Directed by Ari Palos and produced by SDSU alumni Eren McGinnis, Precious Knowledge examines a series of ethnic-studies classes taught in the Tucson school district, primarily by Latino teachers to Latino students. Offered in a public-school setting, they provided a curriculum that taught a history and culture not found in most textbooks. Many students found the classes empowering, and the graduation rate of kids who took them was notably higher than the rate of those who didn't.
Sounds pretty good, right? Measurable results, in terms of grades and graduation? Sadly, this is Arizona, and Palos and McGinnis also document the efforts of the state legislature to ban the classes, because lawmakers thought the kids were being taught revolution and sedition on the public dime. As shown in the film, this isn't the case, but the effort is led by middle-aged white people who play the anti-American card every time the subject comes up.
The bill to ban the classes, SB 1069, died in committee, but, as we all know, it had a cousin: SB 1070. Precious Knowledge personalizes the rift between Arizona's two cultures by presenting the faces of young people who are directly impacted by legislation. It's moving, intense and absolutely worth watching.
The San Diego Latino Film Festival runs March 10 through 20 at UltraStar Mission Valley. A complete list of films, showtimes, ticket information and more can be found at sdlatinofilm.com.
Also, there are two days of independent films going down at this year's San Diego IndieFest. A year ago, I watched Cassie Jaye's Daddy I Do, a documentary about the abstinence movement in the United States, and it went on to have a strong showing at the Cannes Independent Film Festival (no relation to Cannes, aside from the city) and win multiple awards on the festival circuit. Point being, you never know what you're going to catch at the Mental Eclectic Indie Film Stage, which, like the rest of the event, has moved to the NTC Promenade at Liberty Station. There's a solid mix of shorts, documentaries, and the occasional feature, like the locally shot The Little Matchmakers and a short from Rider Strong and his brother, as well as a number of appearances from filmmakers, actors and celebrities.
San Diego IndieFest is scheduled for March 12 and 13. A complete list of films and showtimes, as well as the bands scheduled to play, can be found at sandiegoindiefest.com.
Battle: Los Angeles: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Ne-Yo fight off an alien invasion. That's not meant to be an immigration allegory.
Heartbeats: Wunderkind director (he's just 21) Xavier Dolan's second film is about a love triangle between two best friends and the incredibly good-looking individual who comes between them.
The Last Lions: New National Geographic documentary about the plight of the jungle kings, whose population has dwindled from the half-million who lived in Africa 50 years ago to just over 20,000 today.
Mars Needs Moms: It takes an alien abduction to make this kid finally appreciate his mother. Of course, it's animated, and, of course, it's in 3-D.
Of Gods and Men: Based on the actual events, Xavier Beauvois' film about eight French monks serving in Algeria during the rise of Islamic extremism is an extraordinarily insightful and moving examination into the nature of faith, shot through a secular lens.
Red Riding Hood: Catherine Hardwicke's first film since Twilight is a reimagining of the classic fairy tale.
Amanda Seyfried is Valerie, a girl whose medieval village is stalked by a werewolf.
ONE TIME ONLY
Go Tell the Spartans: Burt Lancaster plays a U.S. military advisor in the early days of the Vietnam War who thinks it's an unwinnable conflict. Made in 1978, shortly after the war's conclusion. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: John Hughes classic about the benefits of cutting class. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Cherry Blossoms: This German film is an entry in the Coming of Age film series. When a man's wife suddenly dies, he must deal with the sacrifices she made for him. Screens at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Those Who Remain: Documentary profiling Mexican families left behind by migrants seeking work in the U.S., and the impact created by their absence. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Institute of the Americas on the UCSD campus.
Christ Stopped at Eboli: A doctor is exiled to Italy's backwaters during Franco's fascist regime, and he becomes an integral part of the peasants' lives. Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, at the Little Theater on the SDSU campus.
Mummies: A scientifically oriented IMAX look at the easiest of the monsters to outrun. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 11, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Youth in Revolt: Michael Cera is Nick, the antihero in this adaptation of C.D. Payne's novel, a sex-obsessed teen desperate to hook up with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). When she rebuffs his advances, he creates Francois, a mustachioed alter-ego. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Princess Bride: Conceivably the best date movie of all time. Screens at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Dr. Strangelove: Peter Sellers is brilliant in all three of his roles in Kubrick's masterpiece of political gamesmanship. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
House: Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 Japanese freak show is not to be missed. Screens at midnight, Saturday, March 12, at the Ken.
An Affair to Remember: It doesn't get much more romantic than this Cary Grant / Deborah Kerr classic. They meet on an ocean liner and promise to reunite at the top of the Empire State Building. Screens at 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 13, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Never Let Me Go: Mark Romanek and Alex Garland's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's beloved novel is a sci-fi tragedy, starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as clones bred for organ donations. It's intense stuff, but perhaps more to be admired than enjoyed. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 14, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Quiet Man: John Wayne's boxing career didn't work out, so he moves to Ireland and meets foxy Maureen O'Hara. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Death Becomes Her: Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn don't let a little thing like being dead get in the way of their feud over Bruce Willis. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Gamera: The Giant Monster: Breaking news: Giant fire-breathing turtle destroys Tokyo. Tune in at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Central Library, Downtown, for details. Free.
A Film About a Fort: Bryan Bangerter's film about San Diego artist Wes Bruce's work premieres tonight. It's sure to be a party, and we have all the details on Page 13. The event begins at 7, and film rolls at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Medical Cannabis and its Impact on Human Health: You mean there's an impact besides awesome? Screens at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Pretty in Pink: Molly Ringwald falls for the unfortunately named Blane (Andrew McCarthey), even though closeted gay best friend (Jon Cryer) is totally into her. Ah, the '80s. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Adjustment Bureau: Matt Damon is an aspiring politician who unwittingly discovers the difference between free will and predestination. The adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick short story doesn't always work, but the chemistry between Damon and Emily Blunt is nice.
