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Hidden in Plain Sight: 7 Films to Watch this Week

An explorer moves through the subterranean world beneath our own in Caroline Bâcle's astounding doc Lost Rivers. Image courtesy of Cat Bird Films.

What do the World Trade Center site, the American Airlines logo, bespoke fishing lures and the sweeping La Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona have in common? Outside of their heritage as the labor of talented designers – sometimes to the point of tears – they're all willing subjects in YBCA's tightly focused upcoming showcase, the modestly titled Design & Architecture Film Series. The series begins this Thursday with a trio of screenings of the charming Design is One, a comprehensive portrait of vaunted Italian design coupling Lella and Massimo Vignelli. That their names don't ring with the same clarity as the Eames' is more of a historical oversight than it is telling – the couple have been behind the creation of hundreds of corporate logos, numerous home wares and furnishings, and a vast swath of public projects including the highly memorable NY subway map that was retired in 1979. In its scope and feel, Design is One limns Bill Cunningham New York, rife with heartwarming moments with the couple themselves interspersed with their exciting work.

The second film in the series, 16 Acres, moves from art to architecture, unwinding the trials of Ground Zero, the site one journalist in the film calls out as "the most expensive 16 acres in the world." Lest the former WTC site is no longer top of mind, let me bring you up to date: One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the US and the fourth tallest in the world, was completed earlier this year and is slated to open soon. Richard Hankin (the editor of God Loves Uganda) makes an broad survey of the last 14 years of the site's hotly contested history in this engaging if not-quite-perfect doc, which features a deep reservoir of detailed info as well as telling interviews, the most compelling with (often justifiably) vilified developer Larry Silverstein.

Elsewhere and after, architecture takes center stage. Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork, is genteel but perhaps too dry for those without a background in the subject, while Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line details the internationally renowned firm's revitalization of the New York landmarks with a similar didacticism, but holds more interest. Tadao Ando: From Emptiness to Infinity will appeal to both Japanophiles and minimalists and the series finale Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation is both exhaustive and astounding in its detective-like exploration of the history of the impossibly ornate Catalonian house of worship, which has been under construction since 1882 when modernist architect Antonio Gaudi penned its original plans. 

Lost Rivers, which plays only once on March 9th after 16 Acres, might seem an oddball inclusion but it could be the series highlight. Following "architects, urban ecologists, and activists dedicated to exploring and exposing" the underground rivers that underpin nearly every city in the world, the film moves through sewers, reservoirs and other clandestine space with a curiosity and genuine zeal that would do Indiana Jones proud.

Design and Architecture Films Showcase runs from Feb 27 to March 30 at the YBCA screening room. Admission $10, discount admission available for $8. 

ALSO PLAYING:

7 Boxes - Wheelbarrow-er Victor accepts an odd request to transport 7 boxes of unknown content for half of a torn US 100 dollar bill in this fine combination of crime film, cultural tourism and neorealist narrative. Juan Carlos Meneglia's kinetic thriller is poised to be the biggest film ever to come out of the miniscule South American republic of Paraguay. Rotten Tomatoes 96%. Roxie.

The Wolf of Wall StreetDallas Buyers Club - Castro offers another chance to reevaluate these two heavily nominated flicks after they take home their respective Oscars... or don't. Monday and Tuesday only, Castro.

Up the Oscars Benefit Bash - Roxie hosts its annual benefit Oscar viewing. Bring a beer, bring your coat and get ready to Boo loudly at this rowdy Mission institution. Sunday only, Roxie.

Revenge of the Mekons - Perhaps the best known little-known cult punk band, UK-based The Mekons have been on tour and stirring sh*t up since 1977. Plays as part of Noise Pop. Friday only, Artists Television Access.

Choreographies of Creation and Destruction - Film-orbiting avant-gardists Greg Pope and John Davis appear in person for this SF Cinemateque-sponsored screening and performance featuring their own multiple-channel film works and live sonic accompaniment provided by Davis himself, Joshua Churchill and local post-noise pair Voicehandler. Saturday only, Center for New Music.