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15 Films to See in March

Written by on February 27, 2019 

10. Apollo 11 (Todd Douglas Miller; March 8)

On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin embarked on a historic lunar odyssey, successfully landing on the moon and then returning to Earth. Free of talking heads, reenactments, and newly-recorded narration, the new documentary Apollo 11 takes viewers on this nine-day journey, constructed from astounding, never-before-seen 65mm Panavision, 35mm, and 16mm footage, as well as audio culled from over 18,000 hours of tapes. A perhaps initially unintended result when NASA handed over this remarkably pristine footage to director Todd Douglas Miller, his documentary is also a fascinating time capsule of this specific era. Continue reading my full review.

9. 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi; March 8)

3-faces-panahi

Following This Is Not a Film (2011), Closed Curtain (2013), and Taxi (2015), Jafar Panahi’s fourth film made under his ban premiered at Cannes Film Festival and is now coming to theaters. 3 Faces follows Behnaz Jafari and Panahi who investigate a troubling message from an aspiring actress. Giovanni Marchini Camia said in his Cannes review, “The director’s characteristic humanism and rejection of easy judgments suffuses the film with sincere empathy – refreshingly, he acknowledges his own role in the entrenched patriarchal culture he’s critiquing, both as a man and film director. As such, when 3 Faces closes on a bittersweet note, the hopeful gesture of its closing image feels neither cheap nor unearned.”

8. Combat Obscura (Miles Lagoze; March 15)

One of the very best documentaries we saw on the festival circuit last year was Combat Obscura, which premiered at last year’s True/False Film Festival. The film comes from Miles Lagoze, who took footage he shot as a Marine combat camera operator in Afghanistan, as well as videos taken by his comrades, and edited it all into a brisk, intense hour of war vignettes. Dan Schindel said in his review, “Combat Obscura sinks deeper into darkness as it progresses, as the utter pointlessness and futility of America’s presence in Afghanistan overwhelms the troops. While we are initially invited to empathize with the Marines, their jokey comradery gives way to vicious menace. There is no apparent mission, just a loop of injuries and reprisals against an amorphous outside threat.”

7. The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine; March 29)

Harmony Korine’s long-awaited return after 2012’s Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum will make its world premiere at SXSW and thankfully arrive quite soon in theaters. Led by Texas’s own Matthew McConaughey, he stars as the rebellious and lovable rogue Moondog as he partakes in misadventures. Also starring Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jimmy Buffett, Jonah Hill, and Martin Lawrence, the film is shot by Benoît Debie (Enter the Void, Spring Breakers) and will hopefully be a hazy, drug-fueled, entertaining experience that may make a fitting double feature with Inherent Vice.

6. An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo; March 8)

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Premiering a year ago at the Berlin International Film Festival, An Elephant Sitting Still is an impressive four-hour epic, the directorial debut drama from the late Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo. Our own Zhuo-Ning Su caught Elephant in Berlin (full review) and touched on the tragic loss of the film’s director and how his legacy should impact audiences: “It cheapens the creativity of the filmmaker to say that the writing’s on the wall (Hu took his own life last October after finishing Elephant), but it would also be disingenuous to not notice the real struggle underlying this four-hour epic. In any case it’s a terrible waste to lose such a remarkable, uncompromising voice in today’s government-censored, market-dictated Chinese cinema – let alone at just 29 years of age. One can only hope that this film which, for all its overt and emphatic bleakness did not end on a tragic note, could offer some sense of solace to its audience, even if it had not been enough for its brilliant maker.”

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