Film Line-Up

Mainstream Flicks



Corrections or additions?

Author: Nicole Plett. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January

19, 2000. All rights reserved.

New Jersey Film Festival

Look at almost any film critic’s "Best of 1999"

choices, and the chances are you’ll find all the top independent picks

mirrored on the schedule of this spring’s New Jersey Film Festival.

The Spring ’00 festival, presented by the Rutgers Film Co-op/New

Jersey Media Arts Center, curated by Albert Nigrin, opens Friday,

January 21, with "La Ciudad (The City)," David Riker’s debut

feature film, a tapestry of interrelated stories about the lives of

Latin American immigrants in New York City. The opening night

screening features guest appearances by the director and some of its

actors; screenings continue Saturday and Sunday, January 22 and 23.

Filmed between 1992 and 1997 with a cast of immigrant workers from

every part of the Americas, "La Ciudad" is somewhat unique

in film art — it took its young director, an NYU film student,

from the ranks of would-be filmmaker to committed community activist.

In the opening shot of "La Ciudad," daybreak over the New

York City skyline, an elevated train moves laboriously across the

urban landscape. Filmed in black and white, Riker’s gritty vision

says much about the diminished experiences of these cultural and

economic refugees, away from native lands we know to be full of

sunshine and lush landscapes thick with colorful fruits and flowers.

A photographer’s studio, specializing in the needs of the Hispanic

community, provides the visual crucible for Riker’s heartfelt portrait

studies of dozens of Latino immigrants. It is also the meeting point

for the various disparate laboring characters who provide the grist

for four sad tales of struggle and displacement. A series of florid

painted scenes form the backdrops for these portraits to send home,

and the photographer’s painstaking process is punctuated by a blinding

burst of flash that carries us into each subject’s story.

"Bricks," the opening story, begins on a street corner at

dawn where dozens of men elbow each other for a chance to hop on a

truck to be carried away for a day’s labor. Here we meet an organizer

— a key to filmmaker Riker’s journey from film student to labor

activist — as well as a contractor claiming to offer $50 each

to 10 men for a day’s work. Transported to a bleak demolition site

in the contractor’s windowless panel truck, the workers are asked

to scavenge bricks at a rate significantly below what was promised.

But how can they challenge the new terms — in a borough they do

not know, without means of transportation or communication? A tragic

accident seals the fate of one of the crew, minutes after reading

a well-fingered and quietly desperate letter from his young wife back


Sounds of a salsa band and the camaraderie of a young

Mexican woman’s Sweet 15 Party provides the setting for the second

vignette, wryly titled "Home." Francisco is the party’s

interloper, a newly-arrived young immigrant who has lost his way in

the labyrinthine housing development and crashes the semi-formal

affair. On the dance floor, he is immediately attracted to Maria, a

melancholy young woman

who we learn labors daily for money to support her family in Mexico.

In cautious conversation, both these hard-pressed young adults confess

to the same inchoate pain: "I don’t know why I’m here." Yet

when the pair discovers a shared family home, in Tulcingo, in the

Mexican state of Puebla, an emotional bond is formed that may prove

significant for both.

The third story of the quartet is the first Riker created during his

student days. "The Puppeteer" is a wistful, somewhat

Fellini-esque study of a homeless puppeteer and his beloved daughter,

Dulce. A striped puppet theater on a litter-strewn empty lot in the

South Bronx amidst forbidding high-rise apartment blocks is the

entertainment’s sad setting. Despite his desperate circumstances, the

father, a dedicated reader, decides it is time to enroll his daughter

in school. The intensity of the young girl in plaid overcoat and

watchcap who plays Dulce is a scorching presence in the story. The

father’s ambition is thwarted when the public school clerk demands a

rent receipt as proof of residency.

"La Ciudad’s" final story, "Seamstress," set in one

of Manhattan’s notorious garment workers’ sweatshops, is its bleakest.

