Aviva Kempner's new film Rosenwald makes your local PBS special look stylish by comparison. It unapologetically abides by the "Great Man Theory" while telling the story of its Jewish businessman/philanthropist subject who orchestrated the dominant rise of Sears-Roebuck while also donating millions to poor African-American causes and movements at the turn of the 20th century.
Unfolding in chronological order, the film uses outdated graphics and reenactments to discuss the rise of Julius Rosenwald from peddler's son to capitalist mogul to civil rights activist. The early phases of his life are indicative of the classic immigrant story, and many of the talking head interviews Kempner exploits confirm the old adage that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
The second half of Rosenwald expands upon his work raising money for schools in underserved black communities riddled by illiteracy and poverty, combatting the Jim Crow laws of the time and the failed "separate but equal" doctrine of the U.S. government. Rosenwald's genius lay in his ability to motivate both white and black communities to invest in their own future by matching the funds he would provide.
As a history lesson, the film provides a shapely overview of Rosenwald's philanthropic contributions to various African American communities and artists, including his work with Booker T. Washington and Tuskeege University.
But as a film Rosenwald, which opens Friday, Sept. 11 at the Ken Cinema, is unadventurous and toothless. One could imagine this playing on loop at the Julius Rosenwald Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Maybe the biggest missed opportunity comes later on when Kempner glosses over the impressive array of artists, singers and engineers granted monies by the Rosenwald Fund, which included Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and Marian Anderson. The film merely rehashes your typical textbook "facts" instead of viewing history through a more complex lens.
6th annual Horrible Imaginings Film Festival: Three days of genre bliss will unfold at this singular film event that showcases the best in horror, noir, and the supernatural. Includes short film programs, features, and documentaries. Screens from Friday Sept. 11 through Sunday Sept. 13, at Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
One Time Only
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: All Sean Penn wants is some pizza. Can't you understand, Mr. Hand? Hey, that rhymed. Spicolli! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Princess Bride: Wallace Shawn, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and Mandy Patinkin are just some of the stars in Rob Reiner's love letter to the classic fantasy film. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 10 – 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Wild Blue Road: Gillo Pontecorvo's drama is about a struggling fisherman (Yves Montand) trying to provide for his family on the Italian coast. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at The Lafayette Hotel in North Park.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner lead this adaptation of Judith Viorst's popular children's book about a young boy who can't catch a break. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at The Lemon Grove Park.
Charade: Watch out for that Cary Grant guy, Audrey Hepburn. He isn't what he seems. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13 at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Grandma's Boy: A deadbeat video game tester must move into his grandma's house after he falls on hard times. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Adobe Chapel Museum in San Diego.
Cutie and the Boxer: Zachary Heinzerling's candid documentary about artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara explores their process and inspiration. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, at San Diego Public Library in East Village.
The Swimmer: In this mysterious film, Burt Lancaster plays a socialite who decides to swim through all of the pools in his upper class neighborhood. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
The Lady From Shanghai: Orson Welles makes a very bad decision and decides to be Rita Hayworth's stooge on a boat trip that may end in murder. Screens at 7p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 at Scripps Ranch Public Library.
Pearl Peep's Viewer's Choice: It's your night to help Pearl choose a film. Yay! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.