Coming to Netflix this Sunday, November 29: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS
Mark Hartley’s tribute to the legendary low-budget production house debuted at Melbourne last year. It went on to screen at Toronto, London, Haifa, Sitges, Mar del Plata, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Glasgow, Dublin, New Horizons, and Fantastic Fest, among others.
I previously wrote about the film here.
Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, November 27: JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE
Amy Berg’s portrait of Janis Joplin made its bow at Venice earlier this year. The film has gone on to screen at Toronto, DOC NYC, Deauville, Rio, London, Warsaw, and Poland’s American Film Festival, among others.
The third of Berg’s three documentaries within the span of a year, the Oscar-nominated director’s latest presents a deeply human look at a woman who, since her death at the age of 27, has become a music legend. Avoiding overblown pronouncements of the musician’s impact, something the film’s core audience – and even the casual viewer – already knows, the film instead carefully grounds its narrative in Joplin’s warm, self-effacing personality. Employing present-day musician Cat Power to voice Joplin’s personal writings, primarily letters to her significantly more conservative Texan parents, Berg is able to convey an immediate sense of the young woman’s oscillation between vulnerability and forthrightness, and her blossoming as she embraced music, and as the American counterculture in turn embraced her. While the audience knows that Joplin’s tragic end is inevitable, the film smartly downplays any sense of impending doom to instead revel in the moment, aided immeasurably by lively archival performances that demonstrate exactly why the performer remains beloved 45 years after her death.
Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, November 27: BOLSHOI BABYLON
Director Nick Read and co-director Mark Franchetti’s behind-the-scenes look at Russia’s legendary ballet had its world premiere this Fall at Toronto. Other fest berths have included DOC NYC, Hamptons, CPH:DOX, and IDFA.
An exploration of both the cut-throat world of dance and of Russia in a microcosm, Read and Franchetti’s remarkably candid profile focuses on the turmoil that followed the notorious acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director, Sergei Filin, in 2013. While the crime itself is not the focus – the perpetrators, including Bolshoi star Pavel Dmitrichenko, are convicted and sentenced to prison – it stands in for the corruption and ambition that plagues the larger Russian society. While Filin returns to his post, scarred and blinded in one eye, factions gather strength against him. Even those who seem uninterested in taking sides face their own struggles to maintain their own standing, fearing aging, injury, or the whims of management may cut their careers short. Expertly crafted, the film presents a dark reflection of the effortless facade the Bolshoi’s expert performers project from the stage.
Coming to Netflix this Saturday, November 28: BEST OF ENEMIES
Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s look back at the infamous Buckley/Vidal debates debuted at Sundance this year. Other fest berths have included DOC NYC, Nantucket, BAMcinemaFest, AFI Docs, Outfest, San Francisco, SXSW, Hot Docs, Full Frame, Srasota, Miami, and IFF Boston, among others. The film was released on several VOD platforms earlier this month, and now comes to Netflix.
I profiled the doc before Sundance here.
Coming to theatres and VOD this Friday, November 27: KILLING THEM SAFELY
Nick Berardini’s exposé on the ethics of Taser use in law enforcement made its debut at Tribeca under its earlier title, TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE. Screenings have followed at Hot Docs, Tallgrass, and St Louis, among others events.
In the early 1990s, brothers Rick and Tom Smith, inspired by the needless deaths of high school friends in a road rage incident, sought out safer alternatives to conventional firearms. They found the Taser, an electroshock device invented in the late 1960s-early 1970s by Jack Cover, a NASA researcher which had proven too weak to properly incapacitate assailants. Through further development, the Smiths managed to make the device effective by upping the voltage, and their enterprise, Taser International, began marketing it to law enforcement around the country as a non-lethal alternative firearm, and providing training and assurances that the Taser was perfectly safe. Berardini’s surprisingly even-handed film, however, exposes cracks in these claims, focusing on a series of cases in which individuals who were tased ended up dying. As disturbing as surveillance footage capturing several of these deadly incidents is, even more troubling is the evasiveness of the brothers Smith, as revealed in deposition recordings. Latching on to any flimsy excuse or half-baked theory, they are dogged in their refusal to admit the danger their tinkering with the device has yielded in the name of profits. While the film also notes that the trigger-happy, poorly-trained police departments that too quickly added the Taser to the arsenal certainly share in the blame, it finds its true culprits in the corporate malfeasance of Taser International’s denial of reality.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, November 24: THE SQUARE (AL MIDAN)
Jehane Noujaim’s immersive look at the Egyptian revolution premiered at Sundance in 2013, where it won an audience award. A revised version made its way to Toronto, winning another audience award win, before screening at the New York Film Festival, DOC NYC, and Dubai, among others, before it was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, November 24: 1971
Johanna Hamilton’s exploration of a revealing FBI break-in premiered at Tribeca last year. Its fest circuit also included IDFA, Sheffield, AFI Docs, Traverse City, and CPH:DOX, among others.
I previously wrote about the doc here.