Yet its brief climactic moment of a group labor action also gives

it the quartet’s greatest element of hope. Ranked behind their sewing

machines, the frantically busy garment workers are supported by the

relentless piece work, but frustrated by the erratic pay schedule.

When one of the women gets a phone call from her parents asking her

to send $400 immediately for medical expenses for the daughter she

has left in their care, the delicate edifice of her world seems to


Appealing to her employers for wages already earned — or even

for compassion — proves fruitless, and we watch the formerly

self-sufficient young woman descend into despair. A ray of hope is

introduced when, unable to control her grief, the seamstress stops

sewing and her co-workers stop in sympathy. This is the kind of united

effort that is presumably rarely seen among such disenfranchised

workers. As everyone stops work, the room takes on an eerie stillness

that gives Riker an opportunity for another succession of glorious

character portraits.

"La Ciudad" closes on the train creeping once again across

the perilous urban landscape. A gentle but insistent music score for

brooding strings, composed by Tony Adzinikolov, gives added poignancy

to the film that is almost balletic in its grace and form.

Born in Boston, but raised in Brussels and London, Riker

began making photographs at age 13. As an undergraduate at Tufts

University, inspired by such socially committed photographers as

Dorothea Lang and Walker Evans, Riker began his first documentary

photography project. At 21 he had a difficult revelation that caused

him to shift course: "I realized that I didn’t know any of the

people in my pictures, certainly not well," he says. "It was a

strange feeling. I had always wanted my pictures to be truthful, but I

now realized that I needed my subjects to speak, to have a chance to

contradict what the viewer might think is going on. This was a very

painful moment for me. I put down my still camera and decided to learn


"The Puppeteer" was his first fictional film, shot in six

days in 1992 on the streets of the South Bronx, as a project for New

York University’s Graduate Film School.

Deeply affected by the Latin American experience in New York, Riker

became more and more involved. He worked in community theater, learned

Spanish, and also came to know community residents of all backgrounds.

Feeling that professional actors were already insulated from the shock

of the immigrant experience, he cast his films instead with

non-actors, using the dramatic workshop as a way to draw out the

participants’ most heartfelt experiences. Thus, a lifelong interest in

socially-committed documentary photography, paired with his personal

commitment to social action, makes Riker uniquely suited to craft this

fictional but very real document about the Hispanic immigrant


— Nicole Plett

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Film Line-Up

New Jersey Film Festival is presented by the Rutgers Film

Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center Fridays through Sunday in Scott

Hall, Room 123, College Avenue campus, near College Avenue and


Street. Thursday screenings are in Loree Hall, Room 024, Douglass

campus, near the corner of Nichol Avenue and George Street; with


free events at Borders Books, Route 18 South, East Brunswick. Films

are $5, $8, & $10; all programs begin at 7 p.m. Call 732-932-8482.

La Ciudad (The City), David Riker’s 1999 debut feature.,

First screening features introductory appearances by the director and

various actors, Friday through Sunday, January 21 through 23.

My Twentieth Century, A dreamlike story from Hungarian

director Ildiko Enyedi about 20th-century technology and the lives

of women. Subtitles. $5, Thursday, January 27. Black Cat, White

Cat , Emir Kusturica’s 1999 comic feature, emerging from the ashes

of the Yugoslav wars, about a Gypsy grifter and his get-rich-quick

plan. $5, Friday, January 28, through Sunday, January 30.

Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock’s elegant 1954 mystery


starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Subtitles. $5, Thursday,


3. Boys Don’t Cry, The 1999 Kimberly Peirce fictionalized


of the life and murder of Brandon Teena, played by Chloe Sevigny.

Voted one of the year’s best films, $5, Friday, February 4, through

Sunday, February 6.

Dreams That Money Can Buy, An early American avant-garde

film (1947) by Hans Richter, about dreams for sale, provided by


Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Alexander


$5, Thursday, February 10. My Best Friend, Werner Herzog’s 1999

documentary about his relationship with cinema maniac Klaus Kinski.

