Film Series in Thetford Offers Selection of Greats

For a rural area with just a few movie theaters, the Upper Valley is graced with a fairly wide array of places to see great films, thanks to cinephiles who make film series happen in libraries, schools, churches or Great Aunt Fanny’s living room.

Ray Chapin, a teacher of English and drama at Thetford Academy who also teaches a class on film analysis at the school, is one of those dedicated film lovers who’s put together an eclectic, not-the-usual-suspects film series open to the public that runs through January. Movies are shown on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the Martha Jane Rich Theater, and admission is free. There is no after-film discussion.

Chapin has been a film buff since he was in college and saw Ingmar Bergman’s late masterpiece Fanny and Alexander , he said in a telephone interview. He wanted the series to offer a specifically international perspective that isn’t always found outside urban areas.

On Oct. 8, the series will screen Ivan’s Childhood , an autobiographical film by the Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky. Akira Kurosawa’s ground-breaking Rashomon , often imitated but never really bettered, screens on Oct. 29: the movie examines the aftermath of a crime, as seen from the perspectives of the people whose lives are altered by it.

On Nov. 19, the series continues with Still Life , a film by Jia Zhangke, one of the leading directors to have emerged from China this century. The movie, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2006, follows, in separate stories, a man and woman who return to a city near the immense, controversial Three Gorges dam that is scheduled to be flooded.

On Dec. 10, there will be a “mystery” film from the Master of Suspense, aka Alfred Hitchcock. My guess, given the clue that Chapin drops in the listing about a fear of heights, is that the movie title of seven letters begins with a V and ends with an O, and stars James Stewart and Kim Novak. The august British film journal Sight and Sound named it the best film of all time in a 2012 poll, which you can take or leave, given the parlor-trick absurdity of polls that try to rank in order the best of the best. But, no doubt, it is one of Hitchcock’s greatest films.

On Jan. 7, the series concludes with an Iranian film Blackboards , directed by Samira Makhmalbaf. The movie, which won numerous prizes, is about teachers going into the mountains of Kurdistan looking for prospective students against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. Makhmalbaf, who was 20 when she made the film, is just one of a number of exciting film talents coming out of Iran in recent years.

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Nicola Smith can be reached at