GIRLS STATE – Review by Diane Carson

An energetic, working community emerges in Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’ Girls State as hundreds of Missouri high school teenagers share a week, June 2022, on Lindenwood University’s campus. There they organize into groups and form a government, including self-declared candidates campaigning and the entire citizens collective electing a Governor, Supreme Court Justices, an Attorney General, and more. As each candidate promotes herself, alliances are formed and competition amplified amidst tense nerves. These five hundred diverse Missourians bond, debate, strategize, and gain immense insight into the democratic world.

Read more

Alison Tavel on Realizing RESYNATOR (SXSW2024) – Valerie Kalfrin interviews

When she started making the documentary Resynator, Alison Tavel imagined she’d introduce viewers to the “super-trippy” synthesizer her late father invented. But once she unpacked the device from storage, she dug up family secrets, such as his depression and insecurities. “There was a moment when I thought I should stop filming,” she said, recalling hearing of her dad’s troubles for the first time. “The narrative was way more personal than I was intending it to be. … [I thought,] ‘I don’t need to show the whole world this.’” She was so unsettled, she phoned her mom, then thought about it some more, realizing, “Maybe this is the story I need to tell.”
Resynator debuted at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival, winning an Audience Award for Feature Documentary.

Read more

NICKY’S FAMILY – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Just before the outbreak of World War II, an unassuming English businessman named Nicholas Winton traveled to Czechoslovakia and witnessed conditions that compelled him to organize the transport of 669 Czech and Slovak children — many of them Jewish — from their homeland to the safety of England. With careful planning and tremendous courage, he rescued them from suffering and death at the hands of Nazi invaders who eventually killed many of the children’s parents, siblings and extended family members.

Read more

RESYNATOR (SXSW2024) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

At one point in the documentary Resynator, Grammy-winning producer Christian Castagno and two musicians noodle around with the titular device—a type of synthesizer that filmmaker Alison Tavel’s late father invented. The three start to jam in a home studio as Tavel watches, trying a beat one created with just his voice. He riffs into a mike, and Castagno toys with a few dials on the Resynator, the rhythm becoming electronic, funky, powerful.

Read more

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.

Read more

TRUE/FALSE Film Fest Wrap – Diane Carson reports

The annual True/False Film Festival, always the first weekend in March, in Columbia, Missouri, offered its always impressive, international documentaries championing (per the T/F mission) “the challenge of interpreting reality on screen with playfulness, sensitivity, discipline, and daring imagination.” This year’s thirty-three feature and twenty-six short films, a global treasure trove, address important issues in analytical, accessible, and engaging ways.

Read more

FRIDA – Review by Sherin Nicole

It’s as though Frida Kahlo‘s illustrated diary alights off the shelves of a mystical library, and opens itself to immerse us in her story. Filled with animated paintings and sketches; coupled with love letters and lovers’ portraits; enlivened by footage and photographs: This is the Frida (2024) documentary. Binding it together are Frida’s written confessions—her heart is the inkwell, infusing the pages with copper and salt. Her blood and tears have spilled onto the screen. That must be how this documentary came to be. But we should ask director Carla Gutiérrez and the wondrous voice actress Fernanda Echevarría if that is indeed the ‘alchemistry.’

Read more

Sundance FF 2024: Ten Female-Directed Documentaries on our Watch List – Leslie Combemale Reports

Although female directors usually find a much more hospitable home in documentary filmmaking, it’s still an incredibly challenging field. Fortunately Sundance is one festival in which female helmed and female focused documentaries are given a voice. A full 50% of documentaries being shown in the US Documentary Competition were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as a woman, and even more impressive, 60% were directed by one or more who identify as a person of color. Six of the 9 films in the World Documentary Competition were directed by one or more artists who identify as women. We perused the list of premieres so our readership can get as excited as we are about what’s coming to Sundance. Five out of 10 are available to watch digitally during the fest, so buy your tickets now!

Read more

THE JOB OF SONGS – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Director Lila Schmitz’s debut feature is a lovely tribute to a unique aspect of culture and its rich history. We hear from musicians, both through their haunting music and through candid interviews, about the importance of keeping traditional songs alive in an increasingly fast-paced world. “The job of songs can sometimes be to entertain,” explains one of the musicians. “But it’s this thing of giving people who don’t have songs permission to feel things that are really deeply ingrained in them, that they don’t really intellectually understand.”

Read more

WEEK IN WOMEN: Beyoncé brings RENAISSANCE concert film to movie theaters – Brandy McDonnell reports

Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé officially arrives in theaters on Dec. 1, with select screenings starting on Nov. 30. Running 2 1/2 hours, Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé follows the journey of Queen Bey’s blockbuster “Renaissance World Tour” from its inception to its opening in Stockholm, Sweden, to its finale in Kansas City, Missouri. The film is said to reveal Beyoncé’s intention, hard work, involvement in every aspect of the production; her creative mind and purpose to create her legacy; and her mastery of her craft, from its inception to its opening in Stockholm, Sweden, to its finale in Kansas City, Missouri.

Read more