FRIDAY, MARCH 14
ELECTRIC SHADOWS Chinese woman director Xiao Jiang's film is a decades-spanning tribute to friendship and cinema. (2004, 95 min) 7 pm, Freer/Sackler Galleries, 12th & Constitution Ave SW. Free; tickets distributed one hour before screening.
THE LORD GOD BIRD Filmmaker George Butler's documentary about the rediscovery of the presumed-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker is named not for the creature's divinity, but at the reaction it's said to engender: "Lord God! What was that?" Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 7:30 pm, Grosvenor Auditorium, National Geographic Society, 1600 M St NW. $18.
SATURDAY, MARCH 15
CARAVAN Two 12-year-old boys — one in Niger, the other in Nepal — undertake their first caravan in this picturesque documentary. Recommended for kids 10 and older. (2004, 85 min.) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 10:30 am, (Sunday at 11:30 am), National Gallery of Art East Building auditorium. Free.
ELEGY OF LIFE: ROSTOPROVICH VISHNEVSKAYA In this documentary, director Alexander (Russian Ark) Sokurov considers cellist Mstislav and pianist Galina on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. (2006, 100 min) 2:30 pm, National Gallery of Art East Building auditorium. Free.
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY The first film Ingmar Bergman made on Faro island, which was ultimately to become his sanctuary, is this tale of a young woman who loses her sanity when she learns that her father has plundered her life for a novel. (1961, 89 min) (also March 16, 18-20) 3 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
ALEXANDRA Wildly pretentious Russian mystic Alexander Sokurov's latest film is a tale of war and family: A woman travels to meet her grandson, an Army officer who's been in Chechnya for years. (2007, 92 min) 4:30 pm, National Gallery of Art East Building auditorium. Free.
XALA In Ousmane Sembene's satire, a middle-aged Senegalese businessman takes a third wife. When he fails to perform on the wedding night, suspects that he's been cursed. (1975, 123 min) (also March 16 & 17) 9:30 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
SUNDAY, MARCH 16
SUMMER PALACE Director Lou (Suzhou River) Ye's stunning account of a lost generation of Chinese students begins intimately, swells to accommodate a huge event, and then scales back to contemplate the aftermath. At first, the film resembles other recent Chinese restless-youth pictures; it's distinguished mostly by darting camera, masterly editing and framing, and a sexual candor unprecedented in the country's cinema. But then the time and place come into focus, and the vibe turns foreboding: It's Beijing, 1989, and student protesters are gathering in Tiananmen Square. Impulsive Yu Hong (Hao Lei) leaves her hometown to study at Beijing University, and meets Wei Zhou (Guo Xiaodong); Yu and Wei are made to make each other unhappy, a perverse bond that survives the Tiananmen crackdown. Lou's exhilarating, aesthetically risky film is no political tract, and some Western reviewers have criticized it for lacking a tidy pro-democracy message. The Chinese government better understands Lou's achievement: It banned the movie, and barred its director from filmmaking for five years. Summer Palace is that powerful, both as storytelling and stimulus. (2006, 140 min) Freer film programmer Tom Vick will speak about his new book, Asian Cinema: A Field Guide, before the screening. 1:30 pm, Freer/Sackler Galleries, 12th & Constitution Ave SW. Free; tickets distributed one hour before screening.
ALL IN THIS TEA Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht's documentary follows tea expert David Lee Hoffman through China, seeking high-quality organic tea and battling the Chinese trading system, which doesn't have much to do with the free market. The buyer's adventures are interspersed with comments by tea experts, some of whom are as extravagant as wine snobs. The treatment of the subject is not definitive — Sri Lanka and Japan go unmentioned — but it's a good introduction, and Hoffman is an engaging character. Part of the Environmental Film Festival. (2007, 70 min) 2:30 pm, Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave NW. $9.75
SILVESTRE REVUELTAS: MUSIC FOR FILM Redes (60 min) and iVamonos con Pancho Villa! (92 min) are two 1936 political films about Mexico, both featuring Revueltas scores. 4:30 pm, National Gallery of Art East Building auditorium. Free.
