The Flix film selection committee has seven great movies planned for the first half of the season — but it can only tell you about six of them.
Now in its second year as Flix, after taking over for the 36-year-running FLICS when its founder retired out of state, the foreign-language film series will start its 2019-20 season with "The Guilty" at the Fox Theater on Friday. The first half runs through Dec. 13 including the series' first-ever mystery film (more on that later).
"They're meticulously curated; we look at three for every one we choose," said Susan Sainte-Marie, one of the committee members. "We want films that are not only good quality but that will be a satisfying experience for the audience."
Last year, the committee decided to split the season in two halves, which gave its members more time and flexibility to plan the movies that screen after the new year. That worked well for Flix's first year, so the members decided to do it again.
"I really like the split season," Sainte-Marie said. "It's much better. The committee can get more current films."
The season kicks off with "The Guilty," a Danish film about a police officer working emergency dispatch who takes a call from a woman who seems to have been kidnapped. The thriller was Denmark's submission for the 2019 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Committee member Georgia Bailey said she saw the film at a festival in January, and as she left the theater, she heard people buzzing about it and saying it was a film they'd never forget.
"It's a remarkable film," Sainte-Marie agreed. "It's really well-paced. It's unique and original."
The rest of the half season includes films from all over the world, including the mystery film, which moviegoers will just have to take committee members' word for, because they won't say a thing about it.
"The review I read that made me want to see it was by a guy who thought he was seeing a different film by a different director," Bailey said. "Had he not made that mistake, he wouldn't have seen it. He did not want to tell anyone about it."
That film, the fourth in the season, will screen on Oct. 25, and though Sainte-Marie and Bailey didn't divulge much about the movie, not even its title, they did confirm it would be a good pre-Halloween film.
Going into the film with no preconceived notion of what you're about to see is important for this film, they said, but for those concerned about just what they might be watching, the season schedule does note that it is rated R for sexual content and is "one of the most unusual, unsettling and original films" Flix has screened.
Outside of the cloak of mystery are the season's other films. The second film, screening on Sept. 27, is "Amazing Grace," a documentary about Aretha Franklin originally filmed in 1972. Its release was postponed in part because of music rights issues. This is the only film the committee has not already seen.
"None of us have seen this but the trailer brought me to tears," Bailey said.
On Oct. 18 is the South Korean film "Burning," a thriller about a romantic triangle between a man of modest means and a flashy, Gatsby-esque man and the woman they are both interested in. The film, which deals with toxic masculinity, features Steven Yeun of "The Walking Dead."
"It's not predictable where it's going," Sainte-Marie said.
"Shoplifters" will screen on Nov. 8. The Japanese film about life on the margins and chosen family was nominated earlier this year for the best foreign-language film Oscar.
"Most Americans don't think of Japan as having the same kind of homelessness," as here, Bailey said. "This is a very different vision of Japanese life."
On Nov. 15, Flix will screen "I Am Not a Witch," a Zambian/British film about an 8-year-old girl accused of witchcraft. She has to stand trial and possibly be exiled to a witch camp. The film was inspired by real-life witchcraft accusations in Zambia.
"There is humor in it, even though it's a very serious subject," Sainte-Marie said.
"It's not quite as grim as you would expect it to be," Bailey agreed.
Wrapping up the first half of Flix's season is "Buen Dia Ramon" on Dec. 23. It is a Mexican/German film about Ramon, a young man who leaves his small village in Mexico and goes to Germany, where he is told he has an aunt. Finding his aunt doesn't live there anymore, Ramon sleeps on the streets until a woman offers him help.
"It's a cross-cultural film," Sainte-Marie said. "We're used to seeing that kind of story in the U.S." but this film shows it happening in other countries, too.
With Flix now part of the Fox Theater, the hard work of actually getting the films' rights is done by the theater staff, which is all worth it, said theater manager Matthew Spindler.
"We don't ever want to see it go away," Spindler said of the film series. "It's something unique and different. If it wasn't for this group of very passionate people, you wouldn't see (these films) in Bakersfield."