Category Archives: Documentary

FILM REVIEW: Joseph Puleo’s “America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill”

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson.

“America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill” (Courtesy of St. Louis International Film Festival)

America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill, directed by Joseph Puleo and based on Rio Vitale’s book, St. Louis’s The Hill, was a walk down memory lane for me as a history buff with family ties to the area around The Hill, an Italian enclave and the last remaining Litlle Italy in the United States. America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill explores the deep historic roots of the iconic St. Louis neighborhood and the Italians who immigrated to The Hill in pursuit of the American Dream of owning a home and starting a family.  This is a project I imagine the likes of Martin Scorcese making – only Marty tends to stick to his own neighborhood in New York City (Mean Streets, and The Oratorio). Nevertheless, when he sees this film, I hallucinate he’ll be beaming with Italian Pride.  America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill which screened at the recent St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) is Joseph Puleo’s first feature and was the recipient of the Audience Choice Award at this year’s Cinema St. Louis Showcase. Rio Vitale is credited as the film’s Executive Producer.

With a smooth opening black screen coupled with non-diegetic chimes, the film meanders in the darkness before it reveals an interview with Msgr. Salvatore Polizzi. Msgr. Polizzi, a Roman Catholic priest and former associate pastor of The Hill neighborhood’s St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the late 1960s and early 1970s, begins speaking about the general fear many Americans experienced going into an Italian community, “And we were kind of happy there was a fear also.” The film transitioned as introduction titles rolled and the historical documentary was off and running informing the viewer of the setting with home videos and a still photograph of the most recognizable landmark in St. Louis, Missouri, The Gateway Arch. The editing and soundtrack are seamless and spot-on as both aspects enhanced the film’s narrative.

With America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill Puleo provides an eloquent treatment of the Italian immigrant coming to America and settling into the area and becoming a part of the social fabric. Puleo utilized a plethora of black and white photographs, newspaper articles as well as a multitude of interviews with a wide-ranging assortment of Hill residents and extended family members sharing their experiences, strength, and hope. Fr. Polizzi arrived at St. Ambrose Parish in the late 1960s immediately immersing himself in the community. The early 1970s was a time of great social and cultural upheaval and brought changes to the area – think of Travis Bickle’s opening voice-over monologue in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Fr. Polizzi and the men of The Hill neighborhood took matters into their own hands to ensure the neighborhood was kept intact and the darker elements were kept out. The women did the same (and more), to keep their Italian heritage alive and thriving. The nearby Shaw neighborhood by comparison (a war zone) didn’t fare so well.

For me, growing up in the Metro-East area of St. Louis and being a long-time St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan,  my mother had friends on The Hill, notably Eleanor Berra Marfisi, a Berra family member, and author of The Hill: Its History – Its Recipes. Naturally, Mother informed me Lawrence “Yogi” Berra, a brilliant baseball player and manager, was from The Hill. Most baseball fans have heard of Yogi Berra and his Yogiisms as had I (“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”). However, I wasn’t aware of his 10 World Series Championships and the three Most Valuable Player Awards he earned while playing baseball for the New York Yankees. I was probably more familiar with The Hill’s Peabody Award-winning, and recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting achievement, Joe Garagiola. Garagiola broke into the MLB with the 1946 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Team. Within a runtime of seventy minutes, Puleo covers all this and much more including how and why The Hill, named for its proximity to the highest point in St. Louis, is America’s last Little Italy today.

Viewing America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill brought back a lot of memories including the above mentioned. Others included learning about St. Ambrose from my dear friend Mike Cucchi (pronounced ˈko͝okē), a standout soccer player and local college soccer coach who made gossip fodder when he “finally moved off The Hill.” Niki Cusamano and  Alisa Santangelo remain and are a part of the new generation of Italian-Americans who want to be a part of The Hill’s St. Louis Italian traditions. I can tell you whenever I visit family in St. Louis, I visit The Hill and Cunetto’s House of Pasta. Last visit my oldest brother Jim introduced me to Frank Cunetto, who is featured in the film as one of The Hill’s restaurateurs, and to our server at Cunetto’s, Vicki, a Hill resident of Sicilian heritage.

America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill TV premiere is scheduled for Monday, November 30th, 7 PM, with a second showing on December 6th, 4 PM on Nine Network PBS. DVD’s are also available in limited quantities on the film’s Facebook page. I’ve seen a lot of films this year and America’s Last Little Italy: The Hill sits at the top!

Highly recommended!

AFI FEST 2020 FILM REVIEW: Whirlybird (Matt Yoka, 2020)

Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.

Filmmaker Matt Yoka, who I had the distinct pleasure of connecting with at the AFI FEST Industry and Filmmaker mixer, brings home Whirlybird, a fascinating, real-world tale of Los Angeles-based reporters, Bob Tur and Marika Gerrard, who revolutionized real-time news reporting from the air. Yoka crafts his work from 2,000 hours of recorded flight tape, direct interviews, news archives, still photos, and more.

The result is a dynamic visual history of the biggest Los Angeles news events in the last 30 years including the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the pursuant, criminal assault of truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandy after the Rodney King beating verdict and subsequent acquittal of the four white police officers charged. And, if that wasn’t enough the duo broke and captured the infamous O.J. Simpson ‘White bronco’ car chase which became “the apex of live news coverage” with approximately 80 million viewers tuning in.

Prior to these two major national news events, Bob had also previously rescued 54 people from a crumbling rooftop at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, Calif. during a winter storm with winds up to 50 miles per hour. The hotel was surrounded by water and was being pummeled by massive, crashing waves.  As what can only be described as a herculean effort, Tur managed to whisk away the stranded guests to higher ground in fourteen separate takeoffs and landings. The rescue made news headlines and jumpstarted his and Marika’s network career with KCOP.

By itself, any one of these events would make for a great story. And they are. Interestingly, Yoka goes on to explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics between Bob and Marika primarily with footage from their aerial reporting. What emerges is a strong working relationship with Bob’s perfectionism and Marika’s “go along to get along attitude.” The pair produced footage unmatched with Bob’s aggressive piloting and Marika’s willingness to hang outside and keep a steady camera rolling under less than optimal conditions including live rounds being fired at them during their three-day virtually non-stop coverage of the 1992 rioting.

Unexpectedly included in present-day time is MSNBC journalist, and Bob and Marika’s daughter, Katy Tur, an MSNBC journalist and author of the 2017 “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” as she reflects on the rise and fall of her parent’s helicopter reporting empire, the current state of, and decline of, major network broadcast news reporting, and her parent’s marital relationship. Yoka includes this section as Katy and Marika are seen in casual conversation.

With Whirlybird Yoka manages to distill a 15 plus year time span into a 1:43 film run time. With a focus on the newsgathering, Yoka delivers a very informative segment before introducing and exploring a surprising and deeply personal human-interest twist reminiscent of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner as Zoey Tur comes to terms with who she is as a person and explains why she performed so aggressively and behaved so inappropriately as Bob.

A seminal piece on the newsgathering industry in Los Angeles coupled with a timely human-interest story involving transgenderism and news reporting at the highest national level, Whirlybird is highly recommended viewing.

 

Nashville Film Festival 2020 FILM REVIEW The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Frank Marshall, USA)

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the Opening Night Presentation of the virtual 51st Nashville Film Festival “featuring the finest in films, music, and culture.”

During the Disco Era of the late 1970s, no one was bigger than the Bee Gees (the Brothers Gibb), a band composed of brothers Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb. They seemed to be everywhere – on the radio, in the theatre (with six of ten songs on the second-biggest selling soundtrack of all-time from the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta), guest appearances on television talk shows, and…..their music was danced to several times a night in disco clubs across the globe.

THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, directed/produced by acclaimed filmmaker Frank Marshall, producer or executive producer for six Best Picture Oscar nominees: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Color Purple (1985), The Sixth Sense (1999), Seabiscuit (2003), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and War Horse (2011) InThe Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Marshall spotlights the legendary band who wrote more than 1,000 songs, including twenty number one hits throughout their career.

The film opens with archival footage of the Bee Gees’ performance at the Oakland Coliseum in 1979 at arguably the pinnacle of their career success. From here Marshall explores who the Bee Gees are and what they embodied as performers. The film is very reflective in a non-linear manner. Drawing heavily from voice-over narration, archival footage, along with black and white stills, Marshall etches a portrait of the young Gibb brothers fascinated by the fame and popularity of the Beatles and captures the arrival of the Bee Gees’ first album, “Spicks and Specks,” recorded in Australia.

With a nice touch, Marshall adds Noel Gallagher, of the global supergroup, Oasis, and more recently, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, to provide some insightful commentary on early Bee Gee music as classical 60’s guitar pop sound and the remarkable resemblance to the Beatles. Yet, Gallagher adds a poetic comment citing the vocal gift of brothers singing in harmony – “an added instrumentation that no one else can buy” of the uniqueness of the brothers’ familial harmonized vocals. “You can’t buy it. It’s not like you can go down to the shop and buy it like a Stratocaster and run Buddy Holly through it.” In a direct testimonial, Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers also adds insight into performing and living with brothers and “the heightened emotionality that comes into play.”

In a series of interviews from 1999, the Brothers Gibb open up reflecting on their career as brotherly musicians that spanned four decades at the time of the interviews. Barry, the oldest brother, and fun-loving brother, Robin, had a very public sibling rivalry leading to Robin quitting the band on March 19th, 1969. Brother Maurice dubbed himself “the peacemaker, as he was often made into “the go-between.” Marshall utilizes a montage of newspaper headlines combined with voice-over narration from the brothers to help explain what was happening and how they were feeling about the situation.

