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March 29 – May 12, 2019

Cinema of Resistance

At a time when so many are called to resist the White House’s attacks on numerous fronts, we at the HFA feel compelled to do our part. Cinema has always been a method of examining the world as it is, with the possibility of raising understanding, inspiring change, and imagining other possibilities. Cinema of Resistance is a monthly series of films that embraces these alternate possibilities, animated by the spirit of protest and designed to call out oppression and demand justice. These screenings will be designed to spark discussion, beginning in our theater directly after the screening.

$12 Speical Event Tickets
Lav Diaz in Person

Friday March 29 at 6pm

Season of the Devil
(Ang panahon ng halimaw)

Directed by Lav Diaz. With Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao, Bituin Escalante
Philippines 2018, DCP, b/w, 234 min. Filipino and Tagalog with English subtitles

The latest work by Filipino master director Lav Diaz (b. 1958) reaffirms his status as one of the most courageously uncompromising and visionary artists working in cinema today. A stark, harrowing, yet utterly mesmerizing vision of life under the brutal Marcos dictatorship, Season of the Devil adds another chapter to the tableau history of the modern Philippines unfolding across major Diaz films including his recent From What Is Before (2014) and The Woman Who Left (2016). In Season of the Devil Diaz takes a bold new direction by asking his actors to sing, acapella, a score of thirty songs written by the director in a return to his first career as a rock musician. A kind of rock opera, Season of the Devil is animated by a raw theatricality that tests and extends the actors’ voices, giving a breathing and incantatory quality to songs that move from plaintive ballads to menacing chants to repeating choral cries. Set in 1979, at the height of Marcos’ reign, Season of the Devil revolves around a selfless young doctor who leaves her poet husband behind to depart for the remote Ginto Island to run a village clinic in defiance of a local female-led militia determined to undermine her efforts. Hovering darkly over the film is a terrifying and literally two-faced tyrant, the ruthless Chairman Narisco who pointedly melds qualities of Marcos with current Presidential despot Rodrigo Duterte to offer a frightening reminder of the dark cyclicality of history. Season of the Devil was, in fact, conceived while Diaz was a 2017-18 Film Study Center-Radcliffe Fellow, researching a still planned personal history of Filipino cinema but also writing songs as a way to address the painful news of the horrific violence and injustice unleashed across the Philippines as Duterte began to consolidate power. Among Diaz’ darkest films, Season of the Devil nevertheless offers a fragile emblem of hope in the figures of the noble doctor and her idealistic poet husband, as well as the mysteriously fleeting woman played by popular Filipina singer Bituin.

Also screening as part of the Season of the Devil by Lav Diaz program.

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$12 Speical Event Tickets
Ja'Tovia Gary in Person

Friday April 26 at 7pm

An Evening with Ja’Tovia Gary

The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to welcome filmmaker and artist Ja’Tovia Gary, a 2018-19 Film Study Center-Radcliffe Fellow to present an evening of radical Black film and cinema of resistance pairing a selection of her recent films together with Mauritanian filmmaker Med Hondo’s extraordinary musical cri de coeur: West Indies

The moving image work of Ja’Tovia Gary (b. 1984) vigorously reanimates Black culture and voice, often by reworking and reappropriating images, be they from archival footage or unexpected visions of iconic sites, such as Monet’s garden in Giverny. Visually stunning, Gary’s short films are powerfully open texts which use animation techniques to invent new modes of engaged cinema that ask the viewer to watch and listen differently. Gary’s vibrant lyrical films are both subtly political and sharp-edged yet also driven by a restless search for sublime beauty.

Along with Ousmane Sembène, Med Hondo is a founding father of African cinema and one of the most talented, versatile and influential filmmakers to emerge from the continent. At its core, Hondo's cinema seeks to create an autonomous Afro-modern subject, one who exercises agency over the politics, culture and destiny of her continent. But such an endeavor necessitates the overcoming of numerous historical, political, economic and cultural obstacles: the painful history of the transatlantic slave trade; the bitter legacies of colonialism and neocolonialism; the hegemony of global capitalism; the collusion of African elites with the corrupt systems that capitalism creates; and the inability of those elites to imagine and usher in a different future for the continent.

