Category Archives: Recommendations


born to flyComing to VOD today, Tuesday, May 26: BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS GRAVITY

Catherine Gund’s portrait of a dynamic choreographer made its bow at SXSW last year. Its fest circuit included Cleveland, Full Frame, Seattle, Sydney, Brooklyn, Sheffield, and Frameline, among others. It now comes to VOD exclusively through iTunes, with Netflix availability scheduled for June 11.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Special Screening: HOT TYPE: 150 YEARS OF THE NATION

hot typeComing to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series tomorrow, Tuesday, May 26: HOT TYPE: 150 YEARS OF THE NATION

Barbara Kopple’s exploration of the flagship magazine of the left had its world premiere at MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight earlier this year. It has since screened at Sarasota, IFF Boston, and Montclair, and will be part of the lineups of Nantucket and AFI Docs, among other upcoming events.

I previously wrote about the doc for Nantucket’s program, saying:
Acclaimed documentarian Barbara Kopple, a two-time Academy Award® winner, returns to the festival with her latest film, a fascinating inside look at the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, THE NATION. Now in its 150th year, the left-leaning publication remains as dedicated to its progressive mission as ever, but faces the daunting prospect of an aging readership and a new digital media landscape. As its captivating publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, tackles increasingly polarized political current affairs, Kopple skillfully weaves in stories from the magazine’s past to form an illuminating bridge to its present and future.

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A coming of age documentary in the shadow of TWIN PEAKS.

northwest passageAs a boy, Travis Blue witnessed the transformation of his small hometown into the setting for David Lynch’s groundbreaking television series, TWIN PEAKS. Inspired, he sought an escape from his tormented upbringing, especially connecting with the series’ enigmatic central figure, Laura Palmer, a homecoming queen with a dark double life. Echoing her reckless adolescent exploration, Travis began experimenting with his sexuality and with drugs as he became more and more obsessed with the show and its fan festivals. In his first feature documentary, Adam Baran, the long-time co-curator of NYC’s popular Queer/Art/Film series, tells Travis’ story, working with executive producers Jonathan Caouette (TARNATION director) and P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes (ROOM 237 executive producers) to offer a stranger than fiction tale of life imitating art. Continue reading

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1425570773editor_something_better_to_come_01-resize-375x210Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 22: SOMETHING BETTER TO COME

Hanna Polak’s longitudinal portrait of a Russian girl made its debut at IDFA last year, where it claimed a special jury award. Other festival screenings have included True/False, ZagrebDox, Documenta Madrid, Doc.fest Munich, and Docs Against Gravity.

Polak first encounters her protagonist, Yula, at the age of ten. She seems unremarkable, save for the place she calls home: the Svalka, the largest landfill in Europe, located just outside of Moscow. Curious to understand how people could live in such an environment, Polak tenaciously returned periodically over the course of fourteen years, tracking Yula, her mother, and the loose-knit community that shared the unorthodox environs, and in the process allows the viewer to witness a girl grow into a young woman. Though at a decided disadvantage, having grown up with virtually nothing and struggling with the same factors that plagued her mother, Yula nevertheless dreams of escaping the trap of poverty. Polak crafts an impressionistic, indelible study of adolescence and of a hardscrabble existence.

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dishonestyComing to theatres and to VOD tomorrow, Friday, May 22: (DIS)HONESTY – THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES

Yael Melamede’s exploration of why people lie had its world premiere at Full Frame earlier this year. It has also screened at Hot Docs, Montclair, and the new Bentonville FIlm Festival. In addition to a limited theatrical release, the doc will be available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU via Bond/360, as well as through the film’s website.

Melamede’s guide through the big question that her film explores – human dishonesty – is behavioral economist Dan Ariely, whose pioneering work on irrational human behavior inspired this straightforward but pleasantly diverting survey. Threaded throughout the film is the affable Duke University professor’s lecture explication of a series of experiments he conducted to tease out how and why people choose to be dishonest, revealing the sliding “fudge factor” that allows people to rationalize their behavior in relation to the context and beliefs of what is or is not morally or socially permissible. Beyond his engaging, and often surprising, research findings, Melamede regularly highlights individual anecdotes by self-confessed liars, some with positive consequences, such as an author who calmed a hysterical fellow airline passenger by claiming he was an aeronautical engineer, and others with decidedly more negative outcomes, from insider traders to job loss, when the deception was uncovered.

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despite the godsComing to DVD today, Tuesday, May 19: DESPITE THE GODS

Penny Vozniak’s behind-the-scenes look at a film director’s seemingly doomed comeback had its world premiere at Hot Docs in 2012. It also screened at Sydney, Fantasia, Raindance, Stockholm, Sitges, Chicago, Atlanta DocuFest, and Minneapolis St Paul, among others.

I previously wrote about the film out of Hot Docs here.

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On TV: 1971

1971Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, May 18: 1971

Johanna Hamilton’s look at an early group’s efforts to expose federal surveillance debuted at Tribeca last year. Other fest play included IDFA, Sheffield, AFI Docs, Traverse City, and CPH:DOX, before its release this past Winter.

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

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