Deftly, Marshall repeats an earlier technique in having Noel Gallagher comment on the fraternal dynamic as being a band’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The band suffered immensely during this time and seemed to be treading water until reinventing its sound in America with a 1975 album Main Course that topped the Canadian music charts and peaked in the US at number 14. The group’s popularity surged with its 1976, follow-up, Platinum-selling album, Children of the World, and with the 1977 Saturday Night Fever, the roof came off. The run culminated with the 1979 album Spirits Having Flown, a best-selling, chart-topper in the US, Canada, and the UK.

In addition to Gallagher and Jonas, other noteworthy performers interviewed on the music and band were musician/actor/producer Justin Timberlake, Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin, solo performer of Fleetwood Mac heydays, Lindsay Buckingham, Alice Cooper, and band manager Robert Stigwood.  Timberlake provided a commentary of the Bee Gee’s vocals as brass instrumentation. Martin spoke to the backlash that derailed the Bee Gee’s phenomenal global superstardom – the first band to achieve the status according to martin. Cooper and Buckingham delivered timely remarks on the music culture during the Bee Gee’s heyday as the “Kings of Disco.” Stigwood addressed the business side of managing the band and the small number of songs radio stations played in rotation – one of the vital components leading to the over-saturation and ultimate backlash of the Bee Gee’s culminating in Chicago disc jockey Chris Dahl blowing up disco tapes and records to a massive crowd at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

The backlash took a heavy toll on the band as they never regained their popularity. In a 2019 pensive and soul-searching clip of Barry Gibb walking a narrative, voice-over echoes the price of fame. Perception is reality as Barry often feels alone as his bandmates and brothers have all passed away including youngest brother, Andy Gibb. Andy idolized his brothers and Barry helped Andy get his solo career off the ground. Andy Gibb had an explosive solo career mimicking his brothers’ disco style and his number one Billboard hit, “Shadow Dancing,” could easily pass for a Bee Gees song. Andy Gibb died in 1988 at the age of 30.

The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend A Broken Heart is informative, entertaining, and heartwrenching. Frank Marshall reveals not only the heart and soul of the band and its music but also the power dynamic that shaped and molded the group’s enormous and impactful musical legacy. Highly recommended.

AFI DOCS Film Review: Maria Finitzo’s Cliteracy-exploring DILEMMA OF DESIRE Shouts For More

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                      June 29, 2020

Watching the opening scene of the cliteracy-exploring documentary, The  Dilemma of Desire, I was intrigued watching a woman, neuroscientist Stacey Dutton, Ph. D., in an office present-day, walking across the screen and opening a Gray’s Anatomy Textbook, while a voice-over narration informs the viewer. What happens next befuddled me. I could not believe my eyes. Here is a woman in 2020 with an anatomy book that has no picture or information on the female clitoris. Unbelievable right? Well, apparently, the edition being discussed was published in 1858. A sleight of hand so to say. The intent is crystal clear in today’s protest language, “Let’s get emotional people! This is pussy power were dealing with here!!!”

But, the best was yet to come as the film’s most intriguing characters were introduced. One, a Brooklyn-based artist, Sophia Wallace, has a routine of going to the gym listening to “work-out” music then taking lyrics and reframing them with the clitoris in mind. From there, prints are created celebrating the “clit,” and the hundred laws of cliteracy. To accentuate, a revealing text title poses the question with dramatic flair, “Can you draw a clit?” Pulsating music accompanies the next segment, Womanhood: The Clitoris Chapter, introducing “Critical Thinking – The Best Work of Sophia Wallace” – a very thought-provoking art exhibit celebrating the female “joy button.” More importantly, Wallace is a compelling force on the screen as she shares her experience, strength, and hope in navigating desire as she expresses her truth as Director Maria Finitzo captures mush of it in Verite’ style.

In today’s world, we often hear somewhat crude and vulgar terms such as “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” Wallace’s phrases, in juxtaposition, are framed in glitteringly gold letters – a beautiful and highly respectful manner and miles away from “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” After Wallace’s whirlwind world, Finitzo goes on to highlight Linda Diamond, PH. D., Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, a monthly newsletter for women interested in “pleasure in a practical everyday sense,” an industrial engineer manufacturing elegant female vibrators as well as a stunning Chicagoan woman, Coriama, who proudly postulates she has the will to negotiate for what she needs sexually.

Interestingly, Finitzo, a Peabody Award-winning director, spouts themes from Audrey Lourde’s feminist-leaning essay, Uses of the Erotic, that women have been suppressed from power and information by the male world. To prove her point, Finitzo adds a black and white still photograph of a woman suffering from what Dr. Sigmund Freud referred to as hysteria. Today, “hysterical” women in Decatur, Georgia, have formed a female support group. Here women create a sacred, safe space to explore the bounds of their sexuality. Adeptly, Finitzo managed to score footage from a meeting of the “mine’s.” as the women from Decatur openly share intimate feelings about their clitorises.

Nevertheless, “the little man in the boat” remains the misunderstood, “shuntive” part of the female anatomy, keeping women suppressed, as they are systematically warned against the dangers of eroticism and the resulting information. In one especially memorable scene, Finitzo mixes a driving, non-diegetic musical score culminating in a crescendo with a voice-over narration describing the clitoris as a powerful provocative force, a replenishing force. Some top-notch burlesque sequences, both archival performances as well as current-day performers, add an exquisite, erotic vibe.

The Dilemma of Desire, executively produced by Academy Award-winning Barbara Kopple, is an exceptionally well-executed film advocating that women are sexual beings with the right to live fully in the expression of their desires. The craftsmanship in gathering footage, in editing, informative narrative voice-overs, and musical score support and add timely emotionality in underscoring Finitzo’s sharply-pointed direction. My hat comes off to the cast and crew.

Probably most surprising was Finitzo’s ability to add tongue-in-cheek scenic elements underscoring the buffoonery surrounding the massive dismissal of the “devil’s doorbell” – in my opinion, a very serious oversight. But in the end, though the coverage seemed somewhat excessive, I found it wholly conceivable to view the clitoris as a replenishing, provocative force after viewing The Dilemma of Desire. A bit long, however, with a runtime of 109 minutes. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Ron Howard’s Gripping “Rebuilding Paradise” Uplifts and Inspires

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise, a blistering Verite-style, National Geographic documentary, captures the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire and the resiliency of Paradise, Calif., residents in the fire’s aftermath. Howard, one of Hollywood’s most popular directors, also directed the 1991 fire drama Backdraft. Other Howard films include the Oscar-winning dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13, the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, and the critically-acclaimed documentaries Pavarotti and The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. Following the Rebuilding Paradise screening, Howard and Paradise residents, Michelle John and Woody Culleton, participated in a Q & A moderated by broadcast journalist Katy Tur, an NBC correspondent and anchor for MSNBC Live. Howard confided Rebuilding Paradise was his first venture into Verite-style filmmaking while the residents echoed the unimaginable magnitude of the fire’s devastation and that the images don’t reflect the fire’s “uncomprehendable” nature.

Rebuilding Paradise opens in dramatic fashion with narrative voice-over providing a weather update informing the viewer of a windy day and PG&E contemplating a pre-emptive decision to shut down the area’s power grid. Large, fast-moving fire breaks out in the Feather River Canyon with four dozers, two water tenders, and four strike teams are deployed. Emergency calls are heard. School and hospital evacuations are taking place. Audible prayers are heard. And then, dashcam footage of a vehicle racing through the haze and fiery embers with diegetic radio communications juxtaposed against footage of a raging, massive wildfire (imagine Lord of the Rings Mountain of Fire) fueled by dry timber and blustering forty mile-per-hour winds reveal the genesis of a perfect firestorm. Non-diegetic music from the master composer, Hans Zimmer accompanies haunting, apocalyptic slow-motion frames of horses seeking freedom or at least a free-range amidst a claustrophobic smoke and death-seeking fire patches. The scene closes tinged in hope as a family escapes the area in their vehicle with exclamatory verbiage.

For me, this opening scene captured the essence of Rebuilding Paradise. As devastating as the fire and the footage were, the family breaks out and into blue skies with a redemptive foreshadowing. Howard latches on to a group of Paradise residents who have a deeply rooted sense of place and home as they take the journey to rebuild Paradise one day at a time. There were plenty of setbacks and details of electrical equipment dating to 1921 still in use were trying and quite frustrating as the lawyers for PG&E managed to beat down a wrongful death case to manslaughter with a 3.5 million dollar fine for the lives of 85 Paradise residents who perished in the massive fire. Adeptly, Howard captures the real Erin Brockovich speaking to a group of Paradise residents. Brockovich was the subject of a 2000 bio-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Julia Roberts that dramatized Brockovich’s relentless and successful pursuit of justice for families who were victims of PG&E polluting their water supply.

Interestingly, Howard chose to tell the story in linear segments beginning with one month, then to three months, six months, culminating with nine months. On top of the eighty-five deaths, fifty thousand lives were displaced. One of the film’s most compelling characters turned out to be the school psychologist, Carly Ingersoll, a young thirty-something, married woman who had decided to start a family with her husband. But due to contaminants being absorbed into the groundwater, she and her husband were advised by their physician not to have a baby. In her professional capacity, she was fully engaged in trauma counseling with students and despite having nearly perished in the fire herself managed to see beyond the devastation and find a sense of hope for the future.

