On VOD: BEHEMOTH

behemoths_stillComing to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 30:
BEHEMOTH

Director:
Zhao Liang

Premiere:
Venice 2015

Select Festivals:
IDFA, New Directors/New Films, Dubai, True/False, DocAviv, Moscow, Sheffield, Melbourne, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Istanbul

About:
A poetic meditation on the environmental impact of China’s rapid economic development.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

On TV: FARMER/VETERAN

Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, May 29:
FARMER/VETERAN

Directors:
Alix Blair and Jeremy M Lange

Premiere:
Dallas 2016

Select Festivals:
New Orleans, Big Sky Doc, Cucalorus, Sidewalk, Hot Springs Doc, Brooklyn

About:
An Iraq War veteran finds solace in farming more than from the scores of meds he is prescribed.

Alex is a 32 year old retired US Army Staff Sergeant suffering from PTSD who has turned to farming a small plot of land with his fiancee and eventual wife, Jessica. Shaken after three tours of duty in Iraq, he confesses to having psychotic thoughts, worries about harming the incredibly patient and supportive Jessica, and harbors delusions about his time in the service. Although the couple, and Alex in particular, initially take to farming, its challenges – and those of his mental health concerns – start to catch up with them. Blair and Lange sensitively and compellingly capture their subjects, and the difficult transition from soldier to civilian.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

On TV: OUT RUN

Coming to the World Channel’s Doc World series this Sunday, May 28:
OUT RUN

Directors:
S Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons

Premiere:
Full Frame 2016

Select Festivals:
Frameline, LA Asian Pacific, Sheffield DocFest, Inside Out, UN Assoc, NewFest, Hawaii, MIX Brasil, BFI Flare, Cleveland

About:
An LGBT political party attempts to elect openly queer candidates in a primarily Catholic country.

Bemz Benedito heads up Ladlad, the world’s only LGBT political party, based in the Catholic nation of the Philippines, where, despite religiously-motivated bias, LGBT individuals nevertheless make up a visible minority. Benedito, a trans woman, together with two other Ladlad candidates, aims to push this visibility further by running for Congress. With limited resources, they place their hope in a grassroots campaign to mobilize working-class trans beauty salon workers to support their cause, even as a despicable hate monger evangelical pastor stands against them, offensively naming his own group AIDS. Chiang and Symons have located memorable subjects and show a welcome attention to issues of class that are typically ignored, in a well-produced project that otherwise sticks a bit too close to election countdown conventions to generate real surprises.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

Special Screening: THE GENIUS AND THE OPERA SINGER

Coming to NYC’s Rooftop Films tomorrow, Saturday, May 27:
THE GENIUS AND THE OPERA SINGER

Director:
Vanessa Stockley

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2017

About:
An inside look at a toxic mother/daughter relationship.

Almost a mash-up between GREY GARDENS and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, Stockley’s unusual and discomforting portrait introduces viewers to 55-year-old Jessica and her 91-year-old mother Ruth, who have lived together in a cramped, rent-controlled West Village apartment since 1957. Jessica is introduced first, an opinionated troublemaker who antagonizes the police in the opening scene, and who reveals that she’s just prevailed in a protracted battle to have Ruth released from an eldercare facility after the latter was ruled incompetent and removed from Jessica’s care. But Jessica’s not quite the hero she at first appears to be. Once home, the self-proclaimed genius goes at her mother, a retired one-time opera singer, with such venom, it’s at times hard to watch. There’s a definite line of exploitation that the film skirts, or arguably crosses, in documenting the ravings of someone likely suffering from borderline personality disorder, and the resultant verbal abuse heaped on Ruth. At the same time, Ruth gives as good as she gets, complicating matters in this fascinating portrait of family dysfunction that’s sure to provoke heated discussion and debate among its audience.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations

In Theatres: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB: ADIOS

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 26:
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB: ADIOS

Director:
Lucy Walker

Premiere:
May 2017

About:
The Grammy Award-winning musicians who engendered worldwide interest in Cuban music take a final tour.

I previously profiled the doc when it was originally scheduled to debut at Sundance this past January here. It was unexpectedly withdrawn from the festival before its premiere, reportedly due to post-production delays.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

On TV: JACQUES PÉPIN: THE ART OF CRAFT

Coming to PBS’s American Masters tomorrow, Friday, May 26:
JACQUES PÉPIN: THE ART OF CRAFT

Director:
Peter L Stein

Premiere:
American Masters (May 2017)

About:
A celebration of the acclaimed French chef and his impact on American food culture.

Stein’s entry into the long-running PBS biography series hews close to its conventions, but despite some minor superfluous re-enactments, still manages to serve up an appealing overview of Jacques Pépin’s life and culinary career. The film traces his path from apprentice work in Lyon, success as a young chef in Paris, and appointment to serve French heads of state, only to risk everything by leaving for New York City. Successfully re-establishing himself in a foreign land, he surprisingly declined multiple invitations to serve as the Kennedy White House chef in favor of taking on the challenge of running a test kitchen for Howard Johnson’s. A near-fatal auto accident a decade later set Pépin off on yet another path, putting him in the spotlight as a food writer and television host, and inspiring generations of professional and amateur chefs with his attention to the mastery of the fundamental techniques of cookery. Stein capably covers the culinary icon’s achievements, even as a minor stroke begrudgingly slows down the affable and now octogenarian Pépin from his active schedule of travel and appearances.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

In Theatres & On VOD: JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS SUPERPOWER

Coming to theatres and to VOD via Netflix tomorrow, Friday, May 26:
JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS SUPERPOWER

Director:
Joe Piscatella

Premiere:
Sundance 2017

Select Festivals:
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Human Rights Watch London, Hot Docs,

About:
The story of an unlikely champion for Hong Kong’s sovereignty from China.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Releases, Sundance