“5 Blocks,” “Santiago, Italia,” And Other Roxie Virtual Cinema Offerings

by on May 19, 2020

Images from Santiago, Italia (Nanni Moretti, 2019)

Over the weeks of coronavirus lockdown, the Roxie Virtual Cinema has made new thought-provoking films available to filmgoers with a good streaming connection.  Part of the ticket price helps support the Roxie Theater.

However, knowing what’s still available for screening and what’s departing merits frequent check-ins on the Roxie website.  A few weeks ago, virtual cinema patrons could see “Bacurau” and “Fantastic Fungi.”  The lineup has completely changed now.

Here are some Virtual Cinema offerings currently slated to end their run on May 21:

If you’ve missed the previously reviewed Dan Goldes and Robert Cortlandt documentary “5 Blocks,” don’t sleep on it.  San Francisco’s Market Street once had a reputation for being America’s grandest boulevard.  Located mere minutes from City Hall, the Central Market area in particular became a popular venue for city celebrations.  However, over the years the area fell into such decline that it became home to San Francisco’s poorest residents.

Goldes and Cortlandt’s film follows the changes to the Central Market Area that occurred from 2011 to 2019.  The tech boom brought to the area tech companies, the companies’ employees, and the stores and restaurants that catered to these new arrivals.  But the prosperity represented by these companies also casts the shadow of sharp income inequality over the poor residents who still resided in the area.  Can Central Market have both inexpensive restaurants and stores for its poorer residents and trendy and expensive places for the techies?

If you haven’t caught the previously reviewed adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital In The Twenty-First Century,” now would be a good time to do so.  Learn why current economic trends could make today’s 1% the equivalent of 18th and 19th century aristocrats…and why such a development is terrible for society as a whole.

Also in the don’t miss category is Matt Wolf’s new documentary “Spaceship Earth.”  Wolf’s film chronicles the strange-but-true experiment known as Biosphere 2.  In 1991, eight people volunteered to house themselves for two years inside a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem.  Were the volunteers living inside Biosphere 2 (as the replica was called) offering a living cautionary tale regarding humanity’s abuse of the environment?  Or were these eight volunteers little more than self-deluded cultists?  Wolf’s film offers viewers a chance to decide for themselves.

Here are some of the new Virtual Cinema offerings that have arrived over the weekend:

Nanni Moretti’s amazing documentary “Santiago, Italia” brings a new take to a familiar political tragedy.  More politically aware readers will remember how Salvador Allende’s democratically elected leftist Chilean government was destroyed through a Chilean right wing military coup aided by the US government.  Allende government supporters faced prospective liquidation or worse by Augusto Pinochet’s fascist regime.   Fortunately, personnel at the Italian Embassy in Chile saved and relocated Chileans targeted by the new regime.  Moretti’s film tells the story of the embassy personnel’s selfless actions.

For viewers who prefer their real-life fascist history with touches of the visually weird, they should check out the utterly bonkers stop-motion animated film “The Wolf House.”  As a framing sequence explains, the film is attempted cultural damage control by a bunch of German religious fanatics known as The Colony who are living in Pinochet-era Chile.  The twisted children’s fable that forms the film within the film is intended to show that The Colony’s residents are far from the monsters rumor has painted them as.  In the fable, a Colony member named Maria flees to a weird abandoned house in the woods to escape punishment for some unspecified crime.  But inside this found refuge, furniture sprouts from the walls and framed pictures move of their own violation from one wall to another.  Is the film within the film a disguised parable about the Pinochet regime?  Or should the viewer just sit back and prepare to watch some crazypants animated images?  The curious can decide for themselves.

For those who prefer their queer cultural history with a heavy dose of figurative knocking onto one’s posterior, the documentary “Dykes, Camera, Action!” might fill the bill.  The film tells how lesbians tired of cinematic invisibility decided to make films capturing dyke lives and truths ignored by queer cinema of the 1970s.  Among the interviewees featured are the always cool film critic B. Ruby Rich, filmmakers Cheryl Dunye and Su Friedrich, and even Bay Area film culture treasure Jenni Olson.

The screening period and ticket price varies with the Roxie Virtual Cinema film selected.  But whichever film the viewer chooses to screen, they can be happy they’re helping keep a local cinematic jewel alive with their ticket purchase.

(For tickets and further information about the current offerings at the Roxie Virtual Cinema, go to www.roxie.com .)

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment