June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the National Portrait Gallery.
“Mistaken for Strangers”
What it looks like: An indie rock doc featuring the National on tour.
What it is: The sweetly comical documentary was shot by Tom Berninger, younger brother of the band’s lead singer and a first-time filmmaker (if you don’t count homemade horror movies about a barbarian with an identity crisis). After the slightly hapless and unemployed Berninger is hired by the National to be a roadie, he instead takes to capturing footage of the band members and consequently slacks off on his assigned duties. The finished product ends up being more about the filmmaker, looking at life in the shadow of a more successful sibling. But thanks to Berninger’s nutty personality and ridiculous interview questions (“How famous do you think you are?”), the movie offers a lot of laughs to lighten more bittersweet undercurrents.
June 21 at 10 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; June 23 at noon at the National Portrait Gallery.
“Expedition to the end of the world”
What it looks like: An environmental wake-up call recording the melting ice caps of Northeast Greenland.
What it is: The Danish documentary from Daniel Dencik follows a boat full of scientists and artists who travel to a remote location only accessible because of climate change; melting ice has left a path through which the ship can now travel. But no one is proselytizing; the film is as much about capturing arresting landscapes, roaming polar bears and amusing existential conversations as it is about mankind’s toll on the environment. Dencik does indeed chronicle masses of ice crumbling into the sea, but he also hears from one eccentric passenger who believes our ability to embrace change will be our biggest asset as the planet continues to shift; we’ll just have to move Hamburg to Mongolia and invade Switzerland, he says. “So what?”
Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; June 21 at 11:45 a.m. at Goethe-Institut.
“Remote Area Medical”
What it looks like: A deep dive into the desperate needs of uninsured Americans when a free traveling clinic makes a stop in Tennessee.
What it is: Nearby residents start lining up days before Remote Area Medical takes over the Bristol Motor Speedway, so the urgency for basic tests and procedures is certainly vivid. But so are the personalities in Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman’s documentary, which follows the volunteer caregivers and their patients. One of the film’s biggest surprises is the widespread need for dental care, as one of the film’s subjects becomes so desperate to have his rotting teeth pulled he tries to do it himself. It’s a bleak picture, but it’s also a lasting one that could give an insured American pause before dismissing a trip to the dentist as a biannual annoyance.
June 21 at 4:30 p.m. at Goethe-Institut; June 22 at 3 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre.