Click on any film poster to watch trailer
There are survival films, and then there historically-accurate, character-driven, morally-conflicted, edge-of-your-seat-and-holding-your-breath survival films. We’ll let you guess which category ’71 falls into. The title references the year 1971, when political unrest in the United Kingdom is beginning to blossom into the era of violence and turmoil that is now known as “The Troubles”. Our protagonist, a British soldier named Gary, is deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Belfast, Northern Ireland. But when a riot breaks out, Gary is separated from his unit and must try to survive the night alone in deathly hostile territory, where any civilians might be enemy combatants and no one can be trusted. Rather than deliver a prepackaged, black-and-white history lesson, ’71 gives us a ground-level view of neighborhoods and communities divided along political and religious lines. We see tormented command decisions made for murky political gains and personal sacrifices made from selflessness. And we are reminded that in war, the line between good guys and bad guys is never quite what it seems.
Parental advisory: Rated R for language and violence
After her father’s death, fifteen-year-old MacKenzie is sent to stay with her uncle in Alaska while her mother enters a treatment facility near their Seattle home. But when the uncle turns inappropriate - then outright abusive - MacKenzie flees and sets out through the Alaskan wilderness on her own. She is trying to make her way home to Seattle when she crosses paths with an older backpacker, who is on a quest of his own through the wild. The two begrudgingly join forces and from their partnership of necessity, a friendship begins to bloom. Set against sweeping Alaskan vistas, this film revels in visual grandeur while still handling its subject matter with focus and delicate restraint. It is a sensitive film with a sensitive subject at its core, and it portrays MacKenzie’s emotional fragility and budding sense of hope with thoughtfulness and respect.
Parental advisory: Rated PG-13 for some tense scenes and sexual situations, but nothing gratuitous or explicit
“F***ing Mexican cinema,” grouses a broke college student protagonist of this black-and-white Mexican art film. “They grab a bunch of beggars, shoot it in black and white, and say they are making art films.” And that’s what you get in this beautiful, drifting, award-winning and critically-beloved slacker road movie: irreverent self-awareness, sly trope-inversion, and no fulfilled expectations. The title refers to light-skinned people and the various ways they might be perceived in society, but the movie doesn’t beleaguer any of its occasional ethnic references. The movie is set during the 1999 student protests at the national public university in Mexico City (UNAM), but the protests are a backdrop, not a political talking point. In fact, there really aren’t any major talking points in this movie to beat us over the head - just observations. It’s as if these snippets of life pass by as we watch through the dirty window of a friend’s beat-up old car, on our way to track down a legendary musician who has vanished into obscurity… Come see this movie. Enjoy how it makes you feel about life. Don’t expect it to take you anywhere specific, but come along for the beautiful, joyous, poignant, sobering ride.
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Parental advisory: Language throughout, one instance of very brief nudity
Are you afraid of the dark? Tim is. He’s an orphan, isolated and diffident within his orphanage, with only his favorite star as a friend, shining on him through the night. But when that star suddenly disappears from the night sky, Tim’s frantic investigation leads him to the magical, mystical nighttime world called Nocturna. Unbeknownst to the slumbering daytime world, cats guard sleeping children; teams of hairdressers collaborate on bedhead artistry; musicians assemble to conduct the window-scratching, cricket-chirping symphony of the night. And all of this is done under an encroaching shadow that threatens to snuff out not just Tim’s star, but ALL the lights of Nocturna. Can Tim find the secret to defeating this shadow monster in time to save the nighttime world? This gorgeously dreamy animated spectacle has an important message to teach us about standing up to fear…and where that fear comes from.
Language: English, Spanish w/English subtitles
Parental advisory: Shadow monster may be frightening to very small children
Lola on the Pea (2014)
Nine-year-old Lola has a lot going on in her life. Her dad has gone away, leaving Lola and her mother to make their own life on a houseboat. The unusual houseboat lifestyle makes her different and marks her as a target for the kids at school. A new family of immigrants has moved nearby, sparking Lola’s curiosity with their peculiar customs and strange behavior. And to top it all off, a new man has appeared in her mother’s life. How is one girl supposed to make sense of it all? There’s a lot of heart in this movie - a lot of empathy, a lot of smiles. It’s lighthearted, but deftly addresses some serious subjects – such as single-parent families, and perception and treatment of immigrants. Kids will see the developing cross-cultural friendship; adults will understand the implications of the immigrant family’s timidity. And EVERYONE will fall in love with the houseboat known as “The Pea.”