Hilma May 31-June 3, 2023

Katy Hessel, the voice behind a popular podcast called Great Women Artists recently published an already award-winning book entitled The Story of Art Without Men. As the Financial Times reviews, “Katy Hessel’s unapologetically revisionist book campaigns against the patriarchy of the art world.” That women artists have struggled for centuries to be taken seriously is a point that would not be lost on Hilma af Klint, the focus of our opening film, Hilma. af Klint is a fascinating artist whose works created space for spirituality and art to intertwine, and her visionary creations challenged conventions and helped redefine the art world.

Hilma af Klint in her studio in 1985. The portrait in the background is her grandfather.
Copyright: Public Domain

Hilma af Klint (1862 -1944), often hailed as both artist and mystic, found a profound connection between these two realms. As a devoted follower of Theosophy, a religious movement influenced by diverse traditions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, af Klint said she received divine instruction during seances, urging her to paint the hidden world that lay beyond human perception.

From a young age, af Klint’s artistic talent blossomed, leading her to become one of the first women to receive formal training at the esteemed Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Sweden. Over five years, she honed her skills in drawing, portrait painting, anatomical drawing, and landscape painting, graduating with well-deserved honors. At the academy, she encountered Anna Cassels, her first romantic partner, with whom she co-founded “The Five,” a group of like-minded women fascinated by spiritism. Guided by the revelations from seances as early as 1896, af Klint ventured into “automatic drawing and painting,” describing herself as a conduit for the spiritual realm. In 1906, she embarked on her first abstract works, exploring non-representational art long before it gained prominence.

Paintings for the Temple 5
by Hilma af Klint
Copyright: Public Domain

For af Klint, her art and religious beliefs were inseparable, serving as the driving forces behind her creative endeavors. Through her groundbreaking works, she not only reimagined the very essence of art but also challenged the conventional notions of gender. Blurring and ultimately erasing the lines between male and female energies, af Klint captured a profound understanding of her spiritual world, where fluidity prevailed.

Despite her obvious talent, af Klint struggled to find an audience for her non-representational paintings. Exhibitions often segregated women artists, allocating them limited space that was challenging to access. Even within the formal Theosophy organizations, where she hoped her art would resonate, support was scarce. Nevertheless, af Klint’s unwavering commitment to her vision led her to leave behind over 1,200 works entrusted to her nephew, with the stipulation that they remain hidden until two decades after her passing.

Guggenheim Exhibit of af Klint’s Work
Ryan Dickey from Evanston, IL / Chicago, United States, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was not until the 1960s that her remarkable works saw the light of day, leading to the establishment of a foundation to preserve her artistic legacy. Since the 1980s, her captivating creations have been celebrated in solo exhibitions around the world, including a monumental retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York City in 2018-2019. Notably, the exhibit perfectly embodied her artistic vision, with her artwork displayed in a rising cyclical layout, a concept she had envisioned long before.

We are excited to show the film, Hilma, on May 31-June 3, at 7:30 p.m. at the Knickerbocker Theatre (86 East 8th Street) in downtown Holland, Michigan. The film is in English with a 2-hour run time.

Want to learn more about Hilma af Klint?

Listen to this podcast
Katy Hessel and Guggenheim curator Tracey Bashkoff discussing Hilma af Klint.

Watch this short video
The Guggenheim created a short video about af Klint in conjunction with their 2019 exhibition of her work.

Buy a book from your favorite independent bookseller
You can buy a variety of books locally or online. Don’t worry. We asked Jeff Bezos and he feels he can absorb the revenue loss. PLUS — we’ll be giving away one copy of Julia Voss’ 2022 book, Hilma af Klint: A Biography every night we show the film.

Visit the Kruzienga Art Museum (KAM)
Do they have works by af Klint? Well, no, but you should always spend more time with great art. And you can visit the KAM for free!


The 2022 Winter Film Series

Sometimes it all just falls together as if it was just meant to be. When our film committee was reviewing trailers and reading reviews in our selection process, there was quick agreement by everyone on our first two films, Beans and They Say Nothing Stays the Same. Then, we had about five great documentaries to pick from, but we narrowed it down to two options and Julia won out in the end. Personally, I get nervous when we all agree, so this choice generated some great discussion. Our fourth film was only being distributed out of Israel and try as we might, we could not get it. Then, out of the blue, Kristi Dunn, who heads this all up for us, found Hive and suddenly we all had a new favorite film of the series.

