These days, if you live in the Boston area, you can’t avoid the opportunity to see outstanding documentaries. Just as the GlobeDocs Film Festival ends on Sunday, the fifth Arlington International Film Festival begins, offering several nonfiction films among the lineup of features and shorts screening Oct. 15-22.
As happens in festivals, whether by accident or design, many of the films on the program offer variations on similar themes. Several of the documentaries explore the ways in which the creative imagination can transform the raw material of life – time, memory, history, even the stone and soil of the earth itself — into illuminating works of art.
The subjects range from the world-renowned to the obscure. Among the former, Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, whose life is examined in Justin Webster’s “Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez” (screens Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.), won fame, riches, the love of generations of readers, and a Nobel prize for his novels.
Interviewed in the film, former President Bill Clinton numbers himself among García Márquez’s fans – and friends. He singles out for special praise Márquez’s 1967 masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” A multigenerational saga, it takes place in a fantastic version (this is the book that inspired the term “magical realism”) of the writer’s own hometown.
Not only did the author spin his life into imaginary worlds that enthralled generations, he also had an impact on the world in which we live. In 1999 he tried to convince President Clinton that Fidel Castro (another friend of Gabo) wanted to establish relations and that it was time to lift the embargo. His effort failed, and 16 more years of Cuban solitude would follow until President Obama’s recent initiatives.
In the other two films, the subjects do not have the impact of García Márquez; their power is more intimate, but equally profound.
Made over the course of 25 years, a fusion of Michael Apted’s “Seven Up!” and Homer’s “Odyssey,” Watertown-based filmmaker Alexandra Anthony’s “Lost in the Bewilderness” (screens Friday at 2:55 p.m.; Anthony will attend and answer questions) relates a family mystery that takes the shape of an ancient myth.
Anthony grew up part of a happy clan settled in a magical (at least in Anthony’s memory) house guarded by three cypress trees in Athens. But all happy families aren’t the same; some have dark mysteries. Anthony’s cousin, Lucas, disappeared when he was five, kidnapped by his mother, Athena. Years of waiting and sorrow would follow, the work of the fates slow but inexorable, related with detached wisdom and compassion in Anthony’s film.
In Jeffrey Karoff’s short “Cavedigger” (screens Friday at 5:30 p.m.), the subject Ra Paulette takes as his material the earth itself — the sandstone cliffs near his home in New Mexico. He carves them into intricate, cathedral-like caves that combine the chthonic with the Elysian, merging the dread visions of H.R. Giger with the surreal architecture of Antoni Gaudí.
He calls them “transformative.” So is the movie.
All screenings take place at the Kendall Square Cinema. For more information go to www.aiffest.org.
Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.