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Igniting the Solar Revolution in Virginia

by Tench Phillips, Naro Cinema | Veer April, 2016

I was recently invited to speak on a panel at Norfolk State University. The topic was ‘The Film Industry: Its Celluloid Past, Its Digital Present, Its Limitless Future’ sponsored by the Mass Communications and Journalism Department. I’m rarely asked by academia to speak or consult with any class or workshop, and I readily agreed to participate.

There are certainly more qualified people than myself who can teach film history. And those with a much better memory. Yet the hands-on experience that is acquired from the operation of an art screen for almost 40 years has taught me invaluable life lessons somewhat different than those found within Ivory Towers. You might call it street smarts. For example: how to compete with large corporate theater chains, how to be successful making risky bets on movie bookings, and how to maintain good public relations when programming controversial material.

I find that the Naro Video staff is just as knowledgeable as any local faculty who teach film and media studies.  Many store patrons confirm just how much they have learned from their frequent visits and ongoing relationship with their favorite staff. The ongoing dialogue is really a face to face exchange of oral story-telling. And in an age when we spend far too much time online behind screens, our personal interactions are more important than ever.

But the audience that I spoke to at Norfolk State is not one that I expect to see anytime soon at the Naro complex. The students were mostly in their twenties, a market that rarely has interest in the social experience of attending art movies. In addition, the students were African American, a demographic that has always been difficult for the Naro to reach. The sad irony is that the NSU campus is located so close to Colley Ave and yet it's so very far away.

The cultures of Norfolk are separated by both color and class and this economic apartheid continues to exist despite the fifty year struggle to integrate Norfolk public schools. But ever since the sixties, white families have moved out of Norfolk into the suburbs rather than have their children bused to integrated schools. And private school enrollment has grown to accommodate the white middle-class families who can afford the tuition. The demographics of public school enrollment has flip-flopped over the years and once again has become largely segregated by color and class.

Only recently have we seen a cultural melting pot in a few key areas of the city. Ever since Chipotle opened up next door to the theater, there has been an influx of young people of color who mingle and socialize on Colley Avenue. It's too bad that it had to be a corporate chain store to jumpstart the process. But now that it has, adjacent businesses can benefit from this new market. The opportunity available for local business is comparable to the arrival of Starbucks in Ghent some years ago and the growth of local coffee shops to serve a larger clientele.

I don't know of a better place in Hampton Roads than Colley Ave to observe the merging of cultures and color. And the tolerance and friendliness that people show to each other didn't just happen overnight The groundwork for this social experiment has been cultivated for years by local businesses, Blair Middle School, and the residents of Ghent.

Ours is a real community. Not a faux Town Center that was created by suburban real estate developers and chain retailers. That's why urban living has now become an alternative lifestyle not just for young people but for oldsters who are moving back to the city.

Making contact on a human scale is more important than ever so as to counter the segregating and isolating forces of technology and car transportation. Increased personal interactions in cities among diverse populations can explain the country's predominate voting patterns – the Republican Red vote exhibited in rural and suburban areas, and the Democratic Blue vote found in the urban centers. The election polls in and around Ghent have tilted liberal for decades now.

And yet we will continue to have big social problems in this city until we address racial and economic injustice. The selling of street drugs is still one of the most lucrative unskilled jobs available for so many urban kids. And until the country perceives the use of all drugs as a health issue rather than as a legal issue, underclass communities of color will continue to be victimized and alienated by failed social policies and by predatory practices of law enforcement.

The hard working students attending Norfolk State and ODU are paying good money to get a college education so as to share in the American dream. But with our area's high unemployment among young minorities and with little in the way of opportunity for decent paying jobs after graduation, many of them will be left behind with only college debt to show for their efforts.

But there is a ray of hope for the future employment of our young people. The conversion of the economy from one based on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources can provide needed jobs for our young people. We will learn about the ongoing solar revolution that's happening in the western U.S. and in other countries when the new documentary 'Catching the Sun' shows on Wed, May 11 in our 'New Non-Fiction Film' series presented with the Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club and Virginia Organizing.

So why isn't Virginia participating in the immense economic growth engine that a transition to solar and wind power will provide? In the post-film discussion we will discover how Dominion Power, Big Coal, Norfolk Southern, and our state legislature have colluded to obstruct the needed government incentives and policies that would ignite the solar revolution in the Commonwealth. And we'll discuss what needs to be done so as to subvert the power and money of dirty energy.

The power establishment in Virginia is nervous and has circled the wagons. As the climate and economic justice movements grow and organize, democracy for the people will be demanded. Only then will we experience what the 'common wealth' could really mean for the many and not just for the few.

Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING  The magnificent painting by Johannes Vermeer in 1665 has been called ‘the Mona Lisa of Northern Europe’. Its recent world tour garnered huge queues for the briefest glimpse of its majestic beauty. Afterwards the painting was returned to the much-loved Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, Netherlands, which has just completed extensive renovations. With exclusive access to this historical exhibition, the film takes the audience on a journey to answer many of the questions surrounding this enigmatic painting and its mysterious creator, Vermeer. 'Exhibition On Screen' is presented with Chrysler Museum. Shows Tuesday, April 19.

AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD A few decades after the destruction of the Inca empire, a Spanish expedition leaves the mountains of Peru and goes down the Amazon river in search of gold and wealth. Soon, they come across great difficulties and Don Aguirre, a ruthless man who cares only about riches, becomes their leader. But will his quest lead them to "the golden city", or to certain destruction? Subtitled. Part of 'Faith In Film' series with introduction by Rev. Scott Hennessy. Shows Tuesday, April 26.

TRAPPED  U.S. reproductive health clinics are fighting to remain open. In the last five years, there have been hundreds of laws passed by state legislatures to limit and obstruct abortion providers. These have become known as TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers). As the U.S. Supreme Court decides this year whether individual states may essentially outlaw abortion, Trapped follows clinic workers, overworked doctors, and lawyers who are on the front lines of the battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of Americans. Presented with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. Showing Wed, April 27.

THE OCCUPATION OF THE AMERICAN MIND: Israel's Public Relations War in the U.S. The ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory, the non-stop building of settlements on confiscated West Bank property, and the repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world -- except the United States. Narrated by musician and activist Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel's favor. Such informed voices as Noam Chomsky, Max Blumenthal, Phyllis Bennis, and Norman Solomon provide a sweeping analysis of Israel's decades-long public relations battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people in the face of widening international condemnation of its increasingly right-wing policies. Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson will speak following the film. Shows Wednesday, May 4.

ROMEO AND JULIET This beautiful production celebrates the 50th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan’s masterpiece. The love-struck Romeo will be danced by Australian Principal Steven McRae and his beautiful Juliet by American Principal Sarah Lamb. The gripping score is by Prokofiev. 'Royal Ballet On Screen' is presented with Virginia Opera. Shows Wednesday matinee, May 11.

CATCHING THE SUN The global race to lead the clean energy future is seen through the stories of workers and entrepreneurs in the U.S. as well as China and Germany. We see unemployed American workers participating in a solar jobs training program in order to find jobs in the solar industry. But the U.S. is playing   catch-up in the trillion dollar global energy transition. How will the U.S. actually be able to build a clean energy economy? Presented with Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club. Shows Wednesday, May 11.

FLORENCE AND THE UFFIZI GALLERY The most beautiful and representative works of art of the Italian Renaissance are seen in in this journey through the city that was once the cradle of civilization. We experience the best work of the masters in high definition close-up: Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio and Botticelli. Particular attention is given to the treasure house containing many of these masterpieces, the Uffizi Gallery. Narration is provided in the historical role of the dramatically recreated Lorenzo the Magnificent, a mastermind of the Renaissance. 'Exhibition On Screen' is presented with Chrysler Museum. Shows Tuesday, May 17.

CITY OF GOLD In this richly penetrating documentary odyssey, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold shows us a Los Angeles where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America. Combing through colorful neighborhoods in his green pickup truck, Gold is sniffing out his next strip-mall discovery—whether Oaxacan grasshopper soup, hand-cut tonkotsu ramen, or a particularly unctuous pad see ew. As piping-hot platters are served up, so are stories of immigrants whose secret family recipes are like sacred offerings pledged for the opportunity to build their American Dream. With eternal curiosity, razor-sharp intellect, and existential longing, Gold is a culinary geographer taking us where no critic has gone before. Date to be announced.

Legacy of Neocons: A Worldwide Refugee Crisis
by Tench Phillips, Naro Cinema
Reprinted from Veer Magazine, Sept. 2015

In the anticipation leading up to the release this fall of Michael Moore’s first new film in six years, Where To Invade Next?, the Naro brings a series of new documentaries that explore the consequences of recent U.S. foreign policy decisions around the world. For the past 50 years neoconservative policy has dominated Congress  and the administrations of both political parties. The warmongers also inhabit the halls of the State Dept and of course The Pentagon. Theirs is a belief in American empire and an endorsement of military violence at the expense of detente and economic aid. It has worked splendidly well for the benefit of big defense contractors and for Wall Street. But not so well for the countries being invaded – their economies, their infrastructures, and their people suffer greatly.