Rebuilding Paradise is a gripping, well-executed film with top-notch photography, driving musical score and inspirational, narrative story-telling and it covers the trials and tribulations of a community facing an assured annihilation who turn their devastation into a mythic Phoenix as their town rises from its ashes in warm and hopeful tones. Very highly recommended.

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President Brings Down The Curtain for 2020 With Hope And Love

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Virtual World Premiere of the 2020 Virtual AFI DOCS Closing Night Film, Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President, directed by Mary Wharton, provided an artistic view into the influence of music on Jimmy Carter’s upbringing and its influence on the Carter Presidency. The work also provides an intimate look inside the former United States President who made peace, human rights, and healing the nation a priority after the Vietnam War and the Watergate debacle. Director Wharton also won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature Sam Cooke: Legend. Other feature film credits include Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound, the platinum-selling concert film Phish: It and Farrah Fawcett Forever.

Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President featured testimonial interviews, poetry readings, and archival performances from musical legends Bob Dylan, Nile Rodgers, Roseanne Cash, Chuck Leavell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Mihaela Jackson, Tom T. Hall, Jimmy Buffet, Bono, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels, and Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. Moreover, Ambassadors to the United Nations, Madeline Albright and Andrew Young, as well as Special Assistants to the President, Jim Free and Tom Beard, shared their respect and admiration for President Carter with direct interviews. Chip Carter, son and Presidential driver, added verisimilitude to the film’s revelatory narrative.

Following the screening, Wharton and Producer Chris Farrell participated in a Q & A moderated by Ken Jacobson and with President Carter calling in from his home in Plains, Georgia. Unfortunately, due to low bandwidth, the call was mostly inaudible. Nevertheless, the Q & A proved enlightening. While Farrell was researching and gathering artifacts for an Allman Brothers documentary, he was referred to a “bunch of guys” who began sharing stories of Gregg Allman and Jimmy Carter. Then Bob Dylan. Then Willie Nelson. And so it went. Ad Infinitum. Interestingly, Allman was the first guest of President Carter to dine in the White House. The two had become friends during Carter’s years as the Governor of the State of Georgia. In an archival interview, a clean and sober Allman tells the story of Jimmy coming out and claiming the Presidency was his for the winning. Mr. Allman claims the pronouncement came as the two heavyweights put a large dent in a bottle of J & B Scotch Whiskey. Carter contested Allman’s claim as Jimmy limits himself to one drink a day at most!

But, Jimmy Carter did become President. The road wasn’t easy. He struggled immensely until musicians like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffet put on concerts in Rhode Island and Oregon respectively, galvanizing the youth vote. Even gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was impressed with Jimmy Carter. Thompson was covering Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy’s national campaign for the Democratic Party nomination when he witnessed the verve of Carter. Carter would go on to win the nomination and the election. Kennedy would go on to have one of the longest and most influential careers in the history of the United States Senate championing a wide-range of legislative issues including the civil rights of the disabled, immigration, education, and health care reform and would bear the moniker, Lion of the Senate, for his Senatorial prowess,

Once Jimmy Carter became President, White House Lawn gatherings became regular events organized by the First Lady Rosalynn Carter. And Wharton provides spot-on footage, voice-overs, and montages of stills photographs to perfection. Yet, all was not perfect in the Camelot of the South. The longtime U.S. friend and ally, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had been facing opposition demonstrations and civil resistance when he fled the country leaving the opposition party’s Prime Minister in charge. The Shah had cancer and sought exile and treatment in the United States. This would become the defining moment of the Carter Administration. Carter, the humanitarian, allowed the Shah into the U.S. for treatment. The Iranian government fell and was taken over by the religious Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. The country quickly became an Islamic republic with a theocratic-republican constitution while student radicals took 52 American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. Former President Richard Nixon and Republican foreign policy hawks wanted swift military action against Iran. President Carter chose peace and dialogue in negotiating a release.

The U.S. economy had inflation, exorbitant interest rates, and gasoline shortages that resulted in huge lines at the pumps when gas was available. The country was in a spiritual malaise. Carter would lose his re-election bid in a landslide to Ronald Reagan, the movie actor, and Governor of California. Carter states on camera if he had it all to do over again, he’d do it the same way. The day Reagan was sworn in all the hostages were released after being held captive for 444 days. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter said their goodbyes, boarded Air Force One (where they received word of the hostages leaving Iranian airspace) and returned to small-town life in Plains, Georgia. The Carter Administration had significant foreign policy and domestic achievements with the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, humanitarian work around the world and new energy policies at home, environmental protection, and major educational programs under the new Department of Education.

Jimmy Carter, the Naval Officer, author, poet, a nuclear physicist, and a peanut farmer from small-town Plains, Georgia, would go on to lead a life of service negotiating peace deals (winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002), advocating for voter rights, and building homes for the less fortunate. He continues to this day with the love of his life, Rosalynn. Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President is one of the most fascinating biographical documentaries, I have ever seen. While many might feel compelled to say, “I like Jimmy Carter, the man, but not Jimmy Carter, the President.” I say, “Well…you need to watch Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President.” Highly recommended!

 

 

 

AFI DOCS 2020 FILM REVIEW: A THOUSAND CUTS A Prophetic Story of “The Last Days of Democracy”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The virtual 2020 AFI DOCS, supported by presenting sponsor, AT & T, started off with a technical difficulty, unrecoverable on my end, for the Opening Night Film, Boys State. As a result, my opening film became Ramona Diaz’s A Thousand Cuts, a well-orchestrated feature documentary on the suppression of free speech, corruption, human rights violations, the impunity of the Presidency, and the proliferation of disinformation spread through government propaganda and social media sites after the 2016 Philippine election of a populist candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. A Thousand Cuts is being presented at the 2020 AFI DOCS by The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

Diaz utilizes historical interview and news archives after the 2016 election of “strongman” Rodrigo Duterte and the culminating intersection of Maria Ressa’s Rappler, a news site run by Phillipino women speaking truth to power. Ressa, the Time Magazine 2018 Person of the Year, received a six-year sentence for cyber-libel four days ago for her stand on democracy and her vision for a Philippine society based in love and hope rather than in anger and fear. Amal Clooney, the wife of American Hollywood actor, George Clooney, both of whom appear in the film during some heady moments, provides representation to Ressa.

In addition, Diaz provides testimonials from a multitude of journalists and a celebrity political candidate, who becomes Duterte’s social media pawn, on the political situation in the streets and inside the Duterte government. Both direct cinema and cinema verite are woven into the film’s narrative adding substance and depth to the testimonials. In one capture, Ressa describes the global alternative news movement in the Philippines. Ressa uses graphs and a verbal explanation in revealing 25 bot-like sites, all following each other, to influence an immediate audience of three million while disseminating various untruths of misinformation. Ressa also explains to co-journalists how this messaging is then repeated millions of times with the end goal of creating doubt as to what facts are.

In archival footage following his election, Duterte begins calling traditional news outlets “fake news” and begins utilizing alt news sites to sow misinformation, creating a mob mentality as misogynistic comments to rape to death or to behead Ressa for her critical news reporting approach appear on social media. Vile and shocking screenshots of social media comments further substantiate Ressa’s journalistic claims and warrant further investigation. Martin Niemölle’s infamous “First they came:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

is reduced with dramatic and telling effect by another journalist with, “First they came for the journalist, then no one knows what happened next.”

Unmistakably, a correlation with the Trump government surfaces even though only one image of the President of the United States is shown. The typical sexist (misogynistic) “locker room” talk is shown at a rally where Duterte connects the smell of fish to the scent of a woman, manipulates a podium microphone to illustrate a weak phallus, and promulgates a war on drugs vocally saying he will kill drug dealers.

Unsurprisingly, three hours after Duterte’s election, the first dead body is found in the street. Pushing aside due process and the rule of law, the Duterte government has killed thousands upon thousands of individuals leaving the bodies in the streets devastating family members and disrupting the family dynamic, disrupted constitutional checks and balances with an unchecked abuse of executive authority, and suppressed freedom of the press with slut-shaming tactics such as labeling female journalists “presstitutes” – in my opinion, the least derogatory term Duterte uses throughout A Thousand Cuts to describe the media and the female journalists depicted.

The title of the film, A Thousand Cuts, refers to a small cut that doesn’t have much effect on the workings of democracy, yet when repeated over and over each small effect begins to damage the fabric of democracy until it becomes something else. An exceptionally well-made political documentary with a timely urgency and the soul democracy at its core. A “must-see” selection with a recorded Q & A following with Diaz and Ken Jacobson, an AFI Senior Documentary Film & Special Content Programmer.

PBS Distribution and Frontline will release A Thousand Cuts this August.

AFI DOCS continues through June 21st “exploring political and social issues in the US and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past.” For more information visit AFI DOCS.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

AFI DOCS 2020

 

 

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES AFI DOCS 2020 FORUM

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI DOCS Forum Will Feature Sessions In Response To Rapidly Changing World Events, Filmmaker Panels, Networking Opportunities And More

ON EMBARGO UNTIL 9 a.m. ET / 6 a.m. PT, June 10, 2020, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS — the American Film Institute’s five-day documentary film festival, supported by Presenting Sponsor AT&T — has announced its 2020 Forum. Open to all AFI DOCS pass holders and festival filmmakers, the five-day Forum will take place June 17-21, with live sessions streaming online.

