On TV: THE PREPPY MURDER: DEATH IN CENTRAL PARK

Photo Credit: Paul DeMaria/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images/SundanceTV

Coming to SundanceTV tomorrow, Wednesday, November 13 through Friday, November 15:
THE PREPPY MURDER: DEATH IN CENTRAL PARK

Directors:
Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

World Premiere:
SundanceTV (November 2019)

About:
An in-depth examination of the notorious 1986 murder of Jennifer Levin and the media circus that surrounded the case.

After the body of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin was discovered strangled to death in Central Park by a cyclist, the police quickly retraced her movements from the previous night to Dorian’s, a bar on the Upper East Side popular with the neighborhood’s elite youth. Witnesses saw Levin leaving with 19-year-old Robert Chambers. When police confronted Chambers, he had noticeable scratches, changed his story several times, and eventually concocted a preposterous story that Levin raped him and her death was in self-defense. Despite the ludicrous nature of his claims – Chambers was 6’5″, while Levin only 5’4″ and about 100 lbs lighter than him – the tabloids ate up his story, seduced by his all-American looks and well-heeled background (largely manufactured by his mother), and all-too-eager to blame the victim, who was painted as promiscuous and obsessed with Chambers. Over the course of their well-researched series, filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg methodically lay out the specifics of the case as well as the parallel character assassination of Levin in the media, demonstrating the intersection of misogyny, classism, and the double standard applied to sexually-active women, obviously still unfortunately relevant today.

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On VOD: IF THE DANCER DANCES

Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, November 12:
IF THE DANCER DANCES

Director:
Maia Wechsler

Premiere:
Dance on Camera 2018

Select Festivals:
Ashland, Raindance

About:
A leading choreographer restages one of Merce Cunningham’s iconic works.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: THE GIFT: THE JOURNEY OF JOHNNY CASH

Coming to VOD via Hulu today, Monday, November 11:
THE GIFT: THE JOURNEY OF JOHNNY CASH

Director:
Thom Zimny

World Premiere:
SXSW 2019

Select Festivals:
CPH:DOX, Telluride, Nashville, Belfast, Melbourne, New Zealand, Mill Valley

About:
An oral history of and tribute to the legendary country musician.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatres: EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING

Coming to theatres for one-night only fan events nationwide tomorrow, Tuesday, November 12, then expanding to a limited release this Friday, November 15:
EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING

Directors:
Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan

World Premiere:
SXSW 2019

Select Festivals:
Sidewalk, Minneapolis, Jihlava, Indie Memphis, In-Edit Barcelona

About:
On the life and death of emo-rapper Lil Peep.

Gustav Ahr started making and releasing music online from his bedroom in Long Island, eventually moving to Los Angeles and using the professional name Lil Peep, based on a nickname his mother gave him. He found wild, unexpected success with his work attracting followers on SoundCloud, leading to sold out shows on tour, modeling in Paris Fashion Week, and, just two weeks after his 21st birthday in 2017, an accidental overdose that claimed his life. Viewers over a certain age never will have heard of the performer, but, for his generation, he had a brief but significant impact. It’s primarily for this latter group that directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan have composed their elegy, in many ways presuming the audience already knows the subject intimately, which my be offputting for some. Still, even as they capture their subjects’ raw reckoning with their loved one’s loss, the filmmakers do attempt to trace how young Gus, struggling with depression and the impact of his parents’ divorce, made the transformation to Lil Peep, ill-prepared to handle immediate fame and the dangers that accompanied it, creating a somewhat accessible cautionary tale in the process.

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On TV: VERY RALPH

Coming to HBO tomorrow, Tuesday, November 12:
VERY RALPH

Director:
Susan Lacy

World Premiere:
Rome 2019

About:
A biographical portrait of pioneering fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Ralph Lauren brand, celebrated in the film’s culmination, filmmaker Susan Lacy’s film is a handsomely mounted tribute to to the designer, as well as an exploration of how he developed his iconic brand. The more straightforward biographical elements retell Lauren’s American success story as the son of immigrants whose unique sense of style paved the way for him to become a transformative menswear designer, but the more compelling material delves a little further into his savvy understanding of brand-building. Developing a unique sense of Americana that both draws from the past but manages to remain timeless, Lauren created an aspirational brand that surprisingly resonated with a diverse audience, despite – or maybe because of – its distinct connotations of privilege. While Lacy gathers a surprising who’s who of famous admirers and fellow fashion icons to discuss Lauren’s importance and impact, it’s in the moments when this aspect of the brand is discussed that the film stands out.

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On TV: THE INTERPRETERS

Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens today, Monday, November 11:
THE INTERPRETERS

Directors:
Andres Caballero, Sofian Khan

World Premiere:
Mountainfilm Telluride 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Austin, San Diego, DocuWest, Napa Valley, Woodstock, Hot Springs Doc, Chagrin Doc, Portland

About:
Interpreters for American military forces face an uncertain future.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, US military forces relied on local translators to provide the communication critical for mission success. Serving side by side with foreign soldiers, these loyal interpreters, invaluable to the Americans, are deemed traitors by Islamic extremists. After US troops withdraw, interpreters confront their fates: wait for promised but long-delayed special visas into the US, risk their lives to flee as refugees, or stay in their countries, facing certain death if discovered.

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In Theatres: WATSON

Coming to theatres today, Friday, November 8:
WATSON

Director:
Lesley Chilcott

World Premiere:
Tribeca 2019

Select Festivals:
Hamptons, Biografilm, Zurich, EarthxFilm, Melbourne, Camden

About:
A profile of the controversial ocean activist, Paul Watson.

Paul Watson has dedicated his life to preserving the fragile ecosystem of the oceans from the harm that humans cause. He was one of the co-founders of Greenpeace until a disagreement with that organization’s nonviolent approach led to his departure to form the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. At Sea Shepherd, Watson and his dedicated team risked their own lives regularly to prevent illegal whaling and fishing, and used the media to chronicle their daring encounters and influence public perception. Because of the nature of his activities, and the powerful forces he has dared stand against, Watson has found himself labeled an eco-terrorist and subject to international warrants. As a result, he has had to step down from active participation in Sea Shepherd’s missions lest he jeopardize the organization’s ability to function. Director Lesley Chilcott draws on an extensive archive of Watson’s lifetime of activism, including harrowing footage of the barbaric treatment of marine life he has fought against, to craft a compelling, if at times difficult watch.

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