✓ Film: ‘The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu’
One difference between free societies and autocratic ones is the absence, in free societies, of monuments to living politicians. Under Nicolae Ceausescu’s 25-year dictatorship, all of Romania was a monument to him. In 1971, Ceausescu visited North Korea and China and saw the personality cults Kim Il-sung and Mao Zedong had fostered at gunpoint. Upon returning to Romania, Ceausescu announced that going forward, the job of Romania’s TV and radio stations, opera houses, theater companies, and publishers would be to promote the accomplishments of his regime. According to journalist Sorin Preda, the Bucharest arts scene was choked off at its most sophisticated and worldly moment since before World War II. Thanks to the dictator’s narcissism, filmmaker Andrei Ujica had more than 1,000 hours of footage with which to make “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,” a true-to-life story told exclusively through a masterful pastiche of dictator-approved news and jingoistic propaganda. In an interview with journalist Milo Rau, Mr. Ujica said he found “genuine moments” at the “beginnings and endings of reels,” when, Mr. Ujica said, “every man is — before knowing he is being filmed and after he thinks the shooting has stopped — his true self, whatever that means.” In the end, Ceausescu’s true self was hidden from view. The military tribunal filmed his trial, but once outside the court, the executioners — three military marksmen chosen from more than 100 applicants — opened fire on a blindfolded Ceausescu before cameramen could record the only truly great thing he did for his country.
Through Oct. 13 at West End Cinema, 23rd Street NW.
Tour: Moonlight Hike at Great Falls
If this glorious fall weather has you itching to make the best use of your time before winter arrives, Great Falls National Park can scratch that itch. During the day, the riverside view of the Potomac as it crashes through Mather Gorge will take your breath away. Folks looking to shed civilization altogether should consider the night hike offered by the Capital Hiking Club, which takes you from the Old Anglers Inn on MacArthur Boulevard straight into Great Falls National Park, by way of a canal towpath. The four-mile, two-hour hike is flat, suitable for beginners as well as the old, the young and even dogs (so long as the latter two are properly restrained). Since it begins at 8:30 p.m., even seasoned day-trippers will see a new side of the park.
Oct. 7 at the parking lot across from Old Anglers Inn, 10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, Md.
Comedy: Bobby Lee
During eight years on the sketch comedy show “MADtv,” comedian Bobby Lee made the most of his status as the show’s first (and only) Asian cast member by playing both Connie Chung and Kim Jong-il, as well as starring in a recurring sketch called “Tae Do (Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive).” The sketch parodied Korean soap operas, its title alluding to a running gag in which the length of English subtitles (Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) are disproportionate to the length of the Korean speaker’s statement (Tae Do). It’ll come as no surprise then that much of Mr. Lee’s stand-up act revolves around his Asian heritage, albeit with fewer costume changes.
Oct. 7 through 9 at the DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW
Puppet show: ‘Tales of Beatrix Potter’
The greatest testament to the storytelling prowess of English writer Beatrix Potter is that even with today’s myriad options for nighttime reading, parents still rely on a series of animal stories written more than a century ago to put their children to sleep. But as has been proved in Britain, most notably by the Royal Ballet and the BBC, Potter’s stories need not be read only at bedtime. The Puppet Co. at Glen Echo Park proves this to be true stateside with live performances of Potter stories, “Two Bad Mice,” “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher” and the critically acclaimed classic “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.”
Through Oct. 9 at Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.
Lecture: Jews and Race Relations in the South
You might not know it from pop-cultural — or even serious — discussions of Southern race relations, but Jews have lived and worked below the Mason-Dixon line since long before Boca Raton was a hoity-toity retirement town. The first Sephardic Jews to settle in Alabama did so in 1765, when it was still part of British West Florida. Judah P. Benjamin, the first openly Jewish senator, was not only from Louisiana, but also was the secretary of war for the Confederacy. As part of a discussion series hosted by Ford’s Theatre, Eli N. Evans, author of “The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South” and “Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate,” will lead a discussion on the rich niche history of Jewish peoples in the Bible belt.
Oct. 10 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW