Select Festivals: DOC NYC, Montclair, Philadelphia
About: The illusionist’s acclaimed one-man show.
The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read: For more than 500 performances, Derek DelGaudio left New York City audiences moved and astonished by his one-man show combining the art of illusion and storytelling. Filmmaker Frank Oz turns DelGaudio’s intimate live performances into an unforgettable film about redemption and identity that builds with both emotion and wonder to a jaw-dropping final act. Now that live performance has been drastically curtailed by the pandemic, the chance to be immersed in this one-of-a-kind experience feels all the more precious.
About: A look back at peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in 2000 through the memories of American diplomats.
The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read: Filmmaker Dror Moreh proved himself an expert navigator of powerful figures in his Oscar-nominated film The Gatekeepers, about the leaders of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. Now he employs his talents to probe the American-led negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in 2000. The main insiders on camera are six top American diplomats who testify to the human factor—the personal contact between the lead politicians Ehud Barak, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton—for a revelatory look at a lost opportunity.
About: An expansive look at America’s opioid crisis.
Drug addiction has long been a serious issue in the US, but our most recent opioid epidemic can be traced back to the late-1990s, with the rise of prescriptions for pain killers. A confluence of factors, including the greedy machinations of pharmaceutical companies and doctors, as well as a depressive economy leading to an increase in vulnerable individuals, set the stage for skyrocketing abuse, addiction, suffering, and death. With opioids impacting not just marginalized communities, media and politicians paid more attention than they would normally – a larger societal problem – but effective solutions to slow or halt the course of opioid abuse have been slow in coming. Ondi Timoner’s film covers a lot of ground, profiling recovering users as well as several individuals trying to tackle the problem, from politicians to attorneys. As with many projects that attempt to address a huge issue like this, there’s an inclination to feature as many stories as possible to illustrate the complexities of addiction, often leading to a cursory or episodic feel. That said, the film’s focus on forward-thinking efforts in two states, Utah and Colorado, to combat the opioid crisis wisely helps to ground the problem. Timoner succeeds in underscoring the need for industry accountability, regulation, and compassionate treatment over punishment if the country has any hopes of seeing the other side of this epidemic.
About: A longitudinal portrait of a historically Black South Side Chicago neighborhood as it faces destruction.
For generations, Englewood has been home for hundreds of Black families, part of a legacy that stretches back to the Great Migration. Notably, despite decades of inequities and racist policies that have historically limited the ability of many Black people to be homeowners, Englewood has beaten the odds, with half of its families owning their homes. David Schalliol’s film begins in 2012, when the Norfolk Southern railroad company has already begun to decimate Englewood, buying up property to expand its nearby rail yard. Working in concert with local politicians, all too eager to reframe the neighborhood as suffering from urban blight and to erase its long history, Norfolk Southern’s victory is sadly inevitable. Despite this, some local residents refuse to go quietly, demanding to be treated with respect and to be offered fair compensation for their homes. Schalliol follows their righteous, if Sisyphean, struggle – and the sad demise of Englewood – over five years in this sensitively observed profile.