Category Archives: Uncategorized
April 22, 2018. The April 21 premiere screening of director, producer and editor Dava Whisenant’s new documentary “Bathtubs Over Broadway” was outrageous, electric and exciting. It was a hilarious, joyous and heartfelt event about a sub-culture and a piece of entertainment history about which almost nothing was known…that is until now. Read the rest of this entry
April 22, 2018. Class, gender, Jesus, Red Bull and a will to survive, might be the best terms to describe “Tanzania Transit,” an incisive documentary, by director Jeroen van Velzen, about travelers on a train crossing Tanzania. This is a very well edited film that depicts the train as a self contained world in which an unusual collection of passengers, just three people out of many on the train, tell their stories. Read the rest of this entry
April 22, 2018. In the college sociology classes which I teach we talk about something called an “objective reality.” An “objective reality” is the thing that just is without adding any meaning to it. How people interpret an “objective reality” is called the “social construction of reality.” I would be hard pressed to think of better examples of “objective realities” and the “social constructions of reality” put to them than those portrayed in the documentary “The Man Who Stole Banksy.”
The film actually has two “objective realities.” The first is the large, highly controversial, wall that Israel built, which has attracted international attention. To the Israeli’s the wall represents security. To the Palestinians the wall represents repression. Entering into this debate about the meaning of the wall is the secretive and controversial artist Banksy, someone who, apparently, no one has ever seen. His identity is a mystery. Read the rest of this entry
February 13, 2018. Think “animation,” and most people conjure up images of cute anthropomorphic animals cracking wise, and good winning the day over evil. But animation, especially offerings from other countries, can be complex, deal in adult themes, and utilize the fine-art aesthetics of sculpture, collage, pastel, watercolor and ink. The films I was lucky enough to see at “Animation First,” the first ever French Animation Festival in the U.S. (presented by the French Institute Alliance Française) were all of this and more. Read the rest of this entry
December 8, 2017. As a film critic who writes primarily about documentaries this may sound sacrilegious, but, I don’t usually care for “fly on the wall,” verite style, documentaries. I am referring to documentaries that will show a situation and then leave it up to the viewer to interpret it. I gravitate toward documentaries that have stories, points of view and interesting subjects that make me care about something or someone. Call me shallow, but I want to be guided through a film. That having been said, I am a bit amazed, and, at the same time, quite gratified, that I truly enjoyed, and was very intrigued by, the new, verite style documentary “Quest.” Read the rest of this entry
December 2, 2017. There’s no lack of documentaries about Jane Goodall and her lifelong work studying the wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania – but the latest one, simply called “Jane,” is astonishing in its depth, beauty and insight. Drawing from 140 hours of never-before-seen footage shot by Hugo Van Lawick for National Geographic, a contemporary interview with Dr. Goodall, and narration created from an audio recording of an earlier memoir, director Brett Morgen offers the viewer an immersive experience that the previous documentaries cannot match. Joshua Paul Johnson (Assistant Supervising Sound Editor), sound designers Odin Benitez and Peter Staubli plus a crew of six (!) re-recording mixers have much to do with this. Read the rest of this entry
December 2, 2017. Multiple marriages, frequency hopping, scandals, dehydrated Coca Cola, nudity, a villa in Aspen, drug addiction, guided missiles, GPS, wi-fi, Bluetooth and one of the most iconic and beautiful actresses in Hollywood, from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, all come together in director Alexandra Dean’s fascinating new documentary, “Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story.” Dean has created a kaleidoscopic portrait of Lamarr, both as a drop dead gorgeous movie star and as an important inventor, whose work was the basis for guided missiles during World War II, wi-fi, Bluetooth technology, GPS and secure military communications to this day. Who knew? Read the rest of this entry
November 8, 2017. One of the most haunting images I’ve ever seen in a music video is David Bowie lying in a hospital bed, his eyes, swathed in surgical gauze, replaced by buttons. His arms rise upward, as if, Peter Pan-like, he could fly toward some Neverland in defiance of impending mortality. The song is called “Lazarus.” Bowie died on January 10th, 2016, two days after the video’s release.
Director Francis Whatley has crafted a remarkable documentary that celebrates the last five years of this electrifying singer-songwriter-actor’s career, during which some of his most brilliant work was produced. Read the rest of this entry
November 8. 2017. Director Paige Goldberg Tolmach’s fascinating and unsettling documentary, “What Haunts Us,” could not have come at a more appropriate time, which can be fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how one looks at it. The film is part of DOC NYC, which runs from November 9 – 16.
In the college sociology classes that I teach, we discuss the concept of deviance. I make the point that what, at one time, might not have been thought of as deviant behavior, now, as society progresses, is seen as deviant. The recent revelations about sexual harassment that dominate the news, including testimonies from those who knew what was going on but chose to say nothing, until now, are great examples of this.
“What Haunts Us” concerns Charleston, South Carolina’s Porter Gaud School, the high school attended by Goldberg Tolmach. Alarmed by the number of suicides of male students in her graduating class, from 30 years ago (six suicides out of a class of 49), the filmmaker delves into what was going on, beneath the surface, particularly with a popular teacher named Eddie Fischer. Fischer sexually abused male students for years and was protected by a wall of silence, from both administrators and students. As one former, now middle aged, student puts it, “You’re dying to tell someone about it, but you’re scared as hell someone will find out.” In addition, the film makes the point that the very culture of South Carolina society – respectable, upper crust families not wanting to taint their reputations with something so ugly – also contributed to this silence.
“What Haunts Us” employs very effective montages of year book pictures, home video, modern day interviews with former faculty and students, archival photographs and tastefully done animation providing nice juxtapositions to experiences recalled by the film’s interviewees. Intercut with all of this are Goldberg Tolmach’s attempts to interview former teachers and school administrators – some willing, some not.
Fischer himself is seen in a modern day interview at various points throughout the film. I assume that this footage is from a police video made after his arrest. Fischer answers questions about the sexual abuse he committed as casually as if he was having a conversation about weekend plans with a neighbor across a suburban hedge. There is no regret, or even real understanding of the damage he has caused. What is so sobering about this footage is that Fischer comes across not as evil, but simply amoral.
“What Haunts Us” will be screened on Monday, November 9 at 7:30 at IFC Center, 323 6th Avenue at West Third Street. For more information, on this and other films, visit http://www.docnyc.net.