Category Archives: Documentary

In Theatres & On VOD: MISSION BLUE

MissionBlueStill_largeComing to theatres and available on Netflix today, Friday, August 15: MISSION BLUE

Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens portrait of the life and work of oceanographer/activist Sylvia Earle debuted at Santa Barbara at the beginning of the year. It has gone on to screen at Hot Docs, Ashland, Martha’s Vineyard, Traverse City, and DC’s Environmental fest, among others.

At once an engaging portrait of Earle, the sorry state of our oceans, and her plan to protect them, Nixon and Stevens film is a stunningly photographed immersion into the undersea realm and its wonders. Using the acclaimed scientist’s current project – the creation of government-protected marine recovery zones – as a focus upon which to tell the larger story of her pioneering career, the filmmakers reveal how the still-vibrant septuagenarian challenged gender barriers throughout her career, which included extended undersea living experiments, leading the first all-female aquanaut team, designing deep-sea research submarines, and serving as the first female chief scientist at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. Earle is the bright spot in the film, which otherwise offers sobering information about the damages wrought by mankind through poor stewardship and environmental accidents, resulting in troubling aquatic dead zones which threaten the future of our oceans. Where the film goes woefully wrong, unfortunately, is in the inclusion of co-director and utterly superfluous on-screen co-star and narrator, Fisher Stevens. While the actor is a noted marine lover, having producing the influential Oscar-winning documentary THE COVE, his visible presence here is an unnecessary distraction that should have been rethought.

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On TV: BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

Before_the_Revolution_2.470x264Coming to PBS’s Global Voices series on The WORLD Channel this Sunday, August 17: BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

Dan Shadur’s look at the peaceful coexistence of Israelis in the Shah’s Iran had its world premiere at Hot Docs last year. It’s gone on to screen at London’s Open City, Newport Beach, and at a range of Jewish fests, including Portland, St Louis, New York, and Toronto, among others.

I included the film in my Hot Docs coverage here.

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Dokufest 2014 Overview

imagesRunning tomorrow, Saturday, August 16 through Sunday, August 24 in the Kosovar city of Prizren, Dokufest turns 13 with its latest curated selection of nonfiction from around the globe. Featuring more than 80 feature docs, the festival holds several competitions, recognizing international work, human rights, environmental, and regional cinema, as well as non-competitive special programs exploring religion, music, technology, experimental cinema, American, and Austrian themes, among others, plus several retrospectives and tributes honoring Barbara Kopple, Steve James, Michael Glawogger, and others. The following shines a spotlight on some of the less-covered films in this year’s lineup: Continue reading

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In Theatres: RED HOLLYWOOD

Red_Hollywood_001Coming to the Film Society of Lincoln Center tomorrow, Friday, August 15: RED HOLLYWOOD

Thom Andersen and Noël Burch’s look at the work of blacklisted studio directors originally premiered at Locarno in 1996, and went on to screen at Rotterdam and Vancouver the following year. The new version of the film screened this past Spring as part of the Film Society’s Art of the Real series, as well as at Ann Arbor. The Film Society presents a week-long exclusive theatrical re-release of a remastered and re-edited version of the film in conjunction with the series “Red Hollywood and the Blacklist,” featuring selections of work by blacklisted filmmakers as curated by Andersen.

Culled from over fifty Hollywood films spanning the 1930s to the 1950s, Andersen and Burch’s film essay offers a close reading of resistance and ideology conveyed through mainstream cinema. With a few exceptions, the films under consideration are largely unknown, even though some feature recognizable actors, and this reconsideration of forgotten work is largely the point. Until recent years, the work of the blacklisted screenwriters and directors who refused to participate in the red-baiting witch hunt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities was dismissed as inconsequential. Andersen and Burch’s detailed study suggests otherwise, demonstrating through a wide range of clips how their political sensibilities and sense of social justice emerged, sometimes explicitly, other times more subtly, to lend a particular, subversive edge on topics ranging from war, class, gender, and crime. Concurrent with their analysis are contemporary 1990s interviews with some of the blacklisted filmmakers, offering their own take, making for an engrossing alternative telling of postwar cinema history.

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In Theatres: MR X: A VISION OF LEOS CARAX

mr leos caraxComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, August 15: MR X: A VISION OF LEOS CARAX

Tessa Louise-Salomé’s profile of the distinctive French auteur debuted at Sundance this year. It went on to screen at Rotterdam, JeonJu, Stockholm, New Orleans French Film Festival, Sydney Underground, and Moscow, among others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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Sarajevo 2014: Documentary Overview

sarajevo-film-festival-2014This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sarajevo Film Festival, an event born in the strife of the Bosnian War while the city was still under siege. Since then, the fest has grown to be recognized as the most important film event in its region. Beginning tomorrow, Friday, August 15 and running through Saturday, August 23, the festival will screen over 200 total films, with nearly 40 feature docs represented. Among the latter are the following: Continue reading

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On VOD: THE DOG

thedog_00Coming to VOD this Friday, August 15: THE DOG

Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s look at a larger than life personality debuted at Toronto last year. Its fest circuit has included the New York Film Festival, Berlin, SXSW, Thessaloniki, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Montclair, among others.

I included the doc in my Toronto coverage here.

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In Theatres: A WILL FOR THE WOODS

A-Will-for-the-Woods-Key-Image-Photo-by-Jeremy-Kaplan-280x140Coming to theatres this Friday, August 15: A WILL FOR THE WOODS

Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, and Brian Wilson’s look at the intersection of environmentalism and the funeral industry made its debut at Full Frame last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, New Orleans, AFI Docs, Sidewalk, DocuWest, Camden, Princeton Environmental, Big Sky, Cleveland, Sebastopol Doc, Atlanta, and San Francisco Green, among others.

I previously included the film in my AFI Docs coverage here.

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On VOD: WE COULD BE KING

la-et-mn-we-could-be-king-review-20140425Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, August 12: WE COULD BE KING

Judd Ehrlich’s portrait of a struggling high school football team premiered at Tribeca this Spring. It went on to be broadcast on ESPN and now comes to VOD via Tribeca Film.

Faced with a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions, the Philadelphia school district is forced to shut down two dozen schools, among them Germantown. Students from the nearly hundred-year-old high school find themselves in the precarious situation of joining their forty-year nemesis, Martin Luther King High. Despite a lack of any funding for school athletics, MLK’s administrators recognize the role of athletics as one of the few paths toward higher education for the African American student body, and continue their football program, merging the two rivals into a single team, run by volunteer coach Ed, who himself was laid off from his Germantown teaching job. Over the course of the tumultuous season chronicled in Ehrlich’s intimately observed film, the King Cougars must learn to set aside old grudges in order to score their first win in over two years – in the process serving as a symbol of the unity the merged school desperately needs. In charting the unexpected developments on and off the field, Ehrlich wisely concentrates on three main characters – in addition to the coach, players Dontae and Sal, both in danger of jeopardizing their opportunity for self-advancement – the former struggling with bad grades and a worse attitude, and the latter facing criminal charges for apparently being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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In Theatres & On VOD: DINOSAUR 13

dinosaur 13Coming to theatres and to VOD this Friday, August 15: DINOSAUR 13

Todd Miller’s chronicle of a paleontological discovery made its debut at Sundance at the beginning of the year. It’s gone on to screen at Traverse City, Sydney, Melbourne, and its local setting of the Black Hills. In addition to theatrical engagements, it will be available on VOD platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Playstation, XBOX, and Vudu.

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

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