The Boston Turkish Film Festival’s Documentary & Short Film Competition, at the Museum of Fine Arts (through Nov. 10; full disclosure: I am one of the judges), offers an eclectic glimpse of a country most Americans know only through sometimes-alarming news stories. Here are three of the many documentaries worth seeing.
An older generation ponders the fate of its culture in Deniz Alphan’s “A Fading Language, A Fading Cuisine” (Nov. 4, noon, preceded by two shorts). Sephardic Jews driven out of Spain five centuries ago found a new home in the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. But now the future of its distinctive language, Ladino, derived from Spanish, and its distinctive Spanish-influenced cuisine (shown in mouth-watering scenes of preparation and presentation) is in doubt. Young people, distracted by social media and pop culture, seem less interested in maintaining these traditions; and though the cuisine endures in specialty cookbooks and some holiday repasts, Ladino seems like it might suffer the fate of many other languages and fade into obscurity.
A younger generation breaks from the past in two other documentaries. In Jale Incekol’s “A Story With Music” (Nov. 10, 1 p.m., preceded by three shorts), Asli, a young Istanbul musician, reluctantly takes on a teaching position in a rural Anatolian village. The students have never seen instruments like a violin before, and some parents refuse to allow their children to participate. But the latter instantly take to the subject, most of the parents overcome their objections, and Asli organizes a nationally acclaimed 40-member children’s orchestra.
A similar story is told in Melih Kosif’s “Equal” (Nov. 10, 1 p.m., preceded by one short), except in this case the transformative art is photography. A professional photographer teaches young village kids how to see the beauty in their surroundings through a camera lens, and their pictures are presented in a successful gallery show.
Go to www.mfa.org.
Lighthouses, those seemingly eternal beacons of safety, are often threatened by coastal erosion. The one in Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, which has been guiding vessels across the treacherous rocks of the Devil’s Bridge in the Vineyard Sound for over two centuries, faced this danger because the cliffs it overlooks were being eaten away by the tides.
Liz Witham’s “Keepers of the Light” shows how concerned residents rallied to raise the $3.5 million needed to move the structure to safety. It also presents a fascinating history of the lighthouse, the local whaling industry, and the Native American Wampanoag community that has made this part of the Vineyard its home for generations.
Not since Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” (1982) has the torturous process of moving a giant object inch-by-inch been so exciting onscreen.
“Keepers of the Light” can be seen on WGBH on Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. The DVD is available at www.keepersofthelightfilm
You can’t change the world or, at any rate, the art world, without a manifesto, a bombastic overstatement of ambitions, aesthetics, intolerance, and ideals in an emphatic and often uninterpretable argot. From Karl Marx to Lars von Trier, with forays into Dadaism, Futurism, Surrealism, Situationism, Fluxus, Dogme 95, and many others, Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto” (2015) explores the history of this phenomenon. He brings the dry texts to vivid, sometimes ironic life through dramatic readings by Cate Blanchett in myriad roles, from apocalyptic hobo to jaded socialite, in visually stunning settings, from an otherworldly, abandoned power plant to a soundstage rehearsal of a dance routine that combines Busby Berkeley with Area 51 aliens.
Viewers of the world unite and watch this dazzling foray into the history of ideas! “Manifesto” screens as part of the Goethe Institute Film Festival “. . . And the winners are . . .” at the Brattle Theatre, Nov. 10, at 10 p.m.
Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.