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Wild Sunflowers. (approximately 95 minutes). Zhao Penghiao’s ambitious chronicle deals with 30 years of social upheaval in China, entailing everything from the Gang of Four to the 2003 SARS outbreak that bookends this film, as experienced by a diverse group of villagers as they mature from childhood to 30-somethings.
Son (17 minutes). The Shunt Vaults underneath the London Bridge station in England are employed to eerie effect in this memorable short from writer-director Daniel Mulloy.
William Klein: Out of Necessity (8 minutes). Douglas Sloan’s homage to the Vogue fashion photographer and avant-garde documentary filmmaker juggles comments and memories from Klein that are filmed in black-and-white stock with the iconic images he has provided for more than 50 years.
Weekend in Galilee. (100 minutes). The Syracuse International Film Festival wraps with the U.S. premiere of director Moshe Mizrahi’s new feature. In autumn 1996, curmudgeonly professor Avner (Oded Teomi), dubbed a “national treasure,” visits his family’s farm/youth hostel in the Galilee.
The Flyboys (123 minutes).
Madison (90 minutes). James DeVita plays Michael, an award-winning war correspondent who has been embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq for four years. Distraught by his experiences, he returns to the college town of Madison, Wis., in search of emotional reconnection. But he shows up during Christmas break when Madison is practically deserted, save for some hardy townies like his lifelong buddy Ben (Brian Mani), who has his own personal woes as the single dad of button-cute daughter Maddy (Sophia DeVita). A journalism professor (Richard Halverson) empathizes with Michael’s shell-shocked torment that, as a reporter, he could find “no objectivity in chaos.” But even as media- and Bush-bashing university student Ash (Gerard Neugent), stuck in Madison during the yuletide, proclaims he’ll be “changing the world,” the youthful idealist must first understand the depths of Michael’s firsthand accounts. Director Brent Notbohm expertly dismantles the “good news in Iraq” mantra played up by the neocons, yet Madison is more than just an impassioned plea for peace. Notbohm also collaborated with actor DeVita on the script’s dialogue, and it all sounds barroom-authentic and believable. And DeVita’s performance has a Montgomery Clift-like intensity, as his Michael conveys, with minimalist acting flourishes, that he’s seen far too many atrocities. “How’s it possible to stop killing people by killing people?” Michael asks, a conundrum that no one could ever answer. Everson, Friday, April 25, 9:45 p.m.