Category Archives: Film

Urbanworld 2014: Documentary Overview

urbanworld_2014-hdrThe 18th edition of Urbanworld Film Festival launches in NYC tonight, Wednesday, September 17. Over five days, the festival will showcase over 70 films by African American and multicultural filmmakers, including eight documentaries among its 26 feature presentations.

SEWINGHOPE_Still_Sister_Rose1Premieres include Marquis Smalls’ hereHATING OBAMA, an exploration of the invective directed against our Commander-in-Chief; Derek Wilson’s SEWING HOPE (pictured), about a nun’s mission to empower Ugandan women through vocational training; and Kenneth Price’s THE HIP-HOP FELLOW, which follows 9th Wonder during his stint as a Harvard Fellow.

FindingSamuelLowe1-240_smOther nonfiction offerings include: Adeyemi Michael’s hereSODIQ, exploring how an aspiring doctor ended up on trial for murder; Alberto Ferreras’ HABLA MEN, the latest in a series on Latino Americans; Jeanette Kong’s FINDING SAMUEL LOWE: FROM HARLEM TO CHINA (pictured), tracing the filmmaker’s Jamaican-Chinese roots; and Laura Checkoway’s LUCKY, about a single lesbian mother with dreams of stardom.

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In Theatres: 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH

20000 daysComing to NYC’s Film Forum today, Wednesday, September 17: 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s hybrid portrait of Nick Cave debuted at Sundance this year, where it picked up the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award. It went on to Berlin, Sydney, True/False, Seattle, San Francisco, and IFF Boston, among others.

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

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ivory towerComing to VOD today, September 16: IVORY TOWER

Andrew Rossi’s exploration of the cost of higher education premiered at Sundance earlier this year. It went on to Sarasota, Miami, Seattle, Ashland, Full Frame, Cleveland, and Montclair, among others. It was released on iTunes last week and now comes to other digital platforms.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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burtsbuzz_01Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, September 16: BURT’S BUZZ

Jody Shapiro’s profile of Burt’s Bees unlikely figurehead debuted at Toronto last year. It went on to screen at San Francisco, Ashland, Seattle, Panama, Wisconsin, Santa Barbara, and Sedona, among others.

I included the doc in my Toronto coverage here.

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evergreen_smoking_joint_0Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, September 16 and already released on VOD earlier this month: EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION

Riley Morton’s exploration of Washington State’s path to marijuana legalization bowed at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival. It went on to screen at Spokane and Bermuda Docs, and to enjoy a limited theatrical release this Summer.

I covered the doc upon its theatrical release here.

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FightChurch_440x300Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, September 16: FIGHT CHURCH

Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel’s film about pastors with a punch debuted at IFF Boston this Spring, where it won the best documentary award. Its festival circuit has also included Nashville, Maryland, Seattle, Woods Hole, Denver, Fantasia, Sidewalk, and Rome. It now comes to iTunes, Amazon, Google, DirecTV, Sony PlayStation, XBOX, Vudu, and other VOD platforms.

A growing number of American churches have turned to mixed martial arts as part of their mission to reach the masses. Junge and Storkel focus on several men of God who spend time in the ring when they’re not preaching to their flock. That they use a brutal sport that’s dedicated to inflicting pain to impart the teachings of a religion that typically emphasizes love and tolerance is a contradiction that’s not entirely lost on these pastors, though some engage in some dubious rationalization to justify their dual passions. While this intriguing dichotomy remains at the center of the film, the filmmakers never push back quite far enough, instead permitting subjects to spout very similar rhetoric unquestioned, making for an at times frustrating viewing experience. In contrast, two characters who engage with the issue in a more complex manner, the concerned wife of one of the pastors and a philosophical trainer, could have used further screentime. All that said, the film is by far the most compelling MMA-themed documentary to emerge in a subgenre that’s typically flooded with tired portraits of interchangeable fighters, and there’s real provocation in its exploration of the seductive indoctrination that results from blending religion and bloodsports – a scene of a kids’ match carries particular impact.

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the_fake_case-624x421Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16: AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE

Andreas Johnsen’s chronicle of the controversial artist’s continuing clashes with Chinese authorities premiered at IDFA last year. Screenings have followed at Hot Docs, One World, Istanbul, Tempo, Tampere, and DocsBarcelona, among others. It now comes to iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.

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