Two New Documentaries This Weekend at The Film Forum

Film documentary buffs strike gold this weekend, when two Oscar-nominated, rapturously reviewed new docs rule the Film Forum marquee. Our regular feature, as tough and thorny as its subject, is The Gatekeepers, from Israel. Using fairly standard documentary techniques—interviews and archival footage presented in a straight-ahead chronology—director Dror Moreh scrutinizes the history of Israeli’s domestic counter-terrorism campaign since the Six-Day War. Moreh’s subject is Shin Bet, Israeli’s famous anti-terrorist intelligence agency (Shin Bet is to Mossad more or less what the FBI is to the CIA). How Moreh got six former heads of Shin Bet—men well-accustomed to keeping mum—to speak as candidly as they do, is a wonder in its own right. Perhaps, as the Boston Globe suggests, these “aging warriors of realpolitik” have simply “grown weary of carrying secrets.” But the greater marvel is how Moreh conjures from his interviews a greater narrative of ambivalence and regret—and not just about a botched air strike or a rendition gone awry, but about the futility of hard-fisted military responses to an enduring political crisis

“As a clear-eyed examination of a conflict that seems to have no end,” says the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Gatekeepers is powerful, provocative stuff. These six men have stood on the front lines, but they also stand on the blurry lines of right and wrong, of moral doubt, and self-doubt.”

Not to say these men are sentimental. They make no apology for their careers. But their pragmatism outstrips ideology, and what isn’t working isn’t working. Says Yaakov Peri, who ran Shin Bet from 1988 to 1994, “When you retire [from Shin Bet], you become a bit of a leftist.” The Film Forum will screen The Gatekeepers on Thursday and Friday at 7:30, and on Sunday, at 7 p.m.

After Sunday’s screening, Bard College Professor Ethan Bloch will talk about the film and lead a conversation. Dr. Bloch co-founded Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, and has co-chaired of the National Middle East Task Force of New Jewish Agenda. Born and schooled in Israel, he continues to makes Israel his home each summer.

On Saturday evening, June 1, the Film Forum presents a one-time screening of How to Survive a Plague, a gripping account of the life-saving role of New York City activist groups, Act Up and Tag, in fast-tracking the delivery of crucial medication to numberless young men diagnosed with HIV at the height of the epidemic. Instead of focusing on the disease itself, director David France celebrates the ingenuity and resolve of the self-made activists who infiltrated Big Pharma and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to desperate patients in record time. Using never-seen footage from the 1980s and ’90s, France puts viewers at the heart of the controversial actions and exultant victories of heroes in the making.

This 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a conversation with Damien Center program director and long-time AIDS activist Dorothy Nangle, and Dr. Ralph Liporace from the HIV/AIDS Division of the Albany Medical Center, and moderated by Albany community activist, Harry Faddis. How to Survive a Plague is an In the Public Interest! screenings, made possible by a grant from the Adirondack Trust Company Community Find. Film Forum screenings are at the Dee Sarno Theater in the Saratoga Arts Center at 320 Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. For more information about these screenings and our presenters, please visit the Now Playing page on our Web site. General admission is $7; Film Forum members and students pay $5.

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May 21: Domestic Violence/Rape Crisis Mini Event

Please join us Tuesday, May 21, at 6:30 for a free viewing of Rape or Regret: A Jury’s Dilemma, an educational video produced by Ballston Area Community Allies, a community mobilization project by Saratoga’s own Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center (DVRC), highlighting the ethical and legal issues in date rape cases. Watch as the story unfolds in a courtroom drama that will make you ask: Was it rape or consent? After the video, share your perspective and join a discussion led by DVRC staff! Sponsored by DVRC. Free to the public!

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President’s Report on March 27 Town Meeting

A rescheduled meeting rarely gets the best of turn-outs. Momentum is lost, the buzz is down. When a snowstorm forced us to reschedule our first-ever Film Forum Town Meeting from March 19th to the 27th, we feared our numbers would take a dive.

Every seat was taken, and folks were standing in the back.

