Coming to theatres this Friday, April 25: FOR NO GOOD REASON
Charlie Paul’s profile of Gonzo British artist Ralph Steadman premiered at Toronto last year. Its fest circuit has included BFI London, Biografilm, Palm Springs, Florida, Brisbane, CPH:DOX, Minneapolis St Paul, and Dallas, among others.
I included the doc in my Toronto coverage here.
Now on DVD: BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL
Mark Mori’s profile of the life and career of the cult pin-up queen made its debut at the Viva Las Vegas Film Festival in 2012. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, New Orleans, CineKink, LA Indie, Hot Springs Doc, and Atlanta, among other events.
Gaining access to Page before her death in 2008, Mori smartly structures his tribute to the 1950s model around her own retelling of her life story, an often gleeful look back that proves infectious to the audience. Having retired in her early thirties, she doesn’t appear on camera, preferring to allow people to remember her in her heyday – a dark-haired beauty with bangs and a curvy physique with a sense of uninhibitedness. Mori illustrates her biography with a copious amount of archival photos and films featuring Page in her prime, along with the occasional comment from admirers or collaborators, including Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner, photographer Bunny Yeager, and artist Greg Theakston, whose fanzine, The Betty Pages, contributed to the resurgence in her popularity in the 1980s.
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, April 22: THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI
Bill Siegel’s chronicle of the Greatest’s conscientious objection over Vietnam premiered a year ago at Tribeca. It went on to screen at Seattle, Traverse City, San Francisco Jewish, Melbourne, and Montclair, among many others.
I previously wrote about the doc out of Tribeca here.
Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, April 22: LA MAISON DE LA RADIO
Nicolas Philibert’s portrait of a cultural institution made its debut at Berlin last year. It went on to screen at Telluride, Cinema du Reel, Planete+ Doc, BFI London, Vancouver, Stockholm, CPH:DOX, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, among others, before enjoying a limited theatrical release.
Philibert’s film offers a kaleidoscopic day in the life of Radio France, situated in the building known by the familiar nickname signaled in the title. As is typical of his work, the director completely eschews expository cards or voiceover, instead immersing the viewer in the goings on of the public radio station – equivalent in many ways to America’s NPR – from news flashes and nautical reports to musical interludes and arts and culture interviews. Momentarily visiting on-air studios and staffers at their desks or on their beat – such as a report about the Tour de France filed from the back of a speeding moped – the effect is never meant to be comprehensive, but rather evocative of the range of the station’s programming, and what this eclecticism signifies about the importance of culture and information within France. Like tuning the dial achronally between different programs within the same station, Philibert’s observational approach washes over the audience rather than telling them a straightforward story – the lack of specific context in a handful of sequences may leave some viewers scratching their heads, but as a verité portrait of a place, it’s effective in its simplicity.
Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens today, Monday, April 21: MUSCLE SHOALS
Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s look back at the influence of the Alabama sound debuted last year at Sundance. It went on to screen at SXSW, Nantucket, Atlantic, Melbourne, Seattle, Maui, Nashville, and Hot Docs, where it won an Audience Award.
My pre-Sundance profile of the film may be found here.
Coming to NYC’s Quad Cinema today, Friday, April 18: CESAR’S LAST FAST
Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee’s tribute to Cesar Chavez’s life and mission had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Additional berths have included Atlanta, Chicago Latino, San Diego Latino, Minneapolis St Paul, and the upcoming San Francisco, DOXA, and new Ambulante California fests.
My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.
Coming to the IFC Center today, Friday, April 18: MANAKAMANA
Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s mesmerizing document of pilgrimage debuted at Locarno last Summer. It’s gone on to play at Toronto, New York, DocLisboa, AFI Fest, RIDM, CPH:DOX, Rotterdam, DocPoint, True/False, and Hong Kong, among many others.
I previously wrote about the doc out of Toronto here.
Out on VOD this week: GOD LOVES UGANDA
Roger Ross Williams’ investigation of the evangelical influence on anti-gay African laws had its world premiere at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Nantucket, New Orleans, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Cleveland, AFI Docs, Hamptons, BAMcinemaFest, and Outfest, among many others.
I profiled the doc before Sundance here.
Newly re-released on DVD this week: PICTURE OF LIGHT
Peter Mettler’s meditation on the Northern Lights made its debut in 1994. Its impressive roster of festival appearances includes Sundance, Toronto, Rotterdam, Locarno, Yamagata, Hot Docs, Chicago, and San Francisco. First Run Features re-releases the DVD simultaneously with Mettler’s latest doc, THE END OF TIME.
Over the course of two trips to the Canadian Arctic, Mettler and his team attempt to capture the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis on celluloid, contending with the extreme weather conditions and meeting a number of quirky local characters along the way. The latter lend the film most of its appeal, such as the oddball hotel owner who shoots a hole in the wall of one of his rooms to encourage the formation of snow drifts inside the building. That’s not to say the footage of the Northern Lights isn’t impressive – Mettler presents them in time-lapse, a symphony of light, color, and movement – but, as signaled by its title, the film is less about the actual celestial display, and more about questions around photographing them. As with his new film, Mettler here employs a mix of nonfiction approaches, though privileges the essay form as he contemplates the impact of media and technology on our active engagement with the world and its wonders – musings which take on even greater significance in our ultra-connected, social media-focused present.
Coming to theatres and VOD this Friday, April 18: THE FINAL MEMBER
Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math’s playful look at the world’s only penis museum made its debut at Hot Docs in 2012. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Seattle, Silverdocs, Fantastic Fest, Denver, and Florida, among others.
I included the doc in my Hot Docs coverage here.