On VOD: HOUSE OF CARDIN

Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 15:
HOUSE OF CARDIN

Directors:
P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes

World Premiere:
Venice 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Chicago, Frameline, Provincetown, Palm Springs, Cleveland, RiverRun, Outfest

About:
A portrait of legendary fashion designer Pierre Cardin.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: LOVE CHILD

Coming to POV tonight, Monday, September 14:
LOVE CHILD

Director:
Eva Mulvad

World Premiere:
Toronto 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, IDFA, Chicago, Docaviv, Budapest, Göteborg, Docs Against Gravity

About:
An illicit love affair leads an Iranian couple to seek asylum.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
Eva Mulvad’s film opens with a desperate man in Tehran telling the camera, “I’m not sure if, tomorrow, I’ll be dead or alive.” This is Sahand, who has been in a long-term adulterous relationship with Leila, despite Iran’s threat of the death penalty for infidelity. Now, the couple is fleeing the country with Mani, their four-year-old love child. Mulvad follows their journey for seven years as their love holds them together throughout an epic drama.

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In Theatres & In Virtual Release: SPACE DOGS

Coming to select theatres and to virtual cinemas today, Friday, September 11:
SPACE DOGS

Directors:
Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter

World Premiere:
Locarno 2019

Select Festivals:
RIDM, DOK Leipzig, Torino, Tallinn Black Nights, Mar del Plata, Sao Paolo, Reykjavik, Vienna

About:
A meditation on the fate of the Soviet Union’s animal cosmonauts.

In 1957, the Soviet Union scored a scientific and publicity victory by successfully launching the first mammal into space. Laika, a dog from the streets of Moscow, made history, and entered the public consciousness as a fairly benign image of the space race. Filmmakers Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter tear away at those innocent associations, revealing the poor mutt’s sad fate in its opening scene, and then weaving an increasingly downbeat story of other hapless animal cosmonauts – complete with fascinating but disturbing archival footage of the various tests and bodily modifications forced upon them to make them space-ready – paired with the present-day adventures of Moscow street dogs. If the footage of the animal testing isn’t hard enough, the filmmakers include a truly challenging scene that details the aftermath of a confrontation between the canines and a poor cat, and later reveals the heartbreaking fate of a litter of stray puppies in its closing scene. While very well made, it’s a cruel and provocative film, and while that’s its point, it makes for a decidedly difficult watch.

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On VOD: BLACK BOYS

New to Peacock this week:
BLACK BOYS

Director:
Sonia Lowman

World Premiere:
Toronto Black 2020

Select Festivals:
Bentonville, American Black, Montreal Black, Chagrin Falls Doc

About:
An exploration of the stacked deck against black boys in American society.

Loosely split into four titled chapters, filmmaker Sonia Lowman’s well-intentioned film attempts to explore the way black males are stereotyped and perceived in American society and the detriment this has on the self-image and aspirations of black boys. The film covers an expansive range of topics – from the objectification of the black male body and the double consciousness black boys develop in order to navigate a white society that fears them, to the negative and traumatic history they are taught about black history and the disproportionate treatment they are subjected to in school – but takes a survey approach that results in a talking heads fest. Despite the importance and timeliness of the topic, however, the film is fundamentally flawed. Lowman, who is white, is not the right filmmaker to be telling this story. While she appears on camera to acknowledge her privilege and to try to justify her perspective, it remains an awkward and ill fit. Yes, white people need to question their biases and implicit racism, but the power dynamic in having a white filmmaker take the lead here remains problematic and ultimately undermines the project as a whole.

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On VOD: HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME

New to OVID.tv this week:
HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME

Director:
Thomas Heise

World Premiere:
Berlin 2019

Select Festivals:
Toronto, IDFA, New York, Visions du Réel, RIDM, Jeonju, Torino

About:
An essay film exploring German history through three generations of the filmmaker’s family.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Toronto 2020: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 45th Toronto International Film Festival

Dates:
September 10-19

About:
One of the world’s premier film events tackles the pandemic with a trimmed down schedule and a hybrid online and in-person model. Of its approximately 50 new features, 16 are nonfiction. Continue reading

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In Theatres & In Virtual Release: JIMMY CARTER: ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT

Coming to select theatres and to virtual cinemas today, Wednesday, September 9:
JIMMY CARTER: ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT

Director:
Mary Wharton

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2020

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, AFI Docs

About:
A consideration of the importance of popular music in the life and political career of the former US president.

Presidential biographies are often fairly staid affairs, stories of how privilege and/or determination allowed the subject to become a great leader and take the seat of the highest office in the country, followed by a recitation of his great achievements or challenge while in power. Mary Wharton’s version is refreshingly different, using the unique lens of music to frame the story of the 39th president. Far from simply acknowledging that Jimmy Carter liked rock ‘n’ roll – which, while in and of itself telling of a generational difference between older politicians – the film explores how he marshalled support from musicians like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffett on his campaign to help attract younger voters to get him elected, as well as his canny use of music as a soft power during his administration, such as his arranging of a trip to Nashville for the Chinese ambassador to the US. While the focus on music fades away a bit in the final stretch of Wharton’s film, its impact is clearly established, making for an enjoyably nostalgic and creative appreciation of Jimmy Carter and of his embrace of music’s ability to unify audiences.

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On DVD: LOS REYES

New to DVD this week:
LOS REYES

Directors:
Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff

World Premiere:
IDFA 2018

Select Festivals:
CPH:DOX, Film Comment Selects, DocPoint, Göteborg, Montclair, Biografilm, Miami, Portland

About:
A portrait of two stray dogs living in a Chilean skatepark.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

Coming to Netflix tomorrow, Wednesday, September 9:
THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

Director:
Jeff Orlowski

World Premiere:
Sundance 2020

About:
An exposé of the insidious hidden systems of control behind our increasingly networked world.

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

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On TV: HUMAN NATURE

Coming to PBS’s NOVA tomorrow, Wednesday, September 9:
HUMAN NATURE

Director:
Adam Bolt

World Premiere:
SXSW 2019

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Hot Docs, Full Frame, AFI Docs, CPH:DOX

About:
An exploration of the potential implications of a major DNA technology.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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