Category Archives: Overviews

Traverse City 2015: Documentary Overview

imgresThe Traverse City Film Festival returns for its 11th edition today, Tuesday, July 28, and runs through Sunday, August 2. As in previous editions, Michael Moore’s annual celebration of cinema – under the slogan “1 Great Movie Can Change You” – showcases an eclectic lineup of festival favorites, including more than fifty recent feature documentaries. While the majority of these made their debut within the last year at notable larger film events like Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, and Tribeca, the festival also spotlights several lesser-seen works and a few premieres, noted below:

brainwashing_of_my_dad_2These include Rick Prelinger’s YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW IN DETROIT 5, the noted film archivist’s latest look at Detroit’s history through discovered home movies; Michael Matheson Miller’s POVERTY, INC, which explores the hampering of development due to the modern charity industry; Sabina Guzzanti’s THE STATE-MAFIA PACT, a provocative, satirical exploration of the collusion between the Italian government and the mafia; Sabine Gruffat’s SPECULATION NATION, a look at Spanish citizen activism in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis; and Michael Webber and Bailey Webber’s THE STUDENT BODY, which follows a young filmmaker’s investigation into state sanctioned measures to body shame youth; Kuo-Liang Chiang and Chen Singing’s MOUNTAIN SPIRITS, a portrait of a Taiwanese master craftsman; and, screening as a work-in-progress, Jen Senko’s THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD (pictured), which explores the appeal of conservative media to older audiences.

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Asian American International Film Festival 2015: Documentary Overview

imagesThe 38th annual Asian American International Film Festival brings eighteen new features to New York City between today, Thursday, July 24 and Saturday, August 1, reflecting the diversity of Asian and Asian American filmmaking. Among the eight new nonfiction features presented are the event’s opening night film, Ruby Yang’s MY VOICE, MY LIFE, about a musical staged by under-privileged Hong Kong students. Other documentary entries include:

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From China, Haibin Du’s A YOUNG PATRIOT (pictured), a portrait of the gradual ideological development of a young Chinese man over several years; Adler Yang’s IF THERE IS A REASON TO STUDY, which follows the teenage Taiwanese filmmaker as he documents the experience of alternative schooling on his fellow students; Lauren Knapp’s LIVE FROM UB, which offers a look at Mongolian identity through an independent rock band; Derek Shimoda’s JUNE BRIDE: REDEMPTION OF A YAKUZA, about former Japanese gangsters turned pastors; and DOC NYC 2014 alumnus MISS TIBET: BEAUTY IN EXILE, Norah Shapiro’s exploration of a controversial cultural and beauty pageant for Tibetans in exile.

KillingFieldsAlso represented at the festival is the work of noted Asian American filmmaker Arthur Dong, the subject of a retrospective tribute, which also includes the NYC debut of his latest film, the Cambodian-focused THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR HAING S NGOR (pictured), on the Hollywood actor and Khmer Rouge survivor; and Grace Lee’s OFF THE MENU: ASIAN AMERICA, a travelogue that explores Asian American identity through food.

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Outfest 2015: Documentary Overview

la_outfest_heroTomorrow, Thursday, July 9 sees the kick off for the 33rd edition of Los Angeles’ Outfest, one of the leading LGBT fests in the world, which will present just over 60 new features until its wrap on Sunday, July 19. Among these are 24 new documentaries, including opening night selection, TIG, Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York’s portrait of a tumultuous year in the titular comedian’s life; and centerpieces BEST OF ENEMIES, Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s Vidal vs Buckley chronicle; and OUT TO WIN, Malcolm Ingram’s look at LGBT athletes.

tchindasDocumentaries appearing in the main program of the festival include a mix of brand new work and other highlights from the past year of LGBT programming from larger festivals like Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, and Berlin. Among the offerings are: Cammie Pavesic and Michael Gough’s ADD THE WORDS, on the fight for workplace protections for LGBT people; Marc Serena and Pablo García Pérez de Lara’s TCHINDAS (pictured), a portrait of a transgender Cape Verdean woman preparing for Carnival; Alex Berry’s DRAG BECOMES HIM, about a RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE contestant; Parvez Sharma’s A SINNER IN MECCA, a personal journey to Mecca by the gay Muslim filmmaker; and Ron Nyswaner’s SHE’S THE BEST THING IN IT, a portrait of celebrated character actress Mary Louise Wilson.

aboutNonfiction also appears in the fest’s Special Events section, such as Lauren Fash and Ryan Suffern’s OUT & AROUND (pictured), which follows a lesbian couple as they meet with LGBT rights advocates around the world; and in the avant-garde Platinum section, which includes Brad Besser’s BEAVER TRILOGY PART IV, the story behind a cult classic which was made three times.

