On DVD: THE KLEPTOCRATS

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 9:
THE KLEPTOCRATS

Directors:
Havana Marking and Sam Hobkinson

World Premiere:
DOC NYC 2018

Select Festival:
CPH:DOX, Docville, Sydney, Cleveland, Docs Against Gravity, Sonoma

About:
An investigation into an audacious financial scandal.

The film screened as part of DOC NYC, for which our program notes read:
In one of the world’s biggest financial crimes, 3.5 billion dollars were stolen from a Malaysian government fund. Investigative reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hollywood Reporter follow the money as it travels across the globe, financing everything from luxury real estate and decadent parties to Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. Capturing white-collar crime at its greedy best, Havana Marking and Sam Hobkinson’s explosive film is a tale of embezzlement, scams, and greed run amok.

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On DVD/VOD: INVISIBLE HANDS

Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9:
INVISIBLE HANDS

Director:
Shraysi Tandon

Premiere:
Kansas 2017

Select Festivals:
NYC Asian American, Wales, Bali, Sedona, Julien Dubuque

About:
An investigation into the continued exploitation of child labor around the world.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On TV/DVD: CHASING THE MOON

Coming to PBS’s American Experience over the next three nights, tonight Monday, July 8-Wednesday, July 10, and to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9:
CHASING THE MOON

Director:
Robert Stone

World Premiere:
AFI Docs 2019

About:
A wide-ranging look at America’s quest to land on the Moon.

As noted previously, this month brings with it several space-focused documentaries, timed to recognize the 50th anniversary of humanity’s successful landing on the Moon. Robert Stone’s project, by virtue of its six-hour length and expansive focus, is likely the broadest one. While in many ways hewing close to the conventional storytelling of PBS – talking heads and narration abounds – the docuseries benefits by making some unique choices in participants or protagonists on which to place the spotlight. In addition to familiar figures – astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, for example – Stone also foregrounds the stories of Ed Dwight, who was poised for a time to be the first African American astronaut, and Poppy Northcutt, who gained public attention as the first woman who was part of NASA’s Mission Control, among other figures. These profiles and others wisely serve the larger purpose of recontextualizing the Space Race across the multiple historical and societal developments of the 1960s – including civil rights, women’s rights, the growing influence of television and media, and, of course, Cold War politics – and, as a result, help distinguish this project from the others being broadcast this month.

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On TV: APOLLO: MISSIONS TO THE MOON

courtesy National Geographic

Coming to National Geographic this Sunday, July 7:
APOLLO: MISSIONS TO THE MOON

Director:
Tom Jennings

World Premiere:
Grimaldi Forum 2019

About:
An archival-driven exploration of NASA’s Apollo program.

One of several nonfiction projects commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s success in the Space Race, Tom Jenning’s doc takes an expansive view, focusing not just on that 1969 mission, but instead covering the range of the Apollo space program from 1961 until 1972. Eschewing talking heads for a more dramatic, lived-in viewer experience, the film is well constructed using archival video, audio, and photographic footage, from contemporary media reports, official NASA documentation, and home movies. Though it’s arguable that there’s really a need for quite so many space-focused docs at the same time – while this one does offer a good overview, so too does PBS’s upcoming CHASING THE MOON, albeit via more conventional storytelling – these projects all serve as a welcome reminder of a time when this nation’s government embraced the world of science rather than disparaged it, and found the political will to work together to tackle a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

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In Theatres: THE CAT RESCUERS

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 5:
THE CAT RESCUERS

Directors:
Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence

World Premiere:
Hamptons 2018

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Cleveland, Tempo Doc, Sedona, Sebastopol Doc

About:
A profile of animal welfare activists attempting to help the street cats of New York.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
More than half a million feral cats prowl the streets of New York City, struggling to survive each day. With no official policies in place to aid the abandoned animals or curb their growing population, animal welfare activists enter the breach. Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence’s engaging film follows four dedicated, street-smart volunteers working tirelessly in Brooklyn to help save as many felines in need as possible, no matter the personal sacrifices they must make.

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In Theatres: MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE

Coming to theatres this Friday, July 5:
MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE

Director:
Nick Broomfield

World Premiere:
Sundance 2019

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, CPH:DOX, Docville, Thessaloniki Doc, Sun Valley

About:
The intimate love story between celebrated singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen and his muse.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On DVD: OLD DOG

Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 2:
OLD DOG

Director:
Sally Rowe

World Premiere:
Sarasota 2018

About:
A famed New Zealand dog trainer prepares for retirement.

When he first began to work with sheepdogs, farmer Paul Sorenson observed that it was a common practice to use harsh discipline on disobedient dogs. As he explain in filmmaker Sally Rowe’s approximately hourlong portrait, he devoted the rest of his adult life to developing a more intuitive system to working with dogs by studying canine psychology and behavior. This modest film observes his interaction with his animals, but also allows him to reflect on his life, family history and relationships, and legacy as retirement approaches. In particular, Rowe focuses on Sorenson’s mission to share his non-punitive dog training techniques with other farmers, having already been established within his field as a respected expert. Sorenson and his wife are likeable figures, and the overall message of being in tune with nature as opposed to trying to dominate it is welcome, but the film as a whole feels a bit slight to merit feature length.

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