Category Archives: Recommendations

Berlin 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 68th Berlinale

Dates:
February 15-25

About:
More than 80 new and recent documentaries are included in a lineup of nearly 250 features in Germany’s A-list event. Continue reading

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Special Screening: ITZHAK

Coming to NYC’s JCC Manhattan tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13:
ITZHAK

Director:
Alison Chernick

Premiere:
Hamptons 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Palm Springs, Jewish fests in Miami, Palm Beach, Atlanta, and Phoenix

About:
A deeply intimate portrait of acclaimed violin master, Itzhak Perlman.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Widely considered the greatest living violinist, Itzhak Perlman takes us on a journey through his music and life. Filmmaker Alison Chernick gains privileged access to Perlman with his family, friends, and colleagues. Wheelchair-bound from childhood polio, he recounts stories of overcoming obstacles with his talent and humor. We follow him in eclectic settings, from performing with Billy Joel to visiting his native land, Israel. The film offers a poignant portrait of an artist seeking to bridge the past and the present and, through his students, the future.

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Special Screening: CONTROL ROOM

Coming to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction series tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13:
CONTROL ROOM

Director:
Jehane Noujaim

Premiere:
Sundance 2004

Select Festivals:
Berlin, Hot Docs, Thessaloniki Doc, Full Frame, One World, Reykjavik, Cairo, Philadelphia

About:
A behind the scenes look at media coverage in the Arab world during the early days of the Iraq War.

Timed by STF to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the war’s onset, this presentation of Noujaim’s provocative film is a reminder of the naiveté of the American public in the early years of the conflict and of the uncharted territory of wartime journalism in the digital age. Taking a largely observational approach, Noujaim and her team train their cameras on press coverage of the war as centralized by the US government in CentCom, their media hub in Qatar, focusing on the disjunction between the official US version of events and the reports by Al Jazeera. Dismissed by Donald Rumsfeld as anti-American propaganda, the wide-reaching and influential Al Jazeera refuses to unquestioningly parrot military sources and further enrages top brass by showing the darker, bloodier consequences of the US attacks on Iraq. Representing the US viewpoint is CentCom’s press officer, Lieutenant Josh Rushing, but even he acknowledges unconscious bias when contrasting his reaction to images of wounded and killed Iraqis vs similar shots of American soldiers. Several Al Jazeera representatives reflect on the role of their network, demonstrating skepticism about the media coverage of the war and America’s potential role in further radicalizing the Arab world. Viewed in hindsight, Noujaim’s profile proves telling and remains a compelling reminder of the pivotal role of the press to not only present the news, but to rigorously question its sources.

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On TV/DVD: THE BOMBING OF WALL STREET

Coming to PBS’s American Experience and to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13:
THE BOMBING OF WALL STREET

Director:
Susan Bellows

Premiere:
American Experience (February 2018)

About:
An exploration of a still unsolved terrorist plot that targeted Wall Street in 1920.

At lunchtime on September 16, 1920, in front of Wall Street’s JP Morgan bank headquarters, a horse-drawn carriage laden with explosives claimed the lives of 38 and injured more than a hundred others in the area. While the act of terror remained unsolved, authorities believed it to be the work of anti-capitalist forces, including anarchists and communists, and renewed efforts to target those viewed as radicals, notably immigrant workers and labor organizers. Leading the charge against this early war on terror and nascent red scare was the US Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation, whose Radical Division (later known as the General Intelligence Division) was under the command of ambitious young attorney J Edgar Hoover. Bellows works backwards from the bombing to trace its origins in an America that had begun to be defined by great economic and political divisions and unrest, resulting in government crackdowns and abuses of power, and further radicalization of those who would question the status quo. Like the better entries of the venerable PBS series, this project simultaneously offers insight into history while underscoring all-too-timely similarities to the present day.

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On TV: FOR AHKEEM

Coming to America ReFramed tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13:
FOR AHKEEM

Directors:
Jeremy S Levine and Landon Van Soest

Premiere:
Berlin 2017

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Sheffield, AFI Docs, Florida, Montclair, Documentary Edge, DOK.fest Munich, DMZ Docs, Message to Man, Milwaukee, Antenna

About:
An African-American teenage girl strives to graduate from high school.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: ATOMIC HOMEFRONT

Coming to HBO this coming Monday, February 12:
ATOMIC HOMEFRONT

Director:
Rebecca Cammisa

Premiere:
AFI Docs 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, St Louis, DocuWest, Hot Springs Doc

About:
Ordinary citizens uncover the atomic secrets of St Louis.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: DO NOT RESIST

filkins-do-not-resist-1200Coming to PBS’s POV this coming Monday, February 12:
DO NOT RESIST

Director:
Craig Atkinson

Premiere:
Tribeca 2016

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Traverse City, AFI Docs, DOXA, Human Rights Watch, Telluride Mountainfilm, Bergen, Zurich, Dokufest, Camden

About:
An exploration of the militarization of America’s police force.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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