Dr. George Tiller, an infamous late-term abortionist who practiced in Wichita, Kan., was assassinated while attending church on May 31, 2009. His sudden death not only fueled the flames of an already raging hot-button issue, but also caused great heartache among a small community of physicians who continue to see their controversial procedures as a necessity for public health.
More eulogy than documentary, After Tiller allows this group of doctors a platform to grieve, and it also examines the complexities of their professional calling. The film succeeds primarily because it considers the debate from a human angle without sensationalism or rhetoric.
Co-directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson spend ample time with Drs. Leroy Carheart of Nebraska, Susan Robinson and Shelly Sella of New Mexico and Warren Hern of Boulder, Colo., at their heavily scrutinized clinics. The interviews are intimate, covering a range of topics that reveal why each has decided to risk life and limb to help desperate women with fetal abnormalities.
The film's power is heightened when the camera listens in on deeply personal meetings between the doctors and their patients. The filmmakers purposefully linger on the women's nervous hands and fidgety legs, protecting their privacy while also documenting their very trying and complicated back-stories.
After Tiller —which opens Friday, Oct. 18, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas—complicates the abortion issue from a unique angle. Each of the film's subjects speaks of the conflict they experience on a daily basis, but Robinson does so with the most eloquence: "It's like I'm dealing with God and myself."
But a few moments later, she drops another commanding truth bomb that encapsulates the film's primary theme: "Women are able to struggle with complex ethical issues and arrive at the right decisions for themselves and their family." Doctors, too.
A.C.O.D .: Adam Scott plays a repressed 30-something whose parents' nasty divorce becomes the gift that keeps on giving even into adulthood. The comedy co-stars Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara and Jessica Alba.
African Film Celebration: Experience the diversity of African film, food and music at this North Park celebration running Friday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 27. The opening-night party will start at 6 p.m. at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. Get the schedule at africanfoodsd.com.
After Tiller : A sobering and complex documentary about the four remaining doctors running clinics that perform third-trimester abortions despite harassment by religious groups and death threats.
Años Despues : A successful Mexican man on the verge of tying the knot has his life changed forever upon learning of a new distant relative living in Spain. Screens through Oct. 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Carrie : A supped-up remake of the classic 1976 horror film that nobody asked for and probably no one will like. But, hey, that's Hollywood! Stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular shy girl turned telekinetic monster.
Escape Plan : Action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger play aging inmates trying to escape from a super-maximum security prison by combining their brainpower. Talk about a work of fiction.
The Fifth Estate : Benedict Cumberbatch stars as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in this biopic that spans the rise and fall of the infamous Internet pioneer, notably his clash with the U.S. government over damning video clips from the war in Iraq.
The Stream : In a feature film created by teens and young adults, five friends in the summer of 1981 venture to the mall in search of a replacement for their broken whiffle-ball bat. It screens at Regal Parkway Plaza Cinemas, and proceeds go to The Boys and Girls Club of America.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali : The most popular boxer in the world refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Screens through Oct. 24 at the Ken Cinema.
One Time Only
The Missing Piece : An amazing documentary that examines the history behind the man who stole the Mona Lisa in 1911 and his daughter who for years defended his actions as patriotic. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. It includes a Skype Q&A with the director.
North by Northwest : You won't get a more exciting time at the movies than this cross-country suspense thriller from Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant. Screens at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 17, at Reading Town Square Cinemas.
Friday the 13th : The horror film that introduced the world to Jason Vorhees and spawned countless sequels full of carnage. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at Arclight La Jolla.
Charade : Classic Hollywood darlings Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn romp around Paris dodging spies and killers in this charmer by director Stanley Donen. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, through Saturday, Oct. 19 at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Patang : A massive kite-flying competition provides the background for this drama about dueling families in the city of Ahmedabad, India. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at The Loft at UCSD. Food will be served beginning at 7 p.m.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show : When your car breaks down, never ask for help at a dark, creepy and musically inclined mansion. Screens at midnight Saturday, Oct. 19.
Shadow of a Doubt : Whatever you do, don't trust Uncle Charlie. Alfred Hitchcock's disturbing thriller charts the downfall of a family after an unexpected guest arrives. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, and Tuesday, Oct. 22, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Love Gone Wrong Marathon: FilmOut presents 12 adventurous hours of programming on the subject of tainted love. Screenings begin at 11:45 a.m. and run till 11:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Birch North Park Theatre. Get details at filmout
Army of Darkness : Chainsaw-wielding badass Ash (Bruce Campbell) is sent back to 1300 A.D. to fight a whole new generation of undead monsters in Sam Raimi's horror film. Screens at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Arclight La Jolla.
Much Ado About Nothing : Joss Whedon scales down for this black-and-white modern riff on the classic Shakespeare comedy. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at the new San Diego Public Library, Downtown.
Vertigo : Jimmy Stewart has a thing for blondes in the film recently voted the greatest ever by prestigious film magazine Sight and Sound . Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at Reading Town Square Cinemas.
A Box Full of Rocks: The El Cajon Years of Lester Bangs : Documentary that explores the years spent in San Diego County by iconic rock critic Lester Bangs, who wrote prominently for Rolling Stone and other music publications. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Grossmont College, Building 26, Room 220.