And a very thoughtful and on-the-ball crowd this was, too.

I opened up the evening with a few remarks on how a second-run indie art house like ours gets by: how we cover our expenses, how we look to blockbuster “Indiewood” movies to float the less remunerative parts of our program; how many seats we need to fill to just break even (and for those of you who think we “belong” to the Arts Center, we don’t—we pay a room rental fee each time we screen a movie); and how we have reckoned the impact of Bow-Tie’s program on our balance sheet. The point wasn’t to demonize Bow-Tie Cinema—we’re all thrilled we’re going to have a first-rate movie house in our downtown. But Bow-Tie’s opening will profoundly change our programming, and we wanted to show how. The first-run indie films that will show on Bow-Tie screens next fall will mean big changes for our line-up.  We need to get prepared.

No longer will the Film Forum be showing movies like Midnight In Paris, The Iron Lady, Magnolia Hotel, or Silver Linings Playbook. We won’t be showing them because Bow-Tie, a first-run theater, will get them first, and by the time Bow-Tie is done with them, our local market will be saturated. Right now these kinds of profit-making films comprise half or more of our regular program—the same half that pays the rent.

So how do we fill the gap? Or should we try to fill it at all? Is this the moment, after 20 years, to hang up our hats and say, go to, Bow-Tie, we’re passing you the torch? Or does Bow-Tie’s arrival suggest an opportunity to refresh our mission so we move away from mainstream indies and more towards a less commercial, more edgy and adventurous, “value-added” program?

This was our big question for our Town Hall audience. Booking terrific offbeat movies is no hardship. The challenge is staying in the black. Is there sufficient public interest to support this move? Can we rely on friends and patrons to stay committed to the Film Forum if our line-up isn’t as familiar or commercially accessible?

The ready show of hands in favor of the Film Forum hanging in there with a reinvigorated mission was gratifying, but to be expected. People tend to be more frank on paper, so the answers people gave us on written questionnaires held, I felt, more weight. In answer to this question, “With Bow-Tie screening indies downtown, do you feel our work is done?,” not one person suggested that the Film Forum shut its doors. Nine out of 10 would support our program if it shifted from widely known indies to “lesser known movies, documentaries, classics, foreign films and special events.” Eighty-one percent believe that “value-added” movies (with post-film talks, performances, presentations) should be central to our new mission. A majority indicated they would support a subscription series for films in certain genres.

The flexibility of our supporters also extended to their views on our venue. While great affection for our old theater space was evident (and relief at the future installation of theater seats from Wilton Regal was palpable), most people indicated they could see us occasionally showing movies elsewhere, too—like Skidmore, UPH, or at Bow-Tie.

For our board, our staff, and our volunteers, this strong show of support for an expanded, more aggressive mission was welcome and emboldening. It’s the mandate we were hoping for—but how much better to hear it from our friends and patrons than to impose it “top-down” from a board!

Nor did the usable input stop with general support. “Town Hall” participants came up with a busload of very specific, good ideas to diversify our program. Show movies during August to take advantage of the tourist presence. Launch movies with a PRE-film conversation to privilege the “forum.” Introduce high-quality streaming to our theater. Show great videos and shorts before our features. Follow movies with a concert! Go for foreign films a little off the beaten path. Package more events with local businesses—bookstores, restaurants, coffeehouses. How about more silent movie with live piano accompaniment? Promote a series dedicated to emerging film makers in our region! Work with other regional film festivals—Lake Placid, Chatham, Williamstown—to rent or borrow festival programs whole-cloth, or to come up with our own, a long-time objective of the Film Forum whose time, perhaps, has finally come. Book not just to our own local tastes but reach out to wider film-savvy audiences!

With this eager feedback from our Town Hall participants, we are ready and game to bring some real creativity and daring to our programming for fall and beyond.  You’ve got our back, and we’ve got yours.  The Saratoga Film Forum will not go away.

