Category Archives: Releases

On DVD: ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE

Coming to DVD via the Criterion Collection today, Tuesday, January 19:
ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE

Director:
Martin Scorsese

Premiere:
Netflix (June 2019)

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Sydney

About:
Bob Dylan’s legendary tour from the mid-1970s is filtered through the Martin Scorsese’s distinctive lens.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
In 1975, Bob Dylan embarked on a two-year tour that became legendary. Now Martin Scorsese draws upon footage shot on that tour to create a documentary as unique as Dylan, with fictional elements interwoven. The film includes a parade of iconic figures including Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Patti Smith.

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On DVD: DRIVING WHILE BLACK: RACE, SPACE AND MOBILITY IN AMERICA

Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, January 19:
DRIVING WHILE BLACK: RACE, SPACE AND MOBILITY IN AMERICA

Director:
Ric Burns and Gretchen Sorin

World Premiere:
PBS (October 2020)

About:
An expansive consideration of how the movement of Black people has been policed in American history.

Based on Gretchen Sorin’s book DRIVING WHILE BLACK: AFRICAN AMERICAN TRAVEL AND THE ROAD TO CIVIL RIGHTS, this screen version reveals the pivotal role transportation and movement have played in African American life in the 20th century. While mainstream (white) audiences were introduced to the treacherous aspects of road travel for Black individuals via Hollywood’s GREEN BOOK, Sorin and her co-director Ric Burns delve more deeply, and broadly, into the concept of the transformative possibilities – and limits – of travel by African Americans in the US, from slavery through Jim Crow, the Great Migration through the Civil Rights era and into the present day. They cover a wide swath of history, perhaps too wide – an exploration of the restrictions on the Black body for any of these periods could easily fill its own feature length treatment – but it’s an informative and insightful meditation that remains all too relevant to this day.

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On VOD: YUNG LEAN: IN MY HEAD

Coming to VOD today, Monday, January 18:
YUNG LEAN: IN MY HEAD

Director:
Henrik Burman

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2020 (unscreened)

Select Festivals:
Stockholm

About:
A portrait of the SoundCloud rapper.

Swedish teenager Jonatan Leandoer Håstad found inexplicable fame online, sharing his music on SoundCloud under the alias Yung Lean. Filmmaker Henrik Burman recounts Jonatan’s unusual emergence at the age of 15, and the darker side of fame for him and his Sad Boys crew. While boasting impressive access to his subject, the director constructs a fairly by the numbers surface portrait that will register chiefly with the artist’s fanbase and leave all others scratching their heads at what all the fuss is about.

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On TV: HOW IT FEELS TO BE FREE

Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Coming to PBS’s American Masters today, Monday, January 18:
HOW IT FEELS TO BE FREE

Director:
Yoruba Richen

World Premiere:
American Masters (January 2020)

About:
An exploration of the political activism and impact of six legendary Black female actresses and musicians.

Based on HOW IT FEELS TO BE FREE: BLACK WOMEN ENTERTAINERS AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, Yoruba Richen’s screen treatment profiles five of the women featured in Ruth Feldstein’s book – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson – and swaps in Pam Grier instead of Miriam Makeba for the sixth spot. This multi-subject focus is a departure from the typical singular approach for American Masters, and a daunting one – each of these icons could and should receive their own standalone doc, or, at the least, would have benefitted from an episodic form instead. Richen and her panel of experts – Feldstein as well as historians, family members, and notable present-day performers – do succeed in drawing out compelling arguments and observations about how these subjects broke barriers in Hollywood and the larger entertainment industry, and, just as often, were frustrated in their efforts, as well as the more overt activism some of them engaged in, particularly around civil rights. At the same time, the need to balance six biographical threads lends a choppiness to the proceedings, and a sense that there’s far more to each women’s story than is possible to cover in the available time.

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In Virtual Release: FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO

Coming to virtual cinemas today, Friday, January 15:
FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO

Director:
Lynne Sachs

World Premiere:
Slamdance 2020

Select Festivals:
Doc Fortnight, Sheffield, Docaviv, Doclisboa, RIDM, Indie Memphis, Sarasota

About:
The filmmaker attempts to make sense of her wayward father.