The Forum presents a variety of networking and professional development events and discussions for filmmakers, industry professionals, and those with a passion for nonfiction storytelling. The AFI DOCS Forum is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Primary Media Partners Meet the Press and The Washington Post are hosting and moderating sessions.

 

Marjan Safinia, Michael Lumpkin, Monica Lewinsky
Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals

“The AFI DOCS Forum has always been a unique aspect of our festival, where filmmakers, industry leaders, and festival attendees can come together to engage in informative and thought-provoking discussions,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “This year, we are excited to connect Forum attendees though these online sessions and look forward to participating in the exciting conversations they inspire.”

 

Programming at this year’s Forum ranges from panels on the effects of the recent mass protest movements and COVID-19 on documentary filmmaking, to in-depth discussions exploring the many other aspects of our society that documentary films examine and expose, as well as sessions on the business of filmmaking.

The full AFI DOCS Forum schedule and tickets will be available at DOCS.AFI.com later today.

The 18th edition of AFI DOCS will run online June 17–21. AT&T’s continued support as Presenting Sponsor enables AFI DOCS to connect audiences, policymakers, and storytellers in the heart of our national government.

Wednesday, June 17:

  • Forum programming begins with “Distribution New Frontiers,” an up-to-the-minute panel discussion curated by ITVS featuring players from across the industry, moderated by ITVS Director of Distribution Jordana Meade, addressing how filmmakers can optimize their distribution strategies.
  • “Micro Meetings, Session 1,” intimate, one-on-one 15-minute micro meetings, in which Forum attendees have the opportunity to connect online with a national portfolio of industry personnel, funders, public media representatives, and veteran filmmakers.

 

Thursday, June 18:

  • Winner of the 2020 Sundance U.S. Documentary Audience Award, CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION is a rare combination of personal story, cultural milestone, and policy-focused documentary. Join us for this lively and highly informative demonstration and discussion of the team’s innovative, years-in-the-making Crip Camp Impact Campaign. The Campaign features innovative and creative experiences, all led virtually. These include a 16-week curated camp experience entitled “Crip Camp: The Official Virtual Experience,” a disabled creatives and activists emergency relief fund in response to the effects of the pandemic and a fellowship for emerging creatives within the disability community. Registration for the virtual camp alone reached over 7,000 globally within the first three weeks of launch. By connecting disability rights advocates with other progressive communities and empowering the next generation of activists, the Crip Camp Campaign seeks to nurture an ongoing revolution in disability rights and disability justice and inspire a fundamental cultural transformation.
  • “Be Safe: Navigating The Perils Of News Gathering And Documentary Production” From reporters covering street protests who run the risk of attack to documentary filmmakers struggling to get the protective gear necessary to shoot during COVID-19, newsgathering and documentary production in the U.S. have become fraught for those committed to telling the urgent stories of the moment. What are the disparate realities affecting those who are on the frontlines of telling these stories? How do filmmakers evaluate risk mitigation vs. unsafe conditions? What practices are being implemented? IDA Enterprise Fund Director Carrie Lozano moderates this of-the-moment conversation.
  • “Micro Meetings, Session 2,” will provide the second round of intimate, one-on-one 15-minute micro meetings between attendees, filmmakers and industry personnel.

 

Friday, June 19:

  • The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership returns to host “A Washington Post Press FreedomPartnership Conversation With Philippine Journalist Maria Ressa And Filmmaker Ramona Diaz (A THOUSAND CUTS).” In 2018, The Washington Post announced the Press Freedom Partnership, an ongoing initiative to highlight organizations working vigilantly to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists worldwide. The Partnership has now grown to eight partner organizations — the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute, International Women’s Media Foundation, James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, National Press Club, One Free Press Coalition, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Reporters Without Borders. In this urgent and timely conversation, The Post’s Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian sits down with internationally acclaimed Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, co-founder of the digital news outlet Rappler, and filmmaker Ramona Diaz, whose new film A THOUSAND CUTS profiles Ressa and documents Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s attempts to shut down Rappler and arrest Ressa.
  • In the session “Finding Common Ground: How Local Public Televisions and Filmmakers Can Work Together In a Time of Crisis,” participants will explore the question: With the world in crisis and the economy turned on its head, how can public television stations and independent filmmakers come together and work towards creative solutions that, through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, strengthen relationships and lead to mutually beneficial outcomes? This thought-provoking and timely panel brings together stations and filmmakers for an urgently needed conversation.
  • “A Conversation With the Filmmakers and Subjects of WOMEN IN BLUE and STOCKTON ON MY MIND,” hosted by MEET THE PRESS. Even before COVID-19, U.S. cities were facing intractable issues around policing, homelessness, education, and economic inequality. Now, with these issues taking on paramount importance, filmmakers and subjects from two films screening at AFI DOCS 2020 – WOMEN IN BLUE and the HBO Documentary Film STOCKTON ON MY MIND – join together in a thought-provoking conversation about current events; the opportunities for, as well as the limitations of, reform; and the potential for major structural changes that could transform institutions and people’s lives in the two cities featured in the films – Minneapolis, MN, and Stockton, CA –  and throughout the country.

 

Saturday, June 20:

  • In “Behind the Documentary Waterfall: Gaining a Better Understanding of Financing Structures, Investor Agreements and Profit Sharing,” Susan Margolin and Yael Melamede of the Documentary Producers Alliance (DPA) will cover financing basics, standard investor agreements and the overall picture of profit sharing/waterfall in documentary filmmaking, de-mystifying these critically important aspects of the documentary film business.

Saturday, June 21:

  • Forum programming will conclude with “Maximum Impact: When Documentary Filmmakers Team Up With Investigative Journalists.” How does a crime become a scandal? When a powerful organization like USA Gymnastics covers up a crime (in fact, dozens of crimes), the seeds of a massive scandal are planted. But not until those crimes are reported and exposed, does the true scope of the scandal come to light and the possibility exists for justice and reform. For their riveting new documentary ATHLETE A (premiering on Netflix on June 24), filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk shine a light on the reporters and editors of the Indianapolis Star, who first broke the scandal of USA Gymnastics and its years-long coverup of the sexual assault crimes perpetrated by team physician Larry Nassar. Join us for this fascinating case study in collaboration and trust with filmmakers Cohen and Shenk, who will be joined by key subjects of the film including members of the Star investigative team and survivors who came forward to tell their stories.

About AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held 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 and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 18th year, the festival will be held online June 17-21, 2020. Visit DOCS.AFI.com and connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCS, Facebook.com/AFIDOCS, YouTube.com/AFI, and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

About the American Film Institute (AFI)


Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present, and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations. Read about all of these programs and more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm, and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About AT&T Communications

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 a range of TV and video products, 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. AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

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© 2020 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q4 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

***GWS OneScore, September 2019.

About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmediaFacebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe for email updates.

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 [wapo.st].

About Meet the Press with Chuck Todd

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make the 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 2018-2019 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 Chuck ToddCast. 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.

AFI DOCS

(Source: AFI DOCS press release)

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES FULL SLATE OF FILMS FOR AFI DOCS 2020 SUPPORTED BY PRESENTING SPONSOR AT&T

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Lineup Features 59 Films From 11 Countries With 61% Of Films Directed By Women, 25% By POC Directors And 14% By LGBTQ Directors

Apple And A24’s BOYS STATE To Open The Festival,

JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT To Close

And Magnolia Pictures And Topic Studios’ THE FIGHT As The Centerpiece Offering   

Lee Grant, Academy Award®-Winning Actor And Filmmaker, To Be Honored At Annual Guggenheim Symposium

 

ON EMBARGO UNTIL 9 a.m. ET / 6 a.m. PT, JUNE 8, 2020, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute has revealed its full slate of films being presented online for the AFI DOCS 2020 festival. The lineup features 59 films from 11 countries and 12 virtual World Premieres, with 61% of the films directed by women, 25% by POC directors and 14% by LGBTQ directors. AT&T returns as Presenting Sponsor of AFI’s five-day documentary celebration.

The 18th edition of the festival will present films in the following sections: Special Presentations, Feature Films, Cinema’s Legacy, Episodic and Short Film sections. AFI DOCS 2020 runs June 17–21, with films available to view on DOCS.AFI.com. The Washington Post and Meet the Press return as the Primary Media Partners.

 

Marjan Safinia, Michael Lumpkin, Monica Lewinsky
Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals

“Now more than ever, it is important to expand our perspectives and listen to voices that may differ from our own, and this year’s festival includes a diverse range of insights and experiences for audiences to share in,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “These films explore political and social issues in the US and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past.”

AFI DOCS’ program of Special Presentations includes the previously announced Opening Night film BOYS STATE and Closing Night film JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT, as well as the Centerpiece Screening of THE FIGHT. Additional titles include PORTRAITS AND DREAMS and Ron Howard’s REBUILDING PARADISE.

This year’s diverse Features section explores themes and subjects ranging from the intersectionality of race, gender and violence in the Minneapolis police department (WOMEN IN BLUE); the devastating effects of immigration policies under the current administration (BLOOD ON THE WALL); the importance of reclaiming female sexuality (DILEMMA OF DESIRE); and Asian Americans’ experience gaining full participation in the American political process (FIRST VOTE).

Academy Award®-winners Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar return to AFI DOCS with their newest film, 9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT, which chronicles the 1970s movement for gender equality in the workplace.