As a whole, we think this is primed to be one of the best series we’ve ever put together. We are excited to hear if you agree with us!

Here is how the 2022 Winter Film Series lines up. All films begin at 7:30 p.m.


Jan. 24-29
A Canadian drama film exploring the 1990 Oka Crisis at Kanesatake through the eyes of a young Mohawk girl, Tekehentahkwa (nicknamed “Beans”). Twelve-year-old Beans lives on a reservation in Kahnawake and is torn between innocent childhood and reckless adolescence. She is forced to grow up fast when the Oka Crisis strikes – the turbulent Indigenous uprising that tore Quebec and Canada apart for 78 tense days in the summer of 1990. The film is a semi-autobiographical story directed by Tracey Deer, who lived through the events as a child. Variety describes the film as a “thoughtful, stirring reflection by someone who survived it all, quietly demanding acknowledgment of not just her land, but of her life.” The film is not rated.

They Say Nothing

 They Say Nothing Stays the Same
Feb. 21-26
This Japanese drama is the debut directorial film by actor Joe Odagiri. The film follows an old ferryman in a remote Meiji-era community, whose peaceful, cyclical life is given meaning by the essential role he plays in transporting people, livestock, and goods across the water, connecting villages and lives. His placid existence is disturbed by two events: news that a bridge is being built nearby, which would void the need for his services, and the appearance of a mysterious young woman whom he saves from drowning. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s classical approach mirrors the film’s thematic concern with those fondly-remembered traditions sacrificed in the name of progress. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles and is not rated.


March 28-April 2
A documentary film chronicling the life of Julia Child, using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge food cinematography. The film tells the story of the legendary cookbook author and television superstar who changed the way Americans think about food, television, and even women. Viewers get an in-depth look at Julia Child’s path, from her struggles to create and publish the revolutionary book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (1961), to her empowering story of a woman who found fame in her 50s, and her calling as an unlikely television sensation. The film is rated PG-13.


April 4-9 
A Kosovan drama based on the true story of Fahrije, whose husband went missing during the war in Kosovo, pulls together the other widows in her patriarchal village to launch a business of selling her own ajvar and honey to provide for her struggling family. Their journey of healing and solace is met with hostility from the men in the village, who start a feud that threatens the women’s newfound sovereignty, and, against the backdrop of Eastern Europe’s civil unrest, the women join in a struggle to find hope and perseverance in uncertain times. At the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, the film became the first film in Sundance history to win all three main awards — the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award, and the Directing Award — in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film is in Albanian with English subtitles. It is not rated.

Tickets for the individual films are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College staff and faculty, and children.

Tickets are sold at the door.

Visit the Knickerbocker Film Page

Read the 2022 Winter Film Series Press Release


Racism and Hollywood

I’m a fan of classic films. The writing and acting, the willingness to let a plot slowly unfold, and the patience to let characters develop separate those “old” films from much of what we see today. The independent and international films we show in our film series also usually value these traits. We live in a fast-paced world and Hollywood makes fast-paced films. That does not make them bad, but different from the older films or ones we show in our series.

Rock Hudson as "Young Bull"
Rock Hudson as “Young Bull” in the classic western, Winchester ’73 (1950)

But classic films also have a serious problem. Racism. Entire films were made with white casts, even white extras, so you think there are only white-skinned people in the world. Or, people of color were given stereotypic roles: the black maid, the gangster Latino, and the sly Asian person. Indigiousness people were played by other darker-skinned people or, if that didn’t work, they would just slap dark makeup on a white face.

Plus, many films, especially musicals are marred by the appearance of “blackface,” a vaudeville tradition of a white actor using exaggerated black makeup and gestures to create a comic character. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has openly wrestled with this and created a great 12-minute video you can watch online entitled Blackface and Hollywood: A Short History.

Gone with the Wind (1939) included the great Hattie McDaniel as "Mammy." She won an Oscar for this performance becoming the first African-American to win the award. She had to sit at a segregated table on the side of the room at the awards.
Gone with the Wind (1939) included the great Hattie McDaniel as “Mammy.” She won an Oscar for this performance becoming the first African-American to win the award. She had to sit at a segregated table on the side of the room at the awards.

Then there was the Gone with the Wind controversy in 2020 as filmmaker John Ridley called on HBO to remove the classic film from its rotation. “It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color,” Ridley wrote. HBO pulled the film.

