Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, August 26: AMERICAN CHEERLEADER
David Barba and James Pellerito’s look at the high-spirited world of competitive high school cheerleading debuts exclusively on VOD platforms today via FilmBuff. It will also screen at NYC’s All-American High School Film Fest in October.
In this fun real life version of BRING IT ON, two teams fight to make it to the National High School Cheerleading Championship – one to defend their title, the other in the hopes of finally claiming it for themselves. Barba and Pellerito’s buoyant immersion into the world of aerials, pyramids, flyers, and catchers focuses on New Jersey coach Kim Gaskin’s Burlington Township High School defending champions and Kentucky coach Sheryl Shoemaker’s Southwestern High School squad, who placed fourth the previous year. As the clock counts down to the competition – and the coveted white jackets that go to the winning team – the film balances the girls’ rigorous training with a history of the development of the activity into a legitimate sport, taking time out to profile several of the players as they cope with sickness, injury, and family tragedy.
Coming to PBS’s POV tonight, Monday, August 25: BIG MEN
Rachel Boynton’s exploration of oil exploitation in West Africa made its bow at Tribeca last year. Its fest circuit has included Locarno, Hot Docs, Bergen, Camden, Vancouver, Pan African, RIDM, CPH:DOX, True/False, Films From the South, Human Rights Watch London, and Planete+ Doc.
Filming between 2007 and 2011, Boynton reveals the story of Ghana’s unexpected entry into the oil industry and the resultant jockeying for profit and power in board rooms and in the halls of government, gaining remarkable access to the various entities involved – Dallas-based Kosmos Energy, a firm whose initial high risk investment in oil exploration in Ghana paid off; their partner, local outfit EO Group; Ghana’s national oil company, GNPC; members of the government; and, as a cautionary parallel narrative, representatives from neighboring Nigeria’s embattled oil industry, as well as the scrappy group of rebels who sabotage their pipelines in protest and for black market profit, the Deadly Underdogs. It’s to Boynton’s credit that through five years, a change in government, charges of corruption, criminal investigations by both the US and Ghanaian governments, board firings, and a worldwide financial crisis, she nevertheless retains a clarity of storytelling that raises provocative questions that have no easy answers. Wisely focusing on a handful of key players, notably EO Group’s fall guy, George Owusu, and Kosmos Energy’s CEO, Jim Musselman, the film places multinational concerns within a personal, relatable context. In so doing, she deftly demonstrates how the aspiration to become the “big men” of her title can all too easily open the floodgates to avarice and self-interest above all else.
Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, August 26: GHOST BIRD
Scott Crocker’s investigation into birding wish fulfillment made its debut at Hot Docs in 2009. It went on to screen at Indie Memphis, Rome, Hot Springs, and Big Sky, among others.
I previously wrote about the film out of Hot Docs for Indiewire, saying:
The apparent sighting of a long-thought-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker sets off Scott Crocker’s investigatory film. While the fabled bird’s re-emergence is validated by authorities, leading to Woodpeckermania in the neighboring community, corroborating evidence proves elusive, sparking a debate encompassing science, commerce, hope, and conservation. Demonstrating canny storytelling, Crocker draws the viewer into the hoopla before unpacking the debate about whether the bird has, in fact, been re-discovered – and what that means for the small Arkansas town that has been put on the birding map, as well as for the truly endangered avian species that could use even a fraction of the attention.
Coming to theatres today, Friday, August 22: K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS
Dave Ohlson’s chronicle of an attempt to summit the second highest peak in the world had its premiere at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2012. Other fest screenings have included Mountainfilm in Telluride, as well as other mountain fests in New Zealand, Poland, Flagstaff, Slovakia, New York, and Mill Valley, among others.
Ohlson follows an expedition of the dangerous mountain in the Summer of 2009, which falls on the centenary of a legendary summit attempt by noted Italian mountaineer, Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi. This gives the film reason to incorporate fascinating archival footage and stills from the 1909 trip, providing a glimpse into the sport at an earlier time, and a contrast with modern equipment and techniques, but the bulk of the film focuses on the contemporary attempt in a fairly straightforward adventure documentary style. Noting the extreme risks faced by alpinists – with a shocking 25% death rate – the film provides thrillseeking viewers with a safer, vicarious ridealong to one of the planet’s most remote and challenging spots.
Coming to theatres and VOD tomorrow, Friday, August 22: TO BE TAKEI
Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber’s profile of the beloved STAR TREK actor-turned-gay icon bowed at Sundance at the beginning of the year. It’s gone on to screen at Cleveland, River Run, Wisconsin, Hot Docs, Los Angeles Asian Pacific, DOXA, Seattle, Human Rights Watch, Revelation, Fantasia, and LGBT fests in Boston, Tel Aviv, Connecticut, San Francisco, Dayton, and Los Angeles, among others. In addition to its theatrical engagements it comes to several VOD platforms, including iTunes, Bright House, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Insight, and Time Warner Cable.
My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.
Coming to Showtime tomorrow, Thursday, August 21: SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY
Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter’s chronicle of the planning behind the annual desert gathering debuted at SXSW last year. Screenings followed in Seattle, Ashland, and SF Doc before a limited theatrical and VOD release.
I previously wrote about the film upon its release here.
Coming to NYC’s IFC Center this Friday, August 22: KINK
Christina Voros’ behind-the-scenes look at fetish pornography had its world premiere at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Seattle, Stockholm, NewFest, and Frameline, among others.
I profiled the doc before Sundance here.