The 2011 murder of 91-year-old Georgetown socialite Viola Drath by her husband, Albrecht Muth, will get a cinematic treatement at the hands of actor Christoph Waltz, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Waltz will both direct the movie and portray Muth, the German fabulist who was convicted for Drath's murder in January 2014 and later sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Drath and Muth married in 1990, when she was 70 and he was 26. Besides the substantial age difference, their marriage turned heads in Georgetown for Muth's oddball antics, like marching down the sidewalks wearing military uniforms that seemed borrowed from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and claiming to be a general in the Iraqi army. (The Embassy of Iraq routinely denied Muth's claims.) Muth's trial was equally sensational, with psychiatrists repeatedly reversing the ruling of whether he was fit to stand trial.
Waltz's movie is tentatively titled The Worst Marriage in Georgetown, after a 2012 New York Times Magazine article by Franklin Foer from which it will be adapted. Production is expected to begin this October. Waltz, 58, is best known to US audiences for his Oscar-winning roles in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. He is also set to appear this year in Spectre, the latest James Bond film in which he plays "Oberhauser," a villain who may or may not actually be Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (But definitely is Blofeld.)
1. Another State of Mind, 1984
American Hardcore, 2006
Dogtown and Z-Boys, 2001
Salad Days, 2014
Bad Brains: A Band in DC, 2012
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, 2005
Barbershop Punk, 2010
Punk's Not Dead, 2007
We Who Wait: The Adverts & TV Smith, 2012
Breadcrumb Trail, 2014
The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, 2015
It's Gonna Blow!!!: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996, 2014
Riot on the Dance Floor, 2014
D.I.Y. or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist, 2002
Positive Force: More Than a Witness, 2014
Foo Fighters Sonic Highways, 2014
Let Fury Have the Hour, 2012
21. I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, 2008
There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, but only a small percentage have been tested for safety. Since 1975, breast cancer rates have jumped 30 percent. Over the last half-century, chemical use has spiked by 2,000 percent. If these numbers give you a jolt, you’re not alone. And they're just a sampling of the startling figures in the upcoming documentary, The Human Experiment, which features actor Sean Penn as an executive producer and narrator.
Filmmakers Don Hardy and Dana Nachman were shocked when they learned about the wide array of toxic chemicals lurking in seemingly innocuous household goods, such as water bottles, sofas, and even pajamas.
“If you’re coming to this issue without really knowing much about chemicals, it’s a gut punch,” Hardy says. In the film, the duo explores the many illnesses linked to the modern chemical revolution and reveals how often these substances come into contact with the human body.
The directors traveled the country culling stories of anti-toxics activists, who are pushing for corporate action and increased regulations from Washington. “I thought that was what the EPA and the FDA were for, that’s what their job was: to protect the public,” Hardy says. The documentary makes it clear that may not necessarily be the case. Penn narrates how lawmakers treat chemicals just like they treat criminals: “innocent until proven guilty.” The film also claims gaps in toxics legislation have made chemical regulation and testing difficult to implement.
These chemicals are everywhere—and in everything. Triclosan, an antibacterial linked to thyroid disruption, is found in soaps and all-purpose cleaners. Bisphenol-A (BPA)—that ubiquitous acronym found in plastics and the linings of food cans—mimics estrogen in the human body, potentially affecting your hormonal system. Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo once had the carcinogen formaldehyde in it. Toxic chemicals like these can be difficult to avoid—especially because of lax labeling requirements.
The Human Experiment hopes to educate consumers about the harms of toxic chemicals and push them to “switch to safer" goods. A full list of "safe" products can be found on the documentary's website. “It doesn’t have to be the ultimate clean product, but let’s just do something a little better than we did last year and find community that can help us get there,” Nachman says.
The documentary traverses chemical and political history, linking how the tobacco and lead industries defended their products in the past to how brands using potentially toxic chemicals defend their products today. Hardy and Nachman argue chemical lobbyists and companies have been able to keep dangerous compounds in goods through a vicious combination of politicking and funding biased scientific research. Still, the duo did their best to dodge the doomsday environmental documentary trope by ending the film on a positive note. “When we first started this movie there were a couple products on a shelf that you could buy that you would feel okay with—now there’s full shelves, full aisles,” Nachman says. “Change is happening.”
The movie’s release coincides with the 45th Earth Day on April 22. AMC Hoffman in Alexandria will play The Human Experiment beginning April 17.
No American president has ever matched the iconographic ethos of Abraham Lincoln. History wouldn't be the same without his face; it's etched onto the five dollar bill, Mount Rushmore, and a towering memorial.
