Category: Documentary


My Octopus Teacher

October 15th, 2020 — 5:24am

***
My Octopus Teacher nf

This is a documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. It stars Craig Foster who also produced the film. He appears to be a marine biologist who spends close to a year following a single octopus for most of her life living under water in a South African kelp forest.

The film shows Foster mostly by himself swimming deep in the water without an oxygen tank following the life of this one octopus. We learned about the life cycle of this creature and how it hides from sharks, appears to feel comfortable with the film marker, and ultimately reproduces and dies. The impression that the film is trying to make is that Foster felt an emotional connection with the octopus and he felt that likewise it felt a connection with him. While we understand the two-way connection, we cannot help being aware that there always had to be another person nearby (the always present cameraman). The film also briefly shows Foster teaching his son the secrets of connecting with the creatures below. This is a unique and unusual movie.(2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Mucho Mucho Armor – The Legend of Walter Mercado

October 15th, 2020 — 4:51am

***
Mucho Mucho Amor – The Legend of Walter Mercado nf

This is a documentary film that takes place over several decades about someone who is apparently one of the most well-known Latin stars in the world. He was born in modest circumstances in Puerto Rico and from an early age had been seen as having “something special,” to which people gravitated. He was an actor who became interested in astrology and due to a various circumstances he appeared in various short television segments telling fortunes according to the astrological stars. At one point, he had 120 million viewers. People all over Latin America became enthralled with his pronouncement and his performance and he became loved and sought after celebrity. He dressed in extravagant costumes with magnificent capes that became an essential part of his shows. He spent a lifetime as someone who loved to look glamorous in his feminine/masculine attire and who only wanted to spread love and good feelings. The documentary allows the viewer to see into his rise as well as the betrayal by his manager, which almost destroyed him. Yet, he lived to see better days and to enjoy once again his status as a unique icon within the Spanish speaking community. Seeing the film, you are left with the feeling of having witnessed someone totally unique and full of love (2020).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

The Great Hack

September 18th, 2020 — 10:56pm

The Great Hack
*****

As the internet and Facebook have become a part of our everyday life, most of us have no idea how much information about each of us is being saved and potentially available. It happens that a political consulting company based in England named Cambridge Analytica whose CEO is Alexander Nix has been accumulating such data. This information was used to influence BREXIT (the vote allowing Great Britain to leave the European Union).

It turns out that Cambridge Analytica was also providing data to influence the US elections. They apparently have 5000 points of data on every American voter. Initially, they were using this information to target voters and support the reelection of United States Senator Ted Cruz of Florida. Subsequently, this information was put to use to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.

Various journalists discovered these activities and began to report on them. Special note was the work of Carole Cadwalladr who reported for The Guardian and The Observer. Some of the other heroes featured in this film include Professor David Carroll who tried to legally obtain the data that Cambridge Analytica had about him. There are also whistleblowers Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser, a former director at Cambridge Analytica. These people and others cooperated with the filmmakers in this very well done documentary as they followed them around all over the world including their testimony before the US Congress. There is also a piece showing Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) testifying in front of a special Congressional Committee.

This documentary film was put together by directors Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim and they produced and wrote it along with Geralyn White Dreyfous, Judy Korin, and Pedro Kos. This movie was released in the United States in July 2019 and has been nominated for an Emmy to be announced next week (September 20).

This is a very engrossing documentary film, which deserves the attention of every American. As the documentary unfolds, you have the feeling that you are watching the reveal of a very important event.The Great Hack!(2020)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary

Rising Phoenix

September 15th, 2020 — 1:50am

Rising Phoenix – nf
*****

This is a truly amazing documentary film about a group of remarkable athletes who have participated in the Paralympic Games. In it we meet athletes some without legs or arms and some without both. We get a chance to learn about their personal stories. Some were born without limbs or suffered the loss as children. We see how each person faced his or handicap with the support of parents, sometimes adopted parents, their coaches and eventually with the support of a stadium filled with screaming fans. This was a beautifully done documentary which grips both the viewer’s mind and heart.

This Netflix documentary film was directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui. Included among the featured athletes was Tatyana McFadden who spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage with not even a wheelchair. She was paralyzed from the waist down and with no other way to move. She learned to walk with her hands to keep up with other children. Subsequently, competing in a wheelchair, she has won 17 Paralympic medals in multiple Summer Paralympic Games. There was Jonnie Peacock who at the age of 5 contracted meningitis resulting in the disease killing tissues in his right leg, which was then amputated just below the knee. He eventually received a prosthetic leg and won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Paralympic Games representing Great Britain. There was also Bebe Maria Vio who at the age of 11 contracted a severe form of meningitis, which caused her the loss of both arms and legs and severe facial and body scars. After months of intense rehab treatment and thanks to a special prosthesis, she could return to the love of her life, which was fencing, a discipline that she had been practicing since she was five years old. She won a gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games.These athletes and others narrated much of this film, which also included a narration by Prince Harry of Great Britain, which added authenticity as well as his warmth.

