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Documentaries Opening Theatrically in August, 2012

Mini Reviews of Documentaries Opening During The Month


August 3, 2012

  • Craig's List Joe - Directed by Joseph Garner - Filmmaker Joseph Garner chronicles his own month-long search for a supportive community and, through them, economic survival. Armed only with his cell phone, laptop and toothbrush, he set off to find out whether he could survive and thrive by utilizing only things he was able to access and acquire through Craig's List. Included in his Craig's List dependency were living space, food, transportation and companionship. How did the survival experiment go? See the film.
  • Dreams of A Life - Directed by Carol Morley - The haunting and mysterious story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a 40-something woman whose decomposed corpse was discovered in a North London bedsit in 2003 -- three years after she'd died. Nobody had missed her, nobody had asked after her, nobody had noticed the mail piling up at the door. The television was still on, so even the electric company had failed to notice she wasn't paying her bills. British filmmaker Carol Morley focuses on what little is known of the woman's life and background and uses reenactments to tell her sad story of alienation and loneliness. Read my full review.
  • You've Been Trumped - Directed by Anthony Baxter - As you may have guessed its title, You've Been Trumped focuses on Donald Trump -- or, rather, on the environmental impact of the real estate mogul's construction of a huge golf course and resort complex situated along the scenic coast of Scotland, just north of Aberdeen. Anthony Baxter tracks the Trump International Golf Links project, Trump's behavior and questionable ethics, as well as local protests against the construction, from 2005 to 2011, when the documentary was completed. Trump's shenanigans are shocking, to say the least. But so is the complicity from Scottish authorities. A must see! Read my full review.
  • Sushi: The Global Catch - Directed by Mark Hall - As an interesting follow up to the rather reverent Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this documentary looks at the popularity of Japan's traditional cuisine in a different light. Tracing the growing popularity of raw fish -- sushi and sashimi -- the film considers the impact sushi consumption is having on fish in the wild -- especially the highly valued Bluefin Tuna, the most popular fish for sushi. According the to film, the world's Bluefin Tuna population is being killed off, creating a dangerous imbalance in the oceans' food chain that will result in the extinction of many species, including those most favored for human consumption. Can farmed fish replace wild fish in satisfying human need and tastes? See the film.

August 8, 2012

  • Meet the Fokkens - Directed by Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schroder - Louise Fokkens and Martine Fokkens are 69-year-old twins who've been working as prostitutes in Amsterdam's red-light district for some 50 years. They've been successful at it, starting their own brothel and forming the first trade union for prostitutes. Martine is still on the job, sitting in her window and calling out to prospective Johns, but Louise has retired because she has flexibility-limiting arthritis. Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schroder follow the twins around town -- in the red light district, in work sessions and at home. They are quirky, endearing and amusing. Everything about their lifestyle is quite normal, including their job, which they see as devoid of dangerous and sinister elements. They're forthright in the stories they tell about their years on the job, and are insightful in their comments about how prostitution has changed during their decades on the job. Their outlook about their work casts quite a different light on the world's oldest profession. Read my full review.

August 10, 2012

  • It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl - Directed by Richard Trank - This film, produced by the documentary division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is a compelling profile of the very complex and determined man who became a strong proponent of modern Zionism, and was influential in founding modern Israel. While chronicling Herzl's life, the film delves deeply into the Jewish identity in its religious and secular contexts. Herzl, an influential journalist and playwright, was of Jewish heritage but was quite secular in this thinking. Born in Budapest and raised in German-speaking Vienna, and considered himself German. While studying law in Vienna, he actually joined a German nationalist youth group called Burschenschaft Albia -- but he eventually resigned because of the group's blatant anti-Semitism. While working in Paris as journalist for the Neue Freie Presse, Hertz became alarmed by the anti-Semitic aspects of the Dreyfus trial, and of the rampant spread of anti-Semitism across Europe. He was convinced that Jews must leave the continent and find a place where they could establish a homeland, a Jewish state, and be safe. The initial plan was to settle in Argentina, but tradition and politics made Israel the choice. In organizing and leading the international movement that lead to the state of Israel, Herzl traveled around the world, meeting with heads of state and religious leaders, and lecturing to masses of people. The film makes excellent use of archival footage and of Herzl's writings, which are voiced by Christoph Waltz. Sir Ben Kingsley narrates the film, putting Herzl's efforts into the context of international politics. Herzl was a fascinating man, and he proves to be a compelling character this excellent film. Read my full review.
  • The Lion of Judah - Directed by Matt Mindell - 81 year old holocaust survivor Leo Zisman now leads guided tours of the Nazi death camps in Poland as a means to assure that Nazi cruelty and inhumanity are never forgotten. Filmmaker Matt Mindell follows Zisman on one of his tours, documenting the elder's recollections of his horrific personal experiences. Mindell and others on Zisman's tour appear on camera, commenting frankly about the pain and despair of being awakened to the full knowledge of what happened in the camps. Being at the camp, listening to Zisman and discussing their feelings has a transformative effect on them. And watching this film should have a transformative effect on viewers, too. Especially interesting are segments in which Mindell, who appears in the film, and other tour participants make reference to rampant and shocking anti-Semitism in contemporary Poland. A must see! Read my full review.

