Skip to Content

Film Programs: Saving the Filmmaking Arts

See all upcoming films

Each Wednesday, the Gallery is sharing an unusual film on its website, free of charge, for one week. Saving the Filmmaking Arts—a series that includes ciné-concerts, new restorations, classic art cinema, exceptional documentaries, and some surprises.


Family Romance, LLC

Streaming now through April 20

Often portraying people with unusual talents and bold ambitions, German documentarian and poet Werner Herzog presents a curiously “true” tale from the files of Family Romance, LLC, a burgeoning rent-a-person firm in Tokyo. Clients hire actors to play friends and relatives for social gatherings or more private scenarios. In the film, real-life company founder Yuichi Ishii plays himself, heading a cast of brilliant and mostly nonprofessional actors who unveil a story eerily similar to an actual event. The skillful Yuichi is hired by a woman to play an absent father to Mahiro, her 12-year-old daughter. He eventually reaches a point of emotional dependency with the girl that turns his delicate role into an existential impasse. Softly blurring the lines between fiction and truth, Herzog also manages to bring an oddly futuristic element into his characteristic probing of the human condition. (Werner Herzog, 2019, 89 minutes)

Coming Soon


Spaceship Earth

Streaming April 21 through April 27

Investigating cultural histories and figures outside the mainstream, director Matt Wolf is noted for combining archival footage with current discussion. His most recent feature documentary, Spaceship Earth, ponders an ill-fated attempt by eight white scientists to replicate the earth’s atmosphere in a self-sustaining environment called Biosphere 2. Begun in 1991, the two-year experiment was closely followed by the media and extensively documented by the participants. Wolf interviewed them all. Their memories reveal aspirations complicated by human folly and a deep longing for the survival of the planet.

“While making this film, I never could have imagined that a pandemic would require the entire world to be quarantined. Like all of us today, the biospherians lived confined inside, and they managed day-to-day life with limited resources, often under great interpersonal stress. But when they re-entered the world, they were forever transformed—no longer would they take anything for granted—not even a breath.” After Covid-19, “we too will re-enter a new world. The question is how will we be transformed? Now with a visceral sense of the fragility of our world, it’s on us to protect it.” (Matt Wolf, 2020, 155 minutes)


True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru)

Streaming April 28 through May 4

In True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru), Japan’s official submission for Best International Feature in this year’s Academy Awards competition, director Naomi Kawase tackles the delicate topic of adoption. Set in her native Nara Prefecture and informed by Kawase’s own life, True Mothers mixes documentary with fiction, drawing additional details from a 2015 novel by Mizuki Tsujimura. Young upper-middle-class couple Satoko and Kiyokazu discover that they are not able to conceive. Intrigued by a television commercial for a nonprofit agency that matches infertile couples with mothers unable to care for their children, the couple decide to apply and soon adopt a newborn son. What follows is an intricate and deeply poignant tale of two worlds: one featuring the young couple and their adopted boy and the other that of the boy’s biological mother, Hikari. In Japan the nuances of adoption are more challenging than in the West, as in Satoko and Kiyokazu’s case when they hear, out of the blue, from Hikari. (Naomi Kawase, 2020, 160 minutes)

Arguably the most prominent director among Japan’s current wave of independents, Naomi Kawase was the youngest filmmaker ever to win the prestigious Camera d’or at Festival de Cannes for her first feature Suzaku. Known for a rigorous work ethic and immersive approach, she asked her True Mothers cast, for example, to spend several weeks living in character before the final shoot. Though often regarded as an art-house auteur and a regular on the international festival circuit, she has now acquired a broader following of viewers. Retrospective exhibitions have been organized throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Jeu de Paume in Paris.

About Film Programs

The National Gallery of Art’s film program provides many opportunities throughout the year to view classic and contemporary cinema from around the world in a traditional theatrical setting. Through screenings, scholarly notes, filmmaker discussions, and unique introductions by critics and academics, the program encourages viewers to learn more about the history of the cinema, its relationship to other art forms, and the role of media in society. Innovative retrospectives, restored works of historical value, silent films with live musical accompaniment, new documentaries, and experimental media by noted video artists are offered on weekends during the entire year. For information about past film programs, please visit the Film Programs Archive.

The Gallery’s film study collection includes hundreds of international documentaries related to the arts, such as Jean Dubuffet, Un Auto-Portrait; Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box; Beaubourg; David Hockney: The Colors of Music; Gertrude Stein: When This You See, Remember Me; Art City: Making It in Manhattan; The Camera Je; and various international television series on the arts. The National Gallery is an associate member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF).


Become a National Member Today!

Help support film programs like these and join your National Gallery of Art for as little as $50 to enjoy an array of benefits that bring you closer to the art than ever before.

Related Resources

For more information, e-mail [email protected], or call (202) 842-6799.