Civilians can make up to 90% of the total number of casualties of the wars waged today. And the countries being invaded may continue to suffer long after the Americans leave. The internal ethnic wars instigated by Western countries in the Middle East and in numerous African countries can rage on for years. And these wars often cause internal and trans-border migrations by desperate people seeking asylum. In the case of the Iraqi invasion, over 4 million people were initially displaced and the numbers are greater now. Some of these so-called migrants – the label that the mainstream media use as a euphemism for the refugees that they really are – are now washing up on the shores of Europe. Many are crossing borders by hiding in the backs of trucks. They’re coming from poor, violent countries and are seeking refuge in Europe and the U.S.

The proto-fascist movements within right-wing parties throughout Europe and the U.S. have exploited people’s innate fear and ignorance for their own political gain. Rather than offer equitable solutions for a sustainable world, many candidates choose instead to scapegoat immigrants and poor minorities as a campaign strategy. Nothing new, it’s been done for decades. But the adverse effect upon people’s attitudes is more powerful than ever due to the complicity of mainstream media in the shaping of the political debate.


Since the year of my birth in 1950, the U.S. has invaded, bombed, or attempted to overthrow more than twenty countries including Libya (2011), Iraq (2003-present), Afghanistan (2001-present), Haiti (1994), Kuwait (1991), Panama (1989), Grenada (1983), Dominican Republic (1965), Cuba (1961), and Vietnam (1961-1973). And that’s not counting all the covert CIA operations that have destabilized democratically elected governments in Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela to name just a few. Nor does it include the covert funding of antidemocratic regimes and dictatorships in Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. In fact the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen is a proxy war being funded and armed by U.S. mega-sales to the Saudis. Not to mention the resulting humanitarian crisis in Yemen that has been created with U.S. backing.
The unspoken mission of the U.S. corporate-military state is to dominate and control the world’s resources for the benefit of American multi-nationals. President Obama’s high-tech drone strikes have opened up new territories within countries that we’re not even at war with as in Pakistan. Of course this can all get very complicated if China or Russia are also in the same region with conflicting interests. A recent example is the U.S.-backed coup in the Ukraine that resulted in the Russian invasion of Crimea and a proxy civil war that has devastated parts of eastern Ukraine.
There is a direct connection between U.S. foreign policy and the economic and racial injustice found here in our own urban ghettos. The trillions of dollars spent on national defense, homeland security, and the ongoing drug war has stolen from our citizens the benefit of social programs, health care, quality education, and stable employment. When the biggest job programs in the country turns out to be military induction as well as prison incarceration, then it becomes painfully obvious that our socioeconomic model is unsustainable.
The  ongoing Wednesday night ‘New Non-Fiction Film’ series will include several films that reveal the true cost of our country’s overseas adventures. The acclaimed new film The Look of Silence investigates Indonesia, a country shaped over the years by the genocide perpetrated on its people during the 1960s by the military dictatorship with U.S. backing. We Come As Friends is filmed in war-torn Sudan where multinationals are maneuvering for ownership of natural resources. The forces of neocolonialism by both the U.S. and China are carving Africa’s largest country into two. Burden of Peace exposes the legacy of the U.S.-backed Guatemalan military dictatorship and its massive genocide of indigenous Mayan peoples. As one of the only countries to have ever indicted and convicted its own political leaders, there is much to learn in this up-to-date film about a powerful social justice movement. The ultimate message of these films are full of hope and enlightenment.
I want to believe that if Americans really understood the true legacy of our country’s complicity in these atrocities that they would call for an end to our continued military adventures. These upcoming films shine a ray of truth on the dark underside of an America that too often glorifies military conquest and sanitizes the suffering of millions.
Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

BEST OF ENEMIES In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A liberal Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Showing Wed, Sept 16.
Kahil Gibran’s THE PROPHET written by celebrated Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, selling over 100 million copies in forty languages since its publication in 1923. This animated feature was produced by Salma Hayek and directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King). Opening Friday, Sept 18.

REMBRANDT: From The National Gallery London and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam For many art lovers, Rembrandt is the greatest artist that ever lived. This recent landmark exhibition focuses on the masterworks he painted in his final years. The filmmakers gained unlimited access to these two world renowned institutions, the film uses interviews with curators and leading art historians, this new film seeks to explore the truth about the man behind the legend. Showing Tuesday, Sept 22 in ‘Exhibition On Screen’ series with Chrysler Museum.


