Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema as part of the DocWatchers series tonight, Thursday, November 20: A WORLD NOT OURS
Mahdi Fleifel’s memoir of his refugee camp upbringing bowed at Toronto in 2012. Other fest screenings included Berlin, Abu Dhabi, CPH:DOX, BAFICI, and DOC NYC, where it won a jury award.
I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical debut here.
Coming to theatres and to VOD tomorrow, Friday, November 21: DEATH METAL ANGOLA
Jeremy Xido’s look at catharsis through music debuted at Dubai in 2012. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, New Orleans, Rotterdam, Sarasota, BAFICI, DMZ Docs, CPH:DOX, Docslisboa, In-Edit Rio, Transylvania, Sydney, and Bergen, among several others. In addition to its theatrical run in NYC, the film becomes available on iTunes.
I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
Sonia runs the Okutiuka orphanage in Huambo, Angola’s second largest city, nearly decimated by decades of civil war. Her boyfriend, Wilker, is a death metal guitarist. To raise awareness and funds for the orphanage, the industrious couple organizes the country’s first-ever national rock concert, tapping into the unexpected healing power hardcore music can engender in a youth population that has directly witnessed the worst of humanity and now only seeks a peaceful future.
Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, November 19 and to VOD this Friday, November 21: HAPPY VALLEY
Amir Bar-Lev’s look at the community most affected by the Penn State scandal had its world premiere at Sundance this year. It has gone on to screen at Nantucket, DOC NYC, Hamptons, Camden, Traverse City, Indie Memphis, BAMcinemaFest, Philadelphia, Sarasota, True/False, Nashville, and Little Rock, among several others.
My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.
Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, November 19: PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH & SUPERMARKETS
Florian Habicht’s affectionate ode to the band and to the working-class city that birthed it bowed at SXSW this Spring. It went on to screen at Hot Docs, Sheffield, Film Society’s Sound + Vision, Awesome Fest, Rooftop Films, Docaviv, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai, Traverse City, Dokufest, Taipei Golden Horse, Ambulante, and In-Edit Barcelona, among several others.
Habicht’s refreshingly quirky take on the music doc makes for a perfect match with the Sheffield band’s sensibilities. At once down-to-earth and tragically hip, the Jarvis Cocker-fronted Britpop band returns to its hometown to give a final concert, and one that aims to make up for their memorably underwhelming 1988 farewell concert. Rather than mixing the expected concert performance footage with backstage hijinks or snippets of band history, Habicht’s film instead uncovers the key to understanding the band’s appeal in a portrait that captures the city itself, whose residents, old and young, espouse a general, if sometimes muted, admiration for the local boys (and one girl) who made it in the big time in the mid-1990s. Beyond casual interviews with the band, the driving conceit of the film is Habicht’s staging of several elaborate set pieces starring local residents as they enact some of the band’s repertoire, including “Common People” and “Help the Aged,” to create a whimsical, often charming, and very human testament to the connection between the band and the city.
New to DVD and VOD this week: LEGENDS OF THE KNIGHT
Brett Culp’s look at the inspirational power of Batman debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this Summer. In addition to other comic convention engagements, the doc has since had scores of benefit screenings around the country.
Culp’s film is not so much about Batman as it is about the influence that character can have on real-world individuals. Forgetting his billions, Bruce Wayne’s story – childhood trauma channelled into a mission to combat crime and serve the public good – in contrast to either Clark Kent’s fantastical background as a super-powered orphan from a destroyed planet or Peter Parker’s accidental bite from a radioactive spider, has a relatively ordinary, relatable core that can resonate with anyone, and that’s what Culp primarily focuses on here. Beyond the love letters to the character offered by Bat franchise film producer Michael Uslan or influential comic book writer/editor Denny O’Neil, the film profiles several ordinary individuals who have theoretically been inspired by the character. Some are quite obvious, such as Petaluma Batman, a college kid who patrols his small California community in a homemade Batman outfit and stages fights with Petaluma Joker to entertain or raise money for charity; or Lenny, a successful businessman who converted his car into a Batmobile and visits sick kids in hospitals around the US dressed up as Batman. Other subjects, however, are too tangentially connected to Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, such as Jill, a young journalist with MS, or Daniel, a young man with one leg, so their inclusion here feels forced. The film’s survey structure and overemphatic score makes this feel a bit long for what it is, but Culp’s overarching idea, that “we are all Batman,” is a likeably earnest, if fairly simple, message. Incidentally, the film is not associated with either DC Comics or Warner Bros, which accounts for its somewhat awkward title, not quite the official Bat-nickname of “The Dark Knight.”
New to DVD this week: FREELOAD
Daniel Skaggs portrait of modern-day freight train riders debuted at Thin Line earlier this year. It has gone on to screen at Big Sky, DocuWest, Docutah, BendFilm, Sydney Underground, SF Docfest, IFF Boston, and Revelation, among others.
Skaggs spent over a year riding the rails, befriending a loose-knit assemblage of young hobos who, in contrast with their famed forebears, took to boxcars not out of a desire to find gainful employment, but instead to drop out of society. Adopting colorful names like Ponyboy, Blackbird, and Dice that reinforce a fantasy world of no responsibilities, the film’s subjects welcome Skaggs, and, by extension, the viewer, fully into their no-frills existence. This immersion simultaneously highlights the freedom of their fringe lifestyle and reins in any romanticism by exposing its gritty, rough, and often messy underbelly. The film itself evinces a matching rough-hewn nature in both its technical and storytelling aspects. Either unable or unwilling to provide a focused structure, the result is episodic, with too many promising characters inhabiting its barely hour-long running time, and none ever quite being fleshed out enough, making this an intriguing but uneven project as a whole.
New to DVD this week: NEXT YEAR JERUSALEM
David Gaynes’ chronicle of a seniors’ tour of Israel bowed at Sarasota last year. It went on to Montclair, and to Jewish fests in Atlanta, Sacramento, and Hartford before a limited theatrical release this past Spring.
I previously wrote about the doc here.