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to AUG. 24
Objectivity is an oft-touted virtue, but when telling a story that’s extremely close to home, subjectivity has its advantages. This series—which begins with Chinese director Liu Jiayin’s brilliant Ox Hide (at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10)—comprises three films in which the major characters play themselves, reconstructing actual episodes that challenged their actual identity. Chinese director Zhang Yang’s 2001 Quitting (at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17) casts Beijing actor Jia Hongsheng as himself, reliving the period when he found smoking heroin more compelling than working onstage or on-screen. As they did in real life, his parents arrive from the provinces and proceed to both bully and baby him. The film is startlingly intimate and hardly a feel-good parable; Jia’s own former self may be his best role, but it’s not exactly a likable one. The protagonist is equally troubling—and self-revealing—in Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 Close-Up (pictured; at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24). In cinema-mad Tehran, unemployed film buff Hossain Sabzian successfully impersonated director Mohsen (Kandahar) Makhmalbaf to ingratiate himself with an upscale family. After Sabzian was arrested, Kiarostami got the young man to re-create his actions, which the director intercut with actual footage of his trial. In choosing to impersonate Makhmalbaf (who appears in the film), Sabzian made an apt choice: That director has himself investigated similar issues of personal history and self-image in such films as A Moment of Innocence. Add Kiarostami’s fascination with the slippery intersection of life, art, and representation, and what results is among the best films about filmmaking ever. All films show at the Freer Gallery, Meyer Auditorium, 12th St. & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-3200. (Mark Jenkins)