Category Archives: Film

Special Screening: OUT IN THE NIGHT

out in the nightComing to NYC’s Maysles Cinema as part of the Doc Watchers series this Thursday, September 4: OUT IN THE NIGHT

blair dorosh-walther’s exploration of injustice faced by a group of African-American lesbians debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It went on to screen at Human Rights Watch, Frameline, and Outfest, with upcoming screenings at New Orleans, Oakland Underground, and LGBT fests in Chicago, Atlanta, and Austin, among others.

I previously profiled the film as dorosh-walther was finishing a successful Kickstarter campaign to complete the story of the “New Jersey 4,” a subset of New Jersey lesbians who became involved in a violent altercation in NYC’s West Village stemming from homophobia, yet found themselves railroaded by the media and the justice system despite clear evidence of self-defense. The filmmaker elicits compelling interviews from the young women and their families, creating a richer sense of their distinct personalities and character, serving as a counterbalance to their sensationalized portrayal as a “gang” that instigated the violence. Covering a lot of ground in a probably too-condensed running time – the incident, the media’s portrayal, the women’s version, portraits of the women and their families, and their fates within the justice system – dorosh-walther nevertheless succeeds in enraging the viewer by laying bare the confluence of racism, sexism, and homophobia that confronted these women and others like them on a regular basis, and which came to a head that night in August 2006. Cogently confronting complex questions of innocence and guilt, the film serves as a provocative indictment of and challenge to tacit, institutionalized inequalities that permit only some to resist maltreatment but insist that others simply acquiesce.

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la-et-mn-two-the-story-review-20131018-001Coming to DVD today Tuesday, September 2: TWO: THE STORY OF ROMAN & NYRO

Heather Winters’ portrait of a gay family debuted at the Nashville Film Festival last year. Screenings followed at several LGBT fests, including Miami, Inside Out, Honolulu, Philadelphia’s QFest, Outfest, Atlanta, and Tampa, as well as Palm Springs, SF Doc Fest, and Arclight DocFest.

Winters’ film is well-meaning and generally inoffensive, offering a look at two gay dads and their twin sons, the products of a surrogate pregnancy. One of the dads, Desmond, is a celebrated songwriter and producer who counts hits by Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, KISS, and Kelly Clarkson in his portfolio. The other dad, Curtis, oddly describes himself as the kids’ “mom,” while the boys themselves are cute enough moppets. Generally, they’re a nice enough family, but aside from the celebrity connections, and some groan-inducing adoption of new Age-tinged Eastern spirituality, there’s nothing interesting, dramatic, or compelling about them that distinguishes Winters’ workmanlike and too-saccharine project from numerous other docs about gay fatherhood, while the involvement of the dads as producers lends an unfortunate vanity project feel to the whole underwhelming affair.

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Toronto 2014: Documentary Overview

tiffFor many in the film industry, the Fall season begins as filmmakers, buyers, sales agents, and programmers converge on the Toronto International Film Festival and sample its nearly 400 offerings. That begins this Thursday, September 4, as the 39th edition of the fest opens. Approximately 35 documentary or hybrid features will screen out of more than 280 feature presentations, while the two-day Doc Conference returns for a sixth year. What follows are highlights of the docs I’m planning to check out while in attendance: Continue reading

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lost for lifeComing to Lifetime Movie Network tonight, Monday, September 1: LOST FOR LIFE

Joshua RofĂ©’s portrait of youth facing life behind bars premiered at AFI Docs last year. Further festival screenings included Nantucket, Annapolis, and Middleburg.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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fornogoodreason_01Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 2: FOR NO GOOD REASON

Charlie Paul’s profile of Hunter S Thompson’s illustration partner debuted at Toronto last year. It has also screened at BFI London, Biografilm, Palm Springs, Florida, CPH:DOX, and Dallas, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc out of Toronto here.

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Barzan_KeyArtComing to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 2: BARZAN

Bradley Hutchinson and Alex Stonehill’s investigation of a family’s battle with a terrorism accusation had its premiere at Sarasota last year. It went on to Seattle, Woodstock, Warsaw, Heartland, and Tallgrass. It now comes to iTunes, Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Play, and Vimeo on Demand.

Sam Malkandi, a Kurd who emigrated to Seattle with his family, finds himself caught in a Kafka-esque purgatory of detention without trial after a mention of his childhood nickname, Barzan, links him to al Qaeda. While he denies any involvement with the terrorist organization, offering an unusual but not wholly unbelievable explanation, his case is hopeless when it’s discovered that he falsified information to gain asylum status in the US, and he is eventually deported back to Kurdistan, leaving his wife and children behind. Malkandi is a curious figure, sympathetic but at the same time never fully convincing, a former actor and theatre director whose past willingness to shape his background casts doubt on the testimonials provided by devoted family and friends. This is something the filmmakers perhaps could have teased out a bit more to render this otherwise fairly conventionally approached, interview-driven film with more complexity. Still, they succeed in revealing an intimate portrait of the human cost of the unforgiving War on Terror – something not unique to Malkandi and his family.

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Citizen-Koch-Key-Image-Courtesy-Matt-Wisniewski-580x300Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 2: CITIZEN KOCH

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin’s exploration of corporate interests on democracy debuted at Sundance last year. Other festival engagements have included DOC NYC, Full Frame, Sarasota, Traverse City, Wisconsin, Big Sky, and Citizen Jane, among others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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