AFI’s Latin American Film Festival
In its 31st year of celebrating and showcasing Latin American cinema, the American Film Institute’s Latin American Film Festival moves entirely online, reimagined as a vibrant virtual showcase presenting the region’s prolific and versatile talent during National Hispanic Heritage Month. The 26 films in this year’s selection include seven U.S. premieres and feature everything from award winners to local box office hits to dynamic debuts from the next generation of filmmakers.
Among the highlights are Pablo Larraín’s festival opener Ema, an electrifying reggaeton-infused story of self-discovery starring Gael García Bernal and Chilean actress Mariana Di Girolamo; Mexican filmmaker Fernanda Valadez’s thriller Identifying Features, about would-be illegal U.S. immigrants who go missing, which took home the World Cinema Audience and Screenplay Awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante’s critically acclaimed supernatural thriller La Llorona, based on the folklore legend of the “Wailing Woman,” who drowned her children and mourns their deaths for eternity; Paraguayan writer-director Hugo Cardozo’s micro-budget horror and box office smash Morgue, about a security guard’s paranormal experiences while locked inside a morgue, which is being remade in English by Bird Box writer Eric Heisserer; and Puerto Rican filmmaker Cecilia Aldorando’s documentary Landfall, chronicling the aftermath of 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria through the eyes of those rebuilding their lives while dealing with incompetent local government and an uncaring Trump administration.
The festival closes with the U.S. premiere of Ecuadorian filmmaker Alfredo León León’s thriller Submersible, starring Terminator: Dark Fate‘s Natalia Reyes, about the drug-smuggling crew of a submarine who discover more than just narcotics in the hold while struggling to keep the vessel watertight.
The festival runs through Oct. 7, with individual films available to rent for $12, or a Festival Pass that unlocks every film for $150 (or $125 for AFI members). All films are available until Oct. 7 except for Landfall (Oct 1-3) and Blanco En Blanco and The Moneychanger (Oct. 2-4). For more information and a full schedule, visit www.afi.com/silver/laff. —Rhuaridh Marr
Shakespeare Everywhere Virtual Gala
For this year’s annual gala, the Shakespeare Theatre Company invites everyone to enjoy Shakespearean performances drawn from around the globe, presented free online. In addition to celebrating the legacy of the Tony Award-winning local theater company, Shakespeare Everywhere will explore the contributions of great Black artists throughout theater history through a combination of live and recorded performances put together by co-directors LeeAnet Noble (STOMP) and Alan Paul (Camelot).
Angela Bassett, Dame Judi Dench, Maureen Dowd, Norm Lewis, Joe Morton, and Courtney B. Vance are among the international stars set to appear in the hour long program hosted by artistic director Simon Godwin. Specific performance highlights include cast members from the company’s recent production of James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner; Biko’s Manna and Family, a family of musical prodigies from South Africa; operatic tenor Russell Thomas with an aria from Verdi’s Otello; actors from Japan’s Theatre Cocoon in a scene from Hamlet; and actors Gideon Firl and Michelle Mary Schaefer in a scene from Romeo and Juliet in American Sign Language while accompanied by the Antonio Parker Quintet.
Attendees are encouraged to donate to the company during the event as well as to bid on silent auction items, and fifteen randomly selected donors will win a $50 gift card redeemable at any restaurant in José Andres’ ThinkFood Group, from Jaleo to Oyamel to Zaytinya.
👨🏾💻😷👨💻: A Digital Theatre World Premiere
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Solas Nua, the D.C.-based Irish arts organization acclaimed for developing innovative shows in non-traditional theater spaces, has commissioned a series of digital plays from African-American playwright Jeremy Keith Hunter and Irish playwright John King. The company’s new season kicks off with a world-premiere participatory production that blends theater and technology for a humorous exploration into the concept of digital language, showing how it both helps and hinders human communication. It goes by a name comprised of three Emojis: 👨🏾💻😷👨💻. Calling it a groundbreaking work and “something I’ve never experienced before,” Solas Nua’s Rex Daugherty adds, “The title alone ‘speaks’ to the hybrid of digital theater that we are making: Can you even say this title out loud, or does it only exist in its own unique digital language?”
