national galleryComing to PBS this Friday, August 21: NATIONAL GALLERY

Frederick Wiseman’s tour of the London institution made its bow at Cannes last year. Other fest screenings included Toronto, NYFF, Deauville, Biografilm, London, Chicago, Vancouver, Sydney, and Busan, among others.

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

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evocateur-1Coming to CNN tomorrow, Thursday, August 20: ÉVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR MOVIE

Daniel Miller, Seth Kramer, and Jeremy Newberger’s re-examination of the career of the controversial talk show host made its bow at Tribeca in 2012. Festival play followed at IDFA, Montclair, TromaDance, and Denver, among other fests.

I previously wrote about the doc out of Tribeca here.

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sound chaosComing to VOD today, Tuesday, August 18: SOUND AND CHAOS: THE STORY OF BC STUDIO

Ryan Douglass and Sara Leavitt’s surprising history of a nondescript Brooklyn music studio debuted in the Netherlands last Summer. In addition to one-off engagements around Europe and the US, the doc has screened at Sound Unseen, Noise Pop, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Sound + Vision. It now comes to iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, and more via FilmBuff.

Revealing the underground music history of a singular place, Douglass and Leavitt explore Martin Bisi’s titular recording studio, which has been in operation since the 1970s and has hosted a diverse range of musicians, from Brian Eno and Debbie Harry to Sonic Youth and Africa Bambaataa. As much a look back at a changing New York City as it is about its vibrant music culture, this modest film’s interviewees paint a vivid picture of a pre-gentrified Brooklyn full of gangs and stray dogs, and the kind of ramshackle old industrial buildings that provided Bisi’s studio with its unique sound.

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gigerComing to VOD today, Tuesday, August 18: DARK STAR: HR GIGER’S WORLD

Belinda Sallin’s profile of the celebrated popular artist had its world premiere at Zurich last year. It has also screened at Hong Kong, BAFICI, and Sitges, among others.

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

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lambert and stampComing to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18: LAMBERT AND STAMP

James D Cooper’s profile of the would-be filmmakers who discovered The Who made its world premiere at Sundance last year. Other fest appearances included Sundance London, Sarasota, Belfast, Knoxville, Whistler, and Chattanooga, among others.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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neulandComing to PBS’s POV today, Monday, August 17: NEULAND

Anna Thommen’s look at the process of cultural integration debut at Zurich in 2013. Other fests have included Berlin, DOK.fest Munich, and DocPoint, among others.

Over the course of two years, Thommen’s sharply observed verité film profiles several students in one of the special classes mandated by the Swiss government for asylum seekers to facilitate integration within the larger society, a program that simultaneously provides a leg up to newcomers while insisting on the preservation of Swiss culture and languages in the face of rising immigration. Wisely focused on just three adolescent students, Ehsanullah from Afghanistan and siblings Nazlije and Ismail from Serbia, and their frank teacher/de facto father figure, Mr Zingg, the film details the youths’ challenging backgrounds, the factors that led them to migrate, their struggles with language, and balancing sometimes unattainable aspirations for careers and wealth with pragmatism, crafting a complex portrait of immigration, assimilation, and Swiss national identity.

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In Theatres: ROSENWALD

rosenwaldComing to theatres today, Friday, August 14: ROSENWALD

Aviva Kempner’s portrait of an unsung philanthropist made its world premiere at the Washington DC Jewish Film Festival earlier this year. Other screenings have included Nashville and the Toronto and San Francisco Jewish fests, as well as special events such as the NAACP National Convention.

In her latest doc, Kempner continues to explore the rich history of unheralded or under-recognized Jewish-American figures following THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG and YOO-HOO, MRS GOLDBERG by taking on the work and legacy of Julius Rosenwald, a midwestern businessman who was the head of Sears and devoted his philanthropical efforts to supporting the African-American community in the early 1900s. Impressed with Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, and seeing the need for educational opportunities for African Americans, particularly in the Jim Crow South, he partnered with Washington to build more than 5300 schools via challenge grants that encouraged the cooperation between local African American and white communities, conquering fear with familiarity. These efforts proved so successful, he used them for a campaign to provide black YMCAs to communities around the US, and to build housing for African Americans who moved North in the Great Migration. Kempner recounts Rosenwald’s life and accomplishments, exploring how his Jewish faith, and the concept of tikkun olam – repairing the world, influenced his actions, while a range of notable African American figures – from civil rights leaders Justin Bond and John Lewis, theatre producer George C Wolfe, and the late Maya Angelou – reflect on the opportunities afforded them due to their enrollment in Rosenwald schools. Though hampered here by a too-conventional telling heavy in talking heads and repetitive interviews, Rosenwald makes for a compelling figure and a welcome reminder of the power of generosity.

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