Category Archives: Film

Special Screening & In Theatres: VIRAL: ANTISEMITISM IN FOUR MUTATIONS

Coming to NYC’s JCC Manhattan tonight, Tuesday, February 18 and to theatres this Friday, February 21:
VIRAL: ANTISEMITISM IN FOUR MUTATIONS

Director:
Andrew Goldberg

World Premiere:
Theatrical release (February 2020)

About:
An investigation of the growth of antisemitism around the world.

As signaled by the awkward title of director Andrew Goldberg’s film, his premise is that antisemitism is ever-evolving, taking on different forms and appealing to different groups for various reasons, and, to borrow the social media-related meaning, spreading like wildfire. To that end, Goldberg explores the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment in four different countries and among different populations: the far right in the US, the far left in the UK, Islamic radicals in France, and nationalists in Hungary. For all this, however, the talking heads and narration-heavy doc doesn’t really demonstrate the supposed mutability of antisemitism – the arguments, stereotypes, and blatant lies used by its proponents in these and other places have been used for generations against the Jewish people, and are not particularly differentiated in any major way. Goldberg covers large issues in a cursory manner, moving from an older would-be politician in NC who espouses long-debunked antisemitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds, to Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who, using a very similar playbook, scapegoats George Soros as a manipulative Jewish bogeyman. In France, the disturbing number of hate crimes against Jewish people are perhaps too easily placed within the context of a population of disenfranchised and radicalized Islamic immigrants, while in the UK, attention is paid to ongoing charges of antisemitism in the Labour Party, where a disturbing general conflation of antisemitism with criticizing Israeli government policies ought to be more fully parsed, among other more overt issues. While the film is decidedly imperfect, it does serve the purpose of alerting viewers to the dangerous rise of nationalism, scapegoating, and attacks against Jewish people and other “others.”

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Special Screening: MCMILLION$

photo by Jeff Dolen

Coming to NYC’s Pure Nonfiction tonight, Tuesday, February 18:
MCMILLION$

Directors:
James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

About:
A look back at a stranger-than-fiction true crime tale of fast food and fraud.

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

Note: Pure Nonfiction will screen episodes 3 and 4 as a sneak preview.

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On TV: TWELVE DISCIPLES OF NELSON MANDELA

Coming to The WORLD Channel’s AfroPoP tonight, Monday, February 17:
TWELVE DISCIPLES OF NELSON MANDELA

Director:
Thomas Allen Harris

World Premiere:
Toronto 2005

Select Festivals:
Thessaloniki Doc, Africa in the Picture, Pan African, Bermuda

About:
The story of the first wave of black South Africans who fought for freedom in exile.

After the death of his stepfather, Benjamin Pule Leinaeng, filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris sets out to tell not only Leinaeng’s story, but that of his close friends and fellow freedom fighters, in total a dozen young men who grew up under apartheid, supported the African National Congress, and, eventually, had to leave their homeland to try to garner support for their cause in the international community. For his part, Leinaeng resettled in New York City, where he met Harris’ mother, and, together, created a central hub of sorts for the movement. Reflections from the surviving Mandela “disciples,” as well as Harris and his family, are combined with dramatic re-enactments and film shot by Leinaeng to trace the freedom fighters’ often surprising and sometimes dangerous activities, intimately revealing both the costs and joys of their three decades of work conducted in exile.

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On TV: GILDA BRASILEIRO: AGAINST OBLIVION

Coming to The WORLD Channel’s AfroPoP tonight, Monday, February 17:
GILDA BRASILEIRO: AGAINST OBLIVION

Directors:
Roberto Manhães Reis and Viola Scheuerer

World Premiere:
São Paulo 2018

Select Festivals:
Rio, Los Angeles Pan African, Smithsonian African American, Johannesburg

About:
A woman unearths proof of an illegal slave trade in 19th century Brazil.

After Gilda Brasileiro moves to a small community in the Brazilian rainforest, she is confronted by a willful amnesia about the location’s involvement in an underground slave route of the early 19th century, when Africans were forced to work the coffee plantations of the region. Of Afro-Brazilian background herself, Brasileiro begins digging for evidence, and uncovers indisputable proof that not only had slaves been used on the plantations, but the practice continued for a half century after Brazil was said to have left the transatlantic slave trade. Supplementing Brasileiro’s story, the filmmakers gather their own visual record of slavery in the region, conducting close readings of historical posed photographs of slaves by Marc Ferrez. While these images are haunting, the film does not properly contextualize the filmmakers’ backgrounds, making the personal reflections conducted here awkward and somewhat at cross purposes with Brasileiro’s mission. As a result, while there’s intriguing hidden history explored, the doc is on the whole too clunky in its presentation.

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On TV: WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS

Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, February 17:
WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS

Directors:
Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross

World Premiere:
San Francisco 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, AFI Docs, St Louis, Hot Springs Doc, Woods Hole, Sidewalk, Southern Circuit, Rocky Mountain Women’s, Virginia

About:
An exploration of the influence of American creationism through Kentucky’s contentious Ark Encounter museum.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
In rural Kentucky, a creationist group builds a life-size, $120 million Noah’s Ark museum – replete with animal, human, and dinosaur models – in an attempt to affirm the factuality of the Biblical story. Standing against this attempt to co-opt history and science are a local geologist, an atheist activist, and a former creationist. Throw in a tax scheme that funnels public funds into the Ark at the expense of local economic sustainability, and the result is an outlandish tale that must be seen to be believed.

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On DVD: MCCARTHY

New to DVD this week:
MCCARTHY

Director:
Sharon Grimberg

World Premiere:
American Experience (January 2020)

About:
A comprehensive account of the rise and fall of notorious Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: RAW HERRING

New to OVID.tv last week:
RAW HERRING

Directors:
Leonard Retel Helmrich and Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2013

Select Festivals:
Hamburg, Nederlands

About:
A look at a peculiarly Dutch fishing tradition.

I previously wrote about the doc out of Tribeca here.

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