Ridley did not want the film to disappear but wanted it to be shown with some context. Perhaps paired with films that show the true nature of slavery (if a film can capture such horror) or be shown with people discussing the film before it is shown.

What Ridley must recognize is that while Gone with the Wind is an easy target, the list of films that perpetuate hateful stereotypes and shock us with their easy-going racism is large. Very large. Yet the enormity of the task of addressing racism in film cannot push us away from the task.

“It’s difficult to face things that are ugly in our history,” says professor and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart,  “but denial is worse.”

When we show classic films at the Knickerbocker we’ve subtly, never overtly, addressed these issues. We’ve avoided films with blackface and tried to eliminate those with strong stereotypes. We’ve balanced the all-white genre with black musicals such as Cabin the Sky or featured films that include a great African-American actor like Sidney Poitier. (Including the film, In the Heat of the Night, which is one of the best explorations of racism I’ve seen on the screen). But we clearly have more work to do in order to address this issue in our film selections.

“It’s difficult to face things that are ugly in our history. But denial is worse.”

Film professor and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart 

And, as if addressing racism is not enough, there are all the issues you find that were treated one way in the 1940s but now, 80 years later, we find appalling. The disregard for people in a wheelchair, the “traditional woman” responsibilities speeches given to young girls, and the misunderstanding of mental illness.

There are no simple ways to address all of this and no one film can do it. The TCM documentary noted above gives you a quick overview of one racist element of Hollywood, but it is the start of a conversation, not the end.

Rita Moreno in West Side Story (1961). She won the Academy Award for this role and is one of the few artists to win all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
Rita Moreno in West Side Story (1961). She won the Academy Award for this role and is one of the few artists to win all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

We open our film series this fall with a documentary about a woman who faced racism throughout her acting career. There are few artists as successful in so many areas as Rita Moreno, but her success came despite the racism of her profession and the United States culture. She stole the show in many films we consider classics, and this documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It adds to this conversation about film and racism. We get to hear from someone who has experienced racism for decades and knows the damage it inflicts. But she is also someone who has fought that racism to become a legend, offering us a testament of hope. We can learn by listening, by talking, by engaging the challenge of racism. Films are one way we can begin and continue those important conversations.

See Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It from Sept. 27-Oct. 2 at the Knickerbocker Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Read the press release to find out about the other great films in the series.


“And when she was bad, she was terrific.”

Gif from Baby Face showing Stanwyck pouring coffee on a man's hand
From “Baby Face”
From “The Big Valley”

“And starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck.” When I was growing up I would see this special announcement at the end of the opening credits for the television show, “The Big Valley.” I wondered why she was “Miss” and what the big deal was about having her on the show. But as my love for classic films grew, I started seeing Stanwyck in roles like “Baby Face” and “The Lady Eve.” It became clear that “The Big Valley” producers had landed one of the greatest actresses of all time to give their show some credibility. The gamble paid off and Stanwyck earned an Emmy for her work on the show.

Long before gracing the small screen, she was hailed by many as one of the greatest actresses. Legendary director Cecil B. DeMille said she was his favorite actress, director Billy Wilder said “she was the best,” and another director, Frank Capra, said, “Stanwyck doesn’t act a scene, she lives it.”

“When she was good, she was very, very good. And when she was bad, she was terrific.”

Film Critic Richard Corliss

We’ve put together a film series that tries to capture the essence of this person who beat the odds. Orphaned at age four, raised in a series of foster homes, and a “Ziegfeld girl” at 16, Stanwyck first became a Broadway star and then translated that success in over 80 movies. From there she went to television and won three Emmy awards. Selecting just four films proved to be a challenge, but we think we hit a good mix.

Stella Dallas, from 1937, opens on Nov. 25 and is simply too powerful to miss. Stanwyck’s portrayal of Dallas, a working-class woman who cannot navigate the wealthy world comes to a head when she has to decide what is best for her daughter. The final scene is one of the great moments in cinema. Her acting skills are on full display in this melodrama as she plays against the beauty that could have defined her career. Her performance also earned her an Academy Award nomination.

