On TV: SHALOM ITALIA

Coming to PBS’s POV this coming Monday, July 24:
SHALOM ITALIA

Director:
Tamar Tal Anati

Premiere:
Docaviv 2016

Select Festivals:
IDFA, AFI Docs, Festival Dei Popoli, Cleveland, Jewish fests in Los Angeles, Calgary, and Philadelphia

About:
Three Jewish brothers return to their native Italy to find the cave in which they hid from the Nazis.

Emmanuel, Andrea, and Bubi, together with their other family members escaped Nazi persecution by living in a makeshift cave in the Tuscan woods for several months. They eventually emigrated to Israel, but now, nearly seven decades later, they reunite to revisit their old homeland and to see if they can find the sanctuary. The eldest, Emmanuel, has never previously returned – having been forced to grow up too fast, he has little interest in reliving old trauma – but the youngest, Bubi, with few memories of the time, convinced him to help find the place that saved their lives. In between treks in the wood, the brothers share meals and memories, humorously argue as family members do, and, most interestingly, confront the slippages between memories, mythologies, and truths – as revealed when they meet up with a neighbor whose version of her family’s role in their story don’t seem to match their own.

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In Theatres: THE PULITZER AT 100

Coming to theatres today, Friday, July 21:
THE PULITZER AT 100

Director:
Kirk Simon

Premiere:
Hot Docs Doc Soup (June 2016)

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Denver, Documentary Edge

About:
An examination of the rich legacy of the Pulitzer Prize.

A celebration less of the award than of the artists and writers who have been recognized with the honor over its century-long existence, Simon’s film demonstrates the power of storytelling and speaking truth to power. Interviews with winners of the prestigious award address their work and its impact on society – as well as the impact of the award on expanding their audience. In a present culture that sees journalism being subject to attack by the Oval Office, and facing economic viability on a more general level, it’s important to have a reminder of the necessity of recognizing and honoring its accomplishments.

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In Theatres: MISTER UNIVERSO

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 21:
MISTER UNIVERSO

Directors:
Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel

Premiere:
Locarno 2016

Select Festivals:
Toronto, Reykjavik, Rio, Vienna, BAFICI, AFI Fest, Rotterdam, Mar del Plata, CPH:DOX, San Francisco, Jeonju, Sydney, Moscow

About:
A doc/fiction hybrid following a circus lion tamer in search of a lost magical talisman.

Covi and Frimmel return to one of the subjects of their 2009 film, LA PIVELLINA, to focus on Tairo, a handsome lion tamer with a circus in decline. As the film opens, he is tending to his aging big cats, having recently lost one. The nonfiction elements to this slight but charming project offer a portrait of this disappearing milieu, as the camera follows the workaday lives of Tairo and some of his fellow performers, persisting despite a sense that this entertainment is not likely long for this world. This would be sufficient to base a film around, but the directors instead add a somewhat silly fictional overlay: As a result of some petty arguments over electricity with the trailer next door, Tairo’s bent horseshoe good luck charm is stolen. Superstition leads the young man to seek out the man who bent it for him when Tairo was just a boy, Arthur Robin, the first black Mister Universe. The remainder of the film follows Tairo as he visits with family members on a leisurely search for Robin’s present whereabouts. As with most hybrid projects, it’s questionable what benefit there is in mixing fact and fiction.

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Special Screening & On VOD: THE HOUSE ON COCO ROAD

Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema this Friday and Saturday, July 21-22 and already on VOD via Netflix and ARRAY:
THE HOUSE ON COCO ROAD

Director:
Damani Baker

Premiere:
Los Angeles 2016

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Bahamas, Pan African, Atlanta, Toronto Black

About:
A young African-American activist seeks a haven for her family in Grenada, only to face an invasion by the US military.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
In 1983, Fannie Haughton, a young activist and teacher inured to injustices facing African Americans, sought a haven for her family in Grenada, an island nation that had seen an Afrocentric revolution just four years prior. Not too long after, the island was invaded by the US military, and the dream of a socialist utopia became a victim of Cold War politics. Haughton’s son Damani Baker revisits this story, couching it in a larger tale of black activism, as embodied by his mother.

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In Theatres: ROMEO IS BLEEDING

Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, July 19:
ROMEO IS BLEEDING

Director:
Jason Zeldes

Premiere:
San Francisco 2015

Select Festivals:
Seattle, Berkshire, Newport Beach, Cleveland, St Louis, Aspen, St Louis, Hot Springs Doc, Napa Valley, Honolulu, Sarasota, Florida, RiverRun, Urbanworld

About:
A young African-American man turns to Shakespeare to address the violence in his community.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: IN SEARCH OF ISRAELI CUISINE

New to VOD this week:
IN SEARCH OF ISRAELI CUISINE

Director:
Roger Sherman

Premiere:
Palm Springs 2016

Select Festivals:
Jewish fests in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, Palm Beach, Atlanta, Seattle, and Toronto

About:
A James Beard Award-winning chef takes viewers on a tour through the tastes of Israel.

As noted by the film’s title, chef Michael Solomonov, born in Israel and raised in Pennsylvania, embarks on the prickly question of whether his relatively young homeland can truly be said to have its own cuisine. Some of his interview subjects emphatically argue that of course it does, while others are more dismissive, noting that in a country formed by immigrants from around the world, Israel’s food culture is more of an extensive borrowing. This debate, and the complicated history it reveals, is the most interesting element of Sherman’s film, which otherwise wouldn’t be too out of place if it were on the Food Network. Solomonov is a nice enough but fairly bland host, and while his visits with various chefs, cooks, winemakers, and the like offer a nice amount of exotic food porn to viewers, this survey just isn’t distinctive enough to be memorable when compared with more pointed comments from, for example, a Palestinian chef who reveals the difficulty in attracting Jewish clientele or who bitterly notes how Israel’s staple dish, hummus, is an appropriation of a Palestinian mainstay.

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On DVD: MEN OF THE CLOTH

New to DVD this week:
MEN OF THE CLOTH

Directors:
Vicki Vasilopoulos

Premiere:
DOC NYC 2013

Select Festivals:
Montclair, LA Femme, Hamptons Take 2 Doc

About:
A profile of three master tailors.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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