On TV: BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY

Coming to PBS’s POV tomorrow, Wednesday, April 18:
BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY

Directors:
David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg

Premiere:
SXSW 2017

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Telluride Mountainfilm, Seattle, Human Rights Watch, AFI Docs, Hot Springs Doc, Traverse City, Los Angeles, Provincetown

About:
A revealing profile of the well-known educational television personality turned science advocate.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Tribeca 2018: Documentary Overview


Festival:
The 17th Tribeca Film Festival

Dates:
April 18-29

About:
The popular NYC event includes just over 50 new nonfiction features and series, nearly half of the lineup, including its bookends: Lisa D’Apolito’s intimate biography of Gilda Radner, LOVE, GILDA, opens the festival; while Liz Garbus’ docuseries, THE FOURTH ESTATE, an inside look at The New York Times‘ coverage of the Trump administration, is the fest’s closing night screening. I’ll be serving on the jury for the 2018 Albert Maysles Award (Best New Documentary Director Award), and am looking forward to watching all the films in my category over the next week. Continue reading

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On TV: THE CORRIDOR

Coming to PBS’s America ReFramed tonight, Tuesday, April 17:
THE CORRIDOR

Directors:
Annelise Wunderlich and Richard O’Connell

Premiere:
Mill Valley 2017

About:
A profile of a unique prisoner education program.

The film focuses on the Five Keys Charter School, notable as the first high school custom-built within an adult jail. Housed in San Francisco’s county jail, it serves both male and female prisoners. By law, participation is mandatory, and those who embrace the program are able to earn their high school diplomas, while also developing tools and knowledge to be able to make it on the outside. The program was developed in response to a criminally high rate of recidivism, a clear signal that traditional methods were not succeeding. With a solid, unflashy approach, Wunderlich and O’Connell economically follow two inmate students, William, an older African American man who has spent most of his life in jail, and Bethany, a younger woman who has been a drug addict and lost custodial rights of her kids, as well as a teacher and prison officers. While some remain skeptical, the program has graduated an impressive number of students since 2007, with a corresponding drop in recidivism, and has been replicated elsewhere.

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Special Screening: BOOM FOR REAL: THE LATE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Coming to NYC’s Stranger Than Fiction tomorrow, Tuesday, April 17:
BOOM FOR REAL: THE LATE TEENAGE YEARS OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Director:
Sara Driver

Premiere:
Toronto 2017

Select Festivals:
New York, IDFA, Thessaloniki Doc, San Francisco, Bentonville, Panama, Full Frame, IFF Boston

About:
An exploration of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s early development as an artist in late 1970s/early 1980s NYC.

Driver’s film is firmly set in the emerging worlds of contemporary art and street culture in a bankrupt, dangerous NYC between 1978-1981, and how this environment influenced Basquiat’s development. Commentators from writer Luc Sante, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, cultural personality Fab 5 Freddy, artists Kenny Scharf and Lee Quinones, curators, as well as other scenesters who had close relationships with Basquiat, share memories of the scene and how Basquiat participated in and was shaped by it. The Mudd Club and Club 57, the work of the Colab, and the emergence of graffiti all factor in, with anecdotes, reflections, and even some resentment abounding. On the personal side, former girlfriends/friends offer their reflections on the nascent artist’s wandering ways, sleeping with various women, crashing at random apartments for a time, basically being homeless, but very ambitious, absorbing all that he came across and shaping his work to attract attention and make a name for himself. While fittingly rough around the edges, Driver’s portrait is engaging and offers first-hand reflections on a vibrant time in the American art scene and in NYC culture that well contextualized Basquiat’s development and ambition as an artist.

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On TV: I AM EVIDENCE

Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, April 16:
I AM EVIDENCE

Directors:
Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir

Premiere:
Tribeca 2017

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Traverse City, AFI Docs, Provincetown, Hawaii, St Louis, UN Association, Globe Docs, Hamptons, Milwaukee,

About:
An alarming look at institutional failures in prosecuting sexual assault cases.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: WHAT LIES UPSTREAM

Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, April 16:
WHAT LIES UPSTREAM

Director:
Cullen Hoback

Premiere:
Slamdance 2017

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Seattle, AFI Docs, Traverse City, Dallas, Sonoma, Ashland

About:
The filmmaker investigates the coverup behind drinking water contamination in West Virginia.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatres: NANA

Coming to theateres today, Friday, April 13:
NANA

Director:
Serena Dykman

Premiere:
St Louis 2016

Select Festivals:
Fargo, Harlem, Miami Jewish, Rocky Mountain Women’s

About:
The filmmaker revisits her grandmother’s enduring mission to share her story as a Holocaust survivor.

The film’s titular subject is Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, an outspoken, disarmingly funny Polish woman who emerged from the horrors of Auschwitz as the sole survivor of her family, and who died when the filmmaker was only eleven. She appears here primarily through a collection of interviews and public appearances where she relates her experiences of the Holocaust, the anti-Semitism that welcomed her upon liberation, and her lifelong survivor’s guilt. Having approached this project as a way to better learn about her grandmother, Dykman ends up employing the crutch of many a first-time filmmaker and takes an unnecessarily meta approach, attempting to make her film also about her own journey – in making the doc, and in following in Michalowski-Dyamant’s footsteps both literally – retracing her steps – and figuratively – viewing her filmmaking as a different way of continuing to speak out about the Holocaust. This split focus results in a clunkiness that, rather than supplementing the older woman’s story, unfortunately serves as a distraction.

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