Coming to the Maysles Cinema today, Wednesday, May 22: DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC
Kevin Couliau and Bobbito Garcia’s tribute to outdoor court basketball made its world premiere at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. It went on to screen at Urbanworld, Philadelphia Awesome Festival, New Jersey, and Toronto’s Regent Park, picking up awards at several. After its week run at the Maysles, the film will expand to other venues in NYC and around the country via Tugg.
Expressing a deep love not only for basketball but for the specific culture of New York City’s playgrounds, Garcia and Couliau’s film takes an expansive look at the lasting influence street ball has had on players and the game itself. In many ways, the doc is a guided tour of the city’s park courts and, most effectively, its legendary players – not only men who made it to the NBA, but old school street players like Pee Wee Kirkland and Kid Sundance Davis. Interviews from these men and others convey a clear sense of the positive impact of their experiences on the court, in addition to often very funny anecdotes about the unwritten set of rules unique to each park, and limited but effective archival footage of court play, complete with amazing period fashion. This sense of living history manages to elevate the film from its very unfocused, meandering survey structure – its weakest aspect. Still, despite this looseness, fans of the game will find plenty to like, and even non-fans should respond to this look at street-level cultural history.
Coming to the theatres tomorrow, Wednesday, May 22: PLIMPTON! STARRING GEORGE PLIMPTON AS HIMSELF
Tom Bean and Luke Poling’s portrait of an unlikely citizen celebrity premiered at Silverdocs last year. Its fest run has included DOC NYC, Martha’s Vineyard, Camden, Hamptons, Hot Springs, Austin, Palm Springs, Cleveland, Oxford, and RiverRun, among others.
I previously wrote about the doc out of Silverdocs for Indiewire, saying:
Tom Bean and Luke Poling’s comprehensive portrait of the late Renaissance/Everyman made its world premiere at the festival this week. Known for both his forays into participatory journalism and as the co-founder/editor of THE PARIS REVIEW, Plimpton emerges as a fascinating subject – willing to be the ultimate amateur – trying his hand at stand-up, football, and the flying trapeze for the sake of an experiential story – despite criticisms, while also cultivating the talents of multiple generations of authors through his influential journal. Smartly constructed, using copious archival interviews to allow Plimpton to largely tell his own story, Bean and Poling’s documentary is a brilliant example of creative biographical filmmaking.
Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21: LA SOURCE
Patrick Shen’s look at one Haitian man’s quest to improve his village debuted at Silverdocs last year. It went on to screen at DocuWeeks, DocuWest, Big Sky, Newport Beach, Sarasota, Atlanta, and Palm Springs, among other fests.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to theatres via Cinedigm’s Docurama Festival initiative next Tuesday, May 21: CHARGE
Mark Neale’s chronicle of the trials and triumphs of developing zero emissions motorcycles seems to have largely bypassed film festivals, though it did win an award at Vegas Independent in 2011. The film is part of Cinedigm’s new seven-film program bringing feature documentaries to theatres weekly in up to fifteen US markets, including NYC, LA, Pasadena, Encino, San Diego, Palm Desert, Austin, San Antonio, Phoenix, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Hartford, New Haven, Ithaca, Richmond, and Helena. The films are also available for additional theatrical-on-demand screenings via Tugg. In NYC, Cinema Village will screen the doc next Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Narrated by racing fan Ewan McGregor, Neale’s film focuses on the world’s first zero-emissions motorcycle grand prix, held in the Summer of 2009 on the Isle of Man, home of the most legendary and difficult course in the sport. With practice courses and other prep for the annual regular race already taxing the Isle’s infrastructure, and the patience of its residents, the decision to devote even more time to an unorthodox electric vehicle version is met with skepticism if not downright resistance. Neale follows several teams in the lead-up to the race, out to prove the viability of an electric motorcycle that can complete the challenging course on one charge with the same thrill as their fossil-fueled kin. At the center of this international assemblage are the cocky US team, MotoCzysz, who have sunk $350,000 into their bike, and Team Agni, which taps into the genius of Cedric Lynch, an eccentric pioneer whose innovative motor design is used in several of the competitors’ vehicles. Mechanically minded viewers would likely find more to appreciate in numerous garage and workshop scenes as engineers work out kinks and discuss torque and whatnot, but even those with zero interest in racing will find the film engaging. Neale is able to generate genuine tension about whether the teams will successfully finish their designs, make it to the race, and even finish – both at the inaugural event in 2009 and at the follow up in 2010 – and the green theme at its core should draw an unlikely but appreciative additional audience.
Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 17: VALENTINO’S GHOST
Michael Singh’s examination of cinematic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims made its debut at Venice last year. The doc went on to screen at IDFA, Doha, It’s All True, and DocumentaMadrid. It opens at NYC’s Quad Cinema and the Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse 7 Theatre.
I included the doc in my IDFA roundup here.
Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 17: BIDDER 70
Beth and George Gage’s portrait of the consequences of civil disobedience had its world premiere at the 2012 Mountainfilm in Telluride, winning an award. It went on to screen at numerous festivals, including Cleveland, Human Rights Watch, Washington DC Environmental, Mill Valley, and Traverse City, picking up an award at the latter as well.
During the end of the Bush administration, a shady federal auction threatened thousands of acres of Utah wilderness with destructive drilling in the name of fossil fuels. Concerned about the lack of transparency to the process, college student Tim DeChristopher attended, and, on the spur of the moment, decided to begin bidding for the land, winning 22,000 acres at the cost of nearly $2 million – with no intention of drilling or ability to pay. He did this as a conscious act of civil disobedience, disrupting a process he believed to be unjust, and willing to face the consequences. The Gages’ film quickly relates this already well-publicized background and then moves on to follow DeChristopher as he becomes the catalyst for a grassroots climate justice movement, and as he waits for his day in court after numerous postponements. While the former serves as a hopeful development, scenes of scrappy protest sign painting and demonstrations by DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising activist group often feel like filler and take on a cheesy edge with some poor music choices. More compelling are the pre-trial developments about the illegality of the auction and comments from his attorney about potential defense strategy, but these are given shortshrift. Still, sharing DeChristopher’s story is really the point of his act of disruption – as his defense attorney reminds us, the point of civil disobedience is to force others to examine their own conscience and to inspire change, even at the cost of one’s own personal liberty – and, to that extent, the Gages’ film delivers.
Now on VOD: TO MAKE A FARM
Steve Suderman’s profile of young Canadian farmers debuted at Vancouver in 2011, where it was one of the top ten audience favorites. It went on to screen at Big Sky, Washington DC Environmental, Minneapolis St Paul, Shanghai, Princeton Environmental, and several other environmental and food-related events. FilmBuff released the film on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, XBOX, nook, Cinemanow, and Vudu yesterday.
Coming from a farm background himself, Suderman narrates this nicely-shot look at three sets of small-scale farmers in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada – two couples, Tarrah and Nathan and Leslie and Jeff, and one-man-band Wes. Following them over the course of a year as they set up their farms, plant and harvest their crops, and tend to their animals, the engaging film gives viewers a clear sense of the challenges of their endeavor – physically, emotionally, and economically. Being Canadian, the subjects are affable without being naive, candidly expressing the sometimes utopian sentiments that led them to pursue farming, but also honest enough about how hard it is to make it work. They make the point that they’re largely starting from scratch – even if they’ve studied organic farming, they’re at a disadvantage compared to past farmers who drew on generational knowledge that has in many ways been lost with the move to large-scale industrial farming. For his part, director Suderman comments on this transformation of agriculture, but his occasional anti-industrial narration feels like an ill-fit with the more successful observational footage of the farmers going about their various chores.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, May 14: BEWARE OF MR BAKER
Jay Bulger’s profile of drummer Ginger Baker debuted at SXSW last year, picking up the Best Documentary Award. Its fest circuit included Hot Docs, Seattle, Silverdocs, and London, among others, as well as a limited theatrical and VOD release.
I included the doc in my SXSW coverage here.
Coming to DVD and VOD today, Tuesday, May 14: OF TWO MINDS
Doug Blush and Lisa Klein’s look at bipolar disorder premiered at Cleveland last year. It has also screened at Newport Beach, Napa Valley, St Louis, and the LA/NY/SF United Film Fests, and had a theatrical run as part of DocuWeeks.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to theatres via Cinedigm’s Docurama initiative next Tuesday, May 14: THE FRUIT HUNTERS
Yung Chang’s exploration of the world of exotic fruits and the people who love them made its world premiere at RIDM last year. It’s since gone on to screen at IDFA, Toronto Reel Asian, Palm Springs, Washington DC & Yale’s Environmental fests, Hawaii, and Global Visions, among others. The film is part of Cinedigm’s new seven-film program bringing feature documentaries to theatres weekly in up to fifteen US markets, including NYC, LA, Pasadena, Encino, San Diego, Palm Desert, Austin, San Antonio, Phoenix, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Hartford, New Haven, Ithaca, Richmond, and Helena. The films are also available for additional theatrical-on-demand screenings via Tugg. In NYC, Cinema Village will screen the doc this Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
I included the doc in my IDFA coverage here.