Raising Bertie, Beatriz at Dinner, Dawson City: Frozen Time
Spanning the course of six years, Raising Bertie is set in the rural, predominantly African American community of Bertie County in eastern North Carolina. The poignant documentary follows three boys as they grow into adulthood and attempt to define their identities, all in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Director Margaret Byrne weaves the young men’s stories together and uncovers the complex relationships between generational poverty, educational inequity, and race.
Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her kind-hearted nature to build a career as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire and real estate developer. The two are about to collide at an elegant dinner party in a swanky hilltop home. Directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt) and written by Mike White (The Good Girl), Beatriz at Dinner explores the widening gulf between “the world’s haves and have-nots”. Stars Salma Hayek (Desperado) and John Lithgow (Interstellar) in the lead.
Just south of the Arctic Circle sits the Canadian gold rush town of Dawson City. At its height, more than 100,000 prospectors flocked to the area in a bid to strike it rich. The town was also the last stop for a distribution chain that sent prints to the Yukon. These materials were rarely returned. Assumed to be lost to history, the now-famous Dawson City Collection was later uncovered, a hoard of more than 533 nitrate films. Director Bill Morrison (Decasia) presents them here for the first time in what has been described as a “meditation on cinema’s past.”
The Hero stars Sam Elliott (Tombstone) as an aging actor struggling to grasp with his own mortality. Reliving old glories, Lee Hayden (Elliot), spends much of his time smoking too much weed with his former co-star-turned-dealer. But upon striking up a relationship with a stand-up comic, he yearns to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Directed and written by Brett Haley (I’ll See You In My Dreams), the film is billed as a “beautiful and poignant celebration of life and the legacies we all leave behind.”
Pegged as a “drying comic drama” from Iranian director Babak Jalali (Frontier Blue), Radio Dreams focuses on a little radio station broadcasting in Persian from San Francisco. The Pars Radio station is about to make dreams happen, as Kabul Dreams, the first rock band from Afghanistan, is set to jam with world-famous metal icons Metallica.
Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan offers an intimate portrait into the life of prima ballerina Wendy Whelan as she prepares to leave New York City Ballet after a record-setting three decades with the company. The documentary follows Whelan, a woman of “tremendous strength, resilience and good humor”, as she steps outside the world of contemporary dance and creates “Restless Creature”, a collection of four contemporary vignettes forged in collaboration with four young choreographers. Directed by Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger, the duo behind Sporting Dreams (2015).
Emmy award-winning director Andrew Cohn’s Night School observes the ongoing education crisis in Indianapolis, a city that has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the entirety of the United States. For adult learners Greg, Melissa, and Shynika, finally earning their high school diplomas could be a potentially life-changing achievement. The absorbing documentary from Cohn (Medora) follows their individual pursuits fraught with the challenges of everyday life, and shines a light on the systemic roadblocks faced by many low-income Americans.