After this early dramatic role, we jump forward a few years to the 1941 screwball comedy, Ball of Fire on Dec. 2. With a wink toward Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Stanwyck teams up here with Gary Cooper. Heading up a secluded group of nerdy professors who share a house, Cooper brings nightclub entertainer “Sugarpuss” O’Shea (Stanwyck) into their lives as he researches her use of slang. Loaded with some great character actors, the film shows both sides learning from one another. And it is filled with great lines: ” I love him because he doesn’t know how to kiss, the jerk!” The audience loved the film and Stanwyck was again nominated for an Academy Award. Watch the trailer and learn what the slang “yum yum” means.

From comedy to one of the greatest film-noir movies of all time, we next see Stanwyck in the 1944 classic, Double Indemnity on Dec. 9. Here Stanwyck plays an ice-cold wife looking to collect insurance on her husband, who is inconveniently alive. Pulled into the mix is Fred MacMurray, who if you only know him from “My Three Sons,” will shock you. MacMurray, who often played less than stellar figures in film, trades lines fast and furiously with Stanwyck that drip with innuendo as they play cat and mouse with one another. Watch the trailer and find out the “murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle.”

And from this, we go to an all-out sweet Christmas romantic-comedy that even Hallmark can’t touch with Christmas in Connecticut on Dec. 16. The 1945 film shows Stanwyck trying to cover for the fact that she writes about cooking, being a mother, and living on a farm even though she lives in an NYC apartment by herself and has food delivered since she doesn’t cook. When the owner of her magazine wants to feature her welcoming a WWII hero into her home, she has to pull off some fast work. Before long she finds herself welcoming the handsome hero. On a farm. With a husband and child. Cooking in the kitchen. Yep — she is in a mess. And if I could ever create a film series featuring my favorite character actors, Sidney Greenstreet and S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, both in this film, would be on my list. A strong cast, a hilarious movie, and a Christmas love story to boot — what more could you ask for? Well, we are making this one free! Merry Christmas early. Watch the trailer for some happiness overload.

Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas

Watch all the films and you may just wonder, who is Stanwyck? A dramatic lead, a comedian, a femme fatale, or just “Mrs. Barkley.” Maybe we should just listen to the real-life Stanwyck. “I’m a tough old broad from Brooklyn,” she said. “Don’t try and make me into something I’m not.”

Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events

For Us, Five Feet Apart is Personal

“Though she be but little, she is fierce”

Photo of Brenna outside
Brenna “Big Red” Digison

Shakespeare did not know Brenna Digison, but this is a great description for the office manager in our own Hope College Events and Conferences Office. And while we don’t call on her to be fierce too often in our office, her self-confidence does lead to points on the roller derby track. 

Granted, the small frame topped by fiery red hair is not the usual look for a “jammer” in roller derby. But Brenna is one of the people who actually score the points for the Lakeshore Roller Derby Team as her teammates block her way.  If you see her in action, you’ll see her cruising around the track, her shoulders dipped as she plows through opponents twice her size and, yes, you’ll even see her in the penalty box. She is fierce.

But it is not roller derby that brings Shakespeare’s quote to mind.

Brenna was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when she was four-years-old and has never let the disease slow her down. Instead, she embraces life with a fierce faith that has let her redefine how someone with CF is supposed to live. She works full-time, plays roller derby, volunteers for the Park Theatre, is a member of Holland Young Professionals and gets involved in the community in many ways. 

“I see CF as a blessing. There is a reason God gave me CF,” says Brenna.

Brenna battling an opponent in roller derby.
Brenna claims she is not hitting her opponent, it is just the angle of the picture. We don’t believe her.

Her foray onto the roller rink was less out of a desire to be knocked to the ground and more about her love of roller skating. 

“I started derby because I needed a hobby” Brenna notes. “Plus it is a great workout and I get to be with people.”

Staying active is one of her main offerings of advice for other CF patients. 

“My doctor says the runners are their healthiest patients.” But, Brenna feels more at home skating than running, so roller derby it is. You’ll also see her at a lot of Hope College hockey games where her husband, Caleb, is an associate coach. Another way she stays active.

Staying active is just part of her work toward living with CF. She also takes medications every morning and evening, uses an inhaler and nose sprays, and completes a nebulizer treatment every day. She admits she should be doing the nebulizer and chest percussions up to four times a day, but she does not. Do her doctors care? 

“They take what they can get from us,” she says with a smile.

Brenna taking on an opponent in roller derby.
Brenna, wearing her faith on her helmet, never hesitates to engage!

But the most important part of how she addresses her CF is through her faith.

“I see CF as a blessing. There is a reason God gave me CF. I do struggle every day with anxiety and fear, but I rest in Him,” Brenna says.

