On TV: PRISON SONGS

Coming to PBS’s Pacific Heartbeat tomorrow, Saturday, May 18:
PRISON SONGS

Director:
Kelrick Martin

Premiere:
Australian TV (January 2015)

Select Festivals:
imagneNATIVE, Human Rights Arts & Film

About:
Aboriginal Australian inmates reveal their lives through music.

Shot entirely behind prison walls in Darwin, Australia, Kelrick Martin’s project profiles the lives of both male and female prisoners of Aboriginal background in the overcrowded Berrimah Prison. Professional composers took the latters’ own words from intimate interviews to craft revealing songs about the common, systemic issues Aboriginal individuals still face and that contribute to statistically outsized rates of incarceration – a similar conceit as used in the 2006 Sundance doc SONGBIRDS by Brian Hill about female prisoners in the UK. The result is nicely shot and well meaning, let down somewhat by the propensity to use Auto-Tune in the arrangements and some attempts to integrate goofy humor.

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On VOD: VENUS

New to VOD this week:
VENUS

Directors:
Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob

Premiere:
IDFA 2016

Select Festivals:
True/False, Sheffield, DocPoint, Thessaloniki Doc, Göteborg, DOXBIO, Docs Against Gravity, Biografilm, Sao Paulo

About:
100 women are surveyed about their sexual experiences.

Danish filmmakers Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob set out to explore perceptions about female sexuality in their country by announcing an open casting call for women to participate as interview subjects in their project. The film features the various women who show up, walk into the frame, and are interviewed by Albrechtsen and Glob. Questions range from fairly basic to probing – even confrontational – interrogations about virginity, first or uncomfortable sexual experiences, body image issues, and the like, resulting in a kind of riff of the casting couch. The filmmakers even ask if their subjects are willing to pose naked for the camera. The result is a surprisingly engaging and vulnerable study of not only female sexuality, but of the give and take between filmmaker and subject.

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On VOD: ROUGH AUNTIES

Coming to OVID this Sunday, May 19:
ROUGH AUNTIES

Director:
Kim Longinotto

Premiere:
IDFA 2008

Select Festivals:
Sundance, Hot Docs, Thessaloniki Doc, Full Frame, BAFICI, One World, Krakow, Vienna, Big Sky Doc, Durban, Salem

About:
A group of women are on a mission to help the abused and neglected children of South Africa.

I previously wrote about the doc for the Sundance program, saying:
Jackie, Mildred, Eureka, Sdudla, and Thuli are the women behind Bobbi Bear, a nonprofit organization based in Durban, South Africa, that counsels sexually abused children and works to bring their abusers to justice. Born out of a recognition of cultural stigmas that discourage reporting abuse and inadequate methods of communicating with young victims, Bobbi Bear developed a method of letting children use teddy bears to explain their abuse. Since 1992, the multiracial staff has become the fearless and powerful voice for those victims who would otherwise continue to live in fear, powerless against their oppressors and ignored by the legal system. Director Kim Longinotto adeptly and intimately follows Bobbi Bear staff in difficult direct sessions with children and consultations with family members, and on raids with authorities to arrest the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Facing tragedy daily as part of their advocacy work and, heartbreakingly for some, in their personal lives, the women draw strength from each other and find hope despite the suffering around them. Equally as compassionate to the young victims as they are steadfast in their pursuit of justice, these five exceptional women have found themselves transformed by their mission into “rough aunties,” crossing barriers of race, culture, and socioeconomic status to become formidable agents of change in their community.

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On VOD: HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY

Coming to OVID this Sunday, May 19:
HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY

Director:
Therese Shechter

Premiere:
Jihlava 2013

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Cucalorus, St John’s International Women

About:
A personal exploration of the elusive concept of purity.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatres: WALKING ON WATER

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 17:
WALKING ON WATER

Director:
Andrey Paounov

Premiere:
Locarno 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Toronto, Docudays UA

About:
A behind the scenes look at Christo’s long-gestating Floating Piers project.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
For decades Christo and Jeanne-Claude dazzled art lovers with their epic installation projects, such as The Gates in Central Park. Seven years after the death of Jeanne-Claude, the larger-than-life Christo finally realizes a long-planned project, The Floating Piers. Mounted in 2016 on Italy’s Lake Iseo, the mammoth undertaking allows visitors to walk across a great stretch of water. Once again, witnessing the realization of Christo’s vision feels like watching a real-life miracle.

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On VOD: MOSUL

New to VOD this week:
MOSUL

Director:
Daniel Gabriel

Premiere:
Cleveland 2019

About:
The diverse coalition of anti-ISIS forces fighting to free Mosul is viewed through the eyes of an Iraqi journalist.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV: I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY

Coming to Fuse this Saturday, May 18:
I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY

Director:
Jessica Leski

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Sydney, Revelation Perth, Melbourne, Fantastic Fest, Adelaide, London, Hawaii, Göteborg, Rotterdam, Miami, Santa Barbara, Cleveland, Istanbul

About:
A look at boyband superfans.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
New Kids on the Block, N*Sync, One Direction, and, of course, The Beatles: Bands with big hair, bigger personalities and the ubiquitous screaming fangirls. Jessica Leski’s entertaining film profiles these ardent fans, charming groupies who find joy in their devotion. Whimsical and lustrous, the film explores the complexity of social media relationships and the gray line between passion and obsession. At its core the story is a celebration of music as a universal language, one that unites frantic fans and provides a sense of belonging.

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