Illuminating Big Screens During February, 2013
- The Gatekeepers - Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh's insider documentary presents rare on camera interviews with six former chiefs of Shin Bet, the Israeli counter-intelligence unit responsible for the country's internal security. The Shin Bet chiefs speak with surprising candor about the influence their unit brought to bear in creating the tense political climate in the occupied territories and throughout Israel from 1980 to the present. At the time, they felt their aggressive tactics, ranging from politically-motivated assassinations of targeted victims to ongoing torture of political detainees, were justified. They have since come to realize that they actually fanned the tensions between Jews and Palestinians, and have had dire ramification for both communities. This fascinating documentary is a must see for anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East. The film has been nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (you can vote for it (and see its current ranking) on our 2013 Oscar Opinion Poll. Released by Sony Pictures Classics (Limited). Read my full review
- Koch - As Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989 (that's three terms in office), Ed Koch was at the center of every even that attracted media attention. He was a dramatic player on the city's bustling stage, a unique character who was sometimes utterly charming, at other times annoyingly curmudgeonly. But, love him or hate him, he was a compelling leader who strongly influenced all aspects of New York City's development. Neil Barsky's biodoc and tribute film uses a lot of archival news-related footage of Mayor Ed Koch in action to reveal major triumphs and several surprising failings. But he also interviews Ed Koch and some of his close friends and longstanding associates to delve into the background and very private life of this well known public official. Think of Ed Koch as the quintessential New Yorker, always ready with a good story and a bit of drama. And that holds up until the end of his life -- because Ed Koch passed away on the very day that Koch opened in his home town. RIP Ed Koch. Long live Koch, the biodoc and tribute film that has, instantly, become his memorial. Released by Zeitgeist Films (Limited). Read my full review.
- Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary - Since 1981, when he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Mumia Abu-Jamal has become an increasingly important icon in the activist movement for civil rights and criminal justice in the United States. While incarcerated, Mumia, an African-American and an outspoken journalist, has written critically about the American justice system, and about civil rights and politics in the United States. He has appeared frequently on the radio, expressing his opinions. He is articulate and his arguments are compelling. He has been the subject of previously made documentaries, and has narrated others. He has gained a huge following of supporters. Despite the public's outcry and although his advocates have discovered and presented new evidence in Mumia's case, including witnesses who were not called at the original trial but have come forth asking to be heard, the court continues to refuse demands for a retrial. Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary reiterates the essentials of Mumia's case, chronicles his incarcertion, and then carries the story forward with interviews with advocates and witnesses about the new evidence in the case, and about current efforts to get Mumia released from a lifetime of incarceration. The film is released by First Run Features (Limited)
- Sound City - Adding to the cinematic history of rock and roll, famous Foo Fighter front man, drummer and prolific music producer Dave Grohl turns his talents to directing this documentary about the legendary Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, a San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles. From its opening in 1969, Sound City was the recording headquarters for many of the leading music bands and solo of the 1970s and 80s, and well into the 90s, producing chart topping albums for Neil Young, Dr. John, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker and Fleetwood Mac, among others, including the bands with which Dave Grohl has performed. The studio is noted for a unique acoustic sound, one that was much appreciated by those who recorded there. More than 100 certified gold and platinum albums were recorded at Sound City. However, the advent and proliferation of digital recording cut into bookings at Sound City, which finally closed as a commercial recording studio in May, 2011. Grohl purchased the custom Neve 8028 Console from Studio A for installation in his private recording studio. He and many of the artists who got famous at Sound City and made the place famous in return appear in Grohl's documentary, commenting on what made the studios' ambience and their sound so special, and recounting tales of all that happened within Sound City's walls. Grohl also uses archival footage of many artists in performance or recording sessions to show the rich history of Sound City and its contribution to music history. Released by Variance Films (Limited).
- Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder - Filmmaker Christopher Felver's montage of contemporary and archival footage celebrates Lawrence Ferlingetti and documents the famous poet, painter and publisher's life and times. The film is a comprehensive chronicle, replete with a accounts of his challenging childhood and his academic achievements at Yale and the Sorbonne, and with a great collection of clips of Ferlinghetti reading from A Coney Island of the Mind and other works, painting large canvasses and addressing audiences of assembled fans at City Lights Bookstore, the literary cornerstone he founded and presides over in San Francisco, and elsewhere. Additionally, Alan Ginsburg, Kenneth Rexroth and other Beat Generation friends and colleagues appear, reading from their works and commenting on the importance of Ferlinghetti in their lives, careers and in the world of literature and the arts, in general. Whether you love contemporary poetry or not, Ferlnghetti is a fascinating, charming and extraordinarily talented man with a great story, and Felver's fine film captures his personality and tells his story very well. Released by First Run Features (Limited)
- Life Is But A Dream: Beyonce - Co-directed by Beyonce Knowles with Ed Burke who also shot and co-wrote the film with Ilan Benatar, this music documentary stars Beyonce Knowles living her life and singing her songs. Released by HBO.