THE REFLEKTOR TAPES: ARCADE FIRE One of the most popular bands of the last decade, Arcade Fire’s last album Reflektor climbed to the top of the charts internationally. This film documents the band’s creative journey as they lay foundations for the album in Jamaica, record in a studio in Montreal, and play an impromptu gig at a Haitian hotel on the first night of Carnival, before bringing their breath-taking live show to packed arenas in Los Angeles and London. Showing Wed, Sept 23.

PAWN SACRIFICE In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his own madness. In a gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond), Pawn Sacrifice chronicles Fischer's terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world. Also starring Liev Schreiber and Peter Sarsgaard. Opening Friday, Sept 25.

PLANT PURE NATION This new film from the makers of the game-changing phenomenon, Forks Over Knives, tells the story of three committed people on a quest to spread the message of one of the most important health breakthroughs of our time. When nutritional scientist and author T. Colin Campbell inspires a Kentucky politician to propose a pilot program documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet, they inadvertently set in motion a series of events that expose powerful industry forces opposed to the program. Dr. Campbell’s oldest son Nelson decides to try his own grassroots approach in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina. Showing Wed, Sept 30.

MEET THE PATELS This romantic-comedy documentary directed by first-generation Indian-American siblings Geeta and Ravi Patel. Ravi is soon-to-be-thirty and in search of love after a difficult breakup. The journey takes him all the way to India, where nonstop pressure from his parents and traditional family gradually influence him into the awkward and hopeful prospect of a semi-arranged marriage. Date to be announced.

THE LOOK OF SILENCE This is filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer's powerful companion piece to the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, a film that featured the perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide (a military regime backed by the U.S.). When the film was shown a few years ago thought the country, a family of survivors discovered how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to confess and accept responsibility for their actions. Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are the film’s Executive Producers. Showing Wed, Oct 7.

THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION In order to be able to understand the incendiary racial landscape of contemporary America, the history of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party must be rediscovered. The resurgent demands by “Black Lives Matter” for justice and racial equality were birthed in the 1960s by a cast of larger-than-life personalities including: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge, Kathleen Cleaver, and Fred Hampton. Showing Wed, Oct 14.

WE COME AS FRIENDS At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old pathology has re-emerged of western colonialism, the clash of empires, and new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. Showing Wed, Oct 21.

BURDEN OF PEACE Claudia Paz y Paz is the first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. A country that has systematically massacred nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians with the direct backing of the United States. Her office has recently indicted the country’s President. Showing Wed, Oct 28.

Media Monopoly Versus A Free Press

By Tench Phillips, Veer – May 2015

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
– A. J. Liebling

We’ve come to take for granted the mergers by media companies in this country over the years. It’s supposed to foster greater efficiency and higher Wall Street prices, right? But this consolidation of media power into the hands of only a few large corporations has allowed for unprecedented commercial and state control of the public dialogue and of the flow of information. In fact political philosopher Naom Chomsky asserts “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.”

Consolidation has also allowed for large, distant companies to control much of the information that comes into our communities. Here in Hampton Roads, most of the home television and radio stations are owned by large broadcast conglomerates with multiple stations in numerous other cities. There is little allegiance to our community from these companies other than as another market to be exploited for company profits. Our area’s citizens are perceived as consumers whose statistics can be compiled and offered up to advertisers for the marketing of their commercial messages. A comprehensive listing of our area’s radio and TV stations showing detailed information about ownership can be found at

Other area media monopolies include the cable and telecommunications companies providing pipelines to our homes and businesses. With so little competition and choice, Cox and Verizon have been able to charge premium prices for internet service and cable channels.

Local newspapers have maintained monopoly presences here for years. The Daily Press operates on the Peninsula and is owned by the Chicago-based multi-media company, Tribune Media. In contrast, The Virginian Pilot is still managed by the locally owned media company Landmark Communications. But this could change at any time since the owners readily acknowledge that they have tried unsuccessfully for years to divest their holdings and find a media conglomerate to buy the paper for the right price.

It wasn’t always like this. In the early part of the last century, the government strictly regulated the public airwaves and limited the number of news sources that a company could own. The role of a local independent press was considered by the founders to be vital for the democratic process. They believed that the press served as a guarantee for the free flow of trusted information and as a watchdog for the abuses of government and corporate power.

But the potential for ever greater corporate profits began to erode the principal of media “localism”. The deregulation championed under Ronald Reagan’s administration accelerated under Clinton. It was sealed with The Telecommunications Act of 1996 that allowed for multiple media outlets to be owned by the same company. Over the last few decades anti-monopoly legislation has systematically been dismantled in this country within all industrial and financial sectors. But the media is not just another industry and the role of a free and independent press is imperative for a democratic society.

