Category Archives: Film Festivals

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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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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Art of the Real 2014 Overview

actressTomorrow, Friday, April 11 sees the opening of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s inaugural edition of Art of the Real, an expansion of the institution’s former monthly documentary series into a two-week showcase which aims to explode conceptions of nonfiction to boundary-pushing extremes through new and retrospective programming. Curated by the Film Society’s Dennis Lim and independent programmer Rachael Rakes, the series presents more than 50 docs and hybrid projects through Saturday, April 26, opening with Raya Martin and Mark Peranson’s LA ÚLTIMA PELÍCULA and Corneliu Porumboiu’s THE SECOND GAME, and closing with Robert Greene’s ACTRESS (pictured). The following highlights offer a look at other selections: Continue reading

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Sarasota 2014: Documentary Overview

sarasota 2014Tomorrow, Friday, April 4, sees the start of the 16th annual Sarasota Film Festival, the popular Florida film festival that runs through Sunday, April 13. Featuring approximately 200 films, Sarasota’s lineup typically includes a robust selection of nonfiction, with 50 feature docs included this year. Among these are two Sundance titles in key gala slots, Rory Kennedy’s opening night film, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM and Andrew Rossi’s centerpiece, IVORY TOWER. While several more Sundance and SXSW titles figure in Sarasota’s selections, the following overview focuses on other nonfiction picks that perhaps haven’t already benefited from that kind of festival spotlight:

I AM A GIRLWomen-centric films shine in the Through Women’s Eyes sidebar, including: Rebecca Barry’s profile of six diverse female experiences, I AM A GIRL (pictured); Mary Dore’s women’s liberation chronicle, SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY; Yasmin Kidwai’s story of female self-empowerment, NO PROBLEM! (SIX MONTHS WITH THE BAREFOOT GRANDMAMAS); and Jared Brock and Michelle Brock sex trafficking exposé, RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT.

IN COUNTRYThe fest’s Acts of Valor section pays tribute to the American soldier and their post-combat experiences. Among the documentaries here are: Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson’s TERRA FIRMA, about female combat vets’ struggles with PTSD; and Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s IN COUNTRY (pictured), exploring what drives veterans or enlisted men to re-enact the Vietnam War as a weekend hobby.

ENDURING BEAUTY OF MEMORYThe local filmmakers section, Florida on Film, includes: Durand Adams, Charles Clapsaddle, and Charles Williams’ meditation on memory, THE ENDURING BEAUTY OF MEMORY (pictured); and Daniel Espeut’s circus family portrait, GREASEPAINT.

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Dallas 2014: Documentary Overview

DIFF2014-thumb-300xauto-46611The eighth Dallas International Film Festival begins tomorrow, Thursday, April 3, and runs through Sunday, April 13. A well-regarded larger regional event, the festival annually showcases nearly 200 films, panels, and other special events, and is led by well-liked fest circuit regulars Artistic Director James Faust and Senior Programmer Sarah Harris. Their nonfiction programming includes a number of recent hits from Sundance, SXSW, and elsewhere, while also showcasing several new and local films, such as the following highlights:

black listAmong the less familiar entires in the eight-title Documentary Feature Competition are Sean Gallagher’s BROTHERS OF THE BLACK LIST (pictured), recounting a disturbing case of racial profiling on the campus of SUNY Oneonta in 1992; and Matt Livadary’s QUEENS & COWBOYS: A STRAIGHT YEAR ON THE GAY RODEO, following LGBT participants on the rodeo circuit. Also in the running for an award is Whitney Graham Carter, Anthony Jackson, and Jenna Jackson’s charming Texas Competition contender, TOMATO REPUBLIC, profiling the quirky candidates for mayor in a small East Texan town.

starckSeveral other new docs are screening out of competition, including the music docs of the Deep Ellum Sounds section, Teddy Cool’s WE FROM DALLAS, a chronicle of hip hop from the area; and Michael Cain and Miles Hargrove’s THE STARCK CLUB (pictured), a celebration of the legendary 1980s Dallas nightclub. Other new nonfiction programming includes Gabriela Obregón’s lucha libre focused THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK, from the fest’s Latino Showcase; and Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey’s nature film, BEARS, from the Family Friendly sidebar.

