Past Programming

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2022: The INAUGURAL year

A Couple

At 92 years old, legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies) has made only a couple fiction films. His latest is one of those rare instances yet again, a collaboration with Nathalie Boutefeu who co-wrote and stars in this adaptation of letters and diary entries from Leo and Sophia Tolstoy.

Dialogue with Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (virtual)

About Dry Grasses

A young teacher hopes to be appointed to Istanbul after mandatory duty at a small village. After a long time waiting he loses all hope of escaping from this gloomy life. However, his colleague Nuray helps him to regain perspective.

Aelita: Queen of Mars live score with Marc Ribot

Musician Marc Ribot will perform a live score to accompany Yakov Protazanov’s pioneering 1924 sci-fi film Aelita: Queen of Mars, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary.


Loosely inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The Aleph, Iva Radivojević’s Aleph is an exploration of Borges’ obsession with the infinite. Hybridizing interviews and scripted content with local actors and performers spanning from Greece to Nepal, we witness the ways in which our actions, however small, have vast, unforeseeable consequences, forcing the audience to reckon with their own significance in the grand design of human experience.

As Far As I Can Walk

This modern immigrant story is a re-imagining of a traditional medieval legend in which a Ghanaian couple goes to Europe to find a better life only to land in a refugee camp in Serbia. When Strahinja's wife, Ababuo, goes missing, he must go on an epic journey to get her back, risking his safety and freedom in an inhospitable and unwelcoming land.

Band of Outsiders

In loving tribute to the late master filmmaker, we present one of his many adaptations. Band of Outsiders was adapted from the novel Fool's Gold by Dolores Hitchens. Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) don’t have money, jobs, or prospects, but they do have a black convertible and a shared romantic interest in Odile (Anna Karina). When Odile lets slip that a stash of cash is ineptly hidden in the isolated villa where she lives, the men hatch a plan to take it for themselves.

Beau Travail

An ex-Foreign Legion officer recalls his once glorious life leading troops in Djibouti.

Black Panther Remix: Wakanda Now

Iowa City based artist Tracie Morris remixes and reimagines the narrative of the 2018 blockbuster film through a live, experimental, multi-voiced reading accompanying a visual-only screening of the film.

Dialogue with Artist Tracie Morris and cast

Blue Giant

Dai's life is completely changed the day he discovers jazz. A dedicated saxophonist, he moves from his small town to Tokyo and starts a young trio, determined to be the best player in the world.

Bones and All

Adapted by Iowa Writers Workshop alum David Kajganich from the novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis, this unconventional tale of first love follows Maren (Taylor Russell), a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), an intense and disenfranchised drifter. The two misfits venture across the midwest, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are — cannibals.

Dialogue with Producer / screenwriter David Kajganich and novelist Camille DeAngelis

Cat Person

When Margot (Emilia Jones), a college sophomore goes on a date with the older Robert (Nicholas Braun), she finds that IRL Robert doesn't live up to the Robert she has been flirting with over texts.

Cinema Savant: Werner Herzog

Legendary film director Werner Herzog will receive FilmScene’s Cinema Savant award and appear in conversation to discuss his life in film and will read from his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir.

Cobra Verde

During the 1800s, paroled Brazilian bandit Cobra Verde is sent to West Africa with a few troops to man an old Portuguese fort and to convince the local African ruler to resume the slave trade with Brazil.

Earth II

Using footage, form, and structure from big budget action blockbusters of the past four decades to create a climate disaster film that is just as bombastic and ridiculous as the films it's sourced from while also speaking to our current climate crisis is no small task. But the Anti-banality Union have managed to do just that complete with an all-star cast.

Dialogue with Filmmaker from the Anti-banality Union


Touching on themes of sexuality and class in contemporary Japan, this deeply moving story follows fashion magazine editor Kosuke and personal trainer Ryuta whose romantic relationship flies in the face of their society's traditional values.