A feeding frenzy of big media consolidation has continued unabated even though the politicized FCC has offered some resistance. Today there are just six behemoths that own and control 90% of what we read, what we watch, and what we listen to. These giant content providers also own much of the cable infrastructure. They include Comcast and Warner Brothers (whose recent cable mega-merger was finally abandoned after mounting opposition), along with Murdock’s News Corp, Disney, Viacom, and CBS. These companies own the television networks, publishing houses, and most of the cable stations. They also own the six major Hollywood studios – Paramount, Sony Pictures, Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and 20th Century Fox. With such corporate control, there’s little wonder that there are so many sequels and so little narrative diversity to be found in movie theaters today.

These companies decide which news events will receive coverage and which ones will be ignored. Try to find independent progressive voices who are allowed to challenge the corporate narrative presented on any of those news shows. The corporate media is the tail that wags the dog. It’s a top-down, hierarchal view of the world delivered from an ideological corporate perch. Only occasionally is big media forced to cover issues in the interests of the country’s poor and minority communities. As when the coverage of recent violence in urban ghettoes of Ferguson and Baltimore has exposed decades of economic inequality and racism by the police.

Reportage on U.S. foreign policy is even worse. The bias of American empire is the media lens through which international events are perceived and interpreted. Whether it’s coverage of the fighting in the Ukraine, the war on ISIS, the numerous civil wars fueled by American interventionism which are raging throughout the Middle East, the coverage of democratic movements in South America, or negotiations of trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Pact – egregious examples of media spin and disinformation occur daily in the corporate press as well as NPR and public media.

That’s why the recent ruling by the FCC in favor of “Net Neutrality” was so important. It means that regardless of corporate control of other media platforms, we can – for the time being – depend on a free and open internet. Even though many of the most popular websites are owned by the large media and web companies, we are offered countless sources for obtaining independent and citizen news reporting. The best example being the subscriber based, non-profit Democracy Now! which is tuned into daily on various platforms by 20 million viewers and listeners in the U.S. and other countries. It’s striking just how different the show is from mainstream news. The reporting on domestic and world events comes from activists and independent journalists who aren’t embedded in the military, the state dept, conservative think tanks, or corporate culture.

Continued vigilance is needed. Congress is now considering a bill to invalidate the FCC ruling on net neutrality. More media mergers are being planned; AT&T and Direct TV have now petitioned the FCC in an effort to consolidate. Legislation to continue the surveillance of American phone calls and emails by the NSA is once again before Congress in an attempt to reauthorize The Patriot Act. The Obama administration is pressing Congress to fast-track the approval of the Trans Pacific Pact trade agreement that undermines decades of environmental and labor legislation as well as net neutrality. These issues remain obscure and misunderstood by most Americans due to the lack of clear coverage given to them by big media.

There are some important media watchdogs that expose the biases and disinformation perpetrated by the establishment press. A web search will connect you with Free Press, FAIR, Global Trade Watch, AdBusters, Democracy Now! and Media Matters.

The ongoing Naro documentary series “New Non-Fiction Film” on Wednesday nights offers alternative programming that covers important issues explored by independent filmmakers and journalists. Many of the informed voices not invited to speak on all those broadcast news programs will receive an airing in the upcoming short documentary ‘Shadows of Liberty’ to be shown on Wed, May 20 as part of The Media Reform Action Tour as a free public showing arranged by the film producers.

Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

SHADOWS OF LIBERTY Canadian filmmaker Jean-Philippe Tremblay takes an intrepid journey through the darker corridors of the American media landscape, where global conglomerates call the shots. Renowned independent journalists, activists and academics give insider accounts of a broken media system. Featuring Danny Glover, Julian Assange, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Daniel Ellsberg, Norman Solomon, Jeff Cohen, Robert McChesney, John Nichols, Chris Hedges, and many more. Free and open to the public. (60 mins) Wed, May 20 at 5:30pm

GETT: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem In the modern state of Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce – and a court of judges composed of only orthodox rabbis can legitimate a marriage or its dissolution. Furthermore a divorce or ‘gett' is only possible with full consent from the husband, who in the end has more power than the judges. In this acclaimed Israeli film Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) has been applying for divorce for three years but her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) will not agree. It’s a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request. In Hebrew and French with subtitles.  Showing Wed, May 20 at 7:15pm
THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM Although filmmaker Jon Long’s new movie is a celebration of the world of action sport, it is much more than a sports movie. It is a compelling story about human spirit and self-expression told by those who created a cultural phenomenon. Featuring top pioneers across all the major action and outdoor sports like Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Nyjah Houston, Danny Way, Jeremy Jones, Shane McConkey, Robbie Maddison, Robby Naish, Kai Lenny, Quiksilver founder Bob McKnight, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, surf filmmaking legend Bruce Brown (Endless Summer), and mountain biking pioneer Gary Fisher. Showing Wed, June 10

SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION Meet Seymour Bernstein: a virtuoso pianist, veteran New Yorker, and true original who gave up a successful concert career to teach music. In this wonderfully warm, witty, and intimate tribute from his friend, Ethan Hawke, Seymour shares unforgettable stories from his remarkable life and eye-opening words of wisdom, as well as insightful reflections on art, creativity, and the search for fulfillment. Date to be announced.

