Special Screening: IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE

InPursuitofSilenceComing to NYC’s Rooftop Films tomorrow, Saturday, July 30: IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE

Patrick Shen’s meditation on the place of silence within modern life debuted at CPH:DOX last year. Festival berths followed at SXSW, Atlanta, Cleveland, Ashland, Full Frame, Dallas, Docville, DOXA, Sheffield, and San Francisco Green, among others.

Traversing the globe, Shen’s film identifies some of the most quiet places on Earth, going so far as to note their average decibel levels. These stand in stark contrast to the rest of the world, where an increasingly cacophonous soundscape threatens concentration, sanity, and even physical health, as revealed by a select group of interview subjects, experts on silence and noise, including George Prochnik, whose eponymously-titled book inspired this project. The quiet spaces are captured in artfully composed shots, with equally striking aural qualities serving as an immediate reminder of just what we’re missing behind all the manmade discord. Shen prompts audiences to pause and appreciate the importance of silence, as a space for contemplation in contrast to our increasing drive to keep ourselves distracted and occupied – demonstrated concisely in an appreciation for John Cage’s once-derided silent classic, 4’33”.

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On VOD: HOLY HELL

holy hellComing to VOD today, Friday, July 29: HOLY HELL

Will Allen’s look back at a life spent in a cult had its world premiere at Sundance this year. It went on to screen at Hot Docs, Nashville, Montclair, Minneapolis-St Paul, DocAviv, Martha’s Vineyard, and Biografilm, among other events.

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

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In Theatres: MISS SHARON JONES!

050516-mt-sharonjonesComing to theatres today, Friday, July 29: MISS SHARON JONES!

Barbara Kopple’s profile of a musician’s resilience debuted at Toronto last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Nantucket, Montclair, Dallas, Sarasota, Sydney, DocPoint, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, New Zealand, SXSW, IDFA, and AFI Docs, among other events.

I previously wrote about the doc for Nantucket’s program, saying:
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple crafts a stirring portrait of soul singer Sharon Jones. Dubbed “the female James Brown,” Jones left a career as a correctional officer in her forties to find success with the R&B funk band The Dap-Kings. Just as the band is poised to launch a new album, Sharon is diagnosed with cancer, upending all of their plans. Kopple follows the singer over a tumultuous yet inspirational year of resilience and healing, culminating in an electrifying comeback show.

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In Theatres: HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY SALON

hollywood-beauty-salon-movie-crystalComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 29: HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY SALON

Glenn Holsten’s collaborative portrait of recovery and mental health screened at the Awareness Film Festival last year. Other screenings have included the Reel Mind Film Festival.

Holsten’s titular setting is housed within Philadelphia’s Germantown Recovery Community, a nonprofit mental health program that provides treatment and support to those suffering from mental illness or disability. The beauty salon offers staff and clients the chance to interact while providing a service, helping those who may have found themselves unable to tend to their appearances while dealing with the more serious issues of mental health. At the same time, the environment, like traditional hair parlors or barbershops, affords a natural space for conviviality and confessional conversation. Presided over by Rachel “Hollywood” Carr Timms, the salon is a safe space for those in recovery to express themselves and keep healing, and also offers room to let loose, like in the annual hair recovery show Hollywood plans to let her clients walk the runway showing themselves off. While this setting could have made for a heartfelt and quietly revealing portrait, Holsten perhaps takes a step too far, adding to his film a more metafilmic layer, as he involves a number of clients in the process of making short films about themselves and their mental health issues, in a variety of genres. This gives the project an overly scattered feel which unfortunately proves distracting. Still, the film does provide a welcome and necessary platform for its largely African American and female subjects to openly discuss struggles with mental health, pushing back against the cultural stigmas of addressing such topics within this community.

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In Theatres: GLEASON

siff16_gleasonComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 29: GLEASON

Clay Tweel’s profile of a pro football player’s determination in the face of ALS had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Festival berths followed at Nantucket, Hot DocsSXSW, AFI Docs, Seattle, Montclair, IFF Boston, and Full Frame, among others.

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

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In Theatres: HOMO SAPIENS

homo sapiensComing to theatres this Friday, July 29: HOMO SAPIENS

Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s catalogue of ruin and reclamation debuted at Berlin earlier this year. Screenings followed at Cinéma du Réel, Honk Kong, BAFICI, Docville, DOK.fest Munich, Docs Against Gravity, and DocAviv, among other events.

Like his earlier work, Geyrhalter’s latest is a stunningly composed series of tableaux, focusing on sites that once were inhabited by the titular species but now are apparently abandoned, left to nature to reassert its dominance. Schools, hospitals, movie theatres, military bunkers, churches, office buildings, shopping malls, and amusement parks, apparently from all around the world – the film never identifies locations, and is absent any dialogue or commentary – are presented, showing signs of past use, but now in a decayed state. The effect on the viewer is mesmerizing and contemplative, affording space to consider the impact of mankind on the natural world, and, as if offering an opportunity of time travel to some post-apocalyptic era, what will likely remain when we’re gone.

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Melbourne 2016: Documentary Overview

miffThe Melbourne International Film Festival turns 65 this year, kicking off its latest edition tomorrow, Thursday, July 28. Running through Sunday, August 14, the long-running event will present approximately 200 new features, among that number over 75 documentary works, a selection of which are spotlighted below: Continue reading

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