In the face of such daunting challenges, Hondo posits a cinema of radical indocility, one that seeks out strategies of emancipation across several axes: history as both explanatory factor and source of inspiration and agency; struggle as the inevitable corollary of any such project of emergence; and Pan-African solidarity as the precondition for a wider class solidarity against the system of capitalist domination. In exploring the specificity of the African experience (both on the continent and in the diaspora) and the possibilities for the emergence of an Afro-modern subject, Hondo thus explores the possibility for the emergence of an entirely new world.

One of Hondo’s enduring masterpieces, West Indies is a stunning widescreen musical that takes place entirely on a single set: a giant slave ship symbolizing the triangular relationship between Africa, Europe and the Caribbean as it explores the parallels between the forced migration of the Atlantic slave trade and the contemporary migration of Afro-Caribbean subjects to former colonial metropoles. In a breathtaking display of virtuosity, Hondo deftly uses an array of filmic techniques (a vertically oriented mise-en-scène, dexterous tracking shots, beautifully orchestrated long takes) to explore four centuries of history within his single location, signaling temporal shifts through fluid camera movements and sumptuous staging; meanwhile, the remarkable range of musical styles; witty, poignant, and rousing lyrics; and brilliant choreography dazzle the senses and invite the spectator to join in the struggle to transform the world.

Said Hondo: “I wanted to free the very concept of musical comedy from its American trademark. I wanted to show that each people on earth has its own musical comedy, its own musical tragedy and its own thought shaped through its own history.” – Haden Guest

Hondo text by Aboubakar Sanogo, Carlton College.

Co-sponsored by the Film Study Center, Harvard.

Special thanks: Jennifer Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities; Meredith Quinn, Executive Director, Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program; Julie Mallozzi, Film Study Center.

West Indies

Directed by Med Hondo. With Robert Liensol, Roland Bertin, Hélène Vincent
France/Algeria/Mauritania 1979, 35mm, color, 113 min. French with English subtitles



Preceded by

An Ecstatic Experience

Directed by Ja’Tovia Gary
US 2015, digital video, color & b/w, 6 min


Giverny I (Négresse Impériale)

Directed by Ja’Tovia Gary
US 2017, digital video, color, 6 min


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Sunday May 12 at 5pm

The Dead Nation (Tara moarta)

Directed by Radu Jude
Romania 2017, DCP, b/w, 83 min. Romanian with English subtitles

The stark poetry of Radu Jude’s documentary startles with an incongruent beauty and intimate horror. As the unearthed archive of photos from Costica Ascinte’s Foto Splendid studio—depicting the daily life of Romanians from 1937–1945—drifts across the screen, national anthems and politician’s speeches play. Interupting the mysterious pleasure of these crisp, yet decaying photographs whose subjects—despite their staging and posing—appear to exude an unvarnished frankness, the narration of a Jewish physician’s first-hand account during those same years details the apocalyptic reality of the vicious plague descending upon the Jewish people. “So much darkness in this hateful century” writes Emil Dorian as only glimpses of the pogrom—a spate of fascist salutes, for instance—appear in Romania’s stoic face for the camera. The negative transference of Jude’s discordant audio/visual history, as a nation’s outer appearance masks its inner decay, eerily reflects the division between Christians and Jews deepening into a frighteningly grotesque chasm. Like the photographs’ decomposition which occasionally allows only eyes or a mouth to remain visible, the doctor describes the corrosion of humanity steadily eating away at Europe, one that also distorted and dissolved a nation’s very memory, which, for its citizens to carry on, seems to have been extinguished before its formation.

Also screening as part of the Romanian Cinema Now program.

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