LAMBERT AND STAMP Way back in the early sixties, aspiring young filmmakers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert were searching for the right subject for a film about disaffected youth and the music culture. They finally found in a rock band called the High Numbers a rebelliousness that was just what they were looking for. Eventually abandoning their plans to make the film, they began to mentor and manage the group, which evolved into the iconic band known as The Who. The result was rock 'n' roll history. Date to be announced.

SALAD DAYS: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) examines the early punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Date to be announced.

'Planetary' Film Event on The 45th Earth Day
by Tench Phillips (writing in VEER April, 2015)

I find it somewhat revealing how media and business attach the label  “environmentalist” to describe anyone who resists the corporate exploitation and degradation of nature, as if a concern for the planet goes counter to reasonable social norms. This kind of subtle marginalization of the green movement has over the years created a narrative that has polarized Americans – those who oppose economic growth at the expense of the biosphere on one side, and on the other side are those more practical, business-minded, job-creating, God-loving traditionalists.

And yet even big business loves the annual celebration of Earth Day. The event has been mostly co-opted by commerce and civic groups for the purpose of greenwashing their logos. Music and performance help create a good time for all. And it does in the end serve some useful purpose – the kids who attend are directed to pick up street litter and recycle trash.

But it didn’t start out that way. The first Earth Day held on April 22, 1970 was a revolutionary event. It has been widely credited with the launching of the modern environmental movement and the subsequent passage of such landmark laws as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. What’s surprising is that all this enlightened legislation was initiated and passed during the Nixon administration. It shows just how much our nation’s politics have lurched to the right.

This year The Naro will be jumping into the fray to commemorate the 45th Earth Day. We will be hosting along with numerous other independent theaters the global theatrical premiere of a stunningly beautiful new film dedicated to “worldview interruption” – the act of seeing the world in a radically different way.

Underlying the message of the film is the Gaia hypothesis – the theory developed by James Lovelock that life itself transformed our planet and its atmosphere into the conditions favorable for the evolution of complex lifeforms. Named for the ancient Greek goddess of the earth, Lovelock provided some of the first warnings that industrial society had so critically thwarted Gaia’s self-regulating and co-evolutionary processes, that it was now imperative for us to recognize our interdependence in the whole of the biosphere. The theory has provided science a framework for complex modeling such as predicting climate change. Gaia has also become a potent metaphor, a myth, and continues to grow as a movement.

The filmmakers of Planetary have developed their narrative structure by adapting The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism which is itself based on an ancient Indian system of ayurvedic medicine: the disease, the diagnosis, the cure, and the treatment.

The disease: The health of the planet is fast deteriorating. Our institutions and their leaders have failed us and are effectively taking the world off a cliff. The church and state, along with academia and business perpetuate long-held myths of militarism, corporatism, and man’s dominion over nature. Corporate media dispenses disinformation and political theater, spinning the same old retro stories of scarcity, fear, and the necessity for greater economic growth. Meanwhile the reality of ecological devastation and mass species extinction are both trivialized and denied. Philosopher David Loy states in the film, “We have not only an ecological crisis… but also a kind of story crisis. That is to say there’s something very wrong about the way that we understand who we are, and our relationship with the Earth.” He is among the many clear voices explaining the precarious condition of our biosphere. Others include leading climate change activist Bill McKibben and anthropologist Wade Davis.

The diagnosis: What is the fundamental root cause of the crisis? We hear from Zen Buddhist priests Joan Halifax and Alan Thubten along with Tibetan lama Anam Thubte and the Head of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu school, the 17th Karmapa. They speak about the Western cultural misperception of the self and its perceived separation from nature, from the planet, and from others. Their ancient practices are used to reveal the illusory nature of the false self and our true interconnectiveness with all beings.

