500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2017: Feminist Programming — Jennifer Merin reports

humanrightswatchfflogo1The 28th Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 9-18, 2017) presents topical and provocative feature documentaries that showcase courageous resilience in challenging times. In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of “citizen journalism,” festival organizers hope that the films in this year’s program can serve as inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements. Ten of the 21 programmed documentary feature films are directed by women. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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MOVING MIDWAY — Documentary RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

moving midway posterGodfrey Cheshire, the noted and highly acclaimed film critic, uses his cinematic smarts and sensibility to good effect in Moving Midway, his first feature documentary about the relocation of his ancestral home, an antebellum North Carolina plantation named Midway, from its original location, now rapidly being encroached upon by Raleigh’s urban sprawl, to a more secluded and peaceful spot, still on family property, several miles away. The film is a fascinating study of family, location and changing times in the South. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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CASTING JONBENET — Review by Jennifer Merin

casting jonbenet posterCasting JonBenet is a deeply disturbing documentary that delves into the still unsolved murder mystery in the case of JonBenet Ramsey, and how the story of the six-year old beauty pageant queen whose short life was apparently filled with abuse has impacted America’s psyche. Rather than representing the circumstances surrounding the actual murder or attempting to solve the mystery, filmmaker Kitty Green plumbs public opinion and explores the social impact of the case by “auditioning” prospective cast members for a proposed truth-based drama about JonBenet and the infamous murder. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Why Films Matter – Jennifer Merin interviews

andrew morganIn this exclusive and unedited audio interview, Andrew Morgan discusses his eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, about how ‘fast fashion’ – you know, those stylish little frocks that H&M and other branded purveyors sell by the millions for $9.99 each — impacts our global economy, shatters local cultures, causes political unrest and poses a serious threat to the environment. Surprise: H&M is just about on a par with Monsanto in its sacrifice of human well-being for the sake of profit, and 85 percent of the world’s garment workers are women who are working for $160 per month and are beat up when they protest low wages and hazardous work conditins. Read more>>

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Kirby Dick Talks Documenting Social Outrage — Jennifer Merin interviews

kirby dickDocumentary filmmaker Kirby Dick, known for tackling controversial and challenging subjects — such as the ‘outing’ of closeted gay politicians in Outrage (2009), exposing sexual abuse in the military in >The Invisible War (2012), and ripping the lid off rape on college campuses in The Hunting Ground (2015) — thinks of each of his films as an ongoing experiment, an investigation of subject and form that he’s never satisfied with, never quite finished with. He is, it seems, incessantly indignant about the social issues represented in his films. Read on…

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THE CASE AGAINST 8 – Review by Jennifer Merin

CASEAGAINST8POSTERThe Case Against 8 chronicles activists’s efforts to overturn California’s Prop 8, the civil rights-squashing ban on same sex marriage. Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White’ behind-the-scenes access shows how civil rights activists from both sides of the aisle — most notably the ultra-conservative GW Bush backer Ted Olson and strongly liberal Al Gore backer David Boies, and their respective law partners – joined forces to fight legislation putting individuals’ rights, as guaranteed by the US Constitution, under the decision-making control of the government. Read on…

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Roger Donaldson’s Take On Reality and Truth-Based Narratives – Jennifer Merin Interviews

roger donaldson croppedNarrative features about true events raise questions about authenticity in film. With many truth based narratives, available news coverage and documents about the actual events may help audiences to separate the film’s fiction from fact, and to know where characters have been added or axed to enhance the story, up the caper, boost the entertainment value. Roger Donaldson — who’s directed documentaries and truth-based narratives, as well as the purely fictional The November Man, takes the ‘of record’ aspect of his work seriously. My interview with Donaldson focused on how the truth-based The Bank Job (2008) was researched and its impact. Read more>>

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PAYBACK – DVD Review by Jennifer Merin

paybackposter160Using Margaret Atwood’s fascinating treatise titled Payback: Debt And The Shadow Side of Wealth as a point of departure, acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal engages a compelling cast of renown commentators to expound on the notion of debt and its wide ranging implications about human civilization and the future. Not all debt is economic. There is environmental debt, too. And, when has someone guilty of a crime paid his or her ‘debt to society?’ This compelling documentary leads to essential and urgently needed consideration of public policy. Concerned citizens, see this film! Read more>>

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Park Chan Wook Discusses Genre Twists in THIRST – Jennifer Merin interviews

park chan wook jerusalem ff cropped160At his Jerusalem Film Festival Masterclass, the Korean master filmmaker talks about how his life in 1980s Korea inspired Thirst, his genre bending vampire movie. This, he says, is his personal favorite among all of his films to date. He comments that he identifies with the film’s central character, a priest-turned-vampire, because he’s always trying to justify his decisions and actions. His revelations about audience manipulation through sound design are particularly fascinating. Read more>>

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