Category Archives: Film

On DVD: JFK & LBJ: A TIME FOR GREATNESS

JFKAndLBJ_ATimeForGreatness-crop-321x150Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, September 1: JFK & LBJ: A TIME FOR GREATNESS

Alastair Layzell’s focus on civil rights across two presidencies made its bow at the Annapolis Film Festival this Spring. It made its broadcast debut on PBS last month.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: DARK STAR: HR GIGER’S WORLD

gigerComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 1: DARK STAR: HR GIGER’S WORLD

Belinda Sallin’s exploration of the work of the famed artist of the macabre made its bow at Zurich last year. Other fests have included Hong Kong, BAFICI, and Sitges, among others.

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

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ON DVD: HARLEM STREET SINGER

Harlem-Street-Singer-Key-Image-Photo-by-Alice-Ochs-Getty-Images--580x300Coming to DVD this Friday, September 4: HARLEM STREET SINGER

Trevor Laurence and Simeon Hutner’s portrait of an unsung musician premiered at DOC NYC in 2013. It also screened at St Louis, Leeds, Revelation, and Tallgrass, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD/VOD: BRADDOCK AMERICA

braddockComing to DVD and VOD this coming Monday, September 1: BRADDOCK AMERICA

Jean-Loïc Portron and Gabriella Kessler’s meditation on a vanished industrial town made its premiere at La Rochelle’s Escales Documentaires in 2013. Screenings followed at Cannes, Thessaloniki Doc, Cleveland, Lussas, Nashville, France’s International Environmental, and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers film fests, among others. In addition to a DVD release, it now comes to VOD via iTunes.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: DEEP WEB

deep webComing to VOD this coming Tuesday, September 1: DEEP WEB

Alex Winter’s look at the illicit world of the secret Internet premiered at SXSW earlier this year. Screenings followed at Full Frame, San Francisco, Hot Docs, and Montclair before its broadcast on EPIX. Bond/360 now releases the doc on VOD via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU.

I wrote about the film upon its broadcast debut here.

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On TV: THE STORM MAKERS

stormComing to PBS’s POV this coming Monday, August 31: THE STORM MAKERS

Guillaume Suon’s intimate exploration of the toll of human trafficking made its debut at Busan last year. Other fest appearances include IDFA, Thessaloniki Doc, Movies That Matter, Full Frame, DOK.fest Munich, Docs Against Gravity, Sheffield, and AFI Docs, among others.

Suon’s effectively understated film tackles the disturbing topic of human trafficking in Cambodia from an unexpected perspective – not only from that of a former slave who managed to escape, but also from two individuals actively involved in recruiting and entrapping young people into captivity, and, in so doing, creating the turmoil in the lives of their family that lends the project its title. Representing the former is Aya, a young woman sold into supposed maid service in Malaysia when she was just 16. Instead, she faced forced imprisonment, the confiscation of her passport, mental and physical abuse, and rape. Though she managed to escape, Aya’s mother treats her with contempt, angry that she has brought back a baby out of wedlock – another mouth to be fed. If that isn’t disturbing enough, Suon weaves in the stories of Pou Houy, the owner of a recruitment agency who matteroffactly notes the vulnerabilities upon which he preys, and who has somehow rationalized his actions to the extent that he believes he is a pious Christian; and Ming Dy, a local recruiter Pou Houy employs to find victims from rural villages. Shockingly, Ming Dy has already sold her own daughter into slavery in order to pay her bills. Suon presents these figures refreshingly free of histrionics, underscoring the fundamental economic and social disparities that inform their troubling decisions and that have led them to justify the exploitation of even family members for income.

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In Theatres: MY VOICE, MY LIFE

my_voice_my_lifeComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, August 28: MY VOICE, MY LIFE

Ruby Yang’s profile of high school students preparing for a musical theatre performance premiered at a special event in Hong Kong last Fall. Fest screenings have included Hong Kong, Manchester, Nashville, CAAMFest, and NYC’s Asian American, among others.

Yang surveys multiple students from several lower-performing high schools, including a school for the blind, as they commit to a six-month rehearsal process for a musical to take place at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Meant to be an inspirational journey, the film profiles several misfits who wouldn’t be expected to succeed, but through perseverance and an occasional second chance afforded them by their thoughtful teachers and advisors, they conquer bad habits, discover confidence, and, in the case of the blind students, demonstrate that they’re more capable than others might initially suspect. As with most survey projects like these, there are several subjects whose presence adds very little, and instead dilutes the impact made by the few more compelling students’ stories – though even the latter are unfortunately superficial. Ultimately, while some audiences may find the film succeeds in its inspirational mission, others will instead remain unconvinced by its sentimentality, cheesy score, scattered focus, and a surprising lack of energy and visual flair, given the subject matter.

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