ANY OTHER WAY: THE JACKIE SHANE STORY (Hot Docs 2024) – Review by Liz Braun

Forty years of living as a recluse nearly erased her legacy, but a new film about Jackie Shane should ensure that the legendary R&B singer is properly remembered. Shane, a transgender performer decades before gender identity was part of the lexicon, was born in Nashville and moved to Canada in 1959 — entering the country for a gig and never leaving. Shane eventually settled in Toronto and had a big presence in the club scene there. And she had a Top 40 hit in the 1960s: Any Other Way. In 1971, Shane vanished from the music scene. What became of this brave and talented performer is one of the mysteries solved in Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story..

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 3, 2024: CATCHING FIRE: THE STORY OF ANITA PALLENBERG

Blending frank interviews with a treasure trove of archival images and their subject’s own words, filmmakers Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill paint an incredibly intimate portrait of a 1960s and ’70s icon in Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg. As a model, actress, mother, muse, and more, Pallenberg lived a life that was turned up to 11 as she became an integral part of the group surrounding the Rolling Stones in their heyday but was never anything less than her own woman.

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REMEMBERING GENE WILDER – Review by T.J. Callahan

Director Ron Frank respectfully, lovingly and poignantly brings Wilder back to the big screen for old and new fans to enjoy him one more time. Frank tells the funnyman’s story through interviews with friends and fellow actors, mixed with movie scenes, mixed with family photos, mixed with reminiscences from Gene himself. We hear tributes from Alan Alda, Harry Connick, Jr, Rain Pryor (daughter of frequent Wilder co-star Richard Pryor), Carol Kane and, of course, Mel Brooks.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 15, 2024: FRIDA

The art and experiences of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo come to vivid life in director Carla Gutierrez’s intimate documentary Frida. Told through creative animation, archival images, and first-hand accounts — with a particular emphasis on Kahlo’s own letters and diaries — the film brings viewers inside the mind and heart of one of the world’s most iconic modern artists, empathetically revealing her near-lifelong struggle with both self-criticism and chronic pain.

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FRIDA (Sundance FF 2024) – Review by Leslie Combemale

There’s something powerful about seeing a bio-doc based on the words and images of their subject. Even if the subject is believed to be well-known, their own words either supersede or create new context for all former knowledge. These are their thoughts. These are their images. In director Carla Gutièrrez’s new film Frida, she brings famed artist Frida Kahlo into sharper focus through her letters, essays, interviews, and her illustrated diary. Though many might know the broad strokes of her life, the constant pain from an early accident, her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, and her exquisite, emotional self portraits, there’s more to the know about this exceptional woman and historical figure. In Frida, the audience learns so much more, and nearly all from her own words.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 8, 2023: JOYCE CAROL OATES: A BODY IN THE SERVICE OF MIND

Prolific author, keen observer, insightful storyteller, compulsive writer, incisive tweeter. Joyce Carol Oates is all of these things and more, as director Stig Björkman makes abundantly clear in his thoughtfully constructed, affectionate documentary Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in Service of Mind. Tracing Oates’ life and career over the course of several decades, Björkman makes it clear that she has well earned her reputation as an iconic American writer.

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JOYCE CAROL OATES: A BODY IN THE SERVICE OF MIND – Review by Jennifer Merin

Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in Service of Mind is a delightful documentary delve into the persona and personal opinions of the notoriously self effacing and non-stop prolific literary goddess known as Joyce Carol Oates. Filmmaker Stig Bjorkman. a longstanding friend of Joyce Carol Oates. gives us a respectful and intimate documentary that spends its hour and a half on current interviews with Oates, as well as clips from her past interviews with Dick Cavitt and other broadcast presenters and select readings from her writings that are voiced by Laura Dern over footage of Oates at work, or hiking through the countryside.

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JOYCE CAROL OATES: A BODY IN SERVICE OF MIND – Review by Nikki Fowler

Greenwich Entertainment’s documentary Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind is a beautiful and informative look into the life and work of the beloved and award-winning novelist by the same name, who not only wrote a series of novels drenched immensely in gender, race, socioeconomics, and politics but who wrote dramatic novels sans politics under pseudonyms which she described as getting to “start over” and “to write as if she were “writing for the first time.”

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SALVATORE SHOEMAKER OF DREAMS – Review by Martha K Baker

The brand name “Ferragamo” defines luxury. The fascinating documentary, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams, outlines what it took for the 11th of 14 children to become a world-famous shoemaker. The biodoc traces Salvatore Ferragamo’s life from birth in 1898 in Bonito, Italy, to Hollywood, California, to his death in Tuscany at 62 in 1960.

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SIDNEY – Review by Martha K Baker

Sidney Poitier became a legend, as an actor, as an activist, as a Black man in racist America. He died in January, 2022, at age 94. This documentary honors him as that legend, avoiding hagiography but certainly raving about the contributions of one hard-working actor, the first Black man to win an Oscar. Within the adulation of the bio-doc, Poitier stands out from the many interviewees, who include his five daughters and two wives. His voice, largely from a 2012 interview with Oprah Winfrey, remains quiet and sure, modest and cool. Winfrey produced the laudatory film of her friend, whom she called her “great Black Hope.”

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