So thanks for coming, thanks for sharing, and if you couldn’t make it, please contribute to the ongoing conversation about our future at our website.   We remain indebted and grateful to our moderator, Dale Willman, who deftly fielded the conversation, and thrilled with all of you who turned up to ponder our changed future with such great ideas and good cheer, and grateful, too, to those of you who couldn’t make it but who wrote in anyway with notes of concern, support, and encouragement.

And if you’re reading this on our Web site, and you’re not a member of the Film Forum, never was it easier to renew or join than now. Just go to the “Join us!” section, get out your credit card, and sign up! The bigger our membership base, the more robust our operation, and the more prepared we’ll be to keep our program current, fresh, and responsive to your needs.
Gratefully,
Amy Godine
President, Saratoga Film Forum
April 10, 2013

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Film Forum Kicks Off New “Town & Gown” Series

On Monday, March 4th, the Saratoga Film Forum will debut its new monthly “Town & Gown” movie night which brings Skidmore educators—whose work has been profoundly shaped by film—to the Film Forum to discuss a movie of their choice.

The first Town & Gown event will feature Skidmore artist-in-resident Robert ParkeHarrison and his wife Shana, who is also an artist (visit them online at www.parkeharrison.com), presenting and talking about one of their favorite films, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

The ParkeHarisons are really impressive, stunning photographers who command a national reputation. They share a publisher—Twin Palms—with the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe, Danny Lyon, Bruce Davidson, Dennis Hopper, Herb Ritts, William Eggleston, and other giants in contemporary U.S. photography. (Click here to read a New York Times review of Robert ParkeHarrison’s “Earth Elegies” exhibition.)

One look at some of images in The Architect’s Brother shows why the ParkeHarrisons have such an affinity for Wim Wenders, specifically Wings of Desire.

Come March 4th at 7:30 p.m. to the Dee Sarno Theater at the Saratoga Arts Center to screen Wings of Desire, and see and hear how the film and its director influenced two contemporary artists.

This program received funding from the Skidmore College Office of Community Relations, and from Saratoga Program for Arts Funding, administered by Saratoga Arts, and made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature.

 

 

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Have a Voice in the Future of the Film Forum!

The Board of Directors of the Saratoga Film Forum invites Film Forum members, friends, patrons, volunteers and members of the community to an important, open town-hall meeting in the Dee Sarno Theater at the Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, on Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. This moderated meeting will be a public forum on the future of the Film Forum in the age of pay-per-view and online movies—and Bow-Tie’s planned 19 screens. Unimaginable even a few years ago, these developments suggest the pressing need for a reconsideration of our relevance, our special value, and our future. How do you see us evolving? Is our mission now accomplished, or is there more for us to do? As a membership-supported, grassroots community organization, we welcome your visions and your thoughts and we deeply value your participation. See you on the 19th!

UPDATE (03/19): Due to snow, this meeting has been postponed to Wednesday, March 27th, same time, same location.

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Rock the Oscars at The City Tavern!

The popular Film Forum fundraiser has gained an additional venue!

A special Academy Awards celebration open to the public is set for  Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 5 p.m. at The City Tavern on the corner of Caroline Street and Maple Avenue. The Red Carpet fundraiser will benefit the non-profit Saratoga Film Forum, which has been showing independent films and hosting relevant film-related discussions and events in Saratoga Springs for 20 years. Creative, fundraising Oscar parties at various venues have drawn revelers every year, but this is the first time The City Tavern has hosted the event, which will feature the TV coverage on a 100-inch screen. Private homes in Saratoga are also hosting Oscar parties; an Oscars fundraiser at Longfellows Restaurant is sold out.

This Sunday, The City Tavern has offered its entire third floor to this special Oscar event. Pre-Academy Award coverage starts at 5 p.m. The awards  presentations begin at 7 p.m. Admission to this mini-fundraiser is $10; additional donations will be gratefully accepted. Dress is “finest or fun-nest,” according to the organizers.

The tavern will donate 10 percent of the evening’s proceeds to the Film Forum. Members and friends of the Film Forum, as well as passersby and the general public all are welcome to attend.

The Oscars