New to VOD this week: EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL
Darius Clark Monroe’s attempt to seek redemption for past mistakes debuted at SXSW last year. It went on to screen at New Orleans, Full Frame, Dallas, Los Angeles, BlackStar, and BAMcinemaFest, among others. It now comes to iTunes with the assistance of the Sundance Institute’s #ArtistServices program.
I previously wrote about the film upon its theatrical release here.
Coming to PBS’s America ReFramed this coming Tuesday, January 27: GAUCHO DEL NORTE
Sofian Khan and Andres Caballero’s study of Latin American shepherds in Idaho has its world premiere on PBS. Its first festival screening will follow next month at Big Sky.
A study in economic disparity in microcosm, Khan and Caballero’s observational portrait focuses on the personal sacrifices made by two shepherd guest workers, one from Chile, the other from Peru, as they seek better economic opportunities in the United States. As the film begins, Chilean Eraldo prepares to leave his Patagonian home to take on a three-year contract in Idaho to earn money for his children’s education, recognizing, with anxiety, that he may not see his aged parents again. In Salt Lake City UT, a younger worker, Jhonny, arrives with other migrants, sharing the same motivation for the family he left behind in Peru. Their labor – tending sheep, protecting them from predators – used to be done by Native American workers, but has in recent decades been the province of Latin Americans. With sensitivity, and aided by impressive lensing, Khan and Caballero capture the dilemma of family men forced to separate from their loved ones due to forces beyond their control. Isolated aside from their animal companions, and preoccupied with thoughts of family faraway, will each man be able to withstand the pressure?
New to VOD this week: SWEET DREAMS
Rob and Lisa Fruchtman’s look at a industrious group of Rwandan women made its debut at Silverdocs in 2012. Screenings followed at DOC NYC, Mill Valley, IDFA, Margaret Mead, DocPoint, Big Sky, Thessaloniki Doc, Ashland, and DOXA, among others. It now comes to VOD with the assistance of the Sundance Institute’s #ArtistServices program.
I previously wrote about the film out of Thessaloniki Doc here.
Coming to the JCC in Manhattan’s CineMatters series next Tuesday, January 27 and to theatres next Friday, January 30: ABOVE AND BEYOND
Roberta Grossman’s chronicle of the secret history of the Israeli Air Force made its debut at Jerusalem last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Palm Springs, Sedona, Heartland, and at Jewish fests in San Francisco, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Boston, Nashville, Hong Kong, Cleveland, and Vancouver, among several others.
The foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 was met with immediate anxiety. As the countdown to the British withdrawal from Palestine commenced, so too did the preparation for invasion from the fledgling, would-be nation’s neighboring Arab countries. In the absence of a military infrastructure – or trained pilots – Jewish leaders sought planes, ammunitions, and the expertise of war-tested veterans in the US, Canada, South Africa, and elsewhere. This unlikely, motley crew, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, formed a skeletal, but surprisingly effective, air squadron that, as argued in Grossman’s film, meant all the difference in ensuring the survival of the Zionist dream of statehood. A project initiated by producer Nancy Spielberg, the well-crafted film tracks down survivors to recount the untold and often electrifying story of the 101 squadron – so named as to suggest that Israel actually had 100 other squadrons at the ready – and the sacrifices they made to secretly fight for the Jewish people, risking citizenship in defiance of America’s Neutrality Act, and potential death in the sky.
New to VOD this week: CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO
Robert Berger and Karlyn Michelson’s experimental performance hybrid doc debuted at Sundance in 2013. It also went on to screen at the New York Film Festival, DocPoint, AFI Fest, CPH:DOX, and Hamptons, among others. It now comes to iTunes with the assistance of the Sundance Institute’s #ArtistServices program, with more VOD platforms to follow.
My pre-Sundance profile of the film may be found here.
Coming to DVD/VOD next Tuesday, January 27: THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS
Mami Sunada’s exploration of the workings of a legendary animation studio premiered in Japanese theatres last year. It has screened at Toronto, DOC NYC, San Sebastian, Sydney, Rio, St Louis, and Melbourne, among others, and enjoyed a limited theatrical release this Winter.
I previously wrote about the doc here.
Coming to theatres and VOD tomorrow, Friday, January 23: MANNY
Ryan Moore and Leon Gast’s profile of an unlikely boxing champion bowed at SXSW last year. Other screenings include Toronto’s Reel Asian and Little Rock.
First-time filmmaker Moore benefits from enlisting veteran helmer Gast, no stranger to boxing docs thanks to his Oscar-winning WHEN WE WERE KINGS, to tell the story of champion Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino man who used the sport to climb out of lifelong poverty and onto the world stage. His is a rags-to-riches, Cinderella story, appealing on the surface as archival footage and much too serious narration shows his string of victories, but becomes an inadvertent parody of celebrity as Pacquiao is shown trying earnestly to conquer the worlds of both music stardom and politics, all while still devoting the bulk of his time to the ring. Unfortunately the film doesn’t particularly seem interested in interrogating the intriguing cost or consequences of fame beyond brief suggestions of extramarital trysts or gambling problems, preferring instead to offer up a hagiographic portrait, complete with admiring comments from recognizable admirers like Mark Walhberg and Jeremy Piven. As a result, while Moore and Gast might succeed in introducing an appealing sports figure with a familiar, inspirational backstory to the uninitiated, there’s not much beyond that to make their portrait particularly memorable.