The Reel Less Traveled – March 2023


Worlds Seen and Unseen

    March brings us a triple threat, so let’s dispense with the usual introductory paragraph and get right to it.
    The International Film Showcase takes us to an earthly country and culture we know precious little about, and toward that end, Cairo Conspiracy, which also goes by the title of Walad Min Al Janna (Boy from Heaven), does much to educate.
    Indeed, education plays a very large part in this film as it follows the progress of a boy who has the good fortune of being able to attend the local university in Egypt. This particular school has a very clear divide between government and religion with the twain never meeting. The main character finds himself haplessly right in the middle of this conflict.
    The film is similarly filled with controversy as its director, Tarik Saleh, has been exiled from his home country of Egypt, where his previous film was banned.
    Check for times and previews.
    Universities are not all doom and gloom however, as the Orinda Theatre proves with a free showing of Animal House on March 16. It is one of the early movies to showcase the talents of the popular cast from the fledgling Saturday Night Live. In this case, the late John Belushi throws himself into the role of worst-student-ever. Filled with chaos and rebellion, Animal House was an instant hit, much to the chagrin of parents who didn’t want their kids to know how they spent their own college days.
    Going back in time a bit, the Chiller Diller Theatre presents a different sort of threat. During the 50s and 60s, we were living through a Cold War of fear and paranoia. War of the Worlds (1953) fanned those fears.
    Instead of the atom bomb or the looming threat of communism, War gives the anomalous fear of invasion, not from any earthly country, but from Martians. Following in the footsteps of the famous radio broadcast – and keeping in mind we didn’t know half as much about the red planet as we do now – the fear felt by the audiences must have been palpable indeed. Add the brilliant special effects by the famous George Pal and you have a classic. It screens March 18. Be sure to check for show times.
    Lastly, there’s the 16mm weird, bizarre madness of the Psychotronix Film Festival. This is a presentation of shorts, TV commercials, cartoons, educational films and trailers. Seeing this will conjure memories from some of a certain era who were subjected to them as children and still managed to lead mostly normal and stable lives. It shows March 25.
    And that’s it. As always, I urge you to go toward those wonderful images made of sound and light, for that’s where the reel magic lies.

Tom Westlake can be reached at

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