NGA Film Series


Get with the program. The National Gallery of Art 2019 Spring Film Program (April-June) features cinema from Cuba, new films from Romania, Roberto Rossellini classics, Washington premieres, and presentation by filmmakers. 
Cinephiles can fully indulge in digital restorations of classics like Gray House by Austin Jack Lynch and The Image Book by Jean Luc Goddard. 
Films are shown in the East Building auditorium. Seating for all events is on a first come, first seated basis. Doors open approximately 30 minutes before each show. Programs are subject to change. For details, visit and

NGA Film Series

A Cuba Compendium
April 13–27
This anthology of new and old cinematic interpretations includes a compelling variety of ideas, approaches, styles, and understandings concerning the great Caribbean landmass just off the southern coast of the United States. Inspiring everything from an exuberant love letter to a fictional foray to an essayistic tract, the enigmatic island nation of Cuba continues to fascinate artistic sensibilities both within and beyond its borders.

Tania Libre
Washington premiere
April 13, 12:30 p.m.
This past December, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (whose work was recently commissioned for Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London) was arrested multiple times in Havana for protesting Decree 349, a judicial act requiring artists in Cuba to register with the authorities before practicing and exhibiting their work. Detained numerous times before, Bruguera continues unabashedly to encourage debate over the Cuban government's restrictions, using participatory public performance as her tool. An exploration of civil liberties, art practice, and resistance, Tania Libre is primarily told as a conversation between Bruguera and American psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg, an expert in the field of PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome. A well-known American artist and filmmaker who frequently probes censorship and authority, Lynn Hershman Leeson starts to unpack the terms of freedom and liberty for all cultural practitioners. (Lynn Hershman Leeson, 2016, 73 minutes)

Coco Fusco: Recent Videos
April 13, 2:30 p.m.
Internationally acclaimed Cuban American artist Coco Fusco uses time-based media such as performance and video to question cultural assumptions and foreground unspoken biases around gender, race, class, and authority. Three of her recent video portraits focus on Cuban artists whose earlier calls for political reform on the island are still relevant today. La botella al mar de María Elena (The Message in a Bottle from María Elena) focuses on the case of Cuban poet María Elena Cruz Varela, whose 1991 treatise The Declaration of the Cuban Intellectuals was met with overwhelming force and censorship by the government. The Art of Intervention: The Performances of Juan SíGonzález explores the groundbreaking street performances of Cuban artist Juan SíGonzález from the 1980s through early documentation and discussion with the artist about relational aesthetics, freedom, and liberty. Finally, Vivir en junio con la lengua afuera (To Live in June with Your Tongue Hanging Out) is an homage to Cuban dissident poet Reinaldo Arenas (1943–1990) told through a recent recitation and discussion of his poem "El Central: Introduction to the Symbol of Faith," written in 1970. (Total running time 102 minutes)

Cuba: Battle of the 10,000,000
April 20, 2:00 p.m.
The famously reclusive French film essayist Chris Marker (1921–2012) traveled to Cuba in 1970 to document repercussions from Fidel Castro's plea to his people for a massive harvest of 10 million tons of sugarcane. Under a mid-1960s Cuban-Soviet economic agreement, Cuba was to become the sugar bowl of the Communist world by increasing sugar production to 10 million metric tons a year by 1970. (The most the country had ever produced before was 7.2 million tons in 1952). Marker's rarely seen hour-long Cuba: La bataille des dix millions is a thoughtfully observed look at communism's impact on the country, made with obvious regard for the island's farm workers. Special thanks to James Schneider. (Chris Marker, 1971, subtitles, 16mm, 58 minutes)

I Am Cuba
Washington premiere of the 4K restoration
April 20, 4:00 p.m.
Mikhail Kalatozov's 1960s masterpiece, recently treated to a 4K restoration, links four poetic vignettes written in part by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and photographed in stunning high-contrast black and white by Soviet cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky. The narrative conjures the island's warm and colorful ambience, starting with a lavishly choreographed Havana episode, then moving on to a sugarcane ranch where the owner loses his land to a multinational. In the next section, a student demonstration on a university campus recalls Battleship Potemkin's Odessa steps sequence, and in the final episode a peasant in Santiago de Cuba Province joins the revolution when his home is burned. (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964, subtitles, 140 minutes)