Through the use of WhatsApp as well as Zoom, the 45-minute work is set in a digital language class where the audience members act as students, engaged in an onscreen chat and a “text-chain” with their teachers, played by the D.C.-based Da’Von Moody and London-based Cormac Elliot. The focus is on helping Elliot find the words, digitally speaking, to explain his relationship with the ex-boyfriend who won’t stop texting. For optimal experience, it is recommended that “students” come to class with both a laptop and a smartphone. Through Oct. 11. Tickets are $20, with all proceeds supporting the artists. Visit www.solasnua.org.
October at The Birchmere
Got the itch for a true in-person live concert experience? If so, you can actually scratch that itch at the Birchmere, which back in July became the first in the area to reopen since the onslaught of COVID-19. Virginia’s legendary concert hall has continued to present shows in limited number and capacity, and October is shaping up to be the busiest yet at the venue in the pandemic. The Birchmere has enacted various measures to ensure proper social distancing along with enhanced cleaning procedures including, as it touts on its website, the use of “Biocide 100 Fog,” a 30-day treatment reportedly effective against COVID-19.
Highlights among this month’s schedule include “For the Love of Linda,” a concert featuring various artists paying tribute to the music of Linda Ronstadt as a benefit for the Parkinson’s Foundation (Oct. 2); the Prince Tribute Experience featuring Eugene “Junie” Henderson of hitmaking D.C. go-go band E.U. portraying the legendary Purple One and supported by a band comprised of veteran R&B and rock players (Oct. 3); Start Making Sense, a New York-based seven-piece band that faithfully recreates the music of David Byrne’s Talking Heads including the hits “Once In A Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” and “Psycho Killer” (Oct. 9); Samantha Fish, the rising 31-year-old blues/bluegrass singer-songwriter from the heartland (Oct. 19-20); Grammy Lifetime Achievement folkie Tom Paxton who will perform with his band the DonJuans for a concert also featuring veteran multi-instrumentalist folkie John McCutcheon (Oct. 25); and “An Intimate Evening with Marty Stuart,” two nights of a solo show featuring the multi-Grammy-winning Country Music Hall of Famer also known from his days as a member of Johnny Cash’s road band (10/30-31).
Doors open at 5 p.m. with the availability of food and beverages. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. The Birchmere is at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Ticket prices vary. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
This Friday, Oct. 2, Jónsi, the gay lead singer of Icelandic ambient rock band Sigur Ros, drops Shiver, his first solo album since 2010’s superb Go. The new album features guest contributions from the Swedish dance-pop diva Robyn (“Salt Licorice”) as well as Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins (“Cannibal”) and is said to plumb the depths of the human experience and our connection to the natural world.
“It pits the organic and dreamlike qualities of Jónsi against [co-producer] A. G. Cook’s synthetic, sometimes abrasive, and avant-garde experimentalism,” reads the press materials. The first single, “Swill,” is a swirl of sound and features a video by Barnaby Roper with animation by Pandagunda.
The album is said to continue the artist’s “quest to push the boundaries of not just what we consider art, but how we experience it,” building on his forays into visual art with recent solo shows as well as a series of collaborations with renowned visual artists such as Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson, Merce Cunningham, and artist and composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff. Jónsi has teamed up with von Hausswolff as the experimental musical duo Dark Morph. Visit www.jonsi.com.