An HBO documentary called Living With Lincoln, which premiered Monday at 9 PM ET, looks into the significance of his imagery. Peter Kunhardt, who directed the film and worked on it alongside sons George and Teddy, narrates his family's obsession with Lincoln photographs. Lincoln was the most photographed man of the 19th century, and the Kunhardt family came to hold hundreds of those photos.
Their collection began over a century ago with Kunhardt's great-grandfather, Frederick Hill Meserve, whose father met Lincoln after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Years later, Meserve started amassing the President's photographs. "Photography was only taking off the in late 1850s and 1860s, so [Meserve's] timing was ideal," Kunhardt says. "Lincoln had a very good sense of self-promotion in knowing he needed it in his political career. He purposely sat down for lots of photographs. Other people just weren't doing it in those days to the degree he was."
"[Lincoln] was the man about town, certainly during the Civil War, in Washington," says James Barber, a historian from Alexandria who curates exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery. "He would walk down to photography galleries and sit for a few photographs. He liked doing this. It was a chance for him to chat with a photographer. It was a way for him to slow things down."
Meserve went on to consult on Lincoln's likeness for his memorial. He also contributed the portraits used to etch Lincoln onto the five dollar bill, the penny, and Mount Rushmore. "There was a fervor about memorializing him," Kunhardt says. "[Meserve] was the one they turned to to get a clear image of what Lincoln looked like. He was a conduit through which research was done."
He eventually brought together a staggering collection of Lincoln memorabilia. The Yale Beinecke Library recently purchased 68,000 images, in addition to thousands of prints, books, maps, and other documents. Barber helped the Kunhardts develop a numbering system to organize their collection. (The Portrait Gallery currently houses 5,000 glass plate negatives purchased from the Kunhardt family.)
Living With Lincoln delves into the President's fascination with portraiture but also centers on Kunhardt's grandmother's dedication to her father's Lincoln fixation, as well as her aspirations as a children's book author. Despite depression and the weight of what had become a familial duty, she held firm in her commitment to the collection.
"The [film's] message was bigger than Lincoln and bigger than our family," Kunhardt says. "At the core of this is life-work balance." For Barber, the endurance of Lincoln's legacy is as much about the President himself as it is about those who spent decades materializing it. "That's the one very interesting characteristic about the man: He wasn't handsome, and he wasn't much to look at, but he almost seemed to be fascinated by the photographic process," Barber says. "He was a man who was very concerned about how history would remember him."
Actor Steve Buscemi is helping to raise money for the documentary.By Emily Codik
America's first and only documented gang of gay and transgender youths started ten years ago in DC's Trinidad neighborhood, when a few ninth graders banded together and fought back against their bullies. Today, the gang--called the Check It--has more than 200 members, ages 14 to 22, who might wear lipstick and stilettos, but also carry weapons like knives and brass knuckles. Together, they combat the violence and hatred they've encountered growing up.
Their tale is the subject of an upcoming independent documentary produced by actor Steve Buscemi, alongside directors/producers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer. "They've had to band together out of necessity," Buscemi says of the gang in the film's trailer. "Instead of running away from the dangers that they face daily, they decided to fight back."
That fighting spirit is exactly what drew Flor and Oppenheimer to the story. They first came across the gang when they were filming another DC flick--the Nine Lives of Marion Barry, which aired in 2009 on HBO. They met local activist Ron Moten while making that film; Moten told the producers about the Check It and arranged a pow-wow with members at the Denny's on Bladensburg Road in Northeast. At the meeting, Flor and Oppenheimer realized they had come across an extremely important tale. "We knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime story," Flor says. "Their personal stories were totally unique."
These kids have faced discrimination throughout their entire lives. Members tell stories of being stabbed or shot. Some have served time in juvenile detention centers; others were born to mothers addicted to crack. "Just being black you have a lot of odds against you," Moten says in the film's trailer. "Being gay and black... it's like a nightmare waiting to happen."
The gang members joined together to defend and support each other; but for the filmmakers, that tight-knit bond at first proved difficult to infiltrate. The partners began working on the film three years ago, gradually immersing themselves in gang members' lives. "These are kids who have been let down by everybody in their life," Flor says. "In order to have a relationship, you have to assert them that you're for real, that you're not going to go away."
The documentary will not only go into the challenges members face, but also depict their dream of launching a fashion line. Now in the editing stage, Flor and Oppenheimer have launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance finishing their film. Ten percent of the funds will go directly to the gang's fashion line and help them purchase fabric and sewing machines.
The duo hopes to release the film this fall, but to do so, they need the community's support. The campaign, which has less than three days to go, has raised about $50,000. "We need as much support as humanly possible," Flor says. "It's an amazing story that really needs to be told."
March offers several film festivals, encompassing everything from internationally acclaimed documentaries to locally produced shorts. Here are four to keep on your radar:
This year's festival goes on thanks in part to a $15,000 contribution from the National Endowment for the Arts. More than 150 films, including several DC, US, and world premieres, examine climate change, endangered wildlife, clean-water issues, and related topics. A highlight: Filmmaker Luc Jacquet presents a survey of his films, including the Oscar-winning March of the Penguins and Ice & Sky, a new work. March 17-29; selected films $10 to $12, others free.
Opening night, Theater J; other screenings, Angelika Mosaic
See 16 contemporary films focused around the Jewish faith or made by Israeli artists. Top picks include The Green Prince, a thriller based on the memoir of Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who spied for Israel; Arlo & Julie, a quirky tale of a couple who become obsessed with the mysterious daily delivery of puzzle pieces to their doorstep; and Above and Beyond, about the early days of the Israeli Air Force. March 19-29; $12; festival pass $64.
Filmmakers from the Washington area will be around to answer questions after their five short films at this festival, making it an excellent chance to familiarize yourself with local talent. Be sure to catch The Stillbrave 100, which chronicles Springfield runner "Tattoo" Tom Mitchell as he completes a 100-mile trail, dedicating each mile to a different child with cancer. March 20-21; $10.
Catch 70 documentaries, narratives, and shorts, plus Q&As and panel discussions. Don't miss the searing Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing, in which members of an Indonesian death squad reenact the murders they committed. March 26-29; $12; festival pass $105.
You've got exactly a month to catch up on all the films nominated for the 87th Academy Awards, which will be presented February 22. But movie tickets are expensive! Luckily, as has become a Washington tradition, the National Archives is making it easy on your wallet/office Oscars pool by presented free screenings of some of the nominated titles.
For the 11th year in a row, you can catch all the contenders in four categories—documentary feature, documentary short, live-action short, and animated short—in the William G. McGowan Theater during the week leading up to the Oscars. Things kick off on February 18 with Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester’s documentary Last Days in Vietnam at 7, with a different feature-length documentary every evening and the shorts screening as groups in the daytime. Making things even more convenient this year, you can reserve seats ahead of time by visiting the website or calling 202-357-6814; doors open 45 minutes before the scheduled start time, and walk-ins will be admitted 15 minutes before depending on space. Screenings run through February 22 at 6 PM, just in time for visitors to get home in time for the Oscars.
See the full schedule of screenings below.
Documentary Feature Nominees
Wednesday, February 18, 7 PM
Last Days in Vietnam
Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
(98 minutes; unrated)
Thursday, February 19, 7 PM
Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
(114 minutes; rated R)
Friday, February 20, 7 PM
The Salt of the Earth
Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
(110 minutes; rated PG-13)
Saturday, February 21, 7 PM
Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
(90 minutes; unrated)
Sunday, February 22, 4 PM
Finding Vivian Maier
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
(83 minutes; unrated)
Live-Action Short Film Nominees
Saturday, February 21, noon
Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
(40 minutes; unrated)
Boogaloo and Graham
Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
(14 minutes; unrated)
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
Hu Wei and Julien Féret
(15 minutes; unrated)
Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
(25 minutes; unrated)
The Phone Call
Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
(20 minutes; unrated)
Total Running time: 114 minutes.
Animated Short Film Nominees
Saturday, February 21, 3:30 PM
The Bigger Picture
Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
(8 minutes; unrated)
The Dam Keeper
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
(18 minutes; unrated)
Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
(6 minutes; unrated)
Me and My Moulton
(14 minutes; unrated)
A Single Life
(3 minutes; unrated)
Total Running Time: 49 minutes.
Documentary Short Subject Nominees
Sunday, February 22, 11 AM
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
(47 minutes; unrated)
(45 minutes; unrated)
Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
(28 minutes; unrated)
The Reaper (La Parka)
Gabriel Serra Arguello
(29 minutes; unrated)
J. Christian Jensen
(20 minutes; unrated)
The motto of the Washington West Film Festival is “Story can change the world.”
From October 22 to 26, the fest, now in its fourth year, brings some 40 independent narrative and documentary films to Reston’s Bow Tie Cinemas, the Angelika Film Center and Cafe in Fairfax, and other Northern Virginia venues. Though fast-growing, Washington West is still a local, intimate affair, so you can interact with filmmakers at Q&As and special events.
All box-office proceeds go to a philanthropic organization or project, and the festival’s work with that group becomes the subject of a short film that opens every screening the next year; this year’s short is about Washington West’s involvement with Shelter House, a facility for homeless families in Fairfax County.
With supporters including Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus—who grew up in Washington—the festival has also helped fund a new school and theater in Haiti as well as relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy victims. Attendees are encouraged to carry forward the festival’s message by volunteering at a featured nonprofit afterward.“The idea is that we’re attaching our audience to the creation of a story that gives hope, that cares or shows compassion for a community in need,” says founder Brad Russell.
