New to VOD this week: ALL THE WAY THROUGH EVENING
Rohan Spong’s made its debut in NYC on World AIDS Day in December 2011. Other screenings have included Dublin Gaze and Birmingham Shout!, and special events in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, and throughout Australia, as well as a theatrical run in NYC this past December. FilmBuff made the doc available via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video earlier this week.
Since the early 1990s, quintessential downtown New Yorker Mimi Stern-Wolfe has organized annual music concerts celebrating the work of composers lost to AIDS. Featuring often unknown, unrecorded, and forgotten pieces, these tributes serve as one of the only ways for audiences to connect with a whole generation of creative, talented men often cut down in their prime. Spong profiles Stern-Wolfe as she rehearses for her latest concert, but gives ample time to performances both past and present, weaving in remembrances of some of the late musicians through family, friends, and partners. While the film has a modest look, it conveys an appropriate intimacy and heartfulness as it demonstrates one woman’s quiet, elegaic mission of remembrance.
Coming to DVD next Tuesday, March 11: THE LEGEND OF COOL “DISCO” DAN
Joseph Pattisall’s urban anthropology of Washington DC through the profile of a graffiti artist made its debut at Silver Spring’s AFI Silver Theatre last January. It went on to screen at additional special engagements in Washington DC, LA, San Diego, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Baltimore, among other cities.
In the 1980s, a Washington DC resident would be hard-pressed not to know who Cool “Disco” Dan was – his tag was ubiquitous, fueling speculation as to his identity and ability to reach so many locations. Filmmaker Pattisall tells Dan’s story – in reality a quiet African American teenager who turned to street art instead of other vices in order to make a name for himself – but, perhaps recognizing that, ultimately, there isn’s a great deal to it in a vacuum, expands his scope to contextualize Dan within the larger DC black culture of the era, and, specifically, go go music culture, a genre unique to the community based on live performances, bootleg tapes, and neighborhood crews. It’s in this greater exploration that the film proves most fascinating, detailing how this small music subgenre fell prey to racially-motivated police crackdowns, ultimately paving the way for the growth of gangs and drug warfare.
Now on VOD: MAIDENTRIP
Jillian Schlesinger’s story of a teenage girl sailing around the world had its world premiere at SXSW last year, where it won an audience award. Other fest screenings included Hot Docs, Nantucket, Full Frame, Citizen Jane, Antenna, Vancouver, Sarasota, and Camden, and the film was released theatrically in January. FilmBuff now releases the film exclusively on iTunes, with other platforms to follow later this month.
I previously wrote about the doc out of SXSW here.
Now available on VOD: GIDEON’S ARMY
Dawn Porter’s look at the daunting work of public defenders made its debut at Sundance last year, winning an editing award. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Nantucket, Miami, Full Frame, Ashland, Little Rock, AFI Docs, Martha’s Vineyard, Heartland, Human Rights Watch, and at various legal conferences. It was released on VOD by the Orchard earlier this week as part of its new Opus Docs channel.
I profiled the doc before Sundance here.
Available on DVD, VOD, and direct download: KISS THE WATER
Eric Steel’s artful elegy to a reclusive master craftswoman made its debut at Tribeca last year. It went on to screen at Vancouver, the Hamptons, Edinburgh, Big Sky, Princeton Environmental, Woods Hole, and St Louis, among others. The doc recently became available via direct download. The DVD was released in January and the film is also available on VOD via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, and Vimeo.
I included the doc in my Tribeca coverage here.
Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, March 5: PARTICLE FEVER
Filmmaker and former physicist Mark Levinson’s look at the launch of the Large Hadron Collider made its debut at Sheffield last year. It went on to screen at the New York Film Festival, Telluride, Vancouver, CPH:DOX, Bergen, Duba, Palm Springs, and True/False, among others.
The Large Hadron Collider, built over a ten-year span by CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), is the biggest particle collider in the world, a device to help particle physicists conduct experiments to better understand the workings of the universe. This massive undertaking takes center stage in Levinson’s doc, as the film follows several scientists in the lead-up and completion of the device and its primary goal in finally proving or disproving the existence of the much-written-about Higgs boson, otherwise known as the “God particle.” In showcasing what is essentially the world’s largest science experiment, Levinson smartly uses his subjects, like producer and physicist David Kaplan, to inject humor and humanity into what might otherwise initially seem too complex or special interest to resonate with a general audience. To the contrary, this well-crafted doc – edited by the acclaimed Walter Murch – proves fascinating, offering viewers up-close access to the spectacle of the LHC and the cutting edge research being conducted there, culminating in a genuinely moving climax that should prove inspirational whatever the viewer’s science background.
Coming to theatres tomorrow, Wednesday, March 5: INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR.
James Franco and Travis Mathews fiction/non-fiction hybrid re-imagining the rumored lost footage of William Friedkin’s CRUISING made its debut at Sundance last year. Since then, it has screened extensively, including berths at Berlin, Hot Docs, Rotterdam, Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta, and at scores of LGBT fests, such as Frameline, NewFest, Outfest, Mix Brasil, and Russia’s Side By Side, among many others.
My pre-Sundance profile of the film may be found here.
Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, March 4: REPORTERO
Bernardo Ruiz’s indepth look at intrepid investigative journalism in Mexico made its debut at Ambulante in 2012. It went on to screen at Full Frame, IDFA, Los Angeles, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Association fests, among others.
Against a backdrop of narco-trafficking fueled violence, Mexico has seen a coordinated silencing of the press via intimidation and even assassination. Despite the danger, journalists like Sergio Haro remain committed to exposing the truth beyond organized crime and the corrupt politicians they have bought. Ruiz follows Haro in his investigations, even as the riveting film tells the larger history of the publication he writes for, Zeta, a Tijuana-based weekly that is published across the border to escape potential censorship, and which has seen its unfortunate share of tragedy. The work that Haro and Zeta as a whole risk their safety doing serves as a powerful example of the necessity of a free press to expose and prevent horrific abuses of power.
Coming to DVD this coming Tuesday, March 4: THE IRAN JOB
Till Schauder’s look at an American basketball player on an Iranian team debuted at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. Its fest circuit included Vancouver, New Orleans, San Diego, Philadelphia, Denver, and Documentary Edge before a limited theatrical release and VOD release last year.
I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.
Coming to theatres today, Thursday, February 27: AS THE PALACES BURN
Don Argott’s band profile-turned-courtroom drama made its world premiere earlier this month at Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre. SpectiCast releases the doc worldwide for a series of largely one-night-only events tomorrow.
Originally commissioned to profile the popular metal band Lamb of God and their fans as they toured around the world, Don Argott found himself having to switch gears unexpectedly when lead singer Randy Blythe is arrested halfway through the tour upon arriving in Prague. At the band’s last concert in the Czech Republic, two years ago, a young fan died after sustaining injuries trying to stage dive, and Blythe is being held responsible, though the authorities made no effort to contact him or the band in the intervening two years. Despite posting bail, Blythe is not released from prison, and faces up to a decade in prison if found guilty, a situation which inspires Lamb of God’s legion of fans, and fellow celebrity musicians, to petition for his return to the States. In a case of being in the right place at the right time, Argott is able to use Blythe’s unfortunate predicament to craft a much more intriguing film than the one he set out to make, but one still informed by the footage he’d already shot highlighting the band’s impact on their admirers, as, at the center of the courtroom drama that develops is the spectre of one of those fans, the young man who lost his life. Interesting in its exploration of an initially Kafka-esque foreign justice system, and successful in making the viewer root for Blythe, the circumstances of the change in focus make it difficult for Argott to really individuate the band members or to more fully develop Blythe, beyond establishing that the once out-of-control singer has been clean and sober for some time. Still, it remains an intriguing enough stranger than fiction story that is able to resonate beyond the band’s core fanbase.