Now in its second year at AFI DOCS, the Cinema’s Legacy program showcases three classic documentaries focusing on the fight for full participation and access to our country’s political system, and the importance of making sure all voices are heard. This year’s Cinema’s Legacy selections include FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994), NATIONTIME – GARY (1972) and SISTERS OF ’77 (2005).

The Episodic section features multi-part documentaries following the past, present and future of US politics, particularly women’s importance in it, from the Women’s Suffrage movement of the early 20th century to the recent historic rise of women of color running for office. The offerings in this section include AND SHE COULD BE NEXT, Steve James’ CITY SO REAL and THE VOTE.

Short Films will be presented in four programs, highlighting unique voices from around the world. A competitive section, Shorts 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 Monday, June 22. This year, AFI DOCS is proud to announce the Shorts Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

The 2020 Guggenheim Symposium will honor Academy Award®-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant. Each year, the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors a master of the nonfiction art form. This year’s virtual Symposium will include a screening of Grant’s Academy Award®-winning documentary film DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) and an in-depth conversation with Grant on June 19, 2020, moderated by author and Washington Post chief film critic Ann Hornaday.

Grant’s film debut in William Wyler’s DETECTIVE STORY (1951) led to her first Academy Award® nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and earned her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. However, that same year, after eulogizing a friend whose early death she implied was caused by fear of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the naming of her then-husband to the HUAC, Grant was blacklisted for the next decade. After being cleared in the early 60s, Grant became a household name for her work on the popular television series Peyton Place, for which she earned an Emmy® in 1966. She returned to film, earning Academy Award® nominations for her roles in THE LANDLORD (1970) and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (1976) and winning the Academy Award® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for SHAMPOO (1975).

A graduate of the first-ever class of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women in 1974, Grant eventually transitioned to directing and debuted her first feature-length narrative film, TELL ME A RIDDLE, in 1980. Her first documentary, THE WILLMAR 8, was released the following year. Grant continued to both act and direct, becoming the first female director to win the Directors Guild of America Award for her television movie NOBODY’S CHILD (1986). Her documentary DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) tied with another film to win the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature.

Grant joins a renowned list of Guggenheim Symposium honorees: Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012), Errol Morris (2013), Alex Gibney (2014), Stanley Nelson (2015), Werner Herzog (2016), Laura Poitras (2017), Steve James (2018) and Freida Lee Mock (2019).

Passes to AFI DOCS 2020 are now available to AFI members and the public at docs.afi.com/passes. Tickets will be available on June 10. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

AFI DOCS 2020 PROGRAM

 

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

 

 OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Wednesday, June 17

BOYS STATE:  DIRS Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine.  PRODS Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss.  USA.

Each year the American Legion hosts a “civics camp” for high school students (separated by gender) in states across the country. BOYS STATE closely follows a group of teenage boys as they attend one such program in Austin, Texas. The attendees are tasked with creating a mock government and spend the week campaigning for leadership and party platforms. Political ambitions are high and the gubernatorial race is hot. Are you curious what the next generation of our political system looks like?

Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, BOYS STATE explores politics through a coming-of-age lens. The result reveals American democracy and political division at its most hopeful and terrifying moments.

 

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 21

JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT:  DIR Mary Wharton.  PRODS Chris Farrell and Dave Kirkpatrick.  USA.

If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.

Director Mary Wharton assembles a star cast including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Nelson, Dylan, Parton and Bono and fills the soundtrack with Southern rock, gospel, jazz, and classical.

 

CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 19

THE FIGHT:  DIRS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres.  PRODS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Wexler and Kerry Washington.  USA.

In this stirring legal thriller, a cast of courageous lawyers at the ACLU fights an uphill battle against the dizzying array of rollbacks on civil rights put forward in the first years of the Trump presidency. Filmmakers Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres (WEINER) capture all of the key moments in such high stakes cases as the rights of trans people to serve in the military, family separation in immigration enforcement, the citizenship question on the census and the abortion rights of immigrant detainees.

Celebrating 100 years of the ACLU, THE FIGHT shows how this group of committed lawyers has made a huge difference in protecting our rights and in the daily lives of countless Americans. Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking.

 

PORTRAITS AND DREAMS:  DIRS Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald.  PRODS Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald and Robert Salyer.  USA.

Thirty-five years ago, photographer Wendy Ewald published the remarkable PORTRAITS AND DREAMS: PHOTOGRAPHS AND STORIES BY CHILDREN OF THE APPALACHIANS. The result of a unique creative collaboration between Ewald and the students she taught at three rural schools in Letcher County, Kentucky, the photographs represented a rare opportunity for children living on the margins of American society to reflect on their lives and families.

In this beautiful and deeply moving tribute to that collaboration, Ewald, whose artistic practice was formed through her experiences in Appalachia, returns to Letcher County to visit with her students, who are now adults with families of their own. As their collective memories are rekindled, what emerges is the unbreakable, timeless bond between teacher and student and the transformative power of art.

 

REBUILDING PARADISE:  DIR Ron Howard.  PRODS Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes.  USA.

On November 8, 2018, tucked in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the picturesque town of Paradise would be changed forever. The Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive fire in history, displaced over 50,000 residents, leaving the community in ashes.

In the aftermath of the haunting images of thick smoke and raging fires, Ron Howard’s documentary follows a group of residents as they struggle to rebuild their lives. While coping from the trauma and grieving their loved ones, they must wrestle with the logistics and bureaucracy of rebuilding their community. A sincere portrait of humanity, REBUILDING PARADISE is a tribute of resilience in the face of uncertainty.

 

2020 GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM

HONORING LEE GRANT

For the 2020 Guggenheim Symposium, Academy Award®-winning actor and documentary director Lee Grant will be featured in an in-depth conversation with Washington Post Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday.

FEATURE FILMS

9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT:  DIRS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.  PRODS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.  USA.

Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s film follows a group of secretaries in the 1970s fighting against lack of acknowledgment, demeaning tasks, low pay and all kinds of harassment in the workplace. From humble beginnings in a small office in a Boston YWCA to a nationwide movement so energized it inspired the iconic song and film, the organization’s rise was no easy undertaking. To achieve some justice, they employed clever tactics and took advantage of hidden talents wasted in the office. While gender parity has yet to be fully realized in the workplace, we would be nowhere as close without these women.

 

BLOOD ON THE WALL:  DIRS Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested.  PRODS Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested and Peter Goetz.  USA.

Immigration under the current administration is indelibly marked by powerful media images of migrant caravans, thousands of Central American families walking hundreds of miles through Mexico desperate to attain asylum in the United States. Acclaimed filmmaker Sebastian Junger (Academy Award®-nominated RESTREPO and KORENGAL) reteams with Nick Quested (Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS) and National Geographic to chronicle the course of events that would transform Acapulco from tourist destination to murder capital in less than a decade.

 

BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN:  DIR Ivy Meeropol.  PRODS Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Ivy Meerpool.  USA.

Before Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, the original New York bully. In fact, during the early days of Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, right by his side, introducing the brash young wannabe to the big time of Manhattan real estate. Trump was attracted to Cohn’s “take no prisoners” approach to the law and Cohn recognized a rising social climber when he saw one.

The Trump connection is but one fascinating thread in this multi-layered portrait of Cohn by filmmaker Ivy Meeropol, whose own grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed for spying for the Soviet Union as a result of Cohn’s ethically spurious legal maneuverings. Full of insightful interviews with the famous and the not-so-famous, the alchemical genius of BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN is to be, simultaneously, a searing indictment of Cohn and a poignant family history.

 

CODED BIAS:  DIR Shalini Kantayya.  PROD Shalini Kantayya.  USA, UK, China.

While working on a project, MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers issues with facial recognition programs. Investigating deeper into algorithms and the data in artificial intelligence, she discovers the large gender and racial bias in software created by tech companies. But her findings are only the beginning to much more disturbing revelations. As many of these AI technologies creep into our everyday systems, everything from college application screenings to the type of medical treatment one receives is affected.

Researcher turned advocate, Joy leads a team of women to raise awareness and push for legislative protection. With personal stories of prejudice and those fighting against it, CODED BIAS sharply reveals the urgent threats to privacy, civil rights and democracy that are not in the daily headlines.

 

DADS:  DIR Bryce Dallas Howard.  PRODS: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Michael Rosenberg, Justin Wilkes, Bryce Dallas Howard and Walter Matteson.  USA.

When director Bryce Dallas Howard heard her brother was going to be a first-time father, she decided to make a movie to show him just how amazing dads can be. In the process she interviewed many famous dads (including her own, director/actor Ron Howard) and other everyday dads. From comedians, actors, podcasters and farmers, the conversations show the ups and downs, the great moments and the gross, and everything in-between. Breaking down gender role stereotypes, Howard’s film shows a small glimpse into the wide world of men and their munchkins.

 

DILEMMA OF DESIRE:  DIR Maria Finitzo.  PRODS Maria Finitzo, Cynthia Kane and Diane Quon.  USA.

Directed by two-time Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Maria Finitzo, the film follows a motley crew of unstoppable women, comprised of artists, educators, scientists, strippers and sex toy designers, who have made it their mission to dismantle internalized sexism and begin to repair the dissociated relationships many women have to their own bodies. In a reframing of daily micro-aggressions, society’s erasure of the clitoris is exposed as a tool of patriarchal deception, a negation of women’s wants and needs. This exciting (and informative) campaign seeks to dispel the discomfort and shame surrounding female sexuality by empowering women to own their desire, connect with their bodies and familiarize themselves with the vast, internal structure of the clitoris. They will paint it, sculpt it, plaster its image on walls and design special toys for it until all of society knows the laws of “cliteracy.”

 

DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986):  DIR Lee Grant.  PRODS Milton Justice and Joseph Feury.  USA.

Screening as part of the AFI DOCS Guggenheim Symposium

Years before the economic catastrophes of COVID-19 and the 2008 recession, the U.S. experienced the tumult and divisiveness of the 1980s, a period that saw the country rapidly splitting into the haves and have nots. Lee Grant’s devastating 1986 Academy Award®-winning documentary takes a compassionate, clear-eyed look at those left behind in Reagan’s America. From desperate family farmers in Minnesota to unemployed factory workers in the Midwest and homeless people forced to live in decrepit welfare hotels in Los Angeles and New York, a cruel picture emerges of a country unmoored from its basic principles and core values. But beneath the weight of such crushing hardship, Grant finds courageous people who, on the verge of losing everything, discover the power of community organizing to fight injustice and to preserve basic human dignity.

 

FIRST VOTE:  DIR Yi Chen.  PROD Yi Chen.  USA.

Toward the end of Washington, DC-based filmmaker Yi Chen’s beguiling and refreshingly non-partisan FIRST VOTE, one of the film’s subjects posits, “The central question that I think all Asian Americans feel is, ‘Do we belong?’” Given that, as recently as 1952, federal law barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting, it is a searing and inescapable reality faced by Asian Americans.

Taking her camera on the road during the 2018 midterm elections, Chen introduces us to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans: an avid Trump supporter in Ohio; a Democratic podcaster whose views have alienated his wife’s conservative friends; a gun-toting, Tea Party-favorite in North Carolina; and a progressive University of North Carolina professor. Speaking with distinct political voices, they share the common goal of seeing Asian Americans take their rightful place in American political life.

 

FREEDIA GOT A GUN:  DIR Chris McKim.  PRODS Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Chris McKim.  USA.

Devastated after learning her brother Adam was murdered, New Orleans bounce legend Big Freedia uses her platform to raise awareness about the complexities of gun violence, a nationwide epidemic that continues to disproportionally harm Black communities. As Freedia shares her personal journey from growing up gay in the projects through Hurricane Katrina and chasing her musical dreams, she delves deep into the first-hand experiences she and the community have had with gun violence, seeking to uncover the causes behind it. She is not alone in her quest to make the streets of New Orleans safer for the next generation: mothers, teachers, students and others personally affected reveal the collective trauma left in the wake of this violence. Her brother’s murder still unsolved, Freedia leads us through a courageous and necessary dialogue about the origins of this American epidemic.

 

THE LETTER:  DIRS Maia Lekow and Christopher King.  PRODS Maia Lekow and Christopher King.  Kenya.

Karisa lives in Mombasa, one of the largest cities in Kenya. He gets a call and discovers he has a delicate family problem: his grandmother has been accused of being a witch. Fearing for her life, he returns to his family’s village to figure out who wrote the letter accusing her of witchcraft and why. Using Karisa’s family as the jumping off point, we visit other elders accused of being witches and uncover the violence inflicted on them. What starts as an almost absurd family situation gets exposed to be a complicated human rights issue. Exploring unique modern cultural and religious clashes, Maia Lekow and Christopher King’s film is still able to achieve an intimacy and charm, that is, in many ways, magical.

 

MIRACLE FISHING:  DIR Miles Hargrove CODIR Christopher Birge.  PRODS Miles Hargrove, Christopher Birge and Eric F. Martin.  USA.

So, your dad has been kidnapped by a rebel group and you are forced to negotiate for his release… what do you do? Well, if you’re Miles Hargrove, you make a video diary. Twenty-five years later, with the gift of hindsight, he returned to these diaries to tell this incredible story. In 1994, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped journalist Tom Hargrove from the family home in Cali, Columbia, leaving his wife and two sons to pay the ransom. With the help of their friends, including a hostage negotiator, FBI agent and their 18-year-old neighbor, the group navigated conditions for his expected release. Their story, impeccably captured by a then state-of-the-art Video8 camcorder, shows a family in crisis, yearning for normalcy and finding moments of hope and kindness amidst the horror.

 

ONE LIFE:  DIR Josh Turnbow.  PRODS Akshay M. Shah and Robert Dvoran.  USA.

In October 2016, in response to the Myanmar government’s promised political reforms, President Obama ended decades of U.S. sanctions against the country. What Obama didn’t anticipate was that his actions would inadvertently open the door to the Myanmar military’s all-out assault on the country’s Rohingya people. With a population of nearly one million, the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people were targeted, terrorized and killed. Within a matter of weeks, nearly 700,000 Rohingya were driven from the country.

Shedding light on the long term persecution of the Rohingya, tracing their forced migration to neighboring Bangladesh and illustrating their current conditions, Josh Turnbow’s moving – and infuriating – documentary screens at AFI DOCS on United Nation’s World Refugee Day. The U.N.’s World Food Programme has taken responsibility for feeding the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in a massive refugee camp in Bangladesh.

 

THE REASON I JUMP:  DIR Jerry Rothwell.  PRODS Al Morrow, Stevie Lee and Jeremy Dear.  UK.

Opening a window into the sensory universe of five nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, THE REASON I JUMP takes the audience on a uniquely cinematic journey that is both revelatory and inspiring. Based on the remarkable best-selling book by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, the film brilliantly blends its portraits with Higashida’s own insights into autism.

Acutely observed moments in the lives of each of the five people are connected by passages from Higashida’s writing, which comes to life in scenes featuring a young Japanese boy. As the boy travels through an epic landscape, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him and why he acts the way he does: the reason he jumps. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award.

 

SAUDI RUNAWAY:  DIR Susanne Regina Meures.  PROD Christian Frei.  Switzerland.

Muna, a young woman living under the oppressive state of Saudi Arabia, prepares for her imminent arranged marriage…and her risky escape to Europe. Using cell phones to secretly document her life, Muna exposes the strict patriarchy affecting her family and controlling her free will. Her only chance to flee is during her honeymoon. Muna is fearless, but will she succeed with her plan?

SAUDI RUNAWAY shares an intimate and thrilling story of human rights and the voice of those silenced by their government. Filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures collaborates with Muna, constructing the secret footage into a raw and insightful profile of a culture caught between tradition and modernity and a young woman willing to risk everything for a better life.

 

SING ME A SONG:  DIR Thomas Balmès.  PROD Thomas Balmès.  France, Germany, Switzerland.

Returning ten years later to the remote mountainside village where he once encountered precocious but dedicated eight-year-old Tibetan monk Peyangki, documentarian Thomas Balmès (BABIES, HAPPINESS) discovers that much has changed. The roads leading into Laya are now paved and, beyond the television Peyangki once longed for, the young monks now scroll mindlessly through their phones while chanting their prayers. Now 18 years old, our subject texts his girlfriend, a bar singer who lives in the city, his devotion to her having supplanted that of his religious studies. Without falling prey to a simple binary of good/bad, Balmès’ beautiful observational portrait is a remarkable opportunity to explore both the positive and negative repercussions that modernization and technological access has on a community.

 

STOCKTON ON MY MIND:  DIR Marc Levin.  PRODS Cassius Michael Kim and Mike Marangu.  USA.

Upon his election as mayor of Stockton, CA, in 2016, Michael Tubbs inherited one of the poorest, most violent and least literate cities in the country. Tubbs was also 26 years old, the youngest and first African American mayor of the city. This intimate portrait follows Tubbs during his term as he and others work on projects to address homelessness, universal basic income and education for at-risk youth.

A native of Stockton, Tubbs knows how street violence affects families – his father is serving a life sentence in prison. His determination to change his community started in childhood. Capturing this unique moment in history, STOCKTON ON MY MIND reveals the creative ideas and collaborative spirit Tubbs brings to government, as well as the multitude of strong reactions that his leadership elicits from citizens. A hopeful story of community, leadership and love, Tubbs is an undeniable leader to have on your radar.

 

A THOUSAND CUTS:  DIR Ramona S. Diaz.  PRODS Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn.  USA.

Upon taking power in 2016, the newly elected populist president Rodrigo Duterte promised a relentless war on drugs. Brushing aside the rule of law and due process, his campaign resulted in thousands of deaths. Another constitutional casualty of Duterte’s rule has been freedom of the press.

Co-founded by journalist Maria Ressa in 2012, the online site Rappler is one of the Philippine’s most popular news outlets and a thorn in Duterte’s side. The stakes are raised when Rappler is cited as a fake news outlet and targeted for possible closure, followed by Ressa’s arrest on specious charges.

Set against the backdrop of the country’s 2019 midterm elections, this stirring documentary shows what happens when a strongman president threatens democratic norms. But Ressa, part of a group honored as Time’s Person of the Year 2018, is not backing down: “We, at Rappler, we will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line.”

 

THROUGH THE NIGHT:  DIR Loira Limbal.  PRODS Jameka Autry and Loira Limbal.  USA.

Any working parent can tell you how vital childcare providers are to their lives. As America’s economy requires more parents working multiple jobs or the nightshift, the need for 24-hour childcare is critical. THROUGH THE NIGHT shares an intimate portrait of the struggle and bond between two working mothers and their childcare provider.

For over twenty years, “Nunu” and her husband “Pop Pop” have dedicated their lives to their business — creating a safe space for children to learn, eat, sleep and be loved. It is hard work and Nunu is relentless in providing care to her families. Through beautiful verité storytelling, filmmaker Loira Limbal demonstrates the personal toll of rising economic inequality — an issue even more relevant now as our country struggles with the effects of a health pandemic.

 

TRANSHOOD:  DIR Sharon Liese.  PRODS Sasha Alpert and Sharon Liese.  USA.

We all remember the trials and tribulations of being a kid: fitting in at school, getting along with siblings, finishing homework. These alone are enough to handle. Now, add in discovering who you are and growing up as a trans youth in Kansas City. TRANSHOOD is director Sharon Liese’s in-depth five-year journey following the lives of four kids (ages beginning at 4, 9, 12, and 15) discovering their specific trans experiences alongside their families. Each of the kids and their parents navigate the day-to-day challenges of their home lives and their lives out in the world. Finding normalcy isn’t easy while tackling issues of body dysphoria, transphobia and bullying, and many other big topics that their cis-gender classmates can’t understand. What truly ties these stories together is the unbelievable empathy and humanity exemplified by each family, not just with the heavy moments, but often also during those typical of any childhood.

 

UNLADYLIKE2020:  DIRS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley.  PRODS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley.  USA.

An exciting sampling of the ambitious PBS American Masters multi-platform series that profiles over 200 women, UNLADYLIKE2020 calls into question American history as we know it, reaching back to the dawn of the twentieth century to recognize unsung female leaders and trailblazers. Upending expectations and challenging the definition of womanhood, these “first women” found themselves at the forefront of progressive movements, organizing campaigns and leading paths to cultural change. Female historians share the names and stories of five of these pioneers: Martha Hughes Cannon, Jovita Idár, Jeannette Rankin, Mary Church Terrell and Zitkála-Šá. Their profound and extraordinary achievements in government, suffrage and civil rights, largely taken for granted by history, underscore the importance of continuously revisiting and revising the historical record to include the contributions of women and women of color. The inspiring battles that they waged in the name of equality continue to be fought by women today.

 

WHITE NOISE:  DIR Daniel Lombroso.  PROD Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg.  USA.

WHITE NOISE is the definitive – and disturbing – inside story of the alt-right. With unprecedented, exclusive access, first-time filmmaker Daniel Lombroso tracks the rise of far-right nationalism by focusing on the lives of three of its main proponents: Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and sex blogger turned media entrepreneur; Richard Spencer, a white-power ideologue; and Lauren Southern, an anti-feminist, anti-immigration YouTube star.

Lombroso’s intrepid camera takes the viewer into the terrifying heart of the alt-right movement: explosive protests, riotous parties and the private spaces where populist and racist ideologies are refined and weaponized. Easy to dismiss as extremists and provocateurs, the alt-right’s leaders adroitly wield the tools of social media to great effect, demonstrating that this dangerous movement is to be ignored at our democracy’s peril.

 

WOMEN IN BLUE:  DIR Deirdre Fishel.  PRODS Beth Levison.  USA.

Janée Harteau became Minneapolis’s first female police chief in 2012. She quickly began the hard work to reform the MPD by increasing diversity through recruiting and leadership promotions. After a high-profile police shooting occurs in the city a few years later, Chief Harteau is forced to resign and the three female officers under her wing must continue the mission under an all-male leadership unit while rebuilding the community’s trust in the police.

WOMEN IN BLUE examines the relationship between gender, race and violence in an American institution that has long been male-dominated. This compelling portrait demands we ask our society: by fighting for gender equality in policing, can we reduce police violence against citizens?

 

CINEMA’S LEGACY

FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994):  DIRS Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford.  PRODS Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford.  USA.

This Academy Award®-nominated account of the Mississippi Voter Registration Project produced and directed by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford combines extraordinary archival footage and in-depth interviews with traditional folk songs in a powerful tribute to the black activists and white allies who, from 1961 to 1964, descended upon the South determined to register black voters. After Herbert Lee, a local man who had been escorting voting rights organizer Bob Moses around Amite County, was shot and killed by a Mississippi state representative, the organizers were forced to acknowledge that this was a journey from which they may never return. Firm in their commitment to democracy, even under the threat of violence, they built powerful coalitions and their campaign, which culminated in the 1964 Freedom Summer and 1965 Voting Rights Act, was a triumph of political organization. The lesson learned – that freedom is a constant struggle – is one that still reverberates today.

 

NATIONTIME – GARY (1972):  DIR William Greaves.  USA.

In March 1972, an estimated 10,000 black politicians, activists and artists congregated at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, with the express purpose of establishing a black political agenda. Attendees included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Coretta Scott King, Amiri Baraka, Richard Hatcher, Charles Diggs and H. Carl McCall. Also in attendance was prolific documentarian of black history, culture and politics William Greaves (SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM).

His filmed account of this historic event, narrated by Sidney Poitier with poetry recited by Harry Belafonte, was at the time thought to be too radical for television broadcast and was drastically edited. Now restored to its original cut, in a 4K restoration from IndieCollect, with funding from Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this rousing and revelatory documentary celebrates a diversity of black voices, finding support and solidarity even amid expected tensions and divisions.

 

SISTERS OF ’77 (2005):  DIRS Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell.  PRODS Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell.  USA.

In 1977, over the course of four days, approximately 20,000 women would congregate in Houston, Texas, to attend the first ever National Women’s Conference, as presided over by Congresswoman Bella Abzug. In an effort to promote equality between men and women, a series of eye-opening and impassioned debates sought to achieve resolutions on major topics, ranging from domestic violence, employment and reproductive rights to the specific experiences of lesbians and women of color and the ultimately unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment.

Filmmakers Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell combine incredible archival footage and insightful interviews with attendees to present an inside look at this historic event that defined the guiding principles of gender equality in politics today.

 

EPISODIC

AND SHE COULD BE NEXT:  DIRS Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia.  PRODS Grace Lee, Marjan Safinia and Jyoti Sarda.  USA.

A sweeping chronicle of the 2018 elections and the unprecedented rise of women of color running for — and winning — office throughout the U.S., AND SHE COULD BE NEXT follows the historic and dramatic stories of six candidates from throughout the country as they fight to represent their constituents and uplift disenfranchised communities.

Filmed, directed and produced by a team of women filmmakers of color, this riveting two-part series offers a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at Stacey Abrams’ game-changing campaign for Governor of Georgia; three battles for the U.S. House of Representatives (Rashida Tlaib, Lucy McBath and Veronica Escobar); Maria Elena Durazo’s race in Los Angeles for the California State Senate; and 19-year-old Bushra Amiwala’s run for the Cook County Board of Commissioners in Chicago.

The series is also an incisive look at the deeply troubling voter suppression tactics that are being employed to undermine our democratic system and the transformative organizational politics required to make real change in the U.S.

 

CITY SO REAL:  DIR Steve James.  PRODS Zak Piper and Steve James.  USA.

There may be no better match between filmmaker and locale than Steve James and the city of Chicago. From HOOP DREAMS to THE INTERRUPTERS and the 10-part AMERICA TO ME, James has created a vibrant portrait of contemporary Chicago. But not until CITY SO REAL, a fascinating four-part episodic, has the celebrated filmmaker focused his lens on the epic sweep of Chicago’s multifaceted neighborhoods.

Filmed during the explosive trial of the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald, CITY SO REAL uses the wide-open 2019 mayoral election as the primary vehicle for doing what James does best: engaging with people, allowing them to express themselves as complex human beings and capturing the small, as well as the seismic, moments that define the places we come from and who we are as individuals and as members of a diverse community.

 

THE VOTE:  DIR Michelle Ferrari.  PRODS Connie Honeycutt and Michelle Ferrari.  USA.

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this PBS American Experience documentary is a comprehensive and captivating look at the arduous 72-year struggle that culminated in permanently enfranchising women with the right to vote. Bringing to life the incredible suffragists who led this movement and the difficult path that they tread – one rife with infighting, splintered in radicalism and marred by complex alliances – this important historical documentary is a fascinating look at issues that would become near-universal to major progressive social and political movements. Their strategies, means of mobilizing, protests and demonstrations would create a framework of necessary persistence. Though many would not live to see their efforts rewarded, the ramifications of this fight affirm voting as a right that is integral to democracy.

 

SHORT FILMS

808: HOW WE RESPOND:  DIR Ian Bell.  PRODS Alex Megaro, Jessica Kingdon and Nathan Truesdell.  USA.

On January 13, 2018, Hawaii issued a false missile warning leading millions to believe a missile attack was imminent. Our live-streaming culture provided a record of how people dealt with their own mortality.

 

ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA:  DIRS Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie.  PRODS Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie.  USA.

At an abortion fund in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to.

 

AKASHINGA: THE BRAVE ONES:  DIR Maria Wilhelm.  PRODS Maria Wilhelm, Kim Butts and Drew Pulley.  USA.

Single mothers, abandoned wives and survivors of sexual and domestic violence enroll in an intense training selection to join rangers protecting elephants from poachers across Africa.

 

ALL THE PERISHES AT THE EDGE OF LAND:  DIR Hira Nabi.  CREATIVE PROD Till Passow.  Pakistan.

A decommissioned ship and the shipbreakers from all over Pakistan there to break it enter into a conversation and discover they might have more in common than otherwise imagined.

 

BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE:  DIRS Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi.  PRODS Jose Morales, Craig Lazarus, Victor Vitarelli, Ben Webber and Lindsay Rovegno.  USA.

As the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic affects tribal communities, a group of Blackfeet women tackle the threat head-on by practicing and training in self-defense.

 

BROKEN ORCHESTRA:  DIR Charlie Tyrell.  PROD Julie Baldassi.  Canada.

The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them to the hands of students.

 

THE CHURCH FORESTS OF ETHIOPIA:  DIR Jeremy Seifert.  PRODS Jeremy Seifert and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.  USA.

In Ethiopia, church forests are withstanding environmental destruction — but just barely.

 

DAFA METTI (DIFFICULT):  DIR Tal Amiran.  PROD Tal Amiran.  UK.

Under Paris’ Eiffel Tower, undocumented Senegalese migrants sell souvenirs of the monument to support their families back home. Each day is a struggle through darkness in the City of Lights.

 

THE DEEPEST HOLE:  DIR Matt McCormick.  PROD Matt McCormick.  USA.

Cold War competitions are common knowledge, but few know the United States and Soviet Union faced off in a race to see which country could dig the deepest hole.

 

DO NOT SPLIT:  DIR Anders Hammer.  PRODS Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook.  USA, Norway.

During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, a series of evening demonstrations escalate into conflict when heavily armed police appear on the scene.

 

ELEVATOR PITCH:  DIR Martyna Starosta.  PROD Martyna Starosta.  USA.

A depiction of New York’s subway as an absurd obstacle course – revealing a system that shuts many out of a city in motion.

 

FLOWER PUNK:  DIR Alison Klayman.  PROD Alison Klayman.  USA.

Japanese artist Azuma Makoto sends his floral sculptures into space and sinks them to the bottom of the ocean, but mostly, he thinks about the life and death of flowers.

 

HUNTSVILLE STATION:  DIRS Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone.  PROD Jamie Meltzer.  USA.

Every weekday, inmates are released from Huntsville State Penitentiary, taking in their first moments of freedom with phone calls, cigarettes and quiet reflection at the Greyhound station up the block.

 

LAKE:  DIR Alexandra Lazarowich.  PRODS Coty Savard and David Christensen.  Canada.

Shot on 16mm and in a vérité lens, LAKE shares a contemporary portrait of Métis women net fishing in Northern Alberta.

 

THE LOST ASTRONAUT:  DIR Ben Proudfoot.  PRODS Gabriel Berk Godoi and Abby Lynn Kang Davis.  USA.

In 1963, Ed Dwight Jr. was poised to be NASA’s first African-American astronaut, until suddenly he wasn’t.

 

MEMOIRS OF VEGETATION:  DIR Jessica Oreck.  PROD Jessica Oreck.  USA.

An enticing kernel of botanical intrigue that delves into the salubrious uses and nefarious misuses of castor beans throughout history.

 

MIZUKO:  DIRS Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo.  PRODS Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo.  USA.

In Japanese Buddhism, there is a post-abortion grieving ritual called ‘water child memorial.’ Inspired by this ritual, a half-Japanese American woman reexamines abortion ethics after becoming pregnant herself.

 

MOTHER:  DIRS Jas Pitt and Kate Stonehill.  PRODS Sorcha Bacon and Lua Guerreiro.  UK.

A young dancer from a violent favela in Rio de Janeiro finds redemption through his vogueing family, the art of Ballroom and his relationship with his vogueing mother, Makayla.

 

NOW IS THE TIME:  DIR Christopher Auchter.  PRODS Selwyn Jacob.  Canada.

Fifty years ago, the entire village of Old Massett gathered to celebrate the raising of a totem pole that signaled the rebirth of the Haida spirit.

 

OUT OF THE BLUE:  DIRS Jonathan Bregel and Steve Hoover.  PROD Jonathan Bregel.  USA.

A 78-year-old man decided to cover his entire body in a blue tattoo once he retired from his career as an accomplished Baltimore City planner.

 

THE PAINT WIZZARD:  DIRS Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson.  PRODS Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson.  USA.

Millie, a transgender housepainter living and working out of her bright yellow RV in Austin, Texas, gained the courage to come out as her true self at age 58.

 

PAMPAS:  DIR Jessica Bishopp.  PROD Louisa Plumstead.  UK.

A hybrid documentary exploring sexual signaling and urban legends about how plants were used in 1970s suburbia to send seductive signals to neighbors, or so rumor has it.

 

PATTY ARE YOU BRINGING WEED IN FROM JAMAICA?:  DIR Matthew Salton.  PROD Matthew Salton.  USA.

In 1968, a young flight attendant bought 900 pounds of marijuana in Jamaica and tried to smuggle it out, leading to unexpected consequences.

 

SAN DIEGO:  DIR Laura Hinman.  PROD Civic Films.  USA.
An essay on gathered fragments of daily Native American life, struggles for sovereignty and youth in a post-COVID-19 reality.

 

SEE YOU NEXT TIME:  DIR Crystal Kayiza.  PRODS Cady Lang, Crystal Kayiza and Sean Weiner.  USA.

The intimate moments between a Chinese nail tech and her Black client shows how two women of color see each other in a space unlike anything else in their worlds.

 

STILL HERE (還在):  DIR Sean Wang.  PRODS Cynthia Lee, Pamela Li and Sean Wang.  USA.

In Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a few residents refuse to leave their abandoned village.

 

About AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held 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 and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 18th year, the festival will be held online June 17-21, 2020. Visit DOCS.AFI.com and connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCS, Facebook.com/AFIDOCS, YouTube.com/AFI and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations. Read about all of these programs and more at AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

About AT&T Communications

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 a range of TV and video products, 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. AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at att.com/CommunicationsNews.

AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at about.att.com. Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at facebook.com/att and on YouTube at youtube.com/att.

© 2020 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q4 2019. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.

***GWS OneScore, September 2019.

About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmediaFacebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe for email updates.

 

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 [wapo.st].

 

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 2018-2019 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 Chuck ToddCast. 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.

afidocs

(Source: Press release provided by AFI DOCS)

Mountainfilm FILM REVIEW “Mossville: When Great Trees Fall” Listen to What They Say

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall, directed by Alexander Glustrom, follows a man living alone at 3009 5th Avenue in what once was a community initially founded by free slaves intent on living in peace and love along the Louisiana Gulf of Mexico Coast. The last remaining resident of a once-proud African-American community, Stacey Ryan, has refused the state-run, South African global petrochemical conglomerate Sasol’s latest offer of $30,000 to vacate what is left of his pride and his family’s history.

The film opens with text titles from a Maya Angelou poem, “When Great Trees Fall,” transitioning to a narrative voice-over with footage of gravediggers digging a hole and fitting a coffin for an eternal resting place. The audience is informed of the seven initial families that started the historic Mossville community, at once a safe haven from the Civil War and a respite from the Jim Crow Laws of the Deep South.

Former Mossville resident, Erica Jackson Hartman is revealed holding a family photo telling of her family’s plight on Fisher Street, a once joyful and harmonious street in a neighborhood “where everyone knew everyone.” The community had been self-sustaining. Jackson-Hartman continued addressing the camera and reminisced of abundant fruit trees – until the chemical plants began coming in one after another peaking at an unfathomable fourteen facilities.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall also reveals that one of the largest U.S. spills of ethylene dichloride (EDC) ever occurred when a leaking transfer pipeline leaked EDC into a nearby estuary. Despite the corporate leadership assuring the residents there was nothing to fear, the residents began dying from various cancers. Twenty-eight independent tests revealed the area had high levels of dioxin, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds harmful to immune systems, hormones, reproduction, human development, leading to cancer. Eventually, a lawsuit was settled for forty-seven million dollars.

A 2012 archival news piece shows the then Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal beaming announced a massive $16-20 billion dollar project from Sasol, a global energy conglomerate based in South Africa. A brief capture of a snide Sasol executive discussing the Louisiana Westlake project, “a gas to liquids cracker complex,” reveals the corporate intent of developing the site as another South African Secunda. Secunda is the biggest emitter of greenhouse (carbon dioxide) gases in the world. The emissions from Secunda exceed the amounts from a hundred individual countries.

secunda
Sasol’s Secunda mega-plant (Photo by Alexander Glustrom)

The heart of Mossville: When Great Trees Fall captures Mr. Ryan’s bravery and indomitable spirit in direct cinema, with direct interviews and with brief footage of his hospitalizations due to health complications from the nearby plants. The city has shut off his power and sewer. A face mask-wearing Ryan is shown constructing a 6-8 foot straight- board fence as tandem and tri-axle dump trucks roll past kicking up contaminated dust in their wake.

In other footage, Ryan reveals inside his trailer that after EDC got into the drinking water, he lost both of his parents to cancer, as well as his forty-four-year-old aunt and a fifty-seven year-year-old uncle. Another uncle died young from liver failure. Sasol, one of the economic engines behind the racist, South African apartheid offered Ryan an initial voluntary buyout of $2000. Ryan is seeking enough money to raise his son in nearby Texas’s town of Helotes, known as the “best place to raise kids.”

As the film closes, Ryan is shown getting medical treatment. Text titles reveal the buyout monies Ryan eventually received has gone primarily to paying medical bills as he has been hospitalized a dozen times. And, he is still hoping to move to Helotes, Texas.

Mossville: When Great Trees Fall resonates deeply with Maya Angelou’s poem as the viewer becomes the witness to an egregious wrong perpetrated visibly upon a human being, a Brother of mankind, and invisibly upon the environment, the Mother of us all. Highly recommended documentary.