Adapted from Ottessa Moshfegh's celebrated novel of the same name, this dark tale of friendship and unrequited love in the 1964 Boston suburbs follows Eileen, a young secretary (Thomasin McKenzie) at a juvenile correctional facility, who is immediately taken by the new psychologist (Anne Hathaway).

Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

Ernest and Celestine fight a fascist ban on music in this loveable follow up to the Oscar-nominated film based on characters from the French children's book series by Gabrielle Vincent.

Filmspotting Live

The #1 podcast for the movie buff according to the New York Times, Chicago’s Filmspotting has provided in-depth movie discussions, interviews, and Top 5 lists since 2005. Join co-hosts Josh Larsen and Adam Kempenaar (UI professor) as they record a live episode, “The Enigma of Werner Herzog,” exploring the ecstatic truths of one of cinema’s most daring and iconoclastic filmmakers.

Filmspotting Live: Adapting for the Screen

The #1 podcast for the movie buff according to the New York Times, Chicago’s Filmspotting has been going strong since 2005. In this conversation, Adam and Sam share their picks for some of the best recent films adapted from fiction, plays, musicals, and more.

Dialogue with hosts Adam Kempenaar, Sam Van Hallgren

Final Cut

An adaptation of a modern cult classic (One Cut of the Dead) that itself was an adaptation of a play from the Academy Award winning director of The Artist, this bloody zom-com stays true to its predecessor, even casting one of the the actors from the original film in one of many meta shoutouts.

Four Daughters

Reconstructing the true story of Olfa Hamrouni and her four daughters is a riveting exploration of rebellion, memory, and sisterhood.

Framing Agnes

After discovering the 1950s case files of a trans woman forced to choose between honesty and access to care, a trans director and cast interpret archival transcripts as talk show in a meta examination of the power, privilege, and perils of visibility.

Dialogue with the Filmmaker (virtual)

Gueule d'Amour (Lady Killer)

This adaptation of a novel by André Boucler features a foreign-legion Casanova – the “lady killer” Lucien Bourrache – who meets his match in the mysterious seductress Madeleine.

Hold Me Tight

This cerebral drama follows Clarisse who has left her husband and children without explanation. In almost a dream-like haze, details begin to emerge as we cut back and forth between this portrait of a woman in crisis and the family she has left behind.

John Irving: The Cider House Rules

John Irving is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop who he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. Irving will join us in person for a screening and discussion of how his acclaimed book became an Oscar-winning script.

Last and First Men

Two billion years ahead of us, a future race of humans finds itself on the verge of extinction. Almost all that is left in the world are lone and surreal monuments, beaming their message into the wilderness.

Let it Be Morning

Adapted from the Hebrew language novel of the same name by Palestinian author Sayed Kashua, this gently comedic drama deals with charged issues of class and identity from the director of The Band's Visit as a bussinessman gets stuck in the Arabic village where he grew up when it is put under lockdown by Israeli soldiers without explanation.

Meet Me in the Bathroom

An immersive journey through the New York music scene of the early 2000s. A new generation kick-started a musical rebirth for New York City that reverberated around the world.

Dialogue with Author Lizzy Goodman

Miracle in Milan

An open-hearted, unrelentingly energetic orphan struggles to make the best of his life on the streets of Milan.

Monograph Shorts Program

A Refocus Film Festival shorts block, featuring four selections that expand our understanding of art and adaptation, from directors Jean-Luc Godard, Anthony Ing, Elizabeth Hobbs, and Lonnie Holley & Cyrus Moussavi


Freely inspired by the story of Oedipus, Angela Schanelec's latest is as terrifying as myth and as gentle as a folk song.

On the Morning You Wake (to the End of the World)

An audio-driven VR experience that reveals and dramatizes the fundamental injustice of a world held hostage by nuclear weapons. Open to the public throughout the festival, reservations suggested, beginning October 6.

Dialogue with Advocate from Games for Change

Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

Inspired by Bernard Cendron and Gérard Chenu's 1974 biography Onoda, seul en guerre dans la jungle and the life of Hiroo Onoda, the film follows a 22-year-old Japanese soldier as he retreats into the jungles after World War II has ended only to continue the fight for 10,000 days.