The Translator
Rodrigo and Sebastián Barriuso in person
April 27, 2:30 p.m.
Set in Havana in the late 1980s, The Translator's central character, a professor of Russian literature teaching in Havana, is assigned, out of the blue, to work in a hospital as translator for a group of young radiation victims from Chernobyl. His new role not only complicates his emotional life, but it also destabilizes his relationships with friends and family. Mixing documentary elements with a fictional tale, The Translator (Un Traductor) catches a critical historical moment when Cuba's economy was failing, unemployment was rife, and the country's citizens were beginning to feel more insulated than ever. (Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, 2018, subtitles, 107 minutes)

Janie Geiser
May 11
The Gallery welcomes award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker and visual artist Janie Geiser to introduce a program of her recent films and discuss her collaborations with other artists, including puppeteers and sound designers.

Janie Geiser: Artist's Talk
May 11, 2:00 p.m.
A multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes performance, film, installation, puppetry, and painting, Janie Geiser's internationally recognized films are known for their recontextualization of abandoned images and objects, the embrace of artifice, and a sense of suspended time. In this illustrated talk, Geiser explores her most recent theatrical productions and films with an emphasis on her collaborative processes and methodologies. (Approximately 60 minutes)

Double Vision: Recent Shorts
Janie Geiser in person
May 11, 3:30 p.m.
Developing her own cinematic language with collage and sound and the use of standard cinematic devices such as the iris and the wipe, Janie Geiser has built a trove of beguiling short films. This program highlights works completed over the last seven years, including Silent Sister (2016) and two films from 2018: Fluorescent Girl and Valeria Street. In the former, a light reflects on a girl's image while looking at a book of photographs by Paul Strand in a New Hampshire bookstore. And in Valeria Street, "American industry, its efficiency and promise, encapsulated as the 'American way of life' emerges as a mirage. The melancholy of such a transformation, the visual degradation or alternation of the image, its shadowing, or haunting, is heightened by the repetition of the father figure—the face, the amplified male hands, a displacement and disfiguration of the sturdy, authorial body"—Ela Bittencourt. (Total running time 72 minutes)

Walt Whitman Bicentennial
May 18
In honor of Walt Whitman's 200th birthday the Gallery will showcase two films featuring texts penned by the famous American poet. This event is presented in association with PostClassical Ensemble. Following the screenings, Whitman scholars, noted music historians, and others comment on the films and on his prose and poetry.

May 18, 2:00 p.m.
Artist Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand's short filmic ode to the modernity of New York City at the onset of the 20th century features intertitles derived from Walt Whitman's "Mannahatta," part of his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass. Shots of New York's sidewalks, skyscrapers, machine-age marvels, and human masses coalesce in rhythmic repetition forming a lyrical visual symphony. (Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, 1921, 11 minutes)

Street Scene
May 18, 2:30 p.m.
Kurt Weill's 1946 musical theater piece (which opened on Broadway in 1947) was based on the 1929 Elmer Rice play Street Scene and features lyrics by Rice and Langston Hughes with a Whitman-derived love duet. This version was directed by Francesca Zambello for the Houston Grand Opera in the 1990s. Set during the depression of the 1930s, the action takes place outside a New York tenement block on an oppressively hot summer day and was, arguably, the principal triumph of Weill's career in America. (1995, 142 minutes)

The Arboretum Cycle of Nathaniel Dorsky
May 25
The Arboretum Cycle is a sequence of seven related films (silent, projected at a speed of 18 frames per second) by Nathaniel Dorsky, an American artist who refers to his practice as devotional cinema—alluding to the latent capacity for non-representational film to elicit a mystical experience. Recorded on 16mm over the course of several months at the San Francisco Arboretum, these films embrace the intricacies of the natural world—plants, flowers, earth, sky, light, color, death, and dying—with attention to the smaller details often lost in casual viewings. The program is presented in association with the Environmental Film Festival.

*Film Series descriptions by NGA



Cecilia Mencia is founder of and an independent, DC-based journalist.