BAMcinématek presents Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, September 12-14

Brooklyn, August 8, 2008–From September 12-14 BAMcinématek, the repertory film program at BAM Rose Cinemas, presents a film selection from the annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in Brooklyn for the first time. Founded in 1955, the Seminar is an annual showcase for non-fiction cinema. This year’s program, The Age of Migration, probes how hybrid documentaries, video blogs, and speculative histories have become connective tissues which collapse physical distances and accentuate emotional connections. This series is curated by Chi-hui Yang, director of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.
The series begins on September 12 with Calavera Highway (2008) by Oscar-nominated director Renee Tajima-Peña (Who Killed Vincent Chin?, 1987). The documentary follows a Mexican-American man (Armando Peña, the husband of the director) as he embarks on a road trip from Los Angeles to south Texas carrying his mother’s ashes and visiting each of his brothers en route. When reunited with his far flung siblings, the brothers begin piecing together family history. They strive to answer questions about why their mother was disowned by her family and what happened when their father disappeared during 1954’s U.S. deportation program.
Two films which mix documentary and fiction elements screen on September 13: The Exiles (1961), directed by U.S. director Kent MacKenzie, which received its theatrical premiere release in New York in July of this year, and Casa de Lava (1994), directed by acclaimed Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa (Colossal Youth, 2006). The New York Times calls The Exiles “a poetic and empathetic hybrid of fiction and documentary” and notes how one of the cinematographers, John Morrill, connected it to the documentary tradition of Robert Flaherty, who was known to include staged elements.

A film about the lives of young American Indians living in
Los Angeles in the 50s, the film was shot on evenings and weekends for a period of three years with non-professional actors. The Exiles will be introduced by Robert Flaherty Film Seminar Executive Director Mary Kerr. On The Exiles The New Yorker writes, “Miraculous…the night photography alone would make the film immortal.” The dream-like Casa de Lava incorporates poetic images and a documentary style as it follows a Portuguese nurse named Marianna accompanying a comatose construction worker (Isaach De Bankolé) back to his home in Cape Verde. Casa de Lava interweaves personal histories and exposes the legacy of colonialism through residents she meets on the island.
On September 14 God Is My Safest Bunker (2008) by Lee Wang examines the conditions which draw Filipino migrant workers to the Iraqi war zone. Wang’s film screens in a program with other films that explore the vestiges of war Cargo (2001) by Laura Waddington and The Form of the Good (2006) by James T. Hong. Lee Wang will be present for a Q&A following the program. Also on September 14 The Land (1942) by documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty plays alongside Black Sea Files (2005) by Ursula Beimann.

 The Land is Flaherty’s documentary portrait of the American farmer during the Great Depression and WWII, while The Sea Files is a unique investigative documentary that explores the history, geography, and development of the Caspian Sea, the world’s oldest oil extraction zone.
BAM Rose Cinemas “offers one of the most civilized movie-going experiences in the city,” according to
The New York Times. General admission tickets to BAM Rose Cinemas are $11. Tickets are $7.50 for seniors over 65 and children under twelve. Tickets are $7.50 for students 25 and under with valid I.D. Monday-Thursday, except holidays, and $7 for BAM Cinema Club members. Discounts are only available at BAM Rose Cinemas box office. Tickets are also available by phone at 718.777.FILM, or online at For more information, call the BAMcinématek hotline at 718.636.4100 or visit
Robert Flaherty Film Seminar schedule
Friday, September 12 at 7pm*
Calavera Highway (2008), 88min
Directed by Renee Tajima-Peña
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña’s Calavera Highway is a humorous and heartfelt road trip into the fine lines that define and divide family. When Armando and Carlos Peña hit the road to return their mother Rose’s ashes to Texas, they embark on a profound journey, confronting a past haunted by her estrangement from her family as well as the specter of their missing father. “The filmmaker, who is married to Armando, tenderly tells his family’s remarkable migrant story and in the process captures what it means to live with and love one’s ghosts.”-Full Frame Documentary Festival, April 2008
*The film will be introduced by Lucila Moctezuma of the Tribeca Film Institute.
Saturday, September 13 at 4:30, 9:15pm*
The Exiles (1961) 72min
Directed by Kent MacKenzie
The Exiles is a day-in-the-life of Native American friends that observes these urban exiles living in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill neighborhood in pre-Civil Rights 1950s. Having left their reservation behind, the group find themselves mired in a blighted and alien urban environment, cast in the margins and clinging to traditions, while struggling to find a future amongst alcoholism and a racially exclusive world. The New York Times remarks, “[T]he restoration and long-delayed commercial release of The Exiles, a 1961 film about a largely forgotten corner of that deceptively bright city, is nothing less than a welcome act of defiant remembrance.”
* The film will be introduced by Robert Flaherty Film Seminar Executive Director Mary Kerr.

