Category Archives: Overviews

Sound + Vision 2014 Overview

BeautifulNoise5Returning to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a second year, Sound + Vision assembles 15 feature documentaries, three retrospective screenings, and several live performances in its celebration of music-focused nonfiction. Opening the series tomorrow, Thursday, July 31, is Eric Green’s BEAUTIFUL NOISE (pictured), a revisitation of late 1980s/early 1990s shoegazing bands like Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain, while Florian Habicht’s PULP, which follows the titular band’s final Sheffield concert, brings the event to a close on Wednesday, August 6.

windingOther new titles screening include: Tetsuaki Matsue’s FLASHBACK MEMORIES 3D, a profile of a semi-amnesiac Japanese didgeridoo player; Alejandro Franco’s FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK: THE STORY OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA, about Mexican metal rockers-turned-Dublin street buskers; Javier Polo’s EUROPE IN 8 BITS, an exploration of the chipmusic phenomenon as it invades Europe; Kiley Kraskouskas’ THE LAST SONG BEFORE THE WAR, on Timbuktu’s annual Festival in the Desert; Petter Ringbom’s SHIELD AND SPEAR, a survey of the role of music in South African politics and society; and Beth Harrington’s THE WINDING STREAM (pictured), an engaging history of the influential and talented Carter and Cash families.

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Traverse City 2014: Documentary Overview

tcff-1-2014Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival celebrates its first decade beginning today, Tuesday, July 29, with more than 200 films screening before its 10th anniversary edition wraps up this Sunday, August 3. Among these are more than fifty feature documentaries, largely offering the festival audience a look at some of the standout programming that premiered earlier in the year at notable fests like Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Hot Docs, as well as a smattering of premieres and largely undiscovered gems, noted below:

Meet-the-PatelsIn the first category are titles such as Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel’s funny, personal look at Indian matchmaking in America, MEET THE PATELS (pictured); Håvard Bustnes’ ridealong with unassuming senior activist agitators, TWO RAGING GRANNIES; Andrew Renzi’s meditation on modern-day Montana cowboys, FISHTAIL; Alan Hicks’ portrait of a musical mentor/mentee relationship, KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON; Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel’s look at the race to popularize 3D printing, PRINT THE LEGEND; and Kris Kaczor’s environmentally-focused chronicle of participatory democracy in New England, DIVIDE IN CONCORD.

Bending-the-Light-2Making its world premiere at the fest is Michael Apted’s celebration of the craft of lensmaking, BENDING THE LIGHT (pictured); while North American debuts include Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda’s GOOD DRIVER SMETANA, a portrait of an unlikely Czech activist; and Jeroen Van Velzen’s A GOAT FOR A VOTE, which follows three Kenyan teenagers as they run for class president. US Premieres include Dave Jannetta’s doc murder mystery, LOVE AND TERROR ON THE HOWLING PLAINS OF NOWHERE; and Joerg Burger’s existential experimental doc, FOCUS ON INFINITY. Other nonfiction titles taking the spotlight include Thomas A Morgan and Jack Henry Robbins’ profile of American homelessness, STORIED STREETS; Julianna Brannum’s portrait of an influential political activist, LADONNA HARRIS: INDIAN 101; and Robin Blotnick and Rachel Lears’ inspiring underdog story of unionizing undocumented NYC bakery workers, THE HAND THAT FEEDS.

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NewFest 2014: Documentary Overview

newfest logoBeginning tonight, Thursday, July 24, NewFest brings six nights of LGBT cinema to NYC audiences for its 26th edition. While still maintaining its slim line-up of only 19 features and just over 20 shorts this year, I expect a re-expansion in the future as the event’s partnership with LA’s larger Outfest continues to develop.

WE_CAME_TO_SWEATblogFor now, the festival presents just four feature length nonfiction or hybrid projects: The world premiere of Kate Kunath and Sasha Wortzel’s WE CAME TO SWEAT: THE LEGEND OF STARLITE (pictured), on the impact of gentrification on NYC’s oldest African American gay bar; Todd Verow and Charles Lum’s AGE OF CONSENT, a history of London’s only gay fetish bar; Stefan Haupt’s THE CIRCLE, a hybrid portrait of Switzerland’s post-war gay underground; and Andrea James’ ALEC MAPA: BABY DADDY, the comedian’s one-man show about new fatherhood.

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Asian American International Film Festival 2014: Documentary Overview

Screen-Shot-2014-06-20-at-3.56.26-PMTomorrow, Thursday, July 24 kicks off the 37th edition of the longest-running event celebrating the work of Asian and Asian American filmmakers, AsianCinevision’s Asian American International Film Festival. Running through Saturday, August 2, AAIFF will present nineteen features, including six documentaries:

bringingtibethome02-770x433The Asian American nonfiction offerings this year are: Tenzin Tsetan Choklay’s BRINGING TIBET HOME (pictured), in which a Tibetan artist smuggles tons of Tibetan soil to the seat of Tibet-in-exile, Dharamsala; Dianne Fukami and Eli Olson’s STORIES FROM TOHOKU, following Japanese Americans on a mission to Japan to help in the aftermath of disaster; Steven de Castro’s FRED HO’S LAST YEAR, a tribute to the jazz composer in his vibrant final year of life; and Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s KUMU HINA, on an inspirational trans Native Hawaiian teacher.

lovehotel31-770x433Asian doc features screening this year are Philip Cox and Hikaru Toda’s THE LOVE HOTEL (pictured), about sex, intimacy, and commerce in conservative Osaka; and Christine Choy’s GHINA, a cross-cultural exploration of the growing presence and developmental influence of China in Ghana.

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Outfest 2014: Documentary Overview

www.outfestOne of the largest and most influential LGBT film festivals in the world, Outfest, opens its 32nd edition tonight, Thursday, July 10. Running through Sunday, July 20, the fest will bring scores of shorts and over 60 features to Los Angeles audiences, including more than 20 documentary features. Nonfiction takes a few prime slots, including the Gala Centerpiece, MY PRAIRIE HOME, Chelsea McMullan’s profile of Canadian trans musician Rae Spoon; Special Event TO BE TAKEI, Jennifer M Kroot’s portrait of the STAR TREK actor turned LGBT icon; and Platinum selection KATE BORNSTEIN IS A QUEER AND PLEASANT DANGER, Sam Feder’s look at the pioneering gender outlaw.

diorThe main program showcases the remainder of the event’s doc programming, a vibrant mix of recent new work, including, among others, portraits of notable LGBT figures like BACK ON BOARD: GREG LOUGANIS, Cheryl Furjanic’s look at the famed Olympic diver; I ALWAYS SAID YES: THE MANY LIVES OF WAKEFIELD POOLE, Jim Tushinski’s exploration of the life and career of the famed adult filmmaker; AN HONEST LIAR, Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom’s surprising biography of noted skeptic magician James “The Amazing” Randi; and DIOR AND I (pictured), Frederic Tcheng’s countdown to the unveiling of designer Raf Simons’ first collection for Christian Dior.

naomiOther doc offerings include Thomas G Miller’s LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, about America’s first legally married same-sex couple; Nicolas Videla and Camila Donoso’s NAOMI CAMPBEL, IT’S NOT EASY TO BECOME A DIFFERENT PERSON (pictured), a hybrid project exploring the life of a Chilean trans woman hoping to win a plastic surgery competition; and blair doroshwalther’s OUT IN THE NIGHT, which unpacks the truth behind an infamous case of a so-called lesbian gang attack in Greenwich Village.

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Jerusalem 2014: Documentary Overview

jff-2014_1.jpgTomorrow, Thursday, July 10, was to see the launch of the 31st edition of the Jerusalem Film Festival, which annually showcases a healthy collection of new nonfiction among its 200 strong line-up. Because of recent hostilities in the region, the open air screening of the opening night film has been postponed a week, with the remainder of the festival still set to continue beginning Friday. The festival, which runs through Sunday, July 20, introduces nearly 50 documentary features to the region. The following is a rundown of some of the new and local work making its debut: Continue reading

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Karlovy Vary 2014: Documentary Overview

kvmffThe Czech Republic’s acclaimed Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicks off its 49th edition today, Friday, July 4, and runs through Saturday, July 12. One of Europe’s signature cinema events, the A-list festival offers nearly 250 selections, though, by my count, this year’s line-up includes a noticeably reduced number of documentary features among that number -
fewer than 30 vs the nearly 40 of last year’s edition. The following offers highlights from the nonfiction programming: Continue reading

