Sometimes there’s just too much happening to focus on one event. This week, two movies and two book events deserve your attention.


The last thing I want to do is promote Steve Bannon, the notorious former Breitbart News editor and former Trump advisor. They’ve been in a spitting match since Bannon was dismissed as chief strategist, though it’s said he still has a direct line to The White House.

One thing he hasn’t done is go quiet. Instead he’s parlayed his power into stoking a global white nationalist movement. The documentary examining this, called “The Brink,” premiered at Sundance this year, and is coming to The Landmark Theatre in West L.A. starting tomorrow (Friday, March 29).

We see how he does watching his political influence on the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and in his efforts to mobilize and unify far-right parties in the upcoming May 2019 European Parliament elections, using dark money, hateful rhetoric and deceptive propaganda.

Producer Marie Therese Guirgis ran Wellspring, an arthouse film company that Bannon’s investment group bought in 2003, then closed in 2006. As he got involved in the Tea Party movement, and later in the Trump campaign, she grew disgusted and wrote him about her feelings. She was surprised when he wrote back, and decided to ask him if she could do a documentary about him; after four “asks,” he finally said yes.

She chose filmmaker Alison Klayman, whose “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” was shortlisted for a 2012 Academy Award. In Bannon’s testosterone-driven world, Klayman, a one-woman film crew, was also often the only woman. She followed him around the world, from London to Prague, Budapest, Venice, Rome, shooting fly-on-the-wall, verité, non-stop footage, sometimes 10 hours a day. There is no narrator; just Bannon and his those he interacts with in their own words. Many of which are xenophobic, anti-islamic and anti-semitic.

Klayman says the film is not trying to humanize him. Instead, she says she wants to “demystify him. He’s obviously a human being, he’s hungry, he gets angry. You want your enemy to be a monster, but in truth, they’re human, and for me that’s what makes them scarier.”

The result is a disturbing look at a very chilling man, sadly an emblem of our times and a warning that people need to pay attention and fight back.


You loved her in “Big Love,” and maybe even more in “Fernwood Tonight.” But the new feature film “Diane,” shows you a very different side of Mary Kay Place. The movie opens tomorrow (Friday, March 29) at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A., and these are usually short runs, so go very soon.

Diane is a woman of a certain age for whom everyone else comes first. She’s got a lot on her plate, checking on sick friends, volunteering at a soup kitchen, and trying to save her heroin-addicted adult son, while close friends around her are dying. Despite her sacrifices, she’s harboring a painful secret that impacts her world and she needs redemption.

This very quiet but powerful film is well worth your while, and Mary Kay Place is both vulnerable and fearless as Diane. And you can meet her: She’s doing Q&As at the 7 pm screenings on Friday, 3/29 and Saturday, 3/30. Get tickets here:


Come celebrate the Spring 2019 edition of local literary journal, Santa Monica Review. L.A. literary legend David Kipen (Libros Schmibros, “Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters”) will welcome the audience for an early evening of refreshments and readings by select authors.

Santa Monica Review is the only nationally distributed literary magazine published by a community college, Santa Monica College. The launch party takes place on Sunday, March 31 from 5 to 7 pm at the Edye, located at the SMC Performing Arts Center, right behind the Broad Stage at 1310 11th Street in Santa Monica.

Authors reading include Erik Kongshaug, Kareem Tayyar, Marilyn Manolakas and Suzanne Greenberg. Parking is free and tickets are just $10

Santa Monica Review will also be featured at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 13-14 at USC.


A former public radio colleague of mine, Kitty Felde, who served as Washington, DC correspondent for KPCC, is also an internationally produced playwright, and she created an award-winning podcast, “Book Club for Kids.” She’ll be discussing and signing her debut mystery novel “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza,” for ages 7 – 12, on Saturday, March 30 at 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Book World in West L.A.

Her half-dozen years covering Capitol Hill inspired Kitty to write “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza,” which goes behind the scenes in Congress, exploring the legend of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill. Anyone who sees it is cursed with bad luck, and she’s seen it. The only way for Fina to save her loved ones – and herself – from “cat”astrophe is to solve the mystery of the Demon Cat.

The event is free and books will be available for sale. Bring the kids! Children’s Book World is located at 10580-1/2 W. Pico Blvd.; for more information, call 310 559-2665 or email:

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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