January 12, 2019. The thought-provoking and ambitious film “What is Democracy?” opens with a provocative quote from Plato: “Nothing is beautiful without struggle.” I’m not sure if he was referring specifically to democracy, but in this philosophical and political journey by director Astra Taylor, scholars, activists and historians grapple with the ways in which this idea of “rule by the people” has been implemented, exploited, and striven toward (imperfectly) over time and place. She asks these contemporary thinkers, in particular, about the relevance of the (Western) democratic project for us today – some 2400 years after its birth in Ancient Greece. Read the rest of this entry
November 12, 2018. The DOC NYC film festival (which continues through Thursday) presents an incredible variety of documentary films on many topics, from politics, to art, to social movements, to technology, to peace and justice, to nature, to biography. The following remarkable film encompasses four of these categories.
A meticulous work of art in its own right, the documentary “Takumi: The 60,000 Hour Story of Human Craft” profiles four artisans in Japan who exemplify the idea that honing one’s craft takes thousands of hours (some might say 60,000) of learning, practice and struggle. Those who do it well become an embodiment of their art – a “takumi.” Read the rest of this entry
November 12, 2018. Separation of church and state, sub-cultures, counter cultures, dissidents, over- crowding, violence, water quality, excess traffic, what’s right for a community and the right to exist all come to a head in director Jesse Sweet’s riveting new documentary, “City of Joel.” This is one of the best documentaries I have seen, so far, at this year’s DOCNYC film festival, running now through November 18. Read the rest of this entry
People following their passions inhabit many of the documentaries featured in this year’s DOC NYC Film Festival, which will take place November 8th to15th. In the film “The Cat Rescuers,” we follow four individuals who have taken on the insurmountable task of attempting to alleviate the suffering of the approximately 100,000 feral cats eking out an existence on the streets of Brooklyn. Their indefatigable determination often wreaks havoc with their personal lives, but is also a source of great joy and satisfaction. Directors Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence have clearly fallen in love with these people and their mission, and impart a clear message to the viewer – that no cat deserves a life of hell on our city streets, and those who struggle every day to make a difference deserve our respect and gratitude. Read the rest of this entry
DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival will run from November 8-15 at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village (323 6th Avenue) and Chelsea’s SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street) and Cinepolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street). The 2018 festival includes 135 feature-length documentaries among over 300 films and events overall. Included are 42 world premieres and 17 U.S. or North American premieres, with more than 500 doc makers and special guests expected in person to present their films or participate on panels.
As I have said before in this blog, the best parts of any film festival are the documentaries. So, with a film festival consisting of nothing but documentaries, I am excited! I am also over whelmed by the share number of films. Believe me, I want to see all of them. So far, my writing partner, Wendy Moscow, and I have been fortunate enough to screen some of the films in advance…that is when our day jobs do not get in the way. We will be posting now and throughout the festival.
Please visit DOCNYC.NET for information on films and events.
Director Maxim Pozdorovkin’s “The Truth about Killer Robots” is set in a chilling, dystopian world. When I use the word “dystopian” I understand it to mean a futuristic world in which things have gone terribly wrong – think George Orwell’s “1984.” Two things which make “The Truth about Killer Robots” so disturbing is that it is a documentary and it takes place now, in a dystopian present. Robots killing humans, automation taking away “human” jobs, a robot girlfriend to make up for the lack of women in Japan, a sign in a factory depicting a human figure that has a slash through it, self-driving cars and a lack of human interaction among people, due to technology, all play parts in this disturbing mosaic that takes place in Germany, Japan, China and the United States. This is an intelligent and well constructed documentary covering the advancement of technology and how this effects workers. Read the rest of this entry
Hal Linden and Ryan Ochoa in “The Samuel Project”
October 14, 2018. “The Samuel Project” certainly has its heart in the right place, but unfortunately has trouble in the execution of its story. Eli, a high school student (charmingly played by Ryan Ochoa) wants to make an animated documentary about his grandfather’s early life in Nazi Germany. The film is a project for Eli’s media class. The grandfather, the eponymous Samuel, is played by Hal Linden. It was nice to see Linden (best known for the TV sitcom “Barney Miller,” 1975 – 1982) back acting. Read the rest of this entry
October 14, 2018. Filmmaker Alexandria Bombach could not have known that Nadia Murad, the subject of her quietly powerful documentary “On Her Shoulders,” would be the co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Bombach’s decision to share Nadia’s story had little to do with the fame thrust upon her, but, rather, the compelling urgency of her message to the world. Not an activist by temperament, Murad is driven to tell a tale of genocide and sexual slavery perpetrated by ISIS upon her people, the Yazidis, over and over again. When ISIS invaded her village in northern Iraq in 2014, they murdered 700 individuals (including all of the elderly women). Eighteen members of Nadia’s own family (including her mother) were killed or abducted. Girls over nine years old were raped and enslaved as objects of continuous sexual predation. Nadia Murad, now 23, was one of them. Read the rest of this entry
Artist Jeff Koons in “The Price of Everything.”
The new documentary, “The Price of Everything,” is an in depth and fascinating film that raises interesting questions about modern art: “What is art?” “Why does one artist’s work sell for millions while another toils in poverty?” “Can art and money be reconciled?” “Is it necessary that a piece of art be worth a lot to ensure that it will be saved?” “Should a piece of art wind up in private homes where no one else will see it?” “Should art only be displayed in museums?” Read the rest of this entry
Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol and Halston, at Studio 54.
October 3, 2018. Mick Jagger, Paul Newman, Liza Minelli, Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, Andy Warhol, sex, drugs, income tax evasion, Page Six, costumes, transvestites, extravagant performances, topless male bartenders, scandals, Studio 54 was a sub culture (within the disco subculture) that pushed the social mores of the time right up to the edge. The new documentary “Studio 54” is, much like its subject, a high energy, kaleidoscopic adrenaline rush that truly captures the rise and fall of the famous, and infamous, disco. Read the rest of this entry