The cure: Viewing the earth from a distance erases all borders and encourages us to see the planet as a single, living organism. We hear from NASA astronauts and their life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from outer space. This perspective-altering experience has been described as the “Overview Effect”. Common features of the experience are feelings of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for the biosphere. Cosmologist Brian Swimme adds his unique evolutionary view to the discussion. And we hear from the mindfulness community– the teachers who explore the practical ways to experience and embody these realizations in our personal lives.

The treatment: The development of a planetary citizen movement that encompasses not only protest and civil disobedience, but longer-range strategies that implement radical political and economic change. This has become possible through the network of the world wide web. This “global brain” can also reconnect us with the earth through the teachings of ancient wisdom traditions. Indigenous voices in the movie include Hopi elder Mona Polacca, Lakota Sioux elder Tiokasin Ghosthorse, and African Dagara leader Sobonfu.

Following the showing of Planetary at The Naro, a discussion will be facilitated by the Virginia Chapter of The Sierra Club along with Catherine Kilduff, a staff lawyer with The Center for Biological Diversity, and Tom Ellis, a liberal arts professor and Gaian teacher. Tom is always a favorite with audiences at The Naro, and he will share his studies of Gaia theory and his vision for “the spontaneous remission of the cancer of the Earth.” Planetary shows Wed, April 22.

More Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema
In the upcoming month our “New Non-Fiction Film” series will feature other stories and investigations that will continue the conversation initiated with the showing of  Planetary. A film receiving much press is Merchants of Doubt. It examines the methods used by the industrial-media complex in the  manufacturing of propaganda used to misinform and confuse the public.
THE HUNTING GROUND From the filmmakers of the game changing film about sexual assault in the military, The Invisible War, comes a startling expose of rape crimes on US campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll that they take on students and their families. Weaving together first person testimonies, the film follows the lives of several undergraduate assault survivors from UVA and other prestigious universities as they attempt to pursue – despite incredible push back, harassment and traumatic aftermath – both their education and societal justice. Shows Wed, April 15.

AN HONEST LIAR ‘The Amazing’ Randi has been for years a world-famous magician, escape artist, and world-renowned enemy of deception. The film brings to life Randi’s intricate investigations that publicly exposed psychics, faith healers, and con-artists. A master deceiver who came out of the closet at the age of 81, Randi created fictional characters, fake psychics, and even turned his partner of 25 years, the artist Jose Alvarez, into a sham guru named Carlos. But when a shocking revelation in Randi’s personal life is discovered, it isn’t clear whether Randi is still the deceiver – or the deceived. Shows Wed, April 29.

MERCHANTS OF DOUBT Inspired by the acclaimed book, Merchants of Doubt takes audiences on a satirical and illuminating journey into the dark  heart of the American propaganda machine. Documentarian Robert Kenner (Food Inc) lifts the curtain on a secretive group of charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who are used by corporate media as scientific authorities. But their real purpose is to spread maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change. Presented with Sierra Club of Virginia and CCAN. Shows Wed, May 6.

SALT OF THE EARTH Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity for over forty years. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet's beauty. Sebastião Salgado's life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his later travels, and by German director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire). Shows Wed, May 13.

THE WRECKING CREW Behind headliners like Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Mamas and Poppas, and The Monkees – the unheralded musicians of The Wrecking Crew created the beats and melodies of the great pop hits of the ’60s. Directed by the son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, this vibrant, moving portrait pays tribute to the golden age of the “West Coast Sound” and its secret star-making machine. Date to be announced.

BALLET 422 New York City Ballet, under the artistic direction of Peter Martins, boasts a roster of more than 90 elite dancers and a repertory of works by many of the greatest choreographers in the history of the art form. When 25-year-old NYCB dancer Justin Peck begins to emerge as a promising young choreographer, he is commissioned to create a new ballet for the Company’s 2013 Winter Season. With unprecedented access to an elite world, the film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers and his fellow dancers to create Paz de la Jolla, NYCB’s 422nd new ballet. Date to be announced.

"War is Over! (If You Want It)" - John Lennon
By Tench Phillips, co-owner Naro Cinema

The first modern draft lottery was held in December 1969. I remember well; my birthdate was drawn early on in the lottery and I was dealt a low draft number. At the time I had a college deferment but I knew that I’d be graduating soon enough and would be inducted to fight the communist menace in Vietnam. I needed to educate myself as to what was actually going on overseas other than the reports I watched on Walter Cronkite and The Evening News. 

I was living in Atlanta and attending a rather conservative engineering school. The student body was not politically active and the Army and Navy ROTC programs were popular. The lottery results had split my college buddies into those of us who were now looking at having to go fight overseas and the fortunate ones with high draft numbers who were not to be called up. I was advised by friends and family to enlist in the ROTC so at least to be able to enter the service as an officer.

