DFT Winter '11: Franco does Ginsberg, dolls rob banks, French gangsters, revolution music & more!

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If you've yet to ponder the Academy Award-nominated short films of the season or the special relationship between baseball and American Jews. Or if you'd enjoy letting your mind wander in wonder with Brazilian garbage pickers working in the world's largest trash heap, or a barfly curmudgeon who grows a pair of angelic wings, or a Corsican chambermaid who finds love, in of all places, on the other side of a chess board, or a 1/16-scale bank heist, or a poet in search of his howling voice, the Detroit Film Theatre is the place to be this winter.

Be sure to investigate further the DFT 101 series, which includes such classics as Orson Welles' F is for Fake, Minnelli's Lust for Life, and Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin, as well as special engagements, such as Sopranos/Detroit 1-8-7 star Michael Imperioli presenting his film The Hungry Ghosts, and Film Editing, The Invisible Art: An Evening With Richard Chew, in which Richard Chew (Star Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The ConversationRisky Business) will present a selection of clips of his work, followed by an onstage discussion of his career, his cinematic influences, and the uniquely important art of film editing in storytelling. The evening will conclude with a screening of one of the films most influential to Mr. Chew, Michael Roemer’s Nothing But a Man (1964).

Below are a few quick hits of new flicks from the new brochure. Discover more films, find show times, and indulge in everything DFT on line.

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Howl: James Franco (127 Hours) gives a bravura performance as the young Allen Ginsberg – poet and countercultural chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, affairs and search for liberation that led to the most timeless work of his career, the poem Howl. In the obscenity trial that followed its publication, a San Francisco prosecutor (David Strathairn) argues for an outright ban, while the defense attorney (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) makes the case for freedom of speech and creative expression. A portrait of a renegade artist breaking down barriers as well as a visually imaginative ride through a prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation, Howl also features Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker, Treat Williams, and Bob Balaban as the trial’s staunchly conservative judge. (90 min.)

Mesrine: Killer Instinct: The first film in director Jean-François Richet’s riveting, critically-acclaimed, two-part French gangster saga introduces us to the life and times of the notorious real-life French criminal dynamo Jacques Mesrine, portrayed by the electrifying Vincent Cassel (Black Swan,Read My Lips). Mesrine: Killer Instinct focuses on Mesrine’s early years, when, in the 1960s, he first turned his back on the safety and security of the middle-class to work his way swiftly and violently up the criminal ladder, under the tutelage of the notorious crime boss Guido (Gérard Depardieu). Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Director. In French with English subtitles. (113 min.)

Waste Land: Winner of the coveted Audience Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil. On the outskirts of Rio, Muniz has over the course of three years filmed a staggering portrait of catadores – self-designated pickers of recyclable materials at the world’s largest garbage dump. In this unimaginable landscape, director Lucy Walker has created a vision of both dignity and despair: stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the awesome alchemy of the human spirit. Human Rights Award, Amnesty International. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles.

The Sky Turns: “Tracing a year in the life of the village of Aldealsenor (population 14 and declining), this documentary is a consummately achieved, lyrical meditation on how to capture things before they’re gone forever. Set in a remote village in northwest Spain where director Mercedes Alvarez was the last person to be born – 30 years ago – and whose last inhabitants will shortly vanish, this film provides a rarified pleasure for discerning festival audiences. Much of the film is devoted to the often surreal, quietly humorous conversations of the aging locals, remarkable people who seem resigned to the forthcoming extinction of their way of life. More than just a record of a disappearing way of life, this superbly photographed film stresses deep connections with the larger cycles of time.” –Jonathan Holland, Variety. In Spanish with English subtitles. (115 min.)

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune: With the nation once again embroiled in foreign wars and hoping for change, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is a timely and relevant tribute to an unlikely American hero. Over the course of a meteoric music career that spanned two turbulent decades, Phil Ochs sought the bright lights of fame and social justice in equal measure – a contradiction that eventually tore him apart. From idealism to rage to pessimism, the arc of Ochs' life paralleled that of the times, and the anger, satire and righteous indignation that drove his music also drove him to despair. In this brilliantly constructed film, interview and performance footage of Ochs is illuminated by the insights of Joan Baez, Tom Hayden, Pete Seeger, Sean Penn, Peter Yarrow, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Sanders, and others. (98 min.)

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