Adapted from the novel of the same title by Virginia Woolf and presented in a stunning 4K restoration, Sally Potter’s Orlando recounts 400 years in the life of a shapeshifting poet who assumes the guise of multiple genders.

Orlando, My Political Biography

Academic virtuoso turned filmmaker Paul B. Preciado's doc tells his and others' stories of transition through unique reenactments and visual interpretations of Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

Peter Von Kant

Peter Von Kant, a successful, famous director, lives with his assistant Karl, whom he likes to mistreat and humiliate. Through the great actress Sidonie, he meets and falls in love with Amir, a handsome young man of modest means.

Radical Wolfe

The first feature film to unpack the inimitable life and career of great American New Journalist Tom Wolfe is as illuminating as it is deeply personal, pulling back the curtain on the man in the white suit.

Rewind & Play

Director Alain Gomis recontextualizes the footage of Monk's time in Paris, before his evening concert, to give us a raw and intimate look at an artist who is in the grip of the violent factory of stereotypes from which he is trying to escape.

Robot Dreams

Adapted from Sara Varon's graphic novel of the same name, this touching story of friendship and loss follows a dog and his robot best friend.

Sansón and Me

Set in rural California and Mexico’s Pacific coast, this documentary is a portrait of the unlikely friendship of two Mexican migrants, told within the frame of the dramatic clash between systemic forces and personal choices that envelop young, incarcerated men of color in America.

Dialogue with Director Rodrigo Reyes

Secret Screening Storybook

See this special screening before its official U.S. premiere! Kids bring your parents for this brand new animated film featuring a beloved storybook character come to life.


Subject explores the life-altering experience of sharing one’s life on screen profiling the participants of five acclaimed documentaries. The filmmakers allow the film’s collaborators to have the last word, contextualizing their own participation in the project. As tens of millions of people consume documentaries in an unprecedented, “golden era,” the film urges audiences to consider the impact on documentary participants.

The Afterlight

Using footage from hundreds of films over decades of film history, this ghost story, of sorts, brings together an ensemble cast of actors with one thing in common: each is no longer alive. There exists only a single 35mm print of the film that is touring around the world and is meant to deteriorate with each projection.

Dialogue with Director Charlie Shackleton (virtual)

The Movie Orgy

A compilation film designed to evoke nostalgia for the shared entertainment experiences of early baby boomers, including clips from television programs and B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as commercials, newsreels, blooper outtakes, satiric short films and promotional and government films.

The Music Room

A fallen aristocrat's crumbling opulence is on full display in this incandescent depiction of the clash between tradition and modernity, one of the defining works of the master filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

The Natural History of Destruction

An examination of the perception and processing of the phenomenon of mass destruction of the German civilian population in European post-war literature.

The Pigeon Tunnel

Spanning six decades, John le Carré gives his final and most personal interview, interspersed with rare archival footage and dramatic anecdotes.

The Shining

In this adaptation of Stephen King's horror story, a family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

The Taste of Things

The story of Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the fine gourmet she has been working for over the last 20 years.

This Much We Know

A filmmaker finds personal solace in retracing and expanding a book reflecting on the city with the highest suicide rate in the country and a nation scrambling to bury decades of nuclear excess in a nearby mountain.

Time Bomb Y2K

Do you remember making sure to power down and unplug your computer on December 31, 1999? Created using entirely archival footage, this documentary travels back to the turn of the millennium, showcasing a panoply of eccentric characters and all manner of hilariously dated clips.

Voorhees Night of the Beast

When Jason isn't the only beast in the woods, no one is safe. An unauthorized fiction film for Friday the 13th fans.

Werckmeister Harmonies

A naive young man witnesses an escalation of violence in his small hometown following the arrival of a mysterious circus attraction.


A corrupt politician is cursed with impotence on the night of his third wedding after embezzling 100 tons of rice.

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