An ambitious and frequently overwhelming history lesson, Wael Shawky’s three-part experimental work Cabaret Crusades covers dozens of historical actors and several centuries’ worth of events over its three and a half hours. Its principal subject is the first three Crusades—which took place from the end of the 11th century to the beginning of the 13th—though Shawky also considers the seventh-century schism between Sunni and Shia Islam and various European and Middle Eastern political intrigues contemporaneous with the Crusades. The films are triumphs not only of historical research but of creative design, performed entirely with marionettes against gorgeous, handmade backdrops. As in the memorable Cambodian documentary The Missing Picture (2013), nonhuman figures contribute to a thoughtful depiction of atrocity that requires viewers to imagine the worst details. Continue reading >>