Louis-Dreyfus coproduced a documentary in this year’s festival, Generosity of Eye. Directed by her husband and fellow Saturday Night Live alum Brad Hall—who is expected to attend with her—the film explores the decision by the actress’s father, William Louis-Dreyfus, to sell off his extensive art collection to benefit the Harlem Children’s Zone. Other highlights are Alive Inside, a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner about music therapy for Alzheimer’s patients; Revenge of the Green Dragons, a gangster film starring Ray Liotta and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, among others; and a film-and-TV-scoring event featuring W.G. Snuffy Walden, who composed the music for Friday Night Lights and The West Wing.
Russell’s objective is for audiences to walk away motivated to be a “contributor, not just a consumer.” A community with as much affluence as Washington “can make sizable differences in the world, and in the area, if we come together for good.”
Find more information at filmfest.com.
This article appears in our October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
David Fincher’s Gone Girl finally hit theaters last weekend, after what felt like months (and months) of internet hype, and immediately rocketed to the top of the box office. If you’ve already re-read Gillian Flynn’s book and gotten your fill of full-frontal Ben Affleck—but are still looking to scratch your itch for stories about, ahem, unusual relationships—this weekend offers plenty of options at theaters around Washington.
Opening Friday at E Street Cinema is Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch’s vampire love story starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton. Before you cry Twilight foul, know that this flick involves zero werewolves, and the main characters’ lust runs more to exploring the vast realm of art and culture than each other’s undead bodies. An eternity to stay ahead of the cultural curve? It’s every hipster’s dream.
Also opening Friday at E Street is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and Him, two separate films that explore a couple’s crumbling marriage from each party’s distinct perspective. Them, the third version of the story Ned Benson created, was the only one to get a wide release, but critics have reviewed both gender-divided versions more favorably. Decide for yourself which half of the couple is in the right.
October 10 through 16, the Goethe-Institut puts on the Film Neu festival, featuring new works from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The lineup this year includes Love Steaks, a partially improvised film about an unlikely friendship between a pair of hotel workers (the supporting cast members are all actual hotel employees rather than actors); and Age of Cannibals, a “German Wolf of Wall Street” about two ruthless business consultants at war with each other. See the full schedule of films online.
Showing through Thursday at West End Cinema is Fort Bliss, which stars Michelle Monaghan as a hyper-competent Army medic returning home and attempting to reconnect with her young son and ex-husband. Written and directed by Washington local Claudia Myers, it’s a film that translates the idea of work/life balance through the lens of modern war to heartbreaking effect.
On Friday, the Angelika Film Center in Fairfax offers a late-night screening of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s famous adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a family trying to survive the winter—and a serious case of cabin fever—in a terrifying Colorado hotel.
Sick of thinking about bad relationships? AFI Silver Theatre provides some even scarier subjects. Its annual Spooky Movie International Horror Film Fest, running October 9 through 18, includes titles such as the pulpy Call Girl of Cthulhu, the Iranian vampire flick A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and the Australian haunted-house film The Babadook.
An average, hard-working man must document all of human life before earth is destroyed. A girl and boy use shoelaces to make the world a better place. A man loses his wife but finds a big brass band. Out of 135 short films from 25 countries in this year’s DC Shorts Film Festival, these were some of the judges’ favorite stories. The festival wrapped up with a Best Of screening this weekend, at which the selections were whittled down to ten of the year's most thoughtful, hilarious, and surprising two- to 29-minute films. Though two of the top ten do not have trailers available online, you can get a look at the other eight below; find the full list of winners here. (Film descriptions are via DC Shorts.)
“Cadet”: Outstanding Live-Action Short
Pushed by his coach/father, a young runner eventually lashes out at the least expected moment.
“Yearbook”: Outstanding Animated Short
With the end of the world right around the corner, a man is asked to write the final pages of recorded human history.
“The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed”: Outstanding Documentary Short
A retired Air Force officer realizes he was at the center of a huge political scandal during the Kennedy administration.
“Lialou”: Outstanding First-Time Director
A couple seeks to change the world with, of all things, shoelaces.
“The Chaperone”: Festival Director’s Choice
When a motorcycle gang crashes a school dance, there’s only one person who can restore order: the chaperone.
“What Cheer?”: Filmmaker’s Favorite
Struggling to overcome the death of his wife, a man is tormented by a cheerful marching band that follows him seemingly everywhere.
“They Are the Last”: Special Jury Mention for Excellence in Storytelling
A day in the life of a lighthouse keeper on a remote cape off the Uruguayan coastline.
“This is Me”: Special Jury Mention for Importance of Storytelling
Balinda shares her story of how medical marijuana has changed her life.