CHATHAM — The films that director George Romero has made since 1968’s breakthrough “Night of the Living Dead” have been exemplary blends of horror and social comment. “Dawn of the Dead 3D,” screening Saturday at Film Columbia, the followup to “Night,” sets its cannibalistic zombies loose in an abandoned shopping mall where a motley group of human survivors have taken refuge. For this reason, the movie is a sly swipe at smash-and-grab American consumerism. Few terror-flick auteurs have dared to confront and subvert the politics of ordinary life, but Romero has done so consistently.
Racism in America is another subject that this weekend’s FilmColumbia showings will tackle. In “The Inspection,” directed and written by Elegance Bratton, a young homeless Black man (Jeremy Pope) ends up in the Marine Corps, where he tries to prove himself and earn his mother’s respect, but he is victimized by a sadistic sergeant at the same time he must deal with his attraction to a superior officer. If rage is the tone here, the underlying conflict is class, both between men and women and between social strata.
There’s a romantic drama brewing in “Aftersun,” screening Sunday, but it’s not what you expect. In this first feature by Scottish director Charlotte Wells, the relationship is between a young father (Paul Mescal) and his pre-pubescent daughter who are often mistaken for brother and sister. The film opens up questions about parenthood, the depth and power of daughter worship and the bonds memories hold on raising a child.
The American director James Gray specializes in oblique genre pictures that share themes of family distress — parent-child estrangement, sibling rivalries and mob dissension. The sci-fi father-son drama “Ad Astra,” the adventure film “The Lost City of Z” and the gangster drama “The Yards” grapple with the conflicts of power and danger espoused by authority figures and place the heroes of these films in jeopardy.
Gray’s new film, “Armageddon Time,” screening Sunday and opening in wider release Oct. 28, concerns a teenage boy coming of age as the undermining of America begins with the rise to power of Donald Trump in 2016. The national upheaval to come is reflected in the schism of a family whose patriarch (Anthony Hopkins, in his first important feature since “The Father”) tries to heal the moral fissures threatening to tear boy’s parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong) apart.
In a far different kind of moral armageddon, the biopic “Martha Liebermann,” screening Saturday, deals with a tragic collision of opposing forces — art and history. Directed by Stefan Buhling and written by Marco Rossi, this German production set in Berlin in 1942, tells the story of Martha Liebermann, the widow of Max Liebermann, the towering German artist of the early 20th century and former head of the Prussian Academy of Arts until the Nazis took power. At the age of 88, Martha must make a life-or-death choice — escape Germany or, as a Jew, be transported to a concentration camp where she will almost certainly die.
FilmColumbia runs through Oct. 30 at the Crandell Theater in Chatham.
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