Fall is a profound season of change. The fading summer light and the Jewish holidays set a tone of looking at one's self and trying to better our behavior for the year to come and fix some of the wrongs we might have committed. This should be something we all examine daily, but the fall especially leads to a heightened sense of repair. One of the best vehicles for transformation is cinema. Movies come with relatively low entry barriers, yet can impact profoundly and broadly as an engaging, entertaining and popular from of expression. The film industry is split between the popular studio films that often aim for the lowest common denominator, and the forgotten independent/foreign films that often aim to challenge the audience. But in the fall, quality films take center stage in preparation for awards season, and this year offers many opportunities to impact change through film.
If summer rolls out the blockbusters, we repent for those sins in the fall as every film is scrounging for a theatrical release in order to qualify for an Academy Award. This fall is so overbooked with studio and independent releases, that many distributors are having trouble finding qualifying New York screens for their films. The socially conscious and more dramatic films are competing for limited space -- while the blockbusters continue to dominate in the mainstream theaters.
Films inform our society and impact the way we see our world more deeply than we imagine. This puts a huge responsibility on filmmakers, as life tends to mimic art. Hollywood often forgets to present good values and well told stories, emphasizing instead violence and action. The stories that shed new light on unseen elements of our society, and the voices that want to truly better our world, are pushed to the corner. Sadly, the public is more interested in comic book superheroes like The Man of Steel than in the everyday human heroes who will put their lives in danger for what they believe in, such as the brave yet controversial third trimester abortion doctors, in the Sundance breakout film -- After Tiller by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, which just opened in select theaters.
In the chaos of the competition for your attention, this fall, try to support the smaller films. Go see films that are trying to create social change, such as Inequality for All, by Jacob Cornbluth that takes a look at America's economic inequality. Or see films that are creating political change like the recent release, Zaytoon by Eran Riklis, which had a sold out preview screening last week at The JCC in Manhattan's "cinematters" series in collaboration with it's Other Israel Film Festival. The film tells the fantastical tale of an Israeli Pilot, played by Stephen Dorf, shot down over Lebanon and the friendship he forms with a Palestinian child who has taken him captive. Beyond Dorf's questionable Israeli accent, the film is not looking to capture realism. The power of the film is how it ultimately shows a Palestinian and an Israeli who learn to truly see each other and to respect one another. They see beyond the stereotypes and the inherent distrust with which they came to the table.
Another important Israeli film is the Tribeca Film Festival favorite S#x Acts by Jonathan Gurfinkal, which opens in select theaters this October. This award winning movie is a fresh, but tough look at privileged suburban youth in Israel and the universal ethical demise of oversexed teens in a modern world. The film follows a teenaged girl trying to fit in, and being manipulated and used by the popular boys in her class. This powerful, edgy film exposes the hidden realities of youth with low self-esteem and the gender disparities even in quality high schools.
Another topic that is often shied away from is disabilities. Films on this topic have often been a hard sell, but recently, there has been a rise of films on this topic. As the largest minority in America, and the only minority that many of us will ultimately join, films on the topic of disabilities should have a larger market. Later in October, the documentary When I Walk by Jason Dasilva comes to theaters. This is Jason's own personal story of his managing a debilitating illness. Ultimately, it is a film that brings him to understand that he is not limited. This film will be presented by ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival as an accessible screening.
Many international films and documentaries will be making their way to the theaters this fall. For great drama, look out for the Cannes selection: The Past, by Asghar Farhadi. This family story is like an onion as each peal takes us to another level of poignant interactions. Another less heard of foreign film, is the Polish thriller Aftermath by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, opening in New York and Los Angeles early November. This suspenseful work of fiction exposes the realities of Anti-Semitism in Poland today and the secrets kept from the actions of the Holocaust. This film shows the relevance of the lessons of the Holocaust in today's world.
The fall is packed with many more films that have social impact. At a time when the film industry is going through changes, these important films can rise to the top and positively change our society by creating a more inclusive world. The real stories should not get lost in the multitude of irrelevant blockbusters. Movies should entertain, but should also set a standard of storytelling in our society. This season, see a film for change.