Stepping Razor : Celebrate the great reggae legend Peter Tosh with this free screening of his classic music film. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at WorldBeat Center in Balboa Park. Free.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane : A weekend getaway in the country turns bloody for a band of high-school jocks eager to deflower the titular Mandy Lane (Amber Heard).
Captain Phillips : Based on actual events, this thriller by director Paul Greengrass tells the story of the container ship Maersk Alabama and its leader, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), who was kidnapped by Somali pirates during a voyage in 2009.
Concussion : During her recovery from a hard knock to the head, a suburban housewife goes through a crippling identity crisis, creating an alter ego to survive.
Escape from Tomorrow : A man slowly goes insane while visiting a land of artificial castles and mechanical rodents. This controversial film premiered at Sundance and was largely shot inside Disneyland. Screens through Oct. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Machete Kills : Danny Trejo reprises his role as the betrayed federale who must once again wield his brutal weaponry and bed women in the name of the people.
Marcelo : In this edgy comedy from Mexico, Aaron Diaz stars as a reclusive young man who thinks he's found his perfect superhero in the form of a porn star played by Hector Jimenez ( Nacho Libre ). Screens through Oct. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Muscle Shoals : Music documentary celebrating Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios, which produced such staples as "Brown Sugar" and "When a Man Loves a Woman." Screens for one week at the Ken Cinema.
Romeo and Juliet : Yet another cinematic incarnation of Shakespeare's ultimate romantic tragedy, this time starring Hailee Steinfeld ( True Grit ) as the love-stricken Juliet.
The Summit : This harrowing documentary tells the dramatic story of 11 mountain climbers who mysteriously died on the slopes of K2.
Sweetwater : Ed Harris, January Jones ( Mad Men ) and Jason Isaacs star in this acid western about a preacher, a vengeful sheriff and an ex-prostitute who seek vengeance in Old West New Mexico.
Born to be Wild : Morgan Freeman narrates this stunning IMAX wildlife documentary about scientists trying to save elephants in Kenya and orangutans in Borneo. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Deep Sea : A glorious ocean exploration with Del Mar's own veteran underwater filmmakers and explorers, Howard and Michele Hall. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Gravity : Sandra Bullock plays a marooned astronaut struggling to survive an epic space disaster in Alfonso Cuarón's breathless adventure film.
Runner Runner : Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake star in this thriller about a gambling prodigy who hunts down the gangster responsible for sending him to the poor house.
Don Jon : Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in this coming-of-age story about a young New Jersey lothario addicted to the fantasy world of pornography.
Enough Said : The latest slice of modern melodrama from director Nicole Holofcener ( Please Give ) features a mosaic of confused couples. Stars James Gandolfini in his last screen role.
Inequality for All : Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich uses the documentary as platform to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap.
On the Job : Corrupt officials in the Philippines use convicted prisoners to carry out public assassinations in order to cover their tracks in this high-octane thriller from director Erik Matti.
Rush : Ron Howard's biopic about the bitter rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), who battled for track supremacy throughout the 1970s.
Wadjda : In this first film shot completely in Saudi Arabia, an enterprising Saudi girl competes in her school's Koran-recitation contest to raise the remaining funds she needs for a green bicycle that has captured her interest.
Prisoners : A desperate father (Hugh Jackman) takes the law into his own hands after his daughter disappears, despite the ongoing investigation by a dedicated police officer (Jake Gyllenhaal).
The Family : Robert De Niro's career continues to plummet in this dark comedy about a New York City family of mobsters living in France under false identities.
Insidious Chapter 2 : More horrific and ghostly images from director James Wan, the devious auteur behind Saw , The Conjuring and, of course, Insidious .
Short Term 12 : SDSU alum Dustin Cretton directs this award-winning film about the complex relationships populating a foster-care facility. Starring Brie Larson ( The Spectacular Now ) and John Gallagher Jr. ( The Newsroom ). Ends Oct. 17 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Riddick : Vin Diesel returns as the titular criminal badass who must battle an alien race of predators and brutal mercenaries.
Instructions Not Included : A smarmy playboy (Eugenio Derbez) gets a rude awakening when an ex-flame drops off a baby at his doorstep, forcing him to become an unlikely father figure.
Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation : The venerable edgy 'toon-fest has returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location with a 20th-anniversary show that runs through Nov. 23.
Lee Daniels' The Butler : Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves as a butler in the White House for seven consecutive presidents, witnessing shifts in civil rights and foreign policy from a fascinating vantage point.
Elysium : After being diagnosed with a terminal disease, a factory worker (Matt Damon) attempts to infiltrate a manmade space habitat where the world's wealthy now live in permanent luxury. Directed by Neill Blomkamp ( District 9 ).
We're the Millers : In order to sneak a huge Mexican weed shipment into the U.S., a veteran pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) creates a fake family in hopes of bypassing authorities. Co-starring Jennifer Aniston.
Blue Jasmine : Woody Allen's latest comedy showcases the amazing Cate Blanchett as an entitled 1-percenter who experiences a harrowing fall from grace.
Despicable Me 2 : Gru (Steve Carell) and his army of minions attempt to transcend their roles as villains and save the world in this sequel to the popular 2010 animated film.
Cosmic Collisions : So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.