Film series: Wish You Were Here: a travel & culture series
image from the film Sing Me a Song
This series pulls together a wide range of films to provide a virtual trip around the world, with stops in some of its most beautiful and iconic locations. Viewers who have been missing the travel experience during the pandemic can revel in the places and cultures depicted, and start planning their itineraries for the future.
The series begins with a new documentary about Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, whose early work was inspired by trips to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, and the Tuscany and Ramini regions of Italy, all of which are shown in home movie footage in the film. M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity focuses on the mathematical dimensions of his work and its widespread appeal, but it’s wonderful to see the real-life locations that set him on his path.
My Mexican Bretzel, “an imaginative cinematic sleight of hand” (New York Film Festival), is comprised entirely of home movie footage shot during the world travels of a wealthy couple from the 1940s–60s, and includes visits to mid-century Havana, Hawaii, Mont Saint-Michel, New Orleans, Spain, San Francisco, Italy, Great Britain, and a half dozen other locations.
Traveling back in time even further, Shiraz: A Romance of India, a silent film from 1928, is a ravishing, romantic tale behind the creation of one of the world's most iconic structures: the Taj Mahal. Filmed on location in and around Jaipur with an all-Indian cast (including 50,000 extras, 300 camels and seven elephants), the film features stunning Islamic architecture and the landscape of Rajasthan. It will be shown in a recent digital restoration by the British Film Institute with a specially commissioned score by the Grammy Award-winning composer-sitar player Anoushka Shankar.
Native filmmaker Sky Hopinka’s (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga) meditative documentary maɬni—towards the ocean, towards the shore takes viewers to the Pacific Northwest, where they’ll get to experience the landscape and local customs from an Indigenous perspective.
The River and the Wall is another spectacularly photographed documentary that follows five friends on an immersive adventure through the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands as they travel 1200 miles from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes, on a quest to explore the potential impacts of a border wall on the natural environment.
A documentary that plays like a coming-of-age drama, Sing Me a Song follows a young Bhutanese monk in “a fascinating tale of romantic melancholy played out against the peaceful, meditative backdrop of the Himalayas.” (LA Times)
Finally, two films screening as part of the World of Wong Kar Wai series include footage of locations sure to be on any world traveler’s bucket list: see the Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia in In the Mood for Love, and Iguazu Falls in Argentina in Happy Together.