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Cinematically Stoned On April 20

April 20 may not be a day for lighting up in even certain San Francisco movie theaters. But some of this week’s special screenings will offer other highs beyond those resulting from inhaling celebratory 4/20 Day pot smoke. There’s a screening of one of the classics of world cinema as well as a first-hand look at life inside a Syrian refugee camp. Don’t get too stoned to miss these blink-and-you’ll-miss-them screenings.

Alex And Ali

This documentary won a Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary at the 39th Frameline Film Festival. In 1967 Tehran, Peace Corps volunteer Alex met gay Iranian Ali. The two of them wound up becoming secret lovers for the next decade. Even after the Iranian Revolution forced Alex to return to America, the two men covertly communicated with each other over the next few decades to keep their love alive. Now in 2012, the two men plan to reunite in Istanbul and then relocate to the United States to rekindle their love. But will their hopes be endangered by the personal changes brought on by decades of separation as well as unexpected snafus?

Screens April 21 at the Roxie Theater

Half-Baked

Is Half-Baked one of the best stoner comedies ever made? Or is it the piece of garbage described by a New York Times reviewer? April 20 is the perfect day for finding out. The film’s directed by Tamra Davis and co-written by Dave Chappelle. A group of New York City-based stoner friends band together to sell high-grade pot and raise $100,000 in cash. The money’s aimed at covering a bond for an imprisoned cop-killing friend. Except. The “cop” in question was a police horse. The “murder weapon” was ice cream bars and pizza intended for post-smoke munchies. Watch out for cameos by Willie Nelson and Snoop Doggy Dogg among others. Just to sweeten the pot, the Alamo Drafthouse will have a special menu available for this special screening.

Screens April 20 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

The Life Of Oharu

Famed Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi’s adaptation of Saikaku’s The Woman Who Loved Love is considered one of the classics of world cinema. Oharu (the great Japanese actress Kinuyo Tanaka) begins the film as a beautiful court lady. However, when she dares to love a page, she and her family get exiled from court. For Oharu, exile is only the first step in her slow loss of social respectability and increasing personal degradation.

Screens April 20 at the Pacific Film Archive. Film is accompanied by a lecture by Alan Tansman.

Mike’s Murder

Director James Bridges re-unites with his Urban Cowboy star Debra Winger for this possibly unfairly maligned crime drama. Betty (Winger), a drive-in bank teller, can’t stop feeling attracted for months to Mike, her handsome one-night stand. But when Mike winds up dead, Betty’s search for answers leads her into Los Angeles’ drug underground. Discovering Mike’s bisexual hustling and his low-level drug-dealing shows Betty how little she knew about the man who haunted her desires.

Screens April 19 at the Castro Theatre

Roadside Prophets

Another way to cinematically celebrate 4/20 Day is by catching this forgotten road trip film written and directed by Abbe Wool (co-writer of Sid And Nancy). Veteran late-30ish burnt out factory worker Joe (John Doe, former frontman of the punk band X) and younger smart alecky sidekick Sam (Adam Horowitz, member of The Beastie Boys) zip down the highways of the American Southwest in their motorcycles. They’re searching for a mythical casino known as El Dorado. Any similarities to an updated Easy Rider. but set in the 1990s, is purely coincidental. Or are they?

Screens April 20 at the Roxie Theatre

Salam Neighbor (Hello Neighbor)

Remember the old Morgan Spurlock TV series 30 Days? In each episode, a volunteer would step out of their comfort zone and spend 30 days in another person’s shoes. Now imagine this concept done as a feature documentary. The volunteers are California filmmakers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple. They’ve gotten UN permission to live in a tent in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp for a month. Located seven miles from the Syrian border, Za’atari offers a home to refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. Among the people portrayed in the film are Raouf, a smiling 10-year-old who’s been traumatized by shellshock, as well as a grandmother who deals with the personal loss of her sons by using her tent’s walls as the writing surface for her private journal.

Screens on April 21 at the Roxie Theater. After the screening, photographers Indira Urrutia and Marc Hors will hold a post-screening discussion regarding their experiences at a Greek refugee camp.

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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