On DVD: THE FAMILY I HAD

Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, August 14:
THE FAMILY I HAD

Directors:
Katie Green and Carlye Rubin

Premiere:
Tribeca 2017

Select Festivals:
New Orleans, Docaviv, Camden, Hamptons, Melbourne

About:
A mother reckons with the aftermath of her son’s horrific crime.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: A CAMBODIAN SPRING

Coming to MUBI today, Monday, August 13:
A CAMBODIAN SPRING

Director:
Christopher Kelly

Premiere:
Sheffield 2016 (under original title, THE CAUSE OF PROGRESS) / Hot Docs 2017 (final cut)

Select Festivals:
One World, Human Rights Watch, Brooklyn, Galway, Docs MX, Antenna, Busan

About:
A profile of activists opposing corruption under the guise of development in Cambodia.

Shot over the course of six years, Kelly’s film charts the struggles of the disenfranchised residents of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake region to combat a blatant land grab by the government in the name of development. Among those finding themselves spurred into action to defend their homes and families are young mothers Toul Srey Pov and Tep Vanny, who become committed activists seeking to put pressure on the local government and on outsider funders, such as the World Bank. Though they emerge as leaders, fractures begin to form as the latter takes on an increasingly public and international role, while the former eventually puts an end to her activism. Though Srey Pov cites a desire to focus on her family, Vanny spreads rumors that she instead was bribed by the government before recognizing that sowing internal strife is assuredly in their opponents best interest. Working alongside these citizen activists is the Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk who feels called to support the people under his care, even when this runs afoul of direct orders from his religious superiors. Proficient with camera phones, he documents the abuses perpetrated by the government, not only on the people of Boeung Kak, but on himself – through the course of the film, he is constantly harassed by police and fellow monks, threatened with arrest and even with being defrocked. Kelly’s project is a long and dense one, expanding beyond the local land grab issue to larger matters of more widespread corruption, but this is not always properly contextualized, such as the story behind political opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his exile and later return for election. Though stronger when focused on his three protagonists, the film remains a compelling look at the power and determination of individuals to stand up against injustice.

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Sarajevo 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 24th Sarajevo Film Festival

Dates:
August 10-17

About:
Nonfiction makes up about a third of the more than 100 features of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s premier festival, an event founded during the siege of Sarajevo. Continue reading

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On VOD: THE STAIRS

Coming to MUBI today, Thursday, August 9:
THE STAIRS

Director:
Hugh Gibson

Premiere:
Toronto 2016

Select Festivals:
Mar del Plata, Jeonju, Maryland

About:
An intimate portrait of drug addiction.

Over the course of five years, Gibson profiles three individuals who are in recovery, but always contending with their drug addictions. Roxanne details harrowing episodes from her time as a sex worker and worries about the impact of her addiction on her son, Greg still struggles with crack even as he seeks justice for a case of police brutality during an arrest, and Marty, the most talkative of Gibson’s subjects, shares all sorts of stories, including one about an altercation that threatens the progress he’s made in working in harm reduction programs to help other addicts. Shot in a decidedly no-frills style, focused on talking heads telling often too long stories, there’s a rough, almost old-fashioned feel to Gibson’s project that suggests it could have benefited from some tightening. At the same time, this looseness perhaps encourages the deep intimacy that’s achieved with his subjects, an intimacy that’s reflected in the candor they share with the filmmaker and which ultimately proves so compelling for the viewer.

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On DVD: BEYOND THE WALL

New to DVD this week:
BEYOND THE WALL

Directors:
Jenny Phillips and Bestor Cram

Premiere:
IFF Boston 2016

Select Festivals:
Woods Hole, Newburyport Doc, Sun Valley, Boston Latino, Prisoners’ Justice, Peace on Earth

About:
A look at the challenges faced by former prisoners after their release.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: WHEN THE BEAT DROPS

Coming to Logo TV tomorrow, Thursday, August 9:
WHEN THE BEAT DROPS

Director:
Jamal Sims

Premiere:
Miami 2018

Select Festivals:
Frameline, Outfest

About:
A celebration of a Southern African American underground dance subculture.

Sims, an acclaimed choreographer, makes a fitting directorial debut with this loving look at bucking, a dance style developed by African American gay men as an homage of sorts to the cheerleading dance teams of historically black colleges and universities. Celebrating flamboyancy, with teams typically dressed in majorette inspired outfits, bucking is a high energy, athletic dance that has proven an outlet for creativity and a refuge for African American gay men to find a community and alternate family. The film profiles several dancers, but its heart is Anthony, one of the pioneers of the subculture, who heads up Atlanta’s legendary Phi Phi team. Phi Phi, long the rulers of the bucking scene, transitioned to serving as organizers for competitions, but the film culminates in the team staging a comeback, even as dancers relate some of the struggles they still face due to homophobic responses to their participation.

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Special Screening: OUR NEW PRESIDENT

Coming to NYC’s Rooftop Films this Thursday, August 9:
OUR NEW PRESIDENT

Director:
Maxim Pozdorovkin

Premiere:
Sundance 2018

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Hot Docs, Big Sky Doc, True/False, CPH:DOX, Miami, Biografilm, Traverse City, Sheffield, Minneapolis-St Paul, DOXA, Revelation Perth, Melbourne, New Zealand, Jerusalem

About:
American politics through the distinct, and decidedly warped, lens of the Russian newsmedia.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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