Category Archives: Film

Special Screening: THE HOTTEST AUGUST

Coming to NYC’s Rooftop Films tomorrrow, Tuesday, August 20:
THE HOTTEST AUGUST

Director:
Brett Story

World Premiere:
True/False 2019

Select Festivals:
SXSW, Hot Docs, CPH:DOX, BAMcinemaFest, Sheffield, DOXA, Montclair, DokuFest, Open City Doc, Sarasota, Maryland

About:
An exploration of climate change and late-stage capitalism.

Filmed two Summers ago throughout New York City, director Brett Story’s film is a panoramic study of working-class anxieties. While semi-poetic narration occasionally is employed, the bulk of the film consists of everyday New Yorkers discussing things on their mind, touching on the economy, the environment, and other issues of the day, revealing a depressing amount of casual racism, cynicism, and ignorance that is meant to stand in microcosm for Trump-era America. While some of the unidentified subjects and their commentary – and the subtle links Story draws between them in the film’s edit – are compelling in their own way, their overall impact is muted by their episodic nature. As a result, the film succeeds in creating a sense of uneasiness, but not feeling particularly satisfying in the end.

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On DVD/VOD: THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20:
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

Director:
John Chester

Premiere:
Telluride 2018

Select Festivals:
Sundance, DOC NYC, Toronto, Berlin, Miami, Hamptons, Napa Valley, AFI Fest, Palm Springs, Thessaloniki Doc, CPH:DOX, Sarasota, Sun Valley, Newport Beach, Montclair

About:
For over eight years, John and Molly Chester find ways to work with nature to establish a biodynamic farm.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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

In Theatres: WHILE I BREATHE, I HOPE

Coming to NYC’s Stuart Cinema tomorrow, Saturday, August 17:
WHILE I BREATHE, I HOPE

Director:
Emily Harrold

Premiere:
New Orleans 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Hot Springs Doc, Cucalorus, Toronto Black, Oxford,

About:
A portrait of a young African-American politician in the South.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatres: WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE?

Coming to theatres today, Friday, August 16:
WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE?

Director:
Roberto Minervini

World Premiere:
Venice 2018

Select Festivals:
Toronto, New York, CPH:DOX, Sheffield, Busan, London, Rotterdam, Göteborg, Mar del Plata, Valdivia, Vancouver, Vilnius, DocPoint, Docs Against Gravity, Munich

About:
An exploration of race in the American South.

Following his focus on marginalized white Louisianans in THE OTHER SIDE, Italian director Roberto Minervini turns his attention to African American subjects, weaving together four separate strands and once again employing his usual hybridized storytelling, where subjects at times may be performing versions of themselves for his camera. The most impactful of the storylines centers on Judy Hill, a woman who has pushed past addiction to try to start over, opening a bar that functions as a de facto community gathering place, only to see gentrification snatch it back from her. Quieter but also effective are the scenes devoted to the protective relationship between brothers Ronaldo and Titus, as well as their mother, worried about the fate of young black men in American society. Had Minervini stopped there, and further fleshed out these characters, the project might have been more compelling as a whole. Instead, the film brings in two lesser threads that are either jarringly incorporated or feel like an afterthought – the former, a look at the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and its leader Krystal Muhammad; the latter, underdeveloped, almost throwaway scenes with the Mardi Gras Indians. Given that the four strands never intersect, the film already has an uneven and not wholly satisfying feel, but the incorporation of these additional strands unfortunately exacerbate the disconnect and draw the project out to an unnecessary length without providing any additional revelations.

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On VOD: INVENTING TOMORROW

New to VOD via Amazon Prime this week:
INVENTING TOMORROW

Director:
Laura Nix

Premiere:
Sundance 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Hot Docs, CPH:DOX, Seattle, Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco, Full Frame, AFI Docs, Woods Hole, Greenwich, Montclair, Dokufest

About:
A profile of several international students pursuing answers to environmental issues in their science fair projects.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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

In Theatres & On VOD: THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY

Coming to theatres and to Hulu today, Friday, August 16:
THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY

Director:
Ben Berman

World Premiere:
Sundance 2019

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, BAMcinemaFest, Sydney, New Zealand, San Francisco Jewish, Sheffield

About:
An attempt to chronicle a dying magician’s final tour grows increasingly bizarre.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On VOD: THE GOLD SPINNERS

Coming to OVID.tv tomorrow, Friday, August 16:
THE GOLD SPINNERS

Directors:
Kiur Aarma and Hardi Volmer

World Premiere:
Sydney 2014

Select Festivals:
Melbourne, United Nations Association, Message to Man, Monterrey, Vilnius, Cinema Verite

About:
A look back at the only commercial advertising agency in the Soviet Union.

Established in 1967, at the height of the Cold War, the Estonian company Eesti Reklaamfilm had the distinction of being the sole advertising firm for the Soviet Union. Despite operating within a socialist economy that rejected the consumerism of capitalism, the studio was allowed to operate, creating advertisements – often for products that were unavailable or simply didn’t exist. Directors Kiur Aarma and Hardi Volmer tell the story of Eesti Reklaamfilm and its enterprising head, Peedu Ojamaa, smartly incorporating a wide range of archival clips to give the viewer a sense of just how strange and colorful their commercials were. While the storytelling is, on the whole, fairly academic beyond that, with a great deal of narration and talking heads, the subject matter is unusual and fascinating enough to elevate the project.

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