New on VOD this week: RED LINES
Andrea Kalin and Oliver Lukacs’ experiential look at the conflict in Syria had its world premiere at Hot Docs this Spring. Additional screenings followed in Oslo and Washington DC. FilmBuff now releases the doc across VOD platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vimeo, Vudu, Google Play, Blinkbox, XBOX Video, and Sony PlayStation, with an Arabic version also forthcoming on Vimeo On Demand.
Kalin and Lukacs ground the complexity of the current crisis in Syria through their subjects, two inspiring young activists who marshall modern technology and savvy dealmaking to bring what aid they can to their nation while the international community waits for the titular last straw to be broken before intervention is inevitable. Initially working independently, Razan, the university-educated socialite daughter of a wealthy family, and Mouaz, Syrian-born but raised in America and based in Washington DC, partner together to implement a daring plan that they hope will lay the groundwork for a free Syria. Identifying a potential leader, they work to create a democratically-run village free from Bashar al-Assad’s control, with a civilian police force keeping things in check, to provide an example that can be replicated village by village before the brutal regime is able to extinguish all hope. The filmmakers follow these efforts, as well as their other actions to smuggle in supplies and to lobby for international assistance, providing a visceral sense of the life-threatening risks these individuals are willing to take, even as the world stands by.
Coming to theatres this Friday, August 1: RICH HILL
Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo’s vibrant portrait of impoverished life had its debut earlier this year at Sundance, where it won the US Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Screenings followed at Nantucket, True/False, Dallas, Cleveland, Wisconsin, Sarasota, and Ashland, among others.
I profiled the doc before Sundance here.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 29: IN NO GREAT HURRY: 13 LESSONS IN LIFE WITH SAUL LEITER
Tomas Leach’s portrait of a seminal figure in American photography debuted in 2012 and has screened at film and photography events including DOC NYC, Thin Line, Salem, Open City, SANFIC, and Bath. It enjoyed a limited theatrical release at the beginning of the year.
I previously wrote about the doc upon its release here.
Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, July 29: FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s chronicle of the discovery of the work of the previously unknown photographer made its debut at Toronto last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, New Orleans, Berlin, Palm Springs, and Boulder, before its very successful theatrical release.
I previously wrote about the doc out of Toronto here.
Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, July 28: LOVE CHILD
Valerie Veatch’s look at a shocking case of parental negligence in South Korea had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Other fest screenings have included Provincetown, Waterfront, and JeonJu, among others.
My pre-Sundance profile of the film may be found here.
Coming to PBS’s POV tonight, Monday, July 28: FALLEN CITY
Qi Zhao’s exploration of the aftermath of a natural disaster had its premiere at IDFA in 2012. It went on to have its North American debut at Sundance, and also screened at DOXA, Belfast, Brisbane, LA Asian Pacific, and Boulder, among others.
I previously profiled the doc prior to Sundance here.
Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 25: THE KILL TEAM
Dan Krauss’ investigation into a disturbing case of soldier criminality premiered at Tribeca last year, winning a jury prize. It went on to screen at AFI Docs, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Little Rock, Camden, Vancouver, London, Warsaw, Zagreb, DOK Leipzig, Abu Dhabi, Big Sky, Cucalorus, and Denver, among several others.
I included the film in my AFI Docs coverage here.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 22: NEXT GOAL WINS
Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s uplifting chronicle of the worst soccer team in the world debuted at Tribeca this Spring. It’s gone on to screen at Sydney, Sedona, Bermuda Docs, San Diego Latino, and various soccer-focused film events.
When the nondescript American Samoa soccer team lost to Australia by a devastating score of 31-0, they received the ignominious distinction of ranking lowest of all teams attempting to qualify for the World Cup in 2001. Over the next decade, the team continues its losing streak, never winning an official match – until non-nonsense Dutch coach Thomas Rongen arrives to prepare the ragtag team for the 2014 qualifier. Brett and Jamison follow the former award-winning coach as he gets his men – and one refreshingly embraced fa’afaine third gender player – into shape with discipline. Far more than a simple sports doc, this is an engaging underdog story, as the team seeks redemption on the world stage, even luring their losingest goalie back from Seattle to exorcise those 31 goals. Beyond this, the film also functions as a portrait of American Samoa in microcosm, from reflections on the lack of economic opportunities, leading many youth to enlist in the US military, to its status as an American territory, and how soccer serves as a way for the amateur players to represent pride in their culture internationally.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 22: SMALL SMALL THING
Jessica Vale’s exploration of systemic violence against children in Liberia premiered at Palm Beach last year. Other festival screenings have included Dallas, Bronze Lens, Encounters, Warsaw, Baghdad, Toronto Black, LA Pan African, and Egypt’s Luxor fest.
I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.
Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, July 21: THE NEWBURGH STING
Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s exposé of FBI entrapment had its world premiere at Tribeca this Spring. Its fest circuit also includes AFI Docs and the upcoming Traverse City and Woods Hole fests.
May 2009 saw the very public arrest on charges of a terrorist conspiracy of four Black Muslim men from my hometown of Newburgh NY, an economically-depressed city on the Hudson River, 60 miles north of NYC. Though touted in the media by officials as a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” directors Davis and Heilbroner instead present a damning indictment of the methods used by the FBI through their own secretly-recorded footage, and argue, like the Newburgh Four’s unsuccessful defense counsel, that this was a clear case of entrapment. Where the government presented a cautionary (and media-friendly) tale of a homegrown terrorist cell who were set to bomb a synagogue and destroy military planes, and a corresponding celebration of the intrepid work of law enforcement officials to foil their dastardly plot, the hidden camera of the FBI’s shady informant, Pakistani Shahed Hussain, tells a much different story – one of high-pressure tactics involving outrageous sums of money, possible double-dealing, and general ineptitude that would have made carrying out any plan unlikely. While there’s no denying that greed, poor decision-making, and, for one accomplice, cognitive difficulties, conspired to draw four men into what they recognized would be an illegal act, the filmmakers convincingly argue that were it not for the government’s willful seduction of easy, vulnerable targets and the FBI’s orchestration and implementation of every facet of the plot, there would never have been a cell to begin with. The result is a frightening account of the far-reaching consequences of the war on terror and of the questionable means employed by those with incentive to keep America in a state of heightened alert, even if it has to be artificially manufactured.