City Paper is not for tourists
There is one moment that absolutely defines Eva Weber’s Steel Homes: a woman tugging at the corner of a sealed box, desperate to peek at what is inside. Weber’s technique, which incorporates snippets of interviews with the patrons of a self-storage facility, makes Steel Homes a holistic portrayal of a day in the life of the warehouse itself. Weber previously directed two short films that personified construction cranes and applies the same anthropological/museum-piece sensibility here. What emerges is a quirky little tone poem about loss and regret in a building haunted by the spirits of the objects that inhabit it. —NG
Filmmaker Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’s short is a 15-minute look at Presidio Modelo, the abandoned Cuban prison that once held Fidel Castro. The architecture is stunning to observe—inspired by philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon design, the main facility is a single guard tower planted in the center of a circular room lined with cells, where inmates were unable to tell when, or by whom, they were being watched. Presidio Modelo explores the ruined prison through a series of quiet lyrical shots paired with old newsreel and documentary footage—a nod to Alain Resnais’ classic Night & Fog. According to Bentham, this structure achieved a “new mode for obtaining power of mind over mind.” Alvarez-Mesa’s short can’t quite live up to that standard, mainly due to the clunky voice-over, but, so long as you’re not locked inside, Presidio Modelo is an interesting place to spend some time. —AL
A group of women sit around a table at a small post office in Poland, cutting open envelopes and sharing their contents. A crime in progress? No, they’re just searching for clues: The letters in question have been deemed undeliverable—addressed to God, nameless parents, or people who have died. The women share particularly poignant letters with one another before sending them on to the next post office. A final image, of piles of mail being reduced to scraps, will resonate long after the documentary ends. —CJ
Murray Frederick, a landscape photographer, makes his directorial debut with Salt, a film about what happens to your sense of self when you spend six years photographing Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest salt lake. Here, ideas are better, dreams are cinematic, and depression is imminent. But Frederick wonders if his photographs will be worth the time spent far from home and whether he can ever call his work complete. The decision to include his more soul-baring confessions once in the relative safety and comfort of the editing room makes Salt less the portrait of the salt bed that Frederick had intended and more a portrait of the artist himself. —HC
At noon on Wednesday, June 17; also on Thursday, June 18, at 2:45 p.m. at AFI Silver. Also showing: Left Behindand Pockets.