Movie of the Week:

Citizen McCaw
Sam Tyler’s brisk documentary on Santa Barbara’s heartbreaking war on journalism marches down the coast to Chapman University, where longtime English/journalism professor Susan Paterno has personally felt the wrath of Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw. The billionaire’s bizarre publishing reign began when she bought the newspaper in 2005, vowed to leave newsroom operations to professionals and brought in Jerry Roberts of the San Francisco Chronicle as editor. He so fired up his staff that they believed the little daily could win Pulitzers, but everything soured after McCaw hired Travis Armstrong of the San Jose Mercury News to run the op-ed pages, which soon reflected her peculiar libertarian/animal-rights/anti-local-government views. Between 2006 and 2008: a publisher stepped down; a report on an Armstrong DUI arrest was squelched; a planning hearing story concerning actor Rob Lowe’s Montecito home drew Roberts and the reporter reprimands for violating a policy that did not exist; Roberts and five other newsroom executives resigned after Armstrong was put in charge of all editorial operations; employees attempted to unionize; local merchants received cease-and-desist orders from McCaw’s attorneys for posting signs critical of the newspaper owner in their store windows; News-Press circulation fell sharply; the fortunes of the alternative Santa Barbara Independent, the upstart Santa Barbara Daily Sound and local web-publishing ventures soared; columnist Barney Brantingham resigned after 46 years at the News-Press (he now writes for the Independent); local television stations were cut from the News-Press listing grid after reporting on turmoil at the paper; News-Press local coverage fell sharply; News-Press published a sleazy, non-bylined story smearing happily married father/grandfather/cancer survivor Roberts with child-pornography allegations; and more than 100 News-Press employees wound up quitting or getting axed. Like many great documentaries, Citizen McCaw makes a hyper-local story resonate nationally by touching on media ethics, ownership and the sad decline of daily newspapers. Award-winning PBS producer Tyler leads the screening discussion with game assistance from Paterno, whose “Santa Barbara Smackdown” story spurred a libel lawsuit from McCaw—not against the American Journalism Review that printed it, but Paterno personally. The case, which set legal precedents, was decided in the good professor’s favor in December 2008. Her insights will surely fascinate. Chapman University, Argyros Forum 208, 1 University Dr., Orange, (714) 997-6815. Mon., 7 p.m. Free.

Also Showing:

Absurdistan
Village women withhold sex from their men until the community water pipe is fixed, but the guys are reluctant to do this because many elders died laying the pipe. This particularly complicates matters for childhood sweethearts Temelko (Maximilian Mauff) and Aya (Kristyna Malerova), who have been predestined to couple on an appointed day that’s drawing near. Will the village feud end in time for Temelko to, uh, lay the pipe? Director Veit Helmer’s allegorically absurdist comedy is presented in Russian with English subtitles by the Laguna Beach Film Society, whose members watch free. Laguna South Coast Cinema, 162 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8971, ext. 201. Thurs., March 19, 7 p.m. $15; $20 if you attend the 6 p.m. wine-and-hors d’oeuvres pre-reception around the corner in the Wells Fargo community room.

Cry, the Beloved Country
James Earl Jones, Richard Harris and Charles S. Dutton lead the cast of Darrell Roodt’s 1995 drama about a South African preacher searching for his wayward son, who has committed a crime in the big city. This is the final screening in the three-part “The Colonial Experience In Africa” series. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Thurs., March 19, 7 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

Grease
Classic Film Night foists this 1978 mega-musical—it is the word, you know?—that has good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) falling for ’50s Sweathog Danny (John Travolta) over the summer. Their relationship is put to the test when both wind up enrolled at Rydell High in the fall. At least Eve Arden got a check out of it. South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 557-5701; www.regencymovies.com. Wed., 7:30 p.m. $6.50.

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
Julian Temple’s documentary celebrates his lifelong friend, the late, great Joe Strummer, before, during and after the Clash. Temple remembers Strummer not just as a rock star, but also as a great communicator of his times. Among those seconding that emotion are Bono, Steve Buscemi, Johnny Depp, Flea and Jim Jarmusch. Mondo Celluloid presents this screening with live music from Clash cover band Fifth Story Limited. Art Theatre, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 428-5435; www.mondocelluloid.com. Fri., 11:59 p.m. $9.75.

Love In the Sahei
Two young men engage in age-old rituals at a desolate edge of the Sahara, where they are guided by nature’s complex rhythms. Or could it be the Sandinista album? Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Fri., 1:30 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

Material Girls
Spring semester “Industry Insider” Martha Coolidge presents her 2006 flick that finds two sisters (Hilary and Haylie Duff) roughing it out with the riff-raff when their cosmetics fortune disappears. Chapman University, Marion Knott Studios, Folino Theater, 11283 N. Cypress St., Orange, (714) 997-6711. Thurs., March 26, 7 p.m. Free.

La vita che vorrei (The Life I Would Like to Have)
Giuseppe Piccioni’s 2004 film-within-a-film has a famous, established actor and young, aspiring actress coming together and pulling apart while working on films. This Cinema Italiano screening includes a reception. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Thurs., March 26. 7 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

  

Mail your press releases (and a videotape or disc, if available) to Special Screenings, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste. 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or send e-mail to edewitt@ocweekly.com. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.

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