Category Archives: Film

In the Works: HAVANA MOTOR CLUB

Cuban auto enthusiasts find their hopes for a legal car race dashed by the Pope’s visit – among other roadblocks.

havana motorOne of the most visible indicators of the US sanctions against Cuba since the Revolution is the anachronistic presence of vintage 1950s cars that dot its streets. For the most part, only those with political connections and money have been able to afford newer imported cars from Europe or Asia. For most, refitted classic cars have been the only option, and, for some, a source of pride, such as the men of Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s film. With car racing long outlawed by Castro, they’ve held underground drag races. With recent reforms, the men grow excited about participating in the first legal race since 1959, painstakingly working on finding the right parts to give them the edge. But when a Papal visit cancels their plans, organizers find themselves caught in limbo. Continue reading

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In Theatres: CESAR’S LAST FAST

cesar's last fastComing to NYC’s Quad Cinema today, Friday, April 18: CESAR’S LAST FAST

Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee’s tribute to Cesar Chavez’s life and mission had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Additional berths have included Atlanta, Chicago Latino, San Diego Latino, Minneapolis St Paul, and the upcoming San Francisco, DOXA, and new Ambulante California fests.

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

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In Theatres: MANAKAMANA

manakamanaComing to the IFC Center today, Friday, April 18: MANAKAMANA

Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s mesmerizing document of pilgrimage debuted at Locarno last Summer. It’s gone on to play at Toronto, New York, DocLisboa, AFI Fest, RIDM, CPH:DOX, Rotterdam, DocPoint, True/False, and Hong Kong, among many others.

I previously wrote about the doc out of Toronto here.

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On VOD: GOD LOVES UGANDA

god loves ugandaOut on VOD this week: GOD LOVES UGANDA

Roger Ross Williams’ investigation of the evangelical influence on anti-gay African laws had its world premiere at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Nantucket, New Orleans, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Cleveland, AFI Docs, Hamptons, BAMcinemaFest, and Outfest, among many others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On DVD: PICTURE OF LIGHT

pictureoflight1-590x360Newly re-released on DVD this week: PICTURE OF LIGHT

Peter Mettler’s meditation on the Northern Lights made its debut in 1994. Its impressive roster of festival appearances includes Sundance, Toronto, Rotterdam, Locarno, Yamagata, Hot Docs, Chicago, and San Francisco. First Run Features re-releases the DVD simultaneously with Mettler’s latest doc, THE END OF TIME.

Over the course of two trips to the Canadian Arctic, Mettler and his team attempt to capture the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis on celluloid, contending with the extreme weather conditions and meeting a number of quirky local characters along the way. The latter lend the film most of its appeal, such as the oddball hotel owner who shoots a hole in the wall of one of his rooms to encourage the formation of snow drifts inside the building. That’s not to say the footage of the Northern Lights isn’t impressive – Mettler presents them in time-lapse, a symphony of light, color, and movement – but, as signaled by its title, the film is less about the actual celestial display, and more about questions around photographing them. As with his new film, Mettler here employs a mix of nonfiction approaches, though privileges the essay form as he contemplates the impact of media and technology on our active engagement with the world and its wonders – musings which take on even greater significance in our ultra-connected, social media-focused present.

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In Theatres & On VOD: THE FINAL MEMBER

The-Final-Member-Key-Image-Courtesy-of-Drafthouse-Films-280x140Coming to theatres and VOD this Friday, April 18: THE FINAL MEMBER

Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math’s playful look at the world’s only penis museum made its debut at Hot Docs in 2012. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Seattle, Silverdocs, Fantastic Fest, Denver, and Florida, among others.

I included the doc in my Hot Docs coverage here.

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On DVD/VOD: INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.

interior leather barComing to DVD and VOD today, Tuesday, April 15: INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.

James Franco and Travis Mathews’ hybrid revisitation of William Friedkin’s CRUISING premiered at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Berlin, Hot Docs, Rotterdam, Cleveland, Seattle, Frameline, NewFest, Outfest, Mix Brasil, and Russia’s Side By Side, among many others.

I profiled the film before Sundance here.

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Tribeca 2014: Documentary Overview

tribecaThe Tribeca Film Festival opens its 13th edition tomorrow, Wednesday, April 16, and runs through Sunday, April 27. Nonfiction programming remains a highlight for the event, with 45 docs once again making their Gotham bow across the range of the festival’s programming strands, including the Galas, such as opening night film, One9′s TIME IS ILLMATIC, on the impact of Nas’ 1994 debut album. The following section overview notes a selection of new docs making their premiere during the festival: Continue reading

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On TV: DEPUTIZED

deputizedComing to PBS’s America ReFramed series on the WORLD Channel tonight, Tuesday, April 15: DEPUTIZED

Susan Hagedorn and Amanda Zinoman’s investigation of a brutal hate crime premiered at Hamptons Take 2 Doc in 2012. It has also screened at Durango, Arizona, and San Antonio.

In a Long Island community that has seen a rapid growth of a Latino immigrant population, and an increase in their scapegoating by elected officials, seven teens face hate crime manslaughter charges after beating Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian man, to death. This tragic incident, the result of casual, random acts of violence pejoratively called “beaner hopping,” awakens awareness of other such crimes, under-reported when victims have been undocumented workers, and emboldens Lucero’s brother to become an advocate for his community. But Robert Conroy, the father of the supposed ringleader of the attack, takes issue with the media’s portrayal of his son. Hagedorn and Zinoman carefully balance their film, notably providing space for a multiplicity of perspectives, crafting an engaging and thought-provoking exploration of intolerance, scapegoating, and groupthink.

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On DVD: THE END OF TIME

endoftime_03Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, April 15: THE END OF TIME

Peter Mettler’s exploration of the concept of time made its debut at Locarno in 2012. It went on to screen at Toronto, Atlantic, Busan, Jihlava, RIDM, CPH:DOX, IDFA, Palm Springs, and BAFICI, among many others.

Tackling a subject that is simultaneously omnipresent yet elusive, Mettler weaves together a disparate series of gorgeously shot tableaux that theoretically illustrate or intersect with various conceptions of our experience of time. A tour of CERN’s particle accelerator, for example, imagines the recreation of conditions not seen since immediately following the Big Bang, while a visit to Detroit’s dilapidated buildings demonstrate the more recent ravages of temporality. Ultimately, no clear answer emerges in this part-essay, part-experimental doc – it’s hard to even know what to do with the question, “what is time?” as illustrated in the final moments of the film by the filmmaker’s aged mother – but it’s certainly successful in provoking a sense of wonder about something we take for granted.

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