Category Archives: Film

On VOD: FUTURE PEOPLE: THE FAMILY OF DONOR 5114

Coming to Discovery+ tomorrow, Saturday, April 10:
FUTURE PEOPLE: THE FAMILY OF DONOR 5114 

Director:
Michael Rothman

World Premiere:
Discovery+ (April 2021)

About:
The offspring of the same sperm donor form an alternative family when they discover each other’s existence.

The subjects of director Michael Rothman’s affectionate film were all conceived via sperm donated by the same individual, the anonymous and prolific donor 5114, at a cryobank in California. Using easily accessible DNA information and the connectivity of social media, these half-siblings found one another – and keep finding more – and start to develop an unusual bond. Over the course of eight years, Rothman profiles the photogenic kids and their moms, and follows them as they organize meet-ups, discover similarities and differences, and consider their unusual connection through donor 5114. As time passes, the first of the half-siblings turns 18, and thus is legally able to attempt contact with the donor through the sperm bank, leading to further contemplation about nature vs nurture. As a whole, the film is strengthened by its longitudinal approach, moving from a simply curious story to something more measured and thoughtful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

On TV: OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE

Coming to PBS’s American Masters today, Friday, April 9:
OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE

Director:
Ric Burns

World Premiere:
Telluride 2019

Select Festivals:
New York, Hamptons, AFI Fest, Palm Springs, Glasgow, Full Frame, Big Sky Doc, Virginia, ReelAbilities, Atlanta Jewish

About:
Facing a terminal diagnosis, the famed British neurologist and popular science author reflects on his life and work.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

On VOD: SAM & MATTIE MAKE A ZOMBIE MOVIE

New to VOD this week:
SAM & MATTIE MAKE A ZOMBIE MOVIE

Director:
Jesse Suchmann, Bobby Carnevale

World Premiere:
VOD release (April 2021)

About:
Best friends with Down syndrome rally their entire town to help them make a film.

Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt met at the Special Olympics and became best friends. They long dreamt of making their own movie – an over the top, bloody horror film called Spring Break Zombie Massacre – and solicited the help of Sam’s brother Jesse, who brought in his friend Bobby. Together, they sought funding on Kickstarter, and, eventually, drew in basically their entire community, with Sam and Mattie making all of the creative decisions. While producing that film, Jesse and Bobby also chronicled the process, resulting in this sweet but messy making of doc, which also includes the full 45 min SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE. Sam and Mattie are charismatic and funny, making it easy to understand how their mission went viral, got them booked on CONAN, and found celebrity supporters like Peter Farrelly. That said, the doc, like Sam and Mattie’s own film, struggles in its pacing and length, underlining that the filmmakers were so close to the material that they failed to kill some of their darlings. Still, as a whole, the project is appealing and successfully captures the joy that the young filmmakers felt in realizing their project, as well as the goodwill of all of those who showed up to work with them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

It’s All True 2021 Overview

Festival:
The 26th É Tudo Verdade/It’s All True

Dates:
April 8-18

About:
This Brazilian nonfiction event returns with approximately 35 new documentary features.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

On DVD: MY REMBRANDT

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, April 6:
MY REMBRANDT

Director:
Oeke Hoogendijk

World Premiere:
IDFA 2019

Select Festivals:
Docs Against Gravity, Montclair, Vancouver, GlobeDocs, Docville, Cologne

About:
Profiles of various owners – private and institutional – of works by the Old Master.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

On DVD: ACASA, MY HOME

photo by Mircea Topoleanu

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, April 6:
ACASA, MY HOME

Director:
Radu Ciorniciuc

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, IDFA, Docaviv, DOK.fest Munich, Thessaloniki Doc, Doc Edge, One World, Moscow Doc, Sarajevo, Cartagena, Krakow, Transilvania, Zurich, Cologne, El Gouna

About:
A Roma family is forced to leave their self-sufficient life off the grid for the city.

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

Leave a comment

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

On TV: MAMA GLORIA

Coming to The WORLD Channel’s AfroPoP today, Monday, April 5:
MAMA GLORIA

Director:
Luchina Fisher

World Premiere:
Chicago 2020

Select Festivals:
Athena, BFI Flare, Oxford, Kansas City

About:
A profile of a pioneering Black transwoman.

Growing up Black and gender nonconforming on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s, Gloria Allen suffered dearly in her early years, facing brutal violence and rape in high school. Despite this, she found support and acceptance from her mother and grandmother, as well as from the vibrant community of the city’s drag ball culture, and professional fulfillment as a nurse. In more recent years, recognizing her relative good fortune and the serious challenges faced by her trans sisters, Allen began offering charm school classes for young homeless trans women, passing on the lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother to instill self-confidence and pride. As an older trans woman of color, Allen is a notably worthwhile subject for a portrait, but one wishes the film were stronger as a whole. Feeling at times like a filmed oral history, Luchina Fisher’s doc lacks polish and visual interest, and is buoyed primarily by Allen’s positivity and charm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

On VOD: CODED BIAS

Coming to Netflix today, Monday, April 5:
CODED BIAS

Director:
Shalini Kantayya

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
Human Rights Watch, Hot Docs, Full Frame, SXSW, San Francisco, Hamptons, Provincetown, New Zealand, Melbourne, DokuFest, BlackStar, Docaviv, Warsaw, Mill Valley, Denver

About:
An exploration of the disturbing gender and racial bias prevalent in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

Leave a comment

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

On TV: HYSTERICAL

Coming to FX tonight, Friday, April 2:
HYSTERICAL

Director:
Andrea Nevins

World Premiere:
SXSW 2021

About:
A look at stand-up comedy from the perspective of female comedians.

Stand up comedy has long been a boy’s club. Women in the field have been dismissed as just not being funny, frequently are pitted against each other, and subjected to sexual harassment or worse. This and more is covered in filmmaker Andrea Nevins’ survey, which gathers the perspectives of 15 or so female comedians, ranging from vets like Margaret Cho and Judy Gold to more relative newcomers like Kelly Bachman. Separated into loose chapters – unfortunately complete with that over-used convention, the definition entry heading – the film explores the real obstacles that have been in the way of woman in comedy, but ultimately embraces an affirming tone that celebrates its subjects achievements. The comics featured are funny, candid, and vulnerable, making the project worth the watch, but the film suffers from the basic problem of surveys: in attempting to profile so many subjects, and cover so many topics, it can only scratch the surface before moving on to the next funny lady or the next serious point.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Recommendations, Releases

In Theatres (Redux): THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS

Coming to the newly re-opened Film Forum today, Friday, April 2:
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS

Director:
Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, IDFA, Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York, San Sebastian, Zurich, Hamptons, Mill Valley, El Gouna, Aspen, Taipei Golden Horse, Thessaloniki Doc, Stockholm, Singapore

Notable Recognition:
The doc has been shortlisted for the Academy Awards.

About:
Enter the secretive world of the only people–and dogs–who are able to find the elusive white Alba truffle, the most expensive ingredient in the world.

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

Leave a comment

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