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Frameline 2014: Documentary Overview

Frameline38_FB_profile_pic-e1401745955497Gay film fest season officially kicks off tonight with the opening night of Frameline, celebrating its 38th edition this year. San Francisco is home to the world’s longest-running queer film festival, drawing an estimated 65,000 attendees to experience the newest in LGBT cinema. More than 30 feature length documentaries are included in this year’s lineup, including the fest’s coveted Opening Night slot, which goes to Sundance winners Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s excellent THE CASE AGAINST 8, with fellow Sundance alum Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber’s TO BE TAKEI taking one of the Centerpiece spots. The following spotlights additional documentary programming SF audiences should be sure to check out: Continue reading

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American Black Film Festival 2014: Documentary Overview

abff logoRecently relocated to New York City from its former base in Miami, the American Black Film Festival celebrates its 18th edition beginning tomorrow, Thursday, June 19, and running through Sunday, June 22. This makes Manhattan the home to two higher-profile African American festivals, with mainstay Urbanworld also heading into year 18 this coming September. ABFF makes a notable splash, closing out this year’s event with the world premiere of Spike Lee’s latest film, the Kickstarter-funded DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS.

life's essentialsIn total, more then two dozen films, masterclasses, and special events make up the event’s lineup, with five doc features included. Two appear in the Spotlight Screenings section: Muta’Ali Muhammad’s sadly timely tribute to his grandparents, LIFE’S ESSENTIALS WITH RUBY DEE (pictured), given the actress’ recent passing; and Barion Grant’s profile of a hip-hop mogul, A GENIUS LEAVES THE HOOD: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF JAY-Z. The remaining nonfiction titles vie for the CNN sponsored Best Documentary Award, including two world premieres: Mike L Brown’s 25 TO LIFE, about an HIV-positive man reckoning with his promiscuous past; and Sam Hampton’s TRANSCENDING SURGEON, a consideration of African Americans in medicine through a portrait of an acclaimed surgeon; as well as the North American premiere of Khalo Matabane’s NELSON MANDELA: THE MYTH & ME, an exploration of freedom and reconciliation set against the continuing inequality faced by South Africans.

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Edinburgh 2014: Documentary Overview

edinburgh-international-film-festival-2013Tonight, Wednesday, June 18 sees the kick-off of the 68th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Running through Sunday, June 29, the festival will present over 150 features, representing nearly 50 countries, an increase from last year’s numbers. Among these are nearly 30 documentaries, spread about various strands, from American Dreams – recent US indies – to Focus on Film – tributes to cinema and its makers – to Teen Spirit – youth-focused films. The following spotlights some newer nonfiction work screening in other festival sections:

atlasMost appear in the Directors’ Showcase, an auteur-driven strand, which includes LIFE MAY BE, a consideration of art and the artistic process via a collaboration between Mark Cousins and Mania Akbari; and CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE, a 3D meditation on six distinct works of architecture by Karim Aïnouz, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Wim Wenders, and Margreth Olin. Nonfiction also makes a showing in New Perspectives, focused on emerging filmmakers, with such new projects as Davi Pretto’s CASTANHA, about a middle-aged Brazilian cross-dresser who lives with his mother; Lucie Dèche, Karim Loualiche, and Tarek Sami’s CHANTIER A (pictured), a hybrid personal reflection on Algeria; and Ed Perkins’ GARNET’S GOLD, which follows an unusual man on the hunt for fabled treasure.

atlasA number of boundary pushing nonfiction projects appear in No Limits, including Antoine d’Agata’s ATLAS (pictured), an international compendium of prostitutes’ stories; and Jan Soldat’s THE INCOMPLETE, abo ut a 60-year-old gay German man who aspires to be the perfect slave. The festival offers a Focus on Germany, in which Thomas Heise’s portrait of a Mexican juvenile prison STAEDTEBEWOHNER is the sole doc; and a Focus on Iran which includes Sara Rastegar’s look at love, the Iranian revolution, and exile, MY RED SHOES.

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