The inaugural Refocus Film Festival, a celebration of the arts of adaptation, will take Iowa City audiences to familiar and many lesser-known stories across five downtown screens starting Thursday.
With more than two dozen films, including a virtual reality experience, audiences have until Sunday to watch films, live performances and discussions with filmmakers.
As Iowa City audiences ponder which films to see during the festival, the Press-Citizen picked seven films to make it a little easier.
Here are seven films you should learn more about, from a cannibal love story to an in-depth look at the New York music scene in the early 2000s.
‘Sansón and I’
Exploring stories of migration, imprisonment and friendship, Sansón and Me follows filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes and Sansón, whom Reyes first met as a court interpreter at Sanson’s trial, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The documentary features reenactments of Sansón, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, to show his upbringing, his migration to America and what led to his imprisonment.
The 83-minute film is an Official Selection of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
Reyes is a California-based filmmaker who was born in Mexico City and whose work is “based on his identity as an immigrant artist,” according to his website. His film 499 won Best Cinematography at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The director has shown his work at the Morelia International Film Festival, BFI London and others.
Showtimes for “Sansón and Me”:
- 7 October: 6:30 p.m. at The Chauncey
- Oct 8: 6pm at FilmScene at Ped Mall
- 9 October: 1pm at The Chauncey
For more about Sansón and Me, visit https://tribecafilm.com/films/sanson-and-me-2022.
An official selection from the 2021 BFI London Film Festival, The Afterlight, will eventually become unavailable for viewing.
This is intentional.
According to the Refocus Film Festival, The Afterlight exists as a single 35mm print that’s touring the world and said to get worse with each projection.
The film uses footage from hundreds of films in cinema history starring actors who are no longer alive.
The 82-minute film is directed and put together by Charlie Shackleton, a London-based filmmaker whose work includes the short films Lasting Marks, a BFI London Film Festival short film winner, and Fish Story.
Showtimes for “The Afterlight”:
- 7 October at 7pm at The Chauncey
- 8 October at 1.30pm at The Chauncey
For more information, see https://theafterlight.xyz/.
In the 1960s, Agnes, a pseudonym for a transgender woman, participated in sociologist Harold Garfinkel’s gender research at UCLA, according to Variety. Agnes described herself as intersex and underwent gender correcting surgery. Years after Agnes and Garfinkel first met, Agnes revealed that she was not intersex, but had been taking estrogen pills, according to the Paris Review, and had managed to undergo surgery that otherwise might not have been possible had she not opted for it would have chosen to present themselves as intersex.
Agnes has become “a poster child of trans history,” according to Variety.
Director Chase Joynt’s “Framing Agnes” not only explores this remarkable character through re-enactments, but also several other non-gendered participants in Garfinkel’s research, according to the Paris Review.
The documentary film won two prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and at the Queer North Film Festival.
Playing times for “Framing Agnes”:
- 7 October at 4:30 p.m. at The Chauncey
- 8 October at 8:30pm at The Chauncey
- October 9 at 1:30 p.m. on FilmScene at Ped Mall
Visit https://www.framingagnes.com/ for more information.
‘Meet me in the bathroom’
Based on Elizabeth Goodman’s book of the same name, Meet Me in the Bathroom tells the story of the New York rock scene in the 2000s.
Covering the years 2000 to 2003, the film features footage from bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Moldy Peaches and TV on the Radio, and the rebirth of a rock scene.
Goodman, who directed the film, is a music journalist who Goodreads says used original interviews with musicians, music executives, journalists, and others to write “Meet Me in the Bathroom.”
Showtimes for “Meet Me in the Bathroom”:
- 8 October at 7pm at The Chauncey
- 9 October at 12:30pm at The Chauncey
Visit https://refocusfilmfestival.org/ for more information.
“Black Panther Remix: Wakanda Now‘
A global pandemic has changed the way we live our lives and watch movies since Black Panther was released in 2018, amid protests over the police killing of unarmed black people across the country and the death of Chadwick Boseman — the actor behind King T’Challa, the alter ego of the titular Black Panther — amidst both.
A sequel, titled Wakanda Forever, is slated for release this December, but University of Iowa poet and professor Tracie Morris is at Refocus to introduce Wakanda Now.
The event is described as “a polyphonic reading accompanying a visual-only performance” of 2018’s Black Panther. At the event, which will last just over two hours, Morris and a handful of other narrators will reinvent the context of the 2018 film with a particular focus on language and voice.
This isn’t the first time Morris has done something like this with FilmScene. In November 2019, she did something similar with the David Cronenberg film A History of Violence. The commentary she provided in this particular case had her as a lone narrator in a “non-neo-benshi” style that referred to a Japanese style of film presentation.
Though Morris describes this as an “experimental” event, it’s family-friendly but not recommended for those who have never seen the film.
There is a showtime for this program:
- 9 October: 7pm at The Chauncey
To learn more about Tracie Morris, visit traciemorris.com.
‘Bones & Everything’
Two cannibals fall in love and end up on a road trip across the United States; It’s not the setting for a joke, it’s the premise of the new horror/romance film Bones & All.
This film earned Luca Guadagnino a Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival and co-star Taylor Russell a Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actress.
The film is of particular interest to Iowa City residents and University of Iowa alumni because David Kajganich wrote the screenplay for Bones & All. Like lead actor Timothee Chalamet, Kajganich has worked with Italian director Guadagnino on previous projects. In Chalamet’s case, that previous Guadagnino film is Call Me By Your Name; in Kajganich’s case, that previous film is A Bigger Splash.
The first showtime for this program not only kicks off the festival ahead of its national release date, but the first Refocus show will be followed by talkback from Kajganich and Camille DeAngelis, the author of the novel the film is based on.
Game times for “Bones & All”:
- Oct. 6: 7 p.m. at the Englert Theater
- 8 October: 10pm at The Chauncey
Find out more about Bones & All at unitedartistsreleasing.com/bones-and-all/
“In the morning you wake up (to the end of the world)”
On the morning of January 13, 2018, Hawaiians woke up to sirens signaling an imminent missile attack.
For 38 minutes, residents had to react to the possibility of a nuclear attack. On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World) is a documentary that invites viewers to explore these 38 minutes. Unlike most documentaries, “On the Morning You Wake” is presented through a virtual reality headset.
The documentary comes from the creators of the video game Notes on Blindness.
This film is unique in the way it can be viewed as due to its nature as a VR piece, times must be scheduled to view the film. This can be done via the Refocus Film Festival website from October 6th at The Chauncey.
Visit onthemorningyouwake.com for more information about the film.
Visit the Refocus Film Festival website for ticket information and the full schedule.