“Cinema is Sorcery: The Films of Nina Menkes” Runs March 4-10
The Retrospective Will Be Hosted By The American Cinematheque in Los Angeles Following BAM, Dates To Be Announced
Nina Menkes returns to BAM following the acclaimed 2019 run of QUEEN OF DIAMONDS (1991). A singular voice in American filmmaking for over forty years, Menkes and her confrontational films still feel ahead of their time. Her work sits in direct rebuke to the Hollywood power structure, elevating themes of female subjectivity and isolation, alienated labor, misogynist violence, and the landscape of the American West. With echoes of Chantal Akerman, Menkes’ unflinching feminist, leftist films continue to astound and “derive their visceral power from a formal poise and rigor” (The New York Times).
This comprehensive retrospective presents all new restorations and includes runs of two of Menkes’ rarely screened films MAGDALENA VIRAGA (1986, Mar 4-10)—starring the director’s sister and frequent collaborator Tinka Menkes as the film’s emotionally frozen protagonist—and the 2021 New York Film Festival selection THE BLOODY CHILD (1996, Mar 4-10), a brutal and profound look at violence on the homefront. The series also includes a special screening of DISSOLUTION (2010, Mar 6) along with a new restoration of THE GREAT SADNESS OF ZOHARA (1983, Mar 6), two films that reckon with the relationship between Jews and Arabs in contemporary Israel; PHANTOM LOVE (2007, Mar 7 & 9), a surreal psychodrama about a young woman trapped within a suffocating family; and QUEEN OF DIAMONDS (Mar 5 & 6), Menkes’ horseless Western about female alienation.
Dir: Nina Menkes | 90 min. | United States | 1986
Synopsis: With Tinka Menkes. Shot in the bars and seedy hotels of East LA, this early feature from Menkes explores the inner life of a prostitute imprisoned for killing her pimp. The director’s sister and frequent collaborator Tinka Menkes brilliantly portrays the emotionally frozen protagonist on a circular inner journey, as she battles the walls which surround her—both material and psychic. Winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for “Best Independent/Experimental Film of the Year,” MAGDALENA VIRAGA was featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial as well as in over 40 film festivals worldwide.
New 2K restoration! 90min. DCP. March 4-10
New restoration by Arbelos Films and The Academy Film Archive
THE BLOODY CHILD
Dir: Nina Menkes | 85 min. | United States | 1996
Synopsis: With Robert Muller, Tinka Menkes. A young US Marine, recently back from the Gulf War, was found digging a grave for his murdered wife in the middle of the California Mojave. Inspired by this real event, Menkes turns the man’s arrest—a single moment in time—into a harrowing hallucinatory journey. Shot in North Africa and 29 Palms, California, THE BLOODY CHILD brings together Marines from Operation Desert Storm, playing themselves, with text from Shakespeare’s MACBETH to create a brutal and profound look at the desolation of violence. Menkes’ acclaimed third film was an official selection for the 2021 New York Film Festival.
New 4K restoration! 85min. DCP. March 4-10
Restoration by The Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation
QUEEN OF DIAMONDS
Dir: Nina Menkes | 77 min. | United States | 1991
Synopsis: With Tinka Menkes, Emmellda J. Beech, Jeff Douglas. Nina Menkes’ lost underground classic is one of the most jarringly original independent films of the 1990s. In a neon-soaked dream vision of Las Vegas, a disaffected blackjack dealer drifts through a series of encounters alternately mundane, surreal, and menacing, while death and violence hover ever-present in the margins. Awash in lush, hallucinatory images, QUEEN OF DIAMONDS is a haunting study of female alienation that “may become for America in the 90s what Jeanne Dielman was for Europe in the 70s—a cult classic using a rigorous visual composition to penetrate the innermost recesses of the soul” (Bérénice Reynaud, Chicago Reader).
New 4K restoration! 77min. DCP. March 5 & 6
Restoration by The Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. The film will be co-presented with Eos World Fund.
Dir: Nina Menkes | 88 min. | Israel | 2010
Synopsis: With Didi Fire. Loosely inspired by Dostoyevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, DISSOLUTION combines an almost surreal fairy-tale energy with brutal black-and-white realism to explore the condition of violence which permeates contemporary Israeli society. Shot in Yafo (the predominantly Arab area of Tel Aviv), the movie follows the moral collapse and first glimmer of redemption of a young, morose Israeli Jew. Screening with THE GREAT SADNESS OF ZOHARA.
88min. DCP. March 6 at 4:30pm
THE GREAT SADNESS OF ZOHARA
Dir: Nina Menkes | 38 min. | Israel | 1983
Synopsis: With Tinka Menkes. The film traces the solitary, mystical journey of a Jewish girl who leaves Jerusalem for Arab lands. Shot on location in Israel and North Africa, the film was created entirely by Menkes and her sister, actor Tinka Menkes, who traveled alone, stayed in cheap hotels, and completed the entire work for under seven thousand dollars. Screening with DISSOLUTION.
New 2K restoration! 38min. DCP. March 6 at 4:30pm
Dir: Nina Menkes | 87 min. | United States | 2007
Synopsis: With Marina Shoif, Juliette Marquis, Yelena Apartseva, Bobby Naderi. A surreal psychodrama about a young woman trapped within a suffocating family, captured on 35mm in stunning black and white. Lulu lives alone and works in a casino in Los Angeles’ Koreatown; her younger sister is going through a psychotic breakdown; and her mother wants to come stay in Lulu’s apartment. As Lulu tries to extricate herself from her family—and the violence and trauma that surrounds them—mystical elements combine with a gritty, hyper-real style to offer a powerful evocation of one woman’s descent into self.
New remaster! 87min. DCP. March 7 & 9