Beastly: Alex Pettyfer is a nasty, goodlooking high-schooler who torments goth-y Mary-Kate Olsen. turns out she's a witch. Bad move, dude.
Inside Job: After winning the Best Documentary Oscar, this scathing look at the financial collapse reopens for a run at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Rango: Johnny Depp voices an animated lizard forced to save a western town from bandits. Directed by Gore Verbinski, who catapulted Depp's asking price with the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Take Me Home Tonight: A soundtrack in search of a movie. Topher Grace is an MIT grad working in a video store who lies about his job when he runs into his high-school crush. It totally works—until she finds out the truth.
Vanishing on 7th Street: A creepy thriller with a little ambiguity. A small group of survivors takes refuge in a Detroit bar after the rest of the population goes missing and the darkness seems to come to life. Ends March 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Drive Angry: So, Nicolas Cage is in hell. Literally. But when he finds out a cult is about to murder his granddaughter, he busts out, which Satan doesn't take so kindly to. Probably in a muscle car, definitely in 3-D.
Even the Rain: A crew of filmmakers, including Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Tosar, is making a movie in Bolivia about Christopher Columbus. Getting in their way is a local uprising about water rights, which just happens to parallel the Indians' struggle against the Spanish 500 years prior.
Hall Pass: Best friends Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are given one week off from their marriages, no questions asked, in the new Farrelly brothers movie.
Cedar Rapids: Yes, it's another raunchy, R-rated film, but Ed Helms brings a lot of heart to his first leading role. It's occasionally predicable, but this story of an insurance salesman who's finally leaving his small town for the bright lights of Cedar Rapids, isn't stupid. John C. Reilly shines as a dirty-joke factory.
I Am Number 4: Alex Pettyfer is a high-school-age alien being chased by some other aliens. He's got cool powers. And great cheekbones. And a cute girl he's into. It's sci-fi for the Twilight set.
Unknown: Liam Neeson wakes up after a car crash only to discover that his wife (January Jones) doesn't recognize him, his identity has been co-opted by Aidan Quinn and a whole bunch of guys want to kill him.
The Eagle: Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell are Roman and slave, respectively, on the hunt for the Eagle standard lost when the famed Roman Ninth Legion disappeared in northern Briton around 120 AD.
Gnomeo & Juliet: If it sounds like a CGI-animated cartoon, that's because it is one. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt voice garden gnomes who have the hots for each other.
Ip Man 2: The second film about Ip Man, the legendary martial arts instructor who was also Bruce Lee's mentor, focuses on his migration to post-war Hong Kong.
Just Go with It: It had to happen. Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston make a romantic comedy.
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never: Or, you know, feel free to say never.
Oscar Nominated Short Films: All 10 short films that received Oscar nominations will play the Ken Cinema through March 10. They're split into two programs—live-action and animated—and you should see both.
Barney's Version: Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for this epic look at a man who drinks and smokes and marries his way through life. It goes on too long, though, and stays a little too faithful to Mordecai Richler's novel.
Biutiful: Javier Bardem gives a tremendous performance as Uxbal, a single father in Barcelona desperately trying to keep his head above water while facing his own mortality.
The Rite: An American priest heads to the Vatican to learn the ways of exorcism from Anthony Hopkins, who must have his eye on a really nice boat to appear in a movie like this.
The Illusionist: Director Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) animates a script from French cinema titan Jacques Tati about an aging magician and the young woman he unintentionally takes under his wing.
The Green hornet: Seth Rogen in a superhero movie written by Seth Rogen and the other guy who wrote Superbad. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). In 3-D. That's a lot to take in.
Blue Valentine: Michelle Williams is just amazing as one half of a couple (along with Ryan Gosling) whose marriage has fallen apart.
True Grit: The Coen brothers adapt Clinton Portis' novel, with Jeff Bridges playing Rooster Cogburn, the part that earned John Wayne his only Oscar.
The Fighter: For some, the acting of Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in David O. Russell's working-class boxing movie is authentic and real. For others, it's scenery-chewing.
The King's Speech: Though he should have taken a walk to the podium this year, Colin Firth will probably win an Oscar for playing King George VI, the monarch who led his people into WWII despite his almost-crippling stammer. Geoffrey Rush is great as his speech therapist.
Black Swan: Natalie Portman has to find both sides of herself as a ballerina obsessed with playing the lead in Swan Lake in the new one from Darren Aronofsky. Well-directed, beautifully shot, completely bonkers.
127 Hours: Danny Boyle changes pace once again. Instead of the frenetic energy of Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours is pretty much a one-man show, with James Franco playing Aron Ralston, a hiker forced to cut off his own arm to survive.
Galapagos: An IMAX look at the islands and the animals that made Charles Darwin famous. We're most fond of the blue-footed boobie. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Social Network: David Fincher's new film about the early days of Facebook is more entertaining than 99.9 percent of status updates.
Winter's Bone: Debra Granik's noir thriller, set in a closed meth-cooking community in the Ozarks, is as intense and grim as its name. It's well-written and well-made and features an amazing performance from Jennifer Lawrence, a 17-year-old who has to find her deadbeat father or she and her young brother and sister will lose their home.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti: The latest IMAX entry at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park follows super surfer Kelly Slater as he does his thing on some massive waves.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.