Category Archives: Overviews

Melbourne 2016: Documentary Overview

miffThe Melbourne International Film Festival turns 65 this year, kicking off its latest edition tomorrow, Thursday, July 28. Running through Sunday, August 14, the long-running event will present approximately 200 new features, among that number over 75 documentary works, a selection of which are spotlighted below: Continue reading

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Traverse City 2016: Documentary Overview

Traverse-City-Film-Festival-2016Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival opens tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, July 31. The 12th edition of the event has generated headlines for championing the visibility of women filmmakers by including only female-helmed or co-helmed works in its competition sections, and cheekily naming a male-directed out-of-competition sidebar “Men Make Movies – The Struggle Continues.” In total, more than a hundred new and recent features will screen at the event, with about half representing documentaries. The well-curated event curates much of its lineup from larger festivals like Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, and Tribeca, but also includes a few world premieres or lesser-know titles, such as the films noted below:

generation_startup_NEWThe US documentary competition includes the debut of Kamala Lopez’s EQUAL MEANS EQUAL, which looks at the current state of gender inequality, while the international competition features the North American premiere of Yacine Brahem, Dario Cerruti, and Laurent Negre’s hybrid CONFUSION, about the extradition of a Guantanamo prisoner to Switzerland. Appearing in the Premieres section are the first screenings of Cynthia Wade and Cheryl Miller Houser’s GENERATION STARTUP (pictured), a look at several young entrepreneurs trying to make a go of it in Detroit; Jesse Nesser’s WALK WITH ME: THE TRIALS OF DAMON J KEITH, about a 94-year-old janitor-turned-federal judge; and Bob Apisa’s MEN OF SPARTA, on Michigan State University’s pioneering integrated 1960s football team. The fest’s Avant Garde section includes Alexandra Cuesta’s TERRITORIO, an immersive exploration of the filmmaker’s Ecuador. Finally, the event wraps with closing night film CONCERTO: A BEETHOVEN JOURNEY, Phil Grabsky’s chronicle of an acclaimed pianist’s three-year international quest to master several of the German composer’s concertos.

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Asian American International Film Festival 2016: Documentary Overview

BANNER1-finalNew York City’s Asian American International Film Festival returns for its 39th edition starting tonight, Thursday, July 21. By the time the event wraps on Saturday, July 30, it will present approximately 30 new features, including a dozen documentaries, in addition to shorts, panels, and special retrospective screenings.

Jolin-740x416Among the nonfiction programming are the international premiere of Ng Xi Jie’s SINGAPORE MINSTREL, a portrait of a street busker and his environment; as well as the NYC debuts of Siyan Liu and Danni Wang’s JOLIN (pictured), about a young Chinese country girl turned factory worker turned sex worker; Pamela Tom’s TYRUS, a profile of a centenarian Chinese-born visual artist; Michael Siv’s DAZE OF JUSTICE, a personal film about the Khmer Rouge trials; and Ben Wang’s BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, about a former convict turned prison reformer. Also screening at the festival is Haito Guo’s BRIGHT SUN MANSION, which follows a Peking Opera master as he tries to keep his art form’s tradition alive in New York City.

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Outfest 2016: Documentary Overview

outfestOutfest, the Los Angeles LGBT film fest, opens its 34th edition tonight, Thursday, July 7. Over 60 features will screen before the event comes to a close on Sunday, July 17, including 25 documentaries. Among these are its doc centerpiece, KIKI, Sara Jordenö’s intimate look at NYC’s youth ballroom scene, which debuted earlier this year at Sundance.

0049The festival’s remaining nonfiction includes a mix of highlights from Sundance and other notable events, as well as lesser known or brand new work. Among these are: Dante H Alencastre’s RAISNG ZOEY, a profile of a typical teenage girl, who happens to be trans; Annalise Ophelian’s MAJOR! (pictured), a biography of a notable black trans community leader; C Fitz’s JEWEL’S CATCH ONE, about the long-running African-American owned disco; Tiffany Rhynard’s FORBIDDEN: UNDOCUMENTED AND QUEER IN RURAL AMERICA, on a young man’s dual activism around immigration and LGBT rights; Robyn Symon’s UNCLE GLORIA: ONE HELLUVA RIDE!, about a criminal who found her true gender after crossdressing to escape the law; and Yony Leyser’s hybrid DESIRE WILL SET YOU FREE, an exploration of Berlin’s queer art scene.

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Jerusalem 2016: Documentary Overview

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Tomorrow, Thursday, July 7, sees the start of the 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival, which will present more than 100 new feature films before its closing night on Sunday, July 17. With more than 40 documentaries, the festival demonstrates an increase from last year’s nonfiction numbers, though still fewer than it has shown in past editions. The following offers some highlights, focused primarily on new Israeli offerings:

F0_0540_0329_PepeLastBattleThis year’s Documentary Competition once again presents seven titles: Michael Alalu’s PEPE’S LAST BATTLE (pictured), which follows the director’s secular father in his longshot Jerusalem mayoral run; Yariv Mozar’s BEN-GURION, EPILOGUE, constructed from a long-lost interview conducted with the Israeli pioneer late in his life; Michal Aviad’s DIMONA TWIST, about the experiences of women who immigrated to a small Israeli desert community in the 1950s and ’60s; Maya Zinshtein’s FOREVER PURE, which chronicles the racist backlash that followed the inclusion of Muslim players on a Jerusalem soccer team; Kobi Faraj’s PHOTO FARAJ, a personal excavation of the director’s family’s photography business; Yonatan Nir’s MY HERO BROTHER, about a group of Down syndrome youth trekking through the Himalayas with their siblings; and Era Lapid and Haim Lapid’s KINDERGARTEN, which re-examines an accusation of abuse against a schoolteacher.

F0_0540_0329_HouseCallAmong the Israeli work appearing outside of competition are Maayan Schwartz’s MY FRIEND, YANIV, about a man who longs to finally find his independence; and Neta Shoshani and David Ofek’s HOUSE CALL (pictured), an intimate look at home hospice care for the terminally ill. Additional newer, non-Israeli, titles appearing at the festival and focused on Middle Eastern concerns include Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young’s DISTURBING THE PEACE, on former enemies turned peacemakers; and David Schisgall’s THEO WHO LIVED, about an American journalist kidnapped and later freed by Al-Qaeda forces in Syria.

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Karlovy Vary 2016: Documentary Overview

karlovy Tonight, Friday, July 1 sees the start of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The 51st edition of the Czech Republic’s most notable film event offers audiences approximately 150 new and recent features, including just under 40 works of nonfiction, before it wraps on Saturday, July 9. In contrast to last year’s program, which included standalone competitive and non-competitive documentary strands, this year’s features only the former, with the latter parceled out amongst various other non-competitive sections. Some of the highlights include the following.

729-the-last-summerAmong the dozen titles included in this year’s Documentary Film Competition are: Manuel Abramovich’s SOLAR, in which the director struggles to control his portrait of a New Age author; Leire Apellaniz’s THE LAST SUMMER (pictured), on a traveling film projectionist’s final season; Vitaly Mansky’s CLOSE RELATIONS, the Ukrainian filmmaker’s personal meditation on the complex case of his homeland; Tomáš Bojar and Rozálie Kohoutová’s FC ROMA, about the chilly reception received by an all-Roma Czech soccer team; Alice Diop’s ON CALL, an observational portrait of a French doctor who tends to immigrants for free; and Miroslav Janek’s NORMAL AUTISTIC FILM, an attempt to reframe autism not as a condition but as a different way of seeing the world.

696-doomed-beautyNonfiction appearing out of competition includes: Helena Třeštíková and Jakub Hejna’s DOOMED BEAUTY (pictured), about a Czech actress whose career suffered after an affair with Nazi Joseph Goebbels; and Pavel Štingl’s COURAGE, which captures a celebrated Czech sculptor as he works on his latest high-profile commission; Christophe Bisson’s SFUMATO, a portrait of French artist Bernard Legay; and the hybrids BROTHERHOOD, Pepe Diokno’s inside look at the secret social mores that govern the Philippines; and HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!, Žiga Virc’s speculative exposé of Yugoslavia’s secret 1960s space program.

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AFI Docs 2016 Overview

afi docsThe 14th edition of AFI Docs comes a week later this year, opening tomorrow, Wednesday, June 22 and running through the end of the weekend. The Washington DC event opens with Alex Gibney’s cyber-warfare investigation, ZERO DAYS, and closes with Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s tribute to a television pioneer, NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU, while LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD screens as part of this year’s Guggenheim Symposium with director Werner Herzog.

visitorsWhile the majority of this year’s approximately 50 features offer DC audiences the chance to catch films that have generated attention at major fests like Sundance, IDFA, SXSW, and Tribeca, AFI Docs also offers a number of premieres. This year’s world premieres are: Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio’s DOC & DARRYL, on baseball legends Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry; Jamie Sisley and Miguel MiG Martinez’s FAREWELL FERRIS WHEEL, a look at the lives of Mexican migrant carnival workers; and Nicole Opper’s VISITOR’S DAY (pictured), about the efforts of a street kid to better his life.

Man-Who-Saw-Too-Much-The-1Other films making at least US debuts at the festival include: Tamar Tal Anati’s SHALOM ITALIA, which follows Jewish brothers as they search for the Tuscan cave that sheltered their family during WWII; Martin Kollar’s 5 OCTOBER, a portrait of the director’s brother before a potentially life-threatening surgery; Maciej Adamek’s TWO WORLDS, about a hearing teenage daughter of deaf parents; Paula Heredia’s TOUCAN NATION, on an abused bird that became a rallying symbol for Costa Rican animal rights; and Trisha Ziff’s THE MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH (pictured), about a veteran crime scene photographer in Mexico City.

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