On TV: TWIN SISTERS

twinComing to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, October 20: TWIN SISTERS

Mona Friis Bertheussen made its debut at IDFA last year, where it picked up an audience award. It’s gone on to screen at Göteborg, Documentary Edge, DocPoint, ZagrebDox, DocAviv, and Planete+ Doc, among others.

Bertheussen’s endearing if somewhat slight midlength tells the story of Alexandra and Mia, Chinese girls who were adopted by separate sets of parents – one in a small village in Norway, the other in suburban Sacramento – who likely would never have known they even had a sister, much less an identical twin, if it weren’t for an unlikely pair of near-matching red gingham dresses.Their new adoptive parents each coincidentally dressed them in the latter, prompting a conversation, during which they noticed that their daughters looked remarkably similar, beginning a sisterly relationship that has lasted for a decade, albeit at a distance. Beyond revealing this background, the film focuses on the girls in the present, as Mia and her parents visit Alexandra in the tiny village of Fresvik – the second time the sisters have been able to be together since being separated. The result is compelling – while twins are inherently fascinating, their particular circumstances of cultural displacement, vastly different home environments, and the knowledge of one another’s existence bring a different texture to the striking similarities they share, despite distance and language barriers.

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On Cable: PRIVATE VIOLENCE

private violenceComing to HBO tonight, Monday, October 20: PRIVATE VIOLENCE

Cynthia Hill’s illuminating exploration of the impact of domestic violence debuted at Sundance this year. Other festival berths have included True/False, New Orleans, Full Frame, Dallas, Hot Docs, Heartland, Seattle, Human Rights Watch, and DOXA, among others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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In Theatres: WATCHERS OF THE SKY

watchers of skyComing to theatres today, Friday, October 17: WATCHERS OF THE SKY

Edet Belzberg’s exploration of genocide’s past and present debuted at Sundance this year, winning two awards. Other fest berths have included Nantucket, Cleveland, Hot Docs, Melbourne, Sydney, and Human Rights Watch, among others.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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Morelia 2014: Documentary Overview

morelia_film_festival_2014One of Mexico’s most celebrated film events, the Morelia International Film Festival/Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia, kicks off its 12th edition tonight, Friday, October 17, presenting 87 films before it winds down on Sunday, October 26. Focusing exclusively on Mexican cinema, the event spotlights twelve shorts among its 62 shorts lineup and twelve feature documentaries within its 25 feature selections. The following looks at some of the latter: Continue reading

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In Theatres: PRIVATE VIOLENCE

private violenceComing to theaters tomorrow, Friday, October 17: PRIVATE VIOLENCE

Cynthia Hill’s poignant look at domestic violence had its world premiere at Sundance at the beginning of the year. It has gone on to screen at True/False, Full Frame, Dallas, Hot Docs, and DOXA, among other events.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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ON DVD: EVERY THREE SECONDS

everythreeseconds_flat1-1412144073Coming to DVD today, Thursday, October 16: EVERY THREE SECONDS

Daniel Karslake’s look at practical solutions to poverty made its debut at Orlando’s Global Peace Film Festival last month. Community, university, and museum screenings have followed and the film will be screening at the New Orleans Film Festival, which begins today.

Named after the statistical incidence of death due to extreme poverty, and timed to be released today, World Food Day, Karslake’s film profiles five inspirational individuals who take their concerns about poverty and hunger and transform them into positive action. Senior Gloria organizes volunteers to glean unused crops from local farmers to provide fresh vegetables for a food bank. Pre-teen Charlie is motivated to raise funds for Haiti relief, only to unexpectedly have his campaign go viral. Ingrid, a Swedish woman living in Kenya, formed a microfinance bank to encourage street beggars to become green grocers. Lisa, a former beauty queen, becomes involves in efforts to address conflict in Congo and to help its victims. Medical student Josh develops an innovative program to use cellphones to provide better coordination between health workers in Malawi. As is clear by the diverse topics and locations covered by Karslake’s subjects, his film takes a sweeping survey approach to universal issues, interweaving the various threads to make the simple but necessary point that these individuals have not just acknowledged that poverty exists – they’ve actually set out to do something about it, even if their impact is on a relatively small scale. While the film is fairly conventional in approach, and could have used some trimming, its message is a worthwhile one.

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Doclisboa 2014 Overview

imagesThe 12th edition of Doclisboa launches tomorrow, Thursday, October 16, with nearly 70 feature docs unspooling until the fest comes to a close on Sunday, October 26, bookends by Sergei Loznitsa’s MAÏDAN and Peter von Bagh’s SOCIALISM, respectively. Taking an expansive view of nonfiction, the festival showcases a number of hybrid or fiction projects, essays, and experimental work within its lineup – sometimes with inscrutable program notes – as well as a significant amount of retrospective works. What follows are selections from some of the event’s programming strands: Continue reading

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