Her work email signature includes her life verse:   “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

She encourages other CF patients to explore their faith and “to take opportunities to do things that might not come around again.” She is thankful that her parents raised her with this mindset.  It is a mindset that people outside of the CF community may not understand.  

If you meet Brenna, you cannot tell she deals with CF every day.

“There is a reason they call it an invisible disease because you can’t tell when someone is struggling,” Brenna notes. “It only shows when its really bad, but you are suffering long before that. And it can change day to day.”

Brenna Raising Arms in Victory

One way people can learn about CF is to visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website, which has videos and clear written explanations of the disease and how it impacts people.

Five Feet Apart Movie Poster

You can also learn more by attending a special showing of the film “Five Feet Apart”  on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Knickerbocker Theatre. The film was inspired by real-life couple Dalton Prager and Katie Donovan who both suffered from cystic fibrosis and try to have a relationship despite always being forced to stay a certain distance away from each other.

Brenna will be at the movie to talk about her experiences before the movie and then lead a discussion for anyone interested after the movie. All the Hope College proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Michigan Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The Classic Musical You May Not Know

Cabin in the SkyIf you look at the Knickerbocker Theatre lineup for classic musicals, don’t be alarmed if one of them does not ring a bell.  Sure, we’ve got Elvis in Jailhouse Rock, the big musical, Sound of Music, and even something fairly recent, Grease (“fairly recent” is defined as anything that I actually saw in the movie theatre). But, Cabin in the Sky?

Chances are, you’ve never seen Cabin in the Sky. But if you do go to the July 29 performance you’ll see why we picked a film that includes music performances by Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Even Louis Armstrong is in it, but he only plays that trumpet for around 10 seconds — the rest of the time he is a junior devil. (He did play a solo version of “Ain’t it the Truth,” but the number was cut from the final production!)

Main Cast for Cabin in the Sky
Main Cast

The film was released in 1943, but because of its all black cast, the film was not shown in parts of the country. Then the movie disappeared from rotation and it wasn’t until 2006 that Warner Home Video and Turner Entertainment finally released it on DVD. The film was recently highlighted on Turner Classic Movies when guest host, director  Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) selected it as an “essential” film.

I’ve now seen the film several times and can list it among my favorites (which, admittedly, is a long list). Waters is incredible and her rendition of “Happiness is a Thing Called Joy” (which was nominated for an Academy Award) is how a love song should be sung. Horne is a temptress who uses her beauty and voice to go after Joe. But not too much of her beauty since a scene featuring her in a bubble bath was cut from the film because, according to Horne, a black woman singing in the bath was not morally acceptable in 1943.

And then there is the dancing. One amazing scene shows people entering a nightclub, but they do not just walk in — they dance in and every one of them is great. Inside, the dancing is no less amazing and John Bubbles, the “father of rhythm tap” tears up the number “Shine.”

Bill Bailey doing the "back slide"
Bill Bailey doing the “back slide”

And, just in case you think Michael Jackson invented the moonwalk, watch closely when Waters sings “Taking A Chance on Love” and you’ll see Bill Bailey do a short “slide back” in what is considered the first recording of what is later called the Moonwalk.

If you want a fuller version, click here to see Bailey at the Apollo Theatre in 1955. [Even more trivia — Bill Bailey’s sister is the singer/actress Pearl Bailey.]

So, we have a musical with great singing, great dancing, and great songs. What more could you want? How about Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, best know as Jack Benny’s sidekick (“Oh, Rochester”) and a great actor in his own right. He even belts out a song (and I mean belts out!) with that gravelly voice and shows off some subtle dance moves.

The film is based on a hit 1940 Broadway play. Anderson plays Little Joe Jackson, a gambler who tries to reform for his incredibly patient and loving wife, Petunia (Waters). But when he is shot over a gambling death and is near death, Petunia prays for him to get to heaven. An angel appears as devils are ready to take him to hell and they make a deal — if Joe can live a good life for six months, he goes to heaven. The catch is that Joe does not know about the deal. While the angel counts on Petunia’s faith to save Joe, the devils use Sweet Georgia Brown (Lena Horne) to draw Joe back to his evil ways. It is a classic morality tale which does not veer away from Christian themes.

Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, and Vincente Minnelli
Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, and Vincente Minnelli

Cabin in the Sky was the first movie directed by the legendary Vincente Minnelli who went on to direct hits such as “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Gigi,” “Brigadoon,” “Father of the Bride,” and “An American in Paris.” He married Judy Garland after “Meet Me in St. Louis” and is the father of Liza Minnelli. He was concerned enough about being a white man directing a black film that he submitted the script to the NAACP prior to its release to make sure he was avoiding stereotypes. A letter from the NAACP sent a note to the writers  “congratulating [them] on the treatment of this black fable, which avoided cliches and racial stereotypes.”

So, come and see the classic film you’ve probably never seen. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Derek Emerson
Director of Public Affairs and Events
The 2019 One Night Only Classic Musical Film Lineup
July 22 — Jailhouse Rock
July 29 — Cabin in the Sky
August 5 — The Sound of Music
August 12 — Grease

All shows begin at 7:30 p.m and tickets are $5 for everyone at the door.


Spring 2019 Film Series

The Hope College Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland will continue to bring independent and international films to the West Michigan community through its 2019 Spring Film Series opening on Monday, May 13.

The series will feature “Ramen Shop” on May 13-18, “3 Faces” on May 28-June 1, “Yomeddine” on June 3-8 and “All is True” on June 10-15. All films begin at 7:30 p.m.

poster“Ramen Shop,” showing Monday-Saturday, May 13-18, is a Singaporean-Japanese drama that tells the story of Masato, a ramen chef who lives in the city of Takasaki in Japan. After the sudden death of his distant father and the finding of a notebook that belonged to his mother, who died when he was 10, Masato decides to travel to Singapore to piece together the story of his life and the past of his family. The Hollywood Reporter has described “Ramen Shop” as “mouth-watering.” The film is not rated and is in Japanese, English and Mandarin with English subtitles. Watch the trailer.

The series will continue with the Iranian drama “3 Faces” on Tuesday-Saturday, May poster28-June 1. After she comes across a young girl’s video plea for help after her family prevents her from taking up her studies at the Tehran drama conservatory, actress Behnaz Jafari abandons her shoot and, with filmmaker Jafar Panahi, decides to help the girl. The two friends travel to the rural Northwest, where they have amusing encounters with the charming and generous people of the girl’s mountain village, but Behnaz and Jafar also discover that old traditions die hard. “An immersive, pleasurably intelligent movie,” said The New York Times. The film is not rated and is in Persian, Azerbaijani and Turkish with English subtitles. Watch the trailer.

poster“Yomeddine” will be showing on Monday-Saturday, June 3-8. The Egyptian comedy-adventure film follows Beshay, a leper who recently lost his wife, and an orphaned boy, Obama, as they leave their leper colony for the first time. The two embark on a journey across Egypt, in search of what remains of their families.  Variety Magazine has called “Yomeddine” a “lovingly-made, character-driven road movie.” The film is not rated and is in Arabic with English subtitles. Watch the trailer.

Ending the Spring Film Series, “All is True” will be showing on Monday-Saturday, posterJune 10-15. The film takes place in 1613 and imagines the later life of William Shakespeare. After his renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground, Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a troubled past and a neglected family. Haunted by the death of his only son, Hamnet, he struggles to mend the broken relationship with his wife and daughters. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Judith Dench and Ian McKellen. The Guardian has called “All is True” a “convincing and elegant imagining of Shakespeare’s final years.” The film is rated PG-13. Watch the trailer.

Tickets for the individual films are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College faculty and children. Tickets will be sold at the door.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located in downtown Holland at 86 E. Eighth St.

Our 2019 Winter Film Series

The start of a new year brings along exciting things — resolutions to conquer, a fresh start with a new semester, awesome sales at your favorite stores — but (in our biased opinion), the best thing to come out of 2019 yet is our Winter Film Series, opening at the Knickerbocker Theatre on Monday, Jan. 14.

Becoming Astrid, running Monday-Saturday, Jan. 14-19, depicts the early years of Becoming Astrid movie posterSwedish author Astrid Lindren (Alba August), the author of over 100 children’s books, including the Pipi Longstocking series. Teenage Astrid breaks free of the confines of her conservative upbringing in rural Sweden, accepting an internship at a local newspaper, and later becoming pregnant after attracting the attention of the newspaper’s editor, Blomberg (Henrik Rafaelsen). Astrid leaves her childhood home and goes to Copehagen to secretly give birth to a son, Lasse, whom she reluctantly leaves in the care of a foster mother, Marie (Trine Dryholm) as she goes into self-imposed exile in Stockholm. When Marie mother falls ill, Astrid uses her imagination and flair for storytelling to reconnect with her son, establishing a newfound courage that will later form the foundation of her work. This film is in Swedish with English subtitles and is not rated. It has a running time of two hours and three minutes.

Showing on Monday-Saturday, Jan. 28 – Feb.2, Far From the Tree follows families through the eyes of parents journeying towards acceptance of their one-of-a-kind Far From the Tree movie posterkids that society has deemed “abnormal.” The documentary is based on Andrew Solomon’s New York Times best-selling book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity and offers a look at how families are meeting extraordinary challenges through love, empathy and understanding. The Huffington Post said, “the film shines a bright light not just on these different families: it also portrays a more universal vision offers a map for all of us seeking to discover the wonder of others.” The film is not rated and has a running time of one hour and 33 minutes.

The series will feature Day of the Western Sunrise , a documentary produced by Zeeland-native Keith Reimink, on Monday-Saturday, Mar. 11-16. The film follows three survivors from a Japanese tuna trawler Daigo Fukuryu Mary, or the Lucky Dragon No. 5, who were fishing off the coast of the Marshall Islands on March 1, 1954, when the US detonated Castle Bravo, the first in a series of hydrogen weapon tests. The film adapted a Japanese storytelling method known as “kamishibai,” which means “paper drama,” to intimately retell the fishermen’s story, and the devastation still felt in Japan almost 65 years later. Paying homage to this Japanese art form, all the film’s scenes consist of individual drawings with paper texture being animated in a 3-D environment. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles and is not rated.

The Icelandic comedy-drama Woman at War will close out the series on Monday-Saturday, Apr. 1-6. The film tells the story of Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), an independent woman in her late 40s, who declares a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry to stop its operations in the Icelandic highlands. In the midst of her dangerous and bold activism, a long-forgotten application to adopt a child from Ukraine is approved, and she learns there is a little girl waiting for her. As Halla prepares to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother, she comes up with one last plan to support her cause. The film is in Icelandic, English, Spanish, and Norwegian with English subtitles. It is not rated and has a running time of one hour and 41 minutes.

Tickets for the individual films are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College faculty and children. Tickets will be sold at the door but are also available in advance at the Events and Conferences Office located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be called at (616) 395-7890.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located in downtown Holland at 86 E. Eighth St.

Selecting Films and the 2018 Fall Film Series


Gif of myrna loyThe question is asked often: How do you select the films for your series?

And there is no easy answer. I would like to tell you that we spend hours watching 30-40 films, having passionate arguments about the artistic qualifications of each film, dissect plot and character development, and then negotiate for weeks with each distributor.

In reality, the process is usually fast and furious! The film world moves quickly and with the advent of streaming services, it moves faster than ever. Back in the day (as in, 5 years ago) we wanted to make sure we showed films that were not yet released on DVD. Today’s college students don’t know what a DVD is as films now hit Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or any number of streaming services quickly. In fact, many films are made to bypass theatres completely and go straight to a streaming service.

As a result, our efforts to show you the latest independent and international films before you can see them anywhere else has become harder. Sometimes we see a film we would love to show, but we can see that it will be released for streaming and DVD (if they still use them) before we can show them. So, that film goes off the list!

Our list gets created through a variety of ways. Some of our staff have strong connections with different distributors who suggest films for us. In addition, we watch what is happening at major film festivals (Sundance, Toronto, etc), check in with other independent theatres, take suggestions from patrons, and see what major news outlets are reviewing. We then look to create a balanced list that includes international fare as well as films from the U.S., documentaries as well as dramas as well as comedies as well as artistic entries. Once we get a list of films, we check with distributors for their input, check IMDB online, search for reviews, and watch various trailers. If we are really on the fence, a distributor might get us a “screener” that allows us to the see the film, but usually with some watermark over it so we cannot show it for free!

In the end, several of us in the office review the different films and give our input. It is a good group as we approach the films with a variety of tastes, backgrounds, and expectations. Honestly alert: we are not all thrilled with every film we choose! But with some gentle arguments we usually come to find a well-rounded series.

This fall series is now set and is a good example of our selection process.

