TO AUG. 26

Postwar Italian directors were fascinated by the working class, and none of them were closer to the subject than Ermanno Olmi. The son of peasants, Olmi took a job at the Edison-Volta electric plant in his native Lombardy, where he became involved in amateur theatrical and cinematic activities sponsored by the company. After some 40 short documentaries, one of his nonfiction films grew into his 1958 feature debut, Time Stood Still, a tale of the fractious but ultimately respectful relationship between a veteran watchman and his young assistant. Thematically, Olmi seldom traveled far from this beginning. 1961’s Il Posto (pictured, at 4 p.m., Sunday, July 22) follows a young man who takes a job at a large, impersonal company in Milan, and 1962’s The Fiancés (at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 29) is the story of a Milan couple separated when the man finds employment in Sicily. 1968’s One Fine Day (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5) takes an uncharacteristic detour up the corporate food chain to investigate the case of an executive who seems on the verge of a major career advancement, but Olmi’s best-known film, 1978’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs (at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26) is a three-hour peasant saga based in part on the reminiscences of the director’s grandmother. In August, the American Film Institute will show some of Olmi’s later films, but that schedule has yet to be finalized. The National Gallery’s portion of the festival runs to Sunday, August 26, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)