On a double bill with Herzog’s 19973 "Aguirre, The Wrath of


starring Kinski, $8, Friday, February 11, and Saturday, February 12.

United States Super-8 Film & Video Festival. The only

juried show of its kind that attracts entries from across the U.S.

and abroad, $6, Friday, February 18, through Sunday, February 20.

Rosetta, Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

won this year’s Golden Palm at Cannes for their film about an


young woman desperate to find work and dignity. $5, Friday, February

25, through Sunday, February 27.

Red Hollywood, A documentary on the McCarthy era witch

hunts against Hollywood by Thom Anderson and Noel Burch. 1996. $5,

Thursday, March 2. Chelsea Girls, Andy Warhol and Paul


legendary 1966, 3-1/2 hour marathon, in dual screen projection, about

the counterculture entourage living in New York’s Chelsea Hotel. With

guest introduction by Paul Morrissey. $10, Friday, March 3.

Same Old Song, Alain Resnais’s (`Last Year at Marienbad’)

1999 offbeat musical, "On Connait La Chanson." Subtitles.

$5, Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5.Psycho, Janet Leigh

and Anthony Perkins in Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious 1960 thriller

— on the big screen, $5, Thursday, March 23. American Movie,

Chris Smith’s comic 1999 feature, set in Memomonee Falls, Wisconsin,

about a filmmaker’s two-year struggle to make a movie. $5, Friday,

March 24, to Sunday, March 26. Las Hurdes, Luis Bunuel’s 1937

pseudo-documentary about poverty in Spain. Borders Books, free,


March 29.

Don’t Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 rock documentary

of Bob Dylan’s 1965 English tour. $5, Thursday, March 30.


Mike Leigh’s unexpected 1999 prize-winning musical about the life

and times of London’s comic opera duo, Gilbert and Sullivan. $5,


March 31, to Sunday, April 2.

42 Up, The latest installment in Michael Apted’s 35-year

running documentary about 14 British post-war children and how they

grew. $5, Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8. Earth, Deepa


trilogy about life and conflict in post-colonial India. In Hindi,

Urdu, Parsee, and Punjabi, with subtitles. $5, Friday and Saturday,

April 14 and 15. All About My Mother, Pedro Almodovar’s Cannes

Film Festival winner, set in Madrid and Barcelona, about a woman who

loses her son and sets out on a quest to find his wayward father.

Subtitles. $5, Friday, April 21, through Sunday, April 23.

Kenneth Anger Retrospective. "Inauguration of the

Pleasure Dome," from "The Magick Lantern Cycle," starring

Curtis Harrington and Anais Nin. Borders Books, free, Wednesday, April

26. Stalker, the eerie 1979 film by Russian director Andrei

Tarkovsky about a journey through a government quarantined


where it is rumored one can fulfill one’s innermost desires.


$5, Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29.

Top Of Page
Mainstream Flicks

Confirm titles with theaters.

All About My Mother. Pedro Almodovar (`Women on the Verge

of a Nervous Breakdown’) directs Cecilia Roth. Garden,


Any Given Sunday. Director Oliver Stone pits brash youth

against experience on the football field, where Al Pacino plays a

crumudgeony coach to a quarterback played by Jamie Foxx. AMC,

Destinta, Loews, Mercer, Montgomery, Regal.

American Beauty. Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey in Sam

Mendes’ dark drama about two dysfunctional suburban families.


Anna & the King. Jodie Foster and Hong Kong’s Chow Yun-Fat

star in a sumptuous retelling — without song — of the `The

King & I’ epic. AMC, Loews, MarketFair, Regal.

Being John Malkovich. John Cusack plays a puppeteer who

accidentally enters Malkovich’s mind in this Spike Jonze original.


Bicentennial Man. Clown Robin Williams plays a future

household appliance who wants to be a man. AMC, Destinta, Loews,

Mercer, Regal.

The Cider House Rules. Michael Caine stars in this


of John Irving’s 1985 best-seller about a doctor who plays father

to a group of orphans. AMC, Loews, Regal.

Cradle Will Rock. A star-studded cast includes Angus


as Orsen Welles, Ruben Blades as Diego Rivera, with Vanessa Redgrave

and Susan Sarandon as America’s titans of 1930s culture. AMC,


Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Rob Schneider is a fish tank

cleaner mistaken for a male escort. AMC, Destinta, Loews,


The End of the Affair. Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore

play an adulterous couple during World War II. AMC.

Galaxy Quest. Tim Allen plays a has-been sci-fi star


by aliens to save their planet. AMC, Destinta, Loews,


Girl, Interrupted. Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie star

in the real-life story of Susanna Kaysen’s stay in a mental hospital.

AMC, Destinta, Loews, MarketFair, Montgomery,


The Green Mile. Michael Clarke Duncan and Tom Hanks star

in a screen version of Stephen King’s prison story. AMC, Destinta,

Loews, MarketFair, Regal.

The Hurricane. Denzel Washington stars in the true story

of the New Jersey boxer accused of murder. AMC, Destinta, Loews,


Magnolia. The story of a desparate day on a street running

through the San Fernando Valley brings together an assortment of


characters, starring Tom Cruise. AMC, Garden, Loews, Mercer,



Man on the Moon. Jim Carrey portrays the misunderstood

comedian Andy Kaufman of `Taxi.’ AMC, Loews, Mercer.

Mansfield Park. A witty re-telling of Jane Austen’s comic

novel starring Frances O’Connor and Harold Pinter. Mercer.

Next Friday. Ice Cube returns in this sequel to 1995’s

`Friday.’ Cube plays a fish out of water, as his family moves from

the ghetto to the suburbs. AMC, Destinta, Loews, Mercer.

Snow Falling On Cedars. The bestselling novel of the


brought to the screen, starring Ethan Hawke and Youki Kudoh. AMC,

Loews, MarketFair, Regal.

Stuart Little. State of the art movie making brings E.B.

White’s beloved mouse to the big screen. AMC, Destinta, Loews,

Mercer, Montgomery, Regal.

Supernova. James Spader and Angela Bassett star in this

space thriller.AMC, Destinta, Loews, MarketFair, Regal.

The Talented Mr. Ripley. Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow

star in this thriller based on the Patricia Highsmith novel. AMC,

Destinta, Loews, Mercer, Montgomery, Regal.

Toy Story 2. An animated feature film. AMC, Destinta,

Loews, MarketFair, Montgomery, Regal.

The World is Not Enough. The 19th James Bond flick with

Denise Richards and Sophie Marceau as the new Bond girls. AMC,


Top Of Page

AMC Hamilton 24 Theaters, 325 Sloan Avenue, I-295 Exit

65A, 609-890-8307. 24-screen, stadium-seating multiplex. $7 adults;

$5 matinees; $5 twilight.

Destinta, Independence Plaza, 2465 South Broad Street,

Hamilton, 609-888-4500. Stadium-seating 12-screen multiplex. $6.75

adults; $5 matinees.

East Windsor Cinemas, Routes 130 and 571, 609-443-9295.

$3 adults; $2.50 matinees. Features Indian language films.

Garden Theater, 160 Nassau Street, 609-683-7595. $6.50

adults; $4 matinees.

Loews Theaters, Route 1 South, New Brunswick,


Stadium-seating multiplex. $8.50 adults; $5.25 matinees.

MarketFair-UA, Route 1 South, 609-520-8700. $7.50

adults; $4.75 matinees.

Mercer Mall General Cinemas, Route 1, 609-452-2868.

$7.25 adults; $4.75 matinees.

Montgomery Center Theater, Routes 206 and 518,

609-924-7444. $7 adults; $4.25 matinees.

Regal Cinemas Town Center, 319 Route 130 North, East

Windsor, 609-371-8470. Stadium-seating, $8 adults; $5 matinees.

Top Of Page

Kelsey Theater of Mercer County Community College has

auditions for "The Importance of Being Earnest," Wednesday,

January 19. Also auditions January 19 for "Pecos Bill." Call

609-586-4800, ext. 3582.

New Breed Productions seeks actors for short films


for Web distribution. Send headshot and resume to New Breed


Box 149, Lambertville 08530.

The Ritz Theater has auditions for "The


on Sunday, February 13, for a production April 27 to May 27. To


call 856-858-5230 after January 31.

Call for Entries

The Stony Brook Gallery of Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed

Association invites entries for a juried art exhibit, "Small Works

of Nature." Deadline is Saturday, January 29, for the show that

will be on view from February 5 to March 25. For guidelines, call


Artsbridge invites entries for its annual juried show

at Prallsville Mills, Stockton, from April 9 to 25. Artists may enter

up to three slides for a $25 fee; deadline is February 23. Jurors

are watercolorist Elizabeth Osborne of the Pennsylvania Academy of

Fine arts and photographer Klaus Schnitzer of Montclair State. Prizes

totaling $5,000 will be awarded. Call 609-397-3349 or 215-794-0970.

Participate Please

Princeton Adult School is offering late registration for

its ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for new

beginners (Tuesday) and advanced level ESOL (Thursday) classes. Late

registration will take place at Princeton High School on Tuesday,

February 1, and Thursday, February 3, at 6:15 p.m., for the 10-week

spring sessions that begin February 1 and 3. For information call


NJN Public Television invites kindergarteners to third

graders to write and illustrate stories for the Reading Rainbow’s

Young Writers and Illustrators Contest. Entries will be accepted


Friday, March 10. For application form, call 609-777-5078.

The New Jersey Historical Commission is offering an


grant program for projects relating to New Jersey history as well

as general operating support for museums, historical societies,


sites, archives, and libraries. Application deadline is Tuesday,


1. Contact Mary R. Murrin at 609-292-6062, or e-mail:

The Arts Council of Princeton seeks experienced arts


for spring semester, spring break, and Summer Arts Camp for children

and adults. Experience in ceramics and sculpture a plus. Send resume

and cover letter to the Arts Council at 102 Witherspoon Street,



The New Jersey Theater Group, the state alliance of


theaters, has published a new edition of "Toward Knowing By


a comprehensive guide to the educational and outreach programs


through its member theaters. For a free copy of the arts resource

guide, call 973-593-0189, or e-mail

The Garden State Amateur Baseball Organization seeks


to compete in the United States Junior Olympic Team Tournament in

Tucson, Arizona. Call 800-853-5508.

The American Association for State and Local History seeks

nominations for its awards program to recognize state and local


projects. Nominations close March 1. For materials or information,

contact Sally Yerkovich at 973-596-8500, ext. 247, or e-mail:

Mercer County Community College has students who need

housing near both its Trenton and West Windsor campuses. The college

will serve as listing agent for residents willing to rent a room or

apartment. Call 609-586-4800, ext. 3435.

The Junior League of Greater Princeton seeks women over

21 to help manage community projects and develop educational programs

to benefit children in the Mercer, Middlesex, and Bucks County area.

Call 215-321-8165.


The Theater at Raritan Valley Community College is looking

for volunteers for its BRAVO! program to help usher, sell concessions,

and administer. Call theater manager Cindy Alexander, 908-231-8801.

CONTACT of Mercer County needs volunteers to staff its

24-hour hotline for people with problems. A training course for


begins Tuesday, March 7, at 9:30 a.m., and 7:30 p.m. Classes are held

at Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, 2688 Main Street, in


For complete information, call 609-883-2880.

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