Reviews - Page 91

Giving you our points of view on the latest docs in release and on the circuit.

Review: ‘The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography’

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (USA, 76 min.) Dir. Errol Morris Starring: Elsa Dorfman, Allen Ginsberg   Errol Morris has won great acclaim for his documentaries on powerful, conflicted men like Robert McNamara (The Fog of War) and Donald Rumsfeld (The Unknown Known), so it’s fascinating to see him make a lovely reversal in The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography, and create a feature-length profile of a woman who has spent a relatively serene life taking terrific photos. A self-described “nice Jewish girl,” Elsa Dorfman didn’t pick up a camera until she was 28, but when she found her

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Review: ‘In Search of Israeli Cuisine’

In Search of Israeli Cuisine (USA, 96 min.) Dir. Roger Sherman   “What does Israeli cuisine taste like?” asks Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov. The title of this new doc by Roger Sherman is on point as Solomonov returns to the land of his birth in search of Israeli cuisine. The chef acts as our guide throughout the film and he samples a variety of flavours from different regions in an effort to define a national cuisine. The flavour of Israeli cooking isn’t as easy to pin down as the buttery richness of French food, the tomatoey goodness of Italian cooking,

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Review: ‘Manifesto’

Manifesto (Australia/Germany, 95 min.) Dir. Julian Rosefeldt Starring: Cate Blanchett   “Nothing is original,” says a teacher, played by the extraordinary Cate Blanchett (Carol, Blue Jasmine), to a class of wide-eyed youngsters. The teacher delivers a lecture on the principles of Dogma 95, the Danish anti-cinematic movement pioneered by directors like Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. The students listen as the teacher outlines the provocative world cinema manifesto and corrects her pupils on the basic tenants of achieving true art by eschewing false scenery, unnecessary action, non-diegetic music, and egotistical director credits. Excerpts of various cinematic doctrines are shared

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Review: ‘The Babushkas of Chernobyl’

The Babushkas of Chernobyl (USA, 71 min.) Dir. Holly Morris, Anne Bogart   The world’s most catastrophic nuclear power plant accident, the Chernobyl Disaster, occurred on April 26 1986 in Pripyat, in the former Ukrainian Republic of the USSR. Due to an emergency shutdown, nuclear reactor number 4 blew up, releasing immense amounts of radioactive waste into the atmosphere. After the disaster, the Soviet government enacted a 30 km “Exclusion Zone” around the nuclear plant, which resulted in the immediate evacuation of its residents. The zone is still largely uninhabited due to its high radiation levels. The Babushkas of Chernobyl,

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Review: ‘Night School’

Night School (USA, 85 min.) Dir. Andrew Cohn   Greg Henson, Shynika Jakes, and Melissa Lewis are going back to school. They’re freshmen once again as they hit the books in search of a second chance at life. The trio are just three among many students who were part of the inordinately high dropout rate within Indianapolis’s education system. Going back to class isn’t easy for these students aged 31, 26, and 52, respectively, and Night School follows the characters for one year as they pursue their studies. The road to redemption, and to a better life, is easier said

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Review: ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (USA, 84 min.) Dir. Steve James   Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) finds the ultimate David and Goliath tale of the 2008 financial crisis in Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. The film examines the bizarre case of the only bank to be charged for mortgage fraud following the crisis and housing market crash. The culprits—or, perhaps more appropriately, “targets”—of this case are the employees of Abacus Federal Savings, a small and independently owned bank in New York’s Chinatown. The riveting human drama that James finds in the tale of the Sung family and their

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Review: ‘Score: A Film Music Documentary’

Score: A Film Music Documentary (USA, 93 min.) Dir. Matt Schrader   Imagine the nerve-wracking beach scenes of Jaws without the deep chords composed by John Williams or the horrific shower scene of Psycho without Bernard Herrmann’s shrill strings. Consider the menace of Darth Vader in Star Wars without John Williams’ contrasting themes of good and evil or the timeless romance of Casablanca without Max Steiner’s arrangement of the melody of “As Time Goes By” swirling through the air. These classic films would just be images and motions, shots and edits—mere pieces of a whole. Without music, film is just

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Review: ‘Mansfield 66/67’

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IMansfield 66/67 (USA/UK, 84 min.) Dir. P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes   Jayne Mansfield endures as one of Hollywood’s legends. The blonde bombshell with the iconic bust and signature walk died at the age of 34 in a tragic car accident in which she may or may not have been decapitated. Her accident might be the greatest drama she left behind, at least for the filmmakers of the peculiar doc Mansfield 66/67. In it, the directing duo of co-husbands P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes chart a campy retrospective of Mansfield’s legacy that pays more attention to her death than

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Review: ‘Ginger Nation’

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Ginger Nation (Canada, 66 min.) Dir. Shawn Hitchins, Mitch Fillion   “Even polar bears get more respect than I do,” quips comedian Shawn Hitchins in Ginger Nation. “It’s because they’re white.” Hitchins, the stand-up comedian behind the one-man show of Ginger Nation, voluntarily self-identifies as a minority. Yes, this tall white male belongs to an ostracised group: red heads. Gingers account for only 1% percent of the world’s population, and when one factors in the variable that Hitchins is openly gay, he speaks from a subset of a very small cultural group. Ginger Nation owns Hitchins’ self-ascribed minority status in

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Review: ‘Jewel’s Catch One’

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Jewel’s Catch One (USA, 90 min.) Dir. C. Fitz   In the ‘70s, Los Angeles was a divided place with a problematic nightlife. Many bars and discos refused to serve gay African Americans. Police raids and civilian arrests were common practices that targeted black and gay communities. Jewel Thais-Williams, a black lesbian and UCLA graduate, was familiar with the racism and homophobia prevailing in the city. Witnessing how it inhibited her community, Jewel decided to open her own disco. She wanted to create a space where everyone was accepted and treated equally. In 1973, with only a $500 budget, she

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