Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project has maintained a fierce commitment to preserving and presenting masterpieces from around the globe, with a growing roster of more than three dozen restorations that have introduced moviegoers to often-overlooked areas of cinema history. Presenting passionate stories of revolution, identity, agency, forgiveness, and exclusion, this collector’s set gathers six of those important works, from Brazil (Pixote), Cuba (Lucía), Indonesia (After the Curfew), Iran (Downpour), Mauritania (Soleil Ô), and Mexico (Dos monjes). Each title is a pathbreaking contribution to the art form and a window onto a filmmaking tradition that international audiences previously had limited opportunities to experience.
A breathtaking vision of Cuban revolutionary history wrought with white-hot intensity by Humberto Solás, this operatic epic tells the story of a changing country through the eyes of three women, each named Lucía. In 1895, she is a tragic noblewoman who inadvertently betrays her country for love during the war of independence. In 1932, she is the daughter of a bourgeois family drawn into the workers’ uprising against the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado. And in the postrevolutionary 1960s, she is a newlywed farm girl fighting against patriarchal oppression. A formally dazzling landmark of postcolonial cinema, Lucía is both a senses-stunning visual experience and a fiercely feminist portrait of a society journeying toward liberation.
After the Curfew (1954)
This work by the trailblazing auteur Usmar Ismail struck Indonesian cinema like a bolt of lightning, illuminating on-screen, for the first time and with unflinching realism, the struggles of Indonesian society after the country gained its independence from the Netherlands. Giving voice to the frustrated dreams of a nation, After the Curfew follows the descent into disillusionment of Iskandar (A. N. Alcaff), a former freedom fighter who is unable to readjust to civilian life following the revolution that ended centuries of colonial rule. When he discovers that the ideals he fought for have been betrayed by a corrupt former commander, Iskandar is pushed to the breaking point. Steeped in the moody atmospherics and simmering psychological tension of film noir, this clear-eyed postcolonial tragedy paints a dark-edged portrait of a country no longer at war but still fighting for its soul.
With its bracing blend of harsh realism and aching humanity, Héctor Babenco offers an electrifying look at lost youth fighting to survive on the bottom rung of Brazilian society that helped put the country’s cinema on the international map. Shot with documentary-like immediacy on the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Pixote follows the eponymous preteen runaway (the heartbreaking Fernando Ramos da Silva) as he escapes a nightmarish juvenile detention center, only to descend into a life of increasingly violent crime even as he finds himself part of a makeshift family of fellow outcasts. Balancing its shocking brutality with moments of disarming tenderness, this stunning journey through Brazil’s underworld is an unforgettable cry from the lower depths that has influenced multiple generations of American filmmakers, including Spike Lee, Harmony Korine, and the Safdie brothers.
Dos Monjes (1934)
Made in the early days of Mexican sound cinema, this vividly stylized melodrama hinges on an audacious, ahead-of-its-time flashback structure. When the ailing monk Javier recognizes a brother newly arrived at his cloister, he inexplicably becomes deranged and attacks him. What causes his madness? Director Juan Bustillo Oro recounts the two men’s shared past—a tragic rivalry over the love of a woman—twice, once from the point of view of each, heightening the contrasts between their accounts with visual flourishes drawn from the language of German expressionism. With its gothic sets, elaborate lighting, and daring camera work by avant-garde photographer Agustín Jiménez, Dos monjes is a broodingly intense outlier in Mexican cinema, plumbing the depths of psychological torment and existential mystery with experimental verve.
A furious cry of resistance against racist oppression, the debut from Mauritanian director Med Hondo is a bitterly funny, stylistically explosive attack on Western capitalism and the lingering legacy of colonialism. Laced with deadly irony and righteous anger, Soleil Ô follows a starry-eyed immigrant (Robert Liensol) as he leaves West Africa and journeys to Paris in search of a job, a community, and intellectual engagement—but soon discovers a hostile society where his very presence engenders fear and resentment. Drawing on the freewheeling experimentation of the French New Wave, Hondo deploys a dizzying array of narrative and stylistic techniques—animation, docudrama, dream sequences, musical numbers, folklore, slapstick comedy, agitprop—to create a revolutionary landmark of political cinema and a shattering vision of awakening black consciousness.
Defined by a brash stylistic exuberance and a vivid way of looking at everyday life in prerevolution Iran, this first feature from the renowned Bahram Beyzaie helped usher in the Iranian New Wave. When he takes a job as a schoolteacher in a new neighborhood, the hapless intellectual Hekmati (Parviz Fannizadeh) finds that he is a fish out of water in a place where everybody’s business—including his tentative flirtation with an engaged seamstress (Parvaneh Massoumi)—is subject to the prying eyes of adults and children alike. Shot in luminous monochrome and edited with quicksilver invention, this touchstone work, which has been painstakingly restored from the only known surviving print, captures with puckish humor and great human tenderness the societal and intellectual conflicts coursing through Iran at a pivotal historical moment.