On DVD: THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, June 19:
THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT

Directors:
Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu

Premiere:
CAAMFest 2017

Select Festivals:
LA Asian Pacific, DisOrient, Philadelphia Asian American, Austin Asian American

About:
An in-depth consideration of the discriminatory US law that targeted Chinese nationals.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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BAMcinemaFest 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 10th anniversary BAMcinemaFest

Dates:
June 20-July 1

About:
Approximately two dozen features – among them 10 docs – as well as shorts and retrospective work make up the anniversary lineup of this celebrated Brooklyn event. Continue reading

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On TV: THE GUYS NEXT DOOR

Coming to PBS’s Local USA tonight, Tuesday, June 19:
THE GUYS NEXT DOOR

Directors:
Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk

Premiere:
Sarasota 2016

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, IFFBoston, Maryland, Provincetown, Woods Hole, Rhode Island, Big Sky Doc, RiverRun, MIX Milano, SF Jewish, Washington Jewish

About:
A profile of a gay couple and the woman who helped them have their own family.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: IT WILL BE CHAOS

Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, June 18:
IT WILL BE CHAOS

Directors:
Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo

Premiere:
Seattle 2018

Select Festivals:
Berkshire

About:
An intimate look at the refugee crisis.

Filmed over several years, Luciano and Piscopo’s exploration of the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of WWII confines its focus to two stories, one tracking the fate of refugees from Eritrea through Lampedusa and finally Sweden; the other of the extended Orfahli family from Syria through Turkey and eventually Germany. Aregai made the treacherous journey from Eritrea with his cousins, but the latter didn’t survive, losing their lives when their boat capsized on October 3, 2013 – an event that drew the world’s attention to the growing migration crisis. In addition to following Aregai’s story, the filmmakers survey Lampedusans involved in the rescue effort or otherwise facing the impact of the onslaught of asylum seekers, like the island’s sympathetic mayor. The other thread of the film concerns Wael Orfahli and his large clan, who already fled Syria for Turkey two years prior, and continue their journey to Europe through underground networks of smugglers and bureaucratic asylum procedures. Though well-meaning and sympathetic, the rough-hewn film’s weaving together of these separate profiles feels fairly random rather than deliberate, and the stories themselves are sadly all-too familiar, with very similar tales told in other recent documentaries about the migration crisis. Still their experiences remain an important reminder of the ongoing chaos facing millions of displaced individuals.

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On TV: STRANGER FRUIT

Coming to Starz tonight, Monday, June 18:
STRANGER FRUIT

Director:
Jason Pollock

Premiere:
SXSW 2017

Select Festivals:
Traverse City

About:
A controversial re-examination of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO.

Jason Pollock’s debut of his film at SXSW last year set off a media frenzy with significant interest in the incorporation of previously unrevealed surveillance footage of the convenience store implicated in the police’s version of the Michael Brown story. In what became the final, official narrative, Brown’s fate rested on the belief that he had been involved with the robbery of that store. The new footage, in Pollock’s interpretation, demonstrates that Brown was not involved with a robbery but instead a low-level drug deal with convenience store employees – something that Pollock places a great deal of significance in altering the meaning and justification of Brown’s death. Before the film was released commercially, earlier this year, Pollock expanded it to include the controversy that stemmed from the film’s initial screenings, including the spin that police officials placed on the material, and the charges that Pollock manipulated the footage. While it’s understandable that Pollock seeks to unpack and dismiss how the authorities wished to paint Brown’s character in implicating him in a robbery, the focus on the video is not the clear vindication that the filmmaker suggests, and ultimately feels like a distraction from the larger questions around the murder and its justification, such as the conflicting accounts provided by officer Darren Wilson about whether he was or was not aware of the robbery when he engaged Brown. Pollock’s film is undeniably a passionate attempt to address injustice, but it’s marred by his approach, particularly an excessive use of personal narration that is out of place and unnecessary, and which sticks out even more when it takes on the meta level of addressing the fallout from the film’s debut.

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On TV: QUEST

Coming to PBS’s POV tonight, Monday, June 18:
QUEST

Director:
Jonathan Olshefski

Premiere:
Sundance 2017

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, True/False, New Directors/New Films, Cleveland, RiverRun, Nashville, Ashland, Hot Docs, Dallas, DOXA,

About:
A longitudinal portrait of an African-American family in North Philly.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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Special Screening: EXIT MUSIC

Coming to NYC’s Rooftop Films tomorrow, Saturday, June 16:
EXIT MUSIC

Director:
Cameron Mullenneaux

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2018

About:
A portrait of a young artist facing his impending death after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis.

Ethan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in his infancy, a genetic disorder that primarily impacts the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing and other severe symptoms. Regularly given a death sentence throughout childhood and into his adult years, Ethan has survived into his late 20s, rechanneling his inability to plan longterm – work, marriage, family – into shorter-term creative endeavors including music and stop motion animation, both of which are peppered throughout Mullenneaux’s film. Despite a supportive family – particularly his stay-at-home caretaker dad, Ed, a Vietnam vet facing his own issues with PTSD – Ethan knows his condition is worsening. The film follows its often disarmingly funny protagonist as he prepares for the end, consulting with his physician about his desire not to have interventions to prolong his life when it reaches a point where he’s ready to let go – something with which Ed, in particular, has a very hard time coming to grips after decades fighting to keep his son alive. Drawing on a lifetime of home movies as well as intimate contemporary interviews, and finding a smart balance between the celebratory and the funereal, Mullenneaux constructs a sensitive and thought-provoking portrait of the process of dying on one’s own terms.

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