The counter-culture scene was just then coming into full swing in the South. The Atlanta alternative weekly The Great Speckled Bird contained progressive news along with event listings for music concerts and art happenings around the city. My urban campus was near Piedmont Park and the free concerts on Sunday afternoons were sometimes headlined by The Allman Brothers Band. The popular music of the day that I heard on our college station WREK radio was informing me in a way that seemed more important and vital than my classes at Georgia Tech. My mates and I were just being introduced to cannabis and we were spending our study time getting high, listening to great new music, and expanding our minds in our own way.

My afternoons spent in the park brought me into contact with veterans who were returning from active duty in ‘Nam. Most of these hardened young men were trying to integrate into a rapidly evolving youth culture. When asked about their experiences, their stories were not about courage and valor. They spoke of war atrocities and the mass murder of innocent people. Many seemed psychologically damaged and addicted to hard drugs and alcohol. I slowly realized that I had been lied to by my own government and by my elders; and I knew that I would not participate in the insanity of a needless and unjust war. So I resolved to stay in school for as long as I could. Sometime later I was able to find a sympathetic draft board volunteer who advised me about an arcane but legal way to receive a reclassified lower draft status that kept me out of the service.

The draft lottery had the apparently unforeseen consequence of helping to generate a mass resistance movement of “draft dodgers” who were healthy, young, and well educated. The anti-war movement grew larger and more organized each year. Some conscientious objectors chose prison over enlisting. Others chose to move to Canada – somewhere around 125,000 young men who abandoned the war and their country. The FBI and federal law enforcement grew ever more draconian in their surveillance and apprehension of these young “subversives and agitators”.

Although Nixon campaigned in 1972 on winding down the war, he instead expanded U.S. bombing missions into Laos and Cambodia. Only his personal legal problems coming from the Watergate break-in and his subsequent  impeachment and resignation slowed down the military war machine. But the nail in the coffin that ended this grinding war was the leaking by Daniel Ellsberg of The Pentagon Papers (depicted in the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America) and their publication by The New York Times. The mainstream media had turned against the ruling elite. The public was finally fed up with their leaders and their transgressions, and in 1975 the decision was made under President Gerald Ford to pull the plug.

This untold story about the strategic blunders committed by the military at the end of the war and the botched evacuation of Americans and their Vietnamese allies from Saigon is the subject of Rory Kennedy’s new documentary, Last Days in Vietnam. The youngest daughter of Robert Kennedy has directed or produced over 30 films including Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. Americans should take heed from these historical lessons so that we don’t let our government continue to start wars that they can never seem to finish.

Upcoming Film Events at The Naro Cinema

GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA  No twentieth-century figure has had a more profound effect on the worlds of literature, film, politics, historical debate and the culture wars than Gore Vidal. Gore was one of the most brilliant and fearless critics of our time. He used the media to wage blistering attacks on hypocrisy and establishment politics. His overview of the state of the Republic and the health of U.S. democracy were his last words and testimony. (90 mins)
Showing Wed, Sept 24 with Angelo Mesisco speaking.

EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WORLD On a three-mast ocean schooner packed with artists, scientists and ambitions worthy of Noah or Columbus, an international crew sets sail for the end of the world – the rapidly melting massifs of North-East Greenland. An epic journey where the brave men and women on board encounter polar bear nightmares, Stone Age playgrounds and entirely new species. But in their encounter with new, unknown parts of the world, the crew of scientists and artists also confront the existential questions of life. (90 mins)
Showing Wed, Oct 1 with speaker Victoria Hill, Research Professor specializing in the Arctic with ODU Ocean, Earth, & Atmospheric Sciences.

THE PLEASURES OF BEING OUT OF STEP Nat Hentoff is one of the enduring critical voices of the last 65 years, a writer who championed jazz as an art form. His long-running Village Voice column covering culture and politics influenced and inspired many younger journalists who wrote for the alternative press. The film includes interviews with Hentoff as well as rare footage of the legendary Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Bob Dylan, and Lenny Bruce. (86 mins)
Showing Wed, Oct 8 with Tom Robotham and Maurice Berube speaking.

LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM  Award-winning independent filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s new film chronicles a story few of us have heard before. During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The prospect of an official evacuation of the remaining Americans and their South Vietnamese allies becomes hopelessly delayed by Congressional gridlock and a delusional U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible. (98 mins)
Showing Wed, Oct 15 with David Swanson who will return to speak at the Naro from his home in Charlottesville. He is a nationally renowned journalist, teacher, peace activist, and author of War Is A Lie, When The World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case For Abolition.

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