Director Jehane Noujaim, whose “Control Room” was named best documentary by the Boston Society of Film Critics in 2004, will attend the Jan. 20 DocYard screening at the Brattle Theatre of her new documentary “The Square,” a powerful, on-the-ground look at Egypt’s revolutionary uprising. “The Square,” which Noujaim and her crew shot on the volatile streets in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square for more than two years, won awards at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival and has been short-listed for the best documentary Oscar.
Noujaim is a graduate of Harvard University who was born in the United States, raised in Egypt, and moved to Boston in 1990. Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government is co-presenting the screening and discussion with The DocYard at the Brattle.
“The Square” and Noujaim’s appearance is the second DocYard event of its new season, which runs to April. (There will then be a summer lineup). Since it was launched in 2010 by Ben Fowlie and Sara Archambault, The DocYard has established itself as one of the region’s premier programs of new documentaries and discussions with filmmakers. All the screenings are followed by in-person (or occasionally by Skype) appearances by directors or someone else closely involved with the making of the film.
“Sara and I wanted to grow The DocYard at a rate so that we’d have the means to bring in filmmakers. It’s a major component to our mission,” says Fowlie, who is also the founder and director of the all-documentary Camden International Film Festival. “I’m not interested in just screening films. It’s about the process and engaging with the audience.” He draws on the many contacts he’s established through CIFF, and says during that event, he’s always looking for films that would work for The DocYard.
Archambault is also close to many filmmakers and their projects through her dual roles as a producer and as the program director for the LEF Foundation, which sponsors The DocYard. Fowlie says LEF and its executive director, Lyda Kuth, are instrumental in helping The DocYard’s commitment to films and filmmakers “that push the boundaries of the form.”
Besides its affiliation with LEF, the DocYard also draws on connections it has established with other area film programs and institutions including Harvard, the MFA, and MIT. On March 23 and 24, in partnership with both the Harvard Film Archive and the Balagan Film Series, The DocYard presents a two-night appearance by the internationally acclaimed artist/filmmaker Ben Russell. “A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness,” by Russell and fellow artist/director Ben Rivers, screens at the HFA on March 23. “Shorts by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell” will show at the Brattle the following night. Russell will engage in post-screening talks with audiences at both venues.
The rest of the winter schedule also reflects the program’s mission to present a “diverse landscape” of the documentary form, says Fowlie. Jessica Oreck’s “Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys” (Jan. 27) is an ethnographic documentary that follows two brothers and their families through a year as they herd wild reindeer in Finnish Lapland. Two films that look at the state of modern politics — AJ Schnack’s “Caucus” (Feb. 12) and Sierra Pettengill and Jamila Wignot’s “Town Hall” (April 14) — were featured in the 2013 CIFF. “They are companion pieces that I’m sure will generate really interesting conversations,” says Fowlie.
The DocYard tries to mix emerging and legendary filmmakers, and has achieved something of a coup this season with appearances from Peter Davis and Alan Berliner. Davis directed the 1974 Oscar-winning classic “Hearts and Minds” (April 7), about the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Veteran filmmaker Alan Berliner appears with his latest film, “First Cousin, Once Removed” (March 10), his deeply personal portrait of his friend, cousin and mentor, the poet and teacher Edwin Honig, as he battles Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
All DocYard screenings are at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.thedocyard.com
Animation at the ICA
The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston presents the only Boston screening of Best of the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival, with screenings on Jan. 9 at
7 p.m. and Jan. 18 and 19 at
3 p.m. This annual event includes highlights from the 2013 festival, with 11 films (on video format) that offer a variety of animation styles and subject matter. The 85-minute program contains material not suitable for children.
For more information go to www.icaboston.org.
Belmont World Film’s 11th annual Family Festival runs Jan. 17-20, with Birmingham, Ala., native and current Watertown resident Sandy Jaffe’s “Our Mockingbird” as the opening night feature. The film chronicles two high schools —one black and one white — outside Birmingham that come together to stage a theatrical production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Other highlights include films from Weston Woods Studios related to themes in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in honor of his birthday. Among them are “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport, narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan; and two films, “Coretta Scott” and “Ellington Was Not a Street,” by Ntozake Shange, narrated by Phylicia Rashad. Screenings will take place at both the Studio Cinema in Belmont or the Regent Theatre in Arlington.
For more information go to www.belmontworldfilm.org