On VOD: DICK: THE DOCUMENTARY

dickComing to VOD tomorrow, Friday, September 12: DICK: THE DOCUMENTARY

Brian Fender’s exploration of men’s relationships to their penises debuted at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival last year. IndiePix now releases the doc on VOD, with a DVD release planned for next year.

Placing an ad on Craigslist back in 2008, Fender solicited the participation of anonymous male subjects willing to expose their bodies for his camera. Using a simple, utilitarian camera set-up, framing the men from the neck down, the director appears as an offscreen interlocutor, posing a range of questions to engage them on the topic of their dicks and how they relate to them. Representing a cross-section of ages, races, sizes, and sexualities, the men take the opportunity afforded by anonymity and curiosity to open up about self-perception, early sexual experiences, and traumas, from sexual abuse to small penis jokes to prostate cancer. Despite clocking in at barely over 45 minutes, the project feels a bit overlong – even if the men are engaging, some anecdotes are excessive, and the basic set-up wears thin after awhile. That said, while there have been other documentaries that have explored the topic, this is still generally unexplored terrain, at least in comparison to media and writing that features women considering their own bodies, so Fender’s film is a welcome attempt to focus on an unnecessarily taboo topic.

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On TV: REBUILDING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER

Rebuilding-the-World-Trace-Center-Key-Image-580x300Coming to the History Channel tomorrow, Thursday, September 11: REBUILDING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER

Marcus Robinson’s chronicle of rebirth from the perspective of construction workers made its debut on Britain’s Channel 4 last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, and now screens on the anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
As construction began on Ground Zero, with new towers being raised in a symbolic rebirth from 9/11, artist and filmmaker Marcus Robinson documented the entire process. Stunning time-lapse photography, paintings, drawings and, most affectingly, interviews with the men and women working on the site, capture both the physical enormity of the six-year task and the emotional impact the undertaking has on the workers, and, by extension, New York as a whole.

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In Theatres: BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS GRAVITY

born to flyComing to NYC’s Film Forum today, Wednesday, September 10: BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB VS GRAVITY

Catherine Gund’s portrait of a pioneering pop action choreographer debuted at SXSW this year. It went on to screen at Cleveland, Full Frame, MountainFilm, Seattle, Sydney, Brooklyn, Sheffield, Frameline, and deadCENTER, among others.

Elizabeth Streb has developed philosophy of movement over decades, putting it into gloriously experimental practice in her Brooklyn-based Streb Extreme Action Company. The film delves into the self-assured taskmaster’s past and present, recounting the evolution of the MacArthur genius’ unusual synthesis of acrobatics, dance, and circus performance even as she prepares her troupe for their most impressive spectacle yet – performing death-defying actions on and off famed London landmarks as part of the 2012 Olympics. Gund deftly captures a palpable sense of what Streb subjects her performers – and herself – to, flinging themselves against objects and leaping off of whirling machinery, often risking serious injury. Though lacking a driving conflict or transformative arc, the film nevertheless offers a compelling profile of a self-assured, successful artist unwilling to stop pushing herself from attempting the impossible.

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On DVD: I’M A PORN STAR

porn starNewly available on DVD this week: I’M A PORN STAR

Charlie David’s look at a handful of men making a living in gay porn debuted at Vancouver’s Out on Screen last year. It’s screened at LGBT fests around the world, including Belgrade, New Zealand, Durban, Rio, Calgary, Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Mix Mexico, and Rochester’s ImageOut.

David, a personable Canadian actor/filmmaker known within gay film circles for projects like the TV series DANTE’S COVE and the film JUDAS KISS, takes a mildly graphic look behind the scenes of gay porn in this apparent webseries-turned-feature. Perhaps to fill out the feature length, David adds an extended introduction, breathlessly narrating an archivally-aided and not uninteresting condensed history of gay porn from the birth of film to the present day, a portion of the film that is stylistically completely different from the rest of the project. Once that’s dispensed with, he cuts together very conventionally shot profiles of four likeable working performers in gay porn – three who identify as straight (Johnny Rapid, Colby Jansen, and Rocco Reed) and one as gay (Brent Everett) – with additional commentary from a straight director and other crew. Young father Johnny describes his polar opposite approach to sex with men vs women; Colby reveals how he fell in love with and married a MTF performer, and his conflicting feelings around his wife having bottom surgery; Rocco, who also does straight porn, contrasts the opportunities for men in that realm; and Brent recounts the supportive role played by his parents and husband in his career. Talking heads dominate, as does incessant, distracting music, and frenetic editing that often leads to repetition in the interviews. Despite some occasionally interesting and refreshing soundbites from the stars about their fluid approach to sexuality, these technical deficiencies unfortunately compromise the doc as a whole.

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On TV: THE LULU SESSIONS

luluComing to PBS’s America ReFramed series tonight, Tuesday, September 9: THE LULU SESSIONS

S Casper Wong’s personal record of her ex-lover’s struggle with breast cancer debuted at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2011. It played a number of LGBT fests, including Boston, Inside Out, Austin, Seattle, Mix Copenhagen, Q Doc, and Vancouver, and Asian fests in NYC, Washington DC, and San Diego, among others.

Wong agrees to start filming LuLu from the moment that her friend calls to find out the results of a lump biopsy. Following her intermittently from treatment through death, Wong constructs a sometimes intriguing, non-chronological portrait of the foul-mouthed LuLu – ironically, we eventually find out, a cancer researcher – and of their complicated connection. Supporting her when LuLu’s apparently insane sisters reject her, theirs is a complex, enmeshed relationship that has taken on several permutations – mentor, lover, and friend – though neither is this as surprising to the viewer as it seems Wong thinks it will be, nor does it always translate into the most gripping footage. Add Wong’s excessive narration, and it makes for an uneven project, and one largely buoyed by the appealing LuLu.

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On DVD: THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR

galapagos affairComing to DVD today, Tuesday, September 9: THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN

Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller’s chronicle of a bizarre 1930s murder mystery bowed at Telluride last year. It went on to screen at the Hamptons, Berlin, New Orleans filmOrama, Palm Springs, and Bermuda, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.

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On DVD: WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?

dayaniComing to DVD today, Tuesday, September 9: WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?

Marc Silver’s intimate look at immigration debuted at Sundance last year, winning the World Cinema Documentary Cinematography Award. Its festival circuit also included Hot Docs, San Sebastian, San Diego Latino, Abu Dhabi, Zurich, Rome, Miami, and the New York Film Festival, among others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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