August 13, 2012

  • The Chilean Building- Directed by Macarena Aguilo - Like The Lion of Judah, this film records a filmmaker's personal odyssey to find out about the past, and a chapter in history that is little known. It concerns the establishment of a safe and communal home for the children of parents who were members of Chile's leftist organization Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), who were battling against the repressive and cruel Pinochet dictatorship. In 'Project Home,' some sixty children were sent into exile, first in Europe and, then, closer to home, in Cuba. Many of the children never saw their parents again, but were shepherded from childhood to adulthood by twenty adults who treated their charges as one large family. Filmmaker Macarena Aguilo was one of the children cared for in 'Project Home,' and she includes her own remembrances among interviews with others with whom she shared her youth. Read my full review.

August 17, 2012

  • Side by Side - Directed by Christopher Kenneally - This on camera debate about the pros and cons of digital moviemaking compared with photochemical moviemaking will delight movie buffs. Those speaking their minds on the subject include actress Greta Gerwig, as well as filmmakers Ellen Kuras, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, George Lucas, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Lars Von Trier, The Wachowskis, Lena Dunham, James Cameron and Michael Ballhaus, among others -- all interviewed by Keanu Reeves, who also produced the film and has some strong opinions of his own.
  • True Wolf - Directed by Rob Whitehair - The film chronicles the 16-year relationship between a Montana couple, Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker, who adopt a wolf cub, Koani, who become an integral -- and demanding -- part of their family. The film examines how humans and beasts -- well, a wolf -- can live together, forming lasting familial bonds. A fascinating and rare look at wolf behavior and at man's animal nature.

August 24, 2012

  • Death by China - Directed by Peter Navarro - The film investigates America's economic and political relationship, which is judged to be a threat to the future of America's independence and long term global peace. The core of the problem is the imbalance of trade. Since America opened its markets to China in 2001, more than 50,000 American factories have been shut down, and some 25-million American workers are unemployed and the United States owes more than three-trillion dollars to China. This, as experts interviewed in the film proclaim, does not bode well for the future, and America's economic relationship with China must be quickly revised.
  • Samsara - Directed by Ron Fricke - The documentary is an un-narrated montage of exquisitely shot images that collectively indicate the elusive yet ongoing interconnectivity of life and the natural world -- in all of their various circumstances. Samsara is the Sanskrit word meaning 'the every turning wheel of life,' and using that concept as its theme, the film visits natural wonders, spiritual retreats, disaster zones and monumental man made structures to show the flow. The film, with its new age score, is meditative, magnificent and memorable. You'll want to see it on the big screen, so don't wait for the DVD release.
  • Somewhere Between - Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton - Since China imposed its one child per family rule, there have been approximately 80,000 Chinese girls adopted into American families. This film follows four adopted Chinese girls -- Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang -- and observes their integration into American life, and reveals their uncertainty about their identities past and future. They have good lives, but experience It would make a nice double bill with In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee, which addresses similar issues that occur with adoption of girls from Korea.
  • Wild Horse, Wild Ride - Directed by Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus - This wonderful documentary follows several people who are participating in the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, a competition that gives 100 people the opportunity to try to train one wild mustang in 100 days. The animals, never before in the presence of humans, are high strung and powerful creatures who gradually submit to their trainers commands. In the end, the trainers ride their horses in a rodeo-like contest that judged by experts. The trainers range from accomplished pros like Wylene Wilson who rides her steed, whom she names Rembrandt, bareback to first-timers who've never before been in the presence of a wild horse, and don't even ride that well. But all are welcome to participate in the program run by the federal government, with the long term goal of finding good homes for the wild horses that are found and rounded up on federal park lands. It's thrilling to watch bonds form between the trainers and the horses, and several of the trainers bid on their horses in the adoption auction, and are able to take them home. If you enjoyed Buck, you will absolutely adore Wild Horse, Wild Ride. Read my full review.
  • High Ground - Directed by Michael Brown - The film follows a group of American military veterans who'd been deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq and are suffering from sever post-combat physical and mental problems -- including post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of limbs and blindness, another injuries -- as they set out to climb the 20,000 foot Himalayan mountain named Lobuche. The participants hope that meeting the extreme challenge of the climb will help them to heal their wounds and become more confident and able to progress in their lives. Their stories are compelling, heart-wrenching and as inspiring as the natural wonders they encounter on their difficult climb. This documentary would make a good double bill with Blindsight.
August 31:

  • ORNETTE Made in America - Directed by Shirley Clarke - Milestone Films has completed its restoration of ORNETTE Made in America, filmmaker Shirley Clarke's classic documentary profile and tribute to music maker Ornette Coleman, and is re-releasing the film theatrically on August 31, 2012. The film is a brilliant experimental adventure that begins at the intersection of image and audio, and weaves its way through the sights and sounds of the famously controversial jazz man's life and ouvre. It is a must see, must hear! Read my full review.

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