Marooned in Iraq begins with a black screen and the shrieking rumble of a bomber. It's a decade ago, however, and the plane is Saddam's, part of his assault on the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. (Does anybody remember when Hussein had an air force? The Kurds do.) If this likable road movie still bore its bittersweet and apolitical original title, The Songs of My Motherland, we might be better prepared for the genial absurdity that leavens Bahman Ghobadi's heartfelt homage to Kurdish refugees, orphans, and, naturally, musicians.
German documentary maker Heiner Stadler chooses a different style of humor, the cool distance of irony, to evoke the worldwide ripples of America's post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. With a wink, Stadler pretends that everything he shows us in Eat, Sleep, No Women -- Brazilian miners celebrating the immediate rise in gold prices, for example -- is happening the same day that U.S. ordnance first struck the Taliban (Oct. 7, 2001). His economics may be sound and his images well chosen, but the movie lacks the satisfying click of pieces snapping together.
Everything ignites in local filmmaker Sam Green's riveting, revelatory portrait of uncivil disobedience, The Weather Underground. Three decades on, former members of the left-wing group -- which concluded that violence against the government was the only way to stop the Vietnam War -- talk candidly about those volatile days. At its core, The Weather Underground (which returns later this year for a theatrical run) is a profound and profoundly relevant salute to idealism, its limits and its costs.
The current news from Iraq makes lines and scenes jump out of apparently unrelated festival flicks. In the lively Indian film A Peck on the Cheek, an overlong adoption tale with Benetton-ish musical numbers and a key subplot triggered by the strife in Sri Lanka, a journalist puts the blame for war on the countries that profit from arms sales. Many more war references are embedded in the fest, kind of like Easter eggs on the White House lawn.
Marooned in Iraq: Sunday, April 20, 3:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Friday, April 25, 9:15 p.m., Pacific Film Archive
Eat, Sleep, No Women: Monday, April 21, 9:45 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Wednesday, April 23, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Saturday, April 26, 1:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
The Weather Underground: Thursday, April 24, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Sunday, April 27, 3 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, April 28, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive
A Peck on the Cheek: Sunday, April 27, 8:45 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Tuesday, April 29, 10 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki