Forty years ago, Dorothea (Tyne Daly) and Greta (Elisabeth Henry) moved to the town of Checkford, bought an abandoned bread factory, and transformed it into an arts space. Here they host movies, plays, dance, exhibits and artists. It's where civic groups and immigrant communities can meet, and where children come for after-school art programs.
When an avant-garde performance art duo from China arrives in Checkford, all is upended. The duo constructs a massive, invasive building, the F.E.E.L. Institute, down the street from the Bread Factory, and Dorothea and Greta learn of a new proposal that would re-direct school system funding from their children's arts programs to the F.E.E.L. Institute. The subsequent school board meeting turns into a circus, and the fate of the Bread Factory hangs in the balance.
Checkford hasn't been the same since the school board meeting. Strangely, the reporter who runs the local newspaper disappears. Bizarre tourists start to show up, followed by mysterious tech start-up workers. With all the newcomers, real estate is booming. Amidst these distractions, Dorothea and Greta try to continue their work at the Bread Factory, rehearsing a production of the Greek play, “Hecuba.” On the day the play opens, Dorothea gets the news that the Bread Factory will lose an essential piece of its funding. The beautiful opening night performance has only a tiny audience. Brokenhearted, Dorothea and Greta must decide whether to give up their work at the Bread Factory or continue their struggle to build community through art.
“Few filmmakers treat their characters with as much compassion and complexity as Patrick Wang…. This minimalist epic amply showcases Wang's gifts for Chekhovian-style drama infused with generous doses of subtle humor. The two-part film, running more than four rewarding hours in total, represents the sort of deeply humanistic filmmaking that demands attention.” —Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter “...A riveting, one of a kind cinematic experience, an ethnography of a community told with a profoundly compassionate eye that speaks to Frederick Wiseman’s EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY (both in its documentary vibe and its ode to a pedagogical institution somewhat at odds with a hyper-digitalized world) and Robert Altman’s A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (of which it echoes the painfully melancholic and tragic elegy to a long gone era—and a long gone audience).” —Leonardo Goi, MUBI “There is an Altman-esque sense to the tale—a wide-ranging, overlapping and seemingly free-flowing ensemble (with a bevy of speaking roles), held together with an underlying sense of unity and a perceptive eye...” —Tynan Yanaga, Film Inquiry
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