I did a double-take when I passed artist-activist Ai Weiwei on the street at the Telluride Film Festival in September. I think I was moved by a sense of history upon seeing him, and certainly by the knowledge of his arrest and imprisonment by Chinese authorities in 2011. He was at Telluride presenting HUMAN FLOW, his epic, new documentary about conditions in refugee camps, where millions are suffering and enduring after escaping the ethnic and religious violence and economic catastrophe of their homelands. Working with eleven cinematographers, he travels through Greece, Italy, Jordan, Hungary, Lebanon, the Gaza strip, Kenya, France and Germany. Weiwei patiently, lucidly depicts a slow-motion holocaust occurring on a planetary scale, while keeping his eyes open to the heroism of aid workers. Mostly we see the courage, humor, and tenacity of immigrants struggling to find a way to live with dignity. HUMAN FLOW plays Saturday and Sunday only at 1:15.
I rarely book movies for thematic reasons. Instead, common themes serendipitously emerge after the fact. I would title the common thread binding Friday's movies REMARKABLE INDIVIDUALS. Certainly the aid workers in HUMAN FLOW are part of this, as is Jane Goodall, in the wondrous and stirring portrait JANE. No less compelling is the fictional retelling recounted in ONLY THE BRAVE and STRONGER.
Drawing on over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgan tells the story of JANE, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Set to a rich orchestral score from legendary composer Philip Glass, the film offers an unprecedented, intimate portrait of Jane Goodall - a trailblazer who defied the odds to become one of the world's most admired conservationists. "Its epic elements of adventure, romance and spiritual connection possess a sweep equal to any narrative film." -Hollywood Reporter
Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, ONLY THE BRAVEis the heroic story of one unit of local firefighters who become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the nation. Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Miles Teller headline this spellbinding and emotionally shattering story.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in STRONGER as Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become the symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. "STRONGER takes more artistic risks than any other American-made "inspired by true events" picture I can recall." -Glenn Kenny, The New York Times