Fall Film Series PosterWe open with “What Will People Say” which is a dramatic film focusing on the clash of cultures as a young Pakistani woman wrestles with her birth culture and her upbringing. From there we go to the documentary, “Love, Gilda” about Gilda Radner who was a driving force on the original Saturday Night Live. As many of you know, Radner battled an eating disorder and then died from ovarian cancer when she was just 42. Next, we go to the heart of the U.S. with “Neither Wolf, Nor Dog,” a film based on a popular novel about a white writer called by a Lakota Elder to help him write a book. We end with a Norwegian film, “Gavagai,” about a widower seeking to finish his wife’s work of translating the poetry of Tarjei Vessas, which is featured in the film.

As you can see, there is a little bit of everything in there. What we love most is when we go to a film expecting to be underwhelmed, and instead walk away moved. The Knick films are not blockbusters, which certainly have their place. Instead, we seek films that challenge the viewer and make you walk away entertained and thinking.

Read about all our films in our release and sign up for the free, weekly Arts Update for all the latest news. Or, visit the Knickerbocker Film Series page for trailers and information about the films.

As always, thank you for supporting our series.

Derek Emerson
Director of Public Affairs and Events

“One Night Only” Series Features Four Iconic Brando Films

Marlon Brando pictureIn an era where we watch stars self-destruct on too regular of a basis, the career of Marlon Brando can offer these people both lessons and hope. After bursting onto the scene in the 1950s (and our series focuses on four films released between 1952-1954), Brando’s personal life and career went off the track in the 1960s. He went ten years without making a successful film and it looked like his legacy would rest on his solid early work. Then came his second Academy Award for The Godfather in 1972 followed by another nomination for his work in the controversial Last Tango in Paris. My introduction to Brando was at the Holland Theatre (now the Knickerbocker) in 1979 when my oldest brother took me to see Apocalypse Now since he felt all 15-year-olds should see that film. It was a memorable experience as Brando slowly leans forward in the light, rubbing that bald head and mumbling.

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire

Little did I know that the mumbling was a Brando trademark. After his explosive performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando was nicknamed “the mumbler” by some in Hollywood. His body language in the movie matches his speech, as he moves from slouch to taut, from mumble to rapid-fire shouting in a heartbeat. It was just his second movie appearance and he had played Stanley Kowalski in the Broadway version just prior to the movie. He understood his character and it is seen in nuances of the film. Brando is the perfect match for all the subtexts found in all of Tennessee Williams’ work because you can see the internal conflicts in his every gesture.

Brando in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

While Streetcar brought him fame, Brando wanted to show he could do more than just mumble so he took on the Mark Antony role in a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar so he could show his acting skills up against the likes of John Gielgud, James Mason, Deborah Kerr, and Greer Garson. The critics agreed that he could more than hold his own, so he then went back to mumbling.

He went from Julius Caesar to The Wild One where we get the iconic Brando on the motorcycle photo. The film has great lines and Lee Marvin is good, as always, but the motorcycle gang that orders cups of coffee appears a little dated. Still, it is Brando in rare form showing a man conflicted between emotions. The tough guy falling for the nice girl, a man who wants to be more than he is but is not sure how to get there.

On the Waterfront

In our final film, On the Waterfront, Brando plays another tough guy struggling with where to go in life. If I was forced to choose a favorite film, this is easily my all-time favorite. Eva Marie Saint, who took home the Academy Award for her debut performance here, matches Brando’s intensity. Brando is the punk who could have been a great boxer (think “I coulda been a contender”) but takes a dive for his brother and his Mafia-like union group. Now he has the chance to do something right and you see the conflict in his face and body — he wants to better than he is but he lacks the courage. And then you have Karl Malden pulling off the role of a priest that is the anti-Bing Crosby version. He is pushed out from his safe church to bring Christ to the docks and his speech over the dead body of a dock worker in the belly of a ship may be the best sermon ever preached, on or off stage. The fact that his character is based on a real-life priest may have helped cement his character. The film was a huge success, winning eight Academy awards including Brando and Marie Saint for their acting, Eli Kazan for his directing, and the film itself won the best picture award.

Looking at these four films together, it is incredible what he put together in such a short time. Although he derailed his own career, nearly 20 years after these films he was back and still amazing people with his skills. As another great actor, Paul Newman, said: “I’m angry at Marlon because he does everything so easily. I have to break my [fill in the blank] to do what he can do with eyes closed.”

Make sure to catch all the films:

April 16 — A Streetcar Named Desire
April 23 — Julius Caesar
April 30 — The Wild One
May 7 — On the Waterfront

–Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events