Category Archives: Documentary

In Theatres: CIELO

Coming to theatres today, Friday, August 15:
CIELO

Director:
Alison McAlpine

Premiere:
New York Film Festival 2017

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, RIDM, Full Frame, DOXA, Karlovy Vary, SANFIC

About:
A meditation on the night sky above Chile.

Venturing out to the Atacama Desert, the same setting as Patricio Guzmán’s exceptional NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, McAlpine constructs a reflective essay on the heavens, absent the political context that lent a gravitas to the previous film. When filtered through the perspectives of astronomers, taking advantage of the unique conditions of the desert to make their observations of the universe; and through the thoughtful views of local residents, the film works best, aided by some stunning footage of the nights skies. Where McAlpine falters is with her whispery, overly poetic narration and unfortunate choice of score, too often distracting from the beautiful visuals upon which she ostensibly wishes her audience to focus.

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In Theatres & On VOD: MINDING THE GAP

Coming to theatres and to Hulu this Friday, August 17:
MINDING THE GAP

Director:
Bing Liu

Premiere:
Sundance 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Hot Docs, Sheffield, CPH:DOX, DOXA, AFI Docs, Full Frame, Biografilm, Doc 10, Big Sky Doc, San Francisco, Cleveland, Freep, BAMcinemaFest, Sun Valley, San Diego Asian, LA Asian Pacific, CAAMFest, RiverRun, Newport Beach, Docs Against Gravity, Nashville, Guanajuato, Traverse City, Dokufest

About:
Friends from volatile homes, bonded over their love of skateboarding, face the responsibilities and complexities that come with adulthood.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On DVD: GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, August 14:
GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

Director:
Sophie Fiennes

Premiere:
Toronto 2017

Select Festivals:
CPH:DOX, Zurich, Vienna, Rio, Adelaide, Antenna Doc, Docaviv, Docs Against Gravity, Doclisboa, Image + Nation, Bahamas, Indie Memphis, Florida, Sarasota, Montclair

About:
An impressionistic portrait of the iconic performer.

Filmed over the course of a decade, Fiennes profile of Grace Jones is not a standard, retrospective music biography. It’s not restrospective at all, save for the singer’s occasional memories of growing up in Jamaica, shared with family members on a visit back home. Instead, the director captures Jones in the moment over the years of filming, demonstrating her still active career, from working in the recording studio and going on photo shoots, to demonstrating that she is still the consummate diva in tense phone call standoffs with her manager over contract details. Interwoven with these scenes from her work are more personal sequences, including the previously noted Jamaican family trip, and, of course, concert footage showing off her singing and indelible stage presence – not to mention her always-extravagant headwear. Fiennes’ film feels very much for the devoted Jones’ fan, providing virtually no context and absolutely no historical background, and, at nearly two hours, threatens to overstay its welcome given its discursive approach, but is just about saved by the strength of her subject’s presence.

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On DVD: THE (DEAD MOTHERS) CLUB

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, August 14:
THE (DEAD MOTHERS) CLUB

Directors:
Carlye Rubin and Katie Green

Premiere:
Silver Springs 2014

Select Festivals:
Sarasota, Crossroads, Santa Fe

About:
An exploration of how daughters cope with the death of their mothers.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: THE FAMILY I HAD

Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, August 14:
THE FAMILY I HAD

Directors:
Katie Green and Carlye Rubin

Premiere:
Tribeca 2017

Select Festivals:
New Orleans, Docaviv, Camden, Hamptons, Melbourne

About:
A mother reckons with the aftermath of her son’s horrific crime.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: A CAMBODIAN SPRING

Coming to MUBI today, Monday, August 13:
A CAMBODIAN SPRING

Director:
Christopher Kelly

Premiere:
Sheffield 2016 (under original title, THE CAUSE OF PROGRESS) / Hot Docs 2017 (final cut)

Select Festivals:
One World, Human Rights Watch, Brooklyn, Galway, Docs MX, Antenna, Busan

About:
A profile of activists opposing corruption under the guise of development in Cambodia.

Shot over the course of six years, Kelly’s film charts the struggles of the disenfranchised residents of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake region to combat a blatant land grab by the government in the name of development. Among those finding themselves spurred into action to defend their homes and families are young mothers Toul Srey Pov and Tep Vanny, who become committed activists seeking to put pressure on the local government and on outsider funders, such as the World Bank. Though they emerge as leaders, fractures begin to form as the latter takes on an increasingly public and international role, while the former eventually puts an end to her activism. Though Srey Pov cites a desire to focus on her family, Vanny spreads rumors that she instead was bribed by the government before recognizing that sowing internal strife is assuredly in their opponents best interest. Working alongside these citizen activists is the Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk who feels called to support the people under his care, even when this runs afoul of direct orders from his religious superiors. Proficient with camera phones, he documents the abuses perpetrated by the government, not only on the people of Boeung Kak, but on himself – through the course of the film, he is constantly harassed by police and fellow monks, threatened with arrest and even with being defrocked. Kelly’s project is a long and dense one, expanding beyond the local land grab issue to larger matters of more widespread corruption, but this is not always properly contextualized, such as the story behind political opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his exile and later return for election. Though stronger when focused on his three protagonists, the film remains a compelling look at the power and determination of individuals to stand up against injustice.

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Sarajevo 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 24th Sarajevo Film Festival

Dates:
August 10-17

About:
Nonfiction makes up about a third of the more than 100 features of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s premier festival, an event founded during the siege of Sarajevo. Continue reading

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