Cinema Explorations is a venture of the Maine Film Center dedicated to fostering the voices and choices of our community of film lovers. Our winter film series is programmed by a volunteer steering committee drawn from this community. Our goals are to present works of cinema from around the world that will enrich, educate and entertain filmgoers and encourage the shared experience of communal film viewing and thoughtful discussion.
Showtimes: All screenings will be held January through March on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00 a.m. at Railroad Square Cinema.
Individual tickets may be purchased at the door for $8 ($4 for children 12 and under).
Series passes may be purchased for $36 at the Railroad Square Cinema Box Office or ONLINE. Each pass admits one person to all six film screenings.
The Search for General Tso
January 10* & 11, 10 a.m.
Director Ian Cheney’s (King Corn, The Greening of Southie) The Search for General Tso traces the origins of Chinese American food through what is arguably America’s most popular takeout meal–General Tso’s Chicken. Anchoring the film is an upbeat quest, through small towns and big cities across America and beyond, to understand the origins and popularity of Chinese American food and its top-selling dish. Who was General Tso? And why do nearly fifty thousand restaurants serve deep-fried chicken bearing his name? Using this Americanized dish and its mysterious mastermind as a lens onto a larger story of immigration, adaptation, and innovation, the film follows a lighthearted journey, grounded in cultural and culinary history, through restaurants, Chinatowns, and the American imagination. Visits to present-day Chinese restaurants spark forays into the past, guided by chefs, scholars, and the occasional opinionated customer. The film’s lively soundtrack and shadow-puppet animations contribute both whimsy and momentum, as viewers find they’re on a search to answer a deeper question: how did America’s Chinese food become so… American?
In English and in Chinese with English subtitles. 71 minutes.
* Join us on Saturday, January 10 for a post-film Skype discussion with the film’s producer, Jennifer 8 Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a history of Chinese food in the U.S. and around the world.
The Longest Distance
January 24 & 25, 10 a.m.
The Longest Distance unveils two faces of the same country, Venezuela—a violent and chaotic city and a corner of paradise within the most ancient mountains on the planet. It shows two people in contrasting moments of their lives. Alike as reckless travelers, a grief-stricken child sets out alone through an entire country seeking a familial bond, and an older woman seeks resolution of her own grief, guilt, and physical decline through her own last one-way journey. The lives of the woman and her grandson intersect. They have known of, but have not known each other, yet are part of an unbreakable circle. The moments they share in the mountain paradise will enrich, heal, and bond. How do we choose our destiny or is it not ours to choose? It is no wonder that this film, set primarily in the lush Gran Sabana region of Venezuela around Mount Roraima, has won audience favorite awards at the Montreal World Film Festival (Glauber Rocha award for best Latin American feature) and at Huelva (Spain) Latin American Film Festival in 2013. Director Claudia Pinto Emperador won the ReelWomen Direct Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman at the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2014.
In Spanish with English subtitles. 113 minutes
On the Way to School
February 7* & 8, 10 a.m.
On the Way to School is about young people who live in all four corners of the planet and yet share a thirst for knowledge. Almost instinctively they know that their wellbeing—indeed their survival—depend on knowledge and education. From the dangerous savannahs of Kenya to the winding trails of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, from the suffocating heat of Southern India to the vast, dizzying plateaus of Patagonia in Argentina, these children are all united by the same quest, the same dream. Jackson, Zahira, Samuel and Carlito are the heroes of On the Way to School, a film that interweaves the four pupils forced to confront and overcome countless, often dangerous obstacles – enormous distances over treacherous territory, snakes, elephants, even bandits – on their journey to the classroom. By setting foot on their extraordinary path, by embarking on this adventure littered with traps and challenges, they will begin to leave their childhoods behind. Pascal Plisson’s film, winner of the Cesar (French equivalent of the Oscar) for Best Documentary, recounts the journey of initiation into the wider world that will change their lives forever.
In English, Arabic, Spanish, and Hindi with English subtitles. 77 minutes.
* Join us on Saturday, February 7 for a post-film discussion with Margy Burns Knight, children’s book author and educator
The Thief of Bagdad
February 21* & 22, 10 a.m.
The Thief of Bagdad is legendary producer Alexander Korda’s marvel inspired by The Arabian Nights. It is one of the most spectacular fantasy films ever made with pioneering eye-popping effects brimming with imagination and technical wizardry. When Prince Ahmad (John Justin) is blinded and cast out of Bagdad by the nefarious Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), he joins forces with the scrappy thief Abu (the incomparable Sabu, in his definitive role) to win back his royal place, as well as the heart of a beautiful princess (June Duprez). With its luscious Technicolor, vivid sets, and unprecedented visual wonders, The Thief of Bagdad has charmed viewers of all ages for decades. See it as it was intended to be seen—on the big screen in a theater!
In English. 106 minutes
* Join us on Saturday, February 21 for a post-film discussion with Bill Jefferson.
March 7* & 8, 10 a.m.
Diplomacy is a riveting adaptation by the great Volker Schlöndorff (Academy Award winner, The Tin Drum) and Cyril Gély of Gély’s own successful stage play. With the Allies marching toward Paris in the summer of 1944, Hitler orders that the French capital should not fall into enemy hands, or if it does, then ‘only as a field of rubble’. The person assigned to carry out this barbaric act is the Wehrmacht commander of Greater Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup), who already has explosives planted on the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre and Notre Dame, and on the bridges over the Seine. Hitler wants nothing left as a reminder of the city’s former glory. However, at dawn on August 25th, Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling (André Dussollier) steals into German headquarters through a secret underground tunnel and there begins a tension-filled game of cat-and-mouse as Nordling tries to persuade Choltitz to abandon his plan. Schlondorf and Gély have created a psychologically elaborate game of political manners between two highly contrasting characters. While Choltitz entrenches himself behind his duty to obey unquestioningly all military orders, Nordling tries everything he can to appeal to reason and humanity to prevent the senseless destruction of the beloved ‘City of Light’.
In French and German with English subtitles. 84 minutes.
Sponsored by Colby College History Department
* Join us on Saturday, March 7 for a post-film discussion with Professor Raffael Scheck.
Life Feels Good
March 21 & 22, 10 a.m.
View trailer on Vimeo
Life Feels Good is a film based on a true story. Mateusz is a man suffering with severe cerebral palsy, who during his early childhood in Poland had been diagnosed as a “retard” who was incapable of understanding and interacting with others. When he was twenty five years old it was discovered that he was perfectly normal and intelligent. The film is his chronicle of his own life. In retrospect, we see his life from childhood in the early 80s to the present time and accompany him in sad as well as in happy moments. We observe his attempts to prove that he is aware what is happening around him. We meet the love of his life—Anka—and how he came to lose her. We follow him when he leaves his home for a clinic for the mentally disabled. After many years, a coincidence reveals that the “retard” is very intelligent with perfectly normal emotions. Kamil Tkacz portrays Mateusz as a young boy. Dawid Ogrodnik plays him as an adolescent and adult. Both actors deliver superb performances. Ogrodnik won Best Actor prizes from the 2014 Polish Film Awards, the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival, the 2014 New York Polish Film Festival, and the 2013 Gdynia (Poland) Film Festival. The film has collected multiple awards including Audience Awards at the 2014 Polish Film Awards, the 2013 Montreal World Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, and two others.
In Polish with English subtitles. 112 minutes.
Our Steering Committee:
Bob Stewart, Clif Graves, Joel Johnson, Abbott Meader, Bill Jefferson
Alan Sanborn, Laurie Graves, Alice Johnson, Nancy Meader, Sam Sanborn