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It’s All True 2014 Overview

it's all true 2014This Thursday, April 3 sees the São Paulo launch of Brazil’s premier non-fiction event, It’s All True for its 19th edition, with Rio hosting its own opening event the following evening. The festival runs concurrently in both cities through Sunday, April 13, with touring programming reaching other cities later in the month and in July. In total, more than 74 films will screen, representing 26 countries. The following briefly highlights both competitions, and a few selections from the non-competitive programming strand:

ordinary manAmong the seven feature docs in the Brazilian Competition are Carlos Nader’s ORDINARY MAN (pictured), a portrait of a truck driver and his family made over two decades; Jorge Furtado’s THE STAPLES OF NEWS, an examination of the media and its political function; and Leonardo Dourado’s FOR A HANDFUL OF DOLLARS – THE NEW EMIGRANTS, a profile of three families directly affected by economic migration.

normaliA dozen films are included in the International Competition, including Robert Kirchhoff’s NORMALIZATION (pictured), an investigation into a 1976 murder of a Slovakian student; Li Youjie’s ALAO’S VILLAGE, following the educated director back to his native peasant village; and Eva Knopf’s MAJUB’S JOURNEY, an exploration of the story of an African WWI colonial soldier who appeared in 1930s German cinema.

battle for rioFinally, nine features are presented in the out of competition Special Programs section, including: Gonzalo Arijón’s BATTLE FOR RIO pictured), about the controversial and gentrifying police crackdowns taking place in Rio’s favelas; Pamela Yates’ DISRUPTION, following coordinated efforts to bring sustainable economic development to poor women in Colombia, Brazil, and Peru; and David Teboul’s BARDOT, THE MISUNDERSTOOD, an authorized biography on the legendary French actress, on the condition that she is not interviewed.

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Full Frame 2014 Overview

full_frame_logo-520x390Durham NC’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival opens its 17th edition this Thursday, April 3, and runs through Sunday, April 6, presenting nearly a hundred films and special events. Among the special programs this year are a tribute to Steve James, including screenings of six of his past films and a conversation about the 20th anniversary of HOOP DREAMS; and “Approaches to Character,” a subject-focused program curated by filmmaker Lucy Walker. Beyond this retrospective programming, the festival’s line-up includes several strong films from Sundance, SXSW, and IDFA, as well as several titles making significant premieres in Durham, spotlighted below:

112 weddingsEight feature docs enjoy their world premiere at Full Frame, including: Doug Block’s meditation on marriage, 112 WEDDINGS, which opens the fest; Lucia Small and Ed Pincus’ personal confrontation with mortality and grief, ONE CUT, ONE LIFE; Joanna Lipper’s chronicle of Nigeria’s most influential political families, THE SUPREME PRICE; Abby Ginzberg’s portrait of a celebrated anti-Apartheid leader, SOFT VENGEANCE: ALBIE SACHS AND THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA; Stephanie Wang-Breal’s exploration of the bureaucracy of child protective services, TOUGH LOVE; Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s look at union organizing by NYC restaurant workers, THE HAND THAT FEEDS; Kenneth Price’s profile of a music producer turned Harvard scholar, THE HIP-HOP FELLOW, and Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s exploration of Vietnam War re-enactors, IN COUNTRY.

where is my sonMaking its US premiere is Heilika Pikkov’s FLOWERS FROM THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, following an octogenarian Russian Orthodox nun. Among the North American premieres are: Chai-Min Ahn’s WHERE IS MY SON? (pictured), in which a son returns to care for his elderly mother; Paul-Anders Simma’s OLGA – TO MY FRIENDS, about the sole woman on a Lapland reindeer brigade; Corinne van Egeraat and Petr Lom’s ANA ANA, in which four Egyptian women document their lives in Cairo; and Yotam Feldman’s THE LAB, an exploration of Israeli’s lucrative defense industry.

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Cinéma du Reél 2014 Overview

630-cinema_du_reel_2014_210x315mmThe 36th edition of Cinéma du Reél, Paris’ premier nonfiction event, kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, March 20, and continues through Sunday, March 30. The festival, focused on visual anthropology and social documentary, annually presents about forty new or recent feature documentaries as well as scores of shorts, retrospective programming, installations, and panel programming. The following spotlights new work that has piqued my interest appearing in the event’s three feature competition sections: Continue reading

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