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SCREENING ROOM

'Bosna!' a Tribute to the Bosnian People

March 16, 1995|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bernard-Henry Levy's documentary "Bosna!" (Sunset 5 Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m.), a brilliant, bristling tribute to the proud, tenacious Bosnian people, plunges us into the day-to-day chaos of the former Yugoslavia. In an highly personal and impassioned manner, Levy and his co-director Alain Ferrari and co-writer Gilles Hertzog present the Bosnians, in their resistance of fascism, as the guardians of the values of Western culture.

Levy's narration is terse, sardonic, emotion-charged and authoritative in the grand, unassailable French manner, and he not only excoriates the Western powers for not rushing to aid the Bosnians but also drives home what their eventual fate--regardless of what it will be--will mean for Europe and the free world in the next century. A man of dark, brutal wit, Levy describes post-Tito Yugoslavia as "Desperately Seeking Despot."

Information: (213) 848-3500.

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Thumps Up: Long before "Hoop Dreams" became one of the most successful documentaries ever, its production company, Kartemquin Films, has been chronicling since 1967 the social, political economical issues that have confronted Chicago and its environs. The American Cinematheque's "Documental Saturdays in March" continues Saturday at the Chaplin Theater in the Raleigh Studios, 5300 Melrose Ave., with a lively, engaging survey of Kartemquin's work. Most of the films center on easy-to-like, plain-talking, working-class people who catch us up in their lives and problems while the filmmakers manage to be probing yet unobtrusive.

The retrospective leads off at 1 p.m. with its strongest feature--and one of its earliest efforts--"Thumbs Down" (1968), made by Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner. It unfolds like a suspense film as the highly articulate, deeply impassioned leaders of a parish youth group plan a peace-and-freedom mass in one of Chicago's most conservative neighborhoods: Will they really get to deliver it? What will the reactions be like?

For those of us who never thought that a neighborhood Catholic church could be an arena for debate, the film, even now, has the impact of revelation. The key organizer of the mass, Jack, who has the looks and passion of Daniel Day-Lewis, is a brilliant and charismatic firebrand, grasping how to argue that anti-Vietnam War sentiments are in the true spirit of Jesus.

Among those listening to the youth group's sermon are a pair of young nuns, Sisters Mary Campion and Marie Arne, whom Quinn and Temaner recruit (with a tip of the hat to Jean Rouch's "Chronicle of a Summer") for their endearing and gentle 1968 "The Inquiring Nuns" (at 3:30 p.m.), in which the sisters ask Chicagoans if they are happy.

Many, while deploring the Vietnam War, say they are and express gratitude that their lives are as secure as they are. The filmmakers get a terrific bonus when one of their interviewees turns out to be comedian Stepin Fetchit, then 76 and freely admitting that he "blew $7 million" of his Hollywood earnings. Yet, he too says he's happy because he takes communion daily and did so even when he was running through his money.

Quinn teamed with Jerry Blumenthal, the other principal founder of Kartemquin Films, for their 1980/1984 "Taylor Chain: Story in a Union Local" and "Taylor Chain II: A Story of a Collective Bargaining" (8 p.m.), which trace a tragic arc in the life of an old-line, family-owned manufacturing company. It is nearly destroyed by bad management, then gets a reprieve in 1980 when it is sold; union stalwarts, whom we watched learning to flex their muscles in Part I, bargain heroically with the new management only to confront a deadly economic recession in the early '80s.

This is yet another look at the consequences for traditional American industry and its workers when its inherent problems are further compounded when the government allows it to be undercut by foreign competitors. Playing with "Taylor Chain I & II" is Quinn and Blumenthal's "Golub" (1988), a thoughtful profile of New York artist Leon Golub, whom we get to watch in the act of creating one of his immense, riveting depictions of political torture.

For full schedule and further information: (213) 466-FILM.

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