Lenny Kravitz with Natalie Maines
“All through high school and college, I absolutely, 100-percent believed I was going to marry Lenny Kravitz. Not even a joke,” Natalie Maines revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show during a segment with her fellow Chicks back in March. No doubt she’ll elaborate on that adolescent fixation in a one-on-one conversation with the rockstar himself. But the focus of this P&P Live! Discussion, presented by Politics & Prose in partnership with the 9:30 Club, is on Kravitz’s new memoir, Let Love Rule. Also the name of his first single and debut album, the book reflects on the making of that 1989 album and more generally on the making of Kravitz’s career. The son of Jewish news producer Sy Kravitz and Black actress Roxie Roker (who starred as one-half of an interracial couple on The Jeffersons), Kravitz initially grew up in New York but came of age in Los Angeles. His introduction to fame came through the relationship with his first wife, Lisa Bonet (The Cosby Show), who was also instrumental in getting Kravitz the record deal that led to Let Love Rule.
Documenting the journey to finding his voice, the memoir centers on the idea that “love was the force that paved the way and love became my message,” Kravitz says in an official statement. In a September New York Times profile, Kravitz hinted that a second book is in the works, one that will examine his decades as a celebrity in a way that “will get real messy.”
Jane Franklin Dance: Live at the Athenaeum
Dancers in this company get a rare chance during the pandemic to perform together and share in the energy of moving bodies in the same space. Meanwhile, audience members will watch safely from their own homes as the local dance troupe performs a mixed-repertory program filled with interactive moments and real-time performances from the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria.
The bill includes Do Not Touch, featuring a cast of characters acting out an ordinary discussion about the weather that becomes heated (“it’s not just COVID-19 that limits the touch”). Told through movement, words, and images, the non-linear narrative piece puts on display the group dynamics involved in creating compromise.
Another piece, 1X7, consists of seven one-minute solos performed in side-by-side juxtaposition with artworks from the Athenaeum’s pandemic-centric exhibition Moments in Time…a very weird time. The program is rounded out by two videos: Wire Works, recorded at the Athenaeum in 2018 and showing moving-body interpretations of artworks by Ellyn Weiss, accompanied by spoken-word narration by Weiss, depicting extremophiles, or organisms that live in the most hostile environments on earth due to toxicity, lack of oxygen, or extreme heat and cold, and Fightin’ Words, a dance from the VelocityDC Dance Festival in 2016 described as “a bombastic romp of fist-shakin’ cartoon-carrying-on fun” and set to music composed by American fiddler Patrick McAvinue and performed by Luke Chohany. A Q&A will follow the program. Saturday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation of $10, with registration required to obtain the Zoom link. Visit www.janefranklin.com.
Spit Dat at Woolly Mammoth
Billed as the longest-running open-mike in D.C., Spit Dat is a weekly safe space gathering and showcase for spoken-word and poetry as well as stand-up and song, and a place for “all types to be — to simply be” that has touched down at various venues since 2002. A year ago, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company came on board as a partner and host of a more structured monthly edition loosely organized around a different theme.
Spit Dat: The Spook Who Spat by the Dat is the October virtual offering, inspired by Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, a provocative novel from 1969 and subsequent film about a Black CIA operative who trains young inner-city Black youth to rise up against the government using the agency’s own guerrilla tactics.
Among such tactics was the study and appreciation of Black poetry, to spur on the creation of artist-activists who “‘spook’ the establishment with the ‘spitting’ of their revolutionary spells.” The “cleverlutionary” spells of Kim B. Miller and 13 of Nazareth will be featured next week at Spit Dat Digital. The evening will be co-hosted by founder Drew Anderson, “a science teacher turned teaching artist, poet turned parodist, and marathon runner turned motivational speaker,” and Dwayne “B!” Lawson-Brown, a D.C.-native poet, activist, breakdancer, and fashion designer sometimes referred to as the “Crochet Kingpin.”
There will also be the occasional mystical presence of spirits, such as the infamous one named “Sexual Innuendo.” “Whenever somebody says something that could be taken the wrong way, feel free to point it out and enjoy yourself,” Lawson-Brown said in a March profile in DCist.com.
Monday, Oct. 5. Virtual Lobby opens at 7:30 p.m. followed by the show at 8 p.m. Presented on Zoom as well as Facebook (@woollymammothtc). Free and open to the public. Call 202-393-3939 or visit www.woollymammoth.net.
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