The film also takes us into the history of the Paralympic Games and how they have come to occur in the same year as the regular Olympic Games and in the same city with one exception. In 1980, we learned that when a Soviet official was asked whether or not the Paralympic Games would occur in his country, he said “There are no invalids in the USSR.” That attitude has changed considerably in modern times as athletes from that country have actively participated in the Paralympics.

The authors particularly appreciated this film since it happens that during the summer after we were married, we were camp counselors at Camp Oakhurst, a camp for orthopedically handicapped youngsters and young adults and we came to appreciate how the love of sports can transcend physical handicaps. We also over the years have had the opportunity to attend five summer Olympic Games throughout the world, although none were the Paralympic Games, which we now are inspired to consider visiting in the future.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary, Sport

Echo In The Canyon

August 4th, 2020 — 12:13am

Echo In The Canyon (nf)
****

Being relative newcomers to Los Angeles and not having grown up here, we had no idea how the lovely mountain and valley area northwest of downtown Los Angeles is actually the birth place of the “California Sound.” The musicians who were drawn to this area in the early 1960s included well known groups such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas & the Papas as well as many other groups. They transformed folk music into the all familiar electric guitar sound that still resonates today. The film was directed by Andrew Slater and features Jakob Dylan, a very talented musician himself who also happens to be the son of Bob Dylan. He interviewed several of the featured musicians who were now in their senior years including Stephen Stills, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and even Ringo Starr. Jakob Dylan is also shown performing a good deal of the time. Many of these interviews appeared to be made just for this film and there were also many archival clips. Many parts of this film were made in the famous Los Angeles recording studios.

What was it about Laurel Canyon that attracted these musicians and allowed it to be the birthplace of this beloved sound? In part, it was the presence of recording companies including the iconic MGM building that resembles a stack of records. Also, most likely, the proximity to the movie studios and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. While not highlighted in the film, this also was the time of psychedelic drugs such as LSD that were often associated with rock and roll. Whatever the attraction, it was a magical time that gave birth to the unforgettable music and the musicians that created it. This movie, whether it is a trip down memory lane or an introductory education about the music of the 60s, is a worthwhile cinematic and music experience. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

I Am Not Your Negro

July 25th, 2020 — 7:00am

****
I Am Not Your Negro

The well-known author James Baldwin was planning a book, in which he would discuss the lives and the assassinations of three prominent black Americans: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He only completed 30 pages of the manuscript before he died in 1987. Raoul Peck was able to take his manuscript and extended it into a full documentary film narrated by Samuel Jackson. It not only showed the reflections, thinking, and writing of Baldwin, but was able to piece together with videos and still pictures not only the 60s when these three men were in the prime of their lives and were assassinated within five years of each other, but was also able to trace and reflect the history of black people in the United States. He particularly examined the interaction and the subjugation of blacks throughout the history of this country. Although Baldwin died in 1987 and this film was released in 2016, it resonated loud and clear with today’s contemporary society in the United States, particularly with the recent death of George Floyd at the knee of a white policeman and other similar tragic events. This movie is painful and timely. Baldwin wanted people to understand the terrible subjugation of black Americans, but also the systemic oppression of them even in today’s American society (2016).

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

A Secret Love

June 9th, 2020 — 9:39pm

***
A Secret Love-nf

We came to this documentary film believing it was about a pioneering case that challenged the law about same-sex couples and helped to make ground breaking precedent. We were obviously mistaken in our expectation. Who we did meet were two amazing women, Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue, the latter of whom had been an established professional women’s baseball player in her younger years. They did find romance in a time when love between women was usually not openly expressed. The film was directed by Chris Bolan who is the great nephew of Ms. Donahue. The movie followed these women into their senior years and we see how their families came to accept them and how they transitioned into a senior living facility. This is a touching movie about a love affair between two women, which will inspire future generations of women who might now be more able to openly express such feelings.

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Romance

Crip Camp

March 28th, 2020 — 11:00pm

****

Crip Camp-nf

This film was recommended to us by someone who knew that we spent the summer after our wedding working in a camp for orthopedically handicapped adults and children. It is produced by  the production company formed by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in association with Netflix. The opening scene of this documentary film, although taking place several years later showed Camp Jened very much resembling our own unforgettable summer experience. The focus was mostly on teenagers, many in wheelchairs, some with severe speech impediments and others limping around, but all with the energy and joy as they clearly felt liberated and were having the time of their lives. Many spoke of how for the first time they did not feel different. Others spoke of the joy of swimming and playing baseball even if it was from a wheelchair. There was the first teenage sexual attraction and overall a most meaningful summer.

However, this documentary film was much more than the story of a wonderful great summer camp experience. The producers and editors put together the story of the historic civil rights movement of people with disabilities. It also became obvious that some of the participants in this and leaders of this movement had met each other during their glorious summer camp experiences. Now many of them were young adults and were emerging as the leader of this most important movement.

A group of them had landed in San Francisco where they began to demonstrate against Joseph Califano who was the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and was not carrying out Federal Law section 504 and therefore not supporting equal opportunities for the handicapped. Curb cuts, so wheelchairs and their occupants could travel freely, elevators in all structures as well as other architectural accommodations to allow people with disabilities to lead a more normal life were their demands and expectations. The Black Panthers who originated in nearby Oakland, California, supported and joined them in their protests. This movement then reached a crescendo when the growing group of protesters arrived in Washington, D.C. and held sit-down demonstrations in front of Secretary Califano’s office outside the building and inside. This went on for a couple of weeks before finally Califano recognized the rights of the handicapped.

To think that much of this movement started in the early relationships of many young people who met at the remarkable summer camp a decade earlier. The filmmaker obviously dug up early footage from Camp Jened and focused on several people who became leaders in this most important movement. The viewers of the film were able to follow them as they emerged into adulthood and made the remarkable contributions to the civil rights of the disabled in this country. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Politics

Incitement

January 29th, 2020 — 7:47am

 

****

Incitement- sp

This award-winning Israeli film is based on the real-life events which led to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It is a well-done docudrama, which seemlessly interfaces actual video and movie clips with the excellently-constructed, very well-acted movie. It was put together by Yaron Zilberman who directed the film and co-wrote the screen play as well as leading the team of producers who researched all details of this movie for over a year prior to production. The preparation that they did included interviewing the actual assassin Yigal Amir (played by Yehuda Nahari Halevi) who is serving a life sentence in prison. Special recognition also should be given to the cast who played Amir’s family (Amitay Ousilio, Anat Ravnizky, Yoav Levi) and other important people in his life (Sivan Mast, Daniella Kertesz).

The seminal event which this film focused is upon was a pivotal moment in Israeli history. Rabin was assassinated in 1995, at which time, Yassir Arafat, was negotiating with him and planning the previously evasive possibility of agreed-upon boundaries and peace in the Middle East.

This film highlights the controversies within Israel among various groups. The viewer gets to understand the point of view of the young law student would-be assassin as he evolves his thinking into his deadly plan. How he rationalizes and justified his plan and finds support from the Bible and various religious leaders is quite fascinating and makes this movie well worth seeing. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign

The Report

January 9th, 2020 — 8:17pm

****

The Report – nf

In this docudrama based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a staffer for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is given the assignment to examine secret files and make a report on the purported enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) that the CIA was performing on suspected terrorists after 9/11. You need to remember that this was a time of great anxiety and concern in this country after the U.S. homeland was attacked by Al Queda. The CIA felt very responsible to determine if future attacks were being planned and exactly who was involved. They were able to bring into custody suspected terrorists and would determine to extract from them as much intelligence as possible to save the homeland. At one point two seemingly credible psychologists offered to help the CIA to develop these enhanced interrogation techniques which featured the torture of the people they were interrogating with waterboarding among other methods. They had the confidence that this would extract essential intelligence data. The United States government is one of critical checks and balances and while the CIA reports to the President, the U.S. Congress has the duty to examine ethical and moral behavior of all agencies of our government. This critical and pivotal moment in modern United States history all played out in the actions and reactions of this one younger staffer Daniel Jones, who had the task of examining the most highly classified information and reports. He ultimately found himself in direct conflict with the various leaders of the CIA which included John Brennan (Ted Levine), George Tenant (Dominic Fumusa)and Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) who was chief of staff for the President’s office.

This historical drama was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The movie holds the attention of the viewer as we watch this unlikely hero struggle against the powerful forces as well as his own inner conflicts as to how he should act and should he reveal the top secret information that was being hidden from the American public and from the U.S. Congress.

This movie is quite relevant today as, the headlines tell of U.S. President Trump complaining about people who are questioning the United States Intelligence Office which provided information regarding his decision to have a major Iranian military leader killed. (2020)

 

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Politics

Back to top