On Paper Wings

The power of Ilana Sol’s richly drawn 2008 documentary accumulates quietly, without the aid of a large budget or klieg-lit name. As the Portland-based Sol relates, near the end of World War II, the Japanese conscripted teenage girls to build “balloon bombs” then lofted into the jet stream, which was supposed to transport the weapons across the Pacific to detonate in U.S. cities. Although mostly a failure, as Sol shows via archival footage skillfully balanced against talking-head interviews, the military program devastated Bly, Oregon, a small town that lost six residents to a balloon bomb. But On Paper Wings isn’t a snapshot of an obscure historical tragedy. Rather, it’s a panoramic portrait of civilians trapped on opposing sides of a conflict beyond their control. As the film progresses, the recurring image of an unmanned hot-air balloon sailing through a pellucid sky, though shot in black-and-white, gradually assumes an ominous meaning. Note: Sol will attend the screening. (NR) KEVIN CAPP

Fri., March 5, 7 p.m., 2010