Category Archives: #AFIDOCS

AFI DOCS 2019 ANNOUNCES FULL SLATE OF FILMS AND CENTERPIECE SCREENING

Posted by Larry Gleeson

MAY 15, 2019, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS has revealed its full slate of films for the 2019 festival — with AT&T returning as Presenting Sponsor of the American Film Institute’s five-day documentary celebration in the nation’s capital.  Year after year, the festival provides a unique opportunity for audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders to engage and connect through the power of story.  The 17th edition will showcase 72 films representing 17 countries — including six world premieres, one North American premiere and two U.S. premieres.  AFI DOCS 2019 runs June 19–23 in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. The Washington Post and Meet the Press are the Primary Media Sponsors.

This year’s Centerpiece film will be AMERICAN FACTORY, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, which examines the culture clash resulting from the takeover of a Dayton, OH, factory by a Chinese company.  AMERICAN FACTORY will screen on Friday, June 21.

“Each year, the AFI DOCS slate includes a variety of films exploring topical issues, intriguing personalities and compelling voices,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director, AFI Festivals.  “This year’s festival offers audiences a chance to discover new perspectives on familiar topics and unique stories they may be hearing for the first time — demonstrating the power of documentary film to connect and inspire across a diverse range of subjects. We are happy to announce that 48% of this year’s slate is directed by women, with 68% produced by women.”

The AFI DOCS 2019 lineup will be presented in the following sections: Galas; Special Screenings; Portrait; Truth and Justice; Spectrum; Anthem; Cinema’s Legacy; and Short Films. A competitive section, Short Films are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize.

Audience Awards will be given to a feature and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival.  The winners of the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on Tuesday, June 25.

As previously announced, the festival will open with the world premiere of TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY and will close with RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS.  Special Screenings include the world premiere of CHASING THE MOON, RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS, SEA OF SHADOWS and TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM.

Tickets to AFI DOCS 2019 are now available to AFI members, and will be available to the public on May 15 starting at 1:00 p.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. PDTPasses are currently on sale to both members (at a discounted rate) and the public at AFI.com/AFIDOCS.  To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

AFI DOCS 2019 PROGRAM

GALAS

Opening Night, Closing Night and Centerpiece Gala, featuring high-profile guests and world premieres, these are the hottest tickets at the festival.

OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Wednesday, June 19

TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY:  DIRS & PRODS Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt, and Teddy Kunhardt.  USA.  Fighting for equal justice within a system that has allowed slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration has become lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s life work.  TRUE JUSTICE features the inspiring story of Stevenson who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama to provide legal services for the poor and is the driving force behind a new national lynching memorial.  World Premiere.

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 23

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS:  DIR Janice Engel.  PRODS James Egan, Janice Engel, and Carlisle Vandervoort.  USA.  RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS chronicles the life of political commentator and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Molly Ivins.  A maverick voice in journalism, Ivins used humor to speak truth about social inequalities, expose corrupt government and poke at the political elite.  Filmmaker Janice Engel crafts a witty and entertaining portrait of Ivins, who died of cancer in 2007, giving life to her words and reminding us to be bold in today’s political climate. Presented by The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 21

AMERICAN FACTORY:  DIRS Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.  PRODS Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello.  USA.  Seeking no easy answers, directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert craft a masterpiece of documentary storytelling by focusing on the fascinating culture clash that ensues when a shuttered GM plant in Dayton, OH, is taken over by a giant Chinese company.  Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Prize for Directing.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Unique screening events at special locations.

CHASING THE MOON:  DIR & PROD Robert Stone.  USA.  Fifty years after Neil Armstrong’s “one small step,” CHASING THE MOON chronicles America’s audacious and difficult race to the moon.  Using exclusively archival footage — with much never before seen in public — this exceptional series re-contextualizes the social and historical importance of the Space Age and the sheer wonder of the moon landing itself.  World Premiere.

RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS:  DIR Freida Lee Mock.  PRODS Freida Lee Mock and Meghan Hooper.  USA.  Relying on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words, as illuminated by carefully culled archival footage and interviews, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock crafts an intimate profile that covers the full breadth of Ginsburg’s life, views and career.  Furthermore, Mock succeeds in creating a compelling portrait as authentic, poignant and powerful as the Justice herself.  Sneak Preview.

SEA OF SHADOWS:  DIR Richard Ladkani.  PRODS Walter Köhler and Wolfgang Knöpfler.  Austria.  Featuring everything from Mexican drug cartels to the Chinese Mafia, this environmental thriller is every bit as gripping as any pulp novel but with real world consequences for the imperiled vaquita (the world’s smallest whale) and for local fisherman in the Sea of Cortez. With fewer than 10 vaquita left in the world, time is running out.

TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM:  DIR Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  PRODS Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Johanna Giebelhaus, Chad Thompson, and Tommy Walker.  USA.  Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ highly engaging portrait of the brilliant and beloved writer Toni Morrison features interviews with cultural icons and critics, including Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Walter Mosley, Fran Lebowitz, Russell Banks, Hilton Als — and, most important, with Morrison herself, sharing a lifetime’s worth of riveting stories and compelling insights.

FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS

PORTRAIT

Original profiles of famous and not-so-famous people doing extraordinary things in our society.

17 BLOCKS:  DIR Davy Rothbart.  PRODS Alex Turtletaub, Michael Clark, Marc Turtletaub and Rachel Dengiz.  USA.  In 1999, Emmanuel Durant and his family started filming their daily lives.  For two decades, the camera recorded ordinary moments, and a cycle of trauma all too familiar with neglected communities in America.  Davy Rothbart’s film deftly pieces together a loving and complex profile of the Sanford-Durants, who live just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY:  DIR Ben Berman.  PRODS Miranda Bailey, Ben Berman, Russell Groves, Amanda Marshall and Jacob Perlin.  USA.  An aging magician is dying.  A young filmmaker follows him around, intending to create his debut feature film.  A few weeks into filming, it’s revealed that there is another crew also filming this same magician, at the same time.  What results is a hilarious metatextual work of documentary unlike anything you have ever seen before.

CHEZ JOLIE COIFFURE:  DIR Rosine Mbakam.  PRODS Geoffroy Cernaix and Rosine Mbakam.  Belgium.  Inside a bustling Brussels hair salon, manager Sabine can be seen braiding hair and lending support to a vibrant group of African migrants.  In this lovely observational chamber piece, filmmaker Rosine Mbakam offers an affectionate tribute to Sabine and her community.  Despite the traumas of migration, their enduring charm and laughter are testament to human resilience.

FOR SAMA:  DIRS Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts.  PROD Waad al-Kateab.  Syrian Arab Republic.  With her home city of Aleppo under constant bombardment, filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, an active resistant against the Assad regime, does the nearly unthinkable: she marries the love of her life and has a baby.  This unique video diary documents five years of the Syrian War and tells an unforgettable personal story.

MAIDEN:  DIR Alex Holmes.  PRODS Victoria Gregory and Alex Holmes.  UK.  30 years ago, 24-year-old Tracy Edwards led the first all-female sailing crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race.  No one in the male-dominated sailing community gave them a prayer.  By race’s end, the Maiden’s epic journey would make history, and the sailing world would never be the same.

MIDNIGHT FAMILY:  DIR Luke Lorentzen.  PRODS Kellen Quin, Luke Lorentzen, Daniela Alatorre and Elena Fortes.  Mexico, USA.  In Mexico City, there are fewer than 45 public ambulances for nine million people.  In response, a dysfunctional system of privately-owned ambulances has taken over the city’s healthcare system.  MIDNIGHT FAMILY intimately follows the Ochoa family as they compete in transporting patients at night.  Each trip is a tricky balance of ethics and empathy: they must arrive first to give care for the injured, but also for their financial self-interest.

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE:  DIR Avi Belkin.  PRODS Rafael Marmor, John Battsek, Peggy Drexler, Christopher Leggett, Avi Belkin and Zoë Morrison.  USA.  Famed 60 MINUTES journalist Mike Wallace was best known for his confrontational interview style.  His work was a major force in pushing the form of journalism to the tipping point we know today.  Using exclusively archival footage, MIKE WALLACE IS HERE explores his life and multi-decade career in broadcast television, beginning in the 1950s. Presented by The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

 

RECORDER: THE MARION STOKES PROJECT:  DIR Matt Wolf.  PRODS Kyle Martin, Andrew Kortschak and Walter Kortschak.  USA.  Beginning with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979, Marion Stokes secretly recorded television 24 hours a day at a time when the networks did not systematically save the news.  A time capsule of America’s modern TV age, filmmaker Matt Wolf’s brilliantly stylized portrait depicts Stokes’ fascinating life as a media activist and her unusual and visionary project.

 

SEARCHING EVA:  DIR Jasmina Vignjevic.  PRODS Erik Winker and Martin Roelly.  Germany.  Meet Eva, a 25-year-old sex worker, drug user and Instagram model.  Living with her mom and working on the internet, Eva documents her life in a performative and personal way.  What is it like to be a woman in the 21st century?  This documentary presents this incredible young woman with heartbreaking honesty.  U.S. Premiere.

 

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

 

Focusing on the most pressing and fascinating issues of the day, these films seek to educate, enlighten and inspire.

 

AFTER PARKLAND:  DIRS Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi.  PRODS Jake Lefferman, Emily Taguchi, Jeanmarie Condon and Steven Baker.  USA.  AFTER PARKLAND is a heartfelt portrait of a community using grief and anger as fuel to move forward, heal, and, for some, fight to change the world.  The film shares an intimate view of survivors as they navigate their new realities in the blaring limelight and the soft light of home.

 

ALWAYS IN SEASON:  DIR Jacqueline Olive.  PRODS Jacqueline Olive and Jessica Devaney.  USA.  Jacqueline Olive’s stunning debut documentary depicts the haunting death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy in the rural community of Bladenboro, North Carolina in 2014.  With Lacy’s body found hanging from a swing set, his death is ruled a suicide, but his mother, convinced that he was lynched, remains undaunted in her pursuit of justice.

 

BORDER SOUTH (FRONTERA SUR):  DIR Raúl O. Paz Pastrana.  PRODS Jason De León, Cecilia Girón Pérez and Raúl O. Paz Pastrana.  Mexico, USA.  Filmmaker Raúl O. Paz Pastrana spent four years following the migrant routes from southern Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border.  The result is a close-up, nuanced, and highly original view of the migrant experience, one fraught with risk and danger but also comradery, ingenuity and humor.  North American Premiere.

 

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD:  DIR Mads Brügger.  PRODS Peter Engel, Andreas Rocksen and Bjarte M. Tveit.  Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium.  The brilliant and mischievous Danish documentary filmmaker Mads Brügger investigates the 1961 plane crash that killed UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, uncovering a myriad of conspiracies from Belgian mercenaries to a secret South African militia.  Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Prize for Directing.

 

ERNIE & JOE:  DIR & PROD Jenifer McShane.  USA.  Ernie and Joe are two San Antonio Police Department officers whose comedic rapport seems straight out of a buddy movie.  But their innovative approach to policing is nothing short of transformative.  Guns tucked away, Ernie and Joe de-escalate confrontations, divert people to desperately needed mental health services, and save lives.

 

THE GREAT HACK:  DIRS Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim.  PRODS Karim Amer, Geralyn Dreyfous and Judy Korin.  USA.  An American professor discovers that his personal data has been hacked, mined to create a digital political profile, and then weaponized.  Rinse and repeat 240 million times.  Academy Award®-nominated filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim (THE SQUARE) masterfully unravel the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal that rocked the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

HUMAN NATURE:  DIR Adam Bolt.  PRODS Meredith DeSalazar and Sarah Goodwin.  Australia, Spain, Turkey, USA.  CRISPR is the biggest revolution of the century, a biological breakthrough that brings with it exciting and provocative implications for the future of science and humanity.  A vital and engaging documentary, HUMAN NATURE investigates the complexities of CRISPR and explores the existential questions it raises: how will it affect human evolution or change our relationship with nature?

 

IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS:  DIR Tamara Hardman.  PRODS Maya Newell, Sophie Hyde, Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson and Larissa Behrendt.  Australia.  In this beautifully crafted portrait set in the Northern Territory of Australia, 10-year-old Dujuan, a child healer, hunter and speaker of two Indigenous languages struggles mightily to navigate between two starkly different worlds — his Arrernte family and the white-dominated educational system that may ultimately determine his fate.  U.S. Premiere.

 

ONE CHILD NATION:  DIRS Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhanig.  PRODS Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Christoph Jörg, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn.  China, USA.  After becoming a first-time mother, filmmaker Nanfu Wang reflects on her childhood in China and investigates the country’s one child nation policy.  From 1979 to 2015, the government enforced one-child households, favoring male babies and waging a “population war.”  With co-director Jialing Zhang, Wang thoughtfully examines the multi-generational trauma caused by this tragic social experiment.

 

SLAY THE DRAGON:  DIRS & PRODS Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance.  USA.  In recent years, Democratic and Republican-controlled legislatures have been one-upping each other to see who can draw the crookedest district lines and, thereby, maximize their electoral majorities.  A thoroughly engrossing investigation of partisan gerrymandering, SLAY THE DRAGON dramatizes precisely what is making our political system sick and, possibly, how it can be healed.

 

WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS:  DIR Linda Goldstein Knowlton.  PRODS Katie Flint and Linda Goldstein Knowlton.  USA.  In Oakland, California, tween girls of color meet as a new alternative Scout group called the Radical Monarchs.  The Monarchs earn badges not for sewing or selling cookies, but for units on Black Lives Matter, disability justice and Radical Beauty.  Set around the 2016 election, the founders, two queer women of color, struggle to grow the organization while empowering the girls to be social justice leaders in their community.

 

WHO KILLED GARRETT PHILLIPS?:  DIR Liz Garbus.  PRODS Liz Garbus and Kimberly Launier.  USA.  On October 24, 2011, police officers found the lifeless body of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips alone in his apartment.  Featuring jailhouse interrogations, this gripping true crime two-part documentary from Academy Award®-nominated director Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?) seeks to get to the bottom of the murder.  World Premiere.

 

A WOMAN’S WORK: THE NFL’S CHEERLEADER PROBLEM:  DIR Yu Gu.  PRODS Yu Gu, Elizabeth Ai and Jin Yoo-Kim.  USA.  In 2017, the National Football League earned over $14 billion in revenue.  NFL cheerleaders, however, earn less than minimum wage – some paid as low as $1.50 an hour.  Three courageous cheerleaders risk their careers by leading a historic class-action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging gendered wage theft and egregious labor practices.

 

SPECTRUM

 

A wide selection of exciting nonfiction work, these filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of storytelling and exploring more unconventional subject matter.

 

AQUARELA:  DIR Victor Kossakovsky.  PRODS Aimara Reques, Heino Deckert and Sigrid Dyekjær.   Germany, UK.  From frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia to hurricane-ravaged Miami, Victor Kossakovsky’s visual and aural tour de force puts you face to face with the overwhelmingly raw power of water in all its forms.  Before experiencing AQUARELA’s eye-popping cinematography and thunderous soundtrack on the big screen, prepare your senses for nothing less than total surrender.

 

AUTONOMY:  DIR Alex Horwitz.  PRODS Christopher Boyd, Kevin Mann and Michael Mann.  USA.  Executive-produced by Malcolm Gladwell, AUTONOMY explores the impact self-driving technology will have on our society.  Futurist thinkers, engineers and researchers examine liability and safety concerns to who will benefit most from this technology.  By reflecting on the automotive industry’s past, AUTONOMY prompts an important discussion of how Silicon Valley approaches automation and the policies we should consider during this mobility revolution.

 

THE ELEPHANT QUEEN:  DIRS Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone.  PRODS Lucinda Englehart and Victoria Stone.  Kenya, UK.  Focusing on a single elephant family and its matriarch over the course of one harrowing season, this film gives us an intimate look at the lives of elephants.  Intense emotional twists and stunning photography make this incredible adventure one of the most highly acclaimed and beloved films of the year.

 

MADE IN BOISE:  DIR Beth Aala.  PRODS Beth Levison and Beth Aala.  USA.  In Boise, Idaho, a unique business trend is growing – literally.  The town has become the unofficial surrogacy capital of America.  Filmmaker Beth Aala delicately follows four surrogate mothers and the biological parents of the babies they carry.  Finding purpose and power in these pregnancies, the surrogate women create life-changing opportunities for those unable to conceive.  World Premiere.

 

PICTURE CHARACTER:  DIRS Martha Shane and Ian Cheney.  PRODS Jennifer 8. Lee, Ian Cheney, Martha Shane.  USA.  What started in 🇯🇵 in the late- ‘90s as a 📞 extra has become one of the most popular means of communication in the 🌎. PICTURE CHARACTER follows the proposals of 3️ groups who seek ✔ from Unicode Consortium for new emojis, and explores how even with emojis, representation matters.

 

WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS:  DIRS Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown.  PRODS Amy Ellison, Monica Long Ross, and Clayton Brown.  USA.  In the heart of Kentucky, a new theme park takes shape: the Ark Encounter, a life-size reproduction of Noah’s Ark filled with exhibits of the creatures on board, including dinosaurs.  Filmed over three years, the film follows the Ark project from conception to opening day and gives a fascinating range of perspectives on the creationist movement.

 

ANTHEM

 

A cinematic celebration of music in all its forms.

 

THE APOLLO:  DIR Roger Ross Williams.  PRODS Lisa Cortes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann and Roger Ross Williams.  USA.  The historic Apollo Theater is cherished as the platform that launched the careers of countless African-American talents.  Its enduring influence on popular culture and commitment to both established and emerging artists in the community is lovingly chronicled in this captivating tribute from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.

 

DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME:  DIR A.J. Eaton.  PRODS Cameron Crowe, Michele Farinola and Greg Mariotti.  USA.  A remarkably candid music portrait documentary, DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME re-examines the life and music of the storied co-founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash through the eyes of the man himself.  Still making music and touring, Crosby looks back — and forward — with equal parts wit and wisdom.

 

GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH:  DIR David Charles.  PRODS Bud Johnston and Jesse Moss.  USA.  After the 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus toured the south to meet the faith-based communities against LGBTQ rights.  The liberal-city folks and the red-state locals speak, confront biases, dine and sing together.  GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH seeks to sing an elegy to the cultural divide and find some harmony along the journey.

 

LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE:  DIRS Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.  PRODS James Keach, Michele Farinola, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.  USA.  With her dynamic voice, Linda Ronstadt became a superstar pop artist during the male-dominated music industry of the 1970s.  Esteemed filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman chronicle Ronstadt’s trailblazing success in multiple music genres through rocking archival footage and affectionate interviews with Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.

 

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL:  DIR Stanley Nelson.  PRODS Stanley Nelson and Nicole London.  USA.  With his dark shades, stylish clothes and enigmatic personality, jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was the personification of cool.  But who was he really?  Drawing from a wide range of amazing source material, master filmmaker Stanley Nelson unpacks this complicated artistic genius and reveals the man behind the cool.

 

MOONLIGHT SONATA: DEAFNESS IN THREE MOVEMENTS:  DIR Irene Taylor Brodsky.  PRODS Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tahria Sheather.  USA.  MOONLIGHT SONATA tells an intimate and personal multigenerational story of loss and discovery through deafness.  Born deaf and receiving cochlear implants as a toddler, Jonas grows up in a world full of sound.  His grandparents on the other hand, also born deaf, experienced a childhood of silence.  As Jonas turns 11, he learns “Moonlight Sonata,” a piece Beethoven wrote while going deaf.  It is a beautiful film of love and sound, in all their messy forms.

 

SHANGRI-LA:  DIRS Morgan Neville and Jeff Malmberg.  USA.  From filmmaker Morgan Neville comes a docuseries following legendary music producer Rick Rubin and his minimalist iconic recording studio in Malibu, Shangri-La.  Rubin’s music career began as co-founder of Def Jam Records where he launched artists like Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys.  With appearances from Tyler the Creator, The Avett Brothers and David Lynch, these two episodes explore ideas on meditation, creativity and the pursuit of great artistry.

 

CINEMA’S LEGACY

 

A cinematic time machine that takes us back to those seminal moments when filmmakers produced works of such originality and brilliance that they redefined the documentary art form. The inaugural Cinema’s Legacy program at AFI DOCS celebrates the singular role played by public media in fostering and spotlighting innovation and creativity in nonfiction storytelling.

 

AN AMERICAN FAMILY: ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2011):  DIRS Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond.  PROD Craig Gilbert.  USA.  Before the Kardashians, Bachelors and Bachelorettes, Real Housewives and Survivors came The Louds — the first reality TV family. Debuting on January 11, 1973 on public television, this groundbreaking cinéma vérité documentary series drew a record 10 million viewers a week. AN AMERICAN FAMILY: ANNIVERSARY EDITION highlights many historic moments from the most controversial and talked-about television program of its era.

 

LAW AND ORDER – 50th Anniversary Screening (1969):  DIR & PROD Frederick Wiseman.  USA.

Throughout a remarkable career that spans more than 50 years, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has set a benchmark for innovative and distinctive storytelling that is without peer. Celebrating the 50th anniversary broadcast of Wiseman’s extremely timely and relevant LAW AND ORDER (1969), AFI DOCS’ Cinema Legacy program revisits this fascinating immersion into the day-to-day activities of the Kansas City Police Department.

 

TONGUES UNTIED – 30th Anniversary Screening (1989):  DIR Marlon Riggs.  PRODS Marlon Riggs and Brian Freeman.  USA.  Revolutionary in its artistic approach and deeply moving in the intimacy of its storytelling, Marlon Riggs’ TONGUES UNTIED is as dazzling and impactful today as it was 30 years ago when it premiered on public television. A prototypical personal documentary, years ahead of its time, TONGUES UNTIED, broke new ground by mixing poetry, music, performance and Riggs’ autobiographical revelations.

 

SHORT FILM SELECTIONS

 

The best nonfiction short filmmaking of the year.

ALL INCLUSIVE:  DIR Corina Schwingruber Ilić.  PROD Stella Händler.  Switzerland.  Those seeking fun and escape on the high seas fall under the spell of mass entertainment.

 

THE CLINIC:  DIR & PROD Elivia Shaw.  USA.  Amid a devastating opioid epidemic, a needle exchange program and free clinic operate in the shadows of Fresno, California.

 

CONCEPTION: MELISSA:  DIRS Margaret Cheatham Williams and Ella Dobson.  PROD Margaret Cheatham Williams.  USA.  How do you calm your child’s fears about the bogeyman, when the bogeyman is real?

 

CRANNOG:  DIR Isa Rao.  PROD Tom van den Hurk.  UK.  Nobody should have to die alone.  An intimate portrait of a Scottish woman who finds a unique and caring way to look after sick and dying animals.

 

DEPARTING GESTURE:  DIRS & PRODS Brian Bolster and Jonathan Napolitano.  USA.  In the American South, Trey Sebrell is one of only a few funeral directors providing full services to unclaimed persons abandoned by their families because of the shame, stigma and miseducation surrounding HIV-related conditions.

 

DULCE:  DIRS Guille Isa and Angello Faccini.  PRODS Darrell Hartman, Oliver Hartman, and Annie Bush.  Colombia, USA.  In coastal Colombia, a mother teaches her daughter how to swim, so that she may go to the mangroves and harvest piangua shellfish with other women in the village.

 

ENFORCEMENT HOURS:  DIR & PROD Paloma Martinez.  USA.  In a climate of xenophobia and confusion, a San Francisco hotline aims to provide limited assistance to a targeted population.

 

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SUDDEN BIRTH* (*BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK):  DIR & PROD Scott Calonico.  Germany.  The true story of how the Berkeley police department, the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, an Academy Award® winner and Mr. Spock of STAR TREK fame are all connected by 1966’s SUDDEN BIRTH, one of the most unintentionally hilarious and disturbing educational films ever created.

 

EXIT 12:  DIR Mohammad Gorjestani.  PRODS Taylor Feltner and Erick Kwiecien.  USA.  After two tours in the Iraq War, U.S. Marine Roman Baca came home a different person.  Now, as the founder and artistic director of the Exit12 Dance Company in New York City, Roman, with other veterans and military families, uses dance to tell stories about the effects of war.

 

GHOSTS OF SUGAR LAND:  DIR Bassam Tariq.  PRODS Farihah Zaman and Bassam Tariq.  USA.  In Sugar Land, Texas, a group of young, Muslim-American men ponder the disappearance of their friend “Mark,” who is suspected of joining ISIS.

 

IN THE ABSENCE:  DIR Yi Seung-Jun.  PROD Gary Byung-Seok Kam.  South Korea, USA.  When the passenger ferry MV Sewol sank off the coast of South Korea in 2014, more than 300 people lost their lives, most of them schoolchildren.  Years later, the victims’ families and survivors are still demanding justice from national authorities.

 

IT’S GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL:  DIRS & PRODS Luis Gutierrez Arias and John Henry Theisen.  Mexico, USA.  The U.S. Border Patrol has been given the task of choosing a winning design for building a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border.

 

LIFE IN MINIATURE:  DIR & PROD Ellen Evans.  UK.  A Yorkshire woman carves a place for herself in the precious world of miniatures by crafting unique and whimsical objects of the everyday world around her.

 

LIGHTNING VS THUNDER:  DIRS AJ Schnack and Nathan Truesdell.  PRODS Brian Dietzen, AJ Schnack and Nathan Truesdell.  USA.  An eight-year-old girl and an Afghanistan war veteran develop an unlikely friendship and find inspiration on the softball field.  World Premiere.

 

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA:  DIR Sophia Nahli Allison.  PRODS Janice Duncan, Fam Udeorji and Sophia Nahli Allison.  USA.  Latasha Harlins was 15-years-old when she was killed by Soon Ja Du at Empire Liquor in South Central Los Angeles on March 16, 1991.  This dreamlike, hybrid documentary reimagines a more nuanced narrative of Latasha’s life.

 

MACK WRESTLES:  DIRS Erin Sanger and Taylor Hess.  PRODS Erin Sanger, Taylor Hess and Gentry Kirby.  USA.  Transgender wrestler Mack Beggs broke records and changed history by winning the Texas high school state title two years in a row.  With college on the horizon, Beggs must grapple with what comes next.

 

QUILT FEVER:  DIR Olivia Loomis Merrion.  USA.  Quilt Week in Paducah, Kentucky is a major event.  QUILT FEVER is a charming portrait of the art and folks who love it.  World Premiere.

 

SCENES FROM A DRY CITY:  DIRS & PRODS Francois Verster and Simon Wood.  South Africa, USA.  In South Africa, an impending water crisis grips an entire nation.

 

THE SEPARATED:  DIR Jeremy Raff.  PROD Ashley Kenny.  USA.  On June 13, 2018, Honduran asylum-seeker Anita and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Thanks to a pro bono lawyer who aggressively advocates for their release Anita and Jenri are reunited.  But the damage has been done.

 

  1. LOUIS SUPERMAN: DIRS Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan. PRODS Smriti Mundhra, Sami Khan, Poh Si Teng and Cheyenne Tan.  USA.  Bruce Franks, Jr., is a 33-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country today.

 

STAY CLOSE:  DIRS Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan.  PRODS Ashley Brandon, Nevo Shinaar, Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan.  China, USA.  The underdog story of a fencer from Brooklyn who overcomes the longest of odds on the road to the Olympics.

 

SWATTED:  DIR Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis.  PROD Luc-Jérôme Bailleul.  France.  When gamers come face-to-face with the cyber-harassment practice known as “swatting,” online gaming suddenly takes on real-life terror.

 

SWEETHEART DANCERS:  DIR Ben-Alex Dupris.  USA.  Sean and Adrian are a Two-Spirit couple determined to rewrite the rules of Native-American culture through their participation in the Sweetheart Dance.  This celebratory contest is held at powwows across the country, primarily for heterosexual couples, until now.

 

TAKE ME TO PROM:  DIR & PROD Andrew Moir.  Canada.  A colorful, celebratory intergenerational retelling of seven queer people’s prom experience.

 

A TALE OF TWO KITCHENS:  DIR Trisha Ziff.  PRODS Isabel del Rio and Marta Núñez Puerto.  USA, Mexico.  Two countries, two restaurants, one vision.  A TALE OF TWO KITCHENS explores how a restaurant is a place of dignity and community across Mexico City and San Francisco.

 

THE TRIAL:  DIR & PROD Johanna Hamilton.  USA.  Meet the lawyers tasked with defending 9/11 suspects against the U.S. government.

 

A VERY THIN LINE:  DIR Nathan Truesdell.  PRODS Nathan Truesdell and J. Gonçalves.  USA.  A humorous look at alternative currencies used in America, both legal and illicit.

 

About AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in Washington, DC.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government.  The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 17th year, the festival will be held June 19-23, 2019, in landmark Washington, DC, venues, Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema and at the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.  Visit AFI.com/AFIDOCS and connect on twitter.com/AFIDOCS, facebook.com/AFIDOCS, youtube.com/AFI and instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About the American Film Institute

The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.  AFI’s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director.

 

*About AT&T Communications

AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2019 AFI DOCS.

We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we innovate to improve lives. We have the nation’s fastest wireless network.** And according to America’s biggest test, we have the nation’s best wireless network.*** We’re building FirstNet just for first responders and creating next-generation mobile 5G. With DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and WatchTV, we deliver entertainment people love to talk about. Our smart, highly secure solutions serve nearly 3 million global businesses – nearly all of the Fortune 1000. And worldwide, our spirit of service drives employees to give back to their communities. For 10 years, we’ve supported AFI’s commitment to honor the heritage of film and the artists who make them.  And through a variety of programs, we’re focused on giving amateur and underrepresented filmmakers the support they need to succeed.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

About The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership

The Washington Post is an award-winning news leader whose mission is to connect, inform, and enlighten local, national and global readers with trustworthy reporting, in-depth analysis and engaging opinions. It combines world-class journalism with the latest technology and tools so readers can interact with The Post anytime, anywhere.

The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership is an ongoing initiative that aims to highlight organizations working vigilantly to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists worldwide. Learn more at www.wapo.st/pressfreedom.

About MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD
Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show for the 2017-2018 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 5 p.m. ET and to the 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast. It’s the longest-running show in television history, recently expanding its brand to include a political short-documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer.

CONTACT:

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, 202.339.9598, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

Ryan Lattanzio, American Film Institute, 323.856.7619, RLattanzio@AFI.com

 

 

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AFI DOCS Film Review: Under the Wire (Martin, 2018): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 12.54.35 PMUnder The Wire tells the story of a daring entry on 13 February 2012, into war-ravaged Syria by two journalists. One of them was celebrated Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin. The other was photographer, Paul Conroy. Their aim was to cover the plight of Syrian civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army and report on the untold suffering of women and children who were the kept secret of Assad regime’s assault on dissenters. Under the cloak of combating terrorism, the regime was effectively silencing the call for democracy…

The film opens with footage Conroy at one of his darkest moments in Baba Amr, a city-district in southwest Homs, in central Syria. Much of the opening sequence gives a feel of an expose. However, that soon gives way to a non-linear narrative that juxtaposes, at first Conroy, and later fellow journalists, recollections of those two and a half weeks they spent together attempting to tell the world what was happening to the women and children in Baba Amr. At the center of the story is their martyr, Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent, regarded as one of, if not the finest, combat journalist of her generation. Colvin came to fame through her reporting in East Timor in 1999. Without Marie’s reporting the UN said the people of East Timor would have perished.

In 2012, despite the exodus of virtually every Western journalist, Colvin, felt compelled to tell the world what was really happening in Syrian towns, especially the 28,000 civilians who were in Baba Amr. So much so, Colvin risked her life until finally paying the ultimate price when a precision bombing attack successfully neutralized its target, what was known in Baba Amr as the media center which in reality was a concrete “shithole” room on the 6th floor of an evacuated building.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and the world looked on helplessly as the Assad regime continued its daily bombing assault beginning first at 7:00 A.M. and later moved up to 6:30 A.M. According to French journalist, Edith Bouvier, who suffered a serious and potentially life-threatening leg injury when the targeted bomb hit the “media center” – as many as fifteen shells would hit in the first thirty seconds of the precision bombing.

Eventually, the wounded, surviving journalists would make a last-minute escape. Having been told a Red Cross ambulance would be coming to take her and her co-journalists  to safety during the first-ever cease fire, the journalists were warned by a man from the Red Crescent not to get in the vans waiting outside. Following his heeding the group refused to leave. Soon after, a group of rebels shepherded the correspondents to safety only asking that the journalist tell the world what was really happening in Baba Amr.

Under the Wire is a story of international fear and apathetic response from the global community. Despite numerous videos surfacing from Colvin and what many describe as a miracle worker, Dr, Mohammad Mohammad, pleading for the international community to halt the slaughter of innocent civilians whose only crime was a want for a more democratic way of life, nothing happened. Conroy’s life was saved. His mission has been to tell the world what happened in Syria. Utilizing archival news reports from the BBC and CNN (with Anderson Cooper), personal footage and photos from his times with Colvin, Conroy has set out to tell the world what happened.

Under the Wire is the story of Marie Colvin’s passionate commitment to tell the world the story of the women and children in Baba Amr and their shared experience of the “widow’s basement,” an underground shelter for women and children crammed with thin mattresses, little food and without basic medical assistance. This is not an easy film to watch. Part expose’ part action/adventure while booming sound, partial profile shots, fuzzy footage, along with some shaky, point-of-view, hand-held shots create tension and unease. Nevertheless, this is a story that needed to be told and now it needs an audience. The world needs to know the truth of what really happened. Highly recommended.

 

 

Mr. Soul! AFI DOCS 2018 Audience Award Winner for Best Feature, Earthrise wins Best Short

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES
AFI DOCS 2018 AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS
Best Feature Goes to MR. SOUL!
Best Short Goes to EARTHRISE

Chaz Ebert, Steve James, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple
and More Celebrate Documentary Film at the 16th Edition of AFI DOCS

IMG_2541
Larry Gleeson, left, of HollywoodGlee, hams it up with Chaz Ebert after the screening of Mr. Soul! at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Oprah Winfrey Theatre during the 2018 American Film Institute’s 2018 AFI DOCS. Mr. Soul! received the Audience Award for Best Feature. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — JUNE 19, 2018, WASHINGTON, DCThe American Film Institute has announced the AFI DOCS 2018 Audience Award winners, concluding the five-day festival supported by Presenting Sponsor AT&T in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. This year’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to MR. SOUL!, directed by Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard. This year’s Audience Award for Best Short went to EARTHRISE, directed by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.

With 92 films from 22 countries, this year’s AFI DOCS presented films and discussions on topics ranging from the environment and sports to politics and art, along with profiles of extraordinary individuals. Among the attendees were filmmakers and notables including House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Congressman Donald Beyer (VA), U.S. House of Representatives Chaplain Fr. Patrick J. Conroy S.J., Chaz Ebert, Steve James (AFI DOCS 2018 Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree), Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, photographer Joel-Peter Witkin and poet Nikki Giovanni.

This year’s festival included a number of panels featuring engaging discussions between filmmakers, film subjects and audience members — with conversation and examination of issues led by some of the nation’s top journalists: Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips; NBC News’ Tom Costello, Ken Dilanian and Anne Thompson, and “Meet the Press” moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; Variety’s Senior Editor Ted Johnson; and The Washington Post’s reporter Nicole Ellis, Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Foreign Affairs reporter Ishaan Tharoor and National reporter Vanessa Williams.

The AFI DOCS Forum and VR Showcase explored unique topics with keynote presentations, conversations, panel discussions, VR demonstrations and micro-meetings. Programming for the Forum and VR Showcase was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

The fourth edition of the AFI DOCS Impact Lab provided participating filmmakers with professional development in preparation for advancing their causes and meetings with policy leaders and advocates.

Ten films with AFI Conservatory alumni credits were included in this year’s festival: ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW; BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY; DARK MONEY; HAL; HESBURGH; INVENTING TOMORROW; LOVE, GILDA; MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A.; ON HER SHOULDERS; and PICK OF THE LITTER.

MORE ABOUT THE AUDIENCE AWARD-WINNING FILMS:

MR. SOUL!
An in-depth look at the late 1960s WNET public television series SOUL! and its producer Ellis Haizlip. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African-Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement.

EARTHRISE
In 1968, the first image of Earth was captured from space. The world would never be the same.

AT&T is the Presenting Sponsor of AFI DOCS 2018. Official Sponsors include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and VIZIO. Screen Sponsors are Audi, Discovery Communications, HBO, Netflix and Showtime Documentary Films. Official Media Sponsors include Deadline, Here TV, “Meet the Press,” Screen International, Variety, Washington City Paper and WHUT-TV. The DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment; IMDbPro; and Maryland Film Office returned this year as Major Sponsors, joined by CuriosityStream and 202Creates. The Contributing Sponsor is International Documentary Association. This year’s Supporting Sponsors are Downtown Silver Spring and the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. Cultural and Community Sponsors are the Danish Film Institute, DC Filmmakers, Docs in Progress, Embassy of Australia, TIVA-DC, Producers Guild of America, The Video Consortium and Women in Film & Video.

About AFI DOCS
AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in Washington, DC. Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation’s government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 16th year, the festival took place June 13–17, 2018, at distinguished Washington, DC, venues, the Landmark E Street Cinema and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Visit AFI.com/AFIDOCS and connect on twitter.com/AFIDOCS, facebook.com/AFIDOCS, youtube.com/AFI and instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About the American Film Institute
The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI’s founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director.

About AT&T
AT&T is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 AFI DOCS. We help people connect in ways that improve lives – every day. Through DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and AT&T U-verse, we deliver the kind of entertainment people love to talk about. And you can watch almost anytime, anywhere. For 10 years, we’ve supported AFI’s commitment to honor the heritage of film and the artists who make them. And through a variety of programs, we’re focused on giving amateur and underrepresented filmmakers the support they need to succeed.

*Featured photo: Mr. Soul panel (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

AFI DOCS

(Source: AFI Press Release)

AFI DOCS 2018 Film Review: Dark Money

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS, Director Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons, Paul Goodman Changed My Life), weaves and bobs through a heavyweight political fight with Dark Money.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.41.15 PMDark Money opens with a gaggle of geese and a news report stating the number of dead geese is higher than thought followed by some interesting aerial shots of a large swath of strip-mined land. With some montage editing, the mise-en-scene changed to black and white with an assortment of old mining photos, including the Anaconda Copper Company operations what seems to be a familiar voice-over (I thought it was Jesse Ventura – I was wrong).

To me, the opening seemed a little choppy as the next sequence revealed a farmer lamenting some malfunctioning plow implement – only the farmer turned out to be a U.S. Senator, Jon Tester, from the state of Montana. Well, that got my attention. His description of the way he carries out his vocation sounded as though he were the legendary Roman statesman, Cincinnatus. This was not a very flattering portrait of Senator Tester. Fortunately, Senator Tester, like the film, looked and got better as the film progressed.

Reed lays down some nice background material with archival photos and overlays before getting into the essence of Dark Money. Several Montana state officeholders hold ordinary jobs and share their advocacy for political engagement. Another political candidate laments his inability to respond to a series of political ads that flooded mailboxes and media three days before the election linking the candidate to John Wayne Gacy, an American serial killer and rapist. The ads were run by Mothers Against Child Predators and ran in a predominantly Catholic area. Upon inquiry, no one could determine who Mothers Against Child Predators were. After extensive investigation, it was determined that two women sent out the ads as part of a political process to gain access to seats in state government offices and the state judiciary.

I noticed a nice non-diagetic score mimicking a racing heart as a narrative voice-over from Ann Ravel, a Federal Election Commissioner, who uncovered how groups like Mothers Against Predators operate while hiding where their money comes from. Reed moves the setting from rural Montana to the nation’s Capital. Seemingly, Reed is alluding to the real seat of power and then juxtaposes the Capital with a little house with a sign that reads “Commissioner of Political Practices.”

Interestingly, Montana presently has a Citizen Legislature after a corrupt political past primarily associated with the Anaconda Mine. The Anaconda Mine site is one of the largest Super Fund cleanup sites in the world. According to a diagetic docent the Anaconda financed the Industrial Revolution. Yet, the trade off is that it is home to the greatest potential disaster threatening the Northwest as the toxic waste water sitting at the head of the Columbia River is so acidic that a gaggle of geese who lost their way and settled onto the Anaconda pit perished.

In 1912, Montana passed Corrupt Practices Act. This law was held in place until the United Citizens decision by the United States Supreme Court allowed dark money into elections. Proponents celebrated the decision as a win for free speech.

Later, Reed supplies footage of a Russian-style town hall meeting called by American Tradition Partnership.The goal is to get rid of all disclosure, all regulation and all truth-in-advertising mandates so corporations can dictate policy and influence government by manipulating the voting populace just as the Anaconda Mining Company had done a century earlier.

Thanks to a laid off investigative reporter, John Adams, who lost his job when the state news bureau was disbanded, corruption is uncovered in a series of American Tradition Partnership emails with evidence of illegal direct mailings. A trial is held pinning a state legislature with violations of the Montana Disclose Act. He is fined. And, much like the Trump Administration Cabinet appointees, he claimed during the hearing he didn’t know anything about the  coordinated in-kind contributions he received from dark money groups.

Fortunately, Reed doesn’t stop here. A link is made between the inaction of the Federal Elections Commission and its failure to require foreign government political contributions to be reported. Also, Reed  slips in a call to action in the form of followthemoney.org.

Dark Money is an interesting film as it delves into what dark money is, how it can affect political campaigns and how foreign governments are using it to influence the outcome of electoral processes – until ultimately controlling the United States Supreme Court. Highly recommended.

 

AFI DOCS Film Review: Hesburgh (Creadon, 2018): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS.

Hesburgh is a biographical account of Father Theodore Martin Hesburgh, an ordained priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Hesburgh is widely known for his tenure, from 1952-1987, as President of the University of Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Indiana. Others knew Fr. Hesburgh as a confidante and as an advisor to American Presidents including, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard “Dick” Nixon. But, Director Patrick Creadon and Producer Christine O’Malley get behind the public persona and weave a story of mythic proportions.

Beginning with his ambitious plan to transform Notre Dame from an average academic institution with a great football team into a leading university for personal examination, exploration and learning, Hesburgh began wooing captains of industry for financial support and invited Fr. John Courtney Murray to lecture on the highly controversial tome The Catholic Church in World Affairs, at the University of Notre Dame. The voice-over narration and black and white still photos add a sense of historical significance and deification of what Hesburgh was engaging in. The Roman Catholic Church responded with an order to cease and desist from teaching such books ending with a formal “Roma locuta; causa finita est” (Rome has spoken; the cause is finished). Hesburgh defied the order arguing that it was the institution saying no and not him personally (as he had taken a vow of obedience to the Pope). According to Creadon, this sets a precedent for how Hesburgh navigated the world of power politics including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the student protests of the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars as well as his graceful transition from the University of Notre Dame.

Beginning with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Father Hesburgh emerged in Vienna, Austria, as a free-thinking clergyman who was respected by both sides of the Cold War without stirring up controversy. Hesburgh had a penchant for schmoozing with bourbon and cigars resulting in a detante allowing both sides to sit in a room at the same table.

Afterwards, Hesburgh was named to President Eisenhower’s federal Commission on Civil Rights. As the University of Notre Dame was struggling to find a commencement speaker, Hesburgh called in a mark – President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the 1960 Commencement Address with Cardinal Giovanni Montini (later to be named Pope Paul VI and leader of Vatican II) in tow! Cardinal Batista and Hesburgh would become close friends in the ensuing years sharing a love for space travel during the Apollo era of the United States Government’s accelerated Space Program in the 1960’s.

Sensing formidable opposing positions on the Civil Rights Commission, consisting of three democrats, two republicans, and Hesburgh, an independent priest. Hesburgh utilized his human touch, and the resources of a well-heeled Notre Dame philanthropist, to smooth out differences and gain a consensus resulting in a twelve point report recommendation to Congress. Hesburgh continued to serve on the Civil Rights Commission and was appointed chairman by his old friend, Richard “Dick” Nixon.

Uncharacteristically, however, Hesburgh dealt a stunning blow to Notre Dame student body curtailing student protests during the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars as he felt the protesting interfered with student learning. Later, Hesburgh would lament his decision to limit protesting feeling he had made an unfortunate decision that actually inhibited a student’s experience but at the time felt it was necessary and proper to institute it in an effort to curtail violence and also to guarantee the rights of other students who wanted to partake in their own education. Meanwhile, Dick Nixon praised the move and used it as propaganda.

Nixon would later pressure Hesburgh to resign from the Civil Right Commission as part of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. So, Hesburgh turned his focus full force into the campus life of Notre Dame declaring it a co-educational institution in 1972 with overwhelming approval from the male students. On May 17th, 1987, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh received the University of Notre Dame’s highest honor, the Laetare Medal, an annual award given to honor and recognize an individual who has given outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society.

While I did find the historical moments of the film enlightening, what really caught me by surprise were the human elements; the relationships cultivated, the emotional warmth expressed, and the joy and love expressed by those who knew Hesburgh. What I was left with was a powerful human interest story that served as both a testimonial to a life well lived for the noble causes of justice and freedom and a welcome addition to the national historical archives.

Employing present-day narratives from family members, fellow clergy members and a highly effective first person voice-over narration, interspersed with an up-tempo musical score and flashing images, and coupled with historical black and white photos, archival film footage and newsreels, Creadon sets the tone, mood and pacing for nothing-short of a miraculous life with Hesburgh. Highly recommended.

FILM REVIEW – Hale County, This Morning, This Evening

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s 2018 AFI DOCS Film Festival.

Hale County, This Morning, This Evening written, directed and produced by RaMell Ross, and Winner of a Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Ross tells the story of two African-American males, Daniel and Quincy, born in Hale County, Alabama, and the diverse paths their lives take.  Hale County, This Morning, This Evening breaks the mold of a traditional documentary with its cinematic language and use of montage.

In the film’s opening sequence, an immediate distrust of the camera is highlighted in a bold directorial choice regarding one of the film’s subjects, Quincy, who works at a catfish plant to support his young family. “What is the orbit of your dreams?’ sneaks into the lower left-hand corner of the film in a title, textual overlay. A transition is made revealing a small-town street lined with black folks sitting on they cars. Nice non-diagetic music accompanies the camera as it glides down the street. Apparently, them folks is impervious to what is going on ’round them. Welcome to the Deep South where race is constructed and dreaming is an everyday part of existence. RaMell Ross is a philosopher, a photographer, a teacher a high-school basketball coach and now a filmmaker.

Ross utilizes his photography skills to great effect capturing simple, elegant moments that juxtapose other images like a grown man heaping a large truck tire onto a fire while off-screen voices provide commentary on the color and density of the smoke rising up into the air. This telling scene was proceeded buy the title textual overlay, “What is done when all the cotton is picked?’ Ross is not sugar-coating the environment. This type of call and response brilliantly forms the crux of the film’s narrative. In another scene a young girl who really hasn’t learned to speak is being questioned by a semi-literate grown woman. First she asked the young girl her name (though i couldn’t comprehend the pronunciation of the word name). When the girl didn’t reply she asked a few more time with each rendering becoming more intelligible only to be followed up with a “How old you is?”

As a basketball coach, Ross has access to the film’s second primary character, Daniel, a strong, physically fit basketball player longing to escape the confines of his environment. Part of the beauty of Ross’s cinematography and consequent cinematic language is the tight framing of Daniel as he practices his jump shot. While Daniel might be confined for now, this (basketball) is his way out, his way to freedom from confinement.

In my opinion, the film ended rather abruptly evoking a feeling of wanting something more and left my pondering what I had just experienced. The montage of imagery alone makes this film worth seeing. But Ross adds a deep, visceral element, coupled with philosophical interjections, that creates a work of art transcending the confines of the theatre. It begs to be experienced. The result is a highly compelling, experimental film seemingly influenced by Melvin Van Peebles’ spawn of the Blaxploitation era, Sweet SweetBack’s Baadasssss Song. And, with a run time of a fast seventy-six minutes, it’s one you don’t want to miss! Highly recommended.

AFI DOCS

 

 

 

Film Review: The Providers (Green and Moot-Levin, 2018):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s 2018 AFI DOCS.

The Providers, recently selected for the AFI Impact Lab was directed, produced and photographed by Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin. Green and Moot-Levin follow the movements and activities of Matt Probst, Chris Ruge and Leslie Hayes, three health care providers working for a small network of clinics, El Centro, in northern, central New Mexico. El Centro clinics cover an area of 22,000 square miles and treats all patients regardless of insurance, condition or ability to pay. This area is in the top five for heroin overdoses in the United States. Moreover, approximately 70,000 deaths occurred last year in rural areas due to a lack of health care access – ten times the number of deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

After introducing the three characters, The Providers kicks into high gear, as Green and Moot-Levin begin capturing footage of the medical workers as they treat their patients and deal with their own individual life issues on life’s terms. Probst’s father, an opioid addict dies and his sister is arrested for buying drugs with monies fraudulently obtained via identity theft with a gang of five. Ruge receives a letter indicating his Echo Care funding will probably not be renewed and struggles with an imbalance between his obsession for work and a wife at home. Meanwhile, while Dr. Hayes continues to manage her workload quite well and worries what will happen if the Echo Care funding dries up.

In addition to the work these three “country doctors” perform, each one has an extraordinary backstory and history that not only informs them but also inspires them to keep providing care to their own community that is so absent in far too many communities across the land. Green and Moot-Levin provide sharp cinematography and make effective use of traditional documentary filmmaking techniques with testimonials, voice-over narration, still photography, text overlays and non-diagetic music. Paul Brill provides a mesmerizing musical score and sound composition and the cinematography provided by Green and Moot-Levin is exquisite. Most importantly, the narrative is quite compelling as the protagonists make life a little brighter, a little better and a lot more hopeful for those they care for.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 4.11.36 PM
Matt Probst, a physician’s assistant, highlighted in Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin’s The Providers, serves as the Director of El Centro, a small network of health clinics in north-central New Mexico. El Centro treats all patients regardless of insurance, condition or ability to pay and covers an area of 22,000 square miles. (Photo credit: theprovidersdoc.com)

Matt Probst, a physician’s assistant, serves as the Director of El Centro and laments to a group of recruits that by the end of the summer El Centro will have a shortage of eight positions. Chris Ruge, a former truck driver who wanted to feel more connected, is  a nurse practitioner and has been funded for one year through a pilot program called Echo Care which allows Ruge to visit the sickest individuals in the region 24 hours a day. Leslie Hayes is a family doctor who treats her patients with compassion as they struggle with everyday, real-life problems and was in the first training session for treating opioid addiction in a primary practice. Dr. Hayes was recognized by the White House as a Champions of Change for her work in advancing the treatment, prevention and recovery for the opiate-addicted.

One thing becomes tantalizingly clear by the film’s end, The Providers is a heart-warming, soul-affirming documentary and it provides a deep insight into small-town America while confronting the challenges of keeping those in poor, rural communities safe. Warmly recommended with a run-time of an hour and twenty-four minutes.

*Featured photo: Chris Huge ((Photo credit: theprovidersdoc.com)

The Distant Barking of Dogs (Wilmont, 2017): Denmark

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Distant Barking of Dogs, a documentary written, directed and shot by Simon Lereng Wilmont, and produced by Monica Hellstrom, shows a slice of life in an Eastern Ukraine village located within a mile of the front line of the Russian/Ukraine armed conflict in the winter of 2016. The film highlights a year in the life of a ten-year-old boy, Oleg, with a fly-on-the-wall approach, as Oleg becomes desensitized to the fragments of war and, along the way, loses the innocence of childhood. The Distant Barking of Dogs has garnered awards from the 2017 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival (First Appearance Award), the DocAviv Film Festival (Best International Film) and the San Francisco International Film Festival (Golden Gate Award).

 

In the opening scene, to emphasize the closeness of war Wilmont chooses to show a large explosion of a military vehicle taking a direct from a roadside bomb. Wilmont’s camera was two cars back. A transition is made revealing a deft touch from Wilmont with an exquisite, cinematic shot of a landscape vista with gentle winds moving the green grasses hypnotically back and forth. Non-diagetic somber music lays the tone for the voice-over narration of a mature woman’s voice describing the feeling at the advent of winter immediately following the outbreak of war. “(We) feel like animals hiding from winter waiting for the cold to end.”

The film’s protagonist, Oleg, a young, pre-teen boy, being raised by his grandmother, Alexandra, in their family home. While others are choosing to leave the area as there is no end in sight for the war, Alexandra has no intention of leaving the area quoting Ukrainian wisdom, “Every dog is a lion in its own home.” As the war draws on, each begins to rely on the other as a source of strength and inspiration.

Female uniformed soldiers address Oleg’s elementary school class regarding the immediate dangers of the war. The children are animatedly engaged in their everyday lives discussing the collateral damage they encounter in the form of found weapons, undetonated mines and the loss of their fathers as they go off to join the army.

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in The Distant Barking of Dogs, ten-year-old protagonist, Oleg, swims in a pond near his home when ordnance shells begin exploding closer and closer.

From here the film follows Oleg and his activities, mainly outside of school. Oleg goes swimming in the summer as ordnance shells are exploding in the distance. Soon they are growing closer and Oleg and his older friend, Kostya, decide to run home fearing for their own safety. Later, Kostya will put a pistol into Oleg’s hand while encouraging the boy to shoot a helpless frog. One thing is consistent throughout the film is the sound of war in the not-so-far distance.

Admittedly, Wilmont’s film lacks high drama, the uber intensity of combat, and the unfathomable devastation of bombed out towns and villages. Nevertheless, the underlying tension witnessing Oleg’s life unfolding under imminent danger of errant ordinance shells finding Oleg, his friends and Alexandra keeps an edge to the film. But the real question lies ahead. How will this war zone life experience affect Oleg and the children exposed to the constant danger of being killed as they grow into adulthood?

Highly recommended.

For your consideration, I reviewed Ukranian Sheriffs, a highly recommended documentary, detailing political and cultural life in a similar area before the outbreak of war.

 

AFI DOCS Film Review: The Cold Blue (Nelson, 2018):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS. The film was screened in the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

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The Cold Blue, a Vulcan Production, is a gripping story of the bravery of youth and a meditative reflection by the surviving members of WWII bombers, directed by Erik Nelson. Nelson based The Cold Blue on footage shot by William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives) and three cinematographers flying with the 8th Air Force during WWII bombing missions over Europe and into Germany for a documentary on the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber.

In assembling his film, Nelson effectively employed restored, archival footage, textual overlays, still photography and present day voice-over narration from surviving members of the 8th Air Force. Sadly, one of the original Wyler cinematographers perished during the WWII footage collection when his plane went down over France. Interestingly, more men died flying missions in World War II than were killed fighting as United States Marines. In all 135,000 men flew over three million missions over Europe.

A B-17 formation, often referred to as a flying fortresses, was capable of carrying two tons of bombs over a distance of a thousand miles. During WWII, the flying fortresses would make their runs into Germany and after releasing their bombs, the aircraft would turn around and fly another five hours to return home. An average mission took eleven hours.

The crews’ bombing accuracy placed approximately one-third of their payloads within 1,000 feet of their intended targets. Adverse weather conditions would negatively impact their accuracy, however. The men who piloted and crewed these aerial war ships lived together, ate together and flew together on a minimum of 25 missions. The age range for most of the men were 19-25 years old. Most, if not all, were family men and feared daily for the loss of their lives. The odds of surviving all 25 missions was 25%. Roughly one million Germans, with an estimated 40,000 guns, laid in wait for these men and their planes.

By 1945, 12,731 B-17 had been built with 5,000 being lost in the war over Europe during the same time frame. In late 1944, the Allies decided, in order to bring the war to a close, to transition from a precision bombing campaign to a pattern bombing campaign that destroyed  3.6 million German homes, killed over 700,000 thousand Germans and wounded another 780,000. Moreover, 7.5 million Germans were made homeless. Pattern bombing succeeded in bringing about the German surrender and shortened the war by a full year.

In closing the film, the surviving members of the 8th Air Force downplayed their hero status and expressed why they wanted their story to not only be told, but to be heard – so that young men and women would not have to endure what they experienced in the cold blue where temperature inside their ships ranged from 20 degrees on a warm day to -60 degrees on a cold day. The film was dedicated to the 28,000 men of the 8th Air Force and to Cinematographer Harold Tannenbaum who gave their lives in service.

While The Cold Blue lacks some of the cinematic overtures of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Director Nelson weaves a powerful, linear, human interest narrative. David Hughes adds an excellent sound design mixing diagetic and non-diagetic elements that add to and augment the evocative story line. In addition, the cameras inside the plane offer an unparalleled access to a live, combat air mission with a death-defying mise-en-scene. The restored, footage quality is quite good after being in storage for 70 years.

The Cold Blue is a warmly recommended film and, as with the award-winning Dunkirk, The Cold Blue is best experienced on a large screen.

Film Capsule: Personal Statement (Dressner, 2018): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed at the Annenberg Theatre inside the Newseum in Washington, D.C., as the Opening Night film of the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS Film Festival.

Personal Statement, directed and produced by Julianne Dressner, made its world premiere as the 2018 American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS Opening Night Film. The film follows three Brooklyn, New York, high school seniors, Enoch, Christine, and Karoline, as they prepare themselves for college and try to inspire and encourage their classmates to make the jump with them.

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Enoch Jemmott, right, a Brooklyn, New York, high school senior, prods his friend and classmate as the pair prepare to finalize thier respective college admission processes. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dressner – Reify Films)

 

The film opened with a nice out-of-focus frame of a night-time city-scape slowly coming into focus as a textual overlay informs the viewer of the setting. A transition reveals a young black male doing homework with his niece. Another transition reveals a young bi-racial female in dialogue with a young Hispanic female as she explains some of the challenges she is facing. A third transition reveals an Hispanic mother in the kitchen followed quickly by another transition revealing Christina, one of the film’s protagonist. An upbeat non-diagetic score shows the three characters on their way to school meeting. The meeting turns out to be a training so the three protagonists can work as school guidance counselors.

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Brooklyn, New York, high school senior, Christine, addresses her classmates on the importance of vocalizing their wants and needs followed up by taking positive actions as a way to get their needs met. (Photo courtesy of Reify Films)

This forms the crux of Dressner’s film. Shot in a direct cinema style interspersed with fragments of cinema verite, Personal Statement uncovers societal issues as it reveals the struggles minority students are facing as they attempt to, not only go to college, but also navigate what will be their collegiate experience.

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Karoline, who has undergone bullying for her dress and sexual orientation, shows her counselor a copy of her personal statement for her college application to Smith College, an all-female institution. (Photo courtesy of Reify Films)

Karoline, an LGBTQ student, wants a place where she can meet people who will accept her for who she is. Enoch, a standout high school football anxious to become his own person, lives with his sister. Christina lives at home with a strong-willed mother, who feels Christina needs to consider the financial undertaking in attending college. All three are passionate about going to college and they want their peers to undertake the collegiate journey as well. At the heart of the narrative is the personal statement that explains why each student wants to go their respective schools.

Karoline is a colorful character who had twenty-three absences in her first year of high school has progressed to where she has perfect attendance in her senior year. Enoch faces obstacles that include a mother who lives in a homeless shelter and a lower than desired grade-point-average from the college of his choice, Cortland. Christina, whose mother financed her older brother’s college education, has reservations in supporting Christina’s college choice. Christina’s brother has been out of work for the last four years and her mother has had her work hours reduced.

While all three students wind up attending college, difficult choices are made along the way and challenging issues are revealed surrounding their pursuit of higher education.

Personal Statement will have its U.S. broadcast premiere on public television’s WORLD Channel and PBS on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 8:00 pm. This is a film that needs to be seen and the issues it raises need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Highly recommended.