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.
Select Festivals: Full Frame, Nashville, Milwaukee, Virginia, Guanajuato, Mill Valley, BendFilm, Tallgrass, Portland, Sound Unseen
About: A portrait of the legendary TONIGHT SHOW bandleader.
Doc Severinsen entered the homes of American audiences nightly for three decades as the eccentrically-dressed bandleader of Johnny Carson’s TONIGHT SHOW. While the musician left the show upon the host’s retirement in 1992, he never stopped performing. Now, in his nineties, Severinsen maintains a grueling touring, performance, and teaching schedule, working out multiple times a week to maintain his health and strength. Filmmakers Kevin S Bright and Jeff Consiglio compose a loving tribute to the performer, exploring both his past and his present-day activities. While they address some heavier elements – notably the impact of Doc’s career on his personal life, including some infidelity – the filmmakers generally keep the proceedings fairly light and entertaining, resulting in a solid portrait with considerable nostalgic appeal.
Select Festivals: DOC NYC, Big Sky Doc, St Louis, River’s Edge
About: Residents of a post-industrial town work to restore their community.
The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read: Youngstown, Ohio, once a booming steel and mining town, is now the epitome of post-industrial decline. Plunging population, derelict housing, and crime plague the city, but a new crop of industrious entrepreneurs and community activists refuse to accept defeat, nor will they abandon their beloved hometown. Together they rise up to restore homes, generate business, and ignite their community. Director Karla Murthy’s film is a powerful testament of their resiliency and ingenuity.
Coming to HBO and to HBO Max tomorrow, Saturday, March 27: TINA
Director: Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin
World Premiere: Berlin 2021
Select Festivals: Glasgow
About: On the life and career of iconic performer Tina Turner.
In 1981, Tina Turner first went public in the pages of People about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her partner, Ike Turner. In her view, she wanted to address the issue and then move on. Instead, the story in many ways grew to define her. She expanded on the tale in her 1986 autobiography – the basis for the Oscar-nominated WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT – again, with the hopes that, with her story out there, she would not have to revisit it again. As before, however, its importance only became greater, in many ways opening up a public dialogue about domestic violence on the largest possible stage. At the same time, even as Turner had persevered against all obstacles to become one of the most successful music acts in the world, she was constantly asked about this traumatic period in her past. It’s unavoidable, then, that her history with Ike takes up a significant portion of Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s expert portrait of the artist. Notably, however, the filmmakers move beyond the sensationalist interest of press junket interviewers to dig deeper, explicitly acknowledging and exploring the power of the story and its impact, positive and negative, on Tina Turner herself. It’s an essential part of the larger transformation of the artist from the Ike and Tina Turner Revue to the queen of rock ‘n’ roll, fulfilling her dream to be the first Black female rockstar to play to sold-out stadiums. From her home in Zurich at the age of 79, Turner speaks with refreshing candor, having retired from public life and in a fulfilling marriage – a rare happy ending that serves as a healing counterpoint to the suffering she experienced earlier in her life.
Coming to virtual cinemas today, Friday, March 26 and to Discovery+ this Sunday, March 28: FRANCESCO
Director: Evgeny Afineevsky
World Premiere: Rome 2020
Select Festivals: DOC NYC, Savannah, Mar del Plata
About: Pope Francis explores the challenges of the modern world.
The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky looks at the pressing challenges of the 21st century through the eyes of Pope Francis. Born in Argentina, Francis is the first leader of the Catholic Church to come from the Americas and the Jesuit order. His teachings bring a progressive take on issues like the climate crisis, immigration, LGBTQ support, economic equality, and religious tolerance. Afineevsky’s film showcases a voice of morality that serves as a powerful counterbalance to the rise of reactionary politics around the world.
About: A kidnapped man’s family and friends are forced to negotiate for his release.
The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read: On September 23, 1994, a group of Colombian separatist guerillas went “miracle fishing,” abducting American journalist Tom Hargrove to hold for ransom. Finding no support from either the US government or the local corrupt authorities, Hargrove’s family were forced to negotiate directly for his release, working with a tight circle of friends—with Hargrove’s 20-year-old son Miles filming everything on Video8. Returning to this footage 25 years later, he constructs a riveting, immersive chronicle of this ordinary family’s extraordinary experience.