American cinema has always held a mirror to the country’s ever-changing cultural and political landscape, giving the American people a chance to experience their deepest fears and loftiest ambitions magnified by the power of the silver screen. With State of the Union, PFS invites audiences to explore the country’s past and imagine its future through films that rigorously examine American leaders, institutions, and values while still being great works of entertainment.
AVA DUVERNAY | USA | 2014 | 128 MIN
February 21 | 7:30 PM | PFS Roxy Theater
Director Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-winning dramatization of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery is remarkable for its grounded, vital rendering of a mythic moment in American history. Selma follows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) in the months leading up to the demonstrations, as his attempts to persuade President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) are consistently rebuffed and the work of black civil rights activists in Alabama is met with state-sanctioned violence. In their depiction of King, DuVernay and Oyelowo capture the complexity of the legendary figure, daring to delve beyond his public strength by exploring his private doubts. Yet the film also highlights the work of the numerous, lesser-known activists who marched and sometimes gave their lives for the cause of equal rights, making Selma a stirring tribute to their personal sacrifice and quiet heroism.
RYAN COOGLER | USA | 2013 | 85 MIN
February 28 | 7:30 PM | PFS Roxy Theater
Before they rejuvenated the Rocky franchise with Creed and roared into the Marvel Universe with Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan made their names with this day-in-the-life portrait of Oscar Grant, a young Oakland man shot and killed by transit police in 2009. The breakout title of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Coogler’s debut feature focuses on the mundane yet portentous events leading up to Grant’s death, from trying to win back his job at a supermarket to picking up his young daughter from daycare to attending his mother’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday party, all before the fateful train ride stopping at the titular Fruitvale Station. Released in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, the film has only gained power and relevance in the intervening years as the American justice system continues to struggle with systemic racism and police violence against unarmed African Americans. Fruitvale Station is an essential, empathetic depiction of the complex life of an ordinary man that underscores the all-too-commonplace tragedy of his death.