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A Celebration of Broughton and Singer Films

Times Staff Writer

“Celebrating Intimacy: James Broughton and Joel Singer,” tonight’s presentation at LACE at 8, includes films that Broughton, the pioneer avant-garde San Francisco film maker, made with Singer and several before their collaboration began over a decade ago. Broughton is a master at celebrating the body and the spirit in a harmonic blend of poetic words and images, and his work defines that which is erotic rather than pornographic.

His films with Singer reveal a broader, deeper perspective with their concern for ritual and nature. Broughton and Singer, indeed, are film makers profoundly in touch with nature, self and each other. The selection of films ranges from Broughton’s “The Golden Positions” (1970), a paean to the body’s mobility, to a premiere of Broughton and Singer’s “Scattered Remains” (1988), a mystical, even magical performance film featuring Broughton and directed by Singer. Information: (213) 276-7452, (714) 923-2441.

The Films of Werner Schroeter continues Tuesday at 8 p.m. at UCLA Melnitz with “Palermo or Wolfsburg” (1980). As in “The Kingdom of Naples” Schroeter once again projects a tragic view of life with compassion and a solemn beauty. An innocent, impoverished Sicilian youth (Nicolo Zarbo) is forced to leave home to seek work in Wolfsburg, West Germany, site of the vast Volkswagen works, and encounters a cold, hostile and totally alien society.

“Haile Gerima: A Retrospective,” which screens Wednesday through Friday at UCLA’s Melnitz Theater, calls attention to an outstanding but little-known film maker. A 1976 recipient of a UCLA master’s degree in cinema, the Ethiopian-born Gerima, currently a professor of film at Howard University, has made five features over the past 15 years and is soon to make another. Among them is “Harvest: 3,000 Years” (1976), which screens Friday at 7:30 p.m. with Gerima present.

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Filmed in Ethiopia in 1974 and ’75, it is an epic saga of a rural way of life little changed over the millennia. At first the film seems much like Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali,” but gradually it emerges as an increasingly angry and militant protest against the seemingly unending cycle of poverty and exploitation of the peasantry.

It unfolds as a series of vignettes of daily life, including a heart-breaking sequence involving a mother’s loss of her daughter in a flood, but two characters eventually dominate and clash. The first is a witty Don Quixote-like character, a visionary and a philosopher who lives under a bridge, having lost his land in the aftermath of the long-ago invasion by Mussolini’s Italy. The other is a sleek, well-dressed petty tyrant, a man who spends his days on the veranda of his ramshackle wooden mansion, which looks for the world like one of the less pretentious Southern plantations. This man takes his pleasure in making life miserable for his tenant farmers, who are virtual slaves. Both these men are often comical, but Gerima’s film ends as a dead-serious call for revolution.

“Harvest: 3,000 Years,” which has been compared to “The Battle of Algiers” and the films of Alexander Dovzhenko, remains banned in Ethiopia and is the only feature Gerima has made there.

Schedule: (213) 206-8013, 206-FILM.

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