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Jerusalem 2015: Documentary Overview

10361415_10153016728080847_5800418663207552516_nThe 32nd edition of the Jerusalem Film Festival begins this Thursday, July 9, and presents just over 100 new features through Sunday, July 19. Compared to last year’s nearly 50 nonfiction features, this year’s event offers just over 30, including a fair number of new Israeli work, noted below:

F0_0540_0329_penniesJFF15Seven titles vie for recognition in the Documentary Competition, including: Herz Frank and Maria Kravchenko’s BEYOND THE FEAR, which profiles Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and his tabloid-fodder wife; Silvina Landsmann’s HOTLINE, focused on a Tel Avis nonprofit that serves refugees and migrants; Badran Badran’s PENNIES (pictured), about child beggars who support their Palestinian family; and Nirit Aharoni’s STRUNG OUT, a look at the lives of drug-addicted prostitutes. Separately, four docs compete for the Spirit of Freedom Award, including Anat Goren’s MUSSA, about a mute twelve-year-old African refugee in Tel Aviv.

F0_0540_0329_LivingInIllusionJFF15Outside of competition, the JFF Docs section includes Francois Miron’s portrait of experimental film pioneer PAUL SHARITS; while the Israeli Cinema sidebar offers Helen Yanovsky’s profile of teenage boxing hopefuls, JERUSALEM BOXING CLUB; and Tzvika Binder’s strange story of a once popular father/son magic act and their scandalous fall from grace, LIVING IN ILLUSIONS (pictured).

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Karlovy Vary 2015: Documentary Overview

kvmffHitting the half-century mark this year, the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival opens tonight, Friday, July 3, and runs through next Saturday, July 11. In addition to several retrospective screenings, the prestigious event features approximately 135 new feature-length films, of which just under 30 are documentaries, matching the reduced number of nonfiction offerings evident since last year’s edition. With a handful of exceptions, the nonfiction programming primarily is set apart in its own competitive and non-competitive sections, highlighted below: Continue reading

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Frameline 2015: Documentary Overview

f39-slideFrameline, the longest running LGBT film festival in the world, opens in San Francisco tonight, Thursday, June 18, and will present over 70 new features before it wraps up during SF Pride weekend on Sunday, June 28. More than 30 new and recent documentary features will screen, including Centerpiece film OUT TO WIN, Malcolm Ingram’s focus on professional LGBT athletes; and Showcase programs like FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, Sharon Shattuck’s personal reflection on her transgender dad. Highlights from the fest’s nonfiction programming is highlighted below: Continue reading

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BAMcinemaFest 2015: Documentary Overview

bamTonight, Wednesday, June 17, sees the opening of the seventh edition of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s
annual BAMcinemaFest, a popular program of 35 recent films which had its origins as the Sundance at BAM series. The event, which runs through Sunday, June 28, continues to draw selections from Park City for their NYC premieres, along with acclaimed work from other notable events.

russian woodpeckerNonfiction programming which appeared previously at Sundance includes Chad Gracia’s unforgettable conspiracy theorist profile, THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER (pictured); Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s political history, BEST OF ENEMIES; Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors’ empathetic portrait of a place, PERVERT PARK; Bobcat Goldthwait’s surprising profile of a comedian turned activist, CALL ME LUCKY; and Amy Berg’s look at fundamentalist Mormonism, PROPHET’S PREY.

31952_Cfest_awomanlikeme_613x463From Berlin comes Jem Cohen’s city essay, COUNTING; from Full Frame, Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin’s portrait of a pioneering video collective, HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX; and from SXSW, Luke Meyer’s look at fame’s impact on a junior high school metal band, BREAKING A MONSTER; and Elizabeth Giamatti and Alex Sichel’s hybrid about creativity and coping with a terminal illness, A WOMAN LIKE ME (pictured).

31952_Cfest_declineofwesternciv_613x463Also from this year’s SXSW and screening in Brooklyn as a Special Event is the late Les Blanks’ unreleased 1974 Leon Russell portrait, A POEM IS A NAKED PERSON. It joins another classic, Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (pictured), a chronicle of LA’s punk scene, which screens here in a new restored version.

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