Saturday, September 13 at 6:50pm
Casa de Lava (1994), 110min
Directed by Pedro Costa

This documentary-inflected, dream-like narrative follows Mariana, a young Portuguese nurse as she accompanies a comatose Cape Verdean migrant construction worker back to his barren, economically depressed island homeland. As she struggles to fit in and piece together the man’s elusive history, a larger, shared discourse of displacement surfaces, accompanied by the ghosts of a complex post-colonial history. “To watch the films of Pedro Costa is to behold a cinema at once ineffably modern yet unassailably classical, and that is but one of their glorious paradoxes.”-LA Weekly
Sunday, September 14 at 4:30pm*
God Is My Safest Bunker with Cargo and The Form of the Good, 92min total
God Is My Safest Bunker (2008), 58min
Directed by Lee Wang
With Cargo (2001), 29min
Directed by Laura Waddington
and The Form of the Good (2006), 5min
Directed by James T. Hong
These three exquisite films explore the vestiges of war in a world where borders are no barrier to refuge or economic survival. God Is My Safest Bunker investigates the conditions which draw thousands of Filipino migrant workers to work in the volatile Iraqi war zone. “By interviewing former Halliburton supervisors and three undeniably exploited Filipino workers, director Lee Wang convincingly illustrates how the post-draft military has used low-rate workers from South and Southeast Asia to keep the costs of war-human and economic-down and largely out of sight.”-New York Magazine
Cargo is a poetic exploration of displacement aboard a cargo ship

 headed for the Middle East.
“Cargo is nothing less than dazzling. Visually it’s superb (the dream like images, the work on time, the astonishing colours) but most of all, through her use of voice over, she lends these men an exemplary humanity and dignity.”-Les Inrockuptibles (France)
The Form of the Good is a meditation on Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave with the war on terror. “Hong knows the power of cinema to sway and convince, and he’s out to expose it, and you for ever believing it. His films question not just how cinema approaches truth (through manipulation, he argues), but the very concept of truth itself.”-Filmmaker Magazine
*A Q&A with God Is My Safest Bunker director Lee Wang will follow the screening.
Sunday, September 14 at 6:50pm
The Land and Black Sea Files, 88min total
The Land (1942) 45min
Directed by Robert Flaherty
With Black Sea Files (2005) 43min
Directed by Ursula Biemann
An exploration of geography, labor and the all-encompassing winds of capital and technology unite these two works. Flaherty’s The Land is a solemn portrait of the American farmer as the U.S. emerged from the Great Depression and became entangled in WWII. “Indeed the whole is impregnated with a sincerity that cannot but impress. Flaherty may be naïve: in his naïveté, however, he really says what he feels and avoids making hasty conclusions.[…] The secret of these pictures is to include time. They resemble fragments of a lost epic song that celebrated the immense life of the land; nothing is omitted, and each episode is full of significance.”-Siegfried Kracauer quoted in The World of Robert Flaherty
This film is screened with Black Sea Files, which conducts territorial research on Caspian oil geography, as human migration fuels the ever-growing flow of oil to the West.

About The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar
The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar is named after Robert Flaherty (1884-1951), who is considered by many to be the father of the American documentary. Flaherty’s groundbreaking documentary of Eskimo life, Nanook of the North is among the most noted films of the silent era. He was also the creator of such classic poetic films as Moana, Man of Aran, and Louisiana Story. The Seminar began in 1955-before the era of film schools-when Flaherty’s widow, Frances, convened a group of filmmakers, critics, curators, musicians, and other film enthusiasts at the Flaherty farm in Vermont. For more than fifty years the Flaherty Seminar has been firmly established as a one-of-a-kind institution that seeks to encourage filmmakers and other artists to explore the potential of the moving image. The films of such directors as Robert Drew, Louis Malle, the Maysles brothers, Mira Nair, Satyajit Ray, and Robert M. Young were shown at the Seminar before they were known generally in the American film community. New cinematic techniques and approaches first presented and debated at the Seminar have routinely made their way into mainstream American film.
For more information on The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar please visit their website at:
Leadership support for BAMcinématek is provided by The Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust.

BAM Rose Cinemas are named in recognition of a major gift in honor of Jonathan F.P. and Diana Calthorpe Rose. BAM Rose Cinemas would also like to acknowledge the generous support of The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, The Estate of Richard B. Fisher, Jim & Mary Ottaway, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, The Ford Foundation, Bloomberg, Time Warner Inc., and Trollbäck & Company. Additional support for BAMcinématek is provided by The Cultural Heritage Preservation Fund, The Grodzins Fund, and The Liman Foundation.Special thanks to Mary Kerr, Chi-hui Yang, Steve Holmgren, Lucius Barre-from the Flaherty Seminar, and Amy Heller/Milestone.
General Information
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, BAM Rose Cinemas, BAMcafé, and Brownstone Books at BAM are located in the Peter Jay Sharp building at 30 Lafayette Avenue (between St Felix Street and Ashland Place) in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. BAM Harvey Theater is located two blocks from the main building at 651 Fulton Street (between Ashland and Rockwell Places). BAM Rose Cinemas is Brooklyn’s only movie house dedicated to first-run independent and foreign film and repertory programming. BAMcafé, operated by Great Performances, is open for dining prior to Howard Gilman Opera House performances. BAMcafé also features an eclectic mix of spoken word and live music for BAMcafé Live nights on Friday and Saturday with a special BAMcafé Live menu available starting at 8pm.
Subway: 2, 3, 4, 5, Q, B to Atlantic Avenue;
D, M, N, R to Pacific Street; G to Fulton Street; C to Lafayette Avenue
Train: Long Island Railroad to Flatbush Avenue
Bus: B25, B26, B41, B45, B52, B63, B67 all stop within three blocks of BAM
Car: Commercial parking lots are located adjacent to BAM
For ticket and BAMbus information, call BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100, or visit

Series features Renee Tajima-Pena’s Calavera Highway (2008), and
Lee Wang’s God Is My Safest Bunker (2008) screening with Laura Waddington’s Cargo (2001) and James T. Hong’s The Form of the Good (2006)
BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave.)
Tickets: $11 per screening for adults; $7.50 for seniors 65 and over,
children under twelve, and $7.50 for students 25 and under with valid I.D.
Monday-Thursday, except holidays; $7 BAM Cinema Club members
Tickets available by phone at 718.777.FILM
Call 718.636.4100 or visit
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