Category Archives: Film

Woodstock 2014: Documentary Overview

woodstockThe 15th anniversary Woodstock Film Festival opens today, Wednesday, October 15, and wraps up this Sunday, October 19. The upstate New York event will present over 125 films over the course of its five-day run, of which just over 20 are documentary features. Here are some highlights:

enquiringFamiliar film subjects are profiled in Pauly Shore’s stand-up self-portrait, PAULY SHORE STANDS ALONE; Chuck Workman’s look at the life and career of a Hollywood legend, MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES; and Ric Burns’ investigation into tabloid history, ENQUIRING MINDS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE MAN BEHIND THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER (pictured).

handStories about overcoming adversity through self-empowerment include: Lesley Chilcott’s A SMALL SECTION OF THE WORLD, about a pioneering Costa Rican women’s coffee-growing collective; Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s THE HAND THAT FEEDS (pictured), chronicling food service workers attempt to organize for better working conditions; Nicole Boxer’s HOW I GOT OVER, on several women’s path from trauma to redemption through theatre; and Michael Lessac’s A SNAKE GIVES BIRTH TO A SNAKE, which follows South African actors as they try to create dialogue in divided communities.

little whiteFinally, filmmakers address topical issues in Thomas G. Miller’s intimate look at transnational gay marriage, LIMITED PARTNERSHIP; Alix Lambert’s poignant exploration of school bullying, MENTOR; and Lacey Schwartz’s exploration of family secrets, race, and religion, LITTLE WHITE LIE (pictured).

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DOC NYC 2014: Lineup Announced

doc nycAs DOC NYC‘s Director of Programming, I’m excited to share this year’s just-announced lineup. Already America’s largest documentary festival as of last year, the event has been expanded for our 5th anniversary edition, adding a new venue, two additional days of Doc-A-Thon panel programming, a larger Short List section, and new thematic sidebars. In total, 153 films and events make up this year’s festival, including 92 features, of which 19 are world premieres, 7 are North American or US premieres, and 40 are NYC premieres. DOC NYC will take place at the IFC Center, SVA Theatre, and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas between Thursday, November 13 and Thursday, November 20, with filmmakers in attendance for Q&As at nearly every program.

I’m planning to profile each section here in the weeks prior to our opening, but for the time being, check out our brand new website via the links below for more information and to purchase passes or individual tickets, which go on sale today. Continue reading

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On VOD: GOING BLIND

Coming to Netflix today, Wednesday, October 15: GOING BLIND

Joe Lovett’s exploration of vision loss had a limited theatrical release in 2010, and has screened extensively at medical conferences, schools, community screenings, and public TV since then. Already available on VOD from iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, it now is offered on Netflix.

I wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.

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On DVD/VOD: BOOBS

boobsComing to DVD/VOD today, Tuesday, October 14: BOOBS

Stone Roberts and Jon Bulette’s look at a model’s so-called “search for perfection” makes its debut today. In addition to DVD, the doc is now available via VOD on iTunes and Vimeo.

Precious Muir is a 24-year-old British model based in NYC who is convinced she has been typecast as a teen because of her modest breast size. Pinning all her hopes on breast augmentation as the key to furthering her career – and finally appearing in Playboy, her greatest dream – Muir makes an arrangement for surgery, cameras and reluctant but supportive boyfriend Guy in tow. Roberts and Bulette document the surgery, which might be instructive to curious viewers, especially to women contemplating a similar procedure, but the bulk of the film is concerned with the aftermath, from a longer-than-expected recovery and initial dissatisfaction to the need for a second surgery and how Muir unveils the results to family and friends. It’s a very simple premise, and the film’s ultimate success – or more likely, failure – for the audience entirely hinges on how they respond to Precious, because it’s all about her – there’s absolutely no concern here for addressing larger questions around body image, conceptions of beauty, or the media or fashion industry’s role in determining either. Instead, the film comes off as a reality TV-style calling card for the career-driven and sometimes irritating Muir, shadowing her visit to the Playboy Mansion or joining in solidarity over her outrage at her disappointing first surgery.

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On DVD: WHITEY

whiteyComing to DVD today, Tuesday, October 14: WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V JAMES J BULGER

Joe Berlinger’s look at the trial of the infamous gangster bowed at Sundance this year. Its fest circuit has also included Hot Docs, Sarasota, Nashville, Montclair, and Dallas, among others.

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

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On DVD: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF

los-angeles-plays-itself_592x299Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, October 14: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF

Thom Andersen’s exploration of a city through its defining industry premiered at Toronto in 2003. Festival screenings followed at Sundance, Rotterdam, Marseille, Karlovy Vary, and CPH:DOX, among others. It now comes to DVD/Blu-Ray for the first time via Cinema Guild.

I previously wrote about the film here.

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On VOD: MUDBLOODS

mudbloodsComing to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, October 14: MUDBLOODS

Farzad Nikbakht Sangari’s look at sport born from popular literary origins premiered at AFI Docs this Summer. It has also screened at Tacoma, IdeaFestival, Hot Springs, Potter Fest, and the upcoming Philadelphia, Hawaii, Gold Crest, and Napa Valley festivals. It now comes to VOD on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

Sangari’s film explores the underdog sport of Quidditch – technically, I suppose, Muggles Quidditch, the real-world adaptation of the fantastical sport created by JK Rowling for her HARRY POTTER series. While earthbound, owing to the lack of functional flying Nimbus 2000s or Firebolts outside of Hogwarts, the sport has gained a passionate if still relatively small following on college campuses across the US and beyond. Embracing co-ed teams and unfazed by criticism of geekery, teams like UCLA take the game very seriously, as shown in this engaging and likable chronicle of their attempt to defeat reigning champion Middlebury College in the Quidditch World Cup. Sangari balances conventions of sports docs and fandom docs while profiling affable subjects like UCLA captain Tom, whose earnestness and determination successfully connect with audiences, whether they are Potter superfans or not.

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