with the thread of the popular drink, the egg cream. ‘Egg Cream’ brings a human touch to a delicious part of Jewish history.” —Joyce Forum Jewish Short Film Festival, San Diego, Special Juror’s Award winner
Directed by Nurith Aviv
Icarus Films | Documentary | USA | 2020
In Nurith Aviv’s unexpected, original documentary, seven young interviewees share their love for Yiddish avant-garde poetry written between the World Wars. An expressive hybrid “jargon” with roots in Hebrew, German and Slavic languages, Yiddish has been shamed, banned, and nearly wiped out, but it’s a vernacular with rich political, historical, religious, socio-economic and literary import. In her spirited film, Aviv brings its ancient words to life.
“Travel through words in a film as thoughtful as it is interesting.” —Telerama
“Must see!” —Le Monde
Friday, January 22nd
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
Directed by Mouly Surya; Starring Marsha Timothy
Icarus Films | Feature | Indonesia | 2017
In the deserted hills of an Indonesian island, Marlina (Marsha Timothy), a young widow, is attacked and robbed of all her livestock by a gang of seven bandits. She then defends herself, setting out on a journey to find justice, empowerment, retribution and redemption. But the road is long, especially when she begins to be haunted by the ghost of her victim. A stunning Scope western set to a Morricone-inspired score, this unique tale of female cinematic revenge takes no prisoners.
“An unwavering slow burn… Ms. Surya gives Marlina a stark, steady, captivating look that keeps you engaged.” —Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“Austere yet stylish… The bottom line: kicks ass.” —Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter
“At once tightly controlled and simmering with righteous fury, [Marlina] is a gorgeously lensed, atmospherically scored and moves inexorably toward a gratifying payoff.” —Maggie Lee, Variety
Cannes International Film Festival 2017
Toronto International Film Festival 2017
Best Actress, Sitges International Film Festival 2017
Directed by Mounia Meddour
Distrib Films | Feature | France/Algeria | 2019
Set in Algeria in the 1990’s, Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri, The French Dispatch), is an 18 year-old student passionate about fashion design who refuses to let the tragic events of the Algerian Civil War keep her from experiencing a normal life and going out at night with her friends. As the social climate becomes more conservative, she rejects the new bans set by the radicals and decides to fight for her independence by putting on a fashion show.
“The emotions are there in every claustrophobic camera angle, in thriller-tinged scenes that show female self-expression being denied and muffled both by enemies and so-called friends.” —Screen International
“Harrowing.” —Hollywood Reporter
“Bursting with energy.” —Variety
Friday, January 29th
And So Angels Die
Directed by Moussa Sene Absa
California Newsreel | Documentary | Senegal | 2001
Moussa Sene Absa’s latest work pushes the formal boundaries of African cinema to explore the complex interplay of history and psychology in contemporary Africa. Intensely personal and at the same time deeply political, And So Angels Die (Ainsi meurent les anges) combines the elegiac lyricism of his Ça twiste à Poponguine with the acerbic social critique of Tableau Ferraille. What is perhaps most surprising is that this creative freedom was won precisely by working within the constraints of new low-budget video technology. Appearing the same year as Karmen Geï and Faat Kine, it attests to the continuing vitality of Senegalese filmmaking as it propels African cinema in boldly innovative directions.
Directed by Sam Soko
Icarus Films | Documentary | USA | 2020
Boniface “Softie” Mwangi uses his teeth to pry the lid off a toddler’s sippy cup while carrying on a phone conversation about an upcoming demonstration. “I think it’s good for us to get arrested,” he says. A few minutes later, Softie, a photo-journalist and anti-corruption activist, heads out the door. “Where are you going?” one of his kids ask. “To topple the government,” he replies.
Softie made his name with a series of harrowing photos of the violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. A decade later, after years of organizing, arrests, and police beatings, he decides to run for office, telling his wife, Njeri, about his decision on camera, with a hesitant laugh.
On the campaign trail in his inner-city district, Softie comes up against corruption and the expectation that candidates will hand out money and favors. One woman calls him a “broke idiot” when he refuses to bribe her for her vote. Meanwhile, he and his family receive death threats, forcing Njeri and the children to seek asylum in the US.
SOFTIE is the portrait of a committed activist, but it’s also about politics, family and what it means to be Kenyan. And it’s a gripping campaign film too. Director Sam Soko followed Softie for five years, as Softie’s activism tests their marriage and his ability to be present for their kids. Is winning worth any price?
“Softie the documentary really moved me. If you believe in governments for the people, by the people and of the people, this film is for you!” —Lupita Nyong’o (author, actor, activist)
“A marvel of narrative storytelling.” —Filmmaker Magazine
“The global crisis has, in some ways, made the film’s message even more urgent and relevant, connected to a global, though also intensely local, struggle.” —Africa is a Country
Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival 2020