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Scene Here | Local films, festivals, and faces

‘Burn Country’ comes to Cambridge

Dominic Rains in “Burn Country,” which screens at Apple Cinemas in Cambridge.Samuel Goldwyn Films

Caroline von Kuhn, who until recently served as managing director of Maine’s Camden International Film Festival, spent the past four years producing “Burn Country,” which she calls “a small but mighty film and a timely, non-cliche immigrant story.”

“Burn Country” is the first fiction feature from directer-co-writer Ian Olds, who followed up his acclaimed first documentary, “Occupation: Dreamland” (2005), with the Emmy-nominated HBO film “Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi” (2009), which Olds shot in Afghanistan. The story of local guides, known as “fixers,” who work for Western journalists continued to intrigue him. He turned the idea into a different immigrant story for “Burn Country,” with a foreigner reporting on American crime as he searches for purpose in a strange new land.


In “Burn Country,” journalist Osman (Dominic Rains, from “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”) arrives from his native Afghanistan to the backwoods of Northern California, crashing with a friend’s mother (Melissa Leo) who also happens to be the county sheriff. After getting a job as a police reporter at the local paper, Osman gets ensnared in escalating danger when he befriends an unstable hot tub craftsman (James Franco, in another unrecognizable role) who later goes missing under strange circumstances. Rains earned best actor honors at the recent Tribeca Film Festival for this role. “Burn Country” is playing through Dec. 15 at Apple Cinemas in Fresh Pond.

For more information go to www.applecinemas.com.

Critical mass

Calling all young and aspiring film critics. Elizabeth (Betsy) Kim, a 17-year-old high school senior and film enthusiast at the Winsor School in Boston, cofounded the GenZ Critics Club with New York Film Critics Series producer Mark Ehrenkranz. “It’s an organization that aims to make more young people interested in film criticism and amplify the voices of existing young critics,” says Kim in an e-mail. “Mark and I founded it because we felt there was a lack of emphasis on youths’ opinions in the world of film criticism.” To that end, GenZ has launched a contest for films critics 24 years old and under. The deadline for submitting reviews, which do not have to be previously published or of a certain length, has been extended to Dec. 16. All entrants are automatically given membership in the club. Five winners will be selected and their reviews published on the group’s website www.genzcritics.com. Several professional critics, including the Globe’s Ty Burr, will judge the entries.


For more information go to www.genzcritics.com.

Doin’ it for themselves

Grrl Haus Cinema, an ongoing program of short films and video art by women working in a variety of genres with an emphasis on DIY and low budget, hosts a screening of shorts by nearly two dozen local filmmakers Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. The program is curated by Under the Underground, a series that showcases the often experimental work of New England filmmakers and artists.

For more information, go to www.brattlefilm.org.

Cracking it open

The Bolshoi Ballet’s performance of the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” screens Dec. 18 at 12:55 p.m. at Boston’s Regal Fenway Stadium 13. There’s also a one-night, sensory-friendly screening Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. Fathom Events, partnering with the Autism Society of America, hosts this novel screening with lights raised and the audio lowered to make it more inviting to children and adults with autism. The audience is welcome to sing, yell, dance, and move about during this screening.


For more information, go to www.fathomevents.com.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.