MMOCA Spotlight Cinema shines on “Dheepan,” “Sand Storm” and “London Road”


While the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Rooftop Cinema series in the summertime may be one of the most distinctive film series in town, the museum has plenty to offer cinephiles when it goes indoors as well. Spotlight Cinema brings eight films to the museum at 227 State Street this fall, all premieres of recent award winners at Cannes and Sundance and other critically-acclaimed independent film. Without MMOCA, it’s highly unlikely they would play theatrically in town.

The series kicks off next Wednesday with Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan” and runs at 7 p.m. every Wednesday through mid-November. It’s free for museum members or $7 per ticket for adult in the MMOCA screening room. Here’s the schedule — I plan to have reviews of each movie up beforehand either here or at

Dheepan” (Sept. 28) — Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet,” “Rust and Bone”) drew from the real-life experiences of his lead actor, Jesuthasan Antonythasan in this drama about a former child soldier from Sri Lanka who faces more conflict when he becomes the caretaker of a violence-prone housing complex in the suburbs of Paris. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Sand Storm” (Oct. 5) — This Israeli film won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, telling the story of a Bedouin woman who is forced by tradition to host the wedding party for her husband’s marriage to a second, much younger wife.

Kaili Blues” (Oct. 12) — A hypnotic and entrancing first feature from 26-year-old Chinese filmmaker Bi Gan, this film blends past, present and future in its tale of a doctor who comes to a mysterious small town seeking a lost child.

Homo Sapiens” (Oct. 19) — Listen to the Talking Heads song “Nothing But Flowers” on the way to the screening of Nicholas Geyrhalter’s new documentary, which looks at manmade spaces like malls and factories that have been abandoned by humans and are now being reclaimed by nature. A vision of a post-human civilization?

Little Sister” (Oct. 26) — Set around Halloween before another big election (Obama in 2008), this affecting comedy follows a  young nun-in-training who returns home to a hippie mother (Ally Sheedy) and traumatized Iraq Vet brother, and reverts to her old teenage Goth persona as she attempts to heal her family.


London Road” (Nov. 2) — Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman star in this unlikely cinematic opera, based on a series of murders that happened in a small British town. Every sung line is taken from the official transcripts of the case.

After the Storm” (Nov. 9) — The last film by master Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Our Little Sister“) just played at Sundance Cinemas, and now comes his newest film, another tale of a fractured family learning to heal itself. In this case, it’s a deadbeat dad reconciling with his family amid a typhoon.

Don’t Call Me Son” (Nov. 16) — A gay teenager rebels when he learns that his mother adopted him from a wealthy conservative family in this Brazilian family drama.

“Eastern Boys”: Same train station, different tracks


“Eastern Boys” plays Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St. FREE for museum members, $7 for all others. R, 2:08, three stars out of four.

For some reason, whether it’s because it’s an especially big issue in France or because the French are particularly interested in their national identity, recent French cinema seems to be dealing with immigration a lot lately. Whether it’s in a thriller (“Cache”), social drama (“The Class”) or even heartwarming comedy (“The Interrupters”), the clash between Old World and New World French seems to provide endless inspiration.

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Those movies that never played Madison? They’re playing at MMOCA Spotlight Cinema


It’s a cycle familiar to Madison movie fans. We pick up the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly or some other national publication and read a review of some cool independent movie on the way. A Jim Jarmusch vampire movie starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston? A comedy about three Swedish middle-school punk rockers? A new Roman Polanski movie based on an acclaimed off-Broadway play? Can’t wait to see it when it comes to Madison.

And then it doesn’t. For reasons only booking agents can understand, the films don’t open in Madison.

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