Category Archives: Documentary

On TV: 1913: SEEDS OF CONFLICT

Still_1913SeedsofConflict_01Coming to PBS today, Tuesday, June 30: 1913: SEEDS OF CONFLICT

Ben Loeterman’s look back at the origins of Middle Eastern strife made its festival debut at the Middle East Scholars Association fest in DC last November. In addition to an extensive series of educational and community screenings, the film has also been featured at the Global Peace, Atlanta Jewish, and Houston Palestine film fests.

As noted by his film’s title, Loeterman focuses his attention on a discrete period of time in Palestine’s history which is posited here as integral to the seemingly intractable quagmire of Israeli/Palestinian relations that has developed over the past century. Notably, this pre-World War I period is concerned with the Ottoman Empire, not the later British rule which began in 1917 which has often been the subject of more scrutiny in its role in later historical developments. The world of Palestine as detailed in Loeterman’s docudrama is a land where a majority population of Muslims coexisted generally peacefully with both Christian and Sephardic Jewish minorities, with all groups adopting an overarching sense of Ottoman identity. This begins to change in response to other global forces, chiefly the mass influx of Ashkenazi Jews to Palestine, seeking to escape persecution. As argued here by scholars, in contrast to the generally assimilated Sephardic Jews, this wave of new Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe steadfastly held to their own identities, language, and culture, espousing Zionism to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, and in so doing, alienated Arab neighbors, who responded in kind. While the film’s subjects speculate that a peaceful solution may have been possible, the outbreak of World War I extinguished this hope. Loeterman attempts to liven up what is at heart a talking heads heavy historical doc with dramatized re-enactments featuring monologues from contemporary figures. While the authenticity of their writings is appreciated, the use of actors in period garb are ultimately just additional talking heads in period costume, and an awkward distraction from the more compelling history lesson offered here, including not quite enough on Noah Sokolovsky’s recently rediscovered 1913 documentary, THE LIFE OF THE JEWS OF PALESTINE.

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On VOD: ANTARCTIC EDGE: 70° SOUTH

ANTARTIC-master675Coming to iTunes today, Tuesday, June 30: ANTARCTIC EDGE: 70° SOUTH

Dena Seidel’s climate change profile debuted at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival earlier this year. It went on to screen at the International Wildlife and Minneapolis film fests before its theatrical release this Spring.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV/DVD: BEFORE YOU KNOW IT

before-you-know-it-documentary-620x350Coming to DVD and to PBS’s America ReFramed series tonight, Tuesday, June 30: BEFORE YOU KNOW IT

PJ Raval’s exploration of senior gay life debuted at SXSW in 2013. It went on to IFF Boston, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Lone Star, Cucalorus, Cleveland, Florida, and several LGBT fests.

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

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On Cable: LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE & ANGER

larry kramerComing to HBO tonight, Monday, June 29: LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE & ANGER

Jean Carlomusto’s portrait of the outspoken AIDS activist bowed at Sundance earlier this year. Other fest screenings have included Frameline, Provincetown, QDoc, and AFI Docs.

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

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On DVD: BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS GRAVITY

born to flyComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30: BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS GRAVITY

Catherine Gund’s profile of an acclaimed choreographer debuted at SXSW last year. It also screened at Cleveland, Full Frame, Seattle, Sydney, Brooklyn, Sheffield, and Frameline, among others.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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On TV: THE OVERNIGHTERS

overnightersComing to PBS’s POV tonight, Monday, June 29: THE OVERNIGHTERS

Jesse Moss’ portrait of the limits of community altruism debuted at Sundance last year, where it won a special jury prize. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Traverse City, Hot Docs, True/False, Tribeca, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas, among others, and was shortlisted for the Academy Awards.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On TV: CAPTURING GRACE

1201x782-KEY-PHOTO-CAPTURING-GRACE-_filmstill6-1160x652Coming to PBS today, Friday, June 26: CAPTURING GRACE

David Iverson’s look at a dance therapy program had its world premiere at Mill Valley last year. It went on to DOC NYC, Denver, Dance on Camera, Wisconsin, Sedona, Sarasota, and Minneapolis-St Paul, among others.

I wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
Recognizing that music and rhythmic activity can help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease achieve greater control of their mobility, two dancers from New York’s Mark Morris Dance Group lead a workshop teaching dance and movement to a group of Parkinsonians. As the tenacious participants joyously regain a sense of bodily freedom, they rehearse for a public performance that celebrates the transformative power of art and community to upend expectations and provide hope.

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