Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 17: BIDDER 70
Beth and George Gage’s portrait of the consequences of civil disobedience had its world premiere at the 2012 Mountainfilm in Telluride, winning an award. It went on to screen at numerous festivals, including Cleveland, Human Rights Watch, Washington DC Environmental, Mill Valley, and Traverse City, picking up an award at the latter as well.
During the end of the Bush administration, a shady federal auction threatened thousands of acres of Utah wilderness with destructive drilling in the name of fossil fuels. Concerned about the lack of transparency to the process, college student Tim DeChristopher attended, and, on the spur of the moment, decided to begin bidding for the land, winning 22,000 acres at the cost of nearly $2 million – with no intention of drilling or ability to pay. He did this as a conscious act of civil disobedience, disrupting a process he believed to be unjust, and willing to face the consequences. The Gages’ film quickly relates this already well-publicized background and then moves on to follow DeChristopher as he becomes the catalyst for a grassroots climate justice movement, and as he waits for his day in court after numerous postponements. While the former serves as a hopeful development, scenes of scrappy protest sign painting and demonstrations by DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising activist group often feel like filler and take on a cheesy edge with some poor music choices. More compelling are the pre-trial developments about the illegality of the auction and comments from his attorney about potential defense strategy, but these are given shortshrift. Still, sharing DeChristopher’s story is really the point of his act of disruption – as his defense attorney reminds us, the point of civil disobedience is to force others to examine their own conscience and to inspire change, even at the cost of one’s own personal liberty – and, to that extent, the Gages’ film delivers.
Coming to HBO this Monday, May 20: INSIDE OUT: THE PEOPLE’S ART PROJECT
Alastair Siddons exploration of a worldwide participatory art project just made its world premiere at Tribeca last month. It makes its cable broadcast premiere via HBO Documentaries.
I included the doc in my Tribeca roundup here.
This post wraps up my coverage of Tribeca with a look at eight docs from the festival’s Spotlight section, a programming strand meant to straddle indie and mainstream sensibilities. I should note that Spotlight included two additional docs that I didn’t get a chance to watch – GASLAND PART II and IN GOD WE TRUST – and a couple whose subject matter just didn’t pique my interest enough to watch – MCCONKEY and THE MOTIVATION. Continue reading
Now on VOD: TO MAKE A FARM
Steve Suderman’s profile of young Canadian farmers debuted at Vancouver in 2011, where it was one of the top ten audience favorites. It went on to screen at Big Sky, Washington DC Environmental, Minneapolis St Paul, Shanghai, Princeton Environmental, and several other environmental and food-related events. FilmBuff released the film on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, XBOX, nook, Cinemanow, and Vudu yesterday.
Coming from a farm background himself, Suderman narrates this nicely-shot look at three sets of small-scale farmers in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada – two couples, Tarrah and Nathan and Leslie and Jeff, and one-man-band Wes. Following them over the course of a year as they set up their farms, plant and harvest their crops, and tend to their animals, the engaging film gives viewers a clear sense of the challenges of their endeavor – physically, emotionally, and economically. Being Canadian, the subjects are affable without being naive, candidly expressing the sometimes utopian sentiments that led them to pursue farming, but also honest enough about how hard it is to make it work. They make the point that they’re largely starting from scratch – even if they’ve studied organic farming, they’re at a disadvantage compared to past farmers who drew on generational knowledge that has in many ways been lost with the move to large-scale industrial farming. For his part, director Suderman comments on this transformation of agriculture, but his occasional anti-industrial narration feels like an ill-fit with the more successful observational footage of the farmers going about their various chores.
Continuing my belated roundup of last month’s Tribeca Film Festival, this post covers the fest’s high profile Gala slots and the catch-all Special Screenings, which includes several of the ESPN Sports Film Festival sidebar. One additional post will follow later this week covering the Spotlight section. Continue reading
Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, May 14: BEWARE OF MR BAKER
Jay Bulger’s profile of drummer Ginger Baker debuted at SXSW last year, picking up the Best Documentary Award. Its fest circuit included Hot Docs, Seattle, Silverdocs, and London, among others, as well as a limited theatrical and VOD release.
I included the doc in my SXSW coverage here.
Coming to DVD and VOD today, Tuesday, May 14: OF TWO MINDS
Doug Blush and Lisa Klein’s look at bipolar disorder premiered at Cleveland last year. It has also screened at Newport Beach, Napa Valley, St Louis, and the LA/NY/SF United Film Fests, and had a theatrical run as part of DocuWeeks.
I previously wrote about the doc here.