“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director,” said Alfred Hitchcock. Judging by this week’s diverse selection of documentaries, God is (a) a conservationist, (b) Don Draper, (c) a folk fan, and (d) a parent. Fashionistas should hurry to the Hirshhorn Thursday night for a free screening of Bill Cunningham New York before it hits area screens later in the month. French-cinema fans might want to do the same with L’Arnacoeur before it’s made into a rom-com with Matthew McConaughey or Zac Efron. Otherwise, enjoy this week’s thoroughly subjective guide to film Washington, and remember what Woody Allen said about filmmaking (and life): “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Tuesday, March 8
Catch The Last Lions this week at Landmark Bethesda Row. The Jeremy Irons-narrated (ironically enough Irons was also the voice of Scar in The Lion King) documentary—about a lioness who battles to protect her three cubs after her partner is killed by an invading tribe—was made from more than a year’s worth of footage by husband-and-wife filmmaking team Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Get tickets ($10) at Landmark Theatre’s Web site.
Wednesday, March 9
Never miss an episode of Mad Men? Artisphere has a screening of Art & Copy tonight, Doug Pray’s documentary about some of the 20th century’s most successful advertising campaigns, from Got Milk? to Just Do It. The movie was called a “fascinating study of the creative process” by Wired. Tickets ($6) are available at the door; more information at Artisphere’s Web site.
Thursday, March 10
L’Alliance Française de Washington presents a screening of French comedy L’Arnacoeur (The Heartbreaker) tonight, as part of its Ciné Francophone series. The movie—sort of an anti Hitch about a professional seducer who breaks couples up rather than unite them—stars Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis. Buy tickets ($9) at L’Alliance Française’s Web site.
The Hirshhorn inaugurates its spring film series tonight with a one-off screening of Bill Cunningham New York, Richard Press’s documentary about the legendary New York Times street-fashion photographer. In a New York magazine piece this week, Press said the film took ten years to make: “eight to persuade Bill to do it and two to shoot and edit the film.” The Hirshhorn is also marking the occasion by giving away a Schwinn bicycle on Twitter; for more details on the giveaway and the free screening, visit the Hirshhorn’s Web site.
The New African Films Festival opens today at AFI Silver Theatre; for more information on individual films and screening times visit AFI Silver’s Web site.
Friday, March 11
Ever wondered what Sean Penn and Christopher Hitchens have in common? They’re both fans of ’60s protest singer Phil Ochs, and they both participated in Kenneth Bowser’s documentary, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune. The film opens at West End Cinema tonight; it was called “a thoughtful, probing documentary” by the Los Angeles Times. Buy tickets ($11) at West End’s Web site.
Saturday, March 12
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, the National Gallery has a film program dedicated to “Risorgimento” this weekend, including Allonsanfan, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s drama about an aristocratic Italian revolutionary, and The Leopard, Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece about a Sicilian nobleman whose life is thrown into disarray by the new social hierarchy (Burt Lancaster stars). Tickets are free; more information is on the National Gallery’s Web site.
Sunday, March 13
The Kids Grow Up, documentary filmmaker Doug Block’s follow-up to 51 Birch Street—a movie about his parents’ marriage—opens at the Avalon Theatre Friday. This time, Block’s lens is turned toward his daughter, Lucy, a high-school senior preparing to leave for college. The New York Times’ A. O. Scott called the film “partly a scrapbook, partly a memoir and, most movingly, an essay on the passage of time and the mysterious connections between parents and children.” Get tickets ($11) through Avalon’s Web site.
Monday, March 14
Nothing dispels a case of the Mondays better than a screwball comedy-musical with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Carefree is at the AFI Silver Theatre tonight; the story of a psychiatrist who accidentally causes a patient to fall in love with him starts at 5:30. Purchase tickets ($11) at AFI Silver Theatre’s Web site.