THE PRICE OF SUGAR The Dominican Republic is no paradise, but right next door is country that's even more desperate: Haiti. So Dominican plantation owners fill the country's worst job, cutting sugar cane, with Haitians who live in what this documentary depicts as "quasi-slavery.'' Enter Father Christopher Hartley, an Anglo-Spanish priest who dares enter the bateys (the cane fields). Director Bill Haney's impassioned film follows Hartley and his allies on their campaign to improve the lives of sugar-cane workers, which outrages the dominant family of growers. Hartley receives death threats, and the powers-that-be successfully incite Dominican hostility toward the Haitians (who tend to be somewhat darker-skinned). Paul Newman's cool narration provides a certain distance, but Haney's sympathies are not in doubt — and he gets the footage to support the troublesome priest's indictment of the Dominican sugar-cane industry. (2007, 90 min) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 4:45 pm, Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave NW.
MONDAY, MARCH 17
THREE PATHS TO THE LAKE In this early Michael Haneke drama, a renowned successful photojournalist abandons Paris and returns to her Austrian hometown, which is unsettled to find unfamiliar. (1976, 97 min) 6:30 pm, Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St NW. $6.
CHINATOWN It's not An Inconvenient Truth, but Roman Polanski's classic neo-noir does turn on water, one of L.A.'s fundamental environmental issues. (1974, 131 min) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 7 pm, Library of Congress, Mary Pickford Theater, Madison Building, Third Floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free; call 202-707-5677 for reservations.
HIS WIFE'S LOVER Recently restored, this film was billed in its time as the "first Jewish musical comedy talking picture." It's the tale of two men who bet on an innocent woman's virtue, forcing her to choose between love and money — unaware that both are offered by different incarnations of the same fellow. (1931, 80 min) 7:30 pm, Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street NW. $10.
TUESDAY, MARCH 18
THE CLOUD This German drama imagine the aftermath to a meltdown at a nuclear power plant near Frankfurt. While a 16-year-old girl is trapped and contaminated, her boyfriend escapes. They meet again, and must decide to how to enjoy the small remaining time they have forever. (2006, 105 min) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 7 pm, Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St NW. $6.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19
THE TIGER AND THE MONK At a Thai monastery, Buddhist monks live with 10 tigers, revering them as sacred — and taking them for walks while leashed. (2006, 52 min) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 8 pm, Embassy of Austria, 3524 International Court NW. Free, but reservations required; RSVP to email@example.com
THURSDAY, MARCH 20
GO, BUTTERFLIES, GO! This Dutch documentary observes the course of the red admiral and gamma moth from Russia to Morocco, and contrasts the butterfly's cycle of life with human existence. (2006, 74 min) Part of the Environmental Film Festival. 6 & 8 pm, Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Ave NW. Free, but reservations required; RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIME OF THE WOLF Austrian-bred writer-director Michael Haneke's stunning film is a disaster movie, but it differs from Hollywood's idea of the genre. Rather than depict a vast but comfortably remote spectacular, Haneke plunges the audience into the action, denying so much information that the gap between viewer and character almost vanishes. The director conjures an aura of hushed menace with near-black night scenes, an essentially music-free soundtrack, and brief instances of bloodletting. Cast out from their rural refuge during an unexplained apocalypse, Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her two children (Anais Demoustier and Lucas Biscombe) hit the road. They encounter a feral, unnamed teenager (Hakim Taleb) who possesses the survival skills they lack, and follow railway tracks to a provincial station where a desperate, barter-oriented mini-society has developed. Huppert's unflinching performance carried Haneke's The Piano Teacher, but here the focus shifts between the characters. The riveting final scene turns on someone whose significance had seemingly receded after the movie's first half. (2003, 110 min) 7 pm, La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Rd NW. $8. Reservations required: e-mail email@example.com