Coming to HBO this coming Monday, May 4: KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
Brett Morgen’s intimate biography of the late music icon debuted at Sundance in January. Other festival appearances have included Berlin, Miami, Dublin, Full Frame, and Hot Docs.
My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.
Coming to PBS’s Voces series tonight, Friday, May 1: EL POETA
Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway’s look at the consequences of Mexico’s War on Drugs makes its debut nationwide as part of Latino Public Broadcasting’s series.
In 2011, five years into Mexico’s US-backed War on Drugs, which critics charge with exacerbating violence and resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, Juan, the 24-year-old son of acclaimed national poet Javier Sicilia, was found murdered, together with six of his friends, the victims of cartels. While his story sadly was not unique, his status as the son of a beloved author captured the attention of the media and the general public. Where, previously, victims were tacitly assumed to be somehow responsible for their own deaths, criminals or otherwise implicated in illicit activities, Javier’s son Juan emerged as an innocent, becoming a flashpoint for others who lost loved ones to speak out and be counted, gaining confidence, power, and protection en masse. Duane de la Vega and Galloway focus on this incident, and Javier’s response, to explore the devastation wrought by an ill-thought out drug policy and the grassroots efforts to finally call for its end. Javier, who declares he will no longer write poetry, assumes a quiet dignity as he emerges as an unlikely activist, mobilizing thousands to stand with him, even if his actions come up short against entrenched governments on both sides of the border unwilling to admit culpability.
Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, April 29: IRIS
The late Al Maysles’ portrait of a NYC style maven made its debut at the New York Film Festival last Fall. It has since screened at the Hamptons, San Francisco, Tallinn Black Nights, Palm Springs, Portland, Miami, Ashland, Full Frame, Sarasota, Belfast, and IFF Boston, among others.
Documentary legend Maysles crafts a buoyant celebration of individuality and inspiration in his portrait of flamboyant nonagenarian fashion doyenne Iris Apfel. Together with her husband Carl, Iris ran the artisanal textile company Old World Weavers from 1950 until 1992, which established her as a mainstay within New York’s fashion industry. Known for her personal style, as reflected by her trademark oversized glasses, bold prints, and chunky costume jewelry, she became an unlikely senior fashion sensation when she was recognized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute with an unexpectedly popular exhibition in 2005. Maysles charming film is less concerned with her past, however, and instead follows the charismatic woman as she attends to her surprisingly active public schedule and hunt for inspiration, with quieter moments revealing a warm companionship with Carl, who becomes a centenarian during the course of the shoot.
Coming to theatres and VOD today, Wednesday, April 29: SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD
George Hencken’s look back at one of the seminal bands of the 1980s debuted at SXSW last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Rome, Sheffield, CPH:DOX, BAFICI, and In-Edit, among others.
I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
In George Hencken’s impressively constructed portrait, Spandau Ballet, one of the bands that defined the 1980s, tell their own story, set against a backdrop of evocative period footage, including never-before-seen home movies. Bandmates reveal how a group of working-class Brits came to conquer music and influence fashion around the world, only to break up at the end of the decade. In the wake of the acrimonious legal battle that followed, all hope for reconciliation seemed lost, but nearly two decades later, fans finally got their wish.
Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, April 28: ABOVE AND BEYOND
Roberta Grossman’s exploration of the origins of the Israeli Air Force premiered at Jerusalem last year. Other fest berths have included DOC NYC, Palm Springs, Heartland, and Jewish fests in San Francisco, Toronto, Boston, Nashville, Hong Kong, and Vancouver. The Orchard now makes the film available on iTunes and other VOD platforms.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, April 28: IN COUNTRY
Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s portrait of Vietnam War re-enactors made its world premiere at Full Frame last year. Other fest screenings included DOC NYC, Hot Docs, CPH:DOX, and Camden before its theatrical release earlier this month. Bond/360 now makes the film available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU, as well as from the film’s website.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to PBS’s America Reframed series tonight, Tuesday, April 28: PERFECT STRANGERS
Jan Krawitz’s made its bow at the San Francisco DocFest in 2013. Other festival screenings have included Big Sky, Sebastopol Doc, Southern Circuit, Thin Line, Hot Springs, United Nations Association, and Heartland.
After Ellie, a free-spirited massage therapist, meets a young woman in need of a kidney transplant, she becomes motivated to learn more about the process, and writes a research paper for her community college class about the dire need for kidney donations in the country. Inspired, she joins a program called Matching Donors, and offers to donate one of her kidneys to someone in need – a rare act as a stranger, as the majority of transplants are from either deceased donors or family members. When Ellie finds herself paired with Kathy, a woman on dialysis who is desperate for a new kidney, she is certain that her donation will save her, only to face devastating news. More than a simple advocacy film alerting viewers to the need for organ donors, Krawitz explores larger issues around compassion and altruism. While the film is fairly pedestrian on a technical level, it benefits enormously from its captivating characters.