Named in homage to Yvonne Rainer’s FILM ABOUT A WOMAN WHO…, noted experimental filmmaker Lynne Sach’s constructs a study of her father, Ira Sachs Sr, from material shot over four decades. Ira, a hippie-turned-successful real-estate developer, was also an unrepentant womanizer, taking on younger lovers and producing more and more offspring, some kept secret from Lynne and her brother, Ira Jr, the acclaimed filmmaker. While the film is hardly experimental, its construction is somewhat fragmentary and decidedly personal, which initially makes it a bit difficult for the viewer, an outsider to this family affair, to engage. Despite this, the portrait that Lynne Sachs pieces together grows increasingly intriguing, not just of her father, but of his generation, and, really, of the broader idea of family.

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On DVD/VOD: MEAN MAN: THE STORY OF CHRIS HOLMES

Coming to DVD/VOD today, Friday, January 15:
MEAN MAN: THE STORY OF CHRIS HOLMES

Director:
Antoine de Montremy

World Premiere:
DVD/VOD release (January 2021)

About:
Former WASP guitarist Chris Holmes recounts his career while touring Europe.

Chris Holmes is a gruff, bearded, middle-aged rocker who currently lives in Cannes with his French wife, touring around Europe in his new band, Mean Man. His claim to fame is his on-again, off-again career with WASP, the hair metal band from the 1980s-90s. He, former bandmates, friends, and some family members relate Holmes’ background, how he got into music, his volatile relationship with WASP frontman Blackie Lawless, his relationship with ex-wife Lita Ford, how he struggled post-fame before sobering up, and his continuing career in Europe, where fans are still appreciative of his music and WASP background. Holmes is a straight-talking, no-frills guy, who seems meaner than he is but is kind to his fans and to his friends, but he unfortunately isn’t compelling enough to carry a whole film. While his existing fans may check out de Montremy’s film, its structure is too sloppy and repetitive to attract a wider audience.

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In Theatres/Virtual Release: ROCK CAMP: THE MOVIE

Coming to select theatres and to virtual cinemas today, Friday, January 15:
ROCK CAMP: THE MOVIE

Director:
Doug Blush

Co-Director:
Renee Barron

World Premiere:
Key West 2020

About:
Music fans sign up to rock out with their favorite performers.

Founded in 1996 by music producer David Fishof, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp gives people the opportunity to live out their rockstar fantasies – for a price, though Doug Blush and Renee Barron’s film doesn’t explore this not insignificant detail nor how it impacts who is and isn’t able to participate. Leaving that aside, the film instead offers a crash course in the camp’s origins, profiles a handful of participants, and provides a sense of their experience at the camp, where a bevy of rock heavy hitters serve as camp counselors, including Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, Nancy Wilson, Slash, Joe Perry, and Jeff Beck. Blush and Barron benefit from one thread involving the camp’s beneficial impact on a young man with autism, but otherwise keep things fairly surface level. Somewhat shambolic in structure, and unfortunately too often feeling overtly promotional, the project’s upbeat tone will nevertheless help it find a welcome audience.

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In Theatres/Virtual Release: ACASA, MY HOME

photo by Mircea Topoleanu

Coming to select theatres and to virtual cinemas today, Friday, January 15:
ACASA, MY HOME

Director:
Radu Ciorniciuc

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, IDFA, Docaviv, DOK.fest Munich, Thessaloniki Doc, Doc Edge, One World, Moscow Doc, Sarajevo, Cartagena, Krakow, Transilvania, Zurich, Cologne, El Gouna

About:
A Roma family is forced to leave their self-sufficient life off the grid for the city.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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In Virtual Release: SOME KIND OF HEAVEN

photo by David Bolen

Coming to virtual cinemas tomorrow, Friday, January 15:
SOME KIND OF HEAVEN

Director:
Lance Oppenheim

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

Select Festivals:
Rotterdam, Doc Fortnight, Visions du Reel, New Zealand, Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia

About:
A profile of several residents of America’s largest retirement community.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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In Theatres & On VOD: MLK/FBI

Coming to select theatres and to VOD tomorrow, Friday, January 15:
MLK/FBI

Director:
Sam Pollard

World Premiere:
Toronto 2020

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, New York, Chicago, IDFA

About:
An exposé of the FBI’s adversarial relationship to the Civil Rights leader.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Sam Pollard’s latest film performs the vital task of examining FBI director J Edgar Hoover’s relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, when King is celebrated across political spectrums as a moral hero, it’s jolting to confront the years when federal agents targeted him as a villain. Inspired by the work of historian David Garrow, the film uses recently declassified files to study the FBI’s motives and methods.

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