Category Archives: Film

On DVD: IN BRIGHT AXIOM

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 14:
IN BRIGHT AXIOM

Director:
Spencer McCall

World Premiere:
San Francisco DocFest 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Covellite, Rhode Island

About:
An exploration of the work of a secretive group of artists who design transformative experiences.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Welcome to the House of Latitude, where absolute discretion is demanded in exchange for entry into a mysterious social experiment in the form of an elaborate immersive experience. Drawing a community of curiosity seekers, this secret society becomes a way of life for some, putting increasing pressure on the organizers to maintain this sophisticated and fantastical parallel world. Filmmaker Spencer McCall weaves an intriguing cautionary tale about the unforeseen consequences of embracing the unknown.

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On DVD: DON’T BE NICE

Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14:
DON’T BE NICE

Director:
Max Powers

World Premiere:
Hot Docs 2018

Select Festivals:
AFI Docs, Palm Springs, Urbanworld, Bushwick, Black Harvest, Brisbane, Guelph, Vail

About:
The Bowery Slam Poetry Team prepares for the national championships.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: DECADE OF FIRE

Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14:
DECADE OF FIRE

Directors:
Vivian Vazquez and Gretchen Hildebran

Premiere:
DOC NYC 2018

Select Festivals:
Full Frame, Cleveland, Chicago Latino, Harlem, Maryland

About:
A Bronx native revisits the truth behind the boroughs rash of arson in the 1970s.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: INMATE #1: THE RISE OF DANNY TREJO

New to VOD this week:
INMATE #1: THE RISE OF DANNY TREJO

Director:
Brett Harvey

World Premiere:
Calgary 2019

Select Festivals:
Mill Valley, Raindance

About:
A portrait of the prolific character actor best known for the role of Machete.

Actor Danny Trejo has had a decidedly unconventional career path, as signaled by the dual meaning in the title of this biographical profile. While borrowing the generic name of many of Trejo’s early background roles as a prison heavy, the doc’s title also alludes to his long years behind bars. As related here, heroin addiction led to armed robbery and hard time in San Quentin, among other prisons, where he took up boxing and picked up his distinctive tattoos. Trejo got clean and sober after serving time, becoming a counselor and coach for many years before beginning his unlikely career in film, celebrated here by fellow actors and friends. While overextended and repetitive at times, this fairly conventional biography is largely carried by Trejo’s infectiously gregarious personality and redemptive message.

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On VOD: FEELINGS ARE FACTS: THE LIFE OF YVONNE RAINER

New to VOD via Vimeo on Demand this week:
FEELINGS ARE FACTS: THE LIFE OF YVONNE RAINER

Director:
Jack Walsh

World Premiere:
Berlin 2015

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Rio, Dance on Camera, Calgary Underground, San Francisco Dance, Sebastopol Doc, Frameline, LGBT fests in London, Boston, Portland, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Milwaukee, Hamburg, Bologna, Sao Paulo, Sydney

About:
An expansive look at the life and work of Yvonne Rainer.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
A long-overdue portrait of an iconoclastic performer, Jack Walsh’s film profiles the incomparable Yvonne Rainer. In the 1960s, within a scant few years as a dancer and choreographer, she radically changed the art form through her influential work at the Judson Dance Theater. When she shifted to film in the 1970s, she continued to innovate, creating avant-garde work from an unapologetically feminist viewpoint. Still vital and creating new boundary-pushing choreography at the age of 80, Rainer continues to inspire.

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On DVD: SEAHORSE: THE DAD WHO GAVE BIRTH

New to DVD this week:
SEAHORSE: THE DAD WHO GAVE BIRTH

Director:
Jeanie Finlay

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2019

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Sheffield, Chicago, Göteborg, St Louis, Bergen, DocPoint, Hot Springs Doc, Rocky Mountain Women’s, Nashville

About:
An intimate portrait of a transgender man’s pregnancy.

Over the course of three years, filmmaker Jeanie Finlay follows Freddy, a gay transgender man, as he makes the decision to stop taking testosterone in order to become pregnant and fulfill his dream of becoming a father. In this way, he will be like the titular marine life, in which the male of the species gives birth. While Freddy sees pregnancy as a pragmatic decision – using his biology to achieve a goal that otherwise might be hard to achieve – it has unexpected consequences, for himself and others around him. As his body begins to change, Freddy confronts complex questions around gender, maleness, parenthood, and identity. Finlay takes an appropriately delicate, though sometimes too leisurely, approach, but it yields affecting results. That said, the film’s subtitle is off-putting. A recent addition, it helps set the viewer’s expectations more clearly than the original more poetic, standalone title, but it also lends the doc an unfortunate air of tabloid sensationalism that thankfully does not actually materialize within it. Beyond that, the subtitle’s use of “the dad” suggests that McConnell is the sole trans man who has decided to become pregnant, and that’s far from the case – this isn’t even the only documentary about the subject. While this might seem like a minor quibble, the subtitle – likely a fairly innocent marketing decision – unintentionally serves to further other McConnell, even if Finlay’s film itself is clearly sympathetic and supportive.

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Special Screening: OLYMPIA

OLYMPIA

Coming to North America via a special streaming event tomorrow, Thursday, July 9 and in Europe on Friday, July 10:
OLYMPIA

Director:
Harry Mavromichalis

World Premiere:
DOC NYC 2018

Select Festivals:
Sidewalk, Lemesos Doc, Edmonton, Los Angeles and San Francisco Greek fests

About:
An intimate portrait of acclaimed actress Olympia Dukakis.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
Follow Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis behind the scenes in this affectionate profile of a stalwart New Yorker and beloved stage and screen treasure. A woman ahead of her time, Olympia has always defied expectations, eluding the limits of her heritage and gender to challenge standards and shatter precedent. Moving between past and present, filmmaker Harry Mavromichalis lovingly captures the actress as she travels back to Greece, shares self-deprecating stories, and reflects on her extraordinary career.

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On VOD: MUCHO MUCHO AMOR

photo by Giovan Cordero

Coming to Netflix today, Wednesday, July 8:
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR

Directors:
Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
True/False, Hot Docs, SXSW, Full Frame, Miami

About:
A loving profile of long-missing and once world-famous Latinx television personality Walter Mercado.

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

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In Virtual Release: AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY

Coming to virtual release tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8:
AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY

Director:
Cheryl Haines

Co-Director:
Gina Leibrecht

World Premiere:
San Francisco 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Big Sky Doc, United Nations Association, BendFilm, Raindance, Virginia, Boulder, Sonoma

About:
A behind-the-scenes look at the dissident Chinese artist’s Alcatraz exhibition.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
In 2013 artist Ai Weiwei and curator Cheryl Haines created an interactive art installation on San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island. Formerly imprisoned by the Chinese government for his art and political activism, Ai uses his experiences as inspiration. Through a unique combination of kites, Legos, and postcards, Ai and Haines pay tribute to prisoners of conscience across the globe. Visually impressive and uplifting, this film is a celebration of freedom of speech, human rights, and the power of art.

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In Virtual Release: BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS

Coming to virtual release, first as a special one-day only benefit, today, Tuesday, July 7, and then expanding this Friday, July 10:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS

Directors:
Bill Ross, Turner Ross

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
Berlin, CPH:DOX, True/False, Big Sky Doc, Calgary Underground

About:
A chronicle of the patrons and staff of a dive bar on what is meant to be its final day.

I profiled the film before Sundance here.

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