Category Archives: Releases

On TV: ROLL RED ROLL

Coming to PBS’s POV tonight, Monday, June 17:
ROLL RED ROLL

Director:
Nancy Schwartzman

Premiere:
Tribeca 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, New Orleans, Hot Docs, Traverse City, Hamptons, Denver, Göteborg, Guanajuato, Globe Docs, Sidewalk, Santa Barbara, Double Exposure, Bend, Tallgrass, Hot Springs Doc, Big Sky Doc, SF Jewish, Human Rights Watch

About:
An exploration of rape and its cover-up in a small town.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatres: 5B

Coming to theatres today, Friday, June 14:
5B

Directors:
Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis

World Premiere:
SFFILM Doc Stories 2018

Select Festivals:
Cannes

About:
At the dawn of the AIDS crisis, nurses and caregivers defied fear and stigma to establish the world’s first AIDS hospital ward.

Part of a growing body of retrospective work that looks back at the early years of the AIDS crisis, a time of criminal federal neglect, irrational fear, and heartbreaking loss, Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis’ doc focuses on one of the epicenters of the crisis, San Francisco, and the work of medical caregivers beginning in the early 1980s. Drawing from archival footage and the testimony of nurses, doctors, volunteers, and, sometimes surprisingly, survivors, this fairly conventional but nevertheless impactful film details the pioneering efforts of a small group of San Francisco General Hospital healthcare workers to set up ward 5B, the first ward exclusively devoted to patients with AIDS. While many in the medical community at the time before HIV was identified as the cause of the disease – including critics within the very same hospital – debated the safety of treating patients with AIDS without the extreme precautions of head-to-toe hazmat suits, the nurses and volunteers of 5B refused to bow to fear, and actually pushed past standard protocols of clinical detachment to insist on caring, human contact. Contrasting their approach with the hateful, fearmongering statements of figures like Dr Lorraine Day, a chief of surgery who remains wholly unsympathetic and unrepentant to this day, the film demonstrates the deep impact this kind of compassionate care had on patients who, for too long, knew that AIDS was a death sentence, and the lasting influence 5B had on other hospitals around the country.

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On VOD: 12TH AND CLAIRMOUNT

New to Amazon Prime Video this week:
12TH AND CLAIRMOUNT

Director:
Brian Kaufman

World Premiere:
Freep 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Traverse City

About:
A look back at the Detroit uprising of 1967.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
In 1967, Detroit’s mostly white police department was known for its harsh treatment of black citizens. When police raided an after hours party at the intersection of 12th Street and Clairmount, the streets erupted in what’s been called a riot by some, a rebellion by others. It lasted five days and left 43 dead. This compelling documentary uses more than 400 reels of home movies, archival footage, illustrations, and new oral histories to explore what happened from multiple viewpoints.

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In Theatres: BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTE

Coming to theatres today, Friday, June 14:
BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTE

Director:
Sophie Huber

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2018

Select Festivals:
IDFA, CPH:DOX, Palm Springs, Vancouver, Sound Unseen, SF Jewish

About:
A look back at the influential jazz label.

Founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, German Jews with a love for jazz, Blue Note Records became the premier label for the giants of the genre, issuing work by Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, and Herbie Hancock, among several others. Director Sophie Huber recounts Blue Note’s early days, its visionary leaders’ support of art above commerce, and the elements that made the label so memorable, beyond the music, including the bold, evocative album photography and artwork. The project loses its focus, however, when it moves to the present day in an attempt to link the work Lion and Wolff championed with a new generation, resulting in a too cursory look at large portions of the label’s history. Blue Notes has been the subject of several docs, underscoring its influence and the affection music lovers have for the label, and this one no doubt will find some admirers, even if its treatment hits a few wrong notes.

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In Theatres: PARIS IS BURNING

Coming back to theatres in a new restoration beginning today, Friday, June 14:
PARIS IS BURNING

Director:
Jenni Livingston

World Premiere:
Toronto 1990

Select Festivals:
Sundance, Berlin

About:
This seminal doc explores NYC’s drag ball culture.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: DO SOMETHING: THE JEFFREY MODELL STORY

New to VOD this week:
DO SOMETHING: THE JEFFREY MODELL STORY

Director:
Lisa Binns

World Premiere:
VOD release (June 2019)

About:
A couple reflects on the impact of their son’s rare disease on their lives.

As an infant, it became clear to his parents that Jeffrey Modell was suffering from some kind of health issue. After numerous consultations with doctors and hospital stays, he was diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency, a rare condition that made him susceptible to life-threatening illness. Though Jeffrey was a fighter and maintained optimism about his odds, he died at the age of 15. His parents, Fred and Vicki, decide to honor his memory by starting a foundation to support research into his disease, reaching out to pharmaceutical companies and senators to support legislation and research, and doing a lot of promotion, taking a small initial investment and turning it into a sustainable charity to hopefully find a cure. While there’s certainly some power in the Modells’ recounting of their son’s life and death, once the focus turns to the foundation’s story, the film becomes self-promotional, underlining that the project is a fairly standard awareness doc best used as a fundraising tool rather than for general audience exposure.

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On VOD: THE BULLISH FARMER

New to VOD this week:
THE BULLISH FARMER

Director:
Ken Marsolais

World Premiere:
Cinequest 2017

Select Festivals:
Berkshire, Macon, Woods Hole, United Nations Association, Sedona

About:
An investment banker gives up Wall Street to become a sustainable farmer.

After more than a decade as a successful Wall Street banker, John left behind the money and the pace of NYC to purchase 185 acres of land in upstate New York and take a different path. Now known as “John Boy,” he builds up a small-scale farm, growing crops and raising livestock, gaining a reputation for his traditional methods learned by veteran farmers. In this earnest and modest project, director Ken Marsolais profiles John Boy as he reveals how he was motivated to begin speaking out against industrial farming methods, GMOS, and other threats to the kind of small-scale, sustainable farming – and food production – in which he so passionately believes. While John Boy is a likeable enough figure, the film’s placid, straightforward approach makes it fairly unmemorable and best suited to a specialized audience already interested in the topic.

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