Category Archives: Documentary

On TV: JAMES BAKER: THE MAN WHO MADE WASHINGTON WORK

james bakerComing to PBS today, Tuesday, March 24: JAMES BAKER: THE MAN WHO MADE WASHINGTON WORK

Eric Stange’s portrait of the political life of former Secretary of State debuted at Worldfest Houston last year. It now comes to PBS stations around the nation.

Stange and producer John Hesse pull together a remarkable number of political heavy hitters for this interview and narration driven biography, including George and Barbara Bush, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, Lesley Stahl, Condoleeza Rice, Mikhael Gorbachev, Thomas L Friedman, Colin Powell, Shimon Peres, and narrator Tom Brokaw. While very conventional in its approach, the film is comprehensive and watchable as it recounts Baker’s influential, if often behind-the-scenes, roles in the halls of Washington DC power, including Ford, Reagan, and both Bush administrations, from overseeing the negotiations of the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, to the beginnings of a would-be peace in the Middle East and the strategy that saw George W Bush contentiously claim the White House.

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Special Screening: THE MUSES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

1-Singer_003_LGComing to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series tonight, Tuesday, March 24: THE MUSES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

Asaf Galay and Shaul Betser’s profile of the Nobel Prize winner debuted at Haifa last year. It has gone on to screen at Miami, and at Jewish fests in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Toronto, among others.

Singer, best known by mainstream audiences as the author of YENTL and ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY through the film adaptations, was long celebrated among Jewish American audiences since he began publishing his Yiddish stories in the 1930s. As signaled by the film’s title, Galay and Betser cleverly approach the writer from the perspectives of the various translators with whom he worked, always women, and, most surprisingly given their role, typically unable to read or speak Yiddish. This “harem,” as Singer referred to them, offer candid insight into his personal and professional life, and, most intriguingly, on the prickly social, cultural, and political questions that accompany the role of translation in literature. While targeting existing fans of his work, this sprightly biography still succeeds in introducing the man and his work to the unconverted in an unusual and engaging manner.

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On VOD: OPEN SECRET

open_secret_1.350x196Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, March 23: OPEN SECRET

Steve Lickteig’s search for his roots had its world premiere at Hot Docs in 2011. Other fest berths included Thessaloniki Doc, Indie Grits, and Kansas, among others. It now comes to VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Xbox and Google Play.

I previously wrote about the film out of Hot Docs here.

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On DVD: BITE SIZE

bite sizeComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24: BITE SIZE

Corbin Billings’ exploration of childhood obesity premiered at Cinequest last year. The film will also screen at the upcoming TIFF Kids fest. It was released on Vimeo earlier this month and now expands to additional VOD platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU, in addition to its DVD release.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: ACTRESS

actressComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24: ACTRESS

Robert Greene’s portrait of a woman looking for her comeback had its world premiere at True/False last year. It went on to screen at Nantucket, Hot Docs, AFI Docs, Art of the Real, DMZ Docs, Camden, CPH:DOX, RIDM, and IDFA, among several others.

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

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On TV: THE LEGEND OF PANCHO BARNES AND THE HAPPY BOTTOM RIDING CLUB

panchoComing to The WORLD Channel’s Strength of Women series today, Friday, March 20: THE LEGEND OF PANCHO BARNES AND THE HAPPY BOTTOM RIDING CLUB

Amanda Pope’s biography of a colorful aviation pioneer debuted at NewFest in 2009. Other screenings included Hot Springs Doc, Los Angeles and San Francisco Women’s film fests, and various aviation museums, conventions, and air shows around the country.

Florence Lowe Barnes was once a well-known aviatrix and contemporary of Amelia Earhart who had a love for speed and danger – qualities which enabled her to become the first female stunt pilot in Hollywood, working for directors like Howard Hughes, before setting up a ranch on Edwards Air Force base that had a wild reputation as a test pilot hang out. Pope’s buoyant profile uncovers her forgotten history, exploring how the daughter of a well-to-do Pasadena family found herself married off to a priest, escaped her unhappy marriage by disguising herself as a man, and became unexpectedly embroiled in the Mexican Civil War, where she earned her masculine nickname, “Pancho.” Influenced by her grandfather’s love for flying, Pancho – who received lessons from Orville Wright while in her male guise – beat Earhart’s airspeed record before heading to Hollywood. When her hard-partying ways put an end to her flying career, she made a fresh start by forming the titular ranch – which despite its suggestive name, was not a brothel – and became a fixture on the airbase. Pope ably and genially celebrates a larger-than-life character who refused to let proscribed gender roles dictate her life.

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On TV: LITTLE WHITE LIE

little whiteComing to PBS’s Independent Lens next Monday, March 23: LITTLE WHITE LIE

Lacey Schwartz’s coming to grips with family secrets debuted at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last year. Its fest circuit has also included DOC NYC, New Orleans, Sidewalk, Black Harvest, BlackStar, Martha’s Vineyard African American, and Philadelphia Jewish fests, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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