Arts Array series brings ‘alternative’ films to area

Jessica Fischer • Aug 25, 2013 at 5:12 PM

For more than four decades, the Arts Array film series has given local movie buffs the chance to catch big-screen showings of “alternative” films that otherwise might never have made it into theaters around the Tri-Cities.

That tradition will continue next month when Arts Array kicks off its 43rd season with the award-winning Ukrainian film “No Place on Earth,” showing at 4 and 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2 and 3 at the Abingdon Cinemall.

“The series programs foreign films, documentaries and independent American films that film buffs in the area don’t have access to in commercial movie theaters,” said series coordinator Tommy Bryant. “We have had excellent community support for this series all these years.”

Directed by Janet Tobias, the 2012 documentary “No Place on Earth” is the previously untold story of 38 Ukrainian Jews who survived World War II by living in caves for 18 months — the longest sustained underground survival on record.

In 1993, NYPD officer and caving enthusiast Chris Nicola visited Ukraine to explore the Verteba and Priest’s Grotto caves, and found evidence that they had recently been inhabited by humans. After discovering that the caves were used by Jews escaping the Holocaust, he embarked on a decade-long quest to find survivors.

The film features interviews with survivors and their descendants, now living mainly in New York City and Montreal, and includes a segment in which the director brings some of the survivors, the oldest of whom was in his 90s, back into the caves.

Arts Array features predominantly foreign films this fall, including the French film “In the House” on Sept. 9 and 10; the Australian musical comedy “The Sapphires,” inspired by the true story of a quartet of singers from a remote Aboriginal mission, on Sept. 16 and 17; the British-Irish drama “Shadow Dancer” on Oct. 14 and 15; and “Unfinished Song,” a British-German comedy-drama about a shy, grumpy retiree who honors his recently deceased wife’s passion for performing by joining a very unconventional local choir, on Nov. 25 and 26.

Two Danish films will also be screened this fall. In the thriller “A Hijacking,” to be shown Nov. 4 and 5, Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean hijack the cargo ship MV Rozen as it is heading for harbor. Among the men on board are the ship’s cook, Mikkel, and the engineer, Jan. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt,” playing Nov. 18 and 19, is set in a small Danish village around Christmas, and follows a man who becomes the target of mass hysteria after being wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a child.

Documentaries include “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” renowned filmmaker Alex Gibney’s no-holds-barred look at the organization started by Julian Assange and the people involved in the collection and distribution of secret information and media by whistleblowers, on Oct. 7 and 8, and “Blackfish,” about a notorious killer whale responsible for the deaths of a trainer and two other people, on Oct. 21 and 22.

Rounding out the series will be several American films, including the coming-of-age drama “Mud,” starring Matthew McConaughey, on Sept. 23 and 24; Baz Luhrman’s 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby” on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1; the supernatural horror film “The Conjuring” (Oct. 28 and 29), based on the true story of a pair of world-renowned paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) called to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse; and “Much Ado About Nothing,” director Joss Whedon’s modern-day take on Shakespeare’s classic comedy, on Nov. 11 and 12.

The Arts Array film series is part of the comprehensive cultural outreach program of Virginia Highlands Community College.

The series is co-sponsored by Abingdon Cinemall, the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Emory & Henry College, Virginia Intermont College and King University.

All screenings are held at the Abingdon Cinemall in Abingdon, Va.

Admission is free for students and faculty members from the supporting institutions. Members of the general community may attend for $7.50.

For a brochure on the series or more information, call Bryant at (276) 739-2451 or email him at tbryant@vhcc.edu.

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