Category Archives: Recommendations

In Theatres: BARBARA RUBIN & THE EXPLODING NY UNDERGROUND

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 24:
BARBARA RUBIN & THE EXPLODING NY UNDERGROUND

Director:
Chuck Smith

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki Doc, Seattle, Jeonju

About:
A forgotten 1960s film pioneer receives her due.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Offering a recontextualization of the 1960s New York art and experimental film scene through the story of a remarkably influential, yet unheralded, figure, Chuck Smith’s film introduces viewers to Barbara Rubin. This extraordinary young filmmaker, who defied sexist conventions when she picked up a film camera and shot an art-porn masterpiece, was instrumental in connecting Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to the Kabbalah before dramatically and unexpectedly leaving the scene behind as quickly as she arrived.

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In Theatres: HALSTON

photo by Berry Berenson Perkins

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 24:
HALSTON

Director:
Frédéric Tcheng

Premiere:
Sundance 2019

Select Festivals:
CPH:DOX, Tribeca, Seattle, Montclair, Sarasota

About:
An exploration of the life and legacy of America’s first celebrity designer.

My pre-Sundance doc profile may be found here.

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In Theatres & Special Screening: RUNNING WITH BETO

Coming to theatres tomorrow Friday, May 24 and to Rooftop Films this Saturday, May 25:
RUNNING WITH BETO

Director:
David Modigliani

Premiere:
SXSW 2019

Select Festivals:
Seattle, IFF Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, Full Frame, Dallas,

About:
A candid behind-the-scenes look at Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign for US Senate.

Beto O’Rourke was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2012, representing Texas as a Democrat. He won re-election to two more terms, but instead of seeking re-election last year, he challenged Republican incumbent Ted Cruz for the US Senate. While viewed by many as a fool’s errand given the state’s deep-seated red leanings, the charismatic Everyman shocked naysayers with a campaign that very nearly unseated his regressive opponent, demonstrating that Texas may not be as much of a lock for the Republicans as believed, and brought O’Rourke to national prominence, clearing the way for his current 2020 US Presidential bid. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone watching David Modigliani’s film – as with most campaign docs, the outcome is already known, so what matters is how the story is told and how close one gets to the candidate. Here, the approach is fairly straightforward, but Modigliani benefits from a subject who comes off as genuine, likeable, and optimistic – a mean feat for a politician. In addition, the filmmaker profiles several individuals working on the campaign, providing welcome new personalities to round out the proceedings as they barrel down to the inevitable results of election night, and highlighting how O’Rourke’s campaign has opened the door for potential progressive change in Texas and beyond.

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In Theatres: WOODSTOCK: THREE DAYS THAT DEFINED A GENERATION

Coming to theatres this Friday, May 24:
WOODSTOCK: THREE DAYS THAT DEFINED A GENERATION

Director:
Barak Goodman

Premiere:
Tribeca 2019

Select Festivals:
Seattle, DocLands

About:
An immersive reflection on how organizers defied the odds to stage the seminal music event.

While Woodstock has become an iconic event in the history of music and of the 1960s counterculture, the fuller background on the happening’s origins may not be quite as well known. Barak Goodman’s masterful project revisits the 1969 concert and its planning, placing viewers in the midst of the action via remarkable archival visual footage and present-day audio commentary from organizers, attendees, and performers. From John Roberts and Joel Rosenman’s original plans to the idea’s rapid spread, the securing of and loss of the original setting to locating the eventual site of Max Yasgur’s Bethel farm, the overwhelming logistics to the need for support from the local community, this new doc draws the audience back to those three eventful days in August that capped off the tumultuous sixties and defined a generation.

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In Theatres: THE COLD BLUE

Coming to theatres via Fathom Events for one night only tomorrow, Thursday, May 23:
THE COLD BLUE

Director:
Erik Nelson

Premiere:
AFI Docs 2018

Select Festivals:
New York, Traverse City

About:
A meditation on war composed of archival film of B-17 bombers shot by William Wyler.

Constructed from the recently rediscovered raw color footage shot by William Wyler for his classic 1944 documentary THE MEMPHIS BELLE, Erik Nelson’s project brings together survivors of the Eight Air Force to reflect on their experiences of WWII. For the bulk of the film, excerpts of Wyler’s striking footage plays while veteran airmen offer audio commentary, sometimes instructive, other times poignantly personal, and occasionally darkly humorous. For its coda, Nelson turns the camera onto some of his subjects, contrasting the nonagenarians with archival photos in their military prime, and gently interviewing them about their perception of the sacrifices they made. Organized into titled sections that also provide brief statistics or facts about the missions flown and the dangers faced, the film has a somewhat episodic feel, but manages to remain engaging despite this, buoyed by its breathtaking visuals.

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Special Screening: TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM

photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Coming to NYC’s Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center this Wednesday, May 23:
TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM

Director:
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Premiere:
Sundance 2019

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Miami, Cleveland, Montclair, Wisconsin

About:
An intimate profile of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning literary icon.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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Docaviv 2019 Overview

Festival:
The 21st Docaviv: Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival

Dates:
May 23-June 1

About:
More than 100 new features are part of the lineup of the well-respected Israeli nonfiction event. Continue reading

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