actressComing to VOD this coming Tuesday, March 3: ACTRESS

Robert Greene’s look at a woman uncomfortably performing a domestic role debuted at True/False last year. Other festival engagements included Hot Docs, Nantucket, AFI Docs, Art of the Real, Sarasota, DMZ Docs, Camden, CPH:DOX, RIDM, and IDFA, among others.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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Freeway-530x317Coming to Al Jazeera America in two parts on Sunday, March 1 and Sunday, March 8: FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM

Marc Levin’s look at the rise and fall of a crack kingpin debuted at Los Angeles’ Pan African Film Festival. It was also shown in a sneak preview earlier this month in NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series.

I previously wrote about the program here.

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farewell to hollywoodComing to theatres today, Wednesday, February 25: FAREWELL TO HOLLYWOOD

Henry Corra and Regina Nicholson’s collaborative chronicle of death and the love of film debuted at IDFA in 2013. Screenings followed at Planete+ Doc, Thessaloniki Doc, Biografilm, Documentary Edge, and Dokufest Kosovo, among others.

After Corra, an established documentarian, meets Nicholson, an aspiring teenage filmmaker who has been diagnosed with bone cancer, the pair agree to work together to realize the latter’s dream of making a documentary feature about her life with cancer. While her parents are initially encouraging, they eventually grow uncomfortable with the rapport that develops between the cross-generational partners, even intimating that there’s an untoward sexual relationship between them. As Nicholson rebels, asserting her desire for independence and freedom as a young adult facing a ticking clock, Corra allows himself to be drawn into the family drama even as he continues to document his filmmaking partner as she grows sicker by the day. Never disguising the reality of Nicholson’s impending mortality, the film is a tough watch on an emotional level – as brash, and even bratty, as she can be, the viewer can’t help but form an attachment to the young protagonist, even if it’s not really evident that she has any particularly impressive filmmaking talent to justify Corra’s belief in her ability or his commitment to her aspirations. Corra himself is a much more difficult subject to reconcile. While he denies any improper relationship took place, their connection remains unsettling on multiple levels which have engendered controversy since the film’s debut – ethical concerns about the filmmaker/subject connection, about filming this very vulnerable young woman during an emotionally and physically fragile period, and placing himself in the middle of a nasty family argument that goes to very ugly places. Ultimately, the film can’t bear the weight of these unresolved and uncomfortable aspects, making it unsatisfying as a whole.

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web junkieComing to DVD next Tuesday, March 3: WEB JUNKIE

Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia’s behind-the-scenes look at Internet addiction rehab debuted at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at Miami, Dallas, Melbourne, Traverse City, One World, Hong Kong, ZagrebDox, Göteborg, and DOXA.

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

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algorithmsComing to DVD and VOD next Tuesday, March 3: ALGORITHMS

Ian McDonald’s profile of visually impaired chess debuted at the International Film Festival of India in 2012. Its screening circuit included Moscow’s Sports Films festival, Mumbai’s Shorts and Docs fest, the World Chess Championship, Kathmandu’s Film South Asia, Durban, and Sydney, among others.

I previously wrote about the film upon its theatrical release here.

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occupation dreamlandComing to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series tonight, Tuesday, February 24: OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND

Ian Olds and Garrett Scott’s portrait of US soldiers stationed in Fallujah debuted at Rotterdam in 2005. It went on to screen at SXSW, Full Frame, Palm Springs, Vienna, New Zealand, Atlanta, and Portland Doc, among others. It also won the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirits. Scott sadly passed away just days before the Spirit Awards. The Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant was established at Full Frame after his death to help emerging filmmakers receive mentorship as they work on their debut nonfiction features.

Embedded within the US Army’s 82nd Airborne during the Winter of 2004, Olds and Scott record the daily grind faced by the young soldiers as tensions continue to mount in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Though set up in a once-luxurious elite resort locally nicknamed “Dreamland,” the squad’s vocalized frustrations and thankless missions reveal it to be more of a nightmare. Tasked with the seemingly contradictory jobs of both maintaining security and trying to improve US/Iraqi relations – in essence, scaring the locals with aggressive raids by night, then trying to gladhand the understandably suspicious residents by day – the soldiers are surprisingly frank about their views of the quagmire the war has quickly become. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the experiences of various soldiers, have been amply documented over the past decade plus, the film retains an understated power and poignancy as it draws the audience in to empathize with the troops on the ground, even if neither the viewer, nor the soldiers themselves, necessarily understand the ultimate point of the war they’re waging.

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CodeBlack460x260Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, February 24: CODE BLACK

Ryan McGarry’s inside look into America’s health care crisis made its debut at Los Angeles in 2013, where it won the Best Documentary Award. Other fest appearances include the Hamptons, Vancouver, Heartland, Denver, Santa Barbara, Portland, and Cleveland. In addition to a theatrical release, the film has screened at numerous medical schools around the US and in several other countries.

Shot between 2008 and 2012 by McGarry while he was a resident at LA Country General, this film presents a candid, doctor’s-eye-view of the state of emergency medicine from within the trenches. Beginning in the legendary, cramped C-Booth, the ward where many of the tenets of emergency medicine were originated, the film soon follows its young physician subjects as they adjust to the new demands of a state-of-the-art facility, which basically results in a stifling amount of bureaucratic paperwork that takes time away from actual interactions with patients who need them the most. As waiting times to seek medical attention continue to grow, the residents and staff grow frustrated, turning to unorthodox solutions to try to alleviate the problem, with varying levels of success. In focusing his attention on his experiences as a young physician, McGarry offers an unexpected, compelling perspective on the problems plaguing American health care, and, moreso, a provocation that a solution needs to be found, even if he doesn’t pretend to have an all-encompassing panacea himself.

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