Category Archives: Releases

On VOD: TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE

movie-tales-from-the-organ-trade-by-ric-esther-bienstock-s2-mask9New to VOD on Vudu today, Thursday, January 19:
TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE

Director:
Ric Esther Bienstock

Premiere:
Documentary Edge 2013

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, London, Margaret Mead, Dockufest, Hot Springs, Zurich, Bergen, Fantastic Fest

About:
An exposé of the human organ black market.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: THE STATE OF EUGENICS

state of eugenicsComing to PBS’s Reel South series next Sunday, January 29:
THE STATE OF EUGENICS

Director:
Dawn Sinclair Shapiro

Premiere:
Columbia Law School screening (November 2016)

About:
An investigation into North Carolina’s four-decade-long modern eugenics program.

Between 1933 and 1974, the state of North Carolina sterilized an estimated 7600 residents without their consent – but legally. Like the majority of the US, NC had adopted eugenics laws prior to World War II, convinced that the dodgy science would help maintain the strength of genetically superior Americans. Targeting those deemed “undesirable” – poor, disabled, feeble-minded, or promiscuous – these laws introduced compulsory sterilization, and in more extreme cases, euthanasia. Class, race, and gender played into these programs, affecting poor white and black residents alike, with NC among the most aggressive of states enforcing the practice until an ACLU lawsuit brought led to reforms. The public had long forgotten this dark chapter of the state’s past until the Winston-Salem Journal revisited the law’s impact in a series of articles in 2002. While fairly conventional in its approach, Shapiro’s film attempts to broaden the story further, giving voice to survivors of the practice, researchers and journalists who exposed it, and lawmakers who have championed reparations to in some small part make up for the abuses of the system.

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In Theatres: BEHEMOTH

behemoths_stillComing to theatres next Friday, January 27:
BEHEMOTH

Director:
Zhao Liang

Premiere:
Venice 2015

Select Festivals:
IDFA, New Directors/New Films, Dubai, True/False, DocAviv, Moscow, Sheffield, Melbourne, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Istanbul

About:
A poetic meditation on the environmental impact of China’s rapid economic development.

Taking a more experimental approach than his past work, the social issue documentarian exposes the ecological and human costs of industry through unsettling tableaux of destroyed landscapes set to Dante’s THE DIVINE COMEDY. Using visually impactful images of the stark borders between verdant fields and neighboring desolation, the filmmaker demonstrates the devastation wrought by dangerous coal mining practices. Occasionally, he inserts naked figures within these hellscapes, but these unnecessary stylistic flourishes carry far less weight than images of miners and their families suffering from their toxic work. While its attempt to merge nonfiction with video art is not always successful, the film’s imagery proves disturbingly memorable.

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In Theatres: THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES

key-image-the-age-of-consequences-pf-pictures-mike-mcsweeney-copyComing to theatres next Friday, January 27:
THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES

Director:
Jared P Scott

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2016

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Sheffield, Telluride Mountainfilm, Antenna Doc, Waimea Ocean Festival, Wild & Scenic

About:
Global unrest viewed through the lens of climate change.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC, saying:
Taking an eye-opening approach to climate change, Scott’s film reframes concern for the environment into a question of international security. Viewed by the US military and security experts as a “threat multiplier” for instability, climate change is repositioned at the heart of current global unrest. Droughts and floods lead to food shortages, conflict over resources and mass displacement. Will the world succumb to these cascading disasters or take steps to prevent them?

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On TV: RACHEL CARSON

rachel carsonComing to PBS’s American Experience this coming Tuesday, January 24:
RACHEL CARSON

Director:
Michelle Ferrari

Premiere:
American Experience (January 2017)

About:
A portrait of the woman whose writing popularized the environmental movement.

Rachel Carson was a marine biologist working for the US Fish and Wildlife Services when she began to combine her lifelong love of writing with an interest in making science accessible, penning articles for the likes of READER’S DIGEST. Eventually, she transitioned to becoming a full-time author, after her second book, THE SEA AROUND US, became a best-seller and National Book Award Winner. While this and the other books in her sea trilogy changed the way readers viewed the oceans and the life they sustained, Carson affected the most significant change in public perception with SILENT SPRING, her 1962 book exposing the hidden dangers of pesticides like DDT, which had been unquestioningly embraced by the US government since WWII as part of a shortsighted view of “better living through chemistry.” Ferrari hews close to the standard American Experience format in this illuminating if conventionally constructed profile, reviewing her subject’s accomplishments through narration as well as talking head commentary from Carson biographers. The film also relates Carson’s pseudo-lesbian relationship with Dorothy Freeman and her struggle with cancer which claimed the author’s life less than two years after her groundbreaking book’s publication, which remains a cornerstone of environmental awareness to this day.

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On VOD: ENLIGHTEN US: THE RISE AND FALL OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY

enlightenNew to VOD this week:
ENLIGHTEN US: THE RISE AND FALL OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY

Director:
Jenny Carchman

Premiere:
Tribeca 2016

Select Festivals:
Tallgrass, Telluride Mountainfilm, Poland’s American Film Festival.

About:
A disgraced self-help guru reflects on his past while trying to move forward.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: DOGS ON THE INSIDE

dogs on the insideNew to DVD this week:
DOGS ON THE INSIDE

Directors:
Brean Cunningham, Douglas Seirup

Premiere:
Boston International Film Festival 2014

Select Festivals:
San Diego, Rhode Island, Global Visions

About:
Prison inmates foster stray dogs.

In Gardner MA’s North Central Correctional Institution, the Don’t Throw Us Away program pairs prisoners with homeless and often abused strays. Saving the thankful dogs from euthanasia, inmates train and rehabilitate the canines to give them a chance to enter the adoption system, and in return provide inmates with marketable skills, responsibility, and empathy that will aid them in their return to society. In their earnest but unremarkable doc, Cunningham and Seirup profile a few pairs as they find themselves transformed by the program. Though running just over an hour, it feels like a padded PSA more than a fully fleshed out film, and might have been more successful as a short doc.

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