Category Archives: Releases

On DVD: NASSER’S REPUBLIC: THE MAKING OF MODERN EGYPT

Coming to DVD next Tuesday, January 23:
NASSER’S REPUBLIC: THE MAKING OF MODERN EGYPT

Director:
Michal Goldman

Premiere:
Washington DC International Film Festival 2016

Select Festivals:
IFF Boston, Cairo, Pan-African, Luxor African, African Disaspora

About:
A profile of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser quickly rose to power in Egypt as one of the leaders of the 1952 revolution, a military coup to abolish the monarchy and end the British occupation. Following its success, and a later face-off with the Muslim Brotherhood, the charismatic Nasser became Egypt’s president and continued widespread reforms, including the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the formation of a nascent pan-Arab nation. As Goldman points out in her educational but workmanlike film, however, is that while Nasser brought many positive contributions to Egypt – and tried to accomplish much more that might very well have helped to stabilize the Middle East – he unfortunately failed to institute a true democracy. As a result, while hailed as Egypt’s great liberator, he also became the nation’s dictator until his death in 1970, setting the course for subsequent decades of authoritarian rule. In many ways, however, the Egypt that Nasser set out to transform shared much in common with today’s post-Arab Spring one, a country seeking to move beyond Mubarak and build a new, modern nation, making Goldman’s project timely for its historical contextualization and analysis.

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On DVD: WHERE YOU’RE MEANT TO BE

Coming to DVD next Tuesday, January 23:
WHERE YOU’RE MEANT TO BE

Director:
Paul Fegan

Premiere:
Glasgow 2016

Select Festivals:
IDFA, CPH:DOX, Sheffield, Edinburgh, BAFICI, Docs Against Gravity, Chicago, Vancouver, Guth Gafa

About:
A Scots musician attempts to modernize and popularize outdated folk songs.

Fegan’s film follows Aidan Moffat, who was part of popular band Arab Strap, as he sets out to tour Scotland with his rewritten folk songs, borne out of an affection for the oral tradition of passing along the music and a desire to revitalize it. When Sheila Stewart, a 79-year-old traveller and folk singer hears his reworkings, however, she is not impressed – she believes the traditional songs are sacrosanct and that Moffat has missed the meaning. Despite this criticism, Moffat perseveres, in his own way helping to continue Stewarts work in keeping the music alive. While on the whole focused too much on the performances and not enough about Moffat, Stewart, or the music’s background, Fegan’s film has just enough charm and humor to keep a non-Scots audience engaged.

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On TV: THE FORCE

Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens this coning Monday, January 22:
THE FORCE

Director:
Peter Nicks

Premiere:
Sundance 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, CPH:DOX, True/False, Full Frame, Seattle, Human Rights Watch, BAMcinemaFest, Melbourne, Cleveland, San Francisco, Sarasota

About:
An immersion into the beleaguered Oakland Police Department as it attempts to reform its scandal-ridden image.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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In Theatres: KANGAROO

Coming to theatres this Friday, January 19:
KANGAROO

Directors:
Kate McIntyre Clere and Michael McIntyre

Premiere:
Santa Barbara 2017

Select Festivals:
NYC Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Rotterdam

About:
An exposé of the brutal treatment of kangaroos in Australia.

While synonymous with Australia, particularly in tourist-friendly images, the kangaroo has a more complicated relationship with the people of its home country than the international community might suspect. Some want to protect the animal, others wish to exploit it for meat, and some see it as vermin needing to be exterminated. Clere and McIntyre reveal these disparate viewpoints in their earnest but at times clunky film, but it becomes fairly clear that their sympathies rest with the conservationists – and it’s hard to imagine how any viewer would disagree, given the disturbing slaughter revealed here – making their film a would-be THE COVE for kangaroos. Unfortunately, the filmmakers incorporate some questionable storytelling techniques – from re-enactments to shock freeze frames and spot color effects – that have a cheapening effect. Despite this, they succeed in revealing the troubling treatment of the iconic Australian animal, as well as how it’s been combatted.

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On DVD: EVERY 40 YEARS

Coming to DVD this Friday, January 19:
EVERY 40 YEARS

Directors:
Eric Goldrich and Ben Friedberg

Premiere:
Santa Barbara 2017

About:
A folk rock trio that once achieved some success reunites after four decades.

Together with Friedberg, Goldrich profiles his father, Steve, and his bandmates in the group Gunhill Road, who are remembered as one-hit wonders for “Back When My Hair Was Short,” a Billboard charting song, but had a few other minor successes in the 1970s before they disbanded. They and past collaborators, family, and fans detail Gunhill Road’s emergence and what went wrong, including running afoul of bad record deals. An event that pays tribute to their former manager at the Bitter End gives an excuse for a reunion about 40 years after their heyday, shown in the final scenes here, and paves the way for a new album. While clearly a labor of love for the filmmakers, they struggle to find enough material to sustain even an hour-long doc, and what’s here is really only of interest to the band’s small fanbase.

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On TV: LORRAINE HANSBERRY: SIGHTED EYES/FEELING HEART

Coming to PBS’s American Masters this Friday, January 19:
LORRAINE HANSBERRY: SIGHTED EYES/FEELING HEART

Director:
Tracy Heather Strain

Premiere:
Toronto 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Chicago

About:
A moving account of the life of the pioneering black playwright.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Lorraine Hansberry, best known for A RAISIN IN THE SUN, was a black writer, communist, feminist, lesbian, and outspoken trailblazer at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She led an active life, befriending James Baldwin, inspiring Nina Simone, breaking barriers from Broadway to Hollywood, being monitored by the FBI, and seeking love on her own terms, all before her untimely death at age 34. After many years in the making, director Tracy Heather Strain delivers the rich biography that Hansberry deserves.

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In Theatres: POW WOW

Coming to theatres this Friday, January 19:
POW WOW

Director:
Robinson Devor

Premiere:
Locarno 2016

Select Festivals:
New Orleans, CPH:DOX, Art of the Real, Mar del Plata, Seattle

About:
Life in the Coachella Valley.

Described as an ethnographic study, Devor ambles around the Inland Empire Colorado Desert terrain best known for Palm Springs and the Coachella spring music festival, briefly training his camera on a wide range of inhabitants, from country club reveler to Las Vegas comedians, Native Americans to elderly transplants. Through this survey, a not altogether coherent thread runs, covering the contested history of the region and the story of Willie Boy, a Native boy who managed to outrun a mounted posse in 1908. While at times breathtakingly shot, the intriguing and thoughtful project never quite manages to come together in a wholly satisfying way, making it more of a strange curio than a fully successful film.

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