In Theatres: MCQUEEN

Photo by Ann Ray

Coming to theatres today, Friday, July 20:
MCQUEEN

Director:
Ian Bonhôte

Co-Director:
Peter Ettedgui

Premiere:
Tribeca 2018

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Seattle, Victoria, Nashville, Dallas, Biografilm, Sydney, Melbourne, Revelation Perth, Frameline, Provincetown

About:
A portrait of late fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Rising from working class beginnings in London, Lee McQueen made his mark in art school and Savile Row, finding a patron and muse in influential scenester Isabella Blow, who encouraged him to use his more posh sounding middle name “Alexander” when launching his own line. His fierce originality and showmanship garnered international acclaim from the 1990s through his suicide in 2010. Bonhôte and Ettedgui’s exploration of the maverick’s life and career makes great use of footage from his vibrant, confrontational shows, combined with candid interviews with friends and colleagues. The doc’s production design is worthy of their over the top subject, but, even given that, the skull motif animation treatments that serve as section dividers cross the line into distracting fussiness and overstylization. At times, the filmmakers presume too much foreknowledge from viewers about relatively specialized or arcane fashion world details – for example, Blow’s identity and importance to London’s fashion scene is essentially assumed to be self-evident – making this feel a bit too insider. Still, Bonhôte and Ettedgui ably capture McQueen’s prodigious, if troubled, talent and vision.

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On VOD: BALLET NOW

Coming to VOD via Hulu today, Friday, July 20:
BALLET NOW

Director:
Steven Cantor

Premiere:
Seattle 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket

About:
A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of an innovative dance showcase.

Last summer, two dozen dancers from around the world, reflecting diverse styles – ballet, hip hop, and tap – joined together for BalletNOW, a series of performances at the Los Angeles Music Center to demonstrate the range of modern ballet. Its visionary curator: Tiler Peck, principal performer of the New York City Ballet. Director Steven Cantor follows Peck as the first woman to take on this daunting but fulfilling role, recruiting dancers and working with choreographers to create a cohesive program – one that she not only organizes but in which she also performs.

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In Theatres: FAR FROM THE TREE

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 20:
FAR FROM THE TREE

Director:
Rachel Dretzin

Premiere:
DOC NYC 2017

Select Festivals:
Montclair, RiverRun, GlobeDocs, Documentary Edge, IFF Boston, Hawaii

About:
A film essay and career retrospective examining society’s preoccupation with materialism.

The film premiered at DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Andrew Solomon’s bestselling book FAR FROM THE TREE examines how parents face their children’s extreme differences, influenced by the author’s own experiences growing up gay and later becoming a parent. Now filmmaker Rachel Dretzin adapts the book into a beautifully crafted documentary, produced by Participant Media, known for groundbreaking films such as WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” and FOOD, INC. The film profiles families who offer intimate access to how they experience surprise, resilience, sorrow, courage, hope, and joy. They have a lot to teach us about the depths of love as they confront conditions such as Down syndrome, autism, and dwarfism. The film serves to challenge ideas of “normality” and dispel fear over what’s perceived as “abnormal.”

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In Theatres: GENERATION WEALTH

photo by Lauren Greenfield

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 20:
GENERATION WEALTH

Director:
Lauren Greenfield

Premiere:
Sundance 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Berlin, SXSW, CPH:DOX, Docville, Full Frame, San Francisco, Sarasota, IFF Boston, Transilvania, Ambulante, Jeonju, Dallas, Docs Against Gravity, Greenwich, Provincetown

About:
A film essay and career retrospective examining society’s preoccupation with materialism.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On TV: LIGHT IN THE WATER

Coming to Logo TV tomorrow, Thursday, July 19:
LIGHT IN THE WATER

Director:
Lis Bartlett

Premiere:
Logo TV (July 2018)

About:
The story of a pioneering LGBT swim team.

Formed in 1982 by competitive swimmers training for the first Gay Games, the West Hollywod Swim Club put the lie to the stereotype that one couldn’t be both gay and an athlete. Demonstrating their prowess in the water, and soon changing their name to West Hollywood Aquatics to include water polo, they registered as a Masters club, competing among elite athletes as the first openly gay team and finding continued success. Reviewing their 35 year history, Lis Bartlett’s film simultaneously reflects transformative changes in the LGBT community over that same time span, from the emergence of AIDS and the hysteria, fear, and devastating loss that accompanied it, to the rise and ultimate success of marriage equality. In this way, the likeable project transcends the specificity of its Southern California location and focus on water sports to speak to a more universal story of breaking barriers and overcoming adversity.

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New Zealand 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 50th New Zealand International Film Festival

Dates:
July 19-August 12 (Auckland)

About:
Originally home to several events in different regions but combined in 2009, the festival takes place in 13 cities through mid-September. Auckland, the longest-running fest, offers more than 50 new and recent documentary features among its lineup. Continue reading

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Special Screening: BLACK MOTHER

Coming to NYC’s Rooftop Films tomorrow, Wednesday, July 18:
BLACK MOTHER

Director:
Khalik Allah

Premiere:
True/False 2018

Select Festivals:
CPH:DOX, Sheffield, New Directors/New Films, Sarasota, Montclair

About:
An essay offering a meditation on Jamaican identity, history, and spirituality.

Loosely framed around the three trimesters of a black woman’s pregnancy, Allah’s latest experimental portrait hones in on Jamaica, where his own mother was born. Separating sound from image, the meandering testimonies of a range of residents are presented, from the sacred to the profane. The commentary of sex workers coexists with lessons in the nation’s struggles for emancipation from colonial rule; the history of Christianity’s development on the island gives way to out there cosmological beliefs. The polyphonic personal merges with the communal national, creating a poetic, multivalent portrait of identity – one that is often not particularly legible to outsiders, but hypnotic and frustrating in equal measure. It’s a project that’s decidedly